Latest Happenings in the Web World

Here are a few recent ongoings in the web world which caught my attention

Google may face antitrust lawsuit

Microsoft is regularly blamed for being monopoly, but Google may be next to face action against monopolistic behaviour.President Obama’s nominee to be the next antitrust chief,Christine Varney, has warned that Google already has almost a monopoly in online advertising . It spells potentially bad news for Google, and may be an indication for Google to start building up its legal staff. For statistics, Google spends only $7,20,000 for its legal staff in Washington whereas the figures for AT&T are $ 27 million and for Microsoft, $ 8.9 million.

Google however is not very worried and feels that this threat to its business can be contained.
Some experts opine that Google’s case is much different from Microsoft’s considering that Microsoft was a dominant company with no real competition in 2001, whereas Google is a dominant company which has overcome really stiff competition.There is also the fact that Google has done nothing illegal to thwart competition.

Varney however has not been appointed yet and her words seem more like a prediction than a promise of action.What happens remains to be seen.

Facebook Changes Terms of Service, Reverts after Uproar

In a highly controversial move, Facebook changed its terms of service,first noticed by The Consumerist, almost 2 weeks after it was actually changed. The new Terms of Service(ToS) created an uproar among its users as Facebook basically told its users that when they posted personal information to their Facebook profiles (including photos, music , movies), Facebook owned that information forever and could use it in just about any manner that they wished, even after they left the service.

As users quickly began to leave, Facebook moved quickly to amend it and reverted to its old ToS. CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued a statement stating that it was done only to obtain a license to share the posted content with other users. The statement,however,obviously failed to be convincing.Internet user advocacy group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) quickly filed a 25-page formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that Facebook had violated the law by altering the licensing of its users. Facebook called EPIC to say that they were considering reverting back to the old ToS and EPIC agreed to drop charges if they did so.

Facebook announced the same on Wednesday morning, with an unsigned statement by Zuckerberg stating : “We never intended to claim ownership over people’s content, even though that’s what it seems like to many people. … This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion.”

Mozilla plans to launch a web-browser, Fennec, for mobile phones

Mozilla is working on Fennec, a mobile web browser, its competitor to Opera Mini. Mozilla claims its vision behind developing Fennec is ” to bring the Web to mobile phones in a richer, broader way than has been achieved before, and to make the Web a rich platform for developers who want to create compelling content and applications for mobile phones.”

Fennec is still in the very early stages(alpha) of testing and development and runs only on Nokia N810 Internet Tablets. You can however still test it with Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
Lets hope it comes out real soon.

In love with a killer virus . .

Here’s a software issue I have been facing quite frequently which I felt must be addressed : viruses. Considering its a pretty huge thing to talk about, please excuse me if the flow is haphazard.

Viruses come in all sizes,all file types, all illicit websites and most importantly and dangerously, in most removable drives. The problem is that viruses embed themselves in the autorun files of removable media, so that they execute every time the media is inserted. Pretty dumb, you would say, considering that most of the antivirus (AV) programs detect and remove that.Well, you get smart,so do they.

Viruses these days have attributes of “superhidden” i.e. they are not detected even if you search for hidden and system files. I have had infections of such viruses(Ntdetec1.exe) and have had 3 different AV programs (McAfee, Avast, Norton) unable to detect and remove it. Fortunately, the symptoms were pretty basic and a quick search yielded the virus name and removal methods. The sad part was that it was self-regenerating and hence very tedious to remove. It took me three hours of fiddling in DOS in Safe Mode to be rid of it.

My latest problem started 3 days ago, when I put in a pen drive to install software in a freshly Windows XP system. I fortunately had an antivirus installed, but resistance was futile,as it turned out later. The virus (Sality.aa) infects all executables(.exe) files and so gets executed everytime you run any program. The symptoms were so amazing, I fell in love with the virus while trying to get rid of it !! Here’s what it did (at least what I realised) : It removed access to Task Manager and folder options so that you couldn’t end the tasks or view hidden files(pretty basic,easy to fix). It created .exe files inside all folders with the same name as that of the parent folder(again basic,meant to laugh at stupid people). Now comes the awesome part : It doesn’t let antivirus programs start if you manually try to open them, closes all opened ones. It therefore cuts off all aid completely. It also prevents you from booting in safe mode (it simply reboots), thus closing one more avenue for rescue. One mistake I made was remove my existing AV (McAfee) thinking it was blocking others from installing, but it was like taking out the last leg from the chair…I simply couldn’t remove any problem from that point on.

I finally had to format the entire hard drive(only C: wont do)…I now have a lot of work and headache ahead to get everything back on track…So here’s what you should and shouldn’t do to guard yourself from viruses :

1. Keep a backup of data, preferably in three independent places and preferably not on pen drives.
2. Try and use pen-drives only on Linux systems. It might be small pain, but believe me, its mich better than spending 2 days trying to fight the virus and 2 days restoring everything.
3. Try and make a software DVD so that you can get back on your feet real quick.
4. Keep at least two anti-viruses handy. I personally recommend Clamwin as an additional one because its powerful and light.
5. Whenever you need to format your drives because of viruses, you will generally be unable to solve the problem unless you delete partitions and create new partitions, since you can never really be sure you are rid of the virus until you delete everything.

Finally ,the golden rule : Be smart, have backup.


Update : Nod32 has also proved ineffective again the Sality virus. It was destroyed helpless just like the other AVs.