Category Archives: Technology

Not a privacy expert, but is there anything we can do about it?

ImageSeveral months ago I came across this article, “Gmailers Beware: Google Says You Have No “Reasonable Expectation” of Privacy” and it got me thinking about this issue of internet privacy and how un-private it is.

As a Gmail user most times I pay no attention to the ads that pop up.  Around the time of this article I recall having an email discussion with some friends about these same ads and how our emails are “read” in order to target the ads.  I laughed because while we were having the conversation I checked my email to see ads were for luxury baby clothes, a European cruise, on-line universities and loans.  The luxury baby clothes was particularly hysterical because I was 46 at the time, so babies were NOT in the future, the rest of them made complete sense based on the mail that was in my box at the time.  Could this info been intercepted just by scanning the headers, sure, the email content? Sure? Do I care? Yes but…

I don’t know why, maybe its cultural, maybe its big brother paranoia but I’ve never felt secure about ANY communication method other than face to face and even that is dicey depending on the content of the conversation.  I always assumed that there is some level of snooping that goes on by the government, having come up in the era of wire-tapping and Watergate and all.  That’s not to say that I’m in favor of the government snooping on its citizens, I am not and that’s a discussion for somewhere else, but I assumed that it happens.  However, the idea of a for-profit company snooping, even if its only by electronic means and it’s only for targeted advertising is kind of unseemly.  What’s even more disturbing is that users of the service supposedly accept snooping when accepting the terms of service. What? I certainly didn’t agree to that and I doubt that a)anyone would agree to it and b)many people even read the terms of service in the first place to figure it out.

What do we do? I think we watch the progress of the original lawsuit.  Links to the source documents can be found in this NYT article As a non-expert, that is all that I can offer.  Is Google within its right to read scan email headers for targeted ads? Do you believe your right to privacy has been violated?  Is there anything an average Jane/Joe can do about it? Please feel free to let me know either way in the comments or consider a guest post on the subject.

Photo(s): MsThorns

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Not an OS Expert but Windows Is on My Last Nerve

20131215_221200I live a fairly regimented life. A certain amount of time is allotted for all the things that I have to do throughout the day.  This doesn’t always work to perfection at my 9 to 5 but my expectation once I walk out of the doors of my employer is that I’m the master of my universe.  Part of that universe involves writing and managing my photo and music libraries.  Out of those three things it takes me the longest to do the writing, specifically the editing.  The last thing I want to do, on a tight schedule is wait on Windows.

Scenario one:  After looking for my wireless and syncing all my cloud stuff my three year old HP Pavilion is still pretty zippy and does everything that I want it do, and do it quite well.  However it never fails that when I’m writing that BOOM an “important Windows update” needs to happen that will require me to save my work because my machine will restart in x minutes.  I usually delay it, but to have it even pop up in the first place totally messes with my writing chi.

Scenario two: Posts written and scheduled, photos uploaded, etc. Mission accomplished. I’m tired and ready to shut down but I can’t go to bed.  Windows needs to load updates and says to me  “do not turn off or unplug your computer”. This is problematic because I shut down and pack up everything at night to avoid the mad rush in the morning. Small updates usually finish while I’m prepping for bed, big ones require me to leave it on.  Windows is messing with my bed time.

Scenario three: I just remembered something I need to pull before I leave for the gym/work/wherever in the morning.  I need to  turn on quickly to retrieve said item and hop off.  Windows says no can do, it has to load the previous updates. Windows is now messing with my morning flow which always elicits a couple of F bombs and promises to myself to never try to do something “quick” on my machine in the morning.

Windows has danced around me, teased me, taunted me and is now on my last nerve and I must do something about it. Any ideas on how to get Windows off my nerves?


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Not a technology expert, not an idiot either

As an author of many a Twitter rant about AT&T, I want a pile a little bit more onto the rant heap, however this time it’s not directed squarely at AT&T.

Today was bill paying day. Having received notice that my data usage was at 65% of the monthly limit I decided to check the usage before paying the bill. A quick scan revealed that there was large chunks of data usage occurring at times when I was sleep.  Of course I called ready to issue the standard cuss out.  I got a young lady on the phone from technical support who starts asking.  me do you sign out and kill tasks when you’re done. I told her truthfully sometimes yes, sometimes no which is as it has always been. To see this jump based on typical usage was suspect.  Without swearing for once I made it clear that every time I call the suggestion is that there something I’m doing or not doing that is the cause.  Then we checked a few settings which were five as is, and had a conversation.

She shared that her first bill after getting a smartphone was a whopper because of use of the data network and the unreliability of Wi-Fi in different locations.  She along stated that she uses a task killer App and a data usage App to avoid overage problems. I took down the info, thanked her from the recommendations and ended the call on a pleasant note. Sure AT&T is involved as my service provider by my ream rant is against all the service providers, manufacturers and advertising agencies that have sold us the foolishness that is the smartphone.

When I think of a smartphone or a smart anything my belief is that this smart thing is an expert at what it does. In the case of the smartphone, my expectation is that it makes expert calls, texts and data. What I’ve found, even with my previous iPhone is that they all do plenty of stuff. Some tasks are completely expertly, some average and some poorly. Sure I can talk and text at the same time but every day a call drops. I can look things up on the internet bit sometimes its painfully slow.  Texts don’t always come through and sometimes the phone shuts off without it being touched.  Sure their are many factors that contribute to performance like the speed of or traffic on the network, concurrent processes running on the phone, the operating system and so on. The point is the phone is only as smart as the environment it operates in whether its the knowledge level of the user or all the outside factors delineated above.  As a consumer I look at commercials and hear folks talk about all of the magic that is a smartphone and I want to experience it. These phones aren’t magic.

Providers, manufacturers and advertisers how about getting together and crafting sine disclaimer language? Something to the effect of “this phone is magic, but only inthese situations.” Doing so would temper expectations,  ease nerves, and prevent folks from getting cussed out.

This post was written on a phone with a Wi-Fi connection and mobile data turned off.


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Not a technology expert is skittish about “the verdict”

All my feeds are jumping with the news of Apple’s $1+ BILLION award in this Apple vs. Samsung fight.  I wish I could say that I don’t care but quite frankly I’m a bit skittish about it.  Do I have reason to be?  I’m hoping that the real techies and geeks out there can ease my nerves by answering a couple of questions.

Will sales of existing patent infringing devices cease?
Does Samsung have technology at the ready to push out new devices that would not be in violation and I mean stuff that is tested (or however that goes) and ready to head to the FCC and then to market?
What affect will this judgment have on consumer choice?  I think (but could be wrong) that Samsung is the biggest (in sales) manufacturer of Android devices, then HTC, then everybody else.
What impact will the judgment have on Samsung’s bottom line, both immediate and future?
Will devices already in use experience any problems?
Does Apple now officially rule the world?

I hope that the answer to the last question is a definitive no.  As I prefer my apple to be of the Golden Delicious variety.

If you have answers, please let me know in the comments or hit me up wherever you linked to this post.

This is one of the infringing devices :-/

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Not a headset expert but the Backbeat 903+ was a fail

In a moment of frustration and desperation with my iPhone 3G I ran to the AT&T store to pick up a new phone. I purchased some accessories while along with a new Android phone (so far a fail), one being the Plantronics Backbeat 903+ Bluetooth headphones. There were no plans to use them for talking, they were strictly to be used for listening to music through the new phone or anything else I could hook them up to.

The Good
The headphones were easy to connect to the handset, were fully charged within about two hours and were really comfortable on the ear and inside the ear. The sound is good and you can pause, skip forward/back, adjust the sound of the music and take calls from the headset. The transmit range is listed at 30 feet and it may be a bit more based on my usage. The very best thing about the Backbeat 903+ or any of its competitors is the freedom from a wire. I can’t tell you how many times I have hit that blasted wire and watched whatever music player I was using fly off the back of a treadmill, elliptical, etc. I highly recommended the 903+ for about two months, then November came.

The Bad
I need to play music for 1 hour and 15 minutes, that the maximum time I’d spend in the gym. For two months I could go in, run those headphones three days in the gym and charge them once a week. However when November came I’d charge the headphones on Sunday night, head to the gym Monday morning, listen to the headset lady tell me I have 7 hours remaining and withing 30 minutes of a treadmill run that same lady was telling me “battery level is low”, “recharge battery”. Understanding that the 7 hours is talk time, not listening time, I still couldn’t understand how I could go from 3 hours of listening a week or more between charges to 30 minutes. The malfunction was wholly unreasonable and an incredible fail for somebody who MUST have music in the gym because the music they play over the air is WACK. Well these headphones turned out to be wack as well.

To Be Determined
I called Plantronics customer service and of course the young man was surprised and said that he never gets calls about the 903+ (yeah right), however, he was helpful and efficient and today I transmitted documentation for a replacement headset as they are still within warranty. What is to be determined is whether the replacement headsets will perform for longer than two months. I hope they do because I really did dig them.

What about you?
Do you use a wireless headset? Which one(s)? How do you use them and have you had any failures? Let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, I’m rocking these Sony earbuds which sound great but leave my ears hurting when I take them out.

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