Multi-tasking mush brain and other maladies I may have…

I found this infographic “Is Your Computer Killing you?” on scoop.it tonight. Apparently the relatively harmless sounding “multi-tasking mush brain” can lead to ADHD, checking my fb before(and in) bed could be causing insomnia, and while I don’t have a gaming addiction (which caused 15% of divorces according to an online divorce study) I definitely do have an inability to get off the internet. Apart from at work of course – unless I’m grabbing lunch, or a coffee, or have a few minutes spare between meetings, or am on the train….

Right, I’m switching off (well it is 11pm) and setting my alarm (again) for a run before work (to stave off obesity – see below).  Lets hope the pressure of putting that here will force me to do it 🙂

Update: and so it did! Hoping now that I can do it again..

Is Your Computer Killing You? An infographic by WhoIsHostingThis.com Reviews

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Malware in the Corporate World

An interesting info graphic on Malware threats by Shawn Hess at WebProNews back in April.

Update: replaced image with one that is actually readable….original post was done by iPhone

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What is Malware? (and how to prevent and get rid of it)

Malware logo Crystal 128.
Malware logo Crystal 128. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you ever get suspicious that your PC has been infected? Particularly if your applications start falling over or slowing down?

I do.

I start getting worried but then convince myself I’m being paranoid – there are loads of reasons why apps fall over or run slower, and my firewall and antivirus software would have stopped anything suspect, right?

Finally, last week, prompted by an article by Jack Wallen for TechRepublic, I looked into what Malware is and whether I needed to do anything extra to protect my PC. This is particularly important coming up to the silly season as I plan to do as much of my Xmas shopping online as humanly possible. Taking two toddlers anywhere is difficult at the best of times, I can’t even contemplate Xmas shopping with them..

So, what is Malware?

According to Wikipedia Malware is

software used or created to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems.

We are probably most familiar with Malware such as viruses, trojans and worms which have been around since the dawn of computers. Today, Malware on personal PC’s would most likely be looking for personal information to use for profit – possibly by recording your keystrokes (very creepy..). You’ve probably heard at some point that only Windows PC’s are targeted, but it’s important to know that Mac’s are not immune. Since 2007 there has been a rapid increase in the number of viruses found on Mac’s and as more and more users switch to Mac’s the number of viruses will also increase.

What do Trusted Sites have to do with Malware?

Very little hopefully! Website owners pay companies such as Norton (Symantec) to run tests on their site to make sure Malware is kept out. One danger to us is that, without this level of security, a Malware creator may have found a way to inject their Malware into perfectly good software that we want to download – and when we install it, the Malware gets installed too. Most Malware is created so cleverly that you can’t see that you have it installed at all – not even in your programs or processes list. If a website is secured it will have a badge such as the Norton one here and you can be pretty sure it’s safe. Make sure you only download or buy from trusted sites.

Is Spyware a type of Malware?

This is the $64,000 question! Hmmm… yes and no. Spyware is designed to track what you do on the internet and use that information in some way to benefit the Spyware creator, so technically if you haven’t explicitly installed it, yes, it is Malware. It’s a funny one though, because some forms of Spyware are useful – like the ones that target ads at your interests, or suggest similar music or websites you might like (unless you don’t want anyone to know what your interests are….). Some Spyware is also packaged with legitimate software and the licence agreement vaguely worded to cover the use of it by the company – and since practically no one reads licence agreements you don’t know you are agreeing to it. A bit sneaky I reckon.

I’m getting paranoid now, how do I check if I have Malware on my pc?

Your security/firewall/antivirus software should run disk scans and check all your downloads – but it’s also useful to use a few different utilities and run them manually the odd time when you get worried. Malware is constantly evolving so there’s a risk that one utility will detect new ones faster than another.

Just to be safe, I have installed two – Malwarebytes (on a 60 day free trial) which was recommended by Jack Wallen who says its great for detecting Spyware; and Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removing tool because, despite some detractors from the anti-Microsoft camp, it’s seems to work as well as any other tool – and it’s free! They were both very easy to install and run but can take a while to go through all your drives if you have a lot on them.

The good news is neither tool found anything on this PC (and if they had they would have automatically removed it) – woo hoo!

Top tip

The easiest and best way to keep your computer (or tablet, or phone) Malware free is to always keep your operating system and anti-virus software up to date. Make sure you switch automatic updates on – your system will be protected from any new viruses as early as possible.

And for an extra credit..

Ever wanted to know the difference between a virus, a trojan and a worm? If so – read on…

According to Wikipedia, a virus is something that gets distributed by you taking some action – like opening a dodgy attachment from someone which then infects your PC with a virus and can be passed on. During the late 90’s there were a few big ones that used your address book and email to distribute itself on – remember those? Mostly harmless from what I recall, before the online banking and shopping boom of course.

A trojan (from the trojan horse of Greek mythology) is Malware that gets installed along with desirable software. Spyware is commonly distributed in this way – but as mentioned above, you may actually be agreeing to it in the terms and condition.

A worm, on the other hand, actively transmits itself over a network to infect other computers.

So now you know 🙂

If you’d like to know more about Malware, click through to Jack Wallen’s and Wikipedia’s articles linked above or on some of the articles listed below.

Wishing you a very pleasant and Malware-free online shopping season!

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Top 5 Apps Your Kids Will Love This Week

See on Scoop.itUseful Apps

Chris Crowell is a veteran kindergarten teacher and contributing editor to Children’s Technology Review, a web-based archive of articles and reviews on apps, technology toys and video games. Download a free issue of CTR …

See on mashable.com

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I’m back!

Hello again!  Two months is a long time between posts…  I’ve had a crazy few months with visiting relatives and an insane time at work (insane busy but mainly insane, insane) and I’ve been finding it hard to focus on putting a post together – but this evening I’ve finally done it – yay me!

I’m planning on finishing in time to hook up with Jess for IBOT next week.  It’s on that bugbear “malware“.  Like most of my posts it will be short and (hopefully) informative, but mainly short.  Lucky for me I called this blog “technology tidbits”, if it  implied anything bigger I’d never get a post out…. til then, adieu!

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Are you acting your social media age?

I hadn’t even heard of some of these…

Social media use by age group
Social Media Demographics via VentureBeat

Joining Trish for Wordless Wednesday here

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Find of the week: Polyvore.com (dress-ups for grown-ups)

I randomly saw a reference to Polyvore this week and had to go try it out.  Hours of fun! It took me just a few minutes (at least that’s what it felt like…) to put together an outfit (known as a “Polyvore set”) and post it here. I could even click through an item and buy it if I happened to have my credit card handy (very dangerous).
It’s like having those cardboard cut out dolls and paper outfits of my childhood but with an unlimited amount of real clothes – what’s not to like??
Try it out here: www.polyvore.com
Have you heard of it?  Have you used it?  What do you think?
1990's style for 2012

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Portability, 1980’s style?

I saw this yesterday on Engadget.  It’s a portable 3D printer that fits in a briefcase.

Ben Heck's portable 3D printer via Jason Hidalgo at Endgaget
Ben Heck’s portable 3D printer via Jason Hidalgo at Endgaget

Now, I realise that this is an amazing feat of technology, the culmination of decades of research unfathomable only a short time ago. I mean, the fact that we will all soon be able to afford our own 3D printers (see my previous post) is mind blowing and I am in no way trying to belittle this tremendous achievement – but the fact is, this photo really made me giggle.

Back to the future?

You see, it reminded me of those “mobile” phones, back in the 80’s, that were so big they had to be carried round in briefcases. I imagined myself in a park chasing after the kids with my mobile phone in one hand…. and the briefcase in the other… not!  Can you picture city streets full of people chatting on their briefcase mobile phones today? How on earth would they hold their coffee?  Ok, so maybe I’m alone on this one..

gdgt: at&t museum briefcase phone
gdgt: at&t museum briefcase phone (Photo credit: Lynn Friedman)

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “portable” in the context of a “device” I am expecting a pocket or handbag sized device – not a briefcase sized one – irrespective of definitions and whether the printer is actually portable or not.

Are gadgets getting smaller or bigger?

Anyway, it got me thinking about how my perception of “mobile” and/or “portable” has changed over the years.  Do you remember the days when phones were getting smaller and smaller and we all thought we’d end up with the phone parts embedded in our little fingers and thumbs so we’d look like we had imaginary phones? Then the iPhone came along and mobile phones got bigger again. Then the iPad came along and portable devices got bigger again. Right now tablets seem to have stabilized size wise and as they replace laptops as the device of choice for work, the days of lugging briefcase sized gadgets around (for the average person) might be over.

Portability 2012 style

Personally I have never carried around any printer (portable or not, big or small) on a regular basis as I don’t consider then truly portable for day to day use. I consider them portable in the way that a portable television is portable, or a portacot is portable. I can certainly move them to another location without having to call for backup, but I’d think twice before doing it due to the effort and potential complication involved (ever had one of those portacot frames stubbornly refuse to click into place? You’re not alone..).

How do I define whether a device is truly portable?

My home laptop is truly portable (15 inch screen, full keyboard) in that I can easily move it around the house one handed (essential with two toddlers underfoot). Portability was one of my key criteria when looking for a new laptop (see my previous post here).

On that basis I reckon a modern-ish 15″ laptop is my upper limit of a truly portable device these days, from a size and weight perspective. I’m not saying the bigger devices aren’t portable, just that I would be unlikely to carry them around with me on a regular basis, or at all. Just because it says portable on the label, doesn’t mean I’m going to agree!

Your thoughts?

What do you think when you hear the words “portable device”?  Are you expecting something you can carry around in your pocket or handbag?  Do you think your expectations when you hear the word “portable” have changed over the years?

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Spooky Spokeo…how much does it know?


Spokeo is a “Personal Information Site” that uses deep web crawlers to find information publicly available on the web to build a profile of you, yes you. And me, and anyone else that has ever signed up for anything on the web.
I’d never heard of it but started seeing it in search results over the last few weeks. We have some major changes happening at work so I was googling a few names (as you do) to see what linkedin had to say about them. I kept seeing these “Spokeo” results so clicked in to have a look.

“Not your Grandma’s phone book”

Spokeo is a people search engine that aggregates white-pages listings and public records. Luckily for us non-Americans, the name search is limited to US residents. You can search on an email address for non-US residents which will tell you a bit more, but then it wants to charge you for the privilege. The urban legend website lists quite a few similar sites, the most comprehensive (for free) seeming to be pipl. Urban legend also mentions concerns about so-called invasions of privacy – but from what I can see (and read), all the information available is public anyway.

How much does it know?

I come from a large Irish Catholic family so put the lot into pipl to see what came out. I put both names and primary email addresses.

Mum – nothing even though she has a gmail address.
Dad – ditto
Sis 1 – lives in the US so they had her age, work address and Spokeo even had a google map of her house (this site returned very little for free for anyone else), but then again her address is available in the white pages.
Sis 2 – not a lot, only found one social network profile but she uses a wide variety of email addresses and online profiles, and lives in Dublin
Sis 3 – found a load of her public profiles including tweets and facebook pages – she runs an online wine business in Shenzhen, China (www.crushedgrapes.cn) so would be delighted I’m sure.
Bro – again, lots of tweets and public profiles – but again, he runs a live music service (www.45sound.com).
Me – pipl returned my age from my bebo profile (I’d forgotten I was on that site) which was a bit disturbing as I try to keep that private, not that I’m embarrassed of course, merely for security purposes.. Anyway, I went to the effort of getting my bebo password reset only to find that I can’t remove the year of birth – how annoying! Apart from that, again I wasn’t too concerned by what it found.

So why are people freaking out?

From what I can see, two reasons – firstly, Spokeo (and pipl etc.) gathers all the data it can find about you on the web, so if you use the same email address and your real name for all your online memberships, it will probably build quite a comprehensive picture of you which could be a bit confronting. If you don’t, it won’t. It could be used by someone stalking you, but then again, they could find all that info about you anyway if they looked hard enough.

Secondly – there are rumours out there that if you go onto the Spokeo website it downloads cookies that start tracking your movements and therefore gather more data about you. Now, I don’t really believe that, but since it wouldn’t kill me to delete all my cookies for the last hour, I’m going to do it anyway 🙂

So if you’re curious have a look at the sites below:

http://www.spokeo.com
http://pipl.com

Did they have much info about you? Anything that freaked you out? Should I be more concerned? Let me know!

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