Showing posts from October, 2013

Rolling the Dice With Windows XP, Chrome and Firefox

Windows XP is losing official support from Microsoft in April of 2014, meaning that it will in a real sense be a "dead" operating system; no more security updates will puts users at risk for security exploits and the like. Interestingly, both Google and Mozilla have indicated they will support XP with their Chrome and Firefox browsers after Microsoft drops their official support for the OS. In one sense that's good, in that you can be sure that your browser is as safe as it can be for some length of time after the fact (assuming you use one of those two as you primary web browser). In another though, might it lull people into a false sense of security - while a browser is the major way most people interact with the Internet (and all it's perils), if the underlying OS becomes less and less secure through lack of updates, then it seems like that could be a problem for a lot of folk.

Linux - When A Distro Dies

As a pretty regular Linux user (I am using it on my laptop as I write this, and used to support Linux based equipment), I like to try out different distros from time to time; my current preference in Zorin OS 7. Something that is not often talked about is the fact that many Linux distros - the smaller or "speciality" ones in particular - are often run by a single person, or maybe a couple of people. This fits with the concept of Linux being a sort of "hobby" product, notwithstanding the presence of big players like Red Hat and Ubuntu. 

Penalties For Texting And Driving

Usually, "...and driving" is a recipe for something bad to happen - "drinking and driving" and "texting and driving" are the two that probably come to mind first, but you could dream up some more on your own I'm sure ("knitting and driving"?). It can be a serious matter though, with around 3,000 related deaths in 2011, and texting and driving across the various US states can have some stiff penalties. Mother Jones came up with a map that shows the current state of things. A word to the wise; don't even think about texting and driving in Alaska, as it's a $10,000 fine and a YEAR in prison for a first offense.

A Graphical Look At Web Tracking

Advertising drives the web, and the ability to "track" or follow you from site to site is considered to be important to advertisers so that can target advertising to you. If you are looking a automobile web sites, they may start throwing car-related ads at you, as an example. If you want to get an idea of the complex relationships going on anytime you visit a web site, there is an extension called LightBeam, available for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

Hyundai, Kia, Look To Android

Korean auto makers Hyundia and Kia are bringing Android-powered entertainment and navigation systems to select new models due out in a few months. Many auto makers currently tout the ability to use your iPhone or iPod in your car, so it's interesting to see the "other mobile OS" get a day in the sun. While I groan sometimes at the touch-centric screens of some auto entertainment centers, we may see some more (and better) implementations of voice control...maybe.

Star Trek Continues - The Sixties Are Calling!

A new fan-made project takes a stab at continuing the original voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise - who, if you fellow boomers may recall, only actually made it through 3 years of their "5 year mission" when the show first aired on NBC in the 1960s. The new effort is called Star Trek Continues and the first episode is "Pilgrim Of Eternity" and is available to watch online. They decided to do a straight homage to the original series ("TOS" as fans refer to it), and all the characters are there: Kirk, Spock, McCoy etc. Scotty is played by Chris Doohan, son of James Doohan, the original actor (a nice touch), and Sulu may be familiar to Mythbusters fans...
The show looks and sounds almost exactly like the 60's show, cheese and all, which is the point. It's not a copy per se, but more of a loving recreation of lighting, camera angles, special effects, sets, dialog and costumes. They even managed to bring back a character from the original series in t…

Roll Up, Roll Up, Get Your Personal Data Right Here!

One usually thinks of identity thieves working around the edges of things, in dark and nebulous areas where they steal and use or re-sell our personal information. Turning that impression on it's ear, an extended investigation by security expert Brian Krebs has turned up evidence that a lot of information was purchased from Experian - yes, THAT Experian; one of the "big three" credit bureaus... An identity theft service that sold Social Security and drivers license numbers — as well as bank account and credit card data on millions of Americans — purchased much of its data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, according to a lengthy investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.KrebsOnSecurity 

Halloween Must Be Coming...

...because we are seeing a bunch of "creepy" stories making the rounds, and this one caught my eye in particular. I'm not giving a link to the site (you can search for it easily enough if you want, there is an article on CNET about it), because this is the kind of thing that might drive some people to worry themselves sick - plus it sounds like a scam to me. The site basically answers the question few of us probably ask, but may be important to you - has anyone died in my home? The site allows you to put in your address, pay $12, and find out if anyone has died there - with a lot of disclaimer, according to the CNET story. Now, it could be someones beloved grandma slipped off peacefully after a long and happy life, or it might be something else - or it might be bunch of crap.  
'Tis the season to talk about ghosties...

Yahoo! Screws! Up! Email!

Apologies to the Register for borrowing their Yahoo! headline gag, but there is a bit of unrest among Yahoo! Mail users over the latest overhaul of the long-lived webmail service. A Yahoo spokesman said it's typical with any significant product change to see a mixed reaction from users, "particularly in the beginning and with products that have a large user base."

Mail users have expressed their displeasure on a Yahoo forum for Mail users. "The new version is just horrible," grumbled one. "I've been using Yahoo Mail for many years, and I've never seen anything like this mess."

"What a fiasco," said another.

Read the full article "What do people hate most about the new Yahoo! email?" at

One Day, Two New Operating Systems

We computer types have an embarrassment of riches today; the release of new versions of two upgraded operating systems, in Windows 8.1andUbuntu Linux 13.10. Scoffers may take umbrage at my mentioning Windows and a Linux distribution as if they on an equal footing - but in many ways they are (if not in market share); both may not deliver all that was expected or hoped for, at least this time around. Windows 8.1 adds some polish and tweaks some features of Windows 8, but it may be cold comfort to those who already felt alienated by Microsoft's attempt to bring a touch interface to Windows. Ubuntu already made a move towards a touch future with their Unity interface in previous releases, and this time around they were supposed to introduce a new display server, XMir, but that has been pushed back to Ubuntu 14 - so another case of tweaks and polish. Both better, both tweaked, but maybe not quite there yet...

Siri In iOS 7 - That's A Man, Baby!

Apple's Siri digital assistant has a female voice in the US - Siri has always been "she" here. In other countries, sometimes Siri was introduced with a male voice instead (hence the gender-neutral name "Siri"). In the UK, for example, Siri has a male voice - an English-sounding male voice. In iOS 7, Siri has been upgraded; apart from allowing more interaction with apps and so on, you can now also easily pick a male or female voice for Siri, to suit your preference. The updated female voice in particular seems to sound more "human" - less robotic - than previously.

The "Selfie" - Narcissim Par Excellence

The selfie (a self portrait, typically taken from your cell phone) is probably narcissism personified. It's harmless enough, certainly - you take a few selfies, put them on Instagram, Facebook, etc. No harm done. But some folk seem to take these things SO seriously. I just saw how Rihanna, for example, has a dedicated "selfie-taker". Wait, what? Your selfie today isn't your selfie yesterday, so you're obliged to ensure that your newest look is a complement to -- and an advancement on -- your yesterday look.
Those who reside permanently at the top of the world understand this. In a touching acceptance of their own imperfections, they are realizing that they can't trust themselves to capture their best self-image.

So, if we are to believe The Daily Mail, they are designating specific individuals to be their selfie-expressionists.

The Mail dubs them "Instassistants." This, though, is a touch degrading. These people are artists, under pressure every d…

Default Encryption In Windows 8.1

In a pretty radical departure from previous Windows versions, if your PC hardware meets the trusted platform specifications, and a clean installation of Windows 8.1 is performed (and you login with your Microsoft account, or a domain account), your hard drive will be encrypted by default. If you have an older Windows computer that you’ve upgraded to Windows 8.1, it may not support Device Encryption. If you log in with a local user account, Device Encryption won’t be enabled. If you upgrade your Windows 8 device to Windows 8.1, you’ll need to enable device encryption as it’s off by default when upgrading. More details at HowToGeek

The Problem With Desktop Linux

Linux, taken as a whole, may be one of the biggest secret computing success stories in recent years; think of all the Linux-powered web servers, the supercomputers, Android devices and so on. When it comes to Linux on the pc or laptop - not so much. There are at least three major reasons I can think of that come to bear.

First, not many "normal" people know (or care) about a non-Apple, non-Microsoft desktop operating system. The average PC user has been so used to the status quo, it's hard to make any kind of inroads into these established conventions with another OS. Never mind one that has such a different approach to things. There is one current version of Apple OSX, one current version of Microsoft Windows, but there are multiple Linux distros available at any one time.

Audiobooks Are The Bomb

Once again, I am late to the party - which seems to be my modus operandi in so many areas of my life; this time, I have just discovered the joy of Audiobooks. My wife always teases me because she is a voracious reader and I am not. There was a time in my life when I did read a lot, but probably not for the last 20 years - my internal rationalization is that I don't have time. Audiobooks take that excuse away, as I have a 30-plus minute commute to and from work each day and I have the ability to play audiobooks from my USB stick in my car. 

Geek/Nerd Face Off

It's the (computer) age-old question - Geeks or Nerds? How about a rap battle to decide?!

Take Lowly MS Paint, Add A Partially Sighted 98-Year Old And...

Image get art. Not what you might expect from such an unlikely combination; if nothing else, it says something about the human spirit that when life hands you lemons, you start doing something creative! Hal Lasko may be 98 years old, but while many of his peers devote their leisure time to shuffleboard and bridge, he has a very different passion: creating huge works of art pixel by pixel in Microsoft Paint.

While most people have long since abandoned MS Paint as an outdated graphics application, Lasko has spent the last 13 years using the program to digitally create works of art, spending up to 10 hours a day on his work. Originally a traditional painter, he switched to MS Paint in 2005 when his vision was impaired by wet macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes blindness in the center of his vision. He has since created more than 150 digital works, though his blindness means he will never be able to view them in their totality.Wired (with cool video)

Android: To Root, Or Not To Root?

Rooting Android devices is something of a cottage industry; rooting can allow access to some otherwise "hidden" features in the Android OS on a particular piece of hardware. Some Android devices come with customized versions of the OS (some may be heavily modified) and rooting can bring the user back to a more "pure" or "stock" Android installation. Whatever the attractions, there are downsides too - the most pernicious one being the possibility of "bricking" the device, effectively rendering it useless and irreparable. BetaNews has 4 other reasons you may want to hold off on attempting to root your device (unless you got it used or cheap, and just want to experience the process for yourself or course).

The "e" In eBooks Is A Problem For Libraries

Wired - The real problem with ebooks is that they’re more “e” than book, so an entirely different set of rules govern what someone — from an individual to a library — can and can’t do with them compared to physical books, especially when it comes to pricing.
The collusion of large ebook distributors in pricing has been a public issue for a while, but we need to talk more about how they are priced differently to consumers and to libraries. That’s how ebooks contribute to the ever-growing divide between the literary haves and have-nots.
Read the article "The Abomination of eBooks" at