Showing posts from January, 2014

The Elder Scrolls Online Features Some Big Names

Game maker Bethesda has announced the casting for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) The Elder Scrolls Online, and there are a lot of well-know names featured as voice actors - like John Cleese, Michael Gambon, Malcom McDowell, and "Underworld" stars Kate Beckinsale and Bill Nighy. Not too shabby, eh? So gamers, prepare for massive time-wasting potential in 2014...

No More LogMeIn Free - Now What?

LogMeIn Free was a nice solution for remotely accessing and controlling another computer, but they have decided to drop the free option and are going paid subscription only. I have used LogMeIn Free for several years for our home PC, and it has proved very useful for various things; it ran as a Windows service, and was very easy to set up and use. I don't mind paying for a service like this, but as I don't use it a lot it's hard to justify. So, what are the alternatives? For individual, one-time connections - to assist a family member or friend, for instance - I usually use (also by LogMeIn) which is still free, easy to use and more than satisfactory. Bear in mind, you need someone "at the other end" (the remote PC) to initially use, whereas something like LogMeIn Free was always ready to go. Lifehacker has some ideas and Gizmo's Freeware site has some other suggestions too, and as usual the comments following the articles have some good insig…

The Ups And Downs Of RAM

After reading a few articles about the 30th anniversary of the introduction on the Apple Macintosh computer, I was a little surprised to be reminded that the original Mac only had 128KB of RAM. That's 128KB, not 128MB (most PCs now have at least 4GB, by comparison). The original crop of personal computers were 8-bit systems - so they could not really use a whole lot of RAM anyway. Applications were small too, as were disk space requirements. Over time, we got 16-, 32- and 64-bit systems, each able to access (and to require) more RAM. Programs got more complex, and grew to gobble up whatever extra RAM and CPU performance was available.

However, when smartphones and tablets became so insanely popular, they brought with them the low power requirements of mobile devices. The amount of RAM in these types of devices might only be 256MB or 512MB in the first round of devices, and currently perhaps 2GB in the more upscale tablet models. The Apps shrunk down too, as did the the available l…

Open Source App Bonanza!

What applications do you use every day? Your operating system and browser are almost definitely on the list. Maybe it also includes office productivity software, a music or video player, photo editor or certain games. Maybe you need accounting, security, POS and server software for your small business. Or maybe you have a larger business that needs ERP, CRM, ecommerce and content management tools.
These open source options generally cost less than their proprietary alternatives, and many of them have features and capabilities that you won't find in their commercial counterparts. Open source software also gives users more flexibility, because they can alter it or extend it to meet their own needs.
Read the rest of "100 Open Source Apps To Replace Everyday Software" from

Best Antivirus Products For The Newest Windows

Independent test lab AV-Test has completed a series of tests for antivirus/anti-malware products on Windows 8 and 8.1.

They compared both business and consumer solutions. For each, they tested with the then-current version last November and December to increase confidence in the numbers. They compared the business solutions to Microsoft System Center Endpoint Protection and the consumer solutions to Microsoft Windows Defender.

For each, AV-Test generated scores for protection, performance and usability. Each score ranges from 0 to 6 and are added to make the Total score.

Protection is defined by how well they blocked known and unknown malware. Products with a score of 6 blocked 100 percent of malware or very close to it. Performance is a measure of the product's impact on the system speed, but AV-Test provides no details on how the numbers were calculated. Usability is a function of the number of false positive detections in various situations; "Usability" is perhaps not t…

Is This Man A Glasshole?

Glasshole is the unfortunate moniker directed at some wearers of the Google Glass device. While Glass is not yet for for sale to the general public, there are quite a lot of people "beta testing" them, in effect - although they paid for the privilege of doing so. A man in Columbus, OH was "taken to the back room" of a local movie theater after wearing his Glass device to a movie. The assumption appears to have been that he was recording the movie, as Glass does allow for video and still photography via the wearable device. That's not the whole story, though: The Glass wearer, who asked not to be named, said he and his wife went to the 7:45 p.m. showing of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at the AMC Theater at Easton Town Center.

Because he had added prescription lenses to the computer-in-eyeglass device a few weeks ago, the 35-year-old man wore it into the theater. About an hour into the show, someone official-looking flashed a badge and told the man to come with him,…

What About All Those Security Cameras, Anyway?

Thousands of surveillance cameras are showing up in cities across the country without a corresponding reduction in crime. Citizens are taking notice of this fact of the federal takeover of local police, and they are speaking out.

On January 8, for example, the Texas Civil Rights Project-Houston issued a statement on its Facebook page criticizing their city’s participation in the construction of the surveillance state.

“As a community, we need to start a serious dialogue about the level of governmental intrusion in our daily lives that government foists upon us without our consent,” declared Amin Alehashem, the group’s regional director. “Government has no need to know with whom we associate, walk on the streets, attend meetings, worship, or go to dinner.”
Read the rest of "More DHS-funded Police Surveillance Cameras; No Drop in Crime" on TheNewAmerica

Internet of Things 101

What if all the devices in your life could connect to the Internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, garage doors, speakers, appliances, you name it. And what if they could all communicate and take your commands? It's not science fiction, it's the "Internet of Things" (IoT), and it's becoming a key tenant to home automation.

Home automation is what it sounds like: automating the ability to control items around the house—from window shades to pet feeders—with a simple push of a button (or a voice command). Some things, like setting up a lamp to turn on and off at your command, are simple and relatively inexpensive, but others, like surveillance cameras, may require a more serious investment of time and money.
Still, imagine monitoring your home using an interface on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, or even panels mounted around the house. It's like going from using the Clapper to beaming up to the Starship Enterprise.

Read the r…

Target, Neiman Marcus - Who Else?

Target Corp and Neiman Marcus are not the only U.S. retailers whose networks were breached over the holiday shopping season last year, according to sources familiar with attacks on other merchants that have yet to be publicly disclosed.

Smaller breaches on at least three other well-known U.S. retailers took place and were conducted using similar techniques as the one on Target, according to the people familiar with the attacks. Those breaches have yet to come to light. Also, similar breaches may have occurred earlier last year.

The sources said that they involved retailers with outlets in malls, but declined to elaborate. They also said that while they suspect the perpetrators may be the same as those who launched the Target attack, they cannot be sure because they are still trying to find the culprits behind all of the security breaches.

Law enforcement sources have said they suspect the ring leaders are from Eastern Europe, which is where most big cyber crime cases have been hatched o…

IBM Hopes To Make Some Money With Watson - And Not A "Jeopardy" Prize

Remember when IBM's Watson supercomputer took on a couple of human competitors on the TV game show "Jeopardy" - and won? That piece of technological theater was just the thing to raise public awareness that IBM had something that might be a bit beyond what we typically think of as a computer, or even of artificial intelligence. IBM has been working away, integrating Watson technology into medicine and other fields, and now feels they can actually start to make money with Watson-based products; so much so, they are sinking $1 billion into the venture. In short, IBM played the Watson effort like a startup inside the company. Many startups take years to make any kind of money—indeed many carry on for a few years in stealth mode until they can get traction enough to make a splash. As Watson got its initial exposure by beating human competitors on the Jeopardy game show, operating in stealth mode was not possible. However, IBM chose that venue.

The company is not without its f…

Why Do You Need My Email Address, Exactly?

It’s hard out there for a paranoid cybersecurity reporter.
I’ve covered enough breaches, identity thefts, cybercrime and worse, to know it’s a terrible idea to hand over my personal data — even something as seemingly innocuous as my birthday or email address — to a store clerk, or a strange login page on the Internet.
But it’s getting hard to resist. I was in the middle of buying a swimsuit recently when the sweet lady behind the boutique counter asked me for my email address. I explained, as I have a hundred times before, that I’m a paranoid security reporter who makes it a general rule of thumb not to hand out information unnecessarily.
“We won’t spam you or anything,” she said, perplexed. “We just need it for our database.”
I knew then that the conversation was headed into a whole lot of awkward, as it had dozens of times before. The fact is, a boutique doesn’t need my email address so I can buy a swimsuit. The hotel I stayed in recently didn’t need my birth date, or my home addre…

A Backdoor Is A Backdoor, For Good Or Ill

Max Eddy, over at PC Mag, has a very interesting article about the experience of Nico Sell, of the company Wickr, talking about how an FBI agent casually approached her to ask if she'd install backdoors in her software allowing the FBI to retrieve information. As the article notes, this is how the FBI (much more so than the NSA) has acted towards many tech companies ever since attempts to mandate such backdoors by law failed (though, they're still trying). Some companies -- stupidly -- agree to this, while many do not. Those that do may think they're helping fight for "good," but the reality is different. They're opening up a huge liability on themselves, should the news of the backdoors ever get out, and at the same time, they're making their own product invariably weaker. As Sell pointed out to the FBI guy, she'd seen hackers piggyback on "lawful intercept" machines and learned: "It was very clear that a backdoor for the good guys is…

Privacy - What Is That Again?

We're no longer just strangers in a crowd. Imagine any street corner in any town where, let's say, four people - Alexandria, Larry, Cory and Cameron - are lost in private thought. Without a single conversation, without even knowing their names, we could learn that Alexandria's angry ex-boyfriend posted her photo on a "revenge porn" website. That Larry is mourning the death of his daughter. That Cory is trying to scrub her image from friends' social networks. That Cameron picked the wrong place to hide from police.
In each case, a simple photograph of the four strangers, combined with the power of data, opens the door to deeply personal details. That's one of the many ways digital technologies are turning our once-personal lives into a global show-and-tell and redefining our expectations of privacy.
Almost every day brings new revelations about how Big Brother snoops on us and Big Data mines our online activities for profit. Even so, we are only beginning…

iBeacon In Aisle Three

Starting Monday, dozens of grocery stores in three major cities across the U.S. saw the rollout of Apple's iBeacon technology, allowing customers to receive location-specific data, such as relevant coupons, while they shop.
The latest unique implementation of iBeacon comes from advertiser InMarket, which began turning on iPhone-compatible sensors at Giant Eagle and Safeway stores in Cleveland, Ohio, Seattle, Wash., and San Francisco, Calif. InMarket specializes in location-based advertisements, and using Apple's iBeacon platform the company will be able to target ads for frequent grocery store shoppers.
The implementation by InMarket requires that customers have the advertiser's loyalty app for iPhone, called Checkpoints. When the app is installed a a user is within range of an iBeacon transmitter, marketing efforts, presumably with coupons and discounts, can be pushed to their smartphone.
Read the rest of "US grocery chains rolling Apple's iBeacon tech out to do…

SSDs With "Power Loss Protection" Are Mostly NOT Protected

SSD (Solid State Disk) devices are becoming very popular and are slowly replacing traditional hard disk drives, particularly in notebook devices. While the SSDs are fast, lightweight and quiet, they are still relatively expensive, although prices continue to fall. It has also come to light that such drives do not do well when the power is interrupted - it's not so much file system corruption (as may happen to a traditional hard drive under such conditions), but rather serious or fatal physical damage to the device itself - even in high-end "enterprise" devices.