CIO Symmetry

August 21, 2008  4:43 PM

Google Reader has my vote

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

You may have noticed the new feature on the Google homepage. It reads: “New! Read what Barack Obama and John McCain are reading with Google Reader.”

Yes, now you too can see what Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama are reading online!

First thought: shock. McCain is using the Internet?

Second thought: interesting…

According to, the new Google project allows users to see the news stories and blog posts our candidates are reading. This is all launched with the cooperation of the campaign, of course, so I would suspect there is a bit of monitoring and “planning” surrounding which stories get read and when. Let’s face it, everything we see as the voter has been perfectly laid out for us. From what politicians say to what they wear, nothing is supposed to be random. Of course, a few things fall through the cracks… (President Bush’s comment about how “Wall Street got drunk?”)

I was so intrigued I went right over to see what the presidential hopefuls had on their reading lists. In case you haven’t already checked it out, McCain’s reading list includes the Wall Street Journal, Arizona Republic, Drudge Report, ESPN, Forbes and Fox News. Obama’s includes Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, ESPN, Talking Points Memo, Barack Obama Blog, and the Daily Show. There were also journalists’ blogs and news from both campaigns — a lot of interesting reading in one place.

What a great idea, Google. Pull in readership and get more people involved in following, what may prove to be, a history-making election. And as a user, why stop there? Add them as a Facebook friend.

In some ways, the entire campaign trail has made history already–as the most technologically-advanced campaigning ever. Google Reader has developed a feature highlighting both candidates and Obama has started text messaging his supporters.

The New York Times reported “the Obama campaign said that anyone who sent a text message of “VP” to a dedicated phone number would be among the first to learn the identity of his running mate.” Rather than announcing it at a news conference, the Obama campaign will send out the much anticipated running-mate news via text message. Not only that, NY Times also reported that a University of Michigan study done by graduate students found, “that those who received a reminder in a text message one day before an election were 4.2% more likely to vote.”

So maybe over-use of email and text messaging cuts back on human interaction. But I think this new wave of tech-campaigning will reach out to a broader audience, hopefully reminding (inspiring?) people to go out and vote.

At the very least, maybe all these tech upgrades will prevent future punch card voting problems.

August 21, 2008  12:06 PM

Subway fail, Freedom fail

Kristen Caretta Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Two weeks ago three MIT students were forbidden by a judge to give a presentation on how susceptible Boston’s subway fare system is to fraud.

Now another judge has allowed them to give the presentation. The problem is said presentation was scheduled for a hacker convention held two weeks ago. Funny how that works out.

Last week I commended the three students for their work and blasted the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Administration for its consistent incompetence in all matters related to running a transportation system. Continued »

August 18, 2008  2:17 PM

MSM Monday Round-up

Kristen Caretta Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

The government had its hand all over the tech world this week.

First we had that little incident with the MIT students who say they’ve figured out how to hack Boston’s subway fare cards. But now two judges still have a gag order on them. Writing in The Boston Globe, attorney Harvey Silvergate explains why the judges’ rulings are muzzling free speech.

The nimrods at major label record companies continue to fail to see the big picture. And now, due to greed and a ruling from the federal Copyright Royalty Board, streaming radio service Pandora – and presumably many others – could go under, as The Washington Post reports. See, the record companies will soon get twice as much cash every time you listen to a song online. Never mind you might decide you like the band you’re listening to and then go buy a few overpriced concert tickets. Innovation: Not a music mogul’s strong point.

And as long as we’re on nimrod-like behavior, check out the first lines of this USA Today story about the Transportation Security Administration’s new rule that will allow some laptops to go through airport metal detectors without coming out of their bags.

“It’s not surprising that Tim Burke is taking an airplane flight Monday, but it is unusual that he’s looking forward to it. The reason: Starting on Saturday, some of the nation’s airline passengers will not have to remove their laptops at airport checkpoints.”

Ok, to recap, Tim Burke can’t wait to fly because one of countless inconveniences has been eliminated. And now that gas has gone down ten cents, I can’t wait to fill up my tank.

August 15, 2008  6:41 PM

Weekly wrap-up

Kristen Caretta Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Every year at we get a bunch of CIOs to tell us how much spare change they’re picking up. We also ask them a lot of questions about their careers, aspirations and doubts.

Then we compile all the answers and look for interesting trends. Then we write news stories.

The first one of those hit the site this week and it’s about telecommuting.

In non-career related news this week we took a look at the rapidly diversifying mobile OS market, which could have CIOs scrambling to support a variety of smart phones in the coming years.

Executive Editor Kate Evans-Correia wondered about the Olympics and what all this daytime streaming video will do to network speed.

And just for a little something extra, here are some tips on database security. Hint: Don’t give everyone full access.

August 13, 2008  2:24 PM

America fails – miserably – to capture Internet equality medal

Kristen Caretta Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Here’s a shocker: Broadband in the U.S. isn’t up to snuff and because of that our children will fall behind the rest of the world.

So we learn from a new report by, er, the Communication Workers of America, er, the AFL-CIO.

According to the report, the U.S. is lagging far behind other developed countries in broadband speed. Median download speed for the nation is a measly 2.3 mbps. Compare that to Japan, where the median download speed is apparently 63 mbps. France, for a European example, pulls 17 mbps. Our neighbors to the north aren’t great – 7.6 mbps – but still, that’s better.

Data in the report was compiled by cataloging the results of voluntary upload/download speed tests by users nationwide. The report breaks it down by state. Rhode Island comes out the best, pulling a 6.8 mbps download median. Puerto Rico finishes dead last at a .5 mbps download median. Behind that is Alaska with a .8 mbps median.

The results favor densely populated areas, with rural counties and states dragging the numbers down. This could explain why Japan has done so well.

So take report statements like “At this rate, it will take the United States more than 100 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in Japan” with a block of salt.

Still, it’s hard to argue with what stands for here: Universal Internet access and an end to the digital divide.

The deck has always been stacked in America. That “haves” and “have-nots” thing is no joke. The Internet is a must-have for any meaningful economic success. Failing to provide quality access to rural and poor children, who have few powerful advocates, will only serve to exacerbate the shameful disenfranchisement.

Meanwhile, our president tells Bob Costas that “I don’t see America having problems” and we’re all supposed to sit back and smile because we’re ahead in the medal count.[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

August 12, 2008  5:33 PM

Press releases as prose

Kristen Caretta Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

I don’t doubt that writing a press release that catches the eye is a tough job.

But this is just dumb:

“Dear Zach,
“Will Shakespeare sure didn’t have to wrestle with the issues IT managers’ face today. After five years of development and some high-profile delays, Microsoft finally launched Microsoft Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office”

Then there’s something about Hamlet and “to upgrade or not to upgrade.” Whatever.

“Will” Shakespeare died in 1616. The earliest computers showed up sometime in the 1940s.

August 12, 2008  3:23 PM

Hackers on the MBTA, or: Why Boston’s subway system deserves to be compromised

Kristen Caretta Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Well, this is embarrassing. Three MIT students write a paper on how to hack the greater Boston subway fare cards.

Said students are given an ‘A’ for their work and are booked to present at the annual DEFCON hacker conference in Las Vegas last weekend. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (known as the MBTA, the state agency that runs the subway) sues to keep the trio from presenting.

Filed in court to stop the presentation: Instructions on how to hack the MBTA fare system. Still available on MIT’s servers: The slide presentation to accompany the talk. This is really worth flipping through.

So not only did the MBTA’s lawsuit completely defeat its own purpose, it has also logged yet another example of the agency’s complete incompetence.

And this is why it deserves to be hacked. Continued »

August 11, 2008  2:17 PM

MSM Monday Round-up

Kristen Caretta Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Anybody else fed up with passwords?

A San Jose State University professor tells us why we should be in The New York Times. It’s about time. Does anybody really think there’s a password strong enough to keep a determined intruder out? Plus, all these single-sign-on pop-ups are ticking me off.

Actually, is the Times hiding the fact that it covers hacker conventions? This story here tells us about a major Internet security hole. We meet Dan Kaminsky at a “technical conference in Las Vegas” on Wednesday. Now, DEFCON16 didn’t start until Thursday, though Kaminsky was scheduled to speak at that as well. And the Times interviews other “technical experts” which is a pretty bland title. Hackers?

The coolest thing about DEFCON? Three MIT students have managed to hack Boston’s subway fare cards. So what does the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority do? Sue the students to stop them from preventing their findings. Hey, that’s a step up from the MBTA’s average, everyday in competency.

And over at Slate, Vista just can’t catch a break.

August 8, 2008  7:37 PM

Save the data! How safe is our personal information?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

The search for the missing Registered Traveler laptop is finally over. The laptop, belonging to Verified Identity Pass Inc.(VIP), was reported missing from a locked office in the San Francisco International Airport on July 26. The laptop was unencrypted and contained the personal information of 33,000 people (including names, passport numbers and addresses) who were enrolled (or were in the process of enrolling) in Clear, VIPs Registered Traveler Program. On August 5, local news station CBS 5 reported the laptop had been found in the office it had gone missing from. VIP spokeswoman Allison Beer said, “it was not in an obvious location.”

Huh? Could this information be so easily misplaced?

According to their site, Clear members are prescreened (personal information, biometric data, etc.) and are able to pass through security fast lanes at designated airports, “saving time” while traveling. What about saving their information in encrypted files?

In their August 5 press release, VIP CEO Steve Brill apologized for the confusion and reassured Clear members, stating “…in an abundance of caution, we treated this unaccounted-for laptop as a serious potential breach. We’re glad to confirm that a preliminary investigation shows no personal information was compromised.” Losing the laptop in the first place compromises information. Again, this wasn’t just any company laptop—this laptop was loaded with personal unencrypted information. Again, why was this information left unsecured?

Having your laptop stolen (or misplacing it) is a scary thing (more so if you have to answer to 33,000 people and not just your company’s IT department), yet people are still having a difficult time keeping tabs on them. According to UK site The Register, Absolute Software has even recently added GPS tracking to its laptop theft recovery service. Embedded GPS receivers submit latitude and longitude information to Absolute’s Web-based IT management portal, showing current and previous locations the laptop had been. Of course, this also eliminates some of the user’s privacy. As stated in the article, “use of the technology means that salesmen may no longer be able to claim that they are visiting client premises rather than sneaking down the pub.”

As technology grows and changes, personal privacy may be thing of the past. Is this ultimately a good thing if it keeps our information safer? Can we even trust those who have our personal data? People are banking online, scanning their irises to breeze through airport security and fingerprint scanning to access their laptops—and this personal information could be targeted by thieves and hackers.

Who knows? What I do know is this: keep an eye on your data and your laptop (I’ll even throw in a tip on laptop protection).

August 8, 2008  1:47 PM

Weekly Wrap-up

Kristen Caretta Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

And this week we:

Learned more about Latin American currency than we ever thought we would. All to take a look at Brazil’s potential for offshoring IT work.

Tried to rent a tent from Eastern Mountain Sports. Came back with a lecture on the value of outsourcing network administration.

Found that meticulous oversight of your master data management plan not only makes life easier down the road, but it might keep the lawyers away too.

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