The Guide to Secure Online Living and Protecting your Digital World

Every Day Connected provides useful tips and ideas on how to keep your digital information safe and secure. Providing daily malware updates, new innovation on privacy and data protection, as well as products and services that can help.

Frontrow: Three Reasons Not to Buy this Thing

If you needed any confirmation about how out-of-control the human race has become, look no further than the new Front Row necklace offered by a company called Ubiquiti Labs. First came Google Glass, then Snap’s Spectacles, and now this.

A new camera makes it possible to record and stream video without lifting a finger. 

This camera is worn like a necklace, and has 2 cameras that can live stream video straight to FaceBook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. It can be control by a touch screen, or your smartphone via the app that uses need to install. ‘Share your world in real time,' reads the device's website. The website goes on and on about how awesome this device is and how it will free up your hands to do cool stuff like, I don’t know, fill out you unemployment form or stare at your phone. Yeah, because Meercat and FaceBook Live have given us so many great unedited, real-time memories of things like sexual assaults and murders for all to watch. I read the book The Circle and as I recall, it pretty much clearly lays out in how flawed the notion of a ubiquitous, ever-streaming device like this is, and how society is not ready for it. My guess is most civilized people of average intelligence won’t want to buy it either. How does that expression go? ‘Just because you can doesn’t mean you should…’ or something. Anyway, The Circle was made into a movie and currently owns a unremarkable score of 17% on Rotten Tomatoes despite the fact that it starred A-Listers like Emma Watson and Tom Hanks.

So, without further ado, and because the headline somewhere promised, the three reasons you should never, ever get this device or use one:

Reason 1

In case you haven’t yet figured it out, your life and your story just isn’t that interesting to most other people. Let’s face it, if I live streamed myself typing this story, the most interesting moment would be when I spilled coffee on myself and getting up stretch my legs. Not very compelling. Don’t assume others will be as enamored with your day-to-day stuff. If you still don’t believe me, read the first 100 pages of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and you’ll see what I mean.

Reason 2

This should be pretty obvious but we’ll state it it anyway. Your ‘content’ will be out there for all to see when (see reason 1) no one is really interested anyway. But they might become interested when you go out to apply for a job or a school. Nothing good happened after 11pm, and nothing good happened when you live stream yourself doing boring or (see reason 3) potentially libelous stuff.

Reason 3

What happens if you record yourself, either on purpose or accidentally, committing a criminal act? What if you record someone else, knowingly or unknowingly committing a criminal act? Problems ensue, that is what happens. Imagine of judges started writing warrants for access to this information, or courts started allowing them as evidence (in some cases they already do)? Every second of everyone’s live were never meant to be captures for others to see. Do yourself and the rest of us a and favor and go read a book or talk a walk, and don’t buy one of these things.

Apple HomePod to Challenge Google Home and Amazon Echo

Apple’s new HomePod and the Threat to Google Home and Amazon Echo

Apple unveiled the company's long awaited competitor to the Amazon Echo smart speaker at the company's WWDC conference on Monday. Like the Echo and the Google Home, the HomePod is an always-listening speaker that plays music, answers questions and controls your smart home. 

It's due out this December in the US, UK and Australia and will cost a lofty $349. That's expensive -- the Echo's only $180 and the Home's even cheaper at $130.

Apple's upcoming HomePod has to sound better than both the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. That's the expectation the company set, and the HomePod has to follow through for it to outdo the highly competent competition. The HomePod could sell well enough just on the clout of its Apple branding, but to actually be better than either the Echo or the Home, it will need to sound great. Because I expect it'll have a hard time keeping up with either of its competitors as a smart home control point or an entertainment device.

Here are just some of the comparative features:

 

Apple HomePod

Google Home

Amazon Echo

Price USD

$349

$129

$180 / $40

Wake word

"Hey Siri"

"OK Google," or "Hey Google"

"Alexa," "Echo," "Amazon" or "Computer"

Music streaming options

Apple Music

Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn

Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, others

Smart home Partners

Will likely work with Apple's established HomeKit partners: Ecobee, Honeywell, Chamberlain, D-Link, August, Kwikset, Philips Hue, Lutron, iDevices and more

Nest, Honeywell, SmartThings, Wink, Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Lifx, Lutron, August, Logitech Harmony

Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell, SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Lifx, Lutron, August, Logitech Harmony, Anova, Big Ass Fans, Crestron, other devices via skills

Output to stereo system

Unknown

Yes, via Chromecast

Yes, via Bluetooth and Echo Dot

Personal assistant highlights

News, language translation, weather & traffic info, reminders, podcasts

Google Search, traffic, calendar, shopping lists, flight status

Calendar, news, traffic, weather, shopping lists, reminders, flight status,

 

Apple Opportunity

Neither the Amazon Echo or the Google Home fared particularly well on our sound tests during their reviews. Both devices sound fine for casually listening to music, but we heard distortion from both of them at high volume levels. Sound quality is really important to some people, but the speakers that come with the unit can always be tethered to other speaks or speak systems. Both the Echo and the Google Home allow you connect your unit to your existing sound system, either directly or via BlueTooth. Google Home allows the user to connect via Chromecast to another enabled device, but I couldn’t get it to work.

The only way the HomePod can actually justify its $350 price tag is to blow away users at the get go, and that might be so easy. Apple also has an established smart home platform called the HomeKit, which is like an SDK of a sort. It works with Siri and allows for smoother interaction for other devices and services, but I am not sure how compelling this will be for the everyday user. I think there is a decent chance that HomeKit end being more trouble than it is worth for developers since there is a strong chance most users will use HomePod like a very expensive voice controlled iPod.

What we like about Amazon Echo

I bought mine for $39 last Christmas, plugged in the speaker I already had, and connected it to my Amazon Prime account and that was it. Don’t underestimate the perceived value of simplicity. Plus Amazon Music has a pretty good selection of music for me and it sounds pretty good. And, I can order razor blades and toilet paper if I need to. I also like the fact that if something goes wrong with the WIFI connection, I can just access the device through my laptop and quickly fix it. And while I haven’t yet hooked up my lights to the Echo, I plan on doing it so I can order Alexa to shut off my house lights for me.

What we like About Google Home

Google has a cool thing called shortcuts, and the voice command is much more flexible and permitting than Alexa is. And as a result of it massive trove of information to tap into, Google Home can answers question much more accurately and more effective than Echo can. It also has excellent home entertainment capabilities with Chromecast. I would not bet again Alphabet and Google Home is the race for dominance. Just get ready for the annoying voice ads.

 

Keep Your Data Safe When Telecommuting

Thanks to the Web, more and more people are working remotely -- from home or anywhere. But not commuting anymore doesn't mean you don't have the same security issues that your corporate-office counterparts do. Here's how to protect your data, devices and computer without an IT department:

1. Back up your data in the cloud.
It’s easy to lose all your work: One computer virus or hard-disk-drive meltdown, and your important files may vanish forever. That’s why, when working from home, backup is crucial. Instead of depending on bulky hardware, try the many cloud services on the Web. They back up new content every night while you sleep, keeping your files safe and allowing you access from any computer at any time.

"Backup used to be cost-prohibitive," says Phil Montero, founder and CEO of an online resource called You Can Work From Anywhere. But these days, many online services charge as little as $50 per year, depending on your needs. Mozy even offers certain amounts of backup for free. If you’re only backing up documents, Google Docs is another good bet.

2. Protect your computer and critical files.
If your employer issues you a PC or laptop to use at home, they'll often install security software or a Web-based security service to block viruses or bar hackers. But if you are self-employed, the burden of protecting your computer and data from the increasing array of online security threats falls squarely on your shoulders.

When choosing a cloud-based security service, be sure it protects your computer with antivirus, spyware and firewall programs. It should also constantly updates to protect you against evolving threats.

You should also limit your family members’ access to your work computer. "You have to be sure that the really critical stuff isn't made accessible to someone who shouldn't have access to it," says Jack M. Nilles, founder of JALA International, a global telecommuting consulting company. "That includes the kids getting on your computer and downloading something [harmful]."

Finally, keep passwords and ID numbers private so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

3. Seamlessly collaborate with others.
Whether you work on your home computer once a week or full time, if you need to share files with colleagues, synchronization tools can help ensure you (or your team) are working on the correct or latest version of a document. The “old” way to do this was to copy the files from your home computer onto an external hard drive, CD or thumb drive and install them on your work computer. But this process sets you up for accidentally writing over the most recent files -- and what if this external backup device you were depending on is destroyed or lost?

Cloud services enable you to sync automatically to ensure speedy backups. Or try Microsoft’s FolderShare, which allows you to synchronize files with colleagues over the Web.

There's no doubt to the benefits of Web to the home office worker. That said, you want to be smart about security issues. To really cover your bases, in addition to backing up and securing your data, Niles also says it's important to get a clear protocol from your company or clients: "We recommend that telecommuters working for a company have a formal agreement specifically stating who is responsible for what." This way, you can always fall back on the agreed-upon security plan for your best-quality work away from your IT department.

4 Life-changing Resolutions You Can Stick To

Time flies. It’s 2011 already, yet it seems like just yesterday you were recovering from last year’s New Year’s Eve party. And before you know it, 1/1/11 will turn into 11/11/11 -- another year gone by. That’s when you may find yourself staring at the calendar and wondering what happened to all those resolutions of new years past.

Keeping resolutions is not just about willpower. It’s about having a system in place to reach your goals. The cloud can help, letting you store and access relevant software, tools and files via any of your Web-connected devices. Here’s how to use the cloud to keep some common new year’s resolutions:

Resolution No. 1: Get more organized.

  • Use online calendars and productivity tools to write your goals, set milestones and track and share your progress. Our three favorite tools: Google Docs, Cohuman and DreamTeam
  • Use apps to get real-time feeds from social media and RSS sources to stay on top of what’s important to you.
  • Clear out old, unwanted files and organize current files or projects in folders. Store files you want to save in the cloud for free, using such a service as Google Docs, Box.net, Windows Live Mesh or Amazon S3.
  • Protect your files. Secure access to digital storage is one of the top benefits of cloud computing: It lightens your computer’s load and improves its speed so you can get tasks done faster.


Resolution No. 2: Save more money and manage debt.

  • Clear your cookies. Better yet, before you make your next online purchase, upgrade your security software situation to a cloud-managed service that protects you from spyware, adware and malware to help maintain your privacy and protect your credit rating.
  • Take advantage of fraud and identity-theft protection features that are customizable through the cloud.
  • Use cloud tools, such as Mint.com, to create a budget and savings plan that helps you streamline your cash flow. Set calendar alerts to remind you of key payment deadlines.
  • Take pictures of items you want to sell with your smartphone and use Google’s Visual Search application to find out how much your items are worth.

Resolution No. 3: Spend more time with family.

  • Work from home one day a week. Use the cloud to access all the files you need. Easily share documents and collaborate with your team on projects via the Web. With secure access to servers and company files hosted in the cloud, more companies are allowing employees to cloud-commute.
  • Start your own home-based business. Cloud computing minimizes the headaches and costs associated with technical infrastructure, networks, software and security. Much of what you require is available on demand -- meaning you just pay for what you use, without a big up-front investment.
  • Use project management applications, free collaboration tools, document creation, video and sound editing, like Aviary, and free digital file storage.

Resolution No. 4: Volunteer more.

  • Use an online service like VolunteerMatch to locate your ideal project.
  • Use social media to share your experiences and spread the word.
  • Start your own community service project and manage it with cloud-based project management tools.
  • Start a Google Group to keep friends and volunteers organized and informed.
  • Check out Cloud for Good, a nonprofit and education-focused consulting group, to learn how to take your idea to the next level.