Capalon Blog

This is Capalon Communications blog posts on phone systems and web services.

5 Crucial SmartPhone Tips

5 Crucial SmartPhone Tips

Most of us are carrying smartphones — powerful and productive devices that do a great deal more than place phone calls. I’ve collected five crucial tips to help you get the most benefit out of yours. Spend a bit of time with these five tips, and you’ll save a lot of time and aggravation later. I can almost guarantee it.

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Artificial Consciousness? No. Computer Vision? Absolutely.

Artificial Consciousness? No. Computer Vision? Absolutely.

TNT: Researchers in England are celebrating a “thinking computer” that can’t think. In California, Google is road testing a car you can’t drive. And it’s the second that will be much more useful. When publishing these messages, I usually try to focus upon technological developments with immediate implications for your business. In this case, I think the impact is still a few years off, but the topic is important and – at least to me – fascinating, so I hope it meets with your interest as well. The Royal Society in London claims that a group of developers have finally beaten the so-called “Turing Test,” a measure of artificial intelligence. The program portrayed itself as a thirteen-year-old Ukrainian boy, which fooled one out of three judges into thinking it was a human being. To me, this says more about the limits of artificial intelligence than it does about its successes. The program does not reflect either consciousness or actual thinking. It is a methodically programmed “chatbot” using the guise of a thirteen-year-old non-native English speaker in order to cover for its errors. The test in question was an experiment proposed by Alan Turing in 1950, four years before his death. Per Wikipedia: “The idea was that a computer could be said to ‘think’ if a human interrogator could not tell it apart, through conversation, from a human being. In the paper, Turing suggested that rather than building a program to simulate the adult mind, it would be better rather to produce a simpler one to simulate a child’s mind and then to subject it to a course of education.” In other words, the goal was to develop a true artificial consciousness in the computer, and then teach it up to adulthood. Not only this winner, but all contestants in Turing Test contests around the world, are simply careful programming designed to imitate how people would react in conversation. We remain, in the end, no closer to developing an artificial consciousness than we were six decades ago. Today there are supercomputers that can process information faster than we do, and have a larger memory (with much faster and more precise recall). But a Paramecium is more self-aware. What Google is testing, on the other hand, shows us where computer intelligence can truly succeed. They are now road testing a vehicle that has no steering wheel – you simply tell it where to go, and it takes you there. Their initial testing focuses upon local driving, but I think we will see the most profound impact out on the highways. A robotic vehicle will never stray out of its lane, fall asleep, or be distracted. It will maintain safe distance at all times; programmed correctly, will never cause a rear end collision. I suspect it will prove much less expensive to insure! Google has posted a video of their prototype in action, and it’s certainly compelling. WHAT TO DO: Unless you’re in the transportation or shipping industry, there’s not much more to be done than wait and see. If I were in either of those, I’d be mapping out the logistics of a fleet of trucks or buses that only needed isolated drivers “on call” to be able to respond to a disabled vehicle. In my opinion, the Turing Test has proven only that consciousness is a vastly more mysterious and complex subject than scientists were willing to admit. But it’s certainly going to be interesting to see what comes of Google’s...

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The eBay hack and my “Oops” Moment

The eBay hack and my “Oops” Moment

TNT: When eBay was hacked, no financial information was acquired, your mailing address was already public information, and your birthdate wasn’t too difficult to find either. But if you use the same password on multiple sites, you probably should respond to this anyway. As security breaches go, the one at eBay is serious primarily because of its size: eBay has 145 million active accounts. But what could a hacker do, change the price of something you’re selling? Enter a bid for you on an item you didn’t want to buy? All in all, the breach isn’t a threat to most users. Except for the passwords. Like so many others, I have a “default password” that I became accustomed to using in many different situations, some of which could be much more of an issue than on eBay. While eBay didn’t discuss the encryption method used, it’s probably true that it would take hours or even days of computing power to decrypt each password — but is it worth the risk? It means that I have work to do, changing that password — after remembering where I’ve used it! WHAT TO DO: I spoke several years ago about a free password manager called KeePass which I still strongly recommend. There are also free online services and other software products, but KeePass gives me a strong password generator, multiple “folders” of passwords (including the ability to export and share certain passwords with others), and the ability to keep copies of my passwords on my computer and my smartphone — this is one file I don’t want to lose! All I need to do is remember a single access code (which ought to be secure, in case someone lifts my phone), and I can get to all my passwords. Hackers are finding new and interesting ways to make use of information. It’s just not worth making your account easy to access — we’ve had website clients whose websites required restoration because their personal passwords were too easy to guess. Just today, someone setting up a new mailing list requested that his password — which enables accessing the email addresses of all his subscribers, and to send them all email via his list — be “password123”! Needless to say, we asked for something much more...

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What’s a gTLD, and Why do I Care?

What’s a gTLD, and Why do I Care?

I’m happy to relaunch my Timely New Technology blog posts, designed to call your attention to technology trends that could affect (and help!) your business. It’s been entirely too long, as we went through a series of business changes and finally redesigned our website. A company that prides itself on modern technology shouldn’t be advertising its services on a dated website — don’t you agree? It’s now a much better showcase for our capabilities, so I hope you’ll check out our redesign at https://capalon.com . TNT: When domain names were first introduced, the number of top-level domains (TLDs) was very limited: .com, .org, .net, .mil, .gov, .arpa, one per country (did you know bit.ly is registered with Libya Telecom?), and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few. Between 2001 and 2002, .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, and .pro were added. So, as you’ve already determined, the TLD is the last part of any domain name, including the last ‘.’ — the TLD for capalon.com is, of course, ‘.com’. And with a limit on the number and variety of TLDs, people had to be more and more creative in order to find a domain name that they liked. Not only did the length of domain names rapidly increase (e.g. from ‘amazon.com’ to ‘barnesandnoble.com’, to the current limit of 63 (!) characters) but the governments of Colombia (.co) and Turkmenistan (.tm), among others, quickly realized they had a business opportunity on their hands. Until now, everything else has been considered a distant second to .com and .org. mybiz.biz is obviously the Johnny-come-lately who couldn’t get mybiz.com. Now, however, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has decided to massively expand the pool of top-level domains. Besides .business, you’ll be able to get .car, .career, .catering, .clothing, and .casino. There will be .doctor, .dentist, .dental, .dds, .cpa, .law and .lawyer. You’ll be able to register a domain in a city: .berlin, .capetown, .madrid, .helsinki, .boston, .london and .nyc, for example, and international TLDs will feature non-Latin character sets (such as Arabic, Cyrillic, and Chinese characters). Religious organizations will have choices such as .catholic, .islam, .bible and .kosher. There will even be brand TLDs, such as .google, .bloomingdales, .goodyear and .chrysler. It remains to be seen what the impact of this will be. Will there still be a dramatic preference for .com domains, or will there be a certain attraction to being one of the few companies with a .design name? It certainly opens the door to many interesting possibilities. WHAT TO DO: Honestly, if you have a satisfying .com domain name, you’re probably all set. We have no plans to register capalon.inc, .computer or .technology, any more than we worry about capalon.biz, .co or .info. Could bandn.book help Barnes and Noble shorten their name? Probably not, because they already obtained books.com! But if you would like a domain name with a TLD particular to your business, or a shorter, easier-to-remember domain name, you now have hundreds of choices — over 250 and counting. There’s a convenient list published online at http://www.newtldlist.com/ (probably a volunteer effort, so data may change). If you find a new TLD that you’d like to use, please contact our office — we can tell you whether you can register a domain with that TLD, and if not, when you might be able to pre-register with or without a trademark protecting your name. We’ll be happy to help! Wishing you a profitable week,...

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Why I love KeePass

Why I love KeePass

With the holidays upon us, I decided to give you something short and incredibly helpful, which you can put to use right away. In fact, you could just navigate to http://keepass.info/ and skip the rest of this, but you probably want to know why. UPDATE: There’s been recent news related to a previous topic, and I’d like to bring you up to date before continuing with this week’s entry. In the March 7 TNT, we discussed “the demise of the telephone line.” One sign of the times was the ongoing work dispute between Verizon management and its union of landline employees, which resulted in a strike last August. The employees spoke about Verizon’s profits, but the company looked at the collapse of its landline division and required concessions. Verizon’s workers are back on the job, but the union and the company have yet to reach an agreement. Should AT&T fail to reach a new contract with the Communications Workers of America by 12:01 AM on Sunday, April 8, it too may find itself facing a large strike from its landline workers. AT&T, similar to Verizon, is trying to reduce costs in a division that is saddled with outdated, legacy technology. TNT: We have talked about security several times. You know that sites can get hacked, and if that happens, a password you use in one place might come back to haunt you on a totally different site. It’s a highly recommended best practice to use a different password on every website, email, and other account you may have. Practically speaking, it’s also impossible to remember that many passwords. It suppose it depends on how actively you use e-commerce, banking, email and other websites, but I personally have about 70 different passwords in different places, and when I follow recommended security practices, those passwords look like “nPSaJ`SUey772?hZjA’5” rather than, say, “Joshua” (extra credit to anyone who knows in which movie this password was used). WHY THIS MATTERS: Writing down all these passwords and carrying them with you is a bad idea. The pickpocket who steals your wallet now has all your passwords — and you quite possibly don’t. A much better alternative is KeePass, found at http://keepass.info/ . KeePass will help you organize and store passwords, divided into groups of entries such as home, email, online banking, and others of your choosing. It will automatically generate a secure password; you can customize the length, and conform to requirements of those sites which require or prohibit punctuation in your passwords. All you have to do is remember a single password into your local database, which, because you only use it on your local devices, can be less complex. With versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, plus iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm, Windows Phone 7 and J2ME, you’d have a hard time finding a “smart” device without a KeePass version. WHAT TO DO: Install it! Be sure all your devices can support version 2, otherwise install version 1 for now (both are available on the site). Version 2 supports automatic synchronization between devices; but with any of them, you can make corrections on your main computer and save copies of the password database elsewhere. I happened to mention this subject to a tech-savvy friend of mine just a few moments ago, and he told me that he’s using KeePass on everything, and using DropBox to synchronize his password database. I won’t be offended should you not email to express your gratitude, or even if you choose a different password manager. But I would be saddened to hear from someone saying, “I didn’t install...

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Don’t let Zappos happen to you!

Don’t let Zappos happen to you!

So here I was, planning to write my Timely New Technology (TNT!) brief on web security — and the biggest data theft in perhaps the last year hit the news. Please read this carefully, especially if your website stores *any* sort of personal information. TNT: Protect your business NOW — not after you get hacked. If you didn’t hear about it already, Zappos disclosed Sunday that a data breach “compromised customer account information such as billing addresses and the last four digits of credit card numbers” — for their 24 million customers. The criminals were unable to gain access to credit card numbers and other payment information, but this is nonetheless a very black mark for their successful online business. The timing is interesting, because just last week a reporter asked about protecting web sites from hackers. I made the point that “most small businesses are not nearly as compliant as they think they are” with the current security standards required by the payment card industry. We’ve worked with our customers for the past few years to be sure they use tokenization to protect their data. WHY THIS MATTERS: Any sort of personal information needs to be protected, not just credit cards. Programming practices that were routine five years ago expose security holes today. Please call us today if your site is a few years old, especially if you store any sensitive personal information — addresses, phone numbers, etc., or *especially* credit card numbers — from your customers. With a few simple questions, we’ll be able to advise you. Wishing you a happy and profitable week, Ken P.S. If you shop online, one *very* important tip: don’t use the same password on multiple e-commerce websites. You don’t want a hacker on one site able to access your account on another. Simple desktop applications like Password Safe will help you keep track of all the passwords you use. Need help with this? Again, please...

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