Tag Archives: news


iCanConnectLogoHave you heard of iCanConnect?

iCanConnect is The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program.  This Federal program ensures individuals who have combined hearing and vision loss access to telephone, advanced communications and information services (like the internet).

The FCC set aside funding to support one program per state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  iCanConnect provides communications technology free of charge to low-income people of all ages who have combined vision and hearing loss.  Equipment provided can range from hardware or software applications to the varying technology needs of specialized equipment, like screen readers or braille displays.

How do you know if this program is for you?  You may be eligible for this program if you are a person who has combined vision and hearing loss and you cannot afford communication technology that enable you to use telephone, send email or access the internet.  A qualified program specialist will help you identify your equipment needs and train you on how to use it as well.

You can learn more about iCanConnect and watch a wonderful video introduction on the program by visiting their website at www.iCanConnect.org or by calling 1-800-825-4595.

To apply, contact your state’s program. For more information visit: www.fcc.gov/NDBEDP

Google Plus

Google is the number one search engine.  When they roll out algorithm updates, it shakes the SEO world and everyone scrambles to catch up.  Adwords and Analytics are household names in the web industry, like how most disposable adhesive bandages are automatically referred to by the brand name Band Aid.

In the past, Google’s forays into the world of social media have been pretty un-spectacular.  Now, however, they have started to release what may well be a game-changer.  Google+ is a social networking application for PC or mobile that brings all of the best features of sites like Facebook and combines then with the Google innovation and resources.  Tying in to their array of currently available services, this new product is currently available through invitation only.  This makes it more desirable and allows the early-adapters to get the hang of it before it becomes widely used.  It also allows Google to respond in real-time to any concerns from users.  I found in my research a couple of places where users had made suggestions and replied a day or so later, thanking Google for actually responding – something many people have despaired of in regards to Facebook for ages.  (Internet ages of course, something like several months or a year in the real world, I suppose.)

The down side to the invitation only releases of Google+ is that a social networking site can only get so far if only a fraction of your social network has it.  If no one you know is no it, the only draw is the novelty – there is no practicality until it becomes more widely used.  That same factor was probably the largest downfall of Google Wave, discussed in my previous post.  Every network has to start out with only a few users, however.  The bigger question is whether Google+ will be able to over take or co-exist with Facebook, as Facebook was able to do with MySpace.  (In related news, I have heard rumors that Justin Timberlake recently was involved in a buy-out of MySpace, with plans to revamp it largely as a music sharing site.)

Some distinctive features of Google + include:

  • Circles.  Rather than a post going out to everyone you know and then some, you will be able to filter your posts and feeds by your social circles – work colleagues, family, friends from school, friends from *insert hobby here*, etc…
  • Sparks.  I haven’t used Google+ yet, but it sounds like this feature includes things you’re likely to be interested in in your stream without requiring that you go out and find it first.  It also allows you to connect with others with similar interests.
  • Hangouts.  This features allows you to jump into a video conference when you feel like it, “stopping by,” effectively.  This allows multiple users to swing in and out of video chats as they are available and smoothly shows all the webcams.  Don’t have a webcam?  Get one.  Or get an awesome, rugged, portable laptop that comes standard with a great one built in.
  • Mobile Upload.  Google+ allows you to sign up for a service that automatically adds pictures to a private album in the cloud so that you can post them anytime any where without the hassle of uploading.
Will these features be enough to push Google+ past the shiny-and-new-and-exclusive stage of its current popularity?  That remains to be seen, but there are rumors and comments indicating that there may be a multitude of extra new features in the works, including shared games directly on the networking service, among other things.  I for one am anxiously awaiting an invitation from my early-adopter friends.  

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.

Fabulous February

Well, February has rolled around again, and you know what that means. My birthday! And a whole bunch of other stuff.

Groundhog’s day was today, and groundhogs around the world are ready for Spring. As am I. However, some wonder whether we’ve been doing it wrong.  Despite good forecasts by the mammalia, a huge winter storm is pounding the Midwest and Northeast.

Other fabulous February events include Black History Month, remembering  important people and events in the history of the African diaspora, and encouraging today’s youth.

Also this month is the Mobile World Congress, an annual show being held in Spain featuring new technologies, as well as Valentine’s Day, a much lower-tech event on the same day.

In the astronomical field, February marks a large discorvery of exoplanets — some of which are pretty weird — by the Kepler Space Telescope, as well as the mock arrival of a mock space mission to a mock Mars.

Completely unrelated, a new Harvard report says that college shouldn’t be pushed quite so hard for students, the TSA is working on a less invasive body scan, and Google is accusing Microsoft search engine Bing of cheating – copying results from Google’s search engine.

What’s new for you in February?