Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Electronic voting

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about electronic voting – why you might, why you might not, and why it probably won’t be coming here for a while. Read on for my notes and links (warning: hilarious video!) or listen to the podcast. (more…)

posted by colin at 11:56 am  

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Solving the Enigma

There’s a really interesting article on the web site of the US Government’s National Security Agency all about the breaking of the Enigma, the German wartime code. I’ve talked before about the contribution of Alan Turing – this article sets it in a wider context. Unlike this disgraceful Hollywood outing, it appears factual. Recommended if you are interested in codes and the people who break them.

I found the pointer to this article on security expert Bruce Schneier’s blog.

posted by colin at 8:59 am  

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cables being cut in the Middle East

Some undersea cables have been cut by a ship. The results have affected Internet and phone service in the Middle East. (more…)

posted by colin at 9:50 am  

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Let’s talk about Spam

New Zealand spam, even, and I’m not talking about the pressed ham. A few years ago a man in Christchurch was outed by investigative journalist Juha Saarinen for sending vast quantities of the stuff – he boasted of 100 million messages per day – mainly with solicitations to buy things that were supposed to enlarge your penis. If you even had one. That person got extremely grumpy when he received many angry phone calls about his business, complaining that his children were taking calls from strangers angry about unsolicited and inappropriate messages. The irony was apparently lost on him. When challenged, he said that he was doing nothing illegal.

Anyway, after the publicity that person (I would normally use the word “gentleman”, but somehow it doesn’t fit) said that he would stop spamming. Fair enough. But this week the newly-formed anti-spam division of the Department of Internal Affairs has swooped on on an alleged spammer, again in Christchurch, after an expose by the BBC and some fine work by a Danish journalist. The product is again male bodily extension. And this time, all the computers at an address – 22, not bad for a home – have been seized with a view to prosecution under the Unsolicited Commercial Messages Act of 2007.

That’s right, the Spam Act has been used in anger. If this person was indeed spamming he deserves the full penalties of the act, there’s no argument about that. But let’s, for a moment, think about the cynics of this act back when it was a bill – it didn’t get unanimous support in Parliament, after all. Where would New Zealand now be if it hadn’t passed? Left explaining to the BBC’s audience that this vile activity, illegal just about everywhere else, was acceptable in New Zealand? That we think it’s alright for New Zealanders to write to the world’s boys and girls offering to supersize their genitals? 100 million times a day?

Well done every MP who voted for it.

posted by colin at 6:37 pm  

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Staying safe over the Summer break

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about several things, including how to practice safe online behaviour when you aren’t at home. Read on for my notes, or pull the podcast to find out if I stuck to them!


posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Maps on your telephone that know where you are

The new MyLocation feature on Google Maps for Mobile is spooky but cool.

Google Maps is a way of finding maps of just about anywhere, online on your computer. Check out if you haven’t seen it. It provides street maps, driving directions from A to B, and it can overlay satellite photos so you can see what the area looks like from above.

Google upped the ante on that service in the middle of this year when it introduced Google Maps for Mobile – the whole thing runs on most of the fancier kinds of mobile phone. So, if you’re lost or don’t know a street you are looking for, you can whip out your phone and get a street map of Wellington, say, and search for the street you want or the one you can see.

And you can switch between the map view and a satellite picture type view – a very detailed aerial photo just like in Google Earth. This is endless fun. You can armchair travel to all kinds of places, or just look down on familiar ones. (more…)

posted by colin at 6:23 am  

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On the Internet no-one knows you’re a dog

or so runs a 1993 cartoon from the New Yorker. Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about the practicalities of knowing who people are on the Internet, about the scary abuses of identity information that some governments have engaged in recently, and about a very clever New Zealand proposal to offer a way to prove your identity on the Internet without the Big Brother overtones. Read on…

posted by colin at 11:51 am  

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Volcanos and Earthquakes!

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about volcanos and earthquakes and what you can find out about them on the Internet. The New Zealand web site GeoNet tells you all about volcanic and seismic activity. Read on for my notes and the links at the end.

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Should companies have to tell you if they lose your records?

Today I talked on Radio New Zealand National about the Privacy Commissioner’s new draft code which would effectively force companies who violate your privacy to tell you about it so you can do something about it. My speaking notes are below the fold and there are links are in the usual place.


posted by colin at 11:25 am  

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Westpac comes to the party

Two weeks ago I spoke on the radio about the risks of online banking, especially since the New Zealand Bankers’ Association is trying to make you liable for the risks if your PC isn’t secure. Westpac has broken ranks with the NZBA and introduced an online guarantee which says, essentially, they will cover fraud in your online banking unless you have been really reckless or criminal. Good on Westpac!

Let’s see the other banks look after their customers as well.

posted by colin at 7:25 am  
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