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We’ve Come Far Since Macworld 1989

When it comes to computers and digital devices, it’s often tough to see how things evolved unless you were living through it. This video, on YouTube but also where I originally found it at the Internet Archive of a Computer Chronicles show from Macworld 1989, will give you a sense of how tiny, incremental changes were big news at an event like this one.

The new “030” chip (the processor in a new Mac SE/30) to “accelerator cards” to “color output” was that big news which, watching this video now, seems like a big snooze! It does, however, show how tiny incremental changes led to where we are today.

While I wasn’t at this particular Macworld (I was at several both before and after this one) it was an exciting event and the show was packed with vendors who sold lots of gear to go with the Macintosh.

A review of the annual west coast Macintosh trade show from San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center.

Guests: Charlie Jackson, Silicon Beach; Roy Endres, Multi-Ad Creator; John Warnock, Adobe Systems; Brian Welter, Altsys

Products/Demos: Claris MacWrite II; Silicon Beach Supercard; Texas Instruments Action!Tektronix Quick Inkjet; Kodak Color Video Printer; Thunderware Lightning Scan; Dove Marathon 030/SETPS Smartcard ADBMicrotech R45 Cartridge Drive; Ricoh Erasable Optical Drive; Activision Manhole; Nexsys Gas Plasma Display; Berkeley Systems Outspoken

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An Internet of Treacherous Things?

Cory Doctorow continues to provide incredibly interesting, provocative, and strong perspectives on the Internet of Things (IoT). He does so within the context of what’s happening globally as well as with United States law, but also with an eye on privacy and security implications.

In this talk from O’Reilly’s Solid Conference 2015 (one I’d not yet seen though it’s been out for awhile), Cory ranges from “ecosystem” strategies to the war on terror, from the copyright wars to the subprime lending industry, and how it seems like everyone wants to build an Internet of Treacherous Things whose primary loyalty is to someone other than the people with whose lives they are intimately entwined.

For more…

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Mac Ransomware is Close & You’re at Risk

macuserAs Mac users, most of us have been quite smug about the fact that our operating system isn’t as vulnerable to trojans, malware and ransomware as those other guys running Windows. While mostly still true, the growing popularity of Macs means that we users of OS X are A LOT more at risk than ever before.

The first Mac OS X ransomware has been demonstrated by a Brazilian cybersecurity researcher Rafael Salema Marques (see Mabouia, the first crypto-ransomware for Macs arrives). Since the concept is now out, it’s just a matter of days or weeks before we see some malware like it in the wild. The security software and services firm, Symantec, has confirmed the concept is real and would work.

[Read more…]

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New Receiver Makes a Home Theater Awesome

PioneerElite_VSX-45Are you growing weary of having to constantly upgrade your technology? Me too, except for things I use all the time like my iPhone, computers, Wifi routers and items like those.

But upgrading home theater components is usually not top-of-mind when it comes to getting new gear. Even though we have a big Samsung TV, a phenomenal speaker system and devices like a TiVo, new AppleTV and Roku, my fairly expensive Yamaha receiver had not been upgraded for about five years. Still, it was good enough, or so I thought.

My head was turned by a hot price on the Pioneer Elite series VSX-90 receiver and I told my buddy Eric about it. Though it had a few more features than its little brother the VSX-45—and I know the Pioneer Elite series well since I used to work for the company in the early 90s—I didn’t need those additional features in the 90.

I’d told Eric since he also needed to upgrade two of his receivers. He did need some of those extra features, and he’d gone shopping at Best Buy. He purchased two of the VSX-45’s at a rock-bottom Best Buy sale price of $249 (now it is back up to $449.98) and had decided to take one of them back and get one VSX-90. So he called me and offered it to me at the same price so I bought the VSX-45 from him since the sale was off.

Why am I telling you this tale of receiver upgrading? Because your TV and movie watching experience—regardless of how good your TV is or your streaming box—will be A LOT better if your audio isn’t mediocre. If it is mediocre it will negatively impact your entire experience! [Read more…]

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You May Never Be Able To Grab The Carrot

dangling-carrotIf you are enticed to become “a stakeholder” in a company or startup by having the stock options or warrants carrot dangled in front of you as an incentive, my own “stock options and warrants” tales of woe are a flip-side you need to hear. Especially since you’ll hear A LOT of the “You’re gonna GET RICH” from those trying to hire you or colleagues naive enough to think stock values go up automatically.

TALE #1: STOCK OPTIONS
In December of 1999 I accepted a job at Vignette, at the time the fastest growing software company in history. With the initial shares I received, and the ones I’d be granted and earn-out over four years, I began to consider the realistic possibility that I’d enjoy an options gain of $5-6M over that four year vesting period.

You know about the “dotcom” crash in March of 2000, right? I sure do because Vignette never recovered and the stock (and my initial options) tanked. Though subsequent option grants were adjusted downward, those ended up in value too. It’s been said that “you can make a lot of money on the way up and the way down” if you hang in there with a downtrending company and I did, but that money was NOT made on stock options. When I left in 2003 with thousands of fully vested shares…they all were so far ‘underwater’ that all were worthless.

Vignette_Logo_1000x288Don’t think “Oh poor Stevie…he missed out on being rich” since I’ve done all right over the years and have a wonderful family, friends, my health and (hopefully, if the economy holds) a solid retirement portfolio. Plus, my Vignette experience was a remarkably good one. I worked with lots of great people, met and hung out with a handful of executive-level customers, most of whom I’m still in touch with to this day. Went on club trips (my wife and I took our kids with us to Maui to the Four Seasons) and learned a lot playing the enterprise game at that level.

Sure would have been nice to make millions though, heh? Yes, but after a stint running strategic alliances at Lawson Software (now part of Infor), I ended up going off on my own to perform management consulting and had an opportunity with startups and young companies that gained me tens of thousands of stock warrants…ones that would surely make me rich. Or so I hoped.  [Read more…]

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Is Congress Really Gearing Up for an Encryption Battle?

bitsAfter the attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, Congress passed the poorly thought-out Patriot Act. Friday’s Paris attacks seem to be (once again) providing Congress with another excuse to try and legislate making United States encryption weak and putting another obstacle in the way of U.S. technology companies selling overseas.

That’s right….weak. Virtually every single cryptography expert on the planet knows that a force-mandated “backdoor” in software or devices will not work and will make the systems vulnerable to attack by black-hat hackers or state-run military cyberattacks.

Today’s Wall Street Journal had this front-page article, “Paris Attacks Fuel Debate Over Spying – Growing belief that terrorists behind assaults used encrypted communications prompts re-examination of U.S. policy on surveillance.” A few things from the article leapt out at me:

“A growing belief among intelligence officials that the terrorists behind Friday’s Paris attacks used encrypted communications is prompting a far-ranging re-examination of U.S. policy on data collection and surveillance.”  

No kidding. Anyone on this planet with intermediate technical skills can encrypt their communications.

Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday his panel will launch a review of encryption use. “It is likely that end-to-end encryption was used to communicate in Belgium and France and Syria,” Mr. Burr said. He said encryption was likely because no direct communication among the terrorists was detected.”

Really Senator? Maybe they met in person?

But this is the part of the article that made me choke on my breakfast muffin:  [Read more…]

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Yet Another Reason Facebook Disgusts Me

fbmessengerDid you know you are NOT able to stop the slide up “Please turn on Notifications” nag from the Facebook Messenger app?

Last night at nearly 11pm, I was already fast asleep when a Facebook Messenger group message came in. A family member in Seattle sent out a group message to a bunch of we cousins and I was startled awake. Then two people replied until I then realized all 10 of us on the group message would probably start replying! I then messaged everyone to please respect time zones and only group message in the early evening. No one else messaged after that.

I then turned off Notifcations and went back to sleep.

fb-messenger-nagEarly this morning I launched the app to see how to permanently stop this nag from sliding up after I’d turned off Notifications for Messenger. It didn’t work. Then I turned on Notifications and selected “None”. The slide up nag continued to come up every single time I launched the app.

So I searched Google for ways in which to stop this slide up nag since I am NOT going to turn on Notifications. Guess what? It cannot be defeated.

You may ask, “Why don’t you just delete the app you big baby?” I would, but both my wife’s side of the family and mine use Messenger to communicate with everyone. That is the ONLY reason I have the app, even though I’m getting very, very close to deleting my Facebook account forever and saying ‘good riddance’ to Messenger.

Facebook really, really wants people to use Messenger since, by default, location tracking is turned on so they can help advertisers pinpoint and market to you geographically. In fact, TechCrunch published this post, “Facebook Messenger Wants To BE Your Phone Number With New Message Requests” which points out what the “payoff” is for a company to give a free app like this away (and remember the old adage that if you’re not paying for a product, then by default you are the product:

Facebook is already experimenting with ways to let you receive customer service, attain a quote on home repair, or contact Page admins via Messenger. And there’s already a payment system built into Messenger. Imagine one day getting a Message Request from a business you’ve interacted with, then being able to receive important updates or even buy things from them right from chat.

This is Facebook’s long-term motivation and why their messages-removal-on-mobile was set to MAKE you use their Messenger app and the slide up nag—coming up every single time you launch the app—is designed to FORCE you to turn on Notifications.

No thanks Facebook. Stop the nag or my (and many other’s) disgust with your business practices will continue to grow toward hate. Here is the Facebook page where you can give them feedback if you hate this too.

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Give Yourself for Christmas

Often I roll my eyes over people’s Facebook postings of clutching-at-your-heartstrings videos, but this one was surprisingly thought-provoking. My wife’s cousin posted this today and thought I’d share it.

Comes from a woman named Anna Johndrow, who published it in December of last year and she said this about it, “I found the message of this video from IKEA in Spain so touching and special that I translated and subtitled it. Hope you enjoy. Please share.

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One Guy’s Experience with the New Apple TV

appletv

The new AppleTV device is about the best experience our family has yet had with any product like it. Is it perfect and actually the “future of television?” Nothing ever is, and this may-or-may-not ‘win’ the future, but in my view it’s about as close as anything has ever come to date.

For the last 15 years or more I’ve owned and dabbled with just about everything: satellite and cable boxes; TiVo; Boxee, Plex, Kodi (formerly XBMC) and other media center offerings; Roku; and finally AppleTVs (we own three of the ‘old’ ones). My frustration with most mainstream offerings delivering close to what I want—but also missing features I need like access to my own ripped movies, home videos, photos and music—that I ended up with multiple home theater devices connected up:

  • Roku – Mainly to access Amazon Prime and AcornTV (my bride and I are addicted to British TV)
  • AppleTV – for iTunes store, connection to our computers & media, as well as Airplay capability
  • Plex media center to deliver everything else that is not in iTunes on my computer and/or NAS (network attached storage).

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Headed to the Apple store on Friday, October 30th to buy the new AppleTV since the Best Buy close to my house did NOT have them in stock yet (even though all news accounts said they would be in stock). The Apple Store Southdale shelves were full so I bought it and headed home to hook it up.

Booting it up the first time the device asked me if I wanted to set it up manually or via an iOS device. Selecting the iOS option I was asked to hold my device close and it sucked off the Wifi settings. Impressive.

Immediately I was surprised to see how much more detailed, crisper and saturated the graphics were on it. That carried over to the videos and games too. That alone made the purchase worthwhile, but obviously isn’t enough.

Buying and setting up a new device is always somewhat of a pain-in-the-ass since, even though one usually uses a backup for a new computer, smartphone or tablet to accelerate the setup process, one still has to connect it up and set up all the accounts and the new AppleTV process is not user-friendly.

atv-remote2I had to use the new, very slippery remote (and replacements cost $79.95 so DON’T DROP AND BREAK IT!) to manually scroll an alphabet to laboriously put in my email address and password for ALL of the accounts. No remote app for iOS is yet available—that would have made this a painless process—and I found myself pissed off that I had to do it. A bluetooth keyboard connection or Remote App for iOS would instantly fix that issue.

Next I launched the TV App Store and added all the familiar apps: Netflix; Hulu; some games, and more. Since there isn’t yet a “Categories” feature in the App Store, the only way to see what apps are in the store is to use that damn alphabet to click “a” to see apps starting with an “a”; “b” for “b” apps; and so forth. What a drag.

podcast-appWas stunned to find a glaring omission too: Where the hell is the podcast app? Especially since Apple was the first company to offer podcasts in iTunes; Google is now offering them so there is competition; and podcasts are accelerating in popularity.

Fortunately, once setup the AppleTV experience was phenomenal.

[Read more…]

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GREAT SCOTT! It’s the Future!

bttf-doc-marty_600Wednesday is “Back to the Future Day” based on what Doc Brown (actor Christopher Lloyd) said to his passenger Marty McFly (actor Michael J. Fox) in the second film:

We’re descending toward Hill Valley, California,
at 4:29 pm, on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
.”

There is a ton of stuff happening on the 21st: Screenings of the trilogy at AMC theatres (check your local listings); the release of all three movies on Blu-ray/DVD or just DVD (those are Amazon pre-order links and I just saved over $20 by preordering today); lots of events, and a new documentary.

The documentary is called, “Back in Time” and is one which I backed on Kickstarter many months ago. Click “Watch Trailer” below to see what it’s all about. I’ll be receiving a link to download the digital version of the film Wednesday and am really looking forward to it! Here is the trailer for the documentary which yes, you can still preorder to rent or buy it here (or use the pulsating orb in the upper right corner of the video).

Below I’ve also compiled some interesting YouTube videos you likely haven’t seen before and hopefully might enjoy…

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