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Tech news from 2023 you won’t believe

As we cozy up by our virtual fireplaces during this holiday season, let’s take a whimsical journey back through the year 2023, a time when remarkable and sometimes downright bizarre tech developments were all the rage. So, while you sip on your hot cocoa and embrace the holiday spirit, join me as we embark on a lighthearted adventure through tech tales that’ll warm your geeky heart and push the boundaries of human ingenuity in a way that only tech can.

Wi-Fi imaging through walls 

To start us off, a question: have you ever wanted to be a superhero with X-ray vision? In January, we heard about scientists from Carnegie Mellon University who are making it happen. They’re using Wi-Fi routers to see through walls and image a human’s 3D shape and pose. It’s like something out of a sci-fi flick, and it has the potential to monitor the well-being of elderly folks or spot suspicious behavior. Let’s just hope they leave a note for anyone who obtains this superhero tech, reminding them that with great power comes great responsibility!

Science returning the dodo

De-extinction with genetic engineering

Back in January, the news crossed my desk about Colossal Biosciences planning to bring back the extinct dodo bird using genetic engineering. That’s right, the dodo could be making a comeback, along with the woolly mammoth and the Tasmanian tiger. They’re not exact copies but the closest analogs science can produce. It sounds cool, but it does raise ethical and ecological questions about the “de-extinction” process and its potential impact on ecosystems. Either way, hold onto your feathers, folks — we’re in for a wild ride! 

WordPress breathes new life into prison journalism

Imagine a world where WordPress, the go-to platform for bloggers and website builders, is not just for your personal musings but also for prisoners trying to make their voices heard. Well, that’s exactly what happened with the Prison Newspaper Project, courtesy of the Prison Journalism Project (PJP). In February, they launched their news portal on WordPress, giving incarcerated individuals a platform to share their stories and connect with a global audience. The PJP’s innovative move to modernize these newsrooms with WordPress not only gives prisoners a chance to express themselves but also opens doors for educators, researchers, and readers worldwide to engage with their narratives. It’s a story that shows technology’s power to break down barriers, even the ones made of steel bars.

Mushroom computers in Bristol 

Now, let’s get a little wild with this one. Picture this: mushrooms, yes, those fungi you put on your pizza, teaming up with motherboards. In Bristol, at the University of the West of England, some brilliant minds embarked on a quest to integrate oyster mushrooms into computer infrastructure. As we discovered back in February, these mushrooms have a memory and can send and receive signals. In fact, they have a communication system that’s often compared to the Internet. The idea is to combine the powers of Mother Nature with the prowess of silicon chips, creating computers that are part biological and part artificial. Imagine a future where our computers and networks are intertwined with the natural world, much like the Matrix but hopefully without the dystopian mayhem.

AI deciphers animal communication 

Ever wanted to have a heart-to-heart chat with your furry, feathery, or scaly friends? The Earth Species Project is taking a leap towards making it happen. This non-profit, founded by some big shots from Mozilla Labs and Twitter, is on a mission to use artificial intelligence to decode non-human communication. In May, we learned how scientists are working to decipher the bioacoustic data collected from our animal pals and translate it into human languages. Large machine learning-based language models, similar to the ones powering ChatGPT and Google Bard, are working to understand the relationships between words and meanings in various languages. The potential here is staggering, especially for wildlife conservation and scientific research. Imagine understanding the secret language of animals, from dolphins clicking beneath the waves to birds chirping in the treetops. It’s a story straight out of a science fiction novel, but it’s happening right before our eyes.

NASA’s talking spaceships

It’s not just animals! In the world of space exploration, NASA is taking a page from your favorite chat app and developing talking spaceships. Back in June, we learned that these spacecraft will feature a ChatGPT-style interface to converse with astronauts and mission controllers. Imagine astronauts having a casual chat with their spaceship, discussing the mysteries of the universe over a cup of cosmic coffee. This could revolutionize space exploration and make lonely space voyages a thing of the past!

AI helps develop final Beatles record

AI and the final Beatles record

Now, for the music lovers among us, the Beatles are back, thanks to AI! News broke back in June that Sir Paul McCartney and a team of sound engineers used artificial intelligence to create the “final Beatles record.” They extracted John Lennon’s voice from an old demo to complete the 1978 Lennon composition “Now And Then.” It’s a blend of old and new, a musical reunion transcending time and technology. And despite his reservations, even McCartney admits that AI is the future of music. The song dropped in November to the delight of Beatles fans around the world. Rock on, AI!

NFTs take a dive

Remember NFTs, the once-red-hot craze that had everyone losing their minds during the pandemic? Now, the tradeable digital image fad is looking more like a flash in the pan. As we learned in September, 95% of those NFTs are now as valuable as a screen door on a submarine. dappGambl’s analysis of over 73,000 NFT collections revealed that most folks holding these digital treasures are now stuck with virtual dust collectors. Only 21% of these collections were fully sold, signaling a declining demand for what was once the talk of the town. It seems like the NFT bubble has burst — and I’m not shedding any virtual tears for it.

AI diagnosing chronic pain

AI diagnoses chronic pain

Now, let’s talk about a heartwarming story that we learned about in September. A boy named Alex was in chronic pain for three long years, visiting 15+ doctors with no luck. That’s when his mother, Courtney, decided to turn to artificial intelligence for help. She provided detailed MRI notes to ChatGPT, and the AI chatbot suggested tethered cord syndrome as a possible diagnosis. Turns out, the AI was spot on! This story underscores the potential AI tools have to improve and even save lives, and it’s a testament to how technology can bridge gaps in healthcare. Kudos, AI, you’re a lifesaver!

Disney’s robo-dazzler

Wrapping up our look back at technology in the news, we’ve got Disney taking the stage with a showstopper at the 2023 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. Disney Research unveiled a robotic character with personality. Imagine R2-D2’s sass, WALL-E’s charm, and the Terminator’s moves all rolled into one. Thanks to some genius work by Moritz Bächer’s team, they streamlined the fusion of animator vision and real-world robot motions using reinforcement learning. The result? A 3D-printed robot that’s full of equal parts charisma and mobility, boasting a four-degree-of-freedom head and five-degree-of-freedom legs. Disney’s stepping into a whole new world of robotics, and I’m here for it!

The year 2023 will be one to remember

Ah, what a ride it’s been! These are a few of the stories I found to be the most compelling over the past year because they remind me that the tech world is anything but predictable. As we look forward to 2024, I’m excited to see what the future holds. I bet it will be filled with surprises and innovations beyond our wildest dreams. Next month, we’ll look at some of my predictions about where tech could be headed.

Until then — keep your curiosity alive and stay geeky, my friends!

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wpadmin December 4, 2023 0 Comments

Cybersecurity basics: securing your digital store

When it comes to protecting your small business, a two-pronged strategy revolving around data backups and encryption can be a real lifesaver. In this age of evolving cyber threats, these often-underestimated practices offer more than just peace of mind; they are instrumental in safeguarding your digital assets. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Understanding the cyber threat landscape

While the digital landscape offers countless opportunities for small businesses, it is not without its risks. The increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks mean small businesses must be proactive in fortifying their digital assets against malicious actors. 

Cyber attacks can range from phishing schemes to steal sensitive customer data to ransomware attacks that can shut down your entire operation. Understanding the types of threats you face is the first step in building a solid defense. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways malicious actors can attack your business:

  • Ransomware invasions
  • Phishing emails and websites
  • Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks
  • Malware and spyware

Understanding these threats underscores the need for the following cybersecurity measures in your digital storefront. But knowing the risks is only half the battle. Let’s examine why you need backups and data encryption.

A laptop and folders protected by a lock

Why backups and encryption are key

The lifeblood of any business in today’s landscape is data. From client contracts to financial spreadsheets, the loss or unauthorized access of this information could lead to a complete operational meltdown.

Backups ensure that you have a safety net to fall back upon, and encryption ensures that even if your data falls into the wrong hands, it’s rendered useless.

The multilayered approach to backups

In the grand chessboard of cybersecurity, backups serve as your pawns — humble yet crucial, often saving the day when other defenses falter. But just as pawns can move in multiple ways, so too can your backup strategies.

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a small business owner, your data is your most valuable asset. Here, we’ll dissect three popular backup approaches to help you tailor a strategy that aligns with your unique needs.

On-premise backups: the local heroes

On-premises backups are essentially the “homebodies” of data safety. Stored within your local network on dedicated servers or on high-capacity drives, this method offers the benefit of speed. When you’re facing a data loss incident, time is of the essence. 

With on-premises backups, quick and easy recovery is just a few clicks away. Moreover, this setup provides you total control over your data, a perk for businesses that handle highly sensitive information.

logos of cloud-based backup systems

Cloud-based backups: your off-site guardians

Imagine having a secure vault that’s not even in your office. That’s cloud-based backups for you. By storing your data off-site on servers located potentially anywhere in the world, you’re adding an extra layer of protection. 

Even if a local disaster like fire or theft compromises your physical assets, your data remains untouchable. Major services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive offer scalable solutions with varying levels of storage and security features, making them versatile for different business needs.

Hybrid backups: the best of both galaxies

Why settle for one when you can have both? A hybrid backup strategy blends the localized convenience of on-premises storage with the robust, off-site security of cloud backups. 

This multi-layered system creates redundancy, ensuring your data remains accessible and secure, regardless of what the universe throws at you. A sudden server crash won’t spell doom if you’ve got a cloud backup, and internet downtime won’t be a hurdle if you’ve got local backups to fall back on.

Crafting your backup solution

Whether you lean toward on-premises, soar in the cloud, or opt for a blend with a hybrid system, understanding these different approaches is pivotal. Your data is the DNA of your business. Lose it, and you lose a part of your business’s identity. 

By choosing the right backup system, you’re not just ticking off a box in a compliance form; you’re fortifying your digital castle, ensuring it stands tall and resilient in the face of cyber sieges. 

When you’re designing your backup strategy, think about everything that your business encompasses—from server architecture and backend data all the way to things like social media advertising channels, contact lists, and more. No two backup solutions are the same, and yours must be tailor-made for your particular business–it’s the only way to maintain both security and ease of use at the same time. 

Now that we’ve covered the diverse roads you can take with your backup strategy, let’s turn our attention to its equally important counterpart: data encryption. After all, what good is a backup if the data it holds isn’t encrypted and secure?

Turning a key in a padlock

The ins and outs of data encryption

Data encryption is a critical component of cybersecurity, transforming readable data into a coded form that can only be accessed by those with the proper decryption key. Understanding the different types of encryption is essential for determining the most suitable option for various applications. Let’s explore each one in detail.

Symmetric encryption

Symmetric encryption relies on a single key for both the encryption and decryption processes. This method is generally faster and consumes fewer system resources than other encryption types. However, its main drawback is that the same key is used for both functions. Therefore, if the key is compromised, the security of the encrypted data is also compromised.

Asymmetric encryption

Asymmetric encryption uses two different keys: one for encryption and another for decryption. This means that even if someone gains unauthorized access to one key, the data remains secure because the second key is still required for decryption. While this method offers an additional layer of security, it is usually slower and demands more computational power.

End-to-End (E2E) encryption

End-to-end encryption ensures that data is encrypted at the sender’s end and is decrypted only by the intended recipient. This adds another layer of security because, during the transmission process, not even the service providers handling the data can access it. This method is often used for secure communications and transferring sensitive files.

Making an informed encryption choice

The choice between symmetric, asymmetric, and end-to-end encryption depends on various factors such as the speed, resource availability, and the level of security required. Each encryption method has its advantages and disadvantages, but all serve the same purpose: to secure data against unauthorized access.

Updating encryption algorithms and backup protocols

In the fast-paced world of cybersecurity, standing still is not an option. Keeping your encryption algorithms and backup protocols up to date is crucial for maintaining a secure digital environment. 

  • Update encryption algorithms. Older algorithms can have vulnerabilities that put your data at risk. Make it a point to adopt new algorithms as they become available, closing any potential security gaps.
  • Reassess backup strategies. Your data needs and vulnerabilities evolve, and so should your backup strategies. Regularly review and test the types of backups you’re using and the frequency with which they’re created and tested. Ideally, you should keep all backup-related data in a single integrated dashboard so you won’t have to fiddle with a dozen types of software and risk missing something. 
  • Conduct regular audits. Periodic audits help pinpoint weaknesses and ensure compliance with specific regulations (think GDPR or HIPAA). An audit can give you actionable insights and catch issues before they become full-blown problems. 

Cybersecurity is an ongoing commitment. Regularly updating your encryption algorithms and backup protocols keeps you ahead of emerging threats. In cybersecurity, proactive beats reactive every time.

Keep your business safe

While the broader scope of cybersecurity can be overwhelming, concentrating on backups and data encryption can offer a significant security boost for small business owners and freelancers.

It’s not just about guarding against disasters; it’s about fostering a secure environment where your business can thrive without constant worry. After all, prevention is indeed better than cure, especially when the antidote is as straightforward as backup and encryption.

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wpadmin November 29, 2023 0 Comments

Why you need .CO or .CLUB for your next online project

With over 1.5 billion websites in existence, it’s hard to stand out in this crowded, digital universe. When choosing a domain, it’s easy to be drawn to the ever-popular .com, but you may find the one you want has already been snapped up.

Why not think outside the box? 

Let’s look at how a .co or .club domain might be the perfect fit for your next online project. 

Hedgehog uses .co domain

The entrepreneur-friendly .CO

Although the .co domain is a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) assigned to Colombia, anyone can claim one these days, making it a popular alternative to .com.

It’s often used by startups and entrepreneurs, as “co” is associated with company, corporate, or commercial, and being short, has a fresh and modern appeal.

Tech startups, in particular, love the domain, and in recent years, it’s become synonymous with blockchain technology and crypto sites, such as stacks.co, a Bitcoin layer that enables decentralized apps. The social media giant formally known as Twitter used t.co for their URL shortening service. 

But .co isn’t just reserved for Silicon Valley. Businesses across the globe are using it. Taco Bell used the .co for wordplay — if you type ta.co in your browser bar, you’ll be redirected to the homepage.

Convinced? Register a .co domain now.

The fan-favorite .CLUB

From health clubs to nightclubs, and golf stores to after-school clubs, the .club domain is a fitting domain for a variety of online ventures. You can use yours to bring fans and like-minded individuals together, whether that’s in your small town or on a global scale. 

Retail stores like supermarkets or online discount stores can run a .club site alongside their main site to promote reward clubs for loyalty or seasonal discounts for the holidays. 

With so many applications, it’s easy to see how the .club is a great alternative to .com. 

Ready to join the .club? Register a .club domain now. 

How to choose a domain name for your project

Now you’re ready to get started, here are three handy tips on creating the perfect domain name:

  1.  Make it memorable

The first thing you’ll want to remember about your URL is that it needs to be memorable. Your first and last name, for example, is a great starting point if you’re looking to publish your portfolio or start your freelancing gig.

  1. Make it relevant

If you’re starting a maple syrup-making club in Vermont, consider using keywords like ‘maple,’ ‘syrup,’ or ‘Vermont’ in your domain name. Using relevant keywords not only supports the first step, making your domain name memorable, but it also can help with search engine optimization (SEO). By providing those relevant keywords on every page of your website, Google’s algorithms can easily match your website with people who are using those keywords in their search.

  1. Choose a domain name that’s short and easy to spell

While vermontmaplesyrupclub.com may seem like a memorable domain name, it’s long – which also means the margin for consumer error (typing in the wrong address) can be high. Find ways to make your domain name as short as possible to ensure your customers are able to find your page easily — you wouldn’t want them to stumble on a competitor’s site. 

A great way to shorten your domain name is to consider alternatives that are as unique as you, like .club or .co. These domains let customers easily identify you in search results, have more easily available URLs, and create a more memorable brand.

Go forth and register

Now, you’re equipped with everything you need to get started! Register a .co or .club for your next online project today.

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wpadmin November 27, 2023 0 Comments