XP SP3 is out!

After being pulled out from Microsoft’s website because of “unforseen” compatibility problems last week, our friends from Redmond have made it available again today. Hurry up and get it while it’s fresh, or before it gets removed again!

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) includes all previously released updates for the operating system. This update also includes a small number of new functionalities, which do not significantly change customers’ experience with the operating system.



A MacGyver Movie is Coming – I Think I’m Excited

By Mark O’Neill

Gizmodo is reporting that a MacGyver movie is in the works and I have to admit that at first my attitude was “so what?”.    But when I told my girlfriend and her mother, they started shrieking with pleasure “MACGYVER!!!” (think of Homer’s sisters in “The Simpsons) and so I just had to investigate the mysterious phenomenon otherwise known as the Richard Dean Anderson Syndrome.

So I started hunting on YouTube for old MacGyver clips and I was amazed at some of the stuff Macgyver got up to. Check out the following clip below for one of his more sensational escapes from some dodgy German speaking East German border guards.  A wooden jetski coffin?  Kind of makes the A-Team getting locked up in a garage and then busting out in a home-made tank look lame in comparison!

But here’s the big question – after all this time, can that unique Macgyver hairstyle be replicated?

One encoding to rule them all

Despite the joke in the image above, it certainly seems that the web “hearts” Unicode.  According to Mark Davis of Google, the use of Unicode on the web has recently surpassed both ASCII and Western European encodings, as shown by the blue line in the chart below:

In case you can’t read it, the red line is ASCII, the orange line is Western European, the green line is Chinese, and the gray line is Japanese.  Unicode allows the characters in the other sets (and many more besides) to be encoded in a single character set (hence the name).

It should come as no surprise that Google converts all text into Unicode prior to indexing.  A single world-wide character set greatly simplifies the search for common terms.  You’d also expect Google to stay on top of the latest standards as new characters are added.  Google upgraded to Unicode version 5.1 less than a month after it was released.  No word on which Unicode transformation format Google uses internally, but the search results on Google.com, Google.cn, and Google.co.jp are all rendered in UTF-8.

The Unicode 5.1 standard added 1624 new characters including the Malayalam and Myanmar languages, along with additional characters and scripts for many previously supported languages.  I was intrigued by the addition of more ancient scripts (Carian, Lycian, Lydian, and the Phaistos disc) and symbolic sets — hey, now we can write a Mahjong game using only Unicode characters!

The Galactically Hot Women Of Star Trek TOS

By Mark O’Neill

The problem with getting your name about on the internet a bit is that you get some weird people constantly emailing you, giving you links and telling you to click on them. One such person was today who told me that he “liked my stuff on Geeks Are Sexy” and told me that he had “pics of hot Star Trek babes for my enjoyment”. Hovering over the link with my mouse, I could see it was Flickr so that reassured me enough to click through and have a cautious look.

And wow, what a collection of babes there were waiting for me to show up! Someone had gone to all the trouble of collecting all the “hot women” from the original series of Star Trek, or to put it another way, all the women that William Shatner showed his Prime Directive to. But is it just me or are most of these women NOT hot? Did the make-up department go a little bit too crazy with the make-up? Or was that the “in” thing back then?

Cell Phone Spying: Is Your Life Being Monitored?

Cell Phone SpyingIt connects you to the world, but your cell phone could also be giving anyone from your boss to your wife a window into your every move.  The same technology that lets you stay in touch on-the-go can now let others tap into your private world — without you ever even suspecting something is awry.

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Facebook in Real Life

Like most web users, you probably registered a Facebook account at one point or another. We all know how it goes: You create an account, start searching for some friends, and once you’ve got a few, you start getting flooded by people wanting you to install their crappy Facebook apps. I really, really hate that part of the service. Fortunately, there’s a way to auto-ignore all those stupid requests.

Anyways, to get back to our post…

Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if making friends would be just like in Facebook? Pretty nightmarish right? The guys from “Idiots of Ants” seem to think so too because they filmed a short sketch to illustrate a real-life Facebook-like “friending” experience, from the initial poke to the app installation request. Check it out.

From Spam to Scams: 30 Years of Online Annoyances

By JR Raphael
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Break out the bubbly: Spam is celebrating its 30th anniversary this weekend. And my oh my, three decades later, how the annoyances of the internet have changed.

Where it all started

The message considered the first unsolicited mass e-mail went out to unsuspecting inboxes on May 3, 1978. A marketing employee at a company called Digital Equipment Corporation (now owned by HP) sent the message to 393 users of the government-run network Arpanet, the predecessor to the internet we know today.

“DIGITAL WILL BE GIVING A PRODUCT PRESENTATION OF THE NEWEST MEMBERS OF THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY; THE DECSYSTEM-2020, 2020T, 2060, AND 2060T…”

Typed in all caps for extra irritation, the email touted two new products being demonstrated in California and invited recipients to see them in action. The guy behind the message, Gary Thuerk, reported immediate negative response to his ad — but also immediate results. He told the Wall Street Journal this week that the email led to $12 million in sales.

How it’s transformed

Nowadays, spam takes up anywhere from 80 to 95 percent of all emails sent. And here’s the amazing part: There are actually idiots out there clicking these ads and sending their money. Internet security firm Sophos was recently quoted as estimating about 10 percent of spam recipients purchase products from the mass mails.

And guess what? Their clicks are costing all of us. Research companies say the wasted bandwidth from spam will add up to $140 billion worldwide this year alone. What’s more, with increasingly sophisticated spamming techniques, tracking and stopping those unwanted ads is proving to be a tricky feat.

In honor of this week’s anniversary, McAfee decided to conduct a little experiment to see just how severe the problem really has become. The anti-virus giant had volunteers spend 30 days surfing the net on completely unprotected computers, with all personal guards down. They answered every email, filled out every form, and responded to every ad. The result? More than 126,000 unsolicited emails, and a lot of problems.

“We started with a brand new computer that was lightning fast. We end with a computer that takes a long time to open even the simplest of webpages and I fear may be tracking every keystroke and page we visit,” one participant wrote in her diary of the experience.

“It multiplies like crazy – like a virus. And it just keeps coming,” noted another participant.

Going beyond spam

Spam’s not the only thing multiplying like a virus on the net. The number of annoying trends trying to take advantage of users has actually become an FBI concern.

The government’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, tracks all sorts of schemes and scams moving throughout cyberspace, spam included. Some of the other current hot issues on the watchlist:

  • Auction fraud: Ripping people off with phony sales on sites like eBay. Be wary of sellers using multiple names, using addresses outside of your country, or asking for direct wire transfers of money.
  • Debt elimination: Convincing people to send cash to eliminate all their debt. The IC3 looks for web sites that advertise “legal ways to dispose of mortgage loans and credit card debts.”
  • Work-at-home scams: Getting people to sign up for seemingly easy employment. The IC3 keeps an eye on offers that involve “reselling or reshipping merchandise to destinations outside the United States.” Basically, they’ve found many of these services use a series of fake checks to get you to wire them money – money you’ll never get back.

The list goes on and on and will probably keep growing longer by the year. So is good ol’ Gary Thuerk really to blame for all of this? Depends who you ask. I’ve gotta believe that if he didn’t send that ill-fated message, someone else would have had the idea before long.

His defense, as told to the Wall Street Journal: “If the airline loses your luggage, do you blame the Wright brothers?”

Touché, Thuerk.  Touché.  Still, someone has to be the scapegoat for this sea of annoyance, to act as a recipient of our spam-induced rage.  If I could just find that guy’s email address…