Thursday, May 20, 2010

i love nature

NATURE. the best place to relax our mind. the best place to release tension. the best place for the vacation for family and friends.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trying to Cut Back on Spending? Go BIG

If you've already done the easy stuff, go for major savings.

Dear New Frugal You,

I've already trimmed back my spending the obvious ways -- no more Starbucks, no movies, the cable-TV pay channels have all been turned off. Now I'm having no fun and am still falling behind. How do I cut back further? --Getting Desperate

Dear Desperate,

Your heart is in the right place. But we'd have to say that you have been majoring in the minors. While it's a good idea to avoid expensive lattes and cut the cable, the impact will probably be minimal (unless you have a serious caffeine addiction).

According to the U.S. Statistical Abstract (table 668), the average American family spends 63 percent of all their money in three categories:

1. Housing.
2. Transportation.
3. Food.

If we want to seriously cut our expenses, we'll need to hunt where the big expenses are.


Let's start our hunt with housing, which the U.S. Statistical Abstract says accounts for 34 percent of our expenses. If you haven't already refinanced (and you're not upside down), now is the time to do it. Mortgage rates are at 50-year lows. A refinance could save you hundreds each month.

Check your homeowners' insurance. Make your insurance company prove that they're the best every year or two. Get a comparison quote. A little effort could produce a couple of hundred bucks in savings.

Then check your utilities. Most electric companies will do a free energy audit. Their gurus will tell you how much your bill can be reduced each month and how to get those savings.

The good thing about saving on your home is that they're typically big, one-time deals. You refinance today and reap the savings as long as you have your mortgage.


Next in our big expense hunt is transportation (17 percent of our expenses). Again, check your insurance. It's easy to compare quotes online. And perform any routine maintenance (think air filters and checking your tires -- both DIY jobs).

The bad news with auto savings is that you're pretty limited. At this point, you're pretty much done unless you can carpool or sell your ride.


A great place to reduce our spending is in feeding ourselves (12 percent). The reason is simple: You buy food every day, and you can make small changes that won't seriously affect your lifestyle or health. And the bonus is that you'll be affecting a fairly large portion of your budget.

For busy families, the first step to reducing food costs is to prepare more food at home. For every $1 we spend on food, 43 cents of it is either prepared or eaten out. So eating at home could save big bucks.

"But I'm too busy," you say. "How can I avoid the drive-through?" Easy: by creatively using your freezer. These two freezer strategies can turn you into a first-class kitchen wizard!

The first is cooking for the freezer. It's really quite simple. Many meals that you make freeze well. Instead of making one meatloaf when you get home tonight, make three. Trust me, it's almost no extra effort. When two of them are about 75 percent cooked, pull them from the oven and package them for the freezer. Naturally, you'll mark what they are and when you made them. They will also be listed on an inventory sheet you'll add to the fridge door alongside Missy's first grade drawings.

The next time that you're tempted to pick up fast-food gut bombs, save the 20 bucks and take a meatloaf from your freezer. Your microwave will allow you to have it on your table in a few minutes with a minimum of effort. Add a potato, veggie and salad and you have a much healthier meal for a fraction of the cost. Plus you won't be cursing the clown who's holding up the drive-through line at McBurger Queen.

The second trick is even easier. At the end of the meal, you're going to package the leftovers into individual meals. Take a paper plate and put a portion of meat, potato and veggie onto the plate. Put it into a freezer bag and mark what it is and when you froze it. You've just created a frozen dinner! Make as many plates as you have leftovers. Pop them into the freezer and add to your fridge door inventory sheet.

Now, when you pick up Sonny from soccer practice, just drive home instead of heading to get in line at your local Kentucky Fried Okra Jr. When you get there, check the inventory and ask Sonny if he'd prefer the meatloaf from Monday or the fried chicken from last week. He gets to order what he wants. He'll be happy. You save money. And, by the way, these also make great lunches if you have a microwave at work.

These two tools will greatly reduce your need for restaurants. You'll find that you can eat steak at home for the price of hamburgers out, and you won't hear "Eyewww, leftovers" anymore. Finally, as an added bonus, because you'll be constantly using your fridge, you won't find green food hiding in there. That alone should be reason to try them!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to stay safe on Facebook

PRIVACY and security must be dirty words at the Facebook HQ at the moment as the world's largest social media network comes under fire for its privacy policy that has left users exposed and vulnerable.

Amazingly, it was reported that Facebook's privacy policy is a whopping 5,830 words long, even more verbose than the Constitution of the United States which reads at 4,543 words.

Here are some of the precautions you need to take to stay private and safe:

Make friend lists

Categorise your “friends” into various groups according to what information you want them to have access to, from “Work Friends” (minimal access) to “Acquaintances”, “Family” and “Close Friends” (full access) .

Restrict access to profile

To prevent strangers from accessing your page, it is advisable to allow “Only Friends” to access your profile.

Remove your address and phone number

This may be useful information for your real friends and family but imagine what will happen if the information falls into the wrong hands.

Remove your full birthdate from your profile

Identity thieves can use it to obtain more information on you and even gain access to your bank or credit card account. If you want to remind your friends about your birthday, remove the year.

Be careful when registering for new applications

It is all fun and exciting to try out new games and quizzes but what many don't realise is that you may unknowingly be sharing all your information with the developers who can then sell your data or spam you.

Go to “Privacy Settings” and tick “Applications”, followed by “Settings”. Uncheck the boxes for the personal information that you do not want them to obtain.

Still, according to security expert website, the CSO (Chief Security Officer) Online, Facebook users unwittingly expose themselves to five dangers that might be beyond their control: their information is shared with third parties; their privacy settings revert to a less safe default mode after each redesign; malware from Facebook advertisements; fake profiles from scammers; and real friends who unknowingly make them vulnerable.

from the star newspaper

The big bad web


The Internet poses various safety issues and Facebook's latest privacy gaffes make it even worse.

A JEALOUS husband murders his wife after becoming enraged that she had changed her Facebook status to single.

It may sound like a Hallmark movie-plot but last year alone saw a few similar incidents around the world. And this does not include the harassment, threats or legal suits that Facebook members faced over their postings.

After Edward Richardson, 41, stabbed his estranged wife Sarah Richardson, 26, to death - the third of such homicide cases in the United Kingdom over 12 months - British authorities were quick to highlight the importance of social media literacy.

Crimes of passion are nothing new but social networking may just have changed the variables. And while Facebook is in no way to be blamed for the violence - she could have used MySpace, Meebo or any other social network - this case is an undeniable example of how increased connectivity, the speed with which information is transmitted, and privacy controls are changing our world.

The main question thrown up in discussion groups was whether Richardson fully understood how Facebook worked.

Was she aware that by changing her status, her estranged husband would instantly receive a post on his Facebook newsfeed? Did she know how to exclude him from such updates if she had wished to?

Malaysia has not recorded any similar cases yet, but with reportedly 2,619,040 Malaysians registered on Facebook, there may be cause for concern.

As psychologist Assoc Prof Dr Khaidzir Ismail from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia highlights, many of the Malaysians who go to social media networks do not realise the consequences of how they act and what they say on the Internet will have on themselves, their families and friends.

“The Internet is a good outlet for people to express themselves and socialise. However, many, especially the young, do not have the skills or etiquette to know how to behave on the social media networks. One problem is that many are IT illiterate,” he says.

Worse, the latest Facebook privacy scandals may make the existing security worries so 2009 for many users.

New privacy issues

While many were still grappling with how to find their way around the social media network and manage their personal information on it, Facebook introduced new privacy settings at the end of last year.

The changes made more private data public by default as users are given the responsibility to opt out if they want to keep their information private, or share it only with a trusted group of friends.

They caused a lot of confusion and many users were unaware that their personal information was available to everyone.

Another Facebook glitch recently further highlighted the vulnerability of its users - estimated to be more than 400 million people worldwide - as the malfunction made it possible for people not friended by Facebook users to access their personal information, including chat conversations, friend lists and more.

Unsurprisingly, censure mounted from the authorities worldwide - US senators reiterated their public calls for Facebook to rethink its privacy safeguards; the American Civil Liberties Union launched a petition against its founder Mark Zuckerberg and European data protection officials slammed the privacy changes.

It also caused a backlash among the tech-savvier user community and technology industry.

A number of high-profile users reportedly deleted their Facebook accounts while other irate users have launched an online campaign to make June 6 a “No Facebook Day”.

This has led to a crisis meeting at the Facebook headquarters last Friday, as it took steps to address the problems. Subsequently, tighter security measures were announced to protect its users' personal information.

However, as Facebook stressed in the press, in its bid to calm the furore over its privacy policy, the first line of defence is the user.

Chief executive officer of CyberSecurity Malaysia - the national cyber security specialist centre under the purview of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) - Lt Col Husin bin Haji Jazri (Retired) concurs that users have to practise safe behaviour on Facebook and anywhere else online, he says in an e-mail interview.

Security upgrade

According to the Malaysian Computer Emergency Response Team (MyCERT), there were more than 150 complaints of cyber security breaches last year.

While this included cases of identity theft, hacking and cyberstalking, there were also reports of personal data abuse by estranged dating or married couples who have access to their partners' personal information.

As MyCERT chief Adli Abdul Wahid revealed to a local Malay language daily at the last Computer Security Day celebrations, they have received complaints from Internet users who have found their contact details - with offers of sex service - posted on public toilet walls and Internet forums as well as circulated via e-mail to strangers.

A quick e-mail survey by Sunday Star, however, shows that most Malaysians know how to protect themselves on the Internet, especially on social media networks like Facebook.

An IT executive who only wants to be known as Davina K. is among those who feel that the world's biggest social network needs to review its privacy policy.

“Most of us got onto Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family overseas or reconnect with old schoolmates. But now instead of connecting with them, half the time we have to monitor our privacy setting to make sure that our personal information is safe. It is taking the fun out of socialising,” she says.

Many, like engineer J. Tan, say that they have always been very careful about what they put on their profile page in Facebook.

“I like Facebook because it keeps me in the loop with what my friends and family are doing without me having to speak to them at all. But I am careful about sharing personal details with strangers. There is always the danger of your details ending up on public toilet walls, right?” he says.

Media executive Adibah A. is another who keeps a tight rein on what personal information gets out.

“I don't simply disclose information that I don't want people to know of. To me, it is better to be careful than sorry later. People can always spam my inbox with marketing flyers and any other junk. To protect my privacy, I am very selective of the information shared among friends.”

When audio visual (AV) designer Ruza Jajuli realised how her work and family were spilling into Facebook, she quickly made a list of “close friends”.

“There are things I would not like to share with them (family or office mates) as I wouldn't in 'real' life, so I created a list for the people who I do not want to see my 'crazy' pictures or comments,” she shares.

The fear of having her personal secrets being abused by others, including those who she counts as friends and acquaintances, is why regular Internet user Melissa K. is swearing off Facebook.

“You can say I am a bit paranoid, but I am now careful after a not-so-nice separation from my ex many years ago. He saved everything I said in anger (on voicemail, e-mail and SMS) and gossiped using it.”

Lt Col Husin advises those who have been threatened or victimised to lodge a police report.

“Then the police will do the necessary investigation and determine whether or not a crime has been committed. After which, law enforcement authorities (like the police) will determine if further action can be taken on the said person,” he says.

More importantly, with Facebook being so open, it is vital that users take safety precautions should they start interacting offline with those they meet online.

Just last week, an inquest hearing in the UK revealed how one former army warrant officer Stewart Shaw stabbed his partner Julie Sudlow - whom he had met on Facebook - after their whirlwind romance went sour.

As reported in British daily The Telegraph, the testimony of the investigating officer showed that Sudlow soon discovered that the man she was seeing was not the same as the man she had met on Facebook.

He became violent with her and when she called the police on him, Shaw lost his temper and accused her of ruining his life before murdering her in rage.

Friday, May 14, 2010

7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook

Using a Weak Password

Avoid simple names or words you can find in a dictionary, even with numbers tacked on the end. Instead, mix upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. A password should have at least eight characters. One good technique is to insert numbers or symbols in the middle of a word, such as this variant on the word "houses": hO27usEs!

Leaving Your Full Birth Date in Your Profile

It's an ideal target for identity thieves, who could use it to obtain more information about you and potentially gain access to your bank or credit card account. If you've already entered a birth date, go to your profile page and click on the Info tab, then on Edit Information. Under the Basic Information section, choose to show only the month and day or no birthday at all.

Overlooking Useful Privacy Controls

For almost everything in your Facebook profile, you can limit access to only your friends, friends of friends, or yourself. Restrict access to photos, birth date, religious views, and family information, among other things. You can give only certain people or groups access to items such as photos, or block particular people from seeing them. Consider leaving out contact info, such as phone number and address, since you probably don't want anyone to have access to that information anyway.

Posting Your Child's Name in a Caption

Don't use a child's name in photo tags or captions. If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name.

Mentioning That You'll Be Away From Home

That's like putting a "no one's home" sign on your door. Wait until you get home to tell everyone how awesome your vacation was and be vague about the date of any trip.

Letting Search Engines Find You

To help prevent strangers from accessing your page, go to the Search section of Facebook's privacy controls and select Only Friends for Facebook search results. Be sure the box for public search results isn't checked.

Permitting Youngsters to Use Facebook Unsupervised

Facebook limits its members to ages 13 and over, but children younger than that do use it. If you have a young child or teenager on Facebook, the best way to provide oversight is to become one of their online friends. Use your e-mail address as the contact for their account so that you receive their notifications and monitor their activities. "What they think is nothing can actually be pretty serious," says Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. For example, a child who posts the comment "Mom will be home soon, I need to do the dishes" every day at the same time is revealing too much about the parents' regular comings and goings.