Muchas pictures of Machu Picchu – an online book/photo-travelogue

Hola, a todos!

A couple of years ago a bunch of like-minded adventure seekers and I decided to make the long trip to Peru in South America to the long-abandoned City of the Incas – Machu Picchu. We took plenty of photos, and I took detailed notes of our experiences along the way.

The result (finally!) is a book that’s to be published – currently online here in pdf format – chock full of hi-res pics from our travels accompanied by my commentary.

Read on: An unforgettable trip that easily made it into my

K-LOVE & KISSES 2014: REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL, PART 3.

“The person needs to be brought round to the idea that he has to part with his money. He needs to be morally disarmed, and his proprietary instincts need to be stifled.”

No, not Don Draper; this is a quote of Ostap Bender, a classic fictional hero from 1930s Russian literature. And no, there’s no relation to the other famous Bender!

Thus, it would appear that, curiously, Mr. Bender knew a thing or two about capitalism, despite being from a Communist country. Hmmm…

Anyway, what he knew is that it’s sometimes possible to make folks part with their hard-earned shekels if they are manipulated the right way – the folks, that is.

Fast-forward to today… and we find this kind of manipulation alive and well – in a modern, hi-tech, cyber kinda way: Today, folks gladly hand over their Benjamins to the crims behind blockers, aka ransomware, an especially sneaky form of computer malevolence. But have no fear, KL users: in the new version of KIS, we’ve got a nice surprise waiting for the blocking blockheads and their blockers.

Ransomware criminal market turnover made up more than $15 million, while the number of victims reached the tens of millions

The principle and tech behind blockers/ransomware are rather simple.

Using one of the various means available (for example, via a software vulnerability), a malicious program is sneaked into computer, which then displays an amusing (not) photo with scary (not – with KIS:) – text, and blocks the desktop and all other programs’ windows.

Unblocking is only possible (well, was possible – see below) by entering a unique code, which of course you can only get from the cyber-tricksters who infected the comp in the first place, and of course – for a fee, through premium SMS numbers or online payment systems. Until you pay the ransom, the comp remains kidnapped – no matter what you do (including Ctrl+Alt+Del), and no matter what programs you try to run (including antivirus); all you see is something like this:

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The rise, the decline & the return of ransomware…

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

“To live is to war with trolls”*

The euphoria after our recent single-handed victory over a patent troll has died down – a little. It was real nice to read lots of different accounts of the good news (like this, this, this, this and this) and multiple encouraging  comments from users. However, the real struggle has only just begun – ahead lies a lot of hard work and hassle, albeit interesting hassle. So now’s probably a good time to sum up everything.

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Read on: The first and main thing – never let your guard down…

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The patent trolls can be defeated – just never give up!

Hurray! Drum roll… cymbal crash + orchestral hit! We’ve beaten yet another US patent troll! The enemy is defeated, demoralized, and on the run! Churchill was right: “Never give up!” We’ve followed his advice in our fight against a particular troll. As a result the troll gave up and ran away with nothing and its tail between its legs.

“Shock, happiness, joy and adrenaline – all in one”

– That’s how N.K. (our Chief Intellectual Property Counsel) described this victory. For this time the troll was of a higher caliber and its ‘connections’ were way more heavyweight.

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Shock, happiness, joy and adrenaline all in one – I couldn’t agree more. Our 18-month court case with Lodsys (one of the ‘tentacles’ of the world’s largest and most notorious of patent trolls – Intellectual Ventures (“IV”)) was brought to a sudden halt by a full and unconditional capitulation by this abominable patent parasite. As per the norm, we won once again alone, with another 54 defendant companies deciding to settle with the extortionist, while others shamefully fled the battlefield altogether. In all the patent troll has shaken down more than 400 IT companies!

Now for the details…

More: Once upon a time there was an inventor, who invented feedback…

K-LOVE & KISSES 2014 – PART 2: ALPHA, BETA, ZETA.

Welcome back folks!

What else new and interesting is to be found under the hood of KIS 2014, missioned to save your data from the cyber-swine? Today’s guest star is ZETA Shield technology.

ZETA Shield I think might be best described as a high-tech antivirus microscope for the detection and elimination of the most cunning of malware, which hides deep in the bowels of the inner recesses of complicated files. In short, this is our unique defense technology against future threats, one which can track down unknown cyber-contagion in the most unexpected places.

To understand the concept better, let’s take a set of traditional Russian dolls.

Antivirus should unpack the nested essence of malware like a Russian doll. But it’s not quite as simple as just that.

Open one and you find another inside, and nested inside that one – another, and so on and so on. And in terms of where troublesome programs hide, this is a pretty good analogy. Malware tries its hardest to embed itself into the very essence of its surroundings, and even uses digital ‘plastic surgery’ to change its appearance and hide from antivirus programs. It puts itself into archives, crypto-containers, multimedia files, office documents, scripts etc., etc. – the possibilities are endless. The task of the antivirus program is to delve into the actual essence of all these different objects, probe the interior, and extract the malware.

So that’s it? Well… no, it’s not quite as simple as just that.

Antivirus programs have long been able to take apart complicated files. For example, ever since the early 90s other companies have been licensing our antivirus engine in particular because of its ability to unpack archived and packed files. But unpacking is only half the job. You need an instrument that’s clever enough to not only take apart complicated files but that can also analyze these ‘Russian dolls’, understand what’s doing what in there, build connections between different events, and finally diagnose; importantly, to do that proactively – without classic signatures and updates. It’s a bit like the detective work that goes into locating potential binary weapons. Such weapons are made up of individual components which on their own are harmless, but when mixed create a deadly weapon.

And this is where ZETA Shield comes in.

And just in time too, as the number and perversity of both targeted and zero-day attacks are on the up and up. These are the very things ZETA is designed to deal with (ZETA = Zero-day Exploits & Targeted Attacks).

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More: KIS 2014 can withstand serious assaults from tomorrow’s malware. Now you too…

Revenge can be sweet, especially against patent trolls.

Payback can be slow – painfully slow – in coming, but thankfully, at last, it does seem to be showing signs of finally arriving and hitting some most unsavory types – patent trolls – squarely in the nether regions.

I’ve already waxed lyrical here about trolls and what needs to be done to up the fight in tackling this scourge.

Here, let me give you a quick review of what needs to be done:

  • Patent use to be limited – a ban on claims for a term preceding their acquisition;
  • Mandatory compensation of a defendant’s expenses if a lawsuit against it is either defeated in court or withdrawn;
  • A ban on patent aggregators bringing lawsuits;
  • An increase in the required detail and accuracy of patent descriptions, and mandatory technical expert examinations;
  • The main thing: not for ideas to be patented, but their concrete practical application.

Sometimes it seems like US legislators read my blog! Finally, something is getting done – and not just anywhere, but in the state of Vermont, where the first anti-troll law has come into effect!

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this law, but what I like most in it is that now a defendant company can demand from a patent troll reimbursement of all its legal costs if it manages to prove that the troll acted not in good faith.

More: Special thanks for the law go to … a patent troll!

Magdeburg: AVant garde.

There’s a Russian saying that translates roughly something like ‘live a century, you’ll be amazed for a century’. Meaning, I reckon, that when you think you’ve seen it all, you in fact won’t have. For me, this applied to the trip I made to the city of Magdeburg recently, for it did just that – amazed.

On the whole the place is a little dull and provincial (in my opinion, that is; but then again – I do live in Moscow most of the year :). There’s the river (the Elbe, but here it’s still quite meager), the impressive banks thereof, the equally impressive walls of the castle (restored) and the gothic cathedral. There’s not a great deal besides that. Apart from one feature that makes up for all that dullness…

In the center of the city there’s a totally incongruent large residential/commercial building known as the Green Citadel of Magdeburg. Just check out the colors, shapes and patterns! You seen anything quite like it?

The artist responsible for this architectural aberration is Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a Gaudi for the late 20th century. This is just one of the many buildings he transformed into a masterpiece across central Europe – in his totally original and mind-blowing style.

This Austrian was a true maverick, so I’m a fan for sure. He believed that folks shouldn’t live in box-like houses that are all the same, and that inhabitants should be encouraged to paint or in some other way change the walls around them. And that meant interior walls too. He was also into converting disused factories into avant garde pieces of art.

Enough words. Now for some pix:

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More: What were we doing here in the first place?

The leader who gave the world hope.

Ladies and gentlemen!

Today is a special jubilee of the greatest living person on earth. Today is the 90th birthday of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder and indisputable leader of the city-state of Singapore, without whom Singapore today would be a very different place. This is the man who turned a backward non-entity of a place into a flourishing nation, a dream city – an example for all the other countries in the world.

So what was Singapore like before?

In 1965 Singapore didn’t just become independent as many nations do – it was forced to become independent after having been thrown away much like unwanted garbage. It was a tiny group of undeveloped islands with very little going for it, which no one in their right mind considered either credible or potentially viable. People in their right mind tended not to consider it at all in the first place.

What was it like?

  • It was wretched territory – marshland and an overall mess of a territory on which pigs and cows grazed.
  • No natural wealth, not even drinking water (and apparently still none).
  • Unfriendly (to put it mildly) neighboring countries.
  • A semiliterate population, and a strong communist influence (including outside support).
  • Interethnic conflicts; a population made up of Chinese, Malay and Hindus – three very different religions.

Bonuses:

  • Organized crime.
  • No army; no loyal police force.
  • Corruption with a very BIG capital letter.
  • Besides the British military base and the sea ports there was practically no other business at all.

Enough?

Dirt, poverty and nothing to look forward to. That was in 1965.

After 25 years of reforms (yes, as early as in 1990) it was a completely different place…

More: rapidly growing economy, no corruption, rule of law, people dreaming living there. A paradise…

K-LOVE & KISSES 2014 – PART 1.

Hip, hip, hurray! Yee ha! Woo hoo! The latest incarnation of KIS has landed – everywhere (almost)!

As per our long held tradition of launching new kit during the summer months – we’ve now managed to get KIS 2014 officially released in all the main regions of the world and in all the most widely spoken languages. For those interested in KIS itself, go here to download the new version. Upgrade guidelines are here.

And as is also becoming a bit of a tradition early fall, the time has come for me to tell you all what’s in this here new version…

There’s plenty of new stuff in KIS 2014 – with a special emphasis on protection against future threats.

First thing I can say: new stuff – there’s plenty of it. So much so that there’ll be several posts covering the key new features separately, as the low-down on all of them won’t fit into one bite-sized blogpost that won’t send you to sleep…

So, here we go… with post No. 1:

Basically, KIS 2014 packs yet more punch than its already punchy predecessor – KIS 2013 – which even without all this year’s additions was unlucky for no one. The protection provided is harder, better, faster, stronger. KIS has gone under the knife for a nip and tuck complete face-lift of its interface, and the logic of its main operations has been overhauled too.

There are new features to ensure secure online money operations (we’ve beefed up Safe Money); there are new features in Parental Control; there’s integrated protection against malicious blockers; and there are various new performance accelerators and optimizers to make the protection even more invisible and unobtrusive.

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But the best feature of all in this version is what we put most effort into: providing protection from future threats, having added to the product – much to the chagrin of cyberswine – several specialized avant-garde technologies (none of which appears to be included in competitors’ products). No, we haven’t used a time machine; nor did we track down cyberpigs and do a Jack Bauer interrogation on them to get to know about their planned mischief. We shamanized, looked into the future, came up with rough calculations of the logic of the development of cyber-maliciousness, and transferred that logic into practice in our new technologies of preventative protection.

Among the preventative measures against future threats I’d like to emphasize the souped-up Automatic Exploit Prevention – two special technologies from our corporate solutions that have been adapted for our home products – ZETA Shield and Trusted Applications mode, plus a built-in proactive anti-blocker.

So how do all these fancy sounding features actually help in daily computer hygiene? Let me start by telling you first about Trusted Applications mode – the world’s first for such technology being featured in a home product providing complex security.

More: Fighting the parcel in ‘pass the parcel’ syndrome…

Deutsche QR hotel.

Guten tag folks!

I’m currently on a trans-Europe express road trip. And along the way I keep coming across such unusual sights that I feel I’m simply duty-bound to share them with the world’s more progressive readers of blogs. Ok?

Oddity No. 1

What cars do you generally see on the German autobahn between Frankfurt and Hannover? A lot of fast modern ones, that’s for sure. And what cars do you tend not to see? Easy: older models. So you can perhaps understand my shock surprise at seeing vintage (and all tuned-up) Zaporozhetses – with Moscow plates! What the flip? I was expecting pigs to fly past next… There they were – several of them – going hell for leather at full throttle, chugging and rattling and attracting the attention of the modern-car drivers – so much so that the traffic was slowed down to a very un-autobahn-like speed. Good gracious me. The Ukrainian retro invasion!

germany_zap1CCCP’s answer to the VW Beetle

More: Berlin & Berliner Kunst…