Victoria Nigar, a top Google+ Profile in 42,550+ Circles is Apparently a Fake

Google+ has enforced a strict policy, when it comes to names. Google has made it mandatory that all Google+ users must compulsorily use their real names in Google+. Details on name policy can be found on this page. As with any other social network, Google+ was also facing problems of fake celebrity accounts, and they addressed it conventionally with the verified account feature. However, these measures were not enough to keep fakers at bay.

Recently, a Google+ profile has been discovered, which easily features among the top 1000 Google+ accounts worldwide, but is actually a fake account. The Google+ account of Victoria Nigar has attracted a lot of attention lately. She is in over 42,550 circles, and is ranked 545 among top Google+ users in the world, #10 in Canada. Clearly, she has a huge following, but the people who follow her looking at her profile have not the slightest clue that its a fake profile.

Whoever owns this profile is in violation of one of the Google+ account terms.

Don’t pretend to be someone else.
Impersonation is a serious issue. Pretending to be someone else could cause your profile to be deleted. If someone is pretending to be you, go to their profile and click Report this profile.

This graph at Circle Count shows the growth of Victoria’s circles over time.

Even the display picture on her Google+ profile is a fake, and is of Susan Coffey, who happens to be a model.

This profile has been playing it smart, and has managed to stay one of the top Google+ profiles. However, what gave her away was probably her “About” page, which has the word “Google” written in every field. So, she has worked at Google for 10+ years from 2000, her bragging right is “Google”, her occupation is “Google” and even the “other name” field on her profile says Google.

If you visit her profile recently, you will see that the employment details have been taken down. Even Louis Gray, the famous Google+ evangelist fell for this fake profile, and shared her profile as part of one of his circles.

This is easily the biggest con on Google+ until now, and it has left everyone clueless with the only hint being, the first few tweets from the account were in Russian, whereas she claims to have lived only in California and San Francisco.

What is ACTA and How It Will Affect You

The Internet has seen a rapid growth in information-flow over the last decade. Search, location based services and online knowledge bases have worked collectively towards creating a knowledgeable global society, which is well connected through this wonderful communication medium. The Internet is the largest network in the world, and the best thing about the Internet is that it has no formal owner or operating boundaries. For this reason, it has always attracted censorship laws that regulate the content flowing through it. This censorship gives legal control, and in a way, would give ownership to the regulating authority!

Over the last few months, SOPA and PIPA have been trying to take control of the Internet. Although they were finally averted with mass protests, it must be noted that SOPA and PIPA were not the only bills threatening the Internet and its user-generated content.

What is ACTA?

If SOPA was a speck of dust, ACTA is the real sandstorm here. ACTA stands for Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement and covers many other verticals, beside online content. Although the European Commission has some assurances and good-looking points for ACTA up on its website, it will definitely create upheaval in the free-speech world.

Twitter Tweaks Censorship Rules to Enter New Countries

A year ago, on this very day, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone from Twitter wrote a detailed post on their blog, outlining their efforts with transparency, censorship of Tweets and keeping the flow of tweets alive. The dramatic headline was “The Tweets must flow”, and it raised some valid concerns regarding the Twitter platform and the content that people share on it.

An excerpt from the page reads,

Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users’ right to speak freely and preserve their ability to contest having their private information revealed. While we may need to release information as required by law, we try to notify Twitter users before handing over their information whenever we can so they have a fair chance to fight the request if they so choose.

After an year, today, the Twitter blog has posted another article titled “The Tweets still must flow” and this time, they have announced an improvement to their implementation of censorship. Until now, all geopolitical tweets, which were banned, were removed entirely from the Twitter account of a user. However, starting this year, Twitter has an innovative plan to remove a tweet only from the geographical region that considers it sensitive. Additionally, the user will be notified whenever some content undergoes this partial-censorship on Twitter.

This new policy will help Twitter enter new geographical regions, which have stringent laws regarding free speech. It will also safeguard a user from strict and harsh free-speech laws within some countries. However, it might end up diminishing the user’s accountability, which again will be an excuse for Governments to raise the bar on their version of censorship.

Linux Mint Team Releases the First Stable Version of Cinnamon

Linux Mint has been trying to move away from Gnome 3 and did not even consider Unity as an option, when it comes to the desktop environment. About a month ago, we came to know that Clement Lefebvre at Linux Mint is trying to create a custom desktop environment for Linux Mint, called Cinnamon. The latest word is that the first version of Cinnamon has been released officially.

Linux Mint has made earlier attempts at a decent desktop environment by improving on Gnome 3. They created Mint Gnome Shell Extension (MGSE), and it was shipped with Linux Mint 12. However, Clement was not satisfied with MGSE, and wrote on the Linux Mint forum saying:

I am not going to argue whether Gnome Shell is a good or a bad desktop. It’s just not what we’re looking for. The user experience the Gnome team is trying to create isn’t the one we’re interested in providing to our users. There are core features and components we absolutely need, and because they are not there in Gnome Shell, we had to add them using extensions with MGSE.

Thus came Cinnamon version 1.2, the first stable release on Cinnamon. With this release of Cinnamon, the API and the desktop are fully stable. However, it is not the only product that the Mint team has in plan. They want to build a complete desktop-environment ecosystem with themes, applets, extensions, user ratings and comments.

Now that Cinnamon is out, it is definite that this will be the default desktop environment on Linux Mint 13. Linux Mint has overtaken Ubuntu as the most popular Linux distro, and the war is clearly between these two Debian flavors. With further development, we will see a tough competition between the HUD enabled Unity and the feature rich Cinnamon.

Google’s SPDY Invited to be a Part of HTTP 2.0 Standard

Google’s vision of a faster web just got real. SPDY is Google’s internet protocol replacement for HTTP, which has some interesting features to speed up the internet. It was revealed for the first time back in 2009, around the time I joined Techie-buzz as a staff writer. Two years later, now, Mark Nottinghamthe chairman of the HTTP working group has invited SPDY to be included in the HTTP 2.0 standard.

The Chromium blog defined SPDY as,

SPDY is at its core an application-layer protocol for transporting content over the web. It is designed specifically for minimizing latency through features such as multiplexed streams, request prioritization and HTTP header compression.

The test results were impressive, with up to 55% speed improvement, over traditional HTTP. This was tested by developing top 25 websites using SPDY and HTTP. You can read all about it at this post. SPDY is also Open Source, allowing community-based development. The primary improvements in SPDY are

  • A slash of 50% in page load time
  • Communication from server end if the client needs resources and server can provide them
  • Use of SSL as the underlying protocol, providing a secure web
  • Use of header compression
  • Allowing concurrent HTTP requests in a single TCP session

HTTP is an old protocol, and the web has improved by leaps and bounds since then. There could not have been a better time for a new application layer protocol.

The next step for Google is travelling further down the protocol stack, and it is already proposing an alternative for TCP. Besides SPDY, Google also proposed increasing the initial congestion window from three to ten, which has already been hacked by them internally as part of the TCP Slow start hack, and incorporated into their domain. If you have been wondering, this is one of the reasons why the website loads so fast.

Europe Sees Another Mass Migration of Government IT to FOSS, This Time in Spain

At a time when Europe is facing a hard time in a financial crisis and Apple is worth more than Greece, price cuts of any form are always welcome. Perhaps for this reason, a slew of European countries have moved to FOSS technologies for use in their internal operations. France, Germany and many prominent European economies have started using FOSS technologies, and have benefited hugely in saved IT costs. This time, Spain’s autonomous region Extremadura wants to move to open-source solutions in place of their current proprietary desktop software.

The IT department of the region has estimated that about 40,000 computers will be migrated to open source technologies, as part of this move. If the project proceeds as planned, it will be Europe’s second largest desktop migration project. The largest was of course the one at Gendarmerie, France, for which the French government floated a huge maintenance tender a few months ago. The city of Munich in Germany recorded the third high, with 14,000 computers migrated to open-source technologies.

Extremadura has chosen to use a Debian based system. The region’s CIO, Cayetano López, claims that the Debian system will be ready in three months. The next one year will be spent deploying it across various regional government offices.

That version gives us a good starting point to adapt Debian to the needs of a standard user, offer a light, and secure desktop, compliant with the requirements of ISO and IEC 27001 IT security standards.

This migration will unify all desktops across offices making them free from security problems and viruses. Nevertheless, the best advantage of using FOSS is unanimously decided as immense cost savings.

Ubuntu Tries to Do Away with Menus, Enter Heads Up Display, or HUD

Over the last few years, Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth have become extremely innovative about User Experience (UX). Ubuntu really has some UX experts in its team, and the kind of things that have been coming out of Canonical for the last few months shout out loud that Canonical is putting them to good use. The recent UX change for Ubuntu is “Heads Up Display” or HUD, and it surely looks like a good feature.

Heads Up Display, or HUD is a new way of interacting with applications, where you do not go through multiple menu hierarchies to reach a menu item. Instead, you simply type it and HUD will search it for you, in live. Moreover, HUD remembers what you typed last and prioritizes those commands in search results, so is also very fast for common tasks. It bridges the gap between the command line interface and application menus, and does it wonderfully.

As mentioned by Olli Ries in a blog post, who was once the Principal Director of engineering at Novell, and is one of the Product Strategy Engineering Managers at Canonical presently, plans for HUD were underway even before the last Ubuntu Developer Summit.

Facebook Finalizes Timeline, Rolling Out to All Facebook Users Now

When Facebook unveiled Timeline for the first time and we caught a glimpse of it at their F8 developer summit, it was clear that Facebook has big plans for this feature. Timeline was a major upgrade for the social network, and it was definitely going to stay. What we did not know, was how far Facebook would keep developing it, before rolling it out to the public permanently. Well, the wait is over, and stating today, Timeline is an official Facebook feature, available to all Facebook users. The final rollout of timeline took Facebook four months from its first preview.

In these four months, Facebook acquired Gowalla possibly to improve Timeline, or to integrate location services (Facebook places, in this case) with Timeline in some way. Timeline was also released on 15 December as an opt-in feature in New Zealand, where you had to enable Timeline for your account by yourself, if you wanted to use it. This time though, Timeline will be the default view on your profile. Although you can select to opt-out of Timeline for a few more days (at, eventually, your account will be upgraded to use Timeline.

I have been using Timeline for quite some time now, using a trick that was revealed right after the first preview of Timeline (irrelevant now). Timeline has some interesting UX aspects that make it wonderful for a walk down memory lane. It gives more meaning and organization to the stream of Facebook posts, presenting it as a meaningful stream of thoughts over time.

Timeline is available on both the Facebook website, and on the Android Facebook app. If you have not seen Timeline on your profile yet, you will get it very soon. Tag your photos properly and clean up your albums for a meaningful Facebook Timeline experience on your profile. Here is the Facebook Timeline introduction video for those did not get a chance to see it yet.

Judge Overlooks the Fifth Amendment, Forces Defendant to Decrypt Laptop

Until a few days ago, privacy and free speech laws were respected and handled with utmost care in the US. This made the US a role model, when it came to privacy laws. However, after the recent upheaval, these protections are falling apart. SOPA/PIPA has attempted to ridiculed free speech in the name of censorship, by paving a path to attack all websites with user-generated content. However, something that has not happened in years, and has been a big issue for the federal government in handling cases involving storage media, is finally happening after all.

In an ongoing case, Judge Robert Blackburn ordered a woman to decrypt the hard-drive of her laptop no later than 21st of this month, or face contempt of court charges. This is a critical matter, as decisions in many similar cases have been affected because of the protections provided by the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment protects against exactly these situations, where someone could be forced to provide evidence against them.

However, Judge Blackburn has a different interpretation of the 5th Amendment, and says

I find and conclude that the Fifth Amendment is not implicated by requiring production of the unencrypted contents of the Toshiba Satellite M305 laptop computer.

He also cites a 1789 law, that was used to force telephone companies to aid in surveillance, and can be used to force decryption of hard-drives (don’t ask me how)! Federal Prosecutors explain why this decision was taken, claiming that

Public interests will be harmed absent requiring defendants to make available unencrypted contents in circumstances like these. Failing to compel Ms. Fricosu amounts to a concession to her and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible.

The defendant has Phil Dubois as her lawyer, who also represented PGP creator Phil Zimmermann, in a case.

Anonymous Hacks FTC’s OnGuardOnline Website as Part of OpMegaupload

Since 2008, the satirical hacker collective, popularly known as the Anonymous has risen to act in the public interest. They have carried out numerous hacks to bring down websites of companies with questionable business practices, governments with poor legislative policies and churches with a twisted sense of religion. From a satirical merry hacker-band, the group went on to become the primary name in the international online hacktivism space.

This time, the group of Anonymous has targeted OnGuardOnline (the US online security website), a partner the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The attack is a protest against the shutdown of Megaupload, the popular file-sharing website.

It is a well-known fact that after the downfall of their usual communication channels, Anonymous has started posting on the Pastebin website. This particular paste on Pastebin announces the FTC hack, along with a dump of the hacked data. The same message is also posted on the hacked website.

If SOPA/PIPA/ACTA passes we will wage a relentless war against the corporate internet, destroying dozens upon dozens of government and company websites. As you are reading this, we are amassing our allied armies of darkness, preparing boatloads of stolen booty for our next raid. We are sitting on hundreds of rooted servers getting ready to drop all your mysql dumps and mail spools. Your passwords? Your precious bank accounts? Even your online dating details?! You ain’t even trying to step to this.

Earlier this week, a misguided faction inside Anonymous decided to post a YouTube video, calling all Anonymous supporters to attack Facebook. Soon thereafter, the attack was dismissed by the Anonymous Twitter account when they saw this as unfeasible. This is being realistic, because such a mega-scale attack is not possible without proper co-ordination, at least not after Anonymous lost its IRC server.