Basic Ways to Protect Yourself Online

Recently one of my relatives asked me how to get their personal information removed from Google. I had to inform them that you pretty much can’t. Google isn’t the culprit, but the website where you have listed your information (aka Facebook & others). What most people don’t realize is that Google is only collecting publicly available information. It’s not datamining private information. Most people think of Google as being like the phone book where you can contact the phone company to be unlisted. This is actually a wrong comparison. The phone company is providing the service of a phone number and listing those who are using their service. Google isn’t providing the service (unless you’re using your Google Account/Profile). The comparison I used was that of a newspaper who reports a publicly listed police report with a person’s name and city of residence. At that point, anyone can take that name/city and use the phonebook to find their address and phone number. You don’t complain to the newspaper (well, most of the time) because the information is publicly available. It’s up to that person to contact the phone company and tell them to be ‘unlisted’. Because remember, while you might complain to Google, there are many other search engines out there, some big some small, and all have access to public information that’s on the net.

The same applies to the internet and website profiles. Probably 90% of websites with profiles allow those profiles to be listed in Google and other search engines by default. Almost all of them have options to be ‘unlisted’, but you have to make that setting change yourself. If that site does NOT have an option to be ‘unlisted’, then immediately remove your information, delete your account and don’t use that site.

The burden of responsibility falls on YOU the user.

Yes, it sounds like it would be a lot of work, but only at first if you haven’t been following ‘safe surfing’ practices. After that, it’s only a matter of following some simple rules. Here are the ones that I follow:

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Twitter Q&A with Neil Diamond

A while back I was poking around the internet looking for tour dates for Neil Diamond. My mom is a huge fan of his and I virtually grew up listening to his music. The first real concert I went to was the “On the Round” tour, yes.. with my mom. It was the best concert I’ve been to yet. So in poking around,  I found out from his official webpage that he actually has his own twitter account: http://twitter.com/NeilDiamond/

Well, on March 2, 2009 he sent out a tweet:

I tweet, therefore I am. If you have questions for me, I’ll try to answer some here on twitter. ~NeilDiamond

I honestly think he was surprised by the amount of questions that came pouring in. I’ve compiled the questions and answers he was able to get to. Why? Because my mom, who as stated is a huge fan, isn’t on twitter. Also many of the questions/answers are done out of order so it can be confusing if you don’t pay attention. Links are to the individual tweets where each question and answer can be found. I did not include fan responses to answers, so please feel free to check their timelines and see what else they might have said. And I know this isn’t all the questions he was asked, because he never did answer mine. Considering he has over two thousand followers, it’s not surprising!

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Update: Howto make your own custom Ringtones for iPhone 2.0 (3G)

I’ve already posted one tutorial on how to make a custom ringtone for the iPhone, but looking back at it, I find it’s a bit of a mess with all the edits and reviews. That’s why I decided to post an updated version that’s a bit cleaner if possibly more complicated. The steps are the same, but I’ve added notes, suggestions, and requirements for each step where needed.

Let me start off by saying, you don’t have to do this by hand if you don’t want to. Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable doing things that require a bit of technical know-how can easily go to places like Audiko.net and have the entire process done for you. Let me point out though that you  have to upload your file to them or link it from a webserver. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable with this. This tutorial is for those people who are like me and want to do things on their own.

To start, let me tell you what you are going to need upfront before going into what the actual steps are.

  • Audio source file – Doesn’t have to be music, can be anything you want as long as it’s an audio file. (Sorry, I don’t know an easy way how to pull from videos.)
  • Audio editing software – If you don’t have one, try the free version of Wavepad by NCH Software.
  • Audio converter – Some Audio editors (like WavePad) can do it, but I use the free Switch from NCH Software because it can do conversions in bulk. There are also multiple online file converters. A good list is over on MakeUseOf.

Now that you have your tools together, what do you actually do with them?

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Pandora Radio

When I finally managed to get my new iphone, the first thing Tanya & Laura say is “You have to get Pandora Radio“. At first I’m wondering why on earth would I want an internet radio station on my phone when I can use my entire iTunes Library at last.. but then Erroch piped in and said I needed to check it out so I caved. So will you when you hear about all of this.

One of the difficult parts for me was having to wrap my head around what Pandora actually is. It really is like flipping through radio stations. Each ‘station’ will have themes, similarities, etc. How it obtains those ‘seeds’ are up to you. For better explanation, I’m going to take you through the process of getting setup. It’s how my mind works, so bare with me. Continue reading

Howto: Make your own custom Ringtones for iPhone 2.0 (3G)


Update: I’ve redone this entire tutorial. Please check the new one as it’s far better than this one.


Yesterday I purchased my new 16gig iphone and was very happy to wave goodbye to my old Treo 650 which had lived long beyond it’s mileage. It wasn’t until late last night when I was playing around with my custom settings that I found out I couldn’t add my own custom ringtones. My friend informed me that Apple had set it up that you had to pay double through the itunes store in order to get them which greatly upset me.

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Kids, Toys, and Responsible Parenting

WTHR – Indianapolis News and Weather – Indiana girl swallows magnets, needs surgery:

Indiana girl swallows magnets, needs surgery
Updated: May 23, 2008 05:44 PM

This story angers me, but not for the obvious reasons.

I actually saw this first on a news clip over on Comcast.net’s “The Fan”. First I was concerned as to how a child could knowingly consume THIRTY magnets. One of the first questions the news anchor asked was “Why did you eat them?” The girl’s reply? “I thought they were candy.” That stopped me right there. My first thought is “Magnets taste like METAL. Maybe these were plastic colored pieces, shaped weird and can be mistaken like candy.” Then they show the magnet toys. They look like ball-bearings. Yes, they vaguely look like those small hard sugar candy balls you sometimes see on cupcakes at Christmas-time, but these things are about as big as a nickel (or larger, the pictures are kinda hard to judge the size), and are obviously metal. I’ve tasted magnets before, and they don’t taste anything like candy. Metal doesn’t taste good at all.

So the the girl’s adopted (I assume) father continued to talk and my irritation continues to rise. I couldn’t finish it, so I went searching for a print news article and found the one above. My irritation rose as I read the article, not for what it really said, but how it was stated. It insinuates the blame falls with the toy, but if you read between the lines, this orphanage even told the family that this girl has problems:

“She’s only been in America three years and while she was in Russia, which is where she is from, in the orphanage she ate, they told us she ate everything she could get her hands on,” said Lents.

Now, knowing this, why did the father give her a toy composed of small, easily swallowed pieces? My niece is somewhat the same, she will put just about ANYTHING in her mouth. We keep this in mind and don’t buy her things she could possibly eat.

At the end of the article I see the words I was expecting to see and I nearly see red: But Haley’s father wants the toy off the market for good.

Oh for the love of god, accept some responsibility! It is the parent’s responsibility to make sure the child knows that it is a toy. Be there when they open the package, tell them what it is, get down and maybe even play with them and show them how it works. TELL THEM NOT TO EAT IT. The sheer fact that she claims she thought it was candy tells you that her parents didn’t tell her it was a toy. More likely than not they gave it to her and went about their business. And if the child DOES eat it even after you tell them not to, don’t blame the toy, blame the child. I’m sorry but most eight year olds know not to eat their toys.

Seeing things like this just angers me to no end. Bad parenting is what this is, nothing more. Now an innocent toy is being blamed for it. I’m tempted to go buy a set of this just out of spite…

..ok.. it looks fun to play with too… >_>

Beware the trap of self-pity

The following was originally posted in my LJ. Since it’s ballooned into a full article, at least in my thinking, I decided to post it here as well.

Yes, it was awful — now please shut up – CNN.com:

Poignant, tragic, funny, outrageous –most of us have at least one story we tell (and retell) to explain our emotional bruises. But there’s a big difference between understanding the past and being stuck in it.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Could we please stop the drama and get on with our life?”

I normally try to avoid anything dealing with Oprah anymore, but I stumbled across this article on CNN. It echoes nicely what I’ve been saying for years. For me it can be very very easy to slip into self pity. My brother died when I was eight; my father has a violent temper, though never physical hit anyone; was constantly bullied throughout school; so on and so forth. I could weep and moan and go on about how my life was so horrid.

Your life is shaped by your past experiences, not defined by it.

Probably the greatest thing about this article is the points it has to help you avoid getting stuck in that self pity rut. Teaches you how to recognize it and how to fight it.

–Below was originally a reply to a response to the above post–

It takes -years- to fully come to grips with the death of someone you are really close to. I was eight years old when my brother died, and he was my best friend (though not I his) and the person I was closest to. Don’t mistake the grieving process for self-pity though. It’s natural to think about who you’ve lost, how much you miss them. It’s been over 20 years and I still think about my brother, wonder what he’d be like now, how things would be different were he still alive. But I don’t let it stop me from living. Don’t sit there and go “Oh woe is me, my brother died when I was a child and now I’m scarred for life!”

The difference this article is talking about it’s so much the “letting go”, but those who try and let the things that have happened to them DEFINE them. Like the woman in the article who kept dwelling on her mother. It seems like her therapist didn’t properly explain things to her. What she needed to emphasize wasn’t the whole “you’re mother wouldn’t let you speak up for yourself, woe is you” but that “you have a block about speaking up because of how your mother treated you. Let’s focus on some exercises to help you overcome this bad habit you developed as a result.” See the difference?

People who dwell in self-pity, in essence, use it as an excuse to not take responsibility for their actions. Yes, someone will have difficulty with certain issues because of something that happened to them, but the whole point of therapy isn’t to use that event as an excuse, but to help you realize WHY you have that difficulty and OVERCOME it. Like the author of the article tried to tell the patient “Kristin, can you see that your mother isn’t here? Can you hear that you are able to speak? You’re a full-grown woman, with a functioning larynx, who wants a promotion. Full stop.

Another thing people who do the whole ‘self-pity’ thing commonly do is ONLY talk about that incident (or incidents) that happened to them. It doesn’t matter the conversation topic, they always find a way to insert “Oh, well my mom wouldn’t let me talk so blah.” Or the ONLY thing they will talk about are their woes and how bad their life is. It’s good to talk about the hardships you’ve been through, but at appropriate times with appropriate people. I think we’ve all met at least ONE person who, upon first meeting them, unloads all their life woe’s upon you without even knowing you or your even ASKING them to. Talking with close friends, especially when you are feeling down, is one of the healthiest things to do.

Anyway, I don’t mean to preach… more just venting. It’s a sore spot, especially I have to be careful of doing it myself. ^_^