Facebook becomes even more creepy with their camera identifying tech

I have complained about Facebook before being both creepy and unreliable from a privacy perspective (Blyth, 2011; and 2015). Facebook does not allow duplicate, alias accounts, or pseudonyms. This is a problem for people in minority groups that can be subjected to violence, and to journalists and political opposition members. The company has already endangered minority groups by outing political journalists in Syria and Vietnam, and outing gay and transgender people in the United States.

The company now plans to use software technology to uniquely identify your camera using certain physical characteristics that are displayed in your photos (PetaPixel). This is problematic for people who wish to maintain two seperate lives: a professional and a personal life; or personal life and an alternative life. Facebook seems to be aiming at “fraudulent accounts”. However, the term fraudulent seems to be not yet defined. Does that mean that a lesbian woman who has an ordinary account, and her second one for her lesbian side of life is illegitimate and therefore ‘fraudulent’? Or can it mean that Facebook can link a political journalist’s account to his personal account and identify his or her name. If the journalist has photographed opposition activists, Facebook can then link those people to the journalist. Thus allowing police warrants to be issued and real people to be persecuted.

Me and my 542 bestest friends (on Facebook). CC Terry Chay, 2007, https://flic.kr/p/3EUfgw

Me and my 542 bestest friends (on Facebook). CC Terry Chay, 2007, https://flic.kr/p/3EUfgw

Choose the right study techniques for your Mutliple Intelligences domain

We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Take the Multiple Intelligences (MI) quiz to discover yours. Be honest with your answers. Choose one of these quizzes:

Now, for your best MI(s), look at how you can learn things best, at:

Now try this advice, see what works, and use it. Don’t keep trying something that seems difficult or awkward to do. Do only what seems best for you. Experiment with these through the semester, but don’t try anything unfamiliar in the middle of exam week, it’s too late then. Now, enjoy.

Studying in dorm room. CC English106, 2010. https://flic.kr/p/7D2Whc

Studying in dorm room. CC English106, 2010. https://flic.kr/p/7D2Whc

How to develop better pronunciation: Important word stress

This semester I will try to make videos and add them to my YouTube channel. This is so you can review classroom activities we did, and to do your own practice. Here is the first one: Important word stress. I won’t post these each week, but please look at the Pronunciation page for more, and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Don’t lose your data: How to prevent data loss

I’ve heard someone say, “There are two kinds of people: those who have lost data, and those who are going to”. That means, you’re guaranteed to lose your data, and when you do, you will be more careful in the future. Every year, I have about five students come to me and say, “Teacher, I’m so sorry, I can’t give you the assignment today. My [+ problem]”

  1. USB memory stick is broken
  2. USB memory stick is lost
  3. USB memory stick is at my parents house in Shizuoka
  4. file on the USB memory stick does work
Failed USB memory stick screen shot. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com

Failed USB memory stick screen shot. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com

I can’t help that student. I don’t know if they are pretending to have a problem because they are too lazy or badly organised to do the work on time. Or if the problem is real. The result is the same, they failed to submit the work on time. If this happened in a company and it was for a big contract, your company could lose millions of dollars of work, because you had a problem in managing your data. So, it is really important that backup your data. Backing up means to make a spare copy of something, so if you lose the original, you have a copy you can use.

  1. Never store anything on the desktop computer at the university. You may not sit at the same computer next week, or the computer might have a problem and be replaced.
Kingston USB Collection, CC Patrick Lauke 2009, https://flic.kr/p/6DdTS7

Kingston USB Collection, CC Patrick Lauke 2009, https://flic.kr/p/6DdTS7

2. Use USB memory sticks. These are very transportable, and so you can work on things at the university, at home, on your laptop in the library, in an internet café, anywhere.

3. Don’t use tiny USB memory sticks, because they can easily get lost. Don’t use cheap brands, they are easily broken.

4. Keep two USB memory sticks. Use the one in your pencil case, and keep the other at home. Once a week, copy and paste everything from your main memory stick onto the one you keep at home.

5. Use cloud storage like DropBox. It is like a USB memory stick, but on a website, and smartphone App. Upload your important files there. If you forget your USB memory stick, just log onto the website, and download what you need. So, you can do this from any computer with an internet connection.

Data storage options, USB memory sticks and a cloud service like DropBox. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com

Data storage options, USB memory sticks and a cloud service like DropBox. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com

6. Use an external hard disk drive (HDD) on your home computer, never ever store anything important on your computer. Computers have problems, and occasionally you need to replace the operating system (like Windows) and start fresh, and you should replace the computer every five years anyway. It is much, much easier to store your files on an external device, and attach it to the new computer. I really don’t know how to easily move files from an old computer to a new one. Do you? Consider that HDDs have moving parts, so these usually fail after about five to eight years (some after one year), which includes the HDD inside your computer. If possible, use a solid state disk drive (SSD) instead. An SSD has no moving parts, and so their life span is much longer, and have no problems with bumps and drops.

My external drive! CC Hafeezul Flybyhacker 2010, https://flic.kr/p/9eKynM

My external drive! CC Hafeezul Flybyhacker 2010, https://flic.kr/p/9eKynM

Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will go wrong. Assume that there may be a disaster, like a home fire, a broken water pipe might destroy your home computer, a virus destroys your home computer or USB memory stick, your bag with memory stick is stolen or lost, or your cloud service might go bankrupt and disappear.

Which reminds me of one more important point. Always use security software on your personal computer, and keep it up to date. I suggest AVG Free for anti-virus protection, and S&D Spybot to protect you from non-virus threats. Update these weekly, and run them weekly. Also, scan your USB memory sticks, especially if you use internet café computers.

In short, follow the 1-2-3 rule. For each (one) file, have it stored on two different media (eg: USB memory stick and cloud; or memory stick and external HDD), in three places (eg: two USB memory sticks and cloud; or on your main USB memory stick, an external HDD, and cloud). Have you lost data? Tell us about it. What other data storage and back-up ideas do you have?

Microsoft defends our privacy and its future

Recently, Microsoft released Windows 10, which aims to upload and store everything on your computer to its servers in some remote location (this blog). I thought that location was in the US, but I just learnt they also have data centres in Ireland, under EU legal jurisdiction. The EU has strict privacy laws regarding privacy rights.

A story on the BBC reveals that the US government is demanding access to emails on MS’s Irish data servers (BBC).  What is surprising is that Microsoft is battling against this. They say, “If the US government is permitted to serve warrants on tech companies in the United States and obtain people’s emails in any country, it will open the floodgate for other countries to serve warrants on tech companies for the private communications of American citizens that are stored in the United States in a data centre owned by a foreign company,” says MS’s lawyer Brad Smith according to the BBC. Another motivation for wanting to protect their customer’s privacies might also be to do with market share. MS has lost a lot of ground, and their products are no longer the default or go to device for consumers. Many of the younger generations are growing up with smartphones in their hands instead of a Windows OS in front of them, at least in Japan (Murray and Blyth, 2011). They need to maintain some market share, and losing such a case would turn even more people away from their OS, tablets, and any MS smartphone they might try to make in the future. MS tablets are really really good.

A Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, in front of an Apple. CC Kārlis Dambrāns  https://flic.kr/p/kEAMZk

A Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, in front of an Apple. CC Kārlis Dambrāns

In my personal opinion, the MS Surface is much, much better than the Apple iPad. The iPad has a stripped down OS that is more oriented for entertainment. Whereas the MS Surface tablet has a full Windows operating system on it (Wikipedia), so you can run specialised desktop programs like SPSS, Nvivo, Office (including Word and PowerPoint), the full Adobe Photoshop, and more. The MS Surface sales have been quite lacklustre (Wikipedia/Surface#Sales), perhaps it was exactly the right product, but released whilst everyone is still hypnotised by another. Regardless of which is better, the fact is, MS is now in a weaker position, and public trust in them is low.

Since it was revealed that the US government are creepily collecting all our emails, and data from FaceBook and other services, it is using its technological hegemonic position, which could damage US companies reputations. Trust in not just MS is waning, but all US tech companies (NY Times, Time). MS needs to win this fight for the credibility of Silicon Valley. A loss would open the way for rival and neutral country-based tech companies to gain trust and an upper hand. I know I’d rather my emails be stored in a German or Swiss data centre.

Are Japan’s universities competitive?

According this this article by Kariya Takehiko on Nippon.Com the short answer is ‘no’. Why? Because Japan’s universities are trying to compete with Western universities, by trying to be like Western universities. She also tries to define what  is meant by “competitiveness”, which includes competing for the most talented students and teaching staff and researchers. I agree that Japan’s universities should specialise in what they do best, and that they need to be far more transparent and inclusive internationally speaking. However, she seems to miss the mark on some points.

Photo CC from ZeLIG School, at https://flic.kr/p/7UUFEK

Photo CC from ZeLIG School, at https://flic.kr/p/7UUFEK

Mainly for staff and researchers, the future looks grim. With a diminishing student population, it’s obvious that a fickle money-minded management system is going to cut salaries, and introduce worse employment conditions than what many are already experiencing. The year to year contract system, and mad scramble for classes creates insecurity. The reliance on part-time teaching staff prevents job security and prevents them from being able to invest in their own futures, as getting loans and employment visas are quite difficult. In my city, already, both full time and part time salaries are dropping. So, when my own contract is up, and there’s no prospect of renewal, am I going to bother looking for work here in Japan? Maybe. But my job field and qualifications means that other than the other countries I’ve already worked in, Korea, Taiwan, the UK, and Australia, I can consider others. I can also get well-paid work, with good conditions in Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, and other places.

Within Japan, there is the acceptance that students coast their way through university. Their work ethic is nothing like that of students in British universities. Here in Japan, I teach undergraduates from the UK on an exchange programme. Their motivation to try and achieve is unbelievably much, much higher than their same-aged Japanese counterparts. I cannot imagine that Japanese students will come out the other end of four years study being somehow of the same quality as British students. If a young Japanese person actually wants a quality education experience, they know that Western universities are genuine in their education attempts, and that a higher standard of work is required to achieve a passing grade.

In all, I agree with what Ms. Takehiko says, but also issues of working conditions for educators and researchers needs improvement. Also, a shift to focus on quality education, too. These two aspects are vital for Japan’s attempt at being seen as a real education destination.