Protect Yourself – A Black Network of Corporate Vigilantes Are Connecting to Your PC, and Stealing Data, To Incriminate You

Posted in Network Monitoring, Privacy, Red Alert, Security, System Monitoring, Utilities on December 14, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

There is a gap between today’s technology and legislation to protect your privacy. Technology has moved so quickly that the Internet is a largely ungoverned place, and most of us would prefer it to stay that way. However, this new frontier may expose computer users to an invasion of our privacy that could end up costing us a bundle or possibly even land us in jail. It is likely that today your computer will be queried by over a dozen computers who are downloading copyright data (and who knows what else) from yourLiberty computer without your knowledge or permission. But these are not hackers or criminals, at least they are not organizations that you would normally consider hackers. I was shocked when I saw who the corporations that owned the list of blocked IPs. It is a who’s who of the computer industry and it bothers me that they are taking establishing what I would call a “covert connection” to my PC and downloading data from me. I’m willing to bet that nearly every PC has a few files on them that technically belong to someone else and contractually speaking, are illegal for you to have. You might not be using these files or you might not even be aware these files exist on your PC but you are responsible for having them and if they get redistributed you could be on the hook for more dollars than you care to think about. I’m not comfortable interpreting this “movement” or “trend” as being related only to copyrighted music either. It could reach into video clips (Youtube, Google…) , software evaluations and shareware programs, pictures, articles… anything that has the potential to be copyrighted. When the going gets tough, cash is tight, and companies will look to whatever source of income they can find. But the real issue isn’t whatever scenario I can come up with or whether you think you could possibly be liable for something, the real problem is the invasion of privacy and the question if search and seizure laws apply. I consider the data on my PC as my personal property. I’ve taken measures to lock it down and secure it. It disturbs me that corporations can establish a “hidden connection” to my PC and steal my data. But the straw that “breaks the camels back” in this situation is that they can use that data to incriminate you in a court of law! It is unthinkable that our society considers this process legal and it has to change. An equivalent example in the physical world would be if a private organization (not even the police) could break into your home and look for information to prove that you are guilty of something against the law and use that information in a court of law to incriminate you. In the real world this isn’t just trespassing and a violation of your privacy but it is a criminal activity and in most cases it would be classified as a felony. Our privacy laws exist to protect you from a person or an organization, old glorywhich may have self serving motives, from becoming too powerful. As discussed, in cyberspace organizations are breaking into your private area (your computer) and gathering whatever data they can (without your permission or knowledge), with the intention of using that data to incriminate you in a court of law. Unfortunately it is perfectly legal for them to gather this data now because our laws have not caught up to the unique environments the Internet has created.

So we need to protect ourselves and luckily there are organizations working to keep track of these issues and building programs to enable users to stop the offending sites from connecting to your PC. I tried several programs and the best solution I found is Peer Guardian2. These programs work from a large list of IP addresses and the need to update and process those lists can be resource intensive. Most of the other programs I tried took an enormous amount of resources to run but Peer Guardian2 ran well and didn’t max my system out even when it was updating the lists (which is the most intensive cycle). There are some issues in compatibility with some of the popular firewalls (specifically Outpost and Macafee’s Black Ice). However, it runs well with the Sygate firewall which is my Best of Breed pick. If you have questions about compatibility you should check out their FAQ. Peer Guardian2 also has a lite version that takes even fewer resources to run. Regardless of the resources I’m recommending that everyone download, install, and run Peer Guardian2. If you need to use a different firewall, make the change. If you need to spend 70 bucks and add some RAM it’s worth it (you probably need it anyway). It would probably be pushing it to run Peer Guardian on a PC with only 512k of RAM on it and I’m guessing it would choke on a CPU with 256k. However, If you’ve got more than 512k you will be fine.

One minor issue: I am currently having trouble getting the primary P2P list to update but I hope to resolve the issue and I don’t want to my readers to wait. Protect yourself! We all owe the developers working on Peer Guardian2 a thanks for developing the software. They do accept donations so if you really value the work they are doing please support them.

You can download Peer Guardian2 from the link below. It is in BETA but it is working well.

http://phoenixlabs.org/pg2/

If you are interested in reading about copyright infringement or if you have received a letter from a recording company you can check out this FAQ.

http://wiki.phoenixlabs.org/wiki/Infringement_FAQ

Straight Shot of Life’s News!

Posted in Entertainment with tags on November 10, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

Rotten ReaperI can’t stomach Rotten’s daily photo montage but their news page is a refreshing change from the rest of the Net’s myriad of white washed, politically scrubbed, vanilla sources. Rotten’s news page is the best place on the net to have a sobering look into the mirror of our culture. No punches pulled here, no political correctness, no washing down or hiding stories that don’t fit into prime time, this is the real deal scraped from the underbelly of humanity’s culture. So look, read, and learn, about how “Rotten” (and fascinating) our world really is.

http://www.dailyrotten.com/

Fast Friendly and Efficient Way to Change Icons!

Posted in Desktop Enhancement, Graphics, Utilities on November 8, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

As most everyone knows, there are several ways to change your desktop icons. Some of them work but have problems with things like the “recycle bin” or C:…. Some of them require you to boot up a program and manage it from there. I’ve even run into some that will change the icon but the icon won’t stay changed until you run their program every time after you boot your system. Explorer does an OK job of it but you have to open the “properties” of each file and then select the customize tab and then “browse” and it always starts you off in a window that is buried somewhere deep inside sys32… So, after using just about everything that is available I can now make an informed recommendation to you. By far, themy folder easiest, most efficient way to change your icons is with a free program from Horizon Software named “My Folder”.

After downloading and installing and when you first pull My Folder up there is a slightly clunky initial interface where you select what Icons you want to show in your quick menu. Don’t be discouraged, you won’t have to deal with it very often. Once you point to the folder where your icons are stored you can just right click on a file and then select the appropriate icon from their list. This is the way to go… You can change or color your icons very quickly.

I have had some minor problems with their quick menu lists disappearing and not being available. When this happens I just kill and restart their program and everything works well after that. It doesn’t happen very often and it isn’t a big deal to fix. I highly recommend My Folder to anyone who wants to customize their desktop.

http://www.grafile.com/software/myfolder_free/myfolder_free.html

Context Menu Too Big?

Posted in Firefox, Firefox Extension with tags , on September 26, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

Firefox Menu Editor:  After you add some extensions you’ll find the context menu in Firefox gets pretty big.  Fix it with Menu Editor.  You can install it here.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/710

menueditor.jpg

Hyperwords – Hype What You Can Do in Firefox

Posted in Firefox, Firefox Extension, Google, Office with tags , on September 26, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

Hyperwords is one of the most functional extensions in Firefox. I use this all the time through the context menu. I use it consistently for thehyperword.jpg following things;

1. it allows me to highlight some text and send it to the printer. This is good for a lot of things, including Google directions

2. copy url

3. copy link location

4. look up definition in dictionary

5. send highlighted words to Google search

6. get similar pages through delicious

7 and many more…

There are a lot of things it enables you to do. You can also see a report of everyone who links to the page, see a wayback report of the page… It makes all the sense in the world to install this extension because many of the things that you would normally pull up a different site to do are part of hyperwords and it is much faster to use it as opposed to pulling it up individually. It will take you a while to get used to everything and know what you can use hyperwords for but once you’ve figured it out I’m sure you’ll appreciate how useful it is.

One word of warning on this extension, when you first install it the default settings will enable a bothersome auto engage. Whenever you click on a text box it will bring up a ‘hyperword menu’. Disable this bothersome function in the options and you’ll be happy with the abilities of the extension.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1941

Manage Gmail Accounts Easily

Posted in Firefox, Firefox Extension, Google on September 24, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

I use several Gmail accounts, and you should too, even if you have plenty of room left on your 2GB of free email storage that Gmail gives you, it’s nice to have another Gmail account so you can set it up with your Gmail drive  and backup your important files.  It’s easy to get another Gmail account.  Simply log out of your existing Gmail account and request another one.  Once it is setup you can manage multiple accounts with the Gmail Manager.   You login by simply clicking on the ‘live icon’ which Gmail Manager puts on your Firefox statusbar and selecting the appropriate account.

This Firefox extension has always kept current with Firefox’s new releases. It works well with the rest of our configuration so it fits right in.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1320bar

Flick The Pic – Quick Access to Your Photos From Firefox

Posted in Firefox, Firefox Extension, Free Storage on Internet, Photo, Sidebar, Social Bookmark, Extensions on September 22, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

I use the Flickr photo service because it’s a great photo management site but also because there are a lot of tools available so I can manage my entire online photo experience. One of those tools is the Flickr Sidebar and it’s a great way to look up pictures while you are working on your blog or website or when you want to send an email of a picture… You simply click on your AllinOne Sidebar and it gives you a list of thumbnails on your left panel. If you don’t see what you want you can either search for your photo or just page through them. If you are not using Flickr yet, you should. They are one of the best sites for managing, organizing, and sharing photos. They helped define the online photo business.

You can download the Flickr Sidebar for Firefox at the link below. 

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1717

Sadly, the one thing that Flickr doesn’t do well is organize their ‘tools page’. To download the flickr uploader that I’m using and recommending in this post click on this link.

Breedlink: Flickr Uploader for Windows

The Flickr page of tools is at http://www.flickr.com/tools/ They have a new uploader specifically for XP and a plugin for Windows Explorer that I have yet to use, so I can’t recommend. I’ll be checking those out in the next couple weeks and I’ll post my opinion on them then.