Category: Technology

ViaSat Connects You and Me

Space Satellite CG art images EF08_SI0286A highlight of the 21st century has been our increasing ability to connect with the rest of the world through the wonders of technology. As internet speed and usage have increased, we’ve been able to network with people halfway around the globe. However, statistics show that a vast majority of the African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries are suffering from a lack of networkability due to limited internet access. India-based company Saankhya Labs has produced the Pruthvi Chip, and Google is continuing work on their Project Loon, both of which

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Windows 10 – What’s the Deal?

Microsoft_Windows_logo_(Pre-XP).svgMicrosoft made ripples when it announced that Windows 7 users who migrated to 8.1 would have the chance to upgrade to its latest OS, Windows 10, for free. Microsoft has a reputation for being stingy with its software updates, so this marked the first time in the company’s history that they have tried something more wallet-friendly. In conjunction with the release of the Surface and Surface Book computers, it all seemed like a calculated raid on Apple’s territory. But what about the upgrade offer’s fine print?

Supposedly, the offer will end this coming July, just a year from the date the free upgrade was launched. There is speculation that the deadline was put in place to try to avoid the kind of negative issues that Microsoft suffered when they dropped support for Windows XP. The problem with this kind of deadline is that, in all probability, users who decline a free upgrade for an entire year most likely don’t want the upgrade at all. If Microsoft is trying to transition its customers to a new operating system as efficiently as possible, they’re going to have a hard time convincing people – who didn’t want Windows 10 when it was free – to pay for it in the future. Hopefully, Microsoft has something else in mind with this deadline, because selling upgrades has never been the most lucrative part of their business model anyway.

Microsoft’s plan might include extending the offer, making a new offer once the next upgrade of Windows 10 hits, or taking the risky gambit of completely dropping the free upgrade. Right now, it’s all speculation and anybody’s guess. I hate to resurrect the age-old debate, but the whole situation just begs a comparison to Apple.

Having been a lifelong Windows user, I just recently made the switch to an Apple computer. I could go into a lengthy discourse on why I made that decision, but suffice to say that I have no particular allegiance to either company. I advocate the use of whatever tools help get the job done, whether or not they have a shiny white fruit on the outside. That’s why I keep a virtual Windows machine on my Mac for running Windows-specific applications that I still need. That being said, I have for the most part been happy with my switch to Apple. One thing that longtime Mac users might take for granted – but that I can appreciate as a virtual migrant – is how nice it is to not have to worry about software upgrades.

Frankly, I wouldn’t see any shame in Microsoft copying this feature. Microsoft seems to be trying to do a better job of integrating its hardware and software, and has even begun to produce its own high-end hardware with the aforementioned range of Surface devices. But part of the reason this model works so well for Apple is that they have made software integration seamless across all devices, while Microsoft still has people using old unsupported software that came out years ago.

If Microsoft is trying to hide the fact that they are competing with Apple, they’re not doing a good job of it. That’s not to say that either company’s products are inherently better or worse, but if Microsoft want to avoid the comparison, they’re going to have to figure out a system that works. The free Windows 10 upgrade offer seemed like a good step, but the jury is out until we see what they have in store for this July…. when the offer ends.

A Brave Step for Browsers

Internet1The viability of free content is becoming a hot topic, but in discussions on internet advertising, privacy issues often tend to surface as well. I have written a few articles discussing paywalls and adblockers and the tolls they have taken on the internet in recent years. In answer to privacy concerns, Brendan Eich, known for his work on JavaScript and Mozilla, is working on a new browser called Brave, which replaces targeted ads with anonymous ones.

Brave will be connected to its own private cloud which will host anonymous ads. The browser works by first blocking targeted ads and tracking, then replacing all of the ad spots with anonymous untargeted ads. Revenue for ads will be divided between publishers and users, after Brave takes a cut. The browser’s choice of ads will be based on information pooled from all users instead of targeting each individual.

The problem Eich is trying to address with Brave has to do with choice. In the current system of targeted ads, decisions are made for the users by browsers and websites, and those decisions are guided by the interests of content publishers in pushing as many ads and getting as many click-throughs as possible. Brave’s is an interesting route to take, and one that hasn’t been explored by other browsers yet, at least to my knowledge.

Oculus Rift: Experiencing Reality

heroVideo games have come a long way since the release of the Magnavox Odyssey and the Atari 2600. In the last 40 years, we’ve seen gaming go from Duck Hunter to Skyrim, from Sega Genesis to Xbox One. Like all visual media arts, video gaming aims to create an experience which is both immersive and life-like. Whether you’re throwing touchdowns in the latest edition of Madden or fighting with the Minutemen in the wasteland of Fallout 4, the game becomes a means by which you’re transported into a life unlike your own. On January 6, 2016, Oculus made the announcement that their virtual reality gaming headset Rift was available for pre-order and would begin shipping March 28.

Rift originally began as a Kickstarter project in 2011, shortly after

Stay Tech Safe

Information concept: Opened Padlock on digital background

Text from a friend on July 14, 2015…..

Disastrous hacker situation. The virus got through over the weekend. Killed every single file and photo on my hard drive. All tax files, PowerPoint presentations, everything. Unfortunately, I was not backed up in the cloud.”

 With the continued acceleration of technology, scenarios like this are occurring at an alarming rate. Keeping our computers and mobile devices secure against unwanted intrusions can be a daunting task. It requires vigilance and a bit of savvy to steer clear of attacks that threaten your digital landscape.

If you find yourself ignorant of the threats we face on a daily basis, then the book Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable And What We Can Do About It will get you up to speed in a hurry. Written by global security expert Marc Goodman, the accounts he shares on the proliferation of nefarious digital acts will frighten you into wanting to take proactive security measures to protect your wares. It offers a sobering look at the world of cybercrime and how it is affecting our lives.

By way of example, credit card fraud is one of the most widely feared risks that consumers face. Yet it’s been comical watching the FinTech community  respond to these concerns. I talk about this at length in a blog post that I wrote a few months ago. Sadly, despite advancements in new chip technologies for credit cards, we are all still vulnerable to hacks. And contrary to popular belief, most of these intrusions occur through in-person point-of-sale transactions for one blindingly obvious reason; the damn credit card number is still on the front of a card. Why not embed it into the strip so that when you hand it to a restaurant server, they can’t pull out a pen and write your number down? Kind of defeats the purpose of that new security chip, huh?

Google Eyes: A Window Into Your Health

google eye There are few things more important than our health and the medical advances that maintain us. In the last thirty years, the role of technology in medicine has been at the helm of health care breakthroughs. The tech giant Google unveiled plans in early 2014 to address the question