IT Confidential: Identifying Foreigners, Human And Not - InformationWeek

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07:13 PM
John Soat
John Soat

IT Confidential: Identifying Foreigners, Human And Not

Animals with pet passports avoid six-month quarantines.

PETS VERSUS PEOPLE. Never let it be said that the world of technology isn't chockablock with irony. At the same time that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was pushing back plans for the United States to implement a "biometric passport," which will incorporate a radio-frequency identification chip that will hold retinal-scan, fingerprint, and other identifying data in order to check the identities of foreigners visiting the country, a Swiss company said it's prepared to offer the biometric technology required for pets to travel in the European Union. In an effort to prevent the spread of rabies in Europe, the EU recently mandated the use of permanent identification for dogs, cats, and ferrets traveling between member countries, according to Sokymat, which identifies itself as "the world's leading provider of RFID transponders." Starting last October, traveling pets must bear either a clearly readable tattoo or an electronic ID; in eight years, only the electronic ID system will be valid. Ireland, Malta, and the United Kingdom already require the RFID chips. A pet's ID number and vaccination history are then recorded in a "pet passport," which travels with the feline or pooch. One significant difference between the EU's plan for pets and the United States' plan for visiting foreigners: For human tourists, RFID chips are embedded in their passports; for pets, it's in their bodies.

FIRE DOWN BELOW. Caution: Laptops can be hazardous to your health--the health of your lap. I seem to remember a report issued late last year that drew a correlation between extensive laptop use on the laps of men and decreased virility. Last week, Fujitsu Siemens Computers went that one better, by recalling the rechargeable batteries in several of its laptop models because of the possibility of fire. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries in several Amilo models can overheat, according to the company, "with a risk of fire" (for details, go to The company recommends removing the batteries immediately and running the laptops on AC power. To date, only four complaints of overheating have been received out of a possible 250,000 units, says Fujitsu Siemens, which will replace the batteries free of charge.

HERE'S TO MY HOMIES. Mark your calendars: July 29 is System Administrator Appreciation Day, according to the Web site This is the sixth annual celebration of the day that honors computer system administrators, and it has been earmarked for the last Friday in July. The site, sponsored by several anti-spam and Web-hosting vendors, features photos of past celebrations, cartoons, and links to online retailers where you can order your sys admins their preferred delicacies: cookies, pizza, beer, Jolt Cola, etc.

If you think I'm going to make a joke about sys admins, forget it. They work like dogs and keep the lights on, so they deserve nothing but appreciation. Just because they lack social skills and their personal hygiene leaves something to be desired--just kidding! If you have a sys admin story, or an industry tip, send it to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about embedded RFID or the hassles with laptops, meet me at's Listening Post:

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