August 4, 2011

Cloud Computing – A Blessing or a Curse?

There’s no doubt that cloud computing has made a huge splash in our technologically ubiquitous society. Its benefits help businesses with productivity and give consumers more convenience about back-ups and data storage. Still, there are a few issues that should be addressed for anyone, whether a business owner or average Joe computer user, before making the jump to any cloud computing solution.

Reduced Control

Cloud Computing – Geeks.comThe popular concept of cloud computing involves offloading and archiving pertinent files and data to an off-site 3rd party company which guarantees virtually 100% uptime and secure access anytime anywhere. The problem is that you’re basically having another entity hang on to your confidential information which reduces the amount of control you have over that information. In addition, you have no idea where your information is being stored.

What if, for example, your data is managed by a 3rd party cloud service company whose computer servers are located in Niger and due to an anti-government uprising, the cloud company’s infrastructure is compromised? You would have no idea whether your data was saved and moved to another location or if the data itself was possibly compromised by unauthorized parties. Granted, the chance of this happening is probably low but the big picture is that you’re virtually powerless in safeguarding your own information against issues from the external environment. Regarding Murphy’s Law, many cloud service companies pitch a near-100% uptime guarantee but there is still a chance the service could be unavailable (due to system malfunctions or maintenance) during the time when you need it the most.

Legal Issues

Cloud Computing – Geeks.comUsing cloud services also presents a potential legal headache for both you and the hosting company. For example, cloud service provider Dropbox recently experienced a security breach in which all accounts were accessible by entering ANY password for approximately four hours. While Dropbox was able to rectify the issue promptly, one of their users is now filing a lawsuit for the security issue.

What if you had personal (or company) information that was compromised? Cloud Computing – Geeks.comWhat legal recourse would you have? Basically it means there would be extra work for you (and your legal team) having to deal with straightening things out, (such as breach of contract and/or having to find another cloud service provider). For cloud service users looking to store music into their respective digital lockers, external parties such as music label companies have raised a legal uproar about Amazon’s cloud music service which could make it difficult, in the long-run, about what type of data can be stored on a cloud.

Proactive Measures

While there is zero way to completely prevent any type of cloud service issue, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the chance of having one of these issues compromise your confidential personal or business information.

Cloud Computing – Geeks.comFirst, it would be logical to adopt a “Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket” approach which means only uploading the pertinent data that needs to be accessible to the necessary company personnel.

For example, if you have sales personnel traveling to Europe for a trade show and they need cloud access, it would be wise to not leave your Finance, Competitive Strategy and Company Financial Statements available on the cloud.

You can also specify exactly, which employee(s) are allowed access to your cloud servers and make them aware of the heightened security involved with such access. (Increased accountability with updated IT security access/policies)

Cloud Computing – Geeks.comNext, you can also use a 3rd party encryption program such as True Crypt and encrypt all information before uploading it to your cloud service. This provides redundant security on two counts.

  1. First, your data would be useless if intercepted (in any way) by unauthorized parties. (unless they can break through True Crypt’s ridiculously-tough encryption)
  2. Second, if the cloud service’s infrastructure is compromised, your information is still useless to anyone except you or your employees. You can also save a copy of all your confidential information on your own secure personal or company network which provides an alternative access point in case the cloud service goes down for any reason.

The big picture is that with all this technology that’s continuously revolutionizing our personal and company lives, you should always approach new technological solutions with a balanced perspective, weighing both the pros and cons while considering what steps can be taken to keep your digital life secure.

Permalink • Print • Comment

iOS 5: Top 5 New Features

Coming this fall, iOS users will be getting a an upgrade to their mobile OS, one that adds over 200 new features to the already popular line of iDevices. With this many features, it might be hard to get a handle on just how some of these new features are going to affect your experience.

In this TechTip, I’m going over the top 5 new features in iOS 5 that can change the way you use your iDevice.

iMessage

iOS 5: Top New Features – Geeks.comDo you want to cancel your text messaging plan because it’s too expensive? Okay, you probably won’t be able to do that right away with iMessage, but it might be enough to subscribe to a lesser plan. With iMessage, all iOS 5 devices will be able to send text, images, video, locations, and contats with all other iOS devices, over Wi-Fi or 3G, for free. Data rates will still apply, of course, but you’ll be free from the limits of messaging plans. This is a big move for Apple to get you, your family, and your friends to all use iDevices so nobody will be left out of the conversation.

Notification Center

iOS 5: Top New Features – Geeks.comHow many times have you done this? You pull out your iPhone, you swipe to unlock and just before it unlocks, you see you have a notification, but it’s too late; you’ve already swiped and the message is gone. Unless there’s a badge to let you know where it came from, that message is gone. To cure this problem, Apple’s borrowing an Android-style method that puts all the notficiations in their own app called the Notification Center. All notifications will be logged here, and you’ll be able to see the most recent notifications on the lockscreen at a glance.

Camera App

iOS 5: Top New Features – Geeks.comI’m sure you don’t have to try hard to imagine this next scenario: you’re witnessing something momentous, you remember your iPhone is also a camera, so you pull it out and get ready to snap a photo, but you have to unlock the screen, touch the Camera app, and wait for it to open. It’s not something that ruins usage of the phone, and it’s on par with having to dig out a dedicated point-and-shoot digital camera, but it still leaves something to be desired. With the new and improved Camera app, you’ll be able to start it right from the lockscreen. Better than that, you’ll be through with doing that awkward maneuver you do when trying to snap a photo while touching the button on the touchscreen, because the Volume Up button will be the new capture button.

iCloud

iOS 5: Top New Features – Geeks.comThere are more than just photos and videos stored on my iPhone. There are the many other valuable pieces of information that include phone numbers, email addresses, and appointments. iCloud is going to make managing this extremely simple at zero cost and with zero effort. Almost everything is going to be backed up to Apple’s own servers where it will be accessible by all of your registered iDevices. This will make it easy to avoid the embarrassing mass emails, tweets, or Facebook posts that tell everyone you lost your phone. There is much more to iCloud than this, but this feature alone makes it invaluable to me. The best part is that it is replacing MobileMe, a service that used to do less for nearly a hundred dollars.

PC Free, Over-the-Air Updates

iOS 5: Top New Features – Geeks.comOkay, I cheated, these are two features in one, but they should both be under the heading “cutting the cord” because that’s what these two are about. With PC Free setup, iDevices will no longer need to be plugged into a computer to initialize. Maybe you’ve only set up your phone once and you never plugged it in again, which is a surprisingly common scenario. With Over-the-Air Updates, you’ll be getting the latest firmware updates without having to plug in your device. You’ll still have to plug your iDevice in one last time to install iOS 5, but that could be your very last time! Removing this barrier to entry makes iOS devices even more accessible to users with very limited computer access.

With over 200 new features, these few functions barely even scratch the surface of iOS 5. Be on the look out this fall for the update.

Permalink • Print • Comment

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out

In the last Tech Tip we touched on the differences between Facebook profile pages and Facebook “fan” pages. One major difference between the two is that you are limited to one personal profile but can have unlimited “fan” pages. Also, there is a limit of 5,000 friends (rumor is that this will be decreasing) on your profile page but there is no limit to the number of “likes” you can have. So If you’re looking to market yourself or your company on Facebook you’ll need a fan page.

This Tech Tip will address creating a page and maximizing all you can do to brand awareness, drive traffic and increase sales.7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.com

To start your page, if you’re logged in, scroll down to the footer on Facebook and click on Create A Page or you can go directly here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php

Note: It is not a requirement to have a profile in order to create a business page. This is usually tied to placing a Facebook ad. But remember, Facebook is a “social” network so best practices is to have a profile.

Choose the category that best fits what you want to promote. (If you choose Local Business/ Place, that will create a Facebook Places page that we discussed in the previous Tech Tip.) Name your page, agree to the Facebook terms and Get Started. You can edit the info for your business, add an image (we’ll talk more about that in a minute) and find lots of ways to promote your new page.

You’ll notice that your new page has a very long URL such as: http://www.facebook.com/pages/YourPageName/241427782536616

Once you have 25 LIKES for your page you will be able to go in and edit that URL at http://www.facebook.com/username and select something easier to remember.

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.comTIP ALERT: Be laser specific in choosing the right name for your niche. Do it wisely, with search engine optimization in mind, as you’re locked in once you make your choice. You will, however, be able to change the name as it appears on the page just by going to Edit Page and then Basic Information. Once you reach 100 LIKES however, you will not be able to change it.

Since this is primarily a “business” page you may want (and highly recommended) to have someone else also administer or manage your Page, especially if you hire a Social Media Manager. Go to Edit Page and then Manage Admins and add the new name. Manage Permissions will allow you to hide the Page until you are ready to launch and set other parameters. This is also where you will choose what landing page you want new visitors to see. You want to encourage interaction so don’t be too restrictive.

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.comGoing forward you will be able to access your Page by clicking on the link in the left hand nav. If you only have one page you’ll see a flag followed by the page name. If you have more than one page you’ll see the flag followed by Pages.

Images and Landing Page

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.com

Make the most of the Profile Picture real estate to promote yourself. It’s 540 pixels high and 180 pixels wide so do include your business URL, if you have one, and whatever you would use for your elevator pitch. You can also utilize the Photostrip banner images that we talked about last time. The only difference between the Profile Banner and Page Banner is the pictures are not static on the Page and will rotate. You’d think it would be the other way around and maybe one day Facebook will give you the option. You can create 97×68 thumbnails or how about creating a landing page/ad to promote your business.

To do this, start by making an image 720px by 720px and place the image that you want to appear in the thumbnail in an area 534px by 374px.The measurement of the “thumbnail area’” is the same 97×68 ratio that Facebook will shrink it to, and a location of 89px down and 94px in should do the trick. Adjust as needed.

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.comYou can go bigger or stick to the 97×68 ratio for the whole image but you’ll need to figure out where the thumbnail area needs to go. The 720 x 720 should work just fine.

Using the larger size allows you to add text to your image, a call to action, URL address or whatever you like – a sales page, info page etc.This may be out of reach for some novices but you can always have someone else create the image for you like fiverr.com, Elance or odesk.com.

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.comNow that you have the images ready for your Photostrip, you’ll need to upload them and turn them into landing pages/ads. Just click on Photos in the left side bar of your Fan Page and then the +Upload Photos link. Upload your images and name the album. Once you’ve done that you can then enter a description for each one in the Description field – you can always change the description later.

You could say something like “Click here to get my free eBook of tips and tricks” followed by a link to the destination page on your web site where they can sign up for the eBook.

Publish the images. When a visitor clicks on one, it will expand to full size in the photo viewer and your relevant hyperlink will be underneath in the description field. It’s a good idea to upload the images one at a time over a few days. That way every time that you upload a new image, it will appear in your fans’ Newsfeeds with the description and link. Finally, remember that Facebook will display them randomly so be consistent with the overall look and feel of your Page.

Who Am I

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.comEarlier this year, Facebook started to allow you to post on other Pages as your Page. To assume the identity of your Page, look in the right hand nav bar under Admins and you’ll see Use Facebook As ‘PageName’, click on that and you have a new Facebook Identity. You can toggle back and forth. You cannot “friend” a person as a Page, you can only LIKE and post on other Pages. This is a handy tool to help with your branding.

Insightful

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.comIf you’ve promoted your business online, you should be familiar with Google Analytics or other analytics packages. Facebook does a great job of providing you with its own analytics tool called Insights. Again, under that right hand nav, you’ll see View Insights. This will take you to the Insights page where you can review your Page stats, see viewer demographics (click See Details after Users) and Interactions.

Edgier the Better

As discussed previously, Facebook just doesn't serve up everything your friends post to their Wall. They have their own algorithm, much like the search engines, to determine the content you see. Similar to Google’s Page Rank, this is called Edge Rank. (An Edge is any object that appears in a Newsfeed.) It’s based on 3 key factors:

AFFINITY – how often you and your friend/fan interact

WEIGHT -whether your content has been liked, commented on or shared. Weight increases in that order: like, comment, share.

TIME DELAY – the older the object is, the less important it is.

TAKEAWAY: Post often and encourage people to respond. To increase traffic to your page, spend 20-30 minutes a day on Facebook. Fifty percent of that time should be on your page adding content, commenting on content/comments, sharing others’ content, tweaking it etc. Encourage people to respond to your content by posing a question or use the Poll feature. Spend the remaining 50% on other people’s Pages – sharing, commenting and liking.

One trick is to click the “Share” link under a Newsfeed story, click on the down arrow next to “On Your Own Wall”. Four additional options will appear including posting to Groups and on your Page.

Note: If there is no content in the post, the “share” option will not appear.

You can’t buy attention anymore. It used to be “pay to play” now it’s “play to play”. You have to interact and engage with your audience.

IFrame It

One of the main reasons businesses are now flocking to Facebook is the introduction of iFrames back in March 2011. 7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.comPrior to that, the only way you could pimp out your page was to use their limited proprietary application Static FBML. Now thanks to iFrames you can build your own web site right there within Facebook. Your Page can incorporate video, opt-in script, whatever you can create in HTML and import into the iFrame. You’re still limited to the 520px width for your content. No restriction on length.

This opens up the ability to create tabs the way you want them. You can create a Welcome tab that visitors see before clicking the LIKE button. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Would you like to create your own tab? Let’s take the mystery out of creating an app.

An App A Day

First, assuming you have your own web site or landing page: go to http://developers.facebook.com click Apps in the top bar, then +Create New App, jump through their security hoops and give your app a name such as “Welcome”. Fill in the captcha. Then you will be on the Basic Info page. Click On Facebook in the left hand nav. Don’t get overwhelmed, you only have to fill in three of the fields:

1. Canvas URL is the URL of the web site you want to appear in the 520px area. Enter it there with a forward slash at the end http://www.example.com/

2. Tab Name – Welcome

3. Tab URL – same as the Canvas URL without the forward slash http://www.example.com

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.com

Save Changes, then click on View App Profile Page in the left hand nav. This will bring up your App page and click on Add to Page in the left hand nav. If you have more than one Page, choose the one you want your tab to appear on. Done. Now go to your Page and you should see your new Tab there. Look ma, I created an app! But for those of you who feel this is a bit adventurous, there are plenty of ready-to-go apps like iFrames.wildfireapp.com or Lujure.

To make your new tab specific for first time visitors, go to Edit Page, click on Manage Permissions, then the drop down menu for Default Landing Tab and choose (in our example) Welcome. Now your new visitors will see that tab first. After they LIKE your page, they’ll only see your Wall.

As you can see the possibilities are endless with creating your own apps.

If you create your own HTML landing page, remember to stay within the 520px width limit. If you don’t have your own web site or landing page, you can try out these templates: Chris Farrell iFrame Templates. They are plenty of free hosting sites, just ask the Google.

Wrap Up

As we talked about last time, Facebook is constantly in motion. There’s talk of significant changes to the “Page” coming soon. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg announced on July 6, 2011, not only are they rolling out the video chat but that there will be lots of changes to Facebook in the coming weeks and months.

If you would like to learn more about Facebook, I highly recommend these sites: allfacebook, MariSmith.com and chrisfarrellmembership.com (scroll down for free Recorded Webinars with excellent tips on how to drive traffic to your Facebook page) and SocialMediaExaminer.

BONUS TIPS

7 Tips to Make Your Facebook Page Stand Out – Geeks.com

If you want to stay on top of the most current Facebook scams, LIKE the Facecrooks page.

Yes, Facebook can be wonky and a bit buggy so LIKE this page Known Issues on Facebook.

Permalink • Print • Comment

August 2, 2011

How The New ‘Protecting Children’ Bill Puts You At Risk

By Violet Blue | August 1, 2011, 11:37pm PDT

Summary

A bill now makes the online activity of every American available to authorities upon request under the guise of protecting children from pornography.

Violet Blue

Violet Blue is a Forbes Web Celeb, SF Appeal contributor, a high-profile tech personality and one of Wired's Faces of Innovation. She is regarded as the foremost expert in the field of sex and technology, a sex-positive pundit in mainstream media (MacLife, Forbes.com, The Oprah Winfrey Show, others) and is regularly interviewed, quoted and featured prominently by major media outlets (from ABC News to the Wall Street Journal). A published feature writer and columnist, Violet also has many award-winning, best-selling books; her books are featured on Oprah's website. She was the notorious sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. She headlines at conferences ranging from ETech, LeWeb and SXSW: Interactive, to Google Tech Talks at Google, Inc. The London Times named Blue one of the 40 bloggers who really count.

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that makes the online activity of every American available to police and attorneys upon request under the guise of protecting children from pornography.

The Republican-majority sponsored bill is called the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 .

It has nothing to do with pornography, and was opposed by over 30 civil liberties and consumer advocacy organizations, as well as one brave indie ISP that is urging its customers to do everything they can to protest the invasion of privacy.

“Protecting Children” forces ISPs to retain customer names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and dynamic IP addresses.

It’s like having your wallet plus the web sites you visit tracked and handed over on request. These logs are now going to be retained for the scope of one and a half years.

(I have to wonder if ISPs can sell this data, too.)

This has nothing to do with porn. In case you’re like the Reps that passed this nightmare and you’ve forgotten: pornography is legal in the United States.

It is pedophilia that is illegal. But for the sake of harnessing hysteria to get a bill passed, clearly these particular Republicans find it convenient to conflate “pornographers” as pedophiles. Last time I checked in on the matter, pedophiles did not operate within the laws surrounding adult pornography.

Personally, I’m insulted as a porn-loving American girl to be included by way of consumer participation in this disgusting and misleading characterization. And that my privacy has just been sold for something that doesn’t actually help the children.

I don’t feel confident that treating us all like the criminals our system can’t catch is going to protect any children, especially when the people who passed the bill can’t – or won’t – distinguish the difference between legal adult pornography and pedophilia.

CNET’s Declan McCullagh reminds us that “the mandatory logs would be accessible to police investigating any crime and perhaps attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases as well.” CNET reported that mandatory data retention was being fast-tracked in January, 2011.

The fact that civil litigants could subpoena your internet activity and the contents of your wallet has nothing to do with the labeled and stated purpose of this bill.

“The bill is mislabeled,” said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the panel. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation spearheaded consumer and privacy groups’ opposition to the bill and hosted a one-click letter-writing campaign . This included the ACLU, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Patient Privacy Rights and many more.

Because of the way the bill requires information to be collected and stored, the EFF called the bill “ripe for abuse by law enforcement officials” and said that because the laws designed to protect the private data of consumers from government access are insufficient and out-of-date, it creates “a perfect storm for government abuse.”

Small ISPs Are Ringing The Alarm

While consumer groups opposed it and tech news outlets I trust are spelling out concerns, it was when my own ISP made a blog post that it was clear that this bill isn’t just a problem for privacy proponents.

Sonic.net ’s CEO Dane Jasper personally posted Help us, protect your privacy online .

Today we retain most IP allocation logs for just two weeks; we don’t need them beyond that period, so they are deleted. Storing logs longer presents an attractive nuisance, and would potentially make our customers the target of invasions of privacy.

Any lawyer can simply file a Doe lawsuit, draft up a subpoena and request a customer’s identity. It’s far too easy.

Do the wheels of justice – or investigation – move too slowly, and should data be retained for a long time to allow for legitimate investigation? No, there are already tools in place that law enforcement can easily use to ask ISPs to preserve log information of real online criminals.

The 1996 Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act allows law enforcement to require an ISP to keep data for 90 days upon law enforcement request, giving time for a legitimate search warrant to be reviewed by a judge and issued.

The CEO points out that because the bill applies to commercial providers, naturally it won’t catch people pursuing criminal activity, who can simply use public Wi-Fi.

Or 4G wireless, such as through a cell carrier.

Lifehacker points this out in What You Need to Know About the Internet Snooping Bill (and How You Can Protect Yourself) :

One nice feature of the PCFIPA of 2011 bill is that it doesn’t include cellular data, so if you’ve thought about switching to 4G wireless data at home you’ll soon have another reason.

That’s right: wireless carriers are exempt from having to store all your data and provide it on notice. This is likely because unlike small ISPs such as Sonic, wireless carriers lobbied the bill authors to get out of it .

The Department of Justice fought against the mobile exemption .

Obviously if someone is going to distribute pedophilia they could do it over a 4G wireless card just as easily as their DSL account, so in a certain context, the wireless carriers have lobbied their way out of the cost burden.

That also makes this bill anti-small business, because smaller ISPs like Sonic have to bear the costs, while Verizon and friends, don’t.

I think that ultimately, the ones bearing the true costs will be us.

And don’t give me that ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong you shouldn’t worry’ line. It’s as ripe as Congressman Weiner’s old line, ‘my account was hacked.’

Permalink • Print • 1 Comment
Made with WordPress and a healthy dose of Semiologic • Sky Gold skin by Denis de Bernardy