How to reduce, remove, and block profanity online

word filterAs the Internet grows, the ability in which it’s used is constantly expanding. Teens, adults, and even kids of all ages are logging in and seeing what posts the net has to offer. Likewise, they’re sharing, sending, and commenting along for the world to see … whether or not their content is appropriate. Whether containing curse words, questionable photos, or suggestive text, in many areas of the net, there’s virtually no filter to weed out offensive messages. Users are free to post what they want, when they want, leaving the content for anyone to see.

So as a parent, teacher, or someone who just doesn’t appreciate reading the X-rated, what do you do? How do you filer out this inappropriate content?

Report It

On social media, content can easily be reported for being less than kosher. All users need to do is click the “report” button for the content to be sent into Twitter, Facebook, or alternative social media platform. Each post will then be reviewed and determined whether or not it should be taken down. Punishments are even given out to repeat offenders, such as limiting their log-on time or suspending them from a site.

Block It

For those with young Internet surfers, it may be a good idea to invest in blocking software, which doesn’t allow the use of certain websites without parent permission. Settings can be adjusted, based on desired freedom level and age, but the general idea is to keep kids from seeing anything too “advanced” for their years. Parents can purchase a program or subscribe to a monthly service.

This software is often found in schools or public libraries as well.

Scan It

web purifyA new way to look out for cursing or adult content comes by way of scanning. Companies like WebPurify work to check content directly from one’s web browser. By enabling the monthly service filer, users can avoid profanity from any corner of the web, thanks to an algorithm that constantly updates itself. With the service, users can block four-letter words, or a custom list of phrases, in multiple languages. Much similar to page-blocking software, WebPurify charges a monthly fee in order to keep one’s online searches curse-word free. However, the two differ in that scanning services place responsibility on the website owners to stop inappropriate content from reaching kids, not the parents or searchers.

No matter your approach to keeping the Internet clean, there are plenty of options to consider. Through the help of specialized software and workers who are dedicated to keeping sites safe, users of all backgrounds and ages can enjoy a more appropriate virtual space.

Should We Save the Optical Drive?

disc drivesIt’s nothing new to hear that Apple’s latest MacBook models come without a disc drive. They’re sleeker and thinner, and leaving out the “dated” technology allowed the company to pack in more features in less computer. They first did it with the MacBook Air in 2008, and with soaring sales, it’s likely the company didn’t see much of a draw back.

And because few people actually need their disc drive on a regular basis, computer engineers argue that the change is simply moving with the times. Games and CDs now come with digital download capabilities, and most software and entertainment can now be purchased completely online. As for CD lovers, audio book nerds, or vintage game players, a simple attachment can help cross this technological jump.

But what about the rest of computer companies? For now, most full-size laptops are still including a disc drive, but that isn’t the case for ultrabooks or tablets, which are being used more frequently as full-time computer substitutes. Due to both cost efficiency and technology trends, more and more people are finding it’s better to leave the drive behind. Custom models can still be ordered to include it, but not without a hefty price tag. And within only a few years, older models that still host the slot will become outdated, eliminating the pre-made option as well.

In time, it looks as though the disc drive may be almost completely extinct.

What We Lose

Without the ability to physically hold our own copy of music, movies, software, etc., a great deal can be lost. Digital copies are difficult, if not impossible, to lend to others because of DRM. Many downloads are given a one-click lifespan, meaning if a connection is lost or there’s a technical difficulty, you’re usually on the phone with customer support. And once you upgrade to a new device, replacing all your programs becomes a huge headache.

Even with completely legal tensions in mind (no illegal copies, etc.), losing the disc itself takes away a multitude of freedoms. Another issue comes with price, as few digital copies account for much of a discount. Despite not spending funds on physical materials, sales companies offer only a small price difference between their digital and in-person products. If you’re going to take away our ability to lend, can’t we at least save some cash?

Time will tell what’s really in store for our disc drives, and until then, we’ll be sure to borrow and share as many CDs as our drives will allow.

New beverage technology can identify “spiked” drinks

cupsIt seems that each day a new piece of technology is being invented. From new electronics, to items that allow us to live “greener” lives, to those that seem practically unnecessary, creative types are bringing new items into the world. One recent invention, however, can actually help create a safer nightlife environment. By combining chemical reactions to everyday items – plastic cups and straws – bar drinking can now be made safe.

Thanks to Drink Savvy, all users need to do is use a specific cup to know their beverage is free of common date-rape drugs, such as GHB, Rohypnol, and ketamine. Though they host many different street- or nick- names, these are the three main active components in date rape drugs, and each will almost immediately show up when present in Drink Savvy products.

How it Works

Drink Savvy items – plastic cups, straws, and swizzle sticks – react and change colors when date rate drugs are present. The cups contain spots or stripes, depending on the type of cup, when drugs are detected, while the straws and swizzle sticks turn bright red. As a chemical reaction takes place, the color changes, warning the drink owner the drink has been tampered with.

The cups can be purchased by bars or anyone throwing a party. Glass versions are even in the works for a sturdier, earth-friendly way to test one’s drinks. And when the cups can’t be easily obtained, consumers can throw in a swizzle stick or straw for easy identification on the go.

Similar products come in the form of testing strips, which can be dipped into one’s drink. But with beverage products that double as testers, there’s no need to worry about re-testing or waiting for results to come in.

What it Means

With more and more date rape drugging taking place each year, the introduction of products like these means consumers can stay safe while still having a good time. By combining science with actual products that users can transport, Drink Savvy’s efforts bring mobile stability to any party. Thanks to this growing area of technology, practices like drink spiking can soon be greatly reduced, if not stopped altogether.

Though this drink testing technology is not yet available, Drink Savvy is staying active to make others aware about their new inventions. Head to Drink Savvy’s website to find out more on product and research.

Rural Internet Options are Slim, Expensive

rural internetFor those that don’t live in the heart of a metropolis, logging into the interweb may just be a timely, expensive process. Rather than free hi-speed WiFi lining the blocks, online access is hard to come by, is slow, and not all that reliable. To the majority of the population, however, this may come as a shock. When web access is so readily available, it’s hard to remember that it’s not a luxury for the entire country.

According to the FCC, 19 million Americans don’t have access to hi-speed or broadband Internet. These figures are purely location wise; the option to purchase isn’t available. For comparison, that’s the same size as the U.S.’s seven most populous cities combined: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Antonio. Can you imagine any of them without hi-speed Internet? Let alone all of them?

Slow to Grow

While steps are being taken to get these rural communities connected, it’s safe to say they’re going nowhere fast. Grants are being awarded for communities to dig cable or obtain broadband access, for instance, in rural Kentucky, while Internet companies themselves are slow to move forward.

In fact, many communities don’t have access to cable Internet – and never will – simply because of their population. Even in communities where cable lines are only a few miles away, companies won’t lay the extra line because there’s not enough business to be gained. To the rest of us, this seems like a no-brainer; once the work is done, there’s steady profit flowing in. But apparently, that isn’t the case.

Some rural communities are looking to broadband connections instead, which works via satellite, however this is a lot slower, inaccessible in certain weather events, and equally expensive at 1/20th of the speed. Personal satellites are also available, but are almost double the price and limit one’s usage; half of paid data has to be obtained between 2 and 8 am (though some companies’ hours differ slightly). Yet because this is many users’ only option, there are growing wait lists, depending on location.

So what will save these rural Internet users? Will enough grants finally come through to grant them online access? Or will Google Fiber upstage every current Internet provider and bring in lightening-fast Internet to those whose current option is dial-up?  Whatever the answer, it’s beyond time. Nineteen million people is just too high of a number to ignore.

New devices help monitor and reduce water usage

How much water do you use throughout the day? Do you leave the sink running while you brush your teeth? Take extra long showers? With a new device, called MyWater, users can learn just how much waste they may be washing down the drain. Simply put in some basic information, plug in the device next to your sink, tub, or washing machine, and follow up to see how your water habits change over time. You can even compare to nearby houses for a real-time comparison.

The company said its goal isn’t to get users to cutback their use by 90 percent – a stat that’s far from realistic. Rather it wants to remind users about their everyday decisions, for instance, using less water to wash one’s hands or setting the washing machine to “small load” when fewer clothes are put into the machine.

How it Works

Setup as an electronic screen (think digital nightlight), the device measures the amount of water going down a drain, measuring speed, frequency, and daily habits. Over time, users can see a chart of how much water they used per day from each spout, and what percentage they’ve decreased (or increased) their usage. The device also measures intake from nearby houses so consumers can see if they’re more or less wasteful than their neighbors. Size of one’s home is also taken into consideration.

The device is yet to be released onto the market, but it taking heavy strides to be on shelves within two years; it’s predicted to cost less than $100.

The WaterPebble

waterpebbleAnother similar device, the WaterPebble, is already available for consumer use. This electronic “pebble” sits in the bottom of one’s drain and measures how much water flows through. What makes the Pebble different is that is shows users when it’s time to stop their water use. A green light means water usage is on the right path, amber shows consumers they’re at the half-way mark, and red means it’s time to turn the water off.

After each shower, water allowance is slightly reduced, encouraging consumers to follow greener habits. WaterPebble can also be restarted at any time to increase one’s shower time or to adjust for a new user.

To get started, users program the Pebble, then place it near the drain. Simply turn the sink on and the WaterPebble will come to life as water touches the device. WaterPebbles cost approximately $10 each.

Consider these devices today for a smart new way to combine electronics with Earth-friendly habits.

GoDaddy remains popular, but offers less than competing services

GoDaddy logoWhen setting out to purchase a new domain, the majority of people head to GoDaddy, type in their hopeful site address, and see if someone has already snatched up the great idea. If not, it’s likely GoDaddy will offer a multitude of discounts, coupons, and .co, .net, etc. options to help bring down the price. (For whatever reason, .coms always set you back the most funds.) Anything to get you to sign up, GoDaddy will do. They have the name, the willing and able customer service, and the clout. But do they have the resources to overcome?

Despite being more popular – likely due to their ongoing commercials – GoDaddy has far less to offer website owners than you may think. Sure they wrap everything up in a nice tidy bow, but service-wise, alternative sites may have far better perks. Such as cheaper hosting fees, advanced spam blockers, and a server that doesn’t regularly get hacked.

Perhaps the biggest downside to GoDaddy is the large, albeit invisible, target on their label. The company has been hacked a few too many times, leaving website owners across the globe without a site. The latest debacle, which took place in September of 2012, left thousands of sites down for an entire day. While few reported actual damage, it’s likely this literal down time cost thousands in web traffic numbers, ad revenue, and sales. And that’s only on the company side; Google likely took a downgrade on daily PPC funds as well.

GoDaddy Backlash

While such a hack has yet to take place since, that’s not to say it can’t or won’t happen again. As an apology, GoDaddy sent out an email with a small discount for users to purchase a new domain – not a coupon for current services; additional funds would have to be spent to see any savings. And because switching hosts is such a significant pain in the rear, it’s likely they lost few sites over the whole incident.

But with multiple options, many of which are cheaper and offer better services, what’s holding consumers back from switching hosts? Especially since domains can be purchased through GoDaddy and hosted elsewhere. Is it the popularity, or the sheer hassle of moving a website? It won’t be long before others are finding the value outside of GoDaddy’s monopoly and taking advantage of these competing offers.

Despite their popularity, there’s much more to web hosting than GoDaddy offers. Consider an alternative before caving to their ways, no matter how user-friendly they may be.

Your internet activities aren’t as safe as you thought

NSAThe idea of snooping on undersea cables is not alien in the world of counter-intelligence. In fact, it was in use by the US against the Soviet Union as early as 1970s. Even though such an escapade in the early 70s would only yield specific information, tapping into the current undersea fiber optic cables gives access to streams of highly valuable information. This is an opportunity that one of the most powerful agencies in the world, National Security Agency (NSA) might have found too lucrative to forego.

How your data can be captured

PRISM

The information regarding how NSA pulls out this alleged massive data “theft” remains hazy. While some sources claim that the agency makes use of a “prism” (hence the program’s codename) to split the light beams in the fiber optics cables into two , one for their own use and another to continue with its journey, experts argue that this is too complex a procedure to effectively sustain.

According to a Deutsche Welle report, it would be easier to do the tapping at regeneration points and sometimes landing stations since at these points the data is split out and more easier to tap into. Nonetheless, all sources seem to concur with the fact that probes and prisms are used to create a replica beam of the light without disrupting the “flow of the original Internet traffic.”

NSA collaborators

collaborator spys

Just like anything else that has ever been associated with NSA, the details about the scheme remain closely guarded with none of the allegedly associated entities accepting the responsibility. Many claim that NSA collaborates with internet service providers and landing country authority to gain access to the data trunk, allegations that most of these players vehemently denounce.

With no one accepting responsibility, not even Google or Facebook who allegedly collude with the agency to deliver detailed user information, it is hard to figure out how deep the intrusion is. There is the probability that NSA does not go through all the information it diverts. Nonetheless, experts like Tim Stronge from TeleGeography believes that if the PRISM is real, it has the power to tap into large amounts of data from different sources since data over the internet will take “the least congested route that is available to their providers.”

The way forward

The NSA internet backbone breach, if true, will not really get many internet users off guard. Even though NSA vehemently denounces the allegations and claims that it cannot even search its own emails, many internet users know that all the information they transmit online is bound to be stolen by one counter intelligence agency or another. Some argue that it makes the internet a safer place to be in; others believe that this is a direct violation of the fourth amendment of the United States constitution.

Google Search: More advertising leaves less room for organic results

Google’s corporate motto is “don’t be evil.” When this was unveiled in 1999 / 2000 (attribution claims vary), it was seen as something of a dig at various large companies and the way they operate. Zooming forward to the present day, I find myself wondering if Google are beginning to lose sight of this ethos and become a little drunk on their own power.

I run a number of blogs. One of them has, over the past few years, become rather successful. Now, I don’t mean “earn a fortune, quit my job” successful, but successful enough to attract advertisers, gain loyal readers running into the thousands, win a couple of small awards, and earn me enough money to make the time I spend on it worthwhile.

So, why am I moaning about Google? Well, it started a few months ago, when I began to notice my unique visitors dropping like a stone. I had a chat with an “industry” friend, and he pointed me in the direction of a very interesting article about how Google is slowly “killing off” organic search.

Google Search
Google Search

More advertising, less search results

According to the article, there’s now less and less space on a typical Google search page dedicated to organic results, and more and more dedicated to revenue-generating Google products. The examples in the article include a search for “auto mechanic” where only 13% of screen real estate on a 13” Macbook Air ended up displaying natural search results. A search for “Italian Food” on an iPhone showed NO natural results whatsoever on the first screen (barring one from Google-owned Zagat) and required a scroll through four pages of information before any truly natural results appeared at all.

So how does this affect independent bloggers? In my case, my blog has been at the top of Google’s results for a number of relevant search terms for several years. Now it has dropped down, typically to fourth or fifth place. So why has this happened?

Well, it’s clearly due to one of the recent algorithm updates, but looking at the sites that are now on top reveals little. While one or two may arguably have more “authority,” some are small commercial companies appearing seemingly at random, which tells me that despite Google’s punishing algorithm updates, some sites are still manipulating their rankings with SEO techniques and are slipping through the net.

After spending years creating good content and building readers, Google moves the goalposts, resulting in far fewer people finding my site.

While I know this sounds like “sour grapes,” I’d be less bitter if I truly believed that all the results that have pushed me from the top deserved to be there. I’d find it easier to accept the situation if some didn’t contain vastly out of date content that (personal bias aside) simply doesn’t deserve to be there.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that increasingly, the only way to ensure people consistently find you on Google is to pay Google. Even if you’re doing well in the organic results right now, the next algorithm change may plunge you into obscurity, especially when Google’s page layouts now mean that even being on the first page of the natural results doesn’t mean anyone will see you without lots of scrolling.

Google built its popularity on being fast, clear and fair. It would be a terrible shame if that “don’t be evil” slogan came back to bite it.

Music discovery app Shazam raises $40 million in preparation for IPO

Shazam

Shazam, in an effort to prepare itself before going public, recently hired a new CEO.  The company, which is well known for its music discovery app, has more good news to share before finally going public. The company has raised $40 million from America Movil, and enters into a business partnership with the company, which is seen as a move to bring its media products to the carrier’s subscribers, and in turn, boost its user base.

Shazam’s growth has been astounding, currently standing at 350 million users, which is twice the number of users it had just two years ago. Active monthly users have also increase, up from 22 million two years ago, to 70 million.

According to the executive chairman of Shazam, Andrew Fisher, the company is growing incredibly quickly prompting the need to purchase more capacity to support this growth as people spend more time using the service. He also said that the company is looking to innovate much faster as a result of this growth and the funding should give it the needed boost to move in this direction. Some of these innovations include the introduction of notable updates in its television product which should enable users discover ads and programs playing on screen. Other notable improvements include the application of emerging technologies such as audio and image recognition, which should make it much easier for people to engage with media and brands that they are interested in.

According to Fisher, the new funding will not change the company’s IPO timetable. While not disclosing more details as to when it will go public, he gives the assurance that the company will be ready once it goes through another phase of growth.

Shazam was founded in 2000. In 2011, it launched its Shazam for TV service which shows specific mobile-optimized content including social features. Shazam is currently in use in more than 200 countries.

Qwiki becomes Yahoo!’s 11th acquisition under Marissa Mayer

Yahoo-acquires-QwikiYahoo! recently announced that it has acquired the New York startup Qwiki, bringing the total number of acquisitions under the tenure of Marissa Mayer to 11. Originally a video search engine web platform since 2010, Qwiki shut down its web platform early this year and launched a social mobile video app after its iPad version of the app got about two million downloads.

After moving migrating back to New York from San Francisco, the company adopted the new focus in an effort to work with media brands such as ABC News. Qwiki works by organizing your photos and videos by date, location, and time of day and clumping it all together. It selects a song from your iTunes library based on your listening behavior, adds media, and allows you to edit the filters and captions before rolling a minute-long Qwiki with all of your iOS device’s camera roll. According to the founder and CEO, Doug Imburce, Qwiki was never intended to be a video-sharing app, but rather, a storytelling app.

What The New Acquisition Brings to Yahoo!

QwikiAs it has done with most of its acquisitions, Yahoo! will not kill off the brand. Instead, it will continue to support the app while the team joins the company in New York to reimagine the company’s storytelling experiences.

The mayor of New York city, Michael R. Bloomberg was also kind enough to comment on the new acquisition saying: “Qwiki is a great example of the momentum in New York City’s booming tech sector. While the company was started out west, they relocated here to be a part of our surging tech community… We congratulate them on their partnership with Yahoo!, and hope they continue to grow and thrive in New York City.”

Since taking over as CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer has spearheaded the acquisition of nearly a dozen startups that cost less than $100 million. These include Alike, Astrid, GoPolloGo, Jybe, Loki, Milewise, OntheAir, Snip.it, Stamped, Summly and now Qwiki.

What’s next for Yahoo!? As of this writing, Yahoo!’s Tumblr blog was updated with the news that the company had acquired Xobni, an address book app creator, bringing the total number of acquisitions by Mayer to 12.