iPhone TouchID

 I did indeed upgrade from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5s. I think there is definitely enough awesomeness in the new hardware to make it a worthwhile upgrade. This is not an iPhone 5s review however so I will leave it at that. Not to mention, it will still be a little while before software catches up with the hardware leap. We won’t see the full potential of the iPhone 5s for at least 3-6 months.

What I do want to chat about quickly is a new hardware / software feature that I am really liking for several reasons, TouchID. TouchID being the fingerprint scanner hardware built into the iPhone’s home button that allows you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone rather than using a passcode. There are tons of reviews and comments regarding this feature and I am going to go through 3 topics.

1) “TouchID was Hacked”: Within the first week of release there were claims of TouchID having been hacked. This is the natural progression of technology. Something new comes out, the first steps are to find ways around it. I am fully on board with this, and I encourage this! The problem I have with this particular instance is calling it a hack. In a broad sense, yes it is a hack. But the headlines all read like the technology is broken and somehow has a hole in it. All of the techniques to bypass TouchID so far are spoofs more than hacks. They make an really good copy of the fingerprint and use that to access the phone. The process is not trivial and for the majority of users this is not a problem as I see it. With the amount of work it takes to make the copy, it would be easier to follow the person around and watch them enter their cheesy 4 digit passcode and then just use that.

2) “Passcodes are inconvenient”: Whether most people want to admit it or not, our phones have our lives on them. One way or another there are vectors into deep parts of your life through your phone, whether you realize it or not. The scary realization I have come to over the last 3+ years is a lot of people use lame passcodes (0000) or even worse don’t use one at all! How secure is that!? If something like TouchID can get these people to actually set a passcode but not be “bothered” with entering it, that is a huge win. If it takes all the hassle of recreating a fingerprint to get into someone’s phone over simple opening it because there is no passcode, that raises their security bar immensely!

3) “More secure?”: It is way too early to call TouchID either “more secure” or “less secure”. The fact is, if you need more secure, you will use nothing less than a 42 character alphanumeric passcode with the phone is set to autolock immediately. In reality, most people don’t need this and will never do that. That being said, TouchID does allow for somewhat of a middle ground perhaps. You can set a long alphanumeric passcode and then use your fingerprint as a type of shortcut. There are still some precautions that have been taken to help with attacks on TouchID. If the wrong fingerprint is tried 5 times, the phone will only be unlockable using that strong alphanumeric passcode. This is also true if the phone is restarted or not opened with a finger within a 2 day period.

Until TouchID is legitimately bypassed and proved to be faulty, I am definitely going to be on the side of proponents. It is a cool and useful feature that makes using the device a little more enjoyable. After all, shouldn’t the point of these devices be to better our lives by working with us rather than against us?

I bet you won’t cancel your Netflix.

The Netflix backlash today is insane! I am still baffled as to what people are so upset about.

The simple version:

You used to pay $9.99 for DVDs by mail.

Then, Netflix decided to add a feature to their service: streaming video. This service was absolutely free to paying customers. I have to believe this was because the streaming portion of their service was in a form of “beta” and not charge worthy at the time.

Fast forward to today; They changed their pricing model to the following..
$7.99 for DVDs by mail ONLY.
$7.99 for streaming video ONLY.
$15.98 for DVDs by mail AND streaming video.

Really, what people are complaining about is a $2.00 DECREASE in their bill for their same original service they signed up for (DVDs by mail).

I admit, they may have not labeled the streaming service correctly from the get go and caused this unnecessary backlash, but come on guys, it’s not as if you are now forced to pay Netflix $16 a month. You can get your same old DVDs only, or streaming only, or even cancel entirely if you are so outraged.

Fact is, things cost money. If anything, the streaming is probably more costly to Netflix than the DVDs by mail.

Lasty, everyone keeps throwing around this “60% increase”. Yes, it may be a 60% increase, but of $9.99.. The only reason everyone is so outraged at the “60% increase” is because a “$5.99” increase doesn’t sound like a giant outrageous number.

Please let me know what I am missing (if anything).

What I want Eye-Fi to make next!

I have been shooting with Eye-Fi cards pretty much since they were invented. Even after years of daily use, I still find myself being wowed by their magic. I recently got a new toy, an iPad, which I bought largely for use as a photography tool. The iPad has a camera connection kit you can purchase for around $30 that lets you either plug in your camera via USB or plug the SD card into the iPad to import photos. Now, if you use an Eye-Fi card, steps like this have all but been forgotten since you never have to do this with your computer. Long story short, here is what I want to see from Eye-Fi next!

A small dongle (colored orange of course), about the size of Apple’s camera connection kit device, with a dock connector on the top. This device would serve as an ad-hoc connection to your Eye-Fi card allowing you to take photos and have them pop up on your iPad without the need of a WiFi network. There would be a software component as well that would serve as a large preview for the shots in real time, perhaps basic editing, and means of uploading or exporting to other apps.

I would see this device being both a stand alone purchase for users who already have Eye-Fi cards, or bundled with a card and available right at the Apple store.

(Yes, this could work with the iPhone as well)

(@alcedine helped me (did most of the work) with this little mockup!) 🙂

Do I need Facebook?

Short answer: No

Long Answer: No, I don’t.

By now you have all heard of Facebook. You may use, love, adore, hate, or want to stab it. Either way, the point is, you have heard of it. I never really saw a use case for it that fit anything I wanted to do online so I never signed up for an account. This changed about a month ago when I decided I would give it a shot and see what all the craze was about. I got a lot of pressure from friends on Facebook, saying I “needed to be on it!” Apparently all of the MANY other ways I exploit myself online were not enough. I signed up and was quickly reminded of why I had not signed up for this in the past. The interface alone is enough to make you throw up. The layout is hideously cluttered with everything you don’t want to see or care about. I am no “design expert” but come on already with the horrible ad selection and lack of page layout preferences.

Over the past few weeks it has been hard to read any news without seeing something concerning Facebook security and privacy issues. This may be due to Facebook mis-coding a lot lately, or more than likely, people are finally becoming aware of exactly what is going on with Facebook. I believe the majority of users were blindly using the service assuming the privacy settings they were using were adequate. They really had no reason not to think Facebook was doing things that were in the user’s best interest. That combined with the fact that I think people tend to turn a blind eye when it comes to something they really like.

Facebook, to me, seems to be trying to become the AOL of 1996. They seem to want you to come into Facebook’s world, and once there, never leave. Ever. If what you want is not something tied into Facebook, you don’t really need it. A walled garden, yes. But depending on the type of walls and what the “graden” looks like, that can also be described as a prison. Anytime someone is trying to lock down any part of the web, there is cause for concern.

The fact that Facebook did not seem to solve any problem I had, combined with the fact that they seemed to be doing all they could to give out everyone’s data which the users thought was private, I decided to just get rid of the account before I got burned. I went ahead and went to my account preferences and chose to close my account, or “deactivate” as they called it.

Deactivating turned out to not be the same as deleting. It would seem as though Facebook would like to trick you into thinking you have removed your account when, in fact, you have not. When you “deactivate” your account, all that has been accomplished is that your profile is no longer visible. You are still a user and linked to everything you were linked to before. This is very annoying, and if you want to actually remove your account from their system you have to follow another path. By going to http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?showform=deleteaccount and filling out the necessary info, including captchas, just in case nasty robots try to delete your account! sarcasm

I am by no means saying you should absolutely go delete your account right now. If you find Facebook useful, then keep it. Just be aware that what you think is private online, most likely is not. If you don’t want anyone to see it or know about it, don’t put it online. Have you seen the t-shirt that says “I Read Your Email.”? Ya, that isn’t really a joke. Be careful out there.

The SquareSpace Effect

I listen to a ton of podcasts, watch a lot of video podcasts, and have moved all of my TV watching to online services like Hulu. Overall the experience over mainstream television and radio is so good it can’t be measured! Better quality content, and the choice to watch only shows that I want instead of having to weed through the massive amount of garbage that is on mainstream media. With the lack of intelligence and an over abundance of worthless advertisements, mainstream media is dead to me. Podcasts and Hulu have ads, so what’s the difference? There are a couple of differences: podcasts and the like generally have fewer ads that are more targeted toward the show you are watching, making for a more effective ad. These ads are also generally slipped into context of the shows. Hulu has more traditional ads but fewer per show and generally will have ads that are genuine in their intent.

Everything sounds pretty good, so what’s the problem? The problem is what I am calling “The SquareSpace Effect”. It’s unfortunate that they were the ones that had to take the blame for this, but they were the first ones that made me realize the problem. The problem is frankly over advertising. To the point of turning would be customers into anti-product maniacs. Over the 15-20 audio and video podcasts that I subscribe, a company like SquareSpace is on 90% of them with the same exact ad every week. I understand you need to get your companies name out there, but when you are targeting something that is an RSS feed where you are pretty sure you have a majority of repeat customers, you maybe can cut back some. Also a lot of the podcasts I listen to are on the same network, and it’s pretty likely that listeners subscribe to many podcasts on the same network due to similar content. This could be a problem that only effects the technology genre of this new media, but that is my focus.

The second case of this comes from Hulu. They have a similar problem. They seem to have a very small library of commercials to splice into the shows. This means that during an hour of viewing Hulu TV shows, I am pretty much guaranteed to see the same commercials every time. There have been more instances than I can count where the same exact commercial has played 4-5 times in a row during my viewing. A specific example I can remember was the ad for the movie 500 Days of Summer. After seeing the commercial the first time I thought it looked like a movie I would wan to go see. After seeing the same commercial for the 6th consecutive viewing I hated the movie and wanted nothing to do with it.

There needs to be a compromise here! I find the advertising to be VERY successful on this “new media” but I feel like they might be beating and kicking the poor dead horse. I have purchased several products due to ads on these new media networks, but they have to be careful of over advertising and killing the brand.