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Hold Off On Buying That Blackberry1/31/2006 @ 1:38pm

I've been watching this story since the summer regarding the possible shutdown of the BlackBerry device and network. In case you're not up to speed with techie gadgets, the BlackBerry is like a little PDA (a mini computer about the size of a wallet), that you can store records, instant message your friends, surf the web, etc, in the palm of your hand).

Their recent court trouble resulted in the BlackBerry company losing a big case. Well it looks like today the Supreme Court refused to review the appeal case. What does that mean if you're an owner of one of these devices? Well, unfortunately you might be out of service in a few months. That's a shame, especially if you recently purchased it. For others who were thinking about buying one, maybe just take a month or so to see what happens with this. Besides, it won't be long before cell phones have this capability anyway.

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Introducing G-Zapper - Google Cookie Blocker1/31/2006 @ 1:39pm

Recently, I posted about the US Justice Department trying to access Google's search records (attention data) and how this represents a clear violation of privacy, especially coming from the most popular search engine. Regardless of the reason, users should be entitled to privacy.

To this cause, we have created a free utility called G-Zapper, which allows you to locate your Google cookie and display your unique ID. With one click, you can delete the Google cookie or block it all-together.

When deleting the cookie, it will be re-created the next time you visit Google, but with a different unique identifier. This helps to obscure your identity from past searches and still allows you to use Google's tools, such as Gmail and Adsense.

When blocking the cookie, your web browser will refuse to accept cookies from Google, helping you to protect your privacy. Since Google requires cookies in order to login to its extra services, this feature is suitable for users who do not use Gmail or Adsense.

G-Zapper is compatible with all versions of Windows and requires Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0+ or Mozilla Firefox 1.5. G-Zapper will delete and block the Google cookie in both web browsers.

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You're a Model, So You Can't Blog1/31/2006 @ 1:40pm

I found an interesting article by Anina, an international model and frequent blogger, about how her modeling agency told her to stop blogging or she would get the boot. Wow. This article was originally referenced on Robert Scoble's blog, the popular Microsoft employee. Apparently her modeling agency doesn't know about the power of blogging yet. I have a feeling they might find out the hard way.

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Say Goodbye to Spyware, But Not Viruses in Windows Vista1/31/2006 @ 1:41pm

Well, Microsoft has answered some questions about the upcoming release of their next Windows version, "Vista". They will not be embedding a virus blocker, as originally planned. I thought, for sure, this would be the beginning of the end for anti-virus companies McAfee and Symantec. Apparently, Microsoft states that it was not a technology issue which made them decide to pull back, but a more "complicated" reason.

Perhaps, it has to do with their unique situation. If Microsoft releases the built-in anti-virus feature, they face lawsuits galore, not to mention the fact that they would be expected to prevent any major virus threat from occurring on Windows PCs. After all, a built-in virus blocker by Microsoft should put an end to all viruses, right? By deciding against including the built-in virus blocker, they avoid the lawsuit issue, but open the door to security complaints. Of course, by offering the product as an optional add-on service, maybe they're looking for the profit?

Either way, Microsoft will still be including the built-in spyware blocker, "Windows Defender", which will put enough of a dent in the anti-spyware market to make things interesting.

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Like Spam, Opting Out of Pre-Screened Mailers Might Harm You Too1/31/2006 @ 1:42pm

If you're like the typical American, you probably receive at least 2 pre-screened credit card offers in the mail each week. They usually come from the typical companies Capital One, Chase Bank, Citibank, etc. Have you ever read the fine print on the back of the terms of service, which describes how to opt-out from receiving further mailings? They list a phone number 1-888-5OPTOUT and are now including a web site as well.

I thought this was too good to be true (I'm sure you know how the saying goes - if it looks too good, it probably is), but I figured I would take a look. The web site is a joint venture between Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion - the biggest names of the pre-screening industry. They request your name and address to remove you from the pre-screening list. They also ask for your social security number and birth date, but say this information is optional.

A note to all Internet users out there - be extremely careful about where you type your social security number on the web, if ever. I strongly recommend never entering this unless you are absolutely sure of the web site in question.

The site seems simple enough to get removed from the lists, but is it legit? I did a brief search to find out more and one of the first results was Ed Foster's Gripelog. Ed described his entire experience of using the web site to opt-out of those annoying credit card offers. He also described his disappointment when the offers only increased rather than decrease! His blog is an excellent read, especially if you were thinking of opting out.

Somehow, I'm not surprised by his findings. With spam emails, those who unsubscribe are the ones flooded with the most spam mails. This is because the spammers now know that your account is active and that you actually read the emails. Likewise with the credit card companies, they now know that you actually open the envelopes and read them, so why not send you more?

Ed actually recommends shredding the credit card application paperwork and stuffing it back in the postage-paid envelope to mail back at their own expense. Some of his users' comments reflect the same opinion.

So, rather than risking putting your name on even more lists, you probably should stay away from the Opt-Out web site and just toss those credit card offers. Just like spam, this stuff is better left ignored.

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6 More Weeks of Winter, Says Punxsutawney Phil2/2/2006 @ 11:31am

In case you don't live in the Northeast and have not heard, Punxsutawney Phil, a slightly overweight groundhog who predicts how long winter will last for us in the northern states, has seen his shadow. That means 6 more weeks of winter.

Although, this sure is a weak winter. I actually can't remember Punxsutawney Phil not seeing his shadow. Maybe it's all those people standing around him!

In any case, this just means more days to stay inside and in front of the computer. Enjoy!

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What's That Creepy Bug in Your Shower?2/3/2006 @ 12:33pm

This is a really great niche site that I found a few months ago, called Whats That Bug. While it has nothing to do with software, it does go to show you what a creative niche site can do. They were listed on Weird Web and Yahoo! Picks in 2003.

In any case, what would you do if you saw this in your basement?

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How to Deal With Referer Spam2/4/2006 @ 9:18am

Arg! Referer spam is annoying!

In case you're not familiar with it, referer spam is created by an automated program that crawls thousands of sites and leaves a spoofed web page as the referer link, making it look like someone linked to your site, when really no one did. The spammers hope that you show referer links publicly (also called trackback links), which might give them a bump in search engine results. At the very least, they would be seen by web masters viewing their traffic logs.

Even if your site doesn't publish referer links, they figure it only takes a milisecond to ping you so they stick you in the list anyway.

For web masters, referer spam really messes up our logs. When we want to see who is linking to us, our real stats are jumbled up with spoofed URLs pointing to poker and viagra sites.

The following is about to get a little technical.

What to do?

If you're hosted on a Linux box, you can treat the culpruit with a site-wide HTTP ban. On a Windows box? You can do the same with your ASP scripting language. Here's how to do it in Linux:

1. Create or edit a .htaccess file in the main directory of your web site.

2. Add the following lines to it:

# Block referer spam.
RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} (spammydomain.com) [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} (anotherspammydomain.com) [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} (onemorespammydomain.com) [NC]
RewriteRule .* - [F]

3. Save the .htaccess file and upload it to your web server.

Now, anyone with an HTTP referer of any of the listed domains above, will be banned from the site and receive an "Access Denied" page instead. They will not be recorded in your traffic stats log as a referring hit (instead it will be a 403 hit) nor will they take up bandwidth.

Only drawback to this approach is that you have to add domains to your block list as you come across them in your logs.

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RSS Submit Updated to v1.352/4/2006 @ 9:15pm

A new version of RSS Submit v1.35 was released today.

Changes include:

- Updated House of Blogs
- Added AllFeeds.org
- Minor GUI enhancement.

Download the latest version.

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Apparently RSS Isn't Really Simple Enough2/5/2006 @ 10:07am

RSS stands for Really Simply Syndicatation, but before it can breakthrough big-time to the public, it's still missing a really simple method to locate feeds.

This doesn't mean a decent RSS search engine. It means a centralized, perhaps regulated, method for recommending and subscribing to feeds.

There are two barriers to brain-dead simplicity.
1. It must be easy to find relevant feeds. Too much hunt and peck is involved. The reason My.Yahoo and iTunes have been successful is that they centralize a lot of the discovery, they make it easy to find stuff you might be interested in. But not easy enough to qualify for brain-dead simplicity.

2. Subscription has to be centralized..

Check out the full post by Dave Winer titled, How RSS can bust through.

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