Posts Tagged ‘news’

Social Sites Deliver the News

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

It comes as no surprise that many Americans are now getting their new from the web, or more specifically from social networking sites. But the scale of the exodus from traditional media seems to be increasing. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, now more than 3 in 10 US adults get their news from Facebook.

The majority claim that although it’s not the main reason that they log in to the social networking site, they do read the news stories when logged on. Perhaps the more worrying statistic is that only a third of users on the site, get their news from an organisation or journalists news feed. This suggests that they’re getting their current affairs and news directly from friends.

There are other sites which people are turning too, including YouTube, Twitter and Google Plus. Although in many places and establishments many sites like this including Facebook are blocked (workarounds are common though).

There is no doubt that social media sites like Facebook are going to be a major sources of news for many users in the years ahead. It is hoped that traditional news media with qualified and respected journalists are still represented well on here. The problem is that these sites are largely responsible for controlling what we see and have access to primarily through their algorithms.

The control doesn’t stop there though either, especially if you consider the practice of geotargeting. Websites also control who is able to access their site depending on location. So for instance a site like Pandora or Hulu, blocks anyone who tries to access from outside the USA. The BBC won’t allow anyone to use the wonderful Iplayer application if they are based outside the UK. In fact you can’t watch any of the UK TV stations online if you’re outside the country – unless you use a technique from this video.

Do We Have Any Privacy?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

All this talk of spying and surveillance is getting to me, I feel llike I’ve been up to no good – even though I haven’t.  If you look at the online news, you’ll see loads of articles and reports of extensive spying networks – there’s even an article on the UK setting up a bugged cyber cafe at the last G8 conference  – wow how cool is that!  But the problem is that although you’ll probably learn lots of useful and interesting stuff from eavesdropping on presidents, despots and prime ministers – you’ll not learn much from me.

Well you’ll learn a lot about me, but to be honest I don’t think a lot of my web searching habits are really anything to do with MI5 or the FSA. Sure they’ll learn I spend a lot of time looking for bargains on Ebay, that I perhaps drink a little too much and that my obsession with Kylie Minogue is perhaps not that healthy for a man of my age.  It’s not really the work for spymasters and anti-terrorist organisations, well is it ?

The problem is that most of our applications and our online activity is just so easy to spy on. Take email for example, I’ve just read an excellent article entitled – How Secure is Email.  To discover that every email I’ve ever sent has been completely readable by anyone who had a mind to, is rather disconcerting.  An email is always sent and received in clear text unless you take the care to encrypt it, which of course most of us don’t.  The internet as a transport mechanism doesn’t help either, your data is transported via a series of servers, routers and bridges owned by a huge variety of people , organisations and governments.  Which of course means that any of these people can just have a quick peek at your data whenever they feel like it.  Or more worryingly, like PRISM can just store everything then run a computer program to have millions of quick peeks whenever they like.

So is it just unreasonable to expect privacy in the modern world?  Should we just expect that everyone and their dog will be able to see whatever you do online?  Personally I say no, I don’t agree that catching one stupid terrorist every ten years is a big enough pay off for spying on 60 million people 24/7 for a decade.

Next Generation GPS – US Army

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

When GPS was first developed it revolutionised many areas of life.  Like many technologies it was the battlefield and more specifically the US army who brought this into our lives.  The first GPS systems required an enormous box to be transported in order to register the signal.  Today GPS transmitters and receivers are built into all sorts of devices from mobile phones, cars to individual weapons.

Of course the Global Positioning System of the 1980s was a very different technology than it is today, but the reserach group who helped pioneer it’s use is now looking for a successor.  The reality is that armed forces around the world are so dependent on GPS that it’s now looking like a vulnerability more than an asset.  GPS relies on a signal and it’s very possible that this can be intercepted or scrambled.  In fact there is some evidence that this has happened in South Korea recently.

The scares have meant that DARPA the research group who developed the system are now trying to create a system which is not reliant on satellites and a signal being sent and received from them.  There is also funding from other sources including the Government, US law enforcement agencies and corporate sponsors.  Obviously we can’t return to the era of huge boxes to make these systems work and the target is a small computer chip.

The system being developed actually contains three gyroscopes, three accelerometers and an atomic clock which combined together should create a 21st Century autonomous navigation systems.  That is a GPS system which works independantly of satellites and needs no signals or outside connectivity of any sorts.

As such this technology has not been created and it may be that we see an entirely different technology superceding GPS.  There is talk about boosting existing signals like radio or even light waves to act as a back up to standard GPS systems when needed.

If  you want to learn more about the new developments it’s worth checking out the various online technology sites.  Recommended is the BBCs technology site and the show – Byte which helps anyone keep up with new technological updates.  Unfortunately  this isn’t possible outside the UK unless you follow these instructions – how to watch BBC Iplayer abroad – This explains how you can change your IP address in order to access the wonderful BBC Iplayer application.  It’s also useful for other sites with restrictions like Hulu outside the US.