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Astronauts and Submariners Covid-19 coping lessons

Astronauts and Submariners Covid-19 coping lessons

Astronauts and submariners understand tight spaces

There are explorers and adventurers in our midst who have been through tough situations that have trained their minds to deal with strange and extremely tough positions. If anyone knows a thing or two about being isolated from society and staying the course, it is definitely astronauts and submariners.

Astronauts can stay in space for months at a time in a confined spaceship with no way to escape, no place to run free and isolated from family and friends. Submariners stay underwater for up to three months at a time, with nowhere to go, similar to the strict isolation many of us feel we have been experiencing over the past year or so.  The lessons we can learn from astronauts and submariners are valuable as they are in some ways similar to the lockdown experiences of many of us (although let’s be honest, you’re super grateful you’re not locked down in space or underwater).

The interview of astronauts and submariners

In an article published in the World Economic Forum on the 2nd of April 2020, three astronauts and a submariner were interviewed and asked how they mentally cope with such demanding situations. Astronauts and submariners follow strict protocols as part of their daily routines and the structure assists them in coping mentally with their gruelling circumstances. Mental endurance plays an important role in one’s ability to cope when being isolated and confined to a certain space for an extended period of time.

Astronauts and Submariners Covid-19 coping lessons
Astronauts and submariners share valuable lessons

Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson, an astronaut and the first female commander of the International Space Station (ISS), has spent more than two years of her life in space. Peggy has a few tips for combating the mental strain of isolation:

  • Make the best of your situation. Learn a new skill whilst you have the time.
  • Have a sense of purpose:  

“COVID-19 gives us a higher purpose much like being in space does because we are saving lives by quarantining,” she says.

  • Keep yourself busy. Do the things you’ve been putting off for months. Fixing the garden, painting the bedroom or even reading that book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf.

John Rafferty

John Rafferty, a submariner in the US Navy has a few valid points that will help fight the cabin fever:

  • Look forward to what life has waiting for you after isolation ends.
  • Stick to your daily routine. Wake up, shower, put clean clothes on and pretend as if it is a normal day.
  • Shower and put on fresh clothes:

“I am seeing a number of parallels between my experience on the submarine and self-isolation today. And one way of coping begins with showering and putting on clean clothes once a day. On the days that we let ourselves lounge around the house the way we would on a sick day or Saturday, there’s a different feeling to your work. But if we get up, exercise, shower, put on clean clothes, then we’re ready to show up in front of our computers and put in a good day’s work. I notice that that makes a really big difference.”

  • Take the time to better or renew relationships with your family if you are isolating with any. This is the perfect opportunity to bond with family.
  • Try find a new hobby you can do whilst in isolation.
  • Take this time to plan your future: What will your next move be once all this blows over?

Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, gave a valuable piece of advice:

“Do something different, go and find something to do that you would have never done before. Keep your mind occupied with new things”.

Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly, another world-famous astronaut who lived and worked on the International Space Station for nearly a year says:

“When I lived on the (ISS) for nearly a year, it wasn’t easy. When I went to sleep, I was at work. When I woke up, I was still at work. Flying in space is probably the only job you absolutely cannot quit.”

Scott knows exactly how we are feeling doing all of life from the confines of our homes. So Scott suggests the following:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it.
  • Do not rush things, take your time.
  • Connect with family or friends via video whom you cannot see.

So with all that being said, I’m sure we can take away a valuable lesson or two from the astronauts and submariners who know all too well the feelings of confined spaces. If you are working from during this time then you may find this working from home blog helpful.

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E-waste. What is it and how do we manage it?

E-waste What is it and how do we manage it?

All of us should know how to get rid of our E-waste safely and responsibly. There are companies like South City eWaste Recyclers who have recycling stations across the country. Similarly, companies such as Desco have bins as drop-off points for your electronics. You could also call your municipal authority to find out how they advise you discard of electronic devices. We believe it is the responsibility of all of us to put our planet before profit.

RocketNet

There are too many new e-products released each year

Every year technology changes and new developments and products are released into the market. As newer products come out, older versions become obsolete, and as newer products come out, we tend to just get rid of the older products to make space for the new. In with the new and out with the old, right? Well, no, it’s not as simple as that especially when talking about e-waste.

It’s almost as if devices are intentionally being created with shorter lifespans so that the need to buy a new one arises more often. A phone company will make more money if they bring out a new model each year as opposed to bringing out a model that can last 10 years. Companies often make it easier to buy a new device than to get one fixed and yet seemingly don’t provide many solutions for discarding the old devices.

There is an urgency all over the world for corporations, countries and individuals to deal with environmental issues from plastic waste to carbon emissions and global warming. Each of us have a role to play in dealing with environmental challenges causing climate change and that’s why we all need to understand what e-waste is. This is especially important as the global economy becomes more digital.

E-waste
There are too many electronic products

Understanding E-waste

E-waste is what is referred to as “electronic waste”. Everything we buy that is electronic will at some point in time contribute to the massive accumulation of e-waste around the world. Everything from batteries for your TV remote, to your desktop computer at work will become e-waste. Even the wires you use to plug into your TV power outlet constitutes e-waste. Everything electronic will at some point or another become obsolete or no longer serve a purpose and will need to be discarded.

The problem with E-waste is that it is a lot more complex in its makeup and therefore harder to recycle, reduce or discard than your everyday waste such as plastic bags, cold drink bottles or food waste. A computer has a screen, a battery, circuit boards and many other components that will be thrown away with the computer. When a computer is thrown away, the battery will eventually start to leak, and those chemicals will find their way into the soil, which either destroy the nutrients in the soil, make it uninhabitable or poison the soil. The circuit boards will never decompose, and the screen will most likely break up into thousands of pieces – glass everywhere. Batteries are probably the worst and most detrimental to the environment and the reality is that most of our electronic devices still make use of batteries.

Reduce e-waste
We all have a responsibility to reduce e-waste

What can we do to reduce E-waste

At the beginning of the blog we included some links to companies that are specialists in managing, discarding and recycling e-waste. But there are things we can do as the consumers of these products to make a difference.

First.

The first option is to buy fewer electronics and to look after the ones we already have. Unfortunately, in the day and age we live in, that’s not a realistic goal for every household. We sometimes feel we all need our own devices or the latest big screen T.V. to watch Netflix the way it was always meant to be watched (give the show ‘The Minimalists‘ a try). We not against online entertainment in any way but let’s allow the devices we have to work until they fall apart before purchasing a new one.

Second.

Another practical idea is to take an inventory of what you already have. There is no need to go and buy a new power cable if you already have one sitting in the top drawer you may have forgotten about. So take stock and organise all your spare cables, plugs, connectors and ‘spare’ parts in a way where they are easily accessible and memorable.

Why not…

Make a donation of your superfluous electronics or devices to other people before throwing them away in your rubbish bin. Someone may need what you have and if people aren’t willing to pay, rather donate the items to those people in your network. You could even start an online marketplace for second-hand devices, who knows!.

You could…

Try taking your items to electronic stores like Incredible Connection or the iStore as a trade-in or to receive a potential cash offer. Some electronics stores will simply take the goods off your hands and discard them for you.

Lastly.

In an effort to reduce e-waste, try taking as much of your work online as you can. Rather than going to the shops to buy storage devices such as USB’s or external hard drives, rather explore utilising online services to store valuable data and information in the Cloud.

E-waste is a big environmental problem, and it has to be managed for all of us to have a safe and sustainable future. The growth of the electronic industry is exponential year on year and new methods to dispose of electronics will have to become more ubiquitous, but for now, these are our best options.

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Gamer set-up ideas to keep the latency blues away

Gamer set up ideas to keep the latency blues away

As a nod of recognition to the release of the new X-box Series X & S, and the PS5 during the 2020 holiday season, we decided to give some gamer set-up ideas to our customers who may be gamers themselves. We have a few seasoned gamers working here at RocketNet, so we hope you like.

Gamer set-up ideas to improve ping and latency.

Ping

Ping is the signal sent out to a network of computers and servers that may or may not be within your geographical location. Your computer (including gaming consoles) send out signals (pings) to other computers and servers which in return send signals back to your computer. The signal is measured in milliseconds and is a confirmation of the time it takes to send a ‘packet’ of data to another computer (or server) and back. The time it takes to travel to and back to your computer is the latency.

To better explain, imagine yourself on a submarine and you are looking at a sonar screen in that submarine. This is the screen that monitors the signal (ping) sent out from the submarine you are on that picks up any other submarines that may be nearby. So one submarine sends out a signal – anyone out there? If yes, the receiving submarine sends a signal back and so the sonar lights up with a little dot and ‘ping’.

In gaming, the submarines are the computers or gaming consoles.

Latency

Latency is the round trip of a ping. Latency refers to the quality of a connection and not the speed of the connection. Latency of between 50ms and 100ms is deemed to be very good to average while latency of 150ms and above is deemed to be poor. A good to average latency is also called ‘low ping’ and a poor latency is known as ‘high ping’. High ping is when you get that frustrating, pull-out-your-hair phenomenon called ‘lag’. Lag is the delay in the latency of a ping. In other words, the time it is taking for a ping to do a roundtrip is very slow, it is lagging. Kind of how amateurs lag behind on roundtrips of the golf course.

Gamer set up ideas to improve ping and latency.
The time it takes for the ping from submarine 1 to reach submarine 2 and back is latency.

What causes poor latency or high ping.

  1. Your fibre internet service provider:

The first cause for your frustrations at being kicked out of a game is the quality of your ISP (internet service provider). When choosing an internet service provider to implement your gamer set-up ideas, you need to consider speed, availability, reliability, latency, data, after sales support and if they practice things like shaping, capping and throttling of fibre internet connection.

  1. The fibre internet speed you have:

When gaming online, upload speeds are more important than download speeds. It is not to say that download speeds are not important but low latency depends primarily on upload speeds. A good gamer set-up idea is to check your internet speed. You can do an internet speed test here. Generally, an upload speed of 5mbps is sufficient but get has much speed as your budget will allow for the best experience possible.

  1. Fixed line internet versus wireless internet:

Wireless internet connections are susceptible to more interference than wired internet connections. A wired internet connection provides a consistent speed over your line and is therefore preferable for online gaming and is a great gamer set- up idea.

Tip: try using an Ethernet cable to connect your devices directly to your router.

  1. Type of internet connection:

To get straight-to-the-point fibre internet is the preferred type of internet for online gaming. If fibre internet is not available in your area, then the next best option would be broadband or a DSL connection. If you are not sure whether or not you have fibre internet available in your area, then check our coverage map here.

  1. The equipment you are using:

The router and modem that you use are important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to gamer set-up ideas. The quality of these items can affect your network speed considerably. Speak to your fibre internet service provider about the best router and modem for online gaming.

  1. Equipment setup:

Also affecting the speed of your internet is the number of devices you have connected to your router at the same time. The more devices you have connected, the more bandwidth you need.

  1. Data:

We’ll cut to the chase here. Unlimited or uncapped data is the best gamer set-up idea for online gaming, especially when running updates.

  1. Speed:

The faster your internet connection the faster you can send those packets of data and the lower your ping – simple! Get the fastest internet speed your budget will allow.

Game server location can interfere with your gamer set up ideas.

Where your gaming company’s servers are located can have an effect on the ping. The further away the server is, the longer it will take for the to-and-fro signals to reach their destination and so the chances of experiencing lag are much higher. If you are gaming in South Africa and the servers are in Europe, you may experience lag as a result. Unfortunately, there are no gamer set-up ideas to curb this problem, unless you want to move to Europe of course.

Happy gaming!

Game server location:
The ‘ping’ has a long way to travel which may cause lag due to high latency
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Online safety for kids while using fibre internet

Online safety for kids while using fibre internet

Online safety for kids is of paramount importance”.

RocketNet

During our downtime we tend to spend more money and time on our luxuries. This includes unwinding with online entertainment. As parents, we may become a bit more relaxed about how much time our kids spend on the internet or in front of the TV because, let’s be honest, we are tired, they are on a break and we all deserve a break!

That is why online safety for your kids is of paramount importance. Please don’t assume that the websites they are visiting or the web browsers they are using to surf the web are always safe, because they’re not.

Just like you would keep an eye on your children and oversee their activities at a public playground, you also need to supervise their online engagements and interactions to manage the risk of exposure to inappropriate content, protect them from cyberbullying and ensure they don’t get preyed on by paedophiles or unwanted influencers. The reality is that the worldwide web is a much bigger playground than your local playground is and therefore there are many more inherent risks.

Extra precautions can be taken to ensure the online safety of your kids like using apps for parental control and by setting up online tools, like web browsers and search engines, correctly, to make sure your children can enjoy their screen time safely.

And before you go down ‘Guilty Lane’ about being overprotective and stuck-in-the-past, remember it’s not about not trusting your kids, it’s about not having a guarantee about trusting others online.

Having extra peace of mind while they enjoy themselves with their favourite Netflix show, or latest game developed by the latest app developer, will help you to have the break you need at this time.

Online safety for kids while using fibre internet
Unwind online in safety

The basic steps to ensure online safety for your kids.

  1. The most basic of steps that can be taken is to password protect your devices and entertainment apps. Make sure the password for your laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart TV, Apple TV and all the apps across all these devices has been set up with password protection, as a first precautionary step.
  2. Next, don’t use simple passwords like your name, ‘0000’, ‘password’ or ‘1234’. Make them hard for your kids, but make them memorable for you. Don’t use the same password on all the devices you have because if you need to change the password on one device, you will need to change the password on all of them.
  3. Lastly, use any safe settings features that your web browser may support. On the Google search engine for example you can activate a feature called SafeSearch. To use SafeSearch make sure your default search engine on your web browser is Google. Then enable the SafeSearch feature in the Google settings. The best option here is to use Google Chrome as your web browser and then use the safety features under settings. You can also try Google’s Family Link option.

For more information on creating strong passwords read our blog post ‘How to create a strong password’.


Only allow a limited time for online entertainment.

We not here to tell you how to parent but research has proven that too much time on new tech devices like tablets and smartphones can have a negative effect on you and your children. It isn’t always about what they are watching or playing; it is also about how much time they spend watching and playing.

Most devices, like the iphone, keep track of how much screen time one spends on their phone. Look under your settings options to find a screen time app or feature on your phone that may already be loaded by default.

Only allow a limited time for online entertainment.
Limit your kid’s time online

Block websites you feel are too mature or inappropriate for your kids.

To block or filter inappropriate content, start by using the features already available on the operating system you are using. Microsoft and Apple for example have settings available that can be applied for each user profile you create on your devices.

For a more tailored and in-depth blocking and filtering experience you can use third-party services like NetNanny. NetNanny is a paid-for-service but has loads of features and is good value for money.

Remember that these types of products can give you information on accounts that they know your kid is using. If, for whatever reason, your kid creates a new account on a friend’s device these products won’t be able to track those accounts, so ensure you know what access your kids have at other homes if they aren’t with you.

You may need credentials, like your kids usernames and passwords, for these third party products to work. If you want to be in complete control of what is downloaded onto any given device then you can set the passwords on your kids device yourself or you can set up two-factor authentication.

For example, your kid wants to watch a movie on Google Movies, you can allow them to login to their Gmail account and browse the movies they want to watch but, when it comes to actually watching, they will need a pin or a security key from your cellphone before they can actually purchase the movie.

Block websites you feel are too mature or inappropriate for your kids.
You have control over the sites your kids visit

Can I monitor my kids phone?

If you want to go covert you can actually monitor all sorts of things on your kids devices like short messages (SMS), the social networks they frequent through their phone, their email and much more.

Some of the best known apps for this type of monitoring service are KidBridge (available on the app stores) and WebWatcher. Another cool app is Bark. Bark allows you to create ‘alert words’ like ‘alcohol’ so you will be alerted when these are the topics of discussion between your kid and their friends.

Some apps on your kids phone have built-in features of their own. YouTube has a feature which reminds you to take a break and also has age-restriction settings. TikTok has a feature that allows you to manage your kids account from your phone – they call this feature Digital Wellbeing.

Keep track of your kids phone
Keep track of your kids phone

Should my kid know I am monitoring their online activity?

Our answer would be yes. According to the law, and societal norms, you are responsible for protecting and providing for your children. As such, you are an ally to them and they should be reminded that you love them and want to protect them.

The first port-of-call when setting all of these features up is to have open and honest dialogue. Like driving a car for the first time there needs to be responsibility and accountability for actions.

The internet is a much a bigger place than the area they simply live in and there is a lot more to explore. It gives kids access to the same things that adults have access to without them having to show an ID book at the door or a driver’s license when being pulled over.

Teaching your kids responsible browsing is the foundation to all of this and the foundation should be based on trust.

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How to avoid being tracked online by tech companies

How to avoid being tracked online by tech companies

As human beings, our privacy (including how to avoid being tracked online) and personal boundaries are inexplicably linked to our human dignity, our independence and our freedom. Privacy and the ability to decide who to let in and when, is critical to being able to be separate from others and to maintain self-determination.

There has been a lot of news coverage with the ‘Big Tech Antitrust Hearing’ happening in the USA. The whole hearing is really about whether we as consumers can trust big tech companies. Trust is the foundation of all lasting and healthy relationships. Without trust there can be no progress. Perhaps the big tech companies, in order to earn our trust, should be the one’s telling us how to avoid being tracked online?

We have put together a guide on how to avoid being tracked online in light of all the information that has come out about these tech companies and their anti-trust practices.

The disappointing realisation from the efforts of the US government to begin regulating these tech companies is that they too are under scrutiny for tracking their citizens (see the PRISM program for more information). If it is happening in one nation, it is happening in others too. So, it seems, we need to take responsibility for ourselves to avoid being tracked online while surfing the internet and we ‘trust’ that this guide will assist you in your efforts to do just that.

Just remember, that although these tactics will go a long way to keeping the spies at bay, nothing is ever 100% full proof (our little disclaimer).

How to avoid being tracked online by tech companies
We have a right to online dignity

Is it true I need to avoid being tracked online through my computer’s camera?

Sad, but true. Hackers can gain access to your camera through the internet and watch every move you make in front of that little lens. It is possible that you may notice this happening by the little camera light switching on unexpectedly but, that is not always the case. There are techniques that hackers use to avoid being detected. So, when you are not using your laptop to surf the internet, then close it, disconnect it from the internet or place one of those small round stickers over the lens when not in use to avoid being tracked online through your camera.

Avoid being tracked online through your computer’s camera
Avoid being tracked online through your computer’s camera

Just when you thought cookies gave you a warm, comforting feeling?

Remember Hansel and Gretel? In the story, Hansel and Gretel leave behind breadcrumbs so that they can find their way home again after their perilous journey. Unfortunately, the breadcrumbs get eaten by birds, so they could no longer find their way back home.

Similarly, when browsing the internet using a search engine, the websites you visit leave behind cookies on your computer like the trail of breadcrumbs in Hansel and Gretel. The cookies then keep track of everything you do, from where you shop online, to the articles you are reading on the internet, to the links you are clicking on. They find their way back to your IP address, which is like your home address on the internet.

These cookies are also what allow you to seamlessly login to your most recently visited accounts without having to enter your username and password. Cookie anyone?

The websites you visit leave behind cookies on your computer
The websites you visit leave behind cookies on your computer

Like the birds, you can avoid being tracked online.

One way on how to avoid being tracked online through cookie detection is to clear out your internet browsing history after each session as well as set your browsing options to private. You can also use a website called CCleaner to delete those hard-to-reach cookie ‘crumbs’ from your internet browsing history and so be extra safe.

Also, don’t rely on internet web browsers to keep a record of your usernames and passwords and to keep your information safe. Read our article on how to create a strong password for increased security measures and internet password management.

Another way you can avoid being tracked online is to use alternative internet search engines like StartPage or DuckDuckGo. These search engines allow you to browse the internet without worrying about them tracking you.

Next, you can use a tool called Tor which scrambles your IP address thereby masking your online ‘residential’ address making it difficult for any website to track you. The Tor VPN is even used by Edward Snowden. Need we say more?

Clear your browsing history to remove cookies
Clear your browsing history to remove cookies

Social media platforms and mobile phone apps

Did you know, that mobile phone apps – and not just the big tech companies – can track every phone call you make? They also have the ability to view every photograph on your phone, they can view all of your contacts, complete information on your phone for you, track all of your internet web browsing activity and also track the places you physically visit.

One of the ways they do this is with social media voting buttons or analytics tracking scripts. They do this to build a database of you around your likes and dislikes for advertising targeting purposes. But who knows what else they use the information for and whom they sell it to, without your consent?

We know it can be a drag, but when you register your details on a new website, make sure you read the terms of service first and take steps to protect your online privacy.

Beware the social media voting buttons
Beware the social media voting buttons

Other ways on how to avoid being tracked on your phone.

The only types of apps you should be using on your phone are mobile browser apps.

Only login to websites on your phone when you absolutely have to and then log out again when you done. If you stay logged in, these apps will extract information from you that you probably don’t want them to, including gathering information through your phones microphone, ‘Enemy Of The State’ type stuff. The best way to stay logged out is to delete the cookies on your phone regularly.

Also, disable the location services on your phone. You can disable these services under your phone settings.

If you are using native phone apps (apps developed for a specific platform) then please know that a VPN (virtual private network) won’t be able to protect you from revealing your location.

One last tip: Platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter use cross-site tracking scripts or pixels which are used in social sharing and voting buttons to gather all sorts of data about you. These types of tracking efforts can be blocked using services like Disconnect.

If you have some favourite apps that you use every day for recreational purposes, and you can afford to, then have a dedicated device for these apps. Perhaps a tablet that you can set up with all the security advice and features mentioned in this blog that stays at home and you only connect to the internet when in use. Trust us, it’s worth it.

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What is the cloud and how to make the most use of it

What is the cloud and how to make the most of it

When asked the question ‘What is the cloud?’ you may have looked up at the sky and responded with ‘Well, first of all there isn’t only one, and it depends; it could be cumulus, stratus,  stratocumulus or cumulonimbus?’ But this isn’t a lesson from your primary school Geography lesson days.

I’m sure at this stage of the digital evolution you know a little bit about what the cloud is, and hopefully your grandmother has heard of the term too, not when discussing the weather, but within the context of the ICT (information and communication technology) sector.

How did the cloud originate?

In the beginning, the ‘cloud’ was something that people almost feared. It was seen as mystical and dangerous and almost seemed to be out of a fairytale book. There was uncertainty about security and where it was actually located. “It can’t just be up there, hanging in cyberspace, what is it going to do with my files and how do I get them back down again?”

What most people don’t realise is that they are probably already using the cloud without even knowing it. What it is, in a nutshell, is software and services that run on the internet rather than on your computer or those really expensive servers businesses use to store their company files.

The cloud originated from the idea that businesses and people needed a more efficient way of storing information. A way that was secure, cost-effective and easier to manage than your own servers or external hard drives.

The cloud is efficient and secure
The cloud is efficient and secure

What can I use the cloud for?

  • The great thing about the cloud is you can access files and systems from anywhere, as long as you have a good fibre internet connection. The computing power is also far superior to any internal office network you may have set up and you can buy as much space as you want. You don’t need to worry about things like storage space limits.
  • Although you can deploy cloud computing in several different ways you need to take into consideration where the services are hosted, security requirements (read our blog on how to create a strong password as a start), customisation capabilities, to meet the unique needs of your business, management services and online support.
  • Think of platforms like YouTube. When you upload a video to YouTube of your cute, furry kitten chasing a ball of wool, that video is hosted on the cloud. When you download that video again you download it from the cloud otherwise, how would you be able to get millions of views of that cute ball of fluff? You are not hosting that video for viewers on your computer nor are you hosting the video on your server at the office, no; it is being hosted “in the cloud”.
Your YouTube videos are hosted in the cloud
Your YouTube videos are hosted in the cloud

There are three types of cloud deployment

  1. Public deployment
    Where the services are provided off-site over the internet. Although this cloud service, like Google Drive, is really efficient, they are not as secure as private cloud services.
  2. Private cloud services
    These are maintained on a private network. These cloud services offer better security measures and a sense of control but they will cost you more. An example is Microsoft Office 365.
  3. Hybrid cloud services
    This is a blend of both public and private cloud computing services. The hybrid option is nice because you can spread your needs out across different options and then start to reduce your costs. Some of the challenges may be integration between the different platforms including different security measures.

Some other cool things about our white, puffy friend

  • Another cool thing about cloud-based services is that you pay monthly and when you want to cancel, you cancel. Wouldn’t it be great if some of the bigger cellular network companies operated like that.
  • Also, for personal use, a lot of the services available have free options that are more than sufficient. Just remember though that if you are using a mobile device the cloud does chow your data while using it.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, if you use the cloud and your device is suddenly destroyed by a meteor, not to worry, your information like photos, videos, music, writing and important business documents doesn’t go with it because, it’s all in the cloud, and your information can still be accessed when you up and running again.
If your computer or servers get destroyed you still have your information
If your computer or servers get destroyed you still have your information

Final thought

Don’t be afraid of what the cloud is, it’s not pie-in-the-sky stuff, it really works well and makes you and your business or schoolwork or personal administration at home much more efficient and safer.

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How to create a strong password and keep your digital profiles safe

How to create a strong password and keep your digital profiles safe

If you want to know how to create a strong password and keep your digital profiles safe, then you are on the right blog.

Creating a strong password can be an administrative nightmare as you could end up with numerous accounts with numerous usernames and passwords. The average number of passwords that every online user holds is 26 per person. Gasp! Yes, 26! Keeping track of all of them and ensuring that they are all hack-proof is a juggling act.

What generally tends to happen is that when we don’t know how to create a strong password or feel the one we have is ‘good enough’, we take a blanket approach and either use the same passwords for different accounts or create similar versions of the same password.

Although this approach may seem adequate to you, we  all need to remember that there are hackers “out there” that start with this exact approach when targeting your accounts i.e. they target common passwords or passwords that begin with a capital letter, or ‘admin’, or ‘password’ – yip, people do that. Insane, I know.

How to create a strong password.
Hackers target common passwords

If you want to run a check to see if your passwords have been breached in any way check out this website haveibeenpwned.com.

What hackers are capable of

Hackers are getting smarter and smarter and know that most web users don’t really know how to create a strong password.

They first target the easiest and most commonly used passwords. After that they move onto passwords with the least amount of characters. The more characters you use in a password the harder they are to break. It has been discovered that a password with 7 characters can only take 0.3 milliseconds to crack, but a password with 12 characters, can potentially take up to 200 years to crack.

Think of a safe with a combination lock. If you use your birthdate and a safe cracker starts with that because they have your Identity Number, then no problem to break in right? But if you used a combination of eight numbers that were randomly selected by rolling a dice, then not so easy to break.

Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters
Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters

The different types of hacking attacks

We could write a full article on the different types of attacks you may experience but this article is about how to create a strong password. So here is a snapshot of the most common attacks and some tips on how to safeguard against them

  1. Keylogger attacks – the action of recording the key strokes a person is making while typing on their keyboard.
    Tip – use a password manager so your password is auto-filled and not typed.
  2. Brute force attacks – a bot uses common passwords like ‘password’ or ‘1234’ and enters them into your login page. There are multiple attacks over time and if the bot hits the right password, they are into your account.
    Tip – use a lockout policy i.e. if there are for e.g. 3 failed login attempts it locks out anyone from entering a password again until it is reset.
  3. Dictionary attacks – a bot uses all the words from a dictionary and enters them into your login page. There are multiple attacks over time and if the bot hits the right word, they in. Just ask LinkedIn, they had six million passwords hacked in 2012.
    Tip – Don’t use predictable words or common passwords.
  4. Phishing attacks – Hackers masquerade as ‘legitimate’ businesses and get users to open attachments, click on links or download malicious files.
    Tip – Never click on links, download files, or open attachments from unknown senders and always verify requests for payments or updating your bank details by calling your service provider. Contact them directly to verify an email. Also, never email personal or financial information even to those you trust, as your email can still be breached.
Phishing is a common type of hacking attack
Phishing is a common type of hacking attack

How to create a strong password and other tips to protect your digital profile

Password creation:

  1. Use your web browser to create randomly generated passwords. Your favourite web browsers now offer random password suggestions when you create a new account on any platform
  2. Use an excel spreadsheet and then go mad with typing random letters, numbers and symbols into different blocks. Spread your fingers across your keyboard so as to avoid common typing patterns.
  3. Use a combination of letters in both lower-case and capitals and avoid common capitals e.g. using a capital at the beginning of your password.
  4. Use numbers and symbols when creating a new password.
  5. Fourteen characters is ideal and eight characters is the minimum to use when creating a new password.

Protecting your digital profile:

  1. Us a VPN (virtual private network) – the only way to cloak your web activity (including from your ISP) is to connect to a VPN. Here is a list of tried and tested VPN’s from security.org.
  2. Use identity theft protection  – there are some good identity theft protection software packages that you can use like from this local security company.
  3. Two factor authentication – try using two factor authentication for the most sensitive of accounts. You can set this type of security up at authy.com.
  4. Store your files in the cloud. Use cloud based services to store your information. You can use platforms like Google Drive for personal information and for more advanced features you can use a platform like Microsoft Office 365. For more information on the cloud read this blog post – What is the cloud and how to make the most of it.
Make your password as secure as possible
Make your password as secure as possible

How to keep all your passwords safe

Now that you know how to create a strong password, you need to keep them safe.

  1. Avoid using an excel spreadsheet – this method is far too common when making sure all your usernames and passwords are secure. What if you forget that one password or your laptop gets stolen or lost?
  2. Rather use one of these tools to secure all your passwords:

Lastly and most importantly

Your first line of defence is your device (phone, laptop etc.). Make sure you know how to create a strong password for your device that is the most complicated password of all. If someone gets into your device and you have saved all your login details within your browsers well then, game over.

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What does an IT specialist do within your business and how do you know they doing it?

What does an IT specialist do and how do you know they doing it?

Bill Gates, who obviously never asked the question “what does an IT specialist do”, once said:

“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without them talking about the other”.

Sometimes business leaders and managers may be vague about information technology (IT) and may not fully understand how to answer the question, ‘What does an IT specialist do?’ It can be all ones and zeroes to the point where you just nod your head in agreement (while your neurons are racing up and down your neural pathways trying to pull out relevant archived material).

I wrote an article for Financial Mail encouraging business owners to become tech experts within their own organisation. This interwovenness that Bill Gates speaks of is growing rapidly and business owners need to have a handle on it to make effective decisions around a key business driver – information technology (IT).

If you are a business owner, leader or manager and can’t speak ‘computer’ it is imperative that you educate yourself so that the next time someone asks you the question “Hey, you, what does and IT specialist do?” you can have an answer.

What is your IT specialist doing in your business.
What is your IT specialist doing in your business.

What does an IT specialist need to do within your business

An IT specialist is a professional who is trained and skilled at solving technical problems within your organisation and navigating the following areas of IT:

  • Computer software (like MacOS)
  • Hardware (best computers for the job)
  • Networks (how computers communicate internally)
  • Cloud platforms (like Google Drive)
  • WiFi set up (does it supply sufficient bandwidth)
  • Cyber security (to avoid being hacked)

Below are some examples of what an IT specialist should be doing within your business and some of the skills they need to be successful.

1. Accurately diagnose problems and deliver solutions, either through knowledge or research

The IT field is very broad and rapidly evolving on an annual basis. An IT specialist needs to keep abreast of these changes and make sure they have a grasp on the latest technologies, like operating systems, to be able to explore multiple scenarios and pin point the cause of any given problem.

Allow them the time to continually research best global practice and industry standards, as well as rapidly changing updates. We recommend setting aside some time one day a week where you as a business manager and your IT specialist, have a briefing session on your organisation’s IT set-up. Allow him to present his latest research and then troubleshoot the best scenarios together through a quick brainstorm.

With this approach he can get up to speed on the latest developments and, through these meetings, you can begin to learn to answer the question, ‘what does an IT specialist do on a daily basis’, which will give you more peace of mind.

An IT specialist should accurately diagnose problems and come up with solutions
An IT specialist should accurately diagnose problems

2. Be good at maths and understand the telecommunications sector

It is one thing to research and acquire information but what does an IT specialist do to be able to analyse that information, make sense of it and implement that information in a solution-specific way?

Make sure your IT specialist is able to see the big picture and doesn’t get caught up in the reeds of only fixing full mailboxes.

An IT specialist should be good at maths; should understand the inner workings of telecommunications systems and should have a firm grasp on geometry and statistics. These are important skills to look out for before hiring an IT specialist.

When you draft interview questions to ask before hiring an IT specialist start with the heading ‘What does an IT specialist do’. Then having done your own research draft some relevant questions and researched answers that you can take him through during the interview.

Set up a scenario for him, for e.g. “We get held to ransom by cybercrime, what would your approach be to curtail an event like this”? You would have already done the research around the answers to these questions and have the answers in front you to see if his are in some sort of alignment.

They should be good at maths and understand the telecommunications sector
They should be good at maths and understand the telecommunications sector

3. Strong planning and solid communications skills

For most IT specialists being able to communicate effectively and integrate themselves into the team can be a hard task as they tend to be less passionate about engaging with people and prefer working with systems. We all need to do things in our job that can be outside of our comfort zones. IT specialists need to be able to effectively communicate with colleagues to extract information from them about a technical issue and to be able to take someone through the necessary steps from problem-to-resolution, in layman’s terms.

They must be strong communicators
They must be strong communicators

4. Your IT specialist will need extraordinary patience and blueprints

They will need special patience to work with the less tech-savvy among us. This can be better achieved if an IT specialist has a plan in place. For example, they should draw up a professional looking blueprint of your organisation’s network and be able to explain this blueprint within a presentation. This is particularly important when onboarding new employees.

5. They should know how to draw up an IT troubleshooting guide

Another crucial task of an IT specialist is to develop a troubleshooting guide. A troubleshooting guide will save the time of ‘fixing’ those computers that simply were not turned on, needed to be restarted or were not plugged in (you know who you are). This type of list may take time in the beginning but it has the following positive effects:

  • Others are empowered to solve IT problems themselves at a basic level and so it saves time on the ‘soft’ issues
  • Your IT specialist won’t waste time looking for a solution previously discovered
  • If your IT specialist ever left your organisation, he or she can hand this guide over to the new IT specialist who doesn’t need to start from scratch

As a leader or manager of the organisation you need to understand this guide too.

They should know how to draw up a 
troubleshooting guide
They should know how to draw up a troubleshooting guide

Finally, your IT specialist should possess skills beyond a qualification

Despite the obvious things an IT specialist should have, like the right qualifications, their skills need to go beyond that. They need to become a thought leader in this space, within your organisation, and they need to be able to communicate those thoughts to all stakeholders in a way that makes sense.

They also need to have a bigger picture of the business as a whole and add value as a key driver of sustainability and growth.

You, as a business owner, or leader need to take the time to acquire more knowledge for yourself about IT (which you can do in partnership with your specialist) and to build a relationship with them where you are solving IT-related problems together.

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The meaning of LTE and its relationship to 4G internet

The meaning of LTE and its relationship to 4G internet

The meaning of LTE and its relationship to 4G internet

Discussing things in the internet space, like the meaning of LTE, can be a little confusing. In this blog post, we unpack the meaning of LTE in as short and as simple a way as possible.

When discussing the meaning of LTE, we need to understand that LTE was a term probably created in the marketing departments of cellular network companies so that 4G internet could be released to the market.

The meaning of LTE marketing brainstorm
The meaning of LTE brainstorm

The full meaning of LTE

The full meaning of LTE is ‘long-term evolution’. You see, internet speed has ‘evolved’ over time, generation by generation. Each new generation of internet gets faster and faster. A new generation of internet is released to the market around once every ten years. The first generation was 1G (good place to start) and was released way back in 1980.

Next, and you guessed it, was 2G internet (the second generation). It then went on to 3G then 4G and more recently 5G. Now, 4G internet is the culprit for the rise of LTE.

4G gives rise to the idea of LTE

Allow me to explain. Before each new generation of internet is released to the market there are certain requirements that that generation of internet has to meet. Some of these requirements are latency, frequency, and of course speed. These requirements are set out by the International Telecommunications Union or, ITU.

When 3G internet was due for release to the public in 2001 the ITU set the speed requirements to a minimum speed of 144Kbps and a maximum speed of around 7Mbps. 3G met and operated at those speed requirements and so was released to the market. However, when 4G (fourth generation) wireless internet was released in 2009, and although it was definitely an improvement over 3G internet speeds, it did not meet the minimum and maximum speed requirements.

This is what gave rise to the idea of LTE. 4G is supposed to run at a download speed of 20Mbps and an upload speed of 10Mbps. The thing is, it doesn’t. It runs at speeds of 5Mbps and 10Mbps respectively, therefore, falling short of the minimum speed requirements set out by the ITU.

Marketing uses the meaning of LTE to release 4G internet

In order for the cellular network companies to get 4G into the market, and so as not to communicate any false advertising, they came up with an idea to release 4G as 4GLTE (remember the meaning of LTE is long-term evolution). What they did was they made a promise to the ITU that 4G, although not as fast as it should be now, will get faster as the technology evolves. In other words, they promised that 4G will get faster over time and will eventually meet the minimum speed requirements set by the ITU. So, they asked the ITU, “can we release it to the market now?” and the ITU said, “okay”. 4GLTE is essentially “not there but getting there” internet speed. Maybe it should be called 4GNTBGT (say that ten times fast).

If you liked this article (or even if you didn’t) leave us some feedback below. We reply to every comment.

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What is throttling, shaping and uncapped fibre internet?

What is throttling, shaping and uncapped fibre internet?

What is throttling, shaping and uncapped fibre internet?

When we were asked the question “what is throttling?” by one of our clients we decided to write a blog about it. Some fibre internet service providers like to confuse things, you know like insurance guys do.

The conversation goes:
“Yes sir (or mam), we offer uncapped fibre internet”.
“Great, that means I can use as much as I like right?”
“Well no, not really…”
“…oh, and we throttle your internet connection should you use more than your allocated data.”
“Wait, what? What is throttling?”

When it comes to choosing a fibre internet service provider you may want to brush up on your technical knowledge of things like, what is throttling, shaping and uncapped fibre internet. This type of knowledge empowers you to make sure you have the best internet experience possible.

Throttling, shaping and uncapped internet
“Yes sir, it is shaped internet, would you like to proceed.”

1. What is throttling and is anybody hurt in the process?

If you ask Wikipedia ‘what is throttling?’, throttling is the intentional slowing or speeding up of fibre internet by a fibre internet service provider.

What is throttling used for, you may ask? Throttling is used by fibre internet service providers to regulate network traffic and minimise bandwidth congestion. Bandwidth congestion is when there are so many households connected to the internet at the same time (also known as peak times) that the system gets ‘backed-up’, like rush-hour traffic on a highway.

Although throttling isn’t illegal, it’s certainly a grey area. If you are paying for certain speeds of fibre internet you should get those speeds, no questions asked.

2. What is shaping and do I need to go to the gym to change it?

During the Covid-19 lockdown some of us may have taken on a slightly different shape, but when it comes to fibre internet, that’s not the shaping we are talking about.

We’ve discussed what is throttling, which is employed across an entire network, but shaping fibre internet is when an internet service provider reduces the amount of available bandwidth to a single customer. Shaping occurs when that customer exceeds their available monthly limit and they will then experience shaping, which means their fibre internet speed will reduce considerably.

When a fibre internet service provider begins shaping a customer’s fibre internet connection, what they are doing is giving certain ports higher priority. For example, a port for simply browsing the web may not be shaped and is allowed to operate at normal speeds but when it comes to using a port for downloading large video files, that port may be shaped, and very slow download speeds are the result.

The best solution here is to simply purchase unshaped fibre internet.

What is shaping and do i need to go to the gym
Shaping internet has nothing to do with gym

3. When you say uncapped, does that mean limitless fibre internet?

Uncapped fibre internet is supposed to mean that you are able to use as much data to browse the internet as you like. However, with certain fibre internet service providers you may see a clause for fair usage policy. This means you can use as much data as you like as long as you are fair about how much you use. What? We know, we know it doesn’t make much sense.

That is why at RocketNet we like to make sense of the products we offer our customers and is also why we offer non-throttled, unshaped, uncapped fibre internet with no such thing as ‘fair usage policy’. We really are the simplest choice to make because we are the best fibre internet service provider to deal with. That’s why we consistently rank in the top 5 best fibre internet service providers on Hello Peter.

There, I have said my piece and that is all I am going to say about what is throttling, unshaped and uncapped fibre internet because with us, it’s not an issue.