Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Technological Digest XII

Long time no post (I was on a short vacation - more in the next post). Many things happened since my last digest - let's review some of them:
  1. One of the nastiest online scams I've ever heard of: someone posted an ad on Craigslist, offering the entire contents of his house for free. The scam? it wasn't his house. By the time the poor owner returned home, he was just in time to catch the last people leaving with his stuff. The mind boggling thing here, is that people refused to give him his stuff back because "it was said on the internet that it's free". I hope some of those bastards will see the inside of a prison cell - for free, of course. Read more about it in this article.

  2. Do you know all this crap software you have on a new computer, that basically drives you to re-install the OS from scratch, just to get rid of all those 3rd grade "trial", "shareware" and "limited edition" applications?

    Sony decided that they can make money out of it. Beginning last week they are offering a service called "Fresh Start". For $50, you can get your new (already expensive) computer with a fresh OS installation. Why do I have to pay to get my machine de-crapified? Why not the opposite? Sell it blank and charge the poor shmos who can't download crappy software on their own.

    Apparently, the economy of the situation is this: Sony and other computer makers (yes Dell, I'm talking about you) get paid quite a lot by all those software companies to pre-install all this crapware on a new machine. So you didn't want to go online and download the latest Norton AntiSomething Limited Edition? Guess what? You're stuck with it now, and uninstalling it is impossible.

    So, although you're paying a hefty sum for that new laptop, those companies try to make an extra with the software they install on the image. Want it clean? You have to reimburse Sony for their loss of revenue. Or spend some time and reinstall the OS.

    Update: it looks like Sony got so much "good publicity" on the internet for charging for this "feature", that they've decided to drop the $50 price. Power to the people!

  3. It seems like Drive Encryption schemes (like Microsoft's BitLocker - available in Windows Vista and 2008), are no match to human ingenuity.

    Recap: a drive encryption security scheme encrypts the entire volume, and only allows access to it to a logged in user. When the user logs out, the drive remains encrypted.

    But 2 methods propose a way around the scheme. Mind you, these are not encryption cracking methods - the encryption algorithm (AES in the case of BitLocker) is quite secure. But since the key is retained in memory while the user is logged in, it can be accessed. On method proposes booting an alternate OS from a USB drive and accessing the disk.

    The more exotic method, suggests with freezing your RAM, yanking out the DIMM (apparently, if the DIMM is at a freezing temperature, it retains its content), making a full copy of its contents (including the encryption key), and returning the DIMM back before the original user notices. Scary. People, don't leave your laptop alone.

  4. While most of the world is appalled by the atrocities committed by the Chinese regime in Tibet (and in general), Google is advising it's shareholders to vote against motions that will prevent it from serving personal surfing data to that (and other democracy loving) regimes, or cooperating with censorship demands.

    My opinion? I'm just wondering if a similar board meeting took place at IBM in 1939, when they found out what their computers are really used for in Nazi Germany. You can read more here.
    All I can wish for is that one day one of those C-types be stuck in China, and thrown into custody for searching for the wrong term on the web.

    BTW, lest it be interpreted that I'm a Google basher, Yahoo and Microsoft probably have the same scenes playing. Yahoo in particular, likes handing people over to the Chinese government.

  5. If you are using Apple iTunes, you are probably used to seeing new versions of it and QuickTime (Apple's multimedia solution) pushed to you through the Apple Software Update application.

    Last week, Apple started pushing it's Safari 3 browser as well (optional download).
    I played with Safari in the past and ran into some issues. It crashed several times, it fails to display certain sites correctly and on the whole, I prefer Firefox. But this shows Apple is trying to push its way into the PC world, and not just as a platform for its iPod line.

    In the meantime, until that browser becomes more mature, I suggest un-checking it in Software Update.

  6. I started using the eBay Desktop AIR application. It's much easier and nicer to use than the eBay website. And then I made the mistake of reading the Privacy Policy:

    INFORMATION SHARING. We may share the anonymous information we collect with our third-party service providers, who provide us, under contract, with internal services and assist with business operations.

    SECURITY. We use lots of tools to protect your personal information against unauthorized access and disclosure, but we do not promise, and you should not expect, that your personal information or private communications will always remain private.
    Yes, I should not expect my information to always remain private, and maybe they should not expect me to always play by their rules? Several things come to mind here, but I'll try to keep this civil: BASTARDS. I just hope someone will nail them in court for this.

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