Archive for Tips

R40: Rush 40th Anniversary on Blu-Ray, Nov. 11,2014

R402014 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Rush’s debut album. This deluxe collector’s box set brings together live performances by Rush from each decade of their career. It includes:

  • Rush in Rio
  • R30
  • Snakes & Arrows Live
  • Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland
  • Clockwork Angels Tour

It also includes a bonus disc of previously unseen and unreleased live material stretching from 1974 to 2013. The bonus disc features over two hours of unreleased footage including their masterpiece 2112 in its entirety, the Laura Secord School performance with John Rutsey from 1974 that features two unreleased Rush songs and a cover of ‘Bad Boy’ made famous by the Beatles, the closing tour film I Still Love You, Man from the Time Machine Tour with Paul Rudd & Jason Segel, and the monumental 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony with Dave Grohl & Taylor Hawkins. The 6 disc set is presented in a hardcover book containing rare, unreleased photos and memorabilia.

R40: Rush 40th Anniversary on Blu-Ray, Nov. 11, 2014

Recommended Computer Upgrades

iconI’ve been building some new computer systems lately, and here are some components that I have turned to time and again for my clients.

First up is the icon
Cooler Master Elite 430 Mid Tower ATX Caseicon. This box holds all your system components such as the motherboard. processor, hard drives, and DVD or Blu-ray drives. Some people may find the case to be too large, but for a computer gamer or video editor it’s just the right size for those mid to topline video cards.

The Cooler Master Elite 430 Mid Tower ATX Case has an all-black interior coating. It also has a ventilated front mesh design to keep even the hottest system cool. Additional cooling features include a front 120mm fan (with a nice looking brilliant blue LED light) to provide the best airflow to your hard drives. There’s also a large rear 120mm fan for high-efficiency ventilation. Even the side panels are ventilated.

For ease of assembly the interior of the case has tool-free mechanical locks to minimize the need for screws and screwdrivers.

icon
iconThe next item I’ve been recommending to people who are interested in having their computer boot-up in the shortest time possible is Crucial.com’s M500 Series 240GB mSATA SSDicon. This isn’t a traditional hard drive with moving parts — moving parts which take time to reach operating speeds, and eventually will fail, due to wear and tear. The Crucial M500 series drive is a “solid state drive” or SSD with no moving parts — similar to the drive in your smartphone, camera, or ipad. Furthermore, this drive attaches directly to your motherboard, but you will need a motherboard that has an onboard mSATA connector like Gigabyte’s Z68 Series motherboardsicon. With an mSATA drive you copuld reasonably expect your computer to start up in as little as 6 seconds.

Word for Chromebook

Need help installing Word on your Chromebook? Call Skylark NetWorks at (516) 308-2759 or read on.

One of the most frequent calls I’ve received lately as a computer repair technician revolves around the new Chromebooks using the ChromeOS Operating System. The typical call sounds like this:

Caller: How do I install Microsoft Word on my Chromebook? I can’t get Word to work on my Chromebook.

Skylark NetWorks: Do you have a Windows or a Mac version of the Microsoft Word software that you are trying to install on your Chromebook?

Caller: Yes! I have the _________ version. (Fill in the blank)

Skylark NetWorks: You can’t install that on your Chromebook because your Chromebook isn’t a Mac or a Windows computer, but —

Caller: So what do I do? I need a word processor, and I prefer to use Word.

Skylark NetWorks: I would recommend you go to the Microsoft Office Apps website at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/web-apps. Then you can use and share your Word documents anywhere.

Get Started with Microsoft Office Web Apps

Since Chromebook users cannot install Microsoft Word on Chromebook because Chromebook uses ChromeOS, a Linux-based operating system which doesn’t support Microsoft Windows-based or Mac-based software.

This doesn’t mean that you’re locked out forever from working on Word documents. There are a number of ways Chromebook users work on Word documents, and their Excel and PowerPoint files, too. You already know these are important file types, and having access to them is a must.

Download Microsoft Office Web App

This Chrome app was generated by Microsoft to allow Chromebook users the chance to go online and use Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The web app also gives you access to Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service called SkyDrive.

Alternate: Google Docs

Have you heard of Google Docs? It’s a free service from Google. Google Docs can open and edit most of the popular file types of Microsoft Office including Microsoft Word and Excel documents. Since your Chromebook was also developed by Google it is the perfect tool for working with Google Docs.

FYI: Anyone Can Use Microsoft Office Web Apps

Microsoft’s Office Web Apps aren’t just for Chromebook users. Your can use it on just about any desktop, laptop, netbook, or tablet computer.

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.

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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Facebook May Give Access to children Under the Age of 13

It has been the policy of Facebook that all members be at least 14 years old. Yet many parents are setting up accounts for the underage kids, and lying about their children’s age just to get them online.

Facebook says it shuts down every underage account it finds and has tried to beef up its age verification systems, it privately concedes that there are millions of underage kids on Facebook.

The Menlo Park, Calif., company currently bans anyone under age 13 from joining, but still an estimated 7.5 million preteens — many under age 10 — are already using the service with their parents’ approval.

The highly charged debate over privacy and safety in the Internet age picked up steam this week as word leaked that Facebook was considering allowing kids younger than 13 to use the service with parental supervision. Either by connecting kids’ accounts to their parents’ accounts thereby giving Mom and Dad control over what their children can do on the site, such as who they can “friend” and what apps they can use.

Lowering the age limit would help the company tap younger users, who advertisers are eager to reach. Kids are also avid users of games — a big moneymaker for Facebook. About 12% of Facebook’s $3.7 billion in 2011 revenue came from its share of Zynga games such as”FarmVille” played on Facebook

It could expose Facebook to the scrutiny of regulators and the ire of parents. Some fear that kids under age 13 are not ready for social networking, where older children have fallen prey to predators or bullies.

Yet a recent Microsoft Research study from last year found 36% of parents knew their children joined Facebook before they turned 13, and that many of them helped their kids sign up.

Facebook already has limited what minors can do on the site. For example, they can’t share content with “everyone,” a setting that allows anyone on the Internet to peruse someone’s posts and photos.

Facebook is having a tough time policing its site. Age limits are too easy to circumvent, and Facebook spokespeople say they shut down every underage account they find, but still there are millions of underage kids on Facebook. And that puts Facebook at odds with a federal law that requires it to get parental consent before collecting personal data on kids.

If Facebook opens up to kids under 13, it will have to put into place safeguards, such as giving parents a way to control what data is mined from their children when they click the “like” button or play a game, said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “There need to be strict limits on how much information can be collected and analyzed,” Chester said. “Because Facebook collects data from users and their networks, the privacy of a child’s friends must also be protected.”

The FTC is currently reviewing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, which regulates what personal information websites can mine from kids. Facebook spent some of its $650,000 in first-quarter lobbying money on the law.

Parents aren’t the only ones worried that kids would be vulnerable. Lawmakers also expressed concern Monday.

“We acknowledge that more and more children under the age of 13 are using Facebook, and this is a problem that needs to be addressed,” Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe L. Barton (R-Texas) wrote in a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Monday.

Things You Should Never Share on Facebook

Facebook has millions of Americans sharing their photos, favorite songs and details about their class reunions, but there are a handful of personal details that you should never share or post if you don’t want criminals — cyber or otherwise — to rob you blind.

Furthermore, many an ill-advised Facebook post can get your insurance cancelled or cause you to pay dramatically more for it: home, auto, fire, flood, life or other forms of insurance included. Almost everybody knows that drunken party photos can cost you a job; and now experts say debt collectors are switching from phone books to trolling social networking sites to find deadbeats.

Facebook No NosYou can certainly enjoy networking and sharing photos, but you should know that sharing some information puts you at risk. What should you never say on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site? Read on…

Your birth date and place. Sure, you can say what day you were born, but if you provide the year and the place you were born too, then you’ve just given identity thieves a key to stealing your financial life. A study by Carnegie Mellon showed that a date and place of birth could be used to predict most — sometimes all — the numbers in your Social Security number.

Home BurglaryVacation plans. There’s no better way to say “Rob me, please” than posting your vacation countdown or your moment of departure or arrival at the airport. Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like, but don’t invite criminals to your home by telling them “I’m not home!”

Home address. Great follow-up to the last item, eh? So many people do this though. A recent study by the Ponemon Institute found that social media users were at greater risk of physical and/or identity theft because of the information they shared. In fact, some 40% listed their home address; 65% didn’t even attempt to block out strangers with privacy settings; and 60% said they weren’t confident that their “friends” were really the people they know, or even that they fully trusted them either way.

Katie Furlong 2009 FacebookConfessionals. You may hate your job; lie on your taxes; or be a recreational drug user, but Facebook is not the place to let it all out. Employers commonly peruse social networking sites to determine who to hire and who to fire.

Need proof? Just last month alone there were two such cases. In the first case a prison guard at the Lebanon Correctional Institution in Ohio was fired after posting a threatening comment about the state governor; and in Winfield, West Virginia the mayor fired the local police chief after his son posted a disparaging comment about a teenager who had been struck by a train. Last year a NYC teacher was fired after posting a comment that she thought some of her school kids should drown. (A Manhattan judge recently ruled she should be given her job back).

A 2009 Proofpoint study showed that 8% of companies with over 1,000 employes had fired someone for “misuse” of social media.

Password clues. If you’ve got online accounts, you’ve probably answered a dozen different security questions, telling your bank or brokerage firm your Mom’s maiden name; the church you were married in; or the name of your favorite song.

Got that same stuff on the information page of your Facebook profile? Are you playing games where you and your friends “quiz” each other on the personal details of your lives? You’re giving crooks an easy way to guess your passwords.

Maybe it’s time to review your social media profiles?

Velocity Cruz Reader – One of the Worst Tablets Ever

imageWhen I don’t post in a long time, sometimes because I can’t think of something to blog about, and then I write a post like this, and think “This post has been staring me in the face for weeks, and I’ve only though of it today?”
I’ve been aware of the Velocity Cruz Reader for about 6 months. It’s a device which serves much the same function as the iPad, but it uses the Android OS instead of Apple’s iOS.
I think the Velocity Cruz Reader is one of the worst tablets to hit the market. I’ve told that to at least 70 people considering getting a tablet.
And now I’m finally blogging about it.
Velocity has two tablets on the market. The inexpensive $120 to $150 Cruz Reader and the $250 to $300 Cruz Tablet. The first and less expensive model is the one to avoid, while the second is actually worth the money.
Clarification: Cruz Reader under $150, BAD; Cruz Tablet over $250, GREAT!
imageSorry, I’m rambling, I’ve been awake for less than 30 minutes.
Honestly, I am surprised they released the Cruz Reader onto the marketplace. Its touchscreen is its worst feature, as it requires repeated hammering to get a reponse. One average I had to strike an icon 5 times before anything happened.
Then the 256 MB of system memory can’t be considered anything less than anemic, in my opinion. There are smart phones with more memory than this. When I point this out people often say, “No, Rob, it has 4GB of memory.” Tehn I correct them by pointing out that the 4GB refers to an SD card for storing files, and not to system memory for running the device and its apps. 256 MB will run into speed and functionality problems quite quickly.
So if you are looking for a tablet: Stay away from the Cruz Reader — try it for the hell of it — then buy the Cruz Tablet instead.
Guess I’ll blog about the Cruz Tablet for breakfast tomorrow. Have a great day! Eat your breakfast!

Updated Posts: AntiVirus for Mac; Sneak Peek Sale

Back in Dec. 2008 I wrote a post titled Apple Encourages AntiVirus Use for Macs?! I updated the article today to include links to the latest AntiVirus and AntiSpyware applications for the Mac. If you still believe that Macs are invulnerable to viruses and spyware, then you may be interested in knowing that Apple has added anti-malware features to their latest Mac Snow Leopard operating system. See Dan Moren’s report at PCWorld on the Hidden Malware Features of Snow Leopard. I mentioned some risks to Mac users in recent weeks.

I also updated the links in my Jan. 2009 post about sale items on Buy.com. I’ve crossed out the items that are not available. I’ve updated the links and proces on the items that are available. It’s a useful link because many of the items have become very affordable.