Adobe Flash Cookies: Collecting User Data Under the Radar with Complete Stealth

Adobe Flash cookies

Adobe has created a new proprietary flash cookie which can save a large amount of data, lives indefinitely on the users machine, and cannot be read without accessing Adobe’s website. Wired Magazine reports that UC Berkeley researchers have found that 54 of the top 100 websites are using flash cookies now.

How do Normal Internet Cookies Compare to Adobe Flash Cookies?

Normal Internet Cookies are limited in their size to 4kb. This was part of the RFC 2109 limitations standard which is conformed to by both Internet Explorer and Netscape and was compiled by The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

These standards limit total cookies that can be saved on a web user’s machine at one time to 300. Additionally there is a per domain limit of 20 cookies. Cookies may hold text or array data yet are still limited to a size of 4kb each. Normally cookies begin their lives in the memory of the browser and only if a cookie is given a longer life span than the life of the browser will it then be written to disk.

Adobe flash cookies (i.e. also called Local Shared Objects (LSO), have a maximum size of 100kb. The user must navigate to the Adobe Flash Player Settings Manager in order to check the flash cookies residing on their machine. There are no other methods of doing this. The larger size they have do allow flash cookies on a website to save at least parts of favorite songs, videos, and photo media in order to make for a richer user experience.

How to Delete Normal Internet and Flash Cookies

Deleting normal Internet cookies is no mystery. Microsoft has posted instructions in several locations on the Internet.

How to Delete Flash Cookies

If a web user makes use of Mozilla Firefox as their browser he or she can make use of an add-on which will allow automation of the deletion of flash cookies. It is called BetterPrivacy. With this utility, all flash cookies are deleted upon each browser shutdown. Otherwise, the only method to delete flash cookies is to navigate to the Adobe Flash Player Settings Manager and maintain or delete the flash cookies on a machine:

  1. Go to the Settings Manager(Website Storage Settings)
  2. Go to the far-right tab
  3. Click “Delete all sites”
  4. Click Last Tab

To Prevent Websites from Storing Additional Information

For those who want to avoid the Flash Cookies question altogether, the following steps can be taken to prevent storage of Flash Cookies:

  1. Go to Adobe Flash Player Settings Manager
  2. Click the Second Tab (Global Storage Settings)
  3. Set Slider Bar to None
  4. Uncheck “Allow Third Party Flash Content to store data on your computer
  5. Click Last Tab

Why Do Websites Use Cookies at All?

Cookies hold values such as username, last page visited, a logged in switch, etc. Having these items in storage saves the web pages of a website additional data lookups or storing data in another way. Used properly they allow a website to be a much richer user experience and also provide a bit of intelligence to the backend mechanics of a website to enhance the overall user experience.

User information from cookies can also be used to track user movements and preferences and report those back to large advertiser databases. That is one method of how a spam email is born.

There are however huge advertisers that pay some websites with a lot of traffic, large amounts to track their user information by placing their own cookies on the web browser’s machine. The data flows via the cookie back to the advertiser’s website folders and it is hoped those companies all practice good website folder security. Even deleting these cookies via the online Settings Manager will not delete the information in these companies folders.

There are even a few online programs now claiming to make it user voluntary for their cookies to be placed on the user’s machine. A user can opt out although it is clearly stated on the advertiser’s webpage that they have no control over their affiliates. It is up to the savvy web user to find out who the affiliates are and how to find their opt out web pages though. This is after finding who the advertisers are of course. In fact it appears user data is also sold by the large advertiser upon receipt.

Since some unscrupulous websites and advertisers use cookies to track user’s online activity, having cookies you cannot delete or even are not aware of is borderline unethical. Flash cookies are popular, valuable to advertisers, very well hidden, and are here to stay.

In the future, hopefully, the management of flash cookies will be built into browsers and made more available to the average Internet user. Along with the popularity will come checks and balances making it easier to protect Internet privacy for the average web user.

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Simple Web Design on the Mac: A Comparison of I-Web and Rapidweaver

web design on mac

Below we’ll look at some of the standard software that is bundled with a new Mac to explore how these programs shape up in terms of their cost, friendliness, and efficiency.

I-Web is Apple’s latest addition to the I-Life suite and probably the least developed of the programs to date. I-Web is a simple and intuitive web page design program aimed at the beginner. As part of the suite, it costs about $79 which is pretty cheap considering the quality of the programs that make up the suite as a whole: I-Photo, I-DVD, I-Movie, Garageband, and of course I-Web. Rapidweaver, was the tool of choice for Mac users before I-Web was added to the suite. It is not unlike I-Web in that it offers similar templates, but includes a few extra features too and costs $39.95.

Limited templates

Certainly, both programs can produce rapidly and simply a range of different basic web sites without previous knowledge. The operative word here though is not simple or rapid, but basic. And this is where the two programs begin to show their differences. I-Web has a number of functions that make it so easy to use, but after a while the templates and options become limited. This is always the trade-off with such programs: simple one-click functionality inevitably means limited customization.

I-Web templates offer a small, but tasteful selection to get going with. Rapidweaver, on the other hand, provides uninspiring templates, but with more customization potential and plenty of 3rd party examples to use or to buy. All Rapidweaver templates can be edited from the standard theme edit within the program or via the HTML code or CSS option outside.

Image editing and size.

I-Web offers a wonderfully simple interface for adding graphics and text, with desktop publishing-like interface and drag and drop settings. But it falls down on not reducing image size (just a crop function) which makes for larger file sizes and therefore slower upload speeds. If site size is important for you then consider this: The same site designed in I-Web at 24mb, in Rapidweaver, totaled under 8mb.

Rapidweaver partially does this by allowing a re-size function but does not allow the range of page layout tools that I-Web offers unless you use a 3rd party add on like Blocks. Both programs work alongside the I-life suite and integrate well.

Perhaps more importantly for bloggers looking to include HTML links in their sites, I-Web does not allow for HTML editing, as it made up of Styled Text. This means the addition of Google Adsense or other adverts necessitates a 3rd party ad-on, specifically I-Web Enhancer.

HTML

Finally, I-Web rewrites the date each time it saves your site so that you will need to upload the whole site every time you make any changes, whether it is just a comma or a complete site redesign. Combined with the need to use the I-Web enhancer, this makes uploading changes a laborious affair, something that hopefully Apple will address with I-LIfe 07.

In the meantime, Rapidweaver uploads quickly allow for HTML coding, template changes, but perhaps lacks the panache of I-Web. In the long term I-Web could be a great new design, but in the short term, if you want to get your site up and edited the way you like it, all on the same day, then maybe Rapidweaver will have to be the choice of the moment.

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Landscape Design Software: Visualize Completed Landscape Before Planting

Landscape design software

Not everyone is able to envision a finished landscape while looking at the bare ground. Landscape design software helps visualize arrangements of plants and fixed features to create the desired end result. Used in combination with good references books about plants adapted to a region, a landscaper will make better decisions and be more pleased with the result than landscaping through a haphazard purchase and planting process.

design software for landscape
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Getting Started With Landscape Design

Professional landscape designers use eight basic principles to guide their designs— unity, simplicity, balance, color, natural transition, line, proportion, and repetition. The landscape design includes more than plants; it also includes fountains and ponds, statues and sculptures, and paths. So the options available for the final look of a home landscape are almost infinite.

Before beginning a home landscape design, visit local botanical gardens, show homes, and upscale neighborhoods to generate landscape ideas. Consider the common characteristics of appealing landscapes and make note of the plants and complementary features used. The Landscape Design Advisor offers information and example pictures of 11 general styles including Tuscan, formal, informal, desert, xeriscape and Asian.

Think about the care and maintenance required by plants being considered. Some landscapes look great because the owners spend hours pruning, mulching, and pampering their plants. Plants that are not adapted to the region in which they are growing may require a lot of extra water and soil amendments to survive. In the long run, an informed decision before planting will lead to a better outcome.

Using Landscape Design Software

There are many software solutions to help design a landscape. These software packages range in price from free to computer-aided-design programs that cost several hundred dollars. The landscape design programs vary significantly in terms of capabilities and ease of use. Here are some software features that many people have found useful in creating a landscape design for their home:

  • The ability to use a photograph of the home rather than just a line drawing of a generic house.
  • A large database of plants
  • 3-dimensional views of the landscape
  • A night view of plants with landscape lighting
  • Editable graphic objects such as paths and water fountains
  • Adding fixed features such as fences, hot tubs, decks, and patios
  • Editable templates to begin the design
  • A training CD or on-line tool tutorials

Planning a home landscape that will be pleasing for years to come and can be accomplished within one’s budget, time available, and gardening capability requires a commitment of time for planning. Landscape design software can help.

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Computer-Aided Design Software: What Are They?

Computer aided design

Every discipline of engineering relies on a variety of software products to assist them with design, evaluation, and management tasks. Computer-aided design (CAD) software is one of the most commonly used engineering program categories and is used in nearly all branches of the engineering profession.

History of Computer-Aided Design Software

At its roots, CAD software was a direct analog of drafting functions: to create two-dimensional design prints. The output prints were essentially identical to those previously created by draftsmen. The proliferation of desktop personal computers in the 1980s allowed companies such as Autodesk to develop CAD software and market directly to engineering companies.

AutoCAD was first released by Autodesk in 1982, and rapidly became the most widely used CAD software package in the world. Even today, AutoCAD is still the primary 2D design program, used by engineers and architects.

Evolution of Computer-Aided Design Software

CAD software has evolved as computing power has increased since the 1980s. The expanding processing power has allowed software developers to include more functionality and performance in their products. The greatest leaps in CAD software evolution can be grouped into two categories:

  • Integration with Other Functions – While the early CAD software packages were basically computerized drafting, today’s CAD programs seamlessly integrate with a variety of other engineering functions, including computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), finite element analysis (FEA), product lifecycle management (PLM), and many other functions. The CAD software is now just the center of a network of design functionality.
  • Migration from 2D to 3D Design – The second significant evolution in CAD software was the development of 3D design software systems, led by Parametric Technology Corporation’s (PTC) release of Pro/ENGINEER in 1988. Pro/ENGINEER was the first parametric feature-based solid modeling software and allowed engineers to more easily design components and complete systems. Today, several 3D CAD programs are available. The 2D CAD software is still widely used in some industries, such as architecture.

In addition to these primary evolutions, the overall system performance and inherent functionality of CAD software have increased as general computer technology has improved. Current CAD software can create mechanism animations and realistic surfacing, among other features.

The cost of individual seats of CAD software has also decreased significantly. In the 1980s and 1990s, CAD software licenses were often so expensive that only larger companies could afford to invest in the seats and the continual upgrades. Software developers have created “light” versions of many of their products that are more affordable to smaller businesses and engineers who don’t need the full functionality of the complete versions or do not have the budget to purchase the full version.

The CAD software is one of the tools that is used by just about all engineers across all disciplines of the engineering profession

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Popular Computer Aided Design Software: The Top CAD Programs Used by Engineers

Top CAD design software

Engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to perform many of their design and optimization tasks. A variety of CAD packages are available with different functions and target users.

2D CAD Packages

The original CAD software packages developed as analogs to the physical draftsman’s table. The two packages that dominate this market include:

  • AutoCAD – Autodesk’s AutoCAD is the grandfather of all commercial CAD packages. First released in 1982, AutoCAD is the premier 2D digital drafting package, although 3D modeling functionality was added with the AutoCAD 2007 release. The latest version of AutoCAD includes parametric modeling capabilities as well as mesh modeling. The file format for drawings used by AutoCAD, DWG, has become the standard file format for CAD system interoperability. While pure 3D packages are gaining market share in many areas, AutoCAD is still the preferred package for architects.
  • TurboCAD – TurboCAD, currently owned by IMSI/Design LLC, was originally created as a low-cost competitor to AutoCAD when released in the US in 1986 with a price of $99. TurboCAD was popular with computer resellers and educational channels. TurboCAD added 3D functionality in 1995. TurboCAD supports a variety of third-party plugins for specialized functionality.

Several other smaller packages are still available, and many others have been discontinued over the years as AutoCAD has thrived.

3D CAD Packages

The development of 3D CAD systems has revolutionized engineering design. The top 3D CAD packages include:

  • Autodesk Inventor – Autodesk entered the 3D modeling system market in 1999 with its Inventor package. Inventor is a 3D parametric history-based modeling program, whose functionality Autodesk calls “virtual prototyping”. Inventor includes specialized environments, such as sheet metal, frame generation, tube and pipe, and cable and harness.
  • Pro/ENGINEER – PTC’s Pro/ENGINEER was the first 3D parametric modeling solution available to the engineering market, released in 1987. Pro/ENGINEER is an integrated application, including CAD, computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and computer-aided engineering (CAE) functions. A wide range of modules is available for a different design, manufacturing, and industry needs. Pro/ENGINEER supports the design of individual components and complete complex systems of components.
  • Solid Edge – Solid Edge, currently owned by Siemens PLM Solutions, was originally developed in 1996 by Intergraph. Solid Edge competes for market share with Pro/ENGINEER, Solidworks, and Autodesk Inventor. The system can integrate with Sharepoint to provide product lifecycle management (PLM).
  • Solidworks – Solidworks, now owned by Dassault Systemes, was first released in 1995 as a low-cost competitor to PTC’s Pro/ENGINEER package. Solidworks employs a top-down engineering approach, allowing users to start with a 2D or 3D sketch and refine the design, as an engineer would do on paper. Solidworks supports a variety of toolboxes and modules for a variety of specialized functions, such as simulation and product validation, as well as product data management (PDM).

Other commercial and company proprietary packages do exist, but these software systems dominate the 2D and 3D CAD markets.

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