technology

Hacking Airplanes

I’ve been following and reading Bruce Schneier for many years. He’s one of the most well-researched, articulate, and reasonable technology experts writing about computer and network security around.

I highly recommend reading: Hacking Airplanes. It’s a well reasoned and well written piece on internet vulnerabilities as we become more connected.

Imagine this: A terrorist hacks into a commercial airplane from the ground, takes over the controls from the pilots and flies the plane into the ground. It sounds like the plot of some “Die Hard” reboot, but it’s actually one of the possible scenarios outlined in a new Government Accountability Office report on security vulnerabilities in modern airplanes.

He’s not saying that the above scenario will happen any time soon, or ever, but he is worried that as “the internet of things” grows and our refrigerators, watches, cars, planes, baby monitors and medical equipment become more connected, our vulnerability to cyberattack grows.

The Computer Backup Rule of Three

The Computer Backup Rule of Three

Scott Hanselman’s rationale is excellent. I don’t follow all of it but the post and the comments following are all worth reading.

If you don’t back up your computer or your mobile devices you’re looking for trouble, simple as that. Hard disks fail and short of that, operating systems fail.

What I do:

1. I have two external bus-powered, small, portable LaCie firewire 800 drives that I use SuperDuper! with to back up my entire computer.

On day 1 I use SuperDuper! back up to drive 1 and put it in a fireproof box in our basement.

On day 2 I use SuperDuper! to back up to drive 2 and when it’s done I take it to the basement and swap it with drive 1 which comes back up stairs and goes in my desk drawer.

On day 3 I back up over drive 1 (using SuperDuper!’s “smart backup” to just update the new stuff, etc.), then take it to the basement and swap it with drive 2 in the fireproof box.

I repeat this daily, even if I don’t use my computer for anything significant. This way I don’t think about what’s backed up when, I just know that the most I could lose is a day of work.

2. At the same time I’m doing my SuperDuper! backups I’m doing twice a day Time Machine backups onto another LaCie external hard disk (a bigger one to hold the growing Time Machine collection of days).

3. The only cloud backup I have isn’t really backup, it’s iCloud and it’s just my contacts, my email, my calendar, and a few other things. I use gmail (cloud based) and have a .me mail account (cloud based) so my email lives outside of my house.

I’ve been using this method for years and it’s saved my bacon numerous times.

The important thing to consider in both backing up and in deciding which methods you want to use is this: If your computer dies or is stolen, how fast can you be back up and in business. My SuperDuper! cloned backups will boot any modern Macintosh and so, all I have to do is boot my wife’s MacBook Pro with the most recent of my backup drives and that computer is essentially mine with all of my stuff exactly the way it was when I backed it up. Then, I can go to an Apple store, buy a new MacBook Pro (or have mine fixed if it’s fixable) and use SuperDuper! to backup back over it, or, leave the new native system on it and migrate all of my stuff back.

There is no perfect method for doing this stuff, the important thing is to do it and work out a method that works for you and that you’ll use on a regular basis.

Interview with Matt Rogers, co-inventor of the Nest learning thermostat

Kevin Rose interviews Matt Rogers, the co-inventor of the Nest learning thermostat and an ex Apple engineer who worked on the iPod and early versions of the iPhone, among other things. This is another great interview and well worth taking the time to listen to. Kevin’s questions are excellent and Matt is incredibly enthusiastic, open, and gracious.

More interviews at Foundation.

Ubiquitous Facebook

Facebook’s plan to find its next billion users: convince them the internet and Facebook are the same

This is the story of Facebook’s rapidly unfolding plan to take over the world, or at least the world wide web. It’s a tale that’s been hiding in plain sight for years, and it begins with an explanation of how Facebook has reached almost a billion users. It continues with a roadmap for how the seeds of Facebook’s future growth – to two billion and beyond – have already been planted. In both cases, what matters is emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America: the striving, proto-middle class “next billion” whose first impression of the internet is often that it seems to consist entirely of a site called Facebook.

I’ve always thought Facebook would come out with a device (phone or communicator) that only ran Facebook but in fact, Facebook for SIM, Facebook Zero and various Facebook apps are better and more generic gateways to the Facebook community. Had AOL done this type of thing in the old days they might have lived a bit longer.

Through a series of canny partnerships, acquisitions, and roll-outs, Facebook has made its service usable for anyone, whether they’re using the latest iPhone or a five year old gray-market Nokia with a black and white screen. In many cases, users don’t even have to have a data plan.

And the key to Facebook’s strategy is that no matter where users start on the ladder of mobile technology, from the most basic device to the newest smartphone, Facebook becomes better and more fun to use as they upgrade. And this is also why carriers are so eager to partner with Facebook, because the next billion to come onto the internet will do it through a mobile device, on which every megabyte that they use in connecting with their friends can be measured and billed.

This piece is worth reading carefully and while I’m no fan of Facebook, this is a brilliant idea.

[via The Verge]

A week with iPhone five

a week with iPhone five

Chuck Skoda writes about his first week with the new iPhone 5. Well written review, worth reading.

If there is one top selling point with the iPhone 5, this is it. Which is funny considering the iPhone is late to the LTE party. iPhone is the only device many of us have with ubiquitous internet connectivity, and LTE speeds make for an even bigger improvement than 3G had over Edge. In other words, this speed on a mobile device is a game changer.

How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet

How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet

This is quite a good article on both the history of flickr and how Yahoo has killed it over time. Worth reading for flickr users but also for anyone interesting in the history of these types of sites on the web.

Had they not sold flickr to Yahoo it would be interesting to know what Stewart Butterfield and Catarina Fake would have done with flickr over the years since.

[via Michaela Hackner]

Thoughts on Apple’s recent announcements

I was traveling the day of the Apple keynote presentation at their annual World Wide Developer’s Conference so I didn’t see the announcements live but the next day I watched the event as you can here:

Apple Special Event, June 11, 2012

If you’re an Apple user (Mac, iPhone, or iPad) and are interested in what’s coming in the year ahead you might enjoy the presentation.

Unlike others who seem to have been let down by the presentation, I loved it and it gave me a clear picture of Apple’s direction in the near and probably the mid term, maybe even the long term.

Mac OS X.8 (Mountain Lion) and iOS 6 both look like wonderful upgrades but the bottom line is this: Apple’s various devices are becoming simpler, more streamlined, and most importantly, better integrated with each other and with various social and informational services outside of Apple’s domain.

iCloud is better integrated into more Apple applications and it looks like there will be built in functionality that will compete with Simplenote, Dropbox, and Instapaper, to name a few.

Dictation, which was initially only on the iPhone is now on the iPad (3) and is coming to the Macintosh. No doubt Siri is coming to the iPad and at some point to the Macintosh as well. Think about this: it wasn’t long ago that speech to text and/or speech commands and text to speech were novelties and didn’t work all that well. Now they’re both reliable, understandable and work on small, handheld devices. This is revolutionary. Apple is betting heavy that speech will be a big part of using all of its devices going forward.

Apple’s computers are starting to move in a bigger way toward flash storage (SSDs): the new MacBook Pro model is a solid state device with no hard disk. While I’m not in the market for a new computer at the moment, I’d buy this machine in a heartbeat if I were. Solid state storage is the future of computing and no doubt more of Apple’s computers will move to it as it becomes more affordable.

Neither AppleTV nor Apple’s plans for a television were mentioned during the presentation. No doubt the next step is to tie AppleTV into this mix in a bigger way and my guess is that it will happen incrementally as it has been for a few years now. Here’s an idea for a next step: Add Game Center to AppleTV. I don’t play games on computers or iOS devices but if I did I’d be using Game Center and it seems to me it’s just a matter of time before Game Center is on AppleTV, another iOS device that will no doubt run at least some iOS apps in the future. When that happens AppleTV will essentially be an “iOS Mini” driving an HD TV and computing will have truly entered the living room.

While Wall Street and the pundits may be disappointed that this particular keynote didn’t announce much that wasn’t already known, I found it exciting to see the way the new operating system for the iPhone and iPad and the new operating system for the Macintosh work so well, individually and together.

Simpler is better and Apple is definitely moving in that direction.

Reset the Web

Reset the Web

Midway through a project, a client of ours recently said “One thing I’m learning is that it’s ok to give up on the desktop experience once it stops making sense”. This wasn’t an isolated incident. In fact, i’m beginning to think desktop web sites stopped making sense quite a while ago. We’ve just had nothing viable to replace them with. Mobile apps have given us a glimpse, but I think they’re merely a glimpse into something bigger.

Mobile isn’t merely a new stage in the evolution of the web, it’s not even merely a new context, it’s the very early stages of an entirely new system. A system that has already started to shape our environment, affect the way we live, how we choose to connect with others, and how we’re able to spend our time. A system that is also slowly unravelling our assumptions and causing us to question the very reason we build web sites, why people visit them, and where the true value of the web actually lies.

This is an excellent presentation done by Stephanie Rieger at Breaking Development in Orlando, Florida on April 17, 2012.

[via Michaela Hackner]