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Beware: E-Cigs Can Give You Malware

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Specifically, Chinese-made e-cigarettes. If you plug them into your computer’s USB port to charge them up, you may be loading malware on your machine.

Many e-cigarettes can be charged over USB, either with a special cable, or by plugging the cigarette itself directly into a USB port. That might be a USB port plugged into a wall socket or the port on a computer – but, if so, that means that a cheap e-cigarette from an untrustworthy supplier gains physical access to a device.

A report on social news site Reddit suggests that at least one “vaper” has suffered the downside of trusting their cigarette manufacturer. “One particular executive had a malware infection on his computer from which the source could not be determined,” the user writes. “After all traditional means of infection were covered, IT started looking into other possibilities.

“The made in China e-cigarette had malware hardcoded into the charger, and when plugged into a computer’s USB port the malware phoned home and infected the system.”

Rik Ferguson, a security consultant for Trend Micro, says the story is entirely plausible. “Production line malware has been around for a few years, infecting photo frames, MP3 players and more,” he says. In 2008, for instance, a photo frame produced by Samsung shipped with malware on the product’s install disc.

Lovely.

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Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Haunting Melissa 2 Arrives in iTunes Store Thursday

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

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Dark Hearts:  The Secret of Haunting Melissa, should be available for download from the iTunes store this Thursday, the 20th, tomorrow as I write. This is the sequel to the innovative ghost story in an iOS app, created by Neal Edelstein and scripted by me. I haven’t seen the whole thing yet, but I’ve seen a lot of it and I can say without reservation that it looks absolutely terrific. Neal did a fabulous job with the material and so did the cast from the beautiful Kassia Warshawski — Melissa — on down.

Take a look at the trailer below, then get the app. It’s free though there are in-app purchases. If you have an Android…  dude, buy an iPhone.

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Google Glass Chief: Google Glass 4X Too Expensive

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

GLASSHOLE

That’s from the man himself, Astro Teller, head of the company’s Google X lab:

Wearables, from Glass to smartwatches, also need to be cheaper — a lot cheaper — before they go mainstream.

“Every time you drop the price by a factor of 2, you roughly get a 10 times pick up of the number of people who will seriously consider buying it,” Teller said in an interview at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. That means “two more rounds of halving in price” for most wearables before they’re an attractive buy.

For certain products, like $30 or $40 pedometers, a big price cut probably won’t make much of a difference, he said. “But for a $200 watch, or Glass, or anything in between, I think it’s sort of fair.”

For Google Glass, which costs $1,500 today, cutting the price in half twice would mean a drop to $375 — though the company said it couldn’t comment on a price target or timeline for any cut. But Google, which generated almost $60 billion in sales and $13 billion in profit last year, could absorb the cost cut — if it did want to make Glass a mainstream gadget rather than a novelty.

More than the price, Google needs to do something to reduce Glass’s Creep Factor,

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The $800 Million Hacking Threat from the North

Monday, November 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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From StrategyPage.com:

In late October South Korean intelligence reported that between May and September North Korea managed to distribute over 20,000 to South Korean smart phone users games containing spy software. The North Korean “spyware” was seeking information from banks as well as documents relating to reunification plans and defense matters. The spyware allowed the North Koreans to transfer data from the infected smart phone and secretly turn on the camera. The government reported that this effort has since been blocked. North Korea denied any involvement in this, as it usually does. But over the past few year the evidence has been piling up of increasing North Korean Internet based espionage via the Internet.

In late 2013 South Korea came up with a number (over $800 million) for the cost of dealing with North Korean cyber attacks since 2007.

Theft is the only way for thoroughly progressive governments like North Korea’s to stay in business. The trick is figuring out the best place to cut them off from their ill-gotten gains.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit, image illustration via shutterstock/

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Peanut Butter Diamonds?

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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I’m not sure exactly how to lead you into this story, so without any further ado

Diamonds are typically created more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) below Earth’s surface when temperatures over 2200 degrees Celsius (4000 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressure 1.3 million times greater than the atmosphere combine and crystallize carbon into the clear white stone we all know. Synthetic diamonds can replicate the process in a few short days, creating diamonds that are less politically-charged for use in jewelry, electronics, manufacturing, and more.

Dan Frost of Germany’s Bayerisches Geoinstitut has been creating diamonds out of a rather unlikely source of carbon: peanut butter.

Do you have any idea how many potential diamonds my kids have pooped in the last nine years?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Net Neutrality Isn’t

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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At Forbes:

Most things are not public policy issues, yet get turned into such. Obama’s letter is purely about taking a thriving enterprise — our wild and wonderful Internet — and turning it into a public utility (the legalistic details behind the scenes involve a “reclassification” of up-until-now free Internet services as a public utility).

Google, Yahoo, and the world of media are synergistic with service providers, and each is moving into the other’s territory in ways that foretell that none will escape this new regulatory regime. ISPs will holler today, but they’d all best beware.

It is irksome when politicians take credit for the creations of others, and set “rules” for the future that assure political involvement in what should be liberalized, non-politicized industries.

Microsoft spent the ’90s being proud of the fact that they never “paid to play” with Washington — and got whacked with an antitrust suit from which the company never recovered.

Now it’s the internet’s turn.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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We’re Landing on a Comet

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Saying it out loud makes it even cooler. Try it.

“We’re landing on a comet.”

More:

A miniature spacecraft cast off from its mother ship Wednesday to start a lonely, nerve-wracking descent to the rugged terrain of a comet.

The European Space Agency’s washing-machine-sized spaceship, named Philae, detached from its carrier just after 3:30 a.m. ET. It faced a seven-hour trip to the comet’s boulder-strewn surface, with no way to steer or turn back.

If it touches down safely, Philae will enter the record books as the first craft to make a safe landing on a comet.

It took ten years to get there, and what we learn will make it all worthwhile — if they can stick the landing.

Fingers crossed…

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit, Update from BBC News: “Probe makes historic comet landing”

The lander touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at about 1605 GMT.

There were cheers and hugs at the control room in Darmstadt, Germany, after the signal was confirmed.

It was designed to shine a light on some of the mysteries of these icy relics from the formation of the Solar System.

The landing caps a 6.4 billion-kilometre journey that was begun a decade ago.

“This is a big step for human civilisation,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the director-general of the European Space Agency (Esa).

 

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Coming Soon: Dark Hearts: The Secret of Haunting Melissa

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

Some of you were probably too busy voting Democrats out of office to notice that a terrific new trailer for the Haunting Melissa sequel came out on YouTube last week. HM was director Neal Edelstein’s innovative ghost-movie-in-an-app that climbed the App Store bestseller list in 2013. The script to that film was by your humble correspondent as is the script to the sequel, Dark Hearts: The Secret of Haunting Melissawhich is due out later this month:

YouTube Preview Image

Download the free app here.

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Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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Smart TV, Dumb Policy

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Via Red Flag News:

A 46-page privacy policy which is now included in all newly purchased Samsung Smart TVs states that voice recognition technology “may capture voice commands and associated texts” in order to “improve the features” of the system.

The policy, a summary of which is also posted online, ominously advises users to, “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

Writing about the privacy policy for Salon.com, Michael Price, counsel in the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said he was now “terrified” of his new TV, noting that voice recognition is just one feature that could be used to spy on users. The television also logs website visits, has a built-in camera for facial recognition and uses tracking cookies to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.”

“I do not doubt that this data is important to providing customized content and convenience, but it is also incredibly personal, constitutionally protected information that should not be for sale to advertisers and should require a warrant for law enforcement to access,” writes Price, adding that current privacy laws offer little protection against “third party” data.

You get the feeling Samsung needs to change this policy if the company wants to, you know, keep selling TVs?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Mario Knows When You Are Sleeping…

Friday, October 31st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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At PCWorld.com:

The Quality of Life (QOL) Sensor sits by a user’s bedside and monitors body movements, heart rate and breathing via radio waves. The non-contact unit then sends the data it gathers to cloud-based servers for analysis. Users can then access results that show their sleep and fatigue levels.

The system will also automatically make recommendations such as getting more exercise or changing one’s diet. The information would be made available on “smart devices,” Nintendo said, without elaborating whether that would include smartphones. However, dedicated video game systems could also be used to improve users’ quality of life, it said.

Nintendo really blew it with the Wii U — so badly that it looks to me like it might be the company’s last living room console. So it makes sense that Nintendo would branch out into new markets. But until they reveal more about how QOL works and exactly what it does, and if they can beat a whole host of similar Android and iOS devices to market, it’s impossible to know if they have anything unique or timely to offer.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit 

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Who Pays for Apple Pay?

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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It seems so simple: Plug your credit card information into your smartphone, which anonymizes your data, then uses your thumbprint and a “tap” at the register to authorize retail purchases. This should be win-win-win. You get added security and convenience, retailers get simplified payments, and banks get extra protection from fraud.

So why did drug store giants CVS and Rite Aid block Apple Pay (along with Google Wallet and Softcard) over the weekend? Here’s the story:

Objections to Apple Pay aren’t actually about convenience, reliability, or security—they are about a burgeoning war between a consortium of merchants, led by Walmart (WMT), and the credit card companies. Rite Aid, CVS, Walmart, Best Buy (BBY), and about 50 other retailers have been working on their own mobile payments system, called CurrentC. Unlike Apple Pay, which works in conjunction with Visa (V), MasterCard (MA), and American Express (AXP), CurrentC cuts out the credit card networks altogether. The benefit to the merchants is clear: They would save the swipe fees they now pay to the credit card companies, which average about 2 percent of the cost of transactions.

I feel for the CurrentC coalition on this one, since that 2% which is currently going to the giant ATM-issuing banks could easily double some of their retail profit margins. Retailing is a tough business even in the best of times, and these are certainly not the best of times.

Apple had this to say:

The feedback we are getting from customers and retailers about Apple Pay is overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. We are working to get as many merchants as possible to support this convenient, secure and private payment option for consumers. Many retailers have already seen the benefits and are delighting their customers at over 220,000 locations.

Somebody was going to put all the pieces of smartphone payments together. Google has been trying valiantly, but Android fragmentation hasn’t helped them, nor has Android’s main customer base of owners who use their Android smartphones merely as really nice feature phones — they just aren’t the vanguard users to establish new technology. Apple probably has a better shot at this, with a generally tech-savvier user base and with all those credit card companies on board, too.

The CurrentC coalition has… well, let’s just say I follow this stuff for a living, and this is only the second or third time I’ve read anything about CurrentC. And this time, they’re making what looks like a desperation play of blocking the competition, without having their own system ready to go as a real competitor. In fact, CurrentC looks like it’s too convoluted to ever catch on.

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It Was My Understanding There Would Be No Math

Friday, October 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MATH

There’s (almost) an app for that:

I’ve seen the future and it is math less and it is awesome and it is this PhotoMath app that solves math problems just by pointing your phone’s camera at them. It’s like a cross between a text reading camera, a supremely sophisticated calculator and well, the future. Point and solve and never do math again.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The End of the Tablet?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Apple’s results conference call on Monday revealed another record-breaking quarter with record-breaking iPhone and Mac sales, but iPad sales were down for the third straight quarter, and down Q2Q from a a year ago. Steve Jobs famously predicted that PCs were like trucks, tablets were like cars, and most people really only needed a car. Pros, he said, would keep using trucks for the heavy lifting, but the PC era was supposed to be over.

Microsoft can’t get anywhere with the Surface, and judging by app sales and web usage stats, the vast majority of el cheapo Android tablets go unused and unloved.

So is the tablet era over before it ever began?

Hard to say. iPad still generates huge profits, back to third behind Mac sales, with tens of millions sold each year. And the company is now taking a radical (for Apple) approach to the tablet market.

Previously, Apple sold only the new model of the full-size iPad, plus last year’s model at a discount and at a single memory tier. They then added the iPad mini to the lineup. A year later when the new iPad mini was introduced, the old model continued to sell, again at a discount and again at a single memory tier. That reduced shopping confusion for consumers and helped Apple keep their SKU count low. (“Steve hates SKUs,” I once joked.) Under the Old Regime, tablet prices started at $299 for last year’s iPad mini with minimal memory, and topped out at $929 for a maxed-out 128GB iPad Air.

Now things have changed. A lot.

The two-year-old original iPad mini is still for sale, now with two memory tiers to choose from, with the starting price reduced even further. Last year’s mini (with Retina Display) is also still on sale, at the usual $100 discount, and also with two memory tiers. The new iPad mini is at the usual price, and with the usual three memory tiers — but the top two tiers offer twice as much memory as before.

The iPad Air has gotten a similar treatment. Last year’s model? Two tiers, $100 off. This year’s model? Three tiers, with the top two tiers offering twice as much memory as before.

That’s a lot more choice than Apple usually offers in its consumer range.

The buy-in price for an iPad is now just $249 for a 16GB iPad mini. That’s $50 less than Apple has ever charged to let you into their ecosystem. But the top-end price for a new-generation 128GB iPad Air has dropped from $929 to $829. The product range has expanded from four two five, but the pricing scheme has both dropped and compressed. So prices are down, value is up, and the product range has increased. As a shareholder, I’m also pleased that Apple has managed to do all that in a way which should protect its enviable profit margins.

Is it enough to boost sales again, or at least forestall further declines?

That’s the Big Unanswerable, but Apple’s new strategy shows they are nowhere close to giving up on the product category they redefined from Microsoft’s original vision of “Windows-with-a-stylus” to “the touch computer for anybody.”

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Will You Buy a Hoverboard Someday? Now You Can for $10K

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Hat Tip: The Guardian

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The Yosemite Mini Review

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

YOSEMITE

Here it is: John Siracusa’s bathysphere-deep review of OS X Yosemite. For rabid Mac lovers, skip my mini review and delve into all 25 pages of his. As always, he’s amazing.

My initial impression is twofold, the new features and the new look. Everything feels snappier, or at least as snappy as before. The new “Handoff” feature, allowing me to pick up my work seamlessly as I move from Mac to iPhone to iPad and back throughout the day — this is Mac crack, is what it is. The Spotlight search tool is now out of its upper-right-corner ghetto and is a fully-integrated experience. Moving search to front-and-center is long overdo, but it was worth the wait. I can’t say more yet, because I haven’t really had a chance to dig into Yosemite yet. For that stuff, go see Siracusa.

I love the new look, other than a few minor quibbles. That new Share button for instance looks just as ill-conceived and badly-proportioned in iOS as it has for the last year in OSX. Feh. And the Safari menu bar… it’s cohesive, but the Extensions buttons should be slightly smaller than the URL bar, for differentiation and ease of navigation. I’m also no fan of truncated URLs in the URL bar, but that’s the direction every major browser is taking. It doesn’t make much difference to people who just browse, but for those of us who live and work and practically breathe in our web browsers, it hides information we need to see at a glance. We can only hope it’s a short-lived trend.

Calendar got whacked, repeatedly, by the same Ugly Stick they used on the iOS version. There’s nothing wrong with the function, and there’s plenty right, too. But it’s just so eye-bleeding ugly that this might be when I finally upgrade to the much-beloved Fantastical.

And that’s about it for complaints.

My worries about transporting the iOS7/8 look to OS X were ill-founded. What could often seem busy and crowded on my tiny iPhone screen looks big, bold, clean, and most of all fresh on a 24″ screen. I get the feeling that the new look was designed with desktop screens and with the bigger iPhone 6-series screens in mind.

The new dock and its app icons are so clear and easy to read, that I was able to comfortably shrink it to a significant degree on my 24″ desktop display, freeing up valuable real estate. The same was not true on the 13″ display on my laptop.

I plan on writing up my industry-wide observations about the do’s and don’ts of translucencies at a later date.

Quibbles and minor complaint aside though, in the end I have to tell you that the new bells & whistles, and the low, low price of $0 make Yosemite an irresistible upgrade.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ring my new bells and blow my new whistles a bit more.

UPDATE: Digging through Safari’s settings, I discovered you can force it to reveal full URLs in the URL bar. That removes my only functional complaint about the new version of the browser.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The 10 Coolest Sci-Fi Technologies and How Close They Are to Reality

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

The cell phone. The tablet. The touchscreen interface. All were once figments of imagination portrayed in science fiction. But for every imagined sci-fi technology that becomes realized, many more remain outside our grasp. Some are peaking over the horizon, while their most promising applications remain untold years away. Here are the 10 coolest sci-fi technologies, and how close they are to reality.

10. Terraforming

What It Is: While scientists have located planets with characteristics essential to supporting life, to date, the search for a habitable planet has confirmed nothing. If human beings hope to survive on a planet other than Earth without remaining confined to artificial structures, we will have to engineer methods to transform alien planets into Earth-like ones. That process is called terraforming.

Why It’s Cool: We live in a time when no real frontier remains. With the exception of the ocean’s most obscure depths, human beings have been everywhere on Earth. The ability to successfully terraform, combined with interstellar travel, would open up the galaxy to human colonization. That would provide those with the necessary means and pioneer spirit to seek new worlds where human freedom could be explored anew.

How Close to Reality: Pretty far. Terraforming Mars, the only planet in our solar system which stands as a reasonable candidate for the process, would take “several millennia” utilizing currently hypothesized methods. Giant orbital mirrors would reflect sunlight to the surface, and greenhouse gas-producing factories would work to heat and sustain the atmosphere. Basically, it’s Al Gore’s worst nightmare.

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How Many Hours Of Internet Per Day Qualifies as an ‘Addiction’?

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

From Mediaite yesterday, “Man Gets Treated for Addiction to Google Glass“:

Addiction to technology is a real thing. So is internet addiction. But a man who was admitted to the Navy’s Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Program recently may have one of the first ever-cases of an addiction to Google Glass.

Yeah, those digital glasses that in no way make you look pretentious or detached from the real world.

A recent paper by the National Institutes of Health explains this rather odd case. This unnamed man suffered from internet addiction disorder and, they write, “exhibited problematic use of Google Glass.”

From Tech Times yesterday: “When technology gets addicting: Internet, Smartphones, Google Glass and more”

Technology addiction is becoming more common, becoming a serious problem for those people and families caught in the issue.

The Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program is currently treating a patient for addiction to the new Google Glass eyewear, in addition to alcohol. The unidentified 31-year-old male reportedly used the technology for 18 hours a day, reporting irritability and frustration when he was unable to use the equipment. He only removed the device from his body while sleeping and bathing.

Technology addiction goes well beyond its most recent history with Google Glass. Internet addiction has been recorded for years by psychologists, beginning soon after development of the network. Internet Use Disorder (IUD) is now recognized by many mental health workers, although it has yet to be recognized as a diagnosis in the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Many other addictions, such as gambling and shopping, can also be compounded by Internet use.

Are you addicted to the internet? Do you have good excuses to justify and deny it? Will it get worse if you acquire a device like Google Glass? What do you foresee for the coming decade’s technological changes?

Or do you challenge the whole concept of internet or technology addiction?

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image illustration via shutterstock /  

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Can Microsoft Be Saved?

Sunday, October 12th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MICROSOFT

That almost seems like a silly question for a company 100,000 employees, two massive cash cows with Windows and Office, and what is probably the world’s best cloud service. Nevertheless, that’s what Bethany McLean is asking in a Vanity Fair interview with former Softie CEO Bill Gates and current Softie CEO Satya Nadella:

“The way I think about success is our relevance,” says Nadella.

Relevance, however, is exactly what Microsoft doesn’t have, according to its critics. “The Irrelevance of Microsoft” is actually the title of a blog post by an analyst named Benedict Evans, who works at the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. On his blog, Evans pointed out that Microsoft’s share of all computing devices that we use to connect to the Internet, including P.C.’s, phones, and tablets, has plunged from 90 percent in 2009 to just around 20 percent today. This staggering drop occurred not because Microsoft lost ground in personal computers, on which its software still dominates, but rather because it has failed to adapt its products to smartphones, where all the growth is, and tablets. Even Microsoft’s new chairman of the board, a former IBM executive named John Thompson, told Fortune last winter that “there are some attributes to Microsoft today that do look vaguely like IBM circa 1990.”

During its ’80s and ’90s heyday, Microsoft wasn’t so much relevant as it was necessary. During the ’80s, the personal computer market was so fractured that individual companies made product lines which weren’t even compatible with their own other product lines. Commodore went from the PET to the VIC-20 to the C64 to the Plus 4 (remember that stinker?) to the C128, and only an awkward emulation mode allowed the C128 to run C64 software. The other computers might have well have come from different planets. Apple? Same story with the Apple II, Apple III (another stinker), Lisa, and Mac. By the early ’90s, Apple couldn’t even keep Mac OS fully modern.

But there was Microsoft, producing one OS and boatloads of good enough software for most anything running on a x86 chip. Then along came the internet, allowing anything to share data with anything, and Microsoft (after a late entry into the Browser Wars) was there to take advantage. The resulting network effects turned computers from little boxes people worked or played on by themselves, into a massive global productivity machine.

Whatever you think of Microsoft’s products then or now, somebody had to get done what Redmond got done, and we’re all better off for it. But Microsoft missed the boat repeatedly in mobile and tablets, and the company’s necessary job has been complete now for 15 years.

I don’t doubt Microsoft will be making a lot of money for a long time to come, but it will likely never be what it once was.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Why Samsung Sings the Blues

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Via Recode.net:

The company said it would report an operating profit of $3.8 billion for the quarter ending in September — a decline of nearly 60 percent from the same time a year earlier. Sales fell to $44 billion, off 20 percent from a year ago.

The preliminary guidance, which Samsung issued ahead of its quarterly report, due later this month, failed to meet the $5.2 billion average profit estimate of 43 analysts pulled by Thomson Reuters.

The South Korean electronics giant said that while smartphone shipments increased, its operating margins fell because of higher marketing costs, fewer shipments of high-end phones and a lower average selling price for the devices.

The company said it is responding with a new smartphone lineup that will include new midrange and low-end devices, which would make Samsung’s products more competitive in markets such as China.

Scrambling for low-margin sales against even lower-margin competitors in a low-margin market doesn’t seem like the best way to increase margins.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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D-I-V-O-R-C-E for H-P

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Samsung, HP Pop-Tops Do Laptop Double Duty

HP is spinning off its PC & printer divisions into a new company:

The company said Monday that the PC and printer business will use the name HP Inc. The services business will be called Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.

HP CEO Meg Whitman will lead the Enterprise business. HP PC and printer chief Dion Weisler will be CEO of HP Inc.

“The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan,” Whitman said. “It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics.”

The split, if approved by the company board, is expected to close by the end of fiscal 2015. Once complete, HP stockholders will own shares of both companies.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has a shot at restoring some of HP’s former glory, but HP Inc is at an evolutionary dead end.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Are Cell Phones the New Cigarettes?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I thought about this question as I read this CNBC article about people cutting back on food, healthcare and other items in order to afford their cell phones:

Nearly half of Americans have cut back on spending, including for travel, food and health care, in order to afford their technology.

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that 49 percent of the 805 respondents economize to afford technology. The nationwide survey, with margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent, found the top way to save for technology, chosen by about a third, is to cut back on traditional entertainment such as movies and restaurants. But 20 percent report cutting back on clothing, 11 percent purchase less food and 10 percent have reduced spending on health care….

When it comes to which technology is the most important, Americans clearly choose the cellphone. Asked which bills they definitely would pay if they ran into hard times, 39 percent said they would make sure to get a check in the mail for their cellphones, compared with 28 percent for Internet services and 20 percent for pay television, such as satellite or cable. But just 46 percent felt totally committed to paying their credit card bills, just five points above the response for paying for cellphone bills.

By contrast, 92 percent say the definitely would pay their mortgage or rent bill and 90 percent would make sure to pay the utility bills. Seniors were the most committed to paying the cable bill.

It used to be that people with less money were always talking about how broke they were but always seemed to have plenty of cash when it came time to buy cigarettes (or booze for that matter). Now, people have money for the iPhone 6 Plus and less for food and health care. With so many people giving up smoking, the addiction has turned to technology. And face it, the government and taxpayers might spot you on food and health care, but that new iPhone? Probably not as likely, though still somewhat of a possibility.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image via shutterstock/

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A Cock & Ball Story

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

BALL GAME

At Kens5.Com:

Testicular cancer survivor Thomas Cantley is pushing a giant ball across America to raise awareness for men’s health.

He quit his job and sold his house to push a six-foot ‘testicle’ from Los Angeles to New York City after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, according to his website.

He’s travelled more than 1,500 miles so far, but the story doesn’t say how much money he’s raised. “Awareness” is a more difficult measure, but there is a giant rolling testicle involved.

Traveling slightly north, we have this potentially related story from Wake Forest:

Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are assessing engineered penises for safety, function and durability. They hope to receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and to move to human testing within five years.

Professor Anthony Atala, director of the institute, oversaw the team’s successful engineering of penises for rabbits in 2008. “The rabbit studies were very encouraging,” he said, “but to get approval for humans we need all the safety and quality assurance data, we need to show that the materials aren’t toxic, and we have to spell out the manufacturing process, step by step.”

The penises would be grown using a patient’s own cells to avoid the high risk of immunological rejection after organ transplantation from another individual. Cells taken from the remainder of the patient’s penis would be grown in culture for four to six weeks.

This is great news for men with congenital defects or disfiguring injuries, but I fear what will happen when the porn industry inevitably gets hold of this technology.

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cross-posted from Vodkapunditimage via Instagram

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That’s a Bug, Not a Feature

Monday, October 6th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MIND THE GAP

9to5Google has the latest …innovation… from Samsung:

Yesterday we reported that Samsung’s earlier-than-planned September 26th launch of its new Galaxy Note 4 had been met with complaints from customers regarding a ‘screen gap’ manufacturing issue. Today, a reference discovered in Samsung’s Note 4 manual confirms that the gap is actually a feature, not a flaw (via AndroidCentral).

The manual’s troubleshooting section has the following mention of the gap around the screen noting that it’s “a necessary manufacturing feature.”

A small gap appears around the outside of the device case… This gap is a necessary manufacturing feature and some minor rocking or vibration of parts may occur… Over time, friction between parts may cause this gap to expand slightly.

So that settles it. It’s a feature, not a flaw, and it could get worse (better?) over time.

In other words, Samsung couldn’t figure out how to manufacture their new flagship, shipped it out anyway, and are telling their customers that the big-ass flaw is really a “feature.”

They are without a doubt the shittiest major electronics manufacturer in the world, devoid of ideas, and in this case at least, ruthless in their disdain for their customers.

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BlackBerry: The Endgame

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

shutterstock_76097833

That’s what Jean-Louis Gassée is calling it, although it’s certainly been long in coming:

It wasn’t until 2010 that RIM acquired QNX, a “Unix-ish” operating system that was first shipped in 1982 by Quantum Software Systems, founded by two Waterloo University students. Why did Lazaridis’ company take three years to act on the sharp, accurate recognition of its software problem? Three years were lost in attempts to tweak the old software engine, and in fights between Keyboard Forever! traditionalists and would-be adopters of a touch interface.

Adapting BlackBerry’s applications to QNX was more complicated than just fitting a new software engine into RIM’s product line. To start with, QNX didn’t have the thick layer of frameworks developers depend on to write their applications. These frameworks, which make up most of the 700 megabytes Lazaridis saw in the iPhone’s software engine, had to be rebuilt on top of a system that was well-respected in the real-time automotive, medical, and entertainment segment, but that was ill-suited for “normal” use.

To complicate things, the company had to struggle with its legacy, with existing applications and services. Which ones do we update for the new OS? which ones need to be rewritten from scratch? …and which ones do we drop entirely?

In reality, RIM was much more than three years behind iOS (and, later, Android). Depending on whom we listen to, the 2007 iPhone didn’t just didn’t stand on a modern (if incomplete) OS, it stood on 3 to 5 years of development, of trial and error.

BlackBerry had lost the software battle before it could even be fought.

The reason BlackBerry fell so far behind is that they failed back in 2003-04 — when iPhone development began in earnest — to imagine what could be done with the faster processors and bigger screens they had to know were coming. They seemed to think that a great email client and a crappy web browser were all anybody would want on their phones. By the time the iPhone came out, it may have already been too late. Worse, the company then spent years battling over which direction to take — keyboards or touchscreens, QNX or BlackBerry 100. In fact, BlackBerry still hasn’t figured out which direction to go — but the rest of us know exactly which way.

Counterclockwise, down the drain.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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