So a new version of Farmville 2 has been driving me mad with notifications on Facebook.  Here’s how to block them.

Just go to http://www.facebook.com/appcenter/farmville-two and click that Block button. For the sake of your own sanity, do it now!

Can’t do it now?  Add it to your To Do list on http://www.myagilityboard.com

Google Plus One LogoSo Google Plus has recently launched. This is basically Google’s take on Facebook, it’s designed from the foundations around the concept of privacy in a way that actually makes it part of its normal usage. No more worrying about statuses that you’d rather your parents not see.

In similar fashion to Facebook’s Like buttons, +1 is the term for Google and I have conceded into adding a +1 button to my blog’s pages, you can see it at the top along with the equivalent Facebook and Twitter buttons. But in what way have I conceded?

Well, as we’ve discussed before, I use Google Apps. This means that my domain name, andybarratt.co.uk has its MX records pointing at Google. So I have Gmail but my email address doesn’t end with gmail.com, it ends with andybarratt.co.uk. I also have my calendar and contacts on Google so by using this email address on my iPhone or on my Android phone, I have everything synced up (for free I might add, hint hint Apple).

But here’s the thing, we can easily agree that Google Apps users are among the most loyal Google customers, many of us are in fact paying for the premium services that Google offers, yet Google never includes us in their beta tests. Surely loyal customers like us should be the first people to be included, not the last. I want very much to be able to use Google Plus but I can’t get near it, even if you invite me, I can not get in.

Google promise to be bringing Apps users access soon and I suspect this is true but it’s easy to be wary. After all, Google Buzz was never offered to us in the end and the same promise was given there too.

So I have a confession to make, yes, I have added a +1 button to these pages but, I have not tested it. For all I know, it simply does not work.

XKCD comic about Google Plus

XKCD's take on Google Plus

 

This post has not yet been checked for grammer, spelling or rambling nonsense.

We were not impressed when we found this sign.

We were not impressed when we found this sign.

I have been lucky enough to be given the week off to spend time with my daughter, the first part of this little holiday though, is the road trip to go and collect her.

Now in the past, people have often said “make sure you call me when you get there” so that they know you arrive safely at a destination after a long journey. Some even go as far as wanting regular updates during your journey to know how that you haven’t died in a horrific traffic collision on route. And of course there’s the age old question, “did you find your way ok?” No longer must I endure tedious conversations, bring in the TomTom, the iPhone and my good friend, Web 2.0!

Having been a user of 4Square in the past, I have abanded it for Facebook’s own “Places.” With this, we checked our selves in at every service station we stopped at to show how far we had come. The Facebook App on my iPhone simply checked the GPS to see where I was and came up asking if I wanted to check in at the service station I was at. Within minutes, a flurry of messages come in from people wanting to know where I’m going. My facebook “friends” now all know that I’m away for the week and so not to try and find me, beautiful. Can you tell I’m not the social type yet? How interesting that I use social media as a tool to be anti-social.

Our TomTom was happily guiding us to our destination in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire when it took us off the main roads and onto some little country roads. Though happy for the scenic interlude we were not so happy when we were taken down a little dirt track and encountered the sign picture above. A quick photo was taken and uploaded to Facebook where the joys of Schadenfreude (Happiness at the misfortune of others) took over, a “love it” appeared from my brother along with a few more comments.

Google vs Yahoo Maps showing error on route.

Google vs Yahoo Maps showing error on route.

Interestingly, Google Maps agreed with our TomTom about the route however a check with Yahoo showed the dead end that the sign referred to. We added a route correction to TomTom to be uploaded to their server though I’m sure people have reported the error before and we were still sent down this route.

Finally we arrived in town and discovered that we would be waiting for an hour or two before being able to pick up the monster her self. We decided to stop in a café where we ordered pizza, with a check in at the café, people could see that we’d arrived in town safely. After waiting an while for our pizza, we realised a new problem, the waitress had no idea which tables to take food to and so was wandering around each table asking if they had ordered a margarita pizza. If anyone said yes, they got our pizza, she never came to us first. Eventually I decided to open up Google Latitude on my phone. This app shares my current location with my select friends all the time, it also lets me know them know how long I’ve been at a given location. According to Latitude, we had been in the café for a full 58 minutes when our food arrived. We ate and I left the image below on our table upon leaving.

Drawing left in Café

A little message I left after watching my pizza delivered to the wrong table at the Bellview Café.

A lot of the technologies in social media and smart phones are welcomed with a view of “would anyone actually use it?” or “what’s the point?” Well I believe all these little things add to a larger conversation, they may not be necessity but if you think about the last conversation you had with someone, consider how much of what was said was actually necessary and how short and dull the conversation would have been without them. It was Douglas Adams who noted with his character Ford Prefect that humans really do speak a lot of stuff that there is no reason that needs to be said. Our technology is adding to that conversation now, while we’re talking less with our voices, we do seem completely incapable of shutting up.

lulz security logoSome of you may have heard that over the summer I’ve got an Internship with Tayside Police as part of my degree, helping to improve their online presence not just on their website but through Social Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to better engage with the community. With that said, I’d like to point out that like always, my views expressed here may not necessarily reflect those of any group whether it be corporation, public sector body or educational institute or indeed anyone. These are my personal ramblings as an individual and a computer scientist.

In recent weeks, a small hacking group has come to light known as Lulz Security. They have gained fame in hacking major internet based companies and releasing information to the public with the aim to highlight, what Lulz Security see as, their flawed security systems.

With hacktivist group Anonymous making headlines on a daily basis, Lulz Security’s attacks are not a new phenomenon however, I do believe their motives should not be seen in the same light.

While I have struggled to agree with some of the hacks that Anonymous have performed, I do agree that they are performing attacks based on a moral objective and I have to say, I have found myself agreeing to some of their recent targets. Anonymous have made great attempts to fraught the work of state run operations to censor and remove the human rights of people around the world, like in Tunisia where the people are being oppressed and are calling for freedom.

“We will not forgive corruption, we will not forget injustice, we will not tollerate the denial of our freedoms and we will not be silenced.” Anonymous Press Release

While I may not agree with every single action that Anonymous take, I do very much agree with what they stand for. I can not say the same for Lulz Security.

There are many suggesting that Anonymous has joined hands with Lulz in what they are calling operation AntiSec however I do not believe this to be entirely true. What we must remember is that Anonymous doesn’t have a leader, really, Anonymous could be anybody and everybody so while many who consider themselves to be part of Anonymous may support AntiSec, it is not my belief that the majority of them do.

Lulz Security is not following a moral purpose, they are not fighting organisations that seek to oppress and while they may be seeking to expose companies with poor security, I believe their targets may be poorly chosen.

Yesterday, the website of the Serious Organised Crimes Agency in Britain had to be taken down after receiving a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack by Lulz Security and government organisation like our police forces have been left worrying about attacks on our own services.

However, while Lulz succeeded in attacking SOCA’s website, what did they really achieve? They achieved the feat of taking down a page that does not hold secure data but rather only offers information to us, the public. If anything, they succeeded in censoring information made available to all of us. Isn’t that the opposite of what Anonymous is aiming for?

Yes Lulz Security showed that this site was susceptible to being overloaded with requests but as someone working on a similar site, I’d be confident in assuming that most public websites of law enforcement agencies are just as susceptible as, in this economic climate in which tax payers money is to be spent sparingly, such protection is afforded only for mission critical systems.

Most websites run by police forces are not on expensive web servers like those of Facebook and Google but in fact, quite ordinary servers, not much different to those used by small businesses as they do not require major processing power to run and they do not hold secure data. They hold data that is online for the general public, to raise awareness of their missions to help the public.

I think Lulz Security, while they may believe what they’re doing is right, has become arrogant and have in recent weeks shifted away from aiming to be a force for good, but have instead moved to only work for fame through their ability to show off as they attack companies, showing “flaws” that are frankly, unimportant when greater issues exist else where in the world and online.

Microsoft has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. That’s an awful lot of money for a company that was recently valued at a lot less and has been struggling to make a profit but what does this mean for Mac and Linux users?

I’m not concerned about the cost and I’m sure that Microsoft will help an already great business go far. What I’m concerned about is the user, specifically, the non Microsoft user.

Microsoft insist that they will keep Skype multi-platform, a feature that has helped keep Skype on top of the Internet Phone market. Skype has feature rich applications for not just Windows, but Macs, Linux and several mobile platforms. I have no doubt that Microsoft will continue development for these platforms but my concern is about the extent to which they will do this.

My primary computers are a Windows 7 desktop and an Apple MacBook running Snow Leopard. I have no bias between Mac and Windows and believe both platforms have their benefits. However, any Mac user can tell you of their frustration with Microsoft Messenger.

On Windows, Microsoft’s Messenger is feature rich. You have winks, web cams, facebook integration, Games, Photo sharing, Video Sharing, Video Messages, Slideshows, the list goes on. However, Microsoft Messenger for mac has very few of these features, in fact, up until a few months ago, it didn’t have Webcam support, something the windows version has had for as long as I’ve known it.

The reason for this is simple, Microsoft doesn’t give enough support to its mac developments team, I remember seeing a support forum on the Messenger for Mac site when people were complaining about the lack of webcam support in which a member of the development team cited lack of funding as an issue. I won’t go into details of the Linux development team… there isn’t one.

So yes, I believe Skype will continue to be available for Mac and Linux but my concern is that with closer integration with the Windows Live Network, will great new features, developed by Microsoft also appear on other platforms and if so, will they keep all platforms in sync with each other.

I don’t want a great new feature appearing on Skype for Windows and having to wait months, if not years, for it to appear on Mac and Linux because Microsoft wants to concentrate on making Skype for Windows.

My friend noticed this the other day but I hadn’t realised it was still going on… anyone mind commenting what the hell is going on here?!?!

Facebook time left image

It seems that we have become a rather nosy species, we always want to know how each others day was, what they got up to, where they went blah blah blah. This has been escalated to the point of insanity with the dawning of twitter. With twitter, a person may place online exactly what they are doing at any one time, a sort of reverse stalking, forcing public your own private life. The problem we seem to have is what our conscripted stalkers will do when we leave out certain details.

This is shown more than anything in the School of Computing, (see, this is a student relevant blog). Here at Dundee University’s School of Computing, most of us students are tweeters, and yes we realise that tweeting tweeters on twitter use some of the most insufferable jargon of any computer meme. When all of us are packed together in labs and lectures, we know exactly what each other are doing and thanks to twitter, now we can get confirmation of that fact with each others “in the labs” tweets. But now we know what each other are doing when we’re not in the class room. One can sit and say “Hey, Josh is in a Japanese Lecture, he’s bored.” We can say this because Josh tweeted so on twitter. But what happens when we don’t say what we’re doing?

Well i have observed the phenomenon that is “twitter status withdrawal symptoms.” I observe this when arriving to the labs and being demanded of my location and doings directly prior to arriving in the form of the question “where were you?!”

“Where were you?” has become one of my pet peeves. People now rely on twitter for my current activities so much that they simply cannot abide to not know what i’m doing if i do not tweet it. This peeve of mine resulted in a rather vulgar experiment today, what would happen if i did fill twitter in on the missing details?

The occasion that i hate being asked where i was the most is when i am returning from the lavatory. Having only been away for say two minutes, people have been so addicted to my current location updates that they wish to know where i was for such a minuscule moment in time. I threatened several times that i would start posting details of my bowel movements on twitter if they were so very interested. Today i did it.

When i was upon the throne today, i posted details of where i was and what i was doing in the form of “Daily Bowel Movements on Twitter.” Having been so sure that i was filling the final gap on twitter you wouldn’t believe the barrage of unwant i received in response to my tweets. Suddenly it wasn’t “where were you?” but it was “why would you tell us where you were?!”

It would seem that followers on twitter don’t want to know everything, but they don’t know that until you tell them everything, but of course if you don’t tell them everything, they demand to know everything. You see the dilemma?

Twitter seems to have turned us all into socially acceptable stalkers, but even then we don’t want to know everything about a person. Even if we are making our private lives public, it’s important to know what parts should be kept public, if just for our collective sanity. Unfortunately this does not solve the problem of the annoying question “Where were you?” but perhaps this rather nifty response of mine will:

“None of your business!”