Mar 31

April Fools!  Photo by Michelle Dennis, used under license April Fool’s Day is tomorrow, April 1st.  It’s an annual “holiday” when humor reigns, and pranks and practical jokes are expected and allowed. 

Computers are a great medium for April Fool’s jokers because most users have no clue what goes on behind those blinking computer lights.  So when a hapless user is hit with a computer prank, they immediately suspect a malfunction, virus or worse.

Normally DevTopics is a source of helpful information to increase your knowledge and productivity, but today we will help you be a little naughty.  Following are the best April Fool’s computer pranks found on the Web.

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Mar 28

PC Freeze

Microsoft announced plans to open its own chain of branded stores to catch up with rival Apple and its successful foray into retailing.  Microsoft did not reveal how many stores it planned to open, when they would open, or which products it would sell in the stores.

A little humor on the subject by Jimmy Fallon:

“Despite the recession, Microsoft is planning to open stores to compete with Apple.  The Microsoft stores will be just like the Apple stores, except the staff will freeze when you ask them any questions.”

Story at Reuters

Mar 26

Security experts have joined forces to hunt down the Conficker C computer worm and prevent it from damaging millions of computers on April Fool’s Day.  They are motivated in part by a $250,000 bounty from Microsoft for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the responsible hacker(s).

“We love catching bad guys,” said Alvin Estevez, CEO of Enigma Software Group, one of many companies trying to break the Conficker virus.  “We’re like former hackers who like to catch other hackers.  To us, we get almost a feather in our cap to be able to knock out that worm.  We slap each other five when we’re killing those infections.”

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Mar 20

Presenters at the CanSecWest security conference detailed how to sniff data by analyzing keystroke vibrations using a laser pointed at a laptop computer, or through electrical signals coming from a PS/2 keyboard on a PC plugged into an electrical socket.

Using about $80 worth of equipment, researchers pointed a laser on the reflective surface of a laptop between 50 feet and 100 feet away and were able to determine what letters were typed.  Line-of-sight is required, but it works through a glass window.  Using an infrared laser would prevent the victim from discovering they are under surveillance.

In the second attack method, researchers were able to determine keystrokes on a PS/2 keyboard through a ground line from a power plug in an outlet 50 feet away.  They used a digital oscilloscope and analog-digital converter, as well as filtering technology to isolate the keystroke pulses from other power line noise.

Story at CNET

Mar 20

You’ve got a great business idea, now all you need is your Web domain.  But it seems like all the good domain names are now taken.  Here are some tips to help you find a domain name that fits your business.

Read more at Smart Blogger >>

Mar 18

This is part 8 in a series of articles on obscure programming languages.

HaskellWhat is Haskell?

Haskell is an open source, standardized, purely functional programming language with non-strict semantics.  With strong support for integration with other languages, built-in concurrency and parallelism, debuggers, profilers, rich libraries and an active community, Haskell enables developers to produce flexible, maintainable, high-quality software.

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Mar 16

20 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. For his next project, he’s building a web for open, linked data that could do for numbers what the Web did for words, pictures, video: unlock our data and reframe the way we use it together.

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. He leads the World Wide Web Consortium, overseeing the Web’s standards and development.  Full bio and more links

Mar 14

An overview of the Silverlight technology and the workflow using Expression Studio:

See more Silverlight videos

Mar 13

And we thought gas prices had fallen…

When Juan Zamora refueled his car at a Conoco service station in Richland, Washington, the gas pump showed a total fee of $26.  But in a freak computer glitch, the PayPal debit card he used recorded the transaction as $81,400,836,908, i.e., 81 billion dollars.  “That’s a B, as in billions!” Zamora said.

Zamora got the shock of his life when he received an email later that afternoon informing him that his debit card was maxed out.  At first he thought it was a joke. But after contacting PayPal customer service, Zamora was surprised to see that the company wanted its 81 billion dollars.

“Somebody from a foreign country who spoke in broken English argued with me for 10 to 15 minutes,” Zamora said. ” ‘Did you get the gas?’ he asked.  Like I had to prove that I didn’t pump $81,400,836,908 in gas!”  He would have had to fill up more than 3 billion cars to reach that outrageous sum.

Eventually Zamora was able to convince PayPal how ridiculous his bill was.  The cause of the glitch is still unknown.  “I guess the moral of this story is to pay cash,” Zamora said.

Story at Consumer Energy Report

Mar 12

Vault is a prototype programming language created at Microsoft Research.  It’s a safe version of the C programming language, with features to record and enforce usage rules associated with interfaces.  The rules control the order in which the interface’s functions may be called and its data accessed.

Download Vault