Bellsouth recinds donation because of free community wifi

I thought regular readers of Tales of the Sausage Factory might find this interesting.

Recently, the city of New Orleans (or what’s left of it) decided to set up free wifi for all residents to help bridge the damage to the communications infrastructure in the city and stimulate growth. This caused BellSouth to throw a little hissy fit, and snatch back the damaged building they donated to be the new police station.

Just shows the class of the telecommunications industry…

FCC to put the kibosh on regulations requiring "naked DSL"

According to this story at CNet, the FCC is considering striking down local regulations in California, Florida, and several other states that require phone companies that provide DSL services to offer those services without requiring the customer to also have a traditional land line.

Blocking this regulation will essentially raise the price of DSL service, and strangle the move many people are making away from traditional land lines to relying solely on cell phones or VOIP services, such as Vonage (both of which I’ve been considering, given that Verizon is charging me $45 just for local phone service).

Good to see the FCC is still looking out for the big guys.

Customers totally ignore security issues

So, security has been hyped in the press and especially in ads over the past few years… various IT ads talk about security, keeping out hackers, etc. But is Joe Sixpack actually paying attention?

Recently, Paris Hilton (one of those people it seems is simply famous for being famous… oh and for having her knookie tape broadcast all over the Internet) recently had her T-Mobile smartphone hacked, with its phone list of celebrities (and even pictures of her breasts taken with the camera phone) posted all over the web. T-Mobile’s security (or lack thereof) was at fault. This is just one of several breeches of security that has hit T-Mobile.

So, of course, the free market being what it is, people are now leaving T-Mobile in droves, especially eschewing the products that have been so famously hacked, right? Apparently not, as T-Mobile is selling out of Sidekicks, the unit Hilton owned that was hacked.

So, I guess what we have is the confluence of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” and “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

Anti-public wifi astroturfing uncovered

This story at Slashdot should be interesting to “Tales of the Sausage Factory” fans. It seems that the “New Millennium Research Council (NMRC)” and “The Heartland Institute” claim that municipal wifi would be a Very Bad Thing Indeed. There’s only one little snag with this slam-dunk against public wifi… NMRC is funded by the telecommunications industry, and the Heartland Institute won’t reveal who pays their bills and holds their leash. Shock! Suprise!

Personally, I always love the names that these “institutes” and “think tanks” come up with. Nice, wholesome names, aren’t they? Who could possibly argue with the Heartland? Who wants to be a luddite against the new Millenium? (yes, yes, John, I mean besides you.)

Newsflash: Titan sounds like old Atari 2600 games

Being somewhat of a space nerd, I’ve been following the progress of the Huygens probe mission for the last few days (besides, watching space press conferences streaming via the web is more fun than working, even if they are largely in French and German).

One of the instruments on the Huygens was essentially a microphone, and in addition to the pictures that look like they were taken with a first generation Logitech webcam, the ESA have released MP3s of sounds recorded through the microphone. I was anxious to hear what another planet sounded like… boy was I shocked to learn it sounded a lot like the bleeps and hisses that passed for sound in the old Atari 2600 game console from the 70’s and 80’s.

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Security officials realize that putting explosives in people's baggage is maybe a bad idea…

So, you’re managing security at an airport. How do you train your bomb sniffing dogs? Well, you might just set up some dummy luggage at a remote site and let the dogs check them out. Or, you could actually put explosives in people’s bags, just to give the dogs something to find…

Which works nicely, in theory… train like you work is a good idea. But what happens when they don’t find the explosives? Right, they get loaded on aircraft, and present a rather nasty surprise for the unsuspecting airline passenger.

Alan Turing would be so proud…

You’ve probably heard of the Turing Test. You may have also read John’s story on Salon about the Loebner prize which purports to carry out the Turing test each year and award prizes. People labor over programs that try to pass for human, and fail miserably. Real AI guys have thrown up their hands in disgust and have disowned both the Loebner prize and apparently the Turing test itself.

But it appears they have all gone about it in the wrong way…

It’s actually an easy problem to solve.

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