Creepy data mining by retailers

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

Microsoft's existential threat

Very interesting point made out by this blog post by Patrick Rhone, about how Microsoft’s core business faces an existential threat: MS office on Flickr Microsoft for many years had convinced the world that, in order to get “real work” done, you needed Office. … Then, she explained, the iPhone came. There was no Office. People got things done. Then the iPad came. There was no Office.

Amazing high-def images of Earth from outer space

Flickr has published two amazing high-def photos of earth from one of NASA’s earth observing satellite - Suomi NPP. The photos are created by joining several high def photos and joining them together, as explained here. Most Amazing High Definition Image of Earth - Blue Marble 2012 Eastern Hemisphere - Blue Marble 2012 The original photo on the left of the western hemisphere is available on Flickr with a resolution of 8000x8000 or 64 megapixels!

The Windows bundling racket gets a jolt in France

Finally a victory!. A French laptop buyer has won a refund from Lenovo after a four-year legal battle over the cost of a Windows license he didn’t want. The judgment could open the way for PC buyers elsewhere in Europe to obtain refunds for bundled software they don’t want, French campaign group No More Racketware said Monday. The first sane judgement against the fraud on consumers which has been happening for almost two decades - bundling the Windows OS with all new consumer laptops and desktops.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta on state censorship in India

Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s brilliant article brings out the troubling state of our country today. Everyone utters the platitude that they respect freedom, but they then use the qualifier that no freedom is absolute in the most mendacious way. … In fact, the claim made by politicians that this kind of content (i.e. Twitter, Orkut, Facebook) will lead to violence is insulting doubly over. First, it is just a plain lie to justify censorship.

Microsoft using Secureboot to lock down ARM

Thanks to a tip from a colleague - Anshu, I found out further confirmation that the Secureboot issue, that I blogged about earlier, is going to bite us badly just as we expected. According to this post of the Software Freedom Law Center, Microsoft has recently revised it’s Windows 8 Hardware Certification requirements to lock out all alternative OSes from the ARM-based mobile devices that it ships on. The Certification Requirements define (on page 116) a “custom” secure boot mode, in which a physically present user can add signatures for alternative operating systems to the system’s signature database, allowing the system to boot those operating systems.

Should you easily hand over those encryption keys to the law?

Don’t try this in India yet, but in US, a district court is about to judge on whether you have to hand over encryption keys to the law if asked. Or can you decline because that is akin to self-incrimination? Given that the general pattern in our country of late is that you are guilty till proven innocent, trying this at “home” is probably only going to get yourself convicted,

One of the highlights of the upcoming Windows 8 is ...

.. the easing of reinstalling it. I am not joking. Here is the official blog post about this: Refresh and reset your PC As Business Insider says it well: Think about any other product that is so unreliable and degrades in performance with such predictable regularity that the next version will have a feature that makes it easy to WIPE IT CLEAN and start over. Is that a product you’d be super-excited to buy?

The incoming Secureboot/Restrictedboot war

For those who aren’t aware of this, FSF (Free Software Foundation) has been running a campaign for the last few months about Microsoft’s malicious Secureboot initiative (which FSF calls restricted boot). Given the mostly Microsoft friendly corporate IT environments out there, I think this is one topic on which most employees should be very aware. A nice summary of the issue can be read up at: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/18/fsf_windows_8_campaign/ Apparently, Microsoft is practically arm-twisting OEM manufacturers to implement Secureboot to be able to install Windows 8 on their systems - it is a Windows 8 requirement.

Blog merge

There was a time when I used to blog frequently. After the age of twitter, it reduced. But rather than keeping on writing, I focused on an issue which was a lower priority - splitting up blogs so that the topics do not collide. That was in 2008, today it is 2012. I have posted only about two dozen entries in over 3 years. Do you know how many blogs I have ended up maintaining?