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Important: Don’t Let Your Wireless Provider Spy On You

2012-10-30 2 comments

With the widespread popularity of smartphones, everyone is walking around with a computer in their pocket.  Which is awesome.  What is NOT cool is that due to flaws in the laws regarding what wireless phone provider (WPP) companies are allowed to do, your WPP company is legally allowed to spy on you and collect info on EVERY single thing you do on your phone.  What’s worse is that the companies will automatically opt you in to agree to be tracked and spied on, and it’s your responsibility to first of all realize that you’re being spied on and tracked, and second of all it’s your responsibility to opt out of it.

At this point some you might be saying “Well, I don’t do anything bad or illegal so who cares if they spy on me and track me?”  First of all, you cannot predict everything that will be done with your phone.  Perhaps in the future you’ll use it for something personal, private, or embarrassing.  Or perhaps someone borrows your phone to make a call and also uses it to do something unsavory that you’re not even aware of.  The point is you just can’t predict the future so it’s not a good idea to give them free license to spy on your personal habits.  Second, you may be saying “Even if they have that info, they’re just using it for marketing purposes, it’s not like anything bad will happen with it.”  Wrong.  The companies are allowed to use that info for whatever purpose they want, including selling it to third parties.  Additionally, the law states that if the government asks them for the info for ANY reason, they must turn it over to them.  “But I don’t break the law!” Oh really?  Did you know that the average person breaks the law at least once per day without even realizing it?  Yup, it’s true, check it out: Mr Average breaks the law at least once a day

Now don’t worry, we don’t need to start wearing tin-foil hats and living in the wilderness.  I’m going to show you how to opt out of being tracked in under two minutes, and then you don’t have to worry about it anymore and you can continue to use your smartphone without being tracked.

Each company has a slightly different process, but they all involve logging into the companies website, finding the proper page, and selecting to opt out of being tracked.  I happen to currently have Verizon, so this is what the page looks like for me (I blacked out my phone number for obvious reasons):

What do The Titanic, an iceberg, and your money have in common?

Short promo video explaining uber-pimp Peter Schiff’s book “Crash Proof 2.0″ :

People are stupid for wanting sequential downloading of BitTorrent files? Then fix it, Einstein.

2012-05-02 2 comments

This is a very contentious topic and I welcome and encourage discussion, but let’s keep it civil.  The title of this article merely highlights the contentious nature of the topic.

There is a wiki-style page explaining why sequential downloading of BitTorrent files is bad.  If you don’t understand it, go research it until you do, then come back here.

Let me preface by saying that I think BitTorrent (BT) technology is amazing and I have much respect for all those who helped it be created and maintained.  I am not kicking the proverbial gift-horse in the mouth.  I’m thankful for what I’ve got.  I understand the issue of sequential downloading and how it is detrimental to the whole BT concept.  Which is why I understand the heated discussion between people requesting the feature and people explaining why the feature is bad.  I am not rehashing that debate.

What I want to do is try and intelligently think about the issue and discuss it, and to do so requires a paradigm-shift by those in the discussion.  Think about the progression and proliferation of technology.  Think about the concepts of supply and demand.  Nobody disputes that zillions of BT users want sequential downloading (zillion = a lot).  That means there is a huge demand for it.  They might not understand BT technology enough to know why sequential downloading (herein referred do as SD) is bad for BT.  But it’s easy to understand why there is a demand for it.  If we take a broader look at the history of technological progression, almost always we see that when there is a huge demand for something but our technology is unable to supply that demand, there is great incentive to innovate and improve our technology to meet that demand.

And so my call to action is this: people may be stupid for wanting SD for BT.  But the huge demand for it exists for a reason.  Rather than telling people to “not want SD”, instead innovate and create to solve the problem.  It may be that some innovation in BT technology solves the problem.  Or it may be that BT will never be capable of successfully incorporating SD, in which case a new technology is needed.  No doubt this problem will be eventually solved.  But ignoring a demand does not make it go away.  Neither does saying “there shouldn’t BE a demand.”  The demand is there, and it must, and will, be supplied.  You can argue about it until you’re blue in the face, but that’s the simple fact of the matter.  It’s not easy to solve the problem, and I have much respect for the brilliant minds behind the technology.  But pretending or insisting that a problem does not exist is not a solution to that problem.  The problem remains.  And hopefully soon, a solution will follow.

Do It Yourself Vusion Can Save You A Lot Of Money

2012-01-20 6 comments

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not affiliated with any of the things discussed in my article.  I have no financial stake.  I’m not promoting anything.  I don’t have an ax to grind.  I’m simply sharing what worked for me because I think others may benefit from my experience as I did.

Do you use Vusion? If you do, I’ve got some great news for you: you never have to pay Vusion’s ridiculously high price again, nor get a prescription to buy it.  Don’t worry, I’m not talking about anything illegal, so you can continue to read without that concern.

Vusion is effective, so I’m not bad-mouthing it.  What I have a problem with is how incredibly expensive it is considering it’s made from inexpensive Over-The-Counter ( OTC ) products, and the fact that you need a prescription to buy it.  Even with coupons and insurance coverage, it’s still extremely expensive.  I couldn’t afford it anymore so I had to find an alternative, and I found one.

So get ready to save a lot of money as I show you how to make your own Vusion from inexpensive OTC products.

Before we go further, let’s examine what’s in Vusion.  It has three main ingredients (the rest are just “filler”). Those three ingredients are:

  1. miconazole
  2. zinc oxide
  3. petroleum jelly (also known as petrolatum or white petrolatum or by its brand name Vaseline.  In this article we will refer to this ingredient as petrolatum).

What do those three things do?

  1. MICONAZOLE is an antifungal med that has been used for years in OTC anti-fungal products that treat things like athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch (in case you wanted to know, all three of those things are caused by a fungal infection called tinea [pronounced TIN-eee-uh]).  Miconazole is extremely common, inexpensive, and can be found OTC pretty much anywhere.  It is available in a variety of forms such as a cream or a spray-on.  Just search for products used to treat athlete’s foot and you’ll find one that has miconazole.
  2. ZINC OXIDE is used in calamine lotion (which you’ve probably heard of) and many other products as an antibacterial and deodorizer.  I’ll explain later where to look for it.
  3. PETROLATUM (aka petroleum jelly) is so common and has been around so long that pretty much everyone knows what it is and people usually refer to it by its brand name Vaseline.  When used on chapped lips, it helps by sealing in the moisture to help with cracked, dried lips.  Likewise with skin anywhere else on the body.  Petrolatum can found pretty much anywhere as well.

So knowing what was in Vusion, I was able to find a combination of inexpensive OTC products that when used together achieve the exact same result as Vusion for a fraction of the price and without the need for a prescription.  I’ll tell you how I do it and you can do the same thing as me or change it to whatever works best for you.  You may use whatever products you choose as long as you make sure that you have those three key ingredients.

Here’s what I do:  I bought Lotrimin, which is used for athlete’s foot (it contains miconazole, one of the three key ingredients we’re looking for).  Next, I bought a product called “Triple Paste medicated ointment for diaper rash”, which comes in a little tub with a screw-on lid.  This stuff is basically just petrolatum with zinc oxide in it (the other two key ingredients we’re looking for), and so this product allowed me to kill two birds with one stone because it has both.

So I only needed to buy two products, and both were inexpensive, OTC, and common enough to be found pretty much anywhere.  With those products, whenever I had reason to use Vusion, I instead applied the Lotrimin (miconazole) and then applied the “Triple Paste medicated ointment for diaper rash” (zinc oxide and petrolatum).  Same results! :)

That’s how I did it.  I hope that helps.  Please feel free to leave feedback if you have any questions or comments.

How Has Apple Changed The World Of Technology?

2011-11-26 2 comments

When someone says “Pass me a Kleenex,” you know what they really mean is “Pass me a tissue.”  But the brand Kleenex has been so successful that the word has become synonymous with the product.  The tech company Apple has likewise left such an imprint with its ubiquitous iPod, which spawned the term “podcasting.”  Most people now realize that a podcast doesn’t require an iPod, but the term has stuck.  This is a testament to how Apple has left its mark on the world of technology, and even in popular culture.

Steve Jobs was the visionary behind the company Apple.  His recent death was prominent in the news and it has prompted a look at the legacy that is Apple.

It’s clear that Apple has made such a dramatic impact on the world, but why is that?  And are Apple products really as great as they’re hyped up to be? Or is it merely slick marketing?

As technology expert Leo Laporte explained, Apple was not the first to come up with their technologies;  rather, they were the ones who took those technologies and made them mainstream.  Edison and Ford didn’t invent the light-bulb and the automobile, respectively.  Instead, they brought it to the masses and thus became the popularizers of their day.  A quick look back at Apple’s history confirms this unmistakable pattern.

In the early days of computers, people used keyboard text commands to operate their computers.  Apple brought personal computers into the average person’s home by having a Graphical User Interface (GUI), which consisted of windows that you could open, close, and manipulate with a mouse.  It was such a success that Microsoft soon followed suit with its own “Windows” operating system.

Next came portable music players.  Apple wasn’t the first one to make a portable music player that could store and play mp3s, but their product was so sleek and simple to use that suddenly iPods were everywhere and people who had never before heard of mp3s were now listening to them on their iPods.

When Apple introduced touch-screen capabilities to their devices, they weren’t the first ones to invent such technology.  But again, they brought it to the masses.  The pattern repeats itself with the iPhone storming its way into the smartphone market, and then the iPad setting the bar for the tablet market.  By this point, Apple had changed our culture.  Everywhere you look, you can see people using their mobile devices, and you can bet that a good portion of them are Apple devices.

There’s no denying that Apple’s been successful. But what is their secret?  Are their products truly better than all the others?  That is the never-ending debate amongst tech enthusiasts.  When a student is shopping for a computer, smartphone, or other device, how are they supposed to decide whether they should by an Apple product or something else?

The truth of the matter is not black and white, but it can be simplified.  Apple does indeed make high quality products.  This is reflected in their high price tags.  But their marketing campaign has been almost as equally impressive as their products.  Through advertising, they have managed to convince many consumers that their product defines them and that buying an Apple product means the purchaser is stylish, creative, unique, ahead of the curve, and not bogged down by technical mumbo-jumbo: “it just works.”  This marketing technique has been immensely effective.  People identify their personalities with their Apple products.

However, the marketing is just that: marketing.  While it is true that Apple makes good products, it is not true that they never break or that they break less than competing products.  They certainly are stylish, but when it comes to getting the most for your money, Apple is not the place to turn.  For those who can afford the higher prices and prefer the style of Apple products, there’s nothing wrong with them.  But for a student on a budget, look elsewhere.  An Apple computer can cost hundreds of dollars more than an equivalent computer of a different brand.  And iPhones have serious competition from Android phones.

The bottom line is this: there is no doubt that Apple has revolutionized our modern tech culture.  For those who have the extra money to spend and prefer the style of Apple products, they won’t be disappointed.  However, for those looking to get the most “bang-for-the-buck” or don’t necessarily care for Apple styling, the competing products are just as good and cost a lot less.

Categories: Uncategorized

Fun with the new Droid Bionic

2011-10-30 2 comments

I was a devoted BlackBerry user and the Droid Bionic converted me. That says a lot right there.

First of all, I am not paid to give praise to this device nor the carrier. I am
just a customer who is so happy with my new gadget that I feel like a
kid on Christmas and I wanted to share my experience with others.

When I decided to try out the Bionic, I knew I could return it within two weeks if I didn’t like it, so I had two weeks to decide if I wanted to keep the Bionic or return it and get a different phone.

There were many things I was worried about:

-I was worried that without a physical keyboard, I would not be able to type well on the touch screen keyboard.
-I was worried that with the new OS, I wouldn’t be able to configure and tweak everything to get it working exactly the way I like it.
-I was worried about it being too big to easily fit into my pocket.
-I was worried that the battery wouldn’t last me through the day.
-And I was worried that the 4G LTE (which is one of the Bionic’s selling points) would not be available in my area.

Every single worry that I had was blown away and I am 100% satisfied with my Droid Bionic. I could not be happier with my purchase:

-The touchscreen keyboard provides a tactile response with both vibration and sound which made it much easier for me to learn how to type on a touchscreen keyboard (if you don’t like the vibration and sound, you can turn them off). Within four days I was already proficient with the touchscreen keyboard.
-Android has matured a great deal since I last tried an Android phone (about two years ago) and now the settings have all the options I desire so I can configure and customize the phone to my exacting standards (some might call them obsessively exacting standards but that’s just the way I am).
-The Bionic is bigger than my previous BlackBerry, but when I slid the Bionic into my pocket (no “That’s what she said” jokes), it fit perfectly and I have so far never had a problem with the Bionic being too bulky in my pocket; I don’t even notice that it’s there.
-Regarding battery usage: these days, every single smartphone on the market that has a large high resolution display and 4G data capability is going to have to contend with massive energy consumption, there’s just no way around it with current battery technology. So when I compared the Droid Bionic to several of my friends’ smartphones (Android, iPhone, and even Windows Phone 7), the Bionic was slightly better. They were all very close and I think it comes down to how you use your phone. There are many battery-saving settings on the Bionic that you can customize till your heart’s content. So the bottom line is that considering what the Bionic is, it does not hog battery, and in fact with the right settings it can make the battery last for a very long time.
-I’ve tried all three of the US’s major carriers in the following order: AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Granted, different phones will produce different results, but when I got my Bionic on Verizon, I was blown away by the speed. It might have also been the Bionic’s hardware, but whenever I was in range of 4G LTE, the speed was blazing fast: better than any other in my experience. However, when I was with Sprint, the ONLY time I was in range of their 4G network was when I was at the airport, and that was for about 10 minutes. With my Bionic on Verizon’s 4G LTE, I was pleasantly surprised to be in range almost everywhere, including where I live which is a notorious “Dead Zone” for cell phone reception. (P.S. Of course I use the Bionic’s WiFi whenever possible because that’s just common sense).

I’m in love with my phone (I think I’ll marry it). But I feel obliged to find something wrong with it. However, this may be just me being too stupid to figure it out, but I can’t find a way to make a homescreen shortcut that toggles the “Data enabled” on/off. I’ve been able to do it with wifi, but I can’t figure it out for data. It may be a shortcoming of the phone, or it may be I just haven’t figured it out. UPDATE: I found a free and simple app in the Android market that allows me to add a widget to my home screen to toggle the data on/off.  It’s called “Data Enabler”.  If it’s the latter and anyone out there wants to enlighten me, please do so, and remember, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” P.S. Let’s assume I’m a Lannister.

Is Google Plus The New Facebook?

2011-09-14 4 comments

Remember Myspace?  It wasn’t too long ago that people thought Myspace would keep growing and continue to be successful.  Facebook has since taken the position as the top social network with over 500 million active users reported in 2010 and all indications seemed to be pointing to Facebook’s continued growth and success with over 750 million active users a year later.  It’s become a household name and even grandma has a Facebook account.  Meanwhile Myspace use continues to decline and many analysts have written the company off as essentially dead.

So to some people it would seem crazy to predict the doom of Facebook.  But if there’s one company that could dethrone Facebook as king of social networking, it’s Google.

Also a household name, Google’s success was originally built on its search engine, which has become so ubiquitous that the dictionary now recognizes the name as a word, as in “I just googled a great new dinner recipe.”

However the world has seen continued innovation from the search engine giant and they’ve been massively successful with other services such as Gmail, Google Maps, and Picasa (their photo software).

But Google has had their share of failures too.  The most recognized examples are Google Buzz and Google Wave.  If you don’t even know what those two things are, you’re not alone.  Google has recognized their failure and abandoned them.  Yet Google has apparently learned a great deal from their mistakes, because they’ve finally stepped into the social-networking arena with a new service that seems poised to go toe-to-toe with Facebook:  Google Plus.

In case you haven’t heard, Google Plus (sometimes abbreviated as G+) is Google’s most recent attempt to create a social networking service, and from the looks of it, it’s no wonder many are calling Google Plus the “Facebook Killer.”

With Google Plus, Google has taken cues from both Facebook and Twitter.  While Twitter is not a direct competitor with Facebook because it fulfills a different function than Facebook, Twitter is certainly a company worth studying if you’re trying to build a successful social networking service.

So what exactly is Google Plus?  To put it bluntly, it’s like Facebook, but different.  But is it better?  Can it possibly compete with Facebook?  Why should we care?  If we already have a Facebook account, do we need a Google Plus account?

The answer is, yes.  Google Plus is almost certainly here to stay.  And while it may be possible for both Facebook and Google Plus to both be successful, anyone who doesn’t use Google Plus is going to get left in the digital dust.  Why is that?  If one already has a Facebook account, why do we need a Google Plus account?  Because Google Plus does a number of things that Facebook doesn’t, and it does them well.

The most exciting feature of Google Plus so far is the group video chat, which in G+ speak are called “Hangouts.”  As of right now, these group video chats support up to ten people, and as with everything in Google Plus, they’re absolutely free.  In other words, say goodbye to Skype.  While in a G+ Hangout, a small video of each person is displayed on the bottom of the screen, and whoever is talking is displayed in a large main video in the center.  After trying out a group video chat with friends and family, it is instantly apparent that these “Hangouts” will be both fun and useful.  In addition to just having a good time talking with friends or family, the group video chats are also amazingly useful for students who need to collaborate on an assignment or study together.  The business world has already embraced these group video chats for the same reasons giving Google Plus an instant significance for a large number of people.

The next way in which G+ triumphs over Facebook is privacy and sharing.  Many people have complained about Facebook’s privacy and sharing policies.  People end up accidentally sharing things with the wrong people or even making them public so anyone can see.  This includes messages, photos, videos, and anything else you might want to share with people.  Google Plus addresses this problem with a concept called “Circles.” Once you have a G+ account, you can add other people to your Circles.  For example, you might have a circle labeled “Friends,” another “Family,” “Coworkers,” “Acquaintances,” etc.  Any time you say or share something, you can easily decide who gets to see it.  That makes it much easier to prevent you from accidentally making things visible to the wrong people, which as many people know can be very bad.

As of this writing, Google Plus is still in its “testing” phase, meaning that in order to sign up for an account, you need to be invited by someone with an account.  Google is doing it this way because they want to work all the kinks out of G+ and have a smooth service before they “officially” release it to the public.   Update: Google Plus is now officially open to the public and anyone can sign up.

So go out there and give Google Plus a try.  Because it’s extremely fun, useful, and it’s here to stay.

P.S. I’m a writer for The Corsair Newspaper and you can read my article on The Corsair website (albeit an edited-down version):  http://www.thecorsaironline.com/opinion/2011/09/14/google-plus-takes-facebook-to-the-ring/

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