BBC - proving a point
Thursday, March 12, 2009
We just got the announcement, iPhone OS 3.0 is coming. Set your clocks, mark your calendars. It's going down March 17th. Apparently, we'll get a sneak peak at the new OS, as well as a look at a brand new version of the SDK. Exciting stuff indeed, and we'll be there live at 10am PST (1pm EST) with the liveblog. Apple's calling this an "advance preview of what we're building," so we're not expecting anything ready to go as of the 17th, but hopefully this will allow developers to start building toward future functionality (hey, how about some push notifications?), and presumably users won't have too many months to wait after that for the real deal.
Available at 4GB, the fresh model is long, thin and sleek--somewhat like the original first-gen model, but with a clip. It's available in light gray and dark gray, and the controls are moved to a bulbous clicker on the cord.
My problem with this is going to be being stuck with Apple's headphones, or having to buy some fancy new officially licensed headphones that also have the new control block built-in. This isn't new, as far as little audio players go, but is still a shame: for today's show, the part of Sony will be played by Apple.
It also has a new feature called Voiceover: press it, and the Shuffle tells you what's playing.
They're up at the Apple Store for $80.
Update: Mute Kaiza points out that it might be easy to splice better headphones onto the control unit, so long as you're O.K. ruining your beautiful Appley lines.
As an aside, I imagine Belkin will announce an adapter within minutes. I still don't want to pay for one, even if it's just $10.
Great comment from reader Cyklo: "I'm amused that if you swap out the inline-control bundled earphones for your own, you reach Apple Zen: an iPod with zero buttons."
Steve Jobs hates buttons.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to you: the Apple CEO has been on a crusade to wipe moving parts from the face of Apple’s products as early as the replacement of PowerBook trackballs with trackpads or the removal of the physical scroll wheel from the original iPod. The iPhone and iPod touch were further steps towards a button-free world, relegating as many controls as possible on the touchscreen.
And now we have the buttonless iPod shuffle. With the exception of a single switch that controls the unit's power and lets you change between shuffle and ordered play, the iPod shuffle itself contains no buttons. Instead, the playback controls are integrated into the headphone cord: you can squeeze either the top, bottom, or center of the remote to execute different functions.
If you ask me, the war on buttons has gone too far. The new iPod shuffle takes a step back in both the usability and compatibility departments. Don’t get me wrong, the new VoiceOver feature is a very clever idea, especially on a device with no screen. But the rest of the changes make me wonder if Apple has placed too high a premium on the product's form over its function.
I admit, I haven’t had a chance to handle a new shuffle yet, so it’s possible all my concerns are for naught, but from my initial impressions, I think that the move from the second-generation shuffle’s controls to the new remote-based controls are a poor decision on the part of Apple’s design team. Let’s look at it in relation to its predecessor.
The second-generation iPod shuffle’s controls are pretty familiar to anyone who’s used any sort of playback device, whether it be an iPod, other music player, or even a DVD player. The buttons are clearly marked with the nearly-universal symbols for Play/Pause, forward, previous, and "more" and "less." This is an iPod that my mom or dad could pick up and grasp without too much trouble.
Now the new iPod shuffle:
The fact that Apple has to put up this diagram tells you how much more complicated it is: how would you figure out the controls without this chart? The only markings on the controls are the "+" and "-" that mark volume controls. There is no indication of how to play or pause music. There’s also no way to know where the previous or next track buttons are; you wouldn't be out of line thinking that it might involve the use of the volume up and down buttons—not so. In order to go to the next track, you double-click the center of the controller; to go the previous track, you triple-click the controller. You can also hold down the center button to hear the name of the currently playing track, then release it after a beep to hear the name of all your playlists.
Look, even buttons have their place: having discrete controls for discrete functions is not necessarily a design failure. Sometimes it's just the best way to get the job done. There's no inherent, intuitive cognitive connection between double-clicking to go forward or triple-clicking to go back; it requires the forging of a new link in our minds. Where does it end? Will future versions require you to quadruple- or quintuple-click? Will there be a system where you can spell out the name of the song, artist, or album you want in Morse code?
I realize that it seems elegant to Apple—look, ma, no moving parts—but anybody who’s going to spend some time helping a less-than-tech-savvy individual deal with their new iPod is quickly going to encounter frustration: “No, dad, click three times to go back to that last song. No, don’t hold it down! Okay, let's start again.” It’s enough to make you wish for a feature that lets you click your heels together to go home again.
Then, there’s the lock-in aspect. I suffer from a not uncommon genetic condition called “the stupid iPod earbuds don’t stay in my ears.” I simply can’t use the iPod earbuds for anything that doesn't require me staying absolutely still; if I walk around, the earbuds fall out—never mind jogging. Up until now, no problem: just swap in any pair of headphones, from the cheapest pair of over-the-head models to a $300 pair of noise-cancelling cans. Headphones are headphones are headphones, right?
Alas, no more. The decision to put the controls on the headphones means that unless Apple opens up the controls to third parties, you can’t even play music on the iPod without using Apple’s own earbuds. What happens if, as is also not unheard of, Apple's stock earbuds break? Your iPod is completely useless until you get another pair of approved headphones. This is not Sparta, this is madness.
I know there will be plenty who say: well, the iPod shuffle isn’t for you, then. True, it’s not; I'll stick to my fifth-generation iPod or a nano. But it also means the new shuffle won’t be the iPod I’d recommend to others, as the previous shuffle often was.
I understand the desire for the Apple design team to push themselves and try to accomplish something new and perhaps even revolutionary, but in the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, perhaps they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.Original here
The BBC has deliberately hacked into 22,000 PCs to prove the power of botnets, and the damage that can be done with a network of compromised computers.
Click – BBC News' technology programme – with the help of anti-virus company Prevx, took over thousands of computers in order to demonstrate a growing problem in the modern world.
Botnets are networks of computers that have been compromised by cyber-criminals and can be used to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on servers or, most commonly, to send out the deluge of spam that lands in the world's inboxes daily.
"Click managed to acquire its own low-value botnet - the name given to a network of hijacked computers - after visiting chatrooms on the internet," said the BBC
"The programme did not access any personal information on the infected PCs.
"If this exercise had been done with criminal intent it would be breaking the law.
Prevx demonstrated the ease in which people can 'rent' botnets for their own use earlier this year when TechRadar visited Director of Malware Research Jacques Erasmus.
Commenting on the BBC project, Erasmus said "Cyber criminals are getting into contact with websites and threatening them with DDoS attacks.
"The loss of trade is very substantial so a lot of these websites just pay-up to avoid it."
The BBC points out that it 'destroyed' its botnet after finishing its project.
According to the security firm, just 19 percent never use the same password twice. Sophos added that three years ago, 41 percent of web users said they used the same password, indicating that just 8 percent of web users have realized the importance of strong, unique passwords.
"It's worrying that in three years very few computer users seem to have woken up to the risks of using weak passwords and the same ones for every site they visit," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.
"With social networking and other internet accounts now even more popular, there's plenty on offer for hackers and by using the same password to access Facebook, Amazon and your online bank account, you're making it much easier for them. Once one password has been compromised, it's only a matter of time before the fraudsters will be able to gain access to your other accounts and steal information for financial gain."
"It's easy to understand why computer users pick dictionary words as they're much easier to remember. A good trick is to pick a sentence and just use the first letter of every word to make up your password. To make it even stronger, you can replace words like 'for' for the number 4, and this should give you peace of mind that your password won't be guessed," advised Cluley.