10 Reasons Why Bloggers Hate Blogging

So you’ve been blogging for a while but you’re starting to hate it? You thought you could make easy money and order a brand new 24″ iMac to replace your old Windows box in less than a month or two? Don’t wait for the south pole to melt, drop it, there are better things to do.

I came up with different statistical patterns observed through researches I’ve made on the subject and you might be suffering from the Bloginozia virus. It gets transmitted by either visiting Wal-Mart too frequently, or by falling into one or more of the following clinical observations:

Continue reading

Use F-Secure’s HealthCheck to Find Security Holes

In my last post, I urged readers to patch weak applications. How do you know which ones to patch? The hard way to do it would be to go through your program files and open each application, check the version, and then see if there is an updated version at the vendor’s website.

Or you can use F-Secure’s HealthCheck application here. It automatically enumerates your programs and tells you which ones are unsupported, out of date, insecure, and unpatched. When possible, it provides a way to fix the these apps too. Unfortunately, it only works on Windows hosts using Internet Explorer 6.x or later. After running the application, I realized that my version of Java was outdated. Being a security expert, I always religiously patch my apps, so I could have sworn it was already up to date. If you are surprised by the results you found after running the HealthCheck, let us know below, and Happy Patching!

Doing a clean re-install of Mozilla Firefox

Today, my Firefox died on me. I don’t exactly know the exact cause of death (an initial autopsy proved inconclusive) but for some reason it refused to do whatever I told it to do. It refused to download anything, refused to load images and the menus had a long hard think whether to open up or not. After a long time doing online CPR, I eventually called the time of death and prepared for its resurrection.

Just like you should always defrag your PC on a regular basis, a complete reinstall of Firefox is also probably a good idea every 6 months or so. I had noticed for quite some time that my Firefox profile had tons of crap accumulated from extensions I had uninstalled up to a year ago. It seems that when you uninstall an extension or a Greasemonkey script, not everything is completely erased.

Funnily enough, the biggest offender in this area seems to be Google – months after uninstalling the toolbar and Browser Sync, I found temp files in my Firefox profile today with old settings for these programs. Take a look at your own Firefox profile and see if yours is the same.

But if you want to re-install Firefox from scratch, you need to make sure you delete everything, otherwise the new installation is going to detect those old settings and nothing will really change. So although this may be obvious to some of you, I thought for the sake of reference, I would jot down everything I had to do to achieve that complete clean re-install :

  • First, take detailed notes of all your extensions, Greasemonkey scripts, browser theme and search plug-ins (you don’t want to forget them later!)
  • Backup your bookmarks to your PC. The bookmarks manager has a handy export function for this.
  • You might also want to take a screenshot of your Firefox browser so you can refer to it later while putting everything together again. I did this but it’s not absolutely necessary.
  • Now uninstall Firefox from the PC by going to the software list via the start menu.
  • Delete the Firefox folders from Windows Explorer. There are two – the one in Program Files with the installation files and the other one in your Documents and Settings which contains your profile. The profile one is probably the most important one to delete because it contains all your settings and tweaks.
  • Make sure all Firefox shortcuts are deleted from the desktop, quick start menu and start menu.
  • The last stage is to wipe any Firefox traces from the Windows Registry. The easiest method is to use a Regsitry cleaning program such as CCleaner.

Once all these steps have been done, the computer should now be completely clean of anything Firefox. You can now re-install Firefox and then go hunting for your extensions, Greasemonkey scripts, browser theme and search plug-ins again. Don’t forget to import your bookmarks which you had saved to the PC.

After starting up the newly-reinstalled Firefox, I noticed a huge improvement in its speed and responsiveness. So it seems that doing a clean re-install is the equivalent of defragging your hard-drive after all.   The profile folder has never been so clean and orderly before either.    I wonder how long that will last for.

Epson CX9400Fax: Home office on the cheap

Working from home is fun. There are plenty of distractions, and you rarely have to excuse your own flatulence. This growing in-home-office trend, combined with the paperless-office myth, has created a strong demand for inexpensive, easy-to-use all-in-one printer/fax/copiers. Average consumers don’t need excessive features or complicated button layouts; a successful product is one which is simple, yet effective, and Epson’s Cx9400Fax has accomplished this task flawlessly.

Continue reading

Patch Your Non-OS Applications

Love them or hate them, Microsoft has come a long way in making their Windows operating systems secure, mostly by employing built-in firewalls, default security settings and auto-patching features. Despite this, Windows is still the most-targeted operating system on the part of attackers, simply because it is the most ubiquitous. Now, instead of targeting flaws in the stronger operating systems, attackers have been hammering the weaker, unpatched, third-party “helper” applications.

In the past year, hackers have exposed vulnerabilities in the following programs to insert malware on Windows systems:

  • Skype
  • Flash Player
  • QuickTime
  • Real Player
  • Microsoft Office
  • Java
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Firefox
  • Symantec Anti-Virus
  • AOL Instant Messenger

Some of these programs, like Skype, do a pretty good job keeping themselves updated. Lately, QuickTime updates so often (as new vulnerabilities are found), I am beginning to think it has nagware built in. And while Symantec’s Norton Antivirus will automatically download new signatures, it won’t upgrade itself to a better, more-secure version.

Brian Krebs at the Washington Post sounded the alarm today about attackers using the latest vulnerabilities in Acrobat Reader to install malware and urges his readers to patch immediately. Krebs reminds us that Acrobat Reader would be an easy target:

It’s an interesting target for criminals because Adobe Reader has a truly enormous install base, yet it is one of those applications that so few people even think to update regularly. According to Adobe, more than 500 million copies of Adobe Reader have been distributed worldwide on 23 platforms and in 26 languages. The product also is distributed by the top 10 PC manufacturers.

It has been a while since a blended-threat worm such as Nimda or Code Red has circulated on the internet. And with most of the critical holes in Windows actually belonging to third-party applications that are not patched as often, the risk of a new blended threat emerging has never been higher.

Dubai to start building world’s largest arch bridge next month

Dubai, one of Earth’s most futuristic cities, has begun construction of the largest arch bridge ever built. With looks right out of a sci-fi movie and a hefty 817 million dollar price tag, this modern monument of architectural genius will span one mile and be 670 feet tall. Look for it in twenty twelve.

[Via World Architechture News]

Why you should always double check your “send to” address

Have you ever sent an email to someone in a hurry, only to realize a few minutes later that it has taken a completely different route, possibly wiping out your social and/or business life in the process? A mistake such as this, as shown below, can sure put you into a very uncomfortable position.

Had to remove the video from the post, sorry folks.

And the Geek Oscar for the best light-saber goes to…

By Mark O’Neill

“I’d like to thank George for making my light-sabre a nice shade of red….”

The writers strike has been resolved and the Oscars back on track for February 24th. But before Daniel Day-Lewis can pick up his Oscar, we need to first have the “Scientific and Technical Awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences” – apparently otherwise known as the “Geek Oscars”.

These Oscars are apparently for the techie geeky side of movies – the CGI effects and the other special effects that go into making a good movie. Did you totally dig that alien monster in a movie you watched last night? The people who wrote the software for that alien are probably contenders for a Geek Oscar. George Lucas is probably a regular nominee.

As the Washington Post put it : “without these people, movies would just be actors acting. You might as well go see a play.”

Monster Cables: A bastardization of epic proportions

Everyone loves their expensive home theater setup. Some of us have poured thousands of dollars into enjoying reruns of the Brady Bunch; and after splurging on the TV, audio setup, and next gen media player, said devices need to be wired up for optimum viewing pleasure. Most people with money to burn would decide on outrageously overpriced Monster cables to get the job done.

Sure, Monster has –up until recently– had a pretty spotless reputation with HDMI and other cabling, but did you know that retailers make about an 80 percent profit off of pretty much every Monster cable that they force down your throat? The Consumerist put together a handy table which outlines the wholesale price of these cables as compared to what you and I would actually pay. A 19 foot Monster HDMI cable retails for about $180 with the wholesale clocking in at just under $100, creating a comfortable profit margin of 80 bucks.

You’re probably thinking right now: “But Ilya, if Monster Cables make things just a smidge more ‘Hi-Def’ then aren’t they worth it? Can’t you spare some of your advance journalistic integrity and rugged good looks to explain to me why the price is actually worth it?”. Sorry, but they’ve been proven to offer just about no visible improvement over cheaper wires.

In short: Go with cheaper cables and put the extra few hundred towards some new equipment.