As Wikipedia sits silent and dark for legions of despondent would-be users (who, apparently, never thought of Googling for some help around the blackout), a trio of old-school publications have stepped into the void to try and replace the collective knowledge of the Internet. The Washington Post, the Guardian, and NPR have been taking tweets from information-deprived Webizens and trying to provide answers to all life’s questions, large and small. Just smack an #altwiki tag at the end of a question and the combined brainpower will try to supply you with an honest-to-goodness answer.
Rapid breathing, sweaty palms, and a tightening of the chest; those physical effects used to be associated with prom night or horror movies, but thanks to all the high-profile hacking antics hitting the headlines these days, you might experience the same jitters whenever a website asks you for some personal information. Even worse, companies don’t always own up to when they’ve been pwned and put your data in danger. It’s getting better, though. California just passed a law that requires companies that have been OMG h@x3d to directly inform their customers of the breach.
Traditional print publishing may have been in some choppy waters these past few years, but the ship’s no where close to going down just yet. Ironically, the best proof of this out there comes to us from the interwebz. Thanks to a site called Newspaper Map, those of us who still love the smell and feel of newsprint with our morning coffee will always know where to find a newspaper, no matter where in the world we might be.
When Moore first predicted back in 1965 that computing power would double every 18 months, it’s hard to imagine even he could have predicted that by 2008, computers would be crunching a whopping 9,570,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of data per year. To put it in more modern terms that 9.57 zettabytes, or a million million gigabytes in total. The good news behind these numbers is that the vast majority of this data is a byproduct of CPU’s crunching numbers, and is not actual human readable information. Even despite these caveats however, 9.57 zettabytes is still a staggering number to wrap our minds around.
For a list of humorous, albeit completely unrelated physical examples of how much information this represents, make sure to hit the jump to read more.
That’s the first thing I said upon installing the Google Chrome extension, “Ozone,” because there’s simply no way around it: This extension is search to the extreme, period.
What do I mean by that?
Suppose you want to search for the name, “Nathan Edwards,” across a whole host of sites. Perhaps you’re interested in all the articles he’s written, or maybe you want to pull him up on Facebook or Wikipedia, or maybe even—god forbid—he’s acted in a movie you really like. Or maybe you sent him a Gmail that you need to look up. Or maybe you want to research his life on Linkedin.
Sounds like quite a task, eh? Good thing that Ozone can do it all... at the same time!
It’s not very often that one sees one’s life posted on one of the larger news/technology aggregates/communities/linkdumps on the web. But there I sat the other day, idly browsing the web the other day, when up came a chat window from Future US co-star Andy Salisbury. Andy, as it turns out, had stumbled across a rather interesting picture in Reddit’s submission queue and was curious to know if I had any further details to share.
I clicked the link without really thinking much about what could lie beneath. And you can thus imagine my surprise in discovering that I was basically staring at the back of my car. Yes, my car. Somebody had taken a picture of my (extremely clever and/or witty) license plate and uploaded it for the world to see. The votes on Reddit were slowly a-climbing and, based on a quick scan of the third-party that was actually hosting the image in question, roughly 10,000 people or so had already checked out my car’s butt.
Lordy. It's hard to spend but a week surfing the Internet without seeing a group of people getting caught up in a situation that they've volunteered themselves into. And it would be remiss of me to go a single sentence further without mentioning the latest elephant in the room--Facebook.
I can't log into Facebook without seeing a growing number of my friends joining those silly little, "Facebook is opening up my entire life and I wish it was like it was back in 2005" groups/fan pages/whatever we're calling them now. But Dave's Comrades aren't the only ones joining in on the fun--tech pundits Jason Calacanis and Peter Rojas, amongst others, are nuking their accounts in protest as well! It's a Facebook meltdown!
Unlike the open-source world, where the concept of "something for nothing" is pretty widely understood and accepted--even by those that just download away and never contribute a single iota of code or absent thought to an application's development--the general Internet populace seems pretty peeved at an otherwise free service's attempts to branch out its offerings. This, in turn, leads to a stronger advertising platform and/or additional service expansions, but mainly the former. Facebook ain't charity, after all--the company has human overhead and server costs, to name a few, and it's not as if every status update magically conjures up a shiny nickel for Mark Zuckerberg.
If you're a privacy nut--or even someone who's the least bit concerned about the kind of information that Google might be collecting from you--then it's in your best interest to do everything possible to shield your browsing activities from The Man. Whoever "The Man" might be, that is. Anyway, this is relatively easy to do if you're keen with the technique of running proxies, blocking cookies, and stripping all other identifying characteristics out of your Web traffic. It's nevertheless quite a bit of work to undertake if you're even a semi-frequent Web browser.
The Firefox add-on GoogleSharing aims to simplify the process of rendering yourself invisible to the big G, and it kicks into effect every time you fire up your browser to begin a new surfing session. Click the jump to see how it works!
You can put all the security measures you want on your portable PC, but odds are good that unless you're running some heavy encryption across your entire hard drive--I cry for your system's performance--an industrious cracker is going to find some way into your files should he or she have physical access to your laptop. And it's not like it's that hard to steal a laptop: you pick it up, you run away, you bust your way into the operating system. Done and done.
That's where a little application called LaptopLock comes into play. This download is more like a half-and-half, in that it combines the services of a Web app and a downloadable application into one awesome package. Let's paint a scenario: You lose your laptop. You're terrified that someone has actually taken your laptop and, worse, your laptop contains all of your personal information in a little file called "Nathan's Important Information" right on your desktop. What? You were doing your taxes; It's not unheard of.
This story would usually end a few hours later after you've managed to cancel all of your credit cards and cried buckets of tears at the thought of someone stealing your identity, provided said thief hasn't already used your debit card information to go on a personal shopping spree. Now, had you installed LaptopLock beforehand, the roles would be reversed: You'd be sitting easy and the thief would be freaking out at his or her missed opportunity.
Security rivals thermal paste as the most important thing you have to keep in mind when building or using a system. Every bit of software on your PC should be updated; every external access point into your digital life, closed. There's no reason why you should be handing over the keys to the castle to random Internet strangers. Powerful virus protection, a strong firewall, and a bit of common sense -- among other tricks -- will go far to preserve your fortress of a system.
Now that's all well and good for the desktop in your living room, but what about third-party machines? We've all had to jump on a system over which we've had no control--no observance or administrative rights to ensure that every bit of the operating system checked out to ideal security standards. You can always head over the falls in a barrel and type your passwords and login credentials blindly, with no foresight or worries that you're inputting valuable information on a potentially infected machine. That, or you can do what I'd do: Make sure that your every keystroke and action is somehow safeguarded through the use of portable applications that you can carry on a storage device of your choice (cough USB key cough).
And that's exactly what I'll be exploring in this week's Freeware Files: Five awesome portable apps that you can carry with you to increase your security presence on a PC that isn't yours. These aren't panaceas--you'll still want to be as critical and as cautious as you would previously. However, they're a step in the right direction toward (hopefully) a data-leak-free lifestyle.