In The News
Man Charged in Tsunami Relief Scam
January 17, 2005. NewsFactor Network.
Google has a list of web sites that provide information and handle donations for victims throughout the
region at www.google.com/tsunami_relief.html
eBay has increased their rates for their basic stores (not for the
Nicholas Ciarelli is a 19-year-old Harvard freshman and the person behind www.ThinkSecret.com,
a web site devoted to Macs. He is being sued by Apple for revealing Apple trade secrets on his
web site. He correctly predicted the existence of the Mac Mini a couple weeks
before Apple announced the product. A San Francisco lawyer, Terry Gross, a specialist in freedom of speech and
the Internet, will defend him on a pro bono basis. The legal argument will be
that Mr. Ciarelli used proper news-gathering techniques and deserves First Amendment protection.
The trade secret is said to be picture of the Mac Mini which was published on
A court ruled in favor of Vonage, that they don't have to pay access charges.
Hank's Verizon cellphone service is $35, but his actual bill is $44. This is the
sort of fees/taxes that Vonage and other VOIP companies will not have to pay. At
least for now.
We spoke with Alexis Rosen, the President of Panix about the hijacking of
their domain over the past weekend. For background see:
In brief, this is what Panix had to say (from their web site): "The hijack
occurred because an Australian registrar, MelbourneIT, failed to do proper confirmation of a fraudulent domain transfer request they received. The normal process, which includes notifications to the original registrar and the current domain holder, did not
The term "domain" on the Internet refers to names such as sony.com,
cuny.edu, pcradioshow.org and panix.com. Domains are registered by
companies called registrars. Some registrars are directnic.com and register.com.
Panix used a registrar called Dotster.
The panix.com domain belongs to Panix, a company in New York City that
provides Internet access and web site hosting. Joe King uses them and he has an
email address at panix.com. When Joe couldn't get his email, he at first thought
the problem was on his end.
The problem was caused by ownership of the panix.com domain being transferred
from the registrar used by Panix (Dotster), to another registrar, one in
Australia called MelbourneIT. The domain determines which computer responds to
requests such as pointing your web browser at www.panix.com.
When ownership of the Panix domain switched to Australia, it no longer pointed
to the computers in Manhattan that are the Panix web site. It also no longer
pointed to the computers that are supposed to handle the email for Panix
customers. All the computers in Manhattan were alive and well, but the Internet
master file (so to speak) was no longer pointing to them.
The rules for tracking ownership of a domain leave a lot to be desired in terms of operational requirements.
In this case however, it was a failure to execute the rules that let ownership
of panix.com get transferred without anyone at Panix being asked for
MelbourneIT did not handle the domain registration transfer themselves, it
was processed by a reseller of their services. The reseller accepted payment for panix.com from a stolen credit card
and never checked with Panix before transferring their domain. The rules require
the gaining registrar (the one with new business) to check with the current
owners of a domain to insure that a transfer request is valid. How this checking
is done varies and it may be possible for someone to spoof or forge an approval.
However, in this case, no proof was sought at all. The reseller never bothered
to check with Panix.
MelbourneIT and their reseller each said the other one should have been doing the authentication.
This sort of thing can happen to anyone at all, even Verizon (for example)
and bring a business to its knees.
Fixing the system is extraordinarily complicated as there are many political interests
Mr. Rosen first learned of the problem when he got paged at 4:30AM. Anyone
referring to panix.com (either in an email message or a web site) was being
re-directed to the wrong place. Email to Panix customers was not getting
through. Panix figured out in about 30 minutes what had happened.
Panix dates back to 1989, they were one of the first ISPs in New York City.
Many members of law enforcement are Panix customers which turned out to be a
good thing as assorted law enforcement agencies got involved in this.
At this point, Panix does not know who instigated the domain theft. What was to be gained from this?
Why might someone pick on them? Alexis had some guesses:
- Someone with a grudge against Panix - they fight spammers a lot and have
mad their share of enemies amongst the bad guys
- The current rules for domain transfers are fairly new and not carved in stone.
It might have been a demo by someone out to prove that the current rules are bad.
In the past, the losing registrar could refuse to give up the domain for a long time.
The best registrars handle transfers by sending you a one time URL that can't be forged.
- Someone might have been out to embarrass MelbourneIT
- Extortion. But no one asked for money
- Blackmailers may have wanted to make an example of Panix. In the future blackmailers
may threaten other companies with this.
One caller had a problem displaying pictures in Internet Explorer. We
suggested checking Tools -> Internet Options -> Advanced tab and making
sure that the Show Pictures check box is selected. After the show a listener
(thanks Harry) suggested another solution based on another symptom: that the
pictures can be made to appear by changing View -> Encoding to another
language. Likewise, this listener was able to get a temporary fix by switching to Western European (Windows), but the fix wouldn't "stick".
Microsoft has a Knowledge Base article Pictures Are Not Displayed on Web Sites in Internet Explorer
that describes a problem where IE cannot determine the character set (also called code page or encoding) that is used by the
web page. It may also be that a file or registry key required to display the web page
may be missing or damaged. The KB article includes instructions on how to edit
the Registry to fix this.
In The News
Hi Definition TV will soon be able to be transmitted over electric wires.
Home Plug is the name for computer networks that run over AC power lines. A new
spec was just released that bumps up the speed of electricity based networks to
Microsoft is making available a free virus removal program. The program does
not detect viruses and updates are provided only once a month so this is in no
way shape or form a substitute for a real anti-virus program. It also does not
provide protection from new infections. This may be just the first step in a
long road for Microsoft, we may see a more full featured product from them in the future.
Microsoft also just released a free beta (read, "buggy") version of
their new anti-spyware software. The irony here is brutal, as it is the design
of Windows that makes Spyware possible in the first place. The beta expires July
31, 2005. At this point, Microsoft has not decided whether or not to charge for
the software in the future.
The version of Windows that runs on PDAs used to be called Windows CE and was
often referred to as WinCe. In part to avoid wincing at the name, Micorsoft
renamed it Pocket PC about 3 years ago. It now has a new name, Windows Mobile.
Joe will soon be on Jury Duty and mentioned that cellphones with cameras are
On January 22nd, Apple will roll out the cheapest Mac computer ever, the new
Mac Mini. It is a tiny machine with only a processor, hard drive and optical
drive, the size is about that of an external hard drive. You have to supply a monitor, mouse and keyboard. It includes USB, DVI and FireWire
ports. To connect it to a normal VGA monitor requires using an included adapter
cable. For $500 you get a 1.25-GHz PowerPC G4 processor, 256 MB of RAM, a 40-GB hard drive and
an optical drive that can read and burn CDs and read DVDs. For $600 you get a 1.42-GHz processor and an 80-GB hard drive.
RAM can be upgraded up to 1GB, but the upgrade must be done by Apple, not by
you. WiFi is optional and must be purchased pre-installed.
The new Apple flash ram based MP3 player, the Shuffle, has no screen. We felt this was a large omission, especially since the competition does include a
screen. Joe noted that the Muvo also has an FM radio. Alfred felt strongly that the
iPod Shuffle will not succeed in the market.
Alfred described his experiences with a very small external hard disk from Seagate
called the Pocket Drive. It is shaped like a flying saucer or hockey puck and it
plugs into a USB port. Although its not much bigger than an iPod, it does not
play music, this is strictly a hard disk with a 5 GB capacity. Unlike full size
hard disks, this ultra-portable model does not need a power plug. It draws all
the electricity it needs from the USB port. Alfred loved it. The street price of
the Seagate Pocket Drive is about $150. In comparison, 1 GB flash based thumb
drives sells for about $65 to $90.
In the DOS days, WordPerfect was king of the hill when it came to word
processing. Joe recalled that they used to have unlimited free telephone tech support from qualified people.
Of course, Word eventually took over the market for word processors. Eventually WordPerfect was
purchased by Corel. Corel
has since been acquired by a venture capital company called Vector Capital. You
may have first run across Corel using their Draw program which was
their first flagship product.
Our guest was Mark Rathwell, product marketing manager for Corel, which has
just come out with a new Office suite.
Mark said there are 20 million active WordPerfect users. Corel was recently
re-structured to put more of an emphasis on their Office suite (Quattro Pro is spreadsheet
program in the suite). Doctors and lawyers are big WordPerfect users. Mark said there are 2 versions of
WordPerfect Office, the Standard and Home and both are compatible with Microsoft
According to this Corel
PDF document, there are three versions of WordPerfect Office: Standard,
Home, and Student and Teacher. This document compares the features in
The version Mark came to discuss was WordPerfect Office 12 Home Edition - it
is specifically designed for home use. For example, it omits some advanced
WordPerfect features that lawyers need. The home edition can't deal with file
formats from legacy word processors, whereas the standard version of WordPerfect
Office can. The Home version has templates, including among them, a
The WordPerfect productivity pack comes with many new Dell PCs. WordPerfect
Office 12 Home Edition is sold at computer retailers for about $70.
Technical support for the Home Edition is unlimited for the life of the
product, but it is now via email. Turnaround time is typically 24 hours. They
have a new Knowledge Base that tries to answer your tech support email question
Joe said that with Microsoft Office, Star Office, Open Office and Lotus Smart
Suite to chose from, why do we need another Office suite? Mark said that
WordPerfect Office 12 Home Edition was built with the home user in mind. In
contrast, the Standard version of WordPerfect Office is oriented to small
For more see www.wordperfect.com/home
There have been some scams to steal relief money meant for tsunami victims (special
offers on eBay, bogus web sites, etc). Google has a list of web sites that provide information and handle donations for victims throughout the
region at www.google.com/tsunami_relief.html
F.B.I. Warns of Internet Frauds That Capitalize on Tsunami
New York Times January 6, 2005. The schemes have included unsolicited e-mail messages seeking money and a phony tsunami relief Web site capable of depositing a virus on
In The News
It turns out that the IBM PC division lost almost a billion dollars from
January 1, 2001 through June 30 2004. Joe felt that most companies in the PC
business lost money. IBM was the number three PC manufacturer during this
period. It was felt that China is planning for the future in buying the IBM
personal computer division.
The Las Vegas airport provides WiFi for free.
The RIAA will now have to get a court order before they go to an ISP to get
the names and addresses of customers.
Joe has been evaluating a number of products and gave a quick heads up on
what he has found so far.
Scansoft just came out with version 9 of Naturally Speaking. So far Joe has
been impressed with it. It has some problems though and a longer review is
planned for the future.
Corel now owns Paint Shop Pro formerly owned by JASC (it sells for under
$100). Joe felt it has more features than he would ever need. It also comes with
a 500 page printed manual, most unusual these days.
The Google desktop search is free, but has some serious security
implications. Joe found that, at times, it slowed down his computer drastically.
Mostly Joe wanted desktop searching to help him find old email messages and the
Google product does not support the email program Joe uses. Joe remains a big
fan of X1, which does index his email, but is a commercial product. Yahoo will
soon release some form of the X1 product for free.
Update: January 11, 2005. Yahoo released free desktop search software that searches through
more than 200 different file types on your computer and offers privacy controls to prevent unauthorized access to your stored information.
This is a test version only.
Yahoo Launches Desktop Search
at SearchEngineWatch.com January 11, 2005.
Quoting: "For now, there's little difference between the X1 application and
Buffalo Link Station
The hard disk with an Ethernet port that Hank described was the Buffalo
Technology LinkStation. It is a very inexpensive LAN based hard drive -
officially called Network Attached Storage (NAS). Hank recently paid about $240
for a model with 120 GB of storage. Other models are 160GB, 250GB and 300GB. In
general, Hank was very pleased with the product.
He purchased it because someone was using a Windows XP computer to store and
share files and ran into a software limitation from Microsoft - only 10
concurrent users are allowed to connect. For additional computers to connect to
the file server machine you have purchase fairly expensive licenses from
Microsoft, called Client Access Licenses (CAL). Purchasing the LinkStation
was much cheaper.
You administer the LinkStation over the network, unlike a computer it does
not require a monitor or keyboard. There is an internal web server program, you
point a web browser at the device and talk to it using a web page interface. The
product is fairly small (2.4 wide x 6.8 deep x 7.3 high) and it has two tricks up its sleeve (thanks to its two USB 2.0 ports). First, it can also serve as a print server for USB based printers.
Second, if you want to keep two copies of your data on two different devices, you can plug an external hard disk into one of its two USB 2.0 ports. It can also
function as an FTP server and offers restricted access with group and user level security.
The only issue Hank mentioned was that the internal hard disk is not
particularly fast. It spins at 5400 RPM rather than 7200 and has a 2 MB buffer
rather than 8MB. One application he tried required a faster hard disk. For
more on the subject of NAS see:
Michael briefly mentioned a product called NASLite which can turn an old
computer into a file server for $16. It also gets around the limit of 10
concurrent users, but does so by running Linux. We intend to cover NASLite in
more detail later. Michael has a
write-up about it on his site, the vendor is Server
Hank has also used the IOGear BOSS which has a faster hard disk.
Joe and Michael both had recent problems with secure thumb drives (a.k.a.
flash drives), the security software refused to run under Windows 98.