Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

Symbian OS Bluetooth Security Patch

Since the Cabir virus, which affects various Symbian-based mobile phones, was created as a proof-of-concept earlier this year a Brazilian programmer has decided to publish the source code for two variants of the virus named Cabir-H and Cabir-I. This has caused a stir since it will no doubt cause more malicious variants of the virus when it falls into the wrong hands.

Patches Anyone?

As yet there have not been any reports of the Cabir virus in the wild, however the question I'm asking myself is why haven't the phone companies or anti-virus companies released patches for the virus?

Surely now would be the ideal opportunity to begin to put in place a system to protect the public, the majority of whom will not be aware of any such virus or the potential harm it could do to their phone.

The only advise we seem to be getting is precautionary, but how many people still open email attachments from people they don't know? Precautionary measures don't work, we've obviously forgotten the lessons we learnt from the PC virus epidemics of the not-so-distant past.

I think the lack of any such support by the phone manufacturers, OS software companies and anti-virus firms is due to no one taking ownership of the problem, which if left unresolved could balloon into a major problem in the very near future.

I'll end with the precautionary advise given so far.

All variants of the Cabir virus spread via bluetooth short-range wireless technology. To be completely safe from the virus all you need to do is turn off your bluetooth connection. This however is obviously counter-productive, so when you want to use your bluetooth connection for a headset or to sync with your PC etc, then you should set your handset to 'hidden' mode, this will make your device hidden from any other device in range.

Currently the Cabir virus has to be installed on the phone, which means the user will have to physically intervene allow the software to install by selecting 'yes' to install option upon receiving the virus, the last piece of advise then is to avoid installing software from unknown sources, especially other bluetooth devices, but more-so from future software containing Trojans based on Cabir and it's variants.

Logitech Media Player Remote For Your PC

Gadget of the month has surely got to be the new Logitech Media Play Cordless Mouse.

If like me you've moved your CD collection from your CD's to your PC's hard drive you may find this new mouse/remote control a very useful gadget. It's a cross between a computer mouse and stereo remote control.

It features an extended wireless RF range, (not bluetooth or infra red) so you can control your media player from the comfort of your armchair and use it as a conventional optical wireless mouse when using your PC.

It has all the features you'd expect from a top-of-the range mouse, plus all the usual media player buttons you've come to expect, including:

Play, Pause, Forward, Back, up, down, and a Media Player Launch button (Compatible with Windows Media Player and Win Amp). All of which are illuminated on touch.

Just remember not to lose it down the edge of the sofa! otherwise you'll have to navigate Windows(TM) with your excellent keyboard shortcut knowledge ;-)

Logitech MediaPlay Wireless MouseArticle Image

Converting 3GP Video to AVI

Since my last entry concerning the mobile video format 3GP, I've come across a much more useful and professional program that converts 3GP to AVI.

It even converts 3GP to animated GIF although the picture quality is obviously greatly reduced and you lose sound in this format.

3GSauron

3GSauron is freeware and is a stand-alone EXE, so you don't have to install it. The only downside with the software I can see is that you can only convert files one-at-a-time.

I've added a link to the authors site below where you can download it.

http://www.3gsauron.com/

Is My Google Desktop Search Secure?

After a recent security flaw surrounding Google's Desktop Search Beta discovered by Scientists at Rice University, how do you make sure Googles fix has been applied to your machine?

After reading Google's Blog it seems all you need to do is check for the Beta release version on the 'About' page since the fix should have been applied automatically. You can find a link to this page from the main Desktop Search home page (You can reach this via right-clicking the icon in your taskbar or via the shortcut on your desktop). The version with the applied fix should be 'Beta 121004'.

PC Plus Magazine For Your Java Mobile Phone

PCPlus the UK computing magazine for computing enthusiasts recently launched a mini version of it's popular magazine specially designed for Java-enabled mobile phones.

Having received my 3rd edition of the mini magazine, I felt obliged to shout about it. Since I subscribed three issues ago the service has been improved to include SMS download prompts and much faster loading times (Tested on a Nokia 6600).

It's perfect for those train or tube commuters who wish to while away a few minutes of their journey.

The magazine contains news stories from the industry and reviews of the latest PC hardware.

The service is free and you can view demos and subscribe to the magazine from the link below.

http://www.threeoclock.com

Windows Media Player Now Rips to MP3

As Windows Media Player goes I think it's a pretty good media player, but the new release (Media Player 10) includes a killer feature that now makes it much more useful as a CD ripper.

Previously Windows Media Player could only rip tracks to it's own WMA format, however with the new player you have the option of ripping to unencoded MP3 format. A boon for all you Windows iPod fans.

Not only does it rip to MP3 but it doesn't restrict the rip speed like Musicmatch's Jukebox.

This is a great feature that is long overdue, but I'm sure Microsoft's competitors don't think the same, including the company that used to make the MP3 ripping plugin for the old version of Windows Media Player.

The other feature that's been added to the new Windows Media Player 10 is search functionality, a very useful tool when you have an extensive media collection, and considering it's not a google search it's pretty fast.

Windows Media Home

Preparing an Internet PC

The title of this article speaks for itself, however preparing a Windows based computer for a life connected to the internet is not as plain sailing as it used to be.

With the amount of viruses, worms and trojan horses on the web increasing almost exponentially it's vital to make sure your computer is protected the minute you connect it to the internet.

Reports earlier this year suggest that an unpatched unprotected PC can be infected in less than 30 minutes!

Security Recommendations

The first thing I do when I've finished installing a fresh installation of Windows is to install a personal firewall. I recommend Zonealarm, it's very good and a free version is available from the link below.

Do this before connecting to the internet, if at all possible try to gather a collection of useful tools on a CD-ROM. The CD-ROM should contain a personal firewall, anti-virus software and the most recent Windows Service Pack for your version of Windows.

If you don't have the Windows Service Pack on CD then you'll need to download it. Make sure your personal firewall is up and running, then go to WindowsUpdate.com. Follow the instructions and download all the 'Critical updates'.

Once your updates have downloaded and installed restart your machine and install your anti-virus solution. I recommend the excellent AVG from www.grisoft.com, which also has a free edition.

You may also find that using an alternative web browser to Internet Explorer such as FireFox (www.getfirefox.com) or Opera (opera.com) will significantly reduce your risk of web borne viruses and spyware.

Zonealarm personal firewall

Using A Parallel/Serial Connection To Copy Files

Even in the days of wireless networks and Gigabit Ethernet it's still sometimes convenient to directly connect two computers together to copy files using parallel or serial ports. Not all computers have an Ethernet card or LAN connection built-in so it's sometimes the only option, or maybe you don't have a hub or cross-over RJ45 Ethernet cable lying around ready to use.

What Next?

Using a parallel or serial cable can be very useful for connecting two PC's together. You can reach up to 4Mbits/sec using a direct parallel connection. It's ideal for copying files to a new computer or laptop.

Windows XP Set-up

To set-up a direct parallel or serial connection in Windows XP on the Start menu select 'My Network Places', then under the 'Network Tasks' panel on the left-hand side select 'Create a new connection', this will launch the 'New Connection Wizard'. Select Next and then select 'Set up an advanced connection'. To set up a direct connection, whether you wish to create a parallel or serial connection you must specify whether the PC you are currently using is the host (contains the files you wish to access) or guest (The computer used to access the information on the host PC). On this screen you have to make this decision, choose either 'Accept incoming connections' or 'Connect directly to another computer', depending on your selection you will be asked whether to connect using your parallel or serial port or you will be either asked to enter the name of the computer you wish to connect to or select the users who you wish to give permission to access you machine. Once you've set up the connection on one machine you will have to do the same on the other machine before you can successfully connect, remembering if you've made the first machine the Guest to make the other machine the Host and visa versa.

If you are using a software firewall such as Zonealarm, you will need to make sure you add your computer's IP addresses if applicable to the 'trusted zone' to allow your connection to be established between your two machines.

BTX Motherboards Provide Better Thermal Layout And Acoustics

The new PC motherboard form factor BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) has been developed to accommodate the latest processors and the problems arising from their ever-increasing clock rates.

It sounds as though the BTX standard takes system design tips from Apple's G5 when it comes to thermal and acoustic performance.

The BTX form factor uses an inline airflow layout to cool the hottest computer components with fewer fans. It does this by simply positioning the processor, chipset and graphics processors in the same vicinty on the board to one another allowing easier cooling, less fans and less noise. That's the theory anyway.

When Apple's G5 was introduced PC owners chuckled to themselves when they heard it contained 9 fans, but because of the internal layout spliting the chassis into thermal zones it enabled these fans to work at very low revs, keeping noise to a minimum and the system cool.

Hopefully with these new boards which also embrace the new PCI Express and Serial ATA technologies we will once again be able to have powerful PC's that don't sound like they are about to take off.

BTX form factor details

Problems With Digital Archiving

What's wrong with digital archiving?

Archiving information in digital formats introduces a number of complications.

File Formats

Will current file formats last forever? History says otherwise. If history repeats itself current file formats will not be used in the next 10-15 years.

What problems does that introduce if we archive documents in todays formats? Will we be able to access them in the future? Will we have to convert them all down the line?

Proprietary formats

What's happens if an IT/Software company goes bust or discontinues a product. Will there be a system to upgrade or migrade databases and files?

Storage Media

If the issues with file formats have got you worried what about storage media?

The CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, DVD recordable drives, tape back-up drives etc. Will these media storage formats be around for years to come? With the pace of current development the chances are the answer is no.

Not only that but all digital media has a finite lifespan, meaning even if drives in 10-15 years are capable of reading these media formats with they still be in pristine condition?

Only time will tell if we can solve this increasingly serious problem, as more and more of our data is stored electronically this becomes a more and more pertinent problem.

I'll finish with a link to the BBC Domesday project 1986. A perfect example of the problems with digital archiving. The CAMiLEON project was commissioned recently to try to retrieve the contents of this archive from 1980's laserdisks and BBC Micro formatted files.

The CAMiLEON project