Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Taxi safe return home service in Seoul

Apparently taxis can be dangerous for ladies at night in Seoul. So there is a program called the Safe Return Home Service now in Seoul.

How does it work? The assumption is that many people have NFC enabled phones. They just need to tap their phone on this NFC-enabled pad, and automatically a text message is sent to one’s guardian giving the taxi’s model, current time & location, and probably more.

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This ensures that you now travel with a better sense of security. Read the press release, which suggests this is a program from SK Planet (I’ve had the pleasure of working with this group in the past).

I think something like this can be really useful in markets like Malaysia, where the taxi system requires a serious overhaul.

SSL + website rankings

I read this: HTTPS as a ranking signal. You should then also read this: My blog doesn’t need HTTPS.

Frankly, I agree with Dave Winer here – blogs and many websites/publications don’t need to deliver content over HTTPS. For Google to say they are going to use this as a signal for PageRank, is kind of nasty. 

SSL on sites is also likely to spur IPv6 further – many SSL sites, especially e-commerce (whom I think need SSL), need to have a unique IP per site. Soon we’ll have blogs require an IP/site. Of course, there are workarounds to this, but not all web browsers support this.

You can then see that sites like Cloudflare tell you that this is now provided with their Pro plans – a great way to start charging free accounts. You can also get your own SSL certs (which you’ll have to add on as a yearly fee), and then maybe pay more for hosting…

For testing, use Why No Padlock? and Qualys SSL Labs SSL Server Test.

Apple laptops not made for enterprise use

Like my recent upgrade to 10.8, I was forced to upgrade to 10.9 because my 13” MacBook Air succumbed to an odd logic board error involving a heat sensor going kaput. Turns out that kernel_task would go up to 300%, ensuring that the load averages on my machine would be in excess of 40-60s. The only fix seems to be swapping logic boards, and that usually takes 2-3 weeks. Too long to live without a laptop.

For reference, the Apple Hardware Test revealed: 4SNS/1/C0000008: THSP—124.

So I had to order a new laptop, and chose the 11” MacBook Air. I was always conflicted between the 11” & 13”, and left the world of MacBook Pro’s for a 13” due to the same resolution. I travel a lot, so I think smaller is better now, and got the 11” – max specs. So far, I have no complaints. When home its docked to a much larger monitor. On the road, it seems just fine. In a span of a couple of years, I’ve gone from 15” -> 13” -> 11”. I can’t complain.

Apple hardware is just not made for enterprise use. Next day on-site warranties from Dell are amazing (I’ve experienced it plenty of times), but they just don’t exist in the world of Apple even with AppleCare. 

I’ve been locked into some software (I know, silly me but there are things I depend on in my workflow) which makes it hard to switch away from OSX. If I ran Linux, I know I could have bought another machine within a day, but because Apple is all-integrated, I had to order another MacBook Air (who would want a MacBook Air with an i5 processor, small storage (128-256GB) and 4GB of RAM?). I mean if Apple plans to integrate everything, sell top-end machines – picking stuff up retail is important in my opinion.

It took me 5 working days to get my custom-built Mac delivered. That’s just too long to be using hardware you’re not familiar with (I actually did a lot of “work” with a Chromebook – also known as answering a lot of email, but nothing more productive than that).

The upgrade from 10.8 to 10.9 was surprisingly easy with Time Machine again. The only problem was Mail was misbehaving (caching folders), so I had to upgrade to 10.9.2, and just wait it out. I’m not happy with Mail, but its about the only desktop client that handles multiple IMAP accounts and works in an offline fashion.

I read recently an article by David Sobotta about how he moved away from the Mac, and to me it felt like this was my path too. It is not going to happen anytime soon, but I’ve set aside 2 years to get things done. I want to live more in the browser, I want to be able to make use of OfflineStorage, and I want to be rid of depending on just one piece of hardware. It is likely that even after a move to the cloud I will buy Apple hardware, it just won’t mean I’m “locked in” to the wonderful application ecosystem that it has.

If anyone says the 11” MacBook Air is not good enough, I can attest that its got a small screen but in many of my use cases I have it docked to a 24” or 27” monitor, so for coding, comparative studies, etc, I find that to be a great environment. But walking to a cafe or working in a cramped airplane seat? You can’t beat the 11” Air (11.6” if you look closely).

2-factor authentication and time

Flinders Street StationI use Google Authenticator for 2-factor authentication for some of the services I access. I had trouble accessing some of my sites due to getting an invalid token, and I was wondering what was going on.

Turns out, the time on my phone was off. You need to let the network set the time, and you will suddenly be generating sensible codes again. This is documented for Android (you can do this within the app), but on iOS it is a system-wide setting.

iTunes ate my podcasts

iTunes is fixed now (11.1.3) but somewhere in-between it broke and deleted all of my podcast downloads as well as the subscriptions. It has been over four months that I’ve gone without listening to podcasts and I can’t say that I miss it hugely. Audiobooks (on phone, in gym particularly), Spotify and Rdio have taken its place. 

This means a lot to me – I always thought that podcasting could be big business. Maybe its just niche business?

Apple engineering needs to QA this stuff. It’s not hard. There should be test harnesses. Heck, just testing the damn upgrade. 

In other news, the up arrow key seems dodgy again on my Macbook Air. It is still only 11 months old and this is the second time its happening. I will have to find time to walk into an Apple Store to get an immediate replacement (something we can’t do in Malaysia/Singapore obviously).

Overall feeling on the Apple experience in these terms: relatively negative. Am I going to give up their stuff? No. There’s a more positive post on Apple coming soon.

The Google Chromecast – use your TV more again

New 37" LCDI recently kitted all the TVs in our homes with a Google Chromecast. It streams content from YouTube very well, and if you want content from other services like Vimeo, etc. you use a web browser (Chrome) to do the task.

I see it as a great productivity gain. You make playlists or say you want to watch videos later on YouTube. You use your phone or tablet as a remote and just watch content on your terms. You can then go on and read on the tablet, or work on your laptop. If you use the Chrome browser plugin for desktops, you can’t work on the machine at the same time as Vimeo or another video source will take the full-screen (though this isn’t a huge use case for me).

Sara had a party recently and part of the attraction was that people picked their music videos and added them to the playlist. So there was not only music but music videos. Naturally, they were all adding to the queue using her iPad.

Suddenly I understand why Android has the option for Users. This is a missing feature on iOS. Tablets are personal devices with a lot of private information on them (think Evernote, 1Password, etc.). Sure you can setup individual passwords, but the option to have a “guest mode” makes a lot of sense. It is something Apple clearly needs to work on going forward.

That said, for $35, the Google Chromecast is a great little device. Well worth it, and provides hours more TV usage. I’m thinking of getting a TV in my office room again!


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