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June 2, 2004

Microsoft Now Owns Patent on the "double click"

Posted 1 week, 3 days ago on June 2, 2004
You heard it here from Aunty first (unless you read it somewhere else, of course) - yes, it's true...

Microsoft Corporation has been granted a patent, Aunty kids you not, on

"A method and system are provided for extending the functionality of application buttons on a limited resource computing device. Alternative application functions are launched based on the length of time an application button is pressed. A default function for an application is launched if the button is pressed for a short, i.e., normal, period of time.

"Oh, c'mon, Aunty," Aunty can almost hear you saying, "surely that doesn't really mean the "double click"!"

Read on (and this is all directly from their patent application abstract):

"An alternative function of the application is launched if the button is pressed for a long, (e.g., at least one second), period of time. Still another function can be launched if the application button is pressed multiple times within a short period of time, e.g., double click."

Did Aunty say that Microsoft owns the patent on the "double click"? What Aunty really wanted to say was "Microsoft now owns your ass", but of course, that wouldn't be polite.

Of course, perhaps this is Microsoft's altruistic way of trying to prove to the patent office just how out of control they have gotten, by filing a patent so patently (no pun intended) ridiculous, in order to show how far gone the system has become. Perhaps they had their fingers crossed.


So Aunty will just leave the reader with this thought:

From now on, every time you program anything which includes requiring the user to double click, you're infringing on Microsoft's new patent.

Heartwarming, isn't it?

Kissy kissy,


June 1, 2004

Bicy Wifi Shanghai

Posted 1 week, 4 days ago on June 1, 2004
Here's an interesting twist on war-driving*: war cycling.

[*For those of you not familiar with the term, 'war-driving' refers to the act of driving around, wifi-enabled laptop in hand (or on the seat or lap next to you), and finding unsecured wireless access points through which you can send email - usually spam.]

Now cometh Yury Gitman, of the City of New York, with his "Magicbike" - the wifi-enabled bicycle. But this is not, a recent BBC news report tells us, just a nifty alternative to your favourite internet cafe. Oh no.

The Magicbike can, we are told, "fulfill an important function in bringing internet connectivity to areas ignored by the traditional telecommunications industry."

Like the section of sidewalk beneath the apartment containing that unsecured wireless access point.

But at least Gitman is aware of the issues, as BBC news goes on to explain that "Mr Gitman admits that borrowing bandwidth from nearby open networks is something of a legal grey area."

In the same way that stealing cable from your neighbour is something of a grey area.

Explained Gitman in the BBC article, "There is not a one world legal answer but it is arguable that it is sometimes illegal."

That, at least, is true. For certain values of "sometimes". Like, as in, almost always.

May 28, 2004

California Senate Sends Gmail a Message

Posted 2 weeks, 1 day ago on May 28, 2004
The BBC reports today that the California Senate has passed SB 1822, aimed at limiting Google's ability to scan email coming in to the users of their Gmail system, and also limiting Google's ability to archive and sell the resulting information.

Now, Aunty is old enough to remember some real wholesale intrusions on privacy, and jaded enough to question anyone having obviously invasive powers, but there are a few things which occur to Aunty - maybe it's her doddering age, but:

1. Google is a business entity, not a government, for chrissakes. Business entities invade your privacy all the time, especially when you are availing yourself of their services - if you don't like it, don't sign up for their services. The reason that a private high school can perform a locker search, and a public school cannot, is because the public school is, arguably, a government entity. The reason that pretty much everyone and their dog now tell you, while you are on hold for 112 minutes when calling their customer service line, that "this call may be monitored for training purposes" but the nice men in the blue suits have to get a warrant to listen in on your conversations is because, again, the men in suits work for a government agency. The people who put you on hold do not. Deal with it.

2. Gmail is a voluntary service, and you'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to not know at this point, before signing up for their free services (and did Aunty mention that it's voluntary?), that they scan your email for content in order to serve up their Adsense ads with your email. ("Would you like spam with that?")

3. Google is doing nothing different in terms of scanning email content than any one of dozens of spam filtering companies do - for which their users often pay them handsomely, not slap them with restrictive legislation.

But, on the whole, it's a really good thing that Ms. Senator Figueroa is spearheading this new law, because goodness knows that in the U.S., and in California in particular, we wouldn't want to break with tradition and societal culture know, make people be accountable and responsible for their own decisions. Oh no.

May 26, 2004

A Gaggle of Google Giggles (Gmail)

Posted 2 weeks, 3 days ago on May 26, 2004
As many of you know, Aunty was one of the people blessed with a Gmail account early on (relatedly, she was also 'blessed' with everybody and their brother coming out of the woodwork asking her to please get them a Gmail account, too).

After the initial testing, which you can read about in the archives, Aunty left the account alone for a while, and this week logged in to find:

38 new pieces of email in the inbox
74 new pieces of spam in the spambox

So Aunty's Gmail account received 112 pieces of email, of which 103 were spam.

Of those 103 pieces of of spam, 74 - not even seventy-five percent - of them were tagged as spam and went into the spambox. Hoo-blanking-rah.
Aunty's Spam Assassin on Aunty's home server does better than that.

That means that 29 pieces of spam - more than 25% - ended up in Aunty's inbox.

And this was, as before, no borderline spam. Oh no. Of the 29 pieces of spam:

9 of them were from the desk of someone in Nigeria.
6 of them were CONGRATULATING me on the fact that I'VE WON!
3 of them were in some sort of Asian characters.
All of them Aunty's inbox.

Oh, and of the nine pieces of legitimate email in Aunty's inbox? Eight of them were from complete guessed it..begging a Gmail account.

May 20, 2004

Stop Me Before I Spam Again

Posted 3 weeks, 2 days ago on May 20, 2004
Noted "Cajun Spammer" Ronnie Scelson, responsible for 30million pieces of spam a day by his own calculations, told the United States Senate Commerce Committee during testimony today that while he has given up his wicked spamming ways, and now complies with CAN-SPAM, if people don't stop blocking his email he is going to start spamming again.

Cry me a river.

Scelson explained to the Senate committee that large ISPs such as AOL and Hotmail were blocking his mail. Apparently he takes exception to this.

Boo hoo hoo.

Then he advised the United States Senate Commerce Committee, while under oath, during testimony, that "he stood ready to deploy a range of deceptive tactics" from the underground nuclear fall-out shelter which he calls home if those mean ISPs don't stop picking on him during recess.

It's worth noting that Scelson advised the committee that he thought that CAN-SPAM "looks good but doesn't do a whole lot" (funny, many anti-spammers said the same thing about it, except for the looks good part). He must not have read it too closely though, because one of the things which it does do is explicitly state that ISPs are not required to accept, and indeed may block, anybody's email - even if that email complies with CAN-SPAM.

He also must not have realized that one other thing which CAN-SPAM does is allow the FTC to sue people who do things like..oh.. "deploying a range of deceptive tactics".

Still, nice of him to give the nice men in the suits a heads up.

May 17, 2004

Mind Gold: We Create Spam for Send Spam for Pay Us...Argh! I'm So Confused!

Posted 3 weeks, 5 days ago on May 17, 2004
From the "what a novel approach to spamming" department, H & H Enterprises of Foxworth, Mississippi is offering "Mind Gold" to "help businesses attract new prospects and gain the loyalty of existing customers".

The gist of the Mind Gold program is that you subscribe to the Mind Gold e-zine, for a fee, and then every week you get a copy of the Mind Gold e-zine, already pre-branded with your name and contact information, and including any advertising which you care to wrap around it, and then send that personalized issue of Mind Gold out to your

According to H&H;, the recipients won't mind receiving this unique version of spam, because "E-zines are the ideal way to use the Internet to attract new customers, and to stay in touch with existing customers, wrapping commercial messages around useful, compelling content that the consumer welcomes and wants to read."

H&H; goes on to explain that subscriptions "include a free signup webpage, where people can subscribe to receive the free E-zine. Companies simply send their customers to the signup Webpage and, when they sign up, send the E-zine they receive each week to their own growing list of subscribers. The content is focused on interviews with leading individuals in business, motivation, and life in general, so the E-zine appeals to literally anyone and any business."

Read as: the Mind Gold Pyramid.

This information, by the way, all comes directly from the H&Horse;'s mouth, from their own press release, ironically titled:

" New E-zine Service Solves "SPAM" Problem For Any Business Using E-mail Marketing"

Apparently the spam problem they are solving is that not enough of it is getting sent.

May 5, 2004

Microsoft and Ironport's Bonded Sender: Good Sense, or Unholy Alliance?

Posted 1 year, 1 month ago on May 5, 2004
The industry is abuzz with today's announcement by Microsoft that they are "implementing Ironport's Bonded Sender program" - whatever that means. For those of you not familiar, Bonded Sender is one of the whitelists out there - bulk email senders can post a bond to guarantee that the email they send is not spam, and get their IP addresses listed in the Bonded Sender database. If they then send spam from those IP addresses, their bond can be debited for the infraction. This way receiving systems such as ISPs (such as Microsoft) can accept that email and know with some certainty that it is wanted email, and not spam. (As an aside, given that this site is sponsored by ISIPP, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that ISIPP's Accreditation Database, "IADB", another list of IP addresses which allows email recipients to check on the background of a sender, also tells the receiving system whether someone participates in Bonded Sender, along with a host of other useful information unique to IADB. Meaning that MS, and anyone else, can get that same information, and much more, with a lookup to IADB. And for free.

But I digress.

There are, of course, any number of things that "we are implementing Ironport's Bonded Sender program" could mean.

Does it mean that they are going to only accept bulk email if it comes through an IP address listed in the Bonded Sender database? That would be a huge mistake, and while it would put the hurt on bulk mailers in the short term, in the end it would likely backfire, and cause MS to lose lots of users - users who can no longer get mailing list email they want because the sender won't kowtow to the MS/Ironport triumvirate (you figure out who the third party is). One might even imagine that there could be the possibility of anti-trust raising its ugly head, if we didn't know that Microsoft would never...

Or does it mean, as some industry insiders speculate, that MS is about to acquire Ironport, lock, stock, and Bonded Sender? That makes a lot more sense than some might think, even though this move did raise Ironport's bank, particularly as the founder of Ironport was some single-digit-numbered employee at Hotmail. There is definitely already an MS/Ironport bond (no pun intended), and this may well turn into the Microport Bonded Blender program.

Then again, perhaps it means that MS has been throwing away a lot of email babies with their spam bathwater, and, much as in the inimitable way in which they "announce" a security patch as a big deal without actually first announcing the problem which they created in the first place which the patch is supposed to fix, this announcement is nothing more than "we're going to use Bonded Sender so that we stopthrowing away good email which our users actually want.

Or, is this just one more text-based photo-op for Microsoft, sending out yet one more press release which, once the world really understands what it means, will lead to a collective "so what?", not unlike their huge announcement recently that they had sued some spammers along with AOL, Earthlink, and Yahoo - that release amounting to "hey, we're still doing what we said we'd be doing three months ago", with a collective response which was indeed "so what?".

So, you decide: Microsoft and Bonded Sender - good sense, or an unholy alliance?

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