Gadget Overdose • Microsoft Surface • Hurricane Sandy • Apple Shake-up • Global Consumer Analyses • Security • Build Your Own Servers • Tech Briefs • Just Two More
Gadget Overdose: A Big Week for Tech Product Launches
The past week has been a big one for product launches. As TechCrunch notes, it was no accident that all these product launches occurred in the space of a few days. Every company wants to steal the thunder from its competitors.
- Tuesday October 23rd: Apple iPad Mini, iPad 4, MacBook Pro, and iMac.
- Wednesday October 24th: Samsung Galaxy Note II goes on sale in the U.S.
- Thursday October 25th: Microsoft Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface Tablet.
- Key quote from the Wired Surface review: “Yes, you can use it as your only computer. I would never have made that claim about an iPad or Android tablet.”
- Monday October 29th: Google announced the Nexus 4 Smartphone and Nexus 10 tablet.
- The phone looks great and has a cool wireless charging orb but that doesn’t make up for the fact that it doesn’t have LTE! That’s going to make it a non-starter for early adopters.
- The new tablet has the highest resolution tablet screen on the market at 300 pixels per square inch. The Nexus 10 is also notable for being the only the fourth tablet, behind the Nook HD+, Nook HD and Microsoft Surface, to offer separate login profiles for different users.
- Monday October 29th: Microsoft Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone lacks the market penetration of iOS and Android, but the new release has some great features:
- Lots of business friendly features like Microsoft Office, full Exchange support, encryption, corporate management tools, a corporate app store, and Lync integration.
- Kid’s corner—a second profile, accessible from the lock screen, that gives kids (or other guests) access to selected applications and games but not to Mom’s business apps and email. This functionality was suggested around 2010 when I was still working at Microsoft. I’m guessing someone added it to the product backlog way back then and it finally bubbled up to the top. It is interesting that it hasn’t shown up in iOS or Android between then and now.
More on Surface
Teardown. The folks at iFixit liked the Microsoft Surface so much they waited a full 20 minutes before removing its cover to expose the bits inside in their naked glory. They gave the Surface a repairability score of 4 out of 10 (10 is the easiest to repair). That beats the 1 out of 10 they gave the MacBook Pro and the 2 out of 10 they gave the iPad 3.
Surface is Tough. Microsoft showed that the new Surface is markedly tougher than its chief competitor, the iPad. They demonstrated it taking falls without damage and they even used it as a skateboard.
Hurricane Sandy Tech News
- “We are OK” is the most shared term on Facebook. TechCrunch
- Twitter is brilliantly being used to debunk storm-related misinformation and rumors. BuzzFeed FWD
- Google has set up a “Crisis” map, which among other information is showing power outages. TechCrunch
- Flooding has taken down NYC based datacenters that host popular sites like Gawker and The Huffington Post. HuffPo has the resources to host from elsewhere but Gawker is still down as of this writing. Data Center Knowledge
Apple Management Shake-up
Apple mobile software exec Scott Forstall has been asked to leave the company after he refused to sign an apology for shortcomings in Apple Maps. Besides Maps, he was also the executive in charge of Siri, which is a reasonable voice recognition system but has never lived up to its hype. Also, retail head John Browett is being shown the door after just 8 months. Among the winners in the shakeup is Jony Ive, whose design portfolio is expanding to the entire “human interface,” meaning both software and hardware.
Learn to Analyze Global Multichannel Consumer Behavior
If web analytics is an important part of your job and you don’t know who Avinash Kaushik is, you need to read his book and start following his blog. This recent blog post is a gem. Teaching by example, he shows how to use free resources to analyze global multichannel consumer behavior. Topics he covers in this post include:
- How do consumers access the Internet?
- How does purchase behavior vary across countries?
- How do consumers research and purchase products (online and offline)?
- What is the role of Search Engines in the purchase process?
He includes lots of useful visualizations in his examples. Don’t stop reading when you reach the end of his post. His readers are a smart lot and they contribute insightful comments and links to other useful tools.
- It turns out that passengers’ US airport security screening PreCheck status is encoded in their boarding pass barcodes. The status is unencrypted and can be decoded with a smartphone. You would think that the TSA should know that security through obscurity is no security at all. BBC
- Schneier reports that given current trends in computer performance growth, SHA-1 collision attacks will be within the practical budget of criminal gangs by 2018. Schneier on Security
- The NIST has selected Keccak as the SHA-3 algorithm. Schneier on Security
- 80-year-old computer scientist Peter G. Neumann is leading an effort to re-architect computers from the ground up to make them secure. New York Times
- Android malware has potential to expose almost all your private details including sensitive documents and the layout of your home. Gizmodo
It Can Make Sense to Build and Deploy Your Own Servers
The common wisdom today is that unless you are the size of Amazon, Microsoft or Google, you should run your online applications in the cloud rather than on your own servers. Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror does the math and concludes that it may make sense for some website owners to build and deploy their own servers. He cheats to a degree by not including the cost of paying an administrator to maintain the servers and freely admits that you’ll not get the reliability and availability of a good cloud infrastructure.
Tech Briefs: Recent Articles of Significance
- This demo video for the new GoPro HERO3 extreme sports vidcam has gone viral. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must!
- An in-depth tour of Google datacenters: Google
- All about OpenStreetMap, the free and open map project that provides much of the data for Apple’s new maps. TPM Idea Lab
- Apple has begun work on a huge new data center in Prineville, Oregon. The town is already home to a large Facebook data center. TechCrunch
- Interesting new startup Pheed is like Twitter with a business model. Basically, content creators have the option to charge consumers for desirable content. The question is, will anyone pay? Forbes
- Ouch! The New York Time relates stories of how Blackberry users are ridiculed for and ashamed of their no-longer-fashionable devices. New York Times
- The BBC enlisted a panel of business, security and design experts who have provided interesting insights on the launch of Windows 8. BBC
- NY Times on Microsoft’s Big Data and machine learning research: New York Times
- Sick of Siri? Google voice search is now available on iOS. Google Blog
- Windows Phone 8 Software Development Kit now available for download. The Verge
- The previously announced Nook HD is now available. Engadget reviewed it and comparing it to the Kindle Fire HD said, “Seeing the two devices side by side, there’s no question that Nook trumps the Fire in a number of categories…” Engadget
Just One More x 2: The Smallest Arduino and Martin Jetpack
Hardware hackers have a lot of love for Arduino open source microcontrollers. They have been used as programmable controllers for everything from robotic quadrotors to a laser harp. Now there’s an Arduino so small, you could fit it in a Hot Wheels toy car chassis:
Avgeeks and extreme sports fans will love the Martin Jetpack (actually a ducted fan). For the risk averse, just like the ultralight I used to fly, there is a ballistic parachute for emergencies.
First a link to a very cool video of a 5,000 foot test flight. Last: an embedded video of radio controlled testing: