Archive for May, 2012

Tea, Earl Gray, Hot

Posted: May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’m sure you remember quite well watching Jean-Luc Picard standing next to his desk and saying to the computer, “Tea, Earl Gray, Hot” during many an episode of Star Trek : The Next Generation. The whole of idea of talking to computers making some sort of request even going back to the original show in the 1960s was pretty futuristic and exciting stuff.

Here we are 2012, if I turn on my iPhone, activate Siri and say “Tea Earl Gray Hot”, she happily comes back with, “I found a number of restaurants not far from you. I’ve sorted them by rating.”

Least the warm fuzzies of living in the future linger too long, let’s turn our attention to this little story that popped by this morning.

In it, IBM bans the use of Siri on it’s internal networks. The explanation, “is concerned that spoken data could be stored somewhere on Apple’s servers.”  *facepalm*

In the early 80s with the introduction of the personal computer, I can remember my Dad’s company Gold Seal buying their first PC, my dad setting it up in an area fairly close to the xerox copier. To use, you’d just walk up, turn it on, boot into DOS and run whatever you were going to run. My Dad’s company also had a system 3x and that box had honest to gosh log in ids. There were different security models between the PC and the minicomputer but either way both were tools to get work done.

IBM made a lot of money on the PC despite what might be considered an obvious security flaw. But let’s not pass judgement. Let’s get back to the bits of the matter with Siri.

Speech recognition and the use of computing power behind it to do useful things is pretty exciting stuff. Siri is still in beta. WWDC is coming up in a few weeks. Will Siri be opened up to 3rd party developers? What is Google going to do with Android in Jelly Bean? These are important questions. To get to that point in the future where merely holding a device in your hand and be able to do useful things using just your voice to interact with any application is pretty powerful stuff. This is tech to be embraced.

Speech recognition isn’t easy. It takes some computing power, especially if you want to be really good at it and be able to recognize many different languages. What Siri does is package up the voice data, encrypt over SSL and send it to the great grand cloud of Apple servers in the sky to be worked on.

So here’s the thing and this isn’t IBM specific at all. Do you trust your employees to use Google? Bet so. It’s already known that Google records searches and uses of it’s search engine. Should IBM or any other company ban the use of Google? No. Of course not. That’d be stupid. Companies DO sit down with their employees and coach them on the use of external services and certainly do cover the issue of information that is confidential in nature shouldn’t be shared. Siri isn’t any different than Google in this context. Banning Siri is like banning Google.

PCs over time gained power on passwords. They began to run multiuser operating systems and gained security features. How will security and data privacy evolve in Android and iOS over the next year, time will tell. As mentioned WWDC is just a few weeks away. Google IO a bit further off.  Stay tuned.


The following article popped up on my twitter feed today.

Windows computers for years have suffered the ills of virii and malware so obviously our mobile devices must have the exact same problems and further we must solve these same supposed problems the same old way as before.

This is complete and utter nonsense. It plays on the fears of those who have bad experiences with Windows. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a Windows user utter the phrase, “my computer is acting up, I wonder if I have a viris.”

Times have changed.

There is a differing level of security standards when it comes to mobile devices. Apple has a curated garden. The apps that are submitted to Apple’s App Store are fully vetted before release. The article does correctly point out one instance, ONE where an app was doing something shady. What happened? The app was booted from the store, the developer cast out of the program unable to submit future apps, done.

Android however has much lower standards. It doesn’t have a curated garden. Numerous reports of problematic applications in Google Play, the Google App store have existed and still do. Google doesn’t fully vet it’s apps like Apple does. Further developers can distribute their apps outside of Google. You can grab an Android up from anywhere just like you can install any old piece of software on your Windows 8 machine.

This article complete misses that point. Apple examined the weak points in the app distribution model and closed the holes where the bad guys were getting in. Google didn’t do that and it’s reputation has paid the price.

Speaking as someone who’s written a few iOS apps, it also needs to be mentioned that iOS is locked down. One’s application doesn’t have access to all data, all the binaries on your device. It’s walled off. A virii scanner on iOS would be a useless charlatan. Apple gives no app developer special access to everything. This hard line keeps out the writers of virii and the virii detectors.

Good riddance.

The iPhone was released on June 29th, 2007. There hasn’t been an iOS virus yet. For almost 5 years of availability, that’s a good record and a long time for those that might write a virus or other malware to have nothing to show for it.