December 31, 2004

Anti-Phishing Site

The Anti-Phishing Working Group. A place to check out that suspicious email. (Although, a good rule-of-thumb is to consider any suspicious email to be a scam.)

What is Phishing? Phishing attacks use 'spoofed' e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, social security numbers, etc. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to 5% of recipients to respond to them.

[Via Macintouch]

Posted by jackhodgson at 11:47 AM

Mobster makes music recomendations

I haven't upgraded to OS X 10.3 yet, so I can't try this, but the way Macintouch describes it, "Mobster" sounds cool.

Mobster 1.1 watches the music you play in iTunes and uses recommendation information from Musicmobs to suggest other music that you may like. It includes iTunes control, playlist creation, library browsing, and an option to weight recommendations with a slider that ranges from Mainstream to Hipster.
Posted by jackhodgson at 11:26 AM

December 29, 2004

$499 G4 Mac?

ThinkSecret.com reports that Apple may announce a very low cost G4 Mac at MacWorld.

With iPod-savvy Windows users clearly in its sights, Apple is expected to announce a bare bones, G4-based iMac without a display at Macworld Expo on January 11 that will retail for $499, highly reliable sources have confirmed to Think Secret.

The new Mac, code-named Q88, will be part of the iMac family and is expected to sport a PowerPC G4 processor at a speed around 1.25GHz. The new Mac is said to be incredibly small and will be housed in a flat enclosure with a height similar to the 1.73 inches of Apple's Xserve. Its size benefits will include the ability to stand the Mac on its side or put it below a display or monitor.

[Thanks Macintouch.]

Posted by jackhodgson at 09:04 PM

Get a Mac

Sandy McMurray, of the Corante Apple blog, thinks out loud about how to convice someone to swith from Microsoft Window, to a Mac:

I've had hands-on, daily experience with Windows and Mac systems since 1980. These days, I use four systems in my tech support and writing work: Windows 98 SE, Windows XP Pro, Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X.

Although I have a lot of respect for XP Pro, I prefer to work in Mac OS X. I can make the arguments for both sides of the Windows vs. Mac debate, but for me it simply comes down to this: my blood pressure is lower when I'm using Mac OS X.

Posted by jackhodgson at 07:49 AM

December 28, 2004

AOL Spam Spin

Mike, over on the TechDirt site, makes a good point about the reality of the recent headlines about AOL spam being reduced:

AOL is claiming that their new spam filter has greatly reduced spam, creating nice looking headlines about less spam. Of course, you could question their findings. The details show that what was reduced was spam complaints. This might be a proxy for the amount of spam that got through to inboxes, or it might just show that AOL subscribers have wised up and realized that reporting spam to AOL doesn't seem to do a bit of good -- and they've just given up on it.

Boldface added by TechPopuli.

Posted by jackhodgson at 08:21 AM

Tooting the horn

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, in a column about the security and usability problems with Microsoft Windows, wrote:

Meanwhile, the company's historic rival, Apple Computer, has been making giant strides in ease of use. The Macintosh, with its OS X operating system, is rock solid. It is elegant, and -- when you do a feature-by-feature price comparison with Windows competitors -- it's surprisingly affordable.

The Mac is also packed with extras that Windows lacks. It has a suite of easy, free, multimedia programs that can't be matched on Windows at any price. It has a better free browser and e-mail program than Windows. It can read and create PDF files without requiring the purchase of any extra software.

Apple upgrades its operating system far more often than Microsoft does. The company's new iMac G5 model is the single best desktop computer I have ever reviewed. And Apple is the only computer company whose business is focused on consumers and small businesses.

Best of all, the current Mac operating system has never been attacked by a successful virus, and almost no spyware can run on it. This is largely because the Mac's small market share presents an unattractive target for digital criminals. But it's partly because the Mac operating system is harder to penetrate. I'm sure there will eventually be viruses that afflict Mac users, but nowhere near the 5,000 new Windows viruses that appeared in just the first six months of this year.

Posted by jackhodgson at 08:11 AM

December 27, 2004

I used to love my TiVo

David Weinberger is doing the research on replacing his TiVo with the open-source MythTV. I'm not far behind him.

Posted by jackhodgson at 02:02 PM

Top Ten Tech Stories

Cynthia L. Webb of the Washington Post posts...

(comments in parens added by me)

Here's my Top 10 list of the technology developments that I think were most notable this year and are likely to remain a significant influence on the sector in 2005:

10. VoIP's Big Leap: Vonage, Skype
9. Merger Mania (eg Oracle/Peoplesoft)
8. iPod Nation
7. Pay-For-Play (Success of iTunes, and the RIAA and MPAA protection rackets)
6. The Song in the Sky -- Satellite radio
5. Squelching Spyware and Spam (or more accurately, the failure to squelch it)
4. Firefox Rising
3. Open Sesame (like linux, thunderbird, et all)
2. Blogs Get Real (I think they've been real for awhile, but it's nice to be noticed)
1. The Search For Dominance (the ever growing importance of search as the way to manage all this information)

Posted by jackhodgson at 10:46 AM

December 22, 2004

xPod

Dave Winer reports a rumor that Apple will announce at MacWorld a new version of the iPod that connects to satellite radio.

Posted by jackhodgson at 09:17 PM

Long Tail Blog

Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired Magazine, recently wrote a piece called The Long Tail. Now he's gonna expand it into a full book, and he'll be sharing his progress with us in a blog.

Posted by jackhodgson at 07:57 PM

Telemarketing to cellphones not imminent

Washington Post:

The e-mails, often forwarded by friends, vary in wording, but the underlying message is always ominous: Soon, all cell phone numbers will be made public to telemarketing firms. That means, according to one version, that "your cell phone may start ringing off the hook with telemarketers" and your precious, limited cell phone minutes will be eaten up with calls you don't want.

It's not clear where the e-mails originated, but industry and government officials say they are an urban myth; they are not true. There is no list of cell phone numbers being turned over to telemarketers, and telemarketers are barred from calling cell phone numbers.


Posted by jackhodgson at 05:46 PM

What's next in space exploration?

This article on the Technology Review website, discusses the possible future goals and directions of the space program.

Posted by jackhodgson at 12:31 PM

December 20, 2004

Digital Photography changing the world

Washington Post:

This past year, people in the United States bought twice as many digital cameras as film models, according to the Photo Marketing Association. Next year a bigger change may loom: Cell phone cameras are projected to sell even more than regular digital cameras.

The larger story, though, is how people are using their digital cameras differently from the film models. Consider the photos snapped by National Guardsmen showing abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, which were e-mailed widely and shown on national TV. Or the Nashville man who helped police nab the mugger who jumped him at a carwash, by using his cell phone camera to photograph the mugger as he fled.

Posted by jackhodgson at 12:43 PM

December 18, 2004

Car Hacks & Mods

Ever since I got my Jeep Cherokee I've been intrigued by the "data access port" that is under the dash. Seems I'm not alone, as a whole subculture of "car hackers" -- using the real, non-evil, version of the word 'hacker' here -- who are modding their cars for fun and efficiency.

There's an article in Tech Review on the subject.

"Car makers definitely make their share of stupid or annoying user-interface decisions, such as requiring the ignition key be turned to engine-run position before the power windows will work," says a hacker known simply as "Hobbit". "One of my hacks is a simple switch that enables all the power windows with the key out."
Posted by jackhodgson at 09:04 AM

December 17, 2004

Cropping photos is good

In my digital photography seminar I'm a big supporter of cropping photos as a simple way to improve them. This article on the Optimization website seems to agree, and goes further to suggest other benefits, and uses.

Note how the author is now more recognizable in the cropped version (behind the sunscreen) and the lettering is larger and more legible. Most importantly, the image has more impact, with the subject taking up more of the frame. This cropped image could be shown with a smaller dimension, saving file size.
Posted by jackhodgson at 05:06 PM

December 16, 2004

Proud Company

It's looking like Apple's iPod is the "It" gift this holiday season.

Cynthia L. Webb, Washington Post:

Apple couldn't ask for a better dilemma -- with nine days left until Christmas, retailers are reporting a shortage of the popular iPod digital music player.

People still can find the item on Apple's Web site and at the computer maker's stores, but the gadget shortage at mass market retailers is kicking the iPod up to that lonely top shelf of mega-popular gifts of days past, just like Tickle Me Elmo and the Cabbage Patch Kids. The only difference so far? We haven't heard about any pushing and shoving in the aisles over the iPod -- yet.

Posted by jackhodgson at 12:28 PM

December 15, 2004

Acrobat pdf files can execute trojans

Adobe has warned that versions of its pdf reader programs can be exploited to possibly execute malicious code. This potentially affects Windows, Unix, and Mac OSX versions of the program. eWeek:

This could allow the execution of malicious code with the privileges of the user, iDefense said. An attacker could exploit this bug by sending an e-mail message including either an attached PDF file or a link to the file.

Earlier versions of Acrobat Reader 6 may also be vulnerable, and Adobe Acrobat may also be affected, iDefense said. Adobe has released Version 6.0.3 of both Acrobat and Reader for the Windows and Mac OS X platforms, which fixes the problem.

I'm looking around to see if the Mac OS X utility Preview, which can also open pdf file, has this bug. More later.

Posted by jackhodgson at 05:15 PM

Smarthome catalog

Some Geeky, and some silly, items to add to your living space.

[Thanks Cool Tools]

Posted by jackhodgson at 12:47 PM

Blockbuster Spin

Blockbuster has announced that it's eliminating late fees on it's video rentals. They think this will make their customers really happy.

The thing is, they actually haven't eliminated them, just reduced them, and changed the structure.

Here's how it was described in The Boston Globe:

Under the new policy, movies and games will still have rental periods -- two days for a new movie release and a week for games and all other movies.

Customers will automatically be given a one-week grace period to return a movie or game. If the movie or game is not returned by then, the customer will be automatically charged the sale price of the movie. The purchase price can be refunded, minus the $1.25 restocking fee, if the movie or game is returned within 30 days.

So the way this works is, that after 9 days there's a late fee of $1.25, and after 30 days the late fee is the price of the video. And remember, that a lot of these rental videos are "priced to rent", ie not $10, but $60, or more. I wonder if each video will be labelled with their "purchase" price?

That's not "eliminating" the late fee.

Posted by jackhodgson at 10:38 AM

December 14, 2004

"Let me in the damn car, who?"

Here's a kinda cool gadget that let's you unlock your car door by rapping a code on the window. Thanks Boingboing, and Engadget.

* Estimated that nearly 1 million lockouts happen every year in Australia alone
* Highly secure, user defined, five to twelve digit AUDIBLE KNOCK code
* Shuts down for an hour with three wrong attempts
* Easily installed onto your existing central locking by auto electricians or car alarm installer with no drilling required
* No waiting around for hours for road rescue
* Avoid damage to your vehicle whilst breaking in to retreive keys
* 2 Year Manuacturers defects Warranty
* Extremely convenient to have even if you never get locked out
* Buy it NOW! Before You Desperately Need a Knock-In-Key!.........
Posted by jackhodgson at 10:45 AM

December 10, 2004

They're already here

*The first trailer for Steven Spielberg's film, "The War of the Worlds."

Posted by jackhodgson at 02:11 PM

December 08, 2004

Movie to debut on cellphones

AP Technology via Yahoo! News:

An Indian cellular phone company plans to air a new Bollywood movie on mobile handsets for free and in full Thursday in a bid to promote its video-streaming service.
Posted by jackhodgson at 01:32 PM

December 06, 2004

Photo Album Software for Windows

Walt Mossberg reviews Jasc's Photo Album:

I've been trying out this new edition of Jasc's Photo Album, and I like a lot about it. It's relatively straightforward, and it has some unusual features. But it's not as good as the Adobe product because, despite the new virtual albums, it still forces users to rely too much on a well-organized and well-understood system of folders on the hard disk. And I simply don't believe users should have to master the computer's file system just to enjoy their pictures.
Posted by jackhodgson at 10:20 AM

December 02, 2004

Cell Phone Rates

Back in October the Washington Post compiled this comparison of cellphone rates from the various major companies.

Posted by jackhodgson at 08:08 AM

December 01, 2004

CompUSA Apple holiday celebration

The CompUSA stores are sending out this invite:

Tis the season........

Get into the holiday spirit and join the festivities at CompUSA nationwide for an Apple users exclusive holiday celebration. The event will be held from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Thursday, December 2, 2004, so get there early!

Eat, drink and be merry, the coffee and donuts are free and the deals are worth celebrating. Do your shopping early and take advantage of special pricing on almost every product in store, and exclusive offers from CompUSA and Apple vendors just for you.

Get shopping tips and advice from the Apple Solution Consultant, the Apple employee available at most CompUSA stores.

Pick up your iTunes Music Store Gift Cards on sale now at CompUSA. Enter a drawing to win 75 free downloads from the iTunes Music Store to be raffled off at 9 a.m. One download certificate per store. Must be present to win.

Get a $50 Instant Gift card on any HP printer/camera bundle purchase valued at $299 and above.

Check out the selection of home entertainment products - one may be on someone's wish list for the holidays!

When: Thursday, December 2
Time: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Where: all stores, check store locator:
http://www.compusa.com/locations/

Call 1-866 4 COMP BZ to speak to a CompUSA team near you!

[via Seacoast Mac mailing list]

Posted by jackhodgson at 10:58 AM

The Long Tail

Back in the October issue of Wired Magazine there was an article called The Long Tail. The idea is that in this age of Amazon and iTunes Music Store, it's possible to make available for purchase all the low-volume items that are never carried by brick&mortar stores. And the discovery is that there are buyers for basically all of these low-volume items. It turns out that there is a customer for everything, as long as there's a cost-effective way to offer it. And the net makes it cost-effective.

From the Wired article:

...it is an example of an entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries, one that is just beginning to show its power. Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what's available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find, the more they like. As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture).

I've been thinking a lot about this since I read it. Now Doc Searls has picked up on the meme and added this article from The Independant.

Here are three facts. Every one of the 1.2 million tracks on Apple's iTunes Music Store site has been downloaded at least once. A large-ish bookstore can carry 130,000 titles. More than half of the online bookstore Amazon's sales come from the titles ranked lower than 130,000. Put these facts together, and you have an indication of a phenomenon that has got analysts of the information economy very interested: the "long tail".

Take a look at these, and think about it. It may be a real breakthrough in understanding how the new technology is changing, and mostly improving, the way things work.

BTW, one aspect of the long tail that troubles me is, that it seems to benefit the sites that "aggregate" the content of many-many creators, more than it does those creators. Put another way, iTunes may be making decent money selling 2 downloads per year from 10,000 artists, but each of those artists is only selling 2 copies per year, not really paying the rent.

Posted by jackhodgson at 10:49 AM
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