Friday Linkapalooza — August 29, 2014

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CONSUMER PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

Apple has announced a special event on September 9th. Rumor claims that Apple will announce a new iPhone, as well as the highly anticipated iWatch, at this event.

The newest addition to Royal Caribbean’s fleet of cruise ships, the Quantum of the Seas, is meant to be the most high-tech cruise ship ever built.

LG has released what might be the best-looking smartwatch, the G Watch R so far.

CURRENT EVENTS

Plastic is a material wreaking havoc on our planet. However, new research is exploring ways to create plastics that can break down in ways not harmful to the environment. 

Did you know that the U.S. government has a Chief Technology Officer? It’s very possible that Megan Smith, currently a vice president at Google, could be our country’s next CTO.

California now requires smartphones to be built with a “kill switch”, meaning that a stolen smartphone can be remotely shut down and erased by its owner, making it virtually useless to the thief. California is the first state to enact such a law.

HEALTH & MEDICINE

Recently a group of doctors placed a 3D-printed titanium vertebra in an injured boy’s spine.

Researchers at the University of California Davis are working toward creating nanotechnology that could kill cancerous tumors.

A new smartphone app presently in development at the University of Washington could help detect jaundice in newborn babies. 

ARTS & CULTURE

DigitalGlobe’s new high-res imaging satellite has taken some truly stunning birds’ eye view photographs of Madrid.

Instagram has released a new standalone video app for smartphones called Hyperlapse, which allows users to shoot really nifty timelapse videos easily. TheVerge.com has collected several of the coolest Hyperlapse videos made so far here.

Photographer Richard Silver has taken a series of photographs of iconic landmarks to show how they change during day and night. The result is a collection entitled “Time Slice”.

JUST FOR FUN…

Here is a collection of puppies playing with the iPad. Enjoy!

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iTOK Stories: Meet Sydney

Here at iTOK, our outstanding Tech Advisors help people like Sydney— people like you— with email issues each week. While this video is fictional, it is based on the true stories we hear every day.

If you’re having problems with your email, call 1-877-759-7966 and be connected with a friendly Technology Advisor right away.

Have you enjoyed your iTOK membership? Let us know in the comments below.

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What Is Syncing?

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Keeping all the information on your computer, iPod, tablets, and smartphone up to date can be a challenge. Since many people have multiple devices, it’s very convenient to have the same information on all devices. Gone are the days of copying and deleting files manually. Sure, you can still do it this way—but most devices now have a sync feature so you don’t have to. You probably have seen the term synchronizing or synchronization before. Maybe in an old spy flick: “Synchronize your watches!” Sync is short for synchronize. So what is syncing, exactly? 

Syncing is the process of keeping a file the same in multiple locations; if you change a document in one place, those changes can be synced across all of your devices. Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? Syncing, in its simplest form, is automatic copying. Data or files from a specified directory on one system are mirrored to a directory in all other systems. 

Let’s say you make a new acquaintance and exchange contact information. You enter and save your new friend’s phone number in your smart phone. When you get home, you hook your phone up to your computer via USB. When you do so, the address book on your phone syncs with the computer and updates your contacts list on the computer, adding your new friend to the list automatically. At the same time new numbers you have added to your computer will sync and appear on the phone. New smart devices are designed to sync new information right away, without your even having to think about it. 

Keeping data synced between multiple devices is typically not too hard. Most MP3 players, smartphones, tablets, and computers can be connected to one another using a USB cable or Bluetooth device to sync your data. This makes it easy to sync emails, contacts, calendars, music, and data between multiple devices. There are a lot of tools out there that give you the ability to sync devices when you’re not around your primary computer and you can’t hook the devices together.

Today you can share and sync most information online. You can sync anything from browser settings, documents, files, emails, contacts, calendars, and even instant messaging. For example, most popular Internet browsers such as Google chrome and Mozilla Firefox offer built-in support for automatically syncing bookmarks, history, and passwords. This allows you to surf the Web with ease no matter what device you’re using. Software like Mozy, OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud and Google drive employ cloud storage, allowing you to back up and sync files easily from anywhere you have Internet access. 

Most emails services today already let you access your email, calendars, and contacts wherever you are. There are several third party chat clients that offer support for multiple messaging service, syncing conversations across all your devices. Service like Digsby, Pidgen, and Trillian allow you to switch between devices and never miss a word.

It’s also possible to share data and files across platforms. Depending on the type of device your using this can be tricky. Software like Mozy, Dropbox, and SugarSync work on both Windows and Mac OS X and have apps to access synced data from different mobile platforms like iOS, Android, and Blackberry. Information is no longer anchored to just one device and one location. Whether you physically connect your devices or use cloud services, syncing lets you keep all your devices up to date with the same information.

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iTOK Tech Tips: What Is Facebook?

iTOK Tech Tuesday

Check out our Tech Tip video of the week to find out what’s all the fuss about Facebook.

Have you ever wondered: What’s the big deal about Facebook? Why do I need it? What can it do for me?

You can access Facebook using the web broswer on your computer. You can also visit Facebook on your smartphone or tablet.

Have you ever wondered what happened to Lucy Jones, that cute girl you had a crush on in the fifth grade?

…Yeah, she was cute.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with more than a billion users worldwide. It’s designed to help you stay in touch with the people you care about. It can also help you find and reconnect with people — like Lucy — that you haven’t seen in years, even if they literally live on the other side of the world.

All you need to sign up for a free Facebook account is a valid email address.

So, what’s the big deal about Facebook?

1) Create an online profile to let people know what you like and what you’re up to.

2) Stay on top of the latest news and trends.

3) Find people you know — and meet people you don’t.

4) View the photos of people you love, and post your own as well.

5) Invite friends to concerts, reunions, parties, and other events. Easily share information with everyone on your invite list.

Do you use Facebook? What are some of your favorite aspects of the website? Are there things you wish Facebook could do that it can’t now? Let us know in the comments below.

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American Express Phishing Alert

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This spring and summer, a phishing scam has appeared in a number of forms aimed at American Express customers. If you are an American Express customer, please take today’s post into consideration and be especially careful of your personal information.

If you are an American Express customer and you receive an email asking you to “create your Personal Security Key”, be extremely wary. The text these scammers are using sounds authentic but is not. As an AmEx customer, you can only set up or change your Personal Security Key by calling American Express over the phone. They will never ask you to change your information via email.

These scammers have created fake websites that look nearly identical to the official American Express site. Unfortunately, victims of the scam are often convinced by the looks of these fake websites and will continue to log in and enter their information. However, before entering any information, you should look very carefully at the website and, in particular, at the URL in the address bar.

If you visit AmericanExpress.com, the official URL at the top of your browser window will read https://www.americanexpress.com/. Fake sites run by scammers will redirect you to another address. So even if the wording and graphics on the website look almost exactly like the American Express home page, the address is different. It will probably show an address completely unrelated to American Express, as scammers don’t have access to and are not officially part of that company.

One nifty trick is to move your cursor over a suspicious link in an email and let it “hover” there. DON’T CLICK. When you let your cursor hover over a web link, the address the link actually goes to will appear and you’ll see that it’s not actually linking you to American Express. Delete the email.

Another thing to look for is in the email itself. Oftentimes there are grammatical and spelling errors in the body of a spam email. If you look closely at the address sending you an email message, spam emails often come from odd names even though they claim to come from a legitimate company. For example, just this weekend I received a spam email from the address altieri@webgraff.com.br claiming to be from a friend. However, the email was blank except for a fishy-looking link. So I marked the email as spam and deleted it. If you examine the sender’s email address—altieri@webgraff.com.br—it doesn’t have a recognizable name or company, and the “.com.br” hints that it was probably sent from a scammer in another country.

You can never be too careful with your personal information online! Always employ caution and care when dealing with unfamiliar people and businesses over the Internet. Questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask! Leave them in the comments below.

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Friday Linkapalooza — August 22, 2014

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CONSUMER PRODUCTS & TECHNOLOGY

School is starting everywhere! Here’s a list of great apps for elementary-aged students that are fun and educational.

Sharp has introduced a new smartphone, the Aquos Crystal, that looks like something out of a science fiction movie. The Aquos Crystal is available exclusively through Sprint. Learn more about this cool new phone with a hands-on report here.

If you need the Internet when you travel, it’s a good idea to check on WiFi speeds before committing to a hotel. This site that tests and ranks hotel WiFI for speed and quality.

CURRENT EVENTS

Laws concerning technology and personal information after the death of a loved one are patchy and vary from state to state. Last week, the state of Delaware passed a law ensuring that immediate family can have access.

The U.S. Copyright Office has weighed in on the question of copyright, announcing that photos taken by an animal can’t be copyrighted.

Twitter is changing its policy regarding users’ timelines, adding suggested and “relevant” content that users aren’t necessarily subscribing to.

HEALTH & MEDICINE

This cool gadget, the Biovigil badge, uses chemical sensors to deduce if a hospital worker has washed their hands properly.

A Kickstarter project called “Hello Sense” aims to help you better track not only how you sleep, but why.

The Heartbleed bug, in the news earlier this spring, has been recognized as the culprit that allowed hackers to access and steal nearly 5 million health records in China.

ARTS & CULTURE

Huffington Post writer Zach Rosenberg has started an Instagram account for his 5-year-old son Matthew, in hopes that taking and posting photos online is something they can do together. May just be me, but I think it’s a great idea.

Australian multimedia artist Andy Thomas has taken birdcalls and animated them. The result is breathtaking.

A new projection technology known as Omote can be used to create and implement “electronic make-up.” The effect is really something.

JUST FOR FUN…

High in the Rockies, a GoPro camera was getting a gorgeous view… and got a good licking from a friendly marmot.

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August 1921: The First Baseball Broadcast

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In August 1921, a 25-year-old baseball fan named Harold Arlin forever changed America’s pastime. Arlin, using a microphone and a makeshift transmitter converted from the parts of a phone, sat in a seat near home plate and called the game as the Pittsburgh Pirates battled the Philadelphia Phillies. Arlin’s call was broadcast over KDKA, one of the first major commercial radio stations in the United States. At the time, Arlin confessed that the broadcast was an experiment, and his co-workers at KDKA didn’t expect the trend of baseball on the radio to catch on.

Later the same year, KDKA broadcast the World Series final game live on the air — but only sort of. The game callers — Grantland Rice and Tommy Cowan — weren’t actually present at the game; rather, they reported the events of the game as they received them via telegraph.

The next year, station WJZ of Newark broadcast the entire championship series, again with Rice calling play-by-play. However, during the fourth inning of the third game, Rice turned over the calling responsibility to Graham McNamee, jumpstarting the latter’s career. McNamee was the first real color commentator in American sports, supplying the listening audience with fascinating trivia and statistics, as well as visceral reactions to the action on the field. Some critics would point up that McNamee was no baseball expert, but he was fun to listen to, giving his listeners plenty of detail with verve and enthusiasm. Ultimately McNamee would help make baseball appealing and accessible to the entire country.

Attending an actual game live was expensive, and could require travel. Public transport was just getting underway in most major cities, as was the regular use of the automobile. Radio broadcasts allowed major league baseball into the homes of Americans everywhere.

Baseball and radio have formed a bond ever since. More and more teams allowed their games to air — the New York teams would refuse the longest, not allowing their games to air until 1938. Team owners and managers were worried that airing games would cause a drop in ticket sales and game attendance. However, the opposite happened: radio helped to raise interest and popularize baseball, and attendance and fan participation swelled.

Baseball broadcasts were hugely popular through the 1940s and 1950s. That popularity wouldn’t really wind down until the 1960s, when television came to prominence. And though the majority of games started being televised, NBC Radio continued to cover the World Series through 1975, when CBS took over, the latter broadcasting the championship series until 1997. Today, weekend games are still broadcast on ESPN Radio and XM Satellite Radio. XM’s program MLB Home Plate has broadcast every major league game since 2005. Now you can use apps on your smartphone, tablet, or set-top box (e.g., Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV) to catch up with the latest baseball action.

As for that 1921 game in Pittsburgh… The Pirates pulled it out and beat the Phillies 8-5.

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What’s a Firewall?

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With all the threats on the Internet today, people try to do everything they can to prevent from getting viruses and being hacked. An important tool in that process is a firewall. Even if you have gotten viruses or been hacked in the past, you might think what good is my firewall doing? The truth is simple: if you don’t have a firewall, attacks on your information and system could happen much more frequently. Both Apple’s OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems have built-in personal firewalls. Windows’ default settings has the firewall turned on, while Apple’s OS X has it turned off.

The word “firewall” comes from the actual, physical barrier built to protect you from fire, and prevent it from spreading from one room to another. Constructed firewalls also are designed to prevent buildings from collapsing in the event of a fire. Thinking on this, what exactly does a computer firewall do?

Firewalls provide a layer of protection against outside attackers by putting up a wall to your computer or network, keeping out unwanted or dangerous internet traffic. Most firewalls can be set to block specific data from specific locations while still letting data you want through. For example, if someone on the Internet tries to connect to your computer, your firewall will block the uninvited connection.

At the same time, when a program like your instant messenger or email client tries to connect for the first time, your firewall will ask you if you want to allow the connection. If you choose to allow the connection your firewall typically creates an exception so that when that program runs or connects to the Internet again, it won’t need to ask for your permission every time.

This is where a lot of people make a mistake. A lot of people will run new software — maybe a browser, video player, or music player — and the program asks for permission. Users don’t recognize the name of the software and deny it access. This causes the software to not work. The user then gives access which allows the software to work. The user get use to this process of allowing access to names they don’t know because they think it will cause programs not to work. By accident, the user may then allow access to an unwanted program or virus. Never allow an exception for a program that you don’t recognize. When in doubt, use a search engine to find out more.

There are actually two types of firewalls: software and hardware. A software firewall is an internal system like the ones built into most operating systems. If you don’t have a firewall or don’t like the one that comes with your operating system, you can also purchase third-party firewall software. A lot of security software — Trend Micro, for example — come with a firewall or firewall booster.

A hardware firewall is an external system usually called a network firewall. These firewalls are typically built into an external device that is between your computer or network and the Internet. A router with an Ethernet card and hub is a good example of a hardware firewall. The modems and routers provided by most Internet Service Providers also have firewall features. You may not know it, but you probably have both types — software and hardware — installed.

Most firewall products, either software or hardware, come with default settings. Typically these setting are sufficient and secure for the average user, but can also be customized for your specific needs. An IT specialist— like your iTOK Technology Advisor — can help you configure your firewall settings to give you the best protection possible.

It’s very important to have at least one firewall. A hardware firewall like a router and a software firewall overlap in some ways but each have their own benefits. Having both won’t harm you and add additional layer of security.  With proper firewalls in place you can prevent a large amount of attacks to your system. However, firewalls cannot guarantee that they will prevent all attacks or stop viruses. It’s a good idea to have a strong antivirus program running alongside your firewall to give you maximum protection.

Questions? Let us know in the comments below.

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iTOK Tech Tips: Quickly Switch Apps on a Mac

iTOK Tech Tuesday

Navigate back and forth through your apps with this great tech tip.

If you’re using a Mac and have several applications open, one way to navigate back and forth is to go to your dock and click on the app you’d like to use for the moment. However, I’ve got a nifty trick that will save you some time.

Let’s say you’ve got a bunch of application windows open. Maybe over the course of the morning you’ve read an email from Aunt Martha in Outlook, shopped for shoes online using Safari, and glanced at your family photos in iPhoto.

Because iPhoto is the application you’re using at the moment, the word “iPhoto” shows in the top lefthand corner of your Finder window, beside the Apple. If you want to quickly switch back to Outlook to finish Aunt Martha’s email, hold down the Command key and tap the tab key. One tap of the Tab key (keep holding the Command key down) will display the icons of all of your open applications in the center of your screen. Each time you tap the Tab key, a white square will move down the row of apps, selecting each in turn. If you release the command key when Outlook is selected, you’ll be taken immediately to your Outlook window, and “Outlook” shows in the upper lefthand corner. Simple as that.

 

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Reduce Spam in Your Inbox

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If you own a computer, you’re probably familiar with spam — otherwise known as junk mail messages. Unfortunately, it’s something everyone has to deal with. A couple of weeks ago, we discussed what exactly spam is. Not only is spam annoying but it can be dangerous. It often contains viruses and harmful attachments. Spamming is illegal. But despite laws in place attempting to prevent it, there’s no real way to stop it. Most email systems have some kind of junk or spam filter, sending junk messages directly to a specific folder so you don’t have to even worry about accidentally opening a harmful email. But occasionally, spam does get through. Today we’re going to look at some simple steps you can take to help cut down the amount of spam that makes it into your inbox.

  1. Have an alternative email account. Create a secondary webmail account that you use when signing up for memberships and accounts on the Web — you can easily do this for free. It might seem like a hassle to have a second email address and password to remember. However, if you use your secondary email address when registering to any type of subscription-based service, filling out warranties, downloading software, newsletters, posting on Internet discussion boards, and even social networking sites, it will dramatically cut down on the amount of spam you get in your primary email account. Only use your primary email account for verified contacts that you know and want to receive emails from.
  2. Manage your spam or junk filters setting. Most Internet service providers, as well as email providers, have some sort of automatic spam filtering built in. Most these filter allow you specific control over the setting so you can regulate how strong these controls are. If you’re receiving a lot of spam, you might want to customize those setting instead of leaving them on manual. Each email filter setting are different but you can usually block specific email address that you continue receiving spam from. You can set subject line keywords that will divert anything with a specific word like “mortgage”, “loan”, “discount”, or “Nigeria” to a specific folder to be examined later or delete automatically. Explore you email settings to make sure it’s filtering everything you would like.
  3. Always be careful when making purchases online. Read online and offline forms that ask you to provide your email address. Every reputable e- commerce website offers information on how it processes your order. Typically this information is found under “Privacy Policies”. Most people don’t read privacy policy because they’re long, but it’s always a good idea to know where your money is going. This is where you can find out if a company intends on sharing your information to a third party company. If they do share your information, you can pretty much expect to get spam. Also when purchasing any product online there is typically a box asking you if you would like to receive more information or special offers. Most people in a hurry just continue processing there order without looking for this little box. Leaving that little box checked will definitely result in spam.
  4. Never open a spam message. By simply opening a spam message you can open yourself up to receiving more spam. It’s possible when you open a spam message the sender will be notified or alerted the message was open. This just encourages the spammer to send more spam. This simple action can subject your computer to viruses that can use your computer to send spam to others or even steal personal information. You should never click on a link or URL in a spam message; it can result in the same thing happening or worse. Many people think by opening the spam message and hitting the “unsubscribe” link that this will eliminate more spam coming from that particular sender. But sometimes it’s hard to recognize if an email came from a reputable company, and any link in the email could be dangerous. Clicking such links just lets the spammer know that you opened and read the email, inviting them to send more. If you see a suspicious message from someone you don’t know, you can flag it as spam, and then your email software will learn from this and help identify it as spam in the future.
  5. Use spam-blocking software. There is no spam filter software that is guaranteed to be 100% effective, but there are programs that can help you with a majority of junk and spam. If you’re receiving a large amount of spam and can’t seem to get it under control, you might benefit from spam filter software.  They work by adding an additional layer of filters or priorities set by you. They can review content in a message to determine if it’s spam, review email headers for false information, search for specific trigger words, and require anyone sending messages to be pre-approved by the recipient.

Don’t be afraid to report spam. You can report the spam to online services like SpamCop or to the Federal Trade Commission. This can help eliminate spam from your mailbox and help other from receiving the same spam. Spamming is a multi-billion dollar industry that is not going away. Undeterred by the law, spammers are constantly working to improve their tactics and assure that their message reaches your inboxes. By following the above steps, you can drastically reduce the amount of spam you’re receiving. In future posts, we’ll look at specific spam filters programs and compare them. Questions? Perhaps you have personal experience dealing with spam? Let us know how you dealt with it — leave a comment a below.

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