iCloak Stik – portable online anonymity tool

2e245a5325c4cff073637ca24910227b_largeThe iCloak Stik is a promised to be a portable anonymity tool, turning any computer into a private, safe, and untrackable way of accessing the internet.  It’s basically just software on a USB flash drive that boots when you reboot your 64-bit Windows or Mac computer, and promises to completely mask your IP address (using TOR or I2P), let you choose what country you’d like to appear to be surfing the ‘net from, creates a random MAC address for your computer (the physical ID of your network interface circuit), browse anonymously, wipe all trace of your online activity, prevent malware/spyware infections, and encrypt usernames and passwords.  Oh, and you can store files on the USB stick too (but I don’t think these get encrypted).  It’s really like booting into a separate, scaled-down OS – you won’t be using your normal computer apps.

In case you haven’t been following the news, it turns out the NSA has been spying on Americans regardless of whether or not they’re suspected of doing anything wrong.  The latest Snowden leak showed that of 160,000 intercepted messages, only 10% were from official targets.  Devices like the iCloak are targeted at people who view this as a violation of their freedoms and fourth amendment rights.  Of course, note that with Kickstarter, the names and cities of all backers is public information…so I wouldn’t be surprised that if you choose to be a backer, you’ll end up on an NSA watchlist somewhere.  Paranoid?  Not really.  People who followed links to articles on Boing Boing about Tor and Tails ended up on such a list.  Still, I figure by even writing about the iCloak I’ll get on that list…so I might as well buy an iCloak while I’m at it!

You can check out their Kickstarter page here.

Apple expands recycling program to cover ALL products

Apple has long offered gift cards in exchange for old Apple products that have some commercial value…but they’re now expanding that recycling program to include ALL Apple products, even ones that are worthless.  They won’t be giving out gift cards for your own junk, but they WILL recycle them for free, you just drop them off at any Apple store.

Apple is also touting some recent environmental advancements they’re making, such as:

  • Including both data centers and corporate campuses, 94 percent of Apple’s energy is from renewable sources
  • Apple is working with suppliers to recycle water with a new Clean Water Program pilot
  • All Apple cables used in China are now PVC-free
  • Apple has signed the CERES Climate Declaration
  • Energy initiatives at facilities in Cupertino have saved enough energy to power 1200 homes per year
  • Over 1000 shared bicycles will be available at the new ‘spaceship’ campus
  • Over 90 percent of material Apple recycles is from products other than their own

(via AppleInsider)

HDD reliability test results

ku-xlargeIf you’re smart, you want to buy the most reliable hard drive possible…but what would that be?  Enterprise-class drives are a common choice, but are they worth the extra money?  How do the different brands compare?  There’s a company called BackBlaze that runs a business backing up all the data from your computer, unlimited storage, for just $5 per month.  So, as you might expect, they go through a lot of hard drives.  At the end of 2013, they were using a total of 27,134 drives!  Fortunately for the rest of us, they’ve tracked HDD longevity and made the results public at their blog (very smart marketing move!).

There are some interesting conclusions from their testing.  First, they’ve found that if reliability is your priority, the extra cost of enterprise-class drives isn’t worth it.  What I find most fascinating is the graph that’s posted here, showing how Seagate, well, sucks.  In spite of that though, they’re still fans of Seagate and still buying new ones, as they explain in their blog.  In short, some Seagate driaves are OK, others have a 120% annual failure rate (meaning, they won’t even last a year).  If you want to be safe though, stick with Western Digital or Hitachi.

Current state of computer voice recognition

Despite what you see in movies, the reality is that computer voice recognition still sucks.  There’s a great illustration of this in the following video…designer Michael Silber had Siri speak some text, and that was then sent to Google Voice, which transcribed it into text.  That text was fed back into Siri..and the process repeated.  It’s much like the ‘telephone’ game that kids play, and the results are similar…the message quickly degrades into gibberish.