Archive for September 2012

Steps to help prevent infection on your computer

Here are some tips for PC and Mac users alike — and smartphone users, too. Though there are “few” Mac viruses in the wild, there are plenty of unscrupulous programmers and con-men spreading free fraudulent software and malware.

Take the following steps to help prevent infection on your computer:
  • Enable a firewall on your computer.
  • Get the latest computer updates for all your installed software.
  • Use up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Limit user privileges on the computer.
  • Use caution when opening attachments and accepting file transfers.
  • Use caution when clicking on links to webpages.
  • Avoid downloading pirated software.
  • Protect yourself against social engineering attacks.
  • Use strong passwords.
Let me elaborate on a few points:
Get the latest computer updates

Updates help protect your computer from viruses, worms, and other threats as they are discovered. It is important to install updates for all the software that is installed in your computer. These are usually available from the providing company’s website. The following are programs I recommend updating straight from the source:

  • Adobe (www.adobe.com):
    • Flash
    • Acrobat Reader
    • Air
    • Shockwave
  • Java (www.java.com): Check this one monthly.
Use up-to-date antivirus software

Most antivirus software can detect and prevent infection by known malicious software. To help protect you from infection, you should always run antivirus software. If you have a “subscription” for update service, make sure you renew annually. Antivirus, contrary to popular belief, is not free-for-life.

Use caution when opening attachments and accepting file transfers

Exercise caution with email and attachments received from unknown sources, or received unexpectedly from known sources. Use extreme caution when accepting file transfers from known or unknown sources. When in doubt, reply to the sender, assuming it is someone you know, and confirm that they meant to send you the attachment. It’s possible their computer is infected and sent you the file without their knowledge. I’ve seen this happen several timers in the course of a year.

Use caution when clicking on links to webpages

As above: Exercise caution with links to webpages that you receive from unknown sources, especially if the links are to a webpage that you are not familiar with, unsure of the destination of, or suspicious of. Malicious software may be installed in your computer simply by visiting a webpage with harmful content.

Avoid downloading pirated software

Threats may also be bundled with software and files that are available for download on various torrent sites. Downloading “cracked” or “pirated” software from these sites carries not only the risk of being infected with malware, but is also illegal. For more information, see ‘The risks of obtaining and using pirated software‘.

Protect yourself from social engineering attacks

While attackers may attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in hardware or software to compromise a computer, they also attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in human behavior to do the same. When an attacker attempts to take advantage of human behavior to persuade the affected user to perform an action of the attacker’s choice, it is known as ‘social engineering’. Essentially, social engineering is an attack against the human interface of the targeted computer. For more information, see ‘What is social engineering?‘.

Use strong passwords

Attackers may try to gain access to your Windows account by guessing your password. It is therefore important that you use a strong password – one that cannot be easily guessed by an attacker. A strong password is one that has at least eight characters, and combines letters, numbers, and symbols. For more information, see http://www.microsoft.com/protect/yourself/password/create.mspx.

Office 2010 – Better Than Ever

If you run a small business you should have (or upgrade to) Microsoft Office 2010 Home and Business Edition. This package provides you with the leading word processing package, Microsoft Word, and the top spreadsheet application, Excel. Beyond that you get PowerPoint for quick and easy presentations (slideshows), and Outlook for managing your email.

Outlook 2010 has proven so useful for managing my email because I have so many email accounts. People always ask “Which email address should I use for you, Robert?”, and I say, “Any of them; they all go to the same place.” That place is my Outlook Inbox. The other great thing about Outlook is the mail rules. I can have it flag or sort important messages as they arrive. Flags add them to my To Do list so I know which mails need to be looked at right away.

Download Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010 today and try it free for 3 days. And feel free to leave comments or questions here.

Fun with Augmented Reality

Following up to yesterday’s post on Augmented Reality Apps for Android and iPhone users:
Moosejaw 2012 X-Ray Catalog

Moosejaw’s AR Campaign

The Moosejaw clothing company has created a “Moosejaw X-Ray” app to go with their latest catalog. Download the app to your Android or iOS device, and scan the models in the catalog. On certain pages the clothed models will have their underwear exposed by the app. I tried it out (how could I resist) and found the x-ray images went from serious to funny. The male models in particular were ridiculous. One was revealed to have squid or octopus taped to their side, while another had bullet holes in his undershirt. You can install the app and then scan the image at left. Or you can try it on Moosejaw’s online catalog. The model images are 2D so there will be no peering around the back or the edges for the inquisitive or the infatuated. The next augmented reality app is fully 3D. For better or worse it kept me far too entertained.
Chestburster

Chestburster

This app from Fingerfunk kept me busy. There is an image you have to download and print (shown left or download hi-res image). Print the picture and attached it to a t-shirt, then view it using the Chestburster app for Android or iOS (iPhone or iPad). You’ll hear some alarm bells, and then the famous baby alien chestburster appears to burst through the image with the appropriate R rated gore. The image is fully three dimensional, so depending on the angle of view you can view the top, bottom, or sides of the alien’s head. You can even see into the open cavity behind it. I’d print on a white t-shirt for the best effect. I had fun taking shots of the baby alien bursting out of my refrigerator. Oh, yes, there is a screenshot feature so you can save the image seen on your screen. Some samples to follow shortly.

Burster Samples

 

Augmented Reality (AR) Apps

QR Code
QR Code

This is one of those one-thing-leads-to-another stories.

Yesterday, I received an email newsletter with a headline “Are QR Codes an Outdated Technology?” Since I create and track QR (quick response) codes as one of my business services, I was interested and took a look. The story linked a YouTube video titled “Image recognition that triggers augmented reality” from the TEDTalks series. The video was demonstrating an app called “Aurasma” which can be installed on Android and iPhone smartphones.

Robert Burns

Scan me with Aurasma on your smartphone

In my opinion, the video and lecture boiled down to “Why use QR codes as tags when the object can be a tag?” That is: If the image or object has a unique appearance, then it could be used a link to more information when scanned or photographed with a smartphone. So if you’re an artist, you don’t need a QR (quick response)  code on your publicity materials; just use your photo or one of your works, and when people scan it, they will be given more information via the Internet or other medium. In the demo, they used a painting of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, which when viewed with the Aurasma app, a video would take its place with an actor reciting one of Burns’ poems.

I tried out Aurasma on my Samsung Galaxy S III Android phone, and — while it worked — I found that there was a very very small number of companies making use of it. Furthermore, the company behind Aurasma was really providing customized apps for the companies that wanted it so they could create their own social media campaigns and games. These companies included Marvel and DC Comics, Document magazine, and a clothing company called Moosejaw.

Marvel ARMarvel and DC Comics are using augmented reality apps in major cities around the world. Instead of scanning a QR Code with your phone, you could scan architectural landmarks and posters, and then be presented with a video of a superhero or villain in action superimposed over the landmark standing before you. In the example at right, an Avengers X-Men poster is scanned with an app that superimposes a 3D image of Iron Man when viewed through the phone.

This is a good time to answer the question: What is augmented reality? According to Wikipedia:

With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Artificial information about the environment and its objects can be overlaid on the real world.

Think of it as similar to a HUD (heads up display) on a fighter jet or high-end automobile. You see the world in front of your, but computers project additional relevant information into your field of vision.

You can get the Marvel AR app for Android or iPhone from Marvel’s Mobile App page. Come back tomorrow when I show you what Moosejaw did with AR. I’ll also talk about a app that I got a lot of mileage out of yesterday. I’ll give you a clue, its called “Chestburster”. Think sci-fi.

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