Wednesday, February 28, 2007
There few things that give me greater pleasure than hearing criminals being caught and convicted. Today, Shaun Harrison, 19, and Saverio Mondelli, 20, of Suffolk County, New York pleaded no contest to charges of extort and illegal computer access. The 2 teenagers had developed a program whereby visitors to MySpaces were monitored and recorded. In a daring move, they demanded money from MySpace for the program claiming it as a "consulting fee." MySpace responded by contacting the authorities. Afterwards, with the help of authorities, they lured the 2 teenage hackers to Los Angeles. Instead of gettings their ransom, they were quickly arrested by Secret Service agents. The 2 teenage hackers could have received up to 4 years imprisonment but, as a result of a plea, they only received 3 years of probation. In addition to probation, both teenagers are forbidden to visit the MySpace website and had severely limited access to computers. Personally, I would have like to have seen a stiffer punishment. Only with harsh sentences will others like these 2 teenagers be dissuaded from committng such crimes.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I am a big fan of Firefox, Mozilla's open source web browser. Unfortunately, Firefox has been plagued by memory leaks which have been present since Firefox 1.x. However, there are ways to curb Firefox use of memory, such as decreasing the number of webpages Firefox keeps in memory. Find more tweaks and tips to reign in Firefox memory use.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Mozilla has released a security update for both Firefox 2.0 and Firefox 1.5. The new versions 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 are available at Firefox's homepage. Users can also choose to update via the "Check for Update" feature. This release address a number of security flaws, including: Firefox cookie flaw discovered by Michal Zalewski, the location.hostname vulnerability and others. For complete details, read Firefox's release notes.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
For some time now, many have speculated that Google will release its own online version of Microsoft Office. Today, rumor has become reality as Google released its Google Apps Premier Edition. Google Premier Edition is a fee based version of Google Docs and Spreadsheets for business. In addition to a word processor an spreadsheet, it also provides access to APIs, conference room scheduling for calendar, 10GB of e-mail storage, extended phone support, and mobile access to e-mail on BlackBerry devices. Granted, Google Apps Premier Edition is not on par with Microsoft Office yet, but who is to say what will be the case a year from now.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Many of you are familiar with Netflix, the popular online DVD movie rental service. This is how it works. Netflix customers create their own DVD movie queue. Netflix will mail the DVD movie, in the order of the queue the customer created, to the customer. The customer can keep the DVD movie as long as he likes without late fees. When the customer is finished with the DVD, he mails the DVD movie back to Netflix using Netflix pre paid envelope. When Netflix has received the DVD movie, it will send the next DVD movie on the queue.
Netflix has several plans; the 3 DVD movies at a time plan is the most popular, which Netflix charges $17.99/month. Sounds like a good until someone find out that Netflix penalizes those customers who have a high turn over rate. You see, the greatest overhead for Netfix is the postage. For those customers who receive more than 10 DVD movies/month, Netflix losses month. As a result, Netflix uses a technique called “throttling,” whereby Netflix purposely delays sending DVD movies to these customers. The idea is to curb their high turnover rate.
Supposedly, Netflix uses an algorithm to monitor customer turnover and slow down delivery as needed. However, I suspect that there is a new gimmick Netflix is using to curb turnover rate. These past 2 months, most of the movies on my queue are part of a series. For example, I have on my queue the entire third season of Enterprise. What was strange was I didn’t receive them in order. I received disc 2 before disc 1 by 2 days. Now, of course, you can say this is a fluke. However, just this week, I placed the 2 disc series for Bleach – a somewhat popular anime series – and again I received disc 2 before disc 1 by 2 days. Now, this couldn’t be a coincidence. What am I am going to do with disc 2 when I haven’t seen disc 1? Well, obviously, I have to wait until disc 1 will arrive before watching it. And there is the beauty of it. Now, I have to keep disc 2. Now, Netflix has effectively “throttled” me. What do you think?
Monday, February 12, 2007
Winpatrol 2007 has been released. I have spoke about Winpatrol in the past. It is a fantastic free intrusion detection software (IDS) or host intrusion prevention (HIP). Winpatrol monitors several critical areas within Windows OS. For example, it monitors changes to the Windows Registry, Startup programs, Internet Explorer's homepage, IE's default search page, Browser Help Objects (BHO) and many more items. This is the first version which is compatiable with Windows Vista. This newest version also adds startup program delay. I find this feature to be invaluable. Oftentimes, you don't need programs to launch immediately after logging in to your account. The more startup programs a system has the longer it takes start. Of course, you want your antivirus and firewall to start immediately. But, you can delay the start of programs like Microsoft Office or Real Player. A paid version of Winpatrol is available. The paid version adds much more in depth information about processes and software running on the computer.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Windows XP’s default settings are not optimized for broadband use. There are several ways to optimize your broadband connection speed. Perhaps the easiest way is to use the free utility TCP Optimizer. It does not need to be installed. Instead, just run it from whatever folder you saved it to. Here are the items you need to get started.
Before changing any settings, you should create a system restore point – just in case things go wrong. Afterwards, you need to measure your current connection speed. This will serve as a baseline to compare connection speeds after changing the settings. There are several websites which can measure your connection speed. I recommend Speakeasy Speed Test. Go to Speakeasy Speed Test website. On the left side, there is a list of web servers. Choose the one geographically closes to you. Click on the button and the site will start measuring your speed. During the test, do nothing. After measuring your download speed, it will also measure your upload speed. Be patient and wait until both tests are completed. You can tell when it is completed when both your download and upload speeds are displayed. Jot down your download speed in kbps (kilobits per second).
Double click TCP Optimizer to launch the program. On the menu bar, go to File > Backup Current Settings. Give the backup file a name > [Save]. You can never be too careful. Now, you can start tweaking the settings. Just below the menu bar is a scale. On this scale, slide the bar to the speed you jotted down from Speakeasy Speed Test. Next, under “Network Adapter selection,” select the adapter you are using to connect to the Internet. Usually, it is the name of your router, cable modem or DSL. If you are not sure then check “Modify All Network Adapter.” On the bottom right hand corner, you will see 3 settings: Current settings, Optimal settings and Custom settings. Select Optimal settings and then click [Apply changes]. You will need to restart your computer.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Next Tuesday, Microsoft is expected to release 12 patches for February's Patch Tuesday. The package will include at least 5 "critical" patches. A number of the patches are expected to close up vulnerabilities in Windows, Microsoft Office and Visual Studio. Some of these vulnerabilities are already being exploited.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
This is just plain embarrassing. Microsoft's Live OneCare failed to pass Virus Bulletin’s VB100 tests. Virus Bulletin is a security software research laboratory which runs a battery of tests on antivirus software to checks the software effectiveness in detecting viruses which are known to be active in the real world (a.k.a. in the wild). In order to receive Virus Bulletin's VB100 certification, the antivirus program has to not only detect all the viruses but also generate no false positives. It is clear that Microsoft's Live OneCare failed to receive certification; however, at this time, it is not known which tests Live OneCare had failed. The latter strikes a heavy blow at Microsoft which has been touting the new security on its newest Windows operating System, Windows Vista. After so much "hype," you would think that Microsoft would have done at better job of ensuring the efficacy of its security software.
FYI, Live OneCare was not the only major security software which failed to pass Virus Bulletin's VB100 tests. McAfee’s VirusScan Enterprise, G DATA’s AntiVirusKit 2007, and Norman’s VirusControl all failed to pass the series of tests. However, many antivirus program did pass the tests, including: Computer Associates, Fortinet, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Sophos and Symantec.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Today, Google officially open Gmail for all who want to open an account. Previously, Gmail was only available by invitation from an existing account holder. Later, Google opened Gmail to those with a mobile cell and students. At present, Gmail provides 2.8+ GB of space and it keeps inching up. Gmail is easy to use with intuitive controls. In place of folders, messages can be sorted with labels. Gmail sports one of the most effective message search feature. Gmail integrated with other Google services, such as: Google Documents and Spreadsheet, Google Maps and Google Calendar. Some users have utilize the hugh amount of storage space available on Gmail to backup files online.
Hard to believe but there was a DDoS attack on several servers which direct traffic on the Internet. In particular, 2 of the 13 "root" servers suffered significant slow down as a result of the attack, one was maintained by the United States' Department of Defense and the other maintained by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN ). An army of compromised computers (a.k.a zombies) launched the attack. As of today, there is no clear motive behind the attack. But, it is unsettling to see how hackers can easily cripple the Internet.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Visitors to the Miami Dolphins websites had an unpleasant surprise. Over the weekend, hackers embedded malicious files on the sites, including a Trojan Horse which stole user names and passwords. It is still unclear how many sites were affected, those affiliated with the Miami Dolphins or otherwise. What is clear is the malicious files exploited 2 vulnerabilities in Windows. Patches for these vulnerabilities have already been made available by Microsoft. Only computers which had failed to install these patches were affected. In other words, this is yet another example of why all Windows users should enable automatic Windows updates.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
As many of you know, software makers oftentimes include End User License Agreements (EULA). Potential users need to agree to the terms spelled out in the EULA before the software application can be installed. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people don't bother reading the EULA; instead, people usually scroll down to the "I Agree" portion and proceed to install the software without realizing what they have agreed to. Would you agree to allow the software program to record what other software programs are installed on your computer? Would you agree to allow the software program to remove record your activity on the Internet? Chances are you wouldn't but, by signing off on the EULA, you may very well have done just so!
Like many other people, I am also very intimidated by the wording of EULA's. Almost without exception, they are written in a language which is incomprehensible to average Joe Schmo. You need to be a lawyer to understand the jargon. Well, there is a way to check if an EULA is safe to agree to without having to get law degree. You can use Javacool Software's free EULAlyzer. It is a simple tool which analyzes an EULA searching for key words, such as: third party and/or sponsors. Basically words which are often found in less than reputable EULA's. Don't neglect to check the EULA. It might very well save you from a ton of grief. As I oftentimes say, "A pinch of caution is better than a pound of trouble."
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Some of you may have heard of John Haller. He is the creator of the portable versions of both Firefox and Thunderbird. In a strange move, he has written a guide on how to customize Firefox user interface to look like Internet Explorer. I am a little bewildered. I was under the impression that people switched to Firefox because they wanted get away from Internet Explorer. Perhaps, he wrote the guide in order to make the process of switching from Internet Explorer to Firefox less intimidating. Regardless, it is an interesting guide.