I am officially an Unperson

I’ve done it, I have removed myself from the rest of humanity.  Relax, I haven’t done anything TRULY crazy, I just deactivated my Facebook account.  For me it’s been a long time coming.  It started a while back when Facebook changed their policy regarding photos. While FB later changed their tune and restored the original TOS it’s still a pretty frightening thought that a multi-billion dollar company owns the pictures of my kid.  I kept my account open, and just changed the way I viewed my privacy on Facebook, it was something I monitored every week, and made sure it was a tight as I could get it.  It was frustrating though because it was something I had to constantly worry about, and made me think twice about everything I posted.   It was also frustrating to try to post certain items for certain people, while keeping everyone else from being able to view them.

Then when this new round of updates featuring the “Timeline” started making news I realized two very important things:

A) I don’t care to know every little thing about all of the people I am “friends” with on Facebook.

B) I don’t want those same “friends” to know every little thing about me.

My view is that if I wanted someone to know these things about me I would tell them.   The new “frictionless sharing” (see also: herehere  and here) is also aggravating, annoying, frightening, and just not a good thing (in my opinion)  The idea that everything you click on, listen to, read, look at, or think about should be shared is just awful, not only do I not want everyone to know about my passion for competitive knitting I also don’t want to know about my friend’s weird hobbies.

With the new Facebook layout everything you have done from the day you were born, to what song you are listening to is now available, and even shoved down your friend’s eye sockets.  The day I actually removed my account I happened to see one of the new time line updates on the right hand of my screen about a job a friend of mine started in 1999.  Big surprise:  I DON’T CARE!!  I started deleting photos, and deactivated my account 20 minutes later.

Yet that is not the biggest reason I removed my account.  I started thinking about the new Facebook layout, and why Facebook would go to the obvious trouble to create this whole new system, going so far as to create imaginary demand for frictionless sharing.

Why?  Money, obviously.  Facebook is a business, and a business must make money.  No objections from me, ask me to click on things I like, and companies can use that information to market their product better, and improve their products.  I’ll even take some targeted ads with out a complaint. However what Facebook is doing now is making a nice neat little package of YOU, they will stick a bow on top and sell it to drooling advertising execs so they can make a buck.  Facebook is collecting every little scrap of information about you so you can be more easily targeted by ads.

Zuckerburg is at least honest about what Facebook wants from you going so far as to say: “What kind of products would be possible if Facebook partners already knew everything about their users?”  (Scroll through this @ 10:46 during his keynote address at the f8 developer conference this year.)

I don’t want Facebook to know everything about me. (Google already has that distinction thank you very much.)

I’ve decided to use Google+ instead of Facebook, and yes I know good ole’ Uncle Google is doing pretty much the same thing, but it just doesn’t feel the same.  Plus with Google+ I have much more control over who sees what posts, and what posts I view.  I also like the ability to follow someone, without sharing everything I do with them.  This allows me to see what tech writers, and product designers are saying, and I don’t have to pretend to be their friend, and I don’t get bombarded by all of their personal comments, unless they choose to make them public.  Because while I value what the Android Central team has to say about Android stuff, I don’t care about their cats, dogs, or children (unless said creatures are trying out new Android products).

So I’m not saying everyone should remove their Facebook account, I’m just saying as always be careful about what you put on the internet, even more so now.  Check your privacy and sharing settings, and watch what you say, because it can come back to bite you in the ass.

As always, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, or just want to call me a jackass feel free to use the section below.

Star Trek has landed.

Tablets are awesome, not only are they portable internet, media,social networking devices, they are straight Star Trek type coolness. I mean how cool is walking around updating your Facebook and watching the newest failblog video on YouTube on a screen that doesn’t require a magnifying glass?

So let’s talk about what a tablet is versus what it isn’t:
A:  A tablet will not replace your desktop, a tablet will probably not replace your laptop if that is your primary computer, it might be what you find yourself taking to the store, or to Starbucks to browse the internet (i.e. Post snarky comments on your frienemy’s Facebook page)

B:  A tablet is a computer with a touchscreen and no keyboard, although you might be able to attach one to the tablet on an as needed basis.

C:  A tablet is not necessarily an iPad. In fact IPads are only a small part of the tablet market, although there are more IPads sold than any other.

Now that we’ve clearly defined what a tablet is, what are they good for?

Tablets are great devices for instant on, ready to go anywhere entertainment, information gadgets. I use mine for checking and writing emails, Facebooking, Web surfing, tweeting, gaming (yes gaming, my tablet is more powerful than the machine I used to play diablo 2 on) the list goes on. In fact the only thing I use my PC for is paying my bills, and that’s only because I haven’t moved all of my bill passwords to my tablet yet. I use my PC for photo editing also.

So if you are someone who does very little with your PC beyond Web browsing, or someone who would like to have a more portable device, yet still wants to be able to have a large screen a tablet is certainly worth considering.

But which one?
I’ll start with mine, the Acer Iconia. This is a ten inch beauty that I spend way too much time with. It has the Tegra 2 processor that is on almost all of the major brand tabs on the market right now. 16 gigs of hard drive space, with one gig of ram. Truthfully it’s not a powerhouse, but it is more than adequate for my needs. It works well, battery life is great for what I use it for, mostly social apps and some gaming. I would tell my mom to buy this tab, that’s about the highest recommendation I can give a device like this.
There are a lot of different devices out there, Toshiba,HTC, Asus, Acer all make decent tablets in different sizes and shapes. The best advice I can give for selecting one is: play with all the ones you can find, and see what you like.

Sony has two new tablets coming out both on the expensive side but they are both interesting designs and well worth the time it takes to ask uncle google about them..

I will save my apple rhetoric for another day, but I will say that the IPad is a nice piece of hardware but there are costs beyond the price tag to having an Apple product.

That’s it for this this blog, two Weeks is long enough to work on one post. (Angry Birds on a 10″ screen is awesome.)

Dave

This blog requires a disclaimer…..

Wow, only three posts into this thingy and I have to put a disclaimer up…I’ll get to that; but first a word about the all powerful, global, multi-billion dollar corporation Sony:

REALLY?  It’s like being a high schooler beating up kindergarten kids for their lollipops.  Here Wiki Article Those should give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Yet again Sony has gone after a 21 year old kid for being smarter than their geeks. The first time looked like this of course that was more the RIAA than Sony, but Sony had their fingers in the pie too.  The premise for those that didn’t bother to read the links is: Sony is going after this kid for hacking his Playstation 3 and offering to help others “jailbreak” theirs. I understand that Sony doesn’t want people to modify their PS3’s I really do, I also think taking a 21 year old kid to court over it is a bit excessive.  If they had half a brain for every billion dollars they have;  they’d have hired the kid.  So can someone please explain what this multi-billion dollar company has to fear from one hacker?  I hadn’t even heard of him until the lawsuit started up.  So think about that the next time you want to go drop a dime or two on Sony’s newest overpriced gadget.

That is not entirely unrelated to today’s real topic…..and here is the disclaimer

ROOTING AND/OR ADDING CUSTOM ROM’S TO YOUR ANDROID CELL PHONE WILL VOID THE WARRANTY, MAY BE AGAINST YOUR CARRIER’S TERMS OF SERVICE AND WILL QUITE POSSIBLY TURN YOUR $600 SMARTPHONE INTO A WAY OVERPRICED HOCKEY PUCK/BRICK/ROCK/PAPERWEIGHT.  THIS SHOULD NOT BE ATTEMPTED BY ANYONE.

So….I decided to flash a custom ROM on my 8 month old Android phone.  In other words I decided to put a version of Android on the phone that was not made by the manufacturer, or supported by my carrier (see disclaimer) Some brilliant people make these as a hobby or for a living.  That is one of the beautiful things about using an open source product: if your device won’t do something, there is probably an app for that (thanks for the saying Apple) Because what open source means is that the source code, or the programming instructions are available to the public.  In fact one of the legal requirements for being “open source” means you HAVE to let people have the source code.  If they can have it they can edit it.  This leads us to custom ROM’S, as well as the 45 zillion apps on the Android marketplace. To be clear the source code for Android is open source, the user interface or the part of the phone you interact with is not open source.  In other words each manufacturer has their own proprietary software that goes on the phones.  Thus when you install a different version, or a custom ROM you void the warranty.  This doesn’t apply to manufacturer sponsored updates obviously, that is still their software, and if you install their software and brick your phone it should still be covered under warranty.

Now for me this was the first time I’d really thought long and hard about putting a new ROM on my phone, and I have several reasons for doing so….mostly I just got bored with my phone.  I’ve had it long enough that I know all about it, and I wanted a new toy and don’t want to pay for a new phone.  So I started researching the steps involved in this process and almost quit.  It’s really quite a bit of work, and there was definitely some fear of bricking my phone.

I’m not going to go into detail here, but it’s a fairly lengthy process all in all, and it takes a bit of nerve to watch your phone appear to do nothing for what seems like eternity.

I will say this though, I didn’t brick my phone, and in fact I’m quite happy with the results.  I was very careful to back up all of my data, I mean EVERYTHING, apps, pictures, contacts, settings etc…and I only lost one picture.   The process itself doesn’t take very long, it took me about an hour from the time I did the initial factory reset until I finished re-installing my apps.  There really wasn’t very much weirdness, my contacts were a little weird but it was a quick edit to get them back to normal.

So if you are wondering why anyone would do this to their phone, there are several reasons:

1) Bloatware– you know all the crap programs the carrier demands be installed on the phone so they can charge you $4.95 a month for a GPS, even though you can get one for free (on Android anyway).  Bloatware is something to be expected, but carriers seem to ratchet it up every new product cycle, more useless programs that take up memory on your phone.  Bloatware is difficult if not impossible to uninstall with out root access, and there can be a LOT of it, therefore a custom ROM is sometimes easier to use.

2)Some apps require “root” access, this is more common than you might think,  I use an app for monitoring wireless networks that has to have root access.  Of course you don’t need a custom ROM for root access, but most of them seem to be rooted.

3)Carrier unapproved applications–AT&T for example will not allow users to install anything that is not from the Android market.  custom ROM’S don’t have those limitations.  There are other types of unapproved applications too, but I’m not going into those.  This might be against your terms of service so be warned. (Google is your friend)

4) Added functionality–Maybe you want to do something that your carrier/manufacturer simply won’t put in a phone.  Find a ROM that has the functionality and have a nice day.  These of course might also violate your terms of use with your carrier, so be warned.

5) New Look–this was my big reason, I saw a ROM I liked the look of.  The user interface of some phones just plain sucks.  This is one way to get a nicer user experience.

So the question for the day is do you want to flash a custom ROM on your phone?  Probably not.  For the most part the phone’s are pretty decent working the way they are, and it’s not worth the risk of bricking your phone just for giggles.  IF you decided AMA (against my advice) to flash a custom ROM, or root your phone, research it first, think about it, sleep on it.  Then follow the steps as outlined by whoever built the ROM, see it’s like this, they made it, they probably know more about that ROM than you do.  Each one is a little different, and each has it’s own quirks.  The MOST important thing I can tell you about this is too backup your data.  I’m going to say it again, BACK UP EVERYTHING, I mean your non-volatile memory, contacts, applications, pictures, music EVERYTHING you can find to back up BACK IT UP.  Because if you flash a ROM that changes your IMEI and you don’t know how to change it back you are hosed.  Thats only one example, there are lots of things that can go wrong.  So research it, and think long and hard about it before you decide to do it.

The internet is full of information……..

have a good weekend all.

 

Basic Security

Ok, so I was going to write about tablets, especially with the Xoom hitting shelves last week. ( Take a look. ) Then I read an article this morning about how the security gurus think that social networking (i.e. facebook, myspace, twitter….) will be the next major target.  All I can say about that is “DUH!!!”  Their premise is interesting though, the idea is that if an attacker can get your Facebook password they stand a much better chance of getting your bank account password.

Ok I know that you probably have 700 passwords, or more accurately you have 700 different things that require passwords.  If you are like most people you probably only have one or two passwords you change slightly depending on the requirements of the program or website you are using.

This is a BAD idea.  Seems obvious, but many people (I’ve been guilty of it too) just don’t want to have to remember that many passwords.  I know it’s hard, I know it’s a giant P.I.T.A. but unless you want some fourteen year old acne riddled kid in some foreign country (or your hometown for that matter) taking his girlfriend to the prom in a limo you paid for use good password security.

Here’s some tips to help keep your passwords safe:

1) Use complex passwords.  Things like “bob” are NOT good passwords a really good password looks something like “$%Tj8#4fQz” of course that’s very difficult to remember so…

2) Use phrases to create a more complex password. Something like “Julie was born on September 28 1985” could be “JwbSep2885”  Not the best, but much better than “julie”

3) Use L33t Sp33k (using numbers and symbols in place of letters) to create something that looks like a word. Something like “J\/!3”  for “julie”  That is still a little on the short side, but it’s a definite improvement.

4) Use a password manager, there are A LOT of them on the market, try some out, many of them will have password generators to create a truly complex password and the program saves it so you don’t have to remember it.  That way every website you visit can have a unique password.  Most of the password keeper programs I’ve used also have a timeout/lockout function that requires you to re-enter the master password after 20-30 minutes (or less even) of activity.  Many of them will also install on a thumb drive so you can it with you where you need it.

5) DO NOT EVER and I mean NEVER EVER write your passwords down and put them in your wallet.  The first thing an attacker is going to do is change your passwords so you can’t access your own stuff.  So if you lose your wallet, you have lost all your credit cards, and your bank account, your email account, all your credit card accounts and on and on.  By the time you realize you’ve lost your wallet, you have lost all of your money, and any easy way to stop it has gone the way of your wallet.

Good luck, and be safe…

 

dave

 

News Flash: Geek starts blogging

So this is a blog thingy……huh. Well I suppose it’s about time I joined the blog sphere.  I’ve been a techno geek for 20+ years now.  I spend my time learning about new toys, and then ways to break them.  I thought I’d try to explain what all the techno junk that hits the stores every day really is, and what it isn’t, and what is worth you spending money on.  Oh yeah, and how to make the newest, hottest widget work for you.

I’ve got a twitter thingy on the side there, lots of cool stuff I see so I thought I’d share it with the world, and my spin on it all.

I hope you enjoy and keep reading, otherwise I’m just another idiot howling into the void….well I’m probably an idiot either way…..

dave