The Ugliness of Short Term Hacks on the Road to Wireless

Here’s a Kickstarter project to solve the problem of no audio jack which illustrates just how thorny it is: iLDOCK – charge and listen to iPhone 7 at the same time by ildockgear — Kickstarter

ILDOCK lets you use your wired headphone while charging your iPhone 7. You can also add storage via SD, TF and USB ports with Plus. 


The problem, as some have highlighted in the comments, is that Apple rarely grants MFi status to accessories where the lightning cable doesn’t plug directly into an Apple device. In this case, one does but the external one doesn’t. Most manufacturers get around this by making the external one a microusb. I don’t mind that, in fact it helps me, but some folk aren’t crazy about it. 

There are other issues too, of course: if you have lightning headphones and want to charge, this isn’t going to help you. 

I know I’ve written before that the future is wireless, but this project, worthy though it is, merely illustrates how ugly the interim is going to look like. 

(Via Kickstarter)

01. October 2016 by jeremy
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yahoo Dyslexia

Yahoo probably has enough on its plate right now, facing possibly the largest data breach ever –  Yahoo says at least 500 million accounts hacked in 2014 – but I just wanted to point out that it doesn’t inspire confidence when their log in screen contains a glaring typo: 

Screenshot 2016 09 23 05 11 47

(I’m not sure the links below about the ‘account security issue’ are particularly helpful either. Users may not have heard about it, and so don’t know what it’s referring to, and the second link does not enlighten the user in this case about whether they’re ‘potentially affected’ or not.) 

But a typo on a login screen? I had to double check I’d not been diverted to a scam site. Not reassuring. 

23. September 2016 by jeremy
Categories: Scams | Tags: | Leave a comment

Sleazy Old Gray Lady?

I was surprised by how sleazy the New York Times is when it comes to cancelling a subscription.

It can only be done, it seems, by calling a US number during US office hours — even when the subscription is from overseas with an overseas credit card. You’d think the bastion of fair play and decency wouldn’t do that kind of thing. But they do.  

Screenshot 2016 09 15 20 22 26

Of course, as I had made the subscription via PayPal so I could just cancel it with a click. And a confirmation: 

Screenshot 2016 09 15 20 36 56

Set up a relationship again? I doubt it. Sorry ol’ Gray Lady. You blew it. 

15. September 2016 by jeremy
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I’m An Airline, Fly Me

This an email from a bona fide airline: 

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please be informed that your transaction with [international carrier] has been confirmed. Due to fraud prevention procedure against Credit Card transaction, we would like to validate your recent transaction with [international carrier] by filling information below :

Passenger(s) name :
Route :
Date of Travel :
Cardholder name :
Address :

Also, we need to confirm and validate your name and last four digit of your card number. Please kindly provide scanned/image of your front side credit card that used to buy the ticket. You may cover the rest information on the card. Please reply in 8 hours after received this email or we will cancel the reservation.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Best Regards,
Verification Data Management

13. September 2016 by jeremy
Categories: Malware, Privacy, scam, Security | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Jack’s Hit: Apple’s Missing Socket

There’s been a lot of talk about the removal of the iPhone’s audio jack, most of it knee-jerk, albeit sometimes amusing. A sampling:

I’m no fan-boi, but I find most of this coverage small-minded. Yes, I get that there’s a potential inconvenience here:

  • if you don’t have the lightning-jack adapter, then you can’t use your existing earphones. 
  • Yes, Apple is prodding you in the direction of its expensive wireless AirPods. 
  • Yes, wireless tech is not quite as ready as it could be for the pairing to be seamless. 
  • Yes, these things are easy to lose.
  • Yes, using the headphone and charging at the same time is not going to be possible without some adapter. (This is an oversight, I agree.) 
  • yes, Apple makes more money, because it owns the lightning connector and makes maybe $4 off each device that uses it. (Yes, I don’t like this either. But the wireless 

But two years down the track these kinds of arguments will seem as anachronistic as those that lamented the phasing out of the floppy drive, the serial port, the parallel port, the CD/DVD-rom drive, its own Firewire and 30 pin connectors. (The ultimate Apple I/O death chart – The Verge)

Oddly, both the arguments by Apple and its supporters are also somewhat limited in their horizons. Apple argues that it needs more space inside the device to pack more goodies in. That the technology itself is more than 100 years old. That it makes it easier to waterproof the device. That audio via Lightning or wireless is actually as good as, if not a better, experience. Apple has talked about being courageous, which is a tad disingenuous: brave is risking everything on a startup, not when you’ve got $200 billion sitting around.

The real reason why being pro-jack is going to seem a little Luddite in the future is that the future is not just wireless, it’s deviceless. The smart watch tried (and in my view failed) to move the functionality of the smartphone to the wrist. It’s not a natural place for that functionality to be, because you’re still looking at, and tapping on a screen. It’s just smaller, closer to your face and strapped on. Same with Google Glass. Nice idea, but you’re still looking at a screen, and people hate you.

The device should disappear, all of its features — input, output — internalised. Preferably inside the body. But we can’t do that quite yet, hence the earbud. A good earbud should be both controller and receptor. That’s where we’re going. This is what I wrote for Reuters on the subject. Here’s what I said on Reuters TV.

Nothing too revolutionary here. It only seems so because the debate around jack’s hit has been so mundane, so parochial, as if technology should stand still, and technology companies should listen solely to their users. The phrase ‘faster horse’ springs to mind. Apple isn’t even leading the field on this. There are at least three other smartphone companies which have already ditched the audio jack — Oppo did it four years ago.

We’ll look back at the folk who protested the disappearance of the jack as slightly quaint folk who didn’t get it. Everything leads inexorably towards breaking down the barriers between us and the technology we use — until eventually it is inside our skull. Next to it is close enough for now. 

Hence Ben Thompson, who nailed it with this piece Beyond the iPhone, saying that this wireless, deviceless future is one which may not involve much of Apple at all. 

To Apple’s credit they are, with the creation of AirPods, laying the foundation for a world beyond the iPhone. It is a world where, thanks to their being a product — not services — company, Apple is at a disadvantage; however, it is also a world that Apple, thanks to said product expertise, especially when it comes to chips, is uniquely equipped to create. That the company is running towards it is both wise — the sooner they get there, the longer they have to iterate and improve and hold off competitors — and also, yes, courageous. The easy thing would be to fight to keep us in a world where phones are all that matters, even if, in the long run, that would only prolong the end of Apple’s dominance.

In that sense, Apple has never stood in the way of its own destruction. Yes, it has penny pinched — taxing accessory makers, avoiding taxes elsewhere, squeezing suppliers — but it has not shied away from making these bigger decisions. What is interesting is that in this new world to come it may be at a disadvantage. 

09. September 2016 by jeremy
Categories: Innovation, Phones | Tags: , , , | 1 comment

Winners and losers from LoRa

This was a short box to accompany my Reuters piece on LoRa:

One company most likely to gain from the rise of interest in LoRa networks is Semtech Corp, which holds some of the IP related to LoRa and makes most of its chips. Companies like Microchip have also made LoRa related kits.

The most likely gainers from the spread of low power connectivity, however, are going to be the companies building and managing the networks. SigFox, a LoRa rival, allows others to make the hardware, and its partners to build the networks, but makes its money from charging companies fees for connecting their devices to the network.

“We’ll see a ton of SigFox and LoRa launches over the region over the next 12 months,” says Charles Anderson, an analyst at IDC.

More traditional players are either adopting or competing (or both) with the new networks.

Some telcos have aligned themselves with one or more of the technologies, rolling out LoRa networks in the hope of gaining a foothold ahead of their rivals. They include KPN Telecom NV and SK Telecom, both of which have rolled out nationwide in their respective countries. “The people who make the most money will be those having a large network at the right price,” says Isaac Brown, of Lux Research.

Other telcos are focusing on technologies that use existing cellular networks and 4G standards. Vodafone for example, is using NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things), while AT&T is using LTE-M (the M stands for machine). Both are standards supported by the cellular specifications body 3GPP.

Telecom equipment makers are aligning with one technology or another. In part this reflects a war over technologies, where Huawei and Ericsson, backed by Nokia Networks and Intel, battled to have their proprietary standards adopted. The NB-IOT compromise has prompted a rash of trials — Huawei recently concluded a city-wide trial with Vodafone in Australia, after a similar trials with Deutsche Telekom in Germany last year. Meanwhile Ericsson in June demonstrated its own NB-IoT products, using Intel chips and software.

ZTE, meanwhile, is a high profile member of the LoRa Alliance, the industry body supporting the standard, officially joining the board in June. It launched some LoRa-based smart meters earlier this year. Other prominent members of the alliance include Cisco and IBM.

07. September 2016 by jeremy
Categories: lora | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Ripe for Disruption: Bank Authentication


One thing that still drives me crazy, and doesn’t seem to have changed with banks, is they way they handle fraud detection with the customer. Their sophisticated algorithms detect fraudulent activity, they flag it, suspend the card, and give you a call, leaving a message identifying themselves as your bank and asking you to call back a number — which is not on the back of the credit card you have.

So, if you’re like me, you call back the number given in the voice message and have this conversation:

Hello this is Bank A’s fraud detection team, how can I help you today?
Hi, quoting reference 12345.
Thank you, I need some verification details first. Do yo have your credit card details to hand?
I do, but this number I was asked to call was not on the back of my card, so I need some evidenc from you that you are who you say you are first.
Unfortunately, I don’t have anything that would help there.

So then you have to call the number on the card, and then get passed from pillar to post until you reach the right person.

How is this still the case in 2016, and why have no thoughtful disruptive folk thought up an alternative? Could this be done on the blockchain (only half sarcastic here)? I’d love to see banks, or anyone, doing this better.

A simple one would be for them to have a safe word for each client, I should think, which confirms to me that they are who they say they are. It seems silly that they can’t give some information — it doesn’t even have to be private information — that would show who they are, but only a customer would know.

01. September 2016 by jeremy
Categories: Rants, scam, Security | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

New investing app for millennials

A quite cute new app called Moneybox launched today in the UK allows millennials to save without thinking and invest in stocks, also without really thinking. 

The blurb: 

The Moneybox app, which launches today in the App Store, enables users to round up their everyday card purchases to the nearest pound and invest the spare change.

For example, when you buy a coffee for £1.80, the purchase will appear in the app and you can choose to ‘round up’ to the nearest pound. The additional 20 pence is set aside to invest across thousands of companies worldwide including Apple, Facebook, Netflix and Disney, via three tracker funds. In addition to round ups, the app also allows users to set up weekly deposits and make one-off payments into their Moneybox account.

To help users decide how they would like their money to be invested, Moneybox offers three ‘starting options’ – cautious, balanced and adventurous. Users can customise their investment choices using a simple slider interface.

Targeted at Millennials, the app aims to make it easier than ever for people to start saving and investing. By enabling users to sign up in minutes from their mobile phone and start investing with as little as £1, Moneybox hopes to open up investing to a new generation.

Yes, it’s kinda sad that you need to make it real simple, but I like the approach.  

31. August 2016 by jeremy
Categories: Software, apps | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Chatty Interviewees

Screenshot 2016 08 30 11 00 00

This is what it looks like when I (top line) interview someone who is chatty. Barely get a word in edgeways. 

31. August 2016 by jeremy
Categories: Media | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Innovative Complacency or the Wisdom of the Deceived?


This is where I see a real problem for developed Asia: a complacency and disinterest in the role of technology and innovation. Or is it the clarity of vision from too much innovation?

Screenshot 2016 08 26 05 09 48


In a survey conducted by IDC on behalf of Avaya (no link available, you need to sign up to get a copy), key IT decision makers from developed Asian countries (leaving aside Australia for now) were much more likely to downplay the role of innovation in driving business. Singapore came lowest with 14% of respondents believing the statement “innovation is extremely important to drive business.” Compare that to around 40% in India, Thailand and the Philippines.

(Avaya, in case you’re wondering, “is a leading provider of solutions that enable customer and team engagement across multiple channels and devices for better customer experience, increased productivity and enhanced financial performance.” That could probably be simplified.)

In short (excluding Taiwan for which there is no World Bank data, and Australia, for now) the Asian economies with the highest GDP per capita — Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong – are those that value innovation the least. South Korea is only slightly behind there in terms of valuing innovation.

The same holds true when measured by Internet penetration: the more internet there is, the less valued is innovation.

Screenshot 2016 08 27 14 29 10

Source: Avaya survey (col 1), World Bank (cols 2-3)


At the other end, it’s also generally true. The lower the GDP, the more likely a country is to value innovation.

The sad truism is that once you reach a certain level of development — and you don’t experience serious recession or other economic upheaval — you tend to see innovation as an unwelcome disruption. In other words, you identify with the established industries, the established way of doing things, probably because that’s where you work and get your living from.

Looking at it the other way, the less developed a country is, the more people — and we’re talking ‘key IT decision makers’ here, not the rank and file folk — see innovation as a way of improving things.

Of course, there’s another possibility too: that those ‘key IT decision makers’ have seen innovation and they realise it isn’t as great as everyone makes it out to be. Indeed, I have some sympathy with that view. The more ‘disruptive’ a technology is, the more disruption it causes — meaning not just that big slow behemoths are put to the sword, but the people who work for them, the companies that supply to them, or make a little here and there in the supply chain.

A truly disruptive business/technology will not only chop off the head of an industry, it will cut off the entrails and lay to waste the body. That can be painful, and not necessarily good for consumers, or anyone standing in the way.

The other question raised in the survey was whether traditional traditional companies in the Asia Pacific would be able to take control against ‘Uber-like’ competitors. Nearly half said it was difficult to compete against such disruptors, and only 3% said they planned to be disruptors themselves. And while 43% felt they were on a par with their peers in terms of being able to fight back, only 6% felt they were “best in class”. Asian modesty, or a serious crisis of confidence?

Australia and China are worth a separate look here. Australia scored highest on the innovation/importance question, with more than 46% of respondents reckoning it was important. That’s good, but it’s probably part cultural. Why would you not at least pay lip service to the Innovation God?

And China skewed the other way. You would kind of expect China to be up there given what is going on in technology. But it’s low — 21/5% — less than South Korea, suggesting that either they were asking the wrong folk, or, maybe the disruption in China is already giving ‘key IT decision makers’ pause. China is by far the furthest down the track in terms of disruption in Asia, so maybe there is some truth in the alternative explanation of this (admittedly scant) data: As economies become more disrupted, so the key ‘IT decision makers’ in them become more pessimistic about how useful innovation is to the economy.

27. August 2016 by jeremy
Categories: Non-tech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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