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Symantec Security Response Team is blogging

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Jul-2006 09:17

If you are into technology security of any kind, then you should check the new Symantec Security Response Weblog.

Writing in the blog is Symantec team of intrusion experts, security engineers, virus hunters, threat analysts, and technical support professionals. You can check who's who on this page.

The weblog has posts by categories (mobile and wireless, online fraud, malicious code, spam, vulnerabilities and exploits) and RSS feeds - both full feed or by category.

This is not the first security weblog from a major player in this area, but is a good addition to the ranks, which counts the also interesting F-Secure weblog.




The Chilibox Review is coming

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Jul-2006 14:32

I've just received the Chilibox here for our review. If you don't know, the Chilibox is an Internet appliance, ready-to-use router/firewall/disc server/VPN/e-mail server/DHCP server/web proxy box running ChiliOS, a variant of Unix.

It supports wired and wireless networks and can be used at home or small office.



Apparently it's very easy to use. We will be putting it through some testing in the next couple of weeks to see if it's really a "family friendly" experience and will report in our Geekzone review section.

This review was arranged with the folks at Pillar Technotronics, in Singapore, whom I met during the CES 2006 in Las Vegas.



New spoof Mac ads

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Jul-2006 10:26

You probably watched the new Apple ads comparing Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X, but this spoof is very funny:



If you haven't seen the original ads, try these:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8726680667826036162&q=apple+commercial
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6233381906579306960&q=apple+commercial
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=606588701176286956&q=apple+commercial






New Zealand Post, Postcodes and Courier Companies

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Jul-2006 09:23

Well, I tried hard to find a contact form on NZ Post's website to submit a feedback. You see, I wasn't going to post about this here, but since I can't tell them what's the problem with their new Postcode system, I have to use this little soapbox.

Yes, NZ Post does have a support system, but I want to give feedback, not create an account and trouble ticket on those escalation systems everyone seems to be using now - incuding Air New Zealand, Nikon, etc. I think they are all supplied by the same company.

Anyway, back to the problem at hand (even though not having contact information on their site for feedback is a problem).

We here at Geekzone receive many parcels coming from overseas, with new gadgets and toys to test.

While the new NZ Post Postcode system seems to be a great step into the ease of sorting mail in the country (which no doubt was probably overloaded by the Trademe success story) it seems like even DHL, NZ Post's partner in the courier business, doesn't know about it.

Someone tried to send us a box with some new hardware, just to be advised by DHL in Singapore that "this address is unreachable in New Zealand". Oh, c'mon we are not outside civilisation. Actually, it's just a five minute walk to a rather large NZ Post Shop. And I receive DHL and Fedex parcels every second day here.

But, as soon as I gave them an old, now invalid Poscode - all was clear. The address and suburb was the same, but the person was happy to delivery to this Postcode.

DHL, please fix your systems, load up the new codes, quickly.

NZ Post, fix your systems, make sure your partners are as quick to adopt new technologies and procedures as the public is. Have you guys there thought notifying DHL of the changes? Because the clients are already using the new Postcodes!



Vodafone is getting some hot smart devices in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Jul-2006 09:42

Yesterday I had a day full of Vodafone NZ events, including a one-on-one session with a person brought to the country to address government and businesess during a lunch event (which I also attended, and will blog about later), and then a bit of coffee in the usual place, Astoria.

During that coffee I was shown some of the smart devices being tested by Vodafone for release in the upcoming months.

I can't disclose much, but I saw a fair bit of devices of all sizes and makers, with all types of OS.

Just for a taste, you might want to read the information released by Palm yesterday regarding their work with Microsoft and Vodafone (just a coincidence in dates). The release talks about Europe only, but we know better, right?

Stay tunned in the next few months.



The Killer cliche

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Jul-2006 09:21

Is just me, or people around the blogosphere uses the "killer" cliche too much?

Everything seems to be the ultimate, the final iPod Killer, or BlackBerry Killer.

The thing is, every new product under the "[insert the gadget here] Killer" badge is actually not, and we then wait for the next one. People are too fast to draw conclusions.

Tiresome and boring.




Google GDrive

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 11-Jul-2006 11:47

There you go. If you are like me and think on-line backups are something useful (yes, I use Carbonite), then this is just fresh: Google GDrive is apparently just around the corner.

Apparently you can upload files for backup, and even share the data with other Google users (read only). It will also maintain synchronised copies of your files across computers.

I hope it doesn't impose a 10,000 files limit on the synchronisation feature, like Fileshare does.?

More information on Google GDrive at CyberNet.

Of course you should treat this as a rumour until it's officially announced by Google - if it ever happens.









Speeding up: Ronin, BMW Films... and Rendezvous

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 10-Jul-2006 09:39

A couple of years ago BMW USA posted a series of short movies called BMW Films, starring Clive Owen as The Driver. The movies were available for download for a while, and then made into a free DVD (yes, I got one!). These are no longer available for download or purchase, so I put them in the "Collector's item" shelf.

The movies were directed by stars such as producers David Fincher, Ridley and Tony Scott, and directors including John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, Guy Ritchie, Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Woo, Joe Carnahan.

The films always have a different BMW partnered with The Driver.

Also if you like car chase scenes, it's hard to beat the Paris scene in Ronin. The movie, with Robert De Niro and Jean Reno has a great plot and cool car scenes.

But I found C'était un rendez-vous today on Google Video (below, if not removed). The film is available as a DVD on this site.

Lelouch had made enough money from his classic "Un Homme et une Femme" to buy himself a Ferrari, which he proceeded to drive with "enthusiasm" in his native Paris.

Whilst shooting another film, a new bit of equipment was being used - a gyro stabilised camera mount. Lelouch then came up with the idea for "C'était un Rendezvous". The camera used only had a ten minute film magazine - hence the mad dash to the steps of the Basilique du Sacre Couér in Montmatre.

On first showing, Lelouch was supposedly arrested. In his defence, he proclaimed he had taken all possible precautions. This included convincing a Formula One driver to helm the car (he refused to name him).

Subsequently the film went underground - occasionally shown in front of a Lelouch full-length feature on theatrical release. Outside of this, only poor quality pirate copies on VHS or a badly worn print were available. These would be played at car club meetings and slowly the film attained its mythical status with the arrival of the internet helping to spread the word.

What we do know is that there are no special effects or speeding up the film - Lelouch simply mounted the camera on the front of the car and shot it.






Also, note that the director probably broke a few driving laws in doing this movie. This is not an invitation to do the same. It's an example of artistic expression only (and crazy behaviour?) and you should always drive safely. Check this blog entry about driving in New Zealand.



Bringing robots home: I bought an iRobot Roomba

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Jul-2006 20:23

Oh well... I just went to the public recycling station today to drop some of the boxes used during our move to the new house last month, thinking that we don't need anything else brought into the house this month, but...

While driving back I got a call from my wife to meet her and the baby in a shop, where she was looking for a carpet. And while there I couldn't resist and bought an iRobot Roomba:

Now, I know there are ways to hack the Roomba to do more than clean the floors...









Spam, Adware, uninvited popups...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 9-Jul-2006 11:52

An article on Businessweek is an interesting read for any major geek. The Plot To Hijack Your Computer tells us the tales behind Direct Revenue, a New York-based company that distributes programs, that some of us in the real world would call "spyware", "adware" and other names we couldn't write here.

Direct Revenue's swift rise illustrates the intertwining of spyware and mainstream online marketing. The Web is the hottest game in advertising, but what's rarely acknowledged is the extent to which unsavory pop-ups boost the returns. Here's how it often works: Sellers of advertising, ranging from giant Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO ) to much smaller networks, recruit clients, tally the clicks their ads generate, and charge accordingly. But then Yahoo and the other advertising companies sign up partners that distribute the ads beyond their own sites in return for a fee, and those partners sign up other partners. Down the line, a big piece of the business winds up in the hands of outfits like Direct Revenue, which disseminate the ads as pop-ups and share revenue with their more mainstream partners. Some advertisers say their messages have appeared in pop-ups without their permission...

Direct Revenue has struggled to fend off a lawsuit filed in April by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The state court action alleges that Direct Revenue crossed a legal line by installing advertising programs in millions of computers without users' consent. Shining a light on the shadowy spyware trade, the suit asserts that the company violated New York civil laws against false advertising, computer tampering, and trespassing.

This article is based in part on more than 1,000 pages of Direct Revenue's internal e-mail and other documents included in court filings. BusinessWeek has reviewed additional documents and interviewed dozens of industry insiders, including 12 current and former Direct Revenue employees and executives.

The company's sales philosophy, according to current and former employees, was heavily shaped by Jesse Stein, a Wharton School-educated marketer whose successes before joining the company included selling VigRX, an herbal penile-enlargement supplement. VigRX may sound familiar because, to win customers, Stein inundated e-mail in-boxes with spam promoting the product. In 2003, when the ABC News (DIS ) 20/20 program identified what it said were the biggest online spammers, it featured VigRX and showed one of Stein's e-mails. He reveled in the notoriety. On his desk at Direct Revenue, Stein, now 36, kept a framed 20/20 screen shot of his VigRX spam, former colleagues say.


You should read the whole article, really. It brings a lot to light and almost explains the whole state of the Internet.

From early on, a small group of programmers at Direct Revenue focused on how to protect their employer's programs once they were lodged in a computer, current and former employees say. The team called itself Dark Arts after the term for evil magic in the Harry Potter series. One of the biggest threats Dark Arts addressed came from competing software. The presence of multiple spyware programs can so cripple a computer that no ads manage to get seen.

Dark Arts crafted software "torpedoes" that blasted rival spyware off computers' hard drives. Competitors aimed similar weapons back at Direct Revenue's software, but few could match the wizardry of Dark Arts. One adversary, Avenue Media, filed suit in federal court in Seattle in 2004, alleging that in a matter of days, Direct Revenue torpedoes had cut in half the number of people using one of Avenue Media's programs. The suit settled without money changing hands, according to an attorney for Avenue Media, which is based in Curaçao. "This is ad warfare," explains former Direct Revenue product manager Reza Khan. "Only the toughest and stickiest codes survive.


How ridiculous, if it wasn't something affecting millions of unaware users around the globe trying to simply send and receive an e-mail.

In early 2005 the company was bundling its products with a file-sharing program called Morpheus, which users could download onto their computers. Morpheus required that Direct Revenue make its software easy to spot in a computer's "Add/Remove" panel, which is the registry where a user can find most legitimate software and delete it. Direct Revenue agreed at first but after a few months noticed that thousands of new users it gained via Morpheus were quickly deleting the ad software. Kaufman, a co-founder of Direct Revenue, sent an e-mail to colleagues in February, 2005, saying the company should drop the Mr. Nice Guy routine. "We need to experiment with less user-friendly uninstall methodologies," he wrote. The distribution agreement with Morpheus ended within three months.


There you have it...











freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I work for Intergen and I'm also the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.

Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

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