Brad's Tech Corner: PC Sticks, Robots, Hackers and More
Happy New Year! Brad Ruben here, and if we haven’t yet crossed paths in the real or digital world, one of the first things you should know about me is that I’m a lifelong and unapologetic geek. I spent—or “spend” depending on who you ask—my entire childhood dreaming about flying cars, space travel, re-growing limbs and computers that talk back, and in case you haven’t noticed, I really lucked out on the era of my birth because that’s exactly the world we’re heading toward.
For example, one of the latest widely available developments I’m fascinated with is the PC stick. This latest evolution of personal computers ditches the keyboard, monitor and other deadweight from its ultra low-profile form factor, the final result being about the size of an overweight flash drive. Just plug it into a HDMI slot on your TV, connect the right combination of Bluetooth and USB peripherals…you know, keyboards, mice (yes, mice) and any other desired dongles…and just like that, you have a brand new computer in your home or office.
No, stick PCs don’t have the same kind of power or storage that a dedicated desktop PC can carry, but with a huge chunk of the typical user’s data stored in the cloud anyway, storage isn’t a huge issue in 2016 and what it lacks in motherboard muscle it more than makes up in flexibility by turning any flat screen into a PC.
For my money, the successor to the desktop PC has finally arrived, and although it’s not yet a perfect solution as a sole computer, the potential for the technology is absolutely undeniable and incredibly exciting. They even come in Windows, Mac and Chrome-based flavors to keep everyone nice and comfortable in their home OS during the transition.
While we’re on the subject of making the most of our unique position in history, can we talk about how helpful robots have become in the last few years? I wouldn’t quite want one driving every car on the road until they work all the kinks out, but that’s a huge responsibility and while they’re very willing to assist us, it’s probably best they work their way up with smaller tasks.
That’s why I like doing my part to improve human-robot relations by making use of the services they do confidently offer at this time. One of my favorites is Amy, an AI secretary that can automatically schedule and coordinate meetings around the office, planning around my schedule and automatically sending an invite to team members to save me hours of back-and-forth email.
Another of my go-to auto-assistants is PackPoint, which allows me to enter my destination, the length of my trip, and my planned activities during my stay into the app (for Android and iPhone) and see a list of items I need to have in my luggage so I’m not running around upstate New York looking for the last winter coat on the shelves because I forgot the East Coast freezes over for a few months in mid-January. Robot helpers are here to stay…what a time to be alive.
Before I work myself into a frenzy over the benefits of technology through the power of the Internet, it’s important to note that not everyone with coding skills is innovating for good. Hackers have gotten unimaginably crafty in their nefarious endeavors, and one of their favorite gambits to use these days is a fake program download that uses a perfectly innocent-looking façade to mask a clear and present danger to your computer and network.
That’s right, even that effectively bulletproof antivirus program download could lead you and your most treasured 1s and 0s down the path of no restore, and there are a few red flags to look out for that could save you a lot of headache. First, downloads should only be made directly from the software vendor or equally reputable site, and all download files should be digitally endorsed or “signed” by their publisher, something most legitimate pieces of software go out of their way to tell you.
Also, be sure to verify any “customer support” telephone numbers online, as a particularly effective ruse they use is to have “customers” call in to their scam support line and hand over their personal info so they can help them (find disaster). Remember, technology is only as good as those that build it, and since there are plenty of digicrooks out there, it’s always best to protect yourself.
That’s about all we have time for this month, but before I go I want to thank everyone for their time and say I’m looking forward to an exciting new year. Here’s to a productive, profitable and promising 2016 for the American Agents Alliance and all of its members…and in that spirit, if anyone reading this lives in California, Texas or Tennessee and woke up about 300 million richer after last night’s Powerball drawing, congratulations (and have I ever told you how much I love that shirt on you?)
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