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Letters To The Editor

Amateur Radio Can Help

Since 9/11, I've been briefing local, state, and federal officials on the need for reliable backup communications in the event of a disaster ("FCC Pushing Carriers To Fix Nets Destroyed By Katrina", Sept. 6). The 600,000 FCC-licensed amateur radio operators in the United States have reliable equipment and up-to-date training, and can cover many backup communications needs.

In most cases, officials have patted the $3,000 digital public-service radios or state-of-the-art cell phones on their belts and said they have what they need.

Erik Westgard Public Information Officer
American Radio Relay League
St. Paul, Minn.

Gap's Bad Move

While I was distraught with the destruction and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I did want to comment on the point relating to Gap ("Microcosmic View Of A Cockeyed World," Sept. 5).

I was shocked to find its Web site down. I was planning to do some light shopping to put my mind on something else for a bit and couldn't believe my eyes when the message came up that they were working on the site--during normal business hours before a major holiday, no less! It couldn't have been a good move for their sales. I know for sure they lost out on a sale from me.

Suzanne Najim Lifecycle Operations Manager
Optical Networks, AT&T
St. Louis

Thumbs Up For Google Talk

I've been testing most of the VoIP software offered over the last two years, and while Google Talk may be the newest on the scene, its sound and voice quality is the best ("Analysis: Microsoft Moves Deeper Into VoIP," Aug. 31).

With Google Talk, it's like the person is in the room with you. And the echo-cancellation is better than the all rest.

Jim Dunn owner
SoSimple.Net WebHosting
Kauai, Hawaii

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Yes, wikis are cool ("Wikis Make Collaboration Easier," Aug. 29). And yes, like other open-source and socially minded innovations, they've made their way into the corporate and commercial world. Why not give a nod to the creator? They were invented by Ward Cunningham to support an online community interested in software patterns, the Portland Pattern Repository.

Ezra Eostein Independent Software Consultant
Prajna IT Consulting
Berkeley, Calif.

Plan To Rebuild New Orleans

Ask the president, Congress, your mayor, and your governor for a loan program to rebuild homes in New Orleans. It could be similar to the student-aid program. You pay after it's done ("New Orleans Paper Shifts To Web Only," Aug. 29). And make the first year an interest-free loan.

This would help bring citizens back to New Orleans, give them hope and enthusiasm and incentives--jobs for construction workers and in stores to sell tools and supplies; in short, money into the economy of New Orleans. Allow for storm-proofing requirements. It'll be a more expensive proposition in the short run but will pay off in the long run.

It wouldn't be a bad idea for the entire Gulf Coast area.

Frances Morrison
Orlando, Fla.

Keep Biometric Data Safe

The article "Messing With Biometrics, On Purpose" talks of storing only distorted biometric data so that if the biometric database is stolen, it can't be used to produce a compatible fake biometric credential (Aug. 29).

It fails to discuss two critical facts:

  • Since the reader must distort in a repeatable way, it's still possible to steal and use the data.

  • The problem of theft of biometric data goes away completely if the biometric data points are stored as a one-way hash rather than as actual data. All security systems should store "passwords" (biometric minutia, whatever) in a one-way hashed form so as to make theft of the database useless.

    Jay Libove Senior Security Engineer
    Delta Air Lines

    Upgrade Causes Problems

    I recently got notices for a ZoneAlarm update ("Software Suites Versus Standalone Tools," Aug. 22). Since I was running a very stable 3.0 version and had installed the new ZoneAlarm Suite on an XP system, I thought it would be safe to update. That was a huge mistake.

    The problems began after I rebooted. ZoneAlarm wouldn't start after a lengthy startup sequence, and it prevented me from connecting to the Internet. I reinstalled 3.0 with no difference, so I uninstalled ZoneAlarm and was able to connect to the Internet, although not in the same way as before.

    I agree with Fred Langa: Don't buy the new ZoneAlarm until it's fixed. If you do, back up and test your backup before installation.

    Robert Mendoza Systems Specialist
    Bell Helicopter Textron
    Hurst, Texas

    Spam Still A Threat

    Don't let a few high-profile court cases with seven-digit-plus results give a false sense of security ("In The Fight Against Spam, A Few Knockouts," Aug. 15/22, p. 34). Spam complaints by employees, customers, etc., are only down because of the use of various tools to combat spam. Every time a new method to fight spam is introduced, new methods to get around them are also invented. However, spam is only part of a larger issue. If systems are infected with programs that can produce spam, those programs can also serve other purposes.

    Ken Robinson

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