Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Android isn't safe

In the past I have not weighed in too heavily on the Android vs iPhone debate. It has seemed to me to be a matter of taste. However, I think a vulnerability to the Android platform has emerged that should concern anyone who ventures to use it. The problem is that all digital platforms have security vulnerabilities. Once the vulnerability is discovered, a race begins between the owners of the platform (who are trying to plug the security hole) and hackers (who are seeking to exploit the breach in order to steal identities and money).

 An example of one such vulnerability is documented here (as linked by Daringfireball.net). Patching this will require a coordinated effort among Google (who builds Android) the individual handset makers, and the telecom companies that put those handsets on their networks (because the software on each phone has to be customized for each network). Google can't do this by themselves, because they have ceded control over the implementation of their software to the telecoms. The handset makers are really hardware manufacturers, and aren't that passionate about the software that runs on their phones. In fact, many Android phones are sold with old versions of the software installed, and then never updated.

 "I don't care about having the latest features, it's just my phone" you might say. That's fine. However, when that phone holds your email, and account information for a myriad of other vendors you use, you should care! Many accounts, such as banks and travel accounts, use your primary email as a way to update your passwords. If someone hacks your email, they can then lock you out (and themselves in) to your accounts, and spend all your money and credit. Apple is certainly not immune to such security vulnerabilities. However, they have maintained control over how their operating system are implemented by the telecoms, and they screen software for malicious code before it is allowed on their gadgets. Furthermore, they are still manufacturing and updating the iPhone 3GS, which is now two generations old. Contrast this with Android phones, which are often abandoned by their telecom support long before the standard two year contract is up.

 Caveat emptor!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A useful podcast

My favorite tech podcasting network, 5by5.tv, recently picked up a long running podcast called Mac Power Users. These podcasters cover a lot of useful topics regarding both OS X, and iOS. I'm listening now to an episode about ditching cable tv service, and obtaining ones' favorite shows via other means. You can find this podcast by searching for it in the podcast section of iTunes, or by going to the 5x5.tv website.

Mobile blogging

After having been away from this blog for a while, I have discovered a way to jump back in -- google's iOS app for blogger. Hopefully this will allow me to post things "on the fly", which is the only way to get things done sometimes!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thoughts about kids and screens

I had a nice discussion about kids and screens with my friend Heidi Haas tonight.  She works with kids.  She works with kids who are doing fine, and kids who are struggling (emotionally), she works with many different ages of kids.  I have the highest regard for her work, so when she responded positively to the following ideas, it made me think that others might be interested in them, too.

She asked me a general question about what do I think about kids and iOS gadgets.  I responded with the following:

   * Basically, screen time is screen time to me.  Computers, handhelds, televisions, game consoles, all these are basically similar to me.  We let our kids use them all, within limits.   Probably about 45 minutes a day, to an hour, if we averaged it all out.
   * Since the iOS platform has matured, I have been inclined to make a finer distinction.  No longer can we assume "book -- good.  Screen -- bad".  There are plenty of apps for ipods and ipads that help kids do things that are creative and educational.  So with Jonas, I have at times used a "brain food vs brain candy" scheme.  Many apps on his beloved iPod are brain candy (plants vs zombies being his current favorite). Some however, that have to do with reading, writing, drawing, problem solving, picture taking, music making, these qualify as brain food.  We let him have more time with these activities than he would with brain candy apps.
   * Furthermore, apps are a great reward to use with token economy systems (star charts).  They don't cost much, you don't step on them in the dark in bare feet, and they don't take up any physical space.  I have had deals with Jonas where, if he "beat" (exhausted) a brain food app (such as sight words), then I would buy him a game.  This has worked well.  There is even a star chart app (of course).

She asked what I think about very little kids and iOS devices.  I think the platform itself is great for kids, as it gives them independent, portable access to a lot of great activities. However, it is so easy to use that kids could wander into content that is not at all appropriate for them, if the grown ups aren't careful.  Like any screen time, it is very important to be aware of what your child is accessing from moment to moment.

I think this independent learning is an important and under-recognized feature.  I see this both in Julian, and in my adult students.  As an educator, I'm tempted to decry the loss of personal contact in the learning process.  However, when I step back, I see that it is very empowering for learners to have total control over the pace and direction of learning.  I find they still come to me (teacher or parent) about things, but they feel good about learning a lot, then asking more sophisticated questions.  I think there is a lot about this to like.

I think our boys have learned a lot from their iPods.  Lately, they have discovered the camera function on Julian's (which is an old iPhone).  I was waiting for that.  I'm going to post some of the best results on instagram on my feed (IanCamera).  I'll tag them, although I'm guessing that you will be able to spot most of them.

Happy Tapping!  (With or without elmo :-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Favorite tool, reborn

I really love a launcher called Quicksilver.  It is one of a class of applications whose job it is to help you launch and run other applications.  QS is a famous example on OS X, although there are plenty of others.  

It has been limping along, after having been abandoned by its original developer.  However, it seems to have found new support.  

You can get it at http://qsapp.com/
You can find out more at http://qsapp.com/wiki/Main_Page

If you spend much time at all on a mac, you should really use this or something else like it.  You will abandon your mouse, and work much faster at the same time!

Important Info about your email!

A major third party manager of email accounts has been breached, which is likely to make you vulnerable to phishing attacks.  Here is an article that suggests things you can do to avoid such vulnerability in the future.  There is something delicious about jamming the spammers, isn't there?


Monday, February 14, 2011

Favorite app (tonight)

My buddy Jeremy tonight on Facebook asked about people's favorite iPad apps.  It is a great question, without a perfect answer.  It's like asking a woodworker "what's your favorite tool?"  The answer will be "for doing what?"

Tonight's answer would be TED.  I think it runs on the smaller iOS devices, too, although that is exactly the kind of app that I pruned from my phone when I switched to the 8 gig one.

I love TED because you can perch your device above the sink, and have some really smart person present something excellent about important stuff while you wash the dishes.  Awesome!

So Jeremy, happy dish washing!