Archive for August, 2007

Should Google Buy Zooomr? Maybe Zoho Too!

One could use a decent photo sharing site. The other needs more resources. They both want to make information available. Sound like a recipe for marriage?

Google needs no introduction but clearly needs a proper photo sharing site to pick up where Picassa leaves off. To plug their vacant video group they purchased YouTube which, so far at least, appears to be good buy. Just needs to make some money now.

Zooomr you might have heard of. For those who haven’t here’s the lowdown.

Think Flickr. You’re 3/4s there. Zooomr is privately owned, majority of shares between Thomas Hawk and Kristopher Tate the co-founders. Thomas is a recognised photographer and technology blogger who’s personal missions include building the largest collection of photographs of neon in the world. Kris is a web scripter who doubles as a photographer in his own right, and who’s desire to share his photographs with his friends (including non-English speakers) drove him to write Zooomr v1.

Earlier this year a new version of Zooomr went public and pretty immediately crashed their servers causing Kris directly and Thomas more indirectly a great deal of stress. Damned Dell RAID systems. Anyway, in steps Zoho offering data center space and additional technical resources. Others including Dell also realised getting Zooomr back on-line would be a PR-bonus and leant a hand or two.

Now, Zoho, who are prominently featured across Zooomr for their support, happens to be building web applications such as a word processor and spreadsheet. And Thomas reckons it’s faster than Google’s suite.

So we have Google with enormous resources and a phenomenal income but without a photo sharing web site (unlink Yahoo! who bought Flickr) plus a web application suite. Then there’s Zooomr and Zoho. Do I see options? Yes I do.

One of Zooomr’s guiding principals is that images should be free to be shared. They use Google advertising to raise cash. Slip them $20 and you’ll be a Pro user with ads disabled. They don’t want to censor you and document this matter clearly, unlike many other companies who shy away from sweeping public statements. Google are known to want to make the world’s information easy to find and access. There could be conflict here, between Google’s lawyers and Zooomr’s founders. Can it be overcome? Flickr for instance began censoring some images particularly with local laws affecting what people can see in their native country, which ended up including some of Thomas’s photos; as a result Thomas left the Flickr side completely.

Just me rambling on what is probably obvious to everyone else.

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ICSTIS rebranding itself PhonePayPlus

It sounds a bit like a company it should in fact be regulating, doesn’t it?

ICSTIS, the premium rate telephony regulator in the UK who’s behaviour can often be described as ‘lacklustre’ has decided that recent press coverage damning the industry and the regulator’s lack of, well, regulation, can only be resolved one way.

So, buried deep inside a PDF is an announcement that from October 2007 the “Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services” or ICSTIS, who’s tagline currently reads “the premium rate services regulator” will be called PhonePayPlus.

Is it me ???

Nope, apparently not. A survey asked people what they thought the name meant. Most people got the wrong answer. OK, 99% of people got the wrong answer. But they are going ahead, presumably because someone’s been given a budget, someone made a decision and now the entire country is stuck with it.

El Reg readers have raised an interesting idea. Perhaps “those in charge” also had a hand in the London 2012 branding.

What happens when you run over a MacBook Pro

This guy left his MacBook Pro behind the trunk of his car. Crunch. Guess what, the damned thing still works! He even includes some pictures.

Damaged, sure. But at least it’s repairable. AppleCare says he’s not covered for accidental damage. Here in Blighty we can get Home and Contents Insurance and my laptop is covered for accidental damage anyway (saved me buying extra insurance when I went on holiday). Hope that guy checks his policy.

Secure File Delete on Mac OS X

Under Linux I always used wipe within a terminal to securely delete my files, and I was about to purchase “ShredIt X” to essentially perform the same thing under Mac OS X when I came across a comment on a software download forum mentioning srm.

srm is a Unix command-line tool to securely delete a file. It is installed by default for us Mac OS X users too, just open up a Terminal and type the following:

srm my-file.doc

Quick, right? You did type srm, not just rm, right? srm is designed to operate just like rm so it takes the same command line switches or options, but rather than just deleting the file (or the link between what is essentially an index of files and the actual location of the data on the physical disk which in reality is exactly what a normal delete does (hence it’s lightning quick)) it looks at the data on the physical disk and overwrites it.

Now, the US Department of Defence specifies certain requirements about the overwriting process to ensure the chances of recovery are limited. Basically hard disks are like magnets and file data is stored as magnetic fingerprints (yes, this is highly simplified) on those disks. Consider a fridge door with magnetic letters spelling out a message. Same difference. However, remove those letters and although the information cannot be read by the naked eye specialist data recovery firms (and law enforcement agencies) have methods and tools to retrieve the fingerprints just like they were ghosts or shadows of the original data. Very clever, very scary.

Anyway, the DoD specification reads quite simple compared with a data overwriting algorithm specified by a guy called Guttman which basically entails random data repeatedly written over the data thirty six times. The DoD I think specifies six.

There is a disadvantage to using Guttman’s method: The process is a whole lot slower than the DoD’s method and obviously orders of magnitude slower than a standard delete. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.

I prefer the more secure route. And srm uses the Guttman method by default. So that .doc file above really did go, unless you forgot the s.

Now, if you think you have already removed via Trash or rm files that you wish you’d securely deleted, there is a get out clause. You can ask Disk Utility to securely delete your free disk space. When a file is removed the normal (non-secure) way, the physical space on disk although not overwritten is now available for other files to be written to. Otherwise when you deleted a 1 gigabyte file you’re disk free space wouldn’t go up by the same amount! However, once it has been overwritten (in whole or in part) by future files like videos, emails, documents or resources used by your operating system, the physical area on the disk may or may not right now be in use. Areas not in use will be securely erased, areas in use obviously not.

Thank you Apple and open source software developers.

MacOffice Pro Just Re-Badged OpenOffice Suite?

So I spotted this post about MacOffice Pro, claiming to be a superior software suite for Mac cloning most of Microsoft Office including comptibility with Open XML, Microsoft’s new XML based file format for it’s Office applications as off 2007.

Ars Technica reviews the new kid on the block finding particular similarities with another application: OpenOffice. Can a DVD with 1 Gb of clipart and free technical support be worth almost $50 (discounted rate)?

The body text of OpenOffice’s Writer application appears to have been copy & pasted into MacOffice Pro’s details page on word processing – I can only see minor grammatical adjustments. There appears to be no accreditation to OpenOffice.org on MacOffice Pro’s web site although I may have missed it, and without the software itself I cannot check the documentation that shops with it.

Usually re-brands of open source material credit the original source somewhere and happily add value to it, generating own-brand revenues. This instance may generate the frown of the open source community, however.

“They” (assuming MacOffice Pro isn’t some bloke operating out of his bedroom) appear quite anonymous with no personal names listed. The whois record only reveils a street address in New York. Not sure where the added value is here.

Connecting Apple Laptop to T-Mobile Internet

So I called T-Mobile (UK) to get a data “bundle” added for one month to my phone. £12.50, rather expensive but still mighty useful.

Prior to leaving I had a little go at getting it running. I found some documentation on-line after clicking various things and getting no-where. It turns out the Apple mobile phone drivers don’t support my Sony Ericsson; in fact I don’t think they support any Sony Ericssoon, certainly not as a data connection device.

They (my Macbook Pro and my D750) could talk via Bluetooth, but no modem for other data connection. I found this though – a set of downloadable drivers. Just drop them into the directory specified and they are available in the modem set-up screen when you check “show all drivers”.

To be honest, it’s pretty easy. Set up a new Bluetooth device on the laptop, pair with your mobile handset, select GPRS or other high-speed data connection, and ensure the “Telephone Number” in the main dialog is “*99#” while in the Internet Connections applicatons the “Telephone Number” is set to “general.t-mobile.uk” (works as .co.uk too apparently), user is just “user”, password should be “pass”.

After entering all this and selecting Sony Ericsson GPRS CID1 under “Bluetooth Modem” it just worked.

Apple: Please make the bloody “Telephone Number” entry boxes simpler to use. Talk about confusing. One is a telephone number code *99# while the other is a gateway url. The T-Mobile woman on the support desk said my phone was not supported on Apple platforms but with the above drivers it definitely works, albeit over GPRS it is hideously slow compared to ADSL.

Holiday Time Part 1

Have come to Devon for the traditional summer holiday. Staying in Dawlish Warren specifically. Last came here ten years ago, tried to find the same place to stay and ended up mistakenly getting a chalet site further up the road from the beach.

The trip down was surprising easy. The only downside was the food available. If you take the M3 down from London, don’t bother with the first service station: Had the sausage and mash, the gravy was cold and the sausages had so much flavour we knew there was something wrong with them; had to finish the meal still hungry as knew I’d end up being sick from it. When driving, don’t be sick.

Given the summer weather thus far, it’s remained surprisingly sunny and warm without being too hot. I’m talking mid-twenties celsius.

First full day down here was yesterday. Did the sea walk from Dawish Warren to Dawlish in blazing sun. Sea air helped for cooling. Having walked back, got a headache, rested, then showered and discovered the the Brewer’s Fayre restaurant nearest which overlooks a river (beautiful scene) is no longer a Brewer’s Fayre and has since received poor reviews. Instead nearest one is in Torquay. A lot longer trip but was by the newly invested Quay area so got to see lots of expensive boats.