Robert's Blog

Google Plus Sparks as “Circles”

Posted in Uncategorized by mrob27 on 2011.07.31

I have been using Google plus for a few weeks now and it seems to have a fairly good design combining the functions of a “reciprocal friends” network like Facebook with a “one-way followers” network like Twitter.

I have seen a number of comments that circles aren’t focused enough — you want to be able to follow people because of your shared interest, not because of all of their interests.

Here’s a solution that fits within the design of Google+:

  • In addition to following people, users follow sparks (this is already implemented).
  • If two different users use the same phrase to create a spark, they are following the same spark.
  • When you select a Spark, a “Share What’s New…” box appears at the top of the feed. It works just like a normal share (you can select circles to share with, attach links, etc.) but you are advised to only share things relevant to the spark.
  • Anything shared in a Spark will also appear as a post in your stream to your followers see it. The post contains a clickable link to the spark.
  • When you are viewing a spark, you can choose to show or hide the posts/shares that other people have submitted in this spark. This setting persists until you change it, and you can set it differently for each spark you follow.


Comments Off on Google Plus Sparks as “Circles”

A random sampling of my Google queries

Posted in Uncategorized by mrob27 on 2010.05.21

2010 May 21st

On the weekend of the Pac-Man doodle, a friend asked me if I had “Googled anything lately”, intending simply to help me discover the playable throwback game (which at the time had sound).

Misunderstanding his request, I prepared the following snapshot of my recent search activity.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 (yesterday) 10:32 PM: “system preferences” network “dns servers”

I was finding out how to use the Google DNS servers, which were indicated on a discussion forum as a way to fix a problem with certain YouTube videos not loading.

3:49 PM: “the band” discography “pepote”

I like to have accurate date tags (for popular music, the year it was on the charts; for classical, the year of debut performance). Here I was filling some missing dates. Many albums such as greatest-hits compilations are tagged with a re-mastering or re-release date, which is meaningless for me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 11:26 PM: when the tide comes in all of the boats rise

A metaphor that one of the men in MDI likes to use; he had T-shirts made, and today I wondered where the quote came from. It was originally used by JFK in 1963 when he was promoting spending federal funds on the Greers Ferry Dam in Arkansas.

11:16 AM: Coercive Persuasion “foot in the door” “love bomb”

I frequently look into new ideas and concepts relating to sociology, and one area I often write about is the balance of power between the individual and the group. Here I was trying to find an old reference that I had lost.

1:04 AM: perl bigint

Discovering how to use the Math::BigInt library, which allows arbitrary-precision calculation in Perl.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 11:53 PM: pdflatex atsutil and MacTeX

I was getting my TEX typesetting system up and running on the Mac Pro.

9:23 PM: Islands of Adventure Harry Potter

Learning about the new theme park area that is opening next month.

5:52 PM: xkcd forum playpen balls

There was an xkcd cartoon in which someone filled their room with those brightly-colored baseball-sized hollow plastic balls, I wanted to find the discussion that would reveal whether such a thing was practical (best price: roughly $8000 for a typical size bedroom).

5:20 PM: sloane integer sequences

I use this site a lot (The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences) and this time I was too lazy to find the link in my bookmarks page, so I did a Google search instead.

2:46 PM: translate portuguese

I used Google to try to figure out how to say something in Portuguese.

2:33 PM: 19111438098711663697781258214361

This number is the first in a set of consecutive prime numbers where the difference between each one and the next is the same number (in this case, 7 primes with a difference of 210), called a “CPAP”. It is one of the entries on my numbers page, and I was looking to see if it was still the record-holder for smallest CPAP-7.

Monday, May 17, 2010 5:55 PM: ffmpeg me_method dia_size

Solving a problem with the program I use to convert JPG files to MP4 video for YouTube uploads (mainly for my Gray-Scott simulations). YouTube does not like the format of the ffmpeg output (the atoms are not ordered properly for streaming) and directs users to a help/support page that is entirely irrelevant because it only addresses iMovie, Final Cut, or QuickTime.

2:59 PM: Jefferson Airplane discogs

Finding more dates of old music.

1:54 AM: ezekiel chronology and 360 days prophetic year , etc.

Filling a few details in the entry for 945000 and some related entries on my numbers page.

Comments Off on A random sampling of my Google queries

Facebook, IM (chat) and IRC Phishing

Posted in Uncategorized by mrob27 on 2010.04.27

2010 April 27th

I caught a Phacebook Phisher today! It was someone impersonating a friend and asking for my phone number.

Tell-tale signs:

  • A Chat or IM or IRC msg apparently from a friend, but saying nothing specific about them or about you
  • Writing in a generic style possibly atypical of your friend’s normal style
  • They reply to your messages with no delay
  • Urgent or repeated requests for info (like your phone #)
  • Logs out or goes offline after only a couple minutes delay on your part

How to reply:

  • Tell them to contact you by some other means which would require them knowing something specific (like their own email password), but
  • Don’t tell them that specific thing, and don’t tell them what they’re asking for via the IM or chat.

Likely Hacking Method

In this particular instance I believe the hacker got a Javascript running on my friend’s computer. The way this can happen to you is as follows:

  • You can visit a website which runs a Javascript (typically through a banner ad) that sticks around and later acts as a “chat relay”.
  • The script waits until you are in Facebook, then opens another window that is invisible (for example, hidden below the task bar)
  • Within the hidden window, it starts a Chat with any friends who are online.
  • If a friend responds, the script (running in your browser) forwards your friend’s response to the hacker (who is somewhere else on the Internet).
  • Your friend can then chat with the hacker, who impersonates you.

More details of other types of phishing are at

Comments Off on Facebook, IM (chat) and IRC Phishing