Monthly Archives: February 2012

Domain Name Bingo

The nonprofit organization that oversees the Internet’s address system is bracing for a wave of lawsuits as a result of a controversial program that may add hundreds of top-level domains such as .apple and .nyc.

 

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a California-based nonprofit that has a contract with the U.S. government to manage the Web’s address system, was due to start accepting applications on Jan. 12 for new extensions to the right of the dot, including brand names, cities, and almost any word in any language. The program may give rise to as many as 2,000 Web suffixes, according to ICANN. There are currently just 22 so-called generic top-level domains, led by .com, .net, and .org. Under ICANN’s plan, the Web could see the likes of .ford or .coca-cola.

 

Since approving the program back in June 2011, ICANN has come under fire from businesses saying the proliferation of suffixes will confuse consumers and increase companies’ costs of protecting their brands. More than 50 companies, including General Electric, American Express, and Johnson & Johnson, have signed a petition asking that the plan be delayed, and more than a dozen members of Congress have taken up their cause. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz has called the initiative a potential “disaster” that would allow con artists to rip off consumers by setting up fraudulent websites.

 

Even so, the Obama Administration isn’t likely to force it’s will onto an international organization. Whenever ICANN “seems to be paying too much attention to what the U.S. government says, it generates a certain amount of pushback from the rest of the world, and the U.S. is sensitive to that,” says Esther Dyson, the group’s first chair, and a critic of the domain-name expansion.

 

ICANN is pressing ahead, saying the plan has been thoroughly vetted during six years of deliberations and includes trademark protections stating “We have extensive safeguards during the process and even afterward, if there are abuses detected,”. Still, it’s interesting to note that ICANN will put aside about $60,000 of every $185,000 domain application fee to cover litigation that may arise from the program.

 

Who will benefit from an explosion of new Web suffixes? The program may spur sales for Go Daddy Group, VeriSign, and other companies that operate and sell Web domains to businesses and consumers. Donuts, a Seattle startup whose name stands for “domain nuts,” plans to apply for 10 top-level domains under the ICANN program but a company spokesperson declined to name the domains his company is targeting. (No one in this game wants to show their cards early).

 

The expansion may also give a financial boost to ICANN, which largely supports itself by charging fees to domain-name companies. The program may double ICANN’s annual $85 million budget.

 

You may remember from our report a year ago, ICANN approved the .xxx domain for adult-content websites in March 2011. Almost 200,000 .xxx domains have been sold so far, according to Stuart Lawley, chief executive officer of ICM Registry, a Florida company that acquired the rights to manage the .xxx suffix from ICANN. It’s proven a good investment: ICM took in almost $25 million from sales of .xxx domains last year.

 

It wasn’t just pornography sites that bid for the x-rated suffix. Up to 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies registered .xxx domains over a 52-day period starting on Sept. 7, 2011 says Lawley, who declined to name the companies. Their goal: to protect their brands from falling into the wrong hands. At $185,000 per .xxx domain, it’s a pretty expensive insurance policy.

Is It Better To Turn Your Computer Off Or Leave It On

The age old question… Is it better to leave my computer on 24/7 or shut it down when I’m not using it?

 

This is one of those questions where there is no single right answer. In other words, it depends on how you use your computer.

 

There are at least three situations that may compel you to leave your computer on 24 hours a day:

 

•You are on a network, and the network administrators back up files and/or upgrade software over the network at night. If that is the case, and you want your machine backed up or upgraded, then you need to leave it on all the time.

 

•You’re using your machine as some sort of server. For example, if your machine acts as a file server, print server, Web server, etc., on a LAN (local area network) or the Internet, then you need to leave it on all the time.

 

•If you’re running something like SETI@home and you want to produce as many result sets as possible, you need to leave your machine on all the time. If you don’t know what SETI is, take a look at this website: http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/

 

If you do not fall into any of these categories, then you have a choice about whether or not to leave your machine turned on.

 

One reason you might want to turn it off is economic. A typical PC consumes something like 300 watts. Let’s assume that you use your PC for four hours every day, so the other 20 hours it is on would be wasted energy. Those 20 hours represent about 60 cents a day which adds up to $219 per year.

 

It’s also possible to use the energy-saving features built into today’s computer systems and cut that figure in half. For example, you can configure the monitor and hard disk to power down automatically when not in use although you’ll still be wasting $100 per year.

 

The most common argument for leaving your computer on all the time is that turning it on and off somehow stresses the computer’s components. For example, when the CPU chip is running, it can get quite hot, and when you turn the machine off it cools back down. The expansion and contraction from the heat probably has some effect on the solder joints holding the chip in place, and on the micro-fine details on the chip itself. But here are three ways to look at that:

 

•If it were a significant problem, then computer systems would be failing all the time. The fact is, hardware is very reliable (software is a whole different story, and there is a lot to be said for rebooting every day).

 

•I don’t know a single person who leaves their TV on 24 hours a day. TVs contain many of the same electronic components that computers do – some of them even have hard drives now. In the grand scheme of all things electronic, TVs certainly have no problems being cycled on and off.

 

•Most computer resellers will gladly sell you a three-year full-replacement warrantee for about $150. If you’re worried about it, spend some of the money you’re saving by turning your machine off and buy a service contract. Over three years, you’ll still come out way ahead!

Google Enters The Cloud Storage Arena

Google is lacing up its gloves and stepping into the cloud storage ring with its own cloud storage service called Google Drive to rival the widely popular Dropbox and Apple iCloud.

 

Google Drive is expected to launch within the next few months, according to The Wall Street Journal, which quoted unnamed sources close to the product. The Google Drive cloud storage service will let users store content in Google’s cloud and access it from different devices. Google Drive will also let users upload and share photos, documents, videos and other content in the cloud.

 

The WSJ report indicates that Google Drive also will be tightly integrated with Gmail, allowing users to share content via links embedded into e-mails, similar to Microsoft’s SkyDrive services. Integration with Google Apps, Google’s cloud collaboration and communication suite, could be included as well.
According to the report, Google Drive will be free for most business users and consumers. Users requiring a larger amount of cloud storage will be offered a pay for premium service.

 

Cloud storage has become a major battleground in recent months, with companies looking to one-up each other with the amount of free storage they offer. Dropbox is seen as the market leader with more than 45 million users that save 1 billion files every three days. Last October, Dropbox brought in $250 million in Series B funding to continue its cloud storage strategy.

 

Along with Dropbox, Google Drive will join other cloud storage services such as Apple iCloud, which Apple launched to enable users to store and share content between devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

 

This new service would join Google Music, which takes advantage of Google search technology as well as its ability to tap into the tastes of a user’s friends to recommend songs. Launched last November, the service allows users to upload their entire music library collection to Google’s servers, but uploads are limited to music files.

 

With all the internet titans jumping into the ring, it looks like the “Cloud” really is coming into its own. It will be interesting to watch this battle and see where everyone stands once the dust settles. We, the consumer and end user, can only benefit from this battle – hopefully with lower prices and larger amounts of cloud storage space.

New Cyber-Legislation Gains Traction in House and Senate

 

Federal law enforcement officials believe that cyber-security is more of a threat to the U.S. than traditional terrorism. In order to combat this new threat, the House and Senate are each considering new bills that would tighten the nation’s cyber-security infrastructure. These bills are being debated just as Anonymous has started a new campaign targeting the FBI.

 

As federal officials and the White House increasingly call on Congress to pass the comprehensive cyber-security bill to protect critical infrastructure, the House moves forward with its version. Federal law enforcement officials expect cyber-espionage, hacktivists and cyber-attacks to soon surpass traditional terrorism as the No. 1 threat facing the United States, according to Congressional testimony.

 

“Stopping terrorists is the No. 1 priority,” Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Feb. 1. “But down the road, the cyber-threat will be the No. 1 threat to the country. I do not think it is necessarily [the] No. 1 threat, but it will be tomorrow.”

 

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper urged the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to pass legislation to increase cyber-security in both the public and private sectors during a hearing of the House Select Intelligence Committee on worldwide threats on Feb. 2. Clapper discussed intrusions on public systems that control major defense weapon systems, electrical grids and banking infrastructure. The U.S. economy is losing upwards of $300 billion per year because of rampant cyber-espionage.

 

Perhaps we all have the right to be nervous. The hacktivist collective Anonymous released audio transcripts on YouTube of a 16-minute call between the FBI and Scotland Yard where law enforcement officials discussed several Anonymous- and LulzSec-related cases on Feb. 3. The FBI and British police have confirmed that the transcripts are legitimate and said they are investigating.

 

Anonymous had access to one of the call participants’ email accounts and had intercepted an email containing the dial-in information and passcode for the trans-Atlantic phone call. “The FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now,” AnonymousIRC wrote on Twitter.

 

Congress is making some movements toward a comprehensive cyber-legislation. The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cyber-Security, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies marked up the cyber-security bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and unanimously approved it Feb. 1. Lungren’s Promoting and Enhancing Cyber-Security and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act (PRECISE) calls for creating a nonprofit National Information Sharing Organization that would collect cyber-security threat information and allow the industry to voluntarily share the data with the government. The NISO umbrella would make private firms and government agencies exempt from privacy laws that prevent data sharing, so long as they share the information only for cyber-security purposes.

 

The bill also identified the Department of Homeland Security as the lead federal agency for securing networks operated by civilian government and private sectors. The bill, as presented, does not give the government an “Internet kill switch” or authority to limit Internet traffic in case of an emergency.

 

ISPs and other operators need “clearer legal authority” to share signatures and other information about suspected attacks with each other and with the government. A private nonprofit organization would pose far fewer privacy risks than an information-sharing hub run by the government.

 

The Senate has plans to present its version of the cyber-security bill for markup by Feb. 17. The Senate bill is rumored to also put the Department of Homeland Security in charge, but the agency would also have the authority to create security rules for the private sector to follow, and punish companies that do not comply with the rules. The Department of Homeland Security would decide which companies it would be able to regulate but would select those with systems whose “disruption could result in the interruption of life-sustaining services, catastrophic economic damage or severe degradation of national security capabilities,” according to a summary of the bill.

 

It’s interesting to note that as much as 85 percent of the country’s critical infrastructure is controlled by the private sector. Looks like Big Brother will finally get its fingers in the pie!

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