|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Sunday, May 02, 2004
Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act: " The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed yesterday that it filed a lawsuit three weeks ago challenging the FBI's methods of obtaining many business records, but the group was barred from revealing even the existence of the case until now. The lawsuit was filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, but the case was kept under seal to avoid violating secrecy rules contained in the USA Patriot Act, the ACLU said. The group was allowed to release a redacted version of the lawsuit after weeks of negotiations with the government. " The heart of the suit is are the administrative subpeonas that the FBI now uses frequently, for collecting copies of databases without judicial oversight. 6:16:50 PM
Google files for unusual $2.7 billion IPO
: "The amount of the $2.7 billion offering contains an inside joke for the math-minded. The exact offering, $2,718,281,828, is the product of "e" and $1 billion, where "e" is the base of the natural logarithm
--a logarithm especially useful in calculus--and equals about 2.718281828." And, e is an irrational number... 6:10:50 PM
The Wi-Fi Positioning System: " Quarterscope has developed a Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) that can complement or, in certain cases, replace the traditional Global Positioning System (GPS). .. [GPS fails if] you're indoors, or in a skyscraper-filled urban canyon.. But WPS uses the 5 million Wi-Fi hotspots that are scattered around the United States (which some esitmates say will grow to 10 million in the next 12 months) to pinpoint the location of any device that has a Wi-Fi chipset in it. As long as a Wi-Fi access point in range it’ll figure out where you are.
Several companies have developed indoor Wi-Fi location-based services (for museums and the like), but they are used in tightly controlled conditions. Quarterscope's WPS is the first outdoor [software-only] Wi-Fi location detection system.. WPS takes advantage of the fact that almost all access points are configured to transmit their unique IDs whenever a Wi-Fi client sends out a scan request. Quarterscope exploits this capability (which doesn't drain the resources or compromise the security of access points) by combining it with the data collected by wardrivers, who use GPS systems and laptops to discover and map out access points in towns and cities. .. Quarterscope says it can locate a device to within 20 feet, and that improvements in the coming months will allow for even better positioning. The company hopes to launch the product commercially later this year, and plans to charge a monthly subscription fee to use the service. It says it'll have 90% coverage throughout the top 25 cities in the US.
Because WPS is interoperable with any application that can use GPS, it can be put to use right away in applications such as Microsoft Streets and Trips and Delorme Street Atlas. Quarterscope is also working on several in-house applications. One, called, WhereIsIt, will give you directions to the nearest gas station, ATM, hotel or restaurant. Another application provides a more general local search for different kinds of businesses and attractions. It can also add a location stamp to digital photos and documents. One intriguing application for WPS is a "LoJack" for laptops. (Notebook theft is a big problem -- 1.6 million were stolen in the US in the last three years, and only three percent were recovered.) WPS could be used to quietly send e-mail with your laptop's coordinates to a special address. If the laptop is ever stolen, you can find out where it is and track it down. "
A related effort is Intel's Place Lab: "a software base and a community-building activity that facilitates widespread adoption of low-cost, easy-to-use user positioning for location-enhanced computing applciations." It's open source with a whitepaper on privacy. 9:54:17 AM