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Amazon, Target, and Showrooming

by @ 10:47 pm
Filed under: financial,internet,law — Tags: , ,

Last week came the news that Target stores will no longer carry Amazon's Kindle readers. The bold move was basically a retaliatory reaction by Target to what is known as showrooming.

Showrooming is how Amazon encourages its users to visit various physical stores, check out or even try out various merchandize and then go back to Amazon to order them for cheaper prices. In a sense Amazon uses the physical stores as showrooms for free and that creates an unfair advantage in favor of Amazon.

Sure, people can visit Amazon's site too to shop around but a page visit costs Amazon a tiny fraction of a penny while a shopper roaming the isles of a store, and specially inspecting and trying various items could cost the stores multiple dollars.

Target may feel good about removing Kindles from its shelves but that maneuver will be but a blip on Amazon's bottom line. Making the playing field fair will be tall order but for starters Amazon should be required to collect sales taxes on all items sold. If there's heavy resistance, then stores should be exempt from collecting sales taxes as Amazon is.

Paying sales taxes on Amazon purchases will not be popular, but if Amazon is allowed to push physical stores out of business through the unfair loopholes, that will result in a monopoly and there's little doubt that its pricing policy will not favorable by any measure once the competition is wiped out.

Facebook Privacy?

by @ 10:53 am
Filed under: internet,law,social — Tags: ,

Who needs spies and detectives when people willingly put all their personal data for the whole world to see? Funny how parts of the world pine for a little relief from the prying eyes of their governments, yet in the US people are addicted to sharing everything with everyone, including the government.

The young can be excused for being too inexperienced to realize the consequences of over-sharing. But then there are simpletons who claim they don't fear sharing because they do nothing wrong. Bet they are the first ones screaming bloody violation of their rights the moment that data is used against them.

Cops can request a copy of your complete Facebook activity - Technolog on msnbc.com.

Comcast Raises Rates (on Fixed-Price Contracts!)

by @ 10:42 pm
Filed under: business,internet — Tags:

Sometimes I don't know how companies get away with their sleazy tactics, but I guess it's because they are loaded and consumers have little power to stand up to them.

Q - If you are Comcast how do you make sure your business customers don't leave you?
A - Lock them into long-term, fixed-price service contracts.

Q- How do you raise your prices on them, despite the fixed-price contracts?
A- Force them to use your equipment and then silently raise your monthly equipment fee.

That's exactly what Comcast has done starting in the new year. Brilliant.

Business Class Equipment Fee

SOPA/PIPA

by @ 6:25 pm
Filed under: internet,law — Tags: ,

Here comes another attack on the free and democratic way of life.

the SOPA/PIPA bill sponsored by congressman Lamar Smith is about to be voted on by the legislators. On the surface, the goal is to protect copyrights and intellectual property rights on the Internet.

In reality this law is created to bring the Internet under complete control and censorship of the US government. In other words any site can be blocked and any site owner or user can be charged for almost any  reasons.

Let's face it, the proposed rules are so loose that just about everyone is automatically in violation of the potential law already. Who needs to go to China to enjoy arbitrary criminal charges and censorship, when you can have all that fun right in the USA.

Stop American Censorship

Amazon vs. eBay on Tax Collection

by @ 1:59 pm
Filed under: business,internet — Tags: , ,

 

 

So after all the bloviating and firing affiliates whose home states wanted to collect sales taxes from Amazon, suddenly it is talking fair taxation.

Where was the fairness when Amazon was (and still is) crushing small business all across the country? I don't like Amazon to begin with anyways, but I hope eBay can push this big bully back a little in defense of the small business.

Amazon, eBay square off over tax collection by small sellers

Block China Web Traffic

by @ 10:16 am
Filed under: hacking,internet,web — Tags: ,

Sometimes I'm so tempted to to do this: Block China Web Traffic IP Addresses and Chinese Hackers.

Of course if everyone blocked everyone else indiscriminately that would go against the spirit of the Internet.

What's needed is for the ISPs to get off their lazy and greedy butts and block attacks at their sources.

Certainly a bunch of zombies (unwitting users with infected machines) will be caught in the dragnet too, but they can be contacted and urged to clean up their machines before they're allowed back on.

It'll be good for us, it'll be good for them, it'll be good for the Internet.

SYN Flood DDOS

by @ 11:13 pm
Filed under: hacking,internet — Tags: ,

To the couple of visitors of this website, I'm sorry for the 2-day outage earlier this week. It was a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack and I never found out who was behind it and why.

The problem started in the early morning hours with an outage alert from the remote monitoring service. The site was down and the server wasn't even responding to SSH login. Jumping directly on the server, I could already tell something was wrong by the loud sound of the fan. Indeed the load was in the 40's when it usually hovers around 0.25 and inbound traffic utilization was at saturation levels.

Realizing that I've been wrong on blaming server issues on attacks, I did what every server admin does at the first sign of trouble, reboot. No dice, the server load soon went sky-high again. So I blocked outside connections to apache and started running some simple tests to check the server health. CPU, RAM and IO checked out fine under some local test load. No, this was something else. The logs finally indicated the problem:

-- possible SYN flooding on port 80. Sending cookies.

Looking at the connections (using netstat), there were hundreds of SYN_RECV records hanging around from various IP's. Obviously the server was under a SYN flood DDOS attack. Using iptables to block the offending IP's was no help. Most likely the ip addresses were fake and combating them was like fighting a tidal wave.

The attack continued throughout the day with no relief and finally in the evening I contacted my ISP to see if they can rescue me. I didn't have much hope, but I almost lost it when the technician asked: "Huh? You have a sink flow attack? Could you spell that?" So much for tech support.

My best option was to lay low and take the abuse and hope the attacker(s) will get bored and move on. And that's exactly what they did. Almost as fast as it started, the attack stopped in the wee hours of the second day and I could finally bring the server back online.

Moral of the story, DDOS attacks are tough enough to combat for big shops. Small guys like me don't stand a chance against them. The best solution is to wait them out and hope the attacker moves on. Also small sites aren't lucrative enough to get expert support from their ISP's. The best that can be hoped for is to ask the ISP for a new set of IP's and still there's no certainly that'll stop the attackers.

As for this attacker(s) and their intent, it remains a mystery. Perhaps it was a script kiddie rolling through a bunch of victim hosts, or someone testing an attack platform or algorithm, or a mistake specifying a domain or IP in the attack vector. This site is just too small for bragging rights or boosting egos. There are much tastier targets out there for attackers to prove their expertise and flaunt their skills. Then again why use your smarts to attack sites instead of doing something constructive?

 

AT&T DSL Latency and Packet Loss

by @ 10:44 pm
Filed under: internet — Tags: , ,

The general understanding is that DSL isn't hobbled by the number of subscribers like cable service is. That is, no matter how many people jump on DSL at any given moment, their speed should remain constant.

I used to believe that too, but lately it’s beginning to look like there's a hole in that theory. A few weeks ago I started noticing painful sluggishness and dropouts when working on my web site, but usually during evenings and nights. It took some time for me to notice that the response times where significantly better in the mornings.

To test the theory (unscientifically, of course) I ran a few ping tests today starting in the morning and stretching into the evening. Sure enough as the day wore on the ping response times grew longer and longer, and not just by some marginal amounts. There's almost 3 times the difference between the morning and night speeds.

Now I don’t know if this is really a DSL problem or just AT&T throttling bandwidth on home users as they get home and jump online, but the end-result is the same, poor performance.

If a picture is worth a thousand words then this speedtest.net snapshot of a test to Los Angeles, CA should succinctly prove my point. Nice grade AT&T, think I'd rather have my dial-up back.

Amazon Spoils The Party

by @ 12:28 am
Filed under: financial,internet — Tags: ,

Amazon.comI don't know, maybe it's poetic justice or just karma that Amazon should report disappointing results tonight with earnings well below estimates. Why? After I was labeled a cheater and was terminated from the Amazon Associates program, I had hoped for a little payback. I certainly did my part by vowing never to buy anything from Amazon and as much as I dislike Apple, rooting for iPad to crush Kindle.

Okay, enough vendetta venom. The fact is that Amazon does not have it as easy as it once did. Its marketplace is still solid, but poor economy and competition from the likes of eBay have been eroding its dominant position. Amazon's valuation is currently twice that of eBay.

Then, by Amazon's own admission, more people are buying digital editions rather than actual books. How can this be good news for Amazon? Such a shift to digital format lowers the barrier to entry for other competitors who would no longer need warehouses and shipping centers. Apple can start selling books for iPad right on the iTunes platform.

Finally, cloud computing hasn't turned out to be the golden goose it was once thought to be. Amazon certainly was a pioneer in cloud computing, but the early momentum has somewhat moderated now and competition from Microsoft and Google (which offers a free version) have probably had a dampening effect on Amazon platform's adoption rate.

Amazon shares are currently down some 10% in after-hours trading and it appears that its disappointing financial results will have a nauseating effect on the market on Friday. Even Microsoft's better-than-expected results may not be able to change that sour mood.

The Older Chrome Browser

by @ 11:37 pm
Filed under: internet,web

I love how the 1&1 login page depicts my Chrome browser as "older browser version". Ironically my Chrome version is the Dev channel. Can't get much newer than that 🙂

1&1 thinks Chrome is old

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