Annual Security Recommendations

I have described computer security a number of times in my blog. Now I am going to discuss some of the tools that I recommend this year for you to use. Here are my recommendations:

Browser: Firefox – Its open source and is the backbone of tor for a reason. I much prefer firefox to any other browser. Chrome is a close second but I do not like that its not open source. https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/
Most secure browser: Tor. Tor is designed for those times when you don’t want anyone to see what you are doing. https://www.torproject.org
Mobile Browser – Firefox and Firefox Focus. Firefox focus is the best but it may be too private for some so Firefox is the next best. Focus is really fast and simple. https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/focus
Security add on for your browser – uBlock – works for firefox and chrome and keeps away ads and other nonsense. This helps many pages load faster too. It will also prevent youtube ads. https://www.ublock.org/
VPN – Cyberghost. There are tons of good vpns but I like that this company offers a true free version. If you are using a program like Kodi to watch TV/Movies you better be using a VPN. https://www.cyberghostvpn.com/en_US/
Malware/adware – Malwarebytes – its free and very powerful.  https://www.malwarebytes.com/
Antivirus – Avira – Its free! I also think Windows defender that comes free with windows is decent.  https://www.avira.com/
Firewall – Zonealarm – https://www.zonealarm.com/software/free-firewall/

Digital Screen Time Limits and Young Children’s Psychological Well-Being: Evidence From a Population-Based Study

“Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Pediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact of overusing technology on people’s well being. However, new research suggests that existing guidance managing children’s digital media time may not be as beneficial as first thought. “…”Taken together, our findings suggest that there is little or no support for the theory that digital screen use, on its own, is bad for young children’s psychological well being.”

I am not surprised by this finding at all. Moderation is key to everything in life and technology is no different.

Science daily Article – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171214140810.htm

Actual Journal Article: Andrew K. Przybylski, Netta Weinstein. Digital Screen Time Limits and Young Children’s Psychological Well-Being: Evidence From a Population-Based Study. Child Development, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13007

Physical stores are going under: Why I don’t blame technology but I blame a bad business model

It’s easy to say ‘well they can’t compete with online prices’. Except in many cases they can. Take large chains like Walmart, they can compete with online prices and they do, however, they still don’t want to admit that they should. What do I mean by that? Well if you compare prices of walmart.com and amazon.com you will see that the prices are nearly the same. Now, if you go to a walmart store you will see that their prices sometimes vary from their online website. Thus a $50 item in store might be $40 online. Sometimes they are the same but many times not. Walmart will price match their own online site – but now you have forced the customer to work for the better price by getting a manager, going to customer service, etc. – essentially adding time and frustration to their shopping experience. Why should they have to do that when they could just order the product online to begin with and get the better price?

You see trying to get the customer to pay top dollar at the store isn’t a good business model anymore. Its at the point where people just assume that the store will charge more so its easier to just order online without even comparing. This is where big box stores are losing out and why they are closing. Their theory is that people will come to the store and buy the product without price checking…and sure some people might do that, however, with all of these closings of stores like walmart, sams club, and target, its pretty clear that this line of thinking does not work. Its a bad model. Its not sustainable and if they want to stay in the game they need to change.

How can stores solve this problem? Start advertising that they have the lowest prices and that they are comparing with top online sellers to ensure their prices are the lowest. Then people like me would have no problem going to the store and feeling confident that what I was buying was the correct price. Walmart could easily start by just automatically having the same price online vs in store. Smaller stores can do the same too. People enjoy going to stores but they need to do a better job with their prices or they are done. Technology didn’t create this problem, technology is solving a problem that worked against the customer.

Apple admits to slowing down old iphones

See here: http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/21/technology/apple-slows-down-old-iphones/index.html

I have personally noticed this as well as battery drain. These phones are designed to last 2 years (6months+/-). One of the good things about apple phones is that they always give you the latest updates but in these forced updates your phone will no longer operate as well and they are now admitting they do it on purpose. I have some gripes about Android who has similar issues – their issue is that they don’t update their phones to the latest browser because you rely on 3rd party companies, like Samsung, to perform the updates. I think your best bet for a phone is the Google Pixel 2 right now. Updates straight from Google and a monster of a phone. I am sticking with Apple for now as I am doing research with biometrics and need the apple watch for a portion of this research.

Apple cofounder not buying iphone X

This is something I have been saying for a while, new phones are not offering any significant feature worth upgrading for. For example when cell phones first had an app store, that was worth upgrading from my startac flip phone. When they first had a camera, that was worth upgrading. But can anyone who is not a technogeek tell me what the difference is between the iphone 6 and 8? I personally still have the 6s but am upgrading to the 8 because alas my phones battery is no longer lasting a day. But I am skipping the 10. I just can’t see a reason to get it vs the 8 considering the price difference. They even use the same hardware. I see no need to upgrade to these phones though if you current one if working just fine. Oh well, check out the video.

Why are offices boring? Why do we still embrace this cubiclife?

This is a really interesting question. Why do offices look like the one in the picture above? Do these increase productivity? No, in fact, most research shows that offices that are comfortable increase flexibility (see research on sick building syndrome). So why do we still have these? Why are they still being built? Its a good question and I think the answer is that its what we know. Its easier, doesn’t take as much thought/planning, and it utilizes space well. However, we need to start to get away from this type of thinking and start focusing on making the place where a worker spends 40+ hours a week as comfortable as their home. And I don’t mean adding a plant, hanging a picture, or a slogan to an already boring cubiclife (what I call working in a cubicle). I mean adding couches, making the office colorful, making the office comfortable, and cater to various types of working styles. I see this trend in tech world but other industries still aren’t catching on. I see workers dressing business professional and sitting in a grey office cubicle all day and I can’t help but cringe. So come on companies, loosen up. Let workers work the way they live and see how much productivity increases.

Best Free VPN

Hopefully you read my article on online privacy and why it’s important. This post will focus on finding the best free VPN. Before I start, I will just mention that if you really want a VPN, just buy one. For a less than $100 a year you can practically get any paid VPN. I actually pay $30 a year for mine, that’s a little over $2 a month. The advantage of a paid VPN is that its 10x faster than free ones. So to me I don’t notice a difference in speed now from my fast wifi now that I use a paid one. With the free ones, I did notice that difference. So its worth $30 a year to me.

Having said that, if you are going to use a free VPN here are some things to pay attention to – Why is it free? Are they pushing ads? How do they make it free? From what I have found is that most VPNs offer a free version and put restrictions on them. For example, they only let you use 200mb of bandwidth a day or maybe 5GB per month – some kind of restriction like that. Honestly, those don’t work well for me. I watch a lot of youtube videos for work and that bandwidth was sometimes used in 20 minutes.

So what is the best free VPN? I was able to find one that is 100% free, its a full VPN package meaning is prevents leaks and does its job. It also allows you to use unlimited data – something other free VPNs do not. Its called CyberGhost VPN. Now how do they make it free? Well they do have a paid version and their free version has a few restrictions. When you start it up, it takes anywhere from 3-5 to start (the paid version is instant), its somewhat slower (the paid version isn’t and all free ones are slower like this), and it shuts off every 3 hours (so you need to reset it). After a lot of testing I could get past the 3-5 minute start up time in order to have free unlimited data. It was a small price to pay. No other free VPN even comes close to this from what I could find. They all have a data limit except for CyberGhost.

So if you are looking for a free VPN look no further. Obviously if you are looking at this article in 6+ months from now please do research as all of this information could of changed.

Also note when buying a VPN, look for sales. They all have 30-50% off sales. For example, I have seen the one mentioned in this article for as little as $25 a year on sale.