Sunday, February 05, 2006

Some computer stuff

The Stones are on at half time at the Super Bowl, so I thought I'd spend the time doing a blog entry. (I just noticed something. My Friday post, which I had problems posting, isn't listed in the entries I can edit. That's weird. A bug at, no doubt.)

I checked the Risks archive and found some interesting computer risk stuff. There's also some neat stuff at Slashdot.

  • Matt Cutts' blog had a post explaining that BMW's German web site was delisted (i.e. pulled) from Google. The original post explains the problem but keeps the German car manufacturer's name out of it. The most recent post states that BMW was delisted and camera manufacturer Ricoh may not be far behind. Apparently BMW has a page with a lot of keywords. The keywords trick search engines into thinking there is a lot of content on the page, thus raising its profile in search listings. If a user clicks on the search engine link, they are taken to this page which immediately takes them to another page via javascript. Google is clamping down on such things, which breaks their rule of "don't show the search engine one thing and the user another". BMW can request to be relisted after they fix the offending pages.

  • Apparently you can buy the call log of anyone with a cell phone. The FBI paid $160 to get the records of an agent's cell phone. The Chicago Sun paid $110 to buy the records of a month's worth of calls for one of their reporters. So, anyone can find out whom you called if they want to fork over the money. And anyone could buy the phone records of, say, a police officer known to deal with snitches or undercover cops.

  • The Sensenbrenner/Conyers analog hole bill will make it illegal to sell products that allow you to copy analog signals (i.e. 8mm or VHS video, or record albums) to digital (DVDs, MPEGs, WAVs, or MP3s). The bill will require companies to comply with a couple of copy protection schemes. One of the Risk contributors found that to get the specs for VEIL, one of the schemes, he would have to pay $10,000, sign a non-disclosure statement, and he would be unable to tell anyone. This is a piece of technology that could be part of legislation. It makes you wonder if the people crafting the law are under the same constrictions. It also makes you wonder what time bombs could be hidden within the technology.

  • Remember that Southwest aircraft that overran the runway in Chicago on December 8, 2005 and killed a young boy? The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) announced that the thrust-reversers on the plane were 18 seconds late to engage. This is what caused the aircraft to go off the runway. However, this kind of problem could be avoided in the future. The pilots punched in the conditions of the runway into a computer, which guided them onto the ground. The computations included the thrust-reversers coming on at the correct time. The NTSB is suggesting that thrust-reversers should not be part of the equation, so if they fail the aircraft still has a reasonable chance of stopping. By the way, if the thrust-reversers had worked correctly, the plane would have stopped 30 yards shy of the end of the runway, which is less than 1% the length of the 4,000 yard runway.

  • Just like the rest of us, Prince, Snoop Dogg, Bon Jovi, and U2 need to call tech support from time to time. For example, Bono needed help with an Xbox problem during a recent tour in Canada. According to Slashdot, Joshua Kapellen, of Best Buy's Geek Squad, has been on the road with U2 since 2004. He fixed the problem and a few minutes later was playing Xbox games with Bono. How do you get this kind of gig???

  • Don't expect compact cameras to get many more megapixels than 7 or 8. This is all that's needed to get half decent detail in 13 by 19, according to Canon. The megapixel battle, they predict, is over. As a point of contrast, an IS0 100 large format camera (the kind used by many professionals) has over 10,000 megapixels...


Back to the Super Bowl. I was hoping Seattle would win, only because I tend to favour the underdog and Seattle hasn't received much in the way of respect this week. While they were the dominant team in the first half they were pretty sloppy. Now they just scored a touchdown, and they are only behind 14 to 10.

That's the game, but it's only half the spectacle. The other half are the commercials. I've found them to be slightly better than last year, but still a little disappointing. So far the best commercial was the FedEx caveman ad. The Diet Pepsi music ad was cute, but the Diet Pepsi Jackie Chan ad fell flat. Many of the ads seem to be sequels to commercials we've seen for months (like the monkey spots, though it was fun to see the woman who works for a company of jackasses). The Hummer Godzilla ad was cute, but that's the main problem with them: they're mostly just "cute". Oh, well, there's always next year...

(Edit: Seattle lost. I could have predicted it, because every time I choose a team that I have no real emotional connection to, they lose. I could probably make money on this if someone could bet on the team I don't pick without my knowledge.)

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