Friday, May 25, 2007

Philadelphia Wireless Gets OK

In a media alert released yesterday by Wireless Philadelphia, it was announced that Earthlink has gained approval to build out a 15 square mile test WiFi network to cover the entire city - approximately 135 square miles. Here's detail from the media alert announcing and detailing a press conference:

"Mayor Street will announce that Wireless Philadelphia has formally accepted EarthLink's Proof of Concept Area, a fifteen square-mile test zone in North Philadelphia. In turn, EarthLink will proceed with the buildout of the citywide wireless network, with completion expected by the end of 2007. Mayor Street will also participate in a wireless online videoconference with a student from YouthBuild in another location within the POC". "Wireless Philadelphia CEO Greg Goldman will provide an update on Digital Inclusion, the initiative to help those who are not online get connected with affordable hardware, software, technical support and training, and wireless, high-speed Internet access".

The Philadelphia wireless project was one of the first announced in the United States and, because tax payers money was being used to compete against private carriers, led to the creation of a Pennsylvania law that now requires municipal organizations to get approval from local telecommunications companies before the build-out of any WiFi network.

According to Yahoo! News as reported by Nancy Gohring and Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service:

"For six months, customers of a 1M bps (bits per second service) will pay an introductory rate of US$6.95 per month, which bumps up to $19.95 thereafter. A faster 3M bps service is available for $9.95 for the first six months and $21.95 after that".

"City parks will have free access, and low-income residents can sign up for service at $9.95 per month, before promotions. Customers can also pay for service on an hourly, daily or three-day basis".

A number of other cities are attempting to negotiate similar agreements including San Francisco.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cheating Scandal at Duke Business School

By now you have probably heard about the Duke Fuqua School of Business scandal where 34 MBA students have been accused of cheating. The students at Duke had been working in study groups and one of the professors had noticed some consistencies in student homework assignment and take home exam submissions.

The May 10, 2007 Edition of North Carolina's The News & Observer by Jane Stancill and Eric Ferreri quotes Duke's Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace Director Gary Hull:

"This is an epidemic, it's not just Fuqua. It's been getting worse for the last 20 years."

"On Tuesday, May 8, Indiana University's dental school announced that it had expelled nine students and suspended 16 for sharing computer passwords to gain access to an exam before they took it; 21 others were reprimanded for knowing about the scheme but not reporting it".

"The week of April 30, 15 students were expelled and three resigned from the U.S. Air Force Academy after sharing test answers through social-networking Web sites".

Rutgers professor Don McCabe, a researcher on cheating, refers to what he calls the 20-60-20 rule that says 20% of students will always cheat, 60% are undecided and 20% will never cheat. The 60% in the middle are the one that have him concerned:

"It's the 60 percent in the middle that you're really fighting the battle over," he said, though he believes even his estimates are becoming out of date, with more people sliding out of the "never cheat" category".

Of course some students are always going to cheat and I'm sure the Duke students were aware of course policies and consequences. They are required to read and sign a copy of the school honor code as part of the application process and the honor code is displayed on the wall in each Fuqua classroom. Still some are asking - is there a possibility that, based on their background and experience, some students did not consider this to be cheating?

Business Week's Alison Damast wrote an interesting piece on April 30, 2007 titled Duke MBAs Fail Ethics Test. The article references past cheating scandals on other campuses along with Fuqua. Fuqua is an expensive business school running each student around $120K but the investment is typically worth it for grads coming out of the program. The average age of enrolled students is around 29 so the typical student has worked for 6-7 years before deciding to return to school.

Let's think about work - we hear so much about how important soft skills are for our students - employers are expecting graduates that can work in teams and communicate in different ways, sharing ideas and collaborating to complete their work. When was the last time you had an employer tell you they are looking for graduates who like to work completely alone, not interact, not share and not work in a team environment?

Now let's consider these Fuqua students - these are motivated highly successful people looking to move their career to the next level. They've been working for 6-7 years in teams, collaborating to maximize production, products, sales, etc, etc. They've decided to invest a couple of years and around $120K and want to maximize their academic experience. They get to Fuqua and what do they do? Some are saying they've brought their experience and work success and have applied it to the classroom.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Proximity Marketing with Bluetooth

Most of us have sort of an idea what Bluetooth is - Wikipedia defines it as follows:

"Bluetooth is an industrial specification for wireless personal area networks (PANs). Bluetooth provides a way to connect and exchange information between devices such as mobile phones, laptops, PCs, printers, digital cameras, and video game consoles over a secure, globally unlicensed short-range radio frequency. The Bluetooth specifications are developed and licensed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group".

"Bluetooth is a radio standard and communications protocol primarily designed for low power consumption, with a short range (power-class-dependent: 1 meter, 10 meters, 100 meters) based on low-cost transceiver microchips in each device".

"Bluetooth lets these devices communicate with each other when they are in range. The devices use a radio communications system, so they do not have to be in line of sight of each other, and can even be in other rooms, as long as the received transmission is powerful enough".

Simply put - short range, two-way and, up to this point for most of us in the United States, personal device to personal device communications. Many of us have Bluetooth capable cell phones and are using wireless earpieces for talking while driving or with our hands full. Most laptop PC's come with Bluetooth now and allow wireless attachment and sync with cell phones and other devices.

In other parts of the world it's been a little different. Companies like BlooZone, are using Bluetooth applications to provide "location aware services" such as proximity marketing. BlueBlitz is another good example of one company that is developing some interesting Bluetooth applications. Here's a piece from their website:

"With MagicBeamer you can transfer any information or advertisment to a mobile phone or PDA. It's even possible to sell products or create prize games! And all that 24/7, all year long and through walls and shopping windows".

"The transfer of the data is done with Bluetooth(TM) technology. Your advantage: no transfer fees of any kind! It doesn't matter, whether you reach 100 or 100.000 customers. No matter what information you offer for download, the transmission is always free".

So what you may say - no big deal - it's like sending a text message. Well sort of - some of the content may be that simple however, the key word for the retailer is free! Think in terms of a retailer in a mall and let's say this retailer has purchased one of these Magic Beamers and placed an ad on it. Everyone that comes within range with Bluetooth enabled on their phone, PDA, laptop, etc and with the device in "discoverable" mode will get a message asking if they want to receive an ad from the retailer. Everyone! The retailer does not need to know email addresses or phone numbers - the customer just has to be in range with Bluetooth in discoverable mode. And..... it does not cost a penny in transfer/data fees.

BlooZone has some interesting flash demos linked here.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Road Apples in the Airport

I had an interesting experience while traveling a couple of weeks ago. I was in DC for the day and walking through Regan National Airport to catch my flight back home. I have a tendency to look down at the ground when I'm walking - as a result I find a lot of stuff (sometimes even money!) Well, I found what looked like a brand new 1G USB thumb drive. I scooped it up, went to my gate and, not really thinking twice, turned on my notebook and popped the thumb drive in my machine. I caught myself and said wait a minute, pulled it out and ended up tossing it into a trashcan.

On the flight back I got thinking about how careless I had been. I realized I could have picked up a Road Apple and am a little upset I tossed it because it would have been interesting to take a closer look. Here's how Wikipedia defines Road Apples:

"A road apple is a real-world variation of a Trojan Horse that uses physical media and relies on the curiosity of the victim. The attacker leaves a malware infected floppy disc, CD ROM or USB key in a location sure to be found (bathroom, elevator, sidewalk), gives it a legitimate looking and curiosity piquing label - and simply waits.

Example: Get corporate logo off target's web site, make a disk label using logo and write "Executive Salary Summary Q1 2007" on the front."

Let's think about this a minute. Was it a plant? It could have been. Here's my logic - I'm in Regan National Airport in DC - this is the quickest airport to get in and out of and is frequented by Congressmen, Senators, staffers, etc. I've run into my Congressman Richie Neal on a few occasions at National - they all use this airport.

A quick search on Amazon indicates I can buy 1G thumb drives for under $10 each and you can get through airport security with thumb drives without a problem - I think I've got 5 or 6 in my bag almost all of the time. Let's say a "social engineer" wants to do a little social engineering and decides to setup a bunch of drives with some malware that does something malicious. This person walks around and drops a drive on the floor every once in a while. For airport access these people would not even have to get through security which requires a ticket purchase - they could just scatter them around the baggage area.

Now let's say a staffer picks one of these drives up or a contractor, etc - someone with access to secure government networks. They pick the thumb drive up, bring it to work and plug it into their work computer. Or maybe they plug the thing into their laptop with classified information on it when they get home. Doing so they may have bypassed millions of dollars of perimeter security, firewalls, etc and provided malicious people with content, access, control, etc, etc.

We've all heard the stories about laptops being stolen with identification databases on them. Using a method like this computers don't have to be stolen any more. Transfer this same scenario to downtown Manhattan on a beautiful spring day like today or London or Tokyo.....

I low-level formatted the drive and then wrote back a bit image I had as backup. I wish I had saved that thumb drive....

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Comcast's Fancast

I've been meaning to write about Fancast for a while. Fancast is an upcoming Comcast product (this summer) that, according to the website:

" With Fancast, you will be able to search for your favorite shows, movies, actors, or simply enjoy videos on the site. Fancast will provide you with a place to discover when your favorite shows or movies are on, and where you can watch them via television, video on demand, online or on other devices".

On April 11, Comcast purchased Fandango, an online advance movie ticket sale site and it looks like Comcast will be using Fandango to list Fancast shows. Mike Sachoff, a staff writer for, quoted Amy Banse, President of Comcast Interactive Media:

"Adding Fandango to Comcast Interactive Media and creating will enable us to leverage our combined assets to offer consumers an outstanding entertainment experience."

AppleTV, XBox Live, Tivo, your favorite network dot com, etc, etc..... and the list goes on.... any place, anywhere, any time......

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

How Many People Have Your Name?

I found this linked up in one of John Dvorak's blogs.
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I usually don't write about these kinds of things but it has got me thinking - mostly about the amount of change and the availability of information (good or bad) we are all experiencing. With a click this app tells me:
  • There are 156,908 people in the U.S. with the first name Gordon.
  • Statistically the 383rd most popular first name.
  • More than 99.9 percent of people with the first name Gordon are male.
  • There are 165,960 people in the U.S. with the last name Snyder.
  • Statistically Snyder is the 171st most popular last name.
I tried Michael Qaissaunee and got the following message: "This name is not found in our database, this means the name is relatively uncommon". The FAQ section of the site references some stats and claims "about 19% of people will have either one or both names missing from the list".

I don't have any idea how accurate this information is but the site claims "all numbers estimated are based upon statistical and demographic data from US Census Bureau". I wonder how many faculty would accept this kind of reference in student report or presentation? I'm not sure I would but how could I argue without doing time consuming research and even then what could I find?
I poked around for 10 minutes on the web and it looks like the Census Bureau has a list of frequently occurring last names from 1990. I think I could probably find more if I continued my search.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Viacom versus Google

As you probably know Google and ViaCom are squaring off for a major legal battle. On March 13, 2007, Viacom filed a Federal Copyright Infringement Complaint Against YouTube And Google. According to the Viacom press release:

"The lawsuit claims over $1 billion in damages, as well as an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube from further copyright infringement. The complaint contends that almost 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom’s programming have been available on YouTube and that these clips had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times".

Viacom is protesting the posting of Viacom owned content on Googles YouTube. Viacom holdings include MTV, Comedy Central, VH1 and Paramount Pictures.

Yesterday Google responded to the Viacom lawsuit kicking things into high gear. Here's how the Google response begins:

"Viacom's complaint in this action challenges the careful balance established by Congress when it enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA balances the rights of copyright holders and the need to protect the internet as an important new form of communication. By seeking to make carriers and hosting providers liable for internet communications, Viacom's complaint threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression. Google and YouTube respect the importance of intellectual property rights, and not only comply with their safe harbor obligations under the DMCA, but go well above and beyond what the law requires".

As I understand - and I'll preface this by saying I'm not an attorney - Google says it is in compliance with the DMCA because it removes copyrighted content that has been posted on request. Viacom, on the other side, is claiming Google is not taking "proactive steps" to prevent users from posting copyrighted material.

This will be interesting to watch and you can believe everyone will be watching.