Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Picture's With a Thousand Worlds

Pictures are great, but unless your subject is something iconic like the Eiffel Tower or the White House, it's hard to tell where the picture was taken. Fortunately, this is changing...

A brilliant site,, invites you to upload your photographs and place them on a Google Map. Then they upload the best photos to Google to include in a special Google Earth Layer. All that means that you can open Google Earth and see pictures taken by normal people of whatever you are seeing on the map. It's a great example of how important not only the picture is, but also the location where the picture was taken. If you want to see an example of my Panoramio Pix on a web page, see the bottom of this one...

That's great, but if you have many pictures at all, it becomes really time consuming to manual locate them all. This is where GPS comes in.

I bought a Magellan eXplorist 400 the other day. This handy little GPS device will (among other things) track your location to within a few meters (usually). It also keeps track of what time you were at any given point. So when I use a little program like GPS Photo Linker for the Mac (in Windows, it seems the program to use is WWMX Location Stamper), it looks at the time the pictures were taken and where I was at that moment, then embeds the coordinates into the photograph. Now, when I upload the pix to Panoramio, they are automatically placed exactly at the place at which they were taken. Smart!

All this put together means that while traveling, I can sync my pictures with GPS data and do a quick little upload to show the world what pictures I have taken and where. It's almost like being there.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Counterintelligence: How to Travel Invisibly

The most difficult question I've had to answer before I leave on my year-long trip around the world is whether or not to take my laptop. After much soul searching and planning, I decided to leave it at home. I'll take some other technology, but no computer. So how will I keep everyone updated, you ask? How will I get pictures off my camera? How will Ryan survive without instant technology everywhere? The answer is Internet Cafe's.

The danger of using an Internet Cafe is that I don't know who will be watching. Since it's someone else's computer, there could be software installed to record everything I do, including passwords for my banking sites, email and every other private piece of information. If this gets out, it could mean a very early end to my trip (as well as ruined credit and abject poverty).

Enter: MojoPac. This is a program which essentially lets you turn any computer into your own computer. I'm taking an external hard drive on my trip. Once I plug it in to the potentially compromised Internet Cafe computer, the MojoPac login box appears. Once I log in to MojoPac then not only do I have all my programs, pictures, and iTunes library with me, I also have a big black wall between what I do and the program meant to watch me. MojoPac isolates everything done in the MojoPac environment from the host OS (the infected Windows computer). It basically bypasses any surveillance software and goes straight to the Internet or other place without ever touching the host OS. So keyloggers (spyware) see nothing. If they're taking screen shots, they get a picture of a black screen--even if I'm logged in to my bank account in MojoPac.

In case you're keeping score or into these kind of details, I have tested MojoPac against the following keyloggers: Advanced Invisible Keylogger v.1.9, All in One Keylogger v.2.42, Ardamax Keylogger v.2.6, Dark Keylogger, Ghost Keylogger v.3.80 and Golden Eye v.4.50. It defeated them all.

While MojoPac may isolate you from existing keyloggers, if you'd rather get rid of them in the first place, Dewasoft's KL-Detector will help you find them--or at least confirm the presence of a software keylogger. KL-Detector is also free, unlike MojoPac. But neither of these programs will help with hardware keyloggers or people looking over your shoulder. So while this software is pretty handy, there's no substitute for an old fashioned glance over your shoulder.

Happy covert computing.