Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why Should Any Smart Object Be Stealable?

I've been wondering for a while that, given the cost of "smart" objects, why don't more of them don't have anti-theft mechanisms built in? It seems that there are two basic approaches here: make the stolen object useless, or make it (or the thief) really easy to find.

An example of making the smart object useless comes from a post by Ed Felten talking about how DRM can be used for good, to help prevent your stuff from being stolen.

http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1180


How might this work? One possibility is that when the device [iPod] is plugged in to a charger it hasn’t seen before, it makes a noise and prompts the user to enter a password on the iPod’s screen. If the correct password is entered, the device will allow itself to be recharged by that charger in the future. The device will become associated with a group of chargers over time.


There are obvious holes with this approach, most notably stealing the charger, but it seems to me a generally good idea.

An example of making it easier to find the thief is FlickrBooth, which uploads pictures taken from a Mac's iSight camera to Flickr. There's already been one well-publicized example of successfully catching a thief.

A variant I'd like to see: something that can fingerprint the output media of cameras, so if anyone uploads a picture from that camera, you can find it. For example, Flickr already posts a lot of metadata about the camera that took the picture. So somehow record your camera's metadata in a "safe" place, and then use that to search for it if it ever gets stolen. Another possibility: I'm sure some cameras also have unique characteristics. The one I had that was stolen had a subtle scratch mark on all photos. It would be nice to be able to scan lots of images and find if anyone is publishing photos with it.

Anti-Phishing Phil used in High School Class

Just heard about this, our game Anti-Phishing Phil is being used in a high school class, where the topic is "things that can get you in trouble online".

I like this excerpt from the teacher:

I’m doing a unit right on about plagiarism, scams, spam, phishing, urban legends, and all sorts of other things that can get you in trouble online. Students are fascinated by anything that’s illegal, so it’s actually going pretty well.

...

Even with a minimal game structure, students focus on the play and don’t seem to notice that they are being taught a whole set of skills and knowledge. But when it’s over, they can answer my questions. Great stuff.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wanted: A PowerPoint Shrinker

I've noticed that you can often substantially reduce the size of PowerPoint files simply by saving the same file to a new filename. I just did this for a lecture on social networking theory, and it went from 7 megs to 3.5 megs.

I'm trying to guess why PowerPoint does this, and not coming up with any good ideas. It can't be for undo, since PowerPoint eliminates your undo queue whenever you normally save. It might be for faster saves, though I never notice any difference between saving normally and saving to a new file.

At any rate, one thing that would be really nice would be something that did this automatically before emailing it out or posting it on your web site, just imagine the savings!

Clever "Wheel of Lunch" Mashup

Finally, a technologically sound answer to the eternal question "where should we go for lunch?". Take Yahoo Local, mix with Wheel of Fortune, and you have Wheel of Lunch.

http://www.coverpop.com/wheeloflunch/

Monday, October 01, 2007

Buy that song now, through your iPhone

This is a brilliant idea and a really compelling use of ubicomp technologies.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/01/technology/01impulse.html


Like that song you hear playing at Starbucks, but just cannot wait until you get to a computer to download the song?

Starting tomorrow at certain Starbucks stores, a person with an iPhone or iTunes software loaded onto a laptop can download the songs they hear over the speakers directly onto those devices. The price will be 99 cents a song, a small price, Starbucks says, to satisfy an immediate urge.

Anti-Phishing Phil in the News





Anti-Phishing Phil is in the news (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7).

Anti-Phishing Phil is a game we've created to teach people not to fall for phishing attacks (ie those fake "please update your account" emails that lead to identity theft).

Try out the game here!

You can also read our research paper here (PDF).