Wednesday, January 06, 2010

"Dude, Where's my Followers?" New Feature to Prevent Drunken Tweets

A new feature will soon be available to prevent embarrassing tweets, morning regrets, and mass unfollows.

"Between the failwhales, the Service Unavailable 503 messages, and the new RT feature, Twitter has already covered most of the bases to make the service as confusing as all hell to the inebriated user," said a trusted inside source who refused to be identified.

But now, there will be an extra layer of protection. Excessive Typos, repeated use of the backspace key, and prolonged moments of inactivity while the drunken user stares at the screen trying to decipher his or her unintelligible text will now trigger a new algorithm requiring the user to enter a two-word, case-sensitive Captcha before the tweet will be posted.

The algorithm will remain active in the associated account for a period of six hours or until tweet quality dramatically improves.

"The ultimate intention is to keep the twitstream relatively sober," the insider said. "Plus, it'll help reduce all the late-night @replies @Alyssa_Milano gets from guys saying how hot she was in junior high. It really puts an incredible strain on the servers."

The new feature will be rolled out very, very slowly.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Hacking Humanity: how viruses REALLY spread

I'm sceptical about pretty well the entire internet, and out of an abundance of caution, I suspect just about every link. Computer viruses can be nefarious things, so I'm very careful about where I click. I try to satisfy myself as to the link's authenticity before I dare click, and I have to admit I'm sometimes downright paranoid about shortened Twitter links.

Because of the popularity of online communication and social media, a great number of viruses appear to come from good friends. Worse, the message triggering the virus is usually something designed to look real and go unquestioned by the recipient.

The term "virus" is used loosely here - the same principles can apply to most any program, script, or other malicious code. But almost all have one important thing in common: the user usually has to do something to get infected, even if simply clicking a link or opening an attachment.

Whatever its form, malicious code is famous for its ability to promulgate through exploits of security vulnerabilities. Sometimes these are due to flaws in an Operating System, or in a software program such as a web browser.

The code takes advantage of the flaw to take over, creating another version of itself, and both then continue to seek out new victims. New exploits are being reported all the time, but the software vendor is usually quick to release a patch that seals up the exploit and protects you, and the hackers who release the program are getting quite creative. Some new variants of exploits even masquerade as anti-virus or anti-spyware programs that flash warnings of infection which lull the user into a false belief of being protected, while the malicious software carries out its purpose, whether spam, porn, or identity theft.

(I'm still waiting for a creative hacker to release an exploit that uses the victim's computer resources to surreptitiously contribute to scientific research via projects like BOINC or http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/.)

Patches only work, though, if you hunt them down and apply them. Keeping up-to-date on security releases is very important, but what's most important is to exercise common sense.

Most of the viruses people seem end up with are spread through email or IM, and usually involve some sort of social engineering. And what is social engineering, you ask? It is simply tricking you into doing something innocuously and unconsciously, so that you probably don't even notice the results, and nothing registers on any conscious radar screen as being dangerous.

Say Alice signs on, and a screen pops up from Bob, suggesting that Alice check out pictures of her. She clicks, and is whisked away to some decoy site while the code safely ensconces itself within Alice's hard drive, curling itself almost inextricably around her operating system, so that the two now operate as one. And it all happens so slick that Alice doesn't even notice, until a couple of weeks later she gets a phone call from a friend who tells her to run a virus scan already because her friend is sick of getting ads for teeth whiteners from her.

Sound like a realistic scenario? Naming off the dozens of examples you've seen yourself? Almost got tricked by one, or did and are too ashamed to admit it? This is how these viruses are spread; they rely on the trust of the user.

The more reliable the message seems, the less likely it is to raise any red flags. Social engineering is used in these cases to exploit natural human tendencies as a means to promulgate the virus, whether it's unleashed by a bored teenager on a weekend with nothing to do, or spread as part of a major billion-strong foreign botnet.

Fortunately, many of the IM and email viruses that rely on tricking the user are not usually too sophisticated on the software side of things. Removal is usually as simple as identifying what variant is at fault and searching for the proper removal instructions.

Searching the name of the virus and "remove tool" might bring up a handy little program that you can download, run, and have it scrub your machine free of all trace. By this time, though, hopefully you've learned to approach links with scepticism, and you don't automatically download the first thing you come across. Discernment is crucial; be careful where you click.



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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Google's Virtual Eye: Expanding "Street View" with In-Home View

Google, the unofficial owner of the Internet, plans to unveil its newest project today, which expands upon its popular Google Maps, Google Satellite, Google Earth, Google Street View, and other related services.

Google In-Home View, tentatively dubbed Google's Virtual Eye, will allow users to type any street address or phone number into the search field and instantly be transported to a screen that shows the interior of the home. The technology uses a new proprietary API developed in conjunction with web cam manufacturers and cell phone developers, and has already undergone extensive secret beta testing.

Virtual Eye will have two options - a Cached View, showing Google's most recent capture of the interior of the home, and an optional Live View which will provide visitors with a Real-Time peek inside the walls of the requested business or residence, using the existing web-cams attached to in-home devices.

The new service is designed to work with all browsers and platforms, including Android, Windows Mobile, iPhone, and the as-yet-unreleased Palm WebOS.

Future plans include synchronizing the system with portable camera-enabled phones to provide Real-Time views of images captured by cell cameras, allowing unfettered and unrestricted access to almost every camera on the planet.

Google does not plan to charge for the service. Watch for the official announcement later today.


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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Irrelativity

A new noun, irrelativity: The notion that time actually passes according to human experience, as opposed to an orderly flow as it is normally assumed to be.

To us as humans, time obviously flows at a uniform rate. After all, if we set up a clock, it will tick away, measuring specific increments of time. Right?

But, oh how different this is from our actual subjective perception! Standing in a line-up at the grocery store can be an excruciating experience. Seemingly hours can go by. Time, in these circumstances, just drags, now, doesn't it?

Time can fly, though, too. Think of how often we're amazed at how quickly something seemed to go, relative to how that clock was ticking away over in the corner.

And with those experiences where time drags, we can be equally amazed at how relatively little time actually passed.

There's a sub-set of those experiences, though; there are times where we will glance at our watches, stare at the clock on the wall, and basically obsess about those little moments ticking away.

Maybe we want to be doing something else, maybe we have an appointment and can't be late. The opportunities for frustration abound. And it almost seems as if the more we observe how slowly things are going, the more slowly they actually seem to go. Time literally drags.

How can our experience of such a "uniform force vary so greatly?

Here's where Einstein missed the boat. He concocted his entire theory on the presumption that this thing called time was regular, predictable, and uniform, and the definition he used was based on the velocity of light - how fast it is moving. It is inherently time-dependent.

The ticking of our clock dictates how much "time" is passing from an objective standpoint. Each interval is carefully measured, in a uniform fashion, giving us an objective evaluation of the passage of time. That's the yardstick we use to measure how long things happen.

Thank God for the clock. If we didn't have it, how would we measure our day? How would we know when the doctor will be able to see us? Or, how would we know when he's supposed to, given that he's usually late?

Well, that clock we use to measure everything was invented by a human. Imagine, for a second, a Swiss craftsman working away at a mechanical watch, building a true quality timepiece.

By that craftsman's determined efforts to install those little tiny gears and springs, the watch comes together, a piece of machinery that will last for years, and keep good time. It will do the same thing over and over and over, namely tick. At a constant rate and in a constant fashion.

The watch gets purchased by a businessman who must closely observe his schedule. The quality and craftsmanship assure him that he will always be on time. All thanks to that Swiss watchmaker who painstakingly made sure, indirectly, that this businessman would always be on time.

The woman standing next to him in a queue, though, won't appreciate that when she asks him for the time. She's gotta be home before the ex drops the kids off, and she still has a gazillion things to do, and this line is taking for frickin' ever. When she asks for the time, the businessman glances down at his quality timepiece and tells her its current measurement.

From an objective standpoint, both of them now know what time the Swiss watchmaker's device reads. But both treat the result of that reading very, very differently.

From the moment the first clock was invented, that idea grew in its manifestation and set the referential point from which all things would eventually be measured. Other clocks would follow, and become synchronized. The proliferation of identically-set clocks allowed for the exact measurement of a passage of time according to the pre-established rate, based on that first human observance, recording, and reproduction of it.

But how does time pass for a tree? If a tree had eyes, would it see us as a blur? Relative to itself, of course, which exists for many decades in the same physical location.

For that matter, how does a rock perceive time? Or a crystal? Or a mountain?

The only answer I have is: much, much differently from us.


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

new pic: Lurq hard at work at the office!

A quick pic for all my new twitter friends... snapped March 24th 2009. Just about as current as they come!

Yup, that's me, working hard at the office... and yes, that's a bluetooth headset in my ear, but I *am* happy to see you..

I can't remember if the bluetooth was on at the time; mostly I keep it in my ear so I don't lose the darned thing or have it accidentally turn itself on in my pocket - a pocket is a dangerous place to keep it, because it has this annoying tendency to connect and call people at random. Maybe it looks goofy hanging off of my ear, but.. I just don't care =)

Still looking for some site/app that will run on my Windows Mobile 5.0 Treo 700wx.. the mobile IE browser will NOT load the mobile twitter site, nor can I log into twitter proper using the phone.. any advice greatly appreciated! If you can help, twoot me a tweet @Lurquer =)

Thanks!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Amazon re-Kindles

The Kindle 2 is out. Well, it will be on February 24, 2009, anyway. The nice folks at Amazon have announced the new and improved version of the Kindle, their ebook reader, with a sleeker look, longer battery life, and even a Text-to-Speech option (so your ebook reader can actually read to you). Amazon even makes it easy and effortless to purchase electronic versions of books with a built-in free 3G Wireless access to Amazon's servers.

Definitely worth checking out if you want to save trees and don't mind inconveniencing a few innocent electrons. Amazon boasts upwards of 230,000 titles available for download, so there's sure to be something to please every imagination.

Even though the official release date isn't until February 24, you can take a sneak peek and even pre-order right now.

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