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Articles Technology

BASIC Is Now 50, and I Still Miss It

One of the most popular computer programming languages ever just turned 50, but almost no one uses it anymore. BASIC, short for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, may have gotten its start in 1964 at Dartmouth College as a math project. But it ended up defining home computer ownership for an entire generation.

BASIC BEGINNINGS

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1980s, getting my first real computer—an Atari 800—was a huge turning point. Radio Shack TRS-80, Apple II, IBM PC, and Commodore 64 owners all experienced a variation of the same thing. As a certifiable Atari nut, I subscribed to the then-new Antic magazine; the contents of all issues can be found at www.atarimagazines.com. Each monthly issue had plenty of BASIC programs to type in. I killed a lot of evenings and Sundays in elementary school doing just that.

The results were laughable by today’s standards. I distinctly remember my dad and I spending one Sunday afternoon typing in this flag program in BASIC; it was one of the first ones we did, when we first got the computer. It seemed really long at the time (though later I would type in programs ten times its size, and spend several days on them). When we finished, it naturally didn’t work at first; we had made at least one mistake somewhere, so we spent even more time figuring that out.

After all that, when we finally got it right, we typed RUN, and—ta da!—it displayed a blocky, pixelated American flag on the screen, complete with white dots for stars. And that was it. “This is what we get for all that? You’ve got to be joking,” my father said. After that, I was the one who typed in all the programs. I didn’t mind.

CODING FOR FUN AND (NO) PROFIT

From then on, it was off to the races. I typed in code for more graphics demos, puzzle games, text adventures, disk utilities, printing projects—you name it, and there were probably a bunch of nearuseless-but-still-fun programs I could type in or write myself. Eventually, I started running a BBS on the Atari 800. Being in Brooklyn was key for that, because I ended up making some close friends who all happened to be in the New York City area.

At the time, schools began adding computer labs; my elementary school had a lab full of Commodore PET machines, and we were issued great big yellow binders full of exercises and programming examples to type in over the course of the semester. We learned about avoiding spaghetti code (too many GOTO statements), how to design simple and clear user interfaces, and how to program rudimentary graphics and sound on what were even then considered obsolete computers.

To be fair, BASIC had something of a less-thanstellar reputation among true power users at the time. Because it’s an interpreted language, there was a huge amount of memory and CPU overhead to get it to work. Before you could run programs, you had to run BASIC first, and then run your code on top of it. Games programmed in BASIC tended to be sluggish and unresponsive compared with those written in assembly, which was much tougher to learn but gave you more direct access to the “metal,” or hardware.

“There’s still a need for new software—but not for the kinds of things you’d program on your own.”

“C” ISN’T THE SAME

Time magazine’s Harry McCracken recently wrote a stellar overview of how BASIC impacted being a computer user in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’m definitely on his side; I believe something is lost today in that more people don’t know how to program.

Granted, it’s different now; the computer was a completely novel thing back in the early 1980s, and it was great to learn to program it and watch it do things. If you needed a mortgage calculator, or (ahem) a Dungeons & Dragons character generator, you’d look up the necessary BASIC commands in whatever book you had, and write it yourself. Game programmers would make all their own art and sound effects, and because resolution was so low, you could even get away with it.

Now, with a single tap, you can download any of more than a million apps on your phone, all of which do much more than that out of the box, and look and sound amazing in comparison, with professional art and sound design. If you want to write something yourself, it’s much tougher now, given the complexity of each OS, and less immediately gratifying.

There’s still a need for new software—but not for the kinds of things you’d program on your own, like that mortgage calculator or character generator. If you need a rudimentary app that does X, you can probably find a zillion of them on the Web with a Google search. Many will even run in your browser, so you don’t have to install anything. And although BASIC itself still exists in newer forms like Visual Basic and QBasic, they’re footnotes rather than the main story, at least with regard to owning a computer.

I went on to get a computer science degree, but I never really enjoyed C programming in the same way I did BASIC and didn’t make a career of it. I’m heartened that so many people do, and I’m in awe of their skills.

But that’s the thing: Even though I wasn’t a natural-born coder like the John Carmacks of the world, BASIC meant that I could still learn to program, and learn everything about how computers work.

“BASIC programming looks pretty tame today. But I can’t imagine my childhood without it.”

In a world of quad-core phones and highdefinition game consoles, BASIC programming looks pretty tame today. But I can’t imagine my childhood without it, and it’s a bit sad to me that there isn’t a modern-day equivalent of an easy-to-learn programming language for everyone.

 

Source – PCMag

Categories
Networking Technology

How To Set Up A Budget Home Entertainment Network

For many, the word “server” brings to mind an intimidating stack of unidentifiable devices with endless flashes of light. But in reality, a server can be that very basic featured, very old laptop or desktop computer you have gathering dust in a corner of your home.

Wikipaedia defines a Home Server as a server located in a private residence providing services to other devices inside or outside the household through a home network or the Internet. Such services may include file and printer serving, media center serving, web serving (host your website from your home!), and backup services. Because of the relatively low number of computers on a typical home network, a home server commonly does not require significant computing power and can be implemented with a re-purposed, older computer, or a plug computer. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) or Power Inverter is sometimes used in case of power outages that can possibly corrupt data.

Server in the home has witnessed increasing popularity in recent years. And for good reasons too.

So, what exactly would you be needing a server for in a home?

If you are like most people today, you have multiple home computers connected in a wireless network. You also have lots and lots of media files — digital photos, music, and videos — stored on each of these computers. Even though all your computers are connected, it is difficult to share or stream these media files from one PC to another.

Personally, I opted for a home server for the following reasons;

  • Centralized storage of my files. This gives you easy access to these files from multiple devices.
  • My boys love watching movies on their tablets. Problem is, there is only so much movies these tablets can contain. My home server gives them access to about 1TB of animated movies, streamed flawlessly to their devices.
  • Nothing beats watching CBT Nugget video files, downloaded video files or even stream Youtube videos directly to your big screen.
  • If you are the paranoid type, you can do away with Dropbox and the likes and host your sensitive files in your home. Access them over the Internet too!

The funny thing is, you get to achieve all these for next to nothing, using mostly existing hardware.

Find below a basic network diagram of my home entertainment network. Nice, aint it?

Drawing1

Over the next few posts, we are going to discuss about each component of this network and how to get them all set up.

 

Categories
Hack

Use The ATM And Risk Losing Your Money!

Windows XP finally reached its end-of-life this April (2014), after which Microsoft ceases to release bug fixes for the operating system. If you’ve upgraded your PC then everything should be fine – but what about your bank? Have they upgraded?

The Risk Isn’t Necessarily With You

Have you upgraded from Windows XP yet? If not, you can easily choose from several different options;  Windows 7, Windows 8 or even Linux. While it is important to ensure your home computer system is as up to date as possible, it is also important that the companies you do business with are also suitably secure.

Sadly, this hasn’t been happening. For various reasons (usually cost) a vast number of businesses have been spending time burying their heads in the sand rather than coming to terms with the fact that their systems have suddenly become a lot less secure since Microsoft withdrew support for Windows XP.

Although corporate security support has been extended to April 2015 – only in the UK, this still doesn’t give businesses who haven’t yet made the necessary upgrades an awful lot of time to purchase and roll out new hardware running Windows 7, Windows 8, Linux or even Mac OS X. While you might have taken steps to upgrade, the Windows XPocalypse has wider ramifications.

Among these are the customer-facing systems running on Windows XP, the ATMs especially, and its continued presence represents an open door to digital criminals.

DSC_2031ATMs: Stay Away!

If you visit ATMs to make withdrawals, you likely do so from a system running Windows XP. If you’ve ever seen one of these machines crash or reboot, you’ll know that behind the simple set of options Windows XP is hiding. Once upon a time it was providing security against intrusion from sophisticated hackers; these days, its presence is arguably as big a headache as the breaches it once helped to prevent.

ATMs running Windows XP are rife for exploitation and should be avoided.

Avoid withdrawing money from an ATM by doing so over the counter at your bank. You might consider using point of sale cashback services too. This is not very popular in Nigeria though.

A rule of thumb should be to avoid these at all costs. If you can’t, it is worth being prepared by setting up a separate ATM card with a low balance.

Windows XP: The New Millennium Bug?

15 years ago, the IT world worked itself into a frenzy as it fought to combat the effects of the so-called Millennium Bug (aka Y2K problem) – an issue with the way computers calculate the date that was set to cause chaos come January 1st 2000 (or 1900, if the bug had its way). Although there was plenty of time to prepare for this, many businesses waited until the last few months to apply a fix.

Fast-forward to 2014 and the situation is recognisable, if not identical. Home users are largely protected but businesses seem to have ignored the many warnings issued by Microsoft about Windows XP going end-of-life and the implications of this. The push to get domestic users onto Windows 7 and Windows 8 has been slow, but it would seem that even if you upgraded tomorrow, your bank and other institutions handling sensitive data would still be running XP, with the impending security failings this will bring.

As such, you need to be careful where and how you use credit and debit card. As a rule of thumb, if you’re attempting to use the card at an exposed location, you should already be cautious of the risks. With unsecured Windows XP installations now providing an added threat, automated payment solutions should be avoided.

Culled from Makeuseof

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Advertorial Hosting Technology

Surdoc – Free 100GB Online Storage For Everyone!

surdocMany are probably familiar with popular free cloud storage options available; 2GB from Dropbox, 5GB from Box and SugarSync, 7GB from SkyDrive and 15GB from Google Drive but few are aware of the new kid on block, Surdoc.

This company has indeed raised the bar by offering a whooping 100GB cloud storage free to users, giving you the opportunity to back up from multiple devices into a single account. And that is not all, you can get up to 1TB free if you refer a friend (10GB for each friend that signs up), Tweet or Retweet Surdoc (1GB), Post or Share on Facebook (1GB) and answer a Survey (5GB).

To see just how much a 100GB account can hold, visit https://www.surdoc.com/get-100gb/

Both iOS and Android apps are available for you to sync media files from your mobile devices to the same cloud storage. This is in addition to the Windows and Mac applications that keep files on your computers continuously and automatically backed up online.

There is a caveat though. This 100GB offering is only free for a year, a yearly subscription of  US$30 is charged if you decide to continue using this service.

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

My Pretty Valentine … [Geek Love]

geek valentineOver the years, i have come to realize that the nerds and geeks, someway-somehow, always seem to end up with the prettiest, fashionable and socially confident women around. My case is no different, i am married to probably one of the prettiest of them.

However, on the flip side, we also end up getting married to some of the worst “keegs”, who have very little love for computers and gadgets, except what is very necessary. And for this too, my case is no different.

Over time, my wife has tested my patience, asking for help on tech issues that i expected she should know. My responses to her requests are always not much different;

“You should know that by now…”

“What do you mean by you dont know how to copy those files…?”

I always end up, grudgingly, doing the task for her – whenever i can not wriggle myself out of it.

So it was a bit of a surprise when on Vals day she presented to me, amongst other things, some accessories to my Samsung S3 phone. To say i was shocked and very impressed was an understatement. How did she get to know about these things? I was particularly impressed with the C Pen stylus that she included in the package. What better gift can a geek ask for?

I was very touched, so much that i have resolved to be much nicer to her and always accede to her techy requests promptly, without grumbling.

Thank you, my pretty “keeg” valentine! My best gifts ever.

Categories
Gadgets

Watching porn is bad for your smartphone

We’re not making any moral judgments here. But it is definitively a bad idea to visit pornography sites on your smartphone or tablet.

Nearly one-quarter of malware on mobile devices comes from porn websites, according to a new study from Blue Coat, a Web security and optimization company.

 Mobile users don’t check out porn sites often — less than 1% of all mobile traffic is pornography. But when they do go to those sites, the risk of inadvertently downloading malware to their devices increases three-fold. That makes watching porn on smartphones a far bigger threat than viewing porn on a PC.

Porn led to more malware on smartphones and tablets than e-mail spam, malicious websites, and fake apps combined.

Part of the problem, Blue Coat said, is that the nature of mobile devices makes differentiating legitimate sites from malicious ones a tricky task. There is no way to hover over shortened URLs to reveal their true destination, for example.

“No matter how tantalizing a link might look on a desktop, there are cues that you shouldn’t go there, such as an address that just doesn’t look safe,” said Hugh Thompson, chief security strategist for Blue Coat. “When you click a link on a mobile phone, it’s harder to know what form of Russian roulette they’re playing.”

Porn is a leading traffic driver on the Internet, and for many years, porn sites had been a primary source of malware on PCs as well.

“When you delve into the world of online pornography, you don’t often know where you are, or where the content is coming from,” said Thompson. “But when you’re visiting those sites, you are more inclined to make riskier choices than elsewhere on the Web.”

But cyberattackers are increasingly finding new ways to target an even larger audience, including phishing, uploading malicious advertisements and poisoning search engine results.

Security experts predict that broader-based cybercrime schemes are likely to appear on smartphones and tablets soon. For now though, mobile attacks appear to be mirroring techniques used on traditional computers.

Still, major security firms have widely predicted that this will be the year mobile devices will finally emerge as a major target for cybercriminals. Smartphones have become personal computers that travel around with us at all times, and the vast majority of users don’t even lock them with a password.

Cyberthieves continue to make so much money attacking Windows PCs that there hasn’t been much incentive to change tactics. But we’re about to hit a tipping point. Most people still do their online banking and shopping on their PCs, but those transactions are happening on mobile phones more frequently.

According to research from Juniper Networks (JNPR), 300 million smartphones around the world will be equipped with the near-field communications (NFC) chips needed for mobile payments this year. Juniper also predicts global NFC transactions will total nearly $50 billion.

CNN

Categories
Hosting

Create Free Websites Using Your Dropbox Account

Owning a website is the norm nowadays. Whether to showcase yourself or your product, most people seem to have a reason (or more!) to own one. However, not many are willing to pay for this service.

If you are among this category of penny pinchers, you are in luck. I know just what you need – Dropbox! Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, and client software. Dropbox allows users to create a special folder on each of their computers, which Dropbox then synchronises so that it appears to be the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of the computer it is viewed on. Files placed in this folder are also accessible through a website and mobile phone applications.

site44Dropbox offers 2GB of this space free for everyone that signs on. In conjunction with site44.com, you have more than enough space needed for a website.

Follow the steps below and you will have your website running in a few minutes. It is simple:

  • Create a new Dropbox account or use an existing one.
  • Go to site44.com. Then click Sign in with Dropbox to get started
  • Click Allow to allow site44 to connect with your Dropbox account
  • You will be taken to a page on site44 where you can create your site
  • You have a choice of using a free site44 sub domain name for your website in the form artwales.site44.com or you can use your own domain name.
  • A new folder for your site will automatically be created in your Dropbox account.
  • You can modify the content of the folder to make changes to your site or you can upload website pages or templates to it.

Limitations

  • It is great for hosting small websites with static content like an online resume site, but it lacks several desirable features. It does not support any server side code like Java or PHP.
  • No, you can not host a blog on it.
  • The free package, unfortunately, is very limited in features – Maximum data transfer of 100MB in a month.
  • Premium packages are not competitively priced, you will be better off hosting your sites with a regular web host.

Free users can create up to 5, low-traffic pages in this site. Site44.com  is definitely not a replacement for fully equipped web hosting service, but for starters who don’t need all those features  and you use Dropbox anyway, then this is a good option. Do check it out!

Categories
Hack

The Difference Between Malware, Virus, Rootkits, Spyware, Worm and Trojans

One of the classic primary signs that a computer has been infected is that it suddenly becomes much less responsive than normal. This usually continues after rebooting the computer as the malicious software begins running again and using system resources. Applications that monitor system resources (such as the Windows Task Manager) of the computer may show a high percentage of the processor or processors already in use, even when a computer user is not running any applications. The majority of the system memory may also be in use and such a situation can also cause the computer to respond slowly. Using the Task Manager in Windows can show a computer user the running processes and can also be used to easily see what applications are using the most memory and processor resources.

At times, you may get weird random pop-ups trying to make you download something or sell something to you.

However, not every infection present these symptom. In fact, some do not exhibit any at all! The fact that your PC seems to function normally does not imply that all is well.

Malware

Malware, short for malicious (or malevolent) software, is software used or created by attackers to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems. It can appear in the form of code, scripts, active content, and other software. It is basically an umbrella term covering computer viruses, worms, Trojan, spyware, rootkit etc. Some of them attack the computer programs and files while others attack users confidential data. Let us have a detailed look at their mode of operation.

Virus

Just as a biological virus replicates itself in a human cell, a computer virus replicates itself  in computer memory when initiated by the user. Not only do they replicate themselves but may also contain some malicious codes which can affect your files, your operating system or even your master boot records thereby making your computer start slow or not boot at all.

There are different types of viruses, some affect the system adversely and leave it completely unusable while some are just written to annoy the user. Disabling task manager or desktop wallpaper are a few of the most common ways that virus creators employ to irritate users.

As a virus always needs a human action to initiate itself, in a computer most of them attach themselves to an executable .exe file because it knows eventually the user will double click on it to run it and that is all it needs to infect the computer. Yes, unfortunately, most viruses are inadvertently initiated by the computer users themselves and hence it is important that when you install and run programs, you know beforehand that you got them from a trusted source.

Worm

Practically a worm is an evolved form of a virus. Like virus, worms too replicate and spread themselves but it happens on a bit larger scale. Also, unlike virus, a worm does not need a human action to replicate and spread and that is what makes it more dangerous.

A worm always seeks for network loopholes to replicate from computer to computer and thus most common way of intrusion are emails and IM attachments.  As the infection is network-based, a good firewall along with antivirus is necessary to control worm attack. Also, this means that blindly downloading email attachments or clicking the links friends share with you in a chat window is not recommended. Double-check before you do that.

Trojan Horse

TrojanTrojan horse or simply Trojan is a bit interesting. Trojan horse is a program that appears useful by pretending to do certain things in foreground, but in reality they are working silently in background with the only objective of harming your computer and/or stealing valuable information.

Let me explain this metaphorically.

Suppose you are the CEO of a company and there is an employee in your firm you think is a valuable asset because of some initial success he gave your company. In reality the employee is working for your competitor and destroying your company from within. Now these kinds of employees can be considered as Trojan horses if you consider the company as your computer.

Most common way to invite a Trojan horse to your computer is downloading malicious software like keys, cracks, free illegal music, wares etc from an unknown source. Thus the best way to stay away from Trojans is by making sure you install software from trusted sources.

Spyware

Spywares are also malicious computer programs that can be installed on computers but unlike any of the above they do not harm your computer in any way. Instead, they attack you!

Once installed on a system they run in background and keep on collecting user’s personal data. These data can include your credit card numbers, passwords, important files and many other personal stuff.

Spywares can track your keystrokes, scan and read your computer files, snoop IM chats and emails and God knows what else. Therefore again it’s always advisable to download and install software from trusted sources.

Rootkit

Rootkits are computer programs that are designed by attackers to gain root or administrative access to your computer. Once an attacker gains admin privilege, it becomes a cakewalk for him to exploit your system.

We have already discussed rootkit in detail previously and you can have a look at it for in-depth knowledge.

Conclusion

Overall, all these malware that were discussed have been there probably since the innovation of programming itself and with time, they have become more complex and harder to deal with. That does not mean you should worry too much. We have talked about tools like virus scanners and spyware removers before so make sure you keep your computer protected with them. If you are careful enough, most likely you will not have to worry about them.

Categories
Hack

What is a Rootkit and How it Infects your PC

Everyone knows about computer viruses – and people are rightly fearful of them. Many have also heard about (computer) worms, which are nasty programs designed to spread as much as they can to infect computers.

A rootkit, on the other hand, is devious in a different way. This is used to gain control over your desktop by hiding deep inside your system. Unlike most viruses, it is not directly destructive and unlike worms, its objective is not to spread infections.

So what does a Rookit  do?

What it does do, is provide access to all your folders – both private data and system files – to a remote user who, through administrative powers, can do whatever he wants with your computer. Needless to say, every user should be aware of the threat they pose.

Rootkits generally go much deeper than the average virus. They may even infect your BIOS – the part of your computer that’s independent of the Operating System – making them harder to remove. And they may not even be Windows-specific, even Linux or Apple machines could be affected. In fact, the first rootkit ever written was for Unix!

Is this a new phenomenon?

No, not at all. The earliest known rootkit is in fact two decades old.  However, now that every home and every work desk has a computer that is connected to the internet, the possibilities for using the full potential of a rootkit is only just being realized.

Possibly the most famous case so far was in 2005, when CDs sold by Sony BMG installed rootkits without user permission that allowed any user logged in at the computer to access the administrator mode. The purpose of that rootkit was to enforce copy protection (called “Digital Rights Management” or DRM) on the CDs, but it compromised the computer it was installed on. This process could easily be hijacked for malicious purposes.

What makes it different from a virus?

Most often, rootkits are used to control and not to destroy. Of course, this control could be used to delete data files, but it can also be used for more nefarious purposes.

More importantly, rootkits run at the same privilege levels as most antivirus programs. This makes them that much harder to remove as the computer cannot decide on which program has a greater authority to shut down the other.

So how can I get infected with a rootkit?

As mentioned above, a rootkit may piggyback along with software that you thought you trusted. When you give this software permission to install on your computer, it also inserts a process that waits silently in the background for a command. And, since to give permission you need administrative access, this means that your rootkit is already in a sensitive location on the computer.

Another way to get infected is by standard viral infection techniques – either through shared disks and drives with infected web content. This infection may not easily get spotted because of the silent nature of rootkits.

There have also been cases where rootkits came pre-installed on purchased computers. The intentions behind such software may be good – for example, anti-theft identification or remote diagnosis – but it has been shown that the mere presence of such a path to the system itself is a vulnerability.

So, that was about what exactly is a rootkit and how does it creep in to computer. In my next article I’ll discuss how to defend your computer from rootkits – from protection to cleaning up.

Source

Categories
Hosting

Multi Boot vs Virtualization

A few days ago, i decided to shelve all forms of multibooting of Operating systems on my laptop and embraced Virtualization fully.

For the sake of the noobs in the house, Multi-boot or Multi-booting is the installation of multiple operating systems on different partitions of a computer, with the ability to choose which one to boot when starting the computer.

Virtualization, on the other hand, is the hosting of multiple virtualized Operating System environments within a single OS instance.

Either of these methods is good and one is not necessarily better than the other but — as is often the case — what matters is the method that is better for your particular needs.

So, what informed my switch to Virtualization option? And even more importantly, why would anyone ever want to run multiple operating systems on a computer?

Before i delve into this, it might help if i highlight the Pros and Cons of each of these options as highlighted in the table below:

[ws_table id=”2″]

I do a lot of OS testing, sampling out the various Linux distributions being churned out almost on a daily basis. I also do a lot of work on virtualized networks, creating a network of virtual computers within my computer. So, it was really a no brainer why i had to switch to Virtualization instead of multi booting.

To do this, i had to shell out N5000 (US$30) for an additional 4GB RAM to upgrade my laptop to 8GB. That way, my guest OS would have enough resources to work with.