29 April 2007

Anonymity on the Web

(Yes, anonymity is a word)
As an addition to my recent post about bypassing college filters, I wanted to talk about some other methods of not getting noticed.
There is an internet browser called Tor (The Onion Router), which is special because unlike Internet Explorer, it leaves no traces of your internet history. Plus, it uses a new proxy server for every link you click. That massively increases your anonymity on the web - which means you almost act like a 'ghost' when surfing the internet.
And Mozilla fans will be pleased to hear that Tor is based on Firefox :) If you want to try it out, you have two options: You can go for the original Tor client, or the new Torpark.
I've tried it - and it's not bad. It's not exceptionally fast at loading up - neither is it really fast at getting pages - but nonetheless, it is very useful if you don't want to be traced. Just make sure that if you are trying to run it, that you are allowed to run EXEs (programs/applications/software/executeables) and that the firewall will accept connections to/from Tor.
See you later... or maybe not!

Bypass College Filters!

If you are at college, and you absolutely cannot detach yourself from MySpace, there is a way to get around the filters! There is a way that works which can get you around blocked websites like MySpace.
All you need is a proxy server to connect to the website you want. Basically, instead of connecting to RM or whatever your college network uses, you connect to some old sod's computer which doesn't have the filter. I know that sounds really complicated - so here's what is most important to you. You can access the proxy via websites like www.lightproxy.com
How they work
Basically instead of using your computer to access the internet, you connect to another computer who accesses the internet for you. That way you effectively 'bypass' your computer's network server blocking system thingy.
How you can use them
The really cool thing about them is that, if the proxy's submitted URL (such as www.myspace.com) is hidden (encrypted) then you can access any website you want to - even if you are at school, or work, or wherever, and behind a block. This is also a good idea if you are in China and trying to read some filtered articles about war and human rights etc.
  • Many proxy's URLs have "proxy" in them, so they are easily to block by any network admins.
  • Not all proxys can continue encrypting pages when you click on them (such as, if you click a link in a page that a proxy server has got for you, it goes to the real website, not the encrypted one). This really slows down time and makes websites like email and logins hard to use.
  • Once they get found out, they get blocked. However, there are always more out there!
My Story
I can honestly say that it was me who told everyone about LightProxy. Basically some of my friends in IT wanted to get on MySpace even though it was filtered, so I just did I quick Google search and came up with LightProxy. And now... everyone knows about it! if you have ever been in the library to do your work, you would have realised that loads of people now know about LightProxy!
I only wish I could get the praise for it, though. Nobody knows that I figured it out and everyone else is getting credit for it. *cries and hits the keyboard* *sobs*
Oh well. Have a fun time.

16 April 2007

Cool Tools

Here are just a couple of bits of software I thought you might be interested in.
First: one for all those hardcore music fans who have their headphones on all the time
I found out a long time ago about a plugi-in for Windows Media Player, called 4Front Headphones, that simulates the music you're listening to, to make it sound like a real room. It's really cool. Just download the little program, then whenever you play music, there is a little icon in the system tray (where the clock is on your screen) that appears where you can change the "realness" of the sound. Basically the idea behind that is, the larger % you set it to, the larger the room is. So a normal room is about 20% to 40%.
But let me just make a note: the idea of the plug-in to reduce "how hard" the music is on your ears, so it is basically removing the bass. Therefore it might make the music sound a little more quiet than usual.
Second: one for people like me :D (well why am I telling you then?)
I found out recently about a special download from Microsoft called the "Change Analysis Diagnostic." Now, to most people, who only use their computer for emails and music, it's unlikely you'd be interested, but for people who often bugger up their computers, this could be a useful program.
Basically what it does is make a list of all the system-wide changes on your computer since a certain date that you choose. So say I uninstalled some stupid program and it just happened to accidentally delete all my programs from my startup folder (yes, I'm a computer nerd and I'm not afraid to admit it!), I can now run the Diagnostic ad it will tell me exactly what has been deleted, say, in the past 2 days.
So it is a bit like System Restore - just without the ability to actually fix your computer!
----- Happy surfing ;)

8 April 2007

Religion and Belief

Now here is a blog I have wanted to write for a very long time.
Note: This blog is very serious and philosophical. I mean no offence to any religion or person.
One very big aspect about religion is the belief in a god.
Naturally, as I follow Easter and Christmas - which cannot be escaped in the UK anyway - I believe I am Christian. But what does that mean? Do I actually believe in God - and all those events that happened in the Bible? I will be answering these questions and philosophies in the next few blogs...
What is 'god' really?
In the bible, God has systems. He has ways of coping with people. If you do something bad, then you will be punished for it. The Golden Rule, Karma, cosmic payback - they all mean the same thing and they are rooted at the centre of (nearly) all religions. What goes around comes around. But is that a message from God, or a special philosophy that the writers for the Bible came up with, all those years ago?
I believe that a god cannot exist if it interacts with the world. For example, you could suggest that humans invented the idea of punishment. We invented how things work in society. We created the homeless because of money and land. How can a god translate all that stuff into what is good and what is bad? (By the way, that is what Jehovah's Witnesses do - show you how the Bible is still alive in today's world). How does the god do it? Do they read our minds? Does it notice when we notice that we have done something bad or good, and then treat us in a specified way? My belief is: that is impossible.
And what about 'god is everywhere'? Maybe a better way to put this is 'we are god ourselves'. There is no-one (or no thing) watching over us. We are alone. But that would have to mean that our brains are incredibly powerful - making us believe in miracles, making us do things beyond our comprehension (unless you are Derren Brown, of course!)
But could that mean that there is something powerful out there? Something we don't understand about how we work, how we decide things, how we feel about things. The great mysteries of life - maybe we are not allowed to understand. Does that mean that some kind of super-being exists? Something that is looking out for us?
Why do I believe this 'super being' exists?
I often notice coincidences occurring all the time and I think that some superpower, which is somewhat beyond human understanding, controls and causes these things to happen. I call this being 'god.' I believe that ''a'' god exists, however, I don't believe that god has an image, has the ability to think, or can even judge people. I think that the only image god could ever have is a white circle, ring or hoop (to symbolise equality and the union and cycle of life and death) - this bears some similarity to the film Pi, in which the protagonist Max is in pursuit of an ultimate number (Pi, is of course, a key factor to finding the measurements of a circle). Therefore the closest thing to a 'real' god is probably just consciousness. However, if god is everywhere and is everything, then it could be suggested that ''we'' are god ourselves. Very interesting...
Co-incidence. To me, they happen all the time. Ever since I started secondary school - I noticed them every day. And even now. I believe that something is making these co-incidences happen. That is what really enforces my ideas about the existence some super intelligent thing (or our interpretation of something which is beyond us). Sooo many occurences - with no explantation. It has happened so many times that I am convinced that something else is causing these things to happen. (this sounds like The Truman Show, now, doesn't it?)

Now just something a bit off-topic here: I use my coincidences (which are often twinned with an emotion or two) as inspiration for my creative outlets, including artwork, poetry and short stories. On many occasions I have got into a lot of trouble with my teachers for not handing work in on time! So I often thank 'god' for stopping my teachers from killing me!

An emotive example of a coincidence
My 83 year old nan has been in hospital since the beginning of January (this is about the time of her birthday). At the beginning of March, she was given 1 month to live by the doctors. What was wrong with her? She is diabetic, and has also had many operations on her heart.
On the 3rd and 4th of March - my whole family (mum, dad, sis and me) were all going up to a swanky hotel to celebrate my mum's birthday on the Sunday. This hotel happens to be almost parked next-door to my nan's house, and the hospital. (By the way, this is in Malvern, Worcester). We would go and see nan while she was in hospital while we were staying in Malvern - and say our goodbyes.
However, my sister had a 'rumbling' in her appendix about 5 months ago and was taken to Harlow hopsital to have it checked out - but there were no operations. On the 27th of Feb, she was taken in again because of these pains - and had it out on the Wednesday. Because we couldn't leave her on her own, we had to cancel the booking at the hotel.
We were hoping, instead, to go and see nan this weekend - the 10th and 11th - and wave to her goodbye. But guess what happened? My nan died on the Friday - the day before we were going up to see her. The closest days we could get off work to go and see her - and she leaves.
Now, I don't want to be fussy - or rude - or annoyed (especially at something that does no exist (god)) - but the only question I have is - well, you know what it is. Why did this happen? Was something stopping us from seeing her for the last time? Or, was it all deeply rooted into our brains? Or was it the Christian god?
What I really want to do now is delve into the mind of atheists. I think it must be very lonely not to believe in a god. Maybe I still have some growing up to do!
So what do you believe in? Are you restricted by your religion, have you made your own religion like me, or do you believe that all religions are just systems devised by humans? Whatever you choose, I hope you never feel hopeless or alone. Because that's what religion is for. Unionship.
EDIT: Part 2: Setting things straight
There's just a couple of other things I wanted to talk about.
The Bible - I ultimately believe that the bible is just a collection of stories that clever people wrote ages ago. The universe was certainly not made in six days. Science explains this otherwise - that we appeared through evolution.
Religion overall - if you think about it, Religion is just something that humans made up. Like philosophy, art, geography, biology. We made up the SYSTEMS that are meant to explain how they work. We made them. That means that there is no divine or pure way of doing things. Therefore as this is something completely separate as to how the universe really works, it would be impossible for a "God" to interact with us through this means. For example, God cannot talk in our language because we invented it. A pure god, a divine god, should not resort to using things like langauge, like determining between right and wrong, and other such systems that we created.
Let me take an interesting real-life example. I was reading about "Buddha boy" - some 14 year old kid in Asia who thinks he was born to reach his path of enlightenment. Apparently he has disappeared in a nearby forest so that he can gain more intelligence and then return... yadda yadda yadda. But here's my question: If he had been born into a place where Enlightenment did not exist, would he still believe in it? Or would he just be a "shell" or "soldier" like the rest of us?

6 April 2007

Birthday Profile

I remember a long time ago, getting out a book from my secondary school library... *boring* But it was really amazing. It was a book about what your birthday means. Not just your starsign, but the day you were born. When I read mine, I was amazed at how accurate it was. I mean, amazed.
I've uploaded some scans/photocopies of my pages, so please have a look and compare them with your judgements of me. The most noticeable fact for me is that it says people born on my birthday may be whizzes with the computer! How did they figure that out?!
Check your local library for a copy if you're interested in getting your birhtday profile as well.

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