Category Archives: For Families

Hunting Down a Virus Writer – Fun For Everyone!

This guy took personal offense to a virus writer who's stupid prank messed up the computer of one of his friends. So he decided to hunt the virus writer down using only information he was able to find on the Internet with Google.

He goes through where he looked, what he found, and what it meant. Important lesson: This is how easy it is to profile you online.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

A Blurb About Manhunt 2

I don't know a lot about this game other than it's very violent and has been banned from the UK. Reading about it doesn't make it any better:

“In Manhunt 2, players can mutilate their enemies with an axe; saw their skulls in half castrate them with a pair of pliers; or kill them by bashing their head into an electrical box, where a power surges eventually blows their head apart, ? the letter charges. “On the Nintendo Wii, players will actually act out the violence. One review of the game describes using a saw blade to "cut upward into a foe's groin and buttocks, motioning forward and backward with the Wii remote as you go. ?

Wow, you couldn't make it more real if you tried. Parental groups in the US aren't necessarily determined to ban it and would be satisfied with just giving it an Adult rating. While this is a completely reasonable request and, as far as I'm concerned, a blatantly obvious decision, Take-Two (the game's producer) is fighting this for purely monetary reasons:

An Adults Only rating, however, could be a death blow to the game, since Nintendo and Sony, maker of the PlayStation platform, currently have policies that bar AO-rated games for their systems. That would limit sales for use only on personal computers.

Supreme Court Catching Heat for Correct Decision?

There's a lot of angry news out there saying that the US Supreme Court's recent ruling against school diversity plans is a major set back to racial equality. The catalyst was a suit brought by parents who's kids had been the subject of discrimination:

One plaintiff in the case was a white woman in Louisville whose son was denied a transfer to attend kindergarten in a school that needed more black pupils to keep its minority population at the district-required minimum of 15 percent.

Excuse me, but isn't still discrimination even if the kid is white?

We only hope those schools will continue to value racial diversity and will make the effort to identify and use other methods to integrate classrooms.

How about accepting whoever lives in the area? If you're in a primarily white town, the students will reflect that. If you're in a highly hispanic or black neighborhoods, you'll probably end up with hispanic and black children. Discriminiation will never end if we have all these laws that focus only on skin color (no matter what the reason).

Gap Selling Bikinis to 3 Year Olds

I thought that retailers were done making sex objects out of children after that last fiasco, but apparently, I was wrong.

Though the article states that the sizes are for 18 month olds and up, the actual size chart only goes down to roughly 3 year old size (according to a pediatric growth chart I found).

That aside, there's several problems with this. First: what kind of stupid sleazy retailer values money so much that they would make suggestive articles like bikinis for kids? Second: what parent in their right mind would buy this stuff?

And you wonder why I'm a proponet of industry regulation…

Be Warned – Was Small and Private, Now Huge Data Mine

Facebook is a Myspace-like social networking site that was originally designed to be accessible only be members of schools and universities (which was verified by .edu email addresses). It has recently opened to the general public probably in order to become more competitive against Myspace.

In the latest news, Facebook is actively seeking buyers advertising the data they hold as being the "most valuable data in the history of the media world".

Now let's look at the data they hold again: tons and tons of vital information on teenagers and young college students. It's sick, but yeah, big business would salivate to have all that data in their clutches.

The Lesson

Remember that even if the site you signed up for promises to protect your data, that doesn't mean it always will. Privacy policies can change without notice.

Confessions of a Circuit City Employee

The Consumerist is featuring a neat expose on Circuit City as told by a former employee.

Some of this stuff is scary familiar:

1. When buying any product, expect the salesmen to tell you that after around 13 months, a certain part or battery will need replacing. The common manufacturers warranty only covers 12 months parts and labor, so the customer is pushed to buy the extended warranty under the impression it will fail later…

20. If you don't get the accidental coverage on the item you just purchased that's coming from the warehouse, it may be "accidentally" dropped a few times. It's believed that when the customer comes back in with the messed up computer, that they will then opt for the coverage.

And this one is what literally happened in the store I worked in (and that was back in 2001):

25. Circuit City has laid off over 4 thousand employees recently to hire cheaper workers. They fired associates who were highly ranked in sales and service, and paid well for that reason.

Except that they didn't fire people specifically, they just brought in a new manager to make everyone so miserable they quit.

Most notable is the dirty tactics that salespeople will resort to even when they're "not on commission":

4. Every salesman is ranked by the number of protection plans (or extended warranties) that they sell. At my store all the time we would throw on scratch protection plans to CD's, since they're only a buck, most people don't notice. During the $9.99 CD special days, customers who weren't aware of the sale were easy prey.

13. When looking at computers, make sure that the tag you're looking at matches the floor model you're testing. We often would only put the faster computers on display that looked the same, so the customer would think that they're getting this fast computer when in reality, it's for the tag 3 feet away, and it's twice the price.

18. I've seen in the past of people hiding the less expensive speaker wires for car or home theater, or other such cables in the back warehouse. This makes customers buy the more expensive cables, assuming it's all there is.

26. Stores will keep great coupons such as "$10 off when you spend $100" up at customer service next to our ads that we give out. Sometimes they're only for the next week, encouraging that you come back Also almost everyday we were given a 10% off coupon to keep in our pocket in case we needed to give a discount to close a sale, making it look like we're making some special deal for them when really, it's just a plain old coupon that they could have brought.

The thing that Circuit City knows that most people might not is that you don't have to have a commissioned salesforce to make them into ruthless salespeople. Just threaten their job and keep applying more and more pressure to management to get the right "numbers" and it will trickle down.

North Carolina’s Innovative MySpace Law

Ars Technica reports on a proposed law in NC that will require parents to sign up for social networking sites (like MySpace) and become age verified before their kids would be allowed to sign up.

This is probably the best way I've heard of to prevent under-age kids from signing up and had the added benefit that the parents will have to know that their kids are using the sites. That way, parents are held accountable too.

Marketers Launch Sneaky Campaigns at Kids

Some of the consumer groups have published a new report documenting some of the marketing practices aimed at kids. Like this one:

KFC used a high-pitched tone as a promotional “buzz ? device for a recent “interactive advertising campaign. ? The MosquitoTone™ was embedded in TV commercials to launch KFC’s new “Boneless Variety Bucket™. ? In its press release, the company explained that the popular cell phone ring tone “is too highpitched for most adults to hear because most people begin to lose the ability to hear high frequency tones starting at age 20. This is a fact not lost on young Americans who seek the sound for clandestine ring tones that don’t turn the heads of nearby adults. ?

For those who don't realize how desperately the business world wants to connect to your kids, snare, and keep control of them, wake up! Many businesses will pull any dirty trick they can to make money.

Image Spam on the Rise

I haven't talked about this before, but it's a problem that's been around a while. A lot of spammers will send full images containing their message instead of HTML or text because a spam filter can't recognize what's in a picture. Now that spammers have been seeing the results of advanced spam filters, they are moving more and more to image spam.

From the article I linked to, this is the most important piece of advice:

Disable graphics in e-mails you receive. Most e-mail services such as Microsoft Outlook 2007 and Mozilla Thunderbird automatically prevent graphics from showing in e-mails you receive unless you click on them or enable the graphics yourself. While this can slow things down a bit, it also reduces the chances that you will be caught clicking on a piece of image spam. You can also configure your e-mail account to only receive plain text, blocking rich text and graphics altogether.

The key is that if the image loads at all, even if you don't click it, the spammer can know you opened their e-mail which will encourage more spam.

Brain-dead Teachers Freak Students Out With Fake Gun Attack

Someone actually thought this was a good idea? How stupid do you have to be?

Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.

"The children were in that room in the dark, begging for their lives, because they thought there was someone with a gun after them," said Brandy Cole, whose son went on the trip.

……………………hmm…………….. well,……………… What do you say to this?

These teachers are damned lucky they didn't do it in my kid's school.

Yeah. That'll work.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Update: Here's a link to the school's press release on the topic. Their account of what happened is completely opposite of what was reported on CNN.

Most of the students stood up and said, "That was a good one." "Yeah, you got me." High fives were exchanged.

Either the school is totally downplaying this or CNN has got some serious problems with their accuracy. Either way, if even one child was crying and taking this too seriously, the "prank" should have ended. I still think it shouldn't have happened in the first place and I'll just go back to what I said before: it's a lucky thing for them it didn't happen at my kid's school. I would have been in the princicpal's office the same day.

But something about this press release bothers me and apparently I'm not the only one:

"The children went to sleep and did not discuss it the following morning."

The absurdity of that statement is staggering. They are trying to convince people that in a class of over 60 students, after teachers pulled a 'prank', that not one of these ~60 students said anything about it the next day? Not one of them teased another one about falling for the 'joke'? Really? Not one?

The person who posted this comment on the Slashdot forums is right on.

Police “Book” Unruly 6 Year Olds

Tantrum turns to police record.

She flailed away at the teachers who tried to control her. She pulled one woman’s hair. She was kicking.

Unless the kid has a knife or some other kind of weapon, nothing they can do could be counted as dangerous.

Desre’e was charged with battery on a school official, which is a felony, and two misdemeanors: disruption of a school function and resisting a law enforcement officer. After a brief stay at the county jail, she was released to the custody of her mother.

So your kid has a felony and two misdemeanors on record from the time they're 6? What was wrong with the normal way, calling her mother? So now this poor girl, her mother, the community, and most of the Internet all have less respect and trust for police officers. Great work Florida.

(H/T to Schneier for the link)

Putting Parental Fears In Perspective

For those who weren't paying attention, fears of child abduction and abuse are fairly overblown.

Although statistics show that rates of child abduction and sexual abuse have marched steadily downward since the early 1990s, fear of these crimes is at an all-time high. Even the panic-inducing Megan's Law Web site says stranger abduction is rare and that 90 percent of child sexual-abuse cases are committed by someone known to the child. Yet we still suffer a crucial disconnect between perception of crime and its statistical reality. A child is almost as likely to be struck by lightning as kidnapped by a stranger, but it's not fear of lightning strikes that parents cite as the reason for keeping children indoors watching television instead of out on the sidewalk skipping rope.

Why is this important? Because companies that want humans to accept RFID implantation will try to use fears of child abduction to sell their products. The industry wants this badly (and possibly the government too), because once people begin implanting children, no one will get them removed as adults and eventually, every citizen will have them. Once we are all tagged, we can be tracked whereever we go and whatever we do. Imagine how easy it is to control and manipulate people once you know all that about them.

(H/T to Schneier's Blog for the link).

Teens Using Myspace to Break Up

This is new.

Boyd writes: "By breaking up through MySpace comments, the heartbreaker is attempting to assert their view for everyone else to see so that they cannot be accused of saying something else in private."

Makes sense to me. Less emotionally involved, less likely to say or do something you'll regret. Still pretty cold though.

University of Nebraska Stands Up to RIAA for Students

From the "WOO-HOO!" and "Heck Yeah!" departments comes the story of the University of Nebraska. Wisconsin may have refused to help the RIAA, but the U of N actually took it all the way:

If there were any doubt that the university is really irritated by the RIAA's requests, it has requested that the RIAA pay the university to reimburse its expenses from dealing with this

That's so awesome 😀

RFID Sensor Network Tested in Denmark

If you thought it was hype and paranoia, you were wrong. Not only CAN they create a sensor network to track people with RFID, but they're doing it right now. Denmark's Lego Land puts bracelets on kids that lets them be monitored by the park's many sensors.

Says Katherine Albrecht of spychips.com:

On the safety side, we can't help wondering why parents would let children wander off by themselves armed only with only a tracking device, rather than watching them with their own eyes. If a child is so young or irresponsible that his parents want to fit him with an electronic nanny, what he probably really needs is for those parents to hold his hand and pay attention to him instead. Alienating, authoritarian technologies only contribute to an alienated, cowering populace, whether the setting is an amusement park, a school, a
hospital, a birthing center, or a home.

Advertisers Want to Manipulate Your Kids on the School Bus

Obligation Inc. is documenting the exploits of BusRadio, a company that is producing programming intended for play on school busses. From the Obligation.org page on the issue:

These men realize that once on a school bus, children are a captive audience. Any captive audience can be exploited by forcing them to hear advertising. So Steven Shulman and Michael Yanoff developed BusRadio and were greatly aided by the venture capital moneyman Robert Davoli of Sigma Partners. As far as I can tell, this is the first time Sigma has chosen to financially back a very controversial company.