Thursday, September 01, 2005

Bits & Pieces Again

I need to do a little end of summer house cleaning, so here are a bunch of interesting tidbits that have been gathering dust here at StratVantage Central.

  • Stop the Credit Card Madness: If you’re like me, you get several credit card offers a week, or perhaps a day. I hope you’re shredding the applications forms, because these persistent annoyances are a great source of identity theft. If you’d like to stop getting these offers, for either five years or forever, you can opt out online. Doing so removes your name from the lists at the four largest credit bureaus, but may not stop all offers from coming. (So who wants to only stop getting them for five years?)
  • Cell Phone Do Not Call List Hoax: I’ve railed before about how you should be suspicious of any email that encourages you to forward it to all your friends. I got one recently that was only partly false. It said, in part, “In 31 days, cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sales calls.” It goes on to urge you to place your cell phone number on a national do not call list. Turns out the list is real, but the urgency is not. According to the Netlore Archive, “it's true that the major wireless phone providers (except Verizon) have announced their intention to establish a 411 directory of customers' cell phone numbers beginning in 2006, it is not true that they plan to ‘publish’ said directory for any and all to read.” It’s also true that you can put any number on the Federal Trade Commission do not call list to avoid solicitations. Do Not Call List
  • Don’t Answer the Boss’ Email: A new kind of hoax email technique is on the rise. You may be familiar with phishing, or emails pretending to be from eBay or a bank that ask you to go to a Website and re-enter your personal information. Well, many people have caught on to this scam and so now a new technique called spear phishing (just because it sounds cool, I guess) substitutes your boss as the person asking you to give personal information. Email security company MessageLabs said in June that it has seen the tactic grow steadily during the year to the point where it now sees one to two spear phishing campaigns a week. So, whom do you trust? eWeek
  • You’re Famous! If you’ve ever been mentioned on a Web page, chances are a company called ZoomInfo has created a summary of information about you. I stumbled onto this service recently and was amazed at what they knew about me. When I first searched for my name, I found six or seven different summaries gleaned from former employer Websites and other sources. ZoomInfo allowed me to gather these together and edit them into a pretty neat summary of where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I’ve no idea what ZoomInfo’s business model is, other than getting click-through revenue from the Google Ads they run, but it’s a nice alternative to Googling that potential business associate. ZoomInfo
  • Verizon Expands Broadband Wireless: My company is called The WiMAX Guys, and we named ourselves that because we thought WiMAX was going to be the next big thing in wireless. In the two years since we changed our name (from The Wi-Fi Guys for reasons that make a long sad story), though, I’ve come to believe that the cell phone companies are eventually going to own wireless broadband. The reason? A technology called EV-DO and its successor, EV-DV. EV-DO is a wireless broadband technique that can give you up to 600Kbps Internet access anywhere you can get cell phone coverage. Verizon recently announce several more cities that are covered, and their BroadbandAccess service has finally come to the hinterland of Minnesota. At $80 a month for unlimited data, it’s not too economical, but the company just reduced the price to $60/month for subscribers that also have their voice service. The real-world speeds this service provides are pretty close to low-end broadband, and I think many people may give up their DSL and go wireless. But what’s even more exciting is the coming EV-DV service, which promises real-world speeds of 1Mbps! Although WiMAX promises higher data rates, achieving the kind of coverage the big cell companies can provide will be a significant challenge. It’s very likely that the Verizons and Sprints of the world will own the home broadband market once EV-DV becomes available. So perhaps we should change our name to The EV-DV Guys and become Verizon resellers. Verizon
  • Plenty of IT jobs: For several years now, I’ve been hearing about the coming shortage of IT workers. The graying of America, and especially the graying of federal IT workers, combined with the decline in the number of college students opting for a degree in Computer Science, is likely to result in a severe shortage of geeks. Well, I say, bring it on! It’s about time consulting rates got better. Alert SNS Reader Tim Plas sent along a link to a blog that discusses this trend as well as a trend toward outsourcing to Native Americans. MN Headhunter
  • Production Nanotubes: Nanotechnology, the science of creating things at a molecular level, holds great promise, as I’ve previously discussed. However, it may be evolving quicker than expected, since a joint effort between the University of Texas and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is cranking out industrial-ready material made of nanotubes at the rate of 47 feet per minute. Nanotubes are carbon rings arranged as a tube and are 2 millionths-of-an-inch (2000 times thinner than paper) wide. The coolest thing about them is they are 100 times stronger than steel at one-sixth the weight. They also conduct electricity and emit light when heated. Recently, Motorola showed a working prototype of a nanotech computer monitor. The monitor uses an array of nanotubes to fire electrons at a conventional screen. But since nanotubes can be made to glow, it’s not such a huge leap to a super-thin monitor made of glass coated with nanotubes. Best Syndication
  • Indications of the Decline of Western Civilization: Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands in disgust. Are my fellow humans endowed with any wits at all? Not only do spam and phishing and email hoaxes work on an alarming percentage of the public, but even things that are obviously jokes, like the notion of a spray that can improve the speed of your Wi-Fi connection, get legs. The idea of the Wi-Fi Speed Spray started out as a really obvious joke on John Walkenbach’s Website. Before he knew it, though, some idiot had copied his site and put Wi-Fi Speed Spray up for bid on eBay. After being asked to stop by Walkenbach, and having been thrown off eBay by the Auction Police, the miscreant, erstwhile comedian Ari Burton, duped Walkenbach’s page on his own Website. When Walkenbach complained, Burton registered the domain, rewrote some of Walkenbach’s copy, and started selling the product as the “ultimate gag / joke gift for the computer geek who has everything.” It’s like a mini-opera! Ari Burton
  • Track Sex Offenders Online: Alert SNS Reader Nick Caffarra directed me to the New Jersey Sex Offender Internet Registry, one of many states’ efforts to identify sex offenders online (TX, CA, UT, MN). Nick was upset that there was a sex offender living in his vicinity. I say it could be worse. He could live in Bergen County, NJ. But what strikes me about these offenders is how ordinary most them appear. Kind of reminds me of a brief bit I did in a previous SNS on the game Coder or Cannibal? New Jersey Sex Offender Internet Registry
  • Hold On a Sec . . . I Gotta Go Make . . . Some Electricity: How are you going to power all your cool nanotech devices? Whizz on ‘em! Thanks to Alert SNS Reader Bill Lehnertz for answering the call. LiveScience
  • Palm a Turncoat? The rumor is that the next Palm Treo smartphone will be based on, gasp, Microsoft’s Pocket PC operating system! Could it possibly be? Maybe, maybe not. But everyone thinks Palm’s working on a Cobalt-based Treo. The whole discussion is just more reason to not believe everything you see in a Photoshop world. Engadget
  • Nano for Power: Nanotechnology will affect every area of our lives. Here’s an article on how it will affect the energy industry. Extreme Nano
  • US Eclipsed by Third World on Wireless: Alert SNS Reader Claudia Swan sent along one of the countless articles I’ve seen recently about the fact that the US is 16th in the world in wireless telephony. Written by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, the article is an “archive” article, according to the Times, and thus you must pay to see it. Or read it on a Third World Website, below. The Gray Lady The Indian Express
  • Spamming Anti-Spammer: Spam is spam, no matter how noble your intentions. Anti-spam vigilante SPAMIS, or the Strategic Partnership Against Microsoft Illegal Spam, sends out lots of spam calling for a boycott of all Microsoft products because Microsoft is spamming. Do as I say, not as I do. Boycott Watch
  • Here Come Nano Frankenfoods: Despite a bogus claim of healthful nanowater from a Chinese company, nanofood is currently a several billion dollar industry and is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2010. Thanks to Alert SNS Reader Bill Lehnertz for the ping. Alternet
  • Nano Hydrogen for Power: If I had a nickel for every time a cynical techie told me that we can never have a hydrogen-based economy because it takes more energy to produce hydrogen than it stores, I’d have, well, maybe 30 cents. This is in-the-box thinking, folks, and it usually ends with an assertion that only nuclear power can make energy cheaply enough to make hydrogen economical. Remember way back in high school chemistry when you learned about catalysts, the compounds that dramatically reduce the energy needed for a reaction? Well nanocompany Signa has developed a nanocatalyst for hydrogen production from water. It’s not as cool as cold fusion, but if it’s real, problem solved.
  • Flogging Vlogs: OK, like Custer, it is difficult for me to admit an error. A couple years ago, I gave video blogging a “Naw, I don’t think so.” Erm, it’s actually a pretty big deal, thanks to the video cameras being built into modern phones. It has even given rise to a Jackass-wannabe called Ian, who will take your emailed challenges and perform them in front of his video camera. Enjoy your 15 minutes, Ian! Wired News

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