Google Docs rox A while ago, I looked at Google Docs, and couldn't quite see the point. Looks like the Giant That'll Assimilate Us All has been working hard to improve Google Docs, however, and... I quite like what I see. So much so that I wrote this week's FryUp with the word processor. Google Docs isn't a replacement for Microsoft Office yet, but for banging out quick documents, spreadsheets and presentations, it's not bad. Well, since it's free, it's pretty excellent really. Of course, there's that niggling feeling of handing over your privacy and confidentiality by storing documents on Google, but if you can live with that, check out them Docs. — Google Docs Who put the bullet in The Bulletin? "Its politics were nationalist, anti-imperialist, protectionist, insular, racist, republican, anti-clerical and masculinist — but not socialist. It mercilessly ridiculed colonial governors, capitalists, snobs and social climbers, the clergy, feminists and prohibitionists. It upheld trade unionism, Australian independence, advanced democracy and White Australia. It ran savagely racist cartoons attacking Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Jews, and mocking Indigenous Australians. The paper's masthead slogan, 'Australia for the White Man', became a national political credo." As a very infrequent contributor to and reader of The Bulletin, I was a little startled to find the above in Wikipedia. I'm not quite sure how The Bulletin managed to marry together the above contradictory stances but either way, it's no more. The Bulletin is dead, almost reaching its 128th birthday. Its publisher, ACP, killed The Bulletin because of falling circulation — 57,000 copies compared to over 100,000 at its apex last decade. Some observers were quick to say The Bulletin died because of the internet but the circulation fell to below 30,000 in 1927, which in turn led to the magazine being hawked off to the Packers. Editor Rob O'Neill drily noted: "the 1927 Internet did it some damage too..." — Falling circulation kills Australia's oldest magazine — Wikipedia: The Bulletin There's no regulation like no-regulation In the wake of the huge cabinetisation row that started up last year, InternetNZ commissioned Amos Aked Swift to see if shortening the local loop really is as bad as Telecom's competitors claim. A year in the making, the report contains some pretty startling stuff. The long and short of the report is that while moving the switching fabric or active part of the network closer to customers is technically a good idea, it is likely to kill competition over the local loop. What's more, cabinetisation effectively bypasses the government's regulation package that forced Telecom to unbundle the local loop, since no provider with any sense would take the risk and put expensive gear into exchanges that will be obsolete in a couple of years' time. This has been clear for quite a while though: Telecom said in 2004 that it intended to decommission some 600 exchanges over the next eight years. At the time, it envisaged building larger exchanges to replace the existing ones, with fibre-fed roadside cabinets making up for the rest. Four years later, the plan to do just that comes as a surprise to everyone, and now threatens to derail the LLU government regulation. Hmm. No, what's more interesting in the AAS report is how it condemns the government regulation as "reactive" and unable to keep pace with Telecom and technology. This is entirely correct, ditto the fact that benefits for New Zealanders from regulatory initiatives need to be spelt out and not left by the wayside (with apologies to Bruce Parkes). — Rush to improve broadband 'could backfire' — Forum: Telecom is walking the walk - Telecom fibre-to-kerb doesn’t affect DSL plans XKCD
Robert X. Cringely
Hackers gone wild
It's a hackers' world; we just surf in it. It's a truism that sites get hacked every day, and some may even deserve it. But we're no longer talking about individual hacks by disgruntled geeks. We're looking at massive, well-organised plans to take over vast portions of the Net. Case in point: The SQL Injection exploit that infected more 70,000 sites — including some parts of CA's site — according to researchers at Grisoft. It gets worse. In a presentation to the security wonks at a SANS conference, CIA analyst Tom Donahue revealed that hackers accessed the power grid in several foreign nations via the Net and tried to extort money from the local governments in return for not turning off the lights. Think about that the next time you experience a rolling blackout. But the real elephant in the server closet is the Storm worm, which celebrated its first birthday last week and continues to spread across the Net via holiday-themed emails. According to Sophos, poison pen Valentines email accounted for 8% of all email traffic last week. We know that millions of machines have been infected with the Storm bot, and every so often they receive instructions, but mostly they've been strangely quiet. A security wonk of my acquaintance (who asked to remain anonymous) has an interesting theory on what these millions of zombie machines might be used for: the evil equivalent to SETI. But instead of parsing interstellar radio signals for signs of intelligent life, these millions of zombies could be put to other distributed computing tasks, like cracking complex passwords. Heck, the bad guys could merely rent their grid out to anyone with a Dr. Evil-ish scheme for world domination. Call it Storm Cloud Computing. Of course, there's not just one Storm network. There may be dozens. One was recently employed in phishing attacks on Barclay's and Halifax banks, another used to spew out pump-and-dump spam last fall. My anonymous security wonk also tells me that most of the malware action has moved from Russia to China — or at least, Chinese subnets. Apparently Russian locals have started to crack down, so the bad guys jumped borders to friendlier environs. It seems World War III may be fought online. Strap on your virtual kevlar, because it's about to get ugly.