Gongol.com Archives: September 2010
Brian Gongol

September 30, 2010

Computers and the Internet Frightening "Stuxnet" virus could infect PLCs
Programmable logic controllers are widely used to make equipment like pumps and motors work -- and if someone's getting viruses to make a leap between Windows-type machines and PLCs, then we're in some serious trouble. Sooner or later, we're going to have to figure out how to establish barriers between critical systems that run things like our basic infrastructure and the networked computers we use on a daily basis -- which are at much higher risk of infection, but which can't cause the same degree of hazard that the other computers can. It needs to resemble the blood-brain barrier, which itself is a remarkable evolutionary feature that protects the fragile brain from things that can circulate easily in the blood.

Computers and the Internet Anonymity and its drawbacks
There are obviously some cases in which anonymity can be valuable -- legitimate whistle-blowers need it, for example. But it's widely abused online and used as a substitute for using discretion.

Humor and Good News Get the phone number right
A box of specially-branded cereal was supposed to feature the phone number for a charity...but a mix-up between (800) and (888) sent callers to a sex-talk line instead.

Computers and the Internet How to turn off the conversation view in Gmail
It's one of the service's signature features, but it's really annoying when it gets things wrong and links e-mail messages that weren't connected to one another in a true conversation. What they really need to offer is a middle-ground option, making it possible to break apart "conversations" that aren't really conversations.

Humor and Good News Jon Stewart doesn't believe in President Obama's magic anymore

Computers and the Internet Constant Contact: A corporate name we can only hope isn't true
The company offers e-mail marketing services, and there's nothing wrong with that. But the name of the company is unsettling: No reasonable person wants "constant contact" from any business. "Constant" contact, even with another human being, can be annoying and downright mentally destabilizing. The same is doubly true for commercial enterprises. How we name things matters. People who call mass e-mail campaigns "e-mail blasts" tend to think of them as occasional special events. Unfortunately, when they're treated as "blasts", they're usually only sent when it benefits the sender. A truly valuable exchange only occurs when the sender has something of value to offer the recipient. Those kinds of messages are more often known as "newsletters" than as "blasts."

Water News Iowa is a top-ten state for fluoridation
And the evidence is firmly in support of the safety and efficacy of fluoridation. Opponents of fluoride may be loud and aggressive, but they aren't right.

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