Category Archives: Technology

Ubuntu bootable USB stick saves the day!!

logo-ubuntuOn safari in Uganda my brother and I found ourselves on a photo and video binge that left our devices wanting.  Cameras, camcorders and smart phones were all quickly filled and, with more than a week to go, we needed more storage.

My brother had brought along an old Windows laptop for when this happened and we backed everything up to that before clearing down ready for the next day.  This machine was now the sole repository for several hundred “once in a lifetime” photos and videos.

Potholes? You don’t know what they mean until you’ve visited Kampala

Unfortunately Ugandan roads are anything but smooth and after a couple of days bouncing around in the back of the van we discovered to our horror that booting the PC gave us nothing but the blue screen of death!  My brother is a great photographer but isn’t especially knowledgeable about computers and, while I could tell he was trying to stay calm, his repeated question about whether those pictures could be salvaged betrayed his concern.

As luck would have it I had a copy of Ubuntu on a thumb drive with me.  I had brought this along to salvage an old laptop for a friend and this turned out to be just what we needed.  Within minutes we had the PC up and running by booting from the thumb drive and I was able to easily figure that the hard drive on the laptop was  failing, but it wasn’t dead yet.  Much to my brother’s relief I was able to bring up the pictures we had backed up.

nookNow we needed another place to put the pictures before the drive gave up the ghost for good.  Here I just plugged in my Nook HD with its 32gb micro SD card and it was an easy job to copy the pictures across to the card.  Job done!

Once again Ubuntu saves the day, and it somehow seems fitting that it should rescue us in Africa.

Considering how little space a thumb drive with Ubuntu on it is I’m actually now thinking of making that a standard part of my packing list.

Ubuntu…don’t leave home without it!

via How to create a bootable USB stick on Windows | Ubuntu.

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‘USB condom’ prevents device hijackings at rogue ports – NBC News.com

usb-cable-endI know that sounds like a gag headline.  But if you need to plug your phone (or other device) into an unfamiliar computer just to get some juice then you need to know the risks.

Standard USB ports and cables have several electrical channels, some of which are used to transfer power, the others data.   When you plug in you risk:

  • Moving viruses between the computer and your device (in either direction)
  • Your contacts and photos being copied to the computer.  This can happen nefariously or, more commonly, because the computer helpfully performs a backup

A USB condom simply blocks the current on the data channels, meaning only the power channels make the connection between the device charging and the one being charged.

Simpler options are available, such as buying USB cables that only have the power parts installed, but they don’t offer anywhere near as good a headline 🙂

via ‘USB condom’ prevents device hijackings at rogue ports – NBC News.com.

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October 6, 2013 · 8:15 am

How to Steal Passwords Saved in Google Chrome in 5 Simple Steps

passwordIf you use Chrome as your browser you should know that it’s surprisingly simple to access all of a person’s passwords saved in Google Chrome. Another surprise: Google’s well aware of this fact, and the company is not planning to do anything about it.

For the full story read : How to Steal Passwords Saved in Google Chrome in 5 Simple Steps | CIO Blogs.

This should be especially worrying considering how many people use the same password for almost all accounts, so even if you don’t use Chrome to store your bank account password you might still be showing more than you bargained for.

After reading the full article you might find yourself wanting to delete the passwords stored in Chrome or make sure that your PC is always locked when you leave it  (Windows key – L is a nice shortcut for that).  If you decided on the former then may I suggest using Lastpass as a more secure alternative to writing your passwords on post it notes.

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Filed under Computers, Free Software, Online Security, Technology

Back to School Tech: What to Buy (and What Not to Buy) Your College Student | CIO Blogs

Here is some good advice from CIO.COM on buying tech for your college student – sentiments I completely agree with. To quote from the blog post:

About one-third of the 1,000 respondents thought a tablet was the appropriate back-to-school tool, while only about one-fifth indicated a preference for a laptop. Majority rule works for politics, but not when it comes to buying consumer technology: A laptop is what students need.

Back to school? A laptop is what students need.

This goes double when your kids are writing term papers.  Not only is the software on tablets weak compared to their laptop counterparts but even simple things such as printing from a tablet can turn into a major headache.

And before you rush out and slap down your credit card you should check for any specific requirements with the school.  A good friend picked up a beautiful (and expensive) Macbook only to find that her school didn’t support anything but PCs.  Not only that but more and more schools are starting to give a laptop as part of the package, so you might not even need to buy one.

For the full story check out  Back to School Tech: What to Buy (and What Not to Buy) Your College Student | CIO Blogs.

 

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What Can Employers Really See on a BYOD Smartphone or Tablet?

BYOD-PicBring Your Own Device (BYOD) started life as a cool thing – a way for people to use the technology they are most familiar with and love in the workplace.  But lately things seem are taking a turn for the worse.  Some companies are now requiring people to bring their own technology and considering these “tools of the trade”, much like carpenters and plumbers are expected to bring their own tools.  Of course this view doesn’t take into account that technology is very expensive and needs to be replaced often.

Nor does it take into account that those devices contain very personal details, something that certainly doesn’t happen with a hammer, and that raises the question of what can your employer see when they install their software on your machine?

Of course if you are using a company wi-fi in the office then they can see just about anything transmitted through that, so watch your activity on social media and use HTTPS connections when you can.

If you are using your own data plan then what they can see is much more restricted, however a company can see your wireless carrier, country, make and model, operating system version, battery level, phone number, location, storage use, corporate email and corporate data.  If you’re thinking of taking a ‘sick day’ and playing golf then you might want to leave the phone by your bed.

The company can also see the names of all the apps on the device, both personal and work-related. This visibility has led to some companies blacklisting apps on a BYOD smartphone or tablet. It’s important to note that a company cannot see the data within apps.

Finally it is important to realize is that employers cannot guarantee that no-one will look at your personal information in today’s litigious society.

Personal devices may be subject to search and review in the event of litigation that involves an employer , which can include any business information on the phone. It’s just like any other piece of evidence, document or computer that could be confiscated and looked at for evidence.

In such extreme cases, all data on a BYOD smartphone or tablet becomes fair game leaving you without your personal device and with a group of people who you don’t know nosing through your pictures and text messages.

Is it worth it?  The jury is still out.  Personally I love only having to carry one device but it still leaves me feeling uncomfortable.

via What Can Employers Really See on a BYOD Smartphone or Tablet? – CIO.com.

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Do you want more advertisements?

toomuchI thought so.  But I noticed the following in the Twitter blog recently

Now, we’re set to experiment with a way to make ads on Twitter more useful to our users in the United States by displaying promoted content from brands and business they’ve shown interest in. These tailored ads are based on information, such as browser-related information (a browser cookie ID), that our ad partners share with us. Learn more in our blog post here.

While we want to make our ads more useful, we also want to give users simple and meaningful privacy options.. Simply uncheck the box next to “Promoted content” in your account settings, and Twitter will not match your account to information shared by our ad partners for tailoring ads. This is the only place you’ll need to disable this feature on Twitter.

So, they are going to start serving up ads based on content that you have shown interest in, but they give you the option to turn it off…which is nice.

Of course I would prefer if they turned it off by default but, of course, 99% of people will never change that option.  This is  a good move for them – they are the good guys because they give you the option, but the amount of ad revenue lost is small.  Smart.

Of course now that you are informed the power to limit ads is in your hands…use it wisely.

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iPad tip: how to store videos on an SD card

Great advice from Benoît Guilbaud on how to fool your iPad into reading movies on an SD card.

Benoît Guilbaud

iPads tend to come with rather limited storage (16BG to 64GB) and Apple places strict restrictions limiting the use of external storage devices such as USB sticks, SD cards and hard drives.

So what do you do if your iPad is full and you would like to bring a few films (ripped from legally-purchased DVDs) to watch during your holiday? Well, there is a way to do that without jailbreaking. It’s not without flaws and it only works with video files. But it works.

I described how to do this on a French forum a couple of years ago, and I recently noticed that my post got over 16,000 views! I thought it could be useful to translate it into English and post it here. Here we go.

iPad and SD card

How to externally store video files to view on your iPad

Firstly, you’ll need Apple’s iPad SD card adaptor. You can find…

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Lock your Smartphone or Risk Losing Everything

stolen-iphoneWhen my wife’s iPhone was stolen in Paris I was very happy that we had the ability to remotely lock and wipe it. But the fact that it wasn’t locked with PIN had me frantically changing email and bank account passwords at 5 in the morning.

Why the worry?

Most smartphones receive your email without the need to enter a password.  They also receive bank, PayPal and credit card statements and are used by these institutions as a place to confirm a password reset.  This information can be used to access your bank account, reset your password and, once that has happened you can kiss your money good bye.

And phone theft is on a steep climb.  In New York City, cellphone thefts make up more than half of all street crime, with iPhones being the most popular item.  In fact Infoworld has produced an interesting interactive map showing where cell phones are stolen in San Francisco which you can see here.

My early morning panic could have been significantly reduced with a simple PIN added to the phone.

pinI know having to enter a PIN is a pain but you don’t have to set it up to ask for the PIN every time – every 15 minutes is plenty.  That’s because the first thing most thieves do is to power down your phone so that you can’t track them.  When a phone is powered up again the PIN is requested even if it was last entered just a few minutes ago.

Other things you can do to keep your data safe include if your phone gets stolen include:

  • Don’t store a list of passwords, PINs or personally identifying information on your phone.  If you must (and let’s face it, it’s too tempting not to) then use an app that asks for a master password.
  • Set up the phone so that you can find, lock and wipe your phone remotely.  For the iPhone use the Find my iPhone service available through iCloud.  I found a similar one on the Google Play store called Where’s my Droid but haven’t used it myself.
  • Back up all of your data to a PC or the cloud.  I was able to have my wife’s new phone up and running in minutes with everything just as it was before she left because we had this.

If you’ve taken the right steps to protect yourself, losing your phone will be just an annoyance. But if you’ve failed to safeguard your phone with a password, backing up all your data and installing a program that can wipe the phones data remotely, you are setting yourself up for a seriously traumatic event.

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Filed under Free Software, Online Security, Technology, Web Design

Can’t afford an iPad mini? The Nook HD is now just $129!

nookWhen Barnes & Nobel opened the Nook HD to 700,000 apps in the Google play store this tablet became a serious contender.  Now the price has dropped to only $129 can you afford not to buy one of these?

In May, Barnes & Noble rolled out a software update that allows Nook HD and HD+ users to use Google’s standard Android apps and buy new software and content from the Google Play store, opening the door to over 700,000 apps.  This turned a great piece of hardware that had been needlessly hobbled into a potential iPad killer.

But now B&N have decided to get out of the tablet market and are selling off their inventory at prices that are ridiculously cheap even for cheap tablets.  The 7-inch Nook HD, previously $199, is now just $129; the 9-inch Nook HD+ has plummeted from $269 to $149.

These are great tablets that, according to CNET, beat out the Kindle Fire tablet even before the price drop.  Now, at almost 1/3rd the cost of the similarly sized iPad mini, it’s practically giving them away.

Let’s look at the main points:

  • Higher resolution screen than both the iPad mini and the Kindle Fire – by a considerable margin
  • Access to over 700,000 apps in the Google Play store (the Kindle accesses the store but limits the choice)
  • The only tablet with an expansion slot, allowing you to expand the memory by up to 32gb for just a few dollars
  • Excellent hardware at knock off prices
  • The option to install the latest version of Android  by simply plugging in a micro SD card (such as one from N2Acards) without invalidating your warranty

Unless you like being locked into the Apple walled garden, or are an Amazon Prime member, then I can’t see any reason not to head over to the B&N store and pick up one of these things.

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