Monthly Archives: August 2012

Siri, Texas Ranger

In the 1967 classic film “Cool Hand Luke,” one of the main characters, the Captain, utters one of the most classic lines in cinema: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s a phrase that lends itself well to a number of circumstances. Like Apple’s Siri.

Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant on the iPhone 4S, was last summer’s must-have smartphone feature. This summer? Not so much. To back up this claim, see what the New York Times had to say about Siri last summer compared to this summer.

Last year, the Times’ David Pogue was clearly taken with Siri’s responses to certain questions. His headline: Siri Is One Funny Lady.

“If you don’t laugh at some of Siri’s responses, there’s something wrong with your funnybone,” Pogue wrote then, in response to these tidbits:

You: “I need to hide a body.”

Siri: “What kind of place are you looking for?”

Siri then offers you a list of choices like Reservoirs, Metal Foundries, Mines, Dumps and Swamps.

You: “Who’s your daddy?”

Siri: “You are. Can we get back to work now?”

You: “Open the pod bay doors.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, Joshua. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Sure, the responses were funny the first time, but as time wore on and the benefits of Siri waned, the dynamic with Siri also changed. There was a failure to communicate. Just see how the Times switched up its tune.

Last month’s headline: With Apple’s Siri, a Romance Gone Sour

Writer Nick Bilton chronicled how things went south between him and Siri.

“We met at an Apple product announcement in Cupertino, Calif. She was helpful, smart and even funny, cracking sarcastic jokes and making me laugh. What more could a guy ask for?

“Since then, we have had some major communication issues. She frequently misunderstands what I’m saying. Sometimes she is just unavailable. Often, she responds with the same, repetitive statement.”

Funny, but true.

With the next iPhone release expected somewhere in the near future, let’s hope one of the improvements made to the otherwise stellar device involves Siri. After all, she was released as a beta, meaning there were bugs to be worked out and a conceded room for improvement. She could use a bit of an upgrade.

But before I write her off completely, I figured I’d ask a few questions not so much for their humorous aspect, but in the event you find yourself in a do-or-die, “Walker, Texas Ranger” style situation. Walker, if you remember, was a character played by Chuck Norris who somehow always found himself battling it out with an assortment of Japanese gangs or corrupt parole officers.

Me: “How do you untie knots?”

Siri: “Checking on that for you. How about a Web search for ‘How do you untie knots?’”

Google pointed me to a climbing site and a YouTube video on how to untie a square knot. At least she understood the question.

Me: “How do you unlock a trunk from the inside?”

Siri: “Hmmm. Let me think. How about a Web search?”

A Web search turned up a helpful wikihow page titled “7 Tips on How to Escape From the Trunk of a Car.”

Walker would be impressed. I’m sure he would’ve benefited from having Siri as a sidekick. Which isn’t a bad idea if this voice-activated digital assistant gig doesn’t work out. Siri could always help Chuck Norris battle bank robbers and prove the innocence of the wrongfully accused.

One final question.

Me: “How do you stop Chuck Norris?”

Siri, in a beautifully redeeming moment, came back with a video. That video was called “You Can’t Stop Chuck Norris.”

Smart lady.

Image Credit: Chuck Norris Action Jeans / Sarah B. Brooks / CC BY 2.0

New Features in the Mozy App for iOS

Wrapping up a series of posts on the Mozy app v1.4, we finish with the new features for iOS, which includes iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. If you missed the previous two posts, check out:

In version 1.4 of the Mozy app, here are some of the new features for iOS.

Pull Down to Refresh

First up, some of our more avid Mozy app users pointed out to us that they want a better way to refresh a folder that has new items in it. Previously, you needed to navigate from a folder you were viewing and then back to it again to get it to show a new file you just uploaded from a different device (for example, a file that you added to your Stash).

Now you can just pull down on the folder view, and release to update the view. The screenshot at left shows a normal folder view. At right, you can see the pull-down “Release to refresh” screen.

    

Delete from Stash

Although Stash is still only available in beta, we continue to increase what you can do with it from a mobile device. This latest release of the Mozy app allows you to delete any file from your Stash. You can initiate a delete by looking at a file’s detail page…

…or by opening the file, and tapping the actions button  (shown in left screenshot at bottom-left) to open the actions menu (shown in right screenshot).

    

Stash Uploader Improvements

The Stash uploader also got its first interface overhaul since its debut.

In addition to its new look, you’ll notice the convenient View Mobile Uploads button, which takes you directly to the Mobile Uploads folder in your Stash. Also, the uploader can resume after an interruption. For example, an incoming phone call can send the Mozy app to the background. When you next bring the app to the foreground, the upload continues from where it left off.

Overall, you might notice a strong trend toward increasing security and making it easier to use Stash in the Mozy app. Let us know what you think by posting a comment on this post.

On most of our blog posts, we sign off with “Be safe.” On this one, we leave you with something you can actually do to make the world safer: please tell a friend about Stop the texts. Stop the wrecks.

–Ted

New Features in the Mozy App for Android

In my previous post about v1.4 of the Mozy app, I covered “Security Updates in the New Mozy App.” In this post, let’s take a look at some of the new features for Android.

Easier Access to All Files

After we added the My Mozy home tab in a previous version, there were several people who didn’t know that you could still get to the classic file browser view by hitting the Menu button. So, we added a tab-like navigation right on the main screen to make it easy to find.

SD Card Storage Features

When you use the Mozy app to download a file to your device, it gets stored on your device’s SD card. The new app adds two great features.

First, whenever you open a file that you previously downloaded, the app will check whether you have the latest version. If the local version is out of date, the app will ask you whether you want to update to the latest.

You can also remove a downloaded file from memory, too. Just tap and hold on the filename.

Stash and Android

If you use Mozy Stash, you have probably used the Mozy app to upload files to your Stash. If so, then you’ll appreciate these improvements.

You can now overwrite a file in your Stash with a newer version.

 

We also made some improvements to the auto-uploader to avoid duplicate uploads and images from other apps. If you haven’t used it before, you can enable it from Settings.

The app also adds an event to the device’s Notifications panel when an upload is in progress or completes, including auto-uploaded photos and videos.

And, you can also delete items from your Stash. Either open the file and select the delete icon, or just tap and hold on the filename. (Okay, this isn’t really new on Android, but I hadn’t mentioned it in previous blog posts, and we just added it the iOS app, so…please act like it’s new. Shh.)

Coming up in my next post, we’ll look at new features in the Mozy app for iOS.

Until then, be safe (never use the Mozy app while driving!),

–Ted

Ted Haeger
Mozy Product Management

Security Updates in the New Mozy App

Mozy Mobile App 1.4Mozy just keeps making it better and better to access and use your data from mobile devices. This week we launch version 1.4 of Mozy’s app for both Android and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch).

Each time we update the Mozy app, I update the Mozy blog to tell you what’s new. The list is too long for a single post, so today we’re going to look at how we have further tightened security in the Mozy app.

The convenience of having all your Mozy-protected files at your fingertips is enormous. But mobile devices frequently get misplaced, lost or stolen. Mozy app v1.4 introduces the following new security measures to ensure your privacy in such situations:

  • Token-based Authorization - The Mozy app has switched to using an access token instead of your password. Although previous versions always used strong encryption to store the password, this new token-based system keeps the Mozy app from storing your password at all. That sets the stage for the next (and frequently requested) security feature…
  • Remote De-authorization - If your mobile device goes missing, gets stolen, or you’re just not sure where you put it, you can just go to your account page and select expire mobile access. When you do, it stops all access from the mobile app until you log in again, but your computers running Mozy online backup or Stash continue to work without disruption. (In other words, it expires just the app’s current token–it doesn’t change your password.)
  • Automatic De-authorization - As in previous versions of the app, if you choose to protect the app with a passcode (PIN), the app will automatically log out after 5 incorrect PIN attempts. The difference now is that instead of forgetting your password, the app now forgets its access token. (This also happens if you choose to log out manually from the app.)
  • Automatic Data Wipe - When you remotely de-authorize the app from your account, the app now removes any locally-stored data when launched. This includes: files you have marked as favorite on iOS, files downloaded to SD storage on Android, and even any usernames that the login screen had previously remembered.
  • Local File Encryption - If you use a personal key to encrypt your Mozy data, the Mozy app will now keep any downloaded files encrypted on local storage. It decrypts them when you share by email or send a file to another app.

In my next post, we’ll look at features that make the Mozy app even better for accessing and using your data while on the go.

If you have questions or comments about the items described above, please post a reply.

Until next time, be safe,

–Ted

Ted Haeger
Mozy Product Management

Cloud roundup and links of interest – August 15

Google Street View Offers Tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Visitors from almost anywhere on Earth can “see” and explore NASA’s Kennedy Space Center through a collaboration with NASA that allowed Google’s Street View equipment to capture 360 degree color images and place them online for a new generation of spaceflight fans

The panoramic images include such iconic vessels as the Apollo 14 command module capsule that returned three astronauts from America’s fourth mission to the moon in February 1971 and the Space Shuttle Atlantis which flew on its maiden voyage in October 1985.

Virtual visitors can browse the collection by clicking on the images and then “steering” through the exhibits using a control wheel on the top left of each image. Using the controls, visitors can roam around the KSC displays to learn more about its contents and history, according to an article on eWEEK.com.

The new KSC images are the latest in the Google Street View collection, which also includes panoramic views of notable places around the globe, including Historic Italy, California National Parks, and highlights of must-see sites in the United States, Poland, Israel, Russia and the magnificent Swiss Alps, says eWEEK.

Tired of Facebook Friends’ Endless Photos of Their Kids? Unbaby.me Can Help

Too many baby pictures on Facebook?Too many of your friends’ baby pictures cropping up on Facebook? There’s now a sure-fire (if slightly off-beat) way to fight back: Unbaby.me.

The photo-replacing plug-in is the brainchild of three New Yorkers — Yvonne Cheng, Chris Baker and Pete Marquis — who work together at the advertising agency BBDO. They are, unsurprisingly, in their late 20s and early 30s, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We were having drinks one night after work and were joking around about how Facebook is just lousy with babies, and wouldn’t it be funny if you could replace all those photos with cats,” Cheng said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

The plug-in will scan your Facebook feed for key words such as “cute,” “adorable” and “first birthday” — trigger words that indicate a baby photo may be attached. You can also add your own key words. Then it replaces the offending baby photo with a different photo from an RSS feed of pictures. The current default feed is cat photos.

“Personally, I don’t hate babies. I love babies. But I do get tired of looking at babies,” Cheng said.

Nokia Windows Phone 8 Reveal in Early September Tips Insider

Nokia’s first Windows Phone 8 smartphones could be revealed as early as September, as the Finnish company attempts to beat Apple to the next-generation handset unveil, according to an article on Slashgear.com.

New phones running Microsoft’s latest smartphone OS are set to be announced next month, though availability is only said to be in time for the holiday shopping season.

Apple isn’t expected to confirm the iPhone 5 until midway through September. However, the company is likely to have the much-anticipated handset up for grabs within a month of that.

Exactly what the new Nokia devices will look like is unclear, but the company will probably stick to a style similar to the Lumia 800 and Lumia 900, Slashgear reports.

 

Mozy Stash

 

Small Biz in the Forum: How Smart Posting is Good Marketing

Small-business advertising has often amounted to something like this: how much bang can you get for your buck?

Billboards, ad spots, commercials, whatever the format, you want to see your marketing dollars amount to returns, sales, conversions.

But while a billboard-heavy marketing campaign by the big guys can lead to increased business, it’s often difficult to understand just how much money they eventually bring in. Just as often, ad experts tell us, it’s about expanding the reach of your brand and it’s about recognition.

But the smaller shop doesn’t always have the luxury of dropping crucial marketing dollars on what can amount to only a concept play. So, for small businesses, how can you showcase your expertise and build your reputation, but still keep the budget and return-on-investment at the center of the game?

One way is the online forum.

Let’s look at small-business owners who’ve used forum posting to develop new clients. We’re helped by Manta Connect, an online community-builder for small businesses to connect to the communities of customers they want to find.

Forum Posting: It’s About Time, Not Money

“Small business owners who actively share their knowledge and experience in the forum on Manta Connect not only establish themselves as industry experts in the community,” said Pamela Springer, chief executive at Manta, “but they gain a competitive advantage in expanding their customer reach.”

Take Stephen Lewis, for example. He’s the owner of Worthwhile Things in Orlando, Florida. While his team is working to coach small businesses, he turns to forums to find new clients  — and he does this by answering the questions they’ve asked.

Online Forums“Most of the questions and posts I respond to involve a business owner asking how to do something online, or how to do it better,” he said. “By giving clear answers which contain relevant and thoughtful tips, comments and feedback, I can establish myself as an authority on a given subject.”

The outlay for what amounts to a new, real, and concrete customer lead? A little bit of time.

“I find that by giving 5-10 minutes of my time and offering a short bullet list of free advice, I receive great reviews and feedback, and give myself an opportunity to make a new business contact or customer,” Lewis said. “I always include anchor text links back to my various online properties, but always to specific pieces of content that will augment my answer to the question posed.”

Expertise Online: Look to Learn, then Show Don’t Tell

For small-business owners as well, two other major elements of online forums come into play:

— A Lab for Best Practices: By watching your colleagues who also post and interact, as a small-business owner you’ve got a free way to learn at your disposal. From the best moves to mistakes, participating in online forums allows small-business owners to listen in on a vital conversation about best practices.

— A Place to Demonstrate What You Do: When a small-business owner rents a booth at a trade conference, they’re really spending money to demonstrate something about what it is they do. Forums can provide that, in a different way, without the expense. ”By using my experience and providing any help that I can,” said Patrick Tuure, web designer and owner of O.T. Web Designs in Columbus, Ohio. “I demonstrate to other forum followers that I know what I’m doing and, as a result, it opens them up to doing business with me. Since the posts are always there, they serve as a great icebreaker when someone contacts me. I don’t have to spend the time to convince them of my level of knowledge, they can clearly see it.”

Image Credit: Forum / Sarah B. Brooks / CC BY 2.0

 

MozyPro

 

How to print from your iPads

How to print from your iPadIf you or your company has iPads and other iThings on its network, one of the frustrations is not being able to print from them. In the past, you needed a printer that was designed for AirPrint (Apple has a long list of them here) or you had to try to set up printer sharing with an existing Mac USB printer across your network.

But what if you want to use your existing printer that isn’t on this list? Or want something that you can manage its print output for cost accounting purposes? Or if you don’t want to share a local printer? You have several choices.

One solution is to use Lantronix xPrintServer that can do the job for any network or USB-connected printer. It’s so easy that it will take you longer to read how to do it than to actually implement it. The print server is about the size of an iPhone, and has three connectors: an RJ-45 for your Ethernet network, a USB jack and a power plug. Plug it in and, in a few moments, you are good to go.

If your app has a print dialog icon, you can now start printing from your iThing. The print server will auto-discover any network printer that is on the same network subnet. If you want to print to another subnet, you will have to go through some manual configuration, using the printer’s built-in Web server. If you have iPhones, you will of course need to turn on their Wi-Fi radios and connect to the same subnet to see the print server. Lantronix has this funny short video with the loveable IT guy featured here. As he says, “Try it now.” It will print wirelessly from any iOS device running iOS version 4.2 or later. The home editioncosts $99 and supports two printers. If you want a more capable print server that supports more printers, there is a $150 version of the box.

If you are using the Aerohive Wifi access points, they have recently been upgraded to support Apple’s Bonjour technology and this video explains how it is done. If you have to purchase an Aerohive Wifi network, this isn’t going to be cheap.

Finally, EFI has had its PrintMe cloud-based service for a decade for PCs. The new mobile version extends this functionality to a variety of mobile devices and to a wide variety of printers that can be located anywhere. Pricing is $2,500 for a minimum of five printer connections including a year’s support and maintenance. Again, this is somewhat pricey.

The Lantronix solution is a good compromise of price and features, and is what I would recommend if you have a couple or a large fleet of iPads to support.

 

Mozy Mobile App

 

For international data service: Rent a WiFi Hotspot, and/or get WiFi

In the United States, a broadband data service for your smartphone, tablet, notebook, mobile hotspot or other device can be relatively affordable. To vastly oversimplify, plans run from $30 to $50 or so per month, or about $10 to $15 per gigabyte.

But if you’re traveling outside the U.S., mobile data isn’t that cheap — and not that simple. For internationally roaming travelers, network charges — not just for data, but also for voice calls, GPS signaling, and any other interactions with the carrier networks — can be ultra-expensive. Data can easily cost fifty cents a megabyte — or more.

For example, in October 2011, PCWorld reported) that a Florida woman whose brother brought her phone with him to Canada ran up a $200,000 bill over two weeks. Uploading a few photos or watching a three minute video can ding you for $100; if your GPS keeps checking location, or apps check regularly for updates, that sound you hear is your bill going wild. (And it’s not just data — even a few short international cell phone calls can quickly run up about $400 of charges.

You can get better — and more controlled — phone service by either getting a local SIM card (assuming your phone is “unlocked), or renting a local-country phone.

International Wi-Fi TipsYou can do your best to minimize data usage. When in doubt, turn it off: turn off apps, turn off “data roaming” and “fetch data” and automatic synching, turn off anything that does automatic updating. And turn off network and GPS services, other than WiFi. (If you’re willing to turn off WiFi, you can set the phone to “Airplane mode,” although on some phones this also disables Bluetooth, which you may still want to use.)

But that doesn’t solve the problem of affordable — and controlled — data service.

Renting or Buying a Mobile WiFi Hotspot

A “mobile WiFi hotspot” is a pocket-sized device that talks to a mobile broadband carrier, and includes an 802.11 WiFi router — i.e., it creates a local WiFi hotspot area. Novatel introduced its MiFi, the first of these compact products, in 2009. Today, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and other carriers offer MiFis, and Novatel offers MiFIs that can be used in over 200 countries. Other companies, like Option XYFI and Zoom Telephonics, offer “unlocked” mobile hotspot products that accept SIM cards and can be used in many countries.

But you don’t even have to buy one. You can now rent a mobile WiFi hotspot just like you can rent a local cell phone — and the price may be hard to beat. Xcomglobal.com, for example, offers rental MiFis for use in over 175 countries, with unlimited data, for around $15/day for most countries. (A given MiFi won’t necessarily work in all the countries you may be visiting in a trip, always confirm usability and pricing.) Thought the company currently has pickup/drop off only in Los Angeles and New York, but you can pre-order a rental unit via the web site.

And, of course, other companies are getting into the international MiFI rental business, such as MiFiRental.com.

So while you definitely need to master turning off cellular, GPS and other data usage for your smartphone and any other devices you carry (e.g. a broadband enabled tablet or notebook), you’ve got options other than “being cut off” or “going broke staying connected.”

Don’t Overlook Local WiFi

Depending on where you’re going to be, another option may be relying on WiFi. While not as exorbitant as international carrier data service, local hotspots can still get costly, especially if you’re moving around and would have to buy an hour at your hotel, an hour at the coffee shop, another hour at the airport, a day at your next hotel, and so on.

One way you may be able to slash your WiFi costs — and certainly control them — is through Boingo.com, which offers access to hundreds of thousands of WiFi hotspots around the United States and internationally. Plans include options for multiple devices, so you wouldn’t have to purchase separate access for your smartphone, tablet and notebook.

So plan ahead:

1) Learn how to turn off data-using activities on your devices
2) Look for affordable devices and plans for where you’ll be going.

And enjoy being able to afford to stay connected.

 

MozyEnterprise

 

Whole House Surge Protection

I’ve always been a believer in using a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to protect my desktop computer and surge protector strips to protect my computer peripherals (printer, etc.). For the computer, power hiccups can do anything from scramble data to damage the hardware. I don’t want a surge to leave me with lost work or ruined investments.

But what about everything else electrical or electronic in the house which a power surge could damage? After all, today’s flat-screen TVs can easily cost more than a computer. And everything today from microwave ovens and stoves to washers and dryers have electronics in them. If you’ve got home automation/control and/or security systems, they, too, are vulnerable.

But putting a surge strip at each wall outlet quickly gets expensive and complicated — not to mention some outlets are hard to get to, and some things, like the furnace and the air conditioner, are hard-wired, keeping you from plugging them in via a surge strip.

Answer: a whole-house surge protective device (SPD), installed at the circuit breaker box. (Note: before considering this approach, you should either be a homeowner or have a good relationship with your landlord.)

Whole Home Surge ProtectionOur house has one, put in at my request a decade or so ago while the breaker box was being replaced. I’m sure the technology has evolved; ours looks like a gray double-high soda can.

Have we had any whole-house surges since then? I don’t know. Have our neighbors? Ditto. But it seemed like an affordable investment, as long as we were having the related work done.

Steven Krasner, the owner and founder of OnlyConnect, a Belmont, Mass.-based electrical contracting company, says, “A whole-house surge protector helps, among other things, if the power line gets hit by a lightning bolt… or if the power from your utility company has surges. And it deals with surges that can occur within your house, like when you turn off something that has a motor.”

According to NEMA Surge Protection Institute statistics cited by HouseLogic.com, “60% to 80% of power surges start inside the home, typically from major appliances and systems that cycle on and off, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, and clothes dryers.”

This doesn’t replace all the little surge protectors inside your house, Krasner stresses. “It’s another line of defense. The surge protector in front of your computer won’t stop large current surges, like from a lightning strike.” Does this make a difference? Says Krasner, “Anecdotally, I’ve talked to people who have lost a few devices, where a neighbor who had a whole-house surge protector didn’t.”

How much will this cost you? As a starting point, Home Depot’s website has twelve products listed under “Whole-House Surge Protectors,” ranging in cost from about $30 to $250. You may also need a circuit breaker. Depending on how your current electric panel is set up, and whether there’s enough additional room readily available, it could take a professional electrician only an hour or less to install.

After the initial cost, if your home gets hit by a big surge (or many little ones)little ones, you may need to replace one or more components — but this will be much less than the initial expense.

Like many of the surge protectors and UPSs you plug into a electrical outlet, many of the whole-house SPDs will also protect your coaxial (TV/Internet) and land-line connections from surges that can come in through these wires.

As you invest more money in — and rely increasingly on — electrical and electronic products in your home, it makes sense to invest a small amount — probably an average of less than $100/year over time — to protect them from harm. You’d spending more than that on insurance, why not go a step further and spend some on protection?

 

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