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04 Jan 13 Cyberwar: The A-Bomb of the Future?

Forget about nuclear warheads, genetically mutated strains of viruses, and other weapons of mass destruction capable of wiping out entire civilizations; it seems that the next big war will be fought completely behind the scenes through the Internet. Okay, maybe it’s not a good idea to completely forget about those things, as they are still quite frightening, but recent events and evidence do point to cyberattacks as the next big thing in world ravaged by war. Unfortunately, taking the violence to the virtual world is just as likely to result in countless innocent lives loss as any other method of war.

Fighting War on the Digital Frontier: Methods of Attack

With more and more devices connecting to the internet- the number is expected to reach into the trillions this year- and just about every type of infrastructure tied to computers somehow, there are many potential ways to attack a country through cyberspace. A few of the biggest threats include:

  • Attacking the power grid. We’ve already seen- through movies and real life- what knocking out the power to a particular area can do. Imagine plummeting the entire East Coast- home to at least 9 of the top 25 most dangerous cities in the US- into complete darkness for an undetermined amount of time. Even a single night may be enough to completely destroy thousands of businesses and lives. Looting and widespread panic along an entire seaboard can do far more harm than a single bomb aimed at a single city, and all it would take is the right code into the right system.
  • Attacks on banks. Let’s face it, money, not love, makes the world go round. Without money, we don’t have roofs over our heads, food in our stomach, or clothes on our backs. Attacking the money of a nation is pretty much the same thing as attacking the citizens themselves. Banks are pretty much completely reliant on computers to keep track of how much money is in all their accounts. Wipe out those computers, and you essentially bankrupt the nation. As a bonus, attackers can write code to redirect the funds into their own accounts, given them more of the precious green substance to buy bigger and badder weapons.
  •  Attacks on nuclear facilities. For the old-school tyrants who still miss the Cold War and threat of a nuclear apocalypse, attacking a nuclear facility can be even more deadly than sending a nuclear bomb via special delivery…and far more cost effective. Building a nuclear bomb takes money, time, and resources that many smaller nations just don’t have. Plus, with the UN watching the movements of rogue nations, it’s not exactly easy to fly under the radar. Attacking a nuclear power facility and causing the reactor to blow, on the other hand, takes far less money and effort.

Of course, there are many other potential avenues of attack that could be used in a cyberwar, and all of them are equally as scary as a weapon of mass destruction. Building a strong cyber defense is becoming more important than ever before.

03 Jan 13 Can a Garbled Text Message Save Your Life?

With textspeak becoming increasingly popular, and teenagers making it even more confusing by adding extra letters to some words, dropping letters from others, and basically make a complete mess of the English language, it can be difficult to imagine how a garbled text message could possibly save a life. However, for a 25-year-old pregnant woman, her confusing text messages to her husband actually did save her life. When the woman started texting seemingly random strings of words in response to her husband’s questions about her due date, her husband worried that something was up and sent medical assistance. Turns out the woman was having a stroke.

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02 Jan 13 Google’s Plans for 2013

Google has big plans for 2013, including completely overtaking Apple as “king of mobile technology;” rolling out broadband internet access to select locations, and phasing out a few lesser-used products. Take a look at what to expect from the search engine giant over the coming months.

Google Takes On Apple

Google is already doing pretty well in the mobile device department, especially since Android devices are pretty much the victor in the OS war. While Apple may currently have a more diverse range of apps, Google Play is catching up pretty fast. The problem is, Apple actually makes devices through their own company, whereas Google only partners with other device manufacturers to create devices. When you buy an Apple device, you know you’re getting an Apple device. When you buy a Google device, you may be getting a Samsung , an LG, or whoever else they decide to partner with. While those are excellent companies, it’s about transparency. Tech users- especially advanced users- like to know what they’re getting. They could pull off the take-down with a shift in focus, but that’s a risky move as well.

Fiber-Optic Internet and Television Service at an Affordable Price

Perhaps one of the most exciting changes in Google’s 2013 plan is the rolling out of broadband internet and television provided over fiber optic cables. Kansas City gets a taste of the new service early next year. Google will be offering amazingly fast speeds and a pretty decent cable television package for around $120. Sadly, the rest of the country is going to have to wait, as only about 180 neighborhoods are on the agenda to be wired in the first part of the year.

Retiring old products

Get ready to say goodbye to your customized iGoogle page come November, 2013. The product will be completely phased out at that time. Google apparently feels that you have plenty of other options for customizing your home page, as long as you use the Chrome browser. Several products designed to help you sync your calendar and devices are also being phased out. GoogleVideo and GoogleChatback are on their way out the door too. While these products will no longer be available, similar features in Google+ will allow you to do the same thing. Google is basically trying to streamline their features to make them easier to use.

Google is an ever-evolving company that seems to like to try new things. While that’s great for users who enjoy change and excitement, it does make some users a little nervous about trying out new services. After all, what if you get used to it and Google pulls the plug? Still, it will be interesting to see what they come up with next in 2013.

 

31 Dec 12 The End of an Era? Japan stops Playstation 2 production

Back in 2000, countless moms, dads, and teenagers stood in line for hours to be among the first to take home a brand new Playstation 2. Almost immediately, the gaming system sold out across the world, opening up plenty of opportunities for scammers to swindle desperate parents in fake eBay deals.  Months later, once supply caught up with demand, millions of homes sported a brand new, state-of-the-art gaming system. The PS2 not only featured amazing graphics unlike any seen before, it also doubled as a DVD player. Back then, DVD players were also relatively new, so this was a big deal for those looking to save a little money by combining two systems into one. Kind of like how now the PS3 also doubles as a Blu-Ray player.

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29 Dec 12 eReaders Still Popular Despite Tablets that Perform the Same Function

Many eReader manufacturers were a little nervous when tablets and smartphones rolled out functions that basically performed the same function, and with good reason. After all, it’s reasonable to assume that consumers would prefer to spend one price for a gadget that performs multiple functions rather than several high prices for multiple gadgets. Oddly enough, though, the manufacturers had nothing to worry about, as logic doesn’t always dictate what happens in the gadget market.

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28 Dec 12 Facebook Develops New Scheme to Collect Your Credit Card Number

Facebook, like many other companies, is constantly looking for new ways to get you to store your credit card information on file with them. Why? Because once it’s stored, they believe you’ll be more likely to spend more money with them. After all, it’s a lot easier to push a few buttons and send gifts to your friends or pay for credits to your favorite game than it is to input your information at another location. Their latest scheme involves charging users to send messages to people outside their friend list.

Say you have a long-lost friend that you think you just found on Facebook. You want to send that person a message first to make sure they are who you think they are. After all, basic Facebook security measures include be selective in who you choose to friend. Now, in order to find out if said person really is that great long-lost friend, Facebook may charge you a dollar for the privilege of using their service to reconnect.

Technically, you can still send the message for free, but if you’re not friends with the person, your message will end up in their “other” folder- a place where messages go to die on Facebook. They won’t receive notification of your message, and there is a good chance they don’t even realize they have such a folder. Paying the $1 guarantees that your message will end up in their regular inbox, so they’ll actually see it.

If it seems ludicrous, consider all the other things that Facebook is now charging you for. Personal users can pay money to make sure their status updates actually show up in their friend’s news feeds. The average charge is $7 per status update. Facebook page owners have it much worse. Companies and bloggers who worked hard to build a huge following on Facebook are incredibly frustrated to find that only about 1% of their fans actually get to see their content. Unless, of course,  the owners want to pay fees to get their messages out to their fans.

The whole issue of paying to use the features that Facebook is best known for is kind of funny, considering the rumors going around over the last few years that Facebook would begin charging for its services. Back then, Facebook assured users that it had no intention of going to a subscription-based service. Now, many users are wishing that they would charge something as simple as a subscription fee’ It would be a lot less expensive than paying $1 per message every time you want to plan a family reunion, $7 every time you want all your friends to actually see an important update, and hundreds of dollars a day to reach every one of your fans.

Has Facebook jumped the shark with this last stunt? Some would say they jumped it long ago. With so many other options available, it seems ludicrous to think that anyone would actually pay to use Facebook, but then again, people do get used to certain networks and may go for anything to maintain their routine. Time will tell.

27 Dec 12 Pros and Cons of the New Samsung ChromeBook

The recent release of Samsung’s newest Google-compatible product, the ChromeBook, has users exiting about an affordable laptop option, but is it worth even the low price of $249? It depends on how you plan to use it. The ChromeBook runs off of Google’s cloud-based Chrome operating system. The newer, cheaper version is great for casual internet users, but falls short for hardcore techies.

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26 Dec 12 Obama Now Required to Respond to Death Star Petition

In the “weird tech news” category, Obama will now be forced to respond to the rather insane petition to create a Death Star of our own by 2016, now that said petition has received the required 25,000 signatures needed for an office reply. What started out as a joke (at least it seemed like a joke!) will now require the United States President to take make an official reply to the petitioners. Will Obama consider the request? That remains to be seen!

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24 Dec 12 Angry Birds is hitting the big screen, but will it still be popular by the time it’s ready?

Angry Birds, a little free game app created by Rovio, is taking the world by storm. What started as a casual game of slinging very grumpy birds at felonious, kidnapping pigs branched out into a massive franchise practically overnight. From spin-offs to board games to plush animals, t-shirts, toys, and more, you could theoretically deck out your entire house in Angry Birds merchandise. When something hits the big-time on that grand of a scale, it inevitably also hits the big screen in a film version. Angry Birds is no exception, and the rumors of a movie have been proven true, but don’t expect to see it until around 2016.

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22 Dec 12 The Instagram Debacle: What’s Happening and How it Affects You

Last week was a busy one for Instagram, which suffered a major backlash from users over unclear wording and changes to the site’s privacy policy. Over the course of a few days, the popular social photo sharing network enraged its users, nearly lost millions of members, backpedaled in an effort to cover their tracks, and now is dealing with the public relations nightmare that arose from the debacle.

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