Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Personal Information Security and Genius Bar

Today I'm more ranting than telling anything worth while. Well I guess it could be worth while to some. I'll be speaking of two of my favorite topics, one is email consolidation and the Genius Bar at Apple stores.

Facebook Messaging

As I'm sure many of you have heard, Facebook is putting in place a system that consolidates all your email, Instant Message and status updates in one place. I currently do this on my own, well it's in two places, my Email client (which is the default Apple mail) and Adium messaging. Those two can handle everything for me (to be honest I also use a Twitter client, Echofon, and Facebook on the web).

The problems I have with this consolidation are two fold. One is that Facebook will be able to see into your emails, they'll leverage this information for the purposes of selling adds (just as Google does), hmmm I wonder if this will hurt Google's net worth, not that Facebook is replacing Google, but that Facebook will be getting similar analytical and profile information for their advertising platform. The other problem I have is what happens when EVERYONE tries to hit Facebook (or any other consolidating system) at the same time, they'll either crash it or bring it to a crawl (we've ALL seen this before). It's happened to Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Google, etc.... I'm not sure if it's happened recently to Microsoft, but to be honest having a hotmail or MSN email address is just about as sexy as having an AOL email address (that's a bit of sarcasm for you that aren't sarcastic). My suggestion is to keep things segregated on different platforms, when one crashes, you'll have others to fall back on.

Genius Bar

The Apple Genius Bar almost has me converting back to Microsoft Products. As much as people dislike Microsoft at least they don't have a store stocked with "Genius'" who are rude to you and talk down to you. I felt this just might be my local Apple store, but it's not, most of the Apple stores I've been to have had very condescending employees who don't understand technology that well (at least outside of Apple's domain) and lie when presented with questions. One example is when I asked a Genius about my iPad's wifi issues. He explained to me that he hadn't heard about that (the issue was 2 weeks old at the time), I looked at him with amazement at the brazen lie he just told me, I'm assuming he's lying because he is a "Genius" after all and a "Genius" you'd think would keep track of the platforms they are supporting. The latest issue was in taking an iPhone that was losing power back. They told me the phone was fine and that losing power was to be expected, the phone was going flat in 6 hours, this is expected? Again is the Genius lying or actually an idiot.

I feel this term "Genius" is a bad one. I've debated on my future trips to the Apple Store that I sign in as Wiley Coyote, since we all know he was a "Super Genius" (even though that damn Road Runner was clever). For those Apple readers out there that hate this term, I dare you to sign in to the Apple Store as "Wiley Coyote".

Monday, November 15, 2010

Buy Now or Wait...?

I'm always getting asked by people what phone or device they should buy, my response to them is always, the newest with the latest operating system on it. Especially in the world of phones, you'll be stuck with that device for 2 years, so why purchase a phone that's already a year old with an operating system that could be even older. I would say this is is the case with most adopted systems. Funny as it is, as I was typing this, someone asked me which Android phone they should purchase...

Web TV

Where I would caution people that they could be throwing away their money is in the purchasing of a WebTV (Such as GoogleTV or AppleTV or any other CompanyTV). While these companies are doing well to provide content, they just aren't there yet. I have a GoogleTV (The Sony Blu Ray player). Currently my Google TV is only able to browse the web (it's not great at that) and load pay per view videos (this isn't what I wanted it for), it's blocked from using any of the prime networks. I also don't seem to be able to browse my home network for videos (I have two stand-alone network drives, I don't like the idea of keeping a computer on that's doing nothing). As I mentioned, the search on the device is odd, and since it doesn't attempt to integrate with my DVR, it's not searching anything on my TV. I've tried to use it, but now I've relegated it to being used only when I'm too lazy to go grab my iPhone to search on (yeah I know that statement in itself is sad ;-)). From looking at the AppleTV device, it seems to lack a keyboard, I need a keyboard for these items. The Apple device also won't search my network, but it will use videos streamed from a computer I need to have on (Don't these companies understand the term "Green"? Why do I want to have a computer on at all times?).

Tablet Devices

If I had to buy a tablet device right now... I'd try to wait. The iPad is still in it's infancy and the Android based devices are going to be getting better every month. I like the idea of the BlackBerry Playbook, but if any company has shown me that they can mess up a sure thing, well it's BlackBerry. They have such great potential, but seem to be lacking the knowledge or desire to work with people outside their group. Mentioning that, this brings me to Microsoft... Have they learned their lesson? Is Microsoft now the group that is on the outside looking in? Microsoft has their new Mobile OS, I hear it's great, but they've done so much damage to their mobile brand, that it'll be tough. The biggest potential winner in all this is Microsoft, the biggest potential loser is Apple (it's sort of funny how they tides have turned).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Social Media in Small "Business"

I'm seeing the use of Social Media being used in a "backwards" fashion. Normally it's small business who's willing to leverage newer tools to their advantage, but with Social Media it seems to be just the opposite. I was noticing the company I used to work with, this is a small software development and web hosting shop, has nothing online outside their local network. None of their principals have a blog, no way of knowing anything about them without going to their website. Now websites are OK, but they tend to be stagnant and they require an active user to find them. I was explaining to one of the principals for this company, as a user if I'm looking for a software development company, I'm going to go with the one that has an ACTIVE web presence, the one that shows that they are leaders, as opposed to those that just have websites. I think a small business that doesn't have an active presence, is doing themselves harm.

Active vs. Passive

I was thinking about Active vs. Passive while on a tour for a local plantation where I live. This plantation is cared for by the local museum and they are begging for people to come out to their events, they have postings on their website, they print out fliers and use word of mouth. This is good for people who are actively looking for something to do, this isn't good for people who may just be sitting around wondering what they could do today. A very simple Twitter or Facebook posting is a great way to push out information to these passive searchers, now passive isn't a negative, it could be that the person is just too lazy to search for something, but it could be that the person is so active that they don't have time to look for things to do, or they might be planning the next week, month, etc... when they see the posting. I feel this museum is in the end hurting their goal by not posting on Twitter/Facebook, it isn't that difficult, it takes maybe an hour to set up both Twitter/Facebook and then have Facebook accept the feed from Twitter. The museum would then just need to post to Twitter and have it propagate to Facebook. You can then configure Twitter/Facebook to email you if there's any need for attention.

This same issue goes for my local municipality, I'm renting here now, but I'm looking to purchase soon. I make a very good income, but I would refuse to live here, they have no social policy, they alert their citizens to events by placing a gasoline run sign board on the main road in town, sigh talk about a waste in money. I've spoken to both the Museum and the City about using social media, but they don't see the reason why. I explain to them, but they then admit that they have passed a resolution AGAINST using social media, again this is backwards. Why would you pass a resolution against something that could only make you money?


How you get people to change is beyond me. There seems to be a wall set up by many older users. I was at a conference in Miami recently and one of the people lecturing says that he's using social media, but doesn't see that it's any good. This is upsetting to me. Social media isn't going to solve all your problems, but it needs to be seen as another tool to use in the arsenal of marketing and networking. Get to know people who do have followers, become a leader (don't just post marketing material, people will see you as a spammer), show that you're a person and share with people.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Android Webkit Attack

I kept looking at the way Android is released and thinking that if for some reason they needed to upgrade everyone quickly, there might be an issue. Well it looks like the issue is coming. A researcher (sounds better than hacker) has discovered several holes in the Webkit that Android uses, this is the same Webkit that several other mobile and non-mobile browsers use (including the iPhone and BlackBerry), the researcher has discovered an issue that has been fixed in Android 2.2 (the latest and greatest version of Android), but it hasn't been fixed in previous versions.

The solution to this is obvious, upgrade everyone to Android OS 2.2... Well it's not that easy, see the Android OS is modified by each manufacturer and service provider for their specific phones and functionality, meaning that when Google updates Android, it's up to Motorola to update all their phones across all their carriers, this isn't always that easy technically and for business it could be that while Verizon allows upgrades for their new Droid models, they might not want to update the OS for older models (why would Verizon want to give people new functionality that wouldn't require the user to buy a new phone or extend their contract?).

When going to the AT&T website right now, I see the Motorola BackFlip is the phone listed on their website as the one to get. It's running Android 1.5 (though they don't specify that in the phone's specs), they claim to be updating it in November to 2.1, but I don't see how it's acceptable to sell an out of date OS and then to upgrade it to another out of date OS. This isn't technically Android's issue, but it's a sign of what's happening on the platform.

Again this is the one good thing about the strangle hold Apple has put on their technology, they know what's out there, Apple supports the phone and Apple releases the updates. It is up to the user though to manually update their phone (I wish Apple would push this to the phone like Android does).

Android's problem is even bigger with the release of Google TV, my Google TV (A Sony Blue-Ray player) is running Android 2.1, which means that my Blue-Ray player and everything that goes through the browser on it, is susceptible to attack. While I'm bringing it up, if you're going to get Google TV because you think it's fantastic, uh don't, it's not that great, well at least for me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Verizon iPhone

The latest rumor on the Verizon iPhone is possibly January 2011, I think this is more and more likely to happen, since Apple wants to be on Verizon, but it's a rumor that's as old as the iPhone is (I also think if it were going to ship before Christmas, we would have heard about it already). The other rumor is that the much anticipated "white" iphone is being held up because whoever is making it, can't get the color white quite right. The stumbling blocks for the Verizon iPhone have been mostly due to Verizon wanting to control and brand everything and Apple wanting to only support their branding (and also wanting to control everything). Verizon wants their logo on the phone (this is enough to make Steve Jobs sick), plus they want their VZ Navigator on the phone (which is in direct competition with the App Store), someone will need to give first (this is why I feel that Verizon lost the initial iPhone). Now given the extra competition from Android, this is pushing Apple to consider a concession of some items (Verizon is also getting pressure from people who want the iPhone and ONLY the iPhone and are moving to AT&T to get it). So while I feel this will be the time the iPhone comes to market, you can't tell until either Verizon or Apple officially announce it.

What's pushing the current rumors is that Apple is allowing Verizon to sell the wifi version of the iPad and have it bundled with a 3G wifi, also it seems that Apple may have purchased a large supply of CDMA chips (which is what Verizon uses, the only other places that use CDMA are a few small countries in Europe and Africa). There are also a few rumored pictures of iPhone 4/CDMA versions in the wild (usually overseas, probably not real though). The fervor over all things iPhone is similar to that of a guy's latest drinking escapade, lots of rumors, possible some truth and huge exaggerations. My suggestion... If you hear a rumor, don't get excited about it until you can see an actual device.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

iPhone 4.1 Lock Screen ByPass

I love the simple bugs in life, you know, the ones that don't require any creativity, the ones that require someone to only notice something odd is going on... Well this is what the latest iOS 4.1 bug is. I've tried it on my phone, and while it doesn't allow someone in to my apps, it does allow someone into my dialer and my contact list (a strict no no). Anyway what you do is this:

1) Turn on the passcode for your iPhone (if it isn't already on)
2) At the passcode screen press the button to make an "Emergency call"
3) Press "***" and then as soon as you press dial, press the lock button on the top of your iPhone.

The result should be your contact list or phone dialer. Yikes.... Here's a good video that I pulled off of YouTube that shows just how it's done....

I'm sort of impressed with how often iOS is hacked, the only real scary hack I've seen is the one in 4.0 exploiting a security hole with a PDF, this allowed essentially any website to hack your phone. Apple came out with a fix for that, but the group with the current 4.1 jailbreak of the phone refused to issue their latest jailbreak for the fix, knowing that Apple was going to issue 4.1 in a few weeks. Their logic was that they didn't see why they should be beta testing for Apple, when iOS 4.1 came out, the jailbreak came out the same day.

I've switched terms I see, to "jailbreak" an iPhone is to release it from the bonds of Apple, phones with a jailbreak installed can install apps from anywhere. This is good and bad. Basically if Apple gave up control of the appstore, there would be no need to jailbreak, but while they have this control, the jailbreakers will continue unlocking phones. To counter this move Apple could "brick" the phones, meaning issuing a command that any phone that isn't carrying a valid copy of iOS be turned into what is probably less useful than a brick, though I would imagine that if they did this, the first person needing to make an emergency call would sue Apple.

Anyway iOS 4.2 is rumored to be out in November, along with it will be an iPad update also.

Monday, October 25, 2010

MacBook Air

MacBook Air

As a user of mostly Mac products (I used to use mostly Windows products in the past and if the business need is there, I'll use Windows products again), I was interested in the shipment of Macbook Air. While this device looks fantastic, it's ultralight, ultraslim, I also think it's ultra-underpowered (at least from looking at it's specs) to be a real laptop replacement (well at least for me, if you're doing simple Word Processing, it could be the device for you).

It's short-comings are:
  1. A small drive, yes it's solid state, but since when does solid state give me the extra 250GB that I need? I've got 500GB on my MacBook Pro and I'm running out of space, especially since it's the center of all my iTunes activity, so any movies, music, pictures, etc... are on my laptop.
  2. 2GB RAM, give me a break, my MBP was running well with 4GB, but it didn't start running great until I installed 8GB (which I had to do by removing and not using my existing 4GB, if you need 4GB of MBP RAM, let me know, I've got it laying around).
  3. 2 USB ports. This would be good until you realize that it doesn't have an ethernet port. So for offices like mine that don't support wifi, you're down to one USB port. For me this would mean that I'd need to get a USB hub to work (mainly because of the fact I'm continually swapping drives, and phones in and out of my computer, part of the joy of being in Mobile development).
  4. No Ethernet port, sigh... See above.
  5. No build in 3G. Since it's not a laptop, at least in my mind, you'd have thought they would have worked out an arrangement with AT&T and shove 3G into this device. Then it could be useful.
It's strengths are:
  1. It's not an iPad, meaning you can do work on it, load a real Word Processor, real browser, Flash, etc...
  2. It's quite, though to be honest the drive in my MBP isn't that noisy. So I'm not sure how much to give it credit here.
  3. It's thin and light - All my computers have been smaller (15" - 5-6lbs), but these get heavy after a while. A nice thin laptop could be the way to go for someone who needs something light.
In the end if you're looking for a device that's more computer than iPad, well it's the device for you. If you're looking for something that's a full fledged laptop, then get an MacBook Pro, I'd hesitate at suggesting which Windows machine is the best since the hardware all seems to be very bad now. My last decent PC was a ThinkPad (it was a warrior).