US considering using Internet, smartphones for 2020 census

Newsobserver.com is reporting the US Census may use smartphones and the internet in 2020

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— The days of the census taker with clipboard in hand may be numbered. The Census Bureau plans to test digital tools in preparation for the 2020 census, a change that could save millions of dollars.

People may be asked to fill out their census forms on the Internet instead of sending them through the mail. Census takers may use smartphones instead of paper to complete their counts.

You can read the rest of the article here.
 

Can Mac’s Get Viruses?

I’m sure you’ve probably heard that Apple products like MAC computers, iPhone’s and iPad’s can’t get viruses. If you work in computer repair, you hear about this all the time. Many of my customers tell me they will get a MacBook when they replace their computer because they are tired of getting infected all the time on their Windows based computers. A virus is just a program running on an Operating System, like all other programs. So is the Mac Operating System so secure that you really can’t get infected on a Mac?

First, a virus maker is likely to choose the platform that gives them access to the most potential victims. As this chart from NetMarketShare.com shows, over 85% of computers are still running some form of Windows.


Also, probably due to the fact that there are so many more computers running Windows than OSX, most programmers learn to code for Windows computers. And most of the tools and scripts that virus makers use in constructing malware are designed to target Windows.  These may be some of the reasons why Windows has been targeted far more than Apple’s Operating Systems.

The Mac Operating Systems, starting with OSX 10.0 (Cheetah) are based on UNIX. The UNIX permission structure prevents unauthorized execution of software, which makes it harder for viruses to infect your Mac. Windows will try to run a program any way it can, even if it’s being redirected by a virus, but UNIX will stop a virus in its tracks if it detects an unauthorized redirection. As great as this is, it doesn’t make your Mac computer immune. To infect a Mac, the viruses just need to be written well enough to get around the UNIX code. Not as easy as coding a virus for Windows, but do-able.

 

Starting with OSX 10.8 (Mountain Lion), Macs have a host of built in protection from malware, including  Gatekeeper. These additional measures make your Mac more secure than a computer running Windows.

install-alert

It would be easy to become over confident in all this security if you own a Mac, but that’s a mistake. There have been several major Mac  virus outbreaks in recent years, and with more and more people using Apple products like the iPhone and iPad, there will surely be more to come.

There was also the recent hacking of Apple’s iCloud. There’s some concern that malware could be copied to your computer using your iCloud account or Apple ID.

As computerhope points out:

Although the Apple OS is more secure than many versions of Windows, any software, plug-ins, or other add-ons that are installed onto the computer and connect to the Internet can introduce their own security vulnerabilities. The most common ways to attack a Mac computer is through a third-party browser and browser plugins like Adobe Reader, Flash, and Java. Today, most Mac users have these plugins installed and enabled on the computer, and, in doing so, compromise the overall security of the system.

 

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So even though you may have a Mac, please make sure you have an antivirus product installed. If you’re not sure what to use, here’s a review from Macworld UK.

 

 

How to Back Up Your iPhone

Having a current backup of the files on your iPhone is always a good idea, in case it’;s lost, stolen, or damaged. Most iPhone users don’t know how to run a local backup and end up relying on the iCloud for their backups.  iCloud can be a great option for small numbers of files, but the free account is limited to 5GB of files.

Backing up your phone to your computer is a better option because your computer’s hard drive is huge, so you can keep multiple backups of your files.

You can back up your iPhone using iTunes. In my case, I have a PC, but it works the same way on a Mac. Apple creates and encoded copy of your files and settings and puts them into a temporary folder. If you need to restore from the backup later, iTunes can copy all your information back to your phone, or to a new phone if you are upgrading or lost or damaged your phone.

 

pcoverhaul-backupiphone

iTunes will back up  all of your Camera Roll Photos, SMS messages (texts), settings, contacts, and your app data. It will not backup any synced music, videos, or podcasts.

iTunes performs this backup automatically anytime you sync your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with your computer, but it’s a good idea to do it once in a while for backup purposes.

If for some reason iTunes won’t cooperate, or you prefer an interface where you can choose which files are backed up, I suggest taking a look at Appandora.

 

 

How safe is your online data?

You may have heard about the latest celebrity phone hacking scandal involving stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande and Kate Upton. The photos were stolen from Apple’s iCloud service, and not the phones themselves. Many of the celebs had already deleted the photos and videos from their iPhones, some of them a year or more ago, but they still had those files backed up on iCloud. Hackers use a variety of methods to get into iCloud accounts, from brute force attacks to trying easy to guess passwords, since iCloud would not lock you out if you guessed wrong a certain number of times.

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In the case of these particular celebrity photos, they have been floating around on the “dark net” for quite some time before they were finally leaked publicly.

Though it hasn’t yet been confirmed that the pictures came from iCloud accounts, reports have speculated that the hackers used a recent tool called iBrute, which can repeatedly try different combinations of passwords on Apple’s Find My iPhone service until one of them works. Once Find My iPhone is breached, it is possible to access iCloud passwords and view images and other data stored in a user’s iCloud account. Apple had previously allowed an unlimited number of password attempts on the Find My iPhone service, but it has since limited it to five attempts, making the iBrute tool ineffective. [TheVerge]

You may or may not have intimate photos and videos you want to protect from prying eyes. Even if you don’t, think about all the sensitive information you may have in your email and private messages on Facebook and other social media sites. There’s probably some stuff in there you’d rather keep to yourself.

So what can you do to protect your private files and conversations online?

First, accept that virtually everything we do now electronically can be hacked or compromised. It may only be  a curious spouse, but it could be an ex, a co-worker, or a professional hacker.  The best way to keep someone from gaining access to sensitive data  is not to put it online in the first place.

For data that you DO share, the first thing you should do is have a complex password that nobody can guess. “Password”, “123456” or your telephone number are not going to cut it. As this Password Strength cartoon by Randall Munroe demonstrates, substituting numbers and symbols for letters is still easy for a sophisticated software prgram to crack. 

Password Strength cartoon by Randall Munroe

For example, Bruins?Win?Habs?Lose! will not be easily cracked by hacking software and is easier to remember than Bru1n5W#nH4B5L0s3. Phrases make a password more complaex without being too hard to remember. And if remembering is an issue, try a free password manager like LastPass.

Another thing you can do is enable two step verification. This means in addition to knowing the password, the person trying to get into the account has to have access to some kind of device like your phone. where a code may be sent to verify your identity.

ZDnet has this great info on how to set up two step verification for some of the most popular services:

Apple iCloud

  1. Login to My Apple ID.
  2. Pick “Manage your Apple ID and sign in”
  3. Select “Password and Security”
  4. Under “Two-Step Verification,” select “Get Started,” and follow the instructions.

Note: Be aware that when you change your Apple ID to two-factor authentication, it’s a one-way journey. You can only change your password afterwards by using the two-factor method.

Dropbox

  1. Sign in to Dropbox.
  2. Click on your name from the upper-right of any page to open your account menu.
  3. Click “Settings” from the account menu and select the “Security” tab.
  4. Under “Two-step verification” section, click “Enable.”
  5. Click “Get started” and follow the instructions.

Note: You will need to re-enter your password to enable two-factor verification. Once you do, you’ll be given the choice to receive your security code by text or to use a mobile app.

Google Drive

  1. Login to Google from this link.
  2. Enter your phone number.
  3. Enter the code that you’ll get from either a text or a voice phone call.
  4. Follow the instructions.

Note: You will need to get a new code for each PC or device that uses any Google services. For some services, such as Gmail when accessed on an Apple device or by a mail client or some instant message clients, you’ll also need to set an application specific password.

Microsoft OneDrive

  1. Login to your Microsoft Account.
  2. Go to “Security & Password.”
  3. Under “Password and security info,” tap or click “Edit security info.”
  4. Under “Two-step verification,” tap or click “Set up two-step verification.”
  5. Click “Next,” and then follow the instructions.

Note: Microsoft may require you to enter a security code that the company will send to your phone or email before you can turn on two-step verification.

Many other services now offer two-step authentication. Here are ZDNet articles detailing how to set it up onFacebookTwitter, and Google.

 

Use Google+ to Backup Photos Taken With Your Phone

If you enjoy taking photos with your smartphone, you have probably run into problems backing them up or transferring them to your computer. Whether you have an Android or an iPhone (or really any smartphone for that matter),  Google+ can solve some of these problems for you.

Every Google+ account allows you 15GB of free cloud storage, which is shared between your email (gmail), Google Drive files and your Google photos. If you create a new gmail account and use it for only photo backups, the entire 15GB can be dedicated to your photo storage.

Storing your photos on Google+ also makes them much easier to share with other people. Photos are put into albums by date, and all the albums are private by default.  Once your photos are uploaded, you can view them  from any web browser or by opening the Google+ app on your Android or iPhone. (Select Home in the upper left, then Photos to view your photos.)

This is what the photos look like on a Windows computer once they have been uploaded.
This is what the photos look like on a Windows computer once they have been uploaded.

 

You can choose to set your phone to backup over Wi-Fi or over mobile networks. Most people choose to upload photos over Wi-Fi, since that’s available at the office, home or on the road and doesn’t count towards your phone’s data plan. Your mobile network is a good choice if you are on the road for work or on vacation and want to be sure the photos back up before you get home.

 

The Android and IOS Google+ apps offer slightly different backup features. Both will store an unlimited number of  photos, reduced to a maximum side length of 2048 pixels. Android users have the option to store full versions of their photos, but keep in mind that takes up more of your 15GB free cloud space.

The Android app can be set to upload only when the device is plugged in and charging, which can help save battery life if you have a large number of photos to upload.

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Best of all, more than one device can use the same account. I was using Google + to back up my photos from my Samsung S4 (Android), but my wife’s photos from her iPhone 5 used the Icloud app and went to an entirely different place. So i created a new “family” Google account, and logged into it with both phones. Now all our photos are automatically backed up whenever we are near a Wi-Fi hotspot to one cloud location.  You can also upload photos to the account from any computer, so photos taken with all your various cameras can be in one place.

I am home with our two boys all day, so I filled up the 15GB quickly, but for $2.99 a month I upgraded to a 100GB plan. It’s a simple way to back up photos from multiple devices to one account and both of us can access the account from any web browser to view or share the photos.

If you want to try out Google+ as a photo nackup solution, here are the instructions for Anroid and IOS.

 

Sign Documents easily on any IOS Device

If you have an iPhone or Ipad you can use the Sign Easy app to sign documents digitally. No more scanning and faxing signatures!

Sign Easy

 

You can get Sign Easy from the App Store here:

 

thingCHARGER

Let’s face it, all of us are using more and more technology on a daily basis. And I’m a sucker for really useful gadgets. So any new gadget that makes using all that technology easier is right up my alley.

Think about all the chargers you have for your mobile devices. My wife and I each have a smartphone – I have a Galaxy S4 from Samsung and she has an iPhone 5, so we can’t share a charger. Our iPad uses the older iPhone 4 charger so we have a few of those around. And we kept our old smartphones and use them off the data plan for the kids to play educational games on. That’s even more chargers. We keep multiple chargers in various places around the house so we don’t have to keep unplugging them and moving them.

This gadget makes all of that clutter and all those chargers go away. thingCharger is a simple enough concept. It plugs in to any existing outlet,  and adds a charging port on the top of the outlet. In the back of the thingCharger are tips for the common mobile device types (Apple Lightning tips for the i{hone 5 are $9 extra).

The charging tips and the back of the thingCharger where they are stored.
The charging tips and the back of the thingCharger where they are stored.

This let’s you mount your phone or tablet ontop of the outlet without any adapter or cable. It adds 2 USB ports on the bottom and you can still access the 2 power outlets. As if that wasn’t enough, they are stackable! You can plug several in ontop of one another and have multiple devices charging from one outlet.

Several thingCharger's stacked together with devices charging ontop.
Several thingCharger’s stacked together with devices charging ontop.

The project is still in the manufacturing phase but you can buy them now. And if you buy several you can get some for free. Buy 3, get 2 free, buy 4 get 3 free, buy 5 and get 5 free.

You can watch the full video and read more about thingCharger on their website.

 

 

 

 

Great iPhone related product I just stumbled upon… Tile

Every once in a while I see a product that is so simple, yet so useful and I think, why didn’t I think of that?

Tile is one of those products. I can’t name the number of items I lose track of on a regular basis. Car keys. Remote Controls. My cordless house phone (yes, I still have home service).

pcoverhaul-tile

A Tile is a small plastic chip you can attach to just about anything that might get lost or stolen. If you lose or misplace the item with the Tile on it, you can use the Tile app on your iPhone to locate it. The screen will show you bars that get larger as you get closer to the object. There’s also a function to make the Tile beep if you prefer to find it that way.

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The range of a Tile is about 50-150ft from your phone. In most cases that’s not going to help you find a stolen item. But according to the Tile site: “If any other Tile user’s phone is within 50 – 150ft of your Tile, you will receive an update with the location of your Tile. When this happens, you will see a pin on the map view for your Tile. This essentially makes the range limitless once there are enough Tile users in your area.”

pcoverhaul-tile-stolen

The Tile app allows you to add 10 items to each account, and you can share access to those items with friends, roommates, coworkers or whoever else you decide you can trust.

Initially the Tile app will only be available for the iPhone, because it uses Bluetooth 4.0 and Android devices haven’t caught up to that standard yet, but Tile is planning an Android platform when they do.

The company is currently raising funds to get Tile manufactured, but they are letting people preoder them until July 23rd at $18.95 for one Tile, with package deals for larger amounts.

 

Instagram adds video

In a move to compete with Twitters Vine app, Facebook announced today that Instagram is adding a feature that allows you to take 15 second videos. Techcrunch breaks down the vine vs. Instagram in this handy graphic-

instagram-vs-vine5

 

You can find the full article from Techcrunch here.

So how do videos work in the new Instagram app? Pressing the camera icon now gives you the choice to select photo or video, and videos are taken by pressing and holding down on the screen just like Vine.

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All the photo filters are still available for use, plus 13 new filters which range from your typical black-and-white effect to blurring and brightening effects. Tapping each filter gives you a preview of your video with the filter applied.

instagram_video_filter

 

Videos can be shared via social networks, and you can choose the cover frame that will be displayed as an icon when users look at the post.  There’s also a new feature called Cinema mode that stabilizes the video to make sure it isn’t shaky, but it’s currently available for Iphone users only.