Archives for November 2011


Android Smartphone? Then You Are Naked

Do you ever do anything on your Android smartphone that you would like to be secure and private? You know, like banking, sending a text message to a friend or loved one, accessing secure web pages, or calling someone? If you do any of that, the U.S. mobile carriers have embedded software on Android devices that can grab every keystroke, see every app you launch, and even view the content of the secure web pages you access even when you are in Wifi mode with mobile 3G/4G turned off!

Though I’d been peripherally aware of a kid named Trevor Eckhart who’d come across what he calls a “rootkit” on Android phones, I was stunned to see this Wired article explaining it and was even more appalled when I watched Trevor’s 17 minute video (embedded below).

I’ve been observing the continuing acceleration in governmental intelligence gathering since 2006 (see, “Massive, sweeping surveillance on *all* you do“) and the U.S. National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping, but watching this video gave me one of those “Oh. My. God.” moments this morning.

Wired said this at the start of their article:

The Android developer who raised the ire of a mobile-phone monitoring company last week is on the attack again, producing a video of how the Carrier IQ software secretly installed on millions of mobile phones reports most everything a user does on a phone.

Though the software is installed on most modern Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones, Carrier IQ was virtually unknown until 25-year-old Trevor Eckhart of Connecticut analyzed its workings, revealing that the software secretly chronicles a user’s phone experience – ostensibly so carriers and phone manufacturers can do quality control.

But now he’s released a video actually showing the logging of text messages, encrypted web searches and, well, you name it.

CarrierIQ, now busted, has backed off of their cease-and-desist (PDF) and pointed out that they’re not really doing anything with the data. It’s all to help out the carriers managing their networks. Aha…that’s what the guy said when the cops popped his trunk and found lockpicking and glass cutting apparatus along with a black ski mask and latex gloves. “Really officers, I don’t use that stuff for breaking and entering.” 

The Register also wrote about this and it’s a great read…but do that and make sure you also watch the video below. Yes, it’s a bit geeky and long, but the first few minutes explains the issue and about the 15 minute mark he shows what’s happening.

Action? Raise a stink by contacting your Congressperson. Join what continues to prove is our only tech-savvy defense against the assault on our Constitution and Bill of Rights when it comes to technology: the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Tweet about it using the hashtag: #CIQ.

Glad I have an iPhone 4S since it doesn’t have this embedded software on it…until we find out otherwise.


Is Walgreens anti-health?

UPDATE on April 3, 2014: No-Shit-Sherlock: Yes, Walgreens is anti-health and clearly prefers short-term revenue over the health of their customers. 

See CVS Quits for Good and then skim this article at Motley Fool about how, “Walgreen said it’s going to ignore the pressure for the time being and continue selling cigarettes to its customers”Walgreen Ready to Smoke CVS With Tobacco Sales.

Check out this Twitter direct message stream from Walgreens social media that just came in at 10:45am on 4/3/14

Check out this Twitter direct message stream from Walgreens social media that just came in at 10:45am on 4/3/14. CLICK FOR A LARGER VERSION


17 years ago my Mom died of lung cancer at 62 years of age after a lifetime of smoking. My Dad, 85 years old, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which has slowly robbed him of his breath. So to say that I’m biased against smoking, I’d have to agree but also point out that I side with virtually every health professional and medical organization in the world who looks at the science of smoking-related illness and sees it as the #1 most detrimental-to-health addiction known.

To say smoking is anti-health is an understatement. To consider a retailer with health at its core making that #1 anti-health product widely available in their stores, is unconscionable. 

A few weeks after my Mom died I happened to be in a Walgreens where I was acquainted with the manager. “Why do you sell health as an organization and yet sell cigarettes?” He had no answer other than to lean forward and whisper, “Because we make A LOT of money off of them.

A cool smartphone user smoking. She’ll look like 10-miles-of-bad-road in just a few years (like most smokers do)

Stopping off this past week at a Walgreens near my Dad’s house to pick up a few things for him, I saw a young man in front of me buy two packs of Kool menthol cigarettes. When it was my turn I asked the older woman cashier, “Why does Walgreens promote health and yet sell cigarettes?” Sheepishly she averted her gaze and in a low voice said, “I know its wrong…but I just work here and we sell alot of them.

To Walgreens leadership I say: Be a leader in health and get rid of the cigarettes or don’t bullshit us with stuff like this on your website in your “health encyclopedia” about the hazards of smoking and how to quit which, ironically, contains solid information about smoking’s detrimental impact on health which you published.

It’s been 17 years since my Mom died and I haven’t become an anti-smoking crusader by any means, but I like and shop at Walgreens so want to see you take a position for health!

I’m sure you make money on supplying tobacco, a clearly addictive, health destructive product. Walgreens also has a Respiratory Services group for which, I’m fairly certain, helps people who’ve damaged their lungs through smoking. But if all you want to do is make money, why not sell porn? Malt liquor? Some constantly morphing designer drug brand just one-step ahead of the Drug Enforcement Agency?

There is absolutely zero argument that a leader of a 7,500 store “health” chain could make to justify carrying a highly addictive, irrefutable cancer-causing product like tobacco. Unless Walgreens thinks that selling cigarettes might ensure long term growth in Respiratory Services and other products? Even a sometimes cynical guy like me would have a hard time believing that so to Gregory Wasson, CEO of Walgreens, I say, “Show some leadership and get cigarettes and other tobacco products OUT of your stores…now.

3D Printing: Manufacturing’s “Big Bang”

Visualizing the future for me is so easy that I get very impatient waiting for it. Way back in 2005 I wrote a post called, Print 3D Objects on Demand which talked about a breakthrough in 3D printing technology that promised to turn computer aided design in to end-products in an instant. 

Since then we have come a long way but I’m still impatiently waiting for mainstreaming, even though I’m about to jump in to MakerBot, “…a company founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Smith producing an open source 3D printer to democratize manufacturing. You order it, build it, and you have a machine that can make you almost anything!

But is mainstreaming close? Yep. The New York Times “Bits” column about “The Business of Technology” had a brief post on Sunday by Nick Bilton about 3D printing called, Disruptions: The 3D Printing Free for All which said, in part:

It won’t be long before people have a 3-D printer sitting at home alongside its old inkjet counterpart. These 3-D printers, some already costing less than a computer did in 1999, can print objects by spraying layers of plastic, metal or ceramics into shapes. People can download plans for an object, hit print, and a few minutes later have it in their hands.

Near the end Bilton writes:

A recent research paper published by the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., titled The Future of Open Fabrication, says 3-D printing will be manufacturing’s Big Bang as jobs in manufacturing, many overseas, and jobs shipping products around the globe are replaced by companies setting up 3-D fabrication labs in stores to print objects rather than ship them.

No question we’re a ways off from buying a 3D printer for our home to make finished goods, “Honey! Will you come here and look at these designs online so we can start printing our plates for Thanksgiving?” More likely 3D printing is going to first enable organizations to rapidly prototype new designs and shorten the cycle times for taking a great idea or innovation to manufacturing. Later on we’ll undoubtedly head over to a “Kinkos for 3D Printing” to have stuff made on industrial-strength printers, like those made by my hometown dominant player in the space, Stratasys

But who knows? Maybe breakthroughs in nano-materials will enable us to buy a 3D printer at Best Buy and crank out all sorts of finished goods right at home. Finally I’ll be able to just ‘print’ my ideas vs. taking weeks to get a production-ready prototype.

To learn more:


TiVO and “Content Discovery”

For all the whining I’ve done about Comcast’s DVR, bundling of shows and more, I must admit being so delighted with my new TiVO — and especially with their iPad app — that it has materially changed the way we watch TV and how much we consume.

As I’ve said before, I’m embarrassed *for* Comcast that they have such crappy DVR technology. Though they continually promised that it would be replaced at some point, that never happened. I was either going to cut-the-cord and dump cable TV…or try something new. I thought I’d give it one last shot and bought a TiVO.

TiVO iPad app screen (click for a larger view)

TiVO iPad app screen

Wow. The interface is what I remember from my TiVO experience in the early 2000s but, of course, better. But I didn’t realize how amazing it would be until I tried the TiVO iPad app. Holy smokes! I can easily select a channel, scroll through two weeks worth of upcoming shows in seconds or choose one to record or get a “Season Pass.”

What I didn’t expect was content discovery. Because the interface is so well done, so easy to navigate through (and even use as a remote control to change channels or start recorded shows) I found about a dozen movies and shows to record the first night

It’s been like that ever since we got it a few weeks ago. Discovering good, quality programming that is mixed in with hours and hours and hours of crap (IMHO).

Makes me wonder: Why can’t Comcast deliver a DVR like this one? Or buy TiVO? Comcast has built out the infrastructure well but, when it comes to using it, all of their human interface and access technologies are a joke.