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Google takes aim at Ad Injectors and their dangers

Do you sometimes see a bar on your computer screen with links to products that may or may not be related to what you are looking up online? If so, your computer may be infected with an ad injector. Computer repair experts are buzzing about Google’s recent study with the University of California Berkeley, which highlights initial findings about the latest Internet menace.

Advice from Springfield Computer Repair Specialists: What You Need to Know about Ad Injectors

Fast Facts about Ad Injectors

  • They can infect all operating systems, like Windows and Mac
  • Google found them in Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer
  • Over one-third of Google Chrome extensions had ad injectors with malware
  • Google disabled 192 deceptive Chrome extensions, which affected 14 million users
  • Google is using new techniques to scan Chrome extensions and extension updates to prevent the installation ad injectors

What are Ad Injectors?

Ad injectors are Internet extensions that popup when visit a webpage. Instead of seeing the ad that a website would normally display, if it displays them at all, you see ads that the creators of the ad injector wanted you to see. Some of the ad injectors are simply benign and annoying, while others contain malware.

According to Google, about 5 percent of individuals who visit a Google website have at least one ad injector installed in their computer.

How Did they Get on My Computer?

When you encounter an ad injector, it’s a sign that you have unwanted software in your computer. Sometimes, ad injectors are bundled with legitimate software, similar to Lenovo Superfish incident. Therefore, when you download something from the Internet or install a program, you may inadvertently install the ad injector program onto your computer. Experts at computer repair services state that other forms of ad injectors are malicious, deceptive and difficult to remove.

What You Can Do about Ad Injectors

  • When you see a popup stating that a program detected suspicious activity or that a site contains harmful programs, do not click on anything within the popup. Instead, click on the “back” button at the top of the browser screen or close the Web page. Immediately run a virus and malware scan.
  • Install a reputable popup blocker that works with your Web browser.
  • If you see an ad injector on the screen when you’re online, look for the name of the company that created it (but don’t click on anything within the ads). For example, you see this in the corner, “Ads powered by Mezaa.” Go to your computer’s Control Panel and click on the application that allows you to uninstall or change the programs on your computer. Look for the name of the ad company and uninstall the program.

If your antivirus software doesn’t detect the ad injector program, but you continue to see it, get in touch the Springfield computer repair experts at Rethink Associates as soon as possible. The sooner that you eradicate it, the better your chances are to not falling victim to the intruder. Contact Rethink Associates to learn more.


Simple (and free) PC backup options

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Backing up your PC is one of the fastest ways to protect your data from unexpected events.

Backing up your computer is one of the simplest and fastest ways to protect your PC from unexpected circumstances, but still too many of us refuse to take the time or invest the effort in backups. The dangers are easy to see: there's hard drive failure, data corruption, virus and malicious software attacks, and out-right hacking. It only take one of these catastrophes to wipe out everything on your PC and it only takes a simple back up plan to save nearly all of your data.

What about cost? Sure, many backup plans are cost prohibitive or require a year's service for an upfront fee, but what about the free alternatives? If you can protect your data with just the equipment you have on hand and nothing else, will you do it?

Here are two options for securing your files at nearly no cost to you.

Easy File backup

The simplest and most cost effective way to secure your important files from data loss is to use one of the many free cloud services. Take your pick from Google DriveDropboxOneDrive, and the many other providers of simple, folder-based cloud storage and make use of the free storage.

Take Google Drive for example. All you need to get started with Google Drive is an active Google account and a PC to install the drive on. Head to drive.google.com and select Download Drive. Follow the instructions from the installation process and then you are done. Just log in with your account information and you can begin copying files from your normal PC folders into the Google Drive folder. Now these files will be located on your PC as well as in your Google Drive in the Cloud.

You will be able to access and edit directly from the Google Drive folder with no need to copy and paste back and forth.

System Image Backup

Microsoft also makes it easy to protect your PC with a free, pre-installed tool called System Image Backup. The tool creates an image of your computer with all of your Windows settings, programs, and files in a format that allows for a full restoration. System Image Backup is a great too for a single PC restoration, but is not as comprehensive as some pay services and will occasionally run into issues when attempting to restore an image on a different hardware setup.

To begin the backup process using System Image Backup, you will first need to use another free tool provided by your Windows OS, called Recovery. This tool creates a recovery drive from a USB drive or disks that allows your PC to boot into the Windows Recovery Tool without the necessity of a functioning operating system. The process is easy, but will destroy any data already located on the destination drive, so be sure to use a USB drive that is empty or unneeded.

To access the Recovery tool, open up the Windows Search tool and type in Recovery. Choose Create A Recovery Drive and follow the instructions. This recovery tool will allow you to boot your PC to a recovery mode in the event of a catastrophic failure and allow you to recover your system from the backup image we are about to create.

Once your recovery drive is finished, you are now ready to create your backup image. To access the Windows System Image Backup tool, open up the Windows Search tool again and type in File History. The link to System Image Backup will be located in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Click the link and then the System Image Backup interface will appear.

From the new interface, follow the instructions, which will ask you to select a destination drive, network location, or disk options. Select the option you feel most comfortable with, but understand that the disk option will require a significant amount of disks to backup your PC fully. Once the backup process is complete, you will be able to restore your PC to this version of its file structure. Be sure to continue to make images on a regular schedule to protect your system as it evolves.

Made with Code: Google's push for more Female Programmers

Gina Tripani, Marissa Mayer, Nicole Sullivan, Sarah Allen, Danielle Feinberg,  Leah Culver, Hilary Mason, Jeri Ellsworth, Pamela Fox, Emily Chang,  Danese Cooper, Amanda Wixted, Laura Thompson, Sarah Chipps, Alison Gianotto... These are just a few of the most recognizable names in tech. Geniuses, specialists and experts in their fields. Developers, programmers and engineers who are responsible for the content, tools, apps, and systems that make your life easier, and sometimes just fun. They are the CEO of Yahoo, the creator of LifeHacker, ThinkTank, the designer of FarmVille for iOS, and so much more. They are intelligent, capable, forward thinkers who don't quit, never surrender. They are well educated, some self taught, and all are leaders. And in case you haven't noticed, they all happen to be women.

Even with their female compatriats and colleagues, they only represent an insanely small fraction of a fraction of the overall talent in the tech community. They are the exceptions to the rule, the outliers of a well known and oft ignored fact: Technology is a male dominated industry, from first year programmers to CEO's. Men rule the industry. Google, along with a few other companies, aims to change that. 

Google's "Made w/ Code" initiative is a call to action and appeal to girls to give science and coding a chance. It aims to encourage and foster a culture that encourages girls to explore computer sciences and learn to code. Google is collaborating with the MIT Media Lab, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of the USA, Seventeen, TechCrunch, Mindy Kaling & the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). The project will have girls designing bracelets 3D printed by Shapeways, learning to create animated GIFs or building beats for a music track. Additional projects will include

  • Video profiles of girls and women who explain how they’re using code to do what they love -- in fashion, music, dance, animation, cancer research and more. 
  • A resource directory for parents and girls to find more information about new local events, camps, classes and clubs. 
  • Collaborations with organizations like Girl Scouts of the USA and Girls, Inc. to introduce Made with Code to girls in their networks, encouraging them to complete their first coding experience. 

“Coding is a new literacy and it gives people the potential to create, innovate and quite literally change the world,” said Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. “We’ve got to show all girls that computer science is an important part of their future, and that it’s a foundation to pursue their passions, no matter what field they want to enter. Made with Code is a great step toward doing that.” Google's Press Release states, "All of this attempts to solve a fast-growing problem in computer science. "I think coding is cool, but most girls don't. Less than 1 percent of high school girls see computer science as part of their future,” said Mindy Kaling, the actress, comedian and writer. “Made with Code lets girls see coding not just as something they can do, but something they'd love to do." "

This is by far not the first endeavor to foster a love of computer sciences and its career potentials to girls. The Women's Coding Collective is a web development community with a mission to narrow the gender gap in technology. As stated on their site, "We cultivate supportive, no-stupid-questions environments where women can learn, build, and code together."

We live in a world where new technologies are announced almost every single day, and the opportunities abound for everyone. It is important that we bridge the technology gender gap by encouraging girls to see the potential opportunities in their future. Want to help? Support one of these organizations:

Or if you want to start small, here is an idea: Next time you are thinking of buying a pink or purple toy, or a Barbie or Frozen doll for your little girl, buy her a science kit. Watch how much fun, gratification and accomplishment she gets out of chemical reactions or electrical experiments. Let's raise the next generation of geniuses, developers and engineers, the women who will reshape our world in the coming decades. 

Fire Phone - What you should know

Amazon held their much anticipated press conference today, and as was expected, they unveiled a Smartphone. Keeping with the "Fire" nomenclature, the phone is named the Amazon Fire Phone. Obviously not intended to be left behind in a market they are late to, Amazon went big in the specs department, stepping toe to toe with the big players in the space like the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5s. Packing a "13MP camera with optical image stabilization for stunning photos and 1080p HD video, a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM for fast, fluid performance, a beautiful 4.7" HD display, dual stereo speakers, and Dolby Digital audio", Amazon obviously wanted to make sure potential users didn't feel they had to make sacrifices in power and performance if they opted to make the switch. Here is how the Fire Phone stacks up: 

It's obvious that the Fire Phone isn't a top tier phone from these specs, with the bewildering choice of Bluetooth 3.0 instead of 4.0, and the last generation Snapdragon 800 processor. But the phone is certainly no slouch in the specs department. It is obvious Amazon came to play. 

But as always with Amazon, the true point to this device is the experience, and Amazon aims to make it like no other.  

Fire Phone will work with the Amazon Appstore, but will not use any Google Apps. Running on the FireOS fork of Android that Amazon built for  the Kindle, expect a similar experience here. While it does not have access to Google Apps (NATIVELY, we installed Google Apps to our Kindle FIRE HDX the day we got it through sideloading), don't expect that to hold the experience back TOO much. Navigation in FireOS is a smooth, fluid experience. Game changing features like Firefly: a tool that lets you identify songs, shows or movies via the microphone, then queues up the content or product on Amazon's site to buy it, are certainly going to wow consumers. It's like the Google Goggles app on Android, times 100. It will even recognize phone numbers in text to let you dial or store in your contacts. In addition, Amazon brought the much beloved Mayday feature from the Kindle Fire HDX. Hitting the Mayday button summons a personal tech support concierge that connects within 15 seconds to your device, who can remotely guide you through any feature, even drawing on your screen to highlight the way. Having used this feature extensively with our HDX, we can attest to just how helpful and cool this feature is. The multiple cameras on board aid in creating an experience Amazon calls "dynamic perspective", a sort of parallax effect where images on the screen move and shift in a 3-Dimensional space in relation to where the user is looking. It is a striking effect that has to be seen to be believed. Whether this is merely a gimmicky feature of the lock screen only, or if it makes it's way into other features of the phone (aside from maps) remains to be seen. Either way, it's cool. 

Knowing that in order to compete in a space completely dominated by Apple and Google, Amazon knew they had to be prepared. Completely disassociating themselves from Google apps was a risky move. Android is well renowned for it's Google Apps, with the industry recognized best Maps and Email apps, among others. Jumping into this space without a quality replacement would be suicide in the smartphone arena. If initial impressions are to be believed, the Amazon Maps app with incorporated 3D visuals is a winner, with a competitive Email app as well. Packing in all the expected Kindle related features including X-Ray, and adding accelerometer powered scrolling and navigation, this looks to be one of Amazon's most ambitious and promising products ever.

With 32 and 64GB models selling at $199 and $299 respectively, and an off-contract purchase price of $649 for 32GB and $749 for 64GB, the Fire Phone aims to remain competitive in pricing as well, given that is double the storage most phone offer at their respective price points. Currently Fire Phone is available on AT&T only and comes with a free year of Amazon Prime. 

Can Amazon take on the mobile market and revolutionize it? That remains to be seen. But it is definitely clear with their aggressive entries into multiple product categories with the Kindle e-Readers, FireTV and now a smartphone, Amazon is certainly on "Fire". 



Movie Goer detained by Homeland Security for wearing Google Glass...

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 A Columbus, OH movie goer wearing his prescription Google Glass was pulled out of the theater and detained and interrogated by Homeland Security officers and theater staff this weekend. He recounted the experience with The Gadgeteer this weekend in a private Google Hangout. The experience sounds a bit harrowing: 

I went to AMC (Easton Mall, Columbus, OH) to watch a movie with my wife (non- Google Glass user). It is the theater we go to every week, so it has probably been the third time I’ve been there wearing Google Glass, and the AMC employees (guy tearing tickets at the entrance, girl at the concession stand) have asked me about Glass in the past and I have told them how awesome Glass is with every occasion.

Because I don’t want Glass to distract me during the movie, I turn them off (but since my prescription lenses are on the frame, I still wear them). About an hour into the movie (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says “follow me outside immediately”. It was quite embarrassing and outside of the theater there were about 5-10 cops and mall cops.

When he asked what was going on, the man simply replied : “you see all these cops you know we are legit, we are with the ‘federal service’ and you have been caught illegally taping the movie”. After trying to no avail to explain it was all a misunderstanding and explain, things heated up: 

 

I tried to explain that he’s holding rather expensive hardware that costed me $1500 for Google Glass and over $600 for the prescription glasses. The response was that I was searched and more stuff was taken away from me (specifically my personal phone, my work phone – both of which were turned off, and my wallet). After an embarrassing 20-30 minutes outside the movie theater, me and my wife were conducted into two separate rooms in the “management” office of Easton Mall, where the guy with the badge introduced himself again and showed me a different ID. His partner introduced herself too and showed me a similar looking badge. I was by that time, too flustered to remember their names (as a matter of fact, now, over 30 hours later I am still shaking when recounting the facts).

What followed was over an hour of the “feds” telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a “voluntary interview”, but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me (is it legal for authorities to threaten people like that?). They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I’m making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don’t I just give up the guy up the chain, ’cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again. Then they wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie. Eventually, after a long time somebody came with a laptop and an USB cable at which point he told me it was my last chance to come clean. I repeated for the hundredth time there is nothing to come clean about and this is a big misunderstanding so the FBI guy finally connected my Glass to the computer, downloaded all my personal photos and started going though them one by one (although they are dated and it was obvious there was nothing on my Glass that was from the time period they accused me of recording). Then they went through my phone, and 5 minutes later they concluded I had done nothing wrong."

After publicly embarrasing him by dragging the man out of the theater, interrogating him and for over an hour, accusing him of several federal offenses and holding his wife in a room the entire time without EVER TELLING HER WHY, the AMC representative offered 2 free passes to come back and see the movie, and when he asked why they didn't simply check out his Glass in the first place to save all the time, they just offered 2 more passes. No apology.  

The man summed up his feelings about the situation:

 I asked if they thought my Google Glass was such a big piracy machine, why didn’t they ask me not to wear them in the theater? I would have probably sat five or six rows closer to the screen (as I didn’t have any other pair of prescription glasses with me) and none of this would have happened. All he said was AMC called him, and he called the FBI and “here are two more passes for my troubles”. I would have been fine with “I’m sorry this happened, please accept our apologies”. Four free passes just infuriated me.

Considering it was 11:27pm when this happened, and the movie started at 7.45, I guess 3 and a half hours of my time and the scare my wife went through (who didn’t know what was going on as nobody bothered to tell her) is worth about 30 bucks in the eyes of the Movie Association and the federal militia (sorry, I cannot think of other derogatory words). I think I should sue them for this, but I don’t have the time or the energy to deal with “who is my boss – they don’t want me, they want the big guy” again, so I just spilled the beans on this forum, for other to learn from my experience.

 

Google's Newest Gamble: Nest Acquisition for $3.2B

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While the $12.9B anchor that is Motorola purchase is still proving to be a massive drag on it's bottom line, Google has once again made a acquisition in the hardware space, and arena that Google has had a hard time in. Monday, Google announced it was purchasing network thermostat manufacturer Nest for $3.2B. That's right, $3.2B. That is what a company pays for a poplar, up and coming social network with hundreds of millions of users, not a fledgling technology company that makes hardware that is trying to find it's place in the marketplace. But Google's acquisition of Nest buys them a lot more than the coolest devices in home automation ever. It buys them a new data stream. And if anyone can turn small data into big profit, it's Google. They are the Masters. 

What Does Google get out of buying Nest? This is a big question, and Marcus Wohlsen over at Wired identified some key gains for Google, not the least of which is product genius CEO Tony Faddell. You can check out the entirety of Wired's article HERE, but I want to focus on some other benefits to the purchase. 

First, Fadell. Nest's CEO isn't some fly by night tech guy. Tony is the man that brought the world the iPod. his proven record of bringing a product to market is impressive. As Wohlsen points out, "Fadell is an engineer with demonstrated mastery over all aspects of the hardware process, with a high-design sensibility to boot. From supply chain and components to fit and finish, Fadell has shown he can manage a product for a company with Apple’s global reach.

What’s more, Nest shows he also has the chops to bring a product to market without the support and resources of a massive multinational. He even beat Apple into the so-called “smart home” with a line of products that look and feel like what Apple might have designed if it had gotten there first.

“This allows us to concentrate on the stuff that differentiates us,” Fadell tells WIRED.

It’s almost tempting to think of Google and Nest as what might happen if Apple and the search giant had come together themselves. It’s an impression only furthered by Nest’s apparent poaching of an iPod software director to become its head of new product engineering, as first reported by The InformationThrow in Fadell’s proven record as someone who cannot only design and make tech devices but has the stage presence to sell it, and Google is buying itself near-instant — and much-needed — credibility in the world of hardware."

So Google bought more than a hardware company, they hired a master of the hardware market and his experience, and the hardware that is a labor of his love to boot. 

In addition, Google now has a solid foot in the Energy Services market. A market they have a great deal of interest in. In 2009, Google tried their hand in the market with the failed PowerMeter project. Now Google itself will play a role in managing energy efficiency programs across wide swaths of homes and even counties. And then there is all that DATA. Google now has a huge pipeline of data about people's OFFLINE lives at home to now chew on. And again, Google is a master of making data work in a myriad of ways. It will be interesting to see....