Monday, November 30, 2009

Latest Microsoft patches cause black screen of death

Latest Microsoft patches cause black screen of death

The changes to some registry keys can render a PC useless, according to a UK security vendor that has a software fix
By Jeremy Kirk

Microsoft's latest round of security patches appears to be causing some PCs to seize up and display a black screen, rending the computer useless.

The problem affects Microsoft products including Windows 7, Vista and XP operating systems, said Mel Morris , the CEO and CTO for the U.K. security company Prevx.

Prevx was alerted to the problem by users of its security software last week, Morris said. Microsoft apparently made changes to the Access Control List (ACL), a list of permissions for a logged-on user. The ACL interacts with registry keys, creating visible desktop features such as a sidebar.

However, the latest patches appear to make some changes to those registry keys. The effect is that some installed applications aren't aware of the changes and don't run properly, causing a black screen, Morris said.

Security applications seem to be particularly affected. Morris said users of other security products have also complained about the issue, even going so far as trying to reinstall the operating system to fix it.

"If you've got this problem, it's massively debilitating," Morris said.

Prevx has released software that fixes the registry to match the ACL settings, which should resolve the problem, Morris said. Users could do this on their own by modifying their registry settings, but making alterations to those settings is risky since it can severely affect how the operating system runs.

On Nov. 10, Microsoft released 15 patches for vulnerabilities in Windows, Windows Server, Excel and Word.

Morris said Microsoft was likely just trying to fortify the security of the operating systems when it inadvertently made the error in its patches. "It's one of those things that happens from time to time when you have a dynamic operating system," he said.

Morris said his company hasn't contacted Microsoft yet but will send the company a copy of the software fix.

Prevx has more detail on the issue on its blog and posted the software fix, which is free.

Windows has at least 10 different issues that could potentially cause a black screen, wrote Dave Kennerley who works in support for Prevx.

"Our advice is try our tool first," Kennerley said. "If it works, great. If it doesn't, you are no worse off."

Microsoft officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

CIOs fear mass IT exodus following economic recovery

CIOs fear mass IT exodus following economic recovery

CIOs worry IT teams might flee for better opportunities in the economic recovery.
By Denise Dubie

IT professionals asked to do more work for less pay and fewer benefits might be able to forgive their employers' financial choices, but industry watchers say high-tech workers won't soon forget being treated poorly during the most recent economic recession and will look to find other employment opportunities as soon as the recovery gets under way.

Robert Half Technology this week released findings of a survey of 1,400 CIOs that showed 43% said retaining existing workers will be their top staffing priority in 2010. The IT staffing and consultancy firm also reported that 21% of CIOs polled said they would offer more training and professional development opportunities to employees in 2010.

"Employers need to focus on preventing burnout and keeping their best people engaged at work. This may be a challenge, given that staffing cuts and the reduction or elimination of benefits have left many employees feeling overworked and undervalued," said Dave Willmer, executive director at Robert Half Technology, in a statement.

Robert Half Technology suggested a few retention efforts IT employers must begin now, including training and career development programs and career advancement opportunities. CIOs should re-recruit their best employees, which essentially means they must start working to convince them to stay on board.

Other suggestions include recognizing excellence and providing project support. Robert Half Technology also suggests managers communicate regularly with staff, encourage team-building activities and promote work/life balance. Lastly, the firm says CIOs need to consider the compensation packages they offer as well as re-evaluate the workloads employees are carrying. Effort such as these will be important in reducing turnover, according to the firm.

"Companies may have to work at 're-selling' themselves to existing employees in much the same way they would when promoting themselves to prospective hires," Willmer added.

Yet it may be too late for some employees to be convinced to stay, suggests other research, which points to data collected after previous recessions and shows employees will seek other employment during the recovery. According to the September 2009 "Managing Talent in a Turbulent Economy: Keeping your team intact" report from Deloitte Consulting, "a resume tsunami may threaten unprepared companies as key employees who held on to their jobs in tough times seek out better opportunities when economic fears recede."

Jeff Schwartz, a principal with Deloitte Consulting's Human Capital practice, says there isn't much evidence to suggest that the recovery following the most recent economic recession will be any different in terms of employee turnover than previous downturns.

"There are some lessons that many in IT learned from the last recession that occur about 12 to 24 months after the end of the recession: very critical workers leave," Schwartz says. "Companies, especially leaders in IT, need to get ahead of the curve in terms of retention plans in the next year because it is a very reasonable bet that companies are going to see a pike in turnover after this recession."

Data from Gartner's CIO Research suggests the same, and the group's vice president Lily Mok says companies still are behind when it comes to workforce planning in regards to IT. She says as the recovery gets under way, IT teams won't return to their previous staffing levels, but instead hold steady, which means the remaining employees hold more company knowledge and experience – and represent a bigger risk if they decide to leave.

"Some IT skills take time to develop and companies hiring in these areas can face challenges finding permanent staff," Mok says. "We advise clients to be strategic and develop the technical skills they might need in the future in-house.”

She says now is when companies need to identify their core competencies, try to secure the skills and knowledge in-house to ensure that when economic conditions improve they have the talent and IT teams in place to prepare for a return to future growth.

"It's not realistic to predict what you need three years in advance, but having a workforce planning framework in place will help companies facing skills gaps when they really need that talent," Mok says.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

World AIDS Day December 1, 2009

Creed for Riches

Creed for Riches
by Dr. Napoleon Hill


I give thanks daily, not for mere riches, but for wisdom with which to recognize, embrace, and properly use the great abundance of riches I now have at my command. I have no enemies because I injure no man for any cause, but I try to benefit all with whom I come in contact, by teaching them the way to enduring riches. I have more material wealth than I need because I am free from greed and covet only the material things I can use while I live.


Source: PMA Science of Success Course. Pg. 25

Friday, November 20, 2009

Federal government using PS3 to crack pedophile passwords

Federal government using PS3 to crack pedophile passwords

By Alex Wawro

Federal officials have put the PS3 to work breaking passwords on computer equipment confiscated from suspected child pornographers. according to a story released on the Scripps Howard Foundation wire.

Though they aren't using the new PS3 Slim (since you can't install Linux on the new models) purchasing 20 old PS3 units is still about $8,000 cheaper than the Dell servers C3 had used previously. The unorthodox console approach has been so effective that agents are scouring eBay to find the best deal on another 40 consoles to round out their collection.

"Bad guys are encrypting their stuff now, so we need a methodology of hacking on that to try to break passwords," Claude E. Davenport, an agent in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes Center, told the Scripps reporter. "The Playstation 3 - its processing component - is perfect for large-scale library attacks."

Agents need computing power to break these codes because while a search warrant allows them to seize incriminating documents or digital evidence, the Fourth Amendment grants suspects the right to withhold their password information. To crack the code (there are over 280 trillian possible strings in a six-character alphanumeric password) C3 needs the processing power of about $11,000 worth of computers, which is now being provided by a network of PS3 consoles at a quarter of the cost.

Unfortunately for federal investigators, the consoles are strictly for work use only. "There's no controllers hooked up," claimed Davenport. Guess that means no Uncharted 2 at work after all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

AMF bowls for customers with video sharing over managed I

AMF bowls for customers with video sharing over managed IP

Company tests automated heating controls, video surveillance using nationwide IP
By Matt Hamblen


AMF Bowling Centers Inc. is wrapping up the roll-out of a $2 million nationwide network equipment upgrade that supports Voice over IP (VoIP) and video streaming, and includes turning over all network management to Verizon Business for three more years.

AMF has 300 bowling centers in 38 states with more than 9,000 employees. As part of a contract with Verizon, the company is now relying on Verizon for an IP network that supports VoIP, point of sale devices and credit card transactions, and web hosting.

The IP network also supports a centralized video surveillance system that is now being launched, as well as a centralized energy management system being tested in several bowling centers.

Additionally, because bowling has become a multimedia experience for customers, video and audio streaming of music videos is piped to most of the bowling centers using the IP network, said Harsha Bellur, vice president of IT at AMF.

"We have extreme sound and light shows over projection screens in most locations with music videos that play while people are bowling," Bellur said.

The contract with Verizon, signed early this year, will cost AMF about $800,000 a year, in addition to the $2 million equipment cost for Adtran routers in each center and cabling installations, he said.

AMF's annual network services cost has gone up slightly with the Verizon managed service, but the number of IP applications and network reliability have far exceeded what was previously available, Bellur said. "The ROI was on the wall, but we had to do this and it made a lot of sense to invest, even with the recession," Bellur said in an interview.

Before hiring Verizon for the managed IP service, AMF was using Verizon to provide a site-to-site VPN service, which relied on cable modems and DSL, and required AMF to work with 36 different ISPs.

One of the biggest advantages of using a managed service from a nationwide provider like Verizon is having Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to guarantee service, Bellur said. With cable modems and DSL there was not consistent bandwidth, while demanding applications like video were not possible.

The SLAs have already come in handy, resulting in a credit from Verizon because VoIP service in Atlanta and Virginia Beach, Va., was knocked out recently more than 3.5 hours -- a provision of the SLA -- due to regional flooding, Bellur said. "Verizon has kept up with its SLAs and offered a financial remedy," he said.

While the Verizon VoIP quality is generally good, one downside is that voice service goes down whenever there is a data network outage. Because of the recent flood-related outages, AMF is planning to provision at least one analog phone line in each center to provide an automatic failover for voice services.

"It's back to the future with the analog failover," he said, noting that AMF is now testing existing analog lines that were not being used to see which are resilient enough for failover duty.

"The voice outages were a challenge and we learned the hard way with the floods," he said. "It caused some heartburn and was not something we anticipated, but we have options."

The managed services contract with Verizon has not led to layoffs in the 29-person IT staff, although Verizon is managing all circuits, routers and cloud computing services. The added Verizon support has meant AMF can strengthen its end-user computer support desk, which now is staffed by seven of the 29 in IT, Bellur said.

Bellur and others picked Verizon partly because of its nationwide network, he said. AT&T Inc. and regional service provider Paetec also bid.

The centralized energy management system for AMF is undergoing trial runs now, to test the IP network automatically turning on and off heating and air conditioning according to hours of each bowling center.

The video surveillance system is designed to prevent theft and is just being installed to use the IP network, Bellur said.

While AMF centers are actively using the network to support video and audio, Bellur said his team is contemplating using video displays as digital signs that would show pricing and examples of products on sale, including food and alcohol.

In addition, training videos could be piped over the IP network, Bellur said. A longer term conceptual project has been discussed to stream videos of bowlers or birthday parties being held at bowling centers to relatives in other cities. Potentially, self-service kiosks for ordering food are possible, and online posting of scores could take place, shared over the nationwide network.

"Teams between two cities could host a tournament sharing tournament brackets," he said. "We're brainstorming, but it all comes down to costs."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BDPA Detroit in the NEWS.

IT professionals to honor Michigan high school students

By TAYLOR TRAMMELL

Students who participated in the Detroit chapter of Black Data Processing Associates’ high school training camp will see the fruits of months of hard work tonight when they are honored at a scholarship and education awards banquet at Compuware Corp. at 7 tonight.

Matthew Clark, a senior at Cass Technical High School; Darryn Brundage-Forrest, a sophomore at Renaissance High School; Daniel Rothchild, a freshman at Pioneer High School, and Jourdan West, a freshman at Michigan State University, represented the chapter at BDPA’s 32nd National Technology Conference in Raleigh, N.C., in August. The team competed against more than 25 other chapters and won second place in Web design at the conference.

To prepare for the competition, the students trained for four to six hours every Saturday from January to August. Brundage-Forrest called it vigorous.

“They gave Quiz Factory questions to practice, which is the basic software they use at the competition,” he said. “We studied books on HTML, Java and CSS.”

For West and Clark, the training wasn’t new. Both students participated in the program in 2008 and came back for more.

“Last year we came in 10th place,” West said. “That was my main motivation to come back because I am not a 10th-place person. With a lot of hard work and determination, we did pretty good.”

At the conference, the students attended assemblies and programming sessions to further prepare them for the competition.

“It was definitely worthwhile,” Rothchild said. “I haven’t been able to see other kids who were also interested in computer science, so it was good to meet people with the same interests as me.”

All four students received a $2,000 scholarship to any university, and they already have plans for how to use their awards.

Clark plans to go to Ferris State University and study architecture. Brundage-Forrest plans to attend Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University to study engineering, information technology or medicine. Rothchild hasn’t picked a college but plans to study computer science. West graduated from Cass Tech in June and is a civil engineering major at Michigan State University.

The BDPA scholarship recipients, the rest of the class in the training program and the volunteers who helped prepare the students for the competition are to be acknowledged at the banquet, where former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer is to be the guest speaker.

The BDPA high school training camp “is a very good program because it gives students a chance to do something different,” Clark said. “Instead of playing basketball all day, they gave us an opportunity to learn and have fun.”

The banquet is to start at 7 p.m. at Compuware Corp., 1 Campus Martius in downtown Detroit. For tickets, go to www.bdpa-detroit.org/HSCC2009.html. Advance tickets are $40 for adults, $30 for students with proper ID. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $50.

Jourdan West, Daniel Rothchild, Darryn Brundage-Forrest and Matthew Clark all received $2,000 college scholarships after representing the Detroit chapter of Black Data Processing Associates at the organization’s 32nd National Technology Conference in Raleigh, N.C., in August.   (Tonji Zimmerman/Black Data Processing Associates)

Jourdan West, Daniel Rothchild, Darryn Brundage-Forrest and Matthew Clark all received $2,000 college scholarships after representing the Detroit chapter of Black Data Processing Associates at the organization’s 32nd National Technology Conference in Raleigh, N.C., in August. (Tonji Zimmerman/Black Data Processing Associates)Clark plans to go to Ferris State University and study architecture. Brundage-Forrest plans to attend Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University to study engineering, information technology or medicine. Rothchild hasn’t picked a college but plans to study computer science. West graduated from Cass Tech in June and is a civil engineering major at Michigan State University.

Taylor Trammell is a senior and editor at Mumford High School's student newspaper, Mumford Times. She also was an apprentice at the Free Press this summer. See more of her work at FreepHigh.com.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Top 100 Most Influential People in IT

I do not consider this an exhaustive list but this is very disappointing. Out of the 25 names, 3 were White women and one male from India. No Blacks or Hispanic on this list. The big question is
WHY?????


http://www.eweek.com/c/a/IT-Infrastructure/The-Top-100-Most-Influential-People-in-IT/

Cray blows by IBM to regain supercomputing crown

Cray blows by IBM to regain supercomputing crown

The two leading systems swapped places in the latest Top 500 Supercomputers list
By Stephen Lawson

A Cray supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has regained the title of the world's most powerful supercomputer, overtaking the installation that was ranked at the top in June, while China entered the Top 10 with a hybrid Intel-AMD system.

How to build your own supercomputer

The upgraded Jaguar supercomputer at Oak Ridge, in Tennessee, now boasts a speed of 1.759 petaflops from its 224,162 cores, while the IBM Roadrunner system at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico slowed slightly to 1.042 petaflops after it was repartitioned. A petaflop is one thousand trillion calculations per second.

The list of the Top 500 supercomputers, set to be released on Monday during the SC09 supercomputing conference in Portland, Oregon, is compiled twice a year and is now in its 34th installment. The total capacity of the systems on the new list is 27.6 petaflops, up from 22.6 petaflops on the previous list in June.

Roadrunner debuted in June 2008 as the first computer to surpass 1 petaflop on the Linpack benchmark test used to rank systems in the Top 500. It held the top spot in June 2009 with 1.105 petaflops, but lost its place after being repartitioned. Jaguar, which was in second place in June with 1.059 petaflops, was upgraded with new processors and surged ahead to take the lead. It is based on the Cray XT5 Linux supercomputer platform, which uses Advanced Micro Devices Opteron (AMD) processors. Its total peak capability is 2.3 petaflops.

The No. 3 system is Kraken, at the National Institute for Computational Sciences at the University of Tennessee, which performs at 832 teraflops. This Cray XT5 supercomputer was ranked No. 6 in June, when it was rated at just 463 teraflops.

China's fastest supercomputer ever, the Tianhe-1 in the city of Tianjin, achieved 563 teraflops for the No. 5 ranking. It uses Intel Xeon processors with Advanced Micro Devices GPUs (graphics processing units) as accelerators. Each node of the 71,680-core system has two Xeons attached to two AMD GPUs, according to the compilers of the Top 500 list. Tianhe-1 was built by the National University of Defense Technology for the National SuperComputer Center and is intended to provide high-performance computing services in northeastern China. Applications will include petroleum exploration and aircraft design.

The only other Top 10 system outside the U.S. was Jugene, built by IBM at the Forschungszentrum Juelich in Germany, which was ranked No. 4. U.S. computers dominated the Top 500 overall, making up 277 of the systems, with Europe accounting for 153 and Asia for 50. Just to make it onto the new Top 500 list, a computer needed to achieve at least 20 teraflops, up from 17.1 teraflops earlier this year.

Intel processors power 402 of the systems on the list, or 80.4 percent, up slightly from 399 in June. The IBM Power architecture is the second most commonly used, with 52 systems, down from 55. AMD's Opteron family appears in 42 of the systems.

Most of the Top 500 supercomputers -- 426 systems -- now use quad-core processors. Only 59 use dual-core chips, and just four systems are based on single-core architectures. There were six systems on the latest list using IBM's nine-core Cell Broadband Engine processor, also used in the PlayStation 3. Gigabit Ethernet is the internal interconnect technology in 259 installations, compared with 181 using InfiniBand.

Hewlett-Packard led in the number of systems on the list, with 210 supercomputers or 42 percent, compared with 185 for IBM. However, the IBM systems accounted for the most computing power, with 34.8 percent of total performance, down from 39.8 percent. HP held 22.8 percent.

The Top 500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim in Germany, Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Motivational Monday

20 Ways to Get Mentally Tough

1. When you face a setback, think of it as a defining moment that will lead to a future
accomplishment.
2. When you encounter adversity, remember, the best don’t just face adversity; they
embrace it, knowing it’s not a dead end but a detour to something greater and better.
3. When you face negative people, know that the key to life is to stay positive in the
face of negativity, not in the absence of it. After all, everyone will have to overcome
negativity to define themselves and create their success.
4. When you face the naysayer’s, remember the people who believed in you and spoke
positive words to you.
5. When you face critics, remember to tune them out and focus only on being the best
you can be.
6. When you wake up in the morning, take a morning walk of gratitude and prayer. It will
create a fertile mind ready for success.
7. When you fear, trust. Let your faith be greater than your doubt.
8. When you fail, find the lesson in it, and then recall a time when you have succeeded.
9. When you head into battle, visualize success.
10. When you are thinking about the past or worrying about the future, instead focus your
energy on the present moment. The now is where your power is the greatest.
11. When you want to complain, instead identify a solution.
12. When your own self-doubt crowds your mind, weed it and replace it with positive
thoughts and positive self-talk.
13. When you feel distracted, focus on your breathing, observe your surroundings, clear
your mind, and get into The Zone. The Zone is not a random event. It can be created.
14. When you feel all is impossible, know that with God all things are possible.
15. When you feel alone, think of all the people who have helped you along the way and
who love and support you now.
16. When you feel lost, pray for guidance.
17. When you are tired and drained, remember to never, never, never give up. Finish
Strong in everything you do.
18. When you feel like you can’t do it, know that you can do all things through Him who
gives you strength.
19. When you feel like your situation is beyond your control, pray and surrender. Focus on
what you can control and let go of what you can’t.
20. When you’re in a high-pressure situation and the game is on the line, and everyone is
watching you, remember to smile, have fun, and enjoy it. Life is short; you only live
once. You have nothing to lose. Seize the moment.

What the Best do Better than Everyone Else!

Military wants lightweight fiber lasers for unmanned aircraft

This reminds me of the 1980's movie "Real Genius"

DARPA could offer over $6 million for advanced lighweight laser

By Layer 8

DARPA Hummingbird uavMilitary researchers are looking for a 22lb laser that can fit and operate in high-altitude unmanned aircraft.

As you might suspect, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is behind the laser building project known as the Fiber Laser Pulsed Source (FILPS) program that could end up being used in a number of applications from drone communications and targeting to weapons. DARPA said approximately $6.3 million will be available with the anticipation of approximately two awards for FILIPS contracts.

Layer 8 Extra: 12 mad science projects that could shake the world

The attractive thing about fiber lasers is that they are by some estimates, two-times more efficient in that they can deliver more laser power per weight and volume than solid-state lasers.

Technically speaking from DARPA: The FILIPS program objective is to develop a versatile fiber laser/amplifier platform that can generate sub-ns duration pulses, with greater than 10-mJ of energy per pulse, at a 25-kHz repetition rate. The output pulse characteristics, including phase stability, pulse jitter, and laser beam quality, should be sufficient to enable efficient pulse energy scaling to the 100-mJ level via coherent combining. The system will need to be phase-locked to an external optical reference and configurable over a wavelength band greater than 5-nm in width.

DARPA stated that fiber laser amplifiers will enable the development of arrays of fiber amplifiers whose beams can be coherently combined into a single beam to reach very high power. The monolithic all-fiber design approach provides a robust platform that is more rugged than laser systems that employ free-space power transport. Fiber laser amplifiers will find applications in laser communications, target search and track, target identification and IFF, and ultimately high-power laser weapon applications.

The ultra-high efficiency and near diffraction limited beam quality promised by fiber laser amplifiers can lead to high power laser systems that are more than 10 times lightweight and more compact than existing high power laser systems currently deployed by the Dodd, DARPA stated.

Potential FILIPS developers need to address a few of the biggest hurdles in laser development. First is obviously keeping the weight down on the laser package itself. Laser-making equipment tends to be on the big and bulky side.

Then there is the issue of controlling the beam itself. From long distances in particular, lasers tend to spread out, making precise targeting a problem.

Finally there is the need to build a laser package that can generate enough power or brightness to be useful in myriad applications FILIP will entail.

DARPA has a ton of development work in lasers. For example in July the agency said it want to develop a laser system the goes way beyond today's opto-mechanical, acousto-optical or electro-optical systems to establish photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology that will provide video frame rate beam steering speeds, and emit multiple beams with a total output power of 10 W.

DARPA said opto-mechanical scanning devices are usually bulky and relatively slow, while acousto- and electro-optical technologies utilize devices that while small in size, cannot provide the steering speeds and versatility necessary for many of the advanced applications the military envisions.

Known as the SWEEPER, which is short for short-range wide-field-of-view extremely-agile electronically-steered photonic emitters, DARPA said it expects the new laser technology to draw from phased array concepts that revolutionized RADAR systems.

DARPA said it expects SWEEPER will provide a compact, agile alternative to mechanically steered technology, and recognizing the recent advances in photonic device density, circuit complexity, and performance capabilities in the emerging PIC technology, the SWEEPER program should extend phased array beam steering to the optical domain in the near infra red (0.8 to 2 μm range) by developing PIC technology for optical phased arrays. Such arrays will require the integration of thousand of closely packed optical emitting facets, precise relative electronic phase control of these components, and all within a very small form factor with a total output power of 10W, DARPA stated.

DARPA has had a long interest in developing beyond-bleeding-edge laser technology. For example it currently is developing what's know as Blue Laser for Submarine Laser Communications which provides large area submarine communications at speed and depth, which no other future or existing system, or combinations of systems, can do. DARPA said.

Then there's the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System which the agency defines as a novel, compact, high power laser enabling practical small-size and low-weight speed-of-light weapons for tactical mobile air- and ground-vehicles.

Large lasers have had success in blowing things up this year. In August, Boeing and the US Air Force said that a C-130H aircraft armed with Boeing's Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) blasted a target test vehicle on the ground for the first time. Boeing has been developing the ATL since 2008 under an Air Force contract worth up to $30 million.

According to Boeing, the C-130 fired its 12,000lb high-power chemical laser through the beam control system while flying over White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The beam control system acquired the ground target and guided the laser beam to the target.

FTC slaps contempt charge on BlueHippo

This was a company that pushed it services to the poor and Black communities.

BlueHippo computer financing company flouted a 2008 FTC settlement, agency claims

By Layer 8

The Federal Trade Commission today asked a federal court to issue a contempt order against BlueHippo for violating a 2008 agreement that required the company to pay $3.5 million for consumer redress and barred the defendants from further deceiving customers.

The FTC's contempt motion alleges that between April and December of 2008, more than 35,000 customers contracted for BlueHippo's computer financing deal. But the company provided, at most, a single financed computer, failing to provide financed computers even for 2,477 customers who managed to meet the companies' conditions. Complaints about the company poured into the Better Business Bureau. On top of all that, BlueHippo failed to submit a report to the FTC showing how it was complying with the settlement, as required by the order.

According to the FTC, the computer financing firm has continued to deceive, collecting more than $15 million from consumers based on claims that it would finance their purchases of new computers, but delivered neither the financing nor the financed computers, the FTC said.

The FTC alleged that less than one percent of consumers who signed up with BlueHippo received the financed computers they applied for, and undisclosed conditions to redeem "store credits" were rigged to discourage consumers from using them.

In a contempt motion lodged with the court today, the FTC charged that BlueHippo has flouted a settlement reached with the agency last year, continuing to deceive thousands of financially strapped consumers with phony promises that it would help them purchase a computer even if they have credit problems. The FTC also is asking the court to order BlueHippo to compensate injured consumers and bar BlueHippo from similar conduct in the future.

"Years of broken promises by BlueHippo have left consumers seeing red," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

92% of firms don't care about PC recycling

92% of firms don't care about PC recycling

By Carrie-ann Skinner

More than nine out of ten businesses don't care whether their old PCs could be reused elsewhere, says Remploy.

Research by the IT refurbisher revealed that only eight percent were concerned about making sure old computers could be put to good use elsewhere, despite the fact that 73 percent of companies surveyed claimed they were recycling old equipment.

According to Remploy, IT recycling that does take place is more likely to cover components than old PCs.

With this in mind, the company has launched a 'Re-use IT' campaign, which aims to reduce the amount of IT equipment being sent to landfills by encouraging its re-use once all pre-existing data has been securely erased.

Remploy e-cycle general manager Malcolm Watson said: "The importance of reusing things is now well understood for many types of waste, both in the office and at home, yet for some reason IT equipment such as laptops, printers, mobile phones and PDAs seem to be treated differently.

"As businesses and individuals alike we need to consider the environmental impact of all that we undertake. Disposal of our IT equipment is no different so I strongly urge everyone to support re-use wherever possible," he added.

Damn the torpedoes: NASA, European Space agency want to go to Mars

Damn the torpedoes: NASA, European Space agency want to go to Mars

By Layer 8

nasa mars imageNASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are aiming to cooperate on all manner of robotic orbiters, landers and exploration devices for a future trip to Mars.

Specifically, NASA and ESA recently agreed to consider the establishment of a new joint initiative to define and implement their scientific, programmatic, and technological goals for the exploration of Mars. The program would focus on several launch opportunities with landers and orbiters conducting astrobiological, geological, geophysical, climatological, and other high-priority investigations and aiming at returning samples from Mars in the mid-2020s.

Layer 8 Extra: 10 NASA space technologies that may never see the cosmos

The envisioned program includes the provision that by 2016, ESA will build what it calls an Entry, Descent, and semi-soft Landing System (EDLS) technology demonstrator and a science/relay orbiter. In 2018, the ESA would also deliver its ExoMars rover equipped with drilling capability. NASA's contribution in 2016 includes a trace gas mapping and imaging scientific payload for the orbiter and the launch and, in 2018 a rover, the EDLS, and rockets for the launch.

NASA and ESA will establish legally binding agreements, as soon as feasible, to cover specific activities of this initiative, the agencies said in a release.

The NASA/ESA agreement has been in the works for months and while the agencies have cooperated in the past, budgetary constraints likely helped move the discussions along. The idea being they can support the costs of research, development and launch of Mars missions together better than individually.

In fact one of the findings in the recent Review of United States Human Space Flight Plan Committee report said the US can lead a bold new international effort in the human exploration of space. If international partners are actively engaged, there could be substantial benefits to foreign relations and more overall resources could become available to the human spaceflight program.

The commission also said that "Mars is the ultimate destination for human exploration of the inner solar system; but it is not the best first destination. If humans are ever to live for long periods on another planetary surface, it is likely to be on Mars. But Mars is not an easy place to visit with existing technology and without a substantial investment of resources."

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has sent back high-resolution images of about 30 proposed landing sites for the Mars Science Laboratory, a mission launching in 2011 to deploy a long-distance rover carrying sophisticated science instruments on Mars by 2012.

The European Space Agency recently said to wants volunteers to take a simulated 520-day trip to Mars. Starting in 2010, an international crew of six will simulate a 520-day round-trip to Mars, including a 30-day stay on the Martian surface. The 'mission' is part of the Mars500 program being conducted by ESA and Russia's Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) to study human psychological, medical and physical capabilities and limitations in space through fundamental and operational research.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Lamp hijacks electricity from unused telephone jack

Lamp hijacks electricity from unused telephone jack

Bright idea or a TOS violation?

By Paul McNamara

phone jack lampWe've all seen lamps with phone jacks in hotel rooms. Well, here's a lamp that plugs into a phone jack in your home and operates by filching the trickle of electricity found there.

Clever?

Bound to upset phone companies?

Both?

The lamp is sold by an outfit called UxSight, which lists addresses in Hong Kong and San Mateo, Calif.

Here are some of the specs:

  • Environment friendly 8 LED RJ11 Lamp is powered by any available RJ11 socket only;
  • Made of durable plastic and alloy material, it features 8 white LEDs and ON/OFF button;
  • Life of LEDs last up to 100,000 hours;
  • Goose neck makes you adjust the illuminating angle you desire.
  • This 8 LED Table Lamp can be used in nursery, child's bedroom, as a desk light or bedside lamp;

At the princely sum of $4.69 -- less than the shipping fee -- we'll have to be forgiven for presuming this is a piece of crap.

UxSight describes itself as being "about lifestyle improvement at a reasonable cost. We provide the largest selection of consumer goodies at bargain prices."

OK, it's a reasonably priced piece of crap. Still interesting, though.

I'm going to guess that phone companies will frown on this type of thing and that somewhere buried deep inside of your phone bill and/or user agreement will be language making that clear. I'll ping some PR types to see if I can find out for sure.

In the meantime, caveat emptor.

(Update: An incredulous Verizon public relations professional says he'll track down an answer for me; I could practically see his eyes rolling in the e-mail.)

Wealth File

Wealth File #12:

Rich people think "both."
Poor people think "either/or."

Rich people live in a world of abundance. Poor people live in a world of scarcity. Of course, both live in the same physical world, but the difference is in their perspective. Poor and middle-class people come from scarcity. They live by mottos such as "There’s only so much to go around," "There’s never enough," and "You can’t have everything." And although you may not be able to have everything, as in all the things in the world, I do think you can certainly have "everything you really want."

Do you want a successful career or a close relationship with your family?

Both!

Do you want to focus on business or have fun and play?

Both!

Do you want money or meaning in your life?

Both!

Do you want to earn a fortune or do work that you love?

Both!

Poor people always choose one, rich people choose…

Both!

To your success,

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Low voter turn out in Detroit despite hype of needed change.

Voter turn out for the Detroit election was only about 22%. Yes, we did change some of the City Council but why are we still not VOTING. Everyone needs to read this memo from Citibank to understand the why VOTING is important. Voting is the only power that can even up the power of the other 90 % of the citizen without wealth iff we hold our elected officials accountable. Thanks to Michael Moore in digging this up from his new movie Capitalism: A Love Story a must see

http://www.scribd.com/doc/6674234/Citigroup-Oct-16-2005-Plutonomy-Report-Part-1

http://www.scribd.com/doc/6674229/Citigroup-Mar-5-2006-Plutonomy-Report-Part-2

Here is an excerpt from this document stating the power of the vote:

IS THERE A BACKLASH BUILDING?
Plutonomy, we suspect is elastic. Concentration of wealth and spending in the hands ofa few, probably has its limits. What might cause the elastic to snap back? We can see a number of potential challenges to plutonomy.The first, and probably most potent, is through a labor backlash. Outsourcing,offshoring or insourcing of cheap labor is done to undercut current labor costs. Those being undercut are losers in the short term. While there is evidence that this is positive for the average worker (for example Ottaviano and Peri) it is also clear that high-cost substitutable labor loses. Low-end developed market labor might not have much economic power, but it does have equal voting power with the rich.

This is a must read report. Basically it states what all know ; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer because we believe that the system of Plutonomy will allow all of us normal people to someday become rich. We could change this very inequitable system BUT the dream of becoming rich is a too irresistible of a carrot that is being dangled in front of us to forget we still have some power to change this situation.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Motivational Monday

The Passion to Thrive

The strongest may survive but it is the passionate that will thrive.

Whether I’m speaking to an NFL team, school principals, or leaders of world class organization such as Pepperidge Farm, Citizens Bank, and Northwestern Mutual my message is the same:
If you want to be successful today you must load your "Energy Bus" with passionate people... and most of all you must be passionate yourself.

In the past you could be lukewarm and mediocre and still be successful.

Not anymore.

Now, in today’s competitive environment, your passion and your purpose must be greater than your challenges.

You have to be willing to work harder, run faster, drive further, study more, practice longer, lead better, sweat more, love deeper and this requires passion.

Passion wakes you up 30 minutes earlier. It dials your phone one more time to make one more sale. It rallies your team together when times are tough. It moves you to see one more patient after a long day at the hospital. It inspires you to help a struggling student. It provides legendary customer service. Passion transforms workplaces, powers champions and fuels winning teams.

But what about someone who has a low paying job or who is in a job that quite frankly is hard to be passionate about you might ask? I get this question often and my answer is: It’s not the job or the money you are being paid but the passion that you bring to your job that matters. After all, I’ve met bus drivers who are more passionate about their jobs than professional athletes making millions of dollars.

Sure, I realize that not everyone is going to be passionate about their daily responsibilities associated with their job, however, in these cases you can be passionate about the organization you work for. You can be passionate about your team members and helping your team improve, grow and succeed. You can be passionate about your mission and customers. You can be passionate about making a difference.

Leaders, you must also foster this passion in your organization and make passion an essential element of your culture. Stop sucking the life out of your employees and wonder why they aren’t delivering the results you want. Instead create a team that is passionate about their mission, driven with purpose and energized by working together. Inspire your team with passion and they will drive The Energy Bus for you.

If your people aren’t passionate about the work they do and the people they work with, and if they aren’t passionate about your brand and mission, then you need to let them off the bus so they can find another bus where they can live their passion.

This is good for them and it’s good for your team.

By letting disengaged employees off the bus you make room for those who are passionate about your team and organization—and with a bus filled with passionate people you will thrive while others merely try to survive.

Are you living and working with your passion? How can you start today? Join the conversation on our blog.

- Jon

Beware the Fake Google Chrome OS Download

Beware the Fake Google Chrome OS Download

Gizmodo posted that an early version is available. Gizmodo is credible and respected, but the download is a fake.
By Tony Bradley

Google recently announced that it is developing its own operating system based around the Chrome web browser, named appropriately enough Chrome OS. For the past week there have been rumors circulating about a leaked version being available for download. Don't believe the hype. The 'leaked version' is a fake that is not related to Google at all.

Even a trusted source like Gizmodo has perpetuated the myth that Chrome is available. Its tough when there is so much pressure to be the first to publish a breaking news story. Gizmodo recently reported a story of alleged Chrome operating system screen shots, but later updated the story to state that it was verified as a fake. Gizmodo pushed the story of the fake download with a story titled Google Chrome OS Now Available, Go Get It .

The number of sites and individuals who are propagating the story is lending credibility to the false rumor. A quick scan of Twitter or a quick search of the Web will lead to all sorts of seemingly reputable sources talking about the availability of the Chrome OS beta. Most of the excitement though can be traced back to Gizmodo. It is a trusted source of breaking tech news and it doesn't take much for an announcement on Gizmodo to go viral on Twitter and blog sites.

The site in question appears legitimate in so much as it is actually on the google.com domain. The site lists features like a GNOME desktop, Google Picassa integration, and a Flash Player plugin. It comes complete with a few Google logos scattered about.

However, it is actually a product of Google Sites. Basically, someone created a page with Google Sites which points to sites.google.com and populated it with basic information about the Chrome OS which could be extracted from publicly available details Google has shared, then added a link to download some other completely unrelated tool.

To be fair, the site owner did include a disclaimer at the bottom stating "Chrome OS is not related to Google. Service is provided by SUSE Studio. Seethe license." Google has since disabled the site for violating the Google Sites terms of service.

Chrome sounds like it has promise, although the operating system market is a tough sell that is already filled with dominating players like Microsoft and Apple. Of course, Google hasn't shied away from head-to-head battles with either of those companies in other arenas like Web search, mobile phone operating systems, or web browsers.

Be patient. The fervor over all things Google is remotely understandable, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Even Google will take some time to develop an actual operating system. When it is actually available, I am sure you will hear about it.

In the meantime, if a guy in a dark alley whispers that he has an early version of Chrome OS available, there is good reason to be suspicious. Google may have shut down this fake Chrome OS site, but others are sure to follow. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, its probably a duck. Check your sources and exercise some common sense before you rush to download a fake, and potentially malicious, Chrome OS.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com .