Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Broadband Demand Report – Results unburied

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Remember that? Probably not. Way back in January 2006 the Government decided to have a consultation about how to stimulate demand for broadband in Ireland. They got a lot of reponses, nearly all of which (except eircom and Forfas) said the biggest issue was supply not demand. A report was written as a result of all the feedback on methods to increase usage of broadband in Ireland. It appeared to have just been buried. Well until now. Broadband Demand conclusions come on down!

Photo owned by johnthescone (cc)

I sent in the following Freedom of Information request in January of this year:

A digital copy of all consultation responses, drafts and the final version of the Broadband Demand Report. I believe this report/consultation happened around January 2006

Last week the Department of Communications uploaded the digital versions of the documents I received to their website. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

It’s all rather boring really until you get to the report that was generated from all the suggestions. The FOI request showed me the three versions of the final report which itself was not made public. Amazing to see how the civil service works and watching as the initial draft get severely butchered as it probably went up the chain of command and became rather tame. Part 6. A 19 page document got turned into a 16 page document and then got turned into a 12 page document (Page 81)and on the way suggestions from the Department were removed. But even with that final report, it never actually got published after all the people sending in their views and it all being sifted through. What a horrible waste.

The overall conclusion of this report was: Stimulating demand is not a concern at present and it’s still not.

Where did the Murphy’s go?
The draft versions of the report on the conclusions saw the report split into two parts, stimulating demand and tackling availability/infrastructure issues. In the cleaned report (page 81) they turn from “suggestions” into “summaries”. It is obvious in the drafts that the Department have come up with their own constructive suggestions on demand and availability but further along the line they seemed to have been disappeared. Shame. But it at least shows that like every org they are some great minds and constructive suggestions being worked on but politics comes into play.

BT Ireland and eircom had massively different data on line failure rates which was mentioned in one draft:

BT in their submission, claim that up to 62% of FRIACO lines they surveyed (a sample of 4,300) failed the line test for broadband. Eircom state the figure is 10%. The truth is probably somewhere in between and it would prove a worthy exercise for the Department to ascertain the real truth, if only to counter the spin Eircom put on the figures in the national media.

The clean report turns this into:

BT reported that a high share of FRIACO lines failed the line test for broadband. However, in relation to coverage issue, Eircom stated that by “March 2006, 85%+ of telephone customers will be connected to DSL enabled exchanges”

Nowhere does it mention that this is just fiddling with numbers but it is warned about in the two drafts:

The wording of this is very careful. They are not saying that 85% of customers can get DSL, they are saying 85% of customer lines are attached to a DSL enabled exchange. This brings the numbers of the population down from the 67% of the country who have a land line, down to 56.95% who have a landline attached to an exchange.

Eircom claim there is only a 10% failure rate on lines, which brings to sum down to 51.26% of the population who have a land line, attached to an enabled exchange, with no failure problems. … and is assuming you accept Eircom’s word

And the Murphys:
A suggestion was made to pick out the first 100 Murphys in each area code and put their number into the eircom line checker and see what the %s would be. It never made it into the “clean” report. Neither did lots of other very good suggestions probably because it would have added more reality to the situation the Department had been preaching up until then.

There are dozens of other great suggestions in those draft reports. They’re worth checking out. I still think the Murphy’s idea is great and maybe someone should try it out and see what the line failure rates are.

Ouchies – IIA’s WordPress powered blog gets spam hacked

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Justin Mason did the sleuthing. Will we have to download weekly patches soon?

Yahoo! to Microsoft: Google just bought us a gimp suit, what you got?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Or is it more Good Wil Hunting. How about them Googles?

Via John Furrier.

And via Washington Post too:

Yahoo Inc. is close to announcing that it plans to carry search advertising from Google Inc. as part of a test that could lead to a broader partnership, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ok it’s a short-term limited test but with Google making more per search than Yahoo! or Microsoft it’s worth looking at to boost the coffers of Yahoo! There’ll be more than a single chair flung over this. Waiting to see the Microsoft reaction. Wonder would they really be evil and sign a long-term binding contract. Yahoo! have always been a media company so maybe it is time to just give up on search and advertising?

Irish Nokia Music store opens but only for the Microsoft chosen few

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Firefox barred. MacOS barred.

Still, you can win vouchers ranging from 1 euro to 10 euros as well as an N95. Go here.

Nokia Music Store

Free iPhone in return for being spied on – Apple to Irish employees

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Apple must have been jealous of the attention Pat Phelan gave O2 and the iPhone launch so they’ve done one better and Pat’s watching. See Apple have told Irish employees they can have a free iPhone but can’t unlock it and if the phone is unlocked, they’ll get done by HR. Apple have said they’ll be spying on their phone usage. Looks like they’re keeping some ownership rights too as you can use it but not sell it on but you can give it to a friend or family member. Can they sell it on? What if they unlock it?

I spy with my little eye
Photo owned by rveenen (cc)

There’s always a place for assholes in the world

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Jaiku has them a plenty. Well done lads. Keep the flag flying for B when the whole A versus b thing doesn’t matter.

The social network is us

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Facebook, mySpace, Bebo, O2, Vodafone are all just rough approximations of the underlying social network that links humans together.

Humans still power the Internet. The biggest search and advertising company in the world marked themselves from the crowd by powering itself on human people connecting bits of information. Google became big because of links. Their pagerank and their famous top secret always-changing algorithm found out the relationships between webpages and websites and came up with a much better way of categorising information online from this. But it was humans that did the initial linking. A link is a human tieing data together.

What started off with the likes of Friendster moved on to mySpace, Bebo, Facebook and now Twitter. Funnily enough many of them got bigger by connecting people that were already connected via email. The network already existed. Bebo, Facebook and Twitter allow you to trawl your address book and find people in there that are already on their services and then make connection requests to them. All they’re doing is taking all the existing connections and stuffing them into their network too. We’re all in social networks already, technology in a way just highlights them more, like Google maps highlight existing routes.

Adding to your network

What makes these social networks more sticky though? Well it’s much easier to share photos, videos and music and leave comments and all in public. You add the media to your profile and everyone connected to you can see it. A bit like a blog though stickier. Much better than pressing the forward button or composing an email ain’t it? These networks really to me are not so much building new groups but increasing data transfer and sharing between existing groups.

I don’t think I added someone to Facebook because I valued their input in some Facebook group we were both in or actually liked their taste in music after looking at their likes and dislikes on their profile. I more than likely added them because of an existing relationship even if it was a weak one. Weak ones being we were at a conference, I saw them speak or they saw me, they read my blog and feel they know me that way, we emailed each other once about something etc. etc. The social networks take any and all connections/relationships and lasso them into your network and sometimes they add great value to these connections but sometimes not.

Shorter bursts in more locations
Facebook is doing no more than accentuating existing relationships I have with people and there certainly is value with that but as can be seen by many, people are moving their short-term attention to other things. The status update on Facebook was good and was a nice improvement over other social networks but now it seems that people are more into using twitter to send 140 character updates to people and Twitter is allowing you to update when you’re on the go with their text message capabilities. Luckily Twitter can ypdate Facebook. This can be seen by people using Facebook to display their Twitter status as their Facebook status. It’s keeping all those they’re connected to updated even when they are not on Facebook itself. I’m sure Facebook don’t mind as they are still the core and that’s where your social network is mostly stored but a new network is forming around Twitter too. It’s funny that in the age of infinite data and the ability to share it, most of us are happy with the amount exchanged in a text message.

twitter status

Twitter is the next step really, it’s making your stored social network more mobile. Half the world have mobiles now. A quarter have a computer. Now that the uptime issues are sorted a little bit more, Twitter is less annoying but it’s totally crippled. It pretty much does what it did a year ago. A text box and in it you update your friends on what you’re doing in 140 characters or less. Their main competitor is Jaiku which is much better except it lacks what social networks live and die by – people. The usual feature elitists insist that Jaiku is better (it is) but still think that alone will mean people will move over. It won’t. Features don’t matter unless they make people communicate and share more. Given the scenario of a social network with lots of features but with a small audience compared to a mass audience with sfa features will win. More people communicating is more attractive (and valuable) than less people sharing ore. Jaiku is turning into a ghost town as it is and people are moving on so we see the Jaikuistas coming back to twitter while knocking it. Ironically they are able to spread their “Twitter is shit, Jaiku is great” message to a wider audience via Twitter than Jaiku. Jaiku is dead. Maybe all those dimwitted nearsighted people building new social networks will cop on to that. Unless you can offer the influentual people to move over then you’re dust. Heya Nimble, how goes?

But yet nobody is doing mobile
Still for all this mobile talk, mobile has yet to be exploited. O2 is a social network that makes money when people update each other. So is Vodafone. Sure there are mobile versions of networks based on your email addresses. However my contacts list in my mobile does not connect to a social network. The data shared between me and the people on my phone are texts or phonecalls. And they’re pay to play. I have a social network with 531 contacts and it’s pretty dull. Jaiku has a mobile client that can make that come alive yet Google has never done anything to expand on that since they acquired them. The iPhone and Apple could easily do something like this since everytime you synch it with the computer it backs up the contacts.

Photo owned by alazaat (cc)

The future
There’s a lot of life still left in social networks but I don’t see Facebook or Twitter as the future because social networks have existed before technology and all technology can do is enchance these relationships. They might boost us past the Dunbarr number and allow us to interact with more people without getting relationship fatigue but right now they are still lacking. Not all of the people on our real social network are able to be added just yet, are they? Not that they want to be but the option should be there though. Still with so much left to do to match our real social networks to these rough representations called Facebook and Bebo it means there are lots of opportunities in the field still. Bring it.

Why blogspot is like cat pee

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I mentioned in a blog post that Blogspot is like cat pee. I was asked to expand on that.

The issue I have with it is that it’s hard to get your data out of the site once you start and redirecting spiders and Google to your new blog if you do escape is difficult to impossible. So for me it does not give you as many options as other blogging software and no plugin support but also if you move to your own domain, a hell of a lot of traffic will still go to the old site. Google “Twenty Major” and his old blogspot blog comes up 3rd or 4th in searches.

When it comes to business blogs it irks me a bit that Blogger/Blogspot gets all the linklove instead of the company even when they do decide to move the blogs to the main domain.

Cat pee. Is there an easy way to redirect with blogger/blogspot?

Rob mentions though that sticks ads on your blog and doesn’t give you a choice whereas blogger does.

Yahoo! joins Open Social

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Via the Yahoo! Corp Blog. Very encouraging. Also on the Google blog.

In this same spirit, we announced today that we’ve joined forces with Google and MySpace to create the OpenSocial Foundation, and will also begin supporting the OpenSocial standard. Industry consortiums such as this often start slowly and evolve over time. So far, OpenSocial is rapidly growing and adapting, but still in the early stages. We feel that this is the right step at this stage in its evolution. It’s no longer a trial balloon — it’s for real. We are taking this opportunity to help ensure websites and developers feel confident using OpenSocial as the building blocks for their new social apps.

We already offer Web services and APIs through the Yahoo! Developer Network that make it easy for developers to build applications and mashups that integrate data sources in new ways. We think OpenSocial will continue to fuel this innovation and make the Web more relevant and more enjoyable to millions.

The big question though is whether they’ll do what Bebo did and then supports Facebook Applications too.

Update: Further thoughts. The foundation looks good with it owning the IP and NOT Google. This is better for sure. Is this also forcing Microsoft to join via the backdoor if they eventually do nab Yahoo!?

Aer Lingus site Privacy screw up – Giving up your personal account details

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

It seems that if you use a certain url on the Aer Lingus site you can access the account details of whoever logged into some sections last. I logged into the Gold Circle section and when someone logged in after me the got the below details. I’m not the only one. Anyone that clicks on the url (which seems to be just a general url with session details) will see details of anyone who logged in last. I rang customer care who are not equipped to deal with this in fairness and they asked me to email in the url. Twenty mins later and I still can’t find an email address on their site that I can email. They seem to think fax is enough for Irish people. Oh and their Aer Lingus queries site is down so I can’t send in my “query” via there.

Aer Lingus Hijack

Not that I have much of a clue about security but it appears to be a simple session hikack, although not intentional. The url sent to me and others by someone linking to the Gold Circle page contained session details and for some reason when registering after that for Gold Circle and logging out, the next person in could see the details of the previous person. If they hadn’t logged out yet you got the screen cap from above but if they logged out you saw “just” their email address. A very obvious data breach.

The worrying thing is that this technique might be used to get even more details from accounts including credit card details. So on Easter Sunday I am told I should email this into customer care, if I can find their email details. I’m still looking.

Update: Email to customer care:

My personal data was accessed by other people.

My mobile number is +353

I already called about this at 3pm today. I was told to fill this form in. There has been a data security breach on your site which has ended up with my personal data being exposed via the Gold Circle section of Aer Lingus website. It has happened to others too and I believe they have made contact.

The clock started ticking for me at 3pm and I would like to be contacted and assured that this data breach is being taken seriously and that a report will be issued as to what happened. I would also like to be updated on the progression of the investigation of this issue.

I have also put this issue on my website: and will be updating it as time goes by.

Thank you.
Damien Mulley

Update 2 @19:11 – Well Aer Lingus took down the site for a while but the issue is still there. James Galvin shared a url and when I clicked on it, I got his fake account details:
Aer Lingus Hijack

Including his credit card details, though he didn’t put them in:
Aer Lingus Hijack

The very worrying thing is that it was sheer accident that some of us happened upon this. Is this a temporary bug or has it been around all the time? Can session IDs be predicted?