Online gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry and so it's no wonder that people will try to cheat. How badly? Like a bad Far Side comic with a nerdy scientist building a killer zombie in his basement, people are creating poker-playing robots
'It's amazing to think of how much we gamble on online poker sites - mainly because there is no such thing as a fair game of online poker. It just doesn't exist. The game is completely corrupt; it has zero integrity. Online players are secretly using every means at their disposal to fleece you --and at the forefront of their campaign is the use of poker robots. When all this becomes public knowledge, the amateurs will leave and the game will die.'
Whether online gambling continues as a viable business or not I do know one thing: an important tenant of capitalism is the existence (and exploitation) of suckers. Take this as a sad observation on the human condition or see this as a simple example of natural selection; your choice. Whether people will be playing internet gambling in the future or not, it seems obvious that much of our interactions in this new century will be with "robots" - heck, we already do large amounts of our purchasing from roboots - whether it be with an online stock broker, or amazon.com. I even renewed my license with a "robot" this year.
News? What news? There is no news here.
Nevertheless, we will report that not fit to print - just (barely) fit to (virtually) publish.
It got cold and started to snow here and, though I was fearing this eventuality - or at least the cold part - it has come as a bit of a non-issue. My usual regime of light attire in the fall as preparation for the wintery weather seems to have worked wonders this season and so I have been walking through this blustery wind, over icey sidewalks, in biting cold with.. well, not so much as a single concious complaint flittering across my mental wire. Bravo.
Let's see how December treats us.
However, my sketchers - a brand I've always found a bit scketchy - that I purchased this summer in a split-decision due to my need for "brown shoes" for a wedding and also a replacement for my previous (and now oil-soaked) casual shoes, are proving none too tractable in this slippery-surfaced season. I'm talking no traction, boys, no traction. This was brought to the forefront of my (admittedly mild) woes on my walk to campus today when I passed an old man, groceries strewn about him, laid out sideways at the edge of an intersection. He was surrounded by more concerned citizens than could rightfully lend a helping hand so I did not cross the street to investigate if further help was needed - I could see him being helped up slowly, his can being handed back to him, and a group of younger folk bent over collecting his purchased items. Nevertheless, it made me think about my shoes. If I was to fall and break my ankle, crack my head, or bust a shin would I
be able to accept the help of strangers? I'm a horribly cranky young man and surely this will only get worse with age. The last thing I want is help from a passing pedestrian - I can help myself, thank-you-very-much. But a broken leg? These things, though faint and far away in the dreamy depths of could-bes
and maybe somedays
, still float up to the surface of my thought on occassion and give me pause. How can I better equipped myself to accept the charity of strangers? How can I better offer what help I could give? Who needs my help and, when I have fallen, who will save me?
I guess in the end - broken leg or no - I can always reach for my ever-present cellphone and tap out those familiar (and now preciously ambigious) numbers: 9-1-1. While the sirens wail in the background I will reach out for my cane and, snarling visciously like a rabid 'coon in a leg trap, I will swat mercilessly at those offering a helping hand. "Away! Away with you all!"
Afterall, I want to get some services for my taxdollars.
I think somewhere, down in the pile, it's been waiting for me. In the undergrowth. buried among the mindless thoughts and vacant stares into nothingness. It's a message and it's waiting for nobody but me. Once, a kid came rustling through the dried leaves and jumped through the pile, spreading it out like jam on a big park-piece of toast. He jumped around, made imaginary snowmen, and hide among the dead, brightly colored organic material. He peaked out, through the small spots of sky-colored light, looking and waiting, watching and laying. His mom called for him and - to nobody but himself, for who was there to see him beneath that pile of multi-colored crayon-postits of mother natures - he rolled his eyes. Nothingness looked right back at him and he caught it, if ever so briefly, out of the corner of his eye. If he had never rolled them he might never have seen it there and the thought terrified him into a weeks worth of nightmares - not the nothingness, but the thought that he very could have missed it. He rolled his eyes for weeks after that.
The message is still there, despite my pile having been strewn about as a plaything. It's under it all waiting patiently with blank eyes and empty mind, completely unfettered and free like darkness playing hide-and-go-seek with itself in a closet on a moonless night. When I found out about the message I sifted through things slowly. I was ruing ahead of time the moment I would overturn a red or yellow or amber leaf and find the note lying there, waiting, motionless; expectantly. I did want anything or anyone expecting - as if I would know what to do with the knowledge anyway, as if I would know how to proceed or who to warn. Build a bomb shelter? Find a boat and leave? Scream around town on a horse yelling that the proverbial British were coming?
All this anxiety and fervor, all this morbid, sightless, soundless, peacekeeping in my head drew blood to my brow. As if these factions, these dissenting accusers and hopeless ammusers battling rat-a-tat-tat in my brain knew the first thing - the first thing
- about what that damn note even says. As if I - sane enough to maintain bipartisan logic and yet crazy enough to embrace it - as if I knew the first thing in the world about this message.
No no, dig more, I told myself. These are the sorts of acute mental states in which you find yourself getting the most work done. Dig, my friend, dig.
I dug. I dig. I feel about as effective as a low-level pacman ghost, wandering about down maze-like hallways, catching brief glimpses of this ultimate goal - a yellow blur - as it smacks by up ahead crunch-crunch-crunch
Or is it just the leaves I'm walking through, the frosted flakes of autumn's end covered with a crisp layer of winter's coming? It's still there, the pile. Underneath it is the message. A few years back a young girl came along and stopped along the brick path nearby. Childish, like the boy, she found pleasure here in the leaves and the grass and twigs and things. Yet, as is often true of the fairer sex, she took a softer tact. She examined one leaf at a time, in a pensive way, turning it over in her fingers and laying it in the palm of her hand. The leaves were too big for it and the tips of each section extended well beyond the ends of her fingers. For a brief moment, standing there in the shade, she was a monster with great webbed appendages; a water creature with extreme deftness and powerful features. The veins in her hands and arms and feet and legs were large and pulsing, lizard-like. She was lightening fast and autumn-colored and easily blended into the surroundings as if she had bled right into them. I think she had a tail.
When the girl returned she did so with a panic. Like a leprechaun - *poof*
- she reappeared whole, and as different to her surroundings as if she were green. Which is to say live and whole and not dried, dead, or dying like the pieces of papery fruit piled here and there and spread across the lawn. Her whole persona was green, like a forest in springtime full of regrowth and regeneration, but she was frozen. Her hand held something small, but she was completely still. Her eyes were wide and her pupils dillated to the size of milk-saucers. I thought at first that I saw a tear trickling down the side of her face, sparkling in the angular sunlight of daylight-savings, but I was wrong - it was a tiny bead of sweat. Let me remind you that it was Autumn.
She left quickly, quite unlike the way she had come. She dropped whatever was clutched in her fingers and walked away without looking up. Her clogs made faint little sounds on the pavement as she went: clack-clack-clack
When she was gone I went back to look for the note that was waiting for me underneath the piles of everything but nothing was there staring back at me. I waited - if it was my turn, the clock would warn me my time was up and if it were anothers they would make a move. Nothingness happened the way only nothingness can - more nothing than anything but even less of that, just a mere essence of nothing really.
I realized then that I was on a horse, of sorts, it had no name, and I was in a desert of dried leaves. The sunlight was a dark blood-orange seemingly dusky but I could nevertheless still see the tiny ball of fire burning bright on the horizon. The last thing, I thought, you do when you are alone in the desert with nothing but a nameless horse is start digging in the sand for messages. I'm no looney.
So I stopped digging. The message is there, somewhere, amidst the piles of nothing and everything inbetween. A small note, no doubt something you could jot down on a single postit. Though the leaves may blow away and the children may come and go, the place is always there and my mind wanders often to this playground of obtuse knowledge. I am not sure if I'm still looking for the diamond in the cave or spelunking out of pure sport but something is there driving me back over and over again. The mind is bipartisan. The other part of me thinks I may just be waiting for someone to make the next move.
Okay, I've been silent lately because, well, because I can be. But I feel the need to roundup all the news on this nasty Sony story which has been splattering the newswires of late. If you haven't heard anything about it, this should be a good summary.
Some definition is required. Without going into the nitty-gritty details, a rootkit
is a piece of code (i.e. software) that installs into the deepest darkest internal level of your operating system - so deep in fact that it basically hides itself and is therefore fairly difficult to even see it is there, even when you know what you're doing. A good analogy would be as follows: Computer virii are lizards. You can see them, but regardless, they are fast and run around shitting everywhere. A rootkit, on the other hand, is sort of like a cameleon - if you don't know to look for it, you'll never see it. So a rootkit is not, in and of itself, a virus. A virus replicates. A rootkit just hides itself, which still seems a bit malicious, but let's not confuse apples and oranges. What a rootkit can
do is help to hide a virus or other such malicious code. Back on October 31st (boo!) there was a post on Mark's Sysinternals blog outlining his discovery of a nasty rootkit from Sony
. In Mark's post he explains how he ferretted out the fact that when you autoload certain Sony Music CD's with "enhanced features", this rootkit is installed:
After I finished studying [the rootkit's] code I rebooted the system...
... I doubted that the files had any version information, but ran [a utility] on them anyway. To my surprise, the majority did have identifying product, file and company strings. [Some] files claimed to be part of the “Essential System Tools” product from a company called “First 4 Internet”...
... the fact that the company sells a technology called XCP made me think that maybe the files I’d found were part of some content protection scheme. I Googled the company name and came across this article, confirming the fact that they have deals with several record companies, including Sony, to implement Digital Rights Management (DRM) software for CDs.
Needless to say, this little jewel has caused quite a hub-bub within the technology crowd and enough so that even some laymen out there are wondering what's up - on Nov. 8th, the same day that Sony released a patch to unhide their rootkit
, an article from USAToday headlined Sony aims at pirates — and hits users
[Mark's] Van Zant album had automatically installed the rootkit to hide custom anti-piracy software when he played the CD on his computer. The blogosphere erupted with invective. They accused Sony of using "hacker ware" and programming computers to spy on their owners — and possibly opening a "backdoor" for hackers on consumers' machines.
Sony's software was designed by British copyright protection firm First 4 Internet, which acknowledges a "theoretical" security risk posed by the rootkit. According to First 4 Internet CEO Matthew Gilliat-Smith, the rootkit application could create a secret backdoor for hackers. Sony has hastily posted a "patch" program to reveal the rootkit, but some say it doesn't go far enough...
... When a user inserts the CD, he or she is asked to consent to an "end user licensing agreement," for a Digital Rights Management (DRM) application. If the user agrees, the rootkit automatically installs and hides (or "cloaks") a suite of DRM software.
While the Sony digital consent form mentions the DRM application, it does not specifically mention a rootkit, says Jason Schultz, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group...
[However, the CEO of First 4 Internet says] "I think this whole issue is about intent. There's no question there was no intent to create a hypothetical security breach here. We've reacted very quickly to provide a solution."
So what we have here is a mainstream company basically installing malicious software on unassumers (unassuming consumers) computers without informing them of what the risks are. This is akin to Ford ignoring the potential explosiveness of it's Pinto subcompact car in the 1970's.
How could this get any worse? Well, for one, the consent form doesn't even tell the consumer that the DRM software phones home
. The same Mark from the Sysinternals blog who discovered the rootkit in the first place went ahead and delved further. He posted more info about the Sony rootkit
on Nov. 4th to find:
...There’s more to the story than rootkits, however, and that’s where I think Sony is missing the point. As I’ve pointed out in press interviews related to the post, the EULA does not disclose the software’s use of cloaking or the fact that it comes with no uninstall facility. An end user is not only installing software when they agree to the EULA, they are losing control of part of the computer, which has both reliability and security implications. There's no way to ensure that you have up-to-date security patches for software you don't know you have and there's no way to remove, update or even identify hidden software that's crashing your computer.
The EULA also makes no reference to any “phone home” behavior... I decided to investigate so I downloaded a free network tracing tool, Ethereal, to a computer on which the player was installed and captured network traffic during the Player’s startup. A quick look through the trace log confirmed.. the Player does send an ID to a Sony web site.
I dug a little deeper and it appears the Player is automatically checking to see if there are updates for the album art and lyrics for the album it’s displaying. This behavior would be welcome under most circumstances, but is not mentioned in the EULA, is refuted by Sony, and is not configurable in any way.
If this doesn't scare the bejeezus out of you then it should. This is worse
then Ford's Pinto mishap - it's as if every Ford Pinto reported back to headquarters it's chance of blowing up without the driver knowing about the communication. Even that metaphor probably doesn't do this justice.
tell me this ends here? No:
...there’s more to the story, like how Sony’s patch can lead to a crashed system and data loss and how Sony is still making users jump through hoops to get an uninstaller.
The uninstall question on Sony’s FAQ page directs you to another page that asks you to fill out a form requesting for uninstall directions to be emailed to you.
A few minutes after submitting the form I received an email assigning me a case ID and directing me to another page on Sony’s site where I would have to submit an uninstall request a second time.
Cripes, what's next? Well, the "theoretical" security risk mentioned in the USAToday article is no longer theoretical. On Nov. 10th, the Register reported - First Trojan using Sony DRM spotted
Sony-BMG's rootkit DRM technology masks files whose filenames start with "$sys$". A newly-discovered variant of of the Breplibot Trojan takes advantage of this to drop the file "$sys$drv.exe" in the Windows system directory.
"This means, that for systems infected by the Sony DRM rootkit technology, the dropped file is entirely invisible to the user. It will not be found in any process and file listing. Only rootkit scanners, such as the free utility RootkitRevealer, can unmask the culprit," warns Ivan Macalintal, a senior threat analyst at security firm Trend Micro
The malware arrives attached in an email, which pretends to come from a reputable business magazine, asking the businessman to verify his/her "picture" to be used for the December issue. If the malicious payload contained in this email is executed then the Trojan installs an IRC backdoor on affected Windows systems.
Is this getting really nasty or what? So far there has been two major class-action lawsuits filed, one by a California firm and the other by ALCEI, Italy's version of the EFF.
If you want to keep up with this, the Washington Post's securityfix blog
is pretty thorough:
[a lawsuit lawyer claims]Sony BMG is facing yet another class-action lawsuit stemming from the controversy over its anti-piracy software, this time from a New York attorney who filed a federal case that could potentially include consumers in all 50 states.A patch that Sony issued a week ago when virus writers began taking advantage of the software's file-hiding capabilities actually introduces serious new security risks onto the user's machine
- uninstalling any of the software's components without first going through Sony's multi-step authorization process can render the user's CD-rom drive completely useless for anything other than a cupholder.
- "To date, over 3 million copies of XCP encoded disks have been sold. It is probable that millions of consumers have played these discs on their PC's and thus compromised their systems without knowing it,"
Finally, something pretty to look at out of all of this - Dan Kaminsky of Doxpara Research
exploited the following facts:
[a Domain Name Server is a service which resolves server names, such as www.cnn.com to their actual IP addresses, such as 18.104.22.168, which allows your computer to actually contact the server in question]DNS queries are cached.Caches are externally testable, provided you have a list of all the name servers out there.It just so happens [that Dan Kaminsky has] such a list
- Sony has a rootkit.
- The rootkit phones home.
- Phoning home requires a DNS query
And he collected information on the DNS caches of lookups of Sony's "phone-home" servers. He used a tool to associate long/lat with the IPs associated with the lookups, and then he built a map of the world which displays a rough estimation of densities of computers "infected" with Sony's rootkit. Bottom line, it's a lot:
Full pictures available at these links:
All of this should concern everybody, regardless of whether you are a technophob or a technorat. It's one more alarming example of a major corporation trying to control and manipulate consumers. Beware.
has been everywhere lately. This is strange for a word so.. so.. well, specific. It's on the lips of everyone and on the television and in books. All of a sudden a super-star of a word, rising up like a teenage idol. rivet. just yesterday:
"Hey you," she grabs at the hem of my shirt, pulling upwards as if to sneak a peak at the belly bulge, "do you have rivets?"
"Uhh, no." I'm stunned in silence. That wasn't her word. That wasn't anyone's word. That was a word reserved for machinists and dungaree-makers, metal-workers and airplane manufacturers - not real
people in front of you. Rivet is not a word you bandy about on the street like dude
. Rivet is not the latest that's what she said
"Yah, you know the jeans with rivets?" Yah, sure lady. Whatever the hell you're talking about. Jeans with rivets. What's the point?
You can't just hijack a word like that, steal it out of someone else's back pocket. Rivet. Contrived, like so much effort at infusing this fake form of technical talk as a new form of hipster speak. It's always the lower class losing out on the deal, even if it's only words that are being stolen.
"Yah, I know exactly what you're talking about." If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Never miss a good chance to shut up.
CNN reports that Yahoo has upped the price on it's online music subscription service
. Apparently $5.99 a month just doesn't pay the electric bill:
Subscribing to the service on a monthly basis will cost $11.99, up from $6.99 under the initial pricing plan. That's closer to but still below services from Napster Inc. and RealNetworks Inc., which each charge just under $15 per month.
If you recall, Yahoo's service allowed users to download music from a 1 million song library but they can't keep them. While some say this is one of the features that turn away consumers, I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that Yahoo's service isn't compatible with the iPod, which owns a large majority of the market.
Can Yahoo make any
good moves, given they are facing off against the giants of Microsoft and Google?.. or perhaps they are just plagued by poor implementations of good ideas?
notes in the comments that he still likes his music free
Can't wait a year for an Intel based OS X machine? I-Hacked.com has a walkthrough describing how to build a $200 machine and install the leaked Apple OSx86 developer release on it
. Nevertheless, the author dutifully states: Before I get into the meat of this, let me first say that downloading and using the leaked DVD is illegal.
This puppy is still a year away and people are already hacked right in. Makes you wonder what kind of can of worms Apple has opened for itself. Can the historically proprietary Apple, who is used to a swimming hole all it's own, swim in the big pond?
I should have caught this yesterday in my iTunes Music Store / Online TV content
discussion - Coming soon, Nightly News, free and online (appropriately at MSNBC.com
NBC News announced Monday that "NBC Nightly News" will soon become the first and only network newscast to be offered free on the Internet in its entirety.
Other than the announcement, it's basically a fluff piece praising itself (MSNBC) as a pioneer in online video content. Oh yah, and NBC's Nightly News is super great #1 happy hour show, too. Nevertheless, they make sure to tell us consumers this is exactly what we want in their sugary sweet candy tone:
"Today's announcement marks an important and empowering day for consumers," said Deborah Reif, president of NBC Universal Digital Media. "Viewers will now be able to access their favorite evening news program when they want it. NBC News' leadership decision today reinforces NBC Universal's broader commitment to delivering our content to consumers on whatever platform they choose."
I just found an appropriate article (for me) given yesterday was halloween - At Wired: The Mystery of the Green Menace
- how one microbiologist "broke the code" of Absinthe and began "brewing" it in his New Orleans lab. Why is this appropriate? There was a girl at my halloween shindig on Saturday who claimed she was dressed as "The Absinthe Girl" - as if all us North Americans would recognize that right away. Instead, we all agreed she looked like a slutty tinkerbell.
, an online internet-user written encyclopedia (more info here
) is quickly outdoing the New York Times
in internet traffic, according to Alexa
On the same topic, this MediaDailyNews article says 2005 will go down as one of the worst newspaper years in history
The only really good news for publishers is that [investment firm Goldman Sachs] believes the cost of newsprint, which has risen recently, is likely to fall slightly in 2006, as demand falls more quickly than production capacity. The report said newsprint prices would peak and then slowly recede in the second half of the year.
Even so, this good news is scant relief for an industry besieged by flat ad revenues, falling stocks, and fleeing subscribers. Last week, Rishad Tobaccowala, chief innovation officer for Publicis Groupe, told a newspaper--the Chicago Tribune--"newspapers are at a tipping point," in which online media will start to take more readership and more ad dollars. He added that newspapers are in the worst situation of all news media for growth as "the least visually engaging and least youth oriented" medium.
Interestingly enough, the founder of Wikipedia wants to make material available to developing nations in print
"I have always liked the idea of going to print because a big part of what we are about is to disseminate knowledge throughout the world and not just to people who have broadband,"
Some 350,000 people have contributed terms, background, context or simply corrected spellings for more than 2 million Wikipedia entries in more than 25 active languages. About 800,000 entries are in English.
And this is just odd:
Mice are rarely the source of romantic inspiration, but it now appears that male mice may serenade potential mates with melodies approaching the complexity of bird song.
Mouse songs are sung at ultrasonic frequencies, which is why no one has noticed their complexity before, nor indeed been moved to celebrate the tunes in romantic poetry.
...They found that the songs included several syllable types (collections of notes) which were arranged into phrases and motifs, fulfilling the definition of song. Noises made by insects such as crickets, and calls by frogs, are far simpler. You can listen to a male mouse producing a snatch of song, here, and a more determined croon, here.
Big fan of 'ol Mr. Roger's video clips? Don't get Canadian Discovery channel and their show How things are made? Why not try: coolstuffbeingmade.com