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December 6, 2003
[ Update: The Anti Anti iPod Backlash ]

 More on the Neistat Brothers and their complaint about an iPod battery. Seems there's something of a backlash brewing by folk who feel they didn't have much of a case. (beautiful website, that one, by the way).
Note to subscribers to the blog. For now I'm sending these updates directly to you since there appears to be a problem with the Bloglet email handler. Please reply to me directly if you don't want to receive the updates. I'll let you know when things are back to normal.

[ News: Yahoo Proposes A Way Out Of Spam ]

 At last, someone is doing something about spam. Part of the problem behind spam is that email allows sleazier folk to fake where the email is coming from (the 'From' part of the email's address fields, or header.) But if email didn't allow that, and authenticated a sender before passing it on to the recipient, you might kill off spam in a second.
The problem has been implementing something like this. How do you get everyone to agree on the new system? Yahoo, Reuters reports, reckons it has the answer: architecture where sending an e-mail message would embed a secure, private key in a message header. The receiving system would check that against the sending domain's public key. If the public key is able to decrypt the private key embedded in the message, then the e-mail is considered authentic and can be delivered. If not, then the message is assumed not to be an authentic one from the sender and is blocked.
Yahoo says it can make the system work even if only a few major email providers adopt it. Given Yahoo's size in the email world that may not be so hard. Yahoo is making the technology available for free, so that while it may cost money to implement, it doesn't leave any one player with a proprietary technology dominating the industry. (I guess spam costs Yahoo so much money it has figured it's cheaper to give away a new system if it gets rid of spam.)
It'll be interesting to see how far this goes before another big player, say Microsoft, tries to stomp on it.

December 4, 2003
[ Note: Apologies to Subscribers of Loose Wire Blog ]

 Folks, my humble apologies to those of you who haven't received your blog update for a while. One subscriber alerted me to the problem and I believe I've fixed it. For those of you who haven't been receiving anything for a few weeks, I won't bombard you with back-issues, but please visit the site as, apart from a few days in October, it's been updated several times a day.
As usual, please feel free to email me with questions, suggestions, or comments you want either included in the blog or in the letters page of the Far Eastern Economic Review, Loose Wire's home. And, if you don't get anything for a day or two, send me an email.
For those of you who prefer it, there is an RSS feed available on the site. It's the same as this, but as an RSS feed, obviously.
Thanks for reading.

[ News: Wi-fi For Truckers ]

 Interesting piece from the New York Times about Wi-fi for truckers. Turns out they like Wi-fi because it's spreading to truckstops and their "cabs are not only workplaces but often sleeping quarters as well".
Truck stops have offered various Internet options for years, but the connections have often been slow and expensive, and required drivers to go inside. In turn the connections, available by subscription for terms from 15 minutes to a year, provide a new source of revenue for the truck stops.
What I like about this idea is that it expands the technology beyond its traditional white-collar borders. Plus it would help make a really good sequel to 'Convoy'.

[ Update: More RIAA Suits A-flying, More Lawyers A-leaping ]

 The Recording Industry Association of America Inc is not letting up. IDG News reports that the RIAA is firing off a new wave of lawsuits and lawsuit-notification letters to users alleged to have illegally distributed significant amounts of copyright-protected music files online.
The group is filing 41 new lawsuits and sending 90 lawsuit-notification letters this week, adding to the 341 lawsuits filed and 308 notification letters sent since September. The RIAA has settled with 220 file-sharers as a result of lawsuits, lawsuit-notification letters and subpoenas. In addition, 1,054 users have submitted affidavits as part of the RIAA's amnesty program.
The party is definitely over. But while clearly the RIAA doesn't worry too much about the negative publicity from all this, I suspect they may be winning the battle but not the war. Buying music online will not properly take off until users know that the music they buy will be nor more restricted than the CDs they buy in shops, as to where they can play, how long they play it, where they can copy it to, and whether it's theirs to sell on to someone else. Until that happens everything between now and then is an experiment.

[ Update: Wendy, Greg and Mimail ]

 Got my first Mimail-L virus email this morning. The social engineering is excellent. The header looks credible, the subject and address line plausible and the email itself is readable, literate and, while pornographic, a compelling storyline. It also got past my Bayesian spam filter which is unusual.
My conclusion: this could be a nasty one.

December 3, 2003
[ News: More Worms ]

Watch out for Mimail.L. During 1st and 2nd December 2003, MessageLabs has intercepted a number of copies of a further variant of the Mimail email worm - W32/Mimail.L. 
Here's what to watch out for:
The worm arrives as an attachment to an email with the subject line Re[2]. The emails arrive from spoofed addresses, disguising the true identity of the sender, such as:
The worm is self-propagating, and spreads by sending itself to emails harvested from infected machines.
Email characteristics
Subject line: Re[2]
Possible message texts:
Hi Greg its Wendy.
I was shocked, when I found out that it wasn't you but your twin brother!!! That's amazing, you're as like as two peas. No one in bed is better than you Greg. I remember, I remember everything very well, that promised you to tell how it was, I'll give you a call today after 9.
(remainder of text removed)
Good afternoon, We are going to bill your credit card for amount of $22.95 on a weekly basis. Free pack of child porn CDs is already on the way to your billing address. If you want to cancel membership and your CD pack please email order and credit card details to..(list of email addresses)
(remainder of text removed)
Attached file: test.exe

[ News: Squeeze More Out Of Your Gadget ]

 If you're trying to get more out of your PDA, phone, Treo or whatever, here's the blog for you: MobileWhack.
MobileWhack is a repository of hacks, hints, tips, tools, stories, news, ideas, and wishes for and around the mobile device you're actually using. The raisons d'etre are to be useful, to inspire, and to delight.
Actually there's some useful stuff in there. A post yesterday, for example, explains how to use your Treo 600 as a wireless modem.

[ News: File Sharers Beware ]

 File sharers beware: there's nowhere to hide, even in supposedly 'anonymous' filesharing networks. The NewScientist.com news service reports that Japanese police have arrested two people suspected of distributing pirated films and computer games through a program called "Winny", which is meant to hide the identity of a user from everyone else on the network.
It is unclear how the two suspects were traced but their arrests have raised concerns about the security of the Winny network. According to the Japanese Association of Copyright for Computer Software around 250,000 regularly use it to trade files. Interest in anonymous file sharing networks has grown rapidly since the US music industry began taking legal action against individual users as part of a controversial attempt to stamp out illicit online music trading.
This is the first time anyone has been arrested in relation to use of this type of secretive trading network. The most popular file-sharing networks provide little or no secrecy for users who can easily be traced through their computer's internet protocol (IP) address.

December 2, 2003
[ News: More Money Fighting Spam Than Making It? ]

As I've suspected, there's more money made in protecting us from spam than from spam itself. According to a report by Ferris Research quoted by TechWeb news, revenue for vendors selling anti-spam products will be approximately $130 million in 2003 and soar 200% in 2004 to a whopping $360 million.
Revenue generated by spammers in 2003 will be roughly $130 million while their profit during the year will range from $20 million to $30 million. Peanuts. Small potatoes.

[ mobile clogging ]

I read a lot about folk who blog from the road so i thought i'd try from my cellphone. This is it. I wish i had something to say but i don't.

[ Update: Diebold Confirms Dropping E-voting Suit ]

 Diebold, the electronic voting company and the subject of a recent Loose Wire column, have confirmed that they've decided not to sue folk who published leaked documents about the alleged security breaches of electronic voting. 
AP reports (no URL available yet) that a Diebold spokesman promised in a conference call Monday with U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel and attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that it would not sue dozens of students, computer scientists and ISP operators who received cease-and-desist letters from August to October. 
Diebold did not disclose specifics on why it had dropped its legal case, but the decision is a major reversal of the company's previous strategy. Ohio-based Diebold, which controls more than 50,000 touch-screen voting machines nationwide, had threatened legal action against dozens of individuals who refused to remove links to its stolen data.

[ View: Why Are Printers So Tricky? ]

 I've written before about how printer manufacturers gouge us by selling us cheap printers but expensive cartridges. But either I'm missing something or these guys won't stop at anything to make a bit more cash: I noticed for the first time yesterday that, with my HP DeskJet 640c, if I change the settings to print from colour to black (or vice versa) the software will automatically change my Draft output setting to Normal -- meaning I'll use more ink. Where is the justification for that? I can't think of any, but I bet I'm not the only one who only notices the change after I've printed a page or two -- if then. Sleazy.
Remedy? Bypass the HP printer software entirely using something like FinePrint -- it also helps you print more onto less paper. Oh, and refill your cartridges using the wonderful Inke. Then the printer manufacturers end up being the patsies, selling you a cheap printer but not making any money off you with overpriced ink.

[ News: New Windows Is Out. Sort Of ]

 Psst! Wanna buy the latest version of Windows, years before you're supposed to? Head off to Malaysia's Johor Bahru, where CDs containing software Microsoft has code named "Longhorn" are on sale for six ringgit ($1.58).
Reuters reports that the software is an early version of Longhorn demonstrated and distributed at a conference for Microsoft programmers in Los Angeles in October, according to Microsoft Corporate Attorney Jonathan Selvasegaram.
"It's not a ready product," he said from Malaysia. "Even if it works for a while, I think it's very risky," to install on a home computer, he said.
Actually, this happens all the time. I've seen early versions of new Windows products all the way back to Windows 95 dotted around Asia. Most are a nightmare to install, and I'd steer clear of them if I were you.

December 1, 2003
[ Update: More On iPods -- And Their Batteries ]

 Seems the guys -- the Neistat Brothers -- who were complaining about not being to replace their iPod batteries without expensive customer support were wrong, and even the guy who hosted their video isn't happy.
As far as I can work out, the brothers posted a soundfile of an Apple customer support guy saying they may as well replace their iPod since it would be prohibitive to replace the battery. They then went around defacing iPod posters.
The bottom line: you can replace the batteries, using either an official Apple battery or a third-party one. Anyway, here's some more discussion at Slashdot and plasticbag.org on the iPod anniversary and the NYT's piece I mentioned in the previous posting.
(Sorry, don't usually crowd the links into one posting like this, but it seems to make sense this time.)

[ News: The History of the iPod ]

 Nice story by the New York Times' Rob Walker on the history of the iPod, two years old this month. I have to say after initial skepticism I'm a convert, whisking it around with me on forays to the jogging track, the pool, and the car.
There have, however, been rumblings of complaint about the battery: One user says he was given short shrift by Apple when his died after 18 months, being told it would be cheaper for him to buy a new iPod. I'm waiting for a response from Apple on this one.

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.

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