50: The percentage of available RAM that is consumed by non-removable apps on a 16GB Samsung S5.
NBC’s Bullshit-Laden Entirely Contrived Panic-Inducing “Sochi Personal Electronics Hacking Exposé” Is A Journalistic Embarassment
Sorry about the rather unwieldy headline, there. But really, there was no other way to approach this. Brian Williams of NBC – who used to be a real journalist and should definitely know better – put together this breathless report from Sochi that shows personal electronics being remotely compromised with malware and accessed by crackers within minutes of landing at the airport in Sochi. In the video you see a phone being “automatically” being taken over as soon as they turn it on, and two brand-new Macbook Pros being compromised just by turning them on at the hotel and leaving them running for an hour.
It’s the kind of thing that is frightening for average computer users and will get lots and lots of clicks and links and shares and oh my god this is awful what will we do?!?!
Except that the entire thing is a self-created and purposely staged sham, verging on a complete fabrication.
If you watch the unedited video, the whole thing is actually laughable. Instead of the phone “automatically” downloading malware, the reporters followed an URL to an unknown site and then installed the linked software themselves. Whether or not it was even (as claimed by their security “expert”) malware is debatable, since they never actually said what the linked file was. And the Macbooks that were “remotely accessed while just sitting there”? They manually opened a file that was attached to an unknown email. And bypassed the system warnings telling them not to open it.
The whole thing is a farce. But you will see dozens and dozens of links to it today. Because that is what tech “journalism” has been reduced to. Fabricated bullshit laced with fear, in a sad and desperate attempt to get a few clicks.
Shame, Brian Williams. Shame.
If you haven’t been reading the “If It Happened There” series over on Slate, you are missing something truly excellent. In a nutshell, they report on American events with the same style and tone that the American media usually uses when reporting on events in other countries … especially countries that are outside the USA’s sphere of influence and/or the average American probably couldn’t find on a map. It’s the very best of completely straight-faced satire, skewering everything in sight in a totally serious manner … not the least of which is the media mindset that Slate itself is a contributing member to.
Nothing is sacred, and the feature reached an absolute pinnacle of awesomeness today with the in-depth report on the cultural and sporting festival known as “The Super Bowl” (there is, in fact, no bowl).
There was a time when Super Bowl ads were shrouded in secrecy … hush-hush and kept under wraps until the moment they were released to a breathless audience during the Big Game. Then Volkswagen realized that they could short circuit the whole thing by releasing their ad on YouTube a week early and getting millions of views for free. This was, as they say, a game-changer.
Mercedes-Benz upped the ante last year with internet-only release the “feature-length” version of their spot, and now the gloves are off. Pretty much everyone is either releasing their ad, their teaser, their trailer, or their “making of” video now. Including Newcastle’s “making of the teaser for the trailer of the mega huge football ad that with could have made” which is quite frankly the best of the lot, hands down.
The only problem is keeping track of it all, and the gang over at Fast Company has you covered with the full roster of everything released so far, with thumbnail analysis and constantly updated as new stuff hits. Just the ticket for a completely unproductive end of the week. Enjoy.
Need a little mental exercise to give your brain a pick-me-up halfway through your Monday? Of course you do. Try this quiz: Listen to a snipped of language and try to guess what it is. You might be surprised at how many you guess. Or you might be embarrassed that you know so little about the rest of the planet. It’s probably a toss-up … but give it a shot anyway.
HINT: Don’t be fooled by the picture. None of the languages are Mock Swedish. Really.
If you are looking for some more gaming fun (hey, it’s Christmas, why not?) then you will be chuffed to know that the closed beta of Hearthstone – the Warcraft-themed online collectable card game from Blizzard – is now closed in name only. If you want to get an invite to the beta all you have to do is sign up before January 7th.
Signing up is easy: Head over to Blizzard’s BattleNet site and create yourself an account … it’s free, and you don’t need to provide anything beyond your basic info and a valid email address. Then hit up the Hearthstone page and opt in to the beta. Hint: It’s the big purple button. Sometime between now and January 7th you will get an invite to download the game and start dicking around, and (unless you want it to be otherwise) it’s free free free.
As far as the game goes, I think they really have something good here. The tutorial is excellent, and even if you have never played any sort of collectable card game before you will be up and having fun in no time. The artwork is fun and engaging, you don’t actually need to know anything about Warcraft to play (but there is enough Warcraft lore to delight people who are already fans), you earn new cards and packs at a steady rate, and the game itself is one of the best examples of the genre that I have seen.
You can play against friends, against the AI, or random opponents … and if you go the latter route you are always matched up to play against people of your own rank so there is no worry about being hammered down by people who are willing to spend real money to get more cards than you. It’s based around fun more than cutthroat competition … but if that is your thing there are options for that too.
I think Blizzard is really onto something here, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. And yes, it’s worth repeating: It’s free.
What are you waiting for?
I’ve written about Ticket To Ride before. Possibly more than I should, but what the hell … it’s one of the best board games ever created, period. And right now you can get the desktop edition of the online game for less than half price, so it’s definitely worth writing about again.
$7.99 gets you the original game plus the Europe, Switzerland, Legendary Asia, and USA 1910/Mega/Big Cities maps and card packs. And that is pay once and play on any desktop (OS X, Linux, or Windoze) via Steam or your browser. Or both. Once you buy, you can play on as many machines as you like and download the game wherever you happen to be. It’s a great buy from a great company … if you are a board game fan of any description, don’t miss out on this. If you are on the fence, you can always hit up the Days of Wonder web site to play a few demo games for free.
Don’t forget … after you buy, my handle is “geekboy_x” and I am always up for a game.
So yeah, there was this ice storm and a fairly massive blackout and a few days sort of got missed. The best laid plans of mice and men, right?
Anyway. One more entry into the list to round out the countdown … and I definitely saved the best for last. “Snow FM Ireland” is the single best mix of Christmas music you are going to find online, period. Lots of classics – heavy on the Rosemary Clooney and Judy Galrand, which is awesome – a good dose of newish stuff, and at least fifty percent of it is stuff you just don’t hear anywhere else. If you need just one audio feed to leave on for all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, this is the one.
There is no actual web page for these guys, but you can find a stream on your browser here. It’s probably a lot easier just to hit them up on TuneIn Radio by searching for “Snow FM Ireland”.
Ho ho ho.
So the gang over at CBC news cobbled together a list of the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) social media marketing failures of the year. They kindly append each one with a “lesson to be learned” but really, all of them come down to the same thing: Don’t be a moron. Or, if you want to flesh it out, don’t let marketing idiots anywhere near your Twitter account … which pretty much equates to the same thing.
Let’s just state the obvious first: Apple’s 2013 Christmas commercial is mostly brilliant. It looks great, it hits just the right balance of traditional sappiness .vs. modern cool, and it has a really nice twist-and-payoff ending. Better, the footage you see in the “finished product” was actually shot and edited on an iPhone 5S … a small but crucial distinction that is a big deal but really doesn’t seem to matter to other companies cough cough Nokia Samsung Blackberry cough.
But … there is a single glaring flaw in the commercial that sort of torpedoes the whole thing. When we see slacker kid constantly at his phone and seemingly ignoring the family, he is always holding the phone in portrait mode. But when the video plays, almost all of it is in landscape. Once you notice it, it becomes jarring and almost laughable, pretty much permanently spoiling any magic the spot could have otherwise woven. It’s also inexcusable, since the twist would not have been given way in any sort of manner by having the kid hold the phone correctly … kids oblivious to the world around them while holding phones in landscape mode are an entirely common sight.
I understand that the fenderheads at the average ad agency would have missed this one small yet wildly important detail. But someone at the top levels at Apple had to approve this ad, and they have no excuse for missing such a boneheaded misstep. It could have been one of the great soft-sell spots of all time. Instead, it’s 60 seconds of landscape fail.