Thief Thoughts for the Holiday

I never update the blog, I don’t seem to have time for a whole lot, it seems. But the more I think about things like data security, and the possibility of employment and moving on to “real life” at the end of next semester, I keep wondering what I’ll end up doing. Writing has been my major, computers a passion and almost an expertise. But nothing proves skill more than experience.

Experience and intuition. With all of the worry about identity theft and computer criminals… they forget about simple crimes… robbery, breaking and entering, things like that. During the holiday season, there is generally a spike in these types of incidents – people know there are gifts in the house.

Shows like Discovery Channel’s “It Takes a Thief” have done a good job bringing this back to the attention of the masses; their website even reminds you that a theft takes places every 15 seconds in the United States. So, why not take one simple precaution in protecting yourself this year.

Do not dispose of all of your gift boxes. Think about this. It’s very simple, yet very effective. You got lucky and got a Playstation 3. I did (and I’m currently selling it on eBay {I will not include the obligatory link, for fear that people think I am just trying to plug my auction}). Let’s say you didn’t get lucky with it – let’s say you forked over $1,500 for it!

Your child opens it for Christmas, sets it up, enjoys it… everyone is happy. Then you throw the box in the trash. Now, me, I was always a pack-rate when it came to that stuff, I figured if I sold my Super Nintendo, or my Nintendo 64, years down the line, and I had the box, somebody might pay more for it. Some people hang on to that idea, others don’t. Let’s say you don’t. You throw the box away.

Thieves are scouting for prime targets. Do they think they’ll make off with your 62″ Plasma TV? Not unless they’re brave. Throw that box away, it’s too big to keep around. But that Playstation 3 box by the trash can lets someone know that inside that house, there must be a PS3. And thus, a target is born. It doesn’t matter if it’s weeks before they act on it – they might case your house several times to make sure there is little or no security. But the fact remains, if someone knows there’s a PS3 in that house, it’s the kind of item that a thief would love to go in, get, and get out.

I know, I know, you’re rolling your eyes and ignoring this – I would be, too – that’s why I tried some catchy writing! But the fact remains, if this happens “every 15 seconds” – then it could happen to any one of us. Just store the box in the attic for a while – if you are that hard-up for space… maybe… shred it?

Just a simple tip. Now I’m not saying there is a theft epidemic, I really don’t even know how this got on my mind, but I just thought it should be shared. I’ve been so out of my blog loop that I just wanted to drop something that people might want to read. If you made it this far, I commend you.

Peace on ya,
-G

Microsoft's answer to HD-DVD & Blu-Ray fuzzy at best

We’re still trying to adjust the rabbit ears on this one. Let me see if I can clear the picture up for you.

Microsoft first says “we won’t support Blu Ray & HD DVD” at an Australian conference. The news spatters all around the internet. I wasn’t surprised. Why? Microsoft doesn’t support DVD play back in Windows XP, either. At least, not without additional downloads. Once you have something like PowerDVD installed it will work fine – even in Windows Media Player. That might give users the impression that Windows has always played DVD’s – but, in reality, without having installed some 3rd party DVD software and the files that go with it, Windows Media Player does not natively support DVD Playback.

Microsoft went on to correct the statement that it will “not support HD-DVD & Blu Ray” – but with the same answer that was actually already stated. Not “out of the box.”

This article on C|Net’s News.com states that “Playback is possible with Windows Vista in 32-bit. The decision of whether to offer that support, the representative said, won’t be made by Microsoft but rather by the third-party software makers that create DVD playback software” Well, duh. Just like we thought.

At least, just like I thought. Windows XP doesn’t do it, we shouldn’t expect Windows Vista to. Not unless we all want to pay MORE than we already will be shelling out for legit copies of Windows Vista (no, it’s true, no official pricing has been released, as of yet, but we can assume “Ultimate Edition” is going to cost far more than a tiny $75 upgrade fee). There is a fee to pay for DVD decoding technology – and I, for one, don’t want that added in to what I expect to be a high priced OS.

So, “out of the box” – the reports are right, Vista will have no HD-DVD or Bluray playback support. Of course, out of the box, Vista wont have ANY DVD support. You will need to get your hands on a copy (probably OEM with most ‘new’ computers, and DVD-ROM/RW drives) of PowerDVD. I remember a time when Windows didn’t have native mp3 support – things like WinAmp were required – Windows didn’t come with any kind of MP3 CODEC. DVD, HD-DVD, and BluRay are all things we can worry about later. I’m sure your Blu-Ray collection won’t be so big, in January-February, that you’re going to die if Vista doesn’t include support without 3rd party software.

Peace on ya,
-G

Apple Recall

It’s in every other blog in the country, why not mine?

With the Dell Recall (issued nearly half a year ago) making headlines the past few weeks, and today’s “2nd largest electronics recall in American History” issued by Apple, people are wondering what the problem is.

Exploding batteries, however, are not new. Back in 2004, you my recall (no pun intended) the Kyocera recall, after SE-44 and 47 Slider phones would explode in people’s pants! In fact, yours truly discarded his slider after a room mate noticed that, while charging, the phone sounded like “rice krispies.”

But if you’re interested in following all of the news related to the Apple Recall, read up.

Peace on ya,
-G

New MS game to allow PC-Xbox combat…

On November 12, [2004,] Microsoft Corp. filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the Shadowrun mark. Although this doesn’t confirm a game is in development, it is a positive sign for those waiting for a Shadowrun game.

Shadowrun is a fictional universe that was introduced as a role-playing game (RPG) by FASA Corporation in 1989.

Nearly two years after the application was filed, Microsoft’s Shadowrun is coming to life. Not only does it visually look good, the ideas pushing the game are finally starting to blur the line between consoles and PC’s. With Microsoft recently renewing their dedication to PC games, people thought maybe it wasn’t the end of an era – but with a promise like this, it’s very possible that not only are they not giving up on the PC gaming market – they’re breathing new life in to it.

In a May 9th, 2006 press release, Microsoft stated:

“Shadowrun™” (Microsoft Game Studios) brings the Microsoft vision of “Live Anywhere” to life. “Shadowrun” from FASA Studio is the first cross-platform game for Xbox 360™ and Windows Vista. It is a multiplayer, FPS that propels team-based combat into a new dimension with a revolutionary blend of modern weaponry and ancient magic. “Shadowrun” will be available when Windows Vista is launched.

While I anticipated a former FASA game to find its way to the PC market as an MMoRPG, I’m not sure if World of Warcraft’s numbers have scared developers from trying to compete, or if the game was dreamed up as something different from the beginning. But it appears as though the game will be developed to have a “death match” mode.

From Shadowrun’s prelaunch website:
For the first time ever, Xbox 360 and Windows gamers can compete as a team or as foes. Experience a quantum leap in interactivity as console and Vista PC gamers battle for supremacy online via Windows Vista and Xbox Live®. As you battle endlessly for the right to be crowned the last man standing, you’ll also struggle to answer the age-old of question of which is the more efficient killer: Windows PC or Xbox 360? Through the unprecedented cross-platform functionality, up to 16 gamers using both Windows PC and the Xbox 360 console will participate together in the ultimate multiplayer frag-fest.

Essentially the goal is to turn your XboX live account into the new “Microsoft Passport.” Your Microsoft Live account will act as a ‘buddy list’ for you to communicate with players on either PC or Xbox 360. You should even be able to play the same profile on both machines. It’ll be expensive to buy the same game twice, but hey, who doesn’t have two copies of Oblivion, right?? …right?

Exciting stuff, more to come!

Peace on ya,
-G

MySpace is Under Attack!

My space is constantly under attack. I mean, if I were a malicious spy-ware developer who was out to infect the maximum number of click-happy eager young fools, there’s only one place for me! Now that I’ve picked my mark, MySpace, how do I go about infecting all of them?

MSNBC is carrying a pretty good article that tells you what’s going on, and just why you and all of your friends complain about their computers being “slower than they were when they bought it.” Banner ads that you don’t even have to click on before they infect you with something else.

The games you play, videos you watch, songs you hear, and funny little ‘refrigerator magnet’ message boards you interact with are all potential threats to your safety and your sanity. If they’re not using the backdoors they install on your computer to spy on you, they’re giving you all of the popups you can stand (and more that you can’t). And if there’s something on your computer that can do that, someone else can take advantage of that ‘backdoor’ and use it to their own end. You are not safe, and that’s all there is to it.

But hey, as long as you can check out that blonde chick’s rack, I’m sure you’re happy.

Peace on ya,
-G

Phishing Goes White Collar

I was reading up on some posts from over at the ISC and I came upon an interesting read. A visitor to their site wrote in and had a pretty surprising phishing scam to tell about. Now, I don’t know that this will impact many of my readers (we’re all poor, here, right?) – but if you’ve ever rented a home to stay at for a summer vacation or similar trip, this may deserve your attention. I’ve also got a story, beneath that, of my recent personal experience dealing with a defenseless family.

The reader wrote in that they were an employee of one such rental firm, that rented out nearly 600 properties – what he experienced, was a client of his writing in and bringing something to his attention. The problem appeared to be a normal renting site, which had a Photo Shopped ‘dream vacation home’ for rent. The contact information was scarce, just a single Yahoo! Mail address. Doesn’t seem very trustworthy to me.

Upon contacting this Yahoo! address, the experienced renter received a reply which told him that the property was in demand, and urged him to quickly send some form of payment, and then his keys would be mailed out. That was it. Cut and dry. “Send me money, and I’ll send you keys.” If you really think this is how business works, you’d best be checking your credit reports right now. Even eBay has at least a few checks and balances in place to try to avoid you getting ripped off.

Last week, at work, I came across a family of distraught computer users. Odd, I thought, I’m always cheery when I’m around a computer (sure). They were using public access computers because they were away from home, on vacation – being as such, they were confused about the state of things with regards to their eBay account. They relieved an email “from eBay” saying their account as in danger… at least, that’s what they thought. Trouble was, the email was in Spanish. But it provided them a link and a log in! So they figured that if they just logged in to their eBay account, they could read the message on the site. But after the log in, they just kept getting error messages saying it couldn’t process their login.

My jaw about hit the floor. This phishing stuff really does work, doesn’t it? IE7, and similar browsers, are going to change the world – with their automatic phishing detection schemes. It’ll be a good thing, too. People are going to need it.

Needless to say, I immediately tried to help the family log in to their eBay account – but their password had been changed. I didn’t ask if they had a PayPal account, and I pray that if they did, their passwords weren’t the same, but I worried it might be. The biggest fright of all was that this family was SELLING THEIR HOUSE on eBay at the time they got locked out. The phisher could just finish the transaction, bank the money, and vanish.

The devastating size of this matter shook me to my most human core. All this was going on to this poor vacationing family in my town with a population under 15,000. I told them to call their bank immediately and talk to the fraud department.

If you get an email, even if you think it’s 100% legitimate, that contains a link to the site they want you to log in at, I encourage you to open a separate web browser and type the address yourself, and log in from that site’s homepage. Always know what site you’re at – and for heaven’s sake, if it’s in a language you don’t know – don’t give it your password! For all you know it could flat out say “I’m going to take this and you will have your first identity theft experience later this month” – and you would be none the wiser. Always know what you’re signing in to, just as you should always read contracts you sign. And never, ever just ‘send money’ without something else in place – use an escrow if you have to.

Peace on ya,
-G

Microsoft Zune – I told ya so?

So, I keep finding more and more stories related to “iPod Like Devices” but nobody but myself seems to believe that the up and coming Microsoft Zune could have anything to do with it.

Microsoft came clean, today, and announced their portable media player device would be named the Microsoft Zune (rumored to be previously codenamed “Argo”). Could this be the device I thought was perhaps an iTunes videoconferencing unit? Slashdot recently ran an article talking about other mp3 players and their designs, and how Apple will stick with the “clickwheel.” I can’t find the link right now, but there was another story I had even submitted to Slashdot that mentioned a different design for the iPod that appeared to be crammed in a cell phone. But now I’m wondering if the sites and articles I have been finding, which discussed strange patents similar to something Apple would work on, were really preliminary Zune patents?

By way of patents, I’d like to remind people that Microsoft and Apple still have open patent sharing, as per a 1997 agreement wherein Microsoft bought around 150 million dollars worth of Apple’s stock. But that doesn’t really matter when Microsoft patented the iPod’s clickwheel first. The words “iPod Killer” have been floating around the web for over a year now – but will anyone finally do it? Doubtful.

I’ll be working on some news with my connection at Microsoft to see what the word is right now. Many of you won’t remember, or had no idea who I was at that time, but I was among the first to provide the web with pictures of Microsoft’s earliest “Tablet PC” running a Windows Whistler beta. I intend to do the same with anything relating to the Zune – so you’d better stay tuned.

Peace on ya,
-G

Billions (of dollars) says "It" doesn't make a bit of difference

Okay, so I awake this morning to hear about Warren Buffet giving Bill Gates and co. some 37 Billion Dollars, atop the billions that Bill Gates himself is intending to use to fight world diseases and such.

Great, Bill Gates’ move and shift to use his own money to start the BMGF was a good and kind gesture. I’ve actually worked for a beneficiary of the Gates Foundation. But now another rich white guy following suit? Am I just the “cynical son of a bitch” my college professor made me out to be last year, or is nobody else seeing the idea that Buffet’s contribution is tax deductible? I don’t know for sure that it is, but I mean – my only assumption is that it comes down to that, or, he just doesn’t want to look like a bastard because Bill beat him to the punch. I just have a hard time believing that all of these guys with their few hundred cars and 20-odd homes are suddenly feeling “generous.”

I’m sure tomorrow Bono will announce he’s leaving his estate to the One Campaign. That will only be a good thing if he kills himself by the following day. Fine, maybe I’m just a cynic – maybe I don’t think everyone is as good natured as they come off, but if there’s a forthcoming wave of generosity it will only be inspired by the spirit of “one-ups-manship” – not that these people actually care about what’s going on. Besides – I still don’t see what money will DO for these world problems. Why don’t they do something with their money. Throwing money at AIDS won’t kill it. Thousands of hours of distributed computing for cancer and AIDS have proven fruitless, and the longest running SETI hasn’t heard so much as a chirp from ET. If we can’t solve it with all of the actual work being done, and numbers being crunched, what is money in a vault going to do?

My suggestion? Gates should stockpile the money until there is a cure for these diseases, and then use the money to provide FREE inoculations to the populous. But nobody listens to me, because I’m not a rich old white guy. And if I were, I’d hate my own life. Why? Because I hate rich old white guys in general.

Seriously – who was it that said they had an invention that would change the world? That “it” would revolutionize every single day living in America. The known universe would never be the same and the sun might implode as soon as “it” hit the market! Why, rich old white guy Dean Kamen, of course! And “it” was the Segway Human Transporter. Ever see one of these bad boys in action? Neither have I! Wanna know why? Because not every American is a rich white guy who has five thousand bucks to plop down on a scooter. If you did, you can only get them in a handful of states. And if you were a rich, douche-baggy white guy, you would probably live in the San Fran (ooh, they hate that one!) Bay Area, and play Segway Polo.

If this is you, please raise your hand now, so that I know who to mock individually and oh so personally in my next editorial. Until then, please, get a life, and do something with your money… like cure diseases by investing in them!

Peace on ya,
-G

Bill Gates’ “Retirement”

Everyone’s blogging about Gates and this headlining news. So, why not thrown in my two cents? After all – I am a part of the blogosphere now.

Yes, he’s “leaving” Microsoft. But only in that he will be giving up his position as Chief Software Architect. Will he be gone for good? No chance. He’s lived it for far too many years to just wipe his slate clean. He cannot resist the draw of technology, just like many other founding-fathers of Silicon Valley.

What can Bill Gates do to “focus” more on things like world health? Various organizations can surely use his money – but is he supposed to be some kind of bio-chemist, suddenly? He might be able to offer some organizational skills to large corporations and organizations, but his need to “focus” on these issues is a bit sketchy.

This won’t change a thing about what we can expect of Windows Vista. There may be rumors that his leaving has something to do with poor expectations for Vista, and wanting to get out now – but he has planned his departure two years in advance. If he is not leaving until the summer of 2008, that’s well after the expected launch of Vista, and quite possibly near the time of a first service pack. No, Gates intends to see this one through.

He will also, likely, be the keynote speaker at many Microsoft conferences, and now, more than likely, will spend some time on the road at various colleges and institutions, as well as other tech-related conventions. Just, don’t expect to see William Henry Gates III at your local county fair, like Rush without Geddy Lee, or Adam West as Bat-Man.

Peace on ya,
-G

Could Apple be planning a video conferencing iPod?

What even Slashdot isn’t reporting on: patents have been filed for a video conferencing technology to be put into portable handhelds, such as an iPod or cellular phone. What grabs everyone’s attention? The intimate working knowledge the patent holder seems to have of the iPod. It’s almost as if it could be an Apple employee.

Who else would so specifically call the device an “enhanced iPod” in their patent? And immediately offer up explanations of how a revised version of the QuickTime CODEC would do a lot of work? Additionally, schematics of how the hardware would coexist within an existing iPod unit. No, far too much detail for your average-joe-geek-seeking-patent-trolling-idea. I’d have to assume it’s far too late for an April fool’s joke. Maybe I’m just a victim of the Mac equivalent of the rarely-correct news site TheInquirer – but you can read on to the only site carrying the story so far, MacsimumNews.

Peace on ya,
-G