Sep 012014
 
broken-computer

A briefcase sized device could wreak havoc in today’s networked world warns William Radasky in the IEEE Journal.

Fans of the  wave of nuclear war movies like The War Game or The Day After will remember the first bomb detonated in the attacks was a high level explosion designed to knock out electronic equipment.

The resultant Electro Magnetic Pulse leaves everything from military radar to civilian communications systems unusable.

In both The Day After and The War Game the high altitude detonations over Rochester and Kansas City destroyed motor cars’ ignitions leaving a key part of the nation’s infrastructure paralysed.

Unlike a zombie TV series, the unlucky survivors of a nuclear strike weren’t going to leap into the nearest abandoned Camaro and speed away from the heaving hungry masses.

What should be considered is The War Game was filmed in 1965 when electronics were not ubiquitous. Even then the scale of the damage from an EMP was substantial.

In today’s world, an wide scale EMP would bring down a region’s entire economy.

I’m writing this post on the 28th Floor of San Francisco’s St Francis hotel and were such a blast to happen now I’m not sure I’d be able to find the fire escapes as the emergency lighting would be fried — it’s not even worth considering the lifts.

What a first world city like San Francisco would like after all its technology, including electrical and communications systems, were knocked out doesn’t bear thinking out.

On the bright side, this means a devastating nuclear war killing millions may not be useful military strategy any more. To bomb a first world nation ‘back to the stone age’ just needs a handful of well targeted high altitude nukes.

The IEEE article is a timely reminder of both the fragility of our systems and the society that depends upon them.

Aug 112014
 
Apple launches a new smaller iPad

Today Australian electronics retailer JB Hi Fi released its annual results. They confirm what’s been becoming apparent over the last year that tablet computer sales seem to have peaked.

A plateauing of tablet sales is bad news for retailers like JB whose stock price fell by 8% on the news.

It’s not surprising that tablet computer sales have peaked as the growth had been spectacular and, unlike PCs of a decade ago, there isn’t an obvious five year replacement cycle.

That the old PC industry business model doesn’t apply to tablets is why Apple is focusing on other revenue sources like the App Store and internet of things plays such as HomeKit and HealthKit.

Once again, the industry leaders are finding they have to pivot to stay up with a rapidly evolving market.

The other notable point from JB’s management was that Australian consumer confidence is tanking, which might indicate the economy is entering its first recession in twenty years.

If it is true that the Aussie economy is entering a recession, then it might be time for the adults to take charge in a very immature government. Some of the Liberal Party’s pampered princelings may have to start earning their salaries soon.

Jul 252014
 
Cell phones in use

Last night’s ABC Nightlife program showed how the tech industry has changed in the last five years.

In 2009 the bulk of the conversation would have been about personal computers, laptops and viruses.

Last night, malware is still an important topic but almost all of last night’s listener questions were around smartphones and Tony’s questions were on social media.

That social media and smartphones were the main topics and personal computers — and Windows — were barely mentioned show just how the computer industry has shifted.

Jul 242014
 
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Smartphones for the vision impaired, malware on portable devices and online trust were the topics of the July technology spot on  Tony Delroy’s Nightlife along with why a restaurant claims Google sent it broke and how we can’t always trust what we hear online.

If you missed the show, you can download the program from the website.

For sight impaired smartphone users both Doug and Nick called in to suggest Vision Australia’s services. The organisation has a page dedicated to smartphone and tablet resources.

Nick and Peter asked about malware protection for Android smartphones. Both Intel’s McAfee Mobile Security and Sophos’ Mobile Security for Android are free for home users.

The next spot is scheduled for 4 September, if you have any topics you’d like to discuss contact me or the Nightlife producers.

Apr 222014
 
apple smartphone tablet pc

This morning I had the opportunity to interview designer of the Fitbit, Gadi Amit, ahead of his visit to Sydney next month.

I’ll have the full interview written up in the next couple of days, but Gadi made an interesting point about not being in a ‘four screen world’ anymore, but in one where there’s infinite screens ranging from wearable glasses and watches through to smartphones and intelligent signage.

A few years ago the concept of the ‘third screen’ came into use when we started talking about the smartphone supplementing the PC and the TV, it quickly morphed into four screens as the tablet computer appeared.

Now the five year old idea of limiting ourselves to three screens seems quaint when there doesn’t seem to be any limits in the way we can view information.

The end of the three screen theory is an interesting illustration on how quickly technology is moving, it also shows how rapidly business is changing.

Mar 282014
 
Microsoft_Office_2010_Launch_New_York_City_Taxis_Web

After several years of stalling, MS Office makes it onto the iPad with an announcement this morning by Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella.

The idea of tying the product into the company’s Office 365 and Microsoft’s cloud services make sense although it might be a matter of too little, too late.

Perversely, if Office for the iPad is successful, it could remove one of the last barriers for business and power home users moving off PCs.

Microsoft’s move also shows cloud services are now the main focus of the company; Satya and his team have given up any attempt to shore up the traditional – and immensely profitable – box software business.

That is going to mean Microsoft’s financial statements are going to look very different in the near future.

Regardless of the success of Office for the iPad, what were Microsoft’s core businesses are deeply affected as the company evolves to the post-PC computer marketplace. The challenge is for Satya and his management team to manage that change.