Category Archives: Tech

thisismyjam /

news release:

The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company founded by two MIT Media Lab PhDs, unveiled its “Musical Brain” today in partnership with Mashery. The Musical Brain automatically listens to music and reads about music everywhere on the web in real time, understanding more about online music and fan opinion than any system to date.

The Echo Nest is making the Musical Brain available to developers and online music services via an ongoing series of web-based APIs. Mashery will manage access to the Echo Nest APIs, providing the necessary infrastructure for credential management, throttling and caching, and reporting.

The Echo Nest’s first API, “Analyze” is a web-based application that can analyze a music file in a few seconds to render a ‘musical score’ for computers. The musical score is a small XML file detailing tempo, beats, time signature, song sections, timbre, key, and other musical attributes of the uploaded track. Analyze can power music visualization, real-time music games and DJ remix applications with a profound level of music understanding.

Today’s announcement included a featured use of The Echo Nest Analyze API:, a site where users can create beat-matched, DJ-quality micro-mixes of favorite songs to share on blogs and social networks.

“The result of over a dozen years of combined development, the “Musical Brain” has been unleashed.” said The Echo Nest Chairman and CEO, Don Rose. “Over the coming months, we’ll be announcing a series of APIs powered by the musical brain to radically improve the state of music search, recommendation and interactivity on the web. Our partnership with Mashery allows us to focus on building an expandable suite of intelligent music applications, while ensuring we have the necessary infrastructure to manage access, provide scalability, and measure API usage.”


10.5 Leopard, Time Machine woes and how I got around them

I bought Apple’s new operating system, 10.5 Leopard, on Saturday. One of the main selling points for me was its new automated backup software called Time Machine. I have gigs and gigs of personal data that screams at me every night to take proper care of it. Movies, Photos, Music. I had one near catastrophe a couple months ago and took measures then to avoid a total loss.

At the time I had one external 250 gig drive attached to my Mac Mini. This stored all of my data that I catagorize as ‘media’ files. Music and Movies. I don’t take enough photos, yet, to feel like I need to lump those in as well so they remain on my internal drive in the default location.

One night a couple months ago my external drive just flat out locked up. I rebooted my computer because everything else I tried failed to free up the drive. Upon reboot, the drive was unreadable. Fudge! Fortunately I had the large majority of my media on my previous external hard drive, which I replaced because it was too small for my media (125 gigs), and on my iPod.

mybook hard driveI went out that weekend and bought two new 1.5 TB hard drives for $129 each. Buy them from Amazon here for $129 each! This gives me a larger external media drive and a matching external drive for backup. I also picked up a small USB 2.0 hub for about $20 to connect all of my USB devices to.

I installed both external drives on my Mac Mini. I restored most of my lost data to the first external drive. I then manually copied everything from this drive and my user folder to the second drive. Now I had a proper backup! The only problem with this plan is that it is not automated. I have to copy the data myself. Apple’s new operating system, 10.5, Leopard was coming out in about a month so I continued to do my backups by hand every week until Leopard was released.

This past weekend I installed Leopard on my Mac Mini. After completion, the first thing I wanted to configure was Time Machine to automate my data backup. I selected the backup drive and waited for it to start by itself.

Time Machine started processing a couple minutes later. Eventually it gave an error that there wasn’t enough room on the backup drive to complete the backup. I looked at the contents of the backup drive and sure enough, I forgot to erase all of the data that I manually copied. I reformatted my designated backup drive, using Disk Utility and formatted the external drive with Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and waited for Time Machine to start up again. In retrospect, this was probably stupid because now I’m running a new OS and just killed my backup. This isn’t the smartest way to go about this but I was willing to take the chance. I did copy the data from my new 500 gig drive back to my old 250 gig drive so in reality it wasn’t all that stupid but it wasn’t my most recent backup.

A couple minutes later, Time Machine started up again. Another failure. The error message was completely useless and gave no hints as to why it failed. I found two system logs that gave a little more information but they were too vague to really be of help. I opened up the application from the Utilities folder and found Time Machine (backupd) references in these two logs:


Console Log


I resorted to my old Mac skills from the old OS 9 days and did some “Extension Conflict”-like troubleshooting. Within the Time Machine preferences, in System Preferences, I told Time Machine to ignore everything on my internal drive, selecting the root of the internal drive. (/Macintosh HD) I told it to ignore everything on my external drive 1 except for one folder. I waited for Time Machine to start.

Success! It successfully backed up the one folder on my external media drive. So I removed all of the exclusions that referred to my external drive. Again it worked! So something is causing this on my internal Macintosh HD drive.

I removed the exclusion of my internal drive (Macintosh HD) and then added exclusions for all of the next level folders except for my personal User folder.


Again it worked! So something on my internal hard drive is causing Time Machine to fail that does not reside in my User folder.

While waiting for various backup test to finish or fail, I researched Time Machine on It is recommended that during Time Machine’s initial backup that you do not let your computer go to sleep or let the screensaver come on. The initial backup is probably the most intensive because Time Machine needs to construct the required databases and other initialization files. Some people are also recommending that you exclude large files like those created by Entourage and Parallels.

/Users/[user folder]/Library/Parallels/
/Users/[user folder]/Documents/Microsoft User Data/

The Entourage database file is an absolute beast! It encapsulates all data into one file which can realistically be over 2 gigabytes! If you make one small change to your email data within Entourage then this database changes modification dates and Time Machine will have to backup the entire database again. So your options are to use another mail application instead of Entourage or backup this database file hourly, which is Time Machine’s default setting. So if you do use Entourage for email, you’ll want to back this data up but I’m just mentioning it here as another possible cause for Time Machine failing. You can also create a smart folder with the Finder to show files of a certain size to help you find files that may be larger than your preferred tolerance for what you want to backup.


Time Machine tip:

To change Time Machine’s default backup interval you’ll need to edit /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ Open it in your favorite text editor and look for this key:


Change the number 3600 to some other time interval in seconds. You’ll have to do this using ‘sudo’ or root. I won’t go into that here because that’s beyond the scope of this article.


I have a hunch that different files will cause success or failure for different users at different times but I haven’t proven this yet.

I will continue my testing with Time Machine exclusions allowing different folders within my internal hard drive to be backed up by Time Machine until I narrow it down to the folder(s) and file(s) that are causing it to fail. I will report back and update this post with my findings. I just thought that it would be better to give some people some direction to get themselves started with at least some sort of successful backup.

other Time Machine tips:

Apple info on Time Machine
Apple info article
Macfixit article


update: 10/31/07 1:30 PM PST

Further testing has revealed that something within my iPhoto Library package is causing fits with both the Finder AND Time Machine.

If I tell Time Machine to only backup my User folder but not backup my /Users/[shortusername]/Pictures directory, Time Machine succeeds.

If I tell Time Machine to back up my entire User folder including the Pictures directory, it fails to backup about 3 gigs of data.

Using the Finder, if I try to manually copy the ‘iPhoto Library’ package from my Pictures directory to an external drive, it hangs about about the same point and eventually fails with error -36.

ioErr (-36): I/O error (bummers)

If I open this package and manually copy each folder it works. (huh?)

I discovered that some files within my iPhoto Library are JPGs but showing up in the Terminal as files with ‘extended attributes’, note the @ after the read/write/execute permissions:

-rwxrwxr-x@ 1 usershortname usershortname 3869764 May 20 19:59 CIMG0886.JPG

xattr -l CIMG0886.JPG
0000 4A 50 45 47 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 JPEG
0010 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00

I think this is the cause of my Time Machine troubles with this particular directory. I am using the latest version of iPhoto, version 7.1.

I don’t think the ‘iPhoto Library’ is the cause of everyone’s problems but probably whatever traits my troubled files have may be the same traits others have with other files.

I tried removing the one picture folder from within ‘iPhoto Library’ that contained 4 jpgs and both Time Machine and the Finder both still failed to copy the data. iPhoto does something internally to the way it stores data to cause this.

An interesting note is that after successfully backing up everything except this Pictures folder with Time Machine, removing the exclusion for this folder and trying again produces odd results. Time Machine shows correctly that about 3 gigs of data needs to be backed up. Time Machine hangs a bit early on in the process and quickly ends with no errors/failures. It also doesn’t jump past the hang point nor does it change the “Latest Backup” date. It just flat out ends like everything was fine when obviously it isn’t.

Notice that in my original post, I reported that I had success backing up my User folder the first time I tried without backing up anything else on my internal drive. Either I made a mistake in remembering what my test was or Time Machine is spotty and succeeds or fails with different backups. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were both. :)


update: 11/16/07 9:30 AM PST

I installed the 10.5.1 OS update last night. I removed the Time Machine exclusion rule for a couple of items that were failing before. “iPhoto Library” and /Library/Application Support/. I ran Time Machine and it worked successfully on all items. I wonder if this bug fix is what resolved my problem even though my external drive is less than 512 GB:

“* Addresses formatting issues with certain drives used with Time Machine (specifically, single-partition MBR drives greater than 512 GB in size as well as NTFS drives of any size and partition scheme).”


What to use instead of Oink (waffleswaffleswaffles and jam)

here’s the list of OiNK alternatives. (Music production) (Pearl Jam) (The Smiths/Morrissey) (Japanese/Asian) (Anime OSTs) (Trance) (J-pop) (Primarily Danish music) (U2)


Remote Buddy adds iPhone support

;remoteControl your Mac from your iPhone with Remote Buddy.

Watch the video demo here.

Control iTunes, EyeTV, presentations and many more applications remotely with your iPhone.

“Remote Buddy turns the remote control in your hands into a key to your entire system. No matter, whether you want to control applications and presentations, browse and playback your music- and video collection, watch TV with EyeTV, browse the web or your filesystem, make the globe turn in Google™ Earth, enter a text, move the mouse, play games or maybe just change the brightness of your screen – you can do this all with Remote Buddy! And so much more!”


New Radiohead available today… if you can get to it.

radiohead in rainbowsThe new Radiohead album, ‘In Rainbows’, is out today. It’s only available online, legally, from their site

Radiohead is no longer under contract with a distribution partner so they can do as they please with their newly created music, such as offer it up online for free, or whatever you feel like they deserve.

Many people have criticized record labels and supported music piracy saying that until it’s easier to buy music legally than to pirate it, they will continue to pirate it.

What I find interesting about today’s Radiohead release is this. Despite being free, if you’re too cheap to pay them anything for it, it’s easier to get the new album via other means.

Every time I’ve tried to access Radiohead’s site this morning, it’s been inaccessible due to traffic overload. I then did a little searching and found that it’s available elsewhere with no server problems.

What does this have to say about music piracy? Despite being cheap, or free, it’s STILL easier to obtain the music via other means.


myspace hack warning and fix

myspace red box image mapLots of people are having their myspace accounts hacked by inadvertently entering in their email and password on bogus myspace login sites. What makes this worse is that actual myspace profiles are redirecting users to fake myspace sites, thus proliferating the problem throughout the myspace community.

Once hacked, the folks who successfully fooled you are altering your myspace profile with hidden html image maps to then fool your friends. They then pose as your friends and post bogus comments with things such as ‘Gift Card’ ads.

They change your myspace code to display a hidden image map over the top portion of your myspace account. [see image with red box to show where this image map is created] Clicking anywhere within this red box will take you to a bogus myspace login page.

This is one example of a bogus login page I’ve found:


See how it’s not an actual domain? The website is actually

Check your myspace profile code for this image map code and remove it if you find it. Note that the actual myspace redirect link may be different:



I realize that myspace hacks have been around for a while but I know people who are currently being bothered by this. I just wanted to post a little info to help them out.



replug imageReplug

This is just like the new Macbook’s magnetic power cord release but for your headphone jack.

“Replug transforms any 3.5mm audio jack into a breakaway connection, protecting your audio jack from the rigors of daily use. When too much force is appled, Replug simply detaches from itself, preventing catastrophic damage to your audio device. Simply reattach plug to tip and you’re ready to go. Jack saved.”


updated iTunes related plugins (iLike and iConcertCal)


iLike has been updated recently…

get iLike here
my iLike profile


“iConcertCal is a free iTunes plug-in that monitors your music library and generates a personalized calendar of upcoming concerts in your city. It is available for both Windows and Mac OS X and supports worldwide searches.”

New features in iConcertCal 2.0:

“Today we are releasing a major new version of iConcertCal. This new release builds on the power of the initial release by now including cd release dates (with links to pre-order albums) as well as the ability to share your personal concert calendar with your friends and find other concert goers in your city. Here are the highlights of the new features available with version 2.0”:

A new calendar of upcoming album release dates for artists in your library
Provides links to pre-order upcoming albums
Lets you share your calendar with your friends
Lets you see your friends’ calendars
Lets you highlight shows you care about for easier reading (and to share selected shows only)

That this app scans your music library and tells you about soon to be released albums from artist you already have is HUGE! I have not found any other service that does this. Has anyone else?

get iConcertCal here

Please share with me your must have iTunes related plugins. Especially those in alpha or beta that aren’t very well known yet.

Other music plugins I use:

view and control iTunes from the keyboard

I have it set to display my favorite streaming radio station’s ( “now playing” track on my desktop via a curl command. You can do the same with lyrics, etc.
learn about your music listening habits, find people with similar taste, and find similar artist to what you already like. An alternative is


Sound enhancement for iTunes

I read this article about digital audio sound enhancement in the NY Times earlier in the week.

I remember before iTunes existed I used something like this when I used SoundJam back in the late 90’s. This is a great thing to use, especially for me. It’s incredible how it works and fools you into thinking your speakers or headphones are better than they are. I say, “for me”, because I have a mild hearing loss (high end tones) so I can wear earbuds at work and still tweak with the sound beyond the iTunes equalizer settings.

Here is an excerpt from the nytimes article:


“Because sound cannot be replaced with complete accuracy once it has been removed, enhancement software uses principles of psychoacoustics — the perception of sound.

“Our technology tricks your brain into hearing something that isn’t there,” said Doug Morton, a programmer at SRS Labs. It does it by creating a sound effect that causes the brain to fill in the gap in the actual sound.”


Advanced audio enhancement features so you can tune and customize your music, movie or video.

SRS® 3D – 3D stereo enhancement for mono or stereo content
SRS 3D Center Control™ – a “virtual” zoom lens that dynamically extracts and positions the dialog in the foreground or background of the audio mix

SRS TruBass® – bass maximization

SRS FOCUS™ – optimize speaker output to compensate and reposition audio placement

SRS Definition™ – delivers a more lively and brilliant sound by highlighting the high frequency details originally presented in the audio source


The nytimes article talks about another software product that is Windows only so I wanted to give Mac users an alternative.


Tune your tv correctly for the best picture

Picture perfect: HDTV tune-up tips

The average American spends hours in front of the TV each week, but the picture on an average American TV looks like Times Square on steroids: too bright and garish to seem anything like real life. That’s because default settings for TVs are configured to make an impact on the sales floor of your local electronics superstore, not necessarily in your living room. With the emergence of higher-quality wide-screen and high-definition TVs, not to mention the DVD movies and HD programs that fill their big screens, living-room images can look better than ever before–as long as you don’t settle for the manufacturers’ default settings.

Our guide includes three steps you can take to help make your television picture look its best. For starters, we’ll tell you how to properly set the basic picture controls available on most TVs. Next, we’ll take a look at various home-theater setup DVDs that provide expert advice for both video and audio fine-tuning. And lastly, we’ll give you the lowdown on professional calibration and whether it’s worth the investment for your high-end set.

Find out how to set your TV’s picture controls to optimal levels.

Use a calibration DVD to achieve even better image quality. We give you the skinny on the four most popular packages.

Does it pay to bring in a TV doctor? Here are the ins and outs of professional calibration.


How the West spies on Asian telecoms.

How the West spies on Asian telecoms

Revealed: America’s Project Echelon is bugging
Asia’s phone traffic

It sounds like a plot from a Hollywood thriller. An alliance of intelligence agencies from the West is intercepting the international and domestic communications of Asian countries, notably China, Japan and Indonesia. This project
isn’t just focused on thwarting terrorists and drug traffickers. As Grahame Lynch reports, a number of parties, including the European Parliament, are concerned that this secret project is massively abusing its powers – to the extent of feeding information to American commercial interests. This article reveals what they’re spying on and how they’re doing it

For 51 years, a secret alliance of five signals intelligence agencies in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom has been intercepting and analyzing messages carried via Asian telecommunications networks.

The so-called Echelon project, formed under the 1948 UKUSA agreement, was unknown until the 1990s, largely as a result of its Cold War focus on gaining intelligence on Russia.

Echelon was historically intended as a partnership between the five major Anglo-Celtic countries, driven primarily by the US National Security Agency and the UK Government Communications Headquarters, backed up by the efforts of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, Australia’s Defense Signals Directorate and New Zealand’s General Communications Bureau.

However, with the end of the Cold War, Echelon’s focus became less clear, leading to dissension from security operatives from less-powerful partners such as New Zealand and Canada. They began to reveal details to the media about the project’s operations, culminating in a series of investigative books and articles.

This steady stream of leaks culminated in the first official information about Echelon (also called Project P-415) in a report last month from the European Parliament on the threat this project presents to European strategic interests. This report, authored by Scottish intelligence analyst Duncan Campbell, represents the first detailed study of the available evidence for Echelon.

Indeed, none of the five partner governments had acknowledged Echelon’s existence until March this year, when the Australian government admitted the involvement of its Defense Signals Directorate in the project. What has been revealed is an extensive network of communications intelligence activities, centered around the interception of voice, fax, email and telex traffic, primarily carried via insecure media such as Intelsat satellites and public microwave transmissions. Twenty years ago, most of the world’s international telecommunications was carried via HF radio and a handful of satellites, making such interception relatively easy. But the proliferation of new telecom transmission media in recent years has made the task of interception much more onerous. The European Parliament’s Interception Capabilities report ("the IC report") estimates that some US$15 billion is now spent annually on communications intelligence across the world – with Echelon consuming the biggest share. The reason that details have leaked out about Echelon is because of its apparent new focus – to provide commercial information about foreign private sector activities to American companies. Some current and former operatives in Australia, New Zealand and Canada now believe that American use of Echelon intelligence is now undermining their own national and diplomatic interests. Asian violations The secretive nature of intelligence activities means it is difficult to confirm any of Echelon’s activities. But over the past 11 years, a handful of investigative journalists, sporadic items of mainstream journalism and official indiscretions have revealed its activities in Asia. For example: In 1988, then New Zealand defense minister Bob Tizard said that new interception capabilities in Australia planned for the early 1990s were focused on southeast Asian communication satellite transmissions The Financial Mail on Sunday alleged that in 1990 the US broke into "secret negotiations and persuaded Indonesia that AT&T be included in a multi-billion dollar telecoms deal that at one point was going entirely to Japan’s NEC" – information allegedly originating from Echelon intercepts The US Free Congress Foundation alleged that President Bill Clinton in 1993 ordered the CIA to spy on Japanese car manufacturers that were designing zero-emission cars and then pass on that information to Ford, General Motors and Chrysler The New York Times reported that the Clinton administration again used intercepts to advantage its trade negotiations with Japan over luxury car imports in 1995 Communications between Asian delegates at the APEC forum in Seattle in 1993 were tapped, according to contemporary media reports. Some 15,000 conversations were monitored, with Vietnam reported as the specific target of intelligence activities New Zealand intelligence staff were asked by the US National Security Agency in 1981 to contribute to a project which monitored the diplomatic communications of Japanese embassies, according to New Zealand intelligence analyst Nicky Hager. Probably the most extraordinary revelation was in 1996, when Australian intelligence officials leaked information to an Australian media outlet that they had placed bugs in the Chinese Embassy in Canberra on behalf of the US National Security Agency. The reason for their indiscretion? They believed the Americans were using the intelligence to advantage American companies against Australian companies in Chinese wheat deals. Interestingly, the same Chinese embassy had been the center of controversy in the late 1980s when it was first built. Australian parliamentarians claimed that its new site was one of the three best locations in Canberra to monitor Australia’s own internal defense microwave communications. Such counter-intelligence is not unknown. Journalist Pratap Chattergee has reported that Japanese agents aimed an infrared beam at a window in the Australian embassy in Jakarta to eavesdrop on conversations inside. Australia & NZ used to spy on Asia In this region, Echelon conducts most of its interception activities from satellite bases in Australia and New Zealand. The major station is located at Pine Gap in the Australian outback. Other stations are located at Geraldton on the West Australian coast, Shoal Bay in the Australian Northern Territory and Waihopai in New Zealand. Until the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the British maintained a massive China listening facility at Chung Hom Kok in the city. Although this was apparently dismantled prior to 1997, Hong Kong’s government has, curiously, continued to participate in a little-known group called the International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar, which specifies interception requirements for telecom standards bodies on behalf of UKUSA members and some Western European nations. Monitoring of China is now primarily conducted from Australia. According to various accounts, the New Zealand station is used to intercept traffic carried by the two Intelsat satellites above the Pacific Ocean. They carry Pacific region traffic as well as Asian-American traffic. Australian activities are more focused on Asia – especially traffic carried by the Indonesian Palapa and Indian satellites. Dedicated American intelligence satellites are also used to monitor terrestrial microwave transmissions. Long-distance microwave links are characterized by the use of relay – each receiving station picks up only a portion of the signal, leaving the remainder to beam beyond the horizon and into space. The American satellites can intercept these signals from up to 80 degrees of longitude distance. Another technique which can be used is direct taps on undersea cables. In 1982, the Soviet Union discovered that a tap had been put on an undersea cable near Murmansk by an American submarine especially outfitted for this purpose, the USS Parche. The IC report suggests that subsequent taps may have been placed on undersea cables in the Middle East, South America and eastern Asia. The USS Parche remains operative to this day and continues to receive regular commendations from the US administration. The increasing use of optical technologies has yet to thwart this method of interception, for taps can be placed on opto-electronic repeaters. Efforts to intercept actual fiber optic communications have apparently not succeeded. How it’s done Even where networks are successfully tapped or intercepted there remains one major problem – transmissions are multiplexed and therefore must be deciphered for analysis. The IC report reports that "dozens of US defense contractors, mainly located in Silicon Valley (California) or in the Maryland ‘Beltway’ area near Washington, manufacture sophisticated signals intelligence equipment for the NSA". The pre-requisite of all such equipment is that it be "TEMPEST screened". This shields the emission of electromagnetic radiation which can act as a giveaway that such equipment is in use. According to the report, the first step of interception is to engage in "wideband extraction". A broad array of equipment is available for this purpose, including transponder survey equipment, radio analyzers, carrier analysis systems, demodulators, decoders and demultiplexers. One US supplier examined in detail by the report, Applied Signal Technology, manufactures a range of equipment that can analyze almost any commercial communications link. For example, its "transponder characterization system" can record, play back and analyze data at rates at up to 2.488 Gbps. Its voice channel demultiplexer can scan up to 56,700 communications channels, extracting 3,000 voice channels. It also manufactures equipment which can categorize data communications, decipher and recreate fax transmissions, collect and analyze commercial paging transmissions and even intercept videoconferencing transmissions. The report even claims that equipment for intercepting supposedly secure GSM transmissions is available in the US. Amazingly, equipment which once took up entire rows of racks has now been miniaturized to the size of a suitcase, laptop, or even a credit card. After data is collected, the second major step of interception is actual analysis. The simplest form of analysis is from signaling information, such as the telephone numbers of the originator and destination. Intelligence can be gleaned on commercial and personal associations by analyzing traffic patterns and signaling data. This remains the most common source of communications intelligence. However, a more complex and secretive form of analysis is that of actual content, particularly of faxes and emails. Over the past decade, evidence has emerged that the Echelon project maintains a vast computer system that processes intercepted data in a manner similar to a high-powered Web search engine. According to the testimony of various intelligence sources, intercepted traffic is filtered through "dictionaries" of keywords maintained by each of the five Echelon countries. Where an intercepted message contains a dictionary entry, it is automatically forwarded to the country that has nominated the keyword. A former NSA director, William Studeman, made an apparent reference to how this system works in 1992: "One intelligence collection system alone can generate a million inputs per half hour. Filters throw away all but 6,500 inputs, only 1,000 inputs meet forwarding criteria; 10 inputs are normally selected by analysts and only one report is produced. These are routine statistics for a number of intelligence collection and analysis systems which collect technical intelligence." Most of the published evidence suggests that there are two forms of communication which remain relatively impervious to keyword-based interception techniques: the actual content of voice calls and, interestingly, handwritten faxes. Although commonplace in Hollywood movies, technology which can scan thousands of voice calls for mentions of keywords is still some time off. The challenge of accents, languages and idiomatic speech is still too hard for today’s standard of voice-recognition technology. Likewise, optical character recognition technology is good at scanning reams of machine-generated typefaces, but fails badly when it comes to individual handwriting. Of course, national security agencies with legal powers to tap into individual lines do not have this problem. A former Canadian intelligence officer, Mike Frost, wrote in his 1990 book Spyworld that he had been ordered in 1975 to intercept the phone conversations of Margaret Trudeau, wife of then prime minister Pierre Trudeau, in order to establish whether she smoked marijuana! In this region, the US State Department says that Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Taiwan all maintain extensive phone-tapping operations on their own populations. Taiwan is singled out for special mention – its law enforcement agencies receive over 100,000 authorizations annually to tap the island’s 8 million phones. The threat of encryption The continual increases in computing processing power should theoretically provide a boon for intelligence agencies seeking to expand their interception capabilities. But this trend is accompanied by another trend that thwarts such intelligence efforts – the commercial proliferation of security and encryption systems. The IC report quotes head of staff of the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Intelligence, John Millis, stating that "signals intelligence is in a crisis… over the last 50 years, technology has been a friend of the National Security Agency, but in the last four or five years, technology has moved from being the friend to being the enemy of signals intelligence." He continued "Encryption is here and it’s going to grow very rapidly. That is bad news for signals intelligence. It is going to take a huge amount of money invested in new technologies to get access and to be able to break out the information that we still need to get from signals intelligence." Security agencies have, of course, attempted to stem the tide of encryption. The first step was the promotion of the Clipper chip, which would provide encrypted communications with one proviso – the US government would hold the keys. This effort failed, but subsequent efforts have slowed the spread of encryption systems. For example, US export rules have forced major Internet software makers to release communications applications with weakened encryption algorithms. For example, Lotus Notes uses a 64-bit security key, 24 bits of which are registered with the US government. This apparently allows the US government to decipher encrypted messages in a "matter of seconds". In the case of Microsoft and Netscape 128-bit systems, some 88 bits are registered with the US government. Already, both the European Commission in Luxembourg and the Swedish government have identified transgressions of their "secure" email systems. Similarly, the GSM MoU restricted the proliferation of its most powerful security algorithm to mobile operators in friendly Western countries in the mid-1990s, giving Asian operators a less-powerful version. These restrictions have now been dropped. But restrictions don’t stop the development of more powerful encryption systems elsewhere – a prospect which the National Security Agency apparently finds troubling. During the Cold War, the NSA had a novel solution to this dilemma. It apparently negotiated a secret arrangement to access the codes used by the world’s leading post-war encryption supplier, Swiss company Crypto. This company supplied some 130 international agencies with code, trading on its Swiss location as a neutral country. The NSA, and its UKUSA partners, exploited this arrangement to secretly spy on the world’s governments. Asia: a nest of spies? Echelon isn’t the only major signals intelligence project in Asia. In the shady world of covert intelligence, alliances ebb and flow. For example, the US government and the Chinese government reportedly maintain joint listening facilities in Xinjiang, western China. Their purpose is to spy on Russia. A 1988 article in The New Statesman suggested that Chinese PLA staff had been especially flown to a Californian facility for the purposes of signals intelligence technology training. Russia is also reported to maintain signals reception facilities in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, and France is believed to operate similar facilities in New Caledonia, to the northeast of Australia. Japan and China also operate satellite earth station facilities in the Pacific nation of Kiribati (which may be used for intelligence activities), while the US is also believed to gather some signals intelligence from facilities in Japan. What makes the Echelon project most interesting is the way it has been transformed from a Western intelligence front into a economic intelligence unit that apparently serves US interests to the periodic detriment of America’s own allies. At this stage, the European Parliament’s investigations have been restricted to just two committee reports, amid allegations that actual debate has been gagged. In the United States, most discussion about Echelon remains confined to alternative media and libertarian groups – the US government continues to deny the existence of Echelon. But the steady trickle of evidence from Australia, Canada and New Zealand hints at the full extent of Echelon – a massive multi-billion dollar project designed to eavesdrop on the traffic of telecommunications networks, including those of Asia’s, for the apparent commercial benefit of American business. The cast of characters CSE Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s signals intelligence agency DSD Defense Signals Directorate, Australia’s signals intelligence agency Echelon An international computer and communications network maintained by the five UKUSA signatories which intercepts and analyzes international voice, fax and email transmissions. Existence first revealed in 1980s, but not officially acknowledged by a UKUSA partner until March this year. USA has not conceded its existence European Parliament Elected wing of the European community. At the urging of a UK Labor member, its Scientific and Tecnological Options Assessment unit has commissioned and published two reports on "Technologies Used For Political Control" GSB General Communications Bureau, New Zealand’s signals intelligence agency GCHQ The Government Communication Headquarters, Britain’s signals intelligence agency ILETS International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar, a group of 20 Western countries which specifies interception requirements for telecom standards and systems. Its 1998 activities include specifying interception techniques for Iridium. Its existence was first revealed in 1996, although it has been meeting since at least 1993 NSA National Security Agency, the US signals intelligence agency UKUSA agreement An agreement formed in 1948 between Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK to share signals intelligence


Google video search beta

"Our mission is to organize the world’s information, and that includes the thousands of programs that play on our TVs every day. Google Video enables you to search a growing archive of televised content � everything from sports to dinosaur documentaries to news shows.

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Right now we’re just testing this product, so you’ll find programs only from a limited number of channels, which we’ve been indexing since late December 2004. You can expect to see more and more content as we continue to add new channels."