Thursday, May 31, 2007

Top-10 Spammer Arrested in Seattle

'Spam King', 27-year old Robert Soloway, was arrested Wednesday at his Seattle waterfront apartment on allegations he sent perhaps as many as tens of billions of illegal unsolicited email -- the Inbox-cluttering junk mail known as "spam".

According to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, this is not the first time the 'Spam King' has been in trouble.
In 2005, Microsoft won a $7 million judgment against Soloway, after it sued him over spam sent through Microsoft's MSN and Hotmail services. Later that year, an Internet service provider in Oklahoma won a $10 million judgment against him in a spam-related lawsuit.

(Seattle P-I)

What can you do to protect yourself from Spam?
  • Use anti-spam filters and enable junk-mail folders in your email program.
  • Be careful who you give your internet address to -- use a 'disposable' (i.e. Hotmail, or Gmail) address for contests and questionable sites.
  • Don't click on links in Spam or download images (this tells spammers that the address goes to someone that looks at the email, only making your address more valuable).
  • Avoid placing your email address on websites as a mailto: link (these addresses can be scraped off your website and added to a spam database). Instead, use a form or mask the address against robots.
  • Register your domain name to an alternate email address, or choose private registration from your registrar.
  • Forward copies of "unsolicited commercial email" (aka, "UCE", "spam") to the government anti-spam task force at: (Notice how this email is a link? If the spam robots capture *this* address, it'll just save me a step. ;-) )
  • Finally, NEVER EVER ... EVER ... click on attachments in emails from folks you do not know, or that may appear suspicious. That video clip, "amazing" screen saver, or other attachment is very likely a virus that can cause havoc -- including sending your email address book to -- you guessed it, spammers.

Maybe with all the time you'll save with less spam to delete, you can get out, enjoy the sunshine and make some new friends! ;-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Microsoft Demonstrates the 'Surface'

With various public demonstrations, Microsoft publicly unveils today what it has secretly been working on for years. The new interface is more 'Minority Report' than Microsoft Mouse/Keyboward. A seemingly ordinary coffee table until activated, the device contains small cameras that detect motion from all angles and a projector that displays the action.

“With Surface, we are creating more intuitive ways for people to interact with technology,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. “We see this as a multibillion dollar category, and we envision a time when surface computing technologies will be pervasive, from tabletops and counters to the hallway mirror. Surface is the first step in realizing that vision.”

Imagine throwing a virtual stack of images onto the screen only to shuffle them around like a shoebox full of old photographs. Pretty cool stuff! Here's a demo video (YouTube):

See more at the following links:

Microsoft's Surface will be on display in New York City next weekend -- as it happens, I'll be in The City -- I'll try to take a peek and let you know how it works!

Sensitive data at Goodwill? Wipe that drive!

A recent story on caught my eye today, one that has sadly become all-too frequent: a laptop with sensitive data is in public hands.

This latest episode of an ongoing saga involves a portable computer purchased for eight dollars from a Goodwill store in Portland, Oregon. The buyer got more than their eight bucks worth when they found a spreadsheet with medical records on the used laptop. According to the report, Goodwill generally erase hard drives before reselling computers. Apparently this one fell through the cracks.

So how can you protect yourself and your data when you pass along your computer for recycling or reuse? What should you do to keep your sensitive history from the bad guys?

Wipe that drive!

And of course (or I likely wouldn't have much to blog about ;-) ), it's easier than it sounds. Sorry folks! Simply erasing or formatting your hard drive isn't quite enough. When a hard disk drive is formatted, sure it makes the drive available for re-use and shows no files found, but a clever hacker or curious computer buyer can often dig up the digital remains.

To protect yourself, and be confident the data is gone, gone I recommend the following steps:
  • Use a wipe utility that destroys the data completely -- formatting isn't enough as your files may still be hidden beneath the curtain.
  • Remove the hard drive -- take the drive out and toss it in a shoebox, recycle it seperately, or: destroy it physically (also great agression-reduction therapy!)
  • Send your computer to a computer recycle shop -- many of the specialists have policies and standards to wipe hard drives... ask when you drop off your old computer.
  • A business subject to Sarbanes-Oxley controls should ensure their IT department is following appropriate handling of used hard drives.

My favorite computer recycling facility is Free Geek and they have the type of policy you should look for to ensure your hard drive is properly wiped:
At FREE GEEK, we will never boot from a hard drive before it has been wiped of data. Hard drives we are going to keep first have their partition table removed, and then are overwritten five times in the process of testing. If we are not going to reuse a hard drive, it is physically destroyed in our facility before we send it to a responsible e-waste recycler. We do not give or sell hard drives to places that do not have a similar policy. Data on donated hard drives is safe.


I've talked about computer recycling (and Free Geek) on Portland's Morning News before, in case you missed it -- I've got an archive from my hard drive here: kxl_techexpert-recyclepc_20060724.mp3

Finally, if you're looking for tools to wipe a drive, here are a few that do the trick (Please use these tools CAREFULLY -- especially around drives with data you intend to keep, I can't be responsible for their use or misuse):

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Google Maps Adds StreetView In Some Cities

Google has added a "Streetview" feature to its popular Maps product today. Launching first in five cities (San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami, and Denver) with more promised, the feature allows users to take a 360-degree look from the street. It's the closest thing in mapping to actually being there.

Here's a video Google made to help show off the new feature (click to play):

I took it for a quick spin and found of my favorite spots in these cities. Here's my quick tour of the five cities available now -- feel free to add your own:

Where are your favorite destinations in these cities? Share!

Thanks to Google, I've just killed about 30 minutes browsing different places in these cities! Wouldn't be it cool if these were live? The entire USA mapped? Video? Live video of the entire world?

I also wonder if this would make for good news coverage... i.e. the aftermath of a hurricane, take a street-level drive through an area to show viewers just how things look. This is great stuff... enjoy!

Read more at the Google LatLong Blog

Monday, May 28, 2007

Military Records Go Online At

KXL Tech Expert Segment for May 28, 2007

The genealogy website has completed a project to digitize 90 million US military war records -- making them available online for the first time. The records, dating back to the early Jamestown settlement and covering every major conflict, include war-time images, draft cards from both World Wars, information from military yearbooks, prisoner-of-war records, military rosters, civil war pension records, and more. The information is free until June 6, the anniversary of D-Day.

I spent some time researching the website for today's radio report and learned some interesting details about my own past. For example, I was able to find an original marriage certificate from my mother's parents and details about my paternal grandfather's WWII draft. The site is a fascinating look at information that has long been "public record" -- but never as accessible to the general public. It is free to sign up and creating your own "tree" takes just a few minutes (once you get used to the interface). Adding detail about each of your relatives is as simple as clicking "Attach" and some of the artifacts are fun to review.

Will you find that you're a second cousin of Bill Gates and hit him up for millions? Probably not. Is there information about your family's history you'd care not to know? Likely. Is the site a good way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon? Indeed!

Did you find interesting history about your family? Learn something you didn't know about your ancestors' military past? Share your experiences with others in the comments.

For more on this topic, visit:

To hear my radio report, listen online at Mondays at 6:40am and 8:40am. Check back for a podcast Mondays at noon.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Battery Management Tips

KXL Tech Expert Segment for May 21, 2007
Batteries are a necessary accessory for many portable electronic devices. I'll be talking about batteries on today's show and will add more information afterwards -- in the meantime, be sure to visit these links for details:
If you have other tips or resources that might be useful, feel free to post them in the comments!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 to Sell Rights-Free Music Online has sights on giving Apple's iTunes store a run for it's money. The online retailer said today it plans to launch a digital music store selling DRM-free MP3s "later this year". No word yet on pricing -- iTunes' similar rights-free offerings are $1.29 per song. today announced it will launch a digital music store later this year offering millions of songs in the DRM-free MP3 format from more than 12,000 record labels. EMI Music's digital catalog is the latest addition to the store. Every song and album in the digital music store will be available exclusively in the MP3 format without digital rights management (DRM) software.
Read the press release here.

Speaking of -- I confess: I'm addicted to Amazon Prime. Sure, it's a scheme to get you to buy more products from Amazon, and I may not actually make the $79/year pay for itself -- but who can hate free 2-day shipping and cheap cheap overnight delivery? Kudos to Amazon ... you got me!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Apple MacBook gets faster processors, upgrades

Apple just announced a refreshed version of the popular MacBook consumer notebook. I've been considering an upgrade myself, but think I'll hold out and see what the LED laptops bring to the table (likely something this year - source).
CUPERTINO, California—May 15, 2007—Apple® today updated its MacBook® consumer notebooks with faster Intel Core 2 Duo processors, 1GB of memory and larger hard drives in every model. The MacBook is just one-inch thin and features built-in 802.11n wireless networking for up to five times the performance and twice the range of 802.11g.* Every MacBook also includes a built-in iSight® video camera for on-the-go video conferencing, Apple’s MagSafe® Power Adapter that safely disconnects when under strain, and iLife® ‘06, Apple’s award-winning suite of digital lifestyle applications.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Suggestion - Google Maps: "Take a Walk"

It's Monday and beautiful outside.

I found myself longing for coffee from a particular Starbucks (Second & Seneca) while at Century Square (1501 4th Avenue). I plotted these two addresses into Google Maps and it dutifully gave me the quickest route between the two locations. Thing is, while I have a car here and *could* drive, that'd be rather silly. (see above weather report)

So rather than the 0.7 miles from origin (Century Square) to destination (Starbucks), I was cleverly able to reduce the walking distance estimate to 0.5 miles by simply clicking "Get reverse directions". (I'll walk backwards and save two tenths of a mile). As you can see on the map screenshot below, the most direct path (assuming I can't cut through any buildings, etc.) would be to travel on 4th for three blocks and Seneca for two.

Now, I suspect the demands for Google Foot Maps is likely quite low... a temporary workaround might be maps that ignore one-way streets (that don't obviously apply to the sneaker lanes). Obviously with vehicle-centric directions, the one-way streets rules are critical!

walking map of downtown seattle - click for google maps

How about it, Google? Want to take a walk? Anyone have any good sites that provide walking directions / distances -- if so, post to the comments! (I think I saw a good site for NYC that included Subway, etc. but can't recall the site (and/or be bothered to look)).

As for me? I spent the few spare minutes in my schedule writing this blog post -- I'll have to settle for the Starbucks in the building instead. Sorry Joe Jo, I'll get that grande iced soy mocha no-whip another time!


Free Email: Microsoft's New Hotmail

Today on the show we talked about free email services. Why use free email? Are they secure? Microsoft last week released a new, slick, version of Hotmail... err... sorry, "Windows Live Hotmail" (ya, sure) -- I provided listeners with an overview of the new features.

Windows Live Hotmail logo

Microsoft's ad agency created a somewhat funny (with the balance of that "somewhat" falling in the offensive/crude/unnecessary category) ad campaign to get the word out about the new Hotmail. Take a look at the clips.

For a replay of today's Tech Expert segment, click here: kxl_techexpert-newhotmail_20070514.mp3

As always, if you have comments / suggestions / feedback... drop me a line or email: tech (AT) -- and speaking of email, take a minute to subscribe to updates to this blog via. email!

Have a great week!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Barack Obama's Debacle: Whose space is "Myspace"?

A Barack Obama supporter got an abrupt lesson in politics last week when the Senator’s campaign seized control of an online Myspace profile he created. Joe Anthony, a once enthusiastic volunteer for the campaign feels slighted -- and the implications could be costly to Obama's Presidential aspirations.

The controversy and uproar has us asking on today's Tech Expert segment, "Whose Space Is Myspace?"

Listen to the answer here:

What do you think? Was did the Senator do the right thing? Whose space is it?