Monthly Archives: May 2016

App of the Week – EasilyDo Email

easily doWe all know how difficult managing our email can be. Especially when you have tons of mass emails flooding your inbox, or inboxes. Mass emails are the primary tool of marketers, political parties, charities and many other groups trying to get your attention. There is a word for this, its called spam. That is why EasilyDo Email is the App of the Week.

EasilyDo Email for Apple devices takes the effort out of unsubscribing from mass email messages, or spam, you have no interest in. Just tap the menu icon in the top-left corner of the inbox. Under the ‘Assistant’ option sits a tab for ‘Subscriptions.’ There you will see a list of current email subscriptions. Beside each on you will find an ‘x’ box. Just tap the box and kiss mass email bon voyage.

You have the option of changing your mind with the undo option that appears immediately but quickly disappears a few seconds later. Unsubscribed email appears at the bottom of your subscriptions list, grayed out for reference.

Lets face it, we all get those emails and ask ourselves; where did that come from? Or how did they get my email address? The answer is simple, there is a massive email market that buys and sells email addresses by the millions. No matter how many emails you unsubscribe from there is always another list out there.

Easily Do Email claims to be better at searching for messages than Apple’s default Mail iOS app by searching deeper and faster into your email archive. It also offers an ‘Assistant’ feature that  lets you quickly see a listing of all your travel-related email arranged by the next upcoming travel and followed by email related to previous trips.

EasilyDo Email’s ‘Packages,’ ‘Bills & Receipts,’ and ‘Entertainment’ assistants work in similar manner but not exactly the same. The Entertainment assistant provides notifications for all pending or past events, theater tickets, OpenTable reservations, and more, but it does not segment the alerts into past or future sections.

Email is currently only available for Apple  but does not work on iPad. Hey nobody’s perfect!

Race and Technology – Racism Online

reddit-logo-01-674x501The Internet is a very racist place. Racism online is rampant because many people enjoy the anonymity that the Internet provides. Thoughts, ideas and opinions can be expressed without question.

Extremist groups once had to hand out flyers on street corners or send out mailers. Some groups openly recruited in the workplace, college campuses and churches. This was common before the Internet. My how times have changed.  The Internet now permits extremists access to to a wider, and some would say more receptive, audience especially young people. Communication has become easier between racist groups allowing them to coordinate their efforts across continents and oceans.  Social media sites like Facebook and NewSaxon, a white supremacist dating site,  has been a boon to these groups. The top five racist pages on Facebook are;

  1. Pioneer Little Europe
  2. American White History Month
  3. Barrack Obama’s Dead Fly
  4. Southern Brotherhood Militia
  5. I Love Being White

White supremacists by the thousands access these sites connecting with other like minded individuals through web-based forums or discussion groups.  Because these websites allow racists to connect two white supremacists were introduced by a mutual friend. The two were later arrested for plotting to assassinate President Obama and planning a racist shooting spree. These sites also attract racist prison gangs, political radicals and even the mentally ill. But don’t get it twisted. Not all racist are mentally ill. Many are very articulate when expressing racial hatred even when it makes no sense. Check out some the top racist websites and see for yourself.

Another forum of racist thought is known as Reddit.com Reddit describes itself an “…entertainment, social news networking service, and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links…” Reddit is open to all and allows the users to police the content.

But many people have pointed out that Reddit has a problem with racist postings and content.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a report declaring Reddit as the “vilest, ugliest, nastiest and most unapologetically hateful space on the Internet.”

According to the SPLC Reddit is home to some of the most violent racist videos on the Internet. These video are often extremely graphic images of black and minorities being murdered. These video are so graphic and violent that even white supremacist websites like Stormfront.org cannot post them. Stormfront is the largest white supremacist website with over 200,000 registered users.

There are some shocking revelation about Reddit.com. First of all according to Alexa Internet traffic ranking Reddit has the 9th highest traffic ranking in the U.S. with over 130 million visits monthly and ranks 36th worldwide. Reddit’s topic specific sub-categories, known as sub-Reddits,  are the most racist and most popular.

Second, although Reddit operates independently, it was purchased by Condé Nast, one of the largest mass media companies in the United States in 2006. Third, and most troubling, one of Reddit’s biggest investors is none other than rapper Snoop Dogg to the tune of $50 million dollars. But it’s not all Snoop’s money.  He and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and actor Jared Leto, joined a group of investors dropping the $50 million on the site. Reddit’s is currently estimated to be worth roughly $500 million.

Breaking It Down

Racism is alive and well in the U.S. and online. The Internet is a communications tool that allows people to speak out without name or consequence. Using this darkness ordinary people can vent, denigrate, attack, vilify, even harass and threaten those they don’t like or don’t understand. And yes, black people and other minorities do the same.  But racism is best practiced in the dark. It is most at home and fertile among the ignorant and narrow of mind.  The Internet, like every communication device before it, is being used to spread this ignorance. Things change but they stay the same.

 

 

Buying vs. Leasing Technology Hardware

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Courtesy Dream Designs

Lease or buy technology hardware?  Black consumers need to ask themselves this question because, as I have said before, Black people don’t play when it comes to money. 

Consider your cellphone; cell phone carriers have long practiced the art of selling you a cellphone with their service without actually selling you a cell phone. You know the deal, sign a two year contract and get the cellphone for free or at a discount. Cellphones have never been cheap and the true price of the phones are buried in your wireless bill. Now cell carriers are dropping those two year contracts, slashing monthly fees and creating new programs for the actual cost of the phone.  The option of buying or leasing a phone has become serious money choice.

Consider this, cheaper phones means a cheaper bill every month. If you are sensitive to the steep price of some of the more advanced phones you can drop your monthly bill by selecting a cheaper phone. 

But lets face it; the best way to save big money is to keep your old phone. Think about it, do your really need the latest smartphone just because it’s the newest thing on the market? That is what the cellphone makers want you to think!

Once your current phone is paid for that cost comes off your bill putting $20-30 a month back in your pocket.  Before the death of two year contracts service providers didn’t lower your bill even if you didn’t upgrade to a newer device.

If you must have a new phone for whatever reason you can always buy a nice refurbished smartphone. They are often just a year or two old and much cheaper than brand new phones. Many of these phones are refurbished by the manufacturer and are hard to tell from new. Finding these phones is simple just search online.

You have to do the math and see where your best deal is. Sprint and other carriers are offering some interesting deals where you get to upgrade the phone every two years without actually buying it. Sprint comes right out and says you are leasing it.

At the end of the lease you have the option of turning in the old phone (just two years) and getting an upgrade and keep paying. Or you can pay off the balance on the phone and just pay for the monthly service. 

AT&T recently has changed its phone plans making it tough to own a phone. Where it once offered three plans AT&T now offers only two. The new plan, titled AT&T Next Every Year, offers an annual upgrade and lets you trade-in your current phone as long as you’ve paid 50 percent of its retail value. The other option, AT&T’s Next plan, offers a 30-month financing plan. With AT&T Next you trade-in your phone after two years as long as you’ve paid 80 percent of its value. You also have the option of 24, 18 or 12 month lease plans. But you need to check the fine print on these plans. Both plans require you to trade-in the financed device meaning there’s no option to simply pay one off and start fresh with a new device or just buying a service plan. You just keep paying. The cellphone industry is getting tricky so you need to seriously consider buying versus leasing your next phone.

Another area to consider lease versus buy is your home Internet connectivity. Ask yourself this question; how long have you been leasing you Internet router and cable modem? Probably years. Now do the math. How much would a new router and modem cost you that you own free and clear? As little as $99 each. The average person can save as much as $250 dollars a year depending on the combination of router and service you currently pay for.  Starting to get the picture?

Here are a few things to think about when considering leasing versus buying a router and modem. To start make sure the equipment you buy is compatible with your Internet providers networks. You can usually find that information on their website or give them a call. Also consider technical things like learning how to configure it for maximum performance and security. If you have multiple wireless devices in your home you must consider how your router will perform and that includes television and telephone service. Some routers have a limited number of devices it can service effectively. Finally, if you have trouble or a breakdown of equipment you are responsible for repair or replacement of the equipment. 

With a lease you won’t have these worries. You just call your provider and problem solved.

Now you know.

 

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Drake, Carmelo Anthony

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Drake

According to Billboard, rap artist Drake has broke out with his his first solo hit “One Dance.’ The cut is one of two singles from his new album Views. The second cut  ‘Pop Style’ reached the top spot on the newest edition of the Billboard Hot 100. ‘Views’ skyrocketed to the top with first week sales of over 1 million units. Drake shattered the record for first-week streaming totals even though it was available exclusively on Apple Music.

Drake is an accomplished artist but has never had a number one hit he could call his own. Nine other Drake songs have made it to the top ten and come temptingly close but fell short only reaching the number two spot.  These include 2009’s  ‘Best I Ever Had’ and 2015’s monster hit ‘Hotline Bling.’ Drakes exclusive deal with Apple iTunes contributed to the album missing out on the top spot . Drake’s only other number one hit was laid on Rihanna’s 2010 “What’s My Name?” and this year’s “Work,” both rose to the top spot.

The most amazing fact of Drake’s recent success is that he sold a million units of ‘View” in less than five days on Apple iTunes and its subscription streaming service.

‘Views’ was released on April 29 and had 191 million plays by the following Tuesday blowing Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ out of the water. The biggest difference between the two releases? The services they each chose to exclusively stream through.

Let’s look at the numbers. Beyonce released “Lemonade’ through her husband Jay-Z’s Tidal music service. Drake through Apple. So its not hard to understand why Drake’s new album became so popular so quickly. He got a helluva of a lot more from Apple Music’s three times larger subscriber base than Jay-Z’s Tidal.  Apple simply had more ears to pump Drakes music into. Drake is riding high on Apple iTunes and launching a summer tour.

‘Melo’

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Carmelo Anthony

Preparing himself for life after basketball Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is setting his sites on the tech industry. Anthony has partnered with Stuart Goldfarb to promote technology entrepreneurship forming Melo7 Tech Partners a venture capital fund.

Anthony and Goldfarb hooked up socially and soon began discussing a business venture. Anthony has had a long time interest in technology and said, “The money is enticing but it’s also the thrill of being involved with businesses and companies changing the world today. Tech is changing the world in everything we do, whether it’s sports, fashion, music…. regardless of what it is tech is changing the world.”

The NBA New York Knicks are using Catapult , a wearble device to collect data and analytics on the team’s performance. “In the NBA everything is data. Everything is data driven,” said Anthony.

But ‘Melo‘ as he is known, maybe looking at some cutting edge technology investments. According to Goldfarb virtual reality and augmented reality devices are technologies that spark investment interest from the fund.

“For me the most interesting thing is fan engagement,” Anthony said. Virtual reality could give fans at home an opportunity to experience a game as if they were courtside,” he said. “And who wouldn’t want that?”

 

 

 

 

Race and Technology – Algorithms

Algorithm– a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

AlgorithmsIf you think computing, technology and the Internet is color blind you would be wrong. We are learning that race plays a big part in the way computers operate because people operate computers.

Amazon is currently under fire because its algorithms have told it not to offer Amazon Prime service to minority areas of Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York City and Washington, D.C. The algorithm basically figured out that these areas are unprofitable. According to Amazon it was not a racist act but instead a simple business decision based on an algorithm.  But the question remains; is this racism?

Algorithms can be racist and sexist. Algorithms decide what ads minorities and women see on websites. Studies have shown that marketing algorithms recognize certain patterns that indicate the race and gender of the person by the websites they visit.  This is called bias. Because of algorithms women will see jobs that pay less than men and Black people see ads for certain neighborhoods but not others.  The result is that certain information and opportunities are hidden or withheld from women and Black people.

An analysis by Bloomberg reveals that Amazon has some explaining to do. Amazon claims that it cares not who shops at their online stores. According to Craig Berman Amazon’s Vice President of Global Communications, ““We don’t know what you look like when you come into our store, which is vastly different than physical retail. We are ridiculously prideful about that. We offer every customer the same price. It doesn’t matter where you live.”

Amazon has been working to compete with the retail stores by meeting the need for immediate gratification of buying something and having it right then and there. Amazon’s same day delivery is meant to do just that. It promises same day delivery on millions of products for Prime members in cities where the service is available. The service is available in 27 cities with coverage in most areas within the city limits.  However Bloomberg’s analysis shows the service is not available in predominantly black neighborhoods in six major same-day delivery cities. African-Americans are about half as likely to live in neighborhoods with access to Amazon same-day delivery as white residents.

Amazon is not deliberately making decisions on where to deliver based on race. According to Berman the ethnic make up of neighborhoods isn’t part of the data Amazon uses to make decisions on where to deliver.  “When it comes to same-day delivery, our goal is to serve as many people as we can, which we’ve proven in places like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Demographics play no role in it. Zero.”

After coming under fire for its algorithms Amazon has changed some of its delivery areas as a result.  In Boston, Amazon has expanded to the predominantly Black community of Roxbury. Amazon has also responded to complaints in the Bronx, New York and Chicago.

But there is clearly more to algorithms than just performing calculations. A recent discovery by an MBA student revealed a  search on Google for unprofessional hairstyles returned hundreds of pictures of black women with natural hairstyles. A search for professional hairstyles returned  pictures of  white women.  In many of the images the hairstyles were similar with the color of the woman’s skin the only difference. This is the algorithm at work.

But you have to ask; how does an algorithm recognize a black sounding name?  If a person were to Google search a black sounding name the ads that appear with the search return are often for services that let you look up arrest records.  Another example occurred last July when  Google’s facial recognition software tagged black faces with the word gorilla. A Google engineer apologized and fixed the problem. But another search using the word “nigger house” or “slave quarters” returned images of the Whites House. How does this happen?

Some researchers believe that search results that reveal racial or gender biases is the result of the programmers working on an algorithm. Programmers are overwhelmingly white men. Could this be an extension of the lack of diversity in the technology industry? Researchers cite the disproportionate ratio of 2:1 male to female ratio in students seeking coding careers and an even more dismal ration of black programmers. This diversity gap of racial and gender bias in algorithms demands urgent attention and correction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

App of the Week – Earny

earny_LEverybody shops online. Black people especially enjoy the power and convenience of e-commerce. But shopping online has one big drawback and that is buying something only to discover it at a cheaper price later or at another website. That is why Earny is the App of the Week.

Earny allows online shoppers to get a better price by finding the item you purchased at a cheaper price and then getting you a refund for the difference. Yeah, you read that right! Earny will get some money back for you. Not only that but you pretty much don’t have to do a thing.

The app tracks your online purchases and finds your e-receipts by connecting with your email and Amazon accounts to see if you got the best deal. If Earny finds a lower price it will request a refund for you and take a 25 percent cut of the action. The balance will be credited back to your payment card. Yeah, you read that right! Earny automatically tracks your purchases and files for refunds or credits when it beats the price you paid.

Earny is programmed to understand the price match policy of online stores and knows how to file claims without any help from you. Think of it as a robot refund machine.

Earny can track purchases from over 50 stores including such giant retailers as Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Nordstrom, and many others. Is this the bomb or what?

Earny is about to get a lot better according to co-founder Oded Vakrat.  Vakrat plans to provide consumers with the same protections across a variety of services.

“For example, flight tickets, hotels, car insurance, health insurance, phone plans – all those things we will focus on in the future,” he says. “We want Earny to watch your back for every payment you make,” adds Vakrat.

Earny is free and available at Apple and the company is developing an Android version.

App of the Week – Romex

RomexYou hear it and you see it everywhere you look; texting and driving. Yet some people simply don’t get the message that distracted driving is extremely dangerous. It could cost  you or someone else their life. It has already and it will again. That is why Romex MyFix is the app of the week.

The Romex app uses a smartphone’s GPS system to detect the speed the device is moving. If that speed is faster than four miles per hour, it locks the device. Simple yet ingenious.

According to the Center for Disease Control in the U.S. at least 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured everyday in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. The CDC’s definition of distracted driving is  “… driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving.”  StopTextsStopWrecks.org reports that 44 States, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.

If Romex detects your phone moving faster than you can walk or run the app disables the screen. This makes it impossible for you to respond to calls, texts, emails, social media, and all the other crap you do on your phone that could get you killed. If you’re a passenger using the Romex app you can set the app to a different mode so that you’re not subjected to a trip without your phone.  But we know that there is a stubborn and stupid driver that will disable the app.

Right now Romex is offering its app to corporations wishing to ensure that their drivers aren’t using their phones while driving the company car. But it expects to release a general version to the public soon.

The Romex app will cost money to download, but could save drivers money on insurance premiums. Romex is currently looking for an insurance partner. According to sales director Steve Arscott, “One good incentive for a young driver to have it on their phone is they would get a rebate on their insurance policy.”

 

Breach Brief – Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Email

gmailIts likely that you have either a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo email account. Its also likely that it has been compromised.  According to Reuters over 270 million stolen Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Hotmail and other email account credentials are floating around in Russia’s cyber criminal underground. Email credentials are your username and password.

These stolen email credentials were discovered by Hold Security. Researchers discovered a Russian hacker going by the name of “the Collector,” saying that he was ready to give away the credentials.  “The Collector” offered the credentials to cybercrime expert Alex Holden for free just for the publicity. Holden previously uncovered breaches at Adobe, JP Morgan and Target.

The total haul of the theft was estimated to be over one billion records but the security company eliminated duplicates lowering the total number of  credentials to just 272.3 million.

Yahoo mailMost of the credentials were associated with the Mail.ru service. Email credentials from Germany and China were also found among the stash.  However a significant number belonged to U.S. email providers. The remaining stolen credentials breakdown as follows, Yahoo Mail, 40 million credentials stolen; Microsoft Hotmail, 33 million; and Gmail 24 million. It’s not known if any of these accounts have actually been breached.

The most frightening detail of this breach is that many of the emails are linked to employees of some of the largest U.S. banking, manufacturing, and retail companies. Hold Security has informed the affected companies and organizations.

Hotmail-logoIf you have a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail account you should immediately change your password. Experts also recommend that you set up two-step verification on your email accounts. Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail all offer two factor authentication that sends a second password to your smartphone when you sign in.

Officials at Yahoo and Google have yet to issue a statement about the breach. Microsoft said through a spokesperson that the stolen credentials are an unfortunate reality but that it had measures in place to detect account compromise.