It appears you are a virus

9 04 2008

News

We’re sorry…

… but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can’t process your request right now.

We’ll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software.

If you’re continually receiving this error, you may be able to resolve the problem by deleting your Google cookie and revisiting Google. For browser-specific instructions, please consult your browser’s online support center.

If your entire network is affected, more information is available in the Google Web Search Help Center.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we’ll see you again on Google. [End of Message]

Everyone who uses the internet is familiar with the famous “403 Forbidden” displayed across various unavailable web pages. The message above has been added to the long list by Google in an effort to reduce site traffic. Obviously, any computer that appears to have a virus that attempts to use the search engine, a red flag goes up and the site blocks the computer.

However, this all brings up one very big question: When did viruses learn to read?

And furthermore, how does the virus react to the horrible discovery that its only purpose has been thwarted? Someone obviously created the virus in the first place to fulfill a specific task on the internet, so now, upon reading this message, how can they carry on like normal individuals.  Personally, I would be hopping mad if I was a virus and came across this page.

Plus, the message instructs the virus to try either destroying itself or deleting Google cookies.  I think the first option is out of the question, and the second is just another task that the poor viruses are probably not capable of handling.  I mean, unless the virus was specifically programmed to do so, deleting cookies is probably about as hard as trying to eat one.

Maybe they have viruses that read now, but I think Google is still overestimating their problem-solving skills by a few decades.  Being such a huge source of money, it seems ridiculous that Google would make such a blunder by targeting unknowing viruses.

Unless, of course, Google’s intention was to direct this message at users and not the viruses, but no… that wouldn’t make sense.  I would like to think that the quality of my searches is at least a little above a virus’s, and Google would be foolish to incense it’s users with millions of 403 forbidden pages.

If you would like an example, type forum topic into Google and go to the 19th page.  For the record, I believe there are many people with a great interest in the 181st through 190th sites exemplifying what it means to have a true “forum topic.”

On a last note, I like the ending message, “Hope we’ll see you again on Google.”  It has a very smiley-McDonald’s-cashier tone to it, and could potentially prevent some viruses from committing suicide after finding out their lives are worthless.  After all, they are the victims here.

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Look before you hack

28 02 2008

NewsA new and horrible past time known as SWATting has recently increased in popularity. A step above normal prank calls, SWATting involves informing the police of a volatile hostage situation at random residences. As a result, hundreds of people have been confronted by SWAT teams charging into houses yelling and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

However, a recently arrested gang of SWATters has labeled a mastermind 17-year-old hacker as one of the co-conspirators. The catch: he’s blind. Often in the cases of people born without the ability to see, other senses become much more acute, and memory becomes much more important. As a result, Li’l Hacker, as he is popularly called, can identify types of computer modems on the phone by ear as well as dial-tones and other sounds, and has had a great interest in telecommunications for years. He also owns a screen reader, a newer technology spreading in popularity that can convert text into either braille or speech.

Reader

He also asserts that he was not involved with the calls. Li’l Hacker claims that he helped turn the men responsible in to the authorities and would never help them due to personal conflicts in the past. Friends of his family are worried, because he turns eighteen soon and could potentially be tried as an adult for the crimes. Personally I hope he gets off the hook. I do not see how a blind teenager still in school would ever make such a ridiculous choice unless he was somehow blackmailed, which is not yet out of the question.

I also fail to see how a blind teenager could be so adept at hacking, so there is plenty of potential for this case to only get weirder and more convoluted.





The downfall of social networking

24 02 2008

FeaturesWhen I first joined Facebook, it was being hailed as the “anti-MySpace,” a social networking site without all the controversy, gaudiness, and induced obsession. At the time, the site had only just been opened to people other than college students, and the administrators were wary of keeping people in their respective realms. The site was meant to connect people within individual schools and businesses easily and securely. Then something happened.

People migrated en masse to Facebook from other websites. These same people cried that, while Facebook was sleeker and easier to use, it was too simple and boring. They wanted more interaction, more of a reason to spend hours on a site that wasn’t created with the purpose of entertaining. As a result, applications and widgets were added. Voila, Facebook became MySpace 2.0.

facebook

How did Facebook go so quickly from being the greatest new site on the web, the anti-MySpace, to a MySpace equivalent? The greatest irony of all lies in the article itself, which boasts of millions of dollars being invested in the many new features of the site. The features in question, though, are the destroyers of the sleek and secure design Facebook once had. Suddenly hundreds of outside businesses have access to millions of people via Facebook. Every application on the site asks to access your profile information before you can use it. That in itself should be a hint that everything is not quite as it seems. Advertisements now appear literally everywhere.

Even worse, Facebook is now getting the negative vibe previously only associated with MySpace. Millions of users in the U.K. have fled the site after a rash of criminal trials used Facebook profile items as courtroom evidence. People had accepted that MySpace was open to the public, but Facebook was supposed to be the more private of the two, only for the your own eyes and the eyes of those you allowed access to your profile. Instead, it turns out Facebook is just another risky, potentially life-changing network.

Big news right now is the Moroccan Fouad Mourtada facing three years in prison for creating a profile of the younger brother of the Moroccan king. Creating profiles of stars and celebrities is already a common practice around the world. As a result, prominent Moroccan bloggers are showing solidarity by posting the following text on the blogs:

Today, Tuesday, February 19, is the fourteenth day of Fouad Mourtada’s imprisonment. He committed the error, but not the crime, of creating a Facebook account in the name of Prince Moulay Rachid. This account contained no insults against the Prince nor was it the instrument of any swindling attempts. His name was immediately given wide publicity by the authorities, in breach of the presumption of innocence he’s supposed to enjoy, and he alleges having been beaten and mishandled during his arrest. He initially had trouble finding a lawyer willing to defend him. The trial, due to begin on February 15, has been postponed to February 22, while his habeas corpus application has been rejected.

(…)

For this reason, this blog will be on strike on Tuesday, 19 February as a gesture of solidarity with Fouad Mourtada and the other prisoners of opinion currently jailed in Morocco.





I wish to patent the patenting process

23 02 2008

NewsApple has filed over 200 patent applications for the iPhone, raising questions about how much control the biggest industries in the U.S. should be given. Most of them involved the touch screen, interface, and many gestures involved with interface manipulation. If these patents were to go through, Apple would be nearly home free in creating a monopoly of the business. The patents would not just affect similar phones, either. Many of them would affect all user interfaces on machines and computers for years to come, forcing other companies to try and work around ridiculous obstacles.

iPhone

For example, they wish to patent the gesture of pinching for zooming in and out. Double tapping causes a “smart zoom” that zooms in to a particular part of the screen. Doesn’t it seem just a little ridiculous that a company would try to patent double-tapping to zoom? Unfortunately, the business of patents is out of public hands and has been for years, causing controversy more often than not. All we can do is pray that the ridiculous patent claims fall through and Apple is left to do business like the rest of world, without a crown and throne.

Bad patents are nothing new as the technology industry continues to grow. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun the Patent Busting Project to bring attention to injustices occurring among businesses. Here is a list of what the Electronic Frontier Foundation considers the top ten worst businesses with patents. All have threatened or sued small businesses, individuals, or non-profit organizations.

  • Acacia Technologies – for patents covering a widely used process of streaming audio or video files over the internet, cable and satellite.
  • Clear Channel – for patents covering the recording and burning of after-concert CDs.
  • Acceris Communications – for patents covering telephone calls over the internet.
  • Sheldon F Goldberg – for a patent covering the playing of games, such as card games, upon a network.
  • Ideaflood – over a business method patent for managing sub-domains.
  • NeoMedia Technologies – for a patent covering the “automatic access of a remote computer over a network”.
  • Test.com – for a patent for a method of taking and scoring tests on-line.
  • Nintendo – for a patent covering Gameboy emulation.
  • Firepond – for a patent “covering the use of natural language processing to respond to customers’ on-line inquiries by e-mail”.
  • Seer Systems – for a patent for the creation, storage, distribution and performance of musical work files.

“Patents are meant to protect companies against giant competitors, not to help them prey on folks who can barely afford a lawyer,” said Schultz, who leads the Patent Busting Project. “We hope our project will not only assist the victims of these abusive patents but also help make the case for global reform of the patent system.”

For more information on the Patent Busting Project, visit their website.





In search of lost time

20 02 2008

NewsAs internationally tuned atomic clocks become the universal norm, people are unintentionally losing something: time. Ever since the introduction of atomic clocks in the 1950s, the world has been faced with a problem of synchronicity. As it turns out, atomic clocks cannot accurately predict the length of a day on Earth. This is because the Earth’s rotation and revolution are always going through minute changes.

Clock

Not many people realize that the second is slowly getting longer. As we sit watching clocks during class, it definitely seems like time is slowing down, but we always assume that it will start going normal speed again as soon as we stop watching. The second is getting longer because the old system of time measurement was based on fractions of the Earth’s rate of rotation. As it turns out, the Earth’s rotation is slowing down, so the days are getting longer and our trusty time measurements are constantly changing as well. Even more troubling is the fact that the rate of change is not constant or predictable, so scientists are always kept on their toes to keep the world’s time in sync.

As a result, all units of time were frozen in the 1980s. To make up for the lost time, scientists introduced leap seconds, which can be added whenever it is deemed appropriate. The last leap second was added in 2005 unbeknownst to billions of people. Technically, it is erroneous to suggest the leap second was added in 2005. The leap second occurred between 23:59:60 on December 31st, 2005 and 00:00:00 on January 1st, 2006. For all intents and purposes, it did not exist at all.

I have lost nine seconds of my life so far. They happened when I wasn’t paying attention, and I feel a great loss knowing I can never have them back.





First our clothes, then our minds

24 01 2008

NewsThe Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has released information on new clothing selection tools in development for business use. Essentially, shoppers at clothing stores will get the chance to enter a room with multiple cameras and screens displaying pictures of customer wearing multiple outfits. However, they will not be alone in that room. There will also be computer assistance, which makes suggestions to the customer based on popular styles and other recommended selections within the story. It “improves [a shopper’s] confidence in the decision-making process and improves their shopping experience,” says Wei Zhang, a student at Oregon State University.

Fitting Room

People may not feel confident, but at least their clothes are a reflection of decisions they made themselves. How far is too far? Will anyone say ‘no’ when future technology analyzes people’s tastes in food and decides for them what they would like to eat? I think the most human part of us all is our ability to make decisions, to know what we like and dislike. Every time we allow others to make decisions for us, we forfeit a piece of our identity.

There is also potential for abuse here. No store that I have seen actively advertises its least fashionable, out-of-style clothing. And last time I checked, it is normally the least fashionable, out-of-style clothing that costs less. I worry these computers and social networks will pressure people into buyinh things they don’t need and paying more just to fit in. Does our society really need to obsess more about appearance? Do the stores really need another little boost control over what we buy?

I recognize that a lot of good could come out of technology like this. I am just wary of our society’s many attempts at pressuring us this way or that. I prefer live my own life, thank you.

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