Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #229
August 31st, 2008

[Note: I was unable to publish this weekly column last Sunday because of a software problem — which is now solved. Roland.]

Virtual Worlds Get Real About Punishment

A virtual world for mobile devices, called Cellufun, has established a courthouse, where rule-breakers are indicted by their peers and tried by a jury of other community members. If found guilty of a charge, such as using profanity, users must carry out varying levels of sentences, from being mute for 20 minutes to being banished.
Source: Kim Hart, The Washington Post, August 20, 2008

How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People

If you live in a state bordering Canada or Mexico, you may soon be given an opportunity to carry a very high tech item: a remotely readable driver’s license. Designed to identify U.S. citizens as they approach the nation’s borders, the cards are being promoted by the Department of Homeland Security as a way to save time and simplify border crossings. But if you care about your safety and privacy as much as convenience, you might want to think twice before signing up.
Source: Katherine Albrecht, Scientific American, August 21, 2008

Satellites track Mexico kidnap victims with chips

Affluent Mexicans, terrified of soaring kidnapping rates, are spending thousands of dollars to implant tiny transmitters under their skin so satellites can help find them tied up in a safe house or stuffed in the trunk of a car.
Source: Mica Rosenberg, Reuters, August 21, 2008

VoIP Goes Mobile

Scott Goldman uses his mobile phone to call friends and business contacts all over the world, from Britain to Australia. But the Southern California-based consultant doesn’t pay a dime in international tolls to his mobile-phone carrier, AT&T, the biggest in the U.S. Instead, Goldman places the international portion of the calls — roughly 100 minutes a month — through a service called Gorilla Mobile that relies on Internet-based technology to route wireless calls virtually toll-free.
Source: Olga Kharif, BusinessWeek, August 26, 2008

Road Tolls Hacked

A researcher claims that toll transponders can be cloned, allowing drivers to pass for free. Drivers using the automated FasTrak toll system on roads and bridges in California’s Bay Area could be vulnerable to fraud, according to a computer security firm in Oakland, CA.
Source: Duncan Graham-Rowe, Technology Review, August 25, 2008

The Internet’s Biggest Security Hole

Two security researchers have demonstrated a new technique to stealthily intercept internet traffic on a scale previously presumed to be unavailable to anyone outside of intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency. The tactic exploits the internet routing protocol BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) to let an attacker surreptitiously monitor unencrypted internet traffic anywhere in the world, and even modify it before it reaches its destination.
Source: Kim Zetter, Wired News, August 26, 2008

Technology That Outthinks Us: A Partner or a Master ?

In Vernor Vinge’s version of Southern California in 2025, there is a school named Fairmont High with the motto, “Trying hard not to become obsolete.” It may not sound inspiring, but to the many fans of Dr. Vinge, this is a most ambitious — and perhaps unattainable — goal for any member of our species.”
Source: John Tierney, The New York Times, August 26, 2008

Novelties – Lines and Bubbles and Bars, Oh My! New Ways to Sift Data

PEOPLE share their videos on YouTube and their photos at Flickr. Now they can share more technical types of displays: graphs, charts and other visuals they create to help them analyze data buried in spreadsheets, tables or text. At an experimental Web site, Many Eyes, (, users can upload the data they want to visualize, then try sophisticated tools to generate interactive displays. These might range from maps of relationships in the New Testament to a display of the comparative frequency of words used in speeches by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
Source: Anne Eisenberg, The New York Times, August 30, 2008

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