Social Media

Virtual Reality (VR) Coming to Your Life Sonner than You Think!

Virtual Reality, or “VR” for short, is coming on fast. I’ve been engaged in watching it for many years, and in the format of head mounted displays “HMDs,” I first experienced one about 1996, where the world around me was filled with flying dragons and you had to spot and shoot them before they got to you. Cartoonish by today’s standards, but I got the experience of wearing it and considering the usefulness and applications to come.

In March, Facebook bought a successful Kickstarter project, Oculus Rift for $2B. The foundation of VR has been the simulation and gaming industry, with applications in the engineering the medical field.

So why is Facebook interested in a gaming device? From Dice:

“In the longer term, Facebook could attempt to build a virtual reality, one in which users interact with each others’ avatars amidst a digital landscape, rather than via a newsfeed or postings. In theory, that sort of simulacrum presents some prime opportunities for advertising: imagine all the digital billboards and wall-ads that Facebook could sprinkle around a virtual city.”

Think Star Trek Holodeck, minus the tactile input of feel. Now consider the applications that may flow from that, when a very capable HMD is in the sub $300 range.

Here’s the conditions to look forward to: If you think it’s rude now for a group of people in one place to all be nose first in their smartphones, get ready to walk into Starbucks and see 5-6 people at the bigger common table, laptops open and on, and they all are interacting in a virtual world, while sitting next to each other.

There will be exciting uses, like going up the Eiffel Tower with friends, when you all aren’t in the same place, and certainly can’t afford the time or have the money to go there…or NASCAR races, or hiking trails in the Grand Canyon.

As with any technology, there will be appropriate and effective uses, and then someone will turn it into an obsession and amplify the angst we have over being present and not being there when we are physically with others right next to us.

You heard it here. It’s going to be part of our worlds. It’s been driven by the gaming community and then other industries will piggy back on what solutions were put in place. As a side note: The graphics card market, that is an essential piece of the puzzle, also matured as a demand from the gaming community, to get closer to virtual environments being very lifelike in look and experience. Expect the business world the pick up the banner and apply it to meetings, or distance learning, or project construction reports, with this being a path to further develop augmented reality, too.

Social Media: The Internet is Forever……And Employers are using it more and more

The checking for the boundaries of youth have seen “better days.”

In an age where popularity and one-upsmanship carries significant amounts of social capital by “performing in/on social media, the trend is for not the only the Government to monitor you, with your own permission, if they choose, but, the ones you can’t claim 1st Amendment rights cases against so easily: Employers.

In this article from England from the regarding trends in the market, the move afoot is for employers, not just to check you out for hiring (already problematic enough when you have posted those partying hardy pictures and videos), but to keep tabs on what you’re saying…and it could not even be about them:

Many employers already monitor their workers’ Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages – but the practice is set to increase, a new report has revealed.

A new report by data analysts Gartner has claimed that by the year 2015, 60 per cent of employers will monitor social media pages of their employees.

The ‘Big Brother’ monitoring will be driven by security worries about employees leaking information or talking negatively about their workplace.
[…]

Well some us “seasoned” people have escaped the tomfoolery of youth without such consequences, be sure to pass some wisdom along to those you mentor or are the parents of, and hopefully, they will take such information under advisement and not press the “Update Status” button as fast, or as frequently as they may have planned to…

Understanding Your Digital Landscape Seminar 11/16/2010

From the flyer, regarding the Seminar I’ll be conducting to help business owners, who are not technically enabled, to better understand what makes their business function:

Understanding the Digital Landscape

What is it?
How do you find it?
How do you use it effectively?

Computers save us time in everything from information storage and retrieval, calculation, graphic design, and report preparation. E-commerce allows our websites to keep our businesses running 24/7.

A failure at any point, from our office records to our online presence, can quickly snowball into a technological disaster, especially for a small business that doesn’t have an IT (information technology) staff in-house.

Seminar leader Curt Middlebrook, The Computer Whisperer, provides insights into the equipment, computer programs, and office and internet support services out there, and the people who provide them. You’ll learn how to maximize your online efficiency, and how to track the success of your online marketing.
This is a Lunch & Learn program, part of the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce Success in Business Series. Your registration includes detailed information for evaluating every aspect of your company’s digital landscape, as well as a light lunch.

When : Tuesday, November 16; 11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Where : Park Station, 5851 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park, Room 202

Cost : $19.95 Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber Members
$24.95 Non-members

Call Chamber Manager Larry Steinlauf at 544-4777 to register.
You must be registered to attend.

Isn’t it Ironic? Mac OS X Virus arrives

A sesimic shift in the PC word has just happened: A Mac OS X virus is here, coming in the form of a Java script off of social media.

The irony? as I was removing a virus off a “real” PC this morning, my client indicated they might buy a Mac, so they wouldn’t viruses. I began with a little business analogy: One day, it will happen. When? When the Macs in the market reach some magical %, the “bad guys” will then take the time to study the Mac OS in detail, to try and exploit it. I also went on to discuss how a business decision, when done right, always looks for the most impact, for the least expenditure of resources. And, as of that moment, it must haven’t arrived (little did I know)…yet. I potulated, that when it did, it would be like a very big tidal wave, particulalry accentuated by the fact that it’s “well known” Macs are invulnerable from attack. Yeah, right.

So any how, for you MacoPhiles…gird your loins, the attainment of 20% of the PC market by Macs announced by Steve Jobs a few days ago, has had an impact on your bulletproofness. Be on your toes, and hope the good guys have anti-virus software ready for you, really, really soon.

Here’s the warning from the articles at ARSTechnica:

A new trojan horse has cropped up that affects Mac OS X (and Windows as well), primarily disguised as a video flitting around social networking sites. When users click an infected link, a Java applet is launched that downloads multiple files, including an installer that runs automatically without users’ knowledge.

While between other appointments this after noon, I saw the article (linked above) and I knew the time has come.

Note, too, you Windows based PC users, you’re a casualty of this new attack, too.

Be on the look out for any video on the social media sites….all of you computer users.

I’ll bring this history, too, because there have been Mac based viruses before. In early 1988, I contracted the “Scores” virus on my Mac II from a download off of GEnie.

That was bad news. The good news is the PC market exploded on cheap Intel based PCs and the bad guys went after them. That has left the Mac world as the untouchables for all these years…until now.

We Infect Our Computers Ourselves

Didn’t bookmark it, but a few weeks back, I saw an article that said greater than 50% of computer infections were no user imposed.

What does that mean exactly? It means the people who write and manage software are doing a pretty good job of staying ahead of the hacker crowd, but,we the users, are become our own worst enemies. Not that we purposely let spyware, malware and viruses in, but we are more easily fooled into doing just that.

The “bad guys” are becoming very good at replicating things that are legitmate, both in look and in a social context, that make us want to click it.

Next hing you know, you’ve got a “ScareWare” problem, which, if you don’t pay the ransom, it begins to dig about your files and, over time, render your PC useless.

What got me to post this? An article in a security news feed I track saying there are a crop of “Browser Updates” showing up on people’s screen, and, we do what we are told “KEEP YOUR COMPUTER UP TO DATE!”

That makes it increasingly difficult to sort the fake updates from the real ones.

Let’s be careful out there and, according to Symantec researcher Parveen Vashishtha know this:

Malware authors are employing innovative social engineering tricks to fool users — it’s as simple as that…”

Find a successful case study and…

Read it!

Blogging. Not “fast food” like Twitter, not all social like FaceBook, but, as I’ve said in my seminars and coaching: “The Long Form.”

Think through the IRS analogy: The 1040EZ gets the issue off your back, but you get more deductions on the 1040. More deductions, more money back, but you have to put more into it.

“MilBlogs” (Military Blogs) began to share stories, mostly because they didn’t get reported. Matt Burden of Black Five began what has become the biggest (be readership) MilBlog because the main stream media didn’t even report the passing of his friend in combat. He decided not only would the name of Army Maj. Mathew E. Schram wouldn’t be forgotten, but the regular fare of the early days of Black Five were the “Someone You Should Know” category of posts. Over the years, some living, some casualties of war, all placed on the web, so they would not be forgotten. Matt wasn’t alone, and about 6 years ago, there were about 200 MilBlogs.

As of just this moment, from MilBlogging.com’s header: “Milblogging.com currently has 2,829 military blogs in 45 countries… ”

These blogs are a model. Grass roots “passing the word” model. Get people’s attention on a topic model. Create large virtual communities of support models, quickly and at little monetary cost besides a few dollars. Buzz up a charity model. See a need and make a charity model. Connect people on the “backchannels model.

If you’re sitting around, wondering just what blogging can do for you, your cause, your passion, or your business: Study the MilBlog model.

The American Legion site has a well written article on the genesis of this unmanaged group of military, retired military. military family members and just plain old “I want to help support the military” people. “The MilBlogosphere” by Matt Seavey.

Local to the Tampa Bay area, a Marine’s wife became a widow this past March. Her blog about life took a new turn, as she shared her feelings of the news her husband had been killed in combat in Afghanistan and how it shook and affirmed her world. “A Little Bit of Pink in a Camo World” drew attention around the country and the world, and began a whole community of spouses and family members, and Rachael began a new venture: Participating in and setting up fund raising events for supporting the troops. She is but one of many.

I invite you to read and study the MilBlog world, it’s roots, it’s players, it’s content, and it’s powerful voice. If you have questions, and would like some personal input on the inner workings, I certainly can provide mine to you. I’ve met a few of the writers in person and have grown in my blogging as a result of their mentoring.

They show up at the most vulnerable spots…

The “bad guys” on the Internet have long had a habit of finding the biggest security holes with the greatest potential impact. That’s one reason why the Apple computer line has remained effectively virus free (I caught at least one in the early Mac days (Scores), so don’t tell me there never has been any Mac viruses).

Over the years, operating systems have been “hardened”, so the bad guys have become creative and looked towards other avenues, to the point that Mike Cox in an article “Social media attacks dominate first half of 2010 malware trends” on eChannelLive tells us what is now going as as the biggest impact by the bad guys:

“Cyber criminals are putting increasing emphasis on using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as effective ‘spread mechanisms’ for malicious software,” said Arvid Gomez, Norman vice president, OEM and Technology. “In the past, they put nearly all of their efforts into compromising PC operating systems. As social media use becomes part of the fabric of our daily life, Internet users need to make certain they are taking the necessary steps to protect their privacy and security.”

He then goes on the discuss the koobface malware that has come through FaceBook since 2007. I encountered this at a client’s site about 4 months ago.

Another method to not only frustrate you, but also get some money, or your credit card number for use in, in the least case fraud, and the worst case, identity theft, are the “scareware” or “rasomware” programs that take over your system and basically demand that you buy their removal tools, which…are pretty much garbage anyhow. Mike has this comment:

Norman security experts also note that fake antivirus programs continued to plague many home PC and business users. Rogue antimalware programs have been around for a long time. In recent years however, they have become increasingly widespread, and represent a major problem. These programs can be difficult to eradicate, as they often consist of many different malicious elements.

I spent a better part of Wednesday ripping one of these attacks out of a laptop of a client’s office machine. I’ll say this: About 6 months ago, I could find these and get around them and eliminate them in about an hour. That was thanks to having seen several in a short time frame. They all had different file names, and loaded themselves from different places on the drive, but they all used the same methods. The one I ran into Wednesday had grown far smarter. I found it pretty quickly, but it had done many things to mask itself, and had placed some more hooks in the registry than I was used to deleting. Additional, I found a browser web director trojan in there, too. It may have arrived as a package deal, but it took 6 hours to find it, delete the offending things, much of the time was spent running scans, which found more things with each delete/reboot/scan cycle. It’s gone now and they are back to work, without having to just wipe the drive and begin all over, but it was a long day, when some elements have become smart enough to even force a load, regardless of some settings you applied to keep them from coming in a boot up.

I know many people don’t want to learn about the specifics of keeping your computers free of malware and other bad things, but your choice, as I see it, is to commit to some training by your local computer support person/people/staff/support company, or you can call us up and pay by the hour to undo what was maybe a 5 second decision on what to do about the question: “XXX is requesting to run. Do you want to block or allow it?” from your firewall protection. Because of the bad guys, you must get some education in how to keep from your system from becoming unavailable for a few hours (at best) to days (worst case).

Good rule of thumb: You can unblock accidentally prohibited functions. You will lose time and money if you let something in out of “I don’t have time to deal with this, I just want to get back to work!” frustration.

Read Mike’s article and practice intelligent computing!

WordPress Marches on!

Yesterday was the day that the final release version of WordPress 3.0 made it’s way into the hands of those who wait for “final releases.”

Recently, one of the people who does a lot of lectures on Social Media wandered off the tracks long enough to say he wasn’t a web designer, but people should have their websites done in Joomla or WordPress of they are getting ripped off.

He is sort of right. Having spent since 1996 playing with websites, I’ll say he’s right if you need a functional, right away site to just say who you are and what you do. After that, his comments need to be modified based on what you need to show/display/convey about you and your business. You may need something beyond WordPress, or not.

If you’re on a limited budget, and/or you have time to maintain all aspects of you website, and that means learning about links, setting up categories, placing privacy policy statements, setting up webforms for contact info, and keep spambots at bay, then yes…WordPress is a suitable candidate for you.

In the meantime, communicate clearly what you need to your web designer and work with them. Know that the more you have thought about the content of your website before you talk with them, you will pay them less, as they won’t be spending time tracking your content down, and making change upon change upon change. That’s a money saving tip…you can use.

The great news is WordPress 3.0 has broken through the barrier of not just being a great blogging platform, but has “grown up” to be a fully functional “CMS” (Content Management System).

Questions? Contact me and let me help you see what’s best for your diigital landscape!