Therefore, It’s Perfect!

How Old Do I Look

Have you seen Microsoft’s “How Old Do I Look?” site? It’s a fun toy, but with a business purpose.

Part of Microsoft Project Oxford, Face APIs provide state-of-the-art algorithms to process face images, like face detection with gender and age prediction, recognition, alignment and other application level features.

The horse is already out of the barn on this extension of technology. Walk in front of a camera and it’s likely you can be identified. Often times you are identified. No permission asked or needed.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to tweak its carnival like ability to guess your age. I tried a few times. All were well below my chronological number (but above my level of maturity).

If Microsoft is going to flatter me by lying about my age, I’m not going to argue. Therefore, it’s perfect! Case closed.

How Old Do I Look

I Almost Fell For It!

If you fell for this, here’s what happened. Your Google password is owned. You’ve installed software that probably also controls your computer and owns your other passwords.

I don’t want to hurt myself patting my own back, but I’m pretty good at sniffing out scams. Today I came perilously close to falling for one. Bravo to the scammers. You’re getting better.

It started with an email from a friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Actually, the email said I had a message from her via Whats App. I have Whats App installed, but don’t use it.

So far, plausible.

We-missed-you---geoff.fox-gmail

I clicked the green “Play” button and was asked to sign in to my Gmail account. Again, this is something that happens… but I don’t give up my password easily. I looked closely and noticed the password page didn’t have a green lock next to it.

Bad sign!

Gmail (and Facebook and Twitter) always have a green lock. The green lock assures you the connection is secure and from the company listed.

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I continued to log in but with a phony password. I wanted to see where this led.

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Next screen was an install page for Flash. If the flashing red lights weren’t already going off, this would do it!

If you fell for this, here’s what happened. Your Google password is owned. You’ve installed software that probably also controls your computer and owns your other passwords.

I opened up the web pages. They’re reasonably well written code. All the images are served from their rightful owners websites. In other words, Google, Twitter and Whats App (among others) are paying for the bandwidth to run this scam!

How the hell did this get past Gmail’s filters? At least it didn’t get past mine.

What Are You On?

intel dongleWhat are you on right now?

Helaine uses a laptop. My dad is 100% tablet. I rotate through devices and touch close to a dozen keyboards or screens through the day.

Nearly everything you know about computing is about to change. The size is shrinking again.

If you have a recent iPhone or one of the high end Android devices, you know the brain in that small device of yours works fine for browsing and video. Why do we need anything with bulk?

We don’t.

There is a new class of dongles entering the market which are full fledged PCs. Plug one into an HDMI port on any TV, pair with wireless keyboard and mouse and it’s a computer that can do nearly anything! Browse the web. Stream HD movies. Skype. Whatever.

These dongles are quad core machines special image processing chips. Very low power, they need no fans. They are light on RAM and disk space, but are optimized for the tasks most people normally perform.

They’re not for making content. They’re for consumption.

At the moment (and we’re very early in this game) the Windows version is $150 and the Android $100. Expect those numbers to fall.

This is crazy. How far we’ve come. We’re not slowing down.

Lindsey Graham Has Never Sent An Email?

Seriously? I’ve been sending email for nearly 30 years. How is it possible to live in the 21st Century without email?

More importantly, what does this say about what Senator Graham doesn’t understand about modern life?

Lindsey Graham  I ve Never Sent an Email   NBC News.com

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was on Meet the Press this morning. When the topic got to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Graham offered,

“I don’t email. No, you can have every email I’ve ever sent. I’ve never sent one.”

Seriously? I’ve been sending email for nearly 30 years. How is it possible to live in the 21st Century without email?

More importantly, what does this say about what Senator Graham doesn’t understand about modern life?

Back when I worked at WTNH all my email was sent through a server I controlled. No nefarious purpose. It was just more convenient. They had all my incoming mail, but nothing I sent (unless it came back in a reply) was in their possession.

I suspect that’s why Secretary Clinton did it, convenience. It allowed me to consolidate all my email accounts in one place.

But Hillary Clinton wasn’t a TV meteorologist. She had more of an obligation to officially archive her correspondence, whether it was a law/rule or not.

As sins go, hers is pretty minor.

Lindsey Graham’s admission isn’t a sin at all. But it’s definitely a head scratcher.

Amazon Would Like To Listen To All Your Conversations

Everything you say is going back through the Internet to Amazon’s servers. Will it be eavesdropping on your life? I think that’s Amazon’s point. We are being farmed for our data.

Echo - KeyFeaturesDevice

Amazon’s newest product is Echo. Echo’s implications are simultaneously interesting and creepy. Echo is a standalone digital assistant that responds to voice commands. Think Siri, but without the phone.

Here comes the creepy part.

Tucked under Echo’s light ring is an array of seven microphones. These sensors use beam-forming technology to hear you from any direction. With enhanced noise cancellation, Echo can hear you ask a question even while it’s playing music.

You know the scene in Casino where Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci turn on their car’s radio to keep from being heard? Not anymore!

It hears you when you’re sleeping. It knows when you’re awake. It knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

Amazon claims:

Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, “Alexa.”

Echo-AudioExplodedDeviceThat’s not so. It has to be listening to EVERYTHING to know when “Alexa” is said.

This wouldn’t be as scary if your individual Echo kept your secrets. It does not.

Echo’s brain is in the cloud, running on Amazon Web Services so it continually learns and adds more functionality over time.

Everything you say is going back through the Internet to Amazon’s servers. Will it be eavesdropping on your life? I think that’s Amazon’s point. We are being farmed for our data.

I’m making the point with Amazon, but Siri and Google Now are already doing most of this via your cellphone or web browser (see the example at the bottom of this page).

There’s no doubt the Internet gives us powers and abilities far beyond anything I imagined as a kid–and I had a good imagination. But there is a downside. Even if voice recognition was flawless (and it’s anything but), bad interpretation will surely cause unforeseen grief.

Those pushing this part of the technology say errors will be limited. I have no doubt. But fixing errors is expensive. Google, Facebook and others have already shown, companies would rather you didn’t know how to contact them, much less help you fix problems of their doing.

The good news is they don’t look at us as individuals. The bad news is they don’t look at us as individuals.

There’s This App

It’s one of those tools you never knew you needed until you realize you can’t do without it.

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I found an app that solves a real 21st Century problem. It connects all my screens. It has simplified the task of passing stuff between them.

When my phone rings a notification pops up on all my computers. I was surprised how often my phone and I are apart.

It works the same way with text messages. You can even reply from your PC keyboard.

If I take a photo it can be sent directly to my PCs with two clicks.

Addresses or links found at my desk now slide to my phone for cut and paste into a nav program or browser.

I’m using it nearly every day.

It’s Pushbullet. It works on Android and iPhones, Windows and sorta on Macs.

Pushbullet connects your devices, making it easy and automatic to share almost anything between them.

It’s one of those tools you never knew you needed until you realize you can’t do without it. And, of course, it’s free.