The Empire reboots >> Vanity Fair
Huge in-depth profile and history of Gates, Ballmer, Nadella and Microsoft:
“The worst work I did was from 2001 to 2004,” says Ballmer. “And the company paid a price for bad work. I put the A-team resources on Longhorn, not on phones or browsers. All our resources were tied up on the wrong thing.” Who shoulders the blame is a matter of debate, but the fact is neither Ballmer nor Gates stopped the failure from happening, even as almost everyone else saw it coming.
Ballmer likes to note that the lines of authority were not clear, which is part of what makes thinking about his tenure complicated: “Before I became C.E.O., I felt pretty completely responsible for the company,” Ballmer says. “And I didn’t feel completely in charge until Bill left [entirely in 2008].” It is a well-known part of Microsoft history that Ballmer and Gates fought bitterly during the first year of transition. Among other things, when an engineer was displeased with Ballmer, he’d go to Gates. Some Microsoft employees from that era refer to Ballmer and Gates as “Mom and Dad,” and recall that no one knew which parent was in charge.
First “cyber murder” will happen in next three months, experts claim >> Fusion
Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence law enforcement agency, has published their yearly Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment. The report outlines the different types of vulnerabilities and risks that we face from cybercrime. In their latest edition, Europol explains that the same technology used to remotely manage the temperature of your home could be used to kill you.
The internet of dangerous things?
Privacy vs. User Experience >> Dustin Curtis
Apple is going to realize very soon that it has made a grave mistake by positioning itself as a bastion of privacy against Google, the evil invader of everyone’s secrets. The truth is that collecting information about people allows you to make significantly better products, and the more information you collect, the better products you can build. Apple can barely sync iMessage across devices because it uses an encryption system that prevents it from being able to read the actual messages. Google knows where I am right now, where I need to be for my meeting in an hour, what the traffic is like, and whether I usually take public transportation, a taxi, or drive myself. Using that information, it can tell me exactly when to leave. This isn’t science fiction; it’s actually happening. And Apple’s hardline stance on privacy is going to leave it in Google’s dust.
Not that Apple doesn’t use your data to tell you about meetings and travel time. But it doesn’t monetise that through adverts. It monetises it through the hardware. Curtis’s argument is that you have to accept “the security risk to my private information” to get the benefits. Apple’s argument is that you don’t.
Trouble for Samsung: after its stock swoon, is the worst over? >> Businessweek
Bernstein Research analysts predicted on Tuesday a “stabilization” in the company’s smartphone business as Samsung responds better to the challenge from low-cost rivals. “Looking forward, we take comfort that Samsung is following [an] aggressor strategy in smartphones,” they wrote. “Samsung will start to release more competitive products with better specs and lower prices starting in Q4 to stabilize share and begin to gain share back in the low and mid-end range.”
The Bernstein analysts also are sanguine about Samsung’s ability to withstand the threat from Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The Korean company’s R&D prowess will help Samsung produce cool designs that consumers will want, the analysts said, such as “improvements coming in the high-end with metal casings and foldable phones.”
Another optimist is Peter Yu of BNP Paribas (BNP:FP), who sees the coming months as crucial. Samsung “is in the middle of a costly transitional period,” he wrote in a report Tuesday, with the company aiming “to run down existing phone inventory and introduce new mobile platforms.”
Windows 10: You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers >> ZDNet
Ed Bott with seven (already) frequently-asked questions, including “OMG DID YOU KNOW IT HAS A KEYLOGGER??”
Apple’s iPhone encryption is a godsend, even if cops hate it >> WIRED
In a much-discussed editorial that ran Friday, The Washington Post sided with law enforcement. Bizarrely, the Post acknowledges backdoors are a bad idea—”a back door can and will be exploited by bad guys, too”—and then proposes one in the very next sentence: Apple and Google, the paper says, should invent a “secure golden key” that would let police decrypt a smartphone with a warrant.
The paper doesn’t explain why this “golden key” would be less vulnerable to abuse than any other backdoor. Maybe it’s the name, which seems a product of the same branding workshop that led the Chinese government to name its Internet censorship system the “golden shield.” What’s not to like? Everyone loves gold!
Implicit in the Post’s argument is the notion that the existence of the search warrant as a legal instrument obliges Americans to make their data accessible: that weakening your crypto is a civic responsibility akin to jury duty or paying taxes. “Smartphone users must accept that they cannot be above the law if there is a valid search warrant,” writes the Post.
Logical fallacies ahoy.
Vietnamese blog leaks iPad Air 2 pictures showing thinner chassis, Touch ID, missing mute switch >> 9to5Mac
Vietnamese blog Tinhte.vn has pictures claiming to show the design of the new iPad Air, likely a dummy unit which acts as a reasonable portrayal of the device’s characteristics. Shown in white, the device is reportedley only 7 mm thin.
What happens if you put it in your back pocket and drive somewhere, though?
Google Plus, Circles, and your data >> On The Outside
Andy Wootton discovered a draft blogpost from 2011, just after the launch of Google+ (which we learnt is to continue):
I’ve spent so much time reverse-engineering business requirements from poorly implemented IT systems so they can be re-written properly, that I think it’s become an illness. I’ve spent my evening puzzling out how Google+ Circles work because to quote NCIS’ Gibbs, “my gut tells me” that something is wrong.
Trouble at the Koolaid Point >> Serious Pony
Kathy Sierra, who has (wearily) been experiencing online harassment since 2005, on how social media is now enabling and amplifying it:
The hater trolls are looking for their next dopamine hit. If you don’t provide it, they’ll try harder. But the escalation to get a response from you? That’s not even the worst escalation problem.
The more dangerous social-web-fueled gamification of trolling is the unofficial troll/hate leader-board. The attacks on you are often less about scoring points against you than that they’re trying to out-do one another. They’re trying to out-troll, out-hate, out-awful the other trolls. That’s their ultimate goal. He who does the worst wins.
Which may explain the slow, steady increase in both frequency and horror of online harassment. What was mostly drive-by nasty comments in 2001 then progressed to Photoshopped images (your child on a porn image is a particularly “fun” one), and what’s after images? Oh, yeah, the “beat up Anita” game. And what’s left when you’ve done as much digital damage as you can?
It’s an important essay, which has a simple offering for its solution: “be nice”. Everyone’s capable of it.
Adobe ebook DRM secretly builds and transmits a dossier of your reading habits >> Boing Boing
The latest version of Adobe’s Digital Editions, a DRM system widely used for ebooks, gathers enormous amounts of sensitive personal information about its users’ reading habits and transmits them, in the clear, to Adobe.
Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader used a network monitor to watch what Digital Editions 4 did after he installed it, and caught the software exfiltrating an unencrypted file containing an index of all the books in his library to Adobe. Adobe did not respond to Hoffelder’s request for comments. Hoffelder has supplied a copy of the file that DE4 built and transmitted from his computer. It should be pretty straightforward to replicate this on your own computer if you’d like to verify Hoffelder’s findings.
Hoffelder says: “Adobe is gathering data on the ebooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order. All of this data, including the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book is being sent to Adobe’s server in clear text.”