We The People – A Song by TipsFor.us Authors

This is not a political blog by any stretch of the imagination, so consider this off-topic. Since politics have been dominating the news recently, I though I would share a song written and performed by two of your humble TipsFor.us authors.

Title: We The People
Written by Everett Griffiths, additional vocals by Brian Bondari

How can we make this related to technology? Oh, I know! The video was recorded entirely using the built-in webcam on my Apple Macbook.

Thanks for humoring us. Back to our regularly-scheduled technology tips.

What do I do if my iPhone is Lost or Stolen?

Holy flaming monkey balls! I lost my iPhone! What do I do?

  1. Call AT&T Wireless at 800-331-0500 and use their menu to report a lost or stolen phone.
    This does not protect your data in any way, it only shuts down the ability of your phone to make or receive phone calls. (Your monthly bills will CONTINUE… haha.)
  2. File a police report.
  3. Try not to kick yourself for not following the rest of the instructions in this article…

That SUCKS. What Else Can I Do?

To bring back that lovely word we learned in 8th grade sex-ed: PREVENTION!

Even if you don’t like it…. it’s time to change the security settings on your phone.

  1. Enable Auto-Lock : Settings -> General –> Auto-Lock (must be ON, e.g. 3 minutes)
  2. Enable the Passcode Lock : Settings -> General –> Passcode Lock
    Turn Passcode ON (enter a 4 digit passcode twice)

  3. Require Passcode : set a time interval, e.g. “Immediately”, or “After 15 min.”
  4. Enable the Self Destruct : Erase Data –> ON (Erase all data on this iPhone after 10 failed passcode attempts)
    * Gulp… this one isn’t for the weak of heart. Ideally, all the data on your iPhone is only a copy, right? You’ve synced recently, RIGHT!? Well… there is the possibility that you’ll lose unique data if these feature ever kicks in. There’s also the possibility that some a-hole trickster buddy of yours will finger-mash your phone repeatedly in order to delete everything. No matter if your data is in the hands of nefarious users or deleted by rowdy friends, either way, this is a serious feature.
Passcode Lock Screen on the iPhone
Passcode Lock Screen on the iPhone

And for more privacy….

Turn OFF SMS Preview : Settings -> General –> Passcode Lock –> Turn OFF SMS Preview

* The preview is what displays on your phone when a text message comes in… by default the ENTIRE text and the sender’s name shows up on your screen without you having to unlock the phone. This could be embarrassing if the text is personal (e.g. if you are sleeping with your boss’s wife, and you get a bunch of XXO’s coming in during an important meeting). If you have the SMS Preview disabled, you’ll only see “New Text Message”.

And for the Good Samaritans…

There is a web site dedicated to lost and found iPhones:
www.ifoundyouriphone.com

You can register your serial number on your phone and put a message on your wallpaper where the person who finds your phone can go and contact you to get it properly returned. I encourage everyone to do this. There are a lot of good people out there, and hey, doing this simple step allows those people to be good. If all they got is a random phone that self-destructed its data, then they might just decide to keep it, but if they can look up your name and address, they might try to give it back to you. Think positively.

Taking Screen shots on an iPhone 3G

You can take screenshots of your iPhone by pressing and holding both buttons for about a second.
You can take screenshots of your iPhone by pressing and holding both buttons for about a second.

This is an (un)documented built-in feature on the iPhone 3G (i.e. phones with OS 2.0 or greater). Just prep your phone screen however you want it, then press the round application button and the power/sleep button at the top simultaneously (read: your phone’s only got 2 buttons, press them both). Hold the buttons for about a second, and if your sound is on, then you should get the obligatory shutter sound.

It’s a handy way to take screenshots!

Then the next question… how do get those pictures OFF my phone? Two easy ways: sync your phone (all the screenshots show up in your Photos application, just like anything you take using your camera). Or, view the photo in the Photos app, then email the photo to yourself. But this is a bummer because sometimes I’ve been unable to email the photo (Yahoo and a personal account).

You CAN sync up to any computer… if you plug your phone into any Mac computer, for example, iPhoto should be able to grab photos off your iPhone camera, but you can’t preview the PNG screenshots.

Don't be afraid! iPhoto can't preview PNG files, but you can use Preview to convert them to JPGs
Don't be afraid! iPhoto can't preview PNG files, but you can use Preview to convert them to JPGs

Don’t be afraid if you can’t see your screenshot! iPhoto can’t preview the PNG files, but you can drag them to the desktop and open them using Preview (or similar) to convert the file format.

Tech Tips for Databases, Techies, and Pumpkins

Trick or Treat! Since it’s Halloween, I thought it’d be funny to see what other tech tips are out there. So, here is the tale of my obligatory Google search for our site’s prized search term: “Tech Tips for Us”

Tech Tips for Catholic Teens — Ah, yes, FINALLY someone did what we’ve been meaning to do as a sub-domain for years! Why visit “catholic_teen.tipsfor.us” when you have “http://catholictechtips.stblogs.com/”? Other than the obviously strange preclusion about the target audience, the perfunctory cross fav.icon, and the notable omission about the hottest techie action for altar boys, the blog looks suspiciously similar to our own…

http://www.unixwiz.net/techtips/sql-injection.html This is a good site for people wanting to understand how to protect from MySQL database vulnerabilities… the Wiki article is also pretty good. I wrote a little article about MySQL Security that seemed a bit too geeky for this blog (I know, I know… I’m disappointing the fans). I think my favorite story about a site getting owned was when the Dremel site (famous for their moto-tool) was hacked via SQL-injection and the homepage ended up being replaced with an image of a Goatse-pumpkin. (Appropriately, the pumpkin was carved with a Dremel Moto-tool). Watch out boys and girls! SQL injection is not pretty!

This is not the pumpkin image that was placed on the Dremel site, but it's close enough.
This is not the pumpkin image that was placed on the Dremel site, but it's close enough.

LifeHacker.com — hey, this site looks legit. They even have a seasonal article about Do-It-Yourself Facial Prosthetics! They also have lots of old-school artwork with airships — the kind with little propellers that you see in Miyazaki films or in Smashing Pumpkins videos. I LOVE THAT!

Free Antivirus Program Roundup – 10 Months Later

Many moons ago, I surveyed and wrote reviews for most of the free antivirus programs available. I covered ten different programs in detail, and even gave a few recommendations.

Major Updates

Since I wrote those reviews, many changes have occurred. First of all, many of the programs have received major updates. Both AVG and Avast now include protection against spyware, a welcome addition. Avira AntiVir has received a facelift, and PC Tools Free Edition has ascended a couple of versions, though I’m not sure it has added any features.

In the unchanged category, Comodo Antivirus is still slogging along on version 2.0 Beta, though I’m crossing my fingers that version 3 will be released soon, hopefully before the release of Windows 7. BitDefender 10 appears to be collecting virtual dust (their requirements don’t even mention Vista), Blink Personal Edition still remains largely (and unfairly) overlooked, and EAV Antivirus still isn’t worth using.

In what I feel is a great loss, AOL will soon no longer offer a version of McAfee Antivirus. Here’s an excerpt from an e-mail I received recently:

We are writing to inform you that your subscription to McAfee® VirusScan® Plus — Special edition from AOL will no longer be a complimentary benefit of your Free AOL membership. Your McAfee® software will continue to receive updates and operate normally until your license expires, one year from the date of registration.

Instead of offering a free version, AOL claims that they will offer more advanced security software at a substantial 43% discount. Whoopee. No thanks.

Upcoming Reviews

I’m not finished with my free antivirus reviews. There are at least two more that I have planned. One is an upcoming program that I’ve been watching for months, and another one I just discovered a few weeks ago. Both have a lot of promise, and look forward to testing them.

What am I using?

So, have any of my recommendations changed since last time? Yes.

First of all, I no longer recommend AVG Free Addition. While I still think it is a good product, the Achilles Heel in the free edition is the lack of rootkit detection. See for yourself:

Uh oh.
Uh oh.

Since other free programs DO offer rootkit detection, this glaring omission from AVG is too much to ignore.

I wish that I could recommend the McAfee/AOL Special Edition. Despite its name, I thought it had terrific potential, and I actually used it on my main computer for a few months following my review summary.

The free version of Avira AntiVir remains popular, and I reaffirm my recommendation for it. Based on detection rates alone, AntiVir is a superb product that also includes anti-rootkit support (are you listening, AVG?), but I reserve my recommendation primarily for users who:

  1. Rely on web-based e-mail only. AntiVir (free) does not support POP3/SMTP e-mail.
  2. Rely on a separate anti-spyware program. AntiVir (free) has no anti-spyware support, unlike its paid versions.

If you’re so inclined, don’t forget to deal with the nagging AntiVir popup.

I still think that Blink Personal Edition holds a lot of promise, though you almost never see its name mentioned amongst the main contenders. Perhaps its inherent complexity and level of customization deter people who are mainly looking for an “install and forget” product.

So then, which program is installed on my main machine 10 months after those reviews? None other than Avast Home Edition! The current version – 4.8 – includes anti-spyware and anti-rootkit support, as well as POP3/SMTP e-mail support. It’s simple to use, functions well as an install-and-forget program, and I love how it gets out of your way quickly during a right-click targeted scan. Curiously enough, Avast was the first free antivirus program I ever tried (6 years ago), and to it I have returned.

I’m not saying that Avast Home Edition is the subjective BEST free antivirus program. It just happens to my favorite, and therefore most recommended, for the moment.

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m an idiot? Feel free to tell me in the comments. Oh, and don’t forget to vote in the poll located in the right-sidebar.

5 Shortcomings of the iPhone 3G

iPhone
iPhone

Well, since I’m on the topic this week, I thought I’d mention my main grievances with my iPhone 3G.

1. Short battery life. My Motorola Razor could last a couple days without charging… perfect if I ended up crashing at a friend’s house or forgot my charger while traveling. But the iPhone pretty much needs juice every night. Moreover is that it seems inconsistent with its consumption rate. I don’t really understand how and when it’s doing stuff on the sly… like I THINK I turn it off, but it might secretly be gathering whether reports from Cuba or calculating the Shopping Days Until Christmas. (see my earlier rant).

2. Text messages don’t display dates and times on each message. I’m pretty forgetful, so sometimes I want to look back and find out when I texted someone… e.g. “Where were you on the night of the 22nd?” “Uh… I was at home.” “WHEN were you home?” “Oh, I texted my friend at… uh… oh crap…” I can just see someone going to jail for this somehow.

3. Keyboard is Vertical only. The Texting and Mailing apps don’t let you rotate the screen so you can have a WIDE keyboard… they’re stuck upright and cramped.

4. Can’t copy and paste text. Like say I’m surfing the web (cool)… then I want to send that link to a friend… uh… simple, yet impossible.

5. You can’t download stuff from web sites and save them to a file system. Yar. Even if you download them on your computer, it’s a tangled web of work-arounds to get files onto your phone. I’m stuck even trying to get my photo libraries on my phone… I know it’s possible, but I was stumped for about 5 minutes, then moved on to other more important things… like being a consumer whore (har har).

FREE CodeWeavers Software – Lame Duck Challenge – October 28 Only!

Important: Tuesday, 28 October 2008 ONLY! Get FREE software from CodeWeavers!

CodeWeavers, corporate backs of the Wine Project and creators of CrossOver products that help run popular Windows programs on Mac OS X and Linux, created a Lame Duck challenge last July to President Bush, asking him to try to affect at least ONE positive change whilst in the last six months of office. The potential goals were:

  1. Reduce the Price of Gas: Gas costs about $3.79 a gallon in the Twin Cities, a full buck more than this time last year. If the average price here drops below $2.79 per gallon, this goal is met.
  2. Reduce the Price of Food: With the rise of fuel prices has come a similar rise in food prices. A gallon of milk is about $5 these days. It was $3.50 a year ago. If the average price of a gallon of milk comes down to $3.50 gallon in the Twin Cities metro, this goal is met.
  3. Create More Jobs: We started the year with 138,002,000 people in the U.S. working non-farm jobs. Since then, total non-farm employment has decreased by 366,000. If so much as a single job can be created this calendar year – meaning if employment can be at least 138,002,001, this goal is met.
  4. Rejuvenate the Housing Market: Median home values in the Twin Cities have fallen 12 percent year over year – from $233,000 to $205,000. If that median returns to $233,000, this goal is met.
  5. Bring Osama Bin-Laden to Justice: Every American would like to see Osama Bin-Laden captured or terminated. We won’t be picky about how President Bush gets him. If it happens, this goal is met.

If at least ONE goal was met, CodeWeavers pledged to make their software available for FREE for 24 hours. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for us!), the first goal was met recently. As the CEO admitted in the middle of October:

That morning, I was filling my tank at Big Steve’s Gas Palace in St. Paul,” said Jeremy White, president and CEO of CodeWeavers. “I had just finished my morning corn dog and 64-ounce Dr. Pepper when I looked at the pump and noticed gas was at $2.79. I screamed ‘Woohoo,’ then I yelled ‘Oh, crap!’ as I realized every American can now have my software for free. Kind of upsets my fourth quarter revenue projections…

Therefore, if you want FREE CodeWeavers software, visit their site on 28 October 2008 and you will be given a license code for one free copy. From the above quote, it sounds like this deal is limited to residents of the USA only.

Read the full press release