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Cats "Exploit" Humans By Purring

CurtMonash Re:No. (503 comments)

It's not an either/or. Cats behave towards us in some ways like they do toward their mothers, in other ways otherwise.

My cat treats me largely as his butler -- opening doors, fetching beverages, and so on. Perhaps he's been reading some P. G. Wodehouse.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:Why does the information need to be centralized (182 comments)

"In that case it'd really suck for the hospital if they didn't have the record on file or access to another hospital that did."

Which is the current default. I don't see a huge outcry about this.

"Maybe the patient is severely allergic you're about to give him."

Also the current default. Which is why they make medalert bracelets. If you have a severe medical problem, you already have the info on you. At least if you give a damn. Problem solved.

EHR's are a solution to a problem that patients don't have. It would be great for employers, insurance companies, the government, software companies, etc. But not really for the patient (or the doctors).

Please get out of the 1980s, and start heading for the 2020s. Personalized medicine is coming. Everything in the record will actually be relevant to treatment.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:Why does the information need to be centralized (182 comments)

> What if his in an emergency and happens not to walk with that card in the pocket?

Gee, I don't know. What do they do now?

What they do now is get inferior treatment to that which they would/will get with good EHRs, sometimes dying as a result.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:Your health is not at stake (182 comments)

"Medical care is full of information waivers, much like EULAs, only with your health at stake."

This is sloppily worded, but let's be clear that medical privacy is not the same thing as "your health". If someone sees my private medical records, it doesn't make me sicker. If anything, more eyeballs would tend to make me less sick, as medical errors would be more likely to be caught.

What I meant is that if you want to reject the EULA, you can't use the software. If you want to reject the waiver, you can't get healthcare.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:DRM based OSes (182 comments)

Oh I see. You mean make it illegal to receive the records not create them. That means you have to hit extracts from, derived works from the records regardless of source. I have some serious questions about the constitutionality of laws like that. Remember you have to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a law was broken.

Try and write one up that gets around all the ways the data can me modified and then sold.

Now you're on the right track!

I'm sure I haven't thought of everything that's necessary. But I'm game for as many rings of defense as it takes. You mustn't transfer the info illicitly. You mustn't sell it. You musn't buy it. You musn't use it for the purposes people would want to buy it for. And you surely mustn't do hacking to get it.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:Dangers of EHR (182 comments)

And HR managers will risk jail over the hacking to play out your scenario?

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:DRM based OSes (182 comments)

Hence the need for strong laws to add to the DISincentives for hacking.

There's only so strong you can make the laws. You can make the penalty death and forfeiture of all property to the state, but if the incentives FOR it are strong enough, and the chance of getting away with it perceived to be good enough, it'll happen anyway.

No argument. But my point is that the incentives FOR using people's medical records against them aren't really that high, especially if the what the records show is merely elevated probabilities of some unfortunate outcome(s).

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:DRM based OSes (182 comments)

And those records will illicitly be used -- how? Spam? We all get plenty of medical spam anyway. Non-spam? Legitimate businesses can be seriously penalized. Discrimination? Too much of a "paper" trail for discrimination to use that vector.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:Dangers of EHR (182 comments)

anti-discrimination legislation

Anti-discrimination legislation will never work.

"Your honor, I did not not hire him because of his genetic defects, it's simply because he wasn't a perfect fit for the job. We found somebody who types faster."

Problem solved.

Anti-discrimination legislation is, in general, partially successful. Your extreme position adds more humor than insight.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:Dangers of EHR (182 comments)

Exactly why we need anti-discrimination legislation in ADDITION to privacy protections

Anti-discrimination laws aren't working, right now. What makes you think they'll start working if we make discrimination much easier and much (really, very much) more profitable?

P.S.: I speak from the PoV of Spain; maybe in the states anti-discrimination laws really work and saying you're two month pregnant during a job interview wouldn't alter the result in the least.

Fair enough. But I was talking about discrimination for smaller factors, such as mere statistical risks of ill health.

You're right that anti-discrimination for gross disabilities is only partially successful. In the US it's the Americans With Disabilities Act.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:i can see it now (182 comments)

Might not be spam. ALL marketing based on medical information should be illegal, with only the narrowest of carve-outs for your actual healthcare providers.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:DRM based OSes (182 comments)

the incentives for hacking are too strong and the distribution has to be too wide.

Hence the need for strong laws to add to the DISincentives for hacking.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:i can see it now (182 comments)

LOL.

Exactly one of the things I suggested be made illegal.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:Logged in computers (182 comments)

I'm glad to see so much emphasis on audit trails.

I called out that point in an early post re government data use, but you guys are right that it applies in the medical case as well.

more than 5 years ago
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EHR Privacy Debate Heats Up

CurtMonash Re:Dangers of EHR (182 comments)

Exactly why we need anti-discrimination legislation in ADDITION to privacy protections.

more than 5 years ago
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Scientists Discover Proteins Controlling Evolution

CurtMonash Re:So Lamarck was right??? (436 comments)

I always thought Lamarckian Theory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamark/ was poo poo. Maybe we need to look at it again given recent discoveries like this one and finding that disease can change DNA and get passed on.

I was going to mention Lysenko, but that would be going too far.

You mistyped your link, by the way, by leaving out the C in LamarCk.

more than 5 years ago

Submissions

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Oracle bug takes down core JP Morgan Chase apps

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 3 years ago

CurtMonash (986884) writes "An Oracle bug took down multiple JP Morgan Chase applications Monday night and Tuesday, if a very credible-seeming source is to be believed. The damage included $132 million in delayed ACH transactions, 500-1000 failed applications each for auto and student loans, and a whole lot of bad publicity around the unavailability of JP Morgan Chase's core online banking portal. To top things off, other factors brought Morgan's online portal to its knees again on Wednesday."
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How should a non-techie learn programming?

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 4 years ago

CurtMonash (986884) writes "Nontechnical people — for example marketers or small business owners — increasingly get the feeling they should know more about technology. And they're right. If you can throw up a small website or do some real number-crunching, chances are those skills will help you feed your family. But how should they get started? I started a thread with the question on DBMS2, and some consistent themes emerged, including:
  • * Learn HTML + CSS early on.
  • * Learn a bit of SQL, but you needn't make that your focus.
  • * Have your first real programming language be one of the modern ones, such as PHP or Python.
  • * MySQL is a good vehicle to learn SQL.
  • * It's a great idea to start with a project you actually want to accomplish, and that can be done by modifying a starter set of sample code. (E.g., a WordPress blog.)
  • * Microsoft's technology stack is an interesting alternative to some of the other technology ideas.

A variety of books and websites were suggested, most notably MIT's Scratch. But, frankly, it would really help to get more suggestions for sites and books that help one get started with HTML/CSS, or with MySQL, or with PHP. And so, techie studs and studdettes, I ask you — how should a non-techie go about learning some basic technological skills?"
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What's the best way to scale out Postgres?

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "I have a client building a new app that will peak at several million updates per hour to a 1-2 terabyte database. They don't have much budget, and they don't want to use MySQL. What are their options? They tried EnterpriseDB's GridSQL scale-out technology, but quickly discarded it because it didn't support the latest PostgreSQL releases. I put up a blog post with this question, asking about software and design options such as Hibernate and hand scaling. But the early responses have focused on SSDs. Also on the table are ACID-compliant in-memory DBMS like the Groovy SQL Switch or VoltDB, but those are immature products, and obviously require a lot of silicon. PostgreSQL has the benefit of being pretty mature, with some SQL features the client really values (e.g., windowing, geospatial datatype). What are the most effective and proven ways to scale out PostgreSQL?"
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Two dangerous kinds of blog comment spam

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "As the owner of several WordPress blogs, I get over 100,000 spam comments per year, of which Akismet lets through a delightfully tiny fraction. Most of that spam seems to either be selling various (probably shady) products and services, or just attempt to transmit "link juice" to other sites for SEO purposes. At least two forms of comment spam, however, are more sinister than that.

First, some comments — especially ones focused on obscure "long-tail" keywords — try to direct visitors to actual malware delivery sites. I started seeing examples of those back in 2007; they're still coming in with high frequency. Second — and so far I've seen a single example of this one — I just got a comment containing a brazen offer to provide website-attacking services. Prices range from $25-70, depending on the duration of the attack, and the spammer promises "On average the data, ordered the site falls within 5 minutes after the start."

Aw shucks. I long for the good ol' days when spam just promised payday loans I could use to buy Viagra to enhance my enjoyment of free porn sites ..."

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MMO games use very strange database designs

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "The technology of MMO RPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) is interesting and even groundbreaking on multiple levels — graphics, AI, networking/security, and more. But one areas where it's downright funky is in database management. Nominally, the major MMOs seem to use recognizable database technology — MySQL (World of Warcraft, Second Life), Postgres (Everquest), SQL Server (Guild Wars), StreamBase (also Second Life), and so on. But what they do with it is another matter. In Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), for example, minor database-value errors are only fixed in major quarterly releases, suggesting a rather cavalier attitude toward database integrity. Authentication servers go down all the time too, on what probably is a SQL- rather than LDAP-based system. Meanwhile, Guild Wars opts out of conventional database architecture altogether, and just saves character state in 10K-30K BLOBs.

Perhaps these are actually good technical decisions for the MMO developers to have made. But I can't help thinking that a little bit of enterprise IT savvy would save MMO developers a lot of embarrassment and aggravation, and make their gamers happier as well."

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Hospital turns away ambulances after EHRs go down

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "The Indianapolis Star reports that Tuesday Morning, Methodist Hospital turned away patients in ambulances, for the first time in its 100-plus history. Why? Because the electronic health records (EHR) system had gone down the prior afternoon — due to a power surge — and the backlog of paperwork was no longer tolerable.

If you think about that story, it has a couple of disturbing aspects. Clearly the investment in or design of high availability, surge protection, etc. were sadly lacking. But even leaving that aside — why do problems with paperwork make it necessary to turn away patients?

Maybe the latter is OK, since there obviously were other, more smoothly running hospitals to send the patient to. Still, the whole story should be held up as a cautionary tale for hospitals and IT suppliers everywhere."

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Facebook's 2 1/2 petabyte Hadoop-based warehouse

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Facebook has a 2 1/2 petabyte data warehouse, running on Hadoop/Hive rather than a database management system. I already mentioned this in a recent story, "Web Analytics Databases Get Even Larger"*, but subsequently I've gotten a lot more detail from Ashish Thusoo and Joydeep Sen Sarma of Facebook. Highlights include:
  • Facebook operates a single cluster of 610 nodes, running multiple Hadoop MapReduce jobs at once.
  • Hardware only costs $2000-$4000/node, versus the $10,000+/node that might be required for a DBMS.
  • Hive implements some basic SQL functionality over MapReduce.
  • Reliability is so-so. Long-running queries fail more often than ETL — which actually is ELT — because getting the data in the first place is more important than having query results be current to the nearest 15 minutes.
  • The most rapidly-cycled queries are re-run approximately hourly.
  • Facebook is really making serious extensions to open source Hadoop code.

*Sorry about the misspelling of "ever"!"
Link to Original Source

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Web analytics databases get every larger

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Web analytics databases are getting every larger. eBay now has a 6 1/2 petabyte warehouse running on Greenplum — user data — to go with its more established 2 1/2 petabyte Teradata system. Between the two databases, the metrics are enormous — 17 trillion rows, 150 billion new rows per day, millions of queries per day, and so on. Meanwhile, Facebook has 2/12 petabytes managed by Hadoop, not running on a conventional DBMS at all, Yahoo has over a petabyte (on a homegrown system), and Fox/MySpace has two different multi-hundred terabyte systems (Greenplum and Aster Data nCluster). eBay and Fox are the two Greenplum customers I wrote in about last August, when they both seemed to be headed to the petabyte range in a hurry. These are basically all web log/clickstream databases, except that network event data is even more voluminous than the pure clickstream stuff."
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MapReduce can't keep up with MPP DBMS

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Monday was a bad night for the MapReduce advocates. First, famed MapReduce skeptics Michael Stonebraker and David DeWitt released a series of benchmarks that suggest MPP database management systems far outperform Mapreduce (specifically Hadoop). I piled on by posting some thoughts from even-more-skeptical eBay, which thinks MapReduce is 6-8X slower than MPP database managers for comparable tasks.

That doesn't mean MapReduce advocates need to jump off of a ledge. Much of what these benchmarks show is the should-have-been obvious point that MapReduce shouldn't be used to replace DBMS for tasks DBMS are good at. MapReduce applications tend to be concentrated in four areas:
  • Text tokenization, indexing, and search
  • Creation of other kinds of data structures (e.g., graphs)
  • Data mining and machine learning
  • Data transformation

and the benchmarks didn't really speak to any of those. But some of those areas may equally fall victim to the "Don't reinvent the wheel argument."

MapReduce is surely an appealing paradigm for lightweight, reliably-parallel programming. At least for research into parallel algorithms, it has much to recommend it. But whether MapReduce will play a major role going forward in production use seems at this point to still be an open question."

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Twitter gets slammed by the StalkDaily XSS worm

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "(This is a better version of what I just submitted, based on a more careful reading of the comment thread to my first blog post. Sorry for the dupe.)

Twitter was hit Saturday by a worm that caused victims' accounts to tweet favorably about the StalkDaily website. Infection occurred when one went to the profile page of a compromised account, and was largely spread by the kind of follower spam more commonly used by multi-level marketers.

Apparently the worm was an XSS attack, exploiting a vulnerability created in a recent Twitter update that introduced support for OAuth, and created by the 17-year-old owner of the StalkDaily website. Most of the details can be found in the comment thread to a Network World post I put up detailing the attack, or in the post itself. By evening, Twitter claimed to have closed the security hole."

Link to Original Source
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Twitter slammed by StalkDaily XSS virus

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Twitter was hit Saturday by a virus that caused victims' accounts to tweet favorably about the StalkDaily website. Infection occurred when one went to the profile page of a compromised account, and was largely spread by the kind of follower spam more commonly used by multi-level marketers.

The virus seems to have been an XSS/javascript attack, probably exploiting a vulnerability created in a recent Twitter update that introduced support for OAuth. Much of the diagnosis occurred in the comment thread to a Network World post I put up detailing the attack; the post itself contains page source and other particulars. By evening, Twitter claimed to have closed the security hole."

Link to Original Source
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Electric grid collapse -- two disaster scenarios

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Nightmare scenarios are emerging right and left that could lead to the catastrophic collapse of the electric grid. The worst comes via the New Scientist, which suggests that a giant ball of plasma could destroy (almost) every transformer in North America. Medicine, food, and in some cases clean water would rapidly be unavailable, not to mention internet access. Tens of millions of people — starting with couch-bound geeks — would surely die. And by the way, just such a ball of plasma hit the Earth in 1859. More mundanely, next generation smart electric grids seem to have a lot of security vulnerabilities that nobody is in any hurry to patch, and unpleasantly destructive overloads could conceivably occur just via those."
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Star Trek:TNG actors go boldly into cyberspace

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Three Star Trek: The Next Generation actors have ventured boldly into social media, engaging fans via Twitter and blogs alike. LeVar "Geordi" Burton recently offered Twitter followers first crack at tickets to his new play, and blogged a declaration that social media will be a large part of his life in the future. Brent "Data" Spiner is running an ever-morphing contest for the right to write his 500th tweet. And of course Wil "Wesley" Wheaton has a huge presence in cyberspace. How big is this? Well, Wheaton, Burton, and Spiner have more than 226,000, 122,000, and 46,000 Twitter followers respectively. Even more remarkably, Burton and Spiner both joined Twitter just this year. But it is still somewhat possible to engage these guys on a one-on-one basis, if you happen to catch their interest or mood."
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Brevity is the soul of 140-character wit

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "The New York Times noted today that Twitter is a fine venue for humor, but asked how to separate wheat from chaff. I offered an answer. It turns out that many Twitter users already hand-curate what amounts to one-liner joke lists, on their "Favorites" pages. My own Twitter favorites list, for example, contains a couple dozen witticisms, in a variety of genres, from popular culture, classical culture, rural, or techie to the just plain bawdy. But seriously, folks, there's a moral to this story: You find almost everything on the internet, including humor, in the same way — by following what amounts to a chain of recommendations from people, especially ones you have at least a little bit of a relationship with. That was true in the ancient era of chain-letter joke lists; it's just as true in the Brave New World of Twitter and YouTube; and it probably will be true in the next few generations of technology as well."
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Celebrities are gathering on Twitter

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Twitter got started as a kind of clubhouse for tech bloggers such as Robert Scoble, but it is increasingly being populated by celebrities of all kinds. People of some notoreity who seem to be posting to Twitter themselves range from athletes Shaquille O'Neal, Steve Nash, and Lance Armstrong to actors Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, and kinky-porn idol Madison Young. (By way of contrast, the Twitter stream in the name of Barack Obama is clearly run by flacks, while Britney Spears's is somewhere inbetween.) And they occasionally interact with "regular" Twitterers — Shaq invited fans to meet him at a diner, and Wheaton warned a viewer away from an unfavorite movie role."
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A technology-based fix for the mortgage crisis

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "A three-part series of Network World blog posts identified Mortgage-Backed Securities as a chief enabler of the economic crisis, and suggests the mortgage market should be rebuilt without them, in the form of an Individual Mortgage Aftermarket. The argument is:
  • Some kind of mortgage-resale aftermarket is essential to the modern economy (and has been ever since interest rates were deregulated)
  • Mortgage-Backed Securities as currently conceived defy adequate analysis and oversight, by private investors and regulators alike (because of how mortgages are pooled together)
  • If individual mortgages were traded instead, analysis and oversight would be much more feasible (because information to measure them would be much more granular).
  • Technology is now fully adequate to support an Individual Mortgage Aftermarket, on the data management analytics and privacy/security fronts alike.

Nothing can fix the losses that stemmed from houses being bought, via debt, for more money than they're worth. But recovery in the real estate and banking sectors is essential to the overall health of the US and world economies, and the Individual Mortgage Aftermarket — if it proves practical — might allow a recovery much earlier than otherwise seems likely."
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Joel Spolsky builds a programmers' paradise

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Joel Spolsky, founder of Fog Creek Software, has amassed a huge following for his homilies on how to make brilliant programmers productive and happy. But he further casts himself as a software business guru, and that is decidedly more questionable, not least because Spolksy seems to have a bad case of Edifice Complex. The latest Joel on Software post deals not with programming, but rather interior design. Why? Because the New York Times has a big article raving about the interior design of Fog Creek's new offices, and the intense involvement of Spolsky in same. I've been an analyst for over 25 years, and other than one of the two time Oracle did it, I can't recall a case of a company moving to glitzy new HQ without stumbling — most especially when the CEO takes a personal hand in their design. But do check out the office ideas — they ARE cool, including leather chairs, a marble shower, glass whiteboards, and a wood floor to encourage scooter use."
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Google Mail gets its missing piece

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "Google has just announced an offline client for Google Mail, with the option of background synchronization. Even though this is just at the Google Labs stage for now, it's potentially huge, for several reasons:
  • Anybody who uses Google Mail and doesn't have an offline client should get this one just for backup.
  • Anybody who uses Google Mail and doesn't have a regular offline client might want to consider this one to increase responsiveness.
  • Anybody who use Eudora (as I do) or Thunderbird to access Google Mail is likely going to be facing a client switch some day; this could be the new one.
  • Most businesses should be using Google Mail.
  • Fred Wilson is right; people should retain lots of mail. And Google is good at searching large numbers of documents.

The product is still in it's very early days — you shouldn't switch yet if you have another offline client you like. But if you have no current backup at all, you might want to get this option immediately, experimental though it may be."
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The microblogging apocalypse is upon us

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "The hot social media startup of the day is Plinky, which helps people create "inspired content." It does so by offering "prompts" that serve to — you guessed it — inspire content creation. The intent is to, every day, help you create something new to liven up your otherwise dull Twitter feed. Superficially, this sounds sweet, like a good cocktail party host stimulating lively conversation. But cocktail party guests generally do not run out in the street with megaphones, screaming their drunken chatter to the world — unless, of course, they are Dartmouth students. Plinky seems destined to become just another way for "social media marketers" to build their "personal brands," by polluting popular forms of internet communication in any way they think will get them a bit of extra attention."
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The EHR privacy debate heats up

CurtMonash CurtMonash writes  |  more than 5 years ago

CurtMonash writes "The New York Times reports on President-Elect Obama's continued commitment to electronic health records (EHRs), which on the whole are a great idea. The article goes on to cite a number of legistlative initiatives to deal with the privacy risks of EHRs. That's where things start to go astray.

The proposals seem to focus on simply controlling the flow of information, but from a defense-in-depth standpoint, that's not enough. Medical care is full of information waivers, much like EULAs, only with your health at stake. What's more, any information control regime has to have exceptions for medical emergencies — but where legitimate emergencies are routine, socially-engineered fake emergencies can blast security to smithereens.

So medical information privacy will never be adequate unless there are strong usage-control rules as well, in areas such as discrimination, marketing, or tabloid-press publication. In my usual helpful manner, I've provided some ideas as to how and why that could work well."

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