Category Archives: Technology

Ad Tracking On Facebook and How To Stop It

So you visit a website, let’s say… a Halloween costume shop because you are looking for the perfect spandex bodysuit to play your favourite super hero. The next time you log in to Facebook, you’re seeing ads down the side of your page and stealthily snuck into your News Feed. These ads are full of spandex body suits. And latex. And worse. You only needed a spidey costume! Your browser has tracked your surfing activity and fed it back to Facebook. Do you feel violated yet?

There is now a way to drastically reduce the number of activity-based ads (also known as behavioral advertising) that you see on Facebook. Since simply turning off your cookies renders Facebook (and many other websites) virtually unusable, the Digital Advertising Alliance gives you a tool to opt out of tracking based advertising. Here’s how you do it:

Visit the Digital Advertising Alliance’s opt-out page at: http://www.aboutads.info/choices/ (Think of this DAA tool as the “Do Not Call” list of the Internet.)

The page will automatically begin scanning the browser you are using for companies that are tracking your activity and reporting it to Facebook to generate ads.

When the scan is complete, you will see a list of companies that have been participating in this on your computer at your expense. Here, you want to check the “Select All” box, then submit your choices at the bottom.

Once complete, you will have a screen that looks like this:

Opt Outs

I have selected the 3rd tab here to show companies that are no longer tracking what I do for advertising (and God only knows what other purposes). As you can see, 118 companies were found in this case to be tracking activity. Of those, one “could not be communicated with.” 96 of these companies had an option to “opt out” of their tracking based advertising. The rest had no available opt-outs. Still, there are now 96 companies that are no longer tracking me for Facebook ads? I’ll take it.

Of course, this will not get rid of all of your Facebook ads – they have to stay afloat somehow and advertising is their primary source of income. However, you can feel a little bit better about your privacy and that in itself is worth a few clicks.

Topics Today: The Future Of Print Media

Topics Today: The Future Of Print Media

As my Kindle Fire and I approach our one-year anniversary of being together, I become aware of how dependent on the device I really am and how much it has come to mean in my daily life. I received the Kindle Fire as a birthday present last year and first thought, “Now this is a neat new toy.” Little did I realize how streamlined such a tiny tablet could make my daily routine.

At the bottom of the home screen on my virtual shelves of favorites, my mornings and evenings are lined up for quick access. I check and reply to my e-mail, check my calendar, the weather, local and national news, play a couple rounds of a popular word puzzle game, and finally check my Facebook and Twitter feeds for messages or anything else of importance. Within a few minutes, I have all the information I need to get on with my day. Repeat the same process at night, and then settle in with the next few chapters of whatever book I’m currently reading. During the day, I even use it to take hand-written notes on schedule changes, class and work notes, to-do lists, story or article ideas, etc. After a year of daily use, I still go to bed amazed that all this is at my fingertips, instantly available.

Maybe it is because I grew up in the 70s and 80s accustomed to going out to retrieve the newspaper every morning from the lawn, looking forward to magazines in the mail, reading comics on Sundays and clipping coupons with my mother. The faster technology grows, the harder it seems to be to let go of such deeply rooted habits that formed before such things even existed. Those of us in our 30s and 40s however seem to be finally – slowly – giving in to the conveniences that digital media offers. As we find we have less personal time than in years past and a higher demand for instant information, we are starting to turn away from print media and opt for more advanced tools and resources. So where does the digital domain leave traditional print media? This is a topic of heavy discussion and concern that just keeps getting bigger.

A recent study also entitled “The Future Of Print Media” indicated that From 2007 to 2009 revenue change in newspaper publishing, including advertisement, sales and other sources of income decreased 30 percent in the United States, 21 percent in the United Kingdom, 20 percent in Greece and 10 percent in Germany (Boghani, 2012). This year the New Orleans Times-Picayune cut its newsroom staff practically in half and reduced its service to only three days a week (Carley, 2012). The same fate may loom for other print-run media such as The Recorder and the Orange County Register as well as other small papers across the nation as publishers continue to see interest and sales falling from an audience leaning toward obtaining their news digitally. Newsweek, a weekly paper launched in 1933 by Thomas J. C. Martyn, announced in October that beginning in January 2012 it will transition to all-digital (Boghani, 2012).

While some printed options disappear, others are determined to supplement their lost print revenue with digital revenue. The New York Times and The Washington Post have broadened their reach into the digital world while remaining in print. The Washington Post for example has experimented with the Trove recommendation engine (Ingram, 2012). The Facebook social reader has also become an option for expansion for media companies with the support and ability to explore other avenues to reach their readers.

As traditional readers age and technology advances, adaptation on the part of both publisher and consumer is the best compromise. Print media publishers must find new ways to reach an audience that increasingly demands digital content and readers will need to come to terms with the inevitable – that technology is progressing and changing the way we live. For younger generations, this transition from print to digital will likely be a non-issue as they have been raised in technologically advanced homes and classrooms. For the older generations, it may be a bit more difficult to acclimate to the new ways we have of getting our information.

References:

Boghani, P. (October 18, 2012). Print Media: Is It Globally Doomed? Retrieved November
11, 2012 from: http://www.cnbc.com/id/49471896/Print_Media_Is_it_Globally_Doomed

Carley, M. (July 3, 2012). The Future Of Print Media. Retrieved November 11, 2012 from:
http://www.recorderonline.com/articles/media-53261-newsroom-half.html

Ingram, M. (April 16, 2012). The Future Of Media: Many Small Pieces, Loosely Joined.
Retrieved November 11, 2012 from:
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-04-16/the-future-of-media-equals-many-small-pieces-loosely-joined

Generic Review of the Acer Iconia A500

So I scored an Acer Iconia A500 for a couple weeks to give a test drive. This is my first time using a tablet PC and there are pros and cons.

The first con is the price, although for the technology, it’s understandable. This unit, the 16GB version, has an MSRP of $579 – way out of my price league. A comparable iPad runs around $400. With as many tablets that have invaded the market over the past year, competition should be enough at this point to start dropping prices substantially, though it hasn’t worked out that way.

Most basic Android apps available from the Marketplace are available in free versions and will cover your basic computing needs however, a fully-functioning word processor is going to run you up to $15. Most apps however are in the $3-$5 range. 

Because the Android Honeycomb is a relatively new type OS, many of the apps on the market for this device are still very buggy.  You’ll see a lot of reports of force-closes, freezing and not starting. I’ve had these issues on a few downloads already, including the “How Stuff Works” podcast app (which works flawlessly on my 4th Gen iPod).

The twin cameras on this unit were a good idea following suit of the iPod’s front and rear cameras, however the quality on the user-facing camera is only 2MP. Even the most generic cell phone has better image quality. The forward camera is a 5MP, just barely surpassing that of the iPod Touch. 

The plus on the Iconia’s cameras is the pre-loaded range of photo-taking options, as well as the on-board flash. The user can select from many different environmental modes and special effects before shooting the photo, then upload directly to Google’s Picassa web albums.

The battery life has been a big plus. With normal usage, I have been running this unit for two days on its first full charge, which took about 4 hours initially.  You’ll be able to take this tablet on the go and not have to worry about bringing a charger unless you’re doing some heavy gaming or movie watching.

The honeycomb layout itself is very easy to organize and is a neat alternative to the usual Windows desktop, allowing essentially 5 desktops which are flipped through with just the swipe of a finger. The living wallpapers available also bring a futuristic look and experience to the main screens. The graphics quality on this tab is absolutely stunning and the sound is loud and clear, quickly adjustable via a rocker button on the top of the unit.

Another plus is the unit’s USB port and SD card slot, which supports memory expansion of up to 32 Gigs. You’ll need to download a free file manager however, as the base software does not include one.

In all, with the right application downloads, this tab can almost replace your existing laptop for general usage, but I would still wait til the price drops before committing to a purchase.

(Written on the Acer Iconia A500 using the free WordPress app.)

Backing Up Your Facebook Page

Have you ever spent months, or even years, uploading photos and other information to a website only to have it all disappear without warning? Say your account gets hacked, or the website itself crashes or goes out of business. I thought years of my daughter’s baby pictures would be safer backed up to two separate places on the web than on a computer that kept crashing – until both sites went down and all data was scrubbed.

Facebook has a great little feature that most users won’t know about unless they seek it out or ask. Users can download a backup of their information, including posts, photos, videos, messages, contacts… all your information in one convenient little package.

To do this, from your Facebook Profile, click on Account, then Account Settings. Click the Learn More link next to “Download Your Information,” then click the Download button.

You will be given a message that Facebook will send you an e-mail when your download is ready. This can take several hours, depending on how much information you have stored on the site. From there, just follow the instructions in the e-mail and save your file. All your information will be sorted by content type, making it easy to locate anything you’ve posted or uploaded.

With as much information as avid users post on Facebook, this is a very useful function indeed.

So I’m a Sucker…

So I’m playing a freebie app on my iPod Touch, and of course an ad pops up. Typically I’d just click through it without even looking, but this one gave me pause: a tiny lithium ion battery that would charge my USB devices anywhere.

OMG

I clicked.

I cannot say how many times I have been out, away from any computer, wall outlet, or even my car, neck deep in a texting or gaming or photo-taking spree and the battery bar on my device of use behind yelling at me. There’s nowhere to charge it, so I relent and shut it off, saving that last bit of juice for an emergency.

The ad took me to Duracell’s spec page for the DR7000li where I found the miracle for which I’d been searching. I surfed my iPod on over to eBay where I picked one up from Tiger Direct for $9.99, free shipping. A few days later, my dog and I eagerly raced to the door when UPS came a’knocking. Packaging and manual tossed aside, my new charger was plugged into my laptop and charging in no time. An hour later, when that little red light turned green, I immediately switched ports and jacked it onto my cell phone: it worked! I was giddy – barely anything is compatible with my Metro PCS Samsung phone. Next, the Pod. In less than an hour, it went from dying to a big happy shiny green full bar. This little device is going to go everywhere with me.

The DR7000li took its first charge about 4 days ago and hasn’t needed recharging yet, even after numerous uses in charging my phone and iPod (which on a busy day can die on me 3-4 times). The device promises up to 35 hours of run time on USB devices in use with it, but just giving a full charge to the devices and turning it back off when the charge is complete has proven of best use.

The only drawback is that I still have to have USB cables with me, since every device pretty much has it’s own specific need. So, in my backpack live 3 cables and my new Duracell charger. We are permanently attached until the day comes that, like USB drives, each device will be cable-free, able to attach by itself to each other device.

From no paper to no cables, the all-digital, all-wireless world is coming (I hope).

GPS’s, Machinopoly and Big Brother

E: left the house this morning and stopped to get something out of my wife’s car and found that someone had stolen my gps out of there.
H: :O
E: it was over a year old which means it was about due for a map update. last i checked they charged about $80 for that, so it’s just about as cheap to get a new one as to update on old one.
H: that’s a lot of money for an update
H: there are some units that cost that much
E: i know
E: the updates may be cheaper now
E: but basically they keep the updates hi because it helps to convince people to just buy new units instead.
H: google earth should start offering GPS updates
H: make it a universal thing
H: oh funny thought: you update your GPS thru a free source and then the next time you turn it on, the pretty british female voice on it sounds all spiteful and bitchy hehe
H: revenge for not using the issuing company’s updates, she gives you wrong directions on purpose, sends you into the ghetto
E: yep
H: i’m telling you, they’re gonna take over
H: it’s inevitable
E: they have taken over – i sit in a little cube while the servers i support have their own climate-controlled environment designed especially for them. my job is to keep them supplied with electricity.
H: machines have it so much better than us
E: if i get sick it would be “get away from me you contagious bastard”. if one of the machines gets sick a whole team of folks will rush to make it feel better.
H: we should all be chipped so we feel just as important
E: nah – as soon as i got chipped they would come out with a new version and i’d be obsolete.
H: aww!

What do you think… do you support all people being microchipped for identification and health records? Would the government find alternate uses for the chips and keep information on us that *isn’t* disclosed to the carrier? How trackable would we really be? And how easy would it be for an excaped convict, say, to stick a magnet to the back of his neck and simply erase his identity?

Let’s have some comments and discussion!