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Nerd Things by Brandon LeBlanc

Staying safe while checking into places online

Checking in to places you go can be fun such as with Foursquare earning badges and what not for where you check in. It’s also fun to let your friends know where you’re at, etc. However last week a good friend of mine told me that she experienced a super weird situation where after checking in on Foursquare someone she hadn’t previously met offline decided to show up unannounced where she was at to meet her. Luckily she was with friends but had she been alone, that might have been an even more weird situation — and possibly even unsafe. This got me to thinking about being safe while checking in to places online as well as proper etiquette from people online with regards to people’s check-in’s.

Here are a few tips for staying safe while checking into places you go which I think are extremely important to consider:

Make sure you set your privacy settings for both Foursquare and Facebook so that *only* your friends (people you choose) can see where you check in and your status updates. This prevents just anyone from being able see where you’re checking in at and seeing your status updates. This will significantly help prevent random people you don’t know from finding you and showing up where you have checked in to say hi. Make sure you’re “locked down”. I suggest specifically reading Foursquare’s privacy policy to understand how your location is shared. You can also check out Facebook’s privacy section of their Help Center.

NOTE: It is extremely good practice specifically with Facebook to double check your privacy settings and make sure only your friends and/or networks are the only ones who can see your stuff on Facebook. This includes your photos.

Be careful with what services you share your check-in’s on. Above, I mention properly “locking down” the services you check in on such as Foursquare and Facebook. However, with Foursquare (and other check-in services) — when you check in to a someplace you can share that check-in out to both Facebook and Twitter. You may have “locked down” Foursquare and Facebook but if you share your check-in out to Twitter which might be completely open so that everyone can read your tweets — guess what? You just let everyone know where you’re at. This opens you up to having unexpected visitors where ever you just checked in to.

Don’t check in to where you live. Some people might disagree with this, and if you do the above tip in properly securing your check-in’s it’s not as much of a problem. But I really think people shouldn’t check in to their homes or places where they live. Oh sure, it’s kind of neat to have Foursquare say you’re the “mayor” of your home but you’re potentially exposing a lot of random people to the location of where you live. Just assume you’re the mayor of your home by default. Foursquare doesn’t need to tell you that.

Don’t randomly accept friend requests. On Foursquare specifically, I get a lot of random requests to be friends. However, the majority of the people sending those requests I don’t even know. Why would they need to know where I’m checking in? Why would I need to know where they are checking in? I turn down a lot of requests. And it’s not because I don’t want to interact with these people — it’s just I don’t feel they need to know where I’m checking in to. If I don’t know you personally on some level, I will not accept a friend request on Foursquare or any location-based check-in service. I just recently went through and did an audit of people I have as friends in Foursquare. I wasn’t as careful accepting friend requests as I should have been. I got removed a bunch of folks who didn’t need to know where I was checking in to. It wasn’t anything personal — many of these people I follow on Twitter, etc.

If you must check in to someplace and want to let everyone know you’re there, at least do so if you have a bunch of friends around you. Checking in someplace being by yourself can be dangerous. Having friends around you can help keep you safer. You should also make sure you have quick access to your phone just in case.

I think the 5 above points are the major points to consider when sharing your location and checking in to places online.

If you are someone who has a particularly well-known online persona, the people who follow you and your activities online might be interested in where you go, etc. With Foursquare in particular, you can pick and choose which check-in’s you share out to Facebook and Twitter. I know for special events, people often like to share they are attending that event by checking in to that event and then sharing that out to their accounts on Twitter, Facebook, etc. But even checking in to public events you should be careful with. See my above point with regard to making sure you’re with friends when letting everyone know where you are at.

I also know of several folks who utilize Foursquare and Facebook differently than together. What I mean by this is they use Foursquare for more public check-in’s to places like events while they check in to Facebook (via Places) for more personal check-in’s as Facebook is a more personal place for them while Foursquare is used in a more public manor. I’m still struggling myself on how to use the two services together or whether to lean toward using one over the other.

So now to the second part of this post.

I also believe there is a certain type of etiquette when it comes to people’s check-in’s online. What I mean here is if you are following someone’s online activities, there are certain things that you should do to respect that person you are following and their privacy.

For example:

Don’t randomly show up to meet a person you are following at some place they check in to. If you are interested in meeting that person, send them a message via one of numerous online services and coordinate with them on whether it’s ok you stop by to say hi or if perhaps you could meet up at another time. Just showing up someplace randomly after someone checks in is absolutely creepy.

If you don’t know someone personally, you probably shouldn’t request to be a friend on a location-based check-in service. Whomever you are following will likely share where they check in to publicly when they want to. If you don’t know a person in some level personally there is no need for you to need to know where they are always checking in to (see my point above about randomly accepting friend requests).

Having etiquette translates to having respect and I think that’s important.

Hopefully some of this will prove useful in helping people do the right things to stay safe while checking in to locations on Foursquare and Facebook.

Microsoft: #notdeadyet

CNN ran a story last week calling Microsoft a “dying consumer brand”. No way. With products like Windows 7 that have been on the market for the last year and Windows Phone 7 and Kinect hitting the market soon — I of course have to disagree. But my opinion is pretty biased. Frank Shaw, however, has started up a new hashtag on Twitter called #notdeadyet with a series of tweets highlighting some pretty eye-opening numbers regarding Microsoft. Here are some of what’s been highlighted:

And of course in September we also released the new version of Windows Live Essentials which includes new versions of Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mesh (previously Sync), and Family Safety. Download Windows Live Essentials 2011 here. Here are some interesting data tidbits about Windows Live my pal Dharmesh published in a blog post last week:

  • 300 million active Messenger users.
  • Mesh is syncing over 500 terabytes of data between PCs (wow!).
  • 360 million active Hotmail users.
  • Hotmail delivers 8 billion email messages daily.

Over the summer, we also released Office Web Apps where you can edit and create Microsoft Office documents, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets online through Windows Live!

And in September we also launched the beta of Internet Explorer 9. As of this week, the IE9 Beta has been downloaded 10 million times making it the fastest adopted browser beta. If you haven’t already, you can download the IE9 Beta here.

I also highly recommend reading Frank Shaw’s blog post on the official Microsoft Blog from June called Microsoft by the numbers for further perspective.

Microsoft is not dead yet.

Am I a geek or a nerd?

UPDATED 7/13/11: Some of the below has changed so I thought I’d update it and then pass the question along to folks again and see what kind of responses I get!

Perhaps you can help me out and determining something: am I a geek or am I a nerd (or both). Quite often, I have people call me a geek. Equally as often, I have people calling me a nerd too. And it seems that both hold slightly different meanings in society today — although I’ve yet to really figure out exactly how.

Here are a few characteristics of mine to help answer this question:

  • I love to build my own PCs (desktop PCs not laptops of course!).
  • I love to blog (duh?).
  • I hate math.
  • I used to draw and paint a lot as a kid. As I grew older, I did less drawing and painting and got into writing stories and eventually movie screenplays/scripts that my friend and I were shoot (high school).
  • I am reverse engineering the theme on my blog from scratch — barrowing code from the default WordPress theme to make things work. As you can tell — it’s a work-in-progress.
  • I love doing things to make people laugh. Ask my co-workers. Sometimes I do so at inconvenient times.
  • I do have a blunt sense of humor.
  • I am a huge Star Trek fan — mostly Star Trek: The Next Generation and on (and 2009 Star Trek movie).
  • I own many Star Trek “technical manuals” and can tell you where Captain Picard’s quarters are on the Enterprise-D.
  • I randomly quote movie lines from such classics as the Back to the Future Trilogy, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and *many* others.
  • I like listening to music soundtracks — e.g. The Dark Knight soundtrack is one of my favorites, so is Tron: Legacy.
  • I recently pulled up to a stop light next to a car with 2 nice looking women blasting the E.T. theme. Yes — I smiled and waved.
  • I recently discovered I could almost sing the entire song “Can you feel the love tonight” from The Lion King from memory. Why am I admitting this?
  • I dislike most Disney movies except for The Lion King and the Toy Story Trilogy. They better make a 4th Toy Story.
  • My music tastes are very eccentric — my favorite band is The Beatles, but have a huge 80’s music collection (remember the song “The Flame” by Cheap Trick?) and like a lot of the modern rock of today (Weezer, Foo Fighters, Jimmy Ear World, Linkin Park are some of my favorites to name a few.). Check out my Zune profile to see what I’ve listened to recently.
  • I enjoy going on long walks while listening to my music or long drives.
  • I love photography and taking photos. I like taking photos of landscapes and scenery. While I like taking photos I hate being in them and finding a good photo of me in it is, well, pretty rare.
  • I collect these “mini-figures” called Minimates from Diamond Select Toys. No they aren’t “LEGO people”. They are better!
  • Over the last 2 years, I’ve really gotten into Batman comics (Bruce Wayne returns!). Dick Grayson has grown on me as Batman and I’m disappointed he won’t remain as Batman when DC Comics re-launches all their comic titles this fall.
  • New software releases excite me.
  • My favorite animal is the Velociraptor. Oh sure, they are extinct now. But they were a real animal at one point!
  • Cats despise me.
  • I try to be a gamer. My Gamerscore on Xbox LIVE is 1020 1470 and it has taken me a while to get there. I tend to lean toward playing classic games like Sonic The Hedgehog 3, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, etc. available as an Arcade game title on the Xbox LIVE Game Marketplace. Yet I spent $149.99 on the Halo Reach Legendary Edition. UPDATE — Improvement in my Gamerscore is due to Kinect Sports and bowling. I rock at that.
  • I like reading “Making of…” books on movies that show production art and talk about the making of the movie. In a different life I would have loved to have been a director/producer/production designer for movies. I just love this stuff.
  • I love sushi. I eat too much of it.
  • I did not like Avatar. Effects were good but the storyline was boring and felt ripped off from Fern Gully: The Last Rain Forrest.
  • While I did not like Avatar, I HATED Transformers 3. Worst. Movie. Ever.
  • I’m not a fan of 3D. Love HD though!
  • I love Family Guy. I equally love American Dad.
  • I really enjoy Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson is a hoot. Those guys get themselves into crazy situations doing messed up things with cars and its hilarious. They’ve had me laughing so hard I was crying (such as when Jeremy capsized his Toyboata).
  • Getting into I love Fringe. I jumped in at end of Season 2. Enjoying the “over there” storyline. UPDATE: I loved everything about Season 3 and can’t wait for Season 4 this fall.
  • I heavily support manned spaceflight and believe we should return to the moon and look at going to Mars (I hope to see us reach Mars in my lifetime however recent events have casted doubt this will be achievable).
  • I like to bowl. I am quite good at bowling on Kinect Sports and like to of course bowl outside my living room in a real bowling alley too.
  • I love movies about history or historical events or people (e.g. The Aviator, Tombstone, etc.).
  • I also find myself “socially backward” in that I’m not very good at “socializing”. I tend to be shy.
  • I don’t like large groups/crowds.

So am I a geek or a nerd? Would love to hear what people think! No — dork is not one of the options.

The Art (and Behind-the-Scenes Talent) of Star Trek

I’m a huge sucker for behind-the-scenes movie and TV stuff. I’ve got books following the pre-production and production of films like Spider-Man 1 and 2, Batman Begins, and the first 3 Star Trek: The Next Generation feature films and a bunch of books on the production of the Star Trek TV series. This includes pre-production and production art, script and storyline development, and how they shoot the film or episode.

No such book exists today for the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie unfortunately.

But that’s ok.

Several key folks who worked on Star Trek have blogs and websites showcasing their work they did on the film. And let me tell you — this stuff is amazing. Beware — some of what is talked about below and in these articles may contain spoilers.

Conceptual Illustrator James Clyne is now showcasing concept art he did for Star Trek on his site. A lot of his concept art focuses Nero’s ship the Narada (Nero is the film’s villian played by Eric Bana) which includes the very important drilling rig seen in the film as well. Click here to go through James’ Star Trek concept art. James also did concept art for Transformers, War of the Worlds, and X-Men 3: The Last Stand.

James also helped with the designs of the U.S.S. Kelvin Bridge which was also the Bridge used for the Kobayashi Maru simulation.

Neville Page is a Concept Designer that focuses mainly on character and creature design work. For Star Trek, he worked on the monster that chases Kirk on Delta Vega — affectionately known as “Big Red”. Click on Big Red below to see more of Big Red. TrekWeb also has an interview with Neville worth checking out too.

Neville also did work on Cloverfield (which J.J. Abrams produced) as well as Watchmen.

Ryan Church is another fantastic Concept Artist who worked on the new U.S.S. Enterprise for Star Trek. He essentially designed the new Enterprise — or (re)designed it. Either way — the new U.S.S. Enterprise rocks. Hands down — one of my favorite Enterprises to-date (the Enterprise-D still tops the chart).

I have a huge request for Ryan (assuming Paramount let’s him) — let’s see more of the Enterprise! I want to see some better detail shots of the ship. More designs that you did. Ryan also did work for the upcoming Transformers sequel and James Cameron’s Avatar. One other thing for Ryan… could you please clear up the confusion regarding the size of the new Enterprise? Gizmodo is running with it being over 725 meters (over double of the Enterprise-A or “refit” Enterprise from the older movies). After watching Star Trek 4 times now and watching how everything looks in relation to the Enterprise such as Shuttles and windows (like the Bridge window on the top of the saucer) — I totally don’t buy that the new Enterprise is that big. Just doesn’t make sense to me.

The International Cinematographers Guild has an article on Cinematographer Dan Mindel who did the cinematography for Star Trek. It’s a great article and offers up some insight behind the “lens flare” look they used for Star Trek (which I really liked).

And CGSociety is running an extensive article on the CGI of Star Trek which was done mostly by ILM with Digital Domain stepping in for a few things.

I also have to give a shout out to John Eaves who now has a super cool blog called Eavesdropping with Johnny where he showcases a lot of his work — with a lot of it coming from his past work on the Star Trek movies and TV shows. John was the author Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook: The Movies — one of the books I mentioned in the first part of this post. It’s a really neat book and John did some excellent work especially for Star Trek: First Contact.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook

Oh and shout out to Doug Drexler too!

Sidenote: I think John Eaves did some work for the new Star Trek movie but I don’t think Doug Drexler did. I am giving these guys a shout out none-the-less because they rock in general and have great contributions to Star Trek regardless.

The new Star Trek film was an amazing movie that truly reboots the Star Trek franchise for a new generation at the same time honoring what’s already been done in the Star Trek universe. I have to admit, I was extremely nervous about how this movie would turn out. But now I’m desperately awaiting the sequel.