Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Geek Shit Wednesday, Vol. XIII

New Project Aims To Save Amphibians Via Social Networking

Living in the Facebook Age, it seems every two seconds we are presented with yet another opportunity to "Save the World!!!" via social networking.  Why, this here blog thingy wouldn't have a single reader or any impact whatsoever were it not for diligent and obnoxious use of Facebook and Twitter for promotion on behalf of its author.

Sometimes, however, a project has actual scientific impact geared towards "Saving the World!!!" or, in this case, "Saving the Frogs!!!"

"The Global Amphibian Blitz is a website that lets amateur naturalists upload images of beasties they encounter on their travels, along with the date and their location. Experts will then browse and filter the submissions in a bid to identify rare species or amphibians found out of their normal habitat.

"The initiative has been launched by the University of California, Berkeley’s AmphibiaWeb, which is a database of nearly 7,000 amphibians; Amphibian Ark; the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; the Amphibian Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission, which is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature; the Center for Biological Diversity; and, a social network for naturalists.

"Amphibian lovers hope that crowdsourcing sightings of these species could give a greater indication of which species are threatened, but in a cost-effective way."

Google Reports Hackers From China Breaking Into, Monitoring Email

Google revealed today that hundreds of email accounts on the popular Gmail webmail service have been compromised due to efforts from hackers out of Jinan, China.  The targets?  Chinese activists, journalists, US officials and officials in neighboring Asian countries.

"Through the strength of our cloud-based security and abuse detection systems*, we recently uncovered a campaign to collect user passwords, likely through phishing. This campaign, which appears to originate from Jinan, China, affected what seem to be the personal Gmail accounts of hundreds of users including, among others, senior U.S. government officials, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries (predominantly South Korea), military personnel and journalists.

"The goal of this effort seems to have been to monitor the contents of these users’ emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples’ forwarding and delegation settings. (Gmail enables you to forward your emails automatically, as well as grant others access to your account.)"

This latest set of attacks comes a year and a half after Google reported Chinese efforts to undermine Google's own corporate infrastructure and is yet another symptom of the Chinese government's campaign to control information in and out of the communist nation.  

Zynga Set To Conquer The World 

Zynga, the Facebook gaming giant responsible for FarmVille, CityVille, and others has released a new game today geared towards the more warlike amongst us.  

"Empires and Allies" is a story-driven strategy game positing the gamer as the leader of an island nation, and progression through the game requires you to battle the unsuspecting folks on your friendlist for world domination.

"According to the Zynga press release: 'Throughout the game, players will build army units, recruit friends, and encounter helpful allies and unique villains as fight their way across enemy-held territories on the quest to defeat the final villain.'

"'Think CityVille meets Risk,' said Amer Ajami, executive producer of Empires & Allies at Zynga."

Hmmmm.  Maybe I'll break my strict "no Facebook gaming" rule.  

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