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November 21, 2003
[ News: Computers Are Not Helping ]

 More grim reports about how computers aren't doing what they're supposed to. BBC quotes new research that says computer systems at work are not working as they should, mainly because workers do not have enough guidance about technology, support staff are cut off from other staff and managers are "naive".
 
The problem is there is a built-in negativity about technology. When it works well, it becomes invisible, but people only notice it when it goes wrong. In the end, technology seems to create more work than it saves. Hear, hear.

[ News: Internet Gets Older, So To Speak ]

 The old 'uns are getting online. Nielsen//NetRatings reports (PDF file) that senior citizens age 65 and older were the fastest growing age group online, surging 25 percent year over year in October 2003.
 
Nielsen//NetRatings also found that in addition to outpacing senior males in audience growth, the rise in usage by female seniors was greater than the increase in usage by senior males, if you get my drift. "As a whole, the Internet audience is continuing to become more representative of the general population," said Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings.

[ News: Ask Not For Whom The Cellphone Rings ]

 Sounds like an episode from Six Feet Under: the family of a deceased motorcyclist are suing a funeral firm after the dead man's cell phone started ringing - from inside the coffin.
 
A Belgian newspaper, Gazet van Antwerpen, is reporting that the night before the funeral the family gathered at the undertakers for a final private farewell when they heard ringing from within the sealed coffin. Several distressed members of the family had to leave the funeral home whilst staff rushed to remove the cell phone.
 
The family is now suing, according to Cellular News, claiming that the undertakers were negligent in preparing their relative for burial.

November 19, 2003
[ Update: More On Those Exploding Phones ]

 Just when you thought it was over.... The Register reports that Test-Aankoop, the Belgian consumer watchdog that reported Nokia batteries as dangerous and then had it corrected, says Nokia still has a problem. The Finnish mobile phone maker cannot guarantee that its batteries are safe, because consumers cannot distinguish between original and non-original batteries, the watch dog says.
 
Nokia yesterday admitted that "tens of thousands counterfeit batteries were seized in recent raids in Holland, the United Kingdom, and other countries in the EU".
 
Reminds me of the fake Bluetooth story a while back. How do we know what's kosher and that it won't blow up in our face, or ear?

[ News: Microsoft Takes on Google's Customisable News ]

 Microsoft is taking on Google, at least in its news. The New Scientist says Microsoft is testing a a news-gathering web site that tailors the stories selected to individual users. Once MSN Newsbot is fully functional, Microsoft says the site will personalise results within 10 minutes of a user starting to browse.
 
Microsoft is not revealing exactly how its site will work. But experts say there are several possible types of algorithm that could be used. One is similar to those Amazon.com uses to recommend additional books a buyer might like. This algorithm analyses the other choices of people who have already bought the first book. A news site would instead group articles according to the reading patterns of previous users.

[ News: More on Cellphone Dangers ]

 Here's more on the dangers of cellphones: the BBC reports that people who chat on their mobile phone while walking could be hurting their back, according to scientists at Australia's University of Queensland.
They say the human body is designed to exhale when our feet touch the ground. This helps to protect the spine from sudden jolts. However, talking and walking at the same time disrupts this breathing pattern, leaving the spine exposed.
 
Of course, this has implications beyond cellphones. Seems that a lot of us walk and talk at the same time, with the possible exception of Gerald Ford.

[ News: How Healthy Are Cellphones? ]

 Good article on the health effects of using cellphones. The Sun Sentinel says the U.S. is preparing to launch an investigation into the matter, and quotes Gary Brown, an adjunct professor in technologies at Nova Southeastern University, as saying people don't realize the issue of cell phone safety has not been settled.
"The industry says there's no problem and the public remains ignorant. Adults can do what they want, but where the issue becomes critical, is with children," Brown said.

November 18, 2003
[ News: Shredded Stasi Documents To Be Pieced Back Together ]

 The kind of story I love: technology used to bring the oppressor to book. The Register reports that documents of the East German State Security Service (Stasi), torn into shreds and stored in 16,000 brown sacks, may soon be pieced together by a software program developed by the Fraunhofer Institute.
 
On Monday, the Institute said it would take five years to solve the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle electronically. If done by hand, the operation would take several hundred years.
 

[ Update: Nokia Batteries Safe Shock ]

 Nokia, hit by a recent spate of reports, from Vietnam to the Netherlands, of its batteries overheating and catching fire or exploding, says a follow-up test by a Belgian consumer watchdog had shown its own-made batteries were safe for use, Reuters reports.
 
Nokia said in a statement a new test by Test-Aankoop, conducted on November 17, showed all Nokia-made batteries were protected against short-circuiting, believed to be the cause of the problems. The Belgian firm said in a separate statement its previous test released earlier this month had accidentally included counterfeit batteries in the sample. But it said Nokia should address the issue of many forged batteries sold under Nokia's brand.

November 17, 2003
[ News: Security Dangers of Bluetooth ]

 A potential loophole in security for Bluetooth phones, which could see strangers hacking into your address books, has been uncovered. BBC reports that researchers have managed to steal information including address books and images from handsets by exploiting shortcomings in Bluetooth security.
 
Adam Laurie of security firm AL Digital has created programs that run on a laptop which scan for Bluetooth handsets and exploit two vulnerabilities to suck down data from phones. This vulnerability has been found on the SonyEricsson T68i and T610 phones and the Nokia 6310 and 7650 handsets. He calls it bluestumbling.

[ News: Microsoft Takes Aim At Junk, Document Search ]

 Microsoft's Bill Gates has announced new junk e-mail filtering technology called SmartScreen. AP reports the technology will use algorithms to judge whether incoming e-mail messages qualify as junk e-mail and filter them out before they get to the end user's e-mailbox.
 
More interesting, Gates demonstrated Microsoft Research's Stuff I've Seen project, which is developing a tool for rapidly finding material that users have seen ? whether it was an e-mail, Web site or document. The tool is not to be incorporated in any products anytime soon, but shows people some of where Microsoft's billions of dollars in research is going.

[ News: CNET Buys MP3.com from Vivendi ]

 More music download site musical chairs: CNET Networks will buy MP3.com, one of the first online music services, from Vivendi Universal Net USA. AP reports that CNET, an online magazine/download site, will launch new digital music service launching next year.
 
Vivendi acquired MP3.com in May 2001 in a $372 million cash-and-stock deal.

November 16, 2003
[ Update: More On E-Voting ]

 Further to my recent column on e-voting in FEER and WSJ.com (my apologies; available on subscription only), the story continues. Avi Rubin, the Johns Hopkins University computer scientist who identified security lapses in the voting system Maryland is adopting appeared before state legislators in testimony that illustrates the issues involved, and entrenched positions of those trying to defend weak voting software.
 
 
 

about loose wire
musings, snippets, grievances and links on personal technology by dow jones columnist jeremy wagstaff. I want to hear from users -- technology-related stories, complaints, thoughts, ideas, brickbats -- so please email me

my columns appear in
The Far Eastern Economic Review and
The Wall Street Journal Online.
both are owned by Dow Jones.

see below for subscription links -- sorry, but the columns are only available to subscribers.

companies, PR agencies etc, please send relevant news, pitches, product review requests here. happy to hear from you, but I stress the word 'relevant'.

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