Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014 Santa Tracking Is Now Online

For most of the year NORAD is tasked with monitoring airspace around the US and Canada for incursions by foreign air forces and potentially devastating man-made objects, but each December it also pours a huge amount of resources into entertaining children around the world by tracking Santa Claus.

This unusual tradition dates back to 1955, when a Sears Roebuck & Company department store offered children the chance to talk directly to Santa in an advertisement. It said: “Hey, Kiddies! Call me on my private phone – just dial ME 2-6681.”

Unfortunately, Sears had accidentally printed the phone number for the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) instead of their special Santa line. Instead of getting through to Santa, the kids ended up on the line to a military base. Once he realized what had happened, Colonel Harry Shoup – who came to be known as the “Santa Colonel” – quickly told his staff to answer the calls with an update on Santa’s current position.

1955_sears_ad NORAD replaced CONAD a few years later, but the tradition remained and continues to this day.

Volunteers staff call centers on Christmas Eve and field around 70,000 phone calls each year from over 200 countries. The whole program is run by volunteers from within NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), but also from Google, Verizon and Air Canada.

Speaking to NBC back in 2010, then deputy commander of NORAD Lt. Gen. Marcel Duval said: “It’s really ingrained in the NORAD psyche and culture. It’s a goodwill gesture from all of us, on our time off, to all the kids on the planet.”

In 1997 the internet was brought into play and each year since, NORAD has hosted a different website tracking Santa’s progress. Through the years they’ve become more and more advanced, upgrading along with the internet itself.

The project has now embraced all forms of online communication and social media using Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook accounts. From 2004 to 2009 people were able to track Santa through Google Earth, with the site offering a download link for the application. Today, we simply log on to NoradSanta.org where kids will find an assortment of games, movies and music to keep them entertained while parent get the last minute holiday preparations taken care of.

On December 24th when NORAD starts tracking Santa, visitors to the site will be able to follow his journey on the 3D globe and pinch and zoom their way to his many destinations.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications (M2M) and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a Smart Grid.

Things, in the Internet of Things, refers to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. Current retail market examples include the NEST Smart Thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize wifi for remote monitoring.

According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. ABI Research estimates that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020.

Integration with the Internet implies that devices will utilize an IP address as a unique identifier. However, due to the limited address space of IPv4 (which allows for 4.3 billion unique addresses), objects in the IoT will have to use IPv6 to accommodate the extremely large address space required. Objects in the IoT will not only be devices with sensory capabilities, but also provide actuation capabilities like light bulbs or locks controlled over the Internet).

So now let’s talk about what is sure to be the Internet of STUPID Things. It’s not that I don’t believe we shouldn’t be connecting more devices in the future, it’s just that this “Thing” is already being overdone with devices that have no real advantage to being connected to the internet.

Let’s take the light bulb. Even Mark Cuban of Shark Tank invested in a company making $90 light bulbs that dim and turn on with a smart phone app. Do we really need our light bulbs to have their own IP addresses so we can manage them from our cell phones? Most of us spend too much time looking at our cell phones as it is. And if texting and driving is a problem today – how about driving and adjusting the lights and the thermostat as you get closer to home.

Another “stupid” thing… connected toilets? Smart toilets sell for around $6,000 and believe it or not – hackers have already developed the means to hack them. I don’t really want to go there so I’ll let you search for it online – but don’t use Google to search because it’s tracking and cataloging all this stuff and everyone’s searches. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, use DuckDuckGo.com to search because they don’t track your searches.

How about connected waste barrels? Municipalities have been trying for decades to figure out when a barrel is full so they can empty it. With the Internet of Stupid Things – we’ll be able to send out trash trucks to empty each individual waste receptacle as they ping the servers saying they’re full. Sounds like a lot of trash to me…

Another stupid IoT is the Internet-enabled diaper. Even though I just became a proud, first time Grandfather, this seems really stupid to me… but then again, who wants to walk around with a load in their pants. I’m guessing this IoT will become a wonderful baby shower gift in the future.

We’ll also have connected refrigerators that email you when an item is running low as well as track when and for how long the door was opened last, pill bottles that flash when you don’t take your meds and connected slippers that radio back to a web server somewhere a person’s stability when walking in them.

I’m not convinced that connected light bulbs will take the world by storm because the old fashioned electrical switch still works, so does jiggling the handle on my toilet. And when one needs to check a diaper, your nose still works just fine.

The real winner with all these stupid things connected on the internet. As you might have guessed – Google – who will have a field day tracking everything we do and selling data and advertising around it.

Your Eyeball Is Your Password


Recent internet threats like Heartbleed indicate that we need a more secure way to do our work online. Eyelock, a New York based company, has responded with Myris, a palm sized device that scans your irises to log you in to your favorite sites.

Myris uses patented technology to convert your individual iris characteristics to a code unique only to you, then matches your encrypted code to grant access to your PCs, e-commerce sites, applications and data— all in less than 1 second.

Myris works easily with digital networks, including online bank accounts, social media accounts, Internet VPNs, email and more. On the back end, you can set passwords as complex as you like and once you link Myris, you can forget them. Myris is robust and reliable enough to secure workstations, high-value transactions, critical databases, and information systems for enterprise and small business.

Features
• FAR (False Accept Rate) is 1 in 1.5 million (single eye)
• Video-based system • USB powered
• Authentication occurs on device • Multiple user capacity—*up to 5 people per device
• Secure communication and encryption (AES 256)
• Easy set-up—user-friendly application software included
• Compatible with Windows 7 & 8, 8.1 and Mac OS 10.8 +

Benefits
• Only DNA is more accurate
• Fast and easy to use—as easy as looking into a mirror
• No recharging, works with any USB device
• Protects your privacy—no personal information is transmitted
• Only one device needed per household
• Your information is kept safe and secure
• Easily manage your access to digital networks
• Works with most PC and tablet operating systems

Never type a password again—Myris grants you access to your digital world. It’s portable, lightweight, fits in the palm of your hand—and is as easy to use as looking at a mirror.

Myris will be featured at CES 2015 and expect to see demos of an integrated Myris version featured by laptop partners including HP and Acer. Myris has also been nominated for an innovation award at CES 2015.

You can get more information on Myris here: http://www.eyelock.com/

 

Microsoft Kills Off Clip Art

Back in the ‘90s, Clip Art took over Word and PowerPoint files thanks to the thousands of office workers and students who used the images as a way to “improve” their documents.

These days there are a large number of free images available on the web, and Microsoft is recognizing this by killing off its Clip Art portal in recent versions Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. “The Office.com Clip Art and image library has closed shop states Microsoft. Usage of Office’s image library has been declining year-to-year as customers rely more on search engines.

While most references to Clip Art disappeared with Office 2013, users were still able to insert the old-school images into documents using an Office.com Clip Art option. That is now being replaced by Bing Images, with Microsoft filtering images to ensure they’re based on the Creative Commons licensing system for personal or commercial use. Most of the new images are much more modern, instead of the illustrated remnants of the past. Clip Art might be facing the same Office-related demise as did the great Clippy assistant. clipartimages_0   Time marches on!

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