Tag Archives: technology

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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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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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Is technology designed to perpetuate racism?

That’s what this piece argues: Of course technology perpetuates racism. It was designed that way. | MIT Technology Review.

I disagree. Technology sometimes perpetuates racism, but it is often due to the fact it is NOT designed to account for racism. Sometimes machine learning software cannot perceive non-white faces correctly because they are trained with only white faces and cannot account for non-white faces. Sometimes search engines result in racist results, based on racist queries. AI systems can be made racist by engaging with a multitude of racists. If you feed systematic racist data based on redlining into your banking system or prison data into your justice software system, then those systems will make racist decisions. In all these cases, the fact that the systems are not designed to account for racism (or sexism or any form of discrimintation) is the problem. They need to be designed to account for these things.

Only when technology is designed to account for racism will it stop perpetuating racism.

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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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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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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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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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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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Can you replace a Mac with an iPad?


According to this iPad vs. Mac: Is a tablet better than a laptop for school and work? in The Washington Post, not yet.

I agree with that assessment. I think there will be a time soon when you can, but not this year. Read the piece before you try to go solo with a tablet.

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The problem with colonizing other worlds…

The problems with colonizing other worlds can be read here:  Humans Will Never Colonize Mars.

It’s a bucket of ice water to dump on the head of anyone who optimistically thinks it will happen. It may happen, centuries from now.  More likely places like Mars will be colonized by robots that will do a lot of the activities we once expected humans to do.

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Is Slack the end of email?

Slack may not be the end of email, but some version of it is likely going to result in a decline in email. If it won’t be slack, it might be one of the ones mentioned here:

Speaking of Google, the company has a Slack alternative of its own, called Hangouts Chat, as does Facebook, in Workplace. Microsoft has Teams, which is bundled with its Office software and which the company says is being used by more than 500,000 organizations. This multi-front attack on email is just beginning, but a wartime narrative already dominates: The universally despised office culture of replies and forwards and mass CCs and “looping in” and “circling back” is on its way out, and it’s going to be replaced by chat apps.

I doubt email will go away forever: that’ not how tech works. Dominant tech tends to fade away rather than outright collapse. That’s likely what will happen with email.

Will Slack et all be better? Good lord, no. Just different. Some aspects of it are better, and many aspects will be worse than email.

For the curious, here’s more on this idea:  Slack Wants to Replace Email. Is That What We Want? – The New York Times

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So you want to make a phone farm…

Then read this Vice piece: How to Make a Phone Farm

I’ve seen pictures of Phone Farms in China, but I thought you needed some advanced tech to run them. Turns out, you just need a bit of work and some old phones, and…well for the rest, read the article.

For those who don’t know, Phone Farms are banks of cell phones automated to do the things you do manually with your phone.

P.S. I expect marketers will read this and start to come up with ways to defeat this, if they haven’t already started. This provides a threat to them, and a ramp up of this can be seriously deterimental.

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Everyone should have a hobby. Einstein’s was different than most

When it comes to Einstein, what comes to mind? This?

How about this?


Yep, his hobby was making a better fridge. Read about it here:  Einstein’s Little-Known Passion Project? A Refrigerator | WIRED.

It’s odd but fun to read.

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Apple Watch 101

I continue to be a big fan of the Apple Watch. For one, it allows me to put away my phone and still not miss notifications. It’s the remote control for your phone you didn’t think you need. Still I am glad for this, because I need to get more out of my watch: 20 Most-Wanted Apple Watch Tips and Tricks – Hongkiat. 

If you are maxing out all the features of your watch, that’s great. Otherwise, take a peak at that link and get more out of it.

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The $999 monitor stand, or how Apple takes its eye off the ball sometimes

Reading this piece about how  a $999 monitor stand is everything wrong with Apple today, and while my judgement isn’t that harsh, I agree that Apple has missed a step with such a stand. There is a premium that Apple can and does command for its products, but when they are so far outside the range of the market, they start looking ridiculous.

Is this iMac great? No doubt. Is the stand price ridiculous? Also no doubt. Do better, Apple.

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Why Play a Music CD? Lots of reasons….


I really liked a recent article about Ben Sisario, the New York Times reporter who covers the music industry. He is talking about what he uses to listen to music, and this quote jumped out at me, especially the part I put in bold.

(I) try to keep an eye on all the major platforms out there, which means regularly poking around on about a dozen apps. My go-to sources are Spotify, SoundCloud, Bandcamp and Mixcloud, which has excellent D.J.-style mixes and to me feels more human than most.

At home I have a Sonos Play:5 speaker, which plays streaming music and podcasts, and is a piece of cake to use. I also have Google Chromecast Audio, a little plug-in device (now discontinued) that allows me to send high-fidelity streams to my stereo. It sounds better that way, but it’s not nearly as easy to use as the Sonos.

To be honest, my preferred way to listen to music is on CD, as unfashionable as that might be. You push a button, the music plays, and then it’s over — no ads, no privacy terrors, no algorithms!

Like Ben, I started to listen to music on CDs again too. For a number of reasons:

    1. I have some great old CDs from labels like Deutsche Grammphon that I am never going to download again and which I don’t even want to listen to on Spotify.
    2. I find it satisfying to put on a CD, listen to it, and then it be over. I don’t want to listen to an infinite playlist all the time.
    3. I always worry that some day services like Spotify will simply trim their catalog and I will never be able to listen to that music easily again. For music I love, I want to own it outright.
    4. I worry about how what I listen to on Spotify is constantly fed into their analytic software – what people like to call their algorithm – to determine what I want to listen to. Some times I just want to listen to music in a different direction. I don’t want Spotify to start suggesting new music based on a whim.
    5. I don’t want Spotify or others to know everything about my listening choices. I think we all need a stealth mode for any services we use online.

I still love Spotify, but I don’t want to depend on Spotify to enjoy music.

That’s my two cents. For more on Ben, see: Why Play a Music CD? ‘No Ads, No Privacy Terrors, No Algorithms’ – The New York Times

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A smart poster that knows the weather (and a great alternative display)

Is this:

It uses smart ink, so it’s low power. But it changes throughout the day, based on the information it gets from the Internet. It looks great, and it’s around $134, which is not bad.

I’d like to see more tech do this. A fine marriage of high tech and aesthetics.

For more information, see A smart poster that knows the weather | Yanko Design

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Stratechery: a great site you should read

First off, what is it? It’s this, via the About section of the site:

Stratechery provides analysis of the strategy and business side of technology and media, and the impact of technology on society. Weekly Articles are free, while three Daily Updates a week are for subscribers only.

Recommended by The New York Times as “one of the most interesting sources of analysis on any subject”, Stratechery has subscribers from over 85 different countries, including executives in both technology and industries impacted by technology, venture capitalists and investors, and thousands of other people interested in understanding how and why the Internet is changing everything.

Everything I’ve read on it has been insightful and in depth, including this piece on IBM and the acquisition of Red Hat.

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OpenShift vs OpenStack: what’s the difference?

From OpenShift Origin vs OpenStack – Red Hat OpenShift Blog:

OpenStack provides “Infrastructure-as-a-Service”, or “IaaS”….

The OpenShift hosted service provides “Platform-as-a-Service” or “PaaS”. It provides the necessary parts to quickly deploy and run a LAMP application:

Concisely:

  • OpenStack = IaaS
  • OpenShift = PaaS
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North, or advances in smart glasses since Google Glass.

Companies keep trying to make smart eyewear happen. First Google. Then Snapchat. Now there’s another company making a go at it. IT Business magazine has details on North, the company trying to make it happen here.

I think these are a big improvement on Google Glass. Is it enough? I don’t believe so. I think greater miniaturization needs to occur, such that there is very little difference between the shape of “dumb” eyewear and the shape of “smart” eyewear.

Meanwhile, we are getting closer to that time when there is very little difference. Stay tuned.

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What the Internet is (and what it is not)

This is what the Internet is:

The internet is the wider network that allows computer networks around the world run by companies, governments, universities and other organisations to talk to one another. The result is a mass of cables, computers, data centres, routers, servers, repeaters, satellites and wifi towers that allows digital information to travel around the world.

The Internet is a network of networks. Much of what people believe the Internet is actually runs on top of it: the Web, social media, email, gopher, what have you.People often say “I liked the Internet when..”. They are talking about the platforms they use on the Internet. Things popular on the Internet now — hello Facebook! — will be a relic in the future.  Technologies running on the Internet come and often go,  but the Internet itself is relatively constant and changes slowly.

The quote highlighted above is from this article: What is the internet? 13 key questions answered | Technology | The Guardian. It’s a good introduction to the Internet at a basic level.

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Some thoughts on my new Amazon Fire 7 8GB FireOS 7″ Tablet for $59 at Bestbuy.ca


I saw this in Best Buy the other day, Amazon Fire 7 8GB FireOS 7″ Tablet With MediaTek MT8127 Quad-Core Processor – Black : Android Tablets – Best Buy Canada, and after reading some reviews and other articles (see below), I decided to get one. The $59 price tag had a lot to do with this.

My first thought was to try to use it as much as I could out of the box without making modifications to it. I set it up according to instructions, which were simple. I think you really want to have an Amazon account/userid to do this. I did and so things went smoothly.

The Amazon Fire has a modified version of the Android OS, which means it’s like an Android tablet, but not exactly. Likewise, Amazon has an App store, which is a limited version of the Google Play App store. You can get a number of apps from the Amazon App store, but not everything you can get on the Google Play store.

I wanted this device mainly as a place to consume media. Good news is it runs Netflix, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Mail, Texture and a modified version of YouTube.  I was especially interested in Texture, which allows me to read magazines like New Yorker, Bon Appetit, Wired and others. I have been trying to read them on my phone and the experience was poor. On the tablet, the experience was much better, and the resolution was good. Likewise, YouTube videos are better on the tablet than the phone.

Downsides?  First the device is slow compared to my iPhone 6. You notice it with things like Twitter and Instagram. You don’t notice it for things like Texture because there is more reading time and less scrolling.  It’s not terrible, but it is noticeable if you have a newer device. If you have an up to date phone or tablet, you will notice this.

Another downside is the limited number of apps, especially media apps. I could not get the New York Times, Guardian or CBC app for it. It comes with the Washington Post, not surprisingly.

The browser that comes with it is slow. You cannot download other browsers without hacking the device.

One upside is you can get quite a few apps working for it. I downloaded Remember the Milk (for todos), Simplenote (for notetaking), WordPress (for blogging), Dropbox and more. I mainly want to use it for media consumption, but those things make it better.

To summarize: for $59, I think it is a great device for media consumption and basic functionality. If that’s all you want, I think you’d be happy with it. I’m glad I got it. Some reviewers said it is better to get the Fire 8 or 10, but for the money, I think the Fire 7 is surprisingly good.

P.S.Originally I was going to hack it to make it more like an Android tablet, but for now I think I’ll leave it as it is. If you did want to hack it, here’s some links to articles along that line:

P.S.S. This is not sponsored content.

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How to get more life out of your old iPhone

Do what this article says:  The New iPhones Look Fine. But My Old One Is Better Than Ever. – The New York Times

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This is beautiful: sculptures of old machines exploded into separate parts

These sculptures by John Peralta are beautiful. Here’s one

You can see more here: Machinations: Historical Machines Exploded into Individual Components in Sculptures by John A. Peralta | Colossal

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How to take your git skills to the next level

One way is to read this: How to become a Git expert – freeCodeCamp.org. There’s a lot of good pages on how to get started on git, but if you are joining a software project, you may be expected to know more than the basics. You may be required to know the kind of things that piece talks about. Of course you can ask people on your team for help, but why not get as much skill as you can first and then ask better questions? There’s always something new to learn when it comes to git and software management: learn as much as you can by yourself and increase your skill set and your value to the team.

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The state of meetings

I’ve had this saved from some time ago but I want to post it for two reasons: The Modern Meeting: Call In, Turn Off, Tune Out – The New York Times.

One reason is just as a placeholder for how work is now in this time period. I will be happy to go back in five or ten years from now and see how much has changed.

The second reason is that no matter what happens in five or ten years from now, people who work in offices will always struggle with meetings. There is no solution to effective meetings: there is only managing your time and how best to be effective in the time you are working and meeting. If you work with people, you will have meetings. Nowadays you have too many meetings and you need to manage them and your time as best as you can.

Once meetings were hard to schedule. There were no digital calendars, no videoconferencing. You had to call or talk to someone and arrange to meet them, they would write it down on a piece of paper, and then physically show up and have the meeting. You likely worked with a limited number of people. And even then, even though they were hard to set up, meetings were a pain. Meetings will always be a pain. If they weren’t occasionally useful, no one would ever have them.

But meetings are occasionally useful. Sometimes they are essential. As long as people work together, there will be meetings. If you are working on many different things with many different people, you will have many meetings. Try to be as effective as you can in them. For those holding the meeting, don’t expect so much of people: get what you can and then end the meeting.

Some thoughts on insurance companies and the use of wearable technology

When it comes to insurance and wearables, I think the effect of these devices will be limited. I think this because:

  1. I don’t believe people are consistent about using wearables. I have been using wearables and fitbits for some time. I believe most people are prone to not wearing them constantly. Inconsistent use will make it harder for insurers to guarantee you a  better rate or for you to achieve one.
  2. You are more likely to wear it and use it when you are trying to keep in shape. If you are not, you will likely not wear it. The insurer can’t know if you are getting out of shape or just no longer wearing it. (I used to use a Nike+ device for running, and I ran consistently, but I did not use the device consistently. Many days and weeks I just didn’t feel like it.) The use of wearables is mostly an upside for you, and of limited value to the insurer.
  3. One reason I gave up on using wearables consistently is that they don’t give you much new information. I walk and exercise consistently and so they often give me the same information consistently. Which means I tend to not wear them often. I don’t need the fitbit to tell me I walked 10,000 steps. I know I did because my commute to and from work plus my lunchtime walk consistently gives me that.
  4. My fitbit scale is great for tracking my weight over time, but an insurer could also just ask me my weight, height and waistline and get a sense of my eligibility for insurance, just like how they ask if I smoke. A very low tech way to measure things. Men with a waist over 40 inches are more prone to heart disease then men with much smaller waists, regardless of what a high tech scale says. A insurer needs a limited number of data points to assess your health risks.
  5. I believe there is limited return for insurers to get this much data. I base this on my current life insurer. I can get life insurance from 1-6X my salary (assuming I pay the corresponding rise in premiums) without providing medical data. They only ask for medical data if I ask for more than 6X. It likely isn’t of benefit for them to process the data for lower amounts, so they proceed without it.
  6. Insurers are data driven, for sure, but I think they are good at picking out a limited number of good numbers to determine what to charge you for insurance. I don’t think the numbers coming back from wearable tech is all that good.

So in short, I don’t believe people or insurers will get much benefit from wearable tech. People will not get breaks on their insurance, and insurers will not be able to reduce their risk substantially with the use of wearables.

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iPhone 6s: still a great phone in the era of iPhone X

If you are skeptical about the greatness of the iPhone 6s, this piece makes a good argument for it: Reasons you should buy an iPhone 6S instead of an iPhone 8 or iPhone X – Business Insider. If money is a prime concern, you can find refurbished 6s phones for a fraction of the cost of a new iPhone 8 or X.

If you want an iPhone and you are fine with refurbished — and some places give good warrantees on such phones — then consider making an iPhone 6s your next phone. Or get a new one from your mobile phone carrier or buy one outright from Apple.

 

What happens when you fill your house with smart devices?

Just how bad is it to have your house filled with smart devices? Kash Hill attempted to find out by connecting many of them up in her house and then track all the data that they sent out. The results are fascinating. Some of them send the data out in the clear, which is terrible. But even the ones that encrypt your data and leaking things about you via metadata.

Essentially whatever value smart devices provide — and some of that value is doubtful — they are monitoring equipment that you set up yourself. Just how much they monitor can be seen here in her study: The House That Spied on Me.

It’s a great read, and for some, it will be a great revelation.

Image via Home Depot’s web site.

In an alternative universe this is the next hot smartphone


I am unexcited about the direction in Smartphone design. The key design idea that less is more in a phone is becoming Less is a Bore. Perhaps that’s why this design of a Blackberry got me thinking about it. While it still has a gorgeous screen, the phone itself is worthy of looking at and touching. It strikes the right balance. The phone as a design object is worthwhile.

It would have been good if Apple had struck out in a new design direction with the iPhone X. Instead they went with Less is More. Instead we have a phone with the Notch and a camera on the back that sticks out. It’s as if Apple would have preferred not to have these cameras and sensors,  so rather than design the phone to incorporate them into the design, they stick out, figuratively and literally. In a few years from now when Apple has gone in a different direction, Apple fans will look back and exclaim how poor that aspect of the phone design is.

As for now, we live in an age where the screen dominates design, from TVs to smartphones. In the future that may change and the technology that we interact with will be contained in objects that have noteworthy design in them.
For more on this beautifully designed phone, see If BlackBerry Ditched the Keyboard | Yanko Design.

I create a super simple set of tools to secure your Ubuntu server

And you can get it here: blm849/supersimplehardening: A super simple way to harden your server.

I create a lot of Ubuntu test servers, and I find that as soon as I create a Ubuntu server on a cloud environment, it gets immediately attacked by automated software. This is obviously a concern. A bigger concern is that when I went  searching for recommendations on how to harden such a server, I found  a wide variety of recommendations! It can be hard to know what to do. Still, I needed something. As a result, I created this package of scripts. The scripts do a number of things:

  • prevent direct root login to your server via ssh. This was one of the things I saw consistently happen and once someone cracks the root access on your machine, it’s game over.
  • stop some basic security holes, like IP spoofing
  • download some useful software, like logwatch, ufw and others
  • upgrade all software on the server

This is just a very very limited number of things to prevent attacks. But it is better than nothing.

If you install Apache, PHP, MySQL or other software on your machine, there are even more attacks that will be launched against it. I recommend you get a firewall up and running and at least run logwatch on a regular basis to look for potential attacks being launched against you.

Finally, if it is important for you to secure your server, don’t stop with my scripts. Go out and consult with IT security specialists right away.

Good luck!

How technology can enhance work and not simply eliminate it

robot and human working together

This piece: What it’s like to be a modern engraver, the most automated job in the United States — Quartz, reminded me once again that the best use of technology is to augment the people doing the work, and not simply take away the work. Must reading for anyone who’s believes that the best way to use AI and other advanced tech is to eliminate jobs. My believe is that the best way to use AI and other advanced tech is to make jobs better, both for the employee, the employer, and the customer. The businesses that will succeed will have that belief as well.

(Image from this piece on how humans and robots can work together.)

Cindy Sherman is on Instagram and is doing something new

And the New York Times has a good analysis of here work so far. I really enjoyed the analysis. As for me, I found it interesting that she has transitioned the account from a basic one that recorded events the way most of us do into something that extends her art in a way few of us can do. I also like that great artists like Sherman can take new media and incorporate it into their work but also extend it. David Hockney did something similar with the Brushes app. Here's hoping more artists do such things.

Uber is reaching an inflection point (and may be reaching a crisis point)

Why? According to Bloomberg:

After touting profitability in the U.S. early this year, the ride-hailing company is said to post second-quarter losses exceeding $100 million.

A main source of the losses: subsidizing Uber drivers. As Christopher Mims commented on Twitter, “So Uber is a giant machine for transferring wealth from venture capitalists to underemployed Americans”. This is both clever and something that can’t go on indefinitely. It makes clearer to me now why Uber is keen to make self driving cars work. Sure, Uber could charge more for cabs or pay cab drivers less, but in either case, they risk losing market share.

The losses this quarter certainly are an inflection point. It remains to be see if it is a crisis point. That will depend on how the VCs see this loss. I believe they will have patience and they haven’t reached a crisis point yet. Uber should hope that their investors have the same patience that Amazon’s investors have.

For the rest of the story, see: Uber Loses at Least $1.2 Billion in First Half of 2016 – Bloomberg (Image above via the Bloomberg article)

Anil Dash says: ‘There is no “technology industry”’. In reality….

There is a technology industry. Specifically, there is an information technology industry. There are lots of companies, big and small, whose sole aim is providing information technology products and services. Take a look at this list: they are some of the largest companies in the world whose purpose is I.T. They don’t focus on food, or entertainment, or logistics, or advertising: they focus on information technology.

The point he seems to be raising in his piece: There is no “technology industry” — Humane Tech — Medium is that there are companies leveraging I.T. that are considered tech companies, but aren’t. That’s a valid point. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a technology industry. Should we treat these companies differently that I.T. companies? Possibly. Companies like Theranos, for example, partially ran into trouble because they were treated the way a I.T. startup should be treated, when in my opinion they should have been treated more like a pharmaceutical or medical equipment company is treated. It’s important to look at what the companies do and not just how they model their business.

Towards the end of the piece, he says, “All it takes is a little discipline in how we communicate”. I agree.

This article about body cameras is asking the wrong questions, which is not surprising, since everyone is.

This article,  Will Body Cameras Work? – The Atlantic, is asking the wrong questions. The wrong questions are occurring because the initial answer to the question of “how do we deal with bad policing?” was often, “body cameras”. The better question to repeatedly ask: “how can we make police more accountable?” because if “body cameras” is the first answer to that question, the next question should be concerning the information captured by those body camera. How are police accountable for that? Which should then lead to another question: how are police accountable for information they capture generally? Because with new technology, police will soon be able to capture alot more information about you than just images. It will soon be possible for police to look at you or your vehicle and have that information feed back to centralized computer systems, essentially collecting information about you without you even knowing it. How will police be accountable for that?

Police accountability will come, likely through the courts. In the meantime, we will likely struggle with the fallout of police forces capturing more information.

Why do Apple’s Macbook chargers cost so much?

Simple: they are a complex piece of technology. The photo above shows a Macbook charger from Apple on the left: the charger on the right is from another company. You can clearly see that the one from Apple has a lot more technology packed in there. And for good reasons. To understand what those reasons are, see this piece:  Macbook charger teardown: The surprising complexity inside Apple’s power adapter. It was surprisingly interesting, from an engineering and design perspective.

Thanks to Tom Plaskon for sharing this on Twitter!

Newt Gingrich reviews the Apple Watch and it’s worthwhile

Mashable seems to have taken Newt on staff to do tech reviews and here he is the first piece of his I’ve come across: Newt Gingrich reviews the Apple Watch.

I was surprised, but I found his review well suited for non-technical people who are wondering if such and such technology is worth it for them.  If you fall into that category, you should get some benefit out of what he writes.