2008年12月号 大切なインターネットの匿名性、でもリスクも忘れないで!

I acknowledge the importance of anonymity on the Internet and support its preservation, but there are some circumstances where anonymity cannot be maintained, or even expected. Take for example the report of Steve Jobs' heart attack. What heart attack, you ask? No, you're quite right, he didn't have one, but someone posted just such a report on CNN's iReport website and it sent the Mac community into fits.

The title of iReport's home page is "Unedited. Unfiltered. News." and their description uses language reminiscent of the bad-old hyperbole-filled dotcom days of the late 1990s: "With this site, we want to share our passion about the news in a way that invites you -- and everyone else -- to share your passion about the news... So head on over the homepage and jump in. Tell your story and see how it connects to someone on the other side of the world -- and build a new kind of news site, one made from communities of shared interests, impassioned discussions and great storytelling."

Storytelling. Well, that much is true. In early October, someone calling himself Johntw posted a message starting this way: "Steve Jobs was rushed to the ER just a few hours ago after suffering a major heart attack. I have an insider who tells me that paramedics were called after Steve claimed to be suffering from severe chest pains and shortness of breath. My source has opted to remain anonymous, but he is quite reliable." But it was completely untrue. Nonetheless, it sent mini-shockwaves through the Internet and Apple stock dropped 10%. The problem was not that this person was able to post a false piece of information on a website. Anyone can pay US$10 or even less and set up their own site, and with minimal skill can even make it look attractive. The question is, who would care? No one, really. He would have zero readers and no influence. But in this case, the posting was on a news site affiliated with CNN--not an organization that I have much respect for but certainly one that many people do. And that credibility and visibility lead to this piece of fiction directly impacting people's lives and livelihoods. On the one hand, I treasure the ability to be anonymous. Anonymity is invaluable when a free people begin to be oppressed by their government and they need to criticize it without fear of retaliation, of when a person wants to pass on information to the police or corporate watchdogs without the danger of personal reprisals. However, this was a "news report" of an utter falsehood. There is no defense for such an action. So, the take home point for the rest of us is, as always, be skeptical about what we read. And for the writer, he or she may soon receive some unwelcome visitors. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating if the story was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the stock, and if so then someone will be going to jail.

Another person who may be going to jail is the person accused of breaking into Governor Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account. The son of a Tennessee state representative, Mr. David Kernell is a college student majoring in economics and is accused of using the password reset process to gain access, then taking screenshots of her mail, reading her messages, obtaining phone numbers and other personal information, and so on, and then posting various bits of information to, an imageboard modeled after the Futaba Channel If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (

iPhone Apps

I've been slow to upgrade my iPhone firmware, but 2.2 may have a couple of interesting features. One may be support for emoji (461 of them in the latest beta firmware). Another is Google Street View. Unfortunately, I am having a bit of a hard time filtering through all the iPhone apps. I suppose that is a good problem to have, being far better than having too few choices, but I'd be happier if there were more demo versions. Apple does reject some applications, for example one called "Pull My Finger" which apparently made a vulgar noise and that's about all. Their rejection letter cited "limited utility" which I suppose is true, as far as it goes, but it hardly captures the fact that it was a vulgar joke of an application. Some people expressed outrage at Apple's rejection, but Apple has the right to reject or accept whichever applications it wishes. I myself rather wish that the Music Store had a place for even the stupidly vulgar ones. Label it "Vulgar" or "Juvenile" or "Tasteless" or whatever and make it clear that this category is a catchall. People with a junior high school level of humor will be happy and the rest of us will be able to avoid them more easily.

CompUSA, what happened to you?

I wondered for a while if this new Intel PC would arrive. I followed its progress on the United Parcel Service website and made sure I was home on the day of delivery, but was surprised and disappointed when the site listed a "delivery exception" because of a bad address. I went back to the CompUSA site and examined my order and confirmed that the shipping address was correct. But, suspicious, I continued poking around and found, buried a couple of levels deeper, a "receipt" page which had a wrong shipping address. How could that be? Why would CompUSA's database schema handle two different shipping addresses? I called UPS and explained the situation and their customer service representative told me that they would change my address and have it delivered the next day. The person seemed competent and I hung up feeling some confidence that they would clear up the problem. About a half an hour later I decided to find out if they would deliver to another address. You see, the whole problem began when I first placed my order. CompUSA called me and explained that they needed to ship to the billing address of my credit card rather than my shipping address (which, because I work during the day, is a professional shipping and receiving company). Okay, I confirmed my street address and then made arrangements to be home that day to receive the package. Unfortunately, CompUSA mis-transcribed the address during that call, leading to the initial misdelivery. So, to avoid further problems, I called UPS back and asked if I could arrange to have it shipped to my receiving company but UPS informed me that not only did they have no record of my earlier address correction but also that only CompUSA could change the delivery address! Wonderful. And of course CompUSA's customer "service" department was closed at that time. I have no doubt that they would sell something to me then, but no one was there who could or would help an existing customer.

So I called CompUSA at 6 A.M. the next morning and the man I spoke to told me that they would not change the delivery address because it would cost them extra money! Furthermore, he said that they would cancel the order and I would have to re-order! I don't need to describe how frustrating that felt. The person said that there was nothing he or I could do and so we ended the call, leaving me stunned. After I had calmed down I called them back to complain about their refusal to correct their shipping error, and after about 45 minutes on the phone I had ordered another machine. It $30 less and but with a slightly slower processor and slightly smaller drive and slightly slower video card. And free overnight shipping. Very dissatisfying. I checked the UPS site again and the package's status had been changed to "THE SHIPPER HAS REQUESTED A DELIVERY INTERCEPT FOR THIS PACKAGE / RETURN TO SENDER PENDING." Late in the afternoon, I again checked but saw something equally surprising: "SAN FRANCISCO, CA, US 09/19/2008 11:46 A.M. DELIVERY." My first call to UPS to correct my address must have somehow entered their system, and lucky for me my wife was home to sign for it. Bizarre.

It was a comedy of errors from the start, and mostly my fault for deciding to buy from a second-rate company. CompUSA used to be a reputable brand but the company shut down most of its stores and sold its website to a company called Tiger Direct, the same company that tried to sue Apple for calling its OS "Tiger" in 2005. To be fair, the second person I spoke to there was much more professional than the first and assured me that they do not refuse to correct a shipping address because of the extra cost. She claimed it was a restriction that UPS places on them. Actually, I suspect that isn't quite true either. As I understand it, there are different types of contracts a company can have with UPS and I believe that to be able to change shipping addresses requires a more expensive one. The bottom line is to simply be careful from whom you buy, double-check or triple-check that the information they have is accurate, and pray that you have no problems. Once I confirmed that my original order had arrived, I canceled my second order immediately online, and then called them twice to confirm its cancellation. They refunded my payment for that about five days later, about the same time they emailed me an RMA for the machine I had (which I ignored).

Ah, Vista

So, I have been using Vista for a while now, and it is almost like XP but with a somewhat less convenient UI. I don't care much about Aero. I hardly notice the fancier UI because I spend most of my time in FireFox or a text editor. Windows Explorer is more awkward than in XP, and I sometimes hit peculiar problems. For example, I moved the old 500GB drive from my XP machine inside the new machine but although Vista's disk utility saw it and the OS assigned it a letter, it did not appear in My Computer. I tried all kinds of things to make an icon appear there, and I could right-click it in the disk utility and "explore" its contents. But it would not appear in any save or open dialog boxes or in regular explorer windows. I eventually fixed it by giving it a different drive letter and suddenly it appeared where I expected it. Strange. I also get error screens like "This folder cannot be shared" with absolutely no indication of why not (I solved that by explicitly specifying access permissions in the sharing utility and activating the share there rather than using the Share... menu option in Explorer). Also, small size typefaces look somewhat poor, but that could be because I've not selected or installed any LCD-optimized typefaces or because of my generic monitor driver. Still, LCD screens are so common that I would expect Vista to automatically adjust itself accordingly. Otherwise, Vista is pretty much like XP to me, or even 2000 for that matter. I don't notice the "improvements" and chalk up the foolishness to the usual mix of either sloppy design or legacy coding. Sometimes things have changed for the worse, though. For some reason, probably to lock down access to media, Vista doesn't let you monitor a microphone input through your regular output (headphones, speakers, etc). You can easily do it in XP; it is a single checkbox. In Vista, you need to run an application to explicitly access that input. I use VLC, and simply use the "Open Capture Device" command to listen to the mic. Rather silly, but okay, if that's Microsoft's idea of progress then I can work around it. I do avoid using Microsoft's stuff as much as possible. OpenOffice, VLC, Firefox, and EditPad, and so on all seem to work fine.

As for the hardware, it too seems okay. It would be ironic, not to say disappointing, if it were to fail now or have been DOA, but so far I have been lucky. Is it screaming fast? No. But I can hardly expect it to be because so little software is written to take advantage of multiple processors. What I can say is that it does not feel sluggish, in large part because of its 4GB of RAM. Vista is indeed a RAM-pig--Task Manager tells me that I have only 41MB free. Having lots of memory makes a huge difference, and the same is true for MacOS X. The more RAM, the better, and this machine has 4GB and can take four more, so I have some room to grow. I'm a little worried about video upgrades because it doesn't have a second PCI-E x16 slot, but that's okay. Warcraft runs fine, and Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Fallout 3 will no doubt also run just fine. Fallout 3 is coming out soon and I'm really looking forward to it (the Xbox 360 version is already on pirate sites and requires a modded console to run). It sounds like Knights of the Old Republic 3 will also have been announced by the time this issue hits the newsstands, which I'm sure will be terrific. This is really the only reason for me to have a Windows PC, to enjoy some of the excellent story-driven and graphically intensive games now available.

Satellite TV

Cable television is quite widespread in the US, but my service has become very expensive. For $120 per month, I have a rather general selection of channels. I have access to a large number but few I want to watch. So I recently switched to DirecTV, a satellite system which costs half as much and provides me two DVRs rather than just one, more channels, and more high definition channels. And finally I can see a good looking HD picture on my 22-inch Hyvision monitor, in 720p. 1080i looks very poor, just as it did with cable, with tearing ripples in the image. 720p looks excellent. Next on my wish list is an HD TV for the living room which, if the rumors are true, could have an Apple label on it, perhaps even with a Blu-Ray player in it, too. I think it makes sense for Apple to jump into the HD TV market. Yes, it is crowded, but Apple could distinguish itself with superior design, ergonomics, and functionality. HDTV + Apple TV = another example of digital convergence.

Joke of the Month

I will leave you with a quote from the Mexican edition of PC Magazine (,2704,2331363,00.asp) of a very funny comment from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about why he thinks Apple started their stores: "Apple started doing stores because nobody wanted to sell their PCs. Okay?"