Rumor: Zynga To Charge Monthly Fee For FarmVille

Another rumor is making its’ way around player statuses this past weekend – this one directed at Zynga’s FarmVille. Here is a sample of a typical status we have seen:

ATTENTION: Zynga has announced that as of March 31, 2010 FarmVille will no longer be available in it’s Beta version. The game will be available for a subscription fee of $5.99 per month and will include additional levels above 70.

FarmVille LandscapeThe rumor is simply untrue. There has been no announcement of this kind from Zynga, nor has there been any indication that the Beta version will no longer be made available.

However, that is not to say that a paid version of the game won’t become a reality. A large number of multi player games use a dual membership business model. This allows for a free membership plan, offering all the basics we have accessible to us know when playing FarmVille, and an upgraded monthly membership; giving us additional perks not granted to free members.

This would be a sound move on Zynga’s part, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the rumor of Beta being over and the game changing to paid membership only, is completely untrue.


Security: How To Create A Strong Facebook Password

It’s almost funny if it weren’t so sad that many people still use their birthdays and sometimes names of favorite family members as their Facebook password. A good password is one that is impossible to guess. Many people know this already, but only a few truly understand the importance of creating a strong, impossible-to-guess password.

So why do you need a strong password?

Your password is what you need in order to prove to the computer that you are who you say you are. It functions like a normal house key, except that instead of carrying it around in your pocket or your wallet, you carry it around in your head.

Like a regular house key, passwords can be stolen. Someone using your password will pretend to be you in order to gain access to your account, files, or any other important information you store in your computer or database.

The computer has no way of knowing if it is really you or someone pretending to be you, the same way that your door has no way of knowing if it is you holding that key inserted into the keyhole.

For these reasons, it is important to safeguard a password, and one of the most reliable ways of safeguarding your password is to create one that is difficult to crack. So you will create highly complicated passwords – unfathomable letter combinations and numbers and symbols and upper case letters and lower case letters and whatever else you can add into the whole mix.

However, the main trouble about password security is that people will have to remember them in order to gain access to the network, whether it is a home computer network or an office network.

Now, if you were using a literal cocktail of letters, symbols, and numbers as a password, you would have to have exceptionally high capacity for remembering codes. The problem is not all people have brains that function like that.

In fact, most people are better at remembering words that actually make sense than a splatter of alphanumerics with who-knows-what meaning. As such, people naturally prefer the former when choosing or creating passwords.

Unfortunately, hackers are very, very smart. If, given enough computing power, time, and encrypted data, these hackers can compromise even the most complex cryptographic system, how much more a password that is easy to crack? It is like stealing candy from a baby, to borrow a line.

The purpose therefore of creating strong passwords is to make it as difficult as possible for the hacker to figure out, even if he had all the time in the world to crack it.

However, taking into account our admittedly human tendency to remember things in context, your password should also be one that you can relatively recall fairly easily – that is, they should not be completely alien to the brain, like all numeric codes, to make them easier to remember and store in our memory banks.

In fact, experts in network security highly encourage that you use a combination of numeric codes and letters of the alphabet as this will increase the number of odds and make it more difficult for the hacker to figure out the right combination.

Passwords to Avoid

Okay, you have to admit that there are only so many words that people use and so many numbers that it is difficult to come up with something totally original to make use of as a password.

More often than not, people will use the same password for all their accounts without even knowing that some other person in some other state or country is also using the same password because they thought it was unique.

Moreover, hackers use cracking devices specifically for the purpose of figuring out people’s passwords. These devices will run a list of all possible letter and number combinations and then all the hacker has to do is to try out each one until he gets the right one.

It seems like a tedious job, but cracking devices are actually very sophisticated software that can eliminate all the other odds in order to get the hacker closer to figuring out the right password. They have resources and a deep understanding of how people think (at least, when it comes to what passwords the average Joe would likely pick up) to make the whole task simple.

Now, couple that with all the wonderful technology at their disposal, and you are practically at their mercy, unless you take steps in avoiding the following weak passwords:

* Words in the dictionary, including any dictionary in any language or technical application (e.g. engineering dictionary)

* Your username or your real name

* Your spouse’s name or the name of any person you know, including family members

(This is because password crackers can easily get a list of 10,000 names or more and then run them through your system to see if one works)

* Words found in the “cracking dictionary”

(Yes, password crackers do keep a list of words that a lot of people use. This includes abbreviations; cartoons; character patterns; asteroids; famous names; Bible; movies; god, myths and legends; Password (the word itself); female names; male names; machine names; science fiction; songs; sports; number patterns; surnames; places; short phrases; Shakespeare; etc.

* Any common words with a single character before or after it (e.g. 1happy, Paris8)

* Any common words, capitalized (e.g., Soccer)

* Any common words, reversed (e.g., soccer à reccos), doubled (e.g., soccer à soccersoccer), or mirrored (e.g., soccer à soccerreccos)

* There was a time when it was a good idea to take a word and substitute some of the characters.

For instance, instead of using the word “password,” you can make it into this alphanumeric combination: P@$$w0rd. This is actually a good password, as far as the rules of creating good passwords are concerned. However, there are actually some cracking devices today that are designed to crack even those kinds of passwords, so you probably should not take this route anymore.

Now that you know what passwords to avoid, time for you to learn what makes a good password.

Creating a Strong Password

One of the first things to remember when creating strong passwords is the balance between coming up with a password that is complex enough to give crackers a hard time, yet easy enough for the user to recall. This shouldn’t be too difficult if you take note of the following tips:

The Six-Character Rule

A strong password should be one that is composed of six characters or more. This will make it difficult for a hacker to crack with a brute-force attack.

You can use as many characters as you like so long as you meet the minimum of six characters. However, note that there are some systems that establish a maximum number of characters.

Upper and Lower Case Combination

This was mentioned earlier. Passwords are made case-sensitive for a reason, and that is reason is to increase the security level of gaining access to your account. But in addition to upper and lower case combinations, strong passwords should also incorporate punctuation marks and numbers.

Now, one common mistake people make when it comes to passwords like this is they write it down to help them remember.

While these passwords are admittedly hard to recall, DO NOT make the mistake of writing them down anywhere or keeping a record of them anywhere in your system.

The License Plate Rule

This rule is simple. Just take a word or a phrase and then squeeze it into six or eight characters the way you would with a vanity license plate.

Small Words and Punctuation Marks

The good thing about passwords like these is that they are easy to come up with and easy to remember. Let’s take the word “coffee” for instance. Take that word and insert punctuation marks in there somewhere to mess up the crackers – i.e. “co%ff*ee”

Use Control Characters

This can be a good choice. However, note that there are some that bear special meanings. For instance, characters like ^U, ^H, or ^D might prevent you from logging in again.

Use Uncommon Phrase

Remember this rule: short phrases are a no-no. But uncommon phrases tweaked just so are okay. More than okay, in fact.

For example, let’s take a Latin legal phrase: “Dura lex sed lex”, which means “the law may be hard but it is the law.”

Now, take the last letters of each word to get this combination: “axdx.”

Finally, throw in a capital letter, punctuation marks, and numbers and you can come up with a hard-to-crack password like this: “Ax%d3x*”

Misspelling Rule

Deliberately misspelling words is highly encouraged. This will make your password harder to crack.

Random Gambit

And last but not least, try to come up with a password that is totally random to anyone else but not to you.

We can’t tell you how to come up with these because then if we ourselves can figure it out, then it’s probably not that random. So only you can really come up with random passwords that are difficult to crack. Just think hard and…USE YOUR IMAGINATION.

And once you have come up with a good, strong password using the above-given tips, the next important step is to continuously update your password. Six months is the maximum length of time you should keep using a password. Experts agree that this is the optimum period with which a password will remain secure and uncompromised. It will also take this long for a typical cracking device to crack your strong password.

If you have difficulties remembering the passwords you have created, consider using the free or upgraded version of RoboForm – the most respected and encrypted password saver available on the market.


Facebook Game Dashboard Settings : How To Control Who Can See What You Play

Here is a quick tip for those of you who do not care to have everyone know what games and applications you use on Facebook. There has been a new section added to the Privacy Settings page under your Account tab.

It looks like:

Facebook Game & Application Dashboard Privacy


If you choose “Custom” from the drop down menu, you will have the option to them choose “Only Me”. Alternatively, you could also select a small group of friends or family – you choose!

Thanks to our reader Barbi for passing on this tip via a comment she left!


The Toss Between PC and Console Gaming

Console gamers claim consoles are more entertaining for the reason that they just have to plug their machine into a socket and begin to play. Thus, they are easier to use. Computer games tend to take longer to set out due to the fact that the game has to be set up into a hard drive and there could even be issues about compatibility which can turn out to be a thwarting. In this arena, console games are by all odds at an advantage. One more point to study is the caliber of graphics and most gamers claim computer games are certainly superior above console games in this arena. By nature, this is so since PC’s will tend to have greater amount of space and capabilities when it comes to graphic presentation, thus, colors are sharper and shapes are much more defined. Compared to consoles, computers again have this edge. Add to this the continuing developments on computer-intended graphic technologies which practically make computer graphics increasingly superior with each upgrade option made available. In all likelihood one thing that makes console games more preferable is the fact that a player can play with a consistent level of performance from the machine as compared to computers whose performance capabilities are dictated by the PC’s specs, such as RAM, CPU, hard drive , drivers and video cards. While all these can potentially pose problems in one’s PC game experience, consoles do not have these issues and are, therefore, favorable in this respect. In terms of availability of games, it’s inarguable that more games can be played on a PC and consoles are by nature lagging behind in this category. Both PC and console gaming will have its own merits and demerits and it will just depend on the individual gaming play as experienced by the gamer for him to form his own assessment of which is actually better.


Close Up on Mafia Wars Level Up Strategy

Leveling up is the major aim for many Mafia Wars gamers. Who doesn’t want to see the Master Boss title in front of their name? Not to mention the rewards built into Mafia Wars for reaching those levels; we all are eager to commit crime in Cuba and Moscow.

How does it really work to level on Mafia Wars? In order to complete a level, you need to earn experience points. As the levels go up, you need more experience to finish the level; you invest your personal energy and stamina stats in fights and on jobs to collect experience points.  Until recently, you could also earn experience via heists. (Does anyone else regret this absence?)

Leveling fast can be accomplished through a focus on jobs or on fighting.  If a Fearless character structures their own top mafia right and gets into the wheelman slot in another player’s crew, job centered leveling is laughably fast. And a Maniac has some advantages for both methods of leveling, since that character’s energy always refills faster.  If you’re a Mogul, you may want to focus on fight centered leveling strategy, since you don’t have any particular energy perk.

If you want to dodge the occasional vengeance freak in Mafia Wars, job leveling is the safest way to go. Grow a massive energy reserve by putting every skill point you earn into energy at first. You need to master every job and each tier all three times. You’ll see that jobs require a varying amount of energy and consumables to work and deliver different volume of experience points, cash, and equipment loot as the tiers get higher. You can work a given job tier depending on what level you have, and the higher tiers will open before you’ve completed mastery of the lower; stay focused and complete mastery if you want to maximize leveling.  Keep track of the experience:energy ratio of Mafia Wars jobs and do the jobs that give you the most experience out for your energy investment in. If this seems excruciating at first, you’ll be happy later when you’ve got energy to burn and you cruise past your friends who got impatient with mastery and ratios. Mastering tiers will give you more skill points to allot, solid money, equipment for your crew, and the sweet mastery bonuses. (And Moscow is so much easier when you’ve got massive energy reservoir.)

Leveling up fast with fighting is a bit different. Allocating your skill points in both stamina and energy is unavoidable if you plan to attack in Mafia Wars. You’ll also want to build a fairly large crew and equip yourself with specials or limited edition loot to have a successful start in the fighting method. It’s child’s play to score big money and pick up some cherry equipment when you stumble across a weak but deep pocket opponent.  Since fights earn you 1-6 points experience, it’s wise to throw in a job just prior to level up to get the experience point boost into the next level. Sure you’ll sprain your finger attacking constantly, but on the bright side you won’t have to hassle with consumables.

The best technique for leveling may be a compromise between the two – leveling quick with a melding of job and fight leveling strategies. Start your level by fighting until your stamina is gone, because fights yield more experience:energy which gives you a big push ahead in experience. And then start working jobs. This leveling combination will keep you from boredom, well-armed, and feeling like a real gangster while still getting you the perks of job and tier mastery. The best of both Mafia Wars level up worlds.


How To Build A FarmVille Horse Stable

FarmVille Horse Stable AnnouncmentHorse stables have finally arrived on FarmVille, and this much anticipated building has been added in a unique fashion!

Everyone automatically receives a stable foundation in their gift box, after clicking on on the Announcement box seen to the left.



Similar to a FarmVille barn raising, you need to have 10 friends click your Horse Stable building link in order to get up the frame.


FarmVille Horse Stable Status Message For Help

FarmVille Horse Stable Status Message For Help


However, you also need 50 pieces of material in order to fully complete the building process.

They are:

  • 10 Horseshoes
  • 10 Wooden Boards
  • 10 Nails
  • 10 Bricks
  • 10 Harnesses

Here is the full process, described by Lexilicious, the Zynga FarmVille Community Manager:

After clicking the ‘OK’ button, you will be taken to your Gift Box where you will receive the Horse Stable Foundation.

You can also purchase the Horse Stable foundation from the decorations section of Market for 5,000 Coins.

Once you’ve placed the Foundation on your farm, you will be prompted with a message letting you know that you can post a feed to ask you friends for help building your stable.

Clicking the “Share” button will give you the option to post a feed to your wall. Up to 10 of your Neighbors can click on this feed to receive 100 Coins.

In order to use your Horse Stable, you’ll need to finish building it. Selecting ‘Look Inside’ from your foundation’s menu will show you what you need to complete your Horse Stable.

When you first place the foundation, you’ll have one Brick already. In order to build a complete stable you’ll need 10 of each item. You can get these items one of two ways:

1. From neighbors via the Free Gifts menu.

Neighbors can send you the components you need to build your Stable. Your Neighbors will be able to send you two of the five types of building components to help you complete your horse stables.

Please note that the two components displayed on the Free Gifts Page are randomized. As such, the components displayed on the Free Gifts Page may be different for each user. These two components are changed weekly.

When neighbors send you a building component, it works exactly like any other free gift. After you accept the gift it will appear in your gift box.

After clicking the “use” button under the gift it will automatically be added to your Horse Stable.

2. Purchasing components from the Market,

You can purchase components required to build your Horse Stable from the Market for 1 Farm Cash per item.

When you reach 25 items, you’ll receive pop-up that will allow you to post a feed to your wall. The first ten neighbors to click this feed will receive a random building component for their own Horse Stable construction.

When you complete your Horse Stable, you will receive a popup asking you if you’d like to share the news with your friends. Clicking the Share button on this popup will give you the option to post a feed to your wall that will give up to five neighbors who click on it a free Grey Horse.

Once the Horse Stable is complete, you’ll receive a Grey Horse of your own.

You’re able to store up to 20 horses in your stable and you may only have one Horse Stable per farm. Right now, you can store the regular brown Horse, the Grey Horse, and a new purchasable Pinto Horse.

Every 24 hours, you’ll be able to collect from the horses stored in your Horse Stable.

Source: Zynga Community Forums


FALSE: Facebook Automation Labs Warning Untrue

We have another ‘pass-it-on’ status message flooding walls over the past 24 hours that needs to be debunked! The “block Automation Labs” rumor is 100% incorrect, despite tens of thousands of people circulating it.

It will read something similar to:


Facebook Automation Labs Hoax


Facebook Automation Labs Hoax Sample #2


As you can see, users are directed to go to the Block section of their Privacy Settings, and enter either ‘Automation Labs’ or ‘Information Lab’ into the name field and block whatever people pop up on the list. This is completely unnecessary…

The Block feature on Facebook searches for anyone, group or page that contains the name you have entered. For example, enter your own last name in that field and see what pops up. All this means is that these people have something in common with you – your last name. The people appearing on the list when you enter ‘Automation Lab’, simply have some sort of association to the search phrase. This does not mean they are spying on you.

Automation Lab is an IT company. They also have created an automation tool for FarmVillle, which is why many of you are seeing so many people pop up on this Block list. If anyone is advertising the FarmVille Manager, developed by Automation Labs, they will appear on this list. Also, anyone who works for Automation Lab will also automatically appear on the list.

Alternatively, anyone listing an employer with the word ‘automation’ in the name, will appear on this list.

In addition to the ‘Automation Lab’ block, we are seeing people tell others to block people containing ‘Information lab’. The same details apply as above.

I did a test, entering ‘information lab’ in the name field, and out of the first 5 people that appeared on my list, I could view 3 profiles, and this is what I found:

  • One worked for Oxford Information Labs
  • One worked for the US Department of Defense under the Defense Systems Information Agency
  • One worked for the US Air Force Research Lab

As you can see, if you were to blindly follow the instructions detailed above, you could in fact be blocking many of the friends and family you have not yet connected with. These people would never be able to ever contact you via Facebook.

Privacy concerns on high, and this is why rumors and hoaxes such as these spread so quickly. However, a little digging into exactly what it is you are being told to do, should be your primary concern. One day, a change you make, could actually put your account in the hands of someone with ulterior motives…