Who owns photos when uploaded to Facebook

April 22, 2008

facebook-and-photo-copyright.pngThere is discussion currently going on regarding who owns photos uploaded to Facebook.

One would assume that the user who uploaded the photos to Facebook would retain all rights associated with the photographs but the Facebook Terms of Use suggest otherwise.

A relevant quote from the Facebook Terms of Use:

By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sub licenses of the foregoing.

Maybe Facebook is simply protecting itself to be able to display the users images in all kinds of ways but I think the terms are way too restrictive.

However other photo sharing services on the Internet get by with much less assertion over the users content.

If you are worried about this issue and would like to share photos with your friends on Facebook without giving them away to Facebook then the best way is to store the photos somewhere else and use various methods to make them available in Facebook.

You have several options depending on where and how your photos are hosted.

If you have your photos on Flickr, the MyFlickr application is very handy. It shows a selection of your photos on your profile page and when you update your photos on Flickr it posts updates to your news feed so that your friends are notified about it.

One can argue that Flickr (soon to possibly be owned my Microsoft :-( ) is another 3rd party that will hold your photos but their TOS are much less restrictive and they support Creative Commons license which is a great way to spread your photos while retaining some rights

Gallery2 is a popular software to host your photos on your own server. The Gallery2 Embed is a Facebook application that embeds a selection of your photos in your profile. If a visitor clicks on the photo, she is then taken to your own website with your photos.

One thing missing with "Gallery2 Embed" is that it doesn't publish updates in your newsfeed when you upload photos so your friends are not made aware of any updates. I have grand plans to write my own Gallery2 Facebook application that will support updates in your newsfeed but lack of time is very prominent at the moment.

Some other popular photo hosting sites and the Facebook apps for them:
Picasa: Picasa Gallery Slideshows
.Mac: .Mac Web Gallery
DeviantArt: My deviantART
Photobucket: Photo Wall
SmugMug: My Photos from SmugMug

Good luck and make sure to remain the copyright holder of YOUR photos!

April Fool's Day 2008

April 01, 2008

Google launches Project Virgle together with Virgin.

Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars.

All featured videos on YouTubeUK and YouTube Australia lead to Rick Astley-Never Gonna Give You Up. You have been RICKROLLED!

TechCrunch is acquiring the venerable teen magazine and Web site Tiger Beat, will rename it CrunchKids.

Venture capitalists fight back against a website (TheFunded.com) that allows anonymous ratings of VCs by creating their own review site called TheUnFunded.com.

The Pirate Bay is moving their operations to the desert of Sinai in Egypt due to the new copyright legislation in the European Union.

A pre-air episode 9 of the TV show Lost. The episode is leaked from a DVD screener.

Virgin Media takes fight to illegal downloaders

March 31, 2008

Virgin Media will cooperate with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in a pilot to track down users downloading illegally:

"The BPI has teams of technicians to trace illegal music downloading to individual accounts. It will hand these account numbers over to Virgin Media, which will match them to names and addresses."

You might think that there will be an exodus of users from Virgin Media to other ISPs and that this will hurt Virgin Media but I doubt that.

You see, there are many ISPs in the UK that are offering an "unlimited" service for an ever decreasing monthly fee.

Users that use P2P often use the most of the ISP's bandwidth so this pact with BPI is a great excuse for Virgin Media to dump those costly users.

In addition if they manage to switch the downloads from public internet to a Usenet server inside their network they avoid most bandwidth charges and capacity problems.

It’s a win/win for Virgin Media (and lose/lose for their customers)!


True instant push email on your mobile phone using Gmail

January 11, 2008

mobile email pushToday I thought that I would check out the state of SMTP and IMAP services of my favourite email service provider Gmail.

I wanted to use Gmail on my mobile phone and I was pleasantly surprised.

Because Gmail supports the IMAP standard, items that are read and or deleted on the mobile phone are correctly marked as read/deleted on the Gmail account as well.

This is very convenient if you are accessing your Gmail account from more than one client (mobile phone, browser, Outlook, Thunderbird and similar).

Gmail also provides an SMTP server which is used to send emails from your client and it will appear to the recipient as if the email was sent directly from Gmail.

All sent and received emails are further encrypted (SSL) which is something that local ISPs often neglect to provide.

The best feature however is that the Gmail IMAP server supports "push" email which together with a mobile phone that supports this feature gives an optimal email experience.

Blackberry users are used to this optimal experience but they (or their companies) are paying dearly to RIM or their mobile operator to have his luxury. With Gmail the service is free (standard data transfer charges apply of course).

Typically I get notified 10-20 seconds after the email has been sent. In fact the mobile phone is notified earlier than the Gmail Notifier running on my PC.

This is much more convenient than the old fashioned way of polling the server every 15 minutes to see whether any emails had arrived during the last 15 minutes.

Now how to set it all up? Enter the following settings on your phone. Every phone is different so I cannot give you step-by-step instructions but leave a comment if something is not working and I will try and help you.

Email address:Your full Gmail email address including @gmail.com
Connection Type:IMAP4
Incoming server:imap.gmail.com
User name:Your full Gmail email address including @gmail.com
Password:Your password
Outgoing server:smtp.gmail.com
Check interval:Off
Push email:On
Encryption incoming server:SSL
Encryption outgoing server:SSL
Outgoing username:Your full Gmail email address including @gmail.com
Outgoing password:Your password
Incoming port:993
Outgoing port:465

Bear in mind the whether or not push email will work for you is dependant on what kind of phone you are using, what mobile network you are on and how you connect to GPRS.

Your phone must support encrypted (SSL) IMAP4 and push email to start with. If you want to send email from your mobile it has to further support authenticated and encrypted (SSL) SMTP.

Your mobile network should not block any ports and I suspect your mobile device has to have an IP assigned to it; being behind NAT may not work.

Likewise you should use a GPRS connection which is connected directly to the Internet and not a "wap" GPRS connection.

I was successful in getting Gmail push email working on my SonyEricsson K800i on the UK Vodafone network using the GPRS APN "Internet".

I would be very curious to hear whether any Apple iPhone or Windows Mobile smartphone users are able to use the Gmail push email!

Photo credit: soldierant

Paypal is not a bank but has a phone number

November 20, 2007

Once you hand money over to Paypal you have very little control over it. This also applies if you let PayPal accept money on your behalf.

Their terms and conditions more or less make you wave your credit card protections and consumer rights.

I have made over 40 paypal transactions over the last 6 years. I have been reading various paypal horror stories but I always thought it wouldn't happen to me (don't we all).

Well of course it did and it is just a matter of time until you lose money as well if you are using PayPal for any transactions; especially related to eBay auctions.

In my particular case I had paid for an item that I had won in an eBay auction and PayPal charged my credit card instantly.

The seller had some complications getting the money so he informed me that he was not interested any more and that I should be getting my money back in 30 days.

This leaves me with a lot of money out of my pocket and a product I will never receive.

The only condolence PayPal was able to give me was to assure me that the money would be back in 30 days... but that's no condolence to me, that is theft.

My story is just a drop in the ocean of other horror stories related to PayPal.

Credit to my credit card company as they treated me like a customer and put a little pressure on PayPal to look at my case a second time but in the end nothing could be done.

From the conversations with the credit card company representatives, it seemed as if they deal with many, many PayPal disputes and the score so far is individuals 0, PayPal a lot.

If you want to talk to a human being at PayPal UK then avoid the expensive 08707307191 premium number and instead use 02086053000.

Press 1 for PayPal, skip the request for your registered phone number, press 5, press 2 and tell the customer service representative that David says hi.

At least there are some alternatives to PayPal and you should consider them while you still can:

Google checkout

Photo credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Export your facebook contacts with email addresses

October 22, 2007

facebook officesFirst of all a big apology because this method of exporting your Facebook contacts is very cumbersome and has several "odd" requirements.

Nonetheless it is presented here as one (desperate) option to export your Facebook contacts and their contact details such as email address and phone number.

This method can be improved upon and made more automatic but Facebook has a tendency to shut down any scripts and software that export contact details.

So instead I leave it as an exercise to the readers to automate this process and extend it with a possible vCard conversion or Outlook import.

You will need:
* Firefox browser
* The XHTML mobile profile add-on for Firefox
* Able to view option 4 (ie Contacts) when accessing Facebook mobile
* Be able to access the internet from your PC by using your mobile device (eg via Bluetooth or IR)
* A text formatting tool (eg. grep)

The option 4 (Contacts) is ideal for exporting your contact details as it lists email addresses and phone numbers as clear text.

On the web version of Facebook the email addresses are displayed as images and a optical character recognition (OCR) process has to be used to decode the email address.

This OCR process is never perfect and will sometimes result in incorrect contact details.

The idea presented here is that you connect your PC to the Internet via your mobile phone (bluetooth, serial, IR or whatever works for you).

You have installed the XHTML mobile profile in Firefox which will let you visit the mobile version of Facebook (m.facebook.com).

Because you are using your mobile operator, Facebook will assume you are on a mobile device and display the shy option 4, contacts.

Step through your contacts and save each page as a text file locally on your computer.

Last step is to combine the saved text files to a single file and use egrep secret sauce to create a neat comma separated (CSV) file with just names, email addresses and phone numbers.

One regular expression that may get you started would be:

/profile\.php([^>]*)>([^<]*)<\/a><br\/>(<small><a href=\"tel:)?([0-9\.]*)?(\">)?([0-9\.]*)?(<\/a><\/small><br\/>)?<small><a href=\"mailto:([^\"]*)/

The best way to automate the exporting of Facebook contacts would be to write a small application for a mobile device (eg in J2ME) that fetches the information and formats it for export.

Another option would be to use Cygwin tools such as curl and grep to automate the process on your PC.

The j2me application would be most fun to do and I may return to it one fine Sunday afternoon!

[Photo by pshab]

Flickr to fuel your photography passion

March 07, 2007

I joined Flickr a while back but never got into using the site.

To me the site offered just storage of my photographs but I wanted to have full control of my precious possessions and so preferred hosting them on my own (gallery).

What I had completely missed out on was the social networking features of Flickr. The rating, comments, inspiration, groups, continuous learning and new friends who too are passionate about photography.

Last week while visiting Flickr to browse a few friends updated photos, a Flickr group caught my eye.

It was called "DeleteMe" which seemed to be the opposite of what anyone would want to do with their photos.

Turns out that the Deleteme group is focused on brutally honest opinions.

Members submit their absolute best photographs and fellow group members rate them; saveme or deleteme.

When the photograph has collected 10 deletemes, it is removed from the pool. Should the photo on a rare occasion gather 10 savemes, it is regarded as a masterpiece and is then moved to the safe where it will shine in all eternity.

The general common comments on Flickr are "wow" and "great shot". People want to build friendships and not offend and so often hold back on what they truly think of a photo.

Your mum and special other will always tell you that a photograph of yours is fantastci but wouldn't you rather be challanged and really find out how good it is?

The Deleteme group is a refreshing in that it's members are honest. Sometimes they can be outright nasty but nobody holds it against them.

If you want to get some honest, high quality constructive comments you should give the group a go. A warning though; if you can't stand the heat, better stay out of the Flickr Deleteme group!

141191332_9d96466d84_t.jpg 228026791_de6a73a234_t.jpg 236731828_baba78a198_t.jpg 241972255_a2580fed40_t.jpg

Photo credit: davebluedevil, laurence_grayson, Shek Graham, laurence_grayson

Piracy is just a business model

October 12, 2006

...said the Disney Co-Chair Anne Sweeney at the Mipcom festival.

I find this quite a refreshing statement compared to the standard RIAA/MIAA stance. They keep insisting on theft, crime, punishment and so on which only seems to create more piracy and distance the customers.

Maybe a better approach would be to compete with piracy in quality, availability and price.

Let's have a look at what that might look like.

Pirated content is often using the latest video and audio compression. This results in a 90 minute movie in DVD quality being below 800MB, often with 5.1 channels audio and optional subtitles.

With TV shows, the pirated content can often be in high definition if the source was HDTV as well.

It will be hard for a legitimate service to compete in terms of quality. The target should be to at least match the quality of pirated content.

The biggest issue for legitimate content providers will be how to apply copy protection without reducing the quality of the content.

The current digital rights management (DRM) solutions are very restrictive and result in the user renting content instead of purchasing and owning (see an anlysis of Amazon Unboxed).

I for one would accept an invisible/discreet and user specific watermarking but I can not accept DRM solutions where I cannot use the content on any device I choose or where the content can become unusable after a certain amount of time or if the original provider, God forbid, goes out of business.

TV shows are available as pirated content a few hours after their first official broadcast. DVDs are available as pirated content just a day after their official release.

This is especially valuable to potential customers from regions where the broadcast or DVD release is delayed by up to a year due to region restrictions.

Legitimate content could become superior to a pirated version by being available at the same time as the broadcast/DVD release or even better, a symbolical amount earlier.

Having one single reliable and secure location (shop) to get legitimate content is a great advantage instead of searching various more or less obscure areas of the Internet.

Here pirated content clearly has an advantage by being for free which is a difficult price level to compete with.

A few online services have however shown that users are willing to pay for content if the other criteria above are met.

Paying the same amount (or more) as for the physical version of the content just doesn't make sense to the end user.

Especially since the digital version is often crippled by various digital rights managements solutions decreasing the perceived quality and thus value.

The controversial MP3 online store AllOfMp3 has a very low price point ($0.20/song, $2/album) and while their prices may be unrealistic for other service it should be noted that user are willing to pay!

Summarising the options above one must admit that at the moment it looks a bit bleak for legitimate digital content.

Increase your bittorrent download speeds

June 29, 2006

XP sp2 event id 4226With the latest "Windows critical updates" it is time to revisit the old Windows XP SP2 and Event ID 4226 issue.

With Windows SP2 Microsoft decided to cripple you network performance by limiting outgoing connections to 10 (from previous 60,000+).

You may have applied the popular LVLlord patch but make sure to check your TCPIP.SYS frequently as "Windows Critical Updates" have a tendency to restore/replace your TCPIP.SYS to the crippled one.

TorrentFreak has a good write up that touches many other speed optimising topics.

FootieFox - Follow World Cup scores at work

June 22, 2006

footieFox.jpgWant to follow the 2006 Football World Cup in style? Then check out the FireFox extension called FootieFox.

The extension let's you select your favourite teams and discreetly display scores from games in the FireFox tray.

When a team scores a box slides across the bottom of your screen to make sure you don't miss it.

FootieFox is a great tool to be able to follow the World Cup and still being able to produce code (aka working).

They even provide a dynamic score board to display on your personal site or blog:

Scrape IMDB MyMovies with PHP

June 08, 2006

pimp.pngI have been wanting to somehow mention the movies I have recently seen and what I thought of them on this blog but was not sure how to best do it.

For a while I was running my own custom code to add movie data and ratings and to display them but this was too cumbersome.

Recently I discovered that the movie rating system at IMDB.com keeps track of all the movies you have ever rated (IMDB.com is by the way an amazing resource for movie lovers and I hope that you have used it before).

Since IDMB is the oracle of movies a better approach seemed to be to continue reviewing and discussing movies on there and attempt to mash the data into my blog.

A few regular expressions later and a Pick IMDB MyMovies with PHP (PIMP) script was born.

The script scrapes a given IMDB MyMovies list and provides the results in a handy (two dimensional) array. It is up to the user to then write the display code to make it fit in with a web page (blog).

A basic file based cache has been implemented to save on the amount of hits on IMDB.

At the core of the script is the following regular expression:

/<a href=\"\/title\/([^\/]*)\/([^>]*)>([^<]*)<\/a> \(([0-9]*[\/I]*)\)( \(.\))?<\/td>([^<])<td align=\"center\" bgcolor=\"\#ffffff\">([0-9]{1,2})<\/td><td align=\"center\" bgcolor=\"\#ffffff\"> ([0-9]\.[0-9])?/i

Be aware that if the layout of the IMDB page changes, PIMP will fail. Of course I will be quick to update the regular expression since I am using PIMP my self.

There are some rumours that IMDB will introduce an open API that will allow developers to retrieve all kinds of movie information. Until that is done, crude HTML scraping techniques will have to do.

Feel free to suggest regular expression or code optimisations.

Download PIMP v1.2 and let me know what you think!

0. Create an account with IMDB and mark a MyMovies list as public
1. To be able to use a cache file create a directory which is writable by the script process (may need chmod 666). For security reasons this directory should be OUTSIDE of the area accessible from the web.
2. Configure the script with your details (list id, cache directory and etc)
3. Upload the myImdbMovies.php file to your web server
4. Access the script directly or better yet use it as an include

Update 26/06/2006
Added a raw HTTP method if file_get_contents doesn't work for you (hosting provider restriction.

-1 cache time out will skip caching altogether and avoid possible cache file permission problems.

-1 for listItems will result in all items being returned

Web &gt2.0 Conference, London, UK

May 27, 2006

webgt2con.pngThis is an early notice that later this Summer I will be organising a Web &gt2.0 Conference in London, UK (exact location TBA).

The attendance fee will be $2.795 ($2 and 795 cents) and all proceedings will be donated to an open source project TBA.

At the conference will be several speakers presenting why Web 2.0 is so yesterday and what Web 2.1 can offer.

There will also be brainstorming sessions to come up with new and tantalising buzzwords - ideally trademark-able after general adoption.

On a more serious note. I am an IT professional and have always favoured O'Reilly technology books when making new purchases. I have often recommended them to friends and colleagues.

The latest attempt by O'Reilly to trade mark Web 2.0 and going after the little man with a Cease and Desist letter have made me think twice.

It could be a sign that O'Reilly have lost touch with their audience and also that they don't fully understand the term that they were a part of popularising.

How can a company that recently so strongly advocated against the Amazon one-click purchase patent make a such an u-turn I cannot comprehend.

O'Reilly should have been clear from the beginning (2003) and stated their intentions by adding a (TM) every time they used Web 2.0. Had the general public been aware of the pending TM I doubt that the term would have gained such a popularity.

One decent way for O'Reilly out of this mess would be to accept that the term is by now in Public Domain.

As long as O'Reilly is very knowledgeable in upcoming web technologies and a leading force in advocating Web 2.0, no imitators will be able to steal their thunder!

Pixmania shop review

March 27, 2006


The good: Cheap prices
The bad: French specifications, no local returns, questionable warranty
The ugly: lousy communications, price changes when you add item to your basket

The title of the post is a bit misleading as I did not actually manage to shop at Pixmania.co.uk. I tried my best but the shop was not competent enough to accept my money.

Pixmania.co.uk is an online shop that specialises in cheap electronics, especially digital cameras.

I opted to pick up my items from a local pick-up shop as this seemed very convenient. I was also hoping to save the £10 delivery charge but instead there was a £10 service charge on customer pick-up orders.

The items arrived promptly at the pick-up store but that is where my problems started.

The staff in the pick-up store was not able to charge my debit card as it involved getting an authorisation code from their bank.

It was obvious that the staff person was inconvenienced that he was required to call their bank. He was then a bit abusive on the phone. I was told repeatedly that there was an error at my bank.

The following communication with Pixmania was very difficult. Their call center is located in France and they were not familiar with the local pick-up shop procedures nor about standard UK debit card usage.

The automated email which is signed by James Felix (Customer Service Director) announces to use the contact address [email protected] This address bounces however and the only way to send email to Pixmania.co.uk is to navigate through their FAQ (frequently asked questions) and hopefully finding an appropriate previous question.

The company operates from France and all electronic items are according to French standard. This means that instruction manuals and electric plugs are French by default. Pixmania calls this "European specification".

The local pick-up shop I visited was handing out UK 3-pin adaptors and instructions on how to download the manual in English from the manufacturer's web site.

For me the main reason for buying an item in the UK instead from abroad at a cheaper price is the assurance of an UK warranty. Due to the French operation of Pixmania I am not sure whether you can take a faulty item to the manufacturer in the UK or whether you have to deal with the manufacturer in France.

Pixmania states that certain faulty items will be dealt with by the manufacturer; others will have to be sent back to Pixmania in France.

An additional oddity was the way Pixmania prices change in real time. Wen I originally tried to add my item to the basket, I was returned an error (in French). Temporary problems are quite common on web sites so I just navigated back to the product. This was 10 minutes later and the price had gone up by £12.

After failing to pay for my item in the pick-up shop, I was told to put through a second order online and pay directly online. Again, the product I was interested in had gone up by £9 and was not a bargain anymore it had once been.

This bad experience of shopping at Pixmania is really my fault. I should have read some of the Pixmania.com reviews at the Review Center before making my decision.

An overall value of 1.2 out of 10 after 141 reviews is a really poor score. Only 6% of the reviewers would recommend to use Pixmania.com.

Google talk

August 24, 2005

google talkThe Google empire has released yet another (Beta) service which this time is an instant messenger network and client Google Talk.

While their standard is to release ground shaking services (GMail, Google Earth, desktop search and more) this time I have yet to feel the rumble.

Google talk is a lean instant messaging (IM) client that supports high quality voice chats. It also notifies the user of any new Gail messages and there is a short cut to send Gail emails. But that's it!

You have to have a Gail account to be able to use Google Talk. I have plenty invitations to spare so leave a comment if you need one.

Once again the client is Windows only but since Google talk is "built to support industry standards" you can use compatible clients on other operating systems:

OSX - iChat
Linux - GAIM
Windows - Trillian Pro

The "industry standards" is the Jabber/XMPP protocol and it let's other clients play with Google Talk network in an authorised way.

This one subtle detail that most users will not notice nor understand makes Google Talk special. It is a stab at the established messengers (MSN, AIM, Yahoo, ICQ) to show them how to play fair with Internet users.

Rumours are many in the blogosphere regarding the potential and future of Google Talk. Will it be the preferred client on the future Google Network? Will it allow searching all chat history similar to GMail search? Will it record all voice conversations, and allow searching? What will be the revenue stream(s)?

I just hope that the original Google motto "Don't be evil-TM" will not be replaced by the new corporate "Must Make Money" motto.

Easter eggs: Add [email protected] to your buddy list and send it a text message of "play" to play the old school game Hunt the Wumpus.

Create bold text by using * and italics by using underscore (_)

Free international calls with voip

August 18, 2005

voip(Updated again, see end of article.)
Voice over IP (voip), also called internet telephony is becoming a stronger and stronger competition to the traditional Telco companies.

Skype has become very popular because it let's people make free calls between computers. With additional services one can even call land lines all across the globe for a fraction of traditional Telco costs. One annoying issue with Skype is that it is using a proprietary format, ignoring the established SIP protocol.

Voipbuster is a similar application provided by the Swiss Telco Finarea SA. The company has multiple cheap telephony services operating in UK and Europe and some other names they go by in the UK are 1899.com and call18866.co.uk.

Voipbuster is however their first computer client. It has a minimal amount of features but it let's you make calls and store contacts.

Currently the software is in beta status and during this period Voipbuster offers you free calls to landlines in over 20 countries.

See the official list with rates to see the currently free countries.

To avoid a 1 minute cut-off limit you have to credit your account with the symbolic sum of €1 (70p, $1.20) €5 €10. This is to prevent abuse of the service and since you can pay with Paypal it is just a minor nuisance.


The quality of the call is exceptional and always higher than what I get through my standard phone.

The reason being that traditional telephony solutions (PSTN) are often band limited, as much as 300-3400 Hz. Voip is able to utilise a wideband codec solution that uses much higher sampling rate (16kHz) and a upper band of 8kHz.

Back to the SIP protocol. Since Voipbuster supports SIP, their service can be used with any of the many, many available SIP clients (also called soft phones). Some are commercial, some are free. All offer more functionality than the Voipbuster client but not always better voice quality.

I managed to locate a free SIP client that supports conference calls between multiple SIP callers (X-pro). This means I can use Voipbuster service, call to multiple landlines in the free countries and connect them all. End result is a free call for everybody.


If you cannot stand calling from your computer, you can even call your self at home, switch on conference and continue the free call from your home phone.

Download X-pro from braintel.net.pk/configuration.htm. Install, start up and hit Control-G to initiate an upgrade.

Set up X-pro to be used with the Voipbuster SIP gateway:

Enabled: YES
Display Name: [VoipBuster user name]
Username: [VoipBuster user name]
Authorization User: [VoipBuster user name]
Password: [VoipBuster password]
Domain/Realm: voipbuster.com
SIP Proxy: sip.voipbuster.com

Disable the lower quality GSM codec by clicking on it.

Dial a number on line 1. Dial a second number or your own home phone on line 2. Hit the conference button and all three parties are now enjoying a free international telephone call.

If you are looking for a catch there is none. If you instead think that free is not a sustainable business model you are very right.

Voipbuster is currently in BETA mode and once any network issues have been dealt with and/or the usage has reached a critical mass I expect similar pricing as on the other Finarea SA products.

One can always hope that competition in Voip has reached such a level that networks are ready to provide flat fee or even free calls to certain international destinations!

PS Currently evaluating the Pocket PC application Stanaphone together with the VoipBuster gateway.

Update November 8th, 2005


VoipBuster have now dropped the majority of the free countries. It is now obvious that the 25 free countries was too good to be true.

I was hoping that Voipbuster was about to start a revolution in VOIP where certain common destinations would always be free and income would be generated from other destinations.

Instead it seems that it was a marketing trick to attract new customers and all their 5 Euros :-(

This wiki page has more in depth information about Finarea and their companies.

There is a new method of making international calls for free as long as you have unused mobile phone minutes:

The VOIP operator Rebtel has a system where both you and your friend (in a foreign country) call a local number and get connected.(more details).

I have confirmed that this works to Sweden, Brazil, USA and likely all other countries that Rebtel support.

Happy calling!

Credence: thwarting p2p pollution?

August 04, 2005

Certain peer to peer networks suffer from a high ratio of pollution: files that are fake, damaged, infected with viruses or similar. First attempts to lower the pollution were simple voting systems where users voted on whether a specific file was good or bad.

I haven't had much faith in such voting systems because it seemed too easy to spam the systems with fake votes. Surely enough, various companies have already been identified who pollute the peer to peer networks with fake files and rate the files as good.

Credence is an academic project that has a different approach to the problem: it implements a voter correlation scheme.

Users that vote similarly become grouped together and results on a particular object (e.g. a p2p file) are then correlated by the voting group you belong to.

This means that malicious users will quickly form their own voting communities and have little effect on groups of honest voters.

There is a second benefit from this strategy. Votes from malicious users will not be disregarded but will ultimately start being counted as direct opposites. If a dishonest voter votes positively on an object, the honest user will count that as a negative vote for that object. The dishonest voting circles will not even be aware of what the current status of an object is to other voting communities.

One possible attack on Credence would be by a user that votes honestly on a large amount of certain files but votes dishonestly on one or a few specific target files. It is however very complex trying to analyze how many honest votes need to be placed for each dishonest vote while retaining it's own credence.

Another common vulnerability of voting systems is the possibility for a single node to assume many different identities (also known as The Sybil Attack). Credence attempts to minimise the risk for a Sybil attack by requiring a large download for each new identity.

For honest users it will not be a problem to download one single large file. For dishonest individuals it will be very costly to download a large amount of files in order to set up fake identities.

Now if it only was possible to combine this robust voting system with the anonymous P2P networking protocol I wrote about earlier. This would make it much more reliable and risk free to share let's say political opinions..

Google Maps and Google Local finally local to UK

April 19, 2005

Google have extended their brilliant Maps and Local services to the UK. Until now I have only been using it to see how good online services can be. Now I can use it daily to find addresses, get directions and find services (plumbing especially) in London and UK.

Google Maps is a very intuitive way to present maps. Easy zooming, powerful search and smart dHTML like moving the map around are my favourite features. Wonder if Google plans to add satellite images like they do with the US maps.

Google Local combines Google maps with a local directory of services, restaurants, theaters and much much more. Until now I have been using UpMyStreet and it will be interesting to see how well Google Local performs compared with them.

googlemobile.gifLast but not least, see if Google Local Mobile works with your mobile. It should if it supports XHTML (i.e. not older than 2004).

Having access to free maps, directions and local directory from your mobile is just priceless.

PS The SonyEricsson T610/T630 has problems with the mobile version. Firefox has problems as well, use Internet Explorer if you want to try it from your desktop.

Currently the Yell footer has a bug (omitted quotes in href) which creates a XML parsing error and only sloppy IE can display the results. Stay tuned, should not take long to fix this.

Update May 10th
The error has been fixed. I doubt it was due to the email I sent to Google support (I did get a reply though) but instead due to the official launch of Google Local UK Mobile (GLUM). Have a go!

GMail invites

September 06, 2004

Ok, I never thought I'd be saying this but I am.

I have GMail invites to share in case you *still* aren't on GMail.

It's a very good service with 1GB of storage space. If the so called privacy issues do not scare you away, let me know.

Leave a comment with your email address and a reason why *you* need a GMail account :-)


Cool GMail hack: GMailFS - GMail file system

Update 08/09/04
Another clever Gmail hack - Gallina, a blog engine based on Gmail

Wireless network available

July 14, 2004

I don't understand.

I have the wireless card disabled on my laptop yet when I turn the laptop on, first thing it does is to notify me that a wireless network is in the vicinity and that I have to enable wireless to be able to connect to it.

Here I was thinking that switching off wireless guaranteed that no WiFi signals would enter nor exit my laptop; that I was WiFi invisible.

Mozilla Firefox 0.9 released

June 16, 2004

Of course I downloaded it as soon as I got the news that a new version of the fabulous browser Firefox was out. I have had just minor issues with version 0.8; sites that are IE "optimised" and forgetting cookies being the major ones.

The new version does not bring any radical changes. Instead it focuses on ease of install and usage of extensions.

Downloading it is fast because the whole application is just 4.5MB.

There is a new dedicated extensions and themes manager that keeps track of what has been added to Firefox and whether a new version is available. Very user friendly.

First thing you want to do after installing Firefox 0.9 is to get new extensions because 0.8 extensions are not re-installed. I managed to corrupt my installation by downloading extensions for the 0.8 version. Go to update.mozilla.org to get the correct extensions and themes!

Google toolbar, IE view, Web Developer and AdBlock are a must.

Update 17/06/04
And if you still are looking for reasons to go away from IE, read Lockergnome's excellent article on Why You Should Dump Internet Explorer

"BUSH NEEDS YOUR HELP" (freep a poll)

March 09, 2004

The other David Kaspar over at Medienkritik recently wrote about an online poll deducted by the German newspaper Spiegel Online.

It has stirred up some emotions and has escalated to a larger discussion. While it is a clear case of Freeping (poll manipulating), I will not get into the same discussion.

If you are looking for this article, please go to: David Kaspar's Medienkritik


deDer andere David Kaspar (von Davids Medienkritik) schrieb vor kurzem über eine Online-Abstimmung der deutschen Zeitschrift Spiegel Online.

Die Gefühle kochten hoch und es entwickelte sich daraus eine größere Diskussion. Obwohl es ein klarer Fall von Freeping (Manipulation einer Abstimmung) ist, werde ich nicht die selbe Diskussion lostreten.

Wenn Sie den Artikel suchen, gehen Sie bitte zu David Kaspars Medienkritik.

(translation by Vasili)

Bittorrent - The new P2P in town

December 05, 2003

The idea is brilliant; tap in to your users upload capacity to distribute your product across the Internet more efficiently.

If you have a killer product that your customers are downloading, the distribution (bandwidth) costs will increase proportionally with the amount of customers. This may be ok if the product is commercial and you can transfer the distribution costs to the cost of the product.

If on the other hand it is a free-ware product, lets say an open source application, you may find it hard to finance the popularity of the project.

Feed your mind

October 17, 2003

Did you know that you can access over 500 courses from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)? The best part is that it is for free through the MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW).

You have access to lecture notes, assignments, exams and more to anything between Japanese I and Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos.

I can definitely recommend you to have a look at the mouthwatering selection of physics courses. I did and found more gems than I can shake a stick at.

[via M Sinclair]

This week in brief

October 10, 2003

If you are a web designer and using embedded objects (Applets, ActiveX, Flash and etc) in your web pages, you will have to have a second look at your pages. Microsoft has responded to the judge decision by making changes to IE. There is a patch to be downloaded that will break your IE or you can wait until January next year when new systems are expected to ship with the "patched" IE. This is what the visitors to your page will see:

There are however workarounds so visit MSDN to learn about them.

SunnComm recently released a new CD copy protection method. It was quickly bypassed by a Princeton University graduate student. He exposed it as utterly lame in a recent paper. When I first saw this I was worried that SunnComm might try suing the student under the DMCA legislation. Not long after, the law suit was a fact. Is it just me or does it seem as if SunnComm is desperately trying to cover up their incompetence?

The source code for Half-life 2, this years mostly anticipated computer game, was stolen from Valve earlier this week. A hacker had planted keystroke recording software on several of the companie's computers and was able to access the source code repository.

The company claimed only non-vital parts of the game were stolen but the hackers have now released a workable version of Half-Life 2. This indicates that maps and images must have been stolen along with the source code.

So now you know ;-)

Meet Herbivore - an anonymous P2P networking protocol

October 04, 2003

herbivore.gif The recent aggressive behaviour of RIAA to track down single users of certain P2P networks shows the need for an anonymous way of sharing documents.

At the moment it is the musical industry desperately trying to keep up surreal profits. What if instead it was a corrupt government hunting down political opposition?

Friendster - are you a friend of my friend?

September 29, 2003

Networking sites are very popular at the moment and are one of the very few types of online activity that are attracting VC investment. Friendster is no exception and has already attracted around $25 million while still being in beta mode.

The growth of its user base has been amazing: from 0 users in March this year to over 2.3 million users at the moment and growing fast. See Stefan's article for a deeper analysis of the service.

VeriSign high-jacks Internet traffic with SiteFinder

September 24, 2003

The last week or so I noticed that sometimes when I typed in an incorrect address, instead of getting the usual 404 Not Found, my browser was redirected to a page owned by VeriSign.

What VeriSign has done with their so called service SiteFinder is to redirect all traffic from unregistered .net and .com to their SiteFinder. While other companies have done that before (Microsoft and AOL), it has always been on an application level and thus you as a user had the choice to turn it off.

SEO and Google dance

September 17, 2003

I am doing the google dance right now. My recent and home brewed SEO (search engine optimisation) has paid of. Searching for David Kaspar will put DavidKaspar.com on second place of the results.

It was a bit disappointing that a search on Google for my name returned the true resource for David Kaspar only as item 75. Not many people have the patience browsing to page 7 so being on first page is grand.

Internet Is Shit

September 11, 2003

Something to reflect upon:

"Give an infinite number of monkeys typewriters and they'll produce the works of Shakespeare. Unfortunately, I feel like I'm reading all the books where they didn't. I can't wait for the day when the internet makes me rejoice in its possibilities again. But right now, it's shit."


Blog Improvements

September 04, 2003

This blog needs the following (and some):

  • New graphical layout (php includes)

  • Provide link to Google translation for ge, fr, it, pt. See Taran :-)

  • No pop-up for comments. Use same page as individual entry

  • List of notable entries, prolly drop down

  • Drop downs for date and category archive

  • Recent comments, users and names and article names on main page

  • Obscure email addresses (mt feature actually)

  • Random photo on first page

  • add personal info (cv, biography). Me not like blogs without this

  • add contact form (email form, mobile)

  • List Archive by categories

  • Remove links that open in new window

  • Develop small application that recognises visitors by their IP and presents personal message

  • Check for Google search term in referal and recomend article

  • Use redirection via local file for external links (anti-spam meassure)

Motion synthesizer and Gait recognition

September 01, 2003

Did you know that social and biological information about you can be picked up from your motion pattern? That is, the way you are walking reflects your biological set-up (heavy, female, etc) and your emotional state (sad, nervous, etc).

The people at the psychology department at Ruhr-University-Bochum have developed a simple computer model where you can alter some basic parameters to control the characteristics of human walking. They call the demo BMLWalker. I bet that you will subconsciously be able to recognize the emotional states of the walking stick but not be sure how and why.

Me: Male, heavy, relaxed, happy :-) Make sure you turn on lines and try rotating the figure for better view.

Read more about Gait Recognition and it's possible use in airport security.

(You need flash player 5.0 for the demo)

[Listening to: Just The Way Im Feeling - Feeder - Comfort in Sound (04:22)]

Spam - How to limit it in your inbox

August 26, 2003

Herbal Viagra, anatomy enlargements, academical degrees, buy a bride(groom), US$100,000,000 transfers and various pyramid scams. The longer you have had your email address the more spam (unsolicited email) you are getting each day. During the last 3 years I have been looking into avoiding spam emails in my inbox and here is some advice.

News (RSS) aggregation

August 25, 2003

rss-icon.jpg After advice from Stefan, I have discovered news aggregators to be a great way to keep updated about favourite blogs and news.

Google your unit conversions

August 20, 2003

Google just doesn't stop delivering the goods. New features I discovered recently and would like to share: unit conversions and updated toolbar.

Did you know you can type in your conversion right into the search box and Google will return the answer instead of searching for pages. Some examples would be

  • 50 * 73

  • 40 celsius in Fahrenheit

  • 90 kilograms in stones

  • 5 square inches in square centimeters

  • (G * mass of earth) / (radius of earth ^ 2)

  • half a cup in teaspoons

Toolbar 2.0
In addition to the previous functionality of searching without going to Google page and highlighting the toolbar provides pop-up blocking, auto filling of forms.

Get it here!

Full list of Google features

Update August 10th, 2005
Google recently added currency conversion to their serch. As always with Google the feature is very intuitive. Try any of the following:

73 british pounds in euros

430 USD in SEK

I, rearrangement servant

August 14, 2003

Dark Spada IV was the most exciting I could come up for my name.

How about you? Anagrams Tool

A new weblog is created

August 13, 2003

... and it was good.