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

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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 snampmania.com. 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