Tag Archives: ZDNet

Overpricing or Segregation?

What is enough in a PC? That is the question many have asked in the past. Some state that for gaming you need the max hardware possible; for those using a word processor, a spreadsheet, email and browse the internet, the minimum often suffices.

I have been in the middle of that equation for a long time; I was for well over a decade in the high end of it, as gaming was my life. Yet, the realisation became more and more that high end gaming is a game for those with high paying jobs was a reality we all had to face. Now we see the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Xp 12GB GDDR5X Video Card at $1950, whilst we can do 4K gaming and that one card is a 4K 65″ TV with either the Xbox X or the PS4 pro. Now consider that this is merely the graphics card and that the high end PC requires an additional $2K that is where the PC with 4K gaming requires 4 thousand dollars. It is a little stretch, because you can get there with a little less, but then also the less requires the hardware to be replaced quicker. So I moved to console gaming and I never regretted it. We all agree that I have lost out, but I can live with that. I can truly enjoy gaming without the price. So in this situation, can someone explain to me how the new iMac Pro will cost you in its maximum setting $20,743? Is there any justification to need such an overpowered device? I reckon that those into professional video editing might need it, but when we consider those 43 people in Australia (on that high level) who else does it benefit?

In comparison, a maximised Mac Pro costs you $11,617, so it is almost 50% cheaper. Now the comparison is not fair because the iMac Pro has an optional 4TB SSD drive, and that is not a cheap item, but the issue is that the overpowering of hardware might seem cool and nice, but let’s be fair, when we compare this through MS Word, we see the issue. The bulk of all people will never use more than 20% of that text editor, which is a reality we face yet at $200 we do not care, take the price a hundred fold, with $20,000 in the balance it adds up and even as MS Word has one version the computers do have options, and a lesser option is available, in this, that new iMac Pro is in minimum configuration $7K and at twice the price of a 4K gaming machine, with no real option for gaming, is that not a system that is over the top?

Now, some might think it is, some will state it is not and it is really in the eyes of the beholder. Yet in this day and age, when we have been thrusted into a stage where mobiles and most computer environments are set to a 2-4 year stage at best, how should we see the iMac pro? In addition, where the base model of the pro is 100% more expensive than the upgraded iMac 27″, is there a level of disjointed presentation?

Well, some do not think in that way and they are right to see it as such. One source (ZDNet) gives us: “The iMac Pro is aimed at professionals working with video (a lot of video), those into VR, 3D modeling, simulations, animation, audio engineers and such“, a view I wholeheartedly agree with, yet that view and that image has not been given when we see the marketing, the Apple site and even the apple stores. Now, first off, the apple stores have not been misleading, most have kept to some strict version of ‘party line’ and that is not a wrong stance. Also the view that ZDNet gives us at the end is spot on. With “It’s Mac for the 1 percent of Mac users, not the 99 percent. For the 99 percent, yes, the iMac Pro is overpriced and just throwing away money, but for the 1 percent who need the sort of power that a system like that can generate, it’s very reasonably priced” and that is where we see the issue, Mac is now segregating the markets trying to get the elite back into the Mac fold. Their timing is impeccable. Microsoft made a mess of things and with the gaming industry in the chaotic view of hardware the PC industry has become a mess. It moved towards the gamers who now represent $100 billion plus already we see that others went on the games routine whilst to some extent ignoring the high end graphical industry. It is something that I have heard a few times and to be honest, I ignored it. I grew there whilst being completely aware of all the hardware, which was 15-25 years ago. The graphical hardware market grew close to 1000%, so when I needed to dig into the PC hardware for another reason, I was amazed just how much there was and how affordable some stuff was, but in the highest gaming tier, the one tier where the gamer and high end video editing need overlaps, we see a lag, because selling to 99 gamers and one video editor means that most will not give a toss about the one video editor. Most will know what they need, but that market is not well managed. Issues like video drivers and Photoshop CC 2017 against Windows 10 are just a few of the dozens upon dozens of issues that seems to plague these users. Important is that this is not just some Adobe issue; it seems that the issues are still in a stage of flux. With “Microsoft warned that the April 2017 security update package has a known issue that could affect users’ computers and which the company is seeking to fix” a few months ago, we are starting to see more and more that Windows forgot that its core was not merely the gamer, it was an elite user group that it had slowly snagged away from Apple and now Apple is striking back in the best way possible, by giving them that niche again, by pushing these people with money away, they might soon see that the cutting edge Azure targets for high end graphic applications become a pool of enjoyment for the core Microsoft Office users. A market that they are targeting just as Apple gets its ducks in a row and snatches that population away from them.

That is indeed a clever move, because that was the market that made Apple great in the first place. So as we read on how Azure is aiming for the ArcGIS Pro population, we see that Apple has them outgunned and outclassed and not by a small amount either. Here the iMac Pro could be the difference between real time prototyping and anticipated results awaiting aggregation. That would instantly make the difference between a shoddy $5K-$8K gaming system used for data and the iMac Pro at $20K that can crunch data like a famished piranha, you can wait and watch those results become reality before you finish your first coffee.

In addition, as soon as Apple makes the second step we will see them getting a decent chunk out of the Business Intelligence, forecasting and even the Enterprise sized dash boarding market, because with 18 cores, you can do it all at the same time. This is not the first, not the second and not even the third case where Microsoft dropped the ball. They went wide, and forgot about the core business needs (or so you would think). Yet, the question remains how many can or are willing to pay the $20K question, even as we know that there are options in the $8K and $13K setting in that same device, because there is room for change between 8 and 18 cores. It seems that for a lot the system is overpriced, we can all agree on that, but for those who are in the segregated markets, it is not about a new player, it is more that the windows driven PC market, they just lost a massively sized niche, it is the price we pay for catering to the largest denominator, the question then becomes: ‘Can Microsoft and will it hit back?

Time will tell, what is the case is that the waiting is over and 2018 could potentially see a massive shift of high end users towards Apple, a change we have not seen for the longest of times, I wish them well, because in the end many average users will benefit from such a shift as well, because in confusion there is profit and Microsoft is optionally becoming one of the larger confused places in 2018.

So why should I care?

Apple started something that will soon be copied by A-brands like ASUS. It will remain a PC, but they now see that the high end users they do have, they want to keep it. This makes it almost exactly 20 years after I learned this lesson the hard way. There was a Dutch sales shop who had a special deal, the deal was the Apple Performa, maxed (as far as that was possible) for almost $2750, I was happy as hell. My apple (My first 100% owned by my own self) and I had a great time. I never regretted buying it, but there was a snatch, 3 months later that same shop had the Power-Mac on special, the difference was well over 300%, the difference $1000 (a lot in those days), but still 300% more power and new software that would no longer support the Performa system and older models, a system outdated before the warranty ran out. We are about to see a similar shift. We know multi-core systems, they have been around for a while, yet the shift is larger, so as we see new technologies, new solutions pushed on us whilst the actual current solutions as still broken to some extent, we will be pushed into a choice, will we follow the core or fall behind? Even as we see the marketing babble now on how it is upper tier, merely for the 1% and we feel to be in agreement (for now) we see a first wave of segregation. As the followers will emphasise on the high end computers, we will see a new wave of segregation.

And? So what? I do not want to pay too much!

This is the valid response for many players, for many users, they do not have the needs IT people have, many merely see the need they have now and that is not wrong, not in this life as the economy is not coming back the way it needs to be. Yet two elements are taking over, the first is Microsoft, we can’t get around them for the most and as e-commerce and corporate industry is moving, shows to be both their option and their flaw. As we see more push where 90% of the Fortune 500 is now stated to be on the Microsoft cloud, we see the need for multi-core systems more and more. Even as some might remember the quote form early 2017 “Find out why it’s the most complete #cloud solution“, the rest is only now catching on that the Azure cloud is dangerous in several ways. Chip Childers, the fearless leader of the Cloud Foundry Foundation gives us “We are shifting to a “cloud-first” world more and more. Even with private data centres, the use of cloud technologies is changing how we think about infrastructure, application platforms and software development“, yet the danger is also there yet not mentioned. This danger is slowly pushed onto us through the change that the US gave yesterday. As Net Neutrality is being abolished, there is a real danger that certain blocks could grow on a global scale. So as we see trillions in market value shift, how long until other players will set up barriers and set minimum business needs and cater to them above all others?

Core Cloud Solutions become a danger, because it forces the contemplation that it is no longer about bandwidth and strength of your internet connection, the high end of business is moving back to the Mainframe standards that existed strongly before the 90’s started. It will be about CPU Time Used. So at that point it is not about the amount of data, but the reception of CPU channels, as such the user with a multi core system will have a massive advantage, and the rest is segregated back towards second level, decreased options. It does not change consumer use of places like Netflix, but when you require the power of your value to be in Azure, the multicore systems are the key to enable you and disable connection huggers and non-revenue connected users, consumers at a price for limited access.

This is the future we push for; it is not created by or instigated by Apple. It merely sees what will be needed in 4 years when 5G is the foundation of our lives. I saw part of this as I designed part of a solution that will solve the NHS issues in the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany, but I was slow to see that the lesson I was handed the hard way in 1997 is also around the corner. As Netflix and others (Google in part) is regressing towards the mean in some of their services and options that they will offer the global audience at large. The outliers (Google, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and SAP) will soon be facilitators to the Expression Dataset of the next model of usage that comes. There will be a shift and it will go on until 2022, as 5G will enable some players like NTT Data and Tata Communications to get an elevated seat, perhaps even a seat at that very table.

They will decide over the coming years that there is a shift and as people decide the level of access that they are getting they will soon learn that they are not merely deciding for themselves, because the earlier their children get full access, the more options they will get beyond their tertiary education. Soon we will learn that access is almost everything, but we will not learn that lesson the way we thought we would. Even I have no idea how this will play out, but such a shift beyond the iteration IT world we see now is exciting beyond belief. I hope I will end up being part of that world, I have been part of the IT/BI Industry since 1980 and I am about to see a new universe of skills unfold before my very eyes. I wonder how far I am able to get into that part, because these players will all need facilitation of services and most of them have been commission driven for too long, meaning that they are already falling behind.

What a world we are about to need to live in!

 

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The line of privacy

I have a decent grasp on privacy. I tend to give it to others as much as possible, moreover as I on average do not really care about their private lives. This sounds harsh, but consider the facts. When the person isn’t family, or directly connected to you, how much do you actually care? Some people do care to know everything, but that is another matter entirely. So when ZDNET and a few others published ‘61 agencies after warrantless access to Australian telecommunications metadata‘, I was initially in that mood of, ‘oh yea, whatever!’ You see, when I see names like ‘Australian Financial Security Authority’, I reckon financial planners will get jumpy, but is that about possible ‘dubious’ choices, or their need for privacy? You see, one implies the element of a transgression, as such it becomes debatable whether those actions are to be lauded with non-access.

With a player like Clean Energy Regulator we see an industrial access need, and I very much doubt whether they are interested in individuals. But what happens when we see that groups like Bankstown City Council, Racing Queensland, Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner (VIC) and the National Measurement Institute, I start having questions (especially regarding levels of sanity).

Let’s consider the access: “warrantless access two years’ worth of customers’ call records, location information, IP addresses, billing information, and other data stored by Telco’s“.

Now, I will be the last one to questions access by ‘valid’ organisations and even looking that the ‘alphabetical’ list the locations of the redacted names does not seem to include ASIO and ASIS, who have a clear need for that access, but can anyone explain why Bankstown City Council needs that access? In that same line we can add both Racing Queensland and the Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner (VIC). If there is an investigation, it should go via the police of the correct channels. I see zero, I say again, zero reason to give those three access. Before we know it, we see Waverly City Council and perhaps even Chatswood City Council. How long then until all that data becomes available ‘for a special price’?

There are a few others on that list that require scrutiny. Do you really think that industrial transgressors wanted by the Department of the Environment will use their own phones? How much wasted man-years will we face as those untrained individuals try to make sense of 23,644 burner phones, which is just Sydney. In all this it seems to me that those requiring access will after that have an issue with processing data, which means more software, more failed levels of security and even more data transgressions. This must be the heaven that Rupert Murdoch dreams of. Data all accessible behind a server guarded with the admin password ‘qwerty’ or perhaps even ‘password’.

Yes, there is a massive issue here and the magazines including ZDNET (at http://www.zdnet.com/article/61-agencies-after-warrantless-access-to-australian-telecommunications-metadata/) mention the names (minus the redacted ones), we see the additional quote “Of the agencies and departments given access to existing information or documents to enforce a criminal law over the 12-month period, and not included on either list released by AGD, or known to be an enforcement agency already“, we now see names like RSPCA Tasmania and The Hills Shire Council, when we look at one of the websites (http://www.rspcatas.org.au/ for example).

We see in the about section: “The RSPCA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is the voice for the animals of Australia. We defend their dignity and fight to stop cruelty. We offer shelter, education, medical attention and love. We are animal protectors, carers and guardians. We bring solace to abandoned, surrendered and injured. We prosecute those who would harm them. And we fight for the humane treatment of all living things. Our job does not stop at animals. We believe behind every animal is a human being who is in need of guidance, encouragement and help“, which is a nice fluffy and caring text. Nothing wrong there. So explain to me, how a place like that has a decent level of cyber security, with in their office pool an IT person with CCSP certification or higher and a few other skills. You see, when these skills are absent your data will be up for grabs. Perhaps that is outsourced, meaning that additional people have access to all that data, have those places been properly vetted? So on an island of 515,000 we see this level of personal data access requirements? My initial follow up questions would than become, of all those funds required from the donations, how much ends up going to animals?

In the case of the Hills Shire Council we can have a lot more fun, their community profile (at http://profile.id.com.au/the-hills/population) gives us “The Census population of The Hills Shire in 2011 was 169,873, living in 57,205 dwellings“, why for the love of whatever is holy (or named Cthulhu) would THEY need that level of access to data?

In my view we should start asking a few questions regarding the mental health of whomever gave that level of access. I am guessing that this was Attorney General, George Brandis, which basically gets confirmed in the Guardian Article (at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/18/dozens-of-agencies-want-warrantless-access-to-australians-metadata-again). As we see the quote “the government narrowed the definition of an “enforcement agency” that was eligible to access telecommunications data to a shortlist of law enforcement agencies, including the Australian federal police and state and territory police forces“, my initial thought was ‘that makes perfect sense’, yet in that light, how the flipping Divine Comedies did RSPCA Tasmania make that list?

The Guardian in light of all this ends with a comical quote “This method was taken to allow the Australian Border Force to gain access to telecommunications data without needing to gain approval from the Attorney General’s Department or the intelligence committee“, which is interesting as this implies that the Australian Border Force has less access than RSPCA Tasmania, which would make perfect sense if you are a golden retriever.

So apart of the access and the lack of insight here, has anyone considered how that data is to be read, analysed and processed? In addition, when we consider the access level of applications, the support and very likely (read: extremely likely) the levels of consultancy needed, what else is missing what will this cost the taxpayers in the end? I can tell you now that such solutions are not cheap, not easily implemented and did I mention the security needed for keeping that data safe? Even if this all goes through clouds and remote access, how long until a volunteer looking after cats will leave that password accidently out in the open, or even worse leave that system logged in and unattended?

As stated, I would never object to the actual law-enforcement agencies to get that access, but it seems to me that too large a group on that list is nowhere near that level and even (read: especially) when we consider groups like Greyhound Racing Victoria, why are they not going through police channels?

I see both articles and no one seems to be asking the questions that need to be asked. Questions that had to be asked extremely loud and very nearby after a mere 30 seconds of reading those articles. By the way, when reading the ZDNET article, it is the article that follows that is cause for even more questions.

One of the quotes is ‘the Many Layers and Tools of Digital Collaboration Today‘, which is nice when it is a mere graph of generic data. In that we might not care, but in the issue of ‘call records, location information, IP addresses, billing information, and other data stored by Telco’s‘, which includes all your personal data. Consider the following quotes “employees and departments are helping themselves to the tools they believe they really need. At the same time, companies are steadily dealing with what is now too many categories of communication and collaboration software to adequately manage and govern, much less individual apps” and “The issue itself is perhaps best demonstrated by the rapid rise of Slack, the current darling of team chat and wildly popular with its users. In many of my recent conversations with IT managers, I find that Slack is invading the workplace on many fronts, regardless whether it’s sanctioned or not” and finally “The top categories of apps today include VOIP, Web conferencing, e-mail, unified communications, IM/chat, file shares, file sync, CMS/DMS, intranets, discussion forums, enterprise social networks, relationship management platforms (including customer-facing CRM), and last but not least, online community“.

Now remember, the second article (on the same page) is not connected to the first, but consider the cloud and the explosive growth of so called ‘tool apps’ and the utter lack of in-depth security and access checking, how many back doors are organisations creating through such tools, with access to your data? Weirdly, I would never hold a bad thought for a volunteer organisations like the RSPCA, which is exactly why they should have never ever been given access to data like that. For the mere reason that cyber security cannot viably be maintained.

Whomever boasts on the security of places like Slack is in my view decently nuts. When we see interested players like Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, KPCB, Spark, and Social+Capital, the first thing we will see fail is a pressure to release a new version and there will be the need of security patches (which is a reality), this also means that data would have been unprotected. The mere intense need for Common Cyber Sense is that boss who wants that new version, because the presentation looks cooler. Even when we ignore the issue of Slack, we still see an exponential growing app base, with access all over the place, which means danger to the data. Even when remotely accessed, even if that connection is secure, too many places get access to data they should not have access to.

When we hear people state that servers have access limitations and more of the mumbling, here is a simple word of caution, something I personally witnessed. There was a financial software program. It was a good and legitimate program. The small issue was that when the program accidently crashed, that person remained on the data server with rights of an administrator. It took them 2 weeks to figure out it was happening and another 3 weeks to repair their system. Consider something like that happening today and with the ‘upgrades’ Microsoft requires on a too regular a basis, can we even risk this level of access to the expanded group that has too limited a grasp (as I see it) on what constitutes Common Cyber Sense?

I wonder how long until we get a carefully phrased apology from certain high ranking IT elements, who will offer their resignation and walk away with a 7 figure handshake.

 

 

 

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Without even thinking

As I see it, Microsoft did not learn from the massive act of idiocy that Don Mattrick bestowed upon the Xbox One, when the quote “Microsoft’s Don Mattrick has addressed concerns about the compulsory connectivity requirements of Xbox One. ‘Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360,’ said Mattrick. ‘If you have zero access to the Internet, that is an offline device’”, the blowback in 2013 was massive and as such Microsoft had to take a few steps back, mainly because Microsoft had lost the trust of the people through the mere lust of data.

And now, without even thinking, Microsoft now does exactly that same thing as they rolled out Windows 10 on Xbox One. Once you have updated, you cannot play any games unless you have signed in online. A mandatory sign in! I reckon that Microsoft has now moved beyond a certain point, it is called betraying your customer base, so fuck you very much Microsoft!

Thank god there is Sony!

Without even thinking they pushed it out, forcing mandatory internet connectivity, the threat that made people jump towards Sony due to ‘the Mattrick equation’ will now assist to soar Sony’s PlayStation 4 even further. So if Phil Spencer gets a lovely bouquet from Andrew House we will all know the reason. So as this mistake was made just in time for the people of America just before Thanksgiving and for all other people before Christmas to cancel their Xbox One order and change their order to a PlayStation 4.

There will still be an issue for me; you see to keep the PlayStation competitive it needs a nemesis. If we accept that the Xbox will run dry another solution needs to be found. Perhaps Google will father a sibling next to their console and make one for true high level gaming. Perhaps it will be an upgraded Steam based reality, perhaps something truly new. They might be the only one who can replace Microsoft. I reckon that is not the only field where Microsoft will lose. As it has ‘mesmerised’ the media with a massively overpriced tabled with a soft keyboard (the Surface 3) at almost twice the price of the most powerful iPad, being at almost 400% of a Chromebook that can be stronger from the word go by inserting an $80 CF card you get the 32Gb storage the surface has (they have bigger models too), yet these CF cards can be switched in mere seconds. This is not me becoming anti-Microsoft, this is me informing the consumer that they should not take any ‘easy’ path but they should consider that alternatives should be considered. The fact that Microsoft becks out on their earlier promise, how long until they break other promises? What options will they have AFTER they paid $2293 for a Microsoft Surface Pro 3?

Yes, we cannot deny that there is still a market for Microsoft, but they are now pricing themselves out of a market by no longer being reliable, because how long until every device is forced onto the land of THEIR cloud systems and how private will your data be? Part of that was addressed by ZDNet today, the rest (the press at large) seemed to have ignored the Xbox issues. Perhaps they decided to hold out for advertiser’s funds like hungry debutants! Yes, the press is not the reliable force of true information it ones was.

ZDNET gives us another part that connects to this (at http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-updates-privacy-statement-addressing-concerns-from-critics/), stating “Microsoft recently revised its global Privacy Statement, with a few minor changes and some significant additions aimed at cooling overheated privacy concerns“. The article is for the most about the user’s privacy and it goes into lengths to do that, so if you fear your ‘privacy’ then read the article and fear no more. The article addresses it quite clearly but then stops short of dealing with the mandatory login (which was not part of the article in all fairness), which is now one step away from ending preowned gaming. An entire economy now in direct possible threat.

But back to the consoles!

The fact that this escalation has happened is also a blessing now, because as people realise before Thanksgiving that whatever Microsoft device is gifted at thanksgiving, it will be the thanksgiving present for Microsoft, not for the intended person that would be the recipient of the console, so How crazy is that?

Thank god we have Sony!

Between now and late 2016, the PS4 will have 15 titles on its sleeve that are PS4 only, some of them have been jaw dropping, as such PS4 remains the compatible system that does not demand you to be online, yet until the Achievements remain offline, that part is not too realistic. Sony has in addition kept its word throughout the PS2, PS3 and PS4 era, something that cannot be said for Microsoft as the promised backward compatibility on the 360 was not delivered on and now that it has some backwards compatibility, the issue of being forced online is a massive setback to gamers all over the world.

Thank god we have Sony!

Sony is not without flaws either, yet this level of backstabbing has never been ‘offered’ by Sony, which gives Microsoft now a massive disadvantage with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, so the gap between Sony and Microsoft could widen even further. When we consider that Sony has a 2:1 growing lead and even as the Microsoft Marketing engine is trying to flog statements like “Sony PlayStation 4 sells 22 million, but Microsoft has backward compatibility“, whilst not revealing that online presence on a daily basis is now mandatory gives food for thought and the served meal is no longer that appealing.

In all this if Xbox takes another massive hit, so much the better, they need a little humbling experience, because even though the gamers tend to be online, to be forced there is not what they signed up for and if Microsoft is breaking its word, what else will it break its word on? Pre-owned games perhaps? Because if this is where gamers are going, they will be happy to switch trains any way they can. Microsoft just didn’t realise the impact of that move, the worse for them I say!

In the end, what are the fact of life? The people do not mind being online, they mind being forced there, no matter how we feel about some marketed stream of ‘media’ like the Sydney Morning Herald (at http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/games/xbox-one-finally-finds-its-feet-with-backwards-compatibility-gamesfocused-dashboard-20151115-gkzq7p.html). Is it not interesting how Tim Biggs remained unaware how people MUST be online now so that they can sign in?

Thank god we have Sony!

Yet in all this, we have ignored an alternative player, perhaps they will come with a new console called ‘the Black Hole’, a device that equals the next ‘PS4+’ allows for gaming, internet and streaming. That has an interchangeable drive and can be the centre of your devices to you can synch your mobile and tablet. All things the gamer does, all this whilst he/she plays a game, by themselves or with/against friends. Connected was never the issue, it was the non-consensual part that had everyone miffed, so if you do something you truly want, yet you get there without consent, does that not equal getting screwed over?

They did that to you without even thinking and the press stayed silent how lame is that?

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Exploiting mobile users

Is it not amazing that in an age, where we all move into areas where things getting cheaper and cheaper, we see that mobile phones is the one article that remains into the top priced push. Yes, when you move to the post office, or to some ‘budget’ place, the only ‘cheap’ phones are the ones that are the ones that are basically in the bottom part of functionality, phones that have less than 6 months of decent quality usage before Google pushes for more updates, more android and the applications will add towards the maximum RAM.

This is my situation, I got a new phone in 2012, I needed a new one, and the one I bought was ‘decently’ priced at $299. I never regretted buying it. It still has a good screen, I have one game and a few applications, yet over the last two months the push has shown that when I have more than 2 apps running (including the dialler) the lag, the jittery screen, it all starts getting slightly wobbly, so I lock the phone, unlock it, remove all apps except the one I need and it all works fine again. Yet, my phone needs replacing not due to the hardware, but purely due to software. Looking around has been quite the revelation.

Looking at those options, I see that the $99 phones are less and less useful (specifically the smartphones). So as I started to dig, I am seeing a new change. If you want to find the price of a phone, it is often harder and harder to get clear pricing, more important, we can find less and less about how prices were and how the prices devolve.

Is it not strange that there is such an abundance of buy now places, but less and less information on the devices, the price and how long these articles are set to be for? The mobile is the new field for the technological armistice race and there are too many parties willing to make certain that the people cannot be properly informed. You see, this field has evolved for control. In the 90’s and the decade after that, it was relatively simple to get information on what graphic card one needed, which soundcard would be best. But not unlike the gaming industry, the information places are given less and less information. Is it not strange that Ubisoft (a gaming company) did not give a testing sample of Assassins Creed Unity weeks in advance? Especially when literally billions are riding on it? This is at the core of the issue, at the core of some ‘technology’ pages that are less and less information, more and more ‘typed’ marketing, not for their readers, but for the prospective buyers of the product. The media has been changing more and more and many readers remained asleep whilst reading. I must admit that the last description might not be accurate. Many will not realise this faltering until they are confronted with the fact of change (not unlike me).

If you’re looking for a console you can Google ‘PS4 price console’ and you will get pricing information on the very first page, even price drops, all localised. For mobiles it is a jungle out there and no matter how many ‘suddenly’ appear, when you want to look for that actual good deal (like the ZTE ZMAX) you will suddenly find that no one has such a good deal in stock (finding a decent site is also a challenge). They have cheaper (ad therefor useless) smartphones (I will dwell on that shortly) and of course the really ‘up to date ones’ which are not that much better than a ZTE, but will cost you 275% – 450% more. It is all about the money in the end!

You see those who choose Android (like me), will now learn what the cost of alleged abandonment is. (at http://www.zdnet.com/article/google-stops-providing-patches-for-pre-kitkat-webview-abandons-930m-users/), we saw early this week that Google is now stopping the update of the older versions. This means that as we see the headline ‘Google stops providing patches for pre-KitKat WebView, abandons 930 million users‘. This includes the bulk of the people who bought their mobile before Q4 2013. What a fine android web we weave!

You would think that it is a simple matter for updating, don’t you. Well that is not entirely correct. In my case Motorola was pretty decent in giving the information, however, when I press system update, it tells me that I am up to date, so I cannot get beyond 4.1.2 Android. This is now at the heart of several problems.

Who knows what version they are on and more important, when we consider the following text from ZDNet “In other words, the next time a researcher or hacker finds a way to exploit WebView on pre-KitKat Android, Google won’t create a patch for the vulnerability itself. However, if anyone else builds one, Google will incorporate those patches into the Android Open Source Project code“, more important, as long as this is not fixed, an increasing population will be at the mercy of forced upgrades through buying new phones outright, or chaining themselves to a new contract.

There are two sides. In fairness, should Google keep on fixing their ‘flaws’ ad infinitum? Yet on the other side, if my 2 year old mobile is now a security risk, what on earth am I paying for? More important, in this economy we would keep on paying premium just to be connected? The math does not balance out towards the need of the user. So are we witnessing a start from smartphone, back to normal phones? Let’s face it if smartphones are charged to your account and after that abandoned to this extent, what should we do?

Some will push for Apple, but there to some extent, the danger is changed, not necessarily removed. A normal phone will less likely have these issues, or change to the new player. Even though the brand leaves (from past events) a bitter taste in my month, Samsung has taken a new direction with their mobiles called Tizen OS. The following parts are known at present “It is Linux-based platform built from Nokia and Intel’s ditched MeeGo“, open source means many views, so perhaps better patches. The fact that it is Linux based is not bad either. The fact that Tizen is using HTML5, it means that we will get a wave of content that is state of the art, slim and memory efficient (no flash needed). You can look for yourself to some results (at http://www.creativebloq.com/web-design/examples-of-html-1233547), so it seems that the new road that Samsung is taking is also changing the perception that they are getting. From these upgrades, Samsung could evolve from ‘player’ to ‘top contender’. It will definitely bring the fire to the ankles of Apple, which is never a bad idea.

Tizen is not new or just a gimmick, it had been announced before and more important, it has been in development for years, yet with the Google decisions and with the issues that mobile users might be facing sooner rather than later, the timing for Tizen is pretty good and Samsung could benefit greatly, they will get additional benefit as people realise that patches are no longer coming for their less new mobiles, which will hurt consumer confidence.

If you have any doubts then the clarity from Greenbot.com should help. “Google drops Lollipop on November 3rd 2014,  if you have the right device“, which makes us wonder, do I have the right device? “Maybe you don’t have a Nexus phone or tablet. Well, then the situation gets a little murky. If you have a phone purchased in the last year, odds are good that you’ll get an upgrade to Lollipop…eventually“, which gets us, what if your phone is older than one year? Then what? Which gets us the last part “Manufacturers like Samsung, LG, HTC, and Motorola have promised swift updates (typically within 90 days of release) for top devices, but those have to go to carriers to be tested before release, too“, knowing I am ‘up to date’ with my version ‘4.1.2.’ does not inspire confidence! How many people asked questions about versions of Android when they bought their phone? I am a technologist and I never gave it too much thought (other than that I wanted an Android phone). Now, it seems that my Motorola is will remain on Jelly Beans (4.1.2) and now, we have ourselves a ball game, because as this unbalanced approach is pushed from both the desire to remain free (not chained to a provider) and as the life cycle of a mobile phone is now in danger of staying under two years due to the Google changes, we now see the need to not just chastise Google, but to make it clear (actually demand) that consumers are properly informed on the limitations that they are buying at $300, if we regard that patching is done to undue the lacking security of a product sold, we get a new game where the consumer must be informed clearly in a shop regarding the purchase they make.

A costly jump that might not have been needed! This year will bring changes to the mobiles and the shops selling them, I wonder if Google considered that, or perhaps they never cared. Especially when the people get told that they will not face any issues, if they had a Nexus phone (Google’s mobile). Samsung is not without options either, as they progress towards ownership of Blackberry, they might drill into a new mobile market that revolves around data and communication security, which is another mobile hot potato, and it instantly gets them huge chunks of the financial sector for reasons not here speculated! Tactically both Google and Samsung have made brilliant moves, for the consumers not the worst move but likely a costly one this year!

Will you remain in a Google mind or move to Tizen?

Will Eva choose to try the Apple in the end?

Time will tell!

 

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The danger ahead

It was the BBC that gave me an insight I had not been aware of. It is easy to miss an item, even though I have been involved in IT on many levels for over 3 decades. It is just not possible to keep it all in focus all the time.

It is kind of fun to consider the words of my late grandmother. It was the only issue we could never see eye to eye on. She had an expression ‘Johnny of all, master of none‘. It was not a positive expression! I always went the other way in that regard. Whilst most went to some ‘temporary’ master as they mastered a certain niche skill. I went into the width of IT. I got exposure to such a wide field that my knowledge covered the entire foundation of IT (yes, in the time of the mainframe). After that I started to grow the base of this knowledge trying to evenly grown my knowledge of all IT fields (to some degree). My knowledge grew from programming, to consulting, to training and so on.

So where is this going?

I wrote at an earlier date about IT and the iteration approach to IT (at ‘Year of the last Euro?‘). The entire field goes a lot further. In an age of the similar devices, last week as I was prohibited from moving for 4 hours, I decided to let my mind wander and I came up with an entirely new Notebook. I categorise it as a fat notebook and I call it the ‘True Mobile System’. In an age where Sony, Asus, IBM et all seem to come up with a different names for the same flavour, my mind designed a new approach to a mobile business system.

Was it clever? Not sure! The issue is that many could have come up with it and either they are limited to what their boss dictates or they are just not thinking in a user based forward motion. Here lies the crux of many issues we have seen lately. Their way of thinking is not user based. It is often revenue based, there is a HUGE difference!

If you have read my previous blogs (especially ‘Fifth in a trilogy!‘) then you might notice a trend. In my mind most corporate IT is now all about what is in charge, not who! So as marketing decides on deadlines and evolutions, many learn the hard way that marketing is basically the extension of the CFO (and/or the stakeholders) and as such it is all about the money. If development is the science, then marketing should be seen as the ‘tainted’ picture. The problem is that too many CEO’s and others are all about this tainted picture (and as such the perception of what comes next), the science/engineering side gets too often ignored, or just briefly listened to and after that they get shut down and pushed forward to meet the deadline.

In that regard I still see the game ‘Assassins Creed 4’ (yes that pirate game), which could have been truly great and ended up being less than that (at least in my personal view)! The same can be said for business based ideas. If we consider this message (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25859360), where Google Chrome might be considered an eavesdropping risk, then what is safe to users?

The quote “The malicious site you visited can continue listening in on you long after you have left it said Mr Ater. As long as Chrome is still running nothing said next to your computer is private.” gives ample reason for worry. The danger from our side is that this could be a topic for conspiracy theory. Was this really ‘accidental’? I am not saying it was not or was not. It is however interesting how we as computer users have been exposed to a massive amount of security flaws in the last year alone.

In my mind, is this due to shoddy programming, or is their local marketing so set on certain deadlines and as such proper testing is no longer done? I personally think it is a combination of the latter two. As additional ‘evidence’ in my train of thought, my recent Yahoo experience comes to mind.

I have been a faithful Yahoo user since the early 90’s, for me it always sufficed. The e-mail was robust, it gave me the space I needed and as such I never regretted it. Yet, since the ‘remake’ of Yahoo it changed by a lot. The amount of failures I viewed are on a new low level of customer experience and as such, at present I am seriously considering leaving Yahoo mail and move to Google permanently.

The feedback does not have any options for filing bugs or complaints. It is all about ‘submit an idea‘ and ‘send public feedback‘. To me this all seems like the marketing image left by someone who should be lobotomised and left somewhere far away from any IT endeavour (preferably forever). Yahoo mail now exposes us to additional dangers as we no longer see a status bar in certain places. So, we no longer see ‘the’ link, which I consider a bad thing. The new system also ‘assumes’ spam, so I now have to scan my spam even more often. I can no longer sort by sender, which means that organising my inbox take a massive amount of time longer. The list goes on and on. Is it marketing at the expense of functionality?  To be honest, I would need a little more evidence before I can state that as a fact to some level, but the deadline push has been visible with too many corporations and for far too long.

These issues go a lot further when you consider the article called ‘Android’s biggest security flaws‘ at ZDNet (at http://www.zdnet.com/androids-biggest-security-flaws-1339338283/). As they mention the dangers of inexperienced and malicious developers, they actually forgot about the third group, the ‘callous developer’. These firms (not the individual programmer), who are all driven to meet certain deadlines and as such might not properly test or secure their application.

It is important to note that I do not see the inexperienced developer as a real threat. Yes, they offer the same level of danger, but they are not out to harm you. You, the user, who wants applications for free (as many do) should not blame that new person for trying to get a foothold. If that developer is to be held for one thing, then in my mind it would be that too many of these freebies should bare the mark ‘Beta’ or ‘Trial’, to add an extra warning level for user downloading their new endeavour.

The big issue becomes: ‘What to do about Android?’

As the influence of android increases and interacts with all manner of devices in other ways (like with a person’s Sony-id account, so that a gamer keeps online with friends and achievements when they are not at home), gives way that security flaws become more and more harmful. More important, as we become more and more oblivious of the interaction, we might be spreading all our personal details all over the internet and that danger could grow exponentially with every additional application.

These events also shine an interesting light on an article that was in the Guardian last Friday (at http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/24/justify-gchq-mass-surveillance-european-court-human-rights). When we consider the issues I listed on application security, we should take a second look at the quote in the article “Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch said: ‘This legal challenge is an essential part of getting to the bottom of why the public and parliament have not been properly informed about the scale of surveillance and why our privacy has been subverted on an industrial scale.’

Perhaps the quote could also be read as “Speed and disregard of proper development has allowed for open access to many computers and devices, which allows for almost complete collection and stored and such storage can only be done by just a few. This open level of availability allows the NSA and GCHQ (amongst others) to collect open source intelligence, hoping to gain the upper hand in the war on terror.

I am not stating this is the case, but it could be seen as such. In that regard I call for the issue I mentioned in a previous blog called ‘Internet Privacy?‘ on December 27th, where we see the dangers of some applications (at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/dec/27/snapchat-may-be-exposed-hackers). If we consider the dangers consumes are exposed to for whatever reason, it seems odd that Big Brother watch is not more outspoken on the industrial subversion of privacy by software designers.

So here we get back to the beginning of this blog where I wrote “I designed a new way for a mobile business system.” As Microsoft has moved into a field of computers utilising an approach in the air of “With our computers you do not need to use the brain you never had in the first place“. An automated system that assumes all the time to cover 95% of its users, loaded with gaps and security flaws.

People need to get licensed to get a gun, drive a car, a boat or a plane. Yet, the dangers that computers expose us to are currently not dealt with in any serious way. I reckon that in the next two years identity theft and identity fraud will be regularly in the back of our minds, as it grows into the very visible danger it already is. If we look at some of the numbers then I could speculate that 90% of the people will directly know one victim of identity fraud or identity theft. Lexis Nexis, in their paper ‘2013 LexisNexis® True Cost of Fraud Study‘ state numbers that should scare us all. In 2013, 58% of the merchants were confronted with credit card fraud and 36% of the 2013 population was confronted with lost or stolen merchandise. These numbers by themselves are not that useful as such (at http://www.lexisnexis.com/risk/downloads/assets/true-cost-fraud-2013.pdf). Yet consider that 12.6 million U.S. adult victims of identity fraud had to deal on average with $1,653 of damage per fraud victim. The total amount becomes a staggering one and this is just the US! As technology is not properly attuned to a better level of security, but to set to please a growing marketable population these dangers will only increase. This is the true danger ahead, not what the government can see. In that regard Foreign Secretary William Hague is quite correct when he states “law-biding members of the public have nothing to fear“.

 

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