Android Takes a Bite Out of Apple

I know this is a technology blog and not a market blog but I came upon this information this morning and just had to share. As anyone who reads this tech blog knows I have a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and in fact it won the prestigious December 2010 “gadget of the month” on this very blog. As the past several weeks have gone by my love affair with my tablet has only matured and grown. The mixture of the convienenant 7″ size and reliable Android software makes this a great mobile device for both work and pleasure. Anyway on to today’s exciting market news.

Bloomsberg reported today that Android tablets have grabbed 22% of the market share this quarter. Samsung and Android must be very exicited about this turn of events. Unlike Apple’s long masterly run at controlling the MP3 market with their IPOD, Android, and partners such as Samsung are going to be on their heals in the tablet market.

I don’t expect Apple to continue plunging dramatically in the tablet market, however it is exciting to see their share reduced from 96% to 75% in just one quarter thanks to Android and Samsung.

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Secure Your Facebook

Facebook has finally wroke up and decided to offer a secure browsing option for it’s members. This is a critical new feature because it allows you to access Facebook on a secure connection (https as opposed to http). This however is not turned on by default but you can reportably manually activate this feature from “Account Settings”. When I recently opened my “account settings” this option was not there yet. Perhaps Facebook is rolling this out soon so check your “account settings” from time to time to see if the feature has been added to your account.

I did however try the secure connection manually and it is available and working.
You can manually access the secure connection by entering https://www.facebook.com in your browser and signing in. Then replace this secure connection as your “favorite” anywhere you previously had your Facebook link.

This secure connection is the same type of connection utilized for banking and it protects the privacy of your information. Phising sites and other questionable sites are unable to see your information when you use a secure connection.

Altough Facebook warns that using the secure connection may slow down some surfing because of the encrypted session I would not worry so much about this. Another problem may involve some third-party applications which currently do not support https so be aware of this as well.

This is a big step for Facebook and it has been a long time coming.

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Employee Training Scheduled for March 4, 2011

The next Information Technology Employee Training has been scheduled for March 4, 2011. The topics are timely and important to all of us. “Email Etiquette and Social Networking” complete our lesson plan. I will be sending out registration information soon. If anyone has any questions please contact me.

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Carl Sagan’s NASA

This past weekend, my son (Kevin) took the time to show me this NASA video inspired by one of my favorite authors, Carl Sagan. Kevin knows through our many conversations that Sagan has inspired me since I first watched “Cosmos” back in 1980 (I was 16).

Several times each year I find myself re-reading one of Sagan’s inspiring books which cover everything from evolution as he wrote about in “The Dragons of Eden” (1977), space exploration in “Pale Blue Dot” (1994), searching for the meaning of being human in “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” (1992) and life & death in his last book, “Billions & Billions” (1997). If you are ever in the need for inspiration, or you simply want to try and look at the universe in new and amazing ways check out one of Sagan’s fascinating books or “Cosmos” on DVD.

To give you an idea of Carl Sagan’s inspiration and thoughtful gift, check out this short NASA clip. The audio was recorded shortly before Sagan passed away in 1997. What is also truly incredible about the audio is that as I said Sagan recorded it in 1997 and the narrative is simply dead on for what is happening in the world around on today.

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The Smartphone War

OK I just had to take a couple of minutes to talk about the big smartphone battle of 2011 and how it’s shaping up (if you ask me). Don’t get me wrong. There is indeed a lot of hub bub about Verizon’s new iPhone. However mark my words. The Verizon iPhone is too late to do any real damage to Android. The iPhone landing at Verizon is big news and it surely gives Android more competition than it has ever had. In Android’s favor is about 2 years of development and enhancement of it’s OS while Apple danced exclusively with ATT. Now that Verizon and Apple have finally got together, ATT has started it’s own partnership with Android. Now both Verizon & ATT stores will be stocked to the ceilings with iPhones and Androids with smaller and smaller space dedicated to other smartphones.

Also never forget, for every Apple lover there is probably an Android dihard. I believe that most smartphone users who have been using Android phones are not about to jump ship for an inferior phone.

What is true in this smartphone war is that Blackberry (RIM) and the other shartphone developers are starting to eat dust. RIM is continuing to lose marketshare and with Android’s additional deal with ATT it is going to worsen. The only wildcard at this point is Windows Phone 7. However even here there are problems as most users seem to have a real problem of moving their Windows experience to their mobile phone.

It appears that as Android and Apple continue to take pot shots at each other for marketshare their competitors will continue to struggle for the measly remains.

A special thankyou to Staci King for the fine edits to this entry. I think I am going to have to add her to the Tech Blog staff!

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Is There A Smartphone Zombie Attack Approaching?

The day is surely coming when our smartphones will be just as vulnerable to viruses and other computer infections just like our computers. To prove this point Georgia Weidman has created a “zombie” program which can infect Android phones. She will demonstrate this at the Shmoocon hacking conference later this month in Washington, D.C.

To prove that this is a credible issue here are two recent examples of smartphones being hacked.

1. Last August, a scam in Russia tricked users into installing malicious software on their Android phones and used SMS (text) functionality to send messages to a number charging a premium fee.

2. In late 2010, a Chinese virus for Android devices was used to steal personal information.

Now it may seem that hackers are picking on Android but that is not the case. Any smartphone can be infected.

Hackers relaize that the line between computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones is becoming more blurred each day and valuable personal information can usually be found on all of these devices.

As I mentioned in our December training class, hackers go where the money is and as smartphones continue becoming a bigger part of our lives you can bet that the security around these devices will need to be taken seriously by each and everyone of us.

Don’t panic just yet. Smartphones remain relatively secure today. This is because of the use of managed markets such as the Apple Store and Google’s Android Market. However time may be running out and soon anti-virus software may be necessary on our smartphones. Remember to use commonsense on your shartphone. If you did not request something, DO NOT OPEN IT! Even if it says it free.

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Protecting Your Twitter Privacy

Twitter is quite different than Facebook in many ways. One of the biggest differences is that you do not have to ask to follow someone. Because of this you probably have many “followers” you don’t know. If you take a look at your followers closely you will probably find many people and companies you probably don’t want reading your “tweets”. Recently many companies and other persons have started following people on twitter in order to get an idea of your likes, dislikes, habits etc in order to target advertisements your way.

Protect your privacy and clean up your “followers” on a regular basis. Here are step by step directions to do this.

Step 1: Click the followers list on the right side of your Twitter page.

Step 2: You will see a list of all your followers. Review the list and click on each follower you wish to block.

Step 3: On the far right side, click on the settings wheel and choose “Block”.

Rinse and Repeat as necessary. This is an ever increasing problem on Twitter and I hope that eventually, like Facebook Twitter acount holders should be required to approve followers. Imagine, taking security lessons from Facebook. Amazing.

A special thank you goes out to co-worker Jay Ferriola for his question about this when he complained, “who are all these people following me on twitter!?”

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Apple Users Beware

During December’s Security Training I was asked why “Apple products” don’t get viruses. I noted that one of the primary reasons was simply that the market share of Apple vs. PC was very small in comparison and hackers usually choose to spend their programming time on the biggest audience possible. Hackers want the biggest bang for all of their hard and evil work. The below article which appeared recently at Spamnews.com covers the growing threat to Apple products in general. The morale of this story is use common sense and protect your information, regardless if you are a PC user or an Apple user.

According to McAfee the security vendor, which recently released a research study, Mac OS is in more danger of Apple Trojans and botnets because users tend to have low knowledge of how to keep new Apple tools secured, which leads them into the danger of identity theft. Current.com published this on January 10, 2011.

Moreover, there are other threats to Mac OS, according to the security company like botnets’ rising operations, increasing hacktivism, and growing networks of online television that can cause businesses to lose secret data in case they’re targeted.

In its security alert, Michael Sentonas, Chief Technology Officer for Asia Pacific states that while Mac users earlier were immune from hackers’ assaults, they’re currently being increasingly targeted through Apple products. Smartcompany published this on January 11, 2011.

Sentonas further states that it’s being observed that both business and home users are increasingly using the Mac operating system and with the OS’ growing market share, it’s quite expected that distributors of malicious programs will begin considering focusing their attacks on this platform. The CTO cautions that Mac users can’t just take for granted that they’ll be safe from attacks, hence they must embrace anti-virus applications while maintaining it up-to-date.

Additionally he states that his company on average is spotting some 60,000 fresh malware items daily. And with this amount being huge, there’s greater requirement of user awareness about this problem.

Moreover, McAfee further cautions that security risk is growing during 2011 since every minute about 3,000 shortened URLs are created. The company in its 2011 Threat Predictions Report forecasts that there’ll be more danger with URL-condensing utilities on social-networking websites. Also it forecasts that hackers on social-networking websites will increasingly concentrate on geo-location utilities like Gowalla, Foursquare as well as Facebook Places, which trace users’ whereabouts and also publish them.

Eventually, McAfee notes that still other threats such as viruses from personal contacts, or malware camouflaged as genuine files and e-mails will all become more advanced thereby effectively deceive unsuspecting users during 2011. Besides, botnets will keep on using unlimited stolen bandwidth along with computing power across the world, the company adds.

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Entering Blogtown

The West Chester Employee’s Tech Blog is now featured at the Daily Local News Website. You can find us on the bottom right of the Daily Local News website and clicking on Blogtown.

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XP Tip: Add familiar icons back to your desktop

When you first got your computer, it probably had shortcuts for My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and the Recycle Bin on the desktop. If you or someone else removed any of those shortcuts and you’d like to get them back, you can easily restore them.

To restore you icons

Right-click the desktop, and then click Properties.

Desktop shortcut menu with Properties selected

In the Display Properties dialog box, click the Desktop tab, and then click Customize Desktop.

Desktop tab in Display Properties dialog box with Customize Desktop selected

In the Desktop icons area in the Desktop Items dialog box, select the desktop icons that you want to appear on your desktop.

Desktop Items dialog box

Click OK.

General tab in Desktop Items dialog box with OK selected

Click OK again.

Desktop tab in Display Properties dialog box with OK button selected

The icons you selected will be displayed on your desktop.

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