I’d be remiss if I did not bring to your attention to an accelerating trend sweeping over the web right now, and one I view as timely since our attention is being pulled in dozens of directions at once and there is simply too much content to consume!
The trend is called “Web Stories” and the buzzword used to describe them is that they are “tappable” stories that are bite-sized and easy to swallow. Tappable is an obvious reference to smartphones and tablets being the primary device target for these “story containers”, but I’ve also seen some good full-browser ones being delivered too (that look good on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices). I’ve yet to see a TV-delivered container, but it makes perfect sense and am sure we’ll see some soon.
As I’ve gone through numerous Web Stories, I’ve thought that they’d be great for “How To” tutorials, general learning content, fun stories of any type, or even a replacement for the meme-driven videos we see all the time (I should note that I’m growing weary of text over video that, once you tap to listen to the video’s audio, the text remains).
ABOUT WEB STORIES
The trend is called “Web Stories” and these stories are small, self-contained, encapsulated stories about a single topic. Creating them is leveraging AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and is a big push for Google. Why? Because the cost to them of dealing with big, bandwidth-intensive web pages is extremely high. So for some time we’ve been seeing Google trying to figure out ways to make the delivery of web content smaller and faster and so AMP was developed.
The problem historically with AMP is that it didn’t offer a whole lot to the world so people didn’t do much with it. It was also a pain in the ass to use in a website and also to build web stories. But in 2020 the world has rapidly moved toward smaller, discrete “containers” of content that would be great on mobile and the tools have evolved too.
The other driver for AMP/WebStories are data caps by mobile providers that can increase cost of bloated websites. Even with a so-called “unlimited” mobile account, almost always there is a gigabyte (GB) “ceiling” for how much bandwidth a mobile network user can consume in a single month. Usually 22 or 23GBs in a monthly billing cycle, once a user goes past that amount their mobile data connection is “throttled” and slowed down significantly. Outside 1st tier economies in the world, data speeds are typically slower and mobile connections not as ubiquitous, which makes rapid delivery of encapsulated content like Web Stories even more compelling.
Others have recognized that smaller, discrete pieces of functionality are important as well. For example, WordPress fundamentally changed how the software’s back-end content creation was done with their Gutenberg approach to creating and editing content. Even Apple has delivered this same sort of concept with App Clips in iOS 14 so we don’t have to launch an app, wade through menus, only to perform one, discrete and simple task.
There is some concern though…
In January of 1993, I was attending the MacWorld expo in San Francisco. At a furious pace I was hustling down a hallway to get in to a ballroom presentation when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a magazine that looked pretty dang cool. It was the WIRED Premiere publication (issue 1.1) and I stopped dead in my tracks and picked one up.
Quickly leafing through it I instantly knew I’d found exactly the right publication for everything I was doing and thinking as it pertained to the future of technology! Ripping out the subscription card I immediately filled it out to subscribe.
I wish I could convey to you what a big deal this magazine was when it appeared, and how profoundly it covered the big ideas and the overall zeitgeist of that era which birthed the commercial internet, companies like Google and Amazon, and tapped in to the explosion of tech and its changes on the world.
The constant (and sometimes jarring) design, colors and layout choices were often disconcerting, but always pushed-the-envelope in keeping with what they were covering: emerging, disruptive and futuristic tech.
Looking back on that first issue now is also a bit amusing — and I wish I could link to a live copy online but cannot find one — but there is one advertisement I found particularly delightful from Apple, proudly touting the ability to fax from the Powerbook 170 which I just so happened to own at that moment:
For at least 15 years, Wired magazine was my tech-bible. I devoured each issue and learned a lot along the way, and have used the Wired iPad app to download and read each issue. Unfortunately there is so much tech writing online now, the magazine has become less relevant (dare I say “boring”?) and I reluctantly just cancelled my subscription which will expire with the February 2020 issue.
SOME WIRED TIDBITS
Here are some items you may find of interest:
- The Internet Archive has TechNation “internet radio show” (the term ‘podcast’ was not yet invented) and you can listen to Dr. Moria Gunn interview the founders of Wired magazine, Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rosetto, and it is very enlightening (This part of the show starts at 32:18). They discuss how “Wired” is different from its predecessors, addressing the complete societal impact of technology and its latest breakthroughs. Other topics include the phenomenal success of “Wired”’s premier issue and why the BBC is “wired” while National Public Radio is “tired.”
- Wired 1.1: An Archaeology: Good blog post that breaks down what was contained within the premiere issue.
- Revisiting the Original 1992 WIRED Media Kit: This was sent to potential advertisers well before the publication of the premiere issue.
When my first-born daughter Liz was a toddler, I was hoping I’d be able to guide her towards becoming a techie. No pushing and no pressure was what I tried to achieve. Instead I tried to be a coach to her, gently showing her how stuff worked while striving to make it fun.
One of the ways I introduced her to technology was through games. There was a HyperCard ‘stack’ game — released at MacWorld in 1989, which I bought there, called Cosmic Osmo — and we played it often. She was always delighted to play it and asked to do so whenever I was on my Mac SE/30.
HyperCard was amazing and I learned how to build my own stacks. I built one with sounds I created in SoundEdit, and when any button on the stack was clicked, it would play that sound. I loaded as many funny sounds as I could find (along with the ones I recorded myself, including my daughter’s own voice) and she LOVED clicking on the buttons to trigger the sounds!
Fast forward to today and she definitely became very technically astute. She worked for the Apple Store for five years during college and just afterwards, at Best Buy (where she moved to corporate in to human resources), and every time I’m with her I learn some new tip or trick with my iPhone. The best part is that she grasps technology instantly and I hope I had some influence on her in this way.
Here is a video from 1989 where we are in my home office, she is sitting on my desk, and we talk about “Osmo” and I record her voice with SoundEdit:
Alex Begins His Technology Adventure
In 1994 our son Alex was born and he took technology like a duck to water. For him it was all about play, which fit perfectly in to my goal extending to him when it came to making the use of technology fun.
By this time Liz was well on her way toward her belief that technology was a seamless and integral part of our lives. She became a patient and encouraging tech-coach to her little brother. He wasn’t much interested in what Mom or Dad had to say about tech, but rather he watched, listened and allowed himself to be guided by his big sister. It was fun to watch!
In 1998 I was working at Apple in the business group after Steve Jobs came back, and had the chance to bring home the first iMac introduced and it had some built-in games, like the one they loved called Nanosaur.
Here’s a fun video of my kids using that first iMac at Thanksgiving, about three months after it was introduced:
We Have Come A LONG Way With Technology!
1) Holy buckets has technology advanced! When I watch these videos above (and the one below) and think about SoundEdit and a Mac SE/30, it’s just stunning how far we’ve come with computing technology, graphics, gameplay, sound, animation, and so much more.
Want to see what Liz and I experienced playing Cosmic Osmo on a Macintosh SE/30 with a 9″ screen? Here is a video of Cosmic Osmo’s click-to-trigger interface in HyperCard:
2) By the way, somehow I missed this Ars Technica article (30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web) on May 25, 2019, but thought I’d add it to this post. In that article I learned about a way to goof around with HyperCard — this time by downloading Steam for your PC, Mac or Linux computer and actually introduced in 2010 — and, once you’ve installed it, you can load up an instance of HyperCard here.
Make Technology Fun
Whenever I’m asked about kids using technology too much, not enough, how to make it fun or educational, I always coach parents to limit screen time, always keep an eye on their kid’s use of tech, but most importantly make the use of it fun!
Having phones that are dozens of times more powerful than that previously mentioned Mac SE/30 and original iMac — along with Internet of Things devices that are inserting themselves in all parts of our lives — we all need to keep vigilant about how we use it. If you haven’t watched the Cosmic Osmo video above, view it now and see how laid-back, at-ease, and fun Cosmic Osmo is having with his out-of-this-world technology use. There’s a lesson there for all of us. 😉
I have to admit that I get irrationally angry when a major internet service provider like Cox does not allow true and complete management of one’s internet service online.
It’s easy to add a Cox service in my account, like I did when our son’s internet use threatened to push us over our 1 terabyte “cap” on our internet use (1 terabyte = 1,024 GBs). So I chose Cox’s “add-on” of 500GBs additional data. Doing so ensured I wouldn’t have to pay their $10 per 50GBs overage cost.
We were on a run-rate to be closer to 1,400 GBs and it was much cheaper to pay the add-on cost of $29.99 for 500 GBs, instead of the $75 it would have cost as an overage for the possible 376 GBs additional data we would likely have used.
But now that our son has moved to Santa Monica for a job, our data use has plummeted and is well under that 1 terabyte ceiling.
So this morning I went online to Cox and discovered — just like Comcast did in the State of Minnesota we left last June — the only way to cancel or remove an add-on or service is … you guessed it … to call a human in their respective billing departments.
Yes, I know this is so they have an opportunity to convince us to keep the service or add-on. To have a chance to upsell us on new services. BUT I AM SICK OF THE GAME and just want to do what I do with my Schwab brokerage accounts, Wells Fargo banking accounts, and the myriad of other services I use that “get it” when it comes to allowing FULL MANAGEMENT OF ONE’S ACCOUNT ONLINE.
So Cox, Comcast and others … quit the bullshit games and pretend like you understand the internet, the web, and how it works. All you do is piss off people like me who see right through your veiled attempts.
Around 1971 our neighbor across the street, Tom Thiers, pulled up in his bright blue Chevrolet Camaro. As a 16 year old kid close to getting my own car, I rushed across the street to talk to him and check-out the new car (new to him as it was a used 1st generation Camaro).
Tom was not much older than me so I blurted out, “How could you afford that car?” Sitting like a cool guy in the driver’s seat, he slid down his sunglasses and said, “Because I’m now working in the field of computers.”
You see, Tom had gone to work at Control Data Corporation (CDC), the mainframe and supercomputer firm, which Wikipedia states was “…one of the nine major United States computer companies through most of the 1960s; the others were IBM, Burroughs Corporation, DEC, NCR, General Electric, Honeywell, RCA, and UNIVAC.”
As a guy who grew up knowing so many people who worked at Remington Rand’s ERA, Control Data, Cray Research, at the University of Minnesota Supercomputer Center — and was endlessly fascinated by computing — it was obvious to me that I’d end up working my entire career in technology.
At the same time I feel a great sense of sadness on what did not happen in Minnesota when it comes to the evolution of computing toward minicomputers, workstations, then personal computers, and finally all the devices we use today with computing chips in them like smartphones, tablets, Internet of Things devices, and much more. My home state could easily have become the dominant place where the future was invented.
Here are a few short videos you might enjoy:
Do you use social login? How about for remote access to your home WiFi router when you’re not at home? Unless you have good password practices and multi-factor authentication, I recommend you do NOT enable remote access of any kind, and maybe consider never using social login ever again.
I am very pleased with our Amplifi Mesh Wi-Fi System installation but have one security-related issue: For remotely logging in to the router from my smartphone, the remote-access, social login credentials are only ones from two providers: Google and Facebook.
While implementing social login is far easier for developers than building a custom login solution — and social login is often assumed by them to be the path of least resistance since these big companies can protect user credentials better than a smaller company — that “big company is more secure” assumption has been proven false and highly risky:
- KREBS: Facebook Stored Hundreds of Millions of User Passwords in Plain Text for Years
- WIRED: The Security Risks Of Logging In With Facebook
- MEDIUM: It’s time for brands to reconsider social login
- TOM’S GUIDE: 100 Million Quora Accounts Hacked: What to Do
Use of social login also assumes that the user has excellent password practices and/or uses multi-factor authentication, which is usually not the case. So if the user doesn’t implement those best-practices when it comes to protecting their Google or Facebook logins, then Amplifi’s parent company, Ubiquiti, may feel they are off-the-hook in the event of a breach?
I would argue that a blackhat hacker obtaining a social login email and password is trivial (e.g., I can name twenty-five friends and family that have had social accounts hacked in to).
Unless the user has implemented multi-factor authentication, then those social login credentials could be used to gain access to a home WiFi router that use social logins for remote access.
I’ve added this suggestion on the Amplifi community forum to ask the company to have a Ubiquiti-driven login with multi-factor authentication, and in it asked these questions:
- What is your position on security and privacy where it comes to enabling Google and Facebook to potentially monitor outbound traffic from an IP address?
- As such, do you have a security/privacy white paper that outlines how you use the Google and Facebook social APIs, and specifically what you allow Google and Facebook to monitor? (like router IP address).
While I appreciate that our Amplifi Mesh Wi-Fi System is focused on simplicity first and granular level detail on security and privacy second, I’d like to see a public/private key, encrypted, Ubiquiti-delivered remote access login (where I hold both keys) along with multi-factor authentication … at a minimum.
After I switched from Google Chrome back to Firefox, I’ve never second-guessed my decision. Especially because I use Firefox Quantum: Developer Edition every day as well, but primarily it’s when something as cool and useful as Firefox Send debuts.
Mozilla, the non-profit behind the Firefox browser, just released Firefox Send and, even though I’d used the beta version some weeks ago, I tried the final released version just now.(Please note that the servers are slammed this morning so be patient as the Send app loads).
With Firefox Send you can share files up to 2.5 GBs in size through your web browser and they will be end-to-end encrypted to its destination.
To get started:
1. Go to https://send.firefox.com
2. In the upper right click “Sign in/up”
3. Create a Firefox account and activate it via the email sent to you
4. Go back to https://send.firefox.com and try uploading one or more files (up to 2.5 GBs, of course). You can choose to have the file(s) download expire after 1 – 100 downloads and/or by placing a time limit the download will be available of 5 minutes | 1 hour | 1 day | 7 days. Most importantly you can also protect the file(s) download with a password .
5. Once your up-to-2.5 GBs of file(s) are uploaded, you can copy the link to share with one or more people:
As I’ve been dubbed “Mr. Security” by my friends, family and clients (I pay significant attention to, and use, cybersecurity, privacy and software measures) but my pleadings with them to be secure often are ignored…until they get hacked. Then they plead with me to help them out and get their digital life on track. Usually it’s too little, too late, and the work to recover is enormous.
You should care deeply about your digital life and its security, especially since the risk of getting hacked is exploding! The World Economic Forum in its 2018 report (PDF) said blackhat hackers are gaining the upper-hand in cyber warfare…and they are coming after you…and even the experts can’t keep up:
“Offensive cyber capabilities are developing more rapidly than our ability to deal with hostile incidents.”
Here’s the good news: if you haven’t yet been hacked it’s likely you will at some point, so lets get you cyber secure NOW!
I was delighted this morning to discover this Security Checklist, “An open source checklist of resources designed to improve your online privacy and security. Check things off to keep track as you go.”
The Security Checklist is very comprehensive, easy to follow, and one you should look at and implement as quickly as possible. It gives you the “why” and specific resources to use for each category, making this pretty brain-dead-simple to follow and implement:
- Password Manager
- Create a strong device passcode
- Use two-factor authentication
- Set up a mobile carrier PIN
- Encrypt your devices
- Freeze Your Credit
- Use 184.108.40.206 for DNS resolution
- Use a VPN
- Cover your webcam
- Use a privacy-first web browser
- Use a privacy-first search engine
- Review app permissions on your devices
- Review your social media privacy settings
- Educate yourself about phishing attacks
On the day you could order the new iPad Pro 11 inch for 2018, I enthusiastically ordered mine as soon as I had a moment to do so and it arrived yesterday about 3pm. With the Smart Keyboard Folio, the 2nd generation Apple Pencil, and the iPad Pro 11″ 1TB model, my total with tax was $2,167.54.
Unbeknownst to me when I began to open the iPad’s packaging, that enthusiasm would soon turn to disappointment and then outright anger! Especially since I’d intended to set this new iPad Pro up and then restore my older 9.7″ iPad Pro with my wife’s iPad’s backup so she could take it on her trip which she left on this morning. Instead I ended up wasting TWO HOURS of driving and in-store time to chase down a cable that Apple should have included in the box.
WHAT…NO DONGLE OR CABLE?
As you may know, Apple decided to move to USB-C for these new iPad Pros, a move I see as a good one. In fact, I had already made somewhat of a switch to USB-C with my MacBook 12″ and its USB-C connections. As such, I already owned several USB-C cables and dongles.
What I did NOT expect was the included USB-C and charger was like the MacBooks: USB-C on both ends! No USB-A to USB-C dongle (or cable) was included. Setting up this new iPad Pro was therefore impossible for me since the 27″ iMac Retina I bought in 2015 for $4,800 had Thunderbolt 2 and USB-A connections. Without USB-A to USB-C in some fashion, I had no way to perform the required connect-to-iTunes step to begin the set up on this new iPad Pro!
I thought, “Wait a second…Apple couldn’t be this stupid…or could they?” so I got on ‘the Google’ and confirmed that yes, Apple had been that shortsighted and I had to go and buy a USB-A to USB-C charge/sync cable. Shit.
For years I’ve been a staunch supporter and trusted Google, loved their services like Google Suite, Gmail, Google Voice, and others, all while admiring their machine learning and artificial intelligence research. One thing I specifically trusted was Google’s Don’t Be Evil motto which was baked in to their Code of Conduct for the company.
Then, back in May, I became troubled when they removed Don’t Be Evil and replaced it with Do The Right Thing. At the time I joked with a friend of mine asking him, “Is ‘do the right thing’ for us, or for Google?”
It appears the motto change was focused on Google.
The biggest shift away from that “Don’t Be Evil” motto that Google has ever done just happened. Though this thread started on Hacker News a few weeks ago, a cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University whose blog I follow, Matthew Green, wrote a post entitled, Why I’m Done with Chrome. In it he said:
A few weeks ago Google shipped an update to Chrome that fundamentally changes the sign-in experience. From now on, every time you log into a Google property (for example, Gmail), Chrome will automatically sign the browser into your Google account for you. It’ll do this without asking, or even explicitly notifying you.
Green also sees this move as having serious implications for privacy and trust. Do you think!?! My trust-level in Google has plummeted. So much so that I have now shifted 100% back to Mozilla’s Firefox browser and away from Chrome. I will no longer use Chrome until they change the way they infiltrate my privacy.
SO WHAT EXACTLY DID GOOGLE DO?
Google’s recent update to Chrome (browser version 69) has done something unprecedented in their history:
a) Once you login to Chrome as a user, Google can (and does) track EVERYTHING you do in the browser. Every site you view, every login. The change? If you login to any Google service in the Chrome browser, Google will log you in to that browser to give them access to everything you’re doing within Chrome.
c) Google is increasingly using “dark pattern” user interfaces in their services to hide or obfuscate what something does when you check, uncheck or choose an option. In ExtremeTech’s article Chrome 69 Is a Full-Fledged Assault on User Privacy, they describe how Google’s dark pattern user interfaces obscure their intent to get you to enable them to do the right thing for Google:
These changes are all part of what’s known as a dark pattern. If a pattern is defined as a regularity in the world (designed or naturally occurring) that repeats in a predictable manner, a dark pattern is an attempt to trick users by designing interface options that look like the options users expect to see.
I, for one, don’t want to research, study or figure out how a company I trust might be trying to trick me in to do something that is in THEIR best interest…and not mine. I’d rather pay for offerings and am growing tired of “being the product“.
- GOOGLE NEWS COVERAGE: FIND IT HERE (yes, I’m aware of the irony)
- THE VERGE: Google criticized for Chrome change that logs users in without telling them The latest version of the browser, Chrome 69, is pushing users into sharing more data, say critics
- WIRED: A Seemingly Small Change to Chrome Stirs Big Controversy
- THREAT-POST: Google’s Forced Sign-in to Chrome Raises Privacy Red Flags
- INQUIRER: Chrome 69 secretly logs you in to Chrome Sync when you visit a Google site
- SECURITY RESEARCHER S. BÁLINT: Chrome is a Google Service that happens to include a Browser Engine