Friday, April 28, 2017

Forced Upgrades: Industry Standards Show True Colors

In this ever-changing, ever-evolving digital world, there’s never been any true type of standard set in place for computer users. Standards are rare in an industry dominated by creativity and the next big innovation. Each day you start your computer with a silent prayer of hope there isn’t any “forced upgrades” to deal with. In reality, any upgrade is painful and tedious and uncomfortable.

Listen to the billions of us who use technology on a daily basis. They would be protesting in the streets if technology hit them with new standards—standards that would ruin the skills and knowledge of a dedicated generation of users.

Let’s face it: users can’t stand change. Change leads to new skills, which many will argue that they don’t need to learn. Why change what works? Everything about a computer works in such a precise manner: mouse clicking, reading email, printing a document, sending an attachment, watching a news video, working on a spreadsheet—this is all routine, all comfort-level skills that took twenty years to learn. Why tip the cart over and dump out all the good stuff? Why change the formula of technology’s success?

Because the industry intends to show its true colors.

First and foremost, technology is a business model. The industry needs standards to make money and survive, and without constant upgrades to technology, the whole thing would flop. Secondly, there are bills to pay, offices to run, employees on the payroll, servers to repair, and software upgrades to stop hackers and thieves. It’s a business. And like any successful business venture, the retooling of its pieces makes for a better-run product.

But what’s so different about 2017 with technology? Is it forced upgrades for good intent? Or does it spell out digital socialism? Whatever way you examine these questions, it all comes down to one thing: standards. You are living in a time where upgrades, whether forced or not, will move forth to become the official standard of using a computer. There’s no way around it. Microsoft does it. Apple does it. Don’t forget Samsung. Don’t pass by Hewlett-Packard. Even websites like Amazon, Google, MSN and Yahoo do it. They are all involved in the same philosophy of regulating and maintaining computer standards. In fact, each of these companies have been releasing new content on all of their products since the beginning of this year—and hardly anyone knows about. Forced upgrades just happen. Upgrades are a natural part of an evolving digital age. Their reasons are simple: it’s because of Russian hacking, identity theft crimes, and also amateur programmers who write malware software to attack institutions.

Since the world is under “digital attack,” the response in the industry is to form support around standardization, a term that hardly has worked in the past. Every few years another round of products emerge that pushes the industry forward, not toward an ethical standard. Look no further than Microsoft’s slow progression: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. That’s eight generations (and counting) of software development. That’s eight generations of computer learning skills. It’s interesting to note that not every computer user on the planet has worked with and mastered all of these software versions. Millions and millions of users have skipped over one generation to the next. Therefore, standardization seems an almost weak attempt by the industry to structure technology.

The same failure of standardization holds true with Apple. Their laundry list of version names speak volumes about a product that’s developing at a rapid pace: Cheetah/Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan and Sierra. That’s twelve generations (and counting) of software development. Once again, there’s not many users who can claim they spent time and money purchasing each version.

2017 is the year of set standards, real industry colors, and true digital socialism. You can’t blame people for their personal frustrations, their outbursts of confusion, and their dissatisfaction to constant change. They’ve been taught to either sink or swim in the maddening waters of this digital era.

Author's Note: Here's a part of the industry that no one really talks about: digital socialism. In some odd way, every single year, you can understand how their "standardization practices" are forcing users into a world of limited choices and products. With each "digital attack" that hits the industry, the common response forms around more rules, more standards, and more control. It's getting to a point that users won't be able to help the industry to help itself: they'll have complete control over the Internet, equipment, software, hardware, creativity, and system upgrades. Now doubt, digital socialism is the direction of an industry that keeps offering more promises of perfection and digital bliss.

Want a break from regulations? Read this: Ordinary Reflections.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Data Input with Mice or Keyboards: Which Do You Prefer?

Data input. If you were to break down the computer into logical steps, this is what you would learn about data: input, processing, and output. These are the same series of steps that you use on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other computer devices. The whole formula’s fate is dependent upon your data input. It’s the same formula for the past 30 years, and it’ll be the same formula for the next 30 years.

Undoubtedly, the average computer user is at the forefront of data entry. That user is the undisputed tech genius: you. For the rest of your digital life, you’ll be responsible for inputting and deciding what goes into a computer. You see, technology would be rendered useless if it didn’t have someone like yourself feeding it endless information and intellectual knowledge. That information is entered through your keyboard, mouse, voice, and touchscreen inputs. You, the humble tech guru, gets to pick the best method to input this data.

World's First Typewriter in 1867.

The debate of data input has always been between two specific sources: mice and keyboards. These two sources are the traditional ways to get information into a computer, although voice and touchscreen have gained ground in the past few years. Surprisingly, you’ll find many users not wanting to use a mouse for basic data input (as if they are afraid and unskilled to use a mouse), opting instead to enter data by using a standard, century-old keyboard.

Like a good wine, good tastes never change.

And you don’t have to look far to find where good taste arises. You can blame Christopher Latham Sholes, the inventor of the typewriter in 1867, for this ongoing data input debate with technology. He is the reason why the keyboard is still used on a daily basis; he is the reason why laptops have keyboards; he is the reason why smartphones have touchscreen keyboards; and he is the one responsible for pushing new technology that would replace handwriting. It must have been a difficult task for Mr. Sholes to convince people of that generation and time period to say that typewriting could be faster than handwriting—almost the same as saying mouse clicking is faster than keyboarding.

Then another incredible invention came to light in the mid-1960s.

It came in the thought of a small solution and in one incredible dream: the invention of the computer mouse. This pointing device gave users control over the screen, giving them ample ways to manipulate information without using a keyboard. This time, you can blame Douglas C. Engelbart for the headaches you experience with today’s mouse or touchpad. He is the person responsible for the world’s first computer mouse in 1964, with it being made of a wooden shell, a circuit board, and two metal wheels that flowed on a flat surface; he is the person responsible for helping Macintosh ship these out by the millions with the first Apple PC; and he is the person responsible for putting the power of a computer in your hand. Not bad for a simple solution and a dream. That’s not an easy task to achieve in a technological world, but Mr. Engelbart did it way before his time.

Now you have the debate’s core argument: Is it a mouse or a keyboard for data input? Which do you prefer? Which one seems like the ultimate tool to be using in a modern world? Is it old-school keyboards and shortcuts that make you feel like you are playing a piano? Or is it right and left mouse clicks that peak your interest? Whichever method you decide to put your mind around and master in your computer life, most users focus on one or the other. There’s no go-between with technology. According to a number of recent studies, more users are returning to the mouse and keyboard. “People are buying more mice and keyboards today than in years past,” says Rory Dooley, senior vice president of devices at Logitech, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of computer accessories. The number of mouse sales exceeded more than $142 million in the 4th quarter of 2016; keyboard sales reached $125 million in sales during the same period.

History speaks for itself. After all, the keyboard is turning more than a century old—older than your washer and dryer machines, older than television. On the other hand, the mouse was popularized nearly 30 years ago, even before such incredible inventions as the Web, iPhones, and digital voicemail.

With the way things are going, mice and keyboards are here to stay.

Author's Note: This is one of the most challenging aspects of technology: the debate between mice and keyboards. Like the song says, "You can't have one without the other." I mean, this is a perfect relationship made in matrimony. Entering data with your voice or a touchscreen doesn't have that "same-old" feeling, does it? For the next generation of users, many of them won't understand the ecstatic feeling that goes with typing on a keyboard, the fresh smell of ink from a published book, the nostalgic feeling of driving a car without any dummy lights going off, or the damp feeling of getting their hands dirty while planting seeds in the ground. These digital seeds are already planted : mice and keyboards.

Need to slow down from your data input? Read this: Ordinary Reflections.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Internet Services: Getting Your Money’s Worth for Broadband

Internet services. You can’t live without your Internet provider. They are the company responsible for providing you that fast, reliable Internet connection on a 24/7 basis; they are the company responsible for giving you the ability to connect to your banks, your email, your social media, and to answer all those endless search queries on Google’s homepage—which add up to more than 40,000 queries per second from around the world.

It’s obvious the basic computer user wants a fast Internet service provider to keep up with their increasing demands. If users were to get this service at a reasonable price, then they would be a customer for life!

This increasing demand leads to a question: Are you really getting your money’s worth for these services?
And, statistically speaking, is your broadband (defined as the Internet’s speed) coming through at its peak performance? These are common questions for users, and many don’t know how to answer them. Many of them don’t have a clue where to start.

Broadband is considered any high-speed connection that’s faster than traditional dial-up service. This means that DSL service through AT&T is now considered broadband—even though its most basic service option is at 6 Megabytes per second (Mbps). Real speed comes from these big-name providers who offer 20—100 Mbps. This list includes the following: Charter, Verizon, Comcast, CenturyLink, Cox, Frontier, Optimum, Time Warner Cable, Suddenlink, Earthlink, Windstream, Cable One, NetZero, Juno, AOL, MSN, Mediacom, Basic ISP and Wow, that’s a big-time list of big-name providers. Imagine if all these service providers were available in cities and towns throughout America. It’s a nice thought, isn’t it? Pricing packages would reach an all-time low, leaving customers 100% satisfied with their Internet services. That stat would be an all-time first in an industry full of poor customer service and overpriced Internet plans.

Q: How do you know what speed you’re getting? Are you really getting the most out of your hard-earned cash? Of the millions of users, many don’t run Internet speed tests on their cable modems and wireless routers, and this leaves them completely in the dark as to determine how fast or how poor their service is running. They could be wasting hundreds of dollars a year over poor Internet connection speeds, poor wireless router connections, and slow Internet speeds that they come to accept over time.

A: Run a speed test. Please visit this recommended website for more information. The results of this speed test include upload and download speeds. A second one you can use is this one by Ookla: Both of these speed tests offer you reliable and accurate results to make decisions.

The following speed test figures are healthy:

The following speed test figures are unhealthy:

Your Internet speed slows down as your equipment ages. Your equipment is on 24/7, surviving a host of electrical power outages and sudden bursts of energy coming through the line. In the end, it is really the mainstay of your home network. If you ignore it long enough, then the only outcome will be poor performance. Change-out rates for equipment happen every five to six years with cable modems and wireless routers. That same statement also applies to other digital equipment like laptops, towers, hand-held gadgets, smartphones, cellphones, and tablets.

Five to six years is not that a long of a period in computer lingo. Consider that the Internet is only 25 years old, and you’ve technically changed out equipment at least three times or more over the course of your life.

Don’t expect this cycle to change. Neither will the Internet!

Author's Note: Getting the most out of your Internet provider is possible. All you need are the right tools to get the job done. Because you never know when your Internet speeds will drop to a "below average" state, leaving you with a lesser, slower service. Getting your money's worth for your broadband is your main objective. People go mad when they don't get first-rate service and quality Internet speed around the clock. That's what people want in this tech age. 

Want your money's worth? Add this book to your collection: Ordinary Reflections.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Twitter’s Fame: Can We Really Change Society with 140 Characters?

Instant messaging is no stranger to society. Way before the grassroots of Twitter’s surge, AOL had a feature in its software early on (during the mid-1990s) that allowed you to send messages back and forth between multiple users, with none of the conversation ever being recorded. The phrase “IMing” became an instant hit with young people. You couldn’t send pictures in this format, just plain text, ideas, humor, and good-old elbow-jabbing jokes.

You can even step back further into the time machine and return to a period when BBS (Bulleting Board Services) ruled every college campus. This allowed users to download software and exchange direct messages between each other. It may have had an archaic feeling to it, but during this period, it was fascinating to think your thoughts could go digital to someone else in a matter of seconds. These thoughts were then stored on a server for everyone to read.

Private instant messages soon turned into public forum postings. Twitter’s fame started with its co-founder, Jack Dorsey, sending a message on March 21, 2006, saying, “just setting up my twttr.” Nicknamed a “tweet”—like that of a little bird talking from a tree branch—this new way of communicating offered you 140 characters to post a message (equivalent to 3 sentences). People would read these messages, and either retweet or consider them favorites. Retweeting gave more popularity to the author and gave more credibility that thousands of people liked and supported it—almost similar to starting a revolutionary movement without stepping outside.

So the world began tweeting. And tweeting they did.

After 10 years of this service being available to the public, who could have predicted this kind of output: “every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.” With Twitter having 974 million active accounts in 2017, there’s plenty of voices out there that post breaking news stories, post opinions about controversial topics, post topics about freedom of speech rights, and post various liberal and conservative political views. Even government leaders, congressmen, statesmen, and other political elites love to use Twitter as a personal reservoir of their own slanted opinions and rhetoric. Because there’s an audience, they keep tweeting both day and night.

Twitter offers an intimate, unfiltered conversation with other people. Because of its limitless boundaries, various questions arise due to the impact of the service upon society’s core values and beliefs. Here’s a few:

  • Can proper solutions be offered in 140 characters?
  • Is it possible to influence all of society by merely sending out a simple tweet about your opinion, while offering no specific details on how to back it up?
  • Is it ethical and proper to post your own philosophical ideas to the world as a government official?
  • Why does the news media solemnly trust the messages being posted on Twitter? Why do they fall for the hook-and-bait message?
  • Professionally speaking, does tweeting “off the record” really do any good? Or is it more harmful to everyone?
  • If it weren’t for Twitter, would people really come forth and say these same thoughts in a “live” public forum?
  • Overall, is Twitter discouraging society to hide behind mere tweets rather than stand tall for what they believe in?

As one can see, more questions continue to arise each day because of another tweet. Twitter is gaining more notoriety, more popularity because big-name people are using the service for personal gain, and they are gaining lifelong believers. These people include: celebrities, government officials, leaders, college professors, reporters, and intellectual scholars. It’s the progressive movement of people’s Internet usage that propels Twitter’s success. Since people don’t trust the news media as much, they search for a more common ground with others they can trust. Twitter’s sense of “true innocence” draws millions of people each day to read and believe in every posting.

Twitter’s immediate success could also be their quick exit from the Internet. The real question is: Is Twitter a fad? Maybe so. Email is still more popular in communicating with others than mere tweeting. In reality, all it will take is a misuse or abuse of the service to send followers into an upheaval of distrust. Then, and only then, will people stop reading the posts and stop hanging on every word someone more daring has to say.

Author's Note: Twitter is growing by leaps and bounds. Their rapid success is because of people who long to voice their opinion about on-going topics and political views. People are listening. But who would have thought that posting a message online would mean anything 10 years ago? Who would imagine that society would care at all about "Joe" in a small community posting a thought on the Internet about racial injustice? Email's still more personal, more enduring than a tweet, but time will tell how long these tweets will turn some people into twits.     

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fake News: The Secret of Deception and Deceit

The world is full of deception and deceit. This statement personifies anyone who believes everything is true on the Internet. It is a highly technical and digital world now. Some even believe the facts and figures of every article, every story, every vlogger, every website posting, and every Facebook wall.

Because some people believe in the Internet’s full disclosure policy, the deception and deceit moves into high gear. This is what fuels the realms of digital leaks, a powerful new way to get information, unfiltered and unreliable, to the masses, 24/7. With a rising culture dedicated to reading news online (some 57% of users in a recent poll), there is some just cause for concern.

That also applies to “fake news”—a rather new, powerful, political development.

With “fake news,” you can alter the real storyline into an abstract argument. Although you can argue either way about the philosophies and the ideologies presented in each news story, there’s always a possibility someone (a writer with an evil mission) will twist the truth, twist the meaning, and twist the facts, presenting it online as fact, as truth, as whatever you want it to be.

Information, then, is plentiful in cyberland. The secret of “fake news” is to get the information out there—in any shape, form or style—and let people decide for themselves what they think is real or not.

With so much information available, the global audience is rather confused. They have mindless amounts of information at their fingertips. Digital information is a vast, ever-growing, ever-expanding overload of raw facts and figures, growing larger and larger each day due to the daily use and need for technology with users. Users feed raw data from their computers, smartphones and tablets at an astounding rate per day—some 4 million hours of video content go to YouTube; some 4 million Facebook posts; some 246 billion emails. You see, information keeps pouring in like water.

By definition, digital leaks are unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information that could have substantial repercussions to the safety and well-being of any country. This is such a sensitive issue that server companies that host fake news immediately get attacked by political groups, forcing them into the limelight with negative media stories and threats of legal action.

Viral activities are common events on the Internet. You must consider that a “post” can go viral within a matter of hours, not weeks. You don’t have to wait for the 9 o’clock news, or even wait for the paper to be delivered late, late in the afternoon. Instant means instant; now means now; viral means global.

In a recent political manifestation about unclassified digital leaks, President Donald J. Trump claims that “the leaks are real, but the news is fake.” Whether you agree or disagree with what he is saying, it is true that certain websites post false and misleading articles about mainstream media stories. The hope is that people will get false impressions and characterizations about certain individuals or controversial mainstream headlines. The fact is more than one billion websites worldwide are up and running as of 2014, so there’s no way to monitor the originality of any piece of information; there’s no way to control the quality of Internet postings; there’s no way to authenticate a “viral” event.

All of these false claims and false reports lead to a world full of deception and deceit. The Internet is the cause of all these problems. In the end, people are deceived and swindled out of the truth, a truth that should otherwise be available to access from their handheld technical gadgets with ease. The Internet loses some credibility over the lack of its own credentials. People are then forced to decide for themselves whether something is real or not, leaving many people to cry foul and turn angry and judgmental before anything can be verified or nullified about a fact or figure presented online.

Let’s face it: we live in a technical world. The idea is to expose all fakes. We must allow for the truth to find its way through all the trappings of a digital world. Humans created this tool; humans must learn to manage it better.

You can review and study more about fake news websites by visiting the following website link:

Author's Note: Fake news is real. Because of the mindless amounts of active websites, there's no telling how many "fake news" outlets feed the average mind. Users become interested in and follow certain websites because they believe in what they are reporting. You can become a fan of anything on the Internet, a cheerleader for the cause, a supporter for the needy, and a follower of the strange. Literally overnight, you can cast a viral shadow over the world, leaving many to believe that what they read and saw stands as the overall and definitive truth. Kind of sounds like George Orwell's classic novel "1984," doesn't it?     

Need a break from this digital world? Here's some honest thoughts: Ordinary Reflections

Sunday, February 26, 2017

What Real Privacy is Left in 2017?

Privacy. It can be closely examined within difference broad viewpoints, especially into aspects of your personal life, your digital life, your lifestyle, your relationships, your interests, and into your basic human rights as an individual. Each of these broad viewpoints paint a portrait of your most-guarded secrets. In an age of server data breaches and Russian hacking attempts capturing the media’s undivided attention, you wonder what real privacy is left in 2017? There’s so little privacy left that if you hid under a rock today, the Internet would know about it tomorrow.

First, let’s define privacy in simple terms. Merriam-Webster defines privacy with two distinct clauses: 1) the quality or state of being apart from company or observation (seclusion) or 2) freedom from unauthorized intrusion (one's right to privacy). Both clauses seem to describe privacy as a given right, a human right entitled since birth. That means every human being, regardless of their social media or smartphone usage, is granted this right. Former U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) calls it “the right to be left alone,” which he first declared in 1890.

This digital world doesn’t allow for any privacy. Ever since the invention of the Internet, it’s been nothing more than an open book with new pages being written 24 hours a day; it’s a money-making machine where new data flows in with a price and gives huge financial gains for finding the “dirt” on someone else’s life; it’s a library filled with endless books, movies and videos on topics beyond human comprehension; it’s a data goldmine worth more than all the gold on Earth. Digital privacy, you see, is turning into a systematic way to control people, to influence people’s behaviors, to influence government leaders, to stir human ethics, to cause a revolution without setting a foot in another country, and to allow for terrorists, hackers, and other evildoers an equal chance to destroy whatever good there is left in this world.

But it’s a human right. Is it not? It’s a basic fulfillment of human decency that protects us from someone’s watchful eye and judgmental opinion. In a private world, you can succeed or fail, can have good relationships or not, can be yourself or transition into something else without anyone knowing, without anyone commenting on these aspects of your character. There’s no timelines. There’s no one writing commentary on your life’s choices. Therefore, that would be your human right (with privacy leading the way).

The fourth amendment of 1789 (rev. 1992) hints at privacy, stating that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” It’s close to defining privacy, but not the type of privacy that defines today’s digital world. It doesn’t define the trappings of social media, smartphone usage, Twitter and Facebook content, email content, stolen digital identities, private digital images, security breaches, and the hacking of financial and private data. Another revision needs to be made in order to get privacy back into the forefront of the American dream.  

But in truth, privacy is almost fully extinct.
Keeping all this in mind, different aspects of your privacy are threatened by this digital world. Here’s a summary of what they mean to you:

  • Personal Privacy—this protects you against observation and intrusion. Do you just want to be left alone each day? No more cameras spying on you in grocery stores and gas stations. This is considered your personal space and your daily ritual of living. It’s everything to you to have intimate private moments that don’t end up going viral.

  • Digital Privacy—this can best be described as the protection of your information as a private citizen who uses digital mediums. Do you feel like your digital cookies are being tracked? How about your digital purchases online? What about date and time of your searches? Or things you read about online? No one should know these interests.

  • Human Rights Privacy—this protects against existential threats resulting from information collection or theft. Do you feel threatened by the actions of a government or other entity? Is your freedom at stake? These are threats that could change your life in an instant.

  • Contextual Privacy—this protects you against unwanted intimacy or contact. What about others knowing your relationship status? Your sexual orientation? Your personal philosophy? Your religious views? Any of these topics could lead to unwanted advances from others.

Author's Note: This is becoming a very intense, intimate topic in this digital era. The problem really is with the actual definition of our fourth amendment rights, rights that don't clearly define the type of privacy we desire in today's digital world. It doesn't define social media's power and its data-collection trappings; it doesn't define anything about contextual privacy or human rights privacy; it doesn't define the advent of security breaches and the release of private information to the public; and it doesn't define the new addition of fake content and news  that seems to be popping up every day. Is our privacy fully extinct? Time will tell.

Is your private life at risk? Read this to bring back your sanity: Ordinary Reflections

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Moral Hacking: Dark Web Gets Attacked

Let’s face it: there’s always two sides to everything. Two sides to every story. Two sides to every argument. There’s even two sides to every coin. Then it must come as no surprise that there’s even two sides to the Internet: one is called the surface web (the good) and the other is called the dark web (the bad). After more than 20 years of the Internet’s existence, it’s finally been proven that these two sides coexist in a world full of information, deception, and raw data.

Since first being discovered in 2006, the dark web has eluded the public with lies and secrecy, maintaining an existence of deception, fraud, and countless illegal activities and services. The dark web has a full range of illegal content, including gambling, murder-for-hire services, child abuse, child pornography, hacking services, counterfeit activities, bitcoin scams, informational leaks, and guns. This list is rather enormous and almost impossible to trace.

But the dark web can still be attacked and brought to its knees—similar to the surface web’s potential vulnerability.

And, most recently, it has.

The good news came in a short article posted online by Newsweek in early February, stating that “more than 10,000 websites on the dark web were knocked offline.” An Anonymous hacker decided to target an internet provider called “Freedom Hosting II for allegedly hosting child pornography.”

Is there some morality in this hacking? Yes, there’s moral intention here, because there’s many out there who want to defend and protect young children from the far reaches of pornography, and to further halt the humiliation of human beings. The Anonymous group is one who tries to defend people’s rights and liberties through hacking activities and denial of service (DOS) errors on websites. It’s their group’s mission to convey the truth to the world—even if that means blocking immoral content.

How does this relate to human trafficking, though? It’s interesting to note that, with all this dark web activity on the rise, human trafficking cases have doubled from 3,000 in 2012 to 7,500 in 2016. People are being sold, abused, and tortured on a daily basis. The dark web is responsible for these behaviors and actions. The rest of the world doesn’t realize the full extent of the problem. Let’s put it into layman’s terms: “human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will.” In other words, it’s a modern-day fraudulent business that happens to be digital and profitable.

Hacking is frowned by experts. But this hack might do some good. By taking down some of the dark web, you alter the fraudulent services of human trafficking and child pornography, limiting these websites from having no Internet access to sell these services to other potential buyers. Even though the interruption will be limited in time, it proves the point that even the dark web is vulnerable to attack.

One strange observation should be noted here: it seems that the longer the Internet has been in service, the longer this list of illegal activities seems to have grown. Business is growing and expanding on both sides of the Internet. In fact, since 2006, it’s estimated that over 10,000 websites contain all of the world’s most illegal content. That’s a lot of daily business activity that’s not being monitored or abolished or observed by government agencies; that’s a lot of business that goes under the radar of statistics, studies, and national polling numbers. Therefore, nobody can really indicate, unanimously and unequivocally, the depths of this abuse on society’s morality side.

It’s also apparent that the secretive and anonymous nature of the Internet helps to hide the real face of its business intent. With over 1 billion secured websites in the world, there’s very few chances that one person will ever visit them all. If you break down the numbers, here’s what you get: only 4% (or 40 million websites) have legal content. This leaves more than 96% (or 960 million websites) having illegal content. You do have to give or take that many websites are on “lock down” or “have been disabled” or “don’t have any content.” It’s almost virtually impossible to state, year by year, the final number of websites that exist in the world.

Even so, there’s always two sides to every story. This is one of them.

Author's Note: There's an effort in this world to expose the Dark Web. Since it represents so much of what the Internet is made of, it's worthy of the attention. This essay proves that even the bad side can be attacked at any time, disrupting its service, and putting a small dent into its operation. The Internet's problems are only starting, but this gives you, the reader, some small insight into the depths of this world-wide issue. There are no easy answers here. When I report on this subject next year, I really don't expect any improvements.

Feel like hackers are moving into your living room? Read this to escape: Ordinary Reflections

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Real Longevity: Portable Flash Drives

The world’s greatest portable tool is not that of a standard hammer. That would not even be close. In the wake of a rising technical world, it’s the small, tiny, hardly-noticeable, very-portable flash drive—a tiny gem of unlimited possibilities. With storage powers nearing an incredible 1 Terabyte (TB), there’s plenty of power packed in something you can literally wrap around your neck and walk outside without anyone taking notice of how much information can be saved on such a tiny, tiny gem.

Flash Drives come in all types!

In true form, the portable flash drive has shattered all the norms and perceptions of data portability. The idea that any user can carry “thousands and thousands of documents” has made this device a fast seller—amassing more sales than any external device ever made. All data, essentially, comes down to a smaller form of storage potential. Users love it. Corporations love it. Terrorists love it. Hackers love it. Just about anyone who transports data loves this gem.

But where did the inspiration come from? Going small had not been on the forefront of any inventor’s mind in the past, so why the sudden interest in downsizing the whole method of storage?

The inspiration for its foundation and portability goes back to the 3.5-inch floppy disk. Downsizing data into a smaller form had been in the works for years. In the late 1980s, 3.5-inch floppy disks were the standard for backing up data and transporting it in a sufficient manner. At that moment in time, floppy disks were much easier to care for and were less bulky than tape drive systems. The days of bulky data backups were nearing an end during the late 1980s.

Users were given a powerful alternative by 1999—something so solid that cloud storage may have matched its power and storage capacity, but not in the same way that flash drives promote true ownership and control over individual data.

The idea came rather easy to a small group of engineers in Germany: give users something that’s small, with non-moving parts, fast transfer rates, impervious to electrical shock, a dust-proof case, and incredibly lightweight in design. There’s no doubt, the flash drive came at the right time.

Over the past 16 years, the flash drive is still used often. The main use, above all the rest, is that of simple data back-up: pictures, documents, music, downloads, favorite places, and videos to name a few. Think of all the ways this information can be transferred and delivered to other places, other computers, and other systems. The usages are endless; the applications are endless; and the creative ideas are endless. Thanks to such a powerful invention, billions of people around the world are able to transfer information, freely and uneventfully, to other places with little skill level.

What about terrorists and flash drives? What’s their angle? The most prolific story to ever come out of a USB flash drive’s use is with non-other than Osama bin Laden, the former founder and head of the Islamist group Al-Qaeda. The story goes that after the 9/11 attacks on America, Osama bin Laden went into a long period of hiding, and limited his use on the Internet, knowing quite well he would be traced, arrested and/or killed. Before his death on May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden would literally type his commands on a standard, off-line data processor, then save them to a USB flash drive. His dedicated couriers would then take these commands, deliver them to an Internet cafĂ©, and then type them in an anonymous email account. This routine and methodology of dictating his Islamist group lasted for about 10 years. Through a stroke of genius, he found a perfect way to transfer documentation under the eyes and ears of powerful government officials.

And hackers? What have they done with this powerful technology? Much can be said about today’s viruses, but a virus can only go so far from a website or email to a potential victim. This process is made much easier by infecting a USB flash drive with destructive programming codes. Once the device is placed into another computer, it can turn it into a blue-screen, unusable paperweight in a matter of seconds. This “virus transferring method” is still used today (even though solid antiviruses are in place), allowing hackers to destroy thousands and thousands of machines by using the weakness and limited skill-level of the common computer user.

Regardless of all the good and bad of its potential usage, the world’s greatest tool still exceeds in a diverse world full of cloud storage and wireless networks. Flash drives still have their place. Add larger storage space designs, and portable flash drives are reaching a sustained longevity.

Author's Note: It comes as no surprise the impact portable flash drives have had on society. Since 1999, this tiny gem (which is truly deserving of this entitlement) has lived up to growing expectations. Users want control over their dataFull control. Private control. Unlimited control. Cloud storage doesn't offer any competition, although younger generations of users don't see it that way. They simply want convenience and quickness, not portability and reliability. But don't expect much to change here: the standard in portability is with flash drives. Unless something else comes along that outplays this product in the years ahead, I only see good outcomes for this amazing and incredible gem.

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