Bloggers vs. Sony: The Rootkit Fiasco

In just another demonstration of how blogs can change the course of human opinion worldwide, bloggers have exposed that Sony/BMG is actually installing rootkits–a form of malware–in systems where some of its audio CDs are played.

Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals, who originally discovered the rootkit, wrote an analysis of how certain Sony/BMG discs implement a digital rights management scheme that basically modifies the Operating System core to hide files and running processes, and “phone home” back to Sony/BMG to send back data on the user’s music playing habits.

The malware, which is actually classified as a rootkit because of how it modifies the operating system to hide files and running processes, was reportedly so badly written that infected computers took a performance hit. And while Sony/BMG’s own software (actually licensed from a third party, First 4 Internet) had no payload itself, its ability to hide files from the operating system is a potential threat. To date, a couple of trojan horses that use the Sony Rootkit’s technology have been discovered. To add salt to the wounds, the rootkit’s creators made it so difficult to remove that some resorted to reformatting their hard drives to get rid of the malware.

Simply put, this is DRM gone bad!

Russinovich’s initial blog commentary sparked extensive discussion and even debate (but generally leaning towards the “Sony is bad” camp) both on- and off-line, which involved the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other online advocacy and techie groups. This eventually led to certain parties filing class-action lawsuits against Sony (including the EFF, the states of California, Texas, New York, and even Italy–yes, the country). Here’s a site that collects information on lawsuits against Sony/BMG.

In the local context, fellow pinoy tech blogger Atty. Noel Punzalan writes his analysis of the applicability of Sony’s End-User License Agreement in the light of local laws.

It’s a question of which will prevail: the rights of the intellectual property owner, or the privacy of the consumer. In my opinion, in this case, where the copyright holder knowingly violates the privacy of the consumer and utilizes underhanded tactics, then it is the latter who should be protected.

Sony has since capitulated and apologized, but still short of admitting its culpability.

Whatever the results of all the lawsuits, the fact remains that Sony/BMG has etched its mark on the world–there will inevitably be dozens, if not hundreds, of infected discs still lying around in CD racks of those unaware about the problem (which is perhaps majority of the populace), waiting to be inserted in a computer and do its bad stuff.

But without blogs and vigilant bloggers like Mark Russinovich, the world would not have known about this issue, or at least it would have taken longer to discover.

See more of Mark Russinovich’s posts on his Sysinternals Blog.

Here’s a comprehensive wikipedia entry on the Sony/BMG Rootkit fiasco.

*** Angelo has recently moved his blog to racoma.com.ph and is passionate about beautiful websites and winning the Isulong SEOPH challenge.

Teens blog to “stay tuned into friendship networks”

A survey of by the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed that one in five 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States have their own blogs.

The Associated Press reported that “the survey also found that older school-age girls with online access were most likely to keep a blog.”

“Blogging for teens is about staying tuned into their friendship networks, not about politics or people getting in trouble at school, which are two of the main narratives that journalists have covered in recent months,” says Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher at Pew who helped compile the report.

Click here for the full story.

Best blog search engine

With blogs estimated at over 10 million and growing, there certainly is need for a search engine.

Poynter, an online journalism resource, reviews the best blog tools on the web and says the google blog search is the “fastest of any of the blog searches…and does the best job of returning posts that are right on topic.”

Technorati is the most established and popular but could be slow and its results list cluttered with unrelated and unreadable posts, said Jonathan Dube, Cyberjournalist.net publisher, in his article published at the Poynter website.

Yahoo!’s blog search falls short of the others, added Dube.

Forbes attacks blogs, bloggers

Forbes has written a scathing attack on the blogosphere, calling web logs as the “prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective.”

The article by Dan Lyons said blogs started as online diaries but later became the “ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns.”

Lyons added in his article:

It’s not easy to fight back: Often a bashing victim can’t even figure out who his attacker is. No target is too mighty, or too obscure, for this new and virulent strain of oratory.

Here’s what top bloggers think of the Forbes article.

US workers wasting millions of hours on blogs?

From Agence France Presse: Trade paper AdAge.com reported this week that US workers would waste the equivalent of 551,000 years during 2005 reading blogs, online web diaries and gossip sheets, which have exploded in numbers in recent years.

Further on in the article, AFP said: But some blog and Internet experts argue that reading a blog in itself does not necessarily equate to wasted time – and may replace time when workers could be idling away their boss’s time doing something else. Click here to read the full story.

Sun.Star launches blogs

Sun.Star Network Online this afternoon launched its blogs: Blog Chronicles and Citizen Watch: The Arroyo Presidency. Sun.Star Cebu’s Citizen Journalists project, which has a web log component, was also launched during the event held in SM City Cebu.

Sun.Star Blog Chronicles is a website on “blogging by bloggers.” Among its contributors are economist J. Angelo Racoma, Cebuano priest Fr. Stephen Cuyos and special education teacher Maria Lourdes Solivia Angala, more popularly known as teacher Sol.

During the launch, Racoma did his first podcast to discuss blogging and marketing. Cuyos also did a podcast on the use of blogs to spread the gospel. Teacher Sol, on the other had, submitted a video cast on the use of blogging in education, particularly in her school.

After the launch, Janette Toral discussed statistics on internet penetration in the Philippines. She discussed what has become an annual study by DigitalFilipino.com on the Internet in the Philippines. Vincent Rallon of Salveon.net talked about effective marketing using social networking sites.
Flickr Photo
Attendees of the Sun.Star blogs launch listen to the podcasts of Fr. Cuyos and J. Angelo. They later viewed a videocast by Teacher Sol.

Pinoy Teachers Network, one month and still growing

Pinoy Teachers Network Bulletin Board

OUR HOME: http://pinoyteachersnetwork.blog-city.com

“Any new endeavour is always tough in the beginning”.

I gave us just two weeks to plan this out and prepare for the launching. Ready or not, the website of the Pinoy Teachers Network went officially up in cyberspace on July 12, 2005. We took the challenge. We learned from our own experiences and then finding our own way out of the obstacles we encountered. For most of us, quitting or not trying isn’t an option.

It’s been a month, can you believe it? What happened during that span of time, aside from my being so busy and missing my blog hopping routine?

We have more than 50 members now, and still growing. Teachers from the University of the Philippines (Visayas), Mindanao State University, De la Salle University, Claret School of QC, Xavier School of Greenhills… are proving themselves worthy of the title “Teacher” by being leaders themselves in their own schools.

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Weblogging can assist students with disabilities

Each day, members of Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams support students with disabilities who have trouble writing. Many students with mild disabilities know that they want to write but have difficulty with the mechanics of translating those thoughts to paper. They often disregard language skills such as spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Some students’ thoughts move so quickly that their writing seems to jump haphazardly from one topic to the next. Other students spell and construct sentences but have problems generalizing and synthesizing ideas. (CEC Technology in Action Vol 1, Issue 6, May 2005, page 1)

My students are struggling writers, hesitant writers, in short, they abhor writing. They are the students whose score in SAT 9 range from below basic to below basic. They are diagnosed with either Learning Disability and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Every teacher in every school in every district leaves their profession because of these kinds of students. I was thinking of joining the band wagon.

But since the start of the school year, I was able to miraculously make my students with disabilities write meaningful poems about themselves, about social problems and current events. They were able to create beautiful illustrations for their wonderful poems too. Thanks to the DC Area Writing Project for giving me strategies in engaging students to write, and to Beth Olshansky for the Art-Literature based curriculum.

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