Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wikipedia to Chinese Gov't: Take a Hike

I was just reading an ancient Maximum PC magazine, when I stumbled across this headline: China vs. Wikipedia. The item talks about how China requested censorship of some of Wikipedia's pages, and they responded with a resounding "no." Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, said that he stands "for the freedom of information, and for us to compromise that would send very much the wrong signal: that there's no one left on the planet who's willing to say, 'You know what? We're not going to give up.'"

Way to go Jimmy! I wish Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft shared your sentiments. I'm sick of seeing websites "cooperate" with a totalitarian regime that seeks to enslave its own citizens. When more people start thinking like Jimmy, the internet and the world will become a better place.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Back, After a Long Break; Microsoft vs. Apple: Differing Strategies

Well, here I am. I just got done moving, and have been busy applying for jobs, so I apologize for the wait.

That said, here's my update.

Microsoft and Apple seem to be going in opposite directions: Microsoft is going down, and you know which way Apple is going. But the reality is that both companies are following different strategies.

Microsoft lays the foundation with Windows. The groundwork is all there, but it's up to third parties to develop the utilities and really apply user interfaces to the features.

Apple doesn't wait around for third parties. They build in the features, instead of merely making it possible for third parties to do so.

A good example: Time Machine, from Apple's new Leopard OS, and Shadow Copies, from Vista. They essentially do the same thing; both allow the user to restore backed up versions of their files. but the Time Machine app actually has an understandable and intuitive UI, whereas Shadow Copies only lays the groundwork; it is really just a bare-bones feature.

In the end, Apple's strategy is the one that works, and Microsoft had better get on board or they'll find it out the hard way.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Pretty Please, With Sugar on Top?

We always knew the MPAA and the RIAA were a bunch of ego-maniacal meanies. But now there is an alternative way to combat piracy, one that doesn't involve the usual crew of lawyers piloting the USS Untactful-ness.

You see, these pirates are a funny bunch. Unlike most criminals, who commit crime because they are evil, pirates commit crime because it's fun. That's their sport, their hobby. They don't play football or have big parties. They crack code.

Not only that, they feel that in order to be a real hardcore programmer, they have to crack.

What they fail to realize is the effect this crime has on other people, people like Trey Harrison. They don't realize that the people who are harmed by their actions aren't just faceless executives, but guys like this one, who comb their hair and feed their cats before bed.

But Trey Harrison has discovered a tactic that nobody expected. Is there honor among thieves? It turns out that there is. All Trey did was ask nicely for the pirates to stop stealing his work of 7 years. They agreed to it, and there were no lawsuits, no threats, and no hard feelings.

the MPAA and RIAA could learn a lot from this guy. Instead of making the pirates job more fun by dangling a carrot in front of their noses, they should just hand them the carrot and say, "please don't eat it. We worked hard to grow it."

You can read the complete and unedited email conversation between Trey and the pirates here. There is also an interview with Trey about this incident, and it is particularly eye-opening.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

PC World or Consumer Electronics World?

It seems like every time a new PC World or PC Magazine comes out, there are a few more letters from readers who hate the direction these magazines are going. They want PC content, not general technology news. I agree.

The editors, of course, don't care what their customers want. They think they know better. There is a market for consumer electronics magazines. Besides, HDTVs are kinda like LCD monitors, right? And cell phones run Windows, right? See, PC stuff!

Besides the fact that an HDTV does something totally different from an LCD monitor, and cell phones, do not run Windows, they run Windows Mobile, these magazines' titles dictate that they be PC related. In other words, nobody who wants to read a consumer electronics magazine is going to pick up a magazine called PC World. They will more likely pick up Consumer Reports.

But I wasn't really sure how bad the problem was until I started to look at some statistics. I took PC World's latest issue and the 100 Best Products of 2007 article, and analyzed it a bit. I classified each item into one or more of 33 different categories. Here's what I found:
  • 72 of the items were PC related
  • 31 were not PC related (or were both)
  • 72% of the PC related categories had only 1 or 2 items
  • 44% of the PC related categories had only 1 item
  • The ratio of PC related to non-PC categories was 18/15
So you see, the problem is pretty bad. Why are there items that fit in such categories as "Portable Music Players", "Phone Apps", or "Digital Camcorders"? These have nothing to do with PCs! OK, maybe they can connect to or sync with a PC, but they are not PC products. An mp3 player is not for using with a PC, it is for listening to music. A cell phone application is not for using with a PC, it is for using with your phone.

This is so obvious, but the big headed execs at PC World and PC Magazine can't figure it out: some people want consumer electronics content. But these people are not subscribers to your magazines! They are going to get a magazine that sounds like a consumer electronics magazine, and likewise a person who wants PC content is going to get a magazine that sounds like a PC magazine, like, for instance, PC Magazine! Why can't they figure this out?

None of their subscribers want consumer electronics content. If they don't see this soon, they won't have many subscribers left to put up with them.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

PC Mag's Dvorak: Microsoft is Perfect

I know. That's what I thought. From John C. Dvorak's June 26th column (published in PC Magazine):
What's at issue is the sheer number of [Linux] distros that constantly pour into the market looking for homes. And since they are essentially free, people are inclined to jump from one to another, always looking for the be-all-end-all super-perfect Linux. It will never happen until Microsoft does Linux! Oops. Did I say that?
WHOA! Since when is Microsoft capable of creating the be-all-end-all super-perfect Operating System? And if they are, why haven't they done it yet?!?

OK, this guy has made it official: he has no idea what he is talking about. Besides the obvious fact that Microsoft couldn't possibly create the perfect OS, what is wrong with "jumping from one to another"? We are not looking for the perfect Linux. We are looking for a better OS.

That is the beauty of Linux. You can always move to a different distro if you like it better. Nobody is pretending that Linux will ever be perfect, but the sure-fire way of making the opposite happen is to get Microsoft involved.

Does this guy have something against healthy competition? Obviously he doesn't know that the lack of competition is precisely what has made Microsoft's products suck for so long. Only now is Microsoft even beginning to catch up; why is that? Because it has competition, that's why.

Competition fuels innovation. And without competition, you end up with lousy products that sell at outrageous prices. Just look at the US Postal Service if you need an example. Monopolies halt innovation: competition drives it. Better performance, quality, reliability, prices, you name it: competition produces better products. There are no exceptions.

And this guy wants to stop that from happening. Apparently he wishes we would all go back to buying our OS for thousands of dollars when the computers themselves are capable of doing so much more, if only the OS would take advantage of it.

Not me. I'm slowly but surely making the move to Ubuntu 7.04, and I personally think it will be my last OS switch-over. Make that my only OS switch-over.

EDIT: Want to see what Microsoft's Linux distribution would look like?

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Peeping Google?

Google's release of a new feature for Google Maps has created quite a stir. It's a feature that allows you to see street-level 360 degree pictures of streets in some major US cities. While it may sound really cool, some people are worried about what this may mean for people in these cities.

The following are a few quotes from an article from iTWire and my responses to the concerns:
Online reports of a man picking his nose, another scaling a wall, yet another at the entrance of a strip joint have been found and discussed, while the hunt is on to see what else the photos contain. The discovery some photos allow web surfers to see inside homes through open windows has also caused alarm.

People who don't want others to know that they, for instance, climb walls or visit "gentleman's clubs" need to stop doing those things in public. These pictures were not taken inside people's homes. They were taken from the street. That means anyone out on the street can see the exact same things that can be viewed online. Don't want people to see you go in that strip club? Don't go in.
Google’s new Street View mapping service certainly does add a whole extra level of usefulness to their mapping service, especially as it grows to cover cities worldwide. But if public opinion has anything to do with it, the unintended ‘Go ogle’ feature of seeing faces, seeing into homes, seeing license plate numbers and other private detail on Google Maps is one feature that’s likely to disappear.
I doubt it.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Why Form Fillers Suck

Google Toolbar. Yahoo Toolbar. Opera Browser. What do they all have in common? No, not the fact that they are all seriously overrated. Besides that.

They all have so-called "Form Fillers," a terrible technology that should have been rejected long ago by the security community. It presents several risks in its use. Not only that, but I don't know of anyone who actually uses these things anyway.

The first problem is that of ID theft through a poisoned website. You visit a site, and it has some fields on it. As soon as the page has loaded, BOOM! Your personal information is entered. Spiffy! But wait. Now the page is doing something. It is sending your personal information back to its server, and you don't even know what this website is!

That reason is why most Form Fillers don't do auto-entering: they rely on the user to click a toolbar button to activate it instead. But this presents a new problem: any program can look at the data that has been entered into the Form Filler without permission and steal the data. Unless the Form Filler stores the info in encrypted format (which can still be broken), you are basically writing all your personal information on a 3x5 card, making 100,000 copies, and taping them all to helium balloons and letting the wind carry them away.

That's why Form Fillers suck.

Disagree with me? Do you use this technology all the time, or do you know something I don't? I would love to hear it. Just click the link below and send me a comment.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

How to Get Past Any Censorware

This is not an opinion article, so I will not be delving into the reasons why I oppose censorware (applications that block certain web content). There are plenty of other places to do that.

This is, however, my attempt to get blocked by every censorware program that exists. To do so, I will be explaining in detail how to get past every single web filter ever made.

Step 1: Download this FREE spyware
That's right, we are going to steal your administrator's password and use it to shut down the censorware. To do so, we will be using a free application that is classified as a Keylogger. This means that it monitors the keyboard and records every keypress for later viewing by the spy (in this case you). You can download this free no-nonsense keylogger that doesn't run out (it ain't a trial, it's the full thing) that can hide itself from Windows, logs specific application activity, and uses a hotkey that you specify to unhide it. Click here to download. (A remote proxy is used for security.)

Step 2: Install Perfect Keylogger Lite
Next install the keylogger to a non-suspicious location (don't use C:\Program Files\Perfect Keylogger Lite\). A personal file folder works best (something like C:\Dan\Pictures\PKL\).

Step 3: Set Up The Options
Next, set up the options in PKL: Tell it to run when Windows starts, but start up in Hidden Mode. Set a hotkey for revealing PKL by clicking in the text box that reads "None" and then pressing a series of keys (like Shift-Ctrl-F4). Set a password so only you can open the log. Additional settings are up to you. You may want to tell it to only monitor keypresses in censorware applications by putting "NetNanny" in as a keyword.

Step 4: The Trap
Now you must wait until your administrator comes along to check the censorware and make sure it is working. Alternatively (to speed up the process) you may ask them to add a blocked site to the whitelist, just to get them to enter the password.

Step 5: Check the Log
Tada! You have now learned how to fight fire with fire. Open the log and there it is, your precious password. You may use this to alter the settings of the censorware, shut it down entirely, or even uninstall it from the system!

Hey, I ain't no criminal. I'm just sick of this. Every time my admin changes the password, I know wat it is within two days. It never fails.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Translation Showdown

Alright, I'm sick of it. People on one side saying "Google Translate rules!" while others say "AltaVista's Babel Fish is better!" I decided to have a less-than-scientific contest to see which service actually performed better.

To do so, I ran a paragraph of correct spelling and grammar through each translator's English-to-Spanish translation, then ran the resulting Spanish text through their Spanish-to-English translators. The results are below.

Here is the original English text I used:
This is a test of a few different language translators. We are placing a block of text in each one, converting it from Spanish to English, then back. If it is very similar, the translation service has been successful.
Here are the results from AltaVista's Babel Fish translator:
This one is a test of some diverse translators of the language. We are putting a block of the text in each, turning it of Spanish to the English, then behind. If he is very similar, the service of translation has been guessed right.
Here is the resulting text from Google Translate:
This one is a test of some diverse translators of the language. We are putting a block of the text in each one, turning it of Spanish to the English, then behind. If he is very similar, the service of translation has been guessed right.
Amazing? I think so. The text is identical, except for one word: the word "one" before the comma in the second sentence (that word may be included or left out depending on personal preference). What does this mean? It means that the translation engines are nearly identical in every way, and that it really doesn't matter which one you use.

So there!

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Monday, May 21, 2007

What Hit Counters are Really For

Lots of webmasters claim that a hit counter's purpose is to let them see how much traffic they're getting. This ain't exactly so. There are plenty of ways to do that without using a hit counter. The real reason people use hit counters is not so they can see how much traffic they get, but rather so everyone else can see how much traffic they get.

So really, hit counters are for showing off traffic.

That said, there are a few nice stat services available. I'm going to look at two of them, StatCounter and Google Analytics.


This is a nice stat service, but gross graphical interfaces make it look less than professional. All the standard services are offered and nothing more (this includes IP addresses, locations, ISPs, browser versions, OS versions, screen resolutions, etc.)

Google Analytics

Aha! Google strikes gold with this one. Everything StatCounter offers is available here, plus lots of cool things like seeing what keywords people searched for to find your site, and plotting hits on a map. Unfortunately, no hit counter code is available.

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