Archive for November 2010

Top ReTweets on Twitter, and some Thanks

Here are a few items of interest I saw and retweeted on Twitter today. And I’d like to send out a few thank yous, too.

On a non-tech note…

  • I tapped into twitter chat between Steve Keating CSE (@LeadToday) and @JulieKayJKLD where it was said “I think one of the best ways to show we care is to ask someone how we can help and then actually do it.” That’s a fine sentiment if I ever heard one. To which I added, “The best thing you can do for someone is let them help you.”

And for the Thank Yous:

Are you following Skylarking on Twitter?

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Avoid Trickery on Facebook and Twitter (pt. 1)

The popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter has created a malicious hacker wonderland. A fantastic place for them to exploit the users of those sites. Their goals? To infect computers with malware, trojans, and viruses. There are a variety of exploitative programs out there. Some obtain personal information, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes through nefarious means, while others transform a computer into remote-controlled “zombie” machine.

Why do people fall prey to these schemes? Because they lack (1) anti-virus and (2) malware protection programs on their computers; amd they lack the skills necessary to spot and avoid the potential risks. Free service and the ease and seeming anonymity of point-and-click make increase the chances they will lower their guard.

Malicious Hackers Top Tricks

Hijacking Twitter’s Trending Topics. This technique has become popular in the last three months. Basically, hackers create new Twitter accounts and then post messages related to whatever the trending or “hot” topic of the day may be.  As a result, the post gets included in Twitter search results. The hackers message includes a link or web address that they hope unsuspecting users will click and explore. The link, unfortunately, leads the user to an infected website.

Hijacking Legitimate Accounts. This works on Facebook, Twitter, and any communications website such as Yahoo! mail, Hotmail, and Gmail, to name a few. Here the hacker breaks into legitimate accounts. Once in, they start sending out messages on that account. The messages, as above, include links to malicious and/or fraudulent websites. Since the tweets, posts, or emails come from a legitimate and trusted account the established base of friends and followers is more likely to respond. On Twitter, this makes it more likely that others will spread the seemingly legitimate message from a known and trusted source. This increases the range or “reach” of the threat.

ReputationDefender.comDangerous Email. Another method of encouraging social networking users to click malicious links is the timeworn technique of sending “spoofed” email. In this instance, the hackers create messages that appear to come from a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter, and even MySpace. The messages asks that you to “update your account” or open an attachment.

Tomorrow: 8 Safety Tips for Social Networking

Avoid Trickery on Facebook and Twitter (pt. 2)

Last week I discussed some of the recent tricks being exploited by hackers on Facebook and Twitter. These tricks can be harmful to your:

  • personal identity
  • your personal finance
  • and your online reputation

These risks come from: 

  • malicious links in tweets and posts
  • account hi-jacking
  • and email spoofing

How To Stay Safe

To better avoid the risks and dangers of social media sites you should employ these best practices as much as possible. You may already be following many of these, but it is best to review them and keep them fresh. Iften we follow the safest road, and when no dangers seem apparent, we can get lulled into a false sense of security and let down our guard. Or in this case, our computer guards.

  1. Don’t assume a link sent or posted by a friend is “safe”: Your friend may have lowered their defenses, or not exercised caution with their online activity. As noted earlier, your friend’s account could have been infected, hacked, or hi-jacked. You may want to contact your friend first and check with them if the link is genuine. Many times I have found that they received the link from someone else, and just forwarded it assuming it was safe. They didn’t know that the friend be fore them hadn’t investigated the link either.
  2. Don’t assume a message from a friend is “safe”: Does the message sound like something your friend would actually say? Have they spoke on the subject before? Perhaps their accound has been hi-jacked. One of my own email accounts got hijacked this past summer, and the hacker sent messages from my account saying I was in need of money. One of my friends, believing I was in danger, sent $600 cash.  If you’re unsure, try to contact them through another channel. In my situation, many of my other friends sent me texts and made phone calls to me to check it out.
  3. Don’t assume Twitter links are safe just because Twitter scans for malware: In August 2010, Twitter partnered with Google to use Google’s Safe Browsing API. This technology checks URLs or web links against Google’s blacklisted sites. This prevents spammers from posting malicious URLs to Twitter, but it does NOT prevent them from using shortened address services such as bit.ly or tinyurl.com.  Hence….
  4. Don’t Assume Bit.ly and TinyURL Links are Safe: These legitmate address shortening service make it easy to convert long web addresses into short addresses. Bit.ly, in particular, is Twitter’s address or URL shortening service partner. Bit.ly, too, uses Google’s Safe Browsing API and two other blacklists to identify malicious links. BUT although the service doesn’t prevent users from posting these links, it will warn you when you click that the site being linked to is infected. BUT they’ve been known to miss a few according to various anti-virus services such as Kaspersky. As we’re learning, nothing online is ever completely safe, but then again, is anything ever?
  5. Use an up-to-date web browser: There are dozens or more browsers to choose from. There’s Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari, AOL’s online software, Opera, Google’s Chrome, and many more. They are periodically updated and “patched” by their respective companies. Hackers will find flaws in these programs that can be exploited. That means Internet Explorer users, the most frequently attacked, should be on IE8. Firefox is number two on the hitlist, but it alerts you when an update is available (if you have the most recent version that is). The same goes for Google’s Chrome browser.
  6. Keep Windows and Mac O/S up-to-date: As always, Windows users should make sure their systems are current with the latest patches from Microsoft. Automatic updates should be turned on. Mac issues updates periodically, too, though not as often as Microsoft.
  7. Keep Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash up-to-date: Since Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Firefox have been so diligent with updates, patches, and security; hackers have set their sights on these programs. A lot of malware exploits known vulnerabilities in Adobe’s software packages. One common attack from hackers directs victims to malware-infected sites that request you update your Flash or the Adobe Reader in order to view content on the site. DON”T DO IT using their links!  Instead, go directly to Adobe’s site (www.adobe.com) on your own and download the latest version. Why not do that right now? Go ahead, I’ll wait here.
  8. Don’t assume you’re safe because you use a Mac: Didn’t I hint at this on number 5 and 6? It’s true, Mac users are less “targeted” than Windows users, but they’re not immune. The truth is there are fewer Macs out there, so they present a smaller target, so hackers are less likely to attack them. But as they grow in popularity then get targeted more and more. Popular public opinion has it that Macs are invulnerable to viruses. This isn’t true. As a matter of fact, Apple has started to include some malware protection in their latest operating system, but it only protects users from two attack forms. There are currently several hundred attacks out there that specifically target Apple computers. The true number may be larger, but since so few Mac users use anti-maleware protection software, it’s hard to tell what the actual figure is.
  9. Beware of email messages from social networks: Email addresses can be “spoofed” by hackers, so you can’t assume a message from Facebook or Twitter is really from those sites. Don’t open attachments you’re not expecting, and be wary of clicking on links that request you “update your account.” And if you do click, and you arrive at a page that asks you to log in, DON’T.  You could be delivering your personal account info into the hasnds of a hacker. Instead, always access your favorite sites directly by “typing” the URL or web address into your browser or clicking in with your Bookmarks or Favorites.

As I mentioned before. many of these practices are the same ones you should already be following from earlier risks. Hackers tend to elaborate on pre-existing schemes and attack forms, and so you should elaborate on pre-exisiting safe practices.

So always keep your computer and browser up-to-date, and don’t open attachments. PLUS don’t assume your friend has been playing it safe either.  How often do we talk with friends about updating somputers and anti-virus programs? Not often, right?

But we should because malware hackers are getting trickier, and know they are seeking to use the trusted identities of our friends on Facebook and Twitter, to lull us into a false sense of safety. So use caution when friends send or provide links. Specially if it is out of the ordinary for them. After all, the risks aren’t on Facebook and Twitter, but in the sites they link to.

Watch the connections.

Taking a Screenshot in Word 2010

Microsoft Office 2010 has lots of new and improved features. One feature which will prove very useful is the new screenshot button in Word 2010. With it you can take a snapshot (screenshot) of any image or window on screen. Furthermore, you can crop and edit those shots, too.

This can be a very useful feature for writing articles while including images from websites or other sources on your computer. This tool is found on the “Insert” ribbon in Word 2010. Starting with Office 2007, Microsoft replaced the familiar toolbars with a “ribbon”, thereby reveling features that had long been buried and hard to find.

To take a screen shot, you click the “Insert” tab above the ribbon. (See picture below). You’ll see the Screenshot tool has a arrow below it. Whenever you see a downward pointing arrow on the ribbon that indicates that other options will be made available to you when you click such a tool.

Screenshot Tool in Word 2010

In the case of the Screenshot button, it will reveal “screenshots” of all the available windows from actively running programs on your screen. For example, I might be working on a spreadsheet or browsing a website when I come across information or images I’d like to include in a Word document. In Word 2010 I could click the “Screenshot” button and a snapshot of these open windows would be displayed in Word. Then I juct click on the image of the window I want to include in my document, and voila!, that’s it. The image is embedded into my document.

If you want to just show a portion of a window, then select the “Screen Clipping” link at the bottom. (Show at right). Then the last screen you displayed is redisplayed (but faded) with some crosshairs for you to drag a selection around the portion of the image you want to display, then Word embeds that portion into your Word document.

Need to enhance the image further? Use the the “Picture” tools tab to manipulate your new image.

Buy or Try Out Microsoft Office 2010 Online from the Microsoft Store. Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 Download can be yours today for only $149. Or you can order the package and have Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 delivered anywhere you choose. The Home and Student edition comes with the popular Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications.

Business users might be interested in either Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote) or Microsoft Office Professional 2010 (Includes all the previous applications, plus the Access database application and Publisher). These packages cost $280 and $499 respectively and are available for download or delivery.

For Windows (Windows 7, Vista, or XP SP3)


Microsoft Office
Home and Student 2010

$149

Microsoft Office
Home and Business 2010

$279

Microsoft Office
Professional 2010

$499

For Mac (Mac OS X version 10.5.8 or later)


Microsoft Office for Mac
Home and Student 2011

$149

Microsoft Office for Mac
Home and Business 2011 Download

$279

Red MyTouch 3G Slide Accessories

Back during my rant against the Samsung Vibrant, I mentioned that I had purchased a red T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide as my new Android phone. I still have the phone, and I’m pretty happy with it. (I want the G2, but it will have to wait.)

I’m looking into getting this Red Rubberized Snap-On Hard Case for my phone. My phone is red, too, so it should work out quite nice as opposed to the white phone shown in the picture. It runs for $8.96 with free shipping. The shell is supposed to be simple to install in  seconds. The 2 pieces simply snap onto the phone! Though made from a hard rubber material, the case is light-weight, strong, and durable with custom cutouts for volume controls, camera shutter and lens, stereo jack, and the USB port.

Sticking with red, I’m also looking at this mini Capacitive Stylus for the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide. A stylus is handy for manipulating items on the touch screen. It should be handy in the cold days ahead, since I won’t have to take off my winter gloves to operate the phone. If you’re wondering — as I was — what the little black peg is hanging off on the side: you plug the peg into the 3.5mm headset jack on top of the phone so the stylus is handily attached to the phone at all times. The item sells for $21.48 including the shipping charges. Available in: Jet Black, Metallic Silver, Crimson Red, Lunar Blue.

Zoom and Panoramic Shots with the Olympus SP-800UZ ($299 limited time)

The most important factor for me when buying a digital camera it’s zoom capability. Each year, it seems, camera companies compete for the greatest zoom at the lowest price. Olympus is not exception, and their SP-800UZ is a standout in this regard, and it has some fantastic features, too.

Zoom! This Olympus Sp-800UZ has an incredible 30x (840mm) zoom! (Don’t be surprised if a 1,000mm zoom comes out soon.) And for all that it is surprisingly light. The zoom makes it great for taking sports pictures from the “nose bleed” seats, or for nature watching, or for taking unobtrusive shots of your subjects from a distance. The camera’s impressive ISO of up to 3200allows you to take excellent shots of moving subjects.

(Beatles music welling up) If  zoom is all you need and you want to save on the $349 most retailers are asking for this great feature-rich camera, then use this link ahead before Nov. 27, 2010 and save $50 instantly on the Olympus SP-800UZ 14MP Digital Camera for only $299.

Picture Editing in the Camera. Another great feature is that you can edit the still pictures you have taken using the special effects function. This includes reducing red eye, shadow adjustment, color saturation, and cropping. With most digital cameras, if you want to edit your pictures, you would have to download them to a computer first.

Panoramic Function. The SP-800UZ’s Panorama mode is more interesting. You have a choice of using either Auto, Manual or PC modes.

  • In Auto mode, you only have to press the shutter release once, then move the camera to the next position, so that the target marks and pointers overlap, and the camera automatically releases the shutter for you. Three frames can be taken this way, which are then combined into a single panoramic image automatically in camera.
  • In Manual mode, you can also take three frames with the help of an on-screen guide, but you have to release the shutter manually. After that, the camera stitches the frames as above.
  • Finally, in PC mode, you can take up to 10 photos, which can be stitched using the supplied software after being downloaded to the computer.
Olympus SP-800UZ with Case + Kit

Camera with Case + Kit (Extremely Limited Supplies)

Best Results. For best results, in my opinion, use a tripod mount in the Manual or PC modes, since the Auto mode tends to introduce blurring in the image.

Do beautiful panoramic shots make you day? Then buying the Olympus SP-800UZ 14MP Digital Camera may be just the thing for you, too, and for only $299 before Nov. 27, 2010.

Be careful when unpacking this camera. The owners manual is stored on its memory chip, and you must download the manual before you use the camera. The camera’s PC software is also stored on the camera, so download that, too. Just connect the camera to your computer after removing the memory chip from the camera. Otherwise you can retrieve the manual and software from the Olympus website.

Video Mode and HDTV Connectivity. The camera comes with cables to connect to your computer and your HDTV to playback still images and movie pictures in 720i high definition. The SP-800UZA uses a rechargeable lithium battery pack instead of the Alkaline or NiMH rechargeable batteries. Which save you from frequent recharges. After all, battery capacity is important if you use your camera frequently or shoot video which drains both the battery and your memory card.

2GB internal memory. This camera has great internal memory storage when not using a memory chip. Plus the camera has an app which can transfer the pictures taken from internal memory to the memory card. The camera uses SDHC cards up to 8GB, which also great if you intend to shoot a lot of video.

Beauty mode. Like last year’s Olympus SP-590UZ, this camera has an in camera capability for touching up portraits. In this mode, you take a picture of a person, then the camera identifies the face and tries to remove blemishes and other minor imperfections, giving the skin a smooth look in the process. The touched up copy and the untouched up original are both stored in memory. The only drawback to the beauty mode is it does take several seconds for the camera to complete its work, which makes the camera unuseable until it’s finished.

Overall, the Olympus SP-800UZ is an amazing feature-laden point-and-shoot camera, with stunning zoom and panoramic capability, but it’s not likely to be a pro’s first choice.

Bonus: Get the [amazon asin=B003EG6D9E&text=Olympus SP-800UZ with 2 batteries, a case, and Accessories kit for $289.95]. Supplies are extremely limited.