Month: November 2002

The Gift for Every Child

A bombed out dollhouse, the gift that should be in every child’s Christmas stocking this year. The NY Times also has an article on the dollhouse that mentions the Lion & Lamb project This project works with parents, industry and government to reduce the marketing of violent toys to children. Every year the organization puts out it’s Dirty Dozen list, a list of what it considers to be the 12 most violent toys of the year. They also produce a list of top 20 creative non-violent toys. Just in time for holiday shopping.

More TIA

Another article in the NY Times on Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness system.


And the scariness continues…Let’s start at the beginning. In 2002 the U.S. government established two counter-terrorism organizations, the Information Awareness Office (IAO) and the Information Exploitation Office (IXO). These two organizations have a similar over-arching aim: to develop technologies that can examine large amounts of electronic transactions and spot patterns of behavior that might indicate terrorism. They differ in that the IAO is developing domestic surveillance technologies and the IXO is working on overseas surveillance. Both of these organizations operate under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Let’s focus on the IAO. First reason you should be a little concerned about this organization: John M. Poindexter was appointed as its head. You remember him? Poindexter was Reagan’s National Security Advisor and was involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal. He was charged and found guilty on five felony counts of conspiracy, false statements, destruction and removal of records and obstruction of Congress; this conviction was later overturned on the grounds that it had been reached using immunized testimony given before Congress. Exactly the sort of person I want developing a system to mine my private data. Not to worry though, President Bush has the utmost confidence in Poindexter. The White House Press Secretary said “Admiral Poindexter is somebody who this Administration thinks is an outstanding American, and an outstanding citizen who has done a very good job in what he has done for our country, serving in the military.”

Putting aside any doubts one might have about the leadership of the IAO, there are other things to be concerned about. What exactly does it mean to say the organization wants to develop technologies that can examine large amounts of electronic transactions? According to Poindexter’s descriptions of the system, called the Total Information Awareness System, it means the system “will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.”

Say goodbye to what little privacy you had left and say hello to Big Brother.

If you want some more info:

Time Travel, Apples in Maine, & VOI

While some sites strive to provide breaking news stories, the Wayback Machine lets you surf the internet of the past. A part of the Internet Archive, the Wayback Machine allows you to enter a URL and then presents you with its archived pages for that URL. So you can see what Apple’s un-Aquafied homepage looked like on 14 July 1997, when the Newton was still alive, Apple was taking pre-orders for OS 8 and the ‘the world’s fastest home computer’ ran at 300MHZ.

This September, the state of Maine sent out 17,000 laptops to 7th-graders across the state. The delivery of these laptops is part of a four-year $37.2 million contract between Maine and Apple, under which Apple has agreed to provide the state with laptops, wireless networking gear and training. Under this contract, all 7th and 8th grade students in Maine will be using Apple computers by 2006.

This project was created as a way of addressing Maine’s ‘digital divide’, both the divide between it’s students and those of more affluent states, as well as the internal divide between rural and urban students. As such, it will be interesting to see how the program fares. Will the simple act of putting a computer in a student’s hands have a drastic impact on how that child learns? What changes will teachers have to make in their curricula in order to adapt to this tool? Could this program
be ported to other states, other countries?

It is not clear what the fate of this program will be, as the budgetary surplus that led to it’s inception has now been replaced by a budgetary deficit. If you want to follow the program though, here are some information sources:

One final interesting aside, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations has given Maine $1 million for this program. Bill Gates buys the students of Maine Apple computers 🙂

Another interesting story that has recently cropped up: In an effort to prevent telephone company revenue losses due to internet telephony, the government of Panama is requiring all ISPs to block 24 UDP ports. These ports are those most commonly used in internet telephony as well as some others that might potentially be used for this purpose. This means that any data being sent through these ports, whether being used for internet telephony or not, will be blocked! The government decree also states that that “all routers, including those not carrying traffic from Panama, but that might be traversing Panama, have the 24 UDP ports blocked.” This could have implications far beyond Panama’s borders, as numerous undersea cables connect in the country, making it a substantial hub for international IP traffic.

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