Archive for the ‘information’ Category

1. Secure your WIFI connection

secure your digital life from hackersHome users are particularly prone to leaving their routers open without passwords, in order to make sure that you’re protected check your router settings to verify whether encryption is turned on or not. leaving access unencrypted can be just a minor issue of bandwidth being stolen by unauthorized users freeloading off your connection to more serious cybercrimes like credit card fraud or hacking taking place using your internet connection, which may be traced back to you.

The majority of routers support encrypted connections, support either WEP or WPA/WPA2, always opt for WPA/WPA2 as it’s far more secure. If you have the option hide SSID broadcast, turn that on as well, it basically allows you to make your wireless router invisible to outsiders and they need to know your SSID to access the network.

2. Encrypt your hard drive

secure your digital life from hackersIt’s important to keep your data secure in case of loss of hardware or even theft. An encrypted hard drive basically prevents its contents from being access without the password. It is obviously more important to encrypt thumb drives and laptop drives. Windows 7 Ultimate and Business editions come with a built in hard drive functionality using a software called BitLocker which will encrypt your entire hard drive, but users with Home Premium or Basic users shouldn’t feel left out as there is a free way to encrypt your hard drive using trucrypt.

Mac users can use FileVault to encrypt their folders, and OSX Lion will allow you to encrypt your entire hard drive as well.You can also get hardware encryption which will use fingerprint recognition to unlock data inside the drive like the Lacie Rugged Safe.

3. Keep your software updated

secure your digital life from hackersIt’s a given that you need to keep your operating system, antivirus and web browser up to date in order to protect yourself from exploits, and if you haven’t got automatic update turned on for them, you should do it now.

However a lot of users often overlook other software such as Acrobat Reader, Flash, Java and iTunes when it comes to keeping software updated. It’s important to realize that many of these applications have direct access to the operating system, and an exploit in these applications can be used as a gateway into your system files. Flash and Acrobat are used heavily with web browsers which is the number one source of malware infections.

4. Upgrade your antivirus suite.

secure your digital life from hackersIt’s as important to keep your virus suite updated as much as it is to keep your virus definitions updated. The reason for this is because antivirus software evolve in the way they deal with malware, such as introducing heuristic technologies which identify common traits of viruses, the way they interact with the system and actively block these scripts. This is why having an outdated antivirus software, despite updated virus definitions may not provide the best possible protection. If you’re using an older version of antivirus software you may entitled to discounted upgrades to newer versions.

5. Secure your smartphones

secure your digital life from hackersMany people completely overlook this fact, but smartphones are essentially mini computers which hold swathes of personal information about you. They often hold logins to your facebook/twitter accounts which are set on auto login, online banking and other financial information as well as access to email. If someone gets hold of all these details it can cause a lot of stress and havoc to your life.

It’s vital to keep your devices with password lock activated, additionally you should take some precautionary measures in case you lose your device.

Apple has a very cool security software called Find my iPhone which is a free app by Apple, which lets you track your phone by GPS, lock and remotely delete data from it. You can even use it just to locate your iPhone if you misplace it, causing it to sound an alarm.

For Android users it’s important to stay protected, smartphones are just as vulnerable to viruses as a PC, although the android platform is more prone to them than apple due to the open platform nature of the former. Android phones require antivirus protection, all the popular desktop antivirus brands offer android support as well.

The app store is less prone to malware due to the fact that all apps are vetted by Apple before publishing, although if you’ve jail broken your iPhone, antivirus protection may be something you need to look at.

6. Vet web page links using a link checker

Cyber criminals are using sophisticated strategies to drive users onto their web pages, increasingly innocent websites are being targeted using exploits to find security holes to hack and implant code on them which can launch JavaScript applications and infect computers when users visit the infected site. Link checkers scan links on your search results and optionally other websites and indicate whether links are safe, websites are scanned by their own servers so it does not impair your computer performance. Link checkers are available with most anti malware security suites such as with AVG, McAfee and Symantec.

7. Laptop Security for mobile workers

secure your digital life from hackersLaptops thefts are common, and are easy targets due to their transportable nature. If you work away from your office it’s important to invest in a Kensington Lock. While a lock won’t prevent trained thieves armed with cable cutters, it will prevent opportunistic thieves which is the overwhelming majority of laptop thefts.

It’s also important to keep prying eyes away from your data, always password protect your login, and when leaving your laptop unattended, using the screen lock feature in Windows to prevent unauthorized users from looking at or accessing your information.

If you work with particularly sensitive data a privacy screen may provide an added level of protection, the screen is only viewable to the person sitting directly in front, so people sitting around you cannot look at your screen. Targus and 3M are well known for producing privacy screens for all manner of monitor sizes.

8. HTTPS encryption for websites

secure your digital life from hackersMost people are well informed with the necessity of using https secure connections with online shopping when entering sensitive personal information. However, it can be argued that websites like facebook, twitter, gmail and others hold equally sensitive information about you.

Did you know you can elect to use https secure connections on these websites? For case by case uses, you can insert a ‘s’ after the http on the web address, if there isn’t one already to access the site securely. However if you want to access the sites securely every time you visit, you can login select the option to always use https in the profile settings.

9. Use online backup to keep an offsite storage of your files.

secure your digital life from hackersA great way for mobile workers to keep data kept safe and secure while on the move is to use online backup, this provides great peace of mind if your computer gets lost, as it allows you to recover your files from the cloud. Online backup services like Sugar Sync also provide users with high level synchronization features which can be used as a great time management tool as well, as it keeps data across all your computers consistent and up to date. You can look up various online backup reviews here to compare their features and read up user reviews.

10. Avoid public wifi and public computers.

Using public computers can be incredibly risky as malware and key loggers can be installed to track your keystrokes and cached files in order to gain access to your private information.

secure your digital life from hackersAdditionally, public wifi connections can be risky as the servers can be breached with malware additionally phantom hotspots can be set up which appear like legitimate hotspots, but are actually other ordinary laptops which act as a middleman eavesdropping into the connection.

An example on how cached data can be hijacked to login to your web accounts can be demonstrated using FireSheep.

Thankfully mobile 3G internet connections are becoming more affordable, and are often faster than public wifi hotspots. 3G connections are far more secure, additionally you may be able to tether your Smartphone internet connection to work on your laptop. I hope this article helped you all for sure. And do follow these above 10 steps and secure your digital life from hackers.


Friday, Oct 07, 2011

Steve Jobs – creative ‘genius’, Apple Co-founder and innovative businessman. These are just some terms the grieving public have tagged to Job’s name. gives you a closer look into Jobs life with these 8 things that you probably did not know about Steve Jobs:

1. Early life and childhood

Steven Paul Jobs was born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955. He was given away at birth by his mother who wanted him to be adopted by college graduates.

He was supposed to be adopted by a lawyer and his wife who decided at the last minuted that the wanted a girl instead. So Jobs was given to a couple named named Clara and Paul Jobs who lived in California.

His adoptive father – a term that Jobs openly objected to – was a machinist for a laser company and his mother worked as an accountant.

Later in life, Jobs discovered the identities of his biological parents. His estranged father, Abdulfattah John Jandali, is a Syrian Muslim immigrant to the US. He left the country when he was 18 and is presently a vice president of a casino in Reno, Nevada.

His birth mother, Joanne Schieble (later Simpson) was an American graduate student of Swiss and German ancestry and later went on to become a speech language pathologist and eventually married.

While Jobs reconnected with his mother in later years, he and his father remained estranged.

2. College dropout

The brain behind the most successful company in the world never graduated from college. Jobs attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon but dropped out after a single semester.

He told a graduating class of Stanford University that he did not see the value of spending all of his working-class parents’ savings on college tution when he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life.

He continued, however to “drop in” on classes that interested him, including a calligraphy class he cited as the reason Macintosh computers were designed with multiple typefaces.

In the famouse 2005 commencement speech to Stanford University, Jobs said of his time at Reed: “It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5 cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple.”

3. Lied to his Apple co-founder about a job at entertainment software company Atari

Did you know Jobs played an essential role in making the popular and influential video game ‘Breakout’ created by Atari.

When Jobs was an employee of Atari he was tasked with creating a circuit board for the game. He was offered $100 for each chip that was eliminated from the game’s final design.

Since Jobs had little knowledge of or interest in circuit board design he struck a deal with Apple co-founder and friend, Steve Wozniak. They were to split the bonus evenly between the two of the, if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips.

Wozniak reduced it by 50 chips which resulted in a $5,000 bonus. But according to Wozniak’s own autobiography, Jobs told Wozniak that Atari had given them only $700 and that Wozniak’s share was therefore $350.


4. His sister is a famous author

Steve Jobs first met his biological sister in 1986. Mona Simpson (born Mona Jandali) is the well known author of ‘Anywhere But Here’ – a story about a mother and daughter that was later made into a movie starring Natalie Portman and Susan Sarandon.

After reuniting, Jobs and Simpson developed a close relationship. When speaking about his sister, Job told a New York Times interviewer: “We’re family. She’s one of my best friends in the world. I call her and talk to her every couple of days.’

‘Anywhere But Here is dedicated to “my brother Steve.”

5. Celebrity romances

It is written in two unauthorized biographies of Steve Jobs, that he had a relationship with American fold singer Joan Baez. Baez confirmed the the two were close “briefly,” though her romantic connection with Bob Dylan is much better known (Dylan was the Apple icon’s favorite musician).

The biography also notes that Jobs went out with actress Diane Keaton briefly.

6. His first daughter

Jobs had his first child when he was 23 with his high school girlfriend Chris Ann Brennan. Lisa Brennan Jobs was born in 1978, just as Apple was on the rise in the tech world.

He and Brennan never married, and Jobs reportedly denied paternity claiming he was sterile in court documents. He went on to father three more children with wife Laurene Powell. After later mending his relationship with Lisa, Jobs paid for her education at Harvard.

7. Alternative lifestyle

According to Jobs hinted at his early experience with the hallucinogenic drug LSD. Jobs said in an interview about Microsoft founder Bill Gates that he thinks if Gates would be a “broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger”.

In a book interview, Jobs called his experience with the drug “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.”

Jobs travelled to India to visit the well-known Kainchi Ashram from which he went back to the US as a Zen Buddhist.

Jobs was also a pescetarian who didn’t consume most animal products, and didn’t eat meat other than fish.

8. His fortune

Jobs only earned $1 a year when he was the CEO of Apple. He kept his salary as $1 since 1997, the year he became the company’s lead executive. Of his salary, Jobs joked in 2007: “I get 50 cents a year for showing up, and the other 50 cents is based on my performance.”

In early 2011, Jobs owned 5.5 million shares of Apple. After his death, Apple shares were valued at US$377.64 (S$491.838) – a roughly 43-fold growth in valuation over the last 10 years that shows no signs of slowing down.

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: AFP , Reuters & Internet)
For more photos, click here.

When Michael Arrington announced he planned on starting a venture capital fund using money from his employer AOL, it sounded like a giant conflict of interest to us. But then it seemed like maybe he was only kind of sort of staying on with TechCrunch, the AOL-owned blog–“reports suggested Arrington would remain at TechCrunch and AOL with only a title change – from ‘editor’ to ‘founding editor and writer,’ Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson and Henry Blodget explained. That was still pretty shady. Then last night AOL changed its tune: Arianna Huffington herself said that Arrington no longer works at TechCrunch–making things a bit better. Yet it was unclear if AOL still employed him and since Arrington would continue to blog, it looked like an empty gesture. This morning AOL clarified that AOL no longer employs Arrington, period: Huffington Post spokesperson Mario Ruiz said this, again to Carlson and Blodget at Business Insider. Now the latest development has Arrington still employed by AOL, working for AOL Ventures–that one came from AOL’s SVP of corporate communications Maureen Sullivan, again to Business Insider. As we wait to see just how involved Arrington will remain, as a media company that should supposedly hold up some sort of journalistic ethics, AOL is coming out looking quite sleazy.

Of course having Arrington at the helm of a blog that covers the firms that he would invest in as well as support the fund presents a big, fat conflict of interest, and AOL should’ve anticipated that. AOL could have quelled initial outrage by employing a different order of operations, explains AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher. “This could have been a lot cleaner, of course, by Arrington simply resigning from TechCrunch, becoming a VC and perhaps starting a new blog where his agenda is much clearer, from which he could huff and puff away as he does with much entertaining gusto at real and (mostly) imagined slights.” But of course it didn’t go down like that, and with each new development contradicting the next, AOL’s image as an ethical media company deflates.

And given all of the back and forth, it looks like Arrington will remain somewhat involved–even if he’s not blogger-in-chief by name, his new positioning as “contributing blogger,” or part of AOL Ventures, or what have you, still smells a bit fishy. Before CrunchFund, Arrington not only broke and was the source for many tech stories on the site, but he also attracted entrepreneurs to invest. Swisher’s pretty sure that won’t change. Without Arrington’s aura and connection, TechCrunch loses value. The title change means little, adds VentureWire editor Scott Austin in a tweet. “It’s like a manager ejected from the game but still calling the shots from the clubhouse.” And it doesn’t help that Arrington has put a clause in his limited partnership agreement that he can report on anything he likes he likes, and in any way, about his investors and their companies, however confidential, except those he invests in, Swisher continues.

Maybe Arrington will defect completely, probably not–we’ll keep updating as the story evolves. But AOL should’ve known better–and it makes you wonder what the future of journalism is at the media corporation.

Update 12:46 p.m.: Arrington doesn’t even know if he works for AOL anymore, he told The New York Times. “I have no idea what AOL’s final position on this will be. I look forward to hearing it. I’ll respond once Arianna has made her last statement.”


British Police Nab Two More LulzSec Hackers

London Metropolitan Police appear to be making solid progress finding and arresting the elusive leaders of the former hacktivist group LulzSec. Four more men were arrested and released on bail Thursday, two of them in connection to hacking offenses committed by the known LulzSec member “Kayla.” This caught the hacker community somewhat by surprise, as Kayla always identified herself as a 16-year-old girl. It turns out that Kayla’s bubbly online persona might have actually be the efforts of two 20-year-old and 24-year-old guys.

Kayla’s activity with LulzSec and Anonymous dates back to the infamous HBGary attack. In a profile written by Forbes‘ Parmy Olson, she claims to have played a key role in the hack and also shared some details about her paranoid lifestyle:

With just half a dozen close friends online, she has a strict regimen to remain invisible on the web. Each night she wipes every one of her web accounts and deletes every email in her inbox.  She has no physical hard drive and boots her computer from a microSD card. “I could hide this card anywhere or chew into a million pieces in a few seconds,” she says by e-mail. She keeps her operating system on a USB stick and uses a virtual machine (VM) to carry out her online shenanigans.

So paranoid is Kayla of being caught or hacked by others, that despite several requests she would not speak to me on Skype to verify an adolescent-sounding voice. Our only evidence: others in Anonymous vouch for her age, her emails are punctuated with smiley faces and “lols” and she is relatively well-known on hacking forums.

Of course, we don’t know if any of what she told Olson is true, but with all four men due to appear on bail in count on September 7, we might learn more about what really goes on within Anonymous.

Hackers infiltrated 72 world organisations including United Nations and IOC, security company McAfee discover.
Cyber-hacking: prolonged series of attacks by one country uncovered
Computer user

Hackers from one country have systematically targeted 72 global companies and organisations over the past five years, McAfee have found. Photograph: AP

Dozens of countries, companies and organisations, ranging from the US government to the UN and the Olympic movement, have had their computers systematically hacked over the past five years by one country, according to a report by a leading US internet security company.

The report, by McAfee, did not openly blame any country but hinted strongly that China was the most likely culprit, a view endorsed by analysts.

China has previouslybeen implicated in a range of alleged incidents of cyberspying – a practice Beijing vehemently denies – including a concerted attack on Google and several attempts to prise secrets from computers at the Foreign Office. But the McAfee report is among the most thorough attempts yet to map the scale and range of such data-theft efforts.

The study traced the spread of one particular spying malware, usually spread by a “phishing” email which, if opened, downloaded a hidden programme on to the computer network. Through tracing this malware and also gaining access to a “command and control” computer server used by the intruders, McAfee identified 72 compromised companies and organisations. Many more had been hacked but could not be identified from the logs.

“After painstaking analysis of the logs, even we were surprised by the enormous diversity of the victim organisations and were taken aback by the audacity of the perpetrators,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, the company’s head of threat research and the author of the report.

Of the hacking victims 49 were US-based, among them various arms of federal, state and local government, as well as defence contractors and other industries. There were two targets in the UK, a defence company and a computer security firm, while other governments included those of Taiwan, South Korea, and India.

Also found on the logs were records from the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee and two national Olympic committees – one of which was accessed by the hackers for more than two years continuously.

McAfee was at pains not to identify the suspected culprit. However, it did little to disguise its suspicions, noting that the targeting of the Olympic groups, and the sport’s anti-doping agency, immediately before and after the 2008 Beijing Games was “particularly intriguing” and pointed to a country being to blame.

China has been accused in the past. After Google came under a so-called “advanced persistent attack” in 2009 which it said originated in China, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, asked Beijing for an explanation. This year William Hague said a “hostile state intelligence agency” – identified by UK sources as China – had penetrated the Foreign Office’s internal communications system.

While a high proportion of media attention on cybersecurity focuses on the loss of personal data, such as the recent security breaches at Sony, and the activities of hacking collectives such as LulzSec, analysts say this is often minor when compared with the methodical, industrial-scale attempts to seize commercial and state secrets, presumed to be carried out by many countries, chief among them China. Alperovitch said state-orchestrated hacking was so endemic and ambitious it could reshape the workings of the global economy.

“What we have witnessed over the past five to six years has been nothing short of a historically unprecedented transfer of wealth,” he said. If only a fraction of the stolen data was used to gain commercial or technological advantage “the loss represents a massive economic threat not just to individual companies and industries but to entire countries that face the prospect of decreased economic growth in a suddenly more competitive landscape and the loss of jobs in industries that lose out to unscrupulous competitors in another part of the world”.

Beyond even this, he added, were the national security implications of stolen intelligence or defence files. Such was the endemic scale of this problem, Alperovitch said, that he divided large corporations into two camps: “Those that know they’ve been compromised and those that don’t yet know.”

He said: “This is a problem of massive scale that affects nearly every industry and sector of the economies of numerous countries, and the only organisations that are exempt from this threat are those that don’t have anything valuable or interesting worth stealing.”

When Google accused China last year the ministry of industry and information technology told the state news agency Xinhua: “Any accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber-attacks, either in an explicit or indirect way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China. We are firmly opposed to that.”

No one was available for comment at the foreign ministry in Beijing. Chinese officials have previously said that China has strict laws against hacking and is itself one of the biggest victims.

Dave Clemente, a cybersecurity analyst from the Chatham House thinktank, said it was likely China was also targeted by hackers acting on behalf of other countries.

“It’s going in both directions, but probably not to the same extent,” he said. “China has a real motivation to gain these types of industrial secrets, to make that leapfrog. There’s probably less motivation for the US to look to China for industrial secrets or high technology. But certainly there’s things China has which they’re interested in, maybe not for commercial advantage but in a geopolitical sense.”

Clemente said McAfee’s characterisation of such hacking efforts as a wholesale theft of intellectual property and secrets was “fairly reasonable”: “It’s confirmed not just by this report but by so many dozens of other incidents which build up to an overall picture.”

The effects, however, were harder to quantify: “The blueprints are only part of the picture. The technology for, say, how to build a sophisticated jet engine is one thing, but there’s a whole set of other processes – the logistics, how to manage the supply chain to build more than one, the long-term management of a really advanced manufacturing process.”

While basic security or human errors often made hacking easier than it should be, Clemente said, even the biggest organisations struggle to stop sophisticated attacks: “There’s not much even Google can do if China’s really determined to get inside its networks. It’s not a fair fight in that sense.”

Tech giant Microsoft Tuesday became the first major company to endorse “crowd commerce,” a fast-growing form of eCommerce that is gaining tractionin some of Silicon Valley’s highest circles.

Microsoft Sign
Robert Scoble

Simply put, the goal of crowd commerce is to connect an army of mobile smart phone users with individuals or businesses that need things from those users, and are willing to pay for them.

Microsoft [MSFT  27.2116    0.6216  (+2.34%)   ] will be using this ‘crowd’ to seek out tens of thousands of photos of businesses around the country as part of a massive project to improve photographic content on its search engine

“We’ll be making the most of this great imagery on Bing this fall and winter, and we hope that it will become another strong feature to help attract customers,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC through email.

Microsoft has placed that enormous challenge on the shoulders of Gigwalk, a Mountain View, California startup that launched just nine weeks ago, but has already gained enormous interest from the Apple [AAPL  375.80    2.00  (+0.54%)   ] iPhone community with its flagship Gigwalk application.

The Gigwalk app matches iPhone users (looking to make a few extra dollars) with companies that need a specific location-based task done, and are willing to shell out the cash for it.

Gigwalk Task via iPhone

“They [Microsoft] asked us, hey, could your workforce be deployed to capture panoramic photos, tens of thousands of businesses, in all the metro areas you support?” Gigwalk CEO Ariel Seidman tells CNBC. “So we said sure.”

With the lure of quick and easy payouts—Microsoft will pay between $4 and $7 per photo job—Seidman, a former Yahoo mobile products manager, has successfully grown a large following.

Tuesday, the company announced that its user base has reached 50,000, and that companies are now posting over 100,000 paying ‘gigs’ (the app’s slang for a job) on its app.

Seidman has also attracted seed money from some Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors (including LinkedIn [LNKD  103.06    0.62  (+0.61%)   ] Co-Founder Reid Hoffman).

Landing Microsoft as a major partner was not without its challenges. In order to allay potential concerns about Gigwalk’s near-anonymous user-base (pretty much anyone can sign up), and to justify the cost the program would incur to Microsoft, Gigwalk first had to prove its users were up to the task via a trial pilot program.

“We certainly wanted to be convinced that we could get good overall quality from a large casual workforce,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “And the results of our trial in New York City suggested we could.”

Gigwalk’s clients also include navigation company TomTom and the popular website

Father’s Day Reminder Leads To Misguided Google Attacks

Google rankled some with their Gmail reminder, but is it an overreaction or a legitimate concern?

Apparently, Google is now filling the void of punching bag, a place companies like Microsoft, most famously, has resided for some time. Now, it seems that label has fallen to Google. If Google does something that’s even remotely misconstrued, an army of users willing to comment, along with publications trying to catch a ride on the Google backlash wave pop up with a chorus of disapproval. This time, Google can thank their efforts to remind users to celebrate Father’s Day as the catalyst for this latest round of criticism.

Besides the standard Google Doodle, this year, Google placed a reminder in their G,ail service, reminding users to call their dads. Granted, the reminder was probably done to draw more attention to their GChat call service, but, in this case, people who had unhappy childhoods and people who’s parents have already passed took the opportunity to open fire on Google, as if the company intentionally tried to disrespect their user base. Overreaction aside, these complaints didn’t stop at Google’s user forum, either.

Other publications of note took Google’s reminder to be some kind of unforgivable social media mistake, when, in fact, it comes across as piling on and a “point and laugh” reaction. First, an example of the complaints concerning the Gmail reminder and some of the responses that followed. The following quotes come from Google’s Help Forum. First, the complaints.

User Annelise W. says:

I understand that Google is celebrating Father’s Day, and I accede to there being, for instance, a holiday Google Doodle up on the main page today. However, when I am using my Gmail inbox and the chat function, I don’t appreciate there being a “Call dad” reminder next to/under the (otherwise lovely) phone function. Is there a way to get rid of this reminder to call a relative who, to me, does not exist beyond the basic biological level? I’ve looked at my Tasks list, and “Call dad” is not there, and perhaps there is no option besides closing chat! Which I’m not planning to do, but it’s still hard to believe: is Gmail really nagging its users about such a personal topic?

BMRR echoed those sentiments:

Yes, please get rid of this “feature.” I don’t have a father, and I don’t appreciate being reminded of that fact by Gmail. I’m sure it was a sweet and genuine idea by someone who meant well, but we’re already bombarded by reminders that it’s Father’s Day; seeing that little “Call Dad” note just isn’t pleasant for those of us who CAN’T call Dad.

And this one from aaronb79, who helps capture the mood some of Google’s members have:

I’m sure in a Google-designed childhood everyone would be loved, protected, and nurtured to be the best little software engineer he/she can be. However, I don’t appreciate the reminder of my unpleasant childhood and presumption that I want to speak to my father. My email is not the place for this. This was your free one, Google. Next time you get this personal I’m deleting my accounts.

While these complaints have validity, they do seem flavored with a little bit of the overreaction spice. I get that Google’s reminder bothered you, but the personal level at which many of these members are taking the reminder is surprising. Other members think so, too.

First, this response from Joshuafcole does a good job of letting Google know not everyone is ready to burn Mountain View down:

Sorry for all of your losses, but for the vast majority of well-adjusted people, we get by just fine and understand the sentiment of things rather than throwing fits over the exact wordings. If you’d rather all forget your passed on fathers instead of remembering them fondly, that is your decision. It is not, however, your right to force it upon a company that is, to little benefit of its own, supplying people with an excellent and free service. Please take your misguided sentiments of entitlement elsewhere.

Nicholascloud supports Josh’s sentiment:

I don’t understand why people are upset about this. I lost my mother several years ago to cancer. She was in her early 40s. If I got a reminder from Google that said “call mom”, I would just smile and remember the good things about my mother that we actually *did* celebrate on Mother’s Day. It’s a nationally recognized holiday and Google is just trying to be helpful and do things that their customers might appreciate.

As does user SToP GAP, who seems to be as offended by the complaints as other people were about the reminder:

Seriously, what in God’s name is wrong with you people!?!? People are born, people die. Our parents are older than us so they’ll very likely die before us. If they don’t, well, you’re dead! Bending over to such feeble hyper-sensitive nonsense attitudes makes society ever weaker. Frankly if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. It’s just that simple folks!!! If you feel you must make some form of protest over it, stop using google all of you the aforementioned offended – vote with your feet, en masse, I’m sure you’ll make such an enormous dent in google’s user base all of you!! For the rest of us who have a modicum of common sense, stability and just a dash of well-adjustedness to our personalities, well we’re not all of us perfect and a reminder to wish our fathers thanks for all they do for us is not unwelcome!G E T A G R I P ! ! !

Good grief!

In other words, it’s a standard Internet forum back and forth. In these situations, there is hardly anything that resembles a consensus, and normally, if people are willing to post, they feel pretty passionate about their stance. Again, this is all part and parcel in regards to Internet communication. What isn’t, however, is when other publications try to latch onto the criticism, as if they are trying to be at the top of the hill in regards to Google criticism, just in case the company falls out of public favor. For instance, over at TechCrunch, this pithy title was used, and it paid absolutely no attention to the other side of the coin of members who thought the Gmail reminder was benign:

“‘Reminder: Call Dad’ Is Another Notch In Google’s Belt Of Social Fail”

Three cheers for attempting to pile on, I guess… I mean, if this is your primary argument:

I am 100% sure Google intended “Reminder: Call Dad” to be a cute, heartfelt message. But its execution was flawed to say the least. Taking into account its stumbles with Orkut, Dodgeball, Buzz, Wave and (some might say) +1 and the fact that 25% of all employee bonuses are now reportedly based on Google “getting” social, Google should really take user feedback to heart on this one.

It seems like you are just trying to rub salt in the wounds, instead of offering relevant criticism. Furthermore, if “user feedback” was the primary decider for how companies conduct business, why do all the Facebook complaints about platform changes and/or privacy settings always go unheeded? Because not all of the feedback was negative, which is the case with the Gmail reminder? What about the Netflix redesign, which has been covered and commented about here a great deal? Why didn’t Netflix just simply re-implement the old design? Is it because the complainers are more outspoken than those that are satisfied, and perhaps these complaints represent a vocal minority?

As for the publications, if you are going to give the unsatisfied a platform, how about some equal time for those who didn’t have a problem with it? Or would that conflict with the theme of the response articles?

Spain Detains 3 in PlayStation Cyberattacks

The Spanish police said on Friday that they had apprehended three men suspected of computer hacking in connection with recent attacks on Sony’s PlayStation Network as well as corporate and government Web sites around the world.

The National Police identified the three as the local leadership of the shadowy international network of computer hackers known as Anonymous, which has claimed responsibility for a wide variety of attacks.

Anonymous is composed of people from various countries organized into cells that share common goals, the police said, with activists operating anonymously in a coordinated fashion.

One of the three suspects, a 31-year-old Spaniard, was detained in the southern Spanish city of Almería sometime after May 18, the police said. He had a computer server in his apartment in the northern Spanish port city of Gijón, where the group is believed to have attacked the Web sites of the Sony PlayStation online gaming store.

The same computer server was also believed to have been used in coordinated attacks against two Spanish banks, BBVA and Bankia; the Italian energy company Enel; and government sites in Algeria, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Spain and New Zealand, the police said.

The two other men, both also Spaniards in their early 30s, were picked up in Barcelona and Valencia. The police statement did not make clear the timing of those detentions, but a police spokeswoman said all had occurred recently.

The spokeswoman, who did not want to be identified in accordance with department policy, said all three were subsequently released, without bail, pending formal charges.

They were expected to be charged with forming an illegal association to attack public and corporate Web sites, a charge that carries a potential sentence of up to three years in prison.

The police opened their investigation last October, after hackers overwhelmed the Spanish Ministry of Culture’s Web site to protest legislation increasing punishments for illegal downloads.

It was not immediately clear how much of a role the group may have played in the recent attacks on Sony. About a dozen Sony Web sites and services around the world have been hacked; the biggest breaches forced the company, which is based in Tokyo, to shut down its popular PlayStation Network for a month beginning in April.

The Japanese company has acknowledged that hackers compromised the personal data of tens of millions of user accounts. Earlier this month, a separate hacker collective called Lulz Security, or LulzSec, said it had breached a Sony Pictures site and released vital source code.

Sony has estimated that the hacker attacks will cost it at least 14 billion yen ($175 million), in damages, including spending on information technology, legal costs, lower sales and free offers to lure back customers.

Mami Imada, a Sony spokeswoman in Tokyo, said she had no information on the detentions and declined to comment.

The police said that they had analyzed more than two million lines of chat logs since October, as well as Web pages used by the group to identify the leadership in Spain “with the capacity to make decisions and direct attacks.” Members of Anonymous used a computer program called L.O.I.C. to crash Web sites with denial-of-service attacks, the police said.

Among recent attacks, the hackers also brought down the site of the Spanish National Electoral Commission last month before regional and municipal elections. It was that attack, on May 18, that led to the detention of the suspect in Almería.

The movement against the antipiracy law has been closely linked to the broader youth-led political movements that have occurred in Puerta del Sol, the central square in Madrid, and in other city squares since May 15.

These protests have called for a complete overhaul of Spain’s political system and laws aimed at stopping illegal downloading.

Hiroko Tabuchi contributed reporting.

Slick HTML5 App Muro Animates Super Stick-Figure Videos

Powered by Ritz crackers and Sour Patch Kids, Adande Thorne works late into the night creating the worlds in which his frenetic stick-figures live. But even when he’s working so diligently that he doesn’t notice that the sun came up, he is still churning out his short films much faster than he used to, back when he made his animations with a Sharpie, some pencils and a scanner.

Now he whips up his web-ready doodles in muro, an HTML5-based illustration tool created by artist networking site deviantArt. The free, web-based software, still in beta, allows Thorne to create a five-minute video in about two weeks, cutting his work time nearly in half.

sWooZie makes awesome videos using muro.
Image courtesy Adande Thorne

“I used to draw with paper and pen and scan it and go through this long tedious process and then one day a friend was like ‘Dude, why don’t you just jump on muro?’” Thorne told “When I started messing around with it, it cut down so much on the footwork I had to do. It just blew up after that.”

With its simple interface and sleek design, muro puts digital tools in the hands of people typically accustomed to working with brushes and canvas or pens and paper — it’s like Adobe Illustrator for non-pros. Originally designed to allow deviantArt members to add simple sketches to the site’s lively forums, muro put an easy-to-master tool in the hands of artists who use it to create a wild variety of works.

That’s exactly what someone like Thorne needed. Better known by thenom de art sWooZie, Thorne makes the kind of videos the internet loves: comedy acted out by slick and cute animations, complete with fight scenes and tricked-out DeLoreans.

The video that gained him internet fame (read: a post on Gawker) used a series of stick-figure animations to illustrate his miscreant behavior as a Walt Disney World employee. It topped a quarter-million YouTube views within a few days of its posting in January.

He followed that up with “Cheating in High School” and eventually “Super Sick Stick Figure Fight [FTW],” which went up in April and was the first of five installments he sees as his summer blockbuster. (See the second, “Cute College Girls [FTW],” which was released Friday, above.)


Thorne’s process is deeply rooted in the web’s DIY aesthetic. The artist, who also happens to be a pro gamer, shoots videos of sets in his home or out in the wild in Orlando, Florida, where he lives. He then illustrates and animates his characters on top of those images. His concepts definitely lean toward the nerdy — videogame references and lightsaber fights — but he’s got a style all his own. (See how sWooZie made his latest video below.)

His style is starting to pay off. Thorne, who completed a one-year program in computer animation at theDigital Animation and Visual Effects School, now makes between $1,000 and $2,000 a month from his videos through YouTube’s partner program. He once made $500 a day from a single clip.

“I used to work at the Hard Rock Hotel [as a lifeguard] making $400 every two weeks after taxes, and now I’m getting a little bit more than that just from uploading videos to the internet,” Thorne said.

There’s very little overhead. Since muro is a free program, Thorne incurs few costs beyond his time investment and the few die-cast car models he buys as props. That’s exactly what muro’s creators atdeviantArt want.

The original concept for muro was to build a simple drawing tool deviantArt members could use for sketching in the site’s forums. But while the developers were working with the prototype, codenamed “drawplz,” the company’s CEO Angelo Sotira got addicted to using it and asked lead developer Mike Dewey to make a larger version for use on bigger artworks. From there, muro blossomed into a much more robust illustration application.

“[Sotira] said, ‘Sometimes I get frustrated that I’m drawing so small,’” Dewey said. “I said, ‘I’ll make it so that it goes full-screen for you,’ and that ended up evolving into the full-fledged drawing application.”

It only took a few weeks. Sotira asked for a bigger version in the middle of summer 2010 and muro launched that August. Now deviantArt users fill the site with about 3,100 muro-made images each day even while the program remains in beta. Some artists are even using the program on their iPads, turning the tablet into an electronic sketch book.

Much to the surprise of its creators, muro is also being used for animation by people like Thorne.

“I don’t think any time while we were developing this did we say, ‘Yeah, OK, let’s make something for animators,’” Dewey said. “But once [Thorne] started doing it, I could see why he picked muro. It’s the ease of creation — when he has an idea, he can have it work it in a day or two rather than creating an entire 3-D model.”

‘My imagination becomes the only limitation I have.’

Thorne agrees, adding that as a storyteller, having muro has allowed him to do things he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to pull off without a big budget and far, far more time.

“If I write in a script that the Back to the Future car flies in and crashes through the wall and wood goes flying everywhere like splinters, my imagination becomes the only limitation I have,” Thorne said. “Because I’m using live-action and muro in combination, it’s like the perfect marriage.”

Lego Fan Creates 250,000-Brick ‘Garrison of Moriah’

Gerry Burrows stands with his massive Lego creation, the Garrison of Moriah.
Photo courtesy Gerry Burrows

Usually, the only constraint on building a Lego creation is your imagination. Unless, that is, you build a giant structure that demands its own “Lego room.”



One Lego fan has done just that: Say hello to the “Garrison of Moriah,” and the 540-square-foot room it inhabits. Inspired by the fantastic buildings featured in the likes of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, Garrison creator Gerry Burrows has built a detailed (and huge) sculpture to the scale of the tiny Lego people who have the honor of inhabiting it. 

Burrows has wanted to build big ever since his Lego fandom began as a child. However, it was the freedom of maturity that allowed him to realize his construction dreams. He tells “I entered what Lego fans call ‘The Dark Ages’ — where I didn’t do anything with Lego — but when I graduated college and bought my first house, I unpacked a box of my old Lego bricks. I started thinking how I now have the money and space to actually build the things I wanted to build — without a little sister to rampage through my Lego creations.”

A combination of discovering BrickLink (“the holy grail of Lego buying”), adapting a basement for building purposes (“I told our realtor that I needed a ‘Lego room.’ He thought I was joking at first.”) and a week off work resulted in the first Lego bricks being laid on what was to become the Garrison of Moriah.


Making preparations for building, however, was just the first step. Amazingly, Burrows’ building strategy took little planning, he tells “Nothing ever touched paper or computer. But as I would start to build and focus on individual structures, I would spend time thinking of the specific structures’ design. As I built I would get inspiration on cool directions to take.”

Burrows never suffered any disasters during construction. That’s not to say, however, there weren’t a few precautions taken in building such a megastructure: “I learned to not jump or even flinch when stepping on a Lego piece in my bare feet,” he says.

‘It’s still growing.’

Currently, the Garrison of Moriah stands at 28 feet long, wrapping around one-third of the room. It has a depth ranging between 24 inches and 59 inches and runs from 6.5 feet to 12 feet tall — and that’s after shortening two structures to fit in the Lego room. Burrows estimates he’s used between 200,000 and 250,000 Lego bricks.

However, the Garrison is set to expand further: “It’s still growing. The bridge isn’t complete, nor is the other end of the bridge. And I’m building a fleet of custom ships,” Burrows says.

We’re holding our breaths. Until then, check out the awesome Garrison of Moriah up close, in the Wired UK gallery.