Category Archives: News

How to Win a Trip to Space With Your SQL Skills

This is a sponsored post written by myself on behalf of Red Gate. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

All right, so you’re tired of spending your days and nights pouring over code and fixing a seemingly endless sea of database issues. How would you like to put your skills to the test for a chance at a trip to space? Yes, you read that correctly.

Red Gate Software, maker of a number of database administration tools, is giving one lucky DBA a trip to space thanks to a partnership with Space Adventures. It almost makes me wish I was a DBA. Almost. DBA in Space sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity. All you have to do to participate is work in database administration, answer quiz questions posed on weekly videos, and complete an application explaining why you should be selected as the lucky DBA Red Gate sends to space.

The quiz itself is part space knowledge and part SQL hackery. You’ll need to demonstrate actual SQL skill in order to complete some of the questions, which range from identifying countries from orbit to unveiling detailed information using SQL. In other words, you probably can’t fake being a DBA to win, which pretty much disqualifies me.

If you’re one of the top 15 candidates, you’ll be given the opportunity to canvas for votes. The candidate with the most votes wins the grand prize.

The trip itself includes a suborbital space flight put together by Space Adventures. This flight takes you 10 times higher than commercial aircraft and 1/3 of the way to the International Space Station. Once at altitude, you’ll be just past the border between our upper atmosphere and outer space, where you’ll be able to look down and see Earth from afar. This view has only been seen by a small number of people here on Earth, so you’ll have a story to tell like none other at your next coding session, party, or family get-together.

Anyone that takes part in the competition is eligible to receive a significant discount on Reg Gate’s DBA and SQL Developer bundles, each bundle contains an abundance of software and tools that makes database administration and development easier. In addition, finalists will receive rewards, and anyone that takes part in voting received a free eBook.

If you’re an 18-year-old resident of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, or Germany; you can apply for the trip. Some exceptions do apply.

Red Gate and Space Adventures have put together this trip as a way of honoring the unsung heroes of corporations and organizations across the world. Yes, it is the CEO that gets the majority of the credit when things go right, but it’s a hard-working DBA that keeps the backbone of the company running smoothly. It’s difficult to put into a single paragraph just how much database administrators influence our day-to-day lives. From transportation operations to medical records, we rely on databases to store our valuable information and make it available at a moments notice.

So, what are you waiting for? Go check out this giveaway and see if you have the skills it takes to win a trip to space.

Spin Magazine Demands Twitter User Give up his Name

Long-time community member, friend and past Gnomedex attendee Eric Rice has used the name Spin on Twitter and other sites for about four years without any issues. Rice is a technology fanatic who lives in Portland – and someone who has nothing to do with the music industry beyond being a listener. That little tidbit didn’t stop Spin Magazine from issuing a cease-and-desist order this week, demanding Eric stop using the Twitter handle. The company claims that he is being confused with their brand and taking away their customers.

In the letter Mr. Rice receive from the company’s lawyer, the Spin Magazine claims that he has “caused a significant amount of confusion among our client’s customers. In particular, individuals looking for our client on Twitter and instead getting redirected to you.” The missive goes on to state that Eric is violating their trademarks, and that “It not only confuses our client’s customers, it also dilutes the value of their well known trademark. Accordingly, we hereby demand that you cease and desist all use of our client’s trademarks.”

This could very well be one of the biggest loads of bull-hockey I have ever heard of. Eric is in no way trying to compete with or pretending to be Spin Magazine. He isn’t exactly stealing their Twitter followers, either: the company account has just over 83,000 followers while Eric’s own account has about 4,000. He’s had this account for FOUR YEARS. Not once in all of that time has he sent out a message discussing anything remotely in relation to that magazine, website or company.

The business claims that “people don’t bother to search on Google for our Twitter handle.” Okay, perhaps not. However, it is linked prominently on their website. In my opinion, anyone who simply guesses at a company’s social media account name is pretty silly. Additionally, when they arrive at Eric’s page instead of Spin Magazine’s, it’s obvious very quickly that they are in the wrong place. Anyone who is sending out a Tweet to a person or business without knowing the proper name is – well – a dork. That’s the nicest thing I can think of to say. By the way – if you do a Google search for the words “Spin Twitter,” the first result is Spin Magazine’s account.

Look. If Eric were trying to scam their customers or gain followers, I could understand their issue. Were he attempting to impersonate someone then there would be a definite problem. But I honestly don’t see any evidence of him violating a trademark or hurting anyone at all. I think it’s ludicrous for a company to think they can bully someone like this into giving up a name they have a long history with. What are your thoughts?

Apple Finally Releases Fix for Mac Defender Malware

Apple was silent for far too long on the matter of the Mac Defender Malware, a Rogue anti-virus application like those seen on Windows machines for the past few years. This type of malware tricks users into thinking they are protecting their computer by displaying false “infection” messages and offering a fix in exchange for money. There have been thousands of reports by irate OS X customers in recent weeks. Many of the people who called Apple support were referred vaguely to the forums for help. It was almost as if Apple didn’t want to have to acknowledge that they are not invulnerable after all.

Late on Tuesday, the Cupertino company finally released a support article which explains how to eradicate this nasty piece of so-called software. The article begins by admitting that a recent scam has targeted their fans by “redirecting them from legitimate websites to fake websites which tell them that their computer is infected with a virus. The user is then offered Mac Defender “anti-virus” software to solve the issue.” The rest of the piece gives detailed instructions on ridding yourself of this pesky problem.

Within the next few days, Apple promises to release an update to OS X which will automagically find and remove Mac Defender and all of its known variants. The update should also help protect users by giving warnings if they download the malware. The problem, as Windows users and security experts know, is that these malware writers pump out newer versions very quickly… which take a while to detect and fix.

Rogue anti-virus programs are quite the lucrative business. According to McAfee, the number of these types of programs has increased by nearly 400% since 2009, causing computer users a loss of about $300 million. I don’t really care if you’re a Mac or Windows fanatic. If something pops up on your screen that you haven’t already installed yourself and then claims you are infected… click NOTHING. Don’t be fooled into downloading or buying anything. Look for a fix immediately, and follow the recommended guidelines. One of the most reputable sites out there which is FULL of guides of this sort is Bleeping Computer. If you have trouble fixing the machine up yourself, their free forums are full of security experts who will gladly help you – for nothing more than your thanks.

Where Does the World of Warcraft Gold Come From?

As of March, 2011, there were more than 11.4 million subscribers to the popular World of Warcraft game. Every one of those people need in-game gold in order to buy gear, enchant and gem said gear, buy potions or food and repair things after being killed by enemies. Most people get that gold into their hot little hands the old-fashioned way: they earn it. Grinding through quests, dailies and heroics is time-consuming, though. Some players simply don’t want to have to work that hard in order to reap the benefits having a lot of gold in your bags can bring. Instead, they choose to buy their in-game money with real money… a practice that is frowned upon by Blizzard Entertainment and most hard-core players.

There are websites out there which will sell you mass quantities of gold in exchange for your hard-earned cash. Many of them offer as much as 20,000 gold at a time, with delivery promised within the hour. The question, though, is where that gold comes from. It’s a well-known fact that gold farmers suck. I’ve heard horror stories from players trying to complete quests who cannot because a gold farmer is busy camping an area in order to kill repeatedly for the money drops. Who the heck is behind this farming?

A recent article in The Guardian ran a story on Wednesday about this topic, and the post shocked many. Chinese citizen Liu Dali was a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp. During the day, he was forced to do hard labor outdoors. At night, he was forced to kill demons, animals and even other players… farming WoW gold. He claims to be only one of many prisoners who were literally forced to play games like WoW for many hours every day, earning gold to later be sold for real money.

“Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour,” Liu told the Guardian. “There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn’t see any of the money. The computers were never turned off. If I couldn’t complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things,” he said.

It is believed that about 80% of the people who farm for gold in games like WoW are located in China, and that there are more than 100,000 people doing so. With such a lucrative business venture, it’s hard to tell how many of those people are being forced to play, and how many are doing so for very VERY low wages while their bosses rake in the profits.

I do NOT want to know if you are a WoW (or other game) player who buys in-game gold or credits. That’s just something we don’t need to share, y’all. I’m not putting anyone down or judging them. Your way of playing is your own. However, I know that if I were playing one of those games, I’d find it much more satisfying to earn my bankroll the hard way.

Are Journalists Biased?

Everyone who is anyone in the blogosphere has read the stories about Mike Arrington and his investment policy update. We’ve read hundreds of offshoot posts and Tweets, all of which point fingers and take sides. You’ve seen the articles proclaiming that the author would never, EVER! allow themselves to be compromised or biased in any way. They are journalists, after all! Real journalists remember not to allow anything to enter their head while they compose beyond their subject matter. Nothing. Ever. Right?

The problem is that no one knows anymore what – exactly – the definition of journalism is. Dave Winer reminds us that it doesn’t actually matter:

“All the people participating in the “journalist or not” debate are insiders. Insiders get access to execs for interviews and background info. Leaks and gossip. Vendor sports. Early versions of products. Embargoed news. Extra oomph on social networks. Favors that will be curtailed or withdrawn if you get too close to telling truths they don’t want told.”

In his telling of this hot story, Tim Carmody points to Dave’s words. At the end of his narrative, Tim asks: “Are you in, with the compromised? Or are you out, with the truthtellers and true believers?” Those two questions jumped off the page at me. They brought me out of my self-avowed silence on this entire situation. I had chosen to stay silent for a reason: it’s not my place to judge any person other than myself. I certainly have no right to say what is “okay” for Arrington to do – or anyone else involved in this chronicle.

Tim’s questions aren’t actually fair. I truly believe there is not one single writer/journalist/blogger out there who is NOT compromised in some way. We all have a bias or two, whether we admit it or not. We are influenced every moment of every day – by our belief system, by the people we surround ourselves with and by life’s experiences. We may try our best to never allow these things determine the way in which we write, but it happens. Does this make us bad people? Hell no. Do our individual biases cause us to be less trustworthy as writers? Not always, no.

There is a HUGE difference between someone intentionally writing a story in favor of a company if they’re receiving kickbacks from said business and the person who softens their words when writing about the startup their significant other works at. The latter is still telling the truth – they simply choose to do so in a nicer/different way. This doesn’t make their piece inauthentic. It makes it warm and fuzzy. The former, however, is likely selling you a pile of utter crap. I know it’s difficult to tell the difference sometimes, and this is where transparency comes in. The people who tell you that they may have some type of bias are usually the ones you can count on. The ones who hide their partiality are the ones you likely need to read with a grain of salt.

Anyone who tells you that every word they write is 100% never influenced/biased/compromised by something is lying to themselves. I don’t care if you’re “in” or “out,” you need to be honest with yourselves – and your readers. Let’s remember that we’re all human, we’re all imperfect and we’re all biased. I still refuse to choose some “side” in this entire debate. For me, there’s nothing to choose other than to do my best to continue being forthright and making sure my community knows that I believe every word I write.

At the end of the day, that’s all any of us should ask for. Hold yourself accountable, and others will naturally follow suit.

Who Owns Your Photos Online?

World Entertainment News Network announced several days ago that they have now become the “exclusive photo agency partner” of Twitpic. There are more than 20 million of us using this service, which allows us to easily upload snapshots and link them through Twitter. This deal lets the company sell images posted to Twitpic for publication within other avenues. The problem I’m finding, though, is that Twitpic’s own Terms of Use are quite conflicting when you read through them. Do they have the right to do this – or do you have exclusive rights to your photographs?

In the TOU, Twitpic states unequivocally that “all content uploaded to Twitpic is copyright the respective owners.” However, the very next sentence states that the company reserves the right to use or distribute your content on their sites – or any affiliated ones. There you go – you own your content, but they have the right to do with it as they please. They are very specific throughout the TOU in stating that no one else can ever use your stuff.

This is also part of the reason for partnering with World Entertainment News Network. That agency plans to initiate legal action against anyone doing so – other than themselves, of course. “There has been much unauthorized use of Twitpic images which we shall be addressing without delay,” said Lloyd Beiny, the agency’s chief executive. The claim is that only the accounts of celebrities will be affected, but neither company has agreed to answer questions for the press at this point. It could, in theory, apply to EVERY account on the Twitpic site.

A few paragraphs further down the Terms of Use, you’ll see that the only time someone is allowed to use your content is via “traditional” retweets, which will automagically link back to the originating photo on Twitpic’s site. Then again, someone can obtain permission to use your work commercially by “obtaining permission from Twitpic in advance of said usage and attribute credit to Twitpic as the source where you have obtained the content.” Yup – even though you own your pictures, you don’t have to give permission for them to be used on commercial sites or services. The company itself will gladly do this for you.

The bottom line here is that you don’t own your photographs. The more information we put online, the less control we have over it. Note that I’m not intentionally picking on Twitpic. They are simply the latest company to do what every other kid on the block has already done: pray that you use their site without truly reading the terms and conditions. It doesn’t matter if you read them or not, y’all. You’re still bound by them once you sign up.

If you don’t want anyone other than yourself to have control over your pictures, written words and other data, then you likely should not put it anywhere online. You might get away with owning your own site and chasing down idiots who steal without permission on a constant basis, but who has the time for that?

Mac Malware on the Rise

Newsflash: your Apple machine actually can become infected. Wait, what? You didn’t already know that? Seriously? I’ve been telling you for years that it’s possible. Other writers have attempted to educate you. Your Mac is not a steel wall against malware, people. It’s always been possible for an Apple computer to be infested with some type of malware – it just hasn’t happened very often.

Photo credit to Precise Security.

We can argue until we’re blue in the face about the reasons why we haven’t seen much malware aimed at the Mac. Apple lovers will of course tell you that it’s nearly impossible for their precious machines to fall prey to hackers and script kiddies. Security experts will teach you that the reason is as simple as a popularity contest. Until recently, Microsoft computers were much more prevalent. It didn’t pay to expend time and energy writing malicious code for a Mac. Windows was everywhere – malware was written for the masses.

Many of us have said repeatedly that as Apple gained in popularity among consumers, so would malware written specifically for the operating system. While it still obviously isn’t as much of an issue as it is on the Microsoft platform… it IS out there, and it is growing. A quick glance through the Apple forums will show you several new cases every day of people begging for help removing the latest threat: a Rogue software known as “Mac Defender.”

Apple fanboys and security researchers are going to argue for weeks. Many will tell you that you still have nothing to worry about and you don’t need to protect your Mac with any type of anti-malware/virus/spam software. They’ll try to convince you to continue feeling all warm and fuzzy. You’re supposed to keep believing that your machine isn’t susceptible unless you use it in a stupid way. After all, smart computer users could never get infected, right?

I’m here to tell you that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Weigh your options and take a good look at the possibility that something could happen. Isn’t your information worth protecting? Resign yourself to the fact that malware is indeed “out there” which could infect your Mac and educate yourself as to how to stay safe.

The Fight for Control of OMGFacts

A little over a year ago, I did an interview with the creator of the OMGFacts Twitter account, Adorian Deck. At the time, I was vastly impressed with what the young man had accomplished. He started the account for fun back in 2009, Tweeting interesting and amusing facts. Very quickly, he had amassed more than 300,000 followers. This growth spurt attracted the eye of 24-year-old Emerson Spartz. Spartz promised to help the account mature into a viable business in exchange for a piece of the pie. It’s starting to look as though he asked for a bit too much – or did he?

Mr. Spartz is definitely not new to the game. He has his ears tuned to what teens take viral – in more than one way. You’ll find him behind the popular GivesMeHope Twitter account and the go-to dating site for teens, Flirtlocker. The contract the pair signed indicated that Spartz would receive 100% of the rights to the OMGFacts brand and content.

Since that time, the Twitter account has grown to boast nearly two million followers. The pair have added a YouTube channel and a website. With all of this growth, you’d assume that the boys are making money hand over fist. It’s not clear how much money Mr. Spartz may be making, but young master Deck claims to have netted a mere one hundred dollars. He has now filed a lawsuit against his partner, claiming that the original contract was “predatory” in nature, created simply to wrest control of the account away from the creator.

While it’s easy to feel bad for Adorian, I’m not sure how he has a case. He willingly signed away all rights to the content AND the brand itself. To come back more than a year later and claim that the contract was designed to “wrest control” away from him seems to be rather redundant. Of course it was designed that way. It stated it outright in the papers both parties signed.

One has to wonder where Adorian’s parents or guardians were during this changing of the guard. Since Mr. Deck was under the legal age of consent at the time and could not legally sign a contract on his own volition, his guardians would have had to agree. I’d assume a lawyer was involved to advise them. Don’t you think that any one of those adults would have advised Deck not to give up complete control?

And, of course, if it turns out that no adults were involved and Deck simply signed the paperwork… then we have a whole new ballgame, y’all. I don’t know – what do you think? Do you feel there’s a bit more to this story than we’re being told thus far, or is it simply a sad case of a young man taken advantage of without a leg to stand on now?

How To Unbrick Your iDevice After Upgrading to iOS 4.3.3

This is a guest post written by Reza Malayeri, a frequent contributor to our LockerGnome channel on YouTube.

Reports are flying in that apple’s iTunes server is experiencing a glitch that will turn your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch into a very high priced BRICK. Needless to say, this is a very scary scenario, and the apple support forums are filled with complaints from shocked users who are out of luck.

Luckily there is hope for people who previously saved their SHSH files with TinyUmbrella (no need to jailbreak), or people who had jailbroken their iDevice on iOS versions prior to 4.3.3.

The SHSH file is a crucial iOS firmware file that allows users of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch to DOWNGRADE their version of iOS to whatever version of iOS that they have a saved SHSH for. When a user jailbreaks their iDevice, Cydia will usually save a copy of the most recent SHSH and cache that on their servers. You may get lucky and have several SHSH files for previous versions of iOS saved on the Cydia servers. Alternatively, you may have been diligent, and decided to save your SHSH files as an insurance policy against unforeseen situations like this. We have several video’s explaining how to save your SHSH files on our LockerGnome YouTube channel. One of which can be found here.

Once you determine if you have saved copies of SHSH files for previous versions of iOS, you’ll want to begin the process of downgrading from your bricked 4.3.3 iDevice. You’ll need to launch TinyUmbrella and search for a copy of the iOS firmware that you’d like to downgrade to on the internet. Two iOS firmware repositories you could try are ModMyi and Redmond Pie.

Next you’ll want to place your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch in DFU (Device Firmware Update) mode, and prepare to restore to your iOS firmware of choice. To place your bricked iDevice in DFU, you simply: open iTunes and connect the iPhone to your Mac, press and hold the Home button and the Sleep/Wake button at the same time, and after exactly 10 seconds release the Sleep/Wake button. Continue holding the Home button until your iTunes pops up a message telling you that it has detected an iPhone in recovery mode.

Now you can make sure you have the associated SHSH in Tiny Umbrella, and lauch the TSS server in Tiny Umbrella by pressing the button “Launch TSS server”. Once the TSS server is running in TinyUmbrella, head back over to iTunes, and press the “Restore” button while holding down the “Option” key on your Mac’s keyboard. On Windows you would be holding down “Ctrl” while pressing Restore in iTunes. You should now see iTunes giving the option to navigate the location where you previously downloaded the iOS firmware that you will downgrading to. Navigate to the iOS firmware file and select it. You should now be able to downgrade your iDevice. Keep in mind that you must have a stored SHSH file in TinyUmbrella that is associated with a version of iOS prior to 4.3.3, and you must have the TSS server running withing TinyUmbrella prior to restoring with iTunes.