Virginia apparently is a state made up of moronic legislators. When Betty Ostergren, otherwise known as the "Virginia Watchdog" and on of my personal heroes, started posting social security numbers and other private data about state senators, she turned a few heads.
She got the information from the state's own public records websites where the senators were quick to pull some strings to get their information off the sites, but Betty refused to pull it off hers until they fixed the system that left all the other less-connected people vulnerable.
Their response was to draft a law for her specifically (what an honor!) that would make it illegal to disseminate any public records that contained Social Security numbers. Facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, she was fortunately rescued by the Virginia ACLU who filed a lawsuit on her behalf.
The saddest and sickest part of the whole situation is that they violently attacked the person who publicized what they were doing wrong while they made no effort to fix the wrong she exposed. Reminds me of certain other disgusting people…
Though they originally blamed it on anti-virus software on the machines, Diebold has admitted that it was coding error that leads its machines to drop votes. Hopefully that will help in the lawsuit against Diebold and encourage others states to recoup their losses as well.
Funny that I was just talking about this with someone yesterday, but today there’s an article on Lifehacker about saving money on textbooks. I have used their first suggestion, Bigwords.com many times myself though I’ve often found even better deals by simply looking for a previous edition book. For example, if your class is using the 5th edition, look for the 4th for big savings.
Anyway, if you or someone you know is looking for textbooks, perhaps you should give it a try.
California, a historically consumer-friendly state, has recently won a settlement against Citibank for over 14 million dollars in theft from its customers. They apparently used a computer program to “sweep” up positive balances due to double paid bills or merchandise returns from customers’ accounts into the Citibank’s general fund.
This is hardly surprising. The wireless toll systems use RFID and there isn't an RFID system yet that hasn't been hacked that I know of. Anyway, by cloning anyone's transponder, you can pass through the tolls while the other sucker pays the bill. Also useful for committing crimes in someone else's name.
Companies that are desperate to force you to look at their ads have been disguising them as traffic tickets which you’ll surely not ignore. Even if the ad were fantastic, I think I’d throw it away as a matter of principle.
Note, this post begins a new category on my page dedicated to the low and dirty cheats among the market. It will serve as evidence for my continuing position that the market needs heavy and strict regulation to play fair.
Details of how to access the information – which included home addresses, place of employment and credit card details – were sold through an underground network operated by the Russian mafia.
And, again, if these companies would stop holding our credit card numbers far past the date that we used them, we wouldn’t be having this problem. I hope Best Western gets slapped with a big lawsuit for this. Maybe then these companies will learn.
The Wall Street Journal says that Dunkin’ Donuts is experimenting with video screens that use facial recognition technology to figure out your age and gender. The screens then display ads targeted specifically to you.
"I have a huge inventory of machines that I am not able to use," she complained. "They are just sitting in our warehouse basically useless." Stacked to floor to ceiling are 4,000 machines purchased at $3,500 each. Total cost of that system: $16 million.
How exactly does Diebold get away with selling defective merchandise to the government without being forced to issue a refund?
Today Ars Technica also covers the story and adds some interesting details. For example, it turns out that in one case a voting machine company offered to buy back their machines from the state for $1 each (their original price was $5000 each). At least the state was smart enough to decline).
Now we see another brilliant use of CAPTCHAs in the restoration of old text too obscured for machines to read.
A team of computer scientists has taken a common Internet tool for screening out spam and adapted it to help convert text from old books and manuscripts into electronic files. The effort might not put professional transcribers out of business, but it could cut the cost of creating digital libraries
After a year of operation, reCAPTCHA has helped resolve about 440 million words for client users that are digitizing newspaper and document archives; von Ahn says his team just completed the entire 1908 archive from The New York Times, for example.
This is a very clever use of what would normally be wasted time similar to the idea of distributed computing as in the SETI@home project.