Google knows what you searched last summer

Despise all the controversy, Google started his new Privacy Policy last Thursday and whether you like it or not, you are being watched.

Being realistic, this is not far from what they were already doing: Google already tracked your searches, what you are watching on Youtube or your emails.

But before March, 1st, Google Plus, Youtube, Gmail and almost 60 Google products, were in different databases. With this change, Google guys are giving themselves the right to put all those products in just one big place, put one and one and one together to build a better and more complete online behaviour of YOU. And use it to chase YOU with their ads.

And you can’t opt out. If you want to use any Google product you are under their privacy policy.

It should be nonsense for me to tell you to stop using Google products. Almost everything you do in the internet today, from searches and emails, to finding a street and comparing products’ prices, is somehow through a Google product or related to it.

But you can at least reduce the amount of information that Google will be able to collect from you.

You can, for instance, delete your Google history going to https://www.google.com/history/ and clicking the button “Remove all Web History”

You can also configure your advertising settings here:  https://www.google.com/settings/u/0/ads/preferences/

You can edit your settings or even opt out.

 

Another way to “confuse” Google is creating a different account for each Google service (if you can keep up with all usernames and passwords).

Or, when watching a video on Youtube or searching the Web, make sure you are not logged in to your Google account.

There is also the possibility to use browser plugins that work to protect your data, or even anonymous proxies.

But, the truth is, as soon as you type into your computer, click anything, visit at a page, talk through Skype, or even talk on a telephone, (mobile or fixed), those who want to, can spy on you.

At least now Google is coming clear and telling you that they are spying on you. It makes better sense to me than living in a fool’s paradise, where you still believe that you have control over your life.

Humble Bundle

I’m not the one to normally do reviews or ads, but this is one well worth doing. Humble bundle is an initiative hosted by Wolfire studio, in which five other studios (2D Boy, Bit Blot, Cryptic Sea, Frictional Games and the recently joined Amanita Design) joined their award-winning indie games into a bundle with two charities (EFF and Child’s Play) that you can pay whatever you want, to be shared amongst them.

All games work on Linux and Mac (as well as Windows), are of excellent quality (I loved them) and separately would cost around 80 bucks. The average buy price for the bundle is around $8.50, but some people have paid $1000 already. Funny, though, that now they’re separating the average per platform, and Linux users pay, on average, $14 while Windows users pay $7, with Mac in between. A clear message to professional game studios out there, isn’t it?

About the games, they’re the type that are always fun to play and don’t try to be more than they should. There are no state-of-the-art 3D graphics, blood, bullets and zillions of details, but they’re solid, consistent and plain fun. I already had World of Goo (from 2D Boy) and loved it. All the rest I discovered with the bundle and I have to say that I was not expecting them to be that good. The only bad news is that you have only one more day to buy them, so hurry, get your bundle now while it’s still available.

The games

World of Goo: Maybe the most famous of all, it’s even available for Wii. It’s addictive and family friendly, has many tricks and very clever levels to play. It’s a very simple concept, balls stick to other balls and you have to reach the pipe to save them. But what they’ve done with that simple concept was a powerful and very clever combination of physical properties that give the game an extra challenge. What most impressed me was the way physics was embedded in the game. Things have weight and momentum, sticks break if the momentum is too great, some balls weight less than air and float, while others burn in contact with fire. A masterpiece.

Aquaria: I thought this would be the least interesting of all, but I was wrong. Very wrong. The graphics and music are very nice and the physics of the game is well built, but the way the game builds up is the best. It’s a mix of Ecco with Loom, where you’re a sea creature (mermaid?) and have to sing songs to get powers or to interact with the game. The more you play, the more you discover new things and the more powerful you become. Really clever and a bit more addictive than I was waiting for… 😉

Gish: You are a tar ball (not the Unix tar, though) and have to go through tunnels with dangers to find your tar girl (?). The story is stupid, but the game is fun. You can be slippery or sticky to interact with the maze and some elements that have simple physics, which add some fun. There are also some enemies to make it more difficult. Sometimes it’s a bit annoying, when it depends more on luck (if you get the timing of many things right in a row) than actually logic or skill. The save style is also not the best, I was on the fourth level and asked for a reset (to restart the fourth level again), but it reset the whole thing and sent me to the first level, which I’m not playing again. The music is great, though.

Lugaru HD: A 3D Lara Croft bloody kung-fu bunny style. The background story is more for necessity of having one than actually relevant. The idea is to go on skirmishing, cutting jugulars, sneaking and knocking down characters in the game as you go along. The 3D graphics are not particularly impressive and the camera is not innovative, but the game has some charm for those that like a fight for the sake of fights. Funny.

Penumbra: If you like being scared, this is your game. It’s rated 16+ and you can see very little while playing. But you can hear things growling, your own heart beating and the best part is when you see something that scares the hell out of you and you despair and give away your hide out. The graphics are good, simple but well cared for. The effects (blurs, fades, night vision, fear) are very well done and in sync with the game and story. The interface is pretty simple and impressively easy, making the game much more fun than the traditional FPS I’ve played so far. The best part is, you don’t fight, you hide and run. It remembers me Thief, where fighting is the last thing you want to do, but with the difference is that in Thief, you could, in this one, you’re a puss. If you fight, you’ll most likely die.

Samorost 2: It’s a flash game, that’s all I know. Flash is not particularly stable on any platform and Linux is especially unstable, so I couldn’t make it run in the first attempt. For me, and most gamers I know, a game has to work. This is why it’s so hard to play early open source games, because you’re looking for a few minutes of fun and not actually fiddling with your system. I have spent more time writing this paragraph than trying to play Samorost and I will only try it again if I upgrade my Linux (in hoping the Flash problem will go away by itself). Pity.

Well, that’s it. Go and get your humble bundle that it’s well worth, plus you help some other people in the process. Helping indie studios is very important for me. First, it levels the play-field and help them grow. Second, they tend to be much more platform independent, and decent games for Linux are scarce. Last, they tend to have the best ideas. Most game studios license one or two game engines and create dozens of similar games with that, in hope to get more value for their money. Also, they tend to stick with the current ideas that sell, instead of innovating.

By buying the bundle you are, at the very least, helping to have better games in the future.

Search the Web and send a girl to school

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“Most of us wish we could give more, now we can. Everyclick is a really simple way to raise money for free, just by doing something you already do” said Polly Gowers CEO, co- founder and winner of the WEBA Ethical Entrepreneur of the year 2007. “As we see it, every search that is not raising money for charity is a search wasted.”

 Everyclick.com works just like any other search engine, but allows the users to choose the charity they would like to benefit from their searching. The revenue generated for charities comes from companies that advertise on the site. There is no sign up fee or hidden charge to the user or the charity, it’s free giving.

 Charities of all sizes are benefiting from this new fundraising service; they range from Cancer Research to small village schools. If 10% of the UK online population used Everyclick.com for their searches, an additional £172,000 would be raised for charity every day.

How to raise more money for Camfed using Everyclick:

About Everyclick Charity Challenge

The Everyclick Charity Challenge enables us to raise more money and have the chance to win a poster campaign on 1500 Clear Channel Outdoor sites that will be viewed an estimated 192 million times.

The challenge runs from 15th October 2008 to 1 March 2009 during which time we will have a range of innovative ways to raise money online.

Dangerous Files you Have to Avoid

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Crackers like to use phishing to spread their malicious code. And actually, if you take care with just some file extensions you can avoid these dangerous codes.

If you receive an e-mail with the extensions .cmd, .bat, .exe or .scr, don’t open it, even if it comes from a secure source. And, as email servers are blocking these attached files, crackers are using telephone promotions, your bank account and other current subjects to direct you to a malicious link where a virus is downloaded. They develop sites almost identical to the original sites, “clones”, where the cracker has total control over your acts. It’s really common send scraps to Orkut users with these links.

Most files available to download in these websites are those kind mentioned in the beginning: .cmd, .bat, .scr or .exe.

The .cmd and .bat files are used to execute scripts known as batch files, to automate tasks. Crackers use these kind of files to steal user data. The .scr are screen saver files, and most users trust this kind of files, but the virus will be activated when the screen saver is executed.The most known, and still most used as phishing is .exe. Users know how dangerous these files are, but, most of time, they don’t pay attention to the extension they are downloading.

The files mentioned are Trojans and keyloggers. Trojans open your machine to the cracker and Keyloggers record everything you type. So, can you imagine the damage to your personal data?

Now that you know these dangerous files, what to do to protect your data? it’s always a good idea to have a firewall and other prevention methods that can identify these links and extensions. And don’t think you will notice that your computer was infected. The cracker don’t want to be noticed, he will be hidden, and quiet, to get all information he wants.

Take care with those files and links, check the extension, don’t open files from unknown sources and don’t execute anything in your computer that you are not sure what is. It’s not that hard to be safe on line.

Geeks United! It’s time to recycle!

It’s time to recycle using your hand craft abilities!

Computer Chip Trivet

Don’t you know what to do with those old computer chips laying around? What do you think about a stylish trivet? Instructions are simple to follow: all you need are some computer chips , grout, adhesive, and a tile square.

Once you’re all finished, you’ll have a nicely geekified trivet for all your hot stuff.

You’ll really impress your geeky friends with this genuinely useful kitchen tool that you can make: a trivet built out of old computer chips.

Follow this link for full instructions.

Hard Drive Wind Chimes

The drive platters themselves are also quite remarkable: precisely made aluminium patters with a surface not unlike recording tape. The disks make a lovely clear note if you strike them, so it was only natural to make them into a set of wind chimes.

An interesting side effect is that the shiny shiny platters reflected little spots of light into the house. Naturally, if you have cats, they’ll love it too.


Follow this link for full instructions.


Hard Drive Picture Frames

So, you’ve disassembled hard drives, taken the magnets out, made wind chimes out of the platters, and so on. One thing that you might have left over is a set of printed circuit boards. Funny shaped printed circuit boards, with holes in them.

Here’s how to turn those leftover PCBs into fabulous geek-chic picture frames.

It’s done! Hang it on something ferromagnetic!

Here’s a completed picture frame, hanging on a wire bookshelf.

Follow this link for full instructions.

Computer Forensics: Recovering Files – Part 2

Last week I introduced you Active@ File Recovery as a useful computer forensics tool and file recovery software.

Today, we go a bit further in Active@ File Recovery usage.

A few tips when using Active @ File Recovery to recover your lost files:

    1. Before install Active@ File Recovery for Windows it’s a good idea create a Recovery point, so, that way, if you don’t like the software or if it doesn’t work properly, you can easily restore your system for the situation before to install Acite@ File Recovery.
        – Actually, it’s a good idea set up a Recovery Point for Windows every time you will install any software in your Windows System. It will provide the basis for recovery if and when needed.
      • – A recovery Point is the basis that allows you undo all changes made in your system and recover all your configurations.
    2. Try to use Active@ File Recovery without install, so, there’s no risk to overwrite your files.
    3. Install Active@ File Recovery in a different Hard Drive or partition of the affected drive partition to avoid of writing over data that you wish to recover.
    4. After install Active@File Recovery, you can open it and navigate just like you do in Windows Explorer.
    5. Go to the file or folder you want to recover and choose recover option.

    1. When you choose this option it will open a new windows asking where do you want to place the recovery file or folder.

  1. If you chose to save at the original place, the system will warn you to save it in another place to avoid overwrite your file or folder. In this case, it will be impossible a future recovering operation.

But remember, not every lost file can be recovered. You have to think about the following possibilities:

    • We have to assume that the file entry still exists, I mean, it was not overwritten. The more the files have been created on your HD, the less chances that the space for that deleted file has been used for other entries.
    • We assume that the file entry is more or less safe to point to the proper place where file clusters are located. If the operating system had been damaged file entries right after deletion, the first data cluster becomes invalid and further entry restoration will not be possible.

So, as a general advice, do not write anything in the drive containing your deleted data and do not try to recover your files to the original drive data.

 

How to keep your Internet Life Browsing in a secure way

First of all, if you thought Internet Explorer and Firefox were your only options, you were mistaken. This section reviews Internet Explorer and Firefox basics and introduces other viable Web browser options.

Microsoft Internet Explorer is a common target for browser hijacking. Internet Explorer 7.0 provided a significant upgrade to Microsoft browser security but, still have flaws, like the one discovered for an Israeli vulnerability researcher. Aviv Raff warned in a posting on his blog Wednesday that Attackers could exploit a new flaw in Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7) to launch phishing expeditions. Raff said IE 7 running on Windows XP and Vista is susceptible to cross-site scripting attacks.

So, you don’t have options and you have to use IE, or maybe, for some weird reason, you just like it.

IE has the ability to provide a secure browsing, but it’s the responsibility of the organization or the user to configure it.
Yes you have to do your homework. You can start reading this How-to articles from Microsoft.

If you are tired of patching your IE browsers every week (at least) may consider migrating to Mozilla Firefox, a popular third-party browser that is generally thought to be more secure than IE. However, Firefox is not immune to attacks, and as the browser increases in popularity, it’s likely to become a bigger target for attackers.

In this link you can find a list of security tips for Firefox users, but it’s great reading for other users as well.

Not satisfied with Firefox or IE? Yes, there are other options, such as Opera, Safari, Konqueror, Lynx (this one just for grown ones) and others. They all have theirs pros and cons, visit their webpages and and learn what you should expect if you’re not using IE or Firefox.

And remember: on the second Tuesday of every month, Microsoft releases hot fixes for its newest flaws which almost invariably include Internet Explorer patches. Yes, at least twice a month you will have to patch your IE.

Others Web browser of your choice will release their patches eventually.

Keyboards for everybody

Are you planning change your keyboard and you don know which one choose? Maybe it could help you.

Are you old-fashioned? Full instructions for how to convert a 1980s era “clicky” IBM keyboard into an input device that would look at home in a movie adaptation of a Jules Verne novel are available on The Steampunk Workshop

 

For those who likes more futuristic stuff, the Bluetooth Laser Virtual Keyboard could be a great idea.

If you want to impress your colleagues and friends, you could use the Das Keyboard – 100% blank.

Windows user? Try the Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop Keyboard 8000, with a magnetic dock for you wireless mouse and a bright Windows key.

Are you travelling all the time or maybe you just want to use your blackberry with a keyboard? So, the Elkensen Fabric Keyboard is perfect for you.

They have both wireless and wired version.

So, which one?

Build your own Flower Robot!

Finally!

Now you can build your own robot! Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, USA, has released its recipes to build robots as home.

Using TeRK (Telepresence Robot Kit), you can find all pieces you need and even adapt others parts to do your own robot.

Right now, they have 4 recipes:

Qwerkbot Classic (The Qwerkbot Classic is the simplest mobile robot that you can build using a Qwerk processor. Utilizing the holes in the Qwerk enclosure as mount points for two motors and a caster the Qwerkbot recipe literally turns your Qwerk into a robot.)

Qwerkbot+ (The Qwerkbot+ adds a pan-tilt head to allow independent motion of the camera and robot base. This version is somewhat more challenging to build than the Qwerkbot Classic.)

AC Power (The AC power Adapter allows you to power a QweRK from an ordinary AC wall outlet.)

Flower (The Flower is a stationary robot with seven degrees of freedom. Once you have built the Flower, you can use TeRK’s Robot Universal Remote and Flower Power software to program its movements. You can program your Flower to rise or wilt and program the motions of its petals. Because the Flower is equipped with IR sensors on three of its petals, it can track objects moving in front of it. It can even catch a lightweight ball.)

While all others bots are for beginners, the Flowers is quite more complex and you can spend 10 hours building it.

But, how cute is that!

Flower Robot

They also have softwares for controlling your TeRK robot, like this Flower Plower to program your Flower Robot.

Flower Power Software

Actually, the robot’s secret is the internal electronic controller Qwerk, a microcomputer using Linux to control all cameras, USB devices, engines and sensors. The robot’s sftware is Open Source and you can use virtually any computer language.

Oh, yes! There are bad news… Now, they are selling the kit just in US. By the way, the Flower Robot Total cost of parts is $725,00.