Why Dishfire doesn’t make SMS two-factor authentication useless

Kevin Marks, on the “Dishfire” system which apparently hoovers up millions of SMS messages:

I don’t think this is correct. As I understand it, and in all instances I’ve used, the codes delivered by SMS for two-factor authentication are time and use limited: that means after a few minutes, they’re useless, or if you use them once, they can’t be used again.

This means that, in order to be useful to someone, they would need to be monitored in real time and used before you used them – which would, of course, alert you to the fact they’ve been used, as they would fail when you tried it yourself.

Panic over, people.

The iPhone 5c is not doing worse than the iPHone 4S… probably

Ina Fried, reporting on a survey of iPhone users which apparently shows the iPhone 5c doing worse than the equivalent model in the range did last year, the iPhone 4S:

The iPhone 5s accounted for 59 percent of October through December U.S. sales, according to a study from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. This compares to the iPhone 5′s 50 percent of sales when it was the high-end model a year ago.

The iPhone 5c, meanwhile, represented 27 percent of sales, less than the 32 percent that the iPhone 4s had a year ago when it was the mid-range model. CIRP’s findings are based on a survey of 500 buyers of Apple gear during the survey period.

How accurate a survey is depends on the sample size. And while 500 is a valid sample size considering the overall “population”[1] of around 50m iPhone buyers, it isn’t enough to reduce the margin of error to the kind of point which would justify the claims being made.

With a sample this size, unless they’d taken a lot of precautions, the margin of error would be around +/–4–5%. This means, potentially, the models could have the reversed share: 32% for the 5c (27% + margin of error upwards of 5%) and 27% for the 4S (32% – margin of error down of 5%).

All that you can say based on these numbers is the iPhone 5c is performing about as well as the iPhone 4S did in the same role. However, a conclusion like that isn’t enough for CIRP. According to CIRP analyst Josh Lowitz:

“If the old iPhone 5 had been the mid-priced phone, we expect that it would have sold a higher percentage of iPhones than the 5c did, as previous mid-priced legacy iPhones have,” Lowitz said. “The 5c seems to have been designed to force certain buyers to the 5s.”

I’m not sure how you can “force” buyers into buying something more expensive if they haven’t got the money. Sure, it probably does well at “upselling” customers: those who would never consider buying the top-end phone and so walk into an Apple Store to get the 5c, but then play around with a 5S and get a case of profound gadget-lust. But I can’t imagine that more of those kinds of customers took at a look at last year’s top of the line phone and didn’t feel equally lustful.


  1. A “population” in survey terms is the number of people who fall into the group you’re trying to sample: in this case, the roughly 50m people in the US who bought iPhones that year. The bigger the population, the bigger the sample size you need.  ↩

Some thoughts on what Google has bought Nest for

Some smart points about Google’s acquisition of Nest from John Gruber, who notes that in Tony Fadell Google has got someone who knows how to do hardware capable of scaling to tens of millions of units.

However, one minor point about John’s story, from this paragraph:

One of Alan Kay’s numerous oft-cited quotations is, “People who are really serious about software should partner with an OEM in Asia.” No, wait, that’s not what he said. What he said is, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” That’s never been true of Google, putting aside Motorola (which they seemingly acquired more for its patent portfolio than for its phone hardware acumen) and the niche Google Search Appliance.

In fact, Google has independently designed two pieces of hardware: The Chromebook Pixel and Nexus Q. But that, I think, makes John’s point stronger. Both the Pixel and Q were expensive, high-end pieces of hardware which could never have scaled to selling tens of millions of units. The Pixel was (and is) effectively a flagship demonstrator the potential for Chromebooks; and the Nexus Q was a unique media device which, because of its design, cost about four times as much as its competition.

With the Pixel and Q, Google proved it could design high-end hardware on its own. What it hasn’t been able to do is create high-quality hardware capable of being mass produced at low cost. Of all the tech hardware companies, only Apple and Nest have really nailed that one. And Apple wasn’t available for sale.

Apple “not in the bidding” for Nest

Liz Gannes, for Re/Code:

Nest had been close to completing a funding round of upward of $150 million that would have valued it at more than $2 billion, Re/codereported earlier this month. That round never closed, because Google swept in with its huge offer. Sources familiar with details of the acquisition said that Google was the only serious bidder and Apple was not in the mix.

I get the feeling from the extremely sarcastic comments on Twitter that Google just pushed themselves way beyond the creepy line. Being on your phone gathering data is one thing: being in your home gathering data is quite another.

What’s The iPad advantage?

Ben Bajarin gives a brilliant account of the advantage that the iPad has over other PCs, in “The iPad Advantage” ($). In particular, this paragraph absolutely hits the nail on the head:

The PC is for certain a general purpose computer. Yet its form factor limits all its general computing capabilities to only be taken advantage while in a fixed position either at a desk, or with the device sitting on your lap. The iPad, and the slate form factor take this idea of mobile general purpose computing to an entirely new level. The iPad enables its general purpose computing power to be used in both stationary and mobile situations. The iPad liberates general purpose computing from the lap or desk and enables it in contexts where computing was absent before.

The iPad is usable pretty much everywhere, and that on its own increases its power compared to other PC types. I’ve used my iPad to write hundreds of words on the London Underground, something I’d never do with a laptop (mostly for fear of impaling people either side with my elbows).

The proliferation of new desktops

Billy MacInnes, writing for MicroScope on the announcement of a couple of new Android-based computers:

PC vendors are starting to ask whether there might be something to be gained from finding a place for Android in their desktop product roadmaps. Some have even announced products. This is aside from Chromebooks based on Google’s Chrome OS, which are already available from the likes of Samsung, Acer and HP, products which have started to gain some traction in commercial organisations in the US, especially schools.

The proliferation of “new” desktop types is one of the most interesting current trends. Ten years ago, the choice was Windows, Mac or – if you wore your beard around your neck with pride – Linux. Now you can get yourself a laptop running Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS, Android, and more.

The reason for the proliferation is simple: the cloud. Cloud-based data means you can access the same data on multiple platforms with ease. The pain of switching between Android and Mac, for example, isn’t great because the stuff of value – the data – all lives in the cloud.

Gmail and Google+ sitting in a tree…

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch about a new feature that Google is implementing to link Google+ with Gmail:

Google is today making a change to Gmail that will further bake in Google+ to its webmail product in a way that’s actually somewhat practical, though also potentially invasive. Going forward, you’ll now be able to directly email your Google+ contacts from Gmail, even if you don’t know their email address. And by default, anyone on Google+ will be able to email you as well, thanks to this new option, if you don’t adjust your settings.

Yes, of course the default for this feature is on: Google wants more social data to flow into its data centres, because it needs to know more about you to deliver more “relevant” search results (and, by the way, ads).

While I’m comfortable with this kind of thing, the assumption that it should be default-on is exactly the reason I’m gradually weening myself off Google’s services.

Chromebooks are like iPads

Ben Thompson gets the Chromebook better than any one else, possibly because he uses a Chromebook Pixel himself:

In fact, the best comparison for a Chromebook is not a Windows PC, but an iPad. Both are appliance-like devices that are easy-to-use, impossible-to-break, and designed first and foremost for the experience, not the feature list. And, if you write like Dr. Drang and need multiple windows, a Chromebook is in fact superior to the iPad.

Spot on. Both Chromebook and iPad are examples of what I call “friction-free computing” – devices which remove the cruft and hassle of an old operating system, requiring little to no maintenance. What this class of device allows you to do is live in the applications you use to get stuff done, with the operating system getting out of the way.

At last, someone who understands Apple Retail

Great article for by Jeff Chu for Fast Company on new Apple Retail head Angela Ahrendts:

Sikka praises Ahrendts for “reimagining the Burberry store experience.” When she showed him around the “massive” Regent Street store last year, he was particularly impressed at the store's use of RFID technology. “Every piece has a tag in it. You walk to a mirror and a video comes up of a model wearing the coat that is in your hand! You can actually see it! And when you walk into the fitting rooms …”

As he gushes for a few minutes, I realize that Ahrendts has transformed Vishal Sikka–an übergeek whose Stanford computer science PhD thesis was entitled “Integrating Specialized Procedures Into Proof Systems”–into a Burberry brand ambassador too.

Sounds like a great fit for Apple.

The Information on Apple’s iWatch

Jessica Lessin has a nice little scoop on the putative Apple iWatch

Apple appears to have run into some challenges with the screen technology, according to two people close to the company. Toward the end of last year, Apple considered going in a different direction with the screen due to some battery issues, one of these people said.

Jessica is one of those people who have really good sources, so this story is almost certainly legit. But what it means is something a little different: Apple will release its much-talked about (but completely unseen) wrist-based device1 when it's ready, not before. Too much rides on this one for it to be the kind of buggy dud that other companies would hurl out.


  1. No really – don't call it a watch. 

Ian Betteridge on Macs, mobiles, and technology