Monday, 28 November 2011

Correct UPS Usage

Are you worried about power outages and unexpected surges corrupting your precious data? Have you bought an 'Uninterruptible Power Supply' but still find yourself worrying it might not take the mood swings and violence your power company deals out? Fear not, For I've taken it upon myself to demonstrate the best way to keep your data safe.

Look at that magnificent beast. 

It works like repeatedly filtering vodka: Each UPS draws power from the one beneath it, magnifying the power-conditioning effect exponentially. By the time your electrons reach the hard drive at the top, they'll be some of the purest and safest electricity in existence.

While this method is great for ensuring the physical safety of your data, if you care about uptime you'll need to have at least two of these badboys for redundancy. 

Do it. You'll attract the envy of your friends and the smouldering desire of women everywhere. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Buggy LCD Panel

Somebody at the office came over wondering whether they had a virus, because there was a bug crawling around their screen they couldn't wipe off.

See that tiny dot in the centre? ITS ALIVE.

It's not on the surface of the screen, yet it's not software - what we have here is an actual bug that somehow crawled in between the LCD panel and the backlight. A quick googling shows that this seems to be worryingly common.

It's been wandering around in there ever since, unable to find a way out. Whenever it hits the edge of the panel, it'll crawl along a bit and come straight out. My plan is to wait for the bug to escape of its own accord or starve to death (hopefully at the edge of the screen so it's not much of a nuisance).

If you're as intrigued by this as I am, have some low-quality videos of the bug exploring where no bug has gone before.

It's only Tuesday. There's still plenty of time this week for even weirder IT problems to spring forth.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Blogger removes GPS EXIF data from uploaded pictures

While writing my last post, I found out something interesting: Google Blogger strips out the GPS EXIF tags when you post it to your blog while leaving the rest intact.

Here's the exif data of the pic I posted yesterday - all of it identical to when it was taken.

 And here's the same pic uploaded to blogger and then downloaded again. Everything is the same except the GPS data, which is mysteriously missing. (The thumbnail is upside down, but I'm guessing that's because I used different programs to rotate them).

And just to make the situation more complex, I can go and have a look at the uploaded photos in picasa - and it shows the gps data as being intact!

So google doesn't modify the original at all, but will quietly rip out GPS data from any copies that are displayed publicly. This is a pretty useful safety feature. With it, I can just upload any picture without worrying that I'm giving away where I live or work.

It's confusing that I can't find this feature noted anywhere. It's the kind of subtle but important feature that shows a product has been carefully thought out and sets it apart from the rest, but neither the help documents nor my frantic googling found a single reference.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

If you want a job done right

It's great when a phone company wants your business. Whether or not you're considering changing over, they offer nice perks. The latest company gave me an iPad and a playbook for a few days, to 'test out their network'. (Summary: the iPad is built better and more polished, but I love some of the playbook UI choices. After swiping from outside the screen to switch apps, double-tapping the iPad's home button felt clunky and wrong. But I digress.)

Before The Salesman handed over the iPad, he made a point of spending a few minutes clearing user data - it had just come from another company  Okay, he's not doing a secure wipe, but a quick wipe in each app is enough. At least they care about confidentiality.

This was the first sign they hadn't been thorough.

The best way to test out hardware is to buy miniskirts. Try it sometime. 
I've hidden one entry to protect The Salesman (who we might end up dealing with), but the search history is interesting regardless - mens fashion and porn. Later on I poked around to see if there was more.

I didn't investigate too much, but there's a good mix: email, mens clothing, ASX announcements, straight porn, gay porn, email again, and finally cruise ships. From this we can deduce he's an open minded young man who takes care of his looks, has a solid financial basis, and keeps track of his investments.

And since The Salesman didn't know how to clear all the pics, the man with the interesting browsing habits works with these guys:

It looks like he works in a car sales yard, but you can't tell much else. Most of the other key apps are clear of data, so the privacy violation should stop here.

Except the apps he installed require his account to upgrade.

This is getting awkward. The email is his full name including initials and there's only one guy in this city with that name. So that leads straight to his facebook account, which leads to his 500+ friends, his girlfriend, his family, and so on. I've never met this guy, but from an iPad he used for one day we can link his porn habits all the way back to his family and workplace, even after someone tried to wipe it.. Imagine what the phone you use every day has?

The moral of this story: Your personal data is important. Don't trust others to handle it for you if you can handle it yourself.
And Wipe your test devices when you're done with them. 

Somebody pointed out that I hadn't checked to see if the photos had the GPS location they were taken stored. And hey, what do you know?
So in addition to everything else, we've been provided with the very building he works in. Awesome.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Google Reader Sharing: Gone but not forgotten?

Google reader recently rolled out some rather big updates, much to the horror of their users. The most controversial move was the removal of the social aspects so they could be replaced by google plus.

In their haste to clean out google reader, it looks like they just hid the old menus without actually removing them. If you have a look at the page source, everything is still there - your friends list, your shared items, the comments, everything.

Just add #friends-manager-page to the end of the url, you're back at the disabled pages!

IF you delve a little deeper, you can get to each of your friends feeds or the list of all shared items.

Everything works. All your old posts, every single link, every friends page, all there waiting for you...the only thing you can't do is share new items. It all fits the new interface perfectly, and I find it strange they haven't removed anything yet - are they leaving everything completely untouched in case they change their minds, or are they planning on properly integrating the google+ sharing into reader?

One things for sure: It could stand proper integration. With the google+ system, you can share posts with your friends, but not read posts others have shared. If google get it together and integrate google+ properly with reader - like, say, an interface that works very similarly to the old post sharing/reading - then I'll be pretty happy.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Broken Things: iPhone 4

I was browsing through some older files when I saw this pic. The story behind this phone is one of adventure, intrigue, and criminal elements leaving their murky underworld to terrorise the public.

This iPhone has a fun little escapade attached to it, in April this year.

The Owner had it stolen while picking their kids up from school - they left the car unlocked for two minutes, and came back to find it gone. By sheer luck he'd recently been travelling so we'd connected his brand-new phone to our corporate mobileme account.

 He called me about an hour later and I pulled it up on 'find my iphone'. We got occasional reports as it was driven south before the thief finally settled down for the evening at a little house in Fremantle.

I kept an eye on it the next morning, and finally got a good GPS reading that showed exactly which house it was in.  One screenshot and we were in business.

We got lucky again when we got the police involved. They apparently had some free time (and were intrigued by 'Find My iPhone'), so they sent a car around to the house. They found one elderly man and his son in a near-empty house who let the officers in for a quick look around their mostly empty house. There was no sign of any phone and the police left. It looked like our investigation had come to an inglorious end.

The next day, we got some surprising news: The phone had been turned in at the Fremantle police station looking rather damaged (see above). The man who turned it in said they'd just found it but - rather conveniently - happened to live at the same house the police had visited the day before. It seems the police visit unsettled him, so he did the logical thing: Hit the phone repeatedly with a rock, and turn it in denying all knowledge.

Where are they now?

The Mysterious Thief: I lost all involvement with the case after we got the phone back, but he was in the awkward position of explaining why the phone had been in his house and turned on for two nights before he 'found it'. I hope it went well for him.

The iPhone: One $80 screen replacement put it in perfect working condition, and it's still chugging along just fine.