Author Archives: joanm

About joanm

I am a computer professional for the past thirty years, these articles are also published in a local free sheet, they are my thoughts on technology issues that affect people and businesses.

Somewhere over the rainbow

 

In a recent survey carried out by a group of marketing students in IT Tralee on IT training needs of SME’s in Kerry. 83% of business owners stated that upgrading technologies is to costly, whereas 90% of business felt that their dependence on IT was increasing over time, s 55% of business owners felt that there business success was dependent on having correct It in place.

One solution for businesses is to examine the potential that cloud computing can offer them.  As services provided through cloud computing technologies are paid on an as you use basis similar to any utility bill, e.g. ESB, Phone, there is no need for a large initial investment in computer equipment.

One proviso though for all businesses in rural Kerry, successful adoption of cloud computing technologies requires high speed broadband.

The services offered by cloud computing providers can be loosely split up into the following categories:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) with IAS  you buy access to computing hardware through the Internet, such as servers or storage.. Hosting your website is a simple example of IaaS: you pay a monthly subscription or a per-megabyte/gigabyte fee to have a hosting company make your site available on the Internet 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Businesses and individuals also use IaaS to store their backups or photographs and videos. Amazon Web Services are an example of IaaS.

 

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) means you use a complete application running on someone else’s system. Web-based email and Google Documents are perhaps the best-known examples.

 

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) means you develop applications using Web-based tools so they run on systems software and hardware provided by another company. For example, you might develop your own ecommerce website but have the whole thing, including the shopping cart, checkout, and payment mechanism running on a merchant’s server. Force.com is a good example Through Force.com, Salesforce opened up its infrastructure so that it can be used for custom app development, that will run on Salesforce’s servers.

From where we are with the broadband speeds in West Kerry anyway this solution might seem a little bit down the yellow brick road.

 

Casting an eye on Windows 10

windowspigeon

Windows 10 is the latest release in a series of operating systems from Microsoft the first of which was DOS, followed by  Windows 3.1, 3.11, Windows 95, 98, Windows Millennium, XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8 and now Windows 10.  In the years here in West Kerry, I have worked with all of these systems and as each and every one was released they  brought a bit more functionality and in recent times improved  connectivity.  Windows 10 will streamline the users connection to Microsoft Cloud Storage.  They have also reinstated the start button, a welcome move for those who missed it in Windows 8.

Microsoft seem to be settling on Windows 10 it as the future operating system. To keep it up to date, Microsoft  will automatically distribute updates to all users of the system, which appears  to indicate that there will not be Windows 11 or 12, at least not in the near future.  Updates are a necessary part of modern computing as each operating system can contain weaknesses that are not obvious a teh time of release which are then exploited by hackers and virus writers.  To ensure the operating system remains stable, companies such as Microsoft send out updates, which will patch any weaknesses or flaws in the operating system.

As with any upgrade of  a new operating system, it is good practice to back up your computer and check if all your existing programs, printers and other devices will continue to work with new system.  The compatibility report in the Get Windows 10 app checks if your PC can run Windows 10. The report also lists any problems with your devices, apps, PC, and other important info you need to know before you upgrade.

In their new privacy statements it appears that Microsoft are adopting the model that is in use by the more recent IT giants Google and Facebook, which is to store and keep all the communications and choices that a person makes in order to provide, as the company says” a more targeted experience for the user” and for advertisers.  When the new privacy laws come into to effect in Europe, we should be able to know exactly what data Microsoft is storing on individual users.

When people sign up to and install Windows 10 on their computer,  they will receive updates for the life time of their computer for free.  This has its pros and cons, as previously  computer owners could decide how and when to receive updates.  That option will not be there for users of Windows 10 anymore, except for larger commercial users.

The automatic updates might cause a problem for people who have a slow Internet connection as they will no longer have control of when the updates take place or if they want them at all.  Once you take the free upgrade Microsoft will upgrade the system as they see fit. As for the August arrival of high speed  broadband in Dingle, this has received a setback and will not be here until the end of October at the earliest.

Does  anyone know of anyone selling pigeons, I hear they are great for getting messages from one place to another? They are also unable to read the message that they are carrying.

 

 

Why are you profiling me?.. All the better to understand you, my dear !!

eyes-712125_640

Looking out for business opportunities

With the recent debacle with Greece and the images of the Greek nation being bullied by the more wealth

y states in Europe It can seem that the EU is becoming a community where the wealthy countries tell the less wealthy how to live.  But this is only one side.

On the other hand without the EU and the collective bargaining power it provides , there would be little to protect individuals from the harvesting of their personal information for commercial gain by companies.

The EU is to the fore in Data Protection and it is their intention to continue in that vein by recognising the right to ownership of personal data they are working to protect citizens rights to have control over how much of their personal information is shared by others..

People mostly unaware of how their personal information, communications and other items are being stored categorised and in some cases marketed for profit by technology companies.

It seems to be broadly accepted that social networking sites and other technology companies gather and use people’s personal information and activity on their sites to profile individuals and then sell this information to advertisers. In another time this would be called spying on a person.

Google’s claim that ” We collect information to provide better services to all of our users” has echoes of a certain wolf speaking to a little girl in a red cloak.  They are using personal information, in many cases, without the owner being aware.

Three quarters of Europeans think that the disclosure of personal data is an increasing part of modern life. At the same time, 72% of internet users are worried that they give away too much personal data online. People feel they do not have complete control of their data

This is where the EU is at its best. The Commission is proposing a strengthened right to be forgotten so that if you no longer want your personal data to be processed, and there is no legitimate reason for an organisation to keep it, it must be removed from their system.

The onus of proof is being shifted from us the users to the companies who are collecting the data. Data controllers e.g. Facebook  and Google must prove that they need to keep the data rather than you having to prove that collecting your data is not necessary. Providers must take account of the principle of ‘privacy by default’, which means that the default settings should be those that provide the most privacy.

Companies will be obliged to inform you as clearly, understandably and transparently as possible about how your personal data will be used, so that you are in the best position to decide what data you share.

They will also make sure that when users give their consent for companies to use their personal data, that agreement is given explicitly and with their full awareness. This will give users control over their data, and help foster trust in the online environment.

To me, this is a welcome and necessary development.

 

 

Facebook page or a website?

The question is often raised should I have my own webpage or is a presence on social media such as Facebook sufficient.

To develop a website with your own domain name e.g. www.mywebsite.com You enter into a contract with a webservice provider and as such you rent a space on the Internet into which you can put the things that you want to communicate to others about your business or your interests. It can be compared to renting an unfurnished house or apartment, as long as you pay the fee, it is yours to do with as you will.  The company then guarantees you that they will keep your website online so that people can view it 24 hours a day.  That is what you pay for.  There is also a cost to buy the domain name which is renewed annually or for a number of years, there are many options available. You have full control over this content on the Internet.

 

People can find your site on the Internet by typing in the name of the site i.e. www.mywebsite.com in the address bar of the browser (e.g Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox) or by using a search engine such as Google.  There are 11.94 billion Google searches every month.  It can be joked that Google knows more about us than we know about ourselves as, Google work to learn more about their users so that they can tailor the searches that you make to your interests, and so reduce the number of irrelevant results in your search.

 

In the case of a social media site such as Facebook, the social media site own the space on the Internet and you join their club.  Each social media site aims to get as many people as possible to join, that is what makes social media successful.  The most successful social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have between them 1.5 billlion users.  The total world population is 7 billion which gives an idea of the extent of their penetration.

When a user joins a social media site they set up a profile and then they are free to share thoughts and opinions that they have with the community of users.  Depending on the social media site it can be with other users that you choose to share with or it can be people who choose to follow you.  Taking the amount of users involved you will have people of different cultures opinions, beliefs, political persuasions all contributing their opinions.  If someone says something that you disagree with for example a review on Trip Advisor that you may feel is unfair, you can ask that the opinion be removed but you are unlikely to be successful as the aim of social media sites do is give people a platform to express their opinions.

Each social media sites has rules as to what they would consider abusive, in the case of Facebook their laws are derived from the Facebook principles which are available at https://www.facebook.com/principles.php.

 

So a choice between a website and a social media site, I would say have both.  The website is your own presence on the Internet and the social media site can be used to send people to your website, somewhat like placing a placard put out on O’Connell Street or at a county fair.  Put a sign where the people are telling them where they can find you.

 

How did you know it was me?

A facial recognition system is a computer application for automatically identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or facial recognitiona video frame from a video source. Digital images, such as those taken by a digital camera or a phone,  represent a physical image such as a person’s face  in a format that can be processed using computer technologies.  Image  recognition is the technology that recognises objects in photographs.. Facial recognition is achieved by comparing selected facial features from the image and a facial database

Hundreds of research teams around the world, have been working on these technologies for years.  .  An example of one of these systems commercially available systems  is called mflow which has been developed to track people through an airport.  In the product description they developers detail how the process includes automatic facial detection, without knowledge of the passenger.  The facial image is analysed and the major features are mapped.  With this information the passengers route through the airport is traced providing information to the airline on how long it takes this person to get to the departure gate.

So how does it work, A digital image is made up of pixels and every image can be represented as two-dimensional array, where every element of that array contains colour information for one pixel. The computer system then identifies pixels in the area of specific facial features and then compares this against a database of images.

Identifying and recognising objects in images can then be developed to identify the same object over a series of images which then presents the ability to track an object.  This in turn provides the ability to track people in video footage.

This system has been in use insecurity systems for a number of years, tracked moving objects trigger an alert at the security company, initiating investigation.

Although very useful, it  raises concerns about privacy. Can a private company hold details of our personal images and trace them without our consent.  It seems at present that they can, but I hope the legislation that was written into EU law before the dissolution of the last parliament holds a key to the protection of all our privacy.

Clunk-Click every trip

There is an office dedicated to road safety in Ireland that works to ensure that we as citizens are aware of the correct way to use are-your-kids-safe-on-the-webthe road so as to ensure our and other road users safety.

 

It is recognized that the road can be a dangerous place and the best way to ensure that it is safer is to set limits on what people can do and to only allow people of a certain age who have trained and passed an exam to use a vehicle on the road.

 

In Ireland we also have an office for Internet Safety, which provides information to people on safe use of the Internet . It does so because it recognizes the very real dangers that it contains.

 

Children and Teenagers in Ireland today are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of the ever increasingly powerful communication tools on the internet such as social networking sites, internet enabled camera phones and video and photograph sharing websites.

 

While the technology offers fantastic opportunities for people to learn, play and to interact with their peers, there can be downsides too. The anonymous and instantaneous nature of the internet can leave people exposed to greater risks from potential bullies and sexual and other predators.

 

A lot of people are aware of this but they often don’t take the additional step to reduce the risks of exposure.

 

The world wide web s aptly named it is open to all kinds of characters some of whom you wouldn’t let inside your door but ehy can visit your house through the Interent.  It is only by giving your children the skills and   cop on to be ware of what they are dealing with that the nasties of the world won’t find a we;come on the mat at your house.

 

 

office for Internet Safety offers the following advice to parents:

 

Get Involved: Learn more about what your children are doing online. Become familiar with the systems they use, if you don’t know how to use them ask them to show you or teach yourself how to use them.

Talk to them: Explain to them the potential dangers that exist, encourage them to talk to you if they are having difficulties or experiencing problems with other users that they may be interacting with on the Internet.

Set guidelines: Set Guidelines in relation to internet usage, when it can be used, for how long, what kind of information that they should be giving out, encouraging them to treat other users with the same level of respect that they want people to show them

Use Available Resources: Many of the technologies that children use today have resources that can be used to help protect children from inappropriate or obscene content. Filtering , Blocking and Parental Control Systems are among some of the options available.

Be Vigilant: Keep computers where you can see them, keep an eye on the sites that they are visiting to ensure their suitability

 

Report!Any instances of suspected online child abuse should be reported to www.hotline.ie immediately.

 

At present there are no regulations governing what can or cannot be contained or communicated on the Internet. The Office for Internet Safety works in partnership with the Internet Service providers Association who are a self-regulated group and they all ascribe to a code of ethics.  But it is only this week that the first ISP agreed to establish a system of banning access for people trying to access child pornography.

 

The point is that we see Road Safety is on a different level to Internet Safety but just raising the question should it be, mental and emotional scars are not visible as are the results of a road incident but they can be debilitating nonetheless.

 

This article was prepared using information and some text from the site http://www.internetsafety.ie/, which is the site of the Office for Internet Safety in Ireland.  The Office for Internet Safety has been established by the Government to take a lead responsibility for internet safety in Ireland, particularly as it relates to children. The Office for Internet Safety aims to build linkages and cohesion between all Departments and agencies to ensure that the State provides the best possible protection for the community and promotes internet safety, particularly in relation to combating child pornography.

They have some great resources for parents and other concerned people, including a wonderful list of safe sites available at http://www.internetsafety.ie/website/ois/oisweb.nsf/page/links-en#child-friendly and a series of downloadabe guides entitled the Get With IT series available at http://www.internetsafety.ie/website/ois/oisweb.nsf/page/publications-en

 

internet_safety_check

Why do I need to have Java?

java

It is the time of year when accountants work in to the small hours.  More than one person over the next few weeks may ask themselves “What is Java, and why do I need it?”.

Java is a programming language that is used to develop applications for the web, Blu-Ray players, set top boxes and mobile phones. It has been in existence since 1991. For a Java application to work on a device it must have the Java Virtual Machine installed.

 

Java is more than just a language to develop applications it has become the foundation for virtually every type of networked application and is the global standard for developing and delivering embedded applications, games, Web content, and enterprise software. There are more than 9 million developers worldwide, working on developing Java applications.

 

James Gosling, Mike Sheridan, and Patrick Naughton initiated the Java language project in June 1991. It was originally designed for interactive television, but it was too advanced for the digital cable television industry at the time.  The language was initially called Oak after an oaktree that stood outside Gosling’s office. Later the project went by the name Green and was finally renamed Java, which could be from Java Coffee but which was said to be consumed in large quantities by the language’s creators.

 

The Revenue online service(ROS) makes extensive use of Java applets.  These are used to facilitate the transfer of data from your computer to the Revenue’s computer in a secure manner. To use ROS, you must have the Java virtual machine installed and enabled on your computer.

 

Hackers can exploit the Java Virtual machine, which could wreak havoc on the ROs or any other system, which is why it recommended to use the latest version of Java at all times.  Oracle the owners of Java make updates available regularly some Java updates will improve the software’s performance or stability, but most are made to plug security holes.

 

ROS is designed so that it will not accept a login to the system unless the latest version of Java is installed. To install the latest version, remove(uninstall) any old versions on the system and install the new one.

 

When you have that completed you can make yourself a cup of coffee, Java of course.

 

References:

http://www.javaworld.com/article/2077265/core-java/so-why-did-they-decide-to-call-it-java-.html

http://www.pcworld.com/article/217194/adobe_reader_java_updates.html

https://www.java.com/en/download/faq/whatis_java.xml

 

What would Hamlet say about Backups

sarah bernhardt as hamlet with ipad

To Back or not to Backup

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet was a thinking man, and if he were around today.  I suspect he would have something to say about backups, as without them all the data on a computer system exists in a state of peril.

He might have said the following if  asked:

 

 

 

To Backup or not to Backup, that is the question –

Whether it is worthwhile to invest and connect a Backup system

and suffer the investment and extra time spent.

Or to resist,  stay away from backup altogether

and rely  on luck and good fortune,

place your trust in the machine

expecting that IT will work without fail.

That no misfortune will befall it ,

such as a misplaced cup of tea or coffee

that no wandering virus will alight from the Internet to infect,

that time and salt air will not decay or effect the faithful machine

that holds your work, your pictures, your messages,

that contrary to common sense your computer will develop

an immunity to breakdown, that will serve you into eternity.

 

Those who deem IT backup tedious and unnecessary

remain,  inactive and risk the loss of all of their data,

might suffer and through their suffering become noble.

 

Those that take the step to purchase and provide

not one but two devices apart from their working machine

as a safe haven for their sensitive data

Then they too can be considered noble and not alone noble but wise.

 

Joan Maguire  2014

 

Hamlet may not have had access to a computer but if he had he would probably be delighted to read the following absurdly simple guide to backing up your PC published by PC World.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2065126/the-absurdly-simple-guide-to-backing-up-your-pc.html

Building a Social Network, a bit like Lego

buildingblockssocialmediaPopular social networks have only been in existence for 10 years and in that time they have  become an intrinsic part of the lives of all who use technology. The 15 most popular social networks  in the world today are, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus +, Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr, Vine, Meetup, Tagged, AskFm, MeetMe and ClassMates.

Their usage is staggering with monthly users in September 2014 ranging from 900,000,000 for Facebook, to 15,000,000 for ClassMates.

Researchers have turned their attention to working out a framework to describe what social media or social networks are.  The study looks at what are the components, or building blocks of any Internet based social network.  It  describes seven building blocks of social media.  Effectively the Lego pieces of a social media site. They are detailed here:

 

Block 1:. Identity: Every person has a profile on a social media site, in this profile they can choose to share a lot or a little information about themselves.  They can be accurate or they can invent.

Block 2:Conversations:  This Block describes how people communicate using social media, and what are their motivations.  Are they joining to find love, to share ideas with like minded people , to increase self esteem or to get a reaction, the list of reasons is probably as varied as the variety of people using the network.

Block 3: Sharing , Social media is described as such because it implies that people are being social and sharing something with another member of the network.

Block 4: Presence: Some social media sites such as Four square will connect people based on their physical location.

Block 5: Relationships: Using social media people establish relationships and connections . These can be made through sharing information, meeting up, or just listing each other as a follower or friend

Block 6:Reputation: A reputation can have different meanings, but at its core in a social network it’s a sense of identifying the status of others and yourself within the network.

Block 7. Groups: As people’s social media network grows they need to group people into different categories so as to manage their communications with them. e.g. Twitter’s lists and Facebook’s public and private groups.

Packs of Lego contain different shaped and coloured bricks which can be joined together to create a structure or a toy. Each social media site is slightly different and places emphasis one of the blocks more than the others. e.g. Linked in places a  strong emphasis on  identity, Facebook on relationships, Foursquare on presence and YouTube on sharing.

According to nemedia.biz each social network site crafts a careful balance between each cell of the honeycomb to achieve their particular design. They have published a diagram that lays out the 7 building blocks with a darker color block, indicating greater a emphasis on that particular social media building block within the site.

honeycomb social networks

 

 

According to this LinkedIn places most emphasis on the persons identity, Foursquare on presence, YouTube on sharing and Facebook on relationships.

 

 

References used for this article:

http://nrmedia.biz/what-are-the-seven-social-media-building-blocks/

http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites