Tuesday, July 31, 2007
By Cara Garretson, NetworkWorld.com, 07/30/07
Spammers are jumping on the success of The Simpsons Movie to trick e-mail users into validating their addresses, so they can then send them more spam.
Since the launch of the movie on July 27 spammers have been sending messages with an embedded picture of Homer Simpson in his underwear. The text asks if the recipient plans to see the new movie and to fill out a related survey by following an embedded link. If the recipient clicks on the link, the Web site records the e-mail address – now knowing that there is a valid user – and sends the address more spam.
The spam message also promises to award a prize to those who fill out the survey, according to antispam vendor SpamFighter, which `caught The Simpsons Movie spam in its filters.
While this new spam blast uses a hot pop-culture topic to entice recipients, the purpose of the spam is a throwback to the early days of e-mail abuse. Unlike phishing scams of late that try to extract personal or financial information from users or e-mails with hidden malware that installs bot nets on unsuspecting PCs, the Simpsons’ scam does nothing more than validate the legitimacy of the address, and then spam some more.Another recent abuse that used the release of a Harry Potter novel and film to entice recipients was also comparatively benign; the W32/Hairy-A worm infected PCs and displayed a file that said “Harry Potter is dead,” among other messages, but didn’t download malware or attempt to extract information from the user
Friday, July 27, 2007
There are some great free security applications available for Windows users -- from privacy-related file shredders to anti-phishing and anti-virus utilities. Ryan Naraine has assembled a list of 10 free utilities you should already be using to help protect, disinfect and manage your Windows computer.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
For its integrity, features and functionality, GMail is the leading webmail application worldwide. For the same reasons, Firefox tends to be the most used browser out there.
As you well know, Firefox can be customized to its full, with the help of plugins and scripts. For example, GreaseMonkey is a Mozilla Firefox extension that allows users to install scripts that make on-the-fly changes to specific web pages. As the Greasemonkey scripts are persistent, the changes made to the web pages are executed every time the page is opened, making them effectively permanent for the user running the script.
Greasemonkey can be used for adding new functionality to web pages, fixing rendering bugs, combining data from multiple webpages, and numerous other purposes. Well written Greasemonkey scripts can integrate changes so well that their additions appear to be natural parts of the web page. I’m going to present the most useful 10 plugins and tweaks to be used with GMail.
Make sure you run decent versions of Firefox and GreaseMonkey before you try to install or run anything shown here. I’ve also included some screenshots of the effects those scripts have on your GMail, so make sure you check them out by clicking the thumbnail to see the large picture.
1. A super clean/white GMail interface
Install instructions | Known issues | Understanding the script
Gmail Super Clean was made to simplify the way Gmail looks. It’s got quite a few customization options. You can change the logo, fonts, show/hide ads and many more, using the User script commands on Greasemonkey. The script is also made public on userscripts.org and statistics show that almost 50,000 people installed it.
2. GMail logo changer
Install / View source
By default, the upper left GMail logo is this. If you got tired of it, this script is exactly what you’re looking for. It will allow you to change the logo to an image of your own, exactly as it happens on the e-mail service from Google Apps.
3. Folders in GMail
This is perfect for you if you liked the folder-like sorting options in the other e-mail solutions, but you rather stick to GMail. Now you can have them both by installing this plugin. Have a look at the before-after timeline and if you think it’d work for you, go ahead and try out the script. If you’re not convinced yet, here’s how it works:
If you have two labels, Mum and Dad and you want them to be subfolders of Family, you need to create three labels: Family, Family\Mum and Family\Dad. In the left you can see how the labels will look before the script, and on the right you can see how the script interprets them. Neat, huh? This script is available for IE7 and Opera9, with the help of additional plugins similar to GreaseMonkey.
4. One click conversations
Plugin page | Install the script
One Click Conversations is a java script for enhancing GMail.
GMail view must be set to “standard with chat” in order for this script to work. It adds an icon just to the left of sender name in list view and in message view so you can access it easily. Clicking on icon takes you to the recent conversations with that user. Rolling over icon in message view pops up menu, as found via the “quick contacts” panel.
As you can see, it adds one click access to recent conversations with each of your contacts. The demo below should explain things succinctly. Have a look and see exactly what I’m talking about.
5. HTML signatures (multiple signatures if you want)
View script source / Install script
HTML in GMail signatures has been an issue since the service was started. Some of us use multiple e-mail addresses, therefore we need multiple signatures, and some of them need to be HTML compatible. I noticed this plugin also fixes the signature placement bug. By default, your signature was placed at the end of the message, no matter if you were composing a new one or replying to an existent one. In the second situation, your reply would have been on top and the signature was placed to the bottom, thus being separated.
The plugin actually creates a link that you can click to insert an HTML signature into a GMail message. Like I said, it supports multiple signatures. Just add a variable at the top that has your HTML in it. Then add that variable name to the array “sigs”. If you have one signature, just make sure that one variable name is in the array. If you have more than one, it will prompt you (on insertion) for which one. Otherwise it just inserts it.
6. GMail + Google Calendar
View source / Install script
This embeds Google Calendar to Gmail by adding a “Calendar” link. The position of the calendar link can be changed by editing the source and modifying the CALENDAR_LINK_POSITION constant (if you don’t see the constant, please update the script). Currently it can only be moved from before the Inbox link to after the Trash link. I’ll try to add more flexibility later.
If you want the Calendar menus aligned at the right of the screen, update the script and edit the source. Check the CALENDAR_STYLES part, you’ll see some commented code, just uncomment it. However this isn’t very useful because the popups for Quick Add and the Calendars settings will appear out of the screen, I hope to fix this in the near future.
7. GMail conversation preview
View source / Install script
The script allows you to get a preview bubble when you right click ANY conversation in GMail. It addresses the broken Archive and Trash features. Also contains some personalizations including a Subject bar below the link toolbar.
8. Google Reader integration
View source / Install script
This doesn’t need a description. It’s just a nice integration of Google Reader, along with other author implementations I’m going to mention below.
*Moved Collapse Gmail link to under Compose Mail
* Removed unnessasary spaces
* Added Google Reader favicon to Reader link
* Added a Launch Reader link to open Google Reader in a new window
* Added a Home link
* Made Reader’s labels collapsable
9. GMail label colors
View source / Install script | Official webpage
10. GMail macros
View source / Install script | Official webpage
Gmail Macros adds additional keyboard shortcuts to Gmail. Some are obvious (and have been done by other scripts) such as “t” for move to trash and “r” for mark as read. However, the author strove to provide a bit more functionality. For example, “p” both marks a message as read and archives it, when you really don’t want to read something (the “p” stands for “purge”). Additionally, the shortcuts can be easily customized by editing the HANDLERS_TABLE constant. More than one action can be chained together by providing a list of action codes (which are contained in the script and were extracted by looking at the generated “More Actions…” menu in Gmail). The other novel feature is for label operations. Pressing “g” brings up a Quicksilver-like display that allows you to begin typing in a label name to go to it (special names like “Inbox” and “Trash” work too). Similarly, pressing “l” allows you to label a conversation with the label of your choosing.
That was it. The world of GreaseMonkey scripts is fairly large, but that’s a good thing. There’s plenty of GMail plugins to choose from, in order to make your life easier and enhance your GMail experience.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Swedish woman, 75, gets superfast Net
By LOUISE NORDSTROM, Associated Press Writer Wed Jul 18, 1:13 PM ET
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - She is a latecomer to the information superhighway, but 75-year-old Sigbritt Lothberg is now cruising the Internet with a dizzying speed.
Lothberg's 40 gigabits-per-second fiber-optic connection in Karlstad is believed to be the fastest residential uplink in the world, Karlstad city officials said.
In less than 2 seconds, Lothberg can download a full-length movie on her home computer — many thousand times faster than most residential connections, said Hafsteinn Jonsson, head of the Karlstad city network unit.
Jonsson and Lothberg's son, Peter, worked together to install the connection.
The speed is reached using a new modulation technique that allows the sending of data between two routers placed up to 1,240 miles apart, without any transponders in between, Jonsson said.
"We wanted to show that that there are no limitations to Internet speed," he said.
Peter Lothberg, who is a networking expert, said he wanted to demonstrate the new technology while providing a computer link for his mother.
"She's a brand new Internet user," Lothberg said by phone from California, where he lives. "She didn't even have a computer before."
His mother isn't exactly making the most of her high-speed connection. She only uses it to read Web-based newspapers.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Monday, July 09, 2007
What is the primary determinant of drive life? I’ve read the latest research and talked to insiders. There are so many variables that the best answer is just . . . luck. Why is that? Is there anything you can do?
- Enterprise drives are no more reliable than consumer drives. The extra money seems to go for margin and warranty costs. These are mass-produced products. There is no secret to making a disk last 3x.
- SMART drive status reporting is pretty useless. If SMART is telling you there is a problem, there probably is a problem. But if it reports no problem, that means nothing.
- Workload has no effect on drive life. So use it all you want. Google did find that a heavy workload increases infant mortality, so when you install a new drive work it hard so you can replace it while it is still economic to do so.
- Ambient temperature has very little effect on drive life until it gets up over 104 F. or 40 C. Even then the effect is slight.
So what does affect drive life?
The research shows that drives are much less reliable than vendors commonly claim. There are two major reasons for this discrepancy:
- Vendor numbers are based on accelerated testing, which means high-temperature operation. That just isn’t a very good simulation of real life, especially real consumer life. But it may explain why drives aren’t much affected by temperature.
- A high percentage of failed drives report “no trouble found” in vendor testing. This probably reflects the quality of the testing more than anything.
The top issues in drive life:
- Drive age. There is some infant mortality, but not much. The big issue is that once drives are three years old their annual failure rates skyrocket.
- Handling. Dropping a drive is a bad idea, even a couple of inches onto a table. I saw evidence in the 1990s that found that reducing drive handling to the minimum required to install it improved reliability by 20% or more. There have been many improvements in shock specs since so this may be less valid, but it still makes sense. Drives are mechanical devices. Don’t knock them around.
- Early production quality. Can’t wait to get your hands on that new 4 TB, 15K drive? You could be buying a problem. The first three months of a new drive’s production typically has a higher failure rate. After that the factory line settles down and quality goes up.
- Statistical variation. Google and CMU looked at 100,000 drives each in their studies. Most of us have very small sample sizes and don’t keep very good records. But the data shows that drives fail for no apparent reason at all ages and in all environments. A drive can fail at any time without warning.
That’s where the luck comes in. Here at Chez Mojo I had four working disk drives at the beginning of last week. By the end of last week I had two. Different vendors, environments, enclosures, ages, everything.
It was just my bad luck. And normal statistical variation.
What about vendors?
I think there are differences, but the conspiracy of silence among big drive consumers, including Google, means data is sparse. But I have some ideas on that for a future post. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
July 3, 2007
Black AIDS Institute Executive Director Phill Wilson contributed the following column to NNPA News Service following the June 28 Democratic forum with Black voters:
When the Democrats gathered on June 28 for the first of Tavis Smiley's All-American Presidential Forums, the conversation about AIDS was a far cry from the sorry spectacle of the 2004 vice presidential debate.
In that 2004 debate, moderator Gwen Ifill asked both Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Democratic nominee John Edwards about confronting HIV among Black women. A befuddled Cheney replied that he was "not aware" of the problem; Edwards ignored the actual question and talked instead about AIDS in Russia and Africa.
But what a difference three years, lots of activism and intrepid Black journalism makes. When NPR's Michele Martin asked about AIDS among Black teens in the June 28 debate at Howard University, the leading Democratic contenders took turns offering meaningful responses.
"If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country," declared Sen. Hillary Clinton, drawing rousing applause. "This is a multiple dimension problem," Clinton concluded. "But if we don't begin to take it seriously and address it the way we did back in the 90s, when it was primarily a gay men's disease, we will never get the services and the public education that we need."
Sen. Barack Obama urged African Americans to challenge stigma surrounding the virus, and notably cited homophobia as a roadblock. "We don't talk about it in the schools," Obama said. "Sometimes we don't talk about it in the churches. It has been an aspect of sometimes a homophobia, that we don't address this issue as clearly as it needs to be."
Obama added that AIDS is but one more symptom of the larger, "interconnected" problems we face. "The African American community is weakened," he declared. "It has a disease to its immune system."
Sen. Joe Biden urged African Americans to get tested and to discard unhealthy notions of Black masculinity that discourage both condom use and sexual communication.
John Edwards outlined three clear policy priorities for stopping AIDS, which included boosting spending to find a cure, guaranteeing universal treatment for people living with AIDS, and expanding Medicaid to cover HIV - a crucial initiative that advocates have tried and failed to get on Washington's agenda for a decade, and which Clinton highlights on her campaign Web site.
Black America has finally convinced presidential candidates that if they want to get our support, they have to meaningfully discuss AIDS-at least when they are talking to us. Now we've got to make them put their platforms where their mouths are. Show us the plan, Mr. and Mrs. Candidate. Show us the plan.
The AIDS story is primarily one of failed leadership, and it's time for our leaders - and our wannabe leaders - to actually lead. No candidate in either party has put forward a plan for dealing with AIDS in the United States, let alone a plan to end the epidemic in Black America. And no candidate should receive a dime from us, let alone our votes, without one.
This demand is a crucial one. An Open Society Institute report highlighted in May that America today has no overarching plan guiding our national response to an epidemic that has killed more than half a million people and left as many as 1.3 million infected today.
There are no listed goals. No benchmarks for success. No delineation of the resources needed. As my grandmother used to say, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."
Black America suffers most from this lack of focus. We account for half of all people living with HIV/AIDS and half of all new infections each year. As Martin noted in her question to the candidates, our children make up 69 percent of new cases among teens. Black women represent two-thirds of female cases. Forty-six percent of Black gay men may already be positive.
So any candidate credibly asking for African American votes must show how he or she plans to end the epidemic in Black America. We must not accept vague promises alone, but must insist that candidates lay out detailed proposals.
The candidates don't have to start from scratch in this process. Last summer, Black community leaders stepped into the void and began plotting a national mobilization to end AIDS in Black America. Twenty-five national Black institutions have since signed on to the effort, which boasts signatories that range from the NAACP to Snoop Dog, Ludacris, Don Cheadle and Beyonce.
Every presidential candidate should sign on to this historic mobilization as well.
The time for haphazard, reactionary policymaking in confronting AIDS is gone. The emergency of the epidemic's early years has long since morphed into a lasting, increasingly complex problem that demands a solution born from proactive planning. Black Americans cannot afford to accept anything less.
So here is what we need to do. Anytime we communicate with a presidential candidate-by mail, email, telephone or in person-ask this question: What is your plan to end AIDS in the Black community?
Learn More at BlackAIDS.org
Black AIDS Institute
Black AIDS Institute