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

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.

Watch Times Square’s New Years Celebration Live With Their Official App

Times Square is one of the most happening places when it comes to  celebrating  the new year. If you want to be part of the ball drop and other extravaganza they have planned, you can now watch it live on your iPhone or Android. The app can be downloaded for free here and includes a lot of good stuff like event details, live stream of special events, information about Times Square and a bunch of maps to guide you through the venue.

You can also submit your new year’s photos for other people to vote on; the photos selected as winners will be shown on the Times Square screen during the live new year’s celebration. The app lets you send new year’s kisses and share photos with family and friends. The app lets you follow the countdown to 2011 and even customize that by adding your own personal photo and adjusting the clock to your timezone. You can also check-in via Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter to see how far you are from the venue and let the world know you are a part of the biggest new year eve’s celebrations.

If you want to enjoy the celebrations on a bigger screen, the event is also going to be streamed live on the web using LiveStream.

Explore Actual Transcripts and Photos From Historical Space Missions

If you are a space enthusiast, Spacelog is a website you shouldn’t miss. It contains actual transcripts from historical space missions like Apollo 13 and Mercury 6 and shows conversations that took place between the crew and Houston. Details are broken down by different phases of the mission starting from the countdown and going all the way to the landing of the shuttle.

Each phase contains statements spoken by  astronauts  and staff at Houston accompanied by a picture of the speaker. You can click on any statement to see exactly when it was uttered and get a permanent link to share it on Twitter. During any phase, you can click on the View Map button to see the location of the shuttle in space at that time.

You can also browse the list of  astronauts  involved in these mission and read more about them. A glossary provides you more information about various abbreviations related to space missions and technology and their acronyms. Spacelog also lets you search the transcripts using keywords. Over all, it is a great site for any one who loves space missions and even though the information is limited right now, the website plans to add information for 3 more missions including Apollo 8, Apollo 11 and Gemini 7.

[Via RedFerret]

BestBuy Removes The 15% Restocking Fees

If you have ever purchased any electronics from BestBuy, you probably know that they have a hefty 15% restocking fees on all returns. This is one of the major reasons why many consumers preferred good old  CircuitCity    over BestBuy since CircuitCity did not impose any restocking fees.

Well, starting 18th of December, BestBuy has decided to remove restocking fees on all items except special orders. That means you can shop with confidence and not worrying about your dad not liking that iPad. There is also a rumor going around that BestBuy will refund any restocking fees if you have returned an item within last 30 days but we could not confirm it. This elimination of restocking fees is also reflected on BestBuy.com’s updated return policy.

This is a great move that will allow BestBuy to boost its sales during the busiest time of the year. If you have been following BestBuy’s financial performance you would know that the results have been less than spectacular. The online sales of this retail giant dropped from 26% in Q1 to 16% in Q2 to a mere 7% in Q3. Apparently, its only for books that Amazon is the retailer of choice, the  eCommerce  giant has recently grabbed a big chunk of electronics market from BestBuy and even eBay. BestBuy  desperately  needs moves like these to sustain its market share and stay alive against giants like Amazon.

Oldest Facebook User and Other Strange Facebook Facts [DYK]

1. Oldest Facebook User:

Contrary to what you may think, your grandma isn’t the oldest person on Facebook. It is 103 years old Lillian Lowe. A former hotelier and businesswoman from Pembrokshire (UK) who joined Facebook after her husband passed away this July. Lillian uses Facebook, twice a week to get updates from her family and friends. She has received thousands of  friend  requests from around the world which she thinks is pretty kind of people but says she does not have time to reply to them all.

Following picture, courtesy of BBC, shows Lillian using Facebook from her grandson’s iPad:

2. Facebook Related Disorders:

As of yet, following terms have been coined regarding various Facebook related issues. They have not  necessarily  been endorsed by a medical  institution  or organization but come up too often on various publications:

CFD (Compulsive Facebook Disorder)

OCFD (Obsessive Compulsive Facebook Disorder)

FAD (Facebook Addiction Disorder)

FAD (Facebook Anxiety Disorder)

FD (Facebook Depression)

FTAD (Facebook Twitter Addiction Disorder)

FBS (Facebook Syndrome)

FSS (Facebook Status Syndromes)

FSS (Facebook Stress Syndrome)

FWS (Facebook Withdrawal Syndrome)

3. The original Facebook design included an image of Al Pacino.

4. A Facebook hoodie was sold on eBay for over $4,000.

5. Facebook currently has around 5 Million inactive accounts because the users have passed away.

Do share with us via comments what other weird facts you know about Facebook.

Foursquare Adds Photos and Comments To Its iPhone App

Foursquare is the most popular location based social networking tool, and now it just got better. Foursquare now lets you attach photos to your Checkins, in fact, when you checkin anywhere with your iPhone app now, you’ll be prompted to add photos of that place. Photos can also be attached to tips and venues. Once you have checked in, you can continue to add more photos to your checkin detail page.

Another big feature Foursquare just rolled out is the ability for your friends to post comments on your Checkins. Photos that you upload are visible to your Foursquare friends and your friends at other permitted social networks like Facebook and Twitter, your comments however are only visible to your Foursquare friends. You can also view these photos and comments related to your past checkins on your History page anytime.

With everybody and their grandma creating a social networking service, Foursquare has made the right move to let their service be more interactive with these two features. This will give Foursquare a powerful boost with increased activity and definitely better loyalty of users. These features will also be rolled out to the Android app within next few days and to the Blackberry app early next year.

Create Embeddable Map For Your Website In Less Than a Minute

Among tens of map tools out there, Tixik probably focuses the most on simplicity and ease-of-use. It doesn’t have a whole lot of features but if all you are looking to do is generate a map for your website, it is worth a try. Simply enter the location that you want to pin point to in your map, then choose settings such as width and height of your map and the level of zoom you desire.

Click Create a map and Tixik would generate your map along with the HTML code that you can paste anywhere to embed your map. You can also add other graphics and effects such as borders, rounded corners, shadow, description bubble and even add a certain degree of rotation to your map. The map generated using Tixik can be used for free for any commercial or non-commercial purposes.

If you are looking for a Google Maps tool that can be more customized by adding drawings, texts and icons to it, do check out ScribbleMaps.

[Via GoogleMapsMania]

Despite Infrastructure Issues, Tumblr Has More Pageviews Than WordPress

Recent downtimes may have people thinking that Tumblr is a not-good-enough blogging platform. But they’ll be surprised to know that Tumblr brings in more page views then the otherwise most popular blogging network WordPress. According to a recent report by ReadWriteWeb, Tumblr brings in a total of 3 billion page views per month compared to a mere 1.4 billion page views of WordPress.

This does not however, is  proportional  to the number of visitors each network gets. Compared to 500 million unique visitors of  WordPress, Tumblr only gets 48.5 million unique visitors each month. WordPress also hosts a massive 30 million blogs compared to 11 million of Tumblr.

So what do these numbers tell us? WordPress may be a more popular choice for serious bloggers, but Tumblr is easy enough both for publishers and visitors that it generates much more page views. Amongst all these metrics, page views is one of the most important as it is almost directly relates to revenue. This also may be the reason why Tumblr is seeing an increased influx of VC money. The most recent round raised $30 Million for Tumblr and one of the most noteworthy facts about this funding is that a big chunk of it comes from Sequoia Capital, the VC firm behind Google, Apple, YouTube, PayPal and Zappos. When you get a name like Sequoia Capital backing your business, you are definitely doing something right.

Betali.st Tells You About Startups Before They Launch

If you think you are an early adopter when it comes to internet startups or if you simply want to be ahead of the game so you can sound cool amongst your peeps, Betali.st is a resource you must check out. It is not an app or web service, rather a Tumble based blog that provides information about yet-to-launch internet startups.

Most of these startups are in the process of giving final touches to their product and sending out limited beta invites. Betali.st is updated daily with new startups accompanied by a screenshot of their current landing page, a brief description of what they are about and of course a link to their homepage. If you think you have a startup worth being on Betali.st, you can simply submit it via this form.

The listing, as of now, is pretty scant, but given the neatness of the idea, it’ll be no surprise if Betali.st soon takes off as one of the primary resources for yet-to-launch startups.

[Via TechCrunch]

Some YouTube Users Can Now Upload Videos Longer Than 15 Minutes

When YouTube increased the video time limit from 10 to 15 minutes earlier this year, users loved it. And now YouTube is going even further by removing that 15 minute restriction for many of its users. Exactly how much is the new time limit has not been specified by YouTube but it can be found by clicking on the Upload button from within your YouTube account.

This elimination of 15 minute restriction is being awarded as a bonus to users who have been nice. The official statement from YouTube explains:

Starting today, we’ll begin allowing selected users with a history of complying with the YouTube  Community Guidelines and our copyright rules to upload videos that are longer than 15 minutes.

YouTube is able to ease the limit due to increasingly advanced tools that copyright owners now have at their disposal. One of the primary tools available for that is YouTube’s Content ID system that can take any uploaded video and compare it against the massive archive of millions of videos YouTube has to find any copyright violations.

Remember that YouTube has just started rolling it out for selected users so it may be a few days before you see it applied to your account.

4chan Attacks MasterCard, PayPal and More In Defense of WikiLeaks

The Anonymous of 4chan have taken it up to defend WikiLeaks, at least on the web. In addition to creating hundreds of mirrors for WikiLeaks content and spreading them through torrents and file transfer sites, 4chan users have also launched severe DDoS attacks against many organizations that threaten the existence of WikiLeaks.

Among many other, Anonymous are targeting PayPal, MasterCard and PostFinance as these financial institutions openly prevented WikiLeaks from carrying out its financial transactions. The attacks against PayPal were not so effective as they could only take the PayPal blog down, however, 4chan users got more success with PostFinance and MasterCard. PostFinance, the bank that has frozen Julian Assange’s account, suffered an outage of more than 16 hours due to these DDoS attacks. However, not admitting that it was taken down by a bunch of notorious internet users, the bank issued a statement that the outage was caused by an overload of inquiries:

Access to www.postfinance.ch and thus also e-finance is currently overloaded owing to a multitude of online enquiries. The security of customer data is not affected.

More importantly, Anonymous were able to hack into and take down the MasterCard website for several hours. The website still fails to load for a lot of users. The operation has been called ‘Operation PayBack’ and the group behind it posts regular updates through its Twitter account @Anon_operation. Here is one of the tweets by the group confirming the attack on MasterCard:

WE ARE GLAD TO TELL YOU THAT  http://www.mastercard.com/ is DOWN AND IT’S CONFIRMED!  #ddos #wikileaksOperation:Payback(is a bitch!)  #PAYBACKabout 6 hours ago via  Chromed Bird