MSN Messenger was a hard-working internet visionary which taught a generation to touch-type and lol, writes BBC technology reporter Dave Lee.
It touched the lives of millions of teenagers who, in an age before real social networking, were just getting accustomed to what it was like to live on the internet.
MSN Messenger heralded a new era: a time when chatting up a classmate no longer meant the terrifying prospect of actually having to say something to them.
It meant no longer would young teens have to endure the torture of ringing the landline number of their newest crush – knowing there was a high probability that dad would pick up.
But after all the “ASL?”s and “u there?”s, Messenger’s loyal subjects became less dependent. “I’ll brb”, people said… but they never did.
Other sites, smarter and better looking, would see Messenger cast aside. In an age of exciting digital discovery, Messenger became the web’s wooden toy.
After a long career, it spent its final year enjoying a comfortable retirement in China. Its less well-regarded relative, Windows Messenger, still battles on on work computers the world over.
“It’s like MSN,” office workers say, “…just not as fun.”
MSN Messenger is survived by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, Skype, Google+ and Instagram.
A couple of years ago my Gmail acct was accessed by someone in Hungary. I am not sure how they got in but I changed my password immediately. I lost several thousand email messages. I implemented a difficult to type and guess password, used two step authentication and started to change up my passwords frequently.
Over time I got careless. I hated two step authentication and instead of a hard to type password, I used a much easier one. A sports team.
A couple of weeks ago I realized that I had become careless and “calgaryflames” was not a good password for my email. I saw this post by Khoi Vinh and realized that I needed to up my game but never got around to it.
Yesterday on the 5:15 p.m. Saskatoon Afternoon roundtable, I mentioned that I was a Calgary Flames fan and realized that I needed to change my password again.
As I got home last night, people asked me if I was deleting tweets. I wasn’t and decided to see what was going on and I could see tweets disappearing in front of my eyes. My first thought was that Twitter was having a server error but then I realized that no, they were being deleted rapidly. I tried to log into Twitter and could not. That wasn’t good.
I checked my email and that was locked as well. After getting that unlocked and my old access back, I was able to have my Twitter password sent to me.
By that time, all of my tweets except for two retweets were gone (those two retweets disappeared last night). At the same time I realized that my blog was hacked as was two other social networks.
I have backups of my blog and I restored that database. By that time I kind of noticed emails were missing. Basically some of the messages that I had that were filtered a certain way were deleted. It also looks like some searches were done and then the messages were deleted. I have asked Google to see if I can get those back but from what I have read, they are gone.
Gmail does log IP addresses that log into the service but those are dead ends. When I searched them, they lead to an anonymous offshore IP service that hides IP addresses. You know if case you have to hack someone’s account. If you searched for “password” in my email account, that would have given you all of my passwords or the ability reset passwords. That is what screwed things up for me and gave them the keys to other services.
Everyone wants to know if it was just random or if someone was looking for something. I don’t really know but my feeling is that they hacked the password, looked around, saw a lot of boring stuff, deleted some crap, and left once I started to freeze and re-access somethings.
Did they find anything interesting? No. Things I hold in confidence are actually stripped of identifying information and forwarded to a secure account. Traces of which are deleted from my email system. So what they found are social media passwords (doh!), XS Cargo flyers (yawn) and recommendations from Amazon on what I need to read next.
So to avoid this from happening to you, here are the steps you need to do to keep your data safe.
- Set up two-step authentication on all accounts that provide it
- Use Diceware to create secure passwords for all your email accounts
- Create a unique email address for your most valuable log-ins
- Use a good password utility to create unique, strong passwords for every site you visit
- Create fake security-question answers
- Freeze your accounts with all three credit agencies
- Don’t let Web sites store your credit card info
- Hide your Who-is listings if you own your own domains
- Set up WPA-2 encryption on your wifi router
- Never click links in email
- Prepare ahead of time for identity theft or hacking
Look, the Internet is made of fast. You go fast or you die. But lost in the Clouds of bullshit and hype there’s this true thing: The internet is a technology that can connect us instantaneously to all sorts of information. That instant access lets us learn and connect and transact in entirely new ways. It’s what drives everything online–from I need to know about the Peloponnesian War right now to who is nearby that will take a couple of bucks for a spot in their back seat, sharing economy, #YOLO. It’s just impossibly fast. Even so, few things move faster than they do at the new Digg. This is the team who, in just six weeks, took a dying brand that collapsed under the weight of its own spam and made it something vibrant and vital: a place you wanted to go.
So in April, when Google announced it was shutting down Google Reader on July 1, it was almost unsurprising that Digg replied–that same day–We’ve got this.
This is the story of how a tiny team took 90 days to pull off the impossible.
Fed up with non-profits, Facebook Cofounder Chris Hughes And Google Are Giving Cash Directly To The Poor
Paul Niehaus, an assistant professor of economics at UC San Diego and a board member of GiveDirect, came up with the idea of transferring money to poor people’s cell phones back in 2008. He was working with the Indian government to limit corruption and saw how the government there transferred money to people’s phones. “I realized I could do that myself,” Niehaus told me. He told the gathering in San Francisco that most of the money that’s donated to help poor people goes to international development organizations, not poor people directly. GiveDirectly’s giving has had “big impacts on nutrition, education, land and livestock” and “hasn’t been shown to increase how much people drink,” Niehaus emphasized. “A typical poor person is poor not because he is irresponsible, but because he was born in Africa.”
GiveDirectly finds poor households – typically people who live in mud huts with thatched roofs – and uses a system called M-Pesa, run by Vodafone , to transfer money to their cell phones. Transaction fees eat up a mere 3 cents per donated dollar. Niehaus says plenty of recipients use the money to upgrade their homes by adding a metal roof.
Which is why I like to give money through Kiva.
Slate’s Matthew Yglesias says much the same thing in Slate
Poverty is, fundamentally, a lack of money. So doesn’t it make sense that simply delivering cash to poor people can be an effective strategy for alleviating it?
Transferring money to poor Americans has been a much bigger success than most of us realize. When it comes to the global poor—the hundreds of millions of slum-dwellers and subsistence farmers who still populate the world—one might be more skeptical. Perhaps the problems facing these unfortunates are simply too profound and too complex to be addressed by anything other than complicated development schemes. Well, perhaps.
But there’s striking new evidence that helping the truly poor really is as simple as handing them money. Money with no strings attached not only directly raises the living standards of those who receive it, but it also increases hours worked and labor productivity, seemingly laying the groundwork for growth to come.
Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Wife / Mother / Girlfriend (all of the women in your life) | 2012 Edition
I put together a list of gifts for the women in your life, from electronics to jewellery to stuff for the kitchen. Of course it tends to be slanted towards stuff that Wendy likes but hopefully it gives you some ideas as well. I know of one guy that just gives his wife a watch every single year. It doesn’t matter how nice of a watch it is, after a decade of watches, you need to show some creativity.
Take a look around and if you have any better ideas, let me know in the comments. You can see all of the other Christmas Gift and Idea Guides here.
According to Apple, the 7 inch tablet market is targeted towards female users. I am not sure about that but Wendy does love her Kobo Vox (especially after it came with a firmware update that included Google Play) and so I thought I would start by highlighting some 7 inch tablets.
Kindle Fire HD ($199) | It features:
- 1280×800 HD display with polarizing filter and anti-glare technology for rich color and deep contrast from any viewing angle
- Exclusive Dolby audio and dual-driver stereo speakers for immersive, virtual surround sound
- World’s first tablet with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi for 40% faster downloads and streaming (compared to iPad 3)
- High performance 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor with Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core for fast and fluid performance
- Integrated support for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and more, as well as Exchange calendar, contacts, and email
- Front-facing HD camera for taking photos or making video calls using Skype, Facebook, and other apps
All of that and $100 less than the iPad Mini.
Google Nexus 7 ($199) | Same kind of features as the Kindle Fire HD. Of course with the Amazon Kindle app you can read your Kindle books on your Nexus 7. Nexus 7 was designed with gaming in mind. With heart pounding quad-core performance, a vibrant 1280-by-800 high-resolution display, and sensors like a gyroscope and accelerometer – do a barrel roll then tilt, touch and tap your way to the top of the leaderboards while exploring over 700,000 apps and games on Google Play. In other words it’s faster than the Kindle Fire
iPad Mini ($329) | At $129 more, you get two cameras, the fastest processor, and access to the amazing Apple app store. The bad news is that it has the lowest resolution screen of all of them. While the technical elite are complaining about the lower screen resolution and the tablet not shipping with a Retina Display, it won’t make that big of a difference on a 7 inch screen. Again if you are moving from a Kindle, just download the Kindle app and you will have a seamless transition
If you are just looking for an e-reader, check out the basic Amazon Kindle ($69). At only $69, it has an e-ink screen, works well outside, and the battery lasts forever. It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of a tablet but you can’t beat it for reading. Not everyone has a desire to be online 24/7 which is why you still see Kindles all over campus and on a commute. An even smaller option is the Kobo Mini ($99). All I know is my friends love their Kindles.
The Washington Post puts all of the mini tablets through their paces here. Read and pick the right one for you.
Griddle ($40) | Wendy wanted one of these a couple of years ago and I was told not to get her one by some cooks that I know. They said she would only use it for cooking up eggs, sausage, and pancakes and that is exactly what she wanted one for. Doh!
Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, & Ice Cream Maker ($75) | This fully automatic small appliance makes frozen yogurt, sorbet, and homemade ice cream in as little as 25 minutes. The frozen-dessert maker features a heavy-duty motor and a double-insulated freezer bowl that holds up to 2 quarts of frozen dessert at a time. Simply add ingredients, turn the machine on, and frozen drinks and desserts are ready in minutes. Its large ingredient spout allows for easily adding favourite mix-ins, and an instruction book and recipes come included.
Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven ($80) | If your loved one loves to cook and entertain, you would be surprised what a good convection toaster oven can do to make her life easier. Cuisinart’s custom toaster oven broiler is large enough and smart enough to present a full range of menu options. Toast 4 bagel halves, bake an 11-inch pizza, or broil two big open-faced sandwiches. When the cooking is done, its easy clean with reflective non-stick coating on oven’s interior that wipes clean in seconds, which enhances heat efficiency and ensures even toasting.
Adagio Teas Tea Maker ($88) If you are looking for a tea maker that does steep the tea, check out the Adagio Teas Electric 32-Ounce Tea Maker. This maker does it all – heats water, steeps leaves, and keeps tea warm so you may enjoy it all day long. Variable timer and temperature control lets you adjust the strength of an infusion, ensuring a perfect cup of tea each time. Works well with all tea varieties.
Wolfgang Puck 6-Qt. Electric Gourmet Wok with Tempered Glass Lid and Steaming Tray ($90) | The unit’s curved cooking interior promotes proper stir-frying, while its wide top and narrow bottom allow for frying with less oil than with a straight-sided pan. Simply heat the oil; add any favourite combination of fresh vegetables, tofu, or meat; then keep things moving with a long-handled wooden spatula. The countertop appliance works well not only for stir-frying, but also for braising, sautéing, and more. Choose from a variety of temperature settings: sear, high, medium, keep warm, minimum, and everything in between. Other highlights include a generous 6-quart capacity with a 14-inch diameter and a 4-1/2-inch depth, a tempered-glass lid with a stay-cool knob, a steaming tray for seafood or veggies, a temperature probe with a quick-release lever, and heat-resistant side handles for safe, comfortable transport.
iPod Nano ($149) | Apple has reinvented the iPod Nano, making it larger physically and expanding it’s capacity to 16 gb. It now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. Play your favourite songs, browse music by genre, or listen to Genius playlists and FM radio. Or watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. A perfect workout partner, iPod nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.
If you are looking for something more advanced, check out the new iPod Touch ($299) | iPod touch features a 6-mm ultrathin design and brilliant, 4-inch Retina display. The 5-megapixel iSight camera lets you take stunning photos, even in panorama, or record 1080p video. Discover music, movies, and more from the iTunes Store, or browse apps and games from the App Store. And with iOS 6—the world’s most advanced mobile operating system—you get Siri, iMessage, Facebook integration, FaceTime, Game Center, and more. Now that sounds fun.
Beats by Dre Tour in ear headphones ($149) | Made to stream the soundtrack of your life with perfect, clear sound. Tour headphones were made to stream your favourite music. Seven pairs of different-sized ear tips ensure snug fitting buds. Accurate speaker design plays music back loud and full of detail. Now if you don’t want to pay $149 for a pair of premium headphones, check out JVC’s Xtreme Xplosive headphones ($16) which are getting excellent reviews on Amazon and across the web.
Bose Wave Music System $499 | The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos. Its award-winning design adds a touch of distinction to almost any room. No wonder so many people use it as their main home entertainment system. Numerous reviews speak of the Bose Wave’s clarity and amazing room filling sound. If you are looking for the best all in one unit, this is the one you are looking for.
If you want to go old school, make sure you check out this Sangean Tabletop Radio ($85) | Elegant simplicity combined with state-of-the-art performance sets the Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio head and shoulders above the competition. In true Sangean tradition, AM/FM reception is excellent providing clear and static free listening. Rotary dials adjust the volume, selects AM/FM bands, and precisely tunes your station selection displayed in a softly lighted analog display. An LED tuning eye assures you’re achieving the best reception for your selected station. In addition, a stereo headphone jack and provision for an external AM and FM antenna is also provided. An AUX-In jack for playing your favourite MP3 music from your portable devices is available as well as a Record-Out jack for routing to your recording equipment or external devices.
Timex Women’s Ironman Watch ($37) | Built to handle extreme activities, this timepiece is designed with a completely unique white resin design that’s wide at the case and narrow at the strap. The Ironman has everything you need: an easy-to-use 24-hour countdown timer countdown/stop (CS) and countdown/repeat (CR); a one-hour chronograph with lap or split option; a daily/weekday/weekend alarm with five-minute backup; a 30-lap memory recall for workout review; a 99-lap counter. The oval dial has a white digital display with day/date/month calendar, an Indiglo night light, Night-Mode features, and two time zone settings. Powered by precise quartz movement, this Timex is water resistant to 330 feet (100 M).
Canon Powershot A2300 Digital Camera ($99) | The Canon PowerShot A2300 16MP Compact Digital Camera, is simple and stylish. This compact camera is packed with advancements that make it easy to get a great shot every time. Smart AUTO recognizes 32 predefined shooting situations then automatically picks the proper camera settings for you. Saving memories in breathtakingly realistic 720p HD is as easy as pressing the dedicated movie button. You will see extraordinary resolution and fast performance with the 16.0 Megapixel Image Sensor and DIGIC 4 Image Processor, and capture more dynamic, exciting images with the 5x Optical Zoom with 28mm Wide-Angle lens. Digital IS greatly reduces blur by recognizing the main subject and applying the best camera shake correction.
All of this really means that you will be able to take great photos when you want. Sure she has a camera on her phone but do you want to trust your phone to take a great photo when conditions are less than ideal? If you have moments that matter, you will want this camera.
If the women you are shopping for is a writer (or wants to be), how about a great looking fountain pen? While you are at it, check out this suede journal ($29) from Indigo or this ruled Moleskine ($13)
Cabela’s Multi-tool ($13) | Despite it’s low price, Cabela’s has put together a great multi-tool. Wendy has had one for a year and carries it everywhere. A handy and affordable compact tool with devices you need for quick fixes and repairs. Stainless steel construction with an assortment of attached tools that includes flat-nose pliers, wire-stripper, knife, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, saw, bottle opener and scissors. Nylon sheath included
I haven’t forgotten jewellery. If you are looking for a nice necklace, check out this key to my heart diamond cut 14 karat gold pendent ($190) .
While you are at it, check out this sherpa blanket ($52). I gave one to Wendy this fall and she loves it. If you are lucky and well behaved, your loved one will even share it with you. For a different look, check out this Hudson Bay Blanket fleece blanket ($35) It has the look of the historic Hudson Bay blanket but without the itchy wool.
Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Husband / Father / Boyfriend (all of the men in your life) | 2012 Edition
It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible Christmas gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following. I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and here it is. Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below. For the entire list of Christmas gift guides, click here.
I bought Jordon an iPad last Christmas and has has loved it. Now he is an Apple person (iPod, iPad, iPhone, and a MacBook) but not everyone is. The good news is that there are some amazing tablets on the market for both Android, Apple, and even Blackberry users.
When you are looking for a tablet, make sure you understand how the person is going to use it. I bought Jordon a 16gb iPad because Jordon is going to use it for some writing (using Pages, the occasional Keynote presentation) and surf the web. He had no intention on putting his music on his iPad because he uses his iPod for that task. If he was going to use it as a all-in-one machine, I would have gone out and got him a 64gb version.
Also, some have bought them with the idea that they will replace their laptop or computer. They really don’t for most of our friends (although as I was typing this, Jordon points out that he has never seen Saskatoon City Councillor Charlie Clark use anything but his iPad and his Logitech keyboard/case).
Whatever your preference, I have listed tablets from all operating systems below.
Android | Nexus 10 ($409) and Nexus 7 ($209) from Google. Both offer world class speed and design and in a lot of ways are designed and produced to set the standard for Android devices running on tablets in the same way Google designed the Nexus phone to do for smartphones.
Android | Kindle Fire 8.9 ($299) and Kindle Fire HD($199) Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire to mediocre reviews last year but has stepped up their game with the Kindle Fire 8.9 inch tablet and the Kindle Fire HD which offers retina level display on an Android device. If you surf the web a lot, the Kindle Fire has the fastest wifi of any tablet out there.
Apple | iPad ($499)) and iPad Mini ($329) | While more expensive then the Kindle Fire HD, it has the advantage of the most spectacular collection of apps out there. Also it offers fantastic integration between your iPhone and Mac. Like I said before, Jordon has an iPad 2 and loves it.
Blackberry Playbook ($194 for a 32gb model) | I include this here because I know there is still a passionate community of Blackberry users out there. It’s a good value for the price but it doesn’t have a lot of apps for it. It’s one of those things that I would get for a guy who knew what he was getting and still really wanted. When I asked Jordon, he said there are those out that that still live and die on Blackberry Messenger and it has that… kind of. Maybe you should just get any Blackberry lovers on your list, a new phone.
Depending on the person you are shopping for, they are going to have different demands on what they want out of a iPod or MP3 player. Some people want all of their music at their fingertips all of the time, some want something to work out with, and some want to be connected to all of their apps while they are listening to their music. Whatever kind of person you are shopping for, there is an iPod for them.
If the person you are shopping for isn’t an Apple fan, look at a Sony Walkman ($110). While the design and features look amazing, I am a little surprised it only comes in a 8 gb version, of which 1.25 gb is used by the software. So if you are looking for a 6.75 gb MP3 player in a great design package and a good price, here it is. It is slightly smaller than the Apple iPod Nano but has a lot of the same features. While MP3 quality is lacking, with Sony you know you are getting something that is quality made and designed.
Whatever MP3 player you get, you will want to upgrade the headphones. JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme ($17) headphones are much loved at an affordable price. The series feature a bass port for outstanding bass reproduction, a durable rubber protector for impact protection and to help withstand heavy use, and a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug. The Xplosive Xtreme also comes with a handy carrying case. 2.6mm-thick and robust 1.2m pure copper cable (Y-type) Special hard carrying case included S/M/L silicone ear-pieces included Gold-plated 3.5mm stereo straight plug iPod, iphone and iPad compatible.
If you aren’t sure the person you are shopping for would appreciate a MP3 player, why not pick up a Polaroid 8 gb MP3 player ($40)? It may not have the features of the iPod or Walkman but it does offer a really good value and is expandable with a SDHC card.
iHome Rechargeable Mini Speakers ($45) | These are incredible speakers that provide a rich sound. They have a carrying case which means that they get taken with us everywhere, just like our iPods.
They work great with our iPods, netbooks, and our portable DVD player.
Tivoli Model One ($149) | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it. We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin. It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends. The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station. Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio. Different design but same classic look.
Every guy needs a nice pen and this fountain pen is both affordable enough to give a nice gift but if high enough quality to last for decades. If you aren’t sure the person on your list would appreciate a fountain pen, you won’t go wrong with a Parker IM rollerball pen($19).
Tabletop fountain ($49) | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in. At The Lighthouse, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry. A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit. Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries. It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.
Of course he will need something to write down his profound thoughts in so why not give him a leather wrapped journal for Christmas? Chapters/Indigo has an amazing one for $45. While you are at it, check out this $15 5 inch globe.
Video and Camera
GoPro HD Hero 2 ($199) | Born from a passion to capture your love of life from your perspective, this camera is a feat of engineering. Wearable and gear mountable, waterproof to 197′ (60M) and boasting an immersive 170° wide-angle lens, the HD HERO2 has ushered in a new era of image capture. Professional quality 30 fps 1080p and 60 fps 720p video, combined with 11 megapixel still photo capture that has landed magazine covers. It’s a great camera and a lot of fun for the entire family. With this grab bag of mounts, you can hook it up to almost anything.
Sony Bloggie ($69) | Jordon has a Kodak Zi8 for years and has loved it. We gave Lee a Flip camera a year ago and even Mark has one. While you cell phone can record HD video, it doesn’t have the same kind of quality than a dedicated video camera gives you and it is a lot easier to deal with a SD card than trying to get a video off your iPhone. If the guy you are shopping for is one that loves to take video, make sure you check this camera out.
Fuji Fine Pix XP50 ($150) | For years we have been fans of Fuji point and shoot cameras and the XP50 is no exception. It’s waterproof to a depth of 5m and can capture both movies and still images underwater. The camera’s casing will withstand shocks or drops from a height of 1.5m, while cold environments are also no problem for this rough and ready device. The FinePix XP50 can withstand temperatures down to -10°C and dust is never a problem, with all the camera’s access points specially sealed for ultimate protection.
If the guy you are shopping for loves audio or is a podcaster, consider getting him a Blue Snowball ($60)or Yeti USB ($109) microphone. Both provide amazing clear sound and are a significant upgrade over the internal microphone in a laptop.
Black and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker ($48) | Jordon is a coffee connoisseur and while the ultimate way to make a cup of coffee is with a French Press or a Aeropress coffee maker ($25), he doesn’t always have time. For times when he needs 8 cups of coffee relatively quick and wants it to stay fresh for a while, there is this thermal coffee maker from Black and Decker. With a stylish design and durable stainless steel carafe, this 8-cup coffeemaker is perfect for home, office or practically anywhere you want hot, fresh coffee at the touch of a button. All this, plus an easy-clean control panel and dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless clean up. The advantage of the carafe is that you won’t be stuck with hot burnt coffee in case you don’t get it off the maker in time. The coffee will be as hot and fresh later as it is right now.
Atari Flashback ($50)| Over 75 Atari 2600 games all in one console. Jordon laments the exclusion of Pac-Man but you can get Missile Command, Asteroids, and Combat all on console. Let him relive his childhood at the same time making him a subject of mockery of any child in the family.
PlayStation 3 ($269) | Yes it’s a game console but it’s also a Blu-Ray and DVD player, a Netflix player (which works way better than the Wii), and allows the family to play online. We use it all of the time to watch Netflix, movies, and also we still play a fair amount of games. While it’s not something that we would ever consider essential to our family life, it’s hard to imagine doing without.
Leatherman Skelatool ($42) or the Gerber Suspension Multitool ($26) | Both are amazing multi-tools and life is just better for men when they know they have a great multi-tool within reach. If the guy you are shopping for needs something even smaller, then check out the Cabela’s multi-tool. A great tool in a small package.
While the guys I know aren’t big on jewellery, they do appreciate a nice watch. If the guy you are shopping for loves a nice watch, check out the Timex Expedition Rugged Field Watch ($46), the Timex Expedition Digital/Analog watch ($44.96) or the rather classic Timex Atlantis 100 ($31).
Finally don’t forget probably the most wanted gift of the season, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 ($300) The Parrot AR.Drone is the first quadricopter that can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. By tilting your device, you control the direction of your AR.Drone, and by releasing it, the AR.Drone is instantly stabilized. Thanks to the AR.Drone’s autopilot feature, anyone can be an expert as the AR.Drone allows for an easy take-off and landing. It’s about as amazing and as much found as it sounds.
So-called “click-through rates” – the proportion of times a user clicks on an ad to get their browser to go to another site – are notoriously low on Facebook: roughly 0.035 per cent in the U.S., according to research provided by the digital marketing agency Resolution Media. (By some estimates, Google’s click-through rate on ads is about 10 times greater.)
“Finding ROI [return-on-investment] on Facebook is a bit tricky,” agreed Mr. Bandurski.
Until now, Facebook has served up advertising only to people who “Like” a particular brand, or to friends of those users. But this week it began experimenting with ads that pop up in users’ Facebook feeds – even if they haven’t agreed to accept messages from that advertiser.
The practice is likely to upset not just the network’s users, but some of the companies that have invested heavily in getting people to “Like” them so they can send out their marketing messages.
It makes sense. When I am on Google I am looking for something. When you are using Facebook, you are looking for friends which is why I have always wondered why brands advertised there.
When I started at The Lighthouse, I was caught on what was the best way to communicate with the staff. I didn’t want to use memos and while email works, I wanted something that would keep a narrative of where we started from. I set up an intranet with Google Sites and while it was impressive, I didn’t think it would get checked enough and was a bit of a pain to post stuff too. I finally settled on setting up a password protected staff blog using Blogger. It took about 2 minutes to set up and invite the staff to. Another 60 seconds and I had invited Chris and DeeAnn to post to it as well.
The response to reading it was good but there were some technical difficulties. Once those were settled it will be even more productive. The main technical obstacle is staff forgetting their passwords at home and then wanting to read it at work. That was solved by setting up a generic account that can be accessed by anyone at work to read it.
We are only six posts into it and I am not sure what the end result will be but the hope is that it will be a resource that will bring staff up to speed quicker and give them a better feel for the ethos, feel, and personality of The Lighthouse quicker than ever before.
With it being so easy to set up and publish to, I am surprised that more employers aren’t using internal blogs more. I have loved the idea ever since I heard of the idea of Blogger in Google shortly after Google acquired Google.
"Google Inc., which implemented an internal Web log system behind its firewall about 18 months ago, has seen tremendous benefits from it and may in the future consider providing tools and expertise for this purpose to interested clients, a Google executive said.
Google deployed an internal blog for its employees shortly after acquiring the blogging service Blogger in early 2003, and since then Google staffers have found many useful and creative ways for the internal blog, said Jason Goldman, Blogger product manager at Google.
"Since then, we have seen a lot of different uses of blogs within the firewall: people keeping track of meeting notes, people sharing diagnostics information, people sharing snippets of code, as well as more personal uses, like letting co-workers know what they’re thinking about and what they’re up to," Goldman said. "It really helps grow the intranet and the internal base of documents."
Google executives have talked in the past about the company’s internal Blogger implementation, called Blogger in Google (BIG), and a Google employee even posted a screenshot of a BIG page last year".
It’s not a new idea but it has the potential for The Lighthouse to have a big return on almost no investment.
While in Edmonton we got lost. I found out that no one in the car can read a GPS and I was driving with them navigating. Not only that but NO ONE at Hope Mission would give Katie or DeeAnn an address. Great discipline but a big time pain in the neck as we were trying to figure out where to go. While we were driving, DeeAnn was trying to persuade me to spam my friends with the Lighthouse Facebook page so they will “like” it. Somehow she started to explain Facebook to me and never really clicked in that not only was I probably in really early, I was in so early, I left before it got cool. Twitter is much more my style. As I have said, what the strangers I know on Twitter are doing are more interesting to me than what my friends are doing on Facebook.
So for about 30 minutes, she was evangelizing Facebook to me while I just ignored her but she did make some good points about if we are trying to make social change, we should use the mediums we have at our disposal and Facebook is one of the things we have at our disposal.
As much as I hate Facebook, I need to be using it more effectively than logging in once a year (generally in January). From now on I plan to log in a couple of times a week if for no other reason than to reply to some of the messages and post some things to The Lighthouse’s page. According to experts, an organization needs to spend about six hours a week to social media for it to be effective. I don’t have six hours a week but DeeAnn seems to (she is The Lighthouse’s director of communications and it is part of her job). That being said, I realized that more and more people are going to our Facebook page expecting to find that I show up more than once a year.
As for Google Circles (cue tumbleweed), it is so quiet that I am not sure if it is worth my time and effort. If I had to choose between the two, I think I would choose Facebook. I am not sure I would use it if it wasn’t for the good work DeeAnn has done with it at The Lighthouse but she has so I need to be a part of that as well. I care a lot about social change and that means taking the message to where the people are. As for Google Circles, it doesn’t even seem to have a functioning API which is shocking considering it is coming from Google. Twitter can’t post to it, Feedburner can’t post to it (and it is owned by Google). Maybe that is intentional but I doubt it. There just isn’t very much content that you can put on there without going to the site. If things change, maybe I’ll head back but for now, it doesn’t capture my attention.
As SaskTel winds down CDMA coverage in Saskatchewan, I need to upgrade Mark’s cell phone (a LG Rumor 2) that he loves. He is on a cheap pre-paid plan with Virgin that I don’t want to upgrade or add data so I will keep with a feature phone, probably a LG Rumor Plus or a Samsung Gravity 3. It’s talk, text, and email which is really all Mark needs right now.
I have been thinking about what I need ever since RIM’s network when down last summer. This is how I am thinking. I had a Blackberry Curve 8530 and like a lot of smartphone users, I have everything flowing through that phone.
- Two email accounts
- Blackberry Messenger
- Flickr (which never worked on the phone)
- Dropbox so I could send and receive files
- The Score Mobile App (I have a problem okay)
- MySask411 which replaced my phone book
I got a fair amount of work done and even wrote a couple of columns with it. It worked really well for me until that outage. When Blackberry went down, so did my phone. I couldn’t get calls, I couldn’t even connect to a Wifi network. My phone was essentially a brick that I carried around and hoped would return. While it wasn’t the reason I switched a Samsung Galaxy Ace over Christmas (the cost of the new Curve’s were high on Koodo and didn’t seem to offer a lot more capability as well as my general lack of faith in the Blackberry platform) I essentially swapped out RIM for being totally dependent on Google and this week I had an uncomfortable realization about how totally dependent I am on Google.
I was one of the first bunch of Gmail users way back in 2004, back in the days where invites were limited to five per person and where actually being sold for money. I got one, used my five invites on Wendy and some friends. Gmail was so new and fresh it had that new email smell to it. It served me well until this year when I got a notice that my email had been accessed by someone using an IP address from Serbia. It was really unsettling because as I had a decent password and changed it periodically. Having not travelled to Serbia recently (or ever) the idea that I had been hacked was a horrible one.
As for my ID, you have your drivers license, your passport, your Saskatchewan Health Card, your Social Insurance Number but my email is just as big of a part of my ID as anything. I have used it to sign up for Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, PayPal, even my bank and credit card uses it to communicate with me. While I am careful, having everything exposed was not that pleasant and it resulted in new credit cards being issues, new passwords, and really all new everything.
Shortly after that I had a huge problem with email. Emails were missing and there was about a 1500 email hole from about a year before that I discovered. I wasn’t the only one that has had this happen to me. The Gmail help forums are full of users that have lost thousands of emails and no one really knows why.
Since then there is someone that I will email periodically at The StarPhoenix that occasionally doesn’t acknowledge the email. I am the same way so I never thought of it until Friday when I got a call from my editor to see why I never filed my column except I did on Wednesday. I resent the column and it appeared. It’s the second time it happened but I have long had these sneaking suspicions that it was a problem with the @thestarphoenix.com domain. I checked the Gmail help forum and it tells me that I need to check with the domain name that wasn’t getting my email as they are of course faultless. Of course the email was never received.
This isn’t the first time this happened. A friend used to work at USA Today. An email I sent him took a full year one time to show up. I was working somewhere else and using their email (which was served up on Dreamhost) was the only server they ever had a problem with and then only sometimes. It has happened to me before from SaskTel where an email just hung out for month before being delivered. It happens but how do you know it happens. I never got a bounce message in any of those situations so I assumed (incorrectly) that it had gone through. Maybe we need to downgrade to Eudora 3 and start sending read receipts again.
So on Friday, my email was down, my cell phone was acting erratic (I think the problem was Koodo) and I realize that when things go down, they really go down. What can you do about it?
Leaving Gmail is really hard because I think we underestimate how much spam and email that we get and I really don’t want that to make it to my phone. I know SaskTel has web access but so many friends of mine have had their email account become totally full after a couple of days that it is pointless if you are a heavy email user. I can set up a 500mb account for myself on Dreamhost but I get thousands of spam a day and Gmail handles it better than anyone else. I am in the process of putting coop AT jordoncooper.com to rest which will cut back on some of the spam but it’s a big problem when you are have old email accounts. There are a lot of things that still use it, including some that I am sure I don’t remember but will need someday.
As Wired Magazine published yesterday, Gmail has a pretty big security hole in it.
But since Gmail added OAuth support in March 2010, an increasing number of startups are asking for a perpetual, silent window into your inbox.
I’m concerned OAuth, while hugely convenient for both developers and users, may be paving the way for an inevitable privacy meltdown.
For most of the last decade, alpha geeks railed against “the password anti-pattern,” the common practice for web apps to prompt for your password to a third-party, usually to scrape your e-mail address book to find friends on a social network. It was insecure and dangerous, effectively training users how to be phished.
The solution was OAuth, an open standard that lets you grant permission for one service to connect to another without ever exposing your username or password. Instead of passwords getting passed around, services are issued a token they can use to connect on your behalf.
If you’ve ever granted permission for a service to use your Twitter, Facebook, or Google account, you’ve used OAuth.
This was a radical improvement. It’s easier for users, taking a couple of clicks to authorize accounts, and passwords are never sent insecurely or stored by services who shouldn’t have them. And developers never have to worry about storing or transmitting private passwords.
But this convenience creates a new risk. It’s training people not to care.
It’s so simple and pervasive that even savvy users have no issue letting dozens of new services access their various accounts.
I’m as guilty as anyone, with 49 apps connected to my Google account, 80 to Twitter, and over 120 connected to Facebook. Others are more extreme. Samuel Cole, a developer at Kickstarter, authorized 148 apps to use his Twitter account. NYC entrepreneur Anil Dash counted 88 apps using his Google account, with nine granted access to Gmail.
This is where it gets nerve wracking.
You may trust Google to keep your email safe, but do you trust a three-month-old Y Combinator-funded startup created by three college kids? Or a side project from an engineer working in his 20 percent time? How about a disgruntled or curious employee of one of these third-party services?
Any of these services becomes the weakest link to access the e-mail for thousands of users. If one’s hacked or the list of tokens leaked, everyone who ever used that service risks exposing his complete Gmail archive.
The scariest thing? If the third-party service doesn’t discover the hack or chooses not to invalidate its tokens, you may never know you’re exposed.
The reliability isn’t just a Gmail issue but most of us switched to Gmail because it was run by Google and we never thought that we would have these issues.
The other issue with Google is that even though they post an Apps Dashboard to let you know how things are going, this is a multi-billion dollar company with no way to contact them unless you are a large customer. I have had Gmail down and nothing shows up on the Dashboard so it has to be a big outage to report it. That’s fine if you are affected with others but if you are not part of a giant collective of frustrated Gmail users losing control on Twitter, what recourse do you have. Google tells you to that they look at help forums but there are thousands of unresolved issues, some that go on for a long time. This isn’t unique to Google, a friend had a nightmare in getting locked out of his Twitter account because of a Twitter database error. It look a couple of months to resolve and that was even after it’s CEO got involved. At least you can contact Dick Costello, who do you contact anymore at Google?
I download and backup periodically my contacts for a couple of reasons, I need to keep them sync’d across my two accounts (one for work, the other one is personal). They are also sync’d on my iPod Touch, iPad, and Android phone. Of course I just read on Kottke this week that stealing your address book among iPhone developers is quite common.
It’s not really a secret, per se, but there’s a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user’s entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference. It’s common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database. Obviously, there are lots of awesome things apps can do with this data to vastly improve user experience. But it is also a breach of trust and an invasion of privacy.
I did a quick survey of 15 developers of popular iOS apps, and 13 of them told me they have a contacts database with millons of records. One company’s database has Mark Zuckerberg’s cell phone number, Larry Ellison’s home phone number and Bill Gates’ cell phone number. This data is not meant to be public, and people have an expectation of privacy with respect to their contacts.
So while I am giving all of my contact information to Google intentionally, I (and so are most of you) am un-intentionally giving up your contact information to developers (sorry about that) which is one of the reasons why there is so much spam in this world. Thanks Apple. So even if Google is protecting our private information, as soon as we sync it with our iPhone or iPad, it is compromised.
This brings up my next issue, which phone vendor can we trust? Apple allows people to download your most private of personal information, Google controls and ties it all together in an Android phone, with Blackberry you just have a crappy phone experience and does anyone expect Windows 7 Phone to be any better. RIM has better security but isn’t able to deliver on their phones.
I was talking to a businessman who has been tied to his phone since AGT came out with the Aurora (such old technology, Google doesn’t even know about it) and he said to me the other day that he was willing to ditch his smart phone and go back to a flip phone (or a feature phone so he could text his kids). His company email server was down and he couldn’t do “anything” and was frustrated in the same way we all get frustrated. He said with a regular cell phone, when it went down, all it did was affect his phone calls. Now when his smartphone isn’t working, it affects everything. He was actually in the process of heading to Midtown Mall and purchase a cheap phone so as he put it, at “least I can call someone”. In some ways as I looked at a Nokia C1 by Fido today I wondered if this may be what I really want, an update to the Nokia 1100 which is still the world’s most popular phone.
Koodo’s cellular service is okay here in Saskatoon. They use Telus’ network and do a not bad job of staying active. I find that when SaskTel is having problems, so is Telus/Koodo which makes me feel somewhat better but not a lot. In other words when I get no service at my house, neither does anyone else using SaskTel, Telus, or Virgin. When Koodo’s network is acting up, I can tell by looking at my phone when something is wrong. My Foursquare check-in options revolve around Carlton University’s campus, my network says Telus or even SaskTel instead of Koodo, and my calls drop more than they should. Wireless is defined by it’s Ready, Shoot, Aim background and we shouldn’t be surprised with it’s technical difficulties considering the rate that technology is changing but more and more I keep wondering if a step back may be order and evaluate if I want all of my personal information being in a platform that is so easily exploited.
Even if you can trust them now, can you trust them in the future. Google’s recent privacy changes spooked millions and may have launched a competitor in Duck, Duck, Go. These aren’t new concerns as I remember AKMA struggling with how much he should trust Flickr years ago.
I could come off the cloud but that is a lot easier said than done. I could use Thunderbird for email and contacts and Lightning as a calendar. I could use Dreamhost’s IMAP server, keep my email off my phone, and ditch my iPad, or at least not sync up information with it. It can be done but it is a very different 1998 era web that I don’t think I want to go back to either.
When you think of the information you have in your Gmail account, address book, calendar, and other apps (think of Mint and your bank app on your phone), why aren’t we either demanding more security or at least taking steps to protect ourselves. I know RIM’s the most secure but their phones are terrible right now. I wonder if the next thing in wireless will not just be the cool apps but the cool apps that protect your data because right now my data isn’t feeling all that safe.
I have had a Gmail account since Gmail opened it’s second round of invites years ago. Users had five invites and because I was only two degrees separated from someone at Blogger, I got one. It was like gold and it was amazing. Within days I stopped using Outlook and started to rely on Gmail for all of my email. The launch of Google Calendar meant that I could move my life to the cloud and it worked perfectly for me for years. When I was at the Salvation Army Community Services, we used Google Apps to power email which meant that I never did need Outlook or anything there either. With Google Calendar integration I could have my life at a glimpse. While I was always frustrated that Google Contacts didn’t sync up Google apps and my personal address book, it worked well enough that I didn’t complain.
About six months ago a friend emailed from a major U.S. company. I had sent him an unimportant email about a year earlier and he never got it until that day. He blamed his company email system and I never thought about it. During this time I would send my column to two different email addresses at The StarPhoenix and every once in a while I would get an email close to my deadline and it would be the editor asking for my column. It kind of freaked me out but again I would think it was The StarPhoenix’s email system and I would send it again and it would be good. I was using Google’s email system after all. Now my editor just emails me back as soon as he gets it. I still get nervous when I don’t get an immediate reply but he is human and could actually be doing other things but even two weeks ago I was surprised how long it took him to reply and I wondered if the column got there or if he was busy. It isn’t just him, during that time I would email someone once in a while at The StarPhoenix and wouldn’t get a reply. Some email gets replied to, some doesn’t and I figured it didn’t get replied to.
Then my email got hacked and it was a horrifying experience. During that time I lost some email but blamed it on that. I have a new password (my old one was only six letters and one digit long) and then brought in double authentication but I was still wondering why I didn’t get replies at times. The last couple of weeks since I have had my new phone, it has been happening more and more and I was blaming the phone. Like many of you, I have 3G connection issues in parts of Saskatoon and was wondering if that was the problem. Over the last couple of days, everyone has been pissed off at me for missing emails and I realized I was also getting them out of sync. I also fired off some important email and people are telling me they never got them. That scared me because both were really tech competent people on reliable mail servers and the email was sent by my laptop via the Gmail interface. No email client, no phone, just me and the computer sending to two different reliable email services. I contacted Google and haven’t heard a thing back. I was searching my email tonight looking for emails that I knew I had not deleted and there was a massive hole from 2008 in it. I know was recently hacked but those emails were restored. No sign of it at all today.
I remember the rants that Tech Crunch used to have when Google Voice was offline and I now understand what they were so angry about. Google isn’t just providing a service, they are providing a service I rely on dearly. When the internet went down on my block, I can work around that, my primary email acct not working is horrific. My friend Nathan had a horrible experience with Twitter. It was mindboggling how stupid it was over a glitch that was completely their fault. They finally just stopped talking to him about their problem and he was locked out of his account. All of this contacts and followers were gone and there isn’t much you can do about it.
What’s even more bizarre is that when you read the Google help forums, I am not alone. Some are user error but most are just disappearing emails. The thing is that the reason I went to Gmail in the first place was because of Google’s reliability. What I found out is that it is company that really offers no customer service at all. They talk all of the time about the small % of users affected. That’s great that it is .61% until you are one of the quarter of a million users that are affected and then it is no fun at all.
The other hard part is that who do you contact at Google? You can’t call them or write a support ticket. You can leave a note in the forum. Back in the days when Blogger was small and buggy, you knew you could email Ev or Biz and get a response. Even today with Dreamhost, I can get a support ticket answered within minutes but I can’t with Google.
I use Koodo as my cell phone provider. It is horrible to use to send texts. I just was sending texts back and forth with Seabass (if you know who I am talking about, you will get it) and I had about 10 “fail to send” texts but I know that my texts are not getting through and I know that he isn’t getting them. Yet when I text’d a guy I’ll just refer to as Man-Bag yesterday, he said he never got it which is an entire other frustration. Is it Koodo or Sasktel or the fact he may not understand his new iPhone. It’s frustrating and now I am mad at Google, SaskTel, Man-Bag, and Koodo. I’ll quit while I am behind.
I’d tell you to email me with your suggestions but I won’t get it.
Caterina Fake has a great post on the role of Abraham in a company.
I call the founder, founders or founding team of a company “The Abraham”. The Abraham influences all that follows, sets the vision and direction for the company, and the Abraham’s mores, habits, preferences, flaws and prejudices are often built, consciously or unconsciously, into the fabric of the company. This influences the products and services, first and foremost. But the Abraham also influences everything from company HR policies, the kinds of employees that work there, its investors, its customer service and even its logo and office decor. You can often tell what the founder cared about, and didn’t care about. You go to Google and it’s like a playground for adults– curious, smart adults — massive dinosaur in the courtyard, lego tables, beanbag chairs, primary colors — and then you read interviews with Larry and Sergey where they credit their success to having attended Montessori schools, and you see where it came from.
Often the Abraham is CEO, but doesn’t stay CEO. Google’s Abrahams are Larry and Sergey, and they had a strong influence on the company even during the 10 years that Eric Schmidt was CEO. Oracle is very Larry Ellison. Martha Stewart is very Martha Stewart. Zynga is very Mark Pincus. Groupon is very Andrew Mason. And isn’t Apple so very much Steve Jobs, so much so that when he left, and his successors tried to kill the Abraham, the company nearly died? It’s hard to kill the Abraham. Not only that, if you succeed, it may not be possible for the new leader to assume the mantle. Best for the Abraham to stick around, and work closely with the new leaders to make sure the spirit of the company survives. This has been, in my experience and observation, the best method for retaining the magical juju. This is why the role of incoming, non-native CEO at a startup is a notoriously difficult job. They don’t fit in with the company culture. Most of them don’t last a year.
Since launching Windows Phone 7, it’s marketshare has dropped 38% which means that by the time that Nokia introduces Windows Phone 7 devices, the OS may be about as popular as the Symbian OS it dropped in support of Windows 7.
The question is for how much longer handset makers and carriers will consider it worth supporting Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s mobile market share has been declining at a compound rate of about 5% per month for the past six months. At that pace, its overall share may be be hovering around just 4% by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, rival Google is on track to dominate smartphones. Android devices held 40% of the market as of the end of June, according to Comscore. Apple’s share came in at 26.6%, while RIM’s share, also in decline, fell to 23.4%.
i don’t know of a single user of Windows Phone 7 now that I think about it. No one I know even talks about it.
They are having low level talks… meanwhile this site can be had for the bargain price of $8 billion.