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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

MIS-Asia - Smartphones and tablets may be making you sleepless, fat and sick

Smartphones and tablets may be making you sleepless, fat and sick

Sharon Gaudin | Sept. 18, 2012

Having trouble sleeping? Gaining a bit of weight?

Your smartphone or computer might be to blame.

Actually, the problem is more likely about your obsession with your laptop and devices than the devices themselves.

A new study from researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. shows that even a two-hour exposure to any backlit device - smartphone, laptop, tablet - suppresses your body's ability to produce melatonin, which could cause sleeplessness, especially in teens and seniors.

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulates the body's sleep clock.

The study also showed that exposure to back lighting over the course of "many consecutive" years could also lead to an increased risk for obesity and diabetes, as well as breast cancer.

"Technology developments have led to bigger and brighter televisions, computer screens, and cell phones," said university researcher Brittany Wood, who worked on the study. "This is particularly worrisome in populations such as young adults and adolescents, who already tend to be night owls."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he's not surprised that devices are affecting health because so many people are obsessive about them, constantly keeping them close by - even when they're sleeping.

"I can see that the obsession with Facebook, Twitter, text messages, e-mail and the other dozen or so ways to communicate is hurting our health," said Kerravala. "People used to disconnect from the outside world when they went to bed. They don't anymore. Almost everyone I know sleeps with their device no more than a few feet from their head so they don't miss out when something happens."

And when text messages or emails come in, devices buzz and light up with alerts. That means even during sleep, we're being bombarded with that electronic light.

To sleep better and head off other health issues, people should avoid using their devices at night -- especially, before bedtime. And they should not keep them beside the bed at the night.

"People need to want to disconnect," said Kerravala. "Plug the phone in another room to charge. Use an alarm clock as an alarm clock instead of your phone, and realize whatever is happening in the social media world can wait until tomorrow."

However, Kerravala noted that this will be a difficult change for a lot of people to make.

"I think we're really hooked," he noted. "The smart phone is like an addictive drug. The more you use it, the more you want it. It's almost like we need SPA (Smart Phone Anonymous) where we need counselors to help us."

University researchers said they're hopeful device manufacturers will be able to use this information to change the lighting in their devices so users won't be so affected by it.

MIS-Asia - What to learn from the $10 million Subway POS hack

What to learn from the $10 million Subway POS hack

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | Sept. 21, 2012

Two Romanian hackers will serve time for targeting Subway in a $10 million point-of-sale conspiracy involving 150 restaurants in 2011.

Iulian Dolan pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, while Cezar Butu pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Dolan was sentenced to seven years in prison while Butu received 21 months. The third alleged hacker is awaiting trial in New Hampshire, while a fourth remains at large.

It's not just the hackers who are to blame, however; Subway's sloppy business practices left the chain vulnerable.

Remote access software--the weakest link

The hacking scheme exploited remote desktop software installed on the computers connected to the point-of-sale (POS) devices. Remote access software allows a third-party to access a PC or other device, usually for the purpose of updating, repairing, or otherwise monitoring said device.

In this particular hack, Dolan identified vulnerable POS systems using the Internet. Next, Dolan hacked into these systems using the pre-installed remote desktop software, and installed key-logging software on them. The key-logging software allowed Dolan to record all of the transactions that went through the compromised systems, including customers' credit card data.

Dolan then transferred the credit card information to dump sites, where it was used to make unauthorized purchases and transfers by Oprea and, to a lesser extent, Butu.

In a similar--perhaps related--case in 2009, Romanian hackers targeted the POS systems of several Louisiana restaurants. These systems were also hacked via exploitation of remote access software, which had been installed by the devices' reseller, Computer World (no relation to the IDG publication, Computerworld), for the purpose of providing remote support.

How not to get hacked

This type of hack is a cautionary tale for both consumers and small business owners, who may not even realize their point-of-sale devices are running pre-installed remote access software.

Remote access software can be a godsend for business owners who aren't all that tech-savvy, since it allows someone offsite to control and troubleshoot a device from afar. If your device has remote access software installed, take these steps to help keep the hackers away:

Regularly check your Windows Task Manager (press Ctrl+Alt+Delete and click "Start task manager") to ensure that there are no shady processes running when they shouldn't be.

Change the default password of the remote access software.

Update your computer regularly and use a good antivirus program, which will help keep sketchy programs (such as keyloggers) from being installed on your computer.

According to Verizon's 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, 97 percent of data breaches are avoidable using simple measures, such as using firewalls on all Internet-connected services, changing default credentials, and monitoring third parties that manage your business's point-of-sale systems.

In other words, if there is remote access software installed on your point-of-sale computer because a third party needs to access it, it's very important to ensure that that third party also keeps its security up to par.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Phishing Scams | Prevent Phishing | Microsoft Security FAQs

Phishing: Frequently asked questions
Phishing - general
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What is phishing?
Phishing (pronounced "fishing") is a type of online identity theft. It uses email and fraudulent websites that are designed to steal your personal data or information such as credit card numbers, passwords, account data, or other information.

Con artists might send millions of fraudulent email messages with links to fraudulent websites that appear to come from websites you trust, like your bank or credit card company, and request that you provide personal information. Criminals can use this information for many different types of fraud, such as to steal money from your account, to open new accounts in your name, or to obtain official documents using your identity.

For more information about phishing scams, see Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself.

What should I do if I receive an email phishing scam?
If you think you've received a phishing scam, delete the email message. Do not click any links in the message.

How do I report a possible phishing scam?
You can also use Microsoft tools to report a suspected phishing scam.

Internet Explorer. While you are on a suspicious site, click the gear icon and then point to Safety. Then click Report Unsafe Website and use the web page that is displayed to report the website.

Windows Live Hotmail. If you receive a suspicious email that asks for personal information, click the check box next to the message in your Hotmail inbox. Click Mark as and then point to Phishing scam.

Microsoft Office Outlook. Attach the suspicious email message to a new email message and forward it to To learn how to attach an email message to an email message, see Attach a file or other item to an email message. You can also download the Microsoft Junk email Reporting Add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook.

What should I do if I think I've responded to a phishing scam?
Take these steps to minimize any damage if you suspect that you've responded to a phishing scam with personal or financial information or entered this information into a fake website.

Change the passwords or PINs on all your online accounts that you think could be compromised.

Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Check with your bank or financial advisor if you're not sure how to do this.

Contact the bank or the online merchant directly. Do not follow the link in the fraudulent email.

If you know of any accounts that were accessed or opened fraudulently, close those accounts.

Routinely review your bank and credit card statements monthly for unexplained charges or inquiries that you didn't initiate.

How do scammers get my email address or know which bank I use?
Criminals who send out phishing scams (often called "phishers") send out millions of messages to randomly generated email addresses. They fake or "spoof" popular companies in order to fool the largest number of people.

For more information, see How do spammers get my email address?

Recognize phishing scams
Can an email message that contains a company's official logo be a phishing scam?
Yes. Phishing scams often use the official logos of the companies they're trying to spoof. If you think an email message is a phishing scam, delete it, or type the web addresses directly into your browser, or use your personal bookmarks.

Can I tell if an email message is a phishing scam just by reading it?
Not necessarily. Phishing email messages often include official-looking logos from real organizations and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate websites. They might also contain phrases like:

"Verify your account."

"Update your account."

"During regular account maintenance…"

"Failure to update your records will result in account suspension."

For more information, see Can you spot the 6 signs of a scam?

I received an email message (although it was not sent to my correct email address) that requests banking information. Is that a phishing scam?
Any email message that requests banking information is probably a phishing scam. Most legitimate banks will not request this information by email.

If you receive a message to an email address that is not the one you use to log in to your bank account, this is probably a phishing scam.

I received an email message telling me I'd won the Microsoft Lottery. Is this a phishing scam?
Yes, this is a type of phishing scam known as "advance fee fraud." To learn more, see You have not won the Microsoft Lottery.

Prevent ID theft from phishing scams
What can I do to help prevent identity theft from phishing scams?
You can do the following to help protect yourself from phishing scams:

Don't click links in email messages.

Type addresses directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks.

Check the site's security certificate before you enter personal or financial information into a website.

Don't enter personal or financial information into pop-up windows.

Keep your computer software current with the latest security updates.

What Microsoft email programs can help protect me from phishing scams?
Most Microsoft email programs come with built-in anti-phishing detection. This detection helps prevent fraudulent email messages from reaching you in the first place.

Anti-phishing detection automatically deletes the email message or moves it to the junk folder depending on the degree of probability that it is a fraudulent message. If a message is moved to the junk folder, your email program notifies you of the threat.

The following programs include anti-phishing detection:

Microsoft Office Outlook 2010

Windows Live Hotmail

Windows Live Mail

How can Internet Explorer help protect me from phishing scams?
Internet Explorer includes the SmartScreen Filter, which can help protect you from web fraud and personal data theft. To learn more, see Internet Explorer 9 Features: SmartScreen Filter.

What is the SmartScreen Filter?
The Microsoft SmartScreen Filter is a feature of Internet Explorer 7, 8, and 9. It's designed to help protect you from fraudulent websites that try to steal your personal information.

While you surf the Internet, SmartScreen Filter analyzes pages and determines if they have any characteristics that might be suspicious. If it finds suspicious web pages, it shows a yellow warning and advises you to proceed with caution. If the site matches an updated list of reported phishing sites, SmartScreen Filter notifies you with a red flag that it has blocked the site for your safety.

To learn more, see Internet Explorer 9 Features: SmartScreen Filter.

What does it mean when a website is flagged yellow and "suspicious"?
A suspicious website has some of the typical characteristics of phishing websites, but it is not on the list of reported phishing websites. The website might be legitimate, but you should be cautious about entering any personal or financial information unless you are certain that the site is trustworthy.

To learn more, see Internet Explorer 9 Features: SmartScreen Filter.

What does it mean when a website is blocked and flagged in red as a reported phishing website?
A reported phishing website has been confirmed by reputable sources as fraudulent and has been reported to Microsoft. We recommend that you do not give any information to such websites.

Only you can prevent phishing attacks - CNET Mobile

Only you can prevent phishing attacks

by Dennis O'Reilly October 10, 2011

As I sorted through several dozen newly arrived e-mails this morning I noticed one from "Provider Inc." with "Order Sales Order" in the subject line. "Damn phishers," I thought as I prepared to send the message to the digital Dumpster.

On second thought, I wondered what would make someone fall for a message that appeared to me like an obvious phishing attempt. Well, people respond to sales receipts even if they haven't bought anything online recently--nobody wants to be charged for something they didn't buy.

So "Sales Order" was the first hook. After opening the message--carefully--the clues to its bogus nature were everywhere. "North Luigi, AZ"? Are you kidding me? A fax number with a prefix of "006"? C'mon. The sad fact is, some of the poor souls the phisher targets with this e-mail will take the bait.

As phishing attempts go, this one was fairly well crafted. First, it managed to get through Gmail's built-in phishing filters. Second, it resembles a real invoice. You have to look closely to find the grammar errors and other mistakes that confirm a fake: "till" instead of "until," double "at," duplicate street addresses, and mismatched zip codes.

User education is the key to phishing prevention
Phishers are the scum of the earth. According to CommTouch's October 2011 State of Hacked Accounts report (PDF), phishing e-mails are being sent increasingly from compromised accounts rather than from "zombie" addresses. This makes it more difficult for your e-mail provider to block the messages because they appear to originate from trusted domains.

According to a CommTouch survey of people whose e-mail accounts were hacked, Yahoo Mail (27 percent), Facebook mail (23 percent), Gmail (19 percent), and Hotmail (15 percent) were the principal targets of phishers. Not surprisingly, 62 percent of the survey respondents said they didn't know how their e-mail account was hacked, while 15 percent blamed a Facebook link, and another 15 percent pointed the finger at their use of a public Wi-Fi hot spot.

The survey found that 54 percent of the compromised accounts were used to send spam and 12 percent to promulgate the "friend stuck overseas" scam; 23 percent of the victims surveyed by CommTouch said they didn't know how their compromised account was used.

Perhaps the most telling result of the CommTouch survey is how people responded to the phishing attack: 42 percent changed their password, 8 percent ran antivirus software, 23 percent changed their password and ran antivirus software, and another 23 percent did nothing. To that last group I can only say, "thanks for being a part of the problem."

CommTouch's October 2011 Internet Threats Trend Report (PDF) takes a closer look at the techniques phishers are using to break into our e-mail and Web accounts.

Change your passwords regularly, and don't take the link bait
Nobody likes being micromanaged, but I have to grudgingly acknowledge the wisdom of policies requiring users to change their passwords at a set interval and preventing them from using passwords that are easy to guess. Last month Rob Lightner described several services that generate strong passwords. One of my favorite tricks is to use the second, third, or last letters in a common phrase, such as a relatively obscure song lyric or movie line.

Back in February 2008 I described the Password Commandments. Most of those tips were for protecting your Windows account,  and include instructions for creating a password-reset disc in Vista and Windows XP. (The steps for doing so in Windows 7 are nearly identical to those for Vista.) But the article also covers how to delete saved passwords in browsers.

In the past I have recommended password managers, such as RoboForm and Lastpass, but the fact is I don't use them. It's not that password managers are insecure, it's just that I'd rather keep my passwords in my head and nowhere else. There's also the pride factor: like going to the grocery store without a list, I want to trust my memory--at least until senescence takes hold.

Now, what was that other thing I wanted to write about? Oh yeah, link traps--those emotion-driven come-ons that lead directly to trouble. Of course everyone wants to know who has been viewing their Facebook profile, but you can't. Period. Any link that claims to let you is bogus.

Likewise, beware of offers to show you pictures or videos relating to celebrities and current events. Of course, the crooks are attempting to capitalize on the passing of Steve Jobs, as Graham Cluley reports on the Sophos Naked Security blog.

(Thank you, Mr. Jobs, for being the light of my generation--may it shine on!)

Phishers are criminals, and criminals hurt all of us. We owe it to each other to put these vermin out of business. Change your dang password, keep your dang software up-to-date, watch for suspicious e-mail, and don't believe the link hype. Pass it on.

Phishing Scams - How to Detect and Prevent Phishing Scams - Advice for Victims of Phishing Scams

Phishing Scams
How Phishing Scams Work

By Justin Pritchard,

Phishing scams are now a part of everyday life. It's important that you know how to spot one and avoid becoming a victim.

Overview of Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are just another attempt to get valuable information. Scammers send a mass email to every address they can find. Typically the message will appear to come from a bank or financial institution. The email states that you should update your information for one reason or another, and they usually provide a link that you can click to do so.

This all sounds reasonable and it may look legitimate, but phishing scams are anything but legitimate. The link provided does not take you to the financial institution's website. Instead, you'll be submitting your information to a website run by the scammers.

Why Scammers Use Phishing Scams

Why would somebody do this? Well, you can gather a lot of juicy information with a phishing scam. First, you can get somebody's account number and password. Then you can try to hijack their assets. Some phishing scams ask for all of your personal information (SSN, mother's maiden name, date of birth, etc) so that they can steal your identity and open credit accounts in your name. Some victims of phishing scams have given up their credit card numbers only to find that the card was used fraudulently.

Why People Fall for Phishing Scams

Anybody can be tricked by a sophisticated phishing scam. Simple phishing scams are easy to spot, but the best scammers are actually pretty smart. They use a variety of tricks to make the phishing scam look like a legitimate process. For example, they might include a graphic from the bank right on the email message or website. Or, the link provided in the email may look like it goes to the bank's website while the victim is actually sent to a very different site.

How to Spot Phishing Scams

It is easy to uncover a crude phishing scam. For example, if you get an email from a bank you've never opened an account at, then don't follow the link and enter your personal information. Now, if you actually have an account at the institution it gets more interesting.

You'll want to look at the message carefully to see if it is a phishing scam. Are words misspelled? Sometimes scammers operate in a second language and they give themselves away by using poor grammar.

You should also examine the link provided. Does it really go where it appears to go? For example, I could tell you that I'm giving you access to the government's Top Secret Database at but if you click the link you'll find that you've been directed to a different site. The best way to prevent this is to copy and paste the link (don't click it) to your address bar. However, you can still get tricked by URL's that look legitimate but have one or two letters switched.

The best way to avoid becoming a phishing scam victim is to use your best judgment. No financial institution with any sense will email you and ask you to input all of your sensitive information. In fact, most institutions are informing customers that "We will never ask you for your personal information via phone or email".

Other types of phishing scams:

Vishing Scams
Spear Phishing Scams
SMiShing Scams (text messages)
Advice for Victims of Phishing Scams

If you have been snagged by phishing scams in the past, you need to be vigilant. First, let your financial institution know what happened. They will likely want to pursue the scammer, and they will monitor your account more closely. Next, I always suggest that victims of phishing scams put a fraud alert on their credit report by contacting one of the major credit agencies. Finally, you'll need to keep a close eye on your mail and your accounts. If statements stop showing up or if you see unusual activity, call your bank immediately.

How You Can Prevent Phishing Scams

Let's all work together to prevent phishing scams. If you receive a suspicious email, report it. You can send it to the US Federal Trade Commission at or you can just click the "Report as Junk" (or similar) button on your email program.

10 Ways To Prevent Phishing

10 Ways To Prevent Phishing

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Contributed By: Robert Siciliano

The Anti Phishing Working Group published a new report seeking to understand such trends by quantifying the scope of the global phishing problem, especially by examining domain name usage and phishing site uptimes. Phishing has always been attractive to criminals because it has low start-up costs and few barriers to entry. But by mid-2009, phishing was dominated by one player as never before—the ―Avalanche‖ phishing operation. This criminal entity is one of the most sophisticated and damaging on the Internet, and perfected a mass-production system for deploying phishing sites and ―crimeware – malware designed specifically to automate identity theft and facilitate unauthorized transactions from consumer bank accounts. Avalanche was responsible for two-thirds (66%) of all phishing attacks launched in the second half of 2009, and was responsible for the overall increase in phishing attacks recorded across the Internet.

There were 126,697 phishing attacks during the second half of 2009, more than double the number in the first half of the year or from July through December of 2008, the APWG report said. Avalanche, which was first identified in December of 2008, was responsible for 24 percent of phishing attacks in the first half of 2009 and for 66 percent in the second half. From July through the end of the year, Avalanche targeted the more than 40 major financial institutions, online services, and job search providers.

Adapted from APWG

1. Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information. Call the bank if they need anything from you.

2. Spot a Phish: Phishers typically include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements in their emails to get people to react immediately

3. They typically ask for information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, date of birth, etc.

4. Don't use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic or you don't know the sender or user's handle

5. Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information in emails

6. Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites. These toolbars match where you are going with lists of known phisher Web sites and will alert you.

7. The newer version of Internet Explorer version 7 and 8 includes this tool bar as does FireFox version 2

8. Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure that all transactions are legitimate

9. If anything is suspicious or you don't recognize the transaction, contact your bank and all card issuers

10. Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied

8 Ways To Prevent Against Phishing Attacks

Are You Phishing For Trouble?

These 8 Ways To Prevent "Phishing Scams"
Will Keep You From Getting Wet

Phishing is a form of online identity theft in which fraudsters trick Internet users into submitting personal information to illegitimate web sites.

Phishing scams are usually presented in the form of spam or pop-ups and are often difficult to detect. Once the fraudsters obtain your personal information, they can use it for all types of identity theft, putting your good credit and good name at risk.

Because phishing is one of the most devious forms of identity theft, it is important for you to become familiar with various types of phishing scams as well as to learn how to guard against them.

8 Ways To Avoid Phishing Scams

To help you protect yourself from phishing, we offer the following tips:

1. Guard against spam. Be especially cautious of emails that:

* Come from unrecognized senders.

* Ask you to confirm personal or financial information over the Internet and/or make urgent requests for this information.

* Aren't personalized.

* Try to upset you into acting quickly by threatening you with frightening information.

2. Communicate personal information only via phone or secure web sites. In fact:

When conducting online transactions, look for a sign that the site is secure such as a lock icon on the browser's status bar or a "https:" URL whereby the "s" stands for "secure" rather than a "http:".

Also, beware of phone phishing schemes. Do not divulge personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call. Be cautious of emails that ask you to call a phone number to update your account information as well.

3. Do not click on links, download files or open attachments in emails from unknown senders. It is best to open attachments only when you are expecting them and know what they contain, even if you know the sender.

4. Never email personal or financial information, even if you are close with the recipient. You never know who may gain access to your email account, or to the person's account to whom you are emailing.

5. Beware of links in emails that ask for personal information, even if the email appears to come from an enterprise you do business with. Phishing web sites often copy the entire look of a legitimate web site, making it appear authentic. To be safe, call the legitimate enterprise first to see if they really sent that email to you. After all, businesses should not request personal information to be sent via email.

6. Beware of pop-ups and follow these tips:

* Never enter personal information in a pop-up screen.

* Do not click on links in a pop-up screen.

* Do not copy web addresses into your browser from pop-ups.

* Legitimate enterprises should never ask you to submit personal information in pop-up screens, so don't do it.

7. Protect your computer with a firewall, spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Do some research to ensure you are getting the most up-to-date software, and update them all regularly to ensure that you are blocking from new viruses and spyware.

8. Check your online accounts and bank statements regularly to ensure that no unauthorized transactions have been made.
You should always be careful about giving out personal information over the Internet. Luckily, companies have begun to employ tactics to fight against phishers, but they cannot fully protect you on their own.

Remember that you may be targeted almost anywhere online, so always keep an eye out for those "phishy" schemes and never feel pressure to give up personal information online.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How The Best Entrepreneurs Succeed: A Case Study - Forbes

Paul B. Brown, Contributor  

While it is obvious that no one approach GUARANTEES entrepreneurial success, it is clear from everything we have learned so far, that there is a PROVEN path that increases your odds.
As we have seen, it breaks down into the following steps.

Determine what it is you really want to do.

Take a small step toward that goal.

Pause to see what you learned from taking that step and

Build off that learning.
Take another small step.

Pause to see what you learned from step two.
Build off that learning….

This Act. Learn. Build. Repeat approach is one that the most successful entrepreneurs use in creating their company.

Shawn Gardner, 40, is trying to join their ranks.

Shawn who works for the Saratoga, California parks department loves his job. But he realizes that these days public employees are not the most popular people around and with budget cuts always looming he figures it would be a good idea to hedge his employment bets.

"With the changing economy, there is tons of uncertainty out there. You have to be the one to plan your own future," he says.

But what kind of future?
"I was on a winter break in 2009 and wanted to rent a snowmobile for a couple of hours," he recalls. 
"Not only was the price—$325—absurd but they wouldn't provide insurance.  I had just bought a house and I wasn't going to risk it if I got into an accident. I had a debate with the rental guy but he said nobody who rented snowmobiles provided personal liability insurance."

Shawn did not rent the snowmobile, because of the potential risk. But on the way home he noticed how many people had snowmobiles on trailers in their driveway along with boats, jet skis and other "grown up toys."

"I spent about six months researching all this and concluded based on the median income people couldn't afford all the toys they had in their garages and driveways.  They'd buy a boat with a home equity loan, and then all of a sudden the value of their homes fell, or they lost their jobs, or they realized they really couldn't afford to have it."

During the Great Recession, a lot of people sold their toys, and sales of new boats and powersport vehicles  dropped nearly 50% across the industry.

There's nothing more discretionary than a boat, jet ski,
ATV or snowmobile.

Clearly there was a mismatch in the marketplace. You had people who wanted to rent grown-up toys as opposed to owning them. 
(The upkeep on boats is substantial and even if things like jet skis are relatively easy to maintain, do you really want your money tied in owning them, if you are only going to use them a couple of times a year? (A jet ski runs about $10,000-$12,000 new and people tend to buy them in pairs.)But while you had potential demand, potential renters like Shawn thought the average rental price was way out of line. Jet skis typical rent for more than $100 an hour.

Conversely, you had people who didn't want to sell their toys, but they sure would appreciate some extra income.

Fun2Rent was born
Walking through the Model
Shawn saw the opportunity, and it turns out he followed our model exactly.  Did he have the desire to make this happen? Yes, and yes.  Not only was he worried about the security of his day job, but he is "into power sports."
As for the small steps, he had already done some research that showed that a significant percentage of the people who owned all these toys were in over their head financially and could use the extra cash that could come by renting.

The next step was to talk to potential renters. They were interested, but it was clear there was a lot to learn before Shawn could create a successful company to fill the hole in the marketplace.

For one thing, promoting the business wouldn't be as easy as he thought.

"Google word advertising won't get the attention of our market, I found out. Many of our customers—both owners and people who rent—work hard for their money, and are not easily convinced that they can rent their stuff or rent from neighbor. We also discovered that we needed to build relationships. The people who rent out their stuff want to know it will be taken care of."
That's why offering insurance was important, as Shawn assumed it would be, but so was a rating system where people—both renters and the people renting their stuff—could comment about the person they interacted with.
Shawn also learned that these owners needed help in determining what they should charge.  Obviously, people renting their stuff want to get as much as they can, but high prices scare off potential renters.
He suggests people looking to rent out their stuff look around and see what traditional rental companies are charging and price theirs at a substantial discount. Our average, he says, renters charge 50% less.

Shawn's company, which takes a 25% commission for handling the transaction, is now in the the Beta phase and is looking to expand and is going to go through the Act. Learn Build And Repeat Model again.
We are in the middle of an experiment

From now until the end of October you have the chance to shape this space.  During that time this blog will be devoted to discussing the very tangible problems you have in starting and growing your business—how to get financing; what kind of customers should you target; where and how to market, and the like.

You suggest the topics and talk about the concerns you have (and also what you have found that works well) and your peers will offer their suggestions, and raise concerns of their own.  I will go through everything, cull the best answers/comments/ideas, and as a micro business owner myself (as well as someone who has been writing about this stuff for more than 30 years) will add ideas of my own.

Paul B. Brown is the co-author (along with Leonard A. Schlesinger and Charles F. Kiefer) of Just Start: Take Action; Embrace Uncertainty and Create the Future recently published by Harvard Business Review Press.
Please note the Action Trumps Everything blog now appears every Sunday and Wednesday.
Click on the "Following" button to get the new Action Trumps Everything blog post as soon as its goes live.

Friday, September 21, 2012

PassRocket Lets Any Business Create Loyalty Cards For Apple’s New Passbook App For Free

(PassRocket for Passbook on iOS)

PassRocket is an app for retailers to get onboard the iOS Apple Passbook app. Retailers, businesses and cafes can design their own Loyalty 'Pass' and share it with their customers instantly with twitter, facebook or email. PassRocket then scans customers passes every time they visit.

PassRocket Lets Any Business Create Loyalty Cards For Apple’s New Passbook App For Free

Sarah Perez

posted yesterday
When it rains, it pours. Today, Apple is rolling out the new version of its iOS 6 mobile operating system, and already we’ve come across several companies building apps poised to take advantage of one of the OS’s most notable new features: Passbook. Another new app, called PassRocket, is designed for retailers and other small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) who want to be able to quickly and easily create their own passes and loyalty cards for their customers. But the big difference with this one is that it’s free.
Earlier today, we covered Tello’s launch. There’s also Passdock, PassSource,, Passhop, and PassWallet (for Android support). Witness the power of Apple – the feature is going live today, and already there’s a whole new industry springing up to support it.
The PassRocket app, like most, allows businesses to design their own loyalty cards for free using their iPhone or iPod Touch. Upon completion, the app creates a link which the business can share with their customers via Twitter, Facebook, or email. When a user opens this link using their iPhone, it then places the custom-designed loyalty card into the Passbook application that became available in iOS 6. This allows the business to take advantage of the various Passbook features, including the new alerting mechanism which pops up a reminder about the available discount voucher or loyalty card when the customer is walking into or near the store in question.
At checkout, the business uses the PassRock application to scan the barcode on the Passbook card the app created, which then allows them to keep track of customers’ visits. Explains co-creator Daniel Bradby, “when the pass is scanned, the backend decrements the value of the pass (e.g. 10 coffees becomes 9 coffees), then pushes and updated pass with the new value out to the customer’s Passbook. The activity of each pass is recorded for each business owner.”
PassRocket also plans to provide some basic customer analytics which can help the company strategize around their various promotions.
PassRocket is an “MVP,” aka a Minimum Viable Product, which is startup lingo that means it’s going to be lacking advanced features and could still have some issues. (The app launches today, and we have not been able to test it in advance). Its creators, Daniel Bradby and Armin Kroll are the co-founders of jTribe, a mobile app development company based in Melbourne, Australia. They developed PassRocket out of jTribe Labs, the company’s “20% time” innovation lab funded by the parent company. However, jTribe tells me that they tested PassRocket on the iOS 6 beta releases and the gold master XCode before submitting the app for Apple’s approval on Friday.
The initial release is targeting cafes, which could use PassRocket to replace their paper loyalty cards. jTribe had five cafes on board during beta tests, and has around 150 businesses who have registered interest in becoming a pilot tester or just learning more about the PassRocket application.
The app itself is free, but businesses can purchase themes to customize their cards for 99 cents. There will be three free themes available out of the initial ten, for those businesses who just want to trial the application first. Businesses can customize their pass’s title, product type and amount per pass. In the future, jTribe will continue to release professionally designed themes for purchase.
These pass creation companies may seem like minor news now, but Apple’s Passbook is setting the stage for what one day may morph into a full-fledged mobile wallet. In the meantime, getting business customers on board with Passbook – especially at the local level – is critical for Passbook adoption. If the app isn’t something you can use but in a handful of places, it will be hard for users to remember to use it – alerts or not. By making PassRocket available for free, businesses of all sizes can easily experiment with Passbook without a serious investment of either time or money, which is what makes this particular service notable.
The PassRocket app is still waiting for iTunes approval, but is expected to go live after iOS 6 becomes available later today. In the meantime, more info is here and you can sign up to be notified here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What you lose if you switch to the iPhone 5 (Computerworld Singapore)

What you lose if you switch to the iPhone 5

Galen Gruman | Sept. 19, 2012

Those who preordered the new iPhone 5 while stocks were still available last Friday or who are lucky enough to get a new iPhone this Friday after waiting in what are sure to be long lines at stores will get their shiny new smartphone. They'll get its deeper screen and extra row of app icons, the addition of 5GHz Wi-Fi support, LTE cellular support (available in an increasing number of Verizon and AT&T cities, but not yet an option in nearly all Sprint cities), a microphone and internal speaker both said to be better, a faster processor, a thinner and lighter case, and some bragging rights.

But after the excitement wears off, iPhone 5 owners may notice some capabilities are gone or changed in unexpected ways.

Everyone knows that the iPhone 5 (like the fifth-generation iPod Touch also being released on Friday) uses a new 8-pin connector called Lightning instead of Apple's longtime 30-pin dock connector. Apple will sell a bulky adapter for $29 and an adapter cable for $39.

First off, I have to say I'm shocked that a Lightning-to-dock adapter isn't included with the new iPhone or iPod Touch at no charge. After all, Apple did include the $10 power adapters with its new MacBooks and its Thunderbolt Displays to let old chargers connect to the new MacBooks' thinner power plugs.

Furthermore, that adapter does not support video-out, so if you have a VGA or HDMI cable now, you won't be able to use it. In other words, forget about connecting your iPhone 5 to a projector or TV monitor to deliver presentations.

You can still use wireless AirPlay streaming, but only if the projector is connected to an Apple TV, which supports HDMI natively and for which Kanex makes the ATV Pro VGA adapter. Apple TVs are rarely available at conferences for delivering presentations; while you may have one at home and perhaps in your corporate conference rooms, you likely won't have one when making presentations on the road or at trade shows.

Apple says it is working on video-capable Lightning cables and adapters, and it expects to sell them in a "few months." If you present from your iPhone, you might hold off on upgrading to an iPhone 5 until it does. In the meantime, you may want to present from your iPad instead.

The new Lightning connector's adapters also don't work with the iPod Out feature in previous iPhones that some stereos rely on to control the Music app for audio playback. You may find your home or car stereo no longer works with the iPhone 5 as it did with earlier models.

You can also expect dock peripherals of all sorts -- from charging stands to portable stereos, from car audio systems to camera and recording gear -- to not work with the adapter. There's no easy way to know until you try. All I can suggest is that you get a fifth-generation iPod Touch and a Lightning adapter and see how that works first; return them if they don't and skip the iPhone 5 until native peripherals are available. For the likes of a car stereo, that may be never, so either switch to Bluetooth audio streaming or stick with an iPhone 4S or earlier iPhone.

The switch to the space-efficient Lightning connector poses the biggest loss to iPhone users, but beware of other gotchas.

For example, the iPhone 5's deeper screen (1,136 pixels) is unknown to most apps, so they won't extend to take advantage of it. Instead, you'll see a border where the old screen ended (960 pixels), though the width remains at 640 pixels. Developers can update their apps to sense the device and change the screen geometry accordingly. Apple says it will make that update for its apps by Friday, but that could take weeks or more. In the interim, you'll have an experience gap across your app library. That fractured user experience is very un-Apple.

If you're an international traveler, also be aware that the iPhone 5 uses the new Nano SIM standard, and your existing SIM cards won't work in it. Carriers have yet to produce the new Nano SIMs; until they do, you won't be able to swap SIMs to use the iPhone 5 in other countries.

Finally, there's been a minor firestorm of complaints in social media and the blogosphere noting that the CDMA versions of the iPhone 5 for Verizon and Sprint don't allow simultaneous use of voice and data. That's true, but it's been the case in the two previous CDMA iPhones (the 4 and 4S). At its core is how the carriers deployed CDMA, dedicating the whole LTE channel for either voice or data, not splitting it. That allows for better speeds, but limits flexibility. That's why if you use the Find My Friends feature in iOS to track an iPhone user, he or she disappears from monitoring while talking on the phone.

It's not an Apple design flaw, but it does reflect Apple's choice not to use the workaround employed by many Android devices: They switch to a 3G channel for voice while LTE data is active, in essence using two simultaneous connections. That also means they need two active radios, but Apple has included just one in the iPhone.

It's not a lost feature, but it could be considered a lost opportunity. It's also a problem that Verizon and Sprint created, which they could solve by changing their LTE network setup -- clearly what Apple thinks should happen.

The lost capabilities in the iPhone 5 are all ones that money and/or time will resolve. But if any are critical to you, be sure to time your upgrade with the availability of the solution -- and your ability to pay for it.

One piece of good news: I can attest that Apple's new EarPods earphones are really nice-fitting and sound very good -- and they work with any iPhone, iPad, or iPod you already have!

Steve Jobs's seven key decisions (Computerworld Singapore)

Steve Jobs's seven key decisions

Benj Edwards | Sept. 19, 2012

When Steve Jobs officially returned to Apple 15 years ago, it marked a moment of rebirth for the ailing company. Within eight months (September 17, 1997, to be exact), he assumed the mantle of Interim CEO (later abbreviated to iCEO for cuteness) and executed a stark and keen strategy to save Apple from oblivion.

Almost a year after his untimely passing, it's a good time to look back at seven key moves Jobs made to right the Apple ship during his early days as iCEO.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive or complete study: Jobs made dozens of decisions a day. I don't include some of his most important decisionsfor example, the ones to pursue the development of innovative new products such as the iMac, OS X, and the iPod. Instead, I'm thinking about the operational decisions that put his company on the track it still follows to this day.

Taking the reins

The most important decision Steve Jobs made was to take control of Apple. It didnt have to be that way.

After the purchase of NeXT in late 1996, Apples then-CEO Gil Amelio brought Jobs in as a special advisor in January 1997. Jobs could have been content to simply provide advice and stay out of the way. Of course, that wasnt in his nature. Jobs quickly convinced Apples board of directors to oust Amelio. It wasnt long before Jobs nominated himself as a potential replacement. The board agreed, and Jobs was back in control.

Trimming the fat

Before Jobs came back to Apple, the company manufactured dozens of different Macintosh desktops, laptops, and servers in a dizzying array of variations. The firm also produced lines of printers, digital cameras, and other ancillary items, few of which made a profit.

Ultimately, Jobs axed more than 70 percent of Apples hardware and software products. Most famously, he cancelled the Newton PDA, which still rankles some today.

In the Macintosh realm, Jobs wiped the slate clean. He defined a simple four-square grid to represent the future of the Macintosh: two for consumer desktops and portables (which would be occupied by the iMac and the iBook, respectively), and two for pro desktops and portables (filled by the Power Macintosh and the PowerBook, respectively). Anything that didn't fit in that grid got cut.

His product cuts resulted in the layoffs of over 3000 employees during Jobss first year as iCEO. But those cuts, while painful at first, allowed Apple to focus on creating a handful of good products instead of dozens of mediocre ones.

Cleaning house

By 1996, most members of Apples Board of Directors had been focused on how they could chop up Apple and sell it to the highest bidder. Upon his return, Jobs knew he needed a new board with a more positive attitude and a deeper loyalty to him as a leader. Within a few weeks, Jobs managed to force the resignation of most of Apples board members, including former CEO Mike Markkula the man who provided critical seed money to get Apple off the ground in 1977.

In their place, Jobs installed close friends like Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and former Apple VP of Marketing Bill Campbell.

Jobs also restructured Apple as a company, clearing away the many product-centric departments that feuded and competed for company resources. In its place, Jobs installed company-wide departments for marketing, sales, manufacturing, and finance.

Prior to Jobs becoming iCEO, he had convinced Gil Amelio to place certain key NeXT employees in positions of influence at Apple. Most notable was Avie Tevanian, the mastermind behind OS X, who became Apples Senior VP of Software Engineering in February 1997, and Jon Rubinstein, who joined as Senior VP of Hardware Engineering the same month.

Before long, Jobs had hired a variety of NeXT veterans and other high-level employees loyal to the new CEO, which ensured that few executives would question his drastic new policies.

Plugging the leaks

Under Gil Amelio, intentional press leaks from Apple employees occurred frequentlyattempts to embarrass the CEO into changing his policies. That stopped under Steve Jobs. Not long after accepting the position of Interim CEO, Jobs instituted a total ban on Apple employees talking to the press. That, along with key layoffs, helped quell dissent within the company.

Over the years, Jobss no-press policy also had the effect of creating the strict veil of secrecy, suspense, and surprise that accompanied Apple product announcements. By tightly controlling the flow of information out of Apple, Jobs kept the tech media in the palm of his hand.

Burying the hatchet

During his first tenure at Apple, Steve Jobs had been largely responsible for portraying the battle for the PC marketplace as a direct conflict between Apple and IBM. As an extension, that pitted Apple against Microsoft, the company that provided the IBM PCs operating system and later sought to duplicate the look and feel of the graphical Macintosh OS with Windows.

The animosity between underdog Apple and market leader Microsoft continued well past 1985, when Jobs resigned from Apple. The rift became a part of Apple culture that manifested itself as a deep loathing for everything Microsoft or Wintel. Meanwhile, the Macintoshs market share shrank down to single digits.

By 1996, Jobs had been comfortably removed from the situation long enough to admit that the desktop PC wars were over; Microsoft had won. It was counterproductive, Jobs thought, to spend money and energy fighting a battle against Microsoft that could not be won. No, Apple would have to play it cool and compete on its own terms. In the meantime, it would help to have the Redmond giant on its side instead of directly opposed to the struggling company.

In exchange for a patent cross-licensing deal, Microsoft vowed to devote significant manpower to developing new versions of Office and Internet Explorer for the Macintosh for at least five years. Microsoft also agreed to buy $150 million in Apple stock, which insured a vested interest in Apples success. In return, Apple also agreed to make Internet Explorer the default browser for Mac OS for five years.

This deal, famously announced by Jobs at Boston Macworld 1997 (featuring a giant Bill Gates on a screen behind him), was part of a public appeal to Mac fans to bury the hatchet and move on. Apple could succeed alongside Microsoft, not in spite of it, he said. Jobs new position on Microsoft freed up mental energy in Apple, so developers and fans alike could move on and conquer new markets in the years ahead.

Killing the clones

In 1994, Apple began licensing Mac OS to a handful of select vendors who paid Apple $80 per machine to use the operating system. As the years went by, it became apparent that this wasnt such a great idea. The clone manufacturers produced relatively low-cost machines that cannibalized Apples most profitable product line, and the clones did not have the intended effect of significantly expanding the footprint of the Mac platform.

So when Jobs returned to Apple, he knew the Mac OS licensing program had to go. He declined to license Mac OS 8 to the clone vendors upon its release in 1997, thus effectively ending the clone program (one manufacturer, UMAX, did manage to license OS 8 until 1998, however).

Jobs believed strongly in controlling the total user experience from hardware to software, and that could not be achieved if the hardware end was out of Apples hands. Clones watered down the Macintosh brand, and if they had remained, Apple could not have become as proficient at the secrecy, desire, and new product execution as they later became famous for.

Trusting Jonathan Ive

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, Jonathan Ive was already head of the companys design team. He was thinking about quitting, in fact, until a company-wide presentation by Steve Jobs convinced him to stay.

At first, Jobs looked to outside star designers for a possible new head of design, but Ive and Jobs soon hit it off and became personal friends. They found that they shared key elements of their design philosophies.

As a result of the newfound camaraderie, Steve Jobs put his faith in the relatively untested designer instead of hiring someone new from the outside. The pair (with the assistance of the entire design staff, of course) would go on to create some of the most famous consumer electronics designs ever made.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Seth's Blog: The simple power of one a day

The simple power of one a day
By Seth Godin

There are at least 200 working days a year. If you commit to doing a simple marketing item just once each day, at the end of the year you've built a mountain. Here are some things you might try (don't do them all, just one of these once a day would change things for you):

Send a handwritten and personal thank you note to a customer

Write a blog post about how someone is using your product or service

Research and post a short article about how something in your industry works

Introduce one colleague to another in a significant way that benefits both of them

Read the first three chapters of a
business or other how-to book

Record a video that teaches your customers how to do something

Teach at least one of your employees a new skill

Go for a ten minute walk and come back with at least five written ideas on how to improve what you offer the world

Change something on your website and record how it changes interactions

Help a non-profit in a signficant way (make a fundraising call, do outreach)

Write or substiantially edit a Wikipedia article

Find out something you didn't know about one of your employees or customers or co-workers

Enough molehills is all you need to have a mountain.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Apple's iPhone: The untold story (Computerworld Singapore)

Apple's iPhone: The untold story
Yoni Heisler | Sept. 14, 2012
Apple is one of the most secretive companies on the planet, so the Apple-Samsung trial was fascinating in that it lifted the veil of secrecy that typically shrouds Apple's operations. From marketing budgets to photos of never-before-seen iPhone prototypes, the evidence introduced at trial gave the world an unprecedented glimpse into the inner workings of Apple.

One of the more interesting stories to emerge from the trial centers on the development of the original iPhone. Piecing together statements made by Apple executives at trial and during depositions conducted in anticipation of trial, along with public statements made by Steve Jobs and other Apple employees in the past, we now have a clearer idea of how the iPhone came to be.

It all began as a tablet

The iPhone actually began as a tablet project. Indeed, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller testified that the success of the iPod and the disruptive effect it had on the music industry prompted Apple to think about what other industries it could tackle.

The iPod, Schiller explained, "really changed everybody's view of Apple both inside and outside the company." Schiller said that as ideas were tossed about regarding Apple's next leap, everything was fair game, with some at the company going so far as to suggest Apple look into developing a stand-alone camera, or even a car.

But once some of the more grandiose ideas began to dissipate, the Apple brain trust began focusing their attention on creating a tablet.

Scott Forstall, who currently serves as Apple's senior vice president of iOS Software, explained the early beginnings of Apple's interest in tablet computing: "In 2003, we had built all these great Macs and laptops and we started asking ourselves what comes next. One thought we settled on was a tablet. We settled pretty quickly if we could investigate doing that with a touchscreen, so we started investigating and building prototypes."

During his 2010 appearance at the All Things D conference, Steve Jobs explained to Walt Mossberg how Apple's interest in creating a tablet soon gave way to the iPhone.

"I had this idea about having a glass display [tablet], a multi-touch display you could type on. I asked our people about it. And six months later they came back with this amazing display. And I gave it to one of our really brilliant UI guys. He then got inertial scrolling working and some other things, and I thought, 'my god, we can build a phone with this' and we put the tablet aside, and we went to work on the phone."

Indeed, inertial scrolling, otherwise known as "rubber band scrolling" was a patent Steve Jobs particularly cared about and, not surprisingly, was asserted against Samsung in the recent trial.

Recalling that aha! moment, Forstall explained: "I'll never forget we took that tablet and built a small scrolling list. On the tablet, we were doing pinch and zoom. So we built a small list to scroll on contacts and then you could tap on it to call. We realized that a touchscreen that was the size that would fit in your pocket would be perfect for the phone."

And so, in late 2004, the idea to create a uniquely Apple smartphone was born.

As work on the tablet project stopped, Apple began dedicating resources towards creating a phone, a daunting task for a company with no previous significant experience in the cellphone industry, save for the flop that was the Motorola ROKR.

But as Schiller explained at trial, Apple saw a lackluster market it could really deliver some innovation to. "At the time, cellphones weren't any good as entertainment devices," Schiller said.

And with the iTunes Store already a runaway success at that point, Apple knew a thing or two about delivering media content to portable devices.

Project Purple: Creating iOS

A 15-year Apple veteran, Forstall's history with Steve Jobs goes all the way back to 1992 when Forstall, then a recent Stanford graduate, began working at NeXT - the company Jobs founded after his unceremonious exit from Apple in the mid-1980s.

Forstall soon became one of Jobs' most trusted lieutenants, having played integral roles in the development of various iterations of OS X. It's therefore not surprising that Forstall was the one tapped by Jobs to create the software that would power Apple's revolutionary device.

Jobs gave Forstall free rein to handle development of what would later be known as iOS, albeit with one constraint - Jobs told Forstall was that he was not allowed to hire anybody from outside the company. Instead, Forstall was free to choose anyone he wanted from within Apple to join the nascent iPhone team.

With that directive in tow, Forstall scoured the ranks at Apple and honed in on the company's best and brightest engineers as potential additions to the team.

But due to the secretive nature of the project, Forstall wasn't even able to tell potential iPhone team members what Apple was working on or even who they might be working under. Instead, potential team members were given a rather cryptic offer.

Forstall told them that Apple was working on something great and that if they chose to join the team they'd have to "work hard, give up nights, work weekends for years."

Before long, Forstall had assembled a core team to work on the iPhone's software and it was time to get to business.

On a heavily secured floor in a building on Apple's campus, the original iPhone team got to work. As one would expect, security on the floor was extremely stringent, equipped with security card readers and even video monitors to monitor activity. Forstall recalled, "The team took one of Apple's Cupertino buildings and locked it down. It started with a single floor with badge readers and cameras. In some cases, even workers on the team would have to show their badges five or six times."

Within Apple, the secretive iPhone project was referred to as Project Purple and the building where the work was taking place was called the "purple dorm."

At trial, Forstall explained that the long hours spent there made the "purple dorm" feel like a college dorm of sorts. "People were there all the time. It smelled like pizza," Forstall noted.

And highlighting the secretive nature of their work, the team put up a poster of "Fight Club", because you know, the first rule of Project Purple is that you don't talk about Project Purple.

Movie references aside, there was no mistaking the determination and vision that drove development of the iPhone. More than just a phone, Forstall explained that the ultimate goal was to create a phone that Apple employees themselves would use. "We wanted something that was a great phone," Forstall said.

Make no mistake about it, what Apple was trying to do with the iPhone was monumental. Putting things into perspective, remember that Apple began working on software features in 2005 that were hailed as revolutionary when they were finally unveiled in 2007. And further highlighting the challenges of the task at hand, Forstall admitted on the stand that he wasn't entirely confident his team could pull off what they were trying to do.

The touchscreen changes everything

Moving onto the actual development of the software, Forstall explained that a lot of the original innovation done on the iPhone centered on the device's capacitive touchscreen and developing software to work in conjunction with that.

While large capacitive touchscreens are now commonplace, the smartphone landscape in 2007 was markedly different. At the time, RIM's BlackBerry devices were extremely popular and any smartphone worth its salt came with a tactile keyboard.

Apple, however, forged its own path and completely did away with a tactile keyboard. Instead, the hallmark feature of the iPhone, the pièce de résistance if you will, was its 3.5 inch multi-touch screen.

At a time when most smartphone browsers provided users with a dumbed down browsing experience, Forstall and his team wanted to enable users to access the entire Internet as it was meant to be viewed, sans Flash support of course. To that end, Apple viewed a phone with a large multi-touch screen and no tactile keyboard as a selling point, not a detriment.

Because the cornerstone of the iPhone design was a large multi-touch display, Apple's engineering team had to create an entirely new framework for how consumers interacted with their phones.

"When creating the iPhone, there were so many completely unsolved problems that we had to tackle," Forstall explained. "Every single part of the design had to be rethought for touch."

As one example, Forstall said that Apple had to engineer scrolling on the iPhone to work not only when a user's finger moved vertically up and down, but also when a user's thumb would move in an arc-like trajectory.

"And so we had to figure out a way", Forstall said, "with this new form of input, with this touch and multi-touch input, to scroll something in the way the user would want it, even though there is imprecise input here."

Forstall explained that the amount of work that went into building the original iOS interface was "immense," adding that he "devoted years of my life to this," and that it was "very, very difficult."

While the way we interact with smartphones today seems highly intuitive, the user experience that we may now take for granted was the result of a lot of hard work, creative engineering, and thoughtful consideration as to how people would ideally interact with their device.

As a quick example, most iPhone users are likely familiar with the "tap to zoom" feature when browsing the web. Note, it might also sound familiar because it was one of the patents Apple asserted against Samsung in its recent trial.

Well as it turns out, the idea for "tap to zoom" came from Forstall and was borne out of the heavy testing he was doing on early iPhone prototypes.

When browsing the web, Forstall noticed that he was constantly "pinching to zoom" so that he could read text on the screen. And so it dawned upon him that it'd be much more efficient "for the iOS to take of this automatically with a single double tap."

"The team went back and worked really hard to figure out how to do that," Forstall said

And so slowly, many of the basic features that we now associate with the modern day smartphone were put together. A large buttonless screen capable of displaying the full web, a multi-touch display with gesture support and more.

Design team considered curved glass on front and back of new phones

Just as important to the iPhone's software was the design of the device itself. Apple has long prided itself on innovative industrial design and the work that went into creating the original iPhone design really reflects that.

When long time Apple designer Christopher Stringer took the stand in August, we learned quite a bit more about Apple's secretive industrial design group.

When Apple began working on the original iPhone design, Stringer said that the goal was to build a "new, original, and beautiful object" that was "so wonderful that you couldn't imagine how you'd follow it".

Stringer explained that Apple's industrial design group is comprised of 16 'maniacal' individuals who share one singular purpose - to "imagine products that don't exist and guide them to life."

The industrial design group at Apple works closely together and often gather around what Stringer referred to as a "kitchen table" where team members exchange sketches and ideas for current and future products on a weekly basis.

Naturally, an exceptional design aesthetic is the ultimate goal, and as a result, feedback from group members on proffered designs can be "brutally honest."

In a fascinating revelation that highlights Apple's obsession with even the tiniest of details, Stringer explained how Apple designers will often create mockups of a single design element - such as a button on the iPhone - and sometimes create upwards of 50 mockups of that single design element.

Once a sketch is given a green-light of sorts, Stringer explained that "the next step is CAD modeling, followed by physical mock-ups."

And speaking of one of the more interesting things to emerge at trial were photos of iPhone prototypes that never made it to market. The sheer number of designs Apple experimented with - though not all were aesthetically striking - really underscores Apple's passion for design and its unending efforts to explore every avenue to create a truly magnificent device.

Notably, the initial iPhone design Apple's designers were keen on involved a device with two pieces of curved glass, one on the front and one on the back. Apple's design team, however, was forced to abandon this idea because the technology involved in cutting the glass was cost prohibitive at the time.

And throughout the design process, Apple's industrial design team worked closely with technical liaisons who provide detailed feedback regarding issues such as drop-test results for various designs.

While this isn't terribly surprising, it does speak to the close collaborative process that goes into the design of Apple's hardware.

Jobs had doubts

Looking back, the iPhone was without a doubt one of the most disruptive and influential products to ever hit the tech market. Apple's take on the smartphone provided the blueprint for what the modern day smartphone looked like.

Getting there wasn't easy, however. Not only did Forstall have his doubts about his team's ability to achieve what they were aiming for, but Jobs did as well, according to testimony from Stringer. From production problems to software glitches and cellular issues, the iPhone was fraught with problems until Apple was able to get it just right.

In January 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone and the smartphone market has never been the same since.

TechCentral - What Dell learned from social media

SOCIAL GAIN: The days of customers having to dial a callcentre to discuss a product or service are over - now they make their issues publicly known via social media. - Reuters

Monday May 7, 2012
What Dell learned from social media

THANKS to social media, customers have a voice like never before. When customers wanted to discuss a product or service in the past, they'd dial a callcentre and their problem would be addressed behind closed doors. Only the customer and the company would hear the complaint or praise. Now these issues are aired publicly to potentially huge audiences of potential buyers.

Today a single customer complaint from someone with influence can have more impact on your company's reputation than your best marketing - something we learned the hard way at Dell back in 2005 with Jeff Jarvis' "Dell Hell" customer service fiasco. We quickly recognised what customers were saying online couldn't be ignored and began taking immediate steps to engage directly with them on forums and across social media channels.

Social media became a core part of Dell's business functions and customer service, and it was clear that providing support for our customers in the digital realm needed to be a vital element of our social strategy.

In May 2010, we launched a centralised Twitter account - @DellCares - with the express purpose of helping customers in distress. At the time, the social landscape was littered with unaddressed complaints about Dell products, so we set out to change how customers perceive Dell and Dell support through listening, engagement and resolution.
Since introducing @DellCares customer care and tech support, we've connected directly with more than 10,000 customers, have converted 35% of our demoters to promoters and have established a reach that exceeds the circulation of the top 12 US newspapers combined.
We upped the ante when we opened the doors to our Social Media Listening Command Centre, which allows us to monitor over 22,000 daily posts related to Dell, as well as mentions on Twitter using the analytics tool Radian6.

Since the launch, we've seen a significant decline in negative commentary about our products and services - proof that the ability to listen and respond instantly is a smart investment in any company's future and a way to continually improve both business and customer relations.
While a listening mechanism like Dell's requires resources likely unavailable to smaller businesses, any company can apply the principles we use with @DellCares to listen to what your customers are saying, to react to feedback more quickly and efficiently, and to gain a greater understanding of your customers' needs and wants.

According to Burson-Marsteller Asia Pacific in its Social Media report (1st Half, 2011) on internet users in Malaysia, about 17 million Malaysians use the Internet out of a population of over 26 million.

Social media offers a unique opportunity to reach customers you may not have the budget to target or if you are looking for a platform to complement or add value to traditional channels. What's more, social media conversations can serve as an early warning system for issues that arise around your company's products and services.

Choose the right medium for your demographic: Before creating a forum for customer support, evaluate your target market to determine which social media channels are most likely to reach them.

Support forums and discussion boards can offer a great way to offer solutions to the masses and connect your customers with your experts, both your company's experts and your customers and supporters that are experts.

Twitter has a huge volume of 140 characters or less comments, and thus tons of opportunity for you to engage 1x1 with people talking about your brand, products, or services.
Social networking platforms like Facebook, Orkut, and RenRen also offer great opportunities to connect with your community members. Your customers are already choosing their platform of choice, and it's important to meet your customers where they play.

In Malaysia
Here in Malaysia, one of the social media platforms we use to listen and interact with our customers is our Dell Malaysia Facebook page. Customers are increasingly engaging us through Facebook; in August 2010, we had 6,000 fans which has now grown eight-fold to 49,000 fans as of December 2011.

We discovered that 86% found our brand more appealing after visiting the Facebook page. 78% of our fans find it a useful site to find out more about our new products, and 67% now visit the page at least once a week.

Centralise your approach: Initially at Dell we had more than 20 employees with Twitter accounts, not all of which were effective. While we had a number of employees focused on Twitter who were able to answer questions and direct customer issues or compliments to the right departments, it wasn't an efficient use of their time nor the best way to solve problems.

We launched our @DellCares Twitter stream for the sole purpose of helping customers resolve issues, and as a result we were able to help over 1,400 people in the first month alone. Having a centralised tweeting process is key to ensuring success and preventing confusion within your company.

Personalisation is key: When you're engaging with customers, it's important to connect with them on a personal level. People respond to people, so brands can lose credibility quickly if your communication appears to be coming from a robot. Each of @DellCares' customer support representatives have their initials and headshot on the @DellCares profile page and every tweet is signed so customers know who they're talking to and their tweets appear transparent.
It's a group effort: Providing customer support through social media requires collaboration between customer service, marketing and product development to address an array of different problems. In order to respond effectively to issues via social media, it's important that your customer service team is trained on your company's brand messaging and your overarching customer experience strategy. If responses aren't in line with your brand's wider goals, it may create confusion and could impact customer satisfaction and retention.

Use social media as a supplement, not a replacement: Social media won't replace conventional support tools; it provides a way for businesses to connect with customers real-time in the places where they're already having conversations. While Twitter is great for finding customers and reaching out to them, the 140-character limit doesn't allow for a lot of rich dialogue and it's often necessary to migrate the conversations to a more appropriate medium. Once you've resolved the problem, provide public closure on the original channel.

Define a response process and make sure to follow-up: Just because social media is real-time doesn't mean every problem needs to be addressed instantly. You have to take the time to understand the concern and think through a response to provide a working solution. Don't forget to acknowledge the customer complaint and let them know that you're working on resolving the issue.
Keep them updated throughout the process and once the problem is resolved reach out to the customer on the original social channel to ensure that they're entirely satisfied.
This illustrates that you care about your customers as people and not just about extinguishing negative public commentary on your brand. As an example, we have expanded the Dell Malaysia Facebook technical support team to enable us to answer all technical support queries through social media within an acceptable time frame.

Customers are finding a voice through social media and using it as a support channel more and more. Tweeting a help request takes fewer steps than sending an e-mail or dialling a support line and can elicit an immediate response. At Dell, we want and need to be where our customers are and we suspect you do too.

(Varinderjit Singh is managing director for consumer & commercial business at Dell Malaysia & Singapore.)

Revolution through evolution in the datacentre (TechCentral)

Published: Tuesday August 7, 2012 MYT 2:28:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday August 7, 2012 MYT 2:40:24 PM

Revolution through evolution in the datacentre

THE proven cost savings and high return on investment from virtualisation and cloud computing in the datacentre have captured the imagination of many CFOs and CIOs.
In most cases, organisations can reduce datacentre costs by moving more applications onto fewer servers and can reduce software licensing fees and administrative resources by migrating to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

When they add in faster deployment times for new applications and services while ensuring 24×7 reliability, organisations have a compelling business case for virtualisation and cloud computing in the datacentre.

At some point in the future, this type of highly virtualised, services-on-demand delivery model enabled through cloud computing will be the IT gold standard.

In terms of the physical network infrastructure, virtualisation and cloud computing complement each other in the following ways:

1. Cloud computing services can reside on top of virtual datacentres. Virtualisation can support cloud architectures;

2. Cloud computing software can orchestrate virtual server deployments. Cloud management software can control virtualisation services;

3. Cloud computing adds another virtualisation layer between end users and the entire IT environment, which enables a pay-per-use model; and

4. Both virtualisation and cloud computing require robust physical network infrastructures. They rely heavily on the network and require new ways of thinking about network architecture and design.

Before this transition occurs, however, the underlying network architecture must provide greater availability, performance, and security while simplifying datacentre operations.

A complete revolution in the datacentre, with its associated costs, disruptions, and time requirements, is unnecessary in almost every case. Instead, the transition to a highly virtualised datacentre can be smooth, non-disruptive, and full of business advantages.

As organisations add Virtual Machines (VMs) and shift to a cloud-based operations model, the network must be hardened against failures that disrupt traffic yet adaptable and flexible enough to support new business requirements.

Many organisations are considering the option of network convergence, which combines SAN traffic and IP network traffic on the same physical network as a way to reduce the amount of cabling in server racks and the number of top-of-rack switches.

However, there are important tradeoffs that will limit adoption of this option, because the network architecture has to support both network convergence and non-converged traffic. High-availability and high-performance applications that are not well suited for convergence will remain on separate networks. Network latency, change control processes, regulatory compliance, and security are other factors that might require IP and storage traffic to remain separated.

When and how far to converge the IP and Fibre Channel traffic - or not to converge - is a decision that should be made in the context of the unique requirements of each organisation.
Organisations can implement a virtualisation and private cloud computing architecture (converged or not converged) that makes sense for their particular business requirements.

The initial step is to decide how the datacentre should look in the future by determining the extent of LAN/SAN convergence, the number of layers within each network, the number of switching tiers in each layer, and the management model for virtualisation and cloud computing services.

Start by addressing the following questions:

a. Will the final network have physical access layer switches in each rack, or will that function reside inside virtual servers?;

b. What level of oversubscription is acceptable at each stage of the network, given the target server consolidation ratio?;

c. How much bandwidth would each VM receive if they all tried to communicate simultaneously?;

d. Will there be an aggregation layer on the LAN, or will large virtual servers connect directly to a high-port-count collapsed access/aggregation layer?;

e. Will there be a single orchestration tool and hypervisor vendor, or will there be multiple solutions for specific applications and departments?; and

f. Will there be continued use of any existing equipment in that design? And if not, why not?

The key to achieving "revolution through evolution" in datacentre networking is to move toward a target design along a well-planned path and to use incremental steps to control risk.

(Sean Ong is country manager for Malaysia at Brocade Communications Systems, a networking solutions vendor.)

Five steps to transforming IT operations with service assurance (TechCentral)

PROGRESSING CAUTIOUSLY: IT operations managers want to focus on improving services to the end user or customer, but technologies such as virtualisation, cloud computing and mobility are now making it imperative to adopt a service assurance strategy even more quickly. - Reuters

Published: Monday August 27, 2012 MYT 1:12:00 PM
Updated: Monday August 27, 2012 MYT 3:45:02 PM

Five steps to transforming IT operations with service assurance

INDUSTRY watchers have long complained about IT management as we know it. They predicted the dominance of high-tech silos, futile finger-pointing sessions and poor application performance would cause breakdowns in troubleshooting and multiple escalations of user complaints.

While IT operations managers want to focus on improving services to the end user or customer, technologies such as virtualisation, cloud computing and mobility are now making it imperative to adopt a service assurance strategy even more quickly.

Here are five simple steps that move IT managers away from frustrating, ad hoc IT management approaches to more efficient operations, optimised application performance and satisfied end users and customers:

1. Change minds to advance IT
As with most IT projects, the initial step involves a change in thinking or a cultural shift. For many in IT, the outcome previously could have been measured by server response time or network uptime statistics, depending on the domain. In today's dynamic environment, the outcome must be measured by the end-user (whether they are internal or external customers) experience with the delivered IT service.
That means IT needs to monitor the individual components comprising the overall service as it always has done, but also focus the attention on how those elements support the service and how that service fulfils the customer need.

2. Integrate existing IT tools
The next step is integrating the service management lifecycle and the monitoring tools perspective. Bringing together what have historically been separate tools and aligning them as relevant to service objectives is a big challenge technologically. Not all toolsets can easily make the transition to the service assurance model when IT organisations make this choice.
Businesses need more than a dashboard with a red/green light to indicate if there is a problem or not. IT operations will have to identify services and model those services in such a way that any changes to the underlying application and infrastructure components supporting the services are automatically updated in near real-time.
This ensures that operations can easily track down the source or problems and reduce downtime as well as improve the end-user experience and bottom-line results.

3. Prioritise remediation
Once an organisation understands who is affected and how they are affected by a problem, it can begin to work on solutions. A customer may be willing to wait a reasonable amount of time to update his contact information, whereas a login process that takes the same amount of time could well influence the same person to look for another provider. The end goal is to connect the end-user transaction experience to business outcomes.

4. Resources, just right
At the same time, an effective service assurance model allows an organisation to view and map transactions effectively so that there is a better understanding of IT and business require ments. An enterprise can then assign the opti mal combination of resources - hardware, bandwidth and network capacity - to applications rather than over- or under-provisioning resources.
An international food manufacturing company has accepted that service assurance ties neatly into global operations. The company has a goal of doubling growth every seven years, and thus needs to have a good grasp of everything from transactional activity to network performance across geographic regions. "Clearly, we don't want to overbuy capacity, infrastructure and bandwidth that we don't need," explains the IT team lead. "The goal is to anticipate capacity and do predictive buying so we're not late adding systems."

5. Fine-tune, then fine-tune again
Adopting a service assurance approach to IT management won't resemble a one-off IT project. It will be an on-going process that delivers incremental returns along the way, and IT operations managers must decide from where they want to begin. If the ultimate desired result is an improved end-user experience, IT departments must define what that means to their organisation.

Once the transformation has occurred, IT organisations could start to consider metrics such as, "How much money is lost if we make this infrastructure change?" or "How does this operations incident put my SLA compliance at risk?"

It is too easy for customers to switch to another service, with another service provider; IT needs to be able to identify the metrics that mean the most to their business and ensure that they minimise operational as well as reputational risks.

(Stephen Miles is vice-president of service assurance for Asia Pacific & Japan at CA Technologies.