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Archive for July 18th, 2008

Tech Update: A Mish-mash of Developments

Posted by rjbiii on July 18, 2008

Some things of interest, in the realm of technology:

Will the increased utilization of touch-screens and the progress with facial recognition technology mean, as the BBC reports, the death of the mouse?

It’s nearly 40 years old but one leading research company says the days of the computer mouse are numbered.

A Gartner analyst predicts the demise of the computer mouse in the next three to five years.

Interestingly, the article cites Guitar Hero, for its innovative interfaces. I agree that the game’s designers have done a great job with that aspect of the game. On the other hand, one reason for the emergence of the generic controller was to prevent gamers from having to buy new controllers for every new video game bought. As far the death of the mouse, well not all mouse-makers are sweating it:

Logitech is the world’s biggest manufacturer of mice and keyboards and has sold more than 500 million mice over the last 20 years.

“This just proves how important a device the mouse is,” said Mr Dooley.

But he also agreed that the number of ways people can interact with a computers were rising and that his own company was manufacturing many of them.

William Schneier, a computer security expert, and his team, have found some holes in TrueCrypt’s “invisibility cloak,” a feature that seeks to hide the existence of files on a computer from unauthorized parties:

This “deniability” feature is a sort of extreme file-protection function that first encrypts the file and then hides it within an encrypted area on the disk drive like an invisibility cloak. But Schneier, chief security technology officer with British Telecom and researchers from the University of Washington found that Microsoft Vista, Word, and Google Desktop each can blow the cover of files using this so-called “deniable file system” (DFS) feature.

The researchers were able to get around DFS in versions 5.0 and below of TrueCrypt’s encryption-on-the-fly tool, and will present their findings on the hack at the Usenix HotSec ’08 summit next week in San Jose, Calif.

TrueCrypt says that its latest release fixes the issues, but Schneier remains skeptical.

ZDNet Australia has posted an article warning Facebook users that the site is tracking their transactions on affiliated sites, even when the users are logged out, or have opted out of the tracking scheme:

Researchers at software vendor CA have discovered that social networking site Facebook is able to track the buying habits of its users on affiliated third-party sites even when they are logged out of their account or have opted out of its controversial “Beacon” tracking service.
Responding to privacy concerns, Facebook has since moved to reassure users that it only tracks and publishes data about their purchases if they are both logged in to Facebook and have opted-in to having this information listed on their profile.

But in “extremely disconcerting” findings that directly contradict these assurances, researchers at CA’s Security Advisory service have found that data about these transactions are sent to Facebook regardless of a user’s actions.

An article in Computer World discusses improvements in on-line office applications and asks whether they are ready to challenge Microsoft’s dominant office suite?
Web-based office suites are coming into their own at last.

For quite a while, Web-based suites — which offered word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and other tools associated with desktop office suites — were extolled not because they did these things well, but because they could do them at all. But the three major competitors, Google Docs, ThinkFree, and Zoho, have all made major improvements in recent months. They’re becoming both broader, with more applications, and deeper, with more features and functionality in existing apps.

The question is: Are these three applications really ready to take on a desktop-based heavy hitter like Microsoft Office?

Ever wanted to know the real name behind a gmail account? One blogger has uncovered a way to get to any Gmail user’s real identity:

I came across a an interesting blog post showing how to get the name of a Gmail account. Since the bug was visible through Google Calendars I hoped that it was maybe limited to users who had signed up for Google Calendar. This is not the case.

Not good news, if you intended this to be private information…

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