02 May 2010 @ 10:00 PM 

First up, credit to the Blogger who first raised this little absurdity, go and check out Tongodeon who originated this story. I cover it here for two reasons:

  1. The thought of the amusing situations that this could bring to the boring task of banking
  2. The fact that a BANK would be so stupid as to implement this in the name of security

This bank has set up a new authentication measure for identifying customers who phone the customer service line. In addition to other identification data they need to provide, they are also required to provide a secret question and answer of their chosing. Basically the operator will ask the question and the customer will provide the pre-determined response. Now this is fairly similar to the common Australian practice of providing a password in addition to personal information to verify your identity; a practice similar in its level of security deficit but not as much fun I guess.

Both of these practice put a lot of trust and faith in the operator you are speaking to. Whoever takes you call will gain all this information and potentially have the ability to use it for nefarious purposes. Combine this with the fact that call centre operators are generally not very well paid or on rather poor work contracts, I think this reveals an accident waiting to happen. Particularly when cheap inexpensive technology such as an RSA key is readily available.

But enough doom and gloom. Let’s look at the fun you could have with such a system.Tongodeon has provide a few choice examples to paint the picture of the type of secret question and answers you could use:

Q: Do you know why I think you’re so sexy?
A: Probably because you’re totally in love with me.

Q: Need any weed? Grass? Kind bud? Shrooms?
A: No thanks hippie, I’d just like to do some banking.

Q: The Penis shoots Seeds, and makes new Life to poison the Earth with a plague of men.
A: Go forth, and kill. Zardoz has spoken.

Q: What the hell is your fucking problem, sir?
A: This is completely inappropriate and I’d like to speak to your supervisor.

Q: I’ve been embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from my employer, and I don’t care who knows it.
A: It’s a good thing they’re recording this call, because I’m going to have to report you.

Q: Are you really who you say you are?
A: No, I am a Russian identity thief.

Q: For the remainder of this conversation, “How can I help you today?” actually means “Would you like to buy some mescaline?” Do you understand?
A: I understand completely.

To this I can only add:

Q: As I said one morning walking down the street
A: Singing do-wah-didy didy-dum-didy-do

Q: I see dead people
A: Really? You must be nuts

Q: I think I just wet my pants
A: Oh, would you like me to give you a minute?

Q: Don’t bank here, use the [enter name of different bank] they won’t screw you with fees like we do
A: Gee, thanks for the tip

Q: Would you like a copy of some hot [chick/guy – delete as appropriate] we caught on the ATM camera?
A: Sure would, where can I download it?

Q: Everyone in this office is gay?
A: Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Choice is a wonderful thing. I wonder how long it will take the bank to change its policy?

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 02 May 2010 @ 10:03 PM

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 28 Apr 2010 @ 11:28 PM 
Opera Mini

Opera Mini's Dirty Little Security Secret

The recent release of Opera Mini for the iPhone has seen it shot straight to the top of the Free Apps charts. This in general is good. The Safari iPhone browser is a little lacking in feature and competition is always generally good in such a regimented environment.

Now here comes the but. One thing that isn’t widely known by the majority of the consumer market (I am excluding those with some technical knowledge here) is how Opera Mini works and the ramifications on visit any secure site such as online banking (which should be noted a few banks are now offering mobile device friendly websites and I am sure more to follow).

One of the big selling points is the speed that Opera Mini achieves. Unfortunately it achieves this via proxying all content, compressing it for mobile platform delivery and then passing it on. On the average website this isn’t such a huge problem, however on a secure site such as a banking website, this will expose your details to the servers that are acting as the proxy.

On the whole this itself may not even be a problem, I am certain that Opera have security around this infrastructure to prevent disclosure of information. However I think this does raise a few general questions:

  • How about full disclosure to your customer’s Opera? Yes, this information is available, but to the general punter downloading Apps via the App Store
  • I trust the people employed by services that offer secure connections such as banks. Granted this isn’t iron clad but on the whole any business (such as a bank) that relies on a secure connection for its business will makes efforts to ensure that security is maintained. Opera isn’t in this business and as such don’t really have a stake in protecting your information

Am I saying not to use Opera? No, it is a viable option as a web browser. All I want to point out here is that you need to be aware exactly what is happening to your information and the fact that Opera should be making this fact a little more accessible to the average user

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 28 Apr 2010 @ 11:28 PM

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 24 Apr 2010 @ 10:19 PM 

An interesting new tool currently in beta is Tom’s Planner. This tool allows you to create gantt chart online completely within the site. Your charts are saved locally to a text file (no online storage on offer with the server) and you also have options to export your chart to an image or into a format that can be imported into Microsoft Project.

The site is clearly labelled beta however from what I experienced that is more from a functionality point of view than stability. The site operated flawlessly and very quick. In terms of functionality, it is perhaps a little lacking. I created a gantt chart relating to a project I am working on, but found that needed to export the data to Microsoft Project to really finish it off. Given the current beta label this may be addressed in future releases.

Currently there is no published pricing plan. Accounts are free with an indication that anyone using during the beta period will receive a free one year subscription when they go live.

How useful is this? Realistically if you are looking for a tool to create gantt charts this doesn’t compete with commercial offerings just yet. However, this fully-web based application would bring some advantages for the ad-hoc gantt chart creation where other software was not available.

The export process is one of its main strengths at this point given the limited functionality. The process of getting the data into Microsoft Project was fairly easy although it defaulted my project start date to 2049! Nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily however.

I would recommend checking these guys out (particularly during their beta period) and see if it fits your gantt chart creation needs.

URL: http://www.tomsplanner.com

Twitter: @tomsplanner

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 24 Apr 2010 @ 10:20 PM

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 10 Apr 2010 @ 6:02 PM 

If you are a Windows users (Vista or Windows 7 from all accounts) you may have found that after the recent iTunes upgrade to version 9.1.0.79 that the Bonjour service suddenly stopped working.

For a good number of iTunes users this may mean little. However, if you are using an iPhone/iTouch with applications relying on the Bonjour service to communicate data then you are suddenly without a significant capability on your device.

I would assume that Apple will eventually realise the erro and send out a fix, however it has been about 2 weeks so far with very little chatter from any quarter as to what is going on. So if you are keen to get back the functionality you lost with the upgrade, here are some steps that may work for you.

Step 1: Remove the new Bonjour service
This needs to be done carefully so that you have minimal remnants left on your machine for the next step. I found the following blog post, How to Uninstall or Remove Bonjour Mdnsresponer.exe fairly helpful. The key thing to note here is that you are best to undertake a reboot after each uninstall process

Step 2: Downgrading the Bonjour service
The problem with the iTunes upgrade was that it upgraded the Bonjour service to version 2.0 which as it turned out seems to not like the Windows platform that much. Luckily you can still find the old version of Bonjour (version 1.0.6) from CNET Downloads. Download this version and install it onto your computer. Once the install is complete, give the machine another reboot to be safe

Step 3: Bonjour is now working
At this point, if you check the Services control panel applet you should see that the Bonjour service is now working. If you start your iTunes and look at the Sharing tab under the Preferences option in the Edit menu you should also see some options displayed instead of the helpful warning that the Bonjour service is not running and you should enable it.

I have tested this with all my applications using the Bonjour service and find that they work correctly using the old Bonjour installation. iTunes also functions without issue.

Good luck and hope this helps you out until Apple get their act together.

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 10 Apr 2010 @ 06:03 PM

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 09 Apr 2010 @ 1:39 AM 

For the fans of Modern Warfare 2, a fan tribute. Great production values!

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 09 Apr 2010 @ 01:39 AM

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Categories: Internet, Technology, Video

 09 Apr 2010 @ 12:57 AM 

A great new take on Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, an 8-bit version!

For lovers of the old school gaming, this version put together by Doctor Octoroc is a must see.

Check it out here

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 09 Apr 2010 @ 12:57 AM

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Categories: Humour, Technology

 07 Apr 2010 @ 11:42 PM 

Made available recently but with so little public fan fare you need to wonder how it was missed. Google have launched their own app store!

If you run Google Apps (as opposed to the basic Gmail and associated services; however it is available on the Standard and Professional editions of the service) you will see a new option in the Services section of your control panel called Google Apps Marketplace. This service provides a range of different web based applications that can integrate with your Google Apps domain.

The range is fairly good and aimed mostly at the business market at this stage. Given the nature of the Google Apps service this is understandable. However the average user will find apps that will enhance their mail or calendar management. A notable inclusion is the Aviary online image editing tool which enables you to create and edit images stored in the Google Docs folders.

Good move Google, let’s see how this develops.

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 07 Apr 2010 @ 11:42 PM

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 28 Mar 2010 @ 9:38 PM 

After a little bit of sabre rattling it would appear they have finally done it, or at least moved their services outside of the Chinese government control safely in Hong Kong (!) for the moment at least.

A leaked document from the Chinese government demonstrates the level of control that their media is put under:

All chief editors and managers:

Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens’ discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:

A. News Section

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources
2. Reposting must not change title
3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites
4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting;
5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden.
6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.

B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic
2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top
3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.
4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy
5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions
6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.

We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.

Addition guidelines:

– Do not participate in and report Google’s information/press releases
– Do not report about Google exerting pressure on our country via people or events
– Related reports need to put [our story/perspective/information] in the center, do not provide materials for Google to attack relavent policies of our country
– Use talking points about Google withdrawing from China published by relevant departments

I don’t think the content of the above would be of any real surprise. It seems along the lines of a PR department directive to company employees after a negative public event surrounding the company….with the exception of course it covers a country of billions of people.

Reference: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2010/03/the-latest-directives-from-the-ministry-of-truth-032310/

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 28 Mar 2010 @ 09:38 PM

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 03 Mar 2010 @ 11:40 PM 

Calling a tech support radio show…..an interesting action in response to losing your stolen WiFi access.

Leo does take it in his stride however.

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 03 Mar 2010 @ 11:40 PM

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 02 Mar 2010 @ 10:58 PM 

Anyone who has owned an iPhone for some time (or really anytime at all for that matter) will realise there are good apps, bad apps, useful apps and useless apps. Sadly the Fart App has been with us for some time not to mention an array of other useless and trivial apps.

Ok, I kind of get it….people want to have fun with their phone and I will admit to downloading some less that useful apps on my iPhone for a laugh (and then generally deleting them shortly after).

However, it would seem that these days may be behind the iPhone user with the refusal of the Duck Phone App. This app will (or rather would have) given you the ability have your phone quack at you when a call comes in. In the grand scheme of it possibly not the most useless app. This app is a reference to the US reality TV show Jersey Shore which features an old fashion duck shaped phone. Have to admit to not having seen the show before not really being a fan of the genre, however here is a clip which I am sure will demonstrate:

My question to Apple is this. Having recently removed all the “Sexy Apps” (with some notable exceptions) and now the “fart app category” of apps, are you trying to create a market for the less regulated apps stores?

Personally this won’t have a great deal of impact on me. I can get through the day without a duck phone and bikini girls on my phone. But the question of where the line will end up does raise itself a little. Who actually owns the individual iPhone? The person who is footing the bill or Apple? I would think that perhaps a little more freedom of choice would not be out of order from the company that took on “big brother” not that long ago:

Or perhaps, this version is a little more applicable today:

Posted By: Chief Tech
Last Edit: 13 Mar 2010 @ 03:04 PM

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