THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2004
Save your cell phone; go for "relaxed fit"
For the crafty marketers at Gap, Inc., I have a hot new tack for selling their loose-fitting jeans: They don't break cell phones.
A new survey by Siemens finds that the top reason for broken cell phones--after dropping them--is shoving them in a tight jeans pocket and sitting down.
Let's have an editorially slanted look at the remaining top 10 reasons your cell phone died, shall we?
- Used the handset in the rain (c'mon, how hard was it raining?)
- Threw the device on the ground in a rage (been there--I'm a Treo owner)
- The dog/child got hold of the mobile (feed it/him or her!)
- Dropped the cell phone in the toilet (eew, leave it)
- Dropped the handset into the sea (a friend of mine did that once, he was drunk and in a rage)
- Forgot the cell phone on the roof of the car (the same friend mentioned above did that several times)
- Got perspiration on the mobile during workout (see No. 6 above)
- Dropped the handset in the snow (that's a Finland thing--they're tops in cell phone ownership and snow)
I have had only one cell phone actually break, and it was helped along by a 65mph overhand pitch when it refused to let me answer incoming calls. But I've told that story before. Beyond that, I find that they go obsolete way before they go six feet under. How have yours broken?
TalkBack | Read all comments WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2004
Good-bye to the original PC
I recall my first IBM PC, which IBM called the 5150
. MS-DOS, twin 5 1/4-inch floppy drives, 16K of RAM, a green screen monitor, and the best keyboard ever made. It was extraordinarily well built and weighed as much as the Selectric that lived next to it. It ran a 4.77MHz Intel 8088-series CPU, a chip that had previously been used in the traffic signal industry as a controller for metered intersections (running software from a little firm called Traf-O-Data, owned by Bill Gates).
No mouse, no Windows, no sound card, no color, no network, and no hard drive. And it was an absolute revolution. You could save what you wrote to things called files that could be endlessly revised. You could search documents without having to read them. You could copy files to other computers (albeit via sneakernet
). You could make the text jump into bold, italics, and later even underline--if you could remember the contortionist WordPerfect key combos to do so. And it was the end of Liquid Paper or knowing how to do math. Sitting in front of the early PC, you realized you were at the beginning of a new way of life in the developed world, no exaggeration.
So it is with reverie and regret that I read news of IBM selling off its PC business
. The PC division of IBM long ago ceased being a leader, replaced by Dell, HP, Compaq, and Gateway. But you can't forget that IBM invented the era of personal computing. I shudder to think what the world would have been like if Atari or Commodore had done it instead, as could have happened.
IBM's PC design was brilliant and bold because it used off-the-shelf parts, almost nothing proprietary. Try selling that idea at Big Blue headquarters in the late '70s. But IBM's PC development team did it. It helped that they were a skunkworks in an anonymous building in Boca Raton, Florida, of all places. Ironically, the open PC architecture they convinced headquarters to go with led rather quickly to their defeat and today's sale: it begat the clone. Only IBM had the clout to lead the world to PCs, yet it went with an open system that allowed other companies to compete as soon as IBM had built public demand. Without those circumstances, there'd be no Compaq, Leading Edge, Packard Bell, or Dell--and maybe no PC at the center of your life today.
TalkBack | Read all comments TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2004
The news this morning was that phishing attacks have skyrocketed 1,000 percent in 2004
, especially in the last few months. I hope they mean attempted attacks and not successful ones. These scams are just too easy to spot.
Phishing scams, in case you don't know (or have been blithely fooled by them until this moment), are typically bogus e-mail messages that ask you to "update your account information" at eBay, PayPal, Citibank, and so on. The e-mail looks legit, with the correct logos and tedious customer service language in the message. Then there's a handy link to click to update your account. But it's bogus. It sends you to a clever fake site mimicking the real eBay, PayPal, or Citibank but which is just a criminal facade with a Web form asking for your name, address, social security number, mom's maiden name, and password--basically everything anyone needs to ruin your life. On the other end, a criminal group gets the data and goes to work on your bank balance, credit score, and sanity.
There's a simple way to spot these scams. Just hover your mouse over the link in the e-mail. After a second or two, your browser or e-mail software will pop up a little balloon that will show you the real
link you'd be clicking. It will be patently bogus. For example, the link in a recent PayPal phish that I received looked like this in the actual body of the e-mail:
But hovering over it, the actual URL was revealed to be
That's undoubtedly some boiler-room operation that I hope is getting busted right now. In fact, it may already have been shut down: that domain is showing up as nonregistered.
Here's another link example, supposedly from Washington Mutual Bank asking me to update my account (which doesn't exist) via this link:
It actually goes to:
The part in bold
is where you'll be taken if you click. Netfirms.com is a company that hosts small Web sites and, apparently, criminals as well. The next part in italics looks legit but is just window dressing, merely a subdirectory of the bogus site, not a link to Washington Mutual at all. So you'd be getting screwed.
This URL stuff is too technical for a lot of Net users, which is why these things work. But for those who have even a little understanding of how the Web works, these are easy to spot. Now you know. I bet you also know someone who has fallen for it. Or worse, someone who's been taken in and doesn't know it.
TalkBack | Read all comments MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2004
iPods on wheels
Connecting iPods to cars has turned into quite the little cottage industry.
There are, of course, cassette adapters and FM adapters, both of which were around when I was a kid wrenching on my Datsun 510. They sound like hell and offer no control interface for the iPod.
The new groove is an intelligent, hardwired interface between the car and iPod. BMW fired the first shot with its optional adapter
. It lets you hear and control the iPod from the car's built-in audio system but annoyingly leaves the iPod to flop around in the glovebox. There's a bit of untidiness there.
Then there's a thing called the Neo iON
, which comes in several versions and does for many cars what BMW does only for its own rides. It looks a little home brewed, but I've asked them to spec one for me to try; I'll let you know how it works.
Alpine has a slick iPod adapter called the KCA-420i
that works with many of its stereo receivers and also allows audio control from the stereo itself. It seems to have caught the rest of the car stereo business flat-footed and is the only company in the business to offer this. (Not surprising from the company that back in the late '70s was smart enough to associate its brand with the world's most famous car
Word is that Honda and Mercedes are gearing up to offer iPod interfaces in their cars. But it's too bad that a universal interface for portable digital players has not cropped up. Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or USB 2.0 would do the trick with a little software. But no, for now it's an iPod thing. I don't have an iPod, I prefer Creative's products, so I will be on the sidelines of this intelligent interface revolution along with most of the rest of you.
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