Tag Archives: computer

How Does The Internet Work?

It’s hard to imagine the world as we know it without including the internet.   Commerce, communication, and even socialization have been irrevocably changed since the internet came to prominence. At the same time, for most people, the internet is just something that’s there for most people.  We take it for granted, particularly those of us who grew up with the internet.  Few people understand how the internet actually works – how we can access that information from home or a mobile device.

The internet depends upon both protocols and physical servers.  A server is essentially a computer that houses the files available on the internet.  For instance, a website is made up of files that include the images, art, text, etc…  All of those files are housed on a computer called a server that is connected to a network of other computers: the internet.

When you open a browser like internet explorer, firefox, or chrome and type in a web address, the browser looks for the files associated with the address.  A web address includes the domain name, plus any folders and files.  For example:   www.domain.com/folder_name/specific_page_file

Each domain has some records associated with it.  The first of those records is the WHOIS record.  That record includes contact information on the owner of the domain.  The next record is the name server or NS record.  The NS record tells your browser which server to find certain other records on.  Those records are the A and MX records, and they are contained within a file called a DNS zone file.  The A records tell your browser where to find the actual site files.  The MX record describes where any associated email accounts are housed.  So, to sum up:

  1. You type in a web address.
  2. Your browser looks for the domain and finds the associated NS record.
  3. The NS record directs your browser to a file that has directions to the site files.
  4. Those directions, the A records, take you to the actual site files, where they are housed on a server.
  5. Your browser then displays the site to you.

All of that takes seconds or less.  Isn’t that amazing?

Chin up, look for ergonomic technologies

Are you reading this on a computer, smartphone, or tablet?  If it is a computer, is it a desktop, laptop, or netbook?

Studies consistently show that chronic back and shoulder pain is on the increase.  The culprit is likely the increased use of technology.  Specifically, it is the increasingly mobile technology that is causing the problem.  Poor posture pulls your body out of its correct alignment.  Even five, ten years ago, posture was better and related chronic pain was less common.  This is because as America tranwsitions to more mobile solutions like laptops, netbooks, and tablets, we crane our necks further and further.  Desktops, while not perfect, at least put the screen closer to eye-level, reducing neck strain.

This is not to say that one shouldn’t use these technologies;  the trick is to use the with awareness.  Pay attention to your posture.  Make a point of getting up and walking around every hour or so.  Physical activities and stretching can also help.

If all else fails, try a more ergonomically correct office arrangement – a better chair, better keyboard, a mouse that fits better, or maybe a monitor stand/riser to bring the screen up to eye level.

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, pron.com, 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.

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.)

Speaking of criss-crossing the map…

Speaking of criss-crossing the map, Chester Creek is traveling to Taipei! Next week, three of our diligent workers will be hopping on a much-too-long flight over a little water in order to attend the world’s second largest  computer exhibition (second only to CeBit)!  In fact, the show takes up not one or two but five full conference halls!  Since it is not open to the public, that is a lot of tech professionals.

Computex Taipei is an annual show that sees tens of thousands of foreign buyers, including Chester Creek.  In addition to buyers, this conference also attracts hordes of journalists, analysts, observers, and others.  This show will also be the platform from which some of the most important and possibly revolutionizing products of the year are unveiled.  Many of these products will not be consumer ready for several months, however.  Check out some of the great new products on display at the conference here!

Look for our report on the conference in the weeks to come!

Canada, eh? Our Friends North of the Border

Chester Creek produces computer keyboards, mice, and accessories that are available world wide.  We ship right here in Duluth all the way to the land down under.  But we could never do it without help.  It’s time to give some credit where credit is due.  We’re going to start off with our nearest neighbors to the North: Canada, eh?
Chester Creek has a handful of distributors in the great white North that is Canada, but today, we are going to focus on just three. Special Needs Computer Solutions offers their consumers the nicest and newest assistive technology.  With hundreds  of items ranging from ergonomic work stations to portable Braille printers to large-print keyboards (you already knew that part, didn’t you?).  Special Needs Computer Solution puts the focus on support, including consultation and training for the products they carry.  Check them out online here.
Aroga has been providing assistive technologies to their consumers for twenty-three years.  Look to Aroga for vision aids, communication aids, physical access products, and education tools.  Not only do they offer a variety of products, they also offer a variety of resources.  Aroga provides information on training, events, and the latest low-vision news.   Find all this and more here.
Last but not least is Bridges.  Bridges brings together a team of professions to bring their customers great assistive technology.  They offer direct sales as well as professional developement in both English and French.  As their vision statement says, Bridges aims to:
  • To provide a wide-offering of solutions to individuals with special needs that will facilitate their successful participation in all areas of their life.
  • To promote awareness of Assistive Technology and the impact that it has on individuals with special needs.
  • To promote successful implementation of Assistive Technology through professional development programs (that increase knowledge, skill and application of Assistive Technology).

 Take a look at their offerings here.

Of course, the one thing all these companies have in common is a devotion to bringing their consumers the best new products and the most reliable old favorites – including an array of Chester Creek products.

Tricky Terms, part two: CPSIA

Earlier this week, we discussed RoHS, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive, as well as what that means for you and for us.  Today, I’d like to take a bit of your time to take a look at another acronym you will find on most Chester Creek products: CPSIA.

CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  This act was passed in 2008 in the wake of several recalls and scares involving faulty toys and products with high lead content.  It authorizes a higher budget for  the Consumer Product Safety Commission, creates stronger restrictions, imposes deadlines, and calls for increased penalties for failure to comply.

The CPSIA calls for reduction of lead in children’s products to fall first to 600 ppm, then 300 ppm, then 100 ppm, and sets deadlines for these standards.  The standards apply retroactively to everything on store shelves.

The CPSIA also make testing of all products meant for children mandatory.  Products must be tested for restricted substances and must have certificates of compliance that provides standard information, including applicable rules, dates of manufacture, etc… in English.

Chester Creek diligently ensures that all of it’s children’s products meet or exceed requirements set out by not only the CPSIA, but RoHS as well.

Tricky Terms, part one: RoHS

On just about every page on the Chester Creek website, you’ll see this phrase: RoHS Compliant.

Now, most people shrug that phrase off, assume it means something good, and move on. To be honest, before I started working at Chester Creek, I had never heard the acronym, either. In fact, most people in the US probably have either not heard of RoHS or haven’t paid any attention to it.

This is because RoHS stands for “Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive,” (the D must be silent) and directive doesn’t sound much like a US law term, that is because it’s not.  The RoHS directive is a European Union directive that took affect in mid-2006 in all the member states of the EU.  While Chester Creek is not based in the EU (think Minnesota), and our keyboards are not made in the EU, CCT has chosen to make it’s products available to EU countries.  Moreover, while RoHS is not law in the states, it does provide strict guidelines that Chester Creek has chosen to adhere to.

Ahh, now we come to the heart of the matter.  Just what are those guidlines, you ask?  Probably a good question, since we’re three paragraphs in, with nary a hint of the actual, practicable meaning of the term.

RoHS restricts use of:

These are substances that are found or have in the past been found in a large number of consumer electronics across a broad spectrum of devices, including batteries, lamps, paints, and vinyl.  Heavy metals like lead and mercury are widely known to be dangerous, but low-level toxicity results from use of the other restricted materials.  Chester Creek strives to produce only the highest-quality computer accessories, bringing you the safest, sturdiest, and funnest (if you know what I mean, how is it not a word?) products on the market.

Summer Learning Loss

Summer is on its way.  Can you smell it in the air?  I can smell it in the fog rising off the lake.  Even out here in the Northland, the snow is all but gone and the first flowers are blooming, little green and purple surprises.  Accordingly, kids all over are feeling that anxious itch for summer vacation.  To be honest, I am too, even though it doesn’t mean vacation for me anymore.

Summer has one downside, though.  Summer learning loss.  Studies have found that on average, students lose about one month’s worth of learning over the summer.  This number varies across demographics, location, and subject.  In fact, students tend to lose just over two and a half months of math knowledge.  Low income students tend to be set back about two months of reading.

Only about 9% of students K-12 in the US attend summer programs.

So how can you keep your students on track through their summertime adventures?  How about incorporating it into their daily life?  Learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom.  Have them pick up a book, and talk with you about it when they’ve finished reading.  Take them on nature walks and explore the wonder of the world around you.  You can learn together.  Educational computer games are fun for a rainy day, too.  Check out Chester Creek’s new educational software packs for computer adventures through science, logic, math, and more! Throw in a LessonBoard to teach them good typing skills while they’re at it – a skill sure to come in handy next fall, giving them a leg up over their peers.