Short Takes: November 14, 2014

Short Takes: November 14, 2014

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including a triumphant Windows Phone OS at Pwn2Own, the DOJ's airplane-based spying kit, Nokia is the new winner of "The Biggest Loser," US government warns on iOS security flaw, the US finally starts noticing what Google is really doing, and a web site CEO wants a new office so he quits.

Surprise: Windows Phone is the most secure mobile OS

And here's the bigger surprise: Why is no one else reporting this story with that exact headline? At this week's Pwn2Own hacking contest, a variety of mobile phones—Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy S5, Google's Nexus 5, and even Amazon's Fire Phone—were all quickly hacked, with exploits infiltrating directly into the core of each device's OS. But Windows Phone alone among this group withstood the attacks, with the OS's sandboxing technology keeping hackers from gaining control of the system. (An exploit aimed at the cookie database in mobile IE was successful, however.) So the message here is simple: Windows Phone is the most secure mobile OS. Right? Well, maybe. To be fair, multiple hackers attacked the other targets, while only one went after Windows Phone, so it's possible that the system wouldn't hold up against a more dedicated effort. Possible, but since we'll never really know for sure, let's just declare victory and move on.

"Microsoft Creates Lamp That Blinks When You Have New Windows Phone Notifications"

Now if it could just sell some Windows Phones, we might actually need this thing.

From the "you just can't make this stuff up" files

Seriously, this is real. The US Department of Justice has reportedly been flying planes around the country that have fake cell phone towers on them so that they can spy on criminals. The concern here is that the DOJ's faux cell phone towers could be used to invade the privacy of average, law-abiding citizens. But I find it humorous that they're using planes for this purpose. As everyone knows, if you're looking for the worst possible cell signal in the country, you get in a plane. Or, just switch to Sprint.

"Microsoft's Xbox One sales in US get boost after price cut"

I wonder what they'll get when the price goes up again in January.

Nokia is doing better now that it dumped everything that used to be Nokia

As a form of shorthand, tech bloggers and journalists often describe Microsoft's purchase of "Nokia's devices and services businesses" as "Microsoft's purchase of Nokia." But as you may know, there's still a company called Nokia out there in the world, and while it may bear zero resemblance to the once-proud cellphone maker of years past, it's getting by with its remaining businesses, the most important of which involves networking equipment. But as it turns out, "getting by" is an understatement. Like the winner on "The Biggest Loser," Nokia is doing quite a bit better now that it shed all that money-losing nonsense that was so important to Microsoft. And the firm just raised its long-term profitability outlook as it grew faster in the next year than was previously expected: Its long-term operating margin will be in the range of 8 to 11 percent, compared to the previous 5 to 10 percent prediction.

"How to run Windows 7 and Windows 8 at the same time"

Use two computers. No, wait. Virtual machines?

US government warns that Apple's iOS is insecure

Finally, the words I've been waiting to hear. The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center and the US Computer Emergency Readiness Teams issued a joint warning this week that users of Apple's popular iPhones and iPads are vulnerable to a new electronic. Dubbed "Masque Attack," the vulnerability could allow malicious hackers to steal sign-in credentials, access sensitive data stored on users' devices and then remotely monitor what users do on those devices. If this sounds familiar to you after decades of Windows PC usage, then Apple's non-standard response will be refreshing in its lack of alacrity. "We're not aware of any customers that have actually been affected by this attack," Apple said in a public statement. Well, problem solved then.

"Apple Reported To Be Ordering Components To Build 30 – 40 Million Apple Watches"

PT Barnum would be so proud.

World is slowly waking up to Google's inherent evilness

It's a strange paradox that we live in a world in which everyone claims to want privacy but then does so little to actually protect that privacy online. But the world is slowly waking up to the evil that is the world's biggest secret collector of private data, Google, though this is an area where the US lags behind, especially when you consider the anti-Google efforts of ever-vigilant antitrust regulators in the EU, and of course the xenophobic weirdos in China. So Public Citizen, a nonprofit group that seeks to limit corporate influence in politics—in other words, they're doing God's work—seeks to change that. The organization says in a report that is delightfully named "Mission Creep-y" that Google is acquiring firms like Nest (home automation), Dropcam (home security and surveillance video cameras) and Skybox Imaging (satellites, yes seriously) simply so it can step up its spying efforts. Google also funds over 140 trade associations and other non-profit organizations that might otherwise criticize its efforts. So why call all this out now? "There didn't seem to be a comprehensive examination of Google's power," Public Citizen's Sam Jewler says. Exactly.

"Video Games Boost Brain Power, Study Says"

Finally, a study I can believe in.

Reddit CEO resigns over office spat

Sometimes you just gotta take a stand. The inexplicably influential web site Reddit saw its CEO quit abruptly this week after he lost a battle ... over office space. Apparently, he was looking to move the company's headquarters to a new location, and wanted to spend more than its board was willing. Which leads me to some questions. Why does Reddit even need office space? Or "headquarters"? Or a board of directors for that matter? Well, at least they're based in San Francisco where office space is both readily and cheaply available. Cough.

"Facebook's data policy in plain English: WE'LL SELL YOU to advertisers"

I have nothing to add to that.

Oh, and did I mention that we landed a robot probe on a comet?

'Cause we did.

Buy the books!

I'm trying to change the book publishing model, and would appreciate your support: Windows 8.1 Field Guide is available directly from me for only $2 in PDF, MOBI and EPUB formats. And it is now available on Amazon Kindle for $4.99 too. I also have other free and inexpensive e-books available too, including Windows Phone 8 Field Guide (free from that site, or available from both Kindle and Nook too) and the in-progress Microsoft Band Field Guide (free), Surface Pro 3 Field Guide, Windows Phone 8.1 Field Guide and Xbox Music Field Guide (free). Coming soon: Windows 10 Field Guide.

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