Technology

Meet The World’s Smallest PC



Intel has released the world’s smallest Windows PC, a tiny thumb-drive-sized device that converts any television or monitor into a functional computer. IntelComputeStick
Similar to the Google’s Chromecast or Amazon’s Fire Stick, the Intel Compute Stick can be plugged into an HDMI port. Though Intel says the Compute Stick can be used for streaming video, it can also do much more than that. The four-inch Compute Stick comes installed with Windows 8.1, 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi, and it has a microSD slot for additional storage if you need it. “It’s everything you love about your desktop computer in a device that fits in the palm of your hand,” says Intel.

Well … maybe not quite “everything”! Your desktop computer probably has a keyboard, a mouse, a lot more storage and RAM, and a much faster processor. But point taken, it is a full-fledged computer that’s the size of a pack of gum. That’s pretty neat. Intel suggests that the Compute Stick be used for “light productivity, social networking, Web browsing, and streaming media or games.” It also said small businesses might use it as an inexpensive computing solution. Microsoft has confirmed that this device will be eligible for a Windows 10 upgrade as well. Originally it was projected to sell for $149.00 but the market is looking like $169.00 right now via Amazon.com.

If you’re looking for a Windows 8 computer experience on your living room TV then the Intel Compute Stick just might be the answer. Just don’t plan on firing up memory and processor hungry 3-D games or animation programs. Get additional information from Intel: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/compute-stick/intel-compute-stick.html CNET Video Review: http://www.cnet.com/products/intel-compute-stick/

Popular Password Security Company Hacked

LastPass, the Fairfax, Va-based company behind one of the most popular password management tools, announced Monday that it had suffered a security breach. Email addresses, password reminders and authentication hashes were compromised.’

CEO and co-founder Joe Siegrist said on the company blog that the LastPass team detected an intrusion on its systems last week. “We want to notify our community that on Friday, our team discovered and blocked suspicious activity on our network,” he wrote. “In our investigation, we have found no evidence that encrypted user vault data was taken, nor that LastPass user accounts were accessed. The investigation has shown, however, that LastPass account email addresses, password reminders, server per user salts, and authentication hashes were compromised.”

LastPass lets its users store encrypted versions of their passwords for all their online accounts on servers in the cloud, sealing them off behind one master password. The tool offers people the ability to rely on one super strong passcode, rather than having to remember dozens of such codes of across the web.

The LastPass team has urged the users of its service to change their master passwords as soon as possible. It also recommends that its users strengthen their authentication procedures by adding a device-specific step: “We are requiring that all users who are logging in from a new device or IP address first verify their account by email, unless you have multifactor authentication enabled. (Recently, the photo sharing app Snapchat announced that it would adopt two-factor authentication. And the car service Uber is reportedly exploring new verification measures, too.)

LastPass said that “encrypted user data was not taken,” and that “you do not need to change your passwords on sites stored in your LastPass vault.” For those who have reused their master password on other sites, however, the company recommends replacing those passwords.

“We are confident that our encryption measures are sufficient to protect the vast majority of users,” Siegrist wrote in his blog post. “Nonetheless, we are taking additional measures to ensure that your data remains secure, and users will be notified via email.”

Currently, the website is flooded with inquiries related to the breach. “Sorry, but we are currently experiencing an extremely high volume of support tickets due to our recent security announcement,” its contact page reads. “Please be patient while we try to respond to your questions and issues as quickly as possible. Anticipated wait times for non-critical issues are currently 3 days for Premium and over 5 days for free users.”

To recap: If you use LastPass, go change your master password immediately and set up two-factor authentication. And if you happen to use the same password to lock your LastPass account that you use to secure, say, your personal email or other online account, you should change that immediately, too.

Wearable Technology Is All The Rage

The wearable technology category has opened the door to several interesting product ideas, one of which is a bracelet that turns your arm into a touchscreen.

Say what? It’s called the Cicret Bracelet (pronounced “Secret”) and it’s currently in development, though you won’t find it hanging out on any crowdfunding sites. Instead, the developers are seeking donations on their own in hopes of raising 700,000 euros (around 760,000 dollars at the current exchange rate) to finish the first prototype.  

Cicret It’s an interesting design that makes use of a pico-projector and various proximity sensors, the latter of which pick up your gesture actions and commands. Just like a touchscreen, you can tap your forearm and perform touch functions, even when it’s wet (taking a bath, for instance).

Supposedly the device can do anything a phone or tablet can do Daily Mail reports. That includes things like read emails, hop around the web, play games, watch videos, make calls, and more. It’s being built to sync with an iPhone, though it can also function as a standalone device. When the project comes to fruition, it will cost around $475 and come in 16GB and 32GB models in choice of 10 colors.

Cicret.com: Check it out.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39LVZ3nkZ7k

 

 

 

cicret2

Relief From Password Pain

Wasting time on forgotten passwords is often very frustrating so not having to remember your passwords is the logical answer.  Many people also reuse their passwords multiple times on different websites which is also a big no-no.

In today’s world, most people who use the internet at home and at work have between 8 and 20 passwords to remember each and every day. PassPack™ just might be the answer for individuals, families and small business owners who need to keep track of multiple passwords as well as shared info between family members and co-workers.

1: Organization: Strong passwords combined with having too many passwords can cause headaches. The Passpack manager helps eliminate that by letting you tag, sort, search and manage multiple logins per site.

2: Everywhere Access: Passpack is web based and available to you from any web browser, anywhere, anytime, there’s no need to carry yet another device or install on multiple computers.

3: Collaborative: Family, co-workers and team members all need access to shared accounts. You can securely share and provision passwords using military grade encryption. You can even securely send passwords and messages to people you trust.

4: Easy To Use: Simply click your personal login button. Just install it once in any browser then click to login to your favorite websites.

5: Disposable Login’s: One unique feature of PassPack allows you to use disposable logins when you’re travelling or using a computer that is not your own. These disposable logins are a one-time use only and then it’s discarded protecting your private password information from key-loggers and other hacker tools designed to capture your info and identity.

So what makes PassPack different from many other password managers? You won’t have to pay a penny to use it. Passpack offers something better than a free trial – they have a free version that allows you to store up to 100 passwords, add a shared user (perhaps a family member) as well giving you 3 disposable logins.

If the Free version isn’t enough, you can upgrade to the next higher level at any time. The PRO version cost is $1.50 per month or if you have a group of people (say up to 15 shared users) the cost is only $4.00 per month (a paltry 27 cents per user).

The PassPack password manager works with the latest versions of Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari as well as Internet Explorer 7 and above.

Take a look and give it a try: www.passpack.com

Amazon’s New Cloud Drive Offering Renews the Storage Wars


Last week, Amazon updated its cloud drive offering in a move that could end up causing a pricing war in cloud based file storage.

Their “new” Cloud model has 2 flavors and both come with a 3-month free trial.

1: Unlimited Photo storage PLUS 5GB for videos and files for $11.99 per year
2: Unlimited “Everything” for storing well, everything… photos, videos, files and documents for just $59.99 per year.

You may recall that last year Amazon tweaked their Prime membership by adding a 5GB storage perk for Prime members at no cost.

Amazons new storage plans address the typical consumer challenge of having a lifetime of birthdays, vacations, holidays and everyday moments stored across multiple devices and having no idea of how many gigabytes of information they need to protect and safely back up.

Amazon’s bargain basement prices will certainly put pressure on Dropbox, Google and Microsoft. A quick comparison shows a gigantic gap between Amazon’s new pricing plans and those of its primary competitors. Here’s how they break down:

  • Google charges $9.99/month for 1 TB. Storing 30 TB costs $299.99/month. However, Google Drive users get 15 GB for free. An incremental storage plan offers 100 GB of storage for $1.99/month.
  • Dropbox charges $10 for 1 TB/month; users can get 2 GB for free.
  • Microsoft charges $6.99/month for 1 TB, with 15 GB available for free. A super saver plan, of sorts, is available on Microsoft’s OneDrive. If you subscribe to Office 365, you can get unlimited cloud storage for $7/month.

The unlimited pricing plans replace the Amazon’s previous pricing menu for Amazon Cloud Storage, which gave subscribers 5 GB of storage for free. Users could add more storage, based on a tiered pricing structure starting at 20 GB for $10/year, up to 1 TB/year for $500. Certainly a substantial shift in pricing.

Finally, Amazon’s Cloud Drive has a cool feature called Auto-Save available in the free mobile app – turn it on and your photos will be automatically saved in your cloud drive – safe and sound even if your phone or tablet is lost or damaged.

With the “Storage Wars” renewed, we can expect additional innovations and price cuts from all the major contenders.

Amazon Cloud Drive:
https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive

 

R.I.P. Internet Explorer

R.I.P. Internet Explorer

R.I.P. Internet Explorer

It’s the end of an era for Microsoft as the software giant is set to replace Internet Explorer with a new web browser.

Currently known only by its code name, Project Spartan, the browser will accompany the Windows 10 launch later this year.

Chris Capossela, chief marketing officer for Microsoft, made the revelation at the Microsoft Convergence conference this past week, according to tech news site The Verge.

“We’re now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be in Windows 10,” said Capossela. “We’ll continue to have Internet Explorer, but we’ll also have a new browser . . . code-named Project Spartan. We have to name the thing.”

But in a market dominated by Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox users, few are likely to shed tears over the loss of Internet Explorer.

Internet Explorer has had a mixed history over the past 20 years. If nothing else, it’s very polarizing topic. Some people still say they love it, most people say they dislike it or hate it.

As an IT Service provider we were always concerned about the underlying security issues when using Internet Explorer as your primary browser. I think it’s a smart move completely reinventing Windows and reinventing their web browser to go along with that.

Less than a decade ago Internet Explorer was the most popular browser by far, whose dominance inspired antitrust lawsuits by the U.S. federal government and the European Union. However, IE became unpopular for a number of reasons, including security flaws and user unfriendliness.

While Microsoft has not officially announced plans to kill off Internet Explorer, it’s likely the end goal once the new browser and Windows 10 takes off later this year.

Move Over Siri – Jibo’s Coming

I’ve always imagined that when robots became readily available and every home had one, they’d be of the Rosie variety from “The Jetsons.” Kind of a helpful servant that could do the dishes, walk the dog, and always have a snappy comeback.
Even though there have been great strides in Robotics these past few years, It’s looking like my idea of in-home bots might be a little far from reality yet.

Last July, Jibo showed up touting itself as the “world’s first family robot.” But it won’t whip up dinner, dust the furniture, or take the kids to school. In fact, it doesn’t even move. Instead, it sits on one of several charging pads you place around your home and does things like take your picture, remind you of appointments, and deliver messages.

Why is it called a “family robot”? Because Jibo has the ability to learn the faces of every person in the house and provide them with tailored messages and information. For kids, it can read stories complete with swiveling movements. It also uses a variety of algorithms to learn and adapt to the needs of different family members.

Jibo

Jibo has a large black glass “face” that lights up with a circular icon that’s part eye, part mouth, and is really very cute. The body of the robot has sensors that can pick up your touch too, letting it react accordingly, like displaying a big heart on its screen when you caress it.

Jibo’s creator, Cynthia Breazeal says: “Jibo is the first in a new class of family robotics that will humanize information, apps, and services, and ultimately will help people and families affordably address fundamental human needs that require high-touch engagement for the best human outcomes like education, independent aging and health management in the convenience of their home.”

Breazeal has spent much of her career researching ways to make computers more responsive to humans and their emotions. Jibo is the result of that work. “We’ve achieved greatness in the computing and social-media revolutions,” she said. “The next wave, emotive computing, is upon us, and Jibo is a transformative social and emotive robot that will help people thrive as part of the family.” Breazeal will also be making a toolkit available to developers who can come up with even more fun and useful stuff for the 11-inch-high Jibo to do.

Currently, you’ll have to wait a few months to add another member to your family. Pre-orders have been closed for Jibo with the Home Edition going for $599. Currently the expected ship date is September 2015.

Visit the Jibo Website for additional information and to sign up for updates:
http://www.Jibo.com

Jibo video:

The Apple SmartWatch Has Arrived – Are You Buying?

Apple showed off its much-anticipated SmartWatch during a special launch event yesterday, highlighting the new product’s look and features.

They started the event by announcing that HBO’s new streaming video service, HBO Now, will launch exclusively on Apple TV when the service starts next month. HBO Now, which will begin in time for the new season of “Game of Thrones” on April 12, and will cost $14.99 a month. Apple also announced plans to cut the price of its Apple TV product to $69 from $99.

The company also unveiled a new 12-inch MacBook that Apple calls it’s thinnest ever with a battery that can last all day. The device weighs just 2 pounds and will be available in gold. Prices start at $1,299, and it will begin shipping April 10.

The Apple Watch, the first new product in 4 years, is a big bet for the company, offering a potential new growth avenue that could ease Apple’s dependence on smartphones. For Chief Executive Tim Cook , it is a chance to prove that Apple can still produce the types of breakthrough products that defined the company under his predecessor, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

On Monday, Mr. Cook said the watch was the company’s “most personal device.” Yet, the watch faces significant challenges. The device needs to be close to an iPhone to have wireless connectivity or gather global-positioning-system location information. This makes the watch an accessory to a device that already performs most tasks well. So what does that mean in practice? If you want to access global positioning GPS data while on a run, you’ll have to run with both your SmartWatch AND your iPhone.

The watch also straddles the line between jewelry and consumer electronics, creating different types of expectations from consumers about quality, obsolescence and the overall buying experience. Many of today’s Apple consumers don’t even wear a watch instead relying on their smartphones for the time of day. That might make this pricey piece of jewelry a difficult sell.
Apple plans a range of watches at different price points, starting at $349. The company will also sell a stainless steel Apple Watch with a 38-millimeter case, beginning at $549. A watch with a 42-millimeter case begins at $50 more. A solid gold edition will start at $10,000 and be available in select stores only.

Apple said Monday that the watch will have 18 hours of battery life and will be able to conduct phone calls. The company also showed how the watch could be used to receive notifications, open hotel rooms and garage doors, and get song lyrics. The watch will also work with Apple Pay allowing wearers to wave their watch at checkout to make small purchases.
Preorders begin April 10, and the Apple Watch will be available in nine countries on April 24.

Marketing the Apple Watch, meanwhile, won’t be as simple as marketing past Apple products. The iPod was a way to carry a music collection in your pocket. The iPhone was a mobile phone plus Internet device, with a revolutionary touch screen. Apple sold the iPad as a simpler way to browse the Web, view photos and watch videos. Still, analysts expect Apple’s brand appeal and the company’s loyal customers to make Apple Watch the most successful wearable device on the market.

Apple is gearing up for a strong start, asking suppliers in Asia to make five to six million Apple Watches in the first quarter. Half of the first-quarters output would be for the entry-level Apple Watch Sports and one-third for the mid-tier model, which has stainless-steel casing and a watch face covered by sapphire crystal.

The total would be on par with Apple’s last major all-new product release. You may recall that Apple sold 7.5 million iPads in the six months after they went on sale in April 2010. Industry analysts estimate that Apple will sell 11.8 million Apple Watches in 2015, accounting for nearly half of all wearable devices, including fitness trackers and non-Android SmartWatches.

Additional information direct from the horses mouth:
http://www.apple.com/watch/?cid=wwa-us-kwg-watch-com

See what others are saying:
http://www.techradar.com/us/news/wearables/apple-iwatch-release-date-news-and-rumours-1131043

 

Net Neutrality – What Does It Mean?


Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted stricter net neutrality rules that will basically treat the internet like a public utility.

What’s in the new regulations? There are three major principles that internet service providers—like Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon—have to follow when sending data from their networks to your computer:

No blocking Internet service providers can’t prevent you from accessing “legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices” when you’re on the internet. This is intended to prevent censorship and discrimination of specific sites or services. Some open internet advocates worry the phrase “legal content” will create a loophole that might let internet providers block stuff they see as questionable on copyright grounds without a fair hearing.

No throttling Internet service providers can’t deliberately slow down data from applications or sites on the internet. That means, for instance, that a broadband company has to let all traffic flow equally, regardless of whether it’s coming from a competitor or a streaming video service like Netflix that uses a lot of data bandwidth.

No paid prioritization Internet service providers can’t charge content providers extra to bring their data to you faster. That means no internet “fast lanes,” because regulators fear they will lead to degraded service for anyone not willing to pay more.

If content providers or the networks that make up the internet complain about internet providers acting as gatekeepers for their users, the FCC says it will have the authority “to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary, if they determine the interconnection activities of ISPs are not just and reasonable.” It’s not clear yet what that will mean in practice.

Of course, this ruling could (and probably will) be challenged in the courts by the big broadband companies. But many internet advocates and stock investors are already shifting their focus to looming consolidation in America’s communications markets that could change the way Americans access the internet and consume video.

What Net Neutrality Means For Consumers?  Has anything really changed?
1: It won’t make your home broadband connection faster
2: It won’t eliminate your Wireless data usage cap
3: It won’t stop your wireless carrier from throttling your service when you reached your data threshold
4: It won’t create competition
5: It won’t improve your Friday night Netflix viewing experience
6: It won’t stop the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger

So what will change as a result of these stricter regulations?
Nothing…. That’s the whole point. The Internet has always operated on this basic principle of openness, or Net neutrality. The decade long debate over how to implement Net Neutrality has really been a battle to make certain a level of openness is preserved. And the way to preserve it is by establishing rules of the road that let ISPs, consumers and innovators know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed on the Net.

The only things that do change are that the government now has its fingers in the pie and innovation will take a backseat to profit. The 2 worst possible outcomes for the internet and everyone involved.

See below what our local ISP’s have to say about this:

Verizon is not happy with the Title II regulations announcing their dissent on their blog with the heading “FCC’s Throwback Thursday Move Imposes 1930’s Rules on the Internet”. The remainder of the post was initially written and released in “Morse Code”: http://publicpolicy.verizon.com/blog/entry/fccs-throwback-thursday-move-imposes-1930s-rules-on-the-internet

Comcast’s public stand on Net Neutrality: http://corporate.comcast.com/openinternet?utm_source=google&utm_medium=ppc&utm_campaign=TWCMerger_NB_Natl_Exact&utm_term=net%20neutrality-73498182-VQ16-c&iq_id=73498182-VQ16-c

What Happens To Our Privacy When The Internet Is In Everything?


As the number of internet connected devices — also known as the Internet of Things — continues to grow, so too does the number of devices using voice recognition technology as an interface to allow for hands free control.

Last fall, Amazon revealed a connected speaker with a Siri-style assistant named “Echo” that can perform tasks like adding items to your ecommerce shopping basket on command. At the recent CES conference, Internet connected ‘smart TVs’ which let couch-potatoes channel-hop by talking at their screen, rather than pushing the buttons of a physical remote control are now even more common. It’s clear that the consumer electronics of our future will include more devices with embedded ears that can hear what their owners are saying. And, behind those ears, the server-side brains to data-mine our conversations for advertising intelligence.

The potential privacy intrusion of voice-activated services is massive. Samsung, which makes a series of Internet connected TVs, has a supplementary privacy policy covering its Smart TVs which includes the following section on voice recognition:

“You can control your SmartTV, and use many of its features, with voice commands. If you enable Voice Recognition, you can interact with your Smart TV using your voice. To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service that converts speech to text or to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you. In addition, Samsung may collect and your device may capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features. Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use od Voice Recognition.”

This Samsung example is just the latest privacy-related concern involving SmartTVs — many of which routinely require users to agree to having their viewing data sent back to the TV maker and shared by them with advertisers and others simply in order for them to gain access to the service. The clarity of wording in Samsung’s privacy policy is unique — given that it amounts to warning users not to talk about private stuff in front of your TV screen because multiple unknown entities can listen in.

Creepy is an understatement here. As usual, these “Privacy Policy” warnings are contained within the most often overlooked type of document on the Internet so will easily go unnoticed by the average user.

If the SmartTV owner realizes how ridiculous this is, Samsung does at least allow them to disable the eavesdropping voice recognition ‘feature’, and instead use a more limited set of predefined ‘voice commands’ — and in that instance says it does not harvest their spoken words.

However it will still gather usage info and any other text-based inputs for data mining purposes, as it also notes further down in the policy. So an entire opt-out of being tracked is not part of this very expensive package.

If you do not enable Voice Recognition, you will not be able to use interactive voice recognition features, although you may be able to control your TV using certain predefined voice commands. While Samsung will not collect your spoken word, they may still collect associated texts and other usage data so that we can evaluate the performance of the feature and improve it.

Samsung states: “You may disable Voice Recognition data collection at any time by visiting the “settings” menu. However, this may prevent you from using all of the Voice Recognition features.”

An Internet connected TV that eavesdrops on the stuff you say when you’re sitting on the sofa or watching TV in bed is just the latest overreaching privacy intrusion to come to light for consumers. As technology continues its ever onward march, it’s unlikely to be the worst, and certainly won’t be the last. As more smart devices are deployed in our homes, cars and lives are networked and brought online, and given the technical ability to snoop on us — there is a growing imperative to clean up the darker corners of the digital commerce environment. As consumers we need to insist on setting some boundaries on what is and is not acceptable. Just last month the FTC even warned us of the huge security risks in the Internet of Things.

What happens to our privacy when the Internet is in everything? When all the technological things in your home have networked ears that are fine-tuned for commercial intelligence gathering, where will you go to talk about “personal” or “sensitive” stuff?

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