Techie Stuff for Members June 2nd

4 minute read

Deepfakes

Is an image, a film, an audio clip real or deepfake? In fact, it is getting harder to tell, and we have have Artificial Intelligence to blame (or credit).

We have all enjoyed Star Wars films over the years, and know that the magic of Hollywood can make anything appear to be real - but we also know that it is just Hollywood making entertaining films for our viewing. Then there is CGI, Computer Generated Imagery, which is used to make realistic movies, somewhere between cartoons and real film. What is real and why should we care?

In other posts, I frequently warn of spoofs and scams that are out to get us, especially in the Email realm. We warn that one has to be vigilant, suspicious, and careful not to get stung. But what happens when we see a news item on CTV or CNN that is in fact (but not obviously) fake. Deepfake technology is available freely on the internet and can be used to “out words in the mouth” of the speaker. The political implications are huge! Moreover, our trust in various information sources are brought into question. The many falsehoods that spew out of the White House are gladly accepted as fact by about half of the voters in the USA. Imagine when they see “Video at eleven” which is doctored to show someone in a bad light saying outrageous things just before an election. Too late to correct the impact and too realistic to reject out of hand.

This is just to get you thinking on the subject. For a full article, click on the link. Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society. We Are Not Prepared. – Forbes.com

Zoom Conferences

By now, you may have been involved in a Zoom Conference, a virtual meeting on your computer. Zoom.us kind of got caught by surprise by the explosive growth of its app. Initially, there were serious concerns about security and “zoom bombing” where uninvited guests would appear during a conference. The issues have been corrected and security augmented significantly. If you installed the app on your computer some time ago, you need to upgrade to the latest version (5.**) in order to stay safe.

As usual, there are alternatives available:

  • FaceTime - this works for those in the Apple environment. It is not available for Android systems.
  • Skype - been around for a long time and works well.
  • Facebook Messenger - you probably already use Facebook, so not much extra to do.
  • Google Duo - works for both the Apple and Android systems.

Tips:

  • Try to light your face from the front.
  • Avoid having a bright window behind you.
  • A dedicated microphone (not the one in your computer).
  • Headphones help to reduce audio feedback and shut out local distractions.
  • Wait your turn to speak so everyone has a chance to be heard.
  • If you do not have access to video, you can still participate on audio alone.

Fighting the Virus

Thinking of using ultraviolet rays to fight coronavirus? Please Don’t

The Washington Post printed an article in April regarding the use of UV to disinfect from the COVID-19 virus. Link to full article

The article warns that the devil is in the details when it comes to UV. The kind of UV that kills germs is UVC which is really bad news for humans. You will see many advertisements for UVC gizmos to sterilize your phone and car keys, but most of them are not backed by solid research, and some may even be dangerous. Alcohol wipes work well.

Bottom line: Wear your mask (for me) and Wash your hands (for you). This pandemic is far from over and far from being contained.

Backups

I know I am a nag about your data, but it’s time for a new backup. You can backup to the cloud or to an external hard drive. Our local Staples is offering 1TB drive for $76.49 up to 5TB for 179.99 - no excuses! If you need help or advice, give me a call.

Don’t forget to offload the photos from your camera and smartphones. Those little cards do not last for ever and are really easy to lose. Using CDs for long term storage is also NOT recommended.

Operating Systems

You know that I want you all to move to the Apple side, but I am not holding my breath. Regardless of your preferences, however, you should be keeping current with OS updates. With millions of lines of code, there are bound to be mistakes and loopholes that can be exploited by the bad guys. Anyone still using Windows 7 is at serious risk of being hacked! Additionally, your programs are likely out of date as well. If your hardware is equally as old, it will fail at some point, most probably the hard drive (see Backup).

If you need to replace your machine, please feel free to ask for advice. Start from the basis of what you need, what are your uses and favourite apps, then get the best machine you can afford. Remember that not long ago, we felt fine with 250GB drives - now not even sure you can buy such small devices! By the same token, if all you do is Email and web surf, no need for 32GB of expensive memory.

Connections are also important. A lot of information transfer can be done wirelessly, by WIFI and Bluetooth, but some periferals need wired connections.

These various protocols offer widely differnt speeds:

  • USB 1.1 = 12 Mbts
  • USB 2.0 = 480 Mbts
  • USB 3.0 = 5 Gbps
  • USB 3.1 = 10 Gbps
  • Thunderbolt = 10 Gbps
  • Thunderbolt 2 = 20Gbps
  • Thunderbolt 3 = 40 Gbps

Check the specs and understand the implications for your work flow, and keep in mind the future uses you may encounter.

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