Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Encrypted RSS feeds in Blackberry phones

First of all I want to state I'm not an expert in the field of cryptography, so I apologize in advance if this article is flawed either by misconceptions or technical details.

Many intranet applications, used at the organization level to manage internal information, are no more no less than huge spammers. They send us tons of mails everyday in an attempt to keep us informed of every management aspect of the organization, including posts in the intranet forums, task assignments and deadlines, status of indicators, addition or changes in important records, etc.

What if we could read all those notifications whenever we want to, using our favorite RSS reader?

I understand issues of certain classes my require immediate attention and will still need to be notified in particular, but for all others it would be nice to receive a single mail every day with a summary of our pending notifications, which we can read using our feed reader of choice.

But the key problem here is privacy. The feeds have to be readable only for the user they are addressed to.

Using custom feed URLs for each user will not keep the feeds private. The URL can be guessed, but even in case it's impossible to guess, most users access their feeds via feed aggregators, making both the URL and the feed content available to third party companies.

Password protected feeds are of no use either. Most feed reader clients, specially those available in mobile phones, will retrieve the feeds from a third party company, which in turn does the polling of the feeds from the feed servers. In order to do that, they require us to send them the password, which will be stored and used by their servers. The main reason they stand in the middle is to provide a better service, because the device has only one server to poll which will deliver the feeds in a compressed format.

Of course we can trust those companies, but be sure our boss won't do it.

The proposed solution

Feed encryption is the way to go, for both the title and the description fields of the feed. This solution has been suggested many times, but I don't see the feature getting implemented in any of the feed readers I tried in my blackberry.

I think the best way to implement feed encryption is to use RSA public key cryptography. The organization server will deliver a public key to my Blackberry and encrypt all RSS feeds with the corresponding private key before delivery. The client reader software on my phone will automatically decrypt the feeds upon arrival.

In order to get the whole thing working, mobile reader software developers must first implement the required client functionality. Once the feature becomes available, I'm sure many organizations will allow, and even encourage, the use of the RSS channel as an alternative to automated emails, and of course develop the required server modules.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

9 Movies I can't wait to see (trailers)

Ok, here it comes my list:

1 Bruno

BrĂ¼no is Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

2 2012

Now the world is gonna end on 2012.

3 Pandorum

From the producers of the Resident Evil film franchise comes Pandorum, a terrifying thriller in which two crew members wake up on an abandoned spacecraft with no idea who they are, how long they've been asleep, or what their mission is. The two soon discover they're actually not alone -- and the reality of their situation is more horrifying than they could have imagined.

4 New Moon

In THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is devastated by the abrupt departure of her vampire love, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) but her spirit is rekindled by her growing friendship with the irresistible Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). Suddenly she finds herself drawn into the world of the werewolves, ancestral enemies of the vampires, and finds her loyalties tested. Based on the best-selling book series, THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON opens in theatres everywhere November 20.

5 9

In the final days of humanity a scientist gave his 9 creations the spark of life. Animated film from Tim Burton.

6 Gamer

GAMER is a high-concept action thriller set in a near future when gaming and entertainment have evolved into a terrifying new hybrid. Humans control other humans in mass-scale, multi-player online games: people play people...for keeps. Mind-control technology is widespread, and at the heart of the controversial games is its creator, reclusive billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall). His latest brainchild, the first-person shooter game "Slayers," allows millions to act out their most savage fantasies online in front of a global audience, using real prisoners as avatars with whom they fight to the death.

7 Cropsey

Urban legends: We either dismiss them or accept that they have some grain of truth. Directors Zeman and Brancaccio attempt to uncover one such urban myth as they investigate five missing children and the real-life boogeyman linked to their disappearance in Staten Island during their youth. Will this terrifying journey resolve what has haunted them since childhood?

8 The Invention of Lying

A comedy set in a world where no one has ever lied, until a writer seizes the opportunity for personal gain.

9 Old Dogs

Walt Disney Pictures presents two friends and business partners find their lives turned upside down when strange circumstances lead to them being placed in the care of 7-year-old twins.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Howto: Embed the new Twitter widget as a Blogger gadget

Twitter made a new widget for us to embed in our webpages/blogs. There is a page at the Twitter site where you can generate the required HTML in order to include it as a gadget in Blogger.

The issue is that if you just paste the generated HTML, the following problems will arise:
  1. Styles will not get applied to the gadget. It will look ugly on any browser.
  2. Your blog will show an error message when opening it in IE8 which will prevent the browser from fully rendering your page.
To avoid the above problems follow these steps:

1 Go to http://twitter.com/goodies/widget_search and customize your gadget. If you just wanna show your tweets, type from:YourTwitterName in the "Search query" field.

Once you tested your settings, press the "Finish and Grab code" button. You will get the HTML for the gadget. Copy it to the clipboard.

2 Open Notepad or any other plain text editing application and paste the HTML. We are not going to use all of them to create our Blogger gadget.

3 Go to the Layout / Page Elements section of your blog.

4 Choose "Add a gadget" of type "HTML / Javascript". Type the title you want and in the content field paste the following line:

5 Now you will have to edit the HTML of your Layout to add the CSS styles and script. Choose Layout / Edit HTML.

6 Look for the "Body" style (near the top of the layout) and insert the following text in a blank line before it:

7 Go to the end of the layout, locate the "</body>" tag and insert the following text in a blank line before it:

8 Now switch to Notepad and copy to the clipboard the text between the <script> and </script> tags, including the tags themselves.

9 Paste the new script right after the script you inserted in step 7. Will look like this:

10 Save your template and you're done.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Things I would like to see on the new Twitter Homepage

We all know Twitter is about to make changes to our Homepages. I made a short list of the improvements I would like to see. Many of them could also be implemented by the third-party Twitter clients.


Ability to sort the Friends/Followers lists
At least the following search options should be available, in both ascending and descending flavors:
  • By number of tweets
  • By date of the last tweet

A list of the people I have blocked

And the ability to remove the blocking. Maybe it's possible to just follow the blocked person again, I really haven't tried doing so, but when you block somebody by mistake this feature will be very handy.


What do we have in common?

And I mean you and me! It would be nice if I could get a report of the friends and followers we both have in common.