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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NSA malware on over 50,000 computers

Posted by David Bernstein

We all know how big of a problem malware is these days with cyber criminals trying to steal your personal information. And one would think the government is trying to prevent these types of cyber attacks from happening so we can have some sort of peace of mind when it comes to our home computer.

But now there is a new report that the NSA has infected over 50,000 computers with their own malware designed to collect information that can be used for their own purposes… whatever that may be. According to the report the malware was put into systems belonging to telecommunications providers and other companies around the world and sits there unnoticed until it needs to come to life and do its thing. When it’s activated it collects the data its needs and sends it off to the NSA.

Since malware spreads itself to other computers one would think that it may make it onto computers that were not intentionally meant as targets. It would also seem possible that outside agencies or hackers could tap into the data or take advantage of the malware and use it for their own criminal activities.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Windows 7 retail sales have ended

Posted by David Bernstein

If you are looking to upgrade the version of Windows running on your computer to Windows 7 or are looking to build your own Windows 7 computer then you better get your hands on a copy of Windows 7 before they become extinct. Microsoft has announced that they have discontinued distributing retail copies of Windows 7 to retailers in October of this year.

For now there are still many companies like Amazon that have inventory left so you are not completely out of luck. And if you want an OEM version then they will still be available. The good news is that PC manufacturers will still be able to sell new computers with Windows 7 installed since there has not been a cutoff date announced for that yet. And companies with volume licensing agreements will still be able to do new Windows 7 installations.

Some people believe that Microsoft is doing this to try and boot (or force) the sales of Windows 8 to people in need of an operating system upgrade. Windows 8 accounts for around 9% of market share while Windows 7 stands at around 46% and Windows XP is still at 31%. If you are worried about support then you still have some time because mainstream Windows 7 support will end in January 2015 while extended support will expire in January 2020.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Not even your video games are safe from prying eyes

Posted by Jim Bernstein

With all the recent NSA and Edward Snowden news about government spying one would wonder what you can and can’t do in the world of electronics that is safe from "the man". We already know that phone calls and emails are subject to surveillance but it doesn’t end there.

If you are an online video game player then you know how easy it is to hide behind you character and pretend to be something you are not. Most gamers assume that the huge axe wielding character is really a 13 year old boy anyway. But what are the odds that your online fighting buddy is really a terrorist trying to recruit others via a video game?

Now it seems that the US and British governments are spying on our online video games as well with their own characters. Online games such as World of Warcraft and some Microsoft games have been infiltrated with spies trying to gather information on potentially dangerous real life people. The report states that the meeting places and private chat rooms are perfect places for people to plot their real life attacks. Microsoft and World of Warcraft maker Blizzard Entertainment released statements saying they didn’t know of any spies snooping in their online environments. Supposedly there has been a lot of information gathered but who knows for sure if its really useful or helpful.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Next generation USB is faster and the connector fits both ways

Posted by David Bernstein

If you have ever plugged in a USB device (and who hasn’t), you must have at some time fumbled with plugging it in the right direction since the connections look pretty much the same on both sides. But don’t count on using it with existing USB pugs because it won’t fit because it will be smaller than today’s USB plugs and closer to Micro USB size.

There is going to be a complete redesign of the USB Type-C connector for USB 3.1 devices. The new connector will also be able to distribute power to devices without the need for a separate connection like you see in many dual USB devices. The specifications for USB 3.1 include a 10 Gbps data speed which is twice that of USB 3. This will come in handy for today’s HD video playing and large file transfers.

Expect there to be adapters to be able to connect between the cable types. The specifications of the USB 3.1 are expected to be finalized by Summer 2014 so don’t plan on seeing any USB 3.1 devices or cables until after that.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WinAmp Media Payer shutting down after 15 years

Posted by David Bernstein

If you have been a Windows user for a long time you most likely have used or at least heard of WinAmp Media Player. It was a very popular free program that would play audio and video files and was used by a lot of people. It was also used to stream audio from internet radio sites and the like. WinAmp supported a variety of file types making it popular for end users.

Once Windows Media Player and iTunes became the standards for audio and video playback WinAmp started fading away except for the faithful old school users. WinAmp was created in 1997 and soon bought out by AOL in 1999.

The latest version of WinAmp was released this Wednesday and the last time you will be able to download the software from their site will be on December 20th. All of their associated web services will be shut down on the 20th as well. Even though former employees claim that WinAmp was pulling in 6 million a year the company has not commented on why they are shutting down.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Personal computer sales still on the decline

Posted by David Bernstein

If you think about it, when was the last time someone talked about some new software they got for their personal computer compared to the new app they downloaded to their smartphone or tablet? This is because PCs are old news while smartphones and tablets are still the new hot ticket.

With that being said it’s no wonder that personal computer sales have been declining for some time and are still on their way down. We don’t think they will be going away any time soon but their popularity seems to be. Apparently for the 6th quarter in a row, PC sales have been dropping which of course causes concern for PC manufactures and PC operating system vendors such as Microsoft.

Research group IDC said the market fell nearly 8% and expects the PC market to bottom out next year and then start to recover in 2015 when people will have to replace their current computers assuming they don’t just switch to tablets. The drops were from other countries outside of the US according to their research.

IDC said Acer and Asus suffered declines of about 34% but report that Lenovo, HP and Dell have actually grown up to 3% thanks to the US market for PCs.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Backdoor vulnerability found in D-Link routers

Posted by David Bernstein

If you have a broadband internet connection at home you most likely have a router between your modem and computer, or at least you should have one. Even if you don’t use a wireless connection you should have a router to get an extra layer of security to protect you from the outside world.

There are a handful of top brands of routers you will find in your local electronics store such as Netgear, Belkin and Linksys. There is one major brand (D-Link) that has recently been discovered to have a security hole that can allow remote code execution and allow the hacker to login to the router without knowing the name or password. After they are in they can do things such as change the router’s settings and redirect computers to malicious websites. A researcher from Tactical Network Solutions named Craig Heffner discovered the vulnerability out of boredom while reverse engineering the web server software contained in the router’s firmware.

This security hole does not affect all D-Link routers. The most likely affected models include the DIR-100, DI-524, DI-524UP, DI-604S, DI-604UP, DI-604+, TM-G5240 and possibly DIR-615. The BRL-04UR and BRL-04CW routers made by Planex Communications might also be vulnerable because they also appear to use the same firmware. D-Link plans on having the issue fixed by Halloween.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

YouTube is redoing the way comments are posted on videos

Posted by David Bernstein

 You might have noticed that when you go to watch a YouTube video that there are comments underneath and many of them are either irrelevant to the video’s content or just negative comments that are posted for no other reason but to be negative.

Google is now changing the way YouTube comments are shown to make them a better and more relevant experience for the viewers of that video. This will also cut down on trolling and spam like comments that don’t have anything to do with the video.

Comments will change from having the newest comment on top to the most relevant comments being at the top of the list. And people that you know that post comments will get top billing on your video’s page. If you post a comment on your own video it will also get more attention than other viewers. YouTube will also be using Google+ to personalize what different people see based on their friends and which other posters they interact with the most.

And if you don’t have the time to weed out the comments you don’t want shown on your videos page then you can use their new tools to filter out unwanted commenters or certain keywords that you choose. You can also have the option to hold these comments for review in case you decide later on that you want to post them.