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Slashback: Walmart and Wiki, Alan Ralsky 119

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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  • Re:Poor Mindstorms (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @06:45PM (#15266641) Homepage Journal
    Actually, I can't imagine why either. This new product is so clearly superior, and will probably also be easier to use (if for no other reason, than that it has servos) that I can't picture anyone buying any more mindstorms. Certainly I will not be purchasing any more mindstorms equipment, and I do currently have some (but I only have a couple of the blue RCXs, even, so it's not like I have a huge investment.)
  • by Oldsmobile ( 930596 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @06:56PM (#15266711) Journal
    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.

    Things like these, after all, don't come all of a sudden, instead they are slowly implemented, one step at a time. In the end, you will find it strangely convinient, and not really all that bad, to have to carry your biometrically enhanced universal RFID card along with you.
  • by Neil Blender ( 555885 ) <neilblender@gmail.com> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:14PM (#15266818)
    And how much would it cost to monitor, analyze and store the data from the tracking of even a small percentage of their 10,169,726 users and communities?

    They are already doing that. Any site with any traffic that generates revenue monitors this very closely. It's the blood of the net.

    Would it be worth going out of their way to shut down any of the users they found in violation, particularly in the eyes of the advertisers?

    For sites of that magnitude, changing click-through ratios by just a few percentage points can mean millions in revenue - lost or gained.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:21PM (#15266863)
    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 hard to believe that some very dedicated IT guys/gals like Wikipedia but don't like what they read about Wal-Mart there. Being a CS grad, I've met my share of people who I can imagine taking a wiki entry very seriously, even to the point of it being personal. This seems like a much more likely scenario than a broad corporate scheme to better the W*M wiki-image.
  • by Anonymous Crowhead ( 577505 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:24PM (#15266887)
    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.
  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:49PM (#15267011)
    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.
  • by petard ( 117521 ) * on Thursday May 04, 2006 @08:54PM (#15267354) Homepage
    I don't notice the bandwidth difference, but I see a huge difference (on some pages) in the time it takes to display pages on my 3Mbps DSL line. The way some pages are written, browsers can't render the page until they've fetched the ads. IIRC it has something to do with sizes not being included in an img tag...

    Some of the ad servers are quite slow to respond, and I can see my browser waiting for ads.mediaplex.com or some such. If I configure a proxy to remove all references to these servers, pages load much faster even though the bandwidth difference is negligible. So for me, 50% of the joy of blocking ads is the latency difference, not the bandwidth difference.

    But to address OP's point, they can't tell whether you've fetched the image or not in anything resembling real time if they don't host the image themselves. So it's not incompetence alone that prevents them from noticing this, it's the desire of ad providers to track their own stats rather than trust LJ to do so themselves. Well, that and the desire of the ad providers to be able to send cookies to your site and track you across different sites, which they couldn't do unless you make an HTTP request to the ad provider...
  • 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.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"