Net Neutrality: What Does It Mean?

Net Neutrality

With the FCC’s recent ruling on Internet neutrality the issue of nondiscriminatory internet service has moved from the backburner to the forefront of the minds of every day internet users. Be it for Netflix, YouTube, Streaming music or downloading questionably legal files, net neutrality means equal internet speeds for all.

People who use Verizon in particular have noticed that their internet speed slows considerably when they use services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. Under the concept of net neutrality, this would be illegal. Certain services like HBO GO for example, are blocked in their entirety by certain providers. This too would be illegal.

Earlier today the FCC put forth a plan with the intention that the new laws would prevent internet providers from throttling the internet speeds of their customers, however, the ruling may have paved the way to a deeply segregated internet. People would be changed from internet equals, to users on a “pay-for-priority” system.

Originally the U.S appeals court rejected the FCC’s recommendation on net neutrality rules on the basis that it would not allow users to pay more money for better internet under any circumstances. Only after allowing a small number of pay-for-priority deals did the appeals court approve the new laws. There is some question over whether or not the FCC has the authority to regulate the Internet at all, but the wheels have been set in motion. The Internet – the “network of networks” that connects the world won’t be quite so open anymore.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality

http://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-101

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/16/technology/fcc-road-map-to-net-neutrality.html?hpw&rref=business&_r=0

http://www.fcc.gov/document/protecting-and-promoting-open-internet-nprm

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/15/us-usa-internet-neutrality-idUSBREA4C0SF20140515

Images:

http://images.dailytech.com/nimage/12217_large_neutral-bits.png

Internet Explorer – Safe Again – Even XP

Internet-Explorer-11

Earlier this week, Homeland Security issued a statement warning Americans against using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The reason for the ban? An exploit that allowed hackers to adopt the rights and permissions of a user to potentially take over a PC. This caused a ripple of panic across the internet at the implications of such a large vulnerability.

To start with, most non-computer savvy users use only one account and give it administrative rights to install programs. On an infected machine, a hacker would gain administrative privileges and be free to do as they wished with the PC.

According to Microsoft:

“…An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.”

That cause even bigger problems for businesses that dealt in confidential data. Someone could go into their systems and delete entire databases of information or expose highly confidential information.

Thankfully, Microsoft acted quickly (once the exploit was made public anyway) to fix the issue, releasing multiple updates for all Windows platforms from XP onwards. People are encouraged to update their machines as soon as possible. However users are getting tired of the constant security scares. First Target and Heartbleed, now Internet Explorer. What will we do when there’s nothing secure left?

 

Sources:
http://mashable.com/2014/04/28/internet-explorer-bug-how-to-protect/
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/28/us-cybersecurity-microsoft-browser-idUSBREA3Q0PB20140428
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2148921/dhs-warns-against-using-internet-explorer-until-bug-is-patched.html
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2148368/new-internet-explorer-zero-day-puts-web-at-risk-and-xp-isnt-getting-a-fix.html
https://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/library/security/2963983
http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/04/internet_explorer_bug_no_fix_xp_hacker_control_pc.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2618102/Microsoft-FINALLY-fixes-Internet-Explorer-bug-days-Government-warned-computer-users-to-abandon-browser.html
http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/05/01/microsoft-issues-internet-explorer-security-fix/8562737/
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2150248/microsoft-backs-down-will-fix-internet-explorer-vulnerability-even-on-windows-xp.html

 

Bio-Printing – An Amazing Breakthrough in Medicine and Technology

Bio-Printing

What is it?

A relatively new offshoot of 3D printing, Bio-Printing involves the use special printers, inks and paper to create living 3D replicas of human tissue. Where 3D printers print inanimate (and sometimes edible) objects using materials like plastic, metal, rubber granulated sugars, Bio-Printers use ‘Bio-Ink’ a  liquid mix made from living cells to create things like blood vessels, skin cells, noses ears, and hopefully in the near future, fully functioning livers, lungs and hearts.

The Printing Process

First an image of the tissue to be printed must be created. Using software similar to AutoCAD, a 3D blueprint of the tissue is made and fed into a printer. Ink containing biopolymer solutions are fed into a printer’s ink jet and the print job is started. Bio-Print jobs are created by continuously layering cells at varying temperatures on Bio-Paper (special paper created to keep printed cells alive).

Why is it important?

For people on the bottom of the transplant waiting list, Bio-Printing is the light at the end of an otherwise dark tunnel. Through Bio-Printing, Doctors would have an endless supply of organs to transplant without the worry of transmitting diseases, or transplanting incompatible organs. People born with missing or damaged organs or limbs could have a new one created based on Bio-Ink created from their cells. From a cosmetic point of view, with research, Bio-Printing would allow people to have their entire faces printed. Eliminating the possibility of botched surgeries and greatly reducing the risks of plastic surgery.

Ethical Issues

There are mixed opinions on the ethics of Bio-Printing. The “Complex Heterogeneous Tissue Constructs Containing Multiple Cell Types Prepared By Inkjet Printing Technology” study combined both human and animal cells to create living tissue. While the majority of the public was not (and still isn’t) aware of the human cross animal tissue, it started a heated ethical & moral debate. Some of the tissues used in Bio-Ink come from stem cells – making the use of the ink highly controversial. The Catholic Church prohibits the use of stem cells that originate from human embryos; however, this prohibition does not extend to all stem cells. A two year old born without a windpipe, had an artificial one created for her from stem cells taken from her bone marrow.

Bio-Printing has the potential to revolutionize the medical community. It can save lives that would have otherwise been forfeit, but it will eventually force people to deal with serious ethical issues. Bio-Printing has not yet reached the level of being able to create fully functioning organs, but the technology improves by leaps and bounds every day. Should a person accept a liver that will save their lives if it contains the cells of say, a pig? Should an infant be allowed to die because their only option is to be given a heart printed from embryotic stem cells? When we eventually perfect this potentially lifesaving technology, what will we do with it?

Sources

http://www.engineering.com/3DPrinting/3DPrintingArticles/ArticleID/6585/Gelatin-Bio-Ink-Could-Lead-to-3D-Printed-Organs.aspx
http://www.engineering.com/3DPrinting/3DPrintingArticles/ArticleID/4969/The-Status-of-Bio-Printing.aspx
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-bio-ink.htm
http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2013/bm/c3bm00012e#!divAbstract
http://now.uiowa.edu/2013/02/ui-researchers-developing-3d-printer-bio-ink-create-human-organs
http://www.technewsworld.com/story/80198.html
http://www.technewsworld.com/story/80205.html?rss=1
http://www.techradar.com/us/news/computing-components/printers-and-scanners/report-says-3d-bioprinting-will-spark-debate-on-ethics-1219739
http://www.techradar.com/us/news/computing-components/printers-and-scanners/report-says-3d-bioprinting-will-spark-debate-on-ethics-1219739
http://www.3dprinterworld.com/article/chinese-researchers-invent-regenovo-bioprinter
http://www.explainingthefuture.com/bioprinting.html
http://news.msn.com/obits/2-year-old-with-windpipe-made-from-stem-cell-dies

Image Credits

http://3dprintedorgans.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Bioprinting.jpg

Game Review: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

PvZ

When PopCap games first announced a sequel to their hit tower defense game Plants vs. Zombies, people expected great things from the growing franchise. An off the wall first person shooter with over the top weapons and characters was the last thing anyone expected.

Classic

Classic Plants vs. Zombies (PvZ) was simple. Put down plants to defeat zombies and keep them from getting into your house to eat your brains. You were limited to 10 plants per round, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. You had to collect sunlight to use more plants, and last but not least, once you placed a plant, aside from the odd wiggle of an animation, your plants did not move. That all changed when Garden Warfare came.

From the moment you boot up the game, your screen is covered in zombies and plants fighting an endless war while dying and fighting in highly comical ways.

Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare

Similarly to the original PvZ, the playable characters each have their pros and cons.

Plants

Sunflower

SunflowerThe medics of the group, sunflowers are largely responsible for healing their injured teammates. They can deploy portable heal flowers, or dig in their roots to launch a surprisingly devastating ray of sunlight.

 

 

 

 

Cactus

CactusCacti are snipers plain and simple. They can deploy barriers, drones and land mines (Tall-nuts Battlements, Garlic Drones and Potato Mines). They can attack from a distance, secure and area, and given proper backup, can efficiently defend an objective. Unfortunately, Cacti are horrible at close range with horrible accuracy without scoping, and very low health.

 

 

Peashooter

Pea ShooterPeashooters are the go to front line fighters of the game. They’re great for beginners to use and are highly versatile fighters. As their name suggests, they shoot peas, but their abilities include a grenade launcher (Chili Bean Bomb), a ‘Hyper’ ability which lets them run and jump faster and higher, and (similar to the sunflower) the ability to dig its roots into the ground and become a Gatling gun.

 

 

Chomper

Chomper

Chompers define close combat. Similarly to classic PvZ, Chompers defeat zombies by eating them. While their attacks are a one hit kill, they still have to get close enough actually eat them. Chompers can burrow underground, deploy ‘Spikeweed’ (which ensnare zombies and hang them upside down) and shoot a low damage Goop that slows zombies down and makes it impossible for them to use their special abilities.

 

 

 Zombies

Scientist

Scientist

 

Scientists are semi-automatic shotgun wielding terrors capable of teleporting, throwing sticky grenades and healing other zombies. This is a personal opinion, but they’re one of the most overpowered characters in the game.

 

 

 

Engineer

Engineer

Engineers are the multi-taskers of the game. They can deploy drones, toss sonic grenades (which force Chompers out of the ground), build turrets, build teleporters and ride around on jackhammers. Not unbalanced at all, right?

 

 

 

Foot Soldier

Foot Soldier

Foot soldiers rival the Peashooters in effectiveness and versatility. They can launch damaging stink grenades, launch an RPG, and launch themselves into the air using an attached jet pack.

 

 

 

All-Star

All StarThe All-Star zombie is a high powered, high health having football star – well an undead one anyway. Equipped with a Football Launcher, it can clear out entire areas rather easily.

 

 

 

 

Game Modes

Garden Ops

Garden Ops is the closest thing to classic PvZ in the game. Players form a team of up to 4 plants, to protect a garden of tiny little plants from invading zombies. You’re given the option to grow some assistance in the form of stationary potted plants with varying abilities.

Team Vanquish

Team Vanquish is Garden Warfare’s take on a classic Team Deathmatch mode. The goal is to kill players on the enemy team to win. You get a point for each kill – assuming someone on the opposing team doesn’t revive them first.

Gardens and Graveyards

Gardens and Graveyards is a Capture the Flag clone. Teams fight against each other to capture points starting at one side of the map moving from one side to the other. Whichever team captures the most points, wins.

Gnome Bomb

A recent addition to the game, Gnome Bomb is Call of Duty’s Demolition mode except much cuter. Each team has 3 locations they have to blow up using a garden gnome attached to a bomb. There is only one bomb on the map at a time and players can kill each other to get it and attempt to plant at specified locations.

Overall, I give this game a 9/10. Every so often the game freezes, and there are connectivity issues that need to be fixed. The characters are also highly unbalanced, leaning more towards the zombies, with high HP and power, versus the plants who have average HP and occasionally below average fire power.         Despite being an E10+ game (For everyone 10 Years and older), it’s fun for more than just little kids. Adults sick of blood gore and realistic firefights can enjoy this cartoonish, funny, and ridiculously cute, video game.

Credits:

 http://plantsvszombies.wikia.com/wiki/Plants_vs._Zombies:_Garden_Warfare   
http://www.pvzgardenwarfare.com/    
http://mashable.com/2014/03/31/platns-vs-zombies-fps/

Image Sources:

http://www.pvzgardenwarfare.com/content/dam/ea/PvZ/Garden%20Warfare/pvz-plants.jpg
http://www.gameshampoo.com/magazine/images/PvZGW_3.jpg
http://scottthong.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/pvzscottnov2009.jpg
https://fbexternal-a.akamaihd.net/safe_image.php?d=AQAGKz7CyFcTt2ow&w=398&h=208&url=http%3A%2F%2Fstatic.gamespot.com%2Fuploads%2Fscreen_kubrick%2F398%2F3983642%2F2441893-pvz.jpg&cfs=1
http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140301022026/plantsvszombies/images/3/38/PeashooterGardenWarfare.png
http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140301022408/plantsvszombies/images/8/80/ChomperGardenWarfare.png
http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140223123810/plantsvszombies/images/thumb/4/4a/AllStarZombie.png/200px-AllStarZombie.png
http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140223123831/plantsvszombies/images/thumb/8/89/FootZoldierZombie.png/200px-FootZoldierZombie.png

The Samsung Galaxy S5 – Is It Worth It?

The Samsung Galaxy S5 – Is It Worth It?

galaxy-s5-colors-6

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time (again) for a new Samsung Galaxy phone to be released. On April 11th (or right now if you live in South Korea) phone enthusiasts in over 100 countries will be able to get their hands on what may be the hottest phone of the year. At 5.59 by 2.85 inches and boasting a quad-core 2.4GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of built in storage (expandable up to 128GB with a microSD memory card) the Galaxy S5 is a very impressive phone.

s5-water-proof-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the S5’s greatest features lies in its durability. It was made to meet International Protection marketing standards against water and solids. In English, it’s highly resistant to dust and while not perfect, is somewhat waterproof. If your phone in 3 or so feet of water, there’s a slight chance it’ll fry, but some protection is better than none at all. Another new feature on the S5 is the addition of a fingerprint scanner. Unlike Apple, Samsung is allowing developers to create apps that use the scanner, however, whether or not it will be better than Apple’s attempt at a finger print scanner remains to be seen.

 

gs5-camera-hero2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The S5 also comes with a 16 megapixel camera rear facing camera (complete with Autofocus, Phase detection, High Dynamic Range mode and digital image stabilization), and a 2.1 megapixel front facing camera. The S5’s camera also has selective focus, a feature available on most DSLR cameras – a major step towards making separate, more expensive camera equipment obsolete.

 

At launch, the S5 will be available from AT&T, MetroPCS, Sprint, T-Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile.

T Mobile
  • $27.50 plus Contract
Sprint
  • $199.99 w/ 2 Year Contract
  • $649.99 w/ no Annual Contract
AT&T
  • $199.99 w/ 2 Year Contract
  • $649.99 w/ no Annual Contract
  • $24 / $32.50 per Month** w/ qualifying Phone Plan
US Cellular
  • $199.99 w/ 2 Year Contract

**AT&T Next 12 & Next 18

Verizon, despite being confirmed as a carrier for the S5 at launch, has declined to release any details on the device. It should also be noted that while Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile are contract free (meaning you will have to pay the full price of the phone), that they’re both owned and operated by Sprint and that they will run on the same network.

 

Do You Need It?

If you’ve recently sprung for an S4 or aren’t eligible for an upgrade yet, you don’t need a new phone just yet. (If you have an S3 and it’s in your budget, feel free to splurge though). If you have an iPhone, the decision is purely up to you. The argument of iPhone vs Android boils down to preference and (in my opinion) isn’t a debate that can be settled with shiny new features. No matter what you choose, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is a highly anticipated phone sure to boost profits and break wallets in the very near future.

 

Sources:

http://www.phonearena.com/phones/Samsung-Galaxy-S5_id8202

http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxys5/

http://www.cnet.com/products/samsung-galaxy-s5/

http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/27/5552346/samsung-galaxy-s5-goes-on-sale-early-in-korea

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/galaxy-s5-specs-release-date-price/#!BEy1a

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/26/the-fingerprint-scanner-on-the-samsung-galaxy-s5-will-be-accessible-by-developers/

http://www.trustedreviews.com/samsung-galaxy-s5_Mobile-Phone_review

http://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/reviews/samsung-galaxy-s5-fingerprint-scanner-first-impressions-488516

http://www.gottabemobile.com/2014/03/27/samsung-galaxy-s5-vs-galaxy-s3-what-buyers-need-to-know/

http://www.engadget.com/2014/02/28/samsung-galaxy-s5-coming-to-boost-and-virgin/

http://www.phonearena.com/news/Water-proof-or-water-resistant-Can-your-new-Galaxy-S5-or-Xperia-Z2-truly-swim-or-is-secretly-afraid-of-the-water_id53205

http://www.phonescoop.com/articles/article.php?a=13730

http://www.wirelessweek.com/news/2014/03/us-carriers-roll-out-pricing-details-samsung-galaxy-s5

 

Photo Credits:

http://www.itcomchannel.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/s5-water-proof-2.jpg

http://www.androidcentral.com/sites/androidcentral.com/files/styles/large_wm_brw/public/article_images/2014/03/galaxy-s5-colors-6.jpg?itok=SpVaBNJt

http://www.androidcentral.com/sites/androidcentral.com/files/styles/large_wm_brw/public/article_images/2014/02/gs5-camera-hero2.jpg?itok=rDCrOyRw

 

Cheap Alternatives to Cable: The Roku Box

Roku Box
 

The Pricing Problem

By now, the ever shrinking communities of cable and satellite subscribers have noticed a sharp decline in the content of high priced television. Excluding on demand TV, who hasn’t had a moment where they’ve wondered why, despite having over 300 channels, that there’s nothing on? This lack of content however, has not deterred providers from upping the price.

DirecTV Logo

DirecTV’s Plus-HD-DVR package will run you about $90 a month. It comes with around 200 channels, 68 XM Satellite Radio channels, HD Programming and DVR service. DirecTV service however has a tendency to be very weather sensitive.

 

Time Warner Logo

Time Warner costs upwards of $100 per month. For a little less than the price of a monthly MetroCard, you can get 300+ digital channels, 47 music channels and for $9.95 extra (per month) you can gain access to 16 HD channels. Assuming you’re willing to pay the extra $7.95 for the receiver and $6.99 per room for a converter box.

 

optimum-logo

Optimum (also known as cablevision) will cost $80 a month minimum, excluding $7 or so extra per month for each extra box. The most basic plan Optimum offers will only get you about 120 channels – assuming you spring the extra for an HD box.

 

One of Many Plausible Solutions

There are plenty of alternatives to paying an overpriced cable bill (including Apple TV and Chromecast). In the world of set-top-boxes however, the Roku Box is the one that stood out to me.

There are currently 4 different ‘Roku’ models:

Roku Box Models

The Roku 3 and the Streaming Stick are usable only on HD TV’s, but the Roku 1 and Roku 2 can work on almost anything. Size wise, the Roku is much more manageable than a cable or satellite box. The Streaming Stick (due out next month) is the size of a USB stick and plugs directly into an HDMI port.

Channels

Roku Channels

Roku provides its content through ‘channels’ – applications that allow you to view streaming audio and video.

Some channels like Netflix and Hulu Plus require you to pay a subscription fee ($8.99 for Netflix and $7.99 for Hulu Plus) to access their content from devices like the Roku.

Others like Amazon Instant Video and Vudu Movies let you buy content and own it – allowing you to view it as many times as you want, whenever you want.

There’s a channel for just about everything on the Roku marketplace, including Fitness, Religion, Travel, Sports, Science & Technology, and Family television. On the off chance there’s something you think should be on Roku that isn’t, developers have the opportunity to make private channels. Outside of checking for copyright infringement, private Roku channels are unmonitored and uncensored. View them at your own risk.

Games

Roku Games

 

There are plenty of paid and free games to download and play on the Roku market place. As with channels, developers can try their hand at making free or paid games.

 

 

Pros and Cons of going Roku

For all its content, the Roku is still a streaming player – meaning you’re going to have to shell out money for internet service. Most people already have existing internet service with a decent amount of bandwidth but with the increased use of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, more and more people have begun to experience what’s known as ‘throttling’ from their Internet Service Providers.

ISPs like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast are (allegedly) slowing down their customer’s internet speeds, reducing the quality of their streaming experience – making it difficult, and in some cases, impossible to watch anything. No company in their right mind would fess up to that sort of thing, but that’s beside the point. For a device that’s made solely to deliver streaming content, bandwidth throttling is a definite downside to using a Roku.

Another strike against the Roku lies in its channels. Things like HBO GO, Showtime Anytime, Disney Channel, WatchESPN and Fox Now require an existing subscription to a TV provider. Even after you’ve paid for it, some channels are blocked by certain ISPs. For example, Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner block access to HBO GO and ESPN3 is blocked by Time Warner.

 

Is It Right For You?

The Roku is versatile, portable and for the most part easy to use, but it isn’t for everybody. If you already have a game console (because almost all of the current and previous generation consoles can use streaming applications just as well as a Roku), you don’t need a Roku. If you’re perfectly content to hook a laptop or desktop up to your 50-inch TV, you don’t need a Roku. For the people with wallets that can’t quite support a cable subscription however, the Roku is the perfect box for you.

 

 

Sources:

http://blog.t3consortium.com/cablevision-optimum-to-require-all-tvs-to-have-box/

http://www.roku.com/products/compare

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=88614

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-cable-tv-bills-are-only-going-up-2013-02-28

http://tv.about.com/od/cableandsatellitetv/a/tvprog_compare.htm

http://optimum.com/digital-cable-tv/pricing.jsp

http://www.tvpredictions.com/answer28021313.htm

http://www.roku-channels.com/top-25-roku-channels

http://geekslop.com/2014/isp-throttle-netflix-streaming-video-service-fix-overcome-net-neutrality-problems

http://nvisionapp.com/video/article/ISP-Alert-Comcast-Denyinb-HBO-Go-Access-on-PS3

 

Image Sources:

http://thecreativealternative.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/Roku-with-channels.jpg

http://www.cidbia.org/events/lunar-new-year-2012/directtv.jpg/image

http://netdna.tvovermind.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/time_warner-600×450.jpg.jpeg

http://blog.t3consortium.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/optimum-logo.jpg

http://www.roku.com/products/compare

New Threat on the Digital Block: The CryptoLocker Virus

CryptoLockerA few months ago, I got an annoying piece of code on my laptop known as the FBI Moneypak virus. It locked down my laptop screen and demanded a ransom for me to have it unlocked – right in the middle of midterm week. Thankfully the virus was easy to remove and I was able to boot my laptop in safe mode before running anti-virus software to remove it. Different variants of the Moneypak virus began popping up over the internet, each strain slightly different and more difficult to remove until two months ago when an infinitely more dangerous began to appear. The Moneypak virus scares victims into thinking their computer will be permanently locked, covering their screen with a digital ransom note that cannot be removed until a victim pays up. Even if you don’t pay the money, or if you remove the virus, your files are (usually) safe. CryptoLocker however is the complete opposite.

Most people are infected through spam mail. Clicking on attachments from people you don’t know, or from friends or family you weren’t expecting to get attachments from is a very easy way to get infected. You can also catch the virus from less harmful malware already installed on your computer. You can also get the virus from computers that share resources on your network. The virus spreads similarly to the Autoplay malware that made its way around campus last semester, it you share network drives, USBs drives or email and receive attachments often, you are also liable to get infected.

This virus is a nasty one, there’s no other way to put it. Very rarely do victims of this virus know when they’ve been infected.  Once it gets onto a computer, it targets files with the following extensions:

*.odt, *.ods, *.odp, *.odm, *.odc, *.odb, *.doc, *.docx, *.docm, *.wps, *.xls, *.xlsx, *.xlsm, *.xlsb, *.xlk, *.ppt, *.pptx, *.pptm, *.mdb, *.accdb, *.pst, *.dwg, *.dxf, *.dxg, *.wpd, *.rtf, *.wb2, *.mdf, *.dbf, *.psd, *.pdd, *.pdf, *.eps, *.ai, *.indd, *.cdr, *.jpg, *.jpe, *.jpg, *.dng, *.3fr, *.arw, *.srf, *.sr2, *.bay, *.crw, *.cr2, *.dcr, *.kdc, *.erf, *.mef, *.mrw, *.nef, *.nrw, *.orf, *.raf, *.raw, *.rwl, *.rw2, *.r3d, *.ptx, *.pef, *.srw, *.x3f, *.der, *.cer, *.crt, *.pem, *.pfx, *.p12, *.p7b, *.p7c.

The virus then proceeds to encrypt them with RSA (Rivest Shamir Adleman) and AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryptions.  Any and everything attached to your computer will be infected. Cloud storage won’t necessarily save your files – people who installed have Dropbox on their computers will have the files in their account encrypted. Attached USB or disk storage will also be encrypted. Any new files you create with the above file extensions will also be encrypted, effectively rendering your computer files useless.

Once CryptoLocker has successfully infected all the files on a target PC, it displays a warning message, giving victims 72 hours to pay around $300 or their files permanently encrypted. They aren’t bluffing. There are numerous reports of people and businesses loosing important files because they didn’t pay the ransom. It’s much worse for people who attempt to (or even accidentally) remove the virus from their computers.The ransom can increase anywhere between 3 and 10 times the initial value of $300. Only an infected computer can access the website to pay the ransom to unencrypt their files, but for the people who’ve accidentally uninstalled the virus, don’t worry.The creators of the virus realized that they were missing out on income and so, provide victims with a link to reinfect their computers so that they can pay up.

There’s a serious debate over whether or not people should pay money to retrieve their files. The argument against paying is that giving up the money encourages the hackers to target more people and continue to update the virus to earn more money. Who wouldn’t – the creators of CryptoLocker are said to have earned upwards of $5 Million in on year. For people who risk losing irreplaceable family photos, financial documents and client files worth thousands of dollars each though, there’s no other option than to pay the money.

Open attachments at your own risk.

 

Sources:

  • http://krebsonsecurity.com/2013/11/cryptolocker-crew-ratchets-up-the-ransom/
  • http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/10/youre-infected-if-you-want-to-see-your-data-again-pay-us-300-in-bitcoins/
  • http://krebsonsecurity.com/2013/11/how-to-avoid-cryptolocker-ransomware/
  • http://blog.malwarebytes.org/intelligence/2013/10/cryptolocker-ransomware-what-you-need-to-know/
  • http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/cryptolocker-ransomware-information
  • http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/cryptolocker-is-the-nastiest-malware-ever-heres-what-you-can-do/

 

5 Useful IT Certifications

This one’s for the Computer Systems students. What our college doesn’t offer in IT certifications, it makes up for with comprehensive courses culminating in a degree. Despite all that, students have a hard time finding jobs when they graduate because more and more employers want their potential entry level techies to have more under their belt than just a degree.

 

CompTIA A+

One of the most basic certifications you can get in IT, the A+ certification is mandatory for Dell, Intel and Lenovo technicians and is held by over 900,000 IT Professionals. The A+ certification consists of 2 exams- covering topics like PC hardware, networking, operation procedure, operating systems, security, mobile devices and basic troubleshooting skills. This test has a little bit of everything, but IT hopefuls who can pass this exam will feel right at home in a help desk or support position while they figure out what they want to specialize in.

For more information, see:  http://certification.comptia.org/getCertified/certifications/a.aspx

 

CCENT / CompTIA Network +

Both of these are entry level networking certifications. The CCENT exam stands for Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician and “validates the ability to install, operate and troubleshoot a small enterprise branch network”. In English, you’re qualified to be a network support technician. The exam focuses heavily on routing and switching, but students in the Networking module (CST 3507/607/707) should have no problem passing the exam. The same goes for the CompTIA Network+ certification. Where the CCENT is focused on routing and switching, the Network + certification covers basic networking concepts, installations and configurations, media and topologies, network management and network security. Which certificate you pursue depends on what  you want to do. If you want to have a career as a network technician, you should consider taking both exams, making sure to pick up the CCENT. It is a prerequisite for the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), something any mid-level IT professional is expected to have. Whether you have the skills or not, like a college degree, if you don’t have that piece of paper, higher paying companies are much less likely to consider you.

For more information, see:

http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/certifications/entry/ccent/index.html

http://certification.comptia.org/getCertified/certifications/network.aspx

 

Microsoft Technology Associate

The MTA is recommended for most IT professionals. Like it or not, the world runs on windows – from help desk to CIO, you’re expected to know how to use it. The MTA certification can be earned by passing an exam in one of five areas: Windows Operating System Fundamentals, Windows Server Administration Fundamentals, Networking Fundamentals, Database Fundamentals and Security Fundamentals. This certificate is a prerequisite to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate a.k.a. someone certified to work with and troubleshoot for Windows 7 and 8. If you’re interested in specializing in the Windows OS, you should also look into becoming a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist.

 

For more information, see: https://www.microsoft.com/learning/en-us/windows-certification.aspx

 

Apple Certified Technical Coordinator

There’s also a need for people with the skills to troubleshoot Apple products. The Apple Certified Associate certification is for entry level tech support and lower level system administrators. Obtaining it proves that you can (at least on paper) provide support for Mac OS X users and maintain Mac OS X Server. It requires two exams (Mac OS X Support Essentials & Mac OS X Server Essentials). Like the Cisco and Microsoft Certifications, this certificate is a prerequisite for something more advanced. Having an Apple Certified System Administration Certificate verifies that you are a system administrator capable of managing large multi-platform networks utilizing Apple products.

 

For more information, see: http://training.apple.com/certification/osx

 

Red Hat Certified System Administrator

This isn’t necessarily an entry level certificate, but it will definitely earn points when you put in a resume. Very few people bother learning to use Linux or UNIX but having the RHCSA tells employers you’re capable of doing everything in Linux you can do in Windows. This includes: Understanding essential tools, working in a command-line environment, booting into different run levels, controlling virtual machines, configuring system files, deploying and maintaining systems, services and installations, managing user groups and managing security in a Linux environment. Unlike almost every other certification on this list, the RHCSA is a performance based exam. You aren’t just given a question on a hypothetical situation – you’re given a live system and are judged on your ability to accomplish a task in a timely fashion.

For more information, see: http://www.redhat.com/training/certifications/rhcsa/

 

Depending on whom you ask, certifications may or may not be necessary for starting on your path to a career in IT, but it’s a double edged sword. Yes, you run the risk of being overqualified for a position if you go grabbing up certifications. You could also have someone unexpectedly test you on topics from the certification you‘ve earned during an interview. However, outside of internships, students are not always luck enough to get a job in their field. Certifications are essential for job seekers in IT trying to get a foot in the door, especially when they don’t have the 6 months to a years’ worth of experience most employers want. To test or not to test – is it really a question?

 

5 Rules to Prepping for a Midterm

Tis the season – for exams that is. Midterms are in full swing now marking the middle of what has been proving to be a fast moving semester. While it’s highly hypocritical for me to give study tips to anyone (my study habits are atrocious), hopefully the tips below will leave you one step closer to that A+ you’ve been working for.

 

Don’t cram.

It goes against every instinct we have as students before a major exam, but cramming does more harm than good. While it’s true you can pick up a topic you didn’t quite understand at the last minute, you also run the risk of blanking out on an exam – forgetting everything you crammed along with a sizeable chunk of the topics you had completely down.

 

Find an appropriate place to study.

Personally, I need the occasional distraction to study effectively. As backwards as that sounds, doing something completely unrelated to studying once every half hour or so actually helps me to better focus on my work. On the other hand I’ve met people who seclude themselves in a dark corner of the library, forgetting all their friends and family in favor of studying. It’s up to you. Choose wisely.

 

Eat Right.

This applies most the day before and the morning of the exam. Eating foods that are high in sugar or caffeine can lead to crashing later in the day or during your exam. Students should eat a light breakfast (e.g. toast, eggs, bacon or cereal with nuts or grains), and carry a snack to eat between classes. Fruit, nut mixes and drink plenty of water. Never skip a meal before an exam. Skipping out on food can leave you hungry during an exam. Nobody wants to focus on their empty stomach during a calculus exam.

Relax.

Don’t stress out over your exam. Spending more time worrying over an exam, means spending less time focusing on the material covered on it. Like cramming, excessive worrying over an exam can cause you to forget everything you’ve studied for. When in doubt, find a peaceful place and take deep relaxing breaths. Listen to a calming song or browse Facebook. Whatever gets you to your mental happy place.

 

Be Prepared (Bring a pencil).

Bring a pencil. Or a pen. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sat down for an exam and watched my classmates sweat because they forgot to bring a writing utensil. Not everyone will have a spare pencil or pen for you to borrow. Not all professors will be nice enough to let you ask to borrow one. While it doesn’t seem like much, the stress of forgetting little things like a pencil or a calculator can throw you off enough to cost you serious points on an exam.

When in doubt, take a deep breath, and relax. Midterms aren’t the easiest time of year to get through and you’ll have to do it all over again later on this semester for finals week but I wish everyone the best of luck!

A Slice of Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi - single board computer

Raspberry Pi – single board computer

Not a dessert, or a bad math pun, Raspberry Pi is one of many the many single board computers available on the market today. The device was created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation – a UK based charity founded in 2009 and dedicated to promoting the study of basic computer programming in children. Their ideal is to start from the bottom up. If children are given tools to learn to program early on, they spend less time learning basic programming techniques in college and can move on to acquiring skills that will help them efficiently work in the computer industry. To all the CST majors, think of how much easier Java or C++ would be to pick up if you’d at least touched on the subject in grade school.

That’s not to say the Raspberry Pi is limited to just kiddie stuff. While it was developed to work with Scratch, an educational programming language, the Pi is capable of running operating systems including Debian, Arch Linux, and a custom made OS optimized for use with the Raspberry Pi known as ‘Raspbian’. Various programming tools are available from the ‘Pi Store’ with everything from apps and games to development tool. Programmers who can write in Python, C and Perl will feel right at home here.

Despite being the size of a credit card, the Raspberry Pi boasts some decent specs.

Model A Model B
CPU 700 MHz ARM1176JZF-S
GPU 250 MHz Broadcom VideoCore IV
Memory 256 MB 512 MB
USB 2.0 Ports 1 2
Video Input CSI input connector
Video Output Composite RCA, HDMI, DSI
Audio Output 3.5 mm jack, HDMI
Onboard Storage SD / MMC / SDIO
Onboard Network None 10/100 Ethernet adapter
Power Rating 300mA (1.5 W) 700 mA(3.5 W)
Power Source 5 volt (via MicroUSB or GPIO header)
Operating Systems Arch Linux ARM, Debian, Fedora, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Plan 9, Raspbian OS, RISC OS, Slackware Linux, Firefox OS, Android 4.0, Haiku, Unix

* Both cards are 3.4 x 2.2 inches and weigh 1.6 oz.

Raspberry Pi also has a wide range of uses. One such use was creating a homemade, networked, motion sensitive, HD surveillance system. British native Christoph Buenger used a model B Raspberry Pi, a Raspberry Pi camera module, a housing for the camera, a power supply, an SD card and a Wi-Fi USB adapter (around $100 worth of equipment) to create a system just as capable as one that would cost thousands of dollars. The instructions are available here, and video recordings can be stored to a folder on a computer or viewed as a live stream online via computer or mobile device.

Another person made a Halloween project using a variety of items including a model B Pi, cheap rat toys, red LEDs lights, servo controllers, power regulators and solderless breadboards. Known as the ‘Ratsberri Pi’, the project (with instructions that can be found here ) makes creates creepy glowing eyed rodents that move according to programming.

All in all the Raspberry Pi is a gadget with potential limited only by a person’s imagination. We’re a technology college with plenty of students and faculty capable of coming up with some awesome projects. I’m making one of these an early Christmas present for myself, but what can you guys come up with? Let’s see some projects!

Sources

 

Image Source