Friday, December 22, 2006

Security issues with online ticket booking

Last night, while I was trying to book a ticket via IndiGo Airlines for an upcoming journey, I got an SSL Certificate validation error. While I'm tempted to think that it was some genuine problem, it could also be that the site was hijacked.

The question is how many folks in the online community know to understand the cryptic (or sometimes thankfully not-so-cryptic) messages that browsers can throw up during such cases ? And how many people will realize the enormity of the incident and the repercussions that it may have on them ?

My guess is that as more and more people get "online", chances of fraud are going to explode !Certainly not a great/new revelation or prediction, but I'm only now beginning to realize the potential as the number of online people increases enormously day by day combined with an increasing number methods of getting online via newer/easier mediums.

Security must necessarily be beefed up in newer and simpler ways.

Oh BTW, I did write to the various email contacts listed on their website, but I'm not sure if they'll even bother to reply. In which case it will prove serious callousness and total negligence for customer information security.

Migrated to new blogger ...

Unless you'd noticed the "labels" in the previous post, you wouldn't know that I'd migrated to the "new Blogger". Google is getting to know more and more of me each day than it ever knew before. I'm kinda getting the shivers ;-)

And now that I think of it, the label "observations" in previous post seems ridiculously redundant on a blog :)

Problem with Firefox ?

Ever since I was on FF version prior to v2.0.0.1 (and now on it), I've been seeing strange problems with Firefox (on Windows XP SP2). CPU utilization shoots to 100% quite frequently for no apparent reason (while doing plain scrolling, opening new tab, etc). FF freezes and fails to respond for a brief period during such times. I've got so sick of it that I've almost effectively migrated to (gasp!) Internet Explorer. My only "consolation" is that I'm using the "savior" Yahoo! Toolbar for tabbed browsing.

Don't think the FF problem is related to virus/trojans, however, who knows ?!!! Need to run a full scan on my machine. Probably now is as good a time as any else.

Lemme know if you've heard/come-across this and/or know of a solution to the problem (other than migrating to IE, Opera, ...) :)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Call from Service Provider ...

In the past few days, my usage of my mobile phone has been very minimal - more due to lack of necessity and usually available alternatives.

I got an automated IVR call from my service provider (Airtel) wherein I was informed that my mobile phone usage over the past few days was low and they wanted to know the reason why it was so ? Some of the options included "I'm happy with your service, have no complaint", "I'm not happy with your service, need to talk to someone" and so on. I chose the first option.

This is the first time I got such a call. The point is - I was surprised to know that such things are measured, monitored, and feedback is sought from end-users !!

Just out of curiosity - Have you ever got such a call ? Is your service provider known to take such "measures" ? Do you know of others who have done/are-doing this ?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Google US patents search ...

Google recently announced an application to help users search US patents more easily. Read their Google blog entry here. This is the patent search site.

The first thought that came across my mind when I heard about this is (nasty mind?) - "Wow, it gives Google a wonderful insight into what people are possibly looking at - and - possibly try and patent (or bring out products, etc) some or a derivative of those (after due guessing on what can be a possible idea for such-and-such search terms) in case nothing is already available".

I may be way off base in such an assumption, but it's possible (at least theoretically).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ten Minute Email

Just what the doctor ordered for fighting SPAM - Ten Minute Email

http://www.10minutemail.com/

In the author's words:
"It gives you a temporary e-mail address, and lets you receive and reply to
e-mail sent to that address. The e-mail address expires in 10 minutes (or
more, you can extend it as you need more time)..."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Recommendation need for family tree software

Any recommendations for good, free (opensource) family tree software ? If there's an online version, that'd be great 'cos it could then help send invites and others could fill up details online and it'd be a dynamically self-building list. Needless to say, it needs to be free :)

If there's an opensource version that I can host by myself, that's also welcome input.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My new mobile phone - Nokia 6233

A few months ago, I'd written about thinking of getting myself a new mobile phone. The feature list is recorded here.

A few weeks ago, I finally got myself a Nokia 6233. Did a bit of "research", asked around quite a bit, looked at more than a few models (from various makes) and finally "decided" to plump for the 6233.

It doesn't have "Wi-Fi" capabilities, amongst the list that I'd written about, but I'm not really complaining at the moment [ I sure would start thinking about network security even if Wi-Fi was available on the phone and would want WPA2-PSK on it :) ]

6233 has the following features that *I* consider quite important for me :)

* camera / video (the images aren't really all that great. First I thought it was due to the low resolution setting that was by default, but changing it to high-res hasn't produced a great effect. The images are definitely nice to view on the phone, but not on the computer, maybe there's something I'm missing, have to know about, but at the moment it's a minor bit of let down, however, I can't complain about the convenience that it offers)
* mp3 player
* decent loudspeaker (serves well for playing mp3 too)
* fm radio (20 preset stations, needs the free headphone attachment supplied with the pack to pick up signals)
* voice recorder (absolultely wonderful. I recorded a 45min call crystal clear even though it was on external speaker phone and it just consumed 2.3MB. I've also tested it to record calls that happen via my mobile itself and even that works wonderfully)
* contacts maintainable via a simple interface on computer and syncable via outlook (presently I don't use outlook, hence using the simpler means of syncing up contacts)
* has calendar/to-do/notes that are easy to use and also syncable via outlook (imported my entire personal birthday calendar from yahoo calendar into outlook and then synced it to my phone !)
* 3G connection capabilities (although it will take some time to come up in a big way in India)
* It has infrared, bluetooth and USB connectivity options and I frequently use IR or USB
* Good volume for ring options (my earlier motorola c350e sucked on that regards, IMO) . One can assign ring tones from the mp3 music on the phone. Groups of contacts are possible.

For sending SMS, I use the IR mode and key in the text on my laptop and send it away. Very convenient (read further below for a pain point regarding SMS).

At my current rate of usage, the battery last about 1.5 days. I however tend to recharge it in about 1day 'cos I don't want to take a risk during long official calls. (Once when it was on silent mode for major part of about 2 days, the batter lasted more than 55hrs or so and I ended up recharging it even while there was still quite some power left in it)

The kewlest thing that I haven't yet mentioned (IMHO) is the nokia theme creator that can be used with the phone (way to go Nokia!). It's nice to be able to do personalization to the menu options on the phone. I ended up changing the background in every menu/page - even during startup/shutdown ! :)

Things that I miss (I can't really believe that I'm actually saying this) from my earlier simple Motorola c350e:
* Ability to assign direct dial numbers for most important contacts. I could assign 1-99 numbers for contacts on my phone and call any of them using number#. That was very convenient, 'cos one usually needs more than 10 direct dial numbers (got by pressing 1-9 continuously).
* When messages came in, the ring tone associated with the sender would apply for messages too.
* SMS texting was very convenient with T9 predictive texting. It could automatically learn my most frequently used words and interface was very easy. Nokia's SMS interface just SUX (maybe someone can teach me how it can be used in a better way).

Economics:

Nokia 6233 - Rs.13450

The phone comes by default with a 64MB memory card (MicroSD). That's abysmally low IMO. I ended up getting a Toshiba 1GB card for Rs2150 (at Mercy Electronics on Arcot Road for those who are interested).

The IR approach to data transfer, while extremely convenient for small things, isn't all that great when it comes to transferring music and heavy stuff. So, I plumped for the data cable CA-53 at a cost of about Rs.350 (at Kevin Electronics, sister concern of Mercy Electronics, and a few shops besides the other).

Am quite happy with it for now :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Need recommendations for service / luxury apartments ...

One of my relative's friend is on the lookout for air-conditioned service
apartments within walking distance from the beach (in Chennai). This is
required during the period Dec-'06 to Apr-'07.


Also need recommendations for outright purchase of luxury apartments by
the beachside (again withing walking distance) from reputed/reliable
builders.


Please let me know in case you have any recommendations.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Day and date on system tray for Win2K

If you are using Win2K, you may want to have the day, date displayed along with the time on your system tray.

Systemtray Clock Extender does precisely that.

Source: http://www.rcis.co.za/dale/tclockex

Thanks to Solutions from PC Magazine.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Don't be afraid ...

to tell someone you love them. If you do, they might break your heart ... but if you don't, you might break theirs.

- Wallpaper on the computer in the next cubicle

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wikimapia, after Wikipedia

Thanks to a friend, I discovered Wikimapia. A kewl place to search for your house and mark it on a satellite image !

Search for Jains and see Jains Ashraya Phase 3, my new residence place, besides Phases 1 & 2.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Breaking Walls ...

An addictive time waster :)

Make sure to click before he runs into the wall and he should break through

http://www.break.com/index/poundice.html

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Photo: Desktop wallpaper at home

Lord Krishna and his consort (most probably from an ISKCON temple). Was found somewhere online (don't recollect where).

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Photo: "Boiler" in today's era ?

Can you believe your eyes ? I couldn't believe it myself when I saw this sometime in Jan/Feb-2006. It's been so long since I saw one - had seen it in my childhood at my dad's brother's town in AP. This one was in a "resort" near Shirdi (Maharashtra) and was used to supply hot water to the rooms.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Photo: Rainbow in Kodaikkanal

That's Mohan, Krish and me in that order. Taking the photo is Sridhar (featured here in an earlier photo). We'd been to Kodaikkanal enroute to Senthil's wedding. I can't recollct the year though :(

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Photo: Ropeway in Gangtok (Mid 2004)

Gangtok (Sikkim) is a must visit place. By far, one of the most beautiful hill stations I've been to.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Photo: At the Twin Towers, New York ...

That was some time in March-2001. With me are Sridhar and Mark (as he liked to call himself, albeit he was Markandeyan), in that order.

We went there from Chelmsford, Massachusetts. One of our colleagues dropped us by car and we'd reached there late Friday night (11pm or so I think). Return was by AmTrak (train) on Sunday evening. We spent the time in between touring New York. Saw the usual - Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Village, tour ride on open top bus round the town, ... Can't recollect what else.

Did I say I loved New York ? Only thing is we didn't know where to find good vegetarian breakfast for the morning.

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Photo: Lord Hanuman

Testing Posting via Picasa.

Huge statue of Lord Hanuman (can't recollect where, prolly enroute Tirupati<->Chennai or somewhere between Mangalore<->Chennai).

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Monday, June 05, 2006

RSS Screensaver ...

For quite a long time now, I've been thinking about an Informational screensaver - something that shows me news updates when the screen is locked. Obviously, the best way to do this is to obtain news via RSS feeds. My search for such a tool lead me to

MSN RSS Screensaver

I found another one on the net from NuParadigm, but had installation problems.

Does anyone have other recommendations ?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Is my online banking system safe ? ...

ICICI Bank has been doing (at least what I think is) multi-factor authorization for transactions (regular login, transaction password, atm/debit card 3 digit dynamic pin). It appears safe at least on that front. I'm not disputing that there may be other loopholes.

Read "When SSL isn't Safe" if your online banking system does just regular username/login and the occasional transaction password. Something to definitely think about !!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thinking about a new mobile phone ...

During the past few days, for some strange, unfathomable reason, I've begun thinking about getting myself a new mobile phone.

My present one, Motorola c350e, is working "perfectly fine" - if one can call it that ! Read my earlier crib about my phone :) Unfortunately, it is sporting a broken faceplate for a few weeks thanks to my accidentally sitting on it ! I've been too tied up to take it to the repair shop since then :(

Coming to the topic, I still don't know what I want in the new phone. I can think of
* camera,
* Update: mp3 player/recorder (needs to serve as a recorder of external conversations, just like a regular tape recorder),
* Update: speaker,
* wi-fi,
* edge/gprs connectivity,
* browser,
* lots of apps,
* ability to download additional apps (should be a popular platform that has lots of third party utilities - of course available for free),
* kewl contact management capabilities,
* email client (?)
* ...

I still haven't thought about the kind of service available for internet connection for GSM phones, cost of such plans, etc available here in India. Nonetheless ...

So, any recommendations ? Not that I'd be shopping immediately, but who knows when the bug will bite ?! :)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Asolutely hilarious ...

BBC goofs up during on-air interview and talks to the wrong guy (pun intended) !

Check out the hilarious news article in BBC's own words @ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4774429.stm

Thanks to Kiruba for pointing this out.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tanenbaum Vs. Linus debate time again ...

A bit dated, nonetheless ...

For those of you who are familiar with or have heard of the famous "Microkernel Vs. Monolithic kernel" debate between Tanenbaum (Computer Networks book fame) and Linus (creator of Linux), here's some interesting fodder.

Original Debate: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/appa.html

Debate Time again, featured @ http://linux.slashdot.org/linux/06/05/10/0439246.shtml?tid=190

Recent Trigger:
Linus: http://www.realworldtech.com/forums/index.cfm?action=detail&id=66630&threadid=66595&roomid=11
Tanenbaum reply: http://www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/reliable-os/

Interesting related reads:
Earlier Tanenbaum writeup defending Linus: http://www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/brown/
Followup: http://www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/brown/followup/

Friday, May 12, 2006

List of feeds that I'm subscribed to ...

I'm nowadays being very occasional on blog posting or blog reading. From more than 250+ feeds in erstwhile days, I've now shrunk to less than 100 and even there I'm not monitoring a lot of them (actual interest maybe around 20-25 and I read them in bunches few at a time).

Anyway, for those who are interested in what I'm currently reading/subscribed to, here's the OPMLised list. For the keen observer, there's more of an underlying technology thread amongst all those blogs.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Google Vs Yahoo Calendar

My initial take: I still prefer Yahoo calendar

My primary use of calendar is not as a substitute for my office meeting maker application. It's more for recording birthdays, anniversaries, bill payment dates, etc. In that aspect, I find the following abilities in Yahoo calendar as an advantage
* classify something as an event of one of those types,
* have two reminder choices plus a daily event reminder, i.e, you can choose to be informed by email (and SMS where applicable) 2days _and_ 4 days in advance and also be notified on the day of the event,
* obtain a complete printable list of my entire event list,

And then there are the usual calendar features of being able to share with others, export/import, etc.

Interestingly, just a couple of days ago, I was rueing the unavailability of Google Calendar for the masses. I've turned Gmail as my email archival database (inspite of the so called privacy issues) that gets email sent to some of my other accounts as well and having a calendar built into that would have been much more easier for me.

Now that it's publicly available and I've tried it a bit, I'm not all that gung ho.

Let's hope Google can bring parity to what Yahoo currently offers in this arena, though sometimes they've proven they can definitely do better. This time though, it's still not there yet ...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I have finally succumbed ...

to the nasty beast that is called Microsoft Outlook. For the past 8 years or so, I have been strongly refusing to use that email client and had been using Netscape, Mozilla, Eudora, Thunderbird at various points of time. I did have my complaints with these tools, but was still happy living with them.

That was until MS Exchange was being deployed across office. I began to have problems with my email clients in that they would refuse to download emails over the night and quite often during the day, when I clicked on "Get Mail" repeatedly, nothing would happen - just nothing. I tried chaging email clients, going back and forth across various versions, etc. Nothing helped. Exchange was probably playing truant, if not havoc.

So, rather than breaking my head over any further possibility, I have just succumbed ! :( I know that ending up using MS Outlook was far beyond my wildest imaginations, but it has happened !! And I know that I'll be cursed by anyone receiving my email ! :(

Monday, February 13, 2006

Mailing list for ex-employees, 10yrs of partnership and more ...

Certainly interesting to find out that people who have left your company have a mailing list that helps them stay in touch !! Understandably, the theme is going to be get-togethers and info-sharing.

Here's the yahoogroup for ex-codcians (CODC - Cisco Offshore Development Centre, although the first 'C' is often interpreted as Chennai) !

It's also interesting to note that the organization is interested in reaching out to a lot of them on account of a "10-years-of-partnership" (with Cisco) celebration that's coming up. Certainly, an admirable move. Some kind of a college-alumni get-together. Afterall, a lot of these ex-employees had been quite critical in helping the organization to be where it is today. Talk about being grateful ! :)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Recommendations needed for domain registrars ...

Anybody has a recommendation for good domain registrars and what would be the price for registration ? Should be hassle free registration and must allow transfer without issues (if at all required). Any other things to be thought about during domain registration ?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Books that I lost ...

Apparently someone borrowed them and failed to return them. Or I misplaced
them somehow (lesser probability than the earlier reason) ...

* Douglas E Comer
Internetworking With TCP/IP Volume 1: Principles
Protocols, and Architecture

* Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John Vlissides
Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software

* Karnjit S Siyan
Inside TCP/IP: A comprehensive Introduction to Protocls and Concepts
(or was it)
TCP/IP Unleashed

Can't recollect any more, dunno if there are any.

So, how many books have you lost ?!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My 4 minute essay on "Chennai" ...

As part of a writing skills training session I attended recently, we were asked to do a small exercise on freewriting to try and overcome writer's block. Here's what I came up with on "Chennai", the topic for the group which I was in. Copied verbatim from my notes ...

I have been in Chennai close to 30 years or so now. Over a period of time, have grown to both love and hate it. Love it for, believe it or not, the predictable weather, decent infrastructure, communal harmony, peace etc. Hate, a rather strong word, for what I consider to be a lack of avenues for entertainment. While there are indeed the proverbial cinemas, malls, amusement parks, eat-outs, etc, there still seems to be something missing. Nearby weekend getaways are one. Closeness/reachability to other places within budget travel can be troublesome. There are other things I can't exactly lay my finger on. Something, for sure, seems to be missing in Chennai !!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Interesting ...

Today morning, I saw an opinion poll on our corporate intranet and the live results (in %s, as well as number of votes in each category) being declared beside it.

Interestingly, there was also the following "Thought for the Day" quote running on a frame besides the poll

"I can prove anything by statistics except the truth. George Canning"

Interesting / ironical / ... ? :)

All I could do was smile.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Find Wi-Fi Hotspots in India

From here.

Largest numbers in Karnataka (231, prominently in Bangalore) followed by Tamil Nadu (72, prominently in Chennai).
(dated 21-Jan-2006)

You can search based on location type (stores/cafe/restraunts/airport/business center/...) or provider (NTT DoCoMo/Dishent/iPass/...).

Find what your public ipaddress is ...

ipid.shat.net and showmyip.com are sites that show what IP address and country you appear to be coming from.

Found these sites while reading about Tor - An anonymous Internet communication system.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Feedvalidator has problems with my blogger atom feed ...

Feed Validator has problems with my Blogger generated ATOM feed. Need to check if this is a known issue. There are some Google hits relating to this, but needs more reading and follow up. Later.

The only reason I found this was 'cos FeedMedic (of FeedBlitz) is complaining about issues in the email generated reports.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Thunderbird 1.5 refuses to die ...

Migrated to Thunderbird 1.5 a few days ago after reading the /. post.

While everything else is wonderful (if I can ever say that of TB FF), whenever I try and exit TB, it just refuses to go away. The process keeps lingering on for a very long time. I haven't bothered to check if it really dies, just end up killing it :(

Does anyone know if this is a known issue ?

And, any recommendations for a _decent_ MUA ? (One that can do what FF can do and doesn't hog as much memory or CPU at times)

pine/elm/gnus/emacs/and their like _and_ Microsoft Outlook/* are ruled out.

Monday, January 16, 2006

FeedBurner, FeedBlitz and SiteMeter

Did some template reorganization and ended up using FeedBurner, FeedBlitz and SiteMeter on my regular (this blog) and the humor blog.

FeedBlitz like service was something I was looking for, for those of my readers who weren't used to RSS/ATOM. However, an email subscription service of course always comes with the thought of "spam" ...

Friday, January 13, 2006

New things I'm planning to try out ...

Firefox's (probably) latest blogging extension - Performancing from which I'm writing this post.

Pando - a tiny app that lets you email any size file or folder to anyone, free.

Mp3tag -
a powerful and yet easy-to-use tool to edit metadata (ID3,
Vorbis Comments and APE) of common audio formats. It can rename files
based on the tag information, replace characters or words from tags and
filenames, import/export tag information, create playlists and more. ...

Just 7 at about 9.20am ...

Given that today is a holiday for those who have opted for it in my office, I see just 7 people, at about 9.20am in my floor's wing where it can seat about 100+ people.

Also, there's this thing with flexi-timing. While I've been to the US and people there "rush" (or get in) to the office pretty early in the morning, between 7-8am (at times), here, it's usually between 10am-12pm !!

OTOH, if the company does stipulate fixed timings like 9am-6pm, people do come in at 9am (leaving at 6pm may not necessarily happen always).

What do you think could be the reason ?

One of the reasons for the behavior in US could be the nasty traffic jams if starting late, convenient access from home, etc. Any others ?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Switching to Windows, Not as Easy as You Think

"Mad Penguin writer Simon Gerber has published an amusing review of Windows XP as seen from a Linux users point of view. He really makes you feel like you are trying to use Windows for the first time after exclusively using Linux. The article covers everything from the hideous installer and its lack of partitioning/formatting capabilities to the utter wasteland that is the Windows desktop, devoid of useful applications and everything in between. A fun read."

Read the ensuing discussion here.

Courtesy: Slashdot

Apple Inc - Doomed ?

The Innovator's Dilemma author Clayton Christensen outlines his case for why Apple's proprietary strategy will soon fail, just as it did before ...

Go here for the complete article. Interesting observation on how the age old management theory of companies and managers trying to maximize the stock value could be "flawed" in present day scenario !

Monday, January 09, 2006

You don't exist, go away!

That's what came up when I was trying to login to a unix machine ! Interesting message :)

Googling pointed me to this. Interesting & amusing choice of words to spit out to the user :)

One heck of a tool - Mp3Tag ...

I've always wanted an mp3 tag editor to edit my music collection. The built-in tag editor that came along with my Creative Zen Touch Mp3 Player's Creative MediaSource software was functional, but lacked sophistication and was cumbersome to use. I've always hand edited mp3 tags and that was really tiring and boring, not to mention extremely time consuming.

Last night, I got my act together and searched for "mp3 tag editor" on beloved Google and was presented with Mp3Tag - the universal Tag Editor amidst several other choices. Given that it was free to use, I was tempted to try it out and I couldn't have been any happier for that stroke of luck.

Things that I like about it

1. Its free.
2. It has ability to generate tag information from file names.
3. It can construct file names from tag information.
4. It can bring Hungarian Notation (This Is An Example Of One) to tag information.
5. Its very fast.
6. Very flexible.
7. Has tons of other useful options

The software project home page has information on some of the useful/main features.

I'm still to explore various other options of the software, but I'm pretty pleased with what I've seen and used till now. It will become a part of my "Must Have Software" collection.

Update:
I've received good recommendations for the following software on Mac/Linux.
* amaroK (for Linux/Unix, ports available for other platforms)
* EasyTAG (for Mac/Linux)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

So much for Google Video ...

Trying to view any video on Google Video produces the following output !!

Thanks for your interest in Google Video.

Currently, the playback feature of Google Video isn't available in your country.

We hope to make this feature available more widely in the future, and we really appreciate your patience.


Boy, do I hate it when I see such a notice !!

Google Pack would have been better with ...

AVG Anti Virus (Free Personal Edition) and Spybot Search & Destory instead of Symantec Norton Anti Virus and Ad Aware respectively. Zone Alarm Personal Firewall would have been another good addition. It remains to be seen why the latter were chosen instead of the former. Is it that they are far better or that the companies were easily ameanable to Google's proposal ?

And I wish Google Pack was also available on Windows 2000 ! :(

See here for my list of "Must Have Software".