June 19th, 2013
Bitcoins have garnered big press lately. And why not? They are a digital means for people and businesses to pay each other over the internet. As Entrepreneur Magazine explains in a newly released story, these virtual coins are traded between individuals online with no trace being remaining. These virtual coins also don’t pass through any banks or financial institutions. And this raises the big question: Should your business take Bitcoin payments? Here, according to Entrepreneur, are the major questions you may have regarding this virtual currency.
What they do
As Entrepreneur explains, Bitcoins are virtual currency. Individuals purchase them with real money and then exchange them online to buy products and services from a number of vendors – some reputable, some illegitimate – in the virtual world. According to Entrepreneur, a growing number of reputable vendors – such as Reddit and Wordpress – are now accepting these virtual coins.
Businesses do accept a safety risk when they decide to accept Bitcoins. But itâ€™s the same risk they take with all online financial transactions. Thereâ€™s no guarantee that a cybercriminal wonâ€™t hack their Bitcoin transactions. These transactions are encrypted. But thatâ€™s not enough to deter the savviest of cybercriminals.
Why take them?
Along with risk, there are some benefits associated with Bitcoins. For starters, itâ€™s a growing trend. Your small business might need to accept Bitcoins to work with certain online vendors. Secondly, Bitcoins donâ€™t come with any fees or charges from banks or other financial institutions. They also arenâ€™t taxed.
June 13th, 2013
It’s happened to everyone. You’re on vacation or far from home when your phone, laptop or tablet starts to run out of juice. Thank goodness, you can prevent this from happening by plugging your devices into external battery packs, a single gizmo that can charge any device you plug into it. The Lifehacker Web site just graded some of the best external battery packs. Listed below are the siteâ€™s findings.
The Anker Astro tops Lifehacker’s list due to the immense power it holds, with the 3E, E4 and Pro versions each supplying some serious oomph. Lifehacker readers pointed to these models’ portability, small size and reasonable price points.
New Trent is known, deservedly so, for its iCarrier and iGeek external battery packs. These packs, will also provide powerful charges to devices. They have indicators lights that quickly tell users how much power their external battery packs still hold. That way, youâ€™ll never be unpleasantly surprised by a dead charger.
Energizer is a big name in batteries, so it’s little surprise that its XP series of external battery packs ranks so high among Lifehacker readers. One of the biggest selling points? These devices come with a wide selection of tips and cables that allow you to charge almost any phone available, even older models.
June 13th, 2013
It’s the big question: Do you need to upgrade to Microsoft Word 2013, the new version of Microsoft’s popular word-processing program. According to the editors at PC World Magazine the correct answer is definitely yes. PC World just recently ran a feature story praising the latest version of Word, and pointing out several new features that might dramatically improve your productively. Before you decide whether it’s upgrade time, check out these new features that PC World praises.
More Design Options
The advantages of Word 2013 start with its new and improved Design Tab, as outlined by PC World. This tab now contains all of the themes, colors and fonts that users could want in one central location. Users who discover a mixture of themes and colors that they prefer can now click “Set as Default” to bring up this combination every time they create a new Word document, something that will save them a significant amount of time. Word 2013 also permits users to preview their themes, colors and fonts before they apply them to a document, another feature that will save users time.
Making Reading Easier
Maybe you use Word more often to read documents rather than create them. If so, Word 2013 features a new Read feature that makes reading Word documents more pleasant than ever. First, the Read feature automatically resizes Word documents so they fill your whole screen. Secondly, Read provides on-screen arrows that allow you to flip through pages or swipe the screen from either edge of the display if you’re using a touch-screen monitor. You can even click on images, charts or tables in Read mode to make them bigger, and easier to read.
Eliminating PDF Frustration
It can be frustrating to read or edit PDF files in previous versions of Word. This is no longer the situation. Word 2013 makes it possible for users to open PDF files quickly. And, better yet, it lets them edit them, too, without forcing them to use a third-party application. Users can use Word 2013 to maneuver images around a PFD file or to modify or edit the numbers or text found in charts or tables. It’s an exceptional feature for users who frequently work on PDF files.
June 7th, 2013
Microsoft has taken its share of hits recently about Windows 8, the latest version of its long-running Windows operating system. Nevertheless, thereâ€™s something a great deal of critics are leaving out with regards to this much-maligned operating system: Despite its flaws, it actually works pretty well. PC World writer Brad Chacos tackled this in a recent feature story. The story highlights why Windows 8, in spite of its bad press, might actually be the best desktop operating system available today. Is Chacos right? Think about these arguments in support of Windows 8.
Chacosâ€™ most persuasive argument in favor of Windows 8? The sheer variety of software and programs that accompany the operating system. As Chacos writes, no other operating system comes with the depth and breadth of programs that Windows 8 operates. In fact, the operating system offers such a selection of programs you probably wonâ€™t even use many, if not most, of them.
Windows 8 excels in the case of syncing, too, Chacos writes. The syncing ability is powerful enough to make Appleâ€™s beloved iCloud look limited by comparison. Once you have an online Microsoft account, you can sync anything from files, photos and videos to browser specifications and desktop preferences to any other computer running Windows 8.
Internet Explorer doesnâ€™t get a lot of respect. But the browser has actually improved in the years since Firefox has hit the scene, Chacos says. Today, the browser is easy to navigate. Itâ€™s also quite customizable. Best of all? Internet Explorer offers plenty of protection from hackers and cyber criminals, Chacos writes. Computer-security company Symantec recently ranked Internet Explorer as one of the most secure browsers out there.
June 4th, 2013
Here’s a noteworthy fact: In 2012, companies with just one to 250 employees — what we commonly think of as small businesses — were found to be the victims in more than 30 percent of all cyber attacks. Entrepreneur Magazine cites this statistic, taken from the 2013 Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec, to demonstrate a point: Even small businesses need a cybersecurity plan.
The Entrepreneur story states that the first thing in any cybersecurity plan is anti-virus software. This software is critical for small business owners. Anti-virus software isn’t perfect, and particularly clever viruses can slip past it, but businesses that don’t have any anti-virus protection are setting themselves up for a massive hack.
Many company hacks start with employees unintentionally opening suspicious e-mail messages. That is why, Entrepreneur suggests that small business owners regularly remind their staff to delete any suspicious e-mail messages, even when they are supposedly coming from people they know. Businesses need to emphasize to employees, to not click on links they find after opening suspicious e-mail messages.
Entrepreneur also recommends that business owners use firewalls to guard their inbound and outbound network traffic. Firewalls can keep hackers from making use of a small business’ network. Firewalls can also stop employees from accessing potentially dangerous Web sites.
May 30th, 2013
Poor Microsoft. The company has already been struggling with the bomb that is Windows 8. Now, according to PC services company Soluto, the 13-inch MacBook Pro, manufactured by chief rival Apple, has become the best-performing Windows laptop. Ouch.
Tech Web site CNET recently documented on Soluto’s findings. The company conducted what it terms “frustration analytics” on laptops that run Windows software. Established PC makers were left behind by the MacBook Pro.
As CNET states, every Windows installation on the MacBook Pro is clean. They software runs as it was designed to run. And crashes are uncommon. Soluto even refers to other, traditional PC makers as installing too much “crapware” on their laptops.
To reach its conclusions, Soluto studied the number of crashes per week that Windows laptops suffered, the number of hang-ups they went through and the average boot time of the computers. The research also considered how frequent Blue Screens — also known as Blue Screens of Death — were on top-selling Windows laptops.
May 28th, 2013
Poor Microsoft. The company canâ€™t do anything without being criticized. Microsoft has already been recoiling from the PR disaster that is Windows 8. Some critics are even crediting the new operating system with hastening the end of desktop personal computers. Now critics are even targeting the logos that Microsoft has unveiled to identify its programs on Windows 8. Yes, critics are now making claims that Microsoft isnâ€™t artistic enough.
A Quora Critic
This user argues that Microsoft isn’t putting sufficient time into designing artistic, attractive logos. Instead, the user writes, Microsoft is dashing off simplistic, minimalist logos. These logos, the assertion goes, look as though graphics pros dashed them off in a few minutes. The user adds that Microsoft is dumbing down their logos since introducing Windows 8 and Office 2013.
Everyone Has an Opinion
Of course, not everyone agreed. Many Quora users – a long series of them, actually – logged on to defend Microsoftâ€™s logos. Many said that they preferred the starker, more simplified look of the new logos, stating that the â€œless is moreâ€ aesthetic comes into play with Microsoftâ€™s new logos.
Simple is Better?
It’s hard to argue with this last argument. Microsoft’s new logos do look sleek. You can immediately tell which logo goes with which Microsoft program which, of course, is the job of a logo. You can criticize Microsoft for a number of things – especially for Windows 8 – but when it comes to logos, the company remains on the cutting edge.
May 23rd, 2013
Are you guilty of one of the worst bad technology habits ? Do you ever use the exact same password and login name for a large number of online sites? If so, you might be putting yourself at considerable risk. Clever hackers could crack your password. When they do, whatâ€™s to stop them from utilizing that password to access all of your favorite online sites – including, possibly, your online bank – while pretending to be you?
According to the story, LivingSocial.com — which offers users daily bargains on anything from restaurants and spas to amusement parks and museums — recently suffered a enormous security breach. The breach exposed the names, e-mail addresses and password information for up to 50 million LivingSocial users, according to ars technica.
According to ars technica, Tim Oâ€™Shaugnessy, the chief executive officer of LivingSocial, quickly reacted by advising users to change their LivingSocial passwords. Oâ€™Shaugnessy took the added step of advising the siteâ€™s users to change any passwords that are similar to or the identical to the ones they use at LivingSocial. Thatâ€™s sensible advice. It remains to be seen, though, how many LivingSocial users will take this step.
A Hassle, But Important
Itâ€™s bad enough if a hacker nabs your password at one site. But what if you use this exact same password at other sites? What happens if you use this same password at your online bank or credit union? You could be in a world of hurt as this hacker quickly uses your universal password to break into dozens of your favorite or most sensitive online sites. Yes, itâ€™s not much fun needing to recall the dozens of passwords you need as you make your way across the Internet. Even so, take the time. Itâ€™s much less fun to find out that a cyber criminal has used your password to empty your online bank account.
May 21st, 2013
No one is perfect. We all have bad habits. Some people smoke. Some eat in our cars. A few write e-mail messages in all capital letters. Here’s the good news, though. In regards to technology, it’s not too difficult to identify our bad habits and break them. PCWorld magazine recently ran a list of the most frequent bad tech habits. Take a quick look at these tech mistakes. Are you affected by a few of these bad tech habits?
Becoming a target
Your tablets and smart phones are valuable. So donâ€™t make it so easy for thieves to take them. So many people practice the bad tech habit of leaving their devices unwatched at a coffee shop or restaurant booth when they set off to get refills or another cookie. While theyâ€™re gone, thieves can easily snatch their devices off the table and quickly leave the cafe. Then there are those folks who perform the bad habit of staring so intently into their smart phone screens they donâ€™t have any attention for their surroundings. Itâ€™s easier for crooks to sneak up close to these preoccupied folks, sock them and escape with their smart phones or tablets.
PCWorld also listed several bad tech habits that can hurt your health. For instance, if you sit hunched before your computer screen all day, you may develop a serious case of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you stare at your computer screen for far too long, you can develop headaches or damage your eyes. Finally, if you never leave your desk throughout the workday, you can acquire everything from back pain to eye strain to headaches to fuzzy thinking. Bust these three bad habits and take short breaks from your computer screen throughout the workday. Your body will thank you.
Lost Data, Personal Information
What happens if your computer suffers an unexpected hard-drive crash? Are you going to lose your important files? Should you suffer from the bad tech habit of not backing up your files, you might. And do you reuse the same passwords frequently at several different Web sites? This tech habit can open you to a whole lot of pain should anyone crack that go-to password. Now, rather than gaining access to your personal information on one site, this cyber criminal can gain access to it on several. Lastly, do you ignore the updates that publishers create for the software that you most frequently use? Don’t. Neglecting these updates can make you susceptible to hacks and keep you from fully enjoying your software.
May 17th, 2013
We would all like to believe that we’re clever enough to detect phishing e-mails in our inboxes. Many of them are easy to spot. Even so the scam artists behind phishing e-mails have become better. And that means that they’re netting some high-profile victims. For instance, as Slate recently reported, a particularly sneaky phishing e-mail recently caused a lot of difficulties for the Associated Press, the country’s biggest provider of wire-service news.
The AP attack
Recently, a group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army hacked into the Twitter account of the AP and posted a message saying that President Obama had been seriously injured in an explosion at the White House. This Tweet was false, needless to say. But that didn’t stop the stock market from having a big drop. And it shows, too, that the savviest of us have to be on guard from sophisticated phishing attacks.
A real news story?
How did this attack succeed? Hackers sent legitimate-looking e-mail messages to AP staffers directing them to what was said to be an important news story in the Washington Post. The phishing e-mail was professional enough that some AP staffers clicked on it, starting the process that gave the Syrian Electronic Army control over the companyâ€™s Twitter account. AP had to de-activate its Twitter account in response.
It’s very easy to poke fun at the AP for getting hacked. Nonetheless, nobody is safe from the more advanced con artists behind the latest phishing attacks. These scammers no longer send phishing e-mails about Nigerian princes. Instead, they send messages that look like they’re coming from people we know. The lesson here? You have to be constantly vigilant in order to defend yourself from today’s trickiest online scammers.