Friday, December 31, 2010

Wild West, Cell Phone Attacks and the Chinese Connection

Recently Android based mobile devices in China have been falling victim to a new virus that allows hackers to remotely access a user's personal data. The virus is known as the Geinimi and is thought to be the most powerful virus targeting mobile devices to have yet emerged.

While it's estimated that anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of phones have been infected authorities remain unsure as to what the motives to the attacks are.

This particular attack has alarm bells sounding because it is thought to represent a potential shift in hacker's strategy away from laptop and desktop computers towards increasingly sophisticated mobile devices. An infected phone could be remotely ordered to make calls, send texts and download even more malware and spyware programs.

So far the hackers in China are merely collecting data and have not instigated any other activity on infected phones.

The attack has drawn criticism to the Android platform, which allows applications designed and hosted from a variety of different vendors and has been labeled as, "Wild West" by analysts.

Owning an Android phone could potentially prove to be like owning a cool muscle car. Sure you can sup up your Android phone like a '72 GTO with all kinds of cool stuff added to it. But ultimately you may run into problems and have to get under the hood and tinker.

Apple, ever the dull safe Honda and Volvo of the technology world, does admittedly provide a more secure platform for its iPhone and iPad by maintaining an end-to-end control on its domain and not allowing applications from outside the marketplace.

The last thing I wanted to do was end the year with another gloomy "new virus from China" story but this one was too big to ignore. However Android users need not be alarmed as the virus has only infected phones through applications obtained from a handful of Chinese game app stores and not from apps obtained via the legitimate Google Android Market.

Compromised games include illegitimately sourced versions of; Monkey Jump 2, Sex Positions, President vs. Aliens, City Defense and Baseball Superstars 2010.

While not exactly urgent at the moment, the need to develop better anti-virus protection for mobile devices is probably one thing we can expect to see happening in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Computers As Humans Xmas Special: Apple Learns to Speak Cherokee

Computers As Humans is home for the holidays this week, up north where the trees are frosty in the mornings and the smell of wood burning fireplaces fills the air at night.

It's been a good year for Apple Computers with Steve Jobs having just been named Person of the Year by the "Financial Times" and been given a shout-out from President Obama (Do Presidents do shout-outs?). The iPad has outsold just about every other new device to be introduced on the tech market and Justin Long (the Mac in the Mac vs. PC commercials) was in three different movies this year.

Apple is capping off its spectacular year by teaching several of its devices to speak Cherokee. The Cupertino-based company was first approached by representatives of the Cherokee nation some three years ago. Tribal reps have actually paid visits to Apple headquarters and this fall they were successful in pleading their case that introducing Cherokee language software into Apple's mobile product platforms would go a long way toward helping to preserve the language and introduce it to a younger generation.

As of now it is estimated that only 8,000 members of the 290,000 Cherokee nation actually speak the language.

Apple has had Cherokee language supported through its operating system for laptops and desktops since 2003. This fall the company has taught the iPod and the iPhone to speak Cherokee and there are plans to introduce the language to the iPad in the coming months. Tribal educators believe that introducing the language to the smaller, mobile devices that are so popular with young people will help to keep the Cherokee language traditions alive.

Currently there are about 50 languages that are supported by Apple's mobile devices. Until now none of them have been Native American tribal languages so this innovation represents a significant coup for the Cherokee tribe.

Computers As Humans would like to applaud Steve Jobs and Apple for taking this step to help preserve endangered Native American languages and traditions.

Here's wishing you all a happy holiday season! Thanks for reading Computers As Humans.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Computer Hackers Stockpiling Ammunition

Computer hackers remain front-page news following the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. A loose-knit, international group of hackers that calls itself "Anonymous" has been engaged in a number of denial of service attacks this week. The group has been targeting websites they see as being hostile to the WikiLeaks website which is still up and running, continuing to release sensitive confidential documents.

Reports are now emerging that WikiLeaks supporters are downloading increasing amounts of spam-shooting software in preparation for renewed cyber attacks as part of their continuing campaign which is know as "Operation Avenge Assange." Even the arrest of a 16-year-old hacker in the Netherlands who allegedly participated in the attacks has done little to slow the growth of the movement, which is reported to be attracting more hackers and bringing more computers into its fold.

These ongoing escalations would appear to be part of preparations for launching an attack on a grander scale with Amazon thought to be one likely target. The groups have already succeeded in temporarily bringing down the websites of MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and Moneybooks.

Whether or not Anonymous will actually attack Amazon is questionable. A press release put out by the group on Friday implied that the group did not want to alienate neutral members of the public by bringing down a major online retailer in the midst of people's holiday shopping.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Guerrilla War In Cyberspace

Computer hacking is on the front page and all over the TV news at the moment thanks to the arrest of WikilLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange, a former hacker himself, is considered a borderline terrorist and a sex criminal by many, including authorities in the United States, Great Britain and Sweden. However his followers view him as a sort of online Che Guevera and they have begun waging a kind of digital guerrilla war in his honor.

Computer hackers around the world, including a group known as "Anonymous" took part in "Operation Avenge Assange" this week. The hackers were successful in bringing down websites belonging to various groups they view as enemies of WikiLeaks including MasterCard who are refusing to process payments to the information leaking service. Successful attacks also targeted Visa, a Swiss bank that had frozen WikiLeak's account and the Swedish prosecutors behind Assange's arrest in London this week.

Authorities around the world are concerned that this week's attacks represent a page turn into a more alarming phase of cyber criminality where angry, enraged private citizens can launch cyber attacks for any number perceived effronteries, real or otherwise. The fact that loosely organized groups of amateurs were able to bring down the sites of major institutions like Visa and MasterCard makes cyber security experts very nervous indeed. Like the British fighting against the minutemen in the Revolutionary War, tomorrow's cyber threats could be lurking behind any rock, tree or outcropping, waiting to strike.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Avast Ye Pirates!

Don't go checking your calendars; it's not national talk like a pirate day. That was September 19th so at this point you'll have to wait until next year. No, Avast is actually an Internet security firm headquartered in Prague that produces some of the best antivirus protection software on the market and makes certain versions of it available for free.

The company recently discovered that licenses for their paid Pro edition had been pirated and have traced the IP addresses of these pirated editions to some 200 countries around the world including Vatican City. The company allowed the piracy to spread long enough to learn what they could about the attack and then sent out pop-up messages to all the pirated editions presenting the option to either start paying for it or to switch to the free version.

Avast's chief executive Vince Steckler warns users against getting your security software from questionable warez sites that make such programs available for cheap or free. Getting software from such sites is somewhat akin to buying a stolen car. It may seem like a good bargain but you will undoubtedly be setting yourself up for trouble down the road. While driving a stolen car will ultimately result in you getting pulled over and your car impounded, using pirated security software is more likely to lead to your computer being infiltrated by malware or spyware. Dodgy warez sites are notorious for imbedding malicious codes that will infect the computers of anyone who downloads the software.

Besides when it comes to the Avast software the free version should meet the basic needs of most consumer users and it can be downloaded here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Cyber Arms Race

In the wake of the latest storm of classified information released by Wikileaks reports are emerging that the Chinese military plans to reconfigure itself to deal with the possibility of cyberwarfare. As China continues to expand and modernize computer hacking is becoming more and more prevalent there. On Thursday authorities arrested large numbers of hackers and shut down several websites that provided information on how to hack computers.

Amongst the information contained in the latest Wikileaks were allegations that state backed hackers from China had interfered with computers from Google and various western governments. Google has had various problems with governments around the world and after conflicts with China over censorship issues and alleged cyberattacks the company has scaled back its presence in the Asian nation.

This week an article in the "People's Liberation Army Daily," sort of the Chinese equivalent of "Stars & Stripes," stated that "military commanders must seriously consider how to deal with the threat of cyberwarfare."

China are pulling ahead in a wide number of fields across the board, having only recently engineered the fastest computer on Earth. With some 420 million users, China also has the largest online population in the world. As both China and the U.S. gear up to launch and defend against computer based attacks it seems more and more as if we are entering into a kind of "cyber arms race." According to cyber-security expert Kevin G. Coleman, China has recently "hardened" key cyber-defenses and "this action has made our offensive capabilities ineffective against them."

While at first blush a cyber arms race may seem preferable to an actual arms race it's important to note that cyberwarfare is serious business. Among other things, a well orchestrated cyber-attack could cause our entire banking system to collapse. . .oh wait that already happened didn't it? Well, you get my drift anyway.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Virtual Thanksgiving

Well the holidays are upon us and Computers As Humans has gone north to where it's cold and the cafes' serve pumpkin lattes and spice cake muffins. Yahoo has run an updated version of Ben Patterson' blog on how we check our email to escape from our relatives during Thanksgiving. According to Ben's very entertaining piece more than half of us are momentarily ducking out of the family conversation by checking up on our work emails.

Now far be it for Computers As Humans to deny that ducking out for an hour to meet that blog deadline has its benefits. A couple hours on your own away from the hustle and bustle of holiday prep and family banter. But it's a finely balanced act to stay plugged in during the holidays. You certainly don't want to do it anymore than you have to. But the fact is these days many of us are required to stay almost constantly connected. Our computers can be like the Ebenezer Scrooge to our Bob Cratchit. They are demanding taskmasters that command a great majority of our working hours.

So go ahead and check that email, make that Twitter update, and send that text. But get it done in time to let yourself go from all of that, for a few hours anyway. Give yourself the afternoon and evening off. Shut your browser, power down, disconnect and enjoy yourself with your people. But before you have a look at Google's extremely appetizing Thanksgiving doodle.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another Serious Flu Season For Industrial Computers

Computer security experts around the world are deeply concerned about a new strain of malware called the Stuxnet worm. Testifying to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Dean Turner, the director of Global Intelligence Network at Symantech Corp., said that there were as many as 44,000 new infections of the Stuxnet virus just last week.

About 60% of Stuxnet virus infections have occurred in Iran where the virus has appears to target nuclear power facilities. However of those 44,000 from last week, about 1,600 infections occurred in the United States.

So just what is it about Stuxnet that has security experts so concerned? In Turner's words the Stuxnet virus has "real world implications," that are, "beyond any threat we have seen in the past." Capable of targeting a wide range of industries, Stuxnet can penetrate a system, steal formulas or other intellectual property, alter those formulas on the infected database and completely blinder most existing antivirus software.

The virus is not presently a direct threat to most consumers as it specifically targets computers that use a combination of Windows and a control system that was developed by Siemens AG. However that combination of Windows and the Siemens control system is widely used in everything from automobile production to mixing chemicals.

Thankfully the people in charge are taking this new threat seriously. Senator Joe Lieberman has indicated that legislation designed to combat such threats will be made high priority upon lawmakers returning from the holidays in January.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beatlemania Goes Digital. . . Finally!

If indeed it was 20 years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play than for about half that time the band have been in negotiations with Apple Computer about releasing their songs on iTunes. Well today the two parties were finally able to reach an agreement and Computers As Humans is only sorry that we didn't report on this story before all the obvious Beatles song title puns had been used up by other writers.

So let's just take a deep breath and quickly say that yes, after many hard days nights and long and winding roads, the two parties have indeed been able to come together and that 13 original Beatles albums, the two-disc "Past Masters" set and two greatest hit collections are now available to be legally downloaded through iTunes. The Beatles never do anything halfway and just as they took television and radio by storm 50 years ago, the Fab Four are currently burning up the Internet with eight albums occupying spots in the iTunes 25 top selling albums.

The reasons for the Beatles long hold out on making their catalog available online are many and varied but generally stem from the group's longstanding dispute with Apple Computer over the company's name and logo image both of which were admittedly derived from the Beatles' own record company back when the idea of a computer company and a record company with the same name conflicting with one another was hard to fathom.

The two parties resolved this dispute back in 2007 and reached a legal agreement to jointly use the Apple name and logo. Since that time the band had held out partially due to the fear that selling their songs online would make them too readily available and diminish the impact of new releases for box sets, video games and remastered reissue. However sources close to the band have hinted that ultimately there was just too much money at stake to continue to ignore online downloads as a revenue stream.

Whether this deal will cause teenage girls to scream at their computers of course remains to be seen . . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Zombie Outbreak in China

Of all the viruses Computers As Humans has reported on there have certainly been none as coolly-named as the Zombie virus. Like a hangover from last weeks Halloween, the Zombie Virus has been on the rampage in China infecting some one million cell phones. However despite it's almost comically ghoulish name, the Zombie virus is no laughing matter.

The virus takes over a user's cell phone and begins sending out text messages to all the contacts on that person's SIM card. Those texts all contain links which when clicked on infect other phones with the virus. Often the texts will also be sent to pay-to-text numbers that will directly profit the hackers. It is estimated that the Zombie virus is costing Chinese citizens around $300,000 a day.

So how do you kill a zombie virus? We all know from the movies that when it comes to zombies the golden rule is "kill the head and the body will die." But Chinese authorities are having a difficult time cutting this virus off at the head as copycat viruses have already began to spring up.

The Zombie Virus infiltrates a user's phone as part of a fake anti-virus app. Viruses intended for smart phones have also previously been discovered bundled into a series of Android wallpaper apps. It is believed that viruses designed to target mobile phones represent an increasing threat in the years to come. Hopefully security firms in the United States will take notice of the threat in China and begin enacting measures to protect smart phone users around the world from the Zombie virus and others like it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

iPad and the Chinese Connection

Those Chinese are over there getting better at stuff all the time. Last week they unveiled the fastest computer in the world and this week word is out that they're about to drop a host of affordable new tablet computers that could give the iPad some competition.

Now China gets a bad rap for a lot of things these days, some of it deserved some of it not so much. Speaking at a conference this week in Hong Kong, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg told Americans to "stop blaming the Chinese and blaming everybody else" for all of its problems. I think the mayor may be on to something.

People tend to have knee-jerk reactions to anything made in China and usually those reactions are not positive. But if we really want to put our money where our mouths are on the whole free-trade thing, low-priced tablet computers that do the job could inspire Apple to innovate and provide more affordable iPad options while encouraging the availability of quality, affordably priced tablet computers in general.

The iPad commands an impressive 95% of the tablet computer market. That makes its dominance more pervasive than even that of the Toyota Prius, which commands a mere 50% of the hybrid car market. Apple Computer's Steve Jobs has proclaimed that the first generation of competitors for the iPad will be "dead on arrival." And you know what? He's probably right, with the possible exception of the Samsung Galaxy.

Adding a Chinese connection might be just what we need to liven up the tablet market. In our present financial situation lower prices are more likely to encourage consumer spending and that's going to help bolster the economy as a whole.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The First Racist Computer?

Okay, not really but who could resist a headline like that? The Microsoft Kinect is in fact not even really a computer but a peripheral motion-sensing component meant to be used in conjunction with the X-Box. The Kinect uses a combination of facial recognition, gesture capture and skeletal tracking, which according to the X-Box website, "brings games and entertainment to life in extraordinary new ways without using a controller."

The idea behind the Kinect is essentially to take the interactive aspects of the Wii one step further, eliminating the need for any kind of handheld device. Sounds pretty cool. However there have been a few problems being reported since the Kinect was released at 12:01 am this morning. Mainly that the Kinect's facial recognition feature apparently has trouble recognizing darker skinned gamers. Now obviously racism is based on malicious intention of some kind and noone is suggesting there is anything like that behind the Kinect.

And the Kinect seems to be getting good marks otherwise. Which is good news for Microsoft since they have reportedly spent $500 million on advertisements for the Kinect alone. The good people at Microsoft will doubtlessly introduce some kind of "ethnic facial recognition fix" for the Kinect and everything will be peachy.

However it does cause you to wonder just how the thing got developed, tested, approved and released without ever having had to recognize a person of darker skin tone? Perhaps in the future Microsoft would do well to practice a bit more diversity in the workplace when it comes to their game testing and development department.

The Kinect is available for $150 on its own or as part of an X-Box bundle.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Google and The Italian Job

Internet giant Google found itself in a bit of trouble in Italy this week. Italian prosecutors are apparently investigating the Internet search engine on the basis that the data collected for Google's Street Search feature may have been done so in a manner that violates Italian privacy laws.

Apparently in the process of capturing images for the service, which offers detailed views of various locations around the world, Google inadvertently has also captured fragments of private communications sent out over various Wi-Fi networks. Many of the fragments are just that, fragments, however there were some instances in which names, passwords, whole communications and other sensitive information were also captured.

Google, for their part, have made no effort to deny the allegations, releasing a statement saying they had, "mistakenly collected unencrypted Wi-Fi payload data using our street view cars." The company has vowed to delete the data as soon as possible and to improve its privacy and security practices in the future.

Obviously a private company attempting to encircle the globe with street view photography is touchy business. Google already has an uncomfortable inside knowledge of most people's Internet activities. The fact that they've got people on the ground with cameras attempting to photograph every neighborhood in the world is bound to ruffle some feathers.

Italian authorities are not concerned so much with preventing Google from continuing on with their Street View project but more with mandating the company to warn people in advance when their cars will be in an area. Italian blogger Vittoria Zambardino says that Google should be praised for owning up to the breach adding that, "No one can dispute the beauty and utility of the Street View project."

If Google chooses to remain the World's nosy neighbor, as they undoubtedly will, this is likely not the last instance of this kind we can expect to hear about.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Usain Bolt of Computers

Anyone who watched the 2008 Summer Olympics is surely familiar with the achievements of Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter set a world record for the 100 m sprint and is the current World and Olympic champion in the 100 m, the 200 m and the 4 x 100 m relay. Bolt ran his races almost as if he was in an event by himself, dusting his competition and leaving the other runners essentially in a scrap for second place.

Reports emerged today that computer designers in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin are on the verge of unveiling a new supercomputer that like Bolt, will be the fastest on Earth. That computer, the Tianhe-1, utilizes chips that were manufactured in the U.S. which is also home to what is currently considered the fastest computer on Earth.

With a sustained computing speed of 2,507 trillion calculations per second, the Tianhe-1 is 1.4 times faster than the current title holder which is housed in a national laboratory in Tennessee. In the words of Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist who monitors the official rankings for supercomputers, the Tianhe-1, "blows away the existing number one machine."

However, as in sports, computing records are made to be broken. Just as Bolt shattered previously existing records, newer and faster computers are coming along every year. Steven J. Wallach, a computer designer, likened the Tianhe-1 to the four-minute mile, saying "The world didn't stop. This is just a snapshot in time."

As a matter of fact the Tianhe-1, which hasn't even officially been crowned the fastest on Earth, already has competition. Computer designers in Japan are currently developing a machine called the K Computer in an effort to claim the title for Japan. So just how long the Tianhe-1 will reign is anybody's guess.

Usain Bolt on the other hand is just 24 which means he will be 26 at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. So when it comes to setting new records or holding on to existing ones, I'd put my money on the Jamaican.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Tipping Point for Mac Security

As Mac users we've enjoyed a good, long, relatively worry-free ride, happily surfing the web for the better part of a decade and a half with no fear of malware, spyware, pop-up ads and all those other "PC problems." Well those days may be ending.

Ivan Fermon, the senior vice president of product management at Panda Security says that we may be nearing "a tipping point." You see Mac has been doing well recently. Perhaps too well in some regard. According to Fermon, "it will soon be financially viable for cybercriminals to target their efforts at Mac users." While this is good news for Steve Jobs and the people at Apple, it may be a wake up call for many of us.

Panda receive some 55,000 new security threats on a daily basis. The firm has apparently identified over 5,000 different types of malware that are specifically targeted towards Macs.

So you know all those complicated anti-virus, security and firewall applications you never pay attention to? Well it may be about time to start paying attention to them.

To that end Panda has developed an application called Panda Antivirus for Mac which is available for $49.95 and can be downloaded from the company's website:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Shrinking Internet

As someone who began his online career during the heyday of the '90s boom in San Francisco, I can remember when the Internet didn't seem all that big. Most people were on AOL, a few were trying something new called Yahoo and most online content consisted of words and still pictures. Believe me it was a good time to be a web writer and probably a photographer for that matter.

Nowadays the Internet is just so much bigger. There is a seemingly infinite amount of content available in either written, video, musical or graphics form. Much of our use of the Internet now consists of trying to filter out useless or unwanted information in the form of advertising, poor search results and bad links.

To that end the good people at Bing and Facebook have gone into a partnership that could make the web feel smaller and homier once again. The social networking site and Bing's parent company, Microsoft, rolled out a new search feature wherein people's Facebook friends, profiles and 'likes' will be integrated into search results.

The "social search" feature, as it is called, will be available when people are using the Bing search engine while logged into facebook. It is anticipated that by using one's likes, interests and other Facebook information as a kind of "search filter" Bing will be able to provide more relevant, tailor-made search results.

1998 was like a million years ago in Internet time. The days of one giant communal, AOL-centered web experieince are long gone. The web is vast and overwhelming. So when big web players like Bing and Facebook stand shoulder-to-shoulder and try to create a more user-friendly experience, it brings the web back under control to some degree. Search optimization is after all at its best when it guides what we experience on the web through filtering and sorting out what we don't want to see from what we want to.

None of this will make the web smaller, but it can make our own experience of it more manageable and enjoyable. Kind of like living in a cozy neighborhood in the middle of a big-city.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mandatory Health Care for Computers?

Network operators are abuzz everywhere, demanding increased levels of security following the detection of a dangerous new stream of malware designed to attack computer systems at industrial facilities. The "Stuxnet worm," has been raising alarm bells ever since it took over an Iranian nuclear facility in June.

Recent reports have indicated that as many as 220,000 new cases of malware are diagnosed every day. Clearly the problem represents a growing threat.

Security firms are responding to this growing threat seemingly by acquiring or being acquired by one another. For starters Hewlett Packard bought Arcsight and Intel bought McAfee. Symantech has remained independent as have international firms like Sophos in the U.K. But practically all of them are currently negotiating about new partnerships or acquisitions.

Shoring up resources in this manner enables one single company to provide more comprehensive service to their customers. Standing shoulder to shoulder is also in part a response to customers demands that security companies work in cooperation with one another to cast a more uniform blanket of security across the web.

Right now security firms seem very open to working in cooperation with one another so perhaps there is no need for government mandated minimum standards. As I alluded to in my last entry, that's probably a good thing considering the current state of political debate in this country.

Otherwise we might wind up with Tea Party rallies where protesters carry signs that say "Pop-ups ads are Free Enterprize" as they demand that no one infringes upon their right to have their computers infected by spyware.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quarantine for Computers

Scott Charney is a guy who works at Microsoft with an interesting theory on how to manage the problem of infected computers passing malicious software on to other computers. Charney believes that infected computers should be quarantined just as we would with a sick person.

It's actually not a bad idea and Charney makes a convincing argument for the case, explaining that, "Just as when an individual who is not vaccinated puts others' health at risk, computers that are not protected or have been compromised with a bot put others at risk and pose a greater threat to society."

Quarantining for computers is actually feasible through the use of what's known as network access protection, or NAP. NAP applications are used to analyze the security apparatus for a given computer before allowing it to connect with a network. Computers that are deemed unsafe for a variety of reasons are redirected to a site that details minimum-security requirements.

However as Charney points out in his own blog posts, the vast number of botnets and computers that host malicious software are owned by consumers. As consumers we have no IT department or regularly scheduled system maintenance. We just want our computer to work like any other piece of electronics around the house. So most people don’t spend a lot of time on sophisticated security applications. And even if they did, it might not be enough.

Charney's solution can be seen as being inline with the policy of not letting people with highly contagious diseases fly. As Charney says, "In the physical world, international, national, and local health organizations identify, track and control the spread of disease which can include, where necessary, quarantining people to avoid the infection of others."

Of course trying to implement system-wide security standards for all Internet users would be an enormous logistical challenge. Not only that but in light of the Tea Party's seeming resistance to any kind of restriction being added to anything, anywhere, it would likely become a hotbed political issue if it were proposed in an election year.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Media Darlings of the Computer World

The New York Times reported today on a new study put out by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. The study was aimed at determining which tech company gets the most coverage in the media. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study determined that Apple Computer gets the most media coverage, effectively making the company the Brad and Angelina of the computer world.

Apple beat out its competitors, garnering a whopping 15.1 percent of all tech-related media coverage. Its closest rival was Google, who with 11.3 percent of the coverage could perhaps be seen as the Tom and Kate of the equation, while Microsoft, with a mere 3 percent, could be regarded as the Ben and Jen of tech media coverage.

The results are as much a testament to Apple's marketing savvy as they are to its technological innovations. Steve Jobs is perhaps the closest thing to Paris Hilton the tech world has when it comes to capturing the media's attentions. His showman-like manner for unveiling new or updated iProducts two or three times a year always generates a blast of news coverage.

Starting with the iPod in 2001, going through the iPhone and into the iPad, Apple has consistently put out products that turn heads. Little stumbling blocks like the antennae problems with the new iPhone, amount to nothing more than Paris being busted for drugs or Lindsay getting nailed for drunk driving: Just a little bump in the road that for better or for worse, makes the object of our fascination that much more interesting.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Opening Up New Lanes on the Information Superhighway

The FCC is going ahead with the plan to open up unused television signals for broadband Internet. The plan, which was first approved more than two years ago, is very similar in concept to adding extra lanes to a freeway in order to relieve congestion.

On Thursday the 24th of September, the five members of the FCC voted unanimously to give broadband networks access to the bandwidth channels that exist between TV stations and are commonly known as "white spaces." The agency has dubbed the new technology "super Wi-Fi," and has high hopes for the technology. FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, has said that the new white space networks will form a "powerful platform for innovation."

Apparently the FCC aren't the only ones who are excited about the possibility of increased bandwidth and better traffic flow on the Internet. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Dell are also enthusiastic about developing a new market centered on the technology.

Just as freeway expansion projects are meant to ease traffic congestion, the FCC hopes the new white space networks will similarly ease congestion on the nation's increasingly bottle necked airwaves.

Like the bandwidth spectrum currently utilized for Wi-Fi, the new white space lanes will be available to users for free with no licensing fee required.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

iPad as Prius, Galaxy as Insight?

The Toyota Prius has enjoyed a five-year run as the most popular hybrid vehicle on the market. Its closest competition, the Honda Insight, is struggling to remain viable at all and rumor has in Honda is planning on scrapping it in favor of a new sport hybrid.

The iPad, like the Toyota Prius has been a very successful product that has also utterly dominated its area of the market, namely notebook computers. The iPad has enjoyed very little in the way of competition since it first hit the market back in April. Perhaps until now that is.

Samsung has just released its own new, Android-based tablet computer, the Galaxy Tab. Tech pundits everywhere are calling the Galaxy the first tablet computer, yet to appear, that may actually give the iPad a run for its money.

Its use of Linux means it will offer user greater control over security measures. And being Android based means it will provide access to the growing and open market of apps that exist for Android based devices.

Smaller and lighter than the iPad, the Galaxy certainly could give the iPad a run for its money.
The Galaxy has a 7-inch screen, compared to the iPad 9.7-incher. Some may see this as a plus for the greater portability it allows while others may regard it as a minus due to having to contend with the smaller screen size. The Galaxy is also somewhat nebulous when it comes to price. While it's expected to retail for between $200 and $300, it has a $25 monthly data plan and two-year contract attached to it that brings its actual price up to around $800.

Still in spite of these potential drawbacks, the Galaxy earns high marks in most categories. Whether it will succeed where the Honda Insight has apparently failed remains to be seen. But given Apple's blaise response to antennae problems on the new iPhone, perhaps a little competition would give the company a new lease on the idea of "user-friendliness" it seems to have lost sight of.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Souping Up Your Browser

People have been souping up cars for years now. From Chevy Malibus to Pontiac GTOs, we have all had our head turned by a pimped once or twice. Flash paint jobs, a little something extra under the hood, you know the treatment.

People generally soup up a car to make it look better and go faster. These are the qualities true gear heads prize most in their cars: looks and performance. Interestingly, these are also the very same qualities most of us value in our web browsers.

Everyone I know seems to be constantly modifying and tinkering his or her web browser, as if it were some fabulous hot rod out in the garage. We download custom dashboards we trick out the finish with skins and graphics. We get rid of anything heavy and cumbersome that would slow us down. Cookies, browser caches, and old downloads are discarded like so many bits of scrap metal that have been hacked off in the chop shop.

Google Chrome certainly seems to understand the similarities between optimizing your web browser and fixing up a muscle car. After all the browser speed test designed to optimize performance for Chrome is named after an engine. It's called the V8.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pirates on the Internet

Police in Sweden and Belgium arrested ten people today who were involved in Internet piracy. Not that Computers As Humans wishes to condone it in any way, but Internet piracy actually sounds kind of cool when you first hear about it.

However the truth is that Internet pirates just aren't as cool as real pirates were. Although they are far less violent which of course is good. These pirates weren't arrested for robbing or pillaging anyone. Their crime? Posting illegal copies of movies and television shows online.

Now I ask you, is this what piracy has come to? In the old days being branded a pirate was serious business and could get you killed. And with good reason. Pirates on the high seas stole chests full of doubloon and held damsels for ransom, often killing or maiming in the process. Nowadays being branded a pirate is apparently as easy as posting a link to an illegal copy of "Kick Ass" in a chat room.

However just as the crime of Internet piracy is generally less severe, so is the punishment. All of the people who were arrested in Sweden during today's raids have already been let go.

And where's the punishment in that? These guys have just had their street cred boosted big time. I guarantee you that tonight there will be five guys hanging around at bars in Sweden chatting up girls by saying things like, "You know I was arrested for piracy today."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Whose Working for Who?

In this writer's lifetime the computer has gone from being something that seemed mainly good for playing video games, to being at the absolute center of most people's working world. Even if your job isn't directly related to the computer the odds are it plays a major role in how you market yourself and stay in touch with friends and colleagues.

Computers, the web, cellphones, iPads, PDAs and the whole lot have us more connected than ever before. Ostensibly, they make our jobs easier, keep us in touch with what's going on and grant us more personal freedom by allowing many of us to travel and work anywhere. . .Or do they?

According to a survey conducted earlier this summer by, nearly a third of workers polled admitted to checking their work emails or voicemails while they were on vacation. Based on statistics put out by the Baltimore Sun, that's a 25 percent increase from last year.

It's ironic that all the devices and communication mediums we have created in order to master our lives now seem in danger of mastering us. Let's face it; unless you're the governor or the chief negotiator for the mid-east peace process, the odds are your job will run itself without you while you are on vacation.

As for your computer while you’re on holiday? Once you've used it to check the weather or the surf report, try turning if off. Or better yet, if you’re feeling really bold . . . leaving it behind altogether.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Computers as Space Saving Devices?

Computers have changed our lives in countless big and small ways in the past fifteen years. The print media industry has taken some blows, as have the music business and retail. In the past I have written about the Internet as being a kind of "death star" media that comes along and destroys other medias.

This is overly dramatic of course, and not entirely accurate. The Internet doesn't really destroy other medias. It replaces them with something that's generally more convenient. Why have a shelf full of records and CDs for instance when you can download whatever you want and put it on your iPod. Why go to the bookstore when you can download the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel on your Kindle and start reading it immediately?

Obviously the Internet making things tough for the print world is nothing new. Magazines and newspapers have been closing up the shutters for the better part of ten years now. And the latest casualty of the online information revolution looks like it will be the Oxford English Dictionary.

Nigel Portwood, the publisher of the dictionary revealed the newest edition would likely be released only for the web. Speaking to the Sunday Times, Portwood was quoted as saying, "The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It's falling away by tens of percent a year."

Access to the digital edition of the publication costs $295.00 a year. That's not cheap, but think of the room you will now have on your shelf for all your books, CDs and . . . oh wait. Well, what exactly are we going to put on our shelves now that we're downloading all our books, music, movies and dictionaries?

If things keep heading the way they're going, the next industry to fall under threat from the Internet may not be related to the media or electronics at all. It may turn out to be the bookshelf industry.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Maintaining Vigilance in the Face of Big Brother

The Pentagon is currently working to establish new cyber-security initiatives to protect the Internet and in particular, US interests online. These initiatives come in the wake of a successful infiltration of the US military network that took place back in 2008.

That attack had its epicenter at a US military base in the Middle East where an infected flash drive was inserted into a US military laptop. Like a deadly SMERSH assassin in a James Bond movie, the malicious software on that flash drive uploaded itself and found its way into the network run by US Central Command.

Just was we must strike the difficult balance between protecting our national security and our civil liberties in the real world, we must also do so in the cyber-world. With more than one hundred foreign governments currently trying to find a way into our government and military networks we must indeed, as they used to say back in the Bush/Cheney era, "practice vigilance." However at the same time, as Americans, we aren't comfortable with the thought of our intelligence agencies acting like some kind of Internet "big brother."

Cyber-attacks are incapable of creating the kind of casualties a nuclear, chemical or biological attack could. But a cyber-9/11 could effectively turn our society over on its back like a turtle for any length of time.

PC World has described the Pentagon's new cyber-security initiatives as being, "part digital NATO, part digital civil defense and part Big Brother." In computers, as in the real world, how big a part "Big Brother" will ultimately play in our future security is an evolving question. Maybe it would be a good idea to regard the vigilance we practice as going both ways.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Tough Strain of Cyber-Flu

New statistics released by Symantec's Messagelabs division have revealed that more than 40 percent of the world's spam can be traced back to a single network of computers. The malware program operating on the infected network is known as the Rustock botnet.

Currently there are some 1.3 million computers infected with the Rustock botnet. That's down from April when there were around 2.5 million computers infected. At the time those computers were sending out approximately 43 billion spam e-mails a day. But like human viruses, computer viruses are also capable of mutating and adapting. Rustock has compensated for the reduction in the number of computers carrying it by upping its volume. Currently the virus is responsible for sending out around 46 million spam e-mails per day. Most of the spam Rustock is responsible for is pharmaceutical.

Like a stubborn strain of flu, Rustock has proved particularly difficult to eradicate. It was dealt a near-fatal blow back in 2008, when the notorious McColo ISP was cut off from the web. McColo was host to command and control servers for a number of botnets. But like the proverbial killer in the slasher film that never quite dies, Rustock managed to survive when McColo was briefly able to reconnect with the web.

Currently computer security professionals are looking for a way to effectively eradicate Rustock completely.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cameron Diaz and Leading Computers Astray

She may be America's sweetheart but actress Cameron Diaz has just earned the dubious distinction of being named the riskiest celebrity to search for online. Internet security firm, McAfee publishes an annual list of dangerous celebs to Google search and Miss Diaz has topped this year's list, beating out the likes of Julia Roberts and Jessica Biel.

So while computers themselves may not be easily lead astray, it would seem that their users are. And apparently cyber-criminals have determined that actresses make for effective bait when it comes to luring unsuspecting users to malicious websites.

And no matter whether it's the user or the computer who is lead astray, the outcome can be much the same; becoming infected with malware, spyware or some other form of computer virus.

This is why it's never a good idea to click onto a strange website. Not for Cameron Diaz, Jessica Biel, Megan Fox or any other celebrity hottie for that matter. If your computer becomes infected with malicious software if may become possible for criminals to steal your banking information, email password or other vital information.

So it seems that with computers, just as in life, giving in to temptation is not always in our best interests.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Slumlords of the Internet

As Internet domain registrar and content provider, Demand Media is preparing to go public on the stock market, it has suffered the dubious distinction of being called the worst ISP in the world by malware tracking group HostExploit. Demand Media is perhaps best known as the owner of such downmarket content sites as eHow, Livestrong and However the company also runs the second largest domain registration service in the world.

However, like the landlord of an apartment block full of crack dealers, Demand apparently has not been too picky about the tenants it rents to. According to HostExploit, the amount of malicious activity taking place on Demands networks is ten times more today than it was back in January.

You'd be tempted to give a company that makes helpful content such as "Hair Shows in Knoxville, Tennessee," available to the public, the benefit of the doubt. Yet it's noteworthy and perhaps suspicious that 35 percent of the fake pharmacy websites in the world are registered through Demand Media and its affiliate company, eNow.

So again, like the landlord that will rent to anyone willing to pay, it seems as if Demand Media doesn't really care where the money comes from, as long as the check finds it's way into the drop slot on the first of the month.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bad Flu Season Ahead for Computers

Cyber-security firm, McAfee has published a threat-assessment report for the second quarter of 2010. The report has revealed that the danger of being infected with computer malware viruses is at an all-time high.

The report's findings reveal that just as viruses which effect humans continue to evolve and adapt to medicine's attempts to thwart them, computer malware is evolving in much the same way. Of course the difference is that there is a human element behind computer borne viruses. From the look of things it appears that that human element is becoming ever-more astute.

A McAfee press release related to the threat-assessment, has stated that, "It's also obvious that cybercriminals are becoming more in tune with what the general public is passionate about from a technology perspective and using it to lure unsuspecting victims."

Like any good doctor advising patients on preventative measures to take during a particularly bad flu season, McAfee has issued their own prescription to the general public.

Among other things, McAfee's prescription urges organizations to test their own security measures by employing the same sorts of techniques employed by hackers. McAfee has also called for more education on the dangers of malware as well as more cooperation and sharing of information between cybersecurity professionals.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Exposing the Soft Underbelly of Cyber Security

Once upon a time there was a computer and electronic communication market that was dominated by Microsoft. The Apple Mac was an obscure specialty item, a computer for people who liked foreign films and lived on the coasts. It was of little concern to the erstwhile computer hacker out there trying to inflict maximum damage to the computer user community as a whole.

As a result over they years, Apple has earned a reputation as being a safe computer to use. Consequently many Apple users employ almost nothing in the way of security or anti-virus software. And that's a problem. Because as Bob Dylan once said, "the times they are a changing."

The advent of the iPhone and the iPad has turned Apple into a major player. A very major player at that! On the current market, Apple is worth more than Microsoft. And just as iPads and iPhones have become the most sought after electronic accessories of the last couple years, Apple Computers have also taken a dent out of the PC market share. All of this has got hackers taking notice.

In World War II the British thought by invading Italy the could penetrate the "soft underbelly of Europe," on their way to taking back the continent from the fascists. They were wrong. However today hackers could very correctly identify Apple Computers as the soft underbelly of cyber security.

Most Mac and Apple users remain blissfully unaware of what could be and probably already is, a gathering security threat. But can you blame them? After all, Apple makes no mention of security whatsoever on the websites for either the iPad or the iPhone.

Ironically it is Apple's recent successes that have made its user base vulnerable. The company now seems to find itself facing the difficult choice of either educating its customers and initiating steps to combat increased security threats, or doing nothing but sitting back and resting on its disappearing myth of invulnerability to cyber attacks. In other words, ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away.

There has already been one high profile iPad hack this summer. Certainly more are on the way. If Apple wants to prevent any serious outbreaks of malware and adware infections from affecting their users, it would be wise to act sooner rather than later. Because in today's hyper-security conscious computer world, it's fair to consider the Mac a soft target.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The DDoS Attacks: Lightning Strikes Twice

Last year on the 7th of July, South Korea and the United States both fell victim to a massive, widespread cyber-attack. While the U.S. has still reached no definite conclusions, South Korea's intelligence chief claims the attack was launched by the North Korean ministry of telecommunications.

On July 7th this year, the distributed denial-of-service attacks, also known as the DDoS attacks, repeated themselves. However this time, the attacks took place on a far more limited scale. While last years attacks seized control of and mobilized some 270,000 computers, this years attack only affected 462 computers.

It seems several of the computers that were involved in last years' attacks were still infected with the virus and this had lead to an outbreak, although albeit a much more limited one. Apparently the germs of a computer virus can linger, just as the germs from a human infection can.

Thankfully this year's outbreak did little actual damage even though some of the websites that were effected included South Korea's presidential Blue House and foreign ministry. Last year's attacks shut down 25 websites for 11 hours. Only 11 of those sites were in South Korea the other 14 were in the U.S. Some of the websites affected in that attack belonged to agencies of the U.S. government. This years outbreak of the attack was confined to South Korea.

Authorities there are instructing Internet service providers to encourage customers using infected computers to to erase the virus. Just like a human contagion, viruses of this nature must be contained in order to be eradicated.

Whether or not the North Koreans are behind it or not is a matter of debate. The most recent reports indicate that the DDoS attacks can be traced back to hackers in China.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Halting the Spread of Malware

In some areas of the country, it appears there might there be a need for educational outreach programs on the merits of antiviral software and security firewalls. While major, more metropolitan cities like LA, and NYC have an overall higher rate of malware infections, there is actually a much higher per capita rate in smaller, regional cities.

A map that was recently put out by the Enigma Software Group showing density of malware infection rates has revealed that Atlanta has the highest per-capita of malware infections in the United States. New York City and Los Angeles, perhaps unsurprisingly, had the most incidents of malware infections, but Atlanta trumps the Big Apple and the Big Orange when infections are factored in based on a city's population percentage.

Other cities in the top 5 on a per capita basis included Birmingham, Denver, Chesapeake and Madison. NYC and LA, when scored on a per capita basis, actually finish near the bottom of the list.

There's a tricky parable in here somewhere and I'm trying to tread lightly. This could imply, I suppose, that computers in Atlanta are having a lot more unprotected interactions with one another than in other parts of the country. Perhaps the cities with higher malware infection rates are places where education and preventative measures are not as widespread as they are in more metropolitan area.

Does this call for a public education program in cities where malware is epidemic? Billboards could be put up, encouraging the use of antiviral software and mandatory screening for adware. Parents, perhaps need to have sit down discussions with their teenagers telling them about the importance of not opening strange emails. Certainly if measures are taken, the malware epidemic can be halted.

Okay, I'm making light of it but in fact malware is a serious problem that costs consumers and businesses millions of dollars. It can invade your privacy in any number of big and small ways and like a communicable disease, can be easily spread from one computer to another. So maybe more awareness of the potential threat isn't a bad idea.

On the other side of the spectrum from Atlanta is Jersey City, NJ which can be proud that it has the lowest per capita infection rate of computer malware in the U.S.

Is there really a reason why one city suffers a greater rate of malware than another? According to Alvin Estevez, CEO of the Enigma Software Group, there may be. Estevez says that, "Any time you have a city with high Internet connectivity and a large population of younger people, the Internet traffic is higher and so is the risk for malware infections."

Again, there is a distinctly obvious parable here, but I tread lightly, lightly. . .

What is there to say except, parents, encourage your kids to take precautions. Malware can infect anyone and just because a computer doesn't look like it's infected doesn't mean it isn't.

Lightly, I tread lightly. . .

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Digitizing the World Cup

In the last installment of Computers As Humans I described the Dutch and German World Cup teams as being the Mac and PC of European soccer respectively. I then explained how both of them faced formidable obstacles, namely Brazil and Argentina, on the way to the ultimate Mac vs. PC World Cup Final.

Since then Holland have spectacularly surprised everyone, even themselves to some degree, by beating Brazil and advancing to the semi-final. Apparently we here at Computers At Humans are not the only ones who are excited.

Reuters reported today that Twitter was to be banned during ongoing cabinet formation talks in the Dutch parliament. Apparently Dutch politicians have become overly fond of using the social networking site during the difficult negotiations. Cabinet advisor Uri Rosenthal told a press conference that while the talks are taking place, "We will hold radio silence, TV silence - and we coin the word 'de-twitter' as well."

Whether or not they were actually Tweeting about Holland's World Cup results is of course unknown. But in a country that is more obsessed with soccer than even ice skating, you can bet they were. They did just beat Brazil after all.

Germany, the PC in my little parable, have also advanced. Not only that but they've done so in style with a sound thrashing of Argentina that highlighted their PC like organization and business-like efficiency.

But obstacles still remain on the road to the Mac vs. PC World Cup Final, namely Uruguay and Spain. Right now Uruguay are running like a modest, mid-market laptop that's been optimized to outperform expectations. Spain on the other hand are like an expensive, top-of-the-line desktop computer with all the extras, that has for some unknown reason, been running a little slow of late.

If the Brazilian and Argentinian team were compared to computers at this point you'd have to say they both look as if they need their central processing units replaced. The components they have are all of excellent quality and everything looked as if it was in place to work. But in the end it seemed as if the data just wasn't being distributed well.

Actually Brazil have more or less already taken a step toward replacing their central processing unit. They've removed the old one at least. Upon his return from the World Cup their coach, Dunga was immediately sacked. No replacement has yet been announced, but hopefully they'll go with someone who has qualities that are a bit more dual-core.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mac and PC in the World Cup

A few short weeks ago 32 national teams embarked on a World Cup odyssey that has seen all but eight of them fall by the wayside. Of the eight remaining teams, a handful are the arch-rivals of one another. Depending on the results of the quarter finals we could be seeing one of several alternate pairings of these rivals meeting up in the semis. The most notable match ups we could witness in the final rounds of this summers tournament are, Holland versus Germany, and Brazil versus Argentina.

The Dutch and the Germans have an old rivalry that could quite easily be cast as the Mac vs. PC of European soccer.

Their most celebrated clash was the final of the 1974 World Cup when Germany, the host nation, defeated the heavily favored Dutch 2-1. The Dutch, who at that point hadn't forgiven the Germans for the war, added this defeat to their long list of slights and a bitter rivalry has ensued ever since. It is a rivalry that historically has pitted the creative, inventive Dutch up against the pragmatic, practical Germans. The results have often been spectacular, although the matches have often been contentious to say the least.

In the past it's been very easy to see the Netherlands as the Apple Mac of the European game. With their brilliant orange uniforms, creative passing and artistic players, they play a connoisseur's brand of soccer. In 1974 they were as unique and innovative as anything the world had ever seen. Lead by the brilliant Johan Cruyff, the Dutch dazzled their way past Argentina and Brazil to meet the Germans in the final.

The Germans, the PC of this parable, play much as you'd expect Germans would. They have an organized defense, they tackle hard, launch lightning quick counterattacks and have a ruthless determination to keep fighting until the final whistle blows. It may not be stylish or cool like the Dutch, but like a PC, it's effective when it comes to getting the job done.

But whether or not the Dutch really still play like a Mac and the Germans game really still resembles a PC is highly debatable. The Germans have branched out into a more adventurous, attacking, free-flowing mode. You could almost consider the present German team the Windows XP of German soccer.

The current Dutch side on the other hand are perhaps like a Mac that has been retooled and marketed for business purposes. They have advanced by playing a fairly pragmatic game that has many of their own fans criticizing them, despite their being undefeated in the tournament. But while they may play practically and sensibly, beneath the surface you can sense they are still as eccentric and esoteric as they ever were

Of course, whether or not we will get to see a rematch of these two great stylistic rivals remains to be seen. Both sides face formidable obstacles on their way to the next round. The Netherlands face Brazil on Friday while Germany take on Brazil's great rivals, Argentina the very next day.

Having all these giants of the game knocking each other out could open up a path for Spain to breeze through to the final. The current Spain side are in possession of an attractive, flowing, passing, attacking game that would bring a tear to Johan Cruyff's eye. They also have a highly organized defense and a fair dose of pragmatism and practicality spread throughout their team.

Now if only someone would market a computer that had all the qualities of the current Spanish team! A computer like that could potentially leave Mac and PC both in the dust.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Technology Could Save Soccer

This summer's World Cup tournament in South Africa looks like it could be on track to becoming one of the biggest sporting events ever. By turns it's been spectacularly entertaining, nail-bitingly dramatic, and capable of moving one quite suddenly and unexpectedly to tears. It's also been marred by the controversy of some blatantly bad calls.

Before their disappointing exit, the US team had two perfectly good goals disallowed in two different games. While neither of these goals would have kept the US in the tournament if they had stood, they would have given the US a more comfortable passage to the second round and caused fewer gray hairs to emerge on the heads of their fans and supporters.

England had what could have been a pivotal goal not counted in the loss to Germany that saw them exit the tournament. Argentina, meanwhile, scored a goal against Mexico that should not have counted, in the match that saw Mexico's tournament come to an end.

France, whose showing in the tournament was so disastrous the French President called a meeting with members of the team, gained entry to the tournament through a bad call that involved a blatant handling of the ball.

The problem that international soccer is facing is that 10 million people may see something, plain as day on their televisions, but if one referee misses it, a bad call can be allowed to stand. But thankfully there is a solution.


Goal line technology exists that could minimize the occurrence of bad calls like these in future matches. However FIFA, the body that governs international soccer, has been stubbornly against such technology for years.

In practically every other area of culture and society, technological advances are regarded as just that, advances. In technology! Where I come from, that's a good thing. However for one reason or another FIFA has maintained that human error is somehow integral to how the game is played.

It's hard to imagine such unabashed pigheadedness towards technological advances being tolerated in any other quarter. Can you imagine if doctors or aircraft controllers refused to adopt technology that would improve the accuracy of what they did on such basis? It would never happen.

Okay, you say, but soccer isn't like surgery or landing a plane. Isn't it? You think soccer is not a matter of life and death? What about the referee from the England vs. Germany game who is currently under police protection? Or the Colombian player who was killed for missing a free kick after the 1994 World Cup?

Soccer teams train for years to compete in the World Cup. Many of them carry the hopes and dreams of entire nations on their shoulders. To see the course of events be affected by human errors that can be so easily corrected with technology seems patently absurd.

Soccer is a sport. It will always be about skill, grace, speed, strength and athleticism. However if technology can be used to compliment the human element of the game and protect the interests of fair play, why not use it?

Isn't that what technology is for in the first place? To improve the lives of people?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cisco's Business Like Approach to Tablet Computers

On Tuesday Cisco unveiled plans for a new tablet computer designed for business users. The device known as the Cisco Cius (rhymes with Priuss) is mean to be a more business-like alternative to the Apple iPad.

The Cius offers many of the same features as the iPad such as email, instant messaging and wireless Internet capability. It also will provide users with the ability to produce, edit and share content locally or on the Internet.

Not only that but unlike the iPad the Cius is equipped with a camera, in fact, two of them. And it's a pound and a half lighter than the iPad.

Like the "Streak" tablet computer that was unveiled by Dell last month, the Cius is powered by Google's Android.

Tablet computers, it would seem, are fast becoming to computer companies what hybrids are to car companies. They may not be the product to build your business on but not having one on the market is something a company does at its own risk.

And while it would be tempting to compare the Cius with the Priuss because of the satisfyingly lyrical rhyme, that comparison doesn't seem entirely accurate.

The iPad must undoubtedly be regarded as the Priuss of the notebook computer world. They are after all, both widely popular, slightly quirky in design and oh-so-user-friendly. Their television and print ad campaigns would also seem to be completely interchangeable.

The Cius isn't slated to be put on the market until early next year. So while it may be too early to tell what market share it will occupy, at first glance it sounds more like the Honda Insight than the Priuss. Practical, functional, business-like and most likely forever to be in the shadow of its more popular competitor.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Adding Lanes on the Information Super-Highway

The Obama administration announced on Monday that it would be freeing up some 500 megahertz of radio spectrum for broadband over the next ten years. Much of that bandwidth will likely be auctioned off to the wireless industry. As of this writing the wireless industry occupies around 500 megahertz of bandwidth and it has yet to tap out on its' usage.

The announcement was part of a larger initiative that was unveiled by the administration in March that intends to bring high-speed Internet access to all Americans. Wi-Fi is considered to be particularly crucial to bringing broadband into rural areas where it is less cost-effective to build landline networks.

Rather like a freeway expansion plan that is drafted to accommodate projected traffic growth, this plan has been created in part as an effort to head off a serious spectrum shortage. And just as it is with real traffic, virtual traffic is getting particularly congested in dense, urban areas.

Between desktop computers, iPhones, iPads, and laptops, users are currently jamming up a large segment of the bandwidth that's available in urban centers. With people checking sports scores on their iPad, twittering on their phones and everyone's computer online practically around the clock, the information super-highway begins to resemble the 101/405 interchange on Friday afternoon (that is an L.A. reference, for you non-Angelenos out there).

The administration's plan to increase the bandwidth would in theory take high-speed Internet to some new areas and open up the traffic flow in areas it is already present in. Of course bandwidth doesn't come for free.

The administration is attempting to persuade television and radio broadcasters to hand over bandwidth they are not using which would then be auctioned off. The broadcasters would then be given a share of the proceeds from the auction.

Other shares of bandwidth are expected to come from within the government from agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Interestingly, the government's plan to expand high-speed Internet around the nation could have other surprising benefits. The government currently intends to use the proceeds from the auction to fund infrastructure projects such as a high-speed rail system.

Whether or not, or how well it will all pan out, of course, remains to be seen. Still, the notion of some expanded channels for information to flow on is hopeful. That that information may flow to places it as of yet doesn't is also hopeful. And the idea that the Internet could give something back as far as expanding real world infrastructure is positively brilliant.

Now if they could figure out a solution for that 405/101 interchange, we'd really be making progress.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Digital Red Light District

On Friday ICANN, the California-based nonprofit agency that controls domain names announced that it will consider adding .xxx to the list of available suffixes a company can choose when setting up an online domain.

The ideas of the .xxx has been bandied about for some time now. Pornographers were among the first ones over the top when it came to online content. Porn's proliferation on the web is widespread and deeply entrenched. Having porn sites demarcated by the .xxx suffix, as opposed to .com, would make it much easier to filter them out. This is obviously good news for parents who wish to prevent their children from viewing such content.

This decision comes as a victory for ICM Registry LLC, a company that has applied and been rejected three times since 2000 for the rights to register and manage the .xxx domain.

However not everyone is crazy about the idea. Christian groups have long opposed and previously blocked attempts to establish a XXX domain name, fearing it would offer too much legitimacy to porn. Even members of the $13 billion dollar a year porn industry itself aren't exactly crazy about being shepherded together into a kind of digital red light district.

Steve Hirsch, founder of the Vivid Entertainment Group called the domain name, "a slippery slope for the legal adult business. "

But someone must like the idea. At least according to ICM's chief executive, Stuart Lawley, who claims that there are already 112,000 reservations for .xxx domain names. Lawley goes as far as to call the .xxx domain name a "quality assurance label."

It should be noted that ICANN have not exactly approved the .xxx domain name as of yet. Friday's decision means they are have merely not rejected ICM's latest application and may be giving it serious consideration.

So whether or not the digital red light district will ever emerge however remains to be seen as even if the domain were created, there's nothing that would force companies to abandon their .com addresses for .xxx ones.

Still, Computers As Humans thinks it's a good idea. Pornography will always be a presence on the Internet. Any step to potentially rein it in together into a kind of seedy ghetto district on the web is probably a good one. The .xxx domain name, were it to really catch on, would make it easy to identify porn sites. This would in turn make it easier of course for interested users to find them. However it would also make it easier for the rest of us to avoid them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Dawn of the Tech Oligarch

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Well, a Russian is coming at least. In fact he's already here. Russian President Dmitry Medveded touched down in San Francisco last night where he was greeted by California first lady Maria Shriver and former Secretary of State, George Shultz.

In an effort to drag Russia's outmoded oil-based economy into the 21st Century Medveded is scheduled to meet with the likes of Apple's Steve Jobs, Cisco's John Chambers and Twitter chiefs Evan Williams and Biz Stone. While former Russian President and current Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin still pulls the strings, Medveded is apparently tech-savvy and has plans for a kind of post-Soviet Sillicon Valley to be located just outside of Moscow. A place where companies and innovators would be lured with tax breaks and "special rules."

The Russian Silicon Valley, were it to emerge, would have interesting implications. In the Russian Silicon Valley, I imagine that things would be more straightforward. Our Silicon Valley likes to put forth the idea that in technology, anything is possible. In the Russian Silicon Valley, anything is possible. . . for a price my friend.

Perhaps a Russian Silicon Valley means that the oil oligarch would give way to the tech oligarch. What would Russian tech oligarchs be like? Russians, after all, tend to take to new money like starving men to the buffet at Sizzler.

I for one can imagine them sitting in opulent, marble columned office spaces flanked by Ukrainian supermodels. On their grandiose white marbles desks, would sit gilded gold plated, diamond encrusted desktop monitors complete with velvet covered keyboard and mouse. Outside in the waiting room, would sit another Ukrainian supermodel, dressed immaculately, looking bored as she filed her nails.

"You hef appointment?" she would say. "You sit, you wait."

Imagine the trade shows and conventions the Russian tech industry would put on. Envision rows of booths manned by bored Ukrainian models hawking the hi-tech wares of Georgian super-geeks now decked out in Armani suits pushing Dolce & Gabbana glasses back up their noses.


Of course right now it's only talk. With a 2.2 out of 10 score, Russia currently falls just behind Nigeria in it's business confidence score. In fact Russian born Google founder, Sergey Brin, has called Russia, "Nigeria with snow." Surely for any kind of tech industry, real or imagined, to flourish there Russia must first focus on dealing with corruption and better protecting intellectual property rights. Certainly they must do this if they really hope to join the World Trade Organization.

While it is intriguing, for now, Computers As Humans would just like wish Mr. Medveded luck on his visit to Sillicon Valley. Who knows? Maybe, if he's really lucky, during his visit with Steve Jobs, he'll be given an inside track on how to score one of the new iPhones.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The iPhone 4 and Internet Overload

As reported in the previous installment of Computers As Humans, the good people at Twitter have been busy reconfiguring servers in order to handle increased traffic flow they have predicted as a result of the World Cup. In an effort to stave off appearances by the "fail whale," Twitter techs have reassigned bandwidth and pumped up server capacity in general.

Well apparently things aren't much better over at Apple or AT&T. With orders for the new iPhone 4 coming in faster than shots from German strikers, apparently both sites are feeling a bit like the Australian goalkeeper. Or might that be the English goalkeeper?

According to Reuters, Apple took more than 600,000 pre-orders for the new iPhone 4 in one day alone. Reportedly, Apple are selling so many iPhone 4s that both the Apple and the AT&T websites are buckling under the pressure.

The high volume of orders has caused online customers to be effectively turned away at the door as order and approval system malfunctions have cause both sites to bog down. The Apple site was down completely for a while on Tuesday while the AT&T site offered only an error message to those seeking to upgrade their existing phone for one of the latest slimline iPhones that retail for $199.

Another report stated that people who attempted the AT&T upgrade may have seen the personal information of other subscribers while trying to log into their accounts.

Now, not that I'm counting mind you, but I've seen that little "fail whale," about three times since the month long World Cup tournament began. So while they may not be doing the best job, at least those diligent Twitter techs have been making an effort. One has to wonder of Apple and AT&T, did they not see this coming?

After all it's not as if runaway orders for a new Apple product are completely out of the blue, like North Korea's goal against Brazil, or Switzerland beating Spain. In April of this year the Apple iPad was quite simply the fastest selling iTem on Earth, full stop. It outsold cars, World Cup tickets and even Justin Bieber.

How Apple could not have been prepared for this is perhaps one of the great mysteries of the summer. Like how the French coach still has his job or why Italy always manages to play so poorly but still win World Cups. Apple, like the British goalkeeper against the USA, should have done better.

One person who apparently won't be needing a new iPhone 4 is Kim Jong Hun, coach of the North Korean World Cup squad. Hun apparently told reporters he receives coaching instructions during the games from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Hun said the North Korean leader transmits his instructions telepathically simply by facing towards South Africa. It would appear that Kim Jong Il knows a thing or two about football tactics, because the North Koreans performed far better than anyone expected them to against Brazil.

Perhaps Kim Jong Il would have been successful if he had telepathically pre-ordered his iPhone 4 yesterday, by turning towards Sunnyvale? Who knows, maybe he did.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Traffic Jams on the Information Super Highway?

Popular social networking site, Twitter, warned of potential outages that may occur due to predicted heavy usage traffic during the month long World Cup Finals. Apparently Twitter, which has experienced a series of outages in the past week or so, will be doubling it's capacity and re-balancing traffic on it's network to mitigate any potential soccer-related outages.

Twitter users are already likely familiar with the "fail whale," which is kind of cartoon whale picture that appears on the site during failures related to heavy usage. Jean-Paul Cozzatti, an engineer at Twitter,and his team are working to attempt to minimize the number of appearances the creature makes during this summer's tournament. However as Cozzatti himself told Yahoo news Friday, "You may still see the whale when there are unprecedented spikes in traffic."

The number of different medias and manners in which people will follow the World Cup this summer have increased dramatically from even the last tournament which was held four years ago. Social networking sites Twitter, Gather and Facebook are getting in on the act. Yahoo has even signed on David Beckham as part of it's coverage of the event (Becks, was hoping to play for the English team this summer however he was ruled out because of an injury).

People will be watching games on their laptops, their desktops, their iPhones, their iPads and maybe even in some cases, on their televisions. With all those millions and millions of people watching matches and tweeting and texting their reactions and commentary back and forth while they do so, the month long tournament certainly looks set to occupy a significant portion of the available bandwidth in the entire telecommunications industry.

American sports network ESPN, is giving the tournament pole position on several of it's stations as well as on the Web. The fact that the USA managed a draw with England and may yet do well this time around has served to draw even more increased attention to the event. With all this World Cup related traffic set to go out over the airwaves one can only wonder if Twitter won't be the thing that experiences "outages," in the coming weeks.

The World Cup has long been one of the single most massive collective global events. Soccer's growing stature in America, along with the way digital technology and the Internet have globalized the world, could possibly make this summer's Cup the biggest sporting event in history.

If Twitter has experienced outages during the week leading up to the kickoff, one can only wonder what will happen during the final. Four years ago in Germany, the final between France and Italy was viewed by approximately 284 million people. This year, with Twitter, Facebook, iPads, ESPN online and all the rest of it, the viewership could easily increase by 100 million or more.

So be warned, the traffic forecast for the information super highway this summer looks to be busy, busy, busy as computers, televisions, telephones, iPods and iPads are all going to be buzzing like a stadium full of plastic vuvuzela horns.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Google Keeps it Simple

Google reverted their home page back to it's traditional spartan white back drop yesterday after users complained about colorful photos the search engine had adopted as a promotional gimmick. Google had apparently introduced the imagery to promote a new feature that allows users to personalize their search page with their own pictures. Or, perhaps to compete with Microsoft's Bing seach engine which likes to feature a different photo everyday.

Google users however weren't having it and complained in droves prompting the powers that be to bring back the plain white backdrop which apparently users have grown attached to.

There is something to be said after all, about keeping it simple. Sure a splash of color and a pretty picture can be nice. However when you see something every day sometimes you just want it to be easy on the eyes and uncomplicated.

This is why most of us drive cars that are grey, black, silver or blue and not art cars. You know what I'm talking about? Those crazy, wacky cars that are painted all kinds of different colors and have Lego pieces glued to them? Yes, those. Ha, ha, funny at first but then decidedly less so with each passing glance until the site of the thing becomes downright annoying.

Or remember the colorful iMacs that Apple launched back in the late '90s with Jeff Goldblum doing the voiceover in the commercials? If you're under the age of 25, you quite possibly don't. It's because no one really wants orange, red or blue computers either.

The fact is that most of stare at our computers and computer screens all day. When it gets right down to it, there's something comforting and settling about having a nice grey, silver or white laptop. Just as there is about Google having a white backdrop.

With web content flashing advertisements at us and even Yahoo selling space in our emails to Diet Coke, it's unsurprising that Google users cried shenanigans on pictures of sunsets, aritificial frogs or whatever else it is they pasted up there today.

Call me old school, but I like my car blue, my laptop grey and my search engine homepage pure and white as the driven snow.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The World Cup for Computers

The biggest sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup, is just a few days away. Coaches from around the world are putting their teams through the paces in last minute friendly matches that are meant to serve as final dress rehearsals for the impending big event.

Sadly, many of the finest players in the game of football (soccer if you must) are getting injured in these last minute warm-up games. As a consequence quite a few of them will now be missing the tournament entirely.

Ironically in trying to fine tune and maximize their players performance as a team, coaches everywhere have inadvertently wound up depriving themselves of the very players that are considered key to their teams chances of success. From a computer point of view it could perhaps be seen as having your CPU burn out while you are attempting to perform a system optimization.

Unfortunately for sports fans, and in particular the people of Portugal, England and the Ivory Coast, international football players take longer to heal than even burned out hard drives. For while a computer on the fritz might mean a trip to the repair shop or a visit from the Geek Squad, top scoring strikers and key central defenders are not so easy to mend.

But what can you do? After all, whether it's our 3G laptops or our national World Cup team, we all want optimal performance don't we? Dialing in your computer's performance is important. However it's not without it's risks either.

Sure computers aren't susceptible to torn hamstrings, broken arms, or bruised collarbones. But downloading system upgrades is one of the most common ways to encounter bugs and glitches. And while such bugs and glitches don't usually take 4 to 6 weeks to heal, they can and will take your computer out of the game for a while.

So is there a lesson to be learned in this? I'm not sure. If there is it's that maybe like our nation's World Cup team, we all want to make sure our computers are performing at their best possible level. And no matter how smart you train, to be the best, sometimes maybe you just have to take the risk.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Opening the Digital Window

Bangladesh lifted it's ban on Facebook this weekend. The ban had been ordered after Facebook had featured links to an online competition to draw the prophet Mohammad. According to Islamic law, all representations of the Prophet are blasphemous.

However Bangladeshi lawmakers rescinded the ban over the weekend after Facebook removed the objectionable images.

In the meantime a California woman whose children had been missing for fifteen years used the social networking site to track them down in Florida. The children, aged two and three at the time, had been abducted by their father back in 1995.

The mother was able to locate the kids by searching her daughters name on Facebook and then contacting her through her profile.

These incidents perhaps demonstrate the two sides of the coin when it comes to Facebook and it's much criticized privacy practices. If computers are the houses we dwell in digitally, then social networking sites like Facebook can be considered the windows. Our privacy settings then, are sort of like the blinds or the curtains. Just how far we choose to leave them open is largely up to us.

Computers and the Internet have globalized the world as never before. The openness and free-flowing nature of the Web has created an environment where a woman who might never have seen or heard of her children twenty years ago, can now find out just about everything about them.

But let us not forget that in 2005 a Danish cartoonist's caricature of the prophet Mohammad ignited international outrage and cries for Jihad. The nature of the Internet, and user-generated content sites like Facebook, mean such events are likely to occur again and again.

With Facebook under fire in recent weeks and the public backlash against it growing, the incident with the missing children being found in Florida perhaps reminds us what's so great about computers, the Web and social networking in the first place.

Computers have shrunk the world. Obviously there are many advantages to this. However when one travels as quickly down the information superhighway as we all have in the last fifteen years, there are bound to be some speed bumps.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Talking to Computers

Welcome to another installment of Computers As Humans, the tech blog that's plugged in and switched on.

At the Google I/O conference in San Francisco last week, web giants Google announced plans to introduce voice technology into their browser application, Google Chrome. Apparently the company is busy developing voice recognition and text-to-speech capabilities to be used on both mobile and desktop browsers alike.

As Ian Fette, product manager for Google Chrome put it, "There's voice recognition and there's text-to-speech so we figured, why not build that into our browsers." Fette, and the other good people at Google, are optimistic that by introducing such technology they can bring about a new industry standard.

The idea of being able to verbally tell your web browser where to go certainly sounds intriguing. Granted, many of us already do tell our web browsers just where they can go, particularly on days when they are running sluggishly. But apparently with Google's proposed new technology, your browser will actually be listening to you this time.

Fette for one, seems convinced that there will be a public demand for this sort of technology. "People want to speak their input for certain types of queries," he said.

Just what type of queries those are remains to be seen of course. Still, considering how much time we already spend on our computers, it's perhaps surprising we don't talk to them already. But if Fette is proven right, and voice input commands become standard on all browsers, we will certainly be increasing the amount of random chatter we hear on a day-to-day basis.

People are already walking down the street talking into headsets and earpieces. Imagine how it will be if everyone sitting at the cafes' working starts telling their computers what site they want to go to? Will computers start talking back? If so, what kind of voices will they have?

Maybe there will be apps that will allow you to choose your computer's voice. Kind of like the GPS app you can buy that makes Snoop Dogg the voice of your GPS? Whose would you choose if you could give your computer anyone's voice? I think if I could give my computer a voice, I'd give it Michael Caine's. Because if the future means we're all going to be sitting at our desks having conversations with inanimate objects, I at least want mine to sound charming.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Human Infected with Computer Virus

Welcome to another edition Computers As Humans, "the tech blog that's plugged in and switched on."

The BBC has reported today that a man has implanted a chip infected with a malicious computer virus into his own hand. The man is Doctor Mark Gasson of the University of Reading and the chip he implanted is a standard RFID tag of the same sort often implanted in pets to track their whereabouts.

Gasson proclaimed himself to be the first man in the world to be infected with a computer virus. And indeed the scientist was able to demonstrate that it was possible to spread the computer virus through the chip in his hand.

The chip Gasson had implanted is a more sophisticated RIFD tag which allows him to pass through security doors and activate his cellphone. In the trials, Dr. Gasson was able to pass the virus on to external control systems.

Why exactly he had to implant the chip in his hand to demonstrate that it could remotely transmit malicious code is uncertain. But hey, he did wind up being covered by the BBC,, and now Computers As Humans, so good-on-ya Doctor!

Larry Seltzer at however slammed the implantation as a "cheap trick," and was quick to note that it would be just as easy to spread the same malicious software through a similar chip hidden in a pair of eyeglasses or a piece of jewelry.

He's right of course, but the idea of spreading a computer virus with the wave of one's hand is perhaps a little more intriquing when you author a blog called "Computers As Humans."

The implications of such research in regard to medically implanted technology would seem to have the most potential to be worrisome. Gasson for one, seems to think the possibility of humans being infected by computer viruses is a very real one.

As Gasson himself stated, "Many people with medical implants also consider them to be integrated into their concept of their body, and so in this context it is appropriate to talk in terms of people themselves being infected by computer viruses."

It is also not unforeseeable to consider that people may soon electively choose to have computer chips implanted in themselves. As Gasson said, "If we can find a way of enhancing someone's memory or IQ then there's a real possibility that people will choose to have this kind of invasive procedure."

While mister Seltzer at would undoubtedly write this off as sensationalism, others are not so sure.

Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis-Transfer Institute of Information and Ethics in Germany called the research, "interesting," adding that, "If someone can get online access to your implant it could be serious."

Perhaps Doctor Gasson has provided us with another example of the kind of vulnerabilities we may be opening ourselves up to as we interface more and more aspects of our lives with the digital world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dangerous Curves on the Information Superhighway

Reports of a new adware attack put Facebook in the news for all the wrong reasons again today. The social networking site is of course still under scrutiny for making people's personal information too widely available on the web.

Apparently a new attack has surfaced in the form of a fake video entitled, "distracting beach babes." The supposed video is advertised by a thumbnail depicting scantily clad women frolicking in bikinis. Clicking on the thumbnail will direct your browser to a rogue Facebook app which will tell you that you need to download a new player in order to view the video.

Of course there is no video and the player is in fact a malicious adware application that download and displays multiple pop-up ads on your computer while it attempts to infect the rest of your network.

It is perhaps worth noting that the last such attack that was launched on Facebook was in the form of a fake sex video entitled, "sexiest video ever." With users willfully putting all their private information up on the site and apparently easily distracted by anything remotely resembling porn, perhaps Facebook isn't entirely to blaim.

Certainly while on the road we might from time time take a moment to gawk at roadside billboards featuring American Apparel models. Well apparently on the web we are just as, if not more easy to distract

British web-security firm Sophos, has nonetheless urged Facebook to implement an early warning system on the network that would keep users abreast of such threats as they arose.

Having a warning system on our Internet interface is not a bad idea. We already do to a certain extent such as when our browsers warn us about entering financial information into websites with questionable certification.

Our computers are, after all, the vehicles we use to navigate the inroads of the Internet. We need to keep them in good running order. Just as signs on the highway might inform us of dangerous curves ahead (which could be the next fake sex video attack by the way), Web based warnings could help us steer clear of the more bumpy, treacherous stretches of the information superhighway.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Facebook's Privacy Problems and the Gulf Oil Spill

The tech world was front page news as Facebook, came under attack this morning, seeming perhaps to draw some fire away from BP. The latter of course are the well-known perpetrators of what threatens to be the worst environmental disaster of the 21st century thus far.

Sitting here, sucking up power on the laptops and desktops we are reading this on, this disaster perhaps serves to illuminate the dangers of living globally through technology as we do. There was a time when to cross the ocean you sailed on a ship, harnessing natures power temporarily and leaving a relatively clean wake behind you.

Nowadays we move about in gas guzzling, climate damning cars and planes while circumnavigating the globe daily through digital means.

Our increasingly vigorous attempts to put the squeeze on the world for energy as if it were an orange to be juiced has lead us to problems before and certainly will do so again. Currently, cries of "drill, baby drill," are being drowned out by, "Spill, baby spill." Clearly to continue in the global, technology driven lifestyle we enjoy, innovations and adjustments will ultimately be needed.


In the midst of all this the social networking site du jour, Facebook has also come under fire.

Today Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg went into full-on damage control mode in an open letter to the Washington Post. Zuckerberg admitted that the site has "missed the mark," in terms of it's complicated privacy settings and made the pledge to do better.

Zuckerberg, went on to admit that the site, which has exploded in popularity over the last three years has been "growing quickly," adding that "sometimes we move to fast."

Zuckerberg assured users that in the coming weeks privacy settings would be introduced that would be easier to use than the system currently in place. Many users have complained that the current system is confusing.

Just as BP's seeming ineptitude has added fuel to the oil spill fire, Zuckerberg is experiencing some problems of his own that are similarly jacking up the Facebook fallout factor.

Recently a years-old IM thread surfaced in which Zuckerberg, then a 19-year-old student bragged that through nascent version of Facebook he had been able to assemble the personal information from thousands of users.

Computers As Humans chooses to give Mr. Zuckerberg rather a wide berth for these comments. There are very few of who could honestly stand up and account for everything we said or did as teenagers.

Unfortunately nowadays so much of what we do is ultimately processed through digital channels. Texts, emails, IMs, chatrooms, Twitter and social networking sites all add up to a massive virtual paper trail. We are effectively recording and potentially archiving even the most mundane or damning aspects of our lives.

Living online to the state we do now, is in some ways like drilling for oil in the deep, deep sea. In both instances we are exploring uncharted, and sometimes dangerous territory.