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01 August 2011

My Browser Said What?

One of the most overlooked (and under-cared about) aspects of online privacy is what browsers say about their owners.  Generally, web browsers transmit a lot of data about what browser they are, certain software/hardware capabilities, and software versions.  Transmitting information such as this has its uses- websites can warn about out-of-date software, and software sites can direct visitors to the appropriate download for their system.  It does raise some security and privacy concerns as it makes it easier to track people.  Even I can admit to simply not caring what my browser says about me.

With concern mounting regarding hacking and privacy, browser headers, as they're called, will probably be thought about much more by the average privacy-aware web surfer, especially with the new Internet tracking bill passed by the government.  There are browser extensions that can hide or mask the information your browser sends to the Internet, but while doi...

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21 July 2011

What's Up With Linux?

The Linux Foundation is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Linux this summer, from its humble start in 1991 to where it stands today as the operating system of choice for supercomputers, phones and many more things where speed, security, and reliability are required.  Get in on the celebration at http://www.linuxfoundation.org/20th/.

Outside of the more nerdy, technically inclined people like myself, Linux isn't extremely popular and isn't even well known.  Windows vs. Mac OS X is the usual choice given in stores, and Linux only recently has gotten some publicity from companies such as Dell and Google.  Given its past of being powerful but hard to use, the general opinion of Linux isn't too surprising even though it has become a misconception.

Unfortunately, the selling point for Linux is usually that it's free and that it doesn't have viruses, both of which are generally true but are not...

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18 July 2011

Google and Facebook's New Looks

Google and Facebook are both in the process of rolling out some changes to their interfaces; Google started soon after announcing Google+, and Facebook started just in time for everyone to log into Facebook at work Monday morning and be irritated about it.

For Google, the new look is pretty slick and integrates Google+ features (for those using the service) across most of Google's products with a new upper bar.  The rest of the services that the change has affected now sport a new layout that is much more consistent across Google that was a long time coming, particularly for Blogger, but doesn't change anything so significantly that anything is hard to find.  The new upper bar provides slick integration with Google+ for those using it and is more noticeable for switching between services.  So far changes have been rolled out to GMail via a preview theme, Calendar, Blogger in Draft, Search, the Help centre, YouTube, and the account page (accessible through Go...

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07 July 2011

Google+ Takes on Facebook

If the number of hacks, extensions, and suggestions on how to make Facebook more like Google+ is any indication, Google+ has drawn more than a small amount of interest across the web. At the same time, pressure is increasing on Facebook to bring new features to Facebook that may not have even been considered in the past.

The first, and probably most momentous indication of the pressure on Facebook is the announcement of Facebook's latest new feature; video chat via Skype. Given the low-quality video and the lack of any distinguishing features, it seems clear that Facebook unveiled the new feature long before it was actually ready, not long after Google+ was announced. In all likelihood it is not the last feature Facebook will announce prematurely due to pressure from Google. I haven't tested Facebook's video chat myself (it runs only on Windows right now), but I have already heard complaints about the new chat interface as well as some notable testers such as ZDNet com...

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05 July 2011

What Google+ Means for Facebook

Google+, particularly due to its current exclusiveness, has gained a huge appeal across the Internet if the demand for invites has been any indication.  Fan pages have sprung up on Facebook for Google+ and its various features and it generally has been the latest big thing online, even finding itself a mention on FOX News.

Due to the exclusiveness of Google+, it remains to be seen just how popular it will become and if it will actually grow in popularity to rival Facebook, as Facebook once did to Myspace.  Google was forced to shut down its invite system given the huge demand for entrance into its social network which has simply created more demand; Google+ invites can now even be bought on Ebay.  Meanwhile, Facebook has a developed network with over 130 million users and counting which makes it a formidable social network to compete with- one that until now has faced little direct competition.

Google+, however, offers many of Facebook's features in a...

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01 July 2011

The Lowdown on Google+

Google has made a few attempts to get into the social networking market, particularly to compete with Facebook, but thus far has seen limited success.  Google Buzz was nailed over privacy concerns, Google Orkut never caught on, and Google Wave was a dismal failure.  Google's latest stab at social media is Google+ (Google Plus).  Currently, it is invite only and Google took down invites temporarily so only those who were invited are able to use the network, making it seem pretty exclusive.

Unfortunately, Google stands at a disadvantage with Google+ given the fact that Facebook and Twitter are already well-established, and Google's previous attempts at social networking never caught on and were never really liked.  However, it appears that they have been busy introducing new features across Google as a foundation for Google+ for a while now, and with great results.   The new +1 button for sharing sites in search results and articles from blogs takes...

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22 June 2011

What Site to Trust Next

As Dropbox is my favorite (and currently, only) cloud storage provider, I place a lot of trust in them in, both in terms of reliability (they are my backup system) and security (I store my journal with them).  I trust Dropbox with a huge part of my digital life, so I stay up to date on their company goings-on in order to make sure my trust is not misplaced, and thus far, it has not been.

However, on Sunday Dropbox had a particularly bad security issue; a software update left all accounts accessible without a password for a little over 4 hours, at which point the issue was fixed; though 1% of Dropbox's millions of users were affected.  The issue was kept relatively quiet; the Dropbox crew emailed all affected users, and posted a low-key announcement on their blog that was picked up by a number of other blogs.  It comes at a bad time for Dropbox, given Sony's recent issues and the wave of hacking going on that even allegedly resulted in the UK's 2011 Census da...

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16 June 2011

Losing the Cursor

Every new "era" in computing starts a new battle between the large companies.  Everything from simply going online (at one point in time, not so simple), to the interface we're familiar with on our computers has gone through the battle of the companies, generally the "big names" in software such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and the like.  The latest issue appears to be one that will impact everyone who keeps up with the latest trends in software, one that has already started but hasn't gained a lot of speed in terms of publicity yet.  Apple pioneered the so-called "Tablet War" with the iPhone/iTouch and a little more recently, the iPad, and they are currently the best selling tablet on the market.  Android from Google is available on tablets and phones as well, giving Google a place as the other major contender.

However, due to the divide between the personal computer and the tablet, issues are arising with how the new interface is rolled out, as it appe...

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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 advert...

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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 b...

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