Monthly Archives: June 2012

Facebooks Facial Recognition

Facebook acquired Face.com, a facial recognition start-up, in a likely attempt to make photo-tagging easier on the social network.

The acquisition was rumored last month, but is now official. According to TechCrunch, Facebook will spend around $100 million on the purchase–roughly one tenth of what the company plans to spend on Instagram.

Face.com’s technology can identify Facebook users’ faces in photos or live video. The company already offers a Facebook app called Photo Tagger, which can identify faces and suggest photo tags, and also offers a standalone iPhone app called Klik that can identify friends in real time and adapt image filters to people’s faces. Face.com also offers an API so other app developers can use and build on the company’s technology. With the acquisition, Facebook will bring the Face.com team in house.

Future Plans

Klik, an iPhone app by Face.com, identifies your Facebook friends in real time and lets users apply photo filters. Although Facebook and Face.com haven’t said exactly what they’ll do together, a blog post by Face.com hints at future plans: “We love building products, and like our friends at Facebook, we think that mobile is a critical part of people’s lives as they both create and consume content, and share content with their social graph,”

Considering Facebook’s recently announced acquisition of Instagram and the launch of its own Facebook Camera app, it’s clear that Facebook is turning a lot more attention to mobile photo-sharing. With Face.com in-house, Facebook will be able to help users tag photos faster on their mobile devices–provided they can get over the creepiness of doing so.

Why Facebook’s Facial Recognition is Creepy.

We talked about this back in June of last year. Basically, Facebook is using facial recognition technology to “suggest” tags to users who upload photos. In other words, if I upload six photos of my friend Lexi, Facebook may “recognize” her face (thanks to other tagged photos of her on the website) and “suggest” that I tag her in those six photos. This makes the tagging process a little easier for me–after all, aren’t I more likely to tag Lexi if all I have to do is click a button that says “yes, tag away”? Another “benefit” is that I can tag all of these photos of at once, instead of having to tag each one individually?

Sure, it’s easier. Easier for Facebook to invade your privacy, that is. Ok, I know that sound a little melodramatic. But let’s take a look at some facts:

– Facebook has 845 million members with 483 million “daily active users”. They’re on track to hit 1 Billion users by August 2012.

– Each day, Facebook’s members upload over 200 million photos, and Facebook currently hosts over 90 billion photos.

– Each time you “tag” a photo on Facebook, its facial recognition technology learns more about what that “tagged” person looks like.

– Even if you happen to “opt out” of the facial recognition tagging, Facebook’s technology can surely use the tagged photos of you (hey, perhaps even the tagged photos of you that you end up un-tagging) to figure out what you look like.

– Right now Facebook is using this technology to help people tag photos. But once they have an accurate facial recognition database of several hundred million people? Hmmmmm

At the end of the day, Facebook’s facial recognition technology is downright creepy. Opting out of the service doesn’t mean Facebook will stop trying to recognize your face–it just means that Facebook will stop suggesting that other people tag you. Even Google has noted the utter creepiness of facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition technology will ultimately culminate in the ability to search for people using just a picture. Will be the end of privacy as we know it–imagine, a world in which someone can simply take a photo of you on the street, in a crowd, or with a telephoto lens, and discover everything about you on the internet.

Obviously, we can’t stop the world of technology from moving toward the development of accurate facial recognition software. But so far, no facial recognition software has really been a threat to our privacy, because nobody has that huge database of people and the photos required. Oh wait, except for Facebook.

So, if you’re one of those “paranoid” type of people who sees a conspiracy around every corner perhaps not only should you opt out of Facebook’s facial recognition technology by going to: Home > Account Settings > Privacy Settings > Profile and Tagging > Edit Settings and then edit “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded” and make the change – you should also upload random pictures of trees, animals, stuffed toys, fast cars and other inanimate objects then tag them as yourself.

Disclaimer: the steps to opt out as outlined above were accurate when this article was posted – Facebook has a knack of changing things on a regular basis to keep folks confused.

Microsoft Unveils Surface


 

At an invitation only gathering in California last night – Microsoft announced their revolutionary new hardware product “Surface”.

Recognizing that users want to “do it all” without compromising on what PC’s are known for, Microsoft approached the product design in a forward looking manner. Knowing that today’s PC’s need to be mobile and people want access to information and the ability to create content anytime, anywhere. Using applications that were written for Windows, but work perfectly on Windows 8. Microsoft adds another chapter to their story,

Surface is a tablet that works and plays the way you want to -a tablet that’s a PC housed in a super thin case – 9.3mm with beveled edges. The first of its kind, a PC in a magnesium case with a 10.6 inch display, full size USB 2.0 ports, a display port and it weighs in at only 1.5 pounds.

Surface was specifically designed for Windows 8 with semantic zoom (like an iOS device) and according to Microsoft, it has the best WiFi of any tablet available today. Surface comes with a built in folding kick stand, an optional tactile or touch keyboard cover as well as a rear facing camera, pen/stylus device. There will be 2 snap on keyboard options as well, a Touch Cover and a Type Cover.

Being a mobile device, it also has all the internet capabilities and applications necessary to allow you to do whatever you want without compromise. As this is a full-fledged PC, it will also run MS Office. Surface for Windows RT and Metro will be available running an Nvidia processor with 32GB and 64GB of storage and the Intel version will have larger storage capacities. All priced to compete with other tablets in the marketplace.

Steve Ballmer’s closing comment was: “We took the time to get Surface and Windows 8 right. To do something that was really different and really special. We’re proud of the Surface like we’re proud of Windows 8. Because of Windows 8, the Surface is a PC, it’s a tablet… it’s something new.”

Here’s an introductory video of the new Surface
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpzu3HM2CIo

See some additional information and specifications here:
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/microsoft-announces-surface-family-pcs-233100776.html

Watch for more Microsoft information as this website becomes available
http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en/us/default.aspx

My Favorite New Application

I’m always looking for ways to make my connected life easier and this little program does the trick. On a daily basis I use a Windows 7 PC, a MAC Book pro, an iPad and an iPhone to get done what needs to be done. One of my major problems has always been managing my passwords across all these different devices.

I also “practice what I preach” and wanting to keep my personal information safe and secure, I never use the same password for multiple websites or accounts. As you can well imagine, this can become an absolute management nightmare.

Not any more though. After testing many different solutions that were touted to work on both PC’s and Apple OS devices, with very little success mind you, I believe I’ve found the best of both worlds.

Not only does LastPass work on all my devices but the data is securely stored in the cloud and available instantly from whichever device I care to use. I have one master password to remember and I can access all my individual passwords from anywhere just by logging into my account.

LastPass is a FREE online password manager and Form Filler although to be fully functional and work across many different platforms you’ll need to upgrade to the Premium “paid version” (a paltry $1 per month).

The FREE version includes, one master password, automatic form filling, one click login, synchronize across browsers and computers, store secure notes, share info with friends and in many cases you can import your data from other password managers, secure password generator, access your data from a USB key, Google authenticator support, and so much more.

The Premium version gives you access from your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Windows Mobile, Android, Firefox mobile, Symbian S60, WebOS, as well as multifactor authentication via USB thumb drives and YubiKey. For a buck a month, how can you go wrong?

There’s also an Enterprise version providing all the bells and whistles mentioned above PLUS centralized deployment, shared password repositories, enforcement of security standards with policies, reporting, auditing and compliance.

Take a look here for additional information and download the free version for testing. This is one terrific application from which I’ll never look back.

http://www.lastpass.com

Windows 8 A New Beginning

 

The Windows 8 Metro Desktop

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s first attempt to create a new operating system that would allow users to work the same on a PC as they would on a tablet or smartphone.

Windows 8 uses a tiled dashboard as its home screen (called Metro) that looks much like the touch interface on a current Windows Phone 7.

These tiles are designed to allow folks with touch screen interfaces to bypass the mouse to make a selection, thus making this new interface usable on tablets and special touch screen monitors as well as traditional PCs with a keyboard and mouse.

Under the pretty tiles you’ll find the traditional Desktop minus some old familiar items like the Start button, which was a little confusing at first. I can already hear longtime Windows users screaming “I want my old Windows back” when they first begin navigating this semi-familiar portion of the operating system, but over time, the new interface allows faster access to the information and programs that you want.

As of this writing, Windows 8 is still in a test version (currently called Release Preview) and should only be installed by IT pros and software developers with a spare computer that can be sacrificed for testing purposes. DO NOT install this on a production computer. What I’ve done for testing purposes is created a virtual machine to put Windows 8 through its paces and when I’m done, I can simply delete the VM without harming my normal PC operations at all.

IMPORTANT and I cannot stress this enough!!! Test or ‘beta’ versions should never be installed on a computer that contains any important data or on the one and only machine you own as you are almost guaranteed to have problems. Error messages, hardware that isn’t recognized and programs that don’t function properly are a common result when installing test versions of any operating system, so it isn’t something average users should never consider doing.

Microsoft hasn’t announced a release date as of yet, but the latest information I have suggests that computer manufacturers may start getting their ‘Release To Manufacturing’ version so they can start their build process in late July. If the process follows previous releases, we might start seeing computers pre-installed with Windows 8 hit the market starting in October.

Even then, unless you are an ‘early adopter’ that doesn’t mind dealing with being the first to discover a new problem, I’d suggest holding off jumping on the Windows 8 band wagon. Letting a few million hardcore techies play with the public release version before you take on the challenge will generally save you a lot of grief. Lots of websites and YouTube videos will publish all the do’s and don’ts for migrating to Windows 8 if you give the tech community some time to experience and report the issues. After all – why should you give Microsoft your hard earned cash for the dubious honor of “testing” their software?

Microsoft always offers special upgrades for those buying a new computer with an older operating system close to the launch of a new OS. The Windows 8 upgrade will be available for those buying a new Windows 7 computer between June 2nd and Jan 31st, 2013 and allows an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only $14.99 (via a download).

If your plan is to upgrade an existing computer to Windows 8, you will definitely want to wait a while after it’s released as this scenario is traditionally the one that has the highest likelihood of issues and problems.

If you simply want to get a better understanding of how Windows 8 will work, you can view a handful of videos that Microsoft has posted here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview-videos

Do you have a spare computer kicking around or perhaps, like me, you run Parallels Desktop or some other virtual machine tool – you can download the Windows 8 Release Preview here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/release-preview

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