Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Motivational Monday (on Tuesday)

"It doesn't matter where you are coming from.
All that matters is where you are going."

— Brian Tracy

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Detroit Lions...Ouch and 16

History made, Lions are 0-16.
Nuff said..

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Missed this event in Ann Arbor

ArbCamp happened on Dec. 18,2008.


ArbCamp 2008 from Coefficient Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fomer BDPA Detroit chapter President in the News


Student inspires West Bloomfield woman to launch eyeglass project

BY GEORGEA KOVANIS •


Eatonia Williams was working for the Detroit Public Schools, doing lessons on conflict resolution and peer mediation, when she realized one of the junior high kids sitting at the front of the class had a problem.

"She did a lot of squinting," said Williams, 37, of West Bloomfield.

"Her work was just, really, she was failing. One day I asked her, 'Do you wear glasses?' She said, 'I don't have them, I lost them, my mom can't really buy them for me right now.' "

Williams also was working part-time at an optical shop. She and some of her coworkers there pitched in and bought the girl a pair of glasses.

The girl's work in class improved.

Excited about how big a difference a pair of glasses can make, Williams decided to create a charity that would give glasses to kids in need, because "you can't be successful in school if you can't see."

But one thing led to another and life went on.

Ten years passed -- Williams changed jobs and eventually took a computer job at EDS.

She didn't do much with her project until last fall when she got a call from an old friend.

Kirsten Bedard of Lake Orion told Williams the optometrist she works for had more than 300 pairs of never-worn kids' and adult frames to donate to a worthy cause.

"Why not do something like that with them rather than just pitch them?" said Joe Ales, optometrist and owner of Optik Birmingham, who donated the frames.

"This is one of the more needy communities in the country, this area, Pontiac, Detroit in particular."

Williams got her pastor, the Rev. Douglas Jones of Welcome Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac, involved in the glasses giveaway.

She put notices in the church bulletin and spread word around town: free frames for anyone who couldn't afford to buy them.

She got a lab and another optometrist to do exams at reduced rates. "Everybody pulled together and did their piece," she said.

As for the recipients: "They were just ecstatic. They were very excited."

Stacy Gay of Pontiac was one of the people who received new glasses at the giveaway in late November. Her old glasses were accidentally broken and then thrown away in October by her 5-year-old son, Rishard. "My insurance would not cover lost glasses and I did really need them," she said.

"When the announcement was made at church I knew this was a blessing. This way I did not have to wait until July to get a new pair of glasses. This saved me months of not being able to see," Gay said. "It was a super-duper great idea. It would be great if the program was ongoing."

Williams -- who was laid off from her job at EDS on Dec. 1 -- has recommitted to her project. She has time now and is thrilled so many people are happy with their new glasses.

She's been talking with her pastor about opening a discount eyeglass store in a church-owned building. She's working on a business plan.

To donate or receive eyeglasses, contact Eatonia Williams at 313-622-0282.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Amazon staff punished for being ill

Revealed: Amazon staff punished for being ill

Amazon, Britain’s most popular website for Christmas shopping, is making its staff work seven days a week and threatening them with the sack if they take time off sick.

The company charges among the lowest prices for products ranging from books and CDs to sofas and lawnmowers, but those who use Amazon.co.uk or its US counterpart Amazon.com this Christmas may be unaware of the harsh conditions it imposes on staff. Last year the company achieved global profits topping £2.2 billion.

Behind the scenes Amazon, which can expect its busiest day of the year tomorrow, is employing thousands of casual workers in Britain to fetch and package items under arduous conditions. An investigation by The Sunday Times at Amazon’s enormous warehouse in Bedfordshire has found that workers were:

– Warned that the company refuses to allow sick leave, even if the worker has a legitimate doctor’s note. Taking a day off sick, even with a note, results in a penalty point. A worker with six points faces dismissal.

– Made to work a compulsory 10½hour overnight shift at the end of a five-day week. The overnight shift, which runs from Saturday evening to 5am on Sunday, means they have to work every day of the week.

– Set quotas for the number of items to be picked or packed in an hour that even a manager described as “ridiculous”. Those packing heavy Xbox games consoles had to pack 140 an hour to reach their target.

– Set against each other with a bonus scheme that penalises staff if any other member of their group fails to hit the quota.

– Made to walk up to 14 miles a shift to collect items for packing.

Given only one break of 15 minutes and another of 20 minutes per eight-hour shift and told they had to get permission to go to the toilet. Amazon said workers wanted the shorter breaks in exchange for shorter shifts.

Business is booming for Amazon, which receives nearly 1m orders around the world each day. The company has predicted that its turnover for 2008 could reach £13 billion, a rise of up to 31% on last year.

According to industry trade statistics, Amazon is the most popular choice for online shoppers – ahead of the Argos and Tesco websites. David Smith, of IMRG, an internet retail trade body, said: “Amazon is the biggest online retailer by value and weight of traffic.” Christmas is the busiest time for all online shoppers. An IMRG survey showed that 77% of shoppers were planning to do at least half of their shopping for presents online this year.

Smith said he expected tomorrow to record the highest online sales figures for the year, up from the £320m spent last Monday by UK consumers over the internet.

Amazon’s popularity is partly driven by its low prices. The company allows “third party” vendors to advertise items under £18 on its website, which are then shipped to the UK from the Channel Islands. This avoids Vat, and thereby reduce prices further.

Amazon also keeps down overheads by paying Christmas temporary staff low wages and making them work as hard as possible. An undercover Sunday Times reporter took a temporary job with Amazon after a tip-off about tough conditions for workers.

The reporter spent seven working days at Amazon’s warehouse in Bedfordshire as a packer after signing up with Quest Employment, an agency based in Northampton that supplies it with temporary staff.

She was told that the hourly rate for a day shift was £6.30, 57p more than the minimum wage. She worked on an evening shift until midnight, earning £6.80 an hour, but was told that she would have to pay £8.50 a day to use a communal bus laid on by Quest unless she could arrange her own travel to Amazon’s warehouse.

The warehouse at Marston Gate, in an isolated spot off the M1 between Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire and Dunstable in Bedfordshire, is half a mile long and stocks everything from cuddly toys to saucepans. It is one of four such sites that Amazon runs in the UK.

The undercover reporter was given a half-point penalty on her first full day for being late. She had arrived early but did not realise she was required to swipe a card to register her presence. She was told she would work as a packer, putting varying items into boxes, and was told she was expected to pack 140 “units” an hour. Senior staff confided that they felt the target was “ridiculous” and almost impossible to reach.

On her first day working in the warehouse one of the reporter’s fellow workers described how she was told off by the area manager for not hitting her target and was in “agony” after packing heavy Xbox game consoles for most of her shift.

Other workers, such as those tasked with picking items off the shelves for packing, walked up to 14 miles a day, the reporter was told.

When a spreadsheet showing productivity was put on the wall it showed that only one of the 25 “multi-large packers” – people who pack multiple items into each box – had hit their hourly target. Workers were told they could achieve a “bonus” of up to £35 extra a week, which would be paid in January, but to qualify, the entire workforce had to hit their targets.

Managers warned employees that surveillance cameras monitored their every move, and even though most came from eastern European countries, they were told to speak to each other only in English if anyone else was nearby.

Staff were warned that days off for illness, nonattendance or lateness would result in “points” against them. Any sick days, even if justified by a doctor’s note, resulted in a point against the worker.

The area manager for packing, Christophe La Corne, told staff that overtime was “mandatory” and that he was going to be “strict” about enforcing it. He said he “did not want to hear people’s excuses” about why they could not work the extra day.

One man, working as a “picker”, told the reporter that he was “exhausted”. He said: “I will never be able to look at amazon.com in the same way ever again without thinking, ‘Those poor bastards – what they go through’.”

There is no suggestion that the company is breaking the law. A spokesman for Amazon said anyone not willing to work “many hours” should not accept a job with the company. He confirmed workers would be penalised for being sick.

Allan Lyall, Vice President of EU Operations for Amazon said:

“Every single member of the Amazon.co.uk workforce, be that a temporary picker in Marston Gate, a permanent packer in Gourock, a customer service representative in Cork or a product manager in our Slough head office, is currently working flat out to ensure that our millions of customers receive the products that they have ordered on time this Christmas. Our number one focus is our customers and everyone at Amazon works hard on their behalf.

"Our customer delivery success rate is a fraction of a percentage point off 100% and that is due largely to the hard work of all our temporary and permanent associates at our fulfilment centres. Their work is greatly appreciated and they are rewarded for it with a basic wage complemented by performance related pay. Performance related pay targets have been reached on 85% of occasions this Christmas which is a testament to the efforts of our fulfilment workforce.

"We want our associates to enjoy working at Amazon.co.uk and the interests of all workers are represented by a democratically elected employee forum who meets regularly with senior management. This forum was consulted before the workforce elected to reduce breaks to 15 and 20 minutes on an eight hour shift in order to cut the total working day by half an hour.

"Demand for permanent roles from our temporary employees is at such a high level that we no longer need to recruit externally for permanent positions. Indeed, we have already seen well over 100 temporary employees become permanent this year alone. During 2008, we have taken on over 4,000 temporary fulfilment centre associates in the UK and are benefitting from the lowest level of employees leaving the company that we have experienced over all our 11 Christmases. We hope that a good number of these will go on to become permanent members of the Amazon.co.uk team as well."

INVINCIBLE ONLINE

Since its launch 13 years ago Amazon.com has become the most popular place to do online shopping, offering everything from DVDs to vacuum cleaners delivered to the door for low prices.

Founded by Jeff Bezos in his garage in Seattle on the west coast of America, Amazon quickly built a worldwide presence with amazon.co.uk launched in 1998. This year’s worldwide net sales are expected to be about $19 billion.

Many of Amazon’s online competitors have stopped fighting against the might of the online retailer and joined forces instead.

Amazon estimates that 81m people around the world buy something from it. In Britain the company has warehouses or “fulfilment centres” in Glasgow, Fife, Bedfordshire and Swansea. The Swansea Bay site in Wales is Europe’s biggest warehouse and spans 800,000 sq ft.

Next year Amazon is expected to launch the Kindle e-book in the UK, which allows users to download books from the internet .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Motivational Monday

Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.

Brian Tracy

New zero-day IE7 exploit is in the wild

A new IE7 exploit is now making the rounds. It has already been incorporated in toolkits that install information-stealing trojans. Read on to learn more.

——————————————————————————————————————-

A new zero-day Internet Explorer 7 exploit is now out in the wild. It’s a drive-by dropper that resides on malicious Web sites. Brian Krebs, the tireless security watchdog for the Washington Post, points out all the details in his blog “Microsoft Investigating Reports of New IE7 Exploit.”

iDefense, a Virginia-based security firm, made mention that the exploit may have been accidentally released by a Chinese IT security group that mistakenly thought Microsoft already patched the vulnerability. The following quote is from their Dec. 10, 2008, blog “Exploitation for Unpatched Internet Explorer 7 Vulnerability in the Wild” (pdf):

“On Dec. 9, 2008, security researchers found a previously unknown vulnerability in Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer 7.0 being exploited in the wild. This exploit has already been incorporated into Chinese exploit toolkits and is actively being used to install information stealing Trojans that target online games.”

Acknowledged by MS

Microsoft has finally acknowledged the problem in Security Advisory (961051):

“Microsoft is investigating new public reports of attacks against a new vulnerability in Internet Explorer. Our investigation so far has shown that these attacks are against Windows Internet Explorer 7 on supported editions of Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Vista, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, and Windows Server 2008.”

It’s important to know that the massive Windows update just released on Dec. 9, 2008, doesn’t have a patch for this vulnerability.

Domains hosting malicious Web sites

Shadowserver.org, a volunteer security group, has listed many of the domains that are hosting the exploit-carrying Web sites. The list is published on their blog “IE7 0-Day Exploit Sites.” They also mention some detection and prevention information as well places to get Snort rules for the current unmodified variants.

Final thoughts

This exploit is important, and sadly there’s no Microsoft solution at this time. Once again the simplest solution is to use an alternative browser such as FireFox, Chrome, or Opera. I doubt Microsoft would make that suggestion though.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

FTC kills Scareware operation---One for the consumers

FTC kills scareware operation that duped over a million users
By Layer 8

The Federal Trade Commission today got a court to at least temporarily halt a massive "scareware" scheme, which falsely claimed that scans had detected viruses, spyware, and pornography on consumers' computers.

According to the FTC, the scheme has tricked more than one million consumers into buying computer security products such as WinFixer, WinAntivirus, DriveCleaner, ErrorSafe, and XP Antivirus. The court also froze the assets of Innovative Marketing, Inc. and ByteHosting Internet Services, LLC to preserve the possibility of providing consumers with monetary redress, the FTC stated.

The defendants used an elaborate ruse that duped Internet advertising networks and popular Web sites into carrying their advertisements, according to the FTC's complaint. The defendants falsely claimed that they were placing Internet ads on behalf of legitimate companies and organizations. But due to hidden programming code that the defendants inserted into the advertisements, consumers who visited Web sites where these ads were placed did not receive them, the FTC said. Instead, consumers received exploitive advertisements that took them to one of the defendants' Web sites. These sites would then claim to scan the consumers' computers for security and privacy issues. The "scans" would find a host of purported problems with the consumers' computers and urge them to buy the defendants' computer security products for $39.95 or more. However, the scans were entirely false, the FTC said

Innovative Marketing is incorporated in Belize and maintains offices in Kiev, Ukraine. ByteHosting Internet Services is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The FTC complaint alleges that these two companies, along with individuals Daniel Sundin, Sam Jain, Marc D'Souza, Kristy Ross, and James Reno, violated the FTC Act. The complaint also names a sixth individual, Maurice D'Souza, as a relief defendant who received proceeds from the scheme.

Under US District Court for the District of Maryland order, the defendants are barred from falsely representing that they have run any type of computer analysis, or that they have detected security or privacy problems on a consumer's computer. They also are barred from using domain names obtained with false or incomplete information, placing advertisements purportedly on behalf of a third party without that party's consent, or otherwise attempting to conceal their own identities. The order also mandates that companies hosting the defendants' Web sites and providing domain-registration services take the necessary steps to keep consumers from accessing these Web sites, the FTC said.

The FTC seeks to permanently bar the defendants from engaging in "scareware" marketing and pay for any damages and ill-gotten booty.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obama Calls for Broadband Initiative

Obama Calls for Broadband Initiative

By Roy Mark

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cisco going green with Scrap

Turning “Scrap” into Profit

By Maryann Jones Thompson

The leader of Cisco‘s thriving Reverse Logistics business speaks with The EcoInnovator about how he sustainably transformed the program from a cost center to a growing revenue stream.


When Dan Gilbert joined Cisco Systems, the well-being of the technology company’s Reverse Logistics program was gauged in tons of scrap produced per year. Three years later, the VP of Supply Chain Field Operations measures the success of his business in bottom-line impact.

The impressive results of Cisco’s Reverse Logistics turnaround have been recognized as a model for reuse and sustainability in other Global 500 enterprises. The EcoInnovator spoke with the Corporate Eco Forum Leadership Council member and Reverse Logistics leader about how he reduced scrap to less than 1 percent of product returns and contributed $100 million to Cisco’s bottom line in the process.

The EcoInnovator: Can you describe how the rebirth of Cisco’s Reverse Logistics program began?

Dan Gilbert: When I joined Cisco in 2005, the performance of the Reverse Logistics function was essentially summed up in one metric: how many tons of scrap we recycled every year. So it’s probably not surprising that returned product was generating about 6 million pounds of scrap every year. That’s the equivalent of 12 football fields filled knee-deep with product that was declared essentially dead.

Now, scrap is basically the lowest value you can recover from a product. Shifting our strategy toward finding maximum value from returns required us to make two key changes in our approach. First, we had to be willing to challenge traditional assumptions about product returns. Then — as a result of Cisco’s intensified focus on environmental responsibility — we had to take a closer look at our recycling. We realized we were missing a trick by making “Recycle” our default setting. While it was green to recycle, it was actually better and greener to reuse product as much as possible before having it responsibly recycled.

The EcoI: At what point did you realize the potential opportunity of the project?

DG: First we had to invest effort in rolling up our sleeves and digging into every detail of the reverse logistics process. This process tends to be complex, but well worth the effort to understand and evaluate. We physically traveled to our warehouses, opened boxes of trade-ins and ran them through the same suite of tests that would apply to a customer return.

What we found ran counter to the conventional wisdom. The assumption had been that product trade-ins were defective and only good as scrap. But we found that upwards of 80% of product was in good working condition, needing at most a software upgrade or cosmetic work. This told us that the product still had a lot of life in it – a second or even third career, if you will. All we needed to do was match the product with internal Cisco functions that had a need for refurbished product.

The EcoI: As the project progressed, did you encounter challenges that you didn’t expect?

DG: The greatest challenge was convincing our colleagues that refurbished product could meet their needs as reliably as new product. Demonstrating that refurbished gear had passed the same quality and compliance checks required of new product was critical for gaining acceptance for product reuse.

I’m very pleased to say that we’ve largely overcome early hesitation about internal product reuse at Cisco. Whether for engineering labs, customer demos, spare parts or philanthropic purposes, Cisco’s reuse of returned product is growing very rapidly. We’re currently reusing about 44% of product returns and we’re targeting further increases in reuse every year.

The EcoI: How did your supply chain react to the new initiative?

DG: As the business case for reusing returned product quickly spoke for itself, we’ve enjoyed strong support across our extended supply chain.

We did realize we needed to make the returns process easier. We needed to help enable customers, and our distribution partners, to bring no-longer-needed products back to Cisco. This would increase the pool of product we could potentially reuse, as well as help us ensure that any excess or obsolete products were disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

As an example, we launched the Cisco TakeBack and Recycle Program to enable customers to contact Cisco and arrange for pick up and recycling of product, even if it doesn’t qualify for warranty replacement or our trade-in program.

The EcoI: What were the specific goals of the new program and how were they measured?

DG: We had two objectives: Drive profitable growth for Cisco and help Cisco deliver on its commitment to environmental responsibility throughout its operations and supply chain.

In 2005, the Reverse Logistics function of receiving and processing returned product cost Cisco over $8 million a year. I’m very pleased that today this same function is making a net contribution of over $100 million a year to Cisco and its shareholders for our fiscal year ending July 2008. We calculate this figure using a virtual P&L to monitor our bottom-line results.

We use several metrics to understand how we’re minimizing Cisco’s environmental impact. One is the percentage of product returns we’re able to put back to use, up to 44% as of July compared with less than 5% three years ago. Another metric looks at waste avoidance. Currently less than 1% of all Cisco product returns end up as scrap. In other words 99%+ is reused or recycled.

The EcoI: Do you have any advice or best practices to share with other executives on how to retool their Reverse Logistics programs for maximum sustainability?

DG: In our experience, cultivating new sources of growth requires an ability to open the aperture and take a broad view of the opportunity. Operations teams can tend to focus on driving efficiencies and squeezing out excess. That’s essential, but if that’s your only focus, you may miss the bigger win – the chance not just to shave costs, but to really drive value and growth.

A second piece of advice would be to run your operations, as much as possible, like a true business with P&L responsibility. For us that meant two major themes. One was working closely with Finance to be very rigorous and conservative in how we calculated value and how we monitored and reported on our performance.

The other was adopting a Sales-inspired approach that focused on making a market based on meeting customer needs. We identified other Cisco functions as potential customers, developed solutions to address their specific pain points and assigned “Sales” teams with quotas and stretch targets. This was the transformational part of our story – the most difficult, but also the most rewarding.

As traditional Sales teams do, we’re focusing on keeping our customers happy and we’re setting the bar higher every year.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Motivational Monday

“During times of stress and difficulty, what are you doing to maximize your potential for peaceful living in this world? It is your own energy field that will make a difference. You decide for yourself whether you experience the dynamic, transformative power of peace or a just the muddled energy of conflicted emotion. Choose peace! Choose to be a transformer of negativity by lifting up your heart space, clearing your negative emotions and grasping the star of intuitive awareness. You are an energy field—full of life and peace!”
~Greg Barrette

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Criminals take control of CheckFree Web site

Criminals take control of CheckFree Web site
By Robert McMillan

Online criminals took control of the Domain Name System (DNS) record for payment processor CheckFree and briefly redirected the site's visitors to a their own server. The site was redirected at around 12:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday after someone logged into CheckFree's Network Solutions account and changed the domain's DNS settings, said Susan Wade, a Network Solutions spokeswoman. "Somebody got hold of the customer's login information," she said. "I don’t know how they got access." By changing the domain's DNS settings, the criminals were able to redirected Internet traffic to their own server. CheckFree regained control of the account around 5:00 a.m. and fixed the settings, Wade said.

In a statement, CheckFree said that by 10:10 a.m. the rogue site's Internet service provider had "isolated the non-CheckFree site so that no subscribers could connect to it." While it was active, the site tried to install malicious software on victims' computers, CheckFree said. "During the incident, users would have seen a blank page if they were redirected to the non-CheckFree site. Those with up-to-date security software would likely have received a message indicating a malware download attempt had occurred," the company said. "If the user's anti-virus software was out of date or they did not have anti-virus software installed, they may have been subject to a malware software download." The attack targeted flaws in Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader, CheckFree said. CheckFree is advising its customers to download antivirus software and the latest updates to Adobe Reader, used to view pdf files. CheckFree has about 12,000 locations in the U.S. where customers can walk in and pay bills in person. It accepts payments for services such as utilities, credit cards and mobile phones. The company's Web site can be used to pay bills too, however. This isn't the first time Network Solutions' account credentials have been used to seize control of a Web site. In May, hackers used a similar technique to knock Comcast.net offline for several hours. News of the CheckFree hack was first reported in the Register after a reader noticed a problem with the Web site.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Goodbye Pownce

Goodbye Pownce, I Hardly Used Ya

Om Malik

Pownce, a microblogging service started by Leah Culver and others back in May 2007, has been acquired by blogging software giant, SixApart and will be shutdown. Culver and other members of the Pownce team are going to work for San Francisco-based Six Apart, well known for products such as MoveableType and TypePad. What it means — negligible or no money changed hands.

Pownce seemed like a pretty cool idea, but it never got any major traction, losing out to the simpler and more popular Twitter. I used the service for a few months but then lost interest, and so did many of my friends. From Culver’s post, it seems that SixApart is going to incorporate Pownce’s microblogging technology into its blogging platforms. It makes a lot of sense for SixApart to buy a microblogging platform, since microblogging is one of the faster growing parts of the “social media ecosystem.”


Google Earth used by terrorists in India attacks

Oops, technology being used for evil purposes...

Google Earth used by terrorists in India attacks
By John Ribeiro


The terrorists that attacked various locations in south Mumbai last week used digital maps from Google Earth to learn their way around, according to officials investigating the attacks.

Investigations by the Mumbai police, including the interrogation of one nabbed terrorist, suggest that the terrorists were highly trained and used technologies such as satellite phones, and GPS, according to police.

Google Earth has previously come in for criticism in India, including from the country's former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Kalam warned in a 2005 lecture that the easy availability online of detailed maps of countries from services such as Google Earth could be misused by terrorists.

Indian security agencies have complained that Google Earth exposed Indian defense and other sensitive installations. Other nations, including China, have made similar complaints regarding military locations.

However the places attacked by terrorists last week did not come under the category of defense or sensitive installations. The information available to the terrorists on Google Earth about the locations they attacked is also available on printed tourism maps of Mumbai. The locations included two hotels, a restaurant, a residential complex, and a railway station.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Blackberry Storm Review

Google layoffs

WOW, this has got to stop. Any more downsizing and where do you locate a stable career??

Google layoffs: 10,000 jobs being cut, report claims

By Jr Raphael

Google may be preparing to lay off thousands of workers, if a Silicon Valley information service is to be believed. WebGuild cites anonymous inside sources as saying up to 10,000 Google jobs could be on the way out, with smaller scale layoffs already underway.

Quiet Cutbacks

"Hundreds" of employees have been let go in the past few months, the company's sources claim -- and, they say, a loophole has allowed Google to keep quiet about the cutbacks. The trick, WebGuild reports, all comes down to categories: Google classifies about 10,000 of its workers as "temporary operational expenses," which means their positions are not official and could be eliminated without public notification. (Google officially reports having just over 20,000 full-fledged employees on staff. The additional 10,000 "temporary" positions speculated would bring the actual total to 30,000.)

"Google has hundreds of lawyers figuring out how not to get caught," WebGuild President Daya Baran suggests. "One of them is by moving workers from job to job every few months so that their status remains temporary. That is why you probably have never spoken to the same person twice at Google and that is also why there is somebody new on the job and most times you know more about their job than they do," he says.

Google has yet to publicly comment on any of the speculation.

Searching for Signs

Google's revenue and profit were up in the third quarter -- a rarity in Silicon Valley this season that could be seen as an indication the rumors may not hold much merit. Still, if one is searching for signs of possible scaling back, such indications can be found.

The search company is trading its traditionally lavish holiday bashes for more subdued and small-scale celebrations this year, reports released just before the weekend suggest. Known for its jam-packed parties complete with giant ice sculptures and virtual reality entertainment, Google this year has opted to go for "more economical" activities, such as group volunteering outings followed by casual dinner parties, sources have indicated.

Wrong Rumors

It's worth noting that cutback rumors have surfaced at Google before, only to end up holding little to no actual truth. Just a few months ago, reports filled the blogosphere that Google was ending its famous free dinner program for employees -- a perk said to cost the company $72 million a year. It didn't take long for Google to knock the rumor down, however, insisting nothing had changed and it didn't know where the falsehood originated.

Scaleback Speculation

If a Google scaleback were in the works, what would it mean? Hypothetically speaking, one might suspect some of Google's less profitable projects could get less focus. The company has previously maintained a "20 percent time" policy for engineers, requiring them to spend one day each week on projects of their own choosing. Google is also frequently trying out random Labs projects -- everything from the new Gmail themes to the joke-inspiring Google Goggles program debuted in October -- not to mention its various gags and jokes pulled off throughout the year. The loss of 1,000 workers could theoretically affect these sorts of non-crucial endeavors.

At this point, though, it's all speculation, and all from limited and unidentifiable sources. Only time will tell whether or not the rumors prove to be true -- and, until Google decides to address the buzz, all the searching in the world will bring no definite answers.

Motivational Monday

MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."
Michelangelo