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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 26th Sep 2016

 

A cartoon bear

A hacking group calling itself Fancy Bears has stolen athletes' medical data from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

The details show which athletes were allowed to take otherwise banned substances for medical reasons.

The group says it will "go on exposing the athletes who violate the principles of fair play by taking doping substances".

But who are the Fancy Bears and why are they doing it?

A lot of fingers are pointing at Russia.

According to cyber security company Crowdstrike, Fancy Bears are a Russian-based threat group.

Crowdstrike's co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, has written a blogwhich says the group is also known as Sofacy or APT 28.

He says their style "closely mirrors the strategic interests of the Russian government".

There are also suggestions it may have links with the Main Intelligence Agency.

Fancy Bears website

Richard Ings, the former Australian Anti-Doping Agency chief, agrees with Dmitri on their nationality.

In an article in The Guardian he says he "believes the hacking is the Russians taking revenge on Wada for finding state-sponsored doping across many sports in the country".

There is no mention on the Fancy Bears website about their location

However, many of the comments on their early posts are written in Russian - and they are in support of the hack.

Then there's the Russian Embassy Twitter account, which certainly isn't doing much to deter suggestions about the hackers' origins.

 

Russian Embassy, UK ✔@RussianEmbassy

1/1 @wada_ama hacking:there should be nothing private about doping files of participants of Olympics,which are a very public affair

View image on Twitter

 Follow

Russian Embassy, UK ✔@RussianEmbassy

1/2 Some are more equal than others?

2:41 PM - 15 Sep 2016

Wada has also said that Fancy Bears are Russian in their statementconfirming the validity of the documents.

But Russia's denied having anything to do with the hack.

Some people have linked the group with other attacks

The New York Times said the Bears are possibly the group who "compromised the Democratic National Committee's servers".

Crowdstrike also refers to this in its blog, saying they "identified the hacking group as the mastermind behind this summer's DNC email leak" - when thousands of emails from the Democrat Party were made public.

In addition, they link Fancy Bear to attacks on France's TV5 Monde in 2015 and the German Bundestag.

We don't actually know anything about them for sure

Fancy Bears have alluded to the fact they are linked with Anonymous.

Their website says: "We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us. Anonymous - #OpOlympics"

But nothing has been confirmed and Anonymous haven't posted anything to confirm the links.

Everything about their location, motivation and profile is all speculation at the moment.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 13th Sep 2016

Software will work on iPhone 5 and above

iOS 10

iOS 10 arrives on 13 September

Apple's iOS 10 software update will be made available for download on 13 September, three days ahead of the iPhone 7 release.

The firm announced during Wednesday's keynote that iOS 10 will be available on existing devices from next Tuesday, along with watchOS 3, and promptly seeded the Gold Master release to developers.

iOS 10 will run on the iPhone 5 and above, which means that those still using an iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 will be left behind.

On the iPad side, iOS 10 will work with all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, the 4th-generation iPad, and the iPad mini 2 and later. iOS 10 will also work with Apple's sixth-generation iPod Touch. 

iOS 10 was announced at WWDC in June and includes a major Siri upgrade. Apple has released new APIs so that developers can build it into third-party apps. This means you can order an Uber by barking at your phone, for example, or get the digital assistant to fire up Spotify playlists. 

The iMessage app has had a huge overhaul to become more interactive and media-heavy, so you can do things like send animated wallpapers and draw images.

3D Touch on the lock screen will allow you to open and interact with apps via notifications without having to actually open the app in question. The phone will use the fingerprint scanner to ensure that it's you.

Another nice touch is Rise to Wake, which will show the time and any on-screen notifications simply by lifting the phone, rather than having to press the home button, which can often unlock the phone by accident. 

However, this is compatible only with the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and SE, along with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Notifications will show more information on the lock screen, potentially removing the need to open them to find out more.

Also, you'll be able to remove stock apps on iOS for the first time, which will no doubt be welcome news to many.

Once it's available, you'll be able to install iOS 10 by heading to Settings > General > Software Update.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 13th Sep 2016

Three very different organisations, three success stories

Woman shopping on smartphone

Mobile is most definitely where it's at. New data and insights from three very different organisations - Gumtree, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and Littlewoods.com owner Shop Direct - have shown that focusing on mobile is vital to digital success.

Shop Direct, which also owns Very.co.uk, reported a huge rise in revenue to £1.86bn since ditching its paper catalogue to become a web-only retailer.

And, even better for shareholders, profits have risen 43 per cent to £150.4m. Mobile has been core to this success, as sales from mobile browsers and the firm's iOS and Android apps rose 46 per cent year on year.

Meanwhile, Gumtree has just revealed that it now has 15 million mobile visitors a week, almost twice as many as on the desktop. This is a huge number, and shows that, for the majority, the mobile is the computing platform of choice.

Gumtree general manager Morten Heuing said: “Mobile in particular is of huge importance to us, which is why we are investing heavily in the product and user experience."

This success hasn't come by accident. Gumtree told V3 in 2014 about its shift to HTML5 to provide a completely responsive experience for visitors on any device.

The need to update the mobile experience was also on the radar at the RSC, which told V3 last week about a two-year project to completely rebuild the company's websites to enable a better mobile experience, particularly as so many tickets are booked in this way.

“The previous RSC website was good and handled a lot of ticket bookings, but it was starting to look dated. It wasn’t responsive and didn’t allow personalisation, so it needed updating,” said Richard Adams, the contractor who oversaw the project.

Since changing the firm is now much better able to take bookings and provide information to visitors, and to gather more insights on how customers use the site to refine the information it presents.

No doubt there are other organisations out there with similar tales to tell, and if these are the firms that got it right early and are now reaping the benefits, there are likely to be many more on this path that will make similar noises in six, nine or 12 months' time.

Even the government is getting involved. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency revealed recently that it is working on a digital version of the driving licence that could be stored in the Apple Wallet app.

Clearly, the time to act is now, and any organisation still in the planning stages, or debating whether to push more money into mobile apps, or updating websites to be responsive, risks being left behind.

The market moves quickly and it does not take long for a firm to fall by the wayside if it can't provide what people want. The experiences of Nokia and BlackBerry, once leaders in the mobile market itself, are testament to that.

So it's no surprise that the celebration is short lived for the firms seeing mobile success, and the focus now is on the next set of digital technology trends such as big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

Indeed, Shop Direct CEO Alex Baldock explained that the firm is already investing heavily in these areas.

“We’ve made big strides in m-commerce, big data and personalisation. But there’s a lot more to play for in these areas," he said.

"In particular, we believe that AI can change the game for us in data and personalisation. We’re deploying it already and are serious about going much further."

Big data, machine learning, AI. It's shopping, but not as we know it.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 13th Sep 2016

Like it or not, the iPhone 7 won't have a headphone jack.

There are lots of extremely cynical theories over why this might be, not least because driving demand for Lightning-based headphones would be a very good thing for Beats, an Apple subsidiary. 

Regardless, Apple insists that removing the headphone jack was an act of "courage;" a bold willingness to sacrifice the comfortably familiar and push us toward the wireless-headphone future. Plus, ditching the classic 3.5 mm jack apparently makes room for bigger batteries and better cameras inside the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

So let's take Apple at face value here. Apple's move toward wireless headphones is a super-important signal of how it's looking at the next wave of technology — and hints at the next wave of computing to come.

But first, it's in Apple's best interests (and maybe your own) that they teach you to never take your headphones off, ever.

AirPods are the key

The keys to the whole affair are Apple's new $159 AirPod wireless headphones. Technically, they're standard Bluetooth earbuds/microphones, so they'll work with any old Windows PC, Android phone, or Blackberry you may have lying around.

But the real magic of the AirPods come when you use them with a Mac, iPhone, or iPad: Thanks to Apple's proprietary W1 chip, the AirPods smoothly and seamlessly pair with any iPhone or iPad in range, provided they're running iOS 10. When the new macOS Sierra comes out later this September, it'll work with that, too.

apple iPhone 7 pairing airpodPairing the AirPods with an iPhone is as simple as opening their charger case.Steve Kovach/Business Insider

 

Most importantly of all, the AirPods lack any kind of physical buttons whatsoever. The only control on the AirPods, at all, is a touch sensor that activates Siri, Apple's voice assistant. 

It's that one-touch access to Siri that best showcases Apple's ambitions for the AirPods, for Siri, and for how people should be using computers.

Siri is everything

Apple has spent a lot of time and energy making sure people know that next week's iOS 10 update comes with some big upgrades to Siri, including the ability to access and use other apps. In other words, you'll be able to use Siri to send money with Square Cash or reply to a WhatsApp message, as well as control your Apple HomeKit-compatible smart appliances, all with your voice.

From there, it's a natural progression: The AirPods make it easier than ever to use Siri.

Siri lets you use your apps without taking your phone out of your pocket or checking your Apple Watch. So, ideally, you'll keep your EarPods in even when you're not listening to music.

siri in ios 10 wwdc 2016An Apple promo for what Siri will be able to do in iOS 10.Apple

 

Since they don't have wires, AirPods are way less obtrusive than your usual headphones. And because they sync with all your Apple gadgets, it means that same one-touch access to Siri can follow you from phone to tablet to laptop. Siri's on the Apple TV, too, so it seems reasonable that it'll get AirPod syncing one day.

This has a big business benefit for Apple, since it means you need at least an iPhone to take full advantage: Without access to Siri, the EarPods are just Bluetooth headphones. It's an important driver to keep people in the Apple product family as the smartphone boom grinds to a halt.

But it's also a tantalizing glimpse at the possibilities of using Siri to spend less time staring at a screen and more time living your life.

Our science-fictional future

That increased reliance on Siri is Apple's short- to medium-term vision. In the long-term, though, Apple can get really weird with it, in some exciting ways. Slate's Will Oremus recently referred to the AirPods as "Apple's first ear computers."

From the earliest days of the PC, all the way through the modern smartphone, computing has usually relied on some kind of display, whether that's a TV, monitor, watch face, or touchscreen, plus some kind of keyboard, physical or virtual.

It's been great, and it works, but the fact remains that the most natural way humans pass information to each other is by sound, speech, and music. And as we've seen from the sleeper success of gadgets like the Amazon Echo, there's a real demand for tools that can deliver information just by talking to you — especially among nontechnical people.

doppler female heroThe Doppler Labs Here One earbuds can customize the sound of the world around you.Doppler

 

Meanwhile, startups like Doppler Labs are doing cool, innovative work with its earbuds, not yet released, which can actually customize the sonic landscape around you, from increasing the bass at a concert to quieting the sounds of a crying baby on an airplane. 

Looking forward, as AirPods and the wireless headphones they inspire mature and evolve, it's not hard to imagine a new kind of App Store for audio apps — apps that use the iPhone's intelligence to make the people around you sound like the parents from "Peanuts," maybe, or more active ones that let you rewind the last 30 seconds of a conversation.

Barriers ahead

There are some roadblocks ahead, if Apple really wants the AirPods to spark a revolution.

First, as analyst Ben Thompson rightly notes in a recent post to his Stratechery blog, the iPhone is great, but "Apple's user experience advantages are still the greatest when it comes to physically interacting with your device," and "the weakest when it comes to service dependent interactions like Siri."

In other words, Apple's Siri still has a long way to go before people start to truly rely on her to get stuff done.

apple airpodsApple AirPods work with all Apple devices.Apple

 

Second, the technology needs to get a lot better.

Apple claims that the AirPods, in their current incarnation, get five hours of charge. That's pretty good for teeny-tiny earbuds, but not great in a future where Apple wants to make them indispensable accessories for everyday living. That's going to make this wireless future an even tougher sell, beyond the price and beyond the lack of a traditional headphone jack on the iPhone 7.

For now, though, there's one big problem that Apple can solve, and that's teaching you to keep your headphones in all the time. Once that's done, the rest can start to fall into place.

 

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 13th Sep 2016

The first step in Sage’s mission to transform 50 Accounts … 

Driven by customer feedback, every improvement Sage has made to 50 Accounts v23 has been made with you in mind. Letting you work faster, smarter and more efficiently than ever before.  The new improvements are the result of using feedback from over 3,000 customers.

The improvements Sage has built into this release have been both requested and voted on by customers using the Sage 50 Roadmap. Sage customers have been heavily involved in the design and build, giving Sage fantastic feedback about the value the improvements will deliver. 

User Requests

Enhancements

Show negative items on sales invoices

More flexible invoices

Quickly & easily enter negative lines on invoices.

Great when you want to show discounts you’ve given to customers.

Full transactional detail in

most used screens

See every detail

See full transaction details within customer, supplier, bank and activity nominal screens. No navigating to financials to see details you need.

Enter invoices and

payments together

Auto double entry

When entering batch invoices, you’ll be able to enter payments on the same line. This removes the need to navigate to Bank in order to enter payments for invoices you’ve just processed.

Flexible due dates on invoices

Control your cash flow

When using invoices, you’ll be able to over-write the invoice due date as needed – or set automatic calculations. The due date will be surfaced in lists and reports – giving you even more visibility.

 

 

 Plus

Sage has also improved things ‘under the hood’ to make Sage 50 Accounts faster and more efficient for you to use. Also improved Automatic Backup options now mean you can choose to back up to a cloud location.

Source: uniqsystems.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 13th Sep 2016

Employee #1 is a series of interviews focused on sharing the often untold stories of early employees at tech companies.

Shel Kaphan was the first employee at Amazon. He is currently pursuing personal interests and still living in Seattle.

Discussed: Getting Online, Prior Startups, Vetting Jeff Bezos, Moving to Seattle, Early Versions of Amazon, Finding Traction Through Netscape, Building the Company, Changing Roles, Life After Amazon.

 


Craig : What were you doing before Amazon?

Shel : I worked as a programmer starting in 1975. My first real programming job was with an MIT spinoff called Information International, Inc. (also known as Triple-I) that was in Los Angeles, Culver City actually. I went there for a summer job in 1975. I was in college at the time, for the second time around, having dropped out once already, but stayed at Triple-I for three years. In 1978 I decided I should finish my undergraduate degree so I went back to school at UC Santa Cruz for a while and stayed in Northern California until I moved up to Seattle.

Craig : Ok, and how did you end up going to Seattle?

Shel : In early 1994, I had been working at a company called Kaleida Labs, which was a joint venture of Apple and IBM. I left there in the spring of 1994. One of the younger guys who had recently come out of university showed me Mosaic, which was brand new back then. The first time I got onto the the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet as we know it, was 1969 or 70. I always had the feeling that there was something incredibly cool about it, but for some reason very few people seemed to think it was all that exciting. I couldn’t really imagine where it was all going to go eventually.

When I saw Mosaic, something clicked and I knew the Internet was finally going to open up to a much wider audience. Having missed a couple of earlier waves of technology that didn’t seem that interesting to me at the time, I thought this wave was one that was really going to be interesting and I wanted to do something with it. I didn’t know exactly what, but I knew I wanted to be involved. There were already a few new web-related businesses hiring some of the hotshots that I knew at the time. Netscape had been founded and some people I knew were already working there. It didn’t seem like a good fit for me, if I even could have gotten a job there. I wanted to do a startup and be more involved in the early phases of a business.

I was kicking around ideas with a friend of mine in Santa Cruz, who I had worked with at Frox and then Xerox, Herb Jellinek, trying to figure out some business idea that would be attractive to us that we could work on together–one that we thought might possibly work. We started talking to various people in our networks. Herb had gone to grad school at Stanford and one of his friends from there had gone to work at a hedge fund in New York, which happened to be the same one where Jeff Bezos worked at the time. He connected us with Jeff because he knew that Jeff was going to leave to start a web-related business that he had analyzed for this hedge fund. For whatever reason, that company didn’t want to pursue it but Jeff did.

Herb talked to Jeff, and then Jeff flew out to meet us in Santa Cruz. We had breakfast together and Jeff told us about his idea to start an online bookstore. We were even talking about possibly locating it in Santa Cruz. This was in spring of ‘94. Jeff went back home to New York and started thinking about where he wanted to locate. We were looking at office space in Santa Cruz but as he learned more about mail-order business he eventually decided it made more sense to be in a smaller population state or one that didn’t charge sales tax. He narrowed it down to someplace in Nevada or Seattle. I pretty much knew that I wasn’t going to be moving to Nevada. When he finally decided on Seattle, it took him all summer to convince me to move because I had lived in Santa Cruz for nearly 20 years and I liked it there.

Eventually, I decided that there was enough that I wanted to do on the project that it made sense to move. Herb, who had only recently moved to Santa Cruz, decided to stay. At first I was a little bit tentative about it–I kept my house in Santa Cruz and I only moved the minimum amount of stuff I needed to live.

At the time I thought, “Okay, I’m going to be building this website to run a bookstore and I haven’t done that before but it doesn’t sound so hard. When I’m done with that I’m not sure what I’ll do.” At that point there was no idea of doing anything but a bookstore. I thought maybe I would be able to go back to Santa Cruz and monitor it from there. I was pretty wrong about how the business would develop and how ambitious Jeff was. I didn’t know him at the time. We had just met.

Craig : How did you vet each other? Was he technical? Had you worked with many entrepreneurs before?

Shel : I’d worked in a few different startups. We both gave each other references to check out. But I think my choice was mostly based on the sense I had that he was fairly likely to make something work. I had been in a number of startups where there was an absence of people with sufficient business intelligence who understood how to fundraise, market something, and make business plans that weren’t based on hopelessly complicated technology that was super interesting but that nobody was ever going to pay for. I liked the idea that it was a very straightforward sounding business. I liked that I could explain to people who the customers were likely to be, what they were going to be paying for, and how the company could pay its own way.

I liked the guy when I met him. He has a very engaging personality. I was excited about the project so there were other reasons too besides the people involved. At the time there was this confluence of networking, hypertext, graphics and all this stuff that was coming into play with the web for the first time.

I wanted to take Books In Print or something like it and make a hypertext version. I’d been thinking about that before I even met Jeff. I wasn’t thinking about it in the context of selling books, but I was thinking, “Man, I hate going to the library and ruffling through those card catalogues and trying to find that thing that I’m looking for.” Nobody alive probably remembers that anymore. You actually had to go through drawers full of index cards to find books you were interested in. Then you’d walk around the library and browse the shelves to see if maybe the thing you’re interested in would be nearby.

I thought solving that problem was a perfect application for hypertext. There were a couple other online bookstores popping up around that time, too. Nobody seemed to grasp that issue particularly well. So, I thought, “Okay, well, I really want to build this and this project is a chance for me to do it.” Plus, I had worked just after high school in a mail order operation that sold books and other things, so I felt like I was going back to my roots, and that also felt good.

Craig : What was the first thing you guys had to build to get started?

Shel : Well, there was basically nothing except for a little library from NCSA of primitive things that you could use to build slightly interactive websites. I started by building up machines and getting a database system and putting together a little development environment. There weren’t any cloud services or anything like that at the time. It was all build your own and run it yourself. There was precious little in the way of tools or development environments for web stuff or libraries to build things out of. It was all cobbled together. At that point the web was a very static thing–mostly just a collection of pages.

There were hooks in the HTTP servers for running scripts, which is what we were depending on because all of our pages had to be dynamically generated. There was really nothing that existed to build a stateful application. In other words, where you are serving different things to different people and you have to keep track of that person’s progress, as they’re adding things to a shopping basket and going through an ordering process and all that. We pretty much had to figure that out and learn how to do it.

Craig : How did you troubleshoot? Today I use Stack Overflow constantly. What would you do when you ran into a bug that you couldn’t figure out?

Shel : Stay up late.

Craig : [Laughter] Fair enough.

Shel : I don’t recall that we had a lot of help from outside parties. At one point we decided to switch from Sun Microsystems to Digital servers. I was more familiar with Sun’s machines at that time so when we got the Digital machines and had some performance issues at first, Jeff found a professor at UW who could help with kernel tuning, which I was not terribly familiar with.

Everything else was debugging as usual. Technically speaking, Amazon was really pretty straightforward to build in the beginning. Although believe me, we had our share of bugs. But they were mostly relatively straightforward.

Craig : Were you also doing the software for inventory management?

Shel : A month after I got there we hired a guy named Paul Davis who had been in the Computer Science staff at UW, and who was a really great hacker. He and I worked together quite well. I was mostly focused on the website and customer-facing stuff. He was primarily focusing on shipping, receiving, inventory, charging credit cards and all that kind of thing. But we both had our hands on all of the code. He only stayed for a year and a quarter or so. When he left, it was just me for several months before I could hire anybody else. I was doing all of it at that point in time. I remember I worked seven days a week for 3 months straight, and they weren’t 8-hour days. Then we started hiring a few people who could take over specific aspects of the code.

Craig : Do you remember how many orders you were getting per month at the time?

Shel : I don’t remember numbers but it was minuscule by today’s standards. That said, our business was doubling quarterly for about six quarters or more in a row. In the beginning before we got the Digital servers, we ran the whole business on a couple of small Sun desktop machines. That was everything. We didn’t have much of a budget for hardware. We were trying to get absolutely everything we could out of a small number of tiny machines. We were always a little bit behind the curve on adding more hardware as we needed it.

Craig : Did that ever come around to bite you guys?

Shel : Yeah, for sure. We were always up against the limit of what the hardware could do. For one reason or another, sorting out architectural issues to scale more gracefully was something I could never convince Jeff to allocate resources to do. There were always too many customer-facing features that needed to be developed.

There were times when some piece of hardware would crap out and corrupt a database and, of course, some of the backups hadn’t been working. But somehow we survived.

Craig : Were you guys running any kind of analytics at that point?

Shel : No. Not in the beginning. I think it was maybe spring or summer of 1997 when the first people came in that were starting to work on that. In the beginning we were saving our server logs thinking they’d be really interesting to analyze, but not right now.

Craig : When we have a ton of extra money and time.

Shel : Yeah, maybe when we have a thousand extra programmers or something.

Craig : Exactly. So had you been working with Jeff on the product? How was the ship being steered?

Shel : During that time we were just a bookstore, so it didn’t seem to me there was a lot of steering to be done. That said, I don’t know all the things that Jeff might have been doing that I wasn’t aware of at the time. If I think back, I can’t even clearly picture what it was that he was actually doing. He wasn’t working on any of the technical stuff. We never even had a written business plan that I know of.

Craig : [Laughter] Was he sourcing the books?

Shel : He wasn’t doing that. Well, maybe he was at the very, very beginning before we hired people to interact with publishers. At the very beginning we were mostly just working with distributors. But we wanted to have a large catalogue, so we also had to work directly with publishers who weren’t represented by the distributors. That was what allowed us to claim a million titles, which was a big deal back then.

Craig : How were people discovering you guys?

Shel : Well, Google wasn’t around at the time. There are probably other opinions about this but, first off, there weren’t that many websites that were interesting back then. Second, as it turned out, there was a couple who worked at Netscape at the time–Eric and Susan Benson. I had worked with Eric in three different places by then. We had a “friends and family” soft launch in the spring of ‘95. They were among the people that were trying it out. We later hired both of them at Amazon. Susan was working on Netscape’s website in an editorial capacity. I only learned this last year, but when we opened up to the public it was she who put Amazon on their “What’s New” and “What’s Cool” pages. She put us on those lists. Then because the name started with an A, it was above the fold so lots of people saw it. That was, in my opinion, a super important connection for us. It might have happened without the personal connection, but who knows, maybe not.

Craig : That’s wild. Were you shipping to all 50 states in the beginning?

Shel : Yeah, and several foreign countries as well. We had a lot of international orders from fairly early on.

Craig : At what point did you realize, “Maybe I shouldn’t keep my place in Santa Cruz. I might be at Amazon for a while.”

Shel : I think that happened two years in or so. It started to be annoying to have to manage the house remotely, even though it was a friend of mine who was renting it. I was still responsible for it. At that point I also thought, if I do move back there, I’m probably not going to live in that house. It was not a particularly great house. I decided it would make my life a little simpler to get rid of it.

At that time we started extending into different product areas, too. We started having sites in a couple of other countries. Germany and England were the first two. And we started to make acquisitions. I think the acquisitions were probably post-IPO, which was spring of ‘97.

Craig : Whoa. I didn’t realize it was that fast. Three years?

Shel : Yeah, about two and a half.

Craig : What was your role around the time of the IPO?

Shel : My role was always primarily technical with some technical management. At that time I was VP of Development and was responsible for writing the software and keeping the systems up and running. One of the people who were hired to replace me in my original role came in only a month or maybe two before the IPO. The next guy came in September of that year. Early on, the small team of technical folks had been working for me, and I was mainly doing a lot of programming myself, but also system administration, network configuration, and so forth. I was putting disk drives in enclosures and running Ethernet cabling around the building and that kind of thing.

Craig : Not quite the glamorous startup life some people imagine.

Shel : Well, yeah. Those days were still before everything that’s happened with glorifying startups. If you were going to do a startup business, there wasn’t a huge expectation that it was going to be glamorous in any particular kind of way. You were going to work really hard and maybe it was going to work, though probably not.

Craig : Are there any vestiges of your work at Amazon?

Shel : Up until recently, maybe a few years ago, I could have said yes. But I don’t really see anything that looks like it now. It seems highly unlikely that anything I did actually still exists over there anymore.

Craig : What about even design patterns? Like, this is how a shopping cart works.

Shel : I don’t remember learning that from some other website. Though it seems like, as soon as you start thinking about that problem, it’s self-evident what it has to be like. You don’t want to make people go through a transaction every time they pick something. You have to let people go through the site and pick things that they’re interested in, put them somewhere so they can come back and get it all shipped at some point. I remember doing a lot of framing of that process on the website. Putting in text that said you could always take this out of your shopping basket later if you change your mind. So people wouldn’t feel they were overly committed.

Back in those days nobody was used to being a customer of online businesses. You had to be careful to make people feel comfortable and let them know their actions were reversible. Even though I was mainly doing technical things, the appearance of the website and a lot of the text on it were my doing in the early days. I was careful about making things acceptable to what I understood the culture of internet users to be in those days.

Craig : That’s so wild. You were designing for a completely different level of knowledge. You can assume so much more today.

Shel : Yes. Absolutely. Back in those days, it was the very beginning of doing commerce on the internet. There was a whole debate around allowing commercial activity on the internet. At least that’s how I recall it. Many people online were like, “We’re not so sure about commerce on this thing. You better not overdo it. You better be tasteful.”

There were these cases where people doing overtly commercial things were chastised by the community at large. There were some lawyers advertising their services for getting Green Cards and they were doing it by massive spamming activities. It created a huge fuss back then. It’s laughable now because so much stuff like that happens all the time.

And when cookies started being a feature in web browsers a lot of people were really concerned about their privacy, so they would turn them off. So we had to figure out how to make things work without that. Some people were running text-only browsers back then. Plus they were on dial-up. Sending pictures was not a good thing for those people.

Craig : Wait, you could use the early Amazon as a text-only site?

Shel : Yeah, we tested it. It always seemed important for us to make things continue to work, even for people that didn’t have a high bandwidth connection or the latest and greatest computers and all that.

Craig : How long did you end up staying in Amazon?

Shel : I was there for five years.

Craig : At the time you left, was it still a bookstore? What was it like?

Shel : Well, they had branched out into several other product areas. There weren’t any digital products yet. Ebooks hadn’t happened yet. They hadn’t developed any hardware products yet. Their computing services were not public yet. It was still pretty much a retail business. Although it was definitely branching out into other product areas and other countries.

Also around the time of an IPO and afterwards, the kind of people that are attracted to go to a company changes a lot. There were boatloads of MBAs and people like that coming. It was already a big company from my perspective.

Craig : So you’ve observed all these technological shifts. Do you have thoughts about how people should evaluate technologies when they’re about to start building something?

Shel : At this point, I don’t know. It’s a huge subject. For myself, when I look at technology these days, I see that it’s either doing something to connect people or it’s doing something that isolates people. I tend to make value judgments based on that kind of consideration about what is worth working on.

You walk down the streets, you have to weave around people standing there in random orientations in the middle of the sidewalk looking at their cellphones. Then you see people speaking robotically so that their speech recognizer can understand them. Now they are running around in mobs in parks with their phones in front of them trying to catch imaginary animals. I don’t necessarily see all that as a positive development.

I think technology has a role to play but I don’t see it being exploited very carefully in that way. But this is the kind of economy that we live in. And it’s very, very addictive. Even people who complain about it are still subject to it.

Craig : For sure. Where do you see Amazon falling on that spectrum now?

Shel : I think that a lot of what they do is more on the isolating people side. Everything caters to convenience so much that you don’t even have to get out of bed to take care of your day-to-day business. To me, that’s a step too far. Of all the major online businesses, I don’t really think that they extend in that way much beyond what we did very early on by allowing for customer reviews.

Craig : Had you and Jeff stayed close?

Shel : Not really. When he replaced me in my original job and I was moved into the CTO slot, I was nominally in charge of architecture, but in fact that just meant rubber stamping projects that were 95% complete by the time I saw them. That was all after having told me that my job was mine as long as I wanted it. And I didn’t have resources other than myself to work on anything I was interested in either. So I would say we were not really on particularly friendly terms at that point.

Craig : In retrospect, how do you feel about how things unfolded with Jeff and Amazon?

Shel : He’s obviously a super brilliant businessman. If I had any inkling about what kind of a company Amazon would turn into, both in terms of how successful they are and some of their business practices, I probably would have been a little bit more careful about my own relationship to it at the beginning. I also might have decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

One thing that the Amazon experience taught me is try to imagine what a project or company would be like if it was more successful than you could ever possibly imagine. It’s very unlikely but it’s possible. You have to think about what the environment will be like if that happens, and how the people involved in it might change. When I was joining Jeff to form Amazon in the beginning, I didn’t even allow myself to go there. I’d worked for a lot of startups so it almost felt like a jinx to think too much about what might happen if it really succeeded in a big way. That was my mentality. I was like, I hope this makes it and is a moderate success. Maybe it even generates enough cash to let us retire at some point. You don’t really want to think about massive success beyond what you can imagine. Then, if it is successful, you have to start thinking, what’s my role in enabling this? Is that something I really want to be doing?

I would say, of all the jobs I had, and I had quite a few between when I started programming and when I left Amazon, the first couple of years at Amazon really were a high point for me. I really, really liked that. A lot of that wasn’t so much because of the technical side of it, it was because of having worked in lots of small businesses that didn’t go anywhere or were the wrong thing at the wrong time or something like that. Being a part of something from the very beginning that engages people and has an astonishing growth curve–being part of making that actually work–was hugely satisfying, and I still look back on those first couple of years as a really exciting and great time in my life.

Source: themacro.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 7th Sep 2016

phones chargingImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Samsung's decision to halt sales of the new Galaxy Note 7 because of reports of battery explosions is an extraordinary step for a tech giant to take.

The firm said it had identified a battery issue but did not elaborate.

But if a lithium-ion battery cell charges too quickly or a tiny manufacturing error slips through the net it can result in a short circuit - which can lead to fire.

One expert urged the industry to find safer alternatives to lithium.

"I think one should be concerned and push towards safer battery tech," said energy storage expert Professor Clare Grey from Cambridge University.

"That should be an important focus on research and industry development.

"While most manufacturing flaws will be picked up during initial testing, it's not an infallible process."

However Prof Grey also said that people should not panic.

"I'm standing at an airport - every single person would have to stop what they are doing if we took their batteries away from them," she said.

"We all take risks in our lives - we drive cars sitting on top of flammable organic liquids. Other tech is coming along that is safer."

Common causes

There have only been 35 cases of the Galaxy Note 7 catching fire reported worldwide following 2.5 million sales, Samsung says.

The lithium ion batteries used by Samsung are common across the tech industry - so what makes them hazardous?

Samsung Galaxy Note 7Image copyrightARIEL GONZALEZ

Image captionA Galaxy Note 7 reportedly caught fire shortly after its charger was unplugged

It's important to understand a little about how they work. Simply they contain a cathode, an anode and lithium.

The cathode and anode are separated by an organic liquid called an electrolyte and a porous material called the separator.

The lithium travels through the separator, within the liquid, between the two.

Quick charge

If the battery charges too fast, generating heat, lithium plates form around the anode which can create a short circuit.

"Normally you would have a battery management system that controls the rate at which you charge," said Prof Grey.

"Batteries are optimised so that you don't charge too fast - if you do that you will plate the lithium."

This is also why battery charging can be a frustratingly slow experience, she added.

Other faults that can cause a short circuit include contamination by tiny fragments of metal during the production process or minute holes in the sealing, which might not become apparent until the battery has been charged a few times as the materials expand and contract.

"The manufacturing has got a lot more standardised than it was 10 to 15 years ago," said Prof Grey.

However battery packs - combining battery cells to generate more power - can be problematic and this is increasingly common. Batteries containing 12 cells, for example, are readily available for laptops.

"The more you put together, the higher the likelihood that some will fail," she added.

"There are still flaws emerging but it's getting better. It is a challenge - with so many being produced, you just need one error."

Signs to watch out for

There can be symptoms indicating that a battery is about to fail, said support and repairs provider Geek Squad.

"Sometimes, a battery will start to swell and bulge before it fails completely, as the internal cells rupture and break," it says on its website.

"But the bulge doesn't always happen. If not, you might notice that your device is a little warmer than usual - but let's be honest, our phones get fairly warm during standard usage anyway."

The firm suggests disposing of any batteries displaying these signs.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 7th Sep 2016

Having received many scam Microsoft telephone calls recently,  I thought I should advise you of the offical line.............

Call Discus Systems plc for advise and take note of the following .............

Safety & Security Center

Avoid tech support phone scams

Cybercriminals don't just send fraudulent email messages and set up fake websites. They might also call you on the telephone and claim to be from Microsoft. They might offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Once they have access to your computer, they can do the following:

  • Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.

  • Convince you to visit legitimate websites (like www.ammyy.com) to download software that will allow them to take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.

  • Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.

  • Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes.

Telephone tech support scams: What you need to know

Cybercriminals often use publicly available phone directories, so they might know your name and other personal information when they call you. They might even guess what operating system you're using.

Once they've gained your trust, they might ask for your user name and password or ask you to go to a legitimate website (such as www.ammyy.com) to install software that will let them access your computer to fix it. Once you do this, your computer and your personal information are vulnerable.

Do not trust unsolicited calls. Do not provide any personal information.

Here are some of the organizations that cybercriminals claim to be from:

  • Windows Helpdesk

  • Windows Service Center

  • Microsoft Tech Support

  • Microsoft Support

  • Windows Technical Department Support Group

  • Microsoft Research and Development Team (Microsoft R & D Team)

Report phone scams

Whenever you receive a phone call or see a pop-up window on your PC and feel uncertain whether it is from someone at Microsoft, don’t take the risk. Reach out directly to one of our technical support experts dedicated to helping you at theMicrosoft Answer Desk. Or you can simply call us at 1-800-426-9400 or one of our customer service phone numbers for people located around the world.

How to protect yourself from telephone tech support scams

If someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support calls you:

  • Do not purchase any software or services.

  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the "service." If there is, hang up.

  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.

  • Take the caller's information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.

  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.

What to do if you already gave information to a tech support person

If you think that you might have downloaded malware from a phone tech support scam website or allowed a cybercriminal to access your computer, take these steps:

  • Change your computer's password, change the password on your main email account, and change the password for any financial accounts, especially your bank and credit card.

  • Scan your computer with the Microsoft Safety Scanner to find out if you have malware installed on your computer.

  • Install Microsoft Security Essentials. (Microsoft Security Essentials is a free program. If someone calls you to install this product and then charge you for it, this is also a scam.)

    Note: In Windows 8, Windows Defender replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. Windows Defender runs in the background and notifies you when you need to take specific action. However, you can use it anytime to scan for malware if your computer isn’t working properly or you clicked a suspicious link online or in an email message.

    Learn more about Windows Defender

Will Microsoft ever call me?

There are some cases where Microsoft will work with your Internet service provider and call you to fix a malware-infected computer—such as during the recent cleanup effort begun in our botnet takedown actions. These calls will be made by someone with whom you can verify you already are a customer. You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes.

Source: microsoft.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 7th Sep 2016

Apple iphoneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionSame same - but different?

Wednesday is a big day in the tech world. Apple is holding its annual launch event where the new iPhone 7 is expected to be revealed.

The much-heralded device comes just as rival Samsung has recalled its flagship Note 7 over battery issues.

The tech rumour mill has been running at fever pitch about possible new iPhone features and gadgetry.

Many commentators expect Apple to have ditched the headphone jack, leaving only one port.

That would force consumers to use Bluetooth headphones or buy those compatible with Apple's Lightning port that is also used for charging.

However, old gear won't be completely obsolete, as Apple is expected to include an adapter jack.

Major innovations?

Recent updates of the iPhone have struggled to make a really big splash as they have lacked major innovations.

iPhone 6Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionThe new phone is likely to stick with two sizes of the iPhone 6

The speculation is it will be the same with the model due to be revealed on Wednesday in San Francisco. More of the same - just a little bit better.

Camera quality is expected to be improved and this time round the upgrade might mean a two-lens clicker for some of the bigger models.

A dual-lens camera can take pictures with two different exposures, then combine the two images for improved picture quality.


Analysis: Dave Lee, North America Technology correspondent

Another year, another iPhone. But then, it's hardly just been "another year" for Apple, has it?

Since last September, when we saw the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, the tech giant's world has been turned upside down. A war over encryption, a declining iPhone, a continuing struggle in China and, most recently, the tax bill to end all tax bills.

Distractions, lots of them. And it doesn't look like the new iPhone is going to deflect much of that attention away.

While we're used to saying "evolution, not revolution" in the smartphone market, this upgrade is not expected to turn many heads nor send customers running to the phone shop to upgrade.

If, as we expect, the headphone jack is removed from the device, expect a lot of anger from those who don't want to be ushered into buying wireless headphones.

Then again, Apple faced the same kind of anger when it rolled out the smaller "lightning" charging port, but everyone's just about got over that. Take a look at the "old" Apple charger and tell me it doesn't look almost comically massive. In hindsight, the right call.

A better camera would go down extremely well - more photographs are taken with iPhones than any other device. But some reported leaks suggest only the larger, less popular iPhone size will get the new camera technology.

Looking a bit further ahead, some are speculating that Apple is holding back this time around, instead saving new features for 2017 and what will be the iPhone's 10th anniversary.


Other expected change include increased storage and better speakers.

The new phone is also said to be water resistant, handling submersion for up to 30 minutes - a feature already offered by several of Apple's Android competitors from the likes of Samsung or Sony.

Apple is thought to be sticking with its two sizes, meaning there would be an iPhone 7 and an iPhone 7 Plus.

Neither is the design thought to be changing much, giving it the same overall look as the current models.

Rumour has it there will be more colours available, for instance reintroducing black as an option.

While the new models will be revealed to the world at the launch, consumers will have to wait a few weeks before they are shipped. Pre-orders are expected to open on Friday.

The timing still is crucial. Samsung beat Apple by releasing its Galaxy Note 7 last month. The device was well received by users and critics alike and started selling well.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7Image copyrightARIEL GONZALEZ

Image captionA Galaxy Note 7 reportedly caught fire shortly after its charger was unplugged

But then reports about batteries heating up and sparking some fires prompted Samsung to launch an embarrassing recall last week - just days before the new iPhone makes its debut.

While Samsung's battery problems might tilt some prospective buyers toward the iPhone 7, Apple depends on the ongoing success of its smartphones as they have become its biggest source of revenue.

And after recent bad publicity ranging from issues around security flaws to tax problems, the world's most valuable listed company hopes the iPhone will be a hit.

 

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 7th Sep 2016

When people talk about the benefits of digital information, it’s speed and efficiency they tend to focus on – and rightly so. It’s the ability to instantly share digital data which is helping to transform just about every aspect of our lives – including the way we work.

Leaders need to be able to stay on top of their company's digital data

For any SME, efficiency savings are all that’s required to justify switching over to digital processes. It’s the basic ability to get tasks done quicker and for a lower cost that makes the move away from old paper-based work methods something of a no-brainer.

But there’s a more profound benefit offered by digital data, and it’s something that’s not so immediately obvious. This is the power it provides to start seeing the internal workings of a business in ways never previously possible.

It’s the equivalent of switching on a light within an organisation to reveal a whole new business environment – an untapped resource of digital information, allowing SMEs much better ways to monitor performance, track financial metrics and identify future dangers.

It gives business leaders the accurate and up-to-date information they need to make informed decisions – to improve their ability to identify those aspects of a company which are helping or hindering its growth

A real-world example is the way digital expenses management systems are replacing the traditional manual and paper-based methods of handling employee costs. These systems automatically track and store data on every aspect of an expenses claim.

It’s not just who, when and what – it also creates a digital data stamp showing the exact time and location of each claim. If it’s a mileage expense, the information collected will include details of the precise route and distance of the journey.

The systems are also continually monitoring for claims that breach set levels or fall outside of company policy. When these are identified an alert is automatically triggered, letting an account manager know to investigate further.

With finance teams no longer having to manually process bundles of paper claims, all of this information is instantly accessible and combined with user-friendly reporting tools, lets companies view, analyse and manipulate this data in any ways they want.

It gives business leaders the ability to set accurate metrics with quantifiable goals that can be easily tracked and monitored. It also provides a valuable insight into the health of the organisation – to identify any weaknesses and spot potential problems.

In a pre-digital world, it could take weeks or months for any kind of "up-to-date" report to be manually compiled. It meant that early warning signs were liable to remain unnoticed, small issues were allowed to grow into more serious problems.

Without a digital system to enforce a policy in real-time, finance teams faced the onerous task of trying to retrospectively spot where breaches had occurred. It’s within this organisational blindspot that expenses fraud was allowed to become endemic within UK businesses.

With companies not having the tools required to properly tackle fraud, each grudgingly tolerated it. The National Fraud Authority estimates that in excess of £100m continues to be lost each year by UK companies to exaggerated and falsified expenses claims.

It’s this power of digital data to shine a light on exactly what’s happening within a business which is helping to transform the role of our finance teams, moving the focus away from processing data and more towards the management and visualisation of information.

The challenge facing today’s SMEs is being able to harness digital information, rather than being overwhelmed by it. It’s finding digital friendly systems and teams that enable your business to maximise these new ways of working.

While any organisation which moves to a digital system can reap the basic benefits of a speedier and more efficient processes, there is a real competitive advantage available to those SMEs who fully harness the potential of digital data.

Not only can it improve the present health and performance of a company but it’s also providing business leaders with the insights they need to better guide the future path of their organisations.

Adam Reynolds is the CEO of webexpenses.

Source: realbusiness.co.uk
 
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