01 June 2011

Ad Blocking Ethics

As with essentially everything else in the modern world, the Internet fosters advertising; and has huge industries surrounding it.  Given the young and evolving nature of the Internet the ad industry has undergone many changes and compared with its extremely sketchy past, improved significantly.  Ads are now targeted and tracked - and censored, in some cases - so they are relevant and whatever happens to lie on the other end of the click is of use.

Online advertisements have garnered a bad reputation, in large due to their past and in the case of some websites, their intrusiveness.  Popup blockers are old news and are built in to any modern browser, though less due to the annoyance of popups than to the security risk they pose.  Following the popup blockers though, have been browser extensions such as Adblock, which are built to block all online ads of any type.  It appears that quite an industry is springing up around the blocking of advertisements, considering ...

21 May 2011

What Site Leaked Your Data?

The Internet is notoriously bad when it comes to privacy, which is a fact that has unfortunately been accepted - and even embraced - by most avid surfers. Facebook has leaked various pieces of user information to various places (including Google search), Google has taken to reading emails and contact lists, and people search sites have disturbingly recent and accurate information open to the public. Recent news from around the Internet seems to show that as much as sites explain how secure they are, they still have their shortcomings and secrets.

Google made no secret of the fact that it was changing how it serves ads to its GMail users; it announced it publicly on the Google Blog and notified all GMail users. To sum it up, Google stated that they were going to take notice of email content in order to show relevant advertisements; essentially, their ad crawler was going to read emails. Rumour has it that they will also be taking this a step further in the near future by l...

03 May 2011

Reviewing Gnome 3

Those involved with Linux in any way have most likely caught wind of Gnome 3, a rewrite of the Gnome 2.x.x desktop environment.  As of just a few days ago, Gnome 3 is considered to be fully out of testing and is available to Arch users, Fedora users, and others (Ubuntu is not included in the mix as they created their own environment, Unity).

As Gnome 3 is going to fully replace its old 2.x.x counterpart, I adopted it in advance in order to get to know it and leave myself time to find a new desktop environment in case I didn’t like it.  Gnome 3 with gnome-shell is entirely different from the standard desktop that most of us are familiar with, and is most like what you would expect from an Android tablet or something similar rather than a desktop computer.  There is, for all those who don’t have hardware capable of 3D rendering that Gnome-shell requires, a fallback mode that is essentially the classic desktop that everyone is accustomed to.

Gnome 3 struck me as bein...

22 April 2011

Easiest Ways to Stay Secure Online

With all the talk of phishing and hacking raging across the Internet like wildfire, it tends to seem inevitable that one day an incident will hit close enough to home for it to hurt, especially with all the information we tend to store online. Most high-profile sites such as Google, Facebook, and even Twitter are continually rolling out site updates to counter attacks that in many cases are preventable. As someone who has never had an account hacked but sees friends’ accounts hacked multiple times a week, it seems to me that some of the simplest ways of staying safe online are ignored for ease of use or simply carelessness.

Make use of security settings. Almost every major site has a setting for https which encrypts information flying between the site’s servers and users. Google turned https on by default for all GMail accounts after the China hacking incident, but nearly all Google services are now accessible via https. Facebook recently rolled out https for the majority...

13 April 2011

The Good and Bad of Social Networking

Over the last few years, social media has taken the Internet by storm. Myspace was among the first, and from there grew Twitter, Facebook, and all the other sites that we hear mentioned on a regular basis. Every company and person seems to either be on one or more of the major social networks or is making an effort to create their own presence on them. This storm of information posted online from everyone trying to find their niche is easily picked up by search engines and spreads around the Internet incredibly fast.

For someone such as myself, who is currently applying to colleges and jobs, things posted by either me or my friends can make or break opportunities as many colleges/employers do Google applicants. One of the worst things about social media is the general lack of privacy from the start; Facebook’s recommended settings leave a lot of things fairly public, and every so often they revert custom privacy settings to that. Google was sued over its recent “Buzz” ser...

27 March 2011

Upgrading to Firefox 4

Firefox 4, as I mentioned in my previous review of it where I slated it against Chromium (the open-source clone of Google Chrome browser), took me by surprise with its speed and apparent improvements over its previous versions and my old browser of choice, Chromium. So much so, in fact, that I’ve now adopted Firefox as my browser of choice and have migrated all of my settings to the new browser. In the process, I discovered a few quirks that, due to the ‘newness’ of 4, will likely be fixed soon or that are Mozilla avoiding alienating some of its older users. Just to be clear, I don’t mean problems; I’ve actually had far fewer issues with Firefox 4 than I had with Chromium.

Upgrading is, as always, fairly easy. The new browser showed up in the Arch repositories shortly after its release, and was available for download to Windows and Mac users as well. Some Linux distros (such as Ubuntu) haven’t released it [yet], so they require a little tweaking to get it, which is as sim...

24 March 2011

First impressions of Firefox 4

The latest and greatest in browsers (at least as far as publicity goes) is Firefox 4, which was just released a few days ago. As a heavy web user who is still trying to cut down on Internet time, I regularly max out my memory with some huge number of pages open in my browser of choice; generally Google Chromium (the open-source equivalent to Google Chrome). I love Chromium; it’s fast, secure, and I can sync my bookmarks between multiple browsers, which for me is important since I regularly move between computers. It has never given me any real problems, which in my experience is fairly rare given the browsers I switch between.

Shortly after the release of Firefox 4, as with all new software I can get my hands on, I upgraded the version on my system to run it through my browser-killing habits. Probably the best description I have for how I feel about it is “impressed.” I haven’t been running it for long enough to experience any real issues, but it seems to run much more ef...

17 March 2011

How the Internet is crucial in a crisis

On any normal day, the Internet undoubtedly brings us closer together; we stalk our friends on Facebook, follow celebrities on Twitter, and read the various blogs that we enjoy being kept up to date on. It bridges the gap between our local friends and family and those who are farther away, across an ocean, for example. For the most part, the Internet has reached a point in our minds where it is taken for granted and it’s just one of those things that for those of us in more privileged countries always have at our disposal.

The true power of the Internet and our ability as people to band together with it at our disposal is never recognized until a crisis strikes; the recent rebellion in Egypt, or the earthquake in Japan, for example. In Egypt, the people used social sites as a means of organizing their protests, and it was such a powerful tool that not only did they succeed, for a large part, but the government shut down broadband Internet for a period of time, knowing tha...

10 March 2011

How to Stay Safe on Facebook

phishing: using seemingly legitimate web pages or applications to steal or gain access to information

One of the biggest and least expected places to find malware and phishing is the Facebook news feed, which means that Facebook is becoming as much of a jungle as the rest of the Internet. Last year, it was estimated that more than 20% of posts in the news feed were phishing or malware posts from users or applications. Among my own group of friends, seeing spam posts from hacked accounts is fairly rare, but it does happen nonetheless, and I myself have been roped into a few and had to clean off my Wall and reset my password. Generally, the damage is minor; a bunch of spam posts to friends, for example, but the problem can, quite literally, grow exponentially if a spammer manages to make a fake application that looks enticing and legitimate enough for friends to follow the lead of the hacked account; which can then steal information off the unsuspecting users’ wall...

10 February 2011

Mobile Security

Everyone who owns a computer likely hears about the plethora of latest security issues, viruses and whatnot- and for all those Windows users, may have figured out that Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of the month. For the most part, that’s outside the scope of this article, although it is relevant. Viruses and hackers are the bane of any computer user and many of us spend seemingly ridiculous amounts of time making sure our virus scanner is up to date, that Windows Security Center reports back that everything is fine, and otherwise being extremely careful with our computers. We set up (hopefully) strong passwords for all of our online accounts, and from there, try to lie low and hope that no hackers come our way; and hope that if they do, all the defenses we threw up for them are strong enough.

It seems that so much effort is put into making sure that computers and Facebook accounts are secure, that the most dangerous devices we have in our lives...

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