Thoughts and opinions of a technology enthusiast.

Aussie Geek Podcast #50

The team put together another episode of the Geek before the holidays, this time out was a bit of a milestone for the crew. For AGP #50 we had some special guests on the line, namely Tim and James who have both been key players in the history of the show over the past 6 years.

We discuss our own individual histories of computing and how technology and computing have affected our lives, and the technology-tracks that our lives have taken over the past couple of decades.

Leaking Tokens: Time to Change Your Facebook Password

I don’t do this kind of thing lightly, but it might be a good idea to post this on your wall:

  • Facebook found a problem in the way that it was authenticating applications.
  • Any time you used an application a token was created that would allow the application to do it’s thing — including posting on your wall, accessing photos or whatever other permissions it requested.
  • The tokens did not expire and were being “leaked” through normal operation on Facebook.
  • Anyone who found a token would be able to use it to do the same things that you allowed the application to do — including posting on your wall, accessing photos or whatever other permissions it requested.

It is important to note that Facebook has said there is no evidence that this has been exploited — yet.

The problem has now been fixed, but all the old tokens could still be usable until September 2011. You can re-secure your account by simply changing your Facebook password. This will invalidate any of the existing tokens.

Information Week has an article with more detail.

32 Great Podcasts from my Podroll

Inspired by this post from Bill Wagner’s blog, here’s a quick look at what’s on my Podroll these days.  I’ve listed each show below with its affiliated network or originating broadcaster in parentheses.  Please have a look through the list and post any other great shows in the comments.  I’d also love to know what you think about the recommendations!

Science & Technology Shows

Aussie Geek Podcast – Bloody Awesome Tech. Two Aussies (Dave and Cait) and a Canadian (that’s me!) put their unique slants on the technology news, applications sites and services each week (or so).

CommandN – Amber Macarthur and friends bring you a weekly dose of tech news.

Digital Planet (BBC) – The BBC’s weekly technology show looking at trends in tech and how they affect your daily life, hosted by Gareth Mitchell.

Discovery (BBC) – A weekly science documentary examining hot trends and profound topics in the world of science.

Knightcast – Tuning tech into your way of life, Knightwise offers a look at ways to make technology work for you, instead of the other way around.

Mac OS Ken – A daily dose of Mac (and iPhone) news delivered by the sarcastic, funny and insightful Ken Ray.

One Minute Tip (TP) – Byte-sized pieces of knowledge to help you be just a bit more productive with your everyday tech.

Podcasters’ Emporium (LPN) – James Williams and Dave Gray cover all the topics you need to know to become a better podcaster.

Quirks and Quarks (CBC) – Bob MacDonald’s weekly look at science and technology from the CBC mothership.  The show looks at new and emerging sciences and technologies, often with an eye towards how they affect our environment.

Run As Radio (PWOP) – Richard Campbell and Greg Hughes provide a weekly batch of insightful trends and topics for the IT pro.

Security Now (TWiT) – Steve Gibson’s weekly dose of security news and security-related topics is very insigtful  (even better if you skip over Leo Laporte’s TWiT ads).

Search Engine (TVO) – Jesse Brown’s brutally honest opinions and reviews of life in the Internet age.

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe – Members of the New England Skeptical Society debunk the myths and frauds of the scientific age.

The Skeptic’s Guide 5×5 – A shorter companion podcast for the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.

Spark (CBC) – Focusing on the softer side of tech, trends and how these things work their way into our day-to-day lives.

Software Development Shows

Hanselminutes (PWOP) – Scott Hanselman’s weekly look at software and technology topics with his inside the MS machine take on things.

Herding Code – A group of “real-world” developers discussing topics and technology that affect code-slingers everywhere.

.NET Rocks! (PWOP) – .NET Rocks brings together the incomparable Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell who interview cool and interesting people in the Microsoft developer space.

Polymorphic Podcast – Craig Shoemaker’s periodic exploration of software and best practices for .NET developers was one of the first software podcasts I started listening to.

Stack Overflow – Jeff atwood and Joel Spolsky’s companion podcast to the Stack Overflow Q&A site project.  A weekly chat about the project, interesting Stack Overflow questions and other software topics.

Humour & Entertainment Shows

Mondays (PWOP) – Mondays is a comedy show from the crew at PWOP that’s released on a somewhat sporadic basis.  This one’s definitely NSFW — unless you have headphones. =)

Star Trek: Defiant – A fan-fiction podcast set a number of years after the events in Star Trek: Nemesis. Produced by the crew at Pendant Audio with a fairly talented voice crew.  It’s a good listen.

Two Schooners (LPN) – Dave Gray and James Williams get together again for a somewhat less serious show covering the weird and hilarious stories of the week over a schooner of their favourite brew.

Business / News Shows

Campbell’s Comment (CKNW) – Michael Campbell’s daily business comment.

Get It Done Guy (QD Tips) – Sever Robins provides great productivity tips, business tips and general “how-to-cope-with-life-after-college” tips.

Modern Manners Guy (QD Tips) – The Modern Manners Guy’s advice on how not to inconvenience those around you.

Nutrition Diva (QD Tips) – Eat better, and learn about food myths that’ll keep you on the healthy track.

Reality Check (CKNW) – Bruce Allen’s pull-no-punches daily comment about social issues and pop culture.

Sports Comment (CKNW) – Neil McRae and others provide a comment on the sports world from a Vancouver perspective.

Grammar / Language Shows

Grammar Girl (QD Tips) – Mignon Fogarty’s weekly language show will help you tackle the tricky issues of trying to write successfully in the English language.

Kalye Speak – Learn tagalog as filipino’s actually speak it.  By far the most successful podcast of its kind.

Podictionary – Charles Hodgeson gives great background on the etymology of words that we use every day. The show is insightful, fun and concise.

It’s been fun putting this list together.  I’d love to hear your comments on these shows, or others that you listen to regularly.

Stack Overflow – Where Experts Exchange Information

soLast year a new Q&A site for developers called Stack Overflow was opened to the public. We covered the site a bit on an episode of the AGP a few months back, but I just realized the other day that I hadn’t posted about it here.

The site is focused on the interaction between software developers which is truly how most of us learn the best — by working with, interacting with and drawing on the wisdom of other developers.

The site draws on a whole bunch of different elements that set it apart from other Q&A sites.  Creator Jeff Atwood describes Stack Overflow as a free Q&A site that’s built and maintained by the community of developers.

While the site was built to answer developers’ questions, it also has some stiff competition in the form of the Experts’ Exchange.  Most developers know about EE, and are annoyed by the fact that the site purports to charge money for access to the answers to development questions.  As it turns out, it’s all available for free, you just need to look around a bit harder to find stuff.

Stack Overflow has been built with transparency and ease of use in mind since its inception; the model is to get as many eyeballs on a question as needed to get a good answer.  Good questions and good answers are up-voted by the community — similar to the way Digg works, except it’s harder to game the system.  Up-votes provide reputation points which at lower levels unlock some of the site’s features.  The site also gives out badges for meeting certain goals on the site, based on the ability to get badges or special goals on Xbox live.

Jeff Atwood’s passion is around developing software from a more human perspective. Much of the design of the site for Stack Overflow, and the code behind it are based on driving positive behaviours within the developer community.  Instead of lots of hard-and-fast rules, there are easy ways to do good things, and more difficult ways to do things that shouldn’t be overdone.

As a side-note, Stack Overflow’s codebase is written in C# using the ASP.NET MVC framework, and has been in use since the very early CTP days of MVC.  It’s a great example of the power that can be brought to bear on the web with this toolset.

I love the site, it’s been a great resource for me for the past year or so, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a development dilemma that they need to solve.

Google Launches Tasks for Gmail

GmailToday Google announced on the official Gmail blog that it had added tasks to Gmail Labs.

The new feature provides a simple task list that can be activated using the labs menu.  To activate this, click on the green beaker at the top of the screen.

The task list in and of itself is basic, and provides a point that Google can use to extend its functionality in the future… features like integration with Google Calendar (yea, they left that out) and the ability to collaborate & share tasks through Gmail.

While this won’t likely satiate the desires of the Getting-Things-Done crowd, it’s a decent to-do list for keeping track of a non-complex list of items.  The most functional advantage that this has over desktop-based task solutions like Outlook is the ability for it to be accessed anywhere you can hit-up your Gmail.

Overall I’m a big fan of Google’s “Labs” concept. Pre-releasing new functionality in an opt-in manner is the hallmark of open-source and the web 2.0 community, and is a principle that the search giant seems to have embraced wholeheartedly.  Here’s hoping we see more useful features coming out of Mountain View.

FREE Software :: CrossOver Free Today Only!

If you’re a fan of being able to run Windows applications on your Mac, listen up! CodeWeavers Windows-to-Mac application CrossOver is being offered for FREE today only.

If you’re interested in the offer, visit the CodeWeavers website to sign up.

If you want to read more about the background of this story, check out Michael Rose’s post on TUAW.

The long and the short of it: You have George W. Bush to thank (sorta) for your opportunity to buy free software.

BarCamp Vancouver 2008 Party

I just got back from the BarCamp Vancouver 2008 networking party.  This is the meet & greet prior to the actual unconference which takes place tomorrow down at Granville Island.

It was great to see a few familiar faces like Rebecca and Raul.

I also got to meet some of the folks who I’d only known online.  Duane, John, John & Andy.  Looking forward to meeting lots of other great people tomorrow.

I did forget one thing tonight: Business Cards.  However, I did manage to find a few spare sheets of my Avery business card blanks tonight.  I also discovered (somewhat to my surprise) that Google Docs supports Avery business card templates.

sample business card from google docs

sample business card from google docs

The implementation isn’t quite as slick as MS-Word, but it will more than do in a pinch.  I managed to whip up this snazzy little number in a matter of minutes.  Now I feel more prepared for tomorrow.  Hopefully Dave doesn’t mind that I borrowed the show logo, I promise I’ll promote the show:)

Cloudless Computing :: Things To Do When You’re Without Your Interwebs

So here I am without access to the Internet.  So what have I done?  I’ve found a way to do my computing without the cloud!  Here are some projects that you can do the next time you find yourself without access to the cloud.

Organize your Photos
This is a relatively time consuming task that I rarely take the time to do.  A “net-outage” is a great time to pour through the photos in your computer and group or rename the files.  If you use a photo organizing program like iPhoto or Aperture on the Mac, or Google’s very popular Picasa on Windows you can use these programs to do much of the tedious file management for you.

Blog Something
I find that one of my biggest impediments to getting a bunch of blogging done is my rather short attention span.  When I’m online researching a story for an article I tend to get lost surfing the Internet looking for new and exciting things.  Being offline for a few hours, or  even a couple of days, can provide you extra time to focus on getting that article written, or in some cases provide inspiration for a whole new article (or two).  I managed to a get a couple of good articles out of my unexpected “grey mode” period.

Write a Letter
We’ve all said it at one time or another, often when frustrated or annoyed, “I’m going to write a letter!”  Well, here’s your chance.  Bring up your favourite word processor, or text editor and bang out some phrases that are sure to convince your audience that you’re right (and that you should get a free case of coke the next time you shop there).  Letters to politicians or other elected officials are also great candidates.

Play a Game
Assuming you have games on your computer which aren’t of the MMO variety playing them can be a great way to kill some time.  A couple of games that I’ve purchased over the last couple of years are Escape Velocity: Nova (EV:Nova) and WingNuts 2.  Both of these games are sci-fi shooters, with EV:Nova extending the genre with trading and other somewhat less violent activities.  EV:Nova also supports a wide ranging plugin architecture that will allow you to download (prior to the network outage, of course) plugins from other players to extend the game or cheat the system.

So there you have it.  A few ways to get your geek on without access to the cloud.  So the next time you find yourself in a coffee shop and don’t feel like paying exorbitant fees to check your email.  Try out a cloud-free activity.  Hey you might even find yourself more productive!

Do You Protect Your Twitter?

A few months back I was beeing bombarded by what seemed an ever-increasing number of twitter spammers.  This means they’re following me.  To end the insanity I finally decided to make my profile private which eliminated almost all of the spam but seriously crippled the number of friend requests I was getting.

I carried this on for about two months, twitter became less active for me, not much in the way of new friend requests and ultimately a complete drop-off of activity.

Yesterday I decided to unlock my profile again, and resort to the manual removal/blocking of Twitter spam.  Within a few hours I had a bunch of new requests and Twitter activity seems to be increasing more ever since.

So the question boils down to this: To protect, or not?  Do you protect your Twitter?

Waxing Poetic on the DNS Incident

For those of you who haven’t been following recent security news, there’s been a major defect found in the DNS protocol which has led to a series of patches for all forms of DNS servers.  Though the issue doesn’t affect most peoples’ home computers, it does affect pretty much every ISP on the planet as it makes older versions of DNS vulnerable to a DNS Cache Poisoning attack.

With a vulnerability so wide-reaching, security researchers decided it would be wise to keep the exact nature of the vulnerability something of a secret until the patches were ready.  They did however announce that a vulnerability had been found.

This announcement was all it took for security-savvy netizens (the ones who know just enough to be dangerous) to start speculating and researching the nature of the DNS defect.  The good thing?  They figured it out.  The bad thing?  They publicized it.

As a keen observer of the whole mess, security expert and blogger Chris Hoff decided to dedicate a poem to the DNS Debacle.  I’ve included a short excerpt:

A bunch of big egos
called Dan on a bluff
said his vuln was a copy
of 10 year old stuff

So Dan swore them on handshakes
and details were provided
and those same cocky claims
soon all but subsided

Go and check the poem out.  It’s extremely creative, and as far as I can tell factually accurate to the events that took place.  My hat’s off to Chris Hoff for providing the prose, now we’ll all cross our fingers and see how it goes…  😉