New Pact Saves Data Storage Companies After Safe Harbor Decision

Back in October, an agreement was reached between the United States and the European Union regarding American companies handling the personal data of overseas citizens.

This agreement created a “Safe Harbor” for U.S. businesses by decreeing that an American company could simply give its word that it planned to properly protect the data of Europeans (and would need no other form of assurance).

Promises are not generally taken at face value in the world of business, especially when it comes to data protection. However, this decision was more a symptom of desperate circumstances than thoughtful negotiation.

facebookBecause the European Union has passed much stronger sanctions protecting the data of its citizens than the United States has ever bothered to create, issues began to spring up regarding American companies (functioning under more lax American law) becoming responsible for data belonging to people who expect their privacy to be better protected. 

The European Court of Justice believed that the Safe Harbor Agreement was a band-aid solution to a deeper problem regarding world tensions around surveillance, terrorism, and privacy. In light of Edward Snowden’s outing of the United States government’s collection of massive, indiscriminate amounts of personal data via snooping on cloud service providers, the European court ruled that the Safe Harbor protections were not acceptable.

The court believed that there was a real threat that the United States government would ignore the Safe Harbor sanctions meant to protect the data of European citizens. The court also cited the fact that neither European individuals nor European privacy authorities had any real way to punish U.S. government agencies for snooping if they were caught in the act.

Accordingly, the ECJ declared the agreement invalid.

eu2This came as a shock for many European and American tech companies. The agreement was invalidated without the implication of any grace period, so a lot of company leaders are being forced to choose between shutting down their companies or risking potential liability.

HyTrust  Senior Vice President Fred Kost was skeptical about the decision:

“If companies want to completely comply, it likely means that they must examine what data they have from nations in the EU and begin moving the data to infrastructure housed in those nations or demonstrate that it is inaccessible if stored on infrastructure outside those nations via encryption or access controls,” Kost claimed. “The risk to companies lies in how quickly enforcement or legal action is taken.”

Accordingly, just yesterday the United States and the European Union made official a pact known as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which asserts that:

  • “Strong obligations on how Europeans’ personal data is handled and individual rights are guaranteed. The U.S. Commerce Department will monitor compliance with the obligations, and the Federal Trade Commission provide enforcement.
  • “A promise that access by U.S. law enforcement and national security agencies to Europeans’ personal data will be subject to clear limitations, safeguard and oversight mechanisms.
  • “Establishment of several forms of redress for Europeans who believe their data has been misused.”

The glaring issue is, of course, that American government agencies will monitor their own country’s compliance with the obligations.


Get the Most Out of Google Calendar

From business executives to busy parents, an organized online calendar can make life a lot simpler. There are a variety of calendar programs available to the interested potential client, but Google Calendar may be the best option for you.

gcGoogle Calendar is free with a Google account, plus you don’t even need to download any programs or software because it is accessible via your web browser. Your information regarding appointments, birthdays, etc. are all stored within Google’s cloud computing system, so you don’t have to worry about losing all your info during a hard drive failure.

Another plus: because you’re storing your calendar on the internet, you can easily share your appointment information with other users. You can also schedule an event and create invitations online and have the event automatically appear on your friends’ online calendars should they RSVP. If you and your friends all share calendars, you can know exactly when they are free and schedule your friendship accordingly.

The Google Calendar is outfitted with a fairly simple interface that most users find intuitive enough. You can see a small, traditional calendar lay out on the leftmost bar of the screen that displays the current month and highlights the day. The majority of the rest of the screen is made up of a list of a calendar with the days of the current month listed top to bottom, starting with the current day. In this format, users can see their appointments listed chronologically for each day of the month.

Users can also choose to view their calendar by day, week, month, or a view that simply displays the next four days. An “agenda” lists all your events chronologically as opposed to day.

text notificationOnce you pick your favorite view, you can block out time on the calendar by clicking on the appropriate day and dragging it down. In the rectangle that forms, Google Calendar then allows you to fill in details about the appointment you’re creating. You can put in a subject header, or include the location as well as short description (name of person you’re meeting, parking info, directions, etc). You can also use a repeating function if the event happens every day, week, month or year such as a piano lesson, a yoga class, or a birthday. Through the month view, you can even block out time for multiple days, a useful feature for trips and vacations.

To be honest, most calendar programs actually offer all of these services. However, Google Calendar understands that and has taken steps to differentiate itself from the rest of its competitors. For example, it includes a search function that allows for you to search through not only your own calendar, but all public calendars that use Google’s system. This allows you to synchronize your own calendar with that of your favorite comedy club, a work conference, a sports team’s game schedule, whatever. The search function is also helpful if you like to have your own private calendar as well as several public ones; it makes it so you can quickly and efficiently sift through all of them.

Google Calendar can also send you text message reminders of appointments, attach photos and Google Maps directions to events, comment on public event entries and receive comments.

How Hard Disk Drives Use Magnetism to Store Information

Of all of the crazy things about our modern world, I’ve always been most amazed by the way that so many gadgets have become normalized to the point that society completely depends on them, yet only a tiny percentage of people have any idea how those gadgets function. For the most part, people don’t even know how their dimmers work, much less how their laptop accesses the internet. Of course, part of how our society works is by having individuals specialize, and then share the benefit of their knowledge (for a price). Just for the sake of being well-rounded then, here’s a little information about how your hard disk drive stores information.

magnetized nailInherent to your hard drive’s ability to store information is the physical concept of magnetism. You’ve probably fooled around with magnets some, and may have even done that experiment in school where you rub a magnet back and forth on an iron nail, effectively magnetizing it.

Magnetism has been harnessed by humans for a long time. A rather simple example is in the common junk yard, where large magnets are used to pick up large piles of scrap metal.

A use that is just as prevalent but less understood involves sending messages. Whether or not something is magnetized can imply information. Because computers store information using binaries, binary code can be matched to magnetized or not-magnetized microscopically small pieces of metal.

In your computer’s hard drive, these “pieces of metal” are actually magnetized areas embedded in the hard drive’s circular plate or “platter.” Each area can be independently magnetized (to store a 1) or demagnetized (to store a 0).

The platters are by far the most crucial aspect of the hard disk drive. They are generally made of glass or aluminum that is then coated with a thin layer of metal that can be magnetized or demagnetized. Smaller hard drives have only one platter, while larger drives could have entire series of platters staked on a central spindle with a small gap in between them. Platters need to rotate extremely quickly (up to 10,000 revolutions per minute) for the read-write heads to access the information stored on them.

hard drive2Once the 0’s and 1’s are stored, an arm mechanism moves a tiny magnet (called a read-write head) back and forth over the platters to either record or store information and act as a link between the hard drive and the rest of your computer.

Regardless of how many platters there are, there will always be two read-write heads for each platter. One is designated for reading the top surface of the platter and the other is designated to read the bottom surface. The read-write heads are mounted on an arm that can move from the center of the drive to the outermost parts. The read-write heads never touch the platter; there is always a layer of fluid or air maintained between them, at least in a functioning drive.

That’s all for now, but here’s a fun fact: magnetism is an excellent power to harness for computer storage because even when the power is shut off the data continues to be stored.

7 Of The Most Frustrating PC Games We Can’t Help But Love

PC games are an exciting way to make use of the time when you get bored. The games are considered to be an excellent solution for killing time as they are very enjoyable and usually have a linear game play. However, not all PC games are enjoyable as there are some PC games which are utterly frustrating, but you still feel an urge to play them. Some of these games are very difficult from beginning to end, but you still develop a kind of love and hate relationship with the game titles. Although you know that a particular sequence is very frustrating yet you love to undertake the challenge time and again. Some of the most frustrating PC games are –

laptop11) The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is a point-and-click adventure game that tests your reflexes a little bit. The gameplay is not very difficult, but the events that unfold in the game will leave you frustrated for sure. Some of the actions in the game like death of your fellow survivor or you getting hurt is beyond the control of the user and this can be really frustrating for some. On top of that there is no God mode.

2) Dark Souls
The dungeons in Dark Souls are full of traps that are almost impossible to detect. You only realize the trap when you suddenly burst into flames or crushed very badly. Making these mistakes and learning from it is probably the most desired aspect of any game. You can read through thousands of guides but still crossing the dungeons is a very difficult task, but when you do you feel overjoyed. If you’ve laptops, then you can enjoy the games at ease.

3) Braid
Brain is easily the most recommended game but the constantly changing gameplay mechanics can really frustrate anyone. The cryptic storyline does not help matters too. It does take a lot of time and huge brainpower to master Braid but when you complete the game you will feel like you have gained entry into an Ivy League college.

4) Dayz
You thought right! This is yet another zombie game wherein you start in a zombie wasteland and have to search for food and weapons. Once you get killed you need to start over with, well, nothing. The game is addictive but it is very difficult and you will feel like crying when you have to start over again with nothing.

5) Cart Life
In Cart Life you play the role of a street vendor and go through all the possible difficulties in life. This side scrolled allows you to play either as a coffee vendor or a newspaper vendor and the gameplay is quite challenging. The theme is a bit dark but the game successfully reflects on the rat race prevalent in the working class.

6) XCOM: Enemy Unknown
XCOM is one of the challenging game titles on PC and it’s all about kicking alien butt. You need to assemble a squad to take on the aliens and equip them with the latest weaponry. However, you must be alert enough in certain situations or else you will face ‘Game Over’. This is really frustrating, but it can be rewarding too when you succeed.

laptop27) Super Meat Boy
Yet another good old side scroller game where you have to take control of a slippery boy and navigate him past the cliffs and different obstacles. A quick thumb and precision timing is what you require to ace this game. A course in anger management will be helpful as the game is sometimes a bit frustrating due to the many hundred deaths you will die during the course of the game.

The above-mentioned 7 game titles are probably the most frustrating ones, but you will simply love playing them over and over again.