Chances are, if you were sitting at your computer yesterday, you were searching for Cyber Monday deals. Survey results indicated that 86% of working Americans planned to spend at least some time shopping or browsing for gifts during work hours on Cyber Monday.
Cyber Monday is the single biggest online shopping day of the year and this year retail experts say sales will be 15 percent more than they were in 2012. Online ads are expected to help drive the $2 billion in sales that was expected to take place on Cyber Monday.
Cyber Monday, so-called because of the rush of internet sales following a traditional Black Friday, is the busiest online shopping day of the year. Cyber Monday is similar to Black Friday, only without the long lines and pushy fellow shoppers. Online stores roll out deals at specific times on a first-come-first-served basis, and the best items generally sell out in seconds.
It’s also a less stressful environment in which to shop, because if one site runs out of an item you want, you don’t have to hop into your car and drive to another location hoping to find that same item elsewhere. Simply navigate to another online store and try your luck there.
Many Cyber Monday e-Tailers have committed to keep the shopping spree up for the entire week (can you say Cyber Week?) right through December 8th in an effort to make up for the slower than expected Black Friday sales. I suspect that shoppers will continue find better deals online for the entire month and perhaps even after the Christmas holiday.
The term “Cyber Monday” was coined by Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, in a press release that reported the results of a 2004 research study
In 2012, online shopping traffic peaked just before lunchtime on the east coast – at 11:25 a.m. EST. Right around that time, web traffic soared for department stores, health and beauty retailers, home goods sellers and apparel stores.
Cyber Monday predictions for 2013:
Lastly – have you heard that Amazon.com is planning to deliver your online purchases using unmanned drones? Amazon Prime Air will provide some consumers with 30 minutes or less – to your door – deliveries for products weighing 5 pounds or less. Although the actually technology implementation is still 3 – 4 years away, you can be sure that Amazon.com CEO, Jeff Bezos will make it happen.
Here’s some info and a short video and picture of a drone:
Amazon Prime Air “Octocopter” introduction on You Tube
Chromecast is a $35 streaming dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and plays audio/video content on a high-definition TV using your Wi-Fi connection.
The basics: what it is and what it does:
You can use it to stream online videos from YouTube, Netflix and elsewhere, and use your computer, mobile phone or tablet as a remote control. It doesn’t have any kind of separate app store or user interface on your TV – everything gets controlled from your PC or mobile device.
The key word here is control: Your phone doesn’t stream videos directly to your Chromecast dongle. Instead, it just tells the device which video it should stream from the cloud. That means that you can use your phone for something else, or even turn it off, once the stream begins. This also helps preserve your smartphone battery
This kind of remote control capability only works with apps and sites that directly support Chromecast. In addition to that, users can also stream any web content directly from their computer’s Chrome browser, as long as they have a special Chrome extension installed.
The setup is remarkably easy if you follow Google’s directions and download the setup app on your computer or mobile device. Just get those apps, and the setup is literally done in two minutes. Plug the dongle into your TV, connect it to a power source and fire up the app on your computer or mobile device. Enter the password of your local Wi-Fi network, and you’re good to go.
Chromecast is a great device for Netflix viewing: Streams look as good as on any other device and navigating the Netflix catalog on a computer or mobile device works much better than on a connected device like the older WII we have for streaming Netflix.
The other use for Chromecast right now is streaming videos from YouTube. One limitation though is that streaming videos to Chromecast from your PC is only supported if you are on YouTube.com, and not if the video is embedded in a third-party website. That means that you’ll need to click through to YouTube.com before you can start watching on the big screen.
When Chromecast was introduced it was thought that the HDMI-CEC standard would be its secret killer feature and it is. Chromecast can automatically turn on TVs that support HDMI-CEC and even change the HDMI input, switching from live TV to whichever video you selected on your mobile device. One complaint is that turning on the TV doesn’t work if you plug your Chromecast unit into the TV’s USB port, which is why it makes sense to use the extra power adapter that Google ships with the device instead of USB.
Netflix and YouTube are clearly just the beginning for Chromecast. Hulu, Vimeo, HBO Go and others have already pledged their support, and many developers have begun creating apps and games for the device. All of this means that Chromecast will get substantially better over the months to come.
No additional monthly fees and only $35 to bring Netflix to a TV in your bedroom or den is really a no brainer even if you already have a smart TV, or watch Netflix with the game console that’s otherwise collecting dust in your living room. The device makes it easy to bring online video to the living room or kid’s room and in turn makes TV watching a lot more enjoyable. I’ve just ordered 3 more dongles for 2 TV’s at home and one here at the office.
More information is available here:
The title may seem like we’re taking agiant step backwards… but read on….
Coin is a new app and gadget that combines all of your credit and debit accounts into a single card.
If your wallet’s starting to get a little too thick to fit in your pocket, Coin might be able to lighten your load. That’s Coin, not coins.
It looks no different than a standard credit card, but it’s actually a small device that can act as a credit card, debit card or gift card. The device is available for pre-order and expected to start shipping next summer.
Coin CEO Kanishk Parashar said that the company was born from the ashes of the failed company Smart Market. That app, another mobile payment system, failed to notify customers when they were near a store that accepted the app. “There was no need for a card or wallet, but we didn’t see payments going through the system,” he told reporters.
Coin isn’t another system of payment, but a way of uniting several different methods of payment into a single device. Coin users plug a magnetic strip reader into a smartphone, swipe their cards, and sync their information through the company’s app.
In order to make a payment, users tap a button on the Coin card and pick which account they want to pay with, whether it’s a business credit card or a personal debit card. After picking an account, the Coin card is swiped just like using any other card.
It may seem a little risky to keep all your financial accounts bound to a single card. However, Parashar and his colleagues have engineered security measures into Coin. All communication between the Coin card, app and servers are heavily encrypted. All your financial information would be secured.
In addition, Coin cards themselves broadcast a low-power Bluetooth signal that detects where your smartphone is. It works on the concept of being on a leash. If you’re walking away from your card and go out of range of the Bluetooth, Coin locks itself from use and your iPhone will then signal you with an alert.
But even if you miss that alert, you don’t have to worry about other people using your card. After a certain period of time (determined by the user), Coin will automatically
deactivate and stop other people from using it.
Coin is currently available for pre-order for $50. It may seem like a hefty price to pay for a lighter wallet, but Coin executives are optimistic.
I see this as a big step forward in mobile payment processing and simplification but believe that the ultimate solution would be for your smart phone to manage and make all your mobile payments as well as manage all the different courtesy and awards cards stores hand out today.
For additional info:
Watch the video on YouTube here:
On July 31st 2013, Massachusetts law makers quietly enacted a new sales tax regulation hidden within the much reported on Gasoline and Tobacco tax increases.
Many IT service providers are still not even aware of this new regulation or how it will affect both their business and that of their clients.
Basically, effective July 31st, Computer Service providers and consultants are now required to charge 6.25% sales tax on all professional services relating to the services defined in the NEW definition of “services”.
The “Legal Speak”
According to The Mass Department of Revenue (DOR) “The term “Services” shall be limited to the following items, telecommunications services, computer system design services and the modification, integration, enhancement, installation, or configuration of standardized or prewritten software.
The application of the sales and use tax to Computer/Software Services will not apply to personal or professional services that do not themselves constitute computer system design. Or software modification services and that are not directly related to a particular system integration project involving the sale of computer hardware or software. Two examples of such non-taxable and professional services may include (1) consulting and evaluation services with respect to existing computer systems to identify deficiencies and needs and (2) services to prepare a business to use modified software, such as training.”
The DOR intends to provide “additional guidance” in the future regarding application of this services tax. The initial guidance provided by the state, as stated in TIR 13-10, is currently very limited and the law, in its current iteration, is very open ended and as should expected, favors the State and not the consumer of these types of services.
So, in a real life example, this means that when a consumer purchases a piece of software (say an antivirus program)and then hires a third party (computer guy) to install and configure that software, the third party (computer guy) is required to charge the consumer 6.25% sales tax on the hourly rate charged to perform the installation.
Another example – when a consumer buys a new computer system and then engages a computer service company to install and configure it for them – the computer guy must charge sales tax on the service rate he charges to perform this work. Business network service and installations will incur the same 6.25% sales tax as well.
One more example – If you or your company hires a web designer/consultant to build, update and/or modify your website, this type of service is now taxable as well.
My interpretation – As we see it, this impacts almost all of our clients and the services that we provide and every home or business computer user that hires a third party to perform pretty much any service on their computers and networks! We have reached out to our tax accountant as well as the Mass DOR to get a more exact definition and will report any new information we receive.
I’ve personally called around to dozens of computer service providers both large and small throughout the South Shore and in every single instance, the Service providers are still operating under the “old” tax regulations and have not yet adopted these new requirements. It’s only a matter of time – when these companies start seeing the new online ST-9 sales tax reporting forms requiring that they separately report and pay their service tax liabilities – they will be playing and paying catch up with the Mass DOR.
I’ll be talking about this with Kevin Tocci, Monday night between 6:30 and 7:00 on Monday Night Talk on 95.9 WATD. I’ll also be discussing it with Rob Hakala and Lisa Azizian on my regular Tuesday morning spot on the South Shore’s Morning News Show at 8:11am, also on WATD. Tune in or you can listen LIVE on the website at 959watd.com.
Link to the new law as posted on MASS DOR website:
Article/post in The Boston Business Journal:
If you want to be even more confused about this law, have a look at this site:
It’s not enough that we need to worry about the security cameras installed on every other telephone pole, street sign and office building – NOW we need to check the TV sets in our living rooms.
Today’s high-end televisions are almost all equipped with “smart” PC-like features, including Internet connectivity, apps, microphones and cameras. But a recently discovered security hole in some Samsung Smart TVs shows that many of those bells and whistles aren’t ready for prime time.
The research was conducted on different models of 2012 Samsung Smart TVs and was presented this week at the Black Hat cyber security conference in Las Vegas.
In a formal statement, Samsung said it takes user safety very seriously. Addressing the camera flaw, a company spokesperson said, “The camera can be turned into a bezel of the TV so that the lens is covered, or disabled by pushing the camera inside the bezel. The TV owner can also unplug the TV from the home network when the Smart TV features are not in use.” Samsung also recommends that customers use encrypted wireless access points.
The flaws in Samsung Smart TVs, which have now been patched, enabled hackers to remotely turn on the TVs’ built-in cameras without leaving any trace of it on the screen. While you’re watching TV, a hacker anywhere around the world could have been watching you. Hackers also could have easily rerouted an unsuspecting user to a malicious website to steal bank account information. Samsung quickly fixed the problem after security researchers at iSEC Partners informed the company about the bugs. Samsung sent a software update to all affected TVs.
Bottom Line: When all else fails or you’re just not sure…. you can always put tape over the cameras. A low tech solution for a high tech problem.
These types of glitches speak to the larger problem of gadgets that connect to the Internet but have virtually no security to speak of.
If something can connect to the internet, it can be hacked. Security cameras, lights, heating control systems, smart implanted medical devices and even door locks and windows are now increasingly coming with features that allow users to control them remotely. Without proper security controls, there’s little to stop hackers from invading users’ privacy, stealing personal information or spying on people.
Smartphones have pretty much taken over as the default navigation tool for many drivers. However, some states like California have outright banned smartphone use in the car: no windshield mounts or dashboard cradles allowed. So, how are you going to get your turn-by-turn directions when looking at your phone is illegal? Garmin has announced a new way to interact with its StreetPilot and Navigon smartphone navigation apps: a device called the HUD.
HUD — short for head-up display — sits on the dashboard at the base of the windshield, where it projects navigation data upward into the driver’s line of sight, either onto a transparent film affixed to the windshield glass or a reflector lens that attaches to the HUD device. Both the film and reflector lens are included with the device.
Garmin states that HUD will automatically adjust the brightness of its projections, so that the display remains visible in direct sunlight or at night. The device will be powered by a 12V charging cable with an integrated USB port for keeping your smartphone charged as well.
What’s your phone got to do with this? HUD’s data is provided by one of Garmin’s navigation apps — either Navigon or StreetPilot — on an Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone 8 smartphone. The head-up display pairs with your handset via Bluetooth to communicate with the navigation app. (Many phones can also simultaneously pair with your car’s Bluetooth system to broadcast the spoken portion of the turn-by-turn directions and to take incoming calls.)
In addition to turn arrows, distance to the next turn, current speed and speed limit, HUD can also display the estimated time of arrival, graphic lane guidance, traffic delays, upcoming safety camera locations, excessive speed warnings, and more.
By projecting this limited, yet relevant data up in the driver’s line of sight, Garmin claims that “HUD can help increase safety and reduce driver distraction. HUDs windshield display looks pretty cool too.
The Garmin HUD has an MSRP of $149.99 when it becomes readily available later this summer. Add in an additional $29.99 for Garmin’s StreetPilot or Navigon app for your particular smartphone to power it and off you go.
Here’s a YouTube Video showing the device in action:
Garmin’s Head-up Display (HUD)
Pam got a call just a few weeks ago from someone stating they were from Microsoft and they had noticed that her computer was infected and would like to help her get it cleaned up. These scam calls started several years ago and they will continue because too many folks are still falling for it. The sophistication level of this scam continues to fool people, but the bottom line is that Microsoft (or any other legitimate company) will never call you out of the blue to help you with a problem you didn’t know you had.
The closest exception is that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) could send you a warning e-mail if an infected computer is identified as causing problems from your home or business via your Internet connection, but even they wouldn’t call you on the phone.
Microsoft is well aware of these scams, but there really isn’t much that they can do to stop it since these scammers pop-up out of thin air on a regular basis and have clever ways to mask who they really are.
In most cases, this is a ‘cold-calling’ technique used by unscrupulous computer service organizations, generally from foreign countries, that are simply trying to con folks out of their money. They randomly call phone numbers in the US, because they know that virtually everyone they call will have a computer and the odds are pretty good that they have a Windows-based computer.
We’re starting to see more variations of this scam that don’t always use Microsoft’s name but the intentions are the same: trying to scare you into letting them access your computer to fix it for a fee. They use clever tricks for convincing you that you do have a problem, if they can keep you on the phone long enough (so hang up as quickly as you can!)
Pam, being in the business and wise to these types of scams, took a slightly different view of this scammer and rebuked the person on the phone telling them they should be ashamed of themselves for trying to steal from innocent people, why don’t you get a real job and so on… They hung up on her!
They’ll try to convince you by having you run some ‘diagnostics’ yourself as proof.
One tactic they use is to get the victim to open the Windows Event Viewer, which has a log of any errors that Windows has detected. Unless you just recently installed Windows, your Event Log is bound to show some errors (very normal), which can be made to seem scary to non-technical users. Another trick is to get you to drop to a command prompt (black background with white text) to check your system ID and run a verify command, which will return the message that ‘verify is off’. They will then tell you that your computer ID can’t be verified which means your computer hasn’t been able to get Windows updates (which is completely false; the verify command is to verify that data has been written to a hard drive correctly).
The caller may even guide you to pull up something that they claim is a system certificate that has a 2011 date, which they will try to convince you means your computer hasn’t been updated since then As you can see, if you follow their instructions, they can easily trick a non-technical victim into believing that their computer really is infected and allow ‘Microsoft’ into their computer remotely to fix it.
Remote service is perfectly fine and safe, but only when you instigate the call for help and it is provided by a trusted source.
Read More about these scams as well as how to report them to Microsoft:
App Store Celebrates its 5th Birthday this week and YOU get the presents. If you’ve been holding off on buying that pricey app for your iPhone or iPad, today could be your lucky day.
As noted on The Verge website, many of the App Store’s most popular apps are free or highly discounted in what may be a gesture by Apple to celebrate the marketplace’s fifth birthday this week. There is no banner or other indication in the store (at least not yet) to celebrate the milestone.
In some cases, the discounts are steep. Games such as the popular “Infinity Blade II” ($6.99), “Tiny Wings HD” ($2.99) and “Badland” ($3.99) are among the apps currently available for free. The most notable price cut comes for “Traktor DJ,” a popular app for aspiring and professional DJs that is normally $19.99.
You can see a list of all of the apps that are currently marked down to free over at Among Tech. It’s unclear if these apps will be the first of more to temporarily be available for free in the App Store. Apple has not promoted anything in the marketplace to call attention to the anniversary and the app makers currently offering a free download have also been mum on the move.
Since its introduction back on July 10, 2008, one year after the debut of the first iPhone, the App Store has serviced 50 billion downloads, 900,000 apps and hosts 575 million store accounts. The marketplace’s much-lauded “ecosystem” of smartphone programs has spawned more than its fair share of multimillion-dollar companies that got their start exclusively on iOS, such as instagram and Snapchat. Apple has paid developers over 15 Billion on App purchases.
On a side note, Apple is still trying to stop Amazon from using the “App Store” name in its own competing software.
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 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.
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.