Ebay Hacked: If You Aren't Routinely Changing Passwords, a Reminder Why You Should

Categories: Tech

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Even Dark Helmet gets that you need better passwords.
I work with people every day who entrust me with their passwords so I can assist them with their tech issues, and I am constantly amazed at the overly simplistic nature of passwords for tremendously important data. It is reminiscent of the scene in Spaceballs where Dark Helmet says of the code to a planet's protective shield, "So the combination is...one, two, three, four, five? That's the stupidest combination I've ever heard in my life! That's the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage!"

Yet, shockingly, far too many people are more concerned with their ability to remember a password than with its safety. With the recent Heartbleed security vulnerability and now the most recent hack of popular auction site Ebay, there is one thing everyone can do to protect themselves: change their passwords. Every time a company is hacked, it immediately tells its users to change their passwords.

By now, this should be common practice for anyone who uses the Internet with regularity, but it's not.

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The Eight Best Things You Can Find in a Houston Pawn Shop

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Photo by Sander_123 from Flickr
Despite what the Pawn Stars of the History Channel may have you believe, pawn shops aren't all wacky items that require expert appraisal. Houston has its fair share of pawn shops, and they're filled with items both quirky and practical.

"You can find almost anything -- literally almost anything," said Jim Wright of Wright Pawn and Jewelry Company.

We spoke to different pawn shops to find out what they're selling. Here are some of our favorites.

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Five Things the Average Person Can Take Away From the AT&T-DirecTV Merger

Categories: Tech

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Maybe AT&T can convince DirecTV to ditch those creepy wireless ads.
It's hard to know exactly what any merger of two giant conglomerates means for the world. If you are like me, you view the joining of AT&T and DirecTV with about the same level of passing interest you might have for the sports scores from a team in the division of your favorite. That's to say it is mildly interesting and maybe even intriguing depending upon the time of year, but not enough for you do dig into in-depth analysis.

Which is why when it comes to mergers of technology companies, it makes our collective glazed-over stares more noticeable. But, this one is slightly different. AT&T and DirecTV, competitors in the world of cable television, merging underscores the radical changes taking place in broadcasting and broadband communications. I say radical because it is altering our perception of a technology that has been with us since the 1950s and it is doing so at breakneck pace.

Anyone who has watched a video on a smartphone or used a DVR to store a television show for later or used a streaming video service like Netflix to watch a movie has been touched by these changes, so it makes sense we should try to understand what a merger like this one means. Here are a few things of note.

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Comcastic: Having the Xfinity X1 Installed and Living to Tell About It

Categories: Tech

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If even these guys couldn't help me, Houston, I did have a problem.
I have Comcast at my house. I know, I know. It wasn't my first choice, but it was all I could have at my previous abode and I like CSN Houston. Plus, I'm a masochist.

For the most part, my Comcast service has been solid since I bought a new house and moved last summer. I don't complain too much, so maybe that's it, or maybe it is actually decent. Whatever the case, I rarely have to deal with customer support, so that's good, I guess.

Since Xfinity took over programming for Comcast's television division, there have been marked improvements in technology as well. The X1 is the latest of those changes, a significantly upgraded DVR set-top box with improved menus and an app-like interface that has received rave reviews from geeks who write about such things. It doesn't cost any more per month, but allows the recording of four shows at once and the playback of those shows on any of the satellite boxes you can scatter around your home. You can even talk into an app and it obeys you like freaking Hal, but without the attitude and the "Now, I'm going to kill you, Dave" thing.

I was on the road to a brand-new experience in TV watching that was wholly different from me parked on my ass on the sofa watching DVR'ed episodes of Game of Thrones. Now I also watch those shows from my guest bedroom! To quote The Jeffersons, "Movin' on uuup!"

This sounded like a great idea...until I had to get it installed.

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It's Finally Time to Give Up Internet Explorer for Good

Categories: Tech

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It still sucks.
Almost exactly two years ago I wrote about five reasons why you should stop using Internet Explorer. Just this week, it was reported that a security flaw was found in the browser so serious that the U.S. and U.K. governments are recommending users forgo using the Microsoft software until a patch is made available. It has been a thorn in the side of programmers and website administrators for years. It is slow and a drain on memory. Yet millions still use it thanks to its convenient bundle with Windows. IE has become the America Online of Internet browsers. It's the surfing software that people who don't know the difference between a browser and "the Google" use every day. It sucks, and this security issue should be the final blow to what has been a sinking software ship at Microsoft for years.

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Sheriff's Office Just Lost a Drone in Conroe; We Wonder How Many More Are out There

Categories: Tech

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Photo by Sam Churchill
This isn't the drone that crashed in Lake Conroe, but we're sure little guys like this are out there.
If you're one of those privacy-loving folks who hate it when their cell phone gets tapped or get even more worried when they hear about the ubiquity of drones hovering around our local airspace, we've got some good news and some bad news for you.

First, the good news. According to the Harris County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department, neither organization is currently using drones.

The bad news?

Our neighbors over in Montgomery County just lost the ShadowHawk drone they've had since 2011, when the quarter-million-dollar machine decided to take a plunge into Lake Conroe late last week.

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Five Ways Your Smartphone Can Damage Your Life and How to Stop It

Categories: Tech

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Good advice.
For all the advancements technology provides and all the convenience it affords us, there are risks associated with it that often catch us off guard. Who knew that the advent of the home computer would lead both to infinite discovery and obesity? It is the blessing and curse of any tool that it can be used for good and harm. That is why in this world of near constant tech connection we learn how to protect ourselves.

Frequently, the simple answer is to unplug.

All things in moderation as the saying goes. But there are times when we all must remain chained to our phones, for business or personal needs. In those times, you can end up creating some serious problems for yourself, but that isn't technology's fault. It's yours. Here are five ways to stop it.

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In Defense of the Amazon.com Prime Rate Hike

Categories: Tech

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Rate hikes suck, but this is justified.
No one wants to pay more for anything. That's been true since the dawn of commerce. I'm pretty sure some caveman grunted his begrudging dissatisfaction when the guy who sold sticks of fire raised his price from one dead rat to two, but if he wanted fire, he ponied up the critter.

The fact is, anyone who is signed up for Amazon.com's Prime service and ships even a handful of packages every year is getting a deal. If you use the streaming video service or the free e-books, you're probably saving a decent amount of cash.

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Places You Didn't Think You'd Miss Until They Were Gone: RadioShack Shuttering 1,100 Stores

Categories: Tech

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Youtube.com
Hopes and dreams of young engineers everywhere are slowly being crushed.

There are 35 RadioShack stores in the Houston. Would you miss them if they were gone?

RadioShack, despite a massive re-branding effort over the last year, announced on Tuesday it would be closing 1,100 of its 4,000 retail outlets due to poor earnings. The electronics store has been operating at a loss and announced it would make the closures of "underperforming" outlets this year. The company hasn't slacked on its promotional efforts, featuring a new tagline "Do It Together" and an '80s-themed Super Bowl commercial.

No word yet on which Houston stores will be closed.

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Facebook's Paper App Is Stylish and Interesting, but Has Critical Flaws

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A cool concept, but not a replacement for the standard Facebook app.
For years, Facebook's mobile development has been oddly haphazard. From the painfully inconsistent upgrades to its flagship app to the random release of various apps for an array of different needs (Pages, Photos, etc), it has felt more like the mobile team at FB was divided up into about 20 different divisions all operating with complete autonomy. Most recently, they came up with Paper, a stylish new app designed to leverage shared links and provide a more news-based interface for the social network. Even the name echoes the idea that this is like reading a newspaper, not a social media website.

The first and most obvious change with Paper over the traditional Facebook app is how it looks. Built to take advantage of upgrades in iOS 7 (this is only available for iPhone currently), it has a modern look and feel with a smooth workflow. The main screen serves as a cooler looking Timeline with updates split between a lower series of panels that look like flash cards and a larger space above that has more graphic content. Like most apps, you swipe through the spaces to see various updates and touch them to get more info.

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