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Easily bugged

Technology | The Bugmenot site says it's a protest against sites that give away news content in exchange for users' demographic data

Issue: "Education: Sick schools," Sept. 18, 2004

A secretive computer programmer is giving the online news business a new headache: a website that helps users avoid registering at online media outlets. The collection includes logins for dozens of by-registration-only sites.

The Bugmenot site says it's a protest against sites that give away news content in exchange for users' demographic data. Bugmenot users contribute login IDs, which others can use to defeat the free registration process. The most popular sites are major newspapers, like the The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. (Registrations started appearing on news sites in the mid-1990s, before subtler tracking technologies such as cookies and web bugs became popular.)

Bugmenot's programmer, who is believed to hail from Australia, argues that registration enables spam, wastes time, and-because so many users lie when filling out registration forms-generates useless demographic data. Bugmenot claims only to accept logins for free services and promises to remove any that point to premium content. No news outlet has taken serious action against the site, although some regularly delete posted logins.

New internet speed record

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While millions of ordinary internet users use broadband services that blow away old dialup connections, a select few can access a next-generation network that runs over 100 times faster than today's cable and DSL links.

The Internet2 project is an experimental digital playground intended to generate improvements for the world's data highway. Only universities, companies, and institutions can access this turbo-charged pipeline, which bypasses many of the delays and logjams that affect conventional internet traffic.

It also enables some amazing experiments. One of Internet2's most prominent benefits is high-resolution videoconferencing, in which people can send live pictures back and forth without glitches or distortion. This month, researchers set a new speed record, sending 859 gigabytes of data in less than 17 minutes, a rate 10,000 times faster than typical home broadband.

While Internet2's tinkerers get to play with advanced connectivity, their project harkens back to the early years of the internet, before the web boom, which some saw as robbing bandwidth from academics and researchers. Internet2 was created to give reign to educators and the technology elite, as the regular internet once did.

Bits & Megabytes

  • Some Philadelphia city officials want to blanket their city with wireless internet access, using a $10 million network of Wi-Fi hot spots. Thousands of small transmitters would be installed to carry the broadband signal. The taxpayer-funded "free" or deeply discounted service could challenge commercial internet providers.
  • Honda and IBM plan a new speech-recognition system that will give drivers directions without tapping console buttons. This $2,000 option on 2005 models stores more than 1.7 million street and city names in the continental United States.
  • Pfizer filed federal lawsuits against the operators of 18 websites that allegedly sell illicit knockoffs of the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor. Company officials say these online marketers pitch generic versions of the medication, although the pills are still protected by patent and unavailable to off-brand manufacturers.
  • Intel sent bad news to those hoping for a technology rebound, predicting bleak third-quarter sales. The Pentium maker said sales of microprocessors were soft and flash-memory-chip shipments were below expectations. Chip sales can be a bellwether to other high-tech businesses.
  • A California man was arrested and accused of stalking his ex-girlfriend by attaching a GPS device to her car. Police alleged that 32-year-old Ara Gabrielyan attached a cell phone to the unidentified woman's car, allowing him to surprise her at a bookstore, an airport, and numerous other places. The suspect was caught after she spotted him under the car, trying to change the cell phone's battery.


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