August 10, 2005

It's That Great Technology Thing Again...

I saw this headline and just had to go find out what was up...

Algonquin fire alarms could go wireless

This is a city in the vast suburbs of Chicago about 40 miles West North West. And while I applaud the fact that they are looking for ways to save money. I can't help wondering if it will be as cost saving as they are assuring everyone it will be...

Right now buildings with businesses in them must have an alarm system that automatically goes off when a fire breaks out, which normally costs $20 or $30 per building each month.

In addition, each alarm system must have a dedicated phone line, which costs either $40 or $80 per building, depending on the type of phone line, said Warren Olsen, a fire safety consultant who also happens to be a trustee with the fire protection district.

Under the new radio system, which would be owned completely by the fire district, each building would pay a flat monthly rate of $70 per radio, thus saving most businesses $40. If a burglar alarm is attached to the same system, the monthly fee jumps to $90.

Okay first off let's talk "fuzzy math"... one assumes that a small business would generally have the least expensive of the options listed. Therefore, it's likely that they pay about $20 for the alarm system and $40 for the phone line attachment. This means that $70 is actually a $10 INCREASE per month for them... Not exactly the cost savings the fire consultant is touting.

Now say you have a business with the $30 per month alarm and the $80 per month phone line - the the $70 per month is definitely a savings of $40... but - what is not mentioned is if the above prices also include burglar alarms? If they do... then the cost savings is only $20 per month - quite a difference. (I see a consultant who wants to sell a product... but I digress)

I'll leave out even more funky math over how the system and dispatchers will be paid for - suffice it to say that it looks like they are using the same revenue stream to pay for both - but making it sound as if there are 2 revenue streams... thus more cash. Very strange - however I reserve judgment because that could be an issue with the reporter or editor not getting the story straight.

This point however makes me really sit up and take notice...

The wireless system also would eliminate many false fire alarms, because telephone line problems cause half the false alarms in some communities.

Just because phone lines cause many false alarms - it does not logically follow that wireless systems will cause fewer alarms. What proof do we have of this claim? There is no proof in the article - just the sentence above. Perhaps proof has been presented, but the reporter didn't feel it was necessary to include this in the story. Perhaps the editor cut it out to save space... OR perhaps there was no proof - just the false correlation of two disparate systems.

The other thing that is not mentioned, but in light of the GWOT should certainly be considered... how safe is the system from tampering? It might be fine for a small community like Algonquin - after all the odds of a terrorist attack there are nearly non-existent - but this might have wider application in larger cities if wireless becomes the trend - which seems to be the case.

How easy is it to jam the system so it doesn't work? It seems that this is not even considered by the Fire Department in question. The jamming could be intentional or inadvertent. This could possibly end up costing big dollars and lives if signals that are supposed to get through are stopped for whatever reason. Is there an alarm that sounds if a system goes "off line"? Do the systems talk to each other constantly to make sure the signal is good? What happens in the event of very bad thunderstorms?

Yes there are many problems with land line based systems - we know those problems and are used to dealing with them. Unfortunately, it looks as if the Fire Department in question is being sold a bill of goods... the "wireless is the perfect solution to all your problems" spiel. Anyone who has been in business long enough knows that when someone tells you technology will make your life SOOOO much easier - you better check it out thoroughly before chucking a system you know for one that may cause as many or more headaches in the future.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 07:13 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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August 05, 2005

Hijacked by Cool Web Search?

Cool Web Search is one of the most egregious computer browser hijackers. Now it's added some other lovely features...

The CWS variant being researched by Sunbelt turned infected systems into spam zombies and uploaded a wide variety of personal information to a remote server apparently located in the U.S. That server holds a "treasure trove of information" for ID thieves, Eckelberry said.

Sunbelt's research showed that the information being uploaded to the remote server included chat sessions, user names, passwords and bank information, he said. The bank information included details on one company bank account with more than $350,000 in deposits and another belonging to a small California company with over $11,000 in readily accessible cash, he said.

Many of the records being uploaded also contained eBay account information, he said. Among the highly personal bits of information Sunbelt was able to retrieve from the server were one family's vacation plans, instructions to a limo driver to pick up passengers from an airport and details about one computer user with a penchant for pedophilia.

In the end... if you get hit with Cool Web - don't even try to fix it. Take down the connection to the net. Back up any files you want to save and completely reload. It's the only sure way to get it off your system and to be sure you aren't sharing your private data with these low life scum.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 12:03 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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