Archive for April, 2012

Microsoft And Barnes & Noble Join Forces In The E-Books Market

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 30, 2012 by itnerd

The big news of the day was that Microsoft and Barnes & Noble have jointly created a new company that will hope to be a player in the e-book market:

The as-yet unnamed new company will be 82.4% owned by Barnes and Noble, with Microsoft getting a 17.6% stake.

It will house the bookseller’s digital and college education book businesses.

Another piece of info of note, this will be integrated into Windows 8:

“Microsoft’s investment in Newco [the temporary name for the new digital and college unit], and our exciting collaboration to bring world-class digital reading technologies and content to the Windows platform and its hundreds of millions of users, will allow us to significantly expand the business,” said William Lynch, chief executive of Barnes & Noble.

Now this is a big deal for Barns & Noble and the market agreed as their stock shot up today. Microsoft stock didn’t move. So I wonder who is the big winner is in this deal?

British Court Says ISPs Must Block The Pirate Bay

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on April 30, 2012 by itnerd

If you’re in the U.K. and you love to get your fix of movies illegally from the Pirate Bay? You better get your fix now. A court just ruled that ISPs have to block the infamous torrent site:

The High Court said on Monday that Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media would have to block access to The Pirate Bay (TPB), following an earlier ruling in February over the role of the site in copyright infringement.

The blocks will come into place over the course of “the next few weeks” following the decision by Mr Justice Arnold on Monday. The case was brought about by a number of music labels acting on behalf of the music industry body, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

“The High Court has confirmed that The Pirate Bay infringes copyright on a massive scale. Its operators line their pockets by commercially exploiting music and other creative works without paying a penny to the people who created them. This is wrong — musicians, sound engineers and video editors deserve to be paid for their work just like everyone else,” Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, said in a statement.

The question is, will it work? Already there are ways to get around this that are floating around the Internet. So I’m guessing that any sort of ban will have a lifespan of hours. But I guess it makes movie studios and record producers feel better. Perhaps a better way to deal with this is to make purchasing movies and music so attractive that there would be no need to pirate them?

Nah, too easy. They’d never do that.

Route1 Reports Results…. They Disappoint

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 28, 2012 by itnerd

Last week I touched on Canadian company Route1 and their struggles. On Thursday afternoon after the close of the market they reported their FY2011 results and they were less than stellar. Here’s the highlights:

  • Revenue increased to $5.5 million from $5.4 million in 2010
  • Gross profit for 2011 dropped to $4.5 million from $4.7 million in 2010
  • EBITDA for 2011 was a loss of $1.5 million
  • Subscriptions to their TruOffice product were basically stagnant at 15903 subscribers versus 15654 in 2010 according to the MD&A document [Warning: PDF]

There was one factor that worked against the company:

The Company’s profitability for 2011 was significantly and negatively affected by its auditors’ advice that approximately $1.5 million for the costs of pursuing an arbitration award be included in Route1’s results for the 2011 fiscal year, while the proceeds from payment of the award, amounting to approximately $3.4 million, could not be recognized until fiscal 2012. Interest income on the award in the amount of $583,741 is included in the Company’s 2011 results.

The award that they are talking about is this one. Route1 had a bit of a falling out with Qwest Government Services. Quest was supposed to help them break into the US Government market, but things clearly didn’t go well on that front.

The market reacted negatively to this news. The stock dropped to 7 cents from 8 cents at the start of Friday. Now the company did say that good things are coming. Here’s what CEO Tony Busseri had to say:

“Based on our progress to date, we remain convinced our strategy of focusing our marketing efforts on the government and military sectors, particularly in the United States, is best for Route1 in both the short and long-term,” said Mr. Busseri. “While it is clearly taking longer than we had hoped to reach final purchase agreements with the many organizations in those sectors, we remain convinced that their size and security requirements mean their potential for Route1’s revenues and profitability is significant in the long run.”

Here’s the problem. Until a big deal happens, nobody will take this company seriously. That’s a shame because I believe the remote access technology that they offer is first rate. But great technology doesn’t make a great company. What makes a great company is the ability to take that technology, get it into the marketplace and make the value proposition that the technology offers so attractive that it becomes a must have. That doesn’t seem to be happening with Route1. But to be fair, the company does plan on giving regular updates as to their business development pipeline. That will help with their credibility. Of course I need to mention that if things continue the way they are right now and they don’t get the big breakthrough sale, they’ll be the next RIM who is another company with great technology that they can’t sell.

I’m going to keep an eye on this company as I feel that a shake up is coming within the next quarter or two if things don’t improve. When that happens, it might get ugly given the shareholder sentiment in places like Stockhouse.

Apple Is A Decade Behind Microsoft When It Comes To Security Says Kaspersky

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on April 26, 2012 by itnerd

I hope the fanbois are listening. OS X which they tout is so much better from a security standpoint than Windows isn’t as secure as they think it is. At least that’s what Eugene Kaspersky who is the top guy at Kaspersky says:

“I think they are ten years behind Microsoft in terms of security,” Kaspersky told CBR. “For many years I’ve been saying that from a security point of view there is no big difference between Mac and Windows. It’s always been possible to develop Mac malware, but this one was a bit different. For example it was asking questions about being installed on the system and, using vulnerabilities, it was able to get to the user mode without any alarms.”

Oh and here’s the killer statement:

“Apple is now entering the same world as Microsoft has been in for more than 10 years: updates, security patches and so on,” he added. “We now expect to see more and more because cyber criminals learn from success and this was the first successful one.”

I guess that the fanbois will have to run out and get Anti-Virus software. They can choose from the list that I’ve complied to protect themselves. But the message really is that Apple has to get serious about security. To be fair, Mountain Lion the next version of OS X due out this summer does step things up on the security front. But I’ve been saying for a while that they need to do more. Otherwise, all the gains that they’ve been making will be for naught.

Oh while I’m at it, I’ll also mention that security software company Symantec says that Flashback infections have dropped from half a million infected Macs to a mere 140,000 or so. That shows that there are at least 140,000 users who really have to get their act together on the security front. I guess they’re either unaware that they’re infected, or they’re in denial. Not a good place to be if you ask me.

Wind Mobile Lawsuit Saga Ends As Supreme Court Of Canada Refuses To Hear Appeal From Public Mobile

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 26, 2012 by itnerd

You might remember that Public Mobile was so ticked off by the fact that Wind Mobile was allowed to exist in Canada that they went to court to try and take them out. Well, that saga came to an end today as the Supreme Court Of Canada refused to hear the case:

The court’s ruling brings an end to a seesaw battle that had seen Cabinet overrule the CRTC, only to have a lower court overrule that decision before being ultimately rejected by Canada’s highest court.

Here’s what Wind Mobile had to say:

“Wind is interested in fighting in the marketplace … not in fighting in courtrooms,” Wind chairman Tony Lacavera said. “We’re extremely pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision, which will allow us to tie off this loose end and continue working” to serve Wind’s customer base of 400,000 people, Lacavera said.

“I feel really good now about approaching our investors and new potential investors that can back us now with confidence that all of our regulatory and legal issues are fully and finally behind us.”

Public Mobile likely isn’t happy about this. But I failed to find a press release regarding this or any sort of comment from them. Oh well. At least now both of them can focus on taking market share from Bell, Telus, and Rogers.

Firefox 12 Ships With Silent Upgrade Feature….. Chrome Feels Flattered [UPDATED]

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 26, 2012 by itnerd

The latest version of Firefox has hit the streets. Version 12 is available for download here. But if you read the release notes, there is one new feature of interest:

Windows: Firefox is now easier to update with one less prompt (User Account Control)

Sounds harmless enough. But check out this blog post and you’ll find this:

Firefox simplifies the update process for Windows users by removing the user account control dialog (UAC) pop-up while maintaining the security of your system

What this means is simple. The browser will now update itself without needing you to do anything other than clicking allow on the User Account Control dialog found in Windows Vista or Windows 7 once. In short, it’s just like Chrome which has worked like this for some time. You’ll excuse me, but I am not overly thrilled by this. Why? Now you have part of your browser running as a high privileged service on your computer. What could possibly go wrong with that? Something or someone could leverage that to do something like spread a virus for example. I’m sure that I could come up with other scenarios, but you get the idea.

So far, I haven’t found a way to disable silent updates. But if I do, I will post it here. Having said that, there is a version of Firefox called Firefox Extended Support Release that doesn’t have this behavior. So if you are someone in a IT environment who wants to control how the browser is updated, this is an option for you.

Oh, I should note that as far as I can tell, this is a Windows only thing. Users on other operating systems shouldn’t need to worry about this. Yet.

UPDATE: Here’s how you disable silent updates. Go to the Tools menu and choose Options. Then click Advanced. You should see this:

Choose something other than “Automatically install updates” as well as uncheck “use a background service to install updates” and Firefox will not silently update.

While I Won’t Be Using Google Drive

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 25, 2012 by itnerd

Google announced Google Drive this week. On the surface, it sounds good. You get 5GB of storage for free. If you want more, you can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage will also expand to 25GB. Great deal isn’t it.

But I don’t think it is a great deal.

Take a look at the terms of service. Scan it and you’ll find this:

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps).

I’m not a lawyer, but it really sounds like anything that gets uploaded to a Google service automatically gets license to that stuff. So your private files belong to Google. Now I don’t think Google is really that dumb. Though, I will admit that their record on privacy isn’t the best. Still, the company who’s motto is “don’t be evil” wouldn’t be that evil, would they? Seeing as they already mine your data and serves up ads based on that, and  they as I’ve stated earlier, don’t have the best privacy record, you have to wonder.

Google needs to clear this up and do so quickly. However they explain this, they have to do it in a way that puts this issue to bed once and for all. Until then, I will be avoiding Google Drive. I suggest that others do the same so that it sends the message that the rights of users have to be respected.

 

 

 

 

Hey IT Nerd! Now That You’ve Driven A Ford, Will You Dump Toyota?

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 25, 2012 by itnerd

Since I reviewed the Ford Explorer not too long ago, I’ve gotten a few e-mails asking me if I’ll dump my Toyota Matrix. To adequately answer that, I’ll have to do a fair amount of explaining.

First, the experience I had with the Ford Explorer was very positive. I loved the vehicle. It drove well. It was well put together. It had cutting edge technology. Clearly Ford builds a quality product. If the rest of their lineup is like this, then I will say that they are an automaker to be reckoned with.

Now over to Toyota. The Matrix that my wife and I own was our first experience with Toyota. But that experience did not get off to the best start as I’ve documented here previously. But since then, I have to report that I have had no issues with the car. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. So that’s a good thing. However, our reason for being gunshy about getting another Toyota vehicle comes from the way we were treated during that unfortunate experience. Customer service goes and resolving an issue in a timely manner goes a long way towards encouraging repeat business.

So with that out of the way, let me answer the question. Will I dump Toyota for Ford? I don’t know for sure, but the fact that Ford reached out to me and allowed me to drive one their vehicles for a week says something about the company. Yes it says that they want to get their name out there as much as possible, and letting a blogger drive a $50K SUV helps with that. But it also says that Ford wants to prove to the world that they make class leading vehicles. It also shows that they know that a positive public image is more than having a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. Now to be fair, I’ve never experienced Ford’s customer service. But given everything I’ve experienced so far, I have to say that my experience so far has left me with the “warm fuzzies.”

Contrast that with Toyota. I am certain that Toyota has read my stories on my experience with the Matrix. Yet I can say that nobody has reached out to me talk to me about it. That’s what I would do if someone took as much effort as I did to document an unfortunate customer service experience with them. Especially someone who’s blog picks up at worst about 1000 hits a day. Perhaps Toyota doesn’t feel they have to do that. I don’t know for certain and perhaps never will.

I do know this. The next time I do look for a car, I will seriously look at Ford. I’ll look at other brands as well. But barring some sort of major change (such as Toyota reaching out to me),  one brand I will not be looking at is Toyota. I really don’t get the “warm fuzzies” from them. That is a major factor in my decision making process.

Am I being harsh or am I on the mark? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Route1: The End Or The End Of The Beginning?

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 19, 2012 by itnerd

A company I’ve written about on several occasions and have even used their products at one point is Toronto based Route1. Their flagship product is called the MobiKEY which is a USB token that allows you to have secure remote access from any Windows based PC to a Windows based PC that has their host software installed. It’s cutting edge and gotten some traction in the marketplace with the Department Of Homeland Security being one of their early enterprise customers. Other US Government departments noticed and signed on too. Not to mention the Dutch Government. You’d think that would be a license to print money. Too bad it hasn’t worked out that way as I type this.

You might recall from this post that the Founder and CEO K. Andrew White got fired. That triggered a proxy fight which ended in him getting his job back, only to be replaced again. The new CEO, Tony Busseri has had a uphill battle ever since. Busseri promised investors in November 2010 that they would see that the company would grow from just under the 16,000 MobiKEY subscribers they had at the time to north of 100,000 MobiKEY subscribers. A year later, they were still just under 16,000 subscribers. So that clearly didn’t go as planned. As it stands at the moment, the stock which had been as high as $0.28 CDN a share in Oct. 2010 is currently $0.075 CDN a share. Though I will note that the company is in the process of buying back up to 10% of the common shares that are out there to boost the stock value.

I’m guessing that Mr. Busseri is feeling the heat as he said this on his Twitter account reecently. I’ve re-posted the Tweets without editing:

To those that follow me. I hear and feel your frustration re the SP and lack of a big order.

We continue to beleive that the depth and quality of our pipeline is real and growing. We continue to beleive we are very close (con’t)

(con’t) Time will ultimately prove if our technology is going to receive larger acceptance than it currently has.

We are busting our tails and I continue to strongly beleive in our plan and team.

Lastly, I know how we’re being judged. I invite you to consider all that has happened in 25 mos and all that could in the next 25 mos.

I need to learn how to spell BELIEVE :)

This might have something to do with unhappy investors on a website called Stockhouse. If you browse this site, there are a bunch of unhappy people there who want blood. Now, this likely isn’t the total view of how Route1 investors feel as a lot of what is on there can be considered to be vitriol. There likely are other voices such as institutional investors who are making noise as well. But in either case it’s likely not good for the company to have to deal with this noise.

So, the question is this. Is this the end of Route1, or is the best yet to come from this company? My feeling is that it needs to hit a home run of some sort to really put it on a course of success. You would think that given the client list that it has, that we shouldn’t be talking about this and we’d be saying that it is the next tech giant from Canada. Clearly that isn’t the case. I suspect the answer will come when they release their Q4-2011 financials. According to a press release from today, that should happen next Thursday. That will give investors a better idea if this is the end for Route1, of if it’s the end of the beginning.

Free Anti-Virus Apps For Mac…. All The Protection You Need At No Cost To You

Posted in Products with tags , on April 17, 2012 by itnerd

So now that the faith of every Mac user has been shaken because of a couple of high profile trojans, it’s time to think of Anti-Virus apps for the Mac. The good news that there are a number of choices that are 100% free that you can choose from:

  • The first and longest running free Anti-Virus app for Mac is ClamXav. I used to run it and it worked quite well. Configuring the application takes a bit of work, but it’s doable by novices. Once configured, it will scan your hard drive automatically and it will check your incoming e-mail for anything “nasty.” While the app is free, the author does ask for donations. So if you use it, please consider flipping the author a couple of bucks.
  • My current Anti-Virus app right now is Sophos. It is much more user friendly than ClamXav and was one of the first of the big Anti-Virus companies to step into the Mac space. One thing to note, it is for home users only. Business users need to purchase their business class product.
  • Avast! Mac Security is currently in a public beta and is made up of three components. Web Shield and Mail Shield combine to check the vast majority of incoming data from the Internet, while File Shield scans all programs stored and executed from your hard drive. If you don’t mind running beta software, it’s worth a try.
  • Another recent entrant to this market Avira Free Mac Security. It has a very simple interface that allows you to configure the app to do what you need it to. Novice users might want to take a good look at this app.

One key thing to remember is that with the exception of ClamXav, everything that I’ve mentioned is made by a top tier Anti-Virus company. But in all cases, you are going to be able to protect your Mac for the evils of the Internet that threaten the Mac platform.

Welcome to the new normal Mac users.

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