Keep your data safe at the border

There is no right to privacy at international borders. For those of us with laptops, this presents a pretty major problem: How do we get through U.S. Customs with our beloved portable devices, without having Uncle Sam peeking at every e-mail we've sent, every MP3 we've listened to, and every "home movie" we've made?

The obvious solution, encryption, is not enough. Non-Americans have no right to enter the U.S. Don't want to hand over your encryption keys? No problem--but you will be put on the next airplane back to your home country (… Read more

The iPhone alternative (for freedom lovers)

Minor update: Boost uses the Nextel/Sprint network, not Alltel.

Apple's iPhones seem to have a monopoly when it comes to usable mobile Web browsing. Until now, freedom-loving users not wishing to get into bed with Steve Jobs were, for the most part, out of luck. This article explains how to get an even better mobile Internet experience, without having to do business with either AT&T or Apple--with no contracts and no $60 per month bill just to surf the Net.

The iPhone is clearly the must-have device of the digerati. All of my colleagues seem to … Read more

The day the wiretaps go dead

With all of the attention that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) update (and the administration's vigorous attempts to immunize the criminals telcos), it seems like a good time to explore the issues surrounding surveillance and privacy in America today.

While there are so many scary things being done by intelligence and law enforcement, hope is not far away. Easy to use privacy technologies are upon us, and with them, comes a radical shift in the balance of power. As this article will explain, the scalable techniques with which the NSA, FBI and other agencies can spy on innocent … Read more

AT&T quietly rolls out reasonably-priced unbundled DSL

Over the past month, AT&T has quietly started to offer reasonably priced unbundled "naked" DSL Internet service to customers around the country. The company's website makes no mention of the service, nor do its Internet phone sales representatives offer or even discuss the service. Customers wishing to sign up will need to call a specific department at AT&T to request the secret plan. Two tiers are offered, a 3Mbit down/1.5 Mbit up plan for $28.99 per month, and a 1.5Mbit down/768k up for $23.99. Those who opt … Read more

Software update for Nokia N800 tablet leaks, fans go gaga

Updated Again:Nokia has released a legitimate upgrade for the N800 tablets. N800 owners no longer need to follow these instructions to update their OS. Instead, go visit the official Nokia website for info.

Updated: This post was edited for clarity, and to provide an alternative method for generating a N810 serial number (see below).

Details of a major operating-system upgrade for Nokia's Linux-based N800 Internet Tablet device was leaked Wednesday afternoon. Fans of the N800 (and soon-to-be-released N810) have been waiting eagerly for the last few weeks for any word of a final release date.

While the N800 … Read more

Secure instant messaging for the masses

With the majority of the Democrats caving in to the Bush administration's demands for full immunity for the telecom companies for-profit collusion in the NSA's illegal wiretapping program, it seems to be clear that the Fourth Amendment and federal antiwiretapping laws are no longer enough to keep our communications secure. Laws stating that "thou shalt not listen to your customers phone calls" no longer seem to have any bite. Or at least, they don't as long as teleco lobbying coupled with massive political contributions can turn once critical senators into kindly old men willing to … Read more

Five must-have security/privacy extensions for Firefox

Do you consider yourself to be a privacy aware Internet user? Are you concerned about your security online?

You've installed antivirus and spyware software, which you also keep updated. You regularly update your operating system for any security patches. You have a firewall on your home computer and have locked down your home wireless network with a WPA2 password. Most importantly, you've ditched Internet Explorer and jumped on the Firefox bandwagon.

Your job is done, right? Think again.

While installing Firefox (and not using IE) is one of the most important steps users can take towards a safe online experience, Firefox is (alas) not totally safe out of the box. Luckily, Firefox provides a very flexible framework for open-source programmers and commercial vendors to create their own software add-ons for the browser. A number of these software extensions fix critical design flaws in Firefox--or simply improve transparency so that users have a better idea of where they are and which sites they're interacting with. I've selected a few of the best ones, which I highlight below.

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Fake caller ID: Fun, legal and easy to do

Caller ID information is not to be trusted. Judging by the reactions I've gotten from colleagues and friends recently after they've been the victims of spoofed-ID demonstrations, it's not common knowledge that caller ID information, primarily the phone number that often appears on the recipient's telephone display, can be easily faked. Best of all for the mysterious caller, it's not illegal in the U.S. (except in cases where fraud occurs). Calls for the purpose of amusement or revenge are perfectly legal.

With the help of easy-to-use Internet calling card services, it's possible to … Read more

TV Torrents: When 'piracy' is easier than legal purchase

NBC's recent withdraw from the iTunes store leaves the millions of users of Apple iPods without a legitimate way to purchase and watch NBC's content. Could this be the push that brings easy-to-use 'piracy' to the masses? This article discusses the issues, and then provides step-by-step instructions to setup a computer to automatically download any of hundreds of TV shows as soon as they are broadcast and put online.

With Apple's recent lovers's spat with NBC making the headlines, it seems like a good opportunity to examine the state of the online TV downloads, be they … Read more

Who blocks the (ad) blockers?

The New York Times recently covered the already over-hyped dispute between Danny Carlton, an obscure Web site designer, and the makers of the popular Adblock Plus Firefox browser extension.

Adblock Plus is something akin to a TiVo for Web-browsing. Users who install the extension will find that their Web experience is radically changed--in that the vast majority of graphical Web advertisements will no longer be displayed within the Web-pages that they visit.

For those of you with short memories, it's worth noting that before TiVo was the only major game in town, there used to be another TV advertisement skipping technology. ReplayTV was vastly superior to the TiVo, in that it completely skipped commercials, instead of permitting users to fast-forward. Following a similar tactic to that was used by the major media companies (who had previously gone after Napster and the VCR), the TV networks essentially sued ReplayTV out of existence. The moral of the story: companies that have built their business models on advertising revenue do not take kindly to others who permit customers to skip those advertisements.

With that little walk down memory lane over, let us focus on the issue at hand--Web advertisement skipping technology. Essentially, it boils down to this: Web site designers depend upon advertising revenue to pay their bandwidth bills as well as to pay for the staff time that goes into making a successful site. Users do not particularly want to see advertisements, but except in a few cases where advertisements are extremely annoying, will for the most part put up with the ads in order to view the Web content that they are seeking.

There is a pretty big difference between the TV and Web site business models. A broadcast TV network, by and large, has fixed costs, no matter how many customers actually tune into the show. The same amount of electricity will flow to the TV transmitter, and the satellites above will still beam down the same number of 1s and 0s. Internet content is different, as each person's computer makes an individual connection to the remote server hosting whatever Web content the user is seeking. Each time users visit a Web site, the server consumes bandwidth to send the content of the Web page back to the user--and that bandwidth costs money.

Thus, every time someone uses advertisement-blocking software to avoid the graphical ads embedded within a Web site, they are denying the Web site operator revenue that would otherwise have gone to pay for the bandwidth that is consumed during that browsing session. While it could be said that TiVo users are freeloading from the broadcast networks, users of Web advertising skipping technology are far closer to theft than they are to freeloading. This is not a clearly defined issue, but there are a significant number of moral issues at play.

Which now brings us to the technical issues involved in this particular story...

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