Computer Geek

Musings about technology, computer books and software.

July 24, 2005

Hotmail can't verify itself

OK, I know it's like shooting fish in a barrel, but it's time to poke fun at Microsoft once again. The Sender ID framework developed by Microsoft and other industry partners is...
... an e-mail authentication technology protocol that helps address the problem of spoofing and phishing by verifying the domain name from which e-mail is sent. Sender ID validates the origin of e-mail by verifying the IP address of the sender against the purported owner of the sending domain.
In principle, it's a great idea and Microsoft has already started using it with Hotmail which is owned by them. But as my cropped screenshot below shows, they need to work a little bit more on the implementation (click graphic for larger version):

It looks like they forget to register their own servers with Sender ID. Oops.

July 23, 2005

Firefox: Locating Erring Extensions

Firefox is another web browser that's growing in popularity as an alternative to security-problem ridden Internet Explorer. It's a lightweight browser that is fast, has tabs and support for adding extensions and search engines.

Tabs allow you to view more than one website in the same browser window. You won't realize just how great this is how until you try it.

Firefox comes with very few features though they're enough for many people. This is by design. You can easily add new features to Firefox by installing new extensions. For example, Spellbound is a popular spell-checker for when you're filling out forms or blogging. There are also extensions for saving posts, tagging, saving your browser session (so you can start back where you left off), checking gmail, the local weather and more.

Sometimes things can go wrong though. Some extensions are poorly written or conflict with others. And that's where the topic link comes in. It's a short article on how to figure out which extension is causing the problem. I wish it had more but it's a good start for beginners.

July 15, 2005

Protecting your online privacy

Did you know that websites can track you via a unique identifier called your IP address? If you have an always-on broadband connection (cable or DSL), your computer will keep this same IP address for weeks or even months at a time. Add to that many websites require you to login linking that IP address with personal information and privacy becomes an issue.

There's an organization concerned about protecting the rights of computer users in this digital age - the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They've created a tool that allows you to browse the web anonymously for free. It's called Tor. The TOR website says:
Your traffic is safer when you use Tor, because communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers, called onion routers. Instead of taking a direct route from source to destination, data packets on the Tor network take a random pathway through several servers that cover your tracks so no observer at any single point can tell where the data came from or where it's going. This makes it hard for recipients, observers, and even the onion routers themselves to figure out who and where you are. Tor's technology aims to provide Internet users with protection against "traffic analysis," a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.
You can install it for Windows by visiting this page and following the instructions there. Lots of screenshots to take you through installing and configuring it. If you're using MacOS X or Linux, see this. Note that in either case, you'll be shown how to install Privoxy which works with Tor. Don't worry. It's easier than it sounds.

So far I've just used it with Windows and it works great!

July 11, 2005

Old computers find their cool

From the Weekend Standard, "China's Business Newspaper":
These days people are holding on to their old desktops and laptops - for nostalgia's sake, for the kitsch value - turning yesteryear's outmoded computers into today's historical artifacts and giving them a growing value in the ever-so-hungry collectibles market.
Maybe that old TI-99/4A or TRS-80 Color Computer I have in my closet might be worth something. Then again...

Speaking of old computers, the Computer History Museum is a good place to look at them.

July 04, 2005

Video without the nonsense

Sometimes I really pine for the days when programmers spent more time streamlining programs and fixing bugs and less time making eye candy. My wife found a video player like that. It's called Twins Video Player.

Twins loads fast and plays a variety of video formats including Real. It's great for older machines or those that just want to spend their CPU cycles more wisely. Did I mention it's free? Click on the topic title get grab it.