Samsung Copies Apple Again

Aaron Souppouris with the basics on Samsung’s new Galaxy Alpha which looks like another familiar brand.

Samsung has today announced the Galaxy Alpha, a smartphone with a metal frame. The Alpha is an ultra-thin (6.7mm) Android phone with a 4.7-inch 720p display, 12-megapixel camera, a fairly small 1,860mAh battery, and (depending on your region) a quad- or octa-core processor. It’ll be available in September, but Samsung has yet to announce pricing.

Samsung. Always moving the bar in Apple’s direction.

8 Best Steakhouses in America

You gotta love lists like this, especially if one of your favorite food places makes the grade. From Answers:

Cut in Beverly Hills
Bern’s In Tampa
Peter Luger in NYC (been there)
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City
Kevin Rathbun Steak in Atlanta
Killen’s Steakhouse in Pearland, Texas
Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse in Chicago
Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse in New Orleans

Amazon vs. Apple: It’s Flopping vs. Flying

What happens when a company’s shine begins to wear off? Remember how BlackBerry shipped more smartphones than ever a few years after the iPhone was launched? More BlackBerry’s, lower margins, and eventually no profit, followed by huge losses. BlackBerry’s shine wore off quickly.

What of Amazon, the online retail giant that has become more of a wooly mammoth than a dominating digital retailer? Amazon’s days of hoodwinking Wall Street seem to have come to an end, with one flop after another. Kindle Fire and Fire Phone go for fire sale prices, and have tumbled down Amazon’s own list of best selling electronics, while the company’s stock is nearing a $100 a share drop from the historic high.

What happened?

Where Amazon excels is where the standard wireless telephone company excels. It does one thing and does it well. For what it’s worth, what the telephone company does best one thing– telephone lines. Whether mobile or land line, that’s about all they do well. Customer service sure isn’t high on the list.

Amazon does one thing well, too. It delivers products that you purchase online. Selection is broad, pricing is competitive, delivery is quick, and customer service is good. That’s Amazon’s claim to fame. Let me give founder and CEO Jeff Bezos some kudos and props for his attempts to diversify Amazon, despite the obvious failures in electronics.

Electronics? Yes. The Kindle Fire tablet and Fire Phone already are notorious flops. Why? Because they are products that benefit Amazon more than they benefit the customer or user.

Think about it. Both Kindle Fire tablet and Fire Phone exist for a single purpose– to get customers to buy more content from Amazon, by hook or by crook.

How does Amazon’s technology gadgets compare to similar fare from Apple– Mac, iPhone, and iPad?

Apple’s products are loved by hundreds of millions of customers, so they fly off the shelves, get used, get handed down to appreciative generations, and are anxiously awaited by legions of customers who are fans.

Apple makes products that customers want to use for whatever their purpose, and that attitude is reflected in the company’s ‘Your Verse’ video commercials. Amazon’s Kindle, Kindle Fire tablet, and Fire smartphone exist for Amazon’s benefit, while Apple’s products exist to benefit customers.

That’s a distinctly different approach. Amazon’s products flop while Apple’s products fly off the shelves.

America’s Most Corrupt States

It’s a 10 page gallery, but worth it to see if your state made or missed the list:

Spoiler Alert!

  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • South Dakota
  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Pennsylvania
  • Illinois
  • Tennesee
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi

New York and New Jersey were not on the list? What’s up with that?

Wedding Traditions

As someone who is planning a wedding I found these to be the kinds of traditions I should avoid. From Brides:

In Ireland when the bride and groom are dancing the bride must keep both feet on the floor at all times. Irish folklore states that if they don’t, evil fairies will come and sweep her away

I guess that leaves out Irish step dancing at the wedding reception.

Brides and females of the Tujia people in China take wedding tears to a whole different level. Starting one month in advance the bride starts to cry for one hour everyday. Ten days into the waterworks extravaganza her mother joins the picture, and 10 days after that grandma does the same. By the end of the month every female in the family is crying alongside the bride.

Yeesh.

A Few Words On Cutting The Cable TV Cord And Using Apple Instead

As much as I would like to cut the cable TV cord the only way that can be done is by losing much of the television content I want to watch. A digital video recorder (DVR) is the best tech entertainment invention since sliced bread and it works wonderfully with the 300 channels on my cable subscription so I can watch what I want, when I want to watch it.

How can an Apple watcher and gadget geek girl cut the cable TV cord?

Frankly, it’s not easy, but there are plenty of entertainment and information alternatives if you’re willing to explore what cable TV does not provide. First, you’ll need an Apple TV connected to the internet and your television.

Second, you’ll need to explore the alternatives. That means Apple TV apps (many of which require you to have a cable TV subscription anyway; what a waste) combined with some good old fashioned elbow grease, and a healthy dose of YouTube.

YouTube is built-in to Apple TV but all too often YouTube videos get pulled and can’t be viewed (I’m not talking videos of cats and babies). I get plenty of mileage from using the Mac app Downie to download YouTube videos and keep them stored locally, on my Mac, DVR style.

Downie will cost you a few dollars but you’ll see the value right away, especially if you’re willing to try cutting the cable TV cord. Downie is a video download app for the Mac. Drag and drop a video link to Downie and it downloads the video and stuffs it into iTunes in a format you can use to view on Apple TV, iPhone, or iPad.

Oh, and it’s not just YouTube. Downie supports downloaded videos from over 500 different sites that do video, but also handle 4k video on YouTube. That’s Ultra HD resolution. It’s simple to use, too. Drag a video link to Downie and it just works.

Downie

If there’s a better, easier-to-use video download app than Downie, I haven’t found it yet. It’s that good.

The problem with cutting the cable TV cord is the barrier to entry for alternatives. Unlike a DVR which can be set to record specific shows automatically, Downie is a manual effort. That’s the same issue with other cable TV alternatives. Cable TV, with 300 or so channels, is just there, ready to be captured by a DVR and time shifted.

Every other alternative requires manual intervention, even though the number of video sources increases substantially. You have to go get the content you want to view, and some of what you may want to view can only be obtained through a cable TV subscription.

Using Apple TV, the Mac, and iPad through AirPlay is a good combination, and can certainly fill the day with plenty of information and entertainment– just not all the two dozen channels I want out of the 300 I pay the cable TV company to make available.

Is Anyone Safe?

AP:

Russian hackers have stolen 1.2 billion user names and passwords in a series of Internet heists affecting 420,000 websites.

The culprit? Usernames and passwords that are easy to hack. Security expert John Prisco:

This issue reminds me of an iceberg, where 90 percent of it is actually underwater. That’s what is going on here. So many cyber breaches today are not actually reported, often times because companies are losing information and they are not even aware of it.

Is anyone safe online? If so, how?

10 Happiest Colleges In The U.S.

Princeton Review’s annual college rankings include a list of the ‘happiest’ students, which, somehow translates to the happiest colleges.

The Review surveys 130,000 students about topics that range from how good the food is to how much financial aid they are receiving. Vanderbilt University took the top spot for the college with the “happiest” students.

Spoiler Alert!

  1. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.
  2. Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA.
  3. Clemson University, Clemson, SC.
  4. Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.
  5. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.
  6. Rice University, Houston, TX.
  7. Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
  8. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, MA
  9. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
  10. Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, MI.

 
Unfortunately, my alma mater didn’t make the list.

BYOD Is All The Rage These Days. So Is BYO-ID!

Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was famous for ignoring corporate enterprise as a business option, reportedly telling Intel engineers that Apple would build products so compelling and useful (the iPhone) for business employees that corporate IT departments would simply have to deal with it. The growing popularity of Mac, iPhone, and iPad has developed into a trend known as BYOD. Bring your own device. That means business IT departments have to deal with what employees want to use instead of dictating what employees can use.

Another one is called BYO-ID. Bring your own identity.

This new trend basically means your login ID or username and password are managed by a third party. You see it often these days when you need to register for a new website and are given options to use your Facebook or Twitter or Google account.

There’s also a growing trend to use BYO-ID as a subscription-based service that gives subscribers access to specific apps in a somewhat more secure environment. Think of it as identity as a service. This is an idea I like and one which Apple probably does not.

For example, we can use our Mac’s as multi-user devices simply by adding more users. Each use may have full access, or limited access to the applications and files stored on a single Mac. Apple could but does not provide multi-user access to iPhones or iPads.

Why not?

Apple makes money the old fashioned way. Hardware. Why should a single iPad be usable to five members of a household when Apple could make more money by selling multiple iPads to the same household?

BYO-ID is a bit different, but is gaining traction thanks to cloud apps from Google, Microsoft, and now even Apple. The growing trend of BYOD and BYO-ID means that all anyone needs to conduct their work on a computer is a computer– mobile, desktop, notebook– connected to the internet.

Simply use your authenticated identity from any connected device and your data is available, ready to use– and that could easily include photos, documents, spreadsheets, as well as social apps. This may explain why schools are adopting Google Chromebooks by the millions. By themselves, the Chromebooks don’t do much, but with user data on the internet or school servers, each device can easily be used by multiple students and teachers from anywhere.

It’s as if communism came to personal computing devices. There’s no ownership; just usage rights. Equal usage rights.

This cannot be a trend that Apple likes, despite the growing popularity of iCloud-based apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, and eventually Photos. Apple makes money by selling hardware. If we as users need less hardware– whether PCs, smartphones, or tablets– because all we need to do is to be online to the internet and we can use any device to access files, Apple loses sales.

USB Is Broken

Andy Greenberg with the Hack of the Week™ and how USB security is broken:

That’s the takeaway from findings security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken. The malware they created, called BadUSB, can be installed on a USB device to completely take over a PC, invisibly alter files installed from the memory stick, or even redirect the user’s internet traffic. Because BadUSB resides not in the flash memory storage of USB devices, but in the firmware that controls their basic functions, the attack code can remain hidden long after the contents of the device’s memory would appear to the average user to be deleted. And the two researchers say there’s no easy fix.

So much for sneaker net.

The Richest Person In Each State

Just in case you wanted to know, Kevin Short’s list of the richest people in the country– by state:

Washington resident and Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ $80 billion net worth makes him the richest person in the country (and the world). The least rich individual on the map is Robert Gillam, founder of McKinley Capital, an Alaska-based institutional investment firm. But don’t feel too bad for him — he’s worth a cool $700 million.

Interestingly, the Waltons of Walmart fame, are tops in Arkansas, Texas, and Wyoming, while Kansan David Koch is New York’s richest.

Comcast Rage

It’s like road rage, complete with irate gunman, but only happens to the cable guy. Daniel Bean with details on a Comcast customer who didn’t want to pay an extra service charge:

When the customer became upset and refused to agree to pay these fees, the Comcast tech began loading his equipment back into his vehicle, during which time the customer allegedly took a bag of the technician’s tools, brought them into her home, and locked the door. The Comcast agent claims that, when he knocked on the door to ask for the bag of tools — valued at $400 — the customer opened the door, pointed a handgun at his torso, and told him to get off her property.

Sigh.

What Apple Did To The iPhone To Get Enterprise Customers (that it did not do to the Mac)

Apple’s famed secrecy overshadows the company’s ability to be disciplined and play a long game. Instead of opting for marketshare at all costs, Apple prefers to sell large numbers of products in the premium category, which results in the company owning the largest profitshare. That helps the company fund research and development, pay large dividends and employee bonuses, and build better products than competitors, regardless of price.

Historically, Apple has never fared well in the enterprise. Why? Historically, corporate enterprise customers want a solid roadmap for product development, a steady but competitive pricing structure, and they need to count on their vendors for support.

Apple, mostly synonymous with the Mac, hasn’t been good at any of those requirements (though, to be fair, the Mac helped to spawn the BYOD era; bring your own device to the company).

With the iPhone, Apple has taken a different direction; almost stealth-like in approach. The company built in security layers, which enterprise IT departments want, a weakness of the competing Android platform. Apple also built in a secure and straightforward method for IT departments to deploy applications to employees (and to control which applications are installed on which employee devices).

Also, Apple’s iPhone is the poster child product for BYOD. Employees would prefer to use their own iPhones and iPads rather than use company issued devices of lesser stature.

iPhone and iPad do not require as much IT support as Windows PCs or the more traditional BlackBerry smartphone. What company’s do not support, Apple supports at a nearby Apple Store Genius Bar. Finally, Apple’s roadmap for iPhone models is steady and sure with major upgrades every two years, minor upgrades every year, and rapid adoption of the latest iOS version.

Is it any wonder that the iPhone and iPad trounce all Android-based and Windows Phone-based devices in the enterprise? This unlikely marriage– Apple and the enterprise– received an official sanction from none other than IBM, the corporate goliath in the enterprise. Apple does the hardware and OS. IBM does the app development and support.

Although there have been years of steady improvements in both hardware and software, seemingly without trying, Apple now owns the lion’s share of the mobile device segment in the enterprise, and is likely, thanks to the blessing from IBM, to own it all.

Now there’s word that Apple has received a few dozen patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office which include an advanced video conferencing system by using FaceTime (one which appears to scale video quality to participants, and saves bandwidth). Think of the impact on the enterprise when all iOS-equipped employees can communicate on a secure channel using FaceTime technology built in to every device.

Apple owns the enterprise in the mobile device era. Who saw that coming? Apple.

No Sapphire Screen On iPhone 6?

Of course not. After a year of being told the sapphire screen was a sure thing for iPhone 6, a market researcher says, uh, no, won’t happen. Lance Whitney:

Analysis of the iPhone 6 supply chain indicates related component suppliers need to ship products to OEMs for assembly in June 2014 to meet the September launch date. Yet, the research institute did not discover demands for smartphone cover glass. The sapphire glass version new iPhone will be issued in limited volumes this year, mostly because sapphire ingot manufacturers yield rates were lower than forecasts and issues involved in sapphire glass processing.

What about iPhone 7?

Coming Soon: The 6th Mass Extinction

From Laura Geggel:

The previous mass extinction, which wiped out the dinosaurs, happened about 65 million years ago, likely from a catastrophic asteroid that collided with Earth. In contrast, the looming sixth mass extinction is linked to human activity… Large animals — such as elephants, rhinoceroses and polar bears — have the highest rates of decline, which is a trend shared by other mass extinctions. These large animals are at particular risk because they tend to have few offspring and low population growth rates.

Whether a mass extinction arrives or not, one could argue that it’s well deserved.

Define Douchebag

Here we are in the 21st century and there are still men who think like Geraldo Rivera.

Generally speaking, the man is the breadwinner, although now, increasingly, women do work… But I think what a woman brings to a marriage more than anything else– to a relationship– is her youth. Her youth is a fragile and diminishing resource so if a woman were to invest two years in one of these marriages, and then to be rejected by the man, I think she has given up a valuable asset.

Geraldo, 1899 called and they want the 19th century mustache back. By the way, Rivera has four divorces already, so obviously he didn’t mind sucking the youth out of women during his “beta” marriages.

Apple And The Shady World Of Competitor’s Numbers

It’s merely a line item from a list of many, but one thing we can all agree is that Apple’s numbers are just pretty damned good. For example, even the often overlooked Mac line has growing revenue, increasing profits, improved unit sales, and even better market share– all while the rest of the traditional PC industry feels the effects of the post-PC era’s steady move toward mobile devices.

Here’s what we know about PCs. Sales are down. What we don’t know is by how much. Why not? Only Apple provides hard sales numbers each quarter– for good or for bad. Everything else is simply a guesstimate. For example, two groups– IDC and Gartner– both of which publish analysis for the industry claimed Apple’s Mac sales fell slightly in the most recent quarter.

Both IDC and Gartner probably have analysts who work on spreadsheets, each of which has plenty of items that eventually line up with a conclusion; totals that are often presented as fact in the news headlines. Remember this: facts are not guesstimates.

Fact:

fact |fakt| noun
a thing that is indisputably the case: she lacks political experience—a fact that becomes clear when she appears in public | a body of fact… (usu. facts) a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.

You get the idea here, right?

Guesstimate:

guesstimate (also guestimate) informal noun |ˈgestəmit |
an estimate based on a mixture of guesswork and calculation.

What were Apple’s publicly reported facts regarding the state of the Mac in the most recent financial quarter? Mac sales units hit a new quarterly record, and increased 18-percent– pretty much the opposite of what the guesstimators at IDC and Gartner said.

Therein lies the issue with the shady world of numbers employed by Apple’s competitors. How many smartphones and tablets have been sold by Samsung, Google, HTC, Amazon, et al. Only they know and they’re not saying, instead relying on the guesstimates of the likes of IDC and Gartner (Who pays their salaries? Take a guesstimate).

These same shady number charlatans do their nasty deeds in other product lines, too. How many Apple TVs has Apple sold? A few times a year Apple tells us the facts. How many Roku devices have been sold? How many Google Chromecast devices have been sold?

Silence is golden, though Google admitted the Chromecast generated over 400-million viewer sessions recently. Is that an important number? Yes. It’s the only big number Google could come up with.

What about Amazon’s line of Kindle products? There’s the Kindle book reader and the Kindle fire tablet? All Amazon says is “millions” have been sold. Millions? Two million? 20 million? How many?

The reasons most of Apple’s competitors say so little about their actual sales numbers is because they would be totally embarrassed to do so because that information– facts– would make Apple look better than it already does.

Use iPhone To Unlock Hotel Rooms

You knew this was coming, right? Hilton Worldwide Holdings has a plan to let guests to check in and unlock their hotel rooms with their smartphones. Craig Karmin:

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. is placing a $550 million bet that hotel guests increasingly will use smartphones to choose rooms, check in and even unlock doors. Hilton isn’t the first to offer at least some of these customized features. Starwood, for instance, is already testing mobile-phone room keys at two of its Aloft brand hotels and plans to offer the option at roughly 150 Aloft and W hotels by the end of 2015. Marriott says that 967 of its hotels offer mobile check-in and check-out, and more than 4,000 hotels globally will offer those services by year-end

The trend without end.

Amazon Fire Phone In The Enterprise

The top phone in the enterprise is Apple’s iPhone, and by a wide margin, yet someone came up with a ridiculous list of reasons why Amazon’s Fire Phone supposedly supports business. Matthew Miller:

Amazon’s Fire phone is now available to purchase and while it is targeted towards the consumer Amazon Prime experience, there is integrated enterprise support so you can bring the Fire to work.

This has to be the weakest list ever.

  • MDM API: These APIs allow for integration with leading mobile device management (MDM) systems including AirWatch, MobileIron, Good Technology, and Fiberlink MaaS360.
  • Device encryption: AES 128 bit key encryption of the data stored on the device using Exchange ActiveSync, MDM or the UI.
  • VPN: Support for popular VPN clients via the Amazon Appstore.
  • Office apps: Ships with an Office Suite application that lets customers view Office documents.
  • Appstore: Many of the most popular enterprise apps, including Cisco, Intuit and Citrix are available in the Amazon Appstore.

Of course, Amazon Fire Phone listens to and watches where you are and what you do while you’re at work. That’s good for Amazon. How is that good for the business?

Another Bad Selfie? Or, Something Else?

By definition selfies (photos of yourself) are somewhat narcissistic, but there’s probably a few lines that shouldn’t be crossed, and a few that simply cannot be seen from the photo. Tim Molloy describes one:

Breanna Mitchell’s picture of herself at Auschwitz is, on its face, tasteless: It’s easy to see her as another narcissist who can’t visit a place of profound mourning without making it all about her. Even the news media’s term for the picture — “Auschwitz selfie” — sounds like something that would appear in a tacky satire.

Inappropriate selfie, right? Not quite.

But the selfie isn’t exactly what it appears to be. Mitchell, a recent high school graduate from Alabama, says she took the picture because she studied World War II and the Holocaust with her father before he died, a year to the day before her picture was posted… So perhaps it isn’t all about her. Perhaps it’s about honoring her dad, and learning history, and not about trivializing the place where more than a million Jews, Poles, Romani and homosexuals were murdered.

Whoa! Paradigm shift much? Remember all those articles about how Apple CEO Tim Cook should be fired?

You Just Knew Someone Would Make A Mac Photo App To Do What We All Do Already, Right?

Guess what? Celebrity autographs are obsolete. Says who? None other than celebrity Taylor Swift, now a Wall Street Journal Columnist.

I haven’t been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera

Why not? Autographs are obsolete. How so? They’re replaced by the ‘selfie.’

Disclosure: I own every Taylor Swift album. I have attended a number of Taylor Swift concerts. I secretly long to be tall, slender, beautiful and a musician and singer.

Otherwise, Swift’s analysis is spot on. Selfies are the new autograph. Autographs can be had from almost any celebrity with a quick visit to eBay. A selfie of you and a celebrity won’t have any eBay value at all.

So, what took Mac app developers so long to come up with a Mac photo enhancement app called Selfie? Well, Selfie is here, it’s fun and it’s only 99-cents.

All Selfie does to capitalize on the name and the trend is to add dozens of cute effects to your photos. Drag and drop photos, use the slider bar to select the effect, done.

Selfie Controls

Selfie can use the Mac’s built-in iSight camera, too, but works easily with drag and drop. Need a caption? Selfie can add that, too. Type in the caption, select the font, use a slider bar for the font size, change the color. Save.

What makes Selfie different that any other Mac app which adds a few dozen effects? Not much, hence the price is not much.

The built-in effects are not much, either, but Selfie is fast and easy.

More Selfie

Granted, Selfie is an extra step before uploading a photo to Instagram or Flickr or Twitter, but it’s easy and cheap. The weakness is that Selfie relies on the most basic of photo enhancements, but it’s more than usable considering the 99-cent price tag.

iPhone 6 Pre-orders

That didn’t take long. Zach Epstein:

More than two dozen sellers have taken to Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace in an effort to capitalize on the incredible amount of hype surrounding Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6. The phone is expected to be the first iPhone to feature a significantly larger display… sellers are offering to assist customers in purchasing Apple’s new iPhone 6 once it launches by obtaining phones from the United States and Hong Kong. There is no guarantee that phones will be delivered to customers in a timely fashion following the iPhone 6’s launch, however, and required deposits range from $80 to nearly $1,300

Apple is doomed.

iPad Savior: IBM

Apple’s iPad has strong but declining sales. Why? CEO Tim Cook isn’t worried. Zack Whittaker with more details on the Apple-IBM deal:

Apple currently has iPads in 99 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, including banks, technology companies, and others. But that could mean just one iPad lurking in someone’s cubical. It doesn’t mean anything. The penetration rate, Cook said, is low. It’s just 20 percent. Compare that to its penetration of its Mac line-up in business, which is 60 percent, Apple has some work to do.

I don’t see the IBM deal as a savior to the iPad. Worse, larger screen iPhones might cut into the iPad mini’s sales.

Programmed To Be Happy

Somebody must be the happiest nation on earth. Guess who? Kari Paul on a DNA study covering over 130 countries:

Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy wanted to find out why countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands regularly outrank similar high-GDP European countries in happiness. They found three kinds of evidence suggesting high levels of life satisfaction may not be entirely due to standard of living, but rather to genetics.

It’s in the genes. If you’re not happy, blame your parents.