Allo, allo

Google recently (or should we say finally) released ‘allo’ and ‘duo’, an answer to facebook’s messenger, snapchat, wechat, whatsapp and all the others. In this article our view on ‘allo’, the chat engine.

Having taken notice of it’s features, ‘allo’ seems rather clearly focussed on interactions of the casual user. It offers some really cool features, one of which kinda reminds me of the comic books, in which important words are featured in bold or in a bigger font. More of a teenager thing, I guess, but that’s good enough.

As to be expected, it bears ‘Google intelligence’ as they call it, here used to learn to anticipate your answers in certain situations. Not sure yet what awkward conversations this might lead to, but I guess instagram will be full of screenshots in no time. More interesting is that you can search ‘on the go’ during a conversation. You can ask voiced questions to Google during your chat, and the answers will appear on the screen. Hold your breath.

As for security, like most recent apps, you can have secret conversations that are erased automatically, and for other conversations, there is encryption – if you don’t forget to turn it on. Obviously you have to understand that Google will analyse all your conversations before they delete them. No problem, right?

Allo only works on your mobile, so no desktop to mobile communication possible, something I consider a weakness.

Bottom line, it clearly is not business-oriented, it is not really completely safe to contemporary standards. and integrates a bunch of functions that can lead to embarassment. The whole thing makes me wonder who Google has spent all this money developing it for. The government?



If socialism has any future at all, I honestly believe it is in this app. Why? Because there are no politics involved. It is really all just about doing things for the people in your neighborhood, and who on earth can be worried about that? Well, except the government who might miss some tax collecting, but that is not what life is all about, is it? Seriously!

Streetlife is a local social network that connects you to people in your neighborhood. Anyone who needs help, or offers some solution, needs to put out a warning, briefly anything that may find a resolution within your neighborhood can be posted here.

The nice thing about it is that you get to know your neighbors, and this automatically increases social control, the lack of which has become an increasingly big problem in modern communities. If you don’t know your neighbors, you don’t care, and thus open the door for more wrongdoing. When people know each other more, you get an entirely different picture.

The app was launched in the UK and up to to day, over 4000 communities have it running. I honestly believe that there is a huge potential for this kind of apps. So far internet has largely become a pallet for the big companies to grab consumers attention. Local businesses have little of a foot to stand on to grab the audience that matters for them. This application can offer just that local platform the small retailer is looking for.

Streetlife has strong funding, but the problem is, that spreading takes a lot of time and effort. Maybe a really big economical crisis like the one that is brewing can help them cross international borders.

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The Internet of Things : Fad or Future?

So how many people do you know use a pre-programmed coffee machine to have a cup of hot coffee ready when they wake up? How many of them have a remote to operate curtains, light, heating, or can do it from their phones? How may have other features in their environment that work pre-programmed or operated from mobile device?

I have plenty of friends that I visited at their homes, people with decent jobs that I know for many years. Well, one of them has a coffee machine with a timer that he uses, and another friend is quite engaged in the remote features that Apple offers with their range.

That’s it. No more.

So where are the avid TIoT Users? Why don’t I hear people brag about it, let alone talk about it? The question here is whether it really is such a big deal to have your curtains close automatically before you come home, have your bed warmed up, your hot bath running and so on. And you know why? Because we are not robots. A charcteristic of freedom is being able to take the time to do things by yourself. So is being free to do the unexpected, divert from daily habits. And surely making coffee is not for everybody a drag. For some it is part of the morning ritual. Getting between the cold sheets with your partner can make you feel so alive and makes you cuddle up with each other, and even choosing the temperature of your bath tub can be a moment thing, waiting for it to fill can heighten the experience when you step in.

That may explain why so many people like the idea, imagine their homes that way, but so few take the step to buy and install it. Some of the products are not quite cheap or require a pricy installation. For people with a moderate budget, the question may rise ‘Is it worth it? Or is it like the expensive bubble bath that you end up using twice a year?’

But it’s not all about price, because some stuff really is within reach of most people with a regular income. Then the question rises if you want to take the charm of ‘coming home’ away? Lastly, there is the barrier of the ‘hassle’ of programming, the risk of forgetting and of course the fear of something going wrong.

From what I can see, too many hurdles. And that makes The Internet of Things a giant leap… in Gadget Land.


Google Enters International Politics

G_politicsIt actually has gone publicly into US politics for a while now, because the concept of self-driving cars does need a lot of lobbying to get approved, since potentially, a lot of jobs could be lost all over the world. Therefor, politicians need to be convinced of the economical benefits that would stand across the social massacre that this innovative concept could potentially cause.

Since such major market changes are a known historical fact, one can not really oppose it. The industrial revolution changed agriculture forever, the technological and communication revolutions reshaped the way business is done today, so why not a transportation revolution? Surely the number of cars and trucks currently on the roads proves the necessity. Calculations estimate that just about 10% of the current number of cars would be needed to take care of most of the traffic if public robot-cars would replace all current cars. That makes Google’s move sure worth the while ecologically.

But what if Tech giants start mingling with international politics in a way that lives would be at stake through war and terrorism? Wikileaks recently released some of the Clinton emails, which state that Google has teamed up with Al Jazeera to help the US and Israel to destabilize Lybia, Syria and Iraq. More recently, Google’s mobile voice assistant refused to help when asked about the Clinton emails, which clearly proves which side they are on in the coming elections.

We already know that Facebook actively delays and denies you selected posted messages from friends. They actually have total control over what is shown to who and when it is shown. Google can influence the search results any way they want. They actually put in place an app for those countries that would help in overthrowing the Syrian government counting the number of defectors and making them public to strengthen the government opposition and encourage others to follow. Al Jazeera even won an award for that. Given the bloodshed it lead to, a dubious choice.

Through history, there have always been companies that benefited from war. Some of the largest companies in the world thank their growth through business with Hitler’s Germany, and post WWII with anyone else to build back up the countries that were ravaged by the occupation.

But the real question is not if it is ethically correct for a company to do business with countries at war. I think only dealers of arms and hazardous chemicals are to reconcile with that. It is whether a company actively helping a nation to start a (civil) war still is ethically correct. And that is what Google, Facebook and Al Jazeera likely are guilty of. Makes me wonder if Eric Schmidt and friends ever think about the bloodbath and the misery of millions of people that resulted from their participation.

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Can I Have Your Number Please?

Just a few months ago, Facebook’s David Marcus announced the declining significance of the phone number. Not an exuberantly bold statement, but still, I decided to look into this.

I would start with saying that the phone number still is the most secure and personal way to talk to a specific person, since it rarely gets hacked. This is the reason why many companies use it as a preferred means to identify a new subscription to an online service. Many chat apps use it as a reference for your account, and applications also still offer regular phone calls as an alternative to VOIP or in-app calls.

Another important fact is that the quality of regular phone connections still outweighs that of VOIP or in-app calls in many countries across the world. When a call is important, you will rarely use other features than a direct phone call. That is why I find it a bit hasty to announce it’s death. Surely the use of the phone as the main tool of communication is reducing fast, but the relevance of a phone number has by no means been surpassed.

In my personal experience, introductory communication goes over mail, chat or VOIP. When it is time for a meeting, phone numbers are exchanged and later used to make sure the meeting will take place on the right place and time, since an internet connection is not always guaranteed, making a phone call more likely successful. Obviously this may change as more efficient software will come on the market.

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Google’s Adwords Express Not Transparent

As a once owner of a small business, I very well know the needs of them. They are very different from larger scale businesses, and if I would have had the technology then that is available today, boy would I still have been successful now. It’s not so long ago that Google introduced Adwords Express, which was to be a dream come true for small businesses. If it would have worked properly.

The philosophy of Adwords Express is ‘fast and easy’. The problem is that however seducing this is, it doesn’t really apply to the target audience. Small businesses are just as dependent of precise keywords as big businesses. The automatic keyword generators are far from efficient enough to take control of that.

Different from big companies is that small businesses are slightly less in need of brand awareness. It really just matters locally. The result is that the clicks they get due to a weak automatic keyword generator are wasted and much more expensive than they are for big companies who have more value in branding their company.

Another issue is the geographical location. Consumers often just want the first shop nearby. Advertisers pay to get the first spot, which is not always what the consumer wants. A conflict of interests that has always been decided in favour of the money. Is there really no way around this?

There are more issues that make Adwords Express not necessarily the best choice. The real problem with these giant corporations, is that they try to fit everything into their megastructures. Sure, they hire teams of specialised people who seem to know all about what small businesses need, did all the necessary research, but in the end, it has to fit in with the big guys.

Sometimes I wonder if it is even smart to join up with such companies, as you can be sure that your information is namelessly sold to the highest bidder, who shamelessly will open nearby if your business is strong enough to have a go at that local market.

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Encryption in the Hot-Seat

Actually, it was Apple in the hot-seat, but with a lot of support from some big companies. Some of them somewhat hypocrite since after all, some tech giants are involved in US international politics, thus crossing a line much further than handing over a key to the CIA to solve crimes, assuming they would not abuse it for other purposes. Surely it is all about losing face to the consumer and to companies who pay for services.

And although Apple did join the anti-Trump meeting, it is not clear whether they will in any way actively support whatever has been discussed. I just don’t see Apple taking any other political statements other than ‘user-friendly ones’.

So how about encryption then? The FBI eventually paid over 1,3 million USD to get the information on that particular phone. A fair amount that hopefully will make them very selective on which phones to crack. My personal opinion is that the governments are the biggest crooks of all. Just take a look at what is going on in the world. Let the Clinton mails be your guide : England and France who made deals with the US about supporting the fall of Gadaffi in return for cheap oil, or recently Turkey supporting IS oil trades and cracking down on the freedom of speech. There is much more, and it doesn’t get more beautiful.

For those who can’t get enough encryption, Russian phone maker Yota has developed a phone that is said to offer unparalleled, corporate-level security. A few months earlier, Blackphone released their high security model in Europe.

So all hail encryption. And all hail privacy. Those small time crooks are nothing compared to the real thing. Just keep your hands of our children.

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Like so many others, I was surprised to see the announcement from twitter to move from 140 to 10.000 characters, thus destroying the whole concept of their application. I surely don’t have to spell this out for you. There are many popular public ways to share a statement that long, Facebook as the leading candidate. There is no way and no need for Twitter to compete with that.

Personally I never was so fond of the twitter concept though. The main reason is obvious : almost every week you see apologies from famous people or company leaders for tweets that were sent in haste or high emotions. I always thought there should be a warning on the ‘send tweet’ page : “The world is listening. Be respectful and think before you send.” Unless of course you consider bad advertising is also advertising, which obviously is true.

Never the less, I would prefer a shoutout like this to go no further than my friends circle. Utter my frustration where there is a better chance that I won’t get publicly humiliated. My friends know me, they understand I often say things I don’t mean. Do you?

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UPDATE : Twitter will no longer count links as part of the message sent so you will soon have 140 actual characters for it. It’s about time.

P2P Payments

I am really curious how Apple will do it. Not the money exchange process in particular, but I would like to know if every transaction will be passed over a bank or not. Or in other words if the money exchanged will electronically pass from one bank account to another through a ‘facilitaded money transfer’, or if it will really be a wallet to wallet process like bitcoin. Given the article mentions P2P is very often used in Africa by ‘unbanked’ people, the latter is likely the case. This obviously raises the same security questions bitcoin has, but the interconnectiveness with other Apple devices can likely provide some guidance.

I just wonder what governments think about this. Since about 10 years, most western countries initiated a cash hunt under the pretext of fighting criminal money and terrorism. A somewhat doubtful reason given the oil deals that IS made with many countries for the past two years, raising them billions of blood-dollars. It has proven that projects like FACTA and similar setups in Europe are merely in place from purpose of tax-control than really fighting crime and terrorism. Governments already check every payment you make, since you can no longer send large amounts of money without providing evidence or reason.

I see P2P transactions potentially as a thorn in the eye of these governments, as it opens the door to easy money exchange without control. Criminal money exchanges will all pass over this system. Makes me wonder what governments are going to do to try and get some control over this.

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What After the Smartphone?

Maybe the most significant article I recently read concerned a remark from Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai, saying he was expecting a follow-up device to the smartphone. He marked a timing of two to four years in the future where such a device could be expected.

That may be correct, although I kinda doubt the eta. I believe that the software concept that is currently dominating smartphones will first have to change drastically for that to happen.

Apple changed the smartphone into a wonderful device, but I believe the software never made the transition with the hardware. Surely there are great apps, but interaction between apps is still very poor. Operating systems barely allow cross-app interactions that would bring the software on par with the concept of the device, being practical, fast and mobile. And although the software coding is getting more and more sophisticated, allowing for amazing possibilities, the platform concepts are still holding back the real breakthrough that would enable the smartphone to evolve into a new superior concept. So the real eta would be 2-4 years after this transition, earliest.

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