Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Be Afraid

A few follow ups to past entries.

First, I have often semi-jokingly talked about Google taking over the world by offering free email, web hosting, and random other features to the general public. My argument was that no big business could be making any kind of money giving services away. Therefore they must be slowly trying to incorporate us into their 'Matrix'-like lair and brain wash us into submission.

Things are worse than I thought. Google is buying DoubleClick, a malevolant, disgusting online ad agency that has been the main focus of my uncontrollable rage for years now for a whopping $3.1 billion. If you aren't aware, DoubleClick invented a way to track what users are doing on the World Wide Web and send related popup or online ads to your system. Say you're surfing around reading up on Harry Potter. DoubleClick's software will see that you're interested in Harry Potter and next thing you know you see an ad for the new movie on your sidebar or a popup announcing the arrival of the new book.

I have no issue with the online ads. These free sites need to stay in business and it's a small price to pay for the services we're getting. What bothers me about DoubleClick is that they track what you're doing. If you know how to view your temporary internet files, you will see thousands of tiny files that end in doubleclick.net. This is how they track your activity. Placing invisible bits of code onto your computer without you knowing. Sounds like hacking to me.

This became such an inflammatory issue with privacy freaks (of which I'm one) DoubleClick had to settle state and federal lawsuits back in 2002. They were forced to purge data files that contained personal information that included names, phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses. They also had to change the way they presented their 'Privacy Statement' to the public. Earlier that same year, the company abandoned it's so called 'Intelligent Targeting' ad system, claiming it was having trouble selling the higher priced advertising due to the dot com collapses.

Now, Google, one of the more recognizable and powerful names in the online arena, will be controlling DoubleClick. See you all in the Matrix, my friends.


The next item involves the iPhone. Seems there is a rather glaring security flaw with the operating system that allows hackers to completely control the device. Researchers at Independant Security Evaluators figured out a way to hack into the device by tricking the phones to go to a fake web site which would then download a piece of code onto it. The code 'allowed them to tap the wealth of personal information the phones contain'.

To be fair, the iPhone is new and most security flaws can't be discovered until it's been released to the general public. Look at how many patches Microsoft has had to release. Thousands. And since the iPhone is basically a mini computer, expect more security issues than the normal cell phone.

In fact, expect a lot more. For the more popular an item is, the more people will try to wreak havoc upon it. Good luck, Apple. Now you'll know what it's like to have a target on your back.


Lastly, I have further ammunition in my war against corn based ethanol. If you're sick of hearing about it, bear with me. This will be the final nail in the coffin, I will rest my case, stop beating a dead horse, and a host of other cliches that mean I will finally shut the fuck up about it.

First is this article from the Washington Post about a study that has concluded additional corn fields planted in the Chesapeake Bay area will cause serious pollution problems. Quoth said article, 'corn generally requires more fertilizer than such crops as soybeans or hay. When it rains, some of this fertilizer washes downstream, and it brings such pollutants as nitrogen and phosphorus, which feed unnatural algae blooms in the bay. These algae consume the oxygen that fish, crabs and other creatures need to breathe, creating the Chesapeake's infamous dead zones'.

While I'm no environmental expert, creating seabed 'Dead Zones' can not be a good thing.

I'll ignore the rising corn prices that are making everything from tortillas, beef and chocolate more expensive and instead introduce you to an article written back in April 2006 in Business Week magazine. It points out that the mileage our cars get from using E85 (85% corn based ethanol, 15% standard petroleum) is 25-30% lower than when we use standard gas. Meaning we would have to fill up more often if we go the E85 route. This isn't Business Week's measurements, by the way. It comes from the EPA.

Even worse are the studies that claim E85 may cause MORE smog during the summer months and that it takes more energy to create than it gives back. Cellulosic ethanol, on the other hand, takes less energy to create than corn and, if initial studies mean anything, runs cleaner and more efficiently.

OK, I'm done. Promise no more ethanol talk.


Today's distraction: Witness the destruction (and subsequent rebuilding) of an iPhone. This is totally something I would do if I could afford it. I am geek, hear me roar.


Quick note: The BeachBum Good Will tour will be hitting the City of Brotherly Love from tomorrow until Friday. Will try to keep my adoring public entertained while I'm away, but can't promise anything. Since my public really isn't all that adoring, I won't be losing sleep over it.

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