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Get a free domain name and hosting from Microsoft
Topic: Technology 9:51 am EST, Feb 11, 2009

The words "free" and "Microsoft" don't often appear in the same sentence, so imagine my surprise at discovering this deal: a free custom domain name, free Web hosting, free e-mail accounts, and more.

As you might expect from the name, Microsoft Office Live Basics has a decidedly business focus--but that doesn't mean you can't use it for a personal site.

The freebie account includes not only the domain (any available .com, .net, .org, or .info address), but also site-building tools, reporting tools, project and document managers, 100 e-mail addresses, and collaboration-minded online workspaces. You get 500MB of storage, too.

So what's the catch? There really isn't one, though the free domain hosting expires after one year. After that, it'll run you a very reasonable $14.95 annually.

Needless to say, this is a pretty nice offer for anyone looking to start a small business or just carve out a private corner of the Web.

Get a free domain name and hosting from Microsoft

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

Google helps found M-Lab to identify ISPs who throttle torrents
Topic: Technology 9:50 am EST, Jan 29, 2009

Google has joined with the Open Technology Institute to help identify which ISPs are restricting peer-to-peer traffic, launching M-Lab to help users discover whether or not they're being affected.

One of the tools M-Lab will use is Glasnost, a java applet that initiates a torrent transfer between a user's pc and the remote testing server. It compares the results to the speed of a normal transfer to see whether or not the peer-to-peer traffic is being throttled.

If you're curious about your own ISP, run the Glasnost test and see what it reports. You'll have to be patient, though - the recent news about Google coming onboard has increased traffic on the site greatly and it's having a hard time keeping up.

It's good to know that once M-Lab is online they'll have 36 Google servers in 12 locations to help run the tests.

Google helps found M-Lab to identify ISPs who throttle torrents

The Billy Mays Economic Indicator
Topic: Society 9:13 am EST, Jan 29, 2009

How long is this recession going to last? That's the $6 million question.

"Hi, I'm Billy Mays. And I'm here to talk to you about the economy."

Well, look no further than your television for the answer.

Infomercial guru Billy Mays, known for his signature yelling and, um, beard, used to hawk the Ding King, the "body-shop secret" that would help you bang out the dents in your vehicle like a pro.

Then everybody stopped buying cars.

Mays pitched the miracle of Oxiclean: This 2 ½-pound tub will do 75 loads of laundry!

Then everybody lost their jobs and suddenly, no one gave a $#!+ about the red-wine stain on their shirt.

Then, this summer, the clouds rolled in and the Billy Mays indicator seemed to hit rock bottom: There he was on TV, trying to sell me low-cost health insurance.

I was never completely comfortable with Mays's transition from my tub to my doctor's office.

That was right before the bottom fell out of the market and the economy started hemorrhaging jobs at the rate of half a million per month.

But, wait! Don't answer yet.

You also get—not one—

Not two—

But THREE cans of hope!

Check him now: Mays is hawking Mighty Mend It, a fabric glue that can hem your pants, reaffix the pocket on your jeans … even repair your torn American flag!

"Just apply. Gently touch … and mend it!" Mays cheers as the flag is restored just before the big finish: Mays and the flag in a wind tunnel.

"It has the strength to withstand storm-force winds!" Mays brags of Mighty Mend It, but we all know what he really means: the economy. Mays will help us hold it together until the storm passes.

And the economy's red glare!
The flag rippling in air!
Gave proof on this infomercial
That our economy is still there
Oh say does tha-at star spangled pro-du-uct ye-et wa-ave …
O'er the la-and of the free
And all for just $19.95.

Call now. And when Billy starts offering you things you don't need again, you'll know the economy is back on track.

The Billy Mays Economic Indicator

Bagels + Fake NY Yankees Pitcher = A year in Jail for Real Identity Theft
Topic: Society 2:23 am EST, Jan 19, 2009

If New York Yankees star Joba Chamberlain really WAS at the Jersey shore, wouldn't he ask for something better than a bagel? That question apparently was never asked when a Toms River man with a strong resemblance to the Yankee pitcher allegedly implied that he was Chamberlain. Ryan Ward, 30, was charged with theft by deception and disorderly conduct, and could get more than a year in jail if convicted.

He's charged with scamming a Belmar bagel shop out of free food last summer after allegedly telling an employee, "Do you know who I am?" and pointing to a photo of Chamberlain in a newspaper sports section.

Police said he signed autographs and promised women free Yankee tickets.

Ward has denied the charges, telling the Asbury Park Press, "You can't have fun anymore, can you?"

The newspaper dubbed him "Joba-The-Not."

His municipal court trial is scheduled for Feb. 11.

Police in Monmouth County say Ward represented himself as Chamberlain in other businesses in Belmar and Spring Lake, and was banned from a few local bars because of it.

Ward declined to answer specific questions about his actions, telling the newspaper, "It was something I did for the summer. I had a lot of fun with it."

His attorney, Constantine Bardis, called the charges against Ward a "tragedy."

"What's the crime in pretending to be someone?" Bardis asked. "I'm Mel Gibson; want to have a drink? He just goofed around because he kind of looks like the guy."

Ward then corrected his lawyer.

"He looks like me," Ward said.

Belmar Police Chief Jack Hill called Ward a "nut," saying Ward broke the law when he pretended to be a Yankees pitcher.

"He impersonated another person and took advantage of it," Hill said. "We frown on people taking other people's identity."

A Yankees spokesman declined comment.

ok... Here I see the only crime is that people are stupid enough not to ask to see an ID or something with the dudes photo on it, and if that is fake so be it, at the very least you asked! The problem is that people never questioned who he was... 'Social Engineering' is not a crime, but stupidity should be...

Bagels + Fake NY Yankees Pitcher = A year in Jail for Real Identity Theft

Fish poop helps balance ocean's acid levels
Topic: Science 2:09 am EST, Jan 19, 2009

The ocean's delicate acid balance may be getting help from an unexpected source, fish poop. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not only drives global warming, but also raises the amount of CO2 dissolved in ocean water, tending to make it more acid, potentially a threat to sea life.

Alkaline chemicals like calcium carbonate can help balance this acid. Scientists had thought the main source for this balancing chemical was the shells of marine plankton, but they were puzzled by the higher-than-expected amounts of carbonate in the top levels of the water.

Now researchers led by Rod W. Wilson of the University of Exeter in England report in the journal Science that marine fish contribute between 3 percent and 15 percent of total carbonate.

And the contribution may be even higher than that, say the researchers from the U.S., Canada and England.

They report that bony fish, a group that includes 90 percent of marine species, produce carbonate to dispose of the excess calcium they ingest in seawater. This forms into calcium carbonate crystals in the gut and the fish then simply excrete these "gut rocks."

The process is separate from digestion and production of feces, according to the researchers.

The team estimated the total mass of bony fish in the ocean at between 812 million tons and 2,050 million tons, which they said could produce around 110 million tons of calcium carbonate per year.

The carbonate produced by fish is soluble and dissolves in the upper sea water, while that from the plankton sinks to the bottom, the team noted.

Fish poop helps balance ocean's acid levels

The Power to Fight Eviction
Topic: Technology 11:10 am EST, Jan 18, 2009

Jason Scott's Protection From Online Eviction? and his follow up post make the argument that services like AOL, MySpace, flickr, or Skype should be treated like landlords.

The power landlords have over tenants is overwhelming, unless restricted by law. The argument: if they want to shut down a service, essentially evicting users, they should be required to give notice and keep things running for a year.

This would allow people to safely migrate their digital objects like photos and videos and blog posts, renew relationships with people in their contacts and agree on where to move, file change of address notices for their businesses, and otherwise minimize the logistical, economic, political, emotional, and familial havoc forcible ejection can create.

The Power to Fight Eviction

Court Backs Some Types of Warrantless Wiretapping
Topic: Society 6:36 pm EST, Jan 15, 2009

oday backing the government's authority to intercept international phone conversations and e-mails without a judicial warrant if the principal purpose is to collect foreign intelligence, including communications involving Americans.

The ruling came in response to the claims of an unnamed telecommunications company that the government in 2007 improperly demanded information on its clients in violation of constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The company has been complying with the demand while the case was pending.

In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review ruled that national security interests outweighed privacy rights of those who might be targeted, affirming what amounts to an exception to the Constitution's Fourth Amendment for cases that involve what the panel called government interests "of the highest order of magnitude."

The opinion, written by the court's chief judge, Bruce M. Selya, said the government had enacted appropriate protections and restrictions on gathering such intelligence. "Our decision recognizes that where the government has instituted several layers of serviceable safeguards to protect individuals against unwarranted harms and to minimize incidental intrusions, its efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts," Selya wrote in the 29-page opinion.

He added that requiring a warrant in such cases would likely "hinder the government's ability to collect time-sensitive information and, thus, would impede the vital national security interests that are at stake."

Although the specific case involves a law that has since been amended, the ruling essentially supports the Bush administration's long-standing claim that foreign intelligence information can be collected inside the United States without court orders. The opinion focused specifically on provisions of the "stopgap" Protect America Act passed by Congress in 2007 that authorized the government to conduct warrantless surveillance in national security matters on people, including U.S. citizens, "reasonably believed" to be outside the United States.

The government was permitted to order telecommunications companies to help them gather such information under certain conditions. Those included taking reasonable steps to ensure the person was outside the United States and that the main purpose of the surveillance was to obtain foreign intelligence information.

The government was also required to issue a written certification, with an affidavit from top national security officials, ensuring such conditions had been met. That law was repealed by Congress in July and more restrictions were put in place.

The court opinion drew heavily from secret pleadings by the government and the telecommunications company. It said the government approached the company in 2007 with a certification to conduct ... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

Court Backs Some Types of Warrantless Wiretapping

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