July 9, 2017

Online Awareness: Child Safety Issues with Technology

Online safety. It’s probably something that gets more coverage today than it did in the past. Many online safety news stories (like that of children abduction, teen bullying, and Internet crimes committed against children) get local, state, and national attention. The reason for online safety comes from one source: communication. With more than 3 billion people using verified email accounts, there’s plenty of communication going on between computer users from all over the globe. That’s because online activity for children and adults has been going on for more than 25 years. And because of all this unmonitored online activity, online safety is getting more and more attention.

What started all this online activity? It was in 1990 that Tim Berners-Lee at CERN Switzerland designed the first World Wide Web tool to organize and navigate the Internet. This tool was developed in a way to make information easily accessible and available to the public in homes, offices—literally anywhere. The code was initially called Hypertext. It was later marketed in 1992. Eventually, it was renamed Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The development allowed users from all over the world to communicate with each other using a web browser. In 1994, Netscape Communicator released its browser, and in 1995, Microsoft officially released Internet Explorer (IE).

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the creator of the World Wide Web. His creation extends into every walk of life.

Recently, Microsoft celebrated Internet Explorer’s 25th anniversary. This classic, ever-popular browser has been around since 1991. The story goes that Tim Berners-Lee posted a basic text page with hyperlinked words that connected to other pages on his first website. He nicknamed his website tool  “information management,” which seemed appropriate at the time.

In today’s digital world, we can view information as managing us, not us managing the computer. Digital information tells us what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and it even gives us specific examples through text and video. It’s a benefit for children to understand how everything works, but at the same time, there are real dangers in cyberland.

Here is a list of online children safety issues associated with technology:

1) Indecent Exposure to Inappropriate Material. It’s often said that pornography was the only financial success in the beginnings of the Internet. That may be true. But it’s easy for a child to Google any body part, whether clothed or not, and see results. This raises the issue of indecency and inappropriate material first-hand, but First Amendment rights keep that information available to the public. All Internet material is not good material.

2) Technology and Internet Addiction. Some studies report that children spend up to 8 hours a day using some form of technology, whether it’s the Internet, gaming, texting, or emailing. This is creating a void in their social skills, and also increasing their rate of suicide due to depression and personal insecurities.

3) Cyberbullying. Because the Internet is a “faceless entity,” children suffer the most in this category. Even the power of social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can foster cyberbullying activities and behaviors far beyond the classroom. Children don’t even need an account to be bullied; they would hear about it from other sources, leaving them to deal with these problems on their own.

4) Privacy. Let’s put it all in perspective: Our private lives are no more. It’s all gone. Billy Graham once said, “Once you've lost your privacy, you realize you've lost an extremely valuable thing.” Children are coming to the realization that there is an enormous amount of private information posted about them in digital form. Some part of their lives will be collected, stored, analyzed, and even studied—thus building a digital footprint of information about them that will stay forever in cyberland for others to read and judge.

5) Access to Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco. Children don’t need to go to the corner store to get drugs, alcohol or tobacco like in the past. The Internet provides access to not only the substances themselves, but the knowledge to make them. With the rise of opioids like Morphine, Tramadol, Oxycodone, and Fentanyl, the making of these drugs are as easy as Googling the drug name on a smartphone in a classroom.

Overall, our children need to be educated, monitored, and guided through their use of the Internet from childhood through adulthood. A constant ongoing dialogue will make technology more safe and open to them. They don’t need to be restricted, but rather informed about the real dangers, because we want all children to be skilled users of technology. If we limit them, they will build a life around technology that consists of inappropriate behaviors, hostility, co-dependence, and abuse behind closed doors.

Online safety. It’s something all children should know about.

Author's Note: Child safety is something that's gaining more national attention through  behavioral acts of cyberbullying. It's far-reaching effects can demoralize a person's character, good will, and overall confidence, causing many young people to make a rather adult choice in learning to live with false information or fake statements on the web or to fall into a deep depression that, in most cases, leads to suicidal tendencies. How do we really protect them from the dangers of the Internet? You cannot unplug it and put it away like a video game. It's a way of life for billions and billions of people. Children need to develop a healthy relationship with technology, and they need to nurture this relationship throughout their lives in a skillful, natural manner. If you limit children and deny them this relationship with technology, the outcome will be catastrophic, filled with inappropriate behaviors that will lead some to the darker side of the Internet. Our children deserve a positive dialogue about technology to learn, thrive, and be successful in life.  

Want more education material about technology? Want more that is written at your level? Please visit our Forever Beginners' Website: Technology Class Material.

June 28, 2017

Cloud Storage: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

If you are keeping tabs on the computer industry, there are a host of Fortune 500 companies joining the world’s most exclusive club. This isn’t any ordinary club. It’s a club that connects data, people, business, industry, government—all of it into one unique system. And each business day, another one joins this exclusive club—one of the most lucrative concepts ever—called cloud storage.

Cloud storage takes away a user's ability to manage their own data.

Let’s focus on the theory of cloud storage in this article, not the companies that operate and run them. This leaves you more open to grasp the concept of cloud storage in its rawest sense.

Cloud Storage is a means of storing digital data on various servers (and often in various locations) around the world. These types of businesses are owned and operated by a hosting company. According to PC Magazine’s website, many of these hosting companies offer various cloud storage sizes. They range from 2GB, 10GB, 15 GB, 2 TB, and even unlimited. Unlimited means as much storage as you want. With these type of services, your files are easily accessible 24 hours / 7 days a week. Even better yet, these files are in their most up-to-date status because your data is saved around the clock from your laptop, smartphone and tablet. They are syncing between themselves to carry all your new data to the cloud.

Think of all this cloud storage as a paperless society. A paperless society is one in which all paper communication (written documents, mail, letters, etc.) is replaced by electronic communication and storage. Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster originated the concept in 1978, a former British-American information scientist.

With such a perfect system, what could possibly go wrong? This is technology at its finest, isn’t it? All of your personal documents, pictures, and music all dancing with the clouds above, the clouds of digital storage. Sounds like a digital heaven, doesn’t it? But it may not be your fault when a digital disaster strikes. It may be a human error that’s completely out of your hands. One of the problems is its digital—and that means it can fail. Any digital server can fail at any time. This means you could lose data (with no guarantees or financial backing). Once a perfect system now becomes your worst nightmare. No back up means no history.

The same “lost” theory holds true with email. You can hold thousands and thousands of emails in the provider’s server (which is a server located somewhere in the world) and you can create hundreds of private folders that are separate from your email’s main inbox. When you hold this much data, your memory begins to fade and your concern begins to dwindle. It gets to a point where you assume and expect that your email will be there every day. I describe it this way: It’s a natural progression into a “digital comfort zone.” Many users assume the best, but don’t expect the worst. Email is digital. It can fail (just like cloud storage). Many users have lost everything by storing all their email in a server, not documenting or printing it out. This whole paperless society idea doesn’t work well when you don’t have a paper trail to follow.

The one thing that creates the biggest concern for cloud storage is security. How secure is it? Can anyone steal it? With hacking incidents on the rise all over the world, digital systems are at risk: health care systems, social media, email, satellites, electrical grids, power plants, computers, and cloud storage servers. When you include world-wide terrorism acts, everything’s at risk.

People must understand the risk of letting cloud storage maintain and store all their personal information. It’s not a perfect system. Your best bet is to back up your own data and store it off-line, creating your own storage backup system. The online world is not safe. Read the news. Read between the lines. There are no guarantees about the safety and security of your data.

Author's Note: Cloud storage is a means of storing your digital life in various locations around the world. If you are comfortable with that thought, then do it; if you are not comfortable with that thought, then take action. You must learn to manage and maintain your own digital life. It's a corporation's desire to make everything in your life a walk in the park. But what skills do you lose? What about security? And who are cloud people? You must understand the "risks" involved when giving away your digital life to others (and we do that so often these days without any thought or concern). Since there are no guarantees about the safety and security of your data, I think it's time you start protecting your privacy. It's not what they want; it's what you need to do to be safe and secure in the modern world. 

Want to learn some new tech skills? Try this: Little Black Book: Protecting Your Digital Life.

June 16, 2017

Verizon’s Media Empire: Is this the End of Free Email?

Free email. Digital communication. Wireless telecommunications. Verizon owns all the rights. Over the past 17 years, Verizon’s acquisitions include major companies like GTE, MCI, and, most recently, AOL and Yahoo. With more than 162,000 employees as of 2016, this media empire giant is growing to become the next global leader in digital and wireless technology.

With so much wealth and purchasing power, one can only wonder: Is this the end of free email as we know it? Or is it becoming a money-making business machine? The Internet does not answer this question in any meaningful way. Each year, there are many fake articles and fake postings claiming that free email will end soon. Service fees and/or contract fees (especially in social media) would create an immediate uproar and anger with consumers. They believe that everything shall remain free forever. You wonder how long “free” can last in a capitalistic society such as ours. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine why Verizon would go through all this effort and not try to cash in on its overwhelming position in the digital marketplace.

Recent acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo proved this very point. On May 12, 2015, Verizon acquired AOL for $4.4 billion, and it wasn’t more than a year later that they also acquired Yahoo for $4.83 billion. This major spending spree (almost immediately) rocketed Verizon into two of the top five Best Free Email Services of 2016, which included these companies (in order): Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, GMX and AOL. This gave them power and control over an industry driven by membership loyalty and longstanding consumer product confidence. You couldn’t ask for a better money-making business machine.

Verizon is on a mission. Not only is email in their sights, but so is wireless technology. According to Wikipedia, “as of April 2016, Verizon's 4G LTE network covered 98% of the US, and as of April 2017, Verizon Wireless provided wireless services to 146 million subscribers.” Verizon’s focus is to literally dominate both wireless and email technologies by controlling the number of subscribers. Let’s give it to you by the numbers: there are 174 million active AOL users, of which 2 million still use dial-up services; there are 1 billion active Yahoo users, of which 81 million live in the US.

It cannot be denied: this is Verizon’s Media Empire. It’s a vast outreach of influence and control over all past, present and future technologies. They are “in position” and “right on target” for the next big thing to happen in technology. With so many subscribers connected to their services, it’s simple to observe how Verizon can dictate and control the digital marketplace.

One of Verizon’s greatest assets is email
especially pay-as-you-go email. As of May 2017, AOL Gold is launching a $3.99/per month service, retiring the age-old AOL Desktop software. It’s an appropriate name—AOL Gold—because email is the secret goldmine that’s been waiting to be tapped into for more than 20 years. Doing some basic math, if all 174 million members signed-up to AOL Gold, membership dues would generate $694.26 million per month—an instant goldmine in today’s digital world. Hypothetically, if all Yahoo members signed-up (using the same $3.99/per month service fee), membership dues would total $3.99 billion per month—enough money to turn Verizon into an overnight monopoly. Many would potentially leave the service if that happened.

But don’t expect Yahoo to charge a monthly service fee any time soon. The real money comes from your use of their email service. When you send and receive free email, AOL and Yahoo methodically analyzes the content of all your messages. In fact, Gmail does the same thing. They develop marketing campaigns based on user-content, and then they use that data to develop ways to market products with advertising slogans on all your daily web pages and websites. For days and days afterwards, you begin to notice that the jeans you talked about in an email with a friend the day before is now the same pair of jeans on a web page ad. That’s where the real money is made, but charging email service fees would only add to their profit.

Verizon handles more than 90% of all wireless data traffic.

Advertising means large profits for Verizon. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to employ 162,000 employees, offer them worthy benefits, and also give top officials lavish vacations, lucrative incentives, and fancy cars to drive.

But don’t forget about email and its endless possibilities; it’s as lucrative as the advertising end of the business. The real twister comes when free email ends and pay-as-you-go email begins, which redefines Verizon as a true business monopoly in these modern, digital times.

Author's Note: Verizon is a media giant as of 2017. With recent purchases made of AOL and Yahoo, they have set themselves in perfect position to be a major player for digital services in the technology world. But look between the lines and you'll see a much difference image: greed and endless possibilities. Controlling 90% of the wireless data traffic in the United States should present a precursor to a monopoly. In a world with so many choices for service and support, why doesn't this offer stand in the world of wireless technology? No one sees it this way--not yet, at least.

Everyone deserves to escape from today's technology. Try this: One Innocent & Ordinary Life: Short Stories and Poems.

May 29, 2017

Library Days Limited: Why All the Fuss?

Your local library. Every town has one. It’s the building in the middle of town with the brick base, massive glass windows pointing to the sky, and has two large doors that open a youthful mind to a world full of amazing stories, limitless information, old paperback magazines, mounds of raw data, and endless hardcover books.

Peter White Library, Marquette, Michigan
Libraries have a great influence on people—even to those of generations before. Some people find a certain kind of euphoria while reading other voices with their ideals, opinions, philosophies, and words. Libraries offer a rare form of escape from the mundane realities of life, an escape that can come in the form of a story, or maybe by holding something from the past in their hands. The feeling of intimacy is unmatched and undisputed when compared to the likes of digital technology, the Internet, and smartphones. 

There is really no challenger.

You can’t Google the euphoria and blissful feeling of being in a library. Google doesn’t have an app that can do this. There is nothing as good as the original. Libraries offer that rare glimpse into the way things used to be, the thrill of hunting and discovering each piece of new information, and they offer the standard by which everything else should be compared.

Libraries also make people powerful. With knowledge being such a thoughtless skill on a smartphone (almost like a pure afterthought), libraries empower those who open doors and ask questions. It’s not just the reading aspect; it’s the opening of one’s mind to the unknown, allowing one’s self to submerge and swim in the ideals of another’s world. This, to me, is what makes a library a very powerful and productive way to spend an hour or two of your day alone—tearing out the root of every unknown riddle.

Technology’s “laissez faire approach” offers nothing in comparison. There are no rules, no basic guidelines, no time limits, and no pressure with technology. On average, people spend more than 10 frightful screen time hours or more a day with technology. Where is the escape in that? Where is the fascination? Where is the personal touch? What about the findings in an old, rare book no one has opened in 50 years? Again, it’s the act of true discovery that motivates a person to keep digging, to keep putting the facts together while on an amazing journey of the mind. Sadly, technology doesn’t offer that kind of experience; technology only offers you, the user, alone time with yourself, being self-centered, self-absorbed within a fragile, delicate bubble of non-existence.

But are library days limited? Will they close their doors once 7 billion people have smartphones? Why is there such a fuss about these historic institutions closing, one by one, in every town across America? Yes, it’s true that some have closed their doors forever; other libraries are on the chopping blocks of community budgets. Because of the Internet’s strong devotional following, many libraries don’t have the foot traffic or the financial support to stay open any longer. Libraries seem to be dying; they are dying because people no longer see the potential of using their services to find information.

Today, common knowledge is literally at your fingertips. Information is easily accessible not only by typing a few words into Google, but can also be done by using smartphones, by using popular search engines, and by asking questions to a computer screen with voice commands.

Here’s a simple solution: libraries need to change how information is retrieved and processed. The entire process of utilizing a library needs to change from the ground level to the top. Every aspect and function of a library needs reexamining in order to give the maximum potential to each member. The whole desire to go to the library is based on age-old principles and models that don’t connect with young people; they don’t see the library as a place for digital technology; they see it as containing books and magazines.

Then what’s all the fuss? Libraries are simply not meeting the needs of the next generation of users. They have more digital and technological needs beyond that of any other member. Because their needs are not being met, a monumental establishment loses ground and dissolves away. This goes the same for any tradition. Only creative minds with creative ideas can help save libraries from this dramatic end. In my view, technology must be at the forefront of a user’s experience while being at the library, and that experience must be one that emotionally touches the life of one member.
All it takes is one member. Word will get around. Libraries will thrive again.

Author's Note: Technology has not only impacted the lives of ordinary people, but also the places where the brilliant minds of the future will conduct and develop future ideas and dreams. Libraries do have a place in society. They have a greater influence on people than anyone realizes. But with each new smartphone sale, another library's resources are utilized a little bit less by people. The common person is not drawn to the shelves of old books, magazines, guidelines, dictionaries, and rare paper records. Technology gives power to the people, yet lacks the discipline to respect the past. Our past lives in thousands of libraries all across this great land. All it takes is for one member to see it that way. Then things might change for the better.

Looking for ordinary life stories? Try this: One Innocent & Ordinary Life: Short Stories and Poems.

May 21, 2017

Reality Check: Biggest Ransomware Ever Hits Everyone

Ransomware. Malware. Viruses. Stick-ups. Crime. Bad hombres. Evil doers. Burglars. Terrorists. Cyber-attacks. This world has many types of evil, but the worst of it now falls into the technology category. With the latest development of “the biggest ransomware outbreak in history” now carrying through multiple stories throughout the Internet community, the next generation of evil is reaching for what may hurt you the most: computers.

Time for a reality check: computers equal freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom to learn. The world desires and wishes to keep these same principles and philosophies intact for all generations, for all countries, and for all societies.

You see, computers give us unlimited, intimate access to information. And don’t forget, it’s the information age, an age that is driven by the possibilities of fame, possibilities of financial wealth and gain, and promises of endless facts and figures beyond human comprehension.

The Internet has become a world all in itself over the years, and someone (or some group) is trying to stop us from connecting to our pleasure-seeking, self-centered ways.

With more than 150 countries (and counting) being hit with the same type of malware in the same 12-hour time period, you start to realize that our world is more connected, more instantaneous, more intimate, and more on-demand than you would like to admit.

But first, how does the bug work? According to theGuardian.com, “ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user’s data, then demands payment in exchange for unlocking the data.” This malware attacks in one of three ways: from a bad hyperlink (or clickable link), from a bad email link, or from a phony advertisement. It only takes a matter of minutes for it to convert all your documents and pictures into unusable rubbish. This bug (officially named WannaCry) exploits a vulnerability in Windows, flashes a message on the screen to pay the ransom, and makes your computer virtually a dead-weight machine. The bug’s intent is to put billions and billions of people into panic mode, making them cave in to paying the $300 ransom being asked. It’s all a gimmick to scam you and destroy what seems precious and valuable to you: data. Data will always be a sacred part of an average person’s digital life until the end of time.

Microsoft claims it released an update for this vulnerability back in March, but most users wouldn’t know about this update; that’s because most users don’t spend quality time and effort to perform Windows updates on a regular basis. The other problem is that most users would lack the skill and know-how on how to perform the update themselves. It’s not in their routines to make a checklist and follow it with such accuracy. Hackers have always known of this weakness. Expect more attacks in the future on this kind of level, one that achieves national attention, reveals more weaknesses in software programs, and weakens the “trust-factor” built between mankind and computer.

How to Protect Yourself, Your Computer, and Your Peace of Mind

1.  Perform all Windows updates as soon as possible.

2.  Be suspicious from this point on about strange emails with strange requests. Any request is a fraud and a fake, unless previously known.

3. Keep up-to-date on computer-related news events and public announcements.

4.  Keep your antivirus current and updated.

5. Back up your data more often. Back-ups offer peace of mind to on-going malware threats.

6. Most of all, be on the lookout for anything suspicious on social media websites. Communicate these suspicions to others.

The possibility for cyber-attacks are real, and they do exist. Pure and simple. This isn’t a Hollywood movie script. This is life, a life driven by computers and technology. Cyber-attacks have always been there—much more today than ever before because of faster speeds, better connections, and trustworthy users like yourself. Because of these facts, someone out there, who is rather smart in programming and can figure out logical gaps and loops in coding language, is taking pieces of technology that work in the modern age and putting them into a negative light, a light that spells the end of technology’s control over users.

You may not be feeling the pain of this yet. But give it time. Evil deeds can morph and expand into unforeseen heartaches. This is one of them.

Author's Note: Microsoft's trying their hardest to cure a world-wide problem, the largest and biggest malware outbreak in history. Believe me, this is not a surprise. In fact, it's a given when you connect people with other people; it's a given when you connect different cultures and backgrounds together. Other forces would rather us not have computers or the Internet at all. The only hope we have in this world is to arm ourselves with the best protection known to mankind: thinking. If we think more, we can protect more. If we think more like hackers, we can protect more of our precious digital data. Therefore, thinking is our best tool. No one can alter that. Not even the best technology on Earth. 

Tired of ransomware? Read this: Ordinary Reflections.

May 11, 2017

Wireless Technology: Its One and Only Weakness

Wireless technology. Wi-Fi. Powerful. Clean. Flawless. Cheap. For what it’s worth, this is the mothership of all contemporary technology, and quite possibly the most powerful force to test any government’s inclination to openly share information, not only on a small scale, but also on a world-wide scale. Remember, wireless does away with cables and cords, leaving life to be easier and clutter-free.

Simply put, wireless is powerful. There’s no denying the power of wireless technology in things like laptops, cellphones and smartphones, printers, routers, cordless phones, amateur radios, GPS systems, land mobile radios (LMRs), smart TVs, appliances, automobiles, and the list goes on. It allows you to connect things that never connected to each other before; it allows you to do away with cables being buried around your property; it allows you to attach new equipment without any complications; it allows you access to other systems within close range; and it allows your entire family to connect to the Internet at the same time without cables. That’s power; that’s your future; that’s what runs wireless digital devices.

It seems only like yesterday that two-way radios were all the rage and excitement in America. Keep in mind that radio is a game of throw and catch. The concept to making radio waves is rather simplistic: flow electricity through a transmitter (or throw) and allow a receiver to collect (or catch) these oscillating electromagnetic waves through the air—in a straight line—at the speed of light (some 300,000 km per second).

This same concept is used with today’s top wireless equipment. Although the speed is only 25 megabytes per second—that much slower than radio waves—it still proves the point that wireless technology can deliver the Internet to multiple machines up to 200 ft. away.

This comes as no surprise: wireless technology has been long in the making.

Even though the word “Wi-Fi” was officially added to Webster’s Dictionary in 2005, the creation of radio waves in the late 1800s would lead to the world’s first true discovery of wireless technology. It was German physicist Heinrich Hertz (1857–1894) who, in 1888, made the first electromagnetic radio waves in his lab.

Hedy Kiesler Markey, left, and George Antheil are credited with Wi-Fi's creation.

It wasn’t until 1944 that Hedy Kiesler Markey (better known as the actress Hedy Lamarr) and George Antheil, a composer, pianist and author, worked together and patented a spread spectrum frequency hopping code (on a punched paper tape) for radio-controlled torpedoes, encrypting the signal within a range of 88 frequencies (equaling 88 total piano keys). This was a simple way of making wireless communication more reliable and secure by transmitting and receiving on different radio frequencies, thereby eliminating the possibility of getting the signal jammed by the enemy and sending the radio-controlled torpedo to go off its course. Their patent was never used until 1997 with Wi-Fi technology.

The one and only weakness to wireless technology is jamming the signal. With thanks to Hedy Lamarr’s natural instinct and George Antheil’s expertise, their early World War II invention still resonates in the modern world. One example of this ongoing weakness is that of microwave ovens. When you turn on a microwave oven near a wireless router, the Internet goes out. Another example is with specialized “handheld radio jammers”—which are illegal to own in America—because they cause direct interference with not only wireless routers, but that of wireless services to smartphones. By jamming the signal, the oscillating electromagnetic waves don’t reach their intended end. This means users can’t use the Internet. All wireless Internet service stops on these devices. Could this be the weapon of choice in the next World War? A simple radio jammer could do the job, one on an enormous, world-wide scale. It’s simple: knock out wireless technology and turn electronic devices into useless paperweights. This goes along with the other unknown weakness of wireless technology: anything that’s man-made in design can be broken and destroyed. So much for digital perfection.

Author's Note: Yes, it's true that wireless technology has a weakness. The underlying weakness is not a complicated formula based on chemistry and chemical reactions. In layman's terms, it's scrambling one signal over another. The real test of wireless technology will be making it more reliable and secure when transmitting over extended areas. The other test is to make sure that Wi-Fi is not a health hazard to people and pets. Many people don't realize how many Wi-Fi signals are around them at any one time. Healthy? Cancer-related? There's no such study that proves the validity of Wi-Fi's safety as of yet, but soon enough, something will come along to make a case. Give it some time.

Ready to turn off your Wi-Fi? Read this: Ordinary Reflections.

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.

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.

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 ISP.com. 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 https://www.charter.com/internet/speed-test.html 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: http://www.speedtest.net/. 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.


Other Articles of Interest

Online Awareness: Child Safety Issues with Technology

Online safety. It’s probably something that gets more coverage today than it did in the past. Many online safety news stories (like that of...

Popular Posts