Category Archives: 6 Information and Communication Technology

Someone’s watching you. And it’s not just Big Brother.

A  Russian website is offering thousands of feeds from private webcams around the world.

If you have a webcam with remote access enabled (did you check?) it could be on their list of feeds.  The site has accessed feeds by using default passwords which are often left unchanged by their owners when they enable remote access.  This is made easier because most people are using the same software (Windows) to operate their system.

Most of the feeds are rather dull, such as security monitors on infants cradles.  And maybe this is insignificant compared to the level of snooping of private emails, web browsing history and internet chat that is done by governments in the name of “security”.  But if you have a revealing webcam with remote access enabled, you might want to change the password!

Webcam website

BBC:  Breached webcam and baby monitor site flagged by watchdogs


The power of thought can flip a switch.

The study upon which this report was made is unusual, but the message is clear: thoughts have power.

In the study, brainwaves from human participants activated a tiny LED light which had been implanted in mice which then activated light-sensitive genes.

This study is the first to combine the thought control technology and the light sensitive genes technology.  The light-sensitive engineered genes sound a bit unnatural to me, but the idea of thoughts influencing external objects seems intuitive.  Maybe if we can understand the science better, telepathic skills could be developed.

This kind of emerging technology has potential applications for patients who can no longer communicate with the outside world other than with their mental activities and brainwaves.

It also proves that our thoughts do make the world.

BBC: Scientists develop thought-controlled gene switch

Millions of classic images, free online.

Kalev Leetaru has uploaded a searchable database of 12 million historical copyright-free images to Flickr.  Most of the images that are in the books are not in any of the art galleries of the world – the original copies have long ago been lost.  The pictures range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright restrictions kick in.

BBC: Millions of historical images posted to Flickr

Image from page 502 of "The boy travellers in Australasia : adventures of two youths in a journey to the Sandwich, Marquesas, Society, Samoan and Feejee islands, and through the colonies of New Zealand, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, and

Even big brother thinks big brother can be dangerous.

The UN has warned against the dangers of too much data and too much surveillance.    In a report, the UN body said more needed to be done to ensure that surveillance was balanced against its harm to personal privacy, noting that:

  • mass retention of data to aid surveillance was “neither necessary nor proportionate”.
  • “disturbingly little” is known about the growing number of mass surveillance programmes because they are “rubber stamped”
  • a lack of transparency about the reasons governments approve or start large-scale monitoring of what people do online.

It’s what we’ve thought for a long time and refreshing to see someone, even if one of our “big brothers”, owning up.  It looks spookily like the kind of oversight envisioned in futuristic tales like Nineteen Eight-four  or Brazil.

The report said measures to force net companies, mobile operators and others to retain data on what people did online and whom they talked to had little justification.  Gathering data curbs privacy because there are too few limits on who could look at the data and what it could be used for.  Big brother, and every hacker, is watch YOU!

BBC: Mass surveillance ‘dangerous habit’, says UN rights body



“You might want to stay off the internet for a while”


That doesn’t sound good.  Especially since its from a credible source whose enterprise is entirely concerned with privacy and anonymity on the internet.  From the Tor website:

OpenSSL bug CVE-2014-0160  Posted April 7th, 2014

A new OpenSSL vulnerability on 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f is out today, which can be used to reveal memory to a connected client or server.

If you’re using an older OpenSSL version, you’re safe.

Read on…

 The BBC put out the word:

A bug in software used by millions of web servers could have exposed anyone visiting sites they hosted to spying and eavesdropping, say researchers.

The bug is in a software library used in servers, operating systems and email and instant messaging systems.

Called OpenSSL the software is supposed to protect sensitive data as it travels back and forth.

It is not clear how widespread exploitation of the bug has been because attacks leave no trace.

Read more …

Because we’ve an addict in the house (he keeps it under control), I happened to notice the report that Minecraft went offline while servers were patched.

Update; BBC: Heartbleed Bug: Tech firms urge password reset

BloombergBusinessWeek: Why Heartbleed, the Latest Cybersecurity Scare, Matters

A guide to operating system users.

What’s your operating system?  See the pie-chart below for insight.  Humour from


Anyway, what is an operating system?  It’s the boss.

from The Full Wiki:

Most ordinary computer users take their operating system for granted. The easiest way to understand what an operating system does is to take a close look at what computers were like before operating systems were invented.

The earliest electronic computers did not have any operating system. If the user wanted to change what the computer was doing, the user had to open the back panel on the (then very large) computer, and change how the wires were connected. Changing what the computer did was very time consuming and required an expert.

Later, computer scientists decided to have the wires stay as they were, and feed instructions to the computer with punch cards (cards with holes that represented instructions) or magnetic tape. The computer would store the instructions in some kind of memory. This way of operating a computer is called the von Neumann architecture.

Still, computers of the time generally only had enough memory to “remember” one program at a time. If the user wanted the computer to run a different program, the user had to wipe out the first program from memory and then load another program into memory.

Computer operators and computer scientists grew tired of carrying around large stacks of punch cards. They also wanted computers to run more than one program at a time. As years of work changed or replaced computers to have more memory, computer operators and computer scientists decided that some computers could hold several programs in its memory. The computer user could then simply choose which program the user wanted to run. Running a computer this way requires a “boss” program that controls all the other programs, and asks the user what program the user wants to run. Such a boss program is called an operating system.

Having several programs in memory that can be run at any time makes some new problems. The operating system itself has to remember where the programs are at in memory. The operating system also has to prevent two programs from fighting over which one gets to use the processor.

Modern desktop computers need an operating system. Operating systems generally start up automatically when the user turns on the computer.

Mozilla, the power behind Firefox, launches a $25 smartphone.

Mozilla’s smartphone operating system, Firefox OS, is being installed on mobile phones made by its partners, like Alcatel, Huawei, LG and ZTE, which will retail for $25 and be targeting fast growing emerging markets where users are unwilling or unable to be tied in to long term contracts.  Their Firefox OS phones will give multimedia capabilities on a pay as you go account.

As for Firefox OS, I like the idea of being able to operate a mobile device without Android, i.e. without Google knowing everything I do.  It looks like Firefox OS will capture market share as quickly as Firefox browser did, as the FOS captured 7% of developer mindshare in just six months.

Firefox OS phones will be on sale this year.

Mozilla: Firefox OS Expands to Higher-Performance Devices and Pushes the Boundaries of Entry-Level Smartphones

Mozilla: Firefox OS Unleashes the Future of Mobile

Mozilla: New Developer Hardware and Tools Show Firefox OS Ecosystem Momentum


Anonimity on the internet.

spieslikeusdavidparkinsaftermcescherIt’s not that you want to be a spy, it’s not that you want to hide under a rock, it’s just that you feel threatened by the invasiveness of data tracking by Big Co (eg Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc) and Big Brother (the government and banks know more about you than you know about yourself).

So Bloomberg’s report: The Inside Story of Tor, the Best Internet Anonymity Tool the Government Ever Built led to option of installing a browser which behaves as a browser used to: It lets you look at the internet, without the internet looking at you.

Check out Tor  here.  In any case, you should use an anonymous search engine, like DuckDuckGo or IXquick, which are excellent.

Printer problems … fixed.

After cleaning print head and deep cleaning print heads and still not getting a decent print out, I came across this site PrinterKnowledge, started by Rob Ludlow’s, which helped understand the nature of the problem.  (Anatomy of a Canon print head helped a lot – see photo below.)

It was the print head, but it needed more careful attention.  And it was clogged, but asking the printer to clean the print head didn’t resolve the problem because it can not actually dissolve the clogged ink in the print head.  Fortunately there was some solvent left on the shelf from JetTec.  Patiently cleaning the head with solvent, q-tips and paper towels for half and hour, then letting it dry did the job.  (By the way, if necessary you might need to inject solvent through the print head or soak overnight, but you decide!)

Checkout PrinterKnowledge if you’re having trouble.  It could save you time and money.

Yahoo, Bing, Scroogle, Scraper, and anonymous search

How embarrassing!  I knew it, but forgot it.  But luckily was reminded yesterday that Yahoo doesn’t offer search any more.

In mid-2009 Yahoo gave up on search and contracted with Bing to supply teh service.  I was reminded when I saw the confession at the bottom of a Yahoo search page.  Further investigation reminded me that Microsoft now runs Yahoo search.  Yahoo keeps 88% of the revenue on ads that appear on Yahoo sites, but Microsoft gets the data on computer users’ online search and buying habits.  Microsoft lost its morality long ago so there’s no doubt that the data acquisition is as insidious as Google’s.

So immediately the Yahoo search box was removed from our site and replaced with a private search engine IxQuick, and also replaced the default search engine in my browsers.  Fortunately there’s and add-on for Firefox and Seamonkey to do that.

You could also put a scraper on your browser like scroogle, which removes personal info from searches.

Users have been persuaded that if the search engine knows your history it will deliver better results, but that is unlikely.  If you are searching for something teh terms you use and teh popularity of sites in aggregate are more important that you personal preferences, especially for more unusual searches.   For example, if you usually browse entertainment sites, but then do a search on construction technology, you want results for construction technology, not results that are biaised by entertainment preferences.  Google, Bing and others want your search history to sell you stuff which you are not even looking for (since that was not the purpose of your search).

Don’t get scroogled, just search.  Go to another engine like,,,, or put a scraper on your browser.