Products at MacWorld 2013 that made me go Hmmmmm

There were some notable and interesting products at this year’s show but this article is not about that. That will come later. This article is about products at MacWorld that made me go ‘Hmmmmmm’.

MacWorld 2013 concludes today at Moscone West convention center in San Francisco. It’s been years since I’ve attended MacWorld and my impression of the show has not changed much over the years. It’s light on any real announcements and has a kind of flea market feel to it due to exhibitors directly selling their products on the show floor. While there were a few big companies like Seagate, Western Digital, HP, and Seenheiser there to simply show their product lines, there were also lots of smaller companies hawking their goods and taking payments.

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Apple Takes Cheap Shot At Windows For A Virus Apple Introduced Into The IPod

Toward the end of September 2006, Video IPod users started to report problems with the W32/RJump worm showing up on their PCs after installing the IPod. The infection occurs when a removable storage device or a mapped drive hosting a copy of W32/Rjump.worm is accessed and the user agrees to the auto run prompt for execution of the worm. W32/Rjump.worm creates a port exception for its backdoor component to bypass the built-in firewall of WinXp by executing the following netsh command.

%Windir%\%Sysdir%\cmd.exe /c netsh firewall add portopening TCP 16942 NortonAV

Today, Apple Computer announced on their Web site that they discovered that a limited number of the Video IPods sold after September 12, 2006 were infected with the RavMonE.exe virus (aka W32/RJump) at the manufacturing stage. They issued this statement on their Web site which included a cheap shot at Windows for not being more “hardy against such viruses” even though they were the ones to introduce the virus in the first place. That’s just a cheap shot and they should own up to their mistake without trying to shift blame on someone else. Aside from taking a swipe at Microsoft, they did little to explain how this worm got into the IPod to begin with. Just in case they remove it from their site, here is an excerpt of their statement:

“We recently discovered that a small number – less than 1% – of the Video iPods available for purchase after September 12, 2006, left our contract manufacturer carrying the Windows RavMonE.exe virus. This known virus affects only Windows computers, and up to date anti-virus software which is included with most Windows computers should detect and remove it. So far we have seen less than 25 reports concerning this problem. The iPod nano, iPod shuffle and Mac OS X are not affected, and all Video iPods now shipping are virus free. As you might imagine, we are upset at Windows for not being more hardy against such viruses, and even more upset with ourselves for not catching it.”

Because this worm propagates via mass storage devices, users who encountered this problem should scan all their removable storage devices like CF cards, flash drive, and removable hard drives in addition to scanning their PCs.

Project Runway Designer Diana Eng Wins Top Prize at Yahoo Hack Day

Project Runway season two designer Diana Eng took the top prize at Yahoo Hack Day as part of an all women team who also included Emily Albinski and Audrey Roy. Their winning project, called “Blogging in Motion”, combined a camera, a pedometer, a handbag, and the Flickr API to create a device that would snap a picture after every few steps and then automatically upload those pictures to a Flickr blog. The hidden camera portion is not original. Afterall, perverts have been making these for years to create upskirt pictures and take voyeur pictures at the beach. But the concept of combining a hidden camera with a pedometer and uploading it to a blog is quite original. As a proof of concept, this project works but I doubt if this device will ever find a market as using it will open the user up to all kinds of invasion of privacy lawsuits.

In the United States, as in many countries, individuals have an expectation of privacy when not in public view. So any user of this device will have to remember to turn it off once they walk out of pubic view. It’s not as simple as remembering to turn if off upon entering someones house. There are many place in public where it is illegal to photograph and distribute. It is important to distinguish between the taking of a picture and the distribution of a picture. Different laws govern these two areas. Even in the distribution of pictures, there is a distintion between editorial use and commercial use. You could be walking on the street one minute and five minutes later, you could be entering a dressing room where it is obviously illegal to shoot pictures. In this post 911 era, there are also many places which are illegal to photograph such as certain bridges and tunnels in New York, nuclear power plants, military installations, etc. There are also restrictions against publishing copyrighted content so a picture of an original work of art may violate the copyright of the original artist. Carrying around this device along with the ability to automatically upload the pictures without user review is an invitation for a lawsuit.

Privacy and legality issues aside, it is a fairly original concept. This latest win is consistent with Diana’s history of combining fashion with technology. Her biography for Project Runway states in part:

Diana Eng strives to integrate fashion and technology. She hopes to make the fashion-minded more interested in the research process and the scientific-minded more interested in fashion as a form of self-expression. Diana is currently co-creating an online show called “SWITCHit.tv,” a do-it-yourself fashion Web site designed to switch girls onto technology by teaching them how to make accessories and apparel with embedded electronics from everyday supplies.

In an interview, she once stated that her ultimate design gig would be designing for Apple’s Steve Jobs saying “I would have a lot of fun designing an outfit for Steve that incorporates elements of technology, math and science so that he can better express himself through the clothes he wears.” Diana’s life is well documented in her blogs going back to 2003 and much of it includes pictures of herself and her projects. So carrying around a live camera purse is not so unexpected of her. But if you have ever watched Big Brother or checked out random videos of people on YouTube, you know that the documentation of someones daily life is utterly boring and mundane as witnessed by these sample shots from the “Blogging In Motion” hidden camera.

While there are very few compact digital cameras with built-in wifi, the team chose a Nokia 6682 which offers 640×480, 0.3 megapixel VGA resolution. Obviously, there are better camera phones on the market but even 1 mp camera phones suffer from poor image quality and the shots from this phone is nothing to write home about. Despite its lower image quality, using a camera phone is a more logical choice since mobile signals have a much larger coverage area than wifi.

Black Box Nation

Diana Eng and Emily Albinski collaborate to form the brand Black Box Nation. The duo first made headlines in October 2005 when their concept Inflatable Dress made the cover of I.D. magazine. Black Box Nation featured the dress in their runway show back in May 2006. You can view the Quicktime video here.
Here’s a gallery of images from the Yahoo Hack Day on Flickr

Picture of the “Blogging In Motion” components
Further reading regarding taking pictures in public.

Hidden feature of iTunes 7 now works with multiple music libraries

Apple released a major release of iTunes on September 12th. Among the major features is hard to find feature that allows you to manage multiple music libraries. After starting iTunes, hold down the option key on the Mac or Alt key in Windows. The Shift key also works in Windows. You will be prompted to ‘Create a new library’ or ‘Choose a library’. The feature comes in handy if you want to sort your music by iPod models or simply create a separate library for iPod synching vs another one that will not be synced to the iPod.

Check here for more information of the new features of iTunes 7.

Even more features.

Social bookmarking. An interview with del.icio.us creator Joshua Schachter

Like for so many, bookmarking web pages has always been a chore for me. With multiple computers and browsers, it’s a never ending battle to maintain bookmarks across platforms. One option is to add the bookmark to the Yahoo home page but that involves multiple steps and is cumbersome. So I recently stumbled upon del.icio.us. del.icio.us is a social bookmarking site. According to Wiki, “Social bookmarking sites generally organize their content using tags. Social bookmarking sites are an increasingly popular way to locate, classify, rank, and share Internet resources through the practice of tagging and inferences drawn from grouping and analysis of tags.” At first, I had no idea what the spelling of del.icio.us stood for. It wasn’t until I heard this interview with creator Joshua Schachter that I realized that it was pronounced “delicious”. Being a new user, I haven’t really explored all the features of the site yet but I have moved many of my bookmarks off my browser. One feature I would like to see is the ability to sort bookmarks by popularity. For example, when I search for bookmarks for photography, I get almost 282,000 results presented in seemingly random order. The home page does have a ‘hot list’ button but that only shows recent bookmarks. They should take a page out of Digg.com and YouTube and offer an option of presenting the results in a format selectable by recent, today, this week, this month, and this year.

Yahoo acquired del.icio.us last year and Joshua Schachter now works at Yahoo as the director of engineering in the social search group at Yahoo.

See a list of my bookmarks on del.icio.us