software

Microsoft is developing a NEW operating system

 

Microsoft is working on a new operating system designed to manage household appliances on a single computer system – appropriately named – HomeOS

 

Microsoft has shed light on a new operating system it is developing that’s designed to let users control their homes systems, such as lighting, heating and door locks with the wave of the hand.

 

HomeOS is an attempt to create an operating system that can connect all manner of home-based appliances that can now be connected to a network in a user-friendly manner, so it can be operated by computing novices.

 

At its most basic, HomeOS would allow users to view feeds from home security systems on their smartphones when away from their house, but it could also be used to control heating systems and other similar systems.

 

Microsoft researchers said HomeOS would ensure, “all devices in the home appear as peripherals connected to a single logical PC”.

 

Microsoft has been running HomeOS in trials with users and programmers and has just released a research paper documenting their progress.

 

It recruited 12 users to live with the system and assess how easy it was to do a number of tasks, including configuring a music application, which uses motion-detectors and speakers to enable music to play continuously in different rooms as an occupant moves through the house.

 

Other tasks included configuring the system to allow residents to automatically unlock the front door when they arrived at the house, but to restrict the times that guests could come and go freely.

 

To test how easy the system was for developers, the researchers got 10 volunteers to design a pair of applications, having been given a few minutes instruction on HomeOS. One of the applications was to control the lights in the house, based on an occupant’s previously defined preferences.

 

The application had to be able to discover which rooms had cameras, and be able to integrate facial recognition components and dimmer controls.

 

HomeOS has also been given to more than 40 other developers, who’ve had free rein to play with it. One developer used it to link light controls with an Xbox console, using the Kinect system to enable users to control the lights with a wave of their hand.

 

However, the system still has a way to go before it is ready for mainstream use. For example, many of the devices that can be connected have limited API (application programming interfaces), restricting the extent to which they can be made to work with HomeOS.

 

The Microsoft researchers hope that this work spurs the research community to further explore the home as a future computing platform.

 

You can get additional information from the Microsoft Research site:
http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/homeos/

 

Here’s a link to a 10 minute video demo of HomeOS from TechFest 2011
http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/default.aspx?id=150524

 

Or if you’re really a geeky minded individual, you can read their research paper:
http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/157701/homeos.pdf

Bitcasa opens private beta to all

 

We talked about this company last year and with all the new entries into cloud storage of late, I thought we should revisit this entity. Cloud storage is nothing new in this age of high-speed internet connections. Services like Dropbox, Microsoft Skydrive, Apple’s iCloud and Amazon S3 give users a set amount of online storage, and as users, we’ve become comfortable with the notion of hard drives in the cloud. Bitcasa has taken a step forward providing a cloud storage solution that offers unlimited space for a measly $10 per month.

 

Bitcasa is aiming to provide more than just a synced folder on a computer. The idea is that Bitcasa will become completely integrated with the device, negating the idea of placing certain files in the cloud. Instead, the cloud is the computer’s hard drive, and the physical local disk is used like cache. With all those files automatically written to the cloud, it also becomes extremely easy to share them.

 

The service won’t be dealing with the actual files from the computer. On the server-side, all Bitcasa is concerned with is the 1′s and 0′s that make up the file data. Before uploading anything to the cloud, content is encrypted on the local machine, meaning that Bitcasa is not in a position to know what files it is storing. All Bitcasa (or perhaps some angry copyright holders) can see are encrypted bits and bytes.

 

When a user needs to access a file, it is pulled down seamlessly from the Bitcasa cloud. Larger files, like video can just be streamed without downloading. According to Bitcasa CEO Tony Gauda, intelligent caching will make the most frequently used content available as local cache. This has the added benefit of making important files available offline for quicker access.

 

So how can BitCasa afford to offer unlimited cloud storage out of the gate for just $10 per month? Dropbox charges that same rate for just 50GB, and they’ve been building out their cloud storage for a few years now. The key is that a user’s data is never completely unique, or even mostly unique. BitCasa explains (and expects) that roughly 60% of an individual users data is duplicated elsewhere.

 

Those MP3s purchased from iTunes, photos, and even all those pirated movies are duplicated on many other users’ computers. Bitcasa uses a de-duplication algorithm along with compression technology to reduce the amount of storage space needed for each user. Basically, if two users have an identical file in Bitcasa, the service only keeps one copy and makes it available to both users.

 

On the surface, Bitcasa sounds remarkable, but there are still some important questions to be answered. The constant encryption and syncing of files to the cloud could be costly in terms of system performance, for instance. This isn’t just another synced folder on a device, users will essentially be doing all their file management in the cloud. Can Bitcasa scale to meet the file management needs of all users as it gains popularity?

 

Bitcasa has apparently demonstrated enough potential to attract $1.3 million in venture funding. A limited beta is about to start, and users are free to register for an account. During this beta period, the service will be free to use. There will also be a freemium version of Bitcasa down the road with limited storage space. This is definitely a service to keep an eye on; it could change the way we store files.

Sign up now for the limited Beta to get a feel for how this service will operate on your unique hardware and internet connection – after all – it’s Free!

 

Register for the private beta here: http://www.bitcasa.com/beta-signup

Have You Been The Victim Of An Email Hack Lately

 

 I’m talking specifically about violating the TOS or “Terms Of Service” as defined by your ISP – AOL, Comcast, Verizon and any number of others. Have you been the unknowing victim of an email hack? It seems like the hackers are out in force these past few days as I keep hearing from folks who received an email or letter similar to the ones below:

 

AOL Subject: Terms of Service.

 

Dear Member,

We want to inform you that your account was used to violate our Terms of Service.  Here are the specific details of the violation:

Screen Name: xxxxxxxx

Date: 2012-03-11 20:33:32.0

Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2012 17:01:21 -0400 (EDT)

SN in violati0n: xxxxxxxx

Subject: http://eveningdresswholesale.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-safe/lifenews.php?ke=pt138.gif

 

Please understand that we are sending you this email to inform you of what has occurred on your account.  We are aware that this may have been done without your knowledge or authorization.  If this is the case, we recommend that you immediately run anti-virus software on all of your computers and reset all of your passwords using the following guidelines:

 

All of your new passwords should meet the following criteria

1. Minimum of 8 characters in length

2. Not be one of the last 10 passwords you used

3. Contain characters from ALL of the following categories

 

    a. At least one upper case character (A – Z)

    b. At least one number (0 – 9)

    c. At least one special characters (()#~!$%^&*-+=|{}[]:;”‘<>,.?/@)

 

Strong password example -> Pr0viDEnce@123

 

Please be advised that continued violations of our Terms of Service may result in closure of your AOL account(s).

 

Or – how about this one….

 

ACTION REQUIRED BY MARCH 6 TO PROTECT YOUR SERVICE

(this alert was sent on March 2nd so you would only have 4 days to react to it) 

Dear Valued Xfinity Internet Customer

 

Comcast has received a report from a trusted security provider stating that one or more of the devices connected to your network are infected with malware….. the letter goes on to say, the infection allows cyber-criminals to re-direct your computer and other devices to websites that may look legitimate, but are fraudulent and intended to steal your personal information, website logins and passwords…..

 

In many cases, users don’t even know their accounts have been hacked until someone from their email address book replies to them showing a bogus email sent from your account.

 

It seems strange to me that these types of exploits continue to happen on such a regular basis. Apparently, many people simply don’t heed the warnings of improper password usage and still use passwords that are far too easy to guess.

 

Forbes recently published their annual listing identifying the 25 worst passwords for 2011 – the Top 10 from the list are shown below:

1. password

2. 123456

3. 12345678

4. qwerty

5. abc123

6. monkey

7. 1234567

8. letmein

9. trustno1

10. dragon

 

Is your current password on this list?

 

To see the entire Forbes list click here:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidcoursey/2011/11/21/25-worst-passwords-of-2011-revealed/

 

Obviously, we all still need to work on our secure password selection process. So, to that end, here’s a couple of links to password generators that will allow you to set the number of characters (8 characters should be the absolute minimum number selected) and some additional configuration details and end up with a more secure password.

 

http://www.pctools.com/guides/password/

 

http://strongpasswordgenerator.com/

Is It Better To Turn Your Computer Off Or Leave It On

The age old question… Is it better to leave my computer on 24/7 or shut it down when I’m not using it?

 

This is one of those questions where there is no single right answer. In other words, it depends on how you use your computer.

 

There are at least three situations that may compel you to leave your computer on 24 hours a day:

 

•You are on a network, and the network administrators back up files and/or upgrade software over the network at night. If that is the case, and you want your machine backed up or upgraded, then you need to leave it on all the time.

 

•You’re using your machine as some sort of server. For example, if your machine acts as a file server, print server, Web server, etc., on a LAN (local area network) or the Internet, then you need to leave it on all the time.

 

•If you’re running something like SETI@home and you want to produce as many result sets as possible, you need to leave your machine on all the time. If you don’t know what SETI is, take a look at this website: http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/

 

If you do not fall into any of these categories, then you have a choice about whether or not to leave your machine turned on.

 

One reason you might want to turn it off is economic. A typical PC consumes something like 300 watts. Let’s assume that you use your PC for four hours every day, so the other 20 hours it is on would be wasted energy. Those 20 hours represent about 60 cents a day which adds up to $219 per year.

 

It’s also possible to use the energy-saving features built into today’s computer systems and cut that figure in half. For example, you can configure the monitor and hard disk to power down automatically when not in use although you’ll still be wasting $100 per year.

 

The most common argument for leaving your computer on all the time is that turning it on and off somehow stresses the computer’s components. For example, when the CPU chip is running, it can get quite hot, and when you turn the machine off it cools back down. The expansion and contraction from the heat probably has some effect on the solder joints holding the chip in place, and on the micro-fine details on the chip itself. But here are three ways to look at that:

 

•If it were a significant problem, then computer systems would be failing all the time. The fact is, hardware is very reliable (software is a whole different story, and there is a lot to be said for rebooting every day).

 

•I don’t know a single person who leaves their TV on 24 hours a day. TVs contain many of the same electronic components that computers do – some of them even have hard drives now. In the grand scheme of all things electronic, TVs certainly have no problems being cycled on and off.

 

•Most computer resellers will gladly sell you a three-year full-replacement warrantee for about $150. If you’re worried about it, spend some of the money you’re saving by turning your machine off and buy a service contract. Over three years, you’ll still come out way ahead!

New Cyber-Legislation Gains Traction in House and Senate

 

Federal law enforcement officials believe that cyber-security is more of a threat to the U.S. than traditional terrorism. In order to combat this new threat, the House and Senate are each considering new bills that would tighten the nation’s cyber-security infrastructure. These bills are being debated just as Anonymous has started a new campaign targeting the FBI.

 

As federal officials and the White House increasingly call on Congress to pass the comprehensive cyber-security bill to protect critical infrastructure, the House moves forward with its version. Federal law enforcement officials expect cyber-espionage, hacktivists and cyber-attacks to soon surpass traditional terrorism as the No. 1 threat facing the United States, according to Congressional testimony.

 

“Stopping terrorists is the No. 1 priority,” Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Feb. 1. “But down the road, the cyber-threat will be the No. 1 threat to the country. I do not think it is necessarily [the] No. 1 threat, but it will be tomorrow.”

 

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper urged the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to pass legislation to increase cyber-security in both the public and private sectors during a hearing of the House Select Intelligence Committee on worldwide threats on Feb. 2. Clapper discussed intrusions on public systems that control major defense weapon systems, electrical grids and banking infrastructure. The U.S. economy is losing upwards of $300 billion per year because of rampant cyber-espionage.

 

Perhaps we all have the right to be nervous. The hacktivist collective Anonymous released audio transcripts on YouTube of a 16-minute call between the FBI and Scotland Yard where law enforcement officials discussed several Anonymous- and LulzSec-related cases on Feb. 3. The FBI and British police have confirmed that the transcripts are legitimate and said they are investigating.

 

Anonymous had access to one of the call participants’ email accounts and had intercepted an email containing the dial-in information and passcode for the trans-Atlantic phone call. “The FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now,” AnonymousIRC wrote on Twitter.

 

Congress is making some movements toward a comprehensive cyber-legislation. The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cyber-Security, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies marked up the cyber-security bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and unanimously approved it Feb. 1. Lungren’s Promoting and Enhancing Cyber-Security and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act (PRECISE) calls for creating a nonprofit National Information Sharing Organization that would collect cyber-security threat information and allow the industry to voluntarily share the data with the government. The NISO umbrella would make private firms and government agencies exempt from privacy laws that prevent data sharing, so long as they share the information only for cyber-security purposes.

 

The bill also identified the Department of Homeland Security as the lead federal agency for securing networks operated by civilian government and private sectors. The bill, as presented, does not give the government an “Internet kill switch” or authority to limit Internet traffic in case of an emergency.

 

ISPs and other operators need “clearer legal authority” to share signatures and other information about suspected attacks with each other and with the government. A private nonprofit organization would pose far fewer privacy risks than an information-sharing hub run by the government.

 

The Senate has plans to present its version of the cyber-security bill for markup by Feb. 17. The Senate bill is rumored to also put the Department of Homeland Security in charge, but the agency would also have the authority to create security rules for the private sector to follow, and punish companies that do not comply with the rules. The Department of Homeland Security would decide which companies it would be able to regulate but would select those with systems whose “disruption could result in the interruption of life-sustaining services, catastrophic economic damage or severe degradation of national security capabilities,” according to a summary of the bill.

 

It’s interesting to note that as much as 85 percent of the country’s critical infrastructure is controlled by the private sector. Looks like Big Brother will finally get its fingers in the pie!

SOPA and PIPA What Went Wrong

 

The postponing of SOPA and PIPA last week was a relief to security gurus who foresaw major technical problems inherent in the bills’ provisions. Last week U.S. Congress was rushing to pass a controversial bill that most security experts maintained could throw a monkey wrench into the gearbox of the Internet.

 

The bills themselves have been postponed, and their main sponsors have specifically disavowed the supposed security pain points they contained.

 

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), filed in the U.S. House of Representatives, and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), proposed that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) be called on to block the DNS addresses of websites suspected of violating the rights of copyright holders.

 

But after weeks of controversy from opponents of the legislation, capped by a one-day blackout of Wikipedia and other sites in protest of the measure, the sponsors of the bills decided to strip out the DNS requirements.

 

“After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the [Judiciary] Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision,” SOPA’s sponsor Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said.

 

PIPA’s sponsor, Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), was skeptical of the critics of the DNS provisions in his bill, but also agreed to shelve the provision.

 

“I remain confident that the ISPs — including the cable industry, which is the largest association of ISPs — would not support the legislation if its enactment created the problems that opponents of this provision suggest,” he said. “Nonetheless,” he continued, “this is in fact a highly technical issue, and I am prepared to recommend we give it more study before implementing it.”

 

The DNS concessions were good news for white hats like Dan Brown, a senior security researcher with Bit9. “Anyone who understands how the Internet works thinks it’s a bad idea for Congress to fiddle with something they don’t understand,” he told TechNewsWorld.

 

“These bills are still bad because they will have a negative impact on free speech and free communication on the Internet,” he asserted, “but they appear to be moving in the direction of not having any major technological impact on the Internet.”

 

For more info check out this online article from PC World

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/248586/sopa_and_pipa_what_went_wrong.html

 

 

Anonymous lashes out and promises more to come

Government and big business once again clashed with the anarchic hacker collective “Anonymous” last week. The sore point between the two this time was the FBI’s shutdown of the alleged pirate haven Megaupload and the arrest of its founder and other executives in the company.

 

Megaupload has been in and out of hot water since it was launched in March 2005. Since that time, according to the FBI, the site has produced $175 million in “criminal proceeds” for its owners.

 

In retaliation for the government action, the hacker group known simply as “Anonymous”, launched a series of denial of service attacks against servers at the U.S. Department of Justice, the Motion Picture Association of America and Universal Recording. The attacks were able to cripple or stop operation of those sites temporarily. To do so, however, the hactivists had to resort to unusual tactics.

 

Through Twitter and the group’s chat rooms, it spread a booby-trapped URL. Clicking on the Web address involuntarily turned the clicker into one of the Anonymous attacking hordes.

 

Now Anonymous is threatening to bring down Facebook this weekend in the same manner. They’re even asking for end users help with this “project” and suddenly we’re seeing videos supposedly from Anonymous (no one has verified that these videos can actually be attributed to the group – after all, they are Anonymous) but it’s interesting to see and listen to all the chatter.

 

Here’s a link to the video supposedly attributed to the hacker organization – to be fair, the group has tweeted publically that this video is a fraud. Boy… just who can you trust these days?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oVSQ3JIgIXE#!

 

What’s your stand on this – should pirate sites like Megaupload and other torrent sites be allowed to store and share pirated and copyrighted movies and music for anyone to download for free? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…

Instant Facial Recognition and Detection

Instant facial recognition and detection, is it Science Fiction or Science Fact? Facial recognition and detection technology is getting cheaper, faster, and much more commonplace, raising the question of whether people will be able to remain anonymous in the near future.

 

Digital signs and sensors that detect and recognize faces are no longer a matter of science fiction. They are real and are popping up everywhere from malls to bars to smartphones.

 

So what’s protecting you from Big Brother tracking your movements and invading your privacy?

 

 

As of right now, technology is the only significant barrier.

 

Today, the technology is not quite robust enough to snap a photo of someone on the street and instantly know who they are. Computer processors aren’t fast enough to scan across billions of images in real time to match an offline face to an online photograph. But that’s coming soon.

 

“To match two photos of people in the United States in real time would take four hours,” said Alessandro Acquisti, professor of IT and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. “That’s too long to do in real time. But assuming a steady improvement in cloud computing time, we can soon get much closer to that reality than many of us believed.”

 

Acquisti and his research team at Carnegie Mellon have already developed a proof-of-concept iPhone application that can snap a photo of a person and within seconds display their name, date of birth and social security number.

 

Currently, the reference photos have to be uploaded to a database, but Acquisti said that processing speeds will soon become fast enough to do the whole process online and in an instant.

 

Though computers still have difficulty identifying faces in low light or poor photo quality, programs are now able to capture a profile of a face, build a 3D model of it, rotate the photo and identify the person the face belongs to.

 

If a future in which you can always be identified really is around the corner, what will stop advertisers or even the government from putting names to previously anonymous faces of people walking into a store, strolling down the street or protesting a convention? That’s what the Federal Trade Commission sought to find out at a facial recognition policy conference in Washington last month.

 

The answer as of now: industry self-regulation. The Digital Signage Federation, a consortium of companies operating digital signs that detect or recognize faces, developed privacy guidelines that require consumers to “opt-in” to being detected or recognized. But that “opt-in” can be made as simply as walking into a store that posts on its window that it detects faces.

 

As of today, no laws or regulations specifically prevent your face from being detected or recognized without your consent. “Is U.S. privacy law ready for facial recognition? It’s not even close,” said Daniel Solove, professor at the George Washington University Law School.

 

The solution, however, isn’t easy. Warning people that a particular venue is equipped with face detection technology means the only way for people not to be detected would be to avoid the location. But what if it’s a drug store and someone needs to get a prescription filled?

 

More than 35,000 developers have built apps that have detected and recognized more than 35 billion photos using Face.com’s online software. They range from fun toys like Celebrity Findr, which scours Facebook and Twitter for photos of celebrities, to practical tools like Fareclock, which tracks when employees punch in and out by scanning their faces.

 

Somewhere in between is Find Your Facemate. Upload your photo and the service will find a potential future love interest who uses the service and looks like you.

 

How long will it be before someone decides to put together all these online images into a central database and in many online repositories like Facebook and Twitter, our name is already linked to the photo.

 

Face recognition and detection is real, but the government doesn’t yet have a way to protect its citizens from potential abuse of the technology. With the vast network of internet based security cameras recording much of our daily lives, this is just the next logical step. Are you ready for this? In the future, can anyone remain anonymous?

Use Your Face To Log Into Your Computer And Websites

Are you tired of creating and then trying to remember all your different passwords – never mind having to type them in each time you log into your iPhone, iPad, iOS or Windows based system?

 

Well, it looks like a company called SensibleVision may have the answer for all of us.

 

FastAccess Anywhere is your mobile device’s new best friend. Now you can finally use the most powerful sites and apps that have sensitive data—like banking, bill payment, and private email—by securely logging in with your face.*

 

So, say goodbye to the hassle of remembering and typing all your passwords on that tiny mobile keyboard. Or putting in a PIN or password just to check the weather or make a phone call.

 

Whether you use iOS or Android phones or tablets, or Windows desktops and laptops, FastAccess Anywhere has you covered. Protect the apps YOU want and instantly input usernames and passwords with your face. 

 

And, unlike other “novelty” face recognition products that allow access with photos or videos of your face, FastAccess Anywhere has enterprise-level security so you don’t have to worry. It’s fast, safe, and fun!

 

Sync Passwords Across Devices…iOS, Android, & Windows!

FastAccess Anywhere syncs across phones, tablets, and even your Windows machines. Store passwords on any Android, iOS (Apple), or Windows device and automatically have them available on all of your other devices. Change a password and it updates everywhere!

 

Because security comes first with FastAccess Anywhere, all passwords are stored securely in the cloud, never permanently on your mobile devices. So, if your phone is ever lost or damaged, your passwords aren’t. That means someone who finds your lost device won’t have access to your credentials. 

 

Proven Technology for People On-the-Go

Five MILLION users already love FastAccess facial recognition on Windows. Combining our patent-pending, class-leading facial recognition with an optional gesture or shape of your choice, FastAccess Anywhere uses proven technology for storing and retrieving your sensitive passwords on your mobile devices. Not even photos or videos can fool it.

 

By using your face with a second factor, the accuracy of the two technologies are multiplied to give you piece of mind. In addition, gesture “smudge attacks” are reduced because FastAccess Anywhere moves the gesture area around on the screen.

Up and Running in No Time

 

Our easy setup wizard will guide you through everything in just a few steps:

  • Create a Cloud Account
  • Teach FastAccess Anywhere your face
  • Create a Gesture

You’ll be using your face to access sites & apps in minutes!   
http://www.sensiblevision.com/faa.aspx
 

Try FastAccess Pro for FREE – get the free download at:
http://www.sensiblevision.com/en-us/home.aspx#top

 

The software is currently available for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. FastAccess Anywhere for Mobile devices will be available in February.  Watch as the company shakes up this month’s CES show with its pending release.

Where is SANTA – NORAD Knows

 It’s that special time of the year again.

 

 

NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been helping Santa make his rounds for 53 years. The site went live on December 1st for those who are ready to start searching for St. Nick. While you won’t actually get to track him until Christmas Eve, there are tons of resources, fun and games available on the site now. There’s a new video direct from NORAD this year introducing NORAD Santa located here: http://www.noradsanta.org/en/anorad.html

 

This year, NORAD teamed up with the Colorado Springs School District 11. Here’s a link to the contests winning video and dance from the students at Wasson High School along with some of the students stories. http://www.noradsanta.org/en/d11.html  There’s also many student videos from around the world posted on teh site for you to view and enjoy: http://www.noradsanta.org/en/video_world.html

 

How does NORAD track Santa?
Santa Cams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras pre-positioned at many locations around the world only on Christmas Eve. The cameras capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey around the world.

 

All the preparations for this year are in place! Be sure visit each day to get important updates from the North Pole and to discover new surprises in the Kids’ Countdown Village. Santa’s elves have been busier than usual this year preparing for Christmas Eve. Visit Santa’s Village to see what’s been going on, and join in the fun!

 

Santa Snacks
Santa takes breaks during his Christmas Eve trip around the world – especially for snacks left for him by children. Do you put a snack out for Santa? Kids all over the world do. Some even leave carrots for Santa’s reindeer. (carrots are their favorite food.) Be sure to check back on Christmas Eve to see how many cookies Santa eats during his journey. No wonder he’s so jolly and round!

 

This year you can track Santa in many different ways.  In addition to the website you can use Google Earth/iGoogle Gadget, Twitter and Facebook – get the links and info form the websites home page – http://www.noradsanta.org

 

So don’t miss out on the fun this year. Log in on Christmas Eve and watch as Santa makes his way around the world and more importantly – to your house!

 

Why Does NORAD Track Santa
Here’s the link explaining how this 53 year old tradition got started by Colonel Harry Shoup (Retired USAF) as well as a short audio of his recounting that fateful night and the first phone call into NORAD headquarters. http://www.noradsanta.org/en/whytrack.html

 

Want to know how NORAD accomplishes this tremendous task each year http://www.noradsanta.org/en/howtrack.html

 

How would you (or your child) like to talk to someone at NORAD to find out where Santa is located?
The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center is fully operational beginning at 4:00 a.m. MST on December 24. You can call 1 877 HI-NORAD (1.877.446.6723) to talk directly to a NORAD staff member who will be able to tell you Santa’s exact location!

 

Perhaps you’d like to send an email to NORAD to find out where Santa is located?
On December 24, you can send an email to noradtrackssanta@gmail.com. A NORAD staff member will give you Santa’s last known location in a return email.

 

Merry Christmas from all of Santa’s Elves at ACTSmart!

Top 10 Technology Trends For 2012

Well, it’s December, when sugar plums fill children’s heads and analysts look into their crystal balls to see what the new year will bring. 2012 should be a banner year for personal technology, showcasing the beginning and end for a lot of companies and products, as well as major transitions for those that are left.

Overall, expect to find technology more social, more connected, and increasingly more voice-controlled. We’ll also see the blurring of the lines between tablets and laptops.

 

Voice Command

The success of Siri (Apples iPhone 4S voice assistant) is clearly driving a lot of folks to create similar offerings, so expect this type of technology to make it over to other handset makers and into tablets next year. PCs should get it as well. Look for Siri-like interfaces in websites, as well to help you navigate. Expect to see something like this tied to Google’s ecosystem, given how much Google likes to copy Apple.

 

Email Decline

This has actually been going on for a while, with reports that kids coming out of school don’t have email accounts anymore and live on social networks and in messaging products. Files are getting too large to send in email anyway, for the most part, and downloading services that allow you to share links are vastly quicker and often more smartphone/tablet friendly.

 

Cable Box Decline

The traditional cable box will increasingly be replaced by game consoles and smart TVs next year. This has been going on in Europe for some time, with systems like the Xbox, and Verizon just started a similar effort with that product here for FIOS customers. This provides the advantage of both a richer and less-complex experience for the user, as well as a cheaper experience for the cable company, and it appears to be resonating with both groups.

 

Hosted Services

As we move into 2012, more and more of what we access will be hosted. Google started the ball rolling with apps, and now OnLive is doing the same for gamers. Movies are streamed now rather than downloaded, and it won’t be long before most of our applications exist on the Internet and don’t run locally.

 

App Stores

This trend continues and accelerates into 2012 with the launch of Microsoft’s app store and the expected swift demise of packaged software products. As for the software you run locally, you’ll increasingly buy it from a trusted app store, though that store may be offered by Amazon or your laptop/tablet supplier.

 

Windows 8 – Touch

This product is a trend in and of itself, and it represents the biggest bet that Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft has ever made. The company is going to singlehandedly blur the lines between PCs and tablets and hope that users don’t get confused. This will bring touch into the mainstream of the PC market and narrow the gap between notebooks and tablets.

 

Thin Is In

Driven largely by tablets (mostly iPads) and ultrabooks (including the MacBook Air), next year will be the year when thin moves across the mainstream of notebook computers. This won’t just be for PCs, as thin products will continue in smartphones, tablets, and TVs as well. Vendors are expected to compete to be the thinnest in every category.

 

TIS (Tablets in Stuff)

Samsung has already delivered a refrigerator with a built in tablet computer and others are likely to follow their example. New cars will be shown with tablet-like features built into their dash, and this iPad effect will likely extend to things like home automation and high-end home alarm systems as well. And yes, you’ll likely be able to install apps on many of them.

 

Peer-to-Peer Gaming

Qualcomm will be pushing peer-to-peer gaming into smartphones next year, and this could spell the end for most standalone gaming systems. This will allow people to engage others in games without running up data charges, since the phones talk directly to each other, and gaming may be faster as well, because there is no network latency.

 

Cores Are Us

In tablets, we’ll move from two processing cores to up to five cores of computing power. These multicore product offerings should allow the next generation of tablets to approach the low end of PC performance, and they’ll be ideal candidates for the ARM version of Windows 8.

 

2012 is looking pretty good as many new products will be thinner, more social, easier to talk to, friendlier and smarter. What technology innovations would you like to see take the forefront in 2012 – drop me a line and let me know.

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