Dundee University Gives Every Email Address to Hackers!

Spot that little book button near the top? Wonder what's in there.

While most of us are enjoying the new email system at Dundee Uni hosted by the nice folk at Microsoft’s Office 365, many of us are noticing something else new… the spam!

I may have a theory as to why this spam has suddenly started pushing its way through to us in loads like we have never had before.  Many of us have chosen to syncronise our online Outlook account with Outlook on our PCs, it’s simple to do and it means our emails are available on our computers offline, but it’s not just syncing your emails.

The complete address book of Dundee University.

If you are using Outlook on your PC right now, click the Address Book button on your toolbar, what do you see?

That’s right, the entire address book including emails of students and phone numbers of staff is synced directly onto your computer, not such a big deal right?  Think again.

There are litterally thousands of people who are potentially using Microsoft Outlook to read their Dundee University emails.  What happens when just one of them gets a virus?

One of the major characteristics of a virus is that it spreads itself.  The most common method of doing this is through spam and if you have a virus on your computer, where’s the first place it’s going to look for people to send emails to?  In Outlook’s Address book.

It just takes one person using Outlook to get a virus and thus give away every single email address of Dundee University Students and Staff.  I’m not just saying it’s going to happen, I’m saying it almost certainly has happened and it’s a fair bet that somewhere out there, there’s a complete list of our email address on someone’s server ready to use for whatever they want to send us.


Microsoft buys Skype – Will Mac and Linux support Suffer?

Microsoft has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. That’s an awful lot of money for a company that was recently valued at a lot less and has been struggling to make a profit but what does this mean for Mac and Linux users?

I’m not concerned about the cost and I’m sure that Microsoft will help an already great business go far. What I’m concerned about is the user, specifically, the non Microsoft user.

Microsoft insist that they will keep Skype multi-platform, a feature that has helped keep Skype on top of the Internet Phone market. Skype has feature rich applications for not just Windows, but Macs, Linux and several mobile platforms. I have no doubt that Microsoft will continue development for these platforms but my concern is about the extent to which they will do this.

My primary computers are a Windows 7 desktop and an Apple MacBook running Snow Leopard. I have no bias between Mac and Windows and believe both platforms have their benefits. However, any Mac user can tell you of their frustration with Microsoft Messenger.

On Windows, Microsoft’s Messenger is feature rich. You have winks, web cams, facebook integration, Games, Photo sharing, Video Sharing, Video Messages, Slideshows, the list goes on. However, Microsoft Messenger for mac has very few of these features, in fact, up until a few months ago, it didn’t have Webcam support, something the windows version has had for as long as I’ve known it.

The reason for this is simple, Microsoft doesn’t give enough support to its mac developments team, I remember seeing a support forum on the Messenger for Mac site when people were complaining about the lack of webcam support in which a member of the development team cited lack of funding as an issue. I won’t go into details of the Linux development team… there isn’t one.

So yes, I believe Skype will continue to be available for Mac and Linux but my concern is that with closer integration with the Windows Live Network, will great new features, developed by Microsoft also appear on other platforms and if so, will they keep all platforms in sync with each other.

I don’t want a great new feature appearing on Skype for Windows and having to wait months, if not years, for it to appear on Mac and Linux because Microsoft wants to concentrate on making Skype for Windows.

Xbox 720, Someone get Sony a Wheelchair!

Oh dear, Sony is generally looking like they’re getting old.

And with the revelations that Nintendo and Microsoft are to launch new consoles, Sony is looking a little bit redundant, especially after they announced that they won’t be developing a new console anytime soon as they want to develop their Move controllers further, but there’s something that Sony hasn’t really figured out.

These Move things are just rubbish! I mean, they’re awfully clever, don’t get me wrong but they knew what Microsoft were developing, they knew that Kinect was well on its way and here at the Dundee School of Computing, we knew it was a major contender, our Visual Interaction research department had been looking into 3D cameras and tracking human motion without the use of lights or other tracking tags for quite some time now.

So to see Sony boasting a system that effectively used a low quality webcam that doesn’t work in living room light, to track a glowing ping pong ball on a stick, just seemed a little old fashioned… in computing terms.

I own a Playstation 3, not an Xbox 360. When I bought my PS3, I didn’t do my research, I just wanted a bluray player and at the time, the PS3 worked out being not much more than buying a normal one. Over time, I’ve discovered various things about the PS3 that really hold it back.

It seems PS3 always see what others are doing and do something similar, just a little less. When Wii was announced to have it’s amazing motion detection controls, PS3 was suddenly announcing, a short time later, to be getting motion detection controllers, something they’d failed to mention before. They had obviously rushed to add them too, with the vibration function of the controllers suddenly stripped out to make it all work. Vibrations you see, don’t work well with accelerometers, but a little research would have fixed this, something they didn’t have time to do, because they’d only just thought of it (when i say, thought of it, i mean, Nintendo thought of it). Vibrating controllers of course came back later and but the motion detection that we gained on the PS3 controllers, well it’s fun, i like it, but it’s just not Wii.

The only thing Sony did well was to support BluRay over HD-DVD. But then, Sony own BluRay, they license the format, it makes it rather awkward for any other console to use it… we’ll see though, I doubt they can keep it to themselves forever.

Now let’s look at Sony from a developers point of view. My flatmate, does develop for Playstation consoles. To do so, he is attending what was the first University in the world to have a Games Development course, Dundee’s Abertay University. But to do so, Abertay is subject to very strict licensing. If I wanted to develop for PS3, I would have to be approved under strict regulations by Sony, it would cost me a lot, same goes for Wii. Home Brew games and apps are the new generation of software packages being made. There’s likely to be a program on your computer a program, on your smart phone or your tablet PC that was developed by someone at home.

The only console that supports home brew, is Xbox. In fact, Microsoft provides the stuff in the form of, XNA studio, to develop these games for Xbox and Windows for free. There is talk of Nintendo developing a similar platform too. Sony however is continuously striving to make sure people can not make home brew apps on their consoles and with a major hack (which I honestly believe could have been prevented) of Playstation Network User details, the Playstation network still remains down weeks later and Sony continues to not tell us stuff. Why is the Network still down? Has it been destroyed? Do you not know how to fix it?

Now we’ve got Wii2 and XBox 720 on the way and all I can think is, I wish I didn’t have a PS3. Because until Sony realise how software development is changing, I don’t think we’ll be hearing much from Sony in the coming years.

Remember Nokia? That brand of phone that everybody had? We all had a Nokia phone because they were the best. Then with the new generation of smartphones and the new generation of software made for them, we forgot about Nokia. Well if Sony don’t get ready for the next generation, we’ll forget them and their Playstation very soon too.