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Wikileaks evades hackers with shift to Amazon EC2

Wikileaks, the site that has infuriated the US government by releasing thousands of US diplomatic cables, is being hosted by one of the symbols of that country’s internet success – Amazon.

The site came under a “Distributed Denial of Service” (DDOS) attack on Sunday night from an unidentified hacker, forcing it to seek a new location for its computer files. And it found it though Amazon’s “Elastic Cloud Computing” (EC2) service, which enables businesses to hire its servers and store their data there.

DDOS attacks typically force sites off the net unless they have enormous bandwidth at their disposal or highly effective countermeasures. Wikileaks, being small and struggling for funds, is neither.

But EC2 allows companies to pay for their usage as it mounts up, rather than upfront.

While Amazon is American, not all of its servers are hosted there – and it could cause a major incident if the US government were to take action against a company on the basis that it might be hosting material the government finds embarrassing.

via Wikileaks evades hackers with shift to Amazon | Media | guardian.co.uk.

15 reasons why twitter threatens the old 4th estate

15 things that Twitter does rather effectively and which should be of the deepest interest to anyone involved in the media at any level.

1. It’s an amazing form of distribution

It’s a highly effective way of spreading ideas, information and content. Don’t be distracted by the 140-character limit. A lot of the best tweets are links. It’s instantaneous. Its reach can be immensely far and wide. Why does this matter? Because we do distribution too. We’re now competing with a medium that can do many things incomparably faster than we can. It’s back to the battle between scribes and movable type. That matters in journalistic terms. And, if you’re trying to charge for content, it matters in business terms. The life expectancy of much exclusive information can now be measured in minutes, if not in seconds. That has profound implications for our economic model, never mind the journalism.

2. It’s where things happen first

Not all things. News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to the wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies – to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get.

3. As a search engine, it rivals Google

Many people still don’t quite understand that Twitter is, in some respects, better than Google in finding stuff out. Google is limited to using algorithms to ferret out information in the unlikeliest hidden corners of the web. Twitter goes one stage further – harnessing the mass capabilities of human intelligence to the power of millions in order to find information that is new, valuable, relevant or entertaining.

4. It’s a formidable aggregation tool

You set Twitter to search out information on any subject you want and it will often bring you the best information there is. It becomes your personalised news feed. If you are following the most interesting people they will in all likelihood bring you the most interesting information. In other words, it’s not simply you searching. You can sit back and let other people you admire or respect go out searching and gathering for you. Again, no news organisation could possibly aim to match, or beat, the combined power of all those worker bees collecting information and disseminating it.

5. It’s a great reporting tool

Many of the best reporters are now habitually using Twitter as an aid to finding information. This can be simple requests for knowledge that other people already know, have to hand, or can easily find. The so-called wisdom of crowds comes into play: the “they know more than we do” theory. Or you’re simply in a hurry and know that someone out there will know the answer quickly. Or it can be reporters using Twitter to find witnesses to specific events – people who were in the right place at the right time, but would otherwise be hard to find.

6. It’s a fantastic form of marketing

You’ve written your piece or blog. You may well have involved others in the researching of it. Now you can let them all know it’s there, so that they come to your site. You alert your community of followers. In marketing speak, it drives traffic and it drives engagement. If they like what they read they’ll tell others about it. If they really like it, it will, as they say, “go viral”. I only have 18,500 followers. But if I get retweeted by one of our columnists, Charlie Brooker, I reach a further 200,000. If Guardian Technology picks it up it goes to an audience of 1.6 million. If Stephen Fry notices it, it’s global.

7. It’s a series of common conversations

Or it can be. As well as reading what you’ve written and spreading the word, people can respond. They can agree or disagree or denounce it. They can blog elsewhere and link to it. There’s nothing worse than writing or broadcasting something to no reaction at all. With Twitter you get an instant reaction. It’s not transmission, it’s communication. It’s the ability to share and discuss with scores, or hundreds, or thousands of people in real time. Twitter can be fragmented. It can be the opposite of fragmentation. It’s a parallel universe of common conversations.

8. It’s more diverse

Traditional media allowed a few voices in. Twitter allows anyone.

9. It changes the tone of writing

A good conversation involves listening as well as talking. You will want to listen as well as talk. You will want to engage and be entertaining. There is, obviously, more brevity on Twitter. There’s more humour. More mixing of comment with fact. It’s more personal. The elevated platform on which journalists sometimes liked to think they were sitting is kicked away on Twitter. Journalists are fast learners. They start writing differently.

Talking of which …

10. It’s a level playing field

A recognised “name” may initially attract followers in reasonable numbers. But if they have nothing interesting to say they will talk into an empty room. The energy in Twitter gathers around people who can say things crisply and entertainingly, even though they may be “unknown”. They may speak to a small audience, but if they say interesting things they may well be republished numerous times and the exponential pace of those re-transmissions can, in time, dwarf the audience of the so-called big names. Shock news: sometimes the people formerly known as readers can write snappier headlines and copy than journalists can.

11. It has different news values

People on Twitter quite often have an entirely different sense of what is and what isn’t news. What seems obvious to journalists in terms of the choices we make is quite often markedly different from how others see it – both in terms of the things we choose to cover and the things we ignore. The power of tens of thousands of people articulating those different choices can wash back into newsrooms and affect what editors choose to cover. We can ignore that, of course. But should we?

12. It has a long attention span

The opposite is usually argued – that Twitter is simply an instant, highly condensed stream of consciousness. The perfect medium for goldfish. But set your TweetDeck to follow a particular keyword or issue or subject and you may well find that the attention span of Twitter users puts newspapers to shame. They will be ferreting out and aggregating information on the issues that concern them long after the caravan of professional journalists has moved on.

13. It creates communities

Or, rather, communities form themselves around particular issues, people, events, artefacts, cultures, ideas, subjects or geographies. They may be temporary communities or long-terms ones, strong ones or weak ones. But they are recognisably communities.

14. It changes notions of authority

Instead of waiting to receive the “expert” opinions of others – mostly us journalists – Twitter shifts the balance to so-called “peer to peer” authority. It’s not that Twitterers ignore what we say – on the contrary (see distribution and marketing, above) they are becoming our most effective transmitters and responders. But, equally, we kid ourselves if we think there isn’t another force in play here – that a 21-year-old student is quite likely to be more drawn to the opinions and preferences of people who look and talk like her. Or a 31-year-old mother of young toddlers. Or a 41-year-old bloke passionate about politics and the rock music of his youth.

15. It is an agent of change

As this ability of people to combine around issues and to articulate them grows, so it will have increasing effect on people in authority. Companies are already learning to respect, even fear, the power of collaborative media. Increasingly, social media will challenge conventional politics and, for instance, the laws relating to expression and speech.

via The splintering of the fourth estate | Alan Rusbridger | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Oh well at least they’re honest

paypal unsubscribe

paypal unsubscribe

This is the first time I’ve seen a promise that my unsubscribe request may get ignored for a week or so. I assume this means they have multiple spam databases and that they haven’t yet worked out how to keep them in sync in real time? I guess this is familiar territory for an industry that has insisted that it still takes as long as a pony can meander for a cheque to reach their clearing systems.

The Complete WordPress-as-a-CMS Guide: Benefits, Tips, Common Questions and Inspiration

The WordPress platform offers a simple user interface when it comes to other content management systems. After logging into WP you’ll arrive at the dashboard. The WordPress dashboard allows you to change many elements of your website without having to know a line of code. You can change/edit images, pages, posts, content and a variety of other features fairly quickly. Check out the logged in WP dashboard below:

(WordPress dashboard)

User Friendly:

WordPress is extremely user friendly. Other content management systems boast about their endless list of features, but more often than not, they are extremely complicated to use. WordPress however, is easy to adapt to without any needed support. To add a new post to your blog/website you’ll need to create a new post, customize the URL, upload/edit content and “update” the page, which will push it live on your site. Check out this process below:

(WordPress Dashboard – Editing & Posting Content)

via The Complete WordPress-as-a-CMS Guide: Benefits, Tips, Common Questions and Inspiration | Inspired Magazine.

Top 10 Reasons To Use WordPress

1. WordPress is Truly Free and Open Source

Unlike other “free” and “open source” solutions that have hidden agendas, WordPress.org is completely free learn more for you, forever.  WordPress doesn’t start charging when you hit a certain size, nor does it close off any of its code to you.  This is one of the less tangible but probably most important elements of WordPress.org’s success.  No fees, no gotchas, no nonsense.

2. Automattic is an Awesome Company

The more I learn about Matt Mullenweg and his company, Automattic, the more I like them.  These guys write amazing code, protect open source programming, fight spam, host affordable and educational conferences, take security seriously, and seem like genuine nice guys.

3. Plugins Give You More Functionality

Plenty of platforms out there offer plugin functionality, but I’ve never seen a more smooth and thorough implementation than the plugin effort on WordPress.org.  Plugins allow you to add great photo galleries, sliders, shopping carts, forums, maps, and more great functionality.  There’s a searchable, one-click install directory of plugins think App Store for WordPress.  Their code is riddled with “hooks” that allow developers to add their code to virtually any aspect of WordPress without editing the core.  Look for a few new and important WordPress.org plugins to come from the Computer Courage labs soon!

4. The Visual Editor and CMS are Outstanding

The intuitive, user-friendly backend of WordPress is probably what made it so famous in the first place. I’ll never remember the relief I felt when I first installed WordPress after a few Drupal experiences. I always tell my clients, “if you can do it in Word, you can do it in WordPress.” In fact, with the Paste From Word tool, that statement is more true than you would imagine (this article was written in Word). WordPress is continually improving its CMS, adding features such as threaded comments, galleries, revision histories, trash, custom post types, and more. If you haven’t maintained a WordPress site yet, give it a look.

5. Easily Add a Blog To Your Site

How is this number 5 on the list you ask? WordPress really came to fame for blogging and is still considered by many to be a blog platform. Even WordPress itself seems to identify with blogging first, as the default configuration is for the home page to be a blog. Aside from the amazing advances in CMS (see #4 above), the blog functionality is still the best in the business. With categories, tags, threaded commenting, gravatars, easy theming, widgets, fantastic moderation controls, anti spam solutions, and plugin infrastructure, you can’t find a better blog solution. Adding a blog to a WordPress site is a great way to attract and involve visitors, and to keep Google paying attention. If you don’t need a full site, and just want a quick blog, check out WordPress.com.

6. Themes Let You Style Your Site

I tell my business clients every day that their site doesn’t need to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to design. We love doing custom web design for our clients, but many of them don’t need it. We’ve been able to make very beautiful and successful sites by starting from pre-existing themes and doing customizations from there. Because themes are open source, you can buy or download them and then modify them to your heart’s content. I have to give special credit to the folks at Elegant Themes who make wonderfully powerful and easy to use themes at a very reasonable price. Remember, themes are independent from your content, so you can edit or swap out themes at any time and keep your content and functionality in place.

7. It’s Easy to Keep WordPress Secure

WordPress has always bragged about its “Famous 5 Minute Installation”. Not only is WordPress pretty easy to install (it actually takes 5 minutes if you are handy with your web servers, newbies will have a learning curve), but WordPress is also surprisingly easy to update for security and new functionality. When a new version is available, WordPress will give you an easy link for a one-click upgrade. Warning: Computer Courage always recommends backing up your blog before doing an install in case something goes wrong. Look for backup plugins or techniques first.

8. Google Loves WordPress

At Computer Courage, we focus on getting new customers for our clients via Search Engine Optimization. Ever since we started doing WordPress.org installs, I noticed a spike in search results. Over the years I’ve used many valuable SEO plugins such as the All-In-One SEO Pack and Google XML Sitemaps. But even without these plugins, I always felt like the simple layouts of WordPress, the permalinks, and the easy linking in WordPress would be naturally attractive to Google. I even heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. Matt Cutts, the other awesome Matt and the head of Google’s “web spam team” spoke at WordCamp SF 2009 and said it directly – “Google Loves WordPress”. Edit: After saying this for the last year, I went back and checked. It turns out I’ve been exaggerating. He said “WordPress is a great choice” (video and slides here) but still, he goes on to gush about how much WordPress helps you get better results. We always recommend a conversion to WordPress when doing SEO.

9. WordPress Sites are Accessible

WordPress sites are usually built on relatively simple and accessible technologies. It’s easy to install on Windows or Linux servers. It uses all free license server software. The web pages render in HTML and CSS allowing them to show up on iPhones, BlackBerrys, Android, iPad, etc. It’s also easy for alternative browsers such as text only browsers (see Lynx) which are excellent for those with disabilities.

10. Your Site Can Grow With You

When you add up a lot of these features, you find that your WordPress site can grow with you over the years. You can easily upgrade it for new features and security. You can add a new theme (ma.tt seems to add a new theme most years) without redoing your whole site. You can add new plugins for enhanced functionality (add e-commerce if your business grows, focus more on search results, add a store finder, etc.) WordPress.org is used by millions of sites, from the simplest little blogs to huge brand names like the New York Times blog, People, Flickr, and more. See the WordPress.org showcase.

Have further thoughts on why WordPress.org is or isn’t a great platform for building websites? We’ve love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for your participation and interest in the web and in WordPress.org. Finally, if you’re looking for a professional team to put a WordPress.org website together for you, contact us today or sign up for our newsletter.

via Top 10 Reasons To Use WordPress.org For Your Website | Computer Courage: Computer Repair, Web Design, Virus Removal in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco Bay Area.

Lightning strikes three of the tallest buildings in Chicago at the same time

For the third time in the last 6 days, another line of nasty storms rolled through Chicago on Wednesday evening. In this clip you will see three of the tallest buildings in Chicago get struck by lightning at the same time. Willis Tower (Tallest), Trump International Hotel and Tower (2nd Tallest) and the John Hancock Building(4th tallest).

via Lightning strikes three of the tallest buildings in Chicago at the same time! on Vimeo.

YouTube: HTML5 Video Is No Match for Flash

The YouTube developer blog lists several things Flash can do that HTML5 video tags cannot:

Flash cuts down on the number of formats YouTube needs to encode. With browsers divided over which video codecs to use, YouTube would need to re-encode most of its content. With YouTube users uploading 24 hours of video to the site every minute, that’s no small task. The new WebM video codec offers some hope here, but it isn’t universally supported yet.

YouTube already does this anyway. The codec issue is therefore already resolved with the exception of a few mozilla hippies who were insisting on ogg but may now settle for VP8 in any case.

Flash offers “fine control over buffering and dynamic quality control.”

Hadn’t really noticed, it all looks pretty bad to me a lot of the time.

The HTML5 video tag doesn’t cover live streaming, nor does it allow for adaptive video quality when streaming long movies. However, as the post points out, “a number of vendors and organizations are working to improve the experience of delivering video over HTTP,” meaning there’s hope this problem will eventually be solved.

Hopefully quicker than flash is adapted for mobile. I was under the impression streaming HTTP was already used in iPhone but could be wrong.

Flash offers content protection.

While not the top of the list when it comes to features a user is looking for, without a means of protecting content from being distributed illegally, most of YouTube’s content partners would likely jump ship.

Name me a single user who wants “copy protection” or a “copy protection” that actually works.

Encapsulation and embedding.

Flash makes it easy to send extra data along with your embedded video, meaning ads, captions, annotations and extras like related-video lists automatically show up. There’s no easy way to do the same with HTML5 embed code. JavaScript, sure, but not the native code.

Guess what? The same browser that delivers HTML5 likely supports JS too.

Fullscreen video.

This one makes the least sense. Firefox and WebKit both offer rudimentary support for fullscreen HTML5 video, though there is no hardware acceleration or other extras you’d get with Flash.

Hardware acceleration in flash on a mac would be nice too one day.

Camera and microphone access.

The ability to record video directly to YouTube requires the site to be able to access your computer’s camera and microphone, something HTML5 video on its own cannot do.

Hardly a mainstream requirement, but it will be interesting to see how HTML5 integrates with device hardware features as it evolves.

YouTube also doesn’t mention a couple of other areas where HTML5 video lags well behind Flash: accessibility and translation tools.

Accessible flash? Really? I’ve tried to find out more about this and usually find precious little evidence even though I now people who are paid to enable this. Yet to see a flash translation, but I don’t doubt it can be done any more than it can be done in JS.

via YouTube: HTML5 Video Is No Match for Flash | Webmonkey | Wired.com.

Principles of Icon Design ° The Hickensian ° Hicksdesign

The Principles of Icon Design was originally based on the talk I gave at @Media last year, Icons for Interaction, but soon started taking a different form. This one focused more on the process of icon design, although they both share similar examples and concepts. It features new work too however, such as some of the work I’ve been doing with Jolicloud, my first freelance project after leaving Opera.

As promised, you an grab the slides (with notes) here: Download the Principles of Icon Design PDF (17.3mb)

Update: Alternatively, you can now watch the talk right here!

<object width=”400″ height=”225″><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”movie” value=”http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12006771&amp;server=vimeo.com&amp;show_title=1&amp;show_byline=1&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=&amp;fullscreen=1″ /><embed src=”http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12006771&amp;server=vimeo.com&amp;show_title=1&amp;show_byline=1&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=&amp;fullscreen=1″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”true” allowscriptaccess=”always” width=”400″ height=”225″></embed></object><p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/12006771″>Jon Hicks: Icon Design</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user3863336″>Carsonified</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

via Principles of Icon Design ° The Hickensian ° Hicksdesign.

Cool local php.ini Auto-installer

Installation Complete!Yes, really! A new environment has been installed for subtshirt.com  Notes:Your .htaccess file was edited.An existing php.ini was discovered and rewritten.Ive removed myself so that noone can run me again accidentally. What now? You might like to visit some links below and let us know what you thought about the DreamHost Custom PHP.INI installer.

If you have a great idea for a web tool, please feel free to post about it in the forum. If its a popular choice then chances are good that it will be created! Was this application helpful? If you found the DreamHost Custom PHP.INI installer to be useful, please consider becoming an official supporter by making a donation – or maybe by becoming a subscriber! Your support will help towards the updating and improving of the tools and installers that are available, and will ensure the on-going development of new web-tools and auto-installers.

Translation: Know a language that should be added? Contact us if you would like to show your support by translating this web-tool into a different language!

via Auto-installer.

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