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Journal: [r] Best Buy Acquires Speakeasy

Journal by NaDrew
A little early for April Fools, but according to this press release, Best Buy has acquired independent DSL provider Speakeasy. Speakeasy CEO Bruce Chatterly writes in an email to subscribers:

This is a significant milestone for our company as our new relationship will help us realize our goals of becoming the No. 1 provider of voice and data solutions to small businesses. It is important to note that though Speakeasy will now be a wholly owned subsidiary of Best Buy, we will continue to operate as a standalone, independent operating division with headquarters in Seattle.

How long until Speakeasy's vaunted and highly professional support staff are replaced by the Geek Squad?

User Journal

Journal: [r] John Gilmore loses appeal on secret ID rule

Journal by NaDrew

John Gilmore has lost another appeal in his legal search for the mandatory ID rule. From the SF Chronicle article: 'While not quoting the language of the Transportation Security Administration directive, [Judge Richard] Paez said it was clearly worded and gave detailed instructions to airlines. The court's assurances didn't satisfy William Simpich, a lawyer for Gilmore. "Our request for the court to end this regime of secret law was met with a decision relying on secret documents,'' he said. Simpich also said travel options for people such as Gilmore are disappearing rapidly as trains, buses and ships adopt identification requirements.'
Gilmore's lawsuit has been discussed on Slashdot before: in 2002, when he filed the lawsuit, and in 2004.

User Journal

Journal: Beating spam the Gmail way

Journal by NaDrew

I'm beating spam in my personal inbox using Gmail's powerful filtering, without changing my email address.

Gmail now offers every member 50 invites. Millions of users and the power of a single spam database have made Gmail's spam filter one of the best. Gmail also offers POP3/SMTP access to the service. Combined, these provide a perfect method to utilize Gmail's powerful spam filtering on my primary email address--without the trouble and fuss of actually changing addresses. Here's how I did it.

  1. Create a new Gmail account, using an invitation from one of my existing accounts.
  2. In the "Forwarding and POP" tab of the "Settings" section, set the following:
    • Disable forwarding (default)
    • Enable POP for all mail
    • When messages are accessed with POP, archive Gmail's copy
  3. Redirect your primary email account to your new Gmail account. Note that this usually requires administrative access to your mail server, or a friendly mail administrator.
  4. Configure your email client. Note that I am using my existing SMTP settings, and am only using Gmail for POP3.

Now mail coming in to your primary account is automatically bounced to your Gmail account, where the Gmail spam filters are applied. Then your mail client downloads your mail from Gmail to your local inbox, just like normal. Since you didn't change your outbound settings, replies and new mail are not affected.

I set this up in March 2005 and so far Gmail has filtered almost every spam message I would have received. That's spam I didn't download!

You'll want to log in to the new Gmail account once a week or once a month to check the spam folder. This is just to check for false positives--"good" messages which may have been filtered as spam. It won't happen often but it's worth checking once in a while to make sure.

User Journal

Journal: Blogger deleted my account

Journal by NaDrew

Wednesday, November 23, 2005, 4:21 PM

Blogger has apparently lost my account information. I can't log in. It's not just a password problem; the system doesn't recognize my user account name or email address. I've filed a help request, but on the evening before Thanksgiving I'm not optimistic of receiving help any time soon.
-----
Tuesday, November 29, 2005, 11:07 PM

What the hell do I have to do to get a response from these people? It's still broken; trying to log in to Blogger results in "User account not found", there's no record of my email address in the system, and I've only received unhelpful automated responses to my support requests. I've added this and the previous post manually, by editing the site's index page. I'm extremely frustrated.
-----
Friday, December 2, 2005, 2:02 PM

I received an email reply from Blogger support.

Hello, We have disabled your account and removed your blogs due to the fact that you have been misusing our service. Based on our records, there are a number of blogs that are not compliant with our terms of service. This behavior is not looked upon favorably. For more information on our Terms of Service, please see: http://www.blogger.com/terms.g
Sincerely, Blogger Support

Needless to say, I have no idea what the hell they are talking about. I replied immediately asking for clarification; let's see if it takes another ten days to get a response. If and when I get my account back, I'm strongly considering moving to TypePad or one of the other services. This is just stupid.
-----
Friday, December 5, 2005, 2:20 PM

Got another response from Blogger. Get this:

Hello, Blogger reserves the right to remove those blogs which are setup either automatically or manually for the purpose of manipulating search engine results or generating revenue or traffic through deceptive means. In accordance to the termination provision of the TOS (http://www.blogger.com/terms.g), we have therefore terminated your account. Sincerely, Blogger Support

I have never been warned or given any indication that my use of Blogger's service violates their TOS. It seems they simply decided to drop me without any appeal or discussion. I also received a comment to an older post--since I can't enable comments to these manually-entered posts--as follows:

[S]ame things happenned to me. Disgraceful. Still waiting for my "this is looked upon unafavorably" email. Interestingly, my Blogs still running generating revenue via Adssense for Google. However, I am unable to access it. I look upon this as VERY unfavourable!! Maybe we should start a "User Account Not Found" Blog - for fellow "locked Out" Colleagues... on another Blogging Tool??

The Web site linked to the person who commented is dritil.blogspot.com, apparently a news aggregator for IT professionals. It shows the same symptoms as my Blogger sites currently: the main page displays, but archives and sub-pages are gone. The AdSense links on my pages are also still active; in fact, I've seen an uptick in ad clicks in the last couple of weeks, perhaps from people coming to see what has happened. Let me make two things absolutely clear:

  1. Blogger has unilateraly taken action to "terminate" my account, without giving me any chance to fix whatever problem is bothering them.
  2. I do not intend to simply lie down and take it.

-----
Friday, December 09, 2005, 11:53 AM

I will be mailing the following letter this afternoon. I've redacted personally identifying information but everything else is as it will be sent. If anything will get their attention, this will.
--- quote ---
Google, Inc
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

SENT BY CERTIFIED/RETURN RECIEPT MAIL

RE: Blogger.com account [omitted]

Greetings:

On Wednesday, November 23, 2005, upon attempting to log in to my account named [omitted] (hereafter, the Account) on the Blogger.com system, I received an error message stating that the Account was not found. After ten days of e-mailed requests for assistance from Blogger.com's online support system, I received a response on Friday, December 2, 2005 indicating that certain unspecified blogs linked to my account were in violation of Blogger.com's Terms of Service (hereafter, the TOS). A further response received on Monday, December 5, 2005 stated that the Account would be terminated.

The purpose of this letter is not to argue the point of whether or not any blogs linked to the Account actually violate the TOS; I stipulate to the TOS language such that the Account may be terminated with or without cause at any time. For the record, however, I have reviewed the TOS and do not believe there was any such violation.

Rather, I hereby claim copyright ownership and all related rights for all information published by me through the Blogger.com system (hereafter, the Content) and demand its immediate surrender, in accordance with paragraph 6a of the TOS:

6a. CONTENT OWNERSHIP Unless stated otherwise for specific services, Member will retain copyright ownership and all related rights for information he or she publishes through Blogger or otherwise enters into Blogger-related services.

I additionally demand that surrender of the Content be accomplished by a temporary reinstatement of the Account, of sufficient time to allow me to download and/or export the Content from Blogger.com's systems.

Failure to surrender the Content or make arrangements to do so by Friday, December 16, 2005 will result in further action, not excluding pursuit of legal remedies.

Sincerely,

[my name]
Reference: Blogger.com's Terms of Service: http://www.blogger.com/terms.g
--- end quote ---
I will certainly follow up here when I get a response.
-----
Friday, December 09, 2005, 3:26 PM

Message received from Blogger no more than two minutes before I was going to leave for the post office to mail that letter:
--- quote ---
Fri, 09 Dec 2005 12:38:56 -0800
From: "Blogger Support"
To: [omitted]
Subject: Re: Blogger.com account missing

Hello,

Upon further review of your blogs and account, we'd like to inform you that we've decided to restore access to your Blogger account. To regain your password, please visit:
http://www.blogger.com/forgot.g

Please note, however, that we have removed the blog that was flagged as spam from your account, as spamming is not permitted under Blogger Terms of Service (http://www.blogger.com/terms.g). Additionally, please be aware that Blogger reserves the right to remove those blogs (and the associated account(s)) which are setup either automatically or manually for the purpose of manipulating search engine results or generating revenue or traffic through deceptive means. Such behavior is not looked upon favorably.

Sincerely,
Blogger Support

Original Message Follows:
------------------------
From: [omitted]
Subject: Blogger.com account missing
Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 18:23:41 -0000

I have been trying to get through to someone with authority to reinstate my account, which was removed with no explanation other than a vague reference to Blogger's TOS. I have reviewed the nine blogs linked to my account and have not found anything that appears to violate the TOS. I have not received any additional response from Support explaining what the problem actually was.

I would very much appreciate a personal reply as soon as possible. My account has now been disabled for two weeks.

The account name is "[omitted]". Thank you.
--- quote ---
Indeed, my account is now active again. I've re-published the six posts I did manually during the suspension period.

Now just in case anyone was wondering: No, this does not solve the problem. The problem is that Blogger.com's TOS gives them the authority to terminate an account at any time for any reason, and they feel no compunction about using that clause, without so much as a warning. I will be installing Moveable Type this weekend and migrating my content. I'll control my own Web sites from now on, thank you very much.

User Journal

Journal: [R] Online mapmakers intersect with reality

Journal by NaDrew
From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The next time you check a street address on Yahoo, you should know that it took days and months of driving by people like Mark Chilianis and Bill Wong to make sure you plot the best possible route to that party or appointment.
Chilianis and Wong work for Navteq of Chicago, which collects the digital map data used by Internet companies and car manufacturers, many of which now install navigation systems in automobiles.
Companies such as Navteq and Tele Atlas, which is based in Boston, have been collecting digital map data for about 20 years. But advances in technology have made the work of geographic analysts, as Wong and Chilianis are called, much easier.

This is a fascinating look into how the online maps we rely on every day are actually created.

User Journal

Journal: [A] Speakeasy Unaffected by FCC Ruling

Journal by NaDrew
Speakeasy, the favorite DSL provider of many a Slashdotter, has issued a press release stating that they do not expect to be affected by the FCC ruling allowing ILECs to refuse to lease their lines to third-party providers. This is because the ruling specifically states that CLECs--such as Covad, from whom Speakeasy resells service--are not to be denied unbundled wholesale access to ILEC lines.
User Journal

Journal: [r]Two Experts Advise on Google Wallet

Journal by NaDrew

Now that Google has confirmed their online payment system, Sam Sugar of SugarBank has published an Open Letter to Google, suggesting that Google could pick up a huge amount of business processing adult Web site transactions--the kind PayPal have dropped since being acquired by eBay. He writes:

You run the single most important website online and, by extension, the most important website for people selling adult material.

Google is porn friendly. You provide tools to allow people to view adult images in their search results, there appear to be no restrictions on the type of products that can be found via Froogle, and a great number of the blogs you host (at blogger.com) contain adult material.

This is good business. Though you dont publish your most popular searches, Id bet dollars to donuts that sex and porn consistently make your top-ten, giving some indication of the average Google users interest in sexuality.

Note that while this particular article is work-safe, much of the content on SugarBank is NSFW.
On the other hand, PayPal founder Max Levchin spoke with The Register about dealing with transaction fraud:

The advantage that PayPal has, which may be difficult even for Google to stomach, though, is an enormous (at this point) amount of data: good transactions, bad transcations, and variables to describe those, and the only way you can get that data (which has to be specific to your particular type of transactions, etc) is by letting bad transactions go through your system and learning from that. And that hurts!

User Journal

Journal: [r] An Open Letter to Google

Journal by NaDrew

Now that Google has confirmed their online payment system, Sam Sugar of SugarBank has published an Open Letter to Google, suggesting that Google could pick up a huge amount of business processing adult Web site transactions--the kind PayPal have dropped since being acquired by eBay. He writes:

You run the single most important website online and, by extension, the most important website for people selling adult material.

Google is porn friendly. You provide tools to allow people to view adult images in their search results, there appear to be no restrictions on the type of products that can be found via Froogle, and a great number of the blogs you host (at blogger.com) contain adult material.

This is good business. Though you dont publish your most popular searches, Id bet dollars to donuts that sex and porn consistently make your top-ten, giving some indication of the average Google users interest in sexuality.

Note that while this particular article is work-safe, much of the content on SugarBank is NSFW.

User Journal

Journal: [r] UC Considers Using Barcodes for Cadavers

Journal by NaDrew
The AP are reporting that University of California officials are considering using barcodes and/or RFID tags in cadavers and body parts to avoid a repeat of last spring's Willed Body program scandal.

The high-tech fix is one of a number of reforms UC is proposing to reassure people that bodies donated to science will be used as intended and treated with respect. "We want these to be programs that really do work so we can maintain the public trust and know that we are doing everything possible to maintain and respect the great donation that these gifts represent," said Michael Drake, UC vice president for health affairs.

User Journal

Journal: [R] BSoD Interrupts Gates' CES Show

Journal by NaDrew
TechWeb reports that Bill Gates' CES presentation was interrupted by a BSoD, apparently on an Xbox demo. Six years ago, at another tech conference, a Windows 98 demontration also conducted by Gates crashed with a BSoD. The linked article includes a QuickTime clip of the crashed demo; note the audience hooting when it happens.
User Journal

Journal: [A] Hardware Hacking Goes Mainstream

Journal by NaDrew
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece called "So Your Roomba Vacuums ... Does It Also Take Pictures?" (No reg. req.), profiling a couple of hardware hackers. Phillip Torrone has modified a laptop-brained robot to follow his Segway, which he is modifying to follow a pink ball. He's also modded his Roomba with a built-in Webcam. The article goes into a bit of the history of hardware hacking, from the CueCat to Andrew "Bunnie" Huang's Xbox hacks.
User Journal

Journal: [A] SBC Fights RIAA Over DMCA Subpoenas

Journal by NaDrew
SFGate.com is running an AP article about Pac Bell's Internet arm suing music industry over file-sharer IDs.

'The suit also called to question some sections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the federal law the RIAA contends supports its latest legal actions. A spokesman for SBC said the RIAA's use of the DMCA in its legal quest for online song-sharers butts up against the privacy rights of SBC's customers. "The action taken by SBC Internet Services is intended to protect the privacy of our customers," said SBC spokesman Larry Meyer.'

(2003-07-31)

User Journal

Journal: [r] Google bans Gmail swaps and sales

Journal by NaDrew
"Google bans Gmail swaps and sales," reports CNET News.com rather breathlessly. In fact, as clarified later in the article and also in the revised Gmail Program Policies,

The changes are designed to deter people from creating multiple e-mail accounts with the purpose of reselling or trading them, according to a source at the company. The policy alterations do not target people trying to barter Gmail invitations, which allow people to sign up for a new membership.

(emphasis mine) So invitation-swapping or -donation sites like Gmail Swap and Gmail 4 Troops are still fully in the clear. By the way, I still have one Gmail invite left.

You have a tendency to feel you are superior to most computers.

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