Don’t want your info hacked? Don’t put it online.

4 03 2013

The free and paid note-taking application Evernote was recently hacked, forcing the company to reset passwords for many users, including myself, and to require them to reset their passwords on all of their computers and devices before they could continue to use it. This has caused a small stir and some have chosen to enumerate some of its security failings.

Evernote iconI use Evernote every day and I love it. It is a great way to keep notes and documents synced between my computers and to see them on my iPhone. However, I still acknowledge that this is a web-based service because all of my notes live on a server somewhere else, a server that I neither own nor maintain. Since it is on the web, I approach it with a fair amount of caution. I use the same rule that I use for all my other web-based accounts on Facebook, Twitter, GitHub, Flickr, et cetera. I do not put anything into Evernote that I would not be fine with the whole world seeing. Everything else, I keep on my own drive(s).

The Evernote team certainly has their share of blame, with their lax attitude toward security and even encouraging users to put their tax documents on Evernote. However, the users have their share of blame. If you are willing to put any of your tax documents on a non-governmental web site, you are essentially accepting the consequences of sharing very sensitive documents with the whole world.

It may sound harsh, but there it is. If you do not want to see Evernote leak your personal information, do not give Evernote that information. It will not make it into someone else’s hands unless you give that information to them.


Shame and anticompetitive hijinks

24 05 2012

This week, Apple pulled one of Rogue Amoeba’s iOS apps, from the App Store. Reportedly, little explanation was given. I think I might know what’s going on here.

Apple has a history of taking ideas from existing iOS apps, building them into newer versions of iOS, and then making the app essentially useless. It is kind of a dick move when you think about it for half a second. I know people like to associate that “good artists copy, great artists steal,” phrase with Steve Jobs in particular and Apple in general. Unfortunately, when hardworking independent developers get screwed over, everyone loses, even Apple.

Of course, the developer is going to take the brunt of the blow in the form of lost sales. Users who are not aware of the app from whence some iOS feature came will not know that there may be some better alternative, still on the App Store. This might keep the user experience from being as good as it might. In the end, Apple is hurting itself a little by potentially alienating developers. I know, personally, that if I worked my ass off on an app that I was proud of and Apple came along and ripped me off, I would reconsider developing for Apple’s platforms in the future.

Maybe I am completely wrong about all of this and I am just overreacting. I really hope I am. Hopefully, Rogue Amoeba’s app goes back up on the store and they go back to making money from it. Thanks for indulging this rant.

Absence of open source at IUPUI

21 06 2010

Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis is an urban campus shared by Indiana University and Purdue University, two large, well-funded public education institutions. There are Schools of Computer Science, Computer Information Technology, and Informatics. IU’s University Information Technology Services does an excellent job of supporting students on all of IU’s campuses. (I am not just saying that because I work for UITS.)

However, despite all the up-to-date computer labs with dozens of computers, free software deals from Microsoft and Adobe, and 24/7 technical support, IU seems to be lacking one thing: open source. There is some Linux/UNIX software available through IU’s software site, IUWare. However, the amount of Linux software there is far outmatched by the software available for Mac and Windows.

Indiana University has deals with several software vendors, in particular Microsoft and Adobe. These corporations provide free software to faculty and students in the hopes that they will continue to use their respective software after graduation. A copy of Adobe CS5 Design Premium can cost as much $1,900. A Microsoft Office 2008 license can cost at least $150. OpenOffice may not be as feature-rich as Microsoft Office, but it would certainly get the job done for 99% of users and it’s free.

Unless it is detailed in IU’s agreement with Microsoft and Adobe that it not push open-source options too hard, I do not see why it should not become a bit more open about open source. At the very least, it is free software that the University will not have to haggle over every few years.

There. That was my first rant over open source. I will get hate mail.

Tech companies should leave restrictive countries

26 01 2010

Last week, Google broke the news that they had been hacked and that the attack originated from China. Since Google has been careful to not keep any of its servers or data in China, opting to store everything on servers in the United States, it is likely that the Chinese government itself is responsible for the attack. Google responded to this by announcing publicly that they would no longer be filtering content on searches in compliance with Chinese laws. This essentially has ended Google’s corporate presence in China for the foreseeable future.

Maybe Google did the right thing here. It is not the only corporation that has submitted to the Chinese authorities in order to have a presence and marketshare there. As part of the Golden Shield Project, anything that is deemed inappropriate or subversive on the internet by the Chinese government is blocked. Since Facebook and Twitter are exceptionally hard to filter, those sites are blocked out entirely.

By leaving its 30% marketshare of the Chinese search market, Google essentially took a financial hit so that it could redeem its moral standing to a degree.

If internet and technology companies want to send a message to the entire world that they will stand up for free speech on the internet, then they should simply leave any country that uses internet censorship to repress its own people.

While China is fairly tech-savvy and its own native search engine, Baidu, would likely pick up the slack, the tech companies that leave would at least be able to keep themselve true to the spirit of the internet: an open, free forum for public discussion and communication.

How netbooks can ultimately hurt consumers

29 11 2009

Netbooks have become enormously popular in the last year. In light of the economic crisis of the past eighteen or so months, people who need a new computer are more inclined to seek out the cheapest solution possible. In light of the massive uptick of $200 or $300 netbook sales, it would seem that many people are content with a small screen and limited hardware capabilities. However, this can come around and bite people who buy more powerful machines.

When thinking about the impact of a sudden influx of $200 computers, the instinctive next thought might be that it would encourage computer hardware manufacturers to lower the price points on their regular laptop computers. However, when compromising on price, computer companies tend to compromise on features, capabilities, and quality, as seen in netbooks. There could be a downside to lower prices across the board on laptop computer prices. It would not just hurt big corporations. Lower prices could just as easily harm the overall experience of laptop users.

Another point to consider is resale value. If a person pays $1200 for a laptop computer two years ago and tries to resell today, they may not be able to get as high a resale value on that notebook as they would like. With prices lowered overall by netbook prices, there will be a general perception among the masses that the price on that used computer should be lower than its true value.

So, netbooks do not just hurt user experience and computer manufacturers. They can also make life difficult for average users.

One does not simply scroll into Mordor

23 11 2009

Apple introduced its first device to use multitouch at Macworld 2007 in San Francisco, the iPhone. The first-generation iPhone was released the following June. Since then, Apple has steadily added multitouch to their MacBook line of laptop computers. Now they have brought multitouch to their mice with the Magic Mouse.

Screen shot 2009-11-23 at 12.51.09 AM.pngI am sure that this has been under development at Apple for some time. According to Apple, the company spent a couple of years working on the iPhone before they announced it. After they have a successful multitouch interface working and out in the marketplace, how much effort could it really take to move it over to trackpad on a laptop? After the MacBook Pro got the multitouch technology, I cannot imagine it would take much time to make it a feature in all of Apple’s other laptop models. I think that Apple spread out the implementation of multitouch in its laptop line to keep notebook sales nice and steady over a couple of years.

Maybe I am wrong though. I could be completely unfair to Apple’s hardware engineers who, I am certain in any case, worked very hard to make multitouch a reality on so many different products. There probably were some difficulties with each successive new multitouch product and they needed time to hammer out all of the hardware and firmware bugs before they could push it out.

Any company needs time to develop new hardware. I accept that. In the case of Apple, they make sure that the software and the hardware work perfectly together. However, that does not mean that it is wise from a marketing perspective to push out a given feature, especially one as novel as multitouch, on too many products too quickly.

Bringing balance to cell phone usage

23 11 2009

I am a middle-class, white, 22-year old male living in the United States and I only recently received my first cell phone. The reason that I held off for so long was because I never had the need for a cell phone. It just was not something that I ever felt was lacking in my life. For many years my friends all looked at me as though I was nuts when I mentioned I did not own a cell phone.

I believe in simplicity. Less is more in my book and if you are about to bring something new into your life, like a cell phone, ask yourself, “Is it necessary and if it isn’t, will it give me some kind of happiness?” Every time I asked myself that question, the answer was an unequivocal “No.” I say a cell phone as just another bill and an another excuse for people to whine because I choose to ignore them sometimes.

Why do you have cell phone? Did you just get one because it is in vogue to have one? Do you have one just because it is expected of you? I know I bought mine because I needed to be able to make phone calls when I did not have access to a land line. It seems that sometimes people just buy their cell phones without considering whether it is necessary.

If you do have a cell phone, consider how you use it. If if rings, do you trip over yourself to pick it up of do you flip the ringer switch, finish what you are doing, and get back to it later? Perhaps you are doing something important, like driving, and taking or making a phone call in the middle of it would hinder your ability to do both.

Consider why you have cell phone and how you use yours. It seems like a central part of modern life for many people. Perhaps we should all think more deeply about its impact upon our lives.