Thursday, February 23, 2012

Concerns over security tangle Web messages

     Marina Kubacki holds her 19-month-old daughter, Julian, at their home in Hopkinsville, Ky. They are able to stay in touch with husband and father Derek Kubacki, a member of the 101st Airborne stationed in Kuwait, via the Internet. She was able to e-mail her husband nearly every day when he was stationed in Kosovo in the the late 1990s, making his absence a little more bearable.(PHOTO) (ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO/JOHN RUSSELL)

     The Internet has become a crucial bridge for deployed troops and their loved ones, but the frequent contact also creates new worries about compromising military security. "Mike can't even say whether he's busy today," Gordon Warren said of his son, who fixes radar on the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier bound for the Mideast. "That could be construed as having a lot of problems with the radar."

     Warren doesn't mind the restrictions. He appreciates a line or two saying his son is OK. He writes him daily and occasionally e-mails pictures. A colleague forwards jokes.
Soon after the ship left San Diego two weeks ago, Mike Warren's former physics teacher in Bloomington, Ill., Debbie Voorhees, posted on a Nimitz bulletin board, "Keep that Radar running!"
     "Chit chat and small talk can relieve a lot of tension," Voorhees said.
     E-mail and bulletin boards can't replace phone calls or care packages, but they can help fill the gap.
     " That one e-mail, you can save and read over and over until the next one comes," said Marina Kubacki, whose husband recently left Fort Campbell, Ky., for Kuwait with the Army's 101st Airborne Division.
     "It's nice to know your family cares about you," Sgt. 1st Class Renee Jackson, 40, of Harvey, Ill., said after getting e-mail in Kuwait.
     Still, reminders of the dangers are everywhere.
     On the USS Kitty Hawk, a closed-circuit television spot warns sailors not to talk about the carrier's location, direction and speed. Other "no-no's" include crew issues such as morale and weariness.
"      The hardest thing about e-mail is being careful about what you say," Mike Warren said by cell phone as the Nimitz stopped in Hawaii. "Sometimes, it's kind of hard to find stuff to talk about."
     Navy submarines monitor their sailors' Internet use because of greater requirements for stealth. Elsewhere, restrictions and surveillance are left to individual commanders, who generally trust their rank-and-file.
     "They know they can't talk about anything specific, specific numbers, specific locations," said Command Sgt. Maj. Iuniasolua Savusa of the 101st's 3rd Brigade.
First Lt. Joshua Rushing, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Qatar, said few people have sensitive information to begin with.
     And Army Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello points out that if there is combat, key soldiers "won't be doing e-mail anyway. They'll be in tanks, Bradleys and artillery pieces."
Unit commanders do occasionally cut off outbound access completely -- and will again shortly before any attack.
     To keep foes guessing, Navy vessels try to limit their electronic "leakage" from time to time, meaning sailors can get e-mail but not reply right away.
Steven Aftergood, senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, said Internet breaches are low among security worries. The primary fear, he said, is not from hacking or interception but from recipients spreading messages further.
Internet access and speeds vary from ship to ship, camp to camp.
Sailors generally get online through satellite links using computers in ship libraries or other public areas. On land, "morale tents" are lined with rows of Internet-enabled computers.
      Some personnel use computers at their work stations. A few have laptops, but not all are allowed on military networks.
      Specific applications like instant messaging are also sometimes barred for security reasons, though time zones are a greater problem.
     When access is available to the troops, usage can be limited -- 20 minutes here, an hour there -- and lines can stretch for hours.
     On the Kitty Hawk, for instance, only 10 of the 1,400 computers are available for e-mail. The carrier shares satellite bandwidth with other ships. The USS Constellation at one point had to ban video clips because they were using so much capacity.
Phones are available, but can get expensive -- an AT&T prepaid calling card costs $20 for 20 minutes on the Nimitz.
     Many find e-mail quicker and cheaper.
     "If you can type fast, you can get a long letter written in 20 minutes," said Pfc. James Bowers, 20, of Indianapolis, with the 101st Airborne in Kuwait. "When you call and get the answering machine, that sucks bad." He's been e-mailing an Internet-savvy teenage niece, figuring she could pass notes to others.
     Back home, Internet support groups help families cope. Some Web sites have organized campaigns to write letters and send care packages or music CDs to the troops.
Many families are setting up online photo albums or journals known as blogs. Some units in the field have created Web pages. The Army even gives soldiers accounts to set up password-protected sites.
     "Families worry a lot less," said Brandon Rice, who kept a blog as an Army reservist in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. "They can see our faces, what we were doing."
But that, too, can create problems.
     Rice once mistakenly posted a photo of an airplane on his unit's blog. Later, as its audience grew beyond friends and family, a network administrator suggested that he get the site approved, which he then did.
     David Sherman, an Air Force health care administrator in Montana who regularly read Rice's blog and writes his own, said security concerns leave soldiers talking about the mundane: "It's dry. It's dusty. They are serving prime rib."
     As dependency on the Net increases -- the Pentagon suspended letter-writing campaigns because of anthrax fears -- expectations grow, too.
     Spouses going through first deployments get upset if they haven't heard back within a few days, even though veteran military spouses know what it's like to wait weeks or months, said Kim Modlin, who runs e-mail support groups from Germany and has a husband in the Mideast.
     "It can be depressing," she said, "when everyone around you said they've heard from their spouses."
     Associated Press correspondents Kimberly Hefling with the 101st Airborne Division and Rohan Sullivan on the USS Kitty Hawk contributed to this story.
On the Net

Help Desk.(NetWare tips)

     I have a NetWare 4.11 server at my office that I have been trying to access remotely without success. It has temporarily been placed outside the firewall to eliminate that as being a problem. I have verified that I have correctly installed and configured TCP/IP on the server, but I can't login to it from my home Internet connection. Is there a way to do this ? Please don't tell me I have to upgrade to NetWare 5 or 6.
Via the Internet
     Upgrading to NetWare 5 or 6 would make it easier, but it is doable with NetWare 4. The main problem you are having is that NetWare 4 didn't do Netware Core Protocol (NCP) over IP, only IPX. While NetWare 5/6 can do this natively, NetWare 4 can get there via a slightly different route. What you will need to do is install NetWare/IP (NWIP). This is a no-cost add-on that comes in the box with NetWare 4. I would strongly recommend applying the latest available to NetWare before installing NWIP.
     You won't have NCP over IP after installing NWIP, but you will be close. NWIP encapsulates IPX packets in an IP wrapper and sends them to the final destination. This was a big advantage to shops that had multiple sites but didn't or couldn't spend the money on routers to handle IPX and IP. There are several good TID's on Novell's support Web site,, that will steer you in the right direction on getting this installed.
     Although you will still have the Novell client installed on the workstations, you will add the NWIP service so they can talk to the NetWare server over IP. NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 will be able to handle this setup a little easier; Windows 95/98 can be configured for this as well. Although it's a little more involved than using a NetWare 5/6 server, it at least gives you an option for connecting via IP without having to upgrade the server.

Telecom boom turns bust in 2001

A mover pushes boxes at Excite@Home headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., on Dec. 6. The broadband internet provider has filed for bankruptcy and will close in February.(PHOTO - Color) (ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS) Workers bore a hole through a Twin Falls, Idaho, street for running a fiber-optic cable in June. A year ago analysts were touting 2001 as a big year for telecommunications, but expectations were not met.(PHOTO - Color)

A year ago, analysts were touting 2001 as a big year for telecommunications. Most consumers were supposed to get high-speed home Internet access and reliable cell phones with snappy Net access and e-mail. Then the lines went dead.

The Nasdaq Telecommunications Index, which tracks stocks of 317 telecom companies, plunged 40 percent in 2001. Tens of thousands of telecom workers lost jobs. Tens of billions of dollars in market capitalization evaporated.
Miles and miles of newly laid fiber-optic cable went unused.
"Last year we were looking toward a year of excitement and exhilaration," said Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta-based telecom analyst. Now, "the sizzle is gone."
Still shivering in reality's shadow, the telecom industry isn't expected to climb out of its cocoon anytime soon.
Analysts say 2002 will be a back-to-fundamentals year, with companies cutting spending and taking refuge in core businesses.
Perhaps 2001's best metaphor is Nortel Networks, the Ontario-based equipment manufacturer.
Nortel shed more than half its 95,000 workers after declaring an unheard of $19.4 billion second-quarter loss.
The company is starting to dig itself out. Nortel landed big contracts in the second half of the year, including a $1.1 billion deal with Sprint and big sales to SBC Communications and VoiceStream Wireless.
Others weren't so resilient. Many companies that burned through Wall Street's cash to build networks now lie on the scrap heap. Investors took back their money as quickly as they gave it. Endeavors without strong revenues failed, Kagan said.
     A band of upstart broadband service providers probably fared the worst. NorthPoint Communications, Rhythms NetConnections, PSINet and Excite@Home are either gone or clinging to life with the help of bankruptcy court.
     Some say these companies were tripped up by poor cooperation from the four "Baby Bell" local phone companies who own the critical "last mile" of the residential phone network.
     Whatever the reason, the upstart providers ran out of cash and fell apart before they could reach profitability. In some cases, customers were cut off and left to fend for themselves.
     For U.S. consumers, most of whom still crawl the Internet from dial-up connections and complain about spotty cellular service, 2001 was mostly a lost year.
Promises of inexpensive broadband Internet connections never materialized. Instead, prices went up.
     Just 10 million U.S. households are now accessing the Internet via broadband, using either DSL or cable, said Joe Laszlo, broadband and wireless analyst for Jupiter Media Metrix.
      By the end of 2002, that number will have risen to 15 million compared with the 53 million U.S. dial-up households, Laszlo predicted. In Japan and South Korea, broadband adoption is growing at a quicker pace, fueled by lower monthly fees, he said.
     Another disappointing laggard was the ballyhooed wireless upgrade to so-called 3G or third-generation capabilities. These upgrades were supposed to provide more bandwidth for better voice service along with faster e-mail, text messaging and Web surfing.
In Japan, 3G capabilities are already available on a limited basis. In Europe, they are expected to begin to emerge in the coming year.
     In the United States, where the broadcast spectrum targeted for 3G service has yet to be vacated by the broadcasters now occupying it, 3G services are still more than a year away.
     "We're way behind," said Deloitte Consulting partner Martin Dunsby.
     Now, even the modest half-step to 2.5G technology -- which will double transmission speed and offer "always on" connections to e-mail and text messaging services -- isn't expected to be deployed across the United States until well into 2002.
      Foot-dragging in the United States is partly the fault of carriers' insistence upon building separate cellular networks using competing standards. Most carriers don't allow customers to roam from one network to another

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Internet appliances don't meet all families' requirements

Admittedly, my family is atypical. My three teen-agers and I all have our own PCs, all with a shared high-speed Internet connection. Our house is wired, with the kind of cable typically used in corporate offices.

     But there's an orphan on the network: my wife. She wants her own computer and she wants nothing fancy. Give her e-mail, Internet, instant-messaging, maybe some music, and she'll be happy. And give it to her in the kitchen, without tying up the phone line.
     Every bit the computer novice, my wife is a typical candidate for an Internet appliance.
So why didn't she take to Gateway's AOL Connected Touch Pad ($499)? Simple. Because she knows enough to know what she wants.
     First, she wants to use HER e-mail account.
     Unlike others in the family, she's not particularly miffed that the Gateway machine restricts her to America Online as her Internet access ramp. She could handle that, but through the closed world of AOL and the Touch Pad's proprietary "instant AOL" operating environment, she can't download and manage her e-mail.
     Our family certainly has no intention of abandoning its Internet service provider, especially as we are fortunate to have a working Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connection.
The Touch Pad we tested was only enabled for connecting via a built-in 56K modem. Gateway now ships software that allows you to reach AOL over a broadband home network like ours -- but you need to install that software on a different PC.
     There's no installing anything on the Touch Pad, which is presumably the industry's idea of what an Internet appliance should be.
     With its small footprint, stylish chrome frame and wireless infrared keyboard, the Touch Pad is an eye pleaser. It runs on the Linux operating system, its memory chores divided between 128 megabytes of memory with no hard drive.
     The stylus works well on the 10-inch LCD screen, much better than than the keyboard-based joystick contraption that serves as a mouse. The appliance is cleverly designed to affix under a cabinet, and the speakers sound nice.
     But ours is a household that pipes music through its computers, and the demands on a kitchen Internet appliance are not set by the woman of the house alone.
There are the teen-agers, who had these requirements:
     * Must be able to store and play MP3 music files (the variety swapped on the Internet using Napster but that can also be copied from a store-bought CD) and feature quality speakers.
     * Must have word processing software that the kids can use to do homework while keeping their mother company as she cooks dinner. A notepad application for leaving messages would be okay; the Touch Pad has it. But we have a whiteboard and a chalkboard on the wall. They're better for that.
     So here's what happened: Some time between Christmas and New Year's, about two weeks after it arrived, the Gateway Touch Pad was banished from the kitchen.
A Sony Vaio C1 PictureBook replaced it.
     The PictureBook is one the first laptops offered on the U.S. market powered by Transmeta's much-hyped Crusoe processor (600 Mhz), which is advertised as substantially improving battery life over Intel processors.
     The PictureBook settled in on the end of the kitchen counter. We plugged it into the home network and got instant Internet.
     This Vaio is a fun, feature-packed little machine:
     It's got a built-in digital camera and a 9-inch screen with excellent 1024 by 480 pixel resolution. It comes loaded with software that grabs still images and short videos -- and edits them -- and has a slot for Sony's proprietary memory sticks.
     All this in a 1-inch thin, 2.2-pound durable shell with a 12-gigabyte hard drive, Microsoft's Windows Me operating system and a USB port as well as an i.Link (IEEE 1394) for digital video transfer.
     Bottom line: The Gateway Touch Pad did not meet the family's basic criteria. Nor for that matter do any of the competitors we've looked at: 3Com's Audrey, eMachines' MSN Companion and Compaq's iPAQ.
     The first generation of Internet appliances are still a gawky lot.
      The only workable alternatives currently available -- if it's e-mail, instant messaging, Internet and a digital jukebox that you want -- are compact notebooks like the PictureBook. And they're far too expensive for a kitchen counter

Warning: Hackers attacking on Sunday

The government and private technology experts warned Wednesday that hackers plan to attack thousands of Web sites Sunday in a loosely coordinated "contest" that could disrupt Internet traffic. Organizers established a Web site,, listing in broken English the rules for hackers who might participate. The Web site appeared to operate out of California and cautioned to "deface its crime" -- an apparent acknowledgment that vandalizing Internet pages is illegal.

     Home Internet users, who typically do not operate Web sites, probably would not be affected directly.
     An early warning network for the technology industry notified companies that it received "credible information" about the planned attacks and already has detected surveillance probes by hackers looking for weaknesses in corporate and government networks.
     Internet providers and other organizations have been warned that the goal of the hackers was to vandalize 6,000 Web sites in six hours.
     Companies have been urged to change default computer passwords, begin monitoring Web site activities more aggressively, remove unnecessary functions from server computers and apply the latest software repairs from vendors.
     Chris Rouland, director of the X-force security team at ISS, said researchers monitoring underground chat rooms and other Internet activity detected a drop in the numbers of vandalized Web sites recently and an increase in the types of surveillance scans that typically precede computer break-ins.
     "It's kind of a sand-bagging period," said Rouland, who predicted hackers were quietly breaking into computers and waiting to vandalize them on Sunday.
     The purported "prize" for participating hackers was 500-megabytes of online storage space, which made little sense to computer experts. They said hackers capable of breaking into thousands of computers could easily steal that amount of storage on corporate networks.