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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Taking the Mickey…

As the saying goes “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog…“.  It’s far too easy for people to pretend they are someone or something they are not.  Sometimes, that’s a good thing, but more often than not, it’s bad.  Anyone can create fake profiles on social media and use them to fool people into parting with their money.

This is why social media sites like Facebook and Twitter created ‘verified’ profiles. You can be sure if someone has a blue tick beside their name, they are who they say they are.  This is very important if you’re going to share a post, provide personal details or enter into a financial transaction.

These fake sites will often use a legitimate business name to fool people.  Let’s use Disney as an example.  Everyone knows the name, Disney. It’s a worldwide brand with a certain degree of trust associated with it.  This is how fraudsters take advantage of people.  They create a fake page and get you to share its post or provide your personal details. Then you wonder why you’ve never one a holiday or a cruise or free tickets. Disney isn’t the only victim, there are well-known pages claiming to give away RVs or cars, all using the same tactics.

In almost all cases, these big companies will never ask you to share a post to win something.  If they do, be sure the page is the real one.  Look for the blue tick beside their name.  Please note, the tick mark should NOT appear as part of their profile image.  Anyone can put a tick in an image using simple graphics software.  The tick will be beside their name only.

In the image below, you can see a common trick fraudulent pages use – a full stop (or period) after their name.  Both fake Disney pages on the left have one, and in addition, the bottom one shows irrelevant category.  These are common tricks used to fool people.

disney-tick

Both Facebook and Twitter have a process that allows you to request verification.  This isn’t available for every page but is very useful for big brands, business and celebrities.

If you see your friends sharing these sorts of fake pages, let them know they are scams and likely to compromise their personal information. And of course, tell them about this blog, and Phil The Geek on Facebook!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Instagram – “Hide” Your Hashtags

Do you have an Instagram account?  If you do, no doubt you’ve seen many photo descriptions ‘lost’ amongst the hashtags.

Header-HashTag-100214While hashtags are an important part of Instagram, there’s a better, more tidy way.  Place your hashtags in a comment, immediately after you post your photo and description.

It will look much better.  Here’s how:

Open ‘notepad’ on your iPhone (or similar app on other smartphones).

Type a full stop ” . ” or dash “-“then press return.  Do this four more times, then type your hashtags on the sixth line.   You’ll get something like this:


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#hashtag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag #hastag #hashtag


 

Then copy all that and paste it into a comment.  If you use the same set of tags often, save your note and reuse it the next time you post.

When someone looks at your Instagram photos, it will appear less messy but the hashtags will still be there to do their job!

Keep in mind you’re only allowed 30 hashtags per post and they should be relevant to your photo.

If you really want to have them in your photo description, only use a few, then put the rest in a comment.

If you’ve found this tip useful please share it below!

 

 

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.

Just The Facts Ma’am

#FakeNews is everywhere and it’s getting harder to tell what’s true and what isn’t.   Some sites are very clever and so convincing they fool many people.  It always makes me smile when they fool politicians who gleefully share the news, then end up having egg on their face afterwards.  If seasoned politicians, who SHOULD be media aware, are fooled, what chance does the average joe have?  

First, if you’re not sure it’s true, DON’T share it.  Not even to say “I’m not sure if it’s true or not but…”.   Once a false story is out on the net, it takes on a life of its own and people will believe it because “so and so shared it”.

Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.  Make your motto: “Be Sure. Then Share”. Get your facts checked first. This brief, but helpful video, from Channel 4 ‘s Facebook Page provides some helpful tips.  

When you’ve watched that, have a look at the LINKS page for a list of current satircal news sites.

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.