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July 26, 2003
[ Mail: Strong Objections to MessageTag ]

Robyn Winter comments on my recent column about MessageTag:

I noticed, from checking on MSGTAG's website that you recently did an article on MSGTAG's email tracking service.

I recently received several email in which the sender utilised MSGTAG’s email tracking service. I was completely unaware that there was even any type of "read receipt" tracking until I had printed out the email and noticed the MSGTAG's icon. This was because the icon and accompanying message was below the sender’s signature details.

Apart from the fact that our company has a policy NOT to allow read receipts, personally, I strongly object to MSGTAG’S email tracking service, as I have absolute right to control what does or does not leave my mailbox and computer.

The sender has no real right to know when and if I read his email, where will this go next...tracking how often the email is open, tracking to whom I on forward the email...the possibilities are endless and tantamount to spying and invasion of privacy.

MSGTAG also collects the recipients email address, email ID, IP address and email headers without the recipients authorisation or knowledge. This is in direct contravention to the privacy act and the rules governing the collection of personally identifiable information. We also feel that MSGTAG’s email tracking service is not only an invasion of our privacy but is also an infringement of the "Information Access" and "Computer Equipment Access" laws as their service provides "back-flow" traffic, without the recipient’s knowledge or consent, directly from their computer software and hardware.

Because of this activity, which for all intents and purposes (although stated to the contrary on the MSGTAG web site), the email tracking is a form of common spyware and we have therefore banned the use of MSGTAG services through our firewall and proxy services.

We will be taking every opportunity to make users aware of the infringement this product inherently has on privacy. We have contacted MSGTAG regarding their software and have not received any response to date, which to our mind, reflects on their business practices and ethic, as does their product.

Robyn Winter

I've passed this email along to MSGTAG for a response. Personally, while I can see some folk might have issues with this kind of tracking, I have been using it myself for some time and have very little negative feedback. Furthermore, after long discussions with them, I am willing to believe that:
- the folks at MSGTAG are not using the information they gather for traditional spyware purposes
- they have put safeguards in place to prevent it being used for spam purposes and
- it amounts to no more than a registered post service facility.

I'm ready to be convinced otherwise. Anyone else have any strong views? Write me.

[ Update: Are You A Criminal? Check Here ]

Further to my earlier post about the RIAA on your tail, you can check whether they are, courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This episode in the progress of digital copyright could prove interesting.

[ News: Pier to Pier, or WiFi on the Beach ]

Brighton Beach is the world's first free WiFi beach, reports The Guardian.

A Web site called Trepia has begun to explore possibilities, and can find out who else is using WiFi in your vicinity, and thus can exchange personal profiles similar to an Internet dating site. Alex Studd, who works for Moving Edge, created Brighton's "Pier to Pier" network. (Thanks to the OnlineJournalism.com Newsletter, the daily news Weblog of the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review for this link)

[ News: The RIAA Are After You ]

If you're in the U.S., and have ever used Grokster, KaZaa or another file sharing program to download mp3 files, expect a call. The RIAA are out to get you, and they don't care whether you're a granny. According to Associated Press, one 50 year-old grandfather in California was shocked to learn this week that the RIAA had subpoenaed his ISP to provide his name and address for downloading songs from the internet. But the man was not the downloader - it was a member of his family.

The RIAA has served subpoenas to Internet service providers, which will ultimately end in lawsuits. TechTV has published a number of the P2P user names filed with the US District Court in Washington, DC, mainly Kazaa users. In the end this list could be massive, raising the possibility of a backlash and a half.

My tupennies' worth? I think the RIAA should have been more circumspect. My understanding is that the vast majority of mp3 files out there are from a small number of uploaders, and if they can be closed down, the file-sharing world will be less appealing. Get rid of them and you may have little more than an informal 'tasting net' where folk can check out music without having to pay for it first (a little like the old cassette days). Or am I being hopelessly romantic?

July 25, 2003
[ News: Come To Australia, Skim Central ]

Looks like Australia is becoming a haven for credit card fraud, or at least a part of the business. An article on News Interactive says that losses by Australian banks to credit card skimming have risen by more than 400 per cent in the past year, according to The Australian Crime Commission (ACC). Organised groups have used portable card skimmers to obtain credit card data at gas stations, restaurants and in taxis, before selling this data to gangs in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Thailand, where it was transferred to plastic cards bearing the logos of Australian banks, before making fraudulent purchases.

Credit-card skimming involves the unauthorised copying of electronic data from a legitimate card. It is often done by dishonest shop assistants. Stolen data can then be encoded onto a counterfeit card, with the original card holder none the wiser until details of unauthorised spending start appearing on his or her statement. Current laws still allow the importation of skimmers, embossing machines and credit card blanks, but the ACC is calling for closer co-operation with police.“From some of the material [the ACC] has gathered so far, it would seem that since 2001, the problem of card skimming and card fraud has migrated to Australia”, ePaynews.com quoted cybercrime co-ordinator Scott McLeod as saying.

[ News: Zip It For Me One Last Time ]

Another somewhat sad chapter in the life of the ZIP file. The guy who designed this excellent way of compressing files, Philip Katz, died tragically and young a few years back. Now the company he left behind, PKWare, is fighting over patents with another company, WinZip, since right now, would you believe, you can't trade Zip files which have been encrypted with the other guys' software. Here's a good take on the situation, by Robert McMillan of IDG News Service.

[ News: Your Identity Is More Likely To Be Stolen Than Your Car ]

Well, actually the article, from research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc., doesn't say that. But it does say Identity Theft Is Up Nearly 80 Percent, and that 7 Million U.S. Adults Were Identity Theft Victims in the Past 12 Months. Which seems to be a lot. That's 3.4 percent of U.S. consumers, I can't help feeling.

With identity theft, a thief takes over a consumer's entire identity by stealing critical private information, such as the Social Security number, driver's license number, address, credit card number or bank account number. The thief can then use the stolen information to obtain illegal loans or credit lines to buy goods and services under the stolen name. Identity thieves typically change the consumer's mailing address to hide their activities.

The sick bit is this: "More than half of all identity theft - where the method of theft is documented - is committed by criminals that have established relationships with their victims, such as family members, roommates, neighbors, or co-workers," said Avivah Litan, vice president and research director for Gartner. I can't believe my own mother might do this kind of thing.

July 24, 2003
[ News: Turkmenistan Gets It Right ]

From the I Know This Puts Me in The Old Attila the Hun, Died In The Wool Conservative, Young Fogey department, a story from Turkmenistan that I can't help feeling is a step in the right direction. News Central Asia reports (and thanks to TechDirt for pointing it out) that drivers in Turkmenistan are now forbidden to eat, drink, smoke, listen to loud music or use a mobile phone while driving their vehicles.

These restrictions were announced on 1 May 2003 under the presidential order “Rules of Traffic for Turkmenistan” but their release was delayed because the driver carrying the order from the Ministry of Defence was arrested for picking his nose on the way. (Actually I made that bit up. He was caught playing The Rubettes 'Sugar Baby Love' and singing the high bits, thereby also breaking another set of laws about mimicking strangled chickens while working heavy machinery. )

The government handout goes on (and all this is real if nCa is to be believed): These rules are meant to enforce contemporary world practices in Turkmenistan.

Part of the problem seems to be enforcement. The regular traffic police, which operated under the Ministry of the Interior, was liquidated last year for reasons I am not able to go into here, mainly because I am not an expert on Turkmenistan. They now work under the management of the ministry of defence which inducts military conscripts as traffic cops. This may not be unrelated to a new system of penalties to encourage people to conform to the laws. According to a system introduced in January, a traffic penalty must be paid within 12 hours, or by 8 am the next day if the ticket was issued after 6 pm the previous day. In case of failure to do so, the amount of penalty would double every 12 hours. After 72 hours, the vehicle would be confiscated and will remain in government custody until the fine is paid. “It has been noted with satisfaction that the [stricter] rules have brought good results; now there are fewer traffic incidents,” says the official statement. It probably also means there are no cars left on the road that don't belong to the police. That the traffic police are all carrying grenade launchers also probably helps. (I made that bit up too.)

Now it only remains to be seen what happens with these new violations. I have to say I'm all in favour. I hate people eating while they're driving, particularly if they're on the phone. And especially if they're drinking at the same time, AND listening to The Rubettes. You've got to draw the line somewhere.

[ News: InterTrust Bites Microsoft ]

Not sure why I missed this, but it's an important development: a federal judge has issued a critical ruling supporting a patent lawsuit against Microsoft brought by InterTrust, a tiny digital rights management company. I wrote a little about this months ago; InterTrust, bought by an investor group led by Sony Corp. of America and Royal Philips Electronics in January for $453 million, stand either to make billions off Microsoft, or else force them to stop selling 85% of their products. Ouch.

This is all part of a battle over Digital Rights Management -- who gets to decide what kind of software is going to lock up your DVD or CD or whatever, so you can't copy it for any old Tom, Dick or Harry. Who owns the lock is basically going to make the money. Everyone else just puts the bits together.

[ News: Seems A Lot Of Folk Get Fired Over Email ]

A new survey, the 2003 E-Mail Rules, Policies and Practices Survey from the American Management Association, Clearswift and The ePolicy Institute, reckons that 22% of employers have fired employees for violating email policy. That seems kinda harsh. What are people doing with their email? Here are some stats:

- 52% of U.S. companies monitor incoming and outgoing e-mail
- Only 19% of employers monitor internal e-mail communications among employees
- 40% of employers use software to control employees' written e-mail content
- 14% of organizations have had employee e-mail subpoenaed by a court or regulatory body. That's an increase of 5% over 2001, when 9% of respondents reported employee e-mail had been subpoenaed.
- 1 in 20 organizations has battled a lawsuit triggered by employee e-mail
- 76% of e-mail users have lost time in the last year due to e-mail system problems
- 35% estimate they lost only half a day, but 24% think they have lost more than two days
- The average e-mail user spends about 25% of the workday on e-mail
- 8% of e-mail users spend more than four hours (half the work day) on e-mail
- 92% of respondents receive spam mail at work
- 47% say spam constitutes more than 10% of all their e-mail
- 7% report spam represents over 50% of all e-mail received
- 75% of respondents said they were fed up with receiving surveys like this via e-mail (I made that up, but they don't make clear how they did this survey, which involved 1,100 U.S. employers, or whether some of the surveys got mistagged as spam and trashed.)

[ News: PDAs in Trouble ]

Seems like handhelds, PDAs, Palms, whatever you call them, are in trouble. PMN, a UK-based newsletter, cited new IDC figures showing a 10.7 percent drop in handheld computer shipments worldwide during Q2 2003 compared to the same period last year. This contrasts starkly with the 1150 percent rise in smartphone shipments reported by Canalys, PMN says, highlighting the rate at which the wireless communications device market is outstripping growth in non-connected handheld computers.

I can well believe that folk would prefer to have a gadget that hooks up to the Net, or at least to the phone network. But I also think people need to differentiate between a phone and other stuff, if only because most of the time they just need the phone. See this posting for more.

[ Software: Enter Your PC. Please. ]

Since spam from GoToMyPC ends up in my inbox all the time, I assume that being able to access your computer at home or work from anywhere is big business. Here's another option, fresh out of the traps: the somewhat scarily named EnterMyPC, which allows you to access and work on your computer on the fly from any Internet-connected computer anywhere.

From what I can gather it's exactly the same as GoTo but uses Java. I wasn't impressed by the look and feel of their website (and there are several broken links), but maybe I'm picky. It's also run out of Panama, so there may be some legal issues there for companies.

[ Software: Lots of Desktops ]

From the Hasn't This Sort of Thing Been Around a While? Dept, please welcome ManageDesk. This program manages multiple virtual desktops from the Windows taskbar with ManageDesk. You can choose a different background for each desktop and run different applications on different desktops. ManageDesk has simple drag & drop interface that allows windows to easily be moved from one virtual desktop to another.

I'm pretty sure this kind of thing is not new, but maybe ManageDesk (not a name that slips off the tongue, guys) does it better. It could be useful if you usually have many windows open at a time, or are a messy eater, or something. Hell, I may try it.

July 23, 2003
[ Update: Congressman Wrestle Spammers to the Ground ]

Here's more on my earlier posting about congress, spam and a new survey.

Here's the survey link. "In general our study suggests that consumers want government to provide greater protection against spammers," commented Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of Ponemon Institute. "We hope our joint study provides insight on consumers' concerns about the growing frequency of spam and the role government and industry should play in curtailing abuse." The study was released at a press conference called by Senator Charles Schumer whose Stop Pornography and Abusive Marketing Act (The SPAM ACT) would create a do-not-spam list. (No really, that's the acronym.)

"The emailing public has been at the mercy of spammers for way too long. This survey confirms that people are screaming out to be empowered with the ability to stop the constant flow of unsolicited e-mails into their in-boxes," said Schumer. "My anti-spam bill fights spam on two fronts: It gives e-mail users the ability to put their names on a list to stop getting spammed and gives law enforcement the ability to go after those spammers that send this junk." Hurray.

[ News: PestPatrol Goes Free ]

PestPatrol, Inc. "the leading developer of security software to detect and eliminate spyware, adware, trojans and hacker tools from corporate networks and home user PCs" (I don't know whether there's any limit on the length of phrase companies can claim they are the best at, but I'll faithfully reproduce them here; maybe we can have a competition sometime for the silliest one) have launched the first
comprehensive online spyware detection service
. For free.

PestScan from PestPatrol is a web-based program that runs right from the PestPatrol website, downloading just a few small components to the user's computer. It is designed to provide a quick and easy way to scan Windows PCs for spyware, keyloggers, and other computer pests in the places they are most likely to be hiding. The PestScan results link directly to PestPatrol's extensive pest information database, enabling users to find out exactly what the threat level is.

I haven't tried this yet. Let me know how it works for you.

[ Hardware: Palm Unveils the Tungsten T2 ]

Palm, Inc. today introduced the Palm Tungsten T2 handheld, with the emphasis on multimedia features:

-- 32MB SDRAM (29.5MB user available) of memory for twice the storage capacity of the original Tungsten T handheld
-- Palm's sharpest color screen -- a high-resolution 320 x 320 transflective TFT display -- for better indoor and outdoor viewing
-- Built-in wireless communication suite -- Bluetooth, feature-rich email client, SMS, and web browser
-- The latest Palm OS(R), v5.2.1, with updated software features, including Graffiti(R) 2 and on-screen writing for input in the Tungsten T2 handheld's compact mode
-- MP3, video playback, and photo software for listening to music files, playing movie trailers, and storing photos(1)

The Palm Tungsten T2 handheld debuts at $399 (all prices estimated U.S. street price). Also effective today, Palm announced the price reduction of two current handhelds. The Palm m130 handheld is reduced from $199 to $179, and the Palm m515 handheld is reduced from $299 to $249.

[ Update: Google ]

Further to my earlier report about Google's updated toolbar, check out their more advanced news search. Not bad.

(This link was from the excellent Search Engine Lowdown blog by Andy Beal.)

[ News: Outlaw Spam Or Else ]

Seems like I stand corrected. Spam is evil and filters are not doing their job. U.S. senators will today release a new national survey showing that email users overwhelmingly favor a federal do-not-spam list. The survey, conducted by ePrivacy Group and the Ponemon Institute, also shows that almost 80% of consumers want a federal law banning spam.

Other key findings indicate current solutions to stop unwanted email, such as filtering and opt-out mechanisms, are not working. Many consumers spend 30 minutes or more each day just dealing with spam. On the hot topic of spoofed email, over 60% of persons surveyed had received fake or spoofed email from a trusted brand, with many reporting that such messages contained pornography, a computer virus, or a false message. Electronic copies will be available later today.

Well, this is all true, and some laws might be a good thing. But won't that just shove everything offshore? I hate spam as much as the next guy, but I reckon the secret is just to make it so unprofitable for them that they slink away and train spot, or whatever it was they did before. That means not just laws, but assiduous spam filtering.

[ News: Draw Your Own Website ]

netomat, "a pioneer in communication software and network-based art", has just released its new personal multimedia communication service. The beta (for both PC and Mac) is now available as a free download.

netomat allows anyone to "create and publish or send multimedia websites, emails and blogs using any combination of digital pictures, audio, voice, text, free-form drawing and animation -- all in just a few minutes". Looks intriguing.

[ Update: Why We Are So Confused, Part II ]

From the Thank God Someone Has Figured It Out Dept AMD have released the second installment of their report on customer confusion over terms, which I looked at a few weeks back.

This bit caught my eye:

Our study results also showed that mobile phones are perceived to be one of the least confusing technology products. We hypothesize this may be because cell phones are largely an extension of an existing technology ingrained in everyday life - the regular telephone.

While I agree 100% that phones have managed to keep folk not confused, I'm not sure it's because they're an extension of existing technology. It's because they're relatively simple. Maximum ten features, ten menus, that's it. Green button to call or receive calls; red button to hang up. I've seen people of all sorts -- and I really mean that -- using them and exploring their features. When a guy who never went to high school can change a ring tone, you know you have a technology that's up his street.

Anyway, the report goes on:

However, given what we’ve seen of consumer reticence to adopt complicated high-tech products such as digital cameras and PDAs, consider what might happen as mobile phone manufacturers incorporate these potentially confusing functionalities into their phones.

Once again, right on the money. I'm not convinced a Smart Phone is a great idea if you can't answer it easily, or make an emergency call with it without some fiddly stylus, or earpiece, or if the software reboots. If you add features to something that's successful because it's simple, is it successful anymore?

[ Software: Money, Money, Money ]

Microsoft has just released a new version of its Money software, 2004. New features:
-- An extensive Credit Center provides a free credit report and one year of ongoing credit monitoring, in addition to a summary of debt accounts, educational content, access to "what-if" scenarios and information on credit protection.
-- Money 2004 Premium offers an exclusive collection of valuable financial services, a $365 value, including two years of MSN(r) Bill Pay, capital gains tax optimizer from GainsKeeper, one-time free federal online tax preparation and filing from H&R Block, one free credit report, credit alerts and one year of ongoing monitoring from Experian Consumer Direct, and a complimentary initial personal financial consultation with American Express.
-- Money 2004 is the only personal finance management software to offer the GainsKeeper service, which helps consumers better monitor and minimize the tax implications of their investment decisions.
The software further ties in with the MSN Money Web site to provide convenient, timely access to relevant and current information, including world-class financial news, information, tools and services.

You can download a trial version from here. I've been disappointed with previous versions which seem to add features but not to address existing bugs. Sound familiar?

July 22, 2003
[ News: More Spam Tricks ]

I don't feel like I've passed on anything about spam for at least half an hour so here goes. ActiveState, "the leader in enterprise email management software", has released an ActiveState Field Guide to Spam, which details advanced tricks used by spammers to hide their messages from spam filters.

Regular readers of this blog -- or folk who spend their weekends inspecting spam -- will be familiar with most of these tricks, but it's an education nonetheless. However, I am beginning to think that however clever spammers are, there's a point beyond which it's just not worth the effort for them. That's when we all get Bayesian filters running and tune them. The only spam I worry about these days are press releases like this one from ActiveState. I swear it's taken me longer to find the right link to their website than it would be to clean the one or two bits of spam that get past by my spamblocker (POPFile, in case you haven't been paying attention). Or am I missing something?

[ News: Iomega Gets Small ]

Iomega Corporation say they've created a 1.5 GB digital capture technology (DCT) drive about the size of a 50 cent piece and weighs about 9 grams, designed for a new generation of digital entertainment products, including camcorders and portable video players, as well as portable PCs and smart handheld devices.

Expect to see the drive in products made by Fuji Photo Film Co. (Fujifilm), Ltd., Citizen Watch Co., Ltd. (Citizen), and Texas Instruments (TI) next year. No press release available yet.

[ Hardware: Your Laptop Could Be a Portable Fan ]

From the What Can I Plug Into My Spare USB Port? Dept: a fan.

The FlyFan? (between $10 and $20) plugs into a USB port to provide a steady stream of cool air. Er, that's it. (Yes, a quiet news day.)

[ News: Cambodia's Boiler Room Scammers ]

Cambodia has repatriated 20 foreigners arrested last week for their involvement in the country's first telecom scam, CNET reports. They comprised 14 Britons, two Americans and several Australian, New Zealand, Thai and Philippine nationals. Operating out of Cambodia, the group had cold-called people all over the world using cheap Internet phone connections to lure them into investing in the London and Hong Kong stock markets. Cambodian officials said their passport records show they had also worked from neighboring Laos and Thailand.

This confidence trick has since been named "The Boiler Room scam" after a movie of the same name. The show, depicted "fly-by-night stockbrokers involved in shady dealings to rip off investors", the report said. In the movie, after buyers would be convinced to buy into shakey firms on inflated or made-up claims. Given the number of Brits who call me suggesting I invest in some offshore fund, I'm kinda glad I politely decline them.

[ Hardware: Printing On a Napkin ]

 A printer the size of a mouse that can print on anything? Sounds too good to be true?  Well, er, it is -- for now. But it could happen as soon as some manufacturers start putting together PrintDreams' technology. This is what it should look like:
(Not the pen, silly.)
PrintBrush "has the length of a normal ballpoint pen while its width and height are more or less equivalent to the width of a modern mobile phone. The total volume is less than 300 c.c. and weights around 350 grams. This first version of PrintBrush? was designed to roughly fit into a shirt pocket while it still remains a clear potential for size and weight reduction in coming versions that will allow an even more comfortable fit. Internet content, SMS, pictures and other information is downloaded to the PrintBrush? from PDAs, mobile phones and laptop computers through a Bluetooth? wireless link. Then, by following the RMPT? principle, the device is hand operated by sweeping it across any type of print media, no matter its shape, size or thickness. The printout will then start to appear right behind the sweeps."

[ Update: Banker's Revenge ]

 The Citibank virus is now the Wells Fargo virus. This very weird, rather professional looking Trojan which Symantec calls the "Backdoor Berbew" (and I call Banker's Revenge is becoming more sophisticated.). Here's the text of the email, several copies of which I received this morning.
Dear Sir,
Thank you for your online application for a Business Account with Wells Fargo. We appreciate your interest in banking with us.
In order to open a Business Account, we must receive specific credit information that is verifiable. Because Wells Fargo has no locations in your state, we are unable to confirm the credit information in your application. Consequently, we regret to say that we cannot open an account for your business at this time.
Attached are your Wells Fargo Application and your Social Security File.
Sherli Chin
Business Resource Center Services
Wells Fargo Bank
(There is at least one person called Sherli Chin out there. She graduated from Patterson High School, California, in 1968.)


July 21, 2003
[ Software: Acrobatics on the Cheap ]

FinePrint, who do an excellent printing program that prints multiple pages on one sheet and saves paper, also do some great software for generating Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files (those documents that look the same whatever computer you view them on, or whatever printer you print them off). It's a cheaper alternative to buying Acrobat itself, and as someone who spent much of the afternoon having to reinstall his copy of Acrobat, I have a feeling pdfFactory may be a better bet.

Anyway, the good news is that in its August 5, 2003 edition, PC Magazine named FinePrint Software’s pdfFactory Pro as its Editor’s Choice from the twelve applications it reviewed for its “PDFing Cheap”. Crack open the champagne.

[ News: Is It Me, Or Is SMS Levelling Off? ]

Seems the UK is still sending lots of SMSs -- text messages -- to each other. The Mobile Data Association (MDA) today said the total number of chargeable person-to-person text messages sent in the UK in June 2003 averaged 55 million per day, compared to 45 million in June 2002 and 30 million in June 2001. This takes the cumulative total for 2003 to 10 billion, against a 12 month forecast for the year of 20 billion. "Text messaging is continuing to rise in popularity and diversity", comments Mike Short, chairman of the MDA, not unsurprisingly. But if you look at the graph:

it looks to me as if the whole thing is levelling off. After all, how many text messages can folk send? After all, there are less than 59 million people living in the UK, which means at the moment nearly every person is sending one SMS a day. That can't be right. My mother hates her cellphone and keeps trying to throw it on the compost. I'm no expert but it looks as if people haven't really been sending more text messages since last October. If that's the case, are they going to move to MMS?

[ News: Are You A Spammer? ]

If you're finding that people are accusing you of being a spammer, this may be your answer: your web-based email account. According the Australian Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT), spammers could use a form that allows you, the user, to e-mail feedback to the folk running your email service to send spam in your name. Security Wire Digest, a newsletter, quotes AusCERT as saying that "on some sites it's possible to alter this destination address to anything an attacker wishes. In this way, third-party Web sites can be used to send spam to arbitrary recipients. Many of these sites also allow attackers to specify the body of the e-mail message."

In short, a bit of a scam. If you think it may be happening to you, check with the people running your webmail service.

[ Drowning in Tips ]

The ExtremeTech website is updating its top tips of 2003, expanding it to 60 and giving some very useful advice down the way (not unlike the advice you'll find here, I might add). Check it out.

[ News: Buy Some Razor Blades And Get Your Photo Taken! ]

 Yes, it's true! All you need to do is pick up a packet of Gillette Mach3 razor blades at Tesco's in Cambridge, England, and you'll trigger a CCTV camera. A second camera takes a picture at the checkout and security staff then compare the two images. Apparently the aim of the trial, The Guardian reports, is to provide stock information, but the manager of the store has already described how he presented photos of a thief to police.
Retailers have hailed the technology as the "holy grail" of supply chain management but civil liberties groups argue that the so-called "spy chips" are an invasion of consumers' privacy and could be used as a covert surveillance device.

July 20, 2003
[ News: Phew. Search Engines Are Safe, For Now ]

  From the I Didn't Know I Was Breaking The Law Dept, you'll be relieved to know that deep linking is now legal, at least in Germany. Thank God for that. Er, what is deep linking?
Basically a deep link takes you from one webpage to another page that isn't the homepage on another website. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. But what if the link takes you to an article in a pay-as-you-surf database?
The excellent TechDirt website alerts us to a report that says the German Federal Court of Justice last week issued a verdict "holding that an online service which offers links to articles in a protected database is not in violation of copyright and competition law", rejecting arguments that deep links deprive folk of revenue because they take users directly to news articles, bypassing introductory pages and advertising. 
As the article says, a decision the other way may have eventually put an end to search engines, which are nothing more than a list of deep links. "Try to imagine the Internet without search engines!" the article concludes.

[ Update: Would You Fork Out $700 For It? ]

  Wired says Sony's new handheld, the PEG-UX50 CliĆ© due out in September, is a neat, neat thing. But are people going to shell out $700 for it?
it has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless Internet access and Bluetooth, which allows users to sync wirelessly with other Bluetooth-enabled devices. Sony has even developed its own Handheld Engine to ensure that the device does it all without taxing the battery life.
It comes with a host of Palm applications. It has an MP3 player and supports all of the Microsoft Office applications. A Memory Stick media expansion slot lets users play up to five hours of continuous video or 16 hours of continuous audio. The UX50 contains a 310,000-pixel camera, a lower resolution camera than its previous product, the NZ90, which comes with a 2-megapixel version. But will people splash out?

[ Mail: PaperMaster Pro Is A Big Disappointment ]

  An email from reader Fred Bennett sounds ominous. He's tried Papermaster Pro -- which I mentioned a few weeks back -- for two days and says he is not impressed. He says the look and feel is worse than the old model, important features won't work, and has seen files simply disappear when he's tried to email them. The licensing method, too, is "scary and troublesome" and may mean that should the company go out of business and your computer crashes, there's no way to reinstall the program. "Papermaster 98 is such a great program," he concludes. "The new release is very disappointing."
I'll pass the comments onto J2, the company that now make the product, and try to get a response. I have yet to test the program simply because I couldn't get it installed, but I shall now give it another shot. For those users in a similar predicament, I had a couple of suggestions in my earlier post. <

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My wild night with Deep Purple

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