Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Turmoil Within Google: Nest That Wasn't, Time to Sell It Off, And Holding Off on the Smart Home

After reading this Arschnica post on the tumultuous period between Google's acquisition of Nest and last Friday's firing of its former CEO, Tony Fadell, AKA "the godfather of the iPod", the missteps Nest took, and the power struggle within the Alphabet company, the take away seems to be that making and launching a product is not as easy as Apple, Google, and a few others make it seem despite having almost unlimited resources and smarts.  And that perhaps, even as I go through my home improvements, my decision to go very slow with smarting up my home is the right one.

Take some of the failed products like Nest's smoke alarm as an example.  Or the discontinuation of Revolv hub device. These are big name and products that you'd think you can trust and rely on.  But not so.  And walking through the small section of home improvement stores like Home Depot, it is tempting to get on my phone, read a couple of reviews of the products they sell, and pick the ones that seem to work best.

But you never know what will happen next to these companies and their products.  As far as the smart home is concerned, it just feels like there is first a land grab by dozens of small companies hoping to gain some market share and name recognition before the big boys come in and snatch them up or just muscle them out of the market entirely.  I've also looked at products from Honeywell, GE, and a few others but there does not appear to be any comprehensive solution.

Sure you have Echo from Amazon but Google just announced their competing Google Home.  Who knows what Apple will offer this year or in the years to come. The real issue here is what is a smart home.  And that is what all these companies are struggling with.  Being able to control the lights or opening/closing your front door with your smartphone does not make your home smart.  But with Echo, Google Now, and other potential AI just barely beginning to show signs of "intelligence", we will have to wait a few years before knowing what smart tech really is and can do for us to make our lives eaiser.

For now, I say wait.  There is no hurry at all.  The Next issues within Google may not have anything to do with power grabs, personalities, or other corporate nonsense but that no one knows where we are headed just yet with smart tech.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Oil Is To Bush As Google IS To Obama?

Here is an interesting post from The Daily Mail UK looking at the number of times Google officials have visited the White House and what roles offcials from the Obama administration and Google have played in each other's organization.  Worry?  Folks were worried about oil and anti-global warming guys and the revolving door at the Bush White House, perhaps, we should be concerned about the same for the Obama years as well as it relates to trade, regulation, and privacy in the Internet.

Here are the quick, cold, and hard facts:

  • Google have visited the White House more than 400 times and got 363 meetings. Some of those meetings are with the president himself. 
  • Executives from Google have gone on to work for the White House and Obama officials have gone on to likely more lucrative posts at Google.
  • former CEO of Google Eric Schmidt have worked for the Obama campaign as well as the administration. 
  • Google's top lobbyist in Washington have spent more time at the White House than those from other lobbying firms.
  • Some of the meetings coicided with investigations from the Federal Trade Commission as well as privacy matters.
Google did note that some of the meetings are for matters like science fairs.  Even so, that is a lot of face time.  So, for folks who were suspicious or even upset with the tight relationshipment between the Bush administration and the energy sectors, should be be concerned with Google and Obama being so tight? 

I like to believe that Google officials and engineers would offer their expertise on matters of education, security, and privacy.  And I'm sure that sort of exchange of infromation has occured but I'm sure Google's top lobbyist was not there for these kinds of discussions. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mobile And Battery Life Ready For Primetime In Power Outages

Because of some work being done on my house, I did not have power last night.  Of course, I would have appreciated some warning from the contractor but it was a good "drill" if you will of what an emergency without power would be like.  In some respect, I was ready.  Almost. 

I had my banks of USB-charged batteries, one with more than 10,000 mAh and two with more than 20,000 mAh.  Not to mention a couple of LED lights that were solarly charged.  How did I fare?

No power meant no Internet service.  Now, I don't know what would happen in a 10+ earthquake on the Richter scale which we may we see one day living in California and all or a Category 5 hurricane which we are never going to see in drought stricken California, it's possible that we may see all of our power knocked off along with cell towers toppling over.  But since this was a drill, I had cell service.  And best of all, I have T-Mobile so I was able to Bing-On with music and video. Not an issue at all.  No worries about data overage. 

As for power, I have an Anker solar charger that should for the most part help me get enough juice at least for my smaller handheld devices, an iPhone 6 Plus, and charge my Asus tablet and the iPad mini.  Beyond that, I would have to fall back on a solar generator that I have never used before.  It's charged but I have not tested it for some time.  If the power issue persists today, it would be a great time for me to set it up and see if it is still working. 

As for other aspects of preparedness should this have actually been a real natural or man-made disaster, like most urbanites, I would have been out of luck.  I have some dried food and enough water for a couple of days but nothing that would last me a week or two. 

For this drill, I'm glad I managed to get through it well enough.  Perhaps, there are some other adjustments and equipments I should get.  I'll revisit this once I do.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Telcoms Don't Like Whatsapp: What They Don't Like Is Change and Competition

Source:  Bloomberg.

When the mobile phone companies owned every aspect of their customers' experiences, it was a blissful world.  They get to maximize their investment, squeeze every last cent out of their customers, and hardly had any competition.  Along came Silicon Valley, and the struggle continues to this day over the mobile experience which has largely been revolutionary.  So, what else is new when telecoms complained about Whatsapp, a $20 billion buy by Facebook, that continues to be one of the top go-to app for messaging and voice calls.

Here is the real news alert:  telecoms don't like Skype, Facebook, Google Hangout, iMessage, Line, and any dozens of messaging and voice apps that exist.  No longer can companies charge 10 cents per  message or charge users a monthly allotment of texts.  No longer are voice calls metered (most plans anyway).

And here is the shocker to come:  mobile payment.  More control will be wrestled away from telecoms and the users will have more choices over how they pay for apps and products.  And telecoms will continue to devolve into the dump pipes that they deserve to be.

All of this is their own doing.  Had they treated users better and at more reasonable prices, users would not be looking elsewhere for apps and services as much as we do today.

If anything, telecoms should promote competition on their platforms that encourage usage.  Continue to innovate in ways that they can.  The best ways they can.  That is how they can best serve us.  And yes, we may even one day learn to appreciate them.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mobile Tip: Delete the Facebook App To Extend Battery Life On Mobile Devices

Source:  9To5Mac.

This is a great tip from 9to5Mac and while the name implies Apple, iPhone, and all things iOS, it applies to Android devices as well.  Get rid of your Facebook app if you want your battery life to last longer.  And I've stop using the Facebook app on my mobile devices for years and have not suffered the battery debilitating drainage that many millions have reported and suffered from.

When absolutely, I do download it on the quick and do what I need to do and delete the sucker again.  And surprisingly, my friends on Facebook have not disappeared and they continue to exist in the mobile version of Facebook in my browsers. 

And the browser version of Facebook works just fine for addicts.  Think of it this way, you can stay on Facebook longer and satisfy your addiction with the browser version than if you were using the Facebook app.  It's a win-win if you're that hooked. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Be Wary Of The USB-C Cables - The Wrong One Can Destroy Your Devices

Source: CNN.

Never knew it would bee this complicated but you need to be aware of this as USB-C ports and cables become more common. Apparently, not all USB-C cables are the same. 

See, the new USB-C cables should be able to provide power, charge devices, and transfer data. Very convenient. But only off they're wired correctly. 

 A Google engineer was kid enough to sacrifice his Chromebook for is to make this point. Right now, the other mainstream laptop with an USB-C port is the 12" Macbook from Apple. Soon, more will follow including phones, tablets, and other devices that can benefit from USB-C connection to get power or for data transfers.

For now, get brand named versions of the cables. It'll be more expensive than cheaper ones from a Chinese company you've never heard of. But it'll be worth it when your device or laptop contents to work as advertised and not turn into a smoldering piece of plastic and fried electronics. 

Look for special seals of approval.  Even then, best to play it safe.

Sent from my Mobile

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Security Bug Found in Chinese Branded Android Devices Like A Beijing Backdoor, Not a Bug

Source:  GSM Arena, Phandroid. 

A high level security bug has been found in Android devices sold by major Chinese brands like Lenovo, I find it very generous that the media, including Android blogs, calling this a bug.  In all likelihood, it's a backdoor demanded by the Chinese government. 

So, let's call it for what it is.  A Backdoor for Beijing to monitor its citizens.  Why else would Phandroid say this is not an issue for Americans?  

What other companies are involved?  Huawei was mentioned but this likely goes deeper if, in fact, these Chinese government is involved.  So, you have to wonder about Google's Nexus 6P, made by, you gussed it, Huawei.  When Google selected Huawei to make one of these phones, I had my reservations.  So, I've been recommending folks to go with the Nexus 5X made by LG. 

In recent weeks and months, the Chinese economy has suffered contractions while it's equity markets have suffered huge losses and shaking global financial as well as commodity markets.  The Shanghai Stock Exchange has suffered more than 22% year-to-date and nearly 50% drop from its high.  Fearing widespread unrest over a contracting economy (Industry Week), fraudulent investment schemes (NPR - more than $7.5 billion Ponzi Scheme), corruptions (Google), and  the Chinese government has increased Internet monitoring and censorship (Fortune) while jailing human rights supporters and their family as well as kidnapping foreign nationals like British and Swedish booksellers based out of Hong Kong (Reuters). 

Bug?  Please...