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App: The Human Story

Wednesday, 30 July, 2014 0 Comments

The Kickstarter story so far: 2,054 backers, $130,000 pledged of $100,000 goal. Congratulations to Jed Hurt and Jake Schumacher!


The eBay compromise and the hacking of Mat Honan

Thursday, 22 May, 2014 0 Comments

Having gone to the bother of creating an elaborate password for eBay some weeks ago involving a variety of symbols, digits and letters, it’s dispiriting to find that the hackers may now have my name, e-mail address, phone number and, worst of all, my “encrypted password”. The story brings back scary memories of what happened to Wired writer Mat Honan when he was hacked two years ago: Snippet:

“At 5:02 p.m., they reset my Twitter password. At 5:00 they used iCloud’s ‘Find My’ tool to remotely wipe my iPhone. At 5:01 they remotely wiped my iPad. At 5:05 they remotely wiped my MacBook. Around this same time, they deleted my Google account. At 5:10, I placed the call to AppleCare. At 5:12 the attackers posted a message to my account on Twitter taking credit for the hack.”

The conclusion of How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking is worth noting: “I’m angry that Amazon makes it so remarkably easy to allow someone into your account, which has obvious financial consequences. And then there’s Apple. I bought into the Apple account system originally to buy songs at 99 cents a pop, and over the years that same ID has evolved into a single point of entry that controls my phones, tablets, computers and data-driven life. With this AppleID, someone can make thousands of dollars of purchases in an instant, or do damage at a cost that you can’t put a price on.”

Add eBay to the list. Onward now with with the chore of thinking up a new password.


Farewell, then, Nokia

Tuesday, 3 September, 2013 0 Comments

At the height of the NSA hysteria, the usual suspects reheated their arguments for a “European Google”, which would, somehow, save us from the big, bad Americans. Nobody fell for it, though, as everyone knows that the “European Google” idea/scam is predicated on sucking billions of euros into “research” in France and Germany, which will never produce a search engine, never mind a European Google. Now that Microsoft has acquired Nokia’s devices and services business, we can expect demands for a European phone maker. But that train has finally left the Finland station and it’s not coming back.

The year Apple launched the iPhone, 2007, was Nokia’s best-ever year: it sold 436 million handsets — nearly 40 percent of the total purchased worldwide. (Its nearest competitor, Motorola, sold 164 million.) That was then. In the first quarter of this year, Nokia shipped 61.9 million handsets, but Samsung shipped 112.8 million and is on track to reach the 500-million milestone. Poor old Motorola shifted a mere 3.9 million units in Q1 2013.

In April last year, Nokia introduced the Lumia 900, which prompted Nicholas Thompson, writing in the New Yorker, to speculate on “The Resurrection Of Nokia?” He declared: “The cell-phone market could use another competitor. It probably won’t be Research in Motion, which appears set on hara-kiri. But Nokia and Microsoft are genuinely trying to recapture the magic of that old N95.” Strike Nokia there. It’s all Microsoft now.

In early 2001, Rainy Day became the proud owner of a vivid red Nokia 3330 and it fended off all competitors until Steve Jobs reimagined the phone business. No one today can say that Nokia didn’t have fair warning of its fate.

Nokia to Apple


Apple ate the BlackBerry

Wednesday, 14 August, 2013 0 Comments

In the New Yorker, Vauhini Vara muses upon “How BlackBerry Fell“. She mentions the real reason early in the piece. (Hint: It’s a five-letter word beginning with “A”):

“Shares in the Canadian maker of BlackBerry smartphones peaked in August of 2007, at two hundred and thirty-six dollars. In retrospect, the company was facing an inflection point and was completely unaware. Seven months earlier, in January, Apple had introduced the iPhone at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Executives at BlackBerry, then called Research in Motion, decided to let Apple focus on the general-use smartphone market, while it would continue selling BlackBerry products to business and government customers that bought the devices for employees. ‘In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry,’ the company’s co-C.E.O Jim Balsillie said at the time, referring to the iPhone’s impact on the industry, ‘I would think that’s overstating it.'”

Yummy! Blackberries Vara adds: “BlackBerry, of course, wasn’t the only company that made the mistake of ignoring the iPhone and the revolution it portended: engineers at Nokia, which, years earlier, had introduced a one-pound smartphone, dismissed the iPhone because, among other reasons, it failed to pass a test in which phones were dropped five feet onto concrete over and over again, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. Microsoft C.E.O. Steve Ballmer actually laughed at the iPhone. ‘It doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard,’ he said. Nokia and Microsoft, which are now building smartphones in partnership with each other, have, like BlackBerry, seen their share of the market shrink.”

Long before Vauhini Vara came to this conclusion, John Gruber identified the rot at the heart of RIM. On 9 May 2008, he wrote “BlackBerry vs. iPhone” and nailed it beautifully here: “RIM doesn’t really have any lock-in other than user habits. The BlackBerry gimmick is that it works with the email system your company bought from Microsoft. Replace a BlackBerry with an iPhone (2.0) and the messages, contacts, and calendar events that sync over the network will be the same as the ones on the BlackBerry you just tossed into a desk drawer.”

RIP RIM.


The hidden cost of BMWs, Ferraris, Porsches and Volkswagens

Tuesday, 13 August, 2013 0 Comments

“One company that buys and processes Colombian wolframite, or tungsten ore, supplies some of the world’s leading multinational corporations — including the makers of BMWs, Ferraris, Porsches and Volkswagens as well as Siemens AG (SIE) and the producer of BIC pens, these companies say.”

Brilliant reporting by Michael Smith for Bloomberg Markets Magazine in an article titled “How Colombian FARC Terrorists Mining Tungsten Are Linked to Your BMW Sedan.” But lots of other well-known companies are connected to this dirty trade: “Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and Samsung Electronics Co. purchase parts from a firm that buys from the company that imports tungsten ore from Colombia, company records show.”

What Smith documents about the tungsten market is disturbing in the extreme, but some end users give the impression that all is well: “Munich-based BMW Group spokesman Frank Wienstroth says his company works hard to avoid purchasing anything from tainted suppliers. ‘These few grams out of the billions of tons of raw materials passing through the BMW supply chain are of no practical relevance,’ he says.”

Smith’s sobering conclusion: “Sixty-one hundred kilometers away from the glistening buildings of Silicon Valley, miners in Colombia’s Guainia province dig for tungsten ore on FARC-controlled land. The minerals they extract from the red earth help feed the world’s voracious appetite for luxury cars, smartphones and computers. Neither the Colombian government nor the world’s most powerful corporations have been able to stop a trade that has helped fund a half-century-long war.”


appify

Wednesday, 10 July, 2013 0 Comments

“To create or modify an existing service as to make an application of it which in turn can be used in a larger application.” Urban Dictionary

The iOS App Store opened its virtual portals five years ago today. At GIGAOM, Erica Ogg notes that more than 50 billion apps have been downloaded since then, and that individual software makers, small startups and large corporations “have been able to build thriving businesses off of the platform. Apple says it has paid out $10 billion in revenues to its third-party app makers.” She ponders the pricing model and wonders about the search function and asks relevant questions about the future of the model, but today is a day for celebrating the brilliance of the idea and the genius of Steve Jobs. On 10 July 2008, he told USA Today that the App Store contained 500 third-party applications for the iPhone. Now, it’s approaching one million.

Note: In January 2011, app was awarded the honour of being named 2010’s “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society.

Apps


Sir Jonathan Paul Ive goes spatial

Wednesday, 12 June, 2013 0 Comments

“There’s a sense of place, depth, and spatiality in iOS 7 that makes it feel like hardware,” writes John Gruber of Daring Fireball. For this, he credits Jony Ive, also known as Sir Jonathan Paul Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Inc. Gruber continues:

“There is a deep intellectual rigor to the design of iOS 7, and it’s hard not to see it as being profoundly informed by Ive’s background in hardware. In hardware, design is limited by physics: weight, density, size, connections, seams. Software doesn’t face those design limits. The old design of iOS 6 took advantage of that lack of limits, to its detriment. In iOS 6, you open a folder on the home screen, and linen is something you see underneath. You pull down Notification Center, and linen is something you see over. It’s both over and under. Hardware doesn’t work like that, but software can, because software can show you anything, conceptual logic be damned.

The design of iOS 7 is based on rules. There’s an intricate system at work, a Z-axis of layers organized in a logical way. There is a profound reduction in the use of faux-3D visual effects and textures, but iOS 7 is anything but flat. It is three dimensional not just visually but logically. It uses translucency not to show off, but to provide you with a sense of place. When you pull the new Control Center panel up from the bottom of the screen, its translucency lets you know that you haven’t gone somewhere new, you’re just looking at something over where you were.”

iOS7


She’s like, he’s like, Huh.

Tuesday, 7 May, 2013 0 Comments

“On a beach walk one day, Nicole told him she would be reluctant to use the app he was working on because her pictures would never be as good as the ones a mutual friend took. ‘I said, ‘Well, you know what he does to those photos, right?’ She’s like, ‘No, he just takes good photos.’ I’m like, ‘No, no, he puts them through filter apps.’ She’s like, ‘Well, you guys should probably have filters too, right, then?’ I was like, ‘Huh.'”

Excerpt there from The Money Shot, a superb profile of Instagram founder Kevin Systrom by Kara Swisher in Vanity Fair.

To get an idea of the photographic revolution ushered in by the smartphone, take a look at the magnificent work of Richard Koci Hernandez.

Richard Koci Hernandez


RIM has gone south and will go East

Monday, 28 January, 2013 0 Comments

On Wednesday, in New York City, Research in Motion (RIM) will present the first phones based on its all-new BlackBerry 10 operating system (OS). Given the company’s near-death experience in recent years, these devices will be RIM’s most important products since the first BlackBerry was released in 1999. Since then, 200 million of the devices have been shipped. So Wednesday is a now-or-never moment for “Canada’s signature technology company“, as The Globe and Mail calls it.

Those who know the mobile business say that RIM has left it too late. Its tragedy was the complete denial of the need for a new OS following the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. Six years on, all is changed, “changed utterly“, as the poet said, and the real story now is about who’ll get which cut when the cooked Canadian goose is carved up.

“We are looking at all opportunities — RIM and many others,” Lenovo chief financial officer Wong Wai Ming told Bloomberg. “We’ll have no hesitation if the right opportunity comes along that could benefit us and shareholders.”

But maybe Samsung will pounce. The Koreans have shiploads of money and by buying RIM they’d acquire useful patents and, critically, a foot in the door of the enterprise market. However, if BlackBerry 10 turns out to be good, Sony, which makes excellent hardware, might be keen to get the kind of software that would allow it to become a serious player in the mobile business. RIM has gone south and the prediction here is that it will go East.


iTunes 11: Up Next

Friday, 30 November, 2012 0 Comments

Show me the money! So said Jerry Maguire in 1996. And show me the music, I say. It’s nice to know what’s upcoming and if I don’t like what the latest iTunes update has in mind, I can now move something more suitable to the head of the queue thanks to the Up Next feature via the “hamburger” icon. Like.


The journey from DOS to Windows 8

Wednesday, 31 October, 2012 0 Comments

For the first time since 2001, personal computer sales are projected to fall this year. This means that all eyes are now on Windows 8 with its emphasis on touchscreen input and a grid of dynamically updating tiles that represent apps. Can it produce the kind of bounce that the ailing PC business needs coming […]

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