Readers Ask: Should I Buy Windows 7, Windows 8, Or Mac?

My recent post about why people hate Windows 8 sparked a lively discussion on the merits of Windows 7, Windows 8, and Mac. In the commentsFr. Jack Sweeley asked a number of questions that epitomize what everyone wants to know. You can read the previous post and comments here: Dear Microsoft: Why Your Customers Hate Windows 8.

Let’s start with Fr. Jack’s letter.

Dear Triona,

I need to get a new computer and have heard the hype about Windows 8 as well as how many tech people hate it because it is obtuse and does not really add anything new for home and small business users. Also, I have read to use the features on Windows 8, I will need to buy a new touch screen monitor.

However, as the hype goes, Windows versions below Windows 8 will become obsolete re: security updates and new software will eventually be incompatible with Windows versions below Windows 8. So, if I don’t want to be up the creek I need to get Windows 8 now and suffer through the learning curve.

So, I am in a quandary. My old computer keeps sending me “low memory” messages, if I have too many windows open the page fades and locks up, and sometimes I have to shut down the computer and restart it just to keep working.

Yet, I am by far the world’s worst technophobe, squeak by using WORD, and have no idea how an operating system works–and yes, I got sucked into VISTA because I needed a new computer when VISTA came out.

I am on the computer 10-12 hours per day. Much of the time I am doing research becasue I am a writer and need to have many Websites open at the same time. I currently have 8 completed manuscripts on my hard drive as well as 3 more I am working on. I also have about 300 commentaries I have written and over 1,000 photos I have downloaded from the Web.

Basically, I use the computer for my work, email, my 2 websites, and am building another website for my artwork. I am also planning to create a series of videos for Youtube.

What I am looking for in a computer is a hard drive big enough to hold my work with a lot left over and the fastest speed I can get for opening Websites and downloading material from the Web. Also, a desk top because I have tried my wife’s laptop and type like I have fumble fingers on it.

I have no idea about computer prices but hopefully can find something between 700-1,000 dollars.

That said, I don’t know anyone who uses an Apple-Mac–at least they haven’t told me they do–but given the already bad reputation of Windows 8 can getting an Apple-Mac be any worse of a learning curve?

So, my question is, “What are my options?”

— Fr. Jack Sweeley

Many people are in the same boat. You just want a working computer but you’re not sure which way to go.

Computer Crossroads
I have a question in return: What do you envision as your computer future?

We’re standing at a computer crossroads. Ahead lie three paths: Windows 7, Windows 8, and “Something Else”. Down the “Something Else” path you can barely make out a few more signposts: “Mac” and “Mobile” are the only ones you can read. Which path do you take? You’ll have to make some decisions.


Path Of Least Resistance: Stay On Windows 7

If you are a Windows user and want to stick with the closest thing to what you have now, consider Windows 7 – with a few caveats.

Bear in mind this is a dead-end operating system. Microsoft has dedicated its not-inconsiderable resources toward pushing Windows 8, to the point of discontinuing Service Packs for Win7. That’s a bad sign.

Also, there’s still a learning curve to Win7, although not as bad as Windows 8’s. Given that Win8 is the future whether we like it or not, you have to ask yourself whether it makes sense to learn something that you know is going away in the near future.

Learning Curve: Upgrade To Windows 8
Let’s say you’ve decided you’re riding this thing out at Microsoft’s side, no matter what. In that case you are committed to learning Windows 8.

The interface is designed for touchy-swipey and not the traditional keyboard-mouse. I’m interested to hear how that’s working out, for better or for worse. My anecdotal evidence so far indicates that Windows 8 is awesome on tablets but kludgey on standard PCs.

Windows 8 will take considerably more effort to learn than Win7, but Microsoft has promised big rewards for those who take the plunge. We’ll have to see if the results match the hype.

Gearshift: Move To A Mac
Some people think I’m a rabid Mac fangirl because of my Mac tech support experience. Actually I think you have to use the right tool for the right job, and sometimes that ends up being a PC.

But not this time. Given Windows 8’s uncertainty, I see no reason why every consumer out there shouldn’t go get themselves a Mac. It’s either that or wait around for Microsoft to figure out how this whole Win8 thing is supposed to work in the real world. Want to be a guinea pig? By all means – but if you want to know why Steve Jobs used to say “it just works”, get a Mac.

Are Macs are more expensive? Not in the long run. The lowest-end Mac costs significantly more than the lowest-end PC BUT – and I am basing this on 20+ years of PC and Mac experience – Macs last at least twice the lifespan of most PCs.

Worried about the learning curve? Don’t be. Apple has some nice starter guides for those moving from Windows to Mac (much better, in my opinion, than what Microsoft has offered for Win8). You should also read my advice about Mac antivirus: How To Remove A Virus From Your Mac.

Off The Beaten Path: Move To A Tablet
Some people have found that they can do the majority of their work (surfing the Web, checking email) with an iPad or other tablet. If you choose Microsoft’s Surface you’ll still be using Windows, of course, but there are a variety of options including tablets like iPad and Android and e-book readers like Kindle and nook (now partnered with Microsoft).

If you want to see my experiments with this, read my previous post: How To Ditch Your Computer For An iPad.

Pros And Cons By Task
Still not sure which path to take? Let’s go back to Fr. Jack and see if we can find the right choice for him. I’ve broken down the needs he mentioned into five basic categories.

  • EASE OF USE
    Winner: Windows 7, Runner-Up: Mac
    If you are a previous Windows user and want a reduced learning curve, Win7 is the closest to what you have now, and it comes with drawbacks as explained above. Hanging onto an old interface doesn’t seem like the best option to me, and Mac seems easier to learn than Windows 8.
  • WORD PROCESSING
    Winner: All
    There isn’t a computer out there you can’t use for word processing. If you want stunning-looking software go for Apple’s Pages app for Mac, but otherwise word processors have similar functionality across the board.
  • SECURITY
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: Windows 8
    Windows 7’s days are numbered. Security-wise it will eventually fall by the wayside and you’ll have to use Windows 8 for the best cyber-safety. The Mac is not immune to viruses (read my advice on Mac antivirus). But, in my experience, it has far less security troubles than Windows as long as you keep up with basic maintenance.
  • WEB DESIGN
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: Windows 7
    There’s a reason Mac is the standard in the design world. I am going to call Windows 7 as the runner-up because of the current lack of applications for Windows 8. I expect this to evolve in Win8’s future favor, however.
  • PHOTO AND VIDEO
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: None
    Hands down, what you want for this purpose is a Mac. Photo and video can be done on a PC, but what most people want is something that’s easy to use and produces gorgeous results. That’s where the Mac really shines.

Conclusion
For Fr. Jack, I suggest either Windows 8 or a Mac depending on whether he wants to stay in the Microsoft world or not. Personally I would go for the Mac. He can meet his target budget with a low end model, but I would bump up the budget to about $1,500 for additional processor and memory.

Stay Tuned For Part 2!
I sent the previous post to Fr. Jack, who had a number of questions based on my analysis. Next week I’ll post Part 2 where we’ll discuss word processing compatibility, hardware specs, and available Mac models. Want to stay tuned to Tech Tips? Subscribe by email, find Tech Tips on Facebook, or follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

What’s your experience? Do you have questions about whether to switch to Windows 7, Windows 8, or Mac? Ask in the comments!

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Microsoft: Why Your Customers Hate Windows 8

The computer industry gives short shrift to small business and home users. This has never been more clear to me than with the introduction of Windows 8, so I wrote this letter to Microsoft on behalf of the Nation of Windows Users.

Dear Microsoft,

We know you’re excited about Windows 8, and you want us to be excited too. And you can’t figure out why we’re all “meh” when you want us to be all “YEAH!”

The Look
We hate Windows 8. You’re forcing a new look on us, when it’s all we can do to keep up with our everyday tasks. Windows 8 may have all sorts of nifty improvements, but that’s no good if it takes us two hours just to figure out how we used to do something.

Don’t make fun of us if we aren’t computer-savvy. Not everybody is a tech guru. For some people, even moving an icon on the desktop is a major change. That’s not our fault. It’s YOUR fault if you don’t understand that some people want to concentrate on what they need to do, rather than trying to figure out how to go about getting it done on an unfamiliar system.

Don’t tell us we’ll learn to love it. We don’t have time. If we have to learn something new, we might as well go over to Apple and see what the fuss is about Macs.

No Start Menu
You spent the last 20 years teaching us the Start menu. Remember how angry we were when you yanked the old Office Toolbar and replaced it with the ugly Ribbon? You told us, “You’ll love it, it’s so much better.”

Well, we don’t, and it isn’t. Some people still haven’t gotten used to it, and haven’t upgraded as a result. You make it much harder for us to want to buy your stuff when you treat us like children who need to have decisions made for us.

Usability Over Security
And when you make us hang onto our old stuff because the new stuff takes too much time and effort to learn, you make it nearly impossible to secure our systems. We’re more concerned about usability than whether or not we’re running vulnerable software. That’s part of the reason there’s such a virus problem on Windows (that, and your sieve-like code).

The Hype
You keep telling us every version of Windows is the best yet. You said Vista was awesome and then you backpedaled because it sucked. Same for Windows ME. You used to tell us the Windows Vista & 7 interface was da bomb but now it’s “dated and cheesy”. Why should we believe you about Windows 8? We know today’s new program will be tomorrow’s garbage. Stop pretending otherwise.

The Tablet Craze
So you’re introducing the Surface tablet. Whoopee. We’ve already got iPads and Androids and other mobile devices. Your Windows Phone may be a technological marvel but it’s got minimal market share.

We know Windows 8 is more about you trying to break into the tablet market to compete with Google and Apple, and less about the people who rely on Windows *gasp* to get actual work done.

In short, we don’t care how fancy your new tablet is, nor how well Windows 8 works on it, if Windows 8 isn’t going to offer us benefits on the PCs we already own.

The Touchy-Swipey Thing
So Windows 8 is all touchy-swipey. No one, least of all you, has any idea how touchy-swipey is going to work with PCs that have keyboards and mice. It may be the wave of the future, but it doesn’t help us get work done. It’s just another annoying change on top of a lot of other annoying changes. Why do we want anything to do with Windows 8 if it’s going to be this much trouble?

No SP2 for Windows 7
And now you’re telling us that you’re not introducing another Service Pack for Windows 7. We’ve been around the block with you a few times and we know this is the death knell for a system you’re trying to obsolete in favor of new products and profits.

Maybe you’re right, Microsoft. Maybe Windows 8 really is the greatest thing in the history of creation… and maybe it’s not. We really want to like you, but we’re jaded after all the promises you’ve broken. You’re going to have to try harder than Windows 8 if you want to win us back.

Sincerely, Your (Former?) Customers

Other Tech Tips articles on Windows 8 you may enjoy:

Want to give Microsoft a piece of your mind over Windows 8? Share in the comments!

Tools To Protect Your Smartphone From Malware

Do you run antivirus on your smartphone? This month in The Northwest Herald, I talk about the exponential increase in malware on smartphones and what you can do to protect yourself. From the article:

Yet if I were to ask if you run antivirus on your phone, you would probably say no. Nobody mentions malware when you buy a phone, they’re too busy extolling the fancy features. All those cool apps are fine until you realize some virus has been silently snooping on your activities.

Here are links to the latest options for mobile antivirus. The available options are changing all the time as new devices and systems are introduced. I’ve also included links to some of my previous Tech Tips articles which can help you secure your smartphone.

Tech Tips articles on smartphone security

 Mobile Antivirus Options

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Stop Integrating My Computer With Social Media!

Tech companies need to remember that consumers are people with brains and don’t need to be force-fed technology through the virtual equivalent of a baby spoon. Mountain Lion, Apple’s latest operating system for Mac (OS X 10.8), boasts improved Facebook integration. In my mind that’s not a feature, it’s a reason to stay away.

I DON’T want my operating system to be integrated with social media. The operating system is the brains of my computer. It doesn’t need to check into Facebook or Twitter. I may run apps on top of it that do need to check into Facebook or Twitter, but that’s my decision. I don’t want my system software making that decision for me.

I want my system software stupid. I don’t want it to know a damn thing about the Internet except how to connect to it. To put it in IT terms, I don’t want my OS thinking past the lowest layers of the OSI model. I certainly don’t want it making decisions at the presentation and application layers. Let it merrily chat away via TCP/IP without bothering to look inside those data packets, and let the programs I choose do that work.

I could say the same for my iDevices. I don’t want to use iCloud. I don’t want to use FourSquare. I don’t want to check in every five seconds. As I said in a previous rant er… post, I certainly don’t want all my data syncing to some unknown datacenter when all it needs to do is go two inches from device to computer.

There’s such a thing as too much integration. Everything doesn’t need to work seamlessly with everything else. If I wanted an operating system based on Facebook I would do all my work with Facebook apps. If I wanted to use cloud computing I would sign up for cloud computing. But if all I want is to work locally on my own computer, I should be able to do that too.

What I want is an operating system I can secure with third party tools (sayonara, Windows RT!), upon which I can run the programs of my choosing.

Of course, I could always run Mountain Lion and simply not give it my Facebook credentials, but that’s not the point. The point is that the capability of integration is there. The point is that if something happens – if I input my password in the wrong dialog box, if a virus presents me with a malicious login, if one of Apple’s preferences “accidentally” gets switched on – then suddenly I am sharing a whole lot of data with the world that really shouldn’t be shared.

As a computer expert, I know the best ways to avoid that. But most people don’t. The average person, right now, is streaming data to Facebook, Twitter, iCloud, and who knows what else, without even being aware of it. And that’s BEFORE the latest integrations between social media and our system software.

Stop sacrificing security for convenience, because it’s not the tech companies that pay the price, it’s the consumers. We’re the ones who get our bank accounts hacked, our email hijacked, our identities stolen, our lives ruined. That’s not exaggeration, that’s the result of a multi-billion-dollar cybercrime industry.

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Apple & Amazon Customer Service Hacked: Can The Cloud Be Trusted?

Once your data is in the cloud you lose all control of it. A journalist’s online persona was recently hijacked through hackers’ clever and scary manipulation of Apple and Amazon’s tech support. This could happen to any of us, at any time.

A description of the incident from the journalist, Mat Honan, who works for Wired:

In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

The Price Of Cloud Computing?
This, folks, is the kind of thing that terrifies me. Years ago I wrote a post called Cloud Computing For Consumers Makes Me Cringe, in which I expressed my concerns over the proliferation of consumer tech based on the cloud. I’m far from the only one; the tech industry has been at each others’ throats for years. Some see the cloud as too vulnerable, while others say it’s a vital (and inevitable) resource.

It seems our fears have been realized. Like everyone else I want the fun new features of today’s devices, but I don’t trust the cloud, especially when I hear about incidents like the Apple+Amazon debacle.

I’ve been in tech support far too long to be fooled. I know other incidents are happening that we aren’t hearing about. I know my data is residing in places I don’t intend. I know that in some ways I’m helpless to stop that, but I can also choose which technology to embrace and which to reject. And I reject the idea that I need a distant datacenter for even the most minute of daily tasks.

Is It Too Late?
Of course that’s a largely symbolic statement. In reality, I’m already using the cloud in ways I don’t like, but was forced to. We all are. What scares me is that most people don’t know how cloud-dependent the world is becoming. They think they’re not using the cloud even when they are.

Apple leads the pack with iCloud. You can’t sneeze on an Apple device without it asking if you want to use iCloud. Soon you’ll have to use Apple’s cloud service even if all you want is to sync the basics like calendar and contacts. But once transferred, our data is not necessarily protected, as our poor Wired journalist learned. From an article about the incident:

On Aug. 3, an “epic hack” compromised technology journalist Mat Honan’s Twitter account. Along the way, the attacker–known as “Phobia”–also managed to remotely erase Honan’s Apple laptop, iPhone, and iPad. Furthermore, Phobia did it by socially engineering–as in, tricking–customer service representatives at Amazon and Apple, allowing him to gain sufficient information to first access Honan’s iCloud and Gmail accounts.

Manufacturers Need To Step Up Security
Granted, Honan did a few things that aided the criminal. He linked accounts together (notably Twitter), he didn’t activate all the security available on his devices, and he didn’t have good backups. But, in my opinion, that’s as much the fault of the manufacturers as it is the consumer.

We’re encouraged to link accounts. We’re encouraged to take advantage of all the shiny new features. There is never any fine print that says, “oh, by the way, if a hacker makes it this far, enabling this feature means you’re screwed.” And it’s not always clear that “turn this feature on” means “your data will be transmitted”.

I also lay blame at the manufacturers’ feet for their EpicFail on internal security practices that would have prevented the criminal from gaming the system to gain the information needed to break in.

The journalist was technically savvy and this still happened. Imagine how much harder for the average person! I know because I’ve spent most of my career helping small businesses and consumers with just this sort of problem, and there are few good solutions.

It’s not just Apple and Amazon. This is an industry-wide problem that the industry hasn’t addressed. Vendors are quick to point out new features: more speed, more memory, bigger, better, faster… but the consequences are not always recognized until after the technology has been embraced by the public.

How You Can Protect Yourself
Which means you, dear consumer, are on your own in deciding which technology is safe or unsafe. This is harder than it sounds. Like everything else in our advertising-driven world, some of the information you’ll read is sponsored by the people who sell the products. You have to sift, filter, and decide for yourself. (This blog, for the record, is sponsored solely by me.)

Personally I think it’s absolutely stupid that my modern iPad can’t do what my creaky old PalmPilot still can: sync data via a physical cable. Tech manufacturers need to GIVE US AN OFFLINE OPTION instead of forcing us to use the cloud because they obviously can’t secure the cloud.

I’m also looking at you, video game manufacturers. I chose not to play Diablo III specifically because it requires an always-on connection to the servers. Gee, now Blizzard is telling the Diablo and World of Warcraft players that those servers were hacked and their personal info was stolen. I like a good fantasy RPG as much as the next geek but not at that cost.

The industry is throwing us at the cloud because cloud computing makes it easier for them to write the programs and provide support for them. If everything’s in the cloud they don’t have to deal with multiple computer configurations, multiple devices, and tons of tech support headaches. “Hi, I’ve got a Palm V connecting via serial to a Pentium II running Windows 98, and somehow it won’t also connect to my new Windows 7 laptop…”

It’s my firm belief that every device should have a setup wizard that walks you through securing that device. This might not stop people gaming the system but it makes it a lot harder for them to get very far with your data, even if they do manage to break into your accounts.

The cloud may be easier for vendors, but not always so for consumers. My advice is to use it at your own risk.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How To Avoid Malware On Mobile Devices

Android malware rose 1,200% last year. Android represents 59% of smartphones shipped in 2012 Q1. This does not bode well.

Mobile device security is not on the average person’s radar, yet we’re toting these devices everywhere and using them for just about everything. Clearly we can’t afford to be lax.

Here is an easy primer on how you can protect your mobile devices from malware, whether you use an Android, iPhone, iPad, or other device.

Only buy apps from approved stores
Android users in particular are getting kicked in the butt over installing apps from non-Google marketplaces. Perhaps you think you’d never do that, but poisoned search engine results and malicious web pages can trick you into thinking you’re using Google’s marketplace when you’re not. Be careful when installing apps.

Don’t jailbreak your phone
Jailbreaking means working around the manufacturer’s lockouts so you can have more freedom to play with the configuration. It also can brick your phone – as in, turn it into a useless brick – and opens a greater possibility of malware infection. So unless you are a professional geek, don’t do it.

Install antivirus
Mobile antivirus may be rudimentary, but you still want it. Here are some choices:

Apply computer security to mobile devices
You know all those things I keep saying about not clicking links in email, avoiding Facebook scams, and so forth? They apply to your mobile devices, too. That’s the other way mobile malware is spreading, via social media and drive-by download.

Tell your friends
Let the people around you know about the importance of securing their mobile devices. Why not start by forwarding them a link to this article?

How are you protecting your mobile devices? Share in the comments!

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How To Remove A Virus From Your Mac

With the Flashback virus and its variants on the loose, there’s been a welcome focus on Mac security. But most of the instructions you’ll find for removing a virus are written for Windows. Here is how to remove a virus from a Mac.

First, you’ll want to read this article I wrote on What To Do If Your Computer Is Hacked, because much of the same advice applies here. Then…

Step 0: Install Mac Antivirus
The best protection is prevention, and antivirus software is as mandatory for Macs as it is for PCs. Apple’s built-in defenses are not enough. Here are my recommendations on Mac antivirus. My two favorites are Sophos and Intego. The freebies are fine but honestly, a solid security software suite is one of the best investments you can make for your computer.

Freebies:

Paid:

Step 1: Scan For Viruses
Use your antivirus program to scan your Mac for viruses. Be sure to include any external hard drives or other volumes. If you are sharing drives from other Macs, it’s much faster to scan on the local Mac than scanning across the network.

Remember, it’s not just Mac viruses you’re worried about. Macs can’t be infected by PC viruses, but they can and will transmit them, to the displeasure of your Windows friends. Please be a kind neighbor and make sure your own house is tidy.

Step 2: Do A Second Scan
It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion by scanning with a different program. Select an alternate from above, but don’t try to run both at the same time or they’ll step on each other’s toes.

Step 3: Remove Viruses
In What To Do If Your Computer Is Hacked I wrote:

Your computer could have been infiltrated by a virus, a worm, a Trojan horse, a keylogger, a rootkit, scareware, malware, adware… These are all different types of attacks with different purposes, meaning there are greater and lesser degrees of infection.

Same thing applies to your Mac. Some viruses are just junky adware and easily removed. Others are nefarious keyloggers that embed themselves deep down in your system where no one will find them. Of course you don’t want any viruses on your computer, but some are worse than others.

Use your antivirus tool(s) for removal. Macs tend to clean up quite a bit better than PCs after infection, so in my experience reinstall isn’t required nearly as often. But be careful if you do a Web search for removal tools for specific viruses. Thanks to poisoned search engine results, a search for “Flashback removal tool” returns links to the virus itself!

Step 4: Secure Your Mac
If you’ve gotten this far, in all likelihood the viruses are gone. However, there’s no way to guarantee that. As I wrote in the same article

There is no way to confirm if a computer is free of viruses. I don’t care what any virus removal tool says. You can be 99% confident, but not 100%. When in doubt, reformat. It’s a pain but better than having a computer that keeps reinfecting itself. Remember, a virus can regenerate if even the tiniest portion of itself is left behind.

Assuming you’d rather not go through all that again, go back to Step 0 and make sure your Mac has proper antivirus installed. Then move on to Step 5…

Step 5: Follow Good Security Rules
The best software in the world won’t protect you if a wily cybercriminal can trick you into clicking something you shouldn’t. All that good advice about Windows security applies just as much to you, so watch out for Facebook scams, phishing emails, phony login pages and all the rest of it. If the idea of that daunts you, don’t worry. Just follow Tech Tips via email, Web and Twitter, and I’ll keep you in the know.

Some related Tech Tips articles you might find useful:

Questions about Mac security? Ask in the comments!

Five Things That Annoy Me About The iPad

For the most part I like my iPad, but there are a couple of things about it that drive me nuts. We always hear about how great the iPad is. I want to share with you some of the things I can’t stand about it.

Saving files
Who’s the genius who came up with this? To save a file from an iPad you have to “share and print” it to iTunes, then sync the iPad to your computer… then MANUALLY copy it onto your hard drive? I’m having a flashback to my old TRS-80 days, saving data onto cassette tapes – a process that was a lot more straightforward.

Most people aren’t even going to find this setting. In iTunes, go to your iPad, then Apps. There’s a section at the bottom that lists the apps that can handle files (not all can). Select the app, select the file, save it to your hard drive. Yeah, like that was intuitive.

I’m a full-time writer. I write on my iPad – a lot. Saving files is a pain. This process means I have multiple versions of various documents lying around, and have to rely on modify date to tell which one is most recent.

And no, Apple, I do NOT want to use your spiffy new iCloud service to make this easier (see below). I just want to sync a basic text file from the device in my hand to the computer less than two inches away. How hard is that?

Cameras
I don’t need two cameras. I don’t even need one camera. But if there’s going to be a camera I want a physical way to turn it off, like a lens cap or a mechanical shutter. There are viruses that can turn on your camera without your knowledge and I want some control over that beyond antivirus.

At the moment, the cameras on my iPad are secured via the highly technical method of taping Post-It Notes over them.

Newsstand
This is the future of periodicals? I am not impressed. I wanted one device upon which to read all my stuff: books, newspapers, magazines, the Internet. Works great for the first and last, but my periodicals are scattered all over the place. Some have their own apps, others come in via Zinio or Newsstand. And that’s just the standard periodicals, never mind the comic books. It’s a jumble.

As a side note: I wish all magazines would give print subscribers the option of logging into digital content. If I’m paying for a magazine to be physically delivered, I should be able to get that same magazine digitally delivered.

iCloud
Look, Apple, I don’t want to sync my entire life to a device, okay? I like the fact that I can choose to do so, but I don’t like being nagged every five seconds to change that choice. (Ping, I’m looking at you too.)

And I know I’ll probably be forced to use iCloud eventually if I want to take advantage of new features. Apple will make the choice for me because it’s easier for them, in much the same way I had to embrace Google Reader to use a halfway decent RSS app.

Antivirus
Antivirus for mobile devices reminds me of the old DOS command-line scanners. This is partly because of the stupidity of the file-saving process. Antivirus for iPad only scans files in certain places, like your iTunes save files or an FTP account. It’s not necessarily going to warn you if some sneaky new Trojan is burrowing into your iPad in real time. And, like any antivirus, it’s not going to prevent someone from tricking you into clicking on something you shouldn’t.

Being an iPad owner isn’t all fun and games. What annoys you about Apple’s ubiquitous tablet?

 

“Girls Around Me” App Shows How Stalkable You Are

There’s a creeptastic app called “Girls Around Me” that gleans data from mobile social media platforms to show all the women in your physical location. It’s been pulled since the controversy, but this description from Sophos Naked Security’s Lisa Vaas will give you the chills:

Brownlee’s article describes how he pulled out the app at a party, only to watch female guests recoil at the way data from Facebook and Foursquare was depicted, with each woman represented on the map as a “Matrix-like” silhouette of a naked pole dancer or stripper.

Some of the guests’ comments:

“Wait… what? Are these girls prostitutes?”

“How does it know where these girls are?”

“Do you know all these girls?”

“Is it plucking data from your address book or something?”

The answers Brownlee gave: No, they’re not prostitutes, they’re just regular women. The data from the women (I’ll abstain from calling them “girls,” as I believe they were, in fact, adults), including their specific location, reams of photos, Facebook details including birthdays or relationship status or schools attended, had been publicly broadcast from Facebook and Foursquare’s check-in functions.

Now pull out your smart phone. Do you have Location Services on, and are you using Facebook or Twitter? Shazam! You are stalkable. I’m hearing the Foursquare users scrambling to turn it off. Good. In my view you should always default to not sharing your location unless you have a very good reason to do so.

And there are good business reasons to use location. Realtors advertise open houses, stores promote sales, writers offer book signings… but I’ve also seen people checking in from the grocery store, the gas station, the dentist. Not only does this spam your contacts with needless info, it’s a magnent for the unscrupulous. “Ooh, look! You checked in at the auto repair shop! Which means you’re not home AND you’ve got a ritzy model car. Time for a little breaking and entering!”

Unfortunately it’s not as simple as turning off location. As the Sophos article points out:

…it’s impossible to uninstall Twitter from my phone, as it’s bundled into the operating system. If you want to snip Twitter’s thread, you have to uninstall it (if possible) or quit the application on your phone.

Or turn off Location Services, which stinks if you want to use something like Apple’s nifty Find My Phone or even basic GPS. What’s the use in paying for all these modern features if you have to lobotomize your phone back to the 1990s?

My greatest concern is that most people are using Facebook and Twitter from their phones without thinking about the fact that they are broadcasting their location. If you sign up for Foursquare – okay, you should realize it’s going to tell people where you are. But most folks don’t equate Facebook with “shouting to the world that I’m at the pediatrician.” And that’s another thing: parents, you’re not just broadcasting your location, but your children’s. And if you’ve been publishing stuff about your kids on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog, you’ve just given a potential criminal even more info.

Are you screaming in fury yet? You should be, because this is only going to get worse. Just as we no longer have a choice in using cloud computing, we will soon have no choice in broadcasting our location. We are at the mercy of the device vendors, and our privacy is not exactly their top priority. Get used to being findable by everyone from advertisers to co-workers to total strangers.

Do you use location? Does the idea of apps like “Girls Around Me” creep you out? Share in the comments!

Mobile Social Media – New Seminar April 17, 2012

Join me for an exciting new seminar, Mobile Social Media, on April 17, 2012! In this open-format session we’ll talk about how you can use mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to access social media platforms.

This is going to be fun! Some of today’s mobile technology is really sweet, and pairing it with social media makes work seem like play. Come on over and I’ll teach you how to market yourself or your business online.

Mobile Social Media
Sponsored by the Cary Grove Chamber of Commerce
April 17, 2012 12:00pm-1:00pm
Fox River Grove Village Hall, Fox River Grove, Illinois

Make the most of social media through the use of mobile technology. Learn how smartphones, iPads, and other devices can simplify your online marketing. We’ll talk about how to save time, streamline information, and run your marketing campaign on the go.

Box lunch included. Registration required. For more information or to register, please contact the Cary Grove Chamber of Commerce at (847) 639-2800.