Blog Posts by Greg Hughes

  • Bitcoin: why you should definitely pay attention to it

    There's been a lot of hype over the past few weeks over Bitcoin, a digital currency that some are calling one of the most ingenious (and risky) inventions conceived during the Internet Age.

    In layman's terms, Bitcoin is a currency that runs in some ways like traditional currency: a person can use Bitcoins online to pay for items, services or anything that regular currency allows a person to buy. Bitcoin proponents hope the currency will one day be on par with the U.S. dollar or British pound sterling as a currency investors can buy into.

    This is where Bitcoin parts company with currencies regulated by governments. Bitcoin, unlike, say, the U.S. dollar, has no central bank-like issuer. Bitcoins are traded through peer-to-peer networks online through so-called "Bitcoin miners" that confirm transactions every 10 minutes.

    What makes Bitcoin so interesting is how it bypasses all the traditional methods of controlling money transfers in favour of the decentralized Internet.

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  • Four ways Skype has changed the way the world communicates

    Skype's helped to change the world (Getty Images)

    Anyone that's spent lots of time online over the past decade knows a few immutable facts: there's always new applications to learn, you're always in a race to upgrade your digital devices, and Skype is truly a beautiful thing.

    Ever since two Estonian software developers released the free Internet-based phone service a decade ago, Skype's brought video calling — once thought to be relegated to the obscure worlds of futuristic sci-fi films — to the masses in a big, big way.

    The world has taken to Skype in such dramatic fashion that the service revealed this week that its users now spend an astonishing two billion minutes each day communicating with one another on its VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calling and messaging service.

    That's a huge number, all the more incredible given that Skype has become a go-to for more than just video calls. The service continues to expand its range of offerings, and with Microsoft planning to phase out its Windows Live Messenger service in favour of

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  • Three potential pitfalls in the new Google Glass technology

    Google might just be changing the world again with its Google Glass product, albeit not in the ways the company expects.

    There’s been plenty of hype so far about the potentially-revolutionary new Project Glass, a device that interacts with the Internet via voice commands and turns your daily experiences into a very basic version of augmented reality.

    I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t personally stoked about Google Glass. I think the device has a ton of potential to change the way we interact online, as well as make the Web even more present in our daily lives. It may open the Web up to new kinds of communications, expanding our digital horizons to frontiers we couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.

    Still, it’s understandable there have been some naysayers to Google Glass. This device is unlike anything we’ve seen before, so there’s going to be some people out there that will push back on a game changer like this.

    Do they have legitimate reasons to be concerned? Probably.

    [

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  • Three ways ‘cyber squatting’ messes with your online experience

    (Getty Images)The election of Pope Francis I as the 266th Pontiff of the Catholic Church was a watershed media event this week.

    Everyone interested in the Papal elections wanted to get a glimpse of the newly-elected Pope and find out everything they could about the new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

    And, of course, there were also people who just wanted to cash in on the Pope's election in whatever way they could.

    Want proof? It was reported within hours of the new Pope's election, over 600 domain names containing derivations of the Pontiff's name were snatched up by cyber squatters. These web addresses ranged from Popefrancisi.com, popefrancis.org and many others (although some buyers of domain names have been generous enough to just hand ownership rights over to the Vatican, no questions asked).

    It was a surprising digital lapse on part of the Holy See, given that the Vatican has a notoriously labyrinthine policy about the Church's role in cyberspace.

    Of course, the reasons for cyber

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  • Internet-enabled interfaces will become the norm on refrigerators in the years to come (Getty Images)

    We’ve become pretty used to the idea that digital technology has been spreading into all facets of our lives.

    The Internet is now moving into a stage of evolution where it's going from visible to invisible, or rather fading into the background of our lives. Everything we are doing (and will do) with the net will become increasingly seamless and frictionless.

    This is most apparent with domestic appliances, like a refrigerator or an oven. Even though 'smart appliances' have existed for some time, 2013 marks the year we're finally reaching a tipping point in the widespread adoption of these intelligent machines.

    The kitchen is finally going high-tech. And it’s going to be a change unlike anything we’ve seen before with the Internet.

    Of course, there are challenges in bringing the Internet into kitchens. Given that people spend a significant amount of time in a kitchen, a digital experience with, say, a fridge requires a wholly different experience than the ones we have with a laptop,

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  • Three things you need to know about Stuxnet malware

    Anyone with a working knowledge of computers and the Internet knows of malware — a catch-all term for software that attacks a computer’s systems, like a virus or Trojan Horse.

    These kinds of software pose a real threat to your personal security. There’s risks of losing your data, compromising your banking information or losing your hard drive altogether if malware makes its way into your PC’s vital systems.

    Now imagine computer malware so dangerous that it works its way into a country’s nuclear facilities, spying and attacking digital infrastructure on an industrial scale.

    The bad news? That kind of malware already exists.

    It’s called Stuxnet — an extremely sophisticated computer worm that spreads indiscriminately across targeted networks.

    The virus is alleged to have been created by American and Israeli intelligence services to attack software and equipment that runs Iran’s nuclear program. Stuxnet’s origins have been shrouded in mystery, yet this week, news emerged that the malware

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  • Three reasons why fibre Internet connections matter to you

    (CBC Photo)As an Internet user, you want your online experience to be as fast as possible, right?

    Unfortunately, as Canadians, we're not doing too well in speedy internet access. If there's a word to describe how our Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are doing in providing us with fast access to the net, we can safely say: middling.

    According to netindex.com, average download speeds in Canada may be slightly ahead of nations like the United States, France and Slovakia. Yet as a country, we're far behind the world leader in Internet download speeds, Hong Kong. Canada logs in at an average of 16.16 megabytes per second, whereas South Korean net speeds average a whopping 45.94 megabytes per second.

    There are a few reasons why net access speeds in Canada are so slow in comparison to nations like Hong Kong, South Korea and Sweden: bandwidth throttling (where ISPs deliberately slow down your internet connections) by big ISPs like Rogers or Bell and a much larger geographic space across Canada to

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  • Four reasons to go beyond Facebook for social networking

    Facebook (Getty Images)

    With over one billion users worldwide, you'd think that Facebook pretty much has a lock on social networking online.

    It's true that the Palo Alto, California-based tech giant is still our go-to place to connect with friends and family online. Facebook isn't going away anytime soon.

    That being said, there's more than a few people out there that think Facebook's not working so well.

    Criticism of Facebook has grown considerably over the past year, with complaints ranging from the site being much more interested in investors than a great user experience, or that user privacy is becoming decidedly (and unnervingly) less important to Facebook's management team.

    But what's the most troubling complaint? Facebook isn't cool anymore.

    In response to these claims, there's some tech entrepreneurs that have decided to use the one element that made Facebook so valuable in its early days at Harvard University — exclusivity — and apply it to their own start-up businesses.

    These businesses are

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  • Three reasons you should pay attention to Raspberry Pi

    Raspberry Pi model
    There's a delicious new treat in the digital world.

    It's the size of a credit card, costs just $25 and may be starting a quiet revolution in how people work with computers.

    It's called Raspberry Pi — a micro-sized computer that's making some serious waves among educators, businesses and geeks alike.

    Originally conceived by computer developers in the U.K., it's been built with the intention of inspiring kids to learn computer science. The Pi is a very bare bones computer — it's basically a stripped-down motherboard when you get down to the core of it — but has a surprising number of features that most modern computers have, including an HDMI port, USB ports, video and audio output and can be connected to a TV or laptop (among other things).

    Here's how it's laid out:

    Raspberry Pi breakdown

    So far, the Pi has been making waves with schools in Britain, Europe and the Middle East that want kids to learn how to program. Yet with such a cheap cost and surprising amounts of power for such a small device, there's

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