Tag Archives: ZDNet

Gawker And Apple, Yet Again

Ryan Tate at Gawker:

Apple has suffered another embarrassment. A security breach has exposed iPad owners including dozens of CEOs, military officials, and top politicians. They—and every other buyer of the cellular-enabled tablet—could be vulnerable to spam marketing and malicious hacking.

The breach, which comes just weeks after an Apple employee lost an iPhone prototype in a bar, exposed the most exclusive email list on the planet, a collection of early-adopter iPad 3G subscribers that includes thousands of A-listers in finance, politics and media, from New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson to Diane Sawyer of ABC News to film mogul Harvey Weinstein to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It even appears that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s information was compromised.

It doesn’t stop there. According to the data we were given by the web security group that exploited vulnerabilities on the AT&T network, we believe 114,000 user accounts have been compromised, although it’s possible that confidential information about every iPad 3G owner in the U.S. has been exposed. We contacted Apple for comment but have yet to hear back. We also reached out to AT&T for comment. [Update: AT&T has confirmed the breach and the FBI has opened an investigation. Updates below.] A call to Rahm Emanuel’s office at the White House has not been returned.

Taylor Buley at Forbes:

Gawker contributor Ryan Tate set the Web ablaze on Wednesday with a blog post detailing the alleged breach of 114,000 iPad users’ email addresses. The post named names: among them, executives at News Corp, The New York Times Company and Dow Jones.

According to “Weev,” a well known Internet “activist” who we likened to Shakespeare’s Puck after a baffling Amazon.com security incident last year, the “Goatse” security group alerted various members of the mainstream press via email before granting Gawker’s Tate an exclusive on the data.

“i disclosed this to other press organizations first (ones who had ipad users affected by the breach, lol) and was ignored,” writes Weev in an email. “gawker found out and ran with it immediately.”

To prove it, Weev sent Forbes copies of emails sent to press at Reuters, News Corp, The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle. The veracity of the emails has not been confirmed, but each has a timestamp dating back to Sunday night.


Asked if Gawker paid for the scoop, Weev said the publication did not provide remuneration. “we did a benefit analysis and decided they could take our story viral the fastest,” he writes in an email.

Hello Reuters!

An information leak on AT&T’s network allows severe privacy violations to iPad 3G users. Your iPad’s unique network identifiers were pulled straight out of AT&T’s database.

Every GSM device (including 3G iPads), has an ICC-ID on its SIM card. This ICC-ID is a unique identifier to the cellular network that is used by the carrier to route calls to your cellphone. If this ICC-ID is compromised an attacker could theoretically (thanks to recent cryptanalysis that cracked GSM’s hash and stream functions) clone your SIM card to act as you on the AT&T network.

Devin, the iPad you registered to your email has the ICC-ID of 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx94.
Shannon, yours is 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx73.
James, yours is 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx74.
Carl, yours is 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx72.
David, yours is 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx71.
Neil, yours is 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx05.
Rob, yours is 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx03.
Joseph, yours is 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx11.
Mike, yours is 8901xxxxxxxxxxxxxx57.

You can locate your ICC-ID number of your iPad and verify this information by using the following item from Apple’s FAQ:
There is nothing in Apple’s SDK APIs that would allow an application to have this identifier– it is a shared secret that should indicate physical proximity to the iPad. In addition, by harvesting ICC-IDs, an attacker can build a complete list of contact information for all iPad 3G customers. All these Thomson Reuters employees were revealed in a short data harvest by my working group along with hundreds of thousands of other iPad 3G customers.

If anyone in your organization would like to discuss this particular issue for publication I would be absolutely happy to describe the method of theft in more detail.

Have a good evening.

John Hudson at The Atlantic

David Coldewey at Crunch Gear:

he hackers, a group known as Goatse Security (I’ll let you work out the reasoning for the name yourself), organized a brute-force attack in which they pummeled a public AT&T script with semirandom ICC-ID numbers, which would return nothing if invalid but an email address if valid. A few hours later, they had the ICC-IDs and email addresses of everyone from Michael Bloomberg and Diane Sawyer to a Mr. Eldredge, who commands a fleet of B-1 bombers.As is occasionally the case with grey-hat hacker actions like this, the hack seems to have been executed first and AT&T notified shortly afterward — though not before an unknown number of third parties had access to the script. AT&T closed the hole immediately (it was as simple as turning off the script), and apologized as follows:

AT&T was informed by a business customer on Monday of the potential exposure of their iPad ICC IDS. The only information that can be derived from the ICC IDS is the e-mail address attached to that device.

This issue was escalated to the highest levels of the company and was corrected by Tuesday; and we have essentially turned off the feature that provided the e-mail addresses.

The person or group who discovered this gap did not contact AT&T.

We are continuing to investigate and will inform all customers whose e-mail addresses and ICC IDS may have been obtained.

We take customer privacy very seriously and while we have fixed this problem, we apologize to our customers who were impacted.

Impacted. Like wisdom teeth. Why not “affected?” Anyway, I notice they say they were not contacted by the group but by some business customer. The timing isn’t clear from the Gawker article, but I wonder if there’s a little more to this than anyone cares to admit. Groups like Goatse often warn their targets beforehand, but it seems like one or the other would have mentioned that if it happened. You’d think a company as exposed as AT&T would have bells on its scripts that would ring if suddenly requests increased by 1000%, but practices like that are perhaps too much to be expected.

Jason O’Grady at ZDNet:

Even worse is the potential security threat this could expose to members of the military that adopted the iPad. On the list are several devices registered to the domain of DARPA, the advanced research division of the Department of Defense, including William Eldredge, who “commands the largest operational B-1 [strategic bomber] group in the U.S. Air Force.”

Um, yeah. It’s that bad.

Media moguls and celebrities are one thing, but I’m guessing that the government and military users are taking this one pretty seriously too.I’m guessing that Al Qaeda would pay big bucks to have access to Eldridge’s iPad 3G?

According to data furnished to Gawker by the Web security group that exploited vulnerabilities on the AT&T network at least 114,000 user accounts have been compromised, although it’s possible that confidential information about every U.S. iPad 3G owner in the U.S. has been exposed.

Tony Bradley at PC World:

In truth, there was nothing elite (or ‘l33t’ in hacker speak) about the iPad 3G data leak. In fact, according to an interview on CBS News by Larry Magid with Goatse Security analyst Jim Jeffers, the security researchers more or less stumbled upon the authentication glitch. Jeffers said the exploit “was almost discovered by accident. One of our employees is an iPad 3G subscriber, and he noticed it in the process of the normal user experience of this device. It was something he just noticed as he was using it.”

Sort of like how finding and taking a car with the driver’s door open, keys in the ignition, and engine on does not make one an elite car thief. The lesson for IT administrators is to be more vigilant about closing these holes and making sure that the car door isn’t open, with the keys in the ignition, and the engine on–especially for Web-facing servers.

There is an entire genre of hacking dedicated to finding sensitive or confidential data inadvertently exposed to the Web. The book Google Hacking by Johnny Long, and the accompanying online Google Hacking Database, list hundreds of search queries that can be used to ferret out juicy information not meant for public consumption. It is actually not unique to Google. It should be called “Web search hacking”, but Google is essentially synonymous with Web search and “Google hacking” has a better ring to it.

George Kurtz, McAfee CTO and proud owner of not one, but two iPads, provides a detailed analysis of the iPad 3G data leak in which he ponders, “why is there such a dust storm over the recent AT&T/Apple iPad disclosure of 114,000 iPad owners and is it warranted?”

Kara Swisher at All Things Digital:

Now the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the AT&T breach, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, in what seems to be an early probe.

Oooh, the Feds are involved now.

I wish I could say it will make a difference. Because it won’t.

In fact, coming on the heels of privacy controversies at Facebook and Google (GOOG), it’s just another log on the digital fire that has been burning up privacy for a very long time now.

And now more than ever, it is part of a massive confluence of trends, including:

Consumers more interested than ever in sharing information about themselves in order to make ever better social networking connections online; a plethora of innovative devices–mostly mobile–and Internet tools available to seamlessly and easily allow those consumers to do so; and, perhaps most of all, Internet companies intent on hoovering up as much information as possible, in order to garner more consumers and sell it to advertisers.

In large part, this is all well and good, creating a range of valuable and entertaining services at little or no cost and making the computing experience more personal and relevant.

Because of that, I have to admit I was less tweaked than I thought I would be, although I wish I were not.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose email was also compromised, expressed the feeling best.

“It shouldn’t be pretty hard to figure out my email address,” he was quoted saying in the Journal article. “To me, it wasn’t that big a deal.”

That’s because all of us are thinking less that such information is private or will remain that way for long.

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Scour The Internets And Find Us A Creative, Funny Title About Net Neutrality, Please

Sam Diaz at ZDNet:

The Washington Post is reporting today that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski may be leaning toward keeping broadband services deregulated, a move that industry watchdogs claim would be a Net Neutrality killer.

The buzz around Genachowski’s position on broadband regulation comes as the chairman is weighing his response to a court ruling last month that found that the FCC does not have the authority to require Comcast (and other broadband providers) to treat all Internet traffic the same on its network.

That’s a big victory for the providers and a blow to the FCC, which could face a legal challenge of its authority every time it tries to address a broadband policy.

The Post story cites three agency sources who say that Genachowski has not made a final decision but is leaning toward keeping things as-is. The sources told the Post that reclassifying broadband for greater regulation would be “burdensome on carriers and would deter investment.” However, the chairman is also looking at making some changes that would give the FCC more teeth in overseeing some broadband policies.

Marvin Ammori:

A somewhat obtuse Washington Post article today says that the FCC Chairman is considering a “deregulatory” framework for Internet access.

Translating the article is simple for those watching this debate at political sites: the FCC is considering following the Bush administration’s disastrous policies of stripping itself of jurisdiction over Internet access, treating such access as effectively un-regulatable “information services.” The FCC’s recent loss at the D.C. Circuit made it clear that the practical effect of such a decision would be to hand the Internet over to the phone and cable companies, undermining innovation, competition online, and Americans’ interests in free speech, in privacy, and in associations. The FCC would then face insurmountable legal obstacles to pursuing network neutrality, a common-sense policy that would forbid cable and phone companies from doing what they’ve long lobbied to do: block or discriminate against websites and applications on the Internet. This would violate Obama campaign promises. (See clips here and here, for example.)

This episode is an example of what Jack Balkin often writes about—how the most important free speech issues of our day will not be decided by the Supreme Court but through technical decisions by bodies like the FCC. And they will be decided not by lawyers or engineers or policy experts, but perhaps by lobbyists and executives working for the phone and cable companies. These lobbyists are urging the FCC to follow the path of bureaucrats and politicians before them: break a promise to the public, but do it in an obscure, technical-sounding way so that nobody understands, until it’s too late.

At the heart of the debate is the issue of Internet openness – whether to allow the phone and cable companies to control everything you do on the Internet, or to ensure that the network infrastructure provides access to an open, unfettered space for communications. Many scholars have written in this space – Jack Balkin, Larry Lessig, Yochai Benkler, Barbara van Schewick, Tim Wu, Mark Lemley, Susan Crawford, and Brett Frischmann, to name a few. All of them have supported control by the public over control by the phone and cable execs. Tim Wu, Susan Crawford, and I explained the legal issue in a letter to the Chairman we sent last Friday.

Scott Cleland:

If accurate, this is outstanding news.

Keeping broadband deregulated is in the public interest because it:

  • Respects the rule of law, Congress’ Constitutional authority to set interstate communications policy, the Constitution’s protections, and court precedent.
  • Encourages private investment and innovation.
  • Provides the greatest opportunity for economic growth/prosperity, and job creation.
  • Preserves the stability and continuity of current facilities-based broadband competition policy.
  • Continues Congress’ bipartisan Internet policy in law to keep the “competitive free market… Internet… unfettered by Federal… regulation.”
  • Keeps the Internet user-centric and highly responsive to user needs, wants and concerns.
  • Encourages public-private cooperation to get broadband to all Americans fastest under the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.
  • Averts mandating Title II price-regulation (bit-metering) of Internet traffic for the first time.

Nancy Scola at Tapped:

This is a case of ever-shrinking jurisdiction. The Bush-era FCC, in a blaze of deregulatory fervor, decided that broadband Internet wouldn’t be treated like, for example, the telephone, where there’s an expectation that telecom infrastructure is open and designed to best meet the needs of the greatest number of people. Instead, broadband became an “information service” regulated with only the lightest of touches. When the FCC did hold telecoms responsible for breaches, they did it by extrapolating existing authority under the law.

But then, in April, they were told by the D.C. Circuit that they actually lacked the jurisdiction to tell Comcast that they couldn’t filter BitTorrent traffic. In the wake of Comcast v. FCC, advocates argued that the time was well nigh for Genachowski to simply reclaim broadband as a common carrier service. The alternative was to wait for Congress. But there were fears that that the telecoms hold too much sway on the Hill and that Congress, given an inch of the Internet to regulate, will take a mile. If the Post‘s reporting is correct, Genachowski is choosing a third way — simply hanging on to whatever authority the courts and the law have left to the FCC, and trying to hold the telecoms accountable that way. If that’s indeed the FCC’s plan, it’s kinda laughable. It’s like switching to a knife in a gun fight you’re already losing.

Peter Suderman at Reason:

It’s also possible that the FCC could go back to Congress for additional regulatory  authority. Though I don’t think a Net neutrality bill is likely to pass through the Senate this session, it’s not totally impossible. And even if no legislation pops up in the short term, Genachowski’s expected decision could help fuel long-term efforts to explicitly beef up the agency’s authority over broadband providers through legislation.

More on Net neutrality and Title I/Title II here, here, and here.

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Broadband Across America

Grant Gross at PC World:

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will seek to take back 120MHz of spectrum from U.S. television stations in the next five years and reallocate it to wireless broadband providers in a voluntary program that would allow the stations to share or keep spectrum auction revenues, under a national broadband plan that will be officially released Tuesday.

The FCC would seek approval from Congress to conduct “incentive auctions” of unused spectrum, including TV spectrum, and the agency could either act as a third-party auctioneer of the spectrum or share the auction proceeds with the sellers, according to the broadband plan, which the FCC released to reporters Monday.

The TV spectrum auctions are part of a goal to free up 500MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband over the next decade, one of the major goals of the 400-page broadband plan. If, however, the FCC doesn’t get enough volunteers to free up spectrum, it will look for other ways to take back the spectrum, but FCC officials said Monday they expect to get enough TV stations to give up their extra spectrum in exchange for auction proceeds.

Ryan Singel at Wired:

The FCC is set to share the nation’s first official broadband plan with Congress Tuesday, a sort of Declaration of the Internet which seeks to ensure that a fast broadband connection is just as much an unalienable right as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That’s pretty ambitious, but the FCC is as unambiguous about its intentions as the Colonists were about throwing off the yoke another form of oppression. For example, goal number three states that “Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.”

Still the plan, put together by the FCC after months of hearings and public comment periods, turns out, in details, to be pragmatic and reformist, rather than revolutionary. That is, at least according to a summary (.pdf) released Monday.

The FCC is calling for more competition among broadband providers, more spectrum for wireless data services, subsidies for rural and poor citizens, and education for the digitally challenged. There’s a little bit for every constituency, from those who worry most about the digital divide to those who see a future where all health records are digital and networked.

There’s not much for those who dreamed of a drastic call for an all-fiber network to be built and subsidized by the government. There is, in fact, no government building of public networks at all. Nor is there much in the way of support for municipalities and states.

And for those itching for a confrontation between users and the big telecoms, the plan will disappoint since it steers clear of controversial topics such whether the wireless industry has to follow the same open requirements now applied to DSL and cable companies, and whether those who own the infrastructure connecting people to the net have to rent their lines to competing services at a fair price.

Though we don’t have full details of the plan yet, the insight we gain from the executive summary shows that Washington may have finally reached a “we get it” moment when it comes to technology. Broadband access isn’t just about rural America checking out YouTube videos. This is also about creating the broadband infrastructure that can drive future innovation on the homefront, update public safety, education, health care and energy to improve efficiency and grow jobs by fueling competition.

And it’s also not a policy that can be set in stone. Ten years seems like an eternity in Internet years, but it’s smart for the government to look at a long-term plan. There’s no way such ambitious goals can be rolled out in a year or two, There are a lot of moving parts and if the timeline – which we should see next – is a good one, hopefully some short-term advancements will offer a peek of what’s still to come.

Nancy Scola at Tapped:

The absence of creative thinking in this new plan is particularly worrisome because the small crew within the FCC that produced it had the chance to stir passions about what our broadband future might look like. The National Broadband Plan isn’t a set of regulations. It’s not a piece of legislation. It was meant to be an aspirational plan, but it’s not that aspirational. Blair Levin, the seemingly autonomous point-person appointed by Chairman Genachowski, talks about the FCC like Alaskans talk about the United States. It’s not clear if recommendations in the plan made to the FCC will actually be regulations made by the FCC. In other words, is the FCC prepared to actually enact the policies, like form new public-private partnerships or re-purpose the Universal Service Fund from telephones to broadband? I was told the FCC commissioners — the people with the power to turn the plan into action — had seen the report as early as a full month ago and had access to the broadband team’s staff.

Nicholas Deleon at Crunch Gear:

Up until a moment ago, this was going to be a standard “newsy” post: the FCC will announce its National Broadband Plan on Tuesday, here’s what it’s all about. Then I read the comments of a PC World article discussing that very same plan—many people are outraged that the government would muscle its way into the free market! If Americans wanted fast broadband then the market would provide it on its own terms. That, of course, is complete nonsense: plenty of Americans live in one-ISP towns, and if said ISP provides terrible service, well, though cookies, chico. This is America! Love it or leave it~!

And really, the FCC isn’t doing anything particularly controversial, at least I don’t think it’s controversial. All it’s doing is saying, by 2020, we’d like to see 100 million homes (out of an estimated 130 million homes come 2020) have access to broadband with speeds of up to 100 mbps. Some people already have access to that type of Internet connection, myself included. Other ISPs, including universally loathed Comcast, plans to roll out 100 mbps service in the coming months. So it’s not like the FCC is making some sort of unreasonable demand: the market has already decided that it’s worth its while to deploy 100 mbps service all over the country. A cynic might say that the FCC knows this, that 100 mbps service is closer than you might otherwise think, and is merely latching itself onto the ISPs so that it can be all, “See, FCC = leadership.” But don’t be cynical, don’t hold grudges: while you’re holding a grudge, the other guy is dancing.

I don’t know, I suppose it makes sense to get into this a bit more when the FCC actually makes the Plan public on Tuesday. But for now, all I have to say is: chill out. Not everything the government announces is tantamount to quartering British soldiers in your house without permission. I suppose I’m talking to people right now who actually believe, and understand, that a wired country is truly in the best interests of everyone.

So on Tuesday, Grant Gross at PC World:

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission officially released the country’s first national broadband plan Tuesday, and one of its major goals is to bring broadband service to all U.S. residents.

The FCC meeting Tuesday was a bit anticlimactic, because commission officials had conducted briefings on the major proposals in the 360-page plan in recent weeks. The FCC on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a two-page joint statement on broadband, but did not vote on the broadband plan in its entirety.

The approximately 200 recommendations in the broadband plan will need to be approved separately, FCC officials said. The agency is planning a series of about 40 notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) in coming months, and some recommendations in the plan will need action from the U.S. Congress. The FCC also makes a series of recommendations to other U.S. government agencies.

Jared Newman at PC World:

The actual implementation of the plan could change lawmakers get their hands on it, but here’s an early look at who gains and who loses from the national broadband plan:

Winner: 100 Million Patient Homes, Plus Communities

One major long-term goal of the plan is to provide 100 million homes with 100 Mbps broadband, and to install 1 Gbps broadband at community sites such as schools and government buildings, all by 2020. That’s an eternity in Internet time, but it’ll ultimately mean that most homes and communities could have blazing-fast connections.

Winner: People Who Can’t Afford or Access the Internet

Another major goal is the availability of free or cheap wireless broadband, coming from wireless spectrum that the FCC will identify for auction. The point is to provide basic Internet nationwide for people who otherwise can’t afford it.

Winner: Wireless Carriers

Companies like Verizon Wireless and AT&T are dying for more wireless spectrum to feed a growing number of data-hungry smartphones. The FCC plans to throw them a bone with 500 MHz of spectrum. Wireless industry group CTIA is thrilled.

Loser: Broadcast Television

The government is largely relying on broadcasters to voluntarily give up some of their spectrum so it can be used for broadband. Broadcasters like having the choice, but worry that the government might force them to give up spectrum if they don’t play along. Things could get ugly if broadcasters have to start sharing spectrum or use low-power cellular transmitters to broadcast. People who rely on broadcast TV may find that service is merely surviving, rather than improving.

Loser: Lawmakers

Members of Congress were the ones who mandated a national broadband plan, but now they’ve got the unenviable task of figuring out what to do with it. The total cost of the plan could range from $12 billion to $25 billion, and though the FCC hopes those costs can be recouped by auctioning spectrum, it might be a hard sell to taxpayers.

Unknown: Internet Service Providers

Companies such as Comcast are getting a hand from the FCC to build their infrastructure and offer better service to more people. But government help raises questions of how much regulation those companies will face, and whether they should continue to rely on private investment. Service providers seem happy about the proposal for now, but things could change as lawmakers and the FCC delve deeper into the issue of national broadband.

UPDATE: Farhad Manjoo in Slate

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Good & Plenty Would Have Meant Expulsion

Robert X. Cringely at PC World:

In case you haven’t been following the plot of Webcamgate, starring the Lower Merion School District in Southeastern Pennsylvania and a cast of thousands, here’s the skinny.


Last week the Robbins family, whose son Blake attends LMSD’s Harriton High, filed a class-action suit against the district alleging that it’s been spying on its students via webcams on school-supplied MacBooks.

The suit came about after Blake Robbins was called into the assistant principal Lindy Matsko’s office last November to discuss “inappropriate behavior” he was displaying — at home. The proof? A snapshot of him taken with his laptop’s Webcam.

Apparently Matsko thought Blake was popping pills. According to Robbins, he was merely eating candy: Mike-N-Ikes. (A classic gateway drug — before you know it, he’ll be deep into Good-N-Plenty and then totally hooked on Tic Tacs.)

The idea that the school could peer into the Robbins’ home — and by implication, the homes of nearly 2,400 other students in the district — blew their minds. It also may have violated dozens of federal and state laws regarding privacy, wiretapping, and electronic communications, as alleged in their suit PDF.

The school district’s response? Yes, we have the ability to activate students’ webcams remotely, but it’s strictly used for tracking lost or stolen laptops, says school superintendent Dr. Christopher W. McGinley. No, we didn’t tell any of the students or their families about it. Oops. Our bad.

Jeff Porten at PC World:

How exactly did the school district get access to students’ Webcams? Well, Lower Merion installed security software on the Macs it issued to 2300 students, but never disclosed the possibility that they could be remotely monitored for audio and video input–which could be illegal under federal and state laws governing topics like wiretaps and computer-instrusion.

An analysis of how MacBooks could be used this way was posted by a security researcher writing under the (presumed) pseudonym of Stryde Hax. According to Hax, Lower Merion used LANRev software (recently rebranded Absolute Manage) to implement both the system lockdown and remote access on the MacBooks. LANRev includes camera, screenshot, and IP location tracking in its monitoring as an antitheft tool.

Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young claimed that this antitheft tracking was used 42 times when laptops were reported stolen, and led to the recovery of 28 of them. He said the policy of using Webcam shots only for devices reported stolen was never broken, but he couldn’t comment specifically on the Robbins case.

That contradicts anecdotal evidence compiled by Hax, who searched message boards used by Lower Merion high school students, and found many reports of iSight cameras powering up, as indicated by a brief flicker of the LED light next to the camera. Some students even put tape over their iSight cameras to prevent them from operating, but most were assured by the district that the light was a “common MacBook glitch.” The LANRev software apparently disabled the cameras for all other uses; students were unable to use PhotoBooth or video chat, so apparently most of them believed that the camera did not work at all.

Doug Hanchard at ZDNet:

Assistant Vice Principal Lynn Matsko of Harriton High School, who is at the center of current allegations of being personally involved in the Lower Merion District School board’s webcam spy scandal, has launched a vigorous defense.

CBS News Radio station KYW Newsradio 1060 recorded Matsko’s statement in a press conference.

Matsko did not go into details of who is being investigated.

It should be noted, all reports filed by ZDNet, CNET, and KYW Radio,  that at no time has anyone suggested that the web cams were recording motion video with audio. There are news reports suggesting that complete video’s including audio have been recorded by Harriton H.S. and archived, none of which can be verified after several attempts to do so. Still images have been admitted to being ‘archived’ by School spokesperson Doug Young. If accurate, this potentially limits what charges the FBI agents would recommend to federal attorney Michael Levy (Philadelphia) to file against Lower Merion District School officials. While Vice Principal Matsko fights to be absolved of personal accusations of spying on her students, Matsko still has to answer to the school board and investigators as supervisor of the staff of her school’s IT department. Repercussions including possible suspension or dismissal from the board. Matsko repeatedly stated school officials continue to fully cooperate with local and federal investigators.

Further research reveals that the Lower Merion School Board was using software installed on all its Mac Laptops developed by LANrev which specializes in asset tracking. LANrev maybe familiar to some of you; the company was acquired last year by Absolute Software, based in Vancouver, B.C., makers of LOJACK for cars and computers.

John Biggs at Crunch Gear:

The Lower Merion School District (motto: “We’re Building the Future Police State”), caught using a remote monitoring service on school-supplied laptops while the kids were at home, had some pretty creepy rules on the books to ensure compliance. To wit we find, thanks to strydehax, these gems:

* Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes
* Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated

* Disabling the camera was impossible

* Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion

Expulsion, eh? Pretty rough stuff. But shouldn’t the school district be able to protect their investment? Well, the reason this all came up was that a kid in the district was caught eating Mike-n-Ikes at home. The principal called him in for eating candy and, presumably, this school watching this kid in his own room. This means, in an effort to prevent theft, there was some potential pedophilia happening here.

MadisonConservative at Hot Air:

This poor kid is being harassed and accused of criminal activity, but we all know situations that potentially could be far worse. Suppose cameras were turned on when students were getting dressed, or were just out of the shower. Suppose they were on when students were doing one of the many activities that becomes common during puberty. Lately, it’s become clear that some teachers are exploring “perks” of their profession. Hell, we’re lucky if we can undo the more and more common brainwashing being used on kids when they get home.

So which scares you more about your children and technology? To Catch A Predator, or this? Frankly…I’m torn.

Julian Sanchez:

When it’s a carefully-worded statement from Lindy Matsko, the vice principal implicated in the Pennsylvania school webcam spying lawsuit:

“At no time have I ever monitored a student via a laptop webcam,” said Matsko, who is in her 25th year working for Lower Merion School District, “nor have I ever authorized the monitoring of a student via a laptop webcam, either at school or in the home. And I never would.”

Nobody ever claimed that Matsko personally conducted webcam surveillance of students. Nor does the complaint allege that she gave some kind of order to individually target any particular student.  If we believe the district’s claim about how it uses its remote monitoring software—and there’s some reason for doubt—then the laptop camera was probably activated by a tech trying to determine whether the student had taken home a temporary “loaner” laptop that was supposed to remain at school.  The tech may have then seen what looked like drugs on the student’s desk, and forwarded the image to Matsko.  In other words, everything Matsko says here and the allegations made by the student and his family can both be wholly true.

She later added that, in more than a decade as assistant vice principal, she had “never disciplined a student” for actions beyond school property that had no connection to a school-related event, apparently in response to the Robbins lawsuit’s allegation the student learned of the webcam surveillance from a school disciplinary action.

Again, nothing here is actually inconsistent with the complaint.  The claim made there is that the student was called into Matsko’s office and accused of “inappropriate behavior” at home, captured by the school webcam.  There’s no mention of any disciplinary action being taken. The student has since explained that he was questioned about possession of something that appeared to be drugs, but which he says were Mike & Ike candies (of which he is apparently a notoriously ravenous consumer).  Maybe he explained this and they believed him.  Or maybe they didn’t, but decided to drop it since there was no real way to prove otherwise.

UPDATE: William Bender


UPDATE #2: More Atrios

Ann Althouse

Radley Balko


Filed under Education, Technology

In Bloom

Jeff Bertolucci at PC World:

Now that Bloom Energy has unveiled its innovative fuel cell technology to the world, it appears the much-hyped Silicon Valley startup’s “Energy Server” shows a lot of promise, particularly for Fortune 500 companies that can afford the parking lot-sized power boxes priced up to $800,000 apiece.

But is the Bloom box too good to be true? We may not know for years, of course, although early reports from an impressive lineup of beta testers, including Bank of America, Coca-Cola, eBay, FedEx, Google, and Wal-Mart, are showing sizable reductions in both energy costs and CO2 emissions [PDF]. A power generator that saves money and the environment? This must be Tomorrowland!

Well, Bloom Energy is developing a power box for the home too, a development that could fundamentally change the way home users buy energy, if (again) the Bloom box is the real deal.

Heather Clancy at ZDNet:

This is a huge, paradigm-shifting idea, of course. First off, this addresses the classic problem associated with renewable energy: that it is a transient, unpredictable thing. In order for renewable energy to really have a chance as an alternative to fossil fuels, we need ways to store the electricity produced and ways to feed that power back into the grid if we’re not using all of it.

I liken the thinking behind the Bloom Box to the idea of distributed computing: which enabled thousands of businesses to benefit from information technology, even though they couldn’t afford or support a mainframe computer. If you buy into that idea, why shouldn’t you buy into the idea of distributed energy that is both off the grid and on it, to boot.

If the Bloom Box concept works, and that is a big if obviously, this will be a ground-breaking idea.

Kevin Bullis at MIT Technology Review:

While Bloom is not releasing full details of the technology, it’s a type of solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Unlike hydrogen fuel cells proposed for use in vehicles, SOFCs operate at high temperatures (typically well over 600 ºC) and can run on a variety of fuels. They can be more efficient than conventional turbines for generating electricity. But their high cost and reliability problems have kept them from widespread commercial use.

Sridhar says Bloom’s technology has made the fuel cells affordable. What’s more, costs are expected to decrease significantly as production ramps up.

“All indications are that they have taken pretty conventional SOFC technology (zirconia electrolyte, nickel anode) and spent a lot of money to do a very good job of engineering and process development,” says Jeff Bentley, CEO of CellTech Power, which is developing its own fuel cells that can run on fuels such as diesel and even coal. According to Bloom, the technology is based on planar solid oxide fuel cells that Sridhar developed as a professor at the University of Arizona.

Bloom sells 100-kilowatt modules. They’re made of small, flat 25-watt fuel cells that can be stacked together. A complete 100-kilowatt module, with multiple stacks and equipment for converting DC power from the stacks into AC power to be used in buildings, is about the size of a parking space. The company says each module can power a small supermarket.

In addition to Google, eBay, and Walmart, Bloom’s customers include Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Cox Enterprises, FedEx, and Staples. A 400-kilowatt system powers a building at Google that contains an experimental data center. Walmart has installed Bloom modules at two locations, where they generate between 60 to 80 percent of the electricity for the stores.

Andrew Moseman at Discover Magazine:

It’s taken upwards of $400 million in venture capital to advance the Bloom Box, an idea Sridhar got from his days at NASA working on a way to make oxygen on Mars. Sridhar simply turned the concept on its head by pumping oxygen into the box, along with fuel. The oxygen and fuel combine within a new type of fuel cell to create the chemical reaction that makes electricity [Popular Science]. The chemical reaction wouldn’t produce any globe-warming emissions, and the energy for the fuel cells could reportedly come from natural gas, biofuel, or even solar panels. Sridhar wants these individual power sources to replace the electrical grid, and he has some high-profile support, too: Wal-Mart and Google are among the companies currently trying out his box, and Colin Powell is an adviser.

But if the idea of cheap, clean energy leaves you suspicious, and reminds you of similar promises from experiments like the 1989 Fleischmann-Pons cold fusion “breakthrough,” you’re not alone. Greentech Media CEO Michael Kanellos appeared on the CBS segment to question Bloom’s promises, noting the long and difficult history of fuel cell technology and the lack of great detail about Bloom Box: “You know, they wanna almost make instant energy. But they’re also kind of sprinkled with stardust. You know, Al Gore talks about them. You see the CEO palling around with Tom Friedman at Davos. So there’s a certain whiff of celebrity” [CBS News]. As of this writing, Greentech Media’s own post about the Bloom Box is illustrated with a fanciful unicorn prancing in front of a rainbow.

Sridhar plans to unveil the machine on Wednesday, and Bloom Box’s own cryptic Web site features little besides a clock counting down to that time. Though the corporate units currently in demo cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Sridhar says he can eventually bring the cost down to about $2,000, and wants one in every home in the country. We’ll see.

Jennifer L. Schenker at BusinessWeek:

Some industry analysts remain skeptical, pointing to a long list of fuel cell startups that have never managed to turn a profit. “I am pretty sure that when we learn more about Bloom Energy we will see that it works technically, but the costs are unapproachably high for the next 10 years,” says Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, an energy research consultancy. “We already have a lot of those solutions.”

Consider the case of two companies that make the same type of fuel cells as Bloom Energy. Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd, an Australian solid-oxide fuel cell company created in 1992, is still not profitable, says Jacob Grose, a senior analyst specializing in alternative power and energy storage in the New York office of Lux Research. Neither is Ceres Power Holdings,a publicly-traded British fuel cell company founded in 2001. It reported losses of £8 million ($12.24 million) last year on revenues of £1 million ($1.53 million).

Fuel Cell Energy, an established Danbury (Conn.) company that uses a different flavor of fuel cell, also has struggled. The company’s power plants have generated more than 340 million kilowatts of electricity for big business customers like Pepperidge Farm (a unit of Campbell Soup) using a variety of fuels, including wastewater gas, biogas from beer and food processing, and natural gas and other hydrocarbon fuels. Yet the company reported just $80 million in revenues in 2009, with losses of $72.5 million.

The key to Bloom Energy’s success will thus be whether it can break this pattern and sell its energy servers profitably. Bloom Energy says it will prevail where others have failed because its technology is distinct in key ways. The company claims to use lower-cost materials, allowing its boxes to be more easily mass produced and affording them a wider potential market. Bloom also says its solution is more efficient at converting fuel to electricity; is more easily deployed and maintained than alternatives; and has the ability to work with a wide range of renewable or traditional energy sources.

Bloom executives concede that fuel cells have so far under-delivered on their promise. That’s why the eight-year-old company has been so secretive until this point: It wanted to demonstrate solid experience with real customers to prove it’s really different. Bloom has now revealed that it made its first commercial installation in July 2008, and that since then, its boxes have collectively produced more than 11 million kilowatt hours of electricity and saved 14 million pounds of carbon dioxide—the equivalent of powering 1,000 American homes for a year and planting one million trees.

The company’s ambitions go beyond fueling corporations to powering individual homes. Bloom boxes also could reduce dependence on gasoline-powered vehicles by generating electricity for hybrid or electric cars. And when the cells are run in reverse, they output hydrogen, which could power hydrogen vehicles, if they ever take off. Sridhar is especially excited about the potential for Bloom boxes in emerging economies, where he says they could bring power and light to remote villages now cut off from the power grid—potentially boosting education, health care, and access to clean water and refrigeration.

That said, he acknowledges it will take at least three to five years before Bloom boxes reach “grid parity” for home use, or price competitiveness with traditional residential-scale electric supplies. And no timetable has been announced yet for an international rollout of the technology.

For now, the focus is on big business customers in the U.S., who use Bloom’s energy servers as a complement to traditional power supplies. The company says that in commercial applications, it can already generate power more cheaply than via traditional fossil fuels—for about 9 to 10 cents a kilowatt hour, vs. typical rates of 13 to 14 cents for power from the grid. Bloom’s corporate boxes cost about $700,000 to $800,000 and have a three- to five-year payback period, the company estimates. “We are twice as efficient as the U.S. national grid, which means we can produce the same amount of electricity for half the fuel and half the carbon footprint,” Sridhar says.

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Filed under Energy, Environment, Technology

Mr. Toyoda And Eric Cartman

First Toyota hearings…

Larry Dignan at ZDNet:

I listened to a Congressional hearing over the Toyota recall and thought I stumbled into a discussion about tech hurdles like change management, patch day and other wonky topics.

Let’s rev our engines for patch days for your cars. Are smarter cars really worth the hassle?

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearings on the Toyota recalls boiled down to one big question: How do we fix technologically advanced cars on the fly?

House Energy and Commerce committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) set the tone at the beginning of Tuesday’s hearings. He kicked off the hearings by saying “cars have become moving computers. The increased reliance on new electronics brings new risks and they need to be examined.”

Chris Morran at Consumerist:

While Toyota chief Akio Toyoda did his best to withstand over three hours of non-stop questioning in front of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform yesterday, he didn’t fare as well when he spoke in front of Toyota employees only a short while later.

Toyoda, the grandfather of the car giant’s founder, broke into tears as he spoke before an audience of Toyota dealers and employees at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“At the hearing, I was not alone. My colleagues in North America and around the world, were there with me,” he said to the supportive crowd.

Toyoda’s extended testimony before the Committee featured several breakdowns in communication between the House members — many of whom had to leave the room at various points to vote on different measures — and Toyoda. Some on the Committee, including Rep. John Mica of Florida and Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., seemed to have little patience in either waiting for their questions to be translated to Mr. Toyoda or for his responses to be restated by his translator.

David Thomas at Cars.com:

Toyota’s U.S. chief, Yoshimi Inaba, says the brake override system being installed in the eight models of the 15 recalled make up 72% of the total units covered under the recall. The older models not getting the upgrade are not compatible with the brake override system, he said.

Inaba did say a report from Europe about sticking acceletor pedals did pop up a year prior to the U.S. recalls, but the difference in models, right-hand drive and other factors led to the automaker not connecting the two.
Inaba also said that commercial readers for electronic data recorders – EDRs – will roll out by the middle of next year. Toyota’s prototype EDR reader can be read only by Toyota representatives, and there is only one in the U.S.

Inaba said the readers will be widely available next year and will be easily read. The government currently doesn’t require EDRs; they’ll be mandated in 2012.

Nick Loris at Heritage:

Automobile safety and reliability is undoubtedly a serious concern and the CEO of Toyota made that clear. They’ve recalled more than 8 million vehicles and have halted production in suspended manufacturing to focus on the problem.  Only time will tell if Toyota failed to disclose pertinent information but signs point to Toyota handling the recall in an effective and timely manner. They’re planning to add brake override systems to new vehicles.

Toyota’s reputation has taken a hit and it has every incentive to fix the problem efficiently.  Toyota estimated the recall will cost $2 billion by the end of March but that number could rise. Falling consumer demand will ultimately take the biggest toll on Toyota’s bottom line if the company does not take the right steps to repair its image. Toyota’s stock price fell 21% in the past month. Toyota will lose billions more if consumers lose trust and cease to buy the automaker’s vehicles. Despite calls for stricter oversight and more regulation, the market will determine the fate of Toyota — that’s the way it should be.

It’s easy to understand why a government that now owns a major stake in General Motors would want to put continuous bad press on a rival automaker, but given Toyota’s integral stake in the U.S. economy, it would not be prudent to come down extra hard on Toyota. In a Washington Post op-ed yesterday Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (who has a Toyota plant in his state) writes, “We cannot lose sight of the company’s importance to America’s economy — and should not ignore its continued commitment to doing things the right way. Although Toyota was founded in Japan more than 70 years ago, after five decades of doing business in the United States it is as much an “American” car company as any other.” When priority number one for U.S. citizens and Members of Congress alike is the economy, rushing too quickly can have negative effects on foreign investment as well.

Toyota made mistake that tragically resulted in 34 deaths since the year 2000 and a number of other life-threatening scares. Let Toyota, and the market, correct it.

Megan McArdle here and here. McArdle:

I’m watching the Toyota hearings, which at the moment feature secretary Ray LaHood.  He just had a very interesting exchange with Representative Mark Souder, who has a GM auto plant in his district.  Souder obviously has an interest in defending the interests of automakers, but he asked a good question:  doesn’t excessive punishment of companies that have problem–either in law, or in the court of public opinion–discourage them from being aggressive about finding problems in the first place?

LaHood said he wasn’t worried about this, then proclaimed that safety had to be the number one priority of both his agency, and the automakers, and that he would ceaselessly hunt down malefactors until this was true.  This sounds wonderful, of course, but it is not actually true; as Souder pointed out, lowering the speed limit to 30 mph would save a lot of lives, but we don’t do it.  Aren’t there tradeoffs, he asked.
At which point Secretary LaHood achieved liftoff and rapidly departed reality.  He responded that lowering the speed limit to 30 mph would not save any lives, which is why we have minimum speeds on highways.  Representative Souder looked just as flummoxed as I was; did the Secretary of Transportation really not understand that the minimum speed limit exists to ensure that traffic is travelling at basically the same speed–which is indeed safer than allowing wide speed differentials?  Could he possibly believe that it was actually safer to drive 40 mph than to drive 30 mph?
Yes, apparently he could.  When Souder pointed out that the minimum existed in order to minimize speed differentials, LaHood proclaimed, “I don’t buy your argument, Mr. Souder”.  Secretary LaHood seems to be arguing that the laws of the United States override the laws of physics.  I spend a fair amount of time hanging around isolationists who take a pretty hardline stance on US sovereignty, but even for me, this was novel.
This is about the tenor of most of the hearing–I haven’t seen so much posturing since I graduated Miss Elliot’s Charm School for Gentlewomen and Girls.  It’s clear to me that there have been some real problems with Toyota cars.  But it also seems like the hysteria and the hype are rapidly becoming unmoored from any actual danger.

And now Blackwater Xe. Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up:

A Senate Armed Services Committee is holding hearings Wednesday on an unusual incident. According to a six-month congressional investigation, Blackwater security contractors in Afghanistan reportedly stole hundreds of weapons meant for the Afghan national police. The Blackwater contractors–who were not licensed to carry arms in the country–apparently operated under the company name Paravant to escape scrutiny. They seem to have secured the weapons by checking them out under the name “Eric Cartman,” which will be familiar to viewers of the cartoon show South Park.

Nathan Hodge at Wired:

According to the Senate investigation, Paravant employees were involved in a second, previously undisclosed shooting that happened in December 2008. Paravant program manager Johnnie Walker told committee staff the incident happened after an employee decided to get on the back of a moving car with a loaded AK-47 and “ride it like a stagecoach.” The employee accidentally discharged the rifle when the vehicle hit a bump. The round struck another Paravant team member, who was seriously injured.

“The reckless disregard for weapons safety is particularly striking given that he and his team were hired for the specific purpose of teaching the Afghan National Army how to safely use their weapons,” Levin’s statement dryly notes.

Another issue the committee probed was Bunker 22, an armory near the notorious Pol-e-Charki prison that held weapons meant for the Afghan National Police. According to the committee investigation, more than 200 AK-47s were taken out of Bunker 22 in September 2008 and signed for by a Paravant/Blackwater employee named “Eric Cartman.” Some of the weapons apparently withdrawn by our favorite South Park character were unaccounted for for months afterward, according to the committee.

Blackwater’s reputation is already in tatters, thanks to a string of deadly incidents. And the conduct of some private security contractors in Afghanistan hasn’t done much for the industry either. But getting a handle on this is crucial. As Levin noted, the campaign in Afghanistan is primarily a struggle to win the support of the population. “If we are going to win that struggle,” he said, “We needed to know that our contractor personnel are adequately screened, supervised and held accountable.”

In an interview with Senate staff, former “Paravant” vice president Brian McCracken said that the only reason a company called Paravant ever existed was because Blackwater wanted a piece of Raytheon’s contract with the Army to train Afghan security officials — without the “baggage” of the Blackwater name. (You know, like killing Iraqi civilians.) So Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) asked Steven Ograyensek, the contracting officer at an Army office responsible for overseeing the contract, whether he had any idea Paravant was part of Blackwater. There was “no indication” of that relationship in Paravant’s bid for the Raytheon subcontract, Ograyensek replied. Yet it took Senate staff a fairly short time to determine Paravant was a shell company for Blackwater.

Did Ograyensek even check Paravant’s references? “We didn’t call those references,” he said. “That was the responsibility of Raytheon.” Your contracting oversight at work.

“Paravant had never done anything,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) interjected. “But they represent in their [request for the contract] that they had 2000 personnel deployed overseas. They had no one. … It’s just a shell.”

More Ackerman

Juan Cole:

As for those nearly 100,000 trained Afghan troops that Washington keeps boasting about, it turns out that the Pentagon sub-sub-contracted the troop training and “a Blackwater subsidiary hired violent drug users to help train the Afghan army.” Many journalists doubt that there are actually so many troops in the Afghanistan National Army, citing high turnover and desertion rates, while others suggest that two weeks of ‘show and tell’ training for illiterate recruits is not exactly a rigorous ‘training’– even if it were done properly, which it seems not always to have been.

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect:

The Senate is holding a hearing today where several current and former Blackwater employees will be testifying, but honestly the only way Congress would stop giving Blackwater money is if it started registering black people to vote.

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Filed under Economics, GWOT, Homeland Security, Infrastructure

Steve Jobs Will Come Out… Tomorrow… Bet Your Bottom Dollar… That Tomorrow… There’ll Be Tablets

The Tablet is almost here!

David Carr at NYT:

This Wednesday, Steven P. Jobs will step to the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and unveil a shiny new machine that may or may not change the world.

In the magician’s world, that’s called “the reveal.”

And the most magical part? Even as the media and technology worlds have anticipated this announcement for months, Apple has said not word one about The Device. Reporting on the announcement has become crowdsourced, with thousands of tech and media journalists scrambling for the latest wisp and building on the reporting of others.

However miraculous the thingamajig turns out to be — all rumors point to some kind of tabletlike device — it can’t be more remarkable than the control that Apple and Mr. Jobs have over their audience.

“The reason that we all write about Apple is because we are, of course, interested, but also because everybody likes to read about Apple,” said Matt Buchanan, a contributing editor at the technology site Gizmodo. “Even if they hate Apple.”

Joel Evans at ZDNet:

To be clear, I’ve been doing an informal survey of consumers, including friends and random people that know me as an early adopter. According to my survey, people want the Tablet because it will do everything. This goes along with what also gets me excited about the soon to be released Kindle Development Kit, since the kit will allow the Kindle to be a lot more than an ebook reader.

Building on the point that the Apple tablet will do everything, the consumers I spoke with were excited about reading websites, playing games, sending and receiving e-mails, watching TV, and whatever else Apple offers up as an option on the Apple tablet. And if the report posted by Flurry is to be believed, this new Apple tablet will definitely play games, and is being tested with more than 150 of them.

The results of my informal survey seem to go against my earlier thought that consumers wouldn’t want to add another piece of technology into their lives. Instead, it seems that they are ready to embrace this new technology as long as it does everything they can think of.

From the early days of the Palm and Pocket PC devices, one complaint I heard time and again was that the form factor was just too small for extended use. This was either because your eyes would be fatigued after a certain amount of time or that a certain age group would have trouble both reading the screen and manipulating the tiny stylus. Now we have manufacturers working hard to bring a tablet into everyone’s hands, and they’re finally the size that everyone can enjoy.

As with most technology, the concept of the tablet is nothing new, but with consumers now using their phones for just about anything you can think of, the time is finally right for a device like the tablet to enter into everyone’s home.

Matt Buchanan at Gizmodo:

The Apple tablet is almost here. We hear. Actually, we’re hearing a whole lot lately. With this exhaustive guide to every tablet rumor, we’ve got the clearest picture of the Apple tablet yet. Updated constantly.

1/25/2010: 9to5Mac claims to have talked to some publishers who have the scoop on the tablet, and they say the cost will be “[nowhere] near $1000, as has been reported elsewhere.”

1/25/2010: The LA Times reports that the NY Times has been cooped up in Cupertino for the last few weeks developing a version of its paper for the tablet. The article also has a quote from a Conde Nast press release in which the publishing giant just comes out and says it: they will develop “more content for the iPhone and the anticipated tablet from Apple.”

1/25/2010: Tech Crunch heard through the grape vine that Steve Jobs said of the tablet, “This will be the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

1/22/2010: Fox News’ Clayton Morris has heard Apple’s “in talks” with both Verizon and AT&T to provide data for the tablet.

1/22/2010: iLounge has a an oddball that they’ve “double-confirmed”: Double dock connectors, so it can be charged in both portrait and landscape mode. Making more sense, a tablet-wide plastic stripe for decent connectivity (plausible),

1/21/2010: A truckload from the WSJ: Apple “envisions that the tablet can be shared by multiple family members to read news and check email in homes,” and has experimented with facial recognition through a built-in camera, along with virtual sticky notes that can be left behind. Also backing up our earlier report, the WSJ Apple’s in discussions with newspaper, mag book publishers like the NYT, Conde Nast and Harper Collins, and has “exploring electronic-textbook technology.” EA is apparently on tap to demo video games for it.

Also curious: The WSJ says Steve Jobs is “supportive of the old guard and [he] looks to help them by giving them new forms of distribution,” referring to old media companies, which echoes a quote in the NYT that in the battle over ebook pricing with Amazon, apparently “Apple has put an offer together that helps publishers and, by extension, authors.”

1/19/2010: Apple’s shell company, Slate Computing, has also filed for a trademark on the name iPad. Oh God help us.

Kirk McElhearn at PC World:

Apple’s tablet (and the copycats that will follow it) will be a game-changer, just as the iPod and iPhone have been. Because of Apple’s aura, this tablet will get more attention than the plethora of e-book readers we have seen recently. And I’m betting that Apple will get it right, as far as features, interface and usability are concerned. It will also be an excellent tool for reading the news. Newspapers and magazines will be able to package their content in multimedia bundles (either as apps or something similar to the iTunes LP) that will be designed for reading on a portable screen; this won’t simply be web pages viewed on a smaller screen.

The key to hardware being successful is the software that supports it. One of the main advantages to Apple’s tablet, as far as the press is concerned, is the iTunes Store. Since Apple already has this platform to sell and deliver that content, even on a subscription basis, readers will be able to easily buy their favorite newspapers and magazines and get them delivered instantly. They’ll be cheaper than the print versions, and they’ll be a lot greener too. And the iTunes Store will be able to provide a better selection than readers can find by going to individual Websites. Whether by subscription or by single issue, it’ll be extremely simple to buy newspapers and magazines to read on the Apple tablet.

This change won’t happen overnight. Apple’s tablet will probably be priced so that only the most tech-lusting among us will run out and buy version 1.0. But it will be a bellwether for the future of such devices and how they will change print media. New publishing experiments will be part of the attraction for this new device, and, in the near future, most major newspapers and magazines will offer tablet versions. And with them, a return to being able to provide the news we need.

Daniel Dumas at Wired:

We’ve taken a lot of time to track down the rumors, innuendo and even a few sparse facts about the device since the first whispers of its existence some two and a half years ago.

But now we’re going in a separate direction. Admittedly the five features below are are a little crazy — but their inclusion in the tablet would make it a whole lot more fun. Hey, a gadget journalist can dream, right?

Why it’s a pipe dream: When was the last time Apple offered anything for free, besides truckloads of reality-distorting hype at its press conferences?

UPDATE: Of course, now we know it is the iPad.

John Hudson at The Atlantic

UPDATE #2: Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing

Ann Althouse

Roger Simon at Pajamas Media

Joel Evans at ZDNet

UPDATE #3: Allah Pundit

David Frum at CNN

Darren Murph at Engadget


Filed under Technology

Tearing Down That Great Firewall?

The Google Blog’s David Drummond:

Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers.


These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.

James Fallows:

I have not yet been able to reach my friends in China to discuss this story, and for now I am judging the Google response strictly by what the company has posted on its “Official Blog,” here, and my observations from dealing with Google-China officials while overseas. Therefore this will epitomize the Web-age reaction to a breaking news story, in that it will be a first imperfect assessment, subject to revision as new facts come in. With that caveat, here is what I think as I hear this news:

– It is a significant development. Significant for Google; and while only marginally significant for developments inside China potentially very significant for China’s relations with the rest of the world.

– The significance for Google is of the “last straw” variety. For years, the company has struggled to maintain the right path in China. Its policy around the world is that it will obey the law of whatever country it operates in. You might object to that — until you think about it: in a world of sovereign states, how could a company possibly say, “We’ll operate within your borders but won’t obey your laws?” (Similarly, Google’s national sites in certain parts of Europe obey laws banning neo-Nazi sites and other material that would be permissible in the U.S.) Chinese laws require search engine companies and other Internet operators to censor certain material. Searches conducted by Google.CN — in Chinese language, mainly for users inside China — have obeyed those Chinese laws. Meanwhile searches on the main Google.COM have been uncensored for material like “Tiananmen Square” or “Dalai Lama.” Anyone who could find a way to get to Google.com – about which more in a moment — could find whatever he or she wanted.

Dealing with those requirements has been part of a non-stop set of difficulties for Google in China. More details about this later on. Like most other Western companies, Google has consistently decided to cope with the difficulties and stay in China. Part of the reason was the obvious commercial potential that the Chinese market has for almost any company in any industry. Another part was Google’s argument — which I basically believe — that the Chinese public was better off with another source of information, even if constrained, than it would be without that option. But, as reported on Google’s site, a latest wave of provocations and intrusions was simply too much.

– In terms of information flow into China, this decision probably makes no real difference at all. Why? Anybody inside China who really wants to get to Google.com — or BBC or whatever site may be blocked for the moment — can still do so easily, by using a proxy server or buying (for under $1 per week) a VPN service. Details here. For the vast majority of Chinese users, it’s not worth going to that cost or bother, since so much material is still available in Chinese from authorized sites. That has been the genius, so far, of the Chinese “Great Firewall” censorship system: it allows easy loopholes for anyone who might get really upset, but it effectively keeps most Chinese Internet users away from unauthorized material.

– In terms of the next stage of China’s emergence as a power and dealings with the United States, this event has the potential to make a great deal of difference — in a negative way, for China. I think of this as the beginning of China’s Bush-Cheney era. To put it in perspective:

I have long argued that China’s relations with the U.S. are overall positive for both sides (here and here); that the Chinese government is doing more than outsiders think to deal with vexing problems like the environment (here); and more generally that China is a still-poor, highly-diverse and individualistic country whose development need not “threaten” anyone else and should be encouraged. I still believe all of that.

But there are also reasons to think that a difficult and unpleasant stage of China-U.S. and China-world relations lies ahead. This is so on the economic front, as warned about here nearly a year ago with later evidence here. It may prove to be so on the environmental front — that is what the argument over China’s role in Copenhagen is about. It is increasingly so on the political-liberties front, as witness Vaclav Havel’s denunciation of the recent 11-year prison sentence for the man who is in many ways his Chinese counterpart, Liu Xiaobo. And if a major U.S. company — indeed, Google has been ranked the #1 brand in the world — has concluded that, in effect, it must break diplomatic relations with China because its policies are too repressive and intrusive to make peace with, that is a significant judgment.

Tom Friedman in NYT:

And here is the other thing to keep in mind. Think about all the hype, all the words, that have been written about China’s economic development since 1979. It’s a lot, right? What if I told you this: “It may be that we haven’t seen anything yet.”

Why do I say that? All the long-term investments that China has made over the last two decades are just blossoming and could really propel the Chinese economy into the 21st-century knowledge age, starting with its massive investment in infrastructure. Ten years ago, China had a lot bridges and roads to nowhere. Well, many of them are now connected. It is also on a crash program of building subways in major cities and high-speed trains to interconnect them. China also now has 400 million Internet users, and 200 million of them have broadband. Check into a motel in any major city and you’ll have broadband access. America has about 80 million broadband users.

Now take all this infrastructure and mix it together with 27 million students in technical colleges and universities — the most in the world. With just the normal distribution of brains, that’s going to bring a lot of brainpower to the market, or, as Bill Gates once said to me: “In China, when you’re one-in-a-million, there are 1,300 other people just like you.”

Equally important, more and more Chinese students educated abroad are returning home to work and start new businesses. I had lunch with a group of professors at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, or HKUST, who told me that this year they will be offering some 50 full scholarships for graduate students in science and technology. Major U.S. universities are sharply cutting back.

Tony Chan, a Hong Kong-born mathematician, recently returned from America after 20 years to become the new president of HKUST. What was his last job in America? Assistant director of the U.S. National Science Foundation in charge of the mathematical and physical sciences. He’s one of many coming home.

One of the biggest problems for China’s manufacturing and financial sectors has been finding capable middle managers. The reverse-brain drain is eliminating that problem as well.

Dave Schuler:

I see that in his praise for China he has ignored the, literally, hundreds of schools that collapsed in last year’s earthquake killing the schoolchildren, the Chinese authorities’ imprisonment and execution of dissidents and minorities, China’s failure to live up to the obligations it undertook when it joined the WTO by which membership it continues to benefit, and China’s notoriously opaque and corrupt financial system.

If China is to be part of the modern world and continue to grow and prosper, there will be great and grave changes ahead for the country. It can’t maintain its “beggar they neighbor” economic policies which, while irritating or even painful for us, are disastrous for other developing countries notably Mexico and the struggling countries of Africa.

It needs to start cultivating its own internal markets to a significantly greater degree and allow foreign competitors to share equitably in those markets.

And it can’t hope to control the thoughts of the Chinese people even in an attempt to maintain harmony by which is generally meant the power of the Chinese authorities.

MG Siegler at TechCrunch:

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Google is ending its censorship in China and as a result, may have to pull out of the country. As you also may have heard, this is the direct result of the attempted hacking of some Gmail accounts. Google obviously takes its security seriously, and they’ve made that more clear by announcing that all Gmail accounts will now default to the encrypted version of the service.

Specifically, once Google is done rolling this out to its users (it’s in the process of doing it now), the default URL for Gmail will include HTTP Secure (you can tell by looking at the url and seeing if it begins with “https”). “Using https helps protect data from being snooped by third parties, such as in public wifi hotspots,” Google writes today on its Gmail Blog. And while this wouldn’t have stopped the type of Gmail hacking that it seems was going on in China, it does make the service significantly more secure. Anytime you hear the words “hacking” and “Gmail” in the same sentence, it’s not good for Google as it attempts to convince everyone in the world that cloud-based email is the way to go. So a move like this following the China situation is a smart one.

Google started offering the option to enable this method of access for Gmail all the time in 2008, but it was previously opt-in. Now it will be opt-out (which you will be able to do in the settings). So why didn’t they turn this on sooner? Because https connections are typically slower than regular http connections since the data must be encrypted and decrypted first. But Google is now saying that after months of testing the latency of https, it feels comfortable enough with the performance trade-off to turn it on for all.

Sarah Lacy at TechCrunch:

Enter the now famous blog post (that was notably, only on the English-language site) saying that Google was no longer playing by the Chinese government’s rules and was prepared to close down Chinese operations if it came to that. Valley elites erupted into applause on Twitter and blogs saying Google was showing more backbone than the US government and was a model of integrity for the world.

I’ll give Google this much: They’re taking a bad situation and making something good out of it, both from a human and business point of view. I’m not saying human rights didn’t play into the decision, but this was as much about business. Lest we get too self-righteous as Westerners, we should remember three things:

1. Google’s business was not doing well in China. Does anyone really think Google would be doing this if it had top market share in the country? For one thing, I’d guess that would open them up to shareholder lawsuits. Google is a for-profit, publicly-held company at the end of the day. When I met with Google’s former head of China Kai-fu Lee in Beijing last October, he noted that one reason he left Google was that it was clear the company was never going to substantially increase its market share or beat Baidu. Google has clearly decided doing business in China isn’t worth it, and are turning what would be a negative into a marketing positive for its business in the rest of the world.

2. Google is ready to burn bridges. This is not how negotiations are done in China, and Google has done well enough there to know that. You don’t get results by pressuring the government in a public, English-language blog post. If Google were indeed still working with the government this letter would not have been posted because it has likely slammed every door shut, as a long-time entrepreneur in China Marc van der Chijs and many others said on Twitter. This was a scorched earth move, aimed at buying Google some good will in the rest of the world; Chinese customers and staff were essentially just thrown under the bus.

3. This is only going to be a trickier issue in the next decade. Think the Shanda acquisition of Mochi Media was an isolated event? Think again. Chinese Web companies are building huge cash hoards and valuable stock currencies and it’s still a comparatively young Web market. Increasingly, these companies could be likely buyers of US startups—not the other way around. Will the Valley’s rhetoric stick then?

This may be the most shocking part: In retrospect Yahoo has played China far better than Google. It pulled out of the country years ago, knowing it wouldn’t win and owns nearly 40% of the Alibaba, a company that very definitely knows how to grow in China. Entrepreneur and angel investor in China Bill Bishop —who hasn’t always agreed with my China coverage in the past—pointed this out, adding “Not often Yahoo looks smarter than Google.”

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:

Wrapping up, my sense is that Google prides itself on being more than an ad-supported software and media company. It also considers itself a worldwide symbol for something as ubiquitous and invisible as its search robots, which is the human right to free speech and free access to information. This is not a matter of unalloyed altruism. It’s a part of Google’s public image. It’s what makes Google the number-one brand in the world. I think today’s decision supports that mantle.

UPDATE: More Fallows

UPDATE: David Drummond at The Google News Blog:

So earlier today we stopped censoring our search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Google.cn. Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over.

Figuring out how to make good on our promise to stop censoring search on Google.cn has been hard. We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement. We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from Google.com.hk is a sensible solution to the challenges we’ve faced—it’s entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China. We very much hope that the Chinese government respects our decision, though we are well aware that it could at any time block access to our services. We will therefore be carefully monitoring access issues, and have created this new web page, which we will update regularly each day, so that everyone can see which Google services are available in China.

In terms of Google’s wider business operations, we intend to continue R&D work in China and also to maintain a sales presence there, though the size of the sales team will obviously be partially dependent on the ability of mainland Chinese users to access Google.com.hk. Finally, we would like to make clear that all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them. Despite all the uncertainty and difficulties they have faced since we made our announcement in January, they have continued to focus on serving our Chinese users and customers. We are immensely proud of them.

Seth Weintraub at Computerworld

Tom Foremski at ZDNet

UPDATE #3: Drummond at the Google Blog

Rosa Golijan at Gizmodo

MG Siegler at TechCrunch

UPDATE #4: Heather Horn at The Atlantic


Filed under China, Technology

Superman, Superfly, Superphone

Larry Dignan at ZDNet:

Google on Tuesday unveiled its Nexus One and introduced what could be a new market: The superphone. Here’s what you have to decide: Is that Google’s superphone spiel for the Nexus One reality or mere marketing?

At this early juncture it’s hard to tell whether the Nexus One will be a superphone. Nexus One has some neat features—animated wallpapers, neat weather widgets and other items—but do those items qualify as “super.” Perhaps the Nexus One is just a “really smartphone.”

In other words, the Nexus One is snazzy, but it’s unclear whether it’s super, or an iPhone killer (Techmeme).Among the key features:

  • Every text field is voice enabled. Speak your Tweets. That’s the most impressive thing Google had going.
  • Nexus One is 11.5 mm thin.
  • Runs on a Qualcomm QSD 8250 1 GHz processor;
  • It’s 130 grams, or as heavy as a Swiss Army keychain knife.
  • Does multimedia well.
  • Features shortcuts and widgets, but we’ve seen that elsewhere with the Palm’s Web OS and Motorola Droid.
  • Animated wall papers and personalization features.
  • A 3D framework on the phone for Google Earth.

There’s also a new way to buy Android phones with simple plans and hookups with devices. You can buy a phone with service or without service. With service Nexus One is $179. Without it’s $529. The rub: Nexus One is on T-Mobile at first. Verizon later. Count me out until Verizon comes along.

Sam Diaz at ZDNet:

Today’s superphone is tomorrow’s smartphone and Google says it will continue to raise the bar.

Google will make a slim margin of revenue from phone sales but that’s not why it’s doing this. Google is still an advertising company.

Google doesn’t seem to be undercutting its partners with its own Web store. Instead, it’s creating a Web-based purchasing experience. A testament of that is the presence of HTC’s CEO on stage and Motorola’s co-CEO Sanjay Jha, who was stuck in Silicon Valley traffic and missed most of the event.

Someone called out Google and called its pricing “boring” and not so revolutionary. But Google counters back that this is just one step in a long journey for Google and Android in the mobile space.

What is the differentiation between smartphones and superphones? The difference is the evolution of the platform and the openness of the ecosystem, as well as the processing power, differentiates it. The company says this device is as powerful as a laptop of a few years ago. The superphone category is something Google came up with to take it to the next level.

Android marketplace, not Google Web store, is where you buy Android apps – now about 20,000 strong.

Nancy Gohring at PC World:

“It’s inaccurate to say that Google designed the phone,” said Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering at Google, when pressed during a question-and-answer session following the unveiling of the phone. “It’s Peter’s work,” he said, referring to HTC CEO Peter Chou. “We’re just merchandising it online in our store.”

Before the floor was opened for reporter’s questions, Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management, had said “the phone was designed in close partnership with HTC.”

However it was designed, without the merchandising component, the development of the Nexus One sounds quite similar to many of the previously released Android phones.

“It’s not a change in the way Google’s doing business, except for the sales channel,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis. “In that respect, it’s a direct successor to the G1 and the Magic,” he said, naming two previously released HTC Android phones.

Google plans to include additional phones made by other manufacturers into the store in the future, executives said.

Also, while the Nexus One is being sold unlocked, it is essentially a T-Mobile phone, at least initially. Customers can buy the Nexus One at a discounted price with a contract on T-Mobile’s network. If a consumer buys the phone unlocked for $530, the customer can use the phone on AT&T’s network, but without access to the high-speed 3G network. The phone can’t be used on Verizon Wireless’ or Sprint’s network currently.

The Nexus One also won’t support tethering, a much sought after feature. Rubin said the lack of tethering isn’t a technical issue but a business issue. That could mean that operators are pressuring Google not to allow it for fear of overloading their networks.

The Nexus One also doesn’t support multitouch, like its competitor the iPhone, even though Android software supports it. Rubin wouldn’t be drawn on why, saying only that Google will consider adding it.

The phone does not come with any innovative pricing plans like some people had hoped. For instance, there was some speculation that Google might offer some kind of discounts in exchange for displaying ads to users.

Steven Levy at Wired:

The Nexus One does an impressive job of fulfilling that vision and is certainly the best Android phone yet. And if you are eager to jump off the merry-go-round of endless contracts with network carriers, Nexus One may well be the smart phone (and the business model) you’ve been waiting for.

WIRED You can buy a Nexus One unlocked. Spiffy design. Bright screen. Runs Usain Bolt fast. The voice recognition works in virtually any text field.

TIRED Awkward syncing with computers. Lacks multitouch gestures. Considering its central placement, the trackball is rather underwhelming.

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A Preemptive Strike Against Various Moon Monsters



On Friday morning, NASA successfully rammed the LCROSS satellite and its booster rocket into a crater near the south pole of the moon in an attempt to search for hidden pockets of ice.

The Centaur booster rocket hit the Cabeus crater at 4:31 a.m. PT and the LCROSS satellite followed at 4:36 a.m. PT.

Although the flash from LCROSS didn’t produce spectacular fireworks as many had hoped, it can be seen as a small flash northwest of center in this image. A zoom is at bottom left and an even larger image of the flash is at bottom right. NASA’s live coverage went blank just as the impacts occurred but the space agency says their instruments were working.

Richard Kerr at Science Magazine:

I didn’t see anything. Did you? After the 2-ton upper stage of an Atlas rocket slammed into the lunar surface at 7:31 EDT this morning, no one at NASA admitted to spotting the expected spray of dirt and debris rising into the sunlight over the moon’s Cabeus crater, as depicted so dramatically in the LCROSS mission overview video. The impactor most certainly plowed into the dark, frigid shadow inside Cabeus as planned, and the nine instruments on the trailing LCROSS spacecraft returned all the planned data. But no flash was reported at the moment of impact, and no debris could be seen. The science team’s only report was “confirm crater in mid IR [infrared],” an apparent sighting of the impactor’s hole in the ground. LCROSS itself then hit the moon, with mission control reporting a “loss of signal.”

If the rocket impact failed to throw sufficient debris out of the lunar shadows to be detectable, it would not come as a complete surprise. Calculating just how the impact would excavate a crater in the lunar soil and rock “was the most challenging impact modeling I’ve ever done,” Erik Asphaug of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said last spring. If high-rising ejecta was a no-show, there will be little chance of detecting minerals that could have been hydrated by subsurface ice. On the bright side, any water that turned to vapor would have expanded well beyond any solid ejecta and surely have risen into the sun where some of LCROSS’s instruments could have seen it. One can hope.

Brian McLaughlin at Wired:

What happens next is a whole lot of math and science. The LCROSS spacecraft included nine individual science instruments. This suite of instruments consisted of 1 visible camera, 2 near-infrared cameras, 2 mid-infrared cameras, a visible light spectrometer,  2 near-infrared spectrometers, and a photometer. All nine of those instruments were gathering data simultaneously and streaming that data back to Earth.  That is a lot of information.

All of that recorded data is being captured and distributed to the appropriate science team members. At the same time, the data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which also recorded the impact, will be down-linked for review; the data from the Hubble Space Telescope observations will be down-linked and analyzed; data from numerous ground based telescopes will be distributed and analyzed. This is where the discoveries happen.  It’s Science!

First, all of that data has to be reduced. The raw data is sometimes almost impossible to understand, but as multiple pieces of data are put together and combined with previously-captured calibration data, the noise from the data can be removed and the signal that contains the science can be distinguished. There are whole groups of scientists and engineers who are experts at this kind of work.

Once the data is cleaned up, scientists can begin to look at what the data means individually. What did the cameras on LCROSS capture? What emission and absorption lines were seen by the spectrometers?  How bright was the moment of impact as captured by the photometer? At the same time, the individual observations from the instruments on Hubble, LRO, and other observations will be analyzed for their own, individual data.

Anne Minard at National Geographic:

But as the new international space race heats up, there’s a growing movement to balance scientific ambition with its possible consequences for the moon.

“Any time you crash, obviously you destroy some area of lunar surface for any kind of scientific study, and that’s not good,” said NASA’s lunar sample curator Gary Lofgren, speaking with National Geographic News earlier this year. (Read about NASA’s moon-rock collection.)

Last year the International Council for Science’s committee on space research imposed new documentation requirements to maintain the integrity of future discoveries—and LCROSS-like crashes—on the moon.

“You want to be able to understand what materials you brought with you versus what materials would have been deposited there naturally,” said Catharine Conley, NASA’s planetary-protection officer.

Carleton Bryant at Huffington Post:

NASA hopes to find some lunar water because it would help in setting up a base on the moon. You know, for showers and stuff.

When it was announced that two spacecraft had crashed into the moon, authorities at first suspected Lindsay Lohan and Amy Winehouse of DUI.

Crashing a two-ton space probe into a celestial body is a unique way to look for water. Fairly expensive too. I guess nobody at NASA has ever heard of a divining rod.

NASA bombed the moon on its dark side — because that’s where the moon monsters live.


HEY YOU GUYS: Please DO NOT FORGET to say “goodbye forever” to the moon tonight. Tomorrow at like six in the morning NASA will bomb it to death. Recall the moon’s distinguished history: It has orbited around our planet, America, for the last ~2009 years, when Jesus Christ gifted all the celestial bodies, which he wrapped with the Constitution, to Thomas Jefferson & Ronald Reagan in Center City. Since then it has been everyone’s favorite. The moon shares nothing. It is a sea.

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