Power on the Appalachian Trail

The one thing about hiking with iPhones is you need power. Last year we carried a rechargeable battery pack and a solar panel to charge it. We had two kits. I carried one and Chris (the other Chris) carried one. The battery pack is good for two charges and we carried the small solar panel on the back of the pack while hiking.

lastyrNow first I have to say the equipment worked great the problem was, most of the time we were hiking under canopy and they didn’t get enough sun. When we hit clear spots and camp at nights we could put them in the sun but they still didn’t get enough time to charge fully.
This year a different approach, carrying pre-charged power packs. Goal Zero had a new product that you charge ahead of time and holds 3 charges (iPhone6). Takes the sun out of the equation completely. I’m carrying one of the new charge packs, one of last year’s charge packs (precharged) and a pencil I had for a while.

3-packsThat gives me enough for 6 charges total and less than a pound. I’m going to use the Goal Zero and pencil and tuck the battery pack away for emergency. Chris will carry a charge pack similar to the new Goal zero and Carol is carrying a pencil.
We each are carrying an iPhone and have enough for 10 charges, more than enough for a six day trip.
The other thing we learned last years is you can have all the power you need but no signal is no signal and where are going is supposed to be some of the most remote on the whole AT. I will post when I can say stay tuned.

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Careful Whom You Trust or Other Ways Your Info Gets Out

I originally sat down to write about a series of items recently in the news. It was to be about the need to be careful of what you say in front of your appliances. I’m referring of course to the Samsung story of their TVs spying on you. But I thought I would check my email first.

I was greeted by several notices from Tweeter that my account was hacked. My password was changed and Tweets sent out to my followers. Twitter shut my account down until I get it straightened out. I apologize to all who were blasted from my account.

I’m taking this as an opportunity for a learning moment. This serves as a good example of other ways your information can get out. What happened? I brought someone new on board to help with social postings. They just purchased a brand new Win8 HP laptop and I just assumed it was safe. Apparently not. This person was in that old mindset that updates are bad and didn’t keep the old laptop up to date. The infection was simply transferred to the new computer. They put my information on that new computer just yesterday and by the following morning my socials were hacked. Now it’s going to be a day of changing passwords, updates, and scanning.

This is a good object lesson. It proves that no matter how diligent you are with your own equipment your info can get out through a third party. This brings up a liability question, who is responsible. Is the third party responsible because the breech was from their equipment or yours because you granted them access?

I’m thinking it is something we now need to add to our vendor agreements. I was lucky this time, it was just one account compromised but it could have been worse. The take away from this is:
1. Keep your software up to date
2. Scan regularly
3. Check out who you give your info to
4. Assign responsibility

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Quality Hits Verse More Hits … Time To Change Your Thinking

For years everybody has been focused on getting to Google’s first page and getting a zillion hits. I know because I get a lot of  “I have all these hits but nobody is buying.“  Well it’s time to change your thinking. It is not how many hits but the quality of the hits. Let me share something I learned from Gene Simmons of KISS fame and also a very wealthy entrepreneur. You do not have to have a number one hit to make a lot of money. What KISS did is also at the heart of Internet marketing, find your market niche!

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Internet marketing have changed quite a bit in the last two years. More I think than it had in the previous 5. Why? Simply, mobile connectivity. Accordingly, how you market has changed. We live in an ‘everything now’ world and you can no longer wait for people to find you. You need to get in front of them and interact and engage them or wham, they are off to the guy doing it better than you.

The first step in this process is to find those people you need to get in front of, find your niche. Next design your site, copy and marketing to address this niche. Do the research, don’t rely on just what you like. And when it comes to your Keyword / phrases don’ skip on the research this is a critical step. These words and phrases are how you will target that market niche and these words will follow you from file names through your content and advertising.

For the purpose of this article the last step is addressing your target market. This is going to include everything from print advertising right through AdWords campaigns and your socials. Now listen carefully, it is very important to optimize your website properly but for more reasons than just Google placement, pay more attention to conversion.

This new marketing is something I coined as “Driving” and that is using all available methods to get my name and web address In front of my audience. I’m looking for people who search for exactly what I have and not broad search terms. I would rather have 5000 hits and 250 sales than 10,000 hits and a high bounce rate, know what I mean.

Lone Bird Studio is Asheville’s choice for mobile web design, mobile apps, and mobile marketing. But use cautiously, results may be overwhelming.


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Are we losing Control of the internet?

Hack, hack, hack. This morning it is Home Depot earlier this week it was Apple last week it was Morgan Chase, add to this the long list of major hacks this year and you can see a definite pattern. So that leads to the question has Internet / computer security completely broken down and have we lost control of the Internet to criminals and terrorists?

Think about it. Pretty much nothing is safe, especially with this new “Cloud” mentality. Once anything leaves your computer, tablet or phone it is open to anything and anybody. How bad is it? Bad enough that Safe Lock has changed their advertising to “stopping MOST threats”, not all threats like they used to.

So exactly what is the “Cloud”? In reality it’s a server farm in Kansas or Texas or Bulgaria for all you know. You are trusting your safety and security to somebody you have no idea exists.

Redundancy and distributed information storage. This simply means that in order to prevent lose data is routinely backed up and spread across a number of servers. This is true for medical records, financial records, email, photos anything that makes it way to the Internet

The side effect of this is when you delete something it can still be out there sitting alone waiting for somebody to find it. Think of these server farms as huge orchards with tons of fruit hanging there waiting for someone to figure out how to pic it and there is nothing you can do about it.

The answer? Obviously there is some personal information that you cannot control like medical records as an example, try telling a doctor he can’t put your info into a database so he can get paid. But you do control other info like passwords and the data you upload like pictures, posts, emails etc. Follow the rule that if you don’t want your mother to see it than don’t do it.

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What I Learned on the Appalachian Trail

As most of you know I took the first 3 weeks of June to hike the AT with a friend to raise money for a scholarship setup in memory of his son and to bring awareness to HCM (Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). I thought we were alone in hiking the AT with a cause but I was wrong. I quickly learned there are a lot of people on the trail for a lot of reasons.

We met Kinder, her trail name, a 63 year old woman. She suffered a stroke two years ago and was hiking the trail to help get over it both physically and mentally and she was doing it by herself. We shared a campsite one rainy night.

We met the professor, a 68 year old man hiking the trail in memory of his wife. They had talked about doing it for years but she recently passed away. He started in Georgia and had no idea how far he was going to make. He just knew he had to go as far as he could. We shared a campfire at Jerry Cabin shelter.

There was Fire starter, a 28 year old man who was lost. Lost in life not on the trail. He had no job, could not get into school, didn’t not know what he wanted or where he was going in life. He was going to walk until he figured it out.

We met a grandmother who was on the trail with her granddaughter. There was Roger Rabbit who was on his third attempt to make it, oh yeah he was 62. There was Buck, six years in the Navy and had to get the military out of his head.

So what did I take away from this, inspiration and self-confidence. There were days that were seven hours of uphill, if Kinder could do it so could I. The next time I have a challenge I’ll remember climbing those hills.

I learned it is about the weight, the more baggage you have the tougher it is to move forward, true in life too. I learned that my problems are small compared to others. And most important I learned to not be so afraid of the unknown.

Chris and I did 84 miles in about 3 weeks, we crossed 17 named peaks, covered some of the highest elevations on the east coast. Matt had a motto “Act as if it is not impossible”. Wise words from someone so young. We left a picture of Matt high on Black Stack Cliffs with a beautiful view overlooking the flatlands of Tennessee.

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Friendly Advice to Deal with the Heartbleed Breech

Everyone has seen news about the Heartbleed virus but here is what they are not telling you.
1- This is probably the largest most offensive hack in the short history of the internet.
2- They do not know for sure how long it has been out there.
3- They have no idea of who or how many people or companies have been affected.
4- It was a beautiful piece of software that left no trace as to its activity.
5- ALL OF US AT SOME POINT HAVE BEEN ON SECURE SITES (https://) which use OpenSSL. Whether shopping, paying bills, accessing everything from Amazon through your bank we have been on sites secured by OpenSSL.
6- What to do. Because there is no way to actually tell how many or who has had information compromised they cannot put a number on it. They do know it is in the millions and chances are good you are one. It is HIGHLY recommended that you as an average person, change ALL YOUR PASSWORDS and please use “Strong” passwords (a combination of upper and lower case letters numbers and symbols).

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Rant About Internet and Computer Security

A few words about computer and Internet security, there isn’t any! This is especially true with email. Email is the single largest spreader of malware and phishing (getting pieces of information) on the planet. Some information is out of your control, like when you swipe that card at Target.

According to CNN Money there are at least two major data breeches a day: department stores, online stores, banks, motor vehicles, Facebook, Gmail the list goes on. What they do is called Profiling. It is just what it says. Somewhere out there someone is building a profile just about you.

First they got your name, address, bank account number and a PIN from data they purchased from someone who hacked a department store, say Target. The next day they meet a guy for coffee and purchases a ton of fresh Facebook data. They took it home and ran it against the first batch and behold they have a match. That match is you and a million others. Now added to what they have is your user name, photos, friends, pets, birthdays, contacts, emails, everything and anything you posted. They will even know when you are not home.

Now with this new data they run an algorithm against your email address and naturally you used a birthday for the password and wham they are in your email account … but hold this thought. What happened to the first batch of information they collected?

While they were working on breaking your Gmail, a Russian mobster came along and paid a boat load for that banking and address info and is off to print credit cards, open accounts, pretty much whatever they want and you would be screwed for years. Back to your Gmail.

First they hit your contacts and address book so your friends and acquaintances can all be infected. Then they scan your email folders, see who you have been talking to. Maybe some account information. Next YOU get an email from Aunt Jen who’s in jail in the UK and needs bail money so naturally you open it. At this point assuming your virus and malware software is up to date it should catch it …. But not always why, ‘cause most of you don’t keep it up to date is the main reason. Same is true with operating systems and browsers and second security is reactive at best.

Did you ever wonder why there are so many updates? Simple every time a security hole is patched the hackers find or build a new one.  But back to Aunt Jen’s urgent email. You open it because it takes a moment to realize that there is no way Aunt Jen could be in jail in the UK.  At this point it is too late. Their little piece of malware has free run. Passwords, user names, account numbers including credit card and banking.  Maybe they installed a key logger. Pretty much whatever they want is all there for picking.

All this information is added to what was already collected and all you can do is sit back and wait for something to happen. Think about it, they could get a passport in your name if they wanted to, get credit, buy a car, get a nose job all on you or are there steps you can take?

The short answer is this, don’t put the information out there in the first place. Next would be, not to store certain information on the computer. Now I know that there are practicalities in place but there are steps you can take to limit your exposure.

Lets’ start with the first, using your credit card for shopping both in a store and online. Do not use a credit card! Instead get a debit card with a set limit. After this past year many credit card issuers have limited store charges anyway. Using a debit card will give you an early warning and a level of damage control.

Now the second one your online personal information. This is a tough one, a lot of fine lines here but for now we are talking usernames and passwords. It is hard not to talk about the kids or birthdays but you do not need to use them for passwords. This is a case where being lazy can really cost you. For me the best passwords are what are called “Strong” passwords. A random mix of numbers and symbols right off the keyboard. Nothing related to my life in any way shape or form. Given that most logins use your email as the user a strong password is your only defense. Use strong passwords for everything but do not use the same one password for all logins. Now how to remember those passwords leads us to the information on your computer.

How can you not store information on your computer isn’t that what they are for? Well yeah and for the most part what is on your computer is of no interest except certain little pieces. And these pieces are usually kept in neat easy to find folders.

Your first line of defense should be your virus and malware filters. This is very important and it is very important to keep them up to date. The same is true with operating systems and software.

Next are those passwords. Rule one, if your computer offers to save or to auto fill SAY NO. This just saves everything into one neat pile. Forget about the software that promises to keep it all safe. So where do you keep all these passwords, banking information, and account logins? Flash drives. Good old cheap flash drives. Save your data to simple word or text files to the flash drive. Only insert the drive when you are going to use it. They are great for backing up data too.

You can load Firefox onto a flash drive and keep your browsing private when using strange machines.

You cannot do this with most mobile devices so you have to careful what you store on your phone. Never store critical information or banking on a mobile device besides hacking they are vulnerable to theft and lose. While we are talking mobile a couple of words about some of the most dangerous places for getting hacked, public hot spots. Coffee shops, airports, down town. It is so easy to spoof a hotspot it is incredible. You could be giving your data to the person at the next table and never know it.

So this is my security rant. So many people are getting hit and it’s not necessary. Just open your eyes to the world we live in and take some simple steps. Make it harder for someone to get your valuable information.



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You Can No Longer Put Off Updating Your Website to Mobile

Numbers don’t lie. There are over two billion people around the globe, who own a mobile device. Manufacturers are continually engineering more affordable smartphone devices targeting developing nations and the number of users around the globe is expected to continue rising by the day. The only way to ensure you remain on the cutting edge of your niche is to have a mobile website for your company.

The average internet user spends more time online using their phone or smart device than they does using a computer. Apart from gaming and social media networking, the mobile user largely depends on the mobile device for Googling. That would explain why Google search engine queries from mobile devices grew exponentially by almost 500% between 2009 and 2014. The implication is that any business that has not invested in a mobile website is missing out on thousands of potential clients.

A mobile friendly website helps your business tap into new markets across the globe. It gives you the chance to grow your business beyond your geographical location. For instance, studies have indicated that mobile users in Australia and Brazil actually shop online via their mobile phones more often than their American counterparts. Going mobile will help your business tap into this emerging market.

When contracting a website design firm to build your company website, it is important to insist on a portable website. It would not make economic sense to pay a lot of money for a website that only loads on a computer. A good website design company should help you get a website that is portable across the different devices to ensure maximum brand exposure to the online community.

There are two main methods that web developers use to make a website portable. The first option is creating a mobile app or a totally new website especially made for mobile devices. The second option is just making one website but coding it to be friendly for both desktop and mobile devices. The best option for your business depends on a variety of issues including the customer base, the functions you need as well as the purpose for the mobile friendly website. Lone Bird Studio an Asheville web design company specializes in both options.

Most smartphone users typically spend more money than their counterpart desktop users. Apart from the higher purchasing power, mobile users tend to have more confidence buying online as opposed to the desktop users. It also opens the door to being able to develop mobile apps for your potential users and let’s not forget AR (Augmented Reality). You can combine mobile devices and AR to bring anything to life from sales materials through video.

Apart from making your website mobile device friendly you need to ensure the website is user friendly. This might mean using different font faces and colors from those used on the desktop version. It is important to remember mobile users spend most of their time browsing social media websites and since all of them are optimized for the mobile phones and mobile devices, they will typically expect the same experience when they visit your mobile website.

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Add New Life to Business cards, Rack cards or Printed Materials

Want to know how? Augmented Reality the new tool in this mobile age to help you get your message out.

What is it and how does it work? Augmented Reality allows you to add a new and interactive layer to objects or scenes that we look at all the time. When someone has a compatible viewer on their device and holds it over your sales materials many wondrous things can happen.

A business or Rack card for example will display an image that seems to hover over the piece allowing you to add hidden discounts, a menu, links to webpages and more. But we are not limited to just flat images like text and pictures. Real estate for example can show a 3D image of the property. You can even rotate it for a complete 3D walk around. Restaurants can use it on menus, it can be used on printed ads and coupons and think of the possibilities for education.

The uses are vast, t-shirts, posters, packaging can all be used to trigger the animation. By using the location services built in to your devices you can use landscape and buildings to bring objects to life and expand information. But it is the near future that will bring Augmented Reality in to its own with wearable technology like Google’s new Glass, Meta Pro, and Vuzix. Heads up displays in automobiles, gaming and training visuals are all in the works, some are here now. The auto industry is already bringing it to the showroom and to your car and navigation systems.

So, no longer is your business card just something you hand out. Now you can turn it into a visual experience. Remember that user involvement increases response and that translates to your bottom line.

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Wearing Reality on Your Sleeve

From Dick Tracy’s radio wrist watch to the VISOR that allows the blind Geordi La Forge to see in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the idea of wearable technology has excited imaginations for decades. Today, Google Glass continues to grab attention and Apple is rumored to be working on a smartwatch. Development of these devices was undercut by technological limitations in the past, but with recent advances in chip miniaturization and AR the virtual sky is the limit.

 In case you’ve been living under a rock, augmented reality is a view of the world that has been computer modified or enhanced. During the last decade augmented reality, or AR, has moved from the world of video games and training simulations to real world applications. Next generation natural user interfaces are in the works such as utilizing, not just touch and gestures, but also advanced biometric sensors which register emotions and image recognition.

 Imagine all your favorite apps, not at your fingertips, but right in front of your eyes. Take a picture by speaking a phrase, get turn-by-turn directions overlaid on the road ahead of you, or message your friends hands-free. These features are already available with wearables today. Fitness and health apps are also popular, with pedometers, heart monitors, and even a toothbrush that tells your smartphone how efficiently you brush your teeth.

 The wave of wearable technology is riding on ever smaller processing chips. Intel chief executive has been touting their new Quark microprocessor. This device offers a dual-core x86-compatible processor, microcontroller, RAM, storage, and Wi-Fi in the size of an SD card. It is this tiny size that makes designing easily wearable computers feasible.

 Developers want to make their reality augments more than just popups in our field of vision. They are working to make a total 3-D reality inversion with all of our senses augmented. Once that becomes doable, there is no limit. The entirety of our experience will be able to be altered. Communication between drivers, their vehicles, and pedestrians becomes possible. We will be able to correct impaired sight or hearing. Through the implantation of medical sensors, we could streamline body functions, increase healing and recovery, reduce bodily wear and tear, and improve pain management.

 As with all new formats, web designers will have to adapt their techniques. With AR mobile web design becomes creating an overlay for the world. It’s sort of like using an old overhead projector, but in front of your eyes. Social media and advertising sites are some of the first are some of the first to adapt their mobile web design for wearables, easily integrating what you’re viewing.

 Every new technology comes with a downside. All of this monitoring and information gathering will be ripe for the gathering by government agencies, hackers, or people with bad intensions. In this future, privacy will also be a thing of the past, as will downtime, and being unreachable (voluntarily or otherwise).

 Just as the mobile phone sent the payphone the way of the dinosaurs, having separate phones, GPS devices, credit or debit cards, TV, computer, and glasses or contacts will become a thing of the past. Revenue from wearable technological devices is expected to be $20 billion by 2017. We just have to not lose ourselves in all the cool gadgetry.


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