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January 31, 2010

Books & Piracy. Yes, this is another post about it

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:29 PM

I have talked about books and book piracy a lot of times earlier on this blog and this is yet another post about it, but it has some additional insights and comments on the phenomenon.

A couple of days ago I saw this article called Confessions of a Book Pirate. Check it out, its a really good read on what makes a book pirate tick.

On a personal note, a few days ago I made a comment in a forum suggesting that all members of the forum to purchase actual books in addition to downloading them. My idea was that if all the members purchased a book a month then it would help the authors and encourage them to write more, which is what all readers want.

Imagine my surprise when I received replies from the posters stating the no of books they purchase each month. The top two posters buy anywhere from 10-15 books a month. and most of the other members on the forum purchased between 3-10 books a month.

Imagine that. That’s a lot of sales!

Now some people might say that these people are robbing the authors by posting their books but they are one of the biggest purchasers of the same books that they post. I myself download a lot of books but then I purchase most of the books written by any author I like. I have ebook copies of most of the books I have because they are portable.

To give you an idea of the no of books I buy, I just shipped a container weighing 599.66 pounds from my storage area in US to India that mostly contains just books. (An average paperback weighs about 4-5 pounds) BTW this is in addition to the books I have purchased in India

Baen publishing, Tor books and others have embraced the trend by making non-DRM protected books available for a very reasonable prices ($5-$6 for a book at Baen) However other authors/publishers seem to miss the lessons that the Music industry is being taught. They are pushing for higher prices and delayed ebook releases to push up the physical book sales. Which makes no sense.

According to Amazon they sell 6 Kindle books for every 10 physical books when both copies are available for sale. Physical books cost money to sell, you need to print them, store them and ship them. For an ebook the only cost is the initial cost of creation which in any case negligible because the ebook can be created from the digital manuscript submitted by the author. However once an ebook is created, you never run out of copies. If you expected to sell 10 but end up selling 100, you still don’t have to worry about anything the same master copy can be copied a 100 times at no additional cost to the publisher.

eBooks are the future. Deal with it. If you (The publishers) don’t then you will go the way of the dinosaurs to make way for publishers who actually listen to what their customers what.

- Suramya

PS: For some reason I managed to get WordPress to loose this post the last time, so restoring it again from the DB.

January 30, 2010

Are you Unique on the Web? – An Update

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 9:38 PM

In my last post I spoke about the claim by EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) that your browser’s settings etc can be used as a fingerprint to identify you.

However since then I have been reading up on it a bit more and it seems like the test they use might be flawed and incorrectly identifying people as unique. I will be following up on it and will post any updates here when I have more information on it.

But personally I think the concept makes sense and is theoretically possible. Who know, it could be that the scenario is valid but there’s a bug in the EFF’s test code. Whatever the case may be, we will find out soon enough.

- Suramya

January 29, 2010

Are you unique on the Web?

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:31 PM

Being unique is not always a good thing. Which is something best shown by this ‘Motivational’ poster. The same applies to being online. If you are unique then people can identify you based on your setup.

What am I talking about? Basically EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) did a bit of research and found out it is possible to finger-print someone’s browser based on their settings and plugins by the information each browser shares with the sites it visits even when you have turned off cookies. This can theoretically be used to track the sites you visit on the web. So if you use some plugin’s that not everyone uses or you use a rare browser then that makes you unique and thus identifiable on the web.

In my case my browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 215,353 users tested so far so I guess my visits can be accurately tracked.

The following information sent by the browser is used to fingerprint it: User Agent, HTTP_ACCEPT Headers, Browser Plugin Details, System Time Zone, Screen Size & Color Depth and System Fonts installed. More information on the methodology used to identify the browser is available here.

Check out how unique you are on the Panopticlick site run by EFF. They also have some hints on how to prevent browser finger printing which you definitely should check out.

- Suramya

January 28, 2010

Is the Earth slowly becoming invisible to aliens?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:36 PM

While surfing the net, I found this article on the Telegraph by Martin Evans where he talks about a theory by Dr Frank Drake that the phasing out of analogue transmissions from television, radio and radar is making our planet electronically invisible from outer space.

In all an interesting theory and if its true then the risk of having an Alien armada drop in on us to destroy us after they see our broadcasts is slowly going down. Which is a good thing :)

But I don’t agree with the theory. I mean, yeah we have replaced old fashioned TV and Radio transmitters with digital transmitters but how does that reduce the strength of the signal? I would think that we are slowly becoming more and more visible as everything is getting linked to the each other and more and more stuff is transmitting some sort of electronic signal.

For example, 20 years ago the only things that communicated wirelessly in my house were the TV and Radio. Today I have: TV, Radio, Cellphone, Wireless modem, Laptop, remote access keys etc etc. There are appliances out there that connect wirelessly to the web. There are wireless video camera’s in some houses and offices. A lot of cities are launching wireless internet access for the whole city. The list goes on and on…

In a couple of years everything we have will be accessible over a wireless connection. Even today there are coffee machines out there that send an email when the coffee is done.

What do you think? Are we becoming ‘safer’ from the alien invasion?

- Suramya

Source: Earth becoming invisible to aliens – Telegraph.

January 27, 2010

Posthumous Hosting and making yourself heard after you die

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:39 PM

I was reading this blog post on Posthumous Hosting and it started me thinking (Yeah, I know… dangerous stuff). Once a person dies then their contribution to the online world sort of fades away unless someone picks up the banner and goes on with it. I am not talking about the comments you make on other sites, or the articles you have written, I am talking about the blog or personal website that you maintain.

For example if I die then the domain and hosting will only continue to run till my credit card works and depending on the time of death it would stay up for a max period of 3 months after the CC’s expire or the payment is stopped. Once that happens all the data I have posted on the site will disappear. Now, my writings are probably not the world’s most interesting items for future generations but they do give a glimpse of the world I live in from my perspective.

In earlier times, people kept physical journals and even after a person died the journals stayed and they give a real glimpse of the world at that particular instant of time. In the digital world this doesn’t happen, at least not fully. The Internet Archive‘s snapshots of the web do give the future generations ability to go back and look at a site after it disappeared. But at present the snapshot is not complete and not all sites are archived. Another option would be to have a long term hosting plan for people who want to be heard even after they die.

Actually this reminds me of a book that I recently read called ‘Daemon’ by Daniel Suarez. In this book a brilliant programmer decides to create a program that activates on his death by reading the news article on a news site feed about it to slowly take over the tech world. Quite an interesting book. The main idea was that the person was effecting the real world even after he had died.

Sort of made me wonder if I could create a program to do stuff after I passed away. Not to take over the world, but to play practical jokes or just freak people out. I mean how would you feel if you got an email from a dead person congratulating you on your promotion or wishing you Happy Birthday? hmm… Maybe I should design something like it. Should be a fun thing to do. Will have to do a lot of natural language processing though. Plus have a server to run it on. Neat idea though. Don’t you think?

- Suramya

January 23, 2010

ACME College of Engineering

Filed under: Humor — Suramya @ 8:13 PM

Saw this on the way to Delhi from Muzaffarnagar, UP. I wonder what they teach students over here… Do they teach them how to use/create the products sold by the Acme Corporation?

ACME College of Engineering
ACME College of Engineering

The photo quality is not the best as it was taken with a camera phone in a moving car…

- Suramya

January 21, 2010

Floor collapses at Weight Watchers meeting

Filed under: Funny News — Suramya @ 11:52 PM

Ok, I know this is politically incorrect but still damn hilarious. A group of 20 members from the local weight watchers in Växjö in southern Sweden gathered together over Christmas to compare the no if pounds lost by each.

Unfortunately for them their combined weight exceeded the tolerance levels of the floor at their meeting location and the entire floor collapsed. Thankfully no one was hurt during this, but this should give the members that little extra motivation to loose weight.

Source: Floor collapses at Weight Watchers meeting – Times Online.

- Suramya

January 20, 2010

List all machines connected to a LAN with additional details on each

Filed under: Knowledgebase,Security Tools — Suramya @ 12:15 AM

If you ever had to figure out how many systems are connected to a network and what IP’s they have then you will find this tip useful. It is also useful to identify any rouge machines on your network if you know how many systems are supposed to be there on that network. Like in case of my home network, where I know the exact no of machines.

There are multiple software out that, that allow you to do this. Some are free, some are very expensive. In my opinion the best one is nmap. It is free, fast and can be scripted.

To find all machines on my LAN (IP Range: 192.168.2.x) I just have to issue the following command:

nmap -sP

This gives an output like the following when I run it as a normal user:

suramya@Wyrm:~$ nmap -sP

Starting Nmap 5.00 ( ) at 2010-01-20 00:01 IST
Host is up (0.0018s latency).
Host is up (0.00018s latency).
Host is up (0.00018s latency).
Nmap done: 256 IP addresses (3 hosts up) scanned in 2.93 seconds

When I run the same command as root, it gives me additional information that looks like:

Wyrm:~# nmap -sP
Starting Nmap 5.00 ( ) at 2010-01-19 23:50 IST
Host is up (0.0015s latency).
MAC Address: 00:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX (Cisco-Linksys)
Host is up.
Host is up (0.011s latency).
MAC Address: 00:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX (Intel)
Nmap done: 256 IP addresses (3 hosts up) scanned in 3.00 seconds

In this case, as you can see nmap also gives me the MAC address of the machine. is the machine I ran the scan from so I didn’t get any information on that one.

If you want additional details on a system you can issue the following command to get the system to try and identify the OS and services running in detail.

nmap -A

It gives an output that looks something like:

Wyrm:~# nmap -A
Starting Nmap 5.00 ( ) at 2010-01-19 23:52 IST
Interesting ports on
Not shown: 995 closed ports
22/tcp open ssh OpenSSH 5.1p1 Debian 8 (protocol 2.0)
| ssh-hostkey: 1024 xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx (DSA)
|_ 2048 xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx (RSA)
80/tcp open http Apache httpd 2.2.14 ((Debian))
|_ html-title: Index of /
139/tcp open netbios-ssn Samba smbd 3.X (workgroup: WORKGROUP)
445/tcp open netbios-ssn Samba smbd 3.X (workgroup: WORKGROUP)
631/tcp open ipp CUPS 1.4
Device type: general purpose
Running: Linux 2.6.X
OS details: Linux 2.6.17 – 2.6.28
Network Distance: 0 hops
Service Info: OS: Linux

Host script results:
additional information on the server

Hope you also find this useful.

- Suramya

January 19, 2010

Flaw gives AT&T users access to other user’s Facebook accounts

Filed under: Computer Security,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:23 PM

Recently a Georgia mother and her two daughters logged onto Facebook from their mobile phones and wound up in a strangers’ accounts with full access to their private information. All of them were using AT&T as their data provider. On the face of it, it seems pretty scary.

How prevalent this flaw is and what other services are affected is something that is still unknown. As far as I can tell no technical details have been released to explain this issue either by Facebook or AT&T. So I am going to speculate on various ways this might have happened.

1. A flaw in Facebook caused the system to falsely authenticate users based on their IP address even without an authentication cookie present.

This could happen, however if this was the case a lot more people would have hit it by now especially on networks that have their IP address allocated dynamically.

So Probability of this being the reason: Very Low

2. AT&T is using a proxy caching server and the authentication cookies used by Facebook was stored on the proxy server.

If a proxy server was being used by AT&T then when a request went out to Facebook it would check for a valid session using the server’s IP address and then check for an authentication cookie on that server. If one existed the user would then be authenticated even though this time someone else was trying to access their Facebook account.

The problem in this case would be the incorrect configuration of their Proxy server by AT&T.

So Probability of this being the reason: Very High

3. Can’t think of any other reason… Though there could be a ton of other explanations. Just can’t think of any of them right now.

Caching servers are well and good but if they are not correctly configured they have the capacity of causing a lot of havoc and security issues. So I am off to read up more about proxies and caching servers and how to configure them correctly.

Source: – Network Flaw Causes Scary Web Error.

- Suramya

January 18, 2010

Delhi Fog

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:53 PM

A lot of you (or atleast some of you) must have heard people complaint about the Delhi Fog and how much trouble it causes for flights, trains and cars and atleast some percentage of you must be thinking: “Whats such a big deal about a little fog?”

I went to pickup Vinit from the Metro station today, which is about 2 min drive from my place. It took me about 10 mins to get there and this was how the roads looked when I left home.

Delhi Fog
Road to the Metro

BTW, this is not as bad as yesterday, so yeah the visibility gets even worse sometimes. This is why people from Delhi complain about the fog.

- Suramya

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