March 12, 2019

Link: Matt Birchler’s Technical North Star ☍

Matt Birchler:

I’m using the Galaxy S10e more and more, and my current challenge is finding a way to talk about this device in a way that does not preach to the choir. This should not be hard, but it turns out to be a little more complicated than that.

The whole podcast episode is short, but really resonated with me. While most of my technology interests align with Apple and have for some time, I still get enjoyment from seeing what other exciting and new things someone else is doing.

Link: Elizabeth Warren Wants to Break Up Apple, Too ☍

Nilay Patel for The Verge:

Sen.Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed breaking up Amazon, Google, and Facebook yesterday in a post published on Medium. Her plan, which comes as the Democratic presidential primary contest continues to heat up, would classify any company that runs a marketplace and makes more than $25 billion a year in revenue as a “platform utility” and prohibit those companies from using those platforms from selling their own products.

Under Warren’s plan, Amazon would not be able to sell Amazon Basics products on the Amazon retail store, Google would not be able to promote its own products in Google search, and Facebook would have to split apart from Instagram and WhatsApp.[…]

I spoke to Sen. Warren after she appeared onstage at SXSW in Austin, Texas, today, and she told me explicitly that she thinks Apple should be broken apart, too — specifically, that it should not get to both run the App Store and distribute apps in it. “It’s got to be one or the other,” she said. “Either they run the platform or they play in the store. They don’t get to do both at the same time.”

While I am all for holding technology companies accountable and preventing antitrust behavior, this seems to be too much of an extreme case. How would Apple offering apps in the App Store be any different than Target offering its Up & Up or Market Pantry products in their stores? For Apple’s own apps, there are numerous alternatives available, sometimes even created by other big players (who probably haven’t cried foul yet because they see themselves an alternative if you want more). Besides that, a large, successful company isn’t a bad thing, but things become bad when the power is abused and there is no competition. Plus, in most areas, Apple has plenty of real competition.

March 1, 2019

Link: Creeping on You in the Cold Drinks Aisle ☍

Paul Kafasis:

A new digital door technology from a company called Cooler Screens is now being tested in Walgreens, and it sounds absolutely awful. Rather than a basic, transparent glass door, coolers and freezers will be sealed by screens that show a sanitized image of the products behind them. […]

However, further reading ultimately makes those benefits sound like nothing so much as an after-the-fact justification for the real motives behind this technology:

Flashing banner ads float between the digital rows of goods…in addition to the flashy ads and “smart” merchandising, these screens are equipped with sensors and cameras designed to watch and profile the appearance and actions of customers who find themselves in their path, like me. Approximate age and gender. How long my gaze lingers on the bottles of tea.

This sounds like the dystopian tech future we’ve been promised all along. I really hope the retailers I visit don’t even consider this creepiness.

Link: Comcast Used ‘0000’ as Default PIN for Xfinity Mobile Customers, Leading to Number Hijacking ☍

Geoffrey A. Fowler for The Washington Post:

“This is a security hole large enough to drive a truck through,” reader Larry Whitted in Lodi, Calif., wrote last week.

As a customer of Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile phone service, Whitted says someone was able to hijack his phone number, port it to a new account on another network and commit identity fraud. The fraudster loaded Samsung Pay onto the new phone with Whitted’s credit card — and went to the Apple Store in Atlanta and bought a computer, he said.

The core of the problem: Comcast doesn’t protect its mobile accounts with a unique PIN. (Comcast’s help site for switching carriers suggests this is to make things easier: “We don’t require you to create an account PIN, so you don’t need to provide that information to your new carrier.”) The default it uses instead is…0000.

Closely guarding your telephone account is becoming increasingly important for security. All kinds of online and financial services use text messages and calls to a phone number to verify identity, or as a second factor in addition to passwords. Other Xfinity Mobile customers have also reported having their numbers hijacked.

Yikes.

February 26, 2019

“By some chance of early web — which felt impossibly small and connected — my blog became a pretty chill little community and a gateway to the WWW for a bunch of nice folks who showed up to see what I’d found out in the wastelands everyday.”