Virus - This is a program or code that replicates by attaching itself to another program on the same such as erasing your files on your computer or changing your system files that your computer needs when it is turned on. A virus usually arrives on the computer as a file attachment to document or to a message that you receive by email. A virus can computer. A virus can create an annoying like pop-up window with a message. One should not forget that a virus can still do serious damage when it is transferred by a disk (floppy, Zip, CD) from computer to computer.
Trojan Horse Program - This is a program that appears to perform a valid function because it may arrive as useful software. It relies on someone emailing it to you. The program has hidden in its code, instructions the cause damage - sometimes severe - to your computer. The most famous Trojan Horse program was a lady named Melissa. She used email to spread herself and in doing so did a lot of damage to internet and company mail servers.
Worm - This is a program that makes copies of itself and can send itself through email. It can arrive at your computer as an email attachment that has subject matter that appeals to you and therefore has to be opened. The message will appear to be from someone perhaps known to the user and contain inviting subject lines like ‘approved’ or ‘screensaver’ and instructions to ‘see attached file for details’. Once activated, the worm searches for email addresses on the computer’s hard drive and send copies of itself to those addresses.
The following is how a nasty self-replication was to work in the real world. The example was a worm called SoBigF - a worm modified for the 6th time (Note Version F) by very inventive but unscrupulous person(s). The worm appeared in late August 2003 timeframe. It contained an electronic timing control and it proceeded to swamp email inboxes on corporate computer systems and on individual PC’s. Once the file was opened and the computer was infected by the worm, the computer was instructed to contact another offline server or host at a specify time and receive additional havoc-making instructions. ( Note: This operation was SoBig because 20 servers/hosts were eventually identified.) These offline server instructions had these possibilities:
It took a security team from F-Secure in Helsinki, Finland working with the FBI and various internet service providers to remove and isolate these servers from the network. They were able to stop the worm before it propagated. You can appreciate the magnitude of ‘misplaced’ thought that went into this worm’s design.
Another major worm around this time was MS Blaster or LovSan. It was designed to commandeer computers with operating systems Windows® 2000 or Windows® XP and use them to strike the Microsoft web site flooding that site with requests for service so as to deny service to anyone else. Blaster’s major symptom was to cause the users computer to reboot repeatedly. Microsoft was able to identify this vulnerability in their Windows programs and release a security patch.
The question arises about how to protect your computer’s vulnerability to viruses/worms accessing your computers hard drive. Here are two methods.
Anti-Virus programs can be purchased separately. However, some companies bundle all their programs together as ‘Internet Security Suites’. The purchaser gets Anti-Virus, Firewall, and other features such as Privacy Control, Ad Blocking and Spam Alert in one package. These ‘Suites’ such as Symantec’s Norton Internet Security are certainly worth considering.
Referral For Information (RFI).
Since this Section is called Protect Your Computer The Viewer should Beware the Digital Zombies.
This an automated program which resides on the Internet and which can remotely take over a PC and turn It into a "Zombie."
An article on 'Zombies' appeared in the NYT Business Day Section on 10/21/08. Click on following Link to get to their WebSite.
Enter in the Empty Search Box: A Robot is Seeking to Enlist Your Computer. Then Click Search and Read On.
Advertisers took advantage of a feature in Widows Messenger service that was built into PC’s using Microsoft® Windows® 2000 and XP operating systems. This feature was to allow network administrators of a corporate network to broadcast text pop-ups to their respective computer users on their intranets. ‘Hackers’ found out about this little gem in fall of 2002 and began to exploit it. Advertisers soon gravitated towards it as means of ‘pitching their wares’ to any web-connected PC. And so came the ads for countless weight loss products; sexual enhancement products and websites - and this rather amazing -that offered software to block these very unwanted Pop-up boxes.
There are a number of ways to prevent this intrusion .
Visit your favorite Web site, and you'll likely be slapped with "pop-up" windows that block the screen you want or "pop-under" windows that hide behind the main browser until you close out. These “pop-ups” are the devilish work of the ‘S & A’ boys; Mr. Spyware or Mr. Adware.
These ‘boys’ usually introduce themselves to the computer’s hard drive on the back of some free program that the user downloads. The free program can be for automatic time updates or for music-sharing files. Before the download begins, the user is presented with a wordy legalistic EULA - End User License Agreement. Buried within the the terms for the use of the free program is acceptance of Spyware/ Adware software. Most people scroll down to ‘I Accept’ or ‘Okay’ without really taking the time to read the pages of fine print in the EULA. When you click that mouse on the above, it’s an ‘I Gotcha’.
These internet ads have become big business because they produce revenue for those that generate these ads. They’re here to stay - so here are some several preventive measures that one can avail him/herself to.
This is a non viral junk email and a form of spam. The spammer sends out emails which have the appearance of being from a legitimate source such as an online bank or online store. Their email could read like this:"We suspect that an unauthorized transaction has been made in your account. We want to ensure that your account is not compromised. Please click on the link below and confirm your identify”. The PC user is asked to submit their account number, a password or the PIN number of the credit card. If the PC user does that, what you have is a case of plain old identity theft where these operators will make unlawful charges in your account.
What is Phishing?
Phishing (pronounced fishing) is a type of identity theft. By using fraudulent websites and false emails, perpetrators attempt to steal your personal data. Phishing scams are among the most prevalent forms of cybercrime.
How to protect yourself against phishing.
Here are some Tax Phishing Schemes that have that innocent appearance.
Here are some of AOL’ s top Global Spam Subject Lines.1 The subjects are wide ranging and there’s something for everyone.
Ref (1): Top Spam Subject Lines, Discover AOL: http:daol.aol.com/articles/spam2005
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a number of suggestions on How Not To Get
Hooked by a ‘Phishing' Scam.
For the Consumer Alert complete text, Click on URL Address: HNGHPS
This Article is listed in Consumer Alerts.
Here are the highlights from that FTC Consumer Alert. Note:Item #2 contains additional information relative to its topic taken from a CSM Article.
1. If you get an email or pop-up message that asked for personal or financial information DO NOT REPLY. DONOT click on the link in the message either.
2. Use anti-virus software and a firewall on the input to your computer.
Remember to Keep them Up-To-Date frequently.
If the individual computer user has a subscription service with one of the commercial anti-virus companies, the virus update will be installed by them automatically over the internet.
Here’s the good reason for Updating. It’s to avoid ‘Pharming’.2
The ‘pharmers’ rely on the fact that the word address you use to connect to your financial organization is connected to a distinct numerical address. This routes your browser to the right website through the domain name system (DNS) servers. It takes a lot of expertise to corrupt a DNS. It’s far easier for the ‘pharmer’ to go after and – GET INTO - individual computers.
Their need is to plant – in your computer – software (A virus) which will send you to a bogus website – even though you have typed in the correct website address. All you have to do is answer a bogus email – from a financial organization – by clicking on a hyperlink and then supply them with passwords or account numbers.
The ‘Pharmer’ will then return you to the correct website so that you are not aware of what has happened. It's all very transparent. These are fake websites which last only a few days or hours because it's important for 'pharmers' to move on before they can be found out and shut down.
Ref (2): New Twist on ‘Phishing Scam – ‘Pharming’; http://csmonitor.com/2005/0505/p13s01-stin.htm
3. Never email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of
transmitting personal information. If you initiate a financial transaction or want to provide personal financial information,
look first for indicators that the site is secure.
There should be a padlock symbol at the bottom of your browser or a URL that begins with 'https'. The 's' stands for secure.
(Note: Click on the padlock symbol to open the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate.
From the Details tab, chose Subject. The current information should appear and an appraisal can be made of this information.
This only works if you have the in your possession the TRUE website information to compare with.)
It is unfortunate that these security schemes are not foolproof. Some of these spammers can and do generate forged security icons.
If you are not sure, STOP THE PROCESS and contact by phone your financial organization for help.
4. Review your credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them.
Better yet, review these accounts on line because they are up-to-date.
5. Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloads of files from emails you
receive - REGARDLESS of who sent them.
(You could be compromising the security of your computer.)
6. Forward spam that is phishing for information to firstname.lastname@example.org and to the company, to the bank, or to the organization that has been impersonated in the false email. They certainly have vested interest in this.
7. File a complaint with the FTC if you believe you have been scammed. Victims of phishing can become victims of ID theft. It is in your interest to visit the FTC’s Identity Theft website. Click on URL Address: FTCIDTFT
CAN-SPAM is an acronym for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act.
On January 1,2004, the federal anti-spam law known as CAN-SPAM when into effect.
First, let's start with the 'BAD' News.
Now, here is the 'GOOD' News. Here are highlights of What the Law Requires since it merely regulates Spam.
The law provides Penalties if these type of Rules are not followed. Each violation of the
above provisions is subject to fines up to $11,000.
There are additional fines if commercial mailers gather - 'Harvest' - email addresses from web sites that have published a notice prohibiting the transfer of email addresses for the purpose of sending email.
There are criminal penalties - (This where the DOJ gets involved) - such as imprisonment for commercial mailers who do - or conspire to:
The reader can obtain additional information on the above subject. Click on URL Address: CanSpamReqts
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Internet Providers (IP's) like AOL and Yahoo have taken numerous separate actions against these Spammers.
HOWEVER, these actions are against Spammers – Originating Only in the USA. The present Can-Spam law does not address the spam that comes here from overseas.
What can be done about this porous opening in the Can-Spam Law?
The FTC wants Congress wants a change in the present law that will allow the agency to share spam information with the law organizations that exist in other countries who understand the problem and are willing to cooperate with us. That maybe a very tall order when dealing with Third World Countries in Africa and Asia who may have a very different legal system and different laws than ours. Congressional action on this change to the present law is now in process.
The internet knows no boundaries and the free email as we know it today is a benefit we get only from the internet. And because it is FREE, this allowed the Unscrupulous Element (UE) to make their assault on it with a vast number of unsolicited offers that threaten its very nature. This benefit was being abused severely and the legitimacy of electronic messages questioned. Something legally had to done. Congress acted and passed a law. This is why the CAN-SPAM Act came into being two years ago.It is estimated that there are hundreds of million spam messages being generated each day. How does this Phnom happen you ask ?
The answer is Zombies! The UE has some 'Clever' computer guru's within its ranks. They have developed programs which take over a computer and turn that computer into a robotic spitting spam generator. The FTC has reported that 60 to 80 % of today's generated spam comes by way of big Z's .
Meanwhile, the IP's have not been asleep at their wheels. They had their 'Clever'
computer guru's look at the spam proliferation problem, too. Their answer was:
Use the Bayesian Filter to 'scrub' these email messages. These are programs that look for spam in an email. On recognition, they don't pass GO.
They do a BIE (Block It Entirely) or a DIS (Divert It Somewhere).
(Note: Bayesian filtering is named for English mathematician Thomas Bayes who developed the theory of probability of inference.)
If you wish to pursue greater knowledge of how these filters work, click on URL Address: BaySpamFltrs
An example of this type of service is AOL® 9.0 offers its users an 'Adaptive Spam Filter'. This sends e-mail directly to a spam folder based on user words or addresses that are not part of the users daily contact list. The user can view the contents of your spam folder and decides whether to Open or Delete. This is a great service to AOL users. Now you have the pleasure of sending into Cyberspace with a simple click of the mouse:
The IP's have powerful computers at their disposal to perform the necessary calculations when it comes to filtering these vast numbers of emails for spam that pass through their domain. They also limit the number of messages sent by any one using their service.
AOL has published some very revealing results on their efforts to stem Spam.1 Their methods are a combination of software tools, filtering technology, public policy, and litigation and enforcement.
Ref (1): Spam By the Numbers, Discover AOL: http:daol.aol.com/articles/spam2005.
Spam Filtering has also brought about a host of new products for the consumer computer market.
Security companies such as McAfee, Symantec, eTrust offer software filters for these computers along with firewalls and anti-virus software.
Does all this Spam Filtering work?
YES! People do receive less spam than before.
Has this WAR been Won?
The IP's to their credit have taken the first steps to combat this problem. As we know from medieval history, castles even with their high walls can be breeched despite the deep moat that encircles it. Spammers will continue to try and find ways to bypass these filters since technology is a never ending process.
Tips for Fighting ‘Can You Hear Me Now’ and Other Robocalls
by BEN POPKEN nbc news
Consumer Alert: Beware of the 'Can You Hear Me?' a Robocall Scam
Have you gotten one of these "Can you hear me now?" phone calls.
No, "The Verizon Guy" (now the Sprint guy) is not ringing you up. It's a robocall scammer who wants to steal your identity and money.
Here's how it works. Your phone rings and you hear someone say "can you hear me now?" or some variation. If you say "yes," the system records your response and uses it to make it sound like you agreed to their service. You could then get hit with unexpected charges.
This scam is hot. The BBB reports that for the last few days of January more than half of the reports to the BBB scam tracker have been about this ripoff. In fact as I was writing this story I received one of these calls.
What makes it even weirder is that this new breed of robocallers uses artificially intelligent voice recognition to string you along in a conversation and get personal information out of you. In one recording the robot was programmed to laugh and say "I am a real person" when the caller asked the computer to say "I am not a robot."
"We have seen these robo calls get more sophisticated, and even mimic things like background noise and other manipulations to the audio to convince you as the recipient of the phone call that it's a real person," said Ryan Kalember, spokesman for cybersecurity firm Proofpoint.
"This will continue to open up different ways for fraudsters to try to pretend that they are us, and commit fraud that will eventually hit our pocketbooks."
Here's how to fight back:
Hang up. Resist the urge to play around with the robot or even press any numbers. Tim Marvin with non-profit watchdog Consumers Union said scammers may use any kind of a response, even a negative one, to flag which numbers are working and you may just end up getting more phone calls.
Report the number to the FTC. Real-time reported numbers are helpful for the agency in tracking the issue.
This item was added February 2017
BATTLEFIELD SPAM C-0-N-T-I-N-U-E-S !
The FTC website offers a "For Consumers" section on Spam. Click on URL Address: FTCSpamHP
If a virus does manage to infect your computer and you do not know how to delete or correct it, it is suggested that you contact a computer professional to help you get rid of it before it does further or subsequent damage to your computer. It pays to be a bit PARANOID WHEN IT COMES TO VIRUSES.
Remember when you were a kid and you would raid the cookie jar. You loved those cookies, but the cookies that the various web sites deposit in your computer are different. Internet sites and online advertisers want to:
Here are some websites that relate to the workings of Cookies.
Cookies were originated by Unix programmers when the web browser came into being a-way back then.
Cookies are Very Small Files (VSF) that :
The web pages become available to the public on the web when they are published. The publishing is accomplished through an FTP program: File Transfer Protocol. Here are two popular FTP programs.
Financial information sent over the internet from an individual’s computer to another site be it a bank or an e-commerce site must be secure so that it cannot be tampered with and used by some third party. The valid user must have an User ID and a Password or a Personal Identification Number (PIN) before any personal or financial information is displayed. The receiving website encrypts the data that is sent to the site’s secure server from the individual’s computer browser.
Encryption is mathematical process that takes a message and conceals its meaning. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is used to implement this method. How can one tell if SSL is working? You look for two (2) things.
SSL uses public-key encryption. These keys can be of various sizes (56-bit, 128-bit). The whole idea is that larger the key length (This creates greater the number of possible keys) the more difficult it is to decrypt the message.
An excellent website that explains SSL in greater detail is Verisign® (Vrsg).
As the Internet continues to grow, it becomes more likely that the information we want is out there - somewhere. Finding it is the trick. The following are some special "search engines" which may help.
Here are three definite possibilities.
There are three Wi-Fi sections to this Update. Click on the link below to connect to specific section of interest. Use you Back Arrow on your Browser to Return You Here.
A. Wi-Fi: In The Home
Wi-Fi is short for Wireless Fidelity.In Year 2001 Wi-Fi was nil. Today, it’s the rage and it will soon be everywhere. First, Lets look at its existence in the HOME. You already have a DeskTop Computer (DTC) located in a small room upstairs in your house (Your Office) or perhaps located in the corner of your recreation room in your basement. You’re on the main floor – living room, dining room, bedroom, TV room. You read ‘Something’ in a book, magazine or a newspaper; or see ‘Something’ on TV that makes you want to ‘Surf the Net’ and find out more about that ‘Something’. You can do this very easily using a notebook computer- Laptop (LT) - with Wireless Capability and because it contains its own Rechargeable Power Source. This is true Portability1.
You do pay a price for this Mobility. A well equipped LapTop (LT) will probably cost 3x to 5x the cost of a DTC depending on the options. Another thing to remember is that Wi-Fi signals do not travel particularly long distances. They reach theoretical distances of 150 feet. A MacMansion due to its size and floor levels might cause a problem depending on its structural and material content.
First, you need to install a wireless router2 located in the wireline between your Cable/DSL modem and your DTC. This router provides:
This wireless technology uses the 802.11 family standard for over-the-air modulation techniques
which are defined by the b, a, and g amendments to the original standard. 802.11b was the first widely accepted wireless networking standard,
followed somewhat by 802.11a and then 802.11g. The 802.11b and 802.11g standards use the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) band.
The 802.11a standard uses the 5 GHz band. The 802.11g technology operates at around 54Mbps at 2.4 Ghz. which is five times faster than the older 802.11b standard.
Today’s Laptops have the wireless functionality described above built into them (The Intel Centrino Chip is good example of this.) An external Wi-Fi card is needed if this circuitry is not available. This Wi-Fi card is attached to the Laptop through a USB port or through its PCMCIA ( Personal Computer Memory Card Interface Architecture.) The next level in Wireless Connection is between the Laptop and a Peripheral such as a Printer. Here are three possibilities to Make Your Day.
The reader can investigate these two printer possibilities. Here are hyperlinks to three different vendors who make a limited models of printers
equipped with either of the above technologies. These printers cost range is between $200 - $300.
B. Wi-Fi: Outside The Home ; ala ‘Surfing the Net’
Wi-Fi is being installed today in a number of places. Some of these installations are Free and some are Commercial. Wi-Fi operations can be found in shopping malls, hotels, bookstores, college campuses, pubs and coffeehouses4. If your LapTop is Wi-Fi equipped, you could be sitting right now in your favorite Starbucks sipping your favorite latte and ‘Surfing the Net’. Starbucks Coffee Company has teamed up with T-Mobile to provide HotSpot Service at their various locations. A HotSpot is defined as a location which has wireless network capability.
C. Future Developments
Wi-Max stands for ‘Worldwire Interoperability for Microwave Access’. It refers to any broadband network with wireless access and is based on the new IEEE 802.16 standard. Wi-Max is capable of transmitting signals covering in excess of 30 Miles of linear service area. This is MUCH greater coverage than that offered by Wi-Fi and makes it very suitable:
The Yr.2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
The CES was held in Las Vegas, NV during the 1st week of January.
Dozens of companies, both well known and unknown, brought slender touch-screen tablets and electronic reading devices to the CES.
Here is NYT article on these various devices.
T-S Tablets & ERD
There is today a proliferation of Cellphones with different features and prices being offer to the public. Names like iPhone and Droid are have become commonplace words in cellphone vocabulary.
Here are some Websites where one can find information about the present Cellphone World and what variables to consider when purchasing one.
CNET provides the latest Cellphone reviews. This includes the Editor's Favorites and The Most Viewed.
The viewer can located a particular Cellphone through a Cellphone Sponsor Block which features AT&T, T-Moblie, Sprint, HTC, and Verizon Wireless.
Their Buying Guide lists Cellphones by their Usage:
Here is another Cellphone Information Website.
This Evolving Technology Section has been Revised to Included the Following Article on the Apple i Pad 3.
i Pad 3 Review #1
i Pad 3 Review #2
|i Pad 1||Price/Features||i Pad 2|
|$529||16 GB WiFi+3G||$629|
|None||Cameras||Frt & Bck|
|10 hrs||Battery Life||10 hrs|
|A4 1GHz||Processor||A5 dual-core 1GHz|
|1.5 lbs||Weight||1.3 lbs|
GOOGLE LT translates text, webpages, and documents in 52 different languages ----- FREE. Click on this Link below to Open.
A Netbook (NtBk) is a small Notebook PC with lightweight mobility.
It appears to function as a Notebook but there are differences.
Here are its Main Features.
This is a new technology.
There are several well known Manufactutrers of 3D TV's. They are:
LG,Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio.
The following Web Source CNET provides an extensive review of this technology.
Click On: 3D TV FAQ.
This FAQ Review contains some 20 Topics and there are several Pages devoted to Reader Comments on these various Topics.
Note:There are Limited Comments made below on that particular Topic by this writer The entire Topic Commentary from CNET S/B Read.
Here is a Sample of the Topics.
What is 3D TV ?
Comment:We see the world around us in 3D everyday using our eyes and brain. 3D technology creates the illusion of depth in a two-dimensional image by
presenting a slightly different view to each eye. Special 3D glasses compatible with your 3D TV screen create three-dimensional images.
Can the 3D Feature on 3D TV be Turned OFF?
Comment: YES ! All 3D TV's will display current 2D content with no problem and with no glasses required.
What 3D Movies are coming out this year on Home Video? 3D TV Channels? 3D Games ?
Comment: A new 3D Blu-ray Player will be required for many viewers to view the new full - HD 3D Blu-ray DVD's.
Direct TV and ESPN have said that They will launch 3D Channels this year.
I'm Thinking of Buying a New TV. Should I wait for 3D TV's?
Comment: Its your Choice of Entertainment Viewing. There are several TV manufactutersthat now offer 3D TV sets such as Sumsung and Panasonic.
These 3D TV Sets can cost well over $2000.
SO-O How 'Deep' are Your Pockets?
Buying into 'NEW' Tech at the beginning of its Cycle is always expensive and perhaps 'Subject To Change'.
How Dangerous is the Cyber Crime Threat?
What is the 'Hacker Mindset?'
Hayden: Hackers Force Internet Users to Learn Self Defense
Online Fraudsters Increasingly Skilled at Hacking Bank Accounts
There's going to be fewer annoying RoboCalls (RC) to your home. The telemarketers promote their sale of a product or a service using a phone technology
that allows them to connect to a vast number of consumers including You at the same time. The following article indicates that RC days are numbered by the FCC after
receiving a large number of complaints from the public.
Click on the Link RoboCalls for the full story.
When We die, Our Online Existence lives on. You cannot close out your internet life from the grave. Here are two newspaper articles on the subject.
1. Peter Grad, PS Guy columinst for the Bergen Rcd explores this new area in the Online Article where Estate Planning may be very necessary.
Click on the following Link.
The Coming Singularity
RK1 Melding Man & Machine
Vehicles - Map Apps Take Over
If you’re in the market for a Dgital Camera, All You Want to Know About Digital Cameras, Is Now Playing at These Websites.
Each year the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences™ (IADAS) sponsors
The Webby Awards (WAw).
The Webby Awards honor the most creative and innovative Web sites on the Internet.
WebSite Revision Added 02/2015.
C&C: In Section O - Miscellaneous - Item #17 Creativity - was Revised on October 2013 to Included the Coffee-Trick Web Site.
Please Turn on the your Sound!
Click on the following Link and Enjoy the 'Coffee-Trick' video.
Apple Watch, Windows 10, biometric passwords and more—WSJ Personal Technology columnists Geoffrey A. Fowler and Joanna Stern take a look at the key tech trends of 2015.
Geoffrey A. Fowler and Joanna Stern
Updated Dec. 30, 2014 6:25 p.m. ET
This was a year of big technology promises—2015 is the year we find out how many live up to the hype.
We looked into our crystal ball for the gadgets, upgrades and ideas we think have the greatest chance to change—and hopefully improve—your life in the year ahead. Will this be the year you actually wear a smartwatch, drop cable TV and love Windows again?
The new year may not bring you a shatterproof phone or a truly smart home, but here is what’s coming and what you can do to be ready for it.
How to get ready: Microsoft has yet to release Windows 10 launch details and system requirements. We’re betting there’ll be an easy upgrade path for many computers still running Windows 7. (Others may need extra memory or a faster processor.) On the other hand, you may want to wait for the great assortment of new Windows 10 PCs that will appear in late 2015.
How to get ready: Don’t buy one of the smartwatches already on the market. Most don’t look great and aren’t especially useful. Even if you favor Android, Apple’s entry will likely stimulate the competition to build better, sleeker wrist-tops.
How to get ready: Find a home broadband service that offers downloads of at least 5 megabits per second. (Yes, you might have to make a new deal with your cable provider.) Then buy a streaming box or stick for your TV. The best is the $100 Roku 3, which supports the widest array of movie and music sources and has universal search. If you live in an all-Apple home, check out the $100 Apple TV first, since it’s the only box that plays iTunes videos. Virtual Assistants You Won’t Want to Fire.
That’s how much smarter predictive personal assistants like Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana will begin to get, thanks to increased information coming from our bodies, cars, Web searches, calendars, GPS location and more. For some reason, Apple has yet to endow Siri with predictive powers. Perhaps that, too, will change in 2015.
How to get ready: In order for predictive intelligence to work, you have to buy into a specific platform or ecosystem. Google Now centers around Gmail and the calendar, and it’s coming to cars, via Android, in 2015. Cortana will be integrated into Windows 10. But because they get more intelligent (and useful) by finding out more about you, you’ll want to pick a system that you trust.
How to get ready: By next fall, quality 4K TVs will be available for laughably low prices. (But since the tech is evolving fast, never ever buy last year’s model.) And for better color, keep an eye out for “quantum dot” technology.
How to get ready: Many auto makers will offer CarPlay and Android Auto on top of their own dashboard systems. In some cases, all of these options may be found in the same car. As the first models are introduced, there will be confusion, so ask your dealer a lot of questions, and don’t take “I’m not sure” for an answer.
How to get ready: Not every service treats workers or customers equally well, so ask around. The good news is you’ve got choices because these services are easily (and often) cloned.
How to get ready: When your contract is next up, break the habit of running to your carrier’s website or store for a subsidized handset. Shop around for one of these new, ultra-affordable unlocked phones, and see how much your carrier will charge for talk and data off contract. It could be very liberating!
How to get ready: You’ll need a recent phone with a technology called NFC to use Apple or Google mobile payment services. And since your phone contains even more sensitive information than ever, be sure to secure it with a screen lock and remote-wipe capabilities.
How to get ready: A messaging service is only as good as the people on it. Talk to your friends and family about what they are using for private, day-to-day communications. (You may use different apps for different social clusters.) And when it comes to anonymous apps, be safe and remember: None of the apps can fully guarantee anonymity.
How to get ready: Start with a fingerprint scanner, available today on a number of phones including the Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6. Apps for iOS that already accept finger scans include American Express, Amazon and Mint; if you have a new Samsung phone, try PayPal and the password manager LastPass.
Write to Geoffrey A. Fowler at Geoffrey.Fowler@wsj.com or on Twitter @geoffreyfowler and Joanna Stern at Joanna.Stern@wsj.com or on Twitter @joannstern
A slow Internet connection can be a productivity killer, whether your a gamer or a Netflix addict. Here a few suggestions you can use to help improve your Internet speed without spending a fortune.
By Louis Ramirez, DealNews April 16, 2015
· Your Internet connection is your lifeline to the world. Whether you're a gamer, a Netflix addict, or an Internet TV pioneer, nothing can destroy your productivity like a slow Internet connection.
But before you waste hours on the phone arguing with your ISP, we've got a few suggestions you can use to help improve your Internet speed. (And if you try everything and want to upgrade your hardware, check out all of our latest networking deals and sign up for our electronics newsletter.)
Test Your Current Speed
Before calling your ISP in a fit of rage, there are two simple steps you should take. First, find out your current speed. You can do that by running a simple speed test on Speedtest.net. In its simplest form, the free service measures your download and upload speeds by sending information to your computer and back to its servers.
Now that you have this information, log on to your ISP account and find out what your speeds should be. Keep in mind that most ISPs give themselves some wiggle room, so your speeds may not match exactly, but if your numbers are reasonably close to your advertised speeds, chances are you just need a faster plan. However, if your numbers are horribly off, some of our tips below may help.
Give Your Modem and Router the Boot Over the years, routers and modems can go bad. Twisted or bent cables can also wreak havoc on your connection. So you'll want to give your hardware a check before attempting anything else. Routers and modems can be rebooted with the click of their reset button. You may want to check with your ISP or manufacturer for precise instructions.
Once they've rebooted, check the Internet connection on all your devices. If it's slow on every computer, it's likely something is wrong with your connection, but if you notice the problem is in just one room or with one computer, it could be something interfering with your network and not your actual ISP. If the latter sounds like your scenario, try repositioning your router and take into account if there are other wireless devices in the area which could slow things down.
Delete Any Broadband-Hogging Apps
These days it's common to have various broadband-sucking apps and clients running in the background. Whether it's your anti-virus software, Skype, or a torrent client, it's easy to loose track of them. One or two of these programs may not have a significant impact on your network, but if you have numerous apps running on different machines, then it could slow down your network when you most need it.
Check your systems to see what's running on start up or what apps run in the background. Try to keep only necessary apps active and see if that improves your connection.
Switch to a QoS Router
A router with Quality of Service (QoS) technology may help improve your network. QoS routers work by assigning priority to each device operating on your network. So whenever there's a bottleneck, the router will decide (based on your settings), which devices get the most bandwidth. While some of these routers may require some technical know-how, other "smart" QoS routers prioritize network traffic on their own, optimizing voice and video traffic over other tasks like file downloads. There are numerous types of QoS routers available, so consumers should definitely do their research before opting for one model.
Alternatively, if you live in a large house, you may want to look into buying a range extender, which essentially extends your home's WiFi signal so that devices furthest from your router can still receive a WiFi signal.
Invest in a VPN
As some commenters have noted, a VPN can significantly slow down your Internet speeds. So why include it in a roundup of ways to speed up your Internet? Because some ISPs play dirty with traffic shaping. Let's say you're a power-user of bandwidth — maybe you stream Netflix all day, maybe you're a serious gamer, or maybe you're torrenting. If your ISP can see what you're doing, it can use traffic shaping to decrease your internet speeds for certain applications. As anyone who's experienced traffic shaping first hand can tell you, this is extremely frustrating. That's where the VPN comes in. A VPN works by routing your Internet traffic through data centers in various locations. In addition, because a VPN encrypts all your traffic, your ISP won't be able to tell what you're doing, so you'll also get more uniform speeds across all your applications. Yes, you may sacrifice a little speed overall, but you're immune to the most common form of ISP traffic shaping, as described above.
It's worth pointing out that not all VPNs are created equal. If you choose a VPN with overly crowded servers located far from you, with low ping, your data is going to slow to a crawl. Price matters, too; free VPN services can lack the encryption bells and whistles of subscription services, and can have busier servers. Definitely do your homework, and choose a service that's best suited to your needs.
Call Your ISP
If you've tried everything and your Web connection is still slow, then it's time to call your ISP (Comcast, Time Warner, etc.). Before you call, research other ISPs in your area and try to see if your current ISP can match their speeds or their prices. Even if you're bad at haggling, you'll be surprised at how quickly providers react when you mention the competition. And of course, be polite while on the phone. The customer service representative on the other line isn't out to get you and they're more likely to help a polite customer than one who screams at them.
Louis Ramirez is an editor for DealNews, where this article first appeared.
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