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Predicting the Future is Too Often a Swing-and-a-Miss

Baseball is a good metaphor for predicting the future. Sometimes you hit a home run, often a single or double, and too frequently a swing-and-a-miss.

This morning I was digging through an old research folder on my computer and came across something I’d downloaded from CompuServe‘s news headlines from March 1, 1996. This “internet forecast” was vague enough to get some things right, but otherwise was wrong on many accounts.

I’d been on CompuServe since the early 1990s and was eager to learn everything I could about this new thing called the “Internet.” I followed every single tidbit of information, leading up to The Big Trip to Germany that I took with my father in the summer of 1997 when, on that trip, publishing to the internet changed the course of my career and life in ways I never expected.

What I think is accurate in the 1995 press release below:

  • Internet had to be mainstream
  • Had to be intuitive and easy to use
  • Connective advertising did grow exponentially

What was missed:

  • Web site consolidation? Um…not really. In 1996 websites began to explode on to the web.
  • Phone companies were NOT a good bet for delivering the internet.
  • Self-regulation almost never works since companies are out for themselves and their shareholders.

Other than that it was a pretty solid vision and worth a read, but it illustrates how any prediction of the future should always be taken with a grain-of-salt. Enjoy and check out the bonus video below.

Headline: INTERNET FORECAST FOR 1996: COMMENTS BY NEW MEDIA …
Wire Service: PR (PR Newswire)
Date: Fri, Mar 1, 1996

INTERNET FORECAST FOR 1996: COMMENTS BY NEW MEDIA VISIONARY AL SIKES

NEW YORK, March 1 /PRNewswire/ — This week, at Jupiter Communications’ Consumer Online Services III, Al Sikes, President, Hearst New Media & Technology, presented his future vision for the Internet. This keynote speech kicks off a briefings campaign between Mr. Sikes and the press regarding the future of the Internet. In his remarks, Mr. Sikes outlined the demise of the World Wide Web as we know it today and predicted the rise of a “sensory-led” medium, one that is driven by creative people who will push multimedia artistry to new heights. His major points are highlighted below.

  • Easy access and customized solutions will drive success. While today’s Internet is primarily populated by techno-savvy “early adopters,” its future depends on attracting mainstream Americans. “Early adopters are prepared to work for what they want,” explained Mr. Sikes. “Later adopters will demand that it be easy.” To survive, companies must hone their editorial vision and provide added value services through “smart” software and personalized applications. “At HomeArts, Hearst’s popular Web network for the home and home life, our challenge is to give every HomeArts user a personal experience. If we are to earn that trust, our evolution must include ‘intuitive software’ that will shape users’ daily package of news, information and entertainment,” explained Mr. Sikes.
  • “Connective” advertising will grow exponentially. The explosion of company Web sites and commercial content providers spells huge opportunities for the advertising community. “In virtually all media, there is a symbiotic relationship between telling stories and advertising; this medium will be no different,” explained Mr. Sikes. In response, advertising agencies must adjust. “The industry will become tiered,” predicted Mr. Sikes. “There will be a tier that ‘gets it’ and a tier that doesn’t.”
  • Web sites will consolidate. In 1995, a handful of commercial content sites built a following. In 1996, there will probably be some consolidation among content providers, with the number of small niche sites dwindling or seeking strategic hot links with the larger ones.
  • Phone companies will deliver digital technology to the home. Spurred by the advent of “cable modems,” the phone companies will begin to deliver on their long but dormant promise to bring digital technology to the home. “While I am rooting for both phone and cable companies to contemporaneously shower us with bandwidth, I am more inclined to bet on the phone companies, or maybe phone-cable combinations,” predicted Mr. Sikes. The eleven largest telephone companies’ 1995 cash flow approached $30 billion. The cable industry’s cash flow, while significant, is small by comparison.
  • Constructive self regulation will override government intervention. In 1995, the top industry debate in Washington was censorship. In 1996, the issue will be privacy. And just as the industry fought censorship initiatives, it too will oppose overarching government restrictions in the privacy domain. “Nothing hurts entrepreneurial industries more than an enforced, day-by-day partnership with the government,” said Mr. Sikes. Instead, the industry will push for constructive self-regulation. “The increasing importance of the Web points to the need for an industry approach.”

About Alfred C. Sikes
Prior to joining Hearst New Media & Technology in 1993, Al Sikes served as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. From 1986 to 1989, Mr. Sikes was Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), responsible for the NTIA TELECOM 2000 report, a seminal U.S. communications policy assessment. Mr. Sikes is a graduate of Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri and the University of Missouri Law School.

About the Company
HomeArts (http://homearts.com) is owned by New York-based Hearst New Media & Technology, a division of Hearst Corporation. In business since 1993, Hearst New Media & Technology builds online networks and multimedia CD-ROM titles. These products leverage the company’s existing brands and expertise to create new audiences valuable to advertisers and other content providers. In addition to the HomeArts network, Hearst’s current releases include In Full Bloom: Great Home Gardens, Country Living Style, Chapman’s Hands-On Powerboating, Popular Mechanics Car Guide, Comic Creator and Multimedia Newsstand (http://mmnewsstand.com).

Hearst New Media & Technology is located at 4 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10019. Phone: 212-649-2700; fax 212-977-3845. -0- 3/1/96 /
CONTACT: (redacted)
Copyright 1996 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Bonus

Here is another 1995 vision video from one of those phone companies, AT&T:

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Supreme Court Rules Police Need a Warrant to Track Our Mobile Phones

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police must obtain a search warrant in order to get access to cellphone location information.

This is HUGE and a big win for anyone who cares about intrusive, mass, warrantless surveillance that is, by any measure, illegal searches and (data) seizures.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the “liberal” justices (ones I instead use the adjective “strategic” to describe). This National Public Radio (NPR) story In Major Privacy Win, Supreme Court Rules Police Need Warrant To Track Your Cellphone put it succinctly:

The majority declared that the Fourth Amendment guarantees an expectation of privacy and that allowing police to obtain moment-by-moment tracking of an individual’s cellphone location is a kind of surveillance that the framers of the Constitution did not want to occur without a search warrant.

The chief justice said that this sort of tracking information is akin to wearing an electronic ankle-bracelet monitoring device and that the citizens of the country are protected from that kind of monitoring unless police can show a judge that there is probable cause of a crime that justifies it.

After the 2014 Edward Snowden revelations about mass, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens — which was being performed by the signal intelligence focused National Security Agency (NSA) — was an enormous concern both domestically and internationally as the NSA’s clear mission was to focus only on foreign signal intelligence while excluding spying on American citizens. The outcry domestically and internationally reached a fever pitch…but little was revealed on what was being done to stop mass, warrantless surveillance.

Then some of Snowden’s document releases were published and it was revealed that all of this vacuumed-up data had a “Google-like search engine” that could be used to scour all data for an individual or group. Somehow the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other law enforcement agencies were being provided with data that couldn’t be challenged in court due to “national security concerns” so the extent of data being swept-up has never been completely understood.

The bottom line? The accelerating “surveillance State” was already out of control and Congress seemingly turned a blind eye toward it and extended its capability.

Though it has taken too many years for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the Constitutionality of warrantless surveillance, the explosion in law enforcement’s use of cellphone tracking devices like Stingray, meant that warrantless tracking by police agencies was low-hanging-fruit for the court to address.

In my mind it’s too little, too late…but it’s a start.

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Use Your Phone’s Gmail App for Two-Factor Authentication

Email is your most important application whether you access it in a web browser or with an app on your smartphone or tablet. If your email gets hacked, it is trivial for a blackhat hacker to go to your online accounts with a bank, stock brokerage, ecommerce site, and reset your passwords

…and then gain control of all your accounts!

But you can easily and quickly protect your email. If you set 2FA up and turn it on, a hacker would have to have both your email password and your smartphone in order to gain control over your email account!  In the case of Gmail, you can set up another layer of protection though: two-factor authentication (2FA…also called 2-step verification). 2FA makes your smartphone an additional, secure method of proving it is you trying to login to your Gmail.

The good news? Google has made 2FA quite easy to set up and use but they have recently made it even easier to use. Read on to learn how it works.  [Read more…]

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The Treatment for Steve Borsch

What happens when you discover that there is a virtually guaranteed, life-saving or life-prolonging new drug — made specifically to target the exact genetics of you, your child, your spouse, or a best friend — but it costs $600,000 or $1,000,000 dollars a year?

Your health insurance company and Medicare will have to turn you down, that’s what. 

Let me tell you a quick story about my first exposure to a strategic-level thinker who was with an organization already way out in front when thinking about this problem. They already knew that this type of genetic medicine (also known as personalized or precision medicine) would change the future of healthcare…and maybe not in a good way if not affordable.

In the year 2000 I led a sales effort at the web content management company Vignette, working to close a deal with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) and met one such strategic-level thinker. UHG’s information technology (I.T.) group had a CEO who was seeking an enterprise-wide layer that could sit on top of all of their business systems and put them online as websites. Since this was a multiple-million dollar deal, I brought in my CEO to meet with UHG’s I.T. group CEO to finalize all the details.

At that meeting my CEO excused himself for a bathroom break and I was left to talk with UHG’s I.T. CEO. Making small talk I asked him, “With respect to technology, what keeps you and your senior level colleagues up at night?‘ His response was “the treatment for Steve Borsch.”

Chuckling I said “No seriously…what does keep you up at night?” He again emphasized, “The treatment specifically for you.” That provocative leading statement then launched us in to a discussion about the mapping of the human genome, customized treatments for a specific individual which would arrive within 10-15 years, and how those customized treatments — if mandated by Congress to be paid for by health insurance companies — would absolutely put those health insurance companies out of business!

It was certainly exciting when the human genome was sequenced for the first time. The promise of genetic medicine — which would be targeted to an individual’s exact genetics — might be able to “fix” just about any medical ill facing any of us. The reality is that it just might fix previously untreatable ills, but at what cost and who will pay for it?

[Read more…]

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Got an iPhone or iPad? You Need a Better Password NOW

There is a new tool for hacking in to an iOS device (i.e., iPhone or iPad) you should be aware of and why you should change your password NOW…but also make it a strong one.

A Motherboard investigation has found that law enforcement agencies across the country have purchased GrayKey, a relatively cheap tool for bypassing the encryption on iPhones, while the FBI pushes again for encryption backdoors.

According to Matthew Green, assistant professor and cryptographer at John Hopkins Information Security Institute, said on Twitter that GrayKey has an exploit that disables Apple’s passcode-guessing protections (i.e., SEP throttling) AND that a 4-digit passcode can be cracked in as little as 6.5 minutes on average, while a 6-digit passcode can be calculated in roughly 11 hours:

Another Motherboard article emphasized that you should immediately Stop Using 6-Digit iPhone Passcodes and yes, you should.

Why a Long, Secure Password Now?

Security and convenience are always a trade-off. But I’ve set up a password for my devices that, according to this password checker, will take 44 thousand years to crack BUT it is easy for me to remember, and to use, as my iOS “custom alphanumeric code.” This password has numbers, upper/lower case letters, along with a few special characters (e.g., !@#$%^&*()).

Do I have something to hide? Nope. But the reason I lock my front door, have security cameras and alarm system, and don’t invite random people in to dig through my drawers or important-papers in filing cabinets, IS THAT MY STUFF IS *MY* STUFF AND PRIVATE! I intend to keep it that way so I protect the shit out of things I want to keep private AND SECURE.

If you travel outside the U.S. like my wife or I do and come back in with your device, TURN IT OFF. That is because U.S. Customs is increasingly grabbing traveler’s devices and disappearing with them to a back-room, apparently to hook them up to a device to suck off all the data. While this hasn’t yet directly affected U.S. citizens, there is nothing stopping other countries from doing the same thing.

Plus, once all of your data is captured, there are enough cracking resources available to government agencies to be able to take their time to crack your device data they have previously stored. It might take them a year or, after quantum computing becomes a reality (if it isn’t already real) in the next several years, those times to crack may be reduced to minutes instead of days or years.

Police agencies within the United States may also be less adherent to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights when it comes to the gray area surrounding digital search and seizures, even though in 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed two cases, Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, dealing with cell phones searches and the search incident to arrest exception to the warrant requirement. During searches incident to arrest, the high court has not required warrants under certain circumstances where protecting officer safety and preventing evidence destruction are at issue. For more, read this at FindLaw.

The U.S. Border Patrol also could be in a position to do whatever they damn well please — within 100 miles of the U.S. border — as you can see from this article at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

Why Can You Do?

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A Bug in the Apple Store App on iOS “Removed” a Gift Card from My Apple Wallet

It is likely that I discovered a bug in Apple’s Apple Store app for iOS that could make one of your Apple Store cards in your Apple Wallet vanish.

Two days ago I had three Apple Store cards in my Apple Wallet with varying amounts on them which were pretty close to the total amount of a new HomePod with tax — only $6.21 wasn’t covered by the Apple Store cards in my wallet so would, of course, be paid for using my archived credit card on file with Apple — so I decided to try to order the HomePod using the Apple Store app on my iPhone and go and pick up the unit at a nearby Apple Store in Southdale Mall (Edina, MN).

To my surprise the charge to my archived-at-Apple credit card for $6.21 kept failing! The credit card is used all the time so I tried the transaction three more times. It kept failing so I called my credit card provider Chase who told me that the card was just fine.

I then reached out to Apple Support and they basically had no idea what had happened. They did offer to order it for me or suggested I go in to an Apple Store. Of course, that completely misses the point that there is some sort of bug that disallowed me from using my credit card do I decided to give up and deal with it this coming weekend.

But here is where it gets REALLY WEIRD… [Read more…]

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Dept of Homeland Security Setting Up Database to Track Journalists, Bloggers & ‘Media Influencers’


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is doing something unprecedented for a tactical government bureau: they just released a draft request for companies to bid on their “Media Monitoring Services.” This request from DHS seeks a firm that could build them a searchable database that has the ability to monitor up to 290,000 global news sources:

Services shall enable [the DHS’s National Protection and Program’s Directorate] to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.

They’re claiming “standard practice” but DHS is NOT an intelligence service and global monitoring is what the National Security Agency performs as does the Central Intelligence Agency. WTF is DHS going to do with this sort of database? Why do they need “media influencers” and “bloggers”? The request specifically requests:

24/7 Access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.

Most troubling was their intent to have this database indicate what the coverage “sentiment” is:

[The database shall have the] ability to analyze the media coverage in terms of content, volume, sentiment, geographical spread, top publications, media channels, reach, AVE, top posters, influencers, languages, momentum, circulation.

Why am I concerned and bringing forth a story like this one? Because our Department of Homeland Security potentially has an enormous tactical advantage set forth in the Constitution that could allow them to subvert our protections under that very Constitution and our Bill of Rights. Don’t believe me or think I’m paranoid? Then read this about our Constitution and the 100-mile border zone that DHS could essentially do whatever they damn well please within, like searching our “sentiments” when within a border zone and restricting our movements if we’re deemed a threat to homeland security.

To say the shit-hit-the-fan after this release is an understatement. Here is a Google search that has articles from Forbes, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Chicago Sun-Times, and a host of others. Here is a Twitter search to allow you to read thousands of tweets questioning why in the world DHS needs such a database.

Many of we “bloggers” also leapt on this story as it is clearly easier for DHS to level suspicions at us. It’s also significantly easier to intimidate an individual than it is an institution filled with journalists like CBS News or CNN.

That said, other government agencies, like the FBI, have adopted secret rules to spy on journalists who publish classified information and hunt down their anonymous sources.

While all the articles I read were questioning the ‘why’ behind having this database, DHS’ spokesperson, Tyler Q. Houlton, had this to say in response to their sh*t hitting media’s fan:

My gut tells me that the “why” behind this database is that DHS wants to have a searchable one so they can perform quick lookups for those crossing our borders, being stopped at checkpoints, and potentially for those of us who happen to be within 100 miles of any border.

I’d argue that questioning is healthy and an imperative in a democracy, and having the DHS spokesmodel suggest otherwise is disingenuous.

Read the bid yourself below or download it here:

RNBO-18-00041_SOW_-_Draft (1)
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Journalism Is Now More Important Than Ever

We are living in a time when the President of the United States calls any news organization whose reporting he doesn’t like “fake news.” When news organizations struggle to remain relevant when the internet enables that news to travel around the planet in milliseconds. With all the options for news, few are willing to spend any money to support them.

This morning I donated $50 to The Guardian, a paper headquartered in London with a major U.S. presence in New York and is one I read almost every day. Their journalism is top-notch and they’ve revealed numerous important stories like the National Security Agency’s PRISM program and the Panama Papers.

My support has also been continual for my local paper, the Minneapolis StarTribune, but also to the phenomenal New York Times and The Washington Post, organizations that have continued to demand truth from the powerful, report on them when they go astray, and help keep us on track as a nation.

I absolutely believe that a free press is vital to our democracy and freedom. The founders of the United States of America knew how important freedom of the press was to democracy, so they made the very first amendment to the Constitution one that would protect it.

Without the press — and I’m including television and internet-based news too — who would hold accountable those who would seize power? The ones in power who seemingly delight in telling us untruths, make up their own facts, and lie to our faces like our current administration does?

It made me realize that I have to vote with my pocketbook. Think about the news organizations you read often and make a donation or subscribe. You don’t want to rely on some blog or, God forbid, what some government mouthpiece wants you to believe. You want the truth. We all need the truth.

Democracy will die without truth. Take a moment right now to choose one or two news organization and donate something to them.

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Wavebox – Finally…All Of My Web Apps In One Place!

Whenever I come across an app or method that can radically streamline my workflow, I not only embrace it but have to share it with friends, family and write about it as it might help you too.

To say I was excited to find Wavebox is an understatement. Wait until you see what it can do for you and, most importantly to me, it’s open source so there are no shenanigans going on with backdoors and such.

First some background. My workday consists of wearing several “hats” and I need to have multiple web applications instantly available all day, every day:

  1. My own, personal stuff with my Gmail account as the ‘hub’ with calendar, Google Voice, and a ToDo list in Google Keep
  2. My secure Protonmail email account
  3. A postmaster email account for my server
  4. Two Google Suite email accounts for one of our businesses and a third Google Suite email account for yet another of our businesses
  5. My SteveBorsch.com Google Suite account and website
  6. My primary Slack account
  7. …and several other web applications I need to have available to me at the click of a mouse.

Using multiple Google Suite accounts within a single browser meant that ALL of them were active all the time AND, for anyone who uses multiple accounts in a single browser, you know how unworkable that is on a daily basis.

Each email account and calendar had to be open and ready. If you use Google Chrome to manage multiple Google accounts within the same Chrome instance, you know how problematic it can be to know which Google Account’s calendar you’re in at the moment!

After discovering apps that would let me generate site-specific browsers (SSBs) — which are essentially “clones” of Google Chrome and Safari but completely self-contained — I ended up with about 20 SSBs and each had multiple tabs open. (e.g., Fluid App; Coherence 5; Unite).

Fortunately my iMac has 32GBs of memory, but I was always maxing-out on memory since each tab in each browser has a “worker” process running in the background, consuming LOTS of memory on a machine. It was getting pretty crazy so I began the hunt for a solution that would be better.

Enter Wavebox…  [Read more…]

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Is Geek Squad ‘Inadvertently’ Stumbling Across Images? They Say ‘Yep’. I call ‘Bullshit’.

Photo courtesy Electronic Frontier Foundation

Though I’ve been following this story at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website (see Geek Squad’s Relationship with FBI Is Cozier Than We Thought) it was today’s Ars Technica article that really got my blood boiling (see Best Buy defends practice of informing FBI about child porn it finds).

“In a statement sent to Ars on Tuesday, Best Buy wrote that it continues to “discover what appears to be child pornography on customers’ computers nearly 100 times a year. Our employees do not search for this material; they inadvertently discover it when attempting to confirm we have recovered lost customer data.”

Inadvertently? Bullshit.

While I’m the last guy to defend anyone who has child porn they’ve gathered and stored on their computer or device the big issue is this: Best Buy **must be** using forensic tools to actively search the entire hard drive — including cached images — and then Geek Squad humans ARE ACTIVELY VIEWING every .jpg, .png, or raw image on the computer or device and getting paid to do it!

Otherwise, how else could they possibly determine something is “child porn” without looking at it?

On my main computer (and external hard drives) I have nearly 50,000 images I’ve taken, scanned, or my family has taken and I’m storing them in a central location (and, before you ask, there is NO porn…child or otherwise). If you were a Geek Squad worker, there is no way you could be recovering one of my hard drives and have a clue what those images are, unless you looked at them OR had a forensic tool that enabled you to find every image on a computer or device so you could skim through them.

That EFF article had this to say about Geek Squad using forensic tools (my emphasis):

But some evidence in the case appears to show Geek Squad employees did make an affirmative effort to identify illegal material. For example, the image found on Rettenmaier’s hard drive was in an unallocated space, which typically requires forensic software to find. Other evidence showed that Geek Squad employees were financially rewarded for finding child pornography. Such a bounty would likely encourage Geek Squad employees to actively sweep for suspicious content.

Even if a computer owner inadvertently ends up on a website that has such images — by following some link and then takes their computer in for Geek Squad service — those images are in the browser cache so that person could be instantly branded a child porn lover or pedophile and turned over to the FBI. Unless you are smart enough to use FileVault on the Mac or TrueCrypt for Linux or PC and encrypt your drives (like I do), they can see anything-and-everything once recovered.

What if a rogue Geek Squad person looked at your important documents? Maybe copying down account or social security numbers, poking through email text files, or otherwise digging through all your digital files when your computer or device was in there for repair? 

Remember: Defending against illegal searches and seizures means forcing law enforcement to abide by the Constitution and get a warrant. Not pay-off or otherwise coerce a company’s employees to do the FBI’s illegal forensic for them.

Especially when everyone knows that if an illegal search and seizure is labeled an investigation in to “child porn” or “terrorism” then the stupid usually rollover and let law enforcement do whatever they want unless you, like I do, find this practice and Best Buy collusion an illegal search and seizure (especially since the FBI paid them to do it) and get mad about it and take some action.

For more see these:
 

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