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Slashback: OpenDocuments, RFID Passports, Firefox Celebration 197

Slashback tonight brings updates and continuations of recent Slashdot stories including a continuation of the Massachusetts document format debate, a response from the US State Department on RFID passports, a unique celebration of Firefox's 100 millionth download, and more.

Politics still muddying the water of the MA OpenDocument debate. The Commonwealth's Secretary of State William Galvin says he has "grave concerns" about the switch and told secretary of administration and finance Thomas Trimarco that "we will not be participating." Galvin is considered one of the strong candidates to run as a rival candidate for next year's gubernatorial race against incumbent Mitt Romney who supports the switch.

RFID passports still the best option. The US State Department released a final ruling on the issue of RFID technology to be included in all US passports after October 2006 which also contained some of the reasoning behind their move. Other technologies were apparently looked at and discarded due to the difficulty of implementation and several security measures have apparently been taken to try and placate the opposition.

Firefox fans at Oregon State celebrate 100 million downloads. CNet has a pictorial about a local OSU LUG that had a few interesting ways to celebrate the recent big numbers on the Firefox downloads page. Happy to show their support students both painted a giant Firefox logo and launched a weather balloon, I can't think of any better way to say congratulations.

DrDOS didn't really break, it just reverted. The FreeDOS folks have an update on their webpage stating that DrDOS 8.1 no longer exists and all links on the DrDOS webpage apparently point to DrDOS 7.03. There were some negative reactions to the release or 8.1 stating that it included software that it shouldn't have so for now the "band-aid" fix appears to be in place.

Flexbeta takes a look at Flock. Noting the roots of Flock in Mozilla's Firefox browser, the folks over at Flexbeta take a quick look at the additional functionality offered by this newcomer. This comes with the recent news that Flock has also decided to open source their browser. Looks like this Firefox offspring is fighting hard for some recognition of its own.

iTunes continues to take over the world. With the recent release of iTunes Australia and Apple's continued growth in the industry a recent announcement brings us "Standford on iTunes". This new service will give alumni and the general public access to a wide range of Stanford-specific digital audio content.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashback: OpenDocuments, RFID Passports, Firefox Celebration

Comments Filter:
  • by oldosadmin ( 759103 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:02PM (#13885503) Homepage
    The new OpenDocument Fellowship is working with a petition to get Microsoft to implement the format. SIGN IT! http://www.opendocumentfellowship.org/petition/ [opendocume...owship.org]
    • MS isn't a government institution, you can't just petition them into doing something. They'll only do it if it something that will improve their bottom line. So far, they haven't felt that open standards do that. Perhaps, they'll see the error of their ways - but a petition won't make MS do anything.

      Just thought I'd point out the obvious.

      • RTFL (Score:5, Insightful)

        by oldosadmin ( 759103 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:11PM (#13885569) Homepage
        Read the link.

        Quote: Microsoft has stated that they will support the OpenDocument format in MS Office if there is customer demand:

        http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=200510161 05739574 [groklaw.net]

        The purpose of this petition is to quantify the customer demand for OpenDocument support. EndQuote
        • You can specify the number of your students. Maximum number of customers is 599 via web form. 600 up you must contact the webmaster.
        • Quote: Microsoft has stated that they will support the OpenDocument format in MS Office if there is customer demand:

          What do you expect them to say? "We will support the OpenDocument format when we bloody well feel like it, and when we think it'll make us tons of money" ?

        • Re:RTFL (Score:3, Interesting)

          Point one, petition signatures do not equate to customer demand. Note the word 'customer'. I.e., the claim is that, if enough CUSTOMERS request the feature, then a future version MIGHT contain the requested feature.

          Point two. The state of Massachusetts IS a current customer, and IS demanding this 'feature' and Microsoft is, so far, refusing to include it in any future version. So much for claims of "...will support the OpenDocument format in MS Office if there is customer demand."

          Once their claim has been P
    • When I tried signing the petition, it didn't appear to accept e-mail addresses whose local part (that is, everything before the @) contains a plus sign ('+'). Even though RFC 2822 section 3.4.1 states that plus signs are valid characters in a local part, I get "Error - could not process the submission - Email is invalid." I reported this to the webmaster.

  • by Maow ( 620678 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:02PM (#13885504) Journal
    100 million downloads is a good thing, but what exactly does it mean?

    For example, I've downloaded 10 myself - I'm sure many others have too.

    There's no way to compare these numbers to the main competition (IE), so I'm not celebrating much myself.

    ps First Post!?!

    • This may sound dumb but....

      If you assume that this happens with all software, then you just have to assume total downloads is an arbitary figure and use it to compare with other downloads?

    • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:11PM (#13885571)
      This comes up every time such stats are mentioned.

      First of all, they don't track downloads via the update feature of Firefox.

      Second, while you've downloaded it ten times, there are many businesses and schools who have installed it on hundreds of workstations from a single download. So it may be one of those things that balances out in the end.

      And finally, it's not so much about the exact number. It's about the general magnitude of the number. Even if they're 10 million downloads off either way, that's still an impressive number of people to reach.

      • by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @09:48PM (#13886083)

        Second, while you've downloaded it ten times, there are many businesses and schools who have installed it on hundreds of workstations from a single download. So it may be one of those things that balances out in the end.

        No. If you have x unknown amount of additional downloads that shouldn't be counted, and y number of installations that weren't counted, then the odds of x - y = 0 (the hypothesis that it "balances out in the end") seems extremely unlikely.

        Why is there this fascination with using all kinds of contorted non-logic to try and derive statistics from data that just can't support it? If you don't have the facts, the right thing to do is hold your hands up and say "I don't know", and the wrong thing to do is say "well because we don't know how many we undercount by and how many we overcount by, we'll just sweep logic under the rug and pretend that it "balances out".

        • Let's look at my exact quote, shall we?

          So it may be one of those things that balances out in the end.

          Notice the use of the word may. That suggests that it is possible, but not guaranteed. And of course it's not true statistics. That's obvious to anyone. When you consider that we don't have very good data, it's pointless to try to apply formal statistical methods. Either way the results will not be of a high quality.

          However, we do have these two "forces" that are counteracting each other. As such, the effect
          • I'm betting that it also doesn't count all of the installs from verious Linux venders. Auto-updated Redhat, gentoo, ...
          • Notice the use of the word may. That suggests that it is possible, but not guaranteed.

            If somebody told you that the world may be run by alien lizards, you'd write him off as a crank, right? Even though he said "may"? Because entertaining the notion seriously just because it's theoretically possible would be pretty stupid? Sorry, you don't escape reason by prepending "may" to your claims.

            However, we do have these two "forces" that are counteracting each other. As such, the effects of each are di

        • Good point.

          Of course this counter should only display INDETERMINATE.

          In fact all counters can produce errors of this sort, so they should all display INDETERMINATE.

          As a matter of fact, every counter in the entire world could have the same sort of errors, even clocks are not 100% correct, so every counter of any sort should simply display INDETERMINATE.

          I mean if you can't guarantee 100% accuracy, then there is not point in even attempting to measure anything.

          You should feel happy, you have made the world a be
          • I mean if you can't guarantee 100% accuracy, then there is not point in even attempting to measure anything.

            There's a difference between a) knowing that you are wrong, and not even having the slightest idea how much you are wrong by, and not even having the slightest idea in which direction you are wrong - and b) measuring something to some degree of accuracy and having a good idea of how close you are to the real number. Most measurements fall into the latter category. I am not arguing against them

      • by LeonGeeste ( 917243 ) * on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @10:38PM (#13886328) Journal
        I think a good idea would be for them to truly find out how many people are using it. Make it so that when you download it, you have to state how many people it's for. And to make that accurate, you should have to give your SSN or whatever your country's national ID number is, and the ID number of everyone who you claim will use it. Then they can strike any duplicates. To make sure people don't give it away and distort the number, they could make the file encrypted such that it will only run if you register it. To confirm you're not using someone else's number, they could set up centers at DMV's (Department of Motor Vehicles) where you can verify that it's you before you can register it (and they'd have computers you'd use to register your copy).

        To prevent people from compiling it on their own, they could close the source so that you can only run it through the official installer and only that would be counted in the tallies. To verify transparency, they should put all the names and ID numbers in a central database that everyone can access so that independent agencies can verify the names and contact people to be sure they're actually using it. This could all be funded by selling the contact information in the database to direct marketing organizations (the legitimate ones, not the ones who harass you).

        This is the only way to get an accurate, scientific count of the true number of users.
        • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @12:24AM (#13886850)
          What if you just give them one of your testes or ovaries when you first download Firefox? If you download it again, then they'll crush your ovary/testicle. If you stop using Firefox, then you can request your organ back. When they want a fairly accurate count of Firefox users, all they have to do is count the number of ovaries and testes that they have.

    • by Carnildo ( 712617 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:12PM (#13885573) Homepage Journal
      It means somewhere between 1 and 99,999,991 users.
    • I'd be responsible for about 20 of those...

      Any time that a friend asks for IT help of any kind, the first thing I do is d/l firefox, eradicate the links to IE, and tell them to use that instead.... even if the 'IT help' request had nothing to do with IE or the 'net.

      I've even started doing it on other peoples PC's at work.

      Sure IE has improved of late, but that appears to have been only due to the increased interest in the foxy lady.

      And to think that ten years ago I was one of the biggest MS fanboys out there
    • 100 million downloads is a good thing, but what exactly does it mean?

      Well I didnt download it the other 999,999,990 times, so I gues it means that firefox kick ass!
    • We've downloaded about 50 total (Do they count downloads of nightly builds?) but installed it on about 30 systems. I've heard some people say they've downloaded one and installed it on hundreds, but I'm sure most of them have really downloaded it more than a couple times.
    • For every person like you, there is a person like me. I've downloaded it 8 times (for each version since...Phoenix?). I've installed it 80+ times though. Every computer on my network has it.
    • I always use the latest nightly build so I don't know how they count that.

      I notice that the Flexbeta review is not comparing Flock to the latest nightly builds of Firefox because some features the latest nightly builds have that are similar to Flock's are missing from the screenshots. They are giving Flock credit for features Flock may have inherited from the Firefox codebase.
  • by mctk ( 840035 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:03PM (#13885509) Homepage
    I can't think of any better way to say congratulations.
    Seriously? Man, you're not planning my birthday party.
  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:04PM (#13885513)
    Indeed, if there's one thing that we can learn from this whole OpenDocument debacle, it's that we should instead use LaTeX and plaintext.

    Plaintext emails and memos work just fine. LaTeX is fantastic for more complex documents. And you can even output PDFs of documents, if you really want to make viewing easy and exact.

    These new technologies seem to bring nothing but problems, especially when the existing formats work so well.

    • What if I want to use Rich Text? What if I want to use PostScript? What about HTML?

      Admittedly, I'm not necessarily in favor of creating more standards when there are existing ones that are throughly adequate, but if "they" can create one standard that everyone's needs will be met by, that works cross-platform and across the board, then I'll endorse that if it actually works. I've seen too many headaches with MS-Works, Appleworks, Lotus WordPro, and Microsoft Word writing to formats that the others can
      • Then you generate RTF, PS or HTML files from the LaTeX source. It works like a charm.

        Indeed, it'd be great if they could come up with something better. But it seems that they can't. That's why they're running into so many problems. Indeed, being able to read the various formats is a problem, especially when they're some proprietary binary format. That's why using plaintext, LaTeX and PDF files works so well: they're well documented, non-obfuscated, and are easily transmittable.

        • Then you generate RTF, PS or HTML files from the LaTeX source. It works like a charm.

          I'm a LaTeX fan. But post-process XML file formats with XSLT works FAR better than the LaTeX tools. DocBook XML converted to RTF/HTML look a lot better than starting from LaTeX in many cases. I wish that OpenDoc would leverage this more--using (as the DocBook people do) TeX to typeset nice PDFs. I also wish they were more hand-hackable, but I'd take a GOOD authoring tool which was well-adopted & had enough function

          • You should be careful to call the more recent, XML-based format "OpenDocument", rather than "OpenDoc".

            OpenDoc was a software component system developed in the early-to-mid 1990s by Apple, in response to OLE.

    • Parent is not a troll, I get stuff in HTML and .doc and .rtf all the time that uses no formatting at all that couldn't be done in plaintext. (Line breaks, and...that's about it.) It's silly, it wastes bandwidth, it wastes space, and it wastes time. Even most of the posts I see here, despite the fact HTML is usable, make use of nothing but good old text and line breaks. Most of the correspondence I receive is the same. I do encourage people to send me stuff in plaintext unless they really need the formatting

      • by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @10:10PM (#13886192) Journal
        Back in 1994, Steve Remondini was the head of IT (then MIS) at Citrix Systems. He sent an email to every employee, telling them that they need to delete items from their inboxes because the server was too full (Exchange, one of the older versions).

        The punch line? He sent it as an attachment, in .DOC format. The fucker took around 256 KB to send an email which contained under 1 KB of content.

        He was fired not very long thereafter. I remember one manager kept stating about him, "He spends too much travel time" (he was down the long hall and around the corner, and never picked up the phone, instead insisting on showing up in Scott's office and badgering him).

        • .doc in 1994? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jesterzog ( 189797 )

          The punch line? He sent it as an attachment, in .DOC format.

          This probably isn't very relevant -- I presume what you mean is that he sent it as a Microsoft Word document. Back in 1994 I remember that the .DOC format was more well known for being plain ASCII text --- it was a common extension for electronic software user manuals everywhere.

          Somewhere along the line, Microsoft decided to make it the default extension for Microsoft Word. I'm not sure if it was used in Word for DOS, but Word for Win

      • I frequently write things in word, and then paste them into something else. Word is a really nice editor for document-style... er, documents. On the other hand, I often use HTML so that I can have a little formatting, and view it anywhere. Unless you use crap HTML (e.g. lots of font tags instead of CSS) then I don't really see the problem. We can afford to waste a few bytes. The word doc example is the really valid one, although if you write a word doc, then select its contents and paste them into a new doc
    • Indeed, if there's one thing that we can learn from this whole OpenDocument debacle, it's that we should instead use LaTeX and plaintext.

      And while were at it, let's all go back to doing everything from the command line! This whole WYSIWYG thing is waaay to complicated.

      These new technologies seem to bring nothing but problems, especially when the existing formats work so well.

      Which is exactly why I'm sticking to parchment and carrier pigeons. These new technologies mess up everything. Sure, instant m

    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is the minimum of what's needed in an office suite,
      • Spreadsheets, graphs, presentations, OpenDocument has it. LaTeX fails it.
      • a single-file container format so exchange is easy. OpenDocument has it. HTML and LaTeX fails it;
      • a user interface that regular users can migrate to. OpenDocument has it. HTML has it. LaTeX fails it;
      • macro language (admitedly not standardised in OpenDocument). OpenDocument has it. LaTeX fails it;
      • integration with other office formats such as OleDB datasources. OpenDocument has
      • by Noksagt ( 69097 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @09:30PM (#13885983) Homepage
        This is the minimum of what's needed in an office suite
        Right--you are arguing different philosophies. LaTeX could certainly be part of some monolithic Office Suite, but it is already very good at what it does. It may even be better than you give it credit for.
        Spreadsheets
        See the EMACS file [fi.upm.es] as a proof of concept. Something similar could be written in TeX.
        graphs
        PSTricks & other packages let you add graphs which are generated on the fly.
        presentations
        I actually like LaTeX Beamer quite a bit--the PDF presentations are fantastic.

        Does LaTeX excel at any of these? Probably not. But why not do, as others do, and choose tools which DO excel at them.
        a single-file container format so exchange is easy. OpenDocument has it. HTML and LaTeX fails it;
        Just zip the needed files together, as OpenDoc does....
        * a user interface that regular users can migrate to. OpenDocument has it. HTML has it. LaTeX fails it;
        These are file formats. Not interfaces. There are friendly HTML and LaTeX authoring tools.
        * macro language (admitedly not standardised in OpenDocument). OpenDocument has it. LaTeX fails it;
        This is laughable. LaTeX is VERY scriptable.
        * integration with other office formats such as OleDB datasources. OpenDocument has it. LaTeX fails.
        No, again--the programs that grok OpenDoc have it. Not the format itself. There are LaTeX tools which can pull data from a database.
      • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @11:56PM (#13886706) Homepage Journal
        Before we start, I agree with you entirely: LaTeX is a silly option as any sort of replacement for OpenDocument formats, and the person who suggested it was a fool. I ought to clear up a few points however. ...presentations, OpenDocument has it. LaTeX fails it.

        LaTeX actually does exceptionally good presentations if you actually know how to use it. There are some packages out there to help, or you can simply roll your own to get the best results. In fact LaTeX offers something no Office suite I've ever seen does: the ability to have a single document that is both the presentation and the full paper report at the mere toggle a switch.

        I think the biggest problem is that the basic LaTeX slides package sucks (it was designed for OHP transparencies) and some of the other presentation pakages are a little underwhelming in terms of visual flair. In practice it is quite easy to quickly design "templates" (in practice documentclasses) that look as good or better than anything I've seen PowerPoint produce - I've even written the better part of a GUI tool to let you drag and drop images and text to design one - but it takes a little know how which, apparently, most LaTeX presenters don't have.

        LaTeX represents a damn fine solution to the issue of presentations, especially when you are doing one as a summary of more detailed paper report.

        macro language (admitedly not standardised in OpenDocument). OpenDocument has it. LaTeX fails it;

        What exactly do you think TeX is? TeX is a macro language. It may not have the "live updates" that you seem to have in mind, but that more to do with the compilation step rather than any lack of macro capability of TeX's part. Run TeX again and you'll get all your updates/changes magically propogating through.

        Jedidiah.
      • by civilizedINTENSITY ( 45686 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @05:11AM (#13887613)
        "Spreadsheets, graphs, presentations" are areas where LaTeX excells. I like to use gnumeric to layout my data, and gnumeric or (heavy lifting) octave for calculations, but then saving from gnumeric to latex gives infinte control of presentation. For highschool quality reports, sure, print from the spreadsheet. For anything real (try to publish to a peer reviewed journal using .doc!) use latex. For graphs, use R. It is exceptional. But again, tie it all together in latex.
         
        a single-file container format so exchange is easy which means you want a built in tarball roller? Not a bad idea. Anybody want to add a button to Kile's File/Save?

        user interface that regular users can migrate to which requires you define "regular users". I agree that for highschool, and even lower division work, office products are fine. Business, all technical users, and upper division students should be able to use better tools. (Try KDE's Kile.)

        macro language!!! *snort* Do you have any clue what latex even *is*? Have you heard of TeX? Did you know that LaTeX is a set of macros?

        integration with other office formats is good to great for gnumeric and abiword, OpenOffice, and KOffice. Try selecting the "save as" button. It works :-)
         
        So unless by "regular users" you mean grandmas who have trouble sending email, or people who just want to write a quick letter, I think you underestimate LaTeX.
        • It's clear to me that LaTeX is much too fun to be widely adopted as a word processor replacement. Creating LaTeX documents in vi is almost as fun as programming itself, and having fun is not a priority in today's cutthroat business world.
    • I suspect that OpenDocument adoption is more wide-spread than LaTeX adoption, mostly because OO.o groks both that and MS Word format (the de facto standard).

      So the real lesson is that you need to make tools that are good enough & people won't care about the technical merits of the file format. So long as they can work with other people & use their old documents, they won't moan too much.
    • Where's the OpenDocument debacle? Sounds like a state is having issues defining what document format they want to use, but it's not an OpenDocument debacle.

      I'm all for using plain text a lot more, but using LaTeX as the only other format is foolish. Don't get me wrong, I love TeX, but it should, like Postscript/PDF be used for page layout, not for authoring content that is meant to be shared between individuals or applications.

      We should use semantic markup to describe what the pieces of a document mea

      • Actually, the problem with TeX is that it's hopelessly insecure; it is a programming language with no security model, giving arbitrary file access, with no support for sandboxing, or even code signing. It incidentally has optimized support for string constants and a library with a great layout engine. But the only reason it isn't banned as a security hole is that people don't generally accept LaTeX documents from other people, but rather have them written into PDF or PS.
        • ...giving arbitrary file access,...

          This was a concern of mine for a project that I started researching, which would have accepted source files from the web and compiled them (I still want to take it further but havn't got the time).

          The most obvious problems are commands like \input, allowing files to be read, which could be disasterous (e.g. \input{/etc/passwd}).

          Potentially worse is \write18, which allows you to write a file..

          All is not lost however, after asking a suitably enlightened TeXnician, Tho

    • George W. Bush can use MS Word. He can also use OpenOffice.org. I doubt he'll be able to use LaTeX without training.

      Do you want to be one of the people involved in teaching Bush to use LaTeX? And remember that not just Bush but every government employee and elected official has to learn it, if it becomes a federal standard. (Replace President with Governor, etc., if only Massachusetts adopts it.)

      LaTeX is a good format only because it forces the user to think about how they're styling their document. And mos
    • by Spy der Mann ( 805235 ) <spydermann.slashdot@gmail . c om> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @10:13PM (#13886206) Homepage Journal
      Hah! As if Microsoft would even THINK ABOUT LaTeX. Look, Microsoft is struggling against (or is it US who are struggling against Microsoft for?) OpenDocument. LaTeX isn't even in their radar screen.

      Besides, you forgot the reason for OpenDocument to exist: Inter-operability. And you also forgot its power: XML.
      Anyone with an XML parser can read opendocument. But to read LaTeX, you need a complicated parser.

      OpenDocument can be transformed into HTML with an XSLT template automatically. Heck, you could render OpenDocument with Internet Explorer! (With the appropriate XSL stylesheet, of course)
      Also, any XML can be transformed into PDF via XSL:FO.
      You could put a bunch of OpenDocument files and index them from with a simple program that supports XML.

      The point of OpenDocument is that it's EASY to handle. The EZPublish content management system ALREADY supports importing and exporting of OpenDocument files. Heck, there's even a C++ IDE [codeblocks.org] that can export the sourcefiles (syntax-highlighted) to OpenDocument.

      I don't care how much you're fond of LaTeX. Is it powerful? Yes. But is it popular? Is it easy to implement?

      Sorry, but I think you're stuck a few years behind.
    • Presumably XML was chosen for opendocument because they wanted more flexibility than a only a typesetting language provided. With XML as the medium, theoretically any XML data source could be rendered to opendocument using a stylesheet, and any XML content could be embedded and parsed using the same parser. This is at least one level more functionality than LaTeX by itself provides. I don't see serious problems with XML except for some people's irrational fear of it.
  • About ODF, Mass. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GreyWolf3000 ( 468618 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:05PM (#13885520) Journal

    The Commonwealth's Secretary of State William Galvin says he has "grave concerns" about the switch and told secretary of administration and finance Thomas Trimarco that "we will not be participating." Galvin is considered one of the strong candidates to run as a rival candidate for next year's gubernatorial race against incumbent Mitt Romney who supports the switch

    I hardly think this will be a big issue in the election for Massachusetts voters, but if it becomes one, this will be a huge way to get non-techies to identify problems with the Microsoft monopoly. If this issue somehow becomes a big (if not the biggest) factor in this election, we can expect ODF to come up in elections all over the place.

    • by max born ( 739948 )
      Be interesting to see if William Galvin receives any campaign finance contributions from Microsoft when he runs.

      If he does, I trust you'll do your duty as a citizen and enlighten the electorate with a few well written letters to the editors of the major Mass. newspapers. Ordinary folks may not know about ODF but they'll certainly know corruption when they see it.

      Peace
      • Ordinary folks may not know about ODF but they'll certainly know corruption when they see it.

        Yes, and they won't care. Massachusetts has long been known for having the best politicians money can buy.

    • Some document format that 99.9% of the population doesn't care about will not become that big of an issue. That's especially true when you consider that there are far more major issues at hand, such as taxation and education. Even in a far more enlightened state like Massachusetts, issues like those far exceed what word processor the state government decides to use.

  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <slashdot.deforest@org> on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:06PM (#13885535)
    I read the text [gpo.gov] of the passport release earlier, and they claim to have addressed the privacy concerns but really haven't. The biggest problem is that a criminal could very easily grab all of your identity information without your knowledge. They assert that (I'm paraphrasing) "since the chip has no internal power source, it can't broadcast your identity". But that is a canard -- anyone who wants to read out your identity can simply use the same high-gain antenna to beam power your way as to pick up your passport's readout. Of course the protocols will be discovered -- at least by the people you don't want reading your passport.

    All the more reason to stick your passport in the microwave with your new shirts from Wal-Mart.

    Meanwhile, bop on over to www.house.gov [house.gov] and send a quick note of outrage to your representative!

    • Will your reps actually do anything? Do any of them have the guts to stand up to this? Are they capable of saying, "This is not in the best interest of freedom. This will not prevent terrorism. This is a bad idea."

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:21PM (#13885652)
      Supposedly they've come up with a cover that is effectively a Faraday cage. When the passport is closed it will severely impede RFID operation. If it works then it'd be much more effective for someone to come out in front of you with a knife and mug you for your passport than it would be to try to overpower the defenses built into the passport cover.

      As far as I'm concerned, making it 'hard enough' to where it's more cost effective to resort to old fashioned brute force is just as good as not putting it in.

      I'm not advocating in favor of this particular device either, but I'll admit that I'm kind of surprised that passports have been the way that they are for so incredibly long, when they're easily forged, easily modified, and probably fairly easily fraudulently applied for.
      • My gf just renewed her passport in Thailand and got one of theire brand new "ePassports," which includes RFID. Although there are a million privacy adn security issues, her main interest was that it is so much prettier than her last one...
      • I mean in Australia, we've had magnetic strips on the passports for a while. All they do at customs is scan through a "card reader". There is no need to embed an RFID in the passport and worry about people reading it from a distance.
    • Also it doesn't seem to solve anything that a cryptographically signed credit card sized CD (including a signed picture of the passport holder) wouldn't (or a mini USB flash device). We have the technology to make a completely open standards based passport system that any country can cheaply and safely read and generate their own (signed with their own keys).

      But noone's listening because (Insert proprietary vendor conspiracy theory here.)
    • RFID tags are so cheap (or rather, will soon be, read below), I'm really seeing a flood coming, not only for passports, for anything the human mind can imagine!

      Taken from http://slashgisrs.org/ [slashgisrs.org]
      MobileMag have a small article about a 100% organic matter RFID chip developed in Korea [mobilemag.com], costing only 0.5 cents. From the article: The new RFID Tag chip is able to function on the 30 kHz frequency by only using 100% organic compounds and an inkjet printer. By cutting down the price considerably it will allow for thee
    • Of more interest to me is their assertion that "The chip will not contain home addresses, social security numbers, or other information that might facilitate identity theft."

      Without a doubt, people will be able to read your RFID off this thing. They're lying if they say otherwise. They claim to be able to reduce the effective range to 10 cm, but even if that were true it would still be sniffed by a guy bumping into you in a crowd.

      I think that the critical concern is, what's on it and how would it be used?
  • come on... (Score:5, Funny)

    by mscnln ( 785138 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:10PM (#13885561)
    Standford engineers have discovered...
    "Standford on iTunes"


    It appears ScuttleMonkey didn't just make a typo, but just has no clue that it is actually Stanford not Standford...
  • by mymaxx ( 924704 )
    For Flock to not open source their browser? By basing it on Firefox, doesn't the Mozilla Public License [mozilla.org] require that the changes to the source be distributed?
    • Not to mention the fact that every single feature they mentioned is included in the version 1.5 betas.

      Perhaps the blog editor and the rss viewer isn't there, but all the other things they were cooing over as differences between firefox and flock were all default 1.5 behaviour.
  • "Recreational hazard: One group member shows the downside that comes with using their chosen artistic medium (temporary paint made from a mixture of corn starch, food coloring, Kool-Aid, and water)."

    You COULD have just painted the firefox logo with sidewalk chalk, but nooo, you had to be fancy and now look what you've done!
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sH4RD ( 749216 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:31PM (#13885700) Homepage
    This comes with the recent news that Flock has also decided to open source their browser.

    They had a choice?
  • by jabster ( 198058 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:38PM (#13885739)
    Hold on....The Democrats are opposed to ODF.....supporting a big business....thought....only.....Republicans....did that....

    Damn. This must be Bush's fault somehow....

    -john
  • Pacheco expressed his concern that OpenDocument would not be usable by people with disabilities, and his committee is holding a hearing at the State House to discuss the format. However, it's not clear whether Pacheco's moves will have any effect.

    If he thinks that the closed format of MSOffice is usable by people with disabilities he has another thought coming.

    JFMILLER
  • by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @09:03PM (#13885855) Journal
    Even their website says "Copyright 2004" and their latest news item is dated 2003. Or has their site always been like that?
    • No, that all happened quite suddenly on 10/25. DR-DOS 8.1 no longer exists, so the problem appears to have been solved. All the links on DRDOS.com now point to DR-DOS 7.03 when you try to click on DR-DOS. Looks like they've pulled DR-DOS 8.1 completely and rolled back to their old version. No mention of DR-DOS 8.0 or DR-DOS 8.1. Probably the easiest way for them to do all that very quickly was to roll back the web site to some old version.

  • From the RFID passport link in the main article:

    Based on that testing, the Department, in cooperation with the GPO,
    will include an anti-skimming material in the front cover and spine of
    the electronic passport that will mitigate the threat of skimming from
    distances beyond the ten centimeters prescribed by the ISO 14443
    technology, as long as the passport book is closed or nearly closed.
    The Department will also implement Basic Access Control (BAC) to
    mitigate further any potential
  • The built-in RFID leak-protection mechanism is a good start but it's not nearly enough for the Truly Paranoid [TM].

    Who will be the first to try to patent a passport wallet made out of aluminum foil?

    Who will trademark the name Passport Protector [TM]?
  • And how! Four annoying ads at the bottom of the page, a Google Ad sidebar, those green underline ad links, and three more pages left to click through. Someone's getting paid for *this* Slashdotting....
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @12:04AM (#13886741)
    RFID's in passports are one of the dumbest anti-terrorism ideas to make it past the drawing board. It has already been demonstrated [technologyreview.com] that so-called "short-range" RFID tags can be read up to 70 feet away with easily attainable current technology, the tools will only get more sensitive as time passes.

    The "anti-skimming material" that the Dept of State references will make it harder to get exact bits off the RFID, but it sure won't stop someone from being able to at least tell if you have one of these RFID passports in your pocket.

    Carrying your passport around with you (as you are required to do in most foreign countries) will be the equivalent of wearing a big sign on your back that says, "Get Your Grudge On! Kidnap Me! I'm an American!"

    Short of sending hundreds of legit blank passports directly to Osama, I can't think of a passport plan likely to enable more terrorism than this cockamamie scheme.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

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