Immuni e il GPS

Disclaimer: l’ultima volta che ho programmato un computer, i linguaggi à la page si chiamavano Assembler, Pascal, Fortran IV e Cobol. Per i più arditi c’era l’APL, dunque non venitemela a menare…

Come tutti, dato che non vivo in una caverna, ho seguito il dibattito sulla app Immuni capendoci assai poco, ma alla fine decidendo di installarla sulla base di un campionamento tra le persone della mia bolla.

Ieri l’amico Massimo mi chiede: “Ma anche a te smette di funzionare se spegni il GPS?” Io il GPS lo lascio sempre acceso, dunque ho dovuto provare per saperlo e, in effetti, la app segnala immediatamente errore.

Allora ho cominciato a tartufare un po’ in giro scoprendo che il GPS acceso è necessario solo con Android, escludendo dunque che sia un bisogno della app, ed escludendo perciò che si tratti di un malizioso tentativo per tracciare più di quanto sia necessario.

Ciò detto, ha ragione Massimo: col dibattito che c’è in giro, non spiegare PERCHÉ sia necessario accendere il GPS potrebbe portare qualcuno ad insospettirsi ed evitare di installare la app.

Ma soprattutto per me non spiega COME MAI questa particolare permission sia necessaria; un puntatore me lo ha indicato Leonardo, segnalandomi che nelle discussioni tra sviluppatori è fatto noto che per usare BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) sia necessario chiedere la permission GPS.

Le discussioni tra sviluppatori fanno venire il mal di testa, ma dopo un’oretta passata su questa ho capito che:

  • non è un baco. Google ha risposto che “questo è il comportamento previsto”. Dunque non si tratta di una situazione che, prima o poi, verrà risolta.
  • il processo di scansione con BLE consente (in linea di principio) di identificare grossolanamente la posizione del dispositivo.
  • per questa ragione, Google ha deciso di rendere trasparente queste situazione, imponendo la permission esplicita GPS: in altre parole, se non ti va che possa essere tracciata la tua posizione, almeno lo sai e puoi decidere di non usare quella app.

Fin qui tutto chiaro? Mica tanto: mi rimangono tre dubbi:

  1. il protocollo BT normale (non Low Energy) invece non richiede la permission GPS: per logica, questo significa che una scansione BT normale NON rivela la posizione. Come mai ?
  2. l’obiettivo del BLE è proprio quello di consumare meno energia. Non viene vanificato dalla necessità del GPS acceso (notoriamente gran consumatore) ?
  3. ammesso che sia vero che iOs non richiede il GPS, delle due l’una: o Apple se ne frega del fatto che una scansione BLE permetta un tracciamento geografico indebito e confida nel fatto che gli sviluppatori di app BLE non sfruttino questa possibilità, o Apple ha trovato il modo di evitare che la scansione BLE riveli la posizione. Spero la seconda, ma mi domando perché non condividere con Google perché le due API potessero funzionare esattamente allo stesso modo….

Torno a Massimo che si arrabbia perché si sente preso per il naso per dirgli: ammesso e non concesso che quello che ho scritto sopra sia corretto, te lo immagini spiegarlo ai giornalisti ?!?

Notes of note.

IBM Domino v10 is being released. That’s a long way from the original Lotus Notes, itself the grand-nephew of Iris Associates’ Notes.

When Lotus bought IA, I was their Country Manager for Italy. We (like all the PC industry) were selling spreadsheets and word processors at the time, simple stuff which did well one simple thing on a single PC. Well, Notes was not like that at all, and despite  trainings and brochures, most of us could NOT effectively explain what Notes did and therefore why customers should buy it.

So I did the only sensible thing for an ex-nerd: ripped open a box and installed the damn thing on my machine and (without reading a single line of the manual) started playing with it.

Within a week or two I had familiarized myself with the programming language of Notes and developed what quickly became the most used Notes application in Italy: JOKES.NSF where people would write silly jokes and others could comment.

This may sound like nothing today, but we are talking early Nineties here (I left Lotus in 1993): other software companies didn’t have a clue about network-based rapid application development, so it was pretty advanced stuff. I remember that we struggled to define a new software category (“groupware”) which for years included only one product

The Jokes database was by default included as a sort of general demo on every installation of Lotus Notes in Italy, and was used by so many Sysadmins that our own systems engineers posted there tech messages because it was the best way to make sure they would be read quickly.

There might a few people among my contacts who remember Jokes.nsf and if you are an early adopter of Lotus Notes a copy of this social network ante-litteram could lay dormant on your servers, waiting to amuse you.

Therefore I salute Domino 10: this is my small tribute to one of the best pieces of software I ever came across.

Beautiful tech

My colleagues at Cineca’s Visit.Lab have worked for several months on a project to create a short animation movie which you’ll get to see in due course.

What I have here however is a meta-movie: you take people working on files (little balls) included in folders (lines). Every time a file is modified a streak of light appears; you then accelerate the log to represent one day with 0.1 seconds and you get this:

Ain’t it beautiful?

Great job Antonella, Giovanni and all the crew!!

Google Authenticator

Are you using Google Authenticator?

Prompted by my own WordPress blog which suggested I enable two-step authentication, I do. Do I feel more secure? Not really, and here’s why.

  1. Download and install the Android app: CHECK!
  2. Scan the WordPress QR code: CHECK!
  3. GA generates a code, enter it and validate: CHECK!
  4. Now GA generates another 8 “backup codes” and asks me to print them and store them in a safe place  for use if my phone is stolen (like… where – VERY SAFE!)
  5. (since Google does not trust me to do what they say) Enter one of the backup codes and type the word “printed”: FAIL (I enter the first code and GA says “invalid code”!)

How feckin’ secure is this? Losers!!!

Should BillG return to lead MSFT? No.

That’s what Charles Schwab says here. IMHO that would be a colossal mistake on the part of Gates, for more than one reason:

  1. the factor that put Bill Gates in a class of its own among all other tech founders-turned-billionaires was his hunger. The guy was hungry even when he was the world’s richest man several times around. He kept running Microsoft like a startup until it became impossible. He tried staying as CTO, but I’m not surprised that, being a man of superior intelligence, he called it quits and went on to something entirely different where – again – he can change the world. Microsoft has in the meanwhile become if possible even more bureaucratic, slow and, sadly, irrelevant. There is simply no incentive for him.
  2. Schwab thinks “Jobs fixed Apple, Gates can fix Microsoft”. In thinking this he demonstrates how little he understands these people. Jobs did not fix Apple, Jobs healed a deep wound cut in his own self-esteem when Apple threw him out. Carrying AAPL to unheard-of heights was a side effect which no doubt Jobs noticed, but did not give a rat’s ass about.
  3. Microsoft is beyond recovery – like almost all tech wonders, it’s a one-trick pony whose trick was phenomenally successful but did eventually run its course. To my knowledge, IBM is the only tech company who successfully performed several transitions (some of which not without great risk and disruption).
  4. Warren Buffet says he won’t. And he’s always right.

I wish the shrewd Bloomberg journalist would instead ask Schwab how much MSFT they and their clients hold: the only one effect such an announcement might have is a powerful spike in MSFT whose value is stuck between 25 and 40 since immemorable time. Let it hit 60 and see how fast these “long term investors” unload.

Un-fucking Apple’s fucks

As Emilio rightly pointed out, the old iWork ’09 has been saved in a folder on your hard disk upon upgrading. All you have to do is:

  1. create a folder called iWork ’13, move the new Pages and Keynote into it
  2. copy Pages and Keynote ’09 back in your Apps directory
  3. delete the new Keynote and Pages icon from your dock and drag there the old ones
  4. right click one file with extension .key and .pages which you have NOT opened in the new versions yet, select “Get info”
  5. go to “Open with:” (last tab at the bottom)
  6. select from drop down menu “choose…” and go looking for the old Pages app
  7. click on “Change all”
  8. Restart your computer

Those files who you have corrupted will still require new Pages or Keynote, but when you find one, fire up the new apps, open the file and export it to iWork ’09. You will not recover the changes iWork ’13 has done to them , but at least you will now be able to redo them and continue using the file.

This is no panacea, as obviously these older versions are no longer supported by Apple, and eventually some change to the OS will break them forever, but at least they allow you to continue working as you transition to Microsoft Office.

Attention Mac users: DO NOT “UPGRADE” to iWork ’13

Apple’s last “upgrade” to Pages and Keynote are embarrassingly flawed. Numerous perfectly functioning features have been removed to dumb them down enough to be used on an iPad (I happen to think that using them on an iPad is a totally stupid idea to start with, but this may be just me.)Once a document written on previous versions is opened in the new it will be screwed forever, because the “Save as Pages ’09” option will not restore the damage that the opening has done to the file.

I think it’s important to alert other users, so that they DO NOT “UPGRADE”, and pressure Apple so that it makes again available for download iWork ’09 for those who would like to continue to use it.

To make this pressure visible I had a few ideas, but maybe there are others:
  1. I have created this page, please like it and share it so that others like it
  2. take a minute to write a 1-star review on the App Store
  3. if you have a blog, share this post on your blog also.

Cowards !

This chart represents Microsoft stock recent closings:

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 11.22.06 AMI guess everybody knows what is the big spike of yesterday, right?

Not a fan of Uncle Fester, never been; however, he has been a staple in my speaker training courses as an example of someone very high up who’s not afraid to risk losing face to make a point. Unless some other self-conscious leader of similar companies, Steve really put all of himself in what he did.

Having said this, capitalism is NOT about complaining about poor performance or whining because Apple is eating your lunch. It’s about kicking in the butt the manager who’s not performing. Or else, shut the fuck up!

If I held MSFT in spades (like some big pension funds I won’t mention) and I thought Ballmer was not adding value, I would have moved in to oust him, not? Today, every MSFT owner is cowardly jumping on the bandwagon and crowing that “they always said Ballmer was the problem”. Steve, I’m with you! Fuck’ em cowards!!

P.S. and about succession, see this: MSFT buys DELL, Michael next CEO. Elop commits suicide.

Gone to fruux

fruuxAfter about two weeks of testing (see this post) I have definitely moved everything to fruux; I like the fact they rely on standard DAV protocols to share stuff, hopefully this makes their solution more robust. And of course, I subscribed to the paid service: c’mon, good software deserves support !cardcal

Unfortunately Android does not support DAV natively (why, even Apple does! #fail) but there is a solution in the form of two little Android apps by Marten Gajda (CalDAV-Sync and CardDAV-Sync).

When installing the latter, don’t be a cheapskate and buy the paid  version, as the free one does not support e.g. the Notes field, which in my case is essential as I store there all passwords and PINs. (Blast! That was a secret!!!)

I would like to officially commend also both fruux and Marten for their timely and clear customer support, who helped me sort out little problems along the way. Well done, guys!

P.S. Just as a way to cover my ass (a time-honored practice), I also have exported what I believe to be a clean copy of my Address Book to a .vcf file backed up on Dropbox – in case of emergency, I can open it with Text Editor and search it to fish out a lost telephone number or password. Now, if fruux added the great “Restore from date…” functionality like Soocial had, that would be just bliss…

UPDATE 25-Nov-2013:

fruux released yesterday an Android App which resolves the Android sync problem beautifully and reliably despite the JB issue described above.