Yahoo, AOL & Hotmail Heading for the Dustbin of History
In November 2007, I wrote about the shift in internet traffic away from Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL/Netscape. For its part, Microsoft would not end its takeover bidding for Yahoo until May 2008. By then, both companies had begun their inexorable slide from internet ubiquity and dominance. For its part, Netscape became obsolete and unsupported by AOL, its parent company since 1999. Now spun off, AOL continues to flounder.
Beginning in 1995, Microsoft made history by giving away its Internet Explorer 1.0 (IE) browser. During its existence, Netscape received scant revenue from its users. Even so, dirty tricksters sent email chain letters warning that Netscape would soon dun every user $50. Almost immediately, Netscape’s market share dove, while Microsoft's rose just as quickly.
Hotmail rode on one of the earliest internet email platforms. Still, it was better than Netscape’s and thus Microsoft’s 1997 purchase of Hotmail drew email users away from Netscape. Although spam emails were already a problem in the late 1990s, no one knew that spam would someday represent between fifty and ninety percent of all emails sent. Microsoft/Hotmail and Yahoo’s revamped Rocketmail left both giants with technically crude email platforms. As we learned with the MS DOS operating system, the original architecture often determines the limits of change within a program.
During the past fifteen years, first Netscape, then Microsoft and Yahoo took turns dominating internet search and internet email. By building on their market power, Microsoft at one time owned the largest share of both search and email. Today, none of our featured companies dominates either internet search or email. That honor went instead to a next generation internet start-up known as Google.
Not until 2006, did Twitter’s first Tweet chirp on the internet. In early 2007, when Twitter became a separate company, MySpace owned over eighty percent of the social media market. Although gaining fast, Facebook had yet to go beyond a ten percent market share. At MySpace, each user controlled the content on one HTML page. Whatever MySpace gained in simplicity, it lost in flexibility. After old-media dinosaur News Corp. purchased MySpace in 2005, they stifled change. After its 2011 spin off, MySpace users still control content on only a single webpage.
With its later launch date, Facebook drew on technology similar to Microsoft's “active server pages”, or ASP. Each Facebook user’s home page displays a host of interactive elements. Facebook’s network effect and ubiquity make it all that some users have time for on the internet. Ironically, Facebook achieved what AOL first attempted, which was to encompass and dominate the internet experience of its many users.
What shall be the future of our internet giants, both old and new? Will the masses still follow the tweets and rants of celebrities and fools? Will we still “friend” each other on Facebook or “+” each other on Google+? Texting is here to stay, but it lacks email’s ability to persuade in a longer form. As long as people can write, they will want to ramble on in a textural format.
Spammers have hijacked every AOL or Yahoo email user that I know. Recently, my Hotmail address was hacked and used by spammers. Despite several attempts to reclaim my Hotmail address, Microsoft could not verify me. In that process, Microsoft lost one more internet email customer. For reasons similar to the rise of Facebook and Google, the old internet giants will slip further. The underlying architecture of AOL mail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail will sink further into a quicksand made of spam.
When you access your Yahoo mail or Hotmail, the content display relies heavily on Java script. The demise of AOL and Yahoo mail will come from their over-reliance on that Java script. If you have any doubt, access your Yahoo email via a slow modem. There you will see one element at a time dished to you by the email servers. Relying on executable commands, “robot.txt” or “bots” have learned to exploit vulnerabilities within script-based email systems.
I do not blame every internet problem on the Russians, but every day half a dozen Russian websites crawl this blog, utilizing Java script-bots. With compact Java code, their bots seek out security gaps, including login locations and procedures. Once found, a high-speed computer might be employed to crack a login/password system. If the robot hackers can “crack” my website or your email password in five minutes or less, it is worth the time spent. Usually, you can retrieve your identity, but not before the indignity of spamming everyone in your online address book.
Each time AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail loses another email user to the spammers, they lose a customer forever. Whether Google will still be around one hundred years from now, I cannot say. Still, my Gmail user friends never have to offer apologies because their email addresses were hacked. As with Facebook’s advantage over MySpace, when Google designed Gmail for its 2004 introduction, it had the benefit of the learning curve. Although I cannot say how Google did it, their Gmail system seems impervious to script-based password hacks.
When comment-spammer Good-Finance Blog invaded my website, I spent hours getting rid of nefarious phishing comments and links. Finally, I installed an “include file” at the very top of my website code. Through manual entry, my “top_inc” include-file now blocks a long list of spammers’ Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Before gaining access to my website, comment spammers now receive a redirect to the FBI website.
While AOL, Hotmail/Live and Yahoo email users often receive more spam than legitimate email, Google has changed the rules for that game. At the top of their Gmail server code, Google installed their own version of a “top_inc” include-file. To be sure, some spam still gets through the Gmail system, but not for long. As quickly as Gmail’s many users report spam messages, Google denies access from the offending server. If the spammers deploy a wider range of IP addresses, Google can refuse email from a given country or region.
No company is perfect, Google included. Their lapses in user privacy policies are well known. If any company will still serve up email to its future clients, I bet it will be Google. AOL and Yahoo will remain niche players only for the near-term. Ultimately, hackers will end their former status as internet search and email giants. Recently, as Yahoo News gleefully reported, AOL announced that its once vaunted patent library is for sale to the highest bidder. A stance like that does not inspire confidence in the future of AOL.
at 09:34 PM |
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Need Cash and Wish to Rob an In-Store ATM Kiosk? Wish Again...
During a recent visit to Costco, I noticed a technician opening the admin panel in order to begin repair of a CardTronics logo “Need Cash?” in-store automated teller machine (ATM). Since I am curious about ATM technology, I approached the ATM with my camera ready. As I arrived, the technician opened a drawer, which supports the front panel and customer interface.
Unlike a bank ATM, the CardTronics in-store ATM accepts no deposits. Its functions include cash dispensing, charging user fees and indirectly, facilitating cash purchases at Costco. No one outside of those two companies knows commission CardTronics pays Costco for that lucrative site. I know that CardTronics pays merchant commissions because I Googled “CardTronics+ATM+commission”. On page one of the search results I found a LinkedIn profile for a CardTronics employee. He listed his job title as “Merchant Commission Analyst”. We expect CardTronics to retire that job title soon. Sorry Charlie, but you should know that LinkedIn is public on the internet.
CardTronics is ubiquitous in the arena of freestanding, kiosk-focused financial services. With over 50,000 locations, CardTronics is the largest provider of retail ATM services in the world. Within ten miles of my own location, CardTronics has ten ATM’s ready to dispense cash for a fee. With all of their money, I wondered what integrated ATM solution CardTronics might install at Costco. I can tell you here, the answer surprised me.
Rather than a futuristic electronic ATM-marvel, the unobtrusive gray and black cabinet featured thirty-year-old technology. Up front, are a keypad, cash dispenser, receipt printer and a low-resolution display. That customer-interface module slides in and out of the cabinet on drawer glides. Bolted to a shelf high inside the cabinet is a bare-bones personal computer (PC) chassis. Showing its age, the PC features both a CD-drive and a 5.25” floppy-disk drive. If the boot sequence for the ATM fits on a floppy disk, the kernel of the operating system must be quite small.
By then I realized that the ATM was an old workhorse. Manufactured by NCR Corp. under their now retired EasyPoint trademark, the ATM features an Intel x86 processor, introduced in 1981 and the IBM OS/2 operating system introduced in 1987. During the early 1980s, IBM and Microsoft (MS) jointly developed OS/2. The unusual corporate collaboration was a joint offensive and countermeasure to growing cyber security threats. “Antivirus” updates became a nuisance for users of the fledgling Windows operating system. Despite IBM OS/2’s ability to deflect foreign executable instructions, MS Windows went on to dominance in the PC marketplace. This Costco ATM, running OS/2 in “protected mode” is virtually a closed system.
Having lost faith in their old operating system, IBM abandoned support for OS/2 in 2006. Even so, electronic ATM thieves should not waste time writing OS/2 scripts with instructions for “cash on demand”. A pair of copper wires connects the PC modem-port to the telephone network. My friend Tom Shudic helped determine how such ATMs prevent unauthorized outside access. According to Tom Shudic, “Those two wires must be a bidirectional interface, although surely with some sort of very high security protocol - perhaps even a dedicated line”. That, combined with the OS/2 operating system’s ability to block unauthorized access may explain the lack of remote control ATM robberies. Even the Russians could not hack that connection.
The only ways into an NCR EasyPoint/OS/2 ATM is with a key, a high technology cutting torch or using a battering ram. One could use an explosive, but that might destroy the cash, as well. Bank robbers seeking electronic entry to an old CardTronics in-store ATM now see that it is a waste of time and effort. Regardless of their chosen operating system, I hope that the current NCR SelfServ in-store ATM’s are as robust.
Physically, the cash cassettes are stored behind steel doors, in the base of the kiosk. Short of ramming it with a Mack Truck, you will not achieve a break in of a CardTronics kiosk ATM. Even if upended, steel plate protects the integrity of the ATM vault compartment. If any of our readers clicked here to learn techniques for in-store or electronic ATM robbery, you may now depart wiser and less likely to try such larceny.
at 02:22 PM |
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New ATM Technology Helps Eliminate Waste, Fraud and Theft
Other than a few ascetics, penitents and abstainers, almost everyone likes money. Even better than hard-earned money, is free money. To get free money, you could win the lottery, but the odds are against you. Robbing an automated teller machine (ATM) has recently become another method of choice. Becoming a bank robber is both risky and illegal. Usually, such actions result in a prison sentence for anyone so foolish as to try.
Regardless of the consequences involved, my two previous articles about ATM robbery continue to be among the most popular on this blog. As the website administrator, I can see which articles receive the most “hits”. Over time, I have watched as individuals Google “ATM Robbery” or “Bank ATM Robbery”. The number of such searches is an indicator of trans-personal economic stress. Whenever the world economy wavers, I see more search phrases that include "bank robbery". With my articles, I hope to discourage, rather than to encourage any plans to rob a bank or ATM.
In May 2008, I wrote about after-hours break-ins to bank ATM rooms. Poorly armored and alarmed ATM rooms were easy prey for break-in artists. After demolishing a demising wall from an adjoining suite, the robbers might utilize a high-speed plasma torch. With such a torch, it is easy to penetrate the lightly armored back of an ATM. With a combination of luck, skill and criminal intent, robbers could make off with more than $100,000. Better yet, the untraceable twenty-dollar bills come neatly concealed in currency cassettes complete with carrying handles.
Defeating ATM robbery attempts is relatively easy, but often neglected by even the largest banks. A combination of video surveillance, motion alarms and high-decibel alarm-horns would eliminate most such robberies. Still, many strip-center bank branches have ATM security no greater than door locks. Until the banks wake up to their vulnerabilities, I expect a continued increase in ATM break-in robberies.
In December 2011, I wrote about a new, more brazen ATM robbery. That month, in Laguna Hills, California, a local Chase Bank branch had an outdoor ATM disappear overnight. Using a large truck, robbers rammed the building, dislocating the ATM from its moorings. Using a truck-mounted winch, the robbers grappled the ATM and hauled it away. In only a few minutes, the thieves absconded with the ATM, leaving a gaping hole in the wall of the building. As of this writing, the Chase Bank Laguna Hills robbers remain at large.
There is an easy solution to the ATM-snatch-robbery phenomenon. All outdoor ATMs should have concrete filled steel bollards installed to prevent ramming by heavy equipment. A recent visit to Kokopelli Federal Credit Union (KFCU) showed no such barriers installed. Beyond exposure to “smash and grab” robbers, the lack of barriers leaves customers exposed to errant drivers. Only when enough banks settle liability lawsuits from injured customers or incur sufficient losses from outright ATM theft, will the situation change.
During a recent visit to KFCU, the ancient spirit Kokopelli was correcting their ATM problems. Seemingly everywhere at once, Kokopelli oversaw the installation of both crash barriers and a new Diebold ATM security. Although busy removing an old ATM at the time, Kokopelli stopped to show me the differences between old and new ATM technology.
An old ATM, Kokopelli indicated, was a glorified envelope-processing machine, with a cash dispenser. Each day, an attendant removed the deposit envelopes, placed them in bags and couriered them to a processing facility. There, staff counted the cash and processed the checks through the Federal Reserve System. Upon receipt, a high-definition camera would photograph the contents of each envelope. That way, the bank could reconcile any discrepancies between the recorded amounts and envelope contents.
Careless or disreputable customers often deposited empty envelopes. The more brazen would later claim that they had enclosed money or checks. Although most ne’er-do-wells quickly admitted their malfeasance, some demanded proof that their envelope was empty. Either way, the process took time and money, thus creating losses for the banks. With fraud and abuse becoming rampant, banks need new ways to stop the fraudsters at their source.
Diebold New ATM Technology
In order to eliminate ATM fraud, Diebold Corporation designed KFCU’s new ATM with electronic, photographic and communications modules. By combining new hardware and software, KFCU eliminated the use of deposit envelopes and deposit slips altogether. As you feed cash deposits into the new ATM, a photographic reader rejects any defaced or counterfeit bills.
When you deposit a check, the reader sends data to both the Federal Reserve System and to independent fraud detection. Once the software accepts the account as valid, the ATM requires the customer's approval, as well. Upon agreement, the ATM provides immediate check truncation, thus debiting the check issuer’s account. Thereafter, the scanned image becomes a substitute check, eliminating further need for the original paper check. Thereafter, the paper check serves only as backup to the electronic version.
After explaining the new technology, Kokopelli exposed the backside of the new ATM. The machine contains a high-speed central processing unit (CPU) similar to a home computer. As the brains of the ATM, the CPU connects electronically to the KFCU processing center. The center connects in turn to both the Federal Reserve and fraud prevention. Included in the new machine are check and cash readers, with storage bins for each media type. Finally, there is a device that every customer loves - the Diebold cash dispenser.
With the exception of its fascia, Kokopelli installed the entire ATM from inside the building. With proper structural reinforcement and crash guards, thieves can no longer grapple a KFCU ATM and pull it through the wall. If every bank and credit union were as careful as KFCU, the incidence of ATM theft and robbery could decline. Thank you, plush Kokopelli and KFCU for continuing to cover our ancient assets.
at 02:13 PM |
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Key to Google Search Ranking is New and Unique Content
In September 2007, I bought the internet name JamesMcGillis.com
and began writing this weblog. Since that time, I have posted over two hundred fifteen unique articles. My many subjects include Pre-Puebloan
Indian cultures, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
, LA County Fire Department Aerial Truck 8
and radioactive contamination at the Moab Pile
. Each topic was one that I cared about, enjoyed researching and wished to share with the world.
When they use text only, blog articles tend to be pedantic and boring. To add unique content to my blog, I began publishing my own photographs. That way, I could tell my stories with both words and pictures. Hoping to catch the eye of readers both young and old, I targeted my content to a ninth grade reading level. Moreover, I continued to write and publish new and unique information. Now, with more than four years of internet experience, I can see the fruit of my labor. Following are a few examples.
In September 2007, I attended the Quantum Leap Celebration
in Taos, New Mexico. There, 650 Shaumbra
(meaning "those who inspire consciousness") arrived at Taos Station in an Old Energy
train. Three days later, we pulled away in the new energy
express. At the event, I purchased an “Inspire Consciousness
” t-shirt. After taking a picture of my new energy t-shirt, I published it within an article about that event. If you Google “Inspire Consciousness”
today and then click “Images”, my t-shirt has #1 Google search ranking.
In November 2007, I wrote about new social networks
, which were then taking the internet by storm. At the time, MySpace.com
had eighty percent market share, compared to Facebook.com
with just over ten percent. Since then, MySpace crashed under the weight of Rupert Murdoch’s ownership. As the epitome of old energy, Rupert could not relate to new media, let alone new energy. MySpace is now an internet afterthought while Facebook is valued at $100 billion. In my 2007 article, I displayed a small Google logo. If you Google “small Google logo”
today and then click “Images”, my version has #1 Google search ranking.
In March 2008, I wrote about Elton John’s “lost concert”
. On September 7, 1973, Elton had played the Hollywood Bowl, yet at that time there were no pictures or video of the concert on the internet. How could the media overlook such a seminal night, I wondered. Later, legendary rock & roll photographer Harvey Jordan
sent me an image of Elton at the piano that night. With Harvey’s permission, I inserted his picture into my original article. In November 2008, I wrote about my souvenir Elton John Hollywood Bowl t-shirt
. If you Google “Elton 1973
”, “Elton Hollywood Bowl
” or “Elton John t-shirt
” today, and then click “Images”, Harvey Jordan’s photo, my article and my t-shirt each has its respective #1 Google search ranking. If you purchase an Elton John 9/7/73 t-shirt, Moab Jim
will donate $10 to the Elton John Aids Foundation
In November 2010, I initiated two live webcams in Simi Valley, California, as shone on the website Simicam.com
. In December 2011, I wrote about the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
, also in Simi Valley. After visiting the library, I published several outdoor images in my article about Ronald Reagan. Today, if you Costantino Proietto (1910 – 1979)
. At the time, there was scant information on the internet about the artist. After publishing an image of my own C.Proietto
masterpiece, friends, family and collectors of C.Proietto
’s work came forward. With the help of others, I have now published many previously unknown images of the artist’s work. If you Google “Costantino Proietto
” or “C.Proietto
” today and then click “Images”, my images of his work have #1 Google search ranking.
So what does all of this mean? Google
, and to a lesser extent, Microsoft’s Bing
search engine will reward new and unique content on the internet. So much content has disappeared from the internet in recent years that my “small Google logo” is the oldest extant copy. The key to success on the internet is to add new information without deleting the old. If you do so, Google will raise the search ranking of all related content.
If you plan to write for the internet, rather than using a pay-for-play blog company, consider creating your own blog
. By hosting Google AdSense
ads on your blog, you can monetize your efforts. When the late Andy Rooney retired from the CBS Television show 60 Minutes, he had broadcast 1097 episodes of his “TV blog”. In order to catch up with Andy Rooney's output, I have 880 articles yet to write. I call that number my stretch goal. Why would anyone create content for Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook to monetize when you can take home the cash yourself? Any ninth-grader reading this article knows the answer to that question.
at 12:22 PM |
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