Thursday, August 14, 2003

FileSwapping - A Step Towards Peace?

The classic entrepreneur is someone with both a vision of a product that is the next big thing, and the passion and ability to see it through. As file-swapping services like Napster and Kazaa have taken a beating from the RIAA and others, and enterprising Palestinian came up with a great idea - why not create File-swapping network in a terrority that doesn't have strict international copyright laws? Knowing that the Jenin refugee camp is within Palestinian Authority controlled areas, and knowing that the PA probably doesn't have the resources to stop him even if they laws against what he was doing, Nas Kabir has done just that. Check out this C|net article.

I am personally for it - maybe if more Palestinian teenagers had access to computers and access to Kabir's earthstation5, they would spend more time swapping the latest pop hits from the us and europe and not as much time blowing up buses in Israel.

This also underscores another interesting concept - this company was made possible by investment from Russian, Turkish, and Israeli interests. Whether there will be a Palestinian state or not, the only way to truly end the violence and create peace, is to give the Palestinians an independant economy. There needs to be a way to lure other businesses to build up the palestinian economy and begin them on a road to self-sustenance. That is how Israel became one of the world's most developed nations in just over 50 years.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Flash 'Keychain' drives - The latest big-time security risk

Although the advent of things like zip disks and cd burners definitely moved the floppy disk drive to its grave, the Flash-Memory based 'keychain' drives are going to be the final nail in its coffin. In fact, the only major advantage that floppy drives had over the keychain drives was that you couldn't boot off of one. But that's about to change.

C|Net reported today that M-Systems - manufacturers of both their own DiskOnKey brand and white labelers for the likes of HP and IBM - has announced that they have developed a bootable version of their increasingly popular usb drive. This feature also adds to the ability of some of these systems to automatically run an application when they are plugged into a computer. This could lead to all sorts of trouble. Let's talk in the hypothetical for a second:

John Doe works for SomeTech, in their IT dept. He has configured laptops for all of their consultants and has setup special 'backup and rescue' versions of these drives that a)Initiate a backup of certain directories when plugged in, and b)allows a rescue boot of a computer when it crashes.

John gets fired. The system administrators have revoked all of his accounts privleges, and he can't access their computers from home. What does a disgruntled employee do? John recruits a friend to have him get his 'resume' off his old machine. All his friend needs to do is stick a USB drive into John's old computer and then retreive it the next day. What John's friend doesn't know is that his USB drive is programmed to reboot his old computer, take over the system, and allow John unfettered access to both it, and the rest of the network. by the time his old bosses know what has happend, its too late.

....and that is only the beginning.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

HP Must be listening to me...

About 3 or 4 months ago, my beloved Espon Inkjet printer died on me. I have decided not to replace it just yet, primarily because I really don't have much of a need to print at home. But, I began to ponder replacing it with one of those multifunction printers. Epson, Lexmark and HP, among others, have these so-called multi-function devices that can act as printers, scanners, and have standalone fax and copying capability. Some of the newer ones have flash memory slots that can be used as either digital media card readers or that will enable you to print photos by removing the cards from your digital camera and sticking it in the printer.

All of these items were great, but here is my beef - in the past 2-3 years practically all printers on the market have USB connectors and not the older parallel-type connectors like my beloved Epson. In the same timeframe, wireless networking has become more and more popular. One of the more popular features of wireless routers is a built-in print server. Yet all of the print-servers are designed with parallel port connections! Which means that you, Mr. or Ms. Techno-gadget-gotta-have-it person, couldn't connect your USB printer to your wireless router. Sure, there are usb network print servers on the market, and you have the ability to attach your usb printer to an 'always on' pc and have it act as a print server - but while these solutions allow you to print, neither of them let you access some of the 'cooler' functions of your multi-function. Until now.

HP Introduced its PSC 2510 printer today. In addition to the all-in-one features I mentioned above the 2510 also has built-in wireless networking. From some of the media information I read on their site and others, it seems that with a small piece of software on your computer, you would be allowed to use the scanner, and/or read from the smart card readers from any computer on the wired or wireless network!

Maybe now my wife will let me buy one :)

Thursday, August 07, 2003

The Wild, Wild, World of Wi-Fi

About 2 years ago, I had left a very high-paying consulting job to start my own company. To make a long story short, our company didn't make it - for various reasons - but while there I discovered Wireless Networking, and realized it's great potential.

Initially, I thought that the big money was going to be in running pay-for-use hotspots. I even had a pre-startup job interview with Andrew Weinrich, the founder of six-degrees and Joltage Networks. But as written about in today's Wall Street Journal, the big players in the industry have swallowed that up. I also thought to start a Wi-Fi installation company, but the reality is that it would be almost impossible to get off the ground. Large integrators would easily set up Wi-Fi divisions for their own customers, minimizing the corporate base, and Wi-fi networks are so simple that they practically work out of the box - eliminating the need for most home users to hire somone to install it for them.

Aye, but here is the rub - chip price are on the wane, and people are realizing more and more that Wi-Fi will soon become an expected amenity - like a glass of water or napkins - at most restaurants and/or hotels. Those folks who sell wi-fi hardware and access will realize that they chance to make more money from wi-fi by giving it away and letting their customers linger in-store and buy more goods from them. (Starbucks might make 2.99 on an hour of wi-fi, but if they give it away for free I might stay an extra hour and buy a second $5 latte!)

The real money to be made in the wi-fi industry, IMVHO, will be made in one of two ways - a)Value added software for wi-fi, such as location-based services. b)Consumer Devices that take advantage of embedded wi-fi - such as wireless speakers, and phones.

I should save this blog in a time capsule and then check it again in 2 years :)