Monthly Archives: July 2008

Housekeeping Updates

I wanted to update my readers on a few things, so here it goes.

  1. A big shout out goes to readers of Digital Frontier for pushing me over 3,000 total views.  I had (and currently still having) a terrific month of July with over 1,300 views.  This is no doubt due to the popularity of the iPhone/iPod Touch Penn State VPN Wi-Fi story I am currently running and constantly updating.  I have
  2. You may have noticed that I’ve ramped up the number of posts over the last four or five days.  This is due to me finally having some time to sit down and do research for each of those posts.  I hope to get back on track as the summer draws to a close and school starts again.
  3. I am currently preparing an interactive timeline news feed that will be used in conjunction with this  blog.  I will have one initially that will be like the Daily Links article that I publish every so often.  Check back later for more news on that front.
  4. Next on my list of updates is a new blog I have started.  It is called Volunteer @ Penn State and you can find it at this location.  It is my desire to find a group of people that will help me update and maintain the site.  This will involve communication with Penn State clubs and groups as well as entities located in State College.  Please email me at sjs5196 {at} psu {dot} edu with “Volunteer @ Penn State” in the subject line if you are interested.  I believe this has lots of potential, and it may even spill over to other schools.  There is also a link in my blogroll on the right hand side of this blog.
  5. If anyone is interested in guest authoring a blog post on Digital Frontier, please let me know.  I am open to content suggestions and want to diversify what Digital Frontier already offers.  Contact me at sjs5196 {at} psu {dot} edu with “Guest Blogging” in the subject line if you are interested.
  6. If you have comments or suggestions for Digital Frontier, I would love to get some input.  Whether it be able the design or about the content, I’m open to comments.  Either email me with them, or comment directly on this post.
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Posted by on July 29, 2008 in General


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The Case Of The San Francisco Hacker

A computer engineer by the name of Terry Childs continues to hold San Francisco’s brand-spanking-new computer network hostage. The multi-million dollar system called FiberWAN, is protected by Childs’ password which gives him the only key to the city’s emails, confidential law enforcement documents, city payroll files and inmate booking information. Childs was taken into custody on July 13 and has since been charged with four counts of computer tampering. He is currently being held on five million dollars bail. He initially gave police a password, but it didn’t work. Even under pressure, he refused to give authorities the correct password.

A city official familiar with Mr. Childs case says that the system administrator, who had been working in the position for five years, had been disciplined for sub-par performance. Additionally, the city official said that his superiors had even tried to fire him. Luckily for Mr. Childs, he had a premium insurance policy- San Francisco’s network. Authorities say that Childs started messing with the network on June 20th and that his work could cost the city millions of dollars to fix the denial of service.

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Posted by on July 29, 2008 in Security


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U of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s Report on Cell Phone Use

The University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Research Institute has issued a very important message regarding cell phone usage. In a memo sent to 3,000 faculty and staff, Dr. Ronald Herberman (director of the Research Institute), says to limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer. This message is contrary to a multitude of other studies that see no link between cell phone usage and cancer. Even the Food and Drug Administration has expressed a certain lack of public worry on this topic.

Dr. Herberman admits that this warning is based on unpublished data, but believes we should act now in order to mitigate cancer risk. He has this to say:

“Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn’t wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,” Herberman said.

His recommendations include a few things targeted to both kids and adults. For children, Dr. Herberman says to limit cell phone use for emergencies only because their brains are still developing. In terms of adults, he says to keep the phone away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless Bluetooth headset. Dr. Heberman goes on to say that we should even limit usage in public places because it exposes the risk to those around you.

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Posted by on July 28, 2008 in General


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The Recent DNS Vulnerability

A few weeks ago, a security analyst named Dan Kaminsky gave a few scant details on a DNS Vulnerability. Up until now, the details have been kept secret since Mr. Kaminsky discovered the problem several months ago. Due to an accidental blog posting, the problem has been released into the wild and can be easily taken advantage of. DNS stands for Domain Name System and is a critical link in Internet infrastructure. Wikipedia explains DNS:

The Domain Name System (DNS) associates various information with domain names; most importantly, it serves as the “phone book” for the Internet by translating human-readable computer hostnames, e.g., into IP addresses, e.g., which networking equipment needs to deliver information.

Four days after the details on the vulnerability was detailed, hackers have produced an exploit that takes advantage of unpatched systems. The problem itself involves hackers poisoning the DNS so that it re-routes traffic to a website of their choosing. Let’s say you type in, and the DNS server your computer uses to find other computers/servers on the Internet has been hacked with this technique. Instead of sending you to Google’s homepage, it might send you to I can’t speak for everyone, but that is an experience I would like to avoid.

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Posted by on July 28, 2008 in Security


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Love XP and Hate Vista? You Are Going To Love “Mojave”

It seems as though Microsoft is finally firing back in response to Apple’s all out advertisement assault on Windows Operating Systems.  As Apple gains a larger foothold in consumer’s homes and offices (an alleged 8.9%), its competition is starting to realize the threat it faces if they do not act.  Microsoft’s new ad campaigns (which we have heard whispers of over the last few months) are starting to show up.  Last week, a story broke that a large group of people that use a variety of Windows, Apple and Linux Operating Systems were shown a new, experimental version of Windows called “Mojave”.  Before being shown a demonstration of the new OS, they were asked on video to give their impressions of Windows Vista and most gave a decidedly negative view of the year old OS.  After being shown the video, over 90% had purportedly gave positive feedback on the “Mojave” OS.

Then, the group of people were told that the “Mojave” Operating System was just Windows Vista all along.

A Cnet article had this to say:

“Oh wow,” said one user, eliciting exactly the exclamation that Microsoft had hoped to garner when it first released the operating system more than 18 months ago. Instead, the operating system got mixed reviews and criticisms for its lack of compatibility and other headaches.

The teaser site for the video that will be released this coming Tuesday has been put up.  You can find it here with some details on how they set up the experiment.

In my opinion that this is a step in the right direction for Microsoft.  To be honest, Apple’s TV ads are amusing and they connect with everyday people.  It’s about time Microsoft stepped up now that its Windows Vista OS is more mature.  With Windows 7 in heavy development, Microsoft needs to gain some advertising momuntum that is going to make Windows more attractive to consumers.  Since Windows 7 is going to be built off of Vista, they need to get thier proverbial ducks in a row.  With cool upcoming features like native multitouch support and a strong foundation, Windows has a lot to offer.

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Posted by on July 27, 2008 in Emerging Technology, General


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Hilarious…But Mostly Sad

So I understand that living in the D.C. Metro Area has its share of problems.  The biggest problems residents and visitors alike recognize within seconds is the traffic problems.  Every once in a while I’ll see some kind of traffic accident/situation that just makes me laugh (only when people aren’t hurt).  I’d like to share a recent sighting that points to the hopelessness of drivers in this area and in general.  As funny as the pictures are, it still makes me weep for the future.  So without further ado, here it is.  Click read more for the accompanying picture.

The License Plate In Question

The License Plate In Question

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Posted by on July 26, 2008 in General


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A Real Competitor To The Omniscient Wikipedia

I was made aware yesterday that Google has been working on their own version of Wikipedia since December.  The system, named Knol is set up in a similar way, but there are a few changes that may end up making the new competitor an even more valuable resource.  According to their webpage, “A knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic.”  Their service, discourages anonymous article authors.  Instead, the Knol team hopes to encourage subject matter experts to submit information.  To do this, a verification process has been put in place which verifies your name with provided (and registered) credit card information.  An additional verification system has been put in place that does the identification check over the phone.  This gives authors a higher level of impetus to write what is the truth.  Additionally, Google will be paying article writers with the advertisement money from their Ad-Sense ads.  Additionally, the service will allow people to comment on a written article and make suggestions to the original author to improve the article.  This way, the author stays in control of what they have written, but can accept alterations to their work.  Google has made a point to say that they will not be performing an editorial screening of a given post.  I’m assuming that they will monitor posts for pornographic and other questionable content.

In terms of current content, a large majority seems to be medical related.  I’m sure as people start finding out about this service, there will be a wealth of information.  You can find the page here.

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Posted by on July 24, 2008 in Emerging Technology, General


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