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Archive for August, 2009

Where do tweets come from? We break down the sources of Twitter updates

August 24, 2009 2 comments

We’ve already written a few posts about Twitter. But the other day, I had an idea: why not find out where those tweets are coming from? Third party Twitter apps are commonplace (like TweetDeck and Twitterific), and there are also services that automatically tweet posts in RSS feeds (like Twitterfeed).

We looked at 101 random tweets from the public timeline, and discovered that only about half of all tweets come from users on the Twitter homepage itself.

(I know, we’re saying “tweet” and “Twitter” way too much.)

Here are the results:

  1. Web / mobile web: 48 tweets
  2. TweetDeck: 11 tweets
  3. UberTwitter: 7 tweets
  4. Twitterfeed: 4 tweets
  5. By Text message: 3 tweets
  6. By API: 3 tweets
  7. HootSuite: 3 tweets
  8. Tweetie: 3 tweets
  9. Twitterfox: 2 tweets
  10. Twitterfon: 2 tweets
  11. Other, with one tweet each: 15 tweets

In case your wondering the services used on one tweet or less were MovaTwitter, Twitterific, ShareThis.com, Twittelator, WP to Twitter, Twibble, TwitPic, Twicli, Polyvore, Tumblr, Twhirl, Snaptu, TwitterBerry, Tween, and TwitterRide.

Results represented as a graph:

TweetsBySource

How do you tweet?

Categories: Social Networking

You know the laptop hunters Microsoft ad? Watch this parody of it.

August 20, 2009 1 comment

You know the “Laptop Hunters” ads by Microsoft where (apparently) random people have to choose a laptop for under a certain amount of money? Well, there have been numerous parodies of it posted to YouTube, but this one is my favorite.

Categories: Computer Hardware

Brink: A TV show on science and technology you might want to check out

August 18, 2009 1 comment

BetterBrinkLogo

I’ve been watching a show called Brink for some time now, and I really like it.

Brink is a TV show about the latest in science and technology, including space, climate change, robots, computers and the Internet, and all things technology. For those of you interested, it’s on at 10:30 PM Mondays on the Science Channel. Brink’s Wikipedia page.

Update: I just learned that Brink has been canceled, and that next Monday’s episode will be the series finale. Not a joke. I had no knowledge of this when I wrote this post, and I only learned it when I watched the episode from last night that I had recorded. As of now, you can still find clips of the show on its website. RIP Brink. You can follow its host, Josh Zepps, on Twitter here.

Categories: Science, TV

According to a recent test, Internet Explorer 8 is the best browser at protecting users from malware. Not so fast…

August 18, 2009 1 comment

According to a recent test by a company called NSS Labs, Internet Explorer 8 beat the competition as far as preventing users from going to websites that distribute malware. By a lot.

IE8 was able to protect users from 80% of sites that attempted to trick users into deliberately downloading malware. Firefox 3 was second with 27% accuracy. Safari 4 scored 21%, Chrome 2 scored 7%, and the Opera 10 Beta scored a mere 1%.

There are a few things I’d like to highlight. First of all, the test only covered sites that try to trick the user into downloading malware, or “trojans.” Sites that distribute programs that don’t, or secretly do more, than the user expects (such as a program that claims to be a game, but is in fact a backdoor that allows a hacker to gain access to your computer).

This was a good category to choose, but it’s only a fraction of what needs to be tested in order to determine the overall security of a browser. The big things, in my opinion? Exploits and drive-by downloads. Rick Moy, the president of NSS labs, said that these were left out because of the risk of infecting test computers (sandboxing and other technologies were utilized to protect computers from malware on the tested sites).

From what I know, I could guess the threat of exploits could be mitigated via methods such as going to flagged websites with a computer running a less used operating system such as Linux or BSD, which is presumably immune to the effects of the vast majority of exploits out there. More so, the computers could easily run a live version of a rare operating system off a CD or external drive. Although less stable, they could avoid installing these softwares thus preserving the native OS and configuration.

There are a few things I noticed when looking through the report:

  • The analysis strictly focused on how effectively browsers were able to warn the user about the site. On page 3, NSS noted that the study did not cover actual vulnerabilities in plugins or the browsers themselves. In other words, the test didn’t cover Internet Explorer’s internal security issues, or, more importantly, it’s highly vulnerable native ActiveX support, which poses the biggest risk for IE users.
  • After testing a number of sites, NSS finally decided to test just over 600 websites that distributed malware in this fashion. I would feel better about the accuracy of the study if that number had been well over 1,000, or beyond.
  • NSS tested Mozilla Firefox 3.0, instead of 3.5, the latest version, which has major improvements in its anti-malware protection. I think it was kind of odd that they decided to test the Opera 10 beta, which is newer than the current stable version of Opera, but not Firefox 3.5, the newest stable release.

I get a Google Alert every day with a harvest of Firefox and Mozilla-related news articles. In the past few days, I’ve been seeing headlines (from lesser-known and presumably less credible sources) such as “Microsoft leads browsers in malware defense.” Saying that, you’d be ignoring the fact that Internet Explorer has been and is considered far less secure by numerous security experts and writers when compared to alternative browsers, Firefox especially.

So in conclusion, IE can not be considered superior security-wise because of one test covering one fraction of what needs to be analyzed in order to determine the overall security of a browser. I hope NSS, or another testing company provide some more tests giving more insight into which browsers are more secure.

Categories: Security, Web Browsers

Images have been on the Internet for decades…yet there still is no standard format

August 12, 2009 Leave a comment

For many of us, Images have been on the Internet for most (or all) of our lives. They are a key part of the Internet today. Yet after all these years, there still isn’t a standard format throughout the web.

On the Yahoo! homepage, the logo is a GIF image, but the rest of the images on the page are JPEGs. Google’s logo is a GIF. The logos of Bing, Twitter, and YouTube are PNGs. Instead of one major format, there are three: GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), PNG (Portable Network Graphics), designed to replace GIF, and JPEG. And now, yet another format is being adopted: SVG.

SVG is different from traditional image formats. GIF, JPEG, and PNG formats are raster graphics, more commonly known as bitmaps. Bitmaps use pixels as a way of displaying images. The downside of this is that bitmaps can only be displayed at a certain maximum resolution without “pixelating.” SVG images, on the other hand, use shapes, such as squares, triangles, circles, etc., to display images. Using shapes rather than pixels allows SVG images to be displayed at an infinitely high resolution without any deterioration in quality.

Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome natively support SVG images. Guess who doesn’t? As always, Internet Explorer, which requires an add-on to display SVG images.

Microsoft Paint, bundled with Windows, cannot produce SVG images. Neither can GIMP, the much more advanced photo editor that comes with some distributions of Linux. Right now, the major SVG editing software is Inkscape.

Anyway, the point is, if images have been around online for such a long time, why haven’t we picked a format, especially with one of the top three formats designed to replace another. I see a competition between PNG and JPEG, with PNG probably being the winner in the end because of its lossless compression, versus JPEG’s lossy compression (lossless is better, as the quality of the image is unaffected by compression, thus the name “lossless”).

Categories: File Formats

Denial of Service attack launched against Twitter

August 6, 2009 Leave a comment

About 2 hours ago, Twitter reported that their site was down, and that they were determining the cause. They then posted a follow-up post saying that they were under a denial of service attack, and that Twitter was back online but still being attacked.

Using Twitter this morning, the service has been going online and offline. If Twitter was online when you loaded this blog post, the Twitter logo below, hosted at assets0.twitter.com, will appear. If it doesn’t, Twitter is most likely offline.

Here’s the image:

Twitter has not provided any additional information on their blog or status blog other than the fact that they are in fact under attack and a brief description of what a DoS attack is. We’ll post additional information later as it becomes available.

Update 1: The Hot URLs list on Alexa, which shows which websites are being visited the most, updated every 5 minutes, shows Twitter.com as the #1 URL, followed by an article on President Obama, and then a CNN article on Twitter being brought down, Twitter.com/home, the Twitter Status Blog, a Wired article on Twitter being brought down, and a Mashable article on Twitter being brought down.

The fact that the first, fourth and fifth URLs are on Twitter hints that this may be a relatively sophisticated DoS attack. Those URLs being brought to the top could be from the computers attacking Twitter and frustrated users reloading pages to try to get Twitter to load.

Update 2: On Twitter the top trending topics are DDOS (meaning denial of service attack) and Denial-Of-Service. Apparently, word has spread about the attack.

Update 3: Twitter has announced on the Twitter Status blog that “As we recover, users will experience some longer load times and slowness. This includes timeouts to API clients. We’re working to get back to 100% as quickly as we can.” I’m inferring that the attack is over, although that was not directly stated.

Update 4: The service we use to post our articles to Twitter, Twitterfeed, was unable to tweet this article because of a 500 error received from Twitter. The error was on Twitter’s part.

Update 5: It looks like Twitter might have API issues for a while longer. This means that services like Twitterfeed and Bit.ly will not be able to post to Twitter. I had to manually post this article to Twitter, and it has already received 14 clicks (DDOS being a trending topic).

Update 6: According to CNET, Facebook has also been under a denial of service attack, but it only shut down some of their services, and the site was able to stay online. More info here.

Categories: Social Networking

[WG Announcement] We’ve been visited by people from every continent!

August 5, 2009 Leave a comment

https://i1.wp.com/www.iconfinder.net/data/icons/dellipack/128/world.pngI was just checking our ClustrMaps statistics page when I discovered that we’ve been visited by people from every continent (excluding Antarctica, of course). A relatively small achievement compared to some top sites, but’s it’s still significant for us.

Let’s think about it. Our blog is relatively small, yet people from every continent have been here. It just shows you how truly worldwide the Internet is, with about 1.6 billion users, the countries with the most online people being China, the United States, Japan, India, and Brazil.

Just a reminder, these locations are based off of the IP addresses of visitors, which can only be used to determine the general region someone is in (often not even city-level accuracy). So rest assured, your privacy is safe.

We owe a big thank you to all of our visitors, and here it is. Don’t forget to check out our Twitter page, and our sister (and former flagship) site TemplatesOne.

Spen B

Categories: WG Announcements