How To Survive The Internet

How To Survive The Internet #3

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you” Kurt Cobain 

The internet is not always friendly. Just as an example: PhishTank reported that in April 2011, over 18000 phishes were reported, of which close to 15000 were verified. A quick peak around Shadowserver Foundation‘s Statistic pages will also give you an idea of just how unfriendly it can be.

With that in mind, part 3 is focused on being a bit more ninja-like on the net.

1) Tor Project

By using the Tor software you connect to it’s open network which helps you defend against any type of network surveillance. However like any technology, there are also the darker elements such as the Silk Road Marketplace and others, which are only accessible while on the onion network (the protocol which Tor uses). This topic would take an entire post on it’s own, so maybe I will one day, but for now go have a look for yourself.

Read more here, and download it here. The simplest is the browser bundle download, but it is easy enough to setup if you download the other bundles.

TIP: Use at your own risk, some ISPs aren’t too fond of Tor.

2) BugMeNot

If you hate spam as much as I do, this will make you very happy. BugMeNot allows you to use or share logins for sites that require you to register, such as NY Times, IMDB and many others, just type in the url of the website and check if there is anything available.

Tip: Don’t fall for the “Click YES to show password”. These are just spam and make it harder to find legit accounts to use.

3) 10 Minute Mail

Sometimes you need a disposable email address to receive a confirmation or to register for some service, but don’t feel like the crap that follows. 10 Minute Mail creates one of the email addresses for you and after 10 minutes, if you don’t click the renew button, it deletes the address. Very simple and useful!

4) namechk

Wondering if your username is available on a specific website or across a whole range? namechk makes this easy. You type in the desired username and it will scan the 159 websites in  it’s database to check if it is available, or taken, and on which sites. This is also useful to check if there is someone with the same username that may be out there.

5) Fake Name Generator

This one is bordering on illegal, but it all depends how it is used. As they say in their FAQs:

We do not condone, support, or encourage illegal activity of any kind. We will cooperate with law enforcement organizations to assist in the prosecution of anyone that misuses the information we provide or that asks us to provide illegal materials, such as forged documents or genuine credit card numbers.

That being said, we really don’t see how it could be. If you make up a random name and address off the top of your head, do you really think its illegal?

Choose the gender, name set and country (there are also advanced options) and soon you’ll be Aaron Hope of Pont Crugnant, a training consultant weighing in at 206.4 pounds.  It’ll even give you an email address and “credit card number” (just don’t try use it).

This can be very useful when registering for certain sites on the web where you’d rather not share your own information on.


How To Survive The Internet #2

I know it’s a bit soon to be posting the next guide, since the first one only came out yesterday, but I thought I had better do this one while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Here are today’s five for you to look at.

1) Popurls

The web on one page.

That’s the only way I can think to describe it. It takes all the current most popular pages from Twitter, Reddit, Digg, Flickr, Youtube, NY Times, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, Google News, Wired, Slashdot, Metafilter and almost every other major website you can think of and allows you to view them – by either clicking the link, or just looking at the hovering preview of the page.

If you want to know what is happening in the world, this is the place you’d look. If it’s not here somewhere, it’s not important…

2) Quixey

Google is good for a lot of things. Finding specific software, however, is not one of it’s strong points.

That is where Quixey comes in, and it does a rather good job of it as well! It allows you to search for software on almost every major platform, and even shows you web-based apps and browser add-ons available. I say almost because I did notice that Linux software is absent from the site, but as it moves out of it’s beta state, I am sure that this will be included.

It allows you to choose filter between paid and free software, and rather convenient are the reviews snippets shown next to each app.

3) The Big Picture

Reading the news is good and all, but we all know the famous quote, “A picture is worth a a thousand words.”

With this website, that couldn’t be truer. Their “news stories in photographs” approach is awesome. Their latest story about the volcano erupting in Chile is breathtaking.

There is not much else that I can say except that you should go see for yourself.

4) Windows Live Skydrive & Badongo

These two are grouped together because they both have their place.

I’ll start with the Windows Live service’s Skydrive. You get given 25GB of storage to use pretty much however you like (but I wouldn’t go uploading dodgy things.) Chances are that you already have a Windows Live account, so you just need to activate this service. After that you will see you have your private and public folders but the one downside is that files are limited to 50MB each. There are other services you can use that are very similar such as DropBox, but I like that you don’t need to download software and also that you can save directly from Office to your Skydrive.

Next up, is a service I only started using quite recently, is Badongo. You have unlimited storage available and the file size limit is 1GB. I’m still getting used to this service, but go check it out and see what you think.

Alternatives to the above are DropBox, FilePigeon & countless others.

5) The CIA World Factbook 

Getting reliable up to date information about a specific country at any given time can be a bit of a mission. And then getting it all in one location is another mission altogether.

This site has any information about a country that you would like to know. For example did you know that South Africa has 147 airports with paved runways? Or that we have over 46 million cellphones and 4.42 million internet connections in the country being used?


How To Survive The Internet #1

The internet can be a scary place. Over time you might find certain websites that you cannot live without. Now because I’m just awesome that way, I’ve decided to share some of the better ones out there, so you don’t have to sift through pages of Google results.

Of course if I had to start listing them by the hundreds as I easily could, you would give up before you even reached the halfway mark. So instead, once in a while, I’ll give you five of my favourites that stick out at that moment. Just click on the headings to go to each website. They aren’t in any particular order or in categories, they’re just there, because otherwise my CDO might kick in. *twitch*

1) Zamzar

Of all the websites I have ever come across, this one must be one of the most highly recommended. Have you ever received a file and not been able to open it? You can either mission trying to find the software to open it or try to convert it somehow…

That is why Zamzar is here. It has a pretty comprehensive list of supported file formats. With the free version of their service, you can upload files up to 100MB in size, going up to 1GB for paying customers. As a paying customer you also get online storage for a certain amount of time, can upload larger files, do concurrent conversions and much more

Its a pretty straightforward process as well:

  • Upload file
  • Choose output format
  • Enter email address
  • Go to download link (or storage inbox for paying customers) and download converted file.

I have tested the converter on all sorts of files (pdf to doc, xls to pdf, jpg to bmp, jpg to pdf and many more and have not been able to find a fault in any conversion.

As an extra bonus, the site also allows you to convert videos from most video sites, such as YouTube, into downloadable videos.

This is truly a life saver of a website.

2) Snopes

I don’t like spam, at all. So when people I know forward me e-mails that are clearly spam, I get really angry. I won’t even get onto the Facebook spam that I get on my  Facebook News Feed. If you don’t know what Snopes is, you are probably one of those people that forwards every e-mail that you receive and annoy the hell out of people like me.

Here’s how it works. If you receive a mail that you think may be a scam or spam, type the subject line or part of the message into Snopes’ search box and “voila!”

It’s not just email, it also lists various other types of scams running. Check the Hot 25 list for the most circulated scams at the moment

Hoax Slayer, Truth Or Fiction & Urban Legends are also decent alternatives and can also be used to double check your suspicions

3) Central Ops

This site is for the more advanced user and has some very useful online network tools. Get information on an IP address, get a domain’s information & records or even see what information your browser is displaying about you to the world (or more importantly to spammers or other undesirable people out there.)

To just verify an email address, use verify-email.org. This site is pretty simple. Got an e-mail that has bounced back and want to confirm if the address is valid? Just check it here.

4) Down for everyone or just me?

The idea here is simple. Picture the scene: You go to your favourite website, but it won’t open, so you start swearing (and possibly bashing your keyboard) because your email, and whatever else, is working.

This is where this site comes in… you simply enter the url into the box, click “or just me?” and within seconds you will know whether the entire site is down or if the problem is on your side.

5) How Secure Is My Password?

Want to know how secure your password is? Enter it here to find out how long it would take someone with an average desktop PC to crack your password. Simple

Just as an extra, here is a video I came across today that I thought I’d share…