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Media News Smartphones Technology

Mobile Phones and the Right to Search (and Privacy)

cnn.police

Earlier this year I wrote an article about whether the police had the right to search your laptop when you are passing immigration into the USA. The discussion has moved on however, and this week there is a Supreme Court case about whether the police have to right to search an individual’s mobile phone when they are stopped upon suspicion of having committed a crime.

Given the UK governments discussion about the stop and search powers currently in use, there are some serious questions to address here. We now carry our lives with us on our mobile devices. To call them phones is to do them an injustice, they are computers with the possibility of making phone calls. They have our medical, personal, business, banking and emotional data, and the question is whether this is public or private information if the police stop you.

Here in the USA the law has allowed police to search these devices without a warrant, although they could not search your computer in your house without a judge’s permission, and this seems to be an anomaly given changes in how we carry our lives with us.

The case before the court involves David Riley, who was pulled over for driving with expired license plates in 2009. When his car was impounded and inventoried, police found guns in the boot and decided to investigate further.

They looked into his phone and found evidence that he might be in a gang, they downloaded videos, contacts etc and some of this information was used to convict him.

Here in the US the case has been followed by journalist Nina Totenberg, and she has a fantastic account on her blog. You can either listen to her radio report or read a transcript of it. I have taken some of it below to give you an idea of how the debate is unfolding. The question is of whether a warrant should be required, but the following snippets give an idea of how wide the implications for the debate really are:

“It’s not just what can be looked at,” it’s the fact that information from cellphones can be downloaded and kept in “ever-growing databases.”

A person can be arrested “for anything,” including driving without a seat belt, and the police could search that person’s cellphone and “look at every single email” — including “very intimate communications” — as well as medical data, calendar and GPS information to learn everyplace the person has recently been.

People “choose” when they carry their cellphones with them — and thus they should have “no expectation of privacy” if they are arrested.

So some of the questions could be, when the police stop and search you, what do they have the right to look at? If you are then arrested should they need a warrant to search your mobile devices? Do you have the right to privately carry digital information?

Categories
Computers News

Android Operating System Moving into Appliances

The Android operating system may be best known as an OS for mobile phones, but Google’s operating system is branching out and getting into your kitchen.

Google Android's LogoNever mind your smartphone or tablet; what about your fridge, or your oven?

Soon, Google Inc. is hoping to be controlling devices in your home from televisions to rice cookers.

There’s already Android-enabled TVs, with the Android mini 4.0 that turns your television into a smart-TV. You can get hold of these from places like Appliances Direct. Just with the dongle, you can connect to the internet via your Xbox or Wii U, or even hook it up with your tablet or smart-phone. It’s easy now to watch YouTube or browse the internet in the comfort of your own front room and thanks to Wi-Fi there’s no fiddling about with cables and wires.

The main hook with smart-TV is the apps available on your television, including the capabilities to make Skype calls on the big screen.

So what exactly is in store for your kitchen?

Appliances like fridge freezers could be operated by Google in the near future. Take Samsung’s T9000 refrigerator, which will be available to purchase shortly. It’s kitted out in full for the modern home, with a 10 inch Wi-Fi touchscreen and the option to download such kitchen-friendly apps as recipe-maker Epicurous or note-taking Evernote.

And what about a rice cooker? Able to determine the type of rice and exactly what cooking instructions to follow, gear like this will be able to keep track of your shopping habits, keep tabs on your favourite brands for research purposes and suggest new brands to try.

Soon you can have a kitchen full of appliances sending information to each other. With the Andriod OS in tow, products like LG’s ThinQ refrigerator can connect to the LG SmartOven, telling it when to start preheating and to what level depending on your choice of dinner that evening.

Most smart appliances are set to run by your instructions via text, too. Put your dinner in the oven when you set off for work and a quick text on your way home turns the oven on so you’re greeted with a cooked meal when you walk through the door.

With microwaves, washing machines, ovens, fridges and even coffee machines and getting smarter, how long will it be before your home is full intelligent stuff? The kitchen of the future is apparently closer than you’d think.

Categories
Computers

Commodore is making a comeback

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People who were born after 1990 tend to consider a world without the technology they rely on so much an unimaginable place. However, such a world existed not long ago. In fact, while technology existed a decade prior, it would be considered stone age artifacts by most people today who utilise touchscreen mobile devices and lightning fast desktop computers.

Unfortunately, few people take the time to look back and appreciate the types of devices that paved the way for the popular pieces of technology that we use so often today. Whether it is that massive cell phone from an episode of Saved by the Bell, or the Commodore 64 from 1982, there are many forgotten pieces that were the stepping-stones for modern technology.

An old computer
A Commodore 64

To help neutralise this widespread neglect, the commodore is being re-released with a few modern upgrades. This re-release has been received with high regard by both people from the generation of the original commodore, as well as people from modern generations just discovering its significance.

Below are a few elements of the modern Commodore that people are finding most appealing.

Nostalgia

One of the most notable benefits that people see with the release of the modern commodore is the nostalgic aspect it provides. While the hardware specifications have been modernised, the overall look and feel of the new commodore has remained true to its roots. The keyboard keys are the same shape and colour as the original commodore. Additionally, consumers can even play the old 8-bit games that were all the rage back in the heyday of this classic machine.

Functional Enough For Modern Usage

The new commodore has been equipped with some modern hardware that makes it operational for general use with modern amenities without much trouble. While it does not have the performance capability of an ultrabook, it does have generous processing power with an Intel Atom 1.8 GZ dual core CPU as well as 2 GB of RAM that can be doubled if the consumer wishes for a little more speed. Additionally, there is a wide selection of USB ports available to ensure all of your peripherals can be utilised.

Affordability

Another beneficial element of the commodore that has attracted consumers is the price. Consumers can expect to pay anything from $250 for the most basic option to $850 for the most decked out model.

The re-release of the Commodore has caught the attention of a wide selection of consumers. From people of the generation that used the first C64 model to play their 8-bit video games, to people from modern generations that are just discovering this important machine. Whether you want to relive the good old days of simple technology or just want a fun conversational piece, the new commodore might be a good investment for you.

Categories
Computers Gadgets Media Technology

Why you need waterproof electronics

When I dropped my phone into the toilet I was amazed to see that it continued to work for a few seconds. All hope was quashed however 2 minutes later when it stopped, short, never to work again. I had only paid 26 dollars for it from ebay, but this was not the first time that such an incident had occurred in my household. My wife dropped her phone in the toilet on the day I bought it for her and I fell over whilst wading through a river in a drunken moment of foolhardiness and drowned my first mobile (and almost myself).

None of this need ever occur again however, thanks to nanotechnology. A company called Neverwet has designed an all purpose waterproof coating that can be sprayed on that repels water so well that they can even show a computer dipped into water while turned on still operates. Last year they won the Grand Prix Award as an innovative start up and their product is really quite impressive. Check out the video on their website.

A man working on a computer underwater
Mr Phelps at work

The technology has many applications, it can be used to protect materials used under the sea to prevent corrosion, fabrics or small articles can be either dipped or sprayed, but the most interesting application certainly seems to be in electronics. A mother board can be sprayed and then used in wet conditions without failing. A great breakthrough I think.

If you are interested in weatherproofing you should know that there are already many all weather computers on the market. Terralogic sell a range of rugged computers and accessories for work and military purposes. Obviously if you are carrying a computer on a battlefield it cannot be a domestic lightweight and easily damageable machine, so these beasts are designed to be shock and water resistant, and they come in military green so you stand out from the crowd in your local Cyber cafe.

If you really need to go and work underwater you can purchase the WetPC, designed for the Australian military by Kord Defence Systems. This little baby is designed for underwater note taking, and offers a host of improvements over previous attempts making it much more user friendly through the adoption of its 5 key system. Combinations of the keys perform different functions making the machine suitable for underwater archeology, research and engineering as well as water sports.

If you want to go one step further how about the underwater cell phone? This little package allows you to make a receive calls as you dive, and works either at sea or in the lake or pool at the bottom of the garden.

Underwater Phone
The Alpha underwater phone in use

Joking aside the technology is designed for commercial divers. The kit can be used with any phone that has a voice dialing system, as it sits within a face mask that is attached to a long lead with a floating buoy attached. The buoy hosts the broadcasting technology so that the user can connect to their normal service. All for about $1700 US. Take a look at the Ocean Reef company website for more details and to see what else tickles your fancy.

So just dip your HP into Neverwet for domestic use or go the whole hog with a military machine, the choice is yours, but in the days of rising sea levels it is always better to be prepared.

Categories
How To Guides Search Engines SEO

Tips to improve your mobile SEO

Mobile search engines contain different algorithms and bots than used for traditional web searches. They evaluate websites as it is being rendered on a mobile phone. The ranks are computed based on how well the page is rendered for the phone that submits the queries. One thing you can do to improve your mobile SEO is to make verify the user agents, and the mobile crawlers can pick up your content.

Mobile phone search engines are not as finely tuned as traditional search engines. They are still placing tons of weight on bounce rates and using mobile visitors as barometers for how websites renders on phones.

One neat suggestion in improving your mobile search results is to follow traditional SEO strategies. Mobile indexes and bots determine different from web search. The differences entail things such as alt tags; heading tags and title tags are still dominant with mobile SEO.

After performing traditional SEO strategies, it proves necessary to create a secondary mobile sheet from your website. This will allow for formatting of existing pages to be viewed on mobile phones without having to create separate content. It gives you strength with the SEO value that you have already performed on your website minus creating new pages. You can use the mobile style sheet to assist in blocking things from being rendered with using a “display: none” on the style sheet. All mobile phones with the exception of iPhones can automatically pull the “handheld” style sheet.

iPhones determine different with not searching for mobile “handheld” style sheets. In addressing this critical problem, ensure that you copy your handheld sheet, and create on that is geared for the iPhone. The iPhone is meant to render entire website pages, and people statistically still prefer mobile-formatted content on their iPhones.

What Google search results look like on a smartphoneSometimes, mobile search engines will rank traditional pages but consider them ill-suited for rending on mobile phones even with mobile-specific style sheets. When this happens, the mobile search engine will rank the traditional content but “transcode” it for viewing on mobile phones.

Transcoded versions of websites are hosted on temporary subdomains on search engine’s domains. Typically, this provides a user experience that proves under-optimized. This is because navigation sometimes is broken or misplaced and the individual pages are separated into different pages for faster downloading. This can prove problematic when it comes to tracking activity on your mobile website, and if someone links to your content, the website might not receive credit for the links. Address this problem with a “no-transform”header of your content. The no-transform in the cache-control should stop transcoding.

Next, you should include a mobile-site map. Google provides tools that can help you in building one of these. For website owners using multiple-markup languages such as WML (Wireless Markup Language) or XHTML, you should submit separate mobile sitemaps per languages being used on the website. Ensure that you link to mobile site maps in your robots.txt file, the same as you would for traditional site maps.

When you are submitting a mobile site map, add the mobile style sheet and the no-transform tag for this should confirm fitting in getting the mobile search engines to rank your content.  Another excellent tip is to make sure your traditional content will work on mobile phones. This will provide the best chance of faring well with higher numbers of browsers and phones.

If your content on your website does not include external style sheets, or contains sloppy code or too many media files, the content will have problems rending on mobile phones. You might want to make mobile-specific content on a mobile sub-directory or sub-domain. This can generate tons of problems for SEO strategists because it can end-up splitting traffic and links between two sets of similar pages.

You should use a “handheld” style sheet with the no-transform designation. You can also re-arrange code so that it proves more suited for crawling and rendering. Redirection and browser-detection and self-selection are how websites and mobile phones interact with one another. Browser detection and re-direction is the process that appears to see what browser the website visitor is using to access your website. If the mobile browser is requesting the traditional website, a single PHP script can redirect the user to the mobile phone website. If a browser is requesting the mobile website, it can redirect them to the traditional website. This proves helpful if your website out-ranks your mobile website in mobile searches.

When you think of mobile SEO, the act alone proves dangerous to create a duplicate copy of your website and placing it in a sub-domain. Most website owners think that mobile phones are capable of interpreting the duplication, but unbelievably, they can become confused. When confusion occurs, your new mobile content has a very-little chance of outranking your traditional website in the mobile searches. Redirection and browser-detection should take care of these issues, but there is always a chance of duplicate content taking away value from the content located on the main website.

If this happens, you can try using a canonical tag that will promote the value from your mobile website back to your main website. You can then rely on your browser-detection and re-direction to take care of it. What proves dangerous in this scenario is that you might hurt your rankings for searches on the primitive mobile phones. The reason is that you are pushing the total SEO value into non-mobile content.