Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

Important: Don’t Let Your Wireless Provider Spy On You

2012-10-30 2 comments

With the widespread popularity of smartphones, everyone is walking around with a computer in their pocket.  Which is awesome.  What is NOT cool is that due to flaws in the laws regarding what wireless phone provider (WPP) companies are allowed to do, your WPP company is legally allowed to spy on you and collect info on EVERY single thing you do on your phone.  What’s worse is that the companies will automatically opt you in to agree to be tracked and spied on, and it’s your responsibility to first of all realize that you’re being spied on and tracked, and second of all it’s your responsibility to opt out of it.

At this point some you might be saying “Well, I don’t do anything bad or illegal so who cares if they spy on me and track me?”  First of all, you cannot predict everything that will be done with your phone.  Perhaps in the future you’ll use it for something personal, private, or embarrassing.  Or perhaps someone borrows your phone to make a call and also uses it to do something unsavory that you’re not even aware of.  The point is you just can’t predict the future so it’s not a good idea to give them free license to spy on your personal habits.  Second, you may be saying “Even if they have that info, they’re just using it for marketing purposes, it’s not like anything bad will happen with it.”  Wrong.  The companies are allowed to use that info for whatever purpose they want, including selling it to third parties.  Additionally, the law states that if the government asks them for the info for ANY reason, they must turn it over to them.  “But I don’t break the law!” Oh really?  Did you know that the average person breaks the law at least once per day without even realizing it?  Yup, it’s true, check it out: Mr Average breaks the law at least once a day

Now don’t worry, we don’t need to start wearing tin-foil hats and living in the wilderness.  I’m going to show you how to opt out of being tracked in under two minutes, and then you don’t have to worry about it anymore and you can continue to use your smartphone without being tracked.

Each company has a slightly different process, but they all involve logging into the companies website, finding the proper page, and selecting to opt out of being tracked.  I happen to currently have Verizon, so this is what the page looks like for me (I blacked out my phone number for obvious reasons):

People are stupid for wanting sequential downloading of BitTorrent files? Then fix it, Einstein.

2012-05-02 3 comments

This is a very contentious topic and I welcome and encourage discussion, but let’s keep it civil.  The title of this article merely highlights the contentious nature of the topic.

There is a wiki-style page explaining why sequential downloading of BitTorrent files is bad.  If you don’t understand it, go research it until you do, then come back here.

Let me preface by saying that I think BitTorrent (BT) technology is amazing and I have much respect for all those who helped it be created and maintained.  I am not kicking the proverbial gift-horse in the mouth.  I’m thankful for what I’ve got.  I understand the issue of sequential downloading and how it is detrimental to the whole BT concept.  Which is why I understand the heated discussion between people requesting the feature and people explaining why the feature is bad.  I am not rehashing that debate.

What I want to do is try and intelligently think about the issue and discuss it, and to do so requires a paradigm-shift by those in the discussion.  Think about the progression and proliferation of technology.  Think about the concepts of supply and demand.  Nobody disputes that zillions of BT users want sequential downloading (zillion = a lot).  That means there is a huge demand for it.  They might not understand BT technology enough to know why sequential downloading (herein referred do as SD) is bad for BT.  But it’s easy to understand why there is a demand for it.  If we take a broader look at the history of technological progression, almost always we see that when there is a huge demand for something but our technology is unable to supply that demand, there is great incentive to innovate and improve our technology to meet that demand.

And so my call to action is this: people may be stupid for wanting SD for BT.  But the huge demand for it exists for a reason.  Rather than telling people to “not want SD”, instead innovate and create to solve the problem.  It may be that some innovation in BT technology solves the problem.  Or it may be that BT will never be capable of successfully incorporating SD, in which case a new technology is needed.  No doubt this problem will be eventually solved.  But ignoring a demand does not make it go away.  Neither does saying “there shouldn’t BE a demand.”  The demand is there, and it must, and will, be supplied.  You can argue about it until you’re blue in the face, but that’s the simple fact of the matter.  It’s not easy to solve the problem, and I have much respect for the brilliant minds behind the technology.  But pretending or insisting that a problem does not exist is not a solution to that problem.  The problem remains.  And hopefully soon, a solution will follow.

Is Google Plus The New Facebook?

2011-09-14 4 comments

Remember Myspace?  It wasn’t too long ago that people thought Myspace would keep growing and continue to be successful.  Facebook has since taken the position as the top social network with over 500 million active users reported in 2010 and all indications seemed to be pointing to Facebook’s continued growth and success with over 750 million active users a year later.  It’s become a household name and even grandma has a Facebook account.  Meanwhile Myspace use continues to decline and many analysts have written the company off as essentially dead.

So to some people it would seem crazy to predict the doom of Facebook.  But if there’s one company that could dethrone Facebook as king of social networking, it’s Google.

Also a household name, Google’s success was originally built on its search engine, which has become so ubiquitous that the dictionary now recognizes the name as a word, as in “I just googled a great new dinner recipe.”

However the world has seen continued innovation from the search engine giant and they’ve been massively successful with other services such as Gmail, Google Maps, and Picasa (their photo software).

But Google has had their share of failures too.  The most recognized examples are Google Buzz and Google Wave.  If you don’t even know what those two things are, you’re not alone.  Google has recognized their failure and abandoned them.  Yet Google has apparently learned a great deal from their mistakes, because they’ve finally stepped into the social-networking arena with a new service that seems poised to go toe-to-toe with Facebook:  Google Plus.

In case you haven’t heard, Google Plus (sometimes abbreviated as G+) is Google’s most recent attempt to create a social networking service, and from the looks of it, it’s no wonder many are calling Google Plus the “Facebook Killer.”

With Google Plus, Google has taken cues from both Facebook and Twitter.  While Twitter is not a direct competitor with Facebook because it fulfills a different function than Facebook, Twitter is certainly a company worth studying if you’re trying to build a successful social networking service.

So what exactly is Google Plus?  To put it bluntly, it’s like Facebook, but different.  But is it better?  Can it possibly compete with Facebook?  Why should we care?  If we already have a Facebook account, do we need a Google Plus account?

The answer is, yes.  Google Plus is almost certainly here to stay.  And while it may be possible for both Facebook and Google Plus to both be successful, anyone who doesn’t use Google Plus is going to get left in the digital dust.  Why is that?  If one already has a Facebook account, why do we need a Google Plus account?  Because Google Plus does a number of things that Facebook doesn’t, and it does them well.

The most exciting feature of Google Plus so far is the group video chat, which in G+ speak are called “Hangouts.”  As of right now, these group video chats support up to ten people, and as with everything in Google Plus, they’re absolutely free.  In other words, say goodbye to Skype.  While in a G+ Hangout, a small video of each person is displayed on the bottom of the screen, and whoever is talking is displayed in a large main video in the center.  After trying out a group video chat with friends and family, it is instantly apparent that these “Hangouts” will be both fun and useful.  In addition to just having a good time talking with friends or family, the group video chats are also amazingly useful for students who need to collaborate on an assignment or study together.  The business world has already embraced these group video chats for the same reasons giving Google Plus an instant significance for a large number of people.

The next way in which G+ triumphs over Facebook is privacy and sharing.  Many people have complained about Facebook’s privacy and sharing policies.  People end up accidentally sharing things with the wrong people or even making them public so anyone can see.  This includes messages, photos, videos, and anything else you might want to share with people.  Google Plus addresses this problem with a concept called “Circles.” Once you have a G+ account, you can add other people to your Circles.  For example, you might have a circle labeled “Friends,” another “Family,” “Coworkers,” “Acquaintances,” etc.  Any time you say or share something, you can easily decide who gets to see it.  That makes it much easier to prevent you from accidentally making things visible to the wrong people, which as many people know can be very bad.

As of this writing, Google Plus is still in its “testing” phase, meaning that in order to sign up for an account, you need to be invited by someone with an account.  Google is doing it this way because they want to work all the kinks out of G+ and have a smooth service before they “officially” release it to the public.   Update: Google Plus is now officially open to the public and anyone can sign up.

So go out there and give Google Plus a try.  Because it’s extremely fun, useful, and it’s here to stay.

P.S. I’m a writer for The Corsair Newspaper and you can read my article on The Corsair website (albeit an edited-down version):

Educational deficiencies

2011-04-02 3 comments

Many people these days are aware of problems with schools.  It’s an extremely complex issue with no easy answer.  So I’m not proposing anything or trying to make any kind of grand sweeping generalization, or claiming I know how to fix the problems.  But I want to share with you a personal example of a deficiency in my education (through no fault of my own).

I always paid attention in history class (or at the very least read all the assigned reading and did all the assigned work).  So while I may not be a history whiz, I should at least know some of the basics, right?

Today I was on wikipedia reading about the Industrial Revolution.  I’ve heard the term before, but we never covered it in school.  Someone may have mentioned it in passing, but I really knew nothing about it until I started reading about it today.  In the opening paragraph, it states “Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants.”

As I learned more about the Industrial Revolution, I began to see that this statement about the importance of the Industrial Revolution is not an exaggeration.  Every single one of us lives the way we do because of what happened during the Industrial Revolution.  I learned about economic growth.  Mechanization.  Worker exploitation.  Labor unions.  Collective bargaining.  These things are huge.  They matter, in a very direct and real sense.  I’ve only skimmed the surface but now I at least have a foundation of knowledge about that subject.  So many things in our every day lives are a direct result of global changes that took place during the Industrial Revolution, and having now learned the basics of it, I have a much better understanding of the world.

So what’s my point?  Well, we’ve already talked about how we’re autodidacts. I just want to continue the conversation.  There is so much to learn out there about the universe we live in.  The more you learn, the more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that comprises our reality fit into place.  Let your curiosity guide you.  And know that there’s always so much more to be learned.  You just have to teach it to yourself.  It’s empowering.


EDIT 2011-10-16: The following videos about the future of education and how it can be changed for the better are both inspiring and jarring:

Both videos are TED talks regarding the current state of and the future of the educational system.  In the first video, Salman Kahn (of Kahn Academy fame) talks about how he has begun working with schools to revolutionize teaching.  The second video, which is a bit more bleak, has Bill Gates (of Microsoft fame) talking about the consequences of the budget cuts to education as well as the possibilities for fixing the problems.


Let’s get this party started.

Everyone should try out Linux (the operating system) at some point.

Screenshot of Xubuntu with Firefox running.

Screenshot of Xubuntu with Firefox running.

For those who are unaware, Linux is the operating system (OS) of choice for heaving duty IT work, tech savvy people, and anyone who needs reliability and security.

I recently installed Linux on my secondary laptop, specifically the version of Linux called Xubuntu (pronounced ex-ooh-boon-too).  It’s lightweight & fast, has everything you need, it’s interface is similar to that of Windows so it’ll be very familiar to you, plus it’s free!

You can even test it out on your Windows computer without installing it;  it has a mode where you can try it out; it temporarily runs itself side-by-side by Windows without messing up your Windows installation in any way.  When you’re done, you simply reboot and there’s no record of Linux having ever been on your computer.

Try it with one click: Wubi is a program that will download and run it for you.  Once it’s installing, I recommend selecting Xubuntu (it’s more lightweight and faster than Ubuntu or Kubuntu; but basically all 3 are pretty much the same version of Linux).

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