Monday, January 31, 2011

Android Takes a Bite Out of Apple


I know this is a technology blog and not a market blog but I came upon this information this morning and just had to share. As anyone who reads this tech blog knows I have a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and in fact it won the prestigious December 2010 "gadget of the month" on this very blog. As the past several weeks have gone by my love affair with my tablet has only matured and grown. The mixture of the convienenant 7" size and reliable Android software makes this a great mobile device for both work and pleasure. Anyway on to today's exciting market news.

Bloomsberg reported today that Android tablets have grabbed 22% of the market share this quarter. Samsung and Android must be very exicited about this turn of events. Unlike Apple's long masterly run at controlling the MP3 market with their IPOD, Android, and partners such as Samsung are going to be on their heals in the tablet market.

I don't expect Apple to continue plunging dramatically in the tablet market, however it is exciting to see their share reduced from 96% to 75% in just one quarter thanks to Android and Samsung.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Secure Your Facebook


Facebook has finally wroke up and decided to offer a secure browsing option for it's members. This is a critical new feature because it allows you to access Facebook on a secure connection (https as opposed to http). This however is not turned on by default but you can reportably manually activate this feature from "Account Settings". When I recently opened my "account settings" this option was not there yet. Perhaps Facebook is rolling this out soon so check your "account settings" from time to time to see if the feature has been added to your account.

I did however try the secure connection manually and it is available and working.
You can manually access the secure connection by entering https://www.facebook.com in your browser and signing in. Then replace this secure connection as your "favorite" anywhere you previously had your Facebook link.

This secure connection is the same type of connection utilized for banking and it protects the privacy of your information. Phising sites and other questionable sites are unable to see your information when you use a secure connection.

Altough Facebook warns that using the secure connection may slow down some surfing because of the encrypted session I would not worry so much about this. Another problem may involve some third-party applications which currently do not support https so be aware of this as well.

This is a big step for Facebook and it has been a long time coming.

Employee Training Scheduled for March 4, 2011


The next Information Technology Employee Training has been scheduled for March 4, 2011. The topics are timely and important to all of us. "Email Etiquette and Social Networking" complete our lesson plan. I will be sending out registration information soon. If anyone has any questions please contact me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Carl Sagan's NASA

This past weekend, my son (Kevin) took the time to show me this NASA video inspired by one of my favorite authors, Carl Sagan. Kevin knows through our many conversations that Sagan has inspired me since I first watched "Cosmos" back in 1980 (I was 16).

Several times each year I find myself re-reading one of Sagan's inspiring books which cover everything from evolution as he wrote about in "The Dragons of Eden" (1977), space exploration in "Pale Blue Dot" (1994), searching for the meaning of being human in "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" (1992) and life & death in his last book, "Billions & Billions" (1997). If you are ever in the need for inspiration, or you simply want to try and look at the universe in new and amazing ways check out one of Sagan's fascinating books or "Cosmos" on DVD.

To give you an idea of Carl Sagan's inspiration and thoughtful gift, check out this short NASA clip. The audio was recorded shortly before Sagan passed away in 1997. What is also truly incredible about the audio is that as I said Sagan recorded it in 1997 and the narrative is simply dead on for what is happening in the world around on today.

The Smartphone War


OK I just had to take a couple of minutes to talk about the big smartphone battle of 2011 and how it's shaping up (if you ask me). Don't get me wrong. There is indeed a lot of hub bub about Verizon's new iPhone. However mark my words. The Verizon iPhone is too late to do any real damage to Android. The iPhone landing at Verizon is big news and it surely gives Android more competition than it has ever had. In Android's favor is about 2 years of development and enhancement of it's OS while Apple danced exclusively with ATT. Now that Verizon and Apple have finally got together, ATT has started it's own partnership with Android. Now both Verizon & ATT stores will be stocked to the ceilings with iPhones and Androids with smaller and smaller space dedicated to other smartphones.

Also never forget, for every Apple lover there is probably an Android dihard. I believe that most smartphone users who have been using Android phones are not about to jump ship for an inferior phone.

What is true in this smartphone war is that Blackberry (RIM) and the other shartphone developers are starting to eat dust. RIM is continuing to lose marketshare and with Android's additional deal with ATT it is going to worsen. The only wildcard at this point is Windows Phone 7. However even here there are problems as most users seem to have a real problem of moving their Windows experience to their mobile phone.

It appears that as Android and Apple continue to take pot shots at each other for marketshare their competitors will continue to struggle for the measly remains.

A special thankyou to Staci King for the fine edits to this entry. I think I am going to have to add her to the Tech Blog staff!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Is There A Smartphone Zombie Attack Approaching?


The day is surely coming when our smartphones will be just as vulnerable to viruses and other computer infections just like our computers. To prove this point Georgia Weidman has created a "zombie" program which can infect Android phones. She will demonstrate this at the Shmoocon hacking conference later this month in Washington, D.C.

To prove that this is a credible issue here are two recent examples of smartphones being hacked.

1. Last August, a scam in Russia tricked users into installing malicious software on their Android phones and used SMS (text) functionality to send messages to a number charging a premium fee.

2. In late 2010, a Chinese virus for Android devices was used to steal personal information.

Now it may seem that hackers are picking on Android but that is not the case. Any smartphone can be infected.

Hackers relaize that the line between computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones is becoming more blurred each day and valuable personal information can usually be found on all of these devices.

As I mentioned in our December training class, hackers go where the money is and as smartphones continue becoming a bigger part of our lives you can bet that the security around these devices will need to be taken seriously by each and everyone of us.

Don't panic just yet. Smartphones remain relatively secure today. This is because of the use of managed markets such as the Apple Store and Google's Android Market. However time may be running out and soon anti-virus software may be necessary on our smartphones. Remember to use commonsense on your shartphone. If you did not request something, DO NOT OPEN IT! Even if it says it free.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Protecting Your Twitter Privacy

Twitter is quite different than Facebook in many ways. One of the biggest differences is that you do not have to ask to follow someone. Because of this you probably have many "followers" you don't know. If you take a look at your followers closely you will probably find many people and companies you probably don't want reading your "tweets". Recently many companies and other persons have started following people on twitter in order to get an idea of your likes, dislikes, habits etc in order to target advertisements your way.

Protect your privacy and clean up your "followers" on a regular basis. Here are step by step directions to do this.

Step 1: Click the followers list on the right side of your Twitter page.

Step 2: You will see a list of all your followers. Review the list and click on each follower you wish to block.

Step 3: On the far right side, click on the settings wheel and choose "Block".

Rinse and Repeat as necessary. This is an ever increasing problem on Twitter and I hope that eventually, like Facebook Twitter acount holders should be required to approve followers. Imagine, taking security lessons from Facebook. Amazing.

A special thank you goes out to co-worker Jay Ferriola for his question about this when he complained, "who are all these people following me on twitter!?"

Apple Users Beware


During December's Security Training I was asked why "Apple products" don't get viruses. I noted that one of the primary reasons was simply that the market share of Apple vs. PC was very small in comparison and hackers usually choose to spend their programming time on the biggest audience possible. Hackers want the biggest bang for all of their hard and evil work. The below article which appeared recently at Spamnews.com covers the growing threat to Apple products in general. The morale of this story is use common sense and protect your information, regardless if you are a PC user or an Apple user.

According to McAfee the security vendor, which recently released a research study, Mac OS is in more danger of Apple Trojans and botnets because users tend to have low knowledge of how to keep new Apple tools secured, which leads them into the danger of identity theft. Current.com published this on January 10, 2011.

Moreover, there are other threats to Mac OS, according to the security company like botnets' rising operations, increasing hacktivism, and growing networks of online television that can cause businesses to lose secret data in case they're targeted.

In its security alert, Michael Sentonas, Chief Technology Officer for Asia Pacific states that while Mac users earlier were immune from hackers' assaults, they're currently being increasingly targeted through Apple products. Smartcompany published this on January 11, 2011.

Sentonas further states that it's being observed that both business and home users are increasingly using the Mac operating system and with the OS' growing market share, it's quite expected that distributors of malicious programs will begin considering focusing their attacks on this platform. The CTO cautions that Mac users can't just take for granted that they'll be safe from attacks, hence they must embrace anti-virus applications while maintaining it up-to-date.

Additionally he states that his company on average is spotting some 60,000 fresh malware items daily. And with this amount being huge, there's greater requirement of user awareness about this problem.

Moreover, McAfee further cautions that security risk is growing during 2011 since every minute about 3,000 shortened URLs are created. The company in its 2011 Threat Predictions Report forecasts that there'll be more danger with URL-condensing utilities on social-networking websites. Also it forecasts that hackers on social-networking websites will increasingly concentrate on geo-location utilities like Gowalla, Foursquare as well as Facebook Places, which trace users' whereabouts and also publish them.

Eventually, McAfee notes that still other threats such as viruses from personal contacts, or malware camouflaged as genuine files and e-mails will all become more advanced thereby effectively deceive unsuspecting users during 2011. Besides, botnets will keep on using unlimited stolen bandwidth along with computing power across the world, the company adds.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Rochelle company seeks Office Manager

A local 3-store KFC operator, GDR Associates, Inc. is recruiting an Office Manager for their corporate office in New Rochelle. In this fast-paced, professional environment, the Office Manager serves as the first point of contact solving problems from the store managers or appropriately forwarding them to senior management.

READ THE REST & APPLY

Medical Data Entry - White Plains

Due to the continued growth of Park Avenue Health Care, we are seeking additional Data Entry staff for our Billing Dept.

Primary responsibility is to accurately enter physicians' and other providers' charges into the GE IDX System, to ensure proper payment from insurance carrier, and follow-up with providers re. Medicare PartA/B.

Job Requirements:

-Must know ICD9 coding and CPT coding

-Must be familiar w/diagnosis codes

-Must type min. 60 wpm

-Ability to read physicians' handwriting

-Must work accurately and on deadline

If interested, please Fax your resume to: B. Williams, 914-949-1245

Audio/Video Sr Sales Exec - Elmsford

We are a Audio Video Integration Company that does residential installs. We are seeking an Audio Video Senior Sales Executive to sell products and services in the Tri State area, maintain a sales quota and follow the below established guidelines.

-Identify and create new prospects through self-generated leads and sales contributions
-Service existing client base
-Follow up with all Customers to ensure a quality customer experience.

Responsibilities will include but not be limited to:

-Generate and present proposals.
-The ability to prepare basic system design.
-Develop price quotes and bid responses that are complete and accurate.

LEARN MORE & APPLY HERE

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chesapeake Wins. We Lose.

It certainly started off well. That's why we're really shocked that this (7 Man,1 Woman. Minus 1 Recused Councilman) City Council was apparently unmoved by the speeches from individuals who are ACTUALLY experiencing drilling operations RIGHT NOW within a few feet of their backyards. They seemed so disengaged or maybe they were just confused during the 3 1/2 4 hour meeting.


The proposed changes to the Grand Prairie Gas Drilling Ordinance had some excellent ideas put forth by City Staff. One of those included a 1,000 foot setback with only a possible 700 foot variance. This City Council doesn't seem to be very informed at all about shale gas drilling. People came to the microphone, poured their hearts out and then members just sat there like zombies. (Update: Maybe that's too harsh, and they just didn't know what to say.) The new Ordinance left out those most crucial parts the Westchester-Community Alliance requested.  Namely, a Public Overview and/or a Specific Use Permit required for each and every well site going in.


So, after all the speeches (mostly in SUPPORT of the new Ordinance as presented during the Work Session last Tuesday AND posted on the Web site) there was a vote on tabling this "Earlier Revised"  Ordinance so that we could have more time for feedback. That one didn't make it. And then there was another vote for going with a 700-foot setback with a 500 foot variance (presented at the 4:30 PM City Council Session). That one passed.


Yay, Team.


And then the BEST Part. They kind of went right to a vote to lift the 6-Month Moratorium. WHOOSH. Over and Out.
  • 1,000 foot setback becomes 700.

  • 700 foot setback variance becomes 500 AND

  • 6-Month Moratorium becomes 2-Month.

But the biggest kicker of all is how each and every gas operator that spoke tonight mentioned all the meetings they had with Environmental Services about the Ordinance during this hurry-up process.


So, to summarize, I guess what this Westchester Neighbor is saying is this:


We're really not a TEAM. We ARE Chesapeake.

Entering Blogtown

The West Chester Employee's Tech Blog is now featured at the Daily Local News Website. You can find us on the bottom right of the Daily Local News website and clicking on Blogtown.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thank You, Brett Shipp.



Link to the Story.



GREED. Play to the greed! It's all about the money. And that's really funny, since the average royalty payments over to our West are coming in at around $35 per month for the average resident. If at all. Ask Gary Hogan with the North Central Texas Communities Alliance. He'll be at City Hall tomorrow night. Just ask him what his royalty payments are over in the "heart" of the Barnett Shale.



Is $35 a month worth the loss of your property value, your health and the transformation of Grand Prairie residential communities into shale gas drilling industrial zones? It's already happening. Just ask your neighbors in Trailwood. Better yet, drive over to see it for yourself. Matthew Road between Bardin and Polo. You can't miss the industrial zone that used to be a cow pasture. It's so sad what they've done over there.


Come on down to the City Council Meeting at 6:30 PM. Be early if you can. We hear that Grand Prairie large landowners will be there to defend Chesapeake. We wonder if that will include our own City Councilman?? And be prepared to stay late. It should be very interesting. 


Come on down. Talk to the "small" group of Grand Prairie residents who have spent the last 7 months learning all they can about this shale gas drilling campaign in Grand Prairie, TX.  

Room with a View: Flashback!

CHESAPEAKE PRISON
Photobucket

Gotta love the barbed wire. Very nice touch, Chesapeake!
 
Update: This Monster FRAC Pond was plowed up (*cough* *cough*) and moved a few feet south just two weeks ago and now sits 150 feet from the backyards of Westchester Valley neighbors: neighbors who have NOT signed mineral leases. It had been measured at just 10 feet from our neighbors' backyards when this picture was taken on September 16, 2010 ~ I guess everything is all better, now.


Seems to us that even if you don't sign a MINERAL LEASE with Chesapeake, you may just end up with a Monster FRAC Pond in your dining room and/or a Pad Site in your backyard. Because Whatever Chesapeake Wants, Chesapeake Gets. Homeowners Beware!!

XP Tip: Add familiar icons back to your desktop

When you first got your computer, it probably had shortcuts for My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and the Recycle Bin on the desktop. If you or someone else removed any of those shortcuts and you’d like to get them back, you can easily restore them.

To restore you icons

Right-click the desktop, and then click Properties.

Desktop shortcut menu with Properties selected

In the Display Properties dialog box, click the Desktop tab, and then click Customize Desktop.

Desktop tab in Display Properties dialog box with Customize Desktop selected

In the Desktop icons area in the Desktop Items dialog box, select the desktop icons that you want to appear on your desktop.

Desktop Items dialog box

Click OK.

General tab in Desktop Items dialog box with OK selected

Click OK again.

Desktop tab in Display Properties dialog box with OK button selected

The icons you selected will be displayed on your desktop.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Backing Up Online Could Save The Day

Today there is no excuse to backup your files. You don’t even need to purchase any additional equipment. All you need to do is sign up with a service, install the software, follow the directions and before you know it your data is safe and sound, even if your computer isn't.

Why Online Backup?
Backing up to an Internet service makes a ton of sense, for three important reasons: For one, the data is stored off site, usually in Fort Knox-type secure servers. This means that in case of flood or fire or other property damage, you're covered.

A second argument for going with online backup is because it's automated. There's no need to insert or even have any CDs or DVDs or plug in a USB drive that may be susceptible to the calamities listed above. Online backup services automate the process of getting your files from your machines to the backed up storage, usually on a daily basis, and in some cases, they'll watch folders or files you've protected and upload the changes on the spot.

Finally, when you back up to online storage with most of these services, you'll not only have access to your files from any Web browser, but with some services, such as SOS and MiMedia, you can share the files to contacts via links in e-mail or even view photos in the web interface. MiMedia goes even beyond this with the ability to play video and music files.

Stay in Sync
In addition to the traditional online backup services listed below, you might consider syncing services like SugarSync, DropBox, Nomadesk, and Syncplicity. These keep folders on multiple computers up to date with any added or changed files. They also usually keep a copy in the cloud, so you could use one of these as a sort of minimal, hands-off form of online backup. A couple of services, like Nomadesk and MiMedia fall somewhere in between regular online backup and syncing services.

Price and Other Considerations
Within traditional online backup, services you have further subdivisions. One is price: Some, like Carbonite and Mozy, offer unlimited storage—but only for one PC. Others like SOS charge by the gigabyte, but let you backup multiple machines. In the end, expect to pay from $5 to $10 a month for a reasonable amount of backup. The unlimited providers will tell you that their option is best, but from what I've heard from industry executives, the average user backs up from 10 to 20GB, so you may find a better deal with a multi-PC plan than an unlimited.

Another differentiation is whether the service keeps all previous file versions when you save a change. Most do this, but the better ones like SOS even keep files that you delete from your protected machine. Since accidental deletions are a real possibility, this feature can really be a lifesaver, and is one reason why SOS is our Editors' Choice.Other niceties to look for in online backup are the ability to share files from your online storage and marks in Windows Explorer entries that show which files are backed up. Right-click menu options in the better products like SOS and Norton Online Backup also let you tell the service to back up a file or folder immediately.

Another option is to go with your security software provider's online backup. Most of the big suites now include at least some level of remote backup storage, and some rebrand products listed here. Webroot, for example, rebrands SugarSync.

As you can see, though it seems like a simple concept at first blush—store files from my PC on a server on the internet—there are plenty of options and features involved. After careful reading of the reviews below, you should be equipped to make the choice of which service best fits your needs. Note: this isn't every online backup service in the world, but we think these are most of the best. We'll be updating this roundup as we look at more of them.

Here are my top three picks for online backup services at home.

Carbonite 4.0 : Carbonite.comCarbonite 4.0

$54.95/year for one PC with unlimited storage
Carbonite is a mature online backup service, but it lacks many desirable features you'll find in the competition. It offers unlimited remote backup storage, and handily marks backed-up files in Windows Explorer. It also has a good Mac version and a so-so iPhone app. But an account only covers one PC and its backup servers aren't geographically redundant. It also lacks file sharing or viewing, live protection, and doesn't back up external or network drives.

IDrive logoIDrive (Spring 2010)

$4.95/month per PC with 150GB
IDrive's support for up to five computers in one account, version saving, Web interface and fast operation are welcome, but you can't mix Macs and PCs, and there are still some rough edges, compared with the competition. Still, the service is much improved since our last review.

MozyHome logoMozyHome 2.0

$54.45/year
Mozy improves ease of use and setup, but still supports just one computer per account and doesn't let you back up network or removable drives. That keeps it a step behind the competition.

Thank You.



We requested that the Ordinance go online.  And there it is ~ a link to the *Proposed" newly revised Grand Prairie Shale Gas Drilling Ordinance. It will be voted on this Tuesday night, January 18th, by City Council at City Hall beginning at 6:30 PM ~ following the  Public Hearing.


Take a look and see. It's a far cry from what it was. It appears that the Ordinance is still not allowing for a Specific Use Permit through P&Z ~ a #1 priority for this Westchester Neighbor. 


Of course, we're glad to see the 1,000 foot setback for Protected Use Properties including homes, schools, churches. The current setback is 500 ft. The proposed Ordinance allows for a "variance" from the 1,000 foot setback to no less than 700 ft. if approved by City Council after a Public Hearing.  And there's a requirement that the Permit from a gas operator provide detailed information about all drilling equipment including pipeline construction. Take a look and see what you think. 



Correspondence sent by Chesapeake to lessors in Grand Prairie, TX (those who have signed leases allowing Chesapeake to extract the shale gas from under their property) requests that they attend the meeting in opposition to the proposed Shale Gas Drilling Ordinance.  AND that they not listen to the "activists" or the "protestors." (Laura Patton misspells the word in the correspondence.) Maybe "protestors" are different than protesters. Not sure.



I guess we'll see what happens Tuesday night.



Part II: "We Don't Want No Moratorium"

Back in the summer, July 19th, to be precise, there was a Westchester Town Hall Meeting about the shale gas drilling issue.  Flyers were distributed all across the area, signs were posted, panelists were invited. 


These panelists included:  Gary Hogan of the North Central Texas Communities Alliance, Sharon Wilson of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Mayor Calvin Tillman of Dish, TX, Cherelle Blazer of the Environmental Defense Fund, Jim Cummings, Environmental Services Director for the City of Grand Prairie, Ron Jensen (City Councilman for District 6) and Laura Patton representing Chesapeake.


Before that meeting got underway, we were greeting neighbors as they arrived at the Oaks Baptist Church and asking people to sign the Petition for a Moratorium on all gas drilling activities.  We had decided that the current Gas Drilling Ordinance was in need of stronger protections for our neighborhoods.  A man came to the table, picked up a petition and then yelled out, "We Don't Want No Moratorium."  Later, we discovered that this man was either a landman for Chesapeake or in some way connected with that company.  He clearly had a vested interest in stopping our efforts.


Keeping all of that in mind, here is Part II of the Chesapeake Town Hall Meeting held on December 7, 2010 in Grand Prairie, TX.


Unhinged: Part I

Chesapeake "Town Hall"

Grand Prairie, TX (Southwestern Dallas County)

December 7, 2010
Chesapeake (Literally) Blows Their Own Horn

After Blowing a LOT of Hot Air!
(starting at around 5 Minutes...)


Friday, January 14, 2011

Is Cloud Computing in Your Future?


What is Cloud Computing you ask? Cloud computing is an increasingly broad topic that encompasses everything from Google Apps to data center services to virtualization to software-, infrastructure- and platform-as-a service. Technology executives are increasingly interested in cloud computing as a way to save money. Nevertheless, cloud adoption remains in the single digits amid security concerns.

I believe that cloud computing is a game changer. Key players include: IBM, HP, Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com, NetSuite, VMware as well as dozens of others.

This could result in a substantial cost savings to local governments especially in today's down turned economic market. I will be writing more on this as I prepare my final project, with this as my topic of choice for my CIO course. I hope to take all of you, my dedicated readers on for the ride as we learn about the future of cloud computing together. I will explain how we may all be swept up in "cloud computing", perhaps kicking and screaming, but we will be heading in that direction, like it or not.

Do You Know Why It's Cold?

William Mann (@cdmann) has shared a Tweet with you:

"michiokaku: In Brazil, its 85 degrees, while the US is frozen, so the seasons are due to the tilt of the earth, not its distance from the sun."
--http://twitter.com/michiokaku/status/25867798693552128

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Voyager's Pale Blue Dot

Now I realize that this is not anything that can help protect your computer or reviews some gadget you can purchase, however as I read my book about Voyagers 1 & 2 I wanted to share this short clip of Carl Sagan talking about when Voyager 1 turned around half way out out our solar system and took an amazing photo of our planet. Earth looks so very small here and Sagan captures the moment so perfectly that everyone should watch this video at least once.

Why Pay for Antivirus Protection Today?

Who says you don’t get anything for free anymore. It might be rare nowadays but it does happen and antivirus applications is an example. Today when you sign up with Verizon or Comcast for internet access one of the first things that you are charged for is “security protection”. There is no reason to pay an additional fee for these services. Do yourself a favor. Check out your internet bill and if you see these charges call your provider and cancel the security services. After you have done this, first uninstall the old antivirus program (usually Symantec or MacAfee)  and then install one of the following free antivirus solutions. Use the extra money to treat yourself to a night out or pick up a gift for your favorite IT blogger. 

AVG Anti-Virus Free EditionAVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is a great choice for a free antivirus. I have been using this one for years and this application has seen impressive improvements and enhancements recently. This antivirus program offers a high level of protection. This is due to the inclusion of a fully-fledged behavioral blocker that is the "Identity Protection" protection.

There is a paid version which offers more security and firewall protection.

 

Microsoft Security EssentialsMicrosoft Security Essentials is a growing favorite; with good detection rates, particularly for rootkits. Even more impressive is that Security Essentials has very few false positives, is light on system resources and is good at removal of existing malware.

Microsoft Security Essentials is the best choice for average users because of the minimal user interaction required. It automatically updates and removes threats. No registration is needed, apart from a quick validating of Windows, and there are no nag screens or advertisements.

The main downsides are the slow scan speeds and the lengthy amount of time it takes to quarantine malware but because this is relatively new in the free antivirus game I expect improvements here soon.

In conclusion, between these two excellent antivirus solutions I would recommend that those of us who are less “tech savvy” s check out Microsoft Security Essentials while those of use with a little more computer knowledge and awareness stick with AVG for now.

* Important Note: If you do this, make sure you act immediately, first uninstall the old antivirus applicantion and install the new program without delay! Your computer will not be protected properly until you do this.

Tech Blog Now On Twitter


The West Chester Employee's Tech Blog is also now on Twitter. For those of you not familure with Twitter check it out and sign up to receive Twitter updates on your SmartPhone, tablet or even your plain old computer (how old school).

I think of Twitter as a great way to stay up to date with topics that interest you. Today all news sources have Twitter feeds and agencies like NASA post updates there as well.

If you do not have a Twitter feed you can learn more and sign up at www.twitter.com.

If you already have a Twitter account sign up for the West Chester Tech Blog page at http://twitter.com/wctechblog.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Microsoft Security Updates for January 2011

Part of the mission of the West Chester Employee's Technology Blog is to help keep us cyber safe both in the office and at home. Each month Microsoft releases "patches", usually updating security concerns and funcionality in your operating system. I will be posting these updates and links here as often as possible. With that being said here are January's Microsoft updates and links.

Because the updates are scheduled to run on the computers in our office you should be fine but if you have any questions please let me know. You may want to check your home computers, laptops however when I send thiese updates.

Microsoft security updates for January 2011
As part of Microsoft's routine, monthly security update cycle, 2 new security updates were released on January 11, 2011.

Latest Security Updates
MS11-001 - addresses a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows (KB 2478935)
MS11-002 - addresses vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows (KB 2451910)

Tuesday Night at Theo's

Seen and Overheard Last Night


After the 3 1/2 Hour Grand Prairie City Council Work Session on the Proposed *New* Shale Gas Drilling Ordinance ~ Chesapeake representatives* Gas company contractors were later overheard discussing and dissing the work session and individual City Council members... 


and big-time dissing of


Environmental Services Director, Jim Cummings. 


Chesapeake reps Gas company contractors said they were "overall" very happy ~ especially with Greg Giessner and Mark Hepworth. Must have had something to do with their wanting to keep the minimum setback for pad sites at 500 ft.


Apparently, Councilman Giessner (At-Large Rep for Grand Prairie, TX) and Councilman Hepworth (District 1 Rep for Grand Prairie's Northern Sector) are Chesapeake's shale gas drilling contractors' new best friends. That's OK. To each his own.


Westchester-Grand Prairie Community Alliance would like to especially thank Mayor Charles England for his statements that were very supportive of  the concerns of the Alliance. Thank you, Mayor England.


And sometimes...



Some politicians just don't get it.  But that's what elections are for. 


Interesting, this.


P.S. Chesapeake Shale gas contractors may want to know that members of the Grand Prairie community who are very informed about shale gas drilling sometimes go to Theo's. And sometimes they can't help but overhear conversations at adjacent tables. Just a few points to ponder.



*Correction:  Apologies to Chesapeake Energy. We cannot confirm that the contractors were associated with Chesapeake. They were dressed very nicely and looked very professional.  They certainly didn't sound very professional. So, it's good to know (from Laura Patton, Public Affairs Supervisor for the City of Grand Prairie/Chesapeake) that none of their reps were at Theo's Tuesday night. WHEW!

Apple Takes a Swing at Android


At one point ATT’s iPhone was obviously the favorite and best Smartphone on the market. One has to only look back to earlier last year when Windows Mobile was struggling to compete and Android was learning the mobile game. Anyway things have surely changed during the past year or so in the mobile world. Windows Mobile 7 is actually getting some rave reviews and Android seems to get more functional and fun with each software upgrade.

Yesterday’s announcement from Verizon has the entire mobile market a flutter with activity and excitement. I admit, at one point yesterday I even felt of momentary shiver run down my spine (at least thats what I think that was). However after reading up on this new Verizon iPhone I have some serious concerns that anyone thinking about moving from an existing Smartphone should consider first.

1. Unfortunately, the iPhone 4 will only run on Verizon’s 3G CDMA network and not on its newly-launched 4G LTE network. There are Smartphones on the market now that take advantage of the new 4G network.

2. Has Apple fixed the antenna problem in this new iteration of the iPhone 4 for Verizon? Naturally, Apple hasn’t said that it has changed anything with the iPhone antenna. Why can’t Apple simply answer the question?

3. Once again you have 2 choices, 16gb or 32gb of storage. No room to upgrade the memory on your own. If you enjoy music and video on your Smartphone why should Apple decide (and limit) your local storage capability?

4. Of course the new iPhone5 is reportedly going to be hitting the market in June 2011. Does this not seem strange to you?

I think it is great news that the iPhone is finally available on another carrier but the world is a dark and scary place and things like this just don’t happen by accident. A strong possibility is that Apple’s strategy was to do this now simply to try and stem the growing tide of the Android wave.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Watch Out For What You Wish For


Yesterday I was discussing the pending launch of the I-Phone on the Verizon Wireless network with my college age son. Kevin said something about this possibility that actually made me sit back and think if this was such a good idea after all. When the I-Phone becomes available (and it will, eventually) on the Verizon Wireless Network what will that mean to competition among developers such as Apple, Android and Microsoft? If the I-Phone explodes on the Verizon network will Android and Microsoft's marketshare be hurt so badly that developing and improving mobile software will suffer? It's a good question that my son made me think about.

This reminds me of an old episode of Star Trek when Spock remarks to a fellow Vulcan who was basically having an affair with his wife (yes Spock was married at one point) that he could have his wife saying, "You can have her, she is all yours, but you may find that HAVING is not always as pleasing a thing as WANTING". Spock was of course right about that, and I only hope that if and when the I-phone becomes available on Verizon Wireless that the mobile market continues to thrive with competetion and does not turn into a one trick pony. That would be really boring.

Bonus Video!

Is Surface 2.0 in Our Future?

Microsoft & Samsung recently announced a very cool technology called "Surface 2.0", which I believe will take computing into a completly new direction for service oriented computing. Check out this recent demo and consider the possibilities.

A "Track-It" Thank You!

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone for working with the IT Department and entering your technology related service requests in "Track-It". This is big help to me in respect to prioritizing and responding to everyone's work order requests. Thanks again and keep the work orders coming!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dam.



Joe Pool Lake Dam and Spillway
Less than 850 Feet 
from the Corn Valley Pad Site
210 West Camp Wisdom Road
Grand Prairie, TX

A Message to our Leaders

We have been told by Mayor England (via an informal comment made following Citizen Comments during the December 14, 2010 City Council Meeting) ~ that there is to be a Tuesday, January 11, 2011 "Workshop" at 4:30 PM on the proposed changes to the Grand Prairie Shale Gas Drilling Ordinance. An Ordinance that seems to allow gas operators an open invitation to do what they wish in our city and the extra territorial jurisdictions. [4:30 PM certainly limits the attendance.]



Statement from the Minutes of the Grand Prairie City Council December 14, 2010 Meeting:


Link (See Page 12 of the 13 Page document.)



"Mayor England stated that a Council workshop is planned for January 11, 2011 to discuss the draft gas drilling ordinance."


So, the question is: Why haven't informed citizens of Grand Prairie been invited to participate in this "Workshop"? As we understand it, this event is only a discussion among City Council members. We are very surprised that citizens will not be allowed any input. Especially since we also understand that the new "Grand Prairie Gas Drilling Ordinance" may be voted on during the Public Hearing to be held only one week later ~ on January 18, 2011. And since this is one of our primary issues ~ that citizens have not been allowed any input into the Shale Gas Drilling Ordinance decisions ~ we are very disappointed with the unfolding events.



We also understand that many of the issues that were proposed during the Environmental Services Public Meeting on August 31, 2010 are not being addressed.


But this is just what we "hear." We wonder if two of our biggest concerns are being addressed:  Shale gas drilling should be part of regular Planning and Zoning Review via SUPs (Specific Use Permits) AND a Gas Drilling Advisory Commission should be appointed (composed of informed citizens).



The Westchester-Grand Prairie Community Alliance compiled a document for consideration by October 1st (as requested). After submitting this document, we have not received any direct communication from the City for our efforts.



Even with the current "6-Month Moratorium," we have no choice but to believe that this Moratorium may have been little more than a publicity stunt.



As of this date, citizens of Grand Prairie have not been "invited" to the table to discuss shale gas drilling in our communities. And we have a lot to share.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Facebook Here We Come!


I am really trying here friends and co-workers. The West Chester Employee's Tech Blog is also now on Facebook. If you have a Facebook account and follow this page you will more then likely not miss any of the exciting topics being covered here. Check it out here. Be sure to choose "like" and keep pace with the ever changing world by keeping in touch with the West Chester Employee's Tech Blog.

LogMeIn Updates


Many of you have asked me from time to time, "There is an application that wants to update called LogmeIn. Is this OK?" The answer is "Yes". The borough has a corporate account with LogMeIn and it is an important tool which I use to remotely access our workstations in order to provide support when I am not physically on site. Therefore it is safe to run the updates for this application when you are prompted.

Computer Security Slideshow Available

If you missed out on the Computer Security Training last month, the slideshow is here for you. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Email Etiquette Training Announced

Email Etiquette is a hot topic these days in the professional world. How should email be handled? When is email an appropriate response as opposed to a phone call, or face-to-face conversation? These and many other issues will be discussed in our next information technology training class which will be held in early March. Below are some email etiquette “tips” which will all be discussed when we get together for the training.

32 email etiquette tips:

email_toon

1. Be concise and to the point
2. Answer all questions, and pre-empt further questions
3. Use proper spelling, grammar & punctuation
4. Make it personal
5. Use templates for frequently used responses
6. Answer swiftly
7. Do not attach unnecessary files
8. Use proper structure & layout
9. Do not overuse the high priority option
10. Do not write in CAPITALS
11. Don't leave out the message thread
12. Add disclaimers to your emails
13. Read the email before you send it
14. Do not overuse Reply to All
15. Mailings > use the bcc: field or do a mail merge
16. Take care with abbreviations and emoticons
17. Be careful with formatting
18. Take care with rich text and HTML messages
19. Do not forward chain letters
20. Do not request delivery and read receipts
21. Do not ask to recall a message.
22. Do not copy a message or attachment without permission
23. Do not use email to discuss confidential information
24. Use a meaningful subject
25. Use active instead of passive
26. Avoid using URGENT and IMPORTANT
27. Avoid long sentences
28. Don't send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks
29. Don't forward virus hoaxes and chain letters
30. Keep your language gender neutral
31. Don't reply to spam
32. Use cc: field sparingly

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Voyager 1 and 2 Trek On

While reading "Voyager: Seeking New Worlds in the Third Age of Discovery" by Stephen J. Pyne which obviously covers the great history and ongoing missions of the Voyager 1 & 2 Spacecrafts. I cannot help but think of the great Carl Sagan who was such a big part of these awesome missions. Here is Carl Sagan talking a little bit about Voyager's accomplishments from 1990.

The Voyager program is a series of U.S. unmanned space missions that consists of a pair of unmanned scientific probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable planetary alignment of the late 1970s. Although they were officially designated to study just Jupiter and Saturn, the two probes were able to continue their mission into the outer solar system. They are currently on course to eventually exit the solar system. These probes were built at JPL and were funded by NASA. Voyager 1 is currently the farthest human-made object from Earth.



Carl Sagan passed away on December 20, 1996 and he is missed by anyone who has a love of science and a desire to learn about the cosmos in which we are a ever so small part of.

Barnes & Noble’s New Color Nook


I’m a sucker for a good book and because I simply love gadgets & Barnes & Noble this was sure to be a winner for me so keep that in mind as you read on. Also know that although I had purchased the earlier E-Ink version I just had to have this one. Don’t worry because I was lucky enough to receive enough gift cards this Christmas in order to purchase this one.

Only one year after the release of the original Nook,  Barnes and Noble introduced the Nook Color, an e-reader designed for reading newspapers, magazines, children's books, cookbooks, and other color content in addition to e-books.

The first thing you will notice, especially if you have had experience with the earlier E-Ink version is that the Nook Color is heavier then it’s sister version. But that’s OK. Just think of it as one of those 1000 hardback page turners! 

The Nook Color also doubles as a portable multimedia device capable of browsing the web, playing video, music, games, and a lot more. This should be enhanced once Barnes and Noble launches the new Nook App Store in early 2011.

The Nook Screen
The Nook Color definitely lives up to its name with its 7-inch VividView touchscreen from LG that can display more than 16 million colors. Images are exceptionally bright and detailed, especially with magazines that use high-quality photographs like National Geographic.

The Nook uses a capacitive touchscreen so you barely have to touch the display for it to react. Scrolling, pinch-to-zoom, highlighting, tapping letters on the keyboard, and navigating through menus all work very easily.

The interface is impressive as well. Navigating is faster and more intuitive with a touchscreen. The on-screen functions, being able to tap words to look up in the dictionary, adding highlights and notes, are all much more functional than the original Nook.

However, like any LCD e-reader, the main drawbacks of the screen are that it is reflective, drains battery power, and fingerprints build up. Outside in direct sunlight the screen is highly reflective and fingerprints are much more apparent, but both are much less noticeable indoors with the brightness turned up. If you like reading on the beach, with the sun directly above this may be a show stopper for you.


Limited Nook Power
As for battery life, it is rated at about 8 hours for reading, which seems to be pretty accurate with the brightness turned down some. My original Nook could sit on my night stand for days, not plugged in without needing a charge, after nightly reading. This is not the case with the Nook Color. Get used to keeping it plugged in when not in use.


Plenty of Memory and Built In Games
The Nook Color comes with 8GB of internal memory and a microSD card slot for cards up to 32GB, built-in WiFi and a web browser, chess, crosswords, Sodoku, Pandora Internet Radio.

Facebook, Twitter and Sharing Books!

Like the older E-Ink Nook, this new Nook can lend ebooks for a period of 14 days. Impressively, the Nook Color has social networking incorporated into it’s interface! Another new feature from B&N is called NOOKfriends, where you can share passages with friends and family through email and social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter. I have not tried this one yet but I am sure my friends on Facebook and Twitter will appreciate it once I start exploring this feature more. This is big for me because my friends on Twitter and Facebook love to keep up with what I am reading!

Nook Functionality

The home menu of the Nook Color is reached by pushing the "n" button below the display. This is the only hardware button with the exception of the volume and power keys. The homescreen background image can be changed and you can drag your books around to arrange them however you want.

There are several other ways to organize content too. In the library there are options for different bookshelf layouts, including custom shelves. There are sections for magazines, newspapers, and your side-loaded content, which includes EPUB and PDF ebooks, Microsoft Office files, music, images, and videos.

As you might guess with a full color touchscreen, Barnes and Noble is doing a lot of promoting for newspapers and magazine subscriptions with the Nook Color, as well as the newly-launched Nook Kid's portion of B&N's books. In fact, there's a feature called AliveTouch where kids can interact with word and pictures, and even have books read aloud to them as they follow along. Sadly my boys are 19 and 23 so I really have no one to try this out with, but I am sure it is a fun feature for kids.

Reading Features on the Nook

For reading features, the Nook comes with several customizing options. There are 6 text sizes, font types, and color themes to choose from. There are 3 levels of adjustment for margins and line height. There's a brightness adjuster. And an option to turn on and off publisher defaults.

Other reading features include jumping between chapters and pages using the table of contents and slider bar, searching for words or phrases, and adding bookmarks. There's a pop-up for writing reviews and recommending books that also lists other books written by the author and similar books other customers bought.

For newspaper reading, everything is laid out into sections, which can be navigated by using the table of contents. Each section shows a heading and excerpt. Tapping the heading goes to the full article. Be aware I did try out the US Today on this and was very disapointed with it's particular functionaility. Newspaper viewing quality differs from paper to paper. I was also disapointed that the Philadelphia Inquirer was not available at this time, but one can hope.

Magazines are a little different. Some operate the same way as newspapers but most are set up like their print counterparts. With these you can zoom in on the images and articles, or choose to read in "Article View", which pops-up a box with nicely formatted text.

Purchasing Content

It is very easy to browse the Barnes & Noble store on the nook and the interface is fun. You can also shop for content on your computer and your purchased content will be available on your Nook almost immediately.

Final Nook Thoughts

Barnes and Noble has done a great job with the new Nook Color. It is well made with a metal frame and although it's heavier then the previous E-Ink version it is not uncomfortably heavy. The user interface is smooth and intuitive. The color screen is gorgeous. Right now third party Android apps are not available on the Color Nook but I am hoping that they will be available soon, which would truly enhance this device in the every expanding tablet market.

If you are looking for a great e-book reader then this is a device you should seriously consider. However if you want a device to handle email, true internet browsing, gaming in addition to e-books check out the Samsung Galaxy tablet and yes, even Apple’s I-PAD. As I mentioned earlier, if and when third party Android apps are available, the Nook Color could play a part in seriously competing in the tablet market.

Whatever Happened to My Old Nook Anyway?
Oh and if were wondering what ever happened to my one year old E-Ink Nook. Well, my 19 year-old son was more then happy to take it off my hands!

Nook Color Specs

  • 7-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen, 1024 x 600 at 169 PPI
  • Android 2.1 operating system (Upgrading to 2.2 next year)
  • ARM Cortex A8 processor
  • 8GB internal memory; microSD card slot for cards up to 32GB
  • WiFi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Web browser
  • Pandora internet radio
  • Lend ebooks with B&N's LendMe feature
  • Audio: AAC and MP3 formats; 3.5mm headphone jack; built-in speaker
  • Video Player: MP4 format
  • Image Viewer: JPG, BMP, PNG, and GIF
  • Supports ePub and PDF formats, both non and Adobe DRM
  • Quickoffice Software for viewing Microsoft Office files: .xls, .doc, .ppt, .pps, .txt, .docm, .xlsm, .ppsx, .ppsm, .docx, .xlx, .pptx
  • Games: Crossword Puzzles, Sudoku, Chess, etc
  • Weight: 15.8 ounces (449 grams)
  • Dimensions: 8.1 inches x 5 inches x 0.48 inches
  • Battery: up to 8+ hours



Training Update & Thank You

First, I would like to thank everyone who particapted in our first information technology training session on December 21, 2010. 30 students particpated and I hope that the topic of "Computer Security" was helpful.

I am working on our next class which should be in March 2011 which will include two topics. The first topic will include "Email Etiquette and Management" and the second topic is still being planned. If anyone has any ideas about March's agenda or any other possible future topics please contact me.

Creating Forms in Microsoft Word


Many people use Word to create "traditional forms." Traditional forms are
typically printed and reproduced to be filled-in by someone using a pen, pencil, or typewriter. They may include checkboxes, but often simply include response lines.

When putting together a form, many people type some text, and then follow that by a line for the form user to fill in. When creating the line, you have many different techniques you can use. The simplest is to use the underscore character (a shifted dash) to create the line. If you have multiple lines in the form you are creating, you won't get a professional look by using the underscore. This is due to the variable nature of proportional space fonts. When you use the underscore with other text on the same line, the right edges of your lines almost never line up.

To get around this problem, you can use tabs with leader characters to get a professional look. Simply type your text, followed by a space, then hit the Tab key. Format the line so that it has a right-aligned tab at the place you want the line to stop. Also make sure that the tab uses the underscore character for a leader. This approach looks much more professional than if you use underscores.

You can also use tables to put together your forms. For instance, you could use a two-column table. In the left column you would place your prompting text, and in the right put your underline characters. This is an easy approach, but it often places your fill-in-the-blank area (the underline) quite a distance from the prompting text. If you are creating simple forms, this may be more than acceptable, however.

Finally, you can use the drawing toolbar in Word to create your underlines. If you do this, you can place your underlines anywhere you want and make them any thickness you want. You display the drawing toolbar by selecting Toolbars from the View menu, and then making sure Drawing is selected.

If you want to frame your form, meaning to put a border around the whole thing, there are four ways you can do so. The first is by using a standard Word text box. If you do, however, make sure you create the text box before starting to design your form. If you don't, the text box displaces the text in your form and you need to move it all within the text box later. You can, of course, select the text that makes up your form, and then choose to insert a text box. In this case, the selected text (which is your form) is placed inside the text box. You may then have some reformatting to do to ensure your form appears as you expect.

Another way to put a border around your form is to use the rectangle tool from the drawing toolbar. Simply draw a rectangle around your form. If you use this method of bordering, some of the elements of your form (particularly if you are drawing lines) may disappear, depending on your drawing settings. You can get around this by selecting the rectangle and using the positioning tools on the drawing toolbar. The idea is to send the rectangle completely to the back of your form by selecting the Send to Back tool or the Send Behind Text tool.

A third way to create the border is to simply select all the paragraphs in your form and then choose Borders and Shading from the Format menu. You can select the type of border to create, and then choose a line effect for the border. There is one instance when this type of border will not work as expected: if you use different margin formatting on the paragraphs in your form. For instance, you may have a couple of paragraphs with a half-inch left and right indent, which makes the margins different than the other paragraphs in the form. In this case, this type of border will not look good.

If your form takes up an entire sheet of paper, you can add a border to the page itself. You do this by choosing Borders and Shading from the Format menu and then working with the Page Borders tab. The controls on this tab are very similar to those on the Borders tab, with the exception that they apply to the page as a whole.

A final word on putting your forms together: If you want to create check boxes, you can do so by using symbols. Choose Symbol from the Insert menu, and then make sure the Wingdings font is selected. Near the right side of the third row of symbols are a couple of boxes. These provide different effects, but work great for check boxes. Experiment a bit and select the box that is right for you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Last Hurrah?



Sunset Review Announcement
January 12, 2011

Austin, Texas
[...]

The report recommends an agency overhaul and the abolishment of the three commissioners, to be replaced by a five member appointed board.
One of the key criticisms is that the commissioners "rely on campaign contributions from the regulated industry." [emphasis added.]

[...]
Fingers Crossed

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Josh Fox Gives A Good Speech

"Civil Disobedience is the Opposite of Terrorism."
~ Josh Fox, Director of "Gasland" 
(Pennysylvania Speech in early November, 2010)




Saturday, January 1, 2011

Half Way To Pluto

Pluto_New_HorizonsDaily life is stressful enough and one of the things that keep me keep me grounded is keeping pace with science and technology. Exploring our universe should be much more important then it seems to be. Anyway did you know that in we have a spacecraft half way to ex-planet Pluto? I personally can not wait to see what we find when we finally get there in 2015. Here is some very cool information to get you up to date on NASA’s current mission to explore Pluto.  

After an intense political battle, a revised mission to Pluto, dubbed New Horizons, was granted funding from the US government in 2003.[New Horizons was launched successfully on January 19, 2006. The mission leader, S. Alan Stern, confirmed that some of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, who died in 1997, had been placed aboard the spacecraft.

In early 2007 the craft made use of a gravity assist from Jupiter. Its closest approach to Pluto will be on July 14, 2015; scientific observations of Pluto will begin 5 months before closest approach and will continue for at least a month after the encounter. New Horizons captured its first (distant) images of Pluto in late September 2006, during a test of the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).[The images, taken from a distance of approximately 4.2 billion kilometres, confirm the spacecraft's ability to track distant targets, critical for maneuvering toward Pluto and other Kuiper Belt objects.

New Horizons will use a remote sensing package that includes imaging instruments and a radio science investigation tool, as well as spectroscopic and other experiments, to characterise the global geology and morphology of Pluto and its moon Charon, map their surface composition and analyse Pluto's neutral atmosphere and its escape rate. New Horizons will also photograph the surfaces of Pluto and Charon.

 

Discovery of moons Nix and Hydra may present unforeseen challenges for the probe. Debris from collisions between Kuiper belt objects and the smaller moons, with their relatively low escape velocities, may produce a tenuous dusty ring. Were New Horizons to fly through such a ring system, there would be an increased potential for micrometeoroid damage that could disable the probe.

Oh No! Not my Android Too!

Pirated Apps Smuggle Trojans Onto Android Phones

Pirated Apps Smuggle Trojans Onto Android Phones

A bit of malware that could allow hackers to control victims' phones is making its way around Android handsets. A Trojan called "Geinimi" apparently is able to sneak into Android phones by way of pirated apps available through third-party China-based Android apps stores. It appears the original versions of the malware-riddled apps are not infected.


Do you know how much you're spending on software your users never use? Find out Today. Download a free 30-day trial of Asset Manager today! ScriptLogic Asset Manager — Relief for your Irritable Budget Syndrome.

A new Trojan that can create botnets has emerged in China, according to Lookout Mobile Security.

This Trojan, dubbed "Geinimi," is the most sophisticated Android malware so far, the company said.

Once it's installed on a user's phone, Geinimi can receive commands from a remote server that lets that server's owner control the smartphone.

Geinimi is apparently being spread through pirated versions of legitimate Android apps, mainly games, and is being distributed in third-party Android app stores in China.

 

How Geinimi Works

When a smartphone user launches an infected application containing Geinimi, the Trojan collects information in the background.

This information includes location coordinates and unique identifiers for the device and its SIM card, Lookout Mobile said.

Every five minutes, the Trojan tries to connect to a remote server using one of 10 embedded domain names. These domain names include www.widifu.com; www.udaore.com; www.frijd.com; www.islpast.com and www.piajesj.com, according to the security company.

If Geinimi manages to connect to the remote server, it will upload information it collected. The Trojan also prompts the user to uninstall an app, and it sends a list of installed apps to the remote server, Lookout Mobile said.

The malware's creators have used an off-the-shelf bytecode obfuscator to hide the code and have encrypted some of the command-and-control data. This data comes into play when the Trojan connects back from a victim's smartphone to the remote server.

Where the Virus Lurks

Pirated applications that include the Trojan that are available in Chinese app stores include "Monkey Jump 2;" "Sex Positions;" "President vs. Aliens;" "City Defense;" and "Baseball Superstars 2010," Lookout Mobile said.

However the original versions of these apps that are in the official Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android Market have not been affected, Lookout Mobile said.

"The Trojan is an add-on, so it could be uploaded to any app on the Android Market, but so far the infected apps have only shown up in the Chinese app markets," Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer at Lookout Mobile, told TechNewsWorld.

"We contacted the developers, and they didn't know this was going on or that their games were being pirated," Mahaffey added.

Green Isn't Always Good

"We see the exact same thing with software for Windows in China all the time," Chester Wisniewski, a senior security adviser at Sophos, told TechNewsWorld.

"The malware authors convert legitimate Windows apps into adware and offer it for free, and it wouldn't surprise me if they took the same approach with Android," Wisniewski explained. "There's a term in Chinese that translates to something like 'green software,' and that refers to pirated versions of software."

About 80 percent of so-called green software on websites in China contain malware, Wisniewski said.

No Sailing the 7 Seas Yet

Geinimi was discovered on a user forum in China, Lookout Mobile's Mahaffey said.

While the malware currently affects only users in China, it could well spread elsewhere.

"Mobile devices have a fairly international user base, and there's a lot of cross-pollination of apps," Mahaffey pointed out. "But so far, the market is still localized."

Google can easily prevent the spread of the Trojan by kicking the app off Android, Randy Abrams, director of technical education at ESET, pointed out. "Why hasn't Google done anything yet?" he asked.

Google didn't respond to requests for comment by press time.

A Smartphone Is Not Just a Phone

Smartphone users need to realize that their devices are "really powerful little computers," ESET's Abrams told TechNewsWorld.

For example, Android-based smartphones can be used to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against websites, Abrams said.

"Right now, people are constantly installing apps that tell you they will access the Internet, or send and receive text messages, or send and receive email," Abrams pointed out. "These apps are paid for by advertising. The Trojan takes things one step further in that it can create a botnet. But in terms of giving up privacy, people are already doing that by installing free games and apps."

Android offers users two types of protection, Lookout Mobile's Mahaffey said. One is that the apps users download must ask for permission if they want to access any of the operating system's features.

The other type of protection blocks sideloading, which is the technical term for users downloading apps from unknown sources. In order to download pirated apps, which may contain the Geinimi Trojan, Android smartphone owners need to turn off sideloading protection, Mahaffey said.

That's exactly what they shouldn't do; after all, they don't turn antivirus off on their PCs before downloading applications.

"Treat your smartphone like you would your PC, and make sure that all the things you safeguard on your PC you safeguard on your smartphone," Mahaffey stated.

 

By Richard Adhikari
TechNewsWorld
12/30/10 12:58 PM PT