pfir | 2 Jul 23:34 2009

Death by Firefox: Bullets and Geolocation


                 Death by Firefox: Bullets and Geolocation

                http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000590.html

Greetings.  I had a nightmare last night.  A real doozie, that joins
the pantheon of the half-dozen or so worst dreams of my life.  This
wasn't a typical confused mashup of creepy sounds and plunging
elevators, but rather a short and horrifyingly realistic visit to a
hell on Earth.  Unlike most dreams, whose origins seem to be random
neural garbage collection more than anything else, I know with
absolute and specific certainty what triggered this phantasia.

It started out quietly enough.  I was in a small, dimly lit room,
apparently invisible to the single occupant.  The walls were covered
with posters emblazoned with slogans, written in a language I couldn't
even recognize.

At a small wooden table sat a figure covered by an all-encompassing
black burka, typing rapidly at the keyboard of a laptop computer, the
brightness of its screen providing most of the light in the room.

Suddenly there was a loud commotion outside and a gang of men --
soldiers of some kind it appeared -- burst in.  The burka was stripped
from the figure, revealing a young woman.  She was thrown against the
wall by one man, while another kept screaming at her in words I
couldn't understand, as another kept alternately pointing to a
printout map on a piece of paper and to her computer.

One more official entered the room, apparently of higher rank.  He
(Continue reading)

pfir | 3 Jul 18:16 2009

New iPhone's Battery is Achilles' Heel


                     New iPhone's Battery is Achilles' Heel

                  http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000591.html

Greetings.  Before you even think about rushing out to buy the new
iPhone, you might want to read an interesting story about continuing
negative reactions to the iPhone 3GS' battery life 
( http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-iphone3-2009jul03,0,2546606.story ).

Of course, all smartphones are power hungry, and we use these
Internet-enabled phones for so much more than just talking.  But the
iPhone is a particularly egregious case since the battery is sealed
inside and not considered to be a "user replaceable" item.

My G1 phone also sucks a lot of juice, but I can pop in an extra
charged battery anytime, and I have an extended duration battery
(bigger is better!) to use in there as well.

With the iPhone, since battery life sucks, you're really stuck.

There are, however, some comparatively ugly workarounds.  One person
responding just now to a tweet of mine on this topic says that he uses
a solar charger.  I guess that's OK if you don't leave the iPhone
itself out in direct sun, and don't keep smashing your head into the
solar array (OK, so the solar array isn't really that big ...)

A more practical way to deal with the problem may be something like
this external battery pack 
( http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2767656 -- only
(Continue reading)

pfir | 10 Jul 23:36 2009

A Disciple of Cyberwar Shakes His Literary Fist


              A Disciple of Cyberwar Shakes His Literary Fist

                http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000594.html

Greetings.  Over on the ABC News site today, I had the displeasure of
reading this commentary 
( http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Technology/story?id=8045546 ) by
well-known Silicon Valley observer Michael S. Malone.  It struck me
as one of the more irresponsible and even potentially dangerous
articles that I've seen from any mainstream technology columnists in
quite some time.

By suggesting -- even urging -- that the U.S. use Internet disruption
techniques (e.g. hacking/DDoS) in response to perceived "cyber
attacks," he is in fact endorsing the "Crack in the World" school of
political technology policy.  That is, even when the potential risks
are catastrophic, fire the missiles anyway 
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAU12PiW4NA ).

Even worse, Malone seems so doggoned sure that he knows where to point
his Internet-propelled cyber-bombs.  In reality, despite his obvious
confidence that North Korea's leaders are to blame, calmer heads know
that it's virtually impossible to pin down operational command
responsibility for these sorts of attacks in most cases.

But here's the real kicker from Malone:

    "Yeah, right. As if all of those millions of middle-class teenaged
     private owners of broadband connected laptops all over that
(Continue reading)

pfir | 13 Jul 17:23 2009

Oops! - Microsoft's New Feature Guaranteed to Lose Important E-Mail


      Oops! - Microsoft's New Feature Guaranteed to Lose Important E-Mail

                 http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000595.html

Greetings.  The bright boys at Microsoft have come up with a new
feature for Office 2010 that -- from the description I've seen of this
aspect so far -- seems guaranteed to turn some Outlook users into the
e-mail equivalent of black holes.

Essentially, it sounds simple enough.  Provide the ability to
instantly delete all messages associated with an e-mail thread in
which you're a CC member -- *including all future messages* from the
conversation. ( http://bit.ly/ignore-box-image )

Some reviewers, presumably of the more anal personality type, are
lauding this feature as the best development since sliced bread.  They
suggest it's more efficient and polite than asking to be taken off a
CC list.

The problems of course should be obvious to almost any e-mail user who
stops to think about it for a bit.

I don't know whether this MS mechanism uses Subject lines, References
lines, or some combination of both to make its thread determinations,
but I do know this: E-mail Subjects Drift!

We've all experienced this -- I've been noting it for decades.
Because most people are lax about updating Subject lines as a
discussion evolves and rely on the "reply" command, single e-mail
(Continue reading)

pfir | 13 Jul 21:19 2009

More on Microsoft's "Lose Mail" Feature - and How Google Handled the Issue Correctly


                More on Microsoft's "Lose Mail" Feature - 
               and How Google Handled the Issue Correctly

              http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000596.html

Greetings.  I'd like to clarify one aspect of my "Oops! - Microsoft's
New Feature Guaranteed to Lose Important E-Mail" posting from earlier
this morning ( http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000595.html ).

One reader quickly noted that Google has what he asserted was a
similar capability to Microsoft's upcoming "Ignore" function in
Outlook -- the Gmail "Mute" feature.

However, this is a perfect example of how the devil is in the details,
and how Microsoft apparently got this functionality wrong, and Google
got it right.

In contrast to the reported behavior of the MS "Ignore" command, which
deletes current and future messages (relegating them to Trash and
eventual automatic oblivion), Gmail's "Mute" command simply moves
targeted messages to Archival, from where they can be easily retrieved
at any time.

But here comes the real zinger of a comparison.  The MS Ignore feature
reportedly specifically targets messages in which the recipient is
listed as a CC.  But the Gmail Ignore function (as I understand it)
uses the presence of the recipient on the To: or CC: line as an
indication that this might be an important message, and triggers the
recovery of the associated e-mail thread from Archival, presenting it
(Continue reading)

pfir | 18 Jul 00:19 2009

"Steal Back This E-Book!" - Amazon Channels Big Brother


         "Steal Back This E-Book!" - Amazon Channels Big Brother

              http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000597.html

Greetings.  In a turn of events so ironic that even the seediest
Hollywood porn producer would have rejected the plot as ridiculously
unrealistic, Amazon.com has demonstrated that the worlds of electronic
vs. paper books are universes apart, and in one fell swoop magnified
the worst fears of e-book detractors around the world.

The script sounds so ridiculous that it's almost embarrassing to
recount.  To retroactively satisfy a demand from one of their
suppliers, Amazon reportedly reached electronically into
privately-owned Kindle electronic book readers and *deleted*
recently purchased copies of -- get this -- "1984" and "Animal Farm"
by George Orwell.

The irony drips so thickly that it practically coagulates on spinning
disk drives.  Just as 1984's Winston Smith's role was to delete and
change unacceptable points of history from information databases,
Amazon -- without any warning and without asking for permission from
Kindle owners -- destroyed e-books that had been legally purchased,
replacing them with a purchase credit.

This is *precisely* the functional equivalent of Barnes & 
Noble -- or Amazon itself for that matter -- using a crowbar or 
lock pick to break into your home or business, then stealing back 
a previous physical book purchase, replacing it with the equivalent 
value in cash.
(Continue reading)

pfir | 18 Jul 02:07 2009

Amazon says it will stop deleting Kindle books


Amazon says it will stop deleting Kindle books

http://www.informationweek.com/news/personal_tech/drm/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=218501227

--Lauren--
Lauren Weinstein
lauren <at> vortex.com
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
http://www.pfir.org/lauren
Co-Founder, PFIR
   - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Co-Founder, NNSquad
   - Network Neutrality Squad - http://www.nnsquad.org
Founder, GCTIP - Global Coalition 
   for Transparent Internet Performance - http://www.gctip.org
Founder, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein
pfir | 21 Jul 20:59 2009

administrivia / hiatus


Friends,

Due to personal issues I need to suspend active PFIR mailings
temporarily, I hope only very briefly but I really don't know at this
point.  Feel free to continue sending in materials, but please don't
think you're being ignored if your messages seem to be vanishing into
a black hole.  My hope is to return to normal status as soon as
possible.

Thanks in advance for your understanding.

--Lauren--
Lauren Weinstein
lauren <at> vortex.com
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
http://www.pfir.org/lauren
Co-Founder, PFIR
   - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Co-Founder, NNSquad
   - Network Neutrality Squad - http://www.nnsquad.org
Founder, GCTIP - Global Coalition 
   for Transparent Internet Performance - http://www.gctip.org
Founder, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein

Gmane