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Current Topic: Business

FTC Sets Updated Online Privacy Guidelines
Topic: Business 7:31 pm EST, Feb 13, 2009

How is your personal information protected on the Web? The Federal Trade Commission sought to clarify that question this week with the release of updated principles regarding online behavioral advertising.

In 2007, the FTC held a town hall on Web advertising, and issued five proposed principles regarding online advertising.

Those guidelines include: increased transparency and consumer control; reasonable security and limited retention of consumer data; express consent to change existing privacy policies; consent to use sensitive data for behavioral advertising; and a call for additional information on how companies use tracking data for purposes other than behavioral advertising.

The agency solicited public comment on these guidelines and released an updated version on Thursday that tweaks the principles slightly.

FTC Sets Updated Online Privacy Guidelines

Fired exec: 'Starbucks saved my life'
Topic: Business 1:47 am EST, Feb  6, 2009

Michael Gates Gill was a high-flying, six-figure-earning advertising executive years ago before he was abruptly fired. He had created huge campaigns for companies like Christian Dior and Ford and lived an even bigger life, with luxury automobiles, lavish vacations and fabulous clothes.
Michael Gates Gill's book about how working at Starbucks changed his life became a bestseller.

These days, however, he's traded his $3,000 Brooks Brothers suits for khakis and a green apron; the big bucks for a $10 an hour job as a barista at Starbucks. But Gill says he couldn't be happier.

"Losing my job turned out to be a gift in disguise."

After 26 years at J. Walter Thompson, a leading advertising agency, the then 63-year-old Gill was invited to an early breakfast and was told that he was getting the boot. He made too much money. Someone younger would work for less, he was told.

"Never go out to breakfast," he warns before bursting into laughter. "It's like the Mafia. You will never return." Video Watch the happy barista »

He can joke about it now, but Gill says he was devastated by his firing.

"I remember walking outside and bursting into tears," he says over a steaming cup of coffee at his current place of employment, a Starbucks in Bronxville, New York. "I was stunned. I knew that that part of my life was over."

That was just the start of a terrible reversal of fortune. In a few short years, Gill, the Yale-educated son of the famed New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, closed the consulting business he started after he was laid off, got divorced and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had hit both the rock and the bottom and was continuing to fall.

A trip to Starbucks would irrevocably change his life, he says. Unbeknownst to him, the coffee shop was holding a hiring fair the morning he walked in for his daily dose of caffeine. A manager approached him and asked if he would like to apply for a job. Without thinking, he said yes.

That was five years ago. These days, when the divorced father of five is not whipping up a caramel macchiato or perfecting his latte foam, he's sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets.

"I still have trouble with some of the drinks," he admits, "but I'm a good cleaner.... I can make a toilet shine like a Ferrari."

If life continues on an upswing for Gill, he may one day be able to purchase a Ferrari. His memoir, "How Starbucks Saved My Life," became a New York Times bestseller. The actor Tom Hanks has plans to produce and star in the film version. Gus Van Sant has agreed to direct.

"When I lost my job I thought my life was over," he says. "I didn't realize it was just the beginning." He smiles contentedly and declares, "I may have a part-time job, but I have a full-time life."

He is also sharing everything he has learned, hitting the lecture tour with his "uplifting tale of personal transformation."

Home for Gill is now a modest apartment in the attic of an old house about five minutes away from the 25-room mansion where he was raised

Fired exec: 'Starbucks saved my life'

Feds allege plot to destroy Fannie Mae data
Topic: Business 10:04 pm EST, Jan 30, 2009

A fired Fannie Mae contract worker pleaded not guilty Friday to a federal charge he planted a virus designed to destroy all the data on the mortgage giant's 4,000 computer servers nationwide.

Had the virus been released as planned on Saturday, the Justice Department said the disruption could have cost millions of dollars and shut down operations for a week at Fannie Mae, the largest U.S. mortgage finance company.

Rajendrasinh B. Makwana, 35, of Glen Allen, Va., pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to one count of computer intrusion, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Makwana's federal public defender, Christopher C. Nieto, didn't return calls seeking comment on the case.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Makwana in Glen Allen, Va., a suburb of Richmond. A search of public records found no address or telephone number for him there.

Makwana is an Indian citizen who has lived in the United States since at least 2001, according to public records.

He was fired Oct. 24 from his computer programming job at Fannie Mae's data center in Urbana, about 35 miles from the company's Washington headquarters, where he had worked since 2006, according to the Justice Department. He was fired for erroneously writing programming instructions two weeks earlier that changed the settings on the servers, according to an FBI affidavit.

Fannie Mae did not immediately terminate Makwana's computer access after telling him he was fired early on the afternoon of Oct. 24, the affidavit states. Before surrendering his badge and laptop computer about 3 1/2 hours later, the indictment accused Makwana of "intentionally and without authorization caused and attempted to cause damage to Fannie Mae's computer network by entering malicious code."

As first reported by The (Washington) Examiner, the code "would have resulted in destroying and altering all of the data on Fannie Mae servers," the indictment states.

According to the affidavit signed Jan. 6 by FBI Special Agent Jessica A. Nye, a Fannie Mae engineer discovered the malicious instructions by chance Oct. 29. The virus was removed that day and did no harm, according to the affidavit.

Had the virus been released, "it would have caused millions of dollars of damage and reduced if not shut down operations" for at least a week, Nye wrote.

Fannie Mae may have had to clean out and restore all 4,000 servers, restore and secure the automation of mortgages and restore all data that was erased, the agent said. Fannie Mae declined to comment.

Fannie Mae owns or guarantees about $3 billion in home loans, or one in every five mortgages in the United States. A slowdown would have affected the investors who rely on Fannie Mae to guarantee the timely payment of mortgage interest and principal, said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance.

"To the extent they can't meet those obligations, that's a big problem," Cecala said.

The charge against Makwana carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Makwana was arrested Jan. 7 and released on $100,000 bond Jan. 8, according to court records.

The Justice Department didn't disclose the name of the contractor for whom he worked. He was one of 10 to 20 workers with access to the server from which the virus would have launched, according to the FBI affidavit.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both publicly traded, were created by Congress to inject money into the home-loan market by purchasing mortgages and bundling them into securities for sale to investors. Both were taken over by their government regulator in September after mounting mortgage losses put them in distress

Feds allege plot to destroy Fannie Mae data

Fired Engineer Tried To Wipe Out All Fannie Mae Computers
Topic: Business 10:02 pm EST, Jan 30, 2009

We've seen plenty of stories of former disgruntled workers shutting down computer systems, locking others out or even running scams, but I don't think we've seen anything that had the potential to be as big a deal as the disgruntled tech who installed a logic bomb that would have wiped out all of Fannie Mae's computers, potentially shutting the organization down for at least a week to recover.

There are a few oddities here -- beyond just the simple question of how the system was set up in a way that would ever allow the ability to wipe out all machines in that way. First, the guy was fired -- but then allowed to finish up work that day, which gave him time to set the logic bomb. Why would you let someone who was fired (for a programming error) back to his computer to "finish" his day? These days it seems rather standard practice to escort fired employees off the premises. Next, the logic bomb wasn't spotted for five days. This turned out not to be a problem, since he had set the logic bomb to go off at the end of January (he was fired in October). Perhaps he did so to avoid having blame pointed in his direction, but if he had set it to go right away, or the next morning, it might have actually worked. Given Fannie Mae's role in the current financial mess, can you just imagine what would have happened if all their computers had melted down at once?

Fired Engineer Tried To Wipe Out All Fannie Mae Computers

Nathan Seidle of Spark Fun Electronics on Being a Young Entrepreneur ....
Topic: Business 2:04 pm EDT, Sep 10, 2008

Rob McNealy interviews Nathan Seidle of SparkFun Electronics, a company he started while working on his electrical engineering degree at the University of Colorado.

Nathan Seidle,A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Nathan Seidle came to CU-Boulder as an electrical engineering student in 2000. During his junior year, Nathan was designing one of his first micro controller projects when his programmer sparked and burned out. While looking for an affordable replacement, he noticed a lack of resources and online stores catering to developers and prototypers.

During winter break from school, Nathan maxed out his credit cards with inventory and pizza and went to work building an easy to use website. SparkFun launched shortly after that, in January of 2003.

Nathan maintained SparkFun Electronics part-time during his junior and senior years, and grew it as much as he could while keeping up with schoolwork. By the time he completed his degree in 2004, the company had grown enough to support his full-time efforts—and his first employee’s as well. Now in its fifth year, the company employs over three-dozen people and maintains a growing office on the outskirts of Boulder.

Nathan Seidle of Spark Fun Electronics on Being a Young Entrepreneur ....

Comic Book Does the RIAA s Bidding...
Topic: Business 5:45 am EDT, Aug 23, 2008

Public Service Announcements in the medium of comics regarding the dangers of... well whatever the popular perils of the time are, have been hoisting well-intentioned gibberish on kids for generations. PSA comics have touched on everything from drugs, to smoking, to famine, and land mines.

The latest in a long heritage of comics urging you to do right comes without any super heroes or association with an established comic outlet like Marvel or DC. Justice Case Files really... is an in-house effort from the National Center for State Courts, which we can only assume is a front for the RIAA, the most dastardly group of super villains to ever grace the pages of a comic book.

This disgrace to the label of propaganda bulges with misinformation so dense you d have to bushwhack your way through its pages to find even a kernel of truth.

Issue one centers around Megan, a student with a file sharing addiction that puts her freedom and scholarship seriously? jail time isn t motivation enough? at risk. Megan is charged with Criminal Copyright Infringement by her fictional city government and faces charges at the state level that could net her a total of $25,000 in fines and 2 years in prison. Of course, in real life Criminal Copyright Infringement involves the selling of copyrighted materials, not peer-to-peer file sharing, and CCI is prosecuted by the federal government not local courts, but who s paying attention? Apparently, not the legal non-profit handing out this mumbo-jumbo.

You can download the entire comic in PDF form here, or for those with a taste for the ironic, you can search Limewire and BitTorrent.

Major LOL!

Comic Book Does the RIAA s Bidding...

XMrius/SiriXM.... FCC Quibs on Vote..
Topic: Business 2:37 pm EDT, Jul 23, 2008

A second Federal Communications Commission Democrat voted against Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.'s plan to buy XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., leaving the merger's fate to the sole undecided Republican.

Democrat Jonathan Adelstein, who voted against the $3.5 billion merger today, said in an e-mailed statement that the combination would create ``a monopoly with window dressing.'' Fellow Democrat Michael Copps already voted no.

Two Republican commissioners, Chairman Kevin Martin and Robert McDowell, have backed the merger, leaving the outcome to the agency's fifth member, Deborah Taylor Tate, a Republican who has yet to vote. A telephone call to her office wasn't returned. Reuters reported Tate is nearing a ``yes'' vote, without saying where it got the information.

``Commissioner Adelstein would only cast a dissenting vote once it was fairly clear that Commissioner Tate would support the deal,'' Paul Gallant, a former FCC official and Washington- based analyst with Stanford Washington Research Group, said in an interview. He continues to predict approval.

Commissioners, who face no deadline for a decision, vote electronically at the time of their choosing.

Traditional radio companies led by the National Association of Broadcasters oppose the merger, saying it will create a harmful monopoly. Sirius and XM, the only two pay-radio companies, told regulators their union would bring consumers more programming at a lower cost.

``a monopoly with window dressing?'' These are pay services... I don't understand what the squib is all about!

XMrius/SiriXM.... FCC Quibs on Vote..

Broadband: other countries do it better, but how?
Topic: Business 12:16 pm EDT, May 12, 2008

One of the ironies of the current broadband situation in the US is that staunch free marketeers defend the status quo even though the result of their views has been duopoly and high prices. Meanwhile, other countries including those with a reputation in some quarters for socialism have taken aggressive steps to create a robust, competitive, consumer-friendly marketplace with the help of regulation and national investment.
Related Stories

Critics, it s time to stop the quibbling: the data collection practices that show the US dropping year-over-year in all sorts of broadband metrics from uptake to price per megabit might not prove solid enough to trust with your life, but we re out of good reasons to doubt their general meaning.

On March 26, 2004, George Bush talked up the importance of broadband. This country needs a national goal for... the spread of broadband technology, he said. We ought to have... universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to their broadband carrier.

But multiple reports show that countries around the world are beating us at broadband, and we re putting our economy and technological leadership at risk through a truly stunning failure to cast a national vision. Other countries are doing better at this, and they re doing it through a combination of financing, fear competition , and federal mandates.

Broadband: other countries do it better, but how?

Google Completes $3.1 Billion Takeover Of DoubleClick
Topic: Business 9:13 pm EDT, Mar 12, 2008

Google Inc.'s long-anticipated acquisition of online ad service DoubleClick Inc. is expected to turn the Internet search leader into an even more powerful marketing vehicle that's fueled by better insights about consumers.

The $3.1 billion deal, completed Tuesday after nearly a year of regulatory wrangling, also may intensify the pressure on Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. to resolve their stormy courtship so they don't risk further distractions while Google tries to sprint further ahead in the race for Internet advertising.

Google took control of DoubleClick a few hours after Europe's antitrust regulators removed the final stumbling block by approving a deal that was first announced 11 months ago.nullnullnullnullnullnull

Google Completes $3.1 Billion Takeover Of DoubleClick

The 7 dirtiest jobs in IT
Topic: Business 4:56 am EDT, Mar 11, 2008

Working in IT isn't always pretty. After all, we can't all work on the cutting-edge technologies all the time. Some of us have to get dirty -- in some cases, literally.

Unfortunately, dirty jobs -- whether you're being chained to a help desk, hacking 30-year-old code, finding yourself wedged between warring factions in the conference room, or mucking about in human effluvia -- are necessary to make nearly every organization tick. (Well, maybe not the human effluvia part.)

The good news? Master at least one of them, and you're pretty much guaranteed a job with somebody. We don't guarantee you'll like it, though.

Here are seven of the dirtiest jobs in IT, and why your organization needs them.

The 7 dirtiest jobs in IT

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