Be on the wave or under it
The News – 05/02/04
Alert SNS Reader Follow
Alert SNS Reader Roger Hamm suggested an interesting topic for today’s newsletter:
What has happened to all the interesting tips uncovered by Alert SNS Readers
in the past? Since I periodically like to do follow up on the material I include
in SNS, and since Alert SNS Readers are the eyes and ears of this newsletter,
this sounded like a very good idea. So below, you’ll find out the current
status on several Alert SNS Reader items from the past, mostly from 2001.
Alert SNS reader Mike Todey
sent along a reference to incredible data base research at the
University of Rochester (NY). At a conference on lasers and
optics in Baltimore, researchers reported that they had invented a way to use
light to do a database search of 50 items in a way that can't
be duplicated in any particle-based computer.
Dr. Ian Walmsley has apparently moved on to Oxford and is into even weirder
things, but probably not involving database searches at this
point. And it’s hard to find out if anyone is carrying on the
research at Rochester. Why the heck are academic Websites so doggone uninformative?
Alert SNS Reader Andrew Hargreave
passed along an item regarding the ruling by the Connecticut
Department of Consumer Protection against Acme Rent-A-Car in
their practice of fining car renters $150 per speeding infraction.
Acme knew the renters were speeding by using data from the Geographical
Positioning System (GPS) units in their cars. The decision was
based on the fact that Acme failed to properly word their contracts
when they indicated that fines would be imposed for speeding.
Commissioner Jim Fleming also stated that the practice of renters
being fined is illegal. However, the practice of tracking vehicles
with GPS is still a legal practice.
Poor Byungsoo Son. Son rented
a car in San Francisco and ended up with a $3,405 bill instead of the $260 he expected.
Seems Son drove with his family to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon
and returned via Southern California and up Highway 1 to San Francisco. Son hadn’t noticed the addendum to the contract that said
he would have to pay $1 a mile if he took the car out of the
state. The Payless Ford Escort he rented was one of the approximately
one quarter of the rental cars in the United
that are equipped with a tracking device. So the roadrunner
loses this round. Better watch that fine print.
Alert SNS Reader David Dabbs
sent in a pointer to Robert X. Cringely’s polemic, “The Death
of TCP/IP: Why the Age of Internet Innocence is Over.” Cringely
blames Microsoft and its “business decision” not to include
security in its operating systems or applications for the sorry
state of affairs today. Then he gets all conspiracy theory paranoid
on us and suggests Microsoft’s Grand Plan is to make the TCP/IP
protocol that runs the Internet unusable so the company can
ride to the rescue with its own proprietary protocol.
Two and a half years later, the MS Grand Plan doesn’t seem to have taken over
the Internet. But you just wait.
In the same issue, Alert SNS Reader David Dabbs noticed that UPS is
implementing what was being called the largest wireless LAN and short-range
wireless Bluetooth network. It involves a wireless Bluetooth ring-based scanner
that workers throughout its worldwide distribution hubs will use to scan barcodes
on packages and transmit the information through a hip-based 802.11b wireless
UPS features the ring scanner in its pressroom,
but the device in the picture hardly looks like it would fit
on my finger. Nonetheless, UPS says, “And in 2005, when UPS
completes the deployment of more than 9,000 wireless access
points, 55,400 Bluetooth ring scanners and WiFi terminals to
1700 package facilities worldwide, the company will be operating
the world's largest wireless local area network.” Yeah, but
they have to do something about that awful “Brown” ad campaign.
Alert SNS Reader Andrew Hargreave
sent along an item
on toymaker Hasbro’s innovative viral marketing efforts to market
their new peer-to-peer handheld game, POX. They asked kids to
name the coolest person they knew, tracked down that person,
asked him or her, and went on until they found someone who said,
“Me.” Hasbro then indoctrinated the coolest person and gave
him or her a bunch of POX gear, including some to give away
Today: A search at KB
Toys online turned up no hits on Pox. A search at ePinions revealed
of Pox from January 2003. A Google Groups search found no chatter
later than October 2002. And a search at Hasbro unearthed no
info on the toy. Looks like it didn’t make the cut.
Also in that issue, Alert
SNS Reader David Dabbs passed along an item concerning a PDF virus called
Outlook.pdf. The worm was worrisome because it was one of the few uncovered
that exploited he Adobe Acrobat platform.
Today: A search at McAfee
turned up the original notation
of the worm, but there doesn’t seem to have been much activity,
since the worm was hard to spread, requiring the full version
of Adobe Acrobat to propagate. A search on PDF only turned up
three variants of the original worm. So the Adobe Acrobat environment
is either hard to use or unattractive to worm writers.
Alert SNS Reader Roger Hamm sent a pointer
to an innovation that many of us superannuated geezers will
appreciate. Instead of having to swallow a pole for an upper-GI
series, you soon may be able to swallow a wireless camera-in-a-capsule
to check things out.
According to maker Given Imaging, to date more than 80,000 patients
worldwide have swallowed the M2A and experienced the advantages of Capsule
Endoscopy. Sign me up.
Alert SNS Reader Pete Simpson (my partner in The WiMAX
Guys) sent along an item about a relic of the dotcom craziness:
the digital picture frame.
Today: Time magazine featured Wallflower Systems’
wireless digital picture frame in a gadget roundup last October,
and the company still appears to be ongoing, adding the Wallflower
Plus to a product line that includes Wallflower Classic.
How time flies. But, really, who needs a thousand dollar picture
- Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: It’s here: A wireless
networking company called The WiMAX Guys. Our main business
is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots
such as hotels, warehouses, apartment buildings, and office
buildings. We also sell a knowledge-based Web portal called
the MAX K-Base. Check out
our main Website at www.TheWiMAXGuys.com.
I provided some background info for my colleague, Marcia Jedd,
who prepared an interesting white paper called Six Ways to Increase Marketing ROI. Check it out.
My article, Why
Your Company Needs a Professional Wireless Network,
was published in the Reside newsletter, which also published
my article about Short Messaging Service (SMS), Wherever
they go, there you are.
My second article for Fawcette Technical Publications’ Enterprise
Architect magazine, Companies
Collaborate on IT Practices, reports on a best practices
sharing effort called Project Avalanche. The project has now
turned into an IT software cooperative called Avalanche
Coming Soon: A new eBook, Be On the Wave Or Under It™
will collect the best of SNS’ insights over the last couple
of years, along with additional material from CTOMentor white
papers and new material. It will make a great gift for associates
and friends in need of a guide to the latest and greatest
technology. Watch for more information in upcoming SNS issues.
Several 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: $86.48.
- The Raw File
– In a recent SNS I commented that I had 40 pages of material
waiting to get into an SNS issue. Well, upon looking it over,
I decided much of it was past its freshness date. Since SNS
is dedicated to delivering the scoop on the latest and greatest,
this stuff no longer qualifies. However, on the off chance
that there are Alert SNS Readers out there who just can’t
get enough, 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 35+ pages of the best stuff from 2003
that didn’t make it into SNS.
The Raw File
- A Chicken at Your Service:
Alert SNS Reader Todd Mortenson sends along a link to a fowl
with apparent low self esteem. Some guy in a chicken suit
will do your bidding. Really. It shows how good computer language
parsing is getting.
- Windows Features Better TCO? A recent
study of the Total Cost of Ownership of two popular server
platforms, Windows 2003 and Linux, indicates that Windows
provides a better value. This is the first non-Microsoft-sponsored
study (by Yankee Group) I’ve seen that has come to this conclusion.
However, keep in mind that most of the advantage Yankee found
related to switching costs for current Windows shops. Nonetheless,
I’d be surprised if Yankee truly took into account the cost
of patch management, considering the practically weekly release
of operating system patches out of Redmond.
- Microsoft Software “More Secure,” According to Microsoft:
In a bit of self-congratulatory back patting, Bill Gates declared
recently that Microsoft’s two-year-old Trustworthy Computing
initiative (see this SNS)
has delivered more secure software. The evidence? The number
of "critical" and "important" security
bulletins issued in the first 320 days of availability for
Windows Server 2003 was nine, according to Gates, compared
with 40 in the same period for Windows 2000 Server. Well,
great! Just don’t assume Windows Server 2003 is four times
as secure as its predecessor.
- What’s Google Up To? A recent story
pointed out by Alert SNS Reader Roger Hamm belongs in the
Things That Make You Go, Hmmmm Department. "Google is
building a huge computer with a custom operating system that
everyone on earth can have an account on," writes
Jason Kottke, a Web designer and developer, in his Weblog,
recently. One clue is Google’s new free email service, the
terms of which allow Google to not only data mine your email
while you’re a customer, but also allow them to keep your
emails after you quit!
Kottke continues, “Google knows what people write
about, what they search
for, what they shop
for, they know who
wants to advertise and how effective those advertisements
are, and they're about to know how we communicate
with friends and loved ones. What can they do with all
that? Just about anything that collection of Ph.Ds can dream
Industry analysts compare what Google is creating to a Web-based
operating system, providing everything a user could need,
and obviating the need for a true, multi-function operating
system like Windows or Linux. Already Twin-Cities-based coffee
house advertising company SurfThing is providing on-site Internet
PCs running a crippled version of Linux instead of paying
the freight to install Windows. Could be a trend.
- Your House is Smarter Than a Vintage Bug:
But not much. Alert SNS Reader Jacqueline Miller forwards
an item that states that the average middle-class house today
is about as smart as the original Volkswagen Beetle from 55
years ago. But while cars have gotten very smart, houses have
not. The article compares the old Beetle, and the current
house, with the scarily accommodating VW Phaeton, which electronically
opens the door, adjusts the seat, seat belt, mirrors, steering
wheel, and air-conditioning and starts the car without the
driver ever having to put the key in the ignition. Try convincing
your house to let you in without your key.
The inside of the car is even smarter, with four climate-controlled
zones and 28 solar cells in the sunroof to power a ventilation
system that cools the car when it is parked in the sun.
But houses are getting smarter, and retirement homes are starting
to sport some real smarts, the kind that builders hope Baby
Boomers will demand such as those in the Smart Medical House.
The house features sensors and monitors that can keep track
of traditional vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse
and respiration, “but will also measure the “new” vital signs,
such as gait, behavior patterns, sleep patterns, general exercise,
and rehabilitation exercise, among others,” according to the
It all sounds great, but if I read another article using the
phrase, “aging boomers” I truly will scream. All those out
there not aging, please call and tell me your secret!
- Keeping Evil Wi-Fi Spirits at Bay:
This all too plausible ad will unfortunately be taken seriously
Return to Mike’s
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About The Author
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Can’t Get Enough of ME?
In the unlikely event
that you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the fashionable
thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped
collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web
page. If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do,
you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows
you FTP access, and the free software from www.blogger.com.
This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts
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I’ve dubbed my Weblog
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Let me know what you think.
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14, 1928 - July 5, 2003
Jane C. Ellsworth
20, 1928 - July 20, 2003