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Each week, ITworld's Phil Johnson pokes fun at the tech world's top news and newsmakers. Part 2 spans May 23 to October 17.
October 17th - It was love at first authentication
There was a time, not that long ago, when almost all of the texts I received were from family or friends. Nowadays, though, it seems like I get far more texts from authentication services, sending me codes so I can verify to some web site or app that I am whom I claim to be. In the wake of yet more online data breaches (or alleged ones), I just keep enabling two-factor authentication in more and more places. Where will this sort of thing end? I don’t know, but I’m just glad I’m already married.
October 10th - Facebook gets even creepier
This latest story about the continuing erosion of our privacy comes to us courtesy, once again, of Facebook. It seems that the Zuck et al are now rolling out a new feature to let local businesses target ads to people who physically go near their locations. So, be careful the next time you wander through the local Red Light district - or, to be totally safe, just turn location services on your mobile device off. Or maybe stay out of sketchy business districts. Either way.
October 3rd - Kids fold the darndest things
By now, most people are no doubt familiar with “Bendgate” - that is, the fact that, apparently, Apple’s new (huge) iPhone 6 Plus is apt to bend if you’re careless with it. While the story is a couple of weeks old, it’s still popping up regularly in the news. I don’t have an iPhone 6 Plus (I’m sticking with my 5S for the time being) so it isn’t a concern of mine. But if I did have one, I’d make sure to keep it away from the kids arts and crafts supplies. You can’t be too careful.
September 26th - Your shrubbery could be a security threat
A weird story got weirder this week, when the makers of a secure phone drove around Washington, D.C. and found 18 rogue cell phone towers, that is towers of unknown origin that can intercept your phone signal. This came not long after 17 rogue towers were foundin other parts of the U.S. For some reason, not many people outside of the tech press seem overly concerned about these things. I find this all pretty unsettling and can only wonder how many of these things are out there. Who knows where the next ones will pop up? Just to be safe, think I’ll stick to the land line for now.
September 19th - Hailing a space taxi might be easier said than done
Big news from NASA this week, when it awarded contracts totaling almost $7 billion to Boeing and SpaceX to build and run “space taxis” for ferrying American astronauts to and from the International Space Station. As a big fan of space stuff, I thought it was good news. It’ll be great to be able to spend people back into space again without having to buy a ticket on a Russian rocket. All the same, something about the term “space taxi” takes a little of the luster off of the whole thing for me, since the word “taxi” conjures up smelly, cramped spaces, dangerous drivers and other bad things. Well, I’m sure it’ll all work out fine.
September 12th - Apple takes on Levis
As you know, Apple finally announced the iPhone 6 this week and, as we all expected, it comes with a bigger 4.7 inch screen. If that’s not big enough for you, they also announced the iPhone 6 Plus which comes with a whopping 5.5 screen. Given that everybody seems jazzed up to run out and get a bigger iPhone now, I’m thinking that Apple missed out on a chance to cash in further on these bigger phones by designing a line of pants with pockets big enough to hold these things. It seems so unlike them to miss out on an opportunity like that. Whatever. I’m sure they’ll still make a nice profit.
September 5th, 2014 - Breaking up gets Uber-awkward
Breaking up, as they say, is hard to do. These days, though, it’s even harder, thanks to the Internet and social media and such things, which make it more difficult to forget that your former partner exists. Now comes services like Uber which have the potential to create even more, um, awkward moments between exes. How much harder will breaking up be in 10 years?
August 29th - Dont call them “delivery guys” anymore
Is it is just me or is this whole “as a service” trend getting a little out of hand? Thanks to the cloud, we’ve had things like Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) for a while now. All of which is great, but new “as a service” services seem to be cropping up like weeds. Earlier this week I was reading about Backend as a Service (BaaS), which was new to me, at least. Turns out there are also other cloud services like Network as a Service (NaaS), Monitoring as a Service and Communications as a Service (CaaS). Where will it end? One can only wonder.
August 22nd - Turn, cough and verify your identity
We learned this week that Chinese hackers recently stole data on 4.5 million patients from Community Health Systems, which was just one of many incidents of data stolen from (or lost by) U.S. medical establishments this year. Why would hackers be interested in people’s personal medical data? One theory is that there’s a market for such information, presumably people without medical insurance who could benefit from assuming someone else’s identity - and insurance. Who knows if that’s really true, but, just to be safe, maybe doctors should double check that you are who you say you are. You can't be too careful these days...
August 15th - Facebook Messenger is even more invasive than we thought
It seems like every month or two Facebook sends the Internet into a tizzy by making its terms of service (seemingly) ever more onerous. The latest example is the kerfuffle over the TOS around its new app, Facebook Messenger. Some people are refusing to install it, or are uninstalling it, since it demands a access to all sorts of things like photos, contacts, texts, location data, etc. Others, though, point out that, per usual, this is much ado about nothing. I tend to fall into the latter category but, why let that stop me from poking fun at Facebook and the Hooded One?
August 8th - No, there isnt an app for that
These days, there’s an app for just about anything you want to do. At least, that’s what it seems like to me. But, as this cartoon illustrates, I was reminded that there are still some things apps can’t do for us, like find my daughter’s retainer when she leaves it at a restaurant and it gets thrown out with the trash. Long story short, I did land up digging through a dumpster looking for it but, sadly, couldn’t find it, either. Maybe there’s an app to help prevent her from losing the next one in the first place? I’ll have to look...
July 31st - When Linus Torvalds curses, people listen
Fun tech news tidbit of the week came courtesy of the one and only Linus Torvalds, legendary creator of Linux and Git - and legendary potty-mouthed ranter. Never one to shy away from sharing his feeling, Torvalds found a bug in a recent release of the GCC compiler and while his formal bug report was perfectly professional and SFW, his email about it to the Linux kernel mailing list was a little more loosey goosey, not to mention R-rated. Torvalds, as you probably know, is famous for his rants about things that bug him in the tech world. One can only imagine what he’s like when something bugs him in everyday life.
July 25th - Dont overdo it on System Administrator Appreciation Day
Happy System Administrator Appreciation Day! Let’s face it; sysadmins are the office equivalent of MacGyver and without them most of us wouldn’t be able to do our jobs. Be sure, then, to take the time today to show some love to those people who keep our networks and email and servers, not to mention desktops and printers, up and running. If you’re stuck for gift ideas, here are some; or you could compose a poem (or interpretive dance) expressing your gratitude. Of course, it’s also possible to go overboard with these things, so don’t go too nuts.
July 18th - Comcast doesn't know how to quit you
Just when you thought your opinion of cable companies’ customer service couldn’t get any worse, along comes this week’s story of tech journalist Ryan Block’s attempt to cancel his Comcast service. What should have been a short and simple phone call turned into a prolonged and painful breakup, when Block ran into a customer service rep who just wouldn’t take no for answer. Fortunately, Block recorded much of the call, so you can hear the insanity for yourself. The rep did eventually cancel Block’s service, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Comcast pulls a Lloyd Dobler move in Block’s driveway.
July 11th - Crowdfunding jumps the shark
There wasn’t much question about what my favorite tech story of this week was: the guy who raised more than $40K (so far) on Kickstarter to make potato salad. If there was any doubt before this that crowdfunding thing was getting a little out of control, I’d say that’s now been eliminated. My favorite part, really, were the rewards donors would get, ranging from a thank you note to a bite of the potato salad to hanging out in the kitchen while the guy makes the potato salad. Now that the floodgates have been opened, one can only imagine what other crowdfunding - and reward - silliness will soon be coming our way.
July 3rd - Home IT support can generate its own fireworks
Tomorrow is July 4th which means that, here in the States, lots of folks will heading out to watch fireworks. I’m not much of a fireworks fan (yawn), and, besides, not even the legendary 4th of July show here in Boston can match the fireworks that I generated the other night after a home IT support project went haywire. I was updating iOS on my daughter’s iPhone 4s when something went screwy. tl:dr; It took me a long evening of hair pulling and swearing to figure out how to recover all of her photos and contacts and everything else. Once again, I was reminded of the power of good backups.
June 27th - Prepare to grovel, cord cutters
The U.S. Supreme Court made a couple of big tech-related rulings this week. One was a decision that the police must get a warrant before searching a cell phone. The other, much less popular, decision was a ruling that the Aereo TV service violated copyright laws. That should kill off Aereo and Aereo-like services, which will probably mean that some cord cutters will turn back to cable TV. Of course, I have no doubt that the cable companies will welcome them back into the fold gracefully.
June 19th - Watch out! The Fire phone knows what youre looking at
This week Amazon finally unveiled its long rumored smartphone, the Fire. It features something they call Dynamic Perspective, a head tracking system using four front facing cameras in the corners of the phone. Using those cameras, the phone can figure out exactly where your head is facing at all times.
The Fire uses this technology to dynamically adjust what you’re looking at on your phone (pictures, maps, etc.). Sounds neat and all but, being the glass-is-half-empty guy that I am, I immediately thought of the bad ways in which this technology could be used. But, I’m probably just being a worrywart, right?
June 13th - Netflix v. Verizon is getting good
The battle between Netflix and Verizon is heating up fast! First, Netflix told its users on Verizon that Verizon was to blame for poor streaming quality. Then, Verizon returned volley by threatening to sue Netflix if they didn’t cut it out and then Netflix told Verizon to, basically, shove it. As a Netflix customer who is rarely able to find anything good to stream on their service (I’m not into Orange is the New Black, so that doesn’t leave much), I must say that following this whole thing has been pretty entertaining! I can’t wait to see what happens next.
June 6th - Apples HealthKit could take the fun out of dessert
Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week and, whether you think Apple is still innovating or simply playing catch-up, there's no debating that they generated lots of news and attention, per usual. One of the big things they announced was HealthKit, a part if iOS 8 which will make it easier for your apps to share health related data about you. HealthKit will also allow apps to share your health and fitness data with your healthcare providers.
Per usual, my first thought was, “Is that really a good thing?” and, per usual, my answer to myself was, “Er, maybe not.”
The good news is iOS 8 won’t come out until later this year, so, for now, enjoy that second heaping helping of pie!
May 30th - That ransomware payment is coming out of your allowance
There was news this week out of Australia about some iOS owners getting locked out of their devices by ransomware. After making sure I was taking the proper precautions to ensure that my own iPhone wouldn’t get hit, I then had to remind my daughters to secure their own phones as well. Back when I was growing up, my parents didn’t have to worry about this kind of unexpected electronics-related expense from cropping up. Parenting must’ve been simpler, and definitely cheaper, back in the 1980s.