Posts Tagged "web"

Tweet Tweet Tweet

Published on June 25, 2009

I’ve bitten the proverbial bullet and joined twitter. You can follow me (if you’re so inclined) at my oh-so-clever username: jonahbishop. I’ll be using the service for small things that aren’t quite worth a blog post (it will not take the place of this site). We’ll see how it goes over time.

Frustratingly enough, when I signed up for twitter, the site was having major problems. Thankfully, things seem to be back to normal now. I’ve noticed a strange thing with the service, however. After climbing into the twitter pool, I noticed a number of leeches attaching themselves to my account. In other words, a number of random people started following me for no apparent reason (I recognize none of them). Does anyone else here who uses twitter see the same thing? Is there a way to stop it? Are these people simply spammers out to get “trackback” style web-cred?

Internet Safety Tip of the Day

Published on May 8, 2009

You’ve no doubt seen the commercials for the “free” triple credit score reports, or the “learn to work at home” packages on TV. In most of these cases, a URL is provided in the ad for you to visit. For the observant among us, note that the URL changes. Most often, a number appears at the end. For example, workathome.yes.you.can might become workathome58.yes.you.can and then workathome132.yes.you.can. This observation leads us to our Internet Safety Tip of the Day:

If the URL in an advertisement changes on a regular basis, you should stay away!

Especially since those “free” reports will actually cost you $30 a month.

This tip brought to you by the Internet Safety Council, the letter D, and support from viewers like you. Thank you.

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Ground Zero

Published on February 27, 2009

Gizmodo pointed me this morning to an oh-so-wrong yet oh-so-fun Google Maps mashup, that allows you to nuke the city of your choice. Simply search for your favorite (or least-favorite) city, select your weapon, and nuke it! It was interesting to compare the blast radius of the Little Man and the more modern nuclear weapons. Suffice it to say that today’s weapons are awfully scary.

My favorite, however, is the asteroid impact. Most. Destruction. Ever.

Eye on Springfield

Published on February 2, 2009

A week or two ago, I was introduced to the Eye On Springfield blog. For a Simpsons nut like myself, the site is pure enjoyment. According to the site’s official description:

Eye On Springfield is a retrospective of Simpsons hilarity spanning from seasons 1 to 9, when it was still funny.

I would disagree with the “still funny” bit; there are plenty of classic episodes in seasons 10 through about 18, though the most recent seasons have definitely fallen off. Site posts range from scenes in an episode, sometimes with an accompanying quote, to sound clips. It’s a great site, and I highly recommend it for a laugh.

I’m also glad to see that I’m not the only one who, in the words of Patrick Cassels, has:

that annoying habit of beginning half my sentences with, “Remember that Simpsons episode where…”

Netflix Encoding

Published on December 18, 2008

I ran across a thoroughly engaging article at the Netflix blog that discusses the various encoding techniques they use for delivering “Watch Instantly” content. It sheds light on a number of the issues they face, and some of the decisions they are making. Silverlight is apparently their future player platform of choice, and the article discusses a little bit about why they chose this path. The technical details are appreciated, and it’s cool to see them being open like this. Maybe they’ll share similar information about other aspects of their business in the future.

Desktop Wallpaper Wonderland

Published on October 24, 2008

I’m a sucker for desktop wallpaper (I change the background of my laptop and desktop daily). So I was surprised to stumble upon a web resource I’ve never seen before: InterfaceLift.com. There are tons of great images there, available in all kinds of resolutions. I’m looking forward to perusing their database to find new ways of dressing up my computer screen.

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Amazon Wish List Improvements

Published on September 18, 2008

Long, long ago, when I was first setting up my website at DreamHost, I wanted a way to store a personal wish list. I looked at the Amazon wish list, but it had one fatal flaw: there was no way to list items that weren’t sold at Amazon or one of their partners. This flaw was enough to drive me out to develop my own wish list software. It’s not flashy, but it gets the job done. But it, too, has some annoying faults.

Recently, while perusing Lifehacker, I ran across a link to this article that points to the Amazon Universal Wish List. Essentially, Amazon provides a bookmarklet to users, enabling them to save any product to an Amazon wish list! This new feature has me seriously considering whether I should switch over.

One thing I really like about the Amazon wish list setup is that people can purchase things for you without knowing your address. So folks who would like to support Born Geek could simply buy me something off my wish list, without worrying how to get the item to me. Another big benefit is that I no longer need to copy-paste the product link and information. With this bookmarklet, it’s simply a two-click process to save an item to my wish list. Pretty sweet!

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The Joy (and Misery) of Comments

Published on July 2, 2008

As I surf through various news sites around the web, I often enjoy reading user comments. On many of the sites I frequent, the comments truly add to the discussion and are a good for a belly laugh or two (or three). The feedback left on nearly every story at Gizmodo is hilarious, and visitors to Slashdot are often quite funny as well, making those my favorite tech news sites. Other sites can be hit or miss. Take Digg.com for example. Occasionally, some classic comments can appear on a popular story, providing some insight into the story, or more often, supplying a funny, sarcastic remark about the story as a whole. Other times, the comments are mostly juvenile and unhelpful.

Unfortunately, the comments on some sites are painful to read. Take my favorite gaming news site, Blue’s News. Nearly every comment on the site falls into one of these categories:

  • {Insert Game or Publisher Here} is Lame
  • {Insert Game 1 Here} is Better Than {Insert Game 2 Here}
  • Software Pirates Rule
  • Steam Sucks
  • OMG PONIES!
  • Yo momma!

The target demographic of the site is most likely males aged 13 to 21, but you’d think that someone would eventually have something good to say. Are there no civilized gaming websites in the world? This problem doesn’t just affect gaming websites. Places like CNN.com or our local news station WRAL are nearly as bad. It’s a shame that discussions vary so much. Do you read the comments at various news web sites? If so, what do you think?

Acid3 Has Been Released

Published on March 5, 2008

The Acid3 test for web browsers has been released. Drunken Fist has a number of screenshots that show the failure rate among the various top browsers. There are some really interesting results from the tests:

  • Safari 3: 39% success (latest nightlies are up to 87%)
  • Firefox 3: 59% success
  • Firefox 2: 50% success
  • Opera 9: 46% success
  • IE 7: 12% success
  • IE 6: 11% success

Safari is the surprising top dog in the list, but what I find most interesting is that Firefox 3 (which passes the Acid2 test) only hits 59% in the new test. I would have guessed that being Acid2 compliant would mean being nearly Acid3 compliant. Apparently, that isn’t the case. It looks like web browsers still have a long way to go in the standards race.

More Proof That CAPTCHAs Don’t Work

Published on February 27, 2008

As if we needed any more proof that CAPTCHAs don’t always work, it seems that spammers have now successfully cracked the GMail CAPTCHA. A one-in-five success rate is being reported, and it appears that there are multiple bot-nets taking a tag-team approach in hacking the sign up process. This is particularly dangerous, since Google’s domains are highly unlikely to be blocked by any website or ISP.

I don’t know what the solution to this problem is (if I did I’d be rich), but hopefully Google will figure out a way to prevent this kind of nefarious activity from continuing to happen.

RoadRunner Redirects Domain Typos

Published on February 26, 2008

Slashdot is running a story on RoadRunner intercepting domain typos. My dad noticed this ‘feature’ a few weeks ago, and opted out via their preferences page. In addition to the Slashdot story, Ryan Govostes has an interesting article (written back in December) on the security holes lurking in this opt-out program. According to his post, one could wreak all kinds of havoc with TWC’s poorly written page, enabling or disabling the service for essentially all RoadRunner customers. SQL injections also appear to be a possible line of exploits.

When Hosting Goes Wrong

Published on January 15, 2008

I got an email this morning mentioning the following:

This is just a notice that your DreamHost Account #XXXXX has a balance of $71.34 (including any charges not due until 2009-01-23), with $71.34 due (since 2008-12-23).

What?!? I renewed my subscription about a year ago (if I remember correctly), and I got a 2 year renewal, meaning that I should still have about a year left. Furthermore, I completely used rewards money to pay my bill (since I had it available), so my credit card was never charged to begin with. Thankfully, the credit card they have on file for me had expired, but I’ve lost all of my referral rewards! Needless to say, I was pretty upset by this. Then I found this post over at their emergency status blog: “billing issues“. It seems like something went wrong, they know about it, and are fixing it.

I have yet to get my money back, and I have no doubt they’ll fix the problem, but it bothers me nonetheless. This problem, coupled with the DreamHost hack seen back in June, are starting to concern me. Not to mention the fact that the server this blog is hosted on has degraded in performance drastically over the past several months. It might be time for me to find another web host. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Update: To their credit, DreamHost has corrected the issue.

Digg on the Way Down?

Published on December 29, 2007

Is Digg.com on the way down? I personally find myself visiting the site less and less, turning instead to Slashdot and Gizmodo for my news and entertainment. When I do visit Digg, there’s little that I find appealing enough to digg. In fact, looking at my profile, I find that the last story I dugg was on December 12, quite some time ago. The majority of stories seem to be very uninteresting, or (more likely) stories that are already covered on other websites.

Even the Diggnation podcast seems to be degrading in quality. The show used to be solidly funny, but I find myself laughing only a few times per episode these days. I’d much rather have the higher grade content as found in The Totally Rad Show. Neither Alex nor Kevin seem to put as much effort into Diggnation as they once did, which isn’t too surprising. Like the saying goes, ‘All good things must come to an end.’

CNN Redesign

Published on July 5, 2007

I’ve been out of town, so I know that this story is a few days old, but I really dig the new look at CNN.com. It’s clean, sleek, and takes up much more screen real estate. The HTML doesn’t validate, nor does the CSS, but I still think this is a step in the right direction.

The Joy of Being Hacked

Published on June 12, 2007

Nearly a week ago, a malicious person or group of persons hacked into DreamHost, the company I use as a web host. The passwords for over 3,500 FTP accounts were compromised, and some customers found unauthorized changes to files or directories. My account was among those that got hacked, and the experience has made me a better computer user.

Having a password stolen is frightening enough, but my situation was nearly a worst case scenario. When I originally set up my user account with DreamHost, I naturally provided the password to be used with that account. This user account granted me access to the DreamHost web panel, FTP uploads, and access to the web server’s shell (via either telnet or ssh). When I later set up an email account, I chose to use this same account out of sheer convenience. I made a likewise decision for access to my web server logs. So, in short, one username and password provided me access to five areas:

  1. The DreamHost Web Panel
  2. My web storage (via FTP)
  3. My web server home directory (via telnet or ssh)
  4. My primary email address
  5. My server logs

Do you see the problem here?

As soon as I got the email that my FTP password had been compromised, I realized how slack I had been about security and panicked. Thankfully, none of my files or databases were corrupted (though I’m still taking a look through everything). I have since changed all of my passwords, and they now all differ from one another, something I should have done from day one.

I try to be as security conscious as possible, but I really dropped the ball in this area, mostly for convenience’s sake. This is the first time I have been ‘hacked’ like this, and I’m actually glad it happened. The experience has motivated me to be more secure in my password handling.

Lots of people are jumping ship as a result of this, but doing so seems premature to me. The folks at DreamHost are being open and honest about the problem, and I really appreciate that. Any company that steps up and says “we made a mistake and we’re trying to prevent it from happening again” is worth sticking with. At the very least, I’ve learned a much needed lesson.

Update: I forgot to mention that other web hosts were also hit by this attack (according to this post), so it wasn’t solely a DreamHost issue.

Google Maps Frustration

Published on June 4, 2007

I am growing increasingly frustrated with Google Maps. In the past month, on two separate occasions, Google Maps failed to find my intended destination. What really gets under my skin is the fact that Google’s competition found each place without any problems.

Example 1
My family checked out the Clarksville Station restaurant in Roxboro, NC for my sister’s graduation. It’s a steak-house built inside of an old train station and a couple of dining cars from an actual train. It’s located at 4080 Durham Road, Roxboro, NC. Let’s see what the mapping services show for this query:

  • Google Maps: Only locates Durham Road, not the 4080 address.
  • MapQuest: Shows the location as expected.
  • Yahoo! Maps: Can’t find the exact location, but interestingly enough, centers the map at the exact location. Weird.
  • Microsoft Live Search: Gets it exactly right.

Example 2
My car needed service recently, so I took it to Jay’s Automotive, a repair place not too far away from where I live. They are located at 3510 Highway 70 West, Efland, NC. Let’s see how the various mapping services do with this one:

  • Google Maps: Wow. This is so far off, it’s not funny.
  • MapQuest: Again, MapQuest gets the location exactly.
  • Yahoo! Maps: Again, they cannot locate the address, but the map is centered at the correct location.
  • Microsoft Live Search: Again, Microsoft got it exactly right.

What gets me even more steamed is the lack of aerial (or satellite) images for example number 2. Google Maps only has images beginning at zoom level 6 (levels 1 through 5 are all “unavailable”). MapQuest has color images down to zoom level 3 (1 and 2 aren’t available), which is very close. Yahoo! Maps has color imagery at all zoom levels, while Microsoft Live Search has images to zoom level 3 (just like MapQuest, though the image quality is very poor).

Google needs to stop spending money and effort on cheap gimmicks like their recent Street View (is that thing worthless, or what?), and instead beef up their location database and aerial photographs. I can’t even see my house on Google Maps! All the other mapping services have it, so it’s certainly possible to do.

Get with the program, Google. Until then, I think I’ll stick to your competition (at least when satellite photographs are involved).

Google’s New Look

Published on May 21, 2007

Last Thursday, Google unveiled their new universal search, complete with a change to the look and feel of their website. Now when a user searches Google, not only are web results returned, but other search results (e.g., news and product results) are also returned. What’s most convenient is the fact that these additional items are inserted quietly amongst the web results, not directly above or below them. This new search paradigm is interesting, and it will be interesting to see if it holds on. I particularly like the subtle changes Google made to their look and feel, with that slick little menu bar running across the top of all pages. Having direct access to all the various search types is very handy.

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