Internet

Posted by Kiran

Though I work with an IT major, my time at work is mostly spent on Microsoft Outlook and Excel and rarely do I get to get my hands dirty with actual code. Hence, as a hobby, I spend time building some applications in my spare time and that helps me keep in touch with coding.

I recently embarked upon a project to build a Drupal module of sizeable proportions. As I worked on it, I soon found that ideas were flowing and bugs were being discovered faster than I could keep track of them. I realized that if I was to do any serious — even if informal — development, a Project Management/Bug Management software was essential.

Having heard quite a bit about Bugzilla, I set out to install an instance for my own personal use. As it turns out getting Bugzilla working is not for the faint of heart.

The initial steps to setup Bugzilla are the same as those documented in the Bugzilla Documentation. However, here are some aspects of the installation that finally got Bugzilla working on my Shared hosting account:

Posted by Kiran

There are many advantages of not using Google as your primary search engine. Escaping incessant tracking across the Internet is just one such benefit. With the recent brouhaha about NSA tracking almost all of us via the PRISM program, it may be a good idea to do with less tracking around the Internet. A search engine we should all consider using instead of Google, is DuckDuckGo.

The USP of DuckDuckGo is that they don't store identifiable information about you along with the searches that you perform. Hence, even if the US Government wanted them to share data, they wouldn't have it! Yes, there is a compromise: they cannot provide you with the kind of personalized search results that Google can. However, for most generic searches, they'll do just fine.

I have personally been using DuckDuckGo for over an year now and the search results are just as great, if not better, than those that are returned by Google.

Most of us don't explicitly visit Search sites — search engines, these days, are usually integrated right into our browsers in the form of the search bar or the "Awesome Bar".

Here are a few easy steps that you can use to setup DuckDuckGo as your default search engine across all your browsers.

Posted by Kiran

We live a large part of our lives online these days. The services that we use carry sensitive and personal, data on their servers - data, which, if lost or compromised, can cause us a whole lot of worry.

We use passwords to protect that data. Many users have had their data compromised due to weak passwords and then have a hard time getting their lives back on track. I have seen many of my friends & family suffering such data compromises and the resulting embarrassment and even financial loss.

Experts reiterate a three-point security rule to ensure that loss due to a single compromised password is minimized:

  1. Have a unique password for every website - i.e. use a different password for every online account
  2. Make your passwords a combination of random alphabets, digits and special characters
  3. Don't write down or share your passwords with anyone

Those rules are all good and truly help us stay safe. However, users still choose weak passwords, reuse passwords across sites or keep a written record of their passwords in some diary or piece of paper somewhere. Why?

The reason obviously is that those rules are to too damn hard to live by. I was personally guilty of reusing passwords across sites; that was before I started using Password Safe.

Posted by Kiran

Until recently I have been periodically taking manual backups of the content on my website. However given that life has been extremely busy in recent times, I have often missed my backup schedule. That I had to login onto my CPanel to take the backups, then manually download them - all time consuming activities - did not help. I kept deferring my backups reasoning to myself that I hadn't made any recent updates in any case.

One day however, I found that some comments that had been left on my blogs were missing. I tried to investigate but couldn't figure out what had happened. I then encountered some missing files - again without explanation. Then my website just rolled over and died! Every time I got unsatisfactory explanations from my webhost: a planned server migraton had been cancelled; they had performed some security updates at the server level; etc. All the time they assured me that my content should be intact - well, I felt different.

That was when I decided that an Automated Backup solution was a necessity. I needed something that had minimal necessity of manual intervention.

Posted by Kiran
Update (07-Sep-2012): Seesmic has now been acquired by Hootsuite and they say "Consumer users of Seesmic are encouraged to explore new tools, apps and features available at Twitter.com". Effectively, what they seem to be saying is that general users should go and find some other client that suits their need and Seesmic will no longer be around for long. With that, I suppose, this comparison is now moot since Seesmic will soon cease to exist as a great option for general users looking for a powerful Twitter Client.

When I first started off on Twitter, Tweetdeck for Desktop was my preferred client. I found it to be extremely user friendly, feature-packed and intuitive. Once I got my HTC Desire though, I realized that the best way to use Twitter is through my mobile phone. Twitter is all about instantaneous sharing of views and opinions and my phone allowed me to do just that; it soon became my primary platform for Twitter usage and I longed for an equally feature-packed Twitter client. I longed for Tweetdeck for Android.

Though I initially used HTC Peep, the in-built Twitter client on my phone, once I discovered Seesmic for Android, there was no looking back. Seesmic had everything I was looking for and was the perfect client for me.

That is why when Tweetdeck finally got around to releasing their client for Android, I found myself in a dilemma. Should I stick with my new found loyalty to Seesmic or should I go back to Tweetdeck?

I decided to compare the two with regards to the functionality that I use most and here is what I found.

Posted by Kiran
I am an active user and advocate of Mozilla Firefox. I also am a fan of its Ad-blocking extension - AdBlock Plus. I have considered AdBlock Plus a very useful extension that allowed me to get rid of all annoying and pesky pop-ups and banner ads that otherwise clutter my browsing experience.

However, a recent blog by Vaibhav Gadodia titled "When will people stop stealing content" raised a very interesting point; it gave me food for thought. In his blog Vaibhav argues that since the advertising pays for the content, blocking those ads deprives the site owner the revenues that he would have earned had those ads been visible. Vaibhav goes on to compare the online content monetized by ads to an "honor system" of selling goods, wherein the users are free to pick up the goods as long as they drop the recommended amount into the jar.

Equating ad-blocking to stealing, in my opinion, is a radical generalization and I disagree with it. Here's why.

Staying safe online

06 Dec 2009
Posted by Kiran
I recently wrote about the dangers posed by the Internet. From spam email clogging up your mailbox to malicious crooks trying to gain control of either your computer or your identity, threats can materialize in a variety of forms. Safety can never be over-emphasized when carrying out transactions online. However, in today's scenario staying safe is also complex and often difficult.

I have personally struggled with many of such issues, made many mistakes and also been gullible enough to fall prey to Cyber-thieves selling fictitious goods. However, I have learnt from these mistakes and, over time, have developed practices that have helped me be a little more secure. While I cannot guarantee that these steps will keep you safe all the time, they will certainly help:

Posted by Kiran

I am a great fan of doing things online. It is fast, convenient and easy. An online bank transaction can save you all the time and energy that would otherwise be required to go to the bank, wait in queues, deal with often unfriendly bank staff to get your job done.

Over the past few years, I have been consciously moving all my dealings online wherever possible. While online, I can purchase goods, make investments, track my investment portfolio, pay my Insurance premiums, check my bank balance, pay my telephone bills; I can pretty much do it all. I recently renewed my Indian car insurance sitting here in London - all online without having to travel back to India, provide a cheque or physically meet an insurance agent. My Dad, who is kind enough to take care of such stuff for me, did not have to be bothered with this one either.