Showing posts from June, 2014

Yo? Yo! Yo...


I was going to leave it at that. After all if a company publishing an app that sends one word messages from your smarthone has managed to raise $1million in funding, surely that should be sufficient for a blog post too, shouldn't it?

If you could change the word that got sent I could even see it as being twitter for the conversationally challenged, but no, one word is all you get.


Apparently the most marketable generations (teens and early twenties) are going wild for this app. Looks like we've failed as a civilisation then, in the space of less than a decade we've reduced our young to monosyllabic grunts of acknowledgement, sent in lieu of having something to say.


From racking up Facebook likes and twitter followers these people have reached a plane where the need for acknowledgement from their peers is so great that the exchange of a one word message, devoid of personalisation, is an acceptable fulfillment of that need.

And if you're wondering why Yo has…

Amazon Fire Phone - Smartphone Prime

As expected Amazon announced a smartphone today. Having already made inroads into the hardware market with eReaders, tablets and set top boxes, a phone was always going to be next on the agenda.

The question was really going to be "how is Amazon going to differentiate this phone from the competition?"

That competition amounts to some pretty heavy hitters - Apple and Samsung by volume and profitability; Sony and Nokia for cameras; and LG/Nexus and Motorola for value.

Most of those who hazarded a guess bet on Amazon using price as its hook for customers. They were wrong. The Fire Phone doesn't have any price advantage over other premium phones, so price won't be the reason you buy one.

In fact there's very little to compel you to buy the Fire Phone - unless you're already a dedicated Amazon Prime customer already.

Yes, Amazon managed to squeeze in some eye tracking technology - but it sounds and looks like a terrible gimmick. Certainly I can't imagine it b…

Nokia Paid Off Blackmailers To Save Symbian

This story from Finnish TV station MTV tells how Nokia paid millions of Euros to blackmailers to avoid the destruction of its Symbian mobile OS.

The details aren't extensive, however it appears that Nokia's encryption keys, used for signing both apps into is Ovi app store and Symbian updates were acquired by a third party, who used them to extort 'several' million euros from the company.

The implications of losing the keys were pretty scary for Nokia - it was the biggest seller of smartphones at the time and the blackmailer could potentially have used the keys to trick users into installing software that allowed the remote tools to run. Phones could have been bricked on a global scale. The potential damage to Nokia and Symbian's reputation was catastrophic at a time when the company was preparing to do battle with the new iPhone.

That the blackmailer was able to collect the ransom without being apprehended by the Finnish police is sloppy. That they then stood by th…

Next iPhone To Feature Wireless Charging?

Starbucks announced the installation of Duracell's Powermat wireless charging technology at all 7,500 of its US locations last week. Trials will also be run across Europe and Asia too as the chain goes big on the bid for iPhone users.

Why iPhone users? Because other devices with wireless technology from Samsung, LG and Nokia use the incompatible Qi standard. Duracell sell a wireless charging case for the iPhone which will allow users to make use of the technology.

Looking for the hidden detail behind this move is interesting though. Visit any Starbucks and you'll see that a large majority of users are rocking iPhones and iPads. Laptop users are almost exclusively Apple customers too. Even so the huge market penetration of Samsung and Google's Nexus (amongst others) would suggest that there would be far greater take up of the service if Qi had been the chosen wireless technology.

So why go Powermat? I'm betting it's a result of knowledge of what's going to be i…

F1: Stephane Samson to Lotus J'Accuse

Stephane Samson was responsible for the Lotus team's social media policy until very recently. Now the Frenchman has claimed on Twitter that he was sacked for posting the tweet and attached image shown here.

It's a particularly difficult position for Lotus to be in. The events in Russia in the lead up to the Sochi games were unpleasant and the sentiment behind the message is entirely laudable. That does not mean that the team would have been quite so inflammatory with its message by choice.

Having been responsible for developing social media policies for organisations myself I find it highly unlikely that this sort of tweet would have fallen within the acceptable boundaries Samson would have been set for his role as the voice of Lotus on Twitter.

As such the posting of the image would have been gross misconduct and an entirely valid reason for his dismissal. Had Samson had the message reviewed by his seniors and had approval to proceed that would be an entirely different matte…

Ikeahackers Gets Bullied Off The Net - By Ikea

Ikea sells great furniture, Ikeahackers brings together a community of poeple who take what Ikea offers and uses it in new and creative ways. Not for much longer though, as Ikea has bullied the site off the web, threatening legal action unless the domain name is turned over to the Swedish company.

Despite the fact that Ikeahackers looks to have a perfectly valid defence against the action and a reasonably good chance of prevailing were this to be taken to court. The deep pockets and threat of lengthy and costly legal action against what is a relatively small blog means that Ikeahackers will disappear and resurface under a new. less descriptive name.

For a company which seems to be doing many good things this seems like a senseless action for Ikea to take, compromising their own good name and reputation and making enemies of the sort loyal customers that most businesses would kill to have.

I doubt that Ikea will rethink the action but perhaps if there's sufficient online backlash …

Black Cab v Mini Cab v Uber: Some Improvement Required

The Daily Telegraph ran an unscientific, but interesting, comparison of the performance of the different options for cab service in London, with the Black Cab winning for speed but losing spectacularly for cost. Addision Lee performed well above expectations, especially as the current highways regulations prevents their cars from running in Bus Lanes, which the Black Cab can do.

Uber didn't cover itself in glory, delivering a poor performance in time - nearly half an hour or 66% longer time to complete the journey - mostly due to the driver getting lost on the way to the pick-up.

The Uber car was a Prius, which probably does good things for the air quality in London, but can't match the economy of the diesel Galaxy used by Addison Lee. Doesn't promise a great experience for disabled passengers either.

All in an interesting watch.

Apple Security Change Not Entirely Altruistic?

One of the changes to iOS introduced at WWDC last week was the introduction of MAC address spoofing to prevent location tracking by services using Wifi networks.

These services use a feature of the wireless network handshake to plot your course along multiple wireless networks. Your phone transmits its MAC address (in effect the serial number of your Wifi hardware) to Wifi hotspots - whether you intend to connect to them or not.  With judicious placement of Wifi transmitters and software to log where and when these messages were sent, a service can track your progress in stores, shopping centres and even through the streets.

In iOS8 Apple has configured iPhone to transmit random MAC addresses to prevent this from happening.  An excellent move to improve the lot of the average iPhone user, you may be thinking.

Probably not.

I suspect the real reason for this move is that it prevents stores and malls getting information on location from services that aren't using iBeacon and theref…

The Best Smartphone You Can Buy? Maybe

The Verge has a great piece about smartphones today. David Pierce's article 'The Best Smartphone You Can Buy' is well written and makes good arguments for the iPhone 5S as that phone.

Whilst the arguments are good, there are some areas where David has plumped for hyperbole and sweeping statements over fact. His statement 'For most people, the iPhone 5S is just the best smartphone you can buy' just isn't correct.

For example, most people want a screen larger than 4" - even the staunchest Apple policy defender accepts that the new iPhone coming later this year will have a substantially bigger screen. This in itself gives the lie to the main thrust of the article.

Pierce also contradicts himself with some of his complaints about other phones - the Moto X is udnerpowered and 'only' has a 720p screen (compared to the iPhone?) and the Samsung GS5 is cheap and plasticky (as opposed to all the woeful cases that are required to prevent damage to the iPhone…

Samsung's Very Strange World Cup Movie

Samsung isn't an official World Cup supplier - that honour falls to Sony - nonetheless the events of the next month couldn't pass unnoticed. So here is the first half of Samsung's human vs aliens World Cup match, with Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney et al (or at least virtual versions of them) taking on an alien team to save the world.

It's a pretty bizarre thing I have to say. See what you think:

Uber v The Taxi: Disruption In Its Purest Form

Uber's business model looks pretty good. Provide you with an easy and convenient way of using your smartphone to book a cab, wherever you are. In effect Uber takes the role of the Minicab office and despatcher and gives control to its customers. Know that a cab is on its way and how long it's going to take to reach you. Know that the smartphone-toting cabbie is just a quick Google Maps search away from taking you to any destination. And Uber rakes in a tidy sum with each journey made.

It's exactly the sort of service all Londoners have been crying out for. Except the competition, of course, who face the bleak prospect of adapting or dying. Evolution was ever so.

Some cabbies aren't taking things lying down though. In London, drivers of licensed Hackney carriages - the London Black Cab to you - will be protesting about the challenge that Uber offers them. The argument the cabbies make is that Uber isn't a Mini Cab service because the driver's smartphone app op…

The Cloud Is Great Until It Isn't There Any More

I recently wrote about the importance of maintaining backups off-site, which for most home users means putting things into the cloud. And whilst the cloud is great for this redundant copy of your data, how about those cloud services where they are your primary storage point?

In recent days a number of cloud services have come under a co-ordinated distributed denial of service attack - or DDOS for short. In this scenario an attacker will use a number of machines (large numbers, usually controlled through a piece of software installed on the machine without the owners knowledge) to flood the victim's servers by initiating multiple false network connections. Ultimately the service is unable to respond to genuine network requests and the site appears to go dark.

When this happens to a web store or news site it's inconvenient to the user but no more. However if it's a cloud service that you use and suddenly can't access information from it can get very unpleasant very qui…

Keynote Putdowns - It's Not The Done Thing

One feature of Apple's keynotes that has always grated has been the trash talking of the competition. Especially as the recent patent trials with Samsung have exposed how Apple doesn't like receiving the same sort of treatment from its rivals.

Unfortunately this tradition has continued in the Tim Cook era. WWDC saw swipes at both Microsoft and Google for updates. Perhaps I don't like it because in Britain it's considered poor form to use negative advertising to promote a product against a rival. More so when you're skewing the truth using dodgy statistics.

For example Cook presented a slide which demonstrated the difference in take up of Mac OS X 10.9 against Windows 8.

The numbers look good for Apple - 51% adoption for OS X against 14% for Windows 8. Sounds great? Well we're not really comparing Apples to erm, Apples are we Tim? OS X Mavericks is a free update, whilst Windows 8 is a relatively expensive one. Would you expect anything different? In fact if you …

Apple Video Highlights Yosemite Look and Feel Changes

Apple's video highlighting the new look and feel being introduced with OS X Yosemite has been made widely available today.

The new system font, different iconography in applications and changes to Finder windows can all be seen. It's a evolutionary change that doesn't depart far from the look and feel of OS X when it was originally launched in 2000.

There's no hint that Apple is planning to further merge OS X and iOS to produce the sort of hybrid device that Windows 8 has popularised - or at least none of the changes suggest that making touch interaction easier were on the agenda.

The changes are discrete enough that they don't leap out at you, yet certainly seem to freshen the look of OS X.

F1: Perez/Massa Incident Needs Further Sanction

Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix finished under a yellow flag after an enormous accident between Force India's Sergio Perez and Williams' Felipe Massa. The accident occurred less than a lap from the end of the race and cost both teams heavily. The drivers were both okay, however the enormous impacts sustained (up to 27G) meant that both drivers were hospitalised.

After reviewing the incident the stewards found that Sergio Perez had illegally changed line under braking and penalised the Mexican five places on the grid for the next race. This punishment didn't even begin to fit the crime. Massa was indignant after the race, claiming that Perez had laughed at him whilst the two were in the medical centre. Subsequent tweets from Perez and his team suggest that they don't understand why they have been penalised.

This was a 300km/h approach into a corner with grandstands on the outside of turn two. Given the way that we have seen cars get airborne in these kinds of incident…

Foyles: The King is Dead, Long Live The King

I was shocked to hear that Foyles is closing the doors on its amazing Charing Cross bookshop and  only marginally pacified by the news that it is opening a new one a few hundred yards down the road.

Foyles was an independent bookshop, perhaps the largest, but certainly the one that most typified the experience of books in my youth. I remember well working my way through the shelves and shelves of books - some that looked like they hadn't been disturbed for decades.

Of course I wasn't just there to browse - my mother, refused to buy us birthday cards on principle. Instead we got to choose a book and had our birthday wishes inscribed in there instead. The books were always selected from Foyles, between that and the gratefully received book tokens from distant relatives meant that we were able to return to further browse the treasure troves shortly after. The same rules applied at Christmas.

The joy of Foyles was in the finding of some treasure that you never knew you wanted, or…

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini - Maybe You Don't Need That Big-ass Phone After All

Flagship phones are getting bigger and bigger. Which means that you get better screens, bigger batteries and higher specs. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing though. Those faster processors are required to move all those extra pixels about. The bigger batteries to power the bigger screens and faster processers.

The S4 Mini might just be a touch of common sense after all that excess. Like coming home to your apartment after a wild night of clubbing.

At 'just' 4.3" the S4 Mini's screen is dwarfed by the 5"+ screens that have become the norm. Yet even so, it manages to be handily bigger than the screen in the iPhone. That its dimensions are a straight match for the iPhone 5c shows that Samsung have done an excellent job of packaging the S4 Mini.

I'll come back to that comparison shortly.

The S4 Mini is pocket friendly in a way that the S5, Z2 and One M8 will never be. It manages to be as fluid as those more powerful phones, despite 'onl…

Why Cloud Backups Rule

Nobody ever loses important data twice. Usually if they aren't wise enough to listen to he advice and experience of others their first experience of getting bitten by the data loss monster is sufficiently painful to ensure they never want a repeat performance.

Not all backups are created equal though. I've lost count of he number of businesses that I've warned to keep an offsite copy of their data.  Fire, flood, theft or malicious action are small risks with big impacts if you have data backups stored onsite.

If you're a home user you're probably more lax about backups in general. If you have them they are almost certainly on a USB disk stored not far from your computer with the original data.

Friends of mine back in England learnt this week how foolish this could be.

Arriving home from the school run they found their alarm box smashed from the wall, a garden facing window smashed and their house ransacked. Including the laptop with most of their photos of their c…

Hey Siri! iOS Brings Voice Activation

One of the less heralded new features of iOS 8 has been the arrival of a Google Now-like voice activation for Siri. By shouting 'Hey Siri' at your iPhone you'll be able to start controlling it by voice.

This isn't going to be the total control option offered by the Motorola X, which always listens out for your key phrase. Current iPhones don't have the custom hardware that would stop this draining the battery at excessive levels.  Instead the feature will only be available when your phone is plugged in and charging. Which should work very well together with Hand-off, which allows you to utilise features on your iPhone through your Mac.

Of course it's highly unlikely that Apple would deliver such a clever feature in order for it to be crippled by a lack of hardware. So I'm treating this as a big clue that the new iPhone(s) will pack the necessary hardware to allow this feature to be fully utilized at all times.

Until then, you'll just have to console …

iCloud Drive: What Does It Mean For Dropbox?

Apple's WWDC keynote offered a view of how Apple intends to operate its business in the near to medium term future. Its big announcements aside, there was an interesting shot across the bows of Facebook's WhatsApp and cloud storage companies like Dropbox.

The implications for Dropbox - as well as other big names like Box and Mega - are interesting. Apple's iCloud service is probably one of its least effective services. Dropbox on the other hand has a pretty good reputation in the marketplace. It has also weathered competition from both Google and Microsoft to maintain its position.

Even allowing for iCloud's poor reputation it presents a far stronger competitor for Dropbox's core market. Apple customers are notoriously loyal and also happy to spend their money on related products. Added to Dropbox's excellent integration into the Mac OSX finder, it's entirely likely that Dropbox is reliant on Apple's customers for a high proportion of its paying custom…