Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

Tinfoil Tom Series – Episode 1: Securing your web browser

16/04/2009

f73603379ec11c4bdc493282f4b2d547p_510x270“What’cha lookin’ at?!”
(Thanks to Sarah for this beautiful depiction of paranoia!)

Hi and welcome to the “Tinfoil Tom” series that I intend on running on this very blog. This series of post will be dedicated to end-user computer security – for the slightly paranoid. So it seemed appropriate to start with what you’re doing at this very moment – that is, surfing the web! (Whatever else you were doing is but your own business, in the spirit of tinfoil hats, paranoia and all.)

This guide is first and foremost directed at power-users, but it is written in a way so that (hopefully) anyone can follow it without problems.

The web browser
Try asking someone about their web browser preference and you’ll notice that many people would rather bite your head off than consider an alternative one. That being said, according to me – the power-user browser is Firefox. Opera is not far behind and may very well excel in some categories, but with the grand focus on security, the enormous community and the perpetually growing add-on library that all Firefox users can enjoy, it’s simply unbeatable, and so it will be a prerequisite for this tutorial.

With its out-of-the-box configuration Firefox is one of the most secure browsers, but we won’t stop there! To make your experience even safer – read on for some useful add-ons.

Added security
Here are some great add-ons that will help in tightening your browsers security.

Adblock Plus

beforeafterBefore and after shot. Unfortunately, some of that heavily
appealing “bling-bling” disappears together with the ads.

Whilst not technically a security add-on, Adblock plus make practically all ads on pages disappear, and in such way makes you less targetable to third-party exploits such as XSS attacks, not to mention those bastard animated smileys. *shivers*

Using Ad blocking software has come under heavy fire lately, with many ad-financed sites expressing heavy criticism towards the users, some sites have even started to reject users with ad-blocking software. Luckily, the number of these sites so far is very small, and let us hope it doesn’t spread. One could probably spend a whole series of posts just discussing the moral aspects of ad blocking (Which according to me has heavy parallels to downloading or TiVo‘ing TV shows, effectively skipping the commercials.) but I’ll leave it for another day.

Get Adblock for Firefox here.

NoScript

logoEvil script is evil.

Before you install this add-on, you should be aware of the fact that breaks almost all modern websites because it interferes (or rather completely shuts off) JavaScript support unless you specifically enable it on a per-site basis. But it also stops a lot of third-party homepages from running scripts and makes a lot of other security improvements under the hood. Although I don’t recommend this add-on for normal users, power users who often visit the same set of homepages may benefit greatly in terms of increased security – this add-on will truly make your browser an impenetrable fortress.

Get NoScript for Firefox here.

TorButton

tor_stickerJust watching that onion makes my eyes tear up… with laughter!

TorButton is actually a quick proxy gateway to Tor, an online darknet-like anonymization effort, but because the Tor software acts as a standard HTTP proxy, we can use any proxy server in its place, and because the TorButton add-on features many security tweaks, some similar to NoScript, even running it through a transparent server on your own computers adds security, and as far as I have noticed, TorButton breaks much fewer websites and barely requires any user attention. The only problem might be the cumbersome task of properly setting up a proxy server, but for Windows I can recommend CCProxy which I use myself. (Demo version with some non-timebased restrictions, although works fine for our intentions.)

Get TorButton for Firefox here.

Coming up!
In the next episode of the Tinfoil Tom series we will be discussing laptop security, secure file deletion through wiping and file recovery.

In other news…
000-va-unreal_tournament_score-1999-i
Randomly speaking of video game soundtracks – the classical Unreal Tournament Score is really such a pearl. Fantastic and surprisingly mellow soundscapes with a hint of almost organic roughness. I’m pretty certain it isn’t being sold anymore (I think it was only included in the special editions to begin with.) but I found a mirror, let’s hope it stays up!

A trip to London

14/04/2009

Greetings everyone! As promised, here are my notes on the journey to London! Most of these were scribbled down on the plane home.

The culture
Under this section I’ll mention some of the sights and attractions visited and give my personal take on them. After writing all of them I notice a generally negative tone, but it isn’t really my intention. I liked most of what I saw… Maybe I just like to complain. (My friends will probably agree on that one. xD)

– The Phantom of The Opera

phantom
I didn’t really know what to expect as I walked into the theatre for this performance. I’ve seen my fair share of musicals, and sometimes I’ve been really blown away. I remember seeing a Swedish rendition of “The Producers” and really liking it. Sadly, I wasn’t as amazed about The Phantom Of The Opera. The music was sort of repetitive, we were treated to half a dozen renditions of the signature track and another half dozen of “Angel Of Music” with other songs in the intermissions between the two giants. The lyrics were sometimes pretty laughable (Not a compliment!) and any “funny lines” seemed more likely to be a mistake than an actual attempt at comedy by Mr. Webber. I can’t complain about the story though. It was interesting, beautiful and captivating. All and all, I was satisfied with the show.

– The Salvador Dali Exhibition

20080915113438salvador_dali_a_dali_atomicus_09633uA famous portrait of the master.

I’ve seen a few paintings by this Spanish prodigy, but it was great to see some of his lesser famous works. Over 500 of his works are available for viewing, everything from giant paintings to quick sketches. All and all, a fantastic man, who had an extremely wacky imagination. (Compliment!)

– The Science Museum
london_2009_347

The two great arts… or something.

Now this is my cup of tea. A great museum (which incredibly enough was free with the exclusion of a couple special exhibitions) and an IMAX theatre under the same roof. The 3D technology used wasn’t the red-blue-based Anaglyph type, but rather some sort of polarization-based technology (although still using glasses) which was better, but still not perfect. The high-point was definitely the Computer Science exhibition, which showed a lot of old-age computer memorabilia. (Although I’d love to have an ERNIE-I in the closet connected to a server for use as a dice over 3G!)

london_2009_355Who says you can’t find practical uses for old computer today?

– The Kensington Palace

london_2009_153That’s got to be a pain to wear! But talk about child-bearing hips.

A look at the clothing of the royal family throughout the ages. Not really my kind of thing, although with the extreme care, talent and creativiy that goes in to creating these fantastic garments is really something to admire.

– Madame Tussauds

london_2009_459Overheard in the waiting queue:
“- Who’s that?
– Oh, that’s Angelina Jolie and MacGyver.”

I was excited to visit Madame Tussauds because of the extreme care and talent that goes into making one of these dolls. After seeing a few, the rest of the museum wasn’t as spectacular, although the Chamber Of Horrors cheered me up a bit!

PS. The dolls were harder than I had imagined. DS.

Observations

london_2009_460Look at me, daddy!

I really must say that England as a country was quite fantastic. I noticed an incredible mix of nationalities and races. It really is a multi-cultural country. Women and men were dressed handsomely and seemed to be generally very patriotic of their country and the royal family. The drug culture seemed a bit more relaxed than in Sweden, with smoke shops selling “Smoke blends” and bongs in all colors, but it’s actually pretty much as restricted as in Sweden – and so the tolerability amongst the population must be higher. Onto something a bit different, the Brits really love their CCTV – it felt like you couldn’t walk much more than a a few dozen feets between the signs warning you that you are constantly being monitored. A quick look at Wikipedia shows that there is an estimated 4,200.000 cameras in use throughout the kingdom. Cameras were everywhere – I wouldn’t be surprised if I was registered on several hundred of them throughout my four-day visit.

Oh yes, and here’s a British Big Mac.

london_2009_2391Verdict: Nice, reminds me of the Swedish version.

In pictures
Go ahead and look through the gallery below!

In other news…

jericho-finale-picHis awesomeness is so thick, you can almost
cut through it with a butter knife.

These past few weeks I’ve been indulging myself in the post-apocalyptic 2003 CBS show Jericho. Portraying a small town at the heart of the United States in the aftermath of a series of nuclear explosions. The show was initially cancelled after its first season but resurrected after a petition for a seven-episode second minis-season, after which it was… yeah, you guessed it – cancelled again. A real shame according to me. To be completely fair, the show is very corny – sometimes it feels like you could guess large parts of the dialogue, but despite its flaws, it somehow managed to go beyond them and the show really works. In fact, it works really well, although it might just be my love for dystopian futures at play. Definitely a recommended watch!

Slumdog Millionaire: Thoughts and impressions

09/03/2009

slumdog-millionaire-movie-posterI’m gonna go with B, Regis

I finished watching Slumdog Millionaire a few hours ago, and have been mostly sitting down trying to let the movie sink in, just like a big meal. Somehow that seems an appropriate comparison. Slumdog Millionaire is filled to the brim with a lot of things. Drama – Check, Love – Check, Passion – Check, Violence – Check. There really isn’t much left out. Without saying too much about the plot, we follow slumdog chai-boy Jamal as he tries to win over the girl of his dreams by participating in the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. Due to accusations of cheating for doing overly well, Jamal is forced to explain to a police officer how he know the answers to all of the questions on the show, and so the epic tale of his life from early childhood begins. As we travel we see the old and the new India – a country in violent change with the influence of modern day society, with urbania slowly creeping outwards from the big cities, swallowing the slums – the film definitely deserves its cinematography Oscar, and the same goes for the musical score, which was breathtaking. I award this movie seven out of ten function points.

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7/10

For all of you who want to know more or want my non-spoiler-free opinion, keep reading below!

Warning: Spoilers below!slumdog-millionaire-poster1This is not an accurate representation of Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire was rapidly approaching an epic movie, the elements were all there, but the cringe-worthy ending was such a huge letdown. (Although the dance number at the end made up for it a little) Whoever designed the poster pictured above didn’t seem to notice how most of movie portrays a dark and inhospitable India, but had his eyes peeved at the last ten minutes of the movie, which had the sweetest fairytale ending ever. I don’t hate fairytale endings, it was just that I didn’t expect a finalé that was interchangeable with a cheesy MTV production. Although don’t’t get me wrong, I might have scolded this picture, but it is  by no means a bad one, although I can’t believe it took home an entire eight Oscars, it’s still a good alternative take and interesting integration with foreign culture, which I hope to see more of in the future.