After requesting users update their online identities recently, Moniker has issued a statement providing more details of the hack that prompted it.
In the past several weeks, we have seen suspicious activity on our platform which included login attempts to various accounts from unknown sources. We have reason to believe credentials to the accounts in questions may have been obtained through exploitation of the Heartbleed Bug published earlier this year. In addition to suspicious activity, there have been brute force attacks against Moniker accounts resulting in unauthorized domain name transfers. Our staff is working diligently to identify instances of unauthorized transfers and to revert them as soon as possible. To date, we have recovered any domain that was transferred without authorization.
Brave indeed except the message carries a hint that Moniker is actually trying to establish if there are customers affected who may not have otherwise checked. Chances are, you would have noticed if your domains had been transferred without your knowledge from Moniker but, if you are a customer, keep an eye on your account. What is interesting is that, even as an owner of a single domain at Moniker, it transpires in their correspondence that BabbleTalk’s account actually has three separate identities – two more than we knew about or are necessary – all of which were presumably exposed in the Heartbleed attack of last month. Not encouraging.
We encourage you to notify us immediately if you feel your account has been compromised or if you believe you are missing domains; however, we are confident all such cases have been identified.
English: The three biggest web search engines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The recent ruling by the European Court which requires Google to remove links to (technically, to de-index) content related to privacy claims is more than baffling, it is bloody stupid. The ruling requires the search megalith to unpick paths to material which is out of date and refers to individuals who have sought legal redress.
The Court of Just Bloody Stupid
This is not a defence of Google. The monopoly search provider has enormous market power, and a close eye should be kept on how it wields it. However, the tax-averse internet giant is an indexer of the web, not a builder of its content (in this case, at least). The ECJ ruling typifies the ignorance of technology that pervades politics and lawmaking.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) upheld the complaint of a Spanish man who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name threw up links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home.
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Horizon, 2001 (Photo credit: archiveatthebbc)
Until Dava Sobel’s 1996 book, and Charles Sturridge’s wonderful dramatisation, the process of solving one of the most intractable scientific problems of the 18th century was a story unknown. Building a Better Clock was not the stuff of Boys’ Own Adventures, yet the details of how country carpenter-cum-engineering genius John Harrison produced a highly accurate marine timepiece is a worthy read. The closest Harrison had come to popular attention was in the classic Only Fools and Horses episode “Time On Our Hands” which sees Peckham’s finest discover a Harrison timepiece in their lockup. Sturridge’s 2000 production, starring Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons, cleverly wove Harrison’s story with a narrative from post-wartime Britain whereby ex-naval officer Rupert Gould re-discovered and re-built the original working clocks as part of his writing of the history of Harrison’s masterpieces and kind-of winning the Longitude Prize.
This prize was offered by Act of Parliament in 1714 with the promise of up to £20,000 to whoever could solve the problem of determining a ship’s longitude whilst at sea. In these TomTom times, it can be a tad hard to imagine the sheer scale of the problem facing sailors, particularly during the advance of Britain as a significant naval power almost a century before Trafalgar was won. Yet the Act of Queen Anne promised a prize sufficiently grand to tempt a long line of nutters, fraudsters, astronomers and innovators all eager to snaffle the prize. Harrison eventually received the bulk of the fund, albeit after a lifetime of difficult dealings with the committee responsible for awarding the money.
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OS X Mavericks (Photo credit: Binarycse)
Concerns regarding Apple’s quality assurance mechanisms continue with the release of OS X Mavericks. This major update to the desktop operating system for all Macintosh products was a welcome surprise – it includes a new version of iBooks for the desktop, together with enhancements for the iWorks suite, iCloud integration and the launch of desktop Maps. To top it all, this 10.9 release of OS X is completely free to all users who are on Snow Leopard (10.6) or above, marking a significant marketing switch on the part of the Cupertino crew. Yet this gift has come with some major headaches for users and demonstrates a worrying loss of quality – the bugs found so far are beyond niggling and are potentially damaging.
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Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO
A disturbing state of affairs at Facebook is announced today in a BBC story on how the company will allow video clips of decapitation (and presumably other violent acts) to be published on its site. Worth noting that Facebook allows – indeed encourages – users from the age of 13. In responding to concerns from the public, these fools attempt to defend their non-stance as a contribution to debate:
“… users should be free to watch and condemn such videos …”
Nice to see that Facebook can look into the minds of its users and understand their reactions, motives and feelings. This is nasty stuff, and an absurd response from an organisation which clearly has no sense of the community which made and supports it. Facebook remain opposed to nudity, of course, but are quite happy to ensure that children can watch violent and bloody execution, ignoring any psychological damage that may result. I am a fan of both the Facebook service and a balanced approach to internet censorship, but such a position from a family-orientated and leading internet site is more than just incredible. The policy shift on Facebook videos by Zuckerberg’s troupe of idiots is frankly dangerous. I have written to them – not a simple exercise as their contact options are limited to reporting offensive content. Go figure ! – and will post up any response received.
Please can you explain today’s story on the BBC that Facebook is allowing decapitation videos to remain on its site ? See the details here:
I would appreciate a response from you on how such a policy can be defended.
Thanks and regards
English: Cover for the Sustainable Business Book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A recent group question on LinkedIn caught my eye – the argument over whether a business plan is really needed. Fuelled by dotcoms which have thrived on sizzle and presence alone – as opposed to revenue and/or margin – it is the constant barrage of high profile startups getting snaffled by the big TechCo’s for huge bucks which suggests the path to business riches is through luck rather than business-smarts. People get lazy, perhaps, and rely on daring and panache; avoiding the basics and letting their site talk for their idea. It is difficult to fault but for mere mortals, a plan remains a sensible approach. As well as a decent description of the proposal, a realistic prediction of how the business will ‘work’ over time is extremely useful.
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Ancestry.com (Photo credit: LollyKnit)
Online sources for family histories have grown over the past 10 years, made popular by TV programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are and Heir Hunters. I got hooked back in 2006 whilst playing around on FriendsReunited and getting redirected to their offshoot, GenesReunited. Like its daytime TV inspiration, I could think of nothing more dull than checking out one’s family tree. Watching those drones looking through microfiche on Heir Hunters was pepped up for the cameras, of course, but seemed boring nonetheless. It is deceptive, though. Once you find a previously unknown family member on some obscure list, you can get quickly hooked. Knowing very little about my father who died when I was young, it was perhaps inevitable that I would be driven to check it out. I got interested very quickly. The fervour lasted for a year or two before I came to a stop. I returned to it recently as my partner and family started doing their own research. I resurrected my account on GR and then discovered that I had also signed up with Ancestry. I recovered my login details and I was away. It proved interesting to see how both sites / services had evolved since 2007 and I soon realised the mistakes I made in my earlier research. I thought it worth passing on some tips / experiences, as well as reviewing these two leaders of the online genealogy game. Be warned – this family tree stuff can be seriously addictive and time-consuming !
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Windows 7 build 7600 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ever first in line to slag off those chaps in Redmond, I was seething when a dodgy motherboard forced me to re-install Windows 7 and provided the unhelpful status update that my copy of Windows was not authentic. True to form, the Microsoft online help text – I was searching for a way to purchase a new product key to get round said failure-to-activate – kept pushing me towards Windows 8. Bloody annoyed then as I assumed I would be stymied by no further sales of Win7 access. I stepped slowly through the online activation process to be referred to a Microsoft Support phone number. OK – so it was freephone; what did I have to lose by calling ? Imagine my pleasant surprise when, having gone through a validation process with their non-English-as-a-first-language call centre, I was rewarded with a pukka installation ID which duly got my copy of Win7 legalised and online. Limited pain; a helpful and efficient call centre agent; no language difficulties; a working and legal copy of my OS. Nicely done, Microsoft. Now, if only I can get them to see the strategic error of their ways (licensing quicksand, short-termism, derivative product development, knee-jerk technologising ….) then it might just be worth buying the odd bundle of MSFT shares ………
Fair took me by surprise when I was asked by Google if I wanted to Try Handwrite when I was searching today on my iPad browser. Why not ? Gave it a try and quite sexy it is too. Worked a treat – I can write anywhere on the screen and the underlying ‘tech’ hosted on Google.co.nz scans and inserts what it interprets as the associated text into the search box, automatically switching into the results pane. The OCR know-how is not perfect but not bad and it is surprisingly useful to enter search terms this way without typing on the virtual keyboard.
The experience was all the more intuitive as I had already taken to using an Endeavour hand stylus with the iPad for tapping away (and writing into apps such as WhiteNote). I could now switch straight into handwriting using my stylus ‘pen’ for searching. Well worth a play for tablet users – I am assuming Try Handwrite detects the source browser and device – in my case, Safari on the iPad – and offers the written option. Very slick.
Reports today that Apple’s online sales have dropped for only the second time ever is not a major shock to those of us that use their online services. The performance Apple online through iTunes has been noticeably poorer of late. Updates almost always fail – it can take up to 5 attempts to contact the “iTunes Server” and get an app updated. Similarly, a “Genius” update can take 20 or 30 minutes on a library normally updated in less than 1 minute. Having dismissed this as a local bandwidth issue, it now seems it is a general malaise, and arguably the source of the drop in sales given iTunes underpins the whole Apple ecosystem. Tricky to understand what has happened – whether an software update to the online iTunes infrastructure has gone wrong, or possibly the now endemic malicious activity, or just plain and simple capacity issues mis-managed at Apple datacentres ? Comment from the Cupertino crew would be very welcome. “This wouldn’t have happened in Jobs’ day, I can tell you !”
SAN ANSELMO, CA - NOVEMBER 16: The Beatles catalog is displayed on Apple's iTunes on November 16, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. Apple has struck a deal with the record label EMI and the Beatles' company Apple Corps to sell digital downloads of the legendary rock band's music on iTunes. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Tim Cook, Apple COO, in january 2009, after Macworld Expo keynote. Picture by Valery Marchive (LeMagIT) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There had been a bit of a build-up in the press, looking forwards to Apple’s 19th March announcement of how it intends to spend its cash mountain of $250+ billion. Nice problem to have and the media had some fairly whacky suggestions for how the Cupertino coffers might be flushed onto a grateful world. These included giving every employee a Cessna, paying it’s Chinese workers a bonus, building “another Internet” or delivering cutting-edge research. All charming stuff but the announcement from CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer went down the expected path (released 30 minutes before the press call on March 19th anyway) and offered up something tasty to the shareholders.
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Image by Getty Images via @daylife
The tech world is tuning into what TechRepublic calls, in a somewhat hand-wringing fashion, the fragmentation of Android. This refers to the multiple flavours of the Google open-source operating system that has become a newly-hyped darling of the mobile world. Each manufacturer has taken a version and modified it for its own hardware, frequently tying the user to their particular Android build. One might feel this spawns instant frustration for the owner but this rapid differentiation of the operating system is not necessarily “a bad thing”. Any open source product is open to re-working such that different development streams occur. With most such software of course, the user is traditionally more tech-savvy and will select their optimal version with a degree of awareness, often re-compiling the version from the source code with possibly their own tweaks and customisations. For phone and tablet consumers, this is not an option; however technically competent they may be. The key is that they still gain access to homogeneous applications via Android Market – any differentiation where such apps are no longer genuinely portable will quickly kill that particular branch. The variation in Android versions is usually to take advantage of a specific manufacturer’s hardware. Manufacturers do make the re-vamped source code available – see HTC’s development site – but realistically users of a particular piece of hardware are locked in.
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Simply awesome are these videos via NASA from the International Space Station
Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.
Around the World in 90 Minutes – Every 90 minutes, astronauts aboard the International Space Station experience just that. Recently, crew members took a series of light-sensitive videos looking down at night that have been digitally fused to produce the above time-lapse video. Many wonders of the land and sky are visible in the eighteen sequences, including red aurora above green aurora, lights from many major cities, and stars in the background. Looming at the top of the frame is usually part of the space station itself, sometimes seen re-orienting solar panels.
Worth checking the NASA site regularly as there are frequent postings of similar beauty
Image via Wikipedia - The tangled web of deceit ?
The New York Times is reporting on results from a German tool which has been measuring ISP performance globally. Its fascinating, if unsurprising, results show that European customers suffer most from throttling of bandwidth by ISPs. The UK is the worst market for this and the Max Planck Institute singles out British Telecom – BT plc – as the major offender. No shock really to those of us who have endured BT’s variable network performance for the last decade. Traffic shaping is one thing – having defended BT’s productisation of a full Content Delivery Network in the past – but what appears to be a deliberate attempt by the former PTT to limit its backhaul capacity and related costs by ripping off its customers should be a scandal. How sad then that Ofcom has so far made no response. Another triumph for the insipid regulator in the wake of its less-than-glorious enforcement of ‘guidelines’ on misleading claims of capped versus uncapped internet access plans and labelling of speeds in advertising for broadband services in the UK.
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Image by flashboy via Flickr
And yet more on the UK phone hacking scandal paralyzing the global media – still managing to divert attention away from the Euro meltdown and the US budget fiasco. Hacking fraternity LulzSec, which allegedly hacked websites belonging to the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency, the US Public Broadcasting Service, Sony Corp, the CIA, NATO and several FBI-affiliated groups, has now turned its attention to News International. Visitors to TheSun-co.uk – website of the UK’s Sun tabloid owned by the Murdoch stable – now get re-directed to the @LulzSec Twitter feed.
We have owned Sun/News of the World – that story is simply phase 1 – expect the lulz to flow in coming days
Far from “RIP LulzSec” , it is “Viva La Revolution” for the hackers. Whilst it is never quite clear what is the motivation for very public security exploits, it seems general antipathy towards Murdoch and his minions shows no sign of abating. Collateral damage is escalating too with the resignation of the UK’s most senior copper Sir Paul Stephenson (at least the muppet in charge of the original, flawed investigation, John Yates, has gone. Not before time. ). It is going to get worse – watch out for the attacks on other newspapers (the Mirror is already being targetted by the BBC) and Britain in general, as our national reputation – always a favourite for foreign nose-thumbing – heads down the toilet once more.
Image by ianfogg42 via Flickr
Whereas the News Of The World Phone ‘Hacking’ scandal was really about dodgy opportunists working for News International who dialled into other people’s mobile voicemail using default passwords, there is news across the internet today that core network components of the UK Vodafone 3G network have actually been hacked. First spotted on web blog The Hackers Choice and tweeted by @Nissemus, some intrepid souls have taken apart a Vodafone Sure Signal box. This device is known in the industry as a Femtocell; a miniature mobile base station which connects to the Vodafone network via the internet. It is sold by Vodafone as a solution for people who have internet at home but no mobile signal. Now, by making some modifications to the box and with some knowledge of Linux and networking, the box can be used to capture details of other people’s mobile phones and further to use that data to request data from the Vodafone core. An unscrupulous hacker could then make calls or send SMS messages using those details without having access to the actual mobile phone of the user concerned, along with other listed exploits. Worst still, the underlying paranoia of the recent “phone hacking scandal” headlines becomes real – the hacker could listen to and record the phone calls of any mobile subscriber trapped in this way. 3G networks have always been assumed to be the most secure with all traffic highly encrypted using keys; keys that would now be available using the methods described.
So far there has been little comment outside of the anorak networks but given the appetite for mobile-hacking-related panic fodder, this story is likely to grow quickly. Unlike the voicemail problem, this does actually have a basis in technical reality as an actual ‘hacking’ exploit. Vodafone are yet to comment but one would hope that a simple password change at the core and careful monitoring of network requests from Sure Signal boxes would limit the potential for mischief. Still, with the advent of mobile payment solutions, this is not the time for any doubts about the security of commercial mobile networks !
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
A number of online services have sprung up which enable users to push data from their PCs (and other devices) onto the ‘net for storage and sharing. These are so-called ‘Cloud’ services – not file-sharing solutions such as Limewire which share a section of your PC’s hard drive with other users across the ‘net – but a remote hard disk to which you can save files as if it were a part of your PC’s own storage. What started as a backup solution enabling copies of important data to be held ‘in the cloud’ – on servers sitting on the internet to you and me – has grown into a means of publication of information, and has spawned a whole, hyped industry busily suggesting that everything can be moved into the cloud. The ultimate ‘thin client’ then – your PC (or slate or moby) becomes a dumb ‘client’ device, accessing its apps and data within the internet, not downloading them to you but accessing, manipulating and saving them within the cloud.
The services frequently come in a free version, providing a minimal amount of online storage which can be grown by spending dosh with the providers. This type of storage can be extremely useful but the services out there are not without their risks and hidden pitfalls.
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Garagesale is an eBay authoring and tracking tool for sellers. It is an interesting app and certainly helps streamline the eBay process. However, it is buggy and is not very intuitive. The registered version does not remove the developers’ tags as promised – although they did respond quickly to my query to say it would be fixed in the next version. The Media inspector does not refresh with available photos on your disk unless you restart the app. You cannot drag images onto the templates unless it is from the built-in Media library inspector. You need to create a separate Event to schedule an auction – you cannot do this within a template. The whole template versus event versus auction structure is not intuitive so you need to work through the (otherwise good) online videos and help guides to understand the flow.
The layouts are very good, though. Photo hosting and the events feature will save you a few pennies on eBay, depending on how you normally run your auctions. The dashboard widget is great (and free). I like it but can’t recommend it totally for the money. If you are a big eBay user and need to load up lots of auctions then it is worth it. Otherwise, I would wait for a newer version than 6.0.9, or just use the built-in eBay tools.
Image via Wikipedia
James Cameron has much to answer for – and I am not referring to Titanic. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the marvellous Avatar, the 3D presentation did not especially bring the film to life for me, and heralded a mad rush to promote the inclusion / adoption of the technology. With the glut of depth-mastered films came a push by UK trailblazer Sky Broadcasting to get it’s transmission of a new channel lined up with the release of 3D TV devices by the main manufacturers.
Fast forward a year and consumer electronics is heralding the arrival of sooper-dooper hand-held gaming devices which now also sport the Emperor’s new clothes. But is anyone really forking out on the new reality ? It really is getting silly when it seems any device simply has to have a “3D” moniker to get sold.
So it started with movies: apart from being able to scratch out a few quid to rent a pair of Michael Caine’s to the great unwashed, film producers loved the fact that 3D presentations are more difficult to pirate. Marketing machine into overdrive, then, as the studios decide to pump megabucks into a parade of perspective-warping wonders. Problem is that, whilst the effect is interesting for the first 15 minutes of a film, it rapidly dwindles away as your eyes adjust. I discovered the added delight of eye strain and the warning signs of a major headache. Couple this with washed out colour depth and parallax errors (image ‘faults’ caused by your position in the cinema relative to the screen) and it becomes tiresome. Pointless, then, verging on the painful.
Hardware manufacturers took the studio hype and spun it into Blue Ray players and TVs with 3D capability. Again, the ever-present speccie accompaniments remain obligatory for what becomes an even quicker case of ‘so what’ than the big screen. Not helped by a huge chorus of everyone but the ultimate tech-heads not running to the shops to snaffle grand-plus-price-tagged gear.
Then comes Sky TV with its 3D ambitions. Hot on the heels of the new tellies in the shops, the Murdoch Men shape up to transmit more parallax-pony to the masses. The marketing of Sky 3D – very evident in Banker Central, aka London City – has quietened down of late. Again, I suspect take-up has been tiny. It has gone from “Build it, And They Will Come” to “Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Depth”.
And so to 3D gaming consoles. Now that’s a reasonable idea – immersive gaming sounds a treat but so far only available on, er, hand-held devices such as the Nintendo 3DS. Another shot in the foot for Consumer Electronics. Not to be outdone, HP and others launch the 3D laptop. Possibly the most farcical device ever invented ! Would I really want to venture into my Facebook page ? Could it possibly improve my productivity to see around the edges of my Microsoft Word document ? Nope. Still, they have managed to create a slick-looking piece of kit which no longer requires the ridiculous bins to view the other dimension. Problem is, do I really want to carry round 3D movies to watch on-the-go ? I cannot see the point of a 3D laptop. Worse still to come with the charming 3G phone from LG – unless of course I can talk to a holographic representation of my called party. Hmmm.
3D through whatever medium – and certainly in its current, largely bespectacled form – is novel but is hardly going to revolutionise the visual arts. Given a choice between the available dimensions of any movie, I will probably continue to plump for an old-fashioned number 2.
Whilst TalkTalk still carry the flag for all that is bad in Broadband service provision and customer service in the UK, a recent trip down under gave me the chance to measure Telecom New Zealand’s home internet service. A friend has a 40GB prepaid service – beyond which she is charged per KB for traffic. Telecom also offers a version which will cap the Broadband at 40GB and then throttle the bandwidth to 64Kbps Up/Down once the cap is reached. An error on their part put my friend onto this cap-and-throttle offering so it would seem a simple phone call could resolve the problem and get service back to speed, albeit with a bill for the excess.
Not so. Telecom NZ, it seems, have a penchant for outsourcing Customer Services to various teams across both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Contacting their Customer Services number seems to send you to India or perhaps the Netherlands, judging by some of the accents encountered (we finally established, after 6 phone calls of 30 minutes plus each, that the centre is in the Philippines). Fair enough but, as we in the UK can wearily attest to when dealing with offshored call centres, the keys to good outsourcing are good process, procedures and training for the minimum-wage peeps stuffed into the call reception centres. It took almost 10 days to get the service problems rectified. Worse still, Telecom NZ – should you be lucky enough to get one of their New Zealand On-shore call handlers – are irritatingly patronising about how bad their off-shore colleagues are. It’s an old tactic – blaming some other team for the fact that the service the customer is paying through the nose for cannot be fixed until manana. However refreshingly honest Telecom staff are trying to be, it really is the same old story. Bad management, poorly executed offshoring and a low-margin/high-volume product with poor service description, procedures and systems. This coupled with a service that uses a large amount of Line-Of-Sight backhaul and technical problems abound (just watch the throughput dwindle when it rains !). And then there is the killer blow – the price. The cost of this service to my friend is NZD285 per month – that’s almost £150 a month for a less-than 2MB down (250Kbps upload) service ! This is 10 times more than what is paid in Europe for a similar service. I had expected better from Telecom NZ given some of the examples of superior infrastructure in NZ, such as EFTPOS payment in all shops and the quality of retail banking generally.
Bit scary then for the populace when it was recently announced that Telecom – and not some of its smaller rivals – has been given the lion’s share of the broadband expansion that the government here is promoting. Their huge market share is about to be increased and it is unclear whether urban broadband users will be expected to subsidise the rural network. Some reports suggest that Telecom NZ will have exclusivity but I am assured that this is not the case. For the Kiwis’ sake, let’s hope their incumbent learns a bit about service provision and management before then !