Friday, December 9, 2011

TECH NEWS: Disaster Communications Receives Passing Grade at VTech

Virginia Tech, apparently, earned a graduate degree in crisis communications in the four years since the tragic 2007 shootings. When shots were fired on campus yesterday, campus officials used text message alerts, even Twitter, to keep their community and the public at-large informed.

One simple message, sent minutes (not hours) after initial reports of a gunman loose on campus --and several timely updates later-- informed students and staff to simply stay indoors.



After receiving a failing grade during the previous campus tragedy, VT went high tech, installing a outbound text alert system amplifying the message from the administration offices to personal cell phones in pockets across the community.

Such systems are becoming commonplace in universities, hospitals, even municipalities around the world.

One local school campus installed a similar program to notify students in a variety of emergency situations with instant updates in the aftermath of the VT shootings.

If you have a son or daughter in school, yesterday's news from VT should serve as a reminder to check the contact information on file with your campus. Alerts are useless if sent an old or incorrect phone number.

While no one technology is foolproof, even in the best of circumstances. Outages, errors, even dead batteries can thwart complex systems when they're needed most.

Always have a backup.

Think about your own, personal, communications plan: What will you do when the next emergency hits?

Friday, November 18, 2011

KXL: The 25 Worst Passwords

Just in time for the Holiday shopping season...

Once again, the list of 25 worst passwords is out and the results (as Rebecca asked: "How many years have we been talking about this?") are still somewhat surprising.

1. password
2. 123456
3.12345678
4. qwerty
5. abc123
6. monkey
7. 1234567
8. letmein
9. trustno1
10. dragon
11. baseball
12. 111111
13. iloveyou
14. master
15. sunshine
16. ashley
17. bailey
18. passw0rd
19. shadow
20. 123123
21. 654321
22. superman
23. qazwsx
24. michael
25. football

If your password is on the list (or could be), here are some quick tips to choosing a good password:

  • Make it easy for you to remember but hard to guess.
  • Use a phrase, lyric, or quote rather than word or simple numbers.
  • Add capitalization, punctuation, and symbols.
  • Change your passwords regularly and when you suspect compromise.
  • Do not give your login information to anyone (especially over the phone!).


Do you have additional tips? Have you had your accounts hacked? Leave a comment below... and thanks for joining us on FM News 101 KXL.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

KGW: Five Facebook Privacy Settings To Check Now

Many of us use Facebook every day.

But do we really know what information the social media giant is sharing with others?

I recently spoke with KGW-TV (NBC/Portland) Reporter Abbey Gibb about some of the most important settings and how to protect what others see about you.




Few take advantage of the updated security options - possibly because users aren't even aware they're available.

Of course, the tip not listed if you really don't want your information out there? Don't share it on the web at all.

For more perspective on this, or any tech story, drop Brian an email: techexpert AT brianwestbrook DOT com.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

KING-TV's New Day Northwest w/Margaret Larson: Remembering Steve Jobs - 12 October 2011 (KING-TV)



How will you remember Steve Jobs? Which of these products do you remember?


For more visit http://tech.brianwestbrook.com or follow Brian on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BMW/

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

KXL: Netflix CEO "Apologizes", Makes Things Worse

Netflix just can't catch a break.

Listen to my radio report on this topic, originally broadcast on Portland's FM News 101 KXL earlier today, 20 September 2011: kxl_techexpert-netflixbacklash_20110920.mp3 (MP3)

In a PR and stock price nightmare, the company announced a price hike moving from basic plans starting at around $10 a month to seperate fees for their signature DVD-by-mail service and their online streaming movies-on-demand offering.

Now customers must choose either the streaming service (with convenient set-top box playback on devices such as Xbox 360, ROKU player, TiVo, and even many newer television sets) or receiving the familiar red envelope with a disc at your doorstep. Each service is now $8 a piece-- a 60% price increase for those without a calculator handy.

Perhaps to make matters worse, Netflix Co-Founder and CEO, Reed Hastings posted and emailed customers (in part) the following statement:
"It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. I’ll try to explain how this happened."


Then Hastings continues to explain that the rate hike was necessary to improve the technology of the streaming platform.

What has alarmed users, and as a result shareholders, most, however in the CEO's message seems to be the announcement of a split. Where both products were once offered under the "Netflix" name, now the physical DVDD service will, the note informs, be called Qwikster while the streaming option will retain the Netflix brand.

Now to create queues, search, rank and share titles users will be forced to use two separate platforms-- a confusing option it appears many users are not pay MORE for.

Meanwhile, web comic The Oatmeal weighed in this week with perhaps the genius' most timely and spot-on commentary of the price-hike yet (click the red banner to load the full comic in a new window):



Listen to my radio report on this topic, originally broadcast on Portland's FM News 101 KXL earlier today 20 September 2011: kxl_techexpert-netflixbacklash_20110920.mp3 (MP3)

Is Netflix doomed? Did you unsubscribe? What can save the struggling company from its recent downward spiral? What other streaming movie on-demand options do you recommend?

Google+ Gets Updates, Now Open


Noting the nearly three months since Google+ hit the web, the tech giant announced improvements (nine to be exact) to the social networking site competing with Facebook.

Google+, at approx. 10 million users according to some reports, http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifhas a fraction of the traffic of the more-established Facebook at 750+ million users. That hasn't stopped Google from devoting massive resources to the project.

Today's announcement brings, among other improvements: enhanced features for Hangouts (Google+'s group video chat product), the launch of a Hangouts developer API for creating apps and interfaces, as well as the news that invitations are no longer required.

Much to the dismay of many loyal Google users (including myself), they did NOT release support for Google Apps accounts-- the custom "bring your own domain" solution for companies, small businesses and power users with their own branded presence online.

Also notably missing from today's launch is the much-anticipated business profiles feature allowing those non-user accounts from businesses and brands to stake their outpost on the newest social network on the block.

Both features are said to be in testing now and are expected to be released soon.

Are you using Google+? Will these features impact your experience with the social network? What would you like to see added to Google+ next?

Check out Google+ for yourself (invites no longer required!): http://google.com/+

DISCLOSURE: Despite my best efforts, a family member working on the Google+ team coudn't, wouldn't and didn't share any information prior to today's announcement or influence coverage about this news. Maybe next time?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

KGW-TV's Live @ 7: Apple CEO Steve Jobs Resigns - 24 August 2011 (KGW-TV)





Steve Jobs has clearly set the bar for what it means to move forward in any industry, let alone the technology world. News of his resignation hit the tech community with the intensity normally reserved for world conflicts and natural disasters. Replacing Jobs is Apple Inc. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook.

The company's board immediately accepted Jobs' recommendation to appoint Tim Cook as CEO and Jobs as Board Chairman.

Medical issues have forced Steve Jobs to take a leave of absence from day-to-day duties three times since 2004.
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO," Steve Jobs wrote, "I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."

After founding the company in the 1970's, Steve was ousted by the board before returning in 1996 after Apple acquired NExT computer. He was CEO from 1997 to 20011.

Prior to starting Apple with Steve Wozniak, Jobs enrolled in Portland's Reed College in 1972.

Friday, August 19, 2011

KGW-TV's Live @ 7: Back To School Gadgets - 19 August 2011 (KGW-TV)




Shopping for Back to School? Check out these picks for a gadget-enhanced education:

HP Pavilion G6— An ideal PC-based laptop for those heading off for college that won’t bust the bank. Improved cooling, a biometric swipe for sign-on, and an HD webcam for keeping in touch with family back home. The brilliant 15.6” LED screen and optional Blu-ray player make it perfect for winding down after a long week of studying. ($600, hp.com)

HP Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse—The first mouse that connects using Wi-Fi to your PC, the innovative mouse contours to your hand and has multiple controls to easily navigate the web. ($49, hp.com)

Kobo eReader Touch—the well-designed touch-screen Kobo sports a lightweight design and using E Ink technology to provide an easy-to-read display. Available in four colors, this lightest-weight eBook reader supports a variety of open standard bookstore formats. ($130, kobobooks.com)

Amazon Kindle—the standard-bearer of the eBook revoluation, the Kindle continues to dominate e-reading. New this year, the Kindle store offers textbook rentals of any length from 30 to 360 days which can be read on your Kindle or any of a variety of phone/computer platforms. ($114, amazon.com)

HP Envy 100—The sleek and compact wireless Envy 100 won’t wake your roommate and supports AirPrint and an easy-to-use print-by-email feature. This printer has memory card slots for photo printing and a scanner to make digital copies of class notes and handouts. ($200, hp.com)

Grace Digital Audio Microsystem—The perfect bookshelf system for background music while studying or cranking the tunes to let loose after finals. Get content from various sources via. the buit-in WiFi connection, load songs from your USB device or connect any portable music player. With five alarm settings, it’ll also wake you up! ($250, GraceDigitalAudio.com)

GriffinTech TechSafe Cable Lock System—Keep your laptop secure… lock it up. Look for an optional Anchor Clamp that turns any table into a secure place to lock down your laptop. ($30, griffintechnology.com)

PowerSkin Battery Pack—with hours between chargers, you can’t afford to be without juice for your smartphone. The PowerSkin battery pack is a case that doubles as a battery pack keeping you in touch with friends and family. ($50-80, power-skin.com)

RageGage: RageGage Smash Pad— a stress-reliever button that contains fun and cheeky expressions to blow off steam during late-night study sessions. A perfect gift for those students heading back to class—sure beats taking your frustration out on the dorm walls. Save the damage deposit and pick up the $20 Smash Pad instead! ($20, ragegage.com)

Grace Digital Audio Microsystem—The perfect bookshelf system for background music while studying or cranking the tunes to let loose after finals. Get content from various sources via. the buit-in WiFi connection, load songs from your USB device or connect any portable music player. With five alarm settings, it’ll also wake you up! ($250, GraceDigitalAudio.com)


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

KING-TV's New Day Northwest w/Margaret Larson: Back To School Gadgets - 10 August 2011 (KING-TV)



Once upon a time, we sharpened our pencils and bought notebook paper to go back to school, but times have changed. Now, there are more gadgets and gizmos than we can count... but how do you know you're buying the right ones for your kids whether they're headed off to middle or high school, or college? Tech expert Brian M. Westbrook shows a bunch of high tech gadgets for Back To School... including:

Kobo eReader Touch— The well-designed touch-screen Kobu sports a lightwveight design and using E Ink technology to provide an easy-to-read display. Available in four colors, this lightest-weight eBook reader supports a variety of open standard bookstore formats. ($130, kobobooks.com)

Amazon's Kindle— The standard-bearer of the eBook revoluation, the Kindle continues to dominate e-reading. New this year, the Kindle store offers textbook rentals of any length from 30 to 360 days which can be read on your Kindle or any of a variety of phone/computer platforms. ($114, amazon.com)

Epson Stylus NX625— All-in-one printer that has build-in WiFi and prints from mobile devices (including the Apple iPhone). Sporting a 2.5-inch color LCD and built-in memory card slots, you'll be printing those reports and homework in brilliant quality. ($130, epson.com)

HP Pavillion G6— An ideal PC-based laptop for those heading off for college that won't bust the bank. Improved cooling, a biometric swipe for sign-on, and an HD webcam for keeping in touch with family back home. The brilliant 15.6" LED screen and optional Blu-ray player make it perfect for winding down after a long week of studying. ($600, hp.com)

HP Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse— The first mouse that connects using Wi-Fi to your PC, the innovative mouse contours to your hand and has multiple controls to easily navigate the web. ($49, hp.com)

Verbatim: Store 'n' Go® Clip-It USB Drive— These tiny USB thumb drives are perfect problem-solvers for transferring photos, projects, or notes back and forth between machines or as a backup. Starting at $23, they're cheap insurance for students of all ages. ($23-60, verbatim.com)

RageGage: RageGage Smash Pad— a stress-reliever button that contains fun and cheeky expressions to blow off steam during late-night study sessions. A perfect gift for those students heading back to class—sure beats taking your frustration out on the dorm walls. Save the damage deposit and pick up the $20 Smash Pad instead! ($20, ragegage.com)

And finally, a handy organizer for your tablet from cocoonbags.com!

For more visit http://tech.brianwestbrook.com or follow Brian on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BMW/