Archives For October 2012

Update: I had mistakenly indicated in a prior version of this post that this might be Qualcomm’s problem to fix.  As seen in the comments, I’ve been set straight on the baseband chipsets in the Galaxy Nexus (and it isn’t Qualcomm!) – apologies for the mis-information! As you will see here, the problem with CDMA/LTE devices exists nevertheless…

Verizon had a good run with CDMA. They built an incredible network. Made a lot of money. Made several partners happy. Well, it may be time for a divorce.

What is at the heart of this after all? The battery life! I have never been more frustrated with a phone as I am with my Galaxy Nexus right now.  I have to charge this multiple times a day to get through the day with decent use! I practically have to walk around with the charger around my neck!  All LTE phones suck the battery more, but I believe Verizon devices are the worst!  And it appears this has to do with having two completely independent stacks on the device that need to be active at all times – for CDMA and LTE.

There was a time when you couldn’t pay me to use a different network with sub-optimal coverage. This, despite the horrendous inconvenience of not having an accessible device while traveling to numerous parts of the world. Now, I’m ready to move to AT&T if they have half the coverage!  At least I’d be able to use my phone!

This past weekend, I was in Disneyland and I had to save my phone power as if I were stuck in Hurricane Sandy power deprived conditions so that I’d be able to reach my family when I need to, if we split up! I use my phone as a primary device – pretty much for everything except heavy duty work.  I read my news, my Kindle books, catch up with Facebook/G+/Twitter/blogs, navigate, search for places, IM, Skype, write short to moderately long emails, shop, look up calendar, to-do lists, and much more on this device.  Oh yeah, and make calls sometimes.

When I have to think twice about doing any of these things, carefully orchestrate my GPS and other radio settings and only use it as an emergency device, I might as well own a stupid device from the previous decade!

At the earliest possible opportunity, I’m switching to AT&T.  If Verizon cannot fix this problem, they should simply build out the LTE network and move on. Really!

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I wrote about FOWA and that it feels like living in a closed box. An experience generally improves as you live with it – so, I thought I’d revisit this topic after living with boxed up browser based apps experience for a few months. The verdict – it still sucks!  And in the context of misery loves company, it has been heartening to observe many others struggle through this problem! 

Other than the things I already observed in my old post, there are some other problems I uncovered as I wade through the mess of my browser tabs. As if it wasn’t already bad enough to have to investigate each tab title to figure out what is where, the worse thing about not having a native app is that the only thing displayed on the browser instance titles on the desktop is the title of the topmost tab! Tabbing through the apps on the device only identifies the browser. Right clicking on the icon only displays the top tab titles.  Practically, you have nothing to do other than browse through (pun intended!) the browser tabs! 

I recently saw a poor soul searching for a specific document by clicking on each one of the 25 or so tabs he had open on his browser instance, with each click working through a sub-optimal network (and potentially device) to refresh the page, thereby taking several iterations before finding the one he was looking for! I instead tend to create separate browser instances and limit my number of tabs on any one instance to a point where I can read at least the start of the title. 

In this age where technology is at the cusp of transitioning from search to discovery and information abundance to relevance, is this the best experience we can build? Aren’t we going backwards here? My day job needs me to get on with this program, but I feel like I’m losing my soul here caving into this backward experience… 

Prompted by Sheryl Sandberg’s response on Quora, I read up on the thread about thoughts on how women should make career choices. Finally, I saw perspectives that exactly echoed my sentiments.  I’ve previously written about women in engineering and what it really means to empower women.  I think some of the Quora responses nicely summarize similar views – notably from Nora Mullaney, Rachel Fong and Jill Smith, in addition to Sheryl’s endorsement of many of these views.
Essentially, the summary is to never play the “girl” card, to fit in socially (as an engineer or just about any other variation that you are hoping to be), to have confidence in your abilities and let the work speak for itself.  As I wrote before, most of the time, a woman feels alone, helpless and incapable of doing something because she lets that feeling cultivate within.  Forget that you are different, forget about diversity and you will find yourself taking your male peers in stride – in a short amount of time, you will also see that you earn the respect you deserve.  If you don’t and you believe you have done the right things, it may be time to look elsewhere, where people/teams are willing to give you what you deserve.

Some of the tougher decisions in my career have been along the lines of making changes to seemingly good status quo when my head dictated it was time for a change.  More than once, I procrastinated on the change longer than I perhaps should have – but, that’s a different discussion.  It would have been easy to resign to status quo by using the “I’m a woman; it is always tough to have the career you want… for being a woman, the status quo is ‘not bad’!” card. But, this is not a thought that I ever chose to entertain. Women who do this to themselves are missing the point.  A male who doesn’t progress at a satisfactory pace in his career is also susceptible to self-doubting his capabilities. It has nothing to do with gender and when we take that out of the equation, there is just so much more clarity! As an aside, my procrastination always had to do with passion for the things I was doing – which gets into the head vs heart debate and what one should really follow!

I hope more women get inspired by the Quora discussions.  I’m so glad to see that I’m not all that alone in my views!  And the passion that can be kindled by just delving into things without self-doubt or a wavering uncertainty associated with being a minority cannot be paralleled in any other way!

Twitter’s claimed acquisition of Vine is apparently a problem that will cause inadvertent sharing of inappropriate video content – TC seems worried about that! It goes on to explain how this is a much bigger problem than any sharing that happens over Facebook or Google+. 

Seriously?! Is this a joke? Twitter is going to make privacy issues worse than Facebook? You have to be kidding! Does this person realize just how difficult it is to use privacy correctly on Facebook? Especially when used from the mobile, which provides no controls for uploading an image just to groups, etc.? Combine that with a company (Facebook, in case you were wondering) that just has no respect for privacy whatsoever, what could be worse?

On Google+, sure – content sharing on G+ is less abused, because there is just no one on it!! Okay, I’m exaggerating – but, seriously, do we think that when g+ gets to the same level of virality as FB that it is somehow going to be better at protecting privacy?

Ah, let’s just get over it. Privacy is a myth. Information is out there waiting to be discovered. A persistent person or institution is going to be able to find it. If you are ever in doubt, just don’t make information available. And if you decide to make it available, stop wondering if it will end up in the wrong place – know that it will and breathe easy!

Warrantless spying is legal – take that for violation of privacy! Technology is always a catalyst for both the good and the bad. Right from nuclear chemistry revolutions that took medical diagnostics and weapons of mass destruction alike to great heights, to the technologies that were driven by adult content that then revolutionized web communication, advancements in technology have always been a mixed bag! At this point, there are conflicted views on whether social networking traffic is greater than porn traffic or not on today’s Internet.  So, it is not entirely surprising that when it comes time to track and spy, we will have the good and the bad again!

First the bad – we know this, it is the privacy rant again! In this world laden with sensors and tools to know every move you make, it is hard not to leave a digital trail of everywhere you’ve been and everything you’ve done…

And the good – the ability to track devices also brings us closer to the possibility that we can prevent/detect kidnappings and the potential to track criminals faster than ever!

Obviously, this is a tradeoff and one that the government may make for you! But, does it need to be an all or nothing tradeoff? Why can we not provide certifications to safety applications and tools that will authenticate and authorize investigators to track individuals for a good cause, while still keeping the general threat of stalkernet proliferation at a distance? It took serious work to get a small portion of the Internet equipped with certs, but there was a need to make it happen – e-commerce (read: real money) needed it.  So, why can’t we go through certifications for creating “authorized” collectors of certain types of data? It’s just too much trouble with no real money attached to it – after all, it’s privacy of the general public we are talking about here; why bother with the pain when the alternative is so much simpler and most importantly, free?!

In the name of safety, we will continue to see a massive increase in applications that will exploit the advancements of tracking and spying in the years to come! Are you ready to be exposed yet?!

I’m a little behind in catching up with privacy news, it turns out. After I saw the “seen by” “feature” on my Facebook groups a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I had missed the silent roll out of it a couple of months ago. Having reluctantly adopted Facebook after I realized that was the only way I was going to reconnect with a bunch of high school friends, I’ve even come to be somewhat of a regular user.  Even though I’m wary of how much data I give Facebook, I know I give them more than I would like to. And every now and then, Facebook outdoes itself in taking privacy abuse to a new level. I believe the seen by “feature” is one such thing!

The debates around privacy are endless. Lawmakers are trying to figure out how to deal with the explosion of digital tracking systems. Every so often, some company becomes the target of a huge outcry of violation of privacy doctrines. Sure, privacy is very subjective. And, it is at odds with hoarding data to do better targeting. Letting the users control it is a usability nightmare; not having the data is a deathtrap for monetization. So, where should the line be? How far can the hoarding of data go and what does it mean to be transparent?

Well, these are tricky questions. The Internet has redefined society over the years and it will continue to do so. As we bring more and more of our interactions online, we mirror some of our physical lives online and adapt to some new style of interactions over time. So, how far is too much? Location tracking? Tweeting to the world? Sharing every tiny update in your life with friends you haven’t spoken to in 20 years? Broadcasting all the content you read, listen to or view, to just about everyone you know, up to 3 levels removed? Letting people know exactly when you viewed their content and how many times?

Let’s take location tracking for example. Today, the tracking is roughly at a building to city level – that you were at a particular venue or city.  What happens when indoor location gets highly accurate and technology can help tell rooms in your home apart? Would your posts read “sent from my bathroom at 9:05:02am”?

One way to look at the privacy aspect is to see if we can draw the same line of acceptable norms as we would in the physical world. While that is still vague and evolves over time, and at any given moment, is different in different parts of the society, it provides a threshold to aim for as default.  For e.g., it would mean that for location tracking, it would be okay to share your precise location with anyone that has a reasonable chance of having physical knowledge of it at that time.  This includes your intimate family when you are home and strangers on an airplane when you are sitting next to them.  Sharing your drunken pictures with people who were at the party getting drunk with you? Probably okay. Sharing them with people you are trying to build a professional reputation with? Not okay.  Until intelligence can automate this, life in privacy land is rocky at best.

Even with all this, a very nuanced aspect is that human memory is typically not infinite, while digital memory can be.  So, just how much history can be built up of all your locations by someone who actually has physically interacted with you to a large extent? While technically they may be keeping records, the practical answer is not nearly as much history as a digital location tracking system can build about you.

Are these all revealing features such as the FB seen by feature trying to make us more transparent and better citizens? Is it shunning us from those little lies such as telling your spouse how you were too busy at work to call the utilities company or that you left a while ago from work only to be stuck in traffic? Or preventing us from having a dual personality to someone where you may pretend to like them more than you really do? We all know it has nothing to do with any such moral high ground!

These little complications and nuanced personalities we maintain is what defines us in the real world. I hate it that living online is making me give up some of it!  Not only is it annoying if I were a content creator online, even consuming content is ripping me bare! I don’t know if I will quit Facebook over this – but if I don’t, it only shows what I’m willing to put up with for sake of my friends!