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The News – 04/30/02

In this Issue:

Recommended Reading

I realize this is the only newsletter you’ll ever need, but if you want more in-depth detail, check out:

Stan Hustad’s The Coaching Connection

Bits & Pieces II
(The Broadband Content Wars series will continue in a future SNS)

Here are some more short takes on recent news of note.

  • CyberCrime Stats Available: The latest CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey (quoted in a previous SNS) is out and available to the public. Some of the more interesting results:
    • Twenty-five percent of those acknowledging attacks reported from two to five incidents.
    • Thirty-nine percent reported ten or more incidents.
    • Seventy percent of those attacked reported vandalism.
    • Fifty-five percent reported denial of service.
    • Twelve percent reported theft of transaction information.
    • Six percent reported financial fraud.
  • Turnabout Is Fair Play: Many of the popular music file-swapping programs have built in “spyware” or “adware.” These tag-along programs can report on user behavior or pop up annoying ads. The file-swapping services, such as Kazaa, Grokster, iMesh, and Audiogalaxy, depend on the advertising revenue from the obnoxious adware to make ends meet.

    Well now a hacker named “Dr. Damn” has turned the tables on these companies, who make it easy to destroy the revenue streams of music publishers and artists, by releasing versions of their programs with the spyware and adware stripped out. Dr. Damn is not alone. Several other hackers are providing so-called clean clients for the major file-swapping services. In a tremendous case of the pot calling the kettle black, the services are complaining that their intellectual property is being stolen. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
  • Airport Adds Bluetooth: The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport has added Bluetooth hotspots to its wireless options. As previously reported in SNS, the airport already provides 802.11b (Wi-Fi) service on many of its concourses. Now cell phones and PDAs with Bluetooth capabilities can surf the Internet as well.
  • Biometric Passport Bill Passes Senate: A bill that passed the Senate recently calls for the issuance of travel documents that include biometric identifiers. This will result in the installation of equipment to read the new documents at all US points of entry by October 2003. The bill passage caused the stock of local Minneapolis firm Visionics (covered in a previous SNS), which makes such equipment, to jump 10 percent. We’re just that much closer to a national identity card and biometric database. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing.

  • European 3G Build-Out To Be Costly: European wireless operators have already mortgaged their future by bidding a massive $105 billion on 3G wireless license fees. Now Visiongain predicts that actually building the networks will cost a fantastic $120 billion. Because of this huge projected capital expense, these operators are intensely interested in network-sharing, something that has started in the US as well, with AT&T and Cingular sharing the building of 3,000 miles of highway-hugging GPRS network in the West and Midwest.
  • Insecure eCommerce: It seems that PayPal, the popular online payment service, has a bit of a problem with the way it helps sell electronic goods. The cut-and-paste code provided to merchants by PayPal for sending transaction data to the payment service includes the URL of the document or software to be purchased. Enterprising miscreants needed to simply copy the link into their browsers to bypass the bothersome task of actually paying for the goods.

    This trick works for hard goods as well, allowing perps to name their own price for products sold on sites that use PayPal’s Web Accept service. Noted security expert Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer for Counterpane Internet Security, compared such attacks to going into a grocery store and switching price stickers. “If a merchant is dumb enough to take their customer's word on the price, without checking, that's not PayPal's fault,” Schneier said. Uncharacteristically, Schneier misses the point. Offering an insecure ordering and payment system to more than 3 million business customers is PayPal’s fault.

  • Wireless Bar Advertising is the Thing: Right here in my back yard is a company called SurfThing that offers free Web usage on wireless terminals at bars, restaurants and cafes. Currently there are 62 SurfThings available in 30 Twin Cities bars, and the company has partnered with AT&T Broadband for the Internet connectivity. There’s quite a large potential market for such a service: Of about 1.8 million bars and restaurants in the nation, perhaps 4,000 have Net-linked machines. The public Internet terminal phenomenon is more well-developed elsewhere in the world, with a total of 480,000 electronic kiosks in use worldwide.

    SurfThing terminals are all-in-one desktop PCs with flat-panel screens and high-speed wireless connections.  The surfing is free; SurfThing’s revenue comes from ads that cover about a quarter of the screen. When the devices are inactive for three minutes, ads cover the whole screen and are visible from across the room. The company says it’s close to breaking even after two years of operation. So far there’s no indication SurfThing will broaden its offering to accommodate those with their own wireless laptops.
    Kiosk Magazine
  • The Attack of the Ads: Online advertising may soon go too far. Many may assert that they already have gone too far, what with pop-up, pop-over, pop-under, and other sneaky and annoying techniques. Well, folks, it’s going to get worse. United Virtualities, an online ad technology company, has developed a product that will allow advertisers to automatically change the appearance of Web browsers, including the gray bits at the top that contain Back, Home, and Refresh (Reload) functions. is testing the new product, called Ooqa Ooqa, that transforms browser toolbars into an image of a setting sun, with the logo appearing behind the toolbar icons. The "home" icon would become a "Weather Channel" icon, taking users to's main page, and sponsored links to other Web sites would replace Internet Explorer tools like “edit.” The kicker is: Users don't have to download any software to have their browser look and feel changed. Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen speaks for those of us who are alarmed at this possibility: “I think it steps over the line of what's permissible. Changing software is not permissible. The software is mine."

    United Virtualities claims that users will always have the option to turn off Ooqa Ooqa (stupid name alert), and even to indicate they don’t want to have it enabled when next they visit a Web site. Advertisers, though, will be able to decide if the browser modifications are permanent or just for when the user browses a particular site. Sorry, I think this is the stupidest advertising idea since Pizza Hut considered advertising on the moon.
    USA Today

  • Fast, Public Wireless Hotspots: Japan’s NTT Communications will officially launch the first public commercial wireless LAN that is compatible with both 802.11a and 802.11b (Wi-Fi) in May. The company has been running public wireless LAN access trials, called Hi-Fibe, in Tokyo since last July and said its Hotspot service will offer speeds of up to 36 Mbps for 802.11a and 11 Mbps for 802.11b.

    The Hotspot service will initially encompass 200 locations, expanding to 1,000 by the end of the year. NTT said that 802.11a access will be limited initially, but will expand to all Hotspot locations by this summer. Hotspot fees will include a 1,500 yen ($11.73) application charge and 1,600 yen ($12.51) per month for access. The service represents the largest public rollout of Wi-Fi’s faster brother, 802.11a.
    802.11 Planet
  • Google Denies Service to Some Users: Some Google users are seeing terms of service violation notices rather than search results when trying to use the popular Web search engine. “We are not accusing you personally of having violated our Terms of Service,” say the notices. “You are most likely an innocent victim of someone else's bad behavior. We're really sorry to have had to take this action.”

    The bad behavior Google is trying to protect itself against is automated search requests, which unscrupulous marketers use to try to manipulate search rankings. These searches can use substantial system resources and have been prohibited by Google for years. Google has taken the extraordinary step, however, of prohibiting innocent users of an offending ISP from using the service because of abuse by a single subscriber.

  • Nanotech Hyperbole: James Von Ehr II, founder of nanotechnology company Zyvex, recently echoed venture capitalist John Doerr’s famous words from a few years ago about the Internet, saying that nanotechnology “will be the greatest wealth-generating event in history … but not in the next five years.” You may remember an embarrassed Doerr later apologized for his statement after the Internet bubble burst. Von Ehr at least qualifies his pronouncement However, it’s hard to argue that nanotech is the coming thing. Already carbon nanotubes (described in a previous SNS) sell for around $200,000 a pound. And many applications of nanotech have a science fiction air about them. For example, at a recent speech in Chicago, Von Ehr described a respirocyte, a tiny machine that stores oxygen under pressure inside your body (like a little scuba tank the size of an ant’s tooth). With such a device, or rather, with thousands or millions of such devices, you could hold your breath for several hours. Think how that would revolutionize the underwater salvage industry, among others.

    Von Ehr’s company today is developing machines that can mass produce MEMS (Microelectromechanical systems), tiny machines created in many cases by directly manipulating molecules and atoms.

    Time will tell if Von Ehr will need to eat his words like Doerr did, but it’s certain that we all will feel the effects of advances in nanotechnology within our lifetimes.

Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: CTOMentor has just released a new wireless white paper, the first in The Wireless Future series: You Can Take It With You: Business Applications of Personal Wireless Devices. This first paper in the series is free; others that will be available for a nominal fee will include:

  • Islands Make the Net: Wireless Networking and the Evolving Mesh

  • Taking Your Business On the Road: The Car As Wireless Office

  • Standards, Standards Everywhere: A Business Guide to Wireless Standards

  • M-Commerce: Are We There Yet?

  • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mobile Location-Based Wireless Services

  • The Wireless Last Mile: Fixed Wireless Broadband Services

  • Beyond Keyboards, Beyond Wires: Voice Activated Wireless Services

  • Information, Entertainment, and Access At Your Fingertips: Interactive Wireless Information Services

These white papers will be released over the coming months. To be notified when a new white paper is released, send an email to or check

You also may want to check out the article I wrote on Instant Messaging in the latest issue of the TaylorHarkins Insights to Action newsletter.

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In the unlikely event that you want more of my opinions, I’ve started a Weblog. It’s the fashionable thing for pundits to do, and I’m doing it too. A Weblog is a datestamped collection of somewhat random thoughts and ideas assembled on a Web page. If you’d like to subject the world to your thoughts, as I do, you can create your own Weblog. You need to have a Web site that allows you FTP access, and the free software from This allows you to right click on a Web page and append your pithy thoughts to your Weblog.

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In Memoriam

Gerald M. Ellsworth

March 14, 1928 - July 5, 2003

In Memoriam

Jane C. Ellsworth

July 20, 1928 - July 20, 2003