Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mobile App Development For Good Causes

According to research commissioned in support of The Sunday Times App List 2012, 56.5 per cent of smartphone owners use their mobile for its apps more than using it for making phone calls or sending text messages. The research also found 54.4 per cent of smartphone owners download at least one application a week, with the average user owning around 38 apps.

Apps are revolutionising the way we live, often without us even realising. Nowadays it's commonplace to check train times on our phones (usually through an app or mobile web). Before this technology was available, the only options were to check on our desktops or to call a premium rate number if we were on the move. Apps make our lives more convenient and smartphone technology is helping to change the way we do things.

As well as helping us become more efficient, mobile applications are also being developed to help others, and to help our society as a whole.

A recent mobile application competition, the International Space Apps Challenge, introduced us to a whole host of app ideas conceptualised to help improve our society.

One of the most successful projects was Grower's Nation, an app designed to help its audience grow and harvest vegetables and crops. The developers behind this app are passionate about finding areas of unused land to grow fresh produce, and in order to know about the types of soil and climate in these areas, various sets of data were collated from the around the globe.

The data that was (and still is) being collected includes:

- Monthly temperatures and rainfall
- The pH, type and moisture levels of soil
- Weather forecast (from Met office data)

The developers behind the project are crowdsourcing as much data as possible to make the app as precise and accurate as it can be.

Users enter their postcode or town and are presented with a list of recommended produce to grow in their areas (this is constructed from the open source data including climate and soil types). The app will also give the user guidance on when to sow, plant and harvest their crops.

The app can be used by a huge audience including a novice who wants to start growing in their back garden to crop farmers in developing countries. For the developing areas where the internet might not be as freely accessible as it is here, the developers are considering using SMS services to send weekly roundups on key information.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Three Step Strategy to Speed Up Your Computer Startup

There are various reasons behind your computer slowing down during startup. However, you can easily deal with these problems to speed up the startup process.

Identifying Which Programs Load Automatically During Startup:

The most common cause of slow computer startup is the number of programs that load when the system starts. You first need to identify which programs load automatically during startup. It may be surprising, but the truth is that a vast number of programs automatically start when your computer boots up.

To identify the programs that load during startup, perform the following steps:

Press SHIFT+CTRL+ESC key together to open Task Manager.
On the Performance tab, check if the Performance Usage on your computer is higher than the Physical Memory (RAM) of your computer.

This is usually the main reason behind a slow startup. Too many programs running at the same time contribute to a slow and tedious startup and of retarded performance as well.

How to Deal With the Problem:

Now that you know what is creating the problem, you have to stop or disable a few programs from automatically starting up when you boot up your computer. Remember, every program that runs on your computer is, without doubt, slowing down your PC.

To disable unwanted programs from loading at startup, perform the following steps:

Go to Start and click Run
Type msconfig and press Enter
Note: If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, type msconfig in the Start Search box and click Enter.
Open the Startup tab
Here, you will see all the programs that load during system startup. You can disable the ones you know are unnecessary. There may be some programs that need to run at all times- leave these programs enabled. Disable all other unwanted programs by clearing there checkboxes.
Once done, click Apply and then OK to apply your changes and exit the System Configuration Utility
Restart your computer when prompted.

Don't Keep what You Don't Require:

Always ensure that you don't keep any programs on your computer that you do not use. Although installed software on your PC may not be the direct reason behind your PC slowing down, each program adds entries to the registry and contributes to a slow computer by making the registry bulky.

To remove or uninstall a program:

Go to START
Go to Control Panel
Click on Add or Remove Programs
Note: In Windows Vista and 7, type uninstall program in the Startup box and press Enter.
This will populate a list of all the programs that are installed on your system. Once you click on any of the programs, a Remove tab will appear beside it. Select and uninstall the programs you don't need from here. You may have to restart your computer after uninstalling some programs.

Advanced Programs On Old Hardware:

Installing advanced programs on a system you purchased or assembled long ago may also result in slow computing performance as well as slow system startup. It is followed as a thumb rule to avoid any programs, software, and especially, a version of Windows that is newer than your computer by approximately 18 months.

Your computer may have the power under the hood to run these programs, but the shortfall doesn't happen in a day. After a prolonged period of usage, you will almost certainly notice that your system has slowed. So, in such a case, it is best to try to install an older version of the program you want to use. You may also need to revert to the previous version, if the program allows, but this is not a guaranteed process of enhancing computing performance and system speed.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How Addressing IT's Cyber Security Headache?

A global data storm

According to a report compiled by the America National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Internet Security Alliance (ISA) and The Santa Fe Group/Shared Assessments Program Healthcare Working Group - nearly 39.5 million Electronic Health Records (EHRs) were breached between 2005 and 2008.

Between September 2011 and November 2011, a government benefits program suffered the theft of EHRs of 4.9 million military personnel, the health information of 4 million patients of a reputable West Coast healthcare system were stolen electronically and a major academic medical center inadvertently disclosed the EHRs of 20,000 of its patients.

Clearly, Cyber Security is at the heart of the Global data storm, with similar data breaches reported from all corners of the planet.

How to navigate the Cyber-threat landscape

No organization can afford to ignore the consequences of a data breach and the time for action is now.

As Larry Clinton (President and CEO of the Internet Security Alliance states: "Cyber Security is not an IT issue, it's an enterprise-wide risk management issue that needs to be addressed in a much broader sense."

Cyber Security: How to reduce data vulnerability & cyber security threats with an endpoint backup solution

1) No user involvement in data backups

The reality is that users should not be involved in the security of business critical data. When organizations rely on a data backup policy where users are instructed to backup to a central server, they expose themselves to data loss risks.

To reduce cyber security threats and form a solid data security infrastructure, enterprises need to first completely remove the user from the data backup process by implementing an endpoint data backup solution that is:

Automated
Centrally managed and configured
Centrally deployed
Transparent, with no user interruption, increasing user adoption

Removing user involvement in data backups and putting IT in control is vital for effective data security and foundational protection against cyber security threats.

2) Central control over data backups

Central control over data backups not only ensures that user data is secure and available for recovery in the event of a laptop or desktop being compromised by a virus or other failure, it increases endpoint security and disaster recovery preparedness and decreases the risk of cyber threats.

In order to enforce the company's data backup policy, IT needs to have a complete oversight over the endpoint data backup environment.

Some Data Protection solutions give IT central control over endpoint business data by providing the ability to:

Centrally deploy the User Agent software, automating installation and ensuring user adoption.
Centrally define policies over what data needs to be backed up, from which users, and when
Pinpoint potential data loss risk areas quickly and act on it
Manage backups centrally and report on protection ratings and areas of concern
Prove compliance and the efficiency of Disaster Recovery Planning with intuitive data reports
Automate the backup process, further ensuring that user data is backed up and secure

This means the organization has full control over data backup selection, quotas, schedule options and settings.

3) Centralized & granular data access control

Central control over user data backups is a paramount foundational consideration when addressing cyber security. However, once the data is backed up and secure, controlling access to this data is an equally important measure.

More granular and refined data access and web security policies are a certain requirement for enterprise data protection and preventing cyber security attacks.

MessageLabs Intelligence 2010 Annual Cyber Security report shows an average of 30 custom policy rules per organization in 2010; with a rise to 50 this year.

Company policy should limit access to secure data based on business roles.

This ensures central control over endpoint user data with controlled and customisable access to confidential data. With certain data protection solutions, an encryption key is uniquely generated per user to ensure that access to data remains on a 'per user' level. This greatly reduces the threat of cyber security attacks.

To access a user's data requires the uniquely generated encryption key for that user to be entered. This key is safe guarded in the Encryption Key Safe. The Encryption Key Safe safeguards each user's unique encryption key in the event of a user requiring access to their data.

These data protection solutions provide the ability for authorized personnel to be granted 'Security Officer' rights over encryption keys enabling them to retrieve keys when required. This ensures granular access to confidential information and central control over who can view confidential user data.

4) Data encryption

Research shows that attacks on thousands of business computers are becoming less frequent, with targeted attacks on a single company or even one individual, becoming increasingly common. These attacks require access to this individual or organization's data.

To prevent such an attack and effectively protect user data from any unauthorised access, enterprises need to implement appropriate security measures. Controlled access is a partial measure and should form part of addressing security in information architecture, another one of these measures is reliable and secure data encryption.

Local Disc Encryption: Products like Safeboot, PGP and open source options like TrueCrypt encrypt the data on an individual's notebook or desktop, in addition to the data being backed up and encrypted by an effective data backup and recovery software solution.

Backup encryption: The backup and recovery solution you use should automatically encrypt your data. This is an especially important feature when it comes to compliance and data breach notifications. Anyone with IT access can access data stored on the server, which is why encryption of user data is vital in preserving data integrity.

Find a solution that is a certified Cryptography Service Provider. This means that the backup data for each user is encrypted using Blowfish 448bit (CBC mode) before being transmitted to the server.

Effective encryption aids in ensuring that confidential user information can't be accessed by unauthorised parties.

5) The ability to track data changes

For many institutions, security threats and suspected breaches in data security where a document has been changed or edited are difficult to prove as they don't have access to previous versions of user data.

A recent example of this is a financial institution suspected unauthorised access to their books where changes were made to spreadsheets. Unfortunately, as they couldn't restore previous versions of their data they could not legally prove their case.

A backup solution that provides previous versions of files to be restored removes this risk, improves corporate governance compliance and provides an audit trail.

Ensure you employ a solution that allows authorised access to previously backed up versions of user documents through file versioning, giving organizations the ability to restore older versions of files as well as track and monitor data changes. This is a huge security advantage for enterprises in instances such as

Corporate governance compliance
Proving legal disputes
Monitoring and validating a user data security breach

With access to this information, enterprises have greater control over data, and security risks are substantially reduced as past versions of user files can be easily restored.

6) Safe & simple data recovery

Despite high-profile news coverage of botnet attacks, botnets showed as the top concern of only 14 percent of respondents in the 2010 CDW Security Straw Poll, however if user data has been compromised or a user machine has been infected by a virus, data recovery is a of obvious importance.

Products like Net Trace also allow for asset tracking and remote deletion of the information - but then the data is lost forever. If your endpoint business data is backed up you can go ahead, destroy the data on the user's machine in the knowledge that the business data is accessible and can be restored.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Do You Need an Operating System?

Peripherals and system parts are a collection of electronics that work together in order to perform a specific task. The program that every computer uses to control and manage all these parts is called the operating system (OS).

For example, a user that wants to write a document and print it out on a network printer needs an application like Microsoft Word to accomplish this job. Microsoft Word works with the OS in order to accomplish all the word processing tasks. The operating system controls all the input and output functions. All the personal computers, the servers and the handheld devices require an OS in order to function.

The operating system works like an interpreter between software applications and the hardware. An individual interacts with the computer hardware through an application, like Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop, etc. Software applications are made for a particular purpose. On the other hand the OS is responsible for the communication between the software application and the computer's hardware.

When a PC is powered on it loads the operating system from the hard disk into RAM. The part of the operating system that interacts directly with the hardware is called kernel. The part of the operating system that it is visible to the user is called shell. The user can use the shell from the command line interface (CLI) or from the graphical user interface (GUI).

The user that uses the CLI interacts directly with the OS in a text-based environment by typing commands at a command prompt. The computer executes the command and provides textual output. The user can also use the GUI and control the computer from an environment that uses graphical images, multimedia, as well as text. This is more user-friendly and requires less knowledge than CLI. Therefore, most users work with GUI environments. Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems offer both GUI and CLI.

All the modern operating systems allow the user to multitask. The OS keeps track of which resources are used by which software program.

In order to work with devices that are not directly attached to the PC, a special software application must be installed that allows a device to send and receive data from the net. This is called redirector and usually it is an integral part of the OS but sometimes you need to install it separately as a network client. After you install it, the OS becomes a network OS (NOS).

Friday, March 2, 2012

How 3D Printing Brings Value?

How can 3D model printing serve you? Well that depends on who you are. Are you an engineer or 3D artist? Are you a consumer? Are you in a product development business? Do you like custom goods? 3D model printing isn't for everyone, but it has the potential to change the world. Let's go over what 3D printing is first.

3D printing a style of additive manufacturing in which a three dimensional object is created by laying down layers on top of layers in which these layers are made out of certain materials. Each of these layers are bonded together within a 3D printing machine. These machines produce 3D objects with great precision, and can form almost any object out of a wide variety of materials. The materials used may consist of plastics, metals, ceramics, or even precious metals. The use of these machines can produce products at a much faster rate than traditional additive manufacturing technologies. Basically, 3D printing consists of layer by layer assembly of objects within a 3D printer. The basis for each product comes from a 3D design, which would be created by an engineer or 3D artist. This technology allows for 3D model printing to be completed by anyone with Computer Generated Image (CGI) experience.

As artists and engineers design each model, the sky is the limit! Artists can design virtually anything to be printed. The limit is purely each designer's imagination. What does this mean? Truly custom products can be designed for consumers. There will be a massive avenue for custom manufacturing! If you think that engraving items is special, just wait until 3D model printing becomes much more widespread. The design of someone's face could be possible! Imagine how creative a valentines gift or Christmas gift could become.

There is also another aspect of 3D model printing - the business side. Perhaps a company is among a phone company, more specifically, the hardware for cell phones, not service. If a new phone were to be launched, wouldn't it be a great idea for product developers to 3D model print a design of a phone, and give it to investors to where they could HOLD the design? That might be much more reliable rather than seeing a digital picture of the phone, and creating a hold-able product might influence the decision of investors.

In addition, let's look at the engineering aspect of 3D model printing. How could this change the game for certain businesses? Let me cover an oil and gas company. An oil well is about to be drilled, and a highly specific valve system needs to be created. The engineers need this ONE highly specific part to be designed, but they don't want to have to deal with paying for the production of 50 of them. At the same time, they would like it in a very specific material without being gauged for pricing. 3D printing could save the day by allowing for the creation of only 1-3 pieces, at a much more inexpensive price.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How About Computer and Keyboard Recycling?

Everybody knows it is a good thing to do to recycle. If you recycle you are preserving the earth and re-using materials instead of throwing them into a landfill due to laziness or ignorance. Did you know that there are special companies that are made for recycling electronic items specifically?

The most commonly recycled electronic items of all are computers and their keyboards. Just with one item, you can contribute greatly to making the earth a better place to live. There are so many different metals and plastics involved in making electronic items that are harmful to the environment and by taking them out of the picture we can actually reverse the earth's destruction rather than help it move forward.

Recycling your keyboard and computer is easy. All you have to do is call a recycling company near you that takes electronic items and you just give them a time and a place to come pick it up. You can also drop it off if you don't want to have them come pick it up but it is just an easy solution for you so you have no obligations.

When they take your items they will separate them into all different categories according to material. The plastics, each different type of metal, glass and other information holding pieces will be disposed of separately.

If you are holding on to an old computer because you are afraid of the information getting out, you need not worry about that at all. All electronic recycling places take an oath to never tamper with hard drives or other pieces of equipment that hold confidential information. They will tell you about their exclusivity and privacy policies which will allow you to feel relaxed while letting them handle your belongings.

They will take your information and securely dispose of it properly. This means after they pick it up from you, they will give you a tracking number. You will be able to see where your item is at all times and they will even notify you when it is destroyed. It is guaranteed to be destroyed within 48 hours of pick up. This means all informational pieces get thrown into a shredder and are made sure to be irretrievable or even recognizable for that matter.

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Win in Battle Against Military Robots?

Advanced military weapons have always scared human beings, and rightfully so because humans inherently wish to stay alive. They fear the enemy might come into their city, or civilization and wreak havoc. In fact this is a real fear because throughout human history there have been battles, wars, and marauding armies raping and pillaging. Okay so, I'd like to talk about a new paradigm of warfare with regards to advanced weapon systems, namely I'd like to discuss the inherent fear of autonomous robotic military equipment.

Why is it that humans fear robotic weapons systems so much? Is it because of the unknown, or a misunderstanding about what these systems are about, or how they work? Perhaps from an American perspective it is good this fear exists in the minds of the enemy as we use our UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles overhead. Still, we do have some fear amongst our own citizens, and perhaps this has to do with famous science fiction movies such as the Terminator series, but is this justified? And how can you win a battle against military robots?

Understand the Sensors Used by Robotics

First, I would submit to you that you need to understand how they work, and how they collect their information to do what they do. They use sensors, and the sensors do not work like human eyes, nose, ears, feel, or hearing. Now then they may have 4 or 5 Sensors which to take in information in this regard, but they do not work the same as human senses. Thus, you may very well be able to fool the Sensors. Once you fool the sensors the military robotics are not as accurate, and therefore cannot do the job intended.

Hide in Broad Day Light

This also allows someone to hide in broad daylight. For instance consider that the sensors might be based on a heat signature, but if the ambient temperature is close to the same temperature as a human being, then all the suddenly the human being blends into the background. Yes, if the sensors are really good they will still be able to pick up a human, but there are other ways besides infrared which are used by these robots, and if you can disable the sensors, they cannot sense you.

Hack the Enemy - Use the Machines Against Them

There are indeed ways of interfering with the Sensors, and the robotic systems, or even using cyber warfare techniques and hacking to turn those very robots against their makers. In other words hijack the enemy's robots to serve your will and achieve victory in battle. It can be done. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.