Monthly Archives: June 2011

Internet Security

Given my recent post discussing the flood of online attacks recently making the news, I thought it might be nice to follow up with some safety tips for your online adventures.

  1. When a site asks for information, always ask yourself why they need it.  If your signing up to receive a free enewsletter about knitting, do they really need your birthday, full name, and home address?  
  2. At the same time, keep in mind who is asking for the information.  Is it a site you trust?  Do they have a strong reputation?  
  3. Use a SPAM filter.  Most of it is just junk mail, but some of it can be an actual threat if you open it up.
  4. Never open attachments from email addresses you don’t recognize and trust.  
  5. Never give out secure information over an email.  This includes links in emails.  If there is a link in an email, make sure it takes you where you think it should – check the URL or even the IP address to confirm that it is part of the correct site – one you can trust.
  6. In fact, always take a look at the URL before submitting information.  Malicious sites often use very similar web addresses to the sites they are impersonating.
  7. If you get an email request for anything secure, you may want to contact the company directly to confirm its legitimacy.
  8. Use security software.  Anti-virus, anti-malware.   This does not need to be something you pay for.  My free antivirus of choice is Avast.
  9. Check the URL to see if the site utilizes Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.  This means the site uses encryption, and can be confirmed if the URL uses https:// instead of http://
  10. Get creative with passwords.  Make them long, use numbers and letters, use special characters, use capitalization.  And make them unique – don’t recycle.  If one account gets broken into, you don’t want every other account to go down with it.  (ie – Do not use your birthday.  Ever)

Rebels Without a Cause: Lulz Sec

Most people have heard of Anonymous.  They are a mostly-political activist group of hackers, or hacktivists. Anonymous has gained a fair reputation in the last several months for being powerful enough to take down what sites they like, for supporting file sharing, and for activities supporting revolution in the Middle East.

Aside from these morally motivated pursuits, Anonymous is also responsible for several less defensible attacks and pranks, such as bombarding YouTube with porn disguised as family-friendly film.

Lately, a new hacker group has been making headlines: LulzSec.  LulzSec, or Lulz Security, is a grey hat hacker group committed to revealing and making fun of embarrassing security flaws.  Grey hat in this case means neither malicious hacking for personal gain (black hat), or paid hacking meant to test security features and reveal gaps before they are exploited (white hat).  Big name hacks include PBS, Sony, Bethesda Games,, Infragaurd (affiliated with FBI), and CIA.

These attacks range from just-for-fun, pointing-out-a-problem-cause-we-want-to-help, on down to the government attacks, motivated by a statement made by the Pentagon that hacking could be considered an act of war.  LulzSec considers it a game, not war, and seemed upset by the comparison.  In retaliation, they hacked the Senate website, releasing some non-crucial data along with  taunting statement (previous link is to an article by LulzSec, contains profanity).

LulzSec’s main message breaks down into a few points:

  1. Don’t everyone be so serious.
  2. Be more careful with your security (don’t reuse passwords).
  3.   It’s a game.  We’re winning.
Personally, I’d say the first two are fairly good advice.

The Science of Autism

Individuals on the autism spectrum range from high functioning with a few mannerisms to those who face severe challenges in everyday life.  With the number of cases seeming to continually increase, research into autism has also increased.  While they have yet identify the cause of autism, there has been a fair amount of progress in recent years.

There are dozens of “suspect genes” that researchers have identified as possibly relating to autism.  In recent research, different groups of scientists have identified that it is not the genes themselves that may be part of the cause of autism, but rather the proteins they produce.  There are an extraordinarily large number of proteins at work in the human body and brain.  The way certain proteins interact indicates that they may be related to autism.  

 Another study indicates that this is not just an effect of autism, but possibly the cause.

This is incredibly exciting news for individuals affected by ASD, autism spectrum disorder, and hints that there may be a more effective treatment for autism in the future.

Most Wanted: ReaderBoard, Alias: BoomerBoard

Chester Creek is best known for its Children’s mice and its large-key keyboards.

Our VisionBoard and VisionBoard 2 feature huge, bold, easy-to-read lettering on a key a full inch across.  This keyboard is perfect for individuals who suffer from vision and/or motor impairment.  You can see below how easy to read the legend is.  Notice also that the keys are sufficiently large and spaced that even user with arthritis or impairments that cause shaking can use.  We now offer our VisionBoards in a wireless model, to make them even more portable, adaptable, and usable for you.  For users who have an especially difficult time hitting the correct key or hitting only one key at a time, we also offer the KeyGuard, making every key stroke a bullseye.

What many of our consumers don’t realize is that our VisionBoard has a younger brother, the ReaderBoard.   The Reader is the perfect solution for individuals who work in low light or suffer from slight to moderate vision  impairment.  The ReaderBoard has the same layout and key size as a standard keyboard, making a switch absolutely seamless.  What sets it apart from standard keyboards (apart from that stylish design, of course) is that the ReaderBoard features a legend 250% the size of a standard keyboard.  I’d like you to take a moment now to look at the keyboard you’re using now.  See the letters, numbers, and commands?  How much of the key do they take up?  I’m guessing about one quarter – maybe they’re in the top left corner of the key, like my laptop.  The ReaderBoard’s labels fill the entire key with bold white lettering, so you can read it whether you’re working late in low light, getting a jump start before the sun is shining in the window, or even when you just don’t feel like grabbing your reading glasses.

That’s the beauty of the ReaderBoard.  For many individuals, standard keyboards can be hard to read.  This doesn’t mean those users need or want to transition to a large-key keyboard.  Chester Creek has created a middle ground.  With thousands of Boomers reaching the “mature-but-not-old-yet” stage, the ReaderBoard, or the BoomerBoard as we like to call it, is the perfect solution.  There’s no reason you need to wear reading glasses just to use a computer or transition to a large-key keyboard just because the tiny letter on a standard board strain your eyes in certain light.  As always, you can rely on Chester Creek to be working on bringing you exactly what you need for every stage of your life  From toddling to school to work and to retirement, we’re there for you.

(Don’t forget to check out our Wireless Mice to match the Vision Boards and our super-comfortable ReaderMouse to match the ReaderBoard.)

Effects of Computer Use on Students

As technology is becoming more and more prevalent in both our society and our school systems, students and teachers are integrating computer use into most every aspect of learning.  Since the advent of affordable computers for individuals, there have been studies focusing on the impact these resources have on the students.

  • In 1994, Jame Kulik found that students who used computer-based instruction scores at the 64th percentile, compared to students in control conditions without computers, who scored in the 50th percentile.
  • He also found that students learn more when instruction incorporates technology, and students have a more positive attitude when classes include computer-based learning.
  • In 1998, Jay Sivin-Kachala found that students saw a positive impact on all major subject areas when in technology rich environments.  This increased achievement occurred from pre-school to high school and in both regular and special ed classrooms, though the depth of impact depended upon many factors.
  • He, like Kulik, noted that student’s attitudes improved when computers were used for instruction.
  • Dale Mann conducted a study of the West Virginia Basic Skills/ Computer Education initiative in 199, and found that participation in computer eduction raised students’ scores on standard tests.    The largest improvement was seen in low-achievement students.
  • He also found that girls and boys benefited equally from computer access.  
  • Moreover, Mann found that computer education was more cost effective than reducing class size, increasing instructional time, and cross age tutoring programs.
  • Findings by Harold Wenglinsky in 1998 are supportive of the above findings, as they relate to fourth- and eighth-grade students.  His study was controlled for socioeconomics, class sizes, and teacher characteristics to ensure accuracy and significance of the findings pertaining to technology.
  • These references are from an article, “The Impact of Education Technology on Student Achievement” by John Schacter.

Chocolate, waffles, and keyboard, oh, my!

Did you know that french fries were invented in Belgium?  They are also famous for chocolate and waffles.  Sounds like a fun place to visit, doesn’t it?   With companies like Ergo Comfort, it’s probably a pretty decent place to work, too.
Ergo Comfort focuses on occupational therapy and preventative solutions.  Careful and thorough workplace analysis helps Ergo Comfort help their customers.  They identify potential problems in workplaces and provide advice and support for correcting them.  With a heavy – and yet expected – focus on ergonomics, they provide functional and attractive solutions for optimizing the workplace and meeting the unique needs of all workers.  With a vision statement that focuses on a healthy and happy workplace while still highlighting the constantly evolving technological needs of many organizations, Ergo Comfort is our kind of business, and we are proud to offer our products through them.

News from Computex

Computex is underway. Meg, Natasha, and Jim are there! Here are some of the big releases we’ve heard about so far.

  • New chips for tablets.  Tablets are still growing in popularity, and the hardware that powers them is coming along for the ride.
  • Ultra slim laptops.  Thin is in!  Ultra portable computers increase their usability and efficiency.  Read as: everyone wants them.
  • Tablets, tablets, everywhere.  Growing popularity means everyone is hopping on the tablet boat, and Apple has ever-stiffer competition.
  • And my favorite, the new Windows 8 has been previewed.  This is a newer, more aerodynamic OS, if you.  With great tiles showing up to date info and hints that Microsoft is moving towards the cloud, I am incredibly excited for this.  Plus, this OS will still run legacy programs!  And it will run on just about everything – laptops, tablets, phones, desktops.  Check out the video preview!