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A Gene Story by Lynn Fellman

dnaIn the not-too-distant future your genetics will inform and guide your healthcare and those that treat you. Your genetics will outline your risk factors. How you will react to medications. What is the optimal course of treatment for all the variables that make up you.

Even though I’ve had my own DNA sequenced and learned a lot about my own makeup, I know so little about the current state of applied genetics as it is applied to one’s personal healthcare that I wish someone would write a book about where the science is at, what is up with all that DNA stuff, and where the science is headed.

Someone is creating that book: Lynn Fellman.

lynnfellmanI’ve known illustrator, author, artist, podcaster, and genetic communicator Lynn Fellman since we met in the early 90s in an interactive multimedia group. She’s spent the last decade plus learning about, and communicating on, everything DNA and genomics. To say this woman knows A LOT about genomics is an understatement. So much so that she’s been on NPR’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow (and other radio interview shows) since she can speak so eloquently about the science, and the meaning of, genetics and what it means for all of us.

To show you I’m not the only one that sees the powerful interpretive value Lynn brings to the science, she was recently recognized and granted a Fulbright Scholarship award to Israel for 2014-2015. Lynn will be working with Professor Dan Mishmar, evolutionary biologist at Ben Gurion University. She will be developing a video and lecture about Prof Mishmar’s research in the mitochondrial genome.

With all she knew and all the scientists and genetic leadership organizations Lynn was connected to, she was in for an unpleasant surprise. It happened when she learned she had cancer and needed a personal medical breakthrough. That’s when everything she’s learned came full circle: Lynn realized how far the science has come with genetics, but yet how far it has to go in order to directly benefit those of us who need it.

So Lynn is doing exactly what needs to be done for herself, for the science, and for us: She’s applying all of her media and communication expertise to create an ebook that is perfect for parents, children and even for use in schools! Right now she has a proposal out to various leadership organizations involved in advancing medical genetics in order to obtain full funding to complete this work. (By the way if you, or someone you know, is interested in finding out more or reviewing her proposal, please email Lynn directly).

lynn-fellmans-ibook

When finished this will not be some ordinary ebook. I’ve seen a significant amount of her (already pretty far along) ebook prototype and it is a beautifully illustrated, interactive journey through the science…but written as her own adventure and search for genetics application for her situation. The ebook is an adventure we’re on with her and the byproduct (intentional, of course) is that we learn an incredible amount about genetics, all wrapped up in an engaging and delightful story we want to keep reading.

ABOUT THE EBOOK (from Lynn’s website here)

The electronic book titled “Gene Stories” is about genomic science and how it is expanding our ideas about who we are. Blending narration, digital paintings, scientific content and story, the presentation appeals to both parents and their children.

With the advance of whole genome sequencing, the complexity of our genetic ancestry will gradually be understood. Will this knowledge expand our self-perception and cultural identity? This project explores innovative ways to encourage curiosity in our multifaceted ancestry while appreciating the beautiful complexity of human evolution.

The project received support by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) during my residency at NESCent. Designed with iBook Author for viewing on iPads, the book will be available in the iTunes Bookstore in 2015.

If you would like to be informed when the ebook is available for preorder and release, please email Lynn.

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Takei Tours YouTube Space LA

George Takei’s YouTube show, Takei’s Take, tours YouTube Space LA (there are also London, Tokyo and New York locations currently). If you haven’t yet heard about this space, and what they’re trying to accomplish, this is a perfect overview in 4 minutes (and always enjoyable due to George’s take on things and his delightfully positive attitude and outlook)!

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You’re in Danger on Public Wifi!

wifi-publicIllustration by Kristina Collantes

If you ever connect to a public Wifi hotspot, you owe it to yourself to spend 4-5 minutes and read this article by Maurits Martijn called, “Maybe It’s Better If You Don’t Read This Story on Public WiFiWe took a hacker to a café and, in 20 minutes, he knew where everyone else was born, what schools they attended, and the last five things they googled.”

I want to make thousands of copies of that article and give them to every single person I see in every public Wifi location everywhere!

Let me say it as emphatically as I can if you’ve read this far: You are an idiot if you connect to any public Wifi without running a virtual private network (VPN) connection (like the one I use, Private Internet Access for $39.99/year for 5 devices). If you don’t it’s not “if” you will get hacked, but rather “when” it will happen to you.

To show you how pervasive and simple it is to hack your laptop, smartphone or tablet when you connect willy-nilly to some public Wifi hotspot, let me give you a glimpse at what I can only describes as a…

HACKER’S DREAM MACHINE
The Wifi Pineapple, a $99.99 black box

The Wifi Pineapple, a $99.99 black box
which makes it trivial for a hacker to steal you!

Because I’ve technically known the risks for nearly ten years, I’ve been paranoid about public Wifi locations since 2005 and wrote about being “naked in a coffee shop” here, here and here. But to show you how brain-dead-simple it has become to BE a hacker, wait until you read about a black box called the Wifi Pineapple you can buy, for $99.99, which lets anyone who has one:

  • Run a man-in-the-middle attack, essentially spoofing a public Wifi connection and even impersonating the actual, real network connection (whether open or secured). How many times have you connected to Wifi that said “Coffee Shop Guest” or “Free Public Wifi”? Sometimes they’re real, mostly they are not. You can almost never be certain.
  • The attacker can monitor all network traffic flowing between an Internet gateway and the connected clients (like your laptop, smartphone or tablet!) as well as manipulate this data in transit such as through captive portals, DNS spoofing, IP redirection and even the substitution of executables in transit (so that file you’re downloading might be coming off of the attacker’s laptop!).

There’s alot more you can do with this device and Hak5, the group that makes it, is certainly gleeful about all the rogue crap it can do:

“…the WiFi Pineapple is more than a platform – it’s a community for creativity. Rickrolling clients, powering off WiFi drones mid-flight, tracking commercial airliners and logging WiFi connections are only some of the creative things being done within the WiFi Pineapple community.”

On the Hak5 forums they even have a section entitled, “WiFi Pineapple University” to help users teach users about this ‘fun’ little box.

The good news? If you run a VPN and inadvertently connect to “Coffee Shop Guest” and it’s actually a spoofed connection through one of these black boxes, the hacker would only see encrypted traffic! Everyone else’s internet traffic—Facebook login, bank password, credit card data—would mostly be going in the clear. (Note: I know that an actual SSL connection would encrypt traffic in the browser, and so do most smartphone and tablet apps, but more sophisticated hackers can even spoof SSL connections so that your browser thinks it is securely connecting…but it is not).

I must admit that, even though I’m more appalled by the activities of our government and mass surveillance of U.S. citizens in what I believe is a direct violation of our Constitution, boxes like this one target individuals with a lot to lose. It’s not right and not fair and I hope I never catch someone using one in a public place or…

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Privacy Does Matter

Glenn Greenwald was one of the first reporters to see — and write about — the Edward Snowden files, with their revelations about the United States’ extensive surveillance of private citizens. In this searing talk, Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you’re “not doing anything you need to hide.”

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Thank you, Apple, for iPhone Encryption

ip6-under-the-hoodThough our national security is an absolute imperative, the Edward Snowden revelations about mass NSA surveillance—and what most of us see as a direct violation of our Constitution by them (as well as their practice of passing that data to the DEA, FBI, IRS and local law enforcement)—the intelligence community made their bed…and now they have to lie in it.

From Wired’s article called Apple’s iPhone Encryption Is a Godsend, Even if Cops Hate It:

It took the upheaval of the Edward Snowden revelations to make clear to everyone that we need protection from snooping, governmental and otherwise. Snowden illustrated the capabilities of determined spies, and said what security experts have preached for years: Strong encryption of our data is a basic necessity, not a luxury.

And now Apple, that quintessential mass-market supplier of technology, seems to have gotten the message. With an eye to market demand, the company has taken a bold step to the side of privacy, making strong crypto the default for the wealth of personal information stored on the iPhone. And the backlash has been as swift and fevered as it is wrongheaded.

Though this is clearly the right thing for Apple’s business—especially if they continue to hope to sell in countries like China (see Apple iPhone a danger to China national security)—I still want to say, “Thank you Apple…seriously.

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NSA Files Decoded

guardian-nsa-files-decodedThe Edward Snowden revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its vacuum surveillance, sadly seems to be fading from the public consciousness. Undoubtedly this is viewed as a positive by the intelligence community since they are continuing to accelerate their programs now seemingly unabated.

Awareness is one reason I was pleased to see this article that The Guardian wins an Emmy for coverage of NSA revelations. Their multimedia piece NSA Files Decoded is one of the best, most comprehensive and informative (dare I say “entertaining?”) pieces I’ve seen yet. Congratulations to The Guardian team!

If you care at all about the world our children and grandchildren will inherit, then you owe it to yourself to watch the videos or read articles at NSA Files Decoded. You might also consider paying attention to a relatively new website, The Intercept, so that you can stay aware, stay informed, and not be one of those who are naive about the unprecedented and growing power of the intelligence community and its surveillance of all U.S. citizens.

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Apple’s ‘Special’ Financing is Special Alright!

apple-financing

Just went on Apple’s web store to see about lead times for shipping the new iPhone 6. When I clicked to check financing options, this “Limited time offer” appeared.

Check out the paragraph below the “Apply Now” button where it states:

The purchase APR will be 22.99% or 26.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness.

Those are interest rates that a mobster named Lenny-the-kneecapper would love, no doubt. If you choose one of these payment options and miss one payment or are late, the interest rates kick in. It simply is a bad option and why so many people get in to debt with interest rates that mean you end up paying double, triple or more for a device like this one.

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Use Google Voice with a Phone for Next-to-Nothing

phone-iconIn addition to my mobile phone, I’m using a Google Voice (GV) number with a landline phone…and you won’t believe how cheap it is!

As a long time GV user, I was pleased to be able to ‘save’ my Dad’s phone number after he passed away last year. He and Mom had the greatest phone number ever and enjoyed having the easy-to-remember number for nearly 50 years. My sisters and I didn’t want to see that number vanish in to the ether, so I ported it to GV.

The number is SO easy to remember, I’ve begun giving it out as my own personal direct line. I have GV set so it rings my iPhone and SkypeIn phone number so I never miss a call. At work I can also have it ring the desk phone if I choose not to answer a call on Skype or my mobile phone. Pretty convenient. Also, since it is so easy to block spam and telemarketing calls with GV, I am going to place it on my business cards too since my ‘old’ direct line has received an increasing number of spam calls.

Are You Using Your Mobile Phone as Your Primary Business Phone?

mobile-phone-useOh dear God…please don’t use your mobile phone as your primary business line! The quality of a landline-to-mobile phone call is typically so compressed it makes it a bad experience for anyone calling you on your mobile for any length of time.

I find that most people under 35 years of age think it’s perfectly fine to use their mobile phone as their exclusive device for business, but it is not. Your mobile signal is compressed so your voice causes the other person to strain to hear you and it can be quite unpleasant. It’s even worse if you’re on an in-car speaker phone. You also probably don’t realize that, since your mobile signal is compressed even more at peak network usage times (like rush hour), your calls sound even worse to others if you’re in your car, a building, or walking around trying to have a conversation.

So if you are in an office, whether in your home or in a building and you have an alternative, please do not rely solely on your mobile phone for business calls.

A Great Option: Google Voice and the Obihai 200

Obihai200-f-bGoogle has enhanced their Google Hangouts recently by integrating GV in to it. That’s a big deal since many of we GV users had, for some time, been concerned that Google might kill GV due to lack of innovation or attention seemingly being paid to the service.

UPDATE 9/20/14: Obi200 can be used with E911 A friend of mine asked me if the Obi200 could, in fact, be used with 911 service. Turns out it can for $15 per year. Here is an Obihai blog post about it and how to set it up.

Not only is GV integrated in to Hangouts, but Google has extended their free U.S. and Canada calling and their international rates are really low. So keeping in touch is easier and more affordable than ever.

What if you could plug in a box to your internet router, a phone in to the box, and make phone calls for free? Yes, you could buy Vonage and pay $28 or more per month, Ooma for $129 (for the box) and their optional $9.999/month service, or you could buy a cheap box and get free calls.

I like cheap and free, especially since calling-is-calling.

The Deal

Good news for those of us who use voice over the internet (VoIP): Google Voice is now officially supported on OBi VoIP devices AND you can get their Obihai 200 for only $29.99 if you act fast and use the offer code: EMCPAWW99 here at NewEgg.

Here is the PDF datasheet for the Obihai 200 so you can download if you want to learn more, especially since it can do A LOT more than just connect with Google Voice.

Plug the Obihai 200 box in to your internet modem (if it has extra ports), a hub or switch connected to your modem, or an empty port in your Wifi router. Plug a phone in to the Obihai box (I bought this inexpensive Motorola DECT cordless phone for $22 and it feels nice and sounds great) and your total cost will be less than $60…and it will be a one time cost.

Your calls will sound SO much better and your friends, family and those of us on business calls with you will appreciate it!

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What If Most Jobs Were Gone?

no-jobsIf you’re at the beginning, middle or end of your career, one thing you should know is that thought leaders around the world are thinking through what happens to society and civilization when jobs never come back. Or new jobs never appear.

My friend Eric recommended that I check out this video from C.G.P. Grey‘s YouTube channel. It’s fabulous and I didn’t know about him, but his videos get millions of views. After watching this video then think about your career and what the world might look like if some large percentage of people can’t find work:

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Dropbox Pro Now Has 10x More Storage!

dropbox-graphicLike millions of others, I use Dropbox on all my machines as do friends and family. Since I also share Dropboxes with clients, I purchased a Pro account for $9.99 per month and have almost maxed out my 100GB sized service. As of today, that same $10/month will get me 1TB of storage!

Though Dropbox’ unique sync’ing capability and ease-of-use is what has made them explode with more than 300 million users and 80,000 paying businesses using the service, they had to compete with others in the storage space:

  • Amazon launched cut-price Dropbox competitor called Zocalo
  • Microsoft OneDrive (formerly named “SkyDrive”) offers several consumer plans and, instead of Dropbox’ free 2GB os storage, the free level on OneDrive is a whopping 15GBs!

Besides just a lot more storage, there are some really useful day-to-day items which will add a lot of value. Dropbox is offering a surprising amount with this new release and will provide any of us with a Pro account more, so read on for some of the new goodness.

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