Comment: Media Attention to Blackberries In Mumbai

I need to begin this post, in an unambiguous fashion: I absolutely do not support the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that claimed the lives of hundreds, and injured many more.

Now that that disclaimer is out of the way….

How stupid is the media to have swallowed the nonsense concerning Blackberries that Indian and American security groups are spewing!?! I’m speaking about the apparent shock of Indian security forces that the individuals who launched the attacks in Mumbai used Blackberries to keep up-to-date about the effects of their actions. The Australian Sunday Mail, as an archetypical example, writes,

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Technology Fix: Pocket Mac and Blackberry Devices

I don’t have a lot of time (term is coming crashing to an end, and I don’t want to get crushed!), but I thought I should probably post how to get a Blackberry to actually work with OS X once Pocket Mac stops working (and it will…trust me). But first, I want to have a bit of a preamble…

I love my Blackberry. It goes where I go – it’s rarely more than a few meters away from me. It has truly reacquainted me with email, and that’s great. I also love my MacBook. I’m rarely away from it for more than 12 hours at a time, and it’s a delight to use. I like the OS, the craftsmanship, and so forth.

I really hate how poorly RIM has decided to treat Blackberry owners who use Macs. RIM’s syncing ‘solution’ is Pocket Mac, which is a load of junk. In Windows, I could upgrade my OS, could configure my BB, could install applications, and so forth using the BB sync client. I can’t do that on a Mac – it’s been almost 2 years since they released Pocket Mac, and I still can’t do these basic operations, which means that I need to have a Windows virtual machine. On top of that, Pocket Mac will, fairly regularly, just stop syncing my contacts and calendar (it can’t actually sync anything else with any reliability). For a few months I’ve been trying to get this resolved, and progressively getting more and more annoyed. Annoyed to the point that I’m tempted to just move to an iPhone (I won’t because of security issues, and I can’t just get an email plan without a data plan, but it’s tempting).

Today I figured out how to resolve my issues with Pocket Mac not syncing properly anymore.

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Comment: Apple, encryption, and being uber-lame

So, there is a great new technology that all the newest TVs and computers have: it’s called HDCP. This technology is great – it offers incredible resolutions for you movies, bringing a level of clarity to them that hasn’t ever been seen before.

The problem is, you might not be able to watch movies from iTunes on your TV at home if you’re using one of Apple’s new Macbooks.

HDCP encrypts data from point A to point B, largely in an effort to prevent people from copying the data (i.e. making your own copy/backup of the data while it streams from point A to B). Ars is reporting that iTunes’ Fairplay Version 3 DRM requires that you have a HDCP source and destination to play content wrapped in this DRM. If you’re going from HDCP to analogue, then you’re out of luck.

While I can appreciate that Apple has a real need to ‘secure’ the content in the iTunes library if they’re to keep ‘Big Media’ happy, it seems unreasonable that customers may be prevented from watching their videos on non-HDCP enabled screens if they want to. No wonder Jobs was pushing the new Apple monitors so hard when he revealed the new macbooks…

Advertising: Targeting Your Ecosystem

has recently put out a good piece, titled Online Ad Targeting: From ‘Maximize’ to ‘Optimize’. In it, Troiano effective notes that online advertisers aren’t making much money by bombarding their customers with irrelevant ads, and the attempts to use deep packet inspection technologies as NebuAd and Phorm strike potential customers as ‘creepy’. He suggests that advertisers adopt three principles:

  1. User control: Users should own and control their personal information. Period. It sounds like a novel idea, but when people have control over their own personal information and can choose to share it or not share it with whomever they want, that will make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
  2. Transparency: Offering an opt-out option is not enough. Any online entity that tracks or collects user data of any kind should be straightforward and alert users to its practices. It’s not wrong to target ads, but it is wrong to collect users’ personally identifiable information without their permission. If companies adhere to this level of transparency, the need for potentially stifling congressional control is significantly lessened.
  3. Trust: Offering users a high level of control over their information and requiring a high level of transparency from online publishers and retailers will result in mutual trust. Users will share certain information about themselves in return for something they want and companies will promise not to use their information in inappropriate ways. Building this kind of trust is not easy, but when achieved it will create a mutually beneficial relationship.

This makes sense to companies for two reasons:

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Thoughts – Study reminds us why we’re always fixing our parents’ PCs

Ars Technica has a jaunty little piece that puts hard numbers to the statement, “computers are confusing when it comes time to fixing them!” Something to take away from it is that “almost half of adults said they needed someone to help them set up or learn how to use their gadgets.” This says a few things:

  1. Gadgets are way too complicated in many cases – sometimes people just want a phone, not a phone/mp3 player/web browser/GPS device.
  2. Gadgets are generally becoming less and less elegant – companies should take a page from Apple’s book, and start thinking about design aethetics while they are actually developing their technology.
  3. Gadget ‘protections’, especially those intended to mitigate surveillance and privacy concerns, are too deeply hidden. The GPS should come ‘off’ on a phone by default, with a clear set of instructions of how to turn it on appearing when you activate the device. At the same time, devices should have their instructions and information about functions of the phone within easy reach when using it – design a nice, easy way for people to ‘learn more’ about a feature without requiring a data plan to go online.
  4. People are buying things that they haven’t done much research one – this is a no-brainer; if they had spent time researching the gadget, they likely wouldn’t be having such a hard time understanding how it works.

So what do I take away from this? It is just another confirmation that consumers, far from being ’empowered’ by all of the features from their electronic toys, are in fact being disempowered by the technological sophistication of modern electronics and the incredibly poor methods that the industry has taken to teach people. I read, and so a manual is something that is helpful to me, but I’m (at this point) an aberrant. New times call for new methods of guiding people through the items that they’re purchasing.

Update – Bill 85 (Photo Card Act)

It looks like Ontario has managed to do what politicians in the UK have been struggling to accomplish for years. This morning the Liberal government of Ontario passed Bill 85, the Photo Card Act, which will see updates to the identity documents that Ontarians typically carry on their persons. While the UK government has been stymied at every turn by no2id when they’ve attempted to roll out a sophisticated identify card, the coalition and advocacy groups in Ontario that have opposed the inception of drivers licenses that contain biometric data and radio frequency identifiers (RFIDs) have been less successful. While the Conservatives had been expected to speak against the bill, this did not, in fact, happen. My money is that the politics didn’t cash out to oppose it.

I’ll post updates as they arrive, and be putting together a post-mordum report in a few days.

Update 1: CTV has an article discussing the EDLs