Please Help My Fellow Blogger

February 9, 2009 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

We are all aware of the terrible Australian bushfire. Today I came to know about another recent fire accident.

My fellow b5media blogger Cheril Vernon lost her home and her pets about ten days ago when a fire broke out at her home in Palestine, Texas. Cheril writes three blogs for b5media: NewToTV.com (twitter), MischaNews.com and GossipGirlReport.com. She is also Community Editor for The Palestine Herald.

Read more about the fire and what you can do to help Cheril. Thank you for reading this. Kindly spread the information to everyone.

Happy Birthday Wikipedia

January 15, 2009 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

Wikipedia, the world’s free encyclopedia, is celebrating its seventh birthday today. Even though it existed a little before Jan 15, 2001, it was formally launched only on that day. Wikipedia is a multilingual project with currently over 12 million articles. All articles can be viewed and edited by anyone who have access to the website.

I use Wikipedia as much as I use Google, and often visit the site directly for certain kinds of information, before searching it elsewhere. Even though it is constantly criticized for articles especially about various historical events and personalities, it is resourceful in succinctly providing valuable information about a multitude of concepts.

Wikipedia-logo-en-big

Not just Wikipedia, but many other sites that came after it, all under the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization. Check out the Wikimedia Projects page to discover them.

Alexa, the website ranking site, ranks Wikipedia at 8. That is very encouraging for the only non-profit advertisement-free website among the top 10 websites of the world. However, it only gets around 8% of the Internet global traffic, compared to around 30% that sites like Google and Yahoo! get. It deserves more.

More people should benefit from this wonderful source. Start becoming a regular user yourself and tell about it to all your friends who are not about it.

Support Wikipedia.

Image Source: Wikipedia.

Trayconize Any Program to System Tray

January 8, 2009 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

The ability to minimize programs to the system tray has been made possible for a reason. There are always programs which we don’t intend to exit but do not use as frequently.

During work, e.g., we open a web browser – because we are so used to it – but more importanly have several other programs opened simultaneously. While navigating from Microsoft Outlook to Eclipse to the work folders using Alt + Tab, it is irritating to find Mozilla Firefox in between. Also, the task bar has only this much place.

Still, most of the web browsers like the Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox continue to ignore our need for a “Minimize to system tray” option (Opera provides the option). And we don’t always know the registry hack to minimize Microsoft Outlook. Trayconizer comes to our rescue.

Trayconized Firefox

The “Mozilla Firefox” icon sitting in my system tray is not a photoshop gimmick. I used a miniscule utility called Trayconizer.exe to minimze Firefox to the system tray. It is only 10.5 KB in size and, hmm, doesn’t need installation.

All you have to do is invoke the target program, Mozilla Firefox in this example, through the utility. The easiest way to do this is to set the target of a shortcut you use like this:

Replace “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe”
with C:\Downloads\Trayconizer.exe “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe”

Trayconizing Firefox

It may not be possible to Trayconize all programs and I am not sure if it works on Windows Vista, but it seems to work well enough on Windows XP. You can download it here. The page shows that the utility hasn’t had a newer version in over 5 years.

Image Source: Screenshots taken on my laptop running Windows XP.

Tech Channel Roundup From Steve Jobs to Steve Ballmer

January 7, 2009 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

First Juan was not excited about this year’s MacWorld. Then he worried about Steve Jobs’ hormone imbalance, which I must say is something only Apple lovers are capable of. Now, after watching MacWorld ‘09, he decides that Phil Schiller’s keynote was just fine.

Jason, celebrating his three-year anniversary at Microsoft Weblog, sees a surge in Zune’s popularity since the 30GB Zune owners started experiencing widespread failure and Microsoft subsequently updating them about its fix. He still wants to buy Zune, but do you recommend it?

Clair introduces us to a cool terminal user whom all lovers of CLI can follow on Twitter and Identi.ca, and teaches two techniques off adding watermark to your images.

Jayvee laments about the closing of Electronic Gaming Monthly and cheers the usage of Youtube by Ohio Police to solve a crime.

Milo lists 4 correct moves made by Microsoft in 2008 and reacts to 5 things that Steve wouldn’t tell about Windows 7.

Do Not Install or Upgrade McAfee Site Advisor

January 6, 2009 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

McAfee provides a nice add-on for Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer called Site Advisor. I used to run McAfee Site Advisor v2.8 until recently. It identifies whether a site or a search result is safe to its knowledge or not and is one of the best add-ons to use in a cyber café.

Do not make the mistake of installing it or upgrading it now.

Firefox’s “Find Updates” in Tools –> Add-ons could not find the latest version 2.9 just like the Mozilla Add-ons website couldn’t recommend it because Site Advisor is not your normal .XPI add-on. One has to download and install a .EXE through the Site Advisor download page.

The latest version is about 3.0MB large, takes a lot of time to install, asks for a reboot, and even then creates annoying problems post-installation until you disable it. The problem is that every time you open Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, a popup asking you about post-installation settings appears again, asking you to Accept or Decline their EULA. The annoyance stops only after declining.

I tried this (by mistake) on a friend’s and my laptop and the problem was persistent. On one of the two, the pop-ups stopped but McAfee Site Advisor no longer had its search bar and it wasn’t showing whether a site is safe or not. That is because one has to “Decline” to get there in the first place.

I couldn’t find any fixes online yet. Let me know if you have any.

Image Source: McAfee Site Advisor Screenshots taken on my laptop.

3 Problems We Will Face on Twitter

January 4, 2009 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

The last year can also be called “the year of Twitter”. The micro-blogging social media tool where each user answers the question, “What are you doing?” has gone viral so much so that there have been a billion tweets in 2.5 years since its launch. Latest news is breaking through Twitter already and the Internet dictionary put on a few pounds thanks to Twitter. At a time when the Twitterverse is speculating about whether Twitter would monetize or not, it is natural for miscreants to take advantage of Twitter to make some money themselves.

Here are three problems all twitter users are likely to face on Twitter:

Phishing: Twittersphere is abuzz with tweets about phishing, which prompted me to make this post. There is a phishing attack spreading across Twitter at this moment. It began with what is being called “DM Deception”. User A receives a direct message from User B asking them to check out some URL. You know what happens next. I didn’t face this yet, but I have seen compromised accounts among my followers tweeting messages like, “Check out this cute pic of yours, LOL…” with another URL.

If you suspect that you may have become a victim to a phishing attack, change your password immediately. If it is beyond salvation, bite the bullet and report the user as malicious. Twitter has so far been quick at suspending suspicious users.

Shortening URLs: I am not complaining but I expected this to be more rampant than what it is now. More URL shorteners like TinyURL, Tr.im, Snurl are crowding because of the growth of Twitter. A long URL is shortened to take fewer characters so that it can be shared through tweets. The trouble is that you have no idea about what you are clicking at. It could very well be some link spreading malware. What makes this worse is that these shortened URLs are too similar to be distinguished or remembered; you could click on the same bad link twice on your bad day.

A solution is to enable the preview feature. Tinyurl, e.g., provides a cool preview feature which when enabled shows what the URL redirects to (the original URL that was shortened) and then asks you whether you want to proceed to that site. I wish that all URL shorteners implement the feature.

Twitter Apps: Hundreds of apps are being developed around Twitter. Take a look at this list of Twitter Clients being used and you will know. All these expect your Twitter username and password to login. You might come across a new app that asks you to enter your Twitter username and password to be able to use it, and what if it steals your username and password? This might seem far-fetched but I don’t see why it can’t be done.

I tend to give any new app a day or so before using it, and I keep my ears open to listen to the grapevine until then. When my work depends on trying such apps I try it with a secondary account first.

As of now, I believe that the elite Twitter users are more prone to these attacks and have more to lose. That said, having started using Twitter only a couple of months ago, I find it immensely useful and would like to be prepared to face all possible annoyances. So what other problems do you think we might face?

Microsoft Windows 7 Demo Leaked

January 1, 2009 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

When we were busy preparing for the new year celebrations, Secret Santa was hard at work in bringing Windows 7 to the world earlier than Microsoft. How it all happened is still a mystery but a “Genuine Image” of Microsoft Windows 7 Beta 1 Build 7000 has been on the Internet since the 26th Dec of last year.

Since then there has been a great buzz and its availability has soared thanks to the BitTorrents sites. I expect this buzz to increase tremendously in the coming few days once the New Year celebrations come to an end. The last time I checked, the DVD image was at the 18th position among the Top 100 downloads on The Pirate Bay, the top most among the Applications category. The image is about 2.44GB in size, for 32-bit systems, and is not fake. The comments on the torrent page shows a healthy interest on Windows 7 after the Windows Vista catastrophe. (I won’t share the links here because we are talking about piracy here.)

However. It is not a full release of the new OS but only a demo version with minimal features. A beta copy of this was given away by Microsoft to several developers in Nov 2008 for them to review it. The beta was expected to be made public by Microsoft in the near future anyway.

While there have been rumors that, naturally, Microsoft may have been behind this leak, it was probably distributed by one of the developers that received the beta.

PC Vs Mac Transformers Video

December 23, 2008 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

I came across an amusing short film through one of my twitter friends, @stanleytang. The video has some wonderful visual effects, takes unexpected turns, and keeps us at the edge of the seat. Inspired by Transformers, what starts off as a harmless debate about whether the PC or the Mac is greater turns into a full-blown battle between… you will see what.

I am looking forward to the sequels. Tell me there are sequels. Dan Chianelli and Nick Granlee are the directors of the movie. The latter calls himself a digital impositor and you can find more of his videos on his website.

Follow me on Twitter.

Tech Channel Roundup of Year End Retrospections and Forecasts

December 18, 2008 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

We are still more than ten days from the new year, but a majority of the world has already started retrospecting the last twelve months and forecasting the next twelve.

Jayvee inspects the culture of FAIL on the Internet and finds that video advertising is going to decline. Actually, the rate of growth of online advertising has reached a saturation point even though online advertising itself is continuing to rise.

In these tough times, when the economy has been slowing down, Clair suggests that choosing Linux and open source software has become more necessary. For those who are already in that path, there is a free Ubuntu training course. Ubuntu is Linux for human beings, isn’t it?

A survey found that only 1% of people are using Google Docs, and many of those use Microsoft Office already. However, Colleen feels that the Microsoft’s stranglehold on office suites may be slipping away with Microsoft promising and postponing their next release and the availability of too many options for the users.

Juan says that 2008 is the year of iPhone, which is not very debatable in the user sense though this is also the year for RIAs, Twitter (@bsravanin) and cloud computing. But then, he is an Apple guy. :-) He also shares the offer that MacUpdate is having as a holiday promo. A good offer, far better than dreaming about the Apple 24″ LED display which is about $900!

Speaking of promos, Jason has a post about the Sears Wish Promotion, similar to the HP Magic Giveaway which has recently ended. There is already several Top 10 lists too, like the top 10 viral videos of 2008. I personally don’t like the fact that these lists do not consider the rest of the year that is still to be lived through. The more important news is, in case you haven’t already heard, that a serious security flaw has been exposed in the Internet Explorer and it is advised to not use it for financial and other sensitive transations of any kind.

While you wait for the security update, be sure to take note of the 8 security bulletins that Microsoft is ending the year with. Various OS users may want to check out the 2008 Service Pack 2 beta releases.

US May Get a Center For Cybersecurity Operations

December 9, 2008 by Sravan  
Filed under Computers

In a report entitled “Securing Cyberspace in the 44th Presidency,”  the US Commission on Cybersecurity is said to recommend the setting up of a Center for Cybersecurity Operations to protect military, government, and corporate electronics from criminals and other nations. Support from the US President-elect Barack Obama in establishing the new body is not doubted because he earlier pledged the appointment of a “national cyber advisor” if elected.

Following in an excerpt from the Business Week article:

The report calls for the creation of a Center for Cybersecurity Operations that would act as a new regulator of computer security in both the public and private sector. Active policing of government and corporate networks would include new rules and a “red team” to test computers for vulnerabilities now being exploited with increasing sophistication and frequency by identity and credit card thieves, bank fraudsters, crime rings, and electronic spies.

Business Week quotes Tom Kellermann, who had a role in crafting the US cybersecurity strategy in 2003: “We’re playing a giant game of chess now and we’re losing badly.” In the recent past there have been break-ins in Homeland Security, information loss in DOD and a few other “incidents”. The most recent one was the attack by a malware called agent.btz which afflicted both military and corporate networks.

Some of the attacks are considered to have come not just from organized gangs but also with backing from other governments. Read the Business Week article for more details.

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