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23 September 2013

Biometric Badness

There’s nothing quite like the slick, high tech (when it works, at least) feeling of swiping your finger to unlock your devices. It’s fast, it’s convenient, and it feels futuristic, which explains why there are so many laptops that are capable of authenticating users via their fingerprints. Unfortunately, using fingerprints as a “more secure” login system should have been a short time fad. Although the technology continues to improve, it provides a false sense of security.

Why is this significant now? The technology has been embedded in laptops for some time - I have one too - but Apple is the first to put it on a phone which, if the past is any indication, will cause it to make its way into other phones as well. In terms of the implementation of it, from what I have read it sounds fairly sound. Fingerprint data is hashed (converted to an irreversible string of data that looks nothing like a fingerprint) and stored in a dedicated area on the iPhone. iOS has access to this...

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20 August 2013

Bridging the Technology Gap

The world of computing has come a long way in the area of usability. It’s possible for anyone to pick up a device and find their way around it because of clean graphical user interfaces. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing that makes the Internet accessible to everyone no matter of age. The problem is that this is moving a large part of the population to the point where they are computer illiterate, with little to no understanding of how to fix or how to manage their own computers. As we collectively decide to delegate the duties of maintaining and building devices to the IT departments and engineers - who many think rather low of - we start to remove the understanding of how to manage an increasingly computerized world from policy makers.

As we move to more accessible computers, we start to introduce kids to technology at younger and younger ages, it’s easy to lead ourselves to believe that kids are getting increasingly computer literate. While we are giving kids acce...

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18 July 2013

Augmented Reality and Privacy

Augmented reality uses a computer to overlay information on our view of the real world to enhance it by providing more information or entertainment or even ads. While it has been a feature of science fiction - in spacesuit helmets, targeting computers, and the like - for some time, it’s working its way into the real world. One of the first practical applications of it was Google Goggles, which uses the camera on an Android phone to search via images or bar codes and to overlay extra information on the view through the camera. This is something that gets more useful as the technology becomes wearable - as with Google Glass - and has some obvious uses, such as navigation.

The fact that in order to be useful, augmented reality technology requires a computer to be tracking in real-time what the user is doing while the technology is in use raises some concerns about privacy and security, both for the user themselves as well as for anyone around them. Some of these concerns cam...

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17 June 2013

The Worth of Your Email

When it comes to using the Internet, an email account is the base requirement for providing identification. Nearly everything from commenting on an article to creating an account on a new website requires an email address. Most of us log into websites with our email without giving it a second thought, which is understandable because it’s the standard for confirming who we are at least once. Given how easily we throw our email addresses around, it’s easy to forget the importance of the data that is or will eventually find its way into the inbox. Password reset links, account confirmations, bank statements - it all ends up in that one, convenient spot.

Unfortunately, most people don’t keep their email as secure as the data their inboxes contain would warrant. That’s actually incredibly alarming considering once someone has access to an email account, taking over additional accounts, sending spam, and stealing data and money is not a difficult task. Perusing the Internet and...

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16 May 2013

Historically Searching...

Digging through the data that the online services you use have stored (and available to you) is always an interesting endeavour. At this point, most people realize that no matter what websites you’re signed up for, most, if not all of them store some amount of information about you. Some sites choose to tell you about the data they collect, and others even give you a nice log of everything from where you’ve logged in from to everything you’ve searched for. Generally, the reasoning behind keeping this data is that it allows services to show you more relevant ads and to customize your searches so that you’ll only find the things you want to see. It’s actually a very interesting exercise to make a new account on Google, for example, on a brand new browser and start searching for things. After a surprisingly short amount of time, Google stops showing you things that you disagree with.

Microsoft and Google, both running search engines and having a fair amount of social network...

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11 April 2013

Saying Goodbye to a Dinosaur (Windows XP)

Twelve years ago in 2001, Microsoft announced the release of Windows XP. Windows XP was the best version of Windows to that point and a way of forgetting Windows ME, which we don’t speak of. In a lot of senses, Windows XP is still a fairly rock solid operating system which is pretty impressive for how old it is, almost 12 years. Twelve years and 3 versions of Windows later, 38% of Internet users are still trying to hang on to XP.

According to Microsoft, it’s time to upgrade as support for XP ends 362 days from now, on April 8, 2014. For those who use XP because they prefer its interface over Vista onwards or who simply can’t afford to upgrade, that’s a scary thought. Once support expires, that’s 38% of Internet users who are now at more of the mercy of the Internet. To be fair, your computer isn’t going to spontaneously combust when support expires, but with no more patches to fix security holes, antivirus can only do so much to keep you and your data safe (so it may burs...

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19 March 2013

Lovin' those Facebook Likes

When it comes to the Internet, it’s always interesting to see how things evolve once they come about and sometimes, how they get contorted into very different things. Nearly everyone knows about or at the very least, has heard of the idea of ‘liking’ things on Facebook. ‘Likes’ started off as Facebook Fan Pages just a few years ago where brands, or anyone for that matter, could start a public Facebook page to promote themselves and form an interactive community. In keeping with Facebook’s (at the time) new ‘like’ button, the idea of becoming a fan of something was turned into “Liking” the page, in order to make interaction with Facebook more consistant and in their words “more lightweight.” ‘Liking’ brands, celebrities, and causes is now the new thing to do, and people click the like button as though their lives depend on it. It does raise some awareness of certain causes, although given how many causes some people have listed in their likes, it seems like some people might actua...

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24 February 2013

We're Moving!

There’s been some big changes in the works for The Philosophy of Nate for a few months now, and it’s finally time to show them off. I’ve been working on developing my own platform to host The Philosophy of Nate in hopes of migrating the blog from Blogger to a new platform that’s faster, cleaner, and especially, focuses on improving how readers such as yourselves interact with my blog. The new platform has substantially better integration with the rest of my website which allows me to make browsing more uniform and to expand options such as my website’s “do not track” feature.

I expect to make the switch sometime midweek. Everything is set up for the migration to be clean and simple so on your end, the blog gets a new look and some new options but otherwise should continue to work as it always has since all the web addresses will redirect. However, those who subscribe by any means may run into a few bumps with the feed switching over depending how FeedBurner handles the ch...

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05 February 2013

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook has released a new feature - and with it, a new layout - called Facebook Graph Search to people who signed up for the beta. I’ll admit that I haven’t gotten access yet, but I have had time to check it out via friends and the Internet. From what I’ve seen, it is the coolest, creepiest feature Facebook could have added. On one hand, it is a pretty cool search tool that lets you search for friends based on interests, associations, or whatever using a more or less natural language search. On the other, it gives Facebook a whole new status as a powerful stalking tool if you want to get to know people. One of the more amusing searches that I found online was “Married friends who like prostitutes” which would, as expected, return a list of friends who are married and who also “like” prostitutes. The search also allows you to branch out to non-friends by searching criteria for “friends of friends.” It seems that in general, searching for “Pictures of friends of my friends” retur...

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18 December 2012

Windows 8, Two Months Later

About two months has passed since I upgraded my laptop to Windows 8 back in October, slightly before the public release. Despite my general preference for Linux, my initial impressions of 8 were really good and for the most part, that still stands after using the OS after the initial shininess has worn off and I’ve broken it in a little more. With that said, Windows 8 is still very definitely a Windows operating system with the same quirks here and there as before, although I still maintain that it is an improvement over 7.

As has been typical with Windows since as long as I can remember (I go back to Windows 95 myself), 8 takes a while to get to a point where it’s usable after logging in. I don’t have a ton of programs start at login and I’ve disabled most of the ones that have a higher impact (according to Task Manager), and I still have plenty of time to get up and get a snack between logging in and having a usable desktop. Once the system is up, it’s still snappy even...

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