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