31 Jan

TechCrunch – Egypt Shuts Down Noor, Its Last ISP

We’re hearing reports on Twitter that the coverage of Noor Group’s DSL service, Egypt’s last standing ISP which powers the Egyptian Stock Exchange as well as sites of major brands like Coca Cola and Exxon Mobile is being shut down, meaning the nation will lose nearly all the remaining high-speed links to the outside world.

via TechCrunch – Egypt Shuts Down Noor, Its Last ISP. This is so weird and disturbing the idea of a political entity being able to just disconnect itself from the internet.

31 Jan

Official Google Blog – Some weekend work that will (hopefully) enable more Egyptians to be heard

We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

via Official Google Blog – Some weekend work that will (hopefully) enable more Egyptians to be heard. Only Google has this kind of ability to just buy a company and build a product to make the internet and a public more free.

30 Jan

Schneier on Security – Domodedovo Airport Bombing

I haven’t written anything about the suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport because I didn’t think there was anything to say. The bomber was outside the security checkpoint, in the area where family and friends wait for arriving passengers. From a security perspective, the bombing had nothing to do with airport security. He could have just as easily been in a movie theater, stadium, shopping mall, market, or anywhere else lots of people are crowded together with limited exits. The large death and injury toll indicates the bomber chose his location well.

I’ve often written that security measures that are only effective if the implementers guess the plot correctly are largely wastes of money — at best they would have forced this bomber to choose another target — and that our best security investments are intelligence, investigation, and emergency response. This latest terrorist attack underscores that even more. "Critics say" that the TSA couldn’t have detected this sort of attack. Of course; the TSA can’t be everywhere. And that’s precisely the point.

via Schneier on Security – Domodedovo Airport Bombing. It sounds silly but it’s an key idea, the TSA can’t be everywhere.

30 Jan

Mike Cane’s xBlog – Windows 7: The Best iPad Seller!

So today I had to help someone set up some things on a new Windows 7 notebook.

This is a notebook mainly used for casual offline game-playing.

Until today.

When it had to get on the Internet.

And really, the Internet tasks it will do are ordinary things: email and some online game-playing.

Here is some of what I had to go through with this Windows 7 notebook:

via Mike Cane’s xBlog – Windows 7: The Best iPad Seller!. One of the reasons I moved to a Mac was I spent less time doing maintenance to do what I actually wanted to do, I just do it now.

29 Jan

Salon.com – Why can’t we watch Al Jazeera?

Indeed, it’s nice to have world news at all. Since 2006, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun have all closed their foreign bureaus. When news organizations do send reporters abroad, they are rarely able to move about freely. On December 19, 2007, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a survey of reporters working in Iraq that illustrated how removed our press corps is from the lives of the people they report on. Eighty-two percent of the reporters surveyed have minimal to no knowledge of Arabic, and 86 percent work within about three miles of the Green Zone. Perhaps because of these constraints, 62 percent of the surveyed reporters rated coverage of the lives of ordinary Iraqis as only fair to poor. In addition, though a major aspect of the “story” that is the Iraq war is the story of Iraqi terrorists and insurgents, 63 percent of journalists reported that access to insurgents was “nearly impossible.”

Compared to American news channels, AJE is remarkably staid. With bureaus on four continents, and reporters based in places such as the Cote d’Ivoire, Caracas, and Gaza, AJE’s news format tends to feature long-form, on-the-ground reporting, often by area natives. Aesthetically, the channel looks nothing like the sensory assault of Fox News or MSNBC, with their constantly updated tickers, red, white and blue graphics, and endless talking-head chatter. AJE runs one headline at a time on the bottom of the screen, and the font is small, so as not to distract from the newscast. Most images are from the field, and reporters tend to use voiceovers instead of stand-ups, so that the pieces end up being about the people and places that are being reported on, as opposed to the personality and appearance of the reporter or anchor.

On the day after the Pennsylvania primary, when U.S. cable news ran nearly nonstop coverage of the democratic race for president, AJE had reports on post-election violence in Zimbabwe and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s calls for an arms embargo on the south African nation, the resumption of fuel shipments from Israel to Palestine, General David Petraeus’s promotion, an elephant rampage in India, bombings in Mosul, Iraq, and a documentary program on the veterans of the Falklands War.

via Salon.com – Why can’t we watch Al Jazeera?. The first part is just sad, the second makes other cable news companies look pathetic in comparison. I also enjoyed the bit where AJE is accused of being to American. Pretty poignant considering Al Jazeera is the only news organization able to report on the Egypt protests.

29 Jan

Amazon Media Room – Amazon.com Announces Fourth Quarter Sales up 36% to $12.95 Billion

Amazon.com is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books. Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books. Additionally, during this same time period the Company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books. This is across Amazon.com’s entire U.S. book business and includes sales of books where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the numbers even higher.

via Amazon Media Room – Amazon.com Announces Fourth Quarter Sales up 36% to $12.95 Billion. That’s amazing, good job Amazon/Kindle.

29 Jan

ReadWriteWeb – Quora Blocks Startup Search Engines

The popular startup question and answer service Quora only allows the largest search engines to index its site. As Gabe Rivera of Techmeme pointed out yesterday, its robots.txt file explicitly grants Google, Bing, Blekko and other big players access, but excludes everyone else. If large sites had these restrictions back when Google was starting, it might never have succeeded and we’d still be stuck with Altavista. As more publishers move to this whitelist approach, are they stifling innovation?

via ReadWriteWeb – Quora Blocks Startup Search Engines. This is an awful move by a startup to prevent other startups from being able to access data and gain the ability to search a site. As the argument goes, imagine if Google was blocked when it originally started?

27 Jan

Freedom to Tinker – Seals on NJ voting machines, 2004-2008

Those five criteria are just common sense about what would be a required in any effective system for protecting something using tamper-indicating seals. What I found was that (1) the seals aren’t always there; (2) even if they were, you can remove the cartridge without visible evidence of tampering with the seal and (3) you can remove the circuit-board cover without even disturbing the plastic-strap seal; (4) even if that hadn’t been true, the seal-inspection records are quite lackadaisical and incomplete; and (5) even if that weren’t true, since the counties tend to re-use the same serial numbers, the attacker could just obtain fresh seals with the same number!

via Freedom to Tinker – Seals on NJ voting machines, 2004-2008. So security seals, not so secure.

24 Jan

The New Yorker – News Desk: Why Is Eric Schmidt Stepping Down at Google?

Was Eric Schmidt pushed or did he jump? Both. According to close advisors, the Google C.E.O. was upset a year ago when co-founder Larry Page sided with his founding partner, Sergey Brin, to withdraw censored searches from China. Schmidt did not hide his belief that Google should stay in the world’s largest consumer marketplace. It was an indication of the nature of the relationship Schmidt had with the founders that he—as Brian Cashman of the Yankees did this week—acknowledged that the decision was made above his head. He often joked that he provided “adult supervision,” and was never shy about interrupting the founders at meetings to crystallize a point. In the eleven interviews I conducted with him for my book on Google, he freely told anecdotes about the founders, sometimes making gentle fun of them, never seeming to look over his shoulder. Yet he always made clear that they were “geniuses” and he, in effect, was their manager. After a bumpy first couple of years after he joined Google as C.E.O. in 2001, they had developed a remarkable relationship. But also a weird one. How many successful organizations have a troika making decisions? Schmidt, according to associates, lost some energy and focus after losing the China decision. At the same time, Google was becoming defensive. All of their social-network efforts had faltered. Facebook had replaced them as the hot tech company, the place vital engineers wanted to work. Complaints about Google bureaucracy intensified. Governments around the world were lobbing grenades at Google over privacy, copyright, and size issues. The “don’t be evil” brand was getting tarnished, and the founders were restive. Schmidt started to think of departing. Nudged by a board-member friend and an outside advisor that he had to re-energize himself, he decided after Labor Day that he could reboot.

via The New Yorker – News Desk: Why Is Eric Schmidt Stepping Down at Google?. Typically when I’m posting to The New Yorker, I’m talking about how it’s a super long article with tons of detail and sources. This is super short article but man it details the entire story of Schmidt leaving Google as C.E.O. In all honesty this should be used as an example to journalism students everywhere.