Google+ for Business: Read the Terms

October 1, 2012

By Doug Miller

On August 29, Google announced a preview of its Google+ social networking offering as a premium product for business. Google+ for Business will be made available to contracted Google Apps customers (including Google Apps for Business, Government and Education). This is exciting news for Google Apps customers who want to take advantage of Google+ in their workplace but want more control over how the service is used. Some of the key features include:

  • Private company sharing
  • Private online video meetings
  • Ability to restrict user’s posts
  • Ability for administrators to control default company settings

However there is one thing company owners need to be aware of that may not be obvious with this new offering. This service is not part of the Google Apps suite – at least not yet.
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Tablets: RIP?

September 22, 2012

By Doug Miller

Being constantly connected is critical for my work so when I was leaving for a 4 day business trip recently, I looked at my arsenal of devices and selected a range of connectivity solutions that would give me lots of options for keeping in touch. As I walked out to the door to the airport, I had the following in my carry-on bag:

  • An HTC Titan II Windows Phone with LTE on AT&T’s network which also was enabled as a mobile wireless hotspot when needed.
  • A Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Android-based tablet with LTE on Verizon’s network and also capable of being a mobile wireless hotspot.
  • A small Acer notebook computer running Windows 7
  • An Intel-based tablet computer running Windows 8 RTM
  • A 3G USB stick that connects to AT&T’s HSPA+ network which can be used with either of my Windows devices
  • A Sprint 3G/4G Overdrive portable wireless hotspot device

I have a first generation, WiFi-only iPad but decided to leave that at home.

So what did I find worked best to keep me connected?
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HTC – the other Windows Phone manufacturer

September 10, 2012

By Doug Miller

clip_image002I have been reading about the debacle of faked Nokia Lumia 920 images and video and I am amazed that everyone talks about Nokia as though they are the only manufacturer of Windows Phones. In fact, HTC has the brilliant Titan II Windows Phone now that already has features Nokia is trying to pretend it has.

I switched from using a Samsung Infuse Android phone as my primary smartphone to an HTC Titan II running Windows Phone 7.5 last May. I had originally gone with the Nokia Lumia 900 but ended up taking it back when I experienced the dreaded pink-spot-in-white-background-pictures bug. I then tried the HTC phone and found it to be one amazing device. It supports both HSPA+ and LTE fast data connectivity on AT&T’s network (including using the phone as a mobile hotspot), includes a 16 megapixel camera and has an excellent 4.7 inch screen. The device is rock solid and I really like Windows Phone OS as a mobile platform. It just works. It is my most reliable email device. Phone calls work really well from the People tile or if you create individual tiles for your friends. The performance is always fast and consistent. It doesn’t crash. It is great – except there are a number of key apps that are not available on Windows Phone (DropBox, RoboForm, various music apps, boating apps, Flipboard, a useable Skype, etc.). So I have tended to go back and forth between using the Android-based Infuse and the Titan II. The Android phone has lots of apps and works okay but tends to be unreliable. Last week I had problems with a new app draining my battery in an hour, the GPS simply refused to work and performance is very inconsistent. So I am back with the Windows Phone this week.
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After BlackBerries, what’s next for government mobile users?

August 28, 2012

By Doug Miller

RIM has historically been the device of choice for secure mobile communication in the government market. The BlackBerry phone offered unique business-oriented capabilities but lacked sex appeal to draw consumers to its products. Yet for government agencies that needed to supply their workers with a robust, secure cell phone, the business features won out over giving users a device that was “magical.”

Now with the rise of BYOD (“bring you own device”) in government agencies, RIM is suddenly no longer an appealing option for consumers who are now asked to buy their own device and bring it to work. As attractive as BYOD is for budget planners, BYOD has the potential to be a nightmare for IT support staff that has to support and manage what seems like an infinite range of smartphones with different operating systems, security capabilities, enterprise features and quality. I believe, what is more likely to happen is government IT staff will provide users with a list of recommended devices and only support users of those devices for government communications needs once the device has been properly secured and configured. Some agencies, like the NSA, may want to stick with closely-managed, government-issued devices but will be looking for alternatives to the BlackBerry.

Does anyone have the ability to both address the security needs of government IT policies but also provide a range of products that will appeal to consumers? Until recently, I thought Samsung had a good shot at doing this. Now with the recent Apple-Samsung patent trial outcome, it is worth revisiting the options.
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Office 365 web access still broken

August 18, 2012

By Jeff Gould

I’ve blogged several times about my frustrations using Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access (OWA) as an interface to Office 365 (see my friend and co-blogger Doug Miller’s defense of Office 365 here). I subject myself to the discipline of using OWA instead of the vastly superior Outlook thick client – which I used for years as a front-end to Gmail – because I want to experience at first hand the reality of an all-cloud approach to email.

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Can you hear me now?

August 17, 2012

By Doug Miller
Cape Flattery
As we all become more and more reliant on devices that are constantly connected to the cloud and each other it is always a wake-up call to lose connectivity to the rest of the world for a period of time.

I went through that this week when I was out in the Cape Flattery area where I was scuba diving and doing some fish surveys with REEF.org.

My first surprise was that I had no cell coverage. I have AT&T for both my Titan II Windows Phone and my Android-based Galaxy Tab. Despite the AT&T coverage map showing good coverage where I was staying, there was absolutely no signal to be found anyway in the area.
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Lenovo, why are you killing the ThinkPad?

August 14, 2012

By Jeff Gould

I’ve been a ThinkPad user for 15 years, ever since I switched from Mac OS to Windows for my primary work machine. The reason for the switch: back then the Mac version of Netscape’s browser chronically lagged IE for Windows in functionality and speed. Although never thrilled with ThinkPad’s performance relative to its price, I loved the keyboard and the trackpoint (that funny red button in the middle of the keyboard that serves as the mouse). The all-black plastic body wasn’t the most stylish on the market, but it was acceptable.

But lately I’ve begun to have second thoughts. I’m even coming to believe that Lenovo secretly wants to kill the ThinkPad. Why? Because Lenovo has abandoned any pretense of trying to keep up with Apple as a manufacturer of premium professional laptops.

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Here’s why Google’s Safarigate hack was really dangerous

August 10, 2012

By Jeff Gould

My friend and co-blogger Doug Miller argues below that Google’s cunning hack of Safari to circumvent the Apple browser’s default blocking of third party cookies was not just a bad act, but criminal mischief.

Some readers might find this claim a little too strong. Granted, they will say, Google broke the rules. But where’s the harm? After all, the only bad consequence was that some Safari users got tracked by DoubleClick and served some targeted ads they otherwise might not have seen. Perhaps Nike sold a few more pairs of shoes than they had a right to expect. But no state secrets were lost. So why all the talk about criminal action?

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FTC’s Google Safari Settlement: Impact on Government Computing

August 9, 2012

Why we need a criminal investigation to finish the job the FTC couldn’t

By Doug Miller

By just about any accepted definition, Google’s overriding of default security settlings and unauthorized intentional access of Apple’s Safari web browser on users’ systems that led to the recent FTC investigation and settlement should be considered illegal hacking that warrants criminal investigation. That is, Google surreptitiously loaded executable code onto users’ devices, ran that code to weaken the browser’s security settings, and then used the weakened security environment to load third-party cookies to enhance the relevance of ads displayed to the user. This was done to provide Google with revenue from the additional ads. Since advertising generates 96% of Google’s revenue, the motive for hacking seems clear. Hacking for profit is against the law. Google should not get a pass for what is a criminal act.
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Is Wozniak really wrong?

August 7, 2012

By Doug Miller

Steve Wozniak’s recent comments on how cloud computing is going to cause “lot of horrible problems in the next five years” and comments such as…

with the cloud, you don’t own anything. You already signed it away

… has sparked wide-ranging commentary in the media and blogosphere.

One of the more interesting reactions was one published by David Linthicum on InfoWorld in an article titled “Wozniak is wrong about cloud computing.”

One of the points Mr. Linthicum makes is…

I suspect he’s referring more to consumer-oriented clouds and social networking sites that leverage your information in exchange for use of their services.

Both of these folks raise some valid points. However, to Mr. Wozniak’s claims, if you go with the right cloud solutions with the right privacy agreements and terms of services, the data ownership and protection issues should be properly addressed – right? Mr. Linthicum’s point that this is more about consumer-oriented clouds raises questions as well.

Is Wozniak right or wrong? The answer may be within our control.
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