Tag Archives: Computer world

The BS of Software and hardware

 

We all have that moment where we wonder where ethical boundaries are. Where is the boundary of deceptive conduct, where is the boundary of profiteering and who knows what a moral centre is?

From my point of view Microsoft skates on every boundary not really giving a damn, especially giving a damn and regards towards their consumers.

The consumer has been deceived for a long time, Microsoft will never call it that, but Computerworld (at https://www.computerworld.com/article/3342416/new-non-security-win10-patches-fix-numerous-bugs-but-wheres-version-1809.html) gives us: “you’ll only get them if you manually download and install them or if, in Windows Update, you click Check for Updates. That’s a deception I’ve railed against for months, but apparently somebody at Microsoft thinks that being a seeker – clicking Check for Updates – gives the updater permission to install these lurking patches, without notification or consent.

In addition Variety gives us in part more with “New hardware sales dropped 6.1%. That drop, GameStop says, was because of 2017’s strong Xbox One X sales, but was also offset by strong growth in Nintendo Switch sales. New video game sales dropped 8.3%“, with an added “Microsoft has seen the following growth as a result of Xbox Game Pass“, which is in all honesty an awesome deal for any gamer, especially as the price would be great at twice the amount, there is no denying that. Yet every indication I have seen gives me the clear indication that the 8.3% drop might be including the Game Pass offer as that is also new video game sales. You see all those new mighty titles that were added with the launch day premise is part of new software sales making the hardship of Microsoft a lot harder than we thought it was. Tech Central adds to this with ‘Microsoft’s Surface sales edge $2bn despite chip shortage‘, you might think it is good, Yet as a surface is set to $1350, the math gives us less than 1.5 million surface pro systems sold, which on a global scale is really bad news. When I expect my own IP to do at least twice that amount, the entire stage of Microsoft is just faltering on too many levels.

Their approach to gamer exploitation (too much advertisement on the console home page, leaving much less space for game icons to start, the never ending pushed Microsoft advertisement on our consoles without the option to switch it off, the news giving us Nintendo Switch Sales Pass 32 Million in under two years, whilst the estimated lifetime sales of the Xbox One is now around 41 million (in 6+ years), that so called ‘strongest console in the world‘ equaled now by the weakest console, exact numbers are unknown as Microsoft is no longer giving us exact console sales numbers.

We saw only two weeks ago on how all surface laptops and tablets are getting massive discounts, sales are not good. From my point of view, Microsoft played a very dangerous game and comes up short. The short selling of hardware, below essential needs to push for accessories, consoles that are too shallow, with a mere 1 TB whilst the going need for basic use passed the 2 TB point two years ago, no corrections were ever made. When we take a critical look at the Financial Express article (at https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/technology/satya-nadella-bullish-on-microsoft-surface-sales/1472634/), and consider “Revenue in personal computing was $13 billion and Surface is now almost a $2 billion business for Microsoft” most will ignore the hidden parts of too few Surface systems sold, the increased discounts making revenue interesting, yet profits would decrease to almost zero. It is the stage of badly expecting the needs of the consumers. It goes from bad to worse when we see VentureBeat giving us: ‘Microsoft really doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019‘, with the added “Microsoft today launched a marketing campaign pitting Office 2019 and Office 365 against each other. The goal? To prove Office 2019 isn’t worth buying — you and your company should go with Office 365 instead.” It is product versus SaaS, and they want Software as a Service to win (likely for tax reasons which is purely speculative from my side). There is also the need of more and more commitment, subscription versus one off sales. So when we see: “Office 365 includes fully-installed Office applications — the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But those apps keep getting better over time, with new capabilities delivered every month“, it would initially make sense to get the subscription. Yet I do not want to be online all the time, having to connect is just too much of an inconvenience when I travel and all the excuses that Microsoft hands us are not getting accepted by yours truly. As for the bugs, we need to be fair here, MS Office is so huge, a bug free version is pretty much out of the question, the issue is, does it actually impact you? The few bugs that bug me only happen in extreme situations and I have for the most used Office 2012 without any hitches. If there are ugly bugs, I never really stumbled on them, another reality we need to accept, but it is not about acceptance.

You see, all this got started with ‘‘We won’t be war profiteers’: Microsoft workers protest $480m army contract‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/feb/22/microsoft-protest-us-army-augmented-reality-headsets ), you short change consumers, mislead people on a global scale through carefully phrased words and you have an issue with a defence contract? It is even worse when we see “Workers say augmented reality headsets provided to US army risk ‘turning warfare into a simulated video game’“, it is from my point of view that these people have no or almost no comprehension of warfare. The images are those of warfare and terrorism, if we can diminish that impact on US soldiers, why would the Microsoft employees resist? In addition, in the shown concept image, if the mini-map keeps them alive, for Zen’s sake give it to them. When I see the lack of ethics that Microsoft has shown with their concept of what is perfectly acceptable and legal, the response ““We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” reads a petition being circulated inside the company, a copy of which was published on Twitter on Friday afternoon. More than 50 employees had signed the letter as of Friday afternoon, according to an employee“.

The response fails on two levels. In the first the augmented lenses are not a weapon, it is a tool and we can go as far as calling it a tactical tool that could give an edge on military and police. Consider the chance that these glasses prevent any innocent person to get shot as they were unlucky enough to get in the middle of it all. In the second part as we accept ‘how our work is used‘, we need to also accept that these employees knowingly and willingly were involved in exploiting consumers; you cannot get it both ways. And if they accept that then they have to be willing to go out and state: “We knowingly exploited consumers as this is part of our income and optionally our bonus!” If that would be the case and whilst the architectural flaws remain in the Xbox One, the lack of connectivity in the Surface devices, I really believe they should shut up or get out. It is their choice which of the two they select.

 

Now, I will accept that for some civilians the expression: “Under the terms of the army contract, however, the devices will be used to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy”” is awkward and harsh. The Pentagon sat on a live grenade a little too eagerly. The tactical setting should have been: “Under the terms of the army contract, however, the devices will be used to create increased awareness of the area, to be able to see hostile actions before they could have normally been aware of them and to decrease the chance of civilian casualties through people caught in that area without any feasible option to avoid harm.” Basically the same setting yet phrased a little different (Microsoft knows all about phrasing, do they not? In addition, the entire quote “The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game’, further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed” is open for debate. When you fire and actual firearm, the noise, the blow back of the weapon, it will not feel like a video game, not in the least. I also have an issue with ‘is designed to help people kill‘, the device does not give you skills to kill, it does give the imagery that could avoid one getting killed in the process and that is still an important factor. Add to this the need to keep civilian casualties at zero whenever possible, the part that this enables if a clear stage that a better equipped soldier gets a better chance in keeping 100% of the civilians out of harm’s way. Interesting that these so called ethically high ground Microsoft employees never gave that much thought. Although, seeing my Xbox One icon bar where 50% is used for advertisement as well as the push for more subscriptions is also an ethical debate, especially when the person who paid for a gaming console has no way of switching that part off. In that frame of mind, the Microsoft employees are actively promoting psychic assault, did they consider that part?

I wonder just how convoluted a person needs to be to walk away from half a billion dollars, a device that could save lives, it is interesting that that was a side that no one gave any attention to (media wise that is).

I am not stating that there is a negative side to this device that would be ludicrous as well. Yet if DARPA had not gone to the length it did to get us in 1970 ‘ARPANET, a pioneering network for sharing digital resources among geographically separated computers‘, we would not have the internet and we would not have e-commerce, did they consider that?

These Holo-Lenses might start in defence, yet they can go so much further. Rescue operations (finding life signs in natural or unnatural disasters), medical solutions that give surgeons direct layered information during an operation. In a large hospital not a big thing, but in small rural places, it will be a life saver. All issues that cannot come because these places do not have the billions needed to fund it, the military does and the visionary on these projects can see what else it can be used for. So when we get a couple of Microsoft sissies cry for a ‘ethics review board‘, they should consider the millions that do not want to face forced advertisement on the device they bought, or a diminished device that requires all kinds of accessories and storage to be regarded as actually functional. Their consumers have rights too, but that is apparently not in their frame of mind.

It seems to me that Microsoft has two filters, one for when things are really good and when for when that is not the case. It does fit the style of the military (making them a good match) where clothing is only available in two sizes, too large and too small. Go figure!

Have a great Friday! (60 hours until Monday morning)

 

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Dangers of Android?

Today I got confronted with a danger that Android poses. Yet, is this truly an Android issue? An Apple user will of course nod yes in a very rapid way. My Huawei is not the only one hindered by this. At Android central the following was found: “Are the apps definitely being removed from the App Drawer, or is it just that the shortcut is disappearing from your home screen?

This is of course a fair question, it still is not OK, but the difference between an app and a shortcut is quite the difference.

It turns out that the apps are on my phone, but they no longer run, they are now called ‘com.spyfox.tripletown‘. The apps seem to have gotten themselves damaged. The question no becomes why. At this point I also notice a program called ‘Li emotion’. The kanji next to it gives it away. My question now becomes ‘what is this and what does it do? This is because it is a separate app, I never installed it (as far as I can tell) and the rights it does have are massive. Yet there is no indication what it is, why it is on my phone and why it is allowed to do many things without my permission. It does not take too long that this is part of the Huawei Emui, so there is no real issue as the operating system needs to be able to do all this. Comprehension was the mere element that resolved everything.

This does not solve my app issue (which actually fixed itself) and gets us to the Guardian video (at http://www.theguardian.com/silent-circle-partner-zone/video/2015/aug/17/smartphone-users-read-their-app-permissions-out-loud-video). So yes, when we see the rights and speak them out loud, they sound very disconcerting. But why is it such an issue? ‘Modify calendar events and send e-mails without my knowledge‘ sounds extremely offensive, but now realise that you set up a meeting, you change the meeting and all parties are automatically updated through messages. Did you know that they got another mail stating that the meeting had changed? There you go, mystery solved. Apps ‘reading your text message‘ sounds like a worry, but is that program actually comprehending the information, or does ‘reading’ mean ‘parsing’, processing the text in all this? Computer lingo for the layman is not the easiest task.

In all this the one that stood out for me was ‘I give this app permission to automatically turn of airplane mode‘ if airplane mode was there for safety reasons (the airplane message no one ever believed that mobile phones interfered with airplane instruments), than the option to turn that off should not be allowed, but in all that, this could be as simple as the dialogue box ‘Would you like to deactivate airplane mode?‘ The video ends with ‘the biggest risk to you and your privacy is your smartphone‘, this is a decent claim to make. In all this, it is actually about users and consumers who do not understand (read comprehend) what they are agreeing to. They do not understand what they have consented to. That is always dangerous, because the things you do not realise are the issues that turn you into the greater fool. Here we can paraphrase the greater fool theory which states that “the price of an object is determined not by its intrinsic value, but rather by irrational beliefs and expectations of market participants” into “the security of your environment is determined not by the borders you mentally erect, but rather by naive believe that the applications on your smartphone will respect them“.

You see, I believe that people should be worried about privacy, and #Privacynow is a valid need, but what is your actual privacy? The way that they are getting there is a little bit of a worry, yet the path is not without valid reason. Consider the quote “It’s common for users to employ the same username and password across systems, so if someone compromises that particular password, the potential also exists for them to compromise additional user accounts“, this is a worry in one way, because is this about the safety of the phone and its apps or is this about Common Cyber Sense? Something I have been advocating for about 2 decades. So how is this a danger for Android? That is part of the issue. In my view the danger to IOS is not smaller and the danger is nor subsiding any day soon. One of the earliest sources is around 2008, in 2010 Computer world, CNet and other sources stated “About 20 percent of the 48,000 apps in the Android marketplace allow a third-party application access to sensitive or private information, according to a report released on Tuesday“, there are two sides here. In the first, is this like the earlier issues in the video and stated, ‘a form of feigned transgression?’ Or is this in the second ‘leaky security that leads to open access of information?’ There is however a third option, apps that were created that are intent on creating a backdoor that allows access to all data. It is the third that is a true danger, yet how realistic is this danger?

Computerworld stated this from a Google representative: “This report falsely suggests that Android users don’t have control over which apps access their data.  Not only must each Android app gets users’ Permission to access sensitive information, but developers must also go through billing background checks to confirm their real identities, and we will disable any apps that are found to be malicious“, this is not just clearly the case, there is supporting evidence on several levels that this is true. In addition, these parts are quotes from 2010 and since then both Apple and Google have upped the security game by a lot. Still, it is the news from last week (at http://www.wired.com/2015/10/iphone-malware-hitting-china-lets-not-next/) ‘iPhone Malware Is Hitting China. Let’s Not Be Next‘ is the issue today. The quote “Unlike previous spates of iOS-targeted malware, many of those victims hadn’t jailbroken their phones to install unauthorized apps. The two back-to-back attacks—one far more sophisticated than the other but both unprecedented in iOS’s history—suggest that complacent iPhone users around the world could be in for the same nasty shock“, the issue has now become the fact regarding ‘non jailbroken systems’, which implies that either a flaw has popped up in the Apple device, or overall a new level of access has become a worry. It is the quote that follows which now is centre in all this “Apple has said that only iOS 8.3 and earlier were left open to the attack. Later versions limited access to the APIs it exploited to plant its ads“, so we can accept that we all install the latest versions, yet what happens to those who have an older device (like the iPhone 4)? There are plenty of things people can do that prevent these issues, and in all this ‘Common Cyber Sense’ remains the big issue. So is China hindered by a massive lack of Common Cyber Sense?

Here we now see the evolution that is the danger. It is the assumption of the user. The laziness of their usage and the ignorance of the effects that they easily embrace. The quote “Don’t install strange apps that appear in pop-ups online and aren’t found in Apple’s App Store” is the big part we must adhere too (well Apple users anyway), for most people like you and me, we use the Google Play Store sources only! Both Google and Apple have their methods in place. Would a three pronged app remain the issue as implied in the article? That is hard to state, but what is clear is that 99% of the dangers can be averted by using the reliable source and that reliable source only. The application of ‘Common Cyber Sense’ can aid you in averting another 0.9999%, which means that if you install 10,000 apps, there is a one in 10,000 chance of you ending up having a chance of being in danger.

Yet in all this, we should never relax about the technology we use and the danger it could bring. It is that fear that is driving people in all kinds of corners they never need to be in. When you have sex, not the committed relationship one, but the quickie with that girl next door for some slap and tickle. In that case do you practice safe sex? When you live in the city, do you go to work leaving the front door to your apartment wide open? In that same sense, when you use any technology that has your personal information, you use more than the minimum safety. That last part requires Common Cyber Sense. To the previous generation it is a harder thing to do, but it can still be done, to my generation it is an additional side to my workflow. It is the next generation that is now the part that matters. Many are taking the casual approach their parents (or bigger siblings) have, whilst not realising that Common Cyber Sense will be at the foundation of their lives. So, any OS will come with its own perils. Be it Windows, LINUX, Android, IOS or any other OS. They will face a new area that is on the move with such high speed that there is no way to predict where they will be in 7 years’ time. The dangers of a complete rewrite in an iterative world. You see until 2000, both hardware and software remained highly innovative, it was after 2003 that the iterative world was set in high gear. First Hardware and now to a larger extent Software has been in iterative mode. Yet the world behind all this, the security part has made leaps and bounds and to some extent not in a good way. Here we can make a connection to an article by Tarleton Gillespie from 2014 called ‘Facebook’s algorithm — why our assumptions are wrong, and our concerns are right‘. The quote “I will say that social science has moved into uncharted waters in the last decade, from the embrace of computational social scientific techniques, to the use of social media as experimental data stations, to new kinds of collaborations between university researchers and the information technology industry“. In addition there is “Those who are upset about this research are, according to its defenders, just ignorant of the realities of Facebook and its algorithm. More and more of our culture is curated algorithmically“. This is not upsetting or ground breaking, but it is the next part that links to all this. It is a blog article called ‘Analytic Suspicions‘ (at https://analyticsuspicions.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/metric-failures-and-data-assumptions-4-myths-of-social-analytics/), he is looking at a few myths in social media, in all this (it is a nice read and well written), I personally see one point that is not a myth, it is a worry and it seems to me that many remain ignorant on that danger. You see, the myths whether all Social Media is analysed, that Social Media data is clean enough to Analyse, Influencers should be targeted and sentiments analyses works. In all this we forget the 5th issue (this being the non-myth). The interaction of apps and data. The dangers that we interact our apps and the data that is linked to all this that is now becoming the true issue. You see, even with all the common cyber sense no matter how safe our mobile is, the data is still somewhere and that data becomes available, more data than we agreed on. Yet in all this is the mobile OS Android/IOS the weak link?

That is the part that is not addressed by many speakers in this realm. Some get scared by places like ‘life hacker’ and some are ignoring the woeful text that passes us by, yet when places like Forbes report that ‘Report: 97% Of Mobile Malware Is On Android‘ (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2014/03/24/report-97-of-mobile-malware-is-on-android-this-is-the-easy-way-you-stay-safe/) people get worried (even though the article is more than a year old). Yet the article enlightens us in many ways. The most important quote here is “here’s the part Google’s rivals don’t want you to know: the figures are misleading“, which is one side of the foundation. The second on is the part I already discussed “stick to buying apps on the Play Store and every one in 1000 apps you buy may have had malware for a brief period“, the word ‘may’ is essential and ‘brief period’ is also essential, in the end, the chance of you getting the winning lottery ticket could be slightly higher, odds I’ll take any day.

Yet in all this, with all the protection these providers offer, the number one danger is you!

Common Cyber Sense is the essential step of reducing that danger to almost zero (like 0.0001% chance).

In the end the danger of Android is almost the same as the danger to IOS, both large players presenting into the margins, which is where the mobile phone user (you know that pesky consumer) does not tend to be. Which takes us to the final part in all this. It was my blog article from the 4th of October (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2015/10/04/cisa-and-privacy-are-not-opposites/) ‘CISA and Privacy are not opposites‘, we get confronted with Silent Circle and their Blackphone 2. I have no doubt that Phil Zimmermann and Mike Janke are men of knowledge, determination and possibly even innovation. Yet, these skills do in my humble opinion not match up to the killer skills of the Google engineers with their keyboards. So when we see the quote in the Guardian (see previous blog link) “Google didn’t support the initial software build, something that probably helped make the phone more popular, rather than less“, do you think that this was done in envy by Google, or because their build did not hold up to scrutiny? That last part is speculation because I have no data or any evidence going one way or another. The Blackphone is marketed by intelligent people with skills, no one will doubt that, and it is also clear that Silent Circle is now tapping into a direction that is gaining traction, which means the market will most definitely grow in this direction. Yet in all this, considering all the facts, in how much danger is your data?

Sit in a quiet corner and let that questions sink in for a minute. I have been in the data field since 1989, in all that time the biggest threat was ‘data at rest’ (data saved on a device), meaning that this implies that you have strong passwords on your hotspot and Bluetooth capabilities, or just switch these options to ‘off’, not data that is moving from point A to Point B. Today both areas are a ‘threat’ and the second one only since very recent.

Since November 2012 I have had 2 phones, the second one I got this year because only now, my Android needs had grown beyond a 1 GB RAM phone. As far as I can tell I have only faced one issue and that was due to an ignorant third party developer and their dim witted approach to synchronisation. The simple use of Common Cyber Sense is all I needed. Basic steps that nearly anyone can adhere to. The threat of criminals and organised crime will not go away. Common Cyber Sense will keep them at bay and common sense should do the rest.

Which now takes us back to the title, you see, the dangers of Android are largely between your ears. The only dangers you face are the ones you open yourself up to! You should never stop asking questions on where things are and what you sign up to, that is common sense, but also feel free to question what certain things mean, it is in the comprehension that you find the answer. If there is one conundrum to leave you with then it is not android or IOS, consider the idea that a Facebook game wants you to give them access to your religious views, whatever for?

To pray for ammunition?

Well, so be it: ‘halleluiah’, now die you zombie master and give me my 10 points towards a high score!

 

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