Water and Technology

April 24, 2015

The annual rite of officially saying “Spring has Sprung!” in central Maine is here.  Several hundred people will convene at the small town of Kenduskeag with the goal of staying dry (or at least upright) as they descend on a 16.5 mile journey to Bangor through the trepidatious waters of the Kenduskeag Stream armed with only a paddle and smile. And this year, it will be particularly satisfying to conquer waters that were formerly snow, ice and frost.

The Race

As a company headquartered in Bangor, the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race is at very least watched by lots of Sephone team members. I participate in the race and have written about what that is like. My most highly esteemed coworker Justin has also written about the race from the spectators perspective. He normally photographs the race and puts the photos on this FB page Justin Russell Photography. And here is a good google map if you want to learn more about the path of the race.

Water and Devices

Broken boat that sunk to the bottom.One of the things that often comes up in talks about the race is electronics. With the prevalence of social media, maybe people want to capture their experience to share with friends. We all know though, water and electronics don’t mix well. I think most everybody has at one time or another lost something to the washing machine. Here are the options as I see them for getting wet:

Several companies make waterproof containers for your phone. Some of the popular ones include the Preserver by Otterbox and LifeProof. These cases, when properly installed, do allow your phone to get wet or even submersed. Additionally, they provide your phone with a bit of buoyancy to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of a lake or pond.

Should you lose your phone while out and about, for android’s anyway, you can google “find my phone” and it will tell you where it is, even do some gps lookups, and can get you within feet of your phone. I have experienced anywhere from 80 feet accuracy to 6 feet with this service finding my phone.

Other than waterproofing your phone, the other option is forgoing the phone and using a waterproof device. The king of this arena is GoPro.  Their products have been dropped from airplanes by sky divers into pig pens and left at the bottom of the ocean for several days, as well endured grizzles attacks (warning, last link has PG-13 audio). And although GoPro’s are awesome, many companies offer rugged products such as Garmin, Canon, Nikon and Fugi. Just make sure that you are getting their waterproof product line.

So the next time you are in, on or near water, make sure that your phone is in a waterproof case or you have waterproof electronics.

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

Backup Service Phishing Scam

April 17, 2015

Recently we have had several clients call to ask about a bill they received from a backup service called WebsiteBackup.  This is not something that Sephone has sent to you.  This “bill” is a phishing scam to try and get you to pay for services through another company, and we do not recommend paying it.  Sephone does daily and weekly backups of all of our servers (where the most recent backup overrides the previous), so we always have a copy of your site if something happens.

One of the clients that received this bill was kind enough to provide a copy of it for this post.  You can see the example below.  Their information has been removed, but all of the instances we have been made aware of seem to be similar.

website-backup-page1  website-backup-page2

In addition to the backup services that we provide, in most cases you can also find a snapshot of your website on the Wayback Machine.  While this is not a 100% reliable resource for website backups, it does help in some cases if you need something in a pinch.

If you’d like to discuss options for additional backup services from Sephone, please give us a call or send us an email.

 

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Brady is the voice on the other end of the phone line when you call Sephone. He graduated from the New England School of Communications in 2009 and assists Sephone in building and maintaining our sites.

Hacked! Or Not?

April 9, 2015

“I was hacked!”

As people continue to spend more of their time online doing more of their day to day work, I hear people talk about hacking more than ever. But that raises the question: what is “hacking”? And do people use the term correctly?

Depending on who you ask, hacking can have a couple of definitions. Some attacks can be considered hacking without a doubt, while others… not so much. In this post we’ll give an overview of some of the cases when people or businesses might say they were “hacked”.

Security vulnerabilities

The classic form of hacking often has to do with security problems in software or operating systems. By exploiting these flaws cybercriminals can access data that isn’t intended to be public. This is why it’s important to keep your software up to date! These kinds of attacks are often called “cracking” by the technology community to distinguish them from other forms of hacking.

Viruses, worms, and Trojan horses

Instead of formatting your computer or displaying messages on your screen, today’s malicious software often sits invisibly in the background, using your computer to carry out attacks. A computer might be used to send out spam, cause a denial of service attack (see below), or other crime. Good anti-virus and computer security software helps defend your computer against these kinds of attacks.

Phishing

Phishing happens when a criminal tries to trick you into sending your personal information – whether it’s a login to a site, your credit card information, or something else – to a criminal. This can happen if you click on a link in a forged email, on a bad website, or sometimes even on social media. Always be sure to check the validity of a site before you enter your login or other personal information on it, and never send your personal information to anyone unless you know they’re authorized to request it. We’ve covered phishing a number of times before on the blog.

Unauthorized access

Sometimes “hacks” don’t have anything to do with login information or security problems with software; they happen because a person who isn’t supposed to have access to an account finds a way in. This can happen if you leave a device open on a table without a password or if you use a public computer (for example, at a library) and forget to log out of a site like Facebook or your bank. It’s important to make sure employees who are no longer employed from a company don’t have access to the company’s social media or other administrative accounts, too.

Denial of service

A denial of service attack (and its big brother, the distributed denial of service attack, or DDoS) happens when a criminal overloads a site with requests to view pages. This bogs down the server and essentially creates a traffic jam, preventing other people from accessing the site. Typically in these cases no user data is at risk. Read more about DDoS attacks on our blog post, “Why a Site Doesn’t Load“.

Saying something stupid

Of course, saying an account was hacked can be a convenient excuse as a cover for saying something stupid. “I would never say something like that,” someone may say. “It must have been an old employee with the password, or someone hacked our site!” In these cases being cautious with what you say before you post is your best bet.

Building and creating

The unfortunate part about the word “hacking” is that it is so often associated with criminal acts. In fact hacking is a much broader field than just trying to steal personal information; it’s a desire to make something work in an unconventional way. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of positive hacking, including the expanding field of civic hacking, listen to Catherine Bracy’s great TED Talk, “Why good hackers make good citizens“.

When you hear about a site or person being hacked, it’s important to remember that not all “hacking” is the same. It’s important to ask if your user data or other personal information was compromised. And do your part by making sure your software is updated, your passwords are strong, and you’re being cautious about the email and messages you receive!

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Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

Google’s Changes to Mobile Searches

March 31, 2015

In the past few months Google has announced that mobile optimization will be a ranking factor on searches from mobile devices. Makes sense since most stats say around half of searches hail from mobile devices. It also makes sense that your website works properly on mobile devices to help make sure you are found in mobile searches.

How can I tell if my website is mobile friendly?

It’s easy. Go to the tool provided by google and put in your site. The test will either display a green message stating you are good or a red message saying your not mobile friendly. See below for an example.
Sephone.com is mobile friendly.

A Deadline

Google announced last month on it’s webmaster blog that this new change will be rolling out April 21. This was not totally unexpected. Starting around January, Google started aggressively pursuing webmasters to move to be mobile friendly. Even before January, they had been dropping hints.

We have been also trying hard to get our customers to think about mobile. Below are three posts from this blog, all over two years olds, admonishing our customer base to focus on mobile.

Mobile is Important

We very earnestly sincerely implore all of our customers to review their mobile sites and/or make plans to implement a mobile friendly site at this time. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. We are here to help.

Mailer Sources

  1. http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/Major-Mobile-Milestones-in-May-Apps-Now-Drive-Half-of-All-Time-Spent-on-Digital
  2. http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html
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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

April Fools

March 26, 2015

April fools is a huge holiday for tech companies with lots of effort being put into the day for many years now. One of the first known large scale pranks, was 15 years ago, with Google claiming that they could telepathic do your search via MentalPlex.

Some of Google’s Best April Fools Pranks

Google is sort of the king in this arena. It’s rumored their office culture is also big on april fools pranks, and as such they have some of the best pranks on the internet. This is not an exhaustive history, but just the ones that I find the funniest.

In 2004, on April 1, google made two announcements. One that they were releasing gmail, that would forever change webmail. And the second, that they were taking resumes for a new lunar colony called Luna/X. One was true, one was false.

In 2008 youtube (a google company) linked all featured videos on their homepage to “Never Gonna Give You Up” by British singer Rick Astley. This is what started the rick-rolled meme.

In 2011, gmail had a body motion feature, where gmail would act based on your posture. To go along with this, the gmail product manager was in a high quality professional video using this new functionality in gmail.

In 2014, google added Pokémon characters to their map platform. Additional, Nest (a google company) teamed up with Virgin Airlines to make it seem that you could control the air temperature directly around your seat in the plane.

Google does multiple April Fools Jokes a year, normally matching the year. Meaning they did 2 in 2002,  8 in 2008, and 14 in 2014. This year they are likely to do 15, although not ever year do they follow this exactly.

Netflix

Netflix is a new-comer to the April fools game, but has done some good ones. In 2013 they added some totally obscure categories to their video service. “Movies Starring Estelle Getty and Some Other Guy” (with only the film Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot listed), “Movies That Are in English, But Still Require Subtitles” (with Snatch and Trainspotting), and “TV Shows Where Defiantly Crossed Arms Mean Business!” (featuring television shows with cover art showing people with their arms crossed)

In 2014, netflix made a big announcement involving their original series, which were blowing up in a huge way at that time, like House of Cards. Complete with press releases, they announced their new series, which consisted of two episodes, one of chicken on a rotisserie and another of bacon and little else.

Others

benIn 1980, the BBC reported that big ben would be updated to a digital clock, to keep up with the times.

In 2013, twitter announced it would charge five dollars per month for the use of vowels.

In 2012, mashable declared Conan O’Brien their CEO, and he appeared on every page of the website, normally creeping up from a corner or sliding down from the top.

Interestingly, Apple does not participate in this annual event, thought the company was founded on April 1, 1976.

So this year, don’t believe anything you see on April 1. Heck, maybe not even April 2.

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

HTML – Document Setup

March 16, 2015

In the last tutorial, we looked at organizing and setting up the basics of a web page. This includes adding your first tag within <head> portion of your website, the <title> tag. This will become the page title in the browser and to the search engines.

<title>My Awesome Website</title>

In today’s installment, we’ll take a closer look at the <head> tag and the information that can be placed within.

read more

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John is a designer at Sephone.

SkillsUSA

March 3, 2015

For the past few years I have had the privilege to help out in a small way at our local SkillsUSA competition.

"SkillsUSA"  logo may be obtained from SkillsUSA. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

“SkillsUSA” logo may be obtained from SkillsUSA. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

What is SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA is a civic organization that provides structured competitions to vocation school students. These competitions start at schools like UTC in Bangor. Winners progress to regional competitions and eventually to national competitions.

What I do

I have a very minor role. Mike Preble, the Information Technology (Web Design, 3D Animation & Graphic Arts) Instructor, invited me several years ago to be a judge for the web design competition. Occasional I may also help in other competitions, such as game development.

Mike is recently a winner at big-gig for his work at The Maine Game as well.

Energy

I personally think energy is highly contagious. When you are working with people that are excited and eager to work hard, that has the ability to also affect you.  It’s very good to be around those people from time to time. There is a certain enjoyment in watching people develop and hone their skills as well.

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

Find out who likes your Facebook page

February 26, 2015

Every now and then we like to go through the folks that have liked our page and reciprocate.  A few weeks back, we attempted to do this and found that the familiar process we took to find the people who had liked our page was no longer available.  So I went digging and found a way to see the full list of likes on your page.  Keep reading to find out what steps to take to get this list.

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Brady is the voice on the other end of the phone line when you call Sephone. He graduated from the New England School of Communications in 2009 and assists Sephone in building and maintaining our sites.