My Amazon Kindle Fire experience from outside the US

Kindle Fire
Kindle Fire (http://www.bloomberg.com/image/i6nACZ9aRxeI.jpg)

Kindle Fire a new tablet?

Does the Kindle Fire fall under the tablet category? In my humble opinion I believe not. Kindle was and still is an e-Reader, designed to provide an intuitive platform to easily download and read books in digital format. However, one cannot deny that the Kindle Fire does provide some very sweet perks! The Amazon app store is filled with hundreds even thousands of popular Android apps.

Amazon applications store is not available in your country?!

When I first read this message I was like, WTF?! I bought my Kindle for nothing? Well no one to blame but myself, I didn’t do much research to see that Amazon still hasn’t launched Kindle outside the US; which also means that you cannot buy books if you do not have a US credit card and a US billing address.

Umm.. So what now?!

No worries, there is always a way to make the best out of your Kindle even from outside the States. But it means that you have to acquire some basic technical skills first.

“How to hack?”

It’s very simple; all you need to download applications on your kindle is apk files of these applications. These apk files are executables that your Kindle or more exactly the Android OS running on it fires to install the desired application. Luckily you can use your Kindle’s browser to google these apk files and launch them from the download section instantly. Any Android app should in theory work properly on your kindle.

1. Download File expert application (which is free) from the developer’s website: [Download Link]. You can use your Kindle’s browser to do so.

2. Once the download is complete, launch and install the application.

3. In your Kindle, click on the top bar to slide down the settings bar.

4. Click on “More”

5. Click on “Device”

6. “Allow Installation of Applications” is set by default to “Off” set it to “On”.

7. Download the apk file for the application you want on your PC, use your USB cable to copy the file to your kindle. Place it anywhere you want.

8. Using File Expert go to that directory in your Kindle and launch the apk file.

Using the above I showed you 2 ways to download applications on your kindle. Just make sure you are not violating any distribution laws by downloading non-free applications.

File Expert download page
File Expert download page
File Expert Snapshot
File Expert Snapshot
Apps Location on the Kindle Connected via USB cable
Apps Location on the Kindle Connected via USB cable

What about books?

Kindle supports the following e-book formats: .mobi  .azw   .pdf . If you have bought books in any of those formats you can copy them instantly to your Kindle using your USB cable and you’ll be able to read them on the fly. Kindle does not support .epub! So be careful.

I copied a .mobi book to my kindle and I can’t see it!

It happened to me, all you need to is to restart your Kindle. Press on the power button and hold, it will ask you if you want to shutdown your kindle, approve. Start your Kindle again using that button and once it launches you will see the .mobi book in the books section, if not it will in the docs section.

PDF is annoying to read on Kindle can it be converted to a Kindle native format?

Yes and there are many ways to do so. The best and simplest is provided by this website:

http://ebook.online-convert.com/convert-to-mobi

Converting .PDF to .MOBI online
Converting .PDF to .MOBI online

Conclusion

All in all, Kindle Fire is a great product, I’ve read 5 books on it so far and it has been a good experience. Kindle Fire will fulfill your needs as long as you do not forget that the main purpose of the device is to be an e-reader, the rest is just a bonus!

 

If you’re interested in similar posts you should probably follow me on Twitter: [twitter-follow screen_name=’BassemDy’]

 
 

Phishing page – Twitter’s lookalike!

itwitterl.com - Phishing scam
itwitterl.com - Phishing scam

 Phishing pages? Again? Really?!

And the skiddies have done it again. But now they have evolved! Let me put this blogpost into a bit of context before I proceed.

What the heck is Phishing?

Well phishing is a method that hackers, well let’s use correct terminology, script-kiddies use to hijack accounts. They basically create a landinglogin page very similar to a popular web based service such as (Facebook, Twitter, gmail, hotmail etc…) and then they buy domain names that are also very close to the real service’s name such as (Fac3b00k.com, itwitterl.com, h0tma1l.com…) with small typos as you can see, that you wouldn’t even notice.

You are drive by your predisposed urge to enter your credentials whenever you see a login page, and BOOM! Your account is hijacked almost instantly. The password is changed (If the phishing page is good, automatically) and if the skiddy is not good or knows no programming language, heshe will change it manually at a later stage.

Uhh… What?!

Let’s take an example. Today I got the following direct message from a friend:

Phishing tweet - from a trusted friend
Phishing tweet - from a trusted friend

and almost instantaneously I clicked on the link. It was a shortened URL so I couldn’t see the actual domain I was visiting. I landed on this page:

Phishing twitter lookalike.
Phishing twitter lookalike - This is the Fake one.

Now i’m confused, why is it asking me for credentials?! Since I have a little bit of hackingdeception background and I’ve played these games before, my quick reaction was… hehehe, nice try. I looked at the address bar and it said: http://itwitterl.com/session-timed_out/ 

Wow! Twitter have a new domain name!

I then entered false credentials and here’s where I landed:

itwitter.com Fake service status page
itwitter.com's Fake service status page

Whether you put correct credentials or false ones you will always land on this page. Because this website is not the actual Twitter, and they cannot actually log you into the service!

Ohhhh… how can we tell the difference next time?

You can tell the different easily, as long as you don’t rush to put your credentials quickly whenever asked without checking the legitimacy of a certain website first.

Here’s the actual twitter page:

The real Twitter homepage
The real Twitter homepage - There's a lot of difference.

If you spend a second or two looking at both images you will see there is a lot of difference! The skids are not up-to-date!

Tips for not falling into this trap again, and what to do if you are a victim

Below are 4 tips of making sure the website you are logging into is legit:

1. Check the address bar, make sure the domain name is correct.

2. Check the title, many skids forget to fix the title of the page they created.

3. If you are logged into a service and you haven’t closed your browser it will not make you login again unless you’re changing critical information using their platform. They will notify you.

4. Check the favicon, some skids forget to update theirs as well.

I’m a victim 🙁

If you provided your credentials for this fake service, instantly go and change your password! If you were one of the few unlucky ones who have had their password changed for them. I’m sorry to tell you, your account is lost unless you still have ownership of the email address andor you still remember your secret question or answer. Then you can use the “forget my password” feature available for most if not all popular services.

Different Laws of physics in different regions of the Universe?

Shifts in the fine structure constant alpha
Shifts in the fine structure constant alpha - Author Unknown - Image may be subject to copyright.

A discovery, although not proven yet, has great implications

A discovery published in the Physical Review Letters by J. K. WebbJ. A. KingM. T. MurphyV. V. FlambaumR. F. Carswell, and M. B. Bainbridge from the University of New South Wales discusses observations of variations of the electromagnetic couple constant (alpha) in other parts of the universe. The change of this constant mean a change in the Laws of Physics that govern that part of the Universe.

A very interesting article was written by one of the authors of the paper, you can find the link to it below:

http://theconversation.edu.au/is-life-on-earth-due-to-a-quirk-in-the-laws-of-physics-4153

This paper is highly controversial and skeptics are already working to disprove these observations. But “What if” the above was true? Could it mean we are alone in the Universe?

EteRNA – A game worth your time!

EteRNA-logo
EteRNA logo

EteRNA : The Game to create the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs

Scientists have done it again. In an attempt to have a broader understanding of cellular control, nanomachines and the role of the RNA – in addition to many other topics – scientists from Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University have created EteRNA. It’s a community based game where you solve puzzles based on given design restrictions. The designs you create will be added to a large catalogue of designs that in turn will be tested against other existing computer programs. This attempt will “provide a crucial training ground that bridges the gap between the tutorials and the Lab” and since “many existing computer programs take a huge amount of time to solve large RNAs, and you are very likely to find better, faster ways.” (http://eterna.cmu.edu/htmls/abouteterna.html)

 

How to be part of the community?

It’s very simple really, go to http://eterna.cmu.edu/ create an account, go through the basic tutorial that will explain in detail what this is all about, and then you can start making a difference!

The game is very fun to play, very challenging and addictive. (So be warned!) Once you complete a challenge your score will increase and you will rank higher on the score board:

EteRNA Gameplay
EteRNA Gameplay

You have a multitude of puzzleschallenges to select from, and you have ratings for each challenge category. Start with the easier ones and once you get a full grasp of the concept move your way upwards. The interface is simple, it’s a combination of HTML pages but the main game is made using Adobe Flash (iPad, iPhone users, jump to your computer browsers).

EteRNA Puzzles
EteRNA Puzzles

The community is very large, some of the players have moved from previous projects such as FoldIt and have established their presence by creating groups for their members.

Groups-EteRNA
EteRNA - Groups
challenges-complete-EteRNA
Challenges complete - EteRNA

 

Conclusion

Once again computer games have proved to be not only a resource of leisure and fun but an essential tool to help the scientific community progress. The rewardranking approach has also proved its power in user engagement.

 

 

Pokki – HTML5, CSS3, Javascript Desktop applications!

Pokki - Build HTML5, CSS3, Javascript desktop apps
Pokki - Build HTML5, CSS3, Javascript desktop apps

What is Pokki?

The time to harness the full capabilities of HTML5, CSS3, AJAX and Javascript has come. Pokki.com is a new desktop application that sits in your taskbar from which you can download small applications that are beautiful and useful at the same  time! It’s very fast, clean and easy to use. Currently there is a good bunch of apps you can use, Facebook, Tweeki, Gmail, productivity applications as well as other social apps.

Pokki Sits in your taskbar
Pokki Sits in your taskbar
Pokki Apps
Pokki Apps
Pokki App: Tweeki
Pokki App: Tweeki

Pokki Developer’s platform

Pokki’s developer’s platform allows you to develop your own apps, which you can submit to Pokki’s app store and if approved it will be available for all users to download. I still didn’t go through the code yet, but it seems very promising and well documented.

Pokki are now throwing a 50,000$ challenge for whoever can create a new application.

More info about the challenge:

http://www.pokki.com/contest/

Conclusion

Even though the concept is not new, Pokki does a great job at portraying it with a very flexible, easy to use interface. The user experience for this product as a whole has been great so far. In addition, even though it’s still in Beta I haven’t found any severe or major bugs yet.

 

 

Shadow Project – Futuristic clothing design

Stone Island shadow project clothing design

Superior product design

Superior product design starts with an emphasis not only on the esthetics of a product but on functionality. It’s a homogeneous amalgam of a rigorous thought process and perfect implementation with great attention to details. Great products, even in the fashion industry, are those which provide a neat look and don’t neglect practicality.

Errolson Hugh has done a fantastic job with his new collection, watch the video below for more details.

Errolson Hugh design Stone Island Shadow
Errolson Hugh

The Kinect Tampering – Fingertip Extraction – Part 1

Kinect – Facts:

There is no point in talking about the Kinect from a technical point of view and describing the multitude of sensors and imaging cameras it contains. So, first allow me to start by explaining some ambiguous facts:

  1. Not every person who used the open source libraries and was able to capture the Kinect’s depth, RGB and IR stream is a Kinect hacker. There is only one hacker of this device and credit should be given in the right place. [Competition Winner]
  2. There is no need to re-explain how the Kinect works, these folks explain it better [How it works]
  3. The Kinect’s full potential isn’t yet exploited; the open source libraries currently online don’t provide access to all of the Kinect’s capabilities.
  4. Microsoft is lame, and that is an undeniable fact.

Now, since the above has been explained, let’s get down to business.

Kinect – With Processing:

I have used a multitude of the Kinect’s open source drivers and language wrappers and the best wrapper with a lot of potential is the simple-openni for Processing.
Why? Because, processing is quite reputable, it has a small learning curve and it’s becoming quite reputable. Amazing stuff can be done with this language as it allows you to interface with a multitude of other digital devices as well.

You can download this wrapper from: Download the drivers come bundled as well; so install them and you’re good to go (it works all operating systems as well)!

Fingertip extraction with OpenCV’s blob detection v0.0.1

This small project was quite fun, simply because fingertip extraction hasn’t been done this way before. It is quite easier to do it in different language since the OpenCV library is quite extensive in C++ and not so many functions and algorithms are implemented for its Processing sister library. However it has enough to get you started.

You can download the openCV library for processing from here: Download

Here’s what I have so far:

You forgot a username for the Vimeo shortcode

Below is a screenshot explaining how the detection works:

Fingertip Extraction
Fingertip Extraction – Kinect, Processing, simple-openni and OpenCV

It uses both the simple-openni library for hand and motion detection as well as the OpenCV library for blob detection. It’s a combination of both libraries and detection mechanisms to have a stable hand ROI from which I can extract the blobs defining each fingertip. It’s not very stable yet and requires a good amount of work so I’ll be releasing the algorithm once I have something solidrobust going on.

 

 

Three.js 3D Javascript Engine using HTML5’s canvas

Three.js particles script
Three.js: Particles example

Introduction

With the first public working draft of HTML5 released, experimentation with the new canvas and audio syntax additions began. The <canvas> tag is pretty stable and is close to completion hence the multitude of project being built upon making use of it. One of these projects is the experimental 3D Javascript engine developed by Ricardo Cabello also known as Mr.Doob. This engine is called three.js and below you can find a brief description about it.

 

What is three.js ?

three.js engine’s functionality is similar to a frameworks’ in certain ways. Typically an engine provides developers with a certain platform that will manage certain tasks thus reducing the time wasted in handling processes, physics, AI, rendering, memory control etc… However in this case three.js will provide you with a renderer (<canvas>, <svg> and WebGL), and control over camera and viewport. The physics and animation work is up to the developer to work out. Nevertheless it’s a great start and a new concept in the web industry.

Mr.doob - Voxels (HTML5) Three.js
Mr.doob – Voxels (HTML5) Three.js

Great examples  have been created by Mr.Doob and the code is released as documentation. The code is very basic and easily understood by even mediocre Javascript developers. If you’re planning on experimenting with it, you should consider that future releases might break backward compatibility as Mr.Doob warns that the API might change between a release and another, so don’t have any plans for projects other than experimentation.

Google chrome is the browser recommended to use in such development scenarios; It is HTML5 compatible to a certain extent and much better than FireFox, Opera, and definitely better than IE. In addition, Chrome’s JS engine is very fast and smooth.

three.js - 3D Portrait Rendering
Three.js – 3D Portrait Rendering
Mr.Doob - Three.js - Audio Processing
Mr.Doob – Three.js – Audio Processing

 

A Small note to be added regarding the Audio Processing image above. The concept is great, it’s a shame the browser doesn’t process the audio and return the amplitude as an instance variable of the audio object. The amplitude is hard coded, in other words if the audio track is changed the visualization will stop working. Yet, it’s a good implementation of audio visualization.

 

Details

You can find more details about Mr.Doob and his experimentation projects on his blog. Follow him on twitter for interesting releases and hopefully be inspired to contribute to such promising project.

http://mrdoob.com/blog

http://mrdoob.com/

http://twitter.com/mrdoob

 

Last but not least, the code for three.js can be found on GitHub, simply follow the link below.

https://github.com/mrdoob/three.js

“Blekko” a new search engine?

blekko the new search engine
Blekko : http://blekko.com

Introduction

With the Google domination of the search engines world it’s odd to find newly emerging companies trying to enhance the online searching experience and compete with Google. Odd but not impossible. Blekko emerged with the old search concept but with a little twist: “Slash tagging”.

What is slash tagging?

Everyone has had at least one google search of a given topic ending up with a list of spam links and websites relying on Blackhat SEO as top search results. A solution was needed so google developed the star rating system for result links and other filtering algorithms based on popular searches and users interests. Disregarding the success or failure of googles’ ways, blekko developed a new way to get better search results and provide the user with more functions to improve one’s searching experience.

Slash tagging is done by creating an account on blekko and making a new slash tag. You fill the name and keywords related to the slash tag and search for websites you wish to list under it. The next time someone does a search heshe can use your slash tag to filter the results.

A slash tag has the following format “/something. A search using a slash tag can have the following format “global warming /CO2”. Adding /CO2 after global warming will provide you with links to websites discussing global warming with regard to CO2 emissions (example), as long as /CO2 has been created by another user and the results were linked to the slash tag.

Some pre-existing slash tags exist, such as “/date” which filters results based on a descending order of the publishing dates.

Blekko Slashtagging concept
Slashtagging concept

Video

A small video published by blekko explain to a certain extent the use of blekko and slashtags, the video is hosted on viemo and below is a link to it:

http://vimeo.com/14593120

Result link tools

Blekko Result link tools
Result link tools

Another nice feature provided by blekko is the result link tools. These tools provide you with, for the sake of example, SEO data of a given link:

Blekko SEO
Blekko SEO tool

Another example would be the similar tool which when clicked provides you with a list of similar websites if existing:

Result link tools : Similar
Result link tools : Similar

In addition these tools can be accessible via small anchor links beneath the URL title in a result population or via slash tags /SEO or /similar example: http://google.com /similar

Conclusion

Blekko offered something new to the field of online searching, however as primary as it is, I can see many problems revolving around slash tagging and allowing users to make their own slash tags. I can already think of many black hat SEO techniques to abuse this concept in order to elevate the ranking of their links and websites.

Blekko is still in beta version which means it’s not officially released yet, and many bugs might popup while using it, so make sure to report any bugs via the “file bugs” feature located on the left section of the search population page.

You can also download blekko’s toolbar, but meh … who likes toolbars anyway!

Automated Blogposts News Syndication

dlvr.it introduction image
dlvr.it

Introduction

For all you bloggers, online news agencies out there who want to make good use of the free social media services with the least effort, dlvr.it gives you an automated news syndication solution. Whether you make use of Facebook, twitter, and all other social media websites to stay in contact with your audience, to gain publicity or to syndicate news, publishing your blog posts, or articles has become enormously easy with dlvr.it (Deliver it).

How does it work?

I leave it to this video to explain how to use dlvr.it

You forgot a username for the YouTube shortcode

If your blog has an RSS feed you can just make an account on their website and syndicate news automatically based on schedules.

What is not included in the video

Deliver it offers you a set of features with which you can:

1.       Modify and Add newsblogpost sources to syndicate.

2.       Modify and Add delivery destinations (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Status Net, Ping, Google Buzz, MySpace, Foursquare etc…)

3.       Keep track of the number of clicks made by users on the destination platforms.

4.       Make direct posts to one or any number of your social media accounts.

5.       Add a Widget to your website.

dlvr.it route configuration
Route Configuration
dlvr.it statistics feature
Statistics Feature

 

Dlvr.it is still in Beta phase, hence it’s not very stable yet, so you might want to keep an eye on the number of posts, connection issues, and visit your account frequently to see if there are any delivery problems.

Conclusion

All in all, dlvr.it is still a young service, but it’s showing a lot of potential. It’s been in beta version for a while now; I think they are still struggling with the constant change in API features. However their reach and increase in destination social media services makes them worth a visit and trial of their free service.

Visit dlvr.it