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  1. Leaving comments on my blog
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  3. MSN: always0nline@live.com.sg

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shrink them down to size

Taiwan has developed tiny microchips that could lead to lighter and cheaper laptops or mobile phones, researchers and observers said on Wednesday.

State-backed National Nano Device Laboratories in northern Hsinchu city said it had succeeded in packing more transistors into smaller chip space than anyone else so far.

“Electronic gadgets like cellphones and laptops could become smaller, lighter and cheaper with this technology,” Yang Fu-liang, the lab’s chief, told AFP.

Currently, laptops seldom weigh less than about 1.5kg but the latest development could see notebook computers weighing as little as a 500 grams.

“It’s indeed the most advanced chip technology ever,” said Nobunaga Chai, an analyst at Digitimes, a Taipei-based industry publication.

Sounds promising. Right now netbooks are all the rage, weighing around 1kg and yet allowing users to surf the web and run basic applications. Imagine full functionality laptops next time that weigh 1kg, yet allow the user to play games, etc. Though that might put netbooks out of business…

facebook seppuku

If Facebook is taking over your life, a new website is offering you a way out.

The site, Seppukoo.com, offers ritual suicide for Facebook users’ virtual profiles by deactivating your account. And it doesn’t stop there. If you’re willing to end it all, the site will feature a RIP memorial page on its site and sends the page to all your Facebook friends.

“You are more than your virtual identity,” the site says. “Pass away and leave your ID behind.”

The site is named after the ancient Japanese samurai act of “seppuku.” The samurai preferred to die with honor. So, rather than fall into the hands of their enemies, samurai would voluntarily kill themselves by plunging a sword into their stomach.

“As the seppuku restores the samurai’s honour as a warrior, Seppukoo.com deals with the liberation of the digital body,” the site says.

The design and layout of Seppukoo.com is strikingly similar to Facebook – the exception being that Seppukoo is red and gray, while Facebook is blue and white. Another small point of differentiation: Seppukoo features paintings of sword-wielding samurai.

To take the final step, you simply type in the same information you use to log onto your Facebook account including e-mail address and password. (The site says it does not save the information.) Then choose one of six templates for the memorial page and compose your “last words.” After that’s entered: curtains. The profile is deactivated. (If you want back on Facebook, just log in and your account is reactivated.)

However, friends can write on your memorial page. In addition, you get points for recruiting others to commit “seppukoo” and follow you into the virtual netherworld. The site keeps score and lists the point leaders.

The site was produced by an Italian “imaginary art group,” called Les Liens Invisibles (translated from French: The Invisible Links). When asked for an interview, Guy McMusker, art director of the group, replied in an e-mail that Les Liens Invisibles couldn’t do it on the phone. The group couldn’t speak, he said, “because of its invisible nature.”

Members of Les Liens Invisibles, Clemente Pestelli and Gionatan Quintini, also created a Google maps parody and a Flikr parody. This is their latest spoof.

About 20,000 people have signed up on the site since it launched last month, McMusker said. Facebook says it has 300 million users.

But he insists that Seppukoo.com was not started to attack Facebook. Instead, the site aims “to help people discover what happens after their virtual life and to rediscover the importance of being anyone, instead of pretending to be someone.”

In fact, Les Liens Invisibles has a Facebook page.

“We’re not Luddites,” McMusker said. “We’re incoherent.”

Spending too much time on Facebook? Let this site commit seppuku for your Facebook account! You might just regain your life back. Your real life, I mean. Seriously speaking, how many of us spend hours on Facebook every day? Can you imagine how many other things you could have done with those “lost” hours? If you’re one of those who want to recover your life, maybe it’s time you visited Seppukoo.com today and say goodbye to Facebook once and for all.

Don’t worry, they only deactivate your profile. Just log in to Facebook again to come back from the dead…

joke’s on you, zucker

Facebook controversially forced profile pictures into public and pushed users to share candids with the whole world. So now we’re blessed with pics of the social network’s young CEO shirtless, romantic, clutching a teddy bear, and looking plastered.

So at least this whole privacy scandal hasn’t been for naught.

As a result of it, Mark Zuckerberg has gone from sharing very little of his personal Facebook content with the public to sharing a whole lot, True/Slant’s Kashmir Hill has noticed. Where the public could see just one photo of the Facebook co-founder in October, strangers now have access to a cache of 290 shots, including snaps uploaded by Zuckerberg and those uploaded by people who have tagged him in their pics.

This opening may be a result of Facebook’s new default settings; or could be a result of Zuckerberg trying to reverse the PR debacle of the new privacy system by opening up the content himself; or could be a combination of both. In any case, it springs one way or another from the privacy controversy. And as dogged but often frustrated chroniclers of Zuckerberg’s personal side, we’re thrilled. We just knew this new system would be a boon to gossips like ourselves.

This is pretty funny. Who knew that Facebook’s privacy changes would backfire on the CEO itself. Enough said, wanna see those pictures of the Zucker? Check them out here: http://bit.ly/6tNvYA

keep facebook safe

A large pop-up box will greet Facebook users logging on to the social-networking site on Thursday, asking them to modify their privacy settings.

The company says the changes will help streamline privacy controls that have confused many of its 350 million users and were sprawled over six separate pages.

What is getting the thumbs-down

Complaints have started flowing in, focusing on three areas:

The changes treat as “publicly available information” the following: your name, profile picture, current city, gender and networks, and the pages you’re a fan of.

Until now, you had the option of restricting much of that information. That option has been removed.

The ramifications, as the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation sees them:

“For example, you might want to join the fan page of a controversial issue (like a page that supports or condemns the legalization of gay marriage), and let all your personal friends see this on your profile, but hide it from your officemates, relatives or the public at large.” You cannot do so now.

The foundation says: “These changes are especially worrisome because even something as seemingly innocuous as your list of friends can reveal a great deal about you. In September, for example, an MIT study nicknamed ‘Gaydar’ demonstrated that researchers could accurately predict a Facebook user’s sexual orientation simply by examining the user’s friends list.”

Facebook counters that a user’s friends list can be made nonviewable. But it is either viewable by all or by no one.

Another source of consternation is Facebook apps, such as the quizzes developed by third parties that many users are fond of taking.

Until now, Facebook provided an option so you could specify that your information not be shared with others when one of your friends adds such an app.

But now, whenever a friend adds an app, your “publicly available information” becomes accessible to the developer.

So why did Facebook undertake the changes?

The Weblog TechCrunch explains it this way: If a user retains the “Everyone” option, the information is accessible by the Web at large.

“In short, this is Facebook’s answer to Twitter. … That means Facebook can leverage it for real-time search, and can also syndicate it to other places, like Google and Bing. The feature has been available in the site’s privacy settings since last summer, but most people didn’t use it (and probably didn’t even know it was there). The new privacy launch today puts this as the default option for many users.”

The changes have met with mixed reaction. By early Thursday, more than 2,700 users had approved of the changes on the Facebook blog.

But about 700 people said they were unhappy.

“The new setting[s] are ridiculous,” commented user Victoria Anne Archer. “I have less control than before and my friends are visible to everyone … I can’t hide them … but I have no choice … because if I select only friends … then NO ON[E] CAN FIND ME!”

What is getting the thumbs-up

The most commended aspect of the new settings is that they allow users to micromanage who can access every bit of information on the site.

One way to do so is to separate your friends into lists and grant those lists varying levels of accessibility.

For example, if you would rather your bosses not know what you do on downtime, you can place them on a specially created list.

In addition, a user can specify accessibility post by post.

After each status update you type or photo you post, you can pick from a drop-down menu whether you want that item visible to everyone, to just your friends, or to friends of friends as well.

How to access the changes

The new controls will be available under the “Settings” link at the top right of every page, in addition to being available in the dialogue box.

For each section — profile information, contact information, applications and search — users will be asked to pick from three options about who can access the information: Friends, Friends of friends, or Everyone.

The changes do away with “regional networks,” which let users designate themselves as residents of a geographic area. But Facebook is retaining school- and company-based networks.

It is worth noting that many users will find their privacy options set at “Recommended settings” by default. If you retain those, your information will be available to everyone.

If you would rather the site not share your information publicly, you will need to click through each section and restrict it to “Friends” only.

This applies for photos as well. A user will have to specify album by album how much access to grant others.

In addition, you will have to go under “Search” and specify whether you want Facebook to make your information available to users who look for you on Facebook and on the Web.

Increased privacy control for Facebook? Sounds like a good idea, considering that almost everyone has a Facebook account right now. I’m sure people want a way of ensuring that their personal information isn’t shared unknowingly with people that they don’t know. Still, it’s a bit troublesome, and for some people they might just decide to skip the whole configuration, which defeats the purpose of having these improved privacy measures in the first place.

scamming the search engines

Even search engines can get suckered by Internet scams.

With a little sleight of hand, con artists can dupe them into giving top billing to fraudulent Web sites that prey on consumers, making unwitting accomplices of companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Online charlatans typically try to lure people into giving away their personal or financial information by posing as legitimate companies in “phishing” e-mails or through messages in forums such as Twitter and Facebook. But a new study by security researcher Jim Stickley shows how search engines also can turn into funnels for shady schemes.

Stickley created a Web site purporting to belong to the Credit Union of Southern California, a real business that agreed to be part of the experiment. He then used his knowledge of how search engines rank Web sites to achieve something that shocked him: His phony site got a No. 2 ranking on Yahoo Inc.’s search engine and landed in the top slot on Microsoft Corp.’s Bing, ahead of even the credit union’s real site.

Google Inc., which handles two-thirds of U.S. search requests, didn’t fall into Stickley’s trap. His fake site never got higher than Google’s sixth page of results, too far back to be seen by most people. The company also places a warning alongside sites that its system suspects might be malicious.

But even Google acknowledges it isn’t foolproof.

Some recession-driven scams have been slipping into Google’s search results, although that number is “very, very few,” said Jason Morrison, a Google search quality engineer.

On one kind of fraudulent site, phony articles claim that participants can make thousands of dollars a month simply for posting links to certain Web sites. Often, the victims are asked to pay money for startup materials that never arrive, or bank account information is requested for payment purposes.

“As soon as we notice anything like it, we’ll adapt, but it’s kind of like a game of Whac-A-Mole,” he said. “We can’t remove every single scam from the Internet. It’s just impossible.”

In fact, Google said Tuesday it is suing a company for promising “work at home” programs through Web sites that look legitimate and pretend to be affiliated with Google.

Stickley’s site wasn’t malicious, but easily could have been. In the year and a half it was up, the 10,568 visitors were automatically redirected to the real credit union, and likely never knew they had passed through a fraudulent site.

“When you’re using search engines, you’ve got to be diligent,” said Stickley, co-founder of TraceSecurity Inc. “You can’t trust that just because it’s No. 2 or No. 1 that it really is. A phone book is actually probably a safer bet than a search engine.”

A Yahoo spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment. Microsoft said in a statement that Stickley’s experiment showed that search results can be cluttered with junk, but the company insists Bing “is equipped to address” the problem. Stickley’s link no longer appears in Bing.

To fool people into thinking they were following the right link, Stickley established a domain (creditunionofsc.org) that sounded plausible. (The credit union’s real site is cusocal.org.) After that, Stickley’s site wasn’t designed with humans in mind; it was programmed to make the search engines believe they were scanning a legitimate site. Stickley said he pulled it off by having link after link inside the site to create the appearance of “depth,” even though those links only led to the same picture of the credit union’s front page.

The experiment convinced Credit Union of Southern California that it should protect itself by being more aggressive about buying domain names similar to its own. Domains generally cost a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars each — a pittance compared with a financial institution’s potential liability or loss of goodwill if its customers are ripped off by a fake site.

“The test was hugely successful,” said Ray Rounds, the credit union’s senior vice president of information services.

Stickley’s manipulation illuminates the dark side of so-called search engine optimization. It’s a legitimate tactic used by sites striving to boost their rankings — by designing them so search engines can capture information on them better.

But criminals can turn the tables to pump up fraudulent sites.

“You can do this on a very, very broad scale and have a ton of success,” Stickley said. “This shows there’s a major, major risk out there.”

Robert Hansen, a Web security expert who wasn’t involved in Stickley’s research, said ranking high in search engine results gets easier as the topic gets more obscure. An extremely well-trafficked site such as Bank of America’s would always outrank a phony one, he notes.

Still, Hansen said, criminals have been able to game Google’s system well enough to carve out profitable niches. He says one trick is to hack into trusted sites, such as those run by universities, and stuff them with links to scam sites, which makes search engines interpret the fraudulent sites as legitimate.

“I don’t think we’re anywhere near winning” the fight against such frauds, said Hansen, chief executive of the SecTheory consulting firm.

Roger Thompson, chief research officer for AVG Technologies, who also wasn’t involved in the research, said search results can be trusted, for the most part.

“But the rule is, if you’re looking for something topical or newsworthy, you should be very cautious about clicking the link,” he said. That’s because criminals load their scam sites with hot topics in the news, to trap victims before the search engines have a chance to pull their sites out of the rankings.

“The bad guys don’t have to get every search,” he said. “They just have to get a percentage.”

Consumers can protect themselves from scam sites by looking up the domain at http://www.whois.com, which details when a site was registered and by whom. That can be helpful if the Web address of a phony site is similar to the real one.

Looks like search engine optimization (SEO) can be put to fraudulent uses too, as shown by Stickley and his fake site. It’s scary to know that your favourite search engine Google or Yahoo is delivering scam sites to you when you search with them. Who’s going to take the blame when the user gets scammed? Surely the search engine will have to take some of the responsibility as well, for not ensuring that they do not index phishing sites in their databases. Of course, the bulk of the responsibility still lies on the user to ensure that they are on the correct website before entering sensitive information such as bank account information or usernames and passwords.

Some simple things to look out for:

  1. Check the address bar – is the URI familiar?
  2. Look out for the https protocol – this shows that you’re on a secure connection. While even this may be faked, there’s a higher probability that you’re on a genuine site if https is being used.
  3. Look out for SSL when doing online banking. There should be a lock icon in the bottom right corner of your internet browser. If you’re using Firefox, you can also look at the address bar, where they will identify the owner of the SSL certificate.

get paid to search for porn

The Chinese government has offered rewards of up to 10,000 yuan (£888) to internet users who report websites that feature pornography.

As part of its latest campaign to weed out internet content that “harms public morality”, the government announced the incentive scheme over the weekend.

However, the campaign appears to have encouraged internet users to search for pornography online.

Within 24 hours, a hotline at the Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre was flooded with more than 500 phone calls and 13,000 online responses, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.

The censors are searching for any websites that contain obscene material or which advertise sexual products. The first person to report each site will receive between 1,000 yuan and 10,000 yuan after a committee had reviewed the tip-off.

The Chinese authorities have already been through several rounds blacking out online pornography. Earlier this year, Google was publicly sanctioned for not filtering out pornography from its search engine in China, and in the middle of November the government announced that it wanted to extend its censorship to any websites that can be accessed by mobile phones.

The government has, however, backed down from an earlier proposal to install censorship software, a programme called Green Dam, on every personal computer sold in the country.

Meanwhile, the China Business News newspaper reported that regulators in China have shut down hundreds of video-sharing websites in a bid to control content more closely. Several well-known websites were ordered to delete links to downloaded films or television series in the past week. One site, BTChina, said on its website that the State Administration of Video, Film and Television had commanded it to close because it had no license to provide audio or video content. The newspaper said 414 video-sharing websites had been shut so far this year. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are also all banned.

Where else can you find such a good deal? Getting paid to surf porn on the internet. At 1000 yuan per pornography site, it’s pretty good money that could be earned in a couple of minutes, if you are good enough in searching. Of course, don’t expect it to replace your day-time job, since the number of pornography sites accessible will be decreasing steadily everyday as everyone reports them for the reward.

appulous troll bridge: 37

Looks like the Appulo.us troll bridge is back in business. Great news if you’re “in the scene”, since you probably know the answer to the troll bridge. But for the rest of us commonfolk, we need some help.

Without further ado, here’s the current question:

Question: Kyek modified a Greasemonkey plugin to allow you to see if an Appulous IPA link was dead before you clicked it. The original plugin was the ________ Links Checker.
Answer: Cavern