Archive for December, 2013:

Looming disasters, and other tech predictions, for 2014 and beyond

More than most years, 2013 might be remembered for some ominous predictions of doom for the earth and its inhabitants.

The threat of solar storms received much attention from prognosticators, as did abrupt climate change — the earth’s atmosphere passed the 400 parts per million in carbon dioxide mark in 2013.

Also, life extension became part of the tech discussion in 2013 and promises to become more of one in the years ahead.

High-speed machine-to-machine trading, long a topic, is gaining ever more attention as transactions near the speed of light.

Some of the biggest (and smallest) predictions for next year and beyond follow.

The end of the power grid

The National Intelligence Council, in its Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds report, released this year, said geomagnetic storms “pose substantial threat” to electronics and the power grid.

This was a big year for warnings about solar storms. The last “solar super-storm,” occurred in 1859, and the next one has a good chance of arriving within your lifetime.

In 1989, a solar storm knocked out the Quebec power grid, impacting 6 million customers.

Historical records suggest a return period of 50 years for Quebec-level storms and 150 years for very extreme storms, such as the 1859 so-called Carrington Event, according to a report by insurer Lloyd’s earlier this year.

Scientists at the Idaho National Laboratory recently demonstrated in tests that “geomagnetic disturbances have the power to disrupt and possibly destroy electrical transformers, the backbone of our nation’s utility grid.”

Extreme solar events are memorable, even without electronics. In 1859 Mother Nature “lit up its own chandelier in order, as it might be, to reveal the wickedness going on at the dead hour of night,” The Memphis Daily wrote after brilliant lights in the nighttime sky, flashes, and red glows startled the city.

It prompted the fire department to muster on the mistaken belief that there was a large fire.

Things that may go boom next year

“Bitcoin will explode. KABOOM!” predicts Rob Banagale, CEO and co-founder, Gilph, Inc., a messaging security provider, via the National Venture Capital Association.

“OpenStack will implode,” said Jason Bloomberg, author Agile Architecture Revolution, in his 2014 predictions at ZapThink. “It will succumb to a kind of innovation paralysis,” he said.

In 2013, scientists confirmed the existence of the largest volcano on the planet, and among the largest in the solar system. Tamu Massif is in Northwest Pacific Ocean and is as large as the state of New Mexico. It is, fortunately, inactive.

Google thinks about life extension, as did Edison
In 2013, Google created a new company, Calico, to focus on health and well-being. “OK … so you’re probably thinking wow,” wrote Google, co-founder Larry Page, one of Google’s co-founders, about the company. Time’s cover story looked at the effort this way: Can Google Solve Death?

Thomas Edison figured out how to live a long life well before Google. In a 1914 interview with The Day Book, Edison outlined a disciplined lifestyle.

Edison, then 67, said he slept about five and half hours a night, though for years he had only slept four. Mrs. Edison, he explained, wouldn’t permit him to work all night any more. His daily diet didn’t exceed a pound and a half of food. He smoked cigars and chewed tobacco, but avoided cigarettes. He read 118 scientific and trade periodicals and five daily newspapers.

“I read four lines at once,” said Edison. “They should teach that kind of reading in the public schools.”

Edison lived until the age of 84. The life expectancy for a man in 1914 was 52.

Too fast and too big for humans?
There have been ongoing warnings that machine-to-machine trading could one day disrupt financial markets.

A recent paper published in Nature, “Abrupt rise of new machine ecology beyond human response time,” argued that humans are losing the ability to intervene in machine actions in real time. New systems, it said, are reducing “communication and computational operating times down to several orders of magnitude below human response times – toward the physical limits of the speed of light.”

The paper also pointed out that a new dedicated transatlantic cable is being built “just to shave 5 milliseconds off transatlantic communications times between U.S. and U.K traders.”

“Speed may exacerbate problems, but there is no definitive evidence that it is the problem,” said Michael Piwowar, a U.S. Securities and Exchange commissioner this month in a speech in London. “Moreover, we should not reject the possibility that speed may actually help mitigate problems once they begin.”

Abrupt climate change warnings
In May of 2013 “the average daily level of carbon dioxide in the air had reached a concentration above 400 parts per million–a level that hasn’t been seen since around 3 to 5 million years ago, well before humans roamed the Earth,” reported NASA.

Scientist say that the climate record shows evidence of abrupt climate change, measured in a period of years to decades. In a National Academies report this year, “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises,” scientists recommend creation of a global early warning system to alert mankind to changes.

The loss of sea ice, species, changes in climate and other climate change outcomes “present substantial risks to society and nature,” this report argued.

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Amazon offers $20 gift cards, shipping refunds for late deliveries

The company blames delivery companies for the delays is offering $20 gift cards and refunds on shipping charges to customers who did not get their Christmas orders on time.

The online retailer is blaming the delivery companies for the widespread delays.

“Amazon fulfillment centers processed and tendered customer orders to delivery carriers on time for holiday delivery,” Mary Osako, a company spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement Thursday. “We are reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.”

The company has refunded any shipping charges associated with impacted shipments in addition to offering the gift card. It did not disclose how many customers had been affected by the delays.

The delays highlight that even as online retail sales are picking up, the physical infrastructure for deliveries may often fall short of the requirements. United Parcel Service of America said on its website on Thursday that it “experienced heavy holiday volume and is making every effort to get packages to their destination as quickly as possible.” UPS has resumed normally scheduled service on Thursday, it added.

“UPS stole XMAS this year…waiting for a bunch of packages,” wrote an user on Facebook. Competitor FedEx was also criticized online.

“Our 300,000 team members delivered outstanding service during this holiday season, and we experienced no major service disruptions in the week before Christmas despite heavy volume,” FedEx said in a statement Thursday. “Every single package is important to us, and we will continue to work directly with customers to address any isolated incidents.”

U.S. shoppers using desktops spent about $42.8 billion between Nov. 1 and Dec. 22, up from $38.9 billion in 2012, according to digital analytics firm comScore. The figures do not include purchases through mobile devices.

The complaints about late deliveries came as reported that the entire 2013 holiday season was the best ever for the retailer, with more than 36.8 million items ordered worldwide on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving in the U.S., which was a record-breaking 426 items per second.

Some other retailers also reported delays.

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Microsoft to face computer makers’ rebellion at CES

Microsoft to face computer makers’ rebellion at CES
Windows 8.1 PCs that also run Android should ‘scare the heck’ out of Microsoft, says analyst

Microsoft will face a rebellion of long-time partners at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) when OEMs introduce Windows personal computers also able to run Android mobile apps.

According to two analysts, multiple OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will roll out what one called “PC Plus” at CES, the massive Las Vegas trade show slated for early January.

Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies mentioned PC Plus in passing in a Dec. 16 piece he authored for Time. “A PC Plus machine will run Windows 8.1 but will also run Android apps as well,” Bajarin wrote, adding that the initiative would be backed by chip maker Intel. “They are doing this through software emulation. I’m not sure what kind of performance you can expect, but this is their way to try and bring more touch-based apps to the Windows ecosystem.”

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, confirmed the project. “This is going to make buzz at CES,” said Moorhead in an interview. “OEMs will be trumpeting this … it’s going to be a very hot topic [at the trade show].”
Concept isn’t new

The concept of Android apps running on Windows isn’t new.
BlueStacks, which both Bajarin and Moorhead mentioned, launched its App Player software for Windows in March 2012, added a Mac version in June of that year, and rolled out a Surface Pro-specific version in March 2013. The App Player, offered both as a free download from BlueStacks’ website and through agreements with several OEMs bundled with some Windows-powered PCs and tablets, relies on virtualization — dubbed “LayerCake” by BlueStacks — to run Android apps on other OSes.

In July 2013, Taiwan OEM Asus introduced the Transformer Book Trio, a convertible device that, as a laptop, could execute both Android apps and Windows 8 programs, including the latter’s “Modern,” nee “Metro” apps. More recently, reports circulated that Samsung is developing a dual-boot tablet that could launch into either Android or Windows RT 8.1, Microsoft’s touch-centric operating system.

The PC Plus project, however, is aimed at personal computers, most likely traditional “clamshell” notebooks, not tablets. And it doesn’t rely on BlueStacks’ technology, even though Intel invested in the Palo Alto, Calif. company in March. “This is very different from BlueStacks,” Moorhead said.

While Bajarin vouched for some kind of emulation that would make Android apps possible on Windows 8.1, Moorhead posited several technologies OEMs could deploy.

“There are three [possible] implementations, including dual-boot, which would be a fast-switch mode where you press a button and within seconds you’re in Android,” Moorhead said. Others would include software emulation of Android within Windows, and some type of virtualization-based solution that would run an instance of Android in a virtual machine, just as OS X users can run Windows on their Macs through VMware’s Fusion or Parallels’ Desktop for Mac.

Ideally, the Android apps would run in full-screen mode after the user clicked on its tile within Windows 8.1.

While some have mocked the idea — previously, Bajarin called Asus’ Trio “gimmicky” — Moorhead said that the maneuver is legitimate. “Tactically, this is a way for OEMs to differentiate their products, and build out the amount of apps on their devices,” he said. Focus on mobile apps

The latter is among OEMs’ biggest concerns about its software partner. Microsoft has been criticized by customers, analysts and even computer makers for the small size, relative to Apple and Google, of its Metro app store. Selling touch-enabled laptops has not been easy for OEMs because consumers have balked at paying the higher prices when they see little in return from Windows and its app arena.

By adding Android apps to the available inventory, the computer makers can promote their wares as able to handle not just legacy Windows software but also Google’s OS and its enormous ecosystem.

If that smacks of some desperation, well, OEMs are desperate. They’ve watched their PC business shrink over the last 24 months as consumers worldwide have postponed upgrades or forgone new purchases, instead spending their technology dollars on smartphones, tablets and hybrid “phablets” — large-screen phones that double as a diminutive tablet for basic tasks like watching video.

Also, many OEMs who depended for decades on Microsoft and each iteration of Windows to bump up sales have been critical of the Redmond, Wash. company’s Windows 8 implementation and strategy, and with the firm’s decision to enter the hardware business and directly compete with them.

“OEMs are throwing some real deep passes as they see double-digit declines in the PC market,” Moorhead observed. “This is one of the long balls that they’re throwing, hoping something sticks.”

For Moorhead, PC Plus is also another sign that OEMs are, in the face of Windows 8’s sluggish start and shaky reputation, willing to desert Microsoft and enlist alternate OSes, even if those moves are experimental in scale.

“Strategically, [PC Plus] could get millions of consumers more comfortable with Android on PCs,” said Moorhead. “The gamble is coincident with OEMs’ interest in alternative operating systems. Just imagine for a second what happens when Android gets an improved large-screen experience.”

Some computer makers, including Windows stalwarts like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, have already introduced laptops powered by Google’s browser-based Chrome OS as a way to circumvent Windows on screens larger than tablet-sized displays.
Limited options

Android and, to a much lesser extent, Chrome OS, are the only alternate games in town for OEMs. Linux has failed to spark interest except among a tiny fraction of technology’s cognoscenti. Apple’s iOS and OS X are out of bounds, as Apple restricts them to its own hardware.

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft reacts to the double dipping of these OEMs. While a PC with Windows 8.1 still means Microsoft has been paid for the operating system’s license, the company will not be happy with PC Plus and its implications.

“This should scare the heck out of Microsoft,” said Moorhead. “They should be very, very afraid because if goes widespread, it demotivates developers to create native Windows apps.”

As evidenced by the size of the Windows Store’s app stock and the rushed quality of some apps, including many from top brands, Microsoft already has a hard time convincing developers to invest in a platform that has yet to gain a significant portion of the OS market. In addition, it’s a platform in which many users seem comfortable sticking with the traditional desktop half and its familiar mouse-and-keyboard applications.

“Google does not actually sanction this and Microsoft has not taken a position on this dual-OS integration idea yet,” said Bajarin. “It will be interesting to see if this takes off and, if so, how Google and Microsoft will feel about it once it hits the market.”

If Microsoft isn’t able to convince OEMs to drop the PC Plus idea, Moorhead said, it has carrots and sticks for more serious arm-twisting.
How Microsoft could respond

“I think what Microsoft will do is pull co-marketing funds from any SKU that offers Android,” said Moorhead, referring to “stock-keeping units,” or each individual PC model that hews to PC Plus. That would effectively raise the OEMs’ cost of doing business for those PCs that support Android apps.

And if, as Bajarin said, Intel is behind PC Plus, then Microsoft faces another defection from the partnership that brought in billions for each company over the last two decades. Intel already makes processors able to run Android, and if its support for PC Plus relies on customized silicon it offers OEMs, the backing will further fragment the Wintel oligarchy.

Microsoft declined to comment on PC Plus and OEM plans.

Neither Bajarin or Moorhead had seen PC Plus in action, and Moorhead refused to offer an opinion on its chances until he did.

“I have to see the experience before I can weigh in,” said Moorhead. “It could be completely transparent [the switch from Windows to Android and back], or it could really screw up the experience. There are a lot of ways you can confuse customers, and this has the potential to confuse people who use it.”

The jarring discontinuity of Windows 8.1 — which boasts not only a traditional desktop but also the tile-based, touch-enabled Metro user interface (UI) — could be trivial compared to a disastrous combination of Android and Windows UIs.

PC Plus also has the potential to alienate Google, Moorhead noted. “I don’t think Google will like this either,” he said. “I think they’d be okay with dual booting and toggling between OSes, but I don’t think they would like Android apps being used full-screen.”

Google could retaliate by barring such hardware from obtaining apps from the Google Play e-market, speculated Moorhead, because it would see a full-screen implementation as threatening its revenue if the PCs aren’t tied — as are brand-name Android smartphones and tablets — to the services, like search and mapping, that bind customers to its ecosystem of behavioral and location tracking.

CES will run Jan. 7-10, and Moorhead is looking forward to the trade show because of PC Plus and its impact on Microsoft-OEM relationships.

“This is a gift that will keep on giving,” said Moorhead, predicting not only a splash of coverage next month, but after those initial shots of rebellion, months more ripples from PC Plus’ impact.

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Microsoft joins group seeking to replace passwords

The FIDO Alliance envisions a system where users can interact with an online service without surrendering personal details

Microsoft has joined the FIDO Alliance, an industry group attempting to craft industry standards that reduce reliance on passwords, long regarded as a weak point in Web security.

Launched in July 2012, FIDO, which stands for Fast IDentity Online, is hoping its specifications for security devices and browser plugins will be widely adopted across the technology industry.

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Such efforts depend on voluntary adoption by many companies and organizations. So far, those participating in FIDO include heavyweights Google, MasterCard, Lenovo, Infineon, LG Electronics and a variety of smaller companies.

Authentication hardware and software widely varies, with many proprietary clients and protocols. FIDO hopes that standardizing authentication technologies will lead to better interoperability and innovations in biometrics, PINs (personal identification numbers) and secondary authentication technologies, according to its website.

Usernames and passwords underpin most online services but are easy to intercept. Computer security experts have long warned of password weaknesses, such as easy-to-guess ones and people who reuse them across multiple services.

Password replacement technology has a high bar: it needs to be both effective and simple for users.

FIDO envisions a software client that’s installed on computers that employ public key cryptography to authenticate users. All major Web browsers will be supported. The initial focus will be on securing access through Web browsers to Web applications. The group also plans authentication options for Android phones soon and eventually for Windows tablets and Apple products.

When FIDO authentication is used, a user will not need to submit their biometric or personal information to an online service.

The FIDO Alliance will eventually submit its protocol to groups dedicated to Web standards, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force or the World Wide Web Consortium.


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10 top tests of 2013

Network World tested hundreds of products in 2013, but here are our top 10 tests of the year. In order to make the list, the product review had to be a comparative test of multiple products in a single category and it had to break new ground or deliver fresh insight into an important product area.

Here’s the list:

We invited every major network optimization vendor, and ended up with seven contenders: Blue Coat, Cisco, Citrix, Exinda, Ipanema, Riverbed and Silver Peak.

Our Clear Choice Test winner is Riverbed, which excels at the core WAN optimization functions of compression and de-duplication. If you’re looking for innovation, you’ll be as impressed, as we were, with Ipanema Technologies ip|engines and Exinda Networks x800-series.

For great performance, we were again impressed with Silver Peak. And if you’re running all Cisco at the network edge, Cisco’s WAAS is a no-brainer with big benefits at moderate cost.
wan optimization

We looked at six products: AirWatch, Apperian EASE, BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 (BES10), Divide, Fixmo, and Good Technology’s Good for Enterprise. Each has a somewhat different perspective and different strengths in terms of what it can control best.

AirWatch had the widest phone/tablet/desktop support. But it also requires a collection of different downloaded apps that could be confusing to use. If you’re going the secure container route, Fixmo is a strong contender.

BlackBerry should be on your short list if your primary goal is protecting your messaging infrastructure. Good Technology is a mature product that features solid email security, fast device enrollment, extensive security policies and wide device support.

Divide had the most appealing management console and overall simplest setup routine. It features the best overall approach to MDM and is the easiest to operate, but has the most limited device OS version support. Apperian does a great job with setting up a protected app portal, but falls down on some basic MDM issues.

If your network has between 1,000 and 10,000 devices and computers, you have a midsized network. Your servers, connections and other resources suffer the same problems as larger networks, but your budget for keeping the network healthy is less than what large enterprises enjoy.

We tested six products that provide a management suite for mid-range networks: Paessler PRTG v12.4, Heroix Longitude v8.1, HP Intelligent Management Center (IMC) Standard and Enterprise v5.2, Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold (WUG) v16, SolarWinds Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) v10.4 and Server & Application Monitor (SAM) v5.2 and Argent Software Advanced Technology (AT) v3.1, including Argent Commander 2.0 and Argent Reports 2.0.
Argent Advanced Technology earns itself the Network World Clear Choice award, edging Heroix Longitude, which came in second. Advanced Technology gave us sophisticated thresholds, a responsive user interface, accurate device discovery, time-saving root cause analysis, helpful corrective actions and meaningful reports.

We compared hosted virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) products from Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware and came to many conclusions, but the most important one is this: Setting up hosted desktop sessions in a BYOD world is a complex undertaking.

Our Clear Choice Test winner is Citrix’s VDI-in-a-Box for its ease of integration, flexibility of both hosted operating systems and variety of clients, and its end-user experience.

VMware’s Horizon View 5.2 is also very capable and can scale dramatically, but it’s more limited in both hosts (Windows) and clients served. Windows 2012 Server is good, yet requires a buy-in to Microsoft’s Windows System Center Configuration Manager, and has less client flexibility.

cloud computing

A personal cloud service lets you share photos, music and documents among all your devices easily and quickly.The good news is that these cloud services are normally free for a limited amount of data. Most vendors also offer premium or enterprise versions, which allow you to store more data and to share data, which is useful in a workgroup scenario, for example.

We looked at nine personal cloud services: Apple’s iCloud, Bitcasa, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, MediaFire, SpiderOak and Ubuntu One. While iCloud, SkyDrive and Google Drive are optimized for their respective platforms, all of the cloud services work across multiple operating systems and different browser types.

There was no single cloud service that we considered a winner. All worked as advertised, all had their strengths, as well as peculiarities or annoyances.

The five products we tested — SUSE Enterprise Server 11 Service Pack 2, Mandriva Business Server 1.0, ClearOS 6 Professional, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4 and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS — are all enterprise server versions offering commercial support options, either at the OS level or in the form of commercial management tools and support plans.

Our Clear Choice Test winner is Ubuntu, which delivered intuitive, uncluttered management tools, excellent hypervisor support, and transparency (commercial and open source versions are one and the same).

The remaining four contenders fell into two categories with Red Hat and SUSE representing enterprise-level offerings and Mandriva and ClearOS geared more towards small and midsize businesses. In the SMB segment ClearOS edged out Mandriva.

Relying on a simple user ID and password combination is fraught with peril. One alternative is to use one of the single sign-on solutions we reviewed last year, but there are less expensive options that could also be easier to install.

That’s where two-factor authentication services come into play. Years ago, vendors came out with hardware-based two-factor authentication: combining a password with a token that generates a one-time code. But toting around tokens means that they can get taken, and in a large enterprise, hard tokens are a pain to manage, provision and track.

Enter the soft token, which could mean using a smartphone app, SMS text message, or telephony to provide the extra authentication step. We reviewed eight services that support up to five kinds of soft tokens: Celestix’s HOTPin, Microsoft’s PhoneFactor, RSA’s Authentication Manager, SafeNet Authentication Service, SecureAuth’s IdP, Symantec Validation and ID Protection Service (VIP), TextPower’s TextKey, and Vasco’s Identikey Authentication Server.

We tested eight ultrabooks, all with touchscreens and all running Windows 8 Professional. They are: the astonishingly thin Acer Aspire S7 and Asus Zenbook UX31A, the flip-screen Dell XPS 12, HP’s Envy 400t-12, Lenovo’s business oriented ThinkPad Carbon X1 and the flexible Yoga 13, the Samsung ATIV Tab 7 that transforms into a tablet, and the Sony Vaio T-15.

Our favorite, because it was the easiest to type on and the easiest to use overall was the Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1. This ultrabook has three ways to control the pointer, had the best keyboard by far, yet it was still thin and light.

If you need your ultrabook to convert to a tablet, then you might like the Samsung ATIV Tab 7, or the Yoga or Dell, which fold or flip to become tablets. Acer and Asus win points for being sexy, thin and stylish, so if you want to impress in the conference room, these might be for you.

Earlier this year we tested Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances. Now we’re reviewing software-based NAS that you can load onto your own equipment — whether it’s a PC, server, virtual machine, or in the cloud. We looked at FreeNAS, Openfiler, Open-E DSS, NexentaStor, and SoftNAS. All offer some sort of free solution or service, with some being fully open sourced.

Going with a software solution enables you to select and customize the hardware it runs on to best fit your particular application and environment. For a small and simple network you could load the software on a spare consumer-level PC, or for bigger networks purchase a server or run on a virtual machine.

On the other hand, going with an appliance may be better if you aren’t comfortable selecting the hardware, installing the software, and then maintaining both. Appliances are generally more plug-and-play, whereas with software solutions you have to spend some time building your own appliance.

We reviewed four popular open source products – Nagios Core 3.5, NetXMS 1.2.7, OpenNMS 1.10.9 and Zenoss Core 4.2. All four products are mature, have extensive monitoring capabilities similar to their enterprise-grade counterparts, and are currently updated with good community support.

Zenoss is our top pick due primarily to its intuitive and professional-grade admin interface. Also we were able to configure our environment and run reports easily, and when help was needed, we found the user guide to be an excellent resource, a rare find in the open source world.

Nagios is a good choice if a smaller footprint is desired and the infrastructure is limited in number of devices. Although NetXMS has a somewhat cluttered user interface, it boasts a rich toolset that provides a lot of granularity for infrastructure management and gets a plus for attention to mobile. OpenNMS is another powerful net management tool capable of running on most platforms and with the ability to manage a lot of data.

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Why don’t you answer your “abuse” email?

Spam is a giant pain in the posterior. No one will argue with you on that point. With the possible exception of the spammers themselves.

Spam is a giant pain in the posterior. No one will argue with you on that point. With the possible exception of the spammers themselves.

For years I would have users forward me all sorts of spam emails about deals on “v1@grA” and so forth wondering if they were legitimate. While I laughed at times I was happy that the user base knew to ask the questions in the first place.

Spam and unsolicited emails in general are tiresome and costly. Think about how much it costs an organization to stop this type of traffic in the first place let alone the cost to dealing with one that makes it through to someone in the C-suite. Heaven help the Information Security team if the CEO would get an email on how to enhance their love life.

Ultimately one of the steps that an organization takes it to set up an “abuse @ organization . foo” when configuring their email system. The issue that I have with this is that these email accounts seem to have devolved into a bit bucket for all of the detritus on the internet. On more than a few occasions I have sent emails to these addresses only to receive zero reply. In at least two cases the emails bounced as the account was full.

Perfect example is that for the last few days I have been working to resolve an incident. Wearing my OpenCERT Canada hat I have been trying to contact a company where a server is hosting a phishing site. I called their main number and was shunted off to the help desk. “I’m sorry sir, you have to send an email to abuse @ nevergoingtoreply . foo”.

Fine I thought. I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.

I sent my email into the the black hole never to be heard from again. Another call to the company was no less of a time waster than the email.

My next salvo I emailed EVERY email address I could find for that company. Again, nothing.

It should not work this way. Let me draw your attention to RFC 2142:

The purpose of this memo is to aggregate and specify the basic set of
mailbox names which organizations need to support. Most
organizations do not need to support the full set of mailbox names
defined here, since not every organization will implement the all of
the associated services. However, if a given service is offerred,
then the associated mailbox name(es) must be supported, resulting in
delivery to a recipient appropriate for the referenced service or

OK, so for the sake of this discussion I’ll draw your attention to section 4 of the RFC.

Operations addresses are intended to provide recourse for customers,
providers and others who are experiencing difficulties with the
organization’s Internet service.

———– —————- —————————
ABUSE Customer Relations Inappropriate public behaviour
NOC Network Operations Network infrastructure
SECURITY Network Security Security bulletins or queries

If you run any sort of site that necessitates such an address please please please monitor it for incoming email.

I know that this is by no means applicable to every site out there. I have found it to be true for more than one site which is one too many for my liking.

Pay attention to your abuse email account lest you suffer the wrath of a ticked off incident responder.

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Microsoft helps develop bra technology to battle overeating

Sensors detect emotional states that trigger eating while a mobile app tries to calm user

Sensors tucked inside a bra can detect emotional states that lead to overeating in time to head off binges, according to studies assisted by a team from Microsoft Research.

In combination with a smartphone app that receives the emotional data in real time, the technology could help overeaters stop themselves before they give in to the impulse, according to “Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating”, a paper written by a team from Microsoft, the University of Rochester in New York and the University of Southampton in the U.K.

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The researchers still have to come up with a way for the electrocardiogram and skin-conductivity data gathered by the bra sensors to be sent real-time to the mobile app, but once that hurdle is cleared the intervention system looks promising, the researchers say.

The bra was the garment of choice because it is worn near the heart to accommodate the EKG and if placed on the side the skin-conductivity sensor sits over an area moist enough to give good readings, the paper says.

In their experiments, the researchers tested the data-gathering potential of the sensor-equipped bra, but the data was simply logged. The technology was able to detect with greater than 70% accuracy the two key factors used as a standard measure of emotion in psychological testing.

To test the mobile application, called EmoTree, subjects self-reported their emotions regularly and recorded their emotional state they remember experiencing just before they ate anything. Users reported their current mood and how engaged they were with the task they were performing. If their self-reported current mood indicated they were about to eat based on emotion, the app told them to go to an intervention screen that instructed them to take 10 slow breaths.

Test subjects reported that they would prefer a personalized intervention screen that offered other options than slow breathing, and the researchers say they will work on it.

Meanwhile the sensor bra’s usefulness may be short-lived because preliminary work with wrist sensors looks promising, the authors say, which would be much less intrusive.

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Microsoft’s new volume-licensing scheme could simplify buying, managing products

Microsoft service include a new Web site that offers a new set of options for making purchases and keeping track of agreements easier

Midsize companies should get ready this month as Microsoft introduces a new purchasing scheme that changes the way it deals with its volume licensing customers.

The company says the purpose of the new Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA) is to make buying and managing volume licenses easier, according to a blog by Richard Smith, the general manager of Microsoft’s World Wide Licensing & Pricing.

BACKGROUND: An Independent View of Microsoft Software License Agreements

SECURITY: Microsoft bulks up security; brings encrypted email to Office 365 Enterprise bundles

MPSA replaces Microsoft Business and Services Agreements, Select Plus Agreements and Microsoft Online Services purchasing terms and conditions. The program will include a new Web site that offers a new set of options for making purchases and keeping track of agreements easier, according to Smith.

An online seminar on the MPSA is scheduled for Dec. 10 for U.K. customers, according to the blog Software Ruminations.

Customers using hybrid clouds based on Microsoft products want more flexible licensing to accommodate their unique needs, Smith writes in his blog.

The contract structure for volume licenses changes under MPSA so there will be one agreement covering all of a customer’s organizations and individual entities in a way that “delivers the best overall value based on total volume,” as Smith describes it.

Buying all Microsoft software and online services as a single package means fewer terms and conditions to manage, he writes. MPSA will include Web-based tools for choosing payment options and give customers an overall view of what they’ve bought and licensed. Eventually the tools will be expanded to gather business intelligence to help customers plan future purchases, he says.

Microsoft has piloted MPSA during the past year, and this month becomes available in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Canada, with more to come next year.

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