Tag Archives: hack

Siri take the wheel. Digital life hacking for dummies.

digital life hack icons

I just saw a commercial for the Apple Watch (the device that promises to usher in a whole new world) alerting its wearers to “stand up.”

“Hey you fat lazy bastard! Time to get off your rotund keister and exercise those pathetic extensions you call legs. Stand up!”

As appalled as I was at the thought that folks need reminding (to stand up??!) I had to acknowledge the pure utility of a reminder from your wrist watch to perform important (or mundane) tasks.

You see, I’m all about efficiency.

If there’s a way to do something in fewer steps, shave time or save money, sign me up.

And I’m not taking about being cheap, skimping on quality or reducing efficacy.

I’m talking about shortcuts for improving performance economically, whether it be incremental or exponential.

In the tech world, we refer to such ‘shortcuts’ as hacks, often crude, but effective solutions to specific programming, coding or computing problems.

The concept has moved beyond the binary world to the real one, where these crude but effective shortcuts can be applied to every day problems.

In modern vernacular – life hacking.

What’s life hacking?

Quite simply, life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novel method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.

Everywhere you look, folks are life hacking.

Carpooling? Life hacking.

Teleworking? Life hacking.

Bulk shopping? Life hacking.

Virtually every task we perform in our daily lives, from the mundane to the complex, can be life hacked.

But life hacking also applies to our digital lives as well.

There were several early movers in the digital life hacking space, although we probably didn’t consider them as such back in the day.

Hootsuite comes immediately to mind.

Think about it.

Back in the heyday of social media, you had to have an account with everyone to participate in their closed universes: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc. – you get the picture.

Keeping up with them all was a nightmare.

Before there was the ability to cross pollinate your feeds with the same information from a single account by connecting them, you pretty much had to log into each one individually if you wanted to post or publish content.

And then Hootsuite came along with their social media dashboard, and you could hit most of your social media spaces from one convenient place.

Life hack.

Or TweetSpinner.

You remember them, don’t you?

TweetSpinner was essentially part CRM, part DM manager, part scheduler and part profile manager.

With TweetSpinner you could manage your followers (and follow folks back), schedule your tweets, update your profile and send broadcast direct messages from one place.

TweetSpinner consolidated four discrete activities into a handy dashboard where at a glance you could assess and manage all your Twitter-related tasks. 

Life. Hack.

Alright Stephen, enough with the digital life hacks of antiquity. What about today?

Well today, digital life hacking is a veritable art form.

And the Apple Watch is at the forefront of this movement.

Sure, there were the earlier movers – the Android watch preceded Apple by well over a year.

And there’s FitBit, Nike Fuel, and a host of other wearables that provided a certain amount of utility to their wearers.

But none holds the promise of the Apple watch for the sheer breadth of potential.

Wait…this wasn’t supposed to be a post about the Apple Watch.

It’s supposed to be about digital life hacking.

And all the ways in which digital tools can help you to life hack with aplomb.

Beyond tracking your fitness progress passively, just by wearing a device on your wrist, this same device can locate your car (so you don’t actually have to remember where you parked), find your phone, pay for your purchase – the list goes on.

But rather than bore you (any further), here are my top 5 digital life hacks.

1password

1Password – in this age of hackers, identify thieves, and wifi spoofing apps keeping your personal information secure is critical. Most people have multiple accounts for the various spaces and places they visit online, each with login credentials. Most people don’t take the time to create different logins for these multiple accounts, opting instead to use the same easy-to-recall password for everything. We know that it’s notoriously unsafe to do that, but who can remember a buttload of different password for all these accounts? With 1Password, you don’t need to. Ever since I downloaded the 1Password app, I’ve felt infinitely safer whenever I have to log into or onto anything online.

paypal

PayPal – as a consultant, getting paid is of the utmost importance. It used to be that you had to send a physical invoice and wait for a check to be cut, usually ‘Net 30.’ If you had a physical establishment, you had a card scanner to take payments at the point of sale. Electronic payments were the exclusive purview of online retailers. But today, PayPal gives consultants like me the ability to send a digital invoice, take ‘point of sale’ payments with a plug in card scanner, and accept online payments.

basecamp logo

Basecamp3 – working on projects with remote teams is always a challenge. Being able to communicate information uniformly and efficiently, share assets, collaborate and share ideas fluidly is critical to the success of any project. Before Basecamp, online collaboration took the form of shared online folders and VPN tunnels to access them. Version control, permissions, visibility and accountability were not standardized and managing projects was fairly complex. Today, things like Evernote, Slack, Google Drive, have made remote team collaboration commonplace eliminating much of the complexity of old. 

mytix

MyTix – We’ve all been here before: You’re queued up in a line to purchase a train ticket from the ticket booth or vending machine, train pulls up and you’re left with the option of abandoning your place in line and purchasing the ticket on the train with a surcharge or missing the train and purchasing the ticket without a surcharge. With the New Jersey Transit MyTix app, those days are over. Rather than having to purchase physical tickets, the app allows you purchase single rides, weekly or monthly tickets for all of NJT’s routes. You can buy tickets for other passengers riding with you as well.

siri

Siri – I used to be very anti-Siri. Why would I want to talk to my phone? If I need to do something on my iPhone, I can simply open the app and perform the activity. Case closed. When I first tried to use Siri, nine times out of ten she couldn’t/didn’t understand what I was saying and the whole process was very frustrating. But then I was exposed to the best practices for using phone assistants and my whole world changed. From setting reminders, scheduling meetings, and getting directions to sending texts, reading text messages, and placing hands-free calls, Siri ushered in a whole new world of utility that had previously been closed to me. Siri put my digital life hacking on steroids building countless efficiencies into my daily routine.

 

 

 

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Ummm FBI…what are you doing with my UDID?

When I first heard about the recent hack of 12 million Apple device UDIDs, I wasn’t too concerned.

I caught a sound bite on Fox 5 News, on my way out the door, so the details were necessarily sketchy.

But hackers hack.

So what?

In my mind, the 12 million hacked UDIDs was a drop in the bucket relative to the total number of Apple devices out there.

I felt my nonchalant attitude was warranted.

But then I learned that these IDs had allegedly been lifted from a FBI laptop that hackers had somehow gained access to.

And then I started to be a little more concerned.

Why is the FBI just leaving laptops with sensitive information laying around?

And why the hell does an FBI laptop have 12 million UDIDs on it?

What legitimate purpose could the FBI possibly have for acquiring the UDIDs in the first place?

And then I learned that it wasn’t just random UDIDs.

The laptop allegedly also contained specific information about the users connected to those device IDs, including their names, email addresses and credit card information.

And now I’m concerned.

My colleagues, in the office, were following the story and passed around the link to the site where you could check to see if you were among the victims of this latest digital security breach.

We joked about how not being on the list didn’t mean that you were any more secure, than if you had been.

All jokes aside – I immediately checked to see if any of my devices were among those compromised.

Luckily they were not.

But despite my relief, I can’t help but be a tad ticked off.

The infamous hacks and blatant privacy policy violations of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Chase, et al, can leave no doubt that ‘online security’ is a misnomer.

With this latest gaffe, we’ve learned that even the Feds are in on the chicanery.

And although both the FBI and Apple have denied that any such leak occurred, in light of the frequency with which hacks occur it’s hard to believe either of them.

It seems like every other day, we hear about some major leak of private or secure data.

And if it’s hackers, doing their thing, then so be it.

Hackers serve a legitimate role in keeping these corporations, who have a fiduciary duty to safeguard our information, on their collective j-o-b.

Without hackers exposing the flaws in corporate firewalls and security protocols, our shit would be a whole lot less secure than it is.

On an aside – I’m waiting for September 29th – the day after hackers have threatened to release Romney’s tax returns.

I digress.

This latest incident has exposed a reality that few of us really consider…

That online information is inherently insecure.

Each time you fill out an online form, use your credit card to make a purchase from your mobile phone, or create a digital profile on some site, you compromise your data.

And in this increasingly digital world we live in, this compromise is virtually inescapable.

Of course, most many some a few of us take steps to safeguard our information online.

We use services like 1password to avoid the trap of using common passwords for all of our online accounts.

We change our passwords frequently and don’t share them with anyone.

We do whatever we have to do to avoid having our private info floating around in cyberspace.

At the end of the day, I pray that these cats get their acts together.

And despite the denials, if this hack is real, then Apple and the FBI, you’ve got some splainin’ to do!

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, privacy, rant, technology

Google sucks balls (and steals Safari user’s information)

I’m sure you’ve heard about the $22.5 million settlement between Google and the FTC to resolve Google’s theft of information by users of the Apple Safari browser.

Apparently, Google pimped a loophole in Safari’s privacy settings designed to prevent third-party cookies.

Employing what was essentially a hack, Google fooled Safari into thinking that a user had interacted with a Google ad.

Once Safari was tricked, cookies were placed on the device, unbeknown to the user.

20120810-110517.jpg

The Wall Street Journal summarized Google’s trickery quite succinctly.

For a company whose motto is ‘Don’t Be Evil’, Google seems to be pretty rotten pretty often.

Wasn’t there a dust up not too long ago about Google surreptitiously mining its users’ data in ways violative of their own privacy policy?

Mind you, Google was already in hot water for its previous naughty behavior.

This settlement comes in the wake of another 2011 settlement, in which Google was found to have engaged in questionable practices.

Of course, Google has admitted no wrongdoing.

Every time they get caught with their pants down, they do a Sandusky a proclaim their innocence.

“It wasn’t me.”

“It was an accident.”

“They wanted me to stick my cookies in there.”

Lies. Lies. Lies.

And we all know they’re lying.

Google didn’t become the search giant they are by accident.

I mean seriously?

Google employs some of the most sophisticated search algorithms known to man.

They have thousands of Ivy League engineers and computer scientists on staff.

Everything they do is calculated.

So you’ll pardon me if I find it a tad implausible that “an accident” caused them to circumvent the privacy protocols on the browser of its principal rival.

Me thinks not.

More likely, this was a carefully crafted strategy to make more money at the expense of unwitting Safari users.

At the end of the day, as many observers have noted, $22.5M is a drop in the bucket to Google.

They’ll make that shit back in a day.

Since this settlement didn’t include an admission of guilt on Google’s part, it’s business as usual.

We’ll all soon forget and forgive.

Google will get back to playing Big Brother to the unsuspecting masses, all the while flashing innocent doe eyes.

But I’ll not be lulled into a false sense of security.

And know this, Google: you suck balls and one day your evil ways shall be your undoing.

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, privacy, technology