Did Sony do enough to satisfy angry PlayStation Network users? (poll)

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Sony executives formally apologized to users who were affected by the hacker attack on the PlayStation Network, the online entertainment service that has been down for more than 10 days.

The company has been criticized for acting too slowly to respond to user concerns about the break-in and whether or not personal information such as credit card numbers were stolen. Sony executive Kaz Hirai said as many as 10 million credit card numbers may have been stolen by the hackers.

Today, Sony’s Hirai repeatedly apologized to users for the data breach. It said it would begin restoring the service for the PSN and Qriocity music and video service within a week. It offered to reimburse customers for the costs related to credit card reissuance and for any needed identity protection service. Sony is also offering a “welcome back” initiative to compensate users for their losses. That includes free content, which may vary based on the region where the user lives; it also includes 30 days free subscription to the paid PlayStation Plus service. And it includes

Sony also pledged to move its service to a new data center and to beef up its security so this doesn’t happen again. Frankly, I think Sony did a good job here, although it should have done it much sooner. It pretty much said everything that I expected it to say. It probably could have disclosed more about the exact nature of the attack, but it erred on the side of not disclosing this information to prevent future attacks.

Are you satisfied that Sony said enough to mollify angry users?

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Internet Entrepreneurs Are Like Professional Athletes, They Peak Around 25

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“Consumer Internet entrepreneurs are like pro basketball players,” a venture capitalist told me recently while discussing the prospects for a thirty-something founder, “They peak at 25, by 30 they’re usually done.”

Why? Because young entrepreneurs are more creative and imaginative, and are willing put 100% of their lives into their startups, he said. “It’s not a guess, this is a data driven observation,” says the VC.

He had a number of caveats. First, this only applies to consumer Internet entrepreneurs. Enterprise and hardware startups tend to do better with older founders, where experience (and direct sales experience) matter a lot. And there are plenty of founders that, like Michael Jordan, can peak way beyond 25 (and the peak basketball age is really probably at least a 27). “Those tend to be the repeat success founders,” he said, “the rules don’t apply to them.”

Peak age of startup founders is an endless debate. Vivek Wadhwa says his data shows that older entrepreneurs are more successful, for example. He argues that ageism is more about exploiting young people more than getting value for money.

Other data suggests the opposite. Like this – last year Y Combinator said the average age of their founders is under 25. Of course they could have selection bias, but Y Combinator is one of the most data driven investors I’ve heard of. if older people did better, they’d be funding more of them.

At Disrupt in New York in May we’ve got a very cool interview planned. SV Angel says they’ve analyzed deep demographic data for their 500+ investments over the last twelve years or so. It takes years to know how successful a startup will eventually be, so this is particularly valuable data.

Will they agree that Internet startup founders should be looking to make a name for themselves before they hit 30, or give up? We’ll know in a few short weeks.

Sony says 10M credit card numbers may have been stolen

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Sony executive Kaz Hirai said tonight that the number of exposed credit card numbers in the PlayStation Network hacker attack was about 10 million. But the Japanese company still does not know if those card numbers were actually stolen and if hackers are trying to use them in fraudulent purchases.

Hirai said that authorities are looking into the matter and he could not yet say what the damages are from the incident, where hackers penetrated the servers of the PlayStation Network, which has 77 million registered users. The hacker attack is one of the worst in corporate history and it could make a lot of people and corporations pause as they shift their data and operations to the web-connected cloud.

The 10 million number of potentially stolen credit card numbers is lower than the 77 million number because not everyone who logs into the network makes a purchase. Much of Sony’s services on the PSN are free, so many users go online on the network without ever using adding their credit card information. Some users have created more than one account. So the number of people affected is less than 77 million accounts.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the hacker attack. Other government law enforcement agencies are working on the case in other countries. The company said that the credit card numbers were encrypted and investigators have found no evidence that hackers looked at the data related to the cards.

Sony said that the vulnerability exploited by the hackers was a known one, meaning Sony should have known about it. The attackers broke into a web application server, made a tool to give them unauthorized access, and used that to gain access, Sony said.

Sony chose not to describe the exact attack because it did not want that information used to launch more attacks. Hirai said compromised credit card numbers have not been used so far. As for criticism that Sony acted too slowly, Hirai said that it acted as swiftly as it could. He said the company engaged three security firms to fix the problem immediately. He said it took time to analyze all of the data and that was why it took so long.

“As we became more certain of the information, we communicated to the users,” Hirai said.

Stopping the system took time — more so than Sony expected. There was also a voluminous amount of information that Sony had to analyze.




Sony executive Kaz Hirai apologizes for PlayStation Network outage

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Sony executive Kaz Hirai apologized to gamers around the world today in a press event in the wake of the 10-day outage of the hacked PlayStation Network.

Hirai and other Sony executives and apologized to users immediately upon coming out on stage at a press conference in Tokyo. As they did so, they bowed in front of the press. The executives described what happened with a “highly sophisticated attack” against the PSN.

Hackers attacked the PlayStation Network on April 19, forcing the Japanese company to bring down the network, which has more than 77 million registered users. The outage has been one of the most humbling corporate events for Sony. The security gaffe, which happened at the same time that Amazon’s web services data center crashed, could shake the faith that consumers have in the internet cloud, where corporations say they will protect their personal data.

“This criminal act against our network had a significant impact not only on our consumers, but our entire industry,” Hirai said. “These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cyber-security.  We take the security of our consumers’ information very seriously and are committed to helping our consumers protect their personal data.  In addition, the organization has worked around the clock to bring these services back online, and are doing so only after we had verified increased levels of security across our networks.”

Speaking through a translator, Hirai said, “We advised customers to be vigilant” about the possibly stolen credit card numbers. He said that Sony is cooperating with authorities in a criminal investigation in pursuit of the hackers. Hirai said that as many as 10 million credit cards numbers may have been stolen. That number appears to be all of the credit card numbers that Sony has, since many of the 77 million registered users log into the network and play online for free.

In making the announcement, Sony pretty much followed the script I offered to them. That doesn’t mean I knew a lot about what they would do or that I am especially smart. Rather, it was just so obvious what Sony had to do and it was surprising that Sony took 10 days to do it. Still, it was good that Sony’s executives talked to the press and answered all questions from the media, at least as well as they could. They stayed on stage for an hour and 42 minutes. In that respect, Sony may have earned some good will tonight, and begun the process of repairing its damaged reputation.

The apology press event took place in Japan at 2 pm Sunday Tokyo time, or 10 pm on Saturday evening Pacific time. Hirai, (pictured above), is representative corporate executive officer and executive deputy president of Sony as well as head of the game business. He was joined by Shinji Hasejima, senior vice president and chief information officer at Sony, and Shiro Kambe, senior vice president of corporate communications at Sony.

Sony said it wasn’t sure whether hackers had stolen users’ credit card numbers, which were encrypted. But users have begun to complain about false charges on their credit card accounts. Other corporations can’t be smug as they watch Sony and Amazon recover, since no one can be certain that their networks are secure from hackers or technical glitches.

The PlayStation Network is Sony’s all-important hub of the digital age. It enables PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable users to go online and find more content to download to their machines, from movies to TV shows. The PSN also hosts Sony’s Home virtual world and its console-based Sony Online Entertainment games: Free Realms and DC Universe Online. Also, the service allows users to store their saved single player games and engage in multiplayer combat online. The Qriosity service, which also went down, gives users access to online movies and music. In other words, the PSN and Qriosity are central to Sony’s survival in the digital age.

Back in March, Sony chief executive Howard Stringer concentrated more power in the hands of Hirai, who once headed the U.S. PlayStation business for Sony. Hirai is now the No. 2 executive next to Stringer and may be in line to succeed him when Stringer steps down around 2013.

The problem for Sony is that this story, like the outage itself, has refused to die. We’ve run 15 stories about it so far, mainly because users seem hungry for more information because there just hasn’t been enough good information coming from the official source. Sony has been good about putting updates on the PlayStation blog, but it hasn’t been fast enough.

For instance, Sony said the attack occurred on April 19, forcing Sony to shut the services down. Sony notified users on April 22 that an “external intrusion” led to an outage. It hired forensic computer investigators to figure out what happened. After their initial inquiry, Sony announced on April 26 that personal user data for all 77 million of the PSN and Qriosity services had been compromised and their credit card numbers have been stolen. On April 26, Sony began informing all affected users of the possible credit-card data breach.

Hirai said that hackers penetrated a web application server and made a tool to give themselves illegal access to the database. They were able to access a database with data that included credit card numbers.

Hirai said the company is moving servers from San Diego, Calif., to a more advanced data center with better security. It is also installing more security systems with automated software management and enhanced levels of data encryption and better ability to detect data intrusions. The company is adding more firewalls too and it is adding a new chief information security officer, reporting to Hasejima. PS 3 will have a new system software update requiring users to change their user names and passwords. The password can only be changed on the same PS 3 on which the account was created or via validated email.

To deter identity theft, the company is asking customers to be vigilant and check their credit card statements. Customers can check their purchase history on the PSN via Sony’s customer support system. Sony said it will not ask for credit card numbers and warned users to beware of possible phishing schemes sent via email. Sony will consider the cost of reissue of credit cards if consumers wish to do so. It will provide a complimentary offering for identity theft protection services in each affected country.

The company will roll out a program with a selection of premium services for consumers. This “welcome back” content will have free downloads, and 30 days of free PlayStation Plus network service. Normally, Sony charges extra for the Plus service, while membership in the PlayStation Network is free. Current members of PlayStation Plus will get 30 days of free service. Music Unlimited, powered by Qriocity, subscribers will get 30 days of free service in countries where it is available. Sony could not quantify the value of this free service and content offering for its users.

The company is planning on restoring the services as soon as it can, with some services starting this week. Hirai said that Sony’s network services are key to its strategy and it will continue to strengthen them and learn from this incident. The attack targeted Sony’s data center in San Diego, Calif.

Separate from the attack that brought down the PSN, Hirai said that Sony’s sites had been subjected to attacks from Anonymous, the hacktivist group that targeted Sony during its litigation with “jailbreaking” hacker George “Geohot” Hotz. During these attacks, hackers dug out personal information on Sony executives and published it on the web. Sony is cooperating with authorities on those attacks as well.

In closing, Hirai bowed again and apologized again. Responding to press questions, Hirai said that he had received questions about the matter from members of Congress in the U.S. and would answer the questions. In about a week’s time, the service is expected to restart. Hirai said he had not received reports that actual damages had been incurred related to the credit card exposure.

Hirai said that Sony will advise users to change their passwords and not use the same ones over again. Hirai said that Sony has operated an online gaming network since the launch of the PlayStation 2 and it has had to deal with online security for a long time. But he noted that the new situation is different. He noted that Anonymous has been attacking different corporate sites around the world for quite some time.

Sony’s network services are core to its strategy and it has to improve its security, Hirai said.

“We are living in a network society and we will deal with this kind of situation the best we can,” he said.

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The Cloud and the Cost Impacts of its Massive Data Centers [Infographic]

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WorldCloud Computing.jpg The new data centers are far larger and more efficient than what is offered by enterprise hosting operations.

That’s something we hear a lot more about. It comes down in many respects to scalability and elasticity of a cloud-based data centers that operate on commodity infrastructures.

The difference in cost is just one comparison that comes with the latest infographic from Wikibon.


Via: Wikibon

Like most infographics, the data presented will undoubtedly raise questions about the choice of information that is being presented. This one compares costs between multi-tenant and traditional data centers. It shows market projections for cloud computing and projects the revenues for Amazon Web Services.

The Wikibon infographic is decent enough but reminds me of the graphics that newspapers make for a Sunday story. They’re fine enough but all we can really expect is a snapshot of the market.

What do you think?


Weekend Reading: Blackbeard, Superman, Toth & Guindon

This post is by Andru Edwards from Gear Live

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PopeyeI was saddened to hear about the recent death of comics historian Bill Blackbeard. Tom Spurgeon had recently written about him and how he deserved a spot in the Eisner’s Hall of Fame this year. That prompted me to (1) agree immediately with Tom and then (2) write about my own dealings with Mr. Blackbeard.

I didn’t know that by then he had already passed. Tom has the best obituary, if such things can be defined by that term.

Fantagraphics’ Gary Groth shares some personal memories plus tributes from others.

Sparkplug has an interview with him from a while ago that’s first rate.

What a heartbreaker. The guy literally and single-handedly saved newspaper comics from the shredder of history.

Let’s see what else is out there:


Weekend Reading: Blackbeard, Superman, Toth & Guindon originally appeared on Comix 411 on Sat, April 30, 2011 – 5:10:15

Anonymous Targets Iran

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anonymous iran.jpgThe same week that Freedom House called Iran the world’s worst Internet offender, the hacking group Anonymous has begun striking at the country. Officially set to begin on Sunday, some reports indicate the politically-inspired hacking has already commenced, with messages left on several of the websites previously defaced by Iran’s government-supported “Cyber Army.”

According to the group’s press release, the attack officially begins Sunday, May 1 – a labor holiday.

“A new dawn appears to you and your country will be free from the chains of oppression, tyranny and torture. You can finally exhale and take a new breath of air that will fill you with strength, wisdom and freedom.”



The sites already hacked show this message:

“This Site Is Hacked By Anonymous Hackers .#OpIran
FuCk Y0u 1Ranian G0urment.
#OpIran Is here, You GTFO
..:: H4x012 Was Here::..

Special Fuck You To : Ashiyaneh Digital Security Team & Montazer 313 & Iranian Cyber Army”

Anonymous moved from attacking businesses that withdrew their services from embattled Wikileaks leader Julian Assange to attacking countries. Initially they targeted Zimbabwe and Tunisia, later Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. They have focused on countries notorious for their restrictions on free speech.

If “Operation Iran” goes the same way that past attacks have, distributed denial of services attacks will be aimed at key, and high profile, government websites.

Here is a video version of the press release.

Other sources: The Hackers News, CNET, GMA News


Week in review: Outages at Sony’s PlayStation Network, Amazon, and Verizon

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Here’s our roundup of the week’s top tech business news. First, the most popular stories VentureBeat published in the last seven days:

ps3In fourth day of outage, Sony says it is beefing up PlayStation Network security — It was a big week for outages at a number of online services. Sony’s PlayStation Network went down for several days, and the company said it would improve security as it worked to rebuild the system.

Possible iPhone 5 photos leaked — Blurry images of what could be Apple’s next version of the iPhone have been posted online that reveal subtle design changes to the device like a wider screen, curved back and thinner body.

Did Sony shut down PSN to prevent “extreme” piracy? – As the Sony outage continued, a moderator at a Playstation fan site claimed that the company shut down its Playstation Network after a new custom firmware version for the console let users download games and content with a fake credit card number. Now that the outage is over, VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi has argued that what Sony does next is crucial to its future in games.

Why I regret switching to Verizon’s 4G network — When Verizon suffered a nationwide outage of its 4G network that lasted more than 24 hours, it was, for me, only the latest round of disappointment in the carrier’s network.

Amazon’s outage in third day: debate over cloud computing’s future begins — As Amazon’s web services outage passed its third day, the debate on the future of cloud computing was well underway.

And here are five more posts we think are important, thought-provoking, or fun:

keith-raboisSquare’s Keith Rabois: Websites are dead, reinvent for mobile — Rabois, a startup veteran who’s now chief operating officer at Square, didn’t mince words on Monday when he talked about the potential of mobile startups.

Why Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs are leaving America — Scholar Vivek Wadhwa argues that skilled immigrants are leaving the U.S. in droves. This is because of economic opportunities in countries like India and China, a desire to be closer to family and friends, and a deeply flawed U.S. immigration system.

Hacker Geohot denies involvement in PlayStation Network attack, blames Sony’s hubris — George Hotz, aka Geohot, said in the blog post that Sony invited the attack by making enemies of hackers.

Kixeye re-brands and pivots into hardcore social games with Battle Pirates — Kixeye, once known as Casual Collective, has pivoted in a big way into social games on Facebook for hardcore gamers.

Magnet Systems snags $12.6M from Andreessen Horowitz as social enterprise booms — The company says it aims to make the public cloud less of a conundrum for companies worried about the security of how their information is stored.

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Soundtracking Tags and Shares the Songs You Hear [Downloads]

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iOS: Soundtracking combines the best aspects of a music tagging service, music discovery app, and music sharing all into one unique tool. The app allows you to tag a song that you’re listening to, compose a status update around it, and then post the song, what you’re doing, and even a sample of it for your friends to hear. More »

3 Data Rights We Must Demand from Companies

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Data portability logo Last week while covering a tool for analyzing your iPhone location data (or as it turns out, your nearby cell tower and hotspot location data), I mused on my long-time interest in data portability – giving users access to and control over their own data. It’s an idea we’ve been covering here for years.

This week, the customer control over data received more attention, with a write-up in the New York Times, a new Facebook acquisition and the revelation that TomTom sold data on its customers’ driving habits to law enforcement. These are three different matters: access, use and control. But they are all connected, and as more of our data is stored in the cloud, I’m glad these matters are starting to get more attention.


Here’s what we should be demanding of companies:

Give Us Access Our Data

We covered the The Commercial Privacy Bill Of Rights last week, a bill which if enacted would give the FTC regulatory control over users’ data privacy. Some people think these new rules will cause problems for startups. But Richard Thaler, writing for The New York Times, thinks the bill doesn’t go far enough in giving consumers control over their data.

Thaler points to the British government initiative called “mydata,” on which he was a advisor:

Here is a guiding principle: If a business collects data on consumers electronically, it should provide them with a version of that data that is easy to download and export to another Web site. Think of it this way: you have lent the company your data, and you’d like a copy for your own use.

Phil Wolff of the Data Portability Project plays devil’s advocate:

Is it really your data? It’s about you but the company spent time and money collecting that data, defining it, refining it, aggregating it, and turning it into something useful. Maybe they use it to serve you better. Or maybe they use it to drive down their costs, keep your prices high, and fight off competitors. Companies think of the data as theirs.

Indeed, in many cases you’re paying for the privilege of using a free service like Facebook or Twitter with your data. In this case, I’m not sure regulatory sticks are the best approach in this case. What carrots would entice a company to give users’ access to their data?

Here’s an example. One of my favorite features of Netflix is the recommendation engine. I’ve spent a lot of time teaching Netflix what I like and don’t like. Amazon.com may be getting into the streaming movie business. So may other companies. Some of them might be better. But Netflix already knows my preferences, and I’m not keen on the idea of repeating the whole process of training another service, especially since I may end up deciding not to stick with it. It’s a classic vendor lock-in scenario.

But if one of those services would let me export my preference data? That would be an enticing reason to give it a try. Of course, it wouldn’t be very valuable if there wasn’t a common format, and other services that use that format. But if multiple companies started adopting it, it could become a common feature. Data portability could be a value-add, instead of a lock-in. Imagine being able to share data between Netflix, GetGlue and Hunch for example. There’s no reason I have to use only ONE of these services, so some co-opetition would be healthy in this area.

Enable Us to Use Our Data

As far as I can tell I’m a pattern following animal. There are whole years of my life that I cannot clearly remember. Sometimes in an effort to recover those years, and in the absence of a journal or diary to remind me, I grab a pile of bank statement from that year and study them to see roughly where I was and what I was doing. Usually mind numbing patterns emerge. Same Safeway, same day, every two weeks, roughly the same amount spent. Same ATM every friday night roughly the same amount. Every two weeks a meal at one of a small number of revisited restaurants. Every month rent cheque, haircut, some aberrant item like clothing or travel. If I continue long enough the pattern breaks up temporarily as I move to another city and then quickly settles down again. If I had my grocery receipts I’d find roughly the same food items recurring for months at a time. If I could trace my movements I’d find myself taking similar routes over and over again to get to the same set of destinations.

Show people their patterns in a way that might be directly useful and interesting to them, even suggest changes in behavior and be able to measure and show direct changes in mood resulting.

Ben Russell, Headmap Redux

This week Facebook acquired a company called Daytum. Daytum is – or was – a Web and mobile app that enabled users to track information about themselves and create visualizations based off it. We covered it here. Reportedly, this was a talent acquisition and the two person team behind Daytum will be joining Facebook’s product design team. That’s too bad, but hopefully it will help raise awareness of the concept behind Daytum: giving individuals tools visualize their own data.

There’s a whole movement known as “the quantified self.” People are collecting all sorts of data about themselves and applying it in various ways. Some are relatively easy and automated – Mint.com, for example. Others are using sensors or plain old pen and paper to gather information about themselves.

The thing is, you need good tools for working with data about yourself – just like enterprises do. This is a huge opportunity for companies.

Let Us Control Our Data

This week it was revealed that the in-car GPS company TomTom has been selling data on its customers’ driving habits to law enforcement. TomTom is certainly not the first company to sell its customers information, but the press this is receiving highlights the lack of control customers have in how their data is used.

Doc Searls has been talking about this for what seems like decades in Internet years. In the rant we recently covered he wrote:

As calves, we request pages and other files from servers, usually getting cookie ingredients mixed in, so the cow can remember where we were the last time we suckled, and also give us better services. Especially advertising.

We have no choice but to agree with this system, if we want to be part of it. And, since the cows provide all the context for everything we do with them, we have onerous “agreements” in name only, such as what you see on your iPhone every time Apple makes a change to their store.

He points out that these are called “contracts of adhesion,” which are defined by Free Dictionary as:

A type of contract, a legally binding agreement between two parties to do a certain thing, in which one side has all the bargaining power and uses it to write the contract primarily to his or her advantage.

An example of an adhesion contract is a standardized contract form that offers goods or services to consumers on essentially a “take it or leave it” basis without giving consumers realistic opportunities to negotiate terms that would benefit their interests. When this occurs, the consumer cannot obtain the desired product or service unless he or she acquiesces to the form contract.

Don’t like Dropbox’s new terms of service? Tough – you either live with it, or you delete your account. Financial institutions and telecommunications companies are even worse about this sort of thing. Don’t like the new fees they just added to your bill? Tough. You have to pay them anyway, because when you signed up you agreed to let them add random charges to your bill.

A Change in the Winds?

Searls has been talking about his proposed solution, vendor relationship management since 2006, and we’ve been covering the idea all along. Are people finally starting to become receptive to some of these ideas?

Bobbie Johnson at GigaOm writes about the TomTom incident; “I suspect it’s time for companies to realize that user concerns about location data aren’t simply because people don’t get it: it’s because they have a fundamental right to know how people are profiting from what they do.”

The recognition of these rights is long overdue, and I hope these recent events will drive these issues home.


Weekly Case Studies: 2 Hospitals That Have Adopted Virtualization

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Zen WaterThe demands for better performance are becoming a pressing issue in the healthcare world. Hospitals are a case in point.

In this week’s case studies, we revisit the stories behind two healthcare institutions that have realized savings and consolidation by implementing virtualization solutions.


Frederick Memorial Healthcare

Download case study

The University Hospital Leipzig is Europe’s oldest running hospital. For years, the hospital system has been running SAP Human Resources and SAP Business Warehouse.

The hardware running the systems were coming to the end of its life cycle and the company needed a replacement.

University Hospital Leipzig


Like a Bad Penny, Microsoft’s Talking Paperclip is Back

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clippy.pngRemember “Clippy”? That was the single-least-helpful idea in computing, a virtual assistant that used to pop out of the ether like a zombie bursting from his grave to “help” the user of Microsoft products. Finally, in 2006, he was discontinued.

But in much the same way that under-cooked poultry or shrimp that has spent a summer afternoon on the porch has a way of coming back on you, Clippy has returned.


Clippy was universally hated. In addition to being cutesy (and who doesn’t enjoy that when they’re trying to get work done?), it seemed to specialize in asking you if you wanted to do the one thing no one sane would or offering to help you with something you were already successfully doing (and would probably be done with if you didn’t have to stop to shut the asinine thing down).

Well, now those high-larious Gallifanakii at Microsoft’s Office Labs have resurrected the thing for their company training video game, Ribbon Hero. The sequel, “Ribbon Hero 2: Clippy’s Second Chance” is available as a web download. To the public!

Don’t these monsters know what they’ve done? Their winky stab at irony means that someone in a position to approve it likes this thing. If the game it’s in proves successful, and according to Geek Wire the first version was surprisingly so, someone somewhere in the lightless underground command hexagon in Redomond is, inevitably, going to say, “You know, I bet we could do it right this time.”

That proposal will, inevitably, percolate up through the barriers of charcoal, strontium 30 and magic that guards the MS HQ and Clippy will be loosed once again on an unsuspecting world. But this time, he will be immune to any weapons that we could throw at him. Mutated beyond recognition from his passage through the bone, rowan and oak of Microsoft, he will walk amongst us, the dark center in a cloud of blood. And nothing will ever be the same again.


5 Free E-Books and Tutorials on Scala

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Scala is one of the hottest new programming languages of the past few years. It’s in use at companies like Foursquare and Twitter, and The Guardian is working on porting some of its Java code to Scala. Here are a few books and tutorials to get you started.


Programming in Scala

Programming in Scala by Martin Odersky (the creator of Scala), Lex Spoon and Bill Venners is the definitive guide to Scala. The first edition is available online for free, and the second edition can be purchased here.

Also, A Scala Tutorial for Java Programmers by Michel Schinz and Philipp
Haller is a 15 page PDF tutorial introducing Scala from the official Scala website. Scala by Example by Odersky is a 137 page PDF that goes into deeper detail than the short tutorial. It’s marked as a “draft,” so don’t expect anything too polished.

Programming Scala

Programming Scala by Alex Payne and Dean Wampler is part of the O’Reilly Media Open Feedback Publishing System. Drafts of books are released online in full to solicit feedback from the community. The print edition is now for sale.

Programming Scala is aimed at experienced programmers, but not necessarily Java programmers.

The busy Java developer’s guide to Scala

A Scala Tutorial for Java Programmers is a 16 part tutorial by Ted Neward on the IBM developerWorks website. Neward starts by introducing functional programming concepts for developers used to objects oriented programming and works up to building a framework for a client library for accessing Twitter.

Scala for Java Refugees

Scala for Java Refugees by Daniel Spiewak is a six part series. Spiewak introduces the basics of Scala, then moves into using Scala for OOP.

A Video Tutorial on Scala

For those that would prefer a video tutorial, YouTube user ShadowofCatron has posted a series of Scala tutorials introducing the language, functional programming concepts, etc. Part one is embedded above.


Preserving Aboriginal Australian Heritage Online

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ara_ititja.pngAustralia has begun employing the Web as a major tool in gathering, preserving and sharing the cultural traditions of its native peoples. The religious, personal and individual stories of Australia’s native peoples, their visual art and worldviews are globally acknowledged to have a powerful presence. However, as with most now-minority peoples around the world, the forces of centralization and modernization have taken their toll.

Now, Web technologies are allowing the peoples in question to dynamically capture and pass on the wisdom and experiences of their culture as a whole and those of their elders in particular. Here are two particularly exciting examples of how technology has been used in Australia to achieve these goals.


For the record, the term “aboriginal” as a noun describing the native peoples of the continent has fallen out of failure. Aside from being tarred with racist attitudes, it is also impossibly reductive. In much the same way that the “Indians” of the United States are very different from one another, the dozen-plus major cultural groups of native Australians are equally distinct. “Aboriginal Australians” and similar phrases are now favored.

The Ara Irititja Project.

This project is maintained by the Anangu of Central Australia. Its name means “stories from a long time ago” in the language of that people.

“The aim of Ara Irititja is to bring back home materials of cultural and historical significance to Anangu. These include photographs, films, sound recordings and documents. Ara Irititja has designed a purpose-built computer archive that digitally stores repatriated materials and other contemporary items.”

It’s a deep indicator of the importance of both culture and the technology that has been brought to bear in its service that the focus of the project is in building a cultural database accessible by all via the Web. The Anangu approach to melding the two is eye-opening.

“Anangu have managed complex cultural information systems for thousands of years, restricting access to some knowledge on the basis of seniority and gender. Ara Irititja has integrated these cultural priorities into the design of its digital archive.”

What the Anangu are doing is so complex and multifarious that proper coverage of their efforts could easily fill a book. Chapters might include physical archiving, language preservation and teaching, gathering living voices, culturally-based software development, helping other groups make the transition to the Web, creating multimedia expressions of cultural concerns, exhibition creation and developing protocols for the sharing of information with outsiders. Of particular interest, I think, is the way the Anangu inflect their use of communications technologies to reflect their cultural values. In other words, technology remains a tool in their hands, not vice versa.

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Mission Voices.

Sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Company, this project “was developed from a sense that many Australians have not had the opportunity to learn about the history and cultures of Indigenous people in this country. The most appropriate way for this history to be shared is through stories, oral history, the way that our history has been passed down through the generations for thousands upon thousands of years.”

These oral histories were gathered in conjunction with the Koorie Heritage Trust. The Koorie are a people of New South Wales and Victoria, in the southeast of the country. The emphasis is information from and about “missions and reserves,” the rough equivalent of “Indian reservations” in the United States. These reserves include Ebenezer, Lake Tyers, Coranderrk, Cummeragunja, Framlingham and Lake Condah.

According to the website, the human emphasis was on Australian Aboriginal elders.

“Elders were invited from across Victoria to be a part of the project. There are many more Elders across this state and country that have an important contribution to make with the telling of their story. This site is only representative of a section of the history of missions and reserves in Victoria and only some of the voices.”

Readers can navigate the site by reserve or by subjects, such as spirituality, justice and living culture; or by, as the site itself puts it, “the land and the theme.” From this context-building information, including video presentations, the visitor can drill down to individual voices, such as Uncle Jack, a Wotjobaluk and World War II vet.

Do your people use the Web to preserve and pass on their culture? Do you work on such a project? Or is there simply a project of that description from which you gained something by interacting? If so, please share it with us and your fellow readers in the comments.

Top photo from Ara Irititja | other illustrations and photos from Mission Voices | special thanks to @debrockstroh


The Cloud Has Us All In A Fog

This post is by from TechCrunch

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Ever heard of Dropship? It’s an open-source project that “enables arbitrary, anonymous transfers of files between Dropbox accounts.” Dropbox hopes you haven’t; they tried to squelch it this week, and even accidentally reported that it was subject to a DMCA takedown notice, with predictably futile results. I’m mostly sympathetic: I’m a huge fan of their service, Dropship was a clear violation of their terms, and for obvious reasons they don’t want to turn into an anonymous peer-to-peer file-sharing service. Unfortunately, they accidentally built a system which enabled just that.

How about Sony’s PlayStation Network? Of course you have. It was so thoroughly hacked this week that Sony had to shut it down indefinitely. Did you also know that Sony’s PS3 firmware is effectively wide open, because they made a hilariously stupid security mistake? Did you know that that’s probably how PSN got hacked, and that it raised the spectre of the hacker(s) taking over every connected PlayStation 3 in the world and turning them into by far the biggest botnet in history? That probably wasn’t what Sony had in mind, but they accidentally built a system which enabled just that.

How about the new Google Docs Android app? Came out this week, and it’s pretty great. Among its many features is the ability to take a picture of an image with text and have that text automatically OCRed and turned into a document. Can’t wait ’til they integrate Google Translate into that, too, and recapitulate last year’s hot app World Lens. But I bet book publishers are pretty unhappy. Not long ago, if you wanted to scan a book you had to actually build a scanner, or buy a copy and turn every page. Now would-be book pirates can just crowdsource 10 people to go to bookstores and take 20 pictures each, et voila: 400 scanned pages in Google Docs. Easier book piracy probably isn’t what Google had in mind, but they accidentally built a system which enables just that.

This was also the week that people who keep remotely controllable Internet-enabled camera/microphone/GPSes on them at all times expressed outraged surprise when they learned their privacy is at risk. The panopticon probably isn’t what the mobile industry had in mind, but they accidentally built a system which enables just that.

What do these all have in common? The unexpected results of connecting client devices to the cloud. (Yeah, I don’t really like the term either, but it’s better than the alternatives.) People talk about “moving to the cloud,” as if we haven’t already. The heavy lifting may happen on the server farms (when they’re up) but every connected computer, phone, and game console already serves as a computing cloud’s eye, ear, and tentacle.

Emergent properties. Unintended consequences. Get used to ‘em. My favourite Douglas Adams books are the Dirk Gently novels, in which the protagonist makes use of “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things” to solve crimes in hilariously unexpected ways. Now we’re literally building that interconnectedness into (nearly) all things. So we shouldn’t be too surprised to find ourselves moving into a Dirk Gently future, in which off-kilter left-field ricochet consequences happen at an ever-increasing rate. You can bet that those cited above are just the beginning — and that there’s a lot of money to be made in seeing them before they happen.

Photo credit: Aspex Design, Flickr