Friday, September 01, 2006

InfoWorld Tech Watch | TrackMeNot fools search engines

TrackmeNot is a firefox extension I've been using for the last week, almost. It generates random search queries at a rate that is user configurable (you enable via a choice under Tools, and the first few times I tried to open options it didn't work, but it's worked fine ever since then). Basically, it floods the search queries you make, I call it the "baffle 'em with BS" theory. ;)
Some of the queries are extremely odd, for instance the one currently is 'canned hex' (I'll post the ones I see while I'm working on this post, for you entertainment: 'patch gobbles,'daemon legaleses') But, it seems to work with no major hit in browser performance or connectivity, though I did get 600KB+/sec while getting some podcasts (just to show that I am a total broadband brat hehehe).

The Infoworld Weblog posted an article about TrackMeNot and other options to protect your privacy on the internet (to a limited
extent, I know...). A brief excerpt below with a link to the article.

In the wake of AOL's stunningly ill-conceived decision to publicize the search habits of hundreds of thousand of its users, as well as reports of various search engines employing user-profiling, we're seeing more Web tools emerge aimed at helping users hide their tracks -- or baffle their trackers.

Browzar falls under the former category. Though the name sounds like Godzilla's next-dorr neighbor on Monster Island, Browzar is actually a Web browser designed to protect users' privacy by not retaining details of the Web sites they've searched. It does so by automatically deleting Internet caches, histories, cookies and auto-complete forms.

Taking a different tack from Browzar is a Firefox extension called TrackMeNot. Rather than employing concealment or encryption to mask a user's browsing activities, it "periodically issues randomized search-queries to popular search engines, e.g., AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and MSN," according to the TrackMeNot Web site.

InfoWorld Tech Watch|TrackMeNot fools search engines

Four Tough Lessons of System Recovery

This is described as "a cautionary tale", too. I thought it interesting and illustrative.



Thursday, August 31, 2006

Announcing Tesseract OCR

An acquaintance who is working in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) for a university library turned me on to this. She is really excited by this and I think it is pretty neat, as well.

Tesseract is a rather old HP project. Along the way, HP decided they did not really want to be in the OCR business. Tesseract is not a product and in fact is fairly far away from being ready for prime time. However, the "engine" is unique and contains features that might serve other open source OCR projects. Conversely, features from other projects might be added to Tesseract. At least those are the hopes.

While there are already a host of pretty good OCR products out there, both proprietary and free software, there is room for improvement in all of them. So any new technology released for this use is interesting and has the possibility of changing our user experience for the better.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

California passes Wi-Fi user protection bill

California is on the verge of mandating warning messages on wireless and other internet access gear regarding it's use in unsecured configurations. Survey after survey shows that most home wireless setups are not secured in any way. Relatively few business wireless access schemes are secured, though the percentage is not as low as that for home networks.

A recent online chat with an R&D staffer at NetGear revealed they are willing to sell wireless gear that will not allow an insecure connection to be set up. However, their research also showed that such a device would be overwhelmingly rejected by consumers, even given price parity with other gear!

I have no idea what the solution is, but something must be done. Mandating warnings seems pretty pale, though, given the wide awareness of security and the consumer's evident unwillingness to take steps to be more secure.


Mac OS X-friendly OpenOffice to go public next month

The existence of an Open Office version that will run natively on Apple's OS X using the Aqua graphics system will be revealed at Apple Expo Paris next month.

Until now, a Mac user had to install the X windowing system on their machine to run OO. This was available via the OS X 10.4.x installation CD or via download. The new version will require no such gymnastics of the user and will be welcome for that. This is a big step forward for OO.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

AOL 9.0 Accused of Behaving Like Badware

Frankly, there is nothing in this article that surprises me. And I suspect there are more badware type features yet to be exposed.

As Joe says; "Friends don't let friends use AOL".


Microsoft leaks Vista pricing

From the "they've got to be kidding, dept."

Jack pointed this link out to me. This could just be another droll, Inquirer joke, but if this is true...

Update: Ed Bott has a more thoughful analysis and makes his best guess at the US prices. I still think it is too much to pay for what I predict will be a buggy, rushed to deadline, OS. I can only hope MS proves us naysayers wrong.

2nd Update: It seems that Amazon has decided to list Vista prices and release date though MS officially denies it. At $399 for Ultimate it better be danged good.

Ray Tracing

Brett Thomas has a pretty good article on about ray tracing. It is evidently the shape of things to come and this article will give you an overview of how it works.

Currently, most of our computer graphics are done by pixel shading, a very, very processor intensive way of going about things. Ray tracing is supposedly better and we are at the point where it is possible. The calculations needed to accomplish ray tracing are massive, as well, but you don't have to perform so many of them to render good, or even great, graphics.

I have messed with ray tracing in the guise of various graphics editing programs and I must say that I don't understand it very well. However; it is amazing how much more realistic one can make an animated frame using it. I guess I'm trying to say I see at least some of the potential of this scheme. Whether or not it is the next big thing, it is coming, as the chosen route ahead by those who build our graphics hardware.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Google Office still needs some renovating | | CNET

I haven't tried "Google Office", officially called "Google Apps for your Domain" It is available here if you want to try it:

Sounds like it is not quite ready for primetime, but if you try is and disagree with the article, please leave a comment.

Mark Shuttleworth; One on the Chin - Updated

The link is to Mark Shuttleworth's personal blog. For those of you who do not know, Mark is the money and the driving force behind the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution. Ubuntu and it's derivatives are currently the most popular deskto Linux flavor and doing reasonably well in the server space, though it is plainly targeted at desktop users. Ubuntu is based upon Debian, which is the reason it is also seeing server usage. Debian is well suited to that and apparently Ubuntu only slightly less so, even in it's present form.

In the blog entry, Mark takes full responsibility for the problems with a patch to X that the distro had this last week. He also accepts all the virulent criticism they received. That is the way it should be, of course. The Ubuntu team knows such things are unacceptable and says it aloud. They vow to change whatever needs to be changed to keep it from happening again.

The entry is pretty short and well worth a read.


Here is an article with more particulars than Shuttleworth's blog post. Though I talked about it on the show, I thought I had best put up some details.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

On Computers Radio Show Podcast 08-27-06

This is the On Computers Radio show podcast for 08-27-06. You can listen live every Sunday from 10AM to 1PM Pacific thats 1PM to 4PM Eastern. If you prefer, you can download the same file here via ftp.