Roundup: July 19

Good morning (if it’s still morning where you reside) readers! I’ve got a bit of news.

 Cricket gets iPhone, it doesn’t save the world.

Lots of people were excited when Cricket, the pre-paid wireless company, snagged a deal for the iPhone. The problem lies in the pricing: $499. Since you’re off-contract, you don’t get that fancy subsidized pricing, which means it’s going to cost you a lot. Oh, and it’s not available in all cities. In my hometown of Houston, it’s fine, but if I set my location to Huntsville, I am no longer offered the iPhone.

Interesting decision, Cricket. In fact, it’s only available in 59 cities, due to the way Cricket runs their network and piggybacks off of Sprint’s. Also, the price is $300 more than the other leading phone available for Cricket, but PCMag gave that phone 4.5 stars, so you’re definitely paying a lot of cash just to have an iPhone and a few features that are largely forgettable.

Here’s a cool video on wireless electricity, from TED.

 Spam botnet responsible for 18% of the worlds electronic junkmail has been taken down.

Grum (they never pick pretty names, do they) a huge botnet with C&C points believed to be in Russia, Panama and Ukraine has been taken down by security researchers. FireEye, the security research company, partnered up with SpamHaus and local ISPs to take down Grum’s C&C servers, leaving the infected hosts still infected, but headless according to the blog post on their site. At one point, 120,000 infected IPs were sending out spam but that number has trickled to 21,505. FireEye is quick to point out, however, that many computers that could have been infected can be behind firewalls that don’t allow outgoing mail in such a manner, yet are still used by the Grum network to host webpages and the like. Researchers hope that once the current spam templates expire, the number of spamming IP addresses will dwindle to zero.

Microsoft sees what’s in your SkyDrive, may ban you for it.

A German photographer uploaded a private folder with some partial nude photos in it, resulting in his entire Live account being banned. He was no longer able to purchase apps, use his Hotmail account, or play on Xbox live. A Dutch user has recently gone through the same thing, resulting in a loss of paid apps on that account. While the SkyDrive TOS are clear on the subject – stating content that “depicts nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga” or “incites, advocates, or expresses pornography, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, hatred, bigotry, racism, or gratuitous violence” is banned, it seems kinda creepy that they’ve got bots that can recognize boobies.

Ford Escape fuel lines may fail, Ford warns.

Some 11,500 Ford Escape owners may not be too happy with the car maker, as they have received warnings about their vehicles telling them not to drive the vehicle at all until it is repaired. As the second recall within a week comes down, owners may be wondering what’s wrong with Ford. However, the auto manufacturer is acting like someone lit a (broken fuel line driven) fire under their collective asses, stating that owners of the 2013 Escape with the 1.6L engine should contact the dealer immediately for repair. While it seems like Ford has screwed up, remember that they buy parts like this from suppliers, so there’s no guarantee it’s Ford’s fault.

Australian’s government pulls no punches to spy on users.

Here in the US, we get quite incensed over bills like SOPA/PIPA (and the new IPAA) – and rightfully so. But Australia’s governing body is a little less subtle. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security wants to grant the ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) powers to edit warrants after they’ve been granted, and increase their ability to monitor emails and web history. The best part: They’re also considering protection from legal retribution for officers in the organization, meaning if an officer abuses their power and breaks the law, there’s no guarantee of him being punished, or even punishable. All of this is under the guise of protection from big scary things such as Pedophiles, Terrorists and Organized Crime, but even the slightly internet savvy folks know of a multitude of ways to mask your steps online.

Here’s a bit of silly news: Two Seattle men are stopped at the border for illegal candy.

The two men spent two hours in detainment after trying to bring Kinder Eggs across the border. Kinder Eggs – the terrorists’ favorite candy – are chocolate eggs with toys inside, declared unsafe in the US because no one watches children enough to ensure they don’t eat the bloody toy, or to educate them on how not to eat plastic. Importing the eggs carries a heft fine: up to $2500 per egg. The men ended up with a warning, two hours wasted and no chocolate to show for it. One of the men called the experience a “waste of time” for both himself and the agents involved, and I’m in agreement. When there are very real threats out there, why are we worrying about chocolate?

US purposefully learning how to troll online.

Yep, that’s right. The good ol’ USA is preparing a squad of elite trolls to “annoy, frustrate and humiliate denizens of online extremist forums,” according to Wired. The program, called Viral Peace, was started by Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department, stating that the goals are to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” I’m not sure if pissing them off will work, but surely the presence of outsiders in their little circle will break up communications, further weakening terrorist regimes such as Al-Qaeda. The attacks come at the same time as the physical safehavens are being bombarded by drones or visited by SF guys in cool hats, so I guess we’ll just keep fighting the good fight.

Since we’re space nerds, here’s a bunch of pictures of the Enterprise.


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