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22 February 2012

Google's Latest Privacy Woes

Google has been drawing a lot of attention to itself over privacy issues, from a new privacy policy, to offering users the option to essentially sell their privacy.  The new privacy policy goes live as of March 1st, if everything goes as Google plans and although the reaction to it is almost entirely negative, I don’t find it particularly surprising.  According to Google it is intended to unify all its services more, rather than maintaining a privacy policy for each individual service, which makes sense.

At about the same time, Google unleashed a much quieter offering that essentially pays users to give up their privacy so that they can be monitored and so Google can “learn more about its users to enhance its services.”  This offering gives users the option to be paid a total of $25 in instalments for running a browser extension to track them online, or significantly more if they allow Google to install hardware on their network that tracks everything.  Although ...

18 January 2012

The Internet Speaks Up About SOPA

Anyone looking to quickly look something up on Wikipedia, flip through Reddit, or grab a quick read from the front page of Wordpress today will be sorely disappointed.  Those, among with many other sites are currently working to educate users about the dangers that SOPA and PIPA would bring if passed.

On the surface, the two bills are looking to solve the huge issue of Internet piracy.  However, much removed from that, the ramifications of them would be felt globally, destroying an open Internet all around the world.  Both bills have one thing in common: censorship.  They would permit the U.S government to take down any website - and by take down I mean take down and make it completely non-existent in the U.S - on small copyright claims.  Both bills have support from the MPAA as well as other huge corporations who are willing to pay for senators to vote in favour of it.

SOPA/PIPA (Stop Online Privacy Act and Protect IP Act) will be voted on on January 24th, 2012. ...

08 November 2011

What's Up With Secure Boot

If not for the Microsoft/Linux rivalry, Microsoft’s new Secure Boot would probably not have made a huge splash in headlines until it was advertised as a feature of Windows 8 certified hardware.  However, the implications of Secure Boot could be much farther reaching than Microsoft likes to admit, should it be implemented in a - and the Linux fan in me comes out - typical Microsoft fashion as far as Linux is concerned.

The advertised idea of Secure Boot is to eliminate some of the security issues with not locking down the boot process of Windows, as some malware takes advantage of this time to get itself past other security.  This takes a very similar approach as a lot of mobile devices (think- iPhone), which makes said devices extremely difficult to hack since the software is locked down on a hardware level.  Secure Boot enabled systems would do something very similar, by only allowing software with keys that have been whitelisted (the installed operating system), to run ...

27 October 2011

Aaandd We're Back!

Just a quick note before any real posts go up!

Since I’m now a college student at RIT, time is a little bit limited between classes and the rest of my life, but I haven’t forgotten about anything.  So, excuse my extremely erratic posting- college, much to the disappointment of my readers, does actually have more importance than my blog.

With that said, there are some new posts coming up soon, so stay tuned.  If you’re new, welcome!  Stick around, it’s worth it!

20 September 2011

Linux 3.0 Is A Big Deal (Kind Of)

The release of kernel 3.0 in the Linux world was effectively downplayed by a good portion of the Linux world as “just another update.”  And they’re right- the version was going to be 2.6.40, until Linus Torvalds switched it to 3.0 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Linux.  In that sense, no, Linux 3.0 was not a big deal as far as the 44 million lines of code in the kernel were concerned.  It only added the usual collection of drivers and bug fixes.

However, 3.0 is, from a publicity standpoint, a huge milestone for Linux in a lot of ways.  It shows, among other things, that Linux is continuing to grow and evolve and is a viable piece of software.  The fact that the version number was bumped to 3 could have made much more of an impact on the non-Linux world than it actually did- understandably, few people would care to hear that Linux hit version 2.6.40, but jumping a whole number is considered a big deal.  Windows has moved to that scheme- Windows 7, Windows 8- as has ...

10 August 2011

How To Run An Online Scam

As much as it may appear otherwise, given a little time running an online scam isn’t nearly as difficult as the general person likes to think. This translates to the rest of us being required to be all the more vigilant about keeping ourselves safe and verifying anything, especially before sharing any personal information.

Though there are scams running online all the time, some obvious, others not, one of the most recent ones that spread virally was about browser choice being indicative of a person’s IQ. The news article was picked up by various reputable news sites such as CNN, Telegraph, BBC and others and circulated for a few days. I picked it up and mentioned it in the previous post on The Philosophy of Nate as well before anyone had any reason to question the results of the study, which conveniently seemed to make some sense. Having been on CNN and the BBC, it seemed legitimate enough to me.

Surprisingly little work went into putting together the sc...

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 doing this improves privacy...

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

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 the best things...

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 Google+) that in...

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 compla...

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