Tag Archives: database

PTJ 290: Foibles & Fables

Facebook’s public-relations department probably had another busy week, with all sorts of walkbacks and investigations concerning the company’s products and practices. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss some of the major events, as well as changes to the way Twitter enforces its rules and the State of New York investigating the net neutrality comments wars. J.D. also offers a look at the SmartNews app — which as its name implies — tries to gather online news in an intelligent way. Set your nav computer for Episode 290!

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PTJ 171 News: Don’t Forget to File Your Paperwork

Attention octocopter pilots! The Federal Aviation Administration has taken the suggestions of its task force to heart and has now set up a database for drone owners to register their unmanned aircraft with the government. The new rule goes into effect December 21st and those who skip out could be subject to chunky fines. And in other government news, The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Department of Homeland Security is trying to come up with a plan to examine social media posts made by individuals applying for visas to the United States. Watch out for those Facebook hoaxes, agents.

Across the pond, the European Union is getting serious about user privacy and is putting a new directive in place that imposes fines on companies that do not clearly explain to users what personal information about them is being collected — and how that information will be used. Hit ’em up, Europe!

Facebook is taking yet another bit of functionality out of its main mobile app. As the TechCrunch blog reports, The Social Network is turning off the photo sync feature for its mobile app next month and will nag its members to download its Moments app instead.

hotwheelsHoverboards are hot items — for reals. Numerous reports of fires from the devices’ lithium-ion batteries have prompted safety concerns for some time, with the Federal Aviation Administration even encouraging airline passengers earlier this year to leave spare batteries at home. Several recently reported hoverboard fires now have the industry on even higher alert. Most major airlines — including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta, Jet Blue, Alaska Airlines and others — now ban the boards in checked and carry-on luggage. Amazon began to yank certain models from its online store last week as well.

Google is trying to help you keep your plans organized with its Inbox by Gmail app. Last summer, Inbox added an algorithm that sniffs out and collects all the airline, hotel, rental car and other confirmation messages associated with travel and groups them together in a collection called a Trip Bundle. This week, Google announced one-tap sharing for all the Trip Bundle data so friends and family can get all your coordinates at once.

Google is also showing some love to those who buy a new Chromecast streaming dongle. If you pony up $35 for a Chromecast, Google kicks back $20 to go shopping for content in its Google Play store. The offer can be redeemed through the Chromecast app until January 2nd, 2016.

Careful web watchers noticed a recent post on a Microsoft blog that seems to be walking back the company’s decision to take away promised gobs of OneDrive storage because some people were abusing the privilege.  A Microsoft manager posted that while the company was not changing its overall plans, it would make some concessions to loyal customers, as long as they sign up on the OneDrive site to keep it by the end of January.

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In hacking news, Kromtech, the makers of the software utility MacKeeper, has acknowledged what it calls “a potential vulnerability in its data storage system” that was found by a security researcher.  Security blogger Brian Krebs said the incident revealed the personal information of 13 million customers was exposed. (And yes, MacKeeper is that pesky scareware program that uses pop-under ads to get people to buy it and some sites recommend against using it anyway.)

And in a follow-up to the big VTech hack last month, a 21-year-old man has been arrested in England on suspicion of “unauthorized access” to a computer. UK officials say they are still in the early stages of the investigation.

The New York State Attorney General continues the probe into advertised vs. actual broadband speeds, and is now asking the public to check their own connections at the Internet Health Test site and report the findings. AG Eric Schneiderman, who is investigating speed claims made by Verizon Communications Inc, Cablevision Systems Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc., said customers wanting to help should perform the test, take a screenshot of the results and fill in an online form on the state’s website.

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Speaking of Verizon, the company has just updated it FiOS mobile app so customers can steam and watch shows they have recorded back home on their DVRs when they are out and about with their mobile devices.

Also streaming, Netflix but up a blog post this week describing its efforts to increase the quality of the video flowing over broadband connections while reducing data use by 20 percent. A story on the Variety site explains the project in detail, which basically amounts to different encoding rules for different types of video content, because after all, as a Netflix manager says, “You shouldn’t allocate the same amount of bits for ‘My Little Pony’ as for ‘The Avengers.’”

Rumors about next spring’s expected Samsung Galaxy S7 phone are beginning to emerge, and the whispers make the new model sound not unlike the iPhone 6s. According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung is adding a pressure-sensitive screen, ala 3D Touch, and a high-speed charging port. A retina scanner for biometric security may also be in the works. Samsung is also appealing its recent patent-case loss to Apple, and is going all the way to the Supreme Court. No word yet if the Supremes will take the case.

And finally…what’s everybody doing this weekend?

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PTJ 159: Put Your Credit On Ice…Online

The Internet is a wonderful thing, but where there is good, there is also bad — namely the major spike in identity theft and credit-card fraud. Within the past couple years, hacks of huge customer-info databases like Target, Anthem, Sony, eBay, Home Depot, the IRS, Ashley Madison, JPMorgan, CVS Photo and U.S. government computer systems have put the personal information of millions of people into the hands of evildoers.

Getting a fraud alert call from your credit-card company — or seeing and stopping unauthorized charges on your monthly bill — is annoying enough to deal with, but things get kicked up several notches in the PITA department if your whole identity is stolen. If someone gets your Social Security number, address and other personal information, you can find your credit wrecked by that person signing up for new credit cards in your name and running up unpaid bills.iStock_000041691558LargeOne thing you can do to protect yourself, however, is to put a Security Freeze on your credit file with the big three agencies – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. The freeze locks up access to your credit report — which people issuing new credit cards want to see before they approve a new account. If it’s you wanting that new account, you just have to provide a pre-approved PIN to unlock your reports for creditors, but an identity thief won’t have access to that. So most likely someone else’s application for a new credit card in your name will be turned down, thus saving your credit integrity.

You can put the freeze on your credit file in about 20 minutes by going online to the sites of Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and filling out a webform. You do have to type in your Social Security Number for this, so make sure you are on a secure Internet connection. You also need to remember the PIN you pick to unfreeze your accounts. If you are nervous about doing this online, you can also call each agency:

Depending on the state you live in, there may be a small fee to freeze or unfreeze your credit files. Activating a security freeze does not affect your credit score, stop fraud on existing credit cards or prevent you from getting a free annual credit report. It also does not stop your mailbox from filling up with “prescreened” credit-card offers and pamphlets, but you can call or go online to opt out of those at 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or at www.optoutprescreen.com.

Intrigued, but want to know more about the credit deep freeze? The Federal Trade Commission has more information on its site, as well as details on Extended Fraud Alerts. Adding a freeze may take a few minutes out of your day, but it can help protect your identity and credit score. And as they say, the best defense is a good offense.
Go team!

PTJ 89: Amazon Just Might Have Your Number

J.D. tells us how we can make a correction on a Google Map and  Pedro hopes The Big Apple finally gets its recommended daily allowance of Google Fiber. In the news, Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones;  Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps; Google purchases Titan Aerospace out from under Facebook; Samsung’s Galaxy S5 makes its official debut; Windows Phone 8.1 is getting raves; and a Linux distribution that leaves no trace on the host computer.

PTJ 89 News: Heads or Tails

Merely having its own tablet and TV set-top box is clearly not enough to keep up with Google and Apple: Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones now as well. According to the Boy Genius Report site and a few other sources, the flagship Amazon touchscreen phone will run a modified version of Android and sport a glasses-free 3D interface that can quickly whisk you to Amazon’s various online store departments. (And of course, the Web, where you can check out the True Detective/Family Circus mashup, Time is a Flat Circus.)

So much for the all-in-one approach: Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps and forcing users who want to exchange messages within the service to download its separate Messenger app. Facebook claims the division of services makes messaging better and faster, but privacy advocates suggest a visit into the app’s settings to turn off location stamps and other potential annoyances like those Chat Head things.

dronesHas there been a bit of upstreaming with the drones? According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has now slipped in and purchased Titan Aerospace, the drone maker of Facebook was flirting with earlier this year. However, The Social Network is paying $20 million for Ascenta, a company based in the United Kingdom that also makes unmanned solar-powered vehicles.

In mobile news, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone went on sale last week and seems to have sold a few units, even though Samsung has not released official sales figures yet.  T-Mobile continues to stomp the data-plan paradigm and says it’s going to stop charging penalty fees for customers who go over their monthly limits. The company’s CEO also threw down the virtual gauntlet with an online petition and challenged its national-carrier rivals AT&T, Sprint and Verizon to lay off the overcharges as well.

Windows Phone 8.1 is getting some good reviews, including one from the Ars Technica site that calls it “a magnificent smartphone platform.” The new mobile OS can apparently accept passes designed for Apple’s Passbook app and the new Cortana assistant got special raves.

The Netflix company blog reports that Comcast customers here in the States are seeing streaming speeds up to 65 percent faster here in March than in January. (Guess that special deal paid off.)

Hopefully, everyone has their servers patched and their passwords changed after the Heartbleed bug hit the headlines last week. The National Journal notes that while the bug was publicized on April 7th, the Google engineer and the Finnish security team at Codenomicon actually uncovered the flaw earlier in March. Google fixed its own servers and told a few other companies about the gaping security hole, but didn’t tell the US government.

Last week’s revelation of the Heartbleed bug sent a lot of people scrambling to change their passwords and shore up security — and for good reason. A new report from the Pew Research Center says 18 percent of adults using the Internet now say they’ve had important personal information stolen and 21 percent say they’ve had an mail or account with a social networking site compromised. (Remember when an occasional AOL email spoofing used to be the worst thing that ever happened?)

Talk about facetime: The FBI plans to have its state-of-the-art face recognition database up and running by this summer with more than 52 million photos on file — including those of people who have never committed a crime and have no reason to be in a law-enforcement database. Through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation requested documents regarding the FBI’s biometric database, Next Generation Identification, and published its findings. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is also keeping tabs on the NGI.

And finally, if privacy and security are on your mind, check out Tails. It’s the operating system Edward Snowden used in his work with the NSA. The Tails system is a Linux distribution that can run on almost any computer from a USB stick, SD card or DVD, where it leaves no trace on the host computer. Tails can offer anonymity to its users —unless of course, there’s a camera and face-recognition software nearby.