Wi-Fi piggybacking widespread, anti-virus firm warns

While setting up a Wi-Fi network for the PLDT myDSL connection at home earlier this week, I got a timely warning from a press release. Anti-virus company Sophos said many people now use someone else’s wireless Internet connection without their permission.

Sophos said 54 percent of 560 respondents who took their online survey admitted to using other people’s Wi-Fi connection without their permission. The survey is not scientific and I don’t see how you can see a “widespread” trend from it. But it does provide a timely warning to home users who have gone wireless.

Sophos said “many Internet-enabled homes fail to properly secure their wireless connection with passwords and encryption, allowing freeloading passers-by and neighbors to steal Internet access rather than paying an internet service provider (ISP) for their own.”

I don’t know how common Wi-Fi piggybacking is in Cebu or in the Philippines, save for anecdotal feedback from geeks I know. I’ve heard of maybe three persons who said they were able to use an unsecured wireless network.

Still, the absence of reports should not be a reason to be complacent and just leave your home Wi-Fi network unsecured. This absence of reports may be because none have been caught.

And with more mobile devices like phones having the capability to use Wi-Fi, the risk will only get higher.

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Zooomr Mark III now live: Get unlimited photo storage; sell images

My favorite photo sharing website, Zooomr, is now live after weeks of being down. The two-man website had upgraded its services to Mark III, a new version that had been months in the planning and contains a lot of new features.

Among the features of Mark III is the ability of users to sell their photos and set prices for them. Users get to keep 80 percent of the sale.

Zooomr Mark III WHAT’S THE PRICE? Zooomr allows photographers to set prices for their images. The photo-sharing website will soon be launching a marketplace where people can buy photographs.

Zooomr founder Kristopher Tate had attempted to upgrade the site previously but rolled back when the downtime took too long. In this last attempt, the downtime took two weeks but most of its users were still very supportive of the service and its two-man crew: Tate and chief evangelist Thomas Hawk.

For days, I was among the many loyal Zooomr users rooting for the upgrade to be successful, visiting the site daily to check for updates. I was among those who regularly watched the live video feed of Kristopher working on the upgrade and taking the site back up. I partly shared their disappointment when, a few minutes after the upgrade went live, it’s database server crashed. I say partly because no one can be as disappointed over the crash as Kristopher and Thomas, who gave so much for the upgrade to work.

The site is now back up, thanks to the help of Zoho, Sun, Dell and various groups and people who answered a call by Robert Scoble for the community to help Zooomr.

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Ghost in the machine

I found the Sun.Star Cebu newsroom abuzz yesterday over a website that seemed to know a lot of details, even intimate ones, about people and things. When I entered the newsroom, I found reporters, editors, librarians, and newsroom assistants gathered around TV host Jude Bacalso, the paper’s lifestyle editor, who was entering questions and getting correct answers on the Peter Answers website.

peteranswers.com ANSWER TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING. It’s in PeterAnswers.com. Have fun fooling your friends with the website. Click on photo to view larger image.

At first glance, it was freaky. How could the website know the names of a co-worker’s children, the pet peeve of an editor, what I was doing at the precise time the question was asked (holding out my cellphone), what was on a reporter’s head (a polka-dot headband), and what one reporter told another reporter about his mother-in-law?

I initially thought that Jude had a conspirator on hearing distance providing the answers but no one within the vicinity was typing when Jude entered the questions. It was also impossible for Jude to have pre-programmed the answers because the questions were thrown at him at random.

Jude, it turned out, was providing the answers himself right before our very eyes and none of us noticed it. In defense, though, Jude is a great actor and he did put up such a convincing show.

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Spamming Charles Krauthammer

Last year I got a curious e-mail buried in the pile of auto-responses that clogged my inbox. Someone using a forged @limpag.com address not only sent spam to scores of poor souls all over the world, he or she also spammed Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Charles Krauthammer.

That spurred me into action. I use my limpag.com domain for my personal e-mail as well as that of immediate family members.

I initially used Windows Live Custom Domains to manage my limpag.com e-mails. But I, as well as other Limpags, didn’t use it much. For one, it came with the old Hotmail interface and while it promised a 25MB storage for non-US folks, we only got 2MB of inbox storage because you had to undergo a verification process in order to get the full 25MB.

When Google launched its Google Apps for domains, I immediately transferred e-mail service. Google Apps lets you manage your domain’s e-mails through GMail, and with it came excellent spam controls and a 2Gb of storage. It also offers such things as a shared online calendar as well as documents storage.

It was after the transfer that I noticed that spammers were forging e-mail addresses using my domain. My main limpag.com e-mail addresses was getting auto-replies indicating that spam messages, including e-mails with virus attachments, were being sent from @limpag.com addresses.

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Showing Windows the door

I’m now running Ubuntu Feisty Fawn beta on my main blogging gear – an MSI S260 laptop – and I haven’t stopped saying “wow” since when I finished installing it late Monday night.

I’ve used Ubuntu before, but mainly as a local server and the experience can be summarized as: boot CD, choose server setup, follow on-screen instructions, configure settings, then connect from my Windows PC.

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn desktop MY NEW WORKSTATION. Ubuntu running on my main blogging gear, an MSI S260 laptop. Click on photo to view larger image.

I’ve never gotten around to using Ubuntu as a desktop despite a long standing entry in my to-do list to do just that. I’ve tried its live CD and tinkered with desktops installed with it but for a long time I lived in a Windows-centric world–office PC, home unit, and laptop. What has stopped me from using Ubuntu sooner is my dependence on such applications as Photoshop and InDesign for newsroom work.

I’ve also been set back by my reliance on the open source Float’s Mobile Agent (FMA) to manage my Sony Ericsson K750i. When I’m at the office, my phone is, more often than not, connected to the PC and being managed by FMA. I use the program to send, receive, and archive messages as well as manage my contacts and calendar entries. When I’m on the field, FMA saves me a lot of time sending messages while writing stories.

FMA currently runs only on Windows but I found an old post in the support forum that said a developer was able to make it run in Linux using Wine.

Last Monday, I decided to wipe out Windows from my laptop and use the Ubuntu Feisty Fawn beta release. The IT staff assigned to the newsroom suggested I use a dual-boot setup and retain a Windows partition but I was bent on having an Ubuntu-only system.

I’m no geek, and the only sudo I know ends with “ko” but with the holidays, I figured I’d have enough time to tinker with my laptop if the installation goes awry.

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Mobile e-mail on the high seas

There’s probably room enough for only 10 people on this islet of six trees (or shrubs) and a single hut.

Yet on this islet near Olango Island and for several kilometers near it, you can still connect to telecoms networks and send and receive text messages, make calls, and browse the mobile Internet. It boggles my mind when I thought I’d “get away from it all” during a trip to several islets yesterday that I was never out of range of the telecoms network.

Gmail on Sony Ericsson k750i E-MAIL ON THE HIGH SEAS. Checking Gmail on a boat in the middle of nowhere. Click on photo to enlarge image.

Up until two years back, I still heard of stories and jokes on how people on several areas of Cebu had to go to a certain spot or climb trees just to send and receive text messages. I seem to remember being told of connection problems in Olango.

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From Pigeon Rank to GMail Paper, you gotta love Google

Open GMail today and you’ll see a different front page. Google regularly posts updates to the GMail service, including the current storage space offered, on the front page. Today, the front page introduces what is purported to be a new product: GMail Paper.

GMail Paper, according to their April Fool’s joke page, is a free service that gives you a physical copy of your messages, delivered to your doorstep.

gmail paper GMAIL PAPER. The page is the latest of Google’s great April fool’s jokes. Click to view very large version.

The site says “the cost of postage is offset with the help of relevant, targeted, unobtrusive advertisements, which will appear on the back of your Gmail Paper prints in red, bold, 36 pt Helvetica. No pop-ups, no flashy animations—these are physically impossible in the paper medium.”

The page even has made up testimonials of beta users. Google really has funny April Fool’s jokes. Remember the Pigeon Rank several years back? But for sheer daring, I have to give it to the BBC Panorama staff who reported good spaghetti harvest because of a mild winter in 1957. The report even came with footage of a Swiss family harvesting pasta from spaghetti trees. After the broadcast, the BBC was swamped with calls inquiring on how they can grow their own spaghetti trees.

Winning in the Philippine Blog Awards

In 1997, someone told me I’ll never understand FTP. Last night, I won in the best technology blog category in the first-ever Philippine Blog Awards.

What difference a decade makes, huh?

The colleague who told me I won’t be able to grasp FTP probably never meant it as an insult. He was grumbling on being given the added task of sending magazine pages via FTP to the server of a Hong Kong-based company. He was right to grumble, imagine the upload speeds in 1998. I asked him what FTP was and I think he meant it to be a brush-off when he said I wouldn’t be able to understand it.

I’ve gotten more familiar with FTP, among other things, since then.

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Server monitoring site adds weekly e-mail reports

Mon.itor.us, a free service that monitors the availability of your web server, now sends weekly PDF reports on the uptime of your websites. The report provides a snapshot of the availability of your site within the week. The weekly PDF report seemed a recent addition to its already formidable lineup of services. This is still the second time I’ve received one.

web server availability report PDF REPORT. Mon.itor.us sends a weekly report on the availability of servers you are monitoring. Click on image to enlarge.

Of course, you can always go to your mon.itor.us account to view detailed statistics not only on your web server availability but also on response times. Mon.itor.us monitors web server performance from three different locations—Germany, Austria, and the United States.

Of all the free web server monitoring services I tried, mon.itor.us is the most consistent and dependable. It’s is usually the first to alert me whenever any of the sites I monitor is down. This means mon.itor.us checks availability more frequently than the other services.

Mon.itor.us also provides its users detailed records of the response times of web servers. You can view the response time of your site, from which country and on what hour of any given day since you signed up for its service.

I’ve previously written about how to use mon.itor.us to compare web hosting providers. I still continue monitoring blogs with Media Temple and Dreamhost to help me on my choice of company to sign up with. I’m currently on a shared server account with A Small Orange and I’m happy with its service. I’ve decided to sign up for another year with them, this time on a bigger plan.

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A meandering: Philippine blog awards, nostalgia, and The Ballad of Tom Jones

This blog is one of the finalists in the technology category of the first staging of the Philippine Blog Awards. I’d like to thank the people behind it for the honor. It may sound passé but it is indeed honor enough to be one of the finalists. Never mind winning, I’m up against great tech blogs.

One of the finalists is the blog of tech journalist Chin Wong of the Manila Standard Today. Of the three teachers in my Diploma in Online Journalism course, he was the best. It was under him that I wrote one of the articles I liked the most, which was printed in the Cebu Yearbook of Sun.Star Cebu.

His is the type of work you try to set as standard for your own.

The finals come as I got yet another warning from my web host that I’m nearing my bandwidth allocation. It seems I need to upgrade hosting plans again. A major headache of hosting your own blog is the technical work that comes with it. But this is the type of headache I welcome. I’d like to think I’m no masochist but I get obscene pleasure, at times, with technical problems.

What does not destroy my blog, server, PC, or phone, makes me wiser.

I have been blogging more lately, and my drafts of blog posts continue to grow. You can say I have found my blogging mojo. But I think it’s because of the lifting of a fog of gloom that had been over me for nine years.

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