Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Internet Pace Grows as Smartphone Slows Down

Smartphone-slowdown

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — What's the state of the Internet? It's growing slowly, but still outpacing the smartphone market.

So says Mary Meeker, the former Internet analyst-turned-venture capitalist who has been the Nostradamus of online research for years. Her highly anticipated annual Internet status update, a staple at industry conferences, offers insight into major mega-trends for the tech industry.

On Wednesday, she was at it again. At the Code Conference here, she said Internet use is at 3 billion people worldwide (42% penetration), with China and India — countries coveted by Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others — leading the way.

But the device of the moment isn't iPhone anymore. Its sales peaked in 2015, she reports, and the action has moved to the voice-activated Amazon Echo speaker, "which is just getting started," she said. Meeker is bullish on messaging (she called it "secret sauce") and ride-sharing services ("We may be entering an automotive golden age") but souring on online search.

In a 213-slide presentation, she said she expects global smartphone user growth to slow to 21% year-over-year from 31%, and shipments to cool dramatically, to 10% from 28%. Internet growth, meanwhile, is a victim of saturation in developed countries.

Worldwide smartphone unit shipments slipped 3%, to 335 million, in the first three months of 2016, the first such year-over-year decline, according to Strategy Analytics, which tracks smartphone sales.

Apple is feeling the pinch. The first-ever year-over-year decline in iPhone sales during Apple's fiscal second quarter was a major reason for the first drop in Apple sales in more than a decade and lowered expectations for the current quarter.

Worldwide, Android is far and away the dominant mobile operating system. It has 81% market share to 16% for Apple iOS, and three times the audience size of Apple.

Meeker, a venture capitalist at VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has been involved in investments in tech firms such as SoundCloud, LegalZoom, Spotify, Twitter, Instacart and NextDoor. She sits on the boards of Square and DocuSign.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk doesn't see Google as a potential competitor to his firm. Instead, he's focused on Apple.

Apple, maker of the iconic iPhone and Macintosh computers, "will be a direct competitor," Musk said. He expects Apple to be in production with cars by 2020, but thinks it waited too long. "They should have started production sooner. It's a missed opportunity."

Speaking to the Code Conference here, the South African-born, charismatic CEO leads a company that sells electric cars, with a recent software update that includes partial self-driving features. Tesla cars start at around $80,000, but recently announced a 2017 Model 3 that will start at $35,000. The company has reaped about 400,000 orders for the car that include $1,000 deposits.

Internet giant Google is testing self-driving cars, but Musk doesn't see Google getting into the car business. "Google is not a car company," he said. "They'll license the technology."

Apple, on the other hand, hasn't publicly announced its intentions to get into the car business, but has been hiring engineers, and Musk clearly expects Apple to join the fray.

Musk was asked if the new Model 3 will be a self-driving car. He demurred, saying he would have an event in the fall to reveal the answer. Asked for clarifications, he simply said, "We’re going to do the obvious thing."

Musk, who is also CEO of rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, also talked about his passion of exploring Mars and space.

Missions to Mars will start in 2018, he said, and he predicted that trips for humans ("if things go according to plan") will begin in 2024 -- for arrival in 2025.

Musk, who has not flown into space, has said he wanted to die on Mars, but not on a landing. "If you had to choose a place to die, Mars is probably not a bad choice. Born on Earth, died on Mars."

Read Article (Graham &Swartz | usatoday.com | 06/01/2016)

To be sure, smartphones almost always get better with each new model introduction, and have beefier specs.  Still, it’s worth asking: is better, better enough? While nearly half the population contemplates “choice”, the other half contemplates simply learning to use the thing (Digital Literacy).

This miss-placed step of the Digital Era must be eventually addressed and sooner or later there will be finger-pointing as to just who dropped the ball.

Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

Top 5 WordPress Blog Enhancement Plugins

Wordpress-Blog-Plugins

Bloggers who use WordPress, beginners or pros alike, always face one question - what are the best plugins to use to optimize the performance of your website? WordPress has over 40,000 plugins - most free and some premium so it’s understandable that the choices can be endless and as a result, confusing. Another thing to keep in mind is that not all plugins are reliable or even that good.

Some can actually slow down your website, while others create conflicts with other plugins. If you’re not that well-versed with WordPress or are a complete beginner, you can spend the whole day just configuring one plugin and still find that it doesn’t function the way it is supposed to.

Under such circumstances, it becomes essential for you as a blogger to know what plugins will be most efficient for you. One way you can go about doing this is trying and testing out a variety of plugins - but not everyone has that kind of time or even expertise. So here is a list of 5 plugins that you as a blogger should use to optimize your experience with WordPress and blog away without any worries

Wordfence Security

As the name suggests, WordFence is a security plugin. Fairly basic in nature, it works by adding another layer of security, thus preventing people or bots who might try to hack into your website. It can even block bots by blocking the IP addresses they use to try to access your site. The plugin has been downloaded and is currently actively installed by one million plus users and is the most downloaded security plugin on WordPress. WordFence will also let you know quickly if your website has been compromised. While the plugin is free, there is a premium service that allows you to block specific countries, audit passwords, schedule scans and also check whether your IP address is being used to Spamvertised. In addition, you can also avail of tech support in case of any glitches.

VaultPress

It is extremely important for every blogger to have backups of his or her blogs. It is equally important that these backups be located off-site but still be secure. There is a reason the term ‘human error’ exists and you never know when years of hard work can just disappear in an instant. This is where VaultPress comes in. It backs up and secures everything on a site such as posts, comments, all uploads, Meta data, users, themes and even databases. The plugin is a Premium feature with different plans for different budgets and needs. It has over 20,000 active installs. The best part is that it can restore whatever you have lost in just two clicks.

Yoast SEO

This plugin needs no introduction. It is on every top 5, top 10, top 15 list of the best WordPress plugins for a very simple reason - it is the best SEO plugin out there. It helps you write better and more SEO friendly content and even shows you a snippet of what your post looks like in search results. It lets you know if the title of your blog is of the optimal length and even whether the description you’ve written helps improve the ranking of the page in search results. It makes you choose a focus keyword and ensures that you use that keyword as much as possible. In addition, it also analyses your page for things such as whether you have written a meta description, whether your post length is long enough, whether the images in your post contain the focus keyword and so on. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Frizzly

One thing that is absolutely essential to ensure the success of any blog is that it is shared on social media. Obviously, you need the appropriate buttons for the same. However, too many buttons and you have confused users who will be too overwhelmed by the choices of social media to share anything. If you’re just starting out or you want to keep it basic and simple, Frizzly is the plugin for you. It adds three buttons - Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to images on your post. Whenever anyone hovers over the image, the buttons come up encouraging the reader to share.

Disqus

As any blogger knows, one of the primary needs on your site is a comment box. It allows readers to express how they feel about what you have written and share their opinions with others. Disqus Comment System does just that. It allows comments to be more interactive and connects commenters and websites. The popularity of the plugin can be seen by the fact that it currently has 200,000 plus active installs. It is SEO-friendly, which means that the comments can be indexed by search engines, allows you to import existing comments and even backs up the comments. Comments and their replies can be viewed as threads. You also receive email notifications. It filters out spam and has some optimal admin tools. It even shows you aggregated comments.

Security firm Sucuri says that, during the first three months of 2016, the company saw a large number of attacks targeting websites running on the WordPress CMS platform. The company released yesterday its first-ever Website Hacked Report, in which it compiled statistics from over 11,485 compromised sites it was called upon to investigate.

Nearly four in five hacked websites were running WordPress. More precisely, Sucuri reveals that 78 percent of the total number of hacked websites it investigated were WordPress sites, with Joomla in a distant second, taking up only 14 percent of the data sample. Further, six percent were no-CMS websites, 5 percent were running Magento, and 2 percent were using Drupal.

Read Article (William Morrow | huffingtonpost.com | 05/28/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

 

Posting Photo’s Online is Producing Your Own Epitaph

Your-Own-Epitaph

Posting photos online is not living. You are actually producing your own obituary. Summer begins again. Millions of people are packing their bags to get away from it all. Their eyes are ready for fresh sights: sun-drenched beaches, famous museums, parasolled cafes.

More eyes than ever before will, however, see nothing fresher than the screens of their own smartphones. They will not need to look at sunsets and palm trees, for they will have flawless copies on their devices (click!). The great scale of the Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris, or the Coliseum, in Rome, will bring no risk of eyestrain: they will be able to see the grandeur of these sites in harmless digital miniature (click!). Screens will give them their own versions of the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, versions that have this significant advantage over the originals: they can be owned, stored and used as material for a personal online story.

As we see more and more parents who seem to watch their children grow up entirely on a screen, it becomes obvious that storing our sensory stimuli in digital form has become the main event. No one really believes that they will sit down in the future and play back everything they have recorded. That is clearly not the objective. No, the point is that ordinary memory has come to seem inadequate as a register of “life” – whatever that is. Human experience needs to be converted into the inhuman in order for it to be real. If it has not been made digital, it did not happen.

How did we get here? Ours is a materialistic era, so we are inclined to believe in materialistic explanations. Digital technology, we tell ourselves, has caused this devaluation of experience. But the opposite explanation, though more mysterious, is equally true: it is the devaluation of experience that has caused digital technology.

It is not that digital prostheses exist, and so, with remarkable coincidence, our inner life suddenly “needs” them. No, for more than a century we have been caught up in electronic processes that have caused us to stop believing in our own experience, and – like a colonized people asserting themselves in the oppressor’s language – we feel a surge of dignity with each new word we learn of the machine’s own tongue.

Of course, when machines can laugh, and they will, like other oppressors before them, ROFL at these efforts of us to “speak machine”. They will see our obsessive self-documentation for what it is: a futile attempt to assert what we do not ourselves believe – that we actually live. I am visiting New York. I am eating chocolate cake. I have a flower in my hair.

When people were really alive, they did not need to protest so much. They did not imagine that strangers might be interested in the fact that they had chocolate cake at lunch. Not, at least, during their lifetime. They were aware that such trivia becomes significant only at the moment of death – at which point, yes, it is suddenly overwhelmingly poignant to remember that someone had those clothes and food and rhythms.

In an era when people still believed in their own lives, they wrote autobiographies. We, by contrast, have become auto-obituarists. Despite all the work that social media users do to document themselves from one day to the next, what is recorded is not life. Rather it is death-in-life: it is “existence” from which life has already fled, leaving behind a digital husk.

Our social media footprint is an obituary we write ourselves – a set of remembrances we leave for future generations to give strength to this simple, spurious claim: that we lived. Only at the moment of our death does our Facebook or Instagram account acquire its true and always intended significance, and finally the chocolate cake that we had for lunch once is meaningful.

That consummation lies in the future. A day will come when this summer’s screen obsession finally makes sense. It’s just that we will never live to see it.

Read Article (Rana Dasgupta | theguardian.com | 05/29/2016)

Scream at the Digital Demon, for he hears but sees not. Maybe through volume your true intent may be understood.

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

Will Europe Ban Teenagers from Social-Media?

Ban-Teenagers-from-Facebook

New European data protection rules would see companies require parental consent to handle data of those under 16, effectively blocking them from social media.  Teenagers in Europe could be blocked from using Facebook, WhatsApp and other internet services and social media should European data protection laws that increase the age of consent to 16 be pushed through.

The European Parliament is set to vote on Tuesday on new rules that could see teenagers banned from internet services such as Facebook, social media, messaging services or anything that processes their data, without explicit consent from their parent or guardian.

The last-minute amendment to the new European data protection regulations would make it illegal for companies to handle the data of anyone aged 15 or younger, raising the legal age of digital consent to 16 from 13.

Companies wishing to allow those under 16 to use their services, including Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram, will have to gain explicit consent from their legal guardian.

The draft law states: “The processing of personal data of a child below the age of 16 years shall only be lawful if and to the extent that such consent is given or authorized by the holder of parental responsibility over the child.”

Companies such as Facebook currently allow users from the age of 13 to join their services.  Their policies are based on the age of digital consent being 13, as defined by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa) and similar laws in the EU, which afford those under 13 extra privacy protections.

Until recently, the draft European data protection bill, which is four years in the making, set the digital age of consent at 13, mirroring Coppa.

Experts against the change

The changes are equally opposed by technology companies and child-safety experts, who warned that the increased age of consent would make it very difficult for teenagers under 16 to use social media and other internet-based resources and services.

Janice Richardson, former coordinator of European Safer Internet network, and consultant to the United Nations’ information technology body, the ITU and the Council of Europe said: “Moving the age from 13 to 16 represents a major shift in policy on which it seems there has been no public consultation.

“We feel that moving the requirement for parental consent from age 13 to age 16 would deprive young people of educational and social opportunities in a number of ways, yet would provide no more (and likely even less) protection.”

Larry Magid, chief executive of ConnectSafely.org, said: “It will have the impact of banning a very significant percentage of youth and especially the most vulnerable ones who will be unable to obtain parental consent for a variety of reasons.”

Not the first time those under 17 have been barred

The changes would legally stop teenagers from accessing social media, among other internet services, unless a parent or guardian consents, but it will likely not stop them from accessing the services.

Facebook required users to be 17 or older before 2006, when it was opened up to the public, but that did not stop teenagers from signing up.  Most social media accounts request dates of birth on setting up accounts, but have no way to verify the information.

Unlike those adults signing up to over-18 services, such as adult entertainment sites, which often use a credit card as part of age verification, teenagers under 17 do not have verifiable age-based identification.

For the technology companies the biggest issue with the new rules would be policing them.  Stopping teenagers under 16 from accessing messaging, social media and other sites would be very difficult.  European legislators are no doubt under intense lobbying pressure to remove the age of consent change from the draft.

US technology firms, including Facebook and Google, have faced an increasingly tough European landscape over the recent years, coming under intense scrutiny over privacy and taxation practices.

The new Pan-European data protection bill is the result of this changing attitude to data privacy, and follows recent action by the European Court of Justice to block the transfer of European citizens’ data to the US under Safe Harbor rules.

Read Article (Samuel Gibbs | theguardian.com | 12/15/2015)

The European Parliament has approved tougher data privacy rules but so far there is no indication if the digital age of consent has been changed.  It the age has been moved from 13 to 16, it opens up US social media sites to some very heavy fines, on top of taxes.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

The Internet, Social Media & The Savvy Elderly

The-Savvy-Elderly

Many might think that social media is the exclusive domain of the younger generation but that’s not exactly accurate.  Many of our older adults have enthusiastically adopted it to keep up with the times as well as their old acquaintances and younger family members.  Grandparents are becoming proficient in extra-terrestrial things like Skype and Facebook and they’re liking it.  It has become a healthy emotional outlet and word of its benefits has spread like wildfire among the elderly.

According to the Pew Research Center, Internet use among those 65 and older grew 150% between 2009 and 2011, the largest growth in a demographic group. Furthermore, their 2012 study shows that of those that go online, 71% do so daily and 34% use social media.  The elderly use these tools to bridge the geographic gap between them and their loved ones far away and as a way to re-connect with friends from a far off time.  Studies show that the Internet has become an important portal for reducing isolation, loneliness and other depressive symptoms of aging.

Seniors emphasize the informational and educational aspects of the Internet, using it in an encyclopedic fashion to visit government sites or research financial issues.  Many of the elderly have uncovered the beauty of the digital travelogue and the value of having a book review available through a simple click.

This gateway to the outside world is critical once the elderly become homebound.  While teens have moved on from Facebook, the older generation has found that it serves them quite well.  Seniors have discovered that Skyping is a great way to bring relatives from faraway destinations right into their living rooms.  Twitter has become popular for keying into specific news sections they want to follow.

While their younger counterparts use social media in a “selfie” sort of way, the elderly, who are very sensitive to privacy issues, use it to connect with like-minded individuals. They use it for health information and to connect with others experiencing the same challenges.  They have recognized that others in their stations in life are also online and have used it to start discussion groups for life and health issues pertinent to them.  From dementia to depression to diabetes — all can give and receive support from the comfort and convenience of their home.

Doctors and other professionals have keyed into this demographic and set up social media pages to take advantage of this customer and patient outlet.  Groups for the elderly experiencing specific ailments as well as groups directed at their caregivers are all set up for those elderly who are increasingly availing themselves of this supportive network.

Computer classes at senior centers are growing in popularity.  Classes on computer basics as well as instruction in using email and other social media platforms such as Facebook have become more common.  In fact, the Jewish Council for the Aging in Washington, D.C. offers an entire Senior Tech program.  DorotUSA.org has a whole program called University Without Walls specifically designed for seniors who are homebound where they get to participate in stimulating classes and lectures through their computer or tablet.  Local AARP chapters also offer computer basics classes and sometimes partner with vendors for discounts on the hardware.

Research shows the Internet has become an important way to exercise the minds of seniors.  A new study out of England and Italy finds that when the elderly are trained in the use of social media as well as Skype and email, they perform better cognitively and experience improved health.  During a two-year period, 120 seniors in the UK and Italy aged 65 and above were given specially designed computer training and were compared against a control group that did not receive any.

Among those that used these tools, their mental and physical capacity improved as opposed to a steady decline experienced in the control group.  One woman reported feeling “invigorated” rather than “slipping into a slower pace” and caring more about her appearance and losing weight.  It seems that satisfying our basic social needs can have synergistic effects for our overall health.

Overcoming loneliness is that much easier through the Internet and social media.  As more and more of the population ages and sticks closer to home, the Internet as a support and educational tool becomes ever more important.  Technology has greatly ameliorated the potential of our seniors feeling isolated and alone.  Let’s help them take advantage!

Read Article (Anita Kamiel | huffingtonpost.com | 03/07/2016)

I agree, let’s help them take advantage.  But there are many seniors that don’t have local access to training like this, where they can meetup with like-minded folks.

But our service can give them that face-to-face instruction & provide a chance for questions and answers right from the comfort and convenience of their home.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars