Opinion » Cybernaut


You gotta have Friendsters



It’s like playing six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but with practical applications.

Ever been in Europe or Central America or somewhere else thousands of kilometres from home and met someone who knows someone you know?

Ever play the name game? You know how it goes – Where are you from? Where abouts in Toronto? Where did you go to school? Do you know a guy named Andrew Mitchell? Yes, THE Andrew Mitchell?

A new service called Friendster, still in its beta stages, allows you to cultivate an online community of friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. Each person in your own community will have a slightly different list of their own, when include siblings, summer camps, schools, jobs, travel and so on.

Friendster already has more than a million users, with people using their connections to find dates, travel information, golfing partners, and more. Think about it – you’re not exactly a stranger because your friends can actually vouch for you, and they can even set the whole thing up.

It’s a great idea, but it’s already been twisted for nefarious ends. It only took a few short months – Friendster went online in March – for people to start selling access into their little social circles, which they claim are filled with musicians, artists, models and others.

It’s only a matter of time before the salesman infiltrate the service, as well as social opportunists, but if you’re careful there’s no reason you can’t keep your community exclusive if you don’t add every person you’ve ever met to your list of connections.

Friendster is an online service, kind of like Hotmail. You don’t have to download any software. The one problem is that the service has become so popular recently that the servers tend to get overloaded at times.

It’s still pretty basic, but you can see where this site is going.

I was only on it a week, with three connections connecting me to a few hundred other strangers, when the messages from long-lost friends came in. One week later and I now have eight close friends on the network, connecting me to thousands of contacts.

I plan to use friendster to help me organize a high school reunion. If I tell two friends, and they tell two friends, I should have contacts for my entire graduating class within a couple of months.

Check it out at www.friendster.com.

File swapping foes get bolder

In last week’s Cybernaut, I mentioned that file swapping of music, movies and games had dropped about 15 per cent in the month of June as a result of recent entertainment industry lawsuits against some of the biggest file swappers on the net.

Things could get even tougher for music thieves if a pair of Democratic congressman are successful in getting approval for a bill that would mean criminal charges, and even jail time, for people who copy music and other copyrighted files through services like Kazaa and LimeWire.

The new law operates on the assumption that every song being offered has likely been copied several times over, bumping the retail value of each theft past the $2,500 mark that separates a misdemeanor from a felony.


Donkey Kong record crushed

It took 20 years, but Redmond, Washington’s own Steve Wiebe netted a score of 947,200 points on Donkey Kong. It was good enough to beat a 897,200 score set by a New Yorker last year, which finally claimed the record from video game legend Billy Mitchell.

The game ends on Level 22, no matter how good you are, but, if you can remember that far back, scores pretty much rely on speed – wait too long on the ladder or spend too much time running away from barrels and you’ll never save the princess.

Incidentally, ‘Donkey Kong’ is actually the Japanese words for ‘stubborn monkey’. That has nothing to do with the story, I just found it interesting.

Wiebe verified his score by videotaping his game, something Mitchell considers cheating – his old video game high scores were set in competitions.

Wiebe, incidentally, also recently bested Mitchell’s old score on Donkey Kong Jr.

Gamers were so excited by the new record that they crashed the Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard trying get more information. Twin Galaxies – www.twingalaxies.com – is basically the world sanctioning body for video game and pinball records.

I spent a little time clicking around Twin Galaxies, and I recommend it to anyone who ever asked for their allowance in quarters. Not only is the site a kind of museum for video gaming, with records for games you forgot even existed, it’s also amazing to see how many people out there never moved on!

Set up your own firewall

With two new flaws recently uncovered in Microsoft Windows that could potentially give an outsider control of your computer, the latest in a long list of security flaws discovered in various software programs, it might be a good idea to start thinking "firewall". This month’s PC World magazine, www.pcworld.com, has instructions for setting up a firewall for your home computer(s).

A firewall is basically a bouncer, either hardware or software, that stops anyone from getting into your system without the proper ID. For a more detailed explanation, visit www.webopedia.com, and search for ‘firewall’.