Thursday, August 30, 2007

Copyrights or CopyWRONGS?

So the guys that have unlocked the iPhone have (as expected) received a "friendly" call from O'Melveny & Myers LLP, an international law firm representing AT&T - giving them some "friendly advice" about the fact that their software contained copyrighted Apple property.

Funny, since they don't even have a copy of it - how can they know what it contains.

Also interesting is that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has an explicit exception for individuals who unlock cell phones for personal use. In fact, the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress even issued a statement to that effect last year. However, the US District court in Orlando found that the DMCA exception did not apply to folks unlocking a phone and then making a buck off it.

So, this could go either way. It could be argued that the software - if given away for free - would be tool that could enable people to lawfully unlock their phones for personal use.

It's going to be interesting to watch where this one comes down.

On another "too scary to be true but it is" note - Christopher Knight apparently had a run-in with the copyright nazis at YouTube. They pulled a clip that he posted showing a clip from VHS's "Web Junk 2.0". That's nothing new - YouTube pulls thousands of clips a day at the request of various companies - including Viacom that owns the show.

Here's the rub: the clip on the show was a video that VIACOM SNATCHED off of YouTube. It happened to be Christopher Knight's clip! Not kidding. It seems that Viacom downloaded the YouTube video created by Mr. Knight (of course without notice or permission) and then used it on their for-profit show, and then they had the balls to bitch at YouTube that Mr. Knight was violating THEIR copyright.

Um, yeah. Gotta' love the selfish bastards running American Entertainment companies!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sucks to be AT&T

According to an Engadget exclusive - a group of twenty-somethings has successfully unlocked the iPhone, allowing people to use non-AT&T SIM cards in them.

I bet Apple is miffed and I bet AT&T is totally pissed off.

Apparently these guys made it their personal mission to unlock the phone, and have been working non-stop since the release in late June to make it happen. At first, they had a hardware hack that allowed people to unlock the phone, but then today released (only to Engadget) the SOFTWARE version that does the same thing.

Of course the "visual voicemail" feature doesn't work on the unlocked phones as it's still an AT&T exclusive feature - but I think more carriers will add this type of feature (if they haven't already started working on it). Apparently, rather than visual voicemail, users of the unlocked phone will get the dial tone into their voicemail (like the rest of us) so they can still check it, just not visually.

People have been bitching at Apple for giving the exclusive contract to AT&T for the iPhone since before the iPhone was even out. If Apple's deal with AT&T is anything like the ones they are signing with European companies - Apple gets 10% of all the revenue derived from iPhone activity on the AT&T network.

Now that the phone is hacked and people can use any old SIM from any carrier - they lose that revenue - as does AT&T (which must go up their ass a mile!).

The authors claim that the software is immune from being disabled by performing a restore or update of the Apple software (for now, anyway).

What's Apple to do? How about AT&T? I'm betting that a fleet of lawyers is right now working on a way to call/write/FedEx those guys as I'm typing.

If I were Apple or AT&T I would just throw some money at these guys and hire em!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

YouTube Ads - The Sky is Falling!

From the 226 comments (at the time of this post) to YouTube's blog entry asking for feedback, most users don't want the new pop-up ads that YouTube debuted yesterday in select videos. The little ads pop-up after a few seconds at the bottom of the window (where the black bar is - with the YouTube logo) and will cycle through once - then will close.

The user can also manually close the ad - and if they click on the ad (which is the whole point, after all) - the video will pause and the ad will show in the same space (which the user can also stop or close) after which the video will resume.

Personally, I think it's a fairly unobtrusive way for YouTube to make some revenue and, in theory, will allow advertisers to target viewers with relevant ads based on the content of the video rather than just target by the overall demographic of the site. This is WAY better than the "pre-roll" ads on other content and much more targeted than Google AdSense above or next to a video.

However, based on the posts to the blog - I'm in the minority.

People are screaming and bitching - threatening to take their videos elsewhere (PLEASE DO!). I'll let you troll the comments yourself - but here's a snippet:

"Remember the Golden Days of television when the program was paramount and inviolable and advertising had to wait till the commercial break? Art today is treated like a disposable diaper, and both the artist and his audience are disrespected if not outright insulted by this onslaught of intrusive advertising. It says much about our culture that we meekly accept it." (onlyed87)

"That really sucks! i don't want my artistic masterpiece to be filled up with cheesy unrelated ads. The site will become less attractive." (irabnut)

ART? YouTube? Riiiight.

Then there's the 15 year old who just learned what the f* word means (posted 50 times):


Not all posts are from the "I want something for nothing forever free" club. There are a number of others that realize that here in the real world host and servers and offices and admins and customer service people cost money:

"I can see the logic behind the new ads, but I still don't like it. I would gladly pay a subscription fee to be able to view YT videos without ads." (typeloki)

Of course there are the entrepreneurial folks out there that want revenue sharing (good idea) - like rival VideoEgg. At least those people have a sense of humor - they have a huge banner at the top of their site saying "Welcome, YouTube. Seriously. We invented the video overlay ad about a year ago. We are delighted that the market is finally catching on to a vital new approach to video advertising."

Keeping in mind that:
  • There are lots of places for "artists" to post videos for free
  • Google paid 1.25 billion for YouTube
  • The ad feature also includes ratings and digg features
  • The user can close the ad at any time
  • Google is making $20 per thousand views

What's the problem? You don't like the ads - visit another video site with funny, cool videos that everyone posts to. Oh, wait, that's right - there ARE NONE (yet).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This Storm's For You

The "Storm" Trojan malware worm is on the loose - and it can affect you - or someone you know. The thing that makes this little gem so different from the "normal" malware crap - is that it can change and morph by itself.

The latest junk mails almost always pose as confirmation messages for an account that you have supposedly already created. The sites are for stuff like "CoolPics", "Joke-A-Day", "Web Players" or more than 15 other names.

The email "confirms" your sign up with an account number and "temporary password" - then encourages you to go to a web site to change the password. BE AWARE: The website is always a numbered IP address and not a real domain (e.g. rather than

As a general rule - even when a "real" domain is displayed - check the roll over link (usually in the bottom right of your email client) to make sure you're going to the actual site displayed - or better yet - set your preferences to receive mail in text only format rather than HTML.

The scammers/spammers apparently have tired of using an e-card come-on and have now switched to the aforementioned account confirmation or the tried-and-true offer of nude pictures and pornography. All the spam tries to get the user to download an application called "applet.exe" for download - supposedly a "secure sign in" application - and that's where the fun begins.

Because this worm morphs - it's difficult for anti-virus companies to get a jump on it. Just when they update their definitions to block a certain signature, the thing morphs into something else.

Since back-to-school is just around the corner - my guess is that they're getting geared up for the unsuspecting semi-computer-literate/drunk-with-nothing-to-do crowd to take the bait. Once a system is infected, it's very difficult to get it clean again.

This worm affects Windows (shocker!) - but can also infect Windows Virtual PC, Mac OS X systems running Parallels - and it can even VMware.

It detects VMware by looking for a particular number supported in VMware's I/O port (something that can be easily changed) and it detects Virtual PC by running illegal instruction opcodes, which generates errors only if the software is running on a physical system and not a virtual machine.

Yet another reason to email your mom, grandparents and/or grads heading off to college...

UPDATE: Here's an actual message I received about 5 minutes go (I changed the URL in the link from a numeric IP address - but notice how it was masked):

Dear Member,

Thank You for Joining Wine Lovers.

Confirmation Number: 65971419
Temorary Login: user6050
Temorary Password: vr634

Please keep your account secure by logging in and changing your login info.

Click here to enter our secure server: Wine Lovers

Technical Services
Wine Lovers

Monday, August 20, 2007

Free is Not Forever

In the wild west of Web 2.0 services-we-didn't-know-we-needed - another player called Grand Central that promised "one phone number you can keep for life" has told 434 users that they must change their number.


The service was acquired by Google - and they had a nice little nifty "beta" in their logo - so I guess everything is good. Right? Tell that to the 434 people who had to change their one number.

Roy Schnider posted the email he got from Google as did Judi Sohn - both of them were justifiably pissed off. Basically, Google said in the email "oops, my bad - but it's beta software so shut the hell up - oh, and we're really sorry."

The moral of the story is: It's FREE SOFTWARE PEOPLE - don't have business cards printed and don't rely on this stuff for real! You still can't get something for nothing and expect it to work 100% of the time all the time (e.g. Skype).

You should have local backup copies of your documents on GoogleDocs (or Zoho or, you should keep a backup of your IM logs if you use a free IM client...

Please - use some common sense. This is the new tech bubble - and all these services that you come to rely on may get gobbled up in a minute's notice - so don't get caught with your digital pants around your knees.

Repeat after me - "Free is not forever, Free is not forever, Free is not forever..."

Skype This! - Redux

Whatever you do - don't restart your Windows PC after a huge "patch Tuesday" - and then log into Skype.

Skype has said that the big service problem from last week was due to the fact that a whole lot of people rebooted their Windows machines after a push of patches from Windows Update.

Skype spokesman Villu Arak said the high number of restarts in a short time period clogged Skype's network, causing a flood of log-in requests. These, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, "prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact."

OOPS. Arak also said that the outage revealed a software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm that prevented the self-healing function from properly working.

A bug, huh? Really.

While a bug like this can be lurking in any software (who tests for 3 million people rebooting at once!), it could be some time before Skype's reputation is restored - not to mention the time it will take for people to get less jittery about P2P solutions in general.

Meanwhile, I'm sure that the non-P2P players in VOIP (Vonage, Verizon and AT&T) are laughing all the way to the bank.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Skype This!

Hmmmm.... first the outage at and now the outage at Skype. Two different causes - same effect: people are pissed off worldwide - and good companies that have spent a lot of time and money cultivating customer goodwill and buzz are hearing the collective cry of dissatisfied customers, angry bloggers, and freaked-out media folks.

If you take a look at the Skype blog - you'll see the kind of people that use it - and it's interesting to see the wide range of reactions. Everything from "...Russian hackers did it..." to " wife is in Shanghai and she's getting really pissed..." and really the heart of the matter: "Two years of great service can not be forgotten for one major glitch."

At least they are communicating to some degree with their customers. I'm an occasional Skype user so it' s not that big of a deal to me. However, there are loads of people that bought special Skype phones and some businesses that have tossed their land lines in favor of 100% Skype.


It's more than just a "my bad" moment - they have millions of customers worldwide - many of whom absolutely rely on the service. The same can be said or almost any SaaS (Software as a Service) application - once people are hooked - they're hooked. And, they're 100% screwed if the P2P (shorthand for Peer-to-Peer) network goes down, the server farm takes a dump, or some lunkhead accidentally digs up a fiber line.

I think it's like most kinds of "disaster" things - until something actually happens, no one (from a customer point of view) really thinks about it.

I mean really - do YOU do faithful backups? Probably not. Even though you KNOW your hard drive will absolutely, 100% fail one day. It's tomorrow's problem until it happens today.

Welcome to SaaS where the focus on Service (and the expectation of 100% uptime). It's these kinds of glitches that make businesses wary of relying on an outside service to run their business. People expect their Internet service (and services provided by IP/Internet) to be like their telephone - it should "just work."

As everyone should know - sometimes life happens. There is nothing that's 100% reliable. In the case of Skype - people should stop bitching and actually pick up the damn phone (cellular or otherwise) and - GASP! - pay for the phone call if it's critical.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The New Mobility

So - we were in the office this morning and about 1/2 hour after we started working the power went out. For the whole building.

After the initial mill-about-the-hallway with the other tenants, and after exhausting all the coffee in the office - we decided it was time for plan B.

We all have laptops in the office - so besides our couple of internal servers on UPS, no work was lost - but it's hard to run a software company without power. So, we did the next best thing - we went to our local coffee shop that has free WiFi (in fact, that's where I am now).

Yes, I know the horror stories of compromised WiFi spots that I previously reported - but we needed to get a couple of important things done.

So we grabbed our laptops, cell phones and power adapters and packed into a couple of cars (mine is "trapped" in the underground garage) and headed down the block to Coffee 'n Dreams. By the time our coffees were ready, we were all online and on the phone - just like in the office.

We switched our internal phone system to a virtual PBX a few months ago - so all we had to do was go to a web page and re-direct the calls to our cell phones and customers can still call us just like "normal."

We could access our web mail servers, surf, blog, and even access our own Servoy-based internal system - just like in the office. It's pretty cool, actually.

Thank God we chose Servoy for our internal system! It's got a SSL connection between the server and the client - so even over a public WiFi all of our data is automatically encrypted and we can work at the same access speed we're used to (fast!).

Even 3 years ago what we're doing now would have been pretty advanced. I guess most people do this kind of mobile work on a routine basis. I know for me - it's one of the first times that I've had to rely on a plan B implementation for getting work done. It's nice to know that our Business Continuation Plan really, actually, works.

Maybe I should just ditch the office altogether.

I gotta' go - we just got a call that the power is back on...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

AppleWorks - R.I.P.

Well, Apple has finally laid to rest a classic - AppleWorks. In its heyday AppleWorks was industry's best-selling piece of software, beating even Lotus 1-2-3 on the PC. The all-in-one suite of tools was 23 years old.

AppleWorks started life back in the "good old days" of 1984 for the Apple II and was one of the first of what would be known as "integrated applications". It consisted of a word processor, spreadsheet and database that all interoperated on a fairly integrated basis.

Long about 1991 it morphed into ClarisWorks and got a boost with communications and graphics tools - but retained its ease-of-use and integrated tool set. It remained a Mac-only product until the debut of the Windows version in 1993.

It was marketed by Claris, Apple's wholly owned application software development/marketing arm that also was responsible for FileMaker Pro and some other great, but short-lived titles like Claris Emailer, Claris Impact, Claris Paint (from the old "MacPaint") and Claris Draw (from the old "MacDraw").

Claris then went on to focus solely on the FileMaker product (which it acquired from Nashoba Systems in 1988), and re-named itself FileMaker, Inc. At that point, ClarisWorks was returned to Apple and re-named AppleWorks.

AppleWorks was upated for Mac OS X and they even had a very basic presentation piece (the pre-cursor to Keynote) but it never was updated as a Universal application for MacIntel.

Then the beginning of the end came. In 2005 Apple brought out iWorks which at that time only included a word processor and presentation software (Keynote). I think at that point - everyone thought that iWorks would morph into into the new AppleWorks. Hard to do if you don't have a spreadsheet.

Well, last week - Apple added "Numbers", it's new iSomething spreadsheet to it's new lineup in iWork '08 - and it even includes a filter to import AppleWorks files. As the final death throes of AppleWorks came near - Apple even changed the URL to redirect to the iWorks '08 suite.

I worked with ClarisWorks for quite a while - as no doubt countless thousands will continue to do for the foreseeable future. Still, it's the end of an era - ClarisWorks, rest in peace!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Do No Evil -- Please?

So, Google owns the world of search (and more) - and keeps a lot of "identifiable" information on everyone every time they perform a search. They track the IP address, search string, and timestamp for every search for 18 months.

They claim it's to help them better optimize the search engine performance and relevance. Given their history as a geek-inspired company, I can believe that. There are a lot of other people that have their panties in a bunch because they are really, really concerned with their privacy. On the web. In a browser.

My knee-jerk reaction would be to tell those Prius-driving-Berkenstock-wearing-tree-huggers to just get over it and go back to mailing letters and using an encyclopedia. Then I got to thinking about how much I use Google tools.

Of course I use search - so they track what I search by, my IP and time stamp.

I use Google Desktop - so in theory they know everything about all my emails (non-gMail), music, chat histories and browser details.

I use Google mail occasionally - and they store all emails indefinitely.

I use Google talk sometimes - so they have a record of what I say and to whom as well as when.

I would be dead without my Google Calendar - so now they know what I'm doing and when - and also whom I know because of whom I chosen to share my calendar with (and all of their details as well).

I also use Google Documents to share and collaborate on (sometimes proprietary) documents rather than sending everything around via email.

I'll admit that I occasionally view You Tube - so they know what I view and what I post.

Hmmmm. Sounds like the NSA's wet dream, if you ask me.

I'm sure they could (I don't know for a fact they do) add one more piece of data to each of those tables - like my Google login ID - and then they would have a pretty picture of me as an individual. Not that I give a rat's ass, mind you.

Yes, there are other search engines - AOL, Yahoo, Alta Vista,, etc. and all of them also collect the same kind of information.

BUT, the others don't have the any other cool applications to use - so they really only have a view of surfing habits, while Google has a potentially vast data store on many, many individuals (at least on the IP level).

Like I said earlier, I believe that they are storing all the search stuff for 18 months so they can improve search accuracy, etc, etc. But I hope that an over-inflated stock price and market dominance won't tempt them to do any evil things with all that data...

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Dangers of "Free" WiFi

I just came across this blog describing how easy it was for a guy at the Black Hat Hacking Conference in Las Vegas to hijack some poor schmo's gMail account. For extra measure, the guy, Robert Graham (CEO Errata Security) has helpfully given the two tools (Ferret and Hamster) away so that now scores of teenages with nothing better to do can now hijack your identity when you're at the local Starbucks or in an airport lounge.

There are, of course, things you can do to protect yourself - at least as far as email security goes. But, the technology that old Bob showed off can be used to sniff all packets and all cookies that emanate from your wireless device (yes, even your beloved iPhone or Treo or gawd-aweful HP Windows brick).

It's sort of a sign of the times, I guess. We've finally crawled out of the primordial ooze in terms of technology and widely available (and sometimes free or low cost) WiFi - no sooner to be forced back by folks with nothing better to do all day than come up with ways to screw things up.

Yes, packet sniffing is nothing new and people have been doing it for years. Yes, any moron who uses a public WiFi hotspot shouldn't login to their unencrypted email account or expect that everything they do is not being watched/monitored/recorded/hijacked.

I'm all for making the airwaves safer for everyone, and I'm all for public WiFi, and for Web 2.0 applications that "function like a desktop application." I'm just not very happy that every time we turn around there is some joker who justs wants to blow it up. I guess it's just the American way.

I'm sure glad I use Servoy Smart Client applications and use the Servoy Web Client over the public WiFi - now I have one LESS thing to worry about.

P.S. It's my birthday today - thanks to my parents - I know it hasn't always been an easy ride, but I love you both very much. And thanks to my wife, Brenda. She should get a medal for putting up with me as we start our 18th year together! And finally, somewhere in the world there is someone that was courageous enough to carry my ass around for 9 months and then give me up for adoption. Back in the 60's. Where ever you are today - thanks.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Get a (Second) Life

I'm not a huge fan of online, "virtual" worlds. Yes, it's cool to make an avatar of yourself. Yes, it's cool to "teleport" to different lands, and "meet" new people. And go to the Gap and buy clothes. And have a Coke. And, wait for it... do online searches at the Yahoo Pavilion.

People have even made some serious (real world) money by buying "real estate", then "developing" it and renting it out to others or flipping it to another owner for a profit.

You can pimp your avatar with designer clothes, and modify your look and feel, and even go to a nude beach and engage in virtual sex with complete strangers. I have a feeling that this is what 95% of people do in virtual worlds.

Just like the "real" world - there are cottage industries of people creating bling, clothes, accessories and more that they offer for sale to others. It's a little like having a mini eBay inside.

Which is JUST what we need - since the "real" eBay isn't annoying enough...

Then there are the corporate sponsors. Since the article in BusinessWeek they have been setting up shops, kiosks, even entire islands of corporate-branded goodness. Do people really go into these shops. Probably. Are they making any money on it. Nope.

I think that corporate folks are scared sh**less because they don't want to "miss out" on the "next big thing" like they (probably) did on the MySpace phenomenon - so it's easier to throw a few hundred grand at a service provider to setup a "presence."

Corporate Folks HOT TIP: spend your money on your own site instead. The whole reason that virtual worlds work is because people are fed up with the "real" world and want to go somewhere to engage in their fantasies and having a Burger King there reminds them too much of the "real" world - so they'll avoid it like the plague.

OK - I know that there are a lot of people out there that have LOADS of time and have nothing better to do than sit inside, at their computer, and then linger in online "virtual" worlds.

Virtual World User HOT TIP: turn off the f**cking computer, open the door, and get out in the REAL world. Meet some "real" people, drink "real" soft drinks, go to a "real" hotel or island, buy some "real" real estate, have some "real" sex - it's a lot more fun than "virtual" anything.

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