What is a Phone Kill Switch?

iphone-393080_1280It has been some time since California’s SB-962 law took effect. This law effectively mandated that phones solid in the state be required to have a kill switch function. Not all phones are technically required to have this as older phones that predate the law that cannot be patched for the feature can still be sold. Several other states have passed similar laws and there was a push to have a federal law in the US for the same function. So what exactly is this feature, what is the purpose of having it and why should you care? Continue reading

Should Comcast Force Subscribers to Share Their Internet?

xfinity-LogoComcast now has one of the largest public Wi-Fi networks in the country. This was in part because of a plan where they turned customers Wi-Fi cable routers into public hotspots. In essence, people who subscribe to Comcast’s Xfinity services will have their internet connection automatically configured to share that with other people. There are many issues with this plan but the best part is, if you are a Comcast subscriber your connection will automatically be converted because it is an opt-out program. Let’s look at how the are doing this and why the Comcast Public Hotspot plan is not that beneficial to consumers. Continue reading

Just How Private is Your Online Information?

In some court documents, it was disclosed that Microsoft searched a blogger’s Hotmail email account in order to obtain evidence that an ex-employee had leaked Windows 8 information to the net. This combined with statements from the NSA that many US tech companies were aware of their surveilence probably has many people wondering just how private their information stored in online services such as social networking, email and cloud storage is. You might just be surprised at how much of your data is actually used in one form or another. Continue reading

Why You Should Have More Than One Browser on Your PC

Browser Logos

How often do you see reports of a new exploit being found that can compromise your computer system? These are serious because many of these flaws are exploited even before they are announced. The web browser is the number one way that people access information on the internet and it is also the biggest target for security exploits.

This is one of the primary reasons that I recommend that computer users have more than one browser for their computer. Web browsers are programs that we use daily for all sorts of things. You could be reading your email through a service like Gmail, watching videos through YouTube or Netflix, catching up with social media on Facebook, or just reading the news. When a security flaw affects such a critical program, it can really cause issues. After all, it is impractical to just not use the web until the flaw is fixed as that could be days. By having multiple browsers such as Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, Safari or Opera on your system, you give yourself an alternative to use until a company patches any major security flaws. Of course, make sure to keep all versions of the browser updated to avoid any other security problems.

Microsoft is now looking to remove support for Internet Explorer for most if not all users sometime in 2016. This means that many users that are on older versions of the Windows operating system should really look into getting another browser outside of Internet Explorer installed on their computers in order to ensure they have a secure computer in the coming years.

Google Security Key Allows USB Based 2-Step Verfication

Google Security KeyPreviously I wrote an article discussing two factor authentication as a means for increasing the security of online accounts. Most of these systems work upon a setup that requires access to either an email account or a smartphone that will receive a message to allow you to then get through the standard login procedure. The problem is that we don’t always have access to our email or phone to receive this secondary step which then results in the inability to access the account. Google has setup a new method that users can do in order to access their Google accounts and services when they don’t have access to their phones.

Google Security Key is a new method that allows users to setup a special USB storage device to acts as a key when they login to Google services. In essence, when you normally would be prompted to access the secondary authentication factor, you would instead access the Security Key to finish the validation. There are restrictions to the use of the method though.

  1. The USB key used to create the Security Key must be one that supports the FIDO Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) standards. Most of the USB flash keys you have probably do not have this as it is relatively new but looks like it will be widely supported.
  2. This method can only be used on non-mobile devices like a laptop or desktop systems. If you have a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) that is attempting to connect, it should be able to use the other two step verification methods.
  3. The Security Key validation system will only work with the Chrome browser (version 38 or higher). This means if your PC is using a different browser, you are out of luck.
  4. Security Key does not work on the ChromeOS (Chromebooks, Chomebox, etc) in the guest mode.

The best part of this system is that the Security Key does not record any of your account information. Anyone that has the key will not be able to login to your accounts by just plugging it into a computer. Users can also login to Google through the other verification methods and disable the key and create a new one.

[Using Google Security Key]

Rant: Do We Really Need Connected Smart Appliances?

Display From a Samsung Internet Fridge

Display From a Samsung Internet Fridge

Back in 2014, a security firm announced details that a number of smart appliances were used to send out spam across the internet. It was a wake-up call to the potential security threats that our new home appliance and electronics pose. Most people now own at least a connected television for streaming but the appliance makers are pushing out the boundaries of what information and capabilities these things have. But is this necessarily a good thing? Continue reading

Is Technology Now Boring?

Remember when you got your first HDTV, tablet or smart phone? These devices opened up a whole new world of possibilities for consumers. The pictures were better, they were easier to use or they just allowed us to do so much more when we were not at home. For the past couple of years, consumer interest in technology has lapsed. The devices we have from several years ago are good enough. Manufacturers still try to entice consumers with bigger, better and newer devices but consumers just are not as fascinated by them. What is it about technology right now that has caused consumers to essentially ignore buying the latest and greatest? Continue reading

Epson Eco Tank Printer Promises Lower Cost for Ink

Epson Eco Tank PrinterAnyone who has owned an inkjet printer knows that it can be incredibly expensive to replace the ink. This is why there is a thriving business for inkjet cartridge refilling services and third party ink cartridges. The printer manufacturers are more than willing to sell an inkjet printer for under $100 but will charge you upwards of that cost to completely replace all of the ink cartridges inside of it when they run out.

Epson is looking to change that with their new Eco Tank printers. They have actually been sold outside of the US for some time but are now starting to make their way into the US market to help combat the slowing sales of printers and ink. Essentially, the printers do away with the disposable cartridges in favor of large ink tanks that then supply the ink to the printer. The tanks apparently can hold as much ink as 50 cartridges allowing it to print upwards of 8000 or more pages. That is a huge potential savings. But would you spend more for having to purchase fewer replacements? Continue reading

Thunderbolt 3 – Borrowing and Improving Other Standards

Thunderbolt 3 CableThunderbolt is an often under appreciated connector. It originally started out as an optical connector called LightPeak developed by Intel but morphed into the Thunderbolt standard with the input from Apple, the company that primarily uses the interface. There are a few other PCs that offer it but generally only for those that consumers build themselves. The connector has offered some nice features and now Intel has announced the third version of the connector and it is a huge improvement but also likely going to cause confusion as well. So what exactly is changing and how might it impact computers in the coming years? Continue reading

Create Your Own Let’s Play Videos With the HD PVR Rocket

Hauppuage HD PVR RocketOne of the biggest channels for YouTube videos seems to be the Let’s Play videos. These are essentially just recordings of people playing various video games with commentary. They may be recorded to show speed runs through specific game levels, walk-thru’s for tricks and tips to get through difficult games or just simple play through that people can see if they like a game or listen to the commentary by the player. If you every wondered how they managed to record such videos without using the new Twitch broadcasting features in the new consoles, they likely use a personal video recording device. These are small boxes that connect between the console and the TV through HDMI cables that they record the raw video files so they can be uploaded. One of the most popular units is the Hauppuage HD PVR Rocket. Continue reading