New York Nemesis: King Kong, Godzilla, Now Bed Bugs

If it’s not one thing, it’s always something in New York. Joe Costales from the Transport Workers Union:

We’ve never had sightings to this magnitude… It’s no longer an isolated scenario. It’s throughout the system.

I use the subway daily to go from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back. None. So. Far.

The Fatberg

I wonder if we have anything like this in New York. Jim Edwards on London’s “fat berg:”

Thames Water, the company that keeps sewers flowing freely under London, has released a set of disgusting pictures of a “fatberg” that took a week to remove from a 262-foot stretch of Shepherd’s Bush Road in West London. The water authority says it was the size of a Boeing 747, if it were buried underground.


Fatbergs are composed largely of cooking oil that has been poured down drains while hot and runny. Once in the cold water of the sewer system, however, the fat congeals. The solid mess then combines with “wet wipes.”

That would make it difficult for the crocodiles to live in the sewers, right?

Do You Need A Mac, iPhone, And iPad, Or Will One Device Do The Job?

How many Apple devices do you own and use? For me, I have an iMac on the desk in my cubicle at work, carry a MacBook Air when I travel, but for shorter trips I take the iPad Air instead, and, of course, the iPhone goes everywhere.

That’s four Apple devices. Yes, they love me in Cupertino. I’m Brooklyn’s Poster Child for Apple Inc. But the question I have is simple. “How many Apple devices do you need?” The answer is subjective, of course– everyone’s computing needs are different.

I ask the question because I read James Kendrick’s article on the gear that keeps him mobile. His desktop has a Kindle Fire HDX, a MacBook Air, a MacBook Pro, a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, an iPad Air, an iPhone, an Asus Transformer Book T100, an Acer 720 Chromebook, and a lot of wires.

Tablet sales have been tanking for the PC industry, and Apple’s own iPad has hit the skids with dropping sales. Maybe that’s a sign of the times. We have too many devices to carry around.

For me, the iPhone goes everywhere because it’s also a phone. If the iPad Air or mini came with calling capability, that might later the landscape a bit, but for now, the iPhone is a necessity.

As for MacBook Air and iPad Air, the biggest different between the two are applications (those on the Mac are usually more powerful), and input (the Mac has a built-in keyboard, while the iPad Air uses the onscreen keyboard; convenient, but not good for anything more than a few moments of typing).

Yes, you can add a good keyboard to the iPad Air, but then it weighs and costs nearly the same as the entry-level MacBook Air, which is a more powerful device.

If I were forced into a minimalist role I would drop the iPad Air. It doesn’t do anything the MacBook Air can’t do, though it does less (and at a pound, easy to toss into a backpack). The desktop iMac I use in the cubicle farm at work is quad-core loaded with RAM and storage, but it runs the same apps as I carry on the MacBook Air, so I could go all minimalist on my bad self and plug and external display into the Mac notebook and save money.

So, in a pinch, the iMac and iPad Air could be sacrificed, and only the MacBook Air and iPhone become necessities. That’s still two devices. Could I function with only one device? Probably not, and that’s because of the professional level apps that run on the MacBook Air which do not run on the iPhone.

What’s your situation? How many devices do you use for your computing chores now? Could you get down to a single device? Would you go for a hybrid iOS-OS X device with a keyboard and calling capability?

The iPhone 6 Is Coming! Or, Is It?

Apple made it official. Something is coming on September 9th. But what? iPhone? iWatch? Apple’s message and invitation to the media:

Apple Event

The only clue is ‘Wish we could say more.’ Or, is there more? Yes. At least, a few clues.

First on my list is the venue; the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California. That’s where Steve Jobs unveiled the first Mac in 1984, and the iMac in 1998, so one could expect this to be a big announcement.

Second on my list is Apple’s acknowledgement that OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 would be available “in the fall.” It’s still summer.

Third, why would Apple announce both iPhones and iWatch devices on the same day? Why not spread it out a few weeks or a month and double the amount of free hype and hysteria that Apple gets with every new product?

Google Tracks Every Step You Take

This really should not come as a surprise. BGR:

Google’s mobile Maps apps for Android and the iPhone track everywhere you go. Every single day. All of the time… Even when the app is closed, your every move is tracked and stored on Google’s servers. Every day, every week, every year.

What does Google do with all the data?

This data is put to use in a number of ways. It helps Google better tailor its services to each individual user, and it also obviously helps Google build a more accurate advertising profile of each user.

Can you opt out of the collection process? Yes.

Photos Of Ghosts

What can you do with a quantum camera? Take pictures of ghosts. Bryan Nelson:

By utilizing a process that Einstein famously called “spooky,” scientists have successfully caught “ghosts” on film for the first time using quantum cameras.

Chris Carter was right. The truth is out there. But can you get a picture of it?

The “ghosts” captured on camera weren’t the kind you might first think; scientists didn’t discover the wandering lost souls of our ancestors. Rather, they were able to capture images of objects from photons that never actually encountered the objects pictured. The technology has been dubbed “ghost imaging.”

So, no real ghosts despite the headline ‘New quantum camera capable of snapping photos of ‘ghosts’.

Chipotle To Replace Fast Food Joints

Hubris lives, even in the moribund fast food business. Hayley Peterson:

A Chipotle executive blasted “traditional” fast food chains, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, as “irrelevant” and said his company will eventually replace them.

The numbers I found online are a couple of years old, and they can be sliced and diced a few ways, but McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Jack-in-the-Box, Arby’s, and Dairy Queen have almost 80,000 restaurants. Chipotle has less than 2,000.

Chipotle co-CEO Monty Moran:

The predominant goal [for traditional fast food chains] is the cheapening of the raw ingredients, the automation of the work such that anyone could do it… so that they turn over their employees without any care for them, where it’s a game of value meals and cheapening the food experience… That is traditional fast food, and we think that’s going away. We, and others like us, will replace that.

Maybe so. It just won’t happen quickly and the major fast food restaurants are likely to modify their business methods to respond to such changes.

How Computer Security Is Like Birth Control (it doesn’t always work as planned)

Hardly a week goes by without a headline on the news about yet another security breach. If it’s not the U.S. government, it’s a giant retailers. If it’s not a bank, it’s a company that stores credit card numbers and account information.

The answer to the question, “Is nothing online secure anymore?” reminds me of birth control. It doesn’t always work as planned.

The latest scary story has to do with built-in vulnerabilities in USB itself which could allow your Mac or PC or smartphone or tablet to be compromised as easily as plugging a USB cable into the device. Apparently, very smart hackers can infiltrate your machine or device when you plug in a USB drive, or use USB to power a mobile device, simply by leaving nasty code on the USB connector.

Your device can be infected simply by connecting to a USB device. What the world needs is obvious. A USB condom. Or, rather, The USB Condom.

This clever little device is a sign of the times. How it works is much like a condom. It’s a dongle (honestly, you can’t make up this stuff) that connects between your Mac or PC and your mobile device that allows only power to be transferred; no syncing or Finder Desktop connecting or any other communication allowed.

Like a condom, The USB Condom allows a connection, but doesn’t allow the transfer of anything except the powered needed to recharge the mobile device. So, whatever is on your mobile device stays there, and it’s less likely to be infected by a virus living in the USB connector (why hasn’t this been covered on late night talk shows?).

Come one; dongle, virus, infections, plugging in?

What’s interesting here is the use of the term “USB condom” which, to me at least, is more appropriate than say, a computer firewall. A firewall is more akin to a chastity belt or abstinence because it prohibits connections. A USB condom works more like a condom because the connection takes place, but nothing valuable gets transferred.

Honestly, this stuff just writes itself.

Steve Jobs on Sports Illustrated’s ‘iPad’ Demo: ‘Stupid’

File this one in tidbits and trivia. Remember Sports Illustrated’s tablet demonstration pre-iPad? Gabriel Sherman:

Steve Jobs was upset that the company had released the prototype before he had had a chance to reveal the iPad — and a tablet edition of Time — to the world. “I think it’s stupid. Really stupid,” Jobs told Time Inc. executives during a 2010 meeting in New York, when he was asked about the prototype.

This looks much like an iPad to me, right down to how the digital magazine works.

Amazon CEO’s Job Interview Questions

Vernon Gunnarson on CEO Jeff Bezos’ three interview questions.

It’s been over 15 years since Bezos wrote about these hiring goals, but given Amazon’s success, his advice is certainly worth considering. So, if you’re interested in growing your team, first get a grip on your company culture and embed it into your hiring process. Then it’s ultimately about finding a way to keep hiring standards high in whatever way resonates with your hiring managers.

The three questions:

  • Will you admire this person?
  • Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?
  • Along what dimensions might this person be a superstar?

Sounds like something Steve Jobs would do.

7 Timeless Bits Of Japanese Wisdom

The assumption with ‘bits of wisdom’ is that if you follow them, you’ll prosper. Kazuhiko Kuze came up with a list of seven practices Japanese use to bring good luck, fortune, and happiness.

In Japan, people noticed from time immemorial that certain actions led to a good outcome, which made them repeat those actions to the point where they became customs. Japanese have a tendency to qualify certain things or actions as “good omens” and others as “bad omens.”

Here’s the good ones:

  • Buying o-mamori (talisman)
  • Don’t use forbidden words
  • Eat foods that bring luck
  • Wear lucky clothes
  • Sprinkle lucky salt
  • Lucky cat figurines (Hello Kitty?)
  • Auspicious animals (crane and turtle)

Lucky clothes?

Why Apple Builds In Usability Differences And Similarities To The Mac, iPhone, And iPad

There is little doubt that Apple would like customers to purchase a Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad, and each product’s capabilities– features and functions– are cleverly positioned to optimize those multi-device sales. That explains why many, many Apple customers have all three devices. Each has functionality that is different enough from the other two to be beneficial as a standalone device, or in concert with the other two devices.

Each device provides great usability and value as a standalone device, but works in a blended harmony with the other two in such a way as to entice customers to purchase one of each.

Here’s an example of what Apple could do but will not to make the iPad more usable. Multi-user iPads.

Your Mac has multiple user capability built-in to OS X. Multiple users get their own accounts for Desktop, Documents, iTunes, iPhoto, and so on. iOS is based on OS X so adding multi-user capability to an iPad is trivial. Why doesn’t the iPad have a multi-user option? Apple wants more iPad sales; especially to families where older devices, still very usable, are often handed down as new ones are purchased.

We don’t use the Mac for the same tasks as the iPhone which isn’t used the same as the iPad, though there are similar functions across the board. Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Photos, Music, Calendar, Mail, Contacts, Messages and Notifications are obvious.

The Mac is home to more powerful and capable applications than either iPhone or iPad and that’s not likely to change soon because of the gulf that separates Apple’s mobile device ARM-based CPUs vs. Intels high end CPUs. Yet, Apple realizes that all three devices need to work together in harmony. With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, you’ll be able to answer incoming calls or place outgoing calls on either Mac or iPad while your iPhone stays charged or stuck in a pocket or purse.

The Mac is all about power applications, larger screen, and full size keyboard. The iPad is all about personal convenience; with modest sized screen, built-in keyboard though a full sized keyboard can be added if needed, tablet optimized apps, and it can use cellular data to always be connected to the internet. The iPhone is the most portable of the three devices but suffers from tiny keyboard and screen, which limits usability for certain functional requirements which may be more easily accomplished on the other devices.

Apple balances the capabilities in all three devices in such a way that each has special and distinct value and usability, yet each device works well with the other two, and customers can benefit by owning all three. Notice how OS X is beginning to look and function more like iOS? Apple has ten times as many iOS customers as Mac customers.

Apple’s entire ecosystem is designed to complement each device and to work seamlessly between devices in such a way that customers will be comfortable using all three, therefore, comfortable owning all three.

I don’t doubt that Apple– engineers, designers, executives– enjoy designing, building, and marketing products that customers love to use. But Apple wants us to buy as many of its products as we can.

Windows 9: Much Ado About Not Much

It’s hard to believe that Windows 9 is already on the horizon, with a launch possible in September. Larry Dignan doesn’t think much about Windows 9′s impact on the marketplace, given the slow switch the cloud.

While the Windows 9 christening will kick off a march to a general public roll out in spring of 2015, it’s worth outlining why the operating system is strategic today, but a mere transition product if you zoom out beyond two years.

What will happen in two years?

Windows 9 is the bridge between Microsoft’s past of big bang releases and a licensing model to one focused on the cloud, innovation that’s easier to consume, and services… In the future, Microsoft will give us Windows (either free or at a nominal fee) and upsell us other services.

Hey, isn’t OS X free, too?

Comical Failure

Another hit piece on Amazon’s problematic Fire phone. Tyler Hayes:

Amazon’s new Fire phone got us pretty psyched when it was first announced. But now that we’ve spent some time with it, the Fire phone is a nightmare in the hand… I don’t think it’s particularly ugly. If anything, it’s wildly plain and industrial-looking. If you can get over the looks, including the five cameras staring at your face, it’s still a hard device to use… The phone isn’t comfortable to hold. The corners are sharp where the back and sides meet. The back glass is also slippery, but worst of all it gets really hot. I played a slot machine game for about eight minutes and Sonic The Hedgehog for about 12 minutes. By the end, I was constantly shifting my grip to keep my fingers on the back from sweating and getting too hot.

There’s the problem. You’re not supposed to play games on Fire phone. You’re only supposed to buy products from Amazon.


Android fragmentation visualized. It’s not pretty. OpenSignal:

Fragmentation is both a strength and weakness of the Android ecosystem, a headache for developers that also provides the basis for Android’s global reach. Android devices come in all shapes and sizes, with vastly different performance levels and screen sizes. Furthermore, there are many different versions of Android that are concurrently active at any one time, adding another level of fragmentation. What this means is that developing apps that work across the whole range of Android devices can be extremely challenging and time-consuming.

Compare the Device Fragmentation chart with the Brand Fragmentation chart. Android is not winning. Samsung is winning.

Artificial Intelligence To Doom Human Race

As if we’re not doing a good job ourselves, super computers in the future– those with artificial super intelligence– may decide mankind has to go. Kathleen Miles:

Superintelligence is any intellect that outperforms human intellect in every field, and Nick Bostrom thinks its most likely form will be a machine — artificial intelligence.

There are two ways artificial intelligence could go, Bostrom argues. It could greatly improve our lives and solve the world’s problems, such as disease, hunger and even pain. Or, it could take over and possibly kill all or many humans. As it stands, the catastrophic scenario is more likely, according to Bostrom, who has a background in physics, computational neuroscience and mathematical logic.


Yet Another Way To Kill Flash On Your Mac (the ‘official’ way– it’s from Apple)

Adobe’s Flash is dying and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, there’s no set time limit for eliminating Flash from the world, and such platforms can linger around for decades before being completely retired.

For a few years I used a tried and true method to avoid Flash but have it handy when necessary. First, no Flash plugin on Safari. Second, if I needed to view anything in Flash I would use Google’s Chrome browser which has it built-in. That method works, but is cumbersome at times.

Through the years clever Mac app developers have devised schemes to give users options to control Flash ads and movies. For the most part, they work, each has advantages and some disadvantages. If Flash on your MacBook has become a CPU and battery hog, here’s the official method that Apple recommends to tame Flash on a site-by-site basis.

First of all, install Flash on your Mac. Then, open Safari’s Preferences and click the Security button.

Safari Security

At the bottom of the pop up Security window you’ll see Allow Plug-ins and a Manage Website Settings button.

Once you have Flash installed on your Mac and you’ve visited a few websites in Safari then you’ll be able to manage Flashy usage, site-by-site.

Website Settings

These security settings enable various plug-ins, including QuickTime, Java, Google Earth, Adobe Flash and others. Apple gives you a measure of granular control so you can visit websites with plug-ins and will Ask, Block, Allow, or Always Allow, depending upon the setting you choose.

The benefits to using Apple’s built-in plug-in controls to manage Flash are obvious. You’ll save battery life and reduce CPU usage by blocking Flash from playing on certain websites, but Safari gives another option.

When a Flash advertisement or movie is blocked by Safari, you still have the option to play it with a click (or two).

There are plenty of reasons that Flash is not installed on new Macs. You have to download and install the plug-in to use it. Why is Flash on the Mac so bad? And, why doesn’t Flash play on smartphones and tablets? Thank Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Flash for setting the stage to the beginning of the end.

How Microsoft’s Surface Pro Crushes MacBook Air And iPad Air

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, yours truly with a different way to compare Microsoft’s slow selling Surface Pro with Apple’s entry-level MacBook Air and iPad Air:

Of nine important considerations, Microsoft wins four, two are tied, and Apple wins three. Microsoft’s Surface Pro just crushed both MacBook Air and iPad Air in a head-to-head comparison.

Numbers don’t lie, folks.

Radioactive Rice?

If your next piece of sushi glows in the dark, here’s the reason. AFP:

Japan is to restart exports of rice grown in Fukushima for the first time since foreign sales were halted due to fears of contamination by the nuclear disaster there

How will a buyer know the rice came from Fukushima?

Its provenance will be marked and it will not be mixed with other produce… The rice was grown some 60-80 kilometres (37-50 miles) west of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Glow in the dark sushi might be a new trend.

Not As Sharp As Samsung

The iPhone rumor mill is working overtime. James Cook has details on the latest rumor item– the iPhone 6 screen resolution.

If the rumors are true and the iPhone 6 will come in two models: one with a 4.7 inch screen and another with a 5.5 inch screen, then both will be well over the 300 PPI figure touted by Apple as its Retina benchmark. The 4.7 inch screen would come in at 359.34 PPI, while the larger screen would be 307.07 PPI.

How does that compare to the competition?

While the rumored new resolution is impressive, it doesn’t beat the iPhone’s competitors. As Forbes reports, the Samsung Galaxy S features a 1920 x 1080 screen, which gives the phone an impressive 423 ppi.

Will you be able to see the difference? No.

‘If You Don’t Want To Get Shot, Shutup’

The shooting and violence in Missouri is shameful on all sides. Nick Wing with quotes from an L.A. cop:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Microsoft’s Plan To Take Back The Enterprise For Windows Phone And Surface Pro

As it stands right now, guess who owns the enterprise for smartphones and tablets? BlackBerry? Microsoft? Android? Samsung?

None of the above.

Almost without trying Apple seems to have a solid lock on the corporate world with iPhone and iPad, and one can argue that it’s our favorite Mac maker who brought the concept of BYOD (bring your own device) to corporate IT departments.

On the PC side of the product ledger, Microsoft still has a deep grip on IT with Windows PCs, Office, and Windows Server, not to mention growing influence on cloud services. It’s the mobile arena where Microsoft has failed. Here’s what I see of Microsoft’s plan to take back enterprise for Windows Phone and Surface Pro.

I call it the ‘stir the pot and feed the journalist‘ approach.

Microsoft needs to get the attention of corporate IT executives and what better way than to give a Windows Phone to a well known tech journalist for a well known tech magazine and have him write about it. Not just a single article. Five articles. Five. For a smartphone that has negligible enterprise marketshare.

Even after a few thousand words describing his experience with Windows Phone 8.1, David Gewirtz came up with this:

Bluntly, if I wanted to just carry one phone around, I couldn’t switch to Windows Phone because it doesn’t support my work collaboration needs. I communicate with my colleagues using Google ecosystem tools that are simply not available on Windows Phone.

Wait. There’s more.

Colleague Steve Ranger asks the question which has already been answered: “Windows, iOS or Android: Who will win the business tablets battle?

I wonder how score is being kept here because Apple’s iPad owns about 90-percent enterprise marketshare. Microsoft’s Surface Pro hasn’t made a dent, and the various and sundry Android-based tablets have not fared much better.

It’s a good thing there’s no time limit on this battle that’s really a war. So far, Apple is winning the battles and the war, despite Microsoft’s long and cozy relationship with corporate IT departments.

Methinks ZDNet is stirring up a pot that’s already been cooked.

First of all, Ranger’s headline is click bait and creates a parity where none exists. If we stopped counting today Apple is the winner, hands down. But this is business, so the counting must continue. Apple is still winning the battles and the war, but as business goes there must be winners and losers. Right now there is only one winner and the score isn’t even close.

What impact Microsoft has on such click-bait I don’t know, but why would a journalist ask a question that has already been answered? Maybe it has something to do with all the Microsoft and Intel advertisements on ZDNet pages. If that’s Microsoft’s plan to take back the enterprise with Windows Phone and Surface hybrids, it’s not working very well.

A New Sound From Apple

If ever there was a company intent on moving the bar, it’s Apple. Sound systems are tried and true and not subject to much generational change, right? Patently Apple on a new Apple patent:

Apple notes that their invention may be advantageous for acoustic transducers that are used in “thin” devices where the height of the acoustic transducer must be small to fit within the device… It would be desirable to provide an audio speaker that can displace a larger volume of air from a more compact structure suitable for use in portable devices.

In other words, more sound from a smaller device.

The Left-Handed Minority

Have you ever wondered why there are so many more people who are right-handed vs. left-handed? A few thoughts from Alasdair Wilkins:


Handedness – the idea that one hand is better able to perform certain tasks than the other – is, if not exclusively a human trait, then certainly a mostly human one. After all, how could you tell if a dog was left-handed or a lion was right-handed? Their paws aren’t evolved to handle complex tasks like our hands are, and there’s no evidence that non-primates favor one limb over any other.


Another possible way of phrasing that is, “Why is the language center usually in the left hemisphere of the brain?” After all, if the energy intensive language centers happened to evolve so that they were usually in the right hemisphere, then most people would probably be left-handed instead. To that point, there’s no reason why our brains couldn’t have evolved that way – it’s simply a historical fact that they didn’t.

I’m left handed.