Friday, December 31, 2004

Quake shook earth to core

Quake shook earth to core: "The quake that set off the devastating tsunami literally shook the Earth to its core, scientists believe, accelerating its rotation and shortening days by a fraction of a second. It may be necessary to add a 'leap second' in years to come in order to correct the change.

Meanwhile, experts said the quake, which measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, may have shifted some small islands in the region by more than 30 metres.

Richard Gross, a geophysicist with Nasa's jet propulsion laboratory in California, said he believed a shift of mass towards the Earth's centre caused the planet to spin three microseconds - one millionth of a second - faster. It also caused the planet to tilt around 2.5cm on its axis." - Netherlands Issues First Fines to Spammers - Netherlands Issues First Fines to Spammers"We have been collecting complaints about spam on a special spam Web site since May," said an OPTA spokesperson in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "Now we're going after major spammers in this country, and these are the first results."

The largest fine, $58,000, was levied against an individual involved in four spam runs, according to the spokesperson. - Netherlands Issues First Fines to Spammers - Netherlands Issues First Fines to Spammers"We have been collecting complaints about spam on a special spam Web site since May," said an OPTA spokesperson in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "Now we're going after major spammers in this country, and these are the first results."

The largest fine, $58,000, was levied against an individual involved in four spam runs, according to the spokesperson.

Netcraft Debuts Anti-Phishing Toolbar For IE

InformationWeek : Netcraft Debuts Anti-Phishing Toolbar For IE
British Web monitoring and metrics firm Netcraft has released a toolbar for Internet Explorer that can help people sidestep phishing scams.

Dubbed Netcraft Toolbar, the free-of-charge plug-in to Microsoft's popular IE browser uses Netcraft's database of web site information to show several attributes of any visited site, including its country location, longevity, and popularity.

Those reactive features -- most phishing sites are short-lived, for instance, and typically hosted in countries like China and Russia -- are combined with a site blocker of known phishing URLs, said Netcraft, which updates that database with suspicious site reports from users.


Richard Koman's blog

The happy family

Marnie and Lucinda. Just logged on to Marnie's blog and saw this picture of the beautiful Lucinda. Hi moms!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Gmail - [ict4d-class] Mobile phones save lives in Sri Lanka

Mobile phones save lives in Sri Lanks

Thirty six stranded British tourists were rescued in Sri Lanka thanks
to a mobile phone with one of them and technology that could
pin-point the user, an official involved in the rescue told AFP

The Britons were picked up from the southern beach resort of
Hikkaduwa where they were stranded after the tsunami lashed
three-quarters of the island's coastline, killing nearly 13,000
people. A private initiative involving all phone companies here began
monitoring mobile phones with international roaming and traced the
call patterns to figure out the location of the phone users.

"There were 10,252 international roaming phones working on Sri Lankan
networks at the time of the
tragedy," Chris Dharmakirti, who is heading the Tidal Wave Rescue
Centre said. "We sent everyone an sms and got responses from 2,321.

He said 5,983 roaming phones had gone dead since the disaster while
4,269 phones had been used to make at least one call after the

"Whenever anyone used the phone, we could track where the person was
and restrict our search to affected areas of the country."

"If a phone is dead it could be that the unit is lost or the person
is affected by the tragedy," Dharmakirti said. "But, we are keeping a
track on these numbers."

He said they sent instructions to the phone users to call a toll-free
local number that will be answered by a call centre manned by some
100 people.

"Last night we had a response from a British tourist and based on
tracking his call we were able to locate a total of 36 stranded
Britons," Dharmakirti said. "Four of them were critically wounded,
but we managed to get to them to safety."

Another 35 Hong Kong-based employees of Morgan Stanley, leading
investment bankers, who were in southern Sri Lanka were tracked down
because of their international roaming phones that continued to be
switched on.

"Some people who called us did not know where they were. All they
could say was they were on high ground. But we were able to pin-point
from where the call was coming and could rush help," he said.

The mobile phone networks too were knocked out after Sunday's
tragedy, but 90 percent of the services were restored quickly by
arranging mobile generators to power base stations.

"This is the first time in Sri Lanka that we have used high tech call
tracking for a rescue mission. It has been highly successful and the
teenagers who manned the call centre were themselves keen to go out
and help victims," he said.

"What we are doing is to use this to help any survivor who is
marooned and needs help."

He said people abroad could call two numbers to get information about
survivors who made contact with the rescue centre. When dialling from
abroad, the number is +94-11-2395230 or 94-77-3166999.

>From within the country, the number to dial is 011-2395227 or from
>any mobile phone in the country the toll free number to call is 112.


The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami is blog central for tsunami news, contacts for aid organizations, and links to blogs. Lots of links, a great site to stay informed.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

brewster and molly go to google

Here's a post from Molly Davis at the Internet Archive about a visit to 1999, otherwise known as Google, where Brewster (Kahle) was giving a speech about the Archive's book scanning work. A fun read.

We just had a great time at Google. Smart people are walking around
happy and filled with google kool-aide, we got to hang out with the
founders, the company seems alive, and there are more toys to play with
than you can imagine. Brewster and I thought it would be fun if I
wrote about our experiences there:

Brewster and I drove to the Google complex this morning. It is in the
south bay, and the collection of buildings are a testament to dot com
architecture- sort of squat with pokey "fun" (and soon to be dated)
bits sticking out of them. As we drove in, we waved to the security
guard who was sitting in front of a row of red, yellow, and blue
primary safety cones with "google" on them. We parked near building 41,
where Brewster was to give his speech later, and then walked around
looking for building 47. Several people on electric scooters smiled at
us as they zoomed by. We found the building, across the street and down
a bit and walked into the lobby. We signed in on the computer that
asked our name, company and city, followed by the NDA screen. Brewster,
having not agreed to the NDA before, said "hit the escape key" and out
printed my name tag, with a black bar that said NDA DECLINED on it.

We settled into the lobby to wait for Alex and looked around. There
were modest brightly colored waiting chairs, a funny couch, a festive
christmas tree, lava lamps in google's primary colors, a refrigerator
filled with Naked Juice, and in the corner, a massage chair. Brewster
jumped into the chair and started pushing buttons and I got myself a
juice. Above the receptionist was a screen that scrolled search
enquires, and I laughed at some of them and their various misspellings
("how to hack" "free e-cards" "lara croft" "cleavage"). Brewster asked
the receptionist if people coming for an interview used the chair. The
receptionist said no, they but they looked like they wanted to.

Alex came and fetched us and we wandered around a cubicle forest
looking for an impromptu meeting room. We passed the massage room, a
place to get free electronic office stuff, a coffee bar, and a wall of
bins of nuts and candy (complete with the little metal shovels) on the
way. After that discussion, we were led to a different building to eat
lunch at the cafeteria.

The cafeteria was large and sunny with ridiculously high end food that
was all free. There different cuisines of food at each station
(Mexican, Italian, Asian, Vegetarian, etc) with daily specials at each.
I had a fancy pizza with roasted eggplant and real mozzarella, and
others had salmon and calzones (served on red, blue and yellow plates
*grin*). Everyone getting lunch was about 30 years old or younger and
most were wearing some sort of google schwag. I asked Tara if she got
tired of the food and she said yes, but felt guilty about it since it
was so great (and so free).

At lunch we talked to various legal and bizdev people who had worked on
getting libraries to agree to have their stuff scanned. Brewster told
stories about Corbis that made them think for a moment, but mainly the
employees of google think they are a good company and aren't worried
about some evil future where they don't have money or are consumed with
greed. They think they are like us and are high on their successes. It
was fun to hear them talk.

During lunch, I got a Jones rootbeer and twisted off the cap. Inside
the cap said "Contact those who share your interest in a project". I
showed it to everyone and we laughed and agreed it was appropriate.

We walked to yet another building where Brewster was to give his talk.
I went to the restroom, and immediately noticed the heated toilet seats
(ooh!) and buttons you could push to activate various washings and
dryings of various private parts (eek!). About 50 people came out to
listen to Brewster's "can we, shall we, may we, will we?" speech. One
unfortunate engineer asked why we would want to bother archiving the
web, and everyone said not to pay attention to him, his job was to deal
with spam (and perhaps he needed a new project!). Everyone seemed to be
very interested and inspired by the Archive and Brewster and crowded
around after to ask questions. Even Larry and Sergey stopped by to

Afterwards, we were led to Larry and Sergey's office to say goodbye,
and we passed 3 electric scooters that said "I'm feeling lucky(TM)" on
them leaning against a wall. Their shared office was unassuming, and
Larry was slouched on a couch while Sergey was jiggling in yet another
massage chair. Two significantly older gentlemen were also in the
office, apparently in a senior engineering meeting. The screensaver on
one computer flicked photos of various google events with smiling
people. Larry and Sergey really seemed to like the Archive and respect
what we are doing and want to figure out how to work together. We left
with high hopes.

On the way out, we waved as we passed the security guards and the silly
colored safety cones and came back from what felt like 1999 to San
Maybe we should inject some primary colors and toys around our place. I
certainly vote for free fancy food every day!

The New York Times > Opinion > Editorial: The Electronic Library

The New York Times > Editorial: The Electronic Library. The Times on google bookscanning. They worry about copyright. So far the work is centered on old books, phew. And about the stability of digital technology. Simply put, when we have valuable stuff in digital formats we will find a way to make sure the data is transferrable to newer formats, or standardize on existing formats.

btw, talked to Brewster Kahle of Internet Archive at Christmas and for them this is an exciting time with the phone ringing off the hook. The basic question is does it make sense to store our libraries' collections with a for-profit company, a young one at that. Perhaps the Archive and google will find a way to connect the for-profit and nonprofit pieces. The archive, btw, is engaged in a bookscanning effort with the University of Toronto.

El Oso, El Moreno, and El Abogado � Social Entrepreneurship and Project Management

El Oso, El Moreno, and El Abogado � Social Entrepreneurship and Project Management I thought this was a great post about the limits of online community. Online community is not about connecting with strangers but about making connections, person by person. But I would point out that these connections are often online connections, but for that they are no less personal.

In any case as far as bloggerCorps is concerned ... I guess I agree, a blog is not a sufficient organizing tool. But what is the idea of connecting "bloggers" with orgs? "blogging" is not a speciality, a skill set. Anyone who gets shown how to do it, can do it themselves if they have the time. In any case personal is better, so how can there be volunteer bloggers?

New report: ICT for Development: empowerment or exploitation?

From Barbara Filip on the ICT4D mailing list:

ICT for Development: Empowerment or exploitation?

- Has for background a rights-based approach to development
- looking at the value of ICTs from a rights and empowerment perspective
- report based on the Reflect ICTs project, with pilots in Burundi,
India and Uganda

Quote from the report:
"ICTs can be used to strengthen local traditions and cultures of
communication, but only by design: people need to appropriate the
technology and give it functions which suit their needs and motivations.
This requires sensitivity to the communication practices and prejudices
of the people in question, both in the way the technologies are designed
and marketed, and the way that they are chosen and introduced within a

This is missing from many projects. Donors are in a hurry to show
results and they don't want to spend time doing truly participatory
needs assessments. There is an assumption that ICTs on their own are
"empowering" so that if you build telecenters, people will just come. I
don't think it works that way. It's not that simple.

I liked the fact that the document is written for non-techies (probably
by non-techies as well), but the appendix providing details about the
various ICTs is so simplistic that I don't know who is going to learn
much out of that. I was specifically looking for some mention of power
issues (meaning "energy" issues) but power in this document refers only
to power relations in the context of "empowerment" vs. "exploitation".

Opera releases new talking Web browser | CNET

Opera releases new talking Web browser cnet reports. It lets you use voice commands to navigate and have pages read to you. If anyone have a chance to try it, do let me know what you think of its voice features. The article also says it boasts stronger RSS support.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

extension 337: 10 Reasons Nonprofits Should Use RSS

10 Reasons Nonprofits Should Use RSS. Marnie Webb has written a superb little piece on the advantages of RSS. It's not just about getting info alerts out of your inbox but about how feeds can be feeds inside of feeds inside of feeds, easily shared or displayed on web pages.

Wi-fi web reaches farmers in Peru

Wi-fi web reaches farmers in Peru. BBC reports that a Wifi net in Peru is linking farmers to get up to date info on market prices, of course local residents and students benefit too. (Via DDN blogs)

Of course, there are different ways to accomplish the market price info sharing. My friend Gordon Bell in Uganda put together a daily radio broadcast of prices, as well as an SMS network to get real-time price reports.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Beginners Guide to RSS

If you want to start using RSS, it can be confusing. Here is a very rough walk-through some of the RSS options. First set up your aggregator. You have two choices. A stand-alone app or a web-based app. For a stand-alone app, I like SharpReader. Using it is pretty obvious. It comes with a few feeds, like Wired, cnet, slashdot, NYT. To add a feed, copy the URL (my blog is into the field. if you want to keep, it click subscribe. from time to time, click refresh, as needed.

For a web-based readers see Bloglines , which lets you subscribe to feeds via a web interface. You can view all your feeds on the left and the content of the feed on the right. clicking on a link will launch a browser to open the URL.

You can also do this on

Bloglines also lets you share your aggregated feeds with other users. There is a public view. See TechSoup's public bloglines. This was set up to organize npo blogs by NTEE category. This view can also be exported an an XML file, so you dont have to go to bloglines to view it, you can import it into the aggregator of your choice.

Bloglines (like also lets you generate some javascript code that anyone can insert in their website, the display of which can be controlled by css. Bloglines also created a "blogroll," which is an RSS feed of all the RSS feeds I subscribe to.

Still with me? is a social bookmarking site where you use a toolbar widget to bookmark a site and assign certain tags (categories) to describe that page. Look at my delicious page. The sixth item is User Guide to Linux Desktop. I have assigned it the tags "guide" "linux" and "openSource". 11 other people have also bookmarked that page. click on the words linux and you'll see all the pages that *I* have bookmarked as "linux" (there's only one).

Click on "and 11 other people" and you'll get a page showing who those 11 people are and how they tagged this article. you'll see on the side that there are some common tags (linux, guide, tutorial). Click on those links and you'll be viewing an aggregation of all pages tagged by all users as linux.

All of these pages generate their own rss feed. So you can subscribe to my delicous feed, or just my linux feed, or the aggregated feed of all users' linux feeds.

Spurl is a social bookmarking tool, which lets you assign categories like delicious to your bookmarks; in fact when you spurl it automatically adds the bookmark to the appropriate delicious tag .... More on spurl to come.

Yes, it gets pretty mindboggling, and it takes a while to get your head around the meta-meta nature of this stuff.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Election result maps

Those election results maps that look so very red with blue on the edges don't quite map to reality. U. of Mich. researchers have come up with a number maps that give a more balanced image of the country. Too bad none of the newspaper artists read Tufte.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Firefox Browser Hacking - Taking Advantage Of Technology

Firefox Browser Hacking - Taking Advantage Of Technology: looking for some time to try out these techniques. I did download the adblocker xtension.

What non-for-profits need to know about free software
. Strong advocacy for open source. Suspect there's another side to the story.

3rd World Windows

How will the developing world catch up in computer literacy? A few months back, MS announced a stripped down version of Windows for India, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Which doesn't address the fundamental question of the price of hardware, as
Steve Ballmer pointed out at a Gartner con in October
: "There has to be a $100 PC to go down-market in some of these countries."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The New York Times > National > A.C.L.U.'s Search for Data on Donors Stirs Privacy Fears

The New York Times > National > A.C.L.U.'s Search for Data on Donors Stirs Privacy Fears NYT: American Civil Liberties Union is using sophisticated technology to collect a wide variety of information about its members and donors in a fund-raising effort that has ignited a bitter debate over its leaders' commitment to privacy rights.

What Is Web Accessibility?: A List Apart

What Is Web Accessibility? This article by Trenton Moss runs down great resources like screen readers, color blindness simulators, etc., for designers to check out their accessibility quotient.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

About the TechSoup links

The links on the right are published here via, and they will soon be displayed on the TechSoup site directly. Spurl is social bookmarking. When we publish an article, we can bookmark it with Spurl and categorize it as news, features, discussions, etc. Spurl gives you a little JavaScript code, which I've installed in my blog, which renders, for instance recently posted News stories. The XML graphic is linked to Spurl's RSS feed of TechSoup news stories, so you now have an RSS feed of TechSoup news to load into your RSS reader, or My Yahoo, Bloglines, etc.

The Civisphere :: Main Page

The Civisphere is a nice group blog written by people doin civil society work around the globe. They point out that the project is for the individuals, not their orgs. I learned about this from
this post on TechSoup discussions (scroll down).

NYT: Firefox in MS' Henhouse

In "The Fox Is in Microsoft's Henhouse (and Salivating)" , the Times makes some really interesting points about the Firefox/IE battle. Basically, because MS integrated IE so tightly with Windows (remember the court battles where they said it was technically impossible to de-couple IE and Windows), it's now impossible for them to respond to the Firefox threat until a new re-do of Windows (2006). The result is that IE is wildly insecure, allowing ActiveX controls into your system; in the worst cases such rogue controls could delete your hard disk. The article quotes security experts saying, simply, "Do not use Internet Explorer."

Based on this article, nonprofits will want to look closely at whether they allow IE to continue on users' desktops.