Pointers

Federal URL shortener makes sense; Browser wars heat up; Is there any pie Google doesn't have its fingers in?; Stupid spammer tricks

Federal URL shortener makes sense
Source: InformationWeek

The federal government has its own URL shortener, similar to bit.ly or TinyURL, to turn long Internet addresses into short ones. That makes them more suitable for use on sites such as Twitter or in text messages where space is at a premium.

But does the government need its own when free commercial services are readily available?

Nick Hoover, senior editor at InformationWeek, thinks so, for a few reasons.

“The first reason — and this is where I see potential value to others — is about the government brand,” he wrote. “When government links are shortened to bit.ly or tiny.cc, nobody knows where the site goes until they click on it. With go.usa.gov, even though the URL is shortened, it's obvious that the link goes to a United States government Web site. Other companies and organizations could do the same thing.”

Other good reasons Hoover mentions: security, stability and centralized management.

Browser wars heat up
Source: Computerworld

In the 15 or so years that the Internet has been widely available, browser wars have flared several times. Netscape, Mozilla and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer were among the early combatants. Apple’s Safari joined the fray, and Mozilla’s open-source Firefox has recently gained ground.

But with Google Chrome entering the field and a revitalized Opera on the scene, things are heating up once more, according to a Computerworld article that put the latest versions of the top five browsers through a series of tests.

The writers, Preston Gralla and Michael DeAgonia, found much to like in all of the contenders, but one eventually emerged as the hands-down winner: Firefox.

“When it comes to balancing performance, features and extras, Firefox beats all other browsers, particularly because of the vast number of add-ons available for it,” they wrote. “More than anything, that's what sets it apart. If you're the kind of person who likes to fiddle and tweak your browser and add extra capabilities, Firefox simply can't be beat.”

Is there any pie Google doesn’t have its fingers in?
Sources: The Guardian and Wired

In addition to launching a Web browser, Google has created an operating system, Android, that Barnes and Noble is using to power its Nook electronic book reader, a rival to Amazon’s Kindle. The system supports a number of electronic book formats, can run applications made for it and will allow Nook owners to lend their books, something Kindle users can’t do.

The Guardian reports that another e-book reader — Spring Design’s Alex — also uses Android.

Meanwhile, Google is planning a music search service with streaming features. Although the service will not become a music retailer that competes with Apple’s iTunes or other online sellers, it might be just the first of several specialized search tools, according to Wired. Also rumored to be in the works: a Google tool for booking travel.

Stupid spammer tricks
Source: Computerworld

Spammers have many ingenious ways to fill your inbox with junk, and Computerworld’s Amir Lev has launched a new blog, “Spammer trick of the month,” to alert you to some of them — not that there’s much you can do about them.

This month’s topic: delayed DNS. One way filters detect spam messages is by checking the links in incoming messages, Lev reports. Spammers can change the site the Domain Name System points to, so that when the spam filter software checks, the link appears benign, but by the time the human reader clicks the link, it goes to the spammer’s site.

“Spammers and botnet developers are an ingenious bunch,” Lev wrote. “If spam wasn't so obnoxious and criminal, it would be easy to be impressed by some of their imaginative technical solutions.”

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