A call from Microsoft Support

This morning i had a call on my mobile from a number in new york – i picked up because i thought it was a friend who was calling. I was quite surprised to hear an indian woman on the other side of the phone. The conversation went along these lines.

Caller: Hello I am from Microsoft technical support. I am calling because i understand you have a problem wih your computer – it contain viruses and is running slow.

Me: oh gosh, no viruses? what do i do….

Caller: Go to your pc and switch it on. Find the Ctrl key… and press Ctrl + R and tell me what comes up on the screen.

…at this point i hung up. i would have played along a little further but i couldn’t be assed to actually boot up a pc, no matter how interested i was in what she was trying to get me to do. I wasn’t about to let her know i was running on a mac either. Its the first time anyone has actually phoned me trying to give me information to allow them go gain access to my PC.

I say this now to my less techy friends – Microsoft doesn’t just call you up to offer you technical support out of the blue and its a bad idea to do anything on your computer that a random caller asks for. I am shocked by this behaviour but really do not know what to do  – Ive no idea where they got my phone number from, or who i would report such things to.  I am sure there are people out there that do get caught out by this kind of con – it makes me fairly angry, and want to do something about it, actually knowing that theres a person out there – a seemingly harmless indian woman who is willing to help someone hack me – it makes it personal, and offensive – that someone i don’t know wants to cause me harm. Social engineering – actually doing what someone tells you is probably the easiest pay off for a hacker – rather than try to compromise your systems they actually manipulate you into giving key information – be it an actual password or tricking you into installing “diagnostics” software.

There are bastards out there. Be careful!

Passwords

Advanced searching with Google

There are lots of really powerful things you can do with google, particularly if your a bad person, and don’t care about the law! I present a few things here because many administrators and site owners pay little attention to securing their sites, and theres a mistaken perception in some places that obscurity is a form of security – this couldn’t be further from the truth. So some things you may have missed – try typing them into google search! These are examples to prove a point.

Finding Music, ebooks, and videos

Finding webcams that haven’t been properly secured:

Find all the images on a site:

http://images.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Aowenrichardson.com&gbv=2&biw=1892&bih=1102&sei=TzLtTvyrF6fU4QSo5eTwCA&tbm=isch

… change the site name in red, to whatever site pleases you.

Other Cool Search Operators:

  • link:URL = lists other pages that link to the URL.
  • related:URL = lists other pages that are related to the URL.
  • site:domain.com “search term = restricts search results to the given domain.
  • allinurl:WORDS = shows only pages with all search terms in the url.
  • inurl:WORD = like allinurl: but filters the URL based on the first term only.
  • allintitle:WORD = shows only results with terms in title.
  • intitle:WORD = similar to allintitle, but only for the next word.
  • cache:URL = will show the Google cached version of the URL.
  • info:URL = will show a page containing links to related searches, backlinks, and pages containing the url. This is the same as typing the url into the search box.
  • filetype:SOMEFILETYPE = will restrict searches to that filetype
  • -filetype:SOMEFILETYPE = will remove that file type from the search.
  • site:www.somesite.net “+www.somesite.net” = shows you how many pages of your site are indexed by google
  • allintext: = searches only within text of pages, but not in the links or page title
  • allinlinks: = searches only within links, not text or title
  • WordA OR WordB = search for either the word A or B
  • “Word” OR “Phrase” = search exact word or phrase
  • WordA -WordB = find word A but filter results that include word B
  • WordA +WordB = results much contain both Word A and Word B
  • ~WORD = looks up the word and its synonyms
  • ~WORD -WORD = looks up only the synonyms to the word

I can’t take the credit for compiling the information above – i dug most of it out of marcandangel.com because to be honest i don’t see the point of reinventing the wheel. Google has a lot of power under the hood that is easy to miss, and its also easy to abuse – that said using some of the operators above can transform your whole search experience.

Blogsy and other blog editors

Blogsy - Pheonix

I really liked this app a lot and the last version was really cool, but now I am not so sure. You can’t drag images directly into paragraphs any more, you have to drop them beneath then format themh. It’s a little thing but it sucks. Theres an video on this app which is a tutorial and it mentions a few things your not supposed to do – any app that requires that isnt so good in my book. There are lots of things in this pheonix version that just don’t work for me – including some of the things they mention in the training video. What makes it worse is the guy in the video really does treat the user as an idiot – I’ve never seen anyone get so excited over an undo facility.

The trouble is, there really aren’t many WordPress blog editors out there for the iPad, Blogsy is still probably the best even though it’s now got annoyances. There are only two other options:

Blogspot
A pretty cool app but very limited in terms of formatting; it works with not only WordPress but others too.

WordPress
It has basic functionality I will sometimes use this for just approving comments. It’s free and you get what you pay for.

As testimony to how much screwing about is now involved with images, i did actually give up trying to get the image where it is now. i loaded up the wordpress site and used its own editor on my mac to finally get the formatting right. I could have fixed this in blogsy by going into HTML mode but that really defeats the point.

Playing around with the blog once more…

Ok i had some time to kill, and thought i would look at this site again a bit – I’ve done a few things.

  • Moved my picture from the right – to down at the bottom. Because it takes up a lot of space.
  • Added the tag cloud to the right hand side
  • Added the custom logo in the top bar – took 10 mins to build that in photoshop :)
  • Modified the About me page
  • Continued categorizing information
  • Managing the media library – this is more for me than anyone who sees the site.

… right now new posts aren’t getting posted to Facebook, twitter, msn and all the normal places… this is because i discovered last week that recatogorising things causes them to be reposted. I will switch it back on when i am finished.

Another really annoying thing i just discovered is that they shut down my tumblr account because it wasn’t being used – i don’t mind that they have done this but i wish they had notified me before hand- it means potentially there are some images missing from my site – because despite migrating everything some links still get missed.

Im thinking of also taking those images out of gravatar – and finding somewhere nicer to put photos! i need to think about where that will be – suggestions are welcome! i don’t want to use my flickr or 500px for it.

…and after all that I went and changed the complete site theme – I like the new one a lot because it’s tidy.
 

Facebook Privacy

Mark Zuckerberg CEO Facebook.

So the Zuck has admitted that FB screw up. Everyone knows how much I love Facebook. Privacy has been a big issue here and today I read an interesting article this morning on The Register – and it quite nicely summed up some of the naughty things Facebook have done which i thought i would share here:

  • In December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private – such as their Friends List – was made public. They didn’t warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance.
  • Facebook represented that third-party apps that users had installed would have access only to the user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data – data the apps didn’t need.
  • Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with ‘Friends Only’. In fact, selecting ‘Friends Only’ did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
  • Facebook had a ‘Verified Apps’ program, which claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn’t.
  • Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.
  • Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
  • Facebook claimed that it complied with the US – EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the US and the European Union. It didn’t.

… The full article is available here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/30/zuckerberg_ftc_privacy_mea_culpa/

Information Overload

Managing information on the surface can seem like a really easy thing to do, and in some cases actually is – so much so i think its easy to miss the importance of it, or to overcomplicate it.

At work I work with a Microsoft product called SharePoint – its a platform, and its all about having people collaborate and share information, and as such you would think that people developing solutions would do so with information firmly in mind – its not always the case though. Things get worse as you approach more complicated technologies – its easy to be overwhelmed with choice and to implement complicated solutions where simple ones will suffice – and i think i am partially guilty of this with my blog. I kind of broke my own rules and rather than plan in the beginning, i just started blogging – and didn’t put in any kind of rules or governance as to how i tag and catagorise my data – and I am paying for it now. In my defense i didn’t think i would blog this long, i didn’t really think i had much to say (ok, some of these blogs are waffling). It crept up on me that my blog is becoming unmanageable so i am going to do something about it.

So i am looking at this today. Categories – I’ve got half dozen categories that i hardly use.

Tagging – i occasionally tag things but not consistently.

I am guilty of not always categorizing, or of having bad categories –  for example under tech i have a sub category of iPhone, none for iPad, and i have another category called review with iPhone Apps under that… lets face it, i don’t really review things, i just give a couple of observations, this whole site isn’t about being professional or anything like that, its more about communicating what i like, dislike, and think of the world in general – when i write about an app i don’t give the full story, analyze all its features, i just say what i think is cool. I will leave it to someone else to review.

So, i need to sit down with a pen and paper, and start to restructure this, and i figure keep it simple – there are a couple of things every blogger should know about categories and tags – put simply as i see it:

  • Categories are the over all structure – you should keep a fairly simple category structure; think of it like a folder.
  • Blogs should only ever fit into one category – if it fits into two the chances are you’ve started to overcomplicate things.
  • Tags complement categories. Tags are use to add more detailed information. they aren’t displayed in the categories bar but can be used for searching
  • Just as with categories you should think about how many tags you will have.
  • when you start to have many entries under a category then tags become important.

Of course my way isn’t the only way.. its one way, and it seems fairly efficient to me. So now i need to go, sit down with a pencil and paper and figure how to organize this mess.

 

500px

i came across this app while browsing through the appstore the other day, and i have to admit it is pretty amazing – its a photo gallery a bit like flickr but all of the work i saw on the app was just beautiful – perhaps because the app just displays the best of the best. if you take a subscription there is also a hell of a lot of naked women on the site – though this is all artistic and not pornographic.

The whole thing makes me want to get hold of a copy of photoshop – some of the image processing is just amazing, its worth taking a look – 500px.com – i could happily spend hours scrolling through the pics on the iPad app.

Top Searches On My Site

Emilia Clarke - Game of Thrones .. Enjoy!

I just thought i would share this with you – its the list of top searches that pulled people onto my site:

  • owen richardson – ok was pleased by this one – it makes sense
  • lycos chat logo – i have blogged about lycos chat once i think – mentioned it in passing when i was thinking of social networking. am surprised this is drawing people in.
  • emilia clarke nude, naked emilia clark game of thrones, emilia clarke tits – ok.. its clear what i have to do if i want want my site to become popular! Ive mentioned her once – shes not even in my seriously sexy girls list – but she does kind of grow on you. bless.

Results from the poll

And here are the results from yesterday’s poll – does this site make me look unprofessional. On the plus side nobody said yes – I kind of smiled because the results confirm the theory if you give people the opportunity not to commit to responding, most people take it!

The other thing this tells me is 7 people read my blog yesterday!

It’s all interesting stuff :)

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