With the upcoming release of the iPhone for Verizon, I am going to predict the ultimate death of the Windows phone. Why? Well, let's look at this from the consumer point of view.
The smartphone is quickly becoming the consumers life-line while out and about. While it's inconvenient to carry a laptop EVERYwhere, the smartphone can do most of our organizing and connecting while we are mobile. We don't want to have to hassle with things. We want convenience.
As a former Windows phone user, I can attest that the Windows phone OS is every bit as unreliable as the computer OS. Freezing and rebooting are almost daily occurences along with phone being slow due to the OS eating up the memory.
Just as in everything else, Microsoft is trying to dominate yet another market that they came into late and under-prepared. Android, RIM, and Apple all got it right. They gave us what the consumer and business user wanted. Convenience and reliability. Now that the iPhone is spreading into other carriers and the Android is coming on newer and faster phones, Microsoft is soon to end up as a has-been of cell phones.
Most of us don't even think about it anymore. Anywhere you go you are connected to the world by some electronic device. Cell phone, PDA, laptop...they all keep you in touch with friends and family no matter where you are. There is hardly anyplace you can go (at least in the US) they you can't even get a cell signal. I was up in Yellowstone a few years ago and had cell signal throughout most of the park.
I sometimes get a bit nostolgic for the good old days when you could just disappear if you didn't want to be found. When you left the house, you were unreachable till you got home. No cell phones, no computers, no GPS. How many kids now days can actually read a paper map?
Well, as this is a technology blog, let me get back to that. With most of always being connected through Facebook, Twitter, etc...I don't think we ever stop to think of our security when it comes to those applications. Although there are currently apps to do this, Facebook just announced its release of their own mobile app to "check in" where you are to your friends so they know. While there are very good reasons to WANT to do this, there are also very good reasons to NOT want to do this.
Facebook's reasoning for this app comes in to let your friends know where you are so they can either meet you there or if they are already there, they know you are also there. Seems handy. But I for one have some reservations abou this. People in general are horrible about their security when it comes to computers and the internet. Most have easy passwords that are word based with no numbers or special characters and are usually based on something in their personal life. (Password security may be a topic for another post) People also like to leave themselves logged in. They are also "friend hogs" by almost accepting any friend invite just because they happen to be friends with someone they know.
How does all this fit in. Well, social engineering has become a major "hack" lately. Instead of trying to forcefully grab your password, people are working themselves into a persons life in a legit fashion to be able to gather information about them. For example...if I wanted to get more information about Person A, I could simply check out their Facebook profile and see who they are friends with. Yes, most people forget to turn that portion off in the security features so anyone can view their friends list. Then I could send out some random friend invites to their friends. If one or two accept me, then when I try to friend Person A now showing we have a friend(s) in common. I then get friended by Person A and voila!, I have full access to their profile.
Once this happens, I can now see where Person A is when they check in and either follow them there, or maybe even go to their house when they are not home to break in. I basically have a full view of Person A's movement.
While this is just a small example of how this works, it does raise questions in Facebook security and privacy that maybe the user should think about when they are using Facebook. Make sure you check the privacy settings. Don't allow people to see things they shouldn't. Be selective about your friends. Just because they are a friend of a friend doesn't mean you have to friend them as well. Becareful what you are posting...does everyone NEED to know you are running out to the store or that you are gone for a week and your house is empty? Maybe listing your phone number on Facebook is not a great idea. You can even make multiple friend groups and give each group different profile access.
These are all just common sense things you should think about while you are using Facebook. While this post is in no way a complete look into these security issues, hopefully it has at least made you think twice.
For more info on social engineering, see this article.
So, I was fortunate enough to visit Black Hat Las Vegas a few weeks ago, and while walking through the vendor area, I came across a company that was a new start up, with an interesting new piece of software called SlimWare Utilities. While the concept of SlimWare is not new, they seem to have finally gathered together all the good things from other programs.
The concept behind SlimWare is to keep your PC running in tip-top shape. Yes, for you Linux users out there, this won't help you a bit...but then again, we all know Linux doesn't normally need any help to run well as it doesn't seem to bog down. Anyway, as every Windows user knows, install a few pieces of software on a PC, browse the web for a few months, or really, just take your computer out of the box and for some reason the system will just start to slow down.
SlimWare has introduced 3 seperate utilites to help mitigate the problem of a bogged down PC. The cool thing is that they take advantage of the "cloud" concept. It uses input from tech experts, based on their ratings, to help the end-user know what software on their system is causing issues.
I have used the software on my systems, and have used the rating systems, and found that the software is very easy to use. It has no footprint as it can be run from a thumbdrive if you so choose. It will only remove what you want and it is smooth running so as to use as little resources as possible.
In a nutshell here is the software description straight from them:
SlimComputer: New computers come pre-loaded with promotional software, ad links, toolbars and trial offers. SlimComputer uses crowd-sourced feedback to make optimization recommendations for your computer. It removes unneeded programs, start-up entries and services and slims down your new machine to make it run fast and clean like it's supposed to.
SlimCleaner: SlimCleaner is the world's first software that lets you clean and optimize Windows systems using a crowd-sourced approach. SlimCleaner uses aggregated-cloud feedback to recommend optimal settings for programs, start-ups and services.
SlimDriver: SlimDrivers uses crowd-sourcing to spider and aggregate millions of devices. Using our cloud-based system, SlimDrivers not only detects when a driver needs updating, but also identifies the proper executable for your system and initiates the driver install automatically.
If so, you better hide it!
I'm attending the Black Hat security conference this week in Las Vegas, and one of the seminars happened to be from Chris Paget who demonstrated how to read RFID chips. The common thought is that they are only readable from approximately 3 feet away. If this was the case, then no one would have too much to worry about as you would have to be awful close to a person to be able to get a good read on their chip. Seeing as though the new chips in passports and enhanced drivers licenses carry personal information, a short range is a good thing.
Well, it seems that the new generation of chips works differently and is now powered by radio waves. What this means is that the more powerful the radio signal to the RFID tag, the further away it will work. By use of an amplifier, a few high-gain antenas, and a receiver, he was able to read an RFID tag from over 217 feet away! This was just using commercially available, inexpensive, and easy to obtain equipment. He also stayed within the guidlines of HAM radio laws. He predicted that he could reach as far as 1000 feet given the right conditions and environment.
Maybe you should go get an RFID shield for your passport?
I'm sure you have all been to a movie recently that has been shown in 3D. This latest fad is taking the movie field by storm...but is it here to stay?
If you can remember the old 3D technology...the paper glasses with the red and blue lenses...you will admit that 3D today is leaps and bounds above that. I've been to see a few recent movies in 3D and I'm not sure that it really added anything extra to the movie. In the end we saw a few cool graphics, but I ended up with a headache at the end without any WOW factor to show for it.
Now we have the 3D televisions coming out. If you haven't seen them in stores, they work the same as the movie. You will need a 3D DVD, then have to wear glasses while watching it to get the 3D effect.
The biggest question we have here is this...is 3D here to stay or is it a passing fad like the previous 3D technology? I'm just not sure we can convince the general public to buy a new 3D enabled television and then sit in their living rooms with special glasses to "enjoy" some rather ho-hum effects. But, that's just my opinion.