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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Had A Bad Day? Probably Not This Bad!

I've had my share of bad days on the job, as I'm sure you have... but it hasn't gotten to this... yet!

Obama Looking For A Few Good Coders

With a new slogan "Write Software, Change Washington" the Obama '08 presidential campaign is inviting software developers to put their skills to work and help:
  • Create software tools which will enable an unprecedented nationwide voter contact and mobilization effort
  • Help build and run the largest online, grassroots fundraising operation in the history of American politics
  • Introduce cutting-edge social networking and online organizing to the democratic process by empowering everyday people to participate on My.BarackObama
What the heck, if you are a web developer with 5 years experience in a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) environment then you might have what it takes... at the very least, you could end up with a 6 month job in Boston.

Details Here.

Eye-Fi Card Identifies Camera Thief

Every now and then one of these stories pops up and it always amazes or amuses me. In this case, reported by Reuters and picked up by the Globe and Mail, a New York couple who's digital camera gear went missing on vacation in Florida returned home to find the photos they had taken along with photos of two employees of the restaurant from which the camera had been left, ended up on their photo sharing website. Luckily for the rightful owners, the camera was equipped with an Eye-Fi Card who's purpose is to automatically upload pictures to a home computer or photo-sharing service as soon as the user is linked to a familiar wireless network. In this case the restaurant employees passed an unsecured wireless network (90 feet is about the range outdoors - 45 feet indoors), whose factory-installed setting matched those of the home system of the camera's owners. I'd venture to say that this would never happen to me as I promptly change my wireless settings out of the box, but in this case the camera was returned to it's proper place and the two restaurant employees found themselves looking for a new job.

Footnote: The Eye-Fi Explore comes with a geotagging and hotspot access for a year, would be thieves beware!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Being unGoogleable

I found this interesting article while browsing for something completely different, but the topic caught my attention and set my mind to contemplating the dilemma of the author and his former colleague. How many of us can say that they have never been tagged in someone's flickr photo, or don't have a Facebook account for that matter? If you've ever been named in a blog post, on a company website, or in a local newspaper article, how can you truly remain unGoogleable?

“UnGoogleable? I don’t think it’s possible,” says Nilhan Jayasinghe, the head of natural search for online marketing firm iCrossing, a company that specializes in Search Engine Optimization and online reputation management for the likes of Toyota, Coca-Cola and Lego. “The problem is you simply have no control over all the outlets that publish something about you.”

If this is true then how can you manage what is out there? “With many clients, we have been able to help them suppress it [the critical chatter], provided they have enough positive material they can use to build up their reputation,” Mr Jayasinghe says.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Google Enters 40 Year Lease With NASA

Google announced yesterday that it has entered a 40 year agreement with NASA to "lease 42.2 acres of unimproved land in NASA Research Park at Ames to construct up to 1.2 million square feet of offices and research and development (R&D) facilities in a campus-style setting". They've even provided this handy Google Maps view of the property if you are interested.

"With this new campus, we will establish a new era of expanded collaboration with Google that will further enhance our Silicon Valley connections," said Ames Director S. Pete Worden. "This major expansion of NASA Research Park supports NASA's mission to lead the nation in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research." The land will mostly be used for office and research and development space but will also feature many of the amenities that Google has become famous for such as "dining, sports, fitness, child care, conference and parking facilities for its employees, as well as recreation and parking facilities and infrastructure improvements for NASA's use."

NASA and Google have begun collaboration on several joint projects since signing a memorandum of understanding in 2005. The fruits of their labors include "The Planetary Content project which develops software that makes it easier for the science community to publish planetary data via the Internet. This project has already provided high-resolution lunar imagery and maps to the Google Moon™ program and resulted in the "NASA" layer in Google Earth."

The lease agreement is said to be worth
$3.66 million per year.

No Surprise, Microsoft Extends XP's Life

Microsoft has announced, at the Computex trade show in Taiwan, that it will extend the life of Windows XP until June 2010 but only on low powered desktops and laptops. According to this BBC report, low powered lap top "machines that have no more than 1GB of RAM; a hard drive up to 80GB in size; a processor running no faster than 1GHz; a screen no larger than 10.2in (25cm) and no touch screen" qualify, but no specifications have been given for the desktops. This comes as little surprise as Microsoft has been extending the life of the OS at each of the previous deadlines and because PC makers have found loop holes in their licensing terms with Microsoft. Many in the industry "believe the decision is also motivated by the fact that low cost machines cannot run Windows Vista" and because the popular low cost laptops, such as the Asus Eee PC, mostly run on Linux.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Radiohead Turns To iTunes

Radiohead, who had balked the establishment and offered it's 7th album In Rainbows digitally on a pay-what-you-will basis, has finally permitted iTunes to sell music from its first six albums, both in whole and on a track-by-track basis. The band's former record label EMI in the past had argued that the band chose to withhold its music from iTunes because they preferred to present whole albums to their fans as opposed to single tracks. Other long time hold outs, Garth Brooks and AC/DC used the same argument and went on to sign exclusive deals with a U.S. cellphone operator to sell full-album downloads. Time will tell which approach is best but the question is, how much revenue has been lost during the holdout? CBC story here.

Intelligence Community Take To The Virtual Spaces

An article in Federal Computer Week (FCW) suggests that the intelligence community is taking the virtual space seriously, forecasting that it may become the next frontier in espionage. In preparation for this, "intelligence community officials have organized a summer meeting that will involve members with secret clearances." The disappointingly named the "Summer Hard Problem Program", doesn't sound very cloak and dagger at all, will last four weeks. “One of the best places to learn about an adversary is to learn their space,” says Michael Wertheimer, assistant deputy director and chief technology officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Google Offers Real-Time Stock Quotes

A post on the official Google Blog yesterday says "We're very excited to tell you that real-time quotes on NASDAQ securities are now available on Google Finance." Most free services come typically with a 15 or 20 minute delay and real-time usually comes at a premium. Google says however, "Providing free real-time stock quotes is consistent with our mission, and we'll continue to work hard to offer tools, features and more real-time data so investors can make informed and timely financial decisions." Hey Google, how about the TSX? Offers Free Classifieds

A new free classified ad service was launched in late May on and is currently in beta release. “Our new classifieds beta at provides an expanded offering of products and services, the majority of which are not traditionally available from Wal-Mart,” said spokesman, Ravi Jariwala, in an e-mailed statement. The service is being powered by Oodle and Jariwala says “As a matter of policy, we don't disclose financial data or details of the agreement,” Would you put equal trust in Wal-Mart as you do say Craigslist? Interesting...
Source: Globe and Mail.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Adobe's - Acrobat 9 Combination

Adobe, with the coming of Acrobat 9 and the integration of, is moving the PDF format into the cloud. The tools are mainly designed for the business crowd, and bring features of collaboration and integrated multimedia. The $699 (U.S.) Acrobat 9 Pro Extended version includes a feature called Presenter, that allows the user to turn Microsoft PowerPoint presentations into multimedia files and publish them as PDF files. The offering, which is currently in beta, has "...file sharing and storage, a PDF converter, an online word processor and Web conferencing." according to the Globe and Mail.

Facebook Investigated By Canadian Regulator

The federal privacy commissioner, in Canada, has launched an investigation into Facebook after law students at the University of Ottawa complained that the site breaches Canadian law by disclosing personal information to advertisers prior to obtaining proper consent. "There's definitely some significant shortcomings with Facebook's privacy settings and with their ability to protect users," said Harley Finkelstein, one of the 4 students who initiated the complaint. The students believe that Facebook's practices are contrary to Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). "We've reviewed the complaint and found it has serious factual errors - most notably its neglect of the fact that almost all Facebook data is willingly shared by users," Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly said Friday in an e-mail. "The complaint also misinterprets PIPEDA in a manner that would effectively forbid voluntary online sharing of information." For the governments part "We take all complaints very seriously," said Anne-Marie Hayden, spokeswoman for the federal privacy commissioner's office. "We have no reason to believe that Facebook will not be co-operative."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Columbia Buys 65,000 XO Laptops From OLPC

About 65,000 Columbian children in the country's Caldas region will soon be getting an XO laptop. The project will concentrate on small towns and rural areas that will get the first 15,000 XO's, the remainder will be distributed over the next 18 months to larger centers. Caldas's Governor Mario Aristizabal said they were "committed to giving each and every child of primary school age the same opportunity to access knowledge as the most privileged children in New York, Berlin or Tokyo". BBC story.

Hacker Attack Phoenix Mars Lander Web Site - Phoenix Finds Ice

Sara Hammond, a spokeswoman for the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, says a hacker took over the mission's public Web site during the night and changed its lead news story. The site which is hosted by the University of Arizona was taken offline while administrators worked to rectify the problem.
Wired News.

In the mean time, Scientists are excited about the possibility that Phoenix's thrusters may have uncovered ice near the surface of the planet during touchdown. "We were worried that it may be 30, 40, 50 centimeters deep, which would be a lot of work. Now we are fairly certain that we can easily get down to the ice table," said Peter Smith, a University of Arizona scientist and chief project investigator. CNN.