The real location aware service

There is much talk of Location Based Services and geographical annotation these days. We either see scary LBS (network tracks you all the time, sends you Latte coupon when you walk near Starbucks) or query based services -- "based on where I am, where's the nearest good place to eat?" That's something Vindigo does without nearing a GPS, and does it fairly well.

I've been wondering about proactive location based services and annotations that work for you and protect your privacy.

One I envision works like this. Imagine your cell phone or other portable location-aware device has a big yellow button. The button, if you press it, means "The service here sucks." Not the cellular service, but the service (or quality, or prices) in the store you're currently in. Pushing the button sends your opinion to a reputation database associated with the location.

Stores will fear the button. If you hold it up and threaten to push it, they will probably snap to attention. Why? Because you and many others will also download the database into your location aware device. If you walk into a store with a high rate of complaints, your phone will ring and warn you about where you're going.

It would probably try to electrocute you if you walked into Fry's electronics.

There are many valuable servcies when you know you're looking for geographical information, but many others that can warn you of things you didn't know to ask for. That you're walking into a bad part of town or driving into bad traffic. That you're near a historical site that's of interest to you, or a store that sells something you've been looking for.

As noted, all this can happen by pre-downling the data into a device that has the GPS-WAAS or other position information. Your device looks out for your interests based on your location, which it doesn't have to transmit to anybody. Even your vote with the yellow button can be transmitted up later, so you're not tracked in real time.

Stop spam without demanding ID

There's a growing and dangerous movement to try to stop spam by forcing all mail senders to provide ID with each mail they send. Signing mail is not a bad idea, in fact it's quite useful, but to stop spam you have to make everybody sign their mail.

In the past this was a non-starter because this means forcing everybody who mails you to get new mail sending software, or at least to have their ISP do this. But spam has made us so angry people are talking about doing this, even though we don't demand ID for paper mail that, in theory, can contain white powder that can kill you.

This would mean the end to anonymous mail and a lot more complexity in our mail systems. So I sat down and said, if you are ready to force people to get new software, could you stop spam with something more distributed and still allow anonymous mail.

Indeed you could, and I have a proposal outlined to combine CPU stamps, challenge/response and signature to end spam

USA/Microsoft Metaphor

Many in the USA have trouble grasping how the country is viewed by those of us from outside it. I recently realized one analogy which explains this for those who are techies, especially Linux/Mac techies.

The rest of the world views the USA the way we techies view Microsoft. Except with tanks.

We fear Microsoft's power, but most of us still give them money. The power of both is largely economic. Neither MS nor the USA is on the whole evil, both are a mix of evil and good. Both are arrogant and don't grasp their own arrogance. Both have a smug leader. The list goes on for quite a ways.

Fingerprint Everybody

Next Monday, the USA will start fingerprinting and photographing all visitors, except those from 28 ally countries -- fortunately for me, Canada is among those exempted.

60 years ago, the USA gave its all to take down a growing empire that wanted everybody to show their papers any time they moved. Now the USA is moving closer to what it fought. Aside from hurting the tourist industry, it's yet another example of removing fundamental rights from people without the right lucky birth accident.

Here's the story from the San Jose Merc