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Huntsville Fireside

Posted by shane on June 4, 2017 in Local |

Recently I held a poll asking bout running a Fireside Gathering in Huntsville. The overwhelming response I received from this poll is that more information was needed rather than just one some Saturday. I figured I would take the time to write out a post of what I was thinking to go along with the poll to hopefully get better “yes” or “no” answers. I’m going to break this down into  three sections. When, What and where.

WHAT

This can sort of be determined by how many people are interested, but mainly I’m looking for a gathering of people to hang out and play Hearthstone together. If there’s enough interest I wouldn’t mind setting up a best of 3 winning deck stands tournament. Nothing complicated just simple friendly fun.

WHEN

This is based on WHERE. If the number of people interested is small I dont need to find a special venue for this. I can simply find some place with free WiFi and everyone can just hang out and play Hearthstone. Saturday feels like its the best day for this. I was thinking about starting the event sometime between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM, but that is up for discussion. The only solid I have now is Saturday. Which Saturday would be determined by whether I would need to arrange a venue or not.

WHERE

This is the exact reason the poll exists. If only 3 people are interested, I’m not going to hunt for a venue to host this. If 30 people are interested I’m going to try to find a place where we can all play and not cripple the wireless. I have two locations in mind that are not far off from Downtown Huntsville and are just off of the Parkway that would make good locations, but once again, I need a good idea of numbers.

I’m going to place the poll in this post again leaving the original votes in. If more information is needed then what I posted here, Please leave a comment telling me what you need to know before responding with one of the other two  answers.

Thanks guys.

Would you be interested in Attending a Hearthstone Fireside event on a Saturday in Huntsville Alabama

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TruePeopleSearch.com

Posted by shane on May 12, 2017 in Privacy, Trending |

Ladies and gentlemen. Go to http://truepeoplesearch.com and type in your name and zip code then check out the results. Got a good look at it? Good. Surprised at how accurate this information is? Not so good. Want to get it off of there?

Go to https://www.truepeoplesearch.com/removal and start the process. Go head and take care of that. We will be more than happy to hang around until your done. Got your info off of that site? Great! Now I would like to take the time to tell you that you have essentially wasted your time. Yeah, I know thats not what you wanted to hear, and you may not even agree with me, but that doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. There are other sites that offer this exact same service (some for cost) with the same information. You could go to them and try to go through the same process but you would still be wasting your time. Why? because these are not the source of your problem. These are the end users of a huge marketplace that is personal information. Detailed information about an individual is just short of literally being a gold mine. With more detailed information about you as a person, companies can better focus their products for you.

When it comes to companies and your personal information, If your concerned about what they might do with it, you should definitely read the fine print. Companies that are giving things away just because you sign up for them should be your first hint that your data is being sold. Nothing is free in this world. Google is probably the first company you think of when it comes to this kind of work. If you lightly look around you’ll see them demonized for collecting your personal information. What if I told you that Google were actually the good guys as far as data collection is concerned? You might think of Google as the San Francisco 49ers (the actual guys from the 1940’s, not the football team). When it came to personal data being collected, they dug in quick, deep and huge waves, but instead of taking this information and selling it as other companies do today, they took this information and went to potential clients and said things like we have information on twenty thousand unique users who would be a great target for your ad. Would you like to pay to use our ad service? This made sure only the company you gave the information to (you know because they gave you free gmail and access to that mail) kept that information safe while they still made money off of it. Yes they made money off of it, but really, did you think they were hosting all of those mail servers out of the goodness of their hearts?

There are other companies who collect your data and sell it to other companies. Surprisingly, these companies are called Data Brokers. The greatest thing about these companies are how much affect hey can have on your life. Thee of the top 10 Data Brokers are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These names sound familiar? They should. These three companies are essentially what makes up your FICO credit score. Two more names that might come as a surprise to you are ValPak (these are the people who stuff the envelope full of coupons and mail them to you) and Readers Digest (yep, theres actually occasions where you pay someone to sell your data).

Fortunately there are people who think that this is plain wrong and are willing to help you out. The site StopDataMining.me has a page ( http://www.stopdatamining.me/opt-out-list/) for helping you to opt out of what are considered the top 50 companies that collect and/or sell your information.

Unfortunately there seems to be not enough people who know (or care?) that this is going on to push hard enough for the required changes to be made. This post is my mild attempt to educate the masses. I don’t expect it to go far, but I feel I have done my part.

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I lost my wallet

Posted by shane on May 8, 2017 in Tech |

Sometime Friday I lost my wallet. Most people would be in a fit over this, but because I have consistently lost my wallet since I changed to this new form factor, It didn’t really bother me. I figured it had just fallen out of my pants and got kicked under the bed or something. I didn’t really notice that it was missing until I went to pay for something Saturday. No big deal. Its at home, nothing to worry about. I get home Saturday night and look. I can not find it. I start to stress a little over this but I had just put my daughter and niece to sleep in my bed so I didn’t make a huge effort to search the room. I figure I’ll check tomorrow when the girls are up and it will be there and this is no big deal. Sunday morning rolls around and the girls are up and playing and I am tearing apart my bedroom trying to find my wallet with no luck. Eventually Sunday night my wife ends up finding it under the couch. All is good.

You might be reading this and wondering why I would bother to even write this article about this? The answer to this question is simple. The entire time that my wallet, which had my drivers license, debit card and credit cards, was missing, I was only mildly inconvenienced. Because of new technology, I was able to make the purchases I needed with only having to make slight adjustments to what would be my typical routine. Saturday night we had Pizza for dinner. Ordering it online was simple enough. Features in things such as Apple keychain and secure vaults in password application management software such as LastPass allow you to store credit card information. If you are so inclined, you can also allow the pizza company to retain your purchasing information to be used for later purchases. A little fault with ordering online is, it is not easy to do an “oh! and…”. We had forgot to get the drinks. This is the point where I was mildly inconvenienced. Normally I would just hop in the car and head down to Walmart, pick up some drinks and be on our merry way. Unfortunately Walmart does not see the value in contactless payment systems such as Android and Apple pay, So i went to Walgreen’s instead. Picked up the drinks we needed, waited in line. Picked up some red noses for the girls and checked out via my phone with no slowdown what so ever.

“But Shane!” I hear you start “You shouldn’t be driving without a license!” and I hear you my friend. Fortunately, the state had me covered there. Some time around 2015 Alabama decided to hand out digital copies of their drivers license. Currently I have a copy on my phone in my Apple Wallet.

Sunday while we were out and about handling things, we decided to visit everyone’s favorite fast food burger establishment, McDonald’s. My wife paid for dinner here. Where I come in is at the point we decided to buy an ice cream cone for our daughter. I go to the counter and order the cone, not even thinking once about the fact that i don’t have any of my cards. I open Apple Pay on my phone and tap the register, paying for my order and making me feel incredibly geeky in the process.

I know everyone’s mileage may vary, but for me, only having to redirect a visit (to a store that was about the same price and actually closer to my house), was not that big of a deal. I realize this calls for faith in technology where people are very reluctant to let anything near their debit and credit cards, but its a trade off for convenience. I’m not saying everyone should, or really even pushing anyone to try it. I just wanted to share my experience.

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Facebook Friends

Posted by shane on May 8, 2017 in Guides |

 

Trust. Its a very important thing between friends. It’s the glue that holds these things together. This hasn’t changed in hundreds, even thousands of years. What has changed over the same amount of time is how we communicate. For the longest of this, we have communicated through ink and parchment. Since that we have figured out how to send electrical pulses through copper wire resulting in communication tools such as the telegraph and telephone. From there we moved our communications from analog to digital and began communicating over the internet.

For each of these forms of communication, there has been a way to verify the source of the message. Wax seals, secret phrases, voice recognition, even facial recognition. For the same amount of time, people have been attempting to replicate these forms of authentication for their own purposes.

Today’s preferred method for family and friends to communicate over distance is Facebook. Like all the other methods of communication, there are people that want to intercept and replace communications for their own reasons and/or gains. These people will attempt to use your name on Facebook to use the trust between you and your friends to achieve whatever gains they think they can get.

  1. The first method commonly used is hacking your account. Generally this is done by you using  a simple password, or the same password across multiple accounts and one of those other sites were compromised. They then log into your account and share links for websites that are less than reputable.
  2. The second method is a little more sly. You’ll come across a story through Facebook. You’ll click on it to read the story with the sensational headline and it will ask you to essentially log in using Facebook. This is actually a Facebook application requesting permissions from you. One of these permissions is posting on your behalf. Whenever the offender feels like it, they can use their application to share a post via your account. If your friends do not know what to look for they can easily mistake this for a post that is genuinely from you. As mentioned before the trust is used to get your friends to click on links that under other circumstances they typically wouldn’t.
  3. The third method requires a little more time investment but doesn’t require any hacking or applications. In this scenario the person wanting to gain access to your friends trust simply creates a new account using your name and profile picture. These things along with your friends list are all publicly visible with no method on your behalf to change that. After they  have created the new account they simply go down the list requesting to be friends to build a clientele of sorts. Generally your friends assume or some reason that your friendship was disconnected or you’ve decided to move on to a new profile for some reason or another and accept. after all that is your name and profile picture.

There are methods for preventing these things from happening. I’ll be happy to share them with you.

  1. First and foremost, use a secure password. Your password should use letters (both capital and lower case), numbers and symbols. You should use at least 8 characters. The more the better but most websites have an upper limit between 16 and 32. Its best if this password is something that is hard to remember. For this reason you should most likely use some sort of password management software such as LastPass or 1Password. On top of this, you should use Two Factor Authentications (abbreviated 2FA). This allows you to use a one time password that typically is a random set of 6 numbers that changes every 20 seconds or so. Facebook has a built in authenticator app that you can use from a mobile device or another computer that you are already logged into. Personally I’m not a fan of this because if you are logged out of all your devices for some reason, you will not be able to access the authenticator. I personally use Authy as my authenticator. They have an Apple Watch app that allows me to retrieve my code from my wrist. I know this is incredibly geeky of me and I’m not going to even try to defend it because this website is mine and I can do what I want.
  2. The method for preventing this method from happing is pay attention to what permissions you hand out on Facebook. It’s generally best practice to not give any applications permissions to post on your behalf. Most of the time, there’s not a good reason to allow it. While I’m writing this the only application I can think of that has a legitimate reason to allow posting on your behalf permissions is Twitter. I’m sure there’s other reputable social media apps that I’m just not thinking about but you get the idea right?
  3. There’s not a lot that can really be done about this one. Its mostly your friends who have to fight this battle for you. The only thing you can really do is help your friends understand that you only have one account and will not be creating another. From there, its in your friends hands. When they see a new friends invitation from someone they’re already friends with, they should check their friends list to see if they are still friends with you (or whoever really). If they are, the account is obviously not the person they are pretending to be. If the person who is requesting friendship is not already in your friends list. there are two options here. They can add the friend and be very cautious about links and communications from the person, or they can verify the authenticity of the person by communicating with whoever the person is supposed to be via some other channel of communication (such as a phone call).

With millions of active users, Facebook is a gold mine for anyone with less than outstanding morals and time on their hands. Its completely up to you to protect your good name. People will be quick to blame you for their computer woes simply because your name was attached to something and they don’t know any better. Do your best not to let this happen to you.

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Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop

Posted by shane on May 6, 2017 in Tech |

Recently, Microsoft announced a new addition to its line up of Surface devices. This device  is a little bit different from what Microsoft has been placing its Surface name on. Aside from the 3:2 display that supports the Surface Pen, there’s nothing special about this device. It is built like your typical laptop, USB A ports and all. A slight difference in the keyboard, would be the only thing that immediately would take you back to the Surface line-up . The Keyboard is covered in the same material that is used for the Surface type covers and comes in different colors.

The Surface laptop starts with a 7th generation i5 processor, 4 Gigabytes of RAM and a 128 Gigabyte Solid State Drive. This configuration will run you $999. If you want to  max out this device, you will get a 7th generation i7 processor, 16 gigs of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. The price tag attached to that configuration is $2,199. At these prices, it seems more reasonable to shop for a Surface Pro, but to each their own.

Along with the new Surface Laptop came a new version of Windows labeled Windows 10 S. Nothing was ever stated on what the “S” in the name actually means, but, based on the differences between “S” and “Home” I’m going to speculate that the “S” stands for Secure.

There are a few features that make “S” different from the rest. The most important one to most people is that only Windows Store apps can be used on this operating system. Thats right, no 32/64-bit apps on this PC. As of now that means no Chrome and no iTunes which are currently the two most downloaded non-Windows Store applications. “But with no Chrome, how will I ever get to Facebook and Twitter?!?” I hear you say and I’ll answer that with not one, but two answers. The first and most simple solution is use the Edge browser. “But Shane, I hate the Edge browser!!” I hear you say, but I have an answer for that too! There is a Facebook and Twitter app in the app store. Another change is the default browser. Edge is your default browser. That is all. End of sentence. You can not change your default browser, which for the fact that you cant install any other browser should make that a little easier pill to swallow. Lets make that pill just a little thicker though. Your default search engine, it’s Bing. Your alternative options, None. If your against using this as your search engine, I suggest you set your preferred search as your home page. Another feature, which will be minor to most is there is no way to enable the developer options. This keeps you from doing 2 things. You cant side load apps and you cant use the Linux Subsystem (Bash on Windows). For most this wont be a big deal but I thought I would throw that in anyways.

It seems that the only way to get this operating system is to buy it pre-loaded on the device. Fortunately the Surface laptop is not the only device carrying this. Multiple OEM partners (Asus, HP, Acer to name a few) have announced their devices that will be carrying “S” at price tags starting at $189. I would imagine that the hardware at that price point you will get you Chromebook like specs. If these limitations are turning you off, but you really want the hardware, there’s an option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for $50 which is actually cheaper than trying to upgrade from Home to Pro. For a limited time (until the end of the year) you can upgrade to Pro for free.

Everything said and done, a low priced Windows 10 S device looks like it could be a great alternative to a Chromebook, or a nice high end device for someone who doesn’t like/shouldn’t have options.

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