A recent study by Nielsen (as reported by Mashable) found that American adults spend about 11 hours a day consuming electronic media. This comes four years after a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation got a lot of national attention when it reported that kids “8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day or 10:45 when you account for multi-tasking.
Adult spending even more time
It turns out that in the last quarter of 2013, American adults were spending even more time using electronic media than the kids were in 2010 (there are no updates to that Kaiser kids study).
Radio and TV still popular
A chart, created by Statistica, breaks it down by media type. Some may be surprised to find that TV (5 hours and 4 minutes) tops the chart, followed by radio at 2 hours and 46 minutes. Smartphone use is now ahead of PC use.
You will find more statistics at Statista
This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News
Thanks in part to whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the former contractor with the National Security Agency, there’s increased interest in a new crop of services, apps and phones designed to protect our personal data from prying eyes, including those of government agencies.
FreedomPop’s new Privacy Phone has actually been nicknamed the “Snowden phone,” according to CNet News. The phone is a Samsung Galaxy S2 outfitted with 128-bit encryption that scrambles your voice calls and text messages. That level of encryption, according to the company, is the same as used by banks and government agencies to protect their data.
In addition to protecting your communications, the phone enables anonymous Internet browsing, prevents marketers from tracking your browsing, bypasses any restrictions on sites you can visit and, according to the company, “Defends against data monitoring and eavesdropping from 3rd parties.”
And you can even buy the phone secretly using Bitcoin — the alterative “currency” that’s not issued by any government or transferred through banks.
The phone costs $189 and comes with three months of free unlimited voice and text, and 500 MB of data. After that, the cost is $10 a month, which is a great price for any cellphone.
Another, albeit more expensive, option is Blackphone from Silent Circle. The company is led by Phil Zimmerman, who is the creator of Pretty Good Privacy, the most widely used email encryption software. During the 1990s, Zimmerman was investigated for allegedly violating the Arms Export Control Act because of U.S. government concerns that his software made it too easy for our enemies to hide their tracks. But that software also made it possible for citizens around the world to secure their data from prying eyes, including corporate spies and oppressive governments.
The Blackphone, which costs $629, plus the cost of service, consists of an unlocked smartphone with a 4.7-inch display. The operating system, called PrivateOS is actually an enhanced version of Android with lots of extra security features, including anonymous search, “smart disabling” of Wi-Fi except for trusted hotspots, “fine grain control” over app permissions and encrypted calls, text messaging and video chat.
Boeing’s tamper-proof phone
While FreedomPop and Silent Circle use software and encrypted services to protect user privacy, Boeing — the giant aircraft maker — is offering a mobile phone that also has hardware protection. Aimed at government agencies and contractors, the Boeing Black smartphone is also based on Android and, in addition to software protections, is tamper proof to avoid the possibility of someone getting inside to plant a tracking or listening device or to cipher data from the phone’s memory. The phone, according to Reuters, is slightly larger than an iPhone and uses dual SIM cards. It also supports satellite communications and, most important, will self-destruct if anyone tries to tamper with it.
Pricing hasn’t been announced, but this is not a phone for everyone. Ironically, the very agencies that a lot of people want to hide from — like the NSA — are likely to be among its customers, along with military personnel and others who deal with highly classified information. Had this phone been around when he took office, President Barack Obama might have been a potential customer. He was famously wedded to his BlackBerry when he ran for office in 2008 and since becoming president has been using a secure smartphone.
Who might want one?
You don’t have to be a criminal or worried about the NSA to be in the market for phones like these. On its website, Blackphone is billed as a device for those who want to make their own choices “and regain the ability to keep your life private.” Privacy is a right even for people who have nothing to hide and, while probably relatively small, there is a market for people who are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect their privacy.
There is also an international market for these devices, especially now that it’s known that our government has spied on cellphone communications of foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Can privacy become mainstream?
To me, the big question is whether privacy can ever become mainstream. And by privacy I don’t just mean protection from the NSA, criminals or corporate spies, but protection from tracking, targeted ads and profilers who make it their business to know as much as possible about our business so they cannot only sell things to us but sell us (or our identities) to marketing companies.
Some of the very companies that are loudly protesting NSA’s access to users’ personal information are themselves profiting by rifling through and warehousing that very same information. True, companies like Google and Facebook don’t have the power to deny our freedom or force us to testify as do governments, but they do have the ability to sell our information to the highest bidder or use it to bombard us with highly personal advertising. It’s time for industry, government and — most important — an enlightened citizenry to reign in some of that “big data” that’s being collected about all of us to make sure that we, not big institutions with .gov or .com after their names, are in control of our own information.
I’m really good finding digital things. Ask me to find an article I wrote 20 years ago and I can locate it within seconds either on my PC or online. But I can’t say the same when it comes to physical objects like my keys and wallet.
I can sometimes find my cell phone just by calling it if it’s in silent mode. But there’s an app for that. Apple’s Find My Phone service makes it easy to find any iOS device as long as it’s turned on and has a working battery – even if it’s on silent. And the same is true for Android devices thanks to Google’s Android Device Manager that can locate and ring your phone regardless of whether the ringer is turned on – again as long as it’s turned on and working.
And now there are solutions for keys, wallets and other physical objects.
Kensington offers its Proximo key fob that uses low power Bluetooth to locate and ring the little keychain accessory by running an app on our smartphone. Proximo works with Apple and Samsung smartphones but a competing product called Trackr by Phone Halo works with Samsung phones and Android devices 4.3 devices as well as recent model iPhones and iPads.
And, in addition to a keychain fob, the Trackr has an optional wallet tracker.
I’ll get to the not-so-great “out of the box” experience in a moment but once you have the Trackr set-up, it’s really easy to use. You download the app and use it to pair up to 10 devices and you can use the app to locate the device, figure out how far it is from you and ring it. It’s not the loudest ring in the world but unless your keys or wallet are under a couch cushion (which is sometimes the case at my house) you should be able to locate it.
If it’s not at home, all is not lost. The app can try to display the location of the key fob or wallet Trackr on a map, regardless of where it is.
Phone Halo also said that the device supports “crowd GPS” which enables others with the app to help you find your device in case it’s closer to them.
As I mentioned, the “out of box” experience was less than satisfactory. It’s not the first tech device I’ve used that has amazing technology but really bad industrial design. The Fitbit Force – for example — is a great exercise watch with a horrific band, which is ironic because people have been making good watch bands for centuries. That can’t be all that hard to get right.
And it’s not as if we need geniuses to figure out how to make it easy open packages or build devices that make it easy to insert batteries.
My frustration with the Trackr started when I tried to open the rigid plastic package. My “wrap rage” went through the ceiling as I had to use scissors to cut through not one but two plastic packages to get to the wallet device.
Next came the frustration of inserting the two batteries into the device. There is a little shelf that pulls out and after several tries, I finally figured out that it you leave it in part way and slip in the batteries, it’s actually possible to close it without the batteries popping out. A little bit of documentation on that trick would have been nice.
My main frustration came when I tried to close the round key fob. I spent nearly a half hour without any luck until I called their PR person who sent me a link to a YouTube video that demonstrated how you can use the palms of your hand to twist it shut. That was about as far from intuitive as I’ve ever seen. And I still haven’t figured out how to attach the little string that enables you to hook it up to your keychain though I’m told there’s a video for that too.
A company spokesperson told me that I’m not the only one with these complaints and that they’re re-engineering them to be easier to set up.
Watching the online stream of a news conference last week from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona brought to mind an old cliché: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
In this case it applies to Nokia, the once-mighty cellphone maker that soon will be part of Microsoft. Nokia just announced an Android phone.
Although Microsoft hasn’t yet taken the reigns of Nokia, it is expected to do so within months, so it’s highly unlikely that Nokia executives made this announcement without consulting their soon-to-be overlords.
And even if Nokia weren’t about to be a division of Microsoft, it would still be an extraordinary announcement because Nokia is the only major smartphone maker to have jumped on the Windows phone bandwagon in a big way. All of its recent smartphones, including its very well reviewed Lumia 1020 were running Microsoft’s Windows phone operating system long before the two companies announced they were getting married.
The initial line of Nokia Android phones — the Nokia X, X+ and XL — will be low-end devices aimed mostly at “emerging markets,” which is an industry euphemism for developing countries. Prices start at $122 without a carrier subsidy (the prices many Americans pay for phones are subsidized by carriers in exchange for being locked into a contract).
Like Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, which are also based on the Android operating system, the Nokia phones user interface won’t look like Android and users won’t download Android apps from the Google Play store, as do users of Android phones from LG, Sony, HTC and most other Android handset makers. Instead, Nokia is basing its new phones on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which enables it to use the core Android operating system without necessarily using the Google-inspired interface or accessing Google services such as the app store or the typically bundled Google apps and features such as Gmail, Google Maps, Google search or Google storage options.
The new phones will run what Nokia is calling the “New Nokia X software platform,” which is basically its own user interface running on top of Android combined with its own app store.
Nokia has already issued a news release that “welcomes Android developers.” It claims that “the vast majority of Android apps can be published to the Nokia Store as is.” For those that can’t, the company will offer tools to make the transition easier.
From Microsoft’s standpoint, what’s most important is the applications and services that run on the phones, not who wrote the underlying code. As he introduced the new phones from Barcelona, Nokia’s former CEO and soon-to-be Microsoft Xbox chief, Stephen Elop, made it very clear these phones will be “introducing new customers around the world to popular Microsoft services like Skype. Microsoft OneDrive, Outlook.com and more to come.”
This could be a brilliant move. Even though Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system has been well received in certain markets, its third quarter 2013 global market share is only 4 percent, putting it in next to last place, just ahead of BlackBerry, whose share has shrunk to 2 percent. That compares to an 82-percent share for Android and a 12 percent share for Apple’s iOS, according to Gartner as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
This move fits in with Microsoft’s strategy to evolve into a “devices and services company,” as articulated by its recently retired CEO, Steve Ballmer. The company has made the bulk of its money selling software to corporations and end-users, and operating system licenses to PC makers. But with a shrinking PC market and a change in the software landscape, Microsoft is looking to “primarily monetize our high-value activities by leading with devices and enterprise services,” as Ballmer wrote in his final letter to shareholders.
Microsoft isn’t exactly copying its competitors, Apple and Google, but it is learning from them. Apple, for the most part, gives away its software and makes its money from devices. Even though the press likes to marvel at the latest hardware specs when Apple comes up with a new iPhone, iPad or Macintosh, the real value in these devices isn’t the hardware — lots of companies can build good hardware — but the software that you can get only by buying their hardware. And even though Google makes some hardware, the bulk of its revenue is the advertising revenue it earns from services that are accessible through the hardware that runs its operating systems, applications and services. Google makes money when people use their services on any phone, tablet or PC, but they do even better when people use Android or Chromebooks because the services are more tightly integrated into those devices.
Right now, these Android-based Nokia phones are aimed at the developing world, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they become part of Microsoft’s mainstream strategy as the 39-year-old company adapts itself to the new world of devices and services.
When it comes to understanding how teens use social media, there’s no-one more clued-in than Danah Boyd, except perhaps teens themselves. An ethnographer with a Ph.D in Information from the University of California, Berkeley, she has spent the last eight years speaking with and observing teens from all walks of life.
Read more at CNET News.com
TiVo founders Mike Ramsay and Jim Barton revolutionized the way we watch TV by letting us pause and rewind live TV or watch it later without having to mess with a VCR. Tivo-like devices are common today but now Ramsay and Barton have set their sites on Internet TV with a new iPad app called Qplay along with an accessory that lets you watch Internet programs on a high definition TV set.
There is nothing new about watching net programs on a TV. Roku has been at it for years and you can also do it with most game consoles, Google Chromecast, some Bluray players, newer Tivo boxes and directly on some TV sets. But what sets Qplay about is the ability to create a queue of programs from a variety of sources using a single app.
The app runs on the iPad (the company will eventually port it to other devices) and allows you to find videos to watch either on the iPad or on your TV using a $49 adapter. Like Google Chrome, once you start watching, the app doesn’t have to be running because the adapter is connected to QPlay’s servers through your Wi-Fi network.
The initial content for Qplay’s early release program is mostly publicly available content like YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Vimeo, Twitter and other public sources. In the future, said Ramsay “we intend to support additional content that would include premium content that requires a subscription.” He said that the system is architected so to that the “queue themselves are content independent”
The multiple app problem
The app addresses a problem that’s been plaguing me ever since apps started appearing on phones and tablets. I remember that bad old days when you needed a different piece of software for each online service you used. If you wanted to access CompuServe, you ran the CompuServe program. The same was true for AOL, Prodigy, The Source and all the other online services. But then in the mid-90′s, along came the commercial Internet and browsers so we no longer needed multiple programs for multiple content sources. But the app world is a giant step backwards because each service requires us to download its own app. Qplay doesn’t entirely solve that problem but it does mitigate it as far as video is concerned, especially once company starts adding premium services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.
In an interview, Qplay co-founder and CEO Mike Ramsay said “We used to complain in the Tivo days that there were 500 channels and nothing to watch. On the Internet instead of 500 channels instead of 500 apps.”
There’s an old expression, “I’ve met the enemy and he is us.” When it comes to cyber-security, “us” may just stand for “U.S.”
I’ve attended the RSA security conference for many years years and am accustomed to security professionals talking about the dangers from criminal hackers and hostile foreign governments. But this year there is a new Public Hacker #1, and its the U.S. Government.
The RSA conference is going on this week at Moscone Center in San Francisco.
I attended all but one of the keynotes Tuesday morning and every speaker I heard commented about the NSA’s role in reducing trust when it comes to the security of our digital communications.
Nawaf Bitar, Senior Vice President of Juniper Networks and head of its security unit, said that we should be outraged. He pointed to examples of real expressions of outrage like Nelson Mandela’s refusal to accept government conditions as the price for being released from prison or the anonymous man who put himself in front of Chinese military tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. In contrast, he referred to most of our objections to what our own government is doing with our information as #FirstWorldOutrage,” saying it’s not enough to sign a digital petition or “like” a page from someone who objects to what the NSA is doing.
“We now know with stunning clarity how our privacy is being invaded, he told the thousands in the audience. “We’re complicit. Standing by and watching a crime being committed without stopping that crimes can be a crime.”
Bitar’s keynote was followed by a panel of some of the world’s leading cryptologists – the people who create the algorithms designed to protect our information.
Cryptologists vs. government hackers
Whitfield Diffie, one of the fathers of public-key encryption, said it was “disturbing that the NSA would tamper with NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) security guidance for the U.S. government. “Despite my conflicts with them (the NSA), I believed that they were 100% interested in security of American communications.”
Another panelist, Adi Shamir, Professor, Computer Science and Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel suggested that only a “very small percentage of the world population” cares about privacy but that he is worried about “my data being kept by the NSA” as well as “the phone company, Gmail and all the other could services which make life convenient.”
Former top spooks on spooking
In another session, “Understanding NSA Surveillance: The Washington View,” panelists Richard Clark, who advised President Bush, Clinton and Obama as Special Advisor to the President for Cyberspace and National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism, was critical of the NSA’s lack of transparency. Speaking about the 215 program that collects cell phone metadata, he said “When you don’t have transparency, their claims about (surveillance) being useful and stopping terrorism were BS (he spelled it out). He also questioned whether the program did any good, “If it hadn’t been there, the results would have been the same,” he said.
Another panelist, former NSA and CIA director General Michael Hayden defended the 215 program. He said it was just like a “program that began under me, and we found it sometimes to be useful, sometimes for negative knowledge.” By negative knowledge he meant confirming that Americans may not be involved in an attack or a plot. It was asked “if there was North Americans nexus” in the Benghazi embassy attacks, he said and “they did not show up in a database which makes it easier for the President to confine his response to the Middle East.”
Clark questioned that logic. “I would never have said that I proved there is no threat if I sampled only 25% of the data. He earlier said 75% of U.S. phones are not monitored. Clark was one of five people on The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which issued its report in December.
Edward Snowden may be in exile in Russia, but his presence is being felt among the security professionals gathered in San Francisco.
by Larry Magid
This post is adapted from one that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News
The fact that the Internet has disrupted age-old businesses has become an old story. Just ask anyone in the record industry what happened to their profits now that there are legal and illegal ways for people to access just about any recording for free online. The Internet has also done a number on the newspaper industry and is starting to impact TV networks as well. It’s also put a lot travel agents out of business and — thanks to Airbnb, it’s even starting to have a small impact on the hotel business.
And, over the past couple of years, the Net and mobile technology is having an increasing impact on taxi and limousine services. Mobile phone apps like Uber and Lyft allow consumers to find a ride by using their fingers to touch their smartphone rather than lift their hand to hail a cab on the street or dial the company.
The apps take advantage of geolocation services (GPS and other technologies) to know where you are and where the drivers are. Based on proximity, the app tells you approximately how long it will take for the driver to reach you, and it handles calculating the fare and paying the bill and tip. You never have to shell out cash or swipe a credit card. That may not seem like a big deal, but having to take out your wallet, peel out bills and wonder if you’re getting the correct change can be a minor annoyance as you’re leaving a cab.
Also, because you’re using your cell phone and a registered debit or credit card, the driver knows who you are and vice versa, which makes it safer for both of you. And you have an electronic receipt, which would also make it easier to recover any items you might leave in the car.
A new player called Sidecar has just entered the field. The service, which currently operates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Austin, Texas, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., allows drivers to set their own prices and pitch customers with such things as what kind of car they drive or how well they know the area. Clearly there are well-heeled investors who believe in this concept. The company just raised a $10 million round of capitol from Union Square Ventures.
Needless to say, services like these are not popular among traditional taxi services. In many cities, taxi companies pay a lot of money for their “medallion,” which amounts to a license to operate a single cab. According to The New York Times, a taxi company paid $2.5 million at auction last fall for two medallions. It will take a lot of fares to pay that back, and that doesn’t cover the cost of buying and operating the vehicles.
The industry has been taking its complaints to taxi commissions and other regulators in city after city. The Detroit Free Press quoted a representative of a local taxi company claiming that “Uber drivers skirt rules that require vehicle inspections and registration and also sometimes charge beyond regulated rates.” Others claimed that Uber and Lyft drivers have failed to get proper licenses to offer rides for hire.
Uber is being sued by the family of a 6-year old girl who died in San Francisco after being struck by an Uber driver on New Year’s Eve. The driver was operating his personal car and didn’t have a passenger on board at the time of the accident. But the suit alleges he was logged into the company’s UberX app, which means he was available to pick up a fare. If this had been a Yellow Cab, I don’t think there would be any question as to whether the company could be held responsible for the accident. Uber carries insurance to cover injuries to passengers, but the person killed wasn’t a passenger and it’s debatable whether the driver was working for Uber at the time of the accident or just someone driving his personal car who happened to be logged into the Uber app.
While it’s hard to imagine how a taxi company might benefit from services like these, drivers can because it gives them another work option. There are plenty of cases of taxi or limo drivers switching over to Uber or Lyft because of more flexible work hours and — potentially — better pay.
I’m generally a big fan of disruptive technology because it creates more options for consumers and forces the industry being disrupted to either innovate or evolve. But I make exceptions when government is involved, such as with taxation or licensing. For example, I love Amazon.com, but I didn’t think it was fair when Amazon didn’t have to charge sales tax while local merchants did. Now that Amazon is collecting sales tax in California and several other states, it’s a more even playing field.
And while I love the idea that innovative apps allow us to find nearby drivers and “hail a cab” with a few clicks, I don’t think it’s right that the legacy part of the industry has to put up with regulations, taxes and licensing fees that its newer and perhaps hipper and more tech-savvy competitors get to avoid.
Google’s high-speed fiber network is already available in Kansas City and Provo, Utah and will be coming to Austin later this year. But the company is now in talks with an additional 34 cities to bring its 1 gigabit per second service to their communities. For more, visit this Google information page.
List of proposed cities
- Avondale Estates
- College Park
- East Point
- Sandy Springs
Salt Lake City, UT
San Antonio, TX
- Lake Oswego
- Chapel Hill
San Jose, CA
- Santa Clara
- Mountain View
- Palo Alto
- Mission Hills
- Roeland Park
- Prairie Village
- Lee’s Summit
- Westwood Hills
- Mission Woods