07 July 2011

Google+ Takes on Facebook

If the number of hacks, extensions, and suggestions on how to make Facebook more like Google+ is any indication, Google+ has drawn more than a small amount of interest across the web. At the same time, pressure is increasing on Facebook to bring new features to Facebook that may not have even been considered in the past.

The first, and probably most momentous indication of the pressure on Facebook is the announcement of Facebook's latest new feature; video chat via Skype. Given the low-quality video and the lack of any distinguishing features, it seems clear that Facebook unveiled the new feature long before it was actually ready, not long after Google+ was announced. In all likelihood it is not the last feature Facebook will announce prematurely due to pressure from Google. I haven't tested Facebook's video chat myself (it runs only on Windows right now), but I have already heard complaints about the new chat interface as well as some notable testers such as ZDNet com...

05 July 2011

What Google+ Means for Facebook

Google+, particularly due to its current exclusiveness, has gained a huge appeal across the Internet if the demand for invites has been any indication.  Fan pages have sprung up on Facebook for Google+ and its various features and it generally has been the latest big thing online, even finding itself a mention on FOX News.

Due to the exclusiveness of Google+, it remains to be seen just how popular it will become and if it will actually grow in popularity to rival Facebook, as Facebook once did to Myspace.  Google was forced to shut down its invite system given the huge demand for entrance into its social network which has simply created more demand; Google+ invites can now even be bought on Ebay.  Meanwhile, Facebook has a developed network with over 130 million users and counting which makes it a formidable social network to compete with- one that until now has faced little direct competition.

Google+, however, offers many of Facebook's features in a...

01 July 2011

The Lowdown on Google+

Google has made a few attempts to get into the social networking market, particularly to compete with Facebook, but thus far has seen limited success.  Google Buzz was nailed over privacy concerns, Google Orkut never caught on, and Google Wave was a dismal failure.  Google's latest stab at social media is Google+ (Google Plus).  Currently, it is invite only and Google took down invites temporarily so only those who were invited are able to use the network, making it seem pretty exclusive.

Unfortunately, Google stands at a disadvantage with Google+ given the fact that Facebook and Twitter are already well-established, and Google's previous attempts at social networking never caught on and were never really liked.  However, it appears that they have been busy introducing new features across Google as a foundation for Google+ for a while now, and with great results.   The new +1 button for sharing sites in search results and articles from blogs takes...

22 June 2011

What Site to Trust Next

As Dropbox is my favorite (and currently, only) cloud storage provider, I place a lot of trust in them in, both in terms of reliability (they are my backup system) and security (I store my journal with them).  I trust Dropbox with a huge part of my digital life, so I stay up to date on their company goings-on in order to make sure my trust is not misplaced, and thus far, it has not been.

However, on Sunday Dropbox had a particularly bad security issue; a software update left all accounts accessible without a password for a little over 4 hours, at which point the issue was fixed; though 1% of Dropbox's millions of users were affected.  The issue was kept relatively quiet; the Dropbox crew emailed all affected users, and posted a low-key announcement on their blog that was picked up by a number of other blogs.  It comes at a bad time for Dropbox, given Sony's recent issues and the wave of hacking going on that even allegedly resulted in the UK's 2011 Census da...

16 June 2011

Losing the Cursor

Every new "era" in computing starts a new battle between the large companies.  Everything from simply going online (at one point in time, not so simple), to the interface we're familiar with on our computers has gone through the battle of the companies, generally the "big names" in software such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and the like.  The latest issue appears to be one that will impact everyone who keeps up with the latest trends in software, one that has already started but hasn't gained a lot of speed in terms of publicity yet.  Apple pioneered the so-called "Tablet War" with the iPhone/iTouch and a little more recently, the iPad, and they are currently the best selling tablet on the market.  Android from Google is available on tablets and phones as well, giving Google a place as the other major contender.

However, due to the divide between the personal computer and the tablet, issues are arising with how the new interface is rolled out, as it appe...

01 June 2011

Ad Blocking Ethics

As with essentially everything else in the modern world, the Internet fosters advertising; and has huge industries surrounding it.  Given the young and evolving nature of the Internet the ad industry has undergone many changes and compared with its extremely sketchy past, improved significantly.  Ads are now targeted and tracked - and censored, in some cases - so they are relevant and whatever happens to lie on the other end of the click is of use.

Online advertisements have garnered a bad reputation, in large due to their past and in the case of some websites, their intrusiveness.  Popup blockers are old news and are built in to any modern browser, though less due to the annoyance of popups than to the security risk they pose.  Following the popup blockers though, have been browser extensions such as Adblock, which are built to block all online ads of any type.  It appears that quite an industry is springing up around the blocking of advert...

21 May 2011

What Site Leaked Your Data?

The Internet is notoriously bad when it comes to privacy, which is a fact that has unfortunately been accepted - and even embraced - by most avid surfers. Facebook has leaked various pieces of user information to various places (including Google search), Google has taken to reading emails and contact lists, and people search sites have disturbingly recent and accurate information open to the public. Recent news from around the Internet seems to show that as much as sites explain how secure they are, they still have their shortcomings and secrets.

Google made no secret of the fact that it was changing how it serves ads to its GMail users; it announced it publicly on the Google Blog and notified all GMail users. To sum it up, Google stated that they were going to take notice of email content in order to show relevant advertisements; essentially, their ad crawler was going to read emails. Rumour has it that they will also be taking this a step further in the near future b...

03 May 2011

Reviewing Gnome 3

Those involved with Linux in any way have most likely caught wind of Gnome 3, a rewrite of the Gnome 2.x.x desktop environment.  As of just a few days ago, Gnome 3 is considered to be fully out of testing and is available to Arch users, Fedora users, and others (Ubuntu is not included in the mix as they created their own environment, Unity).

As Gnome 3 is going to fully replace its old 2.x.x counterpart, I adopted it in advance in order to get to know it and leave myself time to find a new desktop environment in case I didn't like it.  Gnome 3 with gnome-shell is entirely different from the standard desktop that most of us are familiar with, and is most like what you would expect from an Android tablet or something similar rather than a desktop computer.  There is, for all those who don't have hardware capable of 3D rendering that Gnome-shell requires, a fallback mode that is essentially the classic desktop that everyone is accustomed to.

Gnome 3 st...

22 April 2011

Easiest Ways to Stay Secure Online

With all the talk of phishing and hacking raging across the Internet like wildfire, it tends to seem inevitable that one day an incident will hit close enough to home for it to hurt, especially with all the information we tend to store online. Most high-profile sites such as Google, Facebook, and even Twitter are continually rolling out site updates to counter attacks that in many cases are preventable. As someone who has never had an account hacked but sees friends' accounts hacked multiple times a week, it seems to me that some of the simplest ways of staying safe online are ignored for ease of use or simply carelessness.

Make use of security settings. Almost every major site has a setting for https which encrypts information flying between the site's servers and users. Google turned https on by default for all GMail accounts after the China hacking incident, but nearly all Google services are now accessible via https. Facebook recently rolled out https for the maj...

13 April 2011

The Good and Bad of Social Networking

Over the last few years, social media has taken the Internet by storm. Myspace was among the first, and from there grew Twitter, Facebook, and all the other sites that we hear mentioned on a regular basis. Every company and person seems to either be on one or more of the major social networks or is making an effort to create their own presence on them. This storm of information posted online from everyone trying to find their niche is easily picked up by search engines and spreads around the Internet incredibly fast.

For someone such as myself, who is currently applying to colleges and jobs, things posted by either me or my friends can make or break opportunities as many colleges/employers do Google applicants. One of the worst things about social media is the general lack of privacy from the start; Facebook's recommended settings leave a lot of things fairly public, and every so often they revert custom privacy settings to that. Google was sued over its ...

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