Archive for the “News You Can Use” Category
First, I would like to thank James O’Keefe and Dr. Steve Revilak for their great work at SPL’s cryptoparty last weekend. They were very generous with their time and expertise. Several people left at the end of the day with their smartphones and laptops optimized for online privacy.
Second, let’s talk about Windows 10. If you’re a pc user, this latest Microsoft operating system will almost certainly be thrust upon you at some point. There’s something very important you need to know: the default settings on Windows 10 give Microsoft the capacity to send reams of data from your pc to Microsoft’s servers and use your own bandwidth. You can change settings in Windows 10 to reduce the tracking and data mining the system allows by default, but Windows does not make those settings easy to find. Fortunately PCWorld.com has a step-by-step guide to reclaiming your privacy from Windows 10. You might also want to take a look at this guide on tweaking privacy settings from TechRadar.
If you’re interested in learning about protecting your online privacy even further, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s guide to Surveillance Self-Defense.
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There are so many different ways we’re being watched, it’s easy to think having any privacy is hopeless, but you shouldn’t give up.
On Saturday, July 16 at noon we’re hosting an online privacy workshop here at SPL. It will be very hands on, so bring your smartphone, tablet or laptop (or all three) so fix your settings, download apps, and add browser extensions to keep your online activities safe from prying eyes.
In the meantime here are some easy steps you can take now to lay the foundations of a secure online life:
Tape over your computer’s webcam.
Lock your phone, laptop and tablet.
Install two or three anti-tracking plugins for your browser, such as Ghostery, Adblock Plus, Disconnect, or Abine’s Blur.
View your Facebook profile as someone else and change your privacy settings if you see anything you don’t want strangers to see.
Never let a browser save your passwords
Install an antitheft app like Prey or Lookout.
For text messaging using an encryption app like Signal.
Stay tuned for more privacy tips in the near future.
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It will get easier to say no to Windows 10. Soon when you click on the x in the upper-corner of the pop-up box nagging you to “upgrade” to Windows 10, the box will actually disappear as you would expect instead of downloading Windows 10. Furthermore the pop-up will soon feature the option “Decline Free Offer” which means you will never see it again.
But be aware if you use Windows 7 there will be no more system updates. However, Microsoft will continue to support the system with security patches until 2020. Windows 8.1 updates will end in 2018.
If you’re still wondering if you should bow to the inevitable and switch to Windows 10, here’s the latest on the issues people have with the system.
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We’re getting ready for Somerville Reads 2016 – our next One City, One Book program, which will take place in the early Fall – and we need your input! Which of these books would you most like to read and discuss as a community? You can read about each book below (the reviews have been edited for length) then vote for your pick at the bottom of this post.
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowel
What do you get when a woman who’s obsessed with death and U.S. history goes on vacation? This wacky, weirdly enthralling exploration of the first three presidential assassinations. Vowell (The Partly Cloudy Patriot), a contributor to NPR’s This American Life and the voice of teenage superhero Violet Parr in The Incredibles, takes readers on a pilgrimage of sorts to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques (like the one in Buffalo that marks the place where McKinley was shot) to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where fragments of Lincoln’s skull are on display. An expert tour guide, Vowell brings into sharp focus not only the figures involved in the assassinations, but the social and political circumstances that led to each-and she does so in the witty, sometimes irreverent manner that her fans have come to expect. (Publisher’s Weekly, starred review)
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
If Jesse Owens is rightfully the most famous American athlete of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, repudiating Adolf Hitler’s notion of white supremacy by winning gold in four events, the gold-medal-winning effort by the eight-man rowing team from the University of Washington remains a remarkable story. It encompasses the convergence of transcendent British boatmaker George Pocock; the quiet yet deadly effective UW men’s varsity coach, Al Ulbrickson; and an unlikely gaggle of young rowers who would shine as freshmen, then grow up together, a rough-and-tumble bunch, writes Brown, not very worldly, but earnest and used to hard work. (Booklist, starred review)
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: a Memoir by Roz Chast
New Yorker cartoonist Chast (Theories of Everything) had vaguely thought that “the end” came in three stages: feeling unwell, growing weaker over a month or so in bed, and dying one night. But when her parents passed 90, she learned that “the middle [stage] was a lot more painful, humiliating, long-lasting, complicated, and hideously expensive” than she imagined. Chast’s scratchy art turns out perfectly suited to capturing the surreal realities of the death process. In quirky color cartoons, handwritten text, photos, and her mother’s poems, she documents the unpleasant yet sometimes hilarious cycle of human doom. (Library Journal)
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
A resplendent novel from the author of The Sky Is Everywhere. Fraternal twins and burgeoning artists Jude and Noah are inseparable until puberty hits and they find themselves competing for boys, a spot at an exclusive art school, and their parents’ affections. Told in alternating perspectives and time lines, with Noah’s chapters taking place when they are 13 and Jude’s when they are 16, this novel explores how it’s the people closest to us who have the power to both rend us utterly and knit us together. (School Library Journal)
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
In a radical departure from her Jackson Brodie mystery series, Atkinson delivers a wildly inventive novel about Ursula Todd, born in 1910 and doomed to die and be reborn over and over again. She drowns, falls off a roof, and is beaten to death by an abusive husband but is always reborn back into the same loving family, sometimes with the knowledge that allows her to escape past poor decisions, sometimes not. Alternately mournful and celebratory, deeply empathic and scathingly funny, Atkinson is working at the very top of her game. An audacious, thought-provoking novel from one of our most talented writers. (Booklist, starred review)
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed 14 women, 5 men, and 2 dogs for witchcraft. The ensuing terror cut a wide swath through the colony, affecting residents of all ages and educational backgrounds. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Schiff (Véra; Cleopatra) chronicles the surrounding events, painting a vivid portrait of a homogeneous, close-knit network of communities rapidly devolving into irrational paranoia. Proving, yet again, that truth is stranger than fiction, she mines existing records, extrapolates all the major characters, and pieces together the unfolding story in suitably dramatic fashion as neighbors, friends, and family members turn on one another. (Booklist, starred review).
Click here to vote for your choice!
Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community engagement by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss the same book.
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…is available for public review at the Central Library, 79 Highland Ave. Ask at the reference desk for help finding it.
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Somerville’s annual Patriots’ Day celebration will be held at Foss Park on Monday, April 18 10-11:30 am. There will be a Colonial Fair with games, music by the Somerville High School band, period refreshments, and colonial reenactors. If you play your cards right, you might even get to meet Paul Revere’s horse (she has a very busy social schedule; she can’t make time for everyone).
If you are interested in reenactments of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the National Park Service has a complete schedule of events here.
However, April 18 is also the day of the Boston Marathon, which will affect traffic and MBTA service. So getting around the greater Boston area is going to be quite difficult. You can learn about road and station closures here and here.
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First the good news: it seems to have infected relatively few computers.
To find out if your Mac has been infected (and learn how to remove it) go here.
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Transmission, a popular Mac application for downloading videos and music, has been infected with ransomware. It encrypts the data on users’ Macs and demands they fork over roughly $400 in bitcoin. Apple took steps to neutralize the malware over the weekend, but some Macs may have been infected as of today.
You can read more about the problem here and here.
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I’ve posted a fair bit about protecting your online privacy, but most of it’s only applicable to PC users. However, Mac users have an array of privacy self-defense tools at their disposal as well. First, go here and follow Lifehacker’s instructions on configuring OS X to maximize your privacy (it’s not at the top of the screen–you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find the instructions. They’re under the heading “Audit OS X’s System Settings.”
For iPhone and iPad users: there’s a free app called MyPermissions that will scan your online accounts and devices to see who’s accessing your personal information. MyPermissions also sends alerts whenever applications gain access to your private information: you can immediately confirm or revoke permission for access.
For completely secure and private phone calls and texts, download the app Signal. It’s available for iPhones and Android phones. If you’ve got any doubts about Signal’s security, don’t take my word for it, take Edward Snowden’s.
For more tips and suggestions on being secure using your Mac devices, go here to the Mac Security Blog.
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It’s an election year. Candidates are saying a lot of things to get people’s votes, which means many of them are, to be blunt, lying.
How do you know what to believe? How do you sort fact from fabrication? Surprisingly, the Internet can actually help if you go to the right places.
Factcheck.org is just what it sounds like: a website devoted to finding the truth behind politician’s statements, misleading headlines, and viral rumors. Factcheck is published by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and it’s refreshingly bipartisan: today posts’ dissected the spin in the Republican candidates’ most recent debate; earlier in the week their writers took Obama to task for some exaggerations and omissions in the State of the Union address. And if you have a question about something you’ve heard that’s not covered on their website, you can ask them.
Politifact is another reputable fact-checking website published by the Tampa Bay Times. Their staff subject politicians’ statements and campaign ads to their famous Truth-o-meter and their Obamameter tracks how well Obama’s kept his promises from the 2004 and 2008 campaigns. Their page “Pants on Fire” lists recent lies by public figures, untrue stories circulating online, and faked viral images and videos.
Of course, skepticism is warranted all the time: not just in an election year, and not just about what’s on the news. If you’re wondering if a charity is legitimate, if a story going around on Facebook is true, or if that email forward from your uncle has a single fact in it (hint: probably not), you can find out on Snopes.com, a site devoted to debunking rumors, conspiracy theories, urban legends, and hoaxes.
If you’re interested in taking the time for a more in-depth analysis of what appears in the media, try the podcast On the Media from NPR. it’s where I learned one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given about breaking news coverage: don’t listen. In the hours immediately following a disaster, a terrorist attack, an assassination or any other big event, reporters are under a lot of pressure to have something to report, but the bottom line is no one knows anything yet, and all they’ve got to go on is hearsay.
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