Bellsouth doesn’t want you to know how much it hates customers

(via Slashdot)

Originally, BellSouth simply denied working to support the NSA’s illegal wiretaps of US citizens as fully as possible. Now, a request has been made to USA Today to retract the earlier story.

The telecommunications giant sent a letter to USA Today on Thursday asking it to retract last week’s story that BellSouth and two other companies helped the NSA compile a massive database of records on domestic phone calls.

In other words, originally there was a denial, but with evidence supporting the earlier story, BellSouth wants to simply hide the details so people won’t know how much help the NSA has been given to continue the current administrations illegal eavesdropping efforts.

[tags]BellSouth, NSA wiretaps[/tags]

The Pirate Bay shut down?

When I couldn’t reach to see what new TV shows were avialable, I went looking for a reason.  My first assumption was that somehow, despite past failures to do so, companies who have seen their IP distributed on The Pirate Bay managed to get the site taken offline.  It appears Slashdot confirms my first instinct was basically on-target.

My real interest in The Pirate Bay is TV show downloads.  Of course, the industry calls me a pirate for that.  I, on the other hand, have spent a couple hundred bucks this year on DVD sets for television shows that I never would have purchased had I not downloaded and watched so much from the torrent sites.  I am very unlikely to purchase those DVDs for shows I haven’t already seen.  And since I work at night, don’t have a working VCR, and haven’t gotten a DVR yet, that pretty much means no TV DVD sets without torrents.

[tags]The Pirate Bay, Torrent sites[/tags]

Microsoft hoping to replace JPEG?

I don’t know how I ended up finding this article, but here’s a good write-up on Microsoft’s new photo format.  The claim is Windows Media Photo will manage roughly double the compression ratio JPEG has while maintaining or bettering JPEG’s visual quality.  If true, this could really catch on.  Even with high-bandwidth connections more readily available, every opportunity to squeeze more signal per bit through the pipe is welcome.

“One of the biggest reasons people upgrade their PCs is digital photos,” Crow said, noting that Microsoft has been in contact with printer makers, digital camera companies and other unnamed industry partners while working on Windows Media Photo. Microsoft touts managing “digital memories” as one of the key attributes of XP successor Vista.

. . .

Not only does compression save storage space, which is especially important for devices such as cell phones and digital cameras, a smaller file can also print faster, transfer faster and help conserve battery life on devices, Crow said. “Making a file that is smaller has all kinds of benefits.”

Will this catch on?  As I said above, I can see the appeal, and if it works out as well as Microsoft is saying it will (read the article formore details of the intelligence in this format), I can only see problems if licensing costs are prohibitive or if Microsoft hate beats out throughput and image manipulation ease concerns.  Even the Microsoft rep realizes that:

Licensing details for the technology are still being ironed out. These could be a concern, Crow acknowledged, but “the philosophy has been that licensing should not be a restriction” to adoption, he said.

Honestly, I’m hoping Microsoft doesn’t pull an Apple and over-price this.  I’d like to see a better image format soon.

[tags]Microsoft, JPEG, photo format[/tags]

The facts

This is just one of those posts intended to remind you of the facts.

  • Chuck Norris gave Mona Lisa that smile.
  • When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
  • Guns don’t kill people. Chuck Norris kills People.

[tags]Chuck Norris, Facts[/tags]

PC World’s 25 worst tech products

Thanks to a couple of cow-orkers who shared this with me. It’s so hard to pick a favorite, as there are so many disasterous products. Let’s try popping up this sample:

7. Microsoft Bob (1995)

No list of the worst of the worst would be complete without Windows’ idiot cousin, Bob. Designed as a “social” interface for Windows 3.1, Bob featured a living room filled with clickable objects, and a series of cartoon “helpers” like Chaos the Cat and Scuzz the Rat that walked you through a small suite of applications. Fortunately, Bob was soon buried in the avalanche of hype surrounding Windows 95, though some of the cartoons lived on to annoy users of Microsoft Office and Windows XP (Clippy the animated paper clip, anyone?).

Mostly, Bob raised more questions than it answered. Like, had anyone at Microsoft actually used Bob? Did they think anyone else would? And did they deliberately make Bob’s smiley face logo look like Bill Gates, or was that just an accident?

[tags]PC World, Tech disasters[/tags]

The effects of total isolation

(via Modern Mechanix)
Printed originally in Mechanix Illustrated in 1962, this is a brief account of one man’s exposure, so to speak, to an environment of solitude, weightlessness, darkness and silence.


IN an underground “sensory deprivation chamber” at the VA Hospital in Oklahoma City sits an eight-foot-deep tank of water. It is part of a project designed to examine the mental stresses—especially hallucinations— that may afflict persons in environments of solitude, weightlessness, darkness and silence.

When Sid Ross, a free-lance writer, heard about the tank he contacted project director Dr. Jay T. Shurley and offered his services as a “tank volunteer.” The next thing Ross knew he was donning a pair of shorts as an assistant fitted a soundproof, lightproof mask to his face. Ross entered the water and floated face down. Weightless, deprived of his senses, his fantasies began . . .

Soon a giant frog loomed up.

[tags]Loneliness, solitude, Mechanix, Isolation experiment[/tags]

No .xxx domains for now

(via Freedom-to-Tinker)
Well, for now, ICANN has said no to .xxx domains.

ICANN had decided, some time back, to move toward a .xxx domain for adult content. The arrangements for .xxx seemed to be ready, but now ICANN has pulled the plug. The reason, apparently, is that the ICANN board was worried that ICM, the company that would have run .xxx, could not ensure that sites in the domain complied with all applicable laws. Note that this is a different standard than other domain managers would have to meet — nobody expects the managers of .com to ensure, proactively, that .com sites obey all of the national laws that might apply to them. And of course we all know why the standard was different: governments are touchy about porn.

Honestly, aside from making it easier for perverts like me to find good pr0n, I really don’t see the use of this domain. ICANN (nor any other organization) can force an adult site to use the domain, so it’s not like implementing this and then letting site providers, parents, ISP, and so on block it would stop adult sites. At best, it would block adult sites that try to play by the rules and make themselves easy to limit access to.

In the end, apparently ICANN decided the domain would not fit their purposes coordinating allocation of domains and numbers.

Read the full article – it’s lengthy, but full of good information about the organization and about decisions that go on behind domain creation and allocation.

[tags].xxx domains, ICANN[/tags]

X-Treme tape

(via CoolTools)
When duct tape and electrical tape are not enough for you, try X-Treme tape.

Electrical tape simply does not work in a marine environment. Even duct tape won’t stick to something wet. Try getting any tape to stick to a rope or line on a boat. Or try to get a waterproof seal on a hose leak. X-treme tape can do all these chores with flying colors because it is a non-adhesive, self-bonding wrap. It’s not really tape since it’s not sticky. This stuff is sort of magical. You stretch it on and it self-fuses tight under tension. It works in cold and wet, and won’t melt on hot surfaces, so you can use it on engines.

[tags]Cool tools, X-Treme tape[/tags]

More free books

I recently picked up an EBookwise-1150 ebook reader (now available for $124.95 with 64 Meg SmartMedia card).  I’ve purchased and downloaded a few books from the EBookwise web site, but I can’t afford to pick up as many books as I’d like there.  So when I found the web site to pick up scads of free books (legally free, I might add), I felt like I scored – or at scored such that I have a choice of as many as I want up to the 13,736 currently available there.  Of course, since I haven’t tried downloading any and transferring them to my ebook reader, I don’t know how much I’ve scored.  I’ll make an update when I’ve tried it out.
[tags]Free ebooks[/tags]

Some good news for fathers everywhere

According to Snopes, it is true that more collect calls are placed on Father’s day than any other day. So it might cost you, but you probably have a better chance of hearing from your kids…

According to Hallmark, “Father’s Day is the fourth-largest card-sending occasion with nearly 95 million Father’s Day cards expected to be given this year [2006] in the United States.”

Yet it is another statistic related to the day that is more impressive: While Mother’s Day is the biggest holiday for phone calls, Father’s Day is the busiest for collect calls. (The overall busiest day of the year for phone calls is the Monday after Thanksgiving.)

In 1998, Dave Johnson, a spokesman for AT&T’s corporate headquarters in New Jersey, said, “Father’s Day is our biggest day for collect calls, not just the biggest holiday, but the biggest day of the year.” These calls are inclined to be longer than the average, too. “The difference between Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and a typical Sunday is that calls on the holidays tend to be three to four minutes longer,” said Johnson. “A typical long distance call is eight minutes long. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day calls average elevenminutes.”

More information can be found in the full story.

[tags]Father’s day, Snopes, Urban legends[/tags]