Smartphone vs tablet vs phablet vs ???

I recently traded in my iPad for a Nexus 9. It has made me look at the phone/tablet thing a bit differently.

When I had an Android phone and an iPad, they felt like very different devices, each with a different role. But now that my tablet and phone work the same, and seamlessly share information, they don’t seem so different anymore. For example, if I make a note on google keep, it instantly shows up on the other device.

The only real difference is the size of the screen, and that the tablet can’t make phone calls or send texts. (Actually that’s not really true as you can make free calls over WiFi using google hangouts.)

That’s why phablets are growing in popularity. For those who can put up with carrying around a larger device, they are the best of both worlds. I want a phone I can put in my pocket though, and phablets are too big for my taste.

So what we really need is a modest sized phone with a screen that appears to be several times the size of the phone. Or better still, are we that far off from a full-fledged computer the size of a smartphone with a holographic display the size of a monitor, and a virtual keyboard? Would that be a complet? – a comphone?

Cross posted to Slaw

Company laptops now private affair

For the London Free Press – May 30, 2011 – Read this on Canoe

The recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision in R v. Cole establishes that employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the personal use and contents of their work-provided laptop computers.

The case involved a Sudbury high school teacher whose work-provided laptop was investigated by a school board computer technician after a higher than normal amount of network use was noticed. The technician accessed the content on the teacher’s laptop through the school server and found sexually explicit images of a student on the hard drive. The school obtained the laptop and turned it and two discs over to the police who searched both without a warrant and charged the teacher with possession of child pornography and unauthorized use of a computer.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the teacher had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the personal use of his work laptop and in the contents of his personal files on the hard drive. Even though the laptop was owned by the school board and issued for work purposes, the court found that a reasonable expectation of privacy existed.

The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial and that certain of the evidence obtained without a warrant could not be used.

While this decision is regarded by some as a game changer for employee privacy rights, its real impact may be limited by two significant factors. First, the court’s finding of a reasonable expectation of privacy was based on specific facts which may not be typical of all workplace situations. In Cole, the teachers were provided with laptops for use in teaching but they were also explicitly allowed to use the laptops for personal use.

Second, the impact of the decision is tempered by a finding that the teacher did not have an expectation of privacy with respect to access to his hard drive by the school board’s computer technician for the limited purposes of maintaining the technical integrity of the school’s information network and the laptop.

While some commentators are heralding this decision as a significant change in the law, it really doesn’t stray far from conventional wisdom. It may, however, make employers more cautious in how they treat their employees’ personal use of work technology. For those employers who have not implemented a comprehensive technology use policy, this decision should be the impetus for them to do so.

Scareware forms a fake security software

For the London Free Press – September 27, 2010

Read this on Canoe

Most of us are familiar with the terms “software” and “hardware”. Over the years, many other “ware” words have been coined to describe the myriad applications available today.

There are a variety of terms for software designed to harm your computer. For example, “malware” (or “scumware”) describes software developed to harm your computer. It includes things such as viruses and worms, and often uses communication tools such as e-mail and instant messaging programs to spread from computer to computer.

“Scareware” is a type of malware. A form of fake security software, it claims that your computer is infected with viruses, and persuades the user to buy a full version of software that will “clean” the infection. It tries to scare users into buying a product. The product you buy could simply be unnecessary, but it could also be intended to damage your computer. It is even possible to become infected with scareware without buying the software, for example, if the user tries to close the notification. Some scareware messages are particularly deceptive because they are designed to look like they were generated by your computer’s operating system.

“Spyware” is another kind of malware that collects personal information about users without their knowledge. The information it collects is often used for the purposes of advertising and identity theft. Some can also slow down your computer, causing applications to freeze and systems to crash.

“Junkware” refers to unwanted, and often intrusive, software. It may be installed with the user’s consent when the user accepts an end-user licence agreement, but it typically serves no useful purpose. It can include adware, spyware, as well as “hijackware”, which can, among other things, set the user’s default Internet homepage to a site of its choice.

There are forms of “wares” that are less harmful, but equally annoying. “Annoyware” (or “nagware”) describes software that users find annoying. Such as software that frequently disrupts the normal operation of a program to remind users to register it.

“Adware” displays advertisements while the software is running. Although it can be harmless, and is typically used by application developers as a source of income, they can include spyware. Similar to “Adware” is “Beggarware”, a form of “freeware” that encourages the user to donate to the freeware’s author.

There are also terms for software with limited functionality. “Shareware” free software is sometimes limited in its functionality, availability or convenience. It may be trial or demo software. Additional features become available if the user chooses to purchase the full version. “Crippleware” refers to an even more restricted type of shareware.

Bloatware (or “fatware”) is software that uses so many resources it slows your system. A recent example of this is some pre-loaded applications found on Android smartphones.

Not all wares are evil, though. “Charityware”, for example, is a type of software whose end is to benefit a charity by encouraging its users to donate to a charity, instead of paying for the software.

iPad as a business tool

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.  It reads as follows.

I thought for my first post on the shiny new Slaw format, I should talk about a shiny new object.  Over a million iPads have been sold so far. Many comments about the iPad can be found on Slaw, including my thoughts that the iPad will be the disruptive tipping point that will define the category. This kind of device will fundamentally change how we consume information.

Several competing products are expected to be on the market within the next few months, some of which will address some of the iPad’s missing features. Of course, fans will say that the missing features is a feature as they allow the iPad to perform what it does very well.  I’ve seen one close up, and it is indeed impressive.

I’m convinced that while an iPad is not a laptop replacement it may be a good alternative to a laptop, especially as a portable companion to one’s main computer.  For me, its not if I will get an iPad or a competing device, its when.   I’m impatiently holding on for a few months to see how the competition shakes out.

These 2 articles are worth a read.

A Gizmodo post entitled: The iPad Is Such A Great Travel Computer That I’m Selling My Laptop 

This post entitled: 5 Great Excuses to Buy an iPad for Your Business

UPDATE: And if not for a business tool – make a iPad controlled video blimp.

Jury confirms Novell owns Unix copyrights – Linux remains free

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.  It reads as follows:

We have not heard much about this lately, partly because a summary judgment in 2007 stated that Novell owned the Unix code.   A jury confirmed last week that SCO had not acquired the copyright to Unix from Novell in an asset purchase agreement.

The significance of this to the world at large is that Linux was derived from Unix.  SCO launched a long standing battle claiming it owned Unix, and thus had rights to certain code within Linux, and thus the right to be compensated for Linux use. 

Apparently, SCO is not yet giving up though – there is some suggestion that it might continue the fight, however futile it might be.

For more details, see this Groklaw post.

Software vendors playing hardball

For the London Free Press – February 1, 2010

Read this on Canoe

IBM recently announced that Euro Partners, a New York-based brokerage, downloaded $1.7 US million worth of IBM software between 2003 and 2008 without permission.

Euro Partners, a unit of BGC Partners, was acquired by BGC in 2005 for about $97.3 million. IBM accuses BGC of downloading extra copies of its Informix software without paying licensing fees.

IBM is suing BGC for breach of contract and copyright infringement and is seeking an injunction to impound all improperly downloaded copies of its software.

In 2008, after a customer audit, IBM found BGC was downloading more copies of Informix than its purchase agreement allowed. In September 2008, IBM sent BGC a bill for $1,730,665.24; BGC refused to pay.

In December, IBM offered BGC a new licence covering both previously licensed copies of Informix and the improperly downloaded copies. When BGC said no, IBM terminated BGC’s International Program License Agreement.

As a condition of its IPLA, BGC was required to destroy its copies of Informix. Not only did BGC refuse to destroy existing copies, but it downloaded more after the IPLA ended.

This is not the only example of a software distributor playing hardball and cracking down on users of unlicensed software.

The Business Software Alliance, an industry trade group that polices software licences, announced last fall it settled with 12 Canadian companies for a total of $431,336 in damages for using unlicensed software. Settlements ranged from $11,900 to $128,800.

These are not always instances of intentional “theft” of software. Sometimes the business simply doesn’t keep proper track of its software use compared to what they have actually licensed.

The most common way software vendors become aware of improper use is through tips from current or former employees.

In its 2009 Global Software Piracy Study — available at — the alliance notes that “in 2008, the worldwide monetary value of unlicensed software — ‘losses’ to software vendors — was $53 billion. This was up $5.1 billion from 2007, or 11%, in non-constant dollars.” In 2008, “for every $100 of legitimate software sold, another $69 was pirated.”

Calling this entire amount “losses” is a stretch, since many of those who copied would simply not use the software if they had to pay for it.

Regardless, it is clear that any business or organization that uses a significant amount of unlicensed software — whether intentionally or through lax management — exposes itself to possible fees and damage claims likely to exceed the actual licence fees. Not to mention the internal time and public embarrassment entailed in such a claim.

2010 – the year of the tablet / e-book?

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.   It reads as follows:

2010 will see some interesting and useful developments in the tablet / e-book reader space.  The concept of a thin, light, portable device with a decent screen size (i.e. a letter sized piece of paper) and long battery life to read things on – such as newspapers, magazines, books, the web – is quite compelling.

There are a few products on the market already – such as the Kindle.  In my view the tipping point to widespread adoption will be colour screens that can render glossy magazine resolution, the ability to get web content via wifi rather than just over a cell network, and a low enough price point.  At least that’s what I’m holding out for.

To some extent this is vapourware –  but there is a lot of activity and potential competition in this space.  Consider:

Several Slaw articles have mentioned the Kindle and e-book readers like the Sony reader.

Another entrant announced within the last few days is the  JooJoo, formerly known as the  Crunchpad.  This one is rather controversial.   The  story behind it (feuding developers) is as interesting as the product itself.

Of course there is the much anticipated Apple tablet – which many predict will appear some time in 2010.

Microsoft has shown a concept called the Courier.

And top that off with a publishers consortium that is working on digital publishing standards.

Laptops on border ‘search’ list

For The London Free Press – November 30, 2009

Read this on Canoe

TRAVEL: The practical reality is we have no control over these computer searches, so it’s wise to be prepared

Last summer, directives were issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for searches of computers and other electronic devices at U.S. border points.

The stated goal was to combat crime and terrorism while still protecting personal privacy and civil liberties.

The directives allow border agents to search, detain, copy or examine any electronic device capable of storing electronic information for any reason.

As Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at the time, “The new directives . . . strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travellers while ensuring (Department of Homeland Security) can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders.”

Where “sensitive” information in involved, including solicitor-client privilege and medical records, border guards are directed to consult with agency counsel or the local U.S. Attorney’s office. But any information outside of this narrow privileged category may be searched.

Whether such searches truly accomplish the goal is questionable. As information freely flows across borders via the Internet, physical searches of computers will be of little use. And laws such as copyright are so fact-dependent, and even pose challenges to courts trying to sort out what is allowable, that it’s not a decision a border agent should make.

The practical reality is that we have no control over these border searches. So the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has published a list of suggestions for lawyers crossing the border with laptops or electronic devices.

While the association published its work for the legal community, the suggestions are valuable for anyone entering the U.S. with an electronic device containing sensitive or confidential information.

The full text can be found at TAYP/laptopborderupdate.aspx, but here are some of the most helpful tips:

– Travel with a “bare” computer that contains only the most essential information. Ensure that all work with data is done via a secure virtual private network (VPN). Consider using SaaS (software as a service) programs based on the Internet, rather than your computer’s hard drive.

– Turn off your computer early: At least five minutes before you get to U.S. Customs, make sure your computer is turned off so unencrypted information in your computer’s RAM has adequate time to void itself.

– Back up your data: Self-explanatory.

– Store data on small devices: Smaller devices can be carried more inconspicuously.

– Protect your phone and PDA: Phones now carry a considerable amount of information and needed to be kept as “clean” as possible in case they’re confiscated.

– ‘Clean’ your laptop once it’s returned: This will ensure that no programs or spyware have been installed on your computer.

In summary, the prudent approach for taking a computer into the U.S. is to ensure it contains no confidential, sensitive or privileged information.

Don’t rely on encryption, because the border agent may simply ask for your password.

The better approach is to leave all information on a Canadian server and access it remotely once in the U.S.

Be smart about data

For the London Free Press – September 4, 2007

Read this on Canoe

Excited to head back to school with a shiny new notebook computer? A few precautions will lessen the risk that using that computer will lead to trouble.

– Wireless Internet connections are great, but information can be stolen from notebooks while they’re online. For information thieves, it can be as simple as finding someone online using an unsecured wireless network.

If you connect to the Internet using a Wi-Fi network, make sure you use an official one, such as your official university or college Wi-Fi site. Some unofficial Wi-Fi networks are rogue “smurf” sites that allow others to steal personal information or upload viruses on your wireless device.

– Downloading from the Internet also makes you vulnerable to computer viruses — so make sure you have adequate virus protection. The hassle, time and expense of removing a virus is not worth the risk of going without it.

Downloading music (but not video) is generally felt to be legal in Canada — but offering commercial music or video to others and posting it to the Web can easily cross legal lines. The entertainment industry pays close attention to campus networks and users so don’t make yourself a target.

Students should remember to use the Internet as a research tool, not a photocopier. Copyright laws do give wider latitude to copy for academic papers than for commercial works. That is a different issue than plagiarism, however. Always be sure to cite any material taken from the Internet and never try to pass off someone else’s material as your own.

– For those who will stay in touch with friends and family through online networking sites such as Facebook, remember your information is available for others to see. A general rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see it, it’s best to keep that information to a more private venue.

– Always use effective passwords on e-mail accounts and other access points. In a crowded campus building, protect your notebook and your information by requiring a password to be entered after a few minutes of inactivity. Make sure you choose passwords that are not obvious, and don’t share them with others.

Saving passwords for websites on your computer can be convenient, but it might not be worth the risk if you leave your computer turned on and unattended. If you use an open Internet network, saving passwords on your computer may enable a savvy computer hacker access to banking and other records.

– Computers aren’t the only risks students should be cautioned about. Many students will use debit cards, credit cards or student cards that have been pre-loaded with money. It is important to keep the cards in your possession, keep any PINs secret, and review your card balances or statements regularly to ensure nobody is spending your money.

Get used to guarding your credit card numbers and debit card PINs. Check receipts to make sure they don’t print the full card number, and don’t leave them lying around. Never throw anything containing personal information in the trash — always shred or destroy it.

Being aware of these risks and taking simple precautions will ensure students can concentrate on more important matters, such as the tomorrow’s midterm or Friday’s toga party. Not everyone is out to steal your personal information or your money, but it’s worth taking steps to protect yourself.