Back up your information in Google — Google Takeout

Wor­ried about the amount of infor­ma­tion you have stored in Google ser­vices? Fear not. Just launched today is Google Take­out — which allows you to take a local back­up of (so far, some of) the infor­ma­tion stored in sev­er­al of the Google ser­vices.

It’s not yet full–featured: it only allows back­up from Google Buzz, Con­tact and Cir­cles, Picasa Web Albums and from your Google pro­file. But the Data Lib­er­a­tion Front promise to add the abil­i­ty to back up oth­er Google ser­vices over time.

This is their blog post announc­ing the ser­vice. Remem­ber: back­up ear­ly, back­up often.

How to stay safe at a public Wi-Fi hotspot

Using pub­lic WiFi is becom­ing risky, if you pass impor­tant infor­ma­tion inse­cure­ly over it. There are freely avail­able tools out there that will lis­ten in to all the net­work traf­fic, look­ing for pass­words — and now there are tools, like Firesheep, men­tioned below, that will hijack ses­sions you’ve already secure­ly logged into.

Take­away les­son? Any time you’re using a pub­lic WiFi spot, encrypt all activ­i­ties if you can. And def­i­nite­ly encrypt pass­words going to your mail serv­er. I’ll be enforc­ing that last one on my mail serv­er in the next few days.

How to stay safe at a pub­lic Wi-Fi hotspot

(from Ars Tech­ni­ca)

Prevent deactivation of Find My iPhone or iPad

It’s not often I’m post­ing com­put­er or phone-relat­ed stuff here any more, but this one is clever and deserves wider atten­tion:

Pre­vent deac­ti­va­tion of Find My iPhone — Mac OS X Hints:

Cur­rent­ly if you do not have a pass­word on your device a thief (or child) could deac­ti­vate Find My iPhone. How­ev­er most peo­ple don’t know that you can pre­vent this by using a pass­code. (This might require iOS 4.2 or lat­er; I did­n’t have an ear­li­er ver­sion to test it.)

To pre­vent any­one from turn­ing it off you can do the fol­low­ing steps:

  • Open Set­tings and go to ‘Gen­er­al.’
  • Scroll down and tap on ‘Restric­tions.’
  • Turn on restric­tions and enter a four dig­it pass­code and repeat to turn on.
  • Under ‘Allow Changes:’ turn both of the switch­es Loca­tion and Accounts to Off.

Now you can­not dis­able find my iPhone with­out the pass­code. This also pre­vents changes to any­thing relat­ed to loca­tion ser­vices and changes made to your email accounts.

Find my iPhone is free. Works for iPads too, of course.

Thawte personal email certificates being discontinued

Over the past sev­er­al years, secu­ri­ty com­pli­ance require­ments have become more restric­tive, while the tech­nol­o­gy infra­struc­ture nec­es­sary to meet these require­ments has expand­ed great­ly. Despite our strong desire to con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the Thawte Per­son­al E‑mail Cer­tifi­cate and Web of Trust ser­vices, the ever-expand­ing stan­dards and tech­nol­o­gy require­ments will out­pace our abil­i­ty to main­tain these ser­vices at the high lev­el of qual­i­ty we require. As a result, Thawte Per­son­al E‑Mail Cer­tifi­cates and the Web of Trust will be dis­con­tin­ued on Novem­ber 16, 2009 and will no longer be avail­able after that date.

This is a real shame — I’ve had one of these for ten years, and have been ver­i­fy­ing oth­er peo­ples’ iden­ti­ties for them for eight.

Useful OSX Utility: Cameras

One small prob­lem with OSX is that it does the same thing every time you plug in any cam­era — start­ing Aper­ture, for exam­ple. The trou­ble is, while that may be sen­si­ble when you’re plug­ging in your main cam­era, it’s a pain when con­nect­ing up your iPhone.

Cam­eras, a free pref­er­ence pane from Flex­ibits, sorts out this prob­lem. It allows the action tak­en on con­nec­tion to be set per-device.

It’s work­ing per­fect­ly here, and fix­es one of my long­stand­ing frus­tra­tions with OSX. With it, attach­ing the var­i­ous devices I have that take pho­tos now Just Works.

Tourist Remover


Tourist Remover:

Remove mov­ing objects such as tourists or pass­ing cars from your pho­tos. Take mul­ti­ple pho­tos from the same scene and the «Tourist Remover» blends them into a com­pos­ite pho­to with­out any inter­fer­ing ele­ments.

A free ser­vice from I’ve not tried this yet as I don’t have a suit­able set to use, but if it works, and I can down­load the resul­tant com­pos­ite image again at decent res­o­lu­tion, I think I’ll be using this a lot.

(Via Boing Boing Gad­gets.)

Hackers crack Apple’s iTunes gift card algorithm

Hack­ers crack Apple’s iTunes gift card algo­rithm:

$200 iTunes Gift Cer­tifi­cates are sell­ing for less than $3 in Chi­na now that a group of local hack­ers has cir­cum­vent­ed Apple’s algo­rithm for cre­at­ing the dig­i­tal vouch­ers and built their own gift cer­tifi­cate gen­er­a­tors.

This was bound to hap­pen soon­er or lat­er. It’ll be inter­est­ing to see how Apple are able to counter this — at the end of the day, any mech­a­nism that’s strict­ly algo­rithm-based is going to be able to be bro­ken.

(Via AppleIn­sid­er.)

Essential Business Server prep and monitoring

I’m a huge fan of Microsoft­’s inte­grat­ed serv­er prod­ucts — Small Busi­ness Serv­er and the new kid on the block, Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er. They pro­vide an incred­i­bly robust and reli­able IT core for any organ­i­sa­tion — espe­cial­ly because the in-built mon­i­tor­ing and alter­ing lets you know about poten­tial issues that require your atten­tion. And the inte­grat­ed prod­ucts in EBS for email secu­ri­ty and net­work-edge secu­ri­ty sim­pli­fy your net­work’s con­fig­u­ra­tion, and its cost.

If you are con­sid­er­ing migrat­ing or upgrad­ing to EBS (and I’d con­sid­er it even if you have an exist­ing mul­ti-serv­er infra­struc­ture,) there have been a num­ber of wiz­ards and white papers released recent­ly which may be of inter­est. They are:

Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er Prepa­ra­tion and Plan­ning Wiz­ards

The Prepa­ra­tion and Plan­ning Wiz­ards help you pre­pare your envi­ron­ment and plan for deploy­ment of Win­dows EBS by scan­ning your net­work envi­ron­ment and iden­ti­fy­ing issues that you need to cor­rect to be able to deploy Win­dows EBS.

Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er Prepa­ra­tion and Plan­ning Guide
This doc­u­ment explains how to pre­pare and plan for a deploy­ment of Win­dows EBS into your exist­ing net­work­ing envi­ron­ment. This doc­u­ment includes infor­ma­tion on how to install and run the Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er Prepa­ra­tion Wiz­ard and the Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er Plan­ning Wiz­ard, and it pro­vides plan­ning guid­ance.

Mon­i­tor­ing Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er
This doc­u­ment pro­vides guid­ance to help you mon­i­tor your Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er net­work by using the Win­dows EBS Admin­is­tra­tion Con­sole and by using the mon­i­tor­ing capa­bil­i­ties of Microsoft Sys­tem Cen­ter Essen­tials 2007.

This last one is, to me, the most inter­est­ing and impor­tant. Servers do need mon­i­tor­ing and care, but those are tasks that are eas­i­ly ignored in small busi­ness­es with per­haps no ded­i­cat­ed IT staff. Hav­ing the serv­er do the grunt work for you itself is very use­ful indeed — and the main rea­son I would def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend that EBS is con­sid­ered care­ful­ly for any core infra­struc­ture refresh or renew­al in a small com­pa­ny.

Free the postcode!

Post­codes are an essen­tial part of loca­tion ser­vices in the UK. How­ev­er, they’re not free – they are owned by the Post Office, who will charge you a hefty sum in order to get access to the data­base.

Ham­per­ing free and inno­v­a­tive loca­tion-based ser­vices? Like­ly. Easy to reverse-engi­neer? You betcha!

The Free the Post­code project intends to build a pub­lic domain data­base of post­codes, in the same way that the Open Street Map project intends to build a free map of all streets in the UK, thus break­ing the Ordi­nance Sur­vey’s hold on that infor­ma­tion.

How­ev­er, if you have an iPhone, Free the Post­code has a free appli­ca­tion that uses the phone’s GPS for loca­tion, com­bined with your sub­mis­sion of the post­code. This link will open it in iTunes. There’s also an app for Android phones.

This is an excel­lent idea and well worth sup­port­ing.

Found on TechCrunch UK