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Are Home Firewalls Really That Important?

In the latter stages of the 2nd decade of the 21st century, our homes have not really changed that much from those of our parents. Aside from a new predominance of cheap throwaway furniture, todays house is largely similar to that of the 70’s. Similar, that is, until we change our point of view, examining not the visible spectrum but rather the electromagnetic spectrum. working-from-home_colorThe past 20 years have seen an explosion in our use of the airwaves and that change has not stopped at our front doors. Todays homes are filled with an argosy of gadgets, many of which independently communicate without any intervention from their human hosts. Indeed, whilst the home of the 70’s was equipped with two main communications channels, namely the desktop telephone and the front door, the contemporary home has been unrecognisably changed by the communications revolution. It is the network which has been the real change across the years, allowing us to reach out in countless different ways but also, quietly, allowing the world to reach in.

And reach in it does.

The latest Government Security Breaches Survey found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of small organisations reported a security breach in the last year; an increase on the 2013 and 2014 survey. SMEs are now being pinpointed by digital attackers. If SMEs are being targeted, rest assured that home networks are too.

So how do we protect our homes? Well, the picture isn’t as bleak as it may seem. Most ISP’s provide equipment which has a built in firewall. Firewalls form your home network’s primary defence against online security risks, and can therefore considerably boost your peace of mind concerning your network security. Without any human intervention, the stock firewall set at its default settings is pretty effective. It basically blocks everything from the outside unless it was requested by something on the inside. So far so good you may think, and you’d be right, however its that sticky part about human intervention that hides the real danger. People feel the need to change their firewall settings. Not only that, they download dodgy code, click dodgy links and generally just circumvent all that good security the firewall was designed to provide. Before long the network security is full of holes and the world starts reaching in.

Home networks are becoming ever more complex and the paucity of good quality consumer grade network equipment speaks volumes about our inevitable prioritisation of cost above just about anything. ocean-digital-home-upnp-dlna-font-b-network-b-font-font-b-device-b-font-newsIn their race to the bottom, home network equipment manufacturers need to keep their costs to the bare minimum. They do this by using free vulnerable operating systems which have no simple mechanism to ever be upgraded or more importantly fixed. Theres no getting around the fact that our homes are full of and will continue for quite some time to be full of network equipment that is of a shockingly low security standard.

This brings us nicely back to the question of the home firewall. Yes, generic router firewalls are great out of the box but they only look outwards and never inwards. It is becoming increasingly apparent that home networks which are basically the same as small business networks require better. Low cost solutions do exist and they are effective. For example for those with a spare PC hanging around, the option exists to install a free software firewall (e.g. Sophos XG Home Edition) but its far from an elegant solution to keep a dedicated PC powered up 24×7 and it is one which few consumers would countenance. Other dedicated hardware solutions exist of course but they can be expensive and are in all likelihood, business solutions. Sadly, for the consumer, the choice to manage a firewall in the home is still the preserve of the nerdy computer enthusiast who, ironically is probably less vulnerable than most.

legislationFor now the discussion remains unresolved. It is unlikely that the consumer will find it in their gift to look beyond cost to something that keeps their online lives secure enough and it will likely therefore fall to some broader agency to act. Whether that agency turns out to be the government, the banks who perhaps have most to lose, or some other combination of private sector collaborators remains to be seen. One thing however is certain. The problem is going to get worse before it gets better and it will probably take some form of paradigm shift in public perception for the motivation to be found.

Lets hope the cause of the paradigm shift isn’t too painful.

Get in the back! The robot’s driving.

The much vaunted phenomenon of automated cars has returned again to the news this week, Read this here. Events like the DARPA Grand Challenge and their ilk continue however to demonstrate that robots can and probably will develop into the way forward for general purpose motoring and transportation.

The storms in Scotland yesterday saw enormous numbers of vehicles struggling to cope with the adverse conditions and either blowing over or bashing into each other and it probably wont be the last time the winter weather presents challenges to the UK motorist with snow gently falling over our Ayrshire offices again this morning.

These two events show the stark contrast between human and robotic drivers. The simple fact is, well before the end of the next decade, humans will be relegated from the drivers seat into the passenger seats. Ok perhaps not all vehicles will conform to this model. Some vehicles will still allow a human to sit behind the wheel, but only with a vigilant robot “supervisor” who will watch their every move and silently fix the human mistakes whilst simoultaneously scanning for unforeseen hazards. Driving a car as we do today will become a risky hobby which will only be possible on specially designed closed courses.

You think this sounds far fetched? Its no less far fetched however than the notion that humans could be trusted behind the wheel of a vehicle in the first place. Henry Ford would look at todays vehicles with incredulity if he did so in the context of the annual death toll on our UK roads which stood at over 2000 last year. The simple fact is we are terrible drivers and getting steadily worse as technology inside and outside vehicles demands more and more from us. The modern car is probably comparable in complexity of systems to a fighter jet of only a few decades ago.

Couple this with the fact that we are often just plain stupid, our eyesight is poor, our hearing suspect even if we choose not to be blasting the latest hits on our car stereos and we lack any appreciation at all of Newtonian physics, blindly tailgating at 80mph in rush hour traffic. Theres no escaping the fact that judgment is evident on the roads only by its absence. In stark contrast, robot drivers can be programmed with the most vulcan style logic coupled with sensory powers that put the human driver to shame.

The robots in the DARPA Grand Challenge could be easily programmed with the full highway code and could sense distances to within a millimetre in the daylight, in fog or even in the dark They could see in the dark and through the sort of fog that would blind any human driver. These robots are but the first members of a class of devices that will advance along a steep curve like that traced by computers and the Internet over the last two decades and will ultimately seem as old hat as a Sinclair ZX Spectrum in a few short years.

Its important however to bear in mind that filling the UK’s roads with robot controlled vehicles is about much more than road safety. The introduction of such capable vehicle control could enable the virtual elimination of traffic congestion by safely increasing the density of vehicles per mile by an order of magnitude. They could also eliminate the need for traffic lights, by having robot controlled vehicles safely nip through the gaps in the crossflow traffic rather than waste time waiting for green lights.

Robotic vehicles could also turn commutes into productive time enabling the human passengers to sit back and catch up on work, watch TV, access the net or even sleep. Indeed it would no longer be a necessity to be able to drive in the first place to make use of the road traffic networks enabling the very young or the very old to get from A to B. Imagine no more school runs or newly qualified driver deaths due to inexperience or worse. One thing is certain though. This prediction will seem ever so quaint in a few years as the whole model of how we move around will be rewritten in ways we cannot yet imagine by the introduction of automated transport. The advent of automated transport is as profound a change as the arrival of the horseless carriage 100 or more years ago and the impact on global society today is no less unpredictable.

Think about how our town centres will look in a world where no car parks are necessary. Nowadays, car parks need to be close to the places we need to get to such as workplaces, out of town shopping areas and town centres however in a world of automated transport, car parks could be anywhere, perhaps miles outside of the areas we needed to get to in the first place and can also store vehicles with far greater density since the whole system will be controlled by the system.

The most significant difference however is probably that in a world of automated transport, fewer people will need to own cars at all, relying instead on fleets of shared vehicles.

It certainly is strange to think of our great grandchildren marvelling at the 2009 KIA C’eed in a museum and looking with wonder at the old pictures of what used to be the M25 whilst listening to the Road to Hell by Chris Rea. They will probably wonder how we ever managed to cope with being trusted with a couple of tons of fuel injected steel.

The 6 Biggest Benefits to Switching your business to Rustyice VoIP

The world is making the switch to VoIP, but in case you are still unsure if VoIP is right for you, here are six benefits to adding VoIP to your home and business. At £12 per user per month for our flagship hosted solution it seems crazy not to make the switch. There are many benefits and advantages to switching from PSTN- Public Switched Telephone Network. VoIP technology is growing and changing every day. Major corporations are transferring their business needs over to VoIP and households worldwide are making the switch. VoIP is produced by transferring voice into digital data over the Internet. If you have a broadband connection in your home or business, then you can utilize VoIP. You may need to purchase a VoIP phone adapter (ATA) in order to continue to use your older telephones. The phone adapter will allow you to use all of your telephones with the VoIP technology. You may also need to purchase a router however most homes and businesses already have one. At Rustyice Solutions we can supply you with the hardware that you need. You even have the option of purchasing phones designed for VoIP as well as Videophones that will display images while you speak.

VoIP is the wave of the future. Many major computer companies have already begun to incorporate VoIP with their Instant Messaging programs not to mention Skype. Instant Messaging programs such as Yahoo, MSN, and AOL allow free pc-pc phone calls. Skype and VOXOX offer far more functionality than that and all for free. The world is making the switch to VoIP, but in case you are still unsure if VoIP is right for you, here are six benefits to adding VoIP to your home and business.

1. VoIP is Cost Efficient

Whether for your residence or business, VoIP is just plain cheaper than other telecommunication applications. You can reduce cost in your home by saving on long distance and local telephone calls. We have plans that allow virtually unlimited local and long distance calling due to the negligibly low call charges. You also save money by using VoIP throughout your house. You won’t need to install additional phone jacks and wires, you just add on to your VoIP system.

2. VoIP will Integrate your Audio, Data, and Video Applications.

Rustyice VoIP systems can integrate your telephone needs with your computer applications such as E-mail, Fax, Web conferencing, and Video Phone needs. This saves money and energy by conveniently combining all of these services into one basic application. You can use your phone and access all of your other programs at the same time in a truly integrated fashion, allowing greater freedom by giving you a simpler way to utilise all of your different communication products.

3. VoIP Provides Flexibility

VoIP allows users tremendous flexibility. For instance, many VoIP users can take their phone adapter with them, and use their telephone number anywhere they have access to an Internet connection. This includes traveling overseas, while staying in hotels, or even camping. If you have high speed Internet, you will be able to take phone calls on your usual home or business number. This is a much better solution for those with active lifestyles compared to the expense of cell phones as well as being the perfect solution for mobile employees and those whose jobs require much travel. In addition to this, it is now possible to use SIP apps on smartphones to log into your VoIP system by using either a WIFI network or even a 3G network and make and receive calls on your smartphone as if you were at home or in the office. The potential for reducing and removing call charges alone makes this a no brainer.

4. VoIP Users Can Choose their Own Area Codes

VoIP providers allow users to choose their own area codes. This is a fantastic option for those whose friends and family all live in one particular location. By choosing your family and friends area code, you are allowing them to call you, whenever they choose, and they will not have to pay long distance charges. Their calls will be local. Some providers extend the area codes to other countries. This would be extremely beneficial to someone whose friends and family are halfway across the world.

5. VoIP offers Features for Free

Features that typically cost extra with PSTN phone services are usually bundled with VoIP unlimited calling plans. These features include Voice Mail, Call Forwarding, Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Return, Call Block, and Do Not Disturb. Because of the integration between VoIP and the Internet, many service providers will allow you to access and control all of your VoIP phone features through the Internet. With VoIP, users have greater access to control all of their phone features as well as save on charges.

6. Rustyice Solutions can offer you all of this and more, today, for £12 per user per month.

Rustyice Solutions has recently partnered with Telcentris Inc in the USA to offer their revolutionary VoIP services to homes and businesses in the UK. Upon making the switch to Rustyice/Telcentris VoIP, you will enjoy UK wide calling at £0.000056 p per minute. No you didnt read it wrong, thats 5.6 THOUSANDTHS of a penny per minute. Calling to anywhere within the USA and Canada is free and other countries enjoy similarly low calling charges. You can keep your existing telephone number(s) too by porting them across to your VOIP system. Whats more, we can offer you a free no obligation trial which takes no more than a couple of days to set up and, should you wish to make the trial permanent it is simplicity itself to do so. This post merely scratches the surface of the many and fantastic features that then become available to you or your business so contact us today to find out how you can bring these benefits to your home or business.

The world is making the switch to VoIP, but in case you are still unsure if VoIP is right for you, here are five benefits to adding VoIP to your home and business. There are many benefits and advantages to switching from PSTN- Public Switched Telephone Network. VoIP technology is growing and changing every day. Major corporations are transferring their business needs over to VoIP and households worldwide are making the switch. VoIP is produced by transferring voice into digital data over the Internet. Because the data is smaller compared to a standard electric unit, VoIP users save on valuable bandwidth as well. If you have a high-speed connection in your home, then you can utilize VoIP. You may need to purchase some equipment, such as a VoIP phone adapter. The phone adapter will allow you to use all of your telephones with the VoIP technology. You may also need to purchase a router. Most of your VoIP service providers will supply you with the hardware that you need. You even have the option of purchasing phones designed for VoIP as well as Videophones that will display images while you speak.

VoIP is the wave of the future. Many major computer companies have already begun to incorporate VoIP with their Instant Messaging programs. Yahoo has also recently purchased the VoIP Company, Dial Pad. Now, Instant Messaging programs such as Yahoo, MSN, and AOL allow pc-pc phone calls. The world is making the switch to VoIP, but in case you are still unsure if VoIP is right for you, here are five benefits to adding VoIP to your home and business.

1. VoIP is Cost Efficient

Whether for your residence or business, VoIP is just plain cheaper then other telecommunication applications. You can reduce cost in your home by saving on long distance and local telephone calls. Many VoIP service providers have plans that allow unlimited local and long distance calling. You will have to check with various companies to see how far their unlimited local and long distance calling areas serve. You also save money by using VoIP throughout your house. You won’t need to install additional phone jacks and wires, you just add on to your VoIP system.

2. VoIP will Integrate your Audio, Data, and Video Applications.

VoIP systems can integrate your telephone needs with your computer applications such as E-mail, Fax, Web conferencing, and Video Phone needs. This saves money and energy by combining all of these services into one basic application. You can use your phone and access all of your other programs at the same time, allowing greater freedom and is a simpler way for the home owner to utilize all of these different products.

3. VoIP Provides Flexibility

VoIP allows users tremendous flexibility. For instance, many VoIP users can take their phone adapter with them, and use their telephone number anywhere they have access to an Internet connection. This includes traveling overseas, while staying in hotels, or even camping. If you have high speed Internet, you will be able to take phone calls on your regular number. This is a much better solution for those with active lifestyles compared to the expense of cell phones as well as being the perfect solution for mobile employees and those whose jobs require much travel.

4. VoIP Users Can Choose their Own Area Codes

VoIP providers allow users to choose their own area codes. This is a fantastic option for those whose friends and family all live in one particular location, and they are out of state. By choosing your family and friends area code, you are allowing them to call you, whenever they choose, and they will not have to pay long distance charges. Their calls will be local. Some providers extend the area codes to other countries. This would be extremely beneficial to someone whose friends and family are halfway across the world.

5. VoIP offers Features for Free

Features that typically cost extra with PSTN phone services are usually bundled with VoIP unlimited calling plans. These features include Voice Mail, Call Forwarding, Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Return, Call Block, and Do Not Disturb. Because of the integration between VoIP and the Internet, many service providers will allow you to access and control all of your VoIP phone features through the Internet. With VoIP, users have greater access to control all of their phone features as well as save on charges.

The dawn of the networked remote control

Remote controls have been an indispensible, and frequently annoying, part of television watching since Zenith introduced the Space Commander, the first practical wireless remote, 55 years ago. But the days of the familiar clicker may finally be numbered as smartphones and tablets take over the duties of remotes.

The disadvantages of traditional remotes are many. Each device comes with its own remote, leading to couches and coffee tables littered with multiple remotes. Many of the remotes have 50 or more buttons and the lack of any real standardization makes them confusing to use. Most of them use infrared light for communications, meaning they need a clear line of sight to work. And while there have been universal remotes on the market for some years, their cost and the difficulty of programming them has relegated them to niche markets.

The fact that many new consumer electronics devices, including cable set top boxes, televisions, Blu-ray players, and game consoles, can now be connected to home networks and the internet means that they can be controlled over the network. And the latest smart phones and tablets are ideally suited for the job. Large displays present the user with more and clearer information that the usual profusion of buttons and touch screens make using the devices simple. And individual apps allow a phone or tablet to morph into a controller customized for the job at hand.

One of the first companies to take advantage of this was Sonos, maker of wireless home music systems. Sonos started out using a dedicated touchscreen controller. But once the company released apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (an Android version is due shortly) the $349 Sonos Controller 200 became superfluous for many customers; the app provides the same functionality at no additional cost.

Cable TV operators are now jumping on the bandwagon. A modern set top box, especially one equipped with a digital video recorder, is a complex device and controlling it requires the often awkward combination of a multi-button remote and a large assortment of on-screen displays. Cable operators first made it possible to schedule recordings over the internet and now are making full control available on handheld devices. Comcast’s Xfinity, Verizon FiOS, and AT&T uVerse all let you use an iPhone or iPad as a remote. Other operators have similar plans in the works and apps are being written for other platforms, especially Android. (An AT&T uVerse app comes preinstalled as part of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.) In the UK, Sky is making similar moves in this respect.

These devices, especially tablets with their big screens, are more than just replacements for standard remotes. When you use an iPad as a remote, the program guide, DVR content, or on-demand listings appear on the tablet display, leaving the TV screen free for you to go on watching programming. Searching for content is easier because it is much simpler to enter search terms on the tablet’s keyboard than hunting and pecking through an onscreen keyboard with a regular remote.

The next phase will get even more interesting. Major cable operators want to make it possible for subscribers to stream video content to mobile devices. Offerings have been in the works for some time but have been slow to roll out mainly, it appears, because of the complexity of getting the necessary rights from content owners. AT&T offers a limited selection of shows for download to mobile devices and Comcast and Verizon expect to launch streaming services soon.

Another change could someday eliminate the remote altogether. Microsoft’s Kinect uses a camera and infrared sensors to detect motion for no-controller gaming. But it also lets you control the functions of an Xbox simply by pointing at the screen. The use of the Kinect, or Kinect-like sensors could let you become a remote that will never disappear into the couch.