An idiosyncratic look at, and comment on, the week's net and technology news
by Alan Lenton
Quality, not quantity is the hallmark of this week's Winding Down! Well that's my line and I'm sticking to it...
Next week is the UK's May Day Bank Holiday, which means there will be no Winding Down. This particular holiday was introduced by a Labour government a few decades back. It's not actually on May Day most years, just the Monday afterwards.
It's constantly under threat from the extreme right wing here - they want to move the holiday to St George's Day (April 23rd), since he is supposed to be the patron saint of England. I doubt if many people care, England is the most secular country in the world. In fact most people have no idea when St Georges Day is (I had to look it up) and as long as they get a holiday so they can have a lie in, every one will be happy...
Ever wonder how the other half lives? Well for one thing they get much more sophisticated phishing spam! It seems that high ranking executives across the US have been the specific targets of a carefully crafted spam phishing attack. The spam came in the form of what appeared to be official subpoenas to appear before a grand jury from the US District Court in San Diego. Each letter included the executive's name, company and phone number.
Attached to the e-mail was a file containing a copy of the subpoena, or so it seemed. Actually, opening it resulted in a keystroke logger being installed on the executive's computer, allowing the perpetrators to capture password and other corporate and personal info and send it to a computer in Singapore.
This was a very clever attack. I suspect it is a harbinger of things to come. In the future we will get less and less malware delivered by mass spam and more of it tailored to specific, key, recipients.
It's here - mark next month on your calendar as the time holographic memory arrived on the market. The idea of holographic storage has been round for years, but it's been a nightmare of technical hassle to get it from the lab to the real world. Finally, InPhase have done it. At $18,000 for a drive, and $180 for 300GB disks, it's not cheap, but then what truly new technology is.
InPhase are aiming at the archive market - the disks are specced as being stable for 50 years. In order to get this beast to market InPhase had to figure out a manufacturing process for thick, optically flat high-dynamic range media, the maths and circuitry needed to use digital camera chips for image reconstruction, invent polytropic multiplexing, and create holographic mastering techniques for commercial reproduction. Brilliant! Abso-fragging-lutely brilliant!
Congratulation all round to InPhase. One day, in the not too distant future, I hope, these things will be cheap enough, and small enough, to be fitted to laptop computers...
You know something? Google are supposed to be cool and all that, but I just find them creepy. Their secrecy, paranoia and casualness about other people's privacy repels me. Google's latest investment is a massive US$4.4 billion in a genetic screening company called 23andMe, and it's also investing in a DNA screening start up called Navigenics.
You have to ask yourself why Google is investing in DNA, and in what way they expect DNA companies to be synergistic with Google's business? As Google spokesman, Andrew Pederson points out, the companies, "will generate a lot of very new type information with potentially far-reaching value."
One day the technoratii are going to rue their mindless adulation of Google.
Since it's election time again, I thought I'd introduce a techie angle by pointing out that security vulnerabilities have been reported on both the Clinton and Obama web sites. Not surprising when you realize that all the presidential candidates have avoided taking part in any debate that would illuminate their views on science and technology.
It's always fascinated me that the leaders of a nation that owes its preeminent position as the only world superpower to its superb scientific research should be so indifferent to science. It rather makes me wonder where the US will be in the world stakes in, say, 50 year's time?
In the meantime if you like science, take a look at this round up of 25 of the more interesting university tech lab projects going on at the moment:
Good news for those of you whose jobs are threatened by outsourcing and offshoring. The Indian parliament is about to screw up in a major way by changing its tax code to make life seriously more expensive for Indian outsourcing firms!
The proposed changes will hit Indian software firms particularly hard, for instance maintenance and consultancy services related to software will become liable for the 12.3 per cent service tax. Also, the tax holiday granted to units registered under the software technology park provisions expires on 31 March 2009, and there are no provisions in the current legislation to renew it. This means that tech companies are suddenly going to be liable for 33.99 per cent incorporated tax!
Suddenly, offshoring to India is going to look somewhat more than a tad more expensive!
And now for a little Microsoft news...
Microsoft slipped in a sneaky little 'anti-piracy' detection tool as being a critical update last week. Naughty. They've removed it now, claiming it was an accident.
They have also released Windows XP Service Pack 3 to manufacturers, which means most big companies, like Dell and HP, should be releasing machines with it on soon - just until June when XP is supposed to be officially dead. I wonder how many bugs there are in Service Pack 3?
The Court of Appeal has ruled that the class action lawsuit against Microsoft over so-called 'Vista Capable' computers can go ahead. Microsoft's attempt to derail the suit was lost.
Microsoft Word 2007 managed to generate no less than 122,000 (yes, a hundred and twenty two thousand) errors when tested against the new OXML international standard that it managed to ram through the International Standards Organisation last month. It's a bit grim when an organisation can't even meet the standards it wrote and went to a great deal of trouble to have adopted! Come to think of it, I know some who would say it's par for the course with this organisation...
I wasn't really surprised to find that computer types are not the only ones crying foul over being short changed, or at least short bandwidthed by the cable companies. It seems that the cable companies are trying to stuff even more HD channels down their cables at a time when they are at the limits of their capability. The result, HD TV that looks just like standard TV. It's simple really, there's not enough bandwidth.
Now, where have I heard that before?
Finally, here's a blog that's really worth following. Pipe International are laying a new submarine cable linking Sydney, Australia to the key international telecommunications interconnection hub at Guam, allowing their customers to then reach Asia or the US via other similar cable systems.
And they are blogging text and photos as they lay the US$188 million cable. This is a unique chance to follow the laying of a submarine cable as the work proceeds - don't miss it!
Scanner: Other Stories
A tech lover's call to arms
eBay sues Craigslist as family squabble goes public
NJ Supreme Court rules for internet privacy
Thanks to readers Barb, Fi and Slashdot's daily newsletter for drawing my attention to material used in this issue.
Please send suggestions for stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the words Winding Down in the subject line, unless you want your deathless prose gobbled up by my voracious Spamato spam filter...
27 April 2708
Alan Lenton is an on-line games designer, programmer and sociologist. His web site is at http://www.ibgames.net/alan.
Past issues of Winding Down can be found at http://www.ibgames.net/alan/winding/index.html