Edge Computing & 5G: Perfect Pairing for Apps

5G isn’t commonplace yet, but it’s not too far off from becoming that and we’re already starting to get sample tastes of what it’s capable of. And you likely know someone who already has a 5G smartphone and they’ve probably been all too keen to tell you how it’s so much superior. No doubt they are, but what’s really the big story around 5G is what it’s poised to make specific technologies – and apps among them – capable of. Then when the superior processing capabilities of edge computing are added to the mix we really start ‘cooking with gas’, as the expression goes.

A lot of people are probably currently just as satisfied as can be with apps as it is. Unless you’re a really digitally discerning person you are probably quite fine with what your apps are able to do for you now. If we could fast forward 5 years, however, you’d probably be looking back at your current apps and their capabilities and describing them as totally underwhelming. Here at 4GoodHosting we’re like any good Canadian web hosting service provider in that we can relate to all of this a little more readily than most, and that’s only because the nature of our work puts all of this a lot more on the radar.

So if Edge Computing and 5G are poised to be the perfect dynamic duo that’s going to power web applications to new heights, it makes sense that we dig a lot deeper into this interesting topic.

The Basics

5G promises the ultra low latency and high capacity required to make data-intensive applications work more effectively. That equation starts with blazing fast speeds – 5G enables data traveling from a device to a cell tower and back in just 3 milliseconds. 4G needs 12-15 milliseconds to do that. This is huge for advanced applications. Autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars) are one of the best examples of how 5G’s speed and low latency is opening us up to a whole new world of very life- and society improving technologies. Medical professionals using 5G to get and provide instant diagnoses of patients is another potentially huge development people are excited for.

Current Network Shortcomings

All of the potential of 5G is only going to go as far as the networks that support it though. As has been the case with all cutting edge technologies that have arrived before it, 5G’s arrival into the mainstream has been staggered. Network coverage for it isn’t widespread or common yet, and businesses and developers adopting it are still going through necessary experimentation with it.

What’s holding that back is data. 5G supported applications and services produce a vast amount of data, and as 5G adoption becomes more widespread the data demands for that are growing. The issue is that all the cleaned pipes that transmit the data to and from the cloud and physical data centers don’t have the size or capacity to handle it and keep it moving at sufficiently fast speeds.

After all, part of what 5G is hanging its hat on is ultra-low latency and that has everything to do with what’s called the ‘last hop’. That’s a term given to the transfer from the cell tower to the endpoint device itself. Data being sent from the cell tower to a central cloud data center can still take up to 500 milliseconds, and that’s only to the halfway point before it has to come back.

Long and short here is that as of now the 5G experience can still be far too slow for many people’s liking. But of course that is going to change, and the only question is how soon will it get up to speed to a level that consumers will deem acceptable.

Adding the Edge

Definitions for edge computing will vary, but a safe one is that it’s an architecture characterized by a distributed cloud architecture made up of local micro data centers. Instead of structuring networks around a core with data being continually sent for processing and analysis, edge networks take datan and process it within micro data centers at the ‘edge’ of the network.

What this results in is much less of a need to send data back and forth to a centralized server or cloud, working out to less bandwidth usage and much less latency. In this way it’s key to enhancing the speed and response of the ‘last hop’ we talked about above. In this way edge computing is every integral to 5G’s processing power being experienced the way it’s intended to be.

In comparison to 5G too edge computing is already well established. Look no further than well know initiatives like SyncThink, Molo17 and Doddle. SyncThink in particular is getting a lot of hype these days, with its ability to allow medical professionals to carry out near-instant and entirely accurate injury assessments, even in challenging diagnoses environments.

Good One Way, Good the Other

Edge computing is already fully implemented in the mainstream, and that gives reason to believe that 5G’s widespread adoption is not far behind. And not just because the two enable each other so well. Edge computing enables more organizations to begin experimenting with 5G, and 5G then makes it possible for organizations to get more out of their existing edge deployments.

What this likely will mean for the laypeople like you and I is many new classes of applications with unparalleled resilience, speed, security, and efficiency. That has to sound mighty good to you, and no matter where the bulk of your interest is based in when it comes to taking advantage of digital connectivity to improve your life.

‘Super Special’ – What Exactly are NFTs?

You’re forgiven if the numbers of new abbreviations people are supposed to be familiar with these days is a little much for you. Adding to all of this is the fact that emerging technologies are increasingly front and center in our lives, and many of these abbreviations apply to these technologies. Such is the case for something you may have heard a lot of buzz about lately – NFTs. One big-ticket news item these days is cryptocurrency, and while nearly everyone will have heard of Bitcoin there’s other that are also claiming similar fanfare and go by abbreviations themselves – XRP being a good example.

The reason we mention those two is there’s a connection between them and NFTs. That being that all three of them are ‘tokens’ that exist only in digital form. But that’s where the similarities end for the large part, and from there NFTs become a lot more unique and a lot more intriguing. At least for most people, and that’s likely a fair thing to say.

All of this stuff tends to interest people like those of us here at 4GoodHosting, as being a good Canadian web hosting service provider has us in the front row for observing all of the newest developments in the digital world. It tends to be interesting stuff, and NFTs in particular are really something that even the most digitally illiterate person may take an interest in just because of their newness and uniqueness.

We figure it’s worthy of a topic of discussion for the blog this week, so here goes.

A Mutual Exchange

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. Right, you’re also forgiven if you have absolutely no ide what the word fungible means, so let’s get to that without delay. ‘Fungible’ is the most uncommon of terms, but it is an adjective that means whatever it is describing can be mutually exchanged. To add to that somewhat, it means that two parties can exchanged whatever good it is we’re talking about, and neither of them gain value by doing so.

So non-fungible would then suggest that there IS value to be gained in the exchange of what it is – in this case, tokens. What’s making NFTs so newsworthy these days isn’t so much that they can have monetary value, but rather that they are a fully digital and thus non-tangible item that gains value in the same way collectibles can. To put this in everyday perspective, anyone who has a Wayne Gretzky rookie card, for example, is going to be pretty darned thrilled to have that in their possession simply because A) it’s incredibly rare, and B) it’s worth an incredible amount of money if they decide to sell it.

Yes, not necessarily in that order either.

NFTs add to this by being capable of being uniquely identified and authenticate yourself as the owner of that collectible. They are tied to blockchain, and blockchain is really just a big, encrypted ledger. As you’d expect, NFTs need to be purchased with a cryptocurrency and Ethereum is usually preferable to Bitcoin. When an NFT is purchased the buyer has the ‘key’ to it and can exchange it, sell it, or do pretty much anything they like.

It’s the scarcity of NFTs that makes them expensive and requires you to part with plenty of cryptocurrency if you want to obtain. Look no further than a few months back when one named CryptoPunk 2890 sold for 605 ETH (Ethereum tokens). That works out to more than $760,000 USD!

As of now, the biggest mainstream NFTs are in the art and sports spaces. Deep-pocketed individuals are both purchasing AND investing in them – with former NBA megastar Michael Jordan being one of them and related to NBA top shots.

One NBA Top Shot NFT of LeBron James dunking the basketball sold for just over $200K USD.

Never in Your Hands

Sticking with the sports theme as we continue discussing NFTs, if someone has an exclusive digital clip of Sidney Crosby scoring Canada’s golden goal in Vancouver, for example, it becomes a very unique and incredibly permanent collector’s item. Unlike cards or prints, it’s not going to become ratty or faded ever. It’ll still be as crisp and vivid 100 years from now as it is today.

Art NFTs are popular too, and one unique aspect of NFT art is that creators are able to make money from secondary sales. Anyone purchasing an up-and-coming artist’s NFT is both supporting them and getting in on the ground floor in case that art explodes in popularity later on.

Part of the reason why NFTs are so hot right now is because there’s plenty and plenty of inventory. Making NFTs isn’t difficult if you are the owner and have rights to the source material, and there’s a chance they can earn royalties in perpetuity too.

For artists they are particularly beneficial, as they take away many of the traditional hurdles that prevent the artist’s work from being made visible and promoted. This medium hasn’t existed before, and artists and other types are quite keen to take advantage of it.

Accessibility Equaling Popularity

NFTs are all the rage right now simply because they’re immediately accessible to anyone. Whether or not you can afford them – or have the (crypto) currency form required to do so – may be an entirely different story. People are also drawn to the way that they can be reflections of what a particular individual may have seen as a noteworthy moment or experience, as compared to what a table of people in an office may decide on.

This really applies to pro sports NFTs, but will expand into other categories for sure. It’s also serving to add to the ‘coolness’ factor for cryptocurrencies in general, and may serve to further the inroads these types of currencies are making.

Some Risk Though

There are risks to NFTs though, and specifically because they are heavily speculative. Most people who look into buying them know they need to be extremely familiar with the long-term prospects for that particular token. Doing your research is a must, and especially looking to see what sorts of NFTs are available in your particular area of interest. Find cool projects and get involved by joining their chatrooms and check discord servers and other resources connecting the community. Understand what you’re buying into.

It’s going to be very interesting to see where NFTs go and to what extent they become a mainstream commodity for collectors and the like. The appeal is certainly easy so see, and it’s almost certain that there will be people who make extremely fortuitous investments in NFTs early on and then see the resale price for their token be a serious windfall.

All the best to you if that’s something you’re considering after putting yourself very in the know about the best approaches to buying NFTs.

‘Everyday’ Optical Fiber Taking Up Pivotal Role in Quantum Computing

Much is being made of quantum computing these days, and for good reason. It stands poised to revolutionize our digital world, and along with that making so much more possible with regards to improving the ability of the world to work together and add so much more reach and efficiency to a great deal of what we’re doing. The development of the technology has been a long time in the making, and it’s a cake that’s not quite bake yet. But one of the most important ingredients to it is one material that’s been commonplace and unexceptional for a long time now.

Optical fiber has been around for 50 years now, permitting transmissions over long distances with higher bandwidth levels. Just that part of the explanation should be all that’s needed to allow you to grasp the significance of what optical fiber has offered to us. And if you don’t even know exactly what they are then that’s fine too. A quick description – straight from Wikipedia – is to say that they are flexible, transparent fibers made by drawing silica glass or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair.

A whole lot of goodness in very skinny package. Putting people in the know about things that will interest them is a small part of what makes us here at 4GoodHosting a good Canadian web hosting provider, and we think that a shout out to the potentially unsung hero of quantum computing is worth it here this week.

So let’s have a look at the role of optical fibers in quantum computing here, and maybe you’ll have a greater appreciation for them.

Integral to Massive Processing Power

So just how is that an ordinary telecommunications technology is so key to building superconducting quantum computers with massive processing power?

It started with tests measuring and controlling a superconducting quantum bit (qubit) using light-conducting fiber instead of metal electrical wires. The results which indicated that the optical fibers was able to pack a million qubits into a quantum computer rather than just a few thousand.

That’s a BIG jump in capacity, and as a result we’re now seeing superconducting circuits being a lead technology for making quantum computers because of reliability how they are easily mass produced. One hang up of sorts is that these circuits must operate at cryogenic temperatures, and wiring them to room-temperature electronics isn’t simple and there’s a real risk of overheating.

So with that in mind now process yourself how a universal quantum computer, is expected to need about 1 million qubits. Conventional existing infrastructure would only support thousands at most.

Optical fiber, on the other hand, features a glass or plastic core that can carry a high volume of light signals without conducting heat. Superconducting quantum computers use microwave pulses to store and process information though, and that creates a need for the light to be converted precisely to microwaves.

Optical fiber has been reworked to meet this need, and by combining it with a few other standard components that convert, convey and measure light at the level of single particles, or photons, this was made possible. The light is then easily converted into microwaves that showed themselves to be ideal for maintaining the integrity of the qubit’s fragile quantum states.

Long story short here – Optical fiber can also carry far more data in a much smaller volume than conventional cable.

With the new setup using an optical fiber instead of metal to guide light signals to cryogenic photodetectors, microwaves could be routed to the qubit through either the photonic link or a regular coaxial line.

Superconducting Metals

The functional key to the workings of the optical fiber here is that there are two superconducting metals separated by an insulator. Add a certain microwave frequency and the qubit is able to move between low-frequency and excited states without lag.

The frequency at which microwaves naturally bounce back and forth in the cavity, called the resonance frequency, is dependent on and defined by the qubit state. Plus, the frequency at which the qubit switches states depends on the number of photons in the cavity.

The hope with this technology is that quantum processors will be enabled for having optical fibers transmitting signals to and from the qubits, with each fiber capable of carrying thousands of signals to and from the qubit.

Soon-to-Be Applications

Much is being made of quantum computing these days, and for good reason. It stands poised to revolutionize our digital world, and along with that making so much more possible with regards to improving the ability of the world to work together and add so much more reach and efficiency to a great deal of what we’re doing. The development of the technology has been a long time in the making, and it’s a cake that’s not quite bake yet. But one of the most important ingredients to it is one material that’s been commonplace and unexceptional for a long time now.

Optical fiber has been around for 50 years now, permitting transmissions over long distances with higher bandwidth levels. Just that part of the explanation should be all that’s needed to allow you to grasp the significance of what optical fiber has offered to us. And if you don’t even know exactly what they are then that’s fine too. A quick description – straight from Wikipedia – is to say that they are flexible, transparent fibers made by drawing silica glass or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair.

A whole lot of goodness in very skinny package. Putting people in the know about things that will interest them is a small part of what makes us here at 4GoodHosting a good Canadian web hosting provider, and we think that a shout out to the potentially unsung hero of quantum computing is worth it here this week.

So let’s have a look at the role of optical fibers in quantum computing here, and maybe you’ll have a greater appreciation for them.

Integral to Massive Processing Power

So just how is that an ordinary telecommunications technology is so key to building superconducting quantum computers with massive processing power?

It started with tests measuring and controlling a superconducting quantum bit (qubit) using light-conducting fiber instead of metal electrical wires. The results which indicated that the optical fibers was able to pack a million qubits into a quantum computer rather than just a few thousand.

That’s a BIG jump in capacity, and as a result we’re now seeing superconducting circuits being a lead technology for making quantum computers because of reliability how they are easily mass produced. One hang up of sorts is that these circuits must operate at cryogenic temperatures, and wiring them to room-temperature electronics isn’t simple and there’s a real risk of overheating.

So with that in mind now process yourself how a universal quantum computer, is expected to need about 1 million qubits. Conventional existing infrastructure would only support thousands at most.

Optical fiber, on the other hand, features a glass or plastic core that can carry a high volume of light signals without conducting heat. Superconducting quantum computers use microwave pulses to store and process information though, and that creates a need for the light to be converted precisely to microwaves.

Optical fiber has been reworked to meet this need, and by combining it with a few other standard components that convert, convey and measure light at the level of single particles, or photons, this was made possible. The light is then easily converted into microwaves that showed themselves to be ideal for maintaining the integrity of the qubit’s fragile quantum states.

Long story short here – Optical fiber can also carry far more data in a much smaller volume than conventional cable.

With the new setup using an optical fiber instead of metal to guide light signals to cryogenic photodetectors, microwaves could be routed to the qubit through either the photonic link or a regular coaxial line.

Superconducting Metals

The functional key to the workings of the optical fiber here is that there are two superconducting metals separated by an insulator. Add a certain microwave frequency and the qubit is able to move between low-frequency and excited states without lag.

The frequency at which microwaves naturally bounce back and forth in the cavity, called the resonance frequency, is dependent on and defined by the qubit state. Plus, the frequency at which the qubit switches states depends on the number of photons in the cavity.

The hope with this technology is that quantum processors will be enabled for having optical fibers transmitting signals to and from the qubits, with each fiber capable of carrying thousands of signals to and from the qubit.

Soon-to-Be Applications

Quantum computing experts predict that this year the technology is going to make some very visible inroads. One of them is the predicted first public acknowledgment of the quantum crypto break, where quantum computers become capable of breaking traditional public key crypto. More to what the average person will relate to, there will also greater numbers of quantum devices like quantum random generators and quantum key distribution, made more cheaply and appearing as subcomponents in more devices like smartphones and personal computing devices. 

Regular Amazon Online Shopper? Facebook User? Beware of CooperStealer Malware

Don’t know about you but it hasn’t been even a week since I ordered something from Amazon.ca, and I was browsing through my Facebook feed over breakfast this AM. There are a few people who’ve sworn off social media these days, and in truth that’s often a good thing. But there’s all sorts of us who have Google as big parts of our digital lives and many of those same people take advantage of much of what Apple has to offer too.

That’s not going to change, but what may have to change is the way we all keep our guards up a little bit more when taking advantage of these conveniences or taking in social media in moderation. That’s for the following reason; there’s plenty of malware out there looking for any and all opportunities to get in where they shouldn’t, but none of them are drumming up as much caution quite like the CooperStealer.

Sounds fancy, and it has nothing to do with a digital thief stealing barrels or anything of the sort. What it DOES have the ability to do is steal credentials. And more specifically, login and account credentials for Facebook, Google, and Apple passwords. While it’s debatable whether you could go without Facebook in in the interest of keeping yourself safe from this, you likely won’t see it the same way when it comes to Google and Apple accounts.

Part of being a quality Canadian web hosting provider is keeping our customers in the know about developments that might affect them, and considering what we’ve laid out here this CooperStealer malware definitely meets the criteria for that. So let’s look at it in greater detail with our entry for this week and explain further about why this is something you’ll want to be aware of and then conclude with tips about how you can make yourself less at risk.

Hunger for Cookies Too

This malware we’re discussing here today was given the name CooperStealer by researchers because it is both a password and cookie stealer that is in active development. Plus, another big part of the potential problem is that it comes with a download feature that allows its operators to deliver additional malicious payloads to infected devices.

The infection seriousness doesn’t end there. Threat actors behind this malware strain have used compromised accounts in order to run malicious ads and conduct malware advertising campaigns that have been given the term ‘malvertising’ recently.

But this isn’t exactly new. Early versions of the CooperStealer were seen as early as the summer of 2019. It was seen to effectively target Facebook and Instagram account credentials while also being able to target Bing, PayPal, Tumblr and Twitter.

Building on SilentFade and More

It’s also been determined that CooperStealer utilizes many of the same targeting and delivery methods as SilentFade, the Chinese-sourced malware which ended up on Facebook’s security radar in 2019 too. It ended up being the cause of over $4m in damages, and so the alarms going off about CooperStealer are legit. Industry and malware experts believe that CooperStealer is a previously undocumented family within the same class of malware as SilentFade, StressPaint, FacebookRobot and Scranos.

CooperStealer may also be implemented into suspicious websites advertised as KeyGen and crack sites such as keygenninja[.]com, piratewares[.]com, startcrack[.]com, and crackheap[.]net. The reason people are at these sites at all is because they present themselves as being an alternative to circumventing the licensing restrictions of legitimate software.

The truth of the matter, however, is that these Potentially Unwanted Programs/Applications (PUP/PUA) are much more frequently in existence to simply deliver malicious executables capable of downloading and installing additional payloads. Take note of them, and avoid them unless you see these resources as being worth the risk.

Good Sinkholes

The good news is that the people who you’d think would need to be proactive about this threat are doing just that. Researchers at Facebook, Cloudflare and other service providers have worked to develop co-ordinated disruptive action. The best examples being a warning interstitial page that presents itself in front of the malicious domains, and the development of ‘sinkholes’ for select sites that are known to be favoured by these threat actors behind the CooperStealer.

Now it’s true that most people don’t envision anything good when thinking of a sinkhole, but in this case it’s a good thing and not a huge falling away of the earth that devours homes, vehicles and whatever else has the misfortune of being immediately above them when they’re about to do their thing.

No, the type of ‘sinkhole’ that we’re talking about here is a method used to limit an attacker’s ability to collect data on victims while also enabling researchers to gain visibility into victim demographics. During a sinkhole’s first 24 hours of operation they can log hundreds of thousands of HTTP requests from unique IPs originating from hundreds of different countries around the world.

Based on this industry experts were able to determine the top five countries based on unique infections were India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, and The Philippines.

Don’t know about you but it hasn’t been even a week since I ordered something from Amazon.ca, and I was browsing through my Facebook feed over breakfast this AM. There are a few people who’ve sworn off social media these days, and in truth that’s often a good thing. But there’s all sorts of us who have Google as big parts of our digital lives and many of those same people take advantage of much of what Apple has to offer too.

That’s not going to change, but what may have to change is the way we all keep our guards up a little bit more when taking advantage of these conveniences or taking in social media in moderation. That’s for the following reason; there’s plenty of malware out there looking for any and all opportunities to get in where they shouldn’t, but none of them are drumming up as much caution quite like the CooperStealer.

Sounds fancy, and it has nothing to do with a digital thief stealing barrels or anything of the sort. What it DOES have the ability to do is steal credentials. And more specifically, login and account credentials for Facebook, Google, and Apple passwords. While it’s debatable whether you could go without Facebook in in the interest of keeping yourself safe from this, you likely won’t see it the same way when it comes to Google and Apple accounts.

Part of being a quality Canadian web hosting provider is keeping our customers in the know about developments that might affect them, and considering what we’ve laid out here this CooperStealer malware definitely meets the criteria for that. So let’s look at it in greater detail with our entry for this week and explain further about why this is something you’ll want to be aware of and then conclude with tips about how you can make yourself less at risk.

Hunger for Cookies Too

This malware we’re discussing here today was given the name CooperStealer by researchers because it is both a password and cookie stealer that is in active development. Plus, another big part of the potential problem is that it comes with a download feature that allows its operators to deliver additional malicious payloads to infected devices.

The infection seriousness doesn’t end there. Threat actors behind this malware strain have used compromised accounts in order to run malicious ads and conduct malware advertising campaigns that have been given the term ‘malvertising’ recently.

But this isn’t exactly new. Early versions of the CooperStealer were seen as early as the summer of 2019. It was seen to effectively target Facebook and Instagram account credentials while also being able to target Bing, PayPal, Tumblr and Twitter.

Building on SilentFade and More

It’s also been determined that CooperStealer utilizes many of the same targeting and delivery methods as SilentFade, the Chinese-sourced malware which ended up on Facebook’s security radar in 2019 too. It ended up being the cause of over $4m in damages, and so the alarms going off about CooperStealer are legit. Industry and malware experts believe that CooperStealer is a previously undocumented family within the same class of malware as SilentFade, StressPaint, FacebookRobot and Scranos.

CooperStealer may also be implemented into suspicious websites advertised as KeyGen and crack sites such as keygenninja[.]com, piratewares[.]com, startcrack[.]com, and crackheap[.]net. The reason people are at these sites at all is because they present themselves as being an alternative to circumventing the licensing restrictions of legitimate software.

The truth of the matter, however, is that these Potentially Unwanted Programs/Applications (PUP/PUA) are much more frequently in existence to simply deliver malicious executables capable of downloading and installing additional payloads. Take note of them, and avoid them unless you see these resources as being worth the risk.

Good Sinkholes

The good news is that the people who you’d think would need to be proactive about this threat are doing just that. Researchers at Facebook, Cloudflare and other service providers have worked to develop co-ordinated disruptive action. The best examples being a warning interstitial page that presents itself in front of the malicious domains, and the development of ‘sinkholes’ for select sites that are known to be favoured by these threat actors behind the CooperStealer.

Now it’s true that most people don’t envision anything good when thinking of a sinkhole, but in this case it’s a good thing and not a huge falling away of the earth that devours homes, vehicles and whatever else has the misfortune of being immediately above them when they’re about to do their thing.

No, the type of ‘sinkhole’ that we’re talking about here is a method used to limit an attacker’s ability to collect data on victims while also enabling researchers to gain visibility into victim demographics. During a sinkhole’s first 24 hours of operation they can log hundreds of thousands of HTTP requests from unique IPs originating from hundreds of different countries around the world.

Based on this industry experts were able to determine the top five countries based on unique infections were India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, and The Philippines.

In the bigger picture, these days there are more different types of malware out there than ever before and there’s never been a higher level of risk from them. If you think that little old you isn’t going to be at risk yourself then there’s plenty of reasons to rethink that position.

The Case for Website Monitoring

If you’re the type of person who’s used our website builder here at 4GoodHosting and have yourself a simple website to promote yourself and nothing more then you won’t have much of a need to be looking into the workings of your website. If there’s a lot more riding on your website and it doing what you need it to do, however, that’s a different story and you’re going to want to be at least somewhat involved in keeping tabs on how your site is doing set up alongside the information superhighway.

Now like any good Canadian web hosting provider in Canada, that definitely relates to us too. Site monitoring is definitely not my area of expertise, but we have someone who is an expert with the subject and keeps things at their best with this site. So if you have a similarly vested interest in the performance of your website and how optimized it is for SERPS and all the other priorities that exist for everyone then you will want to be involved in website monitoring. Let’s look at why that is today.

Wide Open Expanses

1.8 billion is a big number, and that’s how many websites on the Internet today. Of them, it’s estimated that 70% don’t have the proper monitoring to be entirely safe from cyber attacks. The study that came up with those numbers was based on large enterprises, but cyber resilience is increasingly important for small businesses too.

And the primary reason that’s true is because of malware. If a site becomes infected and the infection really takes root then that site could see a dramatic reduction of traffic as users are kept away by their browsers. And in a good number of cases there’s a long period of time before the site’s owner or webmaster becomes aware of that. During that time your organic SEO is going to be negatively affected in a big way, and so that’s the thing – if your website is serving any type of an e-commerce interest then there’s going to be real problems.

The longer it takes to fix problems like these, the larger the SEO impact, and the longer it will take to make the recovery. So if you need to know why website monitoring is vital, that’s why. It may be out of your realm of abilities too, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be hiring to get someone to take care of it for you if so.

Automation for Superior Cyber Defenses

This same report stated very emphatically that automation increased cyber resilience in a big way. When monitoring is automated, it’s much more likely that checks vital to that particular business or venture’s online health will be conducted from multiple locations worldwide and done regularly. The other advantages to doing what it takes for automation with cyber security is that automated monitors tend to be much more thorough and consistent than if someone is tasked with having to remember to do the checks on their own.

The biggest part of that are the instant notifications sent out if a site goes down or if an all-important email account is unreachable. And all of this is made possible with web monitoring services.

Web Monitoring Services

Cybersecurity is not the only part of effective monitoring. A good web monitoring service will cover a number of other interests too, and in particular you’ll want to have it keeping tabs on your site’s search engine and keyword ranking. It’s a nice way to get that peace of mind and be assured of the operating health of your site.

So here’s the four primary reasons you need a web monitor.

  1. Avoid Potential Downtimes, and Losses that Come with Them

If your website is inactive or unreachable and you’re unaware of it, you’re taking an immediate hit. No purchases, no bookings, no whatever. There’s been research done (admittedly with larger e-commerce sites, but still) where the average cost per minute of this downtime is estimated to be around $5,600. Long term costs of this type and even at a smaller scale are probably not something that you’ll be okay with.

Unless of course you actually DO want to be losing money, visibility, AND reputability in some cases. The longer your site is down, the worse the impact is on brand reputation or SEO. And again, many websites can experience downtime without the owners or managers knowing about it.

  1. KNOW You’ve Got the Cyber Security You Want

This same survey also indicated that as many as 57% of large organizations have been the victim of some sort of data breach or cybersecurity incident that negatively affected their site. No one needs to be told of the really serious risks that can come from data leaks, and so you should be taking this pretty darn seriously.

An insecure website is like a back door with no lock on it, and there’s also the risk of the hackers sending out harmful communications on your behalf and before you have any chance to do anything about it.

  1. Monitor SEO Health and Optimization

SEO shortcomings that result from a compromised website can bring down your SEO fast and furiously. But it can also affect site speed, for instance. For this reason it is useful to monitor SEO performance closely. Problems with your SEO could be indicative of a larger problem but even if it isn’t, organic SEO is a majorly important aspect of a business’s web performance. It’s a big part of creating traffic to engage and contribute to your conversion rates, and of course we all know what bounce rates are and why you want yours as low as possible.

  1. Proactive and Time-Saving Solutions

What you can do is use a certain way of thinking when deciding what sort of website monitoring and cyber security will meet your needs. This is a simple as a) knowing that a problem exists as early as possible, and b) knowing what actions you should take to resolve this problem

Then look into web monitoring solutions that are going to contribute to both these aims being met. Monitoring your site closely for issues is a good start, but from there you should also ensure those all-important reports that detail the actions you need to take. They should be easy to read and easy to act on.

Think StarLink, Not Skynet: The ‘Big’ of Satellite Internet Speeds

We will fully understand if you don’t get the Skynet reference there, but for those of us who were big fans of the Terminator films it’s somewhat hard not to think of the fictional far-reaching A.I. platform that spelled disaster for humanity when we hear of Elon Musk’s ‘StarLink’ satellite internet development. Seems as if everything this billionaire investor does these days is noteworthy, and this is no exception. And let’s be clear – all this development is doing is promising the fastest internet speeds ever available to the average earth dweller.

We can be fairly certain it is NOT going to lead to the Rise of the Machines, or a need for John Connor to save us all from them.

Anyways, enough with the sci-fi movie references. StarLink has the potential to put you in pretty much a Bugatti for roaring down the information superhighway, and we imagine that sounds plenty good to you. Here at 4GoodHosting we’re like every other quality Canadian web hosting provider in that the nature of what we do means we really get how the promise of faster page-loading times and flash media like it was meant to be will really appeal to people.

So it’s for this reason that we think that Mr. Musk and his StarLink are definitely newsworthy enough for this week’s entry. Here’s hoping this all comes to be like it’s predicted it will!

2x Sounds Just Fine

And the meat of that prediction is that Elon has stated that the speeds of the StarLink satellite internet service will double over this year as it continues to build out its global consumer network. More specifically, what’s being suggested is that speed will double to ~300Mb/s and latency will drop to ~20ms later this year. If so, it is quite the development as StarLink routers currently max out at speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps.

That is the consensus, although some users have claimed to get speeds well above that, and even up to 215 Mbps. However, we ca probably safely assume those speeds were recorded by someone enjoying a fairly empty network at the time.

Global Reach

It’s also being reported that StarLink is set to offer these benefits to one and all, and pretty much no matter where it is on the planet you’re calling home. This satellite internet service is promising to reach nearly all customers around the Earth by the close of this year, and the reaches that it can’t quite get to this year would be taken care of successfully by the end of 2022 at the latest.

Lofty aims for sure, but Musk is saying it’s doable – and will be done. He has also said that StarLink is currently very similar to other satellite broadband services in that it’s optimized for customers living in regions with low-to-medium population density. He shares a belief with his lead engineers who are making all of this goodness happen, and that being that traditional methods of providing internet are still best outside of these areas.

The Pikangikum First Nation in Canada is one remote area in a large country with vast expanses of wilderness where the reach and strength of SkyLink is being tested.

Subscribe to the Beta

For $99 a month you can subscribe and try all of this out for yourself, but be aware that by the time you get to that point you’ll already be in for 5 bills at least– for now at least. That’s because it’s $499 for the StarLink kit. The kit includes a Wi-Fi router, mounting tripod and a terminal to connect to the satellites. But it’s not like that’s been dissuading to most people it would seem. So far the service has around 10,000 users participating in the beta test.

So if you want to gauge all this for yourself and you’re not on any sort of a budget, then no one’s stopping you from getting onboard yourself.

It was about three weeks ago now that the company started making pre-orders of StarLink available to other countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. With a $100 deposit you’ll be put in line to start enjoying the service once it becomes available in those locations. But again with the same hardware expense they’ll be paying $600 upfront for the service.

Possibility of Federal Funding

StarLink reaching both the speed and the coverage that Musk is aiming for is going to be dependent on SpaceX rolling out quite a few more satellites. While they’ve put up more than 1,000 of them for StarLink so far, the goal is to have some 42,000 satellites up there by the middle of 2027.

And of course doing all this is an expensive proposition, and that’s an understatement as is. To help with that SpaceX won $885 million in federal subsidies to expand StarLink. And given what these types of internet speeds along with 5G network connectivity have in potential for federal and municipal governments it’s not surprising that they’re investing to the extent they are.

On the other side of the coin, however, many small internet service providers (ISP) are opposed to this ‘unproven technology’ as they refer to it. They’re asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review winning applications submitted by satellite and fixed wireless providers to ensure this is being rolled out judiciously and fairly. They insist that what is at stake is legit broadband access to millions of people in rural areas and regions that are currently too costly to serve.

It’s true that there have been companies that received millions of dollars in federal funds to expand broadband internet service to rural services, but they then dropped the ball with that. The project trials in rural Canada might suggest that is not going to be the case this time, but we will have to see how it all plays out.

We will fully understand if you don’t get the Skynet reference there, but for those of us who were big fans of the Terminator films it’s somewhat hard not to think of the fictional far-reaching A.I. platform that spelled disaster for humanity when we hear of Elon Musk’s ‘StarLink’ satellite internet development. Seems as if everything this billionaire investor does these days is noteworthy, and this is no exception. And let’s be clear – all this development is doing is promising the fastest internet speeds ever available to the average earth dweller.

We can be fairly certain it is NOT going to lead to the Rise of the Machines, or a need for John Connor to save us all from them.

Anyways, enough with the sci-fi movie references. StarLink has the potential to put you in pretty much a Bugatti for roaring down the information superhighway, and we imagine that sounds plenty good to you. Here at 4GoodHosting we’re like every other quality Canadian web hosting provider in that the nature of what we do means we really get how the promise of faster page-loading times and flash media like it was meant to be will really appeal to people.

So it’s for this reason that we think that Mr. Musk and his StarLink are definitely newsworthy enough for this week’s entry. Here’s hoping this all comes to be like it’s predicted it will!

2x Sounds Just Fine

And the meat of that prediction is that Elon has stated that the speeds of the StarLink satellite internet service will double over this year as it continues to build out its global consumer network. More specifically, what’s being suggested is that speed will double to ~300Mb/s and latency will drop to ~20ms later this year. If so, it is quite the development as StarLink routers currently max out at speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps.

That is the consensus, although some users have claimed to get speeds well above that, and even up to 215 Mbps. However, we ca probably safely assume those speeds were recorded by someone enjoying a fairly empty network at the time.

Global Reach

It’s also being reported that StarLink is set to offer these benefits to one and all, and pretty much no matter where it is on the planet you’re calling home. This satellite internet service is promising to reach nearly all customers around the Earth by the close of this year, and the reaches that it can’t quite get to this year would be taken care of successfully by the end of 2022 at the latest.

Lofty aims for sure, but Musk is saying it’s doable – and will be done. He has also said that StarLink is currently very similar to other satellite broadband services in that it’s optimized for customers living in regions with low-to-medium population density. He shares a belief with his lead engineers who are making all of this goodness happen, and that being that traditional methods of providing internet are still best outside of these areas.

The Pikangikum First Nation in Canada is one remote area in a large country with vast expanses of wilderness where the reach and strength of SkyLink is being tested.

Subscribe to the Beta

For $99 a month you can subscribe and try all of this out for yourself, but be aware that by the time you get to that point you’ll already be in for 5 bills at least– for now at least. That’s because it’s $499 for the StarLink kit. The kit includes a Wi-Fi router, mounting tripod and a terminal to connect to the satellites. But it’s not like that’s been dissuading to most people it would seem. So far the service has around 10,000 users participating in the beta test.

So if you want to gauge all this for yourself and you’re not on any sort of a budget, then no one’s stopping you from getting onboard yourself.

It was about three weeks ago now that the company started making pre-orders of StarLink available to other countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. With a $100 deposit you’ll be put in line to start enjoying the service once it becomes available in those locations. But again with the same hardware expense they’ll be paying $600 upfront for the service.

Possibility of Federal Funding

StarLink reaching both the speed and the coverage that Musk is aiming for is going to be dependent on SpaceX rolling out quite a few more satellites. While they’ve put up more than 1,000 of them for StarLink so far, the goal is to have some 42,000 satellites up there by the middle of 2027.

And of course doing all this is an expensive proposition, and that’s an understatement as is. To help with that SpaceX won $885 million in federal subsidies to expand StarLink. And given what these types of internet speeds along with 5G network connectivity have in potential for federal and municipal governments it’s not surprising that they’re investing to the extent they are.

On the other side of the coin, however, many small internet service providers (ISP) are opposed to this ‘unproven technology’ as they refer to it. They’re asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review winning applications submitted by satellite and fixed wireless providers to ensure this is being rolled out judiciously and fairly. They insist that what is at stake is legit broadband access to millions of people in rural areas and regions that are currently too costly to serve.

It’s true that there have been companies that received millions of dollars in federal funds to expand broadband internet service to rural services, but they then dropped the ball with that. The project trials in rural Canada might suggest that is not going to be the case this time, but we will have to see how it all plays out.

At a more basic level, people are going to be absolutely thrilled at the prospect of consistent 2x faster internet speeds.

Worldwide Semiconductor Chip Shortage May Have Major Ramifications

Everyone all over the world has benefitted from the digital revolution that has made our lives and workplace productivity better over the past few decades. Behind all of that goodness are a collection of key technology contributors, and the semiconductor is definitely one of them. These powerhouses are kind of unsung heroes, as they’re hidden from view and don’t get the fanfare that CPUs do. Despite the fact that much of what your CPU is capable of is made possible because of a semiconductor chip.

These chips have been produced in large, large volumes for a long, long time. But only just recently has it become a situation where – quite simply – there’s just not enough of them to meet demand. That’s problematic for a whole lot of different reasons, but most front and centre is the fact that manufacturers aren’t able to make enough of the products that need these chips to meet ever-growing consumer demand for them. The most newsworthy example these days? There’s a very specific reason why buying a new PlayStation 5 is a real challenge, and it has nothing to do with anyone’s personal finances.

But this has big-picture ramifications for all sorts of people who rely on their digital connectivity, and if you’re only inconvenienced by not being able to play the newest and best video games then consider yourself fortunate. Here at 4GoodHosting we’re like any good Canadian web hosting provider in that our business puts us right in the middle of being able to understand the magnitude of this issue. And it really is something that pretty much anyone should be aware of.

So here goes.

Not Enough Chips

Semiconductors are also known as integrated circuits and they are both the tiniest and most exacting product ever globally manufactured on a global scale. The majority of all the ones currently at work around the world have been produced by one of 2 Asian powerhouses — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. However, even these big producers can only pump out some many of them at a time.

So why is there a shortage of chips?

Well there’s a lot of reasons. Part of it is related to the ongoing global pandemic. It’s spurred an explosion in sales for not just laptops, but also home appliances and TVs, webcams, and other items (including air purifiers) that people are purchasing as their life / work arrangement have changed because of COVID.

The next factor is related to the massive surge in online shopping for these same products. Suppliers have had to hedge bets against the peaks and valleys of orders coming in and in some cases they’ve cut back on production just for this very reason. Another type of popular consumer item that needs semiconductor chips these days is your vehicle, and automakers who cut back drastically in the early days of the outbreak underestimated how quickly sales would rebound.

When they tried to catch up, they found that there are not enough of the chips available, and in large part because nearly all of them are being purchased by smartphone and personal computing device manufacturers. 

The last factor here is that making good semiconductor chips isn’t easy at all. There are only three companies — TSMC, Samsung and Intel — still making advanced logic chips, and Intel- the only NA one here –  has been falling behind. Chips are made in plants that cost billions to build and equip and recouping the investment means going full bore with production 24/7.

However, the real factor here is yield – or the amount of good chips per batch – determines success or failure. It takes years of learning to fine-tune your design and production logistics to get a yield of 90% out of the complex photolithographic process needed for consistent and reliable semiconductor chip production.

Chip Hoarding?

It’s true, and it’s a thing. PC makers were already stating the chronic shortage of chips early last year before all of this global craziness began. By the middle of the year Huawei was hoarding components to keep production up in face of U.S. sanctions that threatened to cut it off from its primary suppliers of chips. Other Chinese companies started to do the same and the country’s imports of chips equalled some $380 billion in 2020.

Lost Sales

Some businesses are taking it on the chin with this global semiconductor shortage. Automakers in particular are expected to suffer $61 billion of sales losses and delays to the production of a million vehicles this financial quarter alone. but the fallout now threatens to hit the much larger electronics industry.

The two Asian chip giants are doing what’s needed to cement their dominance: TSMC raised its envisioned capital expenditure for 2021 to as much as $28 billion from a record $17 billion a year prior, while Samsung is directing $116 billion on a decade-long project to keep pace with its Taiwanese arch-rival.

China has its own interests, and has stated its plans to spend more than $140 billion on building a world-class domestic semiconductor sector. But industry insiders say they have a long way to go before they’re up to speed with the Koreans and Taiwanese.

New POTUS has a Plan

Everyone all over the world has benefitted from the digital revolution that has made our lives and workplace productivity better over the past few decades. Behind all of that goodness are a collection of key technology contributors, and the semiconductor is definitely one of them. These powerhouses are kind of unsung heroes, as they’re hidden from view and don’t get the fanfare that CPUs do. Despite the fact that much of what your CPU is capable of is made possible because of a semiconductor chip.

These chips have been produced in large, large volumes for a long, long time. But only just recently has it become a situation where – quite simply – there’s just not enough of them to meet demand. That’s problematic for a whole lot of different reasons, but most front and centre is the fact that manufacturers aren’t able to make enough of the products that need these chips to meet ever-growing consumer demand for them. The most newsworthy example these days? There’s a very specific reason why buying a new PlayStation 5 is a real challenge, and it has nothing to do with anyone’s personal finances.

But this has big-picture ramifications for all sorts of people who rely on their digital connectivity, and if you’re only inconvenienced by not being able to play the newest and best video games then consider yourself fortunate. Here at 4GoodHosting we’re like any good Canadian web hosting provider in that our business puts us right in the middle of being able to understand the magnitude of this issue. And it really is something that pretty much anyone should be aware of.

So here goes.

Not Enough Chips

Semiconductors are also known as integrated circuits and they are both the tiniest and most exacting product ever globally manufactured on a global scale. The majority of all the ones currently at work around the world have been produced by one of 2 Asian powerhouses — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. However, even these big producers can only pump out some many of them at a time.

So why is there a shortage of chips?

Well there’s a lot of reasons. Part of it is related to the ongoing global pandemic. It’s spurred an explosion in sales for not just laptops, but also home appliances and TVs, webcams, and other items (including air purifiers) that people are purchasing as their life / work arrangement have changed because of COVID.

The next factor is related to the massive surge in online shopping for these same products. Suppliers have had to hedge bets against the peaks and valleys of orders coming in and in some cases they’ve cut back on production just for this very reason. Another type of popular consumer item that needs semiconductor chips these days is your vehicle, and automakers who cut back drastically in the early days of the outbreak underestimated how quickly sales would rebound.

When they tried to catch up, they found that there are not enough of the chips available, and in large part because nearly all of them are being purchased by smartphone and personal computing device manufacturers. 

The last factor here is that making good semiconductor chips isn’t easy at all. There are only three companies — TSMC, Samsung and Intel — still making advanced logic chips, and Intel- the only NA one here –  has been falling behind. Chips are made in plants that cost billions to build and equip and recouping the investment means going full bore with production 24/7.

However, the real factor here is yield – or the amount of good chips per batch – determines success or failure. It takes years of learning to fine-tune your design and production logistics to get a yield of 90% out of the complex photolithographic process needed for consistent and reliable semiconductor chip production.

Chip Hoarding?

It’s true, and it’s a thing. PC makers were already stating the chronic shortage of chips early last year before all of this global craziness began. By the middle of the year Huawei was hoarding components to keep production up in face of U.S. sanctions that threatened to cut it off from its primary suppliers of chips. Other Chinese companies started to do the same and the country’s imports of chips equalled some $380 billion in 2020.

Lost Sales

Some businesses are taking it on the chin with this global semiconductor shortage. Automakers in particular are expected to suffer $61 billion of sales losses and delays to the production of a million vehicles this financial quarter alone. but the fallout now threatens to hit the much larger electronics industry.

The two Asian chip giants are doing what’s needed to cement their dominance: TSMC raised its envisioned capital expenditure for 2021 to as much as $28 billion from a record $17 billion a year prior, while Samsung is directing $116 billion on a decade-long project to keep pace with its Taiwanese arch-rival.

China has its own interests, and has stated its plans to spend more than $140 billion on building a world-class domestic semiconductor sector. But industry insiders say they have a long way to go before they’re up to speed with the Koreans and Taiwanese.

New POTUS has a Plan

The White House is expected to sign an executive order directing a government-wide supply chain review for critical goods shortly, with the Biden administration putting together a longer-term plan for chip supply and aiming it to have a key role in formulating tax incentives for a proposed $12 billion TSMC plant in Arizona and another costlier one Samsung is eyeing for Texas. The EU is also rumoured to be getting ready to do something similar.

A.I. and Its Expanding Role in the Global Fight Against COVID-19

There’s only a little more than a week left in February, and when March arrives it will be a bit of a not-so-great milestone. It will have been a year since the global pandemic began, and as most of you will have seen we’re really not much closer to getting past this than we were at this time last year. Not suggesting that the lack of a fix is for a lack of trying, and the fact that we have vaccines now IS a positive development.

But it’s one that’s countered somewhat by the fact that new mutated variants of the virus are now making their appearances, as they were predicted to do. There’s been concerns about whether the vaccines will be as effective against these new strains as they are for the standard COVID virus. So given this very much a new-world problem, it is fitting that new-world technologies may be set to play a pivotal role in making sure these new virus variants don’t gain the upper hand.

We’re talking about Artificial Intelligence here, and if there’s one thing that’s uniform for all Canadian web hosting providers it’s that we are always very enthusiastic about watching and admiring how the digital space has the capacity to bring far-reaching benefits to all of humanity based on the far-reaching capacity of the web itself. And in particular when it stands as platform for rolling out all that new digital technology is capable of on the biggest of scales.

We definitely have an ideal viewing spot alongside the information superhighway this way, and given how we set up so many people to have their own spot on the expressway it’s stuff like this that really grabs our attention.

Powerful Predictor

So where we’re going with this is that news is coming out now that A.I. may be just the powerful ally needed to create vaccines that are able to thwart the new virus variants. Here’s what we know so far.

The University of Southern California has made many very worthwhile contributions to the science community, and it appears they may be about to do it again. USC researchers have developed a new method to counter new mutations of the coronavirus and speed up vaccine development to stop the pathogen that’s already had its way unchallenged for the most part, and way too long.

The research team at the University’s Viterbi School of Engineering has come up with a method to speed the analysis of vaccines and zero in on the best potential preventive medical therapy. What’s most critical about it is that this methodology is easily adaptable to analyze potential mutations of the virus. With the aim being to ensure the best possible vaccines are identified as quickly as possible.

If this pans out as hoped for, it may give vaccine researchers a big advantage with getting an upper hand on the evolving contagion. The machine-learning model they now have in place can accomplish vaccine design cycles that would have taken months or years before. They may be able to produce the same conclusions in a matter of minutes, or even less than that. It remains to be seen just how powerful this A.I. tool might be, but there’s a lot of reason to be thinking positively about this one.

Candidates & Clinical Trials – On the Double!

It’s important to state that what they have here is still a tentative framework, but the basis for it – that the framework can provide vaccine candidates in just seconds and then speed them along to clinical trials without compromising safety – is pretty solid according to industry insiders. Plus, the idea is to keep it going and geared to be able to adapt to help all countries of the globe stay ahead of the virus as it mutates and becomes more of a problem.

For SARS-CoV-2 (virus that results in the person developing COVID-19) the computer model rapidly eliminated 95% of the compounds that might have been considered as treatments against the pathogen and then presented the remaining percentage as legit ones that should be researched further for their effectiveness.

26 potential vaccines that would likely work against the coronavirus came out of this, and from those scientists identified 11 that were best. The idea is then to create a multi-epitope vaccine, one that can attack the spike proteins used by the coronavirus to penetrate a host cell. And independent of what the molecular nature of the virus is in any particular instance. This effectively ends the virus’ ability to replicate.

Super Vaccine Potential

With the technology applied this way, engineers can construct a new multi-epitope vaccine for a new virus in a matter of minutes and then validate its quality in no more than an hour or two. Currently, authorities must grow the pathogen in the lab, then deactivate it and inject it to cause the disease and then measure the effectiveness of each would-be vaccine individually. This is a time-consuming process that usually takes more than a year, and that’s an awfully long time when you’re trying to rein in a global pandemic.

This is particularly fortunate at this time and stage of the pandemic, with the virus starting to mutate around the world. in populations around the world. If this technology develops legs though, as the expression goes, then SARS-CoV-2 may be slowed considerably with this AI-assisted method being used to design other preventive mechanisms quickly.

Researchers working on this project are reporting that the proposed vaccine design framework can take on the most frequently observed mutations and then be reworked further to take on other ones if / when they arrive. And this is all built on top of the giant bioinformatics database – Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) – where scientists around the world have been compiling data about the coronavirus, along with over 600,000 known epitopes from some 3,600 different species.

If this pans out like researchers are hoping it will, it will be among the most attractive feathers in the cap that A.I. will have enjoyed so far since it first got off the ground. Let’s hope so, for everyone’s sake.

Ecosia: A New Globally-Conscious Web Browser Choice

Google’s Chrome may well be the top dog of web browsers, with Microsoft’s Edge and Apple’s Safari not too far behind. Not the world’s most glorious distinction, but when you consider how much our vehicle of choice for the information superhighway plays into our daily lives then there certainly is something to be evaluated. Think about it – can you imagine there’s been even 1 day in the last however many years that you haven’t been somewhere on the World Wide Web at least once?

The significance of one’s browser of-choice goes even further when they’re a person who makes their living in the digital space, and is preceded only by the absolute need for reliable high-speed internet. Often that need is paired with the primary means of making oneself and one’s service or product visible – a website. That would lead us to a discussion of those of us here at 4GoodHosting or any of the many other quality Canadian web hosting providers across the country.

Now of course we have our preferred browsers too, but one of the things that we believe in here is the need for environmental stewardship within the digital world. One example is how we’ve made efforts to ensure our data centres are as energy-efficient as possible, and we’ve definitely taken some cues from others there. And that leads into what we’re going to discuss here today for Family Day in Canada, how an emerging web browser choice is aiming to make the world a more liveable place for families here in Canada and elsewhere around the globe.

The Tree-Planting Browser

Ecosia was founded in 2009 by Thomas Kroll, and what it does is direct any revenue not required to cover its overheads, tax, and marketing efforts towards tree planting initiatives. The company is founded on green principles and power for its infrastructure is provided by very large solar farms, which serves a bigger picture interest in itself by proving that investing in renewable energy is actually profitable,

The company also has an excellent value proposition. Due to competition being less fierce, advertising on Ecosia is roughly two or three times less pricey per click than it would be for Google, equalling cheaper and more profitable traffic. Ecosia, however, is still a nobody in the world of web browsers – as of now they are responsible for less than 1% of search worldwide. Google? 91.39% of market share.

But one thing Google can’t ever claim is that they’ve planted a tree. Ecosia, on the other hand, has planted an estimated 120 million trees around the world at 9,000 different sites and they’d like to do a whole lot more of it.

Here’s the breakdown of how it’s been working, and something to think about if you’d like to do some global good with your web searching tendencies. For every 45 searches made with Ecosia, one tree is planted. That’s been working out to about 1.3 trees per second, which suggests that about 5 million searches are carried out every day with Ecosia as the web browser.

Ecosia is currently the largest private tree planting organization in the world, and their belief is that one trillion trees will need to be planted over the next two decades in order to counteract the effects of climate change.

2 Functional Differences

While all of this may have a real feel-good vibe to it, some people may be asking if there’s any deficiency in results when using Ecosia rather than Google chrome. The general consensus online is that the 2 search engines will bring back the same results for any given query most of the time, but there are differences.

Ecosia is built on the Microsoft Bing algorithm and infrastructure. What this means is that search queries will generate slightly different results compared to what the Google algorithm will generate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t mean you’ll get lower quality or less keyword-specific results. But it’s something that users should be aware of if they’re interested in using this eco-friendly web browser that also promotes social initiatives.

Another thing to relate is that Ecosia lacks many of the ‘rich answers; that you’d get with Google (examples being live sports scores or basic responses to common questions). According to data from 2019, more than 30% of Google searches generated rich answers. That’s great, but let’s keep in mind that building this functionality is resource-heavy and involves complex licensing agreements.

Ecosia also doesn’t use data to build out profiles for each user, and this means that ads and search results are identical for everyone. With limited data collection search results are less likely to yield precisely what users are looking for, but concerns around data privacy and the effects of echo chambers are minimized.

So if you find ‘personalized’ ads to be a little creepy and intrusive to being with, that might be another reason to go with Ecosia as your web browser instead. Ecosia is also working to implement a mechanism that allows users to choose which priority to optimize for, search accuracy or privacy. This is one wave-maker that deserves having an eye kept on it, and there’ a lot to be said for bringing philanthropy into web browsing.

Ways to Increase Mobile Signal Strength

Most people will associate bars with blocking, at least when it comes to the most average of contexts in daily life. There’s even a verb based on the word, as to ‘bar’ something is to block it from happening. So there’s definitely something to understanding that more bars means more blocking. Now of course when we’re looking at the top right corner of the screen on our smartphones, it’s a whole different thing. We want to see as many bars as possible, because that’s an indication of signal strength and the ability to enjoy mobile connectivity at a full roar.

If you’re not able to check your social media apps or the like then it’s really not that big of a deal. But if it’s a situation where getting your email to open is like pouring molasses then a lack of bars up there is going to be a real frustration. We’ve all been in those situations where a lack of signal strength is being a real bother for us. It’s definitely something that any Canadian web hosting provider will be able to relate to, as the nature of what we do is directly related to all of the different content and resources you’re looking to access with your mobile devices.

For most people the only idea they’ll have to increase mobile signal strength is to twist their phone left to right, up and down and add a verbal ‘come on’ to it for good measure. That’s usually not going to do very much, but there are some effective ways to do this and that’s what we’re going to discuss here today.

Here’s what’s known to be the best approaches for this

Toggle Airplane Mode / Reboot the Phone

You get a little too confused sometimes, and turns out your phone does too. If it was to be constantly searching for the best signal you’d then be furious that your battery has died so quickly. If you’re away from home and you seem to have constant weak-signal issues no matter where you are then it may be best for an instant reset to give your device a chance to start over without anything messing with its understanding of accessing networks.

So what you do here is toggle airplane mode on, and then wait 10 seconds or so. Then toggle it off again. What this does is quite basic; it forces your device to check to determine what networks are available. Airplane mode is easily found in your iPhone Control Center and Android’s Quick Settings panel, and you probably already know that getting there is as simple as swiping down from the top of your screen.

In some cases may need to reboot your phone. This is common when crossing international borders, or sometimes when crossing into or out of roaming carrier zones.

Hold it Differently

Alright, we’re aware about what we said earlier about twisting your phone around in your hand and how that doesn’t really work. But in some instances a variation of what you’re doing there may in fact be effective. Some of you may remember how the iPhone 4 was hampered by having antenna bands that were easily blocked by your hand.

That mobile device is a long-since relic now, but that same issue happens sometimes. You might be accidentally blocking whatever antenna on your phone is in use, or the one closest to or most appropriately pointed at the cell tower.

This can be tested by holding up your mobile device with just two fingers, and making sure that you’re blocking as little of the case as possible. Keep in mind as well that some cases – and in particular ones that are the ‘rugged’ type for maximum drop protection – can actually contribute to blocking a signal. Most phone cases do not diminish a signal though.

If this test finds that you get more bars available with holding it up with way, you may want to look further into if your specific type of device is known to have signal-strength issues.

Go with a New SIM – or Clean It

This is one that is often overlooked, and it’s really good information for the average individual to have. Often when a person has been with the same carrier for a long time the SIM card in their phone may not contain the most updated and ideal data to connect to the latest network systems.

Another issue can be that the contacts on the SIM card may have dirt caked onto them or are worn down. This can cause intermittent failures, and it’s going to be a problem that will always get worse over time if you aren’t aware of it and do something about it. Taking the SIM card out and cleaning its metal surface with a disinfectant wipe, or a cotton swab and a little bit of rubbing alcohol is pretty simple. And it may be just the fix you needed.

If that doesn’t work, you can go to your network provider’s customer service and request a newer SIM card. They will almost certainly give you one quite happily and after that you may start seeing all those bars you were hoping for no matter where you are in town or out of it.

Go with a Different ‘G’ Network

Most of us who’ve been on 4G for as long as we can remember are more looking ahead to 5G rather than even considering moving back to 3G. But it’s true that making a switch can get you a better mobile signal, and it’s also true that 80+% of what you do with your phone doesn’t require the superior connectivity of a more updated network.

3G, 4G, and 5G all have different properties and, sometimes, come off different towers. The newer a network your phone is on, the more efficiently it uses carrier resources, so it benefits the network provider to have as many devices as possible on the newest networks possible. This can result in weak connections simply due to the volume of connected mobile devices.

Toggling between different available network modes may also be a good fix for you here. On the iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Voice & Data and you should at least be able to choose between 5G and LTE (4G). Depending on your network, you may also be able to go down to 3G.

For Android phones, you can go to Settings and find an area that is usually called either Connections or Wi-Fi and Internet. Choose Mobile Network or SIM & Network, or something similar. There should be a ‘network mode’ option by which you can select between 5G (or ‘global’), 4G, 3G, or even 2G.

Cross Reference Bands

There are ways to cross reference the bands you need at your location. CellMapper.net is the resource for this. Choose your carrier and location, and look for your nearest towers. Clicking on them should give you the frequency bands being hit by your device. Then you can go to FrequencyCheck.com and see which bands operate on your phone model. If those numbers don’t match up it means your phone can’t hear what the tower is broadcasting.

In this scenario, you need to consider upgrading your mobile device.

Benefit from a Booster

Yes, this is a solution that’s going to cost you, but it can be the ultimate fix and the best one if you want to fix the problem and then some. What network signal boosters do is collect weak signals using large antennas before rebroadcasting them within your house or car. They’re pricey though, and many times upgrading to a new device will be nearly as effective and a much more appealing cost-effective alternative.