August 31, 2005

Hummer Laptop?

CNET has this photo of the forthcoming GM-licensed Hummer laptop, to be priced at $2,988 and packing enough padding "to survive six separate drops from a height of 30 inches onto two 3/4-inch sheets of plywood placed on top of concrete." Darn, that happened to me just yesterday -- third time this year! ;^)

Marketing hype reality check: It sounds like a carefully crafted test to me. Keep in mind that wood is softer than concrete (even hardwood will dent). Also, if the concrete blocks were spaced apart, the resulting wood scaffolding setup would likely have some shock absorption or rebounding characteristics of its own.

It also didn't say, but if the 30 inches were measured from floor level, then the distance from the laptop to the top of the plywood is substantially less. Come on, if it's Hummer tough, why not just drop it directly onto the concrete? I'm sure there's a few cable reality TV shows or overworked IT support staff who would love to put it to the test.

Still, this CNET article boasts some very nice wireless capabilities:

"The laptops also come with four wireless radios, including an integrated GPS antenna that helps Microsoft Streets and Trips map software locate your position and help you to your destination, Gerber said. The Hummer laptop has the added features of an 80GB shock-mounted removable hard-disk drive (a security benefit for multiple computer users) and a swappable radio module that allows users to switch between North American and European GPRS/EDGE wireless plans."
While I prefer the styling Úlan of the Ferrari laptop as vehicle-inspired PC's go, that's impressive.

Just to up the ante, I'm now waiting for the stealth fighter laptop -- perfect for breezing through busy airports!

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

August 29, 2005

Cell Phone Tower Search via Google Maps

Google's interactive mapping technology has some useful applications. For instance, have you ever wished you were closer to a cell tower, or simply knew which way to point your cell phone or CrackBerry to get a better signal? For the answer, try Mobiledia's Cell Phone Tower Search.

Just type in the city and state, and up pops a Google map populated with the cell tower locations. How'd they do that? The cell towers are registered with the FCC. They took the information and compiled it into a searchable database. By presenting that information in Google Maps, they provided a simple but very effective graphical interface to display towers within the area.

Very cool, and definitely more useful than Google Moon's use of Google Maps (but you really need to zoom all the way into Google Moon for the best experience).

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

August 24, 2005

Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get a Life!

While attending the annual ILTA conference (formerly LawNet) this week, I thoroughly enjoyed the keynote by Larry Winget. Larry is perhaps best described as a very humorous and irreverent un-motivational speaker -- or as he likes to say, Irritational Speaker. He's authored the bestseller, "Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life : A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life". The entire audience was in stitches throughout his performance.

While Larry has something like 18 simple rules of success, he shared several of them in the time he had, well worth summarizing here. They apply equally in our business and personal lives. They're a bit blunt, but effective:

  1. Take Responsibility
  2. It's human nature to avoid taking responsibility. It's easier to say, "It wasn't my fault!" and continuing whining. You're responsible for your own situation in life (who else's fault is it?). I've always had much more respect and appreciation for a person who bravely says, "I did it, it's my fault, and I'll fix it." Playing the blame game just prolongs and stagnates the situation or problem, and everyone just gets increasingly defensive instead of cooperating.

    One of the best tips I read many years ago was not to be afraid of proactively taking the blame, even (and especially) when it wasn't truly your fault. Once responsibility is acknowledged, everyone's defensiveness is lowered. Then we're free to focus on actually solving the problem. Give it a try, and you may be surprised with how effective taking responsibility can be.

  3. Flexibility
  4. In some fashion or another, we're all service providers and we all have customers (both professionally and personally). Even a little flexibility goes a long way to solve problems and satisfy your customers. They, in turn, will want to work with you even more. The more you give, the more you get. A happy customer may only tell a few people about their experience you. An unhappy one will tell a lot more. Which one do you want?

  5. Understanding and Coping with Change
  6. Change is hard. It's so much easier to stay within one's established comfort zone. People rarely change when they're comfortable. Most people want to initiate change only when they're uncomfortable or experiencing some kind of pain.

  7. Attitude
  8. Larry has a different view about attitude than most other motivational speakers: Having a positive attitude will not stop bad things from happening to you. Stuff just happens regardless, that's life. But keeping a good mental outlook will help you cope with them a lot better.

  9. Have Fun
  10. This is a big one in my book -- no, make that HUGE, and I'm going to elaborate with a personal example. Don't take things too seriously and enjoy what you do. If you don't like what you're doing, then by golly, go do something else that you truly enjoy. It's that simple. Period. Don't let ego, status, or even money stop you. You're not doing anyone any favors by being miserable -- not you, not your family, and not your employer, co-workers, organization, or customers.

    I sincerely hope this isn't trite, but perhaps my career path is a good example, particularly as I know a good number of professionals read this blog: I started my career out of law school as a Big Eight tax accountant. While I was very good at it technically, aced the CPA exam, etc., I wasn't particularly happy -- not even close. So I practiced law (and practiced and practiced... ;^). Better -- more along the lines of what I wanted to do, and I enjoyed helping people more directly and substantially. But I still wasn't happy. Something was still missing.

    So I thought long and hard about what I really liked to do. Then I made the hardest professional decision of my life -- I left the active practice. I melded and morphed my accounting, legal, and computer technology interests and skills, and delved into legal technology with a passion. As a result, I deeply enjoy doing what I do, along with working with some of best people I've ever worked with. I work very hard, even harder than before -- that's why it's called "work". But when it's a labor of love, it's a whole different ball game, sports fans. I've said it here before -- passion counts big time. If you don't have it or it's dormant, find a way to get it back. (Also re-read the last sentence of #3 above.) As Larry shared with us, it's truly hard to excel at something when you hate doing it. Heck, sometimes it's hard enough when you enjoy it. Although he didn't mention this, I think Fun ties in closely with Attitude. Thus I really liked his quote: "Excellence stems from enjoyment."

    Also, regardless of how bad something is, I've rarely found a situation that did not have some humorous aspect. Life is tough. Your job is tough. Why go through both if you're not enjoying them? A deficiency or imbalance in one often affects the other. Hey, we're only here once, and there's a lot of funny stuff that happens to us along the way. I've often found that sharing a good laugh with my co-workers is not a time-waster, it's a performance booster. Think about it.

    And if I've somehow helped you in even a small way by sharing this, I'm good with that.

    Topic(s):   Other Musings
    Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

August 19, 2005

Zotob & Security Best Practices

With the rapid spread of the Zotob virus and its variants this week, I thought I'd direct others to my comprehensive article on making your personal wireless network more secure: "Wireless Networking Best Practices: Version 2.0".

Why? Because the vast majority of home and SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) wireless networks are notoriously insecure by many estimates. The tips contained in this article provide critical defenses to the techniques and mechanisms used by Zotob and its variants.

By some reports, even if your version of the Windows OS cannot be infected by Zotob, the virus may still run on it as a host. This effectively turns your PC into the electronic equivalent of Typhoid Mary, so it can seek out and infect other unprotected PCs.

Please also note the article's section on disabling the UPnP (Universal Plug 'n' Play) feature of your router. UPnP is the main exploit used by Zotob. A year ago, I stated: "UPnP is used for some devices like the Xbox game system. If you don't have a UPnP device, then make sure it's disabled. Otherwise, it's another potential security hole for your network." For instance, I noticed that some versions of Linksys' wireless router firmwares left the UPnP feature enabled by default where previous versions had it disabled. This, in my opinion, was a bad decision by Linksys. Leaving UPnP enabled in the router may have been required for gaining the Microsoft Xbox certification. However, it's still a really bad security decision considering that many people using those routers don't have an Xbox or use the UPnP feature.

Anyway, I hope you find these security best practices helpful. All of the information is still current and valid.

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

August 15, 2005

World's Coolest Keyboard?

I saw this on Gizmag and naturally had to see the actual keyboard photos. Very cool, as each key has its own OLED display, which makes it ultra-customizable. Likely not the most ergonomic keyboard, and no special multimedia dials, but the Moscow-based design studio certainly gets kudos for going where no keyboard has gone before.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

August 05, 2005

Hotel Systems Hackable Through Room TV's

Just when you thought others hacking into your hotel room's Wi-Fi access was annoying, here's one to up the ante: "Hacking the hotel through the TV".

Basically, a knowledgeable person can hook up a laptop with a USB TV tuner and hack into hotel systems that expose other guest information.

Speaking about Adam Laurie, who presented this at the recent DefCon event, the article states: "He can't look into their rooms (yet), but depending on the system he can see what they are watching on their TV, look at their guest folios, change the minibar bill and follow along as they browse the Internet on the hotel television set. To tease his fellow guests, he can also check them out of their room and set early wake-up calls via the TV."

If that wasn't bad enough: "And the situation isn't getting better. 'They are starting to do things like allowing you to put credit card numbers in through the TV,' Laurie said. Also, he said, some of the makers of these hotel systems are looking at adding Webcams, perhaps to let people chat over the Internet." Now doesn't this sound just like, oh, I don't know, Big Brother watching people via television in "1984"? Life imitates art.

He can do all this because of the "inverted security model" of these types of systems. Per Laurie, "The TV is controlling which content I get to see. The hotel in most cases is streaming all content without any control." Talk about a dumb terminal. So he substitutes his own laptop-based TV as the control mechanism to hack the content. He also uses a special infrared remote to hack the remotes codes used to communicate via the TV. (He obviously has waaaay too much time on his hands, but what's a hacker to do when he's bored and stuck in a hotel room?)

So on your next stay, cover up or unplug any courtesy webcams (and their microphones if they have them), don't enter any sensitive data into the TV, and be aware of all your activities through your room's TV. Don't feel strange about doing so -- you're not being paranoid if others are actually accessing this data. For similar reasons, I haven't used public or kiosk PCs in ages due to keyloggers and other spyware.

Hey, after all these years, there's finally something good on cable TV -- your personal information. As Dana Carvey would say, "Now isn't that special?"

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)