Lost In Mobile

Shaun McGill

07412 655899

Lost In Mobile is the continuation of PDA-247 which, under various names, provided news, reviews and commentary on the mobile world for 10 years.

I have been writing about the mobile industry, mobile products, apps and everything else in between and beyond for more than 10 years, and currently write freelance for Imagine Publishing and also undertake one-off projects upon request.

I welcome your comments and thoughts and if you want to get in touch, please do so via the email address or phone number above.

Thanks for stopping by.

Shaun McGill

Online abuse – creating monsters every minute?

Last Friday, as I often do first thing in the morning, I caught up on the various blogs I follow. One of my online acquaintances, who often writes about controversial topics that brings them not just a lot of criticism, but many a death threat, was one of the updates I looked at. I read the article, which was, in my opinion, humorous, but harsh. 

So I tweeted them, saying hey, that was a bit harsh. They came back with a funny response. I wrote back saying, yeah but I think it was harsh, and while what they do is great, such articles might scare the people who write to them about their expertise. 

What followed was, if I have to put it mildly, really rather annoying.

There was retaliation. There was shouts of ‘are you telling me to how to do my job’, shouts of ‘provide proof of your claims’, and of course constant retweeting of things I had said, out of context. There is following, and there was a lot of support for them. There were shouts of me being an idiot. They came back to me saying that what I said was nothing but ‘BS’, and I had no grounds to stand on. 

It was getting late. I had to go to work, and frankly I had no time for such games. I told them as such, took my leave, and headed to work. The thing didn’t continue from there, apart from me getting occasional notifications of people favouriting or retweeting parts of that encounter, none of them making me look good mind. It was annoying, it was sad, it was a bit depressing. 
Thing is, I have known this person, their fight, and their cause for a while. I have supported them at every issue they have got into, and over the many years I had thought we were ‘online friends’. The kind of people you tend to trust on the likes of Twitter.

Now, I am not writing this to moan about them. I am not writing to say that I had the moral high ground, they were wrong, or any of that. 

What I want to ask is, is online aggression making normal or good people also aggressive online? Has this person, who has been through a lot of online abuse, just resorted to looking at any criticism, even if light hearted, as an act of aggression, and formed an automatic line of defensive attack? 

Is it better to give them the benefit of the doubt, keeping in mind what they have already gone through, or is it better to let them know that they are forming what is an unending chain, that they are becoming part of the problem, and not the solution?

It troubles me, and confuses me, their reaction to what I thought was a light hearted friendly comment. However, does the fact that they have had a lot of time to practise retaliation against online abuse mean they should practice it willy nilly? Sami (OxGadgets)


eBay's bizarre customer service!

I sold a laptop a couple of months ago and the buyer put in a claim saying that it was not fit for purpose. After exchanging a few messages, he realised that he had made a mistake and that my laptop was working perfectly. As it happens, he had bought 2 laptops and the other one was broken.

He contacted eBay and they reversed his claim and all was sorted, or so I thought. On a recent report the auction was still showing as the only negative on my account so I contacted eBay and asked them to rectify the situation. Here follows the bizarre replay which in places makes no sense, which in others is quite patronising and which ultimately does not fix the problem at all. The strange bits are in bold and the contradictory bits are italicised-

Hello Shaun,
Thank you for contacting eBay Customer Service. My name is Marisol and it's my pleasure to assist you about defect rate for the item xxxxxx you have sold. I understand that you want us to remove the defect rates given to you for the return request initiated by your buyer. I want you to know that I really appreciate you for making sure that you were able to resolve the issues with your buyers. I would also like to extend my deepest apologies if the defect rate counts, though I commend you for getting a positive feedback from it. d. I'd be pleased to provide you with more details on how we reached our decision.
You are important to me and I do not want you to have problem with this transaction for I know that you are a genuine seller and I believe that you wanted to give a world class customer service to all of your trading partners. I want you to know that I can give the satisfactory resolution that you truly deserve.
For your returned case, I know for a fact that the return request was closed by the buyer. In this instance the defect was under the opened cases which we cannot remove those defect rates because buyers filed a claim as they did not meet the buyer expectations.
I've acknowledged your eagerness to resolve all of your issue. As I can see from your profile, these will have least effect on your current selling performance as you are still above standard seller. What you can do on your succeeding listings is to continue providing excellent service to your buyers. I've also included the link below so you could have more tips regarding item description and using photos:
For more tips for defect removal policy:
We appreciate that you are part of eBay and I trust that I was able to clarify this matter for you. I wish you all the best in your future transactions on eBay.
Kind regards,
eBay Customer Service

Waterproofing an iPod

I’m a lawyer, and that’s a pretty sedentary job. Day in, day out, I sit at my desk, and read, and think, and write. I can go hours without moving from my chair, hardly moving at all. And, having done that for the last 10 or so years, it has not done me any favours physically. I have the luxury of time now to exercise far more often, and I have always enjoyed swimming, so I wanted to do more of that. 

Whilst I sometimes like to be left alone with just my thoughts, swimming for length after length after length can get a little dull, so I thought I would try to find a way to listen to music, perhaps podcasts, as I swim. And that led me to trying to waterproof an iPod. (Perhaps I should just get used to focusing, free from distractions, rather than trying to find a way to keep myself entertained, but that’s not the way I have gone, for now.)

What made me try it? The cheap (<£15) units I bought from eBay lasted a couple of weeks at most, and the dedicated units are all more than I wanted to spend. And, I like a project… I had read online that some people had had luck waterproofing an iPod Shuffle by packing it full of silicone grease, so that was what I decided to try.

What did I buy?

I bought a 2GB iPod Shuffle on eBay for £20, a set of waterproof headphones for £8, and a tube of silicone grease for £2. If it worked, I had an underwater music player for £30; if it failed, I was not going to be too much out of pocket. But I hoped it would work!

Getting underway

The iPod arrived, a little bit battered, and with the previous owner’s music still on it, but it powered up immediately, and sounded fine. A quick reformat and a battery charge, and I left it playing to test the battery — as long as it had a couple of hours, sufficient for two swims, I would be happy, but after four or so hours, I switched it off, as the battery seemed fine. 

When the silicone grease arrived, the nozzle on the tube was quite large. Too large for squeezing the grease into the iPod’s headphone socket, so I bought a 10ml oral syringe from a pharmacy. Another £0.60 committed…

Finally, with all the pieces assembled, I got to work.

I squeezed 2ml of grease into the syringe, pushed the plunger to eliminate most of the air, and squeezed it gently into the iPod’s headphone socket.

The 2ml went in without a problem, and I squeezed another 1ml into the syringe. About half went in easily and, conscious that I wanted to make sure the inside was absolutely packed with grease, I pushed the plunger harder, forcing the rest into the iPod.

That turned out to be a bad move, as the force of the grease pushed the iPod’s click wheel out of place.

I tried trying to press it back down, without success. For a moment, I wondered whether my projected ended there and then…

Deciding that there must be a way to fix it, I poked carefully at the part of the wheel still in place, and realised that it was just held in place the sliding the outer rim of the wheel under the blue metal casing. Working with a toothpick and my fingers, I pushed the exposed rim back under the casing, hoping that it would work.

It clicked back into place gradually, until the whole thing was re-seated. I put in some headphones and turned the iPod on nervously. Music played, and I tried the buttons. For a disappointing moment, I was unable to turn up the volume — the button under the segment of the wheel which had popped out — but I tried pushing harder, and it worked. Phew.

The next step was to seal the back with superglue, which passed relatively uneventfully. I wanted the clip to work, so I applied the superglue in stages, using a cotton bud to make sure the glue went into the cracks, mopping the runaway drips quickly, to prevent them going into the click wheel. After leaving it a couple of minutes to dry, and — gently — trying to push more grease into the headphone socket, it was the moment of truth.

I put the earphones back in, and turned it on. Everything worked.

I tentatively lowered the iPod into a glass of water…

… and the music continued to play.

After leaving it for a couple of minutes, I tried changing tracks, and that worked too.

I left it in the water for a couple of hours, and the music kept on playing. Redunking it some hours later, and it still did exactly what was required of it.

Time will tell how it stands up to being immersed in chlorinated water for an hour or so at a time. I am prepared to inject more silicone grease into the iPod every so often, to ensure it is fully loaded to maximise its chances of repelling water from the undoubtedly delicate electronics within it. 

Fingers crossed but so far, so good. £30.60 and an underwater iPod. Neil Brown.

iOS 8 is still riddled with bugs?

Five months on from the release of iOS 8, and following six rounds of bugfixes, Apple's flagship mobile platform that powers almost three out of four iPhone and iPads is still riddled with bugs.
I'm just going to come out and say it - this is a mess. If we were talking about cosmetic stuff like a badly laid out user interface or poor selection of wallpapers then I could overlook the issues, but they aren't. These are bugs relating to core systems such as Wi-Fi, cellular connectivity, Bluetooth, and stability and performance... More at ZDNet.

The article above is somewhat hyperbolic, but one of the commenters raised an issue that I suffer with multiple times a day- "For me, the biggest problem is that web pages crash and have to reload so frequently. This is happening on all my iPads and my iPhone 6."

Should we give up on true privacy?

US and British intelligence agencies hacked into a major manufacturer of Sim cards in order to steal codes that facilitate eavesdropping on mobiles, a US news website says.
The Intercept says the revelations came from US intelligence contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Dutch company allegedly targeted - Gemalto - says it is taking the allegations "very seriously".
It operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities... More at the BBC

We all take great care with personal information relating to bank accounts, logins and the like, and we all feel that we do a good job of that. 

Those of us who are tech-savvy likely use online cloud services for many tasks and we have no choice, but to trust the companies running these services. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox etc. etc. No matter what you store, the pieces could be put together to do some damage such as stealing an identity or taking money. We have to rely on these companies to look after our own interests and in many ways we have already given up on the idea of complete control over our own information.

We actually gave up years ago. Any of you who pay your gas or water bill online give over a lot of information about your identity. Amazon, Gmail, Twitter etc. etc. Thousands of people within the companies you deal with know about you and can access your information. Go back further to the pre-internet days and it was the same. From your bank to your electricity provider, your information has always been there for people to sift through if they so wish. The fact that it is now online is not a significant difference. Well, at least it wasn't.

The story above brought home to me just how invasive those with the right tools and the wrong motivations can be if they so wish. When I considered that my SIM card has been hacked before I even put it in my phone, the realisation hit me that there is no privacy any more.

I can relax in the knowledge that I have never broken the law, apart from riding my first moped without road tax when I was 17, that I pay my taxes as I should and that I am not a terrorist or a peopdaphile.  However, I still feel uneasy knowing that access to my conversations (vocal and digital) can easily be tracked at the flick of a switch somewhere.

If I am honest, I don't know what to think about all of this. Long ago, I gave up on the notion of true privacy for all of the reasons above and realise that if I am to use online services, that is the price I must pay. There is always a risk of my personal data being compromised and my focus, like many others, has been on banking and other stuff that can financially harm me or my family. It is only recently, however, that I have considered that even the most mundane of phone conversations is out there as well for someone to listen to. 

It is sad to say, but as a normal person who just goes about his day to day life in a boringly normal way, I guess I should just give up on the notion of true privacy. 

Nice follow up from Bob-

I think a big part of the issue is who, government, company or individual, has your information, how much do they have, and what is their intent with it.
When we give information to a utility company or a company like Amazon, we trust that the information will be kept securely. The "contract" is that the information is made available in order to do business. You want the services or goods that are provided and in return, you are willing to share some of your otherwise private information.
I venture to say that we trust governments less than we do most private companies. We share with the government only what we have to by law. In fact, many of us only share what we absolutely have to with private companies as well. For example, how often do you provide your credit card information when you can use PayPal. Is PayPal more reliable and secure? Not necessarily, but it is to their advantage to be so. That is the service they are selling.
What the NSA did and does, along with most, if not all, equivalent agencies in other countries, is to retrieve your information, private or otherwise, without your permission, and in many cases, without your knowledge. That is invasion of privacy. Yes they do it in the name of protection or fighting terrorism, but for that to work, we have to trust that they will not misuse the information. Would we willingly provide this information if asked?
Over and above that concern, there remains the fact that it is people who are behind this. It's not the NSA as an organization that decided to do these things. Rather it is people within that organization who decided to do them and who use the information obtained. I am not as concerned about them having the information as I am about potential misuse.
Could the NSA be hacked? Could someone with access to potentially damaging information be coerced or bribed into giving it up?
Actually my biggest concern is that people with no ill intent are caught saying something that is misconstrued. We're not allowed to yell "fire" in a theatre. We're not allowed to talk about bombs or terrorism in airport security lines, although what real terrorist would. What happens if we're discussing terrorism with a friend and the discussion is picked up and interpreted to be plotting or conspiratorial. If that happens enough, we will be very careful about what we say. Then we lose not only our privacy, but our freedom to say what we think.

The Last of the Typewriter Men

On a recent bleak, winter afternoon in the Flatiron District Paul Schweitzer was once again hard at work, trying to breathe life into a black, jazz-age Underwood typewriter. Behind his spectacles was a furrowed brow and behind that was a tangle of keys, steel, carrying cases and filing cabinets of rollers, spools, levers and keys, a morgue of mechanical guts.
To Schweitzer’s right, his son, Justin, performed a surgery of sorts on an IBM Wheelwriter, its beige frame cast aside and green electric boards splayed open. The smell of ink and WD-40 hung in the air, and only the occasional phone call or test clank of a machine’s keys interrupted their focus. The elder Schweitzer had spent the morning schlepping around the city with a black leather bag doing “house calls.” More at Medium.

Well worth saving for reading later.

Subtle and classy

First of all, I wear a traditional watch at the moment. Yesterday I played with a student's S. Gear and because he didn't have his phone near (they're not allowed phones turned on and with them at school) it was fairly reduced in its use. But not as ugly as I thought it would be and kinda fun. Still, it soon became obvious that really, you needed to go back to your phone to do anything. Which again brings me back to having the traditional style watch with an overlay to give basic information or functionality about what's going on with your phone. That for me is the future of a traditional watch. It all looks like it always has, and when something of your choosing needs your attention it appears on top, subtle and classy. Vincent.

No privacy at all, ever

AMERICAN AND BRITISH spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data... More at The Intercept.

If normal people did this, they would be locked up (forever).

Abdicating your responsibility as a designer

Motorola's president has defended its "build-your-phone" programme after harsh words from Apple's lead designer.
Jony Ive appeared to attack the Moto Maker scheme in an interview in which he criticised the idea of giving consumers huge choice over how their handsets were made to appear.
Rick Osterloh, president of Motorola, told the BBC his company had a "different philosophy".
And he criticised Apple in turn, calling its prices "outrageous".
Sir Jonathan specifically asked the New Yorker magazine not to name the company he had been "scathing about", but a campaign launched by Motorola in late 2013 matches the description he gave.
"Their value proposition was, 'Make it whatever you want. You can choose whatever colour you want,'" Sir Jonathan is quoted as saying.
"And I believe that's abdicating your responsibility as a designer." More at the BBC.

Nice response from Rick Osterloh. I don't believe for one moment that the iPhones are overpriced for what they are, but I appreciate what Motorola has done recently. The company has shown what can be done at a low price point and is moving ahead nicely. I would have thought that Motorola should be the least likely to be criticised by Apple, but maybe that's a sign that it is a threat.

An instrument for the wrist. So what?

Jean-Claude Biver was recently interviewed by CNN and called the smart watch an instrument for the wrist; a thing with no emotion and suggested that no one would be wearing one in 20 years. He then goes on to describe what makes a traditional mechanical watch so special.

This is expected from a man so heavily involved in the luxury watch industry, but he is of course completely correct:)

Flip-phones soaring in Japan

Japanese shipments of traditional flip-phones rose in 2014 for the first time in seven years while smartphone shipments fell, highlighting Japanese consumers' tenacious attachment to the familiar and typically less expensive older models.
Dubbed "Galapagos" phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes, flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent to 10.58 million in 2014, data from market researcher MM Research Institute Ltd shows. Smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to 27.70 million, down for a second year... More at Reuters.

It's like vinyl all over again.