Tag Archives: PCMag

Strawberry Alarm Clock

Uri Friedman at The Atlantic with the round-up.

John C. Dvorak at PC Magazine:

There was a big brouhaha over the weekend as the Apple iPhone alarm clock failed to work on both News Years day and January 2nd. Then the problem self-corrected on the third for some reason nobody bothered to explain.

I first found out about it on the 2nd when my podcasting partner, Adam Curry, was moaning about how the alarms didn’t work on his iPhone, and he didn’t get up on time to prep for the show we do on Sunday morning. I thought it was peculiar. Peculiar that people use the iPhone as an alarm clock!

Apparently, a lot of people use the iPhone as an alarm clock, adding more dubious usefulness to the device. I know that over the years, the mobile phone has essentially replaced the wrist watch. When people want to know the time they pull out their mobile phone and look at it. This has the added advantage of giving you the opportunity to check for important messages.

After all, we will die on the spot and be humiliated by the throngs of passersby if we are not up to the second with our messaging obligations. It’s gotten so bad that the evil phones are now at our bedsides to wake us up. Then when this questionable function fails, the world goes into a tizzy.

Ron Hogan at Popular Fidelity:

Weirdly enough, the glitch only affected one-time alarm settings, not recurring alarms.  Recurring alarms worked just fine.  Apple says that “customers can set recurring alarms for those dates and all alarms will work properly beginning January 3.”  Too little, too late.

Even worse, the glitch affected the newest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 4G, and the most recent versions of iPhone software.  If you updated your iPhone and needed to get up this weekend for something, then you probably overslept.  Then again, if you have to get up for something, I recommend multiple alarm clocks, not just technological ones.

Charlie Sorrel and Brian X. Chen at Wired:

Apple spokesperson Natalie Harrison told Macworld that the the bug had been officially recognized, and would fix itself on Jan. 3.

“We’re aware of an issue related to non-repeating alarms set for Jan. 1 or 2,” Harrison said. “Customers can set recurring alarms for those dates and all alarms will work properly beginning Jan. 3.”

However, some iPhone customers in Asia and Europe said they were still experiencing alarm malfunctions as of Jan. 3, according to Reuters. Also, some U.S. customers said on Twitter this morning that their alarms weren’t working.

“This is why I missed the gym this morning,” tweeted Rik Nemanick, a Saint Louis resident.

Apple claims the alarm issue has only affected non-repeating alarms — meaning if your alarm is set to go off at the same time “every Monday,” for example, it should have worked today. However, for those who set a one-time alarm for this morning, some may have experienced the malfunction.

If you’re paranoid about sleeping in late, the quick fix for the issue is to set recurring alarms. To set repeating alarms, launch the Clock app, hit the + sign to create an alarm, then tap Repeat and choose the day(s) you want this alarm to go off regularly.

The alarm code in iOS seems to be pretty buggy. This latest problem follows a bug that caused alarms to sound an hour late when both Europe and the United States flipped over from daylight saving time at the end of the summer.

An unreliable alarm clock is a frivolous bug, but it’s particularly embarrassing for Apple, a company that prides itself for fine details of its products. Here’s hoping that Apple issues a complete rewrite of its clock app whenever it releases the next iPad or iPhone.

Ben Popken at The Consumerist:

On Jan 1 and 2 of 2011, tons of people overslept, not due to hangovers, but because of an iPhone glitch that made their alarms go off. For most people this was just an inconvenience, but for one couple it was disastrous. They missed a fertility treatment deadline.

Jodi writes:

My husband and I set the alarms on both of our iPhones to go off at 6:45am on January 1. We had a very important deadline to make that morning in regards to our scheduled fertility treatment. But we missed it. The alarms didn’t go off. Apparently (according to Google) they don’t work on January 1 or 2 of 2011. Wish we would’ve known this ahead of time. Thousands of dollars and a month of injections wasted. And no one to turn to for recourse.Jodi

Sent from my iPhone

My heart goes out to you and your husband, Jodi. That is devastating. I only hope that you have the resources and fortitude to be able to pick up the pieces and try again.You might say that they should have set multiple, non-iPhone alarms, but hindsight is 20/20 and that doesn’t remove the pain of their loss.

Nicholas Jackson at The Atlantic:

Unwilling to wait for another day and hope that your alarm wakes you tomorrow morning as it once used to? There’s a quick fix. Download one of hundreds of free applications from the Apple Store and use that instead. Maybe you’ll even find that you like it better than the built-in alarm.

A couple of our favorites: Nightstand Central Free is ad-supported and only gives you a few options for the sound of your alarm, but it includes a weather report and works even when you leave the phone locked and in sleeping mode. iClock Free is another ad-supported application that includes a weather report next to the time display. Once you set an alarm using this application, it will go off on your iPhone or iPod even when you don’t have the application open. In addition, you can set the app so that a puzzle must be solved before the alarm will stop ringing; a smart bonus that will help to rouse even the deepest of sleepers


Leave a comment

Filed under Technology

Those Tubes Leak Out The Darndest Things


Ellen Nakashima and Paul Kane at Washington Post:

House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July.

The report appears to have been inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, and it was provided to The Washington Post by a source not connected to the congressional investigations. The committee said Thursday night that the document was released by a low-level staffer.

The ethics committee is one of the most secretive panels in Congress, and its members and staff members sign oaths not to disclose any activities related to its past or present investigations. Watchdog groups have accused the committee of not actively pursuing inquiries; the newly disclosed document indicates the panel is conducting far more investigations than it had revealed.

Shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, the committee chairman,  Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), interrupted a series of House votes to alert lawmakers about the breach. She cautioned that some of the panel’s activities are preliminary and not a conclusive sign of inappropriate behavior.

“No inference should be made as to any member,” she said.

Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.), the committee’s ranking Republican, said the breach was an isolated incident.

The 22-page “Committee on Standards Weekly Summary Report” gives brief summaries of ethics panel investigations of the conduct of 19 lawmakers and a few staff members. It also outlines the work of the new Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body that initiates investigations and provides recommendations to the ethics committee. The document indicated that the office was reviewing the activities of 14 other lawmakers. Some were under review by both ethics bodies.

Mike Lillis at Washington Independent:

Yet few details contained in the leaked document are new (which makes some sense because it was prepared in July). There’s the investigation, for example, of lawmakers tied to PMA Group, the now-defunct lobbying shop that funneled millions of dollars of campaign contributions to members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which in turn directed more than $200 million to PMA clients. There’s the ongoing look at the personal finances of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the Ways and Means Chairman whose failure to include hundreds of thousands of dollars on financial disclosure forms has led to calls for his removal atop the committee. And there’s the case of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the House Financial Services member who organized a meeting between Treasury officials and the head of a bank in which her husband was heavily invested.

Yet these cases are all at least six months old. The fact that the ethics panel hasn’t reached any conclusions seems to reveal what many already suspect: that a system of having Congress investigate Congress is, at best, a conflict of interest, and, at worst, a stage show run by folks with no real appetite to punish colleagues.

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

It’s safe to say that Thursday was an eminently bad day for Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat. Lofgren, chair of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, thought much of the news cycle that day would revolve around a 20-page report clearing Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican who had been referred to the committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for “an appearance of a conflict of interest” over his wife’s involvement with a renewable fuels cooperative. The nearly 200-page report is not exactly flattering to the OCE and sources say Lofgren has long wanted to reclaim the first line of ethics investigations back directly under her committee. The OCE, an independent, bipartisan board of six appointees, was created in 2006 to “drain the swamp,” as Speaker Pelosi likes to say, after years of lackluster oversight at the Standards Committee.

But, then, a leak from the Standards Committee itself blew up the day. Lofgren ran to the House floor, announcing between votes that, “I regret to report that there was a cyber hacking incident of a confidential document of the committee,” she said. “A number of members have been contacted by the Washington Post that is in possession of the document.” The Post this morning led with a large headline: Dozens in Congress under ethics inquiry. The 22-page document, which includes ongoing OCE reviews ranging from queries of legality by members to stage two investigations, ironically proves the efficacy of the OCE – exactly what Lofgren didn’t want. She also surely got an earful from the dozens of angry members whose investigations and contacts have now been inadvertently outed, the preponderance of whom happen to be Democrats (I’m sure the leadership is loving that). And the repercussions have only just begun. The Post followed up that headline with a story about seven investigations into the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense (five Democrats, including the panel’s chairman Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, and two Republicans). And another story this morning about four members whose tax information has been requested by OCE – Reps. Eliot Engel, Doris Matsui, Edolphus Towns (chairman of the Oversight Committee) and Pete Stark – all Democrats.

PC Magazine’s Larry Seltzer:

According to a statement released by the US House of Representatives Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, often known as the Ethics Committee, a document describing investigations of over 30 house members and several aides was exposed on a public network because of “…the use of peer-to-peer file sharing software on the personal computer of a junior staffer, who is no longer employed by the committee, while working from home.”

The committee statement states that no matter how strong security systems are, humans can make mistakes that bypass them. There’s a lot of truth to this, although there are systems in place, often known as data loss prevention or DLP systems, that attempt to prevent the movement of sensitive data off of authorized networks. A Washington Post story on the breach implies that House members and staffers are permitted to take documents home for work, but quotes House administration rules as saying that if they do so they so: “all users of House sensitive information must protect the confidentiality of sensitive information” from unauthorized disclosure.

Those rules do not place any specific security requirements on home computers or others that are used for access of sensitive House data. They state, on the one hand, that sensitive House data should not leave House property. On the other they state that if the data is taken off property, that it should not leave the possession of authorized personnel and that those people need to protect it. This is not an adequately specific policy for computer security. Even assuming that the P2P software on the unfortunate staffer’s computer was legal and there intentionally and that saving the document publicly was an error, it’s still easy to lose such documents unintentionally through malware or error.

Soren Dayton at Redstate

Leave a comment

Filed under New Media, Politics, Technology

The Night They Drove Old G-mail Down


G-mail went down today.

David Besbris at The G-mail Blog:

We’ve fixed the issue, and Gmail should be back up and running as usual. We’re still investigating the root cause of this outage, and we’ll share more information soon. Thanks for bearing with us.

We know many of you are having trouble accessing Gmail right now — we are too, and we definitely feel your pain. We don’t usually post about minor issues here (the Apps status dashboard and the Gmail Help Center are usually where this kind of information goes). Because this is impacting so many of you, we wanted to let you know we’re currently looking into the issue and hope to have more info to share here shortly. If you have IMAP or POP set up already, you should be able to access your mail that way in the meantime. We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience and will get Gmail back up and running as soon as possible.

Nik Cubrilovic at Tech Crunch:

We wrote this morning about Gmail suffering some turbulence, but it appears now that it has completely crashed and disappeared. Both Apps For Domain and the usual consumer Gmail service are down completely. Google seem to be going backwards on fixing the problem, this morning they sent out an alert saying:

September 1, 2009 8:18:00 AM PDT
Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change.

I use Apps For Domain for everything – my contacts, my email, my todo list, my chat, my documents and more recently, my phone. As soon as it went down, I noticed in less than a second. I am now completely stuck, after a few months of being impressed by how I was able to run my entire life on Google.

It is not just the frontend that is down, but also the backend IMAP and POP servers (Update: they are up, but slow). This is a huge fail for Google, considering how admired they are for all the technology they have built internally to scale out their applications.

Ben Parr at Mashable:

As you’re probably aware, Gmail’s been down for an extended period of time today. It’s placed stress on Twitter (Twitter) and other parts of the Internet as people have panicked at every opportunity (for example, most of the Mashable (Mashable) team). Gmail (Gmail) seems to be back up, however. We just got through, although I had to prove I was not an evil robot attacking Google (Google). We haven’t received word from Google yet as to what caused the downtime.

Harry McCracken at Technologizer:

Sweeping Gmail blackouts remain relative rarities, but I’ve been increasingly frustrated with the service’s reliability recently. It often conks out on me temporarily, or behaves so slowly that it might as well be unavailable–and while the cause remains mysterious, I’ve experienced the same symptoms on multiple browsers on different PCs on a variety of networks.

Just this morning, I was soberly considering whether it was time to regretfully move on to something I might find less flaky. I’m still thinking that over, but today’s meltdown has convinced me that at the very least I need to be downloading my messages. I’m a mostly-happy Google freeloader, but the Gmail I’ve been using of late simply isn’t reliable enough to run a business on.

Chloe Albanesius at PCMag

Ryan Singel at Wired

Michelle Malkin:

Gmail has been down for at least an hour.

But don’t complain too loudly about it.

You know how Rahm Emanuel likes to exploit a crisis…and the last thing we need is another Email Czar.


WE HATE TO BE LIKE THOSE PEOPLE WHO THINK A TEMPORARY GMAIL CRASH IS WORSE THAN HITLER & THE APOCALYPSE COMBINED BUT HONESTLY, IT’S JUST REALLY INCONVENIENT: As an actual monster once wrote, “Torture always is ugly. So, though, is the hole in the ground where the Gmail once stood.” Oh ho ho — but now it’s back up and working again? Thank you for keeping us safe, Dick Cheney!

James Fallows:

Depending on how long this takes to clear up — next few minutes, another hour or two — will no doubt set off various speculation about the vulnerability of cloud computing, about whether there are some aspects of scale too vast even for the unimaginably vast collection of Google servers, whether Twitter (now ablaze with reports) could be brought down in collateral damage, and so on. All of that in due course. Right now, it’s like living through real-time tech history!

1 Comment

Filed under Technology

Twitter Down! Facebook Down! Man The Barricades!

Twitter went down yesterday and is still having problems.

Zack Whittaker at ZDNet:

Twitter came under a co-ordinated denial-of-service (DOS) attack earlier on today which left the site paralysed for a good hour or so.

At roughly 7am PST the site was attacked in a co-ordinated fashion, and the entire network was down for at least 30 minutes. Over the last couple of years, the site stability has been quite strong and the infrastructure was strengthened through a series of updates and scheduled downtime. However, there is little-to-nothing any site can do against denial of service attacks unless they have direct support from their service or network provider.

The ironic thing was that people were trying to use Twitter to search for tweets which told them if Twitter was down, or going down.

[…] As a result, it appeared that Facebook was also down for a short amount of time possibly due to the sudden influx of users who have both Twitter and Facebook accounts; due to another concurrent denial-of service attack which “degraded” service. With one network out of action, users didn’t help the matter by using their one remaining choice of social network, but had no idea they were helping the attackers at the time.

(Well, I went outside into the sunshine and mowed the lawn. I have a life outside my office.)

twitter-deadTechnology Talks:

A DDOS attack on Twitter cannot be cured by an ordinary antivirus software. It cannot be addressed by simply looking at admin pages. It might take a while before a DDOS attack can be fully inspected, studied and countered. Look at Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and other social networks which are constantly bombarded by viruses and malwares. They too are vulnerable to these attacks. Large websites like Twitter and even online stores, can really be hacked  and attacked. These malicious programmers will not rest until there are sites to hack and people to annoy. That’s the sad thing about life online.  Too bad, hacking is a given practice on the web. And it’s on of those many online security issues that will not go away soon.

Channel Web

Lance Ulanoff at PCMag:

This has nothing to do with Twitter going down, or my shaking in a corner as I go Twitter cold turkey. Except that it does. The only way Twitter could have been attacked like this—and so successfully—is if millions of infected zombie PCs suddenly attacked the service. Usually, a company doesn’t even realize it’s under attack until it’s too late and the service is offline. Based on the initial messages we saw from Twitter, it didn’t know what was happening until Twitter crashed. Again, that’s because a DDoS doesn’t attack the server as much as the service. It simply floods the system with requests until it chokes. Someone did program the bot to do this and while this person didn’t have to do anything yesterday—except pray that there were enough infected PCs out there (thanks to all of you) to make it happen—he certainly knew when it would happen.

In other words, there is someone other than you to blame, but good luck finding that person. Wouldn’t it be easier for all of us to install security software, pay for the updates, run regular scans, and stop doing risky things online? Yes, it would. And then that one evil person would be writing malware bots that go no further than his own desktop, making future DDoS attacks virtually impossible.

Earlier in the week, other major sites, including LiveJournal and The Consumerist, were nearly laid low by a DDoS. Facebook got wobbly, too, yesterday, but somehow held up. The reason Twitter has been up and down is that the bots are continuing to work and may be programmed to switch up the ports they’re attacking. So just when Twitter gets ahead of one, it’s already mobilizing the attack on another.


PC World’s Juan Carlos Perez:

The DOS (denial-of-service) attack that crippled Twitter on Thursday is still affecting the micro-blogging service on Friday, the company said in a blog post.

Specifically, Twitter has had to take defensive actions that are preventing some third-party Twitter applications from communicating with the company’s API (application programming interface).

In addition, many users can’t post Twitter messages via SMS (Short Message Service), as Twitter continues to defend itself against the attack, which the company described as “ongoing” in the blog.

“Due to defensive measures we’ve taken against the ongoing denial-of-service attack, some Twitter clients are unable to communicate with our API, and many users are unable to tweet via SMS,” reads the blog post. “We are working as quickly as possible to restore our full service.”

The DOS attack hit several sites, including LiveJournal and Facebook, but Twitter has been by far the most affected, as it went offline for hours on Thursday.

But who did this? Richard Koman at ZDNet:

Now it seems the whole thing was an attack on one person – a pro-Georgian user with the screen name Cyxymu.

[The] attack appears to be directed at an individual who has a presence on a number of sites, rather than the sites themselves,” a Facebook spokesman told BBC News. “Specifically, the person is an activist blogger and a botnet was directed to request his pages at such a rate that it impacted service for other users.”

No one seems to know who launched the attack but Cyxymu told the Guardian:

Maybe it was carried out by ordinary hackers but I’m certain the order came from the Russian government.

Cnet and other sites quote Facebook security chief Max Kelly, who said:

“It was a simultaneous attack across a number of properties targeting him to keep his voice from being heard,” Kelly said. “We’re actively investigating the source of the attacks, and we hope to be able to find out the individuals involved in the back end and to take action against them, if we can.”

“You have to ask who would benefit the most from doing this and think about what those people are doing and the disregard for the rest of the users and the Internet.”

As to the whether it was the Russian government (no stranger to cyberwar activities), Kelly said:

The people who are coordinating this attack, the criminals, are definitely determined and using a lot of resources. If they’re asking our infrastructure to generate hundreds of pages a second, that’s a lot of pages our users can’t see.

Izabella Kaminska at Financial Times:

Considering the role Twitter played in distributing unfiltered information on the political protests that transpired after Iran’s recent elections, it does make sense that politically motivated groups might want to bring down a network so perfectly suited to misinformation outflow as Twitter.

The timing of the attack, meanwhile — a day before the one-year anniversary of Georgia’s conflict with Russia over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia — also does make one think.

Katherine Rust at The Atlantic:

Never fear, we’ve scoured the Atlantic’s twitter feed from 4 hours ago up until now to give you a sense of the news-worthy items being tweeted from the world of analysts and commentators. See below.

John Dickerson:
@jdickersonDuring Twitter outage I wrote a novel and built a kit car. You?

@allahpunditAlex Jones’s next video. Enjoy, Ron Paul fans: http://is.gd/24Rxj

Ana Marie Cox
@anamariecoxCute. Overload. http://tr.im/vJye
Spencer Ackerman
@attackermanHong Kong Garden is looking like a mistake on day 2. #blasphemy

Duncan Black
@Atriosfascinated by number of people who leave baseball games around 7th inning stretch

Daniel Gross
@grossdmWhat is this, 1997? Sarah Palin dines at old-media hot-spot Michael’s. http://tr.im/vII9 It’s the 2009 equivalent of Nixon going to China.

David Sirota
@davidsirotaI’m approaching the 5k friend limit on Facebook – kinda bummed out. This SF Chron column sums up my feelings http://tinyurl.com/nvmcuj

Patrick Gavin

Markos Moulitsas
@markosm Huh, turns out Nigerian birth certificates look nothing like Australian ones. http://bit.ly/EH70f

Megan McCain
@McCainBlogette NY Daily News thinks I am a contender to replace Paula on Idol http://bit.ly/i8XRP

@McCainBlogette FYI, that article is total satire, William Hung is also a “contender”

Matt Yglesias
@mattyglesiasTwitter’s return is a great chance to tweet these sexy topless putin pix: http://bit.ly/M44hc

@twitterQuiet morning but lots of sun! http://flic.kr/p/6MkkN2

Leave a comment

Filed under New Media, Russia, Technology