Articles, Documentaries, Technology

Billions in Change (A great documentary!)

Have you ever watched something and had an “aha!” moment very soon afterwards? Well that exact thing happened to me a few minutes ago.

The documentary I’ve included below is about Manoj Bhargava. He created a 5 hour energy drink that very quickly became a billion dollar product. The next question he had was “What do I do with all this extra money?” For him the answer was simple, give away 99% and help change the world using inventions.

I’ll try give you a brief synopsis of it without spoiling it for you. Manoj decided to set up a company that aims to solve problems like clean energy, clean and recycled water and even better healthcare. What really struck me was the fundamental point he seemed to revisit which goes something like this. Sometimes the solution to a complex problem is a simple one.

Now go watch it before I give away any more!


PhilosopherPoet

 

Additional reading

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Art, Photography, poetry, Technology

what lies beneath (photo poetry)

Ever since my curious mind was thrust upon this world; ever since I discovered the ability to reason and not be satisfied with the answers given to me…This has always happened to me.

Say for example, I go to the doctor and he tells me, “you have osto-prosperous syndrome. Due to this specific condition I’ll gonna be putting you on ana-laxti-tri-syhp-phex-trazine to help you manage it.” Some people see he’s a doctor, realize he’s spent year doing this and just give the three-bags-full nod. Well, not me. (You might also realize I know very little about the medical world). I want to know what is beneath the common day veneer people throw over everything. I will question the doctor until I’m satisfied I understand the internal processes, or at the very least the words he’s using.

The other day I had a similar urge to do the same with a hard drive. Most of us, have held a hard drive before, understood it has two parallel spinning discs, whose data is read by a needle-like lever darting backwards and forth. If this description if lost on you, just think of the vinyl (or record) player that has an extended arm used to read the data from the disc. (A slightly more crude, yet simpler analogy).

The hard drive in question was a 2.5″ (laptop sized) and had given up the ghost months back. Holding this device in my hands, I became plagued by two thoughts:

  1. Why don’t I open it up, and see for myself what the innards of this object look like?
  2. Once I’ve dissembled the drive, I will make this mess look beautiful. Why not?

Below I’ve included the photos I’ve taken as well as a poem I wrote a while back about a computer. Free free to leave any comments, if you have any πŸ˜€

hard drive_01

the wires inside

i closed a coffin today,
it was black with
wires of time inside

it lay on the floor
the silver fan
(cooling its heart)
Stopped and sighed
It lay in the warmth
of my own curiosity

i was more technology than
this carcass, splayed before
me and the wooden desk
i could get off the floor
crawl away from the slow
undergrowth – over
our lives.

i wept more for the
numb life hiding in
the cage and its brain
my tears fell out

so did the battery

hard drive_02

hard drive_03

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews, Technology

iExplorer – An iTunes Alternative

I’ve been with Apple a while now, and there is one piece I software I continually hear people complain about…iTunes. One of the major gripes I’m heard is that it tells you “My way or the highway”. It doesn’t allow the honest bloke on the street to recover music from an iPod (whose computer has died). Another thing, what if you just needed a couple of PDFs or pictures from one App and you didn’t want to use the clumsy iTunes root? Well this software is the answer to that problem.

Another cool thing? Backing up your notes. Sometimes you want an offline copy of your notes from the Notes App on the iPad. This app will go and save all your notes as RTF (Rich Text Format) files. Once you have those you can always upload them, or back them up wherever you wish.

It gets into the nooks and crannies. Every now and again you will download an eReader, note taker, download manager, organiser, photo organiser…in other words something that will collect bits and pieces for you. If you were to use iTunes for the first time, it doesn’t give you a simple way of retrieving that info. Here, this app displays everything in a tree-structure and Shazam you can crawl into each and every app and extract your crucial information.

 

Here's an exmaple of all the different services this App provides.

Here’s an exmaple of all the different services this App provides.

Behold the Tree Structure! Here's an example of ripping photos off an iPad. Pretty nifty!

Behold the Tree Structure! Here’s an example of ripping photos off an iPad. Pretty nifty!

This a good example of saving your music collection. One client of mine had their largest collection of music stored on their iPad, and they needed it rescued.

This a good example of saving your music collection. One client of mine had their largest collection of music stored on their iPad, and they needed it rescued.

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Reviews, Technology

iTunes (The Jealous Girlfriend)

It’s your usual working day. Nothing has changed. You are composed, diligent an whittling away at the keyboard. The Boss walks in greets you with a firm handshake and says β€œWhen you have a moment I’d like to talk to you.” Now you’re ambivalent. Will you walk away with a raise or a graze?

This is the same feeling I got on my way back home today. I checked the software updates, saw there were a few to go. Before I left I cast my eyes down the list and saw…iTunes 11. The long awaited, anticipated, supposed-to-change-everything piece of software. My drive home felt a bit like waiting on the chair outside the Boss’s office.

Before I get into some of the awesomeness of iTunes 11, let me get a few things off my chest about the previous versions. The good news is I’ll be writing a follow-up article on iTunes 11 and it’s greatness. There are a few reasons why many mac users (i.e. that means you use it daily, it’s not your weekend toy) find iTunes tedious and even painful at times.

itunes 10

Aesthetics: When iTunes hopped from version 9 to 10 the sidebar was suddenly desaturated. All the vibrant colour in the Music, Movie, and Podcast Library icons was lost. It sounds like a giant knit pick, but when you are weeding through your music on a daily basis, a small highlighted icon can go a long way.

Media Organisation: Many people purchase Music, Movies, Apps and tons of other bits from the iTunes Store. I pretty much only download Apps. The reason for not getting music there, is my taste in heavy metal (my preferred genre) is rather eclectic and not mainstream. Now if I did – in theory – buy everything through one portal then my music would be far easier to organise. Why? Well, because iTunes would do it all for me. I wouldn’t have to touch a thing. In reality we have the odd CD we’ve bought, or an album or two we’ve downloaded (because iTunes wasn’t selling it at the time). Plus we have bits and pieces gathered from different parts of the internet. This makes it difficult to organise.

Then there’s the other charming element when you’ve amassed all of your .avi movie files, iTunes shakes her head and says “Please come back when you have mp4 files, my dear.”

It’s not just a media player. This next part confuses the crap out of most people I meet. iTunes allows you to sync your email contacts, transfer word docs to a compatible app, back up your apps, sync your calendar.

The iPad is a great business tool. The iPhone is one of the most reliable phones I’ve encountered. Yet I don’t like the way iTunes tries to control everything like a jealous girlfriend. For example, if you want to send contacts to the iPad. Logic tells me that I would go to my contacts app and then click a button that talks to my iDevices.

itunes9vs10

Where to now?

Apple developers need to decide, is iTunes a media player or a device manager?

At the moment it’s both, which makes things clumsy for the newbie. During it’s genesis iTunes was a music player. Period. It didn’t play video in a hurry and it worked well. Then video compatible version hit the market, later on the iPhone and it’s Apps joined the fray. Very little was done in re-working the way iTunes handles its media and devices. In recent years only the colour and (to some extent) the layout of the interface has changed, not much else.

A good complaint is only as valid as its feasible solution. So here is what I propose…

Redesign / Bring back iSync (or something similar)

I blogged about this great App earlier. The developer blokes need to rework this piece of software so it handles “any sync related aspect” of the iDevices.

Sync is a clipped version of the longer word ‘synchronise’. A better way to look at it is think of creating a mould. Pour the contents of your computer’s media, into the same surroundings (or framework) and you’ve got them ‘synced’.

So ultimately you’ll have iSync that handles any sync, transfer, managing of data, and then you simply use iTunes as your Library Player. This will result in iTunes being far more watered down, but then at the same token, less memory hungry, smaller to update (in terms of bandwidth). If iTunes sticks to being more of a player and less of a manager, then we’ve won half the battle.

 

Side Note: For the wise-guy who’s about to open his mouth about iTunes 11…just wait. Keep your eyes on my RSS feed (or email subscription). There’s a review coming soon…

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Technology

What the F**k is my Password?

Previously in my blog I’ve spoken about how to manage your passwords better (with the iPad App OneSafe). It’s about time I get down to the nitty-gritty and tell you how to create a password. It’s actually pretty confusing at first. This will be a guide to help smooth things out.

Many websites require a password to log on whether it’s email, banking, Facebook, Twitter, A blog, or Deviant Art. The problem is not the amount of passwords (i.e. some people figure “well, it’ll just be easier if I use the same password for everything.”), but many websites have different password requirements. So I’ve decided I’m going to give a course on…

 

Passwords For Absolute Beginners (and Occasional Morons).

I’ll answer the following questions:
– Why do I need a password?
– What is a secure password?
– How an I keep my passwords safe?
– Is it wise to keep all my passwords the same?
– How I retrieve my lost password?
– Is there an easy way for me to remember all of my passwords?

How secure is a password?
That depends on the person creating it. The general rule of thumb is the following:
– Length: 8-16 characters
– No more than three consecutive letters and/or numbers.
– The letters should be a combination of upper and lowercase.
– A strong password should also contain special characters (e.g. $, &, @, Β£, etc)

How do I go about making one that I can remember?
I always say to different clients that if you make a jumbled up one, that is more secure. It’s harder to remember but there are ways of training your brain to remember a specific password. For example I put a nice complex password as the lock screen on my iPad, that way every time I pick it up and start using it, I’m forced to punch it in.

Many people decide that they are going to use something easy like a pet’s name, their physical address, or their initials combined with their date of birth. Do not do this for any reason. You will be extremely vulnerable and might end up getting hacked. An intelligent person could always look you up in the phone book, and scribble down you address. (The odds are some slug-like couch potato will be sucking your funds into a lucrative off-shore account.)

So here are some password suggestions. The following person is purely fictitious.

Name: Charlotte Smith
Address: 12 Hillside Road
Pet: Shadow

Bad Password Examples
charlottes
charlotte1967
smithcharlotte
12Hillside
shadow21

Better Password Examples
Ch4rl0tte (the vowels have been replaced by numbers, except for the ‘e’)
Hills1deSh4dow
shaDow211967 (this is the strongest password, due to the inclusion of more than two numbers.)

How can I tell if my password is strong enough?
Usually we want password(s) to make some kind of logical sense. The strongest one’s don’t really. If it takes you a few extra minutes to stop and think about it, a hacker’s time trying to crack it would exponentially increase.

Now the easy part…go and Google the words “password generator” (without quotes) you will find some excellent tools to help you. I have such an app on my iPad (thank’s to Wolfram). I’ve included a few Wolfram screenshots for those iPad junkies who feel the urge to get a new app.

Here are the results:

ASCII-based Passwords (i.e. letters, numbers, special curse words, the works)

f8:fKjVJ
4A6,5[n{
)h$pF1Xm
{1h)FSE{Z
]YeJ83zZ

You may have to be a little autistic to remember some of these. So allow me to wrestle with some settings and provide something easier on the eye. (On a side note…the reason these passwords are immensely strong, is some of them include two or more special characters such as +Ol30>{Z and {1h)FSE< ).

Alphanumeric Passwords (i.e. No Special Characters)

J66U2qFC
cviWwk3E
ngt9svks
xS3gL6rb
jJgAlph9
kENyHl00

First thing you might shout out is…Why does having no special characters make it a stronger password? A password with an asterisk or ampersand is technically weaker, however, doing it the way I have above is even stronger than my hastily thrown together Ch4rl0tte.

Another reason why passwords without special characters are important, is simply because not all websites support it. For example, if you are part of a dating website, or a local forum, chances are the developers haven’t allowed for special characters in the passwords. I remember being a little cheesed off when a while ago I’d put together a secure password (with special characters), and then when I set up my Internet banking it rejected it. Grrr… I had to come up with a different password, which ended up being more secure for me, rather ironically.

 

If only a smattering of the above mentioned made sense, here is a little summary.

Things to Remember
Don’t take time creating your own password. Use an online password generator.
Keep you passwords different between accounts. You can always download a good program to store your passwords.
Type one of two complex ones regularly. Set it as you computer login password, or your iPad (or whichever tablet you prefer).

Feel free to leave a comment if anything didn’t make sense πŸ˜€

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Technology

Keep your information hacker-free

I recently mentioned that I cut all ties with my social networks. During this process I realized that I need to beef my own personal security. I may not be a billionaire with a dozen off-shore investments, however, like anyone I’ve still got money in the bank. Having this said…It’s an absolute must that you have multiple passwords.

From time to time I set up Apple IDs for people (i.e. an account with iTunes online, that allows you to purchase Apps, Books, Music, etc). Often I get asked…”Well, can I just use the same password for my email and Apple ID?” My reply is sure you can, but that not very safe or clever. Rather spend some extra time one the Internet and invest in an App that remembers your passwords for you. An App I discovered on the App Store that does this very well is called oneSafe

It’s super user-friendly, and the extra bonus is you can add your Social Networking passwords (including various other accounts) to it such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Gmail, Pinterest, WordPress, and so the list continues. If you don’t have extra Benjamins lying around then you will most likely find a program for your computer that does a similar thing. The key thing to google is “eWallet” (minus the quotation marks). I found this useful App myself simply by typing in “remember passwords” (again without those beautiful quotes).

When I google something I always start out with a broad term, and sift through extra pages until I find exactly the thing I’m looking for. Sometimes the app you need isn’t always lurking in the first pages, and you need to punch a couple rounds into your trackpad to get to it. I’ve also included an excerpt from a fascinating article which also gives good advice on password protection. Click the link below if you want to read the full thing. Otherwise, good luck out there hopefully this will making you feel a little more safe. πŸ˜€

Until Apple fixes its porous iCloud security, here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

1. Make sure that you have a strong iCloud/Apple ID password. (Here’s how to change it).
Use unique passwords to protect different accounts (I recommend 1Password for this). If you’re using the same password for your online banking as your webmail account you’re asking to be hacked. At a minimum, use tiered passwords: a superstrong one for anything financial, another one for your email and a third for everything else.
2. Use a throwaway email address (that’s not linked to anything) for forms and retail-related spam. The less personal information that’s in it, the better.
3. Enable two-step verification on your Google account and protect it. Don’t use your primary email address for every retailer and web form that asks for it. (See #3 above.)
4. Buy a domain name, host it with an ISP you trust and set up email accounts on that domain for your high security/financial accounts. Use email accounts you control (not webmail) for high security applications and for password recovery.
5. Use different credit cards for Amazon and your Apple ID.
6. Back up your most important data to physical media that you control. Ideally two copies on-site and one off-site (at work, your parent’s or a friend’s house).

Click here to read the rest of the article.

PhilosopherPoet

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Technology

Look after

One of the first signs of being passionate something is when you begin to feel. I used to live with someone who told me that you have to see a motorbike as a person. I bought one end of last year and he told me that I need to get a better exhaust so she can breathe better. I need to service this and that, occasionally give her a good clean.

At first the mention of seeing this piece of steel as a person, made me wrinkle my nose in confusion. As he went on I began to see the relevance. Your important possessions you need to maintain and nurture. I’m no master of the motorbike, however put me behind a computer and my eyes light up much the same.

When I left school my parents bought me a computer as a good-luck-out-there present. That same motherboard lasted me four years. That’s an eternity in the PC world. Think of owning a pair of shoes for 5 years (i.e. ones you use everyday) and you’re on the right track. My mother used to utter a phrase to me, every time something more valuable came into my reach. She simply said, “Look after.” I used to roll my teenage eyes back in angst, when that phrase came out. Now I look at it I can see EXACTLY the meaning behind it. I no longer look like I’m having a small seizure either.

I’ve seen so many people throw down there laptops, or just leave it running down to the last morsels of cache. Here’s a better example… Ever owned a laptop and left it plugged into the charger over night? That’s bad. Very baaaad. If you’re nodding your head it’s time to repent and allow the lithium cycles in your battery to themselves. Every battery (in an ideal world) will run from a vibrant 100% charged to a pitiful 0-10%, every day. For arguments sake a battery comes with 1500 cycles. That means fifteen hundred chances at holding charge for you, while you scamper off to meetings.

The idea is to have as much of that as possible. If you leave your laptop plugged in all the time, you’re hurtling current at the dear battery when none is required, and more importantly you’re stunting its ability to be a battery (slowly lose charge over time). Think of it this way. Do you leave the stove on when you’re done cooking? Nope. It draws power, and keeping it on will burn the shit out of your stove plates. Same idea. Charge when needed, otherwise allow it to sleep like the rest of us (pun duly intended).

Now think of the computer as a human. You paid a couple of grand to get it, so for fuck’s sake give it some TLC. Go and get a comfortable bag for it, and research how to take care of it. This is not a rant at stupid people, but more a reminder at the end of the day all our equipments asks is that we “Look after [it].”

Treat your gadgets tenderly as you would a lover. Chances are they may even help to get you laid, at the end of the day.

PhilosopherPoet

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