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Open Letter to Vlad Shmunis, CEO, RingCentral

CLICK FOR A WEDNESDAY, JULY 16th UPDATE
CLICK FOR A FRIDAY, JULY 11th UPDATE

ringcentral-logoAs a RingCentral (RC) customer since May of 2010, we have enjoyed your service and its capabilities. After my initial 40-50 hours of working with your Philippines-based support folks (yes, it was that painful to setup), we finally got everything up and functioning with our two lines (using Cisco analog telephone adapters), our 800#, fax line, and extensions. It has worked quite well ever since and we’ve evangelized RC to many clients and friends, many of whom have signed up with your service.

But man…is it ever hard to upgrade! Though we have had few issues with RC and little need to contact tech support, dealing with your folks in the Philippines is virtually impossible when it comes to upgrading our service or buying new phones!

[Read more...]

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Is the Wells Fargo Mobile App Anti-Security?

wellsfargo-app

The Wells Fargo iPhone app disallows using the “Paste” capability in the phone to paste in long, high entropy passwords copied from my LastPass vault.

It is always interesting to me how banking apps, both web and mobile, specifically making a smartphone or tablet app very hard to use if you use a password with high entropy (see this Wikipedia article on password strength and especially “Entropy as a measure of password strength“).

Since I use a password manager (LastPass) with literally hundreds of sites in my ‘vault’, I use very strong passwords. They are comprised of upper/lowercase letters; numbers; special characters; and are ones that make it simple to have quite strong passwords for anything that matters (and they’re all different!).

So what do I have to do on my iPhone? Open my LastPass vault app; login to LastPass; find my Wells Fargo account; touch it and, in the popup, choose “Copy Password”; and then open the Wells Fargo app and choose the Password field; then choose “Paste”.

EXCEPT THE WELLS FARGO APP DISALLOWS PASTING A PASSWORD IN THE PASSWORD FIELD!

The problem is this: There is NO way I could ever remember my password since it is so long and contains so many characters of different types. Curiously the Wells Fargo app also disallows pasting anything in to the Username field…so I can’t even do a workaround by pasting my high entropy password temporarily in to the Username field and then typing it in the Password field.

Get your shit together Wells Fargo. With this app developed this way you are DISCOURAGING THE USE OF STRONG PASSWORDS! 

Of course, they do say on their website here that, “We take your privacy and security very seriously. Read about why our mobile banking services are secure. Learn more…” but I’m not going to dumb-down my password to use their mobile app.

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New Zealand in 4K

This video, shot in 4k of New Zealand vistas, is visually spectacular (even though my own display is not in 4k resolution). Watch it in full screen mode and enjoy the quality AND see why visiting New Zealand should be on your bucket list:

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Understand What ‘Resolution’ Means

As an amateur photographer, I often try to explain to people why my small Nikon D5000‘s 12.3 million pixels produces a better photo than their smartphone camera or even what could be produced by this new Lumia 930 with its 20 megapixel camera.

Besides the obvious: the lens is bigger, it is that and the sensor in the camera that determines the resolution of the image. I know figuring out resolution, and why it matters, is a challenge so I encourage you to watch this very well presented short video that explains it better than anything I’ve seen yet:

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A 1956 Kodak Camera Priced at $625?

My grandparents had this camera and there was a cheaper version of it at my Dad’s house when he passed away last year. I never paid much attention to it (thinking it was some cheap device) until I was poking around last night at the Internet Archive, going through old television commercials.

Then I watched this one from Kodak in 1956 showing that camera which only cost $74. That doesn’t sound like much, right? A simple purchasing power calculator shows that the relative value of that $74 in today’s dollars would equal $625.00! (This answer is obtained by multiplying $74 by the percentage increase in the consumer price index from 1956 to 2012).

Wow. So I guess paying $199 for a subsidized smartphone—with a built-in camera far superior than this one in it—doesn’t seem like much, heh?

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Is it Time to Buy LEDs?

cree-bulbQuite often I’ll get in to debates with friends and family about energy and we end up in conversations about why we choose to be a three Prius family and why I’m so hot on the Internet of Things and my investment in SmartThings‘ technologies. Where it gets tough, however, is justifying why we are replacing our incandescent light bulbs (and even compact fluorescents (CFLs)) with LED light bulbs since the costs of LEDs are still a bit high.

That LED bulb cost makes the return on investment (ROI) a little tougher to justify for purely economic reasons, except when you consider that one LED will last for ~25,000 hours and an incandescent for only 750-2,000 hours.

LED costs are coming down but, like my friend Eric said to me just last Friday, trying to time the purchase of doing a wholesale incandescent lightbulb replacement in your home is like “catching a falling knife.” Buy too early and you get hurt since the break-even will take too many years, though I’ll argue that the time is now to begin replacing incandescents (and CFLs) with LED bulbs.

For my wife and I it’s not just about cost, however. We strive to do our bit to minimize our energy footprint and try to positively impact human’s effect on the climate in a myriad of ways such as recycling more than anyone in our neighborhood. Our lightbulb replacement adventure is just starting but will add to our objectives of minimization. Every little bit helps.

So let’s take a look two examples of bulb replacement in my own home to give you a sense of what I’ve already done and what the results have been so far. Hopefully this will help you determine whether or not the time is right for you to “catch the knife” and replace your incandescent bulbs with LEDs. 

[Read more...]

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Why Apple’s Lightning Connector is Perfect

lightning-connector

When Apple first released the lightning connector to go along with the introduction of the iPhone 5 last year, many people were very upset they would have to replace all of their 30-pin connecting cables and devices with this new “Apple standard” connector.

Since I was just compelled to buy new lightning accessories when I received my new iPhone 5S last week, I hadn’t given this much thought until now. But then I read this today and thought, “Seriously Europe?“: 

Apple may be forced to drop Lightning connector for MicroUSB
European law makers may force Apple to drop the
Lightning connector for charging the iPad and iPhone in Europe 

A microUSB connector. You can see it's smaller on one side and larger on the other making it more challenging to plugin correctly.

A microUSB connector. You can see it’s smaller on one side and larger on the other making it more challenging to plugin correctly.

MicroUSB sucks. Apple did the right thing and the connector is amazing and here’s why:

  • Inserting a MicroUSB isn’t easy. It can only go in one way and all the microUSB devices I have usually take at least a couple of attempts to plug it in. The lightning connector can go in either way and I can plug and unplug it in my sleep in the dark (which I never could do with a microUSB device)
  • It’s too simple to choose the wrong power supply. If I had a dollar for every time a family member or friend plugged in the wrong power supply to charge a device just because it was USB or microUSB—choosing one with the wrong amperage or wattage which would have fried their device—I’d have at least 50 bucks  ;-)
  • There are dozens and dozens of third-party microUSB power supplies. Some are cheap, many are rock-solid, but it’s a crap-shoot on what you get when buying. As we’ve seen with Apple being compelled to mitigate the risks with these sorts of devices (see Apple Takes Charge of 3rd-Party Charger Problem With Special Offer) and so many people I know completely clueless about what to buy, Apple is clearly ensuring that these incredibly sensitive devices (i.e., iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) aren’t inadvertently destroyed by plugging them in to God-knows-what.

My $.02 for today.

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Prius Racing!

Yeah…many people love tweaking those of us who drive a Prius:

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Amazing at the Time: Dad’s First Calculator in 1973

Adler 81 calculatorA few weeks ago my sisters and I held an estate sale at my father’s house since he had passed away in March at the age of 87 (a tribute site to him is here). One device didn’t sell and I should never have put it into the estate sale in any event: Dad’s first calculator.

In 1973 my Dad brought home an amazing device: a small hand-held electronic calculator called the Adler 81. We were stunned that it could do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and you could (sort of) slip it in to your pocket or purse. He showed it off to the neighbors, brought it out at a party mom and dad had at our house to “wow” their guests, and everyone else he showed it off to were suitably impressed.

Until they found out the price, that is: At the time it listed for $175 and his company bought it for him for $150 dollars in early 1973. To put that into perspective in today’s dollars (using the Consumer Price Index as a measure) the relative value of that $150 in today’s dollars would be $775!   [Read more...]

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A Billing Scam by proXPN?

securitynow

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Security Now, a TWiT show. Every one of these shows (as well as many of the shows on the TWiT network) finds me learning a great deal that I use personally, for my company, or my own “Security Tip of the Week” on the Minnov8 Gang Podcast. To say I find Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte knowledgeable, trustworthy and reliable is an understatement — and I’ve taken to extending those feelings to their advertisers — since Leo continually touts the fact that he only supports advertisers he vets and actually uses.

proxpn-logoBut I think these guys either had a lapse when it comes to the VPN provider proXPN, or they have never signed up for a trial period with this vendor and then tried to cancel the account during that trial period (which I now suggest they have a TWiT staffer do for EVERY potential advertiser).

A ‘SCAM’?
Making it hard to cancel is the oldest trick in the book to get some percentage of people to pay when you charge their credit card immediately and then make them jump through a bunch of hoops to cancel and get a refund. Here is what happened and why I strongly caution you to consider another vendor for your VPN services[Read more...]