Daily Reads

I am always interested in what people read on a daily basis on the web so here is what I read and why I read it. I am sure you won’t be surprised by its slant towards the geeky.


One of the first geek oriented sites to pull together stories submitted by the community, still coming up with bits from way in left field.


Part of the gawker media and blog network, I pay attention to some of the life productivity tips it offers, with a heavy slant to computer software tricks that might even someday help me. Scroll to the bottom of the page if you want to explore some of the other gawker sites


I think of good.is as my way to keep my hope alive that people are still doing good in this world. Topics range across action, business, cities, culture, design, education, environment, food, health, media, politics, technology, and transportation. I am not sure how to summarize what good.is, other than I keep finding news bits that I would not have otherwise found.


My way of following one take on different security threats.


Saying it is just a news aggregator is underplaying its value. Rather than try to explain the value to me of Google News, here is their take.

“Our articles are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online. We also rank based on certain characteristics of news content such as freshness, location, relevance and diversity. As a result, stories are sorted without regard to political viewpoint or ideology and you can choose from a wide variety of perspectives on any given story. <http://news.google.com/intl/en_us/about_google_news.html>

I love seeing how different media outlets handle a particular story and Google News makes it really easy to read other’s points of view


Yes, another tech news site but they often go beyond just a few paragraphs in analyzing tech news. And, many of the reader comments are just as instructive as the articles.

You may have noticed that all of these (except krebsonsecurity.com) aggregate information and news from other sources. That is how I find interesting things; it is like hearing what library books your friends are reading.

And, then there are all those podcasts to listen to <Grin>.

Getting offline after death

And, now for something that we don’t think about that much with the internet. planning for what happens to our virtual selves after death, what to do with all of our virtual affairs.

There are at least two parts to this, the first one is to have a list of all the logins and passwords for services you use. This means, email, banks, any and all payment sites, ebay, paypal, google accounts and other accounts, facebook, twitter, and don’t forget to include all of those accounts you have to make just to read or post on certain sites. Once you have this list, go through it and figure out which accounts you don’t care about, the ones that you may not want anyone to know about and strike them off the list. All of the remaining ones you should make a list of in a secure place like a safety deposit box and/or your lawyer who has possession of your will.

Now, comes the second part, you figuring out for all of your social networking accounts, how you want your death announced. If you are active in a group online, you don’t want them left wondering about why you all of a sudden stopped participating. Of course, you don’t have to set up such “memorials” for banks and such, but still have those passwords available.

And, then the fun part, actually getting the accounts terminated. Just as you probably are not even thinking about the need for this topic, many services have also ignored what they might have to do. Twitter and Facebook have actually worked out policies for what they will do with your account, but many others require an amazing amount of paper work, photo ids and account particulars, that you will find it easier to have your executor just login as you and terminate or handle your account in the way you dictate. Having a lawyer, rather than a family member, handle this part may be better as you won’t have to worry about what this person might find in some of your accounts. About the accounts you don’t want anyone to know about ever, you should find out how to clear out all your account information so that it can not be sold out later as online companies consolidate and change their terms of service.

The bottom line is to at least start with a complete list of all your online logins and passwords so that your virtual affairs can also be wound up as you would wish.

Keeping it all up to date and clean in Windows

Here is the challenge, you know you are supposed to keep all your software up to date, you have come to realize that Microsoft Windows will download updates in the background and even force you to install the important ones when you shut down the computer, but what about all of the other things you have installed on your computer?

There is an answer, but it is not perfect, Secunia Personal Security Inspector <http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/> is software that you can install to check the current version status of many common programs to let you know whether there are known security flaws that have been patched with available updates. And, it will let you know what to download and how to update what needs updating. The biggest downside to PSI is that you can not just tell it to update everything it finds. Which, some would say is good, it lets them keep the tried and true versions of certain software. At least, you will now know what is out-of-date.

And, to keep Windows cleaner, for help in removing many of the temporary and/or unneeded files that build up over time as you use your web browser you can install CCleaner <http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner>.

The Mac equivalent for CCleaner might be considered Onyx <http://www.titanium.free.fr/download.php> and make sure you download the correct one for your version of OS X.

The Mac equivalent for Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector has not been produced, at least not unless you would like to help “test” AppFresh from Aurora <http://metaquark.de/blog/appfresh/>. I almost hesitate to mention it, but someone will want to know and there it is.

Bottom line is that software updates are there for a reason, not to just make your life harder, but in many cases to fix or patch a flaw that someone else has found. If you are working or playing on the Internet, using the Web and such, you can make things a bit safer by applying updates as they come in.

Oh, and if all of this makes your head spin, at least back up everything you would not want to loose if your computer crashes, Actually, you should focus on that first. Think of how much you would pay someone to bring back your pictures, for example, and then think of spending some of that money now so you won’t have to later.

Playing it safe on public wifi networks

Public wifi networks are great when they are free, like they now are at Starbucks, but you should practice some basic safety.

Most public wifi networks do not use encryption passwords to get on, it makes it easier for the baristas and cashiers who don’t have to troubleshoot why the password isn’t working on your laptop. However, that also means that what you type into any web browser or send with your email program is going over the air in plain English, easy enough for others to pick up. So, rule one, above all rules, take a second to think about what you are doing, others may be looking over your cyber shoulder.

  1. Turn off file sharing.
  2. Turn on your firewall.
  3. Any website you are at that contains private information, or where you have to type in a password, should be using SSL. That means that the beginning of the web address is https://www.somewhere.com/ , note the “s” at the end of http. Pay attention to how you read your email, for example Gmail uses SSL all the time, not just for the login, which means that reading your emails is still safe from prying eyes.
  4. Use a VPN, something that sounds high tech and would only be of use if you are connecting to another network at work. And, then you may have it already set up. You might want to use that VPN and then from the “work” computer do your web surfing and other email.
  5. Turn off your wifi when you are not using it, if it off nothing can get you, right?

Facebook and your friends

It is great fun to use Facebook and yet do you know what they are doing with your information? They recently enhanced their service with “Like” (a part of their Social plugins program) which Facebook is touting as a great way to share even more with your friends However, it also could end up letting you share even more than you thought.

This sharing works as you log into Facebook and then browse to a “member” site, one that has signed up with Facebook’s “Like” program. Upon your first visit to a member site, Pandora for example, you might see a notice from Facebook, a blue notice at the top of your web browser similar to “Hi Bill. Pandora is using Facebook to personalize your experience.” If you don’t click no then you can share bits of that site, in effect your interest in that site or story/item on that site, with friends on Facebook. You might think that clicking the X button to close that alert would be saying “No” but you would be wrong. You can opt out of that sharing with your friends, but your public Facebook information can still be shared by your friends to these partner sites unless you block the application. In other words, you are opted in through a subtle misuse of the “Close” icon. You will see a small bar at the top of your browser with the little blue “f” icon for Facebook to indicate that you are still logged into Facebook and sharing information. You would have to log out of Facebook to stop your sharing, but all that you have shared is still there for others to see.

Just think of the fun that can happen if your significant other switches your Panora station to something so not you and all your Facebook friends are asking you about your sudden interest in Pat Benatar.

You can control how information is shared with your friends, the rest of the world, or kept private, says Facebook. The frustrating thing is that if Facebook wanted to really help you manage your privacy settings they would make it much easier. According to a recent article in the New York Times [http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/12/business/facebook-privacy.html] you would have to check “50 settings with more than 170 options” to set all of the various privacy settings. And, you would have to master options like “Friends of Friends” and “Friends and Networks” to avoid letting some bits of information out to more than your friends.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has changed information sharing policies without offering a clear way out. And, for those of us who still think that what we do at different sites doesn’t always have to hang out in public, should understand that Mr. Zuckerberg,, CEO of Facebook, has said:

People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.

We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are.


Furthermore, your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, Friends List, and all the pages you subscribe to are now publicly available information on Facebook.

By the time this article gets out, Facebook may well have pulled back a bit its information sharing policy, but don’t count on it staying that way for ever.

Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options


From Facebook’s Help Center

Social plugins and instant personalization


Facebook’s Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over


Three fingers to terminate pesky programs

There are times when a program freezes, either on a Mac or a PC, when nothing seems to work and most people reach for the power button and push it for five or so seconds to turn off the computer (or they will pull the power cord, and the battery if the computer is a laptop.) There is another way, and it can also help you kill or terminate what might otherwise be those malicious and frustrating fake antivirus programs that are going around and “attacking” Windows computers in the past few months.

“Control-Alt-Delete” is the secret in Windows to bring up the Windows Task Manager in Windows XP or a list in Windows Vista or 7 from which you can click on Start Task Manager.  Press those three keys at the same time and then release to start this process. When Task Manager opens, click on the Applications tab and there you should see a list of running programs, some which might have Not Responding in the Status column. To stop a program, click on its name and then look for and click on the End Task button in the lower right corner of the screen.

What makes this a great security tool is that whenever you have something pop open on your computer, for example one of those fake antivirus programs that increasingly come through Web searches, you can end them without clicking on what is the fake X close button in the upper right corner. Just get used to opening the Windows Task Manager before you really need it.

“Command-Option-Escape” is the secret in OS X land. Although fake antivirus programs don’t yet bother the Mac, there still are times when the spinning beach ball indicates a frozen program and pressing those three keys at the same time will open a Force Quit Applications window. Click to select the program or application that is not responding and then click on the Force Quit button in the lower right corner. This way you don’t have to press and hold the power button until the whole computer shuts off.

Totally unrelated, but I should let people know that I don’t use the Apple keyboard and mouse on my Mac. I needed a more ergonomic solution and Macs can use any USB keyboard and/or mouse or trackball. You might have to re-label some of those shortcut keys for the keyboard but it is nice to have that curved keyboard that allows me to type without wrist pain. If you do pick out a trackball as a change from a regular mouse, try some different ones before rejecting all of them, I had to try a few different models before finding that I liked the Logitech Marble Mouse.