Tag Archives: IT

If you want to get started doing coding and you don’t know anything about coding, then do this


If you want to get started doing coding and you don’t know anything about coding, then do this tutorial: How To Build a Website with HTML | DigitalOcean

I say this for a few reasons:

  • It’s a thorough step by step guide to building a website. You will learn quite a bit about HTML by the time you are done, but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed or that you are missing things.
  • This should be approachable by anyone from age 10 to 110. (Maybe 5 to 115…I don’t know. You get the idea.)
  • You will also learn about developer tools, in this case, Visual Studio Code. A text editor is fine too, but learning new tools and how to effectively use them is better.
  • If you go here, you will learn how to host it using Digital Ocean and Github. So not only will you build a website, but you can show it off to your family and friends, too 🙂
  • Lots of good practices in here including in this tutorial. Always a plus.
  • Once you know how to build a website, you can use this as a basis to go on to learn more about HTML, CSS, Javascript and more. Building a web site is a good set of foundational skills if you want to get into coding.

Give it a try. Even if you already know a bit of HTML: you might find your skills much increased by the time you are done.

(Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

One way to backup your files is to the cloud


I haven’t tried this yet, but I am seriously considering it. I already use AWS for other things, so it might be time to see if I can archive old files that I rarely use but don’t want to delete. I don’t feel like getting more hardware, and I don’t have much confidence in Apple’s iCloud. So this might be the solution: ​How to Use Amazon Glacier as a Dirt Cheap Backup Solution.

And if I go that route, I will need tools. This article should give me the information  I need for that: The Best Tools for Uploading Files to Amazon Glacier – Digital Inspiration.

(Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash)

Everything you want to know about COBOL, but were afraid to ask

Here’s 13 links to get you started learning more about COBOL. It’s got some old school stuff and some cool cloud stuff, too.

  1. Here’s a good piece that should convince you to get into COBOL: I Took a COBOL Course and I Liked It
  2. As is this: Don’t hate COBOL until you’ve tried it | Opensource.com
  3. Convinced? Try this: Build your first COBOL application – IBM Developer
  4. Or if you are an AWS fan: toricls/cobolambda: Serverless COBOL on AWS Lambda.
  5. More COBOL in the cloud: Learn how to run COBOL in a cloud native way – IBM Developer
  6. This site has tutorials….COBOL Tutorial – Tutorialspoint
  7. …and syntax information: COBOL – Basic Syntax – Tutorialspoint
  8. Here’s some useful source code: IBM/kubernetes-cobol: A Code Pattern to teach how to run a COBOL program on Kubernetes
  9. Here’s some perspective: On the past, present, and future of COBOL – Increment: Programming Languages
  10. More source: 3 open source projects keeping COBOL alive and well | Opensource.com
  11. More courses: COBOL Programming Course
  12. More on COBOL: Open Mainframe Project Helps Fill the Need for COBOL Resources – Open Mainframe Project
  13. Now you’re skilled, get yourself a mainframe! Get hands-on COBOL development experience with IBM Z software trials – IBM Developer

Send me a link to your Github repo once you are done and I’ll add it here!

On turning an old Windows laptop into a Chromebook for my son’s virtual school

For my son’s virtual classroom, most of his work is being done using Google’s cloud services. I’ve decided to take an old T420 laptop that was in the basement and turn it into a Chromebook for him to use. So far it’s going ok.

If you are interested in doing something similar, I found this article on PC World very detailed and good for all skill levels. (I’ve read a half dozen pieces and the ones I reviewed all pretty much said the same things.) All you will need is an old PC (or maybe an old Mac), a 16 GB USB stick, and some patience. 🙂

I haven’t wiped the Windows OS yet: I booted up the 420 and told it to load the OS from the USB stick. (This part will differ from machine to machine.) With the 420 it’s easy: just hold down the blue button on top of the keyboard and let it go into setup mode and then follow the prompts.

I can’t say that the user experience is fast. It’s….not terrible. Still slow. But once things come up, it should be good.

More from me as new results come in.

Oct 19: so far so good with the Chromebooks. I ended up wiping the old OS and installing the ChromeOS on the disk drive. One odd thing: there is no notification that the installation is complete. So I recommend you start it, leave it for 30 minutes or so, then reboot the laptop. It should come up with the new OS.

One nice thing about it is that my son has Chrome settings (e.g. bookmarks) specific to his Gmail account. So when he logs into the Chromebook, I can set up the bookmarks specifically for his e-learning (e.g., I have links to all his courses on the bookmark).

The other thing I like about converting old laptops into Chromebooks is that the screen and keyboard is often better than most Chromebooks. For example, I turned a T450 into a Chromebook and I love typing on it.

Finally, old laptops are relatively cheap. You can get T420 for under $300, and T450s for around $350, which is cheaper than many (though not all Chromebooks). Better still, I bet many people have an old PC lying around doing nothing. Make it into a Chromebook and give it to someone who could use it.

 

 

It’s my IBM Anniversary

Every October 3rd I mark my anniversary starting working at IBM. Back then, I took a 1 hour commute via the “Red Rocket” to 245 Consumers Road in Willowdale (now Toronto) to start work in the tape library (which looked a lot like the photo above).

What else was happening with IBM back then? Only the advent of the IBM PC. Here’s a story on it here.

Do you need to generate a QR code? Here’s a tool to do that

This web site will generate a range of QR codes for you, and has some nice bells and whistles, too. For example, here’s mine:

With the pandemic, QR codes are becoming essential for any contactless transactions. Get yours there.

 

The one use I can see from the new internal drone from Amazon

Should you get one of these for your home? If you are interested, here’s two pieces on the new drone from Amazon you should read:

  1. Times 
  2. ZDnet

Most people I’ve read say: “LOL. No! Are you crazy?” I agree,  with one exception. I would strongly discourage people for getting one for their primary residence. But if they had a second property (a cottage or a business), then I would encourage it. I might also encourage it for people living in a big property. Any time where the risk of privacy intrusion is secondary to the risk from break ins or other property damage is the time I would encourage it.

It’s interesting technology. I predict stories about privacy problems in the next year, though I could be wrong. Amazon could have done a great job of dealing with privacy concerns. We will see.

Programming is on a spectrum, or how programming is like running

Programming is on a spectrum.  I have felt for some time. That said, I liked this article by Paul Ford, one of the best writers on IT that I know: ‘Real’ Programming Is an Elitist Myth | WIRED.  His and my thoughts overlap. First, yes you can do real programming/coding with simple tools. Anyone who writes their own HTML, Javascript, simple bash scripts or basic Python scripts is really programming. Heck, I argue that what people do in Microsoft Excel is a form of programming.

If you wanted to step up from small pieces of code, you could get a book like this and write all sorts of useful code. 

 

(That’s a great book, by the way.)

However there is a very wide spectrum for programming, and some people are very advanced in the form of programming they do. That should also be acknowledged. The work I do automating tasks by writing Python scripts is very different than the work done by people writing operating systems or other difficult tasks.

I like to think of it like running. If you run, you are a runner. End of story. If you work at running, you can enter a big race like the New York City Marathon and you will be with a range of runners from the very best in the world to people who will finish many hours later. The first and the last are all marathon runners, and the last are as real a runner as the first.

Same with programming. If you program, you are a programmer. You are as real a programmer as the person writing new code for the Linux operating system. Just like you can always get better as a runner, you can always get better as a programmer. It just depends on what you want to put into it and what you want to get out of it.

Lenovo’s new laptops: now with leather

 

Now I am not sure who needs this. But if you need a new lap top and you want something fancier, perhaps you need this new Lenovo leather bound laptop You can see it here.

The new Amazon Halo Health and Wellness Band

I must say, the new Amazon wearable device looks nice. And so is the price.

That said, before you buy one, you might want to Google: Amazon Halo privacy

From a practical point of view, I think I will stick with my Fitbit wearables and my Fitbit Aria scale. The scale especially: why would one want to go through the trouble of taking photos of themselves to determine their body fat when they can just step on a scale?

If you want a bit more information on this device, here’s one link: Amazon Halo Health & Wellness Band | Uncrate

Ok, you have a web page or a web site. Here’s how can you make it look better in no time


All you have to do is follow the instructions outlined in this piece by Anna Powell-Smith: How to Make Your Site Look Half-Decent in Half an Hour

The instructions are from 2012 but they still works really well! I took a bunch of the ideas from it to recently jazz up my web site, berniemichalik.com.

You don’t need special tools or deep HTML or CSS skills. Just follow along and you will have a much better looking web site in..well…30 minutes.

(Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash)

A collection of simple Apple scripts that I find useful to provide me encouragement during the workday (and you might too)

A long time ago, Sam Sykes tweeted this idea:

Roomba, except it is a little robot that comes into your room and says “hey, man, you’re doing okay” and I guess maybe he has a glass of water for you

I thought: what a great idea! Now I didn’t build a special Roomba, but I did build a list of Apple Scripts that offer something similar. If you are curious, you can see them here in github.

I found them useful when working from home during the pandemic. Hey, every little bit helps.

Small Victories, or how to build your own website very simply

You need to build a web site? Consider Small Victories. As they say:

Small Victories takes files in a Dropbox folder and turns them into a website.

Best of all, they can help you build a variety of different sites, from a blog to a home page to e-commerce.

The site explains it very well, so visit Small Victories and see how it’s done.

Found via Swiss Miss. Thanks, Tina!

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What is the equivalent of “Hello, World” for github?


This: Hello World · GitHub Guides.

If you wanted to learn how to use GitHub but felt unsure or anxious, this is a nice little tutorial on how to do it. You don’t need additional tools or deep skills or even be a programmer.

Well worth a visit.

(Image by Richy Great)

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On the Apple Cube, a wonderful failure

It’s hard to believe that this computer (see above), that is in the MoMA no less, was a failure. But as this piece shows, it was one of Apple’s least successful computers for a number of reasons: 20 Years Ago, Steve Jobs Built Apple’s G4 Cube. It Bombed | WIRED.

Beautiful design, but not a great product. Every company has those from time to time. Apple was no exception.

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Two interesting IT trends and one novel thing: iPhone 11s in India, Siemens doubles down on WFH, and you can run Windows 95 PC inside Minecraft and play Doom with it.

The good folks at itbusiness.ca have a podcast called Hashtag Trending and today they talked about two interesting IT trends and one novel thing: iPhone 11s in India; Windows 95 PC inside Minecraft; Siemens doubles down on WFH. Here’s an excerpt:

Apple is building iPhone 11s in southern India. The move comes as Apple has been looking to shift some of its manufacturing away from China amid US-China trade war and disruptions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple already assembles two other models in India — the iPhone XR and iPhone 7. ….

… A new modification has been created for the game Minecraft allowing players to order computer parts from a satellite orbiting around a Minecraft world and build a computer that actually runs Windows 95 and other operating systems. According to the Verge the mod uses VirtualBox, which is free and open-source virtual machine software, to run operating systems like Windows 95. All you have to do within Minecraft is place a PC case block and then use it to create virtual hard drives to install operating systems from ISO files.

And lastly, Reuters is reporting that German conglomerate Siemens says it’s going to allow employees to “work from anywhere” for two or three days a week, and focus on “outcomes” rather than time spent in the office. Days after the recent announcement, the company says it was giving its over 100,000 employees access to a new app that provides local data on the COVID-19 situation, shows office occupancy levels and acts as a contact tracing tool. This of course is just the latest enterprise announcing its intentions for the post-COVID-world, following in the footsteps of Twitter, Facebook, OpenText and others, which have made their own announcements around remote work for employees moving forward.

It’s really remarkable how much thought provoking stuff is jammed in here. I find itbusiness.ca a good way to keep up with IT business news, regardless of what country you live in. Worth subscribing too for sure.

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Microsoft tries again in the phone business with the Surface Duo

And Verge has the story on this device…


…here: Microsoft’s Surface Duo looks like it’s ready to launch – The Verge.

Who knows if the world is ready for a Microsoft Phone or a Dual Screen Phone. I predict that dual screen phones like this will become more common in the next few years. Unlike some of the foldable screen phones, this one looks more durable, which will help. As well, phone makers need new designs to entice people to upgrade. And people will want the next new thing (though maybe not from Microsoft). All this adds up to more of these in the hands of cell phone users in the next few years.

That said, I am terrible at making predictions!  But I predict this will see some form of success. 🙂

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The Segway, the last big hyped thing of the dot com era, is no more

To be honest, I am surprised it lasted this long! I do remember the incredible hype surrounding it during the end of the dot com era. Then it came out, and the dot com era bubble burst, and so did the hype surrounding it.

It’s good for anyone to go through a bubble: it’s a good insulation against future bubbles. So RIP, Segway: you were part of one of my first big bubbles*: Segway, the most hyped invention since the Macintosh, ends production.

* The first biggish bubbles I went through was the AI bubble in the late 80s, early 90s. Anyone working in tech will likely go through many such bubbles in their life time.

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Remember Blackberry?

You don’t see too many BlackBerry mobile phones any more. But that doesn’t mean the end of BlackBerry the company. As you can see from this, they are alive and well making technology for automakers: BlackBerry QNX now in 175 million cars | IT Business

Here’s some key facts:

BlackBerry says its QNX suite is now in 175 million cars, up from the 150 million it announced at CES this year.

The BlackBerry QNX for automotive is a suite of embedded software solutions, including operating systems and middleware, as well as a host of security solutions that protects the vehicle’s systems from cybersecurity attacks. Vehicle manufacturers that don’t want to build their own secure operating systems can use BlackBerry’s QNX operating systems and frameworks to build their ADAS systems.

 

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Which technology has lasted since 1995, 25 years ago


This is interesting. In reflecting upon Java’s 25th birthday, this article looks at what else has lasted since that then: Java’s 25th birthday prompts a look at which tech products have survived since 1995 – TechRepublic.

You might think that very little has lasted that long. And it’s true, many technologies have died. (Altavista for one.) But many technologies continue to succeed and grow. Amazon, for starters.  Java itself still is found in computers all over the world. Check out the piece and see what lives and what died since the mid 90s, when the World Wide Web came into its own.

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On the evolution of technologies

This is a great piece on understanding technology: The best is the last — Benedict Evans. One thing I love about it is that it illustrates its point by using non-digital technology. I tend to think of information and digital technology when I think of tech. This piece overturns that and talks about planes and ships.

And what is the point it is illustrating? Namely, this:

The development of technologies tends to follow an S-Curve: they improve slowly, then quickly, and then slowly again. And at that last stage, they’re really, really good. Everything has been optimised and worked out and understood, and they’re fast, cheap and reliable. That’s also often the point that a new architecture comes to replace them.

Smart piece. Once I read it, I wanted to apply the lessons to other technology too.

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If you are struggling with your iPhone because of the pandemic…

Then you need to upgrade your phone. Why? This:  Apple rolls out iOS 13.5 with COVID-19 features | Engadget

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How good is the new iPhone SE


According to this, it is shockingly good value. You might find that hard to believe, since if you think it looks an iPhone 8, you are right. As the Verge writes, the new SE has…

the iPhone 8’s body, the iPhone 11’s processor, and the iPhone XR’s camera system with a few new capabilities.

So a bit of a combo of different features, all adding up to something many people will be happy to move to.

I have always been happy when Apple puts out lower cost products, because they are never bad, and they put more Apple devices in the hands of people who otherwise might not be able to afford them. I think the new SE will be no exception.

Good phone to get if you are due for an upgrade.

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On specific Agile (software development) traps

There’s much positive to be said about the benefits of Agile software development, and the shift of software development teams is one sign that many feel this way.

However, I think there are some limits to Agile, and this leads teams to fall into certain traps over and over. Indeed, the Wikipedia page highlights a common criticism of Agile, namely:

Lack of overall product design
A goal of agile software development is to focus more on producing working software and less on documentation. This is in contrast to waterfall models where the process is often highly controlled and minor changes to the system require significant revision of supporting documentation. However, this does not justify completely doing without any analysis or design at all. Failure to pay attention to design can cause a team to proceed rapidly at first but then to have significant rework required as they attempt to scale up the system. One of the key features of agile software development is that it is iterative. When done correctly design emerges as the system is developed and commonalities and opportunities for re-use are discovered.

Now, it’s not the case that teams either do design or not. But I have seen that there are a number of specific traps bigger that Agile teams fall into that arise from lack of design. These traps arise from making tactical or limited decisions outside of a larger framework or structure, which isn’t surprising since Agile followers are guided by the principles that the “best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams” and “working software is the primary measure of progress”. Unfortunately what I’ve seen that lead to is:

  • Poor middleware/database system decisions: with this trap, you get teams making a decision on deploying a specific middleware package or database system that will support the software development they are doing. However, while that may be great for the Dev, it may not be great for the Ops. If you have enough teams making tactical decisions, you may end up with a more complex system than is necessary and greater technical debt that you want. Once you get enough data into your database systems, trying to reverse the decision may result not result not only in new development and testing, but a small (or not so small) migration project as well.
  • Poor infrastructure decisions: likewise, with this Agile trap I have seen teams using IaaS pick different images to deploy their software onto. Like the database problem, developers may choose one operating system (e.g. Windows) over another (e.g. Debian) because they are comfortable with the former, even if the production environment is more of the latter. The result can be your organization ending up with multiple VMs with many different operating systems to support and thereby increasing the operational costs of the system.
  • Poor application framework decisions: I see less of this one, although it can happen where teams pick an assortment of application frameworks to use in creating their software, and as with middleware and infrastructure, this will drive up the support effort down the road.

Given these traps, I think the way to avoid them is to inject some specific design phases into the overall software development lifecycle. One way to do that is to revisit a software development lifecycle (see diagram below) used by practitioners at IBM and documented in places like this IBM redbook. It has a waterfall quality about it, but it doesn’t have to be limited to waterfall type projects. It can be highly iterative.

The lifecycle process is shown here (taken from the redbook):

 

GSMethod

The part of the lifecycle in the large box is iterative and not all that different from an agile sprint.  But here you take time to explicitly make design / architecture decisions before building  software. You continue to iterate while making important design decisions before building.

Now, before you start your iterative software development lifecycle, you should need to  make specific architectural decisions. You should make these specific decisions in the solution outline and macro design phase. For smaller teams, these two phases may blend into one. But it is here in solution outline and macro design where you make decisions that are fundamental to the overall solution.

For example, in solution outline you could make overall architectural decisions about the application architecture, the choice of infrastructure technology, what application frameworks are the target for the team. These overall architectural decisions guide the dev, test and ops teams in the future. You may also decide to park some of these decisions in order to do further discovery.  Macro design could be next, where each of the dev teams make certain design decisions about their technology choices before they proceed with their iterations. As they are building and deploying code, they can run into issues where they need to make further design decisions, either due to problems that arise or technology choices that have to finally be made: and this is where the micro design phase is useful.  Micro design decisions could be quickly made, or they may require spikes and proof of concepts before proceeding. Or there could be no decisions to be made at all.  The main thing is more design checkpoints are built into the development lifecycle, which can result in less complexity, less maintainability costs, and less technical debt down the road. What you lose in velocity you can make up in overall lower TCO (total cost of ownership).

There is a risks to this type of approach as well. For example, if the project gets hung up with trying to make design decisions instead of gather requirements and making working software. The key stakeholders need to be aware of this and push on the design teams to prevent that from happening. If anything, it can help the key stakeholders better understand the risks before getting too far down the road in terms of developing software. Overall I think the risks are worth it if it helps you avoid these common agile traps.

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Are you a Canadian business wanting a primer on Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan?

Then check this out:  A quick guide for businesses navigating Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan | IT Business

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Adafruit goes to war against the coronavirus

That’s a bit dramatic, but Adafruit (a tech company I love) has been deemed an essential service and is helping to manufacture things needed in the fight against it. I am happy to see that.

Here’s a bit from them saying who they are and what they are doing. Awesome!

Adafruit is a 100% woman-owned, loan-free, VC-free. profitable, USA Manufacturing company. Please see our about page and press page to read about us. Our founder and lead engineer is Limor Fried, a MIT Electrical Engineer.

We have paused some operations in NYC due to COVID-19, we are paying all team members, contractors, and more. There are no layoffs for 130+ Adafruit team members.

Adafruit was deemed an essential service to distribute/make some PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) such as face shields, and manufacturer electronics for essential life-saving/preserving equipment and developement which is needed in New York and beyond.

Adafruit Industries located at 150 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013 by Executive Order 202.6, “Essential Business” by New York State:
https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026

via Adafruit Industries, Essential service and business: NYC – Executive Order 202.6 Capabilities and more #NewYorkTough #NewYorkStrong #adafruitchronicles @adafruit « Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers!

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Is Cloud Computing Green?

It depends on how you measure it, but according to this New York Times Article, cloud computing has brought environmental benefits.

The article starts with this:

The computer engine rooms that power the digital economy have become surprisingly energy efficient.

A new study of data centers globally found that while their computing output jumped sixfold from 2010 to 2018, their energy consumption rose only 6 percent. The scientists’ findings suggest concerns that the rise of mammoth data centers would generate a surge in electricity demand and pollution have been greatly overstated.

That’s good. The other good thought here is that centralized computing can continue to drive out efficiencies that distributed computing can not.

All in all, one more reason for companies to embrace cloud computing.

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The decline of start-up tech in 2020

Is described here: As the Start-Up Boom Deflates, Tech Is Humbled – The New York Times.

Key takeaways:

  • It’s not as bad as the dot com era
  • It should not be expected, given how many duds startup tech has given us lately
  • It may lead to something worse, but my assessment right now is it could signal a correction more than an overall decline

There’s been many stories written about tech lately: that article is a good chance to get an overall assessment as to where tech is now. At least, start up tech.

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The future of laptops…


Might be seen here: LG brings Gram 17 laptop to Canada | IT Business

Qualities include lightness and thinness, as well as limited ability to make hardware changes. Magnesium body vs aluminum. You can read more about it at IT Business.

It’s only a matter of time before laptops reach a physical limit as to how much lighter and thinner we can make them. That time is not yet. But definitely in the next 5-7 years.

 

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Some brief thoughts on the 10th anniversary of the iPad

It’s odd how people perceive the iPad after a decade. From what I read, the view overall seems negative. Even smart analysts like Stratechery call it “tragic”.

I can see why reviewers see that. They had an expectation of what the device could be, and lament that it never became that. That is one way to perceive it.

I think there are two different and better  ways to view it. One way is seeing the iPad as a secondary device. The iPad will be always secondary to the iPhone, just as the Touch will always be secondary to the iPhone. The iPhone is the premier Apple device, and all other devices do and even should be secondary to it.  The iPhone sits at the center, and the Watch and the Airpods and the other devices sit outside of that.

Another way of looking at it is that perhaps the MacBook, the iPhone, Apple TV and the iPad will merge over time. Perhaps in the future there will be no separate MacBook and iPhone. Instead there will be a Display, a Keyboard or UI of some form, and and a Network Device. Underneath it all will be software that brings them all together. That’s my long term expectation.

The iPad is a great device. It’s not the iPhone, and it’s not a Mac. It does what Apple needs it to do right now, and it will continue to do so over time.

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You likely know about phishing. But do you know about smishing?

Sorry, yes, there is a new form of fraud coming to get you. It’s called “smishing”. What is it?

“smishing” scams (the word combines SMS, the technical format for texting, and phishing) have become increasingly common. Fraudsters often create realistic-looking texts from seemingly reputable sources, such as FedEx or Amazon, which are then used to extract personal information: passwords, Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers.

So, yeah, be careful about responding to text from people you don’t know and especially from organizations who may or may not be the real deal. For more on this, see: FedEx didn’t send that text about a package. It’s a scam. – The Washington Post

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What’s wrong with starting a sustainable business?

Nothing, of course, unless you are playing by the rules and goals of Silicon Valley, where VC money comes at a cost. In this piece He Wanted a Unicorn. He Got … a Sustainable Business | WIRED, we hear 

(this) story is one part cautionary tale for entrepreneurs seduced by the allure of venture capital and billion-dollar valuations, and one part an example of how a company can thrive outside those expectations.

I liked the angle of this story and found it fascinating. I think we need more stories of people quite nicely achieving a sustainable business. It’s not that having a blockbuster business is terrible, but it is rare, like all exceptional things are. It’s a winner takes all approach to business. To me, a better approach is that people can be successful in many different ways. Ways like having a sustainable business that provides a service that people really need. That’s a good measure of success to me. I hope we can get more such stories.

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Lenovo and its folding tablet


Tech manufacturers are struggling to make folding devices. So far the folding smartphones are not where they need to be. Lenovo has taken a different approach, by  building a folding tablet first, and not a folding smartphone.

Whether this will be a hit remains to be seen. But as the Yanko Design piece shows, the chance of success with a folding tablet is much higher than a folding phone. If it is a hit, it could lead to smaller devices (i.e., phones) eventually getting that way too.

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Another example of Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella being effective by being different

Is this: Inside Microsoft’s surprise decision to work with Google on its Edge browser – The Verge.

Years ago Microsoft would have not made such a move. They would have kept trying until the bitter end (e.g. Zune, Microsoft phone). Instead Nadella and team made a  decision based more on what works for the users rather that what works for Microsoft.  It’s not a radical notion in itself, but for a company that prides itself on being successful and dominant, it’s a big switch. And it’s not just here with browsers. Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure, has a range of technology supported. It’s one of the reasons it is successful.

Microsoft has always been a successful company. They were successful under Gates and Ballmer with one approach. Nadella has a somewhat different approach, and I believe they will continue to be successful with it.

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Maybe Ballie the ball robot is a device we don’t need in our homes

Ballie is the cute little yellow ball above. Samsung unvailled ‘Ballie’ at the 2020 Consumer Electronic Show. If you go to the link, you can read all the things Ballie can do for you. What you don’t get to read is what Ballie is going to do for others. Because there’s never been a more potentially intrusive device in your house like this one. It can go around your house 24/7, recording not just sounds but images. Images (and sounds) that anyone back on the Internet can process.

Until companies and other organizations can demonstrate proper stewardship of such data, I wouldn’t recommend anyone get one of these things. They are far from essential and potentially harmful.

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The designer of the barcode (i.e. Universal Product Code (UPC)) Designer George Laurer has died

It’s iconic and feels like it’s been around forever, but the UPC is a fairly new invention. The inventor, George Laurer, worked for IBM and invented it in the 1970s. There’s a good write up on him and his invention, here: Universal Product Code Designer George Laurer Dies At 94 : NPR.

While IBM has been associated with many IT innovations, this one particular one likely touches more people’s lives than any other.

For more on how to read UPCs, and to appreciate just how much information is packed into one, go here.

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How online retailers end up selling outrageous and appalling products

I’ve seen many instances where a sudden outrage occurs because some ecommerce site like Amazon or some T shirt store ends up selling some product which an outrageous message on it. People will howl: how could they choose to do something so stupid? This article gives a good explanation of just how such stupidity occurs: How Amazon Ended Up With Auschwitz Christmas Ornaments for Sale | WIRED

In a nutshell, things are automated to the point that many of these platforms take on products with little if no review. The cost of review would be much much higher than the occasional cost of having to deal with these exceptions. Given that, expect more and more of this to occur until some legislation comes into play.

 

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Beware of a new variation of phishing email

A simple way of determining if an email is a phishing attempt is to move your mouse over the link(s) in it to see if they match what is on your screen. For example, if you get an email from Apple that says:

Use this link https://applid.apple.com to verify your account

You might move your mouse over the URL and see that the link is to company https://phishingRUs.com/ or something else.

But what if the URL is a URL shortening site, like http://bit.ly or http://dlvr.it/?

My advice: assume it is a phishing attack. It could be the real company, but most large organizations will not do this. (And if they do, they need to at least be explicit about it in the URL).

My general advice: if you are not sure or uncomfortable, assume it is spam or phishing and delete it.

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Thinking of getting a SmartTV?

Then read this:  How Smart TVs in Millions of U.S. Homes Track More Than What’s On Tonight – The New York Times.

It’s a year old, but I highly doubt the problem has gone away.  You may want to consider at least not buying from the brands listed. You may even go as far as having your TV unplugged when not watching it.  For more tips, see this.

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What is the Internet?


I have long ranted against people who confuse the Internet with the (World Wide) Web or social media or basically the part of the Internet they are familiar with.

Well now I no longer have to rant. I can just point people to this: The internet, explained – Vox.

The writers are Vox have done a fine job of explaining what the Internet is. Take a few minutes and read it. I’ve been on the Internet since the late 80s (email was the main use back then).  While it is constantly evolving, the fundamental aspects of the Internet don’t change much. Read that piece and you will be good for a few decades.