Thursday, July 31, 2008
I especially appreciated the Mojave Experiment that Microsoft recently shared with the world (where Vista-negative opinions were tested with a "new" version of Windows, code-named Mojave; it was then revealed to the participants after seeing the new version that what they were looking at was actually Vista). I've been using Vista since well before I came onto the market, and I can hardly stand to use WIndows XP computers anymore. Anyhow, check out http://www.mojaveexperiment.com if you haven't seen it, especially if you have a negative opinion of Vista today based on what you've heard from others. (Note: Scientifically speaking, the "experiment" would be badly flawed, but it's a marketing campaign and in that light it's pretty darned smart if you ask me. Plus, I've lost track of how may people who, never having seen Vista yet having a negative perception, decided to upgrade after trying for a couple hours (on my laptop) at my suggestion. With SP1 installed, for the record. Seriously, group think and manipulation goes both directions).
For those of us who are using Vista (or any other OS for that matter), it's nice to be able to fine-tune a computer system so it will perform the way we want it to. For Vista, Microsoft has released a document called Windows Vista Performance and Tuning as part of their Springboard series, which lets users know about a number of tweaks and decisions they can make to make the OS work well for their needs. It also effectively spells out in fairly plain language some relatively complex information.
Windows Vista and SP1 focus on delivering greater performance and overall system responsiveness. By striking a balance between speed and responsiveness, Windows Vista and SP1 deliver a level of performance that has the greatest positive impact on the system’s usability.This guide looks at the following areas of performance improvement:
- Making configuration changes that help a computer feel more responsive when you use it.
- Using hardware to boost the actual physical speed of a computer.
- Making configuration changes that help a computer to start faster.
- Making the computer more reliable may help increase performance.
- Monitoring performance occasionally so that you can stop problems before they get too big.
There are a variety of other guides out there as well, but this one hits a number of important nails on the head that the average computer user can easily understand and use.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Over on the Internet Evolution site I recently wrote an article
discussing the fact that MySpace is becoming an OpenID provider. Of note is the fact that they will be provider-only, and not a relying party, at least initially. This is a trend we've seen with other big companies like Yahoo!, and many of us are not-too-patiently waiting for these companies to start trusting and relying upon other organizations, so the utopia of user-controlled Internet single-sign-on can become a reality.
That begs the question, "What will it take to achieve the level of trust and confidence needed to make it easy for these big provider companies to join the relying-party crowd?" I'm certain there are plenty of detailed conversations and that things are being hammered out and actively discussed behind the scenes at all these major companies, but I tend to think about these things out loud anyhow.
So, I hope you'll read my article and thoughts over on Internet Evolution
and that you'll take advantage of the opportunity to comment there. I'd be interested to know what you think.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
The DNS vulnerability discovered earlier this year by Dan Kaminsky, and recently patched by DNS software providers in an unprecedented cross-vendor cooperation, has graduated from vulnerability to exploit-in-the-wild.
According to Kaminsky, 52% of the DNS servers on the Internet are still vulnerable, better than the number of exploitable systems just a few weeks ago when the patches were released by all the vendors.
Kaminsky has written up a plain-language helper guide to explain the problem to non-technical (read: management and decision-making) people. There's also a Black Hat webcast with Kaminsky available where he details the vulnerability and discusses the fixes.
Read more at Ars Technica.
Friday, July 25, 2008
On the Google blog, Jesse Alpert & Nissan Hajaj posted an article today called "We knew the web was big..." which indicates Google engineers recently noted that the number of web pages on the Internet passed the one-trillion mark. That's 1,000,000,000,000 pages. For those who don't process the impact of adding that many groups of zeros at a time, think about this:
- Take 1,000 pages.
- Multiply that 1,000 times and think about just how big that is.
- Multiply that amount another thousand times, and stop to think about how big that is.
- Now, again take that huge amount and multiply it by 1,000. Now you're at a trillion pages.
That's freakin' huge, really. If you started counting from one to a trillion and counted one number per second, it would take you almost 317 centuries before you were done (and by the way I asked google to help me figure that out). That's almost 32,000 years. It almost completely boggles the mind. That's a lot of web pages.
Google also notes that every day, the number of pages on the web increases by several billion.
Alpert and Hajaj have another explanation to try to explain the sheer size of the Internet today:
Today, Google downloads the web continuously, collecting updated page information and re-processing the entire web-link graph several times per day. This graph of one trillion URLs is similar to a map made up of one trillion intersections. So multiple times every day, we do the computational equivalent of fully exploring every intersection of every road in the United States. Except it'd be a map about 50,000 times as big as the U.S., with 50,000 times as many roads and intersections.
That's really just amazing to me. Wow. And now you know why we call this the Information Age. A lot of that information may be inaccurate, pornographic or otherwise useless, but some of it's good, and the sheer immensity of it is truly awesome.
TechCrunch has a slightly different take, calling the Google post misleading. The end of the TechCrunch post alludes to some news coming next week that might turn Internet indexing on it's head. Interesting - Is there some big search engine news in the works? Is it Microsoft's BrowseRank or something else? Stay tuned.
Apple has released a version of the iPhone 2 software (v2.1) to beta programmers along with an updated SDK. The firmware release supposedly includes additional core GPS features that allow computation and use of direction of travel and speed. This is good for those of us waiting patiently for turn-by-turn direction software for the phone.
Apparently there's also some functionality that enables apps to process push notifications in the background, as well. I, for one, hope for more background processing capabilities in general in the app arena. Would be nice to have Pandora keep playing music when exiting, or not to have to reload any of several twitter clients every time I click a Safari link and want to go back.
Read the story at Mac Rumors and Gear Live.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Over at OSCON just a short time ago, the Open Web Foundation was just announced. Eran Hammer-Lahav just blogged about it at the OWF site. This is great news, and should go a long way to enabling better community development of standards and specs in a non-proprietary fashion.
This morning at OSCON, David Recordon announced the creation of the Open Web Foundation. The Open Web Foundation is an attempt to create a home for community-driven specifications. Following the open source model similar to the Apache Software Foundation, the foundation is aimed at building a lightweight framework to help communities deal with the legal requirements necessary to create successful and widely adopted specification.
The presentation slides are also available in Eran's post.
What would Steve click?
It's not often you find advertising that doesn't just bother you. I try to keep the ads on this site relevant, minimalist and out of the way. But on a limited-size device like the iPhone, not to mention it's a device that has that "cool usability" vibe, the need for ultra-careful advertising design is critical. Acceptance is important.
Enter AdMob. They've created advertising blocks for the iPhone that are - well - pretty darn cool. Hopefully the advertisements that show up in them in practice will be relevant and cool, too. Check out the video.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
First, a big congrats to the guys at jkOnTheRun for their acquisition by GigaOm and their continued full-time blogging careers. Great people, and a great deal.
Kevin at jkOnTheRun posted a preview article the other day that I somehow missed until now, describing the Microsoft Live Mesh client for the Mac. It's not available yet, but Kevin was able to try it out. Previously he'd reviewed the mobile client for Live Mesh.
I've been using Live Mesh for a few months now in a limited fashion because only one of my computers at home will work (meaning only one runs a Windows desktop OS). My other machines are a Home Server and Mac, and my mobile decide is an iPhone. But I like what I have seen in the Mesh system, including the UI. So, I am looking forward to the release of a Mac client.
Check out Kevin's preview of the pre-release Mac app here.
In the case of Terry Childs, a network admin who gained notoriety recently for locking the City of San Francisco and his managers out of their own critical network, comic-book style progress has been made, with Childs' attorney inviting the mayor of SF to a secret meeting at the jail, where Childs handed over the passwords he'd previously refused to disclose.
Childs' lawyer, again in typical comic book fashion, has also come out saying that Childs' actions were essentially noble and that he was acting to protect the network he built from his management and peers, whom he characterized as being neglectful and without the proper knowledge to support the network. About what you'd expect from a defense lawyer in a public case, I suppose.
But Childs is in no way a hero. Even if what he says is completely true, he's (allegedly) committed a real crime. He does not own that network even if he helped build it, and regardless of whether the management in his department was capable of exercising its responsibilities, when Childs locked everyone out he crossed a clear line. If it was to make a point, he simply went overboard. The whole unfortunate case just smacks of ego and manic behavior.
But from arm's length the city doesn't exactly look like a helpless victim, either. Any professional management team that creates an environment where one person can control a critical and sensitive network in the manner exercised in this case has missed some of the most crucial and common-sense aspects of IT and security design. In fact, most of the time when cases of one-man-too-much-power crop up, we find that the IT staff is also responsible for security with little or no separation of duties, no checks and balances, and no controls to ensure one bad apple doesn't ruin the whole barrel.
Was Childs right? Absolutely not. Was the City wrong? I don't see how you can argue otherwise.
You'd likely be surprised how many real-world computer networks - big and small, important and less so - are run on the concept of "we just trust that one guy." It's what we call a "Beer Truck" risk problem: If I'm that guy you trust, what if I get hit by a beer truck and killed, or alternatively what if I drink everything on that beer truck and go nuts and wipe out the network? What then?
Systems should be set up to ensure no one person holds all the keys. Over the past few days I've read comments made about this story, in many cases by angry IT-types who say if you hire someone you have to give them access to everything and you have to trust them to do the right thing. Otherwise they cannot do their job, you're a terrible person and your network and systems are doomed. That premise is simply and blatantly false, and in fact following that method puts you in the same boat the City of San Francisco has just found itself in. Please, don't listen to the old-skool IT admin crowd, telling you to hand it all over to them because you obviously don't know what you're doing. Fire those guys and find some real help.
If you want a healthier view of the situation, check out articles written by smart, thoughtful people, like this one by Paul Doyle. Also, Paul Venezia wrote an in-depth article about what went wrong, with some detailed inside information.
To be clear, no one person should control all the systems. Control and authority are not the same thing. Checks and balances are important. The Air Force doesn't allow one person to perform all the steps needed to launch a ballistic missile, right? Apply the same principles to your IT systems.
Case in point: I was the chief security executive at a major online financial services company. I had administrative access to nothing. I couldn't even get in the data center without an escort and records being kept. I had no account access to critical or sensitive systems. And no one person there could make changes in a vacuum. IT workers didn't have access to security systems. Security workers didn't have administrative access to anything by default. And we operated effectively, smoothly, with full knowledge of what was happening on the network and systems. No one person had control. Authority, sure. But actual control of systems? No. To operate otherwise would have been negligent.
I often preach the value of formalizing security management and putting proper process, technology and organization in place to ensure a good, stable system that can effectively support business. One of the pillars of an effective security management system is hiring good people (probably not ones who have been convicted of aggravated robbery in the past, sorry) and separating duties in a way that protects everyone involved - employees included. Doing so is not punishment, it's just good common sense.
If nothing else, lets hope businesses and governments all over learn from this embarrassing public spectacle. There are standards out there (my background and experience is in ISO 27001, an international security management standard), the very purpose of which is to make sure things like this don't happen. It's high time to start using them.
Google has opened up
their beta of Knol
, a web site written by people who know things for people who want to know more. In a nutshell, it's a place to share knowledge. And I like it.
I just finished reading "How to backpack, starting from scratch
," by a software engineer named Ryan Moulton. He's in his 20s and has been backpacking since he was eight years old, so he has some real, personal knowledge to share. And it's very useful knowledge, at that. An added "plus" of the article is that it contains a number of very nice panoramas from backpacking locations shot by the author.
Toilet clogs, lawn care, a wide variety of medical topics, you name it: People with domain knowledge may have written about it. Where there's not an article (or two or three), someone who has the knowledge can sign right in with their Google account ID and start writing.
This is cool stuff, nice interface (with a few little flaws that I am sure will get worked out). Worth your time to check out.
DNS has a hole in it. Bad guys are working on exploits right now. Patches are available right now. Anyone responsible for a DNS server needs to exercise that responsibility. Right Now.
Dan Kaminsky found a security hole in DNS recently, the details of which he was keeping quiet so providers could fix and release patches and DNS server owners could get those patches deployed, in order to avoid security breaches on the Internet. His intent was to release the gory details in a couple weeks at the Black Hat conference.
But the other day word of the details inadvertently leaked out, and so now everyone responsible for a DNS system must - and I do mean must - drop what they're doing and make sure their systems are patched and safe. Failure to do so puts Internet users at risk of site fraud and hijacking.
DNS is a system that translates names you can remember (like www.greghughes.net) to especially non-memorable numerical addresses the Internet can route (such as 126.96.36.199). It's the Internet's phone book, so to speak.
The security hole allows malicious people to spoof a web site using the actual, legitimate domain name. In other words, bad guys could hijack a DNS server, and if it happens to be one your computer relys upon, you could type in a legitimate address like www.google.com or www.yourbank.com, but the web page would be a malicious one - a fake. The recently-released patches plug the hole and prevent this misuse (although it doesn't really change the underlying protocol).
Aaron Massey wrote a very good post describing the issue and it's various details. He also links to Halvar Flake, a talented reverse-engineering guy who thought the threat through and pretty much guessed it right on his blog. After Halvar's guess, another security blog that had specific knowledge of the threat details confirmed Flake's hypothesis. As a result, the threat was disclosed.
Luckily, the various creators of the DNS systems used all over the Internet released patches about two weeks ago. The real question is, have you patched your servers? This is a critical flaw - it needs to be patched immediately.
If you want to know whether the DNS server your computer relies upon is vulnerable or not, you can use the DNS Checker in the sidebar of Kaminsky's blog (as long as it remains there).
Sunday, July 20, 2008
A couple weeks ago I mentioned the release of Identi.ca, a social networking/microblogging site built on an open platform and allowing federation. Today, a beta release of Twhirl, one of the more popular clients used on the Twitter microblogging service as well as a couple others, adds support for Identi.ca and includes "push" support. Many of us who have come to like Indenti.ca are very happy.
That means Twhirl doesn't have to pole (read: overwhelm) the Identi.ca servers to see if you have any new items to read. Instead the servers just let you client know there's new content and pass it along. It works using the jabber/instant messaging interface (identi.ca sends it's push messages to your jabber account, and you tell Twhirl how to log into your IM account).
This is pretty darned smart (and takes a couple steps to set up). It's something that Twitter could probably use on their service to potentially reduce load (although I cannot say for sure that a push service would actually reduce the issues related to overloading of their servers).
Read more about it at CNET or grab the latest beta of Twhirl with Identi.ca support from this link.
Chances are, if you're reading this around the time I am writing it, that your computer is not exposed to an IPv6 network. You're most likely on an IPv4 (classic) network. You can easily tell by trying the quick IPv6 test on this page.
Even if you're not on the new network stack yet, change is happening, and systems have to be adapted to make sure not only that the new network works (most - but not all - modern hardware and software "understands" IPv6), but also that when you do actually start to operate in an IPv6 world, that you are properly secured.
In an effective security world, you need to put protections in place soon enough, meaning before the threat appears. You have to protect proactively, without waiting for bad guys to exploit a network or system. In the case of the IPv4 to IPv6 transition, that means making sure things like intrusion prevention and detection systems, firewalls, and other software and devices that function in the network layer even know how to "talk" the IPv6 language.
A number of current security applications just don't know how, so now is the time for a call to action: IPv6-enable your technology right now, to prevent opportune threats in the future. Don't get caught with your pants down.
Kim Zetter wrote a good article on the subject the other day at WIred. "The Ghost in Your Machine: IPv6 Gateway to Hackers" outlines quite well the potential threat imposed by a lack of readiness from a security perspective. It's not all bleak and terrible news, but as the article makes clear, now is the time to fix the problem, before something bad happens.
Probably the most difficult aspect of understanding the potential issues introduced by an environment not ready for IPv6 is the lack of awareness among IT folk in general as to how IPv6 works, how it's used, and the services (quite good ones, I might add - take a look at how IPsec is baked right in, for example) integral to the protocol.
What's it take to get from here to there? Being prepared with real, solid and accurate information is probably the most important step. Not many of us are naturally wired to take action before something bad happens. As an IT guy, I can tell you this: In the real world, most IT people don't learn what they need to know until after they need to know it. A lazy learning methodology just won't work in this case.
For IT professionals, do not assume that just because you were able to pick up your IPv4 knowledge over a long weekend of studying and tinkering that you'll be able to do the same with IPv6 - That's just not the case. IPv6 is more complex and has a lot more parts to understand. If you haven't learned it by now, for shame. Some of you have a little time left. Get on the ball, and gain the deep understanding you need to do your job properly.
For application and hardware vendors that haven't yet dealt with the IPv6 change, you're running late. While many vendors of firewall software, switched, home routers, etc. have made the proper changes, there are also many that have not. Even worse, there are a variety of IPv4-to-IPv6 workarounds that can relatively easily be put in place by unknowing people (read: the IT guys mentioned above) that circumvent firewalls and other protections that are relied upon for good security. Bad design, convenient at the time, disaster waiting to happen. Prevent this.
If you're an individual computer user or owner, what is the status of your software vendors with regard to dealing with IPv6 network traffic? Are you running the latest firewall software, current router firmware? Do the latest versions protect you in an IPv6 world?
IPv6 is a great move, and in time it will dramatically change for the better how computers and devices interact. That is, if we don't manage to screw it all up in the process.
Now is the time. IPv6 is here, Go forth. Learn, analyze and secure.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Several years ago I remember when my boss at the time, Chris Brooks, and others at work set up and ran Terrarium, a .NET v1.0 app that allowed peer-to-peer networking of machines running code with "bugs" (not the defect kind) in a virtual environment. It was a sort of a survival-of-the-fittest-bug kind of game, and they used it at work to build some fun learning into the process.
Fast-forward a few years, and the team at Microsoft that originally built the Terrarium app has scattered to the wind. But Bill Simser, a solutions architect, avid .NET guy and Microsoft MVP for SharePoint, took the initiative to find the code inside Microsoft, update it to .NET v2.0, and released it on CodePlex for the community to use and help maintain.
It's now a client-server application and has a worldwide-participation capability (as well as single-machine and closed local peering capabilities). Pretty cool stuff.
If you're an individual, team or group that wants to get some practice or learn more about programming in .NET and you want to have some fun in the process, check out Terrarium v2.
There's some great news out of the Microsoft Xbox crew at the E3 conference - NetFlix integration with your XBox 360:
Microsoft revealed that beginning later this year, Netflix subscribers would gain access to the entire Netflix digital library through their online XBox 360's. Gold membership is required to take advantage of this partnership, but the newfound capacity represents a large step forward in increasing the XBox 360's appeal as a living room media box. The present Netflix digital library includes roughly 10,000 titles, and on the 360 will feature the ability for watching videos concurrently with friends over the Internet through the new community party system.
Xbox 360 will be the only game system that lets users instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix. Xbox LIVE Gold members who are also Netflix subscribers will be able to streaming movies and television show episodes from Netflix at no additional cost. I'm really looking forward to that. All we need now is a Blu-Ray drive for the 360 console...
Also announced was a revamped user experience and interface (implemented completely through software updates, and allowing more personalization and social interactivity), new HD programming partners and content (including Battlestar Galactica, which I am looking forward to), a price cut on the "Pro" model of the Xbox 360 and a new model slated for August, a future feature which will allow you to copy your game disk to the Xbox hard drive for faster loading and smoother play (you still need to have the original disc though), and a bunch of new games.
On TechCrunch IT, in a post called "The New Apple Walled Garden," author Nik Cubrilovic makes a good point...
TechCrunchIT » The New Apple Walled Garden
Geeks and enthusiasts wearing Wordpress t-shirts, using laptops covered in Data Portability, Microformats and RSS stickers lined up enthusiastically on Friday to purchase a device that is completely proprietary, controlled and wrapped in DRM. The irony was lost on some as they ran home, docked their new devices into a proprietary media player and downloaded closed source applications wrapped in DRM.
I am referring to the new iPhone - and the new Apple iPhone SDK that allows developers to build ‘native’ applications. The announcement was greeted with a web-wide standing ovation, especially from the developer community. The same community who demand all from Microsoft, feel gifted and special when Apple give them an inch of rope. When Microsoft introduced DRM into Media Player it was bad bad bad - and it wasn’t even mandatory, it simply allowed content owners a way to distribute and sell content from anywhere.
How can people who preach and pontificate open systems be so enamored with a completely closed, proprietary system as Apple's? Now, don't get me wrong. I was in line at an Apple store last week with all the people Nik talks about in his article. I really like the iPhone and I think my Mac is great, hardware-wise (okay, the OS is not too bad either). But there's something that's always lurking there in the back of my mind, like a pestering little voice that doesn't want me to give in or forget lessons of the past. "A closed system is a system doomed to fail," the voice tells me. Either that, or it is so limiting as to stifle. Or both. Maybe I need to get my medication checked. On the other hand, maybe the voice is right. Or both.
Risking cliche cynicism, I think one has to consider whether The Church of The Steve congregation is further developing (or devolving, if you prefer) in its adoration, at the expense of long-term good. Blind faith, crazed unthinking people saying one thing yet doing another, the how-dare-you-question mentality... Sounds familiar. And that's coming from an Episcopalian. An imperfect, sometimes-questioning, sometimes-doubting, cynical one -- But you get the point. I hope.
Perhaps the scariest part of my thought process today is that I actually agree completely with Dave Winer on this one. He nails it right on the head. Okay, there are times when I agree with Dave, but until now I've never really admitted it in public. :)
What do you think about Apple's model? Fanboy? Concerned? Who cares? End of the world as we know it? Utopia? Told-ya-so?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard
JibJab does it again, in it's classic style. Well-done. Unicorns and everything else, just perfect heh.
Want to put yourself in this video like I did here with my fuzzy bad picture mug? Wait til the end, then click the appropriate button and send it to your friends.
You can spend literally minutes (many of them) watching Gary Busey comment on various aspects of business and entrepreneurialism, and laughing in the process. Awesome. Highly recommended, since Gary is one of my favorites. You can click the buttons at the bottom of the video screen to get to different sections, each with several "episodes."
And by the way, the gotvmail service this video series is meant to virally market is pretty great, too. You might want to check that service out if you need a more-formal call-handling system for your smaller-sized business but don't want to shell out the money to buy all the classic PBX hardware. Great for distributed teams and virtual offices, too.
I know this isn't exactly a new thing, but as I was installing the IE8 Beta 1 for x64 architecture on a computer today to do some testing, I felt a warm-fuzzy sense of appreciation for the fact that more and more we are seeing software that checks for patches and updates before installing and running for the first time. It makes for more-secure system, which is nothing but good.
No matter what you think of Internet Explorer (and for the record/what it's worth, I like it quite a bit these days), you have to admit the safer installation process is a great improvement.
Gizmodo has a good article highlighting the analysis of the iPhone 3G's battery life (some loose methodology, and some only slightly more formal) by nine industry pundit sources. All I can add to the info is that it's good to burn the batteries in for a week with full charges and discharges (even in the modern battery world) before one can really experience accurate results (batteries tend to need a couple good cycles to provide optimum output).
The general consensus? No 3G phone on the market has great battery life, but in the grand scheme of suckiness, the iPhone 3G's battery life suck the least. Forgive the terminology, please. Just trying to make a point. :)
"One takeaway seems to be that as far as straight-up 3G talk time goes, the iPhone 3G is near the top of the range—Wirelessinfo and PC World both found it to be among the best 3G handsets they've tested for voice talk time. For mixed use and browsing numbers, the range is pretty wide, since the variables at play are nearly infinite."
I know a couple people who run so many programs at once on their laptops, they might just be able to take advantage of the new quad-core mobile processor from Intel, which is apparently coming next month. But I have to wonder - since those are the same people that will scream about battery life - how practical it would be. It will be interesting to see how they perform.
At any rate, looks like it's coming in August (and it ain't exactly cheap - see the story for more info).
"We're bringing quad-core to mobile in August," said Sujan Kamran, regional marketing manager for client platforms at Intel in Singapore. Kamran declined to disclose specifics of the quad-core chip, which will carry Intel's Core 2 Extreme moniker.
Link: Intel's Quad-core Mobile Chip Coming Next Month - Yahoo! News
Monday, July 14, 2008
Wow. The numbers are really huge. Apple has released figures for it's "opening weekend" box office smash, the iPhone 3G. One million units sold in the first three days. It took 74 days to sell that many of the original iPhone last year.
No wonder activation in the stores was so sluggish (or at times just broken). Big uptake in the USA, plus 20 other countries on opening weekend.
A quick note about analyst reports that preceded Apple's announcement. "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." For the record, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said Monday that Apple was not going to meet even the half-million sales mark expectation set by the marketplace for the opening weekend. Boy, was he ever wrong.
In addition to the huge iPhone sales, Apple also announced that more than 10 million apps were downloaded from the iTunes App Store in the same time period. I wonder how many of those were paid for, how many were free, and what kind of revenue for Apple and authors we're talking about.
Very. Smart. Company. Not perfect, but that don't need to be. They take chances. Big ones. Laser-focused, too, and always successfully defining ahead of time what is "right" and then delivering (which, by the way, is much easier to do than letting someone else define "right" and then trying to meet those expectations).
Saturday, July 12, 2008
This morning I signed up for a hosted Exchange Server 2007 account with the 4iphone.net service provided by 4smartphone.net, an early provider of push-iPhone service using the ActiveSync capabilities of Exchange. I'm up and running with my new iPhone on their Exchange server now with my own domain name, and I can tell you already I am just a couple steps away from migrating my email from Google Apps to 4smartphone.net.
To put it simply, Exchange Server 2007 rocks, and so does the new iPhone and its updated software. But when you put them together, you get the ol' 2+2=5 effect. The greater value of each piece of technology is truly realized when used in concert.
Note, too, that hosted Exchange customers get a free copy of Outlook 2007 (for the PC) or Entourage 2008 (for the Mac). There's no need to buy a copy. The client license is part of the hosted Exchange license. That alone is a substantial value.
Setup was fairly straightforward, although some of the configuration instructions were a little vague and complicated to decipher at first (see below). But as of now I'm receiving and able to send email on both my Google apps and Exchange mail servers - with no changes to my DNS settings required. So, it's super-easy to evaluate and try-out the Exchange hosting. Add the 15-day free trial (they'll reimburse if you decide not to keep the service running), and it's a zero-risk evaluation.
Note that when you set up the account at 4smartphone.net, you will initially be logged into their Account Manager, which is where you configure your domain(s) and users/mailboxes. In this interface, the information provided to set up your ActiveSync users is a little vague (specifically, the format of the user name is not intuitive). You can, however, find the complete details of what you need to configure your account when you log into their "Mailbox Manager" web app. In that interface, you'll navigate to Setup > ActiveSync > Instructions and there find exactly what you need.
Delivery with push technology on exchange reminds me of my Blackberry days - within seconds of arriving on the server, email hits the mobile device. Since I got my first iPhone I've always felt a little sluggish when it comes to receiving email. No more: The first time email arrived in Entourage on my Mac and on the iPhone at the same time - practically instantly - I realized what I've been missing.
Combined with the usability and terrific functionality of the 3G network and iPhone 2.0 software and it's just a little too much to describe. It just works, it works well, and it is usable to the point of not having to think about it -- the ultimate test for a usability engineer.
After setting up the email flow and making sure it all works, I used Entourage to copy all my contacts and calendar items to the Exchange server, then enabled syncing of that information from Exchange to the iPhone.
I'll post more after I've had a little more hands-on experience, but so far so great. Highly recommended, and with 4smartphone.net and companies like them, Exchange is available instantly to individuals and small groups or businesses, not just big companies.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I'm officially the proud and happy owner of a white 16GB iPhone 3G. I'm about to head out to the store to take care of all the other stuff I need to get done today, so I will have a chance to check out the GPS and 3G network stuff shortly.
I arrived at about 7am at the Apple Store at the Flat Iron Crossing mall in Broomfield, Colorado. About 150 people were already there by the time I arrived, and the numbers just kept on adding up as the morning wore on.
There were a lot of first-time-iPhone-purchasers as well as upgraders in line. I figured it was about a 50-50 mix. The Apple store staff said they had lots of iPhones in stock. At 8am, an army of crazed, screaming Apple Store employees came running from the parking lot where they'd staged themselves, past the crowded line and into the store, trying for high-fives along the way. It was the most excited group of retail workers I've ever seen, to be certain.
The iPhone-stock situation at the Apple stores, however, contrasted drastically with what we were hearing on Twitter about the people in line at the AT&T stores, where stock on hand seemed to be very limited and lines were also long. Word was each AT&T store had about 60 phones or so. Not so at Apple stores, where managers said they had enough to cover the crowds.
Almost as soon as 8am rolled around things went south. The first of the line moved into the store and shortly after is when things stopped. Rumors started to trickle out that the activation system was failing. The situation improved somewhat, until an hour later when the system again failed (likely as a result of the west cost stores opening). The store manager came out to address the crowd and explained the situation (quite effectively, I might add - Apple has a great crew at the store I visited), telling us what was happening with surprising transparency and apologizing for the delay. He thanked us for waiting and our "dedication," and came back out to give updates. At about 10am local time, the situation improved substantially and people started getting their phones in a more-timely manner.
As it turned out, we were not leaving the store with fully activated iPhones as expected. In fact, I got mine at 10:55 a.m., but when I walked out of the store it was still sealed in the plastic-wrapped box. Apparently Apple decided to ditch the in-store iTunes activation dance and instead started sending people home to activate their new devices on iTunes themselves. Good call. In the store they took my information and changed my service over with AT&T, which went smoothly (go figure - AT&T's money grab was slick as snot, heh). My old iPhone went out-of-service with AT&T about 20 minutes later and I so was without a phone until I could get back home to activate the new one.
There were around 200 people in line when I left. Good thing the process was moving faster.
At home, I was able to activate my new phone in less than 30 minutes. It took a while for iTunes to make its initial connection, but once that happened it was a quick and painless process. No bricked phone or anything, and after restoring my backup from the old iPhone I was all set.
Bonus info: I got an email from Telenav this morning explaining they're working now on an iPhone version of their GPS mapping software - Quite excellent! That mean we'll soon have high-quality, turn-by-turn GPS navigation on the iPhone before too long! No delivery dates or other promises (of course), but the app is in the development process. Details are at Gizmodo, and the Telenav blog is a good place to keep your eyes open for future information.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I arrived in Colorado this afternoon, plugged in my iPhone, backed it up, installed iTunes 7.7 and grabbed the iPhone v2.0 software from Apple's servers (it's out there, although iTunes is not yet advertising it here). I found the Apps listings in iTunes and decided it was about time to upgrade. So, I hooked up the iPhone and promptly fell asleep on the couch while it did it's thing upgrading.
I woke up to the sound of "bliiihdeep!" from the phone and a little "thunk" as it slid on the countertop from where I had it propped up against my Macbook Air (strategically placed so a vibration would make it move, hence alerting me to activity during the lengthy upgrade process). I went to the phone, restored the backup from iTunes, and BAM! There I was, iPhone 2.0 software ready to go.
Once I jumped onto the wireless network at the house, I launched the app store and started looking at programs. The first one I tried was Twitterific. It's pretty okay, but all else being equal I wish I still had Twinkle on there as an app. I'm sure it will be available soon enough.
I installed Google's search app (very cool), the Paypal app (kinda cool, very spartan), and the Weatherbug ap (because those guys rock and their screenshot actually looked interesting - and it's a great little app). Last, I found the Pandora app.
Now, I have written about Pandora here before, long long ago. It's just as amazing a service today as it was then. Simply put, you start pff by providing an artist or two or three that you like and Pandora starts playing music of a similar nature that it "thinks" you'll like. You can vote individual songs/pieces up or down and it refines its recommendations. And Pandora's app on the iPhone let me log into my Pandora account instantly, within seconds, and literally ten seconds later it was streaming my music channels to me over the air.
Incredibly usable, simple, effective. Pure usability bliss.
I showed it to my mom. She instantly lit up and said, I quote: "Wow!" The thing about Pandora is I can explain it to anyone in about 20 seconds and they always "get it." They've done something - perhaps everything - right.
That made me think. My mom just found out she will have to be spending some substantial time in the hospital soon. When I showed her the Pandora application, after she showed her sense of amazement, she got pained look on her face and asked me if I would show her how to transfer files to her (crappy) MP3 player. The device is next to unusable. Even I have a hard time getting it to work. There's nothing good about it. So, tomorrow when I am out picking up a new iPhone 3G, I'm going to grab an iPod touch for my mom. And then ship my old iPhone to my friend Chris (whose shipping address I need in order to do that BTW, hint-hint).
My wish list for more apps? I was pretty disappointed to not find a blog authoring application, something similar to Windows Live Writer but trimmed down and made for the iPhone. Maybe I just need to learn how to program this stuff, but that's a scary thought. Someone better than me must be working on a blogging app. There's a good one available in the app store for TextPad, but that doesn't really help me since I don't use that platform for my blog.
So, iPhone software v2.0 has convinced me to but an iPod Touch for my mom. Once again, the ball's been hit out of the park.
Microsoft has released Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008, which is the company's hypervisor virtualization platform. With it, you get multi-OS, highly-configurable and performant virtualized hardware capabilities on the Windows platform.
Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, the next-generation hypervisor-based server virtualization technology, allows you to make the best use of your server hardware investments by consolidating multiple server roles as separate virtual machines (VMs) running on a single physical machine. With Hyper-V, you can also efficiently run multiple different operating systems—Windows, Linux, and others—in parallel, on a single server, and fully leverage the power of x64 computing.
For additional information, you might want to check out a RunAs Radio episode that Richard Campbell and I published back in April, when we spoke with Anil Desai on the topic of Hyper-V. Anil compared Hyper-V to ESX Server from VMWare and discussed the Microsoft offering in some detail.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
In the past we've seen many computer-focused terms become words of the year and find placement in the dictionary, and this year is no different. Remember last year when "truthiness" (a Stephen Colbert-ism) made it in, along with "google?"
So, here it is, Merriam-Webster's #1 Word of the Year for 2007 based on votes from visitors to their Web site:
expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word "yay"
w00t! I won the contest!
Other words that made up their top-ten-votes list for the year include: facebook,
, hypocrite, and
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
You have firewalls and anti-malware system, video surveillance and monitoring systems for network traffic to and from the Internet. But look at eWeek's semi-smart list of the top ten infosec risks workers pose to your business today, and you may need to rethink your plans.
I call this a "semi-smart" list because it's practical and real-world, and doesn't assume the "standards" out there cover all the bases. But, at the same time it doesn't offer much in the way of solutions, which always frustrates me (and it misses some key points, especially related to intentional worker behavior, as opposed to neglect, and how it can substantially enhance the potential associated with these risks).
Point is, each of the items pointed out is very much worth considering and reviewing in your business security program. Just don't forget to look at them in the big-picture perspective of the business.
And now for the list:
- USB Flash Drives
- Web Mail
- Smart Phones
- Collaboration Tools
- Social Networks
- Unauthorized Software Updates
- Virtual Worlds
Pretty much every modern technical productivity enhancer. Before anyone starts screaming the alarmist song, think about not only how these things can be used for good, but also about how they could be used to to Very Bad Things.
How many of those technologies are specifically and can be proven effectively covered under your infosec policies? How many have you tested in the real world to see what your compliance profile really looks like? Could you meaningfully test for these threats, even if they were on your plan?
You can check out the eWeek article here.
Google Talk is now available on the iPhone in the Safari browser. At the Google Mobile blog, the details are laid out. If you use Google Apps for your domain and have the Talk app activated there, word is you can access it, too using this URL syntax:
"We've just released in the US a new version of Google Talk designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch browsers. In addition to sending your friends Gmail messages from your iPhone, you can now chat with them while you're on the move, too! In your iPhone browser, just go to www.google.com/talk, sign in and start chatting. That's it. Google Talk runs entirely in the browser so there's no need to download or install anything."
Announcement: Official Google Mobile Blog: Google Talk for the iPhone
Tired of relying on well-funded commercial software companies testing their software on you while you come to truly rely on it, with little to no control?
Well, the world is (potentially) changing.
If you're - for example - a Twitter user, you might be interested in checking out Identi.ca, a brand-new open-source platform for microblogging. Press release below.
I can be found at http://identi.ca/greghughes - Check it out.
Control Yourself, Inc. launches Identi.ca, the Open Microblogging Service (July 2nd, 2008)
Montreal, Quebec-based Control Yourself, Inc. today launched Identi.ca, the open microblogging service. Users can post short messages about themselves to Identi.ca, which are then broadcast to friends in their social network using instant messages (IM), RSS feeds, and the Web.
Identi.ca is similar to existing microblogging sites such as Twitter, Jaiku, or Pownce. Unlike those services, Identi.ca’s underlying software is available under an Open Source license. Identi.ca is also the first service to support OpenMicroBlogging, a standard for exchanging short messages between microblogging sites. Identi.ca also makes public user data available under a Creative Commons license in standard formats.
“Too many existing social networks keep users locked in to their services,” says Evan Prodromou, president of Control Yourself. “With an Open Source code base, and support for standard data exchange formats, we are giving users back the autonomy to control their own social Web presence.”
Response from initial testers has been enthusiastic, both for the software’s design and functionality, as well as the site’s openness. “It makes me feel alive again to see the resurgence of free/open on the web,” said Jon Phillips, Community Manager with Creative Commons in San Francisco, CA.
Control Yourself will grow the service exponentially throughout 2008, adding features such cell phone text messaging (SMS) and multilingual support in its next software release.
Link to the original press release: Control Yourself
CIO.com has posted a great opinion article
by Mike Gualtieri offering nine ways to make sure you're not labeled as a "clueless" CIO. I must say, the list is excellent and one that should be taken to heart by executive managers in general, and information/technical execs in particular.
Among his observations of a good CIO: "He gets opinions from his experts but there is never any question about who will make the final decision. And, if you never watched Star Trek then you shouldn't even be a CIO."
But the list contains several important and valuable points, it's not just humor. Do you know what your reports have to say about you? Does your CIO make the grade? This quick article
is highly recommended.
I can especially relate to the issues associated with "drinking vendor Kool-Aid" and the need to keep a distance. In fact, my experiences with massive numbers of vendors led me to take drastic action to stop cold calls and other sales tactics, to the point even of angering those vendors. Basically, if I didn't have an established preferred relationship with a vendor, calls were relegated to a special mailbox. It gave me my time back.
Also, it is important to watch the balance between being a good geek leader and being the "uber-geeky" supervisor. If you are a professional manager, you hire the best and the brightest and make sure they can do their jobs well. If you're hiring smart, those people are much better at the tactical aspects of your organizational responsibilities than you are, anyhow.
Microsoft will soon be selling it's Office suite, along with security protection software (OneCare) and a slew of other applications for a $70 annual fee under the name "Equipt" this month. This is the first time a consumer has had the option to pay-as-you-go for the Microsoft productivity software, and will likely open up the possibility of a more budget-affordable option for many. When you consider an annual OneCare subscription runs you $50 a year and a copy of Office Home and Student Edition sells for a one-time fee of $150 (and a new version seems to come out every three years on average), it's an attractive deal. The $69.99 subscription fee will let you install the software on up to three home PCs.
Equipt, which was formerly known by its code name, Albany, includes Office Home and Student 2007, Windows Live OneCare, Office Live Workspaces, Windows Live Mail, Live Messenger and Live Photo. Microsoft plans to begin selling it in the U.S. on July 15 through Circuit City, with other outlets to follow. It will be offered in other countries at about the same time, though pricing elsewhere was not announced.
The name comes from the idea that the package will help customers "equip their PC with a core set of services," said Bryson Gordon, a group product manager for Microsoft Office. "It resonated well with customers in testing."
Link to the Original Article at InfoWorld: Microsoft to sell Office 'value pack' for $70 per year
AT&T has released a set of informative videos (all of which appear below) with details about when, where and how to buy the iPhone 3G. Prepare to qualify!
There are three videos. The first one is for people who are not existing AT&T customers:
Next, information for people who are already customers of AT&T (including iPhone owners and non-iPhone customers):
Finally, if you want to give your first-generation iPhone to
your old friend Chris
someone you know, here are those details:
In addition, a press release outlining all the details for various types of purchasers describes the in's and out's of contracts, upgrades and whatnot:
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) today announced iPhone 3G pricing for new and existing AT&T customers, several attractive voice and data plans, and tips on how to be “iReady” when iPhone 3G goes on sale at AT&T retail stores at 8 a.m. local time on Friday, July 11.
“We can’t wait to offer iPhone 3G to our customers, and we want to make sure the buying process is as easy as possible,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T’s wireless unit. “Considering all the great new features of iPhone 3G, we think our pricing and monthly plans present a tremendous value for consumers and businesses alike.”
Pricing and Eligibility
AT&T is making it easy for customers to prepare for their iPhone 3G purchase by posting “Get iReady” tips and frequently asked questions at www.att.com/iphone. The site also will include a link for customers to check their upgrade eligibility and other wireless account information.
iPhone 3G will be available for $199 for the 8GB model and $299 for the 16GB model. These prices require two-year contracts and are available to the following customers:
Existing AT&T customers who are not currently eligible for an upgrade discount can purchase iPhone 3G for $399 for the 8GB model or $499 for the 16GB model. Both options require a new two-year service agreement. In the future, AT&T will offer a no-contract-required option for $599 (8GB) or $699 (16GB).
- iPhone customers who purchased before July 11
- Customers activating a new line with AT&T
- Current AT&T customers who are eligible, at the time of purchase, for an upgrade discount
Current customers may also choose to wait until they become eligible for an upgrade discount. Eligibility is generally determined by amount of time remaining on a current contract and payment history.
Current AT&T customers who are upgrading to iPhone 3G will pay an $18 upgrade fee and new AT&T customers will pay the standard $36 activation fee.
Voice, Data and Text Messaging Plans
AT&T brings iPhone 3G customers the best coverage on the globe and the largest mobile-to-mobile calling community with unlimited calling to AT&T’s 71.4 million wireless customers. iPhone 3G customers can choose from four individual AT&T Nation plans, which bundle voice and unlimited data (e-mail and Web browsing).
All AT&T Nation and AT&T FamilyTalk® plans for iPhone 3G include nationwide long distance and roaming, Visual Voicemail, Rollover®, unlimited Mobile to Mobile calling, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, Three-Way Calling and Caller ID.
- AT&T NationSM Unlimited: Includes unlimited Anytime Minutes for $129.99 a month.
- AT&T Nation 1350: Includes 1350 Anytime Minutes and unlimited Night & Weekend Minutes for $109.99 a month.
- AT&T Nation 900: Includes 900 Anytime Minutes and unlimited Night & Weekend Minutes for $89.99 a month.
- AT&T Nation 450: Includes 450 Anytime Minutes and 5,000 Night & Weekend Minutes for $69.99 a month.
AT&T will offer FamilyTalk plans, with bundled voice and unlimited data, starting as low as $129.99 a month for two iPhone 3G lines. Up to three additional iPhone lines can be added for $39.99 each.
Unlimited text messaging can be added for an additional $20 ($30 for FamilyTalk plans of up to five lines); $15 (1,500 messages), or $5 (200 messages).
iPhone for Business
Business customers interested in iPhone 3G should contact an AT&T business sales representative or review their account information online to determine their eligibility for upgrade pricing. Corporate e-mail and other business applications require the Enterprise Data Plan for iPhone, which is $45 a month and bundled with an eligible voice plan. Small business customers may qualify for AT&T BusinessTalk, the industry’s only shared plan specifically for small businesses. Additional details on iPhone business offerings are available at www.att.com/iphoneforbusiness.
iPhone 2.0 Software
All iPhone customers will benefit from the iPhone 2.0 software, which will be pre-loaded on all iPhone 3Gs and available as a free download for current iPhone customers. The new software will include numerous enhancements, such as business-class e-mail access via Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync; the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK), which allows a business to easily create applications customized to its needs; and the App Store, which offers a wide-range of applications — from games to business, education to entertainment and productivity to social networking. For example, AT&T has developed YELLOWPAGES.COM Mobile for iPhone, which takes local mobile search to a new level by allowing users to discover businesses and local events based on their popularity among other iPhone users, get directions and access business reviews.
So - The real question is this: Who plans to get in line early? :)
© Copyright 2014 Greg Hughes
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
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