27 November, 2006

Defective Cameras Deal Another Blow to Sony

Yahoo! reported on the 24th that Sony has another recall -- this time it is their Cyber-shot camera. "The liquid crystal display screens of eight camera models might not display images correctly, images could be distorted or cameras might not take photos at all." This affects cameras sold over 16 months from September 2003 to January 2005. Apparently this is not the first camera recall for Sony.

Compared to the S&P 500 and Nasdaq over the last three months, things do not look good for Sony. I do not expect the PS3 to help them much either.

23 November, 2006

Look Inside the Wii

I found two sites that look at the inside of a Wii game machine from Nintendo. Popular Science has 16 photos while informit.com has a complete tear down with instructions. Both are very good, but informit.com gives you much more information including a nine minute video. In addition, CNN posted an AP article on how the motion controls for the Wii and PS3 work.

I also found a link to some handiwork where someone figured out how to get to the Wii Shop store.

17 November, 2006

Take a Third Look at Google Desktop

I had tried the free Google Desktop at work, twice, and each time uninstalled it. First because I could not search my network drives. (I like to use network drives to share files with my colleagues, and to make sure they are backed up.) Later I had decided to try again, and then discovered the possible security issues.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Google now has addressed the security concerns and they have released an update that will index networked drives. I have been running this now for about two weeks, and it generally has performed well. The Google Desktop Search is based on keywords, so it does not always give you the most relevant results. I also had some troubles with PowerPoint running very slow while editing. (I turn the search off when I am working in PowerPoint.) With those caveats, it seems to be a good solution.

A nice, new feature is that if you hit your CTRL button twice, a search dialog appears in the center of your screen. Of course Google Desktop will provide many more gadgets and garbage when you install it, so you need to pay close attention to make sure you disable those functions. But if you are looking for a good search across network drives at a low cost (free), I recommend giving Google Desktop another look.

Spam Increases 67% Since August 2006

Barracuda Networks reported November 15th that they have seen an increase in spam of 67% since August of this year. I learned this fact while reading about spam linked to Russian gang from eWeek, "...authorities have traced the operation to a well-organized hacking gang controlling a 70,000-strong peer-to-peer botnet..."

This hacking gang is using the trojan tool that removes other viruses before setting-up shop on breached computers, which I reported in October. The most common compromised machine is XP with service pack 2 at 47%. Another 37% is XP with no service pack or service pack 1. This I do not understand at all -- if you are going to use your computer on the Internet, you absolutely must keep it up-to-date with patches and fixes. Over 12,500 of the compromised machines are in the US.

Finally, this group push two messages, "pump-and-dump" and penis enlargements. The "pump-and-dump" is penny stocks. It is believe the reason must be that these two items are the most lucrative.

If you want to learn more about how one of these operations work, check out the eWeek article. In addition, make sure you are protecting yourself:
  1. Keep your OS up-to-date
  2. Use an anti-virus tool that is kept up-to-date, daily
  3. Use a spyware protector
  4. Use a firewall such as ZoneAlarm; using a software firewall will allow you to be notified if unauthorized programs try to access the Internet
  5. Do not use Internet Explorer or Outlook Express
  6. Do not click on links in emails; type the address manually into your browser (this is to protect you against phishing; read more at Wikipedia)
  7. Do not open attachments that you are not expecting (even if you know the sender)
  8. Use a credit card for online purchases, NOT a debit card
  9. Use McAfee SiteAdvisor or similar to identify problematic sites (Firefox extension)
  10. Use NoScript to disable JavaScript on sites that you do not trust (Firefox extension)

16 November, 2006

Don't Get Caught in the Zune Hype

Microsoft just released their new Zune player -- will it be a hit? My bet is no, and here is why.
  1. The software is difficult to install; it has crashed for many people.
  2. Does not support Microsoft's PlaysForSure music platform, including Windows Media Player.
  3. Therefore, you cannot play music you bought from other stores that used the PlaysForSure music platform.
  4. Microsoft closed their music store and opened a new one specific to Zune (Zune Marketplace).
  5. To buy music, you need to buy points from Microsoft in $5.00 increments. Each song is 79 points, which is about $0.99. So you will loan Microsoft $4.00 (or more), each time you buy more points.
  6. Yet another DRM in isolation.
  7. Supports video, but there is video available from Microsoft's Zune Marketplace store yet.
  8. Does not support podcasting.
  9. Paying Universal an undisclosed sum for each unit sold since all users are pirating music.
  10. Wireless only works between 2 Zunes with DRM music. Does not allow you to sync with your PC or Xbox over your own network.
  11. When sharing a song between Zunes, you must stop what ever is playing.
  12. You can only share DRM'd music.
  13. You can only share the music one time.
  14. Does not work with Vista.
  15. Too big to use when at the gym.
David Ewalt wrote a good article on why the Zune Stinks. So with all that, will some folks still buy it? Yes. The unknowing person will buy it, just to be disappointed later. If you want to learn more about the Zune, try Zune Scene. But if you buy it, remember, I warned you.

12 November, 2006

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts

I have put together another keyboard shortcuts tri-fold, this time for PowerPoint. Whether you use PowerPoint a lot or just occasionally, I think you will find this to be a valuable tool.
I have some really good shortcuts in here. For example, did you know that if you enter Ctrl + Shift + [plus sign] with text selected, that it will change it to superscript? Or that Ctrl + D will duplicate a selected object? That is just two of over 100 keyboard shortcut combinations.

11 November, 2006

Still Confused About Net Neutrality?

Bill Moyers, Moyers on America, has developed an extremely informative piece on the current risk to open access on the Internet call The Net @ Risk. Moyers and his team dig into big media, telco, cable, and government, and shine a spotlight on how we risk losing open Internet access for everyone.

Let us not forget how in as little as two years from rule changes by the FCC, big media bought all the little radio stations, and now we have little to no local programming. That could just as easily happen to the Internet.

Take a company like Google. Eight years ago, Google was two guys in graduate school -- the Internet has allowed founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin start their own company and compete against incumbents Alta Vista, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

With net neutrality, telco and cable companies could make it more expensive to get Internet telephone companies like Vonage and Skype, then it would be to buy it from them -- they would do this by forcing Vonage and Skype to pay them high access fees.

If this scares you in the least or you would like more reliable and faster Internet access, it is time you learn more about this issue. It is time to make sure your local government officials know your views. After viewing Bill Moyers story, visit Free Press: Net Freedom Now, and Save the Internet to learn what else you can do.

09 November, 2006

1.2 Million Jobs / $500 Billion to the U.S. Economy

Michael J. Copps wrote a great article yesterday, America's Internet Disconnect, on the impact of not having broadband Internet access. Mr. Copps claims that some experts believe we could ..."add $500 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.2 million jobs" with universal broadband adoption. In addition, we are being over charged by $8 billion.

Here is a few more facts... the government is supposed to have universal broadband in the U.S. by 2007, yet we are not even close. The U.S. ranks 15th in the world in broadband penetration, while Europeans and Asians are getting 25 to 100 megabits to their homes. Oh, but "the FCC still defines broadband as 200 kilobits per second."

Who knows, maybe we will see some changes with the recent election. CNet posted an article describing some of the possible benefits to technology with the control of the House and possibly the Senate going to Democrats. I would expect at a minimum that we finally get some support on Net Neutrality. The CNet article, What the Democrats' win means for tech, also discusses other issues including digital copyright and the AT&T/BellSouth merger approval.

Well I guess it is the government we are talking about, so I should not get too optimistic, but one can hope.

06 November, 2006

Web Analytics

If you are new to web analytics or need to brush up your skills, I recently read Web Analytics Demystified: A Marketer's Guide to Understanding How Your Web Site Affects Your Businessand found it very helpful for this category. If you are a little more advanced, you might try another book from the same author, Eric T. Peterson, Web Site Measurement Hacks.Perhaps what I like most about both of these books, is that Eric makes it simple. In addition, Eric has experience with web tags, which is particularly beneficial when your site is distributed across multiple systems.

Eric also has a companion site for his Web Analytics Demystified book. In addition to companion files to Web Analytics Demystified, he has done a lot of work to bring the web analytics community together. For example, Eric has organized Web Analytics Wednesday where professionals all over the world meet locally on the 2nd Wednesday of every month, at 6 pm, to discuss web analytics. I attend the local Web Analytics Wednesday in Portland, and met Eric himself, along with folks from Web Trends and Intel.

So if you need to get a better handle on web analytics, even if you are just starting out, give these books a shot and join the web analytics community.

05 November, 2006

Configuring Firefox with About:Config

Have you wondered how you might change settings in Firefox, yet not found any options in the Tools | Options... section? Firefox uses a file called About:Config to manage options that are not configurable through the Tools | Options... menu. Just type About:Config in the Address Bar to access these additional options.
The Mozilla knowledge base has a list of options to set. Here are just a few that may be of interest to you.
  • Set the check document frequency (browser.cache.check_doc_frequency): This is the option as to how frequently the browser check to see if the page has been update.
    0: Check once per browser session
    1: Check every time you view the page
    2: Never check (always use the cached page)
    3: Check when the page is out-of-date (default)
  • Default Search (browser.search.defaulturl): Just as the name says. The default is Google, http://www.google.com/search?lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=
  • Search Open (browser.search.openintab): Set to true and your search results will open in a new tab. The default of false will return in the current window.
  • Browser Tab Close Button (browser.tabs.closeButtons): This is the option to where you want the close button for each tab:
    0: Display a close button on the active tab only
    1: Display a close button on each tab (default, Firefox 2)
    2: Do not display any close buttons
    3: Display a single close button at the end of the tab bar (old Firefox behavior)

To make a change on the About:Config page, double-click to toggle between true and false or to open the value dialog box. Alternately, right-click on a line to toggle or modify a value. Likewise, if you know what you are doing, you can right-click to add new properties.

04 November, 2006

Ethical Hacking Sam I Am

The Ethical Hacker Network runs various competitions to help grow the education of the hacker community [not be confused with unethical "crackers"]. Recently they ran Netcat in the Hat, after an old favorite Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. You do not have to be a hacker to enjoy and appreciate the humor behind it. Here is an exert from the instructions:
The data stood still,
And the packets did stay
Sitting there in the N.O.C.
All that cold, cold wet day.

Our connection went down
When the phone lines were cut
By some dude with a backhoe,
Gold tooth and beer gut.

Far worse was that we
Quite nearly were through
With a large data transfer
Straight from Kalamazoo


Three winners were announced. This is from the Creative Category:
That Netcat in the Hat he'd showed us his tricks, he'd showed us the what and the what makes it ticks.
He'd given us knowledge, he'd given us plans, but he'd left us the work, that tall feline man.

Well, Netcat had packed up,
he'd indeed taken off,
but he'd left us two gifts
like furballs, which up he had coughed.

These things I had heard of,
though indeed never used.
Thing One was dd,
and netcat was Thing Two.


Next time you have to learn something technical, instead of the dry, bland books we are so used to, try something more creative from the Ethical Hacker Network and Dr. Seuss.

Another Internet Explorer ActiveX Vulnerability

Microsoft and Secunia reported another ActiveX bug yesterday. Just by visiting a website or viewing email in html mode can provide the means for malicious code to be executed on your computer. Microsoft recommends keeping your virus scanner up-to-date [of course you should] and to use safe browsing habits.

The safest way to browse is to use Firefox or another non-Internet Explorer / ActiveX supporting browser. Microsoft provides directions on how to browse safer using their products. I highly recommend that you follow this if you want to continue using Internet Explorer. Here is a brief explanation:
  1. Set your Internet Zone security to High
  2. When you trust a site, add it to the Trusted Zone. Microsoft recommends you run the Trusted zone at Medium security -- if you do, you will have problems on some sites. You need to move it at least to Medium-Low.
  3. Read all email in plain text (not HTML).
So you have to ask yourself, do you want to manually manage your browsing security like this or run a safer browser like Firefox?