30 Jul

Silicon Alley 2.0 – Why my Mom Bought an Android, Returned It, and Got an iPhone

The other day I bought the newest, fanciest flagship Android phone for my mother and it was an unmitigated disaster. She has an iPhone now, which she loves, and when I read that 30-40 percent of Android devices are being returned, I honestly wasn’t surprised.

With a user experience as bad as I saw on a brand new Android device, I’m considering an iOS device for my next phone, and I’m a big Android fanboy and proud PC owner. Of course, that 40 percent number is very hard to verify and I’d guess that it’s a bit of an exaggeration – but still, something is rotten in Android town.

So my mom needed a new phone and she was game for an Android – she had been envying my HTC Incredible for about a year and was tired of her aging feature phone. She’s pretty tech savvy –uses Gmail, has a Tumblr, does most of her emailing on an iPad– so after some discussion we decided that Android was the way to go. The integrated Google search, Gmail, gChat, and much richer maps functionality seemed to trump the UI functionality and app selection of the iPhone 4 for her needs. A trip to the Verizon store later, we came home with a Samsung Charge. The giant screen was brilliant. The 4G was blisteringly fast. The camera had more megapixels than was reasonable. The phone was an absolute nightmare to use.

From the second we turned it on, the user experience was astonishingly bad. Want to activate your phone? Take the battery out, write down a series of minuscule numbers that you find on the phone and on the SIM card, then enter them into Verizon’s barely-functional site. Once you’ve got it hooked up, navigate the opaque first time setup, if it doesn’t crash while you’re entering your information (it did – twice). Once you’re done with the setup, enjoy the apps that Verizon and Samsung think you should use: a terrible golf game, a Samsung branded Twitter client, Verizon’s half-baked navigation app.

via Silicon Alley 2.0 – Why my Mom Bought an Android, Returned It, and Got an iPhone. His proposed solution is one that Google should really think about, though even that may not be right. For instance do you really want to split the Android market into these are the “approved” phones and these are “not approved”?

29 Jul

TIME – It Just Doesn’t Work: Why New Tech Products Are Increasingly Unsatisfying

When Steve Jobs is delighted with a new Apple product — which, as you may be aware, he usually is — he flatters it with three simple words: "It just works." Anyone who tried Apple’s Mobile Me service in the months immediately following its release knows that reality doesn’t always live up to Jobs’ promise of magical simplicity. But at least the company tries to make things just work. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering whether some of its competitors are doing the same.

I’ve been reviewing technology products for 20 years now. I’ve seen it all, from products that were amazing from the get-go (the first PalmPilot comes to mind) to ones that were downright hazardous (a mouse that caught on fire). But there’s never been a time when so much of the new stuff I look at is so very far from being ready for mass consumption. Sometimes it’s a tad quirky; sometimes I can’t get it to work at all. And when I call the manufacturers for help, they’re often well aware of the problems I encountered.

via TIME – It Just Doesn’t Work: Why New Tech Products Are Increasingly Unsatisfying. Count me in the camp of disliking businesses that release half-completed products. The best business model is releasing products that make customers happy.

27 Jul

Alan Quatermain – My Review of the Kobo App

The store was removed because Apple rejected any updates which included it, period. They also rejected any updates which stated that Apple required its removal, or indeed any mention of ‘compliance with App Store guidelines’. It was further rejected for the cardinal sin of allowing users to create a Kobo account within the app. Then it was rejected for providing a link to let users create an account outside the app. Then it was rejected for simply mentioning that it was possible to sign up, with no direction on where or how one could do that. Then it was rejected for making any mention of the Kobo website. Then for any mention of ‘our website’ at all, in any language. We additionally cannot make any assertions that Kobo provides content for sale, however obliquely.

It should be noted that throughout this process we have worked closely with the App Review team at Apple to approve every change we have made. Those approvals were then rescinded at the request of the nebulous ‘from above’, i.e. someone further up the management chain.

I should note, however, that the Borders app for the US was subject to almost NONE of these restrictions. This is all the more amusing since the Borders US app is built from the exact same source code, with a different colour scheme and titles.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our contacts at App Review for their attempted help. They are obviously being placed in a very difficult position.

via Alan Quatermain – My Review of the Kobo App. Okay this is just getting silly.

27 Jul

NYTimes.com – Fox to Limit Next-Day Streaming on Hulu to Paying Cable Customers

Starting Aug. 15, the Fox network will limit next-day streaming of its shows to paying customers of approved cable and satellite distributors. Those customers will be able to log in and watch episodes of “Bones,” “The Simpsons” and other shows the day after they appear on TV; all others will have to wait eight days.

The limitations, announced on Tuesday and bemoaned by fans of Hulu, are a significant change to the online television system. At least one of Hulu’s other network partners, ABC, is contemplating setting a similar limit, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

For Fox, a unit of the News Corporation, the new limitations are driven by a desire to protect lucrative deals with cable and satellite distributors. Increasingly, distributors are paying monthly fees for Fox programs through retransmission agreements, and they dislike the fact that many of the programs are free online.

via NYTimes.com – Fox to Limit Next-Day Streaming on Hulu to Paying Cable Customers. So what’s the incentive to keep watching shows legally? The whole game changer with Hulu was getting content for free, high quality, legal and soon after it aired. All four are possible with Hulu today, changing this eliminates the incentives for a customer.

26 Jul

mjg59 – Further adventures in EFI booting

Many people still install Linux from CDs. But a growing number install from USB. In an ideal world you’d be able to download one image that would let you do either, but it turns out that that’s quite difficult. Shockingly enough, it’s another situation where the system firmware exists to make your life difficult.

Booting a hard drive is pretty easy. The BIOS reads the first 512 bytes off the drive, copies them to RAM and executes them. That code is then responsible for either starting your bootloader or identifying the currently active partition and jumping to its boot sector, but before too long you’re in a happy place where you’re executing whatever you want to. Life is good. So you’d think that CDs would work in a similar way. The ISO 9660 format even leaves a whole 32KB at the start of a filesystem, which is enough space for a pretty awesome bootloader. But no. This is not how CDs work. That would be far too easy.

via mjg59 – Further adventures in EFI booting. Stand back, we’re about to go down the rabbit hole.

26 Jul

Techdirt – How Should Law Enforcement Handle Being Filmed? Officer Lyons Provides The Perfect Example

As Techdirt readers are aware, the general attitude of law enforcement tends to worsen quickly once the cameras come out. From holding citizens at gunpoint until they destroy their cameras to pressing charges against bystanders filming from their own property, hardly a week goes by without another uploaded video demonstrating that, for the most part, the easiest way to get on a cop’s bad side is to whip out a phone or a camera.

Fortunately, there are exceptions. Reason Hit & Run directs our attention to Officer Matthew J. Lyons of the Oceanside, California police department. Lyons runs into a few issues that usually send other officers scrambling for their handguns and threats: an openly-carried weapon and a camera.

However, Lyons handles the situation in a professional, cordial manner, even as the person filming the encounter declines to show him any ID or provide a last name. Even better, he commends him for exercising his rights.

via Techdirt – How Should Law Enforcement Handle Being Filmed? Officer Lyons Provides The Perfect Example. Seriously good job.

26 Jul

Read Write Web – You Can Read, But You Can’t Buy: iOS E-Reader Apps Remove Links to Bookstores

New rules governing how iOS apps handle in-app purchases went into effect on June 30, and the date passed without much fanfare and seemingly without much compliance from many apps that continued to offer content for sale. These apps included e-reader apps with links to their associated online bookstores, as well as a variety of others that offered users the ability to subscribe or make purchases.

But over the weekend, updates were issued for many e-reader apps, removing links to their bookstores in order to comply with Apple’s new rules. These stipulate that Apple receive a 30% cut from in-app purchases and subscriptions, something that many publishers balked at, contending that that cut was too high.

When the new policy was announced back in February, one of the first apps to run into trouble was Sony’s e-reader, which was rejected as it contained a link to the Sony Reader Store. But for apps already in the iTunes App Store – the Kindle app, the Nook app and so on – the links and the ability to buy books remained. Until this weekend.

One by one, it appears that most of the major e-reader apps have now complied: Kobo, Borders, Nook Kids, and finally this morning, the Kindle apps have all been updated with links to their respective stores removed.

via Read Write Web – You Can Read, But You Can’t Buy: iOS E-Reader Apps Remove Links to Bookstores. The end of this battle between Apple and publishers.

20 Jul

Cloud Computing News – Amazon storing more than 449B objects in S3

Amazon Web Services announced on Tuesday afternoon that its Simple Storage Service (S3) now houses more than 449 billion objects. The rapid pace of S3′s growth is a microcosm of both AWS’ overall business as well as cloud computing in general.

At Structure 2011 last month, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels told the crowd that S3 was storing 339 billion objects. At this same time last year, the service was only storing 262 billion objects. One might also draw a parallel to the ever-growing cloud revenues at Rackspace, the incredible amount of computing capacity AWS adds every day or the mass proliferation of new Software-as-a-Service offerings.

via Cloud Computing News – Amazon storing more than 449B objects in S3. That is crazy impressive both the sheer number of objects stored and the growth rate.

20 Jul

codahale.com – A Lesson In Timing Attacks (or, Don’t use MessageDigest.isEquals)

I’ll be blunt here: any Java application which compares client-provided data to a secret value using MessageDigest.isEqual is vulnerable to timing attacks. This includes HMACs, decryption results, etc.

via codahale.com – A Lesson In Timing Attacks (or, Don’t use MessageDigest.isEquals). Nice intro to timing attacks along the way.