Archive for December, 2011

How to follow a Twitter feed in your RSS reader

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

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I was using a newsreader to follow various RSS feeds on my primary computer before it died on me last September. When I finally replaced it in May, I found it impossible to follow a new Twitter feed on it. There was no longer an easy link to do so like it the past. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a way around it and Twitter was officially saying it was not supported. However, my old links were still working for the feeds I followed before.

I shelved the idea for a while and today I decided to search for a solution again. I found one which doesn’t require too much manual effort. This post on The Sociable details the steps required to follow someone’s tweets. Just in case something happens to the site, I’ll summarize it below.

The general form of the URL to follow is: http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/XXX.rss where XXX is the numeric ID of the Twitter user. To get the ID, plug in the user name into idfromuser.com. Then manually subscribe to the feed using your RSS newsreader. For example, the URL for my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/29262569.rss.

So, until Twitter decided to change things again, this is how you can manage it. I know that I find it easier to follow people this way rather than on Twitter or using a program on my computer. However, I still follow people on Twitter so it counts for them.

Something to keep in mind is that it’s now less convenient to post your own stuff or retweet other posts. You still need to use Twitter for that.

Your router’s security may not be as secure as you think it is

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

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I read a report from Sophos that there is a fairly critical security flaw in many consumer wireless routers. I’ve gone on before about how you should use the strongest encryption method available for your equipment to use (WPA2 if all your stuff can handle it). However, while these routers support that, they also have a feature called WPS (for Wi-Fi Protected Setup) which makes it easy for you to set this up by either pressing a button or entering a PIN on either the device connecting to the network or the router.

Using the PIN method is potentially risky if all you have to do is enter the PIN on your computer or other device. It seems the authentication method for the pin results in a mere 11,000 options remaining which can be brute-forced in less than two days.

When I setup a new router, I’ve always gone for the manual approach and determine a wireless network name (SSID) and key which the clients can remember or have easily available. I don’t even install the software which came with the router but instead go to its web-based administration. I’ll turn off WPS so that it’s not accidentally used (the first and only time I tried using WPS, it scrambled what I’d previously set to something random for both SSID and key).

This falls in line with how security decreases as convenience increases. I advise to disable WPS and do it by hand.

SOPA and PIPA are bad

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

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The Internet in the United States is under a threat of assault, the likes of which I’ve never seen. Two bills going through Congress right now, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), will likely cause secure breakage to the technical underpinnings of the Internet.

The idea behind these bills is to go after copyright violators. However, the methods allowed are extremely aggressive. Can you imagine a single image uploaded to Facebook which turns out to be owned by someone else being the catalyst which makes it impossible to go to Facebook unless you know its IP address? These bills don’t take sites of the net so much as they break your ability to look up the underlying address of the site.

A thorough treatise is posted here at the Stanford Law Review. There are many other sites which go into detail on SOPA such as this one by Adam Savage of Mythbusters and this one over at Lifehacker (which includes a nice video describing the problem).

There has also been some collateral damage in this war. GoDaddy, for instance, had initially shown support for SOPA. As a result, a boycott was called unless they inform Congress that they don’t support the bills at all.

It also appears that SOPA will break the forming DNSSEC (a secure form of DNS, the “phone book” of the Internet) specification.

All in all, this must stop. Letters and calls to Senators and Congresspeople are a good idea at this point.