Although smartphones have greatly enhanced the lives of consumers across the board, one of the biggest downsides of such devices is that consumers often sacrifice privacy in exchange for free apps. Whether it’s giving a game access to their contacts, or having a productivity app read emails to target ads, for years developers have been mining data from consumers by using the premise of providing “free” software.
Fortunately for users this problem is being addressed by the leading aftermarket Android operating system CyanogenMod. For those unfamiliar with CyanogenMod, in a nutshell it is a highly enhanced version of the stock Android operating system which includes many features Google did not include in the original version. As discussed in an article from ArsTechnica, the most recent nightly version of CyanogenMod (10.1) now contains a set of features which are designed to allow users to pick and choose the individual permissions applications can access.
Unfortunately since CyanogenMod only runs on rooted phones, this feature will likely be inaccessible to all but the most tech savvy users who are willing to go through the modding process. Fortunately rooting is not as difficult as it sounds, and it is becoming increasingly easy as users continue to increasingly demand more control over their phones. Fortunately for the less technical, the excellent productivity website Lifehacker has a step by step guide on rooting virtually any phone with a few simple steps. Keep in mind that rooting voids many phone warranties, however unless you are sending your phone back for a software issue, it likely won’t matter. Additionally if desired you can always revert your phone back to the stock settings fairly easily.
As far as whether we will see this feature appearing in stock Android, most likely it won’t because Google simply drives too much money off of advertising revenue to risk annoying developers with such walls. Although CyanogenMod is paving the way for an excellent feature set, it likely will remain limited to aftermarket versions of Android.
Just because you’re not an artist is no longer an excuse for you to avoid the topic of user experience when creating any type of project. Today it is crucial for all project managers to have a grasp of basic design concepts because without a proper interface, it is impossible for customers to use your product. Fortunately ensuring your product has a proper user interface doesn’t require you to be an artist.
When I first chose to review UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design, I originally expected to end up with a book filed with diagrams, sketching tips and other artsy topics however I was pleasantly surprised to discover much of the book focused on many common sense tips. Add in an excellent sense of humor by the author, and the book took what could’ve been a boring topic and turned the book into a very informative and easy to understand read.
For those unfamiliar with the lean business development methodology, although it is a vast field, it primarily contains many common sense steps to ensure that business development projects avoid having waste added to them. In a nutshell the process boils down to constantly asking “does this add value to the consumer” before implementing features, and ensuring that through rapid test cycles glitches are corrected early on before they cause significant expenses. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses as a must read to fully understand lean methodology.
Going back to “UX for Lean Startups” by Laura Klein, Klein’s work is an excellent complement to the previously mentioned book because it helps you to take your refined project and ensure that the look and feel isn’t cluttered and overwhelming. While it won’t teach you to make your site look pretty, it ensures that you have a usable site. Without usability your product is literally useless, which is why I highly recommend the book for anyone looking to launch a new business.
Disclosure: For purposes of this review I was provided with a free copy of UX for Lean Startups. Aside from the book I was not provided with any other compensation.
Here at High Tech Realm we pride ourselves on our consistent delivery of quality analysis and reporting to our clients, whether they are startups just entering the tech space, or Fortune 500 companies looking to top the ranks of Google and boost their online image. As shown by our proven work with clients, High Tech Realm has consistently delivered content which greatly exceeds what can be purchased from a content farm or even a generalist marketing firm.
Most recently our expertise in technology helped Midsize Insider – a journalistic division of IBM devoted to helping midsize businesses stay atop of the latest developments in technology – win the 2013 Digiday Award for Best Content Marketing Platform. By consistently delivering quality evergreen content to IBM pertaining to: security, business analytics, cloud technologies and more, High Tech Realm was a key player on the writing team.
Recently IBM announced they will be teaming up with Thomson Reuters to increase the quality of the Midsize Insider program. We are happy to announce High Tech Realm was selected as one of the key providers to help continue with the program, and as such we are now glad to add Thomson Reuters to the list of clients.
Check back as more details will be posted about this arrangement in the coming days. Additionally if you would like to retain High Tech Realm to provide technology insights or even just have suggestions for topics we should discuss on this blog, feel free to reach out!
Chances are when you use a shared wi-fi connection you already know it is fairly easy to steal your personal information through the network, however there are few new tricks attackers are using to steal sensitive information from the average user. While many individuals have been focusing on improving the digital side of their security, today attackers are increasingly relying on old school tactics to gather information. Similar to how a rogue internal employee can do more damage than an outside attacker because of the level of trust, individuals also are falling victim to many tricks which rely on a false sense of security.
Overall while it can seem a bit daunting trying to protect yourself from these attacks, one of the best ways to protect yourself short of setting up a VPN (which can do more harm than good if a reputable provider is not chosen) is to install the HTTPS Everywhere extension on all your browsers. The plugin, created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation helps to ensure that whenever a secure connection to a website is available, it is automatically activated so you have some extra security when browsing on public wi-fi networks. Although it isn’t foolproof, the plugin is one of the best ways to harden your security regardless of your technical knowledge.
Although the mobile payment space has been gaining significant amounts of traction, Google Wallet is one of the biggest players in the space. Users of Google Wallet benefit from the fact they can store all their credit and debit cards on Google’s secured servers ensuring that when the user is out shopping, they are able to pull up payment information instantly without having to fumble through their purse or wallet. Other services of note include Square Wallet and Apple’s Passbook which also allow consumers to store their credit and debit cards in an orderly fashion while also giving consumers the option to receive relevant discounts based on their location and interests. By implementing digital wallet systems into your mobile strategy, your company can greatly increase revenue with minimal effort.
Why Mobile Payments Matter
Although mobile payments are relatively new, the adoption of such technologies has gotten a significant boost as shown by a relatively recent article in Mashable showing the announcement that Samsung and Visa have teamed up to integrate mobile payment capabilities in all Samsung phones. As Visa currently owns their own technology, Samsung devices will not support Google Wallet. Additionally Verizon Wireless also is blocking Google’s NFC technology out of reliability concerns. Regardless, mobile payments will likely benefit greatly due to the fact Visa has a much larger network of merchants than Google which will ensure the technology gains traction in the near future.
As a business owner you likely have heard about the recent surge of mobile applications such as Foursquare, Yelp, and others, but chances are you have been slow to embrace such systems because the market is saturated. Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and others it can be difficult to choose which networks to support. Despite the complexities, the process can be simplified by embracing a solid mobile strategy. In particular, location-based marketing is an important strategy to embrace because it allows you to tap into customers who are right near your business in real-time.
Although Foursquare and Yelp are crucial for any business, there are a few technologies that greatly enhance the shopping experience for your customers. Digital wallets such as Google Wallet, Square Wallet, and Apple’s Passbook provide consumers with the ability to track loyalty program statuses, receive relevant offers based on their location and interest, and even store tickets in a central location that can help encourage spending by streamlining the shopping process. One of the biggest benefits Square Wallet has over its competitors is the fact it requires little upfront merchant investment, has low merchant fees, and the plans are contract free. Google Wallet works with Android and iOS but it requires a traditional merchant arrangement, while Passbook is limited to the iPhone but it can be embraced by companies with ease.
For decades companies have struggled to keep costs reasonable when it comes to IT infrastructure. Between the complexities of running internal servers, paying hefty licensing costs for vital software, and ensuring all end-user systems functioned properly made provisioning an developing software a painful experience for any firm. Fortunately today cloud computing technologies have emerged as a way for companies of all sizes to slash information technology overhead costs while allowing companies to prototype code rapidly and provision software with ease. Overall the cloud is a vast field however there are three key areas which encompass the majority of the cloud.
Although the cloud is often associated with rapidly building applications and providing access to essential data when on the go, many IT professionals have been unfamiliar with cloud OS technologies until now. Many professionals are used to accessing applications via their browsers, cloud operating systems provide an added layer of security because they allow users to access all their data and applications from a central interface which can be accessed from virtually any internet connected computer. Additionally by using a cloud operating system, users can access all their applications though a single login thanks to single sign on (SSO) technology. Although there are many cloud operating systems available to IT professionals, two of the leading platforms are eyeOS and Jolicloud.
Electronic Arts recently made the headlines due to the release of the latest and greatest edition of the hit simulation SimCity which actually has gotten top scores, however in true EA fashion, as done in the past, the quality game was crippled thanks to draconian digital rights management (DRM) which severely hinders the ability of users to play the game even when they are in single player mode. Before continuing, it is important to note that this issue also came up back in 2008 when EA released the hit game Spore which also carried glitchy copy protection software which was known to crash legitimate users systems even when Spore was not running. Ultimately because of the DRM Spore became the most pirated software ever thanks to the DRM which caused many would be legitimate customers to torrent the software, not because of greed but because of the damage caused to their systems by the copy protection.
Unfortunately fast forward to 2013, and EA has not learned from their mistakes. In fact the negative effects have been taken a step further for SimCity users by requiring them to utilize an always on internet connection to perform basic tasks such as saving copies of their city data (as all data is stored in the cloud local saves are impossible). Although this might be understandable since EA totes this limitation as a way for users to access their game saves on any internet connected computer, the reliance of company servers for such a simple task has caused tons of pain since EA in the week following the launch of SimCity couldn’t even keep the authentication servers up meaning that paying customers of the game were unable to play for days at a time – with the issue becoming so bad that SimCity was pulled from Amazon.com soon after the launch. Although EA is now trying to make good with customers by offering them a free game (titles to be announced) it does little to resolve the underlying problems of SimCity which will likely take months to resolve if EA decides to correct their ways.
Last month, Kim DotCom shook up the online storage industry with the launch of his venture, MEGA. For those unfamiliar with Kim DotCom, his claim to fame was the creation of the now defunct MegaUpload website where users were able to upload files ranging from a few megabytes to hundreds of gigabytes for a nominal fee. Although the site served legitimate purposes, it was widely used by piracy networks because of the anonymity provided by the site, and the simplicity of the service. Users simply could upload files, and post the links on their websites without having to worry about signups and logging of traceable information. Although MegaUpload was based in New Zealand, the United States managed to shut down the site in January of 2012 due to MegaUpload owning servers in Virginia. Currently this legal battle is ongoing however it is not going to be the focus of this article.
Fast forward to February 0f 2013, despite having ongoing legal battles Kim Dotcom launched MEGA which is intended to be the successor to MegaUpload. By offering generous portions of file hosting – starting with 50GB for a free plan and going up to 4TB for only €29.99/month – MEGA is carrying the torch of it’s predecessor MegaUpload. One of the biggest differences between Mega and MegaUpload however is that the former implements extensive amounts of encryption intended to protect the privacy of users, no matter what they use the service for (including piracy).