categories ... such as posts by Larissa Anderson

Google and competition

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 09/17/10 02:40 PM

On Thursday, a House subcommittee heard testimony about Google and the issues of competition and dominance in the digital marketplace.

One witness, Scott Cleland - a noted Google critic - said “Google is a vastly more serious antitrust threat than Microsoft ever was.”

But it doesn’t sound like the folks in Congress are convinced.  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said at the hearing “Just because competitors complain about a practice does not mean it is anti-competitive.”

For an in-depth look at competition in the Internet age, check out this podcast by the good people at the Berkman Center.  It’s a conversation between Jonathan Zittrain, law professor at Harvard Law School and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society  and Lawrence Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and law professor at Harvard Law School. 

The two talk about the 12-year old battle between Microsoft and the Department of Justice as well as Google, Facebook and other tech giants.

Comments | Filed Under: law government business

Heat-seeking gun - the Nerf kind

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 09/06/10 06:30 AM

This toy version of a heat-seeking machine gun was the brainchild of Rick Prescott. It won MAKE Magazine’s Gadget Freak Design contest. Prescott joked he might mount it facing the entrance of his cubicle at work to “speed interaction with less desirable visitors.” When I want to deter unwanted walkers-by, I just put my headphones on.

Comments | Filed Under: gun nerf office behavior

Oil-eating swarm of robots

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/27/10 06:00 PM

It’s an MIT project called Seaswarm. Little robots drag around nano-fabric that can asborb 20 times their weight in oil.  These robots dragging around the nano-fabric use wifi and GPS to communicate and position themselves without a human being directing them where to go. A prototype has been developed and was tested in Boston’s Charles River to make sure the waves wouldn’t knock the bots around too much.

Comments | Filed Under: robots oil spill

Google search feature no longer hard to find

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/26/10 05:01 PM

Google’s RealTime search got its own page today.  The service turns offers search results from news sites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and more in a constantly updated stream. Danny Sullivan breaks down all the new features, including a filter that helps sort results by location and an option to see an online conversation dating back to February.

Comments | Filed Under: Google search

GAO finds wireless customers benefit despite few carriers

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/26/10 05:00 PM

A new report from the Government Accountability Office confirms there’s not much competition among wireless service providers. Nonetheless, wireless customers are getting lower prices and better coverage than they were 10 years ago.

Photo by Valerie Everett

Comments | Filed Under: wireless cell phone GAO Verizon T-Mobile AT&T Sprint

Pentagon talks about the 2008 hack that redefined U.S. cyber policy

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/26/10 12:44 PM

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III writes in the latest issue of Foreign Policy about the 2008 hack into a military laptop he calls “the most significant breach of U.S. military computers ever."  Lynn explains the previously classified story: two years ago, a foreign intelligence agent plugged a flash drive into a military laptop and infected a U.S. Central Command network. The military’s effort to deal with the worm was dubbed Operation Buckshot Yankee.  This event was a wake-up call; it changed U.S. cyber policy and sparked the creation of the U.S. Cyber Command.
Noah Shachtman of Wired wonders why a foreign spy would go to all the trouble to inject such a harmless worm in the network.   

Comments | Filed Under: U.S. Cyber Command computer security worm hacking

Gmail now makes phone calls

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/25/10 01:43 PM

Google announced today that Gmail accounts can now take phone calls. For the rest of the year, you can use your Gmail account to call people in the U.S. and Canada for free and pay $.02 per minute to call Germany, France, Japan and other countries. If you have a Google Voice number, calls you receive on that number show up in your inbox.

Comments | Filed Under: Google email phones Google Voice

A happy ending for Random House

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/25/10 11:28 AM

Finally a publisher wins a fight in the brave new world of e-books. Last month, literary agent Andrew Wylie struck a deal with Amazon to publish a handful of titles in e-book form. The titles included works by John Updike, Ralph Ellison, Nabokov.  Really important books.  But, Random House fought back by boycotting some of the new books by Wylie’s other clients, who include V.S. Naipaul, Dave Eggers, Salman Rushdie. Now, Wylie has dropped the Amazon deal in favor of an agreement with Random House.  

photo by Tony the Misfit

Amazon isn’t doing so bad, though.  They announced today the new Kindle is flying out the door.

Comments | Filed Under: e-books literature amazon Random House

Lucas suing Jedi Mind, Inc.

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/24/10 03:45 PM

George Lucas is protecting the Star Wars legacy again.  This time, he’s suing a company called Jedi Mind, Inc. They make a wireless headset that lets users do things like control the mouse and send emails just by using their brain.  The company says it reads conscious and non-conscious thoughts.  Reuters reports LucasFilm sent two cease and desist letters already, but the company hasn’t done enough to satisfy the studio. Now, they’re facing a $5 million lawsuit and they’ve ticked off George Lucas.

Comments | Filed Under: George Lucas Star Wars mind control

Hybrid creep to become hybrid whirr

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/24/10 11:39 AM

The Toyota Prius has changed the car industry. Quietly.

At low speeds, you can barely hear the car. That’s about to change for Japanese drivers.  Starting August 30, customers can buy a speaker system that will help get rid of “hybrid creep."  The system will go under the hood and make a whirring sound that’s as loud as the sound of a regular engine.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came out with a report that found pedestrians are twice as likely to get hit by a Prius than a car with a conventional engine in a low-speed collision. 

It’s not clear yet whether Toyota will offer this system overseas.  Other carmakers are also trying to figure out how to make sure their quiet, green cars will be safe as well.

Customers look at a Toyota Prius vehicle at Toyota Motor’s showroom in Tokyo on August 4, 2010. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO

Comments | Filed Under: prius cars automobile

No peeking at Facebook pages

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/23/10 06:30 PM

Imagine a world in which it’s illegal for an employer to get info about a job applicant on Facebook.  That’s the world Germany might live in.  On Wednesday, the German cabinet will consider a new law to keep bosses from sniffing around in prospective employees’ social media pages. The law, however, will still let them Google applicants.

Comments | Filed Under: privacy, Germany Facebook Google

Search for artificial intelligence in space, not radio waves

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/23/10 03:08 PM

Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) astronomer Seth Shostak says instead of listening for radio waves and looking for biological signs in our search for life beyond Earth, we need to start trying to detect alien artificial intelligence. This is apparently a growing sentiment in the Seti community. It’s based on the idea that technology evolves much more quickly than humans.  Here’s a quote from Shostak:

“If you look at the timescales for the development of technology, at some point you invent radio and then you go on the air and then we have a chance of finding you,” he told BBC News.

“But within a few hundred years of inventing radio - at least if we’re any example - you invent thinking machines; we’re probably going to do that in this century.

"So you’ve invented your successors and only for a few hundred years are you… a ‘biological’ intelligence.”

Comments | Filed Under: space, SETI artificial intelligence robots

Senators want to know why U.S. Marshals Service is keeping body scan images

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/23/10 12:06 PM

They’re images of people who entered a U.S. Courthouse in Orlando, Fl. Earlier this month, reports of the 35,000 images the U.S. Marshals Service stored sparked discussion about privacy. 

Now, the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee want to know why these images were stored and whether there are other places body scan images might be stored. They sent a letter late last week asking for answers.  They also urged the service to use automatic target recognition technology - that would let a machine check out the images, not a person.

In a statement, the U.S. Marshals Service said the machine automatically stores images to the hard drive and you have to have an administrative password to see them and by the way, no one looked.  Also, “The millimeter wave scan images captured by the Brijot machine in Orlando can in no way be described as images of ‘naked’ or 'undressed’ people.  Rather, they are pixilated, chalky and blurred images.”

ARLINGTON, VA - DECEMBER 30: Images produced by a 'millimeter wave’ scanner are displayed during a demonstration at the Transportation Security Administration’s Systems Integration Facility at Ronald Reagan National Airport December 30, 2009 in Arlington, Virginia. 'Millimeter wave’ passes electromagnetic waves over the body to create three-dimensional images that look like a photo negative. The scan can detect hidden metallic and nonmetallic objects such as weapons and explosives without physical contact. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Comments | Filed Under: TSA, body scan, privacy US Marshals Service

Leading Thinkers on Net Neutrality

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/19/10 11:39 AM

Net Neutrality is a complicated issue. The recent Google/Verizon policy proposal has raised new questions about the open internet - the idea that all online content gets treated equally. To explore this issue, we’re featuring a series of guest blog posts.

Christian Sandvig is Associate Professor of Communication, Media and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The Internet Tycoon Instruction Manual (8/20/10)

Larry Downes, a nonresident Fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society. Net Neutrality: What Are We Fighting For? (8/18/10)

David Weinberger, Senior Researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society: Notes from a Disappointed Fanboy (8/13/10)

More posts to come.  And you might also be interested in our Net Neutrality News Roundup.

Comments | Filed Under: David Weinberger Larry Downes google net neutrality verizon FCC

Net Neutrality news roundup

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/17/10 02:52 PM

The evolving conversation about net neutrality in wake of the Google/verizon policy proposal now includes a letter to the FCC from four Democrats in Congress.  In their letter dated August 16th(PDF), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) urge the FCC to take formal action and consider four items:

1. The FCC must have oversight authority for broadband access services.
2. Paid prioritization would close the open Internet.
3. Wired and wireless services should have common regulatory framework and rules.
4. Broad “managed services” exceptions would swallow open Internet rules.

This week, Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota this week to hear from the public about this issue.

Online, the debate continues. We’ve been covering the story - you can hear from Google and Verizon here and we’ve explored what this proposal means for us as we watch YouTube videos and search for things online

We’re also featuring a number of guest blog posts on the issue - the first one we’ve posted is from David Weinberger of Harvard’s Berkman Center for the Internet and Society

Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and co-founder of the Berkman Center, has a substantial breakdown of the issue on his Future of the Internet blog.

Tomorrow, we’ll feature a post from Larry Downes, currently a nonresident Fellow with the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society, and later this week, a guest blog post from Christian Sandvig, a Berkman Fellow and visiting research scholar in the Innovation Lab at MIT Sloan. 

Comments | Filed Under: FCC, Google Verizon broadband net neutrality open internet wireless

Do you know where your kids are? Wanna?

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/06/10 11:21 AM

Wherescope launches today - it’s an app that uses GPS to tell parents where their kids are.  Parents can set up geofences - like home, school - places where they usually expect their kids to be, and get notified when their kids arrive or leave.  And, if the kid turns off the app, parents will get notified about that, too. The Wherescope folks say this is more accurate than AT&T’s FamilyMap kid tracker service which uses cell tower data instead of GPS. Right now, it’s only available on the iOS4.

Comments | Filed Under: gps

Lady Gaga helps massive military data heist

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 07/09/10 06:19 PM

John and I have been watching the story about Pfc. Bradley Manning unfold.  He’s the soldier who’s accused of leaking the video of a 2007 deadly American helicopter attack in Baghdad and downloading over 150,000 diplomatic cables.  We’ve been wondering about military security and how it’s possible that someone can get a hold of that much highly classified information.  An article in the New York Times says the soldier has Lady Gaga to thank for some of that information. He was able to walk out with secret information on a data cd disguised as a Lady Gaga music cd.  Because no one suspects a guy humming “Disco Stick” at the computer.

Comments | Filed Under: military gaga security

Captcha with video

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 06/30/10 04:18 PM

If you’ve been online, you’ve at some point encountered some kind of Captcha, where you have to decode warped-looking letters and numbers. I don’t know about you, but these have been getting harder for me to decipher (and I hope that doesn’t mean I’m losing my humanity).

Today, there’s a new kind of Captcha available that has a new way to determine if you’re a person or a machine. NuCaptcha uses animation, so the letters and numbers can be relatively easy to read, but hard for spambots to figure out.

A colleague of mine over at Speaking of Faith has been captured by Captcha recently.  He wrote about a project by a Danish artist who’s taking these Captcha codes and juxtaposing them with grafitti. The project is called, “Are You Human?” and is worth a look.

Comments | Filed Under:

Mr. Swatch's watches with hands

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 06/29/10 04:15 AM

We talk on our show today about the death of Nicholas Hayek, “Mr. Swatch,” and how he brought back the popularity of analog watches when digital ones were taking over the wristwatch market.

When I saw the news, I couldn’t help but think of this Bill Murray clip I saw a while back on Ze Frank’s blog

Comments | Filed Under: analog, digital technophobia watches

Cyber Command

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 06/04/10 11:01 AM

U.S. Cyber Command wants to “operate freely” to protect and defend computer resources

On Thursday, General Keith Alexander who heads the U.S. Cyber Command spoke out for the first time since the agency was activated in late May.  He warned that the U.S. Defense Department has to have the ability to “operate freely and defend its resources in cyberspace.” He said that right now, unauthorized users probe Defense Department systems about 250,000 an hour – more than 6 million times a day.

Congress is already weighing this issue – Sen. Lieberman this week introduced a bill that would give the Dept. of Homeland Security the authority to make sure “critical infrastructure” doesn’t get cut in the event of a cyber attack.


Comments | Filed Under: security government

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