Technology


Is Your Computer Spying on You?Wow, can this be true? Truly a situation in which “Big Brother” comparisons are no exaggeration. It’s being reported that the Lower Merion School District, in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia, is being sued for spying on its students at home, after issuing the students laptops with webcams that could be covertly activated by school administrators for surveillance, writes Boing Boing:

The issue came to light when the Robbins’s child was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence. The suit is a class action, brought on behalf of all students issued with these machines.

Update: The school district admits that student laptops were shipped with software for covertly activating their webcams, but denies wrongdoing.



Another in the long line of creepily amazing products from Japan — a glowing, sweating, simulated baby (with a large, cartoonish, orb-like head). Want something to love that you can also unplug? This is it.



ASHER MOSES writes in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Groups opposing the government’s internet censorship plans have condemned attacks on government websites, saying it will do little to help their cause, while Communications Minister Stephen Conroy called them “totally irresponsible”.

Hackers connected with the group Anonymous, known for its war against Scientology, this morning launched a broad attack on government websites.





Crap FuturismAfter reading Gizmodo’s “8 Things That Suck About the iPad” and seeing this image illustrating that article for me, I really though the iPad was nothing more than a bulky, expensive iPhone. But there is one difference, it’s not a phone — something that you want to be totally reliable (work all the time). While many people jailbreak their iPhone to provide greater control over what you can do with it, I have been resistant to due to concern I might screw it up.

But after reading Annalee Newitz’s io9.com article about the iPad I realize the iPad is a device that you buy to hack. Not only that, it must be hacked. She makes the excellent point that Apple’s latest “must-have” device is nothing like a computer, it’s more like a television:

Apple is marketing the iPad as a computer, when really it’s nothing more than a media-consumption device — a convergence television, if you will. Think of it this way: One of the fundamental attributes of computers is that they are interactive and reconfigurable. You can change the way a computer behaves at a very deep level. Interactivity on the iPad consists of touching icons on the screen to change which application you’re using. Hardly more interactive than changing channels on a TV. Sure, you can compose a short email or text message; you can use the Brushes app to draw a sketch. But those activities are not the same thing as programming the device to do something new. Unlike a computer, the iPad is simply not reconfigurable.



Surfdaddy Orca writes in h+ magazine:

Ever wonder how exactly the U.S. military would fight a cyber war? In August 2009, the U.S. Air Force activated its new cyberspace combat unit, the 24th Air Force, to “provide combat-ready forces trained and equipped to conduct sustained cyber operations.”

It’s commanded by former Minuteman missile and satellite-jamming specialist Major General Richard Webber. (And under his command are two wings, the 688th Information Operations Wing and the 67th Network Warfare Wing, plus a combat communications units.)

Meanwhile, to counter the threat of cyber warfare, DARPA is still deploying the National Cyber Range, a test bed of networked computers to test countermeasures against “cyberwar”. (According to one report, it provides “a virtual network world . to be populated by mirror computers and inhabited by myriad software sim-people ‘replicants,’ and used as a firing range in which to develop the art of cyber warfare.”)

And the Obama administration has even added a military cybersecurity coordinator to the National Security team.


Humankind will never forget! David Kravets writes in Wired (there’s a uncanny coincidence in the article): January 25, 1979: A 25-year-old Ford Motor assembly line worker is killed on the job in…


A man named “Thomas Crapper” invented the toilet you say? I heard this on one of those “morning zoo” shows today, they claimed it was the anniversary of his birth, but Wikipedia says it’s his death. So turns out this is a real guy, but this just seemed too much of a coincidence to me (unless there’s a secret society of plumbers that has controlled the destiny of toilet technology that I am unaware of). So I checked out the great urban legend debunking site Snopes.com:

ThomasCrapperThomas Crapper is an elusive figure: Most people familiar with his name know him as acelebrated figure in Victorian England, an ingenious plumber who invented the modern flush toilet; others believe him to be nothing more than a hoax, the whimsical creation of a satirical writer. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Much of the confusion stems from a 1969 book by Wallace Reyburn, Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper. Reyburn’s “biography” of Crapper has often been dismissed as a complete fabrication, as some of his other works (most notably Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra) are obvious satirical fiction. Although Flushed with Pride is, like Bust-Up, a tongue-in-cheek work full of puns, jokes, and exaggerations, Reyburn did not invent the person of Thomas Crapper as he did Otto Titzling. In Flushed with Pride, Reyburn’s satire rests on the framework of a real man’s life. Thomas Crapper was not, as Reyburn wrote, the inventor of the flush toilet, a master plumber by appointment to the royals who was knighted by Queen Victoria, or an important figure whose achievements were written up in the Encyclopedia Britannica


Facebook FailGlad to see Facebook is on top of protecting their users’ privacy. Iljitsch van Beijnum writes on ars technica:

This past week, several users reported visiting Facebook, and, well, seeing the wrong face. Without any action on their part, a number of AT&T smartphone users found themselves logged into the popular social networking site under user accounts other than their own.

The problem was quickly attributed to “misrouting,” a term that suggests that information took a wrong turn somewhere in the network. It’s not completely impossible for individual packets flying across the network to be misdelivered — although there are multiple checksums protecting against that — but misdelivered packets will be uninvited guests at the destination computer, and thus thrown away. What apparently happened here was an unfortunate interaction of some kind between Facebook’s user authentication system and the way AT&T runs its mobile data network.


Might as well load up on stories from the New York Times as it has announced plans to “meter” usage and limit free online access to its content (at least for now – it’s not the first time the Times has tried charging for some content). If this story doesn’t tell you to change your passwords now, nothing will:

Back at the dawn of the Web, the most popular account password was “12345.” Today, it’s one digit longer but hardly safer: “123456.”

Despite all the reports of Internet security breaches over the years, including the recent attacks on Google’s e-mail service, many people have reacted to the break-ins with a shrug.

According to a new analysis, one out of five Web users still decides to leave the digital equivalent of a key under the doormat: they choose a simple, easily guessed password like “abc123,” “iloveyou” or even “password” to protect their data…






Charles Levinson writes in the Wall Street Journal: TEL AVIV, Israel – Israel is developing an army of robotic fighting machines that offers a window onto the potential future of warfare. Sixty…


This has got to be one of the most shocking revelation in this whole media circus, that as the “war on terror” enters its ninth year, the government doesn’t have software to help compensate for simple human error. Let’s hope they all can spell B-O-M-B … Elise Labott and Jill Dougherty report on CNN:

Can You Spell Bomb?

A timeline provided by the State Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, showed that an initial check of the suspect based on his father’s information failed to disclose he had a multiple-entry U.S. visa. The reason was that AbdulMutallab’s name was misspelled.

“That search did not come back positive,” said one official, who called it a quick search without using multiple variants of spelling. On November 20, a State Department cable to Washington on AbdulMutallab — based on the information from his father — lacked any mention of his visa, the officials said.