Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My switch to Google Chrome browser

I have been using Safari on my Mac (and iPad) for last 4 years. During those years I moved briefly to Firefox but abandoned it as slower and non Mac looking app. Now comes Google Chrome 8 which I tried last month and have been using since.

The switch was fairly painless due to two serices that I use:

  • XMarks - synchronization of bookmarks.
  • 1Password - password software with plugins for most web browsers

Now I have Google Chrome with many extensions as shown in the screenshot of my toolbar:


From the left to right:

  1. 1Password
  2. XMarks
  3. Instapaper
  4. Tweetdeck
  5. Video history for YouTube
  6. Evernote
  7. Blogger
  8. Google reader
  9. Google URL shortener
What I really like on Chrome browser is the speed, synchronisation of settings between my computers (Windows and Mac) and system of extensions. Safari has extensions as well, but I did not find them very useful.

Now, what is needed is Google Chrome on iPad and Nokia phones.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My iPad applications in pictures

---Apologies for missing pictures. It seems that Cloud service misplaced the so bare with me, I will repost.---

A picture is worth thousands words, so here I present a gallery of screenshots From my iPad.

Enjoy.













































Images rotated with free application PhotoPad.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How would I change Apple TV?

Intro

I have love-hate relationship with my new Apple TV. It is incredibly small and quiet multimedia device, yet its content source capabilities are somewhat limited compared to it’s competition.
At the cost of £99 this presents itself almost at an impulse buy threshold.
So has it delivered the expectations. Read on.


Content

Hence my first suggestion is to enable Apple TV to look outside iTunes Home sharing for the content, both on the local home network and on the Internet.

I own QNAP TS259 Pro NAS where all my digital content is stored. It supports iTunes (for music only), AFP and Windows sharing and also has DLNA support. Though the last one does not really work well with videos (tested on my PS3).

So, I would like Apple TV to be able to connect to the AFP share and start streaming the content. There are load of iPad applications that can do this. Also, if I had Mac Mini this would be very easy to do. So why not Apple TV? I do not want to have my iMac running all the time. My NAS is on always (with some energy settings switched on).

Next, the content from the Internet is very limited to iTunes (UK library) and YouTube (there are some restrictions on the content outside USA). Look at competitor, Apple. Why there is no Netflix support in the UK for “all you can eat” packages?


Photos

Apple TV can connect to my Aperture library and show photos. The interface is quite good. But as I mentioned above, my photos are also on my NAS in the same structure as in Aperture.

It would also be good to have more intuitive connection to Flickr. I could authorise Apple TV for Flick access (OAuth protocol would come very handy here) and see my photostream and those of my friends.

Moreover, it completely lacks the access to Google Picasa photo service. I guess that the rivalry with Google is behind it.


Music

Listening to music is really limited to iTunes or Internet Radio. And it is pity. Why cannot Apple tV connect to Spotify or Napster? Such a functionality would add tremendous value to me as I do not have Sonos or other Spotify compatible Hi-Fi (at least not yet).


Social interactions

Apple TV miss most of social capabilities. I have Twitter, Facebook and Flickr accounts. I would like Apple TV to be able:


  • Selectively publish on Facebook or Twitter what I have listen to or watched
  • See what my friends are watching or listening to
  • Access Facebook pictures from my friends
  • See what my contacts in Flickr have posted in their photo-streams
  • Interaction with iTunes Ping

This is just a short list of tasks that come to my mind. I am sure the list can be much much longer.


Conclusion


As Steve Jobs said, the Apple TV is still his hobby; and it shows. I am honestly hoping that Apple is working on a new software that would bring some if not all improvements suggested here. Until then, my Apple TV is going to be used less frequently and may be replaced by a more versatile Mac mini.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Installing Adobe Reader X on Windows 7 - problem with Microsoft Windows Search Filter Host

As you may know, there is new Adobe Reader X which bring important security improvements in this bug infested application.
So I wanted to install it on my Windows 7 Professional. All went well until the following error:

Files in use: Microsoft Windows Search Filter Host


Now, what do you think that a normal user would do? Nothing at all! There is no way to close this process as it is not an Windowed application, nor running in a system tray.
So what is it then? Quick search on Google shows that the process name is SearchFilterHost.exe.


And it is running as SYSTEM. As I am administrator on this host I can try "End process". So I did, but the process simply restarts! 

Conclusion: I cannot install Adobe Reader X on my WIndows 7 in normal mode.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Is Amazon new DNS service a wise move?

Amazon announced the new DNS hosting service (Amazon Route 53) in the cloud today. The link with more details about the service is here.
The service is similar to others, except there is one one important security concern for me - billing per usage, as is the case with many other Amazon cloud services. More precisely, 50c per million queries up to 1 billion and then it drops to 25c per million queries.

What I feel is that this model might not be very safe for Amazon customers. It may open an avenue for someone malicious to make them pay for something they have benefited from. Let me explain.

The reason lies in the nature of DNS and the network protocol it uses, which is UDP. UDP protocol has not security controls built in and it is very easy to spoof UDP packets. By creating a packet where the source IP address belongs to someone else. As the DNS is stateless (only one query and one response) the DNS server simply send the response to the original source IP address. By doing so, millions of packets can be sent by malicious persons in relatively short time and be unrecognisable from those sent by company's customers.

Let's take my broadband connection for example - 50Mbps down and 5Mpbs up. If I assume a typical IP packet with a DNS query is around 50 Bytes I can send approx. 12,000 DNS queries per second, theoretically. Let's lower it it to 10,000 to be on the safe side. To hit a million of queries should take me around 100s (close to 2 minutes to approximate again). That means that every 2 minutes can cost a company using Amazon DNS service 50c (and that is just using one computer behind a cable modem!).

Now imagine  a DDoS attack if someone wants your company to bleed cash. Let's assume I want your company to pay for DNS $1000 per month. I need to generate 3 billion DNS packets. That will take me approx 85 hours using just my Mac; easily done in few hours with many PCs hosting remotely controlled malware!

Of course, Amazon could put in place some kind of DDoS protection. Or could they? DSN packets can be spoofed and there is no way to tell the difference from the legitimate customers. Another option is for a company to restrict how many queries they want to limit per month, but that could easily be used by criminals to reach the limit quickly and starve legitimate customers of DNS data.

In short, I would stay far away from Amazon DNS service in the current offering, unless they update the pricing model to offer "all you can eat" DNS service.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How to backup your documents and pictures for less

I have been advising some of my friends on best ways to backup their data. Most of them have very few documents (word and even less excel) and much much more pictures. So, here is what I tell you:
Use Google Picasa for Pictures and Mozy free service for documents or Dropbox for seamless synchronisation between multiple computers.

For pictures:
1. Get Gmail account
2. Sign up for Google Picasa
3. Install Google Picasa software on the computer
4. One the Picasa client find all pictures toggle the "Sync to Web" and sign in with the Google account.
The amount of space that comes with free Picasa service is "just" 1GB. This might not be enough for all, so I say - upgrade storage. For $5 per year you get 20GB, and $20 gets you 80GB. That is pretty good value in my opinion.


For documents:
Get free Mozy or Dropbox. Both give 2GB of free storage. The difference is that with Mozy you do not need to think of any setup and where you save documents. With Dropbox, you need to save files to the Dropbox folder to get them uploaded to the cloud.

I hope this helps someone.