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July 26, 2004

Big Brother

My friend Andrew Currie dropped by the other day - he noticed a book at my desk-side shelf, Web Security, Privacy, and Commerce - by Simson Garfinkel. First, let me say that I like Simson alot - I've read this book as well as his monthly column in MIT's Technology Review. Additionally, you have to like a guy who's name is 1 degree from Art Garfunkel - Simson actually looks kinda like Art too! Seriously, check out Simson's blog if you are interested in technology and security.

I'm a privacy advocate, and it is a superbly comprehensive view of the existing landscape of privacy and security on the Internet. Looking at it now on Amazon, I'd say the second edition is out and I need to get it.

This book is a great read for fundamentals on biometrics, authorization, authentication, exploits in secured systems, applied technologies for security and privacy and more. As I find with many O'Reilly books, save for the programmatic reference books, reading the first chapter or two tends to provide an encompassing overview into a topic area.

Privacy and "Big Brother" has been on the mind lately - two things I've heard recently that can imaginatively be combined. First this quick hit from Frank Barnako's Internet Daily for Schwab on July 20th:

Internet addresses for all - The organization that oversees the allocation of Web site addresses says new technology has made it possible for every person, printer, computer and other Net-connected device to have its own Internet address. Vinton Cerf, at a meeting of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, said, "This is a big, big step," Reuters reported. Before the development of the new technology, known as Internet Protocol V. 6, almost two-thirds of the available Internet addresses had been used. With IP Version 6, the available number is multiplied "25,000 trillion times," Cerf said.

25,000 trillion is a big number. It strikes me that more than every person on the planet having an IP available for their printer, computer, and IP connected devices - by today's standards - but that the future might hold that all a persons belongings become an IP connected device.

Consider the implementations of RFID technology. RFID, for those who don't know what it is or how fast it's coming to a shopping center near you:

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. There are several methods of identification, but the most common is to store a serial number that identifies a person or object, and perhaps other information, on a microchip that is attached to an antenna (the chip and the antenna together are called an RFID transponder or an RFID tag). The antenna enables the chip to transmit the identification information to a reader. The reader converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can then be passed on to computers that can make use of it.

The above comes from the "RFID Journal" FAQ page. RFID is seen as "the next bar code" - a supply chain advancement for the new millennium, allowing retailers and others to track inventories with small radio frequency embedded labels. Wal-Mart has consistently been in the news regarding RFID for a few years, having delayed trials initially due to the privacy uproar that ensued following indications that they would be tested. Most people now get the fact that this is a useful technology for consumers as well as retailers. I guess if there are savings in supply chain management, Wal-Marts prices for one thing should come down further, right?

From the Spychips.com site:

A number for every item on the planet - RFID employs a numbering scheme called EPC (for "electronic product code") which can provide a unique ID for any physical object in the world. 6 The EPC is intended to replace the UPC bar code used on products today.

Unlike the bar code, however, the EPC goes beyond identifying product categories--it actually assigns a unique number to every single item that rolls off a manufacturing line. 8 For example, each pack of cigarettes, individual can of soda, light bulb or package of razor blades produced would be uniquely identifiable through its own EPC number.

Once assigned, this number is transmitted by a radio frequency ID tag (RFID) in or on the product. 10 These tiny tags, predicted by some to cost less than 1 cent each by 2004, 11 are "somewhere between the size of a grain of sand and a speck of dust." 12 They are to be built directly into food, clothes, drugs, or auto-parts during the manufacturing process.

Receiver or reader devices are used to pick up the signal transmitted by the RFID tag. Proponents envision a pervasive global network of millions of receivers along the entire supply chain -- in airports, seaports, highways, distribution centers, warehouses, retail stores, and in the home. 14 This would allow for seamless, continuous identification and tracking of physical items as they move from one place to another, 15 enabling companies to determine the whereabouts of all their products at all times.

The "Big Brother" concerns are when these types of technologies meet each other. IPv6 provides IP addresses for me and everything I own, even each piece of currency in my wallet. Now there is a minute chip that could be IP enabled in every product I own. If I live in Portugal, the government is already RFIDing my dog.

So, does it mean that the government will monitor every action of every person, or use such knowledge as leverage to control its people? I dunno - not likely, but once someone has any kind of power, it can be used any way they like - regardless of the intent.

And, the masses themselves have their own police power via technology over the government. E.g. these types of technologies, once common place can be used by the people themselves, possibly to monitor corporations or the government. George Orwell's 1984, which sadly I admit to having not read, at least since the 5th grade - so I'm putting it on my reading list - pushes forth the idea of government monitoring and control. A monitor in every citizens home, spewing control propaganda and monitoring what citizens do. This hasn't happened in 1984 or in 2004 - instead, technology has enabled citizens to poke government with technology.

Recently, the US military has been investigating dozens of allegations of prisoner abuse - Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq being one of the cases. This was not a case of the US coming clean with a Press Release on their own. This was a case of ubiquitous technology - digital cameras - being used by the soldiers accused of abuse themselves, enabling photos that were taken to be quickly distributed via the Internet to the world. Seriously, in all of 5 minutes, one solder/person could snap a picture, email it to a friend or news agency and bang - the US has a major issue on it's hands.

Food for thought.

Posted by gcrgcr at 8:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

Ubiquitous Demise - I don't think so

Earlier today, Matt Blumberg of Return Path, posted this discourse on the "state of email" in response to the following opinion column by Mark Hall of Computerworld.

Interesting article and response. Mark declares the "End of Email" - based mostly on the rising inconvenience and hassles that come with using email. Namely, spam, corporate privacy, virus and other security issues.

He additionally contends that just as personal computers and other core technology that evolved and collectively allowed email to be born to us - and ultimately supplanted the poor "selectric typewriter" of yore - IM and other technologies will do the same to email.

My first thought is that there have been numerous predictions throughout history, many proving to be ridiculous in hindsight.

Will Mark Hall be the next to make the list?

Email is a particularly easy thing to pick on. I'm not sure that anyone has ever been willing to actually declare it a "killer app" - yet I believe it to be so.

Email nestles comfortably in the spectrum of human communication. Not quite a phone conversation, it is more than an Instant Message or a post-it note. Despite the costs of email - hard costs of Internet access, server hosting, etc. as well as soft costs of time spent filtering out irrelevant messages and responding to the many emails I receive - it is difficult to imagine managing without it.

While I agree that IM has an important place in the communication spectrum, I can't see it replacing email outright. For one thing, Instant Messages are only good when the other person is there. Still, one could imagine the IM infrastructure replacing that of emails - say storing IM's that you missed for you, so you can read them when you return, in chronological order. Then they might add a way for you to compose multiple emails, send immediately to one or more recipients - but wouldn't that still be email then?

Is the "End of Email" really just the end of email's current technical facilitation? That I might agree with - but the mechanics of communication - what email really is to me - that I don't see an end to.

Matt provides a compelling rebuttal - mostly based upon popularity metrics that show positive trends for email. List subscriptions for well-managed, content rich offerings are prosperous. Many businesses in the "email space" continue to find and mine niche opportunities in email.

Anecdotal evidence abounds as well - just ask any business professional if they can live without their email. In line at Starbucks this morning, the fellow behind me is on his cell phone. I didn't intentionally hear his conversation, but I do hear him say "... hey, did you see that email from Chris? Yeah that one, just forward that to everybody - it settles this..." or something to that effect. There are millions just like them - dependant to ludicrous degrees on email.

Finally, my wife Joie - "was" a technophobe. Aside from some collegiate course work where she was essentially forced to use computers, she's always avoided them. Over the past several years I'd often profess the benefits of various types of technology - including email. Finally, last year I set up an email account for her and convinced her to give it a whirl. As a stay at home Mom for the past several years, she found it immediately impacted her ability to plan, communicate, and connect with the "mommy network". In short order - several weeks - I was fielding urgent phone calls during the day for tech support. "Help, I can't get my email!". A good case study in many ways, though not empirical, I can certainly state that she's not been deterred in the least by spam, viri or the like.

Posted by gcrgcr at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004

A doozy!

Words are cool. Occasionally I'll use a word like "doozy" - like I did earlier today, and wonder where the heck a word like that originated from.

My colleague George Bilbrey whom I sit by during the day at the office was fortunate/unfortunate enough to have taken (was forced to take) Latin. He's a good resource for etymology. No luck on doozy though.

A few years back when I was in Client Engineering at MessageMedia - we had opened up MessageMedia Europe. The Europeans sent over some French guys so we could ramp them up on Client Engineering. I recall speaking with "Jerome" and using the term "doozy". He said, "What is this - doozy?" and I simply could not find a way to convey it, so picked another word.

Thanks to Google, mystery solved. What I like about Google is that they seem to think of everything. I entered "doozy" into my Firefox Google toolbar and got these results.

I've always been bummed that Google didn't have a direct "dictionary" search, but today I noticed on every result page, off to the top right there was the following:

Results 1 - 10 of about 64,000 for doozy [definition]. (0.20 seconds)

Aha! Definition links to any keyword searched in Google! Sweet!

So mystery solved. This is "doozy":

Something extraordinary or bizarre: "Among the delicious names taken by, or given to, minor political parties in the United States... are these doozies: Quids, Locofocos, Barnburners, Coodies, Hunkies, Bucktails" (Saturday Review).

and I like the possible origin:

[Possibly blend of daisy, and Duesenberg, a luxury car of the late 1920s and 1930s.]

So there you go, word of the day (as if there are not enough of those on the web anymore).

Posted by gcrgcr at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

Google buys more innovation - Picasa

I read this on Slashdot recently - about Google's acquisition of Picasa.

I've always been a fan of tools for organizing photos, online and off. A few years ago, as a sample project for learning Javascript, I wrote "SOD - Son of Dypicgen". This was basically a web-based image gallery tool. I had written a Perl version, but got interested in writing a JS version, first to have something better than "Hello World" to program to learn JS and second, to see if it were possible to write a completely client side image gallery tool.

You can see SOD in action on my site - I use it for presenting graphic designs to clients as well as for my personal photo galleries.

In short I've found that JS is a great language and there is a lot of capability enabled through using it. There are benefits and costs to having all the processing done on the clients side. SOD is not so feature rich because of the trade-offs.

I take a lot of photos - and over the years I've struggled with the compiled photo organization software that is available. I probably have 6 or more different applications, that have come bundled with various purchases - my digital camera, my Dazzle video input device, my webcam, and others. None of these seem to do everything I need, or are somewhat deficient in at least one manner or another such that it is not extremely useful.

So today, when I read that Google acquired digital photo software Picasa - I went ahead and downloaded and installed the tool. WOW. This is undoubtedly the most intuitive and useful image management tool I have seen. If you struggle with managing your digital imagery like I have, you must give this a whirl. I'm still playing with the configurations, features and add-ins - but to this point I am very impressed and almost giddy with the tool. Google continues to impress me with their internal and acquired innovations.

Posted by gcrgcr at 4:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 8, 2004

Tavern Trove Part Two

I'm still compiling the stats and photos from the big 2004 family vacation, so I'll close that out in the next post or two.

Meanwhile, I found a great surprise in the pile of bills, junk mail, and magazines awaiting me after arriving home.

In a previous entry, maybe the shortest blog entry I've ever done, I put a quick shout out about Tavern Trove. Tavern Trove is self-proclaimed as the online site where Where collectors buy and sell vintabe breweriana worldwide.

Now first of all, I have to say, this is the first time I ever heard or saw the word "breweriana".

Now this is a curiosity to me - I like words, though I'm not overly skilled with them, I like to learn and new use words. Often, I'll look up words in my handy Yahoo! dictionary search. Zip results on "breweriana". Same here at Dictionary.com.

Hmmm... did they make it up? Not necessarily, a simple Google Search returns a ton. My apologies for the digression, but there is an answer here somewhere. Or not. Shut out at Merriam-Webster.com, yourDictionary.com, onelook.com and dictionary.cambridge.org. I wonder if this is a more recent, emerging market/cultural term that is yet to be abridged into some keen, progressive dictionary.

Instead, my new friend at Tavern Trove answers it clearly, where I should have checked in the first place:

Breweriana is simply beer advertising. New or old, expensive or inexpensive, if it has a beer brand on it, it is breweriana!

So, back to my original point, somehow the way I stumbled upon traven trove, I took to searching surnames - specifically "Bartel" to start, and was surprised and impressed with my probably relatives "brewerianic" ambition. I spent some time searching for additional names of those I know, though was surprised that many search results yielded little to nothing.

In any case, Erik who runs the site somehow took notice of my link to his site, and as a token of gratitude sent me one of the actual "Bartels Beer" coasters! The very same one pictured in my previous and very short post on the subject.

So a few lessons learned:

  1. Blogging can pay dividends
  2. There are genuinely generous people whom you've never met who will give you something of value (in return for something of value - I suspect there were at least some click throughs on my link, but I don't track such things)
  3. Remember to update your Links Page once in a while too (I've done this now and added Tavern Trove in my appreciation for the cool coaster).
  4. Breweriana is a cool word, not yet in a dictionary - I'll vote for it if there is a nomination

So thanks Tavern Trove and wishes for continued success to you in the breweriana industry!

Also, if you actually like breweriana type stuff, this site has some very very cool items. Be sure to check it out!

Posted by gcrgcr at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack