It’s A Good Day To Be A Geek

The hackers cleverly bypassed battery monitor which means an overcharged Nook could very well explode! Good hack guys.

If you haven’t been watching closely you’ve missed a few geekily exciting days with new technology announcements. Some of these are pretty substantial and could be the proverbial game changers. It’s all happening… changing so rapidly.

Doesn’t anything happen at human speed anymore?

Google was the main player. First, they redefined their new unreleased operating system Chrome.

Chrome will be aimed at netbooks which should be less expensive and bothersome than current laptops. The whole paradigm of what you install, change or keep on your laptop will be shuffled.

Instant web: Chrome notebooks boot in about 10 seconds and resume from sleep instantly. Your favorite websites load quickly and run smoothly, with full support for the latest web standards and Adobe Flash.

Same experience everywhere: All your apps, documents, and settings are stored safely in the cloud. So even if you lose your computer, you can just log into another Chrome notebook and get right back to work.

Always connected: Integrated Wi-Fi for home and work, and 3G for all the places in between. 100MB of free 3G data every month* on the Verizon Wireless network. Affordable data plans with no commitment required.

Meanwhile while talking up Chrome Google also showed a new tablet computer built by Motorola and based on its Android operating system. There are tablet computers other than the iPod right now, but you’d be hard pressed to name any. I expect an explosion in tablets over the next six months and both Apple and Google will be responsible for most of it.

Speaking of explosions, someone published instructions to hack a Barnes and Noble Color Nook so it could operate as an Andriod tablet! One problem, the hack disturbed part of the battery monitoring circuitry. Every time the Nook would fire up this circuitry would shut it down.

The hackers cleverly bypassed battery monitor which means an overcharged Nook could very well explode! Good hack guys.

I’d REALLY like a tablet computer. What I want doesn’t yet exist. It’s got to be ‘friendly’ with my camera. I’ll wait. No choice.

More news from Google who pushed out a new version of their Chromium web browser. Sweet. This one comes with its own apps store. More importantly the javascript engine has been turbocharged again!

Don’t worry if you don’t know what javascript is. Take my word javascript is the thing that slows your web browser the most! Run Chrome/Chromium as your browser and you’ll immediately feel like you bought a faster computer.

If you are not using Chrome/Chromium as your browser you really should give it a try. It’s free and fast.

Finally yesterday Microsoft announced their soon-to-be released Internet Explorer 9 would have new privacy controls.

Tracking Protection in IE9 puts people in control of what data is being shared as they move around the Web. It does this by enabling consumers to indicate what websites they’d prefer to not exchange information with. Consumers do this by adding Tracking Protection Lists to Internet Explorer. Anyone, and any organization, on the Web can author and publish Tracking Protection Lists. Consumers can install more than one. By default, there are no lists included in IE9, which is consistent with our previous IE releases with respect to privacy.

This is a big deal. Everyone who knows anything about Internet security is demanding more privacy controls. Microsoft is the last player I’d expect to be stepping up for me versus advertisers and marketers.

See what you missed yesterday.

The Amazon Attachment Spam Attack Gets Weirder

My javascript interpretation isn’t good enough to understand whether this is a vicious or just suspicious set of emails. I think we’re being set up. The next hits probably won’t be as docile.

This past weekend I wrote about a totally harmless, weirdly meaningless, spam attack. Thursday afternoon another began. I’ve got 80 already.

I think they’re coming from the same place except this one is a lot scarier.

The weekend spam attack was just a few words. Once it was sent it was totally out of the spammer’s control. Today’s spam delivers an html file. Strings attached? Could be.

In and of itself html isn’t a problem. The entire worldwide web is built on html. This file’s contents seem to be a duplicate of something legitimately sends. Thursday afternoon that lulled me into a sense of security. Then I got a comment from Vince Batchelor.

If you look at the source of the html file, you see some javascript in the middle of the file.

Again, like html javascript itself isn’t nefarious. Nearly every web page you visit uses javascript, even this one! The javascript in this spam is different. It’s squeezed into the middle of the Amazon message where it definitely doesn’t belong. Inside the javascript is an encoded set of commands&#185. Unlike the rest of the javascript encoding makes this part unreadable by humans!

Don’t worry it can still be decoded!

I’m a little over my head here, but the code creates a clickable link to a South African website which in turn sends you to another website which Google labels a malware carrier. I’m sure I don’t have that 100% right. Whatever it does it’s unexpected and eye raising.

This spam continues to be passed to my inbox by Gmail as if it were no problem at all! Shouldn’t they be filtering it?

My javascript interpretation isn’t good enough to understand whether this is a vicious or just suspicious set of emails, but I think we’re being set up. The next hits probably won’t be as docile.

&#185 – For those of you who’d like to examine the code I’ve placed it here.

Hooked On Chrome

It was reasonably fast, had fewer security holes and was produced by hippies who’d attended Woodstock and still lived on a commune.

This blog is written mostly for my own enjoyment. That sentence prefaces this entry in an attempt to give myself permission to write about geeky, nerdy stuff. Specifically web browsers.

Are you still here?

In the enlightened 2010s most web surfers still use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. IE has been a horrendous browser. Sorry Microsoft, it has.

Users don’t notice, but developers will quickly let you know IE has been a non-standards compliant nightmare and about as secure as a pup tent! It’s gotten better in its latest iterations, but it’s still s-l-o-w.

Oh yeah–browsers vary in speed. Noticeably. That’s mostly because of how they handle javascript, a language vital to the web and executed on the user’s machine with nearly every webpage–often more than once.

Are you really sure you want to read this?

I moved away from Internet Explorer a few years ago. My browser love was committed to Firefox the open source browser from the Mozilla Foundation.

Firefox had everything a good dweeb needed. It was reasonably fast, had fewer security holes and was produced by hippies who’d attended Woodstock and still lived on a commune. OK. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

Firefox, is created by an international movement of thousands, only a small percentage of whom are actual employees.

Cue the unicorns!

About six months ago I began to use Google’s Chrome browser. It was stark. Almost immediately I realized I didn’t like it.

Sure, it was faster than Firefox–noticeably faster. It just didn’t have Firefox’s huge collection of add-ons. That was the deal breaker. Yet somehow I kept getting drawn back to Chrome.

Today 90% of my web time is spent using Chrome. It’s the speed. There’s that much difference. It feels like I’ve got a new PC.

Unfortunately some sites insist I use something other than Chrome. I can’t always be sure why. Firefox and IE have to remain on standby.

Google doesn’t need my proselytizing. Chrome will catch on without me. I just wanted to give you a heads up. It’s worth checking out.

Loose Ends

I’m off to Florida this afternoon. First, another trip to get my glasses problem fixed, then a haircut.

I plan on checking no bags. Much of Helaine and my discussions last night centered on what can and cannot be brought on an airplane. My deodorant is 3&#188 oz. Anything over 3 oz is considered a lethal weapon by TSA&#185.

I’m taking it anyway. What a rebel.

The trip to Florida will take about five hours. That includes a 1:35 stopover in Baltimore. As I remember, they have pretty good WiFi coverage in the terminal.

Air travel may be cheaper than ever, but it’s not any faster. Even Southwest, who claims to not be a hub and spoke airline, shuttles a lot of people through Baltimore and Las Vegas, which sure seem like hub airports.

I have some tutorials for Javascript and PHP, two computer languages, I’m taking along. I plan on spending my travel time learning to better program. Last night my mom asked why I was doing that? Is it OK to say, I don’t know?

&#185 – Though written for effect, that statement is literally true. They don’t want me to bring any liquid or gel over 3oz because it might be used as a weapon of some sort!

Something New On This Site

I remember the battle cry of the Internet entrepreneurs of the late 90’s: “Content is King!” I’m not sure whether that’s true, but I do enjoy adding fresh content to the website, especially if it is ‘live’ data.

That’s what I did today in adding weather advisories from Connecticut, where I live, and the rest of the United States. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. It was important to me that the data fit in with the look and feel of this site and that it be as fresh as possible.

The Weather Service has just started producing RSS feeds of this data. All I needed to do was find a way to convert it to a web readable format and I’d be on my way. I found a Perl program called and installed it on the server. It produces a javascript file which can then be converted and inserted into my pages.

All I had to do was write the few short lines of code to do it. Considering I can’t explain any of what I wrote in the previous paragraph, this was going to be tough.

Javascript is a language I don’t know and have never written in. Luckily, once you know one programming language, you have an idea how to write in all of them, and the web is loaded with resources to help show you the proper usage.

Unlike high school, spelling and proper syntax do count. Misspell anything, or misplace anything in the program, and it won’t work… or worse, it will work but will subject your computer to an endless stream of gibberish.

My friend Kevin, who speaks a little javascript, was my mentor this afternoon. He’ll tell you he didn’t show me what to do. But having him on the phone allowed me to bounce ideas and move the process forward. Without Kevin, this wouldn’t have worked.

I also have to thank the folks (or person – who knows) at Creativyst, who donated this program for others to use for free.

If you’d like to try this new addition out, it’s on the right hand side of the screen. Just click a link and have fun.