Showing posts from August, 2013

Snowden, The Sysadmin

TheRegister - The US National Security Agency may have some of the most sophisticated cyber-surveillance programs in the world, but it was trivial for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to walk off with sensitive data, sources say, owing to the agency's antiquated internal security.
"The [Defense Department] and especially NSA are known for awesome cyber security, but this seems somewhat misplaced," former US security official Jason Healey told NBC News on Thursday. "They are great at some sophisticated tasks but oddly bad at many of the simplest."
Read the article "NSA: Nobody could stop Snowden - he was a SYSADMIN" at TheRegister

10 *Terabytes* Of Free Online Storage

If you trust the Chinese more than the NSA these days (it's about 50-50 for me, personally) mobile users can take advantage of a rather amazing-sounding offer from Tencent; 10 TB (terabytes, not GB) of free online storage. How it works: sign up for a Tencent QQ account and download the latest version of the Tencent Cloud (Weiyun) mobile app. Click on the big blue button on Weiyun’s promo site and you will immediately receive 1TB worth of free space first. As the amount of space you use increases (and in turn lowering the amount of space you are left with), Tencent will top up your storage space automatically, up to a maximum of 10TB. TheNextWeb

Windows 8.1 RTM Fiasco

Microsoft seems to have been screwing things up quite a bit lately; the Windows RT $900 million write off, the return of a "pretend" Start button in Windows 8.1, and now an odd change to an established process for releasing an operating system update. Windows 8.1 RTM (release to manufacturing) is now ready and will be released to the public on October 18th. The odd part, though, is that Developers - the folk who come up with the Apps - are also getting access to the final release at the same time. If you think about it for a minute, that's a bit daft - how can you write software for something you can't actually work with? The only versions they have currently are the beta versions.

Best Graphics Cards For Gamers

PC gamers live and die by their graphics cards, and will pour over specifications and performance charts to get the best bang for the buck. Luckily, there are several sites that will do a lot of the grunt work for you, and one of the better ones is Tom's Hardware. They currently have their August edition of "Best Graphics Cards For The Money" available, and if you are looking to build a gaming PC or to upgrade your existing one, it's a great place to start. It's a regular feature on the site, so if you have the patience you can probably spot trends and perhaps really snag a bargain. Get your game on.

The Sun Sneezes, Earth Braces

Our Sun is a star, one of many, many millions in our galactic neighborhood; it's big and yellow only because it's a lot closer than the other stars you may see at night. It's not anything special as stars go, kind of a middling star really. Stars don't just twinkle romantically on clear evenings, they are nuclear furnaces where incredible forces are at work, and can be very volatile. Our own Sun belches and burps out plasma and other goodies from time to time. This weekend, we should be on the receiving end of a stream from a Coronal Mass Ejection - which may allow us some better that normal auroras, and hopefully nothing more severe than that. The official US government space weather centre's latest forecast as this is written says there is a 55 per cent chance of a "severe" geomagnetic storm on the 24th, and a 25 per cent chance the storm will be only "minor". However that's for regions near the poles; most of us face only a 20 per cen…

Box Now Offers 10GB Free Storage

Cloud storage solutions, to my mind at least, have lost some of their lustre of late due to thoughts of the NSA possibly rummaging through our stuff at will. That aside, it's still a nice option to have some off-site storage (i.e. not just on a couple of DVD's in the back of a drawer in the den). If you suffer some kind of major event at home, you may at least be able to get most or all of your stuff back if you have such a cloud storage account.  Cloud storage provider Box now offers 10GB on it's free accounts, which is pretty good if you are not trying to back up HUGE audio libraries, or a lot of video files. Consider a single-layer DVD stores a bit less than 5GB, so you have the equivalent of a couple of DVD's worth of storage for no monetary outlay. Here is a round-up of personal cloud storage services from earlier this year.

Randy Robot Ruckus

Love is a many-splendoured thing, except when a randy robot wouldn't let a female technician he had a hankering for leave the lab...

Researchers at Toshiba’s Akimu Robotic Research Institute were thrilled ten months ago when they successfully programmed Kenji, a third generation humanoid robot, to convincingly emulate certain human emotions. At the time, they even claimed that Kenji was capable of the robot equivalent of love. Now, however, they fear that his programming has taken an extreme turn for the worst.Techandfacts

Microsoft Botch Tuesday

TechEye - Red-faced Microsoft has admitted that there were problems with KB 2876063, KB 2859537, KB 2873872, KB 2843638, KB 2843639, and KB 2868846, all released on Tuesday.
The MS13-061/KB 2876063 patch was supposed to fix a remote code execution hole in Exchange Server. The problem only affects Exchange 2013 and the Vole said that after the installation of the security update, the content index for mailbox databases shows as failed and the Microsoft Exchange search host controller service is renamed.
Read entire article at TechEye: Microsoft stuffs up six patches

5 Great Open Source Softwares

Open source software follows a particular philosophy as to it's distribution and ownership. For software to be considered a part of the "open source" model, it should follow this criteria:
it must be freely distributedthe source code must be includedanyone is allowed to modify the source codeany modified versions can be redistributedcertain software licensing requirements The upshot of all this that there is quite a wealth of good (often great) quality software available free of charge and without restriction.Here is a list of 5 great ones, many also available for Windows, Mac and Linux. VLC media player - plays just about everythingAudacity - audio editing and processingOpenOffice - a complete "Office"-like suiteGIMP - a sophisticated image editorMozilla Firefox - the current number two web browser

A Few Days With Zorin OS 7

Zorin OS 7 is based upon Ubuntu, as is Linux Mint. I have used various (mostly Ubuntu-based) Linux distributions on and off for a few years, and just came back to Linux Mint 15 last week, and a few days later I switched to Zorin OS 7 64-bit - not for any particular reason; just because I could. Zorin has a couple of nice features going for it; it has a Windows-like look to it for newcomers to Linux. It also has a very easy-to-use "Zorin Look Changer", which quickly allows you switch between several different "looks" to your Desktop; Windows XP, Windows 7 and Gnome 2 (the latter being a typical Linux Desktop). It also feels quite fast, and out of the box has some fairly subtle but effective "eye candy" window effects.

Google Glass For $300?

When Google Glass became a real piece of hardware, the original devices were shipped to early backers and developers at $1,500 a piece - setting the ownership bar pretty high (dare I say, into Apple territory). Now though, it looks like the street price for the consumer version may end up in the $300 range, or at least that's the thinking based upon the cost of the hardware involved.  How would you feel about that for the wearable computer that can take photos and videos and allow you to surf the web and work with email an text messages?
Probably the most expensive component in Google Glass is its display, which adds around $35 to the bill of materials and is made by Himax Technologies. Google recently made a big investment in the company, no doubt to help secure its supply chain for future projects like the consumer version of Glass.

Hacking Cars, Homes

Bits - Imagine driving on the freeway at 60 miles per hour and your car suddenly screeches to a halt, causing a pileup that injures dozens of people. Now imagine you had absolutely nothing to do with the accident because your car was taken over by hackers.

Charlie Miller, a security researcher at Twitter, and Chris Valasek, director of security intelligence at IOActive, a security research company, recently demonstrated car hacks at the Black Hat and DefCon computer security conferences in Las Vegas. The researchers completely disabled a driver’s ability to control a vehicle. No brakes. Distorted steering. All with a click of a button. While the demos were with hybrid cars, researchers warn that dozens of modern vehicles could be susceptible.
Read the entire article "Taking Over Cars, And Homes, Remotely" at Bits (NYTimes)

MacBook DIY Repairs

Gizmodo - Despite the prices at the Apple Store, MacBooks are remarkably durable and pretty cost-effective to fix. That is, if you know what you're doing. Apple banks on the vast majority of its users lacking computer technician skills, or at least the Genius Bar implies that you need to be much more experienced than you actually do to fix some simple things on the old MacBook Pro. But websites like iFixit offer amazingly helpful guides to fix almost everything in your machine.
Read the entire article "Quick and easy MacBook repairs that will save you a fortune" at Gizmodo

Windows Store Now On The Web

You can now browse the Windows store from the web - something that I had taken for granted that you could do already. I have only ever been in the Windows store (the repository for Windows 8 apps, a'la GooglePlay) a couple of times, and then from within Windows 8. Now, though, you can see what you may have been missing right here, although it almost looks like Microsoft does not want you to see what's in there. There's only very basic searching by title or type; for example, if you type "games" in the search box you will see a list of games that you do not appear to be able to sort in any way - odd. Microsoft's relative lack of quality apps for Windows 8 has been the subject of a lot of commentary, and I don't think this poorly presented collection is going to help that.

Backdoor Bonus With Windows!

Hey kids, did you know every version of Windows since the later releases of Windows 95 have had an NSA "backdoor" in place? Well, it's true!! How cool is that?? You have unwittingly been part of the National Security Agency's surveillance mission since 1999 - that's the LAST CENTURY!!! Awesome!!!! 
A careless mistake by Microsoft programmers has revealed that special access codes prepared by the US National Security Agency have been secretly built into Windows. The NSA access system is built into every version of the Windows operating system now in use, except early releases of Windows 95 (and its predecessors). The discovery comes close on the heels of the revelations earlier this year that another US software giant, Lotus, had built an NSA “help information” trapdoor into its Notes system, and that security functions on other software systems had been deliberately crippled.

China Hooked On Windows XP

You may have noticed I have an XP counter on this site - how many days till Microsoft officially stops supporting Windows XP. After then there will be no more official patches, and the aging OS will begin to be a real liability as far as security is concerned. However, there are still a lot of XP computers out there - especially in China, who looks to be facing a real potential problem next year. In the U.S., for example, 16.4% of all personal computers ran Windows XP in July, or about one in six, Net Applications' data showed. But in China, where XP remains king, 72.1% of the country's computers relied on the soon-to-retire operating system last month, or nearly three out of every four systems. In any XP doomsday scenario, that means China is in a position four times more precarious than the U.S. Computerworld

Follow The Money

Money makes the world go around - it certainly does, for better or worse. NSA spying revelations grabbed attention from most of us, but the real concern seems to be the money that US cloud storage providers might lose because of a lack of trust in a system that appears to be no more secure than the whims of the Federal government allow.
Spying by the NSA could cost the US cloud computing industry between $22bn and $35bn over the next three years, according to Washington think tank, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), whose website happens to be down this Tuesday morning.In a report entitled "How Much Will PRISM Cost the US Cloud Computing Industry?" ITIF analyst Daniel Castro predicts that "the disclosures of the NSA's electronic surveillance may fundamentally alter the market dynamics" for US cloud companies in Europe and elsewhere.TheRegister

Windows Defender Update Problems

I have used Microsoft's Security Essentials on Windows 7 and Windows Defender on Windows 8 - they are differently-branded versions of essentially the same antivirus/antimalware software. The programs work quite well in general, but I have seen occasions where the update process has problems. This article on 404 Tech Support describes the issue and a solution for Windows Defender, and in fact Microsoft has a "Fit It" for it. I hit the Update button for Windows Defender and it seemed to take a little longer than normal but the progress bar continued to advance. Eventually, it would return to the Home tab and show the message Connection failed next to ‘Virus and spyware definitions’. 404TechSupport

Mobile SIM Cards Get A Hacky Fix

A recently-publicized security vulnerability opened up some 750 million users to being hacked via the SIM card in the device. A SIM card holds the identifying information of the user of the phone. However, using the access provided by the hack itself, mobile carriers have remotely updated the affected SIMs without the expense and hassle of physically replacing the cards. Security researcher Karsten Nohl of Security Research Labs discovered the exploit and said that up to 750 million handsets could’ve been vulnerable to the hack, noting that SIM cards using older data encryption methods were at risk. However, instead of replacing all these SIM cards and mailing new ones out with the new encryption, carriers were able to hack into the SIM cards themselves in order patch them up remotely.
Nohl was scheduled to demonstrate his SIM card hack earlier this week at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas, but instead, he announced that five wireless carriers had rushed…

Guardius Gives Browser Add-Ons The Once Over

Browser add-ons can be very useful - they can add functionality and features and help you get the most out of the web. They can also slow things down and cause crashes - but it's sometimes hard to know which ones do which, without a lot of trial and error. Enter Guardius, which analyzes your add-ons and uses "crowd sourcing" (in English, the opinions of a lot of other users) to help you make informed decisions as to which one are worthwhile and which may not. It's still very much in the early stages, but sounds promising. Following a short closed beta period, the Guardius open beta phase is opening today for the first 100,000 users who sign up, with the full public version expected to launch next month. In a nutshell, Guardius lets users manage and control their add-ons and toolbars that have been installed on their Web browser. In theory, Guardius should get better over time, as more people install the app. It monitors who’s uninstalling which add-on, and presents t…

Google 911


It's A Chrome-pocalypse!

A veritable tsunami of updates for all things Chrome was released July 31st...
Google has issued an assortment of software updates for its new Chromecast television dongle and for its existing Chrome Web browser, Chrome OS, Chrome for iOS and Chrome Beta for Android applications.

The Chromecast update was announced in a July 31 post by Ambarish Kenghe, the Chromecast product manager, on the Chrome Releases Blog. "Today, we are pushing a bug-fix update to Chromecast devices to improve performance, reliability and security," wrote Kenghe. "The update will roll out over the next few days and will happen automatically; users do not need to take any action."

Google has issued an assortment of software updates for its new Chromecast television dongle and for its existing Chrome Web browser, Chrome OS, Chrome for iOS and Chrome Beta for Android applications. The Chromecast update was announced in a July 31 post by Ambarish Kenghe, the Chromecast product manager, on t…

Netflix Brings You - Profiles!

Netflix, the streaming video and movie service, is bringing personalized profiles to the party. This will allow Mom and Dad to keep "Smurfs 2" and the like out of their movie listings. Netflix officially launched its personalized profiles Thursday, rolling out the new feature to iOS devices, the Xbox 360 and the PS3 as well as the website and a number of connected devices, including the Apple TV. The feature will allow Netflix subscribers to personalize a total of five profiles per account, which will each offer a separate queue and individual content recommendations. This means that parents will finally be able to separate the recommendations based on their kids’ viewing from their own.Gigaom