Archive for January, 2009

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, World

Friday, January 30th, 2009

First, my sincere condolences to the families involved in this tragedy.

The comment section of this site is meant for readers to express thoughts, opinions and insight on stories. After receiving multiple reports concerning the disregard for common decency found in the comment section of this story, and reviewing them, all prior comments have been deactivated and a few accounts suspended for review.

Josh Alves

Manager of New Media

Bangor Daily News

Thank you Mr. Alves. I do not know you, but you obviously are a sensitive and sensible person. I do not believe your actions were censorship, but were defining the lines between free speech and bullying.

For readers out there, please – times are tough and people are mad about a lot of things, but please remember to READ these things OUT LOUD before you send them.

  • Do you really want to say what you are saying?
  • Would you say it to your mother?
  • Would you want to hear your kids say it?

People leaving comments on blogs and news stories is growing- especially in Maine where we are often behind the power (or digital) curve.

We all need to do it sensibly.

iPOD, iTOUCH, iPHONE, (Aye, Aye, Aye!!)

Monday, January 19th, 2009

I get it.
It is confusing.

And in the technical vernacular of a 6th grader, I am going to try to explain it. As usual I have to try it myself, so I can learn. So this is what I know about these things and what each product means to me as a potential user or purchaser.

1. iPOD – a music machine. Great place to put all your old Aerosmith tunes or Sonny & Cher CD’s that your kids burned. Or things you download from an online music store. Simply put, it plays the things you put on it. My brother has an iPOD shuffle which is a tiny thing, he isn’t a techie, but I also know a lot of techies that have them. I also have an iPOD, it was the first thing I truly fell in love with as a lover of music and audiobooks. But I’m not a lover of having to haul CD cases around all the time, or to get some place only to find that I am missing the perfect CD because I neglected to bring it. iPODs come in all sizes and colors to satisfy whatever you want to carry around with you. And they are so convenient!

2. iPOD TOUCH– this is a music machine and more, here is a video you can watch by clicking here. It plays music you load on it like iPOD, and it also works through an open WIRELESS connection. So if you have wireless in your house you can get on the internet and look up your favorite recipes on line and and use it in the kitchen. It also can download and play video only I don’t think my old eyes could watch a full movie on that small screen. The screen is a “touch screen,” holds calendars that you can synch up with your laptop (through iTunes), and iTunes works with PC’s too (watch this video.) Also holds contacts, email, as well as many other applications you can download wirelessly, most are free. My favorite one is pandora.com – it is an internet music station. (another day for that one!)

I particularly LOVE the iPOD Touch because as I mentioned it works by wireless and not cellular. As long as there is a wireless connection available, once we bought it, it was paid for, no surprise bills or monthly fees. I can use it all over the place. I know there are tons more applications, but so far I have focused on the ones important to me.

3. iPHONE is a music machine and internet machine along with being a cellular phone. This is the key here. It works through CELLULAR, so you will need a contract with AT&T. I have nothing against AT&T, except we have terrible coverage up here in Maine (and I have been told poor coverage in many rural areas) so roaming and all kinds of other things may apply. For me, my real concern is the lack of coverage. When cell phones are searching, searching, searching, searching for a signal the batteries drain quickly. Often times I know I am in an area where there is spotty coverage (like Kingfield, Maine- for example) and I just turn my cell phone off to save the battery for the time I get to a place that has coverage.

So which is better?

I think it all comes down to lifestyle and where you work and play. For me, since I play off the grid and often travel off the grid, I don’t want to have a phone that is off the grid 50% of the time, or roaming when my current service provider (Central Maine Wireless- US Cellular) covers me 98% of the time. ALSO I can still use my iPOD TOUCH for many other things whether I have a wireless connection or not. It still works and my music is there, my photos are there, calendar, etc. So it is very effective even when I am in a place where wireless isn’t available and in the meantime I still have battery power to use it!

More Identity Theft

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

This is a scam that originated in August of 2005, settled down for a while and now seems to be ignited again.

You are to do your civic responsibility and report for Jury Duty. Most people don’t like having rearrange their whole lives around sitting in a room awaiting for their to be name called. And more and more people are deciding to skip out on this responsibility. But arrest warrants can be issued for people that fail to appear for jury duty, so deciding not to or thinking you didn’t report when called on, can create an intimidating situation.

Of course then enter the “opportunists.” The phone rings at your house and the caller claims to be a jury coordinator.

If you tell them you never received a summons for jury duty, the caller asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so it can be verified.

Once they “verify your PERSONAL information” they tell you they can cancel the arrest warrant. What you don’t know is they aren’t verifying anything, they aren’t canceling any warrant, they ARE stealing your identity, but in reality, you just gave it to them.

This all may sound silly to you, but do check in with your parents or other seniors in your life. They are particularly at risk for these schemes and the callers tend to be bullies.

The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites, warning consumers about the fraud.

Here is a link to the page on the FBI site, so you can read it for yourself. And like a previous post on this blog, snopes has it too.

A funny thing happened while Social Media – "ing"

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Most of the readers of this blog are new to, or trying to deal with, technology and how it effects their lives. I don’t mind mentioning I am in that place too! That is the objective of this blog. I share as I learn and hope you will share what you learn with us too!

Many of you may have heard of FACEBOOK, MYSPACE & Linked-In and I have talked about them here and they are becoming bigger and bigger and there are more users using them every day. There is another tool, called a microblog named Twitter. I linked these all to descriptions on my website that explain them so if you have questions you can get answers there.

But here is the funny thing. I joined Twitter a little over a year ago (I think.) It was something I heard about people doing and at first I didnt understand it. There are countless blog entries “preaching to the choir” about how Twitter works and all us Twitter users read them, comment on them and we think it is great. But WE ALL READY know Twitter works, it is how you can use social networks to YOUR benefit, maybe the less – techy type that perhaps may think it only works for geeks. (I cannot blame you, really!)

Here are a couple of examples of my own experiences:
A week ago my girlfriend told me her sister was going to need a headcovering or hat for some cancer treatment that was going to wipe out her hair (again) and reveal some scary looking scars on her head and neck. I can knit a scarf – period. I put on my Facebook “wall” that I needed some help. I got 3 replies right away from people I do not normally interact with – and 2 got an emails yesterday that these hats were being mailed to me! That is a non-techy request to a very real situation that any of us could be in at anytime.

Another example: Along with my business, I teach Marketing at the New England School of Communications, I ask all students to “Friend Me” on Facebook and establish Twitter accounts. Paul Hilchey Chandler (twitter id: hilcheychandler) of Central Maine Wireless was a guest speaker in my class and talked about cell phones, marketing and social networking. One of my students revealed that she was in the 8,000+ of monthly text messages. (Makes my thumbs hurt just thinking about it.)

This morning, I was away from my computer and while I was away, one of our local newscasters Kara Matuszewski (twitter id: karamat) WLBZ2 had tweeted something about texting and Paul suggested she contact me (twitter id: ladyotrout) about this student I had. I also follow Kara, but do not know her personally and due to a very busy morning for me, I would probably have missed it, so thank you Paul! After a few direct messages and a phone call we have a “shout out” for high volume texters for a story she is interested in doing. I posted that on my Facebook wall and guess what? Two responses all ready! This is less than an hour and I am not kidding.

So what you may say?

These tools are very helpful in a busy life. I like to get alerts from media sources of what is going on, the weather, etc. but mainly I use Twitter as a bulletin board for articles and information that people that I feel like minded with (remember I know hardly ANY of them PERSONALLY) to share. I also share what I am reading & learning there. The internet and other media is so vast and there is so much information that these tools help me prioritize what I need to learn right now. And they cost me nothing out of pocket except the time to do it.

So I thought I would mention this to you, if you have a mother or father or know someone with a small business that is trying to do more with less (time and money) I cannot recommend these things highly enough! If you feel you dont have time to do the work yourself and you are a small business, give us a call and we can help.

And stay tuned for the WLBZ2 story…I am sure we all will be tweeting about it!

Email Scams, Urban Legends, etc.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

How many of you have friends or relatives that constantly “forward” the latest and greatest news that they got forwarded to them, PLEASE READ, FIREFIGHTER NEEDS HELP, the lists go on. I have an “all time favorite” cousin that sends me this stuff and it drives me crazy! I love her, I want to stay in touch with her, but I don’t want all this stuff stinking up my in-box that almost every time turns into being untrue. But how do you know?

For an example: She sent me this email about the Swiffer Wet Jet being poisonous to dogs and causing liver failure. Given the fact that Eukanuba had a massive recall in March of 2007 because of some ingredient from China that was causing liver failure, this concerned me. I am dog lover and dog owner. (here is a link to that story).

I definitely was going to read that email she sent me. I went to my cupboard and looked at the labels and because I am no chemistry whiz I didnt know what to think.

So how do you know if these emails are urban legend or as some of the guys in my office call it “FACT or CRAP?

Here is a link to a source that can explain why this happens and why people spread these rumors, of course my first reaction is “GET A LIFE!”

And here is a web source called Snopes that allows you to check out the story yourself. Snopes is interesting because the format is such that you can see the year of origin these rumors start, a quick synopsis of what it is, as well as often they cite verbatim the text in the email you received. AND most importantly, there is a line right up front indicating TRUE or FALSE. In my cousin’s email it indicated that this rumor was verified by snopes so at first I thought – “Oh, oh…” then once I logged into snopes.com myself, I learned it was a hoax all along. Not even to mention that I received this email in December of 2008 and the origin was 2004! If it were true wouldn’t we have heard about a recall by now? I feel bad for the Swiffer Wet Jet people, how many people have stopped buying a product because of something they received on the internet?

Snopes has all kinds of content on it, Political, Fauxtography and many more. You can even subscribe to updates if you want to know what is being posted. I am not willing to say Snopes is 100% accurate, because I don’t know that it is, but it is an easy to use tool that provides evidence to back up its claims which is a lot better than I can say for these emails people send me that create fear and uncertainty. Happy Snoping… you wont be sorry!