Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Constant connectivity is changing how we get content

Connected devices are generally thought of as tablets, smartphones and laptops. These devices offer a quick and trustworthy connection to the Internet and other such connected devices. However, even more gadgets fit into the connected cannon, like HDTVs, gaming consoles and even most Blu-ray players.

    Access to the Internet is, relatively speaking, easy and the information found online is easier to access. Traditionally, information was gathered through research and manual searching that required a large amount of dedicated time in order to find enough useful information. With an increase in connectivity, all we have to do is type a search query into Google utilizing a smartphone. How has the way we consume content changed now that from almost any location, we can access an almost endless library of knowledge?

Faster Access of Information

    Locating specific details can be done almost instantaneously with the help of the right device. Content was once delivered in hardbound books, but now it’s offered on websites, wikis, blogs and email. Because so many devices can access the Internet, finding the information you need is no longer a matter of locale. This makes the researching process much faster and allows for content to be consumed more quickly.

Faster Generation of Information

    Content generation is simply a matter of supply and demand. Because content is so much easier to consume with connected gadgets, there is an ever growing need for more content. The answer to this, of course, is faster content generation. As most connected devices can also be used to upload new content, online content and information is being generated and published faster than ever.

High Rate of Communication

    The time and effort needed to communicate has decreased due to the speed and connectedness of modern devices. Because of this, information can now be communicated from user to user at a much higher rate.  For example, a YouTube video with interesting content can go viral in a matter of minutes. Users can share the video through Facebook, Twitter, Google, email, HTML embedding, Internet enabled TVs, and even texting!

    How have connected devices changed the way we consume content? Speed, speed and speed. The rate at which content is generated, consumed and then disregarded is almost staggering. Information is easier to access than ever before, and at impressively high speeds. What we decided to do with that information is entirely up to us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Access Restricted: Censorship worldwide

As a species we are connected. Our access to information is growing exponentially. Many authorities and governments worldwide 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 entirely if they feel the threat is too great.

This dilemma is at the forefront of many world leader’s mind and many governments have different approaches and levels of constraint for the Internet, cellular phones, and other varieties of communication via technology. Here 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 shut down power to cellular towers preventing 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 regarding 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 referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”. Go to this link to find out if your website is blocked in China.

North Korea – The government of North Korea has total control of 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, but they are heavily supervised by the government. The high level of censorship has created 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 just as much. Here 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 control types and amounts 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 information 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.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anonymity on the Web



You may have noticed some issues with choosing pseudonyms if you were an early user of Google .  Social media sites have, traditionally, allowed users to create accounts with phony 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 anonymous. However, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of cost-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 utilize 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. Consider 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 susceptibility. There are instances in which anonymity on the Internet is a necessity.

 

Cons

 

Most Internet based difficulties begin with the abuse of anonymity. Spam, social media spam and profile hacks start with the creation 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 reality 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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tips for recovery from an email hack

Every email account is vulnerable to the nefarious plots of hackers. Though there are several steps you can take to protect and secure your private information, there will always be a chance that your personal email account could one day be compromised. So, what do you do after your email has been hacked? The important thing to remember in this situation is that there are proactive steps you can take to regain control of your digital life. Here are 3 things to consider.

Notify Webmail Provider

    It’s important to let your webmail provider know that your account has been compromised. Informing them of your situation will help them to identify the problem and fortify their security to make future hacking attempts even more difficult for the hackers. While most webmail providers are not liable for successful hacking attempts, they definitely want to do all they can to prevent them.

Change Password

    This may be the most important thing to do after your account has been hacked. You’ve heard the term “the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.” Well, the same can be said for hackers. Once you’ve determined that your email has been hacked, make sure and change your password to one that is both complex and totally different. If your house were broken into, you’d change the locks. The same measure of safety should be considered for your online identity.

Notify your contact list

    Make sure to send a message to everyone on your email contact list informing them of the recent hack. It is likely that they will have received SPAM messages from your account that could either be virus transferring Trojans or some strange solicitation for money. Make sure and communicate the situation clearly and concisely in the subject of your email, as many on your contact list may already be wary of opening emails from your account.

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 handled services may also be compromised. If you’d like additional information on what you should with a hacked email, please take a look at this article.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Set Goals to Motivate Your Team

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 individual lives but do we apply it to our professional lives?

We spend approximately 30% of our lives at work. For many people a large 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 projects 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 natural environment 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 – Schedule a meeting or set time aside dedicated to setting goals. This timeframe will keep the goals fresh and it will be easier to celebrate achievements.
  2. Write Down Your Goals – Physical documentation of your goals will help the group keep the focused on those goals. .
  3. Aim High – A challenging goal once completed is sure to provide a great sense of accomplishment.
  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 – No matter if you are part of a team or working separately, celebrating accomplishments is motivating and builds pride in the work being done.
  6. Schedule the Next Goal Setting Meeting Ahead of Time – You may lose perspective and drive if you do not refresh your goals. Goals keep us feeling excited and accomplished and that leads to job satisfaction.


Feeling pride in our work and feeling like we contribute is valuable to everyone. Setting and reaching goals reminds us of the important part we play in the larger goal.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Makes a Superior App

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, disabled 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 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 include monthly data caps. Before downloading an app, make sure and research the amount of data it costs to use the app.

A Well Constructed 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 frustrating 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 quite a few key elements to look for when searching for that wonderful new download. For more tips on finding great apps, take a look a this article.

Friday, August 5, 2011

DOS: The Never Ending Story

Remember DOS, with its black screen and blinking cursor eagerly waiting for your command. The Disk Operation System (DOS) celebrated its 30th anniversary a week ago. DOS has arguably been the most significant OS of all time and in honor of it turning thirty, I would like to reflect on where it has come from and where it is going.

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


For the price tag, DOS was the cost-effective choice and DOS was also the only one immediately available.  DOS dominated the market by a landslide and DOS became the operating system of choice for individuals who were lucky enough to have a PC.  DOS enjoyed its status until the release of Windows in 1985, a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that required DOS as a platform to run it on. Newer versions of Windows continued to be released and they needed DOS less and less.

Eventually, a version of Windows was developed which could run independently from DOS as it contained its own standalone OS, this was MS-Windows 95. It did, however, contain a tiny bit of the 16-bit DOS code. I guess Windows still needed a little bit of help from its trusty old friend DOS.

But all things must come to an end and in 1996 a version of Windows was released that did not need DOS. This was Windows-NT and from that point on Windows and DOS would part ways, but it has not left our lives.

There are many die-hard DOS users still out there that prefer its efficient and simplistic nature. They believe that the more “user friendly” interfaces have too many features that can muck up the system. For this reason we are still seeing new versions of DOS being developed, a few of these are FreeDOS, ROM-DOS, and DR-DOS. Some computer manufactures still make computers with DOS as the main OS. We have seen DOS change however I do not believe it's going to go the way of the eight-track provided that people still want the simple functionality of cmd enter.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beat the heat with these 3 instruments

It would seem that there are endless electronic tools 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 made 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 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 intended 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.