Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Twitter is for Old Fogies, Teen Says

A 15-year-old London teenager is shaking up the staid business world with a report he wrote as an intern, called How Teenagers Consume Media. In the report, Matthew Robson describes a bizarro teenage world that, according to the London Times, is "a confusing place where the PC is a radio, the games console is a telephone, the mobile telephone is a stereo and text-message machine, the DVDs are pirate copies and no one uses Twitter." Some of Robson’s reasoning would make an economist, like the Morgan Stanley fogies who sponsored his internship, smile. Robson finds Twitter a waste, because he can send many texts to his friends for the same price as a single 140-character Twitter post. That teenagers have no money is also his basis for his use of other media, although many would argue that, at least in the US, teens have plenty of disposable income. Teens don’t go to movies once they have to pay full price, he says, and prefer to steal music and video from online sites such as Limewire. Robson’s view of telephonic communication is that it’s basically only good for conversing with the opposite sex. He chats with his friends mostly while playing video games like Call of Duty. According to the Times article, "You use a mobile phone if you want to talk to girls," he said, as "only about one in fifty girls plays computer games." Having raised three boys through their teen years, who are now 26, 22, and almost 20, much of what Robson says comes as no surprise. However, my kids and their friends differ quite a bit from Robson’s assertion that "Eight out of ten teenagers don’t buy music. It comes from limewire, blogs or torrents." Each of my sons owns a rather large legally-acquired library of DVDs and CDs. However, I have partially failed in getting them to understand the position and rights of content producers since they do preview music on free Websites and download TV shows. I believe that Robson’s view of cell phones, email, Twitter, and social networking in general will change as he enters the world of work, where such tools are increasingly more essential to the performance of a job. Nonetheless, expect huge changes in modes of communications over the next decade as current teens transition into the workplace. If you think you already live in a world where the pressure to be always-on and always-available is intense, just wait.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

IE7 and the Infinite Page (Sadness)

Why does generate infinite pages when print previewed in IE7? Good question.

A buddy of mine made some changes in his site, hosted at GoDaddy, using their WebSite Tonight (r) wizard. All of a sudden, none of his pages print in IE7. They print fine in Firefox.

I've examined the HTML and found it's predictably too verbose, lots of divs, some don't appear to be closed (I lost patience trying to match them up.) I made sure the HTML that could be controlled was pristine, but it looks like something in their template code is cheesing IE7 off.

The page I did surgery on is the home page, If your HTML or DOM mojo is strong, please check it out and let me know if you figure it out.

Wow! Two posts in a row complaining about Microsoft. Shouldn't kick them while they're down.

So, OK, on a completely different tack, I understand the Cram DeRux fan club has updated its unauthorized Website. Check it out. I can't wait for more!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Operating Systems That Make You Go Hmmmmm . . .

Recently I was reminded of an unforgivable quirk in Microsoft's directory system. I had run into this some time ago, but a friend's adventures in trying to transfer files from his daughter's W2000 PC to his XP PC called it to mind again.

My friend, we'll call him "Roger", reported: "So I am backing up [her] computer and it keeps failing. It takes me some time, but I find out that the folder structure she has created on her Windows 2000 machine is not compatible with my XP machine."

Well, I'm not sure that's the real answer there, though. For many generations, Windows operating systems have been able to create file names (and directory names) that the find to be illegal when you go and try to use them.

I found this out some time ago when I was trying to move a directory into my archive folders. It kept complaining about not being able to delete this one directory. On further investigation, I found that I had saved an Internet Explorer bookmark in the directory. In case you don't know, IE saves bookmarks by creating a shortcut using the title of the page in question.

Turns out the page I saved the link to had a gawd-awfully long title that included several characters that Windows finds to be illegal. Now you'd think a well-behaved and rational operating system would not allow me to save a file with an illegal name. You would be right. Since Windows XP is not well-behaved or rational, I was actually able to save this link in the directory that I could not delete.

No prob, you think. Just delete the file. Hah! You obviously know little about computers, my friend! When I tried to delete the file using Windows Explorer, Windows blithely tells me that there is no file by that name. Of course, I am staring right at the file's listing in the Explorer window right in front of me.

No prob, you think, Just rename the file. Well, you siee, Explorer can't find the file, because it's name is illegal. It was the file that dare not speak its name.

This anecdote would be much better if could remember how I outfoxed Windows to delete a file it had created. But, alas, all I can remember was that it took hours of effort.

Our friend "Roger", however, quickly deduced that XP was yowling about illegal names when he took a look at his daughter's directory structure in Explorer. It looked like this:

I think Windows objected to the daughter's enthusiasm for exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!

"Roger," who is either much more computer savvy than I (inconceivable!), or not as familiar with as many stupid computer tricks as I, solved the problem, probably in less time it took me. Here's his terse and efficient explanation:

I had to move the files in DOS. Explorer kept crashing. Save that one for a blog.

Be careful what you wish for, "Roger!"

Being memory-challenged, I can neither confirm nor deny that this was how I ended up fixing my particular problem, although I do remember screwing around in the CMD window and making liberal use of quotes. So it is obvious that the rudimentary, unsophisticated and unpolished reminder of a simpler time (DOS) is somehow able to deal with the kind of mind-boggling conundrums that Windows can create, but not solve.

One final thought: It is a tribute to the parenting instinct that "Roger" did not delete his daughter's hilarious directory tree to save himself trouble in the future. He lovingly preserved it for the ages. Thus, since "Roger" is not getting any younger, there will probably come a time in the probably not too distant future when he comes upon this particularly nasty directory villain again . . . and totally forgets how he dealt with it before.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top 10 hot jobs of 2012

What a motley list! CNBC selects 10 hot jobs in 2012 and somehow "space tour guide" gets on the list! this is apparently based on the following statement: "With about 200 reservations already, Space
Adventures plans on hiring about 10 space tour guides to start, said spokeswoman Stacey Tearne.

Sure, it may be a desirable job, but hot jobs are generally those with more than a few dozen workers. Take a look at CareerOneStop's list of currently hot occupations as a comparison.

The other bogus thing about the article is that they use the widely criticized for salary information. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics begs to differ.

The article does, however, use some federal info, quoting "From 2004 to 2014, home health aide will be the fastest-growing career, with 56 percent growth and about 350,000 new openings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor." That's a trend you can count on: boomers getting older and needing assistance. Check out other employment trends to find what's currently hot.

One interesting occupation in the hot list is parallel programmers. One hopes this will be a true growth area, since just about anyone buying a computer today is getting a multi-core processor, and rarely does existing software take advantage of the extra power. Some believe, however, that OS virtualization will be the cheap and easy way to unlock the power of extra cores. "As cores started multiplying, the need for memory started growing,particularly in the virtualization space. So we offered a low entry
price point and head room to grow," said an HP spokesperson.

As the local TV reporter said to the camera, "Time will tell. Time will tell."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Wisdom of Crowds vs. The Masses Are Asses

I've been thinking this one over for months and have yet to make the time to post it. So, coming soon, and actual essay on the above title!

I may add snarky comments such as, "If you (the masses) are so smart, how come [Survivor's still on, Britney gets more ink than Iraq, nobody cares we lost habeus corpus, {add your own carp here}, and so on].

Or maybe not.

Anyway, the gist is, it's fairly universally accepted among the Web 2.0 intelligensia and hype mavens everywhere that crowdsourcing and other applications of the wise crowd are a wonderful way to guess the number of gumballs in the jar.

OK, if that's so, explain to me the lyrics to Living in the USA, Steve Miller's great anthem as posted on pretty much every Internet lyrics site. You see, they're wrong. Yep, Stevie "Guitar" Miller is not saying "Come on try it, you can buy it, you can leave it next week, yeah" as all those peer edited and reviewed sites claim (although he is saying " Somebody give me a cheeseburger" -- this cannot be disputed). Steve was quoting Chuck Berry's Too Much Monkey Business, which at least one site GETS COMPLETELY WRONG. Yet, strangely, the same site, LyricsFreak, gets the lyric write on the Beatles' version of the song.

In fact, to belabor a Steve Miller lyrics point ad nauseum, you'd think if the crowd were so dang smart, someone would be able to figure out the phrase Steve sings in the middle of the chorus in the classic she-done-me-wrong blues, Junior Saw It Happen, which is rendered pretty much everywhere as:

Junior saw it happen
Why didn't I listen to you, hey
Whoa, ohh
Whoa, {??}
Whoa, ohh
Whoa, now she's down the tracks with him

Now to me it sounds like something about "she had her hat on back", or something that sounds like back, and that would rhyme with "tracks" in the last line of the chorus.

We got wise crowds that figured out the moon landing was fake and that Oswald didn't act alone, and that Steve Miller misheard the singer of the Medallions (it wasn't pompitous, but puppetuse) but no crowd has ever figured out whether the hat was on her back, or whatever it was Steve said.

So this future blog post will go on to brilliantly compare and contract the wisdom/asses crowd dichotomy. But not today.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Net Switzerland in Danger

Net Switzerland in Danger

Switzerland is famous for cheese, chocolate, numbered bank accounts, and for being a neutral country, which probably enabled those numbered accounts in the first place. High worth individuals felt comfortable stashing their well- or ill-gotten gains because they knew Switzerland wasn’t likely to kowtow to law enforcers or snooping governments from other countries – they were neutral.

Up until the present moment, the Internet has been a neutral country; if you have enough money for an Internet connection, your traffic is accepted and delivered to its destination just like anyone else’s. The product of a democratic nation, the Internet has been the ultimate democracy. People coming to the StratVantage site enjoy the same speed and priority as people going to Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, or the other mega-sites. And that’s the way we like it.

Burgeoning businesses such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and YouTube have been able to catch on and grow with only the relatively minor growing pains of having to pay more to their Internet Service Providers due to an increase in traffic.

But there are folks, not coincidentally folks in the Internet backbone business, who would like higher volume sites to pay more for the privilege of receiving users’ traffic.

One of the first indications of the change in attitude from the semi-altruistic policy of “We’ll carry anyone’s traffic, and anyone will carry ours” came last fall when Level 3 Communications refused to carry the traffic of another Internet infrastructure provider, Cogent Communications. Level 3 shut down the connection between itself and Cogent, affecting many of Cogent’s 9,500 customers, including Time Warner Cable, Harvard, Boston College, and MIT, isolating them from key areas of the Internet.

According to a Network World article at the time:
Peering is mutually advantageous when both partners exchange similar traffic volumes, but Level 3 says it was carrying the bulk of the traffic in its deal with Cogent. "The larger company ends up disadvantaged because it ends up providing essentially free capacity," said Level 3 spokeswoman Jennifer Daumler. "In Cogent's case, we determined that the arrangement was not reasonable or commercially viable."
Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer disputes Level 3's characterization and says the dropped peering arrangement is really Level 3's attempt at playing hardball with a rival that has been undercutting it on pricing.
"The root cause of this is Level 3's strong desire to pressure Cogent into raising our prices," Schaeffer said. "They have been very vocal and very upset at our gain in market share and our pricing policy."

Because the Internet is highly redundant, even when a peering relationship ends, traffic may still go through, using roundabout, slower routes, but some traffic won’t be delivered. Thus peering ensures quicker delivery of traffic and a more-responsive Internet. (Incidentally, if you’re interested in an up-to-the-minute snapshot of how well the Internet is working, check out the Internet Health Report.)

Cogent has had similar fights with other peers, notably AOL and France Telecom, both of which ended peering agreements with Cogent. And this was not the first dispute over peering that we’ve seen. In 2001, a similar contract dispute led Cable & Wireless to cut off its connection to PSINet, one of the oldest Net backbone companies.

The Internet was built on this very important idea: Big infrastructure providers, whose long, high-speed communications lines crisscross the country and the world, would enter into peering agreements with other providers, thus enabling both peers to hand off traffic in order to get it delivered to its ultimate destination.

Lumeta's Graphic Map of the Internet

Lumeta's network map of the Internet
There would be no Internet today if these providers had not developed this system of traffic routing. If there were no mutual peering agreements, each network would have to negotiate with all other networks and charge them for handling, for example, East Coast traffic on one network destined for Google’s servers in San Francisco, on another network.

While providers might be able to argue that they would have made more money by charging for peering connections, adding a huge bureaucratic system of charge backs and trades would make the Internet less free (and more expensive) and less efficient.

It turns out many of these Internet backbone providers aren’t making money – both Level 3 and Cogent are bleeding cash, and Cogent is undercutting everyone’s prices. So it’s only natural that they are trying to increase their revenue. And their latest idea is a really bad one for neutrality, democracy, and the little guy.

Backbone providers plan to start shaking down huge Websites for protection money (Youse know, Mr. Google, it would be a real shame if sumptin’ was to happen to your traffic from my network, know whad I mean?) has raised a stink among the digerati (Web originator Tim Berners-Lee) and, alas, our elected representatives, who never met a hyperbolic name for a bill they didn’t like (Internet Freedom Preservation Act, Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006, Net Neutrality bill, Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006, Communications, Consumer's Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006).

Although they evidently have gotten the buzzword for the controversy – Net Neutrality – Congress still doesn’t seem to get that the Internet, being a worldwide phenomenon, is not totally under their control. While US legislation can affect US backbone providers, it obviously cannot coerce providers throughout the world. The relevant section of the most popular bill, the Snowe-Dorgan-Inouye Internet Freedom Preservation Act, goes thusly:
(4) [Providers must] enable any content, application, or service made available via the Internet to be offered, provided, or posted on a basis that-
(A) is reasonable and nondiscriminatory, including with respect to quality of service, access, speed, and bandwidth;

(B) is at least equivalent to the access, speed, quality of service, and bandwidth that such broadband service provider offers to affiliated content, applications, or services made available via the public Internet into the network of such broadband service provider; and
(C) does not impose a charge on the basis of the type of content, applications, or services made available via the Internet into the network of such broadband service provider;
(5) [Providers must] only prioritize content, applications, or services accessed by a user that is made available via the Internet within the network of such broadband service provider based on the type of content, applications, or services and the level of service purchased by the user, without charge for such prioritization;
(6) [Providers must] not install or utilize network features, functions, or capabilities that impede or hinder compliance with this section.

What this section says is, Internet providers can’t discriminate against its best customers. This hardly seems to be the type of thing that should be legislated. It seems more like a rule of good business. Next Congress will declare that airlines can’t charge more for tickets bought close to the departure date, which also effectively discriminates against their best customers – business travelers. Wait a minute. That actually might not be a bad idea!

Alert SNS Reader Larry Kuhn sums up his attitude toward Net Neutrality enforced through US laws like this:
Personally, although I know I’m living in fantasy world, I’d prefer if we could maintain net neutrality without laws to mandate it. These types of legislated technology mandate, although they begin with the noblest of intents, always have a way of inspiring odd and unexpected corporate profiteering and bureaucratic inefficiency that will look very foolish many years down the road when the technology changes enough to disrupt the assumptions that the laws are based on.
I would liken the whole net neutrality situation to the way wireless spectrum is handled today. The entire structure is predicated on the technology of the earliest days of analog radio technology, and it completely stifles the use of spread spectrum and other technologies that could deliver more capability more cheaply than what we are now legally allowed.

I agree with Larry. We can’t rely on Congress solving a problem now without creating another problem later.

Legislating Net Neutrality is bad enough, but the act also proposes another, possibly more deeply flawed, technical solution. It prevents providers from establishing different classes of network traffic (like enabling better Quality of Service (QoS) for voice and video.) QoS guarantees are actually one of the biggest deficiencies in the current Internet. Packets are packets, and all are routed with the same priority. Those who want to provide voice or video services on the Internet struggle with this fact.

So why should you care? If the bittorrent packets of last night’s episode of Desperate Housewives are delayed a few milliseconds on their way to you, it might not matter too much to you. But if the packets that make up live video or a phone call are delayed, the quality dramatically suffers and you will definitely not be happy.

Inserting QoS concepts into the way Internet traffic is routed may be required for it to take the next leap, and become a reliable, efficient delivery pipe for all kinds of on-demand, real-time content.

Congress would be wise to stay out of technical and business decisions like these and let the market take care of it. That’s what happened with the Level 3 case: Users got up in arms about the disruption in service and Level 3 had to back down. Setting a precedent of regulating the Internet could be the mythical slippery slope that gives legislators the idea that they can control not only how the Internet is put together, but ultimately – like China – control the kind of content that moves over it.

If a single Internet provider started to charge large Websites more for bandwidth or to guarantee preferred delivery, they’d be cutting their own throats. If the whole industry colluded, with a nod and a wink, and all started to do it, the government could prosecute under existing anti-trust laws. Even if that was ineffective, smaller players would inevitably take the initiative to fill the void, perhaps using the tens of thousands of miles of dark fiber already in the ground. (At one point, Level 3 had 16,000 miles of intercity dark fiber capacity available for sale.)

There’s an old saying about the Internet coined by John Gilmore, one of the co-founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” In this case, the Internet would interpret the obstruction posed by higher rates for popular sites as damage, and route around that.

There’s also little likelihood, in my view, that the huge companies who depend on the Internet for their livelihood, including Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft (try downloading Microsoft’s patch-of-the-month over a dial-up connection), would sit idly by while they were gouged. Chances are good they’d band together and get into the telecommunications business. (Google’s already doing that as a partner in the citywide San Francisco wireless project and has expressed interest in hiring a dark fiber employee who would be responsible for “Identification, selection, and negotiation of dark fiber contracts both in metropolitan areas and over long distances as part of development of a global backbone network.”)

So I don’t think legislation is the answer, but Internet users should be worried nonetheless. Think of how your business would be affected if your Website (and email) were relegated to a low-bandwidth, backwater ghetto of the Internet. Let your elected representatives know what you think on the subject of Internet neutrality, and hope they get a clue.

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: As if I don’t have enough Websites, I just released, which, oddly enough, is all about how I can write a technical white paper to help you market your products or services.

    I’ve added a bunch of stuff that didn’t make it into SNS to the Raw File, a collection of such tidbits. It’s now over half a meg, so I split the page into two parts.

    I’m republishing SNS on a couple of other services now, including Gather, and I’ve changed the StratVantage Stratlets hosting to use Blogspot.

    I was interviewed for ManagementFirst’s Feature of the Month and got to toot my horn for a bit.

    The WiMAX Guys’ main business is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots such as hotels, warehouses, apartment buildings, and office buildings or hotzones that cover cities. We also sell a knowledge-based Web portal called the MAX K-Base. Check out our main Website at

    The first chapter of my wife’s novel, Knowing What You Know Today is up on her Website. The rest of the book costs money – now at a new lower price! – but it’s well worth it, believe you me. Check it out at She’s also put up a new site, to publicize the empathy symbol she designed back in college.

    Many issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $111.48.

    And now that I’m partnered with one of the largest advertisers on the planet, Google, that should be kicking in serious coin to the StratVantage coffers. Let’s see. The current total is: $89.84. Great. BTW, I am informed that I can’t ask you to read this issue on the Web and click on the ads due to Google’s terms of service. So don’t. You can, however, shop at Amazon, pay nothing additional, and send a spiff to me.

  • FISH of the Day: The Forwarded Internet Serial Humor of the Day today comes from Alert SNS Reader Doug Laney of Evalubase Research. And they call it the Weaker Sex . . .


Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks.

Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must take care of his 3 kids; keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of "pretend" bills with not enough money.

In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week.

Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time.

Each man must also take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment. He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Urgent Care (weekend, evening, on a holiday or right when they're about to leave for vacation). He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a social function.

Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keeping it presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.

There is only one TV between them, and a remote with dead batteries.

Each father will be required to know all of the words to every stupid song that comes on TV and the name of each and every character on cartoons.

The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, which they will apply to themselves either while driving or making three lunches.

Each man will have to make an Indian hut model with six toothpicks, a tortilla and one marker, and get a 4-year-old to eat a serving of peas.

Each man must adorn himself with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep his nails polished and eyebrows groomed. The men must try to get through each day without snot, spit-up or barf on their clothing.

During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties. They must try to explain what a tampon is for when the 6-yr old boy finds it in the purse.

They must attend weekly school meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.

He will need to read a book and then pray with the children each night without falling asleep, and then feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair each morning by 7. They must leave the home with no food on their face or clothes.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor's name. Also the child's weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child's favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.

They must clean up after their sick children at 2:00 a.m. and then spend the remainder of the day tending to that child and waiting on them hand and foot until they are better.

They must have a loving, age appropriate reply to, "You're not the boss of me".

The kids vote them off the island based on performance. The last man wins only if...he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment's notice.

If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years...eventually earning the right to be called Mother!

  • Join the Alert SNS Reader Group! You may have heard of a concept called Web 2.0 (or even the more grandiose Web 3.0). Basically it’s about adding to Web-based software the kind of interactive and functionality we all take for granted in our installed software. It’s a bunch more than that as well; Web 2.0 encompasses other concepts such as Software as a Service (SaaS), Web services, and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). These are all fancy technologies that enable an ordinary person – or at least an ordinary programmer person – to pull together bits of functionality available on the Web to create something new.

    So to demonstrate the power of Web 2.0, I invite you to join the Alert SNS Reader Group. Just select Login to sign up.

  • Hang on a Nanosec. Let Me Get That Info: Alert SNS Reader Ken Florian sent along a pointer to Mozy, the latest entry in the Will This Business Plan Fly? Sweepstakes. Mozy will remotely back up 20GB of your data for free. But that’s not what caught my eye on their site. Check out the following list of how long it takes to find information, based on where it is stored:

Data that lives here...

...will take this long to access
  • CPU Register
  • < 1 nanosecond
  • CPU cache
  • 2 nanoseconds
  • RAM
  • 50 nanoseconds
  • Disk
  • 12,000,000 nanoseconds
  • Somewhere in that pile of paper on your desk
  • 42,000,000,000 nanoseconds [Ed. Note: Not that quickly on my desk!]

(Note that a nanosecond is 1 billionth of a second.)
  • Cyber Best Practices: You may remember I wrote in a recent SNS about what to do if your company is hit by a cyberattack. Well the FBI coordinator of the local Infragard circulated a great document (1MB PDF) called Best Practices for Seizing Electronic Evidence. While you may not do the seizing, knowing what law enforcement will be looking for if you want them to catch the cybercriminals can really help, so I’m hosting it on the StratVantage Website. There’s also an oldie but a goodie from 2001 Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations (400KB PDF) in our security area.

  • What if it was the “Microsoft iPod”? Alert SNS Reader Larry Kuhn, a Microsoft employee, sent along this hilarious YouTube short that envisions the packaging for the iPod if it were a Microsoft rather than an Apple product. Truly hilarious, and all too true.

  • Windows Can Drink: Obviously on a roll, Alert SNS Reader Larry Kuhn went on to say, regarding an item in the previous SNS about Windows turning 21, “At least now when it’s falling down drunk we don’t have to be ashamed that it’s under the legal drinking age.”

  • Free Wireless Everywhere? This issue’s second entry into the Will This Business Plan Fly? Sweepstakes is M2Z Networks, which has a novel proposal for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). If the FCC will just grant M2Z free wireless bandwidth everywhere, M2Z will provide free 512Kbps wireless Internet everywhere. And that’s not all! M2Z proposes to kick back 5 percent of their revenues on faster wireless services to the FCC as, you know, kind of a tip, a little something for the effort. Now ordinarily I’d be laughing my butt off at such a proposal. Indeed, most commentators point out that the FCC is in the business of auctioning wireless bandwidth, not giving it away.

    But check out who is behind M2Z: The venture is financed by heavyweight Sili Valley stars Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Charles River Ventures and Redpoint Ventures, and the company was started by the former head of the FCC's wireless bureau, John Muleta, and cable executive Milo Medin, who previously created AtHome Networks, one of the first cable-based data networks. So these guys aren’t crazy. You can read their 127-page FCC application (PDF) here.

  • If You’ve Made it This Far: I’m beginning to lose faith in the Alert SNS Reader Nation. So far, no one has stepped up to try to join Alert SNS Reader Ken Florian, the winner of our first Obscure Reference Contest, and Alert SNS Reader Derek Dysart, our second winner. Apparently, the third Obscure Reference Contest is too hard for even the most accomplished Alert SNS googlesavant. I find this to be a shame, but I’ll persist in my belief that somewhere out there an Alert SNS Reader has the gumption, dogged tenacity, and mastery of arcane rock and roll lore to solve the current puzzle.

    I’m looking for the name of the album (and I’ll give you a hint: it’s only available in vinyl) (hint #2: one of the artists was in the Fugs) that featured an encounter between Johnny Pissoff and a guy with smooth hands as well as a Grateful Dead jam, and an ode to Captain Beefheart’s shoes. Extra points for including a link to the MP3 of the J. Pissoff epic.

    Because it makes such a cool trophy, the prize is now two sticks of completely useless memory. So don’t let me down!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

You're Hit! What Next? . . . A Slight Return

Four years ago, SNS ran an issue about what to do after a hacker attack called You’re Hit! What Next? It focused on what to do immediately after you’ve been attacked.

A recent unfortunate attack by a disgruntled former employee of one of my clients brought this article back to mind and encouraged me to revisit the topic for two reasons: to update Alert SNS Readers on the state of computer forensics, and to remind everyone what to do and not to do if you suffer an intrusion.

First, I’ll quote a bit of the previous SNS article:

If you think you may want to prosecute the miscreant(s), it is critical to preserve the evidence so it can be used in court.

Your initial impulse is to just get up and running again, and that’s understandable, especially if mission-critical systems are hit. But if you want to press a court case, you need to understand computer crime forensics, the science of reconstructing the cyberattack and establishing a chain of evidence back to the attacker.

There are three places to be concerned about forensics: on the perpetrator's computer, on the compromised computer and on the network devices in between the two.

You should:

  • Restrict physical access to the area to preserve fingerprints

  • Unplug any phone lines that could dial in to the attacked computer

  • Unplug the computer from the network

  • Photograph the scene, including connections to any peripherals, for later reference if the machine needs to be disassembled for examination

  • If the computer is off, don't turn it on; if it’s on, don’t reboot it, as this could launch viruses or time bombs. Merely turning on a Windows computer changes timestamps and other important evidence, for example.

  • Avoid accessing any files on the compromised machine as that changes access timestamps.

  • After immediately securing the area and the computer, call in a network forensics specialist.

So now that I’ve quoted myself, I’d like to quote Michael Ellsworth, a distant relation who is a detective in the Mansfield, MA police department in charge of computer forensics.

Incidentally, the way Mike and I got connected up is a testament to the power of the Internet and the need to preserve the ability of random people to contact each other via email. You may be aware of various anti-spam efforts that have the effect of rejecting email from anyone not in your email address book. It would be a shame if this sort of thing became the rule.

Mike was googling himself and came upon my personal site (, put up in 1996 and not much modified since – the shoemaker’s children shall have no shoes, eh?). He dropped me a line and as we corresponded we realized we have common ancestors, in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

We also realized we share an interest in computer forensics. So after that digression, here’s Mike’s take on what I said four years ago:

All of the things that were written four years ago certainly apply today! I guess my main advice is, Don't Panic! In the computer forensics end of things, I'm not overly concerned or focused on what they are doing at the moment. My main focus is with what they've done.

The trail that they have already left is where I'm more apt to find my evidence. Here is a snippet of something that I had written recently for a talk:

In most cases, the discovered compromise is ongoing and has been occurring for a period of time. This being the case, there's no need to pull the plug/s and terminate the problem if it's not mission critical.

If you don't know what to do contact someone who does! The money spent on expert consultation will be far less expensive than having to rebuild your entire system after some ill-planned and knee jerk reaction! You need to know where the compromise occurred in order to deal with it; experts can quickly guide you in finding the source and preserving any evidence for criminal or civil litigation or even employee dismissals.

Oftentimes people go into panic mode and do things that exacerbate the problem, i.e. launch a virus or additional malicious software or alert the criminal that he or she has been detected. I'm willing to bet that the attacker has a plan of action to cover his or her tracks should that occur. That plan can also include an even more spiteful and malicious response such as crippling your entire network before they make their exit.

How can you avoid these pitfalls? Have the same strategy the attacker does: pre-planning! Have guidelines and action plans in place to deal with threats. Know your action plans and practice them. Repetition is the mother of all learning! If you are ready for a disaster, then deployment and containment is a snap! Have relationships established with law enforcement and/or private computer forensics consultants. A consultant can better serve you if he or she is already familiar with your network.

Don't be afraid of law enforcement. Federal, state and local police agencies throughout the country have established computer crime units that are staffed with experts in both computers and the law, and they’re a free resource! Reach out to them before your disaster strikes. They will be more than willing to come in and talk about what they can and cannot do for you. Times have changed and so have the cops! Law enforcement experts are very much aware of and concerned with a company's need for your privacy. They understand how negative publicity can be as damaging, or even more so, than the actual intrusion that prompted their response. Don't wait for disaster to hit, forge those relationships and write those policies now!

I had a case like the one you spoke of... where the former employee was killing the company. Fortunately we have some legislation now that allows us to tag old laws with new computer crime problems. In your case I'd charge the guy with a litany of stuff from Malicious Destruction to trade secrets acts, Unauthorized Access, Criminal Harassment and a few others. We're a lot more sensitive to the needs of the private sector now too and are generally willing to assist in cases where an employer needs support in order to fire an individual as opposed to wanting to prosecute. We try to keep the dissemination to the press at a minimum. We find that we're getting a good rep in these parts in dealing with the private sector. In fact, I used to speak at some conferences on that very subject. Forging Law Enforcement and Corporate Relationships.

Also, make sure you ask the right questions as in: "If I come to you with XX crime, do you have to take action, or can you assist me in a non-criminal resolution?" Child Pornography is generally the key issue there. Nobody wants to have it publicized that they have kiddie porn on their servers.

Law Enforcement is in possession of great programs now, for example, Encase, that allows for network acquisitions without the need of bringing down servers, and seizing a bunch of equipment. So a lot of the times it's pretty easy to do what we have to do quietly. Good computer crime units are willing to work with companies no matter the case. So the best thing to do is to find out what local, state or federal task forces are like and make some contacts.

From what Det. Ellsworth says, the landscape has changed a bit from four years ago. Back then, it was unlikely that local law enforcement had resources like him to bring to bear on computer crime. At that time, I heard a lot about police blunders that compromise evidence. I’m betting that’s a lot less common these days.

So if you’re hit, Don’t Panic, call the cops and follow their advice on handling the situation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

AOL Taxing Email?

AOL Taxing Email?

One of the persistent urban myths that continues to circulate around the Internet concerns various forms of taxes: a tax on modems, a tax on email, and so on. Despite being thoroughly debunked, such legends have a life of their own and periodically show up in my email box.

But as we all know, things do change, not always for the better, and so, like my long-ago exhortation to pre-ActiveX email users – “Email can’t hurt your PC!” – the no-tax-on-email meme appears headed for the dustbin of history.

MoveOn, the rabble-rousing political action group that assisted in the rise of Howard Dean, is calling for users to email AOL regarding a policy they are implementing that amounts to an email tax, according to the PAC.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online-rights watchdog, “Yahoo and AOL have announced that they will guarantee access to your email inbox for email senders who pay $.0025 per message. They will override their own spam filters and webbug-strippers, and deliver the mail directly with a "certified" notice. In the process, they will treat more of your email as spam, and email you're expecting won't be delivered.” The companies plan on using the ironically-named firm Goodmail to ensure advertisers’ access to Yahoo and AOL mailboxes.

EFF rather snidely remarks, “Apparently AOL and Yahoo believe that if we ‘tax’ speech then only desirable speech happens. We all know how well that works for postal mail -- that's why no one gets any ‘free’ AOL starter disks, right?”

Now, many people have proposed that one way to cut down on spam would be to have Internet Service Providers (ISP) start charging to send email. The theory here is that you and I can certainly afford to pay a quarter-penny or so for the email we send on a monthly basis. For example, in January, I sent 404 emails (not including the newsletters that Alert SNS Readers such as yourself received), so my bill would be $1.01. The feeling is most folks would gladly pay $12 a year to be relatively free of spam. As we’ll see, that won’t necessarily be the result.

The pay-for-email reasoning goes that spammers, who may send a million emails a day or more, would find it harder to be profitable at an average of .0023 percent response rate if they had to pay for each one to be delivered. A million emails dropped into AOL users’ mailboxes, for example, would cost $2,500 (versus $0 today) under the new scheme.

So how much could a spammer hope to earn by spewing a million emails under the new scheme? Determining the actual response rates of spam is understandably hard to do. As a group, spammers aren’t the most forthcoming about their business practices.

In a paper entitled, “Proof-of-Work" Proves Not to Work, Ben Laurie and Richard Clayton figure the profit angle thusly:

Figures for response rates to legitimate “opt-in" email show responses to sales promotions varying from 0.7% to 1.6% over time. Actual figures for response rates to spam emails are rare, although there is a lot of “what if" speculation. In 2002 the Wall Street Journal gave real-world examples of spam response rates of 0.013% and 0.0023%. If the rate per email did indeed return to 0.1 cents then at a 0.0023% response rate then advertisers would need to be selling goods with a profit margin of at least $4.35. This is not implausible: mortgage leads are worth $50, cellphone sales about $85 and there are examples of companies selling fake medicines worth $2.50 for $59.95.

If sending a million emails costs a Yahoo or AOL spammer $2,500, and the spammer can expect a response rate between 0.013 percent and 0.0023 percent, that works out to between 23 to 130 buyers for each drop and a customer acquisition cost of $19 to $108 each. If you figure a profit margin averaging 30 percent, the spammer has to be selling something that costs between $76 and $433. While this cost certainly weeds out a large percentage of spammers, it is by no means going to eliminate them.

By the same token, if we extrapolate the higher response rates that legitimate businesses might expect – using Laurie and Clayton’s opt-in figures – we see that 7,000 to 16,000 responders cost between $0.15 and $0.35 a piece – still less than the cost of a first class stamp. It seems obvious that non-spammer businesses are going to jump at the chance to increase their email marketing based on these economics. Wannanother credit card?

But wait a second. Stefan Tornquist, Research Director for MarketingSherpa states, “58% of email recipients define spam as communications from companies they do business with, that come too frequently.” So even if you’ve opted in, commercial email can still be annoying. I can personally attest to this because, even though I’ve purchased the Diskeeper disk defragmenting tool, I get three to five emails a week from the company encouraging me to purchase or upgrade. Leave me alone!

The annoyance factor may help explain a couple of trends that could hold down the rate of friendly-fire emails: Although the average opt-in email list is growing by 40 percent per year, “open rates” – the percent of emails actually opened by the recipient – has dropped 20 percent since 2004.

Any way you look at it, if the Yahoo and AOL scheme is implemented, and is successful, you’re going to be hearing a lot more from legitimate businesses, and perhaps only a little bit less from spammers. But the price we pay is restrictions on free speech.

As EFF says, free email is not a bug, but rather a feature of the Internet, a means for anyone anywhere to connect with like-minded people. Paying for commercial email may be a slippery slope. “Once a pay-to-speak system like this gets going, it will be increasingly difficult for people who don't pay to get their mail through. The system has no way to distinguish between ordinary mail and bulk mail, spam and non-spam, personal and commercial mail. It just gives preference to people who pay,” says the EFF.

Try running your own bowling or fantasy football league or a discussion list via email under the new scheme. Any kind of charge will discourage you from communicating with your group.

There are other ways to cut down on spam, including running a spam filter, not giving out your email address too freely, and even using new technologies that require you to identify yourself via a certificate to send email, like Microsoft’s proposed standard. And while some may argue that having to pay the Postal Service to send snail mail doesn’t discourage you from sending it, I never in my life sent 404 letters in a month. I don’t think we all want to give up the ease of communication that email represents, and paying for it could restrict our freedom to use email.

I have to admit, at one time, I thought pay-per-email was a decent way to attack the spam problem. Upon further review, I’m agin it. If you are too, and you want to sign the MoveOn petition to pressure AOL to drop the scheme, you can do it here.

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: I was interviewed for ManagementFirst’s Feature of the Month and got to toot my horn for a bit.

    The WiMAX Guys’ main business is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots such as hotels, warehouses, apartment buildings, and office buildings or hotzones that cover cities. We also sell a knowledge-based Web portal called the MAX K-Base. Check out our main Website at

    The first chapter of my wife’s novel, Knowing What You Know Today is up on her Website. The other chapters cost money, but are well worth it, believe you me. Check it out at
    Many issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $111.48. Thanks Bill!

    And now that I’m partnered with one of the largest advertisers on the planet, Google, that should be kicking in serious coin to the StratVantage coffers. Let’s see. The current total is: $45.05. Great. You can, however, shop at Amazon, pay nothing additional, and send a spiff to me.

  • Top 10 Funny Spammer Names: I recently received spam from the following preposterously named individuals:

    10. Cruet H Porcelain
    9.   Jetsam A. Cynosures
    8.   Helplessly Q. Clothe
    7.   Dram C. Spheroid
    6.   Fingerboard E. Genealogies
    5.   Cashmere L. Dwarves
    4.   Sabbaths T. Malign
    3.   Meadows G. Ethnic
    2.   Accept G. Freighted

    And the number 1 Top Funny Spammer Name:
    1.   Fornicate I. Nonstick

  • FISH of the Day: Here’s a FISH I forwarded on myself, to my sister-in-law who is a real FISH connoisseur:

    After digging to a depth of 100 meters last year, Russian scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 1000 years. They came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network one thousand years ago.

    Not to be outdone, in the weeks that followed, American scientists dug 200 meters and headlines in the US papers read: "US scientists have found traces of 2000-year-old optical fibers and have concluded that their ancestors already had advanced high-tech digital telephone 1000 years earlier than the Russians."

    One week later, the Israeli newspapers reported the following: "After digging as deep as 5000 meters, Israeli scientists have found absolutely nothing.” They have concluded that 5000 years ago, their ancestors were already using wireless technology.

  • If You’ve Made it This Far: Alert SNS Reader Ken Florian was the winner of our first Obscure Reference Contest and now, two issues later, the second contest has a winner: Alert SNS Reader Derek Dysart. Derek correctly identified the Obscure Reference  I’m Riding on Sunshine, Waa-ooh! – from a previous SNS as referring “to ‘Walking on Sunshine’ originally released by Katrina and the Waves in (if I had to guess) say somewhere in the early to mid 80’s (1983-1985?)[actually, 1985].” Derek couldn’t believe nobody else got as it was totally simp. He had no chance on getting the second part of the question, which was to identify my favorite cover of the chorus. You pretty much would have to be related to me to get it.

    My brother Jeff taught my then-3-year-old oldest son, Zack, to respond, “Waa-Ohh” whenever anyone said, “I’m walking on sunshine . . .” Zack is now 23 and 6-foot-four. Derek, however, gamely offered the cover by Christian Rock band “Ghoti Hook (Unless Hurl Jam covered it, then that would make the reference even more obscure).”

    No, I don’t think I was thinking of either band, but I actually don’t know who did the only true cover of the song that I’ve heard. Giving up the answer to that one will be the extra credit portion of this issue’s Obscure Reference contest.

    In researching Katrina and the Waves, I was, of course, struck by the new connotations of the band's name, post Hurricane Katrina. I also found a strange site that allows fans to riff on their favorite songs and bands. has sections for parody lyrics (my favorite: Walken in Batman), Bad Choices for On Hold Music (Walking On Sunshine for FEMA) and Misheard Lyrics (A walking obsession instead of I'm walking on sunshine). It's a very strange site and lots of fun.

    The last one was an easy one, so this one is a good deal harder. I’m looking for the name of the album that featured an encounter between Johnny Pissoff and a guy with smooth hands as well as a Grateful Dead jam, and an ode to Captain Beefheart’s shoes. Extra points for including a link to the MP3 of the J. Pissoff epic, and, of course, for identifying the cover of “Walking on Sunshine” that I heard once.

    Because it makes such a cool trophy, the prize is now two sticks of completely useless memory.

High Tech Food, Low Tech Science

High Tech Food, Low Tech Science

As the boomers enter their silver years, they're going to be watching what they eat much more carefully, according to research from my old employer, ACNielsen. ACNielsen compiles data on consumer purchases in grocery, drug, and mass merchandiser stores and also runs consumer panels.

Alert SNS Reader Roger Hamm sends along a fascinating ACNielsen newsletter that makes a variety of predictions about the consumer packaged goods industry (known as CPG in the US; Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) outside the US). One prediction that particularly caught my eye: Prediction: "Low GI" [low glycemic index] products are the next nutritional buzz; also, antioxidants will grab double-digit increase in sales.

According to ACNielsen's LabelTrends® service, which tracks product label health claims, "U.S. consumers will continue to obsess over their health in 2006 as growing rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure will have many Americans re-examining the foods they eat. This year, expect a surge in food and beverages touting low glycemic index (GI) claims." The Glycemic Index is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to glucose or white bread, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Of course, not everyone will hop on the healthy food bandwagon. ACNielsen division, Spectra, using their BehaviorScape service, estimates that "50 percent of American consumers are "health neglectors" who care little about their health and tend to be overweight. They love convenience foods, which are often processed and unhealthy. ‘Any new food trend needs to get at least some traction among this mainstream group to truly break out,' said Libbey Paul, Spectra's Senior Vice President of Marketing."

And adoption by neglectors seems to be happening for GI foods. "LabelTrends analysis shows sales of GI products among the neglectors market segment demonstrated an increase of almost 150 percent from December 2004 to December 2005, which is one of the biggest jumps among all health-related claims."

Concerns about GI have stemmed from research showing high-GI diets are linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity. However, this notion has been challenged by research published in the December issue of Diabetes Care magazine, the journal of the American Diabetes Association. The study, whose authors include Thomas M.S. Wolever, a Canadian professor who has been an advocate for the glycemic index for decades, found no connection between high-glycemic index diets and insulin resistance or obesity.

Of course, there doesn't need to be any science behind a healthy food fad, and thus I don't expect the low GI movement to slow.

At the other end of the spectrum are the "health activists," primarily highly educated and more-affluent consumers. This group appears to be spending more on antioxidants, which are claimed to provide protection against cancer and other diseases.

"Look for antioxidants, led by liquid tea (up 1000 percent in dollar sales year-over-year), to make an even bigger splash in 2006. Why? In addition to their consumption by activists, antioxidants was also one of the fastest growing health claim among neglectors markets with 52 percent year-over-year increase in dollar sales, showing promise that along with GI goods, antioxidants will hit the mainstream in a big way."

Health Neglectors

Health Activists

Health claim

$ Percent Change vs. Year Ago

Health claim

$ Percent Change vs. Year Ago

Glycemic Index








Whole Grain




Vitamin & Mineral






Vitamin & Mineral


Yet what's a healthy food today could be tomorrow's nightmare. Nutritional trends and fads can turn a good food into a bad food in an instant, regardless of the science, but I think the science is sorely lacking. Of all the technologies that advise our decisions currently, I think nutritional science is the least reliable but also the most influential.

Nutritional science lacks very basic tools common to other technologies. For example, there is no easy way to instantly assess whether you are well-nourished or not. Sure there are arcane techniques such as hair analysis and even iridology, but the current state of the art of nutritional assessment mostly consists of asking you what you eat and testing for various known ailments caused by poor nutrition.

Consider the voodoo that is FDA approval: Feed dozens of rats or other human analogs high doses of the chemical in question and see if they develop problems. This approach and the other popular technique, the research study, routinely produce conflicting results, the hallmark of immature science.

Let's take a look at just one area: nutrition and cancer. A newsletter from New York Presbyterian Hospital sums up the evidence thusly:

Nevertheless, the scientific evaluation of these nutrition and cancer hypotheses is far from conclusive and considerable controversy prevails. For some seemingly established hypotheses (fruits and vegetables versus cancer at several sites, for example), the evidence has weakened in recent years. Other hypotheses (fiber versus colorectal cancer), thrown into question by one set of findings, have been ‘resurrected', or at least rendered not yet dead, by new studies. Important nutrition-cancer links with consistent observational epidemiologic findings have been contradicted by those from experimental epidemiologic studies (randomized trials)--carotenoids versus lung cancer, for example. Conclusions from recent consensus panels are remarkable for how few nutrition-cancer hypotheses achieved a level of evidence considered ‘convincing'.

The uncertainty in the field of nutrition doesn't stop food marketers from, for example, enhancing foods like pork, eggs, bread, and yogurt with Omega-3 oils, however. And scientists worldwide are genetically modifying foods to enhance their good traits, often to opposition and controversy.

As a technologist, though, the whole field of human nutrition feels like a pseudoscience. I'm used to tech that can be shown to work, not reams of controversial studies on both sides of a matter. The recent revamping of the government's food pyramid is an especially egregious example of politics and commercial interests intervening in science.

Even the most basic biometric techniques for assessing nutrition and fitness are not universally accepted. Just take a look at all the various methods available to do body fat testing: waist-to-hip ratio, skinfold testing, bioelectrical impedance analysis, near-infrared interactance, underwater weighing, and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry; only the last two have been scientifically validated. We don't even have a single accepted way to tell how fat we are!

When it comes to nutrition, we are at the mercy of fad, innuendo, and trends. All this ignorance sets the stage for one of the biggest struggles we'll have to face in the next decade or so: Frankenfood. You think the current debates on genetically modified (GM) food are hairy today? Well, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Leaving aside the whole thorny issue of being able to patent life (I think the patent applicant should demonstrate how to build its organism from dust, or just darkness and light, in order to qualify), tomorrow's foods won't just be enhanced naturally (feeding flax to chickens to enhance omega fats in eggs), or mildly genetically modified (like rice enhanced with protein, Vitamin A, iron and zinc), to entirely new categories of food, made like a rapper's song – by sampling the cream of the crops.

On the way to these future foods, we'll start producing variations of current foods in factories. Think that's pretty far off? Well, in a paper in the June 29 issue of Tissue Engineering, a team of scientists proposed two new techniques of tissue engineering that may be the first steps toward industrial production of cultured meat. This picture is a shot of fish tissue cultured by NASA in a project to demonstrate the production of meat on a space voyage.

While this may sound a bit icky, there would be substantial benefits from cultured meat: control over bad nutrients (like cholesterol), food safety (no pesticides, no antibiotics), the environment (livestock produce 1.4 billion tons of waste each year), and animal welfare. Imagine if Texas didn't need cows anymore.

"The benefits could be enormous," investigator Jason Matheny says. "The demand for meat is increasing world wide -- China 's meat demand is doubling every ten years. Poultry consumption in India has doubled in the last five years. With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supply. And you could do it in a way that's better for the environment and human health. In the long term, this is a very feasible idea."

Some of the investigators have even created a new venture called New Harvest, a nonprofit research organization working to develop new meat substitutes, including cultured meat. Their Website contains a bold assertion: "Because meat substitutes are produced under controlled conditions impossible to maintain in traditional animal farms, they are safer, more nutritious, less polluting, and more humane than conventional meat."

We'll just have to see about that. But it's obvious that nutrition science today is totally inadequate to meet the challenge of certifying such foods. We just have to hope that nutrition knowledge and techniques can rapidly come up to speed to keep these new foods safe, and make sure they provide the materials our bodies need.

Otherwise, we may be creating a frankenfood monster.


Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: I was interviewed for ManagementFirst's Feature of the Month and got to toot my horn for a bit.

    The WiMAX Guys' main business is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots such as hotels, warehouses, apartment buildings, and office buildings or hotzones that cover cities. We also sell a knowledge-based Web portal called the MAX K-Base. Check out our main Website at

    The first chapter of my wife's novel, Knowing What You Know Today is up on her Website. The other chapters cost money, but are well worth it, believe you me. Check it out at
    Many issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $111.48. Thanks Bill!

    And now that I'm partnered with one of the largest advertisers on the planet, Google, that should be kicking in serious coin to the StratVantage coffers. Let's see. The current total is: $45.05. Great. BTW, I am informed that I can't ask you to read this issue on the Web and click on the ads due to Google's terms of service. So don't. You can, however, shop at Amazon, pay nothing additional, and send a spiff to me.

  • Top 10 Funny Spammer Names – I recently received spam from the following preposterously named individuals:

    10. Iberia I. Roomier
    9.   Trigonometry F. Rubin
    8.   Statutory P. Steamy
    7.   Difficult Warner
    6.   Kuznets Q. Daubers
    5.   Groundswells R. Accountancy
    4.   Pigeonholing E. Changeling
    3.   Typewriter H. Dividers
    2.   Enrollment U. Diversionary

    And the number 1 Top Funny Spammer Name:
    1.   Underdeveloped A. Val

  • FISH of the Day: Alert SNS Reader Seth Freeman sends along the latest Forwarded Internet Serial Humor:

    Language on Venus and Mars:
    1. Yes = No
    2. No = Yes
    3. Maybe = No
    4. We need = I want
    5. I am sorry - You'll be sorry
    6. We need to talk = you're in trouble
    7. Sure, go ahead = you better not
    8. Do what you want = you will pay for this later
    9. I am not upset = Of course, I am upset, you moron!
    10. You're certainly attentive tonight = is sex all you ever think about?


    1. I am hungry = I am hungry
    2. I am sleepy = I am sleepy
    3. I am tired = I am tired
    4. Nice dress = Nice cleavage!
    5. I love you = Let's have sex now
    6. I am bored = Do you want to have sex?
    7. May I have this dance? = I'd like to have sex with you.
    8. Can I call you sometime? = I'd like to have sex with you.
    9. Do you want to go to a movie? = I'd like to have sex with you.
    10. Can I take you out to dinner? = I'd like to have sex with you.
    11. I don't think those shoes go with that outfit - I'm gay

  • GoogleWatching: Google and Skype Invest in a Wi-Fi Startup:  Google and Skype (an eBay company) along with some leading venture capitalists are investing in a new Spanish company that offers a peer-to-peer network of Wi-Fi hotspots.

    Four-month-old FON Technology SL, based in Madrid, Spain, allows users to share each other's Wi-Fi connections via special software. This concept, known as wireless community networking, has its beginnings in grassroots efforts in which users allow others to use their wireless hotspots in exchange for similar courtesy when they are mobile. However, most broadband providers specifically prohibit this type of sharing, for obvious reasons. The idea has been around for years, even causing some controversy when industry pundit Robert X. Cringely proposed it as the ultimate Wi-Fi aggregator business model, dubbing it WhyFi.

    It may not be the ultimate Wi-Fi aggregator business model, but it's a heck of a way to sell advertising, if you ask me.
    Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

  • Every OS Sucks: And ain't it the truth?
    Three Dead Trolls

  • What Exactly Has Microsoft Contributed? For those companies that believe you must innovate to succeed, I present the case of Microsoft. A recent reader posting at ponders the question, "What did Microsoft ever invent or even innovate?"

    Not the spreadsheet. Not the wordprocessor. Not the database. Not the office suite. Not the GUI. Not the web browser. They bought DOS from SCC. I think there was only one true thing, we all concluded, that Microsoft innovated with and the [answer]
    was "the cascading style sheet." Yeah, now that's a huge contribution to the history of computing. Major!

    So I guess the answer to the question of Microsoft innovation is: Marketing.

    There's more at the link below.

  • If You've Made it This Far: Alert SNS Reader Ken Florian was the winner of our first Obscure Reference Contest and was awarded not one, but two sticks of completely useless memory. Here's a picture of the coveted prize.

    Ken said, "In accepting this prize of two sticks of totally useless memory I want to thank….all my friends and yadda yadda." Here's a picture of the presentation ceremony.

    The next Obscure Reference Contest is an easy one, but oddly, there have been no submissions yet. What is the name of the song that I mangled a bit elsewhere in the previous newsletter? You also need to tell me who was the artist, when was it released, and, if you can tell me who did my favorite cover of the song's chorus you'll get double points.

REAL Pen Computing

REAL Pen Computing

You may have heard about pen-based computing, but I guarantee you haven’t heard about pens-based computing. Yes, pens, plural. Your old pocket protector will never be the same again.

I’m not talking about toys like the Fly Pentop Computer, which is actually pretty cool, but about a prototype of a real, full-featured computer comprised entirely of transmogrified pens.

Alert SNS Reader and Hall of Fame Member Bill Lehnertz strikes yet again with a pointer to this amazing prototype computer. Here’s what he sent me:

---- What do you think these are?

Click photo to enlarge

Look closely n' guess what they could be...

Click photo to enlarge


Click photo to enlarge

Any wild guesses now?

No clue?

Ladies and gentlemen... congratulations!
You have just now looked into the future...

You have seen something that would replace your PC in the near future....

Click photo to enlarge

In the revolution of miniature computers, the scientists are ahead with Bluetooth technology...

See the forthcoming computers within our pockets

Click photo to enlarge

This pen sort of instrument produces both the monitor as well as the keyboard on flat surfaces from where you can just carry out the normal operations you do on your desktop.

Click photo to enlarge

Click photo to enlarge

Because you never know these days, I checked this out at the Urban Legend Reference Pages, your first stop in debunking anything that smells fishy. Sure enough, this is a real development.

Turns out this is a really OLD innovation, having been shown at the 2003 ITU Telecom World exhibition held in Geneva! That’s a whole two years ago! Here’s the NEC blurb on the project, weirdly and unfortunately named PISM:

A Pen-style Personal Networking Gadget Package
It seems that information terminals are infinitely getting smaller. However, we will continue to manipulate them with our hands for now. We have visualized the connection between the latest technology and the human, in a form of a pen. P-ISM is a gadget package including five functions: a pen-style cellular phone with a handwriting data input function, virtual keyboard, a very small projector, camera scanner, and personal ID key with cashless pass function. P-ISMs are connected with one another through short-range wireless technology. The whole set is also connected to the Internet through the cellular phone function. This personal gadget in a minimalistic pen style enables the ultimate ubiquitous computing.

There’s a bunch of other cool gadgets on their showcase page.

The P-ISM prototype cost a whopping $30,000, so it’s not going to replace your boat anchor anytime soon. It’s based on some technology from Canesta, which seems to have de-emphasized their virtual keyboard technology in favor of some cool-looking machine perception tech.

NEC doesn’t seem to have made any strides toward commercializing this concept, at least not publicly. But what I want to know is . . . does it have to run Windows?

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: I was interviewed for ManagementFirst’s Feature of the Month and got to toot my horn for a bit.

    The WiMAX Guys’ main business is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots such as hotels, warehouses, apartment buildings, and office buildings or hotzones that cover cities. We also sell a knowledge-based Web portal called the MAX K-Base. Check out our main Website at

    The first chapter of my wife’s novel, Knowing What You Know Today is up on her Website. The other chapters cost money, but are well worth it, believe you me. Check it out at
    Many issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $111.48. Thanks Bill!

    And now that I’m partnered with one of the largest advertisers on the planet, Google, that should be kicking in serious coin to the StratVantage coffers. Let’s see. The current total is: $45.05. Great. BTW, I am informed that I can’t ask you to read this issue on the Web and click on the ads due to Google’s terms of service. So don’t. You can, however, shop at Amazon, pay nothing additional, and send a spiff to me.

  • The Raw File – SNS is dedicated to delivering the scoop on the latest and greatest. However, I collect lots of information that never makes it into the newsletter before it gets old. I’ve collected all this aging info into a page called The Raw File. This page is the raw information I gather for SNS articles. It’s not pretty, and some may be a little incoherent, but chances are there are still things in TRF that might be news to you. So therefore, use The Raw File at your own risk – it’s 45+ pages of the best stuff that didn’t make it into SNS.
    The Raw File

  • Feedback for ME: I’ve started posting SNS on other venues like MySpace (sure don’t know why this is such a hot site; nevertheless, I am there: and Gather (a pretty cool community with lots of interesting writers:

    One of the nice side effects of this is some interesting and thoughtful comments, such as this from Gather member
    PJ Brunet about my story What's Google Up To?

    “As for Google Adsense...Yahoo called me the other day about their ad program... I haven't called them back yet. I'm afraid that if I pull my Google banners down I will lose priority in Google's results. I get good traffic from Google. Also, Yahoo's TOS says something about not using the ad code with content about "religion"... I'm not sure what to think about that... if I mention God will I be kicked from the program? Is Yahoo for agnostic advertisers only? Sounds complicated to me...”

    Here’s what PJ had to say about Why Do We Have Personal Computers?

    It's already happening ;) I'm a big fan of the thin client! People that are into video editing, 3D animation, whatever...will probably be waiting a while for the "AJAX" versions, but the majority of people I think will find a slimmer, silent, cheaper device more attractive... I don't think speed will be an issue in most cases, the new CPU's are amazingly fast, the client can still think for itself's not like you have a dumb terminal that needs the server for every little thing... we're not in the 1980's anymore. Honestly I'm not a thin client expert, but I'd imagine that you would have *some* storage space on your device, just not in the form of a noisy, whirling drive. I think you will see AJAX File Management pretty soon as standard for most new web hosting accounts...Cpanel is the new desktop ;)

    Gather member Benjamin Marty had this to say about the same article:

    “I suspect that existing devices will evolve into the thin client devices described here. And I don't think we have to accept some of the limitations supposed by "the raver". You can play high powered games on some forms of thin clients. I would consider game consoles to be thin clients (since some don't even have hard drives, it's very hard to introduce the mystical problems that some fat clients have). Consoles are introducing internet connectivity now, and should soon introduce more flexible, general purpose internet access if they haven't already (if the providers can get past their scheme of selling consoles below cost and profiting only from the games).”

    Here’s how I replied to these gentlemen:

    Benjamin, I agree about the morphing of other devices into more general computing appliances, and certainly game consoles are a prime candidate. You can already watch DVDs on them and even hook up to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Next is email and other basic functions to connect you to other gamers, and then who knows beyond that?

    The TV itself definitely becomes a computing device once HDTV becomes ubiquitous, and IP phones are already thin clients. I've written before about how computers will fade into the environment, much like the electric motor did in the early part of last century. I fully expect this, and the moment in which we no longer buy a computer since computing is all around us.

    PJ, I agree the thin client will have persistent storage, perhaps in the form of silicon rather than a hard driver. And, yes, these devices won't be '80s style dumb terminals, but neither will they be stand-alone computing platforms. I also agree with the points you made in your blog about Web 2.0 being about thinner computing. AJAX is the leading edge of an effort to remake software and computing into a kinder, gentler thing. And about time, too! I just struggled all weekend to revive my son's aging Dell laptop and fought every step of the way with Windows 2000's inflexibility.

    Finally, I think the most important trend on the horizon is something IBM has been touting for years: self-healing systems. These systems will diagnose and fix themselves, making lost weekends like I just had a thing of the past. I can't wait!

  • Well, What Happened on January 6th? In the last SNS, I noted rampant speculation that Google would announce a Google computing device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas early last month. Sadly, we were all underwhelmed when on January 6, Google announced Google Video store, Google Pack beta, a free collection of safe, useful software from Google and other companies, and Google on Motorola handsets. Ho-hum!

  • Top 10 Funny Spammer Names – I recently received spam from the following preposterously named individuals:

    10. Unclothing J. Discontinuation
    9.   Citizenry I. Sanitarium
    8.   Hardtack H. Nightie
    7.   Decaffeinate McLeod
    6.   Foreshortened E. Alertness
    5.   Disconcerts R. Handbill
    4.   Nobodies H. Deposition
    3.   Faiolest D. Yesteryear
    2.   Astonish McConnell

    And the number 1 Top Funny Spammer Name:
    1.   Explicitness A. Fantasy

  • FISH of the Day: Alert SNS Reader Bill Lehnertz sends along the latest Forwarded Internet Serial Humor:

    1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. will merge and become:
    Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace
    2.) Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become:
    Poly, Warner Cracker
    3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and will become:
    4.) Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become:
    5.) FedEx is expected to join its major competitor, UPS, and become:
    6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become:
    Fairwell Honeychild
    7.) Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become:
    Poupon Pants
    8.) Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become:
    Knott NOW!
    9.) Victoria's Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new name:
    [Well, this one’s too rude. Use your imagination, or email me for the name]

  • Yet Another FISH: Bill Lehnertz is on a roll. Check this FISH: Technology for Country Folk.

  • I’m Riding on Sunshine, Waa-ooh! Alert SNS Reader Bill Lehnertz spotted yet another interesting prototype

    Thought you might like to see the next generation of tires.  They had a pair at the Philadelphia Car show. These tires are airless and are scheduled to be out on the market very soon. The bad news for law enforcement is that spike strips will not work on these tires.

    This is what great R&D will do and just think of the impact on existing technology:
    - no more air valves
    - no more air compressors at gas stations
    - no more repair kits


  • I Can’t Promote: I am now allied with Google, the Do No Evil Company, because I present their AdSense ads and reap a bounty ($45.05 since September!). Because of this, I am bound by certain terms of service, for example: “Sales or promotion of certain weapons, such as firearms, ammunition, balisongs, butterfly knives, and brass knuckles” due to the terms of service of Google’s AdSense service.

    OK, this is a very strange list. I understand firearms and ammunition, and these are rather general categories. But what the heck is a balisong, and why call out butterfly knives and brass knuckles specifically? Turns out a balisong is a Filipino butterfly knife. So what is this obsession with a certain kind of knife? Can I promote switchblades? How about Ginsu knives?

  • If You’ve Made it This Far: I have declared Alert SNS Reader Ken Florian the winner of our Obscure Reference Contest due to his dogged persistence and a truly regrettable error in the contest. The prize is one stick of totally obsolete PC memory and it will soon be winging its way to Ken. Wait for the presentation ceremony picture in a future SNS.

    The next Obscure Reference Contest is an easy one. What is the name of the song that I mangled a bit elsewhere in this newsletter? You also need to tell me who was the artist, when was it released, and, if you can tell me who did my favorite cover of the song’s chorus you’ll get double points.