Do You Listen When They Cry Wolf?


It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the internet security domain.  First, there was the HeartBleed issue and, over the weekend, information about insecurity with the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser.  As you can imagine, there are millions of installations of Internet Explorer in use.  Of particular interest are those installations that are still running Windows XP which Microsoft has indicated that there will be no updates for.

Since the stop of support for Windows XP, I’ve been finding myself morbidly checking out the operating system of people that I have interactions with – in particular vendors who have a Point of Sale software that may or may not actually require Windows XP.  I used to ask if they planned to upgrade until I realized that most of the answers were – “no, what’s the problem – my software works”,” too expensive”, “my software needs XP”, “my computer won’t run a newer operating system”, “that would be the boss’ decision”, or “that would be done by our Corporate IT Department”.  In reality, the answers that I got didn’t inform me of much and probably just made me look sillier or nerdier than normal.  I stopped asking but do continue to look.

In my Zite reader, I have entire sections devoted to all the web browsers that I have installed and use regularly.  I like to read about tips, tricks, the latest add-ons to increase productivity and, yes, want to know when there’s a problem that need addressing.

This morning, the Internet Explorer section was completely full of articles about the security problem.  Probably the most interesting and objective one came from Forbes:

In cases of stories like this, I always try to track back to the developer site to see their reaction, response, and their plans to deal with it.

In this case, Microsoft’s Technet has it addressed:

You’ve got to be impressed that it’s out in the open and not swept under the rug.  There’s a few woulda, couldas in there but it’s a good read and offers some suggestions for configuring your computer, explains that they’re on it and looking for a fix, probably out of their regular update cycle to handle it.  Given all of the stories about it, it’s probably in their best interest to get a fix done and out the door as soon as possible.

Now, I know about this because I enjoy reading technical stuff.  I know by the looks that I get from others that I’m probably in the minority! 

But, if you’re in the category of just wanting your computer to work, will you even know?  It was on the morning news today but would the general public even know what to do or how to do it?  And, how about those Corporate IT Departments?  Are they informing their clients and giving advice about how to protect things?  I read a Twitter message directed to me last night that Internet Explorer is the only browser they’re allowed to use for their own safety.  What will happen today?

When you fill your car up at a self-serve gas station, there’s always a kill switch to immediate stop the process if it gets out of hand.  Does your computer or vendor have a kill switch that can be used in case of emergencies?

Or, do you care or even listen?  I wonder – does the security world cry wolf too often?

Feel free to share your security thoughts in the comments below. 

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OTR Links 04/30/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Still Wanting It All


This may be one of those posts that you want to skip.

It gets to me basically documenting my thinking about my personal use of web browsers and may bore you to tears.  But, if I blog about it, it helps if I ever need to rationalize what I’ve done or backtrack on my thinking.

A while ago, I had taken Opera Next for a ride and actually had installed it on a my computers and was happily using it.  Then, reality kicked in and I realized that the limitations to it ran too deep for my workflow.  So, I stopped using it although I kept it on my computer.  I just knew that since Opera had started using the same rendering engine that Google Chrome did that it might come in handy.

Online life resumed using Google Chrome and Firefox.

Over the weekend, a couple of the frustrations that I had with these browsers made me think that I’d like to take another look at Opera Next.  Using Chrome, periodically, my Macintosh would totally lock up and require a hard reboot.  Plus, my reflections about updating my blog bizarrely were documented in a post a week or so back.  Firefox was my saviour and I used it so well.  I was on the Beta channel in Firefox and was very interested to notice that the new interface had been released on that channel.  I was happily using that as an alternative but there was one little gotcha.  For some reason, I couldn’t find a pin to Pinterest on Shareaholic.  It as there on Chrome but not on Firefox that I could see.  I keep a Pinterest board for my blog posts for some unknown reason and so adding using two pieces of methodology was just bizarre. The current version of Google Chrome also isn’t playing nicely with the graphics on my Macintosh.  I like to do one CMD + – to make the text a bit smaller in Hootsuite so that I can fit more text on the screen.  The cursor leaves a bunch of artifacts on the screen that are annoying.

I should note that, if there is any finger pointing to be done, it’s at me.  I have no doubt that these problems are self-inflicted and that I just need to step back and isolate things.  But, that will come after I give Opera another chance.

I had been running version 20 so it was no surprise that there was at least one upgrade.  I’m now running version 21.

Opera has a nice clean looking interface…time to messy it up with the extensions that get me through the day.  Now I remember one of the reasons I didn’t stick with Opera before.  The selection of extensions is small when compared to Firefox and Chrome.  But, many of my favourites were there.  I thought that it was a shame that there weren’t more – after all, they were using the Blink engine just like Chrome.  Then I found the answer!  It’s called Download Chrome Extension.  It’s an extension that, when added, let’s you download Google Chrome extensions and install them.  There were only a couple of things that I wanted like the WordPress extension so I grabbed it and did the installations.  Sweet!

Now, I’m not much for a silvery look so next is to find a theme.  There are actually quite a few interesting ones from the Opera store but, as I’m poking around, there’s an option to create your own theme!

Now, how’s that for the ultimate customization.  Which one of the millions of pictures I have on my computer would I use?  I decided to take the image from my Grade 2 friends at Gosfield North.

So, I’m really cooking.  But, then I hit a couple of bumps – Opera Next is not available for Linux (yet?).  And, the synchronize feature between Macintosh and Windows isn’t working yet.  Man, I just want it all!

But, as I type this, I’m using the Scribefire editor in Opera under Windows and things appear to be working nicely.  I’m going to keep it for a while.  I like the Speed Dial, Discover, and the ability to handle extensions.  It is like working in Google Chrome with the exception of some user interface options that look different.  Some blogs are even calling it more polished.

So, it’s my go-to for right now.  Or, at least, until I get restless again.  My to-do list does include digging into the things that weren’t working with the other browsers.  Looking for the perfect browser is always fun.

OTR Links 04/29/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Skulpting Code


It never fails to impress me what you can learn when you are aware of the goings on while you’re reading.  This morning, I happened to be reading the CSTA News Blast and there was a reference to CodeSkulptor being a web-based programming environment.  As people move to devices that rely on the web or work in a classroom environment when computer images are only refreshed once or twice a year, good web resources can be invaluable.

So, I headed over to CodeSkulptor to check it and and I liked what I saw.

Rather than write my own code to test it out, I decided to take a look at the demos.  There was the obligatory “Hello World” type of program and a couple of others.  One click on the run button pops a new window to view the output.  Closing the window takes you back to the authoring environment.  I like that approach a lot.  When things don’t go well, you can actually grab the output window and move it around to align the output with the code that generated it to see what went wrong.

When things do go wrong, and you know they will, error messages are displayed in the pane to the right.

The authors have documented the code so it’s pretty easy to see what each block of code does.

So often, learning code is easier when you take an existing program and poke around to make it your own.  The demo programs make this fun.  In particular, the Doodle Jump clone lets you get into hacking mode pretty quickly!

It’s got you covered with all the goodies that students like.  Game atmosphere, sound, and control within the game.  And, because the game is fairly simple, you’re able to do some modifications without breaking things completely.

No login is required to use the program – you can have multiple attempts at the same program by generating an AccessKey or downloading the work to reupload or open in another editor.  It kept this guy busy messing about for quite a while!

Are you new to programming in Python?  You’re covered there as well.  

Coursera offers a course from Rice University

This link was one that just keeps on giving!

If you’re teaching Python or just looking for additional ways to engage students in programming concepts, you’ve got to give it a look and see if it will work for you.  Particularly if you’re interesting in moving to coding with Chromebooks or you have other local restrictions on applications, this could be your answer.

 

OTR Links 04/28/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Goodbye Thunder Bay


Tuesday was a busy day.  Up at 5:30am to head to Niagara Falls for a meeting about the #bit14 conference.  

I stopped in Essex for a coffee and checked my phone – message from Donna Fry about a change needed to her interview.  I was travelling light and really don’t feel great editing a blog on my phone.  It will have to wait until later.  

Later came much later and I was greeted at the door by Jaimie, my dog, who wanted to remind me that our 10,000 (20,000) step dog walking was well behind.  I made him happy, edited the post for Donna and then sat down to take a look at messages.

Well, it was my turn to get the new Twitter interface.  Cool.

So, I went from this …

…well something pretty ugly.  The background image was a picture from a friend’s place west of Thunder Bay catching a sunset.  It had been carefully resized and optimized for the best look on Twitter.  The new Twitter layout requires a wide picture and so it had become pixelated.  Goodbye picture.  It probably was a time for a change anyway.

Then, I started to think about digital life.  Everyone, including me, always seems to have a picture of tranquility.  Life online is anything but that.  Time to shift things.

In tribute to Jaimie, I had a picture of our most favourite place to walk.  Colchester Harbour.

A storm was rolling in and I managed to catch the waves.  There are time when my life feels like that.  I think it’s appropriate so will keep that for a while.

I had been reading that people were complaining about the new Twitter page looking like Facebook.  I guess there is kind of a likeness but I like the look.  It’s probably moot since I never look at it; I use Hootsuite.  The concept of a pinned Twitter message is nice.  I think I’ll get in the habit of pinning the link to my weekly This Week in Ontario Edublogs.  That would keep the great messages up front in case someone is curious.

Back to communications – lots of things on the go.  I could feel the waves getting rougher and rougher.  But, I thrive on this stuff.

I am sad to have to lose the Thunder Bay image but it will give me inspiration to go back there.  Maybe even see Donna again.  And, Lake Superior has waves that will challenge Lake Erie.