Monthly Archives: January 2008

Some Digital Photo Frames Sold at Best Buy During Holidays Found To Contain A Virus!


Do you have one of these cool little gadgets on your desk?

If you bought a 10.4-inch Insignia-branded photo frame with model number NS-DPF-10A from Best Buy during the holidays, then beware: The device may come with a virus that can infect Windows-based computers.

Best Buy has taken all the remaining Insignia-branded frames off its store shelves and has discontinued producing them. According to the Insignia Web site , “this is an older virus which is easily identified and removed by current anti-virus software.”

The company is also providing telephone support for any consumers concerned they have one of the infected frames at 1-877-467-4289. (Note: Insignia is a brand name created and owned by Best Buy to create several lines of consumer electronics products for distribution through its stores. This is similar to store brands of other types that consumers typically see in everything from grocery stores to auto parts dealers.)

This isn’t the first time a consumer electronics product comes installed with a little something extra that the consumer wasn’t counting on. GPS maker TomTom found out the hard way in late 2006 that a batch of its GO 910 units were infected at the factory level with a virus. And even the beloved iPod hasn’t been immune , with an incident also in late 2006 where a collection of its 5.5-gigabyte MP3 players sprung up with a virus that was inserted at the manufacturing point. (That virus only infected Windows machines, as well.)

How does this happen? Typically, it’s not the work of some nefarious factory employee who wants to sabotage a product line. Instead, the people who work at these manufacturing points are just as susceptible as the rest of us to mistakenly downloading a virus onto their work computers. This virus then replicates itself and ultimately makes its way onto one of the computers that is tasked with setting up the consumer electronics products destined for store shelves.

Both Apple and TomTom stated at the time that they were reviewing their manufacturing processes to prevent this from happening again and issued warnings and advice to consumers, just as Best Buy and Insignia are doing now.

Best Buy has not issued a recall of the photo frames. Since the flaw is (apparently) easy to correct, we don’t think a panic is forthcoming — or necessary – but… let’s see what happens.

Insignia’s Second Notice To Consumers:
http://www.insignia-products.com/news.aspx?showarticle=14

Computer World Article:
http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9058638

Save Windows XP! The Clock Is Ticking!

January 22, 2008 Microsoft plans to end most sales of Windows XP on June 30, despite a deep reluctance by many business and individuals about moving to Vista . InfoWorld believes such an expensive, time-consuming shift with problematic benefits should not be forced on Windows users, so they have decided to rally XP users to demand that XP be kept available.

Microsoft will end OEM and shrink-wrapped sales of Windows XP on June 30, 2008 , forcing users to move to Vista . Don’t let that happen!

Join the 41,185 people so far who have signed InfoWorld’s online petition to demand that Microsoft not stop OEM and shrink wrapped sales of Windows XP as planned on June 30, 2008, but instead keep it available indefinitely.

Millions of us have grown comfortable with XP and don’t see a need to change to Vista . It’s like having a comfortable apartment that you’ve enjoyed coming home to for years, only to get an eviction notice. The thought of moving to a new place — even with the stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and maple cabinets (or is cherry in this year?) — just doesn’t sit right. Maybe it’ll be more modern, but it will also cost more and likely not be as good a fit. And you don’t have any other reason to move.

That’s exactly the conclusion people have come to with Vista . For most of us, there’s really no reason to move to it — yet we don’t have a choice. When that strong desire to stick with XP became obvious in spring 2007, major computer makers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard quietly reintroduced new XP-based systems (but just to business customers, so as not to offend Microsoft). Come June 30, however, even that option goes away.

So what to do? Let Microsoft decide where your personal and enterprise software “lives”? Or send a loud and clear message that you don’t want to move?

InfoWorld is going for the loud-and-clear option. Sign the petition, and tell Microsoft that you want to keep XP available indefinitely. Not for another six months or a year but indefinitely. Ak your friends and colleagues to join in, too. Just point them to SaveXP.com for a quick link to the petition.

Don’t think Microsoft will listen? Consider this: Although Microsoft denies that anything is wrong with Vista or that most people don’t want it, the company has already postponed XP’s demise by six months. That’s a start, but it’s just not good enough.

Microsoft doesn’t have to admit failure; it can just say it will keep XP available indefinitely due to customer demand. It can take that opportunity to try again with a better Vista , or just move on to the next version that maybe this time we’ll all actually want.

There’s a precedent for that, too: In many respects, Vista is like the Windows Millennium Edition that was meant to replace Windows 98 in 2000 but caused more trouble than it was worth. At that time, Windows 2000 was promising but didn’t support a lot of hardware, so users were stuck between two bad choices. Without admitting Millennium’s failure, Microsoft quietly put Windows 98 back on the market until the fixed version of Windows 2000 (SP1) was available. Microsoft needs to do something like that again today.

Make sure your voice is heard by Microsoft. Sign the petition to save XP today and InfoWorld will present it to Microsoft.

http://www.savexp.com

How Companies Can Use Your Personal Data Against You

January 15 th , 2008

When you’re stacking up grocery items at the checkout line, you’re probably not worried about whether your supermarket chain is compiling a profile of you based on what you buy, and storing that information for its own use. After all, who cares if you buy one brand of tissues over another, or favor name-brand microwave pizzas over store brands?

Supermarket chains care. So does CVS. So much so that they use discount cards (referred to as “membership” or “loyalty” cards) to offer you what seem like great bargains. They use the cards to keep tabs on what you purchase, how often you shop, and what your buying preferences are.

With private companies collecting your personal data like never before, why be concerned? Because the information can hurt you. For Instance…

Loyalty Cards
Supermarkets and pharmacies offer discounts when you sign up for their loyalty cards. But every time you swipe your card, your purchases are recorded for marketing purposes. Stop and Shop now features “Shopping Buddy” which will soon identify you by your loyalty card, present you with a list of items you’ve purchased in the past and even make recommendations for items you might like based on previous purchases. Sounds like it might be a good thing??? Perhaps not.

The Problem
These buying records are now being sold to life and health insurance companies, who use them to evaluate your rates based on your food and non-prescription drug purchases. You may be buying stuff for a friend or relative, but the database still logs you as the end user. Do you really want your HMO to know your shopping habits?

Self-Defense
If possible, avoid giving your full name when you sign up for a card. Many stores let you sign up anonymously as “Store Customer”. If the person attempting to sign you up says you can’t do that, ask to speak to the manager. In many cases these folks are being paid by the number of new customers they sign up. If you can’t sign up anonymously perhaps it would be best to refuse the loyalty card altogether.

Lastly – if you’re concerned – ask for a copy of their Privacy Policy. I searched Stop and Shops website in vain, never finding their policy but CVS.com has a link to theirs from almost every page. Remember once your personal data has been collected it has a nasty habit of never going away.

Another take on loyalty cards:
http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/16389/

In researching this piece, I was asked to report on the E-Z Pass system and the rumors surrounding it. Rumor has it that the E-Z Pass system is tracking how fast you travel between tolls in order to issue speeding tickets.

E-Z Pass was created to help speed traffic flow and decrease congestion at toll booths. The rumor mill is reporting that several states use this technology to issue speeding tickets – if you travel too quickly between tolls on the highway! In effect, you can get a speeding ticket even if you don’t get caught speeding. What’s more, E-Z Pass records have been turned over to law enforcement to track people’s whereabouts and have been subpoenaed in civil lawsuits, including divorces.

Debunking the myth
Although there are many articles and resources talking about this, let’s look at it logically.

Speeding ticket’s NOT issued be a police officer that actually saw you violating a law are worthless. There have been many attempts to set up systems to monitor speeding vehicles, record the license plate and issue a ticket but the main problem is that an individuals drivers license is personal and there is no way to detect who the actual driver is in order to give the ticket. It’s not like a parking ticket that just goes against who ever owns the car.

The system that E-Z Pass is putting into place is strictly for safety purposes at this time. If anyone ever gets one of these so called speeding tickets you can take it to court and plead not guilty. The ticket will be thrown out simply because there is no issuing officer to represent the letter of the law.

Washington Post sticks by RIAA story despite evidence it goofed…


Well, it’s late on Monday evening and the Washington Post has yet to correct a story that accused the recording industry of trying to paint law-abiding music fans as criminals.

Marc Fisher, a Post columnist, wrote on Sunday that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) asserted in a legal brief that anyone who copies music from a CD onto their computer is a thief.

The document, filed last month, was part of the RIAA’s copyright suit against Jeffrey Howell, an Arizona resident accused of illegal file sharing.

Quoting from the brief, Fisher wrote that the RIAA had argued that MP3 files created from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” and violate the law. If it were true, the move would represent a major shift in strategy by the RIAA, which typically hasn’t challenged an individual’s right to copy CDs for personal use.

The problem with Fisher’s story is that nowhere in the RIAA’s brief does the group call someone a criminal for simply copying music to a computer. Throughout the 21-page brief, the recording industry defines what it considers to be illegal behavior and it boils down to this: creating digital recordings from CDs and then uploading them to file-sharing networks.

A sentence on page 15 of the brief clearly spells out the RIAA’s position: “Once (Howell) converted plaintiff’s recording into the compressed MP3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiff.”

The key words there are “shared folder” and it’s an important distinction. It means that before the RIAA considers someone a criminal, a person has to at least appear to be distributing music.

The Post story, which followed similar pieces in Ars Technica and Wired.com, has spurred scores of other media outlets to repeat the paper’s erroneous assertion. Ironically, even typically anti-RIAA blogs, such as Engadget, Gizmodo and TechDirt have jumped in on the side of the RIAA.

“The Washington Post story is wrong,” said Jonathan Lamy, an RIAA spokesman. “As numerous commentators have since discovered after taking the time to read our brief, the record companies did not allege that ripping a lawfully acquired CD to a computer or transferring a copy to an MP3 player is infringement. This case is about the illegal distribution of copyrighted songs on a peer-to-peer network, not making copies of legally acquired music for personal use.”

After reading Lamy’s statement, Fisher didn’t back down. He responded in an e-mail to CNET News.com: “The bottom line is that there is a disconnect between RIAA’s publicly stated policy that making a personal copy of a CD is ok and the theory advanced by its lawyers that in fact, transferring music to your computer is an unauthorized act.”

He took one more shot before signing off: “Rather than suing its customers and slamming reporters, the RIAA might better spend its energies focusing on winning back the trust of an alienated consumer base.”

Still, Fisher received little support from respected and independent copyright experts. William Patry, the copyright guru at Google–not exactly known as a lackey for copyright holders–wrote on his blog that the RIAA is being “unfairly maligned” in the Post story.

Patry does, however, caution that recent statements made by the RIAA and included in Fisher’s story reflect the group’s growing tendency to use language as a means of control.

Fisher quoted Sony BMG’s chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, who testified recently in court that “when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.”

Patry disagreed.
“This new rhetoric of ‘everything anyone does without (RIAA) permission is stealing’ is well worth noting and well worth challenging at every occasion,” Patry wrote. “It is the rhetoric of copyright as an ancient property right, permitting copyright owners to control all uses as a natural right; the converse is that everyone else is an immoral thief.”

Washington Post Article
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/28/AR2007122800693_pf.html

See the legal brief here:
http://www.ilrweb.com/viewILRPDF.asp?filename=atlantic_howell_071207RIAASupplementalBrief

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