Category Archives: Editorials

Why Your Car Is Insecure

You may not know this, but most of you drove into work today in a computer.  Don’t believe me?  Oh, maybe because you commonly refer to it as your car.  For the past 40 years car manufacturers have been making cars with computers that typically are located in proximity to the automobiles engine.  The on-board computer controls many things including fuel injection, the anti-lock braking system (ABS), gear shifting, and diagnostics (you know, the infamous check engine light) to name a few.

However over the past decade manufacturers have started to add more smarts into the cars, specifically to the entertainment system.  Bluetooth, iPod and USB connectors, as well as WiFi all add the ability to connect 3rd party devices to your car.  As consumers we have taken all of these new features for granted but now we are going to need to rethink these capabilities because they are being used also as attack vectors for hackers.

Over the past year more and more reports have been surfacing regarding groups of people who have been able to successfully hack into the car’s computer and expose some serious exploits.  Last month Chrysler recalled 1.4 million of Dodge Rams, Vipers, Durangos, Chargers and Jeeps due to a flaw in their UConnect entertainment system which could allow an attacker to gain control of critical functions such as braking, steering, speed control, and the transmission.  Then this week Tesla Model S cars pushed out a patch to a flaw that could allow hackers to take control of the vehicle (The details of this hack will be announced during Def Con).  I am pretty sure that we will be hearing more car hacks relating to other car makers in the up coming months too.

The major problem is that there is a design flaw in the how the components in the car connect to the computer.  They use a standard protocol called CAN bus which is similar to the internal bus in typical computers.  Car manufacturers say that the components are “firewalled” from the entertainment system but clearly this isn’t enough.  They need to go back to the drawing board and physically separate the entertainment system from the CAN bus and this will prevent these types of attacks from happening in future model cars.  But there is no word yet whether or not manufacturers are going to be taking this route.  For now if you get a recall letter for your car you should always take it seriously and get your car fixed, regardless of the reason.

Moore’s Law: Its Days are Numbered

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous computer observation known as Moore’s law.  Moore’s law is named after the co-founder of Intel, Gordon Moore, which predicted that the number of transistors that you can print on integrated circuits (or ICs) doubles roughly every 18 months.  This law has been consist with the industry trend over the past five decades and as a result we have enjoyed the outcome of faster, smaller, and less expensive components used in computers.

Gordon Moore

However it looks now that Moore’s law may be in trouble.  As we have developed smaller and smaller transistors in the last few years we are now getting down to the nanometer (nm) level in terms of size.  To give you an idea how small a nanometer is if you blew up 1 nanometer to the size of a meter stick (about 3 feet) 1 meter in comparison would be over 600 miles long.  This is roughly the driving distance from New York City to Detroit!

The issue when you start working on these small sizes is that the chip manufacturers have to deal with issues on the quantum level.  Electrons start doing funny things such as spontaneously coming into and out of existence (also known as electron tunneling).  There are also current leakages that cause the chip to incorrectly report a gate as set as open even though it is supposed to be closed.  These ill effects prevent the making of reliable ICs.

But chip makers are not ready to throw in the towel yet.  Currently Intel is down to the 14nm which is about the width of about 150 atoms.  Furthermore, there was a report from IBM a few weeks ago saying that they have been able to cut that number in half to 7nm.  But at some point it looks like we may not be able to get any smaller and it may be sooner than we think.

Web Browser Toolbars should Just be Banned

I always find it fascinating that even the most reputable companies still do some shady stuff on the Internet.

If you’re reading this, you probably know that the next time you have to install Adobe Flash Player for whatever reason, you have to remember to uncheck the box for McAffee Security Scan Plus. You probably know that if you try to unsubscribe from a mailing list, they’ll tell you that it will take 10 days (just enough time for you to forget that you’ve unsubscribed) and then they won’t unsubscribe you at all.

Of course Adobe knows that you don’t want McAffee Security Scan Plus. Of course PCMag knows I don’t want to hear about their fucking best deals anymore. They do it anyway, mostly because at the end of the day, everyone simply rationalizes it as being just the way it is.

Continue reading Web Browser Toolbars should Just be Banned

OnePlus Could Mean an End to the American Smart Phone Market as We Know It

When OnePlus showed up on the scene a year and a half ago, they came up with their “Never Settle” slogan. Shortly thereafter, people began settling on their products.

At the time, the OnePlus One meant an end to carrier dominance in the United States. For the first time, you could grab a flagship phone with the flagshipiest of flagship specs for just $349 ($299 for the 16 GB model, which is very rare and invitations were few and far between). Sure, there were some marketing disasters but that only gave them more publicity.

Their infamous invite system was a strike of pure genius. After all, when you have to work to get a phone, it’s something that you’re going to tell your friends about and be enthusiastic about. It was ingenious for creating word of mouth advertising.

Then it all went wrong.

Continue reading OnePlus Could Mean an End to the American Smart Phone Market as We Know It

Microsoft Needs Some Big News for the Windows 10 Launch

By Rich W Woods

Most Microsoft fans, the ones not invested in OneDrive, are really excited about Windows 10. The others want to be excited but it actually stings because they can’t be. But I digress…

Everyone is excited about Windows 10 as well as Windows 10 Mobile, as they should be. There’s big things coming in Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile. For one thing, Windows 10 Mobile is finally going to catch up Microsoft’s mobile platform with the rest of the world.

But it’s not enough. If you’re a Windows Phone fan, then you recall that when Windows Phone 7 was lacking features, you were told, “Wait for Windows Phone 8. It will fix it.” When Windows Phone 8 was lacking features, you were told, “Wait for Windows Phone 8.1. It will fix it.” Now that we have Windows Phone 8.1, we’ve been told “Wait for Windows 10. It’s going to fix everything.”

Continue reading Microsoft Needs Some Big News for the Windows 10 Launch

The End of Ownership

By Rich W Woods

Remember that show Kitchen Nightmares? Gordon Ramsey goes to a restaurant, tells them what a horrible job they’re doing, he whips them into shape, and the owners of the restaurant and Ramsay form a mutual respect for each other. At the end of the episode, Ramsay visits the restaurant again a year or so later and the restaurant owner tells them how great they’re doing and how they would be doing better “but with the economy…”

But with the economy…It seems to be an excuse for everything these days. In fact, in my 32 years of life, I don’t recall a single time when people said, “You know, times are good.” We always look back at when times were good. Ask someone about Bill Clinton and they’ll tell you, “Clinton was a great President. Everybody had money when he was President.” They don’t tell you that when Bill Clinton was President, everyone had a bumper sticker that said, “Don’t blame me. I voted for Bush.” No one ever knows when times are good.

Continue reading The End of Ownership

Why Windows Phone will Never Succeed

By Rich W Woods

You might have noticed that there’s been a lot of doom and gloom articles about Windows Phone lately. Microsoft cut 7,800 employees from their phone division. They took almost an $8 billion write-off from the acquisition of Nokia. They killed a bunch of apps that no one uses.

Some have said that Windows Phone is dead; however, they mean Lumia (not all Windows Phones are Lumias). Also, they’re wrong. Microsoft is going to continue to make Lumias, except they just won’t be making new 500 models every year.

I’m not here to tell you that Windows Phone is dead, or even that it’s dying. I’m here to tell you why it will never be successful. I’m not going to say that it’s because of the hardware because hardware is coming. I’m not going to say that it’s because Microsoft showed up too late because that’s just idiotic. I’m not going to tell you that it’s because of the app gap because that’s shortsighted.

NOTE: I’m also not here to hate on Windows Phone. Windows Phone is my personal favorite mobile operating system. My current daily driver is the gold Nokia Lumia 930 and I love it. I switched to it from iPhone 6.

Continue reading Why Windows Phone will Never Succeed

Maybe Think Twice Before Installing the iOS 9 Public Beta?

By Rich W Woods

Exactly one month and a day ago at Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple announced Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, WatchOS 2, Xcode 7, the open sourcing of Swift, and of course, iOS 9. As Apple does every year, they released a developer beta; however, they did something different this year. They promised a public beta in July.

As soon as the news about iOS 9 dropped, like everyone with a developer account, I got swarmed by friends asking if I could hook them up with the iOS 9 Beta. Of course, I’m happy to oblige. A day or two later, I’m swarmed by the same friends asking how they can go back to iOS 8.3.

After spending those couple days with the first iOS 9 beta, they usually make the choice to wait until the final release in mid-September. Sometimes, they want the public beta, because if Apple releases a public beta, well, Apple would never steer you wrong, right?

Continue reading Maybe Think Twice Before Installing the iOS 9 Public Beta?

Windows Phone is STILL NOT DEAD!

By Rich W Woods

It really wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t write anything about this. At this point, we’ve all heard the news. Microsoft is laying off 7,800 people, mostly from their phone division.

Sure enough, Twitter blew up. “Windows Phone is surely dead!” No, it’s not. Many seem to have the same confusion. Windows Phone is not Lumia.

Before we go any further, yes, Lumia makes up 96% of the Windows Phone market. Personally, I think Lumia hurts Windows Phone, simply by existing.

Continue reading Windows Phone is STILL NOT DEAD!

What’s the Deal with the New Surface Pro 3 Model?

By Rich W Woods

When I first purchased the Surface Pro 3, I bought the Core i5 model with 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD. As soon as I ran Photoshop, I realized that something was wrong with my PC. Drivers crashed and things just went wrong. I took it into the Microsoft Store and I’ll never forget what Charles (the Microsoft Store technician) said to me: “There comes a time in a man’s life when he must choose between a Core i5 and a Core i7″.

Microsoft has now released another model of the Surface Pro 3 and it’s a bit…curious.

Continue reading What’s the Deal with the New Surface Pro 3 Model?