The Watermark App

This holiday season, I got to celebrate by having not one, but two back-to-back colds. As pervasive boredom began to set hold, I decided I needed to do something productive with my holidays.

Then, my fiancee (yes, I proposed at Christmas and she said YES!) and I were talking about one of her volunteer activities. She’s part of a swing dance community, and they’re trying to up their social media game. One of their challenges is how to get nice watermarked photos online without spending oodles of time in an image editor.

Continue reading “The Watermark App”

Windows 7 End-of-Life is Near. What Does That Mean?

You may have heard that as of January 14, 2020, Windows 7 will no longer be supported by Microsoft.

But what does that mean? I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask, “what should I do?” It’s an interesting question because it depends on a few factors.

First, let’s talk about what “End-of-Life” means for Windows 7.

Simply put, it means that January 14, 2020 will be the last time Windows 7 gets security updates from Microsoft. After that, if any bugs are found in Windows 7 by hackers, they won’t be fixed.

Let me address a few common questions about this.

“Will my computer stop working?”

No. Your computer will keep running after January 14, 2020. You probably won’t notice anything different in the first few days and weeks. However, it will be more dangerous to run Windows 7 for much longer. Why?

Since Windows 7 will no longer be supported, other apps may stop getting updates for Windows 7 as well. Apps such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and older versions of Office. This will leave your computer much more vulnerable to new malware that Windows 10 may be immune to.

“Will attackers be able to get into my [insert account here]?”

No. Over time there may be new Windows 7 security holes found that make it easier for attackers to steal your data.

“You’re saying there may be issues in the future.

You’re right, I am saying “may” a lot. That’s because end-of-life issues won’t affect you right away. Old, out-of-date operating systems and software are ripe targets for attackers because they know the problems won’t be fixed. In other words, out-of-date software makes you and your data more vulnerable to an attack.

“What should I do?”

You have a few options. My Squeaky Clean Computers clients have made their move over to Windows 10. Microsoft still seems to allow people to upgrade to Windows 10 using their existing Windows 7 license key. Depending on how long they keep that going, you may be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.

However, consider the life of your computer. Windows 7 came out in 2009. Most computers have a lifespan of 5 years. If your computer was purchased in 2014 or earlier, you may want to upgrade to a new one. Around 5 years is when we start to see major components start to fail (e.g. cooling fans, hard drives). A new computer will come with Windows 10, and in many cases you’ll find they’re way faster and more energy efficient than your old machine.

“What can I do with my old computer?”

Well, you can always put Windows 10 on it and give it to a relative or your kids.

Or, you can get a charitable tax receipt if you donate it to RCT Ontario. They securely erase the computer, then donate it to schools in Ontario for student use.

“What would you do, Elias?”

I’ll recommend what I’ve told my clients: move to Windows 10. If your computer is more than 5 years old, upgrade to a new machine. If it’s less, try the upgrade to Windows 10 with your existing key. If you’re based in Ontario, my Squeaky Clean Computers technicians can get you upgraded, usually same-day.

A List of Simple Colours

A list of simple colours. Seems like such a trivial idea, doesn’t it? Recently in one of our apps, we needed a list of colours to differentiate some categorized items. Most of the palette-creating tools on the web give you a palette of 5-6 colours.

We needed around 10.

Enter Sasha Trubetskoy and his blog post, List of 20 Simple, Distinct Colors.

Sometimes the best things in life are simple.

Thanks Sasha.

The Minty Amp – My First Altoids Tin Project

My life is filled with embedded computers and tiny components, and I love it. I’ve always had an affinity for underpowered equipment. The limitations force you to become creative. I love working with multi-processor computers, don’t get me wrong. But there is something that fuels my creative drive something fierce when I work with embedded computers and electronics. Continue reading “The Minty Amp – My First Altoids Tin Project”

Data Science For Humans – Beta Lecture Series

Recently I had the pleasure of delivering a data science lecture for the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Policy. After that lecture, I decided to re-record a few choice bits for a more global audience.

This series of videos takes a quick look at how to install Anaconda, an all-in-one programming setup for data analytics, and then how to read in CSV (comma-separated value) files, clean them, and export them again. Continue reading “Data Science For Humans – Beta Lecture Series”

My first book, “Beyond Passwords,” is DONE. Wow.

Today marks a big day in my life.

I completed my first book. I just sent off the final manuscript for publishing. (That’s fancy-words for “I emailed a formatted PDF to the publisher.”)

This book is all about cyber-security for small businesses. While some of the content applies to individuals, I geared it toward the needs of business owners. Stuff like how to stay safe while traveling, what makes a strong password (hint: it’s not a word), and why you should NEVER leave your laptop unattended.

Continue reading “My first book, “Beyond Passwords,” is DONE. Wow.”

Your Wi-Fi Password is (Probably) Too Short

When’s the last time you changed your Wi-Fi password? Perhaps you’re among many who have never thought to. When you signed up for Internet service, did you have the technician set up your modem for you? If so, your Wi-Fi password is probably way too short to be secure.

tl;dr: If your Wi-Fi password hasn’t been changed for years or it’s < 12 characters long, go change it. NOW. Continue reading “Your Wi-Fi Password is (Probably) Too Short”

Pattern Matching & Systematic Reduction Continued: How I Learned to Multiply

Last time I talked about memory and memorization I discussed how I learned the Braille alphabet. We reduced the number of symbols to memorize from 64 down to 5, plus a few rules to transform those symbols. I mentioned I wanted to show how I skipped learning the multiplication tables.

In elementary school, I hated having to memorize the multiplication table. Teachers always tried to tell me different ways to memorize it, but I could never shove that knowledge in my head.

Continue reading “Pattern Matching & Systematic Reduction Continued: How I Learned to Multiply”

Pattern Matching & Systematic Reduction: How I Learn New Ideas Efficiently

Throughout my life I have always searched for patterns. I can’t explain why, but I’ve found it’s been the way I’ve learned most efficiently. One example of this is my recent fascination with Braille. I had the chance to play Scrabble recently with someone who is fully blind.

It was, no pun intended, an eye-opening experience. Not just because I was soundly defeated (I don’t play Scrabble much), but because this person was able to feel their way around the board, their letters, and come up with high-scoring words.

Continue reading “Pattern Matching & Systematic Reduction: How I Learn New Ideas Efficiently”

Modernizing Your Libraries: What Magical Go-Fast Button Lurks Within Your Code?

One of the specialties of my consulting company, Northern HCI Solutions, is to take old software and modernize it. Often companies have programs that work perfectly well, but because their code is aging, it’s hard to find people to maintain those systems.

One of our most recent projects involved modernizing a Delphi app written in the late 1990’s. This app is an amazing piece of kit. It runs scientific simulations on a precise timescale. Our client wanted to keep the functionality they had and present it to users as a web app. Continue reading “Modernizing Your Libraries: What Magical Go-Fast Button Lurks Within Your Code?”