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Searching for Tech Support Leads to Scams

If you were a hacker and created a site to obtain sensitive information, what sort of site would it be? According to computer experts, the most popular type of site is one devoted to tech support, because consumers instinctively trust such companies. tech support

There are certainly hundreds of legitimate tech support companies out there, so how can you distinguish a scam site from a real one? You certainly shouldn’t assume the top search results are the most reputable.

Kevin Boynton is the owner of a Richmond-based computer repair company. He says, “I get calls all the time from people saying ‘they took my money, I let them into my computer and they said they fixed all the problems and if I have any more problems, give them a call back but then they didn’t fix my problem.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, these people never get another reply. If you’re looking for a reputable tech support company, read reviews, talk to a live person, and get those testimonials.

The biggest niche

According to Boynton, the most common scams happen when consumers are looking for help with computers, not more complex tech help. “They see a phone number that says call us now for support, and they think okay.”

Many of these consumers never bother to do their research; they blindly trust what might be a marketing scam. “They will answer the phone as HP Support, but they are going to give you a hard sale and they are going to try to talk you into buying some sort of support,” Boynton warns.

Somewhat on the plus side, many of these scam artists are “just” out for your money and are not seeking to install malicious software on your computer. If you’re looking for a technician to actually repair your computer, be wary of any high pressure sales.

While this may not be illegal, it’s an iffy business model that indicates they don’t put the customer first. Plus, you can always challenge credit card purchases if you didn’t agree to the purchase.

Bigger fish in the sea

On the other hand, some sites are indeed designed strictly to steal your information. These probably won’t turn up among the top Google search results, but some companies do a great job of manipulating search engine optimization (SEO) for short periods of time to get higher rankings and attract potential victims.

If a “support company” is actually doing something illegal, they’ll be caught soon enough, but possibly not in time to save you. Your best move is to trust your gut, do your homework, and rely on real reviews.

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Open Letter: The Web We Want

We’ve become dependent on the web as a civilization. Our future – the children – are dependent on it as well. Shouldn’t it be accessible by all? If you agree with Firefox that user privacy is important and that the web is for everyone, join them. Sound off at http://mzl.la/1hHyqBq

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last update: July 31, 2014

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Signs You’ll Thrive at an Online University

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Do you dream of earning a degree while writing term papers on your couch in comfy pajamas with Grey’s Anatomy on mute? It can be a reality for students at an online university, but not everyone is cut out for it.

While you might be able to train yourself to complete a degree program, you might be better suited to a more structured atmosphere where you have to attend lectures and show up to class in person. Are you ready to find out which camp you likely belong to?

First, you should recognize that any reputable online university is accredited and has likely been around for some time. In many cases, these online universities are actually virtual versions of brick-and-mortar schools.

This can be convenient since there’s still a bit of a stigma in certain circles toward online degrees, although that’s been changing. Going online isn’t a shortcut or “easier,” but it can certainly be more convenient. So what might indicate this is for you?

1. You hate procrastination

You’ll have deadlines and perhaps even more work in an online university, so you’ll need to thrive with your own time management. Some students need a professor physically breathing down their necks in order to get assignments in on time. If you’re prone to procrastination, this might not be for you.

2. You’re a total Type A

Type A personalities do phenomenally well with online schools because they’re naturally driven and ambitious, and want to do their best. If this is you, make sure the online school has plenty of options for working virtually in groups, so you don’t get a case of cabin fever. Many Type A’s are also extroverts, but not all of them.

3. You’re a bit of a loner

This might seem to fly in the face of sign number two above, but for those who always hated raising their hand in class and feel they communicate better in writing, online universities are a place you can shine. It’s a medium that’s more comfortable for you and allows you to process and reflect rather than being forced into the Socratic method.

4. You’re tech savvy

No matter how user-friendly the classroom, you’re going to need some tech skills to succeed with an online school. If you’re naturally inclined toward technology, this might be a perfect match. If you’re not, there are training courses to help you catch up.

Think you have what it takes to make the most of an online university? Then it’s time to start preparing and researching which schools are your best match.

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Google Acquires Titan Aerospace

What do Google and aerospace have in common? A lot, it turns out, now that the tech giant has officially announced that it’s buying Titan Aerospace in an effort to cover the globe with Internet connectivity, compliments of balloons and drones from the sky.

The Wall Street Journal initially reported the acquisition on Monday, April 14, but it took two days to get a confirmation. Now, the aerospace team has said it will start working with “Project Loon,” a pet Google project, in order to create high-altitude balloons that will provide low-cost Wi-Fi to rural regions.

If you haven’t heard of Titan before, the company designed drones that are solar-powered and fly above sea level. A startup based in New Mexico, Titan says the drones can “fly continuously for years” because of solar-charged batteries located in the wings.

However, the technology hasn’t been proven yet. (What about severe storms?) This isn’t the first time Titan has had tech giants sniffing around: Facebook attempted to acquire the company to get 11,000 Solara 60 drones.

No Facebook friends here

The details of how or why the Facebook acquisition fell through are vague, but what’s known is that Facebook went with a UK aircraft company, Ascenta, instead. Ascenta and Titan use similar technology, so it appears that Facebook is also attempting to build a private global Wi-Fi network.

Mark Zuckerberg wrote about his thoughts on drones in a white paper. In his opinion, they’ll be better than balloons for providing Internet to rural areas.

It looks like Google has arrived at a similar perspective, because Titan is on board to garner data that will help Google Maps as well as a number of systems in far-off places. Google is also on track to acquire a number of robotics companies to help gather airborne data, such as Boston Dynamics, the makers of DARPA’s killer robots.

Staying on top of things

The same way you wouldn’t want to miss out on re-certification for your career, Google isn’t taking any chances in building a veritable robot army. It’s rumored that the search giant might be angling to create a GATAMAM system, or Google all-terrain automated mapper, analyzer, and manipulator, which can instantly get data to support many services and simultaneously connect them around the world.

Google says, “Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world. It’s why we’re so excited to welcome Titan Aerospace to the Google family.”

To the rest of us, though, this may sound more like another step toward world domination by Google.

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Gnip is the Latest Twitter Acquisition

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Gnip and Twitter had been playing nicely for a long time, but much like a twin that swallows its sibling in the womb, it was time for Twitter to acquire Gnip.

The analytics firm had been helping Twitter climb into the black. Apparently it did so well that the social media giant developed the means to purchase its partner. Gnip has a proven reputation for utilizing social media feeds, analyzing them, and then making that information financially useful.

There are four companies that have that level of access to Twitter feeds, the others being WordPress, Tumblr, and FourSquare.

Of course, public sites like Facebook can also get access to this information, so what made Gnip a must-have? Twitter’s VP of Business Development and Platform Jana Messerschmidt said, “Gnip has played a crucial role in collecting and digesting our public data and delivering the most essential Tweets to partners.”

Twitter certainly knows what it’s doing in the realm of all things marketing, but even a social media star can use a little help.

Tweeting deeper

Messerschmidt continued, “We believe Gnip has only begun to scratch the surface. Together, we plan to offer more sophisticated data sets and better data enrichments, so that even more developers and businesses big and small around the world can drive innovation using the unique content that’s shared on Twitter.”

For others who are using Gnip, service will remain the same. They’ll still get complete access to Gnip data, but Twitter will help by expanding how much data is gleaned from social media sites.

Until any expansions are made, Twitter gets to sit back and watch the cash roll in from the surplus of tweets of its user base. Chris Moody, CEO of Gnip, says, “We’ll be able to support a broader set of cases across a diverse set of users, including brands, universities, agencies, and developers big and small. Joining Twitter also provides us access to resources and infrastructure to scale to the next level and offer new products and solutions.”

It seems to be a win-win situation for everyone involved, and that includes stockholders.

Bringing home the bacon

When the acquisition was announced, Twitter’s stock shot up by more than ten percent and Wall Street was all a’twitter. That’s great news for investors and stockholders who have been watching Twitter stock steadily decline since the beginning of the year.

Now, analysts are saying that Twitter has revamped its financial strategy and has what it takes to be a real money-maker someday.

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Google Stocks Take a Nosedive

April 16, 2014 was a gloomy day for Google and its investors. Stock prices dipped three percent in after-hours trading.

This is the first time this quarter that earnings and sales alike fell short of expectations. The biggest concern was the massive nine percent loss in payments that came from marketers per ad on the many Google sites.

Google is charged with encouraging marketers to pony up cash for mobile ads just like they do for desktop ads, but that’s been a tough sell.

It’s no secret that mobile users have outpaced desktop users recently, but for some reason marketers haven’t been willing to make that jump with them just yet. With so many expert marketing agencies Google has to woo, Chief Business Officer of the tech giant, Nikesh Arora, says that “The journey is just beginning for advertisers on the mobile side.”

As retailers scramble to play catch-up and incorporate responsive design to make themselves mobile-friendly, ads get moved to the back burner.

Google’s clock is ticking

That’s an understandable conundrum, but it does nothing to support Google’s stock values. Arora notes, “Right now, we can lead the horse to water, but we can’t make it drink.”

The company is pushing an enhanced campaign that debuted in 2013, and centers on making advertisers purchase across multiple platforms. But it hasn’t been the segue piece that Google had hoped would take off.

But the picture is not all doom and gloom. Google reports sales of $15.4 billion in 2014’s first quarter, which represents an increase of 19 percent compared to 2013.

Plus, people are clicking on 26 percent more advertisements in comparison with last year, and total earnings are at $3.45 billion, which is also better than 2013. This comes on the heels of the two-for-one stock split in early April 2014, which provoked considerable controversy.

A classy move

Google now has new Class C shares, which are traded under the GOOG ticker but do not allow investors to enjoy any voting rights at the annual shareholder meetings. If you have Class A shares, you still get voting rights.

The split was approved in court after a group of shareholders filed a lawsuit to block it from happening. That may have contributed to the 5.5 percent stock decline in the past 30 days.

Be that as it may, Google is moving forward, and spending big bucks on new technologies such as the recent purchase of Titan Aerospace. Purchasing a startup to get hold of solar-powered drones might give Google the boost it needs to drive stock prices back in the right direction.

If a drone can’t save Google, what can?

 

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Why Multimedia is Crucial for Personal Branding

We’ve entered a new era of social media branding, one that thrives on photography and video content. It’s no longer enough to post a simple text tweet online. Social media analytics companies have shown that graphics and video increase engagement. You’ll need to start thinking outside of the box if you expect people to check out what you’re posting. Take a look at how multimedia is turning the tides of social media engagement. gr_multimedia

Visual Insights

With multimedia, your fans and followers get a more intimate look at your experiences. You’re not just giving them insights via text anymore – photos and videos can help capture your environment, demonstrate products, show the mood, and share the total experience. Just take a look at the enormously popular selfie that Ellen DeGeneres took at the Oscars. That single picture, featuring a dozen different celebrity faces, was retweeted over 3 million times as of April 2014. Graphics and videos can help put your followers in your shoes, sharing an exhilarating moment with an audience of millions.

Expanded Creativity

If you are an artistic individual, then you have the opportunity to showcase talents that you normally wouldn’t get to explore on a textual basis. Some people have discovered that they excel at making short Vine posts, ones that fans love to watch and comment on. Just like the YouTube celebrity boom, new voices and faces are becoming well known due to social media platforms like Vine and Instagram. Your favorite social media comedians might be on their way to producing the hottest entertainment in a few years!

Informative Capacity

Some people have a difficult time learning from text. You can appeal to visual and auditory learners by delivering information via multimedia. For example, if you are trying to demonstrate a DIY home improvement technique, it might just be easier to record it, rather than trying to write out each step as a blog post or series of tweets.

Increased Reach

Multimedia posts on Vine, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram usually track higher rates of engagement, including shares, reposts, and comments. This increases your overall reach, which is crucial to your ability to draw in new viewers and get new followers. Multimedia truly helps you build stronger customer relationships.

Multimedia posts are the name of the game in today’s current social media environment. Individual creators and organizations are striving to make their mark with interesting video and graphic posts. Start exploring your creative side, and share your experiences with multimedia!

 

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Cleaning Up Your Social Media Act for Job Recruiters

When you’re in school, you might not think twice about posting those pictures of you shot gunning beer in the student dorms. However, it is no secret that job recruiters are scouring the social media profiles of prospective employees to see who they’ll hire or reject. If you plan to search for a job any time soon, you’ll need to put your best foot forward online, and make sure job recruiters see your best qualities.

Privacy Settings First thing’s first: you shouldn’t have to censor yourself just to get a job. However, there are probably some personal posts that you don’t want the public to have access to. Information about where you live, party details, and potentially embarrassing snapshots should be for your friends’ eyes only. You can keep this information away from the public by digging around in your social media privacy settings and securing your posts for friends’ eyes only. Whenever you post news items that might be of interest to the general public (recruiters included), then you can always toggle that post to “public.” Tagged Photos While you might have locked down you own profile, there might be awkward pictures of you on other people’s profiles. For example, old college drinking pictures might be on the pages of your frat brothers or sorority sisters. You can unlink these photos from your account on Facebook by clicking on the “Remove tag” button. Next, contact the person who uploaded it, and ask them to please remove the offending picture. Search Listings There’s a common online culture saying: The Internet never forgets. This is partially true. You might be surprised to see what comes up when you search for your legal name and your old screen names. For example, you might dredge up old blogs, forum posts, and accounts that could send the wrong message to recruiters. Before you actively hit the job listings, make sure that you clean up your search listings by deleting old and unwanted accounts and posts beforehand. Know Your Rights In the U.S., recruiters cannot reject you based on your race, color, sex, religion, national origin, race, age, ability status, sexual orientation, and parent status. So you should not need to hide these things on your social media, because it is illegal for employers to discriminate against people based on these facets of identity. Searching for employment can be a stressful period in your life, but you can make the process much smoother by making sure that your public social media activity does not set off red flags. Use a combination of privacy settings and untagging photos to put your best foot forward. At the same time, make sure you know your rights, since you should never have to suppress your identity for recruiters.

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