Twitter LogoApparently Twitter is relevant enough to become a regular sketch on The Tonight Show.

Working the in the tech blogosphere, you kind of get isolated to what really is going on with the masses in relation to the tech you work with each day.  While only 8% of people seem to know what a browser is, it seems everyone is learning what Twitter is.  It was recently featured in a commercial for Sprint that even made fun of how many people didn’t know what it is, but yet Conan O’Brien seems to think it’s well known enough that he has done his Twitter Tracker sketch three times now.

While the sketches are very tongue-in-cheek, it still says a lot about what he thinks his audience knows about it.  The guys at Twitter must be loving this.  Even though we posted the first sketch before, here are all three in order.

From June 2nd

From June 9th

From June 18th

I would say by this frequency that he isn’t done with these, which just makes you wonder how far the reach of Twitter had made it now.

Categories: Opinion, Twitter   
 

PasswordsIf you want a job with the city of Bozeman, MT it’s only going to cost you all of your privacy.

We’ve written before about how employers are checking out social networking profiles of potential employees, and how even college admissions offices are even doing it, but the city of Bozeman, MT has taken it even further, and it is quite frankly pretty scary.  Earlier this week, Steven Hodson at The Inquisitr brought this startling story to my attention that the City of Bozeman is requiring all job applicants to not only list what social networks they belong to, but they also must turn over their usernames and passwords.

The job application states:

Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.

In theory this is mainly done due to Facebook not allowing you to see the profile of anyone you have not friended, but that feature is optional on all other social networks.

As Mr. Hodson points out, this is tantamount to handing over the keys of your house to your employer, and telling them to have a look around.  Not only would you be giving them access to your profile, but also to your private messages, the ability to see your friends profiles that are otherwise private and other potentially sensitive information in your account.  Never mind the fact that one of the first rules of passwords is to never give them out to any one.

City attorney Greg Sullivan explained the reasoning of this request to MontanasNewsStation.com this way:

So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here. So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City.

While it is understandable that a city would want to hire only upstanding people, demanding access to their private information is a whole different matter.  Mr. Sullivan also continued:

You know, I can understand that concern. One thing that’s important for folks to understand about what we look for is none of the things that the federal constitution lists as protected things, we don’t use those. We’re not putting out this broad brush stroke of trying to find out all kinds of information about the person that we’re not able to use or shouldn’t use in the hiring process.

The problem I have with this is what if someone entrusted with the checking of your profiles is unethical?  What if they are a gossip?  You are giving some faceless person all of the information they need to find out pretty much anything they want to know about you, and that is worrisome.  And what happens to those pieces of paper you write down your information on?  Can the city guarantee that those documents will be under lock and key at all times with records kept at all times of whom accessed them?

It is easy to understand that in these difficult economic times that people will do whatever they can for a job, but for the city to even suggest that you should hand over this type of sensitive information is insanity.  And, lets be honest here, do they really suspect that if someone is doing something illegal that this will give them the magic solution to finding out?  Do they really think that if someone is a child molester it is going to be spelled out for them on their social networking profiles?

No matter how you slice it this is a bad idea, and something that the City of Bozeman has no right asking for.  What is private is private, and you sure would never catch me giving them access.

UPDATE: Shortly after we published this story it was announced that the City of Bozeman has stopped the practice as of midday on Friday.

The extent of our request for a candidate’s password, user name, or other internet information appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community. We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the City of Bozeman.

Thanks to heatherkoyuk on Twitter for bringing this to our attention.

 

StopThere is stupidity, and then there is STUPIDITY, and the concept that someone could sue you for removing images from your own site surely falls under the latter.

According to TechDirt, a man deleted his website and removed all of his images.  He received an email shortly after this from a man who had been using his images on his own site and he was demanding that the man who had deleted the images put them back up immediately or face legal action.  If you aren’t 100% sure what is hotlinking and what isn’t, here is what I said in a previous post:

…if you embed an image, say on MySpace, that you did not upload yourself to a server, than you are hotlinking that person’s file.  While this may not sound like a big deal, every time that file, usually an image, is displayed somewhere, that uses up a portion of that person’s bandwidth.  As bandwidth is not free, you could potentially be costing that person money by using their image without their permission.

This is considered one of the worst practices on the Internet, but it is something that goes on daily still.  Now, the person who posted the image has the right to do whatever they want with it, and for someone to say they don’t have that right is a whole new level in hotlinking scumminess that I never even dreamed possible.  If you go over to ShapelessMass.com you can see the original emails that were exchanged, and that he did finally convince the indivirual hotlinking him that he would not win in court, and the person finally dropped the whole situation and apologized.

Now, what really amazed me about this whole thing is that the guy who was doing the hotlinking the images said they were important to his business, and he needed those images to help promote himself.  I demonstrated in another post about hotlinking how the practice leaves you with no control over the image.  As I have done on occassions where people hotlinked me, the person who controls the image can replace that image with something completely unrelated, and so long as the files have the same name, the image you use for the replacement will be displayed.  To be blunt, I once changed a picture on my personal website of an Xbox video game system to a picture of a sex toy after a guy in Mexico kept hotlinking me for months.  So whenever someone came in to his auctions they were greeted by this image of a well known sex toy with the words “Wouldn’t you enjoy this more than an Xbox?” written on it.  Childish of me?  Yes.  Considering the amount of bandwidth the man was stealing from me, I didn’t care.

I have seen people try to defend hotlinking as nothing bad, and that it isn’t stealing, but I’m afraid that it actually is.  When I owned my retail store, we had a dumpster out in the back alley that people constantly would throw their garbage in.  One day, after I couldn’t put my trash in it due to other people using it, I put on gloves and dug through it for a name and address so I could yell at someone.  I found a name and called the police to see if there was anything that could be done about it, and they sent an officer over immediately because it turns out there actually IS a problem with it.  I was informed that this qualified as “theft of services”.  The concept is that if you pay for a service, and someone else uses that service without asking your permission, or paying for the right, that they are stealing the service from you.

Guess what, folks… using another person’s bandwidth is stealing a service from them no matter how you slice it.

In short, don’t do it, and if you insist on doing it, don’t yell at the person who owns the image if they should happen to change it!

Thanks to Steven Hodson for pointing this story out to me.

Categories: News, Opinion   
 

Iran flagIf the contested election in Iran has taught us anything it’s that no matter how much any government thinks they may have cut off their people from accessing the outside world, they will always find a way around it.

While there is really not much a technology blog can say about the actual election, we can certainly say it was interesting that even though the country was supposedly blacked out communications wise, all sorts of Internet communication was still getting out.  The most amusing part of the weekend was the constantly circulating list of IP proxy addresses on Twitter that people inside of the country could use to do an end run around the blocking the country was attempting.  (although I will say if the person was already blocked, how would they see the list of proxies?)

While you can never be sure how honest the reports reportedly coming out of the country are, it was still a fascinating look in to technology rising to the occasion of attempting to help a people who belieed they had been wronged.  And kudos to Twitter who had an announced down time for Monday night/Tuesday morning for opting to cancel it to leave the lines of communication open for those who are using their serice during this event.

Categories: News, Opinion   
 

gpsThe United States government gave access to the Global Positioning System (GPS) to the world, but we have reached a point where we are abusing it?

There is no question that GPS has made many parts of our lives safer and easier, but you have to wonder when do we finally say, “Okay, enough with using it for absolutely everything in our lives!”  It has made navigation at sea a breeze, planes use it and it has made long road trips a lot simpler than having to constantly look at a map, but at the same time it seems to be taking away common sense also.

Do we really need to use it to avoid getting tickets from speed cameras?  Do we really need to track friends family via the GPS in their phones at all times?  And are we so far gone that we can no longer know which house to demolish based on a simple street address?  Never mind the numerous stories of people that have taken wrong turns off bridges and the such when they decided to listen to their GPS unit over common sense.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t enjoy the benefits of a system such as GPS, the crew at StarterTech are fans of the car navigation and cell phone tracking aspects of it, but shouldn’t we also realize it isn’t the ultimate solution to everything under the sun?  While the house demolishing seems a bit suspicious, the people who follow in-car navigation to the point of driving off roads in to rivers… well… they’re just morons.  Sorry, but it’s true.  ”The GPS told me to go here… I don’t care that it’s water…”, okay, you deserve to have your car sink (although we do hope you get out in time).

Just because a technology has reached an affordable price point doesn’t mean we should slap it into every conceivable device and use that we can.  And what do we do if somehow the system goes down?  We will then have a life filled with useless gadgets and no idea how to do certain things any more.  (does anyone remember how to read a map?)

Technology is a wonderful thing, and it can solve many problems, but that doesn’t mean we have the right to not only use it as a crutch, but as a complete replacement for common sense.

Categories: Gadgets, gps, Opinion   
 

hulu_logoIn an unexpected move, Hulu has launched a desktop application for accessing their large video collection.

We say “unexpected” because it really only improves the viewing experience of the service for a very small percentage of users.  If you have a Windows Media Center PC or a Mac, you can hook them up to your TV and then use the remote control from your computer to control the browsing of the service from anywhere else in the room that you want.  While this is a nice idea, it still requires your computer to be hooked up to your TV, which means it has to be in phycial proximity to your television set.  If you already have that arrangement, you can already hook the computer to the TV with some cables and just stream the web site to your television screen.

This seems like an odd use of their resources as other video sites such as Joost have abandoned their desktop applications.  If they want to spend some time working on something, they should see about launching applications for devices such as the Xbox 360, TiVo or Apple TV.  These are devices already attached to the TV, in most cases people have routed Internet connections and it takes the computer totally out of the equation.  I am sure this is what we will see eventually from the company, but it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to bother with the desktop app at this time.

You can decide for yourself by watching the introductory video below.

Categories: Opinion, Video   
 

Twitter LogoIt would seem that too many celebrities on Twitter could summon the Fonz and force him to jump the Fail Whale!

Don’t worry if that made no sense to you, it is just the plot of the second Twitter-based cartoon from Twitter.  The first of these appeared back in March in Twitter Explains It All, and this one is more subject specific than the last, but it makes some great points.

We’ve been raising questions about the oddities of celebrities on Twitter for some time now, and it just seems to be getting odder by the day, and it just seems to be getting worse.  Ever since Ashton Kutcher pushed to be the first account with a million followers, and then Oprah dedicated an episode to her setting up her own account, the site has been enjoying stratospheric growth.  The only question is what is it doing to the Twitter community?  This cartoon attempts to answer that question… and actually arrives at a surprising conclusion.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter… because I’m still having fun. @seanpaune

Categories: Opinion   
 

mothers dayIf you check out Google Hot Trends today, apparently no one knew it was Mothers Day until they woke up this morning.

For those of you unfamiliar with Google Hot Trends, it is a tool provided by the search engine giant to see what the top 100 searched on terms are on their site at any given time.  As a professional blogger it is an essential tool in my arsenal of finding topics to write about, but it was a bit of a story in and of itself today.

As most of you know (or, at least I hope you did before reading this), today is Mothers Day.  Well, it would seem that a lot of people didn’t know this before today, so they turned to Google for help.  At 12 PM EST today, these were just some of the top 100 items related to the special day that I found.  (numbers are their rank position at that time… yes, I do know how to do sequential numbering)

1. free printable mothers day cards
3. happy mothers day poems
5. myspace mothers day comments
8. how to make french toast
12. ecards
13. free ecards.com
20. funny mothers day quotes
25. how to make scrambled eggs
27. blue mountain cards
28. e cards hallmark free
30. american greetings
31. crepe recipe
35. mothers day text messages
40. online cards
41. mother lover lyrics
42. mothers day clip art
43. free ecard
48. mothers day bible verse
49. mom quotes
51. mothers day coloring pages
55. how to make crepes
58. things to do on mothers day
63. grandmother poems
64. yahoo greetings
65. dear mama lyrics
67. eggs benedict recipe
68. mothers day site 123greetings.com
70. hallmark cards.com
74. free online greeting cards
77. bluemountain.com
81. quick mothers day gifts
82. mothers day breakfast recipes
83. make a card
94. how to make an omelet
95. gift certificate template
97. mom poems
98. mothers day sunday school lesson

My favorite had to be #25, how to make scrambled eggs.  Seriously?

Anyway, just an amusing look into the collective mind of the Internet.  I’ve included a screenshot you can click on below to see what the whole 100 were at that time.  There are a few more that were probably related to Mothers Day, but I couldn’t be 100% sure, so I left them off.  And kudos to those few people out there already searching for Fathers Day links… unless you’re only doing it because you got confused about which day today was…

mothers day google hot trends

Categories: Google, Opinion   
 

rupert murdochIt would seem that Rupert Murdoch feels the time has come for people to stop freeloading on the Web.

Perhaps due to an astronomical drop in News Corp profits ($216 million last year down to $7 million this year in year-over-year reports), founder Rupert Murdoch announced via a conference call the Guardian was on, that within the next 12-months he expects to be charging for access to his corporations news websites.  

It seems that his thinking is based on one lone example of success, that being of the Wall Street Journal website.

That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal’s experience.

What he seems to be forgetting is that the New York Times used to charge access for their website, but they are now an open site with ad-support.  While the Wall Street Journal is enjoying success, it is also highly specialized news source, and not a generalized newspaper site like those of Mr. Murdoch.  Unless he can find some miraculous way to get every current free news source to charge for access at the exact same time he starts charging for his, he will find himself a very lonely individual with a huge lack of subscribers.

While what he says makes some sense, what he is missing is that people will simply turn to the numerous free resources that will still remain online before they pay for that exact same information.  While there is no doubt that print newspapers are suffering, going to subscription based online sites is not the answer.  All it will do is drive people away from your site, and with reduced visitors, the sites will look less appealing to advertisers.  It is an almost guaranteed lose-lose situation at this point.

There is no doubt that Rupert Murdoch is a smart man, just look at the media empire he’s built, but it is obvious that he is another in a long line of people who doesn’t get the inner workings of how the Internet works.  The genie was let out of the bottle a long time ago, and subscriptions are a thing of the past, so best of luck to him on trying to shove it back in to its bottle.

Categories: Internet, News, Opinion   
 

ethernet cableAt long last, government is saying “enough!” to the Internet service providers in this country.

We here at StarterTech have long been proponents of the concept that something has to change in the United States in regard to broadband high speed Internet.  Not only do we offer some of the lowest average speeds, we pay more for what littler we do receive that most anywhere else in the world.   Instead of increasing our speeds, companies such as Time Warner are instead putting bandwidth caps on how much you can use per month before paying overage fees.

Luckily it appears that a new savior has appeared on the horizon, and certainly not one we ever expected to see.

Municipal governments.

Steven Hodson over at The Inquisitr had a story today how municipalities in North Carolina are beginning to fight back against the likes of Time Warner cable and their exorbitant prices for lackluster broadband connectivity.  Tim Warner is charging $240 a month for 10 Mb/s service, recently increased to 15 Mb/s “because of the competitive environment,” bundled with their television service.  The Wilson, NC example Mr. Hodson sites involves their new broadband service which starts at 10 Mb/s, up and down mind you, and go as high as 100 Mb/s.  True, the 100 Mb/s will run you $300 a month, but considering some people are paying $240 for 15 Mb/s, I think that’s livable.

IndyWeek.com posted the following chart that makes it clear how Wilson is helping out their citizens:

chart-web

Of course, the reaction of Time Warner was to attempt to get a bill passed saying municipalities couldn’t do this, but it was defeated.

This is what I personally have been waiting for.  A war has to be started with these ISPs and their highway robbery prices they are charging us for Internet connectivity.  The fact that anyone is even still offering DSL is amazing to me, but the prices they are charging for something like AT&T “Xtreme” DSL is just sickening.

The “shot heard round the world” has been fired my friends, and the time has come for the people to rise up, go to their windows, and yell “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” (okay, okay, so this isn’t Network, but it fits!)  The time has come for everyone to write their congressmen and let them know exactly how you feel You can locate your Representative here, and your Senators here.

In these difficult economic times, the time has come for the people to finally rise up and not even necessairly cry out for higher speeds, but definitely we need to fight for more reasonable bills.  This is an issue that needs to be explored by Congress, and the sooner the better.

Categories: Internet, Opinion   
 
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