Monthly Archives: June 2013

Anonymous Online Shopping

Has this ever happened to you? You log into an airline site or some online travel systems website, price out your vacation trip to Las Vegas and in a very short period of time you start seeing casino ads every time you go on the internet.

Coincidence? Not at all… you were tagged by cookies while browsing the travel sites and the tracking cookies recording of your internet clicks brings about a barrage of targeted marketing offers.

This happens all too often for my taste so here’s a few pro-active measures you can take to help minimize this type of marketing.

1: Cut the Cookies
In your browser’s privacy settings. Block third-party cookies to make it tougher for marketers to keep tabs on you. While you’re in there tinkering, check the “do not track” request if it’s available. This is the online equivalent of a do-not-call list.

2: See Who’s Watching You
Just visiting a single website, you might pick up dozens of tracking tags that tail you on the web. There’s a “Free” browser extension – Ghostery – that lets you see them and decide which one to delete. For shutting out third party ads, you can also try the Free AdBlock Plus browser extension. Find theses browser add-ons at: (ghostery.com and adblockplus.org)

3: Get an E-Mail alias
Finding you online via your email address – perhaps obtained from one of the many “loyalty” cards we all carry these days – marketers can link your online and offline behavior and solicit you accordingly. The only way to prevent this currently is to setup an email account solely for commercial transactions. Although this may seem like overkill to some, it’s really the only way to protect your primary email address from all the unsolicited offers we see every day. I use an old AOL address for just this purpose and make it a habit to check this account once a week or sooner if I’ve signed up for something I’m expecting an email acknowledgement for.

Ghostery is available for all the major browsers as well as Apple’s iOS

AdBlockPlus was only available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Android Smartphones or tablets until just recently. Due to poplar demand there’s now a version for Internet Explorer 32 and 64 bit.
Download the IE versions here:
https://adblockplus.org/en/internet-explorer

Note: This release does not work under the “Metro” interface of Windows 8 or Windows RT

Comcast Expands Public Wi-Fi Network

Comcast expands Wi-Fi network with new ‘neighborhood’ initiative Comcast users will soon be contributing to the company’s Wi-Fi network coverage through a gateway that transmits a public Wi-Fi signal that can be accessed by any Xfinity subscriber.

Comcast is making it even easier for its broadband subscribers to access the Internet outside the confines of their home or office. For the past couple of years, Comcast, along with several other cable operators, has been building out a Wi-Fi network in public areas, such as train platforms and in small businesses such as cafes and retail locations, to allow its broadband customers mobile access to the Internet at no additional charge.

Yesterday, Comcast made two announcements that will expand this network.

The first is the launch of the new home-based, neighborhood hot-spot initiative, in which subscribers will host Wi-Fi hot spots that other Comcast customers can use as part of their monthly broadband service. The way it works is that Comcast subscribers who are using the company’s newest wireless gateways for home Wi-Fi will broadcast an additional Xfinity Wi-Fi signal. And that additional signal will be the one that other Comcast customers, who already have access to Comcast’s public Wi-Fi network, will use.

This signal is completely different from the signal that subscribers have in their home. This means that if customers subscribe to a 50Mbps broadband service, they will have full access to that speed and capacity, without any interference or degradation in service from the public Wi-Fi portion. This also means that people can keep their home Wi-Fi networks more secure. Instead of giving out their password to visitors, these people can use the public Comcast Wi-Fi network, which is transmitting from the same gateway device.

The only catch is that the visitors must also be Comcast Xfinity broadband customers. If they are not, they can get free access to the networks on two separate instances. But after that, they will have to pay for usage.

Customers will be able to opt out of the community broadband initiative if they like. But the new gateways that are being deployed in broadband subscribers’ homes by default will have the community Wi-Fi signal turned on.

The benefit for Comcast subscribers is not easy to determine. Xfinity customers already get access to all of Comcast’s Wi-Fi hot spots at no extra charge. It’s bundled into their home broadband service. So in many ways, there is really no incentive to participate in the Comcast community Wi-Fi initiative. But, given the fact that customers have to opt out of the program, there’s a good chance that many people won’t even realize they are providing public Wi-Fi from their home broadband connection, simply by using Comcast’s gateway product.

Comcast’s Wi-Fi strategy
Wi-Fi has increasingly become an important part of Comcast’s overall strategy. And Nagel said that the home-based neighborhood hot-spot initiative complements the company’s existing Wi-Fi network and its efforts within the CableWiFi Alliance, which allows Comcast broadband customers to also get access to indoor and outdoor hot spots set up by other cable operators in other parts of the country.

Second: Comcast and its CableWiFi Alliance partners announced that they have added tens of thousands of new access points to the network. Now Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Bright House Networks’ broadband customers have access to more than 150,000 indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi hot spots in more than a dozen major cities across the country.

The way it works is that subscribers of any of these broadband providers can look for the “CableWiFi” network on their mobile devices. Then they can sign into the network using credentials that identify them as a broadband customer, and they are connected to the Wi-Fi network. After they have used the network once, those credentials can be saved on the device to automatically authenticate the next time they are in a CableWiFi hot spot.

Some of the major cities where the cable hot spots are up and running include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Kansas City, Mo., and Orlando and Tampa, Fla. Customers can check their broadband providers’ Web site for a nationwide coverage map.

Bottom Line:

Pro:
If you subscribe to Comcast broadband at home or the office, you might be able get WiFi on the road without paying again by accessing an Xfinity hot spot. In this instance, Comcast is saving you money, in effect, paying you back what you don’t spend for remote access.

Con: You will not be able to remain connected while riding in your car without logging in repeatedly, even if everyone in your neighborhood has the new modems.

Looking Ahead: The next step for Comcast is to develop switching software for both the public WiFi device and their network that would automatically hand off your login information and keep you logged in as you pass between different devices. So that, after subscribers have used the network once, their credentials can be saved on the device to automatically authenticate the next time they are in a CableWiFi hot spot.  As the network exists today, you may automatically authenticate but you’ll still have to jump through some hoops with each newly identified hot spot.

In the end – It should ultimately work like your WiFi does at home, automatically logging you in and connecting whenever you are within range of your wireless router. That’s just my opinion but I think that’s the goal of Comcast and the other ISP’s who are building out the public WiFi network. Time will tell.

Microsoft back-peddling a fast as they can

Microsoft is preparing to reverse course over some key elements of its Windows 8 operating system, marking one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s “New Coke” fiasco nearly 30 years ago. Coming soon is what’s to be known as Windows 8.1 or Windows “Blue” as Microsoft is calling it.

“Key aspects” of how the software is used will be changed when Microsoft releases an updated version of the operating system this year. Referring to difficulties many users have had with mastering the software, Microsoft finally admits that “The learning curve is definitely real.” Changing course like this is a significant admission of failure for Steve Ballmer who called the October launch of Windows 8 a “bet-the-company” moment as Microsoft sought to respond to the success of Apple’s iPad.

Windows 8 was an ambitious attempt to update the personal computer for the tablet era by moving to a new touchscreen interface based on colorful tiles, hiding the “desktop” launch screen familiar to Windows users around the world.

The combination PC and tablet software was widely panned by reviewers and has been blamed by some analysts for worsening the slump in sales that has rocked the entire PC industry of late. Even before its launch, Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, said Windows 8 would be like combining a toaster and a fridge — something that, while technically possible, was “probably not going to be pleasing to the user”.

There’s been an overwhelming call for a return to a more familiar PC interface as many PC users have had difficulties adapting to the new software. Pressure has been building for Windows 8 PCs to launch the familiar desktop view when turned on — and to bring back the “start” button featured in the lower left corner of the screen in previous releases as well.

Microsoft has also admitted to a range of other slips with the launch of Windows 8, including failing to do enough to train retail staff and educate potential customers about the new software, as well as not focusing all of its financial incentives behind the touchscreen PCs that show off Windows 8 to best advantage

Despite the slips, Microsoft continues to view the software as suitable for both PCs and tablets and that “customer satisfaction for Windows 8 with touch is strong”.

What’s New in Windows Blue

Windows Blue will offer improvements and enhancements in key areas such as personalization, search, built-in apps, the Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity.

It will offer more colors and backgrounds for the Start screen, including backgrounds with motion — or users can set their desktop background as their Start screen background.

Win 8.1 will offer a variety of tile sizes and make it easier to name groups and rearrange tiles. Users will be able to filter apps by name, date installed, most used or category. New apps will appear under the Apps View and be marked as new. Users can choose whether to pin them to the Start screen.

The Search charm in Windows 8.1 will provide global search results from Bing, aggregated from multiple sources.

Built-in apps will be improved, and Windows Blue will make it easier to use multiple apps simultaneously. Users will be able to select, resize, uninstall or rearrange multiple apps at once. Multitasking will be easier, and users can have multiple windows of the same app snapped together.

Users will be able to save files directly to SkyDrive, and the new SkyDrive app will give users access to files whether they are on the device or in the cloud.

The PC Settings feature will be directly accessible, so users won’t have to go to the control panel.

Microsoft will also include Internet Explorer 11 with Windows Blue. Its features include better touch performance, faster page load times and the ability to access open tabs in sync across multiple Win 8.1 devices.

The following 2 links describe all the changes we can expect with “Blue” – take a few minutes to review and see if perhaps you’re ready to make the jump to Windows 8.

http://www.zdnet.com/windows-8-1-unveiled-will-it-change-your-mind-about-windows-8-7000016112/

http://www.zdnet.com/a-closer-look-at-whats-new-in-windows-8-1-7000016184/

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