Posts Tagged ‘ telecommunications ’

Blind Weighman

I’ve been reading the following article about 19-year-old Matthew Weighman, “one of the best phone-hackers alive”, recently sentenced to 11 years in prison for his crimes.  Weighman was born blind.  Fascinating stuff.

W I R E D Threat Level | Blind Hacker Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

Relying on an ironclad memory and detailed knowledge of the phone system, the teenager is known for using social engineering to manipulate phone company workers and others into divulging confidential information, and into entering commands into computers and telephone switching equipment on his behalf.

The FBI had been chasing Weigman since he was 15 years old, at times courting him as an informant. He was finally arrested in May of last year, less than two months after celebrating his 18th birthday.

Even more interesting is the “factual resume” (read: confession) written by Weighman and his lawyer describing in detail the various crimes he was charged with, and the part he played in them.

…If they haven’t already been sold, I’m betting Hollywood buys the movie rights before the end of the week.

Cable and Broadband v. Copper

Received this article in an email at work. 

Congress has asked the Federal Communications Commission to develop a national policy for broadband deployment. But it may be more important to think through how the country will handle the aging and increasingly less relevant copper phone network.

While I have to agree with most of what Saul Hansell (the reporter) writes, I’m glad that the US is at least developing an official policy for broadband.  Since there are no regulations in place to legislate broadband voice service, the cable and IP companies like Vonage and Cablevision don’t suffer under the same restrictions imposed on the telcos.  It gives them an unfair advantage in what’s already a cutthroat industry (and, as the article effectively portrays, one whose once-solid business is now on decidedly shaky ground).  Even if the official policy is designed to promote broadband to consumers, setting ground rules for the cablecos to follow certainly can’t hurt.

Telephone companies need to invest in new infrastructure if they want to be competitive with cable and IP, and that means replacing old copper lines with fiber optics.  The problem is finding money to invest in a diminishing business (inevitably, as wireless strengthens its hold on the north american market); for investors it seems counter-intuitive to pour millions of dollars into a new, more reliable landline network for a legacy service that doesn’t promise a return on investment.  Up here for instance, TELUS has no problem finding funds to develop its 3G mobile network, but when the notion of revamping its existing landline infrastructure is quietly brought up it always gets firmly quashed.   

If the telcos can’t find a way to compete, I’m afraid Hansell’s prediction may come true:

What good will it do for the F.C.C. to come up with a spiffy new plan to get faster, cheaper broadband to more people if the phone companies fail and millions of people won’t be able to dial 911 in an emergency?

Mobile Gutenberg Banned for Lewdness

Eucalyptus, an iPhone app designed to make electronic texts like those on the Project Gutenberg online archive more easily accessible, was banned by Apple last week.  Apparently, among its 28,000 out-of-copyright titles, Gutenberg contains an 1883 translation of the Kama Sutra.  Nevermind that anyone can navigate to the Project Gutenberg website using iPhone’s Safari browser, or that you could obtain it via several other ebook apps.  Said Eucalyptus developer James Montgomerie to The Guardian:

“I’d never even thought about searching for it before. You have to type either “kama’ or ‘sutra’ before it appears. It doesn’t seem likely that they were searching for something else and yet it seems absurd that they were searching for that.”

Then, on Sunday, Apple changed its mind and notified Montgomerie that Eucalyptus would be sold to users (Apple backtracks on iPhone sex ban | guardian.co.uk).

Apple really needs to figure out what they want to do in terms of what should and should not be made available for the iPhone.  Clearly the recent fallout regarding the baby-shaker app has got people jumping over at Apple.  They either need to make it clear to consumers that they shouldn’t be held responsible for the content of third-party programs, or set specific guidelines for developers about what they’ll sell in the app store.  When it comes to censorship there are no easy answers, but ignoring the question until it goes away just seems irresponsible.

‘White Spaces’ – Shining hope for the future of the internet

Google Public Policy Blog | Introducing the White Spaces Database Group

As the Commission made clear in its ruling, a working white spaces database must be deployed in order for consumer devices to be available in the market. Before sending or receiving data, devices will be required to access this database to determine available channels in the vicinity. Combined with spectrum sensing technologies, use of a geo-location database will offer complete protection to licensed signals from harmful interference.

With this mandate in mind, this morning we joined Comsearch, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Motorola, and Neustar to launch the White Spaces Database Group.

The first steps have been taken to transform the soon-to-be defunct analog TV spectrum into a massive wireless broadband network.

For more info, here’s Google co-founder Larry Page and FCC chairman Kevin Martin at the Wireless Communications Association International Conference last November, talking about “white spaces” and the profound impact it will have on internet users throughout the United States:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D7dueHdWW8

I think there’s something poetic about taking the abandoned analog tv spectrum and turning it into an open wireless network, which will– one can hope– be free for all in exactly the same way analog tv signals were.

Throttling customers

bell-cp-4901164.jpgCRTC allows Bell to continue internet throttling

Bell Canada Inc. is not breaking any laws by slowing internet speeds and will be allowed to continue throttling its customers, the CRTC has ruled.

‘…allowed to continue throttling its customers’ is really an unfortunate turn of phrase, don’t you think? Makes it sound even more sinister than it actually is (and the reality is sobering enough).

At least the CRTC is opening a new probe into internet throttling in general. One can only hope the outcome will be more encouraging.