QR Codes - An Alternative to Usernames and Passwords?

Posted Posted by Brent in Comments 0 comments

Whenever we hear the words "login page," our minds probably jump to an image of a Username and Password box with a Submit button. This is because, even though there are alternative means of user authentication, such as fingerprint scanning, the username and password combo is the most convenient and widely accepted security model by far.

However, in the past few years, a promising new security model has been developed - QR Codes! Now, QR Codes are mainly known to the public as a URL link - scan the code, and your smart phone will take you to a web page! However, several teams and organizations have developed a clever way to use QR Codes as an alternative to the standard username and password model. Instead of logging in using the traditional way, a user would simply scan a QR Code with his or her smart phone, and the website would safely, automatically identify the person who scanned in!


URL vs Username and Password. Which one wins?

So how does it work? The process is pretty complicated, but in a nutshell, it works like this. A Masterkey is a randomly generated 256-bit integer - that is, an extremely large number with basically zero chance of being reproduced. Each user gets his or her own unique Masterkey. Then, when the user clicks on a QR Code on a website (or scans the code with their smart phone), the website will perform some math using that user's Masterkey with the randomly generated QR Code. If the results of this math check out, the website can identify the user, and the user is logged in.

From the users' perspective, all they have to do is click on the QR Code, and they're in! No usernames, no passwords, no hassle!

You may be wondering, though, "How is this secure? If a hacker gets a hold of my Masterkey, I'm finished!" And, unfortunately, this is true. However, it is worth noting that this is also the case with Usernames and Passwords. The difference is that most people typically use "weak" passwords, which hackers are able to guess quickly by using tools. By comparison, Masterkeys are 256-bit integers - extremely large numbers which are nearly impossible to reverse-engineer through traditional password-cracking methods. If I understand the math from this page correctly, there is less than a 1 in 100 Trillion chance of a hacker successfully obtaining a user's Masterkey!

It is unlikely that Usernames and Passwords will be replaced by QR Code logins any time soon, but the research in this method is interesting and exciting! For more information, check out these pages for different QR Code developers.

Phone Battery Life!

Posted Posted by Drew Locke in , , , , Comments 0 comments

Smartphones have become such an important part of everyday life. We use them everywhere! But unfortunately I think we can all agree that the battery life of our phones never really lasts as long as we would like. Most phone's battery life only last one day (or even less) and we end up having to charge our phone every night for the entire night which actually isn't good for our batteries! Regrettably, a major solution to longer battery life hasn't been invented in a costly scale. However, a great solution to charging our smartphones has, and it is being implemented in a lot of the new smart phones coming out in 2015.

Nearly all smartphones today use lithium batteries which are the highest capacity batteries of the time. They are great at storing, however, up until now the charging for these batteries has been very slow. This is because lithium cannot be presented with a high flow of current or it will damage the cells. The industries solution to this in the past was to just set the current at a steady safe flow and slowly charge the battery. Qnovo has made a solution to this problem, which is to present a smart charging system to manage the flow of current while monitoring the state of the battery. This allows the maximum amount of current to flow to the battery while also keeping the lithium battery safe.

This is a great solution to keeping your battery safe and efficient. Now we can just plug in our phones when we wake up and let them charge while we get ready. The chart below shows the efficiency of batteries over time based on the type of charging used.

pop-ups! POP-ups!! POP-UPS!!!

Posted Posted by Emily Strandvold in Comments 0 comments

Does your browser look like this when you open a webpage? Do you have lots of pop-ups and strange links when you are online? Here are some helpful hints on how you can have a pop-up free online experience.

While some extensions can be helpful, others can be a huge culprit when it comes to pop-ups. Here is how to find out what extensions you have installed on different web browsers.
  • Google Chrome:

        1. In the top right corner of your browser click on the Chrome menu button
        2. Select More Tools and then Extensions

  • Internet Explorer:

        1. In the top right corner of your browser click on the Tools button button
        2.  Select Manage add-ons

  • Firefox

        1. Click the  New Fx Menu  button
        2. Select Add-ons
        3. Select the Extensions panel 

  • Safari

        1. Go to the Safari Menu/Preferences
        2. Select the extensions tab

Now that you can see your extensions, look for any that you don't recognize. Culprits can often have strange names and repeating letters. If you find one that you don't remember installing or that doesn't look quite right you can Google it to see if it is indeed a problem. If it is, delete or at least disable it and see if that fixes your pop-up problem.

Another big cause of pop-ups is viruses and adware. You can clean these off your computer in two different ways.
  • Clean up programs: For Windows go to "Add or Remove Programs" and for Macs go to "Applications." Look through your programs and look through them like you did with your browser extensions. Shouldiremoveit.com is a good website to look up possibly malicious programs. If a program has a bad reputation for containing malware or adware and you don't remember installing it, go ahead and uninstall it. If you are unsure about a program you can call or visit the DormNet help desk and we can help you go through your list of programs.
  • Run a virus scan: After putting your computer in Safe Mode, run a scan like MBAM or Spybot to clean up viruses and adware. If you do not want to do these scans yourself you can come up to the DormNet help desk and we can check in your computer and run the scans for you.
If you are still having problems make sure you have restarted your computer. If the problem still persists come visit the DormNet help desk and we will see what we can do.


Get Your Mac Outta the Gray

Posted Posted by Stephanie Grzenia in , Comments 0 comments

Every once in a while during start up a mac will and get stuck at a gray screen with a perpetual loading symbol. If that happens there are a few steps you can take to try and get it back up and running without booting from a disk, restoring your laptop, going to the Apple store, or buying a new computer.

Force Restart - Press and hold power button until computer shuts down.

The first thing to try is a force shutdown. Sometimes the laptop will just hit a hitch while booting up and forcing the laptop to shut down and then restart can give it a fresh start.

Disconnect all peripheral devices

Peripheral devices are anything extra you have attached to the laptop. For example, a mouse, keyboard, flash drive, or other external device. If these devices are not correctly plugged in, they have a disconnected wire, or are not operating properly, those problems can cause the computer to have trouble connecting or recognizing them on startup and get it caught at the startup screen. The easy fix for this is to shutdown the laptop, unplug all the peripheral devices, and then restart the laptop without anything connected.

Safe Boot - Press and hold ‘Shift’ key after start up noise.

If those two fixes do not work, the next thing to try is booting the computer into safe boot/safe mode. When a computer boots in safe mode it checks the directory and fixes any problems that may be there. The computer also only loads select functions and runs other diagnostic problems. If you want to see what is being loaded and checked during a safe boot press Shift+Command+V instead of just shift and you will enter what is known as verbose mode in addition to safe boot, that will give you a report as to what is going on. If a safe boot works sometimes all you have to do from there is reboot normally and your troubles are gone. However, if just running a safeboot did not work, re-enter safe mode and see if maybe your hard drive is full, a program is malfunctioning, there is a driver causing issues, etc...

Reset NVRAM/PRAM  - Press command + option + p + r on startup.

The NVRAM, also know as the PRAM, is a section of memory on your mac that contains user preferences such as volume, screen resolution, and the like. Problems such as a gray screen can arises when data stored in the NVRAM gets corrupted. Corruption can occur when the computer shuts down or freezes in the middle of a system update or you upgrade or replace a piece of computer hardware. Another problem that can play havoc with the NVRAM is if the battery powering it is low or dead. A healthy NVRAM is important because when the system is booting it looks to this memory section in order to know what settings and preferences to boot, if it cannot do that or cannot do it correctly problems occur. To reset the NVRAM/PRAM you will first have to shut the computer down, restart it, and then on startup press and hold Command + Option + p + r.

** This step will reset all of your settings to factory default so you may have to reset your clock, screen resolution, volume settings, and any other user preference you may have changed previously. **

Reset SMC  - Press shift + option + control  and the power button while laptop is off and plugged in to the wall outlet.

The SMC is a part of the motherboard and is in charge of a lot of basic functions that help your computer run. Some of these functions include monitoring output, calibrating and charging the battery, monitoring the power button in order to know if the user wants to shut the laptop down, turn it on, or put it to sleep, control back-lighting and performance lights, and run hard drive spin downs and power up sequences. It is a very important part of the computer’s system and can cause issues if it gets out of whack. Different types of Apple products have different ways of resetting the SMC. When dealing with a laptop the first step is to turn the computer off. After that, you need to connect the laptop to it’s charger which in turn needs to be plugged into a wall outlet. Once that is done, all that remains is to press shift + control + option  and the power button simultaneously.

Single-user mode - Press command + s on startup

The last step is to try is a disk check and repair. In order to do that you are going to enter something called single-user mode (Command + s) which will bring you to the command line. Once there type /sbin/fsck - fy. The computer will then run through five different checks and will report either “This volume appears to be ok” or “File system was modified”. If you got the later message run the /sbin/fsck - fy command until you get  “This volume appears to be ok”. To get the computer back to a normal start up just power off the laptop and restart it as usual.

Happy computing!

Cookies are bad for your health and your computer!

Posted Posted by Mason Clemens in Comments 0 comments

Everyone loves the delectable warm taste of a cookie. The sweet sugary sensation in every bite is one of the greatest joys in the life of a human. However, I think we can all agree that too many cookies is bad for your health. We can also agree that eating too many cookies without exercising or doing a delay workout routine can lead to even more severe health conditions. In a figurative sense, this phenomenon is similar to that of a HTTP cookie (or web cookie, internet cookie, browser cookie, etc.).

The only difference is that internet cookies have never been "delectable". We do, however, love to surf the Web to look at social media, shop, and inform ourselves about current events. So in a sense, we like to consume information on the Internet, which involves downloading lots of web cookies. Originally, cookies were made to help us surf the Internet more efficiently, but many websites have created tracking cookies that can be annoying for users of the Web.

What is an internet cookie? It is a small piece of data that is sent from a website while browsing that website, and is then stored in the user's web browser (internet explorer, firefox, chrome, safari, etc.). Every time the user goes back to that website, the browser tells the server of that user's previous activity. Initially, cookies were used as a handy tool to remember items in a shopping cart, to remember pages user's had visited, and to keep user's logged in. Obviously, they are still being used in a good way, but now websites have created different kinds of cookies that can be intrusive. The most common is a tracking cookie, also called a persistent cookie. They are typically used by advertisers to track what a user has been doing on the Internet for an extended period of time. The tracking cookie then reports all that information back to a company's server. Another annoying cookie is called a third-party cookie. These are typically ads and banners from external websites. They might not even be related to the website you are currently looking at. Each third-party cookie shows different media because it is media relevant to each user.

Now you might be wondering, "How can I avoid the bad cookies and how can I get rid of them?" Unfortunately, you can never completely avoid the bad cookies because they are all over the Internet. Legitimate companies use cookies on their websites. Browsers have the capability to erase cookies for a period of time. In your browser's settings, you can delete history, cache, and cookies. It is highly recommended that you delete your cookies at least every week or two. Otherwise, your browser may run slow and you will have advertisements all over your webpages.

Thankfully, cookies are not attached with viruses or malicious content. They are simply just tracking devices. Before you enable your cookies on a website, always make sure the website is legit. Do not just click enable immediately without thinking about it. Cookies taste great, so I encourage you to consume them both physically and virtually. Just make sure you get on a weekly routine to watch your own health and to watch your computer's health.

Mobile World Congress 2015

Posted Posted by Andrew Cause in Comments 0 comments

World's largest technology conference keeps getting bigger! 

For any tech-lover like myself, we all get excited when tech giants like Samsung, Google, Apple, or Microsoft make big announcements about their upcoming products. It gives us a picture of what that year in technology is going to be like, as well as what kinds of products might just be in our own pockets or homes in the coming months. One of the largest of these events is beginning this upcoming Monday in Barcelona, Spain, This event is known as Mobile World Congress.

Every year during the end of February or first week in March, tens of thousands of tech writers, owners, and journalists gather in Barcelona to witness groundbreaking & innovative products & services from some of the world's most influential companies. This year is no exception. With companies like Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, & Google headlining the keynote addresses, you know there will be great stuff to see. Let's take a look at a couple things we should expect to see next week during this conference.

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S line since its inception has become one of the most recognizable smartphones in the world. Due to Samsung's superior marketing campaigns & commitment to customer satisfaction, the Galaxy S line has been a roaring success; however, their latest iteration of the Galaxy S, the Galaxy S5, was met with less than grand results. For the first time since the S line was released in June 2010, their total sales of the S5 fell from the previous year, most notably from their plastic design, heavily saturated version of the Android operating system known as TouchWiz, and increased competition from Apple, HTC, and Motorola. This year Samsung is gearing up for their largest launch ever with the Galaxy S6. Rumors & leaks have shown drastic improvement from the Galaxy S6 such as all-metal design, improved processors & cameras, a larger 5.5 inch Quad HD screen, and a scaled-back TouchWiz interface. If these rumors come to pass as being true, Samsung must just have another winner on their hands.

HTC One M9

In 2013, HTC needed something to bring them out of the hole that they had dug themselves into. They had experienced years of falling sales due to the growing success of Samsung, Google, and Apple. Well they delivered big time. They unveiled the HTC One M7, a beautiful aluminum smartphone that focuses on build quality & user-interface simplicity rather than flashing ad campaigns & top-level specifications. Since then, they have built upon that recipe with the HTC One M8 last year and are hoping to do so again this year. It appears as though HTC will continue their formula & success of the previous two generations while enhancing their camera experience & quality (the biggest complaint of previous generations) and improving their famous BoomSound speakers, an industry leader in its category. With an improved 5 inch 1080p screen, 20 MP camera, Android 5.0 with their own Sense 7 skin, and enhanced speakers, HTC looks to challenge Samsung, Apple, and Google for the top smartphone in the world.


Obviously these are just a couple of the hundreds of products & services that will be announced during this conference, but hopefully this gives you a picture of just how important this event is. Other possible announcements include new products or initiatives from Google, Windows 10 on phones, new Motorola phones, and much more! It will be exciting week for technology that should see some pretty incredible things announced & demonstrated. Keep a lookout over the week online for any updates on this conference and as always please check back here on our blog every week for new updates on what is going on in the tech world, as well as useful tips & tricks for life here at Harding University. Have a great weekend and feel free to contact us here at DormNet for any of your networking & internet needs!

The Great Divide: Tablets or Laptops?

Posted Posted by Erin Hasler in Comments 0 comments

When I was starting college there was one thing I knew I needed more than anything else: a laptop. I needed it for papers, watching tv shows, and general web surfing. It never occurred to me that a tablet might possibly be a good substitute for a laptop. More and more people are coming to school with iPads and are leaving laptops behind. Is this a good idea? That's exactly what I would like to discuss.

I want to start by saying, this is my opinion. I've done some research to help formulate this opinion, but that's all it is. Also, I'm a traditionalist. I prefer real books to e-readers and there just seems to be something authentic to me about a laptop.

One of the most appealing aspects of tablets is their portability. They are small and lightweight, which makes carrying them to classes a breeze. However, they totally lack the processing speed and memory that a laptop has. Most laptops are certainly heavier than tablets, but they also allow you to store so much more information.

One of the aspects of tablets that I really dislike is the lack of a keyboard. I can't write a paper without a keyboard. Thankfully, a lot of companies have come out with keyboard cases or just attachable keyboards that allow for typing, which I think is a great feature. Another aspect that I dislike is that you are tied to apps that are only available from either the iTunes, Google, Microsoft, or whatever store your tablet uses. Some classes require certain programs for homework or projects, but those may not always be available on the tablet.

To me, it just seems like a no-brainer that laptops are superior in basically every aspect. The only concession I will make on this fact is for the Microsoft Surface tablets.

They are essentially a computer except that you can't put any outside programs on them. The only problem is that they are pricey. I checked them out on Best Buy's website and the cheapest one (not refurbished) is a 64 GB Surface 2 that costs $499.99, but that one comes with a 2-year contract because it's an AT&T 4G LTE capable one. The most expensive on they have is a 512 GB Surface Pro 3 that has a 12 inch screen and an intel core i7 processor for $1,849.99, a very impressive machine.

The thing is, if all you want a tablet for is the fact that it's light, you don't really need a tablet for that. Almost, if not all, of the major computer manufacturing companies have begun making 2-in-1 computers. You can now by a computer that will either detach from the keyboard or flips to make it more tablet like. It's great and you can get them for a fraction of the cost of that Surface Pro 3.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, but I would really think long and hard about whether or not a tablet is the right decision for you. Don't just take my word for it, do some research and find out for yourself!