October 20, 2001

Here's a telling Economist article that provides a nice background analysis and a some accurate predictions about where Microsoft is headed with Windows XP and .NET: Microsoft Extending its tentacles.

The U. S. Department of Energy has issued a bulletin that warns its employees about Windows XP and explains how to protect themselves from allowing it to inadvertently send their private information to Microsoft.

Why should anyone else be less worried about their privacy being compromised by Windows XP?

Office XP Error Reporting May Send Sensitive Documents to Microsoft
Microsoft Office XP and Internet Explorer version 5 and later are configured to request to send debugging information to Microsoft in the event of a program crash. The debugging information includes a memory dump which may contain all or part of the document being viewed or edited. This debug message potentially could contain sensitive, private information.
Sensitive or private information could inadvertently be sent to Microsoft. Some simple testing of the feature found document information in one message out of three.
SOLUTION: Apply the registry changes listed in this bulletin to disable the automatic sending of debugging information. If you are working with sensitive information and a program asks to send debugging information to Microsoft, you should click Don't Send.

Microsoft seems to consider such compromises a feature of XP called "Corporate Error Reporting" and provides a full explanation of this feature and others like it on its web site. Here's how it works in IE5.

Steve Bonisteel also wrote a piece about it for NewsBytes.

October 19, 2001

Larry Ellison has gotten the Wall Street Journal's attention with his crackpot ID card idea. See: Smart Cards -- Digital IDs can help prevent terrorism.

Ellison thinks the "good news" is that we can all choose to throw both our privacy and our hard-earned tax dollars out the window and invest in a new series of completely untested database cross-referencing schemes that collectively impose a new identification system upon our own country's domestic air travellers:

The good news is that a national database combined with biometrics, thumb prints, hand prints, iris scans, or other new technology could detect false identities. Gaining entry to an airport or other secure location would require people to present a photo ID, put their thumb on a fingerprint scanner and tell the guard their Social Security number. This information would be cross-checked with the database.
The government could phase in digital ID cards to replace existing Social Security cards and driver's licenses. These new IDs should be based on a uniform standard such as credit card technology, which is harder to counterfeit than existing government IDs, or on smart-card technology, which is better but more expensive.
There is no need to compel any American to have a digital ID. Some Americans may choose to apply for a digital ID card to speed the airport security check-in process. Some states might use digital IDs for their next generation of driver's licenses. Companies might want to replace their current hodgepodge of IDs with the new system. In fact, a voluntary system of standardized IDs issued by government agencies and private companies could prove more effective than a mandatory system.

So I get it, we can replace the current hodge podge of IDs with a new hodge podge of IDs...And Oracle can be at the center of it all. Great idea Larry!

Oh no, it's happening already. Law-abiding Americans are being harassed and unnecessarily detained by the National Guard when flying. This time a Flight Attendant didn't like a passenger's chosen reading material (Heyduke Lives! by Edward Abbey).

Read about how Neil Godfrey got the third degree twice.

The second time for carrying a Harry Potter book! (No kidding!) (Thanks Cory)

Another 10 minutes or so passed while he sat in the waiting area. A female United employee — Godfrey failed to jot down her name — came over and informed him that he wouldn’t be allowed to fly, "for three reasons."
The first reason, she said, was that Godfrey was reading a book with an illustration of a bomb on the cover. Secondly, she said, he purchased his ticket on Sept. 11. (Godfrey bought the ticket on Priceline.com shortly after midnight, at least eight hours before the World Trade Center was attacked).
And the final reason cited by the United employee was that Godfrey’s Arizona driver’s license had expired. The employee pointed to a date to substantiate this allegation.
"No," Godfrey told her. "That’s the day the license was issued."
The woman then pointed to another date on the card, Feb. 17, 2000, contending it was the expiration date. Godfrey countered that the date identified him as "under 21" until then.
"Too bad, it’s too late," the flight attendant informed him.
A defeated and disappointed Godfrey reclaimed his luggage and was escorted out of the airport.

October 18, 2001

My buddy Bill Lazar had the guts to use a word to describe the RIAA I consciously decided against when I wrote my latest weblog for O'Reilly and Associates:

RIAA Threatened By Anti-Terrorist Law.

But hey, if the shoe fits :-)

Dianne Feinstein is at it again. This time she's teaming up with Larry Ellison to impose national ID cards on all of us. See:

ID card idea attracts high-level support.

Hey I've got an idea: how about we use the ID card system we already have in place! We each already have Social Security numbers, Drivers Licenses, State-issued ID cards and Visas, Passports and Green Cards to identify foreigners.

Implementing a National ID card system is a lose-lose situation for Americans that would drain millions of dollars from our budget without actually providing the American people with any additional protection.

At least Ellison is finally admitting that he's not really agreeing to donate much of anything. I hope our government doesn't fall for this shenanigan, or we'll all pay the price.

Here's an excerpt from the story mentioned above where Ellison tried to defend himself:

Shalini Chowdhary, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said the U.S. government could end up spending more than $3 billion on computer chips, hardware, software and services that go into creating so-called ``smart'' ID cards.
Ellison said that if he does donate the software, maintenance and upgrades won't be free.
``I don't think the government has any trouble paying for the labor associated with the software,'' he said. ``I made this offer not because the government can't afford to pay for the software, but because I shut up the critics who were saying, `Gee, Larry Ellison wants to build a national database because he wants to sell more databases,' which is pretty cynical and bizarre. What's in it for me is the same thing that's in it for you: a safer America.''