Secure your digital identity with Two-step Authentication

I am assuming you have already heard about the Heartbleed bug. If not, here’s what it is: most websites use a technology called Open SSL to securely communicate between users and servers. The servers were compromised due to a vulnerability in the Open SSL code. Due to this vulnerability, hackers may have gained access to millions of usernames and passwords. Your login credentials on many websites are most probably compromised. This breach is not the first time hackers have gained access to usernames and passwords. And I’m sure this won’t be the last time.

Usernames and passwords are gatekeepers to your digital identity. When usernames and passwords are compromised, your digital identity is at risk. If your login credentials are misused, it may take years to recover from the damage. Whether it is your personal brand or your business, securing your digital identity is extremely important.

And thus, it brings us to the following important questions:

  • As a user, how can you safeguard your usernames and passwords on frequently used websites?
  • Is there a way to ensure your usernames and passwords are useless to hackers even if websites are hacked and your credentials leaked?
  • How do you add one more level of security and prevent unauthorized access to your email, Facebook, Twitter,  LinkedIn, or any other website that defines your digital identity?

The answer is two-step authentication.

Two-step authentication (also known as two-factor authentication or two-step verification)

What is two-step authentication? The first step when you logon to a website is to enter your username and password on the login page. Some websites have added another layer of authentication. In addition to your username and password, websites send a security code via SMS to your phone or show a code generator. If an unauthorized user tries to use your login credentials from an unknown location or browser, a code is sent to your cell phone. Without this code, it is impossible to logon to the website even if an unauthorized user knows your username and password. Using two-step authentication, you can now ensure your login credentials are useless to any unauthorized user.

To summarize, here’s what you do when using two-step authentication:

  • Step 1: Enter the username and password.
  • Step 2: Enter the code sent to you (via SMS or code generator). Step two is only if you logon from a new browser/location.

Two-step authentication is a very powerful feature. However, in my humble opinion, this feature is hidden to the user and not marketed well.

How to enable two-step authentication?

Let’s see how to enable two-step authentication for frequently used websites. As I mentioned earlier, this feature is hidden deep inside websites. Users need to navigate multiple menus, pages, and workflows to enable two-step authentication. Here are a few examples on how to enable two-step authentication for services like Gmail, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

Gmail

1) Logon to your Gmail.

2) Go to user@gmail.com at the top right corner.

3) Click Account.

4) Click Security.

5) Click Setup.

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6) Click Start setup.

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7) Specify your cell phone number. Click Send code.

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8) Enter the code and click Verify.

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9) Select Trust this computer. (If this is your personal computer, it may be a good idea to select this option.)  Click Next.

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10) Click Confirm to turn on Two-step verification.

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Before these settings are permanent, you must logoff Gmail and logon again. Now, each time you (or an unauthorized user) tries to logon using your username and password from a different browser or location, Gmail sends a code to your cell phone. Without this code, no one can logon to your Gmail account.

This is what you see when you try to logon to Gmail from a new browser:

gmail

 

Facebook

Facebook has built an amazing code generator as part of the Facebook App on smartphones. Instead of an SMS, you can choose to use the Facebook Code Generator for Two-step authentication. A unique code is generated every 30 seconds right on your smartphone!

1) Logon to Facebook.

2) Go to Settings.

3) Click Security.

4) Click Edit for Login Approvals.

5) Select Require a security code to access my account from unknown browsers. Click Save Changes.

 

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6) This message is displayed. Click Get Started.

 

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7) Select the kind of phone you use. Select Android, iPhone or iPod Touch. Click Continue.

 

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8) Go to the Facebook app on your iPhone or Android phone. Go to Menu > Code Generator and click Activate. A code is shown on your Facebook app. A new code is shown every 30 seconds.

 

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9) Enter the security code shown on your smartphone into Facebook on the browser. Click Confirm.

 

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You are now protected by the two-step authentication using the Facebook Code Generator. Each time you access your Facebook account from a different browser, you will be asked to enter a code from the Facebook Code Generator on your smartphone in addition to your username and password.

This is what you see when you try to logon to Facebook from a new browser:

FB_Code

 

LinkedIn

1) Logon to LinkedIn.

2) Go to Account and Settings (click Review).

3) Click Account.

4) Click Manage security settings.

5) Click Turn On for Two-step verification for sign-in.

 

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6) Enter your cell phone number. Click Send Code. A code is sent to your cell phone via SMS.

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7) Enter the code and click Verify.

 

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Two-step authentication is now turned on for LinkedIn. Each time you access your LinkedIn account from a different browser,  a code is sent to your cell phone. You must enter this code in addition to your username and password to logon.

This is what you see when you try to logon to LinkedIn from a new browser:

LinkedInCode

A final word…

Whether it is a keylogger stealing your password from a public access computer, or a hacker hacking into a secure server, your digital identity is always safer with two-step authentication. Even if your usernames and passwords are compromised, two-step authentication keeps your accounts safe using security codes. Even if an unauthorized user gains access to your username, password, and security code, they are useless for using on another browser. If your usernames and passwords are leaked, they are useless without the updated security code from two-step authentication.

Two-step authentication will not protect servers from hackers. Hackers have stolen over 900 Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) from the Canada Revenue Agency systems. Many online services are planning to update their systems to protect against Heartbleed. For example, BlackBerry plans to release a Heartbleed patch for BBMs. As a user, there is not much you can do to protect your information on government systems or enterprise services since they are out of your control.

However, your online accounts are better protected if you are using two-step authentication. Whether it is the Heartbleed bug, a malware, virus, or an unauthorized intrusion, your usernames and passwords are useless to any unauthorized user. Twitter, WordPress, and many  online services now offer two-step authentication.

The security for your digital identity is fragile. So stay safe, stay protected, and secure your digital identity before it’s too late.

 

[Edited by: Prarthna Sri]

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DSLR vs. Super Zoom: A user’s dilemma

When my regular point-and-shoot died, I was faced with a dilemma of whether I should go for a DSLR or a Super Zoom camera. When I was analyzing the differences between a point-and-shoot, Super Zoom, and a DSLR, the following information confused me the most:

  • Point and shoot: 10 Megapixels
  • Super Zoom: 10 Megapixels
  • DSLR: 10 Megapixels

How could three different cameras, with varied features, give the same 10 Megapixel output? (What is a Megapixel, by the way?)

I found it prudent to approach this confusion with some logical reasoning. Obviously, I needed some answers before I could pick a camera. I was looking for simple information, which was hard to find on the Internet. The information available on the Internet had too many technical details (ISO, f –stops, crop factor, depth of field) and jargons (Single-lens reflex, APS-C sensor, micro four thirds). The information available on the Internet is aimed at people who understand the nuances of photography and not end-users. Being an end-user, I wanted to cut through the jargon.

Some of the questions that I needed answered were:

  • What is a DSLR or a Super Zoom camera? (without too many technical details)
  • What are the main characteristics of each camera?
  • How are they different? (without the jargon)
  • Which one will best suit my needs?

(A) How is an image created in a digital camera?

Before going into camera types, let us look at how an image is created in a typical digital camera:

  1. Light: The essence of a photograph – light falls on the object.
  2. Object: The inspiration behind the photograph – the object, which is being photographed, reflects light onto the lens.
  3. Lens: The eye of the camera – light enters the lens.
  4. Shutter: The gatekeeper – the shutter opens for a fraction of a second to let the light in.
  5. Sensor: A Pixel is born! –light falls on the sensor and is converted into pixels. A pixel is 1 unit of the photo captured by the sensor. A photo is made up of many pixels (and hence the term Megapixel which is equal to one million pixels). Cameras had films in the past, which has now been replaced by a sensor.
  6. Processor: A byte born! –pixels are analyzed by the processor and converted to data (bytes).
  7. Storage: The photo is saved – the photo is stored as data on the memory card or internal camera memory.

Now, let us talk about different types of cameras – DSLR and Super Zoom.

(B) What is a DSLR?

A DSLR has the following characteristics:

  1. Shutter – A DSLR has a mechanical shutter. When you press the shutter release button, the shutter opens for a fraction of a second to let the light in. Anything that does not have a mechanical shutter is not a DSLR. The DSLR gives out a loud Clack sound when you press the shutter release button.
  2. Interchangeable Lenses – A DSLR has the feature of interchangeable lenses. You can use a Wide Angle lens (18-55mm) or a Zoom lens (100-300mm) depending upon your requirement. For example, if you want to shoot a large landscape view of a mountain, you could use a Wide Angle lens. If you want to go closer to an object, you could use a Zoom lens.
  3. Larger Sensor – DSLRs typically have larger sensors.

(C) What is a Super Zoom (also known as Bridge or a Hybrid Camera)?

A Super Zoom camera has the following characteristics:

  • Electronic Shutter – Super Zoom cameras do not have a mechanical shutter. The shutter is entirely electronic.
  • Single Lens – Super Zoom cameras have a single lens that can go from 24mm (Wide Angle) to 840mm (Super Zoom – and hence the name). You cannot change the lens.
  • Smaller Sensor – Super Zoom cameras have smaller sensors than a DSLR.

Super Zoom is also called a Bridge camera since a user moves from a point-and-shoot to a Super Zoom and then a DSLR. Since the Super Zoom basically, acts as a ‘bridge’ between the two types of cameras, it is called as Bridge. Also, Super Zooms have excellent lenses (comparable to entry-level DSLRs), but smaller sensor sizes. Since they perform like a point and shoot with some characteristics of a DLSR (good lens), they are also called Hybrid cameras.

(D) What is the difference in quality of photos between DSLR and Super Zoom?

With all the above information, I was still unable to figure out the exact difference between a DSLR and Super Zoom. Assuming the DLSR uses the same lens as a Super Zoom (to compare apples to apples), what does a larger sensor actually mean if both cameras are 10 Megapixels?

Here’s how I understand it – a DSLR has more definition per pixel.

Simply put, when both DSLR and Super Zooms are rated with the same Megapixel count, the DSLR has a larger surface area on the sensor to define the same pixel. Theoretically, if you had to pick out 1 pixel from a photo taken by a DSLR and a Super Zoom, the pixel from the DSLR would have more information about the image.

Let us compare the difference in definition between a DSLR and a Super Zoom to today’s Web and Social Media tools. Let us say I wanted to tell the world the difference between a DSLR and Super Zoom. I could do it in the following ways:

  • Send a Tweet in 140 words.
  • Write a Blog post in 500 or more words.
  • Create an entire Website containing 50 pages with 500 words per page.

I am saying the same thing, but in three different ways. I am getting the same message across, just in different depth. Similarly, a DSLR gives you maximum definition per pixel simply because it is able to capture more information with its larger sensor. A Super Zoom gives slightly less definition for the same image by capturing slightly less information on its smaller sensor.

A DSLR undoubtedly has the best picture quality since it packs more definition per pixel.

(E) Advantages and Disadvantages of a Super Zoom

After a lot of consideration, I finally decided to buy a Super Zoom Camera. Based on my analysis, the Super Zoom had some distinct advantages over DSLRs. The Super Zoom also had quite a few disadvantages when compared to DSLRs.

Advantages of a Super Zoom camera:

  • Compact – easy to carry around. Good for travel.
  • Cheaper – way cheaper than a DSLR.
  • Single lens – you don’t have to buy multiple lenses. You can easily go from 24mm (Wide Angle) to an 840 mm (Super Zoom). Considering the cost of multiple lenses and the inconvenience of carrying an entire bag just for lenses, the DSLR does not make sense.
  • Never lose the moment – since you can quickly go from wide angle to super zoom with the same lens, you need not fumble around for lenses and miss the moment. For example, you can capture portraits, macros, birds, or high-speed boats with equal ease!
  • Great picture quality – good for digital publishing and small-size printing.
  • Easier to maintain – dust particles entering the sensor when you change lenses is one of the greatest drawbacks of a DSLR. Since a Super Zoom has one fixed lens, there is no question of dust entering the sensor.

 Disadvantages of a Super Zoom camera:

  • Smaller sensor – Less definition per pixel. Therefore, you cannot magnify photos like you can in a DSLR. If you plan to print poster-sized photos, a DSLR is the best option.
  • Single lens – A one size-fits all lens can only do so much. Having a portrait and landscape lens helps in a better picture quality, which a Super Zoom can only try to match.
  • Less features – There are some advanced features in a DSLR that are not available in a Super Zoom. For example, a wireless remote shutter release is not available in a Super Zoom.

As far as I am concerned, I am really happy I decided to go with a Super Zoom (a Canon SX 40 HS). Whether you want to buy a DSLR or a Super Zoom really depends on your requirement, taste, budget, and how likely you are to carry the camera around. I hope this information helps you decide whether to go for a DSLR or a Super Zoom.

To see photos taken using my Super Zoom camera, visit my Photo Blog.

Simplicity. Stability. A Technological Marvel!

I was looking for an operating system that is extremely stable, required less processing power, worked on low memory, never crashed, and was very easy to use. Having used Mac OS X, Windows 7, and iOS, my expectations were extremely high. I was thrilled to discover an operating system that was simpler, better, faster, and more stable than the other operating systems I had used.

Around four years ago, I stumbled upon Ubuntu. Ubuntu changed the way I looked at operating systems. Ubuntu combines the power, stability, and security of a Linux operating system with the ease of use of Mac OS X, Windows 7, and iOS.

Ubuntu can easily revolutionize home computing, or even small business computing. Here’s why:

Simplicity

Ubuntu is extremely easy to use. A user, with absolutely no knowledge of computers, can easily start using Ubuntu. For home computing, all you need is a stable system, an excellent browser, and Office programs. Ubuntu provides all that – and more. A few years ago, I was impressed with the Apple App store that made installation very simple. Ubuntu goes farther than iOS in ease of App installation.

Stability

Firstly, Ubuntu worked smoothly on my old laptop with just 128 MB RAM and a 133MHz Celeron processor. Secondly, Ubuntu never crashed and never corrupted the installed programs. Finally, Ubuntu was inert to viruses, malware, spyware, botnets, and ransom-ware. My computer worked perfectly for many years. In fact, this is my third computer running Ubuntu.

Here’s a quick tour of Ubuntu for Netbook.

Ubuntu Desktop:

The ubuntu desktop is very clean to look at. The icons on the left give ready access to various frequently used programs. The top menu bar allows you to access advanced configuration options and various tools.

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Menu for Communication

The menu allows you to chat or launch an email program. You can use ALT + TAB to navigate between programs (just like Windows).

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Menu for Connections:

The menu allows you to connect to Wireless or Ethernet with additional connection options.

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Menu for Exploring the Computer:

The explorer menu helps you navigate the computer or the network right from the Desktop.

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Open Office: Writer

Open Office is an open source (free) program that is very similar to Microsoft Office. This program is very useful to the home user or small business. Open Office works pretty well and is extremely stable.

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Dashboard:

The dashboard allows you to navigate to other programs on the computer. Just move the mouse over the Dashboard icon, and additional options appear.

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Installing Applications:

This feature beats any know operating system – even iOS. Ubuntu displays the programs Most Frequently Used, Installed, and Apps Available for Download. Unlike Windows, you don’t have to open a browser, search the Internet, download and then install the applications. Most available applications are readily displayed and can be installed directly from list!

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The Cloud: Ubuntu One

Ubuntu is futuristic. Ubuntu provides a cloud to store your files.

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Ubuntu is an amazing operating system that can help home and small business in the following ways:

– Save money on software licensing
– Use existing hardware instead of upgrading
– Security (a UNIX core is very secure)
– Stability (a very stable operating system)
– Install Free (Open Source) programs like Open Office
– Simplicity and ease of use (easier than Windows or Mac OS X!)
– All drivers available (printer, webcam, and other drivers work fine)

Is it time to abandon Windows and Mac OS X?

(If you want to try Ubuntu without going through the trouble of installing it first, you can do so at the live Ubuntu demo: http://www.ubuntu.com/tour/en/)

ZeroLemon: The Solution for Power Guzzling Smartphones

As the world waits for the launch of the new iPhone, can you guess the most requested feature? You may be surprised to know that it is not the fingerprint scanner or a better camera. According to a poll conducted by USA Today, the most requested feature in the new iPhone is improved battery life! The iPhone (or for that matter, any smartphone) guzzles power like a thirsty horse drinking water out of a river. It’s not just Smartphones, Tablets, or Phablets that guzzle power. With the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, wearable gadgets need powerful batteries too.

Since the launch of the first iPhone, there have been numerous advances in smartphone technology. Better processors, more memory, increasing storage, and better cameras. The only thing that does not seem to have improved much over the years is the battery.

I have used many smartphones over the years, and all of them had the same problem; a battery that runs out when I was about to send an important email at the end of the day. Or, when I needed to call home to say I am on my way.

Over the years, I have tried many battery solutions and different ways to ensure my battery remained charged:

  • Mophie Juicepack Air –  Mophie is  a case for your smartphone that also includes a battery. The battery in the case charges the smartphone’s internal battery. The disadvantage of the Mophie is the lead time for charging your phone. When you are on a call, you are consuming a lot of power. Battery charging is a slow process and Consumption is always faster than Charging.
  • iGo Green USB charger –  iGo Green is a battery that plugs into the wall for charging. Once the iGo Green is charged, you can charge your smartphone through a built-in USB port. The disadvantage of the iGo green is that you need to charge the battery first. If the battery is already drained when you need to charge your phone, you are out of luck.
  • Spare charger – Of course, you could leave one charger at work and one at home. What about the car and the meeting room? Or the transit? I can think of too many situations where you need to charge your phone and it is practically impossible to have a charger everywhere.
  • Predictive usage – If your battery goes below 10% stop watching the YouTube video and wait till you get home! Believe me, I have tried this too.

A smartphone cannot work without a charge and you are disconnected from work, home, and friends when your battery runs out. I was wondering how to ensure that my smartphone’s battery stays charged for at least 12 hours. If I could get through the day without losing charge, I could charge my phone when I got home. With superior battery technology not coming anytime soon, I had to look for a solution to stay connected.

Then I found the perfect solution – ZeroLemon.

The ZeroLemon battery is a 7000 mAH (milli-Ampere Hour) battery as compared to the original 2100 mAH battery that comes with the Samsung Galaxy S3. It is obviously more than three times the original capacity. The ZeroLemon battery takes 6 hours to charge and lasts 3 days even with heavy use! Even when I used my S3 for calls, texting, social media, Internet, Netflix, flash photography, and email, ZeroLemon refused to die.

Here are a few photos of the battery that has truly changed the way I use my smartphone:

Front of the ZeroLemon battery when compared to the original Samsung battery:

1

Back of the ZeroLemon battery:

2

Thickness of both batteries:

3

Samsung Galaxy S3 when you insert the ZeroLemon battery:

4

Samsung Galaxy S3 with the Zero Lemon battery and case:

5

Finally, if you are interested in comparing the thickness:

6

The Samsung Galaxy S3 surely gets a bit bulkier with the ZeroLemon battery. However, it is interesting to note that it is less bulkier than the OtterBox case. For a little additional weight, you get three days worth of battery. Now, you can always stay connected.

Here are the battery usage statistics from my Samsung Galaxy S3 when the ZeroLemon battery was about to run out. As you can see, the battery lasted me a full 2 days and 19 hours with 3% remaining:

Battery_Stats

ZeroLemon is available on Amazon. ZeroLemon sells extended batteries for many Android phones. Sadly, they do not sell an extended battery for the iPhone. Try out the Zero Lemon battery and let me know how you liked it.

Disclaimer: The Digital Dimension of Technology is an independent non-commercial technology blog. We have not been endorsed by ZeroLemon. 

Where the Worlds Collide: Smartphones turn into Desktops (or SmartTops*)

The past decade has seen more technological innovation than the past century – at least in the world of mobile computing. Netbooks, Smartphones, Tablets, and finally Phablets have revolutionized the world.

A new phenomenon is emerging – where Smartphones are turning into desktops. Sounds funny, doesn’t it?

Consider this: What’s the configuration of your smartphone? Most likely, it’s a dual-core processor with at least 2 GB RAM, and a 32 GB of disk space. Good examples are an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S3. What’s the configuration of your home computer? Most probably, the processor is lesser than a dual-core, with 2 GB RAM, and a large hard disk. Putting all of these together, your smartphone today may as well have more processing power and memory than your basic home computer.

Yet, we have a home computer, for general Internet surfing, printing, or for things that you can’t yet do with your smartphone. And yet, most of us carry a smartphone.

Here’s a revolutionary idea: What if your smartphone could also be your home computer?

And this revolutionary idea comes to you not from Apple or Google, but from Canonical, the guys that brought you Ubuntu. Canonical has released a developer version of Ubuntu for Mobile. You can load this operating system on your smartphone. You can connect your smartphone to a dock to switch to Desktop Mode. You can then use your smartphone as a desktop computer simply by connecting a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to the dock. After using your Smartphone as a Desktop, just unplug it and put it in your pocket!

Here is a conceptual representation of the setup:

Ubuntu_Mobile

Intriguing? I think so. Here’s where you can read more about Ubuntu for Mobile: http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/phone

In my opinion, here are some advantages of using a single device (for a home user):

  • Programs: Install all software programs on only one device..
  • Data: Store your data on only one device (may also be synced to a cloud).
  • Mobility: Carry the device around.
  • Security: Manage security for only one device (anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, theft protection etc.)
  • Cost: Cheaper, since there is only one device to buy.
  • Software Updates: Update software on only one device.
  • Space: Saves space in your home.
  • Environment friendly: Save power and creates less electronic recycling.

Here are some advantages of using a single device (for a business):

  • Mobility: Welcome to the mobile enterprise – all employees are mobile.
  • Mobile Device Management: IT administrators can now use Mobile Device Management instead of Desktop Management solutions (the desktop market is shrinking anyways).
  • Licensing: Save on licensing costs for expensive programs.
  • Unified Threat Management: Unified Threat Management on only one device – a boon for IT administrators.

I would love to have an Ubuntu Smartphone that is also my home computer.

In all fairness and much as I love the concept, there are some serious disadvantages to using an Ubuntu phone as a computer:

  • Processor Speed: Can we have a processor that is as fast as Core i7 on a Smartphone? Not yet.
  • Memory (RAM): Smartphones are yet to reach the 8 or 16 GB category.
  • Network Speed: Smartphones do not have Gigabit Ethernet. Ethernet ports are still very useful when it comes to communicating over high-speed networks.
  • Battery Technology: How reliable are smartphone batteries? Obviously not as reliable as a desktop computer that is plugged into a power line. (You might want to read more about my idea on battery technology in my earlier post Is the Smartphone Industry Curious about Curiosity?.)
  • Applications/Programs: Finally, the obvious – Ubuntu for Mobile may not have as many programs as Windows. Windows still rules the market with millions of programs, drivers, and tools for business.

I guess technology has reached a full circle from Desktops > Laptops > Netbooks > Smartphones > Tablets > Phablets > finally to SmartTops*!

Let’s wait and watch to see if SmartTops* rule the market like Smartphones or Tablets.

*SmartTop is not an industry terminology. I came up with this term for this blog post. Remember, you heard this word here first. Ubuntu for smartphones may get in touch with my $$ anytime soon 🙂

 

How would you describe Facebook without the Internet?

With all the Social Media buzzwords floating around, someone who was not born with a smartphone in their hands would find the idea of Facebook extremely complex. I tried to explain the concept of Facebook to my parents. However, I realized that some user-interface elements obvious to me were not obvious to someone who equates their computer with nothing except email.

Facebook does a great job of marketing itself. But in my opinion, Facebook does not do a good job of explaining user interface elements to non-technical users. Otherwise, basic Facebook concepts such as Wall, Posts, Comments, Message, Tagging, and Targeted Advertisements would be extremely clear to everyone.

This post is my attempt to explain the various components of Facebook to non-technical users. Let’s assume for a moment that there is no Internet. Describing Facebook without Internet is like describing automobiles without roads, but I’m still making an attempt!

For example, people in ancient civilizations – where modern technology was non-existent – still had a ‘Social Network’. How did they communicate with each other?

Let me tell you a story about ‘Social Network’ in a world without Internet, phones, emails, or smartphones.

Welcome to NoGizmo. NoGizmo is a small (imaginary, I hope) town with around 100 residents. As the name suggests, they have no phones, computers, or Internet. However, they have a very unique way of communicating with each other. This story is about Amy, Bob, and Jim who live in NoGizmo.

The Wall – the main feature

Residents have a whiteboard in front of their houses. They can write anything on the whiteboard. For example, Jim writes short messages about his day-to-day activities. People walking by read the whiteboard.

The Post – communicating with the world

Jim wrote on his whiteboard ‘There’s a huge sale in Home Depot.

The Comment – responding to posts

Amy walked past Jim’s house and she saw the post. Amy picked up a marker and wrote under Jim’s post ‘I’d like to shop there too!

The Security  – allowing only selected people to view/comment on the post

Jim did not want everyone adding comments on his whiteboard. He placed his whiteboard behind a glass door and locked it. He gave copies of the key to selected people who could unlock the glass door to write comments. When Bob walked past, he saw Jim’s message, but could not write on the whiteboard since he did not have a copy of the key to open the glass door.

Messages – sending personal messages not visible to the world

Bob decided to throw a secret party for Amy. He wrote a letter on a piece of paper and dropped it off at Jim’s house. Jim read the message and wrote a reply to Bob on a piece of paper and dropped it off at Bob’s house. They had now planned a party. Only Jim and Bob knew about the party. This was because, communication between Jim and Bob was not conducted on the notice board. This particular communication was private.

Photos and Tagging – sharing photos and identifying (tagging) people

Jim pasted a photo he took with Bob and Amy on the whiteboard. Jim marked the names of the people on the whiteboard under the photo – Amy, Bob, Jim.

Remove Tagging – removing identification

Amy did not want her name on the photo. She walked past Jim’s house, and with her key, she opened the glass door to Jim’s whiteboard. Amy erased her name under the photo.

Advertisements – displaying ‘relevant’ advertisements

The Ad Company  (AdCo) saw the whiteboards as a great opportunity to advertise various products to people. AdCo now has a small space on every whiteboard where it advertises products related to the interests of the people writing on the whiteboard. For example, Amy posted that she plans to go skating. So, AdCo advertised skating gear on Amy’s whiteboard. If Amy saw the advertisement and went to the local sports store to purchase skates, AdCo would get a 5% cut from sale.

Here’s how virtual elements in Facebook compare to real-world objects in NoGizmo:

  • Wall = Whiteboard
  • Post = message/announcement by the owner of the Wall.
  • Comments = response to a Post or a Photo.
  • Security = a locked or unlocked whiteboard; allowing only certain people to comment.
  • Messages = personal messages only visible to the intended recipients.
  • Tagging Photos = identifying/marking photos.
  • Remove Tagging = removing identification.
  • Targeted Ads = advertisements based on the demographic/interests of the user.

The next time your parents/grandparents ask you about Facebook, just ask them to read my story about NoGizmo. I am sure they will enjoy it.

By the way, I’m glad I don’t live in NoGizmo. I can’t live without the Internet or my gizmos!

DSLR Concepts: The watered down basics

For as long as I can remember, I have been a point-and-shoot enthusiast. After using a bridge (SuperZoom) camera for a long time, I finally upgraded to a DSLR.

When I upgraded to a DSLR, I started learning about the various aspects of DSLR photography. I read many blogs, websites, and books that attempted to explain the basics. In my humble opinion, however, all these sources were a little too technical when it came to explaining one concept – exposure.

After reading the definitions from various sources, I would always come away with a few questions:

  • What does exposure really mean?
  • What is the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO?
  • Do I really need to understand these concepts to take good photos?

For a person who has been taking photos for over a decade now, I found these concepts intriguing. I found a lot of technical explanations online for aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. But just like exposure, I found nothing that tied them all together in an extremely simple manner.

This blog post is my attempt at explaining the basic concept of exposure, as I understand it today.

What is Exposure?

A photo is all about light. Exposure is nothing but the quantity of light that is used to create a photo in a camera.

Before going into aperture, shutter speed and ISO, let us try to understand what one must do to fill 1 bucket of water. (Huh?)

Let’s assume you have the following three items to fill 1 bucket of water:

A pipe that carries water.

A valve that opens and closes.

A bucket of a certain size.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you could fill 1 bucket with the following parameters:

Use a pipe of 10-inch diameter.

Open the valve for 10 seconds.

Use a bucket of a 10-liter capacity.

It’s simple isn’t it?

Let’s compare the idea of filling 1 bucket of water to the concepts of photography:

Pipe = Aperture (the diameter of the opening that allows light into the camera)

Valve = Shutter (can be opened for a pre-defined number of seconds)

Size of the bucket = ISO (time taken to fill the bucket; smaller the bucket, the faster it fills up).

So, based on how much water you want, you can fill 1 bucket of water in any of the following ways:

  • Use a 10-inch pipe, open the valve for 10 seconds, and fill a bucket of 10 liters.
  • Use a 5-inch pipe, open the valve for 10 seconds, and fill a bucket of 5 liters.
  • Use a 10-inch pipe, open the valve for 5 seconds, and fill a bucket of 5 liters.

Water vs. Light

The world of DSLR photography with light is not different from filling water in a bucket. You can create a photo by adjusting any of the following parameters to adjust the quantity of light used to create a photo because:

Exposure = Aperture + Shutter Speed + ISO

  • Aperture: Increase the Aperture for more light and decrease it for less light.
  • Shutter Speed: Decrease the Shutter Speed (shutter stays open for a longer duration) for more light and increase the Shutter Speed (shutter stays open for a shorter duration) for less light.
  • ISO: ISO defines how sensitive the sensor is to light. In the older non-digital camera days, films were used to take photos. A term called film-speed was used define how soon the photo was created on the film when light fell on it. A 100 film-speed was less sensitive and 200 film-speed was more sensitive to light. With DSLRs, the term called ISO is used to define how sensitive the sensor is to light. The higher the ISO setting on your camera, the more sensitive it is to light.

Theoretically, you could increase one parameter and decrease the others to ensure that the same quantity of light creates the digital image.

Here are a few examples of a candle photographed with different settings:

1) Auto Mode:

2) High ISO (More Sensitive to Light): Aperture f5.6, Shutter Speed 1/125 second, ISO 1600

3) High Shutter Speed (Less Light): Aperture f5.6, Shutter Speed 1/1000 second, ISO 100

4) Low Shutter Speed (More Light): Aperture f5.6, Shutter Speed 1/5 second, ISO 100

4) Low Aperture (Less Light): Aperture f16, Shutter Speed 1/125 second, ISO 100

If you are using a DSLR in Auto mode, a good way to see the values for Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO is to view the properties of the photo. Better still, you can adjust these parameters to see what effect this has on a photo.

You don’t really need to know these concepts to take a good photo in Auto mode. However, to upgrade from a point-and-shoot mode to a serious hobbyist mode, these concepts are extremely useful. There is so much more you can do in composing the photo if you know how these concepts (Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO) work together to bring a ‘Digital Photo’ into existence!

Stay tuned for future blog posts on other photography concepts like f-stop, crop factor, and lenses.

To see my photos, visit my Photography Blog.