Coming in 2011 – World Population Hits 7 Billion

earth-globeAmong the predictions for the new year, I found a video showing the direction of the world’s population growth. I was surprised to learn that in 2011, the 7 billionth person will be born.


Even more surprising, I found out that the world’s population may actually stabilize at around 9 or 10 billion people by 2050. It was surprising, only because I remember Malthusian predictions that this planet was headed for a big train wreck because of the birth rates. It turns out that it was mostly hype, and birth rates are slowing as we move into the future. In addition, improving technology allows us to support more people on fewer resources.

However, don’t consider this prediction to be very accurate. I’m not certain that they’ve completely considered the ideas of technology’s accelerating returns. Several people believe that medical science could allow us to live forever by 2030. If a group of our population actually stops dying, what happens to the future population growth?

I don’t trust long term predictions made by scientists. They prove to be wrong more often than they are right.

Skype Explains the Big December Failure

skypeOn December 22nd, millions of Skype users were left without service for roughly 24 hours. At the time, Skype was scrambling to get the system back up and didn’t offer a full explanation of what was happening. (what is Skype?)

Earlier today, Skype’s CIO, Lars Rabbe, gave a fairly detailed explanation about the system wide failure. Skype depends heavily on a world wide network of peer-to-peer nodesand supernodesthat are hosted by users running Skype’s software. This network distributes the service’s work load to each Skype user as needed.

According to Lars, a cluster of Skype servers overloaded and threw more of the load onto the peer-to-peer network. Normally, this should have only slowed the network down. Instead, a bug in some of the Windows clients running a newer Skype version, cause many to completely fail. About 50% of the peer-to-peer network stopped responding, and the entire network collapsed like a house of cards.

Skype technicians responded by creating new peers on the network called mega-supernodesto try to recover normal traffic, but the recovery still took a long time.

So what has Skype learned? Can they prevent downtime in the future? Here’s what Lars said about the future:

… we are learning the lessons we can from this incident and reviewing our processes and procedures, looking in particular for ways in which we can detect problems more quickly to potentially avoid such outages altogether, and ways to recover the system more rapidly after a failure.

Skype has become a critical communication tool for many individuals and companies. If Skype can avoid major disasters in the future, they’ll remain the king of VOIP. If not, they have plenty of competition waiting to jump in as a replacement.

Here are some of our previous posts about Skype:

10 Most Searched BitTorrent Downloads in 2010

the-pirate-bay2010 was not a good year for those looking for free movie downloads and other not-quite-legal files. Many of the file sharing sites were either shut down or forced to go legit. One of the most popular sites, The Pirate Bay, is one example of the sites being forced offline.

One of the best way to share files online is using the  BitTorrent protocol. Bittorrent shared files are stored across many different personal computers over the internet, making them almost impossible to shut down. Even though a site like Pirate Bay can be shuttered, the BitTorrent shared files are still around, and there are still ways to search for them.

Recently, the TorrentFreak website posted 2010’s top 100 searches for BitTorrent downloads. Here are the top ten items from their list.

1. inception
2. iron man 2
3. 2010
4. xxx
5. french
6. avatar
7. dvdrip
8. despicable me
9. porn
10. clash of the titans

Some of those searches aren’t surprising. Others in the list leave us wondering what people were really looking for. What’s so great about frenchdownloads? If you have some clue, let us know in the comments below.

Here are a few other posts about BitTorrent, in case you are curious.

Torrent Search bar, search torrents from firefox

Best Peer to Peer (P2P) & Torrent Software Clients for File Sharing

How to Open .torrent Files?

Disable BitTorrent Integration in Opera [How To]

The Pirate Bay: Finally Silenced by Hollywood, But For How Long?

6 Tools for Anonymous Torrenting Options

MacX DVD to iPod Ripper – Free for Limited Time

[Windows & Mac]

If you have a portable media player, one of your favorite past-times may watching movies on it. The biggest issue that you might have is getting a movie from a DVD into your device. There is  no shortage of video converters out there, however, not all of them are easy to use for inexperienced users.

macx-dvd-ipod-ripperAfter reading a post at instant fundas, I decided to try out MacX DVD to iPod Ripper. This program is free only until January 10th of 2011. You can only get a copy of it by visiting the Digiarty Facebook page and clicking the Likebutton there.


Once you’ve Likedthe page, you will be given links to download a free copy of the program. It’s available for both Mac and Windows. Included in the download will be a text file called SN.txt, which will give you the free license serial number. The first time you run the ripper, it will prompt you for the license serial number.

To use MacX DVD to Ipod, you’ll see a set of simple instructions under Getting Started, as shown here.


1. Click the Discbutton to chose the DVD you wish to convert.

2. Chose the file format from the to xxxtabs.

3. Click the Startbutton to begin the process.

As you can see, it has settings for iPod, iPad, iPhone and Apple TV. However, all the same formats can also be watched on a PC or Mac.

Using the normal settings for a 640×480 MP4, I was able to convert a 2 hour DVD in about 15 to 20 minutes. I found that using the H264 format made the conversion time increase to nearly an hour.

At Digiarty’s home site, they offer a totally free version of this software called WinX Free DVD to iPod Ripper. I tried it out and found that it doesn’t decrypt DVD movies. That means that it’s pretty much useless for most movies.

I could only wish that the MacX DVD to iPod Ripper was free all the time. It’s a great little program that’s pretty easy to use. It’s an ideal piece of software for doing what it was designed to do rip DVDs for iPods and the like.

Internet Explorer Critical Security Flaw – Early Present for Microsoft

malwareHave you opened all of your Christmas presents yet? Microsoft’s biggest present was a huge security headache that hit them just before Christmas. On December 22nd, Microsoft was forced to warn everyone that Windows users are now vulnerable to a flaw in all versions of Internet Explorer. This flaw, known to take advantage of specially formatted CSS (web page code), doesn’t have an easy fix.

metaploit-logoSo far, nobody has detected hackers using an exploit based on this zero-day CSS flaw. However, an exploit has been published and even included in the Metasploit security defense suite. That means that it’s only a matter of time before Microsoft’s problem becomes a problem for all users of Internet Explorer. Microsoft has promised that they are working in a fix for this flaw. Will it get here in time to save us from thousands of hacked home computers?

Here’s my suggestion to all of those using   Internet Explorer:

Download and install a different web browser such as Firefox, Chrome or Opera. Only use Internet Explorer if it’s absolutely needed. Once you’ve done that, you can patiently wait on Microsoft to fix this problem.

Affected Operating Systems: Windows XP, Vista, 7

Affected Browsers: IE6, 7, 8, 9

Put the Newest Free Screensavers on Your Christmas List

[Windows Only]

Christmas is coming fast. I hope you’re ready for it. How about some free Christmas gifts for those geeky friends of yours? The folks at NewFreeScreensavers have just added 5 new Christmas screensavers, bringing the total to 35 Christmas and New Year items.

I’m sure you can find plenty of other screensavers out there, but be careful to visit only safe websites when you are looking for them. As many of you have learned, not all free screensavers are created equal. Many times, free means that you have to install stupid toolbars, adware and other unwanted junk along with the screensaver. That’s not true of the ones at NewFreeScreensavers.


Some these now have transparent backgrounds, showing your desktop with snow and decorations on top. Another nice feature is that they now have settings to mute the sounds. A few of the screensavers also have a setting to include a small analog clock on the screen.

arrow-down-double-3 Screensaver Download Page

W I n d o w s 7 t h e m e s ? holiday-lights

If you have Windows 7, be sure to check out the Holiday Lights theme from Microsoft. If you don’t have Windows 7, you can still snag the wallpapers by using this trick.

Techie Buzz Verdict: I’ve downloaded and installed several of the screensavers at this site and never had a problem with any of them. These screensavers are safe, totally free, and there are dozens more to check out once you visit.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

FCC Regulators Impose Net Neutrality – What is it?

[United States]

fcc-sealOn Tuesday this week, a panel of 5 regulators in the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) voted to impose Net Neutrality rules on internet service providers. As you may know, the FCC is a U.S. agency that regulates communications of many types, such as telephone, cellular phone, radio, cable tv, wireless internet and others. The members of the commission are political appointees, and are not elected by a vote of any kind. The commission also enjoys a great deal of independence from Congressional authority.

The main idea around Net Neutrality is that internet service providers should provide open and unrestricted access to all of their customers. In the past, providers such as Comcast have slowed down access to certain types of information such as Bittorrent streams. Net Neutrality is also proposed to stop the service providers from charging extra money based on band-width use. Others are saying that Net Neutrality isn’t enough, and all internet access should be free to the public.

While the ideas behind Net Neutrality sound beneficial to the average consumer, many people have raised concerns that any government involvement is going to clamp down on the inherent freedom of the internet. As we’ve seen already, governments are the worst abusers of internet freedom. Countries such as Iran, North Korea and China are famous for imposing severe restrictions on data entering their countries. The U.S. government has already shown a heavy hand when they shut down over 80 websites for copyright infringement, and tried to shut down the WikiLeaks web site.

Internet freedom and privacy organizations are typically afraid to support any regulation of the internet, even inside the U.S. borders. For example, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has serious questions:

What is the basis for the FCC’s authority, and is there a reasonable limiting principle to it? Is the basis on which the FCC is claiming it can regulate, one that has real limits for future decisions … ?

Personally, I have to oppose the idea of Net Neutrality. Allowing the FCC or any government body to regulate access to the internet is risky. Once they get in, it’s nearly impossible to keep them out. Technology changes, companies come and go, but government commissions and regulations seem to last forever.

The internet is not broken, and it doesn’t need fixed.

We’ve seen the internet service providers respond to criticism. They will typically do what their customers want them to do. We vote with our money. If we don’t like a provider, in most cases, we can switch to another. I fear the real possibilities of biased political involvement and corruption.

Unfortunately, we may not have any further choice on this issue. The FCC, which isn’t responsible to any American voter, may succeed in it’s bid to regulate the internet inside the United States.

Here is a video from Reason.TV that explains my feelings on this issue a little better than my words.


If you don’t agree with my position on Net Neutrality … feel free to comment below.

Homeland Security is Now Working for the Recording Industry?

homelandIf you have been trying to smuggle bombs into the USA, you can feel a little less pressure now. It looks like the US Homeland Security services have gotten bored trying to find real terrorists and are now looking for websites hosting pirated music and videos.

According to FoxNews and TorrentFreak, Homeland Security has taken down over 80 domains on the internet. The sites were taken down because of copyright violationsof various types. According to the articles, no legal take-down notices are issued. Basically, the domain name is stolen from the owner, with no warrants or legal action needed by the US Government.

TorrentFreak mentions that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have recently spent more than $1.8 million dollars lobbying the US House and Senate. They want to make it even easier to take down offending websites in the future, by way of a pending bill called Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act(COICA).

It looks like the combination of the recent WikiLeaks controversy and the money from MPAA/RIAA are paying off. The US security agencies are becoming more like their counterpart agencies in China. If they don’t like a website, a simple phone call will take it down.

I don’t know about you, but I will feel much better as I walk bare-foot through the airport to get a personal pat down by the TSA. I’ll be perfectly safe from people carrying pirated MP3 files on their iPods.

It’s so reassuring to know that my tax dollars support Homeland Security’s new job; keeping the internet safe from terrorist file hosts.

The Patriot App – for Government Snitches

iphone-patriot-appBig Brother is watching … and he has an iPhone.

It’s now easier than ever to become a government snitch. This iPhone app, Patriot App, gives you almost instant access to the following US agencies:

  • FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
  • EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • GAO (Government Accountability Office)
  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control)

I don’t know if you’d call this patriotic though. Most Americans value their personal privacy, and the thought of their neighbors instantly reporting them to Uncle Sam is scary. It’s already easy enough to call the local authorities, why do we need this? Have you ever heard of 911?


The name of this app will surely remind people about the controversial Patriot Act, which allows the US Government broad powers to bypass Constitutionally protected rights.

It’s one more sign of our times. Privacy is becoming a joke, but I’m not laughing.

Quote: They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin

Total Video2DVD – A Friend’s Recommendation


[Windows only]

Last week, my friend Rick popped into Google Chat with a question.

Rick: Do you have a moment Clif ?

me: Yes

Rick: Perhaps you can help … I have on my external hard drive, a movie that is in FLV format.

me: Ok

Rick: I am looking for a freeware that can transfer it to a DVD, so that I can play in player. Any ideas on a program?

me: No, not really. I rarely burn DVDs. I’d probably Google for ideas. “how to burn FLV to DVD”

Rick: LOL, for once you can’t help me. That is ok.

me: Thanks for asking. Let me know how it turns out.

A few days later, Rick wrote me an email.

Hello Clif, Well I thought I’d take a moment to tell you how I made out. After using Google, installing and uninstalling several programs (all free of course), I was about to give up when a friend stopped over and said … try “Total Video2DVD” .   It worked out fantastic.   It was as easy as a drag and drop. It does have a small water mark on screen unless you register,   Price $35.95.     But I’m able to deal with the small on-screen water mark.

Happy Holidays,     Rick Campbell

I normally don’t post shareware, but it sounds like the free version is usable. Below is a snapshot of the user interface of Total Video2DVD, and a brief description.


Total Video2Dvd (Old name E.M. AVI to DVD) is an easy-to-use disc authoring and burning software which includes a powerful video converter engine for DVD that lets you do more with your standard or High-Definition digital media.   It creates standard DVD discs with studio-quality personalized menus.

In case you’re curious, there’s also a video showing how it works.

arrow-down-double-3 Download Total Video2DVD

What free software do you need? Let me know and I’ll give you a recommendation.