BitCoins

In recent weeks you may have seen news reports on a new form of money called BitCoins. BitCoins are a currency but unlike anything you may have seen, basically they are a blend of technology and good old fashion bartering, with a good dash of free market thinking.

Although BitCoins are completely electronic, the value of a BitCoins is set by the open market not by any government.

In common with cash,  transaction are totally untraceable. Transferring large amounts of money through traditional channels take either a suitcase full of cash or at least one intermediary bank along with the paperwork and fees. BitCoin doesn’t work this way, there is no central bank  listed no list of BitCoin holders, nothing that can be traced to a person from a transaction.

This sounds like the ideal way for the money launderers drug dealers fugitives et cetera to handle large amounts of money.

BitCoins are used today for more or less sordid transactions but they have a fluctuating value that gives them a stock like aspect. Throughout last year the value will bitcoins grew from around five dollars US to approximately $13 US. This year it a bitcoin was worth $266 US and then fell to around $125 US this course the crash of the largest bit coin exchange the Japanese-based Mount GOX, when it came back online a day later a bit coin was worth only $65 US, the current value of the bitcoin is approximately $120 US.

Distributed currency systems

BitCoin work like online bank transfer but with one important difference is no bank like clearing houses for  any transactions. To use bitcoin you sign in using your bitcoin wallet which is stored either online or in an application on your computer or mobile device. The wallet shows your bitcoin balance.

Nobody has a list of all account numbers or owners of the bitcoins, however there is a list of ongoing transactions that occur, the list is public but is stored in over 100 locations on 100’s of different computers, who owns the accounts is private.

An exchange or transaction takes place using public key encryption, the bit coin network does not keep track of your bitcoins  only the transactions that occur which means you are responsible for protecting your own bitcoin wallet.

Typically a transaction occurs as follows, you receive a request for payment you send the person who has made the request a bit coin address essentially an encrypted public key. Because software actually encourages you to read and generate a new address number every transaction, so for instance if you receive a bitcoin payment from one party and then use that money to pay someone else it is impossible for anyone other to you to know where the money came from or where the money went.

If you become a bit coin investor remember the value of your investment can fluctuate just like the sharemarket.

If you want more information read the BitCoin Faq http://www.bitcoin.org/en/how-it-works

Home Networks

Do you have a LAN at your  house?  A LAN is a Local Area Network and people have created these at home with no though as to security, but more so that the whole family can connect to the Internet.

With high speed Internet connections available to most people in the larger cities and the NBN starting to roll out in parts of the country the number of people accessing the Internet is increasing but also the options to have more than one computer at home connected at the same time.

Having a local area network in your home is not new, the options to do this have been available for a good number of years, what is happening now though is technology is making it easier for anyone to create a network at home.

What is not being said or done though is people do not realise how to secure their networks nor how to trace problems with their networks.  It’s like we can all own a car but we all do not know how to fix them, it’s the reason there are still car mechanics.

Because technology, computers are cheap to purchase people think they can also fix any problem with them, believe me if it was that easy I would repair my own car!

It needs to be understood that like you pay for the mechanic to fix your car or the plumber to fix the leaking tape, you need to pay for the computer person to fix problems with your network.

Problems can occur with your home network, and sometimes you need to be pro-active, ie make sure your network is secure, you lock you house when you go out, so why do you leave your network open for anyone to walk in?

Like finding a good plumber or mechanic, finding a good computer person is also a challenge in today’s world. Talk to family and friends and find out who they use, because a good computer person will save more than your increased water bill or the cost of new tyres, they can save your personal information being stolen.

SAAS ?

What is SAAS?  No it’s not a Swedish car maker. SAAS refers to Software As A Service.  You are now thinking software that does some form of service.

No. What is really means is you rent the software. Like Microsoft’s Office 365, where you login to a site, and use the software across the web.  If for instant you have a virtual office SAAS is a good idea to consider.

Why would you do this? The answer is instead of buying the software outright, installing a simple copy on your PC – well technically people like Microsoft understand the 80/20 rule where you will do 20% of your work outside of the office and you will install the same software using the same licence key on your laptop.

Anyway that aside, back to SAAS. The idea is you do not have to purchase the software, you can access the software in theory from anywhere in the world and of course have access to your files, without the need to make sure you have backup copies for when you take that next business trip or you need to run a presentation for a client.

Is it worth it?  Good question and a difficult one to answer.  As a business you to need to look at the cost of purchasing software versus renting software, other factors you need to take into account how much travelling you do for your business. Do you need access across the country, the world? It’s not a technical question so don’t ask your IT guys, it’s an economic question – what works best for the business.

Microsoft is not the only company that offers SAAS, there are a number of companies offering different services and a quick search in your favourite search engine for SAAS will find a range of these.

So next time you are looking at an expensive software purchase look at SAAS options as well you could be surprised.

 

 

 

HTML Editors

HTML is the basis of all webpages. It’s like speaking another language but the good thing is it’s not hard to learn.

What do you need from a HTML editor?  well some editors are very complex and others are very simple to use, it comes down to what you want to do and how much you are willing to spend.

If you think of it like learning to speak another language say French.  If you are going to live in France for a year you would take the effort to learn the language, pay out for a course, if you are going there for a holiday then a short course in basic phrases will do.

HTML editors like Dreamweaver are what you would buy if you are going to producing websites for customers similar to going to living in France for the year. For the average user though who wants to produce their own website or maybe you have a small business or even creating a website for the company you work for,  then a quick search on Google for free html editors will quickly find very basic free or shareware html editors.

Regardless of the editor, and even notepad can be used if you want.  What is important is that you find an editor that suits your needs and enables you to create the webpage you want.

TV – Where to Next?

(disclaimer: The author of this article does hold shares in 2 TV networks and therefore feels they have the right as a shareholder to be critical of how TV networks they have a ownership (be that very small) are run )

 

In Australia we have always had Free to Air TV. It has been one of the best and worse entertainment mediums for years.  In the early days of TV everything was new and the people behind the shows were learning on the job, much the same way viewers were trying to understand this new idea.

Let’s now fast forward to today. TV stations are going broke, there are far more channels than when TV started, we have fast tracked(sic) shows from overseas and the ads are twice as loud.

TV stations as most viewers forget are not there for the viewer alone, they need like any media organisation need to attract advertising dollars to survive. Viewers on the other hand have no interest in the ads and just want to see the show.

TV stations need to retain viewers throughout the day so that they can display the ads they are being paid for and hence continue to offer shows to the viewers.  As a side note I am including the government broadcasters in this, just look at the number of ads they run for their own merchandise.

Many more people now days record shows and skip over the ads, why? Well put simply the number of ads TV stations now run and the frequency of the ads destroys the flow of any TV program on any of the commercial TV stations.

A method being used by the TV stations to curtail this and none of the TV stations would admit this and there is no proof of this practice, bar watching it occur on TV stations, is to run programs overtime, ie the TV program does not finish at the scheduled time.  This tactic is designed to cause the recording times viewers have set to record parts of shows and miss the end of the show the viewer wishes to see.

What the above does of course is cause the rating figures to look good for TV shows that are of a poor quality and allows the TV station to present to advertisers figures to induce them to spend more on advertising in these shows.

Is there a solution to the above? In the short term no, there will be a continued movement for people to access shows direct from countries like the USA, younger viewers will continue to switch off the commercial stations and the government stations should become more popular.

The simple reason TV stations are in financial trouble at present and share prices in some TV networks have dropped to almost bargain basement prices is TV stations have forgotten the viewer in the scheme of things.  TV stations need to reconnect with viewers, they need to take a long hard look at how they run ads, and the length of time they run ads. TV stations also need to forget the spin and start delivering programs from overseas within a realistic time frame. Sorry but showing a program a week after it is broadcasted in the states is not “Fast Tracked”.

The other are TV stations need to look at is forget the ratings, no one believes the figures are real except the TV stations, stop changing when a show is scheduled to be on – it’s a  great turn off for viewers and look at quality shows, who wants to watch so called reality shows from other countries!

If anyone is wondering why we have so many reality shows on TV the answer is simple, they are cheap to produce.

Yes the Scammers are at it again

Yes our scammers are at it again.  There are new warning be issued for fake technical support phone calls from Microsoft.  To be clear on this Microsoft do not call you out of the blue to say your computer has a virus and is broadcasting this across the Internet.

The caller will identify themselves from various companies all claiming to be with an authorised supporter of Windows. Usually they have a heavy accent, like the calls from overseas call centres. The callers are very well scripted and if you ask for a company name they will give you a real one, the problem being the real company most probably has nothing to do with the caller or the scam.

One thing they may try to tell you is that you have multiple infected files on your computer and even tell you to search for files that have a .inf extension. The .inf does not stand for infected files it is all part of the scam.

Sadly this is happening across the world with new reports in America of the same scam. So be aware an external company you have never heard of cannot detect a virus on your PC, that the reason you have local virus software.

The bottom line is treat these calls with caution, don’t give any details to the caller, they will try more than once and the same person will give you different names and different companies they represent.

 

Java.

No not the coffee or Island, but the programming language which has caused some concern of the last few weeks. The problem is Oracle who now own Java noted there are (were) 50 security flaws.

Some may think this is a high number, others will say it’s not. Whether it is or not the fact is there are security holes not only on your PC but any Android device you have. Android apps can be built with Java.

What should you do.  Follow the warning, yes sometimes they seem to come daily and it’s easy to become complacent about them, but the one time you don’t do anything could be the one time  your system is hacked.

The old “but there is nothing to steal on my PC” is a real head in the sand attitude. Firstly, they may want to steal your bandwidth, secondly you may not have anything there now, but if they install a key logger – records every key you press – they will have your passwords.

Would you like to locked out of your facebook account while some one sends out spam emails under your name?

So the I’ve got nothing worth stealing is simply wrong.  The message is keep your PC up to date with the latest security patches. Yes it does take time but in the long run it will help with protecting your information.

What is Wrong with Sports Broadcasts on TV?

We have just had another Australian Open finish (tennis for those who don’t know what the Australian Open is) and what terrible coverage the host broadcaster produced.

Yes there will be people who say it was great, look at the reply shots, look at the overhead camera angles, what more do you want!

Yes the above did occur, along with the constant ad interruptions, the split screen of two games at once making wanting play more difficult, the overlaying of ads on the screen, plus cutting away from one game to another and then cutting back, making games seem disjointed.

Ha we hear the TV executives say along with the sheep that follow, what do you expect it’s a free broadcast, don’t like it don’t watch.

Again all too true, but the TV executives need us otherwise the advertising will not pay the enormous sums of money to have their products displayed, which in turns leads to the TV executives not receiving the over inflated salaries and their shareholders not receiving a return on their shares.

The solutions are simple but it would require someone to think instead of following the same formula that has been used since the Australian Open has been broadcast.

Firstly, the host broadcaster was broadcasting on 3 channels, even if they displayed the same game on two of the channels, why did we need the same game on the 3rd channel?  If they can cut between games it means the cameras are already at the other game. It would have been easy to show the main game on the main and HD channel and another game on the other channel. They could have shown games from the junior event on the 3rd channel profiling the up and coming stars.

Does anyone think Tennis Australia or the International Tennis body would object? If they can get more exposer for the game wouldn’t they support this?

Added to this there is a whole new line of revenue for the host broadcaster, offer cheaper advertising to smaller companies on the 3rd channel, you know the companies that cannot afford to pay the premium amounts to interrupt the main games with the big name stars.

Other option to think about, during finals why not broadcast the final on both channels, but display the game from different end, so on channel A display the game from Players 1 view, and on channel B display the game from Players 2 view. None of this is rocket science.

And finally cut down the station promos everyone was sick of them after the first day! If you must promote shows that no one really is interested in at least make the promo less in your face. The old less is more message comes to mind.

Let us hope that next year someone thinks about how to broadcast the tennis.

Good and Bad

Just like there are good and bad trades people and accountants, there are also good and bad programmers.
Programming is one of the odd professions, no one but another programmer really knows what you do or even why you do it. It’s a very labour intensive job, with long hours that can be boring, frustrating and at other times very funny.
Most programmers I’ve met are an anti-social bunch who prefer to talk to you through the computer not face to face, programmers are also like artists (stay with me here), as they are creating something that will be seen by many people, and may be used by many.
Like an artist a programmer wants to create the masterpiece but is force to compromise somewhere along the track to meet what the client requires and like artists the programmer never wants to change their creative ideas regardless of how impractical they are!
Programmers like artists always believe they are right and are very sensitive to critics of their work.
So back to the good and the bad programmers, while some hackers are considered bad they are also usually very good programmers. The good or bad refers to how well a programmer can produce the results, requirements for a client. It also refers to the way a programmer writes code.
Programmers are not known for their prose in writing documentation or even meaningful comments in their code, making the job that must harder for the next programmer who has to repair the faulty work they have produced.
Some programmers use tools or frameworks that exist to aid in producing a finished product, like an artist had paint, the programmer has tools and frameworks, sadly some programmers don’t understand how these tools should be used and end up writing over complex systems that yes the next programmer on the job has to try and debug.
But there are guidelines I can here shouted out. Yes companies give their programmers guidelines and timelines etc and which usually wins – yes the timeline, must get the job finished on time or as close as possible regardless of how many of the guidelines were trashed along the way.
Is there a solution to improve all of this? Short term no, there is millions up on millions of lines of code out there which is over complex, poorly documented and badly constructed. In fact if it was a building, the council would condemn it. In the long term companies must stop looking for the cheap fix, it doesn’t work because somewhere down the track they will pay even more to fix the problems and new projects will be delayed because of short term views.
So remember the next time you employ a programmer to fix a problem in a system don’t be surprised if they recommend a complete re-write of the code and inform you how poorly constructed the system is.
Ps. Yes am currently trying to fix a poor coded, documents over complex system!

Christmas Time

So the vendors you deal with have all wished you merry Christmas, happy New Year etc and of course we want your business next year.

Really this time of the year we at Webthreads look both ways, forwards to the New Year and backward to the year that is passing.

Looking back we look at the service we received from the vendors/suppliers we conducted business with. Did they provide the service required? Did we make clear what service, goods we wanted?

In some cases yes and these suppliers and vendors we will continue to build business relationships with.  Those suppliers/vendors that didn’t fall into two categories, those we will not do business with again and those we will consider new proposals from and may do business again.

What companies must realise there is a lot of competition out there and sorting the good from the bad is difficult. One thing to remember is the cheapest price is not always the best deal. If the price is so low what is the supplier/vendor cutting corners on to get the business. Also will they still be in business with such low prices.

Looking forward to the new year there are new challenges ahead, IT is constantly changing, HTML 5 is becoming more the norm for website development and webthreads is there offering websites in HTML 5.

Mobile computing will increase and the pressure of staff bringing their own mobile devices into the work place will become a greater challenge for companies both large and small. The security aspect is a major concern as you will not know what apps your staff have on the mobile devices and the need to have guidelines in place are very important.

With the rise of the mobile devices is the need for better and greater wireless networks not only in the workplace but across the country.  Setting up wireless networks has security problems that again companies need to be aware of.

So as you head into a well-earned break over the Christmas period, think about the companies you dealt with through the year and think about where you want your company to go in the coming year and enjoy that well earn break.

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