All posts by Tehseen Baweja

Tehseen likes to write about Internet tools that make life easier. Check out his blog at Ijaar.com for more good stuff or follow him on Twitter @tehseenbaweja

WordPress Under a Large DDoS Attack

If you are experiencing issues with your WordPress service, you are not alone. WordPress says it is under, what they think is, the largest DDoS attach they have ever seen. The size of the attach is multiple gigabits per second and tens of millions of packets per second. The attach has affected all three datacenters WordPress uses in Chicago, San Antonio and Dallas.

The attack seems to have minimized a bit but there is no word yet about who is behind such a massive attack. Many people are suggesting that it is a politically motivated move. Here’s a complete statement that was posted on the WordPress VIP Blog, as reported by TechCrunch:

WordPress.com is currently being targeted by a extremely large Distributed Denial of Service attack which is affecting connectivity in some cases. The size of the attack is multiple Gigabits per second and tens of millions of packets per second.

We are working to mitigate the attack, but because of the extreme size, it is proving rather difficult. At this time, everything should be back to normal as the attack has subsided, but we are actively working with our upstream providers on measures to prevent such attacks from affecting connectivity going forward.

We will be making our VIP sites a priority in this endeavor, and as always, you can contact us via [email protected] for the latest update. We will also update this post with more information as it becomes available

The WordPress.com official Twitter account was last updated with this message:

Sporadic slowness is back — we’re battling a non-trivial DDoS attack and will update as soon as it’s mitigated.

 

BlackBerry PlayBook To Be Launched On April 10th

The technology blog, BGR, reports that the first BlackBerry tablet is all set to be launched on April 10th 2011. The tablet, called BlackBerry PlayBook will be sold at retail locations for $499. Recent speculation about the features BlackBerry PlayBook will include, has increased its anticipation and the most recent announcement about it being able to run Android apps in addition to the BlackBerry apps has also surprised users.

However, a new war front started brewing today due to significant similarities between PlayBook’s OS and the WebOS that Palm introduced back in 2009. HP’s director of product marketing for their TouchBook commented that “there are some uncanny similarities” between the two OSs. Research In Motion, the makers of BlackBerry, have also issued a response to HP’s comment, explaining that “we set out from the ground up to define a user experience that we felt would delight our customers, and we landed in a place that may look like other competitive devices”.

RIM has recently been heavily criticized for not being innovative enough with its products and if the new PlayBook follows the same course, it may very well be the last nail in RIM’s coffin. The company, which at one time created world’s most popular smart phones, is struggling quite a bit to compete with iPhone and Android phones that give users more power and features. Moreover, with every technology company trying their hands on creating a tablet, the competition in this newly created niche is already fierce with no room for mistakes.

Google Docs Get OCR Support For 34 Different Languages

Google Docs has constantly been introducing new features since it originally launched back in 2006. The ultimate goal, some people argue, is to eliminate the monopoly of Microsoft Office. Today Google added another milestone by offering OCR support for 34 languages. OCR or Optical Character Recognition is a technology that takes any image, and scan it for language alphabets/characters hence converting it into a text document.

Before today, the OCR feature was only available for the English language but today Google added other languages to it including Russian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Korean, Italian,  Indonesian, Greek others. You can choose the desired language while uploading your document to Google Docs (make sure you check the Convert text from PDF box to see additional languages). Your images can be in individual jpg, gif or png files or be included in a PDF document. As always, higher resolution files give best results, Google actually recommends that each line of text be at least 10 pixels high. There is also a size  limitation  of 2 MB when uploading documents to be used for OCR.

Google claims they have also improved the OCR technology that they use to recognize characters and preserving font and alignment information. Your language not included yet? No worries, Google says they’ll keep adding more and more languages to this feature. Google Docs originally launched the OCR feature back in June 2010.

Remember, if you are looking for easier ways to use Google Docs, you can always use the awesome Chrome extension or search Google Docs right from within your Gmail.

YouTube UK To Launch Movie Streaming Service Like Netflix

Within days of Amazon’s announcement to launch a movie streaming service, Google has rolled up its sleeves and jumped into the movie streaming market. The internet giant is reportedly in the process to launch the service for UK before bringing it to the US, where most of the market is already captured by Netflix.

NYPost reports that Google has set aside $100 Million for this project and has been in talks with some Hollywood studios for quite a while. Google may be trying to enter the market through the UK since Netflix does not have a presence there yet and it would be easier for Google to establish itself without much competition. However, Google will not be the only one since Amazon recently acquired a similar UK based service called LoveFilm.

With this new initiative, Google is in for a bumpy ride since some producers like Viacom want Google to do a lot more about privacy before they’ll hand over there prime content. The service, as expected, would utilize a subscription based model. Despite billions of video views each month, some people argue that YouTube still hasn’t been able to generate decent profit for Google and therefore, has been launching several initiatives to monetize its content more effectively.  It has also been speculated recently that YouTube is in talks with NBA and NHL to broad cast the games live on its platform.

What is an RMVB File? How To Play and Convert RMVB Files?

RMVB is a multimedia format developed by RealNetworks, the makers of RealPlayer. Unlike the more common RM format, RMVB works with a variable bitrate as opposed to a constant bitrate, hence the title RMVB (RealMedia Variable Bitrate). The format is popularly used on torrent sites to distribute TV shows specially ones coming out of China.

A file with an RMVB extension can be played on Windows by video players such as  VLC and RealPlayer and on the Linux platform players like MPlayer and totem can easily play the RMVB files. If your goal is to take an RMVB file and make it into a DVD or convert it into a VOB file, WinX DVD Author is an excellent freeware for that purpose. If you want to convert RMVB to the easily playable FLV format, you can use a software like SuperAVConvertor to do that.

RMVB as a format is not as popular as some other ones  and many media players don’t support it, therefore, many people don’t recommend using this format if the intention is to mass distribute the content through a website or disc.

Winamp Database Hacked, Account Information Exposed

The latest target of hackers , after the whole Gawker Media Fiasco, is the Winamp Forums. Hours ago, general manager of Winamp announced that an attack had been detected and blocked targeted towards Winamp Forums database. Winamp, which is owned by Aol, claims that no information other than email addresses were exposed but is still encouraging the users to change their passwords. If you are one of the users, we also recommend you change your password on any other accounts that share the same password.

Sister sites like Winamp.com, dev.winamp,com and Winamp Desktop Media Player were not affected. Additional measures are currently being taken to make the site more secure and protect from similar attacks in the future. Even though, the attach was detected before further damage could be done, the incident shows how vulnerable websites are in today’s age even if they are owned by internet giants like Aol.

[Via DownloadSquad]

How Google Was Gamed To Get Traffic To JC Penney

NYTimes has uncovered a pretty significant link-scheme that was used to make JC Penney the number 1 search result for a number of keywords including “bedding”, “dresses” and other household products. Even though JC Penney claims no knowledge of it, the scheme has been going on since last 3-4 months and worked very well during the peak Holiday season.

One of the things that Google bases search engine ranking on is the number of incoming links to your website. However, the links should be genuine and come from genuine websites; even a slight deviation from these guidelines can land you in a lot of trouble even if you are as big a brand as BMW. There are certain SEO strategies that have been termed as Black Hat and it is not worth getting involved in those, as JC Penney has recently learned.

According to the investigative report, over 2000 pages that had little or no related content to clothing, posted links pointing to the dresses section of the JC Penney website. This included sites like bulgariapropertyportal.com , bulgariapropertyportal.com and many others including some that had no other content. Owners of some of these websites are paid rewards or even cash by link exchange companies like TNX.net. Once this scheme was discovered by a researcher hired by NYTimes, the results were forwarded to Google’s webspam team, headed by Matt Cutts. Since there is no direct proof of JC Penney being actually involved in the shenanigans, there website was not removed from Google’s index, however, a corrective action was taken that brought JC Penney website from #1 down to the 5th or 6th page in many instances.

More interestingly, JC Penney has already been penalized a couple of times by Google in past few months for violations of its guidelines. Even though Google has a team of experts that are continuously monitoring and putting solutions in place to stop such schemes, it is clear that given their limited resources they can only stop so much. This gives encouragement to many Black Hat based SEO experts who are paid big bucks to land a premium spot on Google.

You Can Now Borrow/Lend Kindle Books

Amazon has finally decided to give users more authority over books they purchased for their Kindle. Users can now lend eligible Kindle books to their friends for a term of 14 days. Not every book can be loaned right now, the  privilege  comes from the author and/or the publishers. During the loan period, the original user would not be able to access or read the book.

The recipient, who is borrowing the book, does not need a Kindle device to read the book since these books can also be read through the Kindle apps for PC, MAC, BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone and Android. To lend the book, go to book’s product detail page on Amazon.com and enter the name, email address and an optional message for the borrower. If you are the borrower, you have to accept the book loan within 7 days or the request will be cancelled. Once accepted, you have 14 days to enjoy the book.

Here is something to remember though, the loans can only be initiated from within US. The borrowers, if they are present internationally, can only accept the loan if the title is available in their respective country. However, in this case, it may take 7 days for the lender to get back rights to his book. Amazon has more details on how to lend the book, how to accept the loan and some additional explanations.

XWave: The iPhone App That Almost Reads Your Mind

Ok, so the app doesn’t exactly reads your mind but it visualizes whatever brain waves  XWave head gear senses while clamped to your head. The head gear costs $100 and once you put it on, it senses your brain waves and analyzes them to provide some very useful information. The iPhone app is free of cost and interacts with the head gear once it is inserted into the ear phone jack of your phone.

The gadget uses patented NeuroSky ThinkGear technology, essentially sensing analog electrical brain waves and converting them into digital signals that can be displayed on an interface and programmed. The device is currently based on  algorithms  that can capture signals related to “attention”, “meditation” and physical blinking of eyes. For example, one of the graphics that are displayed on the iPhone app is a ball that you can raise if you really focus your thoughts on any topic or thought. Moreover, the app measures your level of relaxation and dynamically displays it through a shift of colors on the screen.

The app also has a generic visualizer screen that displays through interesting graphics what kind of activity is going on in your brain right now. To clarify again, the gadget reads your brain waves and not your actual thoughts. The device is obviously not a perfect science yet but is definitely a great example of the kind of technology we should expect to see down the road. Over all, it is a great fun app to have if you a extra hundred bucks to spend on the gadget.

[Via Mashable]

SocialVents Is a Smart Visual Search Engine For Events

There are a number of sites like CraigsList that tell you whats going on in your city, but the all-text cluttered interface makes them a less than ideal tool. SocialVents changes that by providing you with a visual search engine focused solely around events. Start by  entering  your desired location and date. Click search and SocialVents would display your location on Google maps along with all the vents that are scheduled for that particular date.

Each event is displayed on the map as a bubble pointing to the exact location of its venue on the map. Moreover, clicking on any event shows you more details on the left side-bar including complete address, date and time of the event, any admission charge, notes and a link to the actual source of information. You can also restrict your search results by specifying a category such as music, food, fashion. You can also move around on the map to discover more vents near by or even zoom out to capture events for a larger area.

Even though the site is still in beta, it has a good potential to attract users because of its clean functionality and usefulness. However, there are some features that I think, if added, would make this site even better such as the ability to share events with friends, the option to embed results/map on a website and most  importantly  displaying some sort of result count.