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Open WiFi Networks Giving Google Your Physical Location

For quite sometime Google has been sending out vehicles all over the world to drive around taking pictures of neighborhoods for its Street View product. If you haven’t looked at Street View before, it’s an amazing feature. You can find a place in Google maps and then see just what it looks like.

What I didn’t know was this same vehicle that was snapping these pictures was also collecting the names and unique MAC address of every open WiFi network they encounter. The MAC (Media Access Control) address is a unique identifier assigned to network adapters or network interface cards, this address is intended to be a permanent and globally unique identification number. By collecting the MAC address and a GPS reading they can tell exactly where on the globe these WiFi connections are located .

When you are using an open WiFi Network that Google has indexed, they will be able to tell where you are.

If I have a question, I ask Google because it know everything, doesn’t it?

Google Blogs about this.

Junk Faxes

People are always sending “The 800 Directory” e-mails looking for information on toll free numbers listed in junk/spam faxes. They want the information so they can contact the companies sending the faxes and make them stop. Unfortunately these companies don’t list their numbers with us. They make sure and hide any contact information but the toll free number. That way when things start getting too hot, all they have to do is change their toll free number and they disappear.

However, there is a way to deal with problem faxes: On line Faxing Services

Most faxing services offer two things that will help:

  1. Spam/Junk Fax Filters  -These filters will move junk/spam faxes into a junk folder (just like e-mail spam filters). While you will still be paying for these faxes, you will not be see them or using resources to print them.
  2. Block lists – This lets you block certain people from sending you faxes, some services even provide you with lists to help you in stopping problem faxes.

There are other advantages to use on line faxing. It sends faxes to your e-mail saving you time and effort looking at the fax machine. It saves paper, they are never busy, can’t jam or run out of paper. If you still have a fax machine and are paying for a fax line ($30-$60 per month), on line faxing should save you money. Think you’ll find your current local fax line cost greater than the fax service.

The only downside to using on line faxing is you have to scan your documents into your computer to send them out. Once you have he document in the computer it’s just as easy to send an e-mail, but then some people demand it as a fax and then you use your service.

NetBooks

For a long time there were two types of computers for the common user, laptops and desktops. Years ago I mostly used my desktop, my laptop was just used on trips or when I went to remote locations. Then wireless networking came alone and my laptop started get some use at home. There is value to being able to move with your computer from room to room. When I got my laptop I went for the big screen and fast computing power, it was going to replace my desktop. The problem with the big screened laptop is you have a big laptop to haul around.

Enter the Netbook. The Netbook was small and light, easy to take anywhere I went. It was less powerful than my laptop, but as it turns out, that didn’t really matter for the things that I use it for.  Netbooks are the size of a book and you can hold them for hours with out getting tired or cooked by the heat. When you add the extra long battery, you can go all day without plugging into a wall. Making is possible to charge it while you sleep and then use it all the next day on the battery.

Lots of people talk to me about how much they love their Blackberries and Iphones. Their screen are just too small for me and I like the idea of a full computer. It’s the Netbook, that device that falls between laptop and Iphone that I’ve fallen for. It’s got it all—games, books, movies, music and the much used wireless Internet connection.

For now the Netbook is my favorite computing device. My costly laptop it went unused for months, my wife is taking it over.

McAfee Update Crashes Some Computers

Automatic updates in anti virus programs have caused me problems for years. On many occasions customers would call because their e-mail programs couldn’t connect to the mail server.  I’d spend a couple of minutes checking the obvious stuff-like are they connected to the Internet. Then the next step would be to turn off anti virus and/or firewall software. Like magic that alway seemed to fix the problem, the customers almost always asked, “Why did it just now stop working, I didn’t change anything?”.

Those un-noticed and un-asked for changes these programs make are not always as harmless as they would like you to believe. Just last week a McAfee antivirus update wrongly identified a critical Windows system file as a low-threat virus and removed it.  Apparently thousands of computers refused to boot properly, lost their network connections, or had both problems.

In my mind I can see all those people looking at their computers and thinking, what happened I didn’t change anything.