A few weeks ago, I lost my phone at the Renaissance Festival. This was a colossal inconvenience for a number of reasons, which I will detail below. Since this was my work phone, I my first order of business was to report it to the company InfoSec team. I wasn’t too worried about my work stuff because it takes a separate PIN to access, once you get past the lock screen. Also, I don’t use an app on my phone for remote access to the company network, so that isn’t a danger either.
What really worried me was all of my two-factor authentication tools for GMail, Facebook and Twitter were pointed at that phone. So first, I had to set about redirecting all of those tools from my work phone to my burner. Then, I had to revoke any application permissions or sessions in Google and Facebook that might be open. I also disabled call forwarding to that phone in Google Voice. Now that the missing phone was pretty much banned from my digital life, I had to go about living without a smartphone until I could arrange to get a replacement through work.
In the 3-4 weeks I was without a smartphone I realized a few things:
Calls and texts to my burner run me around $0.10 each. That’s an acceptable cost for calls on the go, but not for the bulk of my calling. I have a VOIP phone that serves as my home phone, and a desk phone at work, so I can make outgoing calls with my Google Voice number, but receiving calls is a little problematic for a couple of reasons:
My work phone picks up after like 3 rings, and it rolls over to my work voice mail, so having GV ring my desk when I’m not there means my work voice mail will pick up before Google’s does. Also, my work environment is pretty quiet, so sitting at my desk and talking on the phone is pretty rude, so I normally take personal calls on my mobile in a nearby conference room.
Between my need to sleep during the day, the rest of my family needing to sleep at night, and my wife’s general annoyance at random calls, our home phone works off of a whitelist, and all other calls get the message to call back later. This is great for keeping the peace, but not great for being available by phone. If I let GV forward to my home phone, most callers who aren’t on the whitelist would get the message to call me back later.
My burner (t-Mo prepaid) doesn’t work in data center where I work. I have a phone on my desk, so getting calls from work and home aren’t a big deal, but random calls to my mobile end up going to voice mail. Thankfully I get alerts in Google Hangouts that I have an incoming call, even though I don’t have a microphone to answer the call on my PC. When my wife calls me, I just declined the call and called her from a phone in a conference room.
I seem to have offloaded my sense of direction to my smartphone’s GPS. Losing my smartphone meant losing my sense of direction as well. I had to print (ugh, hard copy) directions to places, or borrow my wife’s GPS, which hasn’t been updated in a couple of years.
The first problem was receiving calls to my GV number at home without undoing the whitelist on the home number. My Obihai ATA had room for a second SIP registration, so I configured a VOIP.MS sub account for it and pointed an IPKall DID at it. I also configured the caller ID override to say “IT’S FOR CHRIS” so that everyone knew not to answer it. It helped me to avoid missing a few important calls. It also let me set the outbound caller ID to match my GV number, so I could make out going calls without needing the GV app.
The second problem was being able to call home from the random conference rooms at work. The outbound caller ID from all the company phones is the same generic number, so I ended up just whitelisting it. That means that people from work could call me at home, if they were to discover my number, but it’s a pretty well kept secret, so I’m not that worried.
I just received my replacement phone today, and it’s a real relief to have a phone that can play spaceteam again.
As much as I love regional hip-hop, what little I have seen come out of Texas from the likes of Mike Jones and Bun B really underscores what I dislike about mainstream rap music. I’ve been listening to dudes brag about being pimps and gangsters since the 80′s. While it was pretty original when NWA did it like 25 years ago, today it’s been done to death, especially in Texas. Those dudes are incapable of shutting up about candy paint, wood grain, and 4-4′s. I get that this is what moves albums and gets people to watch videos, but at the end of the day, music doesn’t last unless it says something real. This is why I am drawn to independent music and underground artists, like DualCore.
A sub-genre of hip-hop that came out of London, England that piqued my interest was Grime. Lyrically, the words are basically British lads bragging about being gangsters, but they do it in their own vernacular, and they do it by blending elements of dancehall and drum & base. The samples are unique (no gangster whistle), the delivery is fast and raw, and the slang is like no other. The music captures something that I, as an American, haven’t had seen much of, life on the streets London.
Dizzee Rascal is easily my favorite grime artist, and “The Boy In Da Corner” is easily my favorite album of his. Here’s one of my favorite tracks:
So like all good things from Britain, they learn they can go to The States and make a lot of money. Actors do this, but the practice was pioneered by musicians. In hip-hop, you can get an unknown on the charts by having someone known do tracks with them. This is how Dr. Dre put Snoop Dog and Eminem on the map (not to mention Warren G). So Mr. Rascal packed up his trainers and came to the good ol’ U. S. Of A. and did some tracks with Bun B. I have no idea if he’s a thing in America now, but I kinda hope it blew up in his face:
I try to imagine the video shoot, with everyone unable to understand Dizzee Rascal when he talks.
This story is great because the hacker in question is looking to make an open source passive vulnerability scanner for industrial control systems. ICS has been a hot topic for a few years in the hacker community because these systems often suffer from the same vulnerabilities that Unix systems suffered in the 80′s. These vulnerabilities are where all the worries about cyber-terrorism come from.
The company that started the project with the Department of Energy wants to walk away from the project with a proprietary product known as Sophia. The “hacker” in question then exercised his right to fork and has begun and open source project known as Vizdom, presumably based on the work he did for the project. The hacker’s former employer talked the state amd got a court order confiscating his computer in response. They want to see if he has the Sophia code and is using it for his project. Apparently they don’t know what open source means. Or they do, and they just want to be dicks.
The probable cause for this affront to someone’s 4th amendment rights? The fact that he calls himself a hacker. Not a conviction for a hacking related offense, not actual evidence of malicious hacking, just text on a website saying that he likes hacking things and doesn’t want to stop.
No one is saying that the Sophia code hasn’t been used, that’s for a court to decide. Since the court granted an order to seize the guy’s computer, I’m guessing they will also find him guilty, since he calls himself a hacker.
I saw so many costumes at Dragoncon. Like tens of thousands. There were so many, that I made a bingo/scavenger hunt list in my head, and checked off most of the list the first day, so I added levels of difficulty to see how well I could do. Below is my checklist, see if you can find them all next year
Level 1: Easy Stuff
Challenge Mode: see them all before you finish walking to Registration
Deadpool – Lots of people dress as Deadpool. Shit, I’m dressed as Deadpool right now.
Poison Ivy – Poison Ivy is a great excuse for a young lady to walk around in a bikini.
The Doctor – Bonus points if you can identify which Doctor.
Captain Hammer – An easy costume, lots of guys do it.
Stormtrooper – The 501st should be in full effect, so spotting a stormtrooper should be super easy.
Slave Leia – The other great excuse to walk around in a bikini.
Batman – Everyone loves Batman, you should see at least a hundred Batmen. Or is it Batmans?
Finn or Jake from Adventure Time – Seriously, these dudes should be everywhere.
Someone from the Harry Potter universe other than Harry Potter.
Level 2: Oddly Specific
Challenge Mode: see them all before you get out of the Registration line
Dude in full leather
Dude in a kilt
Head to toe body paint
Cross-gender cosplay, example: Male Slave Leia, Lady Doctor Who
Group/Team cosplay, example: Batman and Robin, Finn and Jake
Superhero alter ego: example: Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne
Level 3, Sexy/Creepy
Challenge Mode: check off only during the day, not at parties or balls.
Dude in full leather: bondage edition
Gender reversed cosplay: professional drag queen edition
Dude wearing only underwear or hotpants
Dude-bro muscle guy who looks like he used to beat up Dragoncon attendees in junior high, except he’s at Dragoncon, in a muscle-guy costume
Lady wearing lingerie without even attempting to wear a costume (no cat ears, magic wand, tail, angel wings, etc.)
Corset defying gravity and/or basic human anatomy, you’ll know it when you see it.
A sexy female version of an ugly, scary, or awkward male character, example: sexy lady 11th Doctor, sexy lady Joker
A sexy version of a beloved cartoon character that ruins your childhood, you’ll know it when you see it
Anime school girl that is clearly too young to be dressed like that
Zombie pinup girl
Zombie beefcake guy
Level 4, Meta
Someone dressed as Deadpool dressed as another character, example: Deadpool dressed as the 11th Doctor
Steampunk version of famous character, example: Steampunk IronMan
Zombified version of famous character, example: Undead Link
Cosplay motif: a subtle costume that takes a while to figure out, example: cabaret girl with T.A.R.D.I.S color pallette.
Cosplay from a book with no visual representation, example: whats-her-name from the Fever series
Person cosplaying an inanimate object, example: Sonic Screwdriver, Portal gun
Cosplay of a character who is fictional inside their fictional universe, example: Quailman from Doug
Level 5, Things that make you go “Hmmmmm…”
Person in full time-period costume doing something 21st century, example: eating McDonald’s in full steampunk gear, using an iPhone in full renaissance gear
A child in full costume being disciplined by a parent who is also in full and similarly themed costume
Person cruising around the event in a replica car, example: the Mach 5 from Speed Racer
Here is a U.S. Army training film from 1947. It’s a primer for an American G.I. who will be occupying Japan after WWII. It is probably the clearest example of the national ideology and zeitgeist what would become American Exceptionalism. General MacArthur thought the film was too sympathetic to the Japanese, and tried to suppress it.
Keep that in mind as you watch the film, and pay particular attention to the end when the narrator talks about truth. He talks about Jeffersonian Democracy as the logical result of knowing the truth, as though there is really no other conclusion that could be drawn from knowing the truth. I find it a bit ironic to mention Thomas Jefferson’s love for liberty and the evils of nationalized religion when you consider how much liberty would be lost, and how Christianity would become pretty much nationalized during the McCarthy era. Fast forward to today, with all of this NSA BS and our governments’ war on investigative journalism, and suddenly a 70 year old military propaganda film now looks like something from Occupy Wall Street.
The other thing the narrator mentions is as we occupy Japan that we should send the message that we aren’t interested in pushing people around. Fast forward to today and a lot of countries would disagree with that statement. My personal theory is that our work in Japan following WWII lulled us into a kind of false confidence when it came to nation building. Japan for the most part was a success, but it’s really been our nations only success. We didn’t even do that great of a job putting ourselves back together after the Civil War.
The film’s plea for humility when dealing with the “Japanese Brain” reminds me of a very harsh criticism of the United States that is the opening scene from The Newsroom:
Fight For The Future is circulating a petition in support of Barrett Brown, who is facing 105 years for pasting a link from one chat window into another. The link was to a cache of documents that Lulzsec had dumped as a result of its HBGary shenanigans. The collection also contained some credit card numbers and other financial details, and so Brown is being accused of identity theft, credit card fraud, and a host of other charges.
In this article posted on The Nation, tells a tale similar to that of Aaron Schwartz. Brown did a fair amount of study not just on LulzSec, AntiSec, and Anonymous. He also dug into all of the leaked documents from the HBGary leak and the Stratfor leak and may have uncovered a shadowy collusion between our government, military contractors, lobbies, and large corporations like Bank of America. Again, this is an attempt by our government (lead by the dude who campaigned for change and transparency) to not just punish someone for their unpatriotic politics, but to actually undermine Americans’ right to Free Speech.
In part 2 of this series, I complained about the lack of diversity in the American mobile handset market and some special-use handsets that I would like to see gain a foothold in the market. In this installment, I’ll talk about how tablets figure into the landscape, new and interesting tablet designs, and some trends that I would like to see continue in the space.
The tablet has helped to significantly blur the edges between computers and smartphones. Tablets have also begun to eat into the sales of laptop and desktop computers so if this trend continues, the tablet could become a third connectivity option for prospective computer users. Unlike the smartphone, which has quite a few restrictions placed on it in terms of size, OS, and design, the tablet is pretty much free to grow or shrink, both in price and screen size, based on the purpose it was intended for. There are many variants of the tablet arriving in the market and I would like to see the new hardware designs continue. Because the tablet market is relatively new, different mutations of the form factor are currently in a kind of Darwinian competition for survival. I hope that manufacturers continue to think outside the box with their tablet designs and continue to introduce new designs into the mix. Here is a list of the different types of tablet devices, sort of sorted by their chronology and screen size:
The tablet computer a.k.a “The Touchscreen Laptop” – A few years ago, a tablet was a very expensive laptop computer with a small yet primitive touch screen the required a stylus, only a few applications that took advantage of the touch interface, and the ability to fold the screen backwards. The key difference between these machines and the more popular iPad-style tablets is that these touchscreen laptops have integrated hardware keyboards and they run touch-enabled versions of desktop operating systems like Windows or Linux, instead of mobile OSes like Android or iOS. My early experience with these machines was not very positive, and although the software has caught up and advanced multi-touch screens are now standard issue on these types of devices, I still don’t see the merits of a touchscreen on a laptop. I have used a Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad and I find that taking my hands off the keyboard to touch the screen is pretty disruptive from a workflow standpoint; it’s way worse than grabbing a mouse or a using a touchpad for some reason. However, A keyboard does vastly improve your ability to highlight and copy text, which can be tough on a tablet and nearly impossible on a smartphone. Speaking of the copy/paste problem on smartphones, why is it so damn difficult to copy a number from a text message or web page and paste it into the dialer app? It’s the same story with addresses and GPS/Maps applications.
The Internet Tablet a.k.a. “The Slate” – The iPad permanently altered the word tablet to mean “10 inch smartphone that can’t phone”. In the Apple universe, the iPad took the place of the netbook computer. Being a PC guy, I still prefer using a netbook for school, and i’m kind of sad that the netbook basically died out in favor of the tablet and the ultrabook. After I got my iPad, my netbook was relegated almost entirely to school use, and if it were to die, I’m not sure what I would replace it with. I find that a “full sized” or “normal” tablet has 3 ideal locations:
By the bed – My iPad sits on my nightstand mostly. I use it to read eBooks and check my vitals before bed. Also, during bouts of insomnia, I use it to quietly watch videos via headphones instead of turning on the TV which might disturb my wife.
On the couch – I use my iPad to play games and socialize while watching TV with my wife. My toddler also finds it very useful for watching Sesame Street on Netflix while I play a console game or use my laptop.
In a stand next to my monitor – I like to use my iPad as a dedicated communications device when I’m gaming. Alt+tabbing out of a full screen game can be unpredictable, and popups for mail or other messages also be problematic, even when you have multiple screens. When I play MMO’s I also like to multibox, so all of my computer screens may be occupied by games, even my laptop. A tablet on a stand is also a passable substitute for multiple screens when using a laptop to write or code. It still has the workflow disruption problem that comes with using a touchscreen with a keyboard, but it’s less disruptive than using a mobile phone because you don’t have to pick it up.
Did you notice that all three of those locations are basically inside my house? I carried my iPad with me in a murse for a long time, but I often left it in the car because it was so expensive it made me feel weird flashing it in public.
The uber tablet a.k.a. “The Transformer” – Depending on how you look at it, this new class of tablet could be either a modern version of the touchscreen laptop mentioned above, or a completely new class of tablet that is defined by what you plug it into. These devices are so cutting edge that they are bordering on vaporware, so I am reluctant to hype them at all. I do want to mention them, however, because they do represent the idea of a tablet as a replacement for laptop or desktop computer. These devices tend to run touch versions of Windows rather than mobile OSes like Android and change modes by plugging in to different types of docking stations, such as laptop-style keyboards and specialty gaming hardware as depicted in the image to the right. Some of these devices dual boot Android and Windows depending what you need the device to do. These devices aim to add computer-class performance to a portable device that can fulfill duties as a tablet, laptop, and even a home theater PC or gaming console. The reason that I have always had both a laptop and a desktop computer is that power seldom portable, so historically I have disagreed with using mobile gear as a “real” computer. The current crop of ultrabooks seeks to shore up that difference, but my orginal assertion still holds true: if you put a portable device at the center of your computing world, you are probably going lose at least a bit of performance. My other gripe with this design is what I call The Docking Station Problem(tm). Putting a transforming tablet at the center of your workspace leaves you vulnerable to the same phenomenon.
The mini-tablet – The Google Nexus 7 and the iPad mini are examples of lower cost tablets with smaller screens that fit into more pockets. I have the original Nexus 7 and I find that it’s smaller size is great for typing messages and playing games that require you to press buttons on both sides of the screen. It also fits in a cargo pants pocket, and since I bought mine refurbished and on sale, I don’t feel like I have to guard it like a small infant, the way I do with my iPad.
The Phablet a.k.a. the giant smartphone – I have been making fun of Samsung’s increasing screen sizes lately, but I can grudgingly respect a small tablet that you could put a SIM card in. I think that if I didn’t already have an arsenal of touch screen gadgets, a big phone would be a great device to have. If I were to travel by air more than I do, I might consider a device like the Galaxy Note II for use while traveling due to its rumored great battery life. What I don’t want is for the average size of the smartphone screen to expand to 5 or 6 inches and for the “normal” sized smartphone to become an endangered species. I think the new crop of smartphone accessory devices, like watches, are a sign that smartphone screen size is going to continue to trend upward.
The Stationary Tablet a.k.a. Smart Glass – As a student of mathematics who writes a lot on chalkboards and whiteboards, I can tell you from experience that writing on a wall will wear you out in pretty short order. As an occasional Nintendo Wii player, I can confirm that waving your hands in front of you at close to arms’ length for an extended period of time can leave you pretty sore the next day. Maybe I’m just an out of shape wimp (a distinct possibility), but the idea of working for 8+ hours waving my hands over a smartboard just doesn’t sound very ergonomic. Needless to say, I would not be a fan of a touchscreen television, smartboard or other large wall mounted touch screen except for occasional use (which probably wouldn’t justify the cost). In the video to the right, you will notice that the screen touching doesn’t happen on the TV screen, but on a phone or tablet. However, if you were to take that same large screen and place it horizontally, such as on a conference table or coffee table, I would instantly become a fan. Playing board games on my iPad with friends has shown me the virtues of an interactive multi-touch tabletop and I am eager to experiment with one. Being able to have multiple hands work on multiple regions of the surface, and having the surface able to interact with objects placed on it would make for some very interesting games and collaborative work scenarios. I have sat around a conference table to collaborate on documents and presentations before and it often comes down to telling someone with a laptop plugged into a projector what to do. It might work better if everyone could put their hands on the document to make highlights or edits. I have done a little with Google Docs and simultaneous edits at school, and once you get past the idea of others seeing how slowly and inaccurately you type, it’s pretty cool. It could definitely put an end to the “have a meeting to edit the doc, then meet again to review edits, then meet again to review re-edits” problem that can come from working with a group. While the corporate conference table will probably be where this sort of thing is pioneered, I think the killer application will be tabletop role playing games with smart miniatures. Imagine playing on a zoomable map that interacts with the movements of your minis and displays their statistics, either in terms of real numbers or just in terms of “healthy/wounded/dead”. I think that having the map pop up things like “TRAP!” or “You are under attack!” would be very handy. Also keeping track of dice rolls and helping to keep track of how far a character can move or the effective range of a weapon would help the GM to focus less on enforcing the rules and more on the story. Giving the game master a private region of the table, dynamically defined by the placement of the GM’s screen would let the GM set up each encounter. BTW, I’m kind of hoping that the guy that came up with the word “phablet” comes up with another weird name for a smart table, like “table-et” or “coffee tablet”.
The Remote Touchscreen – I don’t have an a.k.a. for this one because it’s a really new idea. As far as I can tell, this was first implemented by Nintendo with the Wii U, but it’s also being done by nVidia. The idea is to use a tablet as the input and display for a desktop PC or game console. The benefit, of course, is that you can use more powerful graphics hardware to render video and then stream it to the remote touchscreen. The non-obvious benefit is that you can sit on the couch and play a game that would normally take up an entire TV screen or require you to sit at a desktop to play. With a peripheral like this, it’s possible to join the family in the living room, while still playing a “real” game rather than a tablet or smartphone game. This is different than using an app to remotely access a desktop via RPD or VNC, because these applications are meant to conserve bandwidth and work through slower Internet connections and thus 3d graphics are a no-go. The marketing info basically says these tablets make fast and responsive links, perhaps using a dedicated and private wireless connection. What I am hoping to see in this category are devices that that allow “real” 3d games like MMO’s and FPS’s to be played on screens that are still handheld, but significantly larger than traditional handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo DS.
The TV Intelligence Upgrade a.k.a. the Smart HDMI Plug – While technically not a tablet, this is an interesting device that I have mostly seen from Chinese vendors, until Google also got into the game. The Google Chromecast and its Chinese cousins are little USB powered gizmos the size of a large thumbdrive that plug into the HDMI port on a television and allow it to be used much like the smart glass devices mentioned above. These devices tend to cost significantly less than Internet tablets, home theater PCs, or video game consoles, probably due to the fact that Smart plugs have neither screens nor batteries. Some models let you use wireless mice and keyboards, the Google device can be accessed from any Chrome browser (presumably with a plugin of some sort). I would like to see similar devices come on to the market that can turn a TV or monitor into a specialized workstation or media device. Some of these specialized functions could include:
Video conferencing – A web camera that works well in lower-light conditions and an omnidirectional mic could turn any living room into a video conferencing room. Right now I am accomplishing this with a Windows PC and a PS3 Eye camera sitting on my mantle. It’s not the key feature for my home theater setup, but it does make my toddler happy when I’m out of town.
Intelligent screen-splitting KVM – I have always wanted a tiling window manager for video inputs that let you quickly and efficiently carve up a big screen into smaller ones. Think of a picture-in-picture setup only the PiPs are like windows on a computer screen that can be moved, layered, tiled, resized, minimized, maximized, or closed based on the viewer’s desire. This would require the box that the inputs plugged into to run its own OS, and display each input in a separate window. The obvious use is in a home theater setup for watching multiple sports shows at once, but it would be great for playing video games that don’t support multiplayer or split screens, such as MMOs. Such a device would greatly simplify my multiboxing experience. A more advanced model could support multiple screens as well It’s possible to do this using existing (and expensive) specialty equipment for TV production or CCTV monitoring, but it’s probably not feasible on a livingroom budget.
Smart Projector – With the use of an infrared tracking camera and infrared light pen, you could put an interactive multi-touch display on any surface. When combined with the intelligent screen splitting KVM from above, you perform herculean feats like displaying a speaker on the same screen as their slides, in real time, potentially without the need for specialty A/V gear.
The Application Specific Tablet – Since the tablet is free to grow or shrink in screen size according to its application, why not embed customized Android or Linux touch screens into other devices? Samsung probably pioneered this class of “smartphone-ized accessory” with their “Android powered smart camera“. This is a fancy camera with a smartphone embedded into it. While *I* have no use for such a device, I could see how person who is very serious about taking pictures on the go would find this device useful. The problem is that people don’t treat these peripheral-hosting PCs a task-specific terminal, and instead tend to use them for other tasks, hence the problem of obsolescence. A trend that I would like to see in the tablet space is the rise of the smart peripheral, or devices with tablet-like touch screens built into them, running customized versions of mobile OSes such as Android or Linux, or even tiny low cost computers like the Raspberry Pi. Instead of plugging these devices into a host computer (or docking your personal tablet in them), these peripherals would be self contained and able to host themselves and serve their results over a network connection of some kind. The “smart” portion could be a swappable unit, like any other part, or a removable dedicated tablet. This would probably increase the price of the peripheral by a significant amount, but you would probably not need to replace said peripheral nearly as often because your cool new tablet or PC no longer supports the peripheral, so the value proposition could improve. For basic operations, a small to medium sized touch screen would probably work best, while a keyboard and monitor might make sense for more intricate operations. The role of the smart peripheral would be to put an end to the practice of requiring the PC to install hundreds of megs of software in order to access a printer, scanner, or microscope that will be rendered useless in 5 years when the PC dies. Here are a couple of examples of peripherals that could use an intelligence upgrade:
The Smart Scientific Instrument – Very expensive scientific and medical instruments often outlive the computers they attach to, and on a long enough timeline, a dead PC can render a working instrument useless. Instead of directly connecting a PC to the instrument, why not embed a small computer of some kind into the instrument that controls the operation of the instrument, captures the data, and serves the resulting files over the network via a web server, file server, or mobile app?
The smart office appliance – Copiers, scanners, faxes, and printers are already fairly intelligent they’re just not very easy to use. Consumer grade devices use proprietary software that is not well supported, especially on new versions of Windows. Enterprise grade machines can perform lots of functions, but often have cryptic interfaces that are not well designed and not very intuitive. A better solution would be to use more familiar touch interfaces, with larger screens that better explain their functions, and allow the user provide access interactive and searchable help documentation that is maintained and updated on the web. The reason the business world uses Microsoft Windows and Office is there is that they can expect a certain amount of basic understanding on the part of the user, and the solutions to many problems can be found online. By extending this to office equipment, a user who is familiar with tablets and/or smartphones could better navigate the controls of a multi-function copier/scanner/printer/fax. The video embedded to the right is about a consumer grade printer with a custom Android tablet attached. While a wireless tablet may be a nice option for a family or home office, a larger office would probably make better use of a built in screen won’t be separated from the copier.
The smart home automation/security/surveillance controller – A sophisticated thermostat controller can easily cost more than a cheap Internet Tablet. Some home automation gear includes mobile apps or web interfaces for control. Many wireless security cameras or baby monitors host their video feeds on web servers built into the camera. In both cases, proprietary control software may be required to see the full extent of your automation, sensor, or surveillance network. This can also be problematic if you want to support multiple simultaneous users, especially in a remote access scenario. A better solution would be to use wall-mounted or desktop style tablets with touch interfaces that could control your cameras or sensors without needing to boot up a computer and access a web page or application, and also host access to your network via mobile apps and mobile-friendly web pages. In the case of security alarm and camera systems, you may need instant access to your cameras or sensors, so running up to a wall panel that automatically shows the alert is probably better than bringing up an app on your phone or PC. It also has this awesome Star Trek/Spy movie feel that really cannot be discounted.
The Smart Desk Phone – I mentioned this in my post about application specific handsets, but I think that it deserves mention here as well. In the handset post I called for an Android or embedded Linux version of a desktop phone that you could plug a variety of network and telephony technologies into. Grandstream makes an Ethernet-only version of the VOIP desktop phone that runs an older version of Android. Mocet also makes a line of telephone docking stations for tablets that turn them into sophisticated video speakerphones. The problem with plugging a tablet into a dock is that you are vulnerable to The Docking Station Problem(tm). If the “smart” function is embedded into the peripheral itself, and the smart function is also customized for that peripheral, the “tablet” still has value once the world has moved on to newer gadgets. This is especially true if you don’t interact with that peripheral all the time, like you would with a smartphone or tablet that you carried with you at all times. One security concern that I would have with smart deskphone in a large office is putting important credentials in it and then leaving it unattended 16 hours a day. That is one compelling reason to dock a tablet or smartphone, but similar results could be had from a pluggable hardware key like a thumb drive, or simply by locking the phone when you leave like you would a workstation. The connector issue is a ringing endorsement for using Bluetooth for these sorts of connections. Bluetooth isn’t without its own problems, however. If you have done something to anger the Bluetooth gods, pairing a device can prove to be difficult.
The smart childrens’ toy – A cute animal shaped phone cover can be a great way to recycle an obsolete iOS device. For those of us without gadgetry laying around the house, a toy with a built in interactive panel could be just the thing for long car rides. Include some sort of harness or other mount so the toy can hang on the back of a car or airplane seat and serve as a video player and you would probably have a toy that never left little junior’s side. Additional accessories could include a wireless game controller for kids who are just getting into video games and easily replaceable battery packs so your little friend never has to suffer from downtime.
I think that a tablet is a nice supplement to a mobile phone and a computer, and when you have a reliable mobile connection to the Internet, a nice tablet with a few accessories might make a decent substitute for a low end laptop. For someone whose computing needs consist almost entirely of Facebook and Angry Birds, a large-screen tablet could be the only device a person might need. This is why the tendency of the market to keep tablets in the “other” category bugs me, which I will discuss in greater detail in part 4.
This point-by-point rebuttal of President Obama’s recent statement about the NSA Prism scandal points out a bunch of Orwellian Doublespeak and other political maneuvering that really sounds like our president isn’t willing, able, or possibly even authorized to level with us, the American people.
Of particular note is this bit:
One of the least defensible practices of the Obama Administration is hiding the legal rationale for its actions, as if secret law is as legitimate as hiding the names of CIA operatives or nuclear codes. There shouldn’t be any section of the Patriot Act, or any other law, that cannot be comprehended without seeing a classified legal memo generated in the Office of Legal Counsel.
The thing that has nagged me about his presidency for a long time, well before the Snowden leaks, is this simple question: if there is something out there, some piece of information that makes you comfortable with all of this stuff, why can’t you just tell us what it is? And if you cannot/will not/are not authorized to say, then why not at least tell us that?
You don’t have to go into detail. You don’t even have to tell us what the actual threat is, just simply state that it exists. Just look into the camera and tell us that since you became President, you have learned the full extent of the threats that our country faces, and that all of this 1984 crap is in fact justified.
As it stands, thanks to your track record of state secrecy and your war on watchdog journalists I am inclined to believe that this surveillance state nonsense is just the military-industrial complex doing what it’s always done: corrupting our government for profit and then leveraging that same corrupt government and a corrupt the media to cover it up.