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Google Labs Invents E-Mail Breathalyzer

Filed under: Security, Web
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Here’s the scenario.  It’s been a long night of partying on Chippewa or in Allentown.  You’re not quite sure how you got home, but there you sit, all alone.  Suddenly, that proverbial light bulb illuminates above your head.  (Ok, more like flickers dimly.)  Now is a great time to get in touch with your ex and reconcile old differences!

Not so fast says Google Labs.  They’ve introduced a new optional feature for GMail called “Mail Goggles” to keep you from e-mailing while intoxicated.  Yes, really.

It’s functionality is simple.  First, you configure a schedule when you’re likely to be enjoying a few (too many) libations.  During these hours, you’re presented with a few math problems and a sixty second timer to come up with the answers before GMail will allow your mail to send.  The idea is if you’re in a right enough state of mind to answer their arithmetic quiz, then you can take responsibility for whatever happens after you’ve hit “Send.”  The question difficulty level is adjustable, depending on your math ability to start with, or just how well you want to protect yourself.

Of course, if you’re sober, you can probably remember how to turn the thing off anyway.  Note that it’s configured by default for 10PM-4AM.  Buffalonians might want to move that up to 6AM – to adjust for our locality’s service laws, and a trip to Jim’s Steakout.

So now, when the weekend arrives and you try to send your former significant other a passionate diatribe in the heat (dizziness) of the moment, you’ll get a screen that looks like this:

Solve the questions in time – great, you’re sober enough to remember what you did in the morning.  Get one wrong or run out of time?  No e-mail for you – GMail will instead suggest you get yourself a glass of water and head off to bed.

If this appeals to you as more than just a joke, you’ll want to log into your GMail, click “Settings,” choose the “Labs” tab on the far right, find Mail Googles about half way down the list, enable it, and “Save Settings.”  Then return to your Inbox, click that same Settings link at the top, and you’ll see the Mail Googles configuration in your “General Settings”.

Now if only somebody would come up with a way to prevent drunk dialing, texting, MySpacing, Facebooking, instant messaging, and so on.  Maybe the million dollar idea is just a muzzle and pair of handcuffs that only come off when you can answer a few math questions.  Regardless, plan on seeing copy-cat apps for the iPhone and Android soon… I can feel it coming from from here.


Follow up & analysis of Palin e-mail controversy

By today we’re well aware that the e-mails posted were legitimate, as the McCain campaign has made a statement regarding the situation, and an investigation is under way.

The Register is reporting the investigation may be relatively easy to conclude.  The attacker attempted to cover their tracks using ctunnel.com, a proxy service.  This way, when Yahoo searches their logs, the visits would have appeared from ctunnel.com, rather than the address information of the person(s) who had broken in to the account.  It just so happens that ctunnel.com logs connections for situations such as this, and thanks to screen shots showing a large portion of the ctunnel.com URL in the address bar of the web browser, it’s going to be pretty easy to match that to the log files.

Anyway, now that the dust has settled some, I thought maybe I’d take a few moments to respond to the slew of comments and hatemail about the Pailin e-mails.  It doesn’t seem many understand the nature of the situation, and mainstream media is having a field day with spin and framing the story for whoever candidate they’re biased to.  So here’s my thoughts:

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