Why I won't give you my phone number on Facebook

Why won’t I give you my phone number on Facebook?

Because if you knew what you were doing, you wouldn’t need to ask me for it.

I was reading through my normal morning selection when I ran across this article on TechCrunch detailing how they tricked a bunch of people into giving up their phone number openly.

People, this is unnecessary. Why are you falling for this kind of nonsense?

If you lose your phone, here’s how to get those numbers back. More to the point, here’s how you can get your number to your friends *without* having them ask for it and without it being public knowledge.

Continue reading “Why I won't give you my phone number on Facebook”

How to find a backdoor in a hacked WordPress

Edit: This post has moved to here: http://ottopress.com/2009/hacked-wordpress-backdoors/. Take your comments there.

Over here, Jorge Escobar is writing about how he got hacked with the latest version of WordPress. After some minor back and forth on FriendFeed, I got him to do a search which found a malicious backdoor he might not otherwise have found.

In so doing, it occurred to me that most people don’t keep up with the world of WordPress in the way I do, and so have not seen nearly as many hack attempts. So I figured I’d post my little contribution, and show people how to find hidden backdoors when cleaning up their hacked sites.

Non-technical users can safely ignore this post. :)
Continue reading “How to find a backdoor in a hacked WordPress”

Bob Dylan to be new voice of GPS system

According to the Telegraph, Bob Dylan has been approached by multiple GPS manufacturers to be the voice of their GPS system.

While this is ludicrous on the face of it (having listened to Bob for many years, let’s face it, clarity ain’t his strong suit), I find that the best part of the whole story is what people have to say about it. Some of the comments on Digg about this development are truly the greatest remarks I’ve ever seen.

There’s the predictable ones about his clarity, or lack thereof:

“tuhhhhh lef at the lighhhhh”

What?

The natural comparisons to other celebrities doing GPS directions (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in this case)

“Dis Twaffic sucks. GET TO DAH CHOPPA!”

Or Alan Rickman, which had this as my own contribution:

Hello.

This is

Alan Rickman.

You need to take

a left

in

two hundred

yards.

Do not disappoint me.

And this one:

BILLY MAYS HERE. TURN RIGHT AHEAD POINT 1 MILES.

Or an R. Lee Ermey one:

“I SAID RIGHT YOU WORTHLESS WASTE OF SHIT, I HAVEN’T SEEN DRIVING THIS BAD SINCE I LET MY WIFE DRIVE”

“IF GOD WANTED YOU ON THE TURNPIKE HE WOULD HAVE MIRACLED YOUR ASS ON THERE BY NOW.”

Of course, reworked song lyrics:

Come gather round people wherever you are,
And thank you kindly for using on-star,
And I will help you to maneuver your car,
For the trip you are arranging!
So don’t miss that turn,
And don’t go too far!
Oooh, your destination is a-changing!

Even a pretty decent meta reference comment:

Well, in these modern times, I’m not sure this would be street legal. I mean, when you’re going down highway 61, I’d imagine you’d be fine. You and John Wesley Harding can gaze at the Nashville skyline all you want while using the GPS. But when you’re on those back roads, the system might miss some railroad tracks, leaving you stranded with a slow train coming. If you don’t know to move, oh mercy, there’s going to be blood on the tracks. I can see why one would desire such a GPS, though, as they’ve saved many people from having to drive in circles until the new morning before finding their destination. Well, I guess the times, they are a-changin’, and when you’re out on the road, under a blood red sky and trying to bring it all back home, a GPS will definitely keep you from freewheelin’ for too long.

Digg comments are often a wasteland of human misery and suffering (not as bad as YouTube comments, but close), however this one is pretty good and worth checking out.

Google Maps traffic… it needs work.

I always wondered how Google Maps knew traffic conditions. Today, there’s a blog post where they explain it a bit better.

That ain't on an iPhone...
That ain't on an iPhone...

Basically, they simply have all the phones running Google Maps with GPS send back data as to a) where they are and b) how fast they’re moving. Both of which GPS gives you more or less by default.

It’s a clever idea, and I like it, but it fails in a couple of major ways, IMO.

Firstly, when I use Google Maps on my phone, I tend to not leave it open. Google Maps is fine, but it’s not a very good navigation system. It’s just a map. A real navigation app is worlds better. I recently got Navigon Mobile Navigator on the new iPhone, and it’s pretty slick. Thinking about a dashboard mount for it now, actually.

Secondly, this system relies on a lot of people having Google Maps open and running and sending back data. If nobody with Google Maps running has been on your street recently, you get no information.

What Google really needs to do is to open it up as an API. Let other navigation system manufacturers both send and receive traffic data from the Google Maps system. It doesn’t have to be complex.

Any good navigation app knows your location and speed, so a simple way to send that info could be made easily enough. The problem, of course, is allowing third parties to use the data.

Google Maps works in layers of images, which is one of its major shortcomings, IMO. The street views are images. The terrain are images. Just big sets of tiles that get displayed next to each other. And I’m almost certain that this traffic thing is just another set of images they’re generating or updating. For navigation providers that use 3d views and such, they don’t need that stuff in the form of images, they need it in the form of data. What streets are busy? How can that information be used to improve the navigation? Etc.

Google is generally pretty good at opening up their APIs to third parties. However, they’re generally not good at providing data in different forms. Most of their APIs are “this is what we use, if you need something else we don’t have it” sort of thing. Hopefully, the Google Maps team will see the light here and realize that to get good data, you have to give good data, and start pushing in that direction. Because open traffic data would be pretty cool for everybody.

Advertising and Gaming

Dunno if you heard of this one, but I thought it was pretty good.

If you’ve played a lot of games, then you know that some of them have advertising in them. Over the years, games have had all sorts of advertising, sometimes fake, sometimes funny, sometimes real stuff. Many years back, I recall participating on usenet in a discussion of the virtual worlds of games, and the subject of in-game-advertising was brought up.

See, up until this point, advertising in games was mostly a static thing. The games didn’t, on the whole, change the ads much. At some point during the discussion, the idea was advanced to the point of changing them dynamically. I mean, these are just big textures, there’s no reason that the game could not detect an internet connection and download new ones on the fly. At the time, this was roundly hailed as preposterous, mainly because “internet” at that time mostly consisted of modems and dialup connections. Large scale multiplayer gaming was relatively new, and home broadband was basically limited to expensive ISDN connections.

Of course, the idea was natural and obvious, but I quit most of my gaming about then, and so I didn’t see how the idea went on and advanced in reality.

Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have more or less mandatory internet support. That is to say that while you can certainly use the thing without internet hooked to it, virtually nobody does, because it enables the vast majority of the functionality of the thing. And so, naturally, advertising came in-game on those too.

IGN Worldwide handles almost all of this advertising, from what I can tell. And recently, this got a big story boost, as it affects the elections.

Screenshot of the Obama Ad in Burnout Paradise
Screenshot of the Obama Ad in Burnout Paradise

Burnout Paradise on the Xbox 360 and PS3 have billboards beside the highway that show advertising. On the 360 version at least, from October 6 through November 3th, if you are a player in one of ten “battleground” states, then you’ll be seeing Obama ads in the game.

The ads say that Early Voting has begun as well as pointing to Obama’s Vote For Change website.

NPR’s Morning Edition went on to confirm that the ads will appear in a total of 18 different games in those 10 states only, including Madden NFL and other sports games.

They also mention that the ads are targeted to men 18-34, but I’m not certain if that means that they will only be shown to players fitting that demographic or not. It certainly could be, since if you use those consoles on the internet, then you have an account with demographic information like that.

I find it fascinating that I missed this trend, and I can certainly see how it could be a good thing or a bad thing. I would not personally mind my games having live ads like this, as it would add a sense of realism and up-to-date-ness about them. On the other side of the coin though, I can see a lot of gamers upset by this sort of thing, as some people are simply against ads wherever they may be under any circumstances.

It’s still pretty neat, I say.