Quick Hits

Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion slam-dunked its way into the National Basketball Association last month with a contract to provide the NBA with its BlackBerry Wireless solution. According to RIM, the BlackBerries allow communication between employees including league officials and executives throughout the organization, and provide customized software that brings up-to-date NBA scores, current game statistics, players’ points, rebounds, assists and a nightly leader board. According to an NBA spokesperson, the league opted for the BlackBerry for the convenience of having e-mail, messaging and schedules literally attached to the hip and all in real-time. Details can be found at www.rim.com.

Japan in a lather over steamy phone calls

It’s 7a.m. in Tokyo. As millions of people reluctantly stir from a night’s sleep, thousands of cellular telephones start to ring … once.

Such calls, known as “one-giri” in Japanese, used to be the exclusive tool of tight-fisted people who didn’t want to pay for a telephone call. But marketers have since picked-up on the idea and the frequency of the calls has increased to the point where they have become the latest scourge of Japan. The scheme works like this: a computer at the one-giri operator makes calls to random cell phone numbers and hangs up after one ring. That number is then registered in the cell phone’s memory as a missed call. What usually follows is that the cell-phone user, on seeing the number, makes a call back. Callers are often greeted with demand for payment for (non-existent) sex-line charges, all the while paying normal cell phone rates. A spokeswoman for NTT DoCoMo Inc., which has more than 41 million cellular subscribers in Japan, received 2,700 complaints about the calls in June alone.

Yahoo changes e-mails to block hackers

Yahoo Inc. has admitted that its e-mail software has automatically changed certain words in a bid to prevent hackers from spreading viruses. Although the company has failed to list the words its software has changed, a report from the technology Web site news.com said that the program changes the word “mocha” to “espresso” and “evaluate” to “review.” A spokesperson for Yahoo said that the word-changing program is one of many measures the company has taken to ensure e-mail security, as the problem with words like mocha is that although commonly used to describe a flavour or a colour, it is a special command in the JavaScript language, which hackers can intercept to launch malicious programs. Still, apart from general e-mail guidelines, Yahoo had not disclosed its word-changing practice to e-mail users.

Canadian firm wins first-ever fingerprint competition

Last month at the international FVC Fingerprint Verification Competition in Quebec City, all evidence pointed to Toronto-based Bioscrypt Inc., which placed first out of 31 entrants and won 19 out of 24 gold medals awarded. The 2002 competition was the first independent fingerprint competition ever hosted with entrants including many of the world’s leading fingerprint algorithm suppliers. And, although all algorithms were tested, not all competitors chose to be identified and remained anonymous in terms of the results. While the majority of competitors used algorithms that compared local points where fingerprint ridges end or split, Bioscrypt’s algorithm is based on fingerprint ridge patterns. According to the FVC, the Bioscrypt algorithm is more effective as it uses the entire fingerprint, rather than points of the print for detection. Details on the competition can be found at http://bias.csr.unibo.it/fvc2002/