Online Privacy – Why is it important and how do I keep my information private?

Online Privacy – Why is it important and how do I keep my information private?

There has been a lot of buzz recently about online privacy, however; this is not a new issue by any means. Online privacy has been a concern for years. Go do a quick google search for online privacy and you will see articles from 2010, 2008, etc. discussing the issue. What is new is that thanks to our government your ISP (company you buy your internet from i.e. Verizon, charter, time warner, etc.) will be allowed to sell your browsing habits. So first, why does this matter?

For the most part, it doesn’t. A large percent of what we do online is harmless. For example, me searching for a new video game in google will tell amazon I want that game. And ads on Facebook will be for that game. Kind of cool in a sense that the internet knows what I want. This is also scary. Imagine that you think you are sick with a disease, and now amazon, google, health insurance companies, life insurance companies, future/current employers, know about it. The real question though is, should anyone be able to see what you are doing online? Is it their right? Should your ISP be able to spy on you? If you say OK, I would ask, would you allow your mortgage company to come in your house and go through your drawers? Because that is essentially what is happening. So yes, it is a concern and should be to anyone.

So, what can you do to prevent this from happening? There are a number of things and I am going to break this up so that it’s easier to understand. The important thing to remember is that you are never going to be 100% secure. But you can take steps to make it harder for anyone to spy on you. Think of it like an onion, the closer you are to the middle, the harder it is to get to you. The outer layers (i.e. no security) are easy to get to but several layers in takes more work. Also, keep in mind I am not discussing Malware, Viruses, etc here, I have other blog posts about that but I do always recommend antivirus software, malware software, and a good firewall.

For your computer/browser (for most home users):

Step 1 – get a VPN.

VPN – This is the first thing you need. I am not going to explain what a VPN is, just that it makes it so that your ISP (or job) cannot see what you are doing. They can only see that you are connected and using data. Now, the issue with VPN is that the VPN company can see what you are doing. So yes, they can sell your data just like your ISP. But I trust them more and most do not sell your data, just the shady bad ones do. However, keep in mind if you are doing something illegal, the VPN company will turn your information over to authorities if they are subpoenaed – no one is going to jail for you.

There are tons of options for paid and free ones. I personally like Hotspot shield, CyberGhost, and Windscribe because they have free versions. Here is a link to them:

https://www.hotspotshield.com/

https://www.cyberghostvpn.com

https://windscribe.com/

Step 2 – Start using Firefox.

Why? Because of the security and add-ons. Once you download Firefox, you need to install the following add-ons. They are: HTTPS Everywhere and 1 of the privacy/adblock addons I explained below. They will not affect your browsing experience, they will however make it much more secure. Additionally, use the private browsing mode of the browser.

And do these:

  1. Add NoScript, uBlock, Disconnect, or Privacy Badger to your Firefox add-ons. This prevents only scripts that you allow. I personally use uBlock and Privacy Badger together.
  2. Use DuckDuckGo search engine. This is a search engine that does not record/track your searches. You can very easily make this your default browser by going to your browser settings and its just as good as Google. https://duckduckgo.com/

For the most secure (for people who are more technically inclined):

Use Tor Browser. Tor browser with its default settings is going to be super secure. Its slower because of how it works to hide your identity but if you are searching things no one can know about, use this. https://www.torproject.org/

Download Tor Client. Tor is the best security that most home users can set up themselves. If you are a super high tech person and want something more secure you already know way more than what I am blogging about and shouldn’t even be reading this so this post is not for you.  https://www.torproject.org/

For your mobile device:

  1. Get a VPN. There are tons of free ones. You can use hotspot shield as I mentioned above. I use X-VPN on IOS. Keep it on always.
  2. For android, get Firefox browser and use the add-ons I mentioned above. Use private mode.
  3. For apple, use Firefox Focus browser. Apple does not allow Firefox add-ons, so use their focus browser. It’s actually much fast than any other mobile browser.
  4. Use DuckDuckGo search engine. This is a search engine that does not record/track your searches. https://duckduckgo.com/
  5. Use the web version of apps, not the apps themselves. For example, use facebook in the browser, rather than the app. Yea I know a big pain.

For those that want to be super secure, use a Tor browser. While there is no official mobile Tor browser there are tons that are free ones that use the Tor network. I personally have Onion browser for my iPhone.

Call For Papers – Journal of Training, Design, and Technology (JTDT)

Call for Papers

Journal of Training, Design, and Technology (JTDT) – http://tdtjournal.blogspot.com/

ISSN 2475-0921

Call for papers:

The Journal of Training, Design, and Technology (JTDT) is a new online journal seeking submissions.

JTDT is designed to bring together current practices and research. The journals focus is on the following:

Instructional Design
Instructional Technology
Research – manuscripts
Practice – case studies, lessons learned, etc
Instructional Models
Instructional Strategies
Technologies
Usability
Virtual Reality
Mobile Technology
Learning/Training
Multimedia
Games/simulations
Instructional Development
Analysis and Evaluation
Performance Improvement

Types of papers:

Research Manuscripts
Brief articles (on current practice or theory)
Book reviews
Technology reviews
Strategy reviews (Using a strategy in the workplace/classroom)
Case studies
Special Topic papers
Literature Reviews

All papers are blind peer reviewed.

Please see our submission guidelines and submit papers to tdtjournal@gmail.com

Deadline – There is no deadline as volumes will continuously be released. First volume will be published 3/1/2017 with more after that.

Back to school computer

What computer should you buy your soon to be college freshmen?

First, How much money can you spend? Unfortunately when buying computer you usually do get what you pay for. So if you are spending $400 on a computer expect it to deteriorate faster than a $2000 machine (as in it might last a year vs the $2000 machine that will last for 4 easily). Also, expect that the $400 computer components are probably already 3-4 years old and will have trouble running current software. A minimum I usually tell people is to spend $700 and get it on a good sale. Less than that and you are asking for trouble. $1000-$1200 is even better and what the majority of students need. And $1200-2000+ is what you need for a high end machine for gaming, computer programmer, graphic artist, movie editor, sound editor. Once you have decided your price point, then decide…

Do you need a Mac or PC? Well maybe Macs are already out of your price range. So you can skip to the next paragraph. If you are not sure which you should get ask yourself the following: Are you good with computers (tech geek) or going into computer science, engineering, business or a science field? Then I would get a PC. So much software only runs on a PC so you dont want to get into a class where something you are using wont run on your computer. If you are not good with computers and just need something that will last for your 4 years to write papers, browse the web, and be used in courses, then definitely get a Mac. They are great for those that are not tech people and usually will last 4+ years. I had one that lasted 8 years.

Next you need to decide what brand, upgrades, and where to buy…First, shop around. Look online and at stores. Take a sales associates words with a grain of salt. First they are trying to make a sale and they are NOT usually computer experts. If they were computer experts they wouldn’t be a sales associate at Best Buy or Walmart they would be working at a company making 60-90k a year. Secondly, they are NOT in your program and do not know what you really need. So do your own research. There are tons of back to school sales and all of the computer companies offer discounts for students. So look and compare. But what brand? If you are getting a Mac then you know you are getting a Mac. If PC however, there are tons of options out there. I would personally rather look components and price rather than brand per se but I do like Dell and Alienware (a dell brand) but there are many others out there too.

So what components should you be looking at? Disk space. How much do you currently use? I would recommend at least 250-500GB. Also remember there are free options for space such as dropbox so space might not be too much of an issue anymore unless you have tons of pictures, songs, movies (which all college kids have). Remember that if you run out of space you can buy a 1TB (1oooGB) hard drive for under a $100 at any time so don’t worry too much about the space issue. Next you have Ram. Get a minimum of 8GB but I would probably not get under 12GB if I wanted this to last for 4 yrs. My current computer has 32GB (and its 3 yrs old) just to put what you are buying into comparison of what is out there. Ram is one area where you need to upgrade. If you are a gamer or in a major where you need a fast computer get as much ram as you can afford. Then of course you need to consider the video card and processor. I usually try to get the best I can here as well. The least important thing for me is disk space as I can always upgrade that and buy more. As far as screen size, it doesn’t really matter – that is your preference. Get what you are comfortable with.

Should you buy a warranty? Yes. Please get it. I watch computers fail all the time. Please get it for at least 3 yrs if possible. Computers, especially laptops will wear out as they are carried from class to class and stuffed in a backpack. Keep in mind your school will fix computers as well so make sure you check with your school to see what they offer.

Should you buy Office and other software as an add on? NOOOOO. Wait until you get to college. Colleges will offer huge discounts on this stuff. For example you can buy the full office package at my university for $30. They have tons of software too so make sure you check before putting out big bucks on software.

Oh, and if you are wondering the answer is NO, a tablet cannot replace a computer. A tablet is a great compliment to a computer but you need a computer. You cannot get by with just a tablet.

 

Should you buy a smart watch?

With the Apple smartwatch just around the corner I thought I would offer some advice to those seeking one. I have owned a sony smartwatch 2 since 2013 and have had a chance to really see what these devices can do. Here are my thoughts…

Overall they are really cool gadgets. For a few hundred dollars (some are only $100-$150) they are not expensive and in a pretty good price range. You definitely do not need one though. I tell my students that they are the perfect gift for the ‘techy’ that has everything. Otherwise they probably are not worth it for most people unless you really want a new watch. The cool thing about them is that you do not need to take your phone out of your pocket, you can just check your wrist when you get a text. Essentially they are an extension of your cell phone. Another neat feature is that you can remotely control your phone. So if I am taking a family video/photo I can set up my phone and then use the watch at a distance to get all of us in the picture. That is the most useful feature I have found for the watch thus far and it is pretty cool although a timer on my phone works just as well. However a major concern with these devices is that they do release radiation (microwave radiation) so in addition to your phone you now have more radiation from another device. That is just a point to consider. I personally do not wear my watch too often for that reason and the fact that I do not like wearing watches. But I will admit they are kinda cool devices and you will not be upset with your purchase if you think you want one. But they are not something you need. They do not do anything your cell phone doesn’t and they require your cell phone to even work.

* I did want to add a quick note. There are many other kinds of watches out there for sports like surfing, running, etc. I am not discussing those in this post. The watches I am referring to are the android/apple based watches. The sports watches look awesome but I have yet to try them. A watch that calculates my waves sounds really cool as does a fitbit with GPS/heart rate data on it.

Computer Adware, Viruses, Malware, and Security

Have problems with any of these? Here is a list of steps and freeware you should use to fix and protect your machine. Please note this is for PC only and all software is free:

1. Run rKill – This will stop all of the bad stuff from running so that you can run other software to delete it.

2. Run Malwarebytes and Ad-Aware

3. Run Combofix

4. Run Antivirus and keep it installed/running – ClamAv

5. Install security and keep it installed/running – Zonealarm

Once you have scanned your computer with the first 4 it should be clear. I would then recommend step 5 and keep it running on default settings. Also keep ClamAV running. The others should be run and used as there are problems on your machine.

 

ATT UVerse Review – Avoid this company

Since I signed up for ATT UVerse and switched from Comcast I have noticed some interesting things that others should be aware of before they get this service. So here are my thoughts. And before you read this realize I am not one to complain about this stuff but I have never had such bad customer service in my life:

1. Do not believe anything they tell you. In fact, they will actually lie to you – well they did to me and I still just cannot believe how I was treated by this company. When I signed up for the service I was promised 1 year of HBO/Cinemax for free – nothing I care about but it was promised to me. I asked the person on the phone several times if this was for the year and she said yes. Keep in mind I actually said ‘this is for the full 12 months of my contract’ and she said yes. I asked this question like 2-3 times just to make sure that I understood correctly and she wasn’t giving me one of those 3-6 month deals that would end and increase my bill. Three months later I realize my bill jumped $50. So I call ATT and they say there is nothing they can do. I ask them to listen to my previous phone call (as they record them) and they said they would and get back to me within 5 business days. I thought great, they dont believe me but once they listen to the call I will get what they promised. 7 business days with no phone call from ATT I call them up and they apologize and tell me a manager would listen to the call asap and get back to me. 7 business days after this with no call I call again. I am told that no one is going to contact me and that even if this person promised me a free year of HBO/Cinemax that the company was NOT going to give it to me. Wow. ATT will be dropped very soon for this. Customer service gets an F.

2. Internet – I pay for up to 18mbps. I average around 6. This is terrible. No way on off peak hours should I be getting such terrible internet.

My recommendation – Avoid uverse like the plague. Comcast isnt much better but they never lied to me and my internet was always around 13mbps when I paid for 15. So what have I done? At this point I had to drop a bunch of services that were promised to me in order to keep my bill at the original cost. A real bummer. I had high hopes when I heard of Uverse but its a real let down. Oh well at least people now know not to sign up with them. I think the best thing to do is to cut the cord altogether.

 

Academically Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Conference at UNCW

I encourage everyone to check out the Academically Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Conference at UNCW 4.17.2015. The focus is on technology being utilized to support learning. There are several really great presenters that I am excited to watch. I will also be doing a presentation on trends in gaming and gamification in K-16 classrooms. Space is limited so please book soon. Here is the link to the website – http://uncw.edu/ed/aig/conferences.html