Category Archives: internet

“Be Internet Awesome” Teaches Kids Digital Safety and Citizenship



Google has created curriculum that can be used by educators and parents to teach their kids how to make smart decisions online. It is called “Be Internet Awesome”, and it aims to teach children the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.

“Be Internet Awesome” focuses on five fundamentals in “The Internet Code of Awesome”: Share with Care; Don’t Fall for Fake; Secure Your Secrets; It’s Cool to be Kind; and When in Doubt, Talk it Out.

Share With Care points out that good (and bad) news can travel fast online. It encourages kids to communicate responsibly. Keep personal details about family and friends private. It emphasizes “If it isn’t right to say, it isn’t right to post.”

Don’t Fall For Fake teaches kids to discern between what’s real and what’s fake online. It notes that people and situations online aren’t always what they seem.

Secure Your Secrets also emphasizes privacy. It teaches kids how to safeguard valuable information and helps kids avoid damaging their devices, reputations, and relationships.

It’s Cool to Be Kind is a lesson that I think many people on the internet need to learn. This section of the “Be Internet Awesome” fundamentals informs kids that the internet is a powerful amplifier that can be used to spread positivity or negativity. It encourages kids to take the high road and apply the concept “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

When in Doubt, Talk It Out was designed to help kids understand what to do if they see something online that is questionable, or that makes them uncomfortable. They should talk it out with a trusted adults. This portion of “Be Internet Awesome” notes that adults can support this behavior by fostering open communication at home and in the classroom.

Google has created a video game that pairs with “Be Internet Awesome”. The game is called Internetland, and it can be played directly through a browser via a link that is on the “Be Internet Awesome” website. The game gives kids a safe way to put the key lessons of digital safety into practice. It includes four challenging games.

Educators can download the “Be Internet Awesome” curriculum (which includes lesson plans and classroom activities.) Parents can download the “Be Internet Awesome Pledge”, which can be used to encourage the entire family to review the fundamentals and be safe on the internet.


DreamHost Partners With Jetpack for DreamPress Offering



DreamHost LogoWebsite hosting provider DreamHost offers a wide range of services to meet its customers’ needs. One of those offerings is called DreamPress, DreamHost’s fully managed service for users running WordPress-based websites. While it’s possible to run a WordPress site on DreamHost’s shared and VPS-based hosting solutions, DreamPress is different in that all facets of a user’s WordPress installation are fully managed by DreamHost. This can save time and energy for users who don’t want to deal with all of the updates and maintenance that come with a complex content management system like WordPress.

DreamHost is actively working to improve DreamPress. In a recent e-mail blast, DreamHost announced it’s partnered with Automattic (the company that steers the core development of WordPress) to bring premium features from Automattic’s Jetpack WordPress plugin to DreamPress users:

We’ve partnered with Jetpack to include a free Premium plan — normally $99 per year — with every DreamPress account at no extra charge.

With DreamPress you can level up your site with a powerful hosting environment, custom-built for WordPress. With the addition of Jetpack Premium you also have best-in-class backup and security scanning services, ad-free video hosting and additional WordPress support.

And:

Made by Automattic, experts in all things WordPress, Jetpack also offers additional free features for your WordPress site including a high-speed image CDN, brute force attack protection, hundreds of themes, uptime monitoring and much, much more.

DreamPress services start at $16.95 per month and all DreamPress users will have access to the new benefits provided by DreamHost’s partnership with Jetpack.


NY Attorney General’s Office Calls Time Warner Cable’s Speeds “Abysmal”



Time Warner Cable logo The office of New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schniederman, has sent a letter to President and CEO of Charter Communications, Inc., Tom Rutledge, that describes Time Warner Cable’s speed as “abysmal”. Charter is the new owner of Time Warner Cable, and has rebranded it as Charter Communications.

The letter was published by The Washington Post. It is signed by Senior Enforcement Counsel and Special Advisor Tim Wu and has the State of New York Office of the Attorney General letterhead. The letter points out the problems with Time Warner Cable and notes that the company’s new management has a fresh opportunity to make improvements.

In the letter, it is pointed out that Time Warner Cable promised customers a “blazing fast”, “super-reliable” internet connection. However, customers were experiencing degraded internet performance, including the customers who were using on-demand video services like Netflix, despite the promises from Time Warner Cable that the customers would be able to stream video content reliably and with “no buffering”.

The letter says customers had become frustrated “as movies freeze, websites load endlessly, and games become non-responsive”. The letter also states that “it appears that Time Warner Cable has been advertising it WiFi in ways that defy the technology’s technical capabilities and has been provisioning some of its customers with equipment that simply cannot achieve the higher bandwidths the company has sold to them.”

From the letter:

We recently called on New York customers of major broadband providers to use open source tools to test the Internet speeds they were experiencing. The results we received from Time Warner Cable customers were abysmal. Not only did Time Warner Cable fail to achieve the speeds its customers were promised and paid for (which Time Warner Cable blamed on the testing method), it generally preformed worse in this regard than other New York broadband providers.


Netflix launches its own speed test website thanks to frustrating ISPs



Netflix_Web_LogoA big deal has been made of bandwidth when using Netflix, especially so after the streaming service had to arrange a payment agreement with Comcast because it was throttling customers — a fee that amounted to little more than protection money from a mob shakedown.

Netflix also publishes a monthly report that calls out ISPs for their speeds. Since that public shaming wasn’t really enough, the company is now releasing its own speed test so it’s customers can see exactly what it is they are paying for.

The new site, which goes by the name fast.com, is similar to some existing services. It’s the same, but different from what the company has been doing.

“This consumer speed test is different than our Netflix ISP Speed Index. Fast.com measures your personal Internet connection at any given time. The speed index measures average monthly speeds of actual Netflix streams during prime time hours”, Netflx claims.

The service works in every country and you don’t have to be a Netflix customer use it. It’s also free, which is always a plus for people.


Reddit Research Nearly Proves Godwin’s Law



reddit-logo-01-674x501It’s a cliche that’s almost as old as the internet itself, and it’s summed up succinctly by Godwin’s Law:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches – that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism. The first utterance of such comparison is called the Godwin point of the discussion.

A blogger operating under the name GuriousGnu wasn’t necessarily attempting to prove Godwin’s Law. But CuriousGnu almost did, after analyzing publicly available data from Reddit. First, CuriousGnu made a list that shows the top subreddits that mention either Hitler or Naziism. This list might come as somewhat reassuring to anyone who’s spent more than a little time in online communities, as the top five subreddits for Hitler mentions are:

  • /history
  • /AskHistorians
  • /european
  • /italy
  • /de (Germany)

So it seems likely most of these Nazi-tinged threads might’ve at least been relevant to discussions on history.

CuriousGnu also made a graph that really starts to put Godwin’s Law into perspective:

Then I excluded history subreddits and looked at the probability that a Reddit thread mentions Nazis or Hitler at least once. Unsuprisigly, the probability of a Nazi refrence increases as the threads get bigger. Nevertheless, I didn’t expect that the probability would be over 70% for a thread with more than 1,000 comments.

CuriousGun goes on to state that the next logical step in the experiment would be to do advanced analyses using sophisticated text-mining techniques that would be difficult and time-consuming to complete. Still, this bit of analysis gives us some interesting (if not humorous) insight into what really happens when people congregate and communicate online.


Goodbye, Internet. Hello, internet



AP LogoIt always seemed like a curious thing to me. Does the word “internet” need to be capitalized? I’d seen it printed that way many times over the years. It sorta made sense. If you think of “the internet” as a singularly-defined, proper place, then it deserves the same type of grammatical treatment as California or Japan. And while it may seem that the world has just one internet, that really isn’t true. Some countries have government-run internets that can be closed off from the rest of the world. This means that there can technically be more than one internet. But there can only ever be one Ireland or one Botswana. That seems like as good a reason as any for the Associated Press (AP) to officially de-capitalize “internet” in its upcoming style guide.

And the AP isn’t stopping there. The organization has also decided it’ll be dropping the caps from the word “web” when referring to the World Wide Web (tho apparently, World Wide Web itself remains capitalized – this change only kicks in when the reference is shortened to just “web”).

As the AP describes it, the World Wide Web is a subset of the internet, like e-mail. And no one has ever capitalized e-mail.

Of course, the AP’s style guidelines are ultimately mere suggestions. No one will be kicked off the internet for referring to it as The Internet. Still, it’s nice to know that there’s something authoritative to point to in this matter.


VNC Roulette Will Make You Double-Check Your Remote Connections



VNC RouletteConnecting to a computer over a remote connection is nothing new. Most often, this technology is employed by people who need to connect to a work computer from home. Having a remote connection makes it possible for users to do all kinds of computer-related tasks without having to actually be on site with the host machine. This practice is typically referred to as Virtual Network Computing (VNC). Most modern computers have VNC capabilities built into their operating systems. This makes it relatively easy to get a remote connection up and running. But like any kind of connection made over the Internet, VNC’s should always be secured by a username and password. However, it turns out many VNC users haven’t done even this most basic level of connection security.

Hence, the creation of VNC Roulette. The VNC Roulette website is constantly scanning for open and unsecured VNC connections. When it finds one, it logs in and takes a screenshot of the remote computer’s desktop and then uploads it to the VNC Roulette website. Clicking the “Random Image” link at the top of the VNC Roulette homepage shows you a new random screenshot that has been captured by VNC Roulette.

Most VNC Roulette images are nondescript and fairly benign in nature. But some users have found some interesting things on the VNC Roulette site. For example, The Register found an image from an X-ray machine and another from a store’s CCTV system. Tom’s Guide found a screenshot of someone checking their Facebook page as well as several screenshots of what look like industrial control panels. The most interesting thing I’ve found so far is a cap of a Windows desktop urging the user to upgrade to Windows 10. (Image embedded above. Looks like they’re doing some home shopping as well. Imagine if the screenshot had happened a few minutes later while they were entering credit card numbers.)

Since VNC Roulette was able to capture these images, that means those computers are allowing open VNC connections without any security. In turn, someone with a fairly rudimentary understanding of network scanning could gain full access to those machines in short order. While VNC Roulette may be a fun voyeuristic waste of time, it also reminds us that it’s important to secure our remote connections. Otherwise, VNC Roulette could be the least of our online worries.


eBlocker Pro Protects Online Privacy at CES



eblockerGuarding your privacy online can be a real challenge. There are so many systems out there designed to track your every mouse click, it’s impossible to try and keep track of them all. And while you can give yourself a baseline level of protection by adjusting some browser settings, that may not be enough to keep you truly guarded. Many different companies have come up with tools to help users maintain their online privacy and eBlocker is the latest to enter this field.

At CES 2016, the company has announced its eBlocker Pro device. Unlike many other privacy protection systems that rely on software solutions, eBlocker Pro is a piece of hardware that easily connects to a home network. From there, eBlocker Pro protects all of the devices connected to the network by cloaking their IP addresses, and blocks all ads and trackers, allowing you to truly surf the web anonymously. eBlocker Pro also has a customizable service for shared devices called eBlocker Family. This allows administrators (i.e. parents) to whitelist or block certain websites, based on who’s using a device. eBlocker Family is especially designed for situations where family members are sharing a device like a tablet or a desktop computer.

eBlocker can be found during CES 2016 in the Sands G/Eureka Park building, booth #80432.


Websites Created with Wix get the Google Ban Hammer



Wix logoLet’s face it. Everyone needs a website in 2015. Gone are the days when you can live in blissful ignorance of the Internet and its impact on the world. Especially if you’re a business owner. And while web technology has improved dramatically over the years, the tools to build websites haven’t really kept up. That’s where services like Wix, a free website builder, come in. Wix promises a simple interface for building custom websites and many people have used it for just that reason.

But whenever something’s free, there’s always a catch. And it looks like erstwhile web designers who are relying on Wix to power their websites might be in for a surprise. It was recently discovered that Google has removed many Wix sites from its search engine results. This has caused a massive drop off in traffic that was previously going to those Wix-hosted pages. While no one knows for sure why this may have happened, speculation is focused on the nature of the Wix system’s “websites-for-all” approach, which could allow for a proliferation of spam sites, SEO hacks, and other black-hat activity to occur virtually unchecked.

Google’s search engine is its most prized asset. The company has spent years refining its search results to ensure they remain useful, in spite of the Internet’s continued attempts at gaming that system. It’s unclear if Wix-hosted sites with mapped top-level domains have been affected by this change. But, if you’re relying on an example.wix.com URL to power your website, you may want to start looking for other solutions.


Travel thru San Francisco History with OldSF’s Interactive Map



OldSFBay Area historical website OldSF has created an interactive map that makes it easier to see what certain parts of the city looked like, going all the way back to 1850. Just load the map and click on any black circle/section to see a list of photos for that location. A slider located in the upper right-hand section of the site allows you to refine the list of viewable photos. You can look at just photos from a certain year or you can select a range of different years.

Some tech sites have compared the OldSF interactive map to Google Street View. And while there are some similarities, OldSF doesn’t provide the same type of block-by-block, frame-by-frame coverage as Street View. Still, it is an easy way to look at how certain parts of San Francisco have changed over the years.

Images used by OldSF came from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. It’s good to see a modern use for this vintage media. The Bay Area is known for its fostering of new technology. Most of the area’s resources are focused on developing “the next big thing.” But projects like OldSF show that there is still some appreciation for where the city has been, not just where it’s going.