Tag Archives: computers

Stop Lengthening your Passwords. It’s futile.

25-GPU cluster cracks every standard Windows password in  <6 hours For the time being, readers should assume that the vast majority of their passwords are hashed with fast algorithms. That means passwords should never be less than nine characters, and using 13 or even 20 characters offers even better security. But long passwords aren’t enough. Given the prevalence of cracking lists measured in the hundreds of millions, it’s also crucial that passwords not be names, words, or common phrases. One easy way to make sure a passcode isn’t contained in such lists is to choose a text string that’s randomly generated using Password Safe or another password management program.

via Ars Technica

The operative phrase in that quote is “for the time being.” You can increase the number of characters in your password all you want; some guy is just going to build a 35-GPU cluster and crack it next week. 

As I’ve said before, the concept of username and password needs to die a quick and horrible death.

Just as the TSA has it all wrong, treating everyone as guilty until proven innocent, so too does computer security waste time and money targeting the wrong people. And, similarly, it’s terrible at stopping actual criminals. 

The current crop of security experts keeps reacting to this issue with more and more user-hostile solutions. Make the passwords longer. Make sure they don’t use complete words. Force them to have at least one number, one special character, one capital letter. Change it every three months. Take off your shoes. No more than 3-ounces of liquids…

I’m sorry, but that’s crap. If you walk up to me, I can tell whether it’s you or not immediately, without you doing anything. My phone needs to do the same thing, or at least something similar.

Imagine a world where a computer simply recognizes you, and you go to work. The burden rests on the computer, not on the user. 

I know that’s not easy. So get some money together, assemble a team of the smartest people in the world, and get on it. There’s billions of dollars to be made for anyone who solves this problem. Is that not exactly the sort of thing Silicon Valley startups are supposed to be doing with all that venture capital?

Or are we just going to be finding new ways to share pictures of bacon for the next ten years?

Droid has 256 MB of memory for apps? Are you kidding?

It’s no secret that Tech Crunch has been on a mission to promote the Droid at all costs, probably because Arrington needs daily affirmation that dropping the iPhone was a good move. But in the midst of all the puckering up was this little gem of an article this morning:


I had to do a double-take when I read the third paragraph. 512 MB of internal memory? Are you kidding me? In November of 2009, someone releases “the ultimate Android phone”, the phone that will “finally slay the iPhone” and it has as little storage as my Palm Treo did four years ago?

Better yet, of that 512 MB, only 256 MB of internal storage is available for apps. And that’s not a Droid limitation; it’s an Android limitation. So no Android phone has enough space to hold more than 256 MB of applications.

I have more than a few apps on my iPhone that are bigger than that. Single apps, mind you.

What good is running multiple apps at once, if you have no room to hold more than 5 or 10 decent ones on the entire phone, anyway?

Sure, some great apps are very small. You don’t need gigabytes of memory to write a Twitter client. But that’s not the point. Imagine if someone came out with a laptop today, and then they told you that even though you have a 500GB hard drive, you can only use a total of 1 GB for applications. Would anyone buy that? Maybe your applications folder is currently smaller than that, but would you want to be told that it can never be bigger than that, no matter how big a hard drive you put into the machine later?

Just forget about any kind of decent game on Android. It’s completely out of the question. Which means that all the transformers tech nerd marketing for the Droid phone makes even less sense. Not even teenaged males are going to be interested in this now.

And don’t talk to me about SD cards. You can’t store apps on them. Only music or video, or other media files. So they’re useless to this discussion.

You can write all the articles of praise you want, tell me about the future belonging to Google, etc. But now I’m just going to laugh at you. At least until Google comes to its senses and lifts this absurd limitation.

What did Steve Jobs say when introducing the iPhone a few years back? “Baby software.”


Another Tech Crunch article gets it wrong about Google vs Apple

John Biggs on Tech Crunch suggests that Google should make Apple “beg” Google to write a turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone.


Where do I begin?

Let’s get one thing completely straight. In the mobile phone space, Google needs Apple right now A LOT more than Apple needs Google. Google makes money by spreading its ads everywhere possible. For Google to suddenly lose its ability to spread those ads via the iPhone would be a drastic loss.

This is why Google is trying to get out ahead of the PR battle by making Apple out to be the bad guy. We’re building a turn-by-turn app for the iPhone; if Apple rejects it, that’s not our fault.

Those are the words of someone who doesn’t currently have the upper hand.

If Google were out to “kill” the iPhone, it would not only NOT build an iPhone navigation app, it would pull other Google services off the iPhone. And then Apple would need to start begging. But Google can’t do that. Because the goal is to get Google services in more places, not fewer. And the last thing Google wants is to not be available on the hippest, hottest phone in existence.

I’m not the first to say it, and this won’t be the last time I say it: Google has no interest in killing the iPhone. Android exists to kill Windows Mobile. And the only reason Google needs to kill Windows Mobile is because Microsoft doesn’t want Google on Windows Mobile. It would much rather push Bing, or whatever Microsoft wants to call its search this week.

The iPhone helps Google kill Windows Mobile. Thus, as long as Google can get some of its services on the iPhone, Google likes the iPhone.

Once Google kills Windows Mobile, and then kills off Symbian, and then tackles RIM, then—MAYBE then—Google will try to compete with the iPhone. Right now, it wouldn’t stand a chance. Not with another wannabe phone marketed to sci-fi nerds like the Droid.

Free turn-by-turn GPS is not going to suddenly make every single iPhone owner drop their iPhone and grab a Droid. I’d venture to say that it won’t make more than ten iPhone owners drop their iPhone and grab a Droid.

But none of that matters for now. Apple doesn’t have a competing product to Google. It has no interest in ad revenue. And it has welcomed Google services on the Mac and the iPhone with open arms, with few exceptions. (More on those exceptions later.) So even in a future where Android and the iPhone were the only two phones in existence, Google would still have no reason to want to kill the iPhone. As long as Apple never tries to get into the ad business.

Tech writers really need to stop thinking like nerds and start thinking like average people. Turn-by-turn navigation is just starting to become a somewhat, kinda-sorta popular thing. Having that feature on your phone is nowhere near hitting critical mass in popularity right now. It’s not even on the radar for most people, let alone a must-have. It’s nerd stuff.

I fully expect a free turn-by-turn service to end up on the iPhone. Whether it be as a free Google app in the App Store, or integrated into Apple’s built-in Google Maps application, or an alternative service offered by Apple itself, sooner or later, this feature will become available. Meanwhile, there really is no rush, because the lack of this service on the iPhone is not going to cost Apple anything in the short term. In the long run, they’ll want to match Android feature for feature wherever possible. But it will be years before that really matters.

If the iPhone prospered for years without cut,copy, and paste, it’ll do fine without this free service for a while. Believe me.

The Magic Mouse (first look)

Got my hand on a Magic Mouse at the Apple Store tonight for the first time.

With most new Apple products, I read about them, I look at pictures on the web, and immediately I am either convinced I’ll buy it, or that I would buy it if I could convince myself I need whatever it does.

With mice, it’s a different story. Apple has had a long history of creating mice that people are less than enthused about. And while I hate to agree with most people about anything, with Appple mice, they have a point.

It’s not that Apple mice are actually bad. (I’ll catch flak for saying this, but even the iMac hockey puck mouse wasn’t BAD, really.) It’s that unlike with most other Apple products, they don’t tend to be miles ahead of the competition. They’re simply functional mice. No more, no less. And they cost a little more than they should, despite not being significantly better.

So with the Magic Mouse, I did what I always do with Apple mice. I waited a few days until I could actually try one out, instead of just running out and buying one.

The only comments I’ve really seen so far on the web are from people who haven’t used the Magic Mouse. Predictibly, they assume that the mouse is like any other Apple mouse.

But having played with it for a few minutes tonight, I have to say I was impressed. The flick scrolling on the top of the mouse’s surface was the most impressive feature. I’ve been two-finger scrolling on my trackpad for a while now, so it was completely natural to me. Very smooth. Way more predictable than any scroll wheel or ball I’ve used. And the right clicking seemed far more accurate than the old Mighty Mouse.

The design of the mouse is minimalist and beautiful, of course. Very thin, which may bother some people who like to palm their mice, but I manipulate my mice with my fingertips (which is why I didn’t hate the hockey puck as much as most people). The low profile actually comes in handy for touch gestures, while still being comfortable for cursor movement.

I do wish there were more gestures available, and that the software were more customizable. But overall, I was impressed enough to consider getting one.

As much as I’m a trackpad user at heart, I have been searching for the ultimate portable mouse for long-session use. The trakpad leaves my arm a bit numb if I use it several hours at a time. I’ve been through several Bluetooth mice, including the Mighty Mouse, and none has ever come close to making me really happy.

Maybe I’ll give this one a try.

Lowering Expectations

Okay, so now some people are predicting Apple will report revenue below expectations on Monday. Is anyone else confused yet? I mean in addition to the paradox of expecting something to be lower than expected? 

Using the press to manipulate stock prices is no longer in the realms of conspiracy theory. It’s an observable phenomenon. So how come no one ever gets put in jail for it? 

Sidekick data may be recovered. So?

I’m happy for all those Sidekick users out there who may be getting their lost data back. But seriously, would anyone in his right mind ever trust Microsoft with cloud computing again?

So the story today is “Hey, everybody. Microsoft saved the day by getting all your data back, after all.” I can see why Microsoft would want to spin it that way, but why are tech journalists letting them spin it that way?

Beating Expectations

So I read today that Apple is predicted to exceed Wall Street expectations with its earnings report this coming Monday.

How is that possible?

How can one predict that you’ll exceed expectations? Prediction is expectation. The only way Apple could exceed expectations now would be to beat the prediction of exceeding expectations. It will have to exceed the prediction of exceeding the expectation. And if someone predicts that, they’re really screwed.

Grammar is one of those things that matters A LOT to some people and not at all to others.

I just discovered a new blog called ignorethecode.net. Not only is it well-written and interesting, from a tech point of view. It also presents a brilliant solution to an-age old problem with web sites that allow comments.

We’ve all encountered the grammar police from time to time, whether we write our own blogs or just spend time in the forums. It never fails that at least one person will feel it is his or her duty to let the author and other commenters know that several words were misspelled, or the wrong form of a pronoun was used, or an infinitive was split, etc. 

There must be some sort of group, like the Gideons, assigning members to every blog and news source on the Internet, spreading the good word and abolishing poor usage. 

Anyway, rather than simply accepting these corrections in the comment section, which is usually the only place where these users can vent their frustrations with comma splicing, author Lukas Mathis asks his Strunk and White Witnesses to contact him directly via email or his issue tracker for any grammatical corrections that may be necessary. 

This keeps the forums free from these kinds of comments (and the scores of comments spawned from these comments) while not belittling the importance of these contributions in the eyes of his well-meaning users. It’s a perfect solution, because now you’d have to be a complete nimrod to correct his spelling in the comment area.  You’d be in essence admitting that you’re only pointing out his errors as a way to pump up your own self-esteem. And you’d be demonstrating your own inability to comprehend the instructions provided. 

Foiled by his own compulsions for following the rules. I love it. 

Grammar is one of those things that matters A LOT to some people and not at all to others. So best to keep those two groups of people away from one another whenever possible. 


This alone convinced me that the author of this blog probably has something of interest to say. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this approach in other places. 

Tech Crunch is getting harder and harder to take seriously

These two articles today from Arrington and Siegler were almost as funny as the Daily Show was last night. 

Seriously? People don’t want vertical touch screens? This is a revelation? And the future of touch computers is an architect’s table and the Microsoft Surface? What are you smoking? 

Every bit of sales data over the last five years suggests that the future of all computing is mobile. That’s why Apple focuses on laptops and the iPhone and is on the heels of a tablet announcement. I do not, and neither does anyone else who is paying attention, predict a future that includes any sort of giant bulky desktop system that won’t fit into the back of a Volkswagen. 

Maybe, maybe the desktop computer will still be around in ten years as a specialty item for companies that need massive computing power, like 3D artists and the like. Even they will most likely use some variant of a small form factor machine that is plugged into a higher-power rack server-type thing via LightPeak. Everyone else, particularly on the consumer side, will own a laptop as their bulkiest computer, or more likely some sort of tablet device. Everything else they will do with their phone. 

And none of those machines will be running Microsoft anything. By then, Microsoft will be relegated to the specialty business market. They’ve already blown the mobile space; they are not making headway into the Internet Cloud space (especially after this week); and they’ve failed utterly in the consumer electronic space. As soon as the money runs out, Microsoft will do what all big companies who are past their prime do: they will retreat into the only core business that still makes money (servers and boring business data stuff), and become increasingly irrelevant. 

Seriously, TechCrunch. Stick to reporting. Predicting the future is not your strong suit. HP and Microsoft are not shaping the future. If you really want to predict the future, just do what everyone else does. Wait for Apple or Google to announce something new and assume everyone else will copy it.  

Appleinsider: Apple plans to open iTunes LP for independent labels

See? Nothing to panic about, people. Like I said yesterday, Apple is simply taking its time and getting it right. 

Joe Cieplinski