Can you hear me now? Tales from a Cisco voice instructor


June 24, 2012  6:17 PM

A Better CAPTCHA



Posted by: Dave Bateman

We have all been there. You are trying to signup for a new web service and are presented with one on those annoying CAPTCHAs. There you sit trying to figure out what letters hide behind those squiggly lines. After minutes of concentration you take your best guess and are presented with a failure notice. I hate those things!

The whole idea being CAPTCHAs is that the service you are signing up for wants to make sure you are human. By placing lines across misaligned letters it makes it very difficult for a computer to determine what the letters are. That’s all well and good, but is being able to determine what the letters are the only thing that separates me from a computer?

Thankfully, a site called areyouahuman.com has come up with a new way to validate that I am not a robot. Instead of presenting cryptic letters and asking me to guess, they have me play a game. The games are very short and simple and sometimes even fun. For example, one that I was presented with gave a blank head and then had eyes, mustache, mouth, salt, pepper, and a car floating around next to it. You needed to place the proper items on the head to make a face. It only took about five seconds, which is faster than most of the CAPTCHAs I have had to fight through. I hope this is an idea that catches on. Go over to areyouahuman.com and check it out. Let me know if  are able to make the face faster than I could.

June 23, 2012  9:19 PM

923 Bit Encryption Cracked



Posted by: Dave Bateman
encryption, Security

I bet you feel pretty safe with your 64 bit or even your 256 bit encryption key. Your data is safe and no one will ever get to it. You might not want to get too comfortable. Recently, Fujitsu researchers cracked a 923 bit encryption key. That is 278 digits.  They didn’t do it overnight or alone, they had the help of 252 processing cores, and it took just a little less than a half of a year, 148.2 days to be precise . That might seem like a long time, but it was once believed that a 923-bit encryption key would take hundreds of thousands of years to crack. All of the sudden a half a year doesn’t seem that long. Think of it this way: if they had started right after Christmas they would have already cracked the key.

This just shows us that no matter how safe you think your data is… it isn’t. It also reminds us not to take our security or privacy too lightly. Assume that if you have data on a device that is connected to the Internet, it is possible that someone else could find it. Like I have said in the past, I like the cloud – I just don’t trust  it.


May 31, 2012  5:48 PM

Move Over Pintrest – Clipboard is in Town



Posted by: Dave Bateman
bookmarks, Pintrest

It seems like Pintrest is the latest blog social networking site. It is pretty cool, but I find I use it less than I thought I would. It’s not bad – it just isn’t exactly what I was hoping for. What I want is a quick and easy way to clip any type of web content so that I can access it quickly later. I didn’t really care about the social aspect of Pintrest. I just wanted a cleaner way to archive the information I found interesting.

Today I found what I think will be a better fit for some people. It’s called Clipboard and it allows you to clip nearly any type of web content, and I do mean ANY type. I tested it by clipping a Youtube video, flash content, and, of course, graphics, and text. It worked perfect for all types of content.

The best way to use it is to add the Clipboard bookmark to your bookmark toolbar and simply click it when you are on a web page that has content you want to archive. Then hover over the content that you want to clip. As you hover over content, it will automatically become highlighted. When the section you want to save is highlighted, click it. A window appears that allows you to add an annotation or tag. You can also choose to post it to Facebook or Twitter or simply clip it to your personal clipboard.

There is a lot more to this service, so head over to Clipboard.com and check it out for yourself.


May 30, 2012  9:01 PM

New Tablet – Adults Not Welcome



Posted by: Dave Bateman
android 4.0, tablets

Do we really need another tablet? The folks at Archos certainly think we do. But this time they aren’t targeting the typical adult or even young adult, or for that matter even the teen user. Their newest tablet is called the Child Pad and it is aimed directly at your children. They figure every adult that wants a tablet already has one so they need a new demographic.

At first you might be thinking that your child doesn’t need a tablet, and you may be right. But just think how many times you want to use your tablet only to find that junior is using it to throw some very upset birds at a bunch of misbehaving pigs. If junior had their one tablet, you might actually be able to use yours.

The device is priced at a comfortable $129.99. Not too bad for a tablet. But, just what do you get for that price? A 7 inch, 800 x 480 screen, 1GHz ARM Cortex A8 CPU, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of built-in storage, and a micro SD slot. You can see by the specs that this is not a device built for speed or power. On the upside, it is running Android 4.0, which many more powerful devices don’t even have yet.

It comes with some built in apps that junior may like such as some exclusive Alvin and the Chipmunks content. While I won’t be running running out to pick one of these up, you may find it to be the perfect birthday present for your little one.


May 29, 2012  8:21 PM

The New Mega Virus



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Flame, Stuxnet, Virus

You may have heard of a virus called Stuxnet. It was responsible for infecting the Iranian nuclear facilities and reportedly caused the centrifuges to have to be shut down several times which negatively effective their uranium enrichment efforts. The possible affect of a virus like this could have in the wrong hands is down right terrifying.

Well, it’s time for Stuxnet to move over and make room for the new bad boy on the block. A virus named Flame has been discovered and it makes Stuxnet look like the common cold virus. It is 20 times larger than Stuxnet and has the ability to grab data, remotely change computer setting, enable the computer’s microphone, record conversation, and grab screen shots.

It appears that Middle Eastern states are the target of this virus. While that may make some reading this article a little more at ease, it really shouldn’t. There really isn’t much stopping someone from adapting this virus to attack any target they desire.

The size of this virus alone makes it pretty impressive – the thing is around 20 MB. As far as viruses go, that is huge. There are entire operating systems that are smaller than that. However, the thing that concerns me the most about this virus is that it is believed to have gone undetected for around five years. One can’t help but wonder what else is out there that we don’t know about and how long has it been silently working away.


May 28, 2012  7:33 PM

Beam Me Up Scotty – Advancements in Teleporting



Posted by: Dave Bateman
teleporting

It’s Monday morning and you just woke up 45 minutes late. You realize that you will never be able to get to work on time and today is the day that you have to deliver that important presentation to the board. You know that being late may very well cost you your job. Good thing you bought that teleporter last week. Oh wait, they don’t make teleporters yet… Or do they?

You may have heard by know that teleportation is more then just science fiction. In 1993 IBM’sCharles Bennett was the first to prove that teleportation was possible. Then in 1998 IBM made it a reality by actually teleporting a photon from one side of a room to the other side. That was nearly 15 years ago, shouldn’t we be teleporting to work by now? The sad answer is no and while the advancements may not be what we hoped for there have been some significant advancements. Of course to view these advancements as significant you have to remember what we are talking about. That is, having something disappear from one place and reappear in another.

Currently photons are still the only things being teleported but they are being teleported much further then just across the room. In 2010 a Chinese team announced they were able to teleport a photon 16 kilometers. Then, ealier this month they announced that they were able to teleport a photon 97 kilometer to the other side of a lake. Not to be out done, on May 21st. European physicists say they have teleported photons between the two Canary Islands of La Palma and Tenerife, almost 150 kilometres. They next plan to teleport a photon to an orbiting satellite.

So does this mean that you may have that teleportation machine by this time next year, don’t count on it. For now, you may just want to invest in a better alarm clock.


May 26, 2012  6:49 PM

$49 Android PC



Posted by: Dave Bateman
Android
Android seems to be all the rage nowadays. Over the last couple of years it has really matured and become quite a respectable mobile OS. I know there are those that will disagree with me and that’s OK. But from where I see it, Android is no longer the wanna be mobile OS it once was.
Due to its wider acceptance in the tech communities and the fact that it is an open OS, more and more Android based products are being created. This is both good and bad. The bad is that many of these products are pure crap. These $99 dollar “tablets” that are really only ereaders, and poor ereaders at that, can often do more harm to Android’s reputation than anything else.

But every now and then something cool comes along that looks promising. VIA just announced a mini PC called, the APC 8750. They say it will cost just $49 and will run Android 2.3. When I say mini, I mean MINI. The thing is only 17 x 8.5 cm., but they pack a lot of features is this small package. Check out the specs:

  • VIA WonderMedia ARM 11 processor
  • 512MB DDR3 RAM
  • 2GB of on-board flash storage, 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • microSD slot
  • Ethernet port
  • VGA and HDMI display ports

The bad news is that you can’t run out and get one tonight. VIA claims they will start shipping in July. However, they will start taking to pre-orders soon. Go ahead and click the preorder link. You know you want to.


May 25, 2012  8:35 AM

Encrypt Gmail



Posted by: Dave Bateman
email, encryption

Occasionally I have to send somewhat sensitive information via email. I have never really liked the idea since email is not the most secure form of communication. While there are steps you can take to make it more secure on your end, it could still be at risk on the recipient’s end. I normally take the simple steps such as sending the login name and password in separate emails when sending user credentials. But that just means that someone needs to intercept both emails. What I really want to do is encrypt the message, but in a way that will be easy for the recipient to unencrypt it.

I think I found a way to do that. A site, called encipher.it, allows you to encrypt a message sent from Gmail before sending it. To use it you need to add a bookmark to your browser. After that you create an email in Gmail the same way you normally do. When the you are done typing the email, select the encipher.it bookmark and you will be prompted for an encryption key. Once you enter it, the message is encrypted and ready to be sent. The recipient will need to know the encryption key in order to unencrypt it. They unencrypt it by using Gmail and the bookmark mentioned earlier, or use the cut and paste method available on the encipher.it web site.

I can’t say that by using this site your emails will be safe from all forms of intrusion, but it certainly is a lot safer way to send information you doy not everyone to be able to see.


May 20, 2012  5:00 PM

Fast, Real Fast Wireless



Posted by: Dave Bateman
802.11, wireless

Over the years the speed of wireless networking has increased. I remember when it maxed out at 11 Mbps and it served most everyone just fine. Many wired connections were still running 10 Mbps, so no one really noticed. Then 100 Mbps wired connections starting becoming popular and all of the sudden wireless seemed slow. Over the years it has increased, but never seemed to keep up with the speed a wired connection could offer.

Some folks in Japan are trying to speed up wireless transmission rates to speeds once thought impossible. They are using what they refer to as the “T-ray” band. It is a section of electromagnetic spectrum that falls between 300 GHz and 3 THz. By using this band, they have been able to achieve speeds of 3GB/sec. That’s pretty darn fast. However, you shouldn’t get too excited just yet. You won’t be seeing a “T-ray” router at Walmart anytime soon. Right now it is just a proof of concept and it’s range it pretty short. But I think it is a glimpse of things to come.


May 19, 2012  4:31 PM

See Through Screen



Posted by: Dave Bateman
mobile, screen

Have you ever tried walking and texting at the same time? Sure you have, but most people won’t admit it. This act has caused many a proud person to stumble or even fall flat on their face. I am not sure what was so important that they couldn’t wait until they sat down to text. But, based on how often I see this, I have to assume it is a pretty common behavior.

There is good news for all those walking texters out there. A company by the name of TDK has a see through screen in mass production now. The current screen is called the UEL476. It is a 2.4 inch screen and is designed for use in mobile devices. While you are able to see through the front of the screen, the back of the screen is not transparent, which prevent sthe screen contents from being seen by those walking by.

The Screen resolution isn’t high enough for me, (it’s only 320 x 240) but this might be a big hit for those that must text while they are walking.


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