Thursday, September 30, 2010

Now you can protect your Important Files with Minimal Effort!

Starting off, I'll be totally honest with you, in this modern age of information exchange, your personal information will never be 100% safe. Every ounce of computer prowess and common sense on the internet will not stop an elite hacker who has your IP address and REALLY wants what's on your computer, but we don't have to make it easy for the average script kiddy hacker who happens to live next door. So I present for your benefit, the following ways I use to thwart the typical hard drive heist!:

      1. Update your operating system (Windows, OSX, ubuntu) completely. Apple and Windows don't come out with these software upgrades because they're bored, they do it because over time they discover easily exploited holes in their program and plug them up! The added irony is that these companies post whatever weaknesses they fixed with each new service pack, so all a hacker needs to do is find an un-patched computer and go down the list that was so conveniently posted to the world!

      2. Make sure, if you use wireless, that it is well-encrypted. Click the network manager in the bottom right hand side of your task bar where it shows your signal strength and then mouse over the router to which you are currently connected. Does it say unsecured? DANGER! That means there is no password and literally ANYONE can connect to your computer through it! Does it say WEP? if so, then you are less protected than you could be. Most new Linksys routers come standard with WPA encryption and this is the good stuff. Now don't get me wrong, WPA passwords CAN be cracked with sufficient time and effort, but having WEP or no password at all is just inviting trouble.

     3.Encrypt your sensitive files with TrueCrypt. Lets say that the above steps haven't stopped a troublesome intruder, he got onto your wifi and exploited your computer so he has access to everything on your computer, would you be in serious trouble if he found that text file you use to remember you bank account password? How about some...compromising photographs that you took of your ex-girlfriend? Fear not, because even if someone gains 100% access to your hard drive, you can protect delicate info that only you ever need to see. TrueCrypt will take a certain part of your harddrive and encrypt it so well that the NSA will have a hard time looking at what's inside, particularly if your password is over 20 characters long. Bonus points if you keep the TrueCrypt password taped to the underside of your desk; one of the few places someone without physical access to your office will never be able to reach.

     4. MOST IMPORTANT: Use common sense. If a website has a banner promising you a brand new Ipod, ignore it, its probably just going to download a virus that will gradually slow down your computer or steal your personal information. When entering your credit card info anywhere, check the bottom right of your browser to make sure there's a padlock symbol. If there isn't that means the site is unsecured and any Joe Schmoe identity thief might intercept your info.

Link to the free open-source TrueCrypt, its very simple to use and after you install it will offer to run a tutorial

Who else is tired of pundits running the media?

Every day I take about 35 minutes to get a general idea of what's going on in the world by watching 5-10 minutes of CNN, then FOX news, and top it off with some MSNBC and HLN if I'm feeling particularly masochistic. Every day I shake my head at the sheer subjectivity of these supposed "anchors" in the news. I'll just put out the disclaimer that I absolutely despise FOX news, so don't be accusing me of trying to hide my bias, its right there in the open. Gretchen Carlson may be one of the worst, particularly with the whole deal with the ground zero mosque (that nobody seems to notice is replacing an empty building two blocks away) but they all play this stupid little game in the news that really grinds my gears. They are given free reign to say whatever defamatory comment their idiot writers can come up with as long as they phrase it in the form of a question. You see, if they're simply ASKING on national television if Bill Gates has four secret mistresses, isn't that the same as straight out accusing him of it without any facts?
Now don't get me wrong, FOX news isn't the only bad grape in the bunch, they all have their faults. Keith Olbermann's rants aren't informing anyone when all he seems worthy of his time is bashing anything to do with the GOP. I just don't understand how our media got this bad. Did people simply stop caring about the quality of their information? Maybe people are just more worried about what Lindsey Lohan is up to this time instead of the Russian-Jordan conflict, or the human rights violations in the sweatshops that produce all of our Nike shoes or cheap t-shirts.These guys have a great racket going on, they can report the "news" during the day, and then talk about it with The Bill O'reillys and Wolf Blitzers as 100% pundit. That way if anyone questions their journalistic integrity, they can pull the "hey, we were just discussing the issues in a pundit environment" card and call it a day.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An experiment in Pavlovian Conditioning

Hello all, I am considering testing an old Psychology trick on my roommate and I could certainly use some ideas. The general premise is that I am going to recreate Ivan Pavlov's experiment with a humorous twist, but I need some creative input. I Want to take a neutral stimulus like say, playing a certain sound clip, or performing an obvious but meaningless task to condition my roommate, but I need some ideas. Post in the comment box on what you think I should condition my roommate to do (i.e. I play Brittney Spears music before I sit uncomfortably close to him to condition him to feel anxiety every time I play that music in passing). If it turns out to be particularly successful I will film the stimulus in action and post for you guys and gals :D

A not so in-depth analysis of League of Legends

A friend of mine referred me to an "interesting" new game called League of Legends, based on an old Warcraft 3 mod called "defense of the ancients". I never played "dota" but I have played other real time strategy games so I wasn't in total confusion the first game I played "lol". The idea is that two teams of five split up into 3 different tunnels through a forest where minions constantly spawn to try to reach a single nexus at the other side. Your team wins when your minions destroy that nexus, but they can't do it on their own. You have to use your characters' abilities to kill the other team so that you can destroy the turrets defending their nexus. Apparently you can pay real money to have access to every single champion in the game, but they rotate ten free champions a week, so its a hybrid free-to-play plan I can totally appreciate.
There are more champions with so many abilities I couldn't keep track of it all, so theres TONS of variety. I got bored after about a half dozen losses but I could see how this game could get really addictive for those that can actually win. I highly recommend anyone who plays real time strategy games to give this a try, great fun for either no or very small investment (unless you don't play video games in which case disregard!)

Are Americans' diets killing us softly?

The short answer is yes, and we're doing it startlingly fast. Look around you as you drive down any street in America, there's meat, meat, and more meat. Humans are omnivores, but many of us (myself included in moments of weakness) pig out on the red meat whenever we can and our country's health is going straight into the crapper as a result.

Heart disease is at an all time high and diabeetus is right on its tail. Every year 785,000 Americans will have their first and what is statistically likely to be one of many, heart attacks. We also come in at number three of highest number of diabetics in the world. Seeing as how number one and too are China and India, who have multiple times higher populations than our wimpy 307 million, that's nothing to be proud of. The largely ignored fact is that humans are not designed for meat to be our primary source of nutrition! A meat and potatoes man is very unlikely to see his 70th birthday, which in a country that is supposedly most medically advanced in the world is a travesty of the highest order. The hilarious truth is that while our pharmaceutical companies are spending billions trying to cure high cholesterol and cancer, the cure has been with us the whole time. According to an unprecedented twenty year study conducted by cardiologist Caldwell B. Esselstyn, switching to an oil-free,  plant-based diet will not only prevent cardiovascular disease, but also reverse effects already in place. He had a group of people who had previously had heart attacks switch to an entirely plant based diet and much to most other cardiologists surprise, all 17 compliant patients had zero additional heart-related symptoms. This simply reinforces the much under-publicized idea that Lipitor and quadruple bypasses only treat the symptom and not the disease.
Now, I'm a realist and don't expect the entire country to switch to a vegetarian diet, it simply isn't going to happen, but if we toned down on the meat to say... one meal a day, we could reclaim our position as king of the world. Higher life expectancy = more people producing more goods/services, its a win-win! All we have to do is put down the beef jerky for a carrot every now and again.