The most common and widespread form of spam is spam from an alien sender directly to me. Alien in the sense that they are unknown to me and directly to me in the sense that it lands directly in my inbox (or, more often, my spam filter). An email address like DrJosephAbudai@yahoo.cn and sent to dozens of variations of my email address. It’s carpet bombing and, like carpet bombing, is not very effective.
Increasingly the spam that does find its way into my inbox is of two related types. The first are hijacked direct sources: people I know who have had their accounts hacked and are unknowingly sending spam. And the second is indirect: social network accounts of people I know who have had their accounts hacked. Both types reveal a problem with traditional spam reporting. If I don’t know you and you send me spam then I am inclined to click the spam reporting link. If I do know you then I assume you’ve been hacked, but I don’t want to report you as a spammer because then you’ll potentially lose your account.
A solution would be a “report this as a hijacking” link adjacent to the “report this as spam” link on all messages. If the former is activated then the host would automatically change the passwords for the account, shut down outgoing mail, send an in-bound email to alert the user of the hijacking, and require re-authentication on the next login.
With this new feature I’d be inclined to report more of these incidents faster and networks & mail hosts could respond more quickly.
Google today pulled 21 popular free apps from the Android Market after discovering that they were all malware. They had been downloaded by somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000 users. It is advised that users actually take their phones back to the carriers and get them replaced.
What’s worse is that the apps were largely knock-offs of well known apps. So not only does this reveal the problem with security but it also underlines, once again, the issue with IP infringement. The publisher who created the malware was able to download existing apps, inject root exploits into them and then re-upload them to the market.
The way the malware was discovered (by the AndroidPolice) is very revealing:
Link to publishers apps here. I just randomly stumbled into one of the apps, recognized it and noticed that the publisher wasn’t who it was supposed to be.
So a very savvy user recognized that the publisher name was wrong. Tell me, without looking, who the proper publisher is of each app on your phone… yeah, thought so.
Initially they thought it was just pulling phone info (your user ID, phone ID, etc…) which would be bad but then they discovered that it actually has the ability to download more exploits and install them on your device. That’s the ultimate nightmare scenario and why you have to return your phone. Google is remotely wiping all these apps from user’s phones but they can’t remotely wipe any malware that the malware itself has downloaded onto your device. This is truly the worst type of exploit and something you’re going to see a lot of in the future.
This is exactly why the Apple curation model is vital to a successful app ecosystem. If users become afraid of downloading apps then the number of apps downloaded will plummet and developers will not have an incentive to keep working. What’s worse is that you have to go back to a store and beg them to replace your phone. This is just a nightmare and one that will get worse and worse unless Google gets its act together.
That’s strike two for Android today.
Here are the apps:
- Falling Down
- Super Guitar Solo
- Super History Eraser
- Photo Editor
- Super Ringtone Maker
- Super Sex Positions
- Hot Sexy Videos
- Hilton Sex Sound
- Screaming Sexy Japanese Girls
- Falling Ball Dodge
- Scientific Calculator
- Dice Roller
- Advanced Currency Converter
- APP Uninstaller
- Funny Paint
- Spider Man
I thought Google’s Android was supposed to be the antidote to Apple’s closed system. Looks like a group of top Android developers don’t think so. They’ve formed the Android Developers Union and have issued the following demands:
- Renegotiation of the 32% Google-tax on applications sales
- Remedy to the Order of Entry Effect
- Public Bug Tracking
- Increased Payment Options
- Codified Rules and a Removal Appeal Process
- Communication and Engineering Liaison
- Algorithmic Transparency
Let’s look at those a little closer.
32% Google Tax: They say “Even iPhone developers, who pay a similar tax to Apple, receive value for their tax in the form of Market curation. We get nothing.” Looks like Android’s “open” platform hurts developers.
Order Of Entry Effect: This can affect Apple’s store as well but they compensate for it by time-limiting leader charts. Most popular changes every hour based on what’s being downloaded right now in your region. Google just uses a sum of all downloads which means a new app will never reach the top.
Public Bug Tracking: Here’s something I’ve never heard about iTunes Connect & iTunes: “The Android Market has been, and still is, consistently plagued with technical problems.” They are complaining that the market is closed source and thus the community is stuck with crap software controlled by ‘the man’.
Increased Payment Options: “We demand increased payment methods, particularly a Web or Desktop based interface to the Market, as well as a way for developers to implement “Pay What You Want” pricing schemes.”
It is absolutely insane that the Android Market can only be viewed from an Android device. I get sent links to iOS apps all the time and I want to take a look at them from my laptop while I’m working. Without iTunes and iTunes on the web, I’d be driven nuts. That’s how I feel about Android apps.
(Update – 3/4/11 6:09pm: As noted in the comments. When I wrote this I completely forgot that they did in fact launch a webstore a few weeks ago. It was completely insane, but it is no more. I visited the webstore when it launched and hadn’t been back and thus forgot about it. Generally when I want to try a new app for my Android device I go directly from the device because this option hadn’t been available. I stand corrected.)
Codified Rules and a Removal Appeal Process: Where have I heard this complain before…
Communication And Engineering Liaison: Well this would be less of a problem if the Android was a better piece of software.
Algorithmic Transparency: (see above)
All-in-all, Google has to get its act together. Their store is a mess. It’s poorly designed, poorly managed, and – if this is a serious focus of theirs – just feels like it’s not being paid attention to. Google has so much money and so many resources I can’t understand why their Android support is so incredibly anemic.
Here is my talk on mobile computing and conceiving mobile apps at DIYDAYS this year. The first half of the talk is on the evolution of human-machine interaction and the second half goes through the process of how to conceive and plan a mobile app.
My talk from DIYDAYS on the history of interaction and developing for mobile platforms is now up on Vimeo. Check it out:
This past weekend I was out on Long Island and we stopped in at the Dia Center’s Dan Flavin Art Institute. If you’re ever passing through Bridgehampton be sure to take a couple minutes and visit this tiny former church and see the exhibit. It’s free and is one of the rare cultural gems of the South Fork. For those that don’t know Dan Flavin’s work, in summary, he arranged colored fluorescent lights in specific patterns, often with the aim of transforming how we respond to a space. It’s at once simple and deceptively complex and I enjoy it quite a bit.
I took a few pictures with my iPhone while walking through the exhibit and they revealed something interesting about the phone and, interesting, created a new vision of the work through the intersection of technologies. Here’s what I saw.
I took a photo of the piece untitled (to Jan and Ron Greenberg), 1972-73. Here is what the piece looks like:
(image used under Creative Commons from 16 Miles of String’s flickr stream)
When I took a photo with the iPhone, here is what I got:
Where did those horizontal lines come from? My first guess was that it had to do with the timing of the fluorescent lights and a rolling shutter issue with the phone.
Fluorescent lights are actually not a constant light source like a regular light bulb. In actual fact a fluorescent light is constantly flickering on and off. This is why they are so unpleasant to sit under all day. The cycle of that flicker is slow enough to be a sub-conscious irritant to our brain (for some of us). This also creates issues for filming since the lights are flickering and the camera is taking a series of still photos those two things can interact in problematic ways. Colors can shift or frames can be lost to darkness.
Rolling shutter is a different issue, unique to digital technologies. The way a digital camera works is that it starts scanning at the top line of the image and quickly scans from top to bottom. The faster it can do that, the more likely it is that an image will look ok. The problem is, if things are moving quickly in the frame, they can be distorted. For example, you are shooting a street and a truck drives by very quickly. When your camera starts scanning the frame, the truck may be in one position but by the time it reaches the bottom of the frame the truck may have moved several feet forward. This means that the vertical lines on the truck will appear sloped. In very extreme scenarios this can create incredible illusions like this:
Pretty wild what’s happening to that propeller, right?
So, perhaps, I’m seeing the actual shadows created by the lights when they flicker. Except I then took this photo of my brother:
The shadows are in front of his body as well. That seemed odd. And that lead me to think that this might be an aliasing thing in the phone meeting the flickering of the light meeting that intense pure green color.
Digital cameras have built in coding to adjust for “mistakes” in how they capture images. To counter problems like the rolling shutter, the cameras are taught to “invent” lines when they think there should be some. The problem is that sometimes, those lines are pure fantasy. Take a look at these two shots. The first is from a digital camera (a Canon EOS 7D) and the second is a raw image of the source:
Quite a difference, eh? For a great, in-depth explanation of all this check out the post I borrowed these images from over on DVXUser.
So perhaps the iPhone is trying to resolve straight lines and in so-doing, it is inventing shadows. Any thoughts? I don’t know exactly the answer but I’m curious…
And just to leave you with one last image that is not going to give you a headache, here’s a picture I took using Red Giant’s awesome Plastic Bullet app at the same exhibit:
Today Apple’s market cap surpassed Microsoft’s to make Apple the second largest company in America. At the end of trading today, Apple’s market cap was $222.12 billion versus Microsoft’s $219.18 billion. My only question is:
Why does Steve Ballmer still have a job?
Since he took over Microsoft from Bill Gates there has hardly been a single stand out executive move by Microsoft. Nothing that would seem innovative has come to market. And I say ‘come to market’ with care.
People howled that Microsoft had an iPad killer in the works with the HP Slate. The problem? HP realized that Windows Mobile 7 (or whatever hack OS Microsoft tried to develop for the device) wasn’t worth building a platform on so they bought Palm and Palm’s much more sophisticated WebOS platform. The Microsoft Courier dual-screen slate? Yep, that was killed just a couple weeks ago and Bill Gates is now saying they’re focussing on “a number of different tablet projects, with a focus on stylus-based input.”
Where is the vision?
The problem is that Steve Ballmer is exactly the wrong man for the job.
Steve Ballmer is a sales guy. Look around silicon valley and you won’t find many of the big boys being run by sales guys. Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Eric Schmidt. None are sales guys. They’re either technical visionaries or efficient operators. When Ballmer took over Microsoft he was running a company that was already ubiquitous. Why would they need a marketer – everyone already knows Windows. They needed someone with a bold vision and technical confidence to see where things should be going. When you are dominant in a market like Microsoft is, you can set the conversation. Don’t believe me? Ask Adobe…
You need a sales and marketing guy when you are Palm, after the development of WebOS and before the purchase by HP. You have a great product, but nobody knows who you are. You either let the world know about your great product, or you can just make creepy videos.
The question that is left is how long Microsoft’s board and shareholders will let the wrong man run their company down.
We’ll see what it looks like when it goes live, but it appears to embody so much of what TV needs to do. It seems like someone out there was annoyed by the same things I highlighted in my post on Mark Cuban. The idea is that no longer will TV be hijacked by the tyranny of your local cable operator’s interface. You can now search for content non-linearly. But there’s more: it appears, from the screen shots, that it connects with Amazon & Hulu & Netflix. Search once, find what you’re looking for on your TV schedule or online. This product, in one fell swoops, takes a swipe at services like Speed Cine, AppleTV, Boxee and more.
I, for one, applaud them.
Mark Cuban has another of his rants today about why TV kicks the internet’s ass when it comes to content and why TV is going to be the big winner in the long run. We must remember that this is a man who made his fortune by selling Broadcast.com and has spent much of his fortune buying sports teams and HDNet so he has a clear vested interest in the future of TV. But he misses the point about why people are switching:
When you buy that new TV and get it installed on your wall or wherever in your apartment or house, you want to turn that baby on and watch your favorite show, the big fight or concert or put on your favorite video. You want it to look and sound good. It doesn’t matter if you are 20 and living in a dorm or an apartment, or 65 and watching Oprah. It’s a proud moment. You don’t want to have to figure out which 3rd party box or streaming service you can hook up via the internet and then stream to your TV and then find out the video you are streaming looks nothing like the video they had on in the store. You don’t want to tell your buddies not to bump the mouse so it stays full screen. You don’t want to piss off everyone because your screen saver of your dog just came on or have to stop everything and turn your facebook alerts back off because they keep interrupting everything. You dont’ want to scream to your girlfriend/roomie/wife/kids in the other room to stop downloading stuff so you can watch your show without it buffering. You just want it to work.
I guess Mark missed CES is this year.
I bought two TVs this year. I also bought two LG Blu-Ray players, though after CES I could have bought most any TV and skipped the players. I have, built in to the interface, Netflix streaming, Cinema Now, YouTube and room for more services as they get added. One of my TVs even let’s me plug in my iPod and watch all the videos I keep on it. There is no bumping of the mouse – it’s controlled by the TV remote. There isn’t any screensaver. I haven’t had any quality issues with Netflix streaming. I get the sense that Mark hasn’t used true internet video in the last year or two…
Compare these use cases:
Buy TV, plug in TV to cable box, realize that cable box hasn’t been fully upgraded, call cable company, wait four days for service appointment, wait at home for four hours for service appointment, get TV box replaced and up & running, browse channels trying to figure out which one has the movies (this is Time Warner Cable in NYC, no “on demand” button!), find Channel 1000, browse screen after screen (no search function), forget what you wanted to watch (no queue or save functions), then realize there are several other channels of On Demand, browse to Channel 1001, 1002, 1003, repeat this process for each of them, give up, go to DVR, turn on GLEE from this week, discover that the first 3 minutes of the show are missing because American Idol “ran long” and the DVR couldn’t figure that out since it doesn’t record GLEE, it records whatever runs from 9:00pm to 10:00pm on channel 0004, give up on GLEE, think about watching Comedy Central (hell, it’s not 10:56pm and the daily show is coming on soon), remember the three digit channel code for “Comedy Central” (745), and now watch that.
Buy TV, plug in Airport Express to same powerstrip, plug ethernet cable into TV, launch Netflix, manage my Queue from my iPhone, play movie or TV show, wonder whether I’ll be able to get HULU next week or the week after…
If TV wants to stay relevant then the Cable operators need to do a ground-up rethink of the interface design for their systems. Just because something is better quality (which TV is) doesn’t mean it wins the war. (I’m looking at you Beta…) TV, and in particular the cable operators, are their own worst enemy at the moment. When TWC in NYC refused to continue licensing their old operating system and went with a kludgy, poorly implemented system of their own making last year they turned off tens of thousands of users who are happily jumping ship every day.
I think this part is key. Why do I need to memorize three digit numbers to find the content I want? 745 is Comedy Central. 750 is the Food Network. 714 is MSNBC. 744 is Fox News. 710 used to be CNN but they moved it to a different number a few months ago and now I don’t watch it anymore because I don’t know where it went.
The linearity of TV is insane. It runs counter to how we understand content in the modern world. Channels become ghettos based on their neighborhoods. I’ll watch a lot of stuff in the 740′s, 750′s and 760′s but I watch almost nothing in the 720′s or 730′s. Heck, I won’t even go to anything between 733 and 737 because I know there is public access around there and you never know when Robyn Byrd is on. Her presence at 735 makes that neighborhood an unwelcoming place for me at night.
If TV wants to be relevant then companies like Time Warner need to rethink their interface. Here are a few rules:
- Let us browse by channel name.
- Let us find shows by genre or channel, not just by hen-pecking out letters in their title with the remote.
- And while we’re at it, give us a remote with some form of keyboard.
- Make your DVR record a show, not a time slot. If a show is being pushed back, you have the ability to let the DVRs know, do it.
- Allow us to browse movies like Netflix does. Not by going screen-by-screen through an alphabetical list. HTML has been around for nearly 20 years – why do you not have a single hyperlink in your navigational system? Why can’t I see every Paul Rudd movie available On Demand right now?
- Don’t give us separate sets of channels for SD & HD. Why do I need to memorize that 045 is Comedy Central but 745 is Comedy Central HD? Why can’t I just set a preference on my TV that says “Choose the HD version of a channel whenever available”? Do you think that there are some shows that I want to watch in SD? Why does my DVR record some shows SD and others HD?
Fix these things and I’ll believe in TV’s future.
Don’t fix them and you’ll be relegated to the Betamax dustbin of history.