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Letters How much is a website worth? How many Firefox users are there? How long is a piece of string? These, and other puzzlers were given a good going over earlier this week. Our writer warned people not to read to much into download figures of open source software:

An interesting article and you are right on the mark about the inaccuracies of some figures being touted around. At least the Firefox number is quoted as "downloads" and not "users". There is also the definition of "user" to deal with. I have copies of just about every browser ever made and use many of them daily to check site designs. I don't, however, use them as browsers in the strictest sense - Firefox gets the job as the surfing workhorse (now there's an interesting mental image).

You are also correct when you mention "However some will also try it, use it and deploy it to multiple PCs from a single download". I've seen people arrive in the Firefox user support newsgroups asking about big deployments. The largest I recall is 40,000 seats from one downloaded file. At the other end of the scale a sys admin I know well - my wife- has deployed 130 users from one file.

To paraphrase an old cliché, there are lies, damn lies and download stats. The only thing we can be sure of is that Microsoft is rattled.

-- The Mahatma.


As a person in the IT industry, I'm willing to bet that there are a good many more then 25 million Firefox users. Reason? well all the Linux distro's appear to be offering Firefox as the default browser now, and they are not listed on Mozilla's download count for one thing.

Also, I downloaded Firefox 1.0 when it came out, and I've installed that same copy onto about 200+ of my clients machines now. I'll bet allot of other IT guys sick of fixing spyware issues are doing the same. Every new client I get has all their machines converted to Firefox as part of the deal. If someone asks why, I send them to browse 20 particular web pages in IE, and then run spyware removal tools and count what it finds. Then I have them do the same in Firefox and count what it finds. What I end up with is new converts to Firefox. It has yet to fail.

I'd bet that 25,000,000 is a conservative estimate for Firefox usage, because it seems to invoke an Apple like following of user loyalty. And regular users/fans feel an overwhelming urge to install it on all their friends/families PC's.

rgds

Franki


As if spam was not enough of a pain-in-the-neck, it seems we can now look forward to similar delights over VoIP systems. Happily, there is a rather lovely acronym all rolled up and ready to go for this phenomenon: spit. Nice. Anyway, you had some ideas for how the FCC should deal with this menace:

Spit messages, if the FCC was smart (whoops....) should be treated like all other telemarketing messages. That is, it would fall into the no-call list framework. Since the VOIP call would terminate at a true telephone or voice mail box, interstate fraud would be easier to pin on these callers.

There needs to be a legislated way that the VOIP providers are required to authenticate the origin of the call to prevent IP address spoofing and other commonly used practices that spammers currently use. The easiest to my mind would be require the VOIP user to provide their phone number and a vail email address.

An email would be sent to the registered user with a non-machine readable character string (like the ones currently used to prevent bots from setting up email accounts) and have a automatic dialler contact the user after the email was sent.

The user would then be prompted to enter their account number and the generated string. If after 3 calls the account cannot be verified then the system deletes that user account so it cannot be otherwise activated by social engineering.

As well you need to ensure that these accounts cannot be activated by inbound calls since the originating number can be blocked. It sounds harsh, but stringent security requirements are needed in order to prevent abusive/unauthorized users from using the system.

Glen


Dunno about "spit", however the marketeers are already ramping up the necessary technology and sending me "Spots" (Spam on the Plain Old Telephone System). It seems that the TPS election I (and several other people's I know) has timed out / gone AWOL and I am suddenly receiving at least one marketing call a day.

Mainly they are low bandwidth VoIP based connections from Indian call centres, usually trying sell me a different telephone provider. But it is sometimes difficult to tell because the Indian accented English over the cheap VoIP makes any conversation, at best, difficult. As a marketing tool for this segment of the market, this sort of call seems rather counter productive. Am I being rather picky?

However, a new phenomenon (at least for me) is the "recorded marketing message" where, it seems, if you don't hear out to the end, they keep ringing up every two or three days until you either do, or allow the ansafone take the strain. The latest one is a really nice sounding lady trying to sell me a cheap holiday to Florida. So I suppose we are being warned...

Regards

Dirk


Bill Gates gave forth on all things security related at this year's RSA conference. In reporting this, we mentioned the much anticipated launch of Longhorn:

I think you need to brush up your punctuation. The sentence:

"Longhorn, the next iteration of Windows, is due late next year"

should read:

"Longhorn, the next iteration of Windows, is due, late, next year"

;-)

Colin

Thank you, Colin...you have been appointed unofficial Wit of the Week.


White-coated scientists across the globe are planning to use the leftover bits of cosmic rays to scan volcanoes, pyramids and sheep-filled containers:

An interesting point on this to note -- and something with which these teams will have to deal -- is muons are also created when GCRs (Galactic Cosmic Rays) impact dense materials.

We found this out over 25 years ago.

A lab where I was a researcher back then had a unique "total body count" room. The entire room -- door, walls, ceiling and floor -- was solid steel 14-18 inches thick from pre WWII battleship hull plates. (We used pre WWII steel as it had none of the radioactive dust in it from the open air blasts at the end of WWII or the open air tests done in the following decades.)

The radiation background inside the room was several orders of magnitude lower than outside the room (the goal of building the room) allowing for very sensitive measurements.

The "however" -- and there always seems to be one -- was that the muon count inside the room was HIGHER than outside the room. After some detailed research we found out the GCRs and other high energy particles were being turned into showers of daughter particles in the walls with muons being the predominant particle making its way into the room.

Thus the people making these detectors will have to account for higher muon fluxes than expected whenever they are "scanning" dense, thick objects.

Franklin


4"x4" cube? Rough calculations say that thats about 19 kilo's. Almost 4 times critical mass. You wouldn't know it by its muon signature, you'd know it by the crater.

Mark

Detection is detection, Mark...


Stem cell research and human cloning. Thorny issues, no doubt, and since a UN general assembly committee has backed a proposal to ban all forms of human cloning, the debate doesn't look like going away any time soon:

Yet another great leap to the right for Christians, it looks like I'm going to have to move to an Islamic country if I want any form of liberalism.... what a thought. (or maybe Cuba).

Oliver


You were as enchanted as we were with Microsoft's leetspeak guide for confused parents:

Regarding Microsoft's attempt to educate parents on "l33tsp43k", I think it's hilarious that the *very first* word they define is "w4r3z". Now we know what Microsoft is really concerned about. It's not "pr0n", nor "spl0itz", or even "h4x". What really worries Microsoft is that parents are not educating their kids about Genuine Advantage of registering all the wonderful Microsoft software.

Maybe Microsoft's next free download will be a helpful utility that parents can run on their children's computers to find illegal content and report it to all the relevant copyright holders.

Brian


A pedant writes:

Linear-B was a syllabary - each character represented a complete syllable. L33t speak, mais oui, is alphabetic, albeit with unconventional spellings, a measure of phonemic substitution, some new trite neologism and a bit of hanky-panky with the semantics of str8 words...

To me, however, the clinching, albeit worryingly non-linear, argument, has to be that no l33t speaker has ever been a comely youth, let alone one who can leap through the horns of a bull inna Minoan bull-dancing stylee...

Excuse me whilst I go plug myself into the (Ventris) grid...

Gordon


They got "sploitz" wrong as well, (short for exploits): Vulnerabilities in computer software used by hackers.

should read "sploitz" wrong as well, (short for exploits): Vulnerabilities in computer software written by Miscrosoft.

TadMorbid


Very nice work MS.. a truly masterful, insightful and down right useful page. However I think the title "A parents primer to Computer slang" is a touch misleading, perhaps "How to know and stop your larcenous offspring from ripping us off" would give parents more of an idea of what the page is actually aimed at. :)

Angus


More on the liberties of the under 18s, and the rather bizarre practice of tagging schoolkids with RFID trackers. Parental pressure, along with other loud complainants, has managed to get the scheme ditched. This is a good thing, a bad thing, or an irrelevant thing, depending on your perspective:

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the scheme - if it meant we could tag sports kit, it would mean an end to lost football socks and someone else's shirt ending up in the kit bag.

Regards, Mike


I think it is always a bad point when a company backpedals like mad once the media puts the spotlight on them. It makes me feel like they knew very well what they were doing was immoral, but to get a buck they were willing to forget it - until the bright light comes on and all of a sudden they're just a cockroach trying hard as hell to skeedaddle back to the shadows. All I can say is : if it acts like a cockroach, squash it like a cockroach.

Pascal


Has anyone, besides me, realised that many of us already carry RFID devices? Some with a range of 10m or so and other with a range of several miles!

With my PC and a Bluetooth card, I can poll all the Bluetooth devices in range, and listen out for any broadcasts they make. ( Keep Alive packets are a gift!)

With a GSM base station, you can also eavesdrop on mobile traffic. OK you can't hear what they say, but you can identify each device by its IEN

By correlating device numbers and who is around, you can soon generate a database of who has what...

Peter


Lastly, we come to a letter that neatly illustrates all that is good about the web in general and search engines in particular. The writer has done himself a mischief, it seems, and following a bit of googling on his problem stumbled upon El Reg, and wonders if we can help:

About six to seven years ago I had a laptop on my lap for two days with no battery in it, on the second day I developed a swelling the size of my hand in my groin area, I went to see a Dr. and he said I had a hernia so he sent me to a surgeon, the surgeon said I didn't have a hernia.

Over time I had pain until I saw another Dr. and he and a surgeon convinced me that I had a hernia. I've had three surgeries to correct this pain and am still trying to find some relief. I am thinking about seeing a urologist to see if I have damaged or burnt something in my body. I am on Duregesic patches for chronic pain currently. Any suggestions?

Name withheld, for rather obvious reasons.


More on Friday. ®

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