Quotulatiousness

May 27, 2014

Internet privacy advice for kids (who are not “Digital Natives”)

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:15

Cory Doctorow sympathizes with young people who have literally grown up with the internet:

The problem with being a “digital native” is that it transforms all of your screw-ups into revealed deep truths about how humans are supposed to use the Internet. So if you make mistakes with your Internet privacy, not only do the companies who set the stage for those mistakes (and profited from them) get off Scot-free, but everyone else who raises privacy concerns is dismissed out of hand. After all, if the “digital natives” supposedly don’t care about their privacy, then anyone who does is a laughable, dinosauric idiot, who isn’t Down With the Kids.

“Privacy” doesn’t mean that no one in the world knows about your business. It means that you get to choose who knows about your business.

It’s difficult to explain to people just how open their online “secrets” really are … and that’s not even covering the folks who are specifically targets of active surveillance … just being on Facebook or other social media sites hands over a lot of your personal details without your direct knowledge or (informed) consent. But you can start to take back some of your own privacy online:

If you start using computers when you’re a little kid, you’ll have a certain fluency with them that older people have to work harder to attain. As Douglas Adams wrote:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

If I was a kid today, I’d be all about the opsec — the operational security. I’d learn how to use tools that kept my business between me and the people I explicitly shared it with. I’d make it my habit, and get my friends into the habit too (after all, it doesn’t matter if all your email is encrypted if you send it to some dorkface who keeps it all on Google’s servers in unscrambled form where the NSA can snaffle it up).

Here’s some opsec links to get you started:

  • First of all, get a copy of Tails, AKA “The Amnesic Incognito Live System.” This is an operating system that you can use to boot up your computer so that you don’t have to trust the OS it came with to be free from viruses and keyloggers and spyware. It comes with a ton of secure communications tools, as well as everything you need to make the media you want to send out into the world.
  • Next, get a copy of The Tor Browser Bundle, a special version of Firefox that automatically sends your traffic through something called TOR (The Onion Router, not to be confused with Tor Books, who publish my novels). This lets you browse the Web with a much greater degree of privacy and anonymity than you would otherwise get.
  • Learn to use GPG, which is a great way to encrypt (scramble) your emails. There’s a Chrome plugin for using GPG with Gmail, and another version for Firefox
  • If you like chatting, get OTR, AKA “Off the Record,” a very secure private chat tool that has exciting features like “perfect forward secrecy” (this being a cool way of saying, even if someone breaks this tomorrow, they won’t be able to read the chats they captured today).

Once you’ve mastered that stuff, start to think about your phone. Android phones are much, much easier to secure than Apple’s iPhones (Apple tries to lock their phones so you can’t install software except through their store, and because of a 1998 law called the DMCA, it’s illegal to make a tool to unlock them). There are lots of alternative operating systems for Android, of varying degrees of security. The best place to start is Cyanogenmod, which makes it much easier to use privacy tools with your mobile device.

March 13, 2014

It’s amazing how much data can be derived from “mere” metadata

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

Two Stanford grad students conducted a research project to find out what kind of actual data can be derived from mobile phone metadata:

Two Stanford computer science students were able to acquire detailed information about people’s lives just from telephone metadata — the phone number of the caller and recipient, the particular serial number of the phones involved, the time and duration of calls and possibly the location of each person when the call occurred.

The researchers did not do any illegal snooping — they worked with the phone records of 546 volunteers, matching phone numbers against the public Yelp and Google Places directories to see who was being called.

From the phone numbers, it was possible to determine that 57 percent of the volunteers made at least one medical call. Forty percent made a call related to financial services.

The volunteers called 33,688 unique numbers; 6,107 of those numbers, or 18 percent, were isolated to a particular identity.

[...]

They crowdsourced the data using an Android application and conducted an analysis of individual calls made by the volunteers to sensitive numbers, connecting the patterns of calls to emphasize the detail available in telephone metadata, Mayer said.

“A pattern of calls will, of course, reveal more than individual call records,” he said. “In our analysis, we identified a number of patterns that were highly indicative of sensitive activities or traits.”

For example, one participant called several local neurology groups, a specialty pharmacy, a rare-condition management service, and a pharmaceutical hotline used for multiple sclerosis.

Another contacted a home improvement store, locksmiths, a hydroponics dealer and a head shop.

The researchers initially shared the same hypothesis as their computer science colleagues, Mayer said. They did not anticipate finding much evidence one way or the other.

“We were wrong. Phone metadata is unambiguously sensitive, even over a small sample and short time window. We were able to infer medical conditions, firearm ownership and more, using solely phone metadata,” he said.

September 13, 2013

The fatal challenge facing Apple and Samsung – boredom

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:01

The Register‘s Andrew Orlowski speculates that we’ve hit PEAK SMARTPHONE:

Apple’s keynotes seem to command more mainstream front-page press attention than ever before — but each time, there’s less and less to report. Is the modern smartphone era limping to a close?

Apple’s announcements on Tuesday about the iPhone 5S and 5C were wearily predictable. Cupertino just doesn’t seem to be where the action is any more.

It is almost as if Apple and its arch-rival Samsung have exhausted themselves by suing each other around the world — and now look like two very knackered boxers agreeing to shuffle their way through the remaining rounds to the bell, rather than risk throwing big punches.

[...]

But the warning signs are there. Samsung reportedly held “crisis talks” this after sales of the Galaxy S4 failed to meet its expectations, Apple iPhone sales have declined for the past three quarters, and, well, “Peak Apple“.

Samsung piled on gimmicky and slightly creepy features like eyeball tracking, simply because it could. Apple’s user-facing innovation (the A7 64-bit chip is the real star of the show) entails building in a fingerprint scanner — a commodity laptop part for the past 10 years. Indeed, the only “radical” moves by Apple are adding colours to a slightly cheaper (but certainly not cheap) iPhone and rejecting NFC (or “Not F*cking Connecting”, as it’s known around here), which is a technology flop. Not so radical, then.

The stark truth is that smartphones, like computers, were only ever a means to an end — and once the services and apps markets matured, the smartphone itself became less … important. It didn’t really matter what access device you were carrying. The PC reached a point where the devices became beige boxes competing on price, and the smartphone era is drawing to the point where it doesn’t really matter what black rectangle you’re carrying — provided it accesses the services and apps you want. Fetishising the access devices is as strange as thanking LG or Panasonic for creating BBC2. No wonder both Samsung and Apple are looking at new higher-margin peripherals such as watches.

August 13, 2013

Blacksoft or Microberry … will Microsoft scoop up Blackberry?

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:21

In Maclean’s, Peter Nowak wonders why Microsoft hasn’t already purchased Blackberry:

The logic is pretty solid. Android and Apple have run away with the smartphone market, with the Canadian company clutching at a distant and declining third-place slice. The latest numbers say the company has indeed lost that spot to Microsoft and its Windows Phone.

That’s not cause for any excitement — these are low, single-digit scraps we’re talking about. Android and Apple have about 80 and 13 per cent of the market, respectively. (As an aside, it’s funny how those numbers are starting to look like the historical division between Windows and Mac computers, huh?)

So what’s the fastest and easiest way for a company to make its anemic market share bigger? It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out the answer: combine it with somebody else’s equally anemic share into something with a little more meat on its bones. Putting BlackBerry and Microsoft’s Windows phones together would amount to almost seven-per-cent share. That’s still small, but it’s almost within striking distance of Apple.

More importantly, Microsoft — through an acquisition — would eliminate its biggest obstacle. In some countries, especially Canada. BlackBerry still enjoys decent success as the de facto third brand that buyers gravitate to because they’re loyal and/or hate Android and Apple. By most accounts, Windows Phone sales are extra anemic to non-existent in these markets as a result.

July 29, 2013

Ten questions with Evernote CEO Phil Libin

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:36

Wired‘s Ryan Tate sat down to talk to Phil Libin of Evernote:

Evernote is known for its eponymous note-taking app, a seemingly modest piece of software that has brought in a heap of money. Evernote has topped 10 million downloads in the iOS and Android app stores and accumulated more than 65 million users across its mobile, web, and desktop versions.

CEO and serial tech entrepreneur Phil Libin used to bristle when people would refer to Evernote as a digital notebook. He sees the product as an extension of the mind, albeit one that’s only about 5 percent complete. These days, though, he’s learned to embrace the pigeonholing. After all, it was humble note-takers who brought Redwood City, California-based Evernote to profitability in 2011 by upgrading en masse to a premium version that includes optical character recognition (handy for pictures of business cards and receipts) and collaborative note editing (great for workgroups).

This year, Evernote is in the red again as the company scales up to reach Libin’s bigger ambition — becoming something like Microsoft Office for mobile devices. Or, as Libin put it in an hourlong interview with WIRED, “like Nike for your mind.”

Evernote’s staff of 330 is divided into teams of no more than eight members — small enough, as Libin sees it, to sit around a dinner table and have a single conversation. No team project can last more than nine months, and none of the teams share any code, which is something close to sacrilege among the software priests of Silicon Valley. One recent sunny Friday, while programmers behind him raced to rewrite the iPhone and iPad versions of Evernote from scratch, we pelted Libin with questions about the past, present, and future of his company.

July 18, 2013

Firefly Online game announcement

Filed under: Gaming, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:59

Firefly Online (FFO) is a multi-user, social online role-playing game that will initially be available for smartphones and tablets, including those based on iOS and Android operating systems.

Check out updates and pre-register at www.keepflying.com

From the official site:

Firefly Online is a social role playing game (RPG) based on Firefly, Joss Whedon’s cult-hit television series. Firefly Online (FFO) is currently in development for iOS and Android, and may expand to include additional platforms.

In Firefly Online, players assume the role of a ship captain as they hire a crew and seek out adventures, all the while trading with and competing against the millions of other players to try to survive in the Verse: find a crew, find a job, keep flying.

FFO provides a variety of gameplay activities and systems so that players can fully experience life in the Verse.

  • Assume the role of a ship captain — create a crew and customize a ship
  • Aim to misbehave in space and planet-side adventures
  • Cross-platform player experience across devices (pick-up and play from anywhere)
  • Unique social features connecting Firefly fans
  • Create a shiny ship and explore the Verse

May 1, 2013

Google Glass may not be evil, but it will enable lots of less-than-ethical activities

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:10

Jason Perlow on the current capabilities of Google Glass and the easy to envision upgrades that will soon be possible:

Because Glass is an Android device, runs an ARM-based Linux kernel, and can run Android user space programs and custom libraries, any savvy developer can create code that modifies the default behavior in such a way that recording can occur with no display activity showing in the eye prism whatsoever.

And while the default video recording is 10 seconds, code could also be written that begins and stops recording for as long as needed with a custom gesture or head movement, or even innocuous custom voice commands like: “Boy, I’m tired” to begin, and “Boy, I need coffee” to end it.

You could write and side load an application that polls the camera and takes a still photo every 30 seconds, should you say … want to “case” and thoroughly photodocument a place of business prior to committing a crime, or even engage in corporate espionage. Or simply capture ambient audio from unsuspecting people around you.

[. . .]

Once you have root on a Glass headset, any number of custom software packages could be installed without Google being able to prevent one from doing things that would make your hair stand on end, such as on-the-fly image and audio processing.

This is the kind of stuff that until now, only major intelligence agencies could do with very expensive surveillance equipment. Just wait until Israeli and Eastern European startups, which are staffed with former intelligence personnel who have a huge wealth of knowledge in using this kind of technology, get a hold of this thing.

March 12, 2013

A stunning technical achievement

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:22

No, not the tablet — the stunning ability to condescend to half of the human race:

The ePad Femme: for women everywhere who have no interests except their own bodies and having babies, which is apparently all of them.

The ePad Femme: for women everywhere who have no interests except their own bodies and having babies, which is apparently all of them.

At long last, a company has designed a tablet fit for the use of an entire gender that has, thus far, apparently gone unserved. The ePad Femme, designed and distributed by the Eurostar Group, is an eight-inch tablet that comes pre-loaded with apps concerning yoga, grocery shopping, and cooking. Thank the heavens, ladies may never trouble their pretty heads with such difficulties as finding and downloading their own apps ever again.

The tablet was first announced back in October but received a marketing push in February as “the perfect Valentine’s Day gift,” noted one site. The tablet runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, or as a woman might call it, “the Android screensaver.” Eurostar calls the ePad Femme “the first tablet specifically for ladies.”

Several sites highlight that the tablet “comes in light pink.” Despite our best efforts, we’ve failed to find an image verifying that the actual body of the tablet is pink, so we assume this is in reference to the home screen wallpaper. Just as well, since what woman is going to figure out how to configure that, am I right? Settings, right? What even are they?

Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Eurostar associate vice president of marketing Mani Nair said that the tablet comes with the preloaded womanly applications so the user can “just turn it on and log in to cooking recipes or yoga.” He went on to state that the ePad Femme “makes a perfect gadget for a woman who might find difficulties in terms of downloading these applications and it is a quick reference.”

February 21, 2013

Reason.tv: How Patent Trolls Kill Innovation

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

“My statement to someone that is the victim of a patent troll lawsuit is that you are completely screwed,” says Austin Meyer, who is himself the target of a so-called “patent troll” lawsuit.

Meyer is a software developer and aviation enthusiast. His two passions intersected in the ’90s when he created a flight simulator called X-Plane, which quickly grew in popularity, outlasting even the once-popular Microsoft Flight Simulator. As many software developers do, Meyer made his application available on mobile devices like the iPhone and Android. And this is where he first ran into trouble.

A company called Uniloc has sued Meyer for patent infringement over a patent called, “System and Method for Preventing Unauthorized Access to Electronic Data.” When a computer runs a paid application, one way that developers can assure that a customer has actually purchased the application is by coding the application to match a license code with an encrypted database. This is a method that most paid applications on the Android market use. It’s a method that Meyer argues has been in use since at least the late ’80s. This is the idea that Uniloc claims to own.

June 6, 2012

Scattering that “social” pixie dust on mobile apps

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:37

In the Guardian Technology section, Frédéric Filloux attempts to disabuse mobile developers about one of the “rules” for mobile apps:

Today’s hype leaves no other option but making an application as “social” as possible. This being the certitude du jour, allow me to think differently.

True, some apps are inherently social: when it comes to rating a product or a service, the “crowd factor” is critical. Beyond that, it should be a matter of personal choice — an antinomic notion to today’s the “Social” diktat. When you sign up to Spotify, the default setting is to share your musical taste with your Facebook friends and to suffer theirs. I can’t stand such obligation: I quickly dumped the application and cancelled my account.

The social idea’s biggest mistake is the belief in a universal and monolithic concept everyone is supposed to be willing to embrace with a similar degree of scope and enthusiasm. That’s a geeky, super-cartesian, Zuckerberg-esque view of society. Among my friends, some like opera (the singing, not the browser), others prefer heavy metal and I’m more into jazz tunes; some are tech-minded like me, others are more inclined towards literature. When it comes to sharing news, I tend to be naturally selective about the people I send a link to: I don’t want to swamp everyone with stuff they don’t care about. I might be wrong, but this is the way I see the social cyberspace: segmented and respectful of each other.

So, mobile app developers, if you find yourself trying to force-fit social features into a Solitaire app, think again.

May 24, 2012

Losing big to (potentially) win small

Filed under: Law, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:50

ESR on what might be the “beginning of the end” for patent warfare:

It’s all over the net today. As I repeatedly predicted, the patent claims in the Oracle-vs.-Java lawsuit over Android have completely fizzled. Oracle’s only shred of hope at this point is that Judge Alsup will rule that APIs can be copyrighted, and given the extent of cluefulness Alsup has displayed (he mentioned in court having done some programming himself) this seems rather unlikely.

Copyright damages, if any, will almost certainly be limited to statutory levels. There is no longer a plausible scenario in which Oracle gets a slice of Android’s profits or an injunction against Android devices shipping.

This makes Oracle’s lawsuit a spectacular failure. The $300,000 they might get for statutory damages is nothing compared to the huge amounts of money they’ve sunk into this trial, and they’re not even likely to get that. In effect, Oracle has burned up millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees to look like a laughingstock.

Of course, even if this is the beginning of the end, there will be lots of lawyers encouraging their clients to go down this route, as even if it’s not successful, it can be a very lucrative journey for the lawyers.

December 1, 2011

iPhone may not be quite as badly exposed by rootkit as Android devices

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:05

Get your tinfoil hats out, boys, your smartphone may be logging your every move:

Blogger and iPhone hacker Chpwn believes that the controversial Carrier IQ software isn’t confined to Android devices.

In this blog post, he says a look at the /usr/bin folder reveals Carrier IQ’s agent software, identified as IQAgent in iOS 3, and either awd_ice2 or awd_ice3 on iOS 4 or iOS 5 devices.

At this point, Chpwn believes the daemon does not have access to the UI layer, which means it may not be able to capture the kind of data exposed in Android devices.

While Chpwn states that he is not certain the software is launched except when the phone is in diagnostic mode, the discovery is certain to add further momentum to the fury mounting at Carrier IQ’s surreptitious installation on consumer devices.

Update: Lifehacker offers the instructions on turning off the Carrier IQ component on your iPhone:

Hacker Chpwn discovered Carrier IQ after this week’s uproar, and while we still aren’t positive what it can track and send, he’s fairly certain it doesn’t include a keylogger like the Android version. So far it can log your phone number, your carrier, your active phone calls, and your location, though it’s unclear as to what it’s actually sending back to Apple. Luckily, there’s an easy way to turn it off. Just head to Settings > General > About > Diagnostics and Usage, and tap “Don’t Send”. That’s it! We’ve also updated our original post on Carrier IQ to include this new information.

Update, the second: Daniel Bader posts that two of the major Canadian mobile operators stated that Carrier IQ is not on the devices they sell:

Rogers has done an investigation and has confirmed that Carrier IQ is not present on any of its devices. On Twitter they stated that “Hi all. I’m happy to confirm that we have investigated and Carrier IQ is NOT on any of our devices”. TELUS also confirmed that they have not installed Carrier IQ on any of their devices. We are waiting to hear back from Bell.

October 18, 2011

The “Long Tail” gets chopped off for App Store customers

Filed under: Economics, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:14

Matt Asay considers the “Long Tail” argument and finds it doesn’t apply for app developers:

Two years ago The Register‘s Andrew Orlowski, writing for the New Statesman, poked crater-sized holes in the notion that “long tail” economics were good for musicians. In 2011, it’s equally clear that the long tail* is bad business for app developers, brands, and, well, everyone. The internet has not diffused the ability to make money; it has concentrated it.

The reason is clear: the more abundant the content or apps, the greater the value of separating wheat from chaff. We simply don’t have the time or patience to scavenge the long tail of production.

This isn’t a new idea. For me, Orlowski’s review of the music industry was dispositive on the issue, along with Nick Carr’s analysis of web traffic. But it bears repeating because of the continued euphoria around app stores and their supposed ability to share the wealth in a growing mobile economy.

If only.

Some of the blame for this diminished opportunity for small app developers has to go to the app store’s organization (or lack thereof). In the Apple App Store, I found it very hard to find what differentiated many apps from all the (sometimes dozens) of similar apps other than the odd spelling of the name and the even odder choices for the app icons. Early gaming of the review and ranking made it even less useful. I’ve had an iPhone for over three years, but it must be at least a year since I downloaded a new app — partly because my aging iPhone 3G is no longer able to run the current iOS — but mostly because it’s such a pain to find things in the App Store.

October 5, 2011

Apple’s new iPhone

Filed under: Europe, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:14

I’ve been following the lead-up to yesterday’s Apple iPhone announcement, as I’m just out of contract on my original iPhone 3G (yes, Canadian carriers only offered 3-year contracts, unlike US carriers who offered 2-year deals). My iPhone 3G still works well: I’m still happy with it overall, but I’m starting to suffer from “aging hardware syndrome”. More and more of the apps I’ve been using are being updated to use the newer capabilities of more recent iPhones and no longer run on my phone. So far, it’s just been trivial stuff (games and non-critical apps) that I miss but didn’t depend on. It’s only a matter of time before one of the applications I depend on (like my time-tracking and billing software or my personal finance app) is no longer supported on the 3G. At that point, I’ll have to either jump to a newer iPhone or find equivalent apps that work on Android phones.

Yesterday’s announcement seems to have caused a lot of wailing in certain iPhone communities — as far as I can tell, mainly because Apple chose to call the new phone the “iPhone 4S” instead of “iPhone 5″. Yes, some people are upset because of nomenclature, even if the updated features are otherwise a nice upgrade over the existing iPhone 4. I’m sure there’s a term in psychology to describe that phenomenon.

Here’s an overview of the new iPhone and its headline software feature, Siri:

Siri really works, and it’s quite clever
I got some time to test it hands-on, in a booth in a fairly busy room of journalists. “What’s the weather like outside?” I asked. It came back with the weather in London (where I was). “What’s my father’s email address?” It came back with two email addresses for the person designated in the address book as “father”. Not what you’d call a comprehensive test, but it shows that it’s location-aware, context-aware, and works without training. (By contrast, I just tried “Siri app” on voice search on my Google Nexus S running Gingerbread: it took me to the web page for Syria.)

Siri is integrated through the whole phone
You press the home button and the interface comes up. Then ask it anything. It’s very neat. It uses Siri’s servers, so you’ll need a working connection.

I don’t know that I’d get much use of the Siri features, but I’m sure it will move a lot of phones for the “coolness” factor.

The iPhone 4S really does look and feel exactly like the iPhone 4
There’s no difference at all, externally. Apparently the iPhone 4S is very slightly heavier — 139g (4.9oz) v 136g (4.8oz) — but you’d need a very sensitive hand to detect it.

This is probably a good move on Apple’s part (aside from the well-publicized complaints about the iPhone 4’s antenna issues), as it keeps all the companies that produced accessories for the iPhone 4 happy — they don’t need to create a whole new line of things for the iPhone 4S. The push for mobile phones to standardize on mini-USB connectors is why Apple will be selling dongles to convert from the current 30-pin connector on the iPhone to mini-USB. Again, it meets the expectations of both regulators and third-party manufacturers. I suspect Apple will be pushed to provide the dongles as standard equipment for European markets.

The camera in the iPhone 4S is now an 8MP (up from 5MP in the last model), and is claimed to be much faster:

Taking pictures on the 4S is much quicker, and taking extra pictures is too
I tried the camera on taking pictures, and the setup is really fast. It takes more pictures quickly too — almost like firing the motordrive on an SLR camera. Apple says it takes 1.1 second to get to the “click” part — faster than any in a list it provided — and that it’s then just 0.5 second to take another one. It’s impressive: camera setup delay is one of the niggles of modern life (especially smartphone life) that has crept up on us without anyone doing very much.

Overall, the 4S looks to be a nice, incremental upgrade over the iPhone 4, but Siri is the most interesting new development.

In other news, however, Apple’s recent resort to “lawfare” against Samsung in Europe may rebound badly:

Apple’s new iPhone 4S faces the prospect of court injunctions in France and Italy from the Korean electronics firm Samsung, which says the phones breach patents it owns on wireless communications.

It is an escalation of the struggle between Samsung and Apple, who are fighting a number of increasingly bitter court battles in various territories around the world. Samsung, which is challenging Apple for the title of the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, says it plans to file preliminary injunctions in Paris and Milan on the basis that the iPhone 4S, announced in California on Tuesday night and expected in a number of countries including the UK from 14 October, infringes its patents on WCDMA technology.

Update: Speaking of Android phones, here’s Alun Taylor with a list of ten smartphone alternatives to the iPhone 4S:

Yes folks, it’s that time again when across the land otherwise rational and even sensible adults feel the need to whip themselves into a frenzy over the pending arrival of the latest iPhone.

To be honest, I find the whole charade rather entertaining and have taken to sauntering over to the Trafford Centre come launch day, grabbing a cup of coffee and a sticky bun, pulling up a chair and making fun of the twerps lined up outside the Apple Store opposite.

Yes, I know it’s wrong, but just like laughing at Daily Mail readers or at anyone who voted Liberal Democrat in the last general election, I simply can’t help it.

With Android devices now outselling iOS phones by two-to-one there are many, many alternatives if you want a good smartphone with access to a shed-load of apps but don’t want to take the Apple shilling.

So here are ten of the best Android-powered alternatives. In case you’re wondering why I’ve avoided any of the recent 3D phones like HTC’s Evo 3D or LG’s Optimus 3D, that would be because it’s a stupid technology bereft of point or purpose.

Remember, if none of these handsets put their hands up your dress, the next few months we will see the arrival of Samsung’s phenomenal 5.3in Galaxy Note; Sony Ericsson’s 1.4GHz powerhouse the Xperia S; Google’s Android 4.0-packing Nexus Prime; and LG’s LU6200 with its 4.5in, 1280 x 720 IPS screen. Choice — by gum, it’s a wonderful thing.

Update, the second: Joey deVilla explains the prospective iPhone 4S customer dilemma:

August 25, 2011

ESR: what now for Apple in the wake of Jobs’ resignation?

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:58

Eric S. Raymond looks at the hard road ahead for Apple without Steve Jobs:

I’ve said before that I think Apple looks just like sustaining incumbents often do just before they undergo catastrophic disruption from below and their market share falls off a cliff. Google’s entire game plan has been aimed squarely at producing disruption from below, and with market share at 40% or above and Android’s brand looking extremely strong it is undeniable that they have executed on that plan extremely well. The near-term threat of an Apple market-share collapse to the 10% range or even lower is, in my judgment, quite significant — and comScore’s latest figures whisper that we may have reached a tipping point this month.

For Apple, the history of technology disruptions from below tells us that there is only one recovery path from this situation. Before the Android army cannibalizes Apple’s business, Apple must cannibalize its own business with a low-cost iPhone that can get down in the muck and compete with cheap Android phones on price. Likewise in tablets, though Apple might have six months’ more grace there.

Of course, this choice would mean that Apple has to take a massive hit to its margins. Which is the perennial problem in heading off a disruption from below before it happens; it is brutally difficult to convince your investors and your own executives that the record quarterlies won’t just keep coming, especially when your own marketing has been so persuasive about the specialness of the company and its leading position in the industry. This is a failure mode that, as Clayton Christensen has documented, routinely crashes large and well-run companies at the apparent peak of their success.

Does Tim Cook have the vision and the will to make this difficult transition happen? Nobody knows. But the odds are against it.

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