Technology

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I used to be an industry tech writer and blogger.

Due to my current job (and knowing too much about what's going on, and various non-disclosure agreements as well as diplomatic decorum), this is one of the more constrained areas for me. So while I'd like to write more, I'm restricted to very generic topics. Or just share articles from decades ago.

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Balanced tech company

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As an oversimplification, balancing opposing forces in Sales/Marketing, Finance/Operations and Engineering is key to having a well run Tech Company. Throw in some other difficulties like good communication, good focus, and reducing politics, and things will hum along smoothly. But it's like trying to keep jugglers riding unicycles-sticks on a slack-line: while the theory is easy, the continuous shifting makes the real-life implementation hard.
Main article: Balanced tech company

Bill Gates is a Genius

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Is Bill Gates a genius? After all Microsoft was one of the world's great success stories. I don't think he's dumb - he was certainly smart and motivated enough to take advantages of opportunities that fell into his lap. And he was very industrious and competitive. But if you put 100 motivated people in situation, I bet 30 could have been wildly successful, and a few could have been more successful and less jerky. That to me is well below the bar of genius, but YMMV.

FUD

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There is a computer term that you hear some geeks and industry insiders use, but many people new to computers don't know, but should. That term is FUD. FUD means "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt", and it was the tool of large companies to scare users from using small companies software (or hardware). They'd so uncertainty, so customers would buy from the safest (largest) company, even if it wasn't currently the best software, or scare them into buying the biggest program, over features they might someday need (but only added complexity today).

Main article: FUD


Programming


Basics of BASIC

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Because I was a programmer, many people ask me, "How do I get started programming?" There are many choices, and it really depends on what you are trying to do. There is programming Applications, scripting, Web Programming, and so on. The bad news is that each of those choices will alter which language or tools you should choose -- and most people don't know this in advance. The good news is that when you get the concepts, many of them can follow from language to language and tool to tool. So the most important thing is to just show no fear, dive in, and start learning; some knowledge will be throw-away, but most you'll carry with you for years to come.

Main article: Basics of BASIC

Big or Little Endian

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What is Endian? How do you like your eggs? Big or little end up? If there are two equally valid ways to do something, then odds are that two different companies will chose to do those things differently. This is Murphy's law in action -- and it applied to different chip designers and how they ordered data in memory.

Main article: Big or Little Endian

Binary, OCTal, HEXadecimal

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Counting in Computerese: The Magic of Binary, Octal and Hexadecimal. Computers deal in the mystical numbering systems, like Hexadecimal, Octal and Binary. People get concerned over it sounding complex, but they are really quite simple. If you can read this article, you should have a really good understanding of what they are, and how they work.

Command Line Interface

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The other day, a friend and I were discussing the command-lines versus a GUI. His point, which I've heard a thousand times before and for 20+ years, is that unless you understand what's going on in the command line, then you don't understand what's going on in the computer. The idea being that the GUI abstracts you from what's really happening, and that some people can make command lines really fly; so they must be better overall. There's really a lot of different arguments and bias in there; so I have to break them down.

Enterprise Tools

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Enterprise, Opensource or Commercial tools, which is better and why? Of course the answer is, "it depends": different tools are better for different things. Now I know that doesn't sound revolutionary, but that does seem to perplex some people. People don't understand the different tools or market segments they fit into, or what they are good for.

Main article: Enterprise Tools

FUD

FUD.png

There is a computer term that you hear some geeks and industry insiders use, but many people new to computers don't know, but should. That term is FUD. FUD means "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt", and it was the tool of large companies to scare users from using small companies software (or hardware). They'd so uncertainty, so customers would buy from the safest (largest) company, even if it wasn't currently the best software, or scare them into buying the biggest program, over features they might someday need (but only added complexity today).

Main article: FUD

Forward Compatibility

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In the tech world, I hear all the time about "Backwards" compatibility. That to me is like saying "I wish my hot new CD player would play my 8-track tapes as well". Backwards compatibility is when you create a new function or feature for your computer, but must also have a mode that works just like it did in the past. But this article is about learning to look forward,

Main article: Forward Compatibility

Hack, Crack or Phreak

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What are hackers, crackers and phreaks? This is the basics of how the terms evolved. They don't really mean what they meant when they were first used. So people date themselves with how they use the terms.
Main article: Hack, Crack or Phreak




Network Basics

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Network Basics: What is a network? A "network" is just a way to allow many devices to talk to each other, via a shared connection. Each person on the network, agrees to alternate between sending a chunk of data, and listening for anyone talking to them (based on an address they are given), so that everyone gets a chance to talk/share data in little chunks (blocks). There's a lot of little details, but it's just like a conference call, where everyone agrees to not dominate the conversation -- or a moderator only lets each person speak for a limited set of time.
Main article: Network Basics


As a kid, I explored the dark side of hacking, cracking and phreaking... and as an adult, I challenged myself to get a CISSP : a 5 hour test/certification on computer security. While cramming with many professionals, it was nice to find that the top 10-20% in any one domain, knew more than me in that area, but I had the widest breadth of knowledge in the room.


Cracking

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Cracking is the black art of removing copy protection from other people's programs. There are many "pirates" (people that use software without buying it) -- but far fewer crackers. Cracking requires enormous dedication and patience. It was far easier in yesteryear (systems were simpler) -- but now days there are better tools, so in some ways that makes it easier.

Cracking is often a battle of wits and patience, where the cracker removes all of the copy-protection code or figures out ways around it. At least it is a game for the cracker -- the companies that have their software cracked find it far from "fun" or "amusing".

Main article: Cracking

Easter Eggs

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What are easter eggs, and where do they come from? And I'm not talking about the physical ones in springtime, I'm talking about hidden features or credits in software.

Main article: Easter Eggs

Firewalls

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What is a FireWall? In a structure or a car, the firewall is something that protects one area from another - usually in case of a fire. The firewall stops or at least slows the fire from spreading by being a physical barrier. In computers and networking it basically does the same thing, but the "fire" that it is trying to slow/stop is an intruder or security leak.

The network administrator turns on or configures this network barrier (firewall) between one network (or area of the network) and another. The firewall blocks everything, except for what it is configured to let through. This can seriously hamper intruders and increase security. To understand this better, let's get a little geeky.

Main article: Firewalls

Hack, Crack or Phreak

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What are hackers, crackers and phreaks? This is the basics of how the terms evolved. They don't really mean what they meant when they were first used. So people date themselves with how they use the terms.
Main article: Hack, Crack or Phreak

Hacking

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It is not that hard to hack into a network/machine - far easier than people realize, yet far harder than the movies make it seem. It can get very complex -- but there are usually "easier" in's that the hard brute force methods. There are many levels to a break in -- from the ballsy "impersonating an employee" and just walking around a company (badges are easy to create, and don't slow most people down) -- to stealing network traffic and analyzing it. There are thousands of ways to get in, and the more complex the counter measures, the more potential holes there are (but the harder they may be to find).

Main article: Hacking

How Secure are you?

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How secure are your devices from intruders? The answer is "it depends", on a lot of things, like what machine you have, what you do, and so on. The short answer is in order of safety (from least secure to most), you'd go: Windows, Unix, Mac, Android/Chrome, IOS. And the OS's are more secure than the Apps you run -- so iOS running only Apps from their Store is going to be a lot safer than a machine that's running software downloaded at random from the Internet.

Main article: How Secure are you?

Passwords

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The reason there's so many annoying password requirements, is because passwords are so instrumental to security (and human nature is so predictable). That being said, most of those annoying password requirements are doing it wrong, and just annoying customers.

Main article: Passwords

Phreaking

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Are you out of your phreaking minds?

Phreaking is when people (hackers) figure out how to break the phone companies security, to get access to control the phones. Most often used to make free phone calls, or get operator powers. Network hacking is breaking in (usually looking around without doing harm). Cracking is defeating copy protection in someone else's code. But there is far less moral ambiguity about phreaking -- almost all phreaks get free phone calls, and that is something the law (and the phone company) frowned upon -- seriously. The phone company dedicated resources to countering phreaking, and hunting down phreaks. It became the blackest of the black computer "arts", and through improvements in security, and commoditization of long distance phone call costs, it largely doesn't exist any more.

Main article: Phreaking

Privacy

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Privacy and the web: how safe is your info?

The other night I was watching a Television show that discussed computers and privacy, and like a geek, I was getting annoyed and talking back to the show; it seems that Hollywood needs to get better technology consultants instead of terrorizing the public with misinformation and calling it entertainment. If I didn't know better, I'd be paranoid too. But I'm not, so it's more mock-worthy than helpful.

Main article: Privacy

Shopping

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Shopping and Physical Security: One of the areas that people are very concerned about security is on-line shopping. I think they are often focusing on the lesser threats. People can hack your online shopping -- but it's a lot of work. It's far easier to steal your information through other means.

Main article: Shopping

Virus, Worms, Trojans

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Virus, Worms and Trojans, some various hacker terms/attacks explained (simply).

Main article: Virus, Worms, Trojans