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  • Geebo 9:43 am on August 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ad blockers, ,   

    Facebook attempts to block ad blockers 

    Facebook attempts to block ad blockers

    Desktop ad blockers were born out of necessity during a time when not everyone had broadband internet at home. Some websites would be so laden with ads that they would load at a snail’s pace. It didn’t help that often times the ads were obtrusive and irrelevant. To make matters even worse some advertisers would have their ads inject malware into unprotected systems, so the use of ad blockers has had some justification. The problem with them is they’re akin to killing a fly with a shotgun. Most websites use advertising as a way to make money so they can continue to stay in business. Due to a number of abusers all advertisers have been painted as the enemy by some. However, if users continue to block ads, your favorite website could lose revenue forcing them to shut down.

    Within recent years, many websites have been fighting back against ad blockers. Some websites will ask you to disable your ad blocker if you enjoy their content. Others will try to get you to sign up for a paid version of their website that is ad free. Another way websites are fighting back is to disable some of their functionality while an ad blocker is enabled. Now, a major player in the web space has brought the ad blocker wars to a brand new level.

    Facebook recently announced that their new ads will start bypassing ad blockers. While this may be met with controversy by some users, Facebook says it will be offering tools to their users to make the experience more pleasant.

    Facebook is debuting a new ad preferences tool that will make it easier to see how you’re being targeted. You’ll be able to specify your interests, opt out of those Facebook has incorrectly associated you with, and see which advertisers have your details on a customer list.

    Unfortunately when Facebook usually sets out new tools for its users, they have a history of being overly complicated and confusing, such as their privacy tools. However this battle may just be one of attrition since most users access Facebook through their mobile app where the ads can not be blocked. Mobile is where Facebook makes most of its money. With the number of desktop users dwindling, is it worth it to go through all this trouble to get a few more dollars out of a dying breed? Facebook seems to think so.

     
  • Geebo 10:02 am on August 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , thermostat   

    Hackers Hijack Heater and Hold it Hostage 

    Hackers Hijack Heater and Hold it Hostage

    Have you thought about purchasing a smart thermostat that you can control from your smart phone or do you already have one? You may want to rethink that purchase after what a couple of security experts were able to do to one recently. At the security conference known as DefCon two security experts were able to remotely hijack one of these smart thermostats and crank the temperature up to 99F. In theory a malicious actor could hold your thermostat hostage until you pay them money to have them release control, much like any other ransomware that could infect your computer.

    This is the second bit of bad news for the smart thermostat market in so many months.This past winter, the leading brand of smart thermostats failed after a buggy firmware update left many houses dangerously cold.

    Your best bet in either of these situations is to just get an old school thermostat from your local hardware store that you should be able to hook up in minutes. Sometimes the most secure solutions are the most simple ones.

     
  • Geebo 4:03 pm on August 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Comcast, , ISPs, privacy   

    Comcast wants to charge for privacy 

    Comcast wants to charge for privacy

    If there’s one inherent truth to the internet it’s that someone is selling your data. I’m not talking about malicious hackers selling your personal information to identity thieves, but the Facebooks and Googles who sell your browsing habits to advertisers. They do this, they say, in order to show you advertising tailored more to your likes. Now, one of the country’s largest internet providers wants to charge you extra to not sell your data.

    Comcast has petitioned the FCC to allow ISPs to charge their customers extra for not selling their browsing habits. If Comcast had its way the ISPs could charge you an extra fee to not sell your data to advertisers. That sounds a lot like a protection racket from an old black and white gangster movie with Comcast playing the heavy that says “That’s some real nice privacy you’ve got here. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

    What’s worse is that Comcast acts like they’re doing customers a favor…

    Comcast said in its filing that “such a prohibition would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings, and as FTC Commissioner [Maureen] Ohlhausen points out, ‘such a ban may prohibit ad-supported broadband services and thereby eliminate a way to increase broadband adoption.’

    What’s really depriving consumers of lower-priced offerings for broadband is the lack of competition between ISPs. In most markets you can either choose the cable company or the phone company for internet service. A duopoly doesn’t encourage much competition and without competition prices not only stagnate, but they tend to rise because who else are you going to use? If you’ve ever been in an area that offers the upstart Google Fiber you’ll see the incumbent providers start slashing their prices in order to compete.

    So instead of trying to extort customers over their privacy, maybe the ISPs should start offering better services in order to make more money.

     
  • Geebo 9:35 am on August 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: clickbait, , newsfeed   

    Facebook to clamp down on clickbait 

    Facebook to clamp down on clickbait

    Facebook just became a little less annoying. No, they haven’t stopped your relatives from saying wildly inappropriate things. No, they haven’t stopped your friend from going on their latest ill-informed political diatribe. What they have done is to limit the amount of clickbait in your news feed. While you may not know the term ‘clickbait’ you’ve definitely seen it on Facebook. They’re the articles that have phrases in their headlines like “You won’t believe what happens next” or “This will shock you”. In a nutshell clickbait is any article that purposely withholds information in order to get you to click on the link.

    Entire websites have been built around Facebook clickbait and now they’ll have to rethink their strategies in order to get views from the social media giant. Hopefully their new strategy will be to write engaging content but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for it. Shady publishers and content mills will always be looking for the next way to try to fool Facebook users to click on the web content version of fast food and your friends and family will continue to clog your news feed with them.

     
  • Geebo 10:02 am on August 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: moon, Moon Express, NASA, space   

    US company receives government approval for moon landing 

    US company receives government approval for moon landing

    It’s been 47 years since the world was first glued to their TVs watching Neil Armstrong taking the first human steps on the moon while uttering his famous phrase. It’s been 44 years since the Apollo 17 mission was the last manned mission to Earth’s closest neighbor in space. Due to political and financial reasons we haven;t been back to the moon since.

    Now for the first time ever, the US government has given approval to a private company to land on the moon. Moon Express is a private company financed by some Silicon Valley bigwigs, that is looking to land on the moon in 2017. Will it bring back the excitement of 1969? Probably not since it won’t be a manned flight. Moon Express plans on sending a robotic lander to the moon in order to win the Google X Lunar Prize which promises $20 million to the first private company that can reach a lander on the moon and have it return.

    It’s far from a guarantee, but if Moon Express could complete a successful trip to the moon it could start a whole new industry of commercial space flight. Then maybe we’ll be able to have our imaginations captured by space flight once again like it was with Apollo Missions. Or, in Silicon Valley terms, will it be just another startup that will fail to launch?

     
  • Geebo 10:45 am on August 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: passwords,   

    Changing your password frequently might actually be less secure 

    Changing your password frequently might actually be less secure

    Ever since there have been computers in offices we’ve always been told to change our passwords on a regular basis. usually 60 days. This was done in the name of security. We were told that this practice will keep out the bad guys. It’s been this way for decades and the practice has been treated as gospel however, it may just be superstition.

    Carnegie Mellon University professor Lorrie Cranor, who is also chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission, says that requiring employees to change their password every 60 days makes systems even more vulnerable. Research indicates that people who are made to frequently change their passwords only change them in incremental amounts. If a bad actor was able to come into possession of someone’s old passwords, they may be able to determine the current password due to the patterns in the old passwords.

    A password like “tarheels#1”, for instance (excluding the quotation marks) frequently became “tArheels#1” after the first change, “taRheels#1” on the second change and so on. Or it might be changed to “tarheels#11” on the first change and “tarheels#111” on the second. Another common technique was to substitute a digit to make it “tarheels#2”, “tarheels#3”, and so on.

    This can also lead to people writing down their passwords on post-it notes that are stuck under their keyboards.

    Instead of passwords companies may want to look to biometrics, such as fingerprint readers, to secure their systems. While it’s not completely unhackable it is exponentially more secure than passwords.

     
  • Geebo 11:29 am on August 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: employee benefits, , student debt, student loans   

    Is student loan debt relief the new 401k? 

    Is student loan debt relief the new 401k?

    In the past, most employers provided a helpful benefits package to their employees. Robust health and dental plans along with a helpful 401k plan used to be the norm. A number of employers even had a program where you could be reimbursed for your college education if you attended classes while working for the company. Unfortunately, since the financial crash of 2008 a lot of employers have started scaling back on the amount of benefits that they offer. The financial crash also resulted in higher amounts of debt for college students who took out student loans in order to pay for their education.

    Now, some companies are offering a student debt relief plan as part of their employee benefits to attract recent college graduates. Much like a 401k, the company matches an employee’s deduction amount, and the plans can give out up to $1200 a year for six years. While it doesn’t completely wipe out a student’s debt it can take years off the payback process.

    If this practice becomes more widely accepted by more companies do you think this will encourage more people to seek a college education? Please let us know in the comments.

     
    • Sharonda Fentress 1:22 pm on August 19, 2016 Permalink

      Yes that would help a great deal that is an awesome idea!

  • Geebo 12:32 pm on August 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: child labor, electronics, ,   

    The form of slavery we’re all complicit in 

    The form of slavery we're all complicit in

    Here at Greg’s Corner we often talk about the human trafficking and slavery that is facilitated by less than scrupulous sites like Backpage. Unfortunately there is another form of slavery that most of us are supporting whether we realize it or not. Most gadgets that we are dependent on today like our phones, computers and tablets, have roots in overseas child labor. While a number of us are aware of the child labor in many assembling plants overseas did you know that there are around one million children who are working in dangerous mines for our gadgets? Many of the materials in our electronics such as gold and cobalt are mined by children across the globe. Even with the safety precautions that miners here in the US have it’s still one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Now imagine being a child down in some mine without such safety protections.

    The conundrum is that as a society we can’t function anymore without these electronics. From basic communication to international business we’ve all become reliant on these devices. It’s almost impossible to function properly in our country without them. So what can be done about the abuses these children have to endure? For starters, Mashable has a great post about how you can help but I think the most important point they bring up is that we need to hold the electronics manufacturers to task for allowing their partners to engage in these practices. However, this would cut into the profits of many of these companies and too many of them would probably not be willing to do that but there is hope. According to the Mashable post…

    “If even half the people who own smartphones spoke up and said, ‘You know, I’m really worried about these kids mining these minerals in my cellphone,’ I really think that would get companies’ attention,” Reid Maki, director of child labor advocacy and coordinator for the Child Labor Coalition says. “If there were enough evidence of consumer concern, the company would then be forced to take the lead on that.”

    Think about dropping an e-mail to your tech’s manufacturers asking them about their child labor practices. These children deserve the same opportunities that the children in our country do. It’s the least we can do.

     
  • Geebo 10:02 am on July 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Android, Apple, iPhone,   

    Apple sells billionth iPhone: Best product ever? 

    Apple sells billionth iPhone: Best product ever?

    Earlier this week, the little company that could from Cupertino, California, tech goliath Apple, announced that they had sold their billionth iPhone. To put that in perspective, Apple has sold more iPhones in the past 9 years than Sony has sold PlayStations since their debut in the late 90s, and has sold more iPhones than Rubik’s Cubes have been sold since the 80s. This has led some people to ask, is the iPhone, the best product ever?

    Before the advent of the iPhone, even the most sophisticated smart phones were rudimentary in their design and purpose. The biggest seller at the time, the Blackberry, had a small screen and a physical keyboard. For anyone that did not have a smart phone probably only had a flip phone that could only text message through the T9 way of texting. Now we live in a world where most of us can’t imagine not having our smart phones within arm’s reach. Without Apple developing the iPhone there’s no reason for Google to try to develop the Android operating system in order to compete with Apple and without Android smart phones would not be as affordable as they have become in the past decade. A reasonably well-functioning smart phone can now be purchased for less than a $100. What really launched the iPhone into the proverbial stratosphere was the development of its app store. Because of that we have had brand new economies and business built solely around apps.

    While it’s no cure for polio, in the grand scheme of things, the iPhone can’t be denied its profound impact in the shaping of our current culture.

     
  • Geebo 9:52 am on July 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Tumblr, ,   

    Tumblr tries to straddle a fine line when it comes to ads 

    Tumblr tries to straddle a fine line when it comes to ads

    After being classified as ‘worthless’ in the Yahoo-Verizon deal, micro-blogging site Tumblr will be rolling out ads on its users’ blogs today. The problem is that Tumblr has the unenviable task of trying to be profitable without alienating their core user base.

    Tumblr’s main demographic tends to skew much younger than most comparable services like Twitter or Facebook. Due to their users’ naiveté, Tumblr’s users tend to not only be resistant to change but they tend to resent any kind of corporate influence into what they perceive as a fragile ecosystem. When Yahoo first purchased Tumblr in 2013, many of its users took to their keyboards to voice their displeasure (NSFW language), to say the least.

    What their young minds may not understand is that not a lot of people run a free service on the internet purely out of the goodness of their hearts, and in no uncertain terms, advertising is the currency of the internet. Tumblr needs to make money in order for it to survive and Tumblr users are already raging against the advertising machine. If Tumblr continues to be valued as basically worthless, then new parent company Verizon, may decide to shutter Tumblr altogether. If Tumblr’s users want to keep their favorite platform, then it might be time for their user base to do some growing up.

     
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