— Ring of Fibre
— I am liking it
— Dinner with Mr Murdoch
I shouldn't find this funny but... (language warning)
Ring of Fibre
Is lines company Vector the unlikely saviour of local loop unbundling? Looks like it, after the company said it would build a 300 kilometre extension to its existing fibre network.
Hooking up 41 Telecom exchanges with an open-access network means providers have a choice of backhaul for servicing their LLU customers. Whether that will be enough to make LLU broadband and telecommunications a viable business in the face of cabinetisation and exchange decommission remains to be seen, but more network options are never wrong.
I am liking it
The third beta of Firefox 3 is rather nice. Fast and not particularly buggy, I'm happy to use it instead of FF 2 and IE7. There's one thing that IE7 does better though: the Microsoft browser lets you select network settings on a per-connection basis, whereas Firefox only has a global setting.
That's a slight pain when you change networks as often as I do, and have to reconfigure the browser for proxy servers... is there a way around this in Firefox?
Dinner with Mr Murdoch
Jerry had lunch with Rupe and Peter last week, and dusted off an old plan to merge their respective companies. This is obviously a way to fend off Microsoft's unwelcome overtures towards Yahoo, but how will it work?
Google's already in bed with News Corp, so would Yahoo go along with that tie-up? The Guardian writes that Yahoo is perceived as having fallen behind in social networking, but that's not quite right. Yahoo has been very active in acquiring and creating social network sites and technologies, but it's obviously not making enough money out them.
Money could be the motive behind Jerry schmoozing Murdoch. Apparently, analysts reckon Yahoo could wring another US$12 billion out of Microsoft, taking the value of the deal to staggering US$56.4 billion, or US$40 a share. Chris Liddell at Microsoft might have to take out a second mortgage on the Redmond campus to cover that...
— Social Distortion: Ring of Fire (Youtube)
Robert X. Cringely
Borderline illegal: Your laptop is not your own
Planning to travel out of the country? Maybe you want to think twice about bringing your laptop, your cell phone, or even that iPod. (And if you're of Asian or Middle Eastern descent, that goes double.) Last week, the Washington Post ran a story detailing the electronic abuses international travelers have suffered at the US border (Infoworld's Ed Foster has also blogged about this topic). Travelers are being asked to open up their laptops, hand over their passwords, and let customs agents have their way with their hard drives — sometimes copying the contents onto another device or even confiscating the machine outright. Some folks report receiving the same treatment for their BlackBerrys and cell phones. US customs sees your laptop as no different than your suitcase, only instead of pawing through your socks and boxers, it gets to rifle through your email, documents, photographs, and web surfing histories. You say your laptop holds confidential business information, sensitive medical data, or the secret sauce that will make your company billions? Tough luck. It's all just socks and underwear to the Feds. As security wonk and former federal prosecutor Mark Rasch notes, the dangers from this kind of digital body cavity search are far reaching: Your kid can be arrested because they can't prove the songs they downloaded to their iPod were legally downloaded... Lawyers run the risk of exposing sensitive information about their client. Trade secrets can be exposed to customs agents with no limit on what they can do with it. Journalists can expose sources, all because they have the audacity to cross an invisible line. What are they looking for? Good question. So far, the Department of Homeland Security has ignored the Freedom of Information Act requests asking it to clarify its policies. Nor will it reveal its criteria for whose gear gets the full monty, though Asian and Arab individuals appear to be singled out with greater frequency. Last week, the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the Asian Law Center filed suit, demanding to know the how and why of US customs searches and what happens to the data that's confiscated. Meanwhile, some corporations have ordered employees to avoid taking confidential data with them when they travel across borders. In a related case, a Canadian man who's a legal US resident has been accused of carrying child porn after customs officials found files with suspicious names on his laptop. By the time police arrested Sebastian Boucher, he'd encrypted his data using PGP. The government demanded he turn over his private key to unlock the data; Boucher refused, and so far the courts have upheld his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. That case is under appeal, and no matter which way it ultimately goes, it's going to have major ramifications for all of us. Encryption can be used to mask criminal activity. At the same time, it can also be used legitimately to protect the very things being put at risk by overzealous customs agents, like sensitive corporate or personal data. Suddenly, I'm having a flashback to the 1990s debate over the Clipper chip and whether intelligence agencies should be able to have a "backdoor" to access encrypted information. To me, it all boils down to this: what do you trust more, the US Constitution or the US government? When in doubt, I tend to side with the founding fathers. At a time when "national security" was far more tenuous than it is today, they enacted far-reaching laws that put the rights of individuals on at least a par with the rights of the state.