|National Edition||Volume 15 #2||February 2005|
Minnesota has began issuing a first-of-its-kind in the US driver’s license designed to thwart counterfeiters–an issue that has taken on greater urgency since the September 11 attacks. The license has a security feature in which a reflective image appears to float above and below it when it is tilted. The licenses will have a distinctively Minnesota flavor: the floating images will be of loons, an enduring symbol of the state. Minnesota is the first state in the US to use the technology, which was developed by Maplewood Minnesota based 3M. The technology has been around about a year at this time but has only been used on Australian passports thus far. This new technology is considered to be nearly impossible to counterfeit. In the past, counterfeit driver’s licenses were largely seen as simply an underage drinking issue. However, since the September 11th attacks driver’s licenses have taken on a higher profile amid fears of identity theft and terrorism. Several of the September 11th hijackers used fake IDs to board commercial flights. One of the provisions in the recently enacted intelligence reorganization bill imposes new federal standards on information that driver licenses must contain. Minnesota officials said their new license should satisfy any of those newly required standards. The new Minnesota license also includes an invisible digital watermark capable of carrying security data such as a date of birth. The information would be readable only through the use of a computerized scanner which law enforcement officers could carry. Other security features include a digital picture of the cardholder fused into the plastic card and printing over the image and a holographic state seal on the front that will be visible only under ultraviolet light. There also will be a status check notation on the front and back of licenses showing when an immigrant's visa expires, something the state already had begun to put on driver’s licenses despite strong opposition from civil liberties groups. The new licenses are being issued automatically to people who renew licenses that are about to expire. Others can pay $8 to replace their current license with the new version.
Four major categories of scams continue to plague the high-tech community.
As spyware, adware and various computer viruses expand so does the industry to protect the consumer expand. It is estimated that most PCs that are used for online activities are now infected in some way. Many computer users are not taking proper measures to try to prevent their machines from becoming infected. Among the fairly simple steps that they should be taking are:
Taking the actions as outlined above should significantly reduce the chances that your computer will become infected. It should also be noted that Microsoft has announced the available of a beta version or their new security software. Please see the next article in this publication for further information on this new Microsoft product.
Recently Microsoft announced the public beta release of their new security software. It is available at no charge via download from the main Microsoft Internet site at www.microsoft.com/spyware. It is thought that the security software will be available at no charge until on or about the first of July of this year. The software is called Windows Anti Spyware and is designed to protect Windows users from spyware and various other potentially unwanted software. Any spyware that it finds on your computer can be removed after detection. This can aid in preventing the various effects of such software such as:
The software will provide continuous protection during use of the Internet by guarding over fifty ways that spyware can enter your computer. The download is free to users of genuine Microsoft Windows at this time. It is a fairly large download of a little over 6MB and should take as long as about half an hour using a dialup connection. It is still in the beta (pre-release) stage and therefore Microsoft does not provide technical support for the product at this time. The software supports Windows 2000 and XP. It is suggested that a system restore point be established prior to installing the software as a last resort in case of problems after installing and uninstall attempts not working properly. This will allow you bring the system back to the point it was at before you start to install the beta software that can often be problematic.
Legend has it that when Groucho Marx was asked why he did not belong to an exclusive Beverly Hills private club he is alleged to have replied that he was not interested in belonging to any club that would sink low enough to admit him as a member. Now the opposite of that appears to have happened to Oracle founder, CEO and Chairperson Larry Ellison. It seems that the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky Montana has turned down his request for membership. The resort in question is the only private club in the US with its own ski mountain and world-class golf course. Money and manners are the two main requirements for membership and Mr. Ellison seem to have plenty of one of those. The membership fee is $250,000 along with annual dues of $16,000. In addition the member must then purchase home site property at anywhere from $1million to $10million. After that a custom home is built on the site. Club members include many of the captains of industry to include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, one of Mr. Ellison’s most dreaded rivals. The club founder has stated that their target member is a good down to earth humble person who is thankful for his or her success. Further saying that basically no jerks are allowed. The club does not release the names of those who are rejected for membership but sources say that Larry Ellison was rejected because they did not think that he would fit in. He is one of the ten richest people in the US. The reason it was thought he would not fit in may be that recently he redesigned a yacht he was building to ensure that it would be bigger than the world’s largest private vessel owned by the other Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. Mr. Ellison is known for being a kind of strutting peacock who thinks he is God’s gift to the world of software. The club has about 200 members and the plans call for a membership cap of 864. It is hoped that they will all be unpretentious nice rich people according to the club founders.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may have to scrap a new computer system aimed at helping agents share information in the war on terror because officials consider it inadequate, the Los Angeles Times has reported. The newspaper, citing unidentified FBI officials, said the Bureau is so convinced that the software, known as Virtual Case File, would not work as planned that it has taken steps to start soliciting outside proposals for new software. The problems could further delay a four-year, $500million overhaul of the Bureau's antiquated computer system, according to the report on the LA Times' Internet site. The overhaul was considered a priority by the 9/11 Commission and many members of Congress, who said the FBI's old computer system prevented agents from sharing information that might have headed off the Sept. 11th 2001, attacks. The paper said the FBI recently commissioned independent studies to determine if any part of the Virtual Case File software could be salvaged. A decision to proceed with new software would add tens of millions of dollars to development costs and render worthless much of a $170million contract. The FBI could seek requests for proposals (RFP) for a new system as early as this spring. The FBI is no longer saying when the project, originally set to be completed by the end of last year, might be finished. The Times said the FBI received a prototype of the Virtual Case File from Science Applications International in San Diego. But according to the LA Times Bureau officials consider it inadequate and already outdated, and are using it mainly on a trial basis to glean information from users that will be incorporated in a newly designed system. Science Applications has thus far received about $170million for its work on the project. If the software has in fact failed as the FBI is saying it has, it will set the Bureau back a long way. A Science Applications spokesperson told the newspaper that the company successfully completed delivery of the initial version of the software late last year and declined any further comment on the quality of the system.
Both of the major agencies that track worldwide PC sales show that those sales were strong in the fourth quarter of 2004. IDC, based in Framingham MA, had worldwide shipments up almost 14% over the same period last year. Gartner of Stamford CT had them up 11%. The two firms use slightly different measurement methods to track shipments. IDC said that full year growth was nearly 15% over 2003. Gartner claims that full year growth was about 12%. According to IDC Dell had an outstanding quarter showing a 21% increase in shipments from the last quarter of 2003. HP lost a little market share as their shipments were only up 9% in the fourth quarter. IDC had Dell with 17% of the total market and HP with 16%. That was an exact reversal of their positions last year in the fourth quarter when HP had 17% and Dell 16%. For the entire year 2004 Dell was in the number one position with 18% of the market and HP had 17%. In the fourth quarter IBM was third in worldwide shipments with a little under 6% of the market. Number four was Acer with a little over 4% market share and number five was Fujitsu/Siemens at 4%. Apple had a good quarter but could not make it into the top five. Their PC shipments grew by over 25% helped by some spillover business from the sales of the popular iPod. IDC reported total worldwide shipments of a little over 51million during the quarter compared with about 45million in 2003. According to Gartner there were 54million PCs shipped in the quarter compared to a little less than 49million in 2003.
The US Army has hired IBM and a group of other companies to create an automated record-keeping system that ends the need for electronic forms to be printed out, signed and delivered up the military service's chain of command. IBM, together with an electronic forms supplier, and a digital signature technology maker, said yesterday it has created a complete system to take the paperwork out of the Army bureaucracy. When fully implemented over the next decade, the forms management system should save about $1.3billion a year in unnecessary paperwork and administrative procedures, according to an Army Audit Agency report. The Army now relies on up to an estimated 100,000 different forms for everything from supply ordering and pay disbursement to medical record keeping and the awarding of citations. Currently, the Army has the ability to convert paper-based forms into digital files that can be located on an official Army Internet site. But while it is possible to fill in the form and store the data electronically, users have been forced to print a paper copy, manually sign and then hand-carry or mail the form to complete many of the authorization processes. In today's environment you have no way of knowing what the status of any previous action is, Electronic content management will allow all these processes to be tracked. The new single, centralized, document warehouse consists of XML-based forms, digital signature approval technology and content management software from IBM that will help the Army to automate the entire form-completion process. The 1.4 million direct and indirect employees of the Army, which includes uniformed staff, reservists and civilian contractors, will use it. In an average year, they fill out some 15 million forms, according to IBM. A performance appraisal system for officers and noncommissioned personnel is to be the first application and is now under development. The project is part of the Army's Forms Content Management Program. IBM and the other companies were chosen for their ability to make their standard, commercially available technologies work within the Army's online system. IBM is providing the content management system based on its DB2 database system.
Apple Computer filed another lawsuit in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County against an Internet site alleged to have posted proprietary Apple information or trade secrets. This filing in January 2005 follows a filing in December 2004 by Apple Computer of Cupertino California, which asked the court to subpoena sites in order to reveal the identities of individuals who allegedly placed such information on message boards, related to similar sites.
This January lawsuit differs from the December one in that it is not seeking to reveal the identity of anonymous or pseudonymous posters, but rather is claiming damages from articles filed and published by the owners of the site Think Secret, thinksecret.com.
In Apple's claim, it says recent Think Secret articles contained trade secrets. In fact, Think Secret has published articles claiming to reveal an upcoming Apple productivity suite, named iWork, as well as a sub-$500 Macintosh desktop computer.
Apple's action was based on the Uniform Trade Secrets Act as defined in California Civil Code 3426.1. This states that if a company takes reasonable measures to protect its information and the information derives value from being kept secret, California courts should rule that such information, even if it is commonplace, should be afforded protection as a trade secret.
Common examples of such data are corporate minutes and customer lists. Under this statute, misappropriation, which is defined as the acquisition of information via improper means or the use or disclosure of trade secrets, is prosecutable.
Trade secret cases are fairly common, according to a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit group interested in protecting digital rights. It should be noted that there might be a jurisdictional issue in the case as Apple filed under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (most states have their own version of the statute), while the company that owns the Think Secret Internet site is based in New York City.
However, this may be a minor issue and one that may be a moot point. It is thought that the Apple suit may be ill advised since it is essential that a news organization be able to maintain confidentiality of sources. Think Secret may not have the same physical characteristics as a newspaper, but there is no way to make a strong distinction between these and online sites. To deny a site like Think Secret the status of a news operation may be very inappropriate.
In the December suit, Apple asked for subpoenas against Think Secret in order to discover the true identity of a poster on the Apple Nova message boards. However, despite a link to the latter Internet site on the formers front page, there is no business or editorial connection between the two Internet sites, www.eweek.com/category2/0,1738,1425680,00.asp.
In past years, Apple has sent cease-and-desist letters to many Internet sites that have purported to have inside information on upcoming Apple products. Such rumors have traditionally ramped up as the company's annual trade show Macworld approached. Many Mac watchers have noted that such furor, even when fueled by threatened legal actions by Apple, has only served to increase the marketing buzz around the company and its products. At the time of the two suits in question the next such Macworld conference was scheduled to begin 10 January in San Francisco.
The US Supreme Court said it would consider whether Internet file-sharing services are responsible for their customers illegally swapping songs and movies. It is a multibillion-dollar case testing the limits of copyright law in the digital age.
Justices will hear a challenge to a lower court ruling in favor of Grokster and Stream Cast Networks that was a blow to recording companies and movie studios seeking to stop the online distribution of their copyrighted works. At issue is whether the file-sharing services should be held liable, even if they have no direct knowledge of what millions of online users are doing with the software they provide for free.
The entertainment industry says it needs protection against the billions of dollars in revenue they lose to illegal swapping. Consumer groups worry that expanded liability will stifle the technology revolution of the last two decades that brought videocassette recorders and MP3 players.
At stake may be the future of a close to $500 billion copyright industry, specifically the music recording, motion picture and video industries which have been hammered with the advent of the Internet. The appeal hinges on a 20-year-old US Supreme Court ruling in a case brought by the movie industry, which wanted to block home video recorders on copyright grounds. The high court disagreed; saying VCRs had substantial uses other than illegally recording movies.
Using that reasoning, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in August 2004 that file-sharing services were not legally responsible for their customers’ illegal activity because the companies don’t have central servers pointing users to copyright material. It reasoned that the firms simply provide software that lets individual users share information over the Internet, regardless of whether that shared information is copyrighted.
Civil libertarians and consumer groups have warned that a defeat for Grokster and StreamCast could force technology companies such as Microsoft to delay or kill innovative products that give consumers more control. They add that imposing liability on Grokster and StreamCast won’t solve the problem of piracy because there are similar software programs created abroad that wouldn’t be subject to the tougher U.S. copyright laws.
If the lower court ruling is upheld, the entertainment industry would have to take the more costly and less popular route of going directly after millions of online file-swappers believed to distribute songs and movies illegally. Recording companies have already sued more than 3,400 such users; at least 600 of the cases were eventually settled for roughly $3,000 each.
The case That the US Supreme Court will hear is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios v. Grokster, #04-480. Arguments are expected to be heard by the Supreme Court next spring, with a ruling anticipated by July 2005.
Since there are so many off-the-shelf systems available why would anybody want to build their own? The reason of course is that all of those machines are full of compromises and do not have the newest components in them.
By building your own computer you are able to eliminate those compromises and pick out just the components that you want. When new components become available in the marketplace it takes a little while until they are included in the black box off the shelf computers that we can purchase.
You are always at least a month or two or more behind when you purchase an off-the-shelf computer. This may not sound like much time but you must remember that most components in this industry become superceded in six months to a year.
The book spends a lot of time explaining why certain design decisions are being made. This is certainly better than using a straightforward cookbook approach that would simply tell you the components to use since they change so rapidly. The authors teach you what you need to know to select the best and newest components and assemble them into a super working PC that best matches your requirements and budget. This is done even if you have no training or prior experience in the field of computer components and hardware.
The book also covers one of the most important issues to the builder of a PC and that is compatibility. Without the proper compatibility even the best components will not provide a high performance PC. The authors also cover how to test and configure the machine that you have assembled.
Also covered in the book is the building of a low-end server for a small office / home office (SOHO). The functional requirements of a server are different than those for a normal PC. Another type of PC that is covered in the book is the small form factor model. That is a computer in which size is the key factor.
The authors also cover building a PC that can be used to replace a group of common living room consumer electronic devices including:
The book is organized into seven chapters. It includes a good ten-page index. It is also extensively illustrated. Many of the illustrations are in full color. The book’s foreword and the first chapter, Fundamentals, are available online at www.oreilly.com/catalog/buildpc/chapter/index.html. The table of contents, index, author bios and samples are available at www.oreilly.com/catalog/buildpc. The book is Building the Perfect PC, Robert Bruce Thompson & Barbara Fritchman Thompson, ISBN 0-596-00663-2, 332 pages, $29.95 US, email@example.com / (800)998-9938 / firstname.lastname@example.org. S Marder
2. PC sales leader in Q4 2004
1. This company is suing for unauthorized product postings