Welcome to the Echo Show

It’s been around barely two years but your current Amazon Echo is being updated.  Welcome the ‘Echo Show’.  The what now?  Yes, Echo now comes with a screen and is being released in the US in June.

New-Echo-Inline It could be argued that this is just a fancy tablet, and that if the Echo is meant to be voice controlled, why would one need a screen?  A screen would simply add more functionality.  Think of all the cat photos you can look at while never having to type a single keystroke! Of course, there are more sensible options, weather, time, videos and the like.

Personally, I like the idea.  I have three Echos in the house already, but one with a screen would be useful, especially in the kitchen which is usually the ‘hub’ of any house.  Yes, I have an iPad that I bring into the kitchen for recipes or watching the news while I cook but I like the idea of a screen on a wall that’s voice activated.

There’s still room for improvement – at the moment, the Echo is still a one user device – it won’t work with multiple calendars for example but the good thing is the Echo has always been open for expansion and improvement.  Skills can be written and added just like your apps on a smart phone or tablet.  I’m looking forward to its release and seeing where Amazon take this device next!  Wired’s article on the Echo Show is worth a read.

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YouTube in Trouble

Google-owned YouTube is in trouble.  A number of high-profile brands pulled their advertising from the site over the last week or so.   There have been complaints that these adverts are being shown alongside extremist content – whether that be terror related, homophobic, anti-semitic or white supremacists.

Brands such as The Guardian, M&S, BBC, AT&T, Verizon, and Johnson & Johnson have all pulled, or temporarily halted their ads for the time being.   Obviously, no brand with any sense wants their image associated with such undesirable content.

The problem is the automatic placing of the adverts – there’s little ‘human’ control over where the adverts get placed. The software that determines the placement of ads isn’t smart enough to realise the type of content.  Understandably, advertisers have had enough.

Google has apologised and promised to give more control to the advertisers allowing them more control where their ads appear.  How soon this happens remains to be seen.

Google and YouTube need big advertisers, as do the many users who create money making content.  They can’t afford to be so complacent in the future.

 

 

Don’t Add Fuel To The Fire

Social media goes into overdrive during large-scale events – whether that’s a sporting match, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.  It can be of tremendous help, but it can also cause problems.

The speed of the internet allowed up to the minute details of yesterday’s attack in London to be quickly broadcast.  It also meant individuals were able to let their loved ones know they were safe.  Using the internet to do that can be faster and more effective than calling or texting as the ‘bandwidth’ for the voice calls will be needed by emergency responders.

The downside: it also allows the easy sharing of rumours and speculation.  That can lead to confusion and the wrong people being identified.  That turns into witch hunts, and ruins lives, both the accused and the accusers.  In the recent past, people have been prosecuted for spreading ‘witch hunt’ type rumours over the internet.

When terror attacks happen, it’s all too easy to let your heart lead instead of your head.  You’ll find pages on Facebook specifically set up to take advantage of this.  Clickbait sites can quickly gather followers and popularity by posting images that speak to your emotions.  “Share this photo to show respect / catch the killer” is a common approach.  They tug at your heartstrings and hope you’ll share it without a second thought.

That is exactly what they want.  It leads to false information being spread, the vilification of specific groups of people and of course it raises that page’s profile.  Clickbait pages can take you to other suspect sites, generating revenue for them, and could compromise your profile information.

A good example: the right-wing group, Britain First has been using the image of the murdered soldier, Lee Rigby, on its social media platforms to further their cause. This is in spite of repeated requests from his family to stop using his name and image to fuel their agenda.

Even high-profile media sources can get it wrong sometimes. So unless you’re 100% certain you can trust the source (and maybe verify elsewhere), just scroll on by and don’t share the information.

Buzzfeed has published an article about the misinformation spreading online about this attack which is worth a read.

In distressing times, don’t let the bad guys win, you could be doing more harm than good.

 

What’s Your “ICE”?

The incident in Westminster, London, today is a good reminder to have your “ICE” contacts set up on your phone. “ICE” stands for In Case of Emergency. If you’re in need of help and unable to use your phone, emergency responders will know your ICE contact should be contacted. You can create a new ICE contact in your address book and you can also add this information to your ‘lock’ screen – see this link on how to do it.

http://uk.pcmag.com/productivity-products/70260/feature/how-to-add-emergency-info-to-your-phones-lock-screen

 

A domain by any other name…

Happy 32nd Birthday symbolics.com – they were the very first company to have a domain name registered on the internet! Now there are over 325 million domain names.

Why are domain names useful? It saves you having to know the actual computer address (known as an IP address) of the website you want to visit. When you use your mobile phone to call your friends, you never enter their actual phone number, you just look up their name in your phone book app. A domain name works in a similar way.

The ‘phone book’ for the internet is known as the DNS – the Domain Name System. It translates the ‘human language’ of www.philthegeek.com to a computer readable IP address and sends you on to the site.

Now you know!

Share or Copy/Paste?

Just about everyone on Facebook will have a seen a post from a friend which is clearly not original but rather like a chain letter.  It’s often called a ‘viral message’.  Often they have included the phrase “in honour of someone who has…” or “I’m doing this for a friend to show…“.

In almost all cases, it asks you to ‘copy and paste this as your status and NOT share it.’

So why is that? Why don’t they want you to click the share button?  It’s certainly much easier to share a post then copy the text and create a new post of your own.   I bet if you asked your friend why they don’t want you to click share, I bet they won’t be able to tell you why.  Today’s blog post explains why.

Sharing The Post

If you click “share” on your friend’s post, the only ones who will see it are those people with whom your friend shares posts.  Your friends who are NOT friends with person whose post you are sharing will NOT see it. Confused?  Think of it this way:  if you have 100 friends but you only have 15 common, then only those 15 will see the post when you share it.  In addition, if the original post is removed, then ALL the  shares from other people are deleted as well.

If you’re trying to spread a message far and wide (regardless of the content), it’s not a very effective way of doing it. copypaste

Copy and Paste

If you copy the text and paste it into a NEW post on YOUR profile then ALL of your friends have the potential to see it. We say ‘potential’ as there’s no guarantee they will, due to other factors (their timeline settings, the ability to be a ‘friend’ but not follow’ etc. but that’s a subject for another post).

If you have 100 friends, that’s a potential 100 people who will see it.  If all those 100 friends then did the same as you, then all their friends could see the post. It’s easy to see how quickly the number of duplicate posts will spread.  If you delete your post, the other 99 who copy and pasted your post will still be there.

If the post is a scam or just simply untrue, then it is very hard to find out who started it in the first place.

Remember the advice your parents gave you? If your friends jumped off a cliff would you do it too?  It’s exactly the same here.

Stop and think before you copy and paste a viral message.  Is there any actual positive effect of sharing it in the first place?  If not, then don’t. You may be doing more harm than good.

Of course, you are more than welcome to SHARE this post.  You can do so by clicking the buttons below.

Sharing Isn’t Always Caring

Sharing posts on social media is part of what makes social media interesting and fun. When you share photos of your pets, your child’s successes, your favourite movie and more, it all add to the experience.

It’s also very easy to share things that have emotional appeal despite not having any idea on the trustworthiness of the source.  Have you ever seen people share ‘missing person’ posts on Facebook?  Maybe you’ve seen your friends do this or have done it yourself. While the intention is good, are you certain you are sure of the source?  More often than not, the source is a ‘family member’ or ‘friend’ saying “we haven’t seen John Doe for two weeks now, please share this with everyone”.

Unless you know who is sharing the original missing person post, you might want to think again after reading this helpful advice from the Kindersley branch of the RCMP on their Facebook page.  Just like sharing dubious news without checking the source can cause problems, so can sharing missing persons post unless your 100% of the source.

rcmp

Something to think about in the future. If you see your friends sharing these types of posts, you may wish to let them know about the RCMP’s advice.

 

IWD: Thanks for the WiFi Hedy!

Today is International Women’s Day!  In honour of that, I felt it was a good idea to introduce to you to someone you may have heard of but not for the reason you might think.

Hedy_Lamarr_Publicity_Photo_for_The_Heavenly_Body_1944

Hedy Lamarr c.1944

Ever heard of Hedy Lamarr? Chances are your parents or grandparents might.  She was an Austrian born American film star in the 1930’s and 1940’s.    She is probably best known for her role as Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille‘s Samson and Delilah.  

However, she wasn’t just a pretty face – she was a bit of an inventor.  In 1942, she, along with avant-garde composer George Antheil invented and patented a radio guidance system for torpedoes that was resistant to being jammed.

The principles of their design is one of the most important parts of current communications technology including Bluetooth and WiFi.   Their work in those wartime years has become so important now, that in 2014 they were inducted into the American National Inventors Hall of Fame .

So the next time you pop into a coffee shop and take a photo of your coffee and uploaded it on Facebook using their free WiFi – give a thought to Hedy and George.  Without them WiFI just might not exist!

 

Scammers Target Talk Talk Customers

“TalkTalk customers are being targeted by an industrial-scale fraud network…” reports the BBC. It’s a good reminder to always be wary of cold callers asking for information or suggesting you need to install software on your computer to “fix” problems.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39177981

You may wish to revisit this earlier post on the Top Ten Scams of 2017.

Old Is New

_1550622_phone100

Friday Flashback: a mobile phone that can take photos? Whatever next? The comments on this archived BBC page from 2001 are priceless.

“I would use the camera phone to take pictures of my best friend, my dog Benson.”

Someone saw the future!  

And now everything old is new again – Nokia are re-releasing their classic 3310 phone. Demand is expected to be HUGE.