Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are You A Geek or Hipster? [INFOGRAPHIC]

FINALLY! Now, I can get some rest. And, for the record - yes, I am a geek.


Geeks vs Hipsters

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tablet PCs - And the Winner IS... Apple (For Now)

There was a pretty interesting article in DigiTimes that said that most of the major hardware manufacturers were going to throw in the towel in terms of the tablet PC market, and instead focus on "ultrabooks" (not "netbooks" like they did 2 years ago).

Hmmmm....

If you don't know what an "ultrabook" is here's a video that explains it. Basically, think of the MacBook Air. It's a thin notebook PC that lacks an optical drive, has an "instant on", and will periodically "poll" the network for RSS updates, etc.

I guess hitting the "refresh" button on your web page was a little too cumbersome for some folks.

Oh yeah, and it has a physical keyboard.

YAWN.

"Ultrabook"? Really?

It's more like: "Hey we know how to build notebooks, but since we can't compete in the tablet market because our operating systems are too bloated with crap - let's just invent a new 'category' of devices because that's something we can control."

It's so funny to me that rather than try to make their mobile operating systems (Android and Mobile Windows 7 or 8) - work well and quickly on the more modest hardware of the tablet - they are just giving up and going back to the old status quo.

Oh sure, it has some brushed aluminum, and it's thinner and lighter than a "traditional" laptop or notebook - it's essentially the same thing.

And it's already be "done" - again, by Apple.

I know that Amazon's Kindle Fire is selling like gangbusters - but have you checked out their own product review page? People are saying - "it's cool - for what it is."

Meh.

People were really looking for a fast, elegant, responsive - and less expensive iPad. They thought - "Hey, it runs Android, has a browser... will be a perfect gift as a tablet PC for my loved one."

It turns out that most people who bought one (disclosure: I did not!) see it as a disappointing "knock off" that's slow, unresponsive and basically unusable as anything other than a nice eReader.

They were expecting a device that was just like the iPad but cheaper. Unfortunately (for them and for Amazon) all they got was cheaper not better.

Now, to be fair, Amazon says they are going to push out an over-the-air update in the next two weeks - and they're hinting around that there is a Fire 2.0 in the works. However, I think the damage may already be done. You don't really get a second chance to make a first impression (ummm... no physical volume buttons - really?).

Apple gets this.

Amazon doesn't. RIM doesn't. HP doesn't.

Even though the first iPhone had only a handful of apps (as did the iPad on launch); they got the experience correct. The look and feel. The buttery smooth interface animations. The small, light, yet "solid" feel of the hardware. The aesthetics. The simplicity of use.

Those things really resonate with customers - especially the performance and ease-of-use. Once you've used an iPhone or iPad for any length of time - just try puttering around on an Android phone or tablet...

It just feels like a cheap knockoff of the original in terms of both the interface experience (it's slow and jumpy and hard to click the tiny icons) and the hardware (bit kunky with multiple physical buttons at the bottom).

On the other hand, non-Apple devices are less expensive (on the whole).

Alas, it appears as if no company has come up with the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too tablet...

Friday, December 02, 2011

Big Brother IS Watching You - Via Your Smartphone (UPDATED)

WARNING: If you're the paranoid type - take a pill or stop reading here - because this information will put you into a spin.

OK - disclaimer out of the way.

I'll start with the bottom line: If you're using a non-Nokia Android device on AT&T or Sprint (not Verizon), or you're using a Blackberry - your phone could be recording and sending absolutely everything you do on your phone from web searches, to SMS, to application use, to continuous real-time tracking and storing/sending the information back to your carrier.

That's because some handset makers (including Apple - more on that in a minute) and some carriers use a piece of software called Carrier IQ that sets at the deepest levels of the operating system (also known as a "rootkit"). This handy-dandy piece of spyware software intercepts every single keystroke, button push, search string, URL, SMS message, email and (potentially) every voice call - before the operating system even displays it to the user.

Don't believe it? To quote an article on Gizmodo:
This video, recorded by 25-year-old Android developer Trevor Eckhart, shows how it works. This is bad. Really bad.
Here's that video - scroll ahead to about the 9:00 mark for the real interesting stuff:


WTH? Ummmm.... "cool." Now, as one might expect, the carriers are insisting that they are only using this data for "diagnostics" - when applications crash, or calls are dropped, etc.

Yeah, sure.

Being in the software industry for as long as I have, I get the fact that it's helpful to get the machine state if something goes horribly wrong - in order to trap for it in future releases and help the application(s) to get better and more resilient over time.

And, although iPhones also have Carrier IQ on them - it has been discovered that Apple really does only use it for that purpose. And, unlike the Android systems - you can easily turn it off by going to Settings -> Location Services -> System Services and setting the "Diagnostics & Usage" to "OFF". By the way - the default setting for this is OFF! (more information)

Personally, I have no problems with companies wanting to improve the stability of their operating system and/or application (although I have my "Diagnostics & Usage" set to OFF on my iPhone).

The thing I have a problem with - is that you as the user are never notified that your phone is spying on you. And that you can't opt-out of this type of information being transmitted/used (on non-Apple devices). And that you can't even stop the service from running in the first place - even when you press the "Hard Stop" kill switch.

Since this video came to light only 4 days ago - it has caused an absolute firestorm of controversy - to the degree that both the US and German governments are getting involved to see what (if any) privacy laws have been broken.

Now, I'm not really big into conspiracy theories - but in my mind just having this software on 141 MILLION devices begs the question: what happens when some hacker figures out a way to exploit this program? What if they already have? What if this software has been exploited by law enforcement (the "hush, hush" kind) for surveillance or illegal wiretapping?

I'm just sayin'... if you're using a wireless device running Android either buy a Nokia device, switch to Verizon, or just buy an iPhone and be done with it.

UPDATE #1 (02-DEC-2011 9:29am): - Ummmmm... you know that whole "illegal wiretap" stuff that I put in there? Well, it turns out that WikiLeaks just released 287 files on surveillance products from 160 companies designed to get around those pesky privacy laws. Allowing "remote forensics" including keylogging, screenshot captures and much more. DOH!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Life In The Fast Lane

I recently returned from a road trip through Colorado, Utah and Nevada - and besides having a most excellent experience on part of the I-15 in Utah with an 80 mph speed limit - I noticed something fundamentally cool about drivers in other states:

1. They know how to drive (for the most part)
2. They stick to the slow lane except for passing (it's law in Colorado!)
3. Their states realize that the fast lane is for people going "fast"

There were numerous speed limit signs that specifically stated a minimum speed limit in the fast lane as well! It's a bit scary that we have to tell people not to drive slow in the fast lane. However, I think we should extend this model to other areas of life as well.

We obviously need to be more explicit as a society - that way people have a clear understanding of expectations, and will, in turn, become more self-aware.

Maybe all we need are a couple of well-placed signs. Here's a couple of ideas to get the ball rolling:

"Play nice and stop being so selfish, pig-headed, arrogant, and ineffectual" (Congress)

"Stop bitching and go back to work" (Occupy Protesters)

"Grow up and stop being hostile to your customers" (All Banks)

"A 24% interest rate is criminal" (All Credit Card Companies)

"We will provide 9% more/better service for a 9% increase in premiums" (All Insurance Companies)

"We do not have to fix every single bridge, road, highway and airport at the same time" (All Cities/Counties Getting Stimulus Money)

And I could just go on and on... but you get the idea. And now that the California State Legislators are giving back their taxpayer-paid cars (and gas and maintenance and insurance) - I have a suggestion for the $15 MILLION in saved tax money. Replace all the current freeway speed limit signs with new ones:

"Speed Limit 65 Minimum 64"

What are some signs you would like to see?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What IS a "PC" Anyway?

I've been thinking about PCs lately (as in "Personal Computers" not "Politically Correct"). When us old timers think of a "PC" we generally think of that first IBM PC or the Apple II - with the glowing green screen, and a hip, cool user interface called DOS.

I bet if you asked my kids what "PC" means - they would say "Politically Correct" (hopefully). To them, there is no concept of a "personal" computer because they grew up in a world where all computers are "personal." In their limited experience these computing devices are the default:

  1. A computer (or two) in your house
  2. A mobile telephone ("but my phone sucks - I need a smartphone")
  3. A tablet
  4. An e-reader
  5. A XBOX 360 (or Wii)
  6. A handheld (non-phone) gaming platform
  7. Video screen in the car
  8. Streaming custom radio station based on your music preferences (e.g. Pandora, Spotify)

We of the older generation didn't have any of these things growing up. Here's our list:

  1. A rock
  2. A cardboard box
  3. Duct Tape
  4. 5 Hot Wheels cars
  5. Hammer and nails
  6. Firecrackers (or some other equally dangerous explosives)
  7. Pong (if you were LUCKY!)
  8. 8 track tapes - and then cassettes (if you were a 1%er back then)

When "personal" computers came out - it was a revolutionary concept. "A computer in every home" was such a far-fetched idea that it simply boggled the imagination.

Once the PC came out - there was a "war." The war between operating systems that has raged for 20+ years. Microsoft became the dominant player - because they were first with some business applications that went along with the hardware that IBM was selling into businesses.

Apple was trying (sort of) to do the same thing - but they focused less on business and more on education and the hobbyist. The techie. The artistic nerds.

And so the battle "raged" on (not really - because Apple only had 3% to 5% of the worldwide market, anyway). There are passionate "Windows" guys, and passionate "Mac" aficionados - and even a small sect of Linux lovers.

Then, came the iPhone. The paradigm of what computing "should be" and "could be" changed. Forever. A phone with no buttons. A phone that was a slab of glass. A phone that could surf the web. A phone that could contain "apps" that would amuse/help/inform/guide/save-your-sorry-lost-butt... a phone that would (later) include FaceTime video conferencing (hello, Jetsons!)...

Then, came the Android phone.

Then came the iPad.

Then came the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Amazon Kindle Fire.

Then came the end of the "personal computer."

What's coming next?

There's talk of a Facebook phone running a modified version of Android (yes, a Facebook Operating System... *groan* ) so you could obsessively update your status 24/7. There are already 5 variants of tablets coming in the next quarter - and desktop computer sales have fallen off considerably. Mac OS X for non-phone, non-tablet computers has been re-vamped to include features from the iOS version. Microsoft is jonesing to get their Windows 7 Phone platform going with Nokia.

There are free applications for personal music, personal text messaging, group text chat, group video chat. We can Linkedin our Tublr Facebook Twitter stream with our Flickr YouTube Picasa stream to broadcast our lives in realtime.

We have phones with 5-10 megapixel cameras. That also do VIDEO. That we can upload LIVE at the event!

We can buy books, movies, TV shows with a single click from our phone then watch them on our TV at home - or on our laptop on an airplane.

Yes, the term "PC" ("Personal Computing") is as dead as Flash. Information is becoming a a commodity - sharing our pictures, where we are, what we "like" and what we stand for in a live 24 hour per day, 7 day per week stream - now that is personal computing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stop The Censorship - SOPA = CRAPA!

If you haven't heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) - then listen up, people!
It's basically a bill (you can read it for yourself here) that allows any intellectual property holder to shut down any website's online advertising and block credit card payments - all without the need for that whole "due process of law" thingie getting in the way.

It works sort of like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) "takedown notices". You know - the ones where someone can claim copyright on a YouTube video and they pull it?

In this case, if this thing passes (and it looks like it very well might), the people who own the intellectual property only have to file some "specific facts" (yeah, really - that's what it says) to back up their claim that a site stole their property - and the payment and ad networks have five days to cutoff all contact with the accused site.

Well at least they can't take the site down completely... right?

Right!

BUT - they don't have to - because then the US Federal Government will have the right to file an injunction against any site with a hearing with a judge. If it gets the injunction, the US Government has the right to block all US access to said site - at the DNS level!

It also means that search engines have to be careful - because they could get into trouble because they have the duty to prevent the site in question "from being served as a direct hypertext link."

Let's not forget all the ad networks and payment processors that also have a duty to cut the site off.

Oh yeah, and there's one more thing: Internet service providers and payment processors can simply block access to sites based solely on the belief that the site(s) are "dedicated to the theft of US property". Oh, and the ISPs and payment folks can't be sued, either.

Nice.

Listen, I'm no fan of priracy in any form - whether the intellectual property owner is American or not. It is a big problem. It is a legitimate problem. However, censorship legislation is NOT the answer. There are definitely "rogue" sites out there that are making money from what amounts to "stolen [IP] goods". Fine, go after them. Shut them down.

It's bad enough that ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) can seize domains at will and have, in fact, wrongly shut down 84,000 subdomains of mooo.com just last year.

One can only imagine the chaos and confusion, incorrect claims of ownership, cost, complexity, and general cluster this bill would cause.

SOPA: The evil act of censorship is alive and well in the US!

SOURCE

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Ding Dong Flash Is (Finally!) Dying

Adobe made a couple of interesting announcements today:
  1. They are killing off future development of Mobile Flash in favor of HTML5

  2. Their acquisition of Nitobi (the guys that made the open source PhoneGap) closed today
Ummmmm... what?

Yeah, well, as it turns out - it seems that Adobe has finally figured out that it's bloatware, 1990's, proprietary, resource-hogging, memory-leaking, browser-crashing plug-in has finally run its course.

It's finally "seen the light" of open standards (read: HTML5) - and actually bought one of the most awesome (and open source) frameworks around: PhoneGap. Never heard of PhoneGap? Basically, it's a framework that allows developers to create native applications for all the major applications (iOS, Android, Symbian, BlackBerry, etc.):




Now, the public line from Adobe is that developers will use PhoneGap and Air to create desktop application... yeah, right! But they had to say something - or Google and RIM would be really pissed off because one of the huge selling points of Android and the RIM tablet were that they could run Flash.

DOH!

Of course Adobe is saying it will still develop Flash for desktop/notebooks - for now. My guess is - that within a couple of years they'll stop doing even that. The issue at hand is that people are increasing their use of mobile devices and decreasing their use of desktop devices.

Plus, as tablets become a more and more dominant computing/entertainment platform - Adobe simply can't afford to ignore where the future is going (as Steve Jobs told them back in 2008 - and then VERY publicly in his open letter called "Thoughts On Flash" and spoke at length with Walt Mossberg at the D8 conference in 2010 about why Flash sucks and why Apple chose to not support it).

Flash itself is too widely installed to just "go away" overnight. It has an installed base of about 96% of all browsers - and there are thousands of developers who create a wide variety of content that we consume everyday. Not to mention that the Flash codec for video has been the defacto standard for many years, and it will take time before all those videos get converted to a non-Flash codec.

However - it WILL happen - and most (if not all) new content that's being generated won't be generated in Flash, it will be generated in HTML5-ish technologies. With the acquisition of PhoneGap and their work on their Edge product (the one that converts Flash to run in HTML5) - Adobe is clearly signalling that the way forward for them is (eventually) going to be Flash-free.

Looks like Steve Jobs was right... again.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How To Write A Resume That Doesn't Suck [INFOGRAPHIC]

For those of my friends and collegues who are (still) looking for work - I came across this infographic and posted it in the hopes that every little it will help!


How To Write Resumes That Don't SUCK [INFOGRAPHIC]

SOURCE

Friday, November 04, 2011

All You Need Is Love - Love Is All You Need

I saw this comic this morning - and it really is sort of a snapshot of life:


Although, I must say, that I didn't really care about panel 4 (a place to live) until I got married. Before that, it was "whatever". You can stay with friends, crash on a couch, stay out all night... you know - "whatever."

Panel 5 didn't really kick in until the kids were born - and then you have to sort of combine panels 4, 5 & 6 - and add life insurance and a will.

I'm really blessed because panels 7 & 8 are one-and-the-same for me. My hobby is computers and technology - and so are my hobbies (oh, add motorcycles to my hobbies).

After I was married for a while - the obvious question of having children came to the forefront. I was the one that really "wasn't ready" for kids (honestly - NO ONE EVER IS) - so I'm the one that proposed we get a dog ("...but NOT a puppy...") so we could try out our responsibility skills on a non-human first.

Of course, when I went to the shelter to get a dog ("... but NOT a puppy...") - I picked out... wait for it... a puppy. Let's just say it's a good thing we decided on a pet first... as my doggie-daddy "skills" needed a little honing. The following year, I went to the shelter to renew our dog ("Mac" - short for "Macintosh"... yeah, really) - I saw another dog that was a black and white border collie mix and was the virtual "twin" of our little Mac.

Of course, I had to have her.

So... we actually had boy/girl (dog) twins - before we had boy/girl (human) twins. I just love God's sense of humor!

Once the kids came (and the intense lack of sleep for prolonged periods) - we began to realize that the house we bought wasn't going to work out for active kids as they grow. So, we bought another house..on a quiet street... with a good insurance policy.

That leads to panel 13 - because, really, you DO need more money. And that begets more stuff. And then you need more money. And then you get more stuff. Trying to become more happy. [REPEAT from your late 20's to your late 40's].

The more money-stuff-happiness cycles you go through the more you need panel 16 (relax).

Since it's 2011 - it's almost impossible to even DO panel 17 (should have been "fire up an old tune in your 'oldies' playlist") - but I get the idea.

As my kids are getting older and my parenting role of "over-protective-teacher-and-instiller-of-morals-virtue-and-goodness" morphs into "supreme and ultimate dictator" - panel 21 really hit me between the eyes last night as I was snuggling with my kids watching some mindless show on TV: Love is all you need.

Here's my hacked version of the same cartoon (all apologies to Mr. Snider):



SOURCE

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Visual Guide To Facebook Security [INFOGRAPHIC]

There has been a LOT of press about Facebook security - both good and bad. If you've ever wondered what really goes on behind the scenes - then check out this infographic by the good folks at PC Magazine:

A Visual Guide To Facebook Security

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How To Avoid Abandoned Shopping Carts [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you have any kind of online commerce site - you know the problem - abandoned shopping carts. This is really a bummer since you've managed to get people to your site, presented something they are interested in, written your copy and done your photography in such a way as to convince them to hit the "Add To Cart" button - and then, just when they're ready to checkout - they get distracted, or grok at the shipping charges or SOMETHING - but they never complete the transaction.

Here's some tips to help minimize shopping cart abandonment:

Infographic - How To Avoid Abandoned Shopping Carts

SOURCE

Monday, October 24, 2011

By The Number - Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]

Feeling a little "Facebook-ed out"? Well, no wonder! You've probably spending waaayyyy too much time on there (along with everyone else):



SOURCE

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Roles In IT [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you work in IT in whatever capacity - you inevitably have to work with others who are also in IT. Depending on your role - getting along with others can sometimes be a "challenge."

Here's a great graphic on how people in different roles see others in different roles:



SOURCE

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Goodbye Bookstores - Hello... book "stores"

Yesterday I went to a strip mall that used to have a Borders bookstore in it. It was sort of sad - I had frequented it more than a few times - just browsing the latest releases, looking over the titles in the technology "section", maybe taking one or two volumes back to a reading table with a cup of coffee...

Ah, yes - the "good old days."

As I was reading the Google blog - they had a short video about a new Chrome experiment they were toying around with - a virtual bookshelf application. The idea is that you have an infinite, virtual bookcase that shows (literally) hundreds of thousands of books - organized by one of 28 categories.

You can choose a category - and the bookcase zooms into position. You can then "spin" the thing and because it's like a coiled double helix (think Slinkee) - you can just go round and round and move the entire thing up and down to browse to your heart's content.

When you see a book you would like more information on - simply click it, and you'll see the front cover. When you click the book - it opens (like a real book) to reveal a synopsis and a QR code (those strange barcodes you see everywhere) so that you can open the title on your device.

Now, it's still in the "experimental" stage - and they recommend you use Google's Chrome browser (naturally) and a "powerful computer with a good graphics card" - and there are plenty "your mileage may vary" disclaimers - but it's still well worth a look-see.


They are visually presenting a lot of information that could be (and is) presented in the typical "list" format. I mean, you've seen the listing of books with covers but it just lacks the brevity and excitement of looking through a bookstore shelf.



Apple was at the forefront of this type of visualization - but they did it with your music collection. Their "Cover Flow" technology allows you to "flip through" your collection of "albums" by displaying the cover artwork - rather than a listing (like a playlist).

I think this is where the future of software and user interfaces is going - especially given the fact that our devices are getting smaller (less screen real estate) and there is more information. This type of visual paradigm is perfect for displaying huge amounts of information in an itty bitty space.


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