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Slashback: Walmart and Wiki, Alan Ralsky 119

Posted by Zonk
from the feel-the-slashback-breeze dept.
Slashback, as always, provides updates and clarifications to previous Slashdot stories. Tonight we bring you updates on Australian Smart ID Cards, the security danger that USB memory sticks pose, Wal-Mart's Wikipedia War, Lego Mindstorms, LiveJournal's stance on Ad-Blocking software, and news about 'Spam King' Alan Ralsky. Read on for more.
Update on Australian Smart ID Card. CaptainDefragged writes "According to an article at Australian IT News, the data from Smart Card that our government is introducing is going to be used for a lot more than just health care and welfare fraud prevention. From the article: 'Intelligence agencies and police will be given access to a vast database of biometric photographs of Australians to be created for the new health and welfare smart card to fight terrorism and more general crime. ASIO and the Federal Police will be allowed routine access to the smart card database on national security issues, while state police will have restricted access for general crime investigations.'"

USB sticks as a security threat. martijnd writes "The BBC follows up on the risks of USB sticks as a threat to business by looking at data theft and virus-spreading-as-from-a-floppy infiltration."

More On Wal-Mart's Wikipedia War. An anonymous reader writes "Past the media coverage of their article 'Wal-marts Wikipedia War', Whitedust has apparently received an interesting email from Mike Krempasky (representing Edelman Public Affairs in Washington, DC). While maintaining that Whitedust has no actual specific issue with Wal-Mart - the article was published on the simple premise that Wikepedia's important neutrality was apparently being compromised - and in the interests of a more balanced argument, Whitedust have published the email in full to their readership along with some other interesting notes."

Mindstorms NXT: Mindstorms Resurrected?. Since the announcement of Mindstorms NXT; many people believe that my earlier article was completely off target. My latest article, Mindstorms NXT: Mindstorms Resurrected?, attempts to complete the analysis. It concludes that Mindstorms NXT does not represent any change of direction for Lego; and unless forced by competition to act otherwise, Lego will continue to market Mindstorms as a niche product line."

Spam King Alan Ralsky NOT Jailed. narzy writes "DailyTech.com is reporting that contrary to reports last week, spam king Alan Ralsky was in fact not picked up by the Feds. Inquires put in to the DoJ and Detroit FBI field office resulted in puzzling dead ends as both agencies had no information as to having Mr. Ralsky in custody. Early Monday morning the original source recanted the story of Mr. Ralsky's arrest."

LiveJournal Explains Ban on Ad-Blocking Software. An anonymous user writes "LJ Founder, Brad Fitzpatrick, blames the change to the Terms of Service on boilerplate language put into the document by 'some lawyers'." From the article: "This is a pre-announcement that a more user-friendly TOS change is on its way. (After all, we can't even detect that you're even using ad blockers to begin with, so there's no point in us saying you can't. Plus you might not even have control over what's installed on your computer, etc.) So, yeah, sorry: we messed up."

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Slashback: Walmart and Wiki, Alan Ralsky

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  • Full Disclosure (Score:5, Informative)

    by narzy (166978) <narzy2001NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @06:42PM (#15266614) Homepage
    I am Tim Thorpe, I am also narzy I wrote the article on dailytech.com and submitted it to /.
  • I just ad blocked images from a local web server and looked in the logs afterwards. No more requests for the images. Maybe I am missing something seems that it would be trivial to detect. Just look in the logs. You wouln't even have to look through all of them, you could just take samples.
    • Text-only browsers have been around for quite some time. No need to download something that won't be displayed anyway.
      • Browser information is also in the logs. And before you reply saying you can spoof that, I know. Fact is, outside of tech circles like this, text only browser usage and spoofing the user-agent is rare. I'd say text based web browsing is probably fairly rare here too, though I'm sure someone will post ancedotal evidence in the form of "I use lynx all the time" or "$text_browser represents 75% of my $conspiracy_theory blog visitors". I use lynx too, but it only represents about 0.1% of my total browsing.
        • Browser information is also in the logs. And before you reply saying you can spoof that, I know.

          Yup, but a lot of "administrators" won't be smart enough to notice things like that. They won't get past the "how dare they not download our ads. They must be stopped..." part of the thought process.

          "$text_browser represents 75% of my $conspiracy_theory blog visitors".

          Wait... I thought I was the conspiracy...

          • Yup, but a lot of "administrators" won't be smart enough to notice things like that. They won't get past the "how dare they not download our ads. They must be stopped..." part of the thought process

            Well, in my experience, it's the PHBs who do the "how dare they not download our ads. They must be stopped..." and issue the directive of "find me all/how many/etc of the users who block our ads" to the administrators. Having been given somewhat similar tasks, if you don't find that fun, maybe you shouldn't be a
        • What about blind people using a screen reader? (and thus having images turned off.)
    • by strider44 (650833) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:44PM (#15266991)
      Plenty of adblockers allow downloading of the images but don't show them on the page. In fact mine does this.
    • The answer why you can't just check the logs is obvious IF you have a browser that somehow can tell you what it is getting from who as it loads the page.

      Thats right. The ads are served from a different server.

      What is therefore missing is the link between requests.

      IF you served your own ads you could indeed build in some system that checks wether the ad you inserted into the page is being downloaded. You would have to start a session for each user, you would have to write a script around your image server

      • EnvironmentalChemistry.com think they can stop people blocking advertisements. Unless, of course, said people are using Firefox with Javascript disabled and View -> Page Style > No Style.

        Does anybody else here think it would be worth applying for a patent on a foolproof ad-blocker-stopping method, and then signing the patent over to an anti-advertising group?
    • I'm pretty sure Lynx doesn't download images. What about mobile browsers? Not downloading any images isn't the same as blocking ads. Blocking ads is the selective non-downloading of certain images. That is fairly trivial to detect, and if your site is largely dynamic, you could even restrict user access upon detection of their ad blocking software.

      For example, a user downloads the main HTML page. They download the transparent spacer image and the website title banner, but they don't download the 468x60 adve
  • It's very unlikely that many (if any) Wal-Mart employees are manipulating Wikipedia. Most of them don't make enough money to own a computer and have an Internet connection. Even if they do, they're too busy working a second job just to make ends meet. Sad but true.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah! They got the Wal-Mart floor staff to do the work of a 3rd party PR Company, that's it. No wait... Maybe they hired a PR COMPANY. For the love of God use your brain.
    • Right, because ALL Wal*Mart employees are cashiers or stockboys. You don't think they have a vast group of IT professionals and industrial engineers who may have the time/drive/financial interest in battling over the Wiki entry?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        While I don't work directly for W*M, I do work with their IT dept very closely. One thing I've learned is they are very serious about ROI's (return on investment). I find it very hard to believe anyone (Public Relations or IT) would be able to convince management that fighting over a Wiki entry had a solid ROI. The average W*M customer just isn't very concerned with Wikipedia. Dollars spent in local community donations and advertising speak much stronger to the typical W*M shopper.

        I don't find it so har
        • While I don't work directly for W*M, I do work with their IT dept very closely. One thing I've learned is they are very serious about ROI's (return on investment). I find it very hard to believe anyone (Public Relations or IT) would be able to convince management that fighting over a Wiki entry had a solid ROI.

          Try editing the Walmart article on Wikipedia and you will soon learn that you are wrong. They always have someone on the Wikipedia article. Every piece of criticism is pushed as far down the article

          • I haven't tried editing the wikipedia entry on Wal-Mart (I don't really have anything to add), but I did read the article on this when I first saw it on slashdot (or digg or wherever it was I ran across it). I'm not advocating that no one is doing as you say--watching the article and methodically manipulating it. The point I'm making is that such a project (for everything in business is a project of one sort or another) would not fit into the way W*M does business. For one, it would be VERY expensive (th
            • This type of activity just doesn't make business sense. The overhead would be enormous, and the payback would be undefined. That's not to say someone isn't doing it...I just don't think it's Wal-Mart Store, Inc.

              It would not be the first time that that Walmart spent a pile of cash on a pointless operation. They spend a fortune trying to avoid paying their staff a living wage or give them real health benefits.

              Exxon spent tens of millions last year on phony think tanks dedicated to peddling the myth that t

          • "Crank contributions come in from both the left and the right. Its quite interesting to see an MIT full professor being told he does not understand the technology he pioneered."

            I'm going to guess that you're talking about Carl Hewitt here. He got banned because he was an awful editor. His articles were poorly written, he had no idea what a reference was (he referenced *Godel's papers on his Incompleteness Theorems* in an article on Hewitt's Scientific Community model), and couldn't stop promoting himself an
            • Wiki isn't exactly wher you create content.Its place to reference content.
              Many people are making the mistake of writing something and get discarded on counts of Original Research/Bad Grammar/Wrong Wiki-style/POV.

              Writing content on wikipedia is like making site from slashdot comments.
              Hopefully wiki get decentralized in the futute into a wiki-network with each node has pros working in specific fields of view as admins and moderators and everyone is welcome to write.
          • Every piece of criticism is pushed as far down the article as possible and then deleted. They have something like ten different editors. If you look at their histories they don't edit many other articles.

            Out of interest, can you provide some examples? I see the article does in fact have a "Criticism" section, which is fairly high up, not to mention a dedicated article for Criticism of Wal-Mart [wikipedia.org]. I believe there are ways to attract the attentions of other editors on Wikipedia - it shouldn't be that hard to ou
            • Out of interest, can you provide some examples? I see the article does in fact have a "Criticism" section, which is fairly high up, not to mention a dedicated article for Criticism of Wal-Mart.

              Maybe this week, but that is only because the blatant manipulation from WalMart has been noticed and there are plenty of editors willing to stand guard over the article.

              The criticism article was originally created by the WalMart faction as a way to clean all negative comment from the main article. They then re-ord

          • Maybe, just maybe, people shuld take Wikipedia with a grain of salt?

    • I disagree. While it is true that Walmart execs probably aren't sitting in their evil lair trying scheming about changing wikipedia articles, articles about powerful companies/politicians/organizations have a tendency to be edited such that they are POV, regardless of the point of view. It has happened before, and it happens all the time (just look at the history of the GW Bush article). If you go and look at the history of the Walmart article, it is pretty obvious that someone is up to no good.
    • That's not true. One of our student workers at the university computer services help desk works at Wal-Mart. Of course, his job with us is a second job, and he ends up falling asleep at work because he can't sleep if he's going to make end's meet, and he uses Linux because he can't afford a new(er) computer with Windows... but still! That sort of slander is uncalled for!
    • Well, the interesting thing to me is these two quotes:

      The Whitedust staff decline to comment at all on the question of if Wal-Mart are actually guilty of editing their own Wikipedia page.

      Now, that implies a that they can't actually prove their contentions. Follow it with this one:

      According to our latest poll, at time of writing 74% of Whitedust readers believe that Wal-Mart have manipulated Wiki.

      So, "we can't prove it, but hey, we convinced 74% of our readers that it's true, so it must be!"

      We no

    • One reason that Wal-Mart is so efficient is the have a killer IT department. They have a very good inventory and order system, that is a real competitive advantage. One of the reasons K-Mart failed in their bid to re-invent themselves is that they couldn't compete with Wal-Mart efficiency. They have some of the best tech, if not the best tech, in the industry. Just because they're in Arkansas don't think they're goobers.
    • "Sad but true."

      No, that's called generalizing. And it's a poor substitute for an informed argument.
    • BTW, the "flamebait" mod is ridiculous.

      While you did get right the idea that a rank-and-file minimum wage part-time Walmart employee is unlikely to defend the company on his own time for reasons having to do with low income, I saw nothing inflammatory about it.

      Any more my posting the fact that PR people, whether in-house or working for an agency gets paid a hell of a lot more than minimum wage is.

  • It seems Australia could be used as a testbed for invasive smart card and biometric technologies, seeing as how the populace on the whole embraces the anti-terrorism-means-restricting-our-rights -mantra.

    I am sure that the Australian experience will be looked at in the US, once the final decision has been made to implement a universal biometric ID system.

    There are many things, such as the PASS-card as well as requireing biometrics on your passport, that can be seen as groundlaying work for such a system.

    Thin
    • I am sure that the Australian experience will be looked at in the US, once the final decision has been made to implement a universal biometric ID system.

      Ah, such a naive world view.

      The Australian experience is going to be the means behind the US implementing "a universal biometric ID system".

      If the Gov't ever decides to implement one, they'll "harmonize" US law with the Australian law. They'll probably do this through a treaty or some other maneuver, so that there will not have to be any debate on the matte

    • It seems Australia could be used as a testbed for invasive smart card and biometric technologies, seeing as how the populace on the whole embraces the anti-terrorism-means-restricting-our-rights -mantra.

      The UK has already started working on exactly this, an ID card that ties multiple government databases together and has multiple biometrics on. We've been old it's 'voluntary to begin with' but also that we can't have a passport without one wither so hardly optional.

      More interestingly, apart from the us
    • As an Australian I would like to clarify a few things:

      It seems Australia could be used as a testbed for invasive smart card and biometric technologies, seeing as how the populace on the whole embraces the anti-terrorism-means-restricting-our-rights -mantra.

      I don't think the majority of Australians even know what our government is up to these days. The Howard Government has an absolute majority in both Houses, and has been pushing ideologically motivated legislation through in the small am hours, such as

  • Don't they have space for him?
  • If a user for Livejournal is using a text-only browser they won't load any images. If you just look for images loaded in a log a text-only browser will show up as adware when it's really not.
  • prisoner locator (Score:3, Informative)

    by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:15PM (#15266830) Homepage
    There is a web page to check for Federal prisoner: http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/LocateInmate.jsp [bop.gov]

    I checked before, and found out that a spammer that I sued Gary Hunziker was recently released. http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/InmateFinderServlet?Trans action=NameSearch&needingMoreList=false&LastName=H unziker&Middle=&FirstName=gary&Race=U&Sex=U&Age=&x =0&y=0 [bop.gov]
    It sometimes is a handy web site.
  • by redelm (54142) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:34PM (#15266946) Homepage
    I'm a bit surprised: Why would WalMart use an external consultant (especially a lobbyist) to deal with a press inaccuracy? Don't they have people who do that in-house?

    If they don't have'em, how likely is it they have people to manipulate a wiki in-house? They'd just contract it out, like the defense. Plausible deniability.

    • Most billion dollar companies make use of PR firms and advertising agencies. A few have in house agencies,
      but it is the exception rather than the rule. Edelman is one of the bigger PR firms.
      At least if the PR firm screws up you can blame someone else. They are pretty damn careful though,
      after all they have one function, make the company look good (and damage control too, I guess)....
    • Why would WalMart use an external consultant (especially a lobbyist) to deal with a press inaccuracy?

      If you read his email, he was just trying to establish a dialog with the author to prove or disprove his claims. Whitedust decided to act irresponsibly (again) and published it rather than forwarding it to the author.

      Honestly, if I have any security needs in the future, Whitedust will be the LAST company I look to for help or recommendations.
    • I'm a bit surprised: Why would WalMart use an external consultant...to deal with a press inaccuracy?

      They did have a guy, but he was only making $6.50 an hour. He found a much better job delivering for Domino's.

  • by Phanatic1a (413374) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:53PM (#15267029)
    According to our latest poll, at time of writing 74% of Whitedust readers believe that Wal-Mart have manipulated Wiki.

    A purported *security* company thinks this is valid evidentiary support? "The lurkers support me in email" is even lamer in the real world than it is on Usenet.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @09:43PM (#15267598)
    After reading the recent article about people in the UK being healthier than people in the USA, it struck me that if we ever have nationalized health-care in the USA, it is guaranteed to come with a national-id card as part of the implementation.

    Sure, it is technically possible, even technically easier, to not implement a full-on big-brother national-id just to do socialized medicine. But the political climate in the USA is such that it just won't come to pass without such a draconian requirement. There are just too many corporate and political powers with an interest in tracking all citizens at some level or another and too few citizens that understand or care about the huge risks that such systems bring with them.

    So, while some arguments for a single-payer healthcare system are compelling, I find the threat of the one database to rule them all and in the darkness bind us to be sufficiently compelling on its own to oppose any nationalized health-care system in the USA.

    I guess it could be worse - we could still end up with the identity card and the subsequent corporate-police-state-utopia without any of the benefits like nationalized healthcare.
    • Why would it have to come with a card? Here in the UK we have the NHS as you say, but you don't need any ID to use it. Anyone can walk in to any doctors surgery or hospital for treatment without having to 'prove' anything. Your medical records are held by your own GP, but if you visit another GP (on holiday, for example) or hospital then they wouldn't usually require your records, so it's not a problem.

      This is exactly how it should be - isn't helping the sick one of our obligations as a society? If they wan
      • Why would it have to come with a card?

        For exactly the same reasons it came with a card in Australia - didn't you read the summary at the top of the page?

        isn't helping the sick one of our obligations as a society?

        Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. If the benefits of providing the service are outweighed by the problems that are created by tying it to a card, then obviously society as a whole would be better off just shitcanning the whole thing.
    • Super-secret-numbers are used for Medicare/Medicade, what more would be required by a comprehensive system?

      Not that ssn's for medical care is all that appealing...
  • by flogic42 (948616)
    Though dispicable, Wal-mart's actions are not unsual. Manipulating media is par for the course for corporate PR.

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