Warrant Used To Track Users Through Tor Invalidated

When it was revealed that an NIT (network investigative technique) had been used to track people across Tor, people were worried about just how they had got permission to deploy such a far sweeping piece of computer malware. It would now seem that the warrant issued didn’t give as much power as they wanted as a federal judge has now stated that the warrant should be invalidated because of its reach.

The federal judge in question sits in Massachusetts and stated that a magistrate issuing a warrant in Virginia cannot “authorize the search of a defendant’s computer located in Massachusetts”. This was noted in a 39-page opinion in which William Young stated that while it cannot be done, the Department of Justice and Congress could change the law in future. The end result of the opinion is the conclusion stating:

Based on the foregoing analysis, the Court concludes that the NIT Warrant was issued without jurisdiction and thus was void ab initio. It follows that the resulting search was conducted as though there were no warrant at all. Since warrantless searches are presumptively unreasonable, and the good-faith exception is inapplicable, the evidence must be excluded.

So ultimately the warrant for the NIT over stretched the bounds, something that has now led to a bunch of evidence being made null and void in a case where even Ahmed Ghappour, a law professor at the University of California, realized that the ” DOJ knew full well that the magistrate lacked authority to issue an out-of-district warrant”.

Microsoft Is Suing The US Government Over Cloud Data Searches

Microsoft is but one of many technology firms that have recently moved their focus from internal hard drives to the cloud, allowing people to access their data from anywhere in the world given the right details. The problem is other people also have access to this information, both legally and illegally and Microsoft is suing the US government over their attempts to force companies to remain quiet on the matter.

Microsoft has now filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department stating that it’s not just wrong but it’s “unconstitutional” that companies should be forced to remain silent when they are asked to hand over any data you might store in the cloud. In their complaint, Microsoft says that section 2705(b) of the Electronics Communications Privacy Act “sweeps too broadly” and effectively gives the government the power to gag companies, regardless of the reasons they are investigating someone. Microsoft even went so far as to name the number of secrecy orders they’d received in the past 18 months, a huge number sitting at almost 2,600.

The best part of almost 2.6 thousand secrecy orders, was that over two-thirds would never run out thanks to them containing “no fixed end date”. The end result is clear, Microsoft wants section 2705(b) ruled as unconstitutional and removed, a judgment that would affect every technology company based on the internet these days thanks to the broad range of uses that the cloud is utilized for.

Recently Reddit removed their Warrant canary, giving users a legal warning that the government had requested access to at least some of their information (possibly). While other companies, such as Apple has been arguing with the FBI over who and where the line should be drawn for gaining access to devices and the steps they can make companies provide to open the door for them.

FBI Calls Off Court Hearing With Apple Because They Might Have Another Solution

The battle between Apple and the FBI could soon be over with the FBI calling off a court hearing.

After several hearings with Congress, the story may finally be over with the latest meeting between Apple and the FBI being canceled after FBI received another party has come forward offering their support. In a document filing with the court the Department of Justice (DoJ) stated:

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is available method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) set forthin the All Writs Act Order in this case.

As much as the FBI would love to think that they came up with the solution, but it was Snowden criticizing the FBI’s claims about unlocking the phone that seems to have been the tipping point. With numerous groups claiming to have ways to unlock the iPhone, the FBI pushing for Apple to create a way for them to unlock an iPhone has long been suspected of being an entry to the encrypted software.

If the FBI had this alternative available since the start, it would appear suspicions about the FBI using this an attempt to make future requests easier were true. If this is the case, trust in the FBI could be damaged even more with people questioning why the FBI wanted easy access to everyone’s iPhones.

Robots Used To Help At Fukushima’s Nuclear Plant Are Burning Out

Five years ago an earthquake triggered a 10-meter high Tsunami that crashed into Japan. One of the buildings affected by this wall of water was Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, ultimately resulting in a meltdown that left the area irradiated and costs people their homes and, unfortunately, many lives. In a big to help speed up the clean up process, companies have been looking at using robots to help clean up and clear the areas still too dangerous for humans. Sadly though it would seem that the radiation involved is too strong for even the robots as they seem to keep burning out.

Tepco is the company responsible for decomposing the wasteland that is Fukushima power plant, the company is not having an easy time though with nuclear rods still unaccounted for. After melting through their containment vessels, the numerous fuel rods could be anywhere within the plant and the robots being developed to search for them are having a hard time.

Naohiro Masuda, Tepco’s head of decommissioning, stated that “it takes two years to develop a single-functional robot”. Given that in order to search each building they require a new robot for just that environment, being able to protect their wires from the radiation is causing delays and difficulty in their searches.

China Looking at Creating “Precrime” System

When people start to think about digital surveillance and their data stored online, they think about cases such as Apple vs the FBI where modern technology is used to try track down criminals or find out more about what could have or has happened. China looks to go a step further creating a “precrime” system to find out about crimes you will commit.

The movie Minority Report posed an interesting question to people if you knew that someone was going to commit a crime, would you be able to charge them for it before it even happens? If we knew you were going to pirate a video game when it goes online, does that mean we can charge you for stealing the game before you’ve even done it?

China is looking to do just that by creating a “unified information environment” where every piece of information about you would tell the authorities just what you normally do. Decide you want to something today and it could be an indication that you are about to commit or already have committed a criminal activity.

With machine learning and artificial intelligence being at the core of the project, predicting your activities and finding something which “deviates from the norm” can be difficult for even a person to figure out. When the new system goes live, being flagged up to the authorities would be as simple as making a few purchases online and a call to sort out the problem.

Google Allowing Twitter Like Posts Straight From Businesses

Google is not one to shy away from experimenting with new features and thanks to someone’s keen eyes they’ve even spotted that you could see twitter like posts in your google searches.

Similar to their mobile “cards”, you could soon see the adverts appear when you search for certain things, letting you swipe to another related piece of news or “card”, tapping it would, in turn, reveal more information and possibly a link to its source. The twitter-like feed was spotted by search expert Mike Blumenthal, who was in the process of searching for engagement ring stores in Buffalo, New York when he noticed a stream of jewelers posts. Tapping on one of the cards opened a full-screen web page, with text and photos galore.

With a similar project, Google Posts, letting the presidential campaign in the US share their latest news and policy announcements, it may not be long before Google adopt this new tool on their search engine permanently.

The full page feature reminds me of Facebook’s latest version of Notes. Could it be that google is looking to integrate more social networking-like features into their search engine? With the ability to “like” links or prioritise links from certain sources, you could customise what you see when you do everyday searches.

Illumina – The Google of DNA

We have all used Google and other search engines to find everything from that news article we told our friends about the other day to the cute cat video that we just can’t stop watching. We use search engines because they let us find and pick up things more easily, so why not use something similar for our genetic sequences?

San Diego-based biotech company Illumina Machines uses the Illumina for just that. The Illumina is a DNA sequencing machine that has so far generated as much 90% of all our data regarding the DNA sequence to date. That doesn’t mean they plan to stop though as they are about to move into a new venture with another company that focuses on liquid cancer biopsy’s, Grail. With less than a hundredth of the world’s population having their genetic sequence mapped, the idea is that increasing the mapping and detail that these scans are done we can detect, pick up and analyse illness and irregularities in our very building blocks.

Eric Endicott, the director of global relations at Illumina, stated that “we are at a tipping point genomics, where a broad community of scientists and researchers continue to translate the potential of the genome from science to discoveries and applications”.

Would you want a map of your genome done? From the looks of it, Illumina is keen to go from theory to practice by letting everyone get their genetic sequences mapped, even letting companies use it in the field to help detect illnesses and high-risk patients before they are struck by the symptoms.

ASUSTOR NAS Adds Comprehensive Search App QuikFynd

ASUSTOR’s latest NAS feature could be one of the most useful features yet to be added, but it does come with a few things that you should pay attention to before you get too excited. The new feature is called QuikFynd and while it sounds like a frying pan from IKEA, it is an awesome search feature for your NAS.

The first thing that might come between you and the usage of QuikFynd is that it is limited to the x86 based models. This is however a logic limitation as it is a feature that requires some proper performance in order to deliver a workable experience. Also, most ASUSTOR NAS are X86 based, so users of ASUSTOR 2, 3, 6, 31, 50, 51,61, 62, 70 series devices combined with the latest ADM 2.5.2 version and onwards can now find the comprehensive search app QuikFynd in their App Central.

“With data become digitized in exponential amounts, businesses and individual users alike, all face the problematic task of accurately searching for items from amongst thousands of files and terabytes of data. QuikFynd provides a convenient search solution, allowing users to quickly search for target files stored on their NAS according to content, file name or tags.”

After installation, users can open the dedicated interface from the ADM desktop and begin searching or use one of the mobile apps that also should be available now. You have the full privacy of your files as everything is stored on your own server at home.

There is one more thing with ASUSTOR’s QuikFynd that you should pay attention to. There are two different versions of this feature, a Lite version that is free or a Pro version that you’ll need to pay for. Both versions offer search by names and meta-data tags, streaming over local networks, search history, recent items, access from a browser, and access from mobile apps. The Pro version also allows for full-text search, location details from GPS tags, search text within images, stream to remote devices, and result-highlighting.

ASUSTOR is letting you try the Pro version for 3-months without costs, but after that, you’ll have to pay either $20 for a year’s subscription or $60 for a lifetime subscription to the QuikFynd Pro features. As previously mentioned, the apps can be found through your App Central within the ADM and you can find all the details and subscribe on the official website.

Judge Says Stingrays “Are Simply Too Powerful” Without Rules

Stingrays have become one of the most contested ways of digital surveillance since they became public knowledge last year. The devices act like mobile phone towers, simulating their actions while allowing them to intercept and identify the devices connecting to them. The problem many have seen with this device is that they are not selective, they do not target a specific person or phone because the technology does not work like that, this means that when one goes up all mobile devices in the area send their information to the tower. This provides the tower with their location but can also be used to intercept calls and text messages sent by any devices in the nearby area. A judge in Illinois has made a stand and said that unless his three requirements are met, he will not authorise the use of a stingray.

The first requirement is that the stingrays require a warrant to be used, a claim that has been highly contested and was originally an issue given that some law enforcement agencies have used the device hundreds of times without any government oversight.

The second requirement is that the data collected (which is not relevant or approved by the warrant) is “immediately destroyed” and this action is proven to the court.

The third requirement is that the devices cannot be used in areas where a large number of mobile phones will be active, such as at a public sporting event or large gathering.

These steps could be the first sign of a powerful device being controlled and monitored rather than deployed without thought of the freedom and privacy of others around it.

Judge Votes in Favour of Apple in Bag Check Lawsuit

Sometimes we get asked to do weird things for work, some of them are as simple as working a couple of extra hours and some of them are a little more extreme, such as asking for an entire weekend of work. A group of Apple employees believed it had gone a little too far when they were asked to have their bags checked. Their lawsuit has since ended, with the Judge deciding that they do not deserve compensation for the time taken to have their bags searched.

District Judge William Alsup for the Northen District of California ruled on Saturday that the employees are entitled to no compensation. In his decision, he stated that rather than banning employees from bringing bags to work (in an attempt to prevent thefts from the stores) they could bring bags and personal Apple devices into the store for their shifts, but at the end of said shift they would have to have their bags checked, in case some of their merchandise had “fallen” into the bag.

While Apple has claimed that the bag checks are required in order to prevent thefts from internal staff, with a new policy making it mandatory that bags, purses and briefcases are searched upon exiting an apple store.

Have you ever seen a search in an Apple store? Has your employer ever asked something that didn’t quite make sense to you?

Mythbusters Cancelled After 14 Seasons

Mythbusters have graced our TV’s for years and have shown thousands of experiments. The hosts, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, have spent hours on screen taking tales and myths to the workshop, hoping to prove or disprove a myth by finding the facts (or lack of) within the tales, but sadly that is all to end next year with the final season starting in January.

Discovery has confirmed that the popular fact-checking show has been cancelled and will stop after the 14th season next year. Stating “248 episodes, 2950 experiments and 900 explosions”, you won’t be left shy on experiments to watch before it leaves our screens.

The hosts were not surprised by this news, and in fact state they had been preparing for this news. Savage stated, “It was my greatest fear that Mythbusters would just stop and we wouldn’t be able to do proper final episodes”, even going on to say he has mixed feelings about the end of Mythbusters, something that he and Hyneman have hosted since the very beginning.

Not to shy away from the last season Hyneman stated that the 14th season will be anything but dull and how they are proud to consider it a ‘strong point’, he explained this by saying “We’ve tried to go as deeply as possible into the things we’re doing, and gave them the respect and care they deserve”.

With so many explosions and experiments under their belt, the show will be missed. Are you a fan of Mythbusters and if so, what was your favourite experiment?

California’s Legal System Now Supports Digital Privacy

In recent years, there has been a big uproar courtesy of a certain reveal by a man named Edward Snowden, regarding digital privacy. To be more precise, it was about the lengths that groups went to in order to avoid any legal requirements when it came to accessing and using your personal information. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act looks to be the first, and hopefully the first of many, to enforce a legal right to digital privacy.

Governor Gerry Brown signed the Act taking it into full effect and I have no doubt that a wide variety of people will be happy about it. The Electronics Communications Privacy Act states that any, I repeat, any state law enforcement agency or any other investigative entity are required to have a warrant in order to obtain digital information (including information stored in the cloud, such as emails or text messages) and that they cannot ‘compel’ businesses to hand over this information without a warrant. It doesn’t end there though if they want to use your GPS to track you or even to search your phone, they will need a warrant for that too.

While not the first to outline in a legal document the requirement of a warrant for your data, or even your location, it is the first to cover things like metadata and your device searches. Many hope that this could be the first of many laws, with other states taking up their own versions of the Electronics Communications Privacy Act or pushing for these conditions to be placed on a national scale, affecting all agencies regardless of state.

Thank you Wired for the information.

Image courtesy of Falkvinge

Homeland Security Stopped This Library From Making Tor Available to Public

Browsing online became a service that people watched more carefully after Edward Snowden revealed the extent at which our online activity was being monitored, from every web address to the very content of our private and confidential emails, we were being watched. A library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, decided that in order to support the public and their online activity it would allow its users to use the Tor Service. Tor operates by bouncing your internet traffic around the world, sending it from one place to another essentially masking their online activity and making it very difficult to track down the source of online activity. After they received an email, though, the library have since decided to take another look at this policy.

The email in question comes from the DHS, the department of Homeland Security, who got in contact with the local police who then contacted the library. The initial worries that were raised and have caused the service to be halted was in the end its ability to be used for illegal means.

While the first library for the scheme, many others have apparently expressed interest in supporting the freedom that anonymous browsing would provide its patrons. Would you as a library goer like knowing that your being tracked? What about when you’re at home? Do the risks outweigh the benefits or is there a bigger problem we need to address before we block public use of systems like Tor?

Thank you Ars Technica for the information. 

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Dakota Police Will Utilize Weaponised Drones

Drones used to be a thing of the future, small robotic creatures that would fly around and swarm the skies. They would be included in Hollywood blockbusters such as Terminator and even the ones where they help us survive such as in Transformers. With devices that can seek and destroy from ground level to your forty story apartment, they were quickly developed and created for everyday tasks. Now with thanks to a lobbyist from Dakota the first drones with weaponry might soon see deployment.

With recent years, fears over drones carrying weapons are known to have caused a ruckus in many circles, with people like Steven Hawking requesting that drones avoid automation in order to reduce the threat from them. The Rick Becker’s bill would have seen that all drones in Dakota could not be equipped with weaponry, but an amendment by Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association, has banned the drones from carrying anything deemed a lethal weapon. This means that less lethal tactics such as pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons and even Tasers could soon see deployment at the bottom of a drone.

The initial bill was created to force police to obtain a warrant before using a drone to collect evidence while also banning weaponising the free flying devices. With this sudden escalation, all eyes will be on the Dakota police and how they choose to deploy drones with anything other than a camera.

Thank you The Daily Beast for the information.

Image courtesy of Gary Friedman (Los Angeles Times).

Google Could Begin Searching Your Desktop’s Local Files

Google has recently filed a patent listing with the USPTO entitled, “Computer Application Data in Search Results” which catalogues search results across the internet, cloud and local storage. This means Google will be able to search through your data and act as a unified search engine. The patent is engineered to replace Windows’ built-in search tool and offer a wide range of results. However, privacy advocates and many consumers will feel quite uneasy if this policy ever comes to fruition.

While users are accepting of Google’s data policy for online searches, I’m not convinced they will allow access to local files so easily. Evidently, people are opting for cloud-storage more and operating systems are eventually going to be a service. Despite this, Google’s reputation around privacy and how it handles sensitive data is quite poor and you have to wonder how an individual’s data will be processed. It’s important to reiterate that, patents are design ideas and not a guarantee that something will be implemented in the future.

Nevertheless, it seems companies are trying to increase user convenience at the expense of privacy. Do you feel comfortable having bank documents, childhood photos and other information as part of a global search and assessable by Google?

Thank you SlashGear for providing us with this information.

How To Turn Bing System Web Results Off in windows 10

Windows 10 with Cortana has been received with mixed reactions due to certain bugs and privacy issues, but users have also found another annoying feature which integrates with a system file search. If you would like to search for something in particular which does not directly match a system setting or installed app, Cortana taps into Bing and brings up a list of web results by default, which is a handy other half tool. This can be frustrating instead of the simpler searching your local hard drive for relevant files. In order to only search locally, users have to click on the “My Stuff” button in the search results.

If you would like a quicker way around this, then here it is, firstly, you do need to disable your personal assistant Cortana, Everytime I hear that name it reminds me of that dreadful Clean Bandit Windows phone Ad that was on every second. To disable it, open the Cortana/search interface and click the Notebook icon before clicking on and selecting settings, once done, move the “Cortana” slider to off. Addendum to this, Microsoft still stores all personal information which has been supplied to this feature on its servers.

Then open the search interface again and select the Settings cog. In the menu that opens, move the “Search online and include web results” slider to off to disable Bing’s search integration. And that is pretty much it, any searches from now on will only focus on your local files, although what Microsoft call local could be in China for all we know.

This won’t search your OneDrive files as this has been integrated into the default option.

Thank you PC World, not that one, for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of naldotech

 

High Court Marks DRIPA Law As Illegal

In recent years, technology and the law have been at heads about what is right and what is wrong. This ranges from is it legal to use drones for public use or even to deliver your amazon parcels, to the use of interception towers to track, record and locate people based on their mobile phones. Last year the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA) was passed in the UK allowing the retention and access of information to groups with little or no legal outline. The High Court seems to agree with this and has marked the law as illegal following a challenge by two MP’s.

David Davis and Tom Watson (Conservative and Labour MP’s respectively) brought about the challenge following the DRIPA’s rush through parliament under the premise of being an “emergency” bill. The High Court has now stated that both sections 1 and 2 of DRIPA are fundamentally incompatible of the British public’s to private life and the protection of their digital data and data stored about them. These rights are provided under articles 7 and 8 of the EU’s charter of fundamental human rights.

The judgement was officially given on the 17th July, a year after it was officially brought into law after receiving Royal Assent. The reason for the ruling is the unclear way in which access to data would be provided for the purposes of protecting people only, such as detecting and preventing serious crimes, or that the access of information had no legal oversight such as through a court given permission and therefore, could be accessed without limitation.

With this ruling, the law must now be rewritten before March 2016, taking into account the need for legal intervention and outlining the ways in which the information can be obtained and used.

Thank you The Register for the information.

Image courtesy of newsday.

Google’s Search Practices go Under the Microscope

Do you find that when you use a search engine that all of the results come from a single source or are favoured from a particular review site? Well, that’s what Tim Wu, Columbia Law School Professor, has set to prove in his latest research paper.

What Wu has aimed to achieve is that whenever you use Google based search engines, the results given are curved relating to Google+ reviews and information. In some ways this is great, however, you are not receiving the full spectrum of truth (or lies) from the rest of the internet.

By testing each term twice, once in Google’s Universal search and another by using a plug-in called Focus On the Users; Wu was able to retrieve the information that he was looking for. The additional plug-in can utilise the original search engine algorithm without the additional information from Google+.

As you can see from the results, the same search had two very different yields.

Generally papers like this wouldn’t carry much weight, however, Wu was a Google and net neutrality proponent. If you wish to read the entire paper, here is the 46 page embedded version for you.

I personally never look at the Google suggested reviews whenever I look for information, I use dedicated websites and forums. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to ZDNet for providing us with this information.

Google Aims To Help Victims Who Have Pictures Posted Without Consent

The internet is a large place, and with it people can read and post a lot of information or content with every little often stopping them or even knowing about it before it’s too late. Google wants to stop people suffering because of this and will soon enact a new policy to help prevent people who have had content published without their permission.

The new policy will come into effect within the next few weeks and will provide a web-based form for people to be able to request the removal of images which they consider distressing. Following the path led by Reddit and Twitter, who already have policies to help users who have had images posted of them which are regarded as explicit and posted without the subject’s consent. Facebook takes a different approach and has a dedicated team to help deal with matters of hate speech or harassment.

By helping people remove access and potentially even track down and remove images posted of them without their permission the aim is that Google will help the many people who are affected by these actions every year.

Google has stated that they know it won’t be able to solve everything with this, but they do hope that by honoring people’s requests they can help not only the people who are suffering but also prevent more cases and pain arising.

Thank you CNET for the information. 

QNAP Brings Google Like Search Feature to Your Own NAS

It can be really troublesome finding just the right file that you are looking for when you got million of files in terabyte of data stored on your NAS, but that task just got a little easier for some people. Those are the ones that have an x86-based QNAP NAS with 2GB RAM or more.

QNAP released a new QTS app called Qsirch and it works a lot like you’re used to from Google, Bing, and similar search engines, except this one runs on your own NAS and searches your files.

Qsirch doesn’t just search by filename, it searches within the content of the files as well as taking tags such as author into consideration. Media tags found in audio and video files are also included and the results come in fast.

QNAP also created a video where they compare a scenario between a normal NAS search and using Qsirch. While a competitor product was used in the demonstration, they could also have used one of their own ARM based devices or one with 1GB ram – based on the requirements for the Qsirch app. That aside, the demonstration really shows how fast someone can find something.

You might not remember the exact file name, or even the filename at all. Maybe all you remember is the name of the person creating the document you’re looking for and the general subject. Qsirch will find the file for you in seconds.

With such a powerful feature that can find basically anything on your NAS in seconds, you also need proper security. QNAP made sure that they covered this part too as the Qsirch will follow your QTS permission settings and only allow the user to search the files they’re allowed to view.

You can also exclude directories that you don’t want to be searchable, this could be backup directories or other places with duplicate files or just folders that you don’t want to be searchable in general.

Qsirch is available now from the QTS App Center for all x86-based NAS models that have a minimum of 2GB RAM. Qsirch is recommended for the TS-x51, TS-x53, TS-x63, TS-x70, TS-x71, and TS-EC with 2GB RAM and QTS 4.1 or newer firmware installed. 4GB or more RAM is recommended for optimum performance.

Searching The Internet? Try These Useful Hints and Tips

Every day we use the internet to search for things. Be it for a website or news article or even a new set of clothes, yet few people know of these little tips and tricks that can help speed up your search online.

Specifics

This one is more of a pet peeve than anything else, but it does help speed up searches. When searching an online retailer people will often search terms like “red sleeveless hoodie“, but when it comes to something like “how do I change my screen brightness?” they will search for that exact sentence. The human language is complex, and to make matter’s worse, English is terrible (grammatically speaking). This means that computers struggle with understanding sentences or even a basic question, where key terms it understands. Simply removing a few words “change screen brightness” is enough to improve your search, and it means less typing for you

“Quote me”

Quote marks normally indicate speech in the English language, but to computers it means something completely different. “joystick USB” would in a search engine bring up all the pages that hold those ‘key terms’, joystick and USB. But that includes pages which include both terms or even just one, if I put the joystick in quotation marks like this, ““joystick” USB”, the search engine focuses on those speech marks. Sometimes this can make a big difference, sometimes only a little one. What this means is that the search results I want back HAVE to include joystick. Go on give it a try with something you’ve been looking for, just put one word in quotes and see if it helps

Don’t be so Negative

We’ve all done it, gone looking for something online and found that no matter what we look for there is something else popping up because it’s got part of what we are searching for in its name. Most recently I’ve been looking at purchasing a joystick and have been regularly keeping an eye on several sites to see if there are any good deals available. But if you go onto online auction sites and type in “joystick USB”, you will find that among the classic joysticks will be modern-day controllers and spare joysticks for them. By simply adding a “-” alongside something you don’t want to appear in your search most search engines will remove those items for you. “joystick USB -controller ” instantly removes anything listed under controller, ranging from XBOX and PS3 to old-fashioned arcade controllers. Be warned though, if the item you’re looking for has the term in it, it will also be removed and not appear. Who said it was all easy?

AND more?

Anyone else getting a flash back of maths and those Venn Diagrams? Don’t include A but it must contain B, where should it be? The reason for that is search engines use the same kind of logic when dealing with your searches, and adding AND is the section where two areas overlap. So meaning that if I searched “”joystick AND USB”” and results would contain both the USB and Joystick results (you can also achieve this with putting both terms in quote marks, but it is up to you how you do it).

So there you have it, several hints to help you speed up and improve your searches be they on Google, Ebay or any site with a search function. Hope these help!

Thank you to Entireweb for the image.

Use of Search Engines In Exams, is it Inevitable?

The executive of one of the UK’s major exam boards is facing criticism after suggesting that the use of Google in exams should be allowed.

Mark Dawe, an executive of the Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR), appeared on the Radio 4’s Today Programme and suggested that students should be tested using the same conditions they would have in the real world.

Dawe suggested that the use of the internet in exams is “inevitable” and would better reflect how students learn in the modern education system, focusing more on students understanding and using their basis of knowledge to quickly search and interpret information within a certain time limit.

While being allowed access to the internet students usage would be monitored, with rules forbidding any communication with other students or people.

If the UK were to allow the internet in exam’s it would be following the trend that Denmark started back in 2009. After a trial period, several schools in Denmark started allowing the use of the internet in exams in order to “take the focus off knowledge recall and writing speed”.

Should exams be testing how we look up information and understand it or do exams need to be about recalling facts and information you learnt in class?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you Cisco for providing us with information.

Image Courtesy of UOIT.

Google’s Mobile Search Now Gives Priority to Mobile Enabled Websites

Google announced in February that they were going to optimize their mobile phone search results. Today their developers released that update. When you search Google on a mobile device the search results will be different. The search engine will now display websites that are optimized for mobile devices higher in the rankings. You will see sites that are capable of being read on mobile devices with smaller screens rather than you having to tap and zoom about on the website to see the content.

The change will only affect users on mobile devices and Google notes that it only affects individual pages and not the entire site.

This does create a problem for web developers though;  If the website does not support mobile devices then they may see their Google rankings drop. If you’re a web developer then Google have a tool that allows you to test individual pages and another tool for the whole website.

You can use the individual page tool here and you can use the whole website tester here. You can also expedite the process by using Fetch as Google with Submit to Index, and then your pages can be treated as mobile-friendly in ranking.

Thank you The Google Webmaster Blog for providing us with this information.

Google Search Algorithm to Favour Mobile-Friendly Sites

Google Co-Founder Larry Page

From 21st April, Google will make a major change to its search algorithm which will favour mobile-friendly websites in its search rankings when viewed from a smartphone or tablet. When a mobile user uses Google to search, the algorithm will push sites that feature large text, easy-to-click links, and resizable content further up in the ranking.

With the recent boom in smartphone and tablet sales, mobile devices account for approximately 60% of online traffic. Google announced the move back in February, giving website owners plenty of notice to make the appropriate changes so they don’t get penalised under the new system.

However, Itai Sadan, CEO of website building company Duda, is worried that smaller sites will still miss out. Sadan told Business Insider, “Come April 21, a lot of small businesses are going to be really surprised that the number of visitors to their websites has dropped significantly. This is going to affect millions of sites on the web.”

“Google has always been about relevancy, and content is king,” he added. “But that’s changing. Yes, they’re saying content is still extremely important, but user experience is just as important. It’s not sufficient to have all the right content — if people come to your site and the content is there but it’s not readable, that’s not good.”

It’s not just small businesses that will be affected, though. Marketing specialist Somo has revealed that major sites, such as American Apparel, The Daily Mail, and Ryanair will suffer ranking drops unless they implement the appropriate changes by tomorrow.

Thank you Business Insider for providing us with this information.

Facebook AI – How It Will Effect The Content You Consume

AI is a big focus for companies like Facebook. Every time you load your news feed, some kind of algorithm is working hard to curate the best content for you. Have your closest friends shared a video of their holiday that you would like, does your favourite brand have a promotion that would be interesting to you, is there a viral video clip that’s suited to your interests. One way Facebook is looking to improve this system is with the use of a neural net AI, that can scan not only images, but also video content and text, detect what kind of content is featured and categorize it to serve it up in the news feed, on other websites and even respond to natural questions and searches based around the information it has learnt.

To demonstrate this, Facebook’s team taught the AI how to detect hundreds of different sports just by showing it a short clip. It was able to pick them out and categorise them, which could help improve upon the current and rather limited tag based system we use for videos.

A further demonstration involved showing the system the books of Lord of the Rings. The AI generated a short interpretation of the events of the story and in the real-time demo, they were able to ask questions about what happened, such as “where was the ring before it was destroyed?” and “where if Frodo now?” and the system responded correctly. This could have a huge impact on the way we navigate content and conduct searches on websites; I’m looking forward to seeing how this platform develops.

Check out the rest of our F8 coverage here.