Monthly Archives: August 2012

Access Restricted: Censorship worldwide

As a species we are connected. Our access to information is expanding exponentially. Many authorities and governments around the world have fears about what this access could mean for the people in their countries. These concerns lead them to censor the degree of communication that individuals have or cut them off altogether if they feel the threat is too great.

This issue is at the forefront of many world leader’s mind and many governments have different methods and levels of constraint for the Internet, mobile devices, and other varieties of communication via technology. Listed below are some examples of differing severity levels of censorship in various countries.

The United States – The US censors technology very little. In the US it is illegal to use cell phone jammers for private use. However, federal officials can use them in some instances. Recently, transit officials in San Francisco turned off power to cellular towers blocking all cell phone usage on the BART in order to prevent protesters from organizing on stations and platforms to convene upon.   This censorship incited a public outrage and government investigation as to the legality of the shutdown.

China – It is common practice for Chinese officials to monitor chat rooms, private screen, and black list websites. Their censorship of the Internet is known as the “Great Firewall of China”. Go to this link to find out if your site is blocked in China.

North Korea – The government of North Korea has total control over all computers with Internet access. Only three websites can be accessed in North Korea and they only contain academic information. There are some chat rooms allowed, however they are heavily monitored by the government. The high level of censorship has produced a huge cell phone black market in North Korea.

As you can see, different governments approach the idea of technology censorship very differently throughout the world. And the socio-political reasons behind the amount of restrictions vary equally as much. Listed below are some common arguments for and against censorship:

Reasons why censorship is necessary

  • Censorship can protect the safety of the public
  • Censorship can prevent youths from being exposed to inappropriate content
  • Censorship can protect social unity and national glory
  • Censorship can prevent disturbing the social order
  • Censorship can protect national security

Reasons why censorship can be dangerous

  • Censorship violates the natural right of self-expression
  • Censorship can prevent people who have an emergency from getting help
  • Censorship can lead to ignorance of the world and other cultures
  • Extreme censorship can lead to social upheaval
  • Extreme censorship can lead to an oppressed and uneducated society

A professor at the University of Kansas, Barney Warf, published a definitive study of the geography of Internet censorship in an issue of GeoJournal. He believes that the more globalized a country becomes, the harder it is to regulate types and levels of information the public can access. Whether or not technological censorship is right or wrong is situational and up to individual opinion. As the world becomes more connected it will become harder for nations to control the flow of data and we will see this issue continue to arise worldwide.

You can read this article to learn more about Professor Barney Warf and his study.

Internet Anonymity: The pros and cons

You may have noticed some issues with selecting pseudonyms if you were an early user of Google .  Social media sites have, traditionally, allowed users to create accounts with artificial names. Google’s decision to remove anonymity has had made some users upset. One of the great things about the Internet is that it allows anyone the ability to be anonyamous. However, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of free anonymity in an age where more and more social interactions are taking place online.

Pros

    Most account-based websites don’t require users to provide their real name or even make use of effective methods of verifying identity. This practice makes it quite simple to assume multiple personalities on the web. There is a layer of safety in this for many users who might be endangered if they were to reveal their full identity. Considar those who have been victims of stalking or spousal abuse. The ability to act anonymously on the Internet allows users to lower their accessibility and therefore decrease their vulnerability. There are instances in which anonymity on the Internet is a necessity.

Cons

    Most Internet based problems begin with the abuse of anonymity. Spam, social media spam and profile hacks start with the generation of a fake Internet identity. While there are ways of tracking down the true identity of users with methods such as IP tracing, most users don’t have the time or resources to do such extensive background checks. Internet bullying, stalking and thievery are all products of free anonymity.

    Is Google on the right track with disavowing Internet anonymity? The truth is, the moral value of using pseudonyms is based on personal responsibility. When deciding your stance on the issue, first consider how you use it.

Tech That Remains the Foundation of Computer Science

We see new technologies come into our lives everyday. It appears as though the moment we purchase a new computer, an even better, more highly effective version comes out. It is difficult to stay ahead of the technology curve. You may not know that there are a few technologies that have with stood the test of time.

What features does a technology need to accomplish this? Adaptability is at the top of the list, as well as flexibility and configurability. Here are a few which have stuck around for more then a few decades.

Virtual Memory – 1962 – This enables systems to use hardware memory more efficiently by recycling space used for memory. This concept led to time-sharing or the ability for systems to multi-task.

MOS Chip – 1967 – Metal-oxide semiconductor. This technology is used today to make computer chips and is known as CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor). The technology has changed a bit with time so adaptability is one trait which has kept it alive.

C programming language – 1969 – Designed by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs, C is the most popular and widely used programming language in the world. When you get something right why change it?

It is rather incredible that technologies invented over 50 years ago still make up the foundation of those we use today. While our machines get thinner, faster, sleeker, and more user friendly, the core technology that makes it all possible is strong enough to withstand the demands of the machines we dare to dream up.

You can find more technologies which have withstood the test of time here: http://www.osnews.com/thread?484715

Steps to take after being hacked

We are all familiar with finding annoying spam messages in our e-mail inbox, labeled by subject lines offering cheap Rolex watches or urgent cries for help from friends mysteriously trapped in Europe. But what do you do when the tables are turned and it’s your friends who are receiving spam messages from your personal e-mail account? When this happens, it means your e-mail has been hacked. If you ever find yourself the target of a spamming crime, remember to follow these 3 steps in order to regain control.

Notify Webmail Provider

    The first step you should take is notifying your webmail provider. Make sure to contact them through their helpdesk or contact service and notify them of your hacked account. Reporting any hacking problems will allow the webmail provider to rectify the situation and then strengthen their security to ensure that this situation will not be repeated.

Change Password

    Perhaps the most important step to take after discovering your e-mail has been hacked is changing your password. This will ensure that whomever has compromised your account won’t be able to do so again. It’s also a great time to create a more complex password, one that won’t be easily guessed by a traditional hacker. It’s not surprising that randomized password guessing compromises most emails. After all, the most common password is “password.”

Notify your contact list

    Let everyone on your contact list know that any emails received from your account over the past several days may have been spam. Doing this will help ensure that no scams are successful and no viruses are transmitted. Sending out an email to all your contacts is the responsible thing to do in this situation. Make sure to communicate the message clearly in the subject line, as some members of your comment list have already opened a spam message and are currently avoiding your e-mails.

    No one likes having his or her personal information compromised. It’s important to remember that, if your email has been hacked, your online banking and other Internet managed services may also be compromised. If you’d like more information on what you should with a hacked email, please take a look at this article.

Motivate Your Team via Proactive Goal Setting

Having life goals keeps us motivated. The issues we overcome make us stronger and as we reach each goal we should set new goals. Every step moves us towards the lives we want. We apply this to our very own lives but do we apply it to our professional lives?

We spend approximately 30% of our lives at work. For many people a significant amount of this time is unfulfilling. Redundancy in our jobs can cause us to feel like we have no control over how we spend our day. We repeat the same duties day after day i.e. monitor our inbox, file paperwork, return phone calls, and wait to get off work. This leads to an uninspiring work ecosystem and employees who feel detached from the business and constantly watch the clock. Setting goals can keep things new and help combat the rut that people are stuck in at work.

  1. Set or Assess Goals Every 3-6 Months – These types of meetings will allow the team or individual to analyze the goals, set specific times for their completion, and help them stay focused.
  2. Write Down Your Goals – Physical documentation of your goals will help the group keep the focused on those goals. .
  3. Aim High – Setting goals outside the comfort zone can make people challenge themselves and learn new skills. However, don’t set them so high that it is unachievable for you or your team.
  4. Find a System to Measure Performance – Set a timeframe for the steps to be completed or skills that need to be learned for the goal to be achieved.
  5. Celebrate Each Achievement –Acknowledging achievements boosts pride and motivation to tackle the next step. This is important if you work independently as well as in a team environment.  Remember to always reward yourself.
  6. Schedule the Next Goal Setting Meeting – Keep goals fresh, new, and on the top of everyone’s agendas by thinking ahead and scheduling the next meeting.

Setting and reaching goals gives us pride in our work and makes us feel that we are important and contribute to the larger picture.

Characteristics of Good Apps

An app is simply as valuable as it’s function. There are specific things that can determine the value of the function, whether or not the app is useful, whether or not the app works accurately or even whether or not the app is fun. Take ‘Angry Birds,’ for example. This app has value because of the universal level of entertainment it offers. But a good idea doesn’t necessarily translate to a good app. So what key features do all good apps have in common? Here are three common features found in highly functional and valuable apps.

Stability and Reliability 

    A good app should go through rigorous testing prior to a launch date.  The developer should be confident that the app will still have value under a wide range of different conditions including disabled WIFI, impaired cellular data and smartphones set to airplane mode. Even if the base function of the app is creative and useful, if it doesn’t work under a variety of conditions then the app loses much of its value. A great way to determine value in an app is to research the amount of testing that went into development.

Consumer Consideration

    Any app well worth it’s price is going to provide worthy functionality. However, the developer needs to consider the consumer in the design of the app and understand that no one wants a surprise overage charge on his or her monthly bill. A good app shouldn’t consume too much data as many cellphone plans consist of monthly data caps. Before downloading an app, make sure and research the amount of data it costs to use the app.

A Well Made API

    API stands for application programming interface. Basically, it’s the way in which applications talk with one another. For example, if you have an app that makes posts to Facebook, that app does so by communicating with Facebook’s API.  This is a very important part of app development because most apps, in one way or another, communicate with other apps. Nothing is more disheartening than realizing your Twitter app has made duplicate posts. A good app will have a well-constructed API to insure that the right information is being communicated.

    While an app’s worth can be of objective determination, there will always be several key elements to look for when searching for that perfect new download. For more tips on finding great apps, take a look a this article.

How Far DOS Has Come

Most people recall the black screen with the blinking green cursor waiting patiently for us to input a command in order to launch an application. It was the Disk Operating System that we loving know as DOS. The 30-year anniversary of DOS was a week ago. Honoring this I thought I would reflect on the history and evolution of DOS, arguably the most significant operating system in the history of computers.

In 1981 IBM released the PC and the following options for operating systems (OS).

  • IBM Personal Computer Disk Operating System – cost at the time: $40
  • Digital Research CP/M-86 – cost at the time: $240
  • SofTech USCD p-System w/Pascal – cost at the time: $695

DOS was the only one of the three that was available immediately and was the most inexpensive and for that reason became the most popular and commonly used. For a few years the public willingly used the no frills interface of DOS. Then in 1985 Microsoft released Windows, which back then, was a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that required DOS as an operating system but allowed for easier access to programs. The first versions of Windows weren’t very well liked but as newer and improved upon versions were released, each one still needed DOS, until 1995.

When MS-Windows 95 was released it do not required DOS but could run entirely independent as it had its own built-in OS. However, it did include some portions of the 16-bit DOS code to function. Like a baby bird, Windows had not quite learned to fly without a little bit of help from DOS.

But all things must change and a year later in 1996, Windows-NT was released. It was the first version of Windows that was fully 32-bit with no 16-bit DOS code in it all.  However, DOS did not disappear from our lives.

Many people still use DOS believing its simplicity to be dependable and efficient. They don’t want all the bells and whistles that come with “user friendly” interfaces. For this reason, newer versions of DOS continue to be developed and sold. Many computer manufactures still sell computers with DOS as the main operating system. Today we see FreeDOS, ROM-DOS, DR-DOS, and many more on the market. It seems DOS will live on as long as the die-hard fans still demand the simple elegance of cmd enter.

3 cool tools for summer

It would seem that there are endless technological instruments designed to make our lives easier, especially in the summer time. We are all familiar with air conditioners and ice machines, technological standards that make high summer conditions bearable while we wait for the more pleasant seasons of spring and autumn. What else does technology offer to help us stay cool? Here is a quick look at a few innovative devices designed to help beat the heat.

 

The Bedfan

 

Getting up sweaty is never ideal. However, many of us sleep best while under covers. The Bedfan is aimed to help bridge that gap, making sleeping under a blanket bearable even if the temperature is high. The Bedfan hooks to the end of your bed and a thin vent is inserted just at the foot of your covers gently blowing cool air in between the sheets. This increased ventilation under a heavy coverlet adds a cool breeze to your favorite blanket. To read more about the Bedfan, check out this link.

 

The BEX Runner

 

Keeping your body cool during exercise is important. The BEX Runner, filled with a proprietary gel that claims to stay cool for up to an hour of use, is made to draw heat from different parts of your body. It’s essentially a wearable core-cooling device that conducts and holds heat. For a closer look, check this review.

 

The iPocket Fan

 

Want to stay cool with a hip pocket fan? Well of course there’s an app for that. The iPocket fan is a small pocket fan that is controlled by your iPhone. The fan itself is connected to a charging dock for your iPhone and, when in use, an animated display of a desk fan appears on your screen. You can then make the blades spin faster or slower with a flick of your finger. True, this may not give you the gusty breeze of a full sized fan, but it sure is a cool way to cool off. For a look at what the iPocket Fan actually looks like, check out the website.

 

Keeping cool is easy with the right gadgets. Make sure and beat the heat this summer by moderating your temperature. If you’d like to read up on some more cooling gadgets, take a look at this article.

The Space Shuttle Program: The impact it has had on everyday life

People all over the globe watched as the space shuttle Atlantis took its last trip into space last week. This marked the conclusion of NASA’s space shuttle program however the thousands of technologies which were born from the program will remain with us far into the future. We use technologies from the space program at home, work, and while driving.

 

What comes to mind whenever you consider technologies developed by NASA? Probably rockets, spacesuits, and freeze-dried foods. It will surprise you to learn just how many common uses they have found for technologies originally developed for the space program. NASA releases an annual periodical, called Spinoff, which is devoted to educating the public about the variety of technologies with origins at NASA that have become commercialized worldwide.

 

Here are a couple of common items that may surprise you to know would not exist without NASA’s technology.

 

Athletic Shoes – A process called blow rubber molding was developed to produce space helmets and it is now used in many running footwear. This technique allows manufactures to make hollow soles in order to fill them with a shock absorbing substance. Nike Air is one common shoe that uses this method.

 

DustBusters – Engineers at Black and Decker created a computer program which allows motors to perform well even when using very little power. Thus the cordless power drill and DustBuster was created.

 

Smoke Detectors – These were first created for Skylab, America’s first space station, in 1970. They are now so common that you cannot legally build a house without installing them.

 

The desire to explore space has inspired humans throughout time. The space shuttle program pushed these inspirations into the development of incredible technologies. We’ll miss the space shuttle however the desire to build bigger and better technology for space travel won’t fade. We’ll probably see many more technologies produced by NASA turning up within our homes, hospitals, and lives for years to come.

The Creative Business Card

What do you think of when you imagine a business card? In general, you most likely think of a small stock-paper rectangle that has essential contact information printed on it and, probably, a logo. While this standard method has traditionally been an effective way to exchange business information, it’s not entirely memorable. Thinking outside the box when formatting business cards is a great way to increase your networking efforts. If you’d like to make your business cards more creative, here are a few tips to get you up and running.

 

Add Texture

 

This is probably the easiest way to make your business cards more memorable without getting too crazy. A card with texture engages the sense of touch, which adds another layer of memory to the experience. Sure, it sounds silly, but if the brain can remember what the card felt like, it will likely also remember what the card represents. Check out this great example of a textured business card.

 

Make Them Share-worthy

 

If your card is worth sharing, it will become a practical social experience. Essentially, this means adding some creative element to the card that the receiver will want to share with his or her friends. Take into account this hilarious mustache card, designed to be held in front of the face as an on-the-go disguise. It is exactly the kind of creative design that is sharable. Making a card share-worthy will have a multiplying effect on your networking efforts. Here is a great example.

 

Make Them Digital

 

Going green is a great technique when making your business cards. Instead of printing out hundreds of little cards that will eventually end up in the garbage, consider making your business cards digital. The ideal way to do this is by utilizing QR codes, a rising trend among smartphone users. Not only will a digital card reduce printing costs, using a QR code will create a level of interactivity between you and your audience (an important facet of generating brand loyalty). Here are some tips on using QR codes.