The Current State of Platform, Software and Device Security

The year 2012 and the better part of 2013 have witnessed the birth of new computing platforms, social network platforms and general computing trends that not only make the gadget and internet a better place, but also a more dangerous one. These innovations and developed habits expose us to a variety of threats that we must be aware of in order to survive in the modern digitally connected world.


The release of new platforms gives both legitimate technology users and hackers something to look forward to. Users have to test new features and functionalities as hackers seek to exploit loopholes in the innovations’ firewalls. Since the adoption of new technology improves our efficiency, we will always be vulnerable to the accompanied hacker attacks and hope that the platform, gadget or software developer will release security patches as soon as security related bugs show up.

Are Security Risks Increasing or Decreasing?

As genuine developers come up with new software pieces, malicious developers are also at work trying to come up with re-engineered pieces that are better at breaching current and yet-to-come systems. This trend, confirmed by the attempts to improve on Skywiper/flamer to Stuxnet, gives system administrators something new to think about since they will be facing better-equipped criminals in the near future.

Even though the security trends of the future might strongly lean on the weaknesses of the new platforms and operating systems, we cannot overlook the birth of mobile devices. Since most people do not believe that, there are systems that can intrude the innate security of their mobile devices, cyber criminals might have an easier time in gaining access into the information people share through their devices.

With the number of possible additions to this list almost endless, the number of risks grows exponentially. The diversification of platforms and computing behaviors might give the average person an information overload that might force them to overlook some important security features or give cyber criminals more options to explore.

Do We Have a Choice?

Apart from the security issue, the manner in which we interact with other people is bound to change. The adoption of online solutions will greatly reduce personal level interactions while reducing the control we have over some of the information we might refer to as “personal.”

Nonetheless, the productivity per unit time is bound to increase since we no longer have to do all the hard work. The new systems and hardware products will take care of most of our needs despite the security and privacy risks, making them almost as important as the basic human needs. We will have no option but to live with the emergent vices and make the best out of the available virtues.

Will book apps replace the ebook?


More and more people are reading ebooks instead of physical books nowadays. It’s a platform that continues to be popular and it’s definitely a lot easier to carry dozens of books on a tablet than to carry even a few actual books with you on vacation. As ebooks continue to grow in popularity, there’s a new type of platform entering the market, and it’s called the book app.

What is a book app?

A book app presents a book in app form rather than ebook form, and it allows for much more interactivity. Sure, an ebook can have video and sound in it now, but a book app can do so much more. It can add interactive video, games, and new ways to get involved with the story; it’s an entirely new and different experience.

Book apps have actually been around for quite a while, mostly being prevalent in children’s books. When the iPad first came out, Disney released a free Toy Story book app, and it’s still one of the best apps in the app store. It includes the book, along with a coloring book and games mixed into the story to engage children as they read it. After this book was released, Disney continued to release more and more interactive book apps, and they still do to this day. Other content creators have since jumped in.

Book apps are gaining steam

However, while it’s not a brand new category by any means, book apps are expanding to include more than just children’s books. Just these past couple of months has seen the release of two fantastic book apps. First,  The Animator’s Survival Kit. This is an app based on the book of the same name, which is a book that teaches animation. Instead of creating an ebook edition (one still might be on the way, but it’s not available as of this writing), the book was converted into a full-blown app, adding many fantastic features you wouldn’t get otherwise. The app is packed with all kinds of videos, including interactive videos that let the reader see the animation steps in a way not possible in an ebook. It’s fantastic, and it’s the same retail price as the actual book, so you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck.

ebooks are still sticking around

That was just one example of a recent book app, but does this mean the end of the ebook is near? I don’t think so. Certain books only work as text, and it’s what most people still want. However, I do see interactive book apps becoming more and more popular as time goes on. Can you just imagine a Stephen King book as an interactive app? That would be pretty amazing.

5 Reasons Pinterest is a Better Search Engine than Google

pinterest_badge_redDespite its premise, platform, and overall demographic (crafty women), Pinterest comes out as one of the world’s most accurate search engines. Even better than actual search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sure, it was made as a social media website, and for leisure or entertainment time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less accurate as a searchable device. Whatever the magic formula, Pinterest’s creators seem to have nailed down the best way to search photos without receiving a plateful of spam.

5. Pinterest is more visually appealing

Hosting large, quality photos, Pinterest gives users an accurate overview of each post. This eye-catching perk shows what each link will hold, as well as providing a short customer-written response, so there’s no need to worry about keyword or phrase stuffing. Every single search query is organic.

4. Its results are more dynamic

No matter the topic, Pinterest shows users an array of results and related topics, where traditional search engines tend to stick within a single comfort zone. For instance, if searching “tech,” Pinterest brings up news articles, products, must-have articles, fabric patterns, etc. In contrast, Google shows a mixture of electronic and college websites. Which option is more helpful?

3. It doesn’t correct our spelling or grammar

Non-traditional spelling is practically a norm now; having search terms automatically “fixed” requires a re-search, taking time and falsely adjusting our saved search features. Pinterest sidesteps this auto adjustment, allowing correct searches to take place on a first-time basis. Users save on time and results, all in one helpful swoop.

2. No ads

No pop ups, banners, or videos that play automatically. It’s searching uninterrupted.

1. There’s no spam

Without paid searches or keyword stuffing put into web pages, searches bring up actual relevant information. Users don’t have to waste time scanning for content that relates to their needs, and clicks won’t be wasted on sites scamming for traffic. With Pinterest, users know they’re gaining relevant, organic searches that actually hold useful information – not paragraphs of filler that reads in circles. No scanning, no pop-up ads, and no spammy content. For a population used to all of the above as the everyday norm, Pinterest’s search engine approach is a truly novel idea.

Reading magazines on the iPad: A great, but confusing experience

I love printed magazines, and I have since I was a teenager, when my magazines of choice included hip-hop journal The Source, and lots of geeky Atari ST mags, which always came with a demo-filled 3.5-inch “cover disk.”

Much has changed since then, obviously. Easy software downloads have obliterated the last of the cover disks, and the printed magazine industry itself is struggling as a result of people consuming information on their PCs and tablets rather than in printed form. Many long-standing magazines have folded (pardon the pun), and many more have switched from monthly to quarterly production.

For me, however, the lure of printed magazines has remained strong. As I now live in Portugal, English-language magazines are hard to come by and are rather expensive, but every trip to the UK has me visiting the airport newsagent for a stack of magazines to bring home, including titles such as BBC Good Food, Wired, and Mac Format.

Reading Magazines on the iPad with Zinio
Reading Magazines on the iPad with Zinio

Enter the iPad

Earlier this week, everything changed, as I finally gave into temptation and purchased an iPad. The ability to read my favorite titles on a sensibly-sized screen was one of the main attractions.

One of the first things I did was download the Zinio magazine app. I had used this before on both my Mac and iPhone, but found the experience far from pleasurable on those platforms. It’s not comfortable or relaxing to read from a laptop screen, and magazine reading on an iPhone involves far too much pinching, zooming, and squinting. Furthermore, I don’t particularly fancy leaving the fate of either of these expensive gadgets to the bath or the beach.

Zinio on the iPad was everything I had hoped for. I could comfortably read a whole page without zooming, and the ability to switch to a pure-text display for long articles was very convenient. Within hours of unpacking my iPad, I had devoured the latest issue of Mac Life, as well as several other digital magazines that I purchased impulsively.

Still yearning for print editions

I then switched to Apple’s Newsstand app and downloaded Wired, another title I greatly enjoy in its paper form, but it’s not really quite right to describe the electronic version of Wired as a magazine; it’s more of an interactive experience, with embedded video clips, animations and mixed-media advertising. I was impressed, but before too long, I found myself wishing I was curled up with the paper copy instead.

The simple fact was that the overuse of clever features made the experience more like playing a game than reading a periodical. It wasn’t instantly clear how I was meant to use all of the gestures and such, and as a result I found the experience more tiring than relaxing, especially when I reached a page which appeared to have a glitch that interrupted my reading.


I’m truly glad that I have instant access to all of my favorite magazines, but I’m not at all convinced that I want magazines presented to me in a newfangled interactive way. While I’ve no doubt that this works wonderfully for interactive textbooks, I simply like to sit and read my magazines from cover to cover, without having to work out how and where to press the screen of my iPad.

So, while magazine reading will surely be something my iPad is used for much of the time, I’ll still be visiting the newsagents and leaving with a carrier bag full of magazines when I get the opportunity, and I won’t have to worry about dropping them in the bathtub.

3D Printers Approaching Mass Production as Key Patents Expire


Even though the existence of 3D printing isn’t alien, it might be news to many, especially those who don’t deal with architecture, industrial, automotive, or other forms of designing. Since the production of the first working 3D printer in 1984, different designers have selflessly contributed to the project leading to innovations that could even present a functional 3D printer like any other desktop printer.

The Dawn of a New Era as Patents Expire

Nonetheless, the realization of the 3D printer for every homestead campaign remains just but a dream since most of these ideas are patent protected. However, the impact of these patents is bound to wear off come February, when high definition 3D printing will soon be a reality to many.

The patents cover the most sustainable 3D printing technology, Laser Sintering. Apart from the low cost of producing printers utilizing this technology, getting the raw materials for the printing procedure is also cost effective and less hectic than it is the case for current 3D printers. In addition to this, Laser Sintering has a reputation of producing high resolution three dimensional products that can easily pass as any other hand-modeled finished products.

What to Expect with Patent Laws out of the Way

Once the patents expire, experts believe that accurate 3D printers will flood the market, though the versatility and quality of the gadgets might remain questionable since different producers will have access to the technology. The influx of cheap 3D printers from Asia and other countries that can source cheap labor will be inevitable and so will be the wide adoption of 3D printing technology in general.

3D Yoda

Image Credit: Gizmodo

If 3D printing goes mainstream, the general population will definitely come up with new ways of using them that will make them necessities in future technology. If all goes well, the 3D printer story would be like the normal printer story that started with noisy dot matrix machines that have evolved into silent efficient inkjet printers that we know today.

Currently, a desktop Laser-Sintering 3D printer retails for around $3,300, with purchasers having to wait for up to 18 months before laying hands on their investment. Even though 3D printing is definitely a cheaper approach to the manufacture of some device components, or even devices as a whole, it still remains minimally applicable since all the accurate printers require a fortune to purchase. This is bound to change come 2014, and so will the cost of production, and ultimately the products we buy at the convenience store down the corner.

Buy and rent videos on Apple TV? Use this tip to save a little cash


The Apple TV is great; I am a big fan and a happy owner, but until recently, I used to just buy a show or movie on my computer and then watch it on my Apple TV. However, when you buy or rent content on the second or third generation Apple TV, the device automatically assumes you want your video in HD. Not only does it assume you want HD, it doesn’t give you the option to purchase the SD version, which is considerably cheaper.

When you purchase content on your computer, you get the choice of buying/renting either the HD or SD option. Personally, I could care less about HD and would rather buy the SD version to save some money. It might only be a few dollars difference, but it all adds up in the end.

I always thought the only way to get the SD version of a TV show or movie was to go through iTunes on my computer, but I recently discovered a setting on the Apple TV that allows you to purchase SD versions, and it’s quite a simple trick.

First, go into “Settings” on your Apple TV, and then go down to the “iTunes Store”:


Within that menu is a setting for “Video Resolution”, with three options. If you choose the “Standard Definition” option, every video you purchase through the Apple TV will now be in SD and at SD pricing. If ever want something in HD, though, you can always go back and change the setting to “High Definition”, or buy the HD version through iTunes on your computer first.


This not only saves you some extra cash, but it also saves you inconvenient trips to your computer everytime you want to purchase a TV show or movie from iTunes. Happy watching!

Are we too dependent on technology?

pyramidIn a day and age where almost everything runs on electricity – lights, entertainment, cooking, communication – it can be hard to fathom a life without it. From smartphones to Saturday night movies set to dim lights and the scent of microwaved popcorn, power is a part of our everyday lives; we’ve grown accustomed to such amenities, but what happens when those capabilities aren’t available? Whether due to Mother Nature, dead batteries, no signal, or some other unforeseen circumstance, sometimes power just isn’t as readily available as we’d like.

Without our normal everyday access, certain tasks become seemingly impossible – at least at first, like checking the weather or looking up which Grease actor won the most Tonys in 1972. One is left to memory (or, *gasp*, an encyclopedia) and the other requires a technology that was invented more than a century ago: the radio. However, no matter how cave-like life without technology may sound, some days it’s just a necessity.

How Would We Fare?

Should worse come to worst, though, how would we stand up against life without technology in today’s world? Zombie apocalypse, natural disaster, electricity overload – whatever the cause, could the human race make it? How many of us actually know how to build a campfire, build a shelter, and live off the land without looking up instructions online?

It may sound like a long shot, and in all likelihood, when the power goes out, it’s usually only for minutes at a time (sometimes even hours or days), but the possibility is always there that it could be much worse.

A Growing Trend

Ever since inventions such as televisions and computers started making their way into middle class homes, their use has been a part of everyday activity. And, as the technologies grew, so has the amount of use they get each day. Now, it’s normal for users to be on a phone and/or computer the majority of the day. With so much time logged on, however, it’s left few hours for us to contemplate life without such amenities. The more time we spend plugged in, the harder it is to imagine life unplugged.

No matter your stance on electronics and the future, it’s always a good idea to accept the possibility that things can and often do go wrong. Phones won’t get service, TVs will break, and internet connections can be interrupted. While it may not happen often, having a backup plan is a great way to stay prepared, no matter what happens.

The Budget iPhone: A Risk for Apple?

The Apple rumor mill is currently working overtime with reports and leaks related to a new low-cost iPhone. In recent weeks, various photos have emerged, including the rear view of a plastic iPhone in a range of colors, as well as a pile of plastic boxes for an “iPhone 5C.”

While there’s nothing to guarantee that there’s any truth to the rumors, when the web-based chatter reaches this volume, there’s usually some level of fact in play. Prior to the launch of the iPhone 5, the bulk of the leaked information proved to be right, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that some of the reports that we’ve heard about the budget iPhone are correct.

Budget iPhone


Let’s assume that most of the rumors we’ve heard are true. What other assumptions can we hypothetically make about a new budget iPhone? Here’s what we could expect.

  • It will run iOS 7, because Apple’s hardly going to release something new that runs an old operating system, obviously.
  • Storage options will be similar, although there may be a return of the low-capacity 8GB model that’s been dropped since the release of the 4S.
  • It will have the same aspect ratio as the iPhone 5, although it may not be a retina display.

As we’re now playing the assumption game, let’s also assume that the cost of the budget iPhone is roughly half the cost of an iPhone 5. (A SIM-free 16GB iPhone 5 is $649 in the US right now, making our hypothetical budget iPhone cost around $325, which is broadly in line with internet rumor).

What will you get for paying double the price?

  • Potentially a little more storage space
  • A higher-resolution camera
  • A retina display
  • A phone built with higher-quality materials

So what’s my problem with all of this? My main problem is that aside from the points above, consumers still get an iPhone after paying half the price. Most everyday consumers don’t even know how many megapixels their camera has, nor do they probably care. Furthermore, the lack of a retina display will most likely have no bearing on sales, as the lower-quality display has done nothing to stop the iPad Mini selling by the boatload.

We’re then left with the materials. The materials that have made previous iPhones seem luxurious and desirable are the same materials that result in expensive repair bills from disastrous smashed shells and screen incidents. With this in mind, I have to wonder if, when I go to buy my next iPhone, I’ll decide to buy one that costs half as much. More importantly, it will still only cost half as much when I have to replace or repair it.


I welcome the possible release of a low-cost iPhone. I also fully appreciate that there will always be plenty of people who simply have to have Apple’s flagship phone. This is, of course, made easier for consumers in countries where handsets are network-subsidised.

However, I can’t help but wonder whether Apple is underestimating how many people just simply want an iPhone and aren’t that bothered about specs and materials. While a budget iPhone will undoubtedly sell to millions of people who haven’t been able to afford one before, it may also encourage existing iPhone users to “downgrade” the next time they “upgrade.”

Pre-ordering digital content: What’s the point?


If you are an iTunes Store customer, you have probably seen the sections in the store which allows you to pre-order music, books, or movies. I don’t have data to back this up, but I would assume pre-ordering in iTunes is very popular. If it wasn’t I would expect Apple to stop offering that option.

My question to those that pre-order from iTunes and other digital stores is: “Why?” It is not as if the store is going to run out of the file. The content will be available the day of release and five years after the release (unless it is pulled by the store or seller).

Incentives, freebies and deals

There used to be a time when I wouldn’t be writing this article. In the past, I remember iTunes offering special pricing for pre-orders or extra content for pre-orders. If that was still the case, I would understand why one would pre-order digital content – you pay the same, or maybe even less, and get a deal out of it.

However, these deals seem to have disappeared. I haven’t seen a pre-order deal in iTunes in a long time. In fact, I have found it to be cheaper to wait for the physical media release and buy that at a cheaper price than pre-ordering it. On occasion, a DVD movie with the digital version has been the same price as pre-ordering, or just buying, the digital version by itself.

Actual media pre-orders (ie. DVDs, video games, etc.) still have these special offers. Disney, for example, often offers some deal on pre-ordering an upcoming movie release. Game stores often offer some type of deal to pre-order a game for your console. Why can’t digital content do the same?

One acceptable reason to pre-order

The only reason I see for pre-ordering digital content is so that you don’t forget to buy something you really want. Maybe there is a movie coming out in four weeks and you want to buy it. By pre-ordering it in iTunes you can set your computer or device to automatically download pre-ordered content when available. The content gets released and you open the “Videos” app on your iPad and “Surprise!” your new movie is there that you forgot you even ordered it.

This reasoning could also backfire. You pre-order a digital item and then forget you ordered it. Let’s say a music album, for example. You see another digital music provider has a special release-day price to download the album. You buy it there and forget you already bought it from another provider. It automatically downloads for you and you have now bought it twice. Unfortunately, you can’t really return digital content.


Until I see a real reason to pre-order digital content, like the deals mentioned above, I will stick to waiting for release dates and finding release day deals. Speaking of release dates, that is one thing the pre-order list is good for – finding out the release date of that movie, book, or music you want!

New doorbell lets you answer the door from anywhere

doorbotIn the growing list of items to become “smart”, now comes the doorbell. Wi-fi enabled, video stream-able, and recreating the definition of privacy laws, this doorbell puts a completely new take on answering the front door. Known as the DoorBot, this new invention brings both safety and technology to the old fashioned knock at the door.

For instance, when traveling or running errands, a user can video chat with a delivery man, asking him to place a package around back or leave it on the porch. The camera also allows homeowners to screen their guests; simply check the camera to see who’s waiting at the other side before opening up one’s door. Whether using this feature to duck salesmen or helping kids identify strangers vs. friends, the DoorBot is bringing convenience to answering one’s door.

How it Works

Equipped with a small camera, when “rang,” the DoorBot notifies users through its free app and allows them to remotely chat with a guest. Connecting to the home’s Wi-fi, DoorBot owners can see a clear view of the knocker, while the guest only hears a voice. This way users can maintain their safety, never even having to mention they are at a remote location. While sound comes out of the device itself, it could easily be a speaker from indoors. Even if home, residents can answer remotely to keep interactions safe and brief.

The DoorBot also runs on a rechargeable battery, so there’s no need to constantly replace its power source. Add on an extra security feature, known as Lockitron, with the device for peace of mind, or stick to this futuristic doorbell for a convenient way to answer the door … no matter your location. In a world where smartphones can provide so many other virtual tasks, why not answer your door as well?

With the security add-on, where users can lock and unlock their front door from their phones, the device runs at about $350. Updated features also help the model stay put, so there’s no worry about doorbell theft.

Whether receiving packages while on business, wanting to protect one’s kids, or just need a way to thwart the salesmen, DoorBot offers a unique approach to the old fashioned, “Who is it?” form of answering one’s door.

Pre-order yours today or wait for them to hit the shelves later this year.

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