August 17, 2006

Writely is taking new accounts

WritelyWritely, the company google bought a few months ago was  closed for new accounts. It seems like they have finally opened up again. But instead of using google accounts it  still requests users to create a new one.  They did mention that the will eventually integrate  with google's signin soon.

August 16, 2006

Dzone: Digg for developers

Dzone
I found a new site for called  Dzone  today. Unlike Digg its focuses on programming, coding tools, processes and practices. The feature which made this site uniquely stand out among the other 100 digg replica's is its ability to take "webshots" of the URL being linked which is shown as a thumbnail.

dzone fills a void which in a developers life which sites like digg and slashdot can't fulfill because of their unfocused news items. Lately digg has been trying hard to develop more focused pages, but its no where close to what developers are currently looking for.

Flashy Speed test



There are tons of speedtesting tools out there. But here is one you might not have seen before. Its called speedtest.net. Whats cool about this site is that it allows you to test your bandwidth against multiple server in US and Europe instead of just one.

Speedtest1

August 15, 2006

250 Web 2.0 APIs

This site programmableweb has a cloud of 250 apis. If you are into mashups, here are a few more APIs to play with.
API Cloud

Create your own Web logo

Found this cool site today called msig.info which allows you to create logos for your own site in a jiffy. Checkout the new Techhawking logo.
Techhawking

Google Talk

Google has released a newer version of Google Talk. This one allows you to leave Voicemails.
googletalk.png
File and photo sharing in Google Talk works like you'd expect: Simple, fast, and fun. Simplicity means that you can drag and drop one or more files directly onto a chat window. As soon as your friend clicks 'Accept', the bits will start flowing. When the transfer completes, the recipient can open the file or find it on disk with a single click.

File transfer is fast. Google Talk makes a direct connection to your friend's computer whenever possible, enabling the fastest speed available. And even if your super-secure firewall won't allow a direct connection, we'll still get it there at a decent speed, because we're nice like that.

Photo sharing is fun! When you drop up to 10 photos on Google Talk, smaller previews automatically appear right inside the chat window, so you can chat about them right away. The previews adjust to the size of your chat window, so just enlarge the window when you want to see more detail. To view the images at full size, or to save them for later, click the 'Download Originals' link.

August 13, 2006

Is Microsoft afraid ?

Microsoft came out with Microsoft Live Writer today. What surprised me was that it is one of the first tools which I can think of in recent years which has support for non-Microsoft products.

Remember the good old days of Novell servers when Microsoft came with a file server which could talk to Novell servers and what about the services for Unix or Microsoft Java VM?

I know everyone is excited about Microsoft doing this, but I being me, am skeptical about the true intentions behind this. Infact, most of the times microsoft releases a product supporting other non-microsoft products, is because when its afraid of loosing market share to a competitor. So the real question is, who is microsoft really afraid of other blogging software or services out there ? Blogspot, MySpace and services like wordpress, typepad are significant competitors to MSN spaces. Microsoft Live Writer is not very different from any other Free Microsoft products in the sense that it is designed to do one thing. Convert.

That being said, I'm glad it has jumped into the market. I can see a lot of improvement in overall blogging experience across the board. Oh and BTW I posted this entry using Microsoft Live Writer.

August 09, 2006

Detecting browser bandwidth (in perl)

If your website has file downloads in megabytes, it can take multiple minutes to download from far away places. Detecting user's bandwidth and predicting the time it might take might become essential to help your customers understand why its taking so long. Detecting bandwidth of a client could be as simple as timing a downloading of a simple file. But there are a few problems with this.

To begin with, most browsers can open multiple download threads to the same destination (IE uses 2, Firefox uses 4). This is not a problem, but its good to know. Then there is a TCP start/stop overhead, impact of which can be minimized by using large files and enabling keepalive. The biggest problem however is caching intelligence within the browser which can trick detection logic to think that it has a superfast network connectivity. The same problem can also confuse multiple browsers behind a caching proxy server.

The solution to all of these problems are relatively simple. First of all use multiple file downloads to maximize the usage of all the browser threads to the server. Enable Keepalives on the server to minimize TCP restart overheads. Use relatively large files for sampling and finally use random numbers as URL parameters to force the cache to discard previous version of the file from cache "?randomnumbers"

August 08, 2006

The Blue Pill - 100% undectable malware

During Code Con 2006 7 months ago I first heard about the existence of virtual machines based rootkits. I've also been reading about hypervisor technology and about products like Xen which are trying to build a better virtual machine engines. Amd and Intel now, officially, have hooks in the processor itself to support this. Unlike traditional virtual machines which "emulate" all the processing within another OS, using this new technology, each OS could infact live along with each other talking directly with the processor.
But what took me by surprise is that within this short time of all this happening, there is a new technology called the "Blue Pill" which has been demonstrated and discussed in the underground world, which makes use of the virtualization features of the processors to make 100% undetactable malware.

Here is an extract from authors description of blue pill..
All the current rootkits and backdoors, which I am aware of, are based on a concept. For example: FU was based on an idea of unlinking EPROCESS blocks from the kernel list of active processes, Shadow Walker was based on a concept of hooking the page fault handler and marking some pages as invalid, deepdoor on changing some fields in NDIS data structure, etc... Once you know the concept you can (at least theoretically) detect the given rootkit.

Now, imagine a malware (e.g. a network backdoor, keylogger, etc...) whose capabilities to remain undetectable do not rely on obscurity of the concept. Malware, which could not be detected even though its algorithm (concept) is publicly known. Let's go further and imagine that even its code could be made public, but still there would be no way for detecting that this creature is running on our machines...

References

August 06, 2006

VMware for Mac is finally out !

Virtualization for Mac OS X

Bootcamp is nice, but Virtualization is better. This is what almost everyone in the mac user community have been waiting for.
Parallels is already selling a virtualization product for Intel based Macs for last few months and has an edge over VMware in the world. But VMware's large user base from the windows and linux community, can disturb Parallels' lead in this market segment almost overnight.
VMware had been the defacto standard in PC-virtualization for few years until Microsoft came along. Recently it came out with a free version of its product called VMware Player which could "play" virtual machines created by its non-free products. While its possible that VMware may not release VMware Player for free in the Mac world, it might price itself low enough to compete with Parallels.

VMware's latest move kind of confirms what Parallels has been betting on for all this while, that the Mac running on Intel will lead to more Windows users to buy and experiment with Apple products. Infact Steve Jobs has a lot to gloat about during tomorrows Keynote address, since VMware's this move wouldn't have been possible without the switch from PowerPC to Intel.

August 05, 2006

Helping people Bookmark

If you run a blog or a website, chances are that you want to make it easier for people to bookmark you website. Here is a nice little page with list of APIs to help you generate those links for your website.

Switching to an online News reader

Flock News readerFlock has a great News Engine, but over the last few months I realized that unless someone comes out with a something equivalent of Google Sync, I don't think its going to work for me. I have 2 laptops and a desktop to work with and find it difficult to manage and read the daily news items. I did try using the google sync firefox plugin hack to sync flock, but I couldn't get news to sync up. I hope someone comes out with that plugin.

So after giving up on flock I turned to online news readers. The one I've heard a lot about was bloglines. To begin with I think there is a lot of improvements they can do with the UI. It was a serious turn off for me. Then there was the non-Ajax refresh which was another big usability bottleneck. Its hard to understand why they haven't switched to Ajax for most of the server interactions. Bloglines
May be I am dumb, or may be I got used to flock, but I couldn't figure out how to create folders and subfolders for by blogs which I want to read. Managing 200 blogs without subfolders gets a little tough. Bloglines has a few interesting features like creating your own blogs, creating blogrolls, etc... which are nice but they are not for me.

RojoWhile I did find bloglines to have solved my problem, I didn't stop looking until I found Rojo. Rojo was easy to use, Ajax based, with support for subfolders. One feature which I still miss from Flock is the ability to mark individual items are "read" or "unread". Again, I might be dumb, but I can't find this feature in Rojo. But they have a way to flag a news which is very close to what I want.

BTW there were two other news readers I did think about but didn't investigate deep enough. I didn't like Google Reader for its complicated interface, and didn't want to start using MyYahoo after being burnt by their Mail service sometime back.

Predictions for WWDC 2006

While we are at it here are my guesses at whats going to go down at WWDC 2006

August 04, 2006

Linux initrd (initial RAM disk) overview

Initrd is one of those things in linux which most of us have taken for granted. Here is a very interesting writeup on how initrd really works. "The Linux® initial RAM disk (initrd) is a temporary root file system that is mounted during system boot to support the two-state boot process. The initrd contains various executables and drivers that permit the real root file system to be mounted, after which the initrd RAM disk is unmounted and its memory freed. In many embedded Linux systems, the initrd is the final root file system. This article explores the initial RAM disk for Linux 2.6, including its creation and use in the Linux kernel."

August 03, 2006

Flagthis Service

We all have bookmarks and have grown over time to love and hate it. The problem is that after some time it get just too big and gets difficult to handle it. I've been working on a tool called flagthis which will make an attempt to remove the problem. Tradionally I used a notepad to jot down my browsed links so that I can pick and choose whats important later before adding it to my bookmarks list. Unfortuantely notepads are not very easy to maintain across multiple computers... and neither are bookmarks.

Flagthis allows you to create an account without any username, password or email address which can then be used to help you manage your collection of browsed links. I don't want to say much about it yet, but do feel free to check it out here... http://www.flagthis.com/

August 02, 2006

Javascript and firefox extensions

I have been hacking around with Firefox and extensions and realized that window.close() doesn't work on Firefox tabs. Aparently there is a hack available for this. I was also surprised that there is actually a firefox extension wizard available to created Firefox extensions. I don't think such a thing exists for IE. But if you know please let me know.