It’s been just over a year since Google released the Chromebook, which they are marketing as a lightweight laptop that doesn’t run a traditional operating system, have a cd drive or any of the frills you’d expect from even the most modest of netbooks. Essentially, it’s a computer that has Google Chrome and some Office®-type software that allows you to work on documents, browse the net and well that’s about it. Then again, on a cheap laptop, what do you really need it to do anyway?
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Category Archives ⇒ Computers
Apple Is Targeting The Video Game Industry
Apple has collectively termed its line of products as being part of the “post pc” world and given that combined sales have beat the combined sales of all major video game consoles by at least 30 million, it can easily be said that Apple is making a dent in yet another market. Now of course, simply comparing these numbers isn’t entirely fair. Just because someone bought an iPad doesn’t mean they did it instead of buying an Xbox. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear…average people are becoming exposed to games through smartphones and tablets and seasoned console gamers are finding tablet versions of their favorite games in the app stores.
Even the global president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata had this to say regarding Apple and the gaming industry:
“Game development is drowning,” he said. “Until now, there has always been the ability to make a living [making games]. Will that still be the case moving forward?”
There’s speculation among all major game developers that tablets are an unnerving cancer to the console game market. While it may be true that tablet and smartphone games are selling well, I can’t imagine that these little “novelty” games will ever kill consoles and PC gaming.
One of the major contributing factors to the success of console and PC gaming is the hardware. Usually in performance arenas, bigger is better. Take a car for example…the larger the engine, the more power it puts out. Computers are no exception…the bigger the graphics card, the more power it’ll churn out. Technology has certainly allowed wondrous things to be accomplished with very tiny devices, but the fact still remains that a beefed up powerhouse PC or console on a 50″ LED tv is going to be a much better experience than a rinky-dink iPad.
Another concern I have are the controls. How can you compensate for the lack of buttons on an iPad? Some of today’s games are so involving that they require controllers that have 8 or more buttons. The iPad can most certainly excel at simple games that require screentaps here and there or the physical motion of moving the iPad around, but can it really be used to play complex games? If not, does anyone even care?
The question about whether Apple will lead this industry isn’t about whether they can or not…it comes down to what the gamers want. If they want to trade in their World of Warcraft and Call of Duty for Fruit Ninja and Words with Friends, then that’s the new industry. Gaming experience plays a huge role in the psyche of consumers.
The widely accepted culprit to Apple’s gaming success is the gaming experience itself. Today’s average gamer seems more interested in being able to play games on the subway or while waiting for their bus rather than be cooped up for hours in a stuffy bedroom. This means that kids are having more fun playing wirelessly with their friends on iPhones, iPads and Android devices. It seems the days of inviting all your friends over to your house to get down on some multi-player action are dwindling.
However, experience isn’t just about the device or the setting. It’s mostly about actual gameplay. Even though Apple touts the iPad as being a serious gaming device, anyone with a small tech background could tell you that there’s no way an iPad can compete with the hardware found in an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. As a result, the games on the iPad are still very mobile and for the most part are quick puzzle-type games that can be completed with minimal touchscreen controls.
Part of the reason for bringing all this up is because it makes me wonder if simple games have become fun again. Back in the 80’s, we were all content with controlling little Mario around on 2D side-scrolling levels that progressively got harder, but then we wanted more. We got it when console gaming exploded in the late 90’s. This new gaming explosion effectively killed off the arcade industry while opening new doors for immersive gaming adventures that required some major skill and buckets of time to complete. Then we got 3D. It seemed like just around the corner, we’d all be playing virtual reality simulator games.
Yet, amongst all the new devices like Kinect and Move, people still want to cut fruit in half with one finger.
My two cents
My opinion on this has always kept the two gaming industries separate. On one side, you had mobile (and online) games and on the other, you had console and computer games. All gamers could have the best of both worlds…fun, quick games while on the road and epic adventures when at home. Now it seems the lines are being blurred thanks to everything moving toward the “app” world. Game makers are now forced to created mobile versions of their big games just to stay competitive.
I probably shouldn’t really be speaking much on this topic considering that the only console game I really play is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, but at the same time, I could never see myself playing an iPad version of MW3. The graphics might be great and the motion of the iPad could be used well to control the game, but let’s face it. To downgrade from an 8+ button Xbox controller to an iPad screen just seems a little chaotic to me!
With that said, Apple is surly taking many industries by storm and over the years, they used the iPod to kill off Sony’s Walkman and Discman, used iTunes to almost destroy all classic music stores (remember Tower Records?), changed the entire phone industry with iPhone, practically set new standards for application and game distribution through the App Store and are now using the iPad to get people to buy something they never thought they needed. The irony here is that Apple was once criticized for not having much in the gaming sector and now they’re being hailed as a potential gaming leader. I’m curious to see how this plays out.
Apple OS X Mountain Lion Hits Mac This Summer
Much like Snow Leopard was an incremental update to Leopard, Mountain Lion is expected to add some new features over Lion, but not be a complete makeover. After looking at the limited information we have so far, Mountain Lion proves that Apple is beginning to look more toward their iOS software for inspiration. With the major success of iOS on the iPhone and iPad, Apple has decided to add some features to OS X that will reflect iOS.
Facebook Stalker Arrested and Sentenced to 4 Years
Just when you thought the Internet was safe! Ehh…ok, nevermind. What I meant to say was, people…you need to stop leaving yourself vulnerable out there on the Internet. And while we’re talking about this, let’s clarify one thing: there’s a major difference between you getting hacked and getting phished. More on that in a minute, but for now, let’s see what George Bronk is up to these days.
It appears that Mr. Bronk has been trolling Facebook looking for women who might have been leaving clues in and around their profiles that could allow George to gain access to their accounts. He chose women because like any self-respecting creeper, he has a preference. Once he had the information he needed to get into the email accounts, he would search through folders looking for nude photos and/or videos that they may have sent to their husbands or boyfriends. George would then send these files to that person’s contact list, thus exposing their personal lives to family, friends and co-workers.
Unlike most “hackers”, George’s approach wasn’t that he found clues that would lead him to figure out the actual password, nor was he using any brute force attacks on the accounts. What he did was actually pretty clever and a great eye-opener for you. Using personal information like where you’re from, names of your family members, home addresses, phone numbers, etc., he would click on the “Forgot password” links at various webmail sites and plug in the correct answers for the security questions to get a password sent to him.
George Bronk was sentenced to 4 years in prison for violating the personal privacy of women in 17 states, Washington D.C. and even London. He was also charged with possession of child pornography which added 8 more months. More on George Bronk.
Once in the account(s), he would change the password to lock the person out and begin his attack. Now by me agreeing that it’s a clever approach does not condone his actions—it simply reminds us just how easy it can be to lose access to your personal data. Using easy-to-remember answers on those security questions falls right into the same realm of using the same password for all of your online accounts. It’s just a bad idea.
Hacked and Phished
As soon as someone loses access to an online account or they start seeing mysterious wall posts on their Facebook profile, the first thing they tell all their friends is that they got hacked. While in some cases, this might be true, 99% of the time, it is not the case. What most likely happened is that you got phished. There are two reasons why someone would say hacking instead of phishing: 1. They don’t know the difference or 2. They do know the difference and realized that getting phished makes them look like a fool.
Being hacked means that your account was compromised in some way by an attacker that has made entry into the computers and or servers where your information is stored. For example, if someone hacked into the Facebook computers and had access to everyone’s account profiles and all information tied to them.
Being phished means that someone set out to attack you personally (or you were part of an attacked group) and have made entry into your account directly using a password that you inadvertently gave them. For example, someone sends you an email saying you need to login to Facebook to verify your account. you click on the link, see a page that looks like Facebook, fill out your username and password and then nothing appears to happen. You think it was some computer glitch and proceed to login to Facebook again through Facebook.com. What just happened was that you entered your username and password on a page that wasn’t Facebook and thereby sent that info to your attacker.
The difference between these is like night and day. Having your Facebook account hacked would be something out of your control because the attack happened to systems out of your reach. It just happened to be that your account was on those systems. On the same note, hacked systems usually affect thousands if not hundreds of thousands of users all at once.
If your car got stolen because someone broke into to it, hotwired it and drove off, that would compare to a hacking event. If you gave your keys to a stranger because they told you they were going to go get your car washed for you and they never came back, that compares to a phishing event.
My two cents
Always use strong passwords. Never use the same password for every account. If you really have to, at least don’t use your Gmail password for your bank account! As we learned above, it appears that even a secure password is not very secure if the reset questions are easy to guess. With that said, try answering questions with different answers. I remember when I would see the “What was the name of your first pet?” question…rather than providing the real answer, I’d use a name of an ex-girlfriend. This made it funny to me, but it also made it very secure as nobody could ever guess that answer.
Lesson learned today: always protect your online accounts just as you would protect your house and other belongings.
Our New 'Online' Lives
For years, technology has been slowly replacing basic fundamentals of everyday life and in some cases, even jobs that humans once worked. Computers, phones, GPS devices, cameras and media players are all part of our everyday lives. Years ago, people would say that computers would never catch on or if they did, they’d only be used for games and other “un-important” tasks. Now, these people eat their words as everything from shopping to booking airfare has been transitioned onto complex computer systems.
The reason for writing about this topic today was because of the personal experience I’ve had with online banking. I opened my first bank account when I got my first job back in 2000 and I rarely had to go into a branch because mostly everything by this time was being managed online with the exception of using the ATM for check deposits and cash withdrawals.
Today, I use a different bank and I only recently set up my new accounts. I was surprised to learn that I never even had to step foot into the bank to open these accounts. I went online due to an offer I received and wanted to cash in, so I started the application to open a new checking and savings account. I figured I might be able to go as far as establishing the account information, but I was sure that I’d have to sign something, take it in for identity verification and then make some initial deposits.
This was not the case. I was able to open the accounts, set up a new credit card with cashback rewards, perform a balance transfer for a 0% APR, make two initial deposits directly from my previous bank, request an ATM card, setup personal ATM settings like default withdrawal amounts, create accounting alerts, disable overdraft protection, order checks, link all my accounts together, create a payment plan for my credit card and setup direct deposit all online.
I was floored! I’m always looking for ways to transition everything I do to the online world to minimize paper and clutter in and around my desk and this just set the bar. I was a brand new customer and I had never even stepped one foot inside a branch nor have I ever had to use the ATM. I rarely use cash and I can deposit checks simply by taking pictures of the front and back and submitting them directly from my phone.
A lot of people feel that taking everything online causes you to stay home more and resign yourself to a computer screen 90% of the time. I find it to be the opposite. While you do spend some time in front of a computer setting things up or processing transactions, once you’re done, you have more time to take care of other things like chores or shopping.
Smartphones are quickly becoming more and more useful. You can now set your DVR to record your favorite shows from your phone. Or how about turning on lights and A/C or heating units just before you get home so you can arrive in comfort. Here are some other things you can do online to improve life:
- Add movies to your Netflix queue
- Opt-out of telemarketing calls
- Open/close/cancel bank accounts and credit cards
- Purchase houses, cars, boats, land and businesses
- Pay bills
- Buy and trade stocks
- Order food
- Buy groceries
- Send money to friends and relatives
- Buy medication
- Apply for jobs and participate in virtual interviews
- Book vacations with flights, hotels, cars and excursions
- So much more…this list could go on forever
My two cents
I’ve been on the Internet since 1996, so I’ve been witness to the drastic changes that have occurred through the years and I’m happy about where the Internet is today. It still amazes me that it has taken this long for people to catch up, but I guess with anything new or different, people can tend to shy away from it all. One concern I’ve always had is that doing everything above online takes away the human element. While this can be bad because you no longer have that face-to-face interaction with other people, it can be good because it takes out a lot of potential for errors.
I still know some people that write checks when they buy stuff or pull out large sums of cash to sustain them through the week and it always makes me laugh because I can’t think of the last time I ever used cash and who would want to carry around a check book all the time? Besides the great in-convenience this poses, you have security to worry about. Take for example you get robbed and there goes all your cash and checks. Now the thief has your money and your account information. You can guess what happens next. On the flipside, if you get robbed with just your credit cards, all you do is call them in later to have them blocked and any fraudulent charges will disappear in short time.
My goal is to never step foot in the bank in which I do business. I would like to see how many years go by without ever doing so.
MT55 Platform – $18,000 Table-top LCD Computer
The MT55 Platform is the latest in tech gear that you’re going to want for your living room, but probably will never buy. That’s because it costs as much as a low-end car. However, its manufacturer, Ideum thinks otherwise.
While the idea is awesome, who would really pay this kind of money just to have a Windows 7 computer in the shape of a fancy coffee table? I’m sure there are those people out there that will, but I’m just saying…
Most people will eat their breakfast off an average wooden table that does nothing for you except collect dust and get messy from time to time. The new MT55 Platform will do both of those, but also show you the Internet at the same time! This table is no doubt awesome, but couldn’t you just buy a big touch screen and lay it flat? Then again, I guess 55″ 1080p touch screens just aren’t that popular yet.
Take a look at this video demonstration straight from the manufacturer:
My two cents
This is just one of those items that you would buy if you had money to burn after you bought every other useless tech item you could think of. I don’t mean to imply that this thing is actually “useless” because after all, it is a working computer with its i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. But $18,000 just to stare down into your work while you manipulate windows around with the swipe of your fingers?? I doubt it’s worth that much.
The only silver lining to this is that if Apple ever made one, it would probably cost 3-4 times more.
Is Cloud Computing Really The Future?
Lately, we’ve all been hit with talk about the future of computing and how everything might end up on “cloud” services. As a result of this forward-thinking movement, everyone seems to have gotten in the game: Apple with iCloud, Google with GoogleApps and now Microsoft with Office 365. While each have touted their superiority over the others, it’s hard to imagine a computing experience existing only on the Internet. But I guess 20 years ago they said it would be hard to imagine something like the Internet too.
Originally, I was thinking that this is a good idea because how often have you been away from your computer and needed a file or two only to remember that even though you’re carrying a capable smartphone, a laptop and a tablet device, the one file you needed most was at home stuck on your hard drive? For me, it happens fairly often. Of course, it’s nothing that would stop the world from spinning, but out of convenience, it would be nice to have a place where everything resides.
I like to think of cloud computing like IMAP email where you can connect all of your devices to your one email account and no matter which device you use to send, receive, move or delete messages, every device always has the same updated information. However, there are others that think the cloud poses a threat to security and privacy. They might be on to something here.
I decided to create a pros and cons list to cloud computing and let the readers decide for themselves.
- Access – Likely the number one reason the cloud looks like a good idea—the ability to access your files from any Internet connection is very convenient.
- HDD space – Depending on what service you use and how much it costs, you can determine how much storage space you get. In turn, you are also saving local space on your computer.
- Safe and secure – Putting your files in the cloud can remove it from threats such as house fires, theft, auto accidents, plane crashes and viruses.
- Collaboration – Businesses and teams alike can work on files at the same time for a truly live collaboration between multiple people located in various parts of the world.
- Cost savings – This one is subjective, but the cloud could save you money from not having to spend it on hardware, more computers or other devices.
- Security – Putting anything out on the Internet can be potentially dangerous in two ways—simply storing it and then transferring it.
- Privacy – This one is for the paranoid, but is it possible for employees of such cloud systems to have access to client’s files? If so, what could a disgruntled employee be capable of doing with such access??
- Reliability – The cloud cannot exist without the Internet, so if you ever lose your connection, you won’t have access to your files. Try working on an airplane now!
- Speed – Again, due to the Internet reliance, transferring large files to and from a cloud service can pose a problem. Especially if you’re trying to make it out the door in a flash.
- Storage space – No cloud service seems to offer LARGE amounts (above 5gb) of storage space so at this time, it would be foolish to think you can store all your movies, videos and music.
My two cents
I see both sides to this coin, so I can see myself using the cloud for some things, but not others. I find that some of my more pertinent documents would be put in the cloud only if I see a use for them at work or at a friend’s location. However, I have many, many gigs of data that I know I would never be able to put in a cloud service nor would I want to. What’s the alternative? I created a very organized computer system that I run local servers on (FTP, web and mail) as well as Remote Desktop Connection so I can access this computer through any desktop or laptop and even some mobile smartphones.
In a sense, I created my own cloud. If you’re interested in something a little less cumbersome, you might want to check out a free service from Tonido. They offer the ability to create your own personal cloud without all the headache of setting everything up.
World IPv6 Day – June 8, 2011
As usual, I’m late to the game! It’s a good thing I don’t purport myself to be a newscaster of any form because sometimes I feel like I’m the last to know. Even after I discussed the death of IPv4 the other day, I still wasn’t aware of June 8, 2011. But as it stands, June 8 is the day where 243 huge Internet organizations will participate in a 24-hr “test flight” of IPv6 across their servers and networks.
World IPv6 Day
On this day, the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Akamai will be offering their websites and services over the IPv6 protocol. The basic idea behind this plan is to motivate other industry leaders and hardware manufacturers to continue getting devices and services ready for the new protocol.
Fortunately, these changes will be transparent to end-users, so there will be nothing special you need to do in order to see your favorite websites. Computers and hardware have in one way or another supported IPv6 for some years now, but if you want to verify this, proceed to the test site that’s been setup to run a series of tests on your computer system. It will tell you your current IPv6 compatibility and what, if anything, you can do to fix problems.
I’ve been an active Internet user for many, many years and I’ve often wondered how long it would take to run out of IPv4 addresses and as of February 11, 2011, we no longer have to wonder because it’s happened! There will come a day when IPv4 is no longer supported and it’s important now to ensure that systems across the world are able to operate on the new protocol.
The Internet Society (isoc.org) is probably your best bet for obtaining more (and updated) information about this event, so I’ve posted some direct links here for you to get the information you need:
Whatever happened to Microsoft Bob?
An email was sent to me today with a link going over the top 10 failures of Microsoft and one of my favorites on the list came in at number 2: Microsoft Bob. I remember wanting to own this program because I thought for some reason, it would make life easier. Let’s see why…
Back in 1995, Windows 95 was released as a follow-up to the ever-so-popular Windows 3.1. If you remember correctly, there wasn’t much in the way of operating systems before Windows and without it (let’s be honest), there wouldn’t be much of computer world today. What’s interesting is that Windows 95 was supposed to be the crown jewel of the industry—making computing far easier than it had even been and with a bit of flash too. So why then must Microsoft create another piece of software on top of Windows that’s supposed to make things easier??
Introducing Microsoft Bob
Bob was a house. A virtual house that contained a virtual dog and many different rooms of varying design and function. This is how it worked:
- You logged into Windows 95 – After realizing it was much too difficult to perform any tasks, you opened Bob.
- Bob launches – You’re presented with a door that allows you to sign in.
- You choose a room – Based on what tasks you want to do, you pick a room that has what you want inside.
- Open an app – Click on the applicable icon to open the app you want to use.
- Follow instructions – Now you get hand-walked through every single step of doing even the most mundane tasks.
For the best instructional walkthrough, you must watch this video:
I think what’s most disturbing about how Bob worked was just how much more difficult things seemed to get after using him. This is pure irony considering Bob was supposed to simplify things. Bill gates was even quoted as saying Bob was ahead of his time. I’m sure at that time, this seemed far-fetched, but if you really think about it, software interfaces have become more GUI-based and things are becoming much easier to do on computers than ever before.
$0.45 per email?!
As I was learning more about Bob, I found out that when he came out, the Internet was just starting to take off so Bob included an email app that would allow you to send up to 15 emails per month that were each limited to 5,000 characters. Beyond that, you would have to pay $0.45 per email sent! These emails were sent over the MCIMail service, which was essentially a dial-up email account.
Can you imagine having to pay to send emails? What a bargain—a stamp to mail a real letter cost $0.32 and an email cost $0.45. I guess things have really changed for the better. Now you can buy a stamp for $0.44 and send as many emails as you want for free. I wish we could still charge spammers though.
IPv4 is Dying
Last month, I ran into quite a snag when trying to install a second iteration of WordPress MU on my server. I currently run a copy for this site and some others I manage, but I also have a few other clients on my server and one of them would like to also run multiple sites. I quickly found out exactly why you can’t run multiple instances of WordPress MU without a few caveats.
The caveat to be explored here is one that affects many areas of the Internet and its users. IPv4 is the fourth revision of the Internet Protocol. In layman’s terms, it’s the protocol that provides you with the IP address allowing you to get on the Internet. You may have seen them on your computer or device: XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX
Each octet can have 255 bits in it, meaning the whole IP address range is 0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255 and after removing a few reserved address blocks, you end up with about 4.3 billion combinations. In the original concept of the Internet, reaching this ceiling was thought to be impossible since the Internet was never to be used by the mass public. In order for a device to be on the Internet, it needs to have its own IP address.
In the beginning of the public Internet, large blocks of IP addresses were given to the phone companies to issue out to their customers based on various needs. At this time, if a computer network contained a thousand computers, 1,000 unique IP addresses were needed. This caused a lot of corporations to lease very large amounts of IP addresses. All that changed when Network Address Translation (NAT) was created. NAT allowed a network to use one public IP address for the entire network and a device such as a router to issue out individual private IP addresses to each device connected to it.
Confused yet?! It’s ok…that’s about as deep as I want to get in the definition of IP. Where I’m going with this is that no more IP addresses are available because the last 5 blocks were allocated to the 5 regional Internet registries (RIRs) on February 3, 2011. This doesn’t mean that all are being used, but they are at least in the hands of those responsible for leasing them to customers.
With that said, IPv4 is essentially dying, if not already dead. Our only hope now is the release of IPv6 which would allow for 340 undecillion IP address, or about 5 x 1028 addresses for each of the 6.8 billion people alive on the earth today.