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.

Fragmandroid

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.

Ouch.

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:

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.

Right-Handedness:

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.

Mistakes Atheists Make

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie:

I still find myself intrigued by the God-debunking that serious atheists offer. When Richard Dawkins claims that biology and evolution demonstrate that God does not exist, I must take notice, even if his arguments do not work for me.

Interesting read. The mistakes, in essence:

  • They dismiss, often with contempt, the religious experience of other people.
  • They assert that since there are no valid religions but that religions do good things, the task of smart people is to create a religion without God — or, in other words, a religion without religion.
  • They see the world of belief in black and white, either/or terms.

No Surprise: Gregory Out, Todd In

It’s official. Chuck Todd will replace the much maligned David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Tony Maglio:

The move was anticipated for some time, and is expected to become official sometime on Thursday or Friday. Gregory is expected to leave NBC altogether

Gregory moderated “Meet the Press” for six years, all with declining ratings.

Samsung And Apple Have Hit ‘The Wall’

Samsung’s latest smartphone, the long-awaited Galaxy Alpha looks pretty much like an iPhone, which should tell us something about the state of the industry. Both Samsung and Apple have hit ‘the wall.’

The wall?

Smartphones have matured and the days of dramatic innovation, started by Apple’s iPhone in 2007, have mostly ended. Today’s smartphones have larger and higher quality screens, they hold more apps, the apps are better than ever, and battery life hasn’t improved much, while graphics have. Apple added a Retina display which Samsung copied. Apple added Touch ID which Samsung copied. Apple added a metal body with chamfered edges which Samsung copied.

That list could go on for awhile but you get the idea. For now, disruptive innovation has been replaced by iterative innovation in the form of improvements, though one could argue that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha has taken a few steps backwards.

Backwards?

It’s more of an iPhone-inspired knockoff than previous Galaxy models, only has 32GB of storage and no Micro SD expansion slot, though it sports plenty of RAM (which Apple’s iPhone could use more of), a much maligned fingerprint sensor, and a fast, octa-core CPU which still doesn’t top Apple’s 64-bit A7 (Android is 32-bit, while Android smartphone and tablet CPUs remain 32-bit).

Otherwise, the Galaxy Alpha is more bling than bang. Why? The wall. Until Apple or some unknown competitor shows the way to the future, Samsung, Xiaomi, and other knock-off smartphone makers are merely re-mixing current ingredients and expecting something special to come out of the oven.

The wall that smartphone and tablet makers have hit should be expected. Products mature over time and become similar across the industry, but that does not make every smartphone a commodity product. Differentiation still rules– except at Samsung and Xiaomi whose very business model depends on Apple designs to lead the way.

Whatever Apple does this year you can be sure Samsung and Xiaomi will do next year. But what if Apple cut prices?

Apple’s Mind Boggling Opportunity

More hype than substance is a look at an emerging opportunity for Apple from TMF. The accompanying graphs are impressive, but the whole thing can be summed up in a single word:

One of the biggest criticisms for Apple stock as a long-term investment is the company’s size. With $176 billion in trailing-12-month revenue, some investors worry the company will run out of room for growth — or, even worse, run out of ways to sustain current levels of sales. While Apple bulls have a wide range or counterarguments, one of the most significant arguments lies in the long-term potential in China for smartphone growth sales.

China. More specifically, China Mobile’s exploding 4G customer base, and Apple’s prestige among China’s affluent and growing middle class.

War Is Big Business

Stunning Graphic from BI on worldwide arms sales:

They say the Cold War is over, but Russia and the U.S. remain the leading supplier of weapons to countries around the world and are the two biggest military powers… The U.S. supplies much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Russia supplies many BRIC nations, as well as Iran, much of Southeast Asia, and North Africa… Overall, the U.S. sent more than $26.9 billion in weaponry to foreign nations, while Russia sent weaponry exceeding $29.7 billion in value around the globe.

Worldwide Arms Sales

Is it any wonder the world is messed up?

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