Security of Portable Storage Devices: Cloud vs External Hard Drive

When it comes to portable storage devices, there are two main options: external hard drives and the “Cloud.” The data storage system known as the Cloud allows information stored in it to be accessible from any computer with access to the internet. While this may seem an easy and convenient way to store your information, it comes its own set of risks: its virtue of accessibility to you from anywhere means that it also allows hackers access from anywhere, too. This concern continues to grow as the number of people using the Cloud increases.

An annual Norton Cybercrime Report suggests online crime costs the world economy an estimated $110 billion (88 billion euros) in 2011. It also estimates that 556 million people have been victims of a cybercrime at some point during their lives. That is more than the entire population of the European Union. According to Andrea Wittek, founder and CEO of BoxCryptor, the Cloud is a particularly appetizing target to online hackers due to the sheer number of people storing data of all sorts in it. One way to minimize your risk when storing data in the cloud is to encrypt it. Encrypted data is rendered illegible unless the encryption is bypassed or data is “unlocked” with a password. However, even this does not protect data completely from expert hackers.

My solution? Invest in an external hard drive. These handy things allow for extra (and portable!) storage, and since they are not connected to the World Wide Web, they are not accessible to cyber criminals unless/until connected to a computer with an internet connection. So while not in use, your files are safely out of reach of the likes of hackers. However, these devices also come with some risks. The risks of external hard drives include their ability to be physically stolen, so be sure to keep them secure when you travel with them. The risk of contracting a virus also arises since, as the above article talks about, “Windows will automatically run a program installed to a special file on external hard drives. Viruses install themselves onto this special file so that they can spread to all the computers you use your external hard drives on.” These risks can be minimized by having good anti-virus software on one’s computer and being wary of connecting your external hard drive to unfamiliar computers. While there are risks associated with external hard drives, these risks are a little more in the control of the user versus the risks that come with storing data in the Cloud.

Visual Design Lessons from Real FAQ Pages

In the online world, visual and written forms of communication go hand in hand. A good web site consists not only of concise, easily-readable text, but of pleasing format and design elements as well.

Jake Rocheleau has compiled a list of 30 websites that he sees as examples of “outstanding and distinct webpage layouts.” For ease o comparison, Jake has chosen to look at only FAQ pages. The examples he lists are varied in both format and color scheme, as well as certain features, but all of them contain the basics of good FAQ pages. From these, I chose three that I like particularly well for their ease of use, pleasing color schemes/layout, and quality of content. By looking at these examples we can glean some lessons about visual design for the web.

The first website that caught my attention was Hulu‘s FAQ page. It is organized in such a way that a lot of topics are visible at once. I like that you don’t have to scroll endlessly to find what you’re looking for since all of the topics are made immediately available to you upon first glance. This manages to looks clean, not cluttered, because it is organized in a box formation with three columns of information. On this topic, is it necessary to note that the margins are composed of blank space. There are no ads or other superfluous information that would distract the eye. So from Hulu, we may say that organization and ease of use are paramount in good visual design on the web.

Vimeo’s FAQ was the next that caught my eye. It is extensive and well organized (which is a must if you have a lot of information!). It seems that any question I could have would be answered here because they seem to cover everything, which I like. They have a “jump to topic” feature which is convenient because it saves you the time of scrolling. So from Vimeo we can see that quality information and helpfulness are important, as well as conveience in locating the information, since after all: what good is great information if you can’t access it readily?

Etsy’s FAQ page was similar to Hulu’s in that it presents the information in topics which, when clicked on, lead to questions in those topics. This demonstrates a good, clean organizational format. One thing that set Etsy’s FAQ page apart from just about every other page was the content at the bottom, which gave users an option to go to the Etsy forums or the Etsy policy webpage. This points users to another access site for more information if what they needed was not found, which points to he importance of helpfulness of not only the information present on the page but also on the links present.

Eye-Controlled Technology on the Way

Technology progresses more with each passing month. First Keyboards, then touchscreens–and now eye location technology. A company in Denmark, the Eye Tribe, is currently developing what could be a billion-dollar software that uses a device’s camera to detect where a person’s eye is looking and allows eye movement to control the clicks of the mouse, page scrolling, etc. Amy Strata explains,

The software reflects infrared light off the pupil of the eye and tracks it with the on-board camera, clicking where the user looks. The Eye Tribe has released a handful of videos that show the technology in full swing, showcasing users − without hands − scrolling through webpages, slicing fruit on the popular app Fruit Ninja, and hovering the cursor from app to app with a mere wander of an eye.

“Our software can then determine the location of the eyes and estimate where you’re looking on the screen with an accuracy good enough to know which icon you’re looking at,” the Eye Tribe website explains.

This technology is an exciting advancement in the field of technology. I’m not sure how the technology works exactly (how would it know when I want to click on something, for example?) but it seems like they’re working all that out. This software may reduce the instances of carpal tunnel syndrome, but I just hope it wouldn’t cause added eye strain on the user.

Security of Portable Storage Devices: “Cloud” vs External Hard Drive

When it comes to portable storage devices, there are two main options: external hard drives and the “Cloud.” The data storage system known as the Cloud allows information stored in it to be accessible from any computer with access to the internet. While this may seem an easy and convenient way to store your information, it comes its own set of risks: its virtue of accessibility to you from anywhere means that it also allows hackers access from anywhere, too. This concern continues to grow as the number of people using the Cloud increases.
An annual Norton Cybercrime Report suggests online crime costs the world economy an estimated $110 billion (88 billion euros) in 2011.
It also estimates that 556 million people have been victims of a cybercrime at some point during their lives. That is more than the entire population of the European Union.
According to Andrea Wittek, founder and CEO of BoxCryptor, the Cloud is a particularly appetizing target to online hackers due to the sheer number of people storing data of all sorts in it. One way to minimize your risk when storing data in the cloud is to encrypt it. Encrypted data is rendered illegible unless the encryption is bypassed or data is “unlocked” with a password. However, even this does not protect data completely from expert hackers.
My solution? Invest in an external hard drive. These handy things allow for extra (and portable!) storage, and since they are not connected to the World Wide Web, they are not accessible to cyber criminals unless/until connected to a computer with an internet connection. So while not in use, your files are safely out of reach of the likes of hackers. However, these devices also come with some risks. The risks of external hard drives include their ability to be physically stolen, so be sure to keep them secure when you travel with them. The risk of contracting a virus also arises since, as the above article talks about, “Windows will automatically run a program installed to a special file on external hard drives. Viruses install themselves onto this special file so that they can spread to all the computers you use your external hard drives on.” These risks can be minimized by having good anti-virus software on one’s computer and being wary of connecting your external hard drive to unfamiliar computers. While there are risks associated with external hard drives, these risks are a little more in the control of the user versus the risks that come with storing data in the Cloud.

Smart Soil: “Overseer” Software Give Farmers Feedback on Practices

Exciting news in the field of environmental sciences: software developed in the early 1990s, which has been dubbed “Overseer,” is “a mathematical interpretation of a biological system, and is a tool to manage nutrients and report on nutrient losses” according to Dr. Ants Roberts, one of the creation architects of the technology.

In Canterbury [New Zealand] alone there are about 16,000 farmers – from big corporate to lifestyle-block owners – and all are required to have a nutrient budget. Will the industry have them compliant by 2017, as ECan’s Land and Water Regional Plan requires?

The software, which tracks the health of agricultural soil by noting nitrogen losses and provides farmers with a picture of how much fertilizer is being used vs. how much is wasted, is currently free to farmers in New Zealand. This software benefits farmers and environmentalists alike in reducing instances of over-fertilization and keeping tabs on soil health. The technology for this has come a long way. Development began in the 1990s and it is currently in its sixth version–a process of development which has cost the government and fertilizer industries $15 billion.

However, the Overseer technology still has a ways to go before it’s perfected. Dr Roberts says “Overseer can handle complex cropping rotations and stock mixes. More money is needed to improve it to cope with some irrigated scenarios. The software requires annual rainfall figures as it takes a long-term view – the amount of irrigation needs to match rainfall inputs, otherwise Overseer may overestimate drainage and nitrogen loss.”

This technology really seems to have potential–I just hope a balance can be struck between the money that was put into developing it and the use we can get out of it.

Link and You Shall Be Rewarded

The internet provides an interactive forum for self-expression and allows for the exploration of new ideas. When you publish something on the web it is in hopes of drawing an audience to what you have to say. But one person or organization doesn’t have all of the facts and information, even in their field of expertise–much less in any other topic they may discuss. Luckily for bloggers, we have the ability to link our audience members to other sources of knowledge beyond our own pages. As Jeff Jarvis says: “Cover what you do best. Link to the rest.”

He’s right. He notes that in the past, this was a practice that was looked down upon. Send your readership somewhere else? That’s suicide! has been the general reaction. But the idea of linking people to what they want has been around for years–long before the internet. Just think of that old movie “Miracle on 34th Street” where the Macy’s store Santa started telling parents where they could buy the toy their child really wanted–even if it wasn’t at Macy’s. The manager got angry that the Santa was sending his customers elsewhere. But when he saw the positive feedback he received from customers who appreicated the honesty and caring that Macy’s had for them and their children’s happiness by letting their Santa tell them where else they could get things, the manager realized something: honesty and good information bring people back.

It’s as Jay Rosen suggests in his talk on the “ethic of the link”: “Connect people to knowledge, wherever it is.” And really, linking is the ethical thing to do when done properly. You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but you do have the responsibility to acknowledge that you aren’t, find out who is, and link your readers to them. Let the fact that you were the one who connected your readers to this great source speak for you.

Send people away to what they want and they’ll be grateful. Make this your blog’s policy and your readership will appreciate it. They’ll come back because they will know that yours is the blog to visit, because if you don’t have what they’re looking for you’ll be sure to show them the way to it.

Of Energy Drinks, Coffee, Vyvanse and Adderall

It’s no secret that energy drinks have become controversial.  They are labeled with all sorts of warnings, such as “limit yourself to two drinks per day” and “people who are pregnant or sensitive to caffeine should not consume.”  Recently, a teen died from caffeine toxicity after drinking two Monster energy drinks.  This article provides information about the ingredients in Monster energy drinks which will be helpful to my Storify story.

For the coffee fans: here’s a link to a tweet about 17 health benefits that come from drinking coffee, such as preventing cavities.  Related is an article about 11 health benefits of drinking coffee.  This link includes sources for the information that could prove very useful in my investigation of coffee.  Speaking of which, I think I’m going to put a pot on right now!  College and coffee seem inseparable, at least on Twitter. It’s seen as being part of the “college experience” of being a poor college kid who drinks coffee to stay away.  It serves as study aid and paper staple.  However, there’s a dark side emerging.  People report needing the substance.  One tweeter pointed out a link between coffee and headaches.  He doesn’t seem to consciously recognize the fact that his headaches are probably caused from caffeine withdrawal!

On the amphetamines front, here are some tweets about Vyvanse: some people say it helps them lose weight.  Others see it as their only (?) source of energy, like this guy who can’t seem to clean his room without it. I’m seeing a love/hate pattern going on here.  This person couldn’t sleep because of Vyvanse and it apparently causes hangovers after one “comes down” from it. Doesn’t that sound fun?  Adderall seems to get the same reviews on Twitter: people report that it helps them with school (and this one also seems to indicate that it’s addictive!  I need to investigate that…) and doesn’t let them sleep.  Here’s a tweet that links to a video about why Adderall is considered a “study drug.”  And another tweet about needing Adderall to help with studying.