Google still knows what you did last summer

Google to pay $7 million for privacy violation

Google on Tuesday agreed to pay a group of states $7 million to settle complaints that its Street View cars violated people’s privacy.

The settlement with 37 states comes nearly three years after the company admitted to collecting information like passwords and e-mails from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks its cars were passing by. The Internet search giant that it will take steps to make sure the company does not tap into networks again in the future. As part of the settlement, Google has also agreed to destroy the personal data it collected. Source: CNN

This was a report on CNN telling us what we already knew but never said it out in the open hoping its false. Ironically, its true. Google has been fishing data and storing it.

Its not surprising that Google has been doing these kind of violations. Google admitted this only when it was probed. Its worth saying that Google could be storing even more illegal data that should not be stored. Google has all the sources for doing this, like web searches, You Tube, Picasa albums, android phones, chrome browser, you name it, Google is everywhere.

Our lives are dependant on Google and Google is dependant on us using its services to give it precious data it can use to earn money. Why are we so dependant on Google? Can we move on from Google? (I don’t have an answer yet)

Google is not the only entity in question, it can be Facebook, Microsoft and all other popular web companies could be doing this privacy violations as you read this!!!

All we can do is limit the information we share with the web in whatever manner possible. Share your thoughts

A New Look for News Feed from Facebook

A New Look for News Feed from Facebook

A New Look for News Feed from Facebook

Facebook did it again!!!

This is what many people are saying all round the web after reading about the latest announcement from Facebook. You can read about the announcement on Facebook Newsroom’s A New Look for News Feed. Yes! Facebook also provides its own news announcements.

The new design is yet to roll out for all users. All anyone’s seen is the design shown at the Facebook event. Now, based on such a small window into the new design, the people on the internet are screaming at the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for changing “their” Facebook.

Well its not “theirs” in the first place. Just like any other service on the web, Facebook provides a means to share. You are not in charge of Facebook. Facebook can choose how it wants to provide its own service. I think Facebook is well within its right to change the appearance of Facebook the way it wants and whenever it wants. Goggle has changed a lot since it first came out with search, and the web has not screamed at Google in the same way as it has to Facebook.

Having said that, it does not mean that I like Facebook’s new design nor that I hate it. The option to change is with Facebook, and we have the option to voice our opinion, and by “our opinion”, I refer to our thought on how does it serve our purpose of sharing and consuming content. You can always suggest Facebook that you need some xyz link back on the page. You can give your own point of view to how you see the change, but only in terms of its usefulness, simplicity, or visual appeal.

Then there is the question, why did Facebook change? Would it have been fine if it were as before?

To that, I would say, yes and no. Yes, you need a change, to stay relevant with changing times, to have something new to look forward to, to a make people stay on with the product, and yes to earn more money.

On the other hand, No, you do not need a change. You need to show stability, you need to need to show continuity.

My guess is that Facebook must have thought about all these points choosing to what it did and the way it did.

I would like to let people know, that there are Facebook users who will never find out that there was a change. There are users who don’t care that the there is more space between lines or section. They just want to share information and use Facebook as a medium to do so. As long as people can share their own thoughts on Facebook, nothing else matters. Then there are users who are not used to the web and are on Facebook to connect with school friends they new 30-40 years ago. For such kind of people, having the option to stay connected and laugh together, cry together and talk to one another using Facebook is sufficient. The cosmetic changes have little or no effect on them.

I have said a lot of thing, and like the others on the web, these are my thoughts. You can agree with me or agree to disagree with me. The choice is yours on this one. Lets wait to get the new Facebook design and share ones thoughts then.

For those who cannot wait to see the new design, Facebook has the waiting list, visit www.facebook.com/newsfeed.

My Windows 8 experience

Today, I bought Windows 8 Pro. Yes. You heard it right, I did buy a software.

For people who know me, I would never buy any software, especially when there was an option available. But somehow I went ahead this time and bought a licensed copy of Windows 8 Pro for INR 1999. This is my install experience from buying to writing this post.

The first thing I did was to Google for sometime trying to get an understanding of problems faced by others. This gave me a sense of the potential issues as well as some so idea about the entire process.

Now it was the time to download the Windows 8 Upgrade assistant. The assistant correctly displayed Windows 8 Pro as an option to checkout after scanning my pc for Windows 8 compatibility. I was doing this from a laptop belonging to my uncle. When I choose to do a checkout, it gave me an error.

“We can’t get that info right now….”

I tried the option repeatedly but to no avail. The error kept on coming every time. Then I decided to switch to another machine. This time it worked, and within minutes I was charged for INR 1999. Then the download process began. The download took over two and a half hours to complete. Post the download I used a USB stick to create a bootable media and installed Windows 8 on my new desktop.

The installation process was good, more human than the previous Windows versions. The messages on-screen were easy to understand with a large font making more easy to read. I liked the changing background colours, it was something different.

I had an idea that Windows 8 would be different and Microsoft showed this before I could begin. I decided to login using my live id/Microsoft Account. During the time my user was being created, I was shown an animated graphic explaining how to bring up the charms using the mouse.

After login, all my profile along with my contacts and pictures were in sync from my Windows phone, ready to use. This is my start screen…

My Start screen

 

All in all the experience was good, I am exploring all the option I an explore. I must say this tough, Windows 8 Pro for INR 1999 is a good deal.

Windows Azure Downtime: Why it happened?

On March 1, Microsoft’s Bill Laing reported on the Windows Azure blog,

This issue appears to be due to a time calculation that was incorrect for the leap year

Later, on March 9, there was a detailed follow-up on why this downtime actually occurred. As speculated, it was a leap year bug that caused this issue. Here’s an excerpt:

In Windows Azure, cloud applications consist of virtual machines running on physical servers in Microsoft data centers. Servers are grouped into “clusters” of about 1000 that are each independently managed by a scaled-out and redundant platform software component called the Fabric Controller (FC).

Part of Windows Azure’s Platform as a Service (PaaS) functionality requires its tight integration with applications that run in VMs through the use of a “guest agent” (GA) that it deploys into the OS image used by the VMs.

Each server has a “host agent” (HA) that the FC leverages to deploy application secrets, like SSL certificates that an application includes in its package for securing HTTPS endpoints, as well as to “heart beat” with the GA to determine whether the VM is healthy or if the FC should take recovery actions.

When the GA creates the transfer certificate, it gives it a one year validity range. It uses midnight UST of the current day as the valid-from date and one year from that date as thevalid-to date. The leap day bug is that the GA calculated the valid-to date by simply taking the current date and adding one to its year. That meant that any GA that tried to create a transfer certificate on leap day set a valid-to date of February 29, 2013, an invalid date that caused the certificate creation to fail.

Learnings

There was a lot of analysis that was done after the event. Here’s what MS learnt:

  • Service DashboardThe Windows Azure Dashboard is the primary mechanism to communicate individual service health to customers.  However the service dashboard experienced intermittent availability issues, didn’t provide a summary of the situation in its entirety, and didn’t provide the granularity of detail and transparency our customers need and expect.  
  • Customer Support.  During this incident, we had exceptionally high call volumes that led to longer than expected wait times.   While we are staffed to handle high call volumes in the event of an outage the intermittent availability of the service dashboard and lack of updates through other communication channels contributed to the increased call volume.  We are evaluating our customer support staffing needs and taking steps to provide more transparent communication through a broader set of channels.
  • Other Communication Channels.  A significant number of customers are asking us to better use our blog, Facebook page, and Twitter handle to communicate with them in the event of an incident.  They are also asking that we provide official communication through email more quickly in the days following the incident.  We are taking steps to improve our communication overall and to provide more proactive information through these vehicles.  We are also taking steps to provide more granular tools to customers and support to diagnose problems with their specific services.

Service Credits

MS realized that money was also plays a part in an apology. An email was also sent confirming the credit to all customers.

Microsoft recognizes that this outage had a significant impact on many of our customers. We stand behind the quality of our service and our Service Level Agreement (SLA), and we remain committed to our customers.  Due to the extraordinary nature of this event, we have decided to provide a 33% credit to all customers of Windows Azure Compute, Access Control, Service Bus and Caching for the entire affected billing month(s) for these services, regardless of whether their service was impacted.

Sources