Archive for October, 2007

*new* skype mobile phone

October 30, 2007

According to a CNN report, mobile phone operator 3 and internet company Skype unveiled on Monday a handset that allows customers to make free internet calls outside of the home. This phone will allow Skype’s 246 million registered users to call and instant message each other for free.

The phone will be available on Friday in the U.K., starting from £49.99 on a pay-as-you-go tariff and will also launch in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Macau and Sweden before Christmas. 3 Skypephone is dual band and therefore will not work in the U.S.A.

The phone, developed by Qualcomm Inc (QCOM) and Chinese handset maker Amoi Electronics Co. Ltd, has a Skype button that immediately connects Skype users to their contact list and who on the list is available to take a call. Check out this video to see the Skype mobile phone in action.

The phone has 3G multimedia capabilities, an MP3 music player, and 2 megapixel camera. Unfortunately, Skype will not offer its SkypeOut feature, which allows customers to make cheaper-than-average calls to non-Skype phone users. Instead customers will use 3’s mobile phone network to do this. Customers trying to use the Skype service in countries where 3 doesn’t have a presence will have to pay normal international data tariffs, making it cheaper to use normal voice telephony instead of Skype.

3 is owned by Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, and Skype is owned by eBay Inc (EBAY).

For more details about the new skype mobile phone visit: http://about.skype.com/2007/10/3_skypephone_delivers_free_sky.html#more

To read about its flaws visit: http://skypejournal.com/blog/2007/10/the_3_skypephone_is_a_test.html

hello e-passports, goodbye privacy

October 26, 2007

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the security (or lack thereof) of electronic passports or passports issued with a so-called security chip or RFID. What exactly is it?

According to good ol’ trusty Wikipedia:

An RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag is an object that can be applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification using radiowaves.

Most RFID tags contain at least two parts. One is an integrated circuit for storing and processing information. The second is an antenna for receiving and transmitting the signal.

RFID tags come in three general varieties: passive, active, or semi-passive (also known as battery-assisted). Passive tags require no internal power source. They are only active when a reader is nearby to power them. Semi-passive and active tags require a power source, usually a small battery.

RFID tags are being used in passports issued by many countries. The first RFID passports (“E-passport”) were issued by Malaysia in 1998. In addition to information also contained on the visual data page of the passport, Malaysian e-passports record the travel history (time, date, and place) of entries and exits from the country.

RFID tags are included in new U.S. passports, beginning in 2006. The chips will store the same information that is printed within the passport and will also include a digital picture of the owner. The passports will incorporate a thin metal lining to make it more difficult for unauthorized readers to “skim” information when the passport is closed.

A primary security concern surrounding technology is the illicit tracking of RFID tags. Tags which are world-readable pose a risk to both personal location privacy and corporate/military security.

dancing with freud

October 11, 2007

When I was searching for apartments to rent in Buenos Aires last year, I noticed that a good number of the apartments for rent had a chair right next to the bed. The first word that came to my mind was psychiatrists. Are psychiatrists common in Buenos Aires? I dismissed this thought until I stumbled upon this old New York Times article published on May 29, 1998:

There are more psychologists in Argentina per capita than in any country in the world except Uruguay, Argentina’s small neighbor. New York and Buenos Aires are neck-and-neck for the distinction of being the city with the most psychotherapists, including psychologists and psychiatrists, over all.

”Argentines are passionate about understanding themselves and making their lives better and happier through self-knowledge,” said Lucia R. Martinto de Paschero, president of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association.

Television and radio talk shows featuring psychologists fill the airwaves with daily psychobabble. Pagina 12, a leading Buenos Aires newspaper, devotes two pages of coverage to psychological matters every Thursday. A hot rock band in Argentina calls itself The Paranoid Rats, while another is known as The Crazy Old Ladies.

One neighborhood in Buenos Aires, a part of the Palermo district, has so many psychologists as residents that it has come to be known as Villa Freud. The neighborhood is graced by a popular restaurant that goes by the name Bar Sigi and serves a concoction of cognac and vanilla named after the father of psychoanalysis.

Argentines talk about going to their therapist as openly as they discuss going to the butcher, and expensive therapy is as much a part of middle-class life as a summer weekend on the beaches of Mar del Plata or a season opera ticket at the Teatro Colon.

But Argentine interest in psychology goes beyond the middle class. There are inexpensive psychology clinics in virtually every neighborhood of Buenos Aires, social security covers mental health problems, and elementary schools typically send young children with reading problems to psychologists as a first course of remedial education.

”There is still no systematic sociological or anthropological study that explains why there is such an interest in psychology here,” said Modesto M. Alonso, a leading Argentine psychologist. ”There are only theories.”

Felipe A. Noguera, a political analyst and pollster, speculated that ”Argentina is a very frustrated society because it has long suffered a crisis of expectations.” That crisis, he said, is rooted in a long period of economic expansion between 1880 and 1930, followed by a 60-year slump characterized by political instability, recession and hyperinflation.

”Until very recently,” he added, ”people would say, ‘I work hard but I can’t own a home. I study hard but I have a limited future.’ So many years of frustration created an archetype of negativity, a world view of things being a disaster in Argentina.”

In the 1970’s the right-wing military junta singled out psychology as a national problem, blaming psychologists and psychoanalysts for the country’s negativity and navel-gazing. Several prominent psychologists disappeared.

Argentina first became a world-class center for psychotherapy in the 1940’s, when a wave of European immigrants included several prominent Jewish psychoanalysts from Germany and Austria. Today a large proportion of the country’s psychotherapists and patients are Jews, whose population of 250,000 is one of the largest in the world outside Israel and the United States.

Newspaper reading was the domain of the intelligentsia and upper class in Argentina until the 1930’s, when the tabloid Critica vastly expanded its circulation by inviting readers to send in contributions describing their dreams. Soon after, a popular publishing house known for distributing translations of Tarzan books put out a serial collection of books called ‘Freud for All‘ that became a national sensation.

”That showed that the entire Argentine public is disposed to an interest in psychology, and not just the intellectuals,” said Hugo Vezzetti, a psychology professor at the University of Buenos Aires.

book now on a flight to nowhere

October 2, 2007

According to a Times Online article, Indian entrepreneur and retired Indian Airlines engineer Bahadur Chand Gupta has given a new twist to the concept of low-cost airlines. The passengers boarding his Airbus 300 in Delhi do not expect to go anywhere because it never takes off. All the passengers want is the chance to know what it is like to sit on a plane, listen to announcements and be waited on by stewardesses bustling up and down the aisle.

As on an ordinary aircraft, customers buckle themselves in and watch a safety demonstration. But when they look out of the windows, the landscape never changes. The airplane being used has only one wing and a large part of the tail is missing. Gupta’s regular announcements include, “We will soon be passing through a zone of turbulence” and “We are about to begin our descent into Delhi.”

The plane has no lighting and the lavatories are out of order. The air-conditioning is powered by a generator. Even so, about 40 passengers turn up each Saturday to queue for boarding cards.

Passengers are looked after by a crew of six, including Gupta’s wife, who goes up and down the aisle with her drinks trolley, serving meals in airline trays.

Gupta bought the plane in 2003 from an insurance company. It was dismantled and then put together again (Well, almost). The Indian Airline logo on the fuselage has been replaced by the name Gupta.

Gupta charges about £2 each for passengers taking these “virtual journeys”. See for yourself!