Tag Archives: U.S.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

This year’s BBC Reith lectures came to a close today with the last of three lectures on Securing Freedom, presented by Eliza Manningham-Buller. The name may mean nothing to you but she was the Director-General of Britain’s Security Service, aka MI5, between October 2002 and April 2007, and she reflects on 9/11, the wars in the Middle East and how the world has changed in the last ten years.

The three lectures are titled, “Terror“, “Security” and “Freedom” and a give a British perspective on the role of the intelligence services and the relationship with the US during a period both countries were under attack. If you are a seasoned spook-watcher, there’s probably not that much new, but I personally found it revealing and reassuring that the British Security Service is more measured and ethically-minded than the media would have us believe.

Baroness Manningham-Buller doesn’t shy away from controversy either, steadfastly refusing to accept torture as an intelligence tool, and suggesting that the US’ use of waterboarding was a “profound mistake”. You’ll have to listen to the podcasts to understand her reasoning.

The lectures are available as podcasts and also as transcripts for those who would prefer to read.

The Modern Space Race

The Institute of Engineering and Technology’s monthly magazine always has plenty of tech articles and this month is no exception with a look at the different approaches to space flight being adopted by the US and Russia in Gateway to the Stars.

In the US, privateers are pushing forwards with the new Spaceport America in New Mexico, while the Russians continue with the Soviet-era Baikonur Cosmodrome. The pictures of the new spaceport under construction and Virgin Galactic craft contrast sharply with the utility of Baikonur. Obviously the sites are aiming at different markets, one consumer-led into sub-oribital flight, the other for ballistic launches, typically satellites and cargo runs to the ISS.

Picture courtesy of Virgin Galactic. The new spaceport terminal is the building under construction in the foreground.

The article also has some great trivia. Did you know that the nearest settlement to Spaceport America is called “Truth or Consequences” or that Baikonur Cosmodrome is actually 300 km from Baykonur so as to mislead the West? Or that the launch countdown to zero can be credited to Fritz Lang’s 1929 film “The Woman in the Moon”?

Sprint May be Getting iPhone5. Not Definite Yet [RUMOR]

Sprint Networks
Sprint is rumored to get iPhone5. Will it happen?

The upcoming iPhone5 in October might have a new twist to it. Sprint-Nextell might be joining the ranks as a phone carrier. This would be in addition to AT&T and Verizon to carrying the phone in the US.

I say “may” because it’s unconfirmed just yet. The Wall Street Journal reported that it will be happening. They got their information from “people familiar with the matter”. Yet, news leaks sometimes can be misleading.

Other iPhone5 Rumors

  • iPhone4 will get an 8GB model, replace 3GS as low-end device
  • dual-mode iPhone will let you switch from CDMA to GSM networks.
  • 4G LTE – No word if dual-mode LTE – WiMax
  • 8 Megapixel camera, Front facing VGA camera with no light.
  • A5 processor running dual 1 GHz.
  • Thinner and lighter phone
  • Longer and wider screen – Same size phone
  • Turns into Bumble Bee, everyone’s favorite Transformer (OK, maybe not. But wouldn’t that be cool?)

LTE vs WiMax

If Sprint does get the iPhone5, we could see a full iPhone war come October. There is one problem to this – Sprint is primarily a WiMax 4G service and iPhone is rumored to be LTE.

Sprint had put in measures to try and buy out Clearwire and add LTE into their service. Even if that happens, Sprint will have to do some fast work to make the iPhone 4G usable in the US.

We then have to ask the question: is T-Mobile also getting the iPhone? Not to mention the underdog carriers (US Cellular is one of the top underdogs in the Midwest, an iPhone 5 would mean local competition, too).

How iPhone5 Could Affect Android

Android has done a good job in clouding the market. Whereas iPhone only has 1 model with 3 memory size options (16, 32, 64 GB) and 2 color options (Black or White), Android comes in many sizes and shapes. HTC, LG, Motorola (obviously) and Sony- Ericsson all make different types of Android smartphones.

Still, with an iPhone 5 in all four US carriers could put a new dent into Android sales. A lot of people may make the switch because it’s an iPhone.

Once again, this is a rumor, but if true, could give Apple a bigger market share. Sprint users might have a bad experience for the first year simply because the carrier has to adapt to the phone, instead of vise-versa. If it does happen, I might finally switch off to another carrier for the first time in 13 years…

Two-Tiered Hotel WiFi may Satisfy Todd’s Need for Speed


Actually, I stopped using hotel WiFi because of this, too. You end up getting speeds slower than a modem and sometimes you are paying $10-$15 a day for it.

However, with the cloud looming and people wanting to watch YouTube videos and doing live meetings like GotoMeeting, the average user’s need for better speeds is a necessity. The standard 802.11b wifi router in the office – 150 feet away from your room – just won’t cut it anymore.

Hotels like InterContinental are experimenting with Tiered WiFi. For $10 a day, you can get a speed to check your email and Facebook. However, for $15 a day, you get some better connection speeds. No word what the “Better” speed would be – I would hope it would be at least 2 down, 2 up.

Then again, with 3G and 4G connections getting better in the US, will hotels benefit from making a tiered connection?

When in Vegas last June, I rented a 4G connection. I didn’t use the hotel Wireless because the 4G had better speed and cost less. I could work in my room, in the convention hall, in the lobby or in another location alltogether.

I was even in the airport watching GNC’s live show while waiting for my flight.

Two things I can see using a tiered hotel plan. One is if you need even more speed than 4G – One machine can run on 4G while the other connects via wireless. The other reason is if your 3G or 4G is a limited plan and you don’t want to go over 2 GB.

For people like myself or Todd, we need a better connection just to keep up with our daily lives. Not everyone needs that – but for those of us who do, having the option will be great.

US Relays Most Spam

The USA is the worst country in the world for relaying spam, according to Sophos’ latest report on spam.  The US was responsible for 13.1%, followed by Brazil and India at 7.3% and 6.8% respectively, with the UK, Russia and Italy tied in 7th place.  In a further twist, China has completely disappeared from the top 12 and now relays only about 1.9%.

The full hall of shame is below.

1. USA13.1%
2. India7.3%
3. Brazil6.8%
4. S Korea4.8%
5. Vietnam3.4%
6. Germany3.2%
7=. United Kingdom3.1%
7=. Russia3.1%
7=. Italy3.1%
10. France3.0%
11. Romania2.5%
12. Poland2.4%

Given the amount of attention that China receives as the “Country of Cybercrime”, the table shows that US and Europe ought to be looking a bit closer to home when it comes to spam.

Sophos estimates that 97% of email received to business servers is actually spam and only 3% is legitimate email.  Frankly that’s a both scary and a disgrace.  The level of resources needed to cope and the subsequent cost incurred by business shows that spam ought to be much higher up on the agenda of our lawmakers.

Perhaps they could take a break from the usual “digital rights” arguments and do something that would help everyone. That would get my vote.

Please Teach Aunt Martha What SPAM is.

So the numbers are getting better. According to the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), 80% of Internet users are aware of the botnets and spam in email. They know that there is no national lottery or company that spells their product V1@gra. Still, 20 percent of users are still taking SPAM seriously. That is seriously a bad number and it shows, because the report says we continue to select the spam.

Think about it – There are 305 million in the United States alone. That means sixty-one million people will respond to SPAM. Sixty-one million will be at risk of loosing thousands of dollars and possibly their credit line. Sixty-one million might get malware on their machine, which might enter your machine. Now apply that 20% to the 6.6 Billion from around the world. That means you can market a SPAM campain to 1.2 billion viewers and expect about 120 million to respond (using the 1:100 ratio).

We, as responsible IT reporters, talk about awareness to SPAM. But now I think it’s time for us to start pleading that you need to change your stance from an advocate, to a teacher. Turn your efforts into educating your parents, grandparents, friends, cousins and other people what SPAM, botnets and Malware really is and how to avoid it.

If we became a world with a 95% awareness to SPAM, we might just fight the ongoing problem. I just recorded a segment on my Podcast (Day in Tech History) for March 30th. I talked about how SPAM had creeped back up to where it was just before the MoColo server was taken down. That was noted on March 30th, 2009; 4 months after the server was raided.

Now, granted, 5% of non-aware people is still a big number. About 15 million in the US and 300 million worldwide. However, that number is more palatable than 61 million and 1.2 billion. I would like to believe in 5-10 years we could reach that number naturally. The only problem is that spammers are like everyone else – They learn from their drawbacks.

Sometimes I am impressed with some of the messages received. My curiosity sets in, so I want to take that message a little further. However, I do that in a controlled environment. Never on the production machine, where my email addresses could be mined. Never to a link that looks like it’s this:


(in those cases, I will remove the extra data). Never a short-link in the email (example: bit.ly/Tbd87jh) If I go to a page with any type of login – especially one that looks like a popular website such as Facebook or Twitter – I stop.

Curiosity may get my cat, but it shouldn’t get yours. That is, unless you take the same amount of precautions. Of course I also do it to make sure I can explain what you need to look out for.

Spam, botnets and Malware can be big business for those who utilize it. They prey on those who don’t know better. They make new tricks to take your hard earned money. The only way to really turn the tables now is to sit down with the kids like you are going to tell them the birds and bees, but in this case, it’s a discussion on how SPAM is bad.

Don’t forget to also sit down with Mom and Dad and have that same discussion.

Rate of U.S. Broadband Adoption Increasing, Says FCC

In a report just issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the number of U.S. broadband users has nearly tripled between June 2001 and December 2003. As of the survey, 28 million lines of high-speed access to the Internet, defined as at least 200 Kbps bandwidth in at least one direction, are in use in the United States.

Cable and Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) serve provide the majority of broadband service: cable, 75 percent; ADSL, 15 percent. In 2001, at the time of the previous FCC report, the relative percentages were: cable, 56 percent; ADSL, 17 percent.

As of December 2003, only 7 percent of U.S. ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) Codes, had no high-speed service, down from 22 percent in 2001. Also, 46 percent of U.S. ZIP have four or more providers of high-speed service.

Dave’s Opinion
I’m a fan of cable broadband service, and it seems that many online Americans share my opinion. I detest dial-up service, it makes teaching class a drudgery, and it’s too slow for me to listen to my favorite radio stations. I can easily do without cable TV; however, I can’t do without our cable modem. Now, the big question is, are we ready for VOIP (Voice Over IP).

Call for Comments
What do you think? Leave your comments below.

FCC Press Release
FCC Report
U.S. Census Bureau Population Clock