August 25, 2006

Man Gets 6 Years in Software Piracy Case

A Florida man who made millions of dollars selling illegal copies of computer programs was sentenced Friday to six years in prison in one of the nation's largest software piracy cases.

Danny Ferrer, of Lakeland, Fla., pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy and copyright infringement charges after an FBI investigation of his Web site, Ferrer also was ordered to pay more than $4.1 million in restitution to software makers Adobe Systems Inc., Autodesk, and Macromedia Inc.

Ferrer bought numerous airplanes, a fighter-jet simulator, a Lamborghini, a Hummer and other luxury vehicles with his profits. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III ordered the items be sold to pay restitution in the case.

"You extended your hand into the pockets of these people," Ellis said before sentencing Ferrer. "If severe penalties were not attached, people would line up from here to Los Angeles to do what you've done."

Ferrer told the judge he started selling the pirated software to pay for a feeding tube for his sick wife, but "there was probably a certain amount of greed."

Prosecutors said they are working with the FBI to investigate the providers of fake software serial numbers on the Internet, which allowed Ferrer to sell the programs.

The software looked legitimate to consumers, but was deeply discounted, said John Wolfe, of Business Software Alliance, an industry group.

Ferrer's Web site began selling software in 2002 and was shut down by the FBI in October 2005, authorities said.

Prosecutors said the illegal sales cost the software companies as much as $20 million, but industry officials say the amount could be higher.

"This is the ultimate case," prosecutor Jay V. Prabhu said in court. "This is a case where someone made a lot of money."


August 23, 2006

50 coolest websites of 2006 has published their list of the 50 coolest websites of 2006.

They publish this list each year and it reflects the trend as to the websites of the moment, as perceived by the main stream media. There are 7 categories this year: (Check out category 5 !)


Read the whole article with all sites and descriptions here:

August 14, 2006

AOL search leaks, and "You are what you search"

AOL researchers recently published the search logs of about 650,000 members—a total of 36,389,629 individual searches. AOL's search nerds intended the files to be an academic resource but didn't consider that users might be peeved to see their private queries become a research tool. Last weekend, the Internet service provider tried to pull back the data, but by that point it had leaked all over the Web.

Paul Boutin, employee of the start-up Splunk, categorized the log entries by parsing the AOL data to create a typology of AOL Search users. He came up with 7 different types...

The Pornhound. Big surprise, there are millions of searches for mind-bendingly kinky stuff. User No. 927 is already an Internet legend—click here if you're not faint of heart (and not at the office). When I clicked Splunk's "Show Events by Time" button, though, I found that porn searchers vary not only by what they search for, but when they search for it. Some users are on a quest for pornography at all hours, seeking little else from AOL. Another subgroup, including No. 927, search only within reliable time slots. The data doesn't list each user's time zone, but 11 p.m. Eastern and 11 p.m. Pacific appear to be prime time for porn on AOL's servers. My favorite plots show hours of G-rated searches before the user switches gears—what I call the Avenue Q Theory of Internet usage. User No. 190827 goes from "talking parrots jokes" and "poems about a red rose" before midnight to multiple clicks for "sexy dogs and hot girls" a half hour later. An important related discovery: Nobody knows how to spell "bestiality."

The Manhunter. The person who searches for other people. Again, I used Splunk's "Show Events by Time" function to plot name searches by date and time. Surprisingly, I didn't uncover many long-term stalkers. Most of the data showed bursts of searches for a specific name only once, all within an hour or a day, and then never again. Maybe these folks are background-checking job candidates, maybe they're looking up the new cutie at the office, or maybe they just miss old friends. Most of the names in AOL's logs are too ambiguous to pinpoint to a single person in the real world, so don't get too tweaked if you find your own name and hometown in there. I've got it much worse. There are 36 million searches here, but none of them are for me.

The Shopper. The user who hits "treo 700" 37 times in three days. Here, the data didn't confirm my biases. I'd expected to find window shoppers who searched for Porsche Cayman pages every weekend. But AOL's logs reveal that searches for "coupons" are a lot more common. My favorite specimen is the guy who mostly looked up food brands like Dole, Wendy's, Red Lobster, and Turkey Hill, with an occasional break for "asian movie stars." How much more American could America Online get?

The Obsessive. The guy who searches for the same thing over and over and over. Looking at the search words themselves can obfuscate a more general long-term pattern—A, A, A, A, B, A, A, C, A, D, A—that suggests a user who can't let go of one topic, whether it's Judaism, real estate, or Macs. Obsessives are most likely to craft advanced search terms like "craven randy fanfic -wes" and "pfeffern**sse."

The Omnivore. Many users aren't obsessive—they're just online a lot. My taxonomy fails them, because their search terms, while frequent, show little repetition or regularity. Still, I can spot a few subcategories. There are the trivia buffs who searched "imdb" hundreds of times in three months and the nostalgia surfers on the hunt for "pat benatar helter skelter lyrics."

The Newbie. They just figured out how to turn on the computer. User No. 12792510 is one of many who confuses AOL's search box with its browser address window—he keeps seaching for "" Other AOLers type their searches without spaces between the words ("newcaddillacdeville") as if they were 1990s-era AOL keywords.

The Basket Case. In college I had to write a version of the classic ELIZA program, a pretend therapist who only responds to your problems ("I am sad") with more questions ("Why do you say you are sad?"). AOL Search, it seems, serves the same purpose for a lot of users. I stumbled across queries like "i hate my job" and "why am i so ugly." For me, one log entry stands above the rest: "i hurt when i think too much i love roadtrips i hate my weight i fear being alone for the rest of my life." Me too, 3696023. Me too.


July 24, 2006

Google more than doubles profit

Google just announced their second quarter results for this year.

Google reported revenues of $2.46 billion for the quarter ended June 30, 2006, an increase of 77% compared to the second quarter of 2005 and an increase of 9% compared to the first quarter of 2006. Google reports its revenues, consistent with GAAP, on a gross basis without deducting traffic acquisition costs, or TAC. In the second quarter of 2006, TAC totaled $785 million, or 32% of advertising revenues.

Google's full press release here:

A lot of AdWords advertiser are very upset with the new quality score and their cost per click (CPC), but obviously it doesn't harm Google...

July 21, 2006

Microsoft Confirms New Music Player

Microsoft confirmed the plans for an entertainment device and software in a statement after touting those products to record companies in recent months.

The world's largest software maker faces an uphill climb in closing the gap on Apple's iPod media player and iTunes Music Store, the runaway leaders in their respective areas.

The iPod holds more than half of the digital media player market, according to research company NPD, while iTunes accounts for over 70 percent of U.S. digital music sales.

"Creating a lifestyle device, Microsoft is clearly going to face a battle here," said Michael Gartenberg, research director at JupiterResearch. "It's going to be hard for them to create the same level of cachet that Apple has with the iPod."

Microsoft sources said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, is working with J. Allard, vice president of its Xbox team, on the digital media player/software project.

Allard's involvement is seen as significant because he is one of the few executives at Microsoft with experience in launching a consumer electronic device from scratch with the X-Box gaming system. His involvement suggests that gaming might be part of the media player.

(Source: Reuters)

June 19, 2006

New University course: Ethical Hacking

The University of Abertay Dundee in the UK is now offering a degree course called "Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures". This was reported by, also known as "El Reg" today.

Accordingly the four-year degree "Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures" will be on offer from this September, and is designed to produce White Hat hackers, capable of working with businesses to defend their networks.

A university spokesman said the institution would be working with the Home Office, using "Home Office type procedures and Disclosure Scotland (Disclosure Scotland is part of the Scottish Criminal Record Office)" to rule out applicants with a criminal past.

The degree is the first of its kind in the UK, and is expected to attract a lot of interest from students.

Course leader professor Lachlan McKinnon tried to address concerns that the course would simply produce skilled hackers, saying the only sure-fire way to secure a computer is to unplug it.

He added: "We will monitor students closely because we want them to become ethical hackers. But there is no guarantee. Harold Shipman qualified as a doctor, after all, before deciding to become a murderer."

Other courses that can require background checks include medicine, dentistry and even speech science.

June 07, 2006

You may go to jail for online betting now!

Are you an online gambler?

If so it could result it serious consequences (such as 90 days in jail). Yes, according to KomoTV it became a Class C felony at midnight to make a wager on the Internet in Washington state. Sponsors of the bill say it's really meant to protect, not punish gamblers. They say online games invite organized crime and money laundering.

Usually a class C felony results in much higher penalties than 90 days in jail (plus fine), they typically carry 5 year prison terms and $10,000 fines. The sponsor of the bill said though that it will be an "unranked" felony, which means a maximum sentence of 1 year plus a fine (up to 90 days for first time offenders).

People against the bill say it's their right to play -- and consider the new bill another violation of privacy.

Well, I am not a gambler, so I didn't feel very touched when I first read this. Yet, it goes along with my last post, so I thought I post this.

It is still legal to play for free, or with "play money", that is what I would do if I were a gambler. Some say that defeats the purpose, I say it doesn't. Clearly, monetary gain can't be the purpose, because there are much easier and more reliable ways to make money. Did you for example ever think about becoming an X10 Affiliate?

June 05, 2006

Hacker attack swedish government server

The swedisch boulevard paper "Afonbladet" reports that the swedish government website (contains about 40.000 pages) was unreachable in the night from Saturday to Sunday, coming back online Sunday noon.

Accordingly, this attack was a direct response to the raid performed by the swedish police against the BitTorrent-Tracker "The Pirate Bay".

What's "The Pirate Bay"?

(source: WikiPedia)
The Pirate Bay is known in the online file sharing community as one of the more prominent websites which distributes torrents (files used by the BitTorrent filesharing program) that point to unlicensed copies of copyrighted material. In some countries, offering such torrents could be considered an illegal aiding of copyright infringement, but in Sweden and other countries this is not the case. In July 2005, new anti-piracy legislation was enacted in Sweden which made the distribution of software for the purposes of copyright violation illegal. The Pirate Bay is well known for the "legal" page it hosts featuring mockery of organizations sending copyright infringement notices and cease and desist letters to them.

A hardcopy of a reply from The Pirate Bay to Web Sheriff, (Entertainment Law Associate) in response to faxed legal threats, was sold on eBay June 8, 2005, for US $255.

There is no official response from the swedish government to this incident yet, there would have to be systematic analysis first. The attack seemed very similiar to another one against the swedish police on Thursday, for which a group called "World Wide Hackers" already took responsibility.

About 900 people demonstrated on Saturday against the performed crackdown on "ThePirateBay". Supporters say the crackdown is in direct violation with swedish law, since "ThePirateBay" provides information about media downloads, while not providing any downloads themselves. Unless law would be changed, they will continue their activities said Mikael Vibor, legal advisor of the group.

To lend political weight to the discussion, the former Microsoft employee Rickard Falkvinge founded a party called "The Pirate Party". The party counts about 5.500 members, rapidly growing after the reports about "The Pirate Bay".
Main foci of the party are empowerment of privacy and a balanced copyright law. To actually move into the swedish government the party would have to pass the 4% hurdle, for which it would need 225.000 members by next September.

Wow, what do you say to that?
What's your opinion about filesharing and downloading? In the internet world of today, it is so easy to manouver into the gray-zone of illegal file sharing. Let's hear what you have to say!

A video of the raid was posted on

Sources used: