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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…]

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Geeks vs. Norms

My son and I love the I.T. Crowd (and they’re coming back for an encore show!) but this snippet always made me realize how most people are clueless. They’re not stupid, but they have yet to learn:

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A Technology Adventure

Clockwise l-r: Commodore PET (1977); Apple IIe (1983); Macintosh SE/30 (1989); original Macintosh (1984)


Clockwise l-r: Commodore PET (1977); Apple IIe (1983);
Apple III (1980); (Macintosh SE/30 (1989); original Macintosh (1984)
Click for larger view

One of the fun aspects of a year ending and a new one beginning is thinking back on times past and how technology has evolved. As I sit in front of my 27″ iMac this morning — a computer I paid $2,500 for in August, which is a bargain compared to what you’re about to read — I’m struck by all the technology experiences I’ve had.

The sad part? It seems most of us are always looking for that “next, big thing” without appreciating how far we’ve come and knowing how far we’ve come might give you some insight in to what’s coming next.

For any of you readers (or my own kids) who might read this and think, “Oh…he’s just an old guy reminiscing” just know that you will some day look back and be stunned by the funny, cute and quaint little smartphone you own and the expensive and slow mobile network you use. I guarantee it!

Example of a "Snoopy" printout in ASCIIClick for larger view

Example of a “Snoopy” printout in ASCII
Click for larger view

HOW IT STARTED
My buddies and I used to sneak in to the high school computer lab to use the teletype (it was a terminal connected to a mainframe at the University of Minnesota) and used it primarily to print out “images” like an ASCII character Snoopy or Playboy pinup. Not terribly useful, but it helped us to appreciate what it took to create the tape that you fed in to the teletype to get it to work.

One night during college my girlfriend and I were walking through a mall and there was a Commodore Store. In it were rows of “PET” computers ($795) and I could demo games by inserting a cassette tape and letting it load for a few minutes. Adventure games, a text-based genre, were about all they had along with a few crappy little “productivity” applications. I thought most of what the PET could do was boring but the machine was so compelling and cool I couldn’t take my eyes off of it and my girlfriend had to tear me away!  [Read more…]

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Technology is SO CHEAP!

Click for larger view…

Would you spend $13,000 for your Dell or Apple desktop computer this week? I didn’t think so. Well that is roughly how much this Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 16 would cost in 2012 dollars (using a relative measure of worth from here). This past week my sister purchased a new iMac with 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive and a huge color screen for $1,299! 

One of my favorite sites, Archive.org, had this 1983 Radio Shack catalog of computers and accessories that you can view which is where I first saw this machine and its price. When I think that this green screen, 5.25″ floppy drive, half a megabyte of memory machines cost $5,000 back then it is just stunning how far we have come and how cheap and powerful today’s computers are (and don’t even start on the power of our smartphones and tablets).

You could also buy a 12 *megabyte* hard disk to accompany that computer for $3,495 and, as a point of comparison, you could buy a 128 *gigabyte* thumb drive from Corsair — a “superspeed” drive that’s one of the fastest on the market — for $150. I also remember paying over $4,000 — at an Apple Employee Discount cost — for a Macintosh IICi.

OK…if you are NOT amazed at how far technology has come in just a few short years then watch this hilarious bit by the comedian Louis CK on the Conan O’Brien show (skip ahead to 3:19 for the “everything’s amazing!” rant on technology).

UPDATE: The dorks at NBC Universal (now part of Comcast) for copyright reasons did a DMCA takedown on the video on Vimeo. The decent ones on YouTube have also been deleted. It’s sad that NBC doesn’t “get” that watching stuff like this is an incentive for people to watch Conan’s show. 

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What you need to know about OS X Mountain Lion

Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion is available in the Mac App Store this morning and, like always on first release, getting in the queue to download it is a challenge! Once in this morning it will likely take some time to download since the installer is over 4GBs and there are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of people downloading it concurrently.

So while you wait, here is a list of resources I found and sent off to a buddy this morning…and thought it would make a good post as well:

My own take on Mountain Lion? Apple is clearly moving toward merging OS X and iOS so that the Mac experience is more like that of an iPad or iPhone. Since most hacks, cracks and malware on computers comes from the capability to install unsafe and insecure code in the bowels of your operating system, Apple knows that the only way to scale security is to build it in. Here are all the security features Apple touts in OS X Mountain Lion.

Power users and developers are clearly upset about the constraints being placed on them by Apple. But think about it: it was one thing when a family had one computer with multiple user accounts and was somewhat easy to manage. Now many families have multiple computers, each family member with a smartphone, and many families with multiple iPads or tablets. Without a fundamental rethinking and reimagining of computing device security models, our increasingly always-on and always-connected device use is in considerable jeopardy.

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Mac App Store Makes Buying *Easy*

Analysts and tech pundits have been buzzing about Apple’s App Store ever since its introduction, and with Citibank’s projection that Apple will rake in $2 billion in 2011 from sales within it, logic would dictate building an app store for Macintosh applications would be another great way to make a ton of money.

Apple’s Mac App Store is now open for business (press release; Mac App Store web page). I submit it’s instead part of an overall strategy to make the Apple experience just as seamless, integrated, rock-solid and, most importantly, easy…as it is for the iOS powered devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch (and even iPod to a certain extent).

Why do I think this Mac App Store will be wildly successful? Three reasons:

1) Discovery: In the past most of us read one of a handful of magazines to find new applications, used a website that offered reviews, had a friend or colleague recommend one, or shopped for one in a retail store (yikes…remember buying shrink-wrapped software!?!). Though there are still far too many apps on the iOS App Store—and will certainly be too many to browse all of them on the Mac App Store—at least the wisdom of the crowd will help hot ones bubble up to the surface for simple and quick discovery. I’m hoping Apple will use the “Genius” capability in the Mac App Store at some point to look at what we have installed on our Macs and make recommendations on other complimentary apps we might like to own

2) Easy Downloads with “No Baggage”: The Mac App Store removes several steps to obtain a Mac application. Before, we’d have to find the app; download the Zip or DMG (disk image); do the install; if DMG, eject it; then open Downloads folder and move the Zip or DMG to the trash; empty the trash. THAT ‘OLD WAY’ EQUALS SEVEN STEPS!

Now with the Mac App Store, THE ‘NEW WAY’ IS ONLY THREE STEPS: Discover the app; click “Install”; enter your Apple ID to buy one or download a free one. Even I, someone who can do this sort of stuff in my sleep, smiled in delight at how easy this would make it for me, a self-described “power user,” let alone someone new to the Macintosh. This is especially true if someone has come to the Mac due to their experiences with an iOS device and using the iOS App Store

3) One-stop-shop: Over the last three years as my firm has done work implementing numerous ecommerce sites for clients, not only are ecommerce experiences completely different on nearly every website, but I’ve been increasingly stunned as to how many sophisticated consumers I know and meet do very little or no ecommerce transactions! They’re afraid of an insecure site, are reluctant to buy an app and download it, and so on. I’m convinced that this Mac App Store will extend the accounts people already have on iTunes and the overall experience will remove all sorts of barriers to even newbies buying Mac apps online.

Nicely done Apple.

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A Perspective on iPad’s Impact on Your Mind

With a potential 8.5M iPad’s sold in 2010 and projections of as many as 43.7M units sold in 2011, there is no question that this device has created quite an impact and will going forward. Some are even heralding the death of the netbook (the under $400 tiny laptops) but what I’ve not seen is any discussion about how the use of these devices is changing the way we interact with our computers and, most importantly, its impact on our minds.

The problem with using current desktop or laptop computers is that far too often we have multiple web browser windows open, each with multiple tabs for email, calendar, your blog, Facebook, Twitter and who knows what else. You’ll also have applications open (e.g., Word, Excel, Photoshop, iTunes) and be interacting with all sorts of these applications, most of which are connected to the internet.

Not only is the visual noise of all this stuff running on your screen a disruption, but when an email comes in, someone connects with you via chat, you see a tweet come in from one of your Twitter follows, or you hear a “ping” that someone has begun a Facebook chat with you, it’s a disruption that can knock you off track and off task for quite awhile.

In the scientific community there is significant research that has gone in regarding what happens in our minds when we multitask. What happens when we’re interrupted and then resume our work. How long it takes to resume our cognitive processes after being interrupted and what this does to our ability to get stuff done.

But what does this have to do with the iPad and its impact on your mind? [Read more…]

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Why Is Apple’s Success Now So Bad?

I find it ironic when pundits, developers, partners and even customers cry out in seeming anguish when a company gains a successful foothold in any given marketplace — especially when those same people are the ones who lament a company who is not doing well — and this behavior is particularly pronounced in technology, especially when it comes to Apple.

I worked for Apple in the late 1990s after Steve Jobs had returned to the company. In presentations, sales calls and even at family events, I was in MAJOR DEFENSIVE MODE at all times since I was frequently bombarded by negativity from customers, prospects, family and friends. “Apple is about out of business,” was a familiar refrain as was “Borsch…you’re just a Mac fanboy” from my I.T., Windows machine toting friends and relatives. I was even given crap about owning so much of the stock (which, believe me, I’m damn glad I kept!!) and have felt vindicated as those same people have now flocked to Apple computers and “iStuff” in droves. Many rely on me for advice and assistance as well, but the irony of their previous attitudes are lost on them.

The success of the iPod, and Apple’s quick cornering of the market for music downloads, began to cause angst amongst record executives who saw not a savior of their failing business model, but a company now positioning them for success in a digital world.

Exactly the same thing is happening now with the iPhone and the iPad and Apple’s insistence on no Flash and controlling how the applications are developed and deployed on these devices. The iPhone (according to Morgan Stanley’s Mary Meeker) had the fastest rampup in sales of any consumer device ever. It appears that the iPad’s 1 million in sales in 28 days (which Steve Jobs said, “One million iPads in 28 days—that’s less than half of the 74 days it took to achieve this milestone with iPhone.“) may make it the fastest ramping product ever.

I’ve read many of the arguments for-and-against the closed nature of the “iApp” marketplace and am not going to delve into that in this post, but all of the recent brouhaha about Apple’s “no Flash in iStuff” policy and their supposed “stranglehold on tools to develop iApps” is an example of the concern of success and Apple’s incredible strategic thinking about the marketplace, technology landscape, and anticipating the direction we’re all moving towards and innovating with devices we’ll need to make that journey more effective. [Read more…]

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Will NetVibes See The Huge Opportunity on iPad?

Techcrunch had this post today about NetVibes launching a new auto-dashboard and tracking service, and it sparked a thought about my new iPad and I had to discover if the NetVibes service I used to know would be an efficient method of having a single spot to aggregate lots of sites and RSS feeds.

Most of the functionality works, but the same latency issues remain and a couple of iPad-centric ones emerge as I’ll explain, but those are trivial to the opportunity the iPad presents for NetVibes.

NetVibes is the best “start page” or “portal creator” engine out there in my opinion.  It’s trivial to create tabs (like those you see in the screenshot above) and populate them with widgets that are either standalone ones for news, weather, sports, email, calendar, Twitter, Facebook or other news feeds and hosted applications and you can create your own widgets too. It’s also incredibly attractive and there are hundreds of “skins” to customize the look, feel and color schemes or you can create your own from scratch.

While this isn’t an exhaustive post about the functionality of NetVibes, I was quite delighted to logon just before lunchtime and see that a “dashboard” which I’d created over a year ago functioned perfectly on my iPad, though was a bit crowded with the 22 tabs I had in it (a number of tabs which looked fine on my huge desktop monitor, but a bit cramped on the iPad). [Read more…]

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Steve Wozniak on Color Computing

When Apple released the Apple II at the West Coast Computer Faire in 1977, it was a big deal with its color display. Since I love poking around FORA.tv and watching the thought leader videos curated there, I was pleased to see this snippet of a Steve Wozniak (Woz) interview (you can watch the entire hour+ program here) about the spark of genius. The cool thing? As you listen and watch Woz describe how he came up with the idea to deliver color computing for a radically reduced price, it is the quintessential description of problem solving and creative solutions to problems.

This was recorded at the Bay Area Discovery Museum on February 1, 2010 and they describe it this way:

Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and philanthropist in conversation at the Discovery Forum 2010 with Emmy-award winning journalist Dana King from CBS 5 Eyewitness News.

Renowned technology pioneer Steve Wozniak speaks to the importance of hands-on learning and encouraging creativity, and how the Bay Area Discovery Museum is a critical resource for preparing children for the challenges of the 21st century.

The Discovery Forum serves to increase awareness about the importance of childhood creativity, and raises support for the Museum’s educational exhibitions and programs.

Watch this couple of minute segment (yes, there are ads first) and you’ll see what I mean about creative problem solving: