Friday, 29 July 2011

VW to consider a F1 car in 2018?

Recent news reports suggest that VW may be looking into getting involved with F1 by 2018. This, despite a statement in March 2011 seemingly ruling out the possiblity of VW having a Formula One entry. VW reckon by 2018 they will be the worlds foremost automaker and believe they have the brands to do create a F1 entry.

It would be interesting since VW do have brands like Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat and Skoda in its stables. Given the fact that the Audi Le Mans car has so many victories it would not be surprising to see an Audi lining up on the grid against BMW and Mercedes.

Although a Lamborghini F1 car sounds really appealing as it would pit rival manufacturer, Ferrari head to head, or bring back some racing heritage in a Bugatti F1 car? All the possibilities sound great and one can hope that we get a new serious contender in the F1 world but 2018 is a far way off so until then this will have to be treated as a concept car that we all love but will probably never see in action.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

FNB Smartphone App for Blackberry

FNB has launched a South African first, a smartphone and tablet banking application (App). The good thing going for it immediately is that it is free (for now). It is available for registered FNB online banking customers who have a compatible Android, Apple or Blackberry smartphone or tablet device. Symbian device support is coming soon.

As stated on the FNB website:
The FNB Banking App allows you to view your account list and balances, transfer funds, make payments and get detailed transactional history.

The FNB Banking App also brings you additional value added benefits like the ability to access a FNB directory and make free calls to any FNB Call Centre. You can also locate FNB branches and ATMs on a map using Location-based Services.
My first impressions of the FNB app have been good. The Blackberry App world allows for an easy installation of the app. On your side all you need to do is provide your banking username on the app and then login to FNB online banking and link your phone with the site. Once done you login to the App on your phone and access all the content and functions mentioned above.

When starting the app on the Blackberry Torch there is a little delay in opening but there is a decent splash screen and you are welcome to a nice slick and simple to use menu. All the buttons are self explanatory and the interface makes navigation very easy.

On the down side, the app is a little sluggish in changing screens and did make my Blackberry hang upon accessing the app the third time round. The phone did recover without any issues and use of the app continued. Given that I have not used the app all to much yet, my first impression of the app is that it is very good but only time will tell.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Kindling has taken - Kindle books selling faster than print books

The sale of Kindle books has overtaken the sale of old school print books according to Amazon.com. Amazon.com started selling books, softcover and hardcover, in July 1995. Kindle was introduced in November 2007.

It toook just three years to out sell hardcover books and a further six months more to overtake softcover books to become the most popular format on Amazon.com. Today less than four years after the launch of the Kindle, Amazon.com customers are buying more Kindle books than all print books combined.

Since April 1, 2011 for every 100 print books Amazon.com sold it sold 105 Kindle books. This is excluding the free books that Kindle offers. Amazon.com has sold more than three times as many Kindle's so far in 2011 than it did in 2010.

Kindle books let you "Buy once, read everywhere" on all generation Kindles as well as on other platforms like Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, MAC, PC, Windows Phone, Android-based systems and many others.

However it will be interesting to see how the sale of Kindle books will be affected by an Apple issued edict that all Apps offering content for sale or subscription are required to do so through the App Store and not through external links to the sellers web store. In addition to this Apple also want 30% of sales through an iOS app!

The Kindle seems to be an amazing product and more importantly it means that people are still interested in reading books. Although the medium through which we read books is shifting from paper to digital it is still great to see that the Kindle is getting people reading more. Maybe not more people reading but at least people are reading.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Western Digital LiveWire Powerline AV Network Kit

Powerline Ethernet adaptors (network devices that use your house's existing power cables) have been around for some time and the Western Digital LiveWire Powerline kit is one of the best on the market.

The WD LiveWire Powerline Kit Adaptors
The LiveWire kit offers 4 ports per adapter which is a significant boost from other powerline Ethernet adaptors. It is also faster than most and the price if the kit about R1,000.00 makes expanding your home or small office network quick, simple and relatively cheap.

LiveWire comes with two identical powerline adapters each with four network ports. At one end you plug your ADSL router into the adapter and at the other end of the house or office you plug in your pc / gaming console or other networked device and you have setup a powerline connection. It is as easy as that.

There are of course some drawbacks to the LiveWire kit as with other powerline kits. It is not designed to work with power strips or surge protectors and needs to be plugged into the wall directly. We tried the adapters with a few power strips anyway, and they actually worked with some. However, they did not work with surge protectors. Given the state of Eskom’s power supply this may be something to be concerned about.

Another drawback is that of, what if your neighbour plugs in a LiveWire kit, will they be able to snoop around on your network? If you press the Sync button within 2 minutes of each other a private 128bit encrypted connection is made between the adapters, preventing other powerline adapters from connecting to them. Should you wish to reset this there is a reset button underneath the adapter.

You can also manage the device and view the performance of the kit by using the LiveWire utility that comes with the kit on the CD. The CD also contains a well illustrated flash application to walk you through the setup of your LiveWire kit.

Performance wise you get varying speeds as you are dependent on the electrical wiring in your house and the plug connection.

The good:
  • Excellent performance and it comes with eight network ports.
  • Easy to use and setup
  • The adapters automatically support voltage ranging from 100V to 240V, meaning they can be used just about anywhere in the world
  • WD Livewire Kit isn't particularly expensive
  • Data transferred between adaptors is 128-bit encrypted
The Bad:
  • Speed depends on the electrical wiring so it is not consistent from building to building
  • The 'sync' button gives next to no indication whether it's been pressed or not
All said and done the LiveWire kit is a fantastic quick and easy way to setup  or even expand your home network. Western Digital offer other great media products that make is possible to network your house with a Media streaming without ever needing to lay a single ethernet cable or battle with intermitten wireless networks.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Space Weather

I recently came across this site that has details about the 'weather' in space. Although it is very interesting the part I found the most interesting is the FlyBy's section. Here you can enter your location and you will find out where to look and about what time you will see satelites or even the International Space Station.

Given that the space shuttle Atlantis is presently on its last flight it is quite impressive to know where to look into the night sky and catch a glimpse of the Atlantis docked to the ISS.

http://spaceweather.com/

Password construction and management

Passwords are the first line of security in many applications and used by everyone every day. Passwords give access to such a vast array of services like Internet banking, Facebook, Twitter and even your pc (for those that have a password).

Keeping track of all these passwords can become very difficult and to have a different unique password for each and every application is near impossible, so what is one to do? There are a number of options available but before that lets go over some absolute no-no’s when dealing with passwords.

Do not write the password(s) down on anything and do not leave the post-it note with your password stuck to your monitor or underneath the laptop. Apart from breaking the first rule why bother having a password.

Try not to use family names, favourite sports team, pets or birthdates as your password. With the increase in use of Facebook and other social media it is very common these days for people to put such personal information onto the web and for a hacker this is the easiest place to start when trying to access your account.

Passwords should be as complex as possible, but this brings its own complexity t it. If you make the password to difficult you will either forget it or you end up writing it down, breaking rule 1. A possible solution is creating your own unique formula for passwords.

Facebook password could be something like Fr13nd$456 and Twitter maybe B1rd!35, by associating the site with what you do on it can help you create a unique password that meets the general norms of strong password creation.

Creating strong passwords normally require a mixture of the following:

1.       Be Alphanumeric (letters and numbers)

2.       Contain a special character (!, @, %, etc...)

3.       Be at least 7 characters or more in length (the longer the better)

4.       Refrain from using normal words found in a dictionary

Trying to manage passwords is difficult and most people do get lazy and set one password for every site. This may be fine if you have a very strong password but remember if you have password for all it is like having a master key to everything.

Another tip when setting up new accounts or registering for something on a page and you need to answer a personal question in case you forget your password, do not put the real answer. So if you select your personal question to be your mothers’ maiden name, use your grandmother’s name instead. Just doing something a little extra will help protect yourself that much more.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

IT Security in the small business – Part 2

It is still with some alarm that I come across people and their lack of understanding of the importance of keeping their passwords safe and making passwords more difficult than ‘12345’ or the good ol’ favourite ‘password’.

Passwords still are and will be the primary security mechanism for computing for many years to come.  A Password in its simplest definition is a word or string of characters that will authenticate and allow you access to the information you seek.

It is surprising that most people do not change the default the ADSL router passwords for example and even if they do, the password is changed to something easy like ‘12345’ and even further to this the password is left on a note stuck to the router.

Granted most people think passwords are a waste and a nuisance. How would you like it though if anyone could just access your details like for instance your bank details? Or gain access to your e-mail account or even get onto Facebook as yourself and say what they wish.

Since the majority of passwords are ‘12345’as proved in various e-mail hacks a couple of years ago, why are people still reluctant to change their default passwords? In many corporate companies, people are forced to change their password every 60-90 days. Yet in the small business, most computers do not have passwords, anyone can access the computers and worst of all if there is even a password set, the entire office knows what it is.

Often people will use the same password and username on all the sites they are registered for, so the username and password for Facebook will probably work on a number of different sites. People need to be taught about password management, how to construct difficult but easy to remember passwords.

The ramifications of a leaked password for a normal person are bad enough, but imagine now that person is the accounts person for your company. Most likely the password that person used is also going to be used to gain access to your accounting package. That is of course if there was a password setup in the first place to protect your data?

Further articles will detail some tips on how to manage and construct passwords.