05 Oct

NYTimes.com – Bank of America Explains Web Site Problems

After nearly a week of interruptions and slowdowns that made its Web site inaccessible at times, Bank of America said Wednesday the problems stemmed from a combination of heavy traffic along with the rollout of a new computer system.

With nearly 30 million online banking customers and the nation’s busiest bank Web site, the failures spurred consumer anger, with account holders in some cases unable to pay bills electronically or check their balances.

“Our priority is delivering the speed and functionality our customers expect,” said David Owen, senior vice president and head of online and mobile banking for Bank of America. “We take this very seriously, and this has been very disappointing in terms of not meeting those expectations this week.”

While the site seemed to be functioning normally by Wednesday evening, Mr. Owen was not declaring victory. “We’re taking this day by day,” he said.

The problems first cropped up on Friday, a day after the bank, the nation’s largest, announced it would impose a new $5 a month charge for some debit cardholders. But Mr. Owen insisted the problems were not caused by hackers unhappy with the new fee or by efforts to flood the site with traffic as a protest, a strategy called a denial-of-service attack.

via NYTimes.com – Bank of America Explains Web Site Problems. Bank of America, we weren’t hacked instead we are just incompetent.

05 Oct

Apple – Remembering Steve Jobs

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

via Apple – Remembering Steve Jobs. An amazing person who built some amazing companies.

04 Oct

Eric’s Archived Thoughts – Searching For Mark Pilgrim

Just yesterday, I took a screenshot of the title page of Dive Into HTML5 to include in a presentation as a highly recommended resource. Now it’s gone. That site, along with all the other “Dive Into…” sites (Accessibility, Python, Greasemonkey, etc.) and addictionis.org, is returning an HTTP “410 Gone” message. Mark’s Github, Google+, Reddit, and Twitter accounts have all been deleted. And attempts to email him have been bounced back.

via Eric’s Archived Thoughts – Searching For Mark Pilgrim. It would be quite depressing not to have those resources available, Dive Into HTML5 was "the" online resource for HTML5. I can’t speak for knowing Mark Pilgrim personally but his work has been awesome.

Update: 11:30pm: “The communication was specifically verified, it was him, and that’s that. That was the single hardest decision I’ve had to make this year.” https://twitter.com/#!/textfiles/status/121436401131716608 Nice to hear.

04 Oct

Ars Technica – iPhone 4s out October 14, beefier specs, same body

Apple announced the next iteration of its iPhone, the iPhone 4S, at an event today in Cupertino. The phone’s body and screen are virtually identical to the iPhone 4, though it receives some significant internal spec bumps and a virtual "intelligent assistant" named Siri.

Like the iPad 2, the new iPhone 4S has a dual-core A5 chip clocked at 1GHz that is meant to deliver graphics up to seven times faster than the iPhone 4. Infinity Blade 2 was demonstrated on the handset; it’s an iOS exclusive that will be available December 1. Another feature migrated from the iPad 2 is screen mirroring, which can be done with the iPhone 4S either via AirPlay on an Apple TV or through a wired connection. The new handset will carry the same retina display as its predecessor, and will no longer need separate GSM and CDMA models; instead, the handset will be a world phone, with both systems included.

The camera on the iPhone 4S has been bumped up to 8 megapixels and now has an additional backside illuminated sensor that lets the phone gather 73 percent more light per pixel than the iPhone 4’s version, which should help with low-light photos. Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior VP of worldwide product marketing, also noted that the camera will capture pictures 33 percent faster than before, with half a second between shots, and will be able to shoot 1080p video with image stabilization.

A new software feature that may be exclusive to the iPhone 4S is Siri, an "intelligent assistant" that answers questions and responds to commands by pulling up the appropriate app (it’s named for the similar app Apple bought in 2010). Scott Forstall, senior VP of iOS software, demonstrated the app by asking the phone "What is the weather like today?"—Siri pulled up the forecast. The command "wake me up tomorrow at 6AM" made the phone set an alarm for that time.

Siri can also send e-mails and text messages, make calendar entries, and take dictation in apps that normally require keyboard entry. Apple did not mention whether it will make APIs available for developers to integrate Siri into third-party applications.

via Ars Technica – iPhone 4s out October 14, beefier specs, same body. Nice bump to an awesome phone. Siri looks really interesting.

03 Oct

Ars Technica – Report: iTunes beta suggests app rentals may be in iOS’s future

A handful of code in iTunes 10.5 beta 9 suggests that Apple may soon start allowing customers to rent apps from the App store, according to The Tech Erra. If a rental system were put into place, it could cut down on money spent on apps that customers never use, which could reduce resentment customers feel toward developers when an app doesn’t work the way they thought it would.

A few strings in the iTunes beta code appear to be pop-up messages to notify customers about the state of rented apps: "Apps are automatically removed from your iTunes library at the end of the rental period" and "This app will be deleted from your computer" are a couple of the included statements.

A rental system through the App Store would be similar to the try-before-you-buy program that Amazon currently offers in its own Android Appstore. None of the language uncovered in the iTunes beta indicates whether rentals would carry a price or be free for their limited run.

via Ars Technica – Report: iTunes beta suggests app rentals may be in iOS’s future. A rental system would be nice, I hate buying apps that I try out and then get rid of. I wouldn’t mind paying say half or less of the normal price and then paying the remainder if I decided to outright buy the app.

03 Oct

FeeFighters – FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post

Ouch. It looks like if you say anything that the BBB deems “aversely affects (their) public image” you’re out. Not much of a fair system.

Since launching that investigative post, we’ve had a lot of resonance with other small businesses who had similar concerns about the BBB. Heed this warning: it seems that any critique of the BBB will result in losing accreditation. For many small businesses, this would be terrible news, as consumers still see the BBB as an moral organization acting with their interests in mind.

via FeeFighters – FeeFighters Loses BBB Accreditation Over Investigative Blog Post. I’ve always felt the Better Business Bureau was a little scammy, nice to know they can’t take criticism as well.

03 Oct

NYTimes.com – Corporations Getting New Tools for Calculating Emissions

The creators of influential measures of greenhouse gas emissions plan to announce two new tools for corporations on Tuesday.

One is a way to calculate the amount of climate-warming gases released through a company’s supply chain, as well as in the use and disposal of its products. A standardized way of calculating such emissions had eluded energy experts and statisticians for several years. The tool is known as Scope 3.

The second tool is for calculating the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and four other gases linked to climate change across a consumer product’s entire life cycle. With a toaster, for example, a company would seek to count greenhouse gases released in the mining of elements for its metal shell and the coal burned to make the electricity to power it — and even the fuel burned when the toaster is carted away.

Now that there is a method for tallying those emissions, experts hope to refine it in years to come, perhaps eventually enabling consumers to compare the greenhouse gas footprints of, say, two frozen dinners or two sofas.

via NYTimes.com – Corporations Getting New Tools for Calculating Emissions. I would be skeptical of any tool able to reasonably estimate this in a meaningful way, just too many differences across the whole ecosystem of every product from the original ore being mined to manufacturing to shipping to use by the end user. Plus the difficulties in presenting this information in a way that actually means something to the business. That being said more tools to enable customers to estimate what effect that new laptop has, is a good idea.

02 Oct

Macworld – The App Culture

Apple getting serious about app security is a good thing. Unfortunately, many of the apps we Mac users have come to know and love over the years require a broad amount of access to the system for a lot of their key functions. Not as much as SuperDuper, say, but still quite a lot. What I’m hearing from some Mac developers is that they may actually have to remove features from their apps, or reduce their functionality, in order to fit them inside Apple’s new sandbox. (For more on this topic, read Andy Ihnatko’s take.)

Not only does this approach risk turning the Mac App Store into a wasteland of arcade games and one-trick-pony apps, it risks dumbing down the Mac app ecosystem as a whole. While developers can always opt out of the Mac App Store, they’re reluctant to do so. Not only are they afraid that Apple will one day make new Macs unable to run apps that don’t come from the App Store, but they realize that if their competitors are in the Mac App Store, they risk losing sales. It’s generally too expensive to develop two separate versions of an app, so the net result of tighter App Store restrictions could be that Mac apps everywhere—on and off the store—will actually become less powerful.

That’s the wrong direction for Apple to take the Mac. Here’s hoping Apple finds a way to keep our Macs secure, while allowing OS X apps to remain as powerful and innovative as they’ve been over the last decade. Mac users deserve both security and power—and the Mac App Store should be a showcase for the very best that Mac software developers have to offer.

via Macworld – The App Culture. This was the largest fear with Lion, and Apple has yet to respond in a way that alleviates people’s fears for such apps that need a higher level of access that it appears that Apple will allow.

02 Oct

NYTimes.com – Deal Sites Have Fading Allure for Merchants

Just a few months ago, daily deal coupons were the new big thing. The biggest dealmaker, Groupon, was preparing to go public at a valuation as high as $30 billion, which would have been a record amount for a start-up less than three years old. Hundreds of copycat coupon sites sprung up in Groupon’s wake, including DoubleTakeDeals, YourBestDeals, DealFind, DoodleDeals, DealOn, DealSwarm and GoDailyDeals. Deal sites were widely praised as a replacement for local advertising.

Now coupon fatigue is setting in. Groupon’s public offering has repeatedly been put off amid stock market turmoil and internal missteps; the company says it is back on track, but some analysts say it may never happen. Dozens of copycats are closing, reformulating or merging, including Local Twist in San Diego, RelishNYC and Crowd Cut in Atlanta. Facebook and Yelp, two powerhouse Internet firms that had big plans for deals, quickly backed off.

Even the biggest Web retailer, Amazon.com, has had trouble gaining traction in oversaturated New York, where it started offering deals with great fanfare a month ago. There are at least 40 active coupon sites for the city, according to LocalDealSites.com.

Shopping coupons have a long history, and they will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in local merchants’ efforts to attract customers. But what has become apparent is a basic contradiction at the heart of the daily deals industry on the Internet.

The consumers were being told: You will never pay full price again. The merchants were hearing: You are going to get new customers who will stick around and pay full price. Disappointment was inevitable.

Some entrepreneurs are questioning the entire premise of the industry. Jasper Malcolmson, co-founder of the deal site Bloomspot, compares the basic deal offer with lenders’ marketing subprime loans during the housing boom.

via NYTimes.com – Deal Sites Have Fading Allure for Merchants. Oh yeah, right now is starting to look like a bad deal.

02 Oct

Ars Technica – Verizon sues to halt FCC’s net neutrality rules

On Friday afternoon, Verizon filed its expected challenge to the FCC’s network neutrality rules, suing in federal court to stop them. Verizon claims that the agency has no authority to issue rules affecting the Internet.

“Verizon is fully committed to an open Internet," said Verizon senior vice president Michael Glover in a statement. "We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority to impose potentially sweeping and unneeded regulations on broadband networks and services and on the Internet itself. We believe this assertion of authority is inconsistent with the statute and will create uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers.”

Verizon’s lawsuit claims the rules, which largely exempt wireless networks, are "arbitrary" and "capricious"—the same charges recently brought by net neutrality supporters arguing that the FCC improperly let the wireless industry off the hook.

via Ars Technica – Verizon sues to halt FCC’s net neutrality rules. How about the uncertainty for businesses to know if next month they’ll have to pay fees to not have their sites arbitrarily slowed down? Net Neutrality is a framework of rules to prevent businesses and services from being treated differently from everything else served via the Internet.