Larry Seltzer

Time to drop Dropbox?

Nothing has changed the way I use computers in the last few years more than Dropbox. The ability to get at my files from anywhere has made a huge difference. But it’s the cloud -- not Dropbox specifically -- that has made the difference. Any cloud storage service that also supported all the platforms I need would do as well… wouldn’t it?

There are a few biggies in the market, but Dropbox is the biggest, best-known name. My opinion is that it got this good reputation for a simple reason: It has the best software. I’ve tried a bunch of these services in the past: Box, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive. There are others, like SugarSync, but I’ve never paid much attention to them.

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Mobility management and security is getting a little less messy

Mobile security

Security and management in the mobility space, at least since the dawn of  the iPhone, has always had a "figuring it out as we go along" quality to it. So far we’ve gotten away with it; even though the potential for significant security breaches via mobile devices has always been there, and even though compliance with best practices in mobility is a rare thing, I’ve seen no evidence that they are a significant source of actual breaches. The real problems are what they always have been: SQL injection, weak passwords, social engineering, and so on.

In the meantime, the market for products to manage and secure mobile devices has been maturing. Of course management and security should be closely-intertwined, if not run by the same products. That can be difficult when the major products don’t include more than trivial management capabilities and very little is compatible cross-platform.

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The Curator: Why Microsoft is forcing us on to Modern UI apps

I've been struggling for a good year now with Microsoft's decision to push users as hard as it is pushing them to use the new, modern user interface, what was once code-named Metro. Even in Windows 8.1 (formerly known as Windows Blue), it is the primary UI. Why is Microsoft forcing us to use it?

"Forcing" is perhaps too strong of a word I suppose (although it's a good one for a headline). You can continue to run conventional Windows programs -- hell, even text-mode console software -- and keep using a traditional computer with a keyboard and mouse, but they're all legacy now, at least for Modern UI apps.

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Security and the ‘if it ain't broke don't fix it’ mentality

"Why should I have to replace a computer that's working, even if it's 10 years old?"

That's not me speaking, it's a relative whose identity I'll protect (not that he would really care). There's a foundation of solid logic behind this argument, at least at first glance. The things I bought this computer for 10 years ago are things I do with it still, and it works. So why should I change it? It's possible -- not likely, but possible -- that this argument makes sense. But only if you're cut off from the world.

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Has Microsoft made WebGL Secure? How?

Microsoft has dropped strong clues, without saying it explicitly, that Internet Explorer 11 in Windows 8.1 will support WebGL, a DirectX-like standard for fast gaming on the web. The biggest clue came in a video posted on Vine. Others have found direct evidence in leaked builds.

It's not hard to see why Microsoft would want to support WebGL. Everyone else does. However, the company spelled out the reasons it hadn’t so far in a Security, Research and Defense blog post two years ago.

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Do Not Track standards do not coalesce

The advertising industry is in a huff over Mozilla’s plans to support "The Cookie Clearinghouse" at the Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford Law School. The Cookie Clearinghouse starts with some browser behavior changes and adds what Mozilla’s Brendan Eich describes as both block and allow-lists of sites and a mechanism for managing exceptions to them. What would be blocked? Third-party tracking cookies.

The advertising industry is displeased, as it has been in the past when its abilities to track users are impeded.

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BlackBerry Boosts BBOS, BES, BBM

A year ago, at his first BlackBerry Live, according to BlackBerry President and CEO Thorsten Heins, many people told him that it would be his -- and the company's -- last. As Heins went on to say, they were wrong.

Here at BlackBerry Live 2013 in Orlando the company had an upbeat story and lots of news.

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You wish you could fail like Microsoft

The sharks are in the water smelling Microsoft blood. It's the company's "New Coke" moment. Windows 8 is too little too late (hey, that rhymes).

Over the years Microsoft has had a number of true product failures, genuine losers, but fewer than you'd think. I'd certainly count Microsoft BOB as one of these; BOB was an attempt at a cartoony, fun interface to Windows that was laughed off the market in short order. (Microsoft reps told me at the time that the focus groups loved it.)

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Samsung Galaxy S4 -- it's just a damn phone [review]

After a year-and-a-half on an iPhone 4S, I'm now on the current cutting-edge of smartphonery: Samsung Galaxy S4. I've used the phone for almost 3 days now. It's good. I'm excited. Are there any ball games on tonight?

Where was I? Oh yeah, the phone. I'm so excited that I something that excited people do. Honestly, it's a phone. It's a very nice phone with some great features, a great physical design and a lot of bling features that I'll probably never use. I can believe it's the best of the Android phones, but I haven't tested all the others.

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The crimes of the Chinese, Foxconn, Mike Daisey and ourselves

Editor: This weekend, esteemed radio program "This American Life" aired "Retraction" -- a stunning refutation of its most popular episode ever -- "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory", which aired on January 6. A "Marketplace" investigation has revealed that Mike Daisey fabricated or exaggerated aspects of the stage play upon which the segment is based. In April 2011, long before the TAL episode aired and the Apple controversy and protests following it, Larry Seltzer attended the stage play and expressed doubts about the presentation's accuracy. We reprint his review, which takes on stunning prescience in context of TAL's retraction.

I had no idea what I was going to see when relatives took me out in Washington DC to see The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs starring -- exclusively -- Mike Daisey. I didn't expect a political polemic. I'm still not totally sure what to make of it. Daisey's style is a monologue, a combination of storytelling and lecturing, just him on the stage. It was a hell of a performance and this was his second show that day.

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Use layered security to protect your small business PCs

Hacker keyboard

The hallmark of effective security in any field, especially computers, is defense-in-depth. There is always a way around any particular defensive measure, so you need multiple defenses in order to stop attacks with a high level of confidence. Large organizations are full of multilayered defenses, but they are no less essential to small businesses.

It's never big news, but small businesses get hit all the time by cybercrime. Reporter and analyst Brian Krebs has many stories of small businesses that fell victim to attacks, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Specialized malware (malicious programs) named Zeus and SpyEye find ways to get into your bank accounts and steal your money. In some cases, businesses have sued their banks to get their money back, but the courts have sided with the bank. It's the business's responsibility to secure the access the bank has given to the account.

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Microsoft isn't (necessarily) going to take 30% of Windows Store 8 sales

Microsoft contacted me about yesterday's story on Metro-style apps only being available at the Windows store. One of the prominent facts in the story, which I got from Microsoft presentations, was that they would be taking a 30 percent cut of app proceeds from the store.

Turns out it was all a big mistake. The reference to a 70/30 split "...was actually a placeholder we neglected to remove (realize it was a mistake). We will have more to share about economics when the Windows Store goes live", according to a Microsoft spokesperson. Can you believe that? Editor: No.

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Metro-style app sales will be Windows 8 Store only

Apple sets the standard and Microsoft follows; has this ever happened before? The new example is that Metro-style apps will be sold only through the Windows 8 Store with the now standard 30 percent cut going to the house. Enterprises and developers will have ways to install their own apps, but you can't just sell to others without going through Microsoft. The result will be a much more secure 'ecosystem'.

It's all explained in a Primer for current Windows developers about Metro-style apps and the Windows Store:

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Will Windows 8 have an ARM app gap?

It really should have been obvious, but in case you were confused, ARM versions of Windows 8 will not be able to run x86 apps and vice-versa. In fact, Microsoft has said as much in the past. This is a model Microsoft has used unsuccessfully in the past, but are things different now? Will ISVs make more than one binary?

Vague talk about the universal nature of Windows Metro apps led some to assume that such apps will run on any Windows 8 installation, either ARM- or x86-based. This is not the case. Metro apps will be composed either of x86 binary code or ARM binary code, and each can only run on the appropriate CPU.

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Will Windows 8 make security software obsolete?

Edge security

Security vendors will have an increasingly hard time making a case for expensive subscriptions as Microsoft keeps pushing Windows to be "secure enough" out of the box. Windows 8 adds a number of impressive features that really should make a difference in the "ecosystem".

The main feature chart for security improvements in Windows 8 is described by the ubiquitous Steven Sinofsky of Microsoft in this blog entry entitled "Protecting you from malware".

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