Google turns the page… in a bad way.

I was actually a bit disturbed when I read the whole article (which is long)… here’s the short version:

“Google and Dell have teamed up to install some software on Dell computers that borders on being spyware. I say spyware because it’s hard to figure out what it is and is even harder to remove.”

“The screenshot below shows what the Dell-branded Google search results page looks like when you make a typo in your address bar. You can’t even see the search results in the picture (800×600 resolution) because the entire top of the page and right side are plastered with ads.

This page isn’t being shown to Dell owners just because they have the Google Toolbar. In fact, uninstalling the Google Toolbar won’t get rid of it. Dell and Google are now installing a second program on computers that intercepts all sorts of queries (requests / questions) that the browser would normally try to resolve (answer). This program has no clear name and is very hard to uninstall. In some circles, people would call this spyware.”

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A Mac User’s View of Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)

After my less-than-thrilling experience with Windows Vista I decided to take the plunge and download the latest release of Ubuntu with the intent to see just how far Linux has come in the last year or so. Last time I used Linux was for a server setup which worked very well but I was not all that impressed with the desktop implementation back then, which was about a year ago. Since then Ubuntu has emerged as a major force on the Linux desktop front with several solid releases that have much of the internet buzzing about how Linux might be finally ready to give the folks in Redmond a run for their money. So what does a die hard Mac fanboy have to say about the latest release of Ubuntu (Ubuntu 7.04) Feisty Fawn? Quite a bit actually… Read the rest of this entry »

Ubuntu / Linux myths

There seem to be a few things that people believe about Ubuntu, here’s some of the ones I used to think myself:

  1. Leaving Windows means leaving updates.
    1. Ubuntu has a lot of updates over time – possible more than Windows. The difference is that Ubuntu updates EVERYTHING. All programs, all underlying stuff… everything. In one window!
  2. Using Linux means using a command line / terminal
    1. It is entirely possible to use Ubuntu and NEVER know where the terminal is, nevermind using it.
    2. Using the terminal is NOT hard. Most of the time it’s just literally copying and pasting. Nothing hard about that, right?

    To be continued…

VCR’s can detect commercials? Mine can!

Ok, so I found a VCR a while back on one of my late night walks (under an IKEA rug, which I also took). I had been putting off setting it up in case it was a dud or worse – it was a tape chewer.

I got around to setting it up a couple days ago and found that while it didn’t have a remote, it could detect a lot of stuff automatically (cable / antenna, channels, etc) and the things it needed help with could be entered in a hidden section of buttons (arrows, the colour coded holes for stereo cables, etc.) in the front.

I’ve been planning on using the VCR to record my daughter’s favourite show – Poko. Despite it’s popularity with my spawn (a fond nickname), there’s absolutely nothing out there merchandise-wise. No books, no videos, no dolls, no stickers, no nadda.

Oh, pardon me, there are videos and books, but they’re all in Australia. Apparently Poko’s bigger in Oz than in Canuckland.

So anyways, I decided to try the recording about 3 this morning. It recorded fast and easy… but when I told it to stop I got a menu that popped up – “I haven’t marked the commercials yet. Do you want me to? Skip it? Marking will start automatically in 15 seconds” kind of thing.

Now… I understand the more advanced Tivo-like DVD recorders have this option, but I didn’t know that VCR’s could do it too!

So I tried it out, and it took about 2 minutes for about an hour’s recorded time. It cut out the commercials, but it also grabbed a couple intro scenes. Nothing major, though.

I’m quite impressed!

Now… if I could just get it to do it on the fly… There are a couple commercials that set my teeth on edge (mom calling her daughter a tramp, daughter calling her mom fat, disgusting, etc), but that’s a different post.

Ten Ways Bush Resembles History’s Tyrants

by Sherwood Ross | May 12 2007 – 9:48am |  permalink
article tools: email | print | read more Sherwood Ross
As public sentiment begins to build for impeachment, it might be illuminating to examine the many ways President Bush operates in a manner reminiscent of history’s tyrants. Here are 10 areas that come readily to mind.

First, tyrants tend to see themselves, as Hitler did, at the head of some kind of “master race.” President Bush and his backers would deny it, but their drive for a “New American Century” betrays them. They’re world-beaters, and won’t sign the global warming treaty or any other cooperative document. Republicans at their last Convention jeered the very mention of the words “United Nations.” Those who see it differently get slandered. Recall how Bush’s hatchet men impugned Senator Kerry’s Vietnam War record. This was reminiscent of Nazi claims Germany’s Jewish veterans of the Great War did not deserve their medals. Another manifestation is Neocons would reduce gay and lesbian Americans to second-class citizenship status. Bush’s backers are convinced of their superiority at home and globally.

Second, tyrants tend to be congenital, brazen liars. Bush lied about Iraq’s threat to America just as Hitler lied when he claimed Poland attacked Germany first in 1939. The UN told Bush there was no WMD in Iraq, yet Bush said there was and made war. He knew better. As many as 600,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, 2-million have fled, and a nation is being destroyed before our eyes.

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Court: Microsoft, Best Buy must stand trial for racketeering

May 4, 2007 10:46am

•  Customers say the companies secretly signed them up for MSN
•  Tapped buyers’ bank accounts

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) must stand trial on charges they violated the federal anti-racketeering laws, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The two companies are accused of secretly signing up buyers of computers and cell phones for Microsoft’s MSN Internet service.

In reversing a U.S. District Court ruling that had tossed the lawsuit, the court of appeals says there is enough substance to the complaints to bring the companies to trial under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, often called the “RICO” act.

The case started after James Odom bought a PC-based laptop at a Contra Costa County Best Buy store. Data about the purchase was sent to Microsoft as part of a joint marketing agreement between the companies. Microsoft then signed Mr. Odom up for its MSN Internet service and, after a free trial period, began billing him for it.

That was all done without his knowledge or agreement, he says.

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Australia hands over man to US courts

Australia hands over man to US courts

Kenneth Nguyen
May 7, 2007

Hew Raymond Griffiths has been extradited to the US following copyright infringement piracy and consiracy charges.Hew Raymond Griffiths has been extradited to the US following copyright infringement piracy and consiracy charges.
Photo: Richard Gosling

BEFORE he was extradited to the United States, Hew Griffiths, from Berkeley Vale in NSW, had never even set foot in America. But he had pirated software produced by American companies.

Now, having been given up to the US by former justice minister Chris Ellison, Griffiths, 44, is in a Virginia cell, facing up to 10 years in an American prison after a guilty plea late last month.

Griffiths’ case — involving one of the first extraditions for intellectual property crime — has been a triumph for US authorities, demonstrating their ability to enforce US laws protecting US companies against Australians in Australia, with the co-operation of the Australian Government.

“Our agents and prosecutors are working tirelessly to nab intellectual property thieves, even where their crimes transcend international borders,” US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said.

In some corners of the Australian legal community, however, there is concern about Griffiths’ case. In a recent article for the Australian Law Journal, NSW Chief Judge in Equity, Peter Young, wrote: “International copyright violations are a great problem. However, there is also the consideration that a country must protect its nationals from being removed from their homeland to a foreign country merely because the commercial interests of that foreign country are claimed to have been affected by the person’s behaviour in Australia and the foreign country can exercise influence over Australia.”

Griffiths, a Briton, has lived in Australia since the age of seven. From his home base on the central coast of NSW, he served as the leader of a group named Drink Or Die, which “cracked” copy-protected software and media products and distributed them free of cost. Often seen with long hair and bare feet, Griffiths did not make money from his activities, and lived with his father in a modest house.

But Drink or Die’s activities did cost American companies money — an estimated $US50 million ($A60 million), if legal sales were substituted for illegal downloads undertaken through Drink or Die. It also raised the ire of US authorities.

In 2003, the US Department of Justice charged Griffiths with violating the copyright laws of the US, and requested his extradition from Australia. Senator Ellison signed a notice for Griffiths’ arrest and Australian Federal Police arrested him at his home.

Griffiths fought the prospect of extradition through the courts for three years, in which time he was denied bail and detained in prison. He indicated that he would be willing to plead guilty to a breach of Australian copyright law, which meant he could serve time in Australia.

Last year, Griffiths ran out of avenues for appeal in Australia. His fate lay in the hands of Senator Ellison, who had the power to refuse Griffiths’ extradition. But in December, Senator Ellison issued a warrant for extradition — a decision welcomed by the US Government. Griffiths’ extradition in February is believed to be the first out of Australia for a breach of intellectual property law.

“This extradition represents the (US) Department of Justice’s commitment to protect intellectual property rights from those who violate our laws from the other side of the globe,” US Assistant Attorney-General Alice Fisher said.

But Justice Young described as “bizarre” the fact that “people are being extradited to the US to face criminal charges when they have never been to the US and the alleged act occurred wholly outside the US”.

Griffiths appears to have been singled out by US authorities. British-based members of Drink or Die were reportedly tried in Britain. Last month, in news that slipped the local media’s radar, Hew Griffiths pleaded guilty in a US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, to criminal copyright infringement offences. According to US authorities, Griffiths admitted to overseeing all the illegal operations of the now-disbanded Drink Or Die.

On top of a possible 10-year jail term, Griffiths could be fined $US500,000. (By way of comparison, the average sentence for rape in Victoria is six years and 10 months.)

Any Australian who has pirated software worth more than $US1000 could be subject to the same extradition process as Griffiths was. “Should not the Commonwealth Parliament do more to protect Australians from this procedure?” Justice Young asked in his article. Others, however, argue that extradition is necessary to prevent internet crimes that transcend borders.

Griffiths will be sentenced on June 22.