5 Things - Week Ending 5/3/13

This is the 44th post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

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In early 2012 I was 26 years old and burnt out. I wanted a break from modern life — the hamster wheel of an email inbox, the constant flood of WWW information which drowned out my sanity. I wanted to escape.

A year without the internet. Paul Miller took on that challenge willingly because he was burnt out from the demands of email and the avalanche of information that exists online.

We can now read his thoughts on his time away from the internet and how it wasn't the solution he thought it might have been.

To read this article, click on the link above the quote.


Some thoughts after recovering from a hard drive failure

Riccardo Mori:

Two nights ago, the hard drive of my MacBook Pro did nothing of the sort. Quite the opposite, actually. It just died without warning. No strange noises, no unusual ticking patterns, not even an increase in noisiness (even quiet drives tend to get a bit noisier as they grow old and especially when their time’s about over). I periodically run Disk Utility on the main drive to check up on its health. Never a problem, not even the occasional mix-up in the drive’s logic structure. Nothing. I was watching a movie and suddenly the image froze, while the audio kept playing for a while. I thought there was something wrong with the video file, or that the player application was acting up, so I tried quitting it. No response. Force-quitting didn’t get me far, either. The Mac quickly became unresponsive, so I forced a reboot.

This is why it is so important to have a backup of your computer! You may be lucky enough to see warning signs that the hard drive is starting to die. For Riccardo, his Mac was working fine one moment, and the next moment it was toast.

It is pretty easy to backup your computer. You will need an external hard drive.

I would recommend the WD My Passport 1TB Portable External Hard Drive Storage USB 3.0 Black.

If you are a Mac user I would suggest you use Time Machine to backup your data. You can learn more about Time Machine in my blog post titled The Tech I Use - Time Machine

If you are a Windows user I would suggest you use Genie Timeline Free 2013 to backup your data.


LivingSocial Hacked -- More Than 50 Million Customers Impacted

Kara Swisher:

LivingSocial, the daily deals site owned in part by Amazon, has suffered a massive cyber attack on its computer systems, which an email from CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy — just sent to employees and obtained by AllThingsD.com — said resulted in “unauthorized access to some customer data from our servers.”
The hack includes customer names, emails, birthdates and encrypted passwords.

I seem to read more and more stories about websites getting hacked and having passwords stolen. LivingSocial is the latest website to fall victim to a hacker. If you use this website you will have to reset your password for LivingSocial, but you will also want to make sure that you change the password of any other accounts that happened to share the same password as the LivingSocial account.

You should NEVER use the same password across multiple websites, especially your email accounts, bank accounts, and any website that has your credit card or check card attached to it. If you do you may find yourself in a situation similar to myself, described in the blog post titled, Story Time With Mike - I Got Hacked.


We know who you are: the scary new technology of iris scanners

Russell Brandom:

Judging by the technology itself, we may be just a few technical breakthroughs away from Minority Report-style eye-flashers. Right now, most iris capturing happens close up because the cameras need flashes of infrared light to illuminate the eye. Too strong a flash will damage the retina, so the devices rely on weaker flashes from closer in. But aside from the flash issues, AOptix says the same technology can work from as far as 60 feet away. The only reason the feature isn’t available is that AOptix saw more money in TSA-style checkpoints. “We didn’t see a compelling market for the long-range iris tech,” Pritikin says. “It’s essentially surveillance, CCTV but for iris, and there’s a limited market for that.” It’s good news, but small comfort. If an oppressive regime wanted to pick up the technology and run with it, it would be hard to stop them.

Some of the stuff that we see in science fiction movies show up in the real world years later. It sounds like we are inching closer to a world where there will be iris scanners that can identify us and either be used for surveillence or marketing. In my opinion, some technology should remain science fiction.

I have included a 10 second clip of Minority Report below, where Tom Cruise's character walks into a Gap and is greeted by a virtual saleclerk asking him how his recent purchase of tank tops worked out.

First, it enables you to use Amazon to buy individual items for less than $25 without paying for shipping. Without Prime, you have to pay for shipping for items under $25, meaning that there’s often a temptation to add unnecessary items up to the $25 threshold or just walk away and pay more for the item elsewhere, like buying a book at a bookstore. If you have Prime, you’ll likely find yourself doing all of your gift shopping and small purchases at Amazon rather than buying them at stores.

I love Amazon Prime! It is a service that cost $79 per year. It offers multiple shipping benefits, including free two-day shipping for eligible purchases. Members also get free access to Amazon Instant Video and the ability to borrow books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Trent does a great job breaking down the financial implications of Amazon Prime. For me, I have found that it saves me a ton of money and time. I use to buy books on Amazon, but would always get frustrated that the book I wanted cost $18 and didn't qualify for free shipping. I would end up buying a second book or other small item to get above the $25 threshold for free shipping. Now, with Amazon Prime I can order anything and it will arrive two days later with no extra cost for shipping.

If I order something and need it ASAP, I can pay $3.99 and have it shipped overnight.

I have found myself buying more and more items that I use to buy at Target or Cub Foods on Amazon. I recently ordered Vitamin D pills on Amazon and they were cheaper than what was offered at my local store.

I don't know about you, but I find myself often purchasing more than I intended to while shopping at Target or Cub. When I shop online, I am in and out and never buy stuff that I didn't intend to. That alone helps me save money!

I also enjoy borrowing books from the Kindle Lending Library. This is a benefit that can only be enjoyed by owners of a Kindle device. You can check out up to one book per calendar month. I probably take advantage of the Kindle Lending Library about six times per year.

You can sign up for a 30 day trial of Amazon Prime and give it a test drive. You may find that you like it!


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