Botnet hacker caught in Slovenia

An FBI official said a two-year-long multinational investigation led them to nab a 23-year-old Slovenian, who allegedly created a malicious software code that infected 12 million computers worldwide.

Stephen Gaudin, a legal attache of the FBI to the U.S. embassy in Vienna, Austria, told reporters that the cooperation between the FBI, Slovenian and Spanish forces was “unparalleled.”

Slovenian police detained and questioned the man, identified only by his code name Iserdo, ten days ago, in the northwestern industrial city of Maribor. He was released after questioning, but police say they have made sure he cannot tamper with evidence or flee the country. They have not given details of how they have ensured that.

The investigation is ongoing and Iserdo was not formally indicted yet.

He is suspected of selling the malware to the operators of the Spanish Mariposa botnet — a network of infected computers — which stole credit cards and online banking credentials.

The Mariposa botnet, which has been dismantled, was easily one of the world’s biggest, infecting hundreds of companies and at least 40 major banks in 190 countries since appearing in Dec. 2008.

Toni Kastelic, the head of Slovenian police cyber crime department, said police also questioned another, 24-year-old person, and confiscated 75 computers in seven house searches…

He didn’t identify the chief suspect, Iserdo — which, read backwards, means “salvation” in Slovenian.

The dude is going to need more than salvation. Even with a plea deal exposing the other sleazeballs in his brigade of script-kiddies, I imagine – I hope – they throw away the key.

Look! Look! The Barnes & Noble Nook-nook!

Barnes & Noble customers are about to see a lot more of the Nook.

In September, the chain will begin an aggressive promotion of its Nook e-readers by building 1,000-square-foot boutiques in all of its stores, with sample Nooks, demonstration tables, video screens and employees who will give customers advice and operating instructions.

By devoting more floor space to promoting the Nook, Barnes & Noble is playing up what it calls a crucial advantage over Amazon in the e-reader war: its 720 bricks-and-mortar stores, where customers can test out the device before they commit to buying it.

“I think that’s everything,” William Lynch, chief executive of Barnes & Noble, said in an interview. “American consumers want to try and hold gadgets before they purchase them.”

Barnes & Noble has already installed small counters in its stores where customers can test out the Nook. The new display space would be much larger, and it would be located next to each store’s cafe, to encourage customers to stop by the Nook space, coffee or tea in hand. It would also sell more than 100 accessories for the Nook, like padded covers designed by Kate Spade and Jonathan Adler.

While in the store, Barnes & Noble customers can read entire e-books free, just as they can with print books.

My wife thought I was practicing walrus noises while sorting the headline for this post. How many ways can you use “nook-nook”.

With Asian industry leading the way, job-seekers go East

Hong Kong — Shahrzad Moaven quit a public relations job in London and moved to this teeming metropolis four months ago to take up what she saw as a more exciting post: communications director at the exclusive jeweler Carnet.

Jan Mezlik, 29, moved here from the Czech Republic in late April for a job as a trainer in a physical therapy studio called Stretch. For him, the move brought a secure job and the chance to learn to become a yoga instructor.

Charlotte Sumner, a lawyer, arrived eight months ago, thanks to a transfer within her firm. She had spent six months in London and another six in Moscow and had jumped at the chance of a stint in Asia, which she felt would lead to more opportunities than a posting elsewhere.

Before the global financial crisis, none of the three had thought seriously about moving to Asia. But growth in China, India, South Korea and many other countries in the region is outpacing that of Europe and the United States. Many local companies are enjoying rapid expansion, while international employers are shifting positions to Asia and are hiring again. So increasingly, European and American job seekers are hoping that Asia is a place where opportunities match their ambitions…

Landing a position in Asia, though, is not just a matter of being willing to make a new life halfway around the world. Many employers prefer candidates who have track records in the region and who bring language skills and local contacts to the job.

Mike Game, chief executive in Asia for Hudson, an international recruitment agency, said the number of Westerners actually making the move was still fairly small. Many employers, he said, are more demanding than they were during the economic peak of 2007 and are “setting the bar very high in terms of what they want.”

Nevertheless, many Westerners seem to be looking to make the move

Local language skills are a plus — and often a must — for anything China-related…

“Employers don’t want to have to do a lot of baby-sitting and training,” said Matthew Hoyle, who runs his own company, which specializes in hiring senior staff members for banks and hedge funds. “There are plenty of local people with good qualifications who speak Mandarin and Cantonese — you’d have to bring something pretty special to the table to top that.”

I recall watching a tech panel on TV a while back – when the CEO of Cisco, John Chambers, mentioned he was pushing his grandkids to learn to speak Chinese.

Go East, young man – and young woman, Go East.

Rowing team smashes transatlantic record

Four rowers have smashed a 114-year-old record by crossing the Atlantic in 43 days, 21 hours and 26 minutes.

The Artemis North Atlantic Rowing Challenge crew left New York on 17 June and touched the quayside at St Mary’s [Scilly Isles] just before 1500 BST.

The previous record, set in 1896 by Norwegians George Harbo and Frank Samuelson, stood at 55 days and 13 hours.

Skipper Leven Brown told BBC News it was a “pell-mell, helter-skelter” trip. “It’s been absolutely amazing and what a reception we’ve here in the Scillies,” the 37-year-old from Edinburgh said.

“The funniest thing for me was walking up the quayside – after more than six weeks of not walking my legs felt more than a bit unsteady.”

During the record attempt, the team survived 33ft-high (10m) waves, encountered whales and even rescued a man overboard…

Harbo and Samuelson set the previous record in 1896

Rowing with the skipper were Ray Carroll, 33, from Galway in Ireland, Don Lennox, 41, from Lanarkshire and 39-year-old Livar Nystad from the Faroe Islands.

Bravo! A world-class athletic feat – deserving every bit of recognition they receive.

Rowing has always been a favorite pastime of mine. Though as a lad it was most often associated with catching sufficient food for our family. 🙂

Was Marden Henge the builder’s yard for Stonehenge?

The last revellers seem to have cleared up scrupulously after the final party at Marden Henge some 4,500 years ago.

They scoured the rectangular building and the smart white chalk platform on top of the earth bank, with its spectacular view towards the river Avon in one direction, and the hills from which the giant sarsen stones were brought to Stonehenge in the other.

All traces of the feast – the pig bones, the ashes and the burnt stones from the barbecue that cooked them, the broken pots and bowls – were swept neatly into a dump to one side. A few precious offerings, including an exquisitely worked flint arrowhead, were carefully laid on the clean chalk. Then they covered the whole surface with a thin layer of clay, stamped it flat, and left. Forever.

In the past fortnight, English Heritage archaeologists have peeled back the thin layer of turf covering the site, which has somehow escaped being ploughed for more than 4,000 years. They were astounded to find the undisturbed original surface just as the prehistoric Britons left it.

“We’re gobsmacked really,” said site director Jim Leary.

Giles Woodhouse, a volunteer digger who must return next week to his day job as a lieutenant colonel in the army bound for Germany and then Afghanistan, has been crouched over the rubbish dump day after day, his black labrador Padma sighing at his side. He has been teasing the soil away from bone, stone and pottery so perfectly preserved it could have been buried last year.

It gives one a bit of a shiver down the backbone to realise the last man to touch these died 4,500 years ago,” he said. His finds, still emerging from the soil, will rewrite the history of the site…

So why did the site’s temporary occupants leave? Maybe with Stonehenge complete, the sarsens shaped into the giant trilithons that still fill the hordes of modern visitors with awe, their job was done. They tidied up nicely, turned out the lights, and left.

RTFA. Delightful. A word picture of discoveries taking us back 4500 years.

An enjoyable read. Makes you want to get your butt across the pond for some volunteer labor.

Porsche to make 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid

Porsche has confirmed it will make a production version of the 918 Spyder hybrid supercar that it displayed at this year’s Geneva motor show.

The gloriously adventurous mid-engined sports car was one of the hits of the show, with Porsche having not told anyone it was planning to display the 918 before it appeared on the stand. From the moment of its unveiling there was intense speculation that Porsche would build the car, and this was backed up by senior execs admitting that Porsche has a history of always putting its concepts into production…

The petrol electric hybrid is claimed to emit just 70g/km of CO2, and the concept was said to be capable of going as far as 94.1 miles for every gallon of fuel.

There are no indications on further details such as speed, performance or price, but Porsche has promised that it will tell us more in the coming months. We can’t wait.

The usual view one has of a car like this

There have been test results showing 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. Top speed is whatever you can get away with – in the neighborhood of 195 mph. Average fuel consumption = 76 mpg. Price will be north of $520,000.

What this proves is that the engineering and technology already exists to combine power, fun – economy and cleaner running. The hard bit is making it affordable.

Islamic Council continues on a roll with silly edicts

This way – no, that way – no, this way – no, that way

Indonesia’s highest Islamic authority has followed up a series of contentious edicts with a new one barring Muslims from watching television gossip shows or having sex-change operations.

The authority, the Indonesian Ulema Council, said gossip shows about the intimate details of people’s private lives — a popular genre on Indonesian television — were immoral and threatened society. Gossip shows are allowed only if they “uphold the law, warn the public and help people,” the council said.

While the council’s edicts are usually ignored, they can be cited by religious hard-liners to justify vigilante-style crackdowns on “un-Islamic” activities. It has recently issued a steady stream of edicts including bans on interfaith marriages, smoking and yoga.

They recently had to correct a truly embarrassing edict on praying in the appropriate direction – when they learned they had Muslims praying in the direction of Kenya, not Mecca.

Marine Phytoplankton in decline over the last century

Using the Secchi disk ca. 1910

Research collected for more than a century is helping Dalhousie University researcher Daniel Boyce in his quest to examine the health of the world’s oceans.

A simple tool known as a Secchi disk as been used by scientists since 1899 to determine the transparency of the world’s oceans. The Secchi disk is a round disk, about the size of a dinner plate, marked with a black and white alternating pattern. It’s attached to a long string of rope which researchers slowly lower into the water. The depth at which the pattern is no longer visible is recorded and scientists use the data to determine the amount of algae present in the water.

More specifically, the research is focused on a particular type of algae known as phytoplankton. This is the first time that significant research has been complied and examined to study the algae levels in the world’s oceans.

Phytoplankton provides food for basically everything in the ecosystem, from fish right up to human beings,” says Mr. Boyce, a PhD candidate with the Department of Biology at Dalhousie. “Phytoplankton is also important in maintaining sustainable fisheries operations and the overall health of the ocean. We need to make sure that the numbers do not continue to decline.”

The researchers found that the number of phytoplankton has been decreasing by a rate of about one per cent per year, for the past 110 years. While this might not seem like a large number, this translates into a decline of about 40 per cent since 1950. In total, just under half a million observations were compiled to be able to estimate phytoplankton levels through the years…

Based on the research collected, phytoplankton levels have decreased in eight out of 10 ocean regions.

Boyce makes the point that we don’t thoroughly understand all the ramifications of such a decline. Wanna bet it doesn’t bode well for our continued existence?

It’s like running out of dirt.

Israeli rabbis deal with Jewish women wearing burkas

Israeli rabbis are to clamp down on the growing number of devout Jewish women wearing the burka by declaring the garment an item of sexual deviancy.

At the insistence of the husbands of some burka-wearing women, a leading rabbinical authority is to issue an edict declaring burka wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.

A small group of ultra-orthodox Jews in the town of Beit Shemesh chose to don the burka, usually associated with women in repressive Islamist regimes, three years ago in a bid to protect their modesty.

Since then, the habit has spread to five other Israeli towns causing alarm among ultra-orthodox religious leaders who once saw it as a relatively harmless eccentricity – even though the number of Jewish burka wearers is not thought to be more than a few hundred…

Ultra-Orthodox women are required to dress conservatively and keep their heads covered with a scarf, hat or wig when in public.

But even that was not enough for some, who insisted that only by covering their faces and wearing multiple layers of clothes to hide the shape of their bodies can they really be chaste…

The trend has also caused tensions in family life. One man went to a rabbinical court in an attempt to get a ruling to force his wife to stop wearing the burka.

The plan backfired, however. The court ruled that that woman’s behaviour was so “extreme” that it ordered the couple to undergo an immediate religious divorce.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Looneybirds in a fundamentalist cult – in a theocratic state – adopting the trapping of other looneybirds in a different fundamentalist cult shouldn’t surprise anyone.

They all deserve each other.

Republicans + election slogans = crapping on 9/11 responders

When does the Republican party abandon 9/11? When it’s time to provide $7.4 billion in medical treatment and compensation to first responders and residents sickened by the toxic dust after the September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center. Yesterday, the House’s 255-159 vote (243 Democrats and 12 Republicans supported the measure; 155 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted nay) fell short of the majority needed to pass the long-debated James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009.

Not that a simple democratic majority ever mattered to Republicans.