Archive for October, 2013

5 Best and 5 Worst Cities for IT Salaries

Want to know where IT professionals make the highest — and the lowest — salaries? We dig into Kforce’s 2014 Salary and Employment Guide to see where today’s tech workers make the most and the least, the top paying IT roles in each city, and the cost of living for each community.

IT professionals are in high demand. As an expert in your field you deserve to be paid what you’re worth, but the highest salary doesn’t always equate to the best compensation. Factors such as cost of living, commuting time and more all play a part in the decision to pack up and try somewhere new.

Each year Kforce, a professional staffing firm, releases its Salary and Employment Guide that looks at what IT skills are most in demand and what cities are paying them the most.

Cost of living index numbers are courtesy of the Council for Community and Economic Research based on based on 307 urban areas. The national average for cost of living index is based on a score of 100.


5. Los Angeles, California

The City of Angels begins our look at the top 5 highest paying cities. In LA tech workers on average make $109,000 annually and the top paying roles are no surprise.

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………… $309,400
VP/Director of Systems Engineering………………$185,500
Systems Engineering Director………………………$152,900
ERP Application Architect……………………………..$149,900
Quality Assurance Director…………………………..$144,800

ERP makes several appearances in the countdown and LA is no different. That skillset clocks in at the 4th highest paying role.
Cost of Living Index: 129.8

4. New York, New York
Next in Kforce’s rankings is the Big Apple. In New York City IT Pros, on average, earn $100,100 a year, according to Kforce numbers. These are the 5 top paying roles there.

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………….$248,900
VP/Director of Systems Engineering………………$167,500
Quality Assurance Director…………………………. $149,500
Database Architect……………………………………. $148,100
Applications Development Manager………………$136,400

This is the first city where database architect showed up in the Top 5, and New York is the only place where applications development manager makes an appearance.

Cost of Living Index: 183.1


2. San Diego, California

San Diego, also known as the City in Motion, came in at number 2. On average, IT pros in this city make $116,200 annually. Here are the roles leading the pack in San Diego, in regards to salary, for 2013.

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………….$250,000
VP/Director of Systems Engineering………………$200,000
Business Application Director……………………….$160,000
Systems Engineering Director………………………$160,000
Technical Service Director…………………………….$160,000
Infrastructure Director…………………………………$160,000

Cost of Living Index: 130.8

1. San Francisco/ Silicon Valley/San Jose, California
California is home to the two cities that tie for the number 1 spot. In both San Francisco and San Jose the average IT professional makes $118,300 annually. According to the Kforce’s 2014 Salary and Employment Guide these are the fives roles that top the salary list in this part of the country.

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………….$265,000
Mobile App Developer…………………………………$155,000
ERP Application Architect……………………………..$152,000
Applications Development Manager………………$151,000
Quality Assurance Director…………………………..$147,000

San Francisco Cost of Living Index: 162.7
San Jose Cost of Living Index: 151.9

5. Atlanta, Georgia
The Big Peach is where we start our look at the lowest paying cities. It’s the 5th lowest paying city, according to Kforce’s research. IT workers in this region earn an average $86,900 a year. Here’s a look at the top paying roles within Atlanta.

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………….$215,400
VP/Director of Systems Engineering………………$132,400
Technical Service Director…………………………….$126,400
Applications Development Manager………………$115,800
ERP Application Architect……………………………..$115,700

Cost of Living Index 95.0

4. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Steel City is number 4 on our list. Here IT professionals earn an average $85,100 annually. The

Roles that earn the highest salaries here include the following:

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………….$204,400
ERP Application Architect……………………………..$131,100
NOC/SOC Designer……………………………………..$130,000
Technical Service Director…………………………….$126,100
VP/Director of Systems Engineering………………$125,100

Network on a Chip (NOC) and System on Chip (SOC) designers makes their premiere in the Top 5 highest paying roles in this region coming in at number 3 for Pittsburgh.

Cost of Living Index 93.9

3. Kansas City, Kansas
The Heart of America sits at number 3 on the list of cities where IT pros make the least on average. The average for all IT workers in this region is $83,500 and here are the top paying roles.

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………….$156,400
Quality Assurance Director…………………………..$119,100
ERP Application Architect……………………………..$116,500
Data Center Manager………………………………….$112,500
Technical Service Director…………………………….$107,200
Cost of Living Index 99.2

2. Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, sometimes referred to as Circle City, is number 2 on the list of cities that pay tech workers the least. Workers here earn an average of $82,900 in salary annually. Here is what those at the top of the food chain in IT are making in Indianapolis.

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………….$142,400
Mobile App Developer…………………………………$132,200
IT Director…………………………………………………$127,100
VP/Director of Systems Engineering………………$127,100
ERP Application Architect……………………………..$106,800

Cost of Living Index 92.6

1 . Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Mich., also known as “Furniture City” because it was the first place in the U.S. to mass produce furniture, is the lowest paying city for IT professionals, according to Kforce numbers. Tech workers in this region average $79,300 annually and the following roles are the highest paid roles in this city.

Role……………………………………………………….. Average Salary
CIO………………………………………………………….$169,300
ERP Application Architect……………………………$102,700
Business Application Director………………………$101,300
Technical Service Director……………………………$100,200
IT Director…………………………………………………$98,000

IT Director makes its first appearance on our list in the city of Grand Rapids.

Cost of Living Index 91.5


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Juniper targets key new switch directly at Cisco Nexus 6000

Based on Broadcom Trident II, QFX5100 will support dense 10/40G and Virtual Chassis for smaller fabric alternative to QFabric

Juniper Networks is expected to soon announce a new switch for top-of-rack applications that supports Broadcom’s Trident II silicon for dense 10/40G Ethernet capabilities and competes directly with Cisco’s Nexus 6000.

Juniper is expected to tout throughput, latency, power consumption and table entry benefits of the QFX5100 over the Nexus 6001, sources say.

Specifically, the QFX5100 switch is said by sources to include 48×1/10G + 6x40G, 96x10G + 8x40G, and 24x40G with two expansion slots for 4x40G module variations. QFX5100 is also said to have latency improvements over previous generation QFX switches, the QFX 3500 and 3600, which average sub-microsecond latencies.

[DATA CENTER DIRECTIONS: Juniper switching boss talks technology challenges, Cisco Nexus 6000]

Support for Broadcom’s new Trident II silicon, which many in the industry – including Cisco’s Insieme spin-in, Dell and Arista Networks – are building new switches on, means QFX5100 will be optimized for 10/40G and have inherent support for the VXLAN specification for VLAN scaling. Co-authored by Broadcom, VXLAN is intended to scale VLANs from 4,094 to 16 million to accommodate the exploding number of virtual machines in the virtualized data center.

Broadcom’s Trident II chip is designed to support up to 32 40G Ethernet ports and 100+ 10G ports. Ports on the QFX5100 can be configured and channelized to support up to 32x40G or 104x10G, source say.

And as expected, QFX5100 will support Virtual Chassis capabilities via Junos release 13.2X50. Up to 10 member switches can be configured into a Virtual Chassis and managed as a single switch, with increased fault tolerance and high-availability, and a flatter Layer 2 topology designed to minimize or eliminate the need for Spanning Tree and other protocols.

The capability may also allow users to configure smaller fabric “pods” without the need for a QFabric Interconnect device. Indeed, Virtual Chassis will also work on existing QFX 3500 and 3600 switches with the new Junos release but only if the switches are in standalone mode – not as nodes in a QFabric.

Sources say the Virtual Chassis capability will usher in a new Virtual Chassis Fabric (VCF) architecture from Juniper that allows a 20-node mix of QFX5100, 3500 and 3600s, and Juniper EX4300 switches to form a data center fabric without a QFabric Interconnect. As such, VCF is a fabric alternative to QFabric, they say.

The Virtual Chassis capability was expected. The pods VCF produces could be interconnected for scale with Juniper’s new EX9200 switch, Juniper Senior Vice President Jonathan Davidson said last spring.

The 48×1/10G QFX5100 will be available this quarter. The other variations will be available in the first quarter of 2014. Virtual Chassis will also be available in the first quarter of 2014.

VXLAN gateway and Cloudstack integration will be available later in 2014, sources say.

Juniper declined comment.


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AT&T looks 28 years into the future of cell towers

Crown Castle will pay $4.85 billion for purchases and long-term leasing rights on AT&T’s towers

What will you be doing over a mobile network in 28 years? Whatever it is, AT&T and cell-tower company Crown Castle want a piece of it.

In a deal announced on Sunday, Crown Castle International will lease about 9,100 of AT&T’s towers for an average term of 28 years. The agreement, under which Crown Castle will also buy about 600 AT&T towers outright, will bring AT&T about $4.85 billion in cash up front. It’s expected to close by the end of this year.

After Crown Castle takes over the towers, it will lease them back to AT&T, so the carrier says it doesn’t expect the transaction to affect subscribers’ service. But the arrangement does provide a hint of how much faith mobile companies have in the future of this still-young business.

At 28 years, stretching out until 2041, the average lease term for these towers is far beyond the horizon of most predictions about mobile bandwidth, apps or devices. But the trends underlying mobile data point to new capabilities coming online for years, and full-size cell towers are likely to be critical infrastructure for decades, according to Tolaga Group analyst Phil Marshall.

“It’s a pretty good bet,” he said.
Vendors are already looking at demand for the next generation of mobile networks, a so-called 5G that’s not yet being hashed out as a standard. Vish Nandlall, Ericsson’s CTO and senior vice president of strategy, said last week that 5G gear is likely to appear in commercial networks beginning in 2020. He sees it offering 10 times the capacity of 4G LTE, as well as features for low-power machine-to-machine communications.

If a new generation of mobile comes every 10 years, as Nandlall believes, then 28 more years may bring us to 7G. Even the most advanced technologies in labs today won’t go that far, instead giving hints about the networks of just 15 years from now, Tolaga’s Marshall said. Small cells will transform networks over the next few years, allowing carriers to serve more subscribers in areas of dense mobile use, but the kind of longer-range towers Crown Castle is buying into will still be needed for broad coverage, he said.

“There’s no evidence that there’s anything that will … replicate the need for these macro cells,” Marshall said.

Though it’s hard to make detailed predictions, networks 28 years from now will probably feed increasingly powerful mobile devices with updated information and help users find what they need, he said.

“The mobile device ends up having every piece of information you could ever possibly be interested in,” Marshall said. The current MicroSD standard allows for cards with capacities as high as 2TB, one indication that there’s a long way to go for on-device storage, he said. Smarter, faster networks will help consumers use all that data, using context cues such as time and location to show users the content they need in real time, Marshall said.

Future networks will also connect many more types of devices, some of which will fade into the background from consumers’ perspective, Marshall said. Twenty-eight years from now, the launch of the original iPhone in 2007 may look like the invention of the microprocessor in 1971 does now.

“If you look at how the microprocessor is used now, it’s used in absolutely everything,” Marshall said. “Over the very protracted timeline, the same thing happens with the mobile device.”

AT&T and Crown Castle seem confident all this will pay off. When their rights under the deal expire in an average of 28 years, Crown Castle will have the right to buy those 9,100 towers for a sum that the companies estimate at $4.2 billion.

Even in the first phase of the deal, AT&T will get cash it can invest in other parts of its business. But the deal could also benefit the customers of its rivals. Crown Castle will be free to lease extra capacity to other carriers, which may open up towers in areas where Verizon Wireless, Sprint or T-Mobile haven’t been able to set up their own towers, Marshall said.


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10 Dumbest Things Tech CEOs Have Said and Done

As a rule, CEOs in the technology industry tend to be a pretty bright group. Their vision, passion and leadership have changed the world. BUT they also have moments that leave the rest of us wondering, “Are they really that dumb?”

Elite tech CEOs of Silicon Valley live rich and powerful lives – and they work hard for it. Like rock stars, all-star athletes and high-ranking politicians, they are a special breed. Yet sometimes their status leads them to get out of touch with the commoner. Who are we kidding? They can be downright clueless when it comes to the rest of us. It would be easy to highlight all their accomplishments and contributions to business and society, but it’s so much more fun to focus on these 10 really futile and stupid gestures on the part of tech’s top executives.

Larry Ellison: Start the Keynote Without Me
In September, thousands of Oracle customers and partners came to Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, in part to hear CEO Larry Ellison deliver the daily keynote. Ellison, though, skipped his duties to watch Oracle Team USA stage a thrilling comeback in the America’s Cup sailing race. Many attendees got up and left the room. Sure, Ellison has spent a lot of dough on Oracle Team USA – but it’s still just a hobby. If anyone else put their hobby in front of their job, they might not have a job to come back to.

Meg Whitman: Everybody Ought to Have a Maid
Between stints as CEO of Ebay and Hewlett-Packard, Meg Whitman made a run to be the next California governor – and she could have won it, too, if not for that meddling illegal maid. Whitman, who poured $119 million of her own money into her campaign, had been calling for harsh penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants. Turns out, she had employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper for nine years. Then she got caught trying to cover up her knowledge about it. Oh, the illegal immigrant was fired.

Meg Whitman: Everybody Ought to Have a Maid
Between stints as CEO of Ebay and Hewlett-Packard, Meg Whitman made a run to be the next California governor – and she could have won it, too, if not for that meddling illegal maid. Whitman, who poured $119 million of her own money into her campaign, had been calling for harsh penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants. Turns out, she had employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper for nine years. Then she got caught trying to cover up her knowledge about it. Oh, the illegal immigrant was fired.

Eric Schmidt: What? My Emails Leave a Trail, Too?
The no-poaching pact didn’t stop with Steve Jobs. Google CEO Eric Schmidt showed his clueless side in an email exchange with other Google execs about the firing of an HR employee who violated the no-poaching pact. One of the execs wrote, “Please make a public example of this termination with the group. I want it clear that we have a zero-tolerance policy for violating our policies.” Now here’s the clueless part: Schmidt responded, “I would prefer that Omid [Kordestani] do it verbally, since I don’t want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?” Yup, no paper trail there.

Scott Thompson: I Really Meant to Get That Degree
It takes a lot of brass to put a computer science degree on your resume when you don’t have one. But that’s exactly what Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson did, only to be caught and ousted last year. When the lie first surfaced, Thompson stayed mum. Then he tried to dismiss it, shift blame onto the recruiting firm and rustle up support to keep his job. “When he didn’t get it, he tried to silence people,” a board member told the New York Times. On his way out, he issued a non-apology apology, and now he’s CEO of ShopRunner. Message to Yahoo engineers who actually earned a computer science degree: Suckers!

Marissa Meyer: In-Office Nurseries Aren’t Standard for Every Working Mom?
One of the first decisions Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer (who replaced Scott Thompson) made was to ban working remotely. The decision itself isn’t what landed Meyer on this list. Rather, Meyer’s sudden mandate seemed a little heartless to working mothers who were left scrambling for daycare. After all, Meyer had accepted Yahoo’s top post while six months pregnant and was considered to be an ally for working mothers. Then again, CEOs aren’t subject to the troubles of the working class. Meyer had a nursery built in her office so she could bring her child to work.

Mark Hurd: Chicks Dig Me …
Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd got caught up in a sexual harassment scandal involving a former Playboy model and HP contractor, Jodie Fisher, which eventually led to his ouster. The full depth of his hubris can be summed up in a letter sent to him by Fisher’s attorney, Gloria Allred, later published by the New York Times. The letter provides some of the uncomfortable details, such as Hurd “telling [Fisher] about many different women that were crazy about [him]… including Sheryl Crow.” Can you say Superman complex?

Mike Lazaridis: Forget Siri, This Keyboard Thing Rocks
The co-CEO of RIM isn’t from Silicon Valley, nor does he have a juicy story to tell. Nevertheless, he was a tech chief profoundly out of step with the rest of us, which not only led to his resignation but the downfall of a multi-billion-dollar company. When asked in 2008 what he thought was the most exciting mobile trend, Lazaridis said: “Full Qwerty keyboards. I’m sorry, it really is. I’m not making this up.” Here, in a nutshell, is why the company formerly known as RIM lost everything in the smartphone market.

Mark Zuckerberg: Maybe 30 Is the New 20
Silicon Valley is full of amazing talent from every generation, from super-smart GenX computer engineers to millennial marketing geniuses to Baby Boomer visionaries. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is one of the smartest guys around. But he must not have had his thinking cap on when speaking to a crowd at a venture capital conference in 2007. The then-22-year-old said with a straight face: “Young people are just smarter. Why are most chess masters under 30? I don’t know. Young people just have simpler lives.” If true, Zuckerberg is now 29 and fast approaching idiocy.

Big Three Auto CEOs: I Told You We Should Have Flown Coach
Okay, so these guys aren’t really “tech” CEOs, although their companies’ cars are pretty technical. But if we’re talking about dumb, out-of-touch CEOs, we just have to put them on the list. In 2008, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli and Ford CEO Alan Mulally came to Washington D.C. with hat in hand. They had fallen on tough times and needed a $25 billion bailout from taxpayers. They promised to streamline their businesses. There was just one problem with their message. Clueless, each of them had flown private luxury jets to the meeting to ask the commoner for a handout.


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How Microsoft invented, or invisibly runs, almost everything

Microsoft was credited with inventing practically everything first, directly through innovation before its time, or indirectly and invisibly because everything runs on Microsoft software.

Well, it seems as if Microsoft is being credited with inventing almost everything.

We’ll start with the post by TechRadar defending Microsoft and crediting the company with inventing practically everything, including the wheel – the mouse wheel. The did-you-know flavored list begins with Google TV, but pointed out that Microsoft did that first in 1997 by acquiring WebTV, then renaming it MSN TV, and eventually using the technology for Xbox and Xbox 360. WebTV was first to allow web access with a computer, but let’s toss in the little-known fact that in 1996, before it became Microsoft’s product, the U.S. government classified WebTV as “munitions (a military weapon)” due to its use of strong encryption. It was a change in law, not Microsoft touching the technology, that stopped the military weapon classification.

The TechRadar article goes on to credit Microsoft with being the first to invent its version of the iPad, dubbed the Tablet PC, which shipped in 2002, but were “too big, bulky and expensive.” Facebook’s walled garden was credited to Microsoft’s 1995 version of MSN. The Redmond giant was first to market smart watches (Smart Personal Object Technology, or SPOT) which took advantage of mobile data. In 2000, the Redmond giant put out the first eReader; also in 2000, Microsoft invented the first smartphone, Microsoft’s Pocket PC platform. In fact, TechRadar compared Microsoft Bob, released in 1995, to the earliest version of today’s Siri and Google Now. The lack of success of Microsoft’s many invented products was attributed to them coming before their time or having no killer apps.

But those examples of what Microsoft invented are just a drop in the bucket if you use the “invisible” supportive structures reasoning presented by Microsoft’s Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Psychologist for Bing. Wallaert, who recently defended Microsoft’s Bing it on challenge claims, mentioned that fight in his Forbes article, before describing the worst part about working at Microsoft. “Every time you take a pot shot at Microsoft just to be a jerk, you distract us from doing the work that makes the world better.”

It is safe to say that most people reading this probably don’t respect Microsoft very much. Asked to name the most innovative tech company, they’ll say Apple or Google. And they’ll do it with a straight face, while sitting in a chair made by Microsoft.

Wait, Microsoft makes chairs? No, not directly. But the part of that chair? Manufactured in facilities running on, you guess it, Microsoft software. Transported in trucks built by Microsoft software, on roads built by Microsoft software, sold by companies running Microsoft software.

Imagine you got out of that chair for a second. Walked across the street to get a cup of coffee. Got hit by a bus. The ambulance that picks you up? Microsoft. The hospital that saves you? Microsoft. The doctor? Trained at a school running Microsoft, using delicate instruments running Microsoft. If you prefer not getting hit by a bus, think about the role that Microsoft has had in making sure your baby was born healthy.

So there you have it; if you consider the “invisible” supportive structures, then, hey, Microsoft can be credited with inventing pretty much everything and we apparently underrate its value.

How Microsoft invented almost everything

By the same token, if you consider the “invisible” argument of Microsoft software being behind all good things, would it also have to be behind all the bad? If you fell out of your computer chair — because you didn’t rest well the night before on the mattress manufactured in a factory running Microsoft software — and decided to go across the street to fetch a cup of coffee, what caused the accident?

Your mobile phone rings as you step onto the street. It’s your distressed non-techy mom describing how Windows crashed, so you close your eyes briefly and smother a curse word. The bus driver, who is busy texting on his Windows phone, doesn’t see and therefore hits you; but no worries because a Microsoft-built ambulance picks you up and transports you to the hospital filled with doctors trained at schools running Microsoft. The delicate instruments running Microsoft software save you, despite running on an OS infected with malware. Your doctor, who is looking down at notes on his Surface tablet, greets you in the recovery room and tells you that your sex change operation went great. But before you can freak out, elsewhere Chinese Army hackers exploited a zero-day to break into government computers running Windows and stole classified codes to launch nukes. The world, running on Microsoft, ends.

Just kidding, but that’s the problem with the “invisible” supportive structures argument; it can be used in far-out scenarios for good and for bad.


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Infographic: Facebook vs. Twitter 2013 user stats

Another day, another pretty infographic. This one breaks down the demographic differences between Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook and Twitter are the big boys in the social networking space. So big, in fact, that we’ve probably written about them a bit too much in 2010. But hey, why stop in December? This breakdown was put together by Digital Surgeons and shows demographic statistics (and a few fun facts) for both sites. You may know that Facebook is much larger with 500 million users compared to Twitter’s 106 million, but did you know that 52 percent of Tweeters update their status every day while only 12 percent of Facebook users do the same? How about the fact that half of Twitter’s users are in college compared to only 28 percent of Facebook users. It shows just how much Facebook has changed since its days as a university-only social network. Enjoy.

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Galaxy Note 3 deep-dive review: A plus-sized phone with perks and quirks

Samsung’s new big-screen phone has a lot of great qualities, but a handful of issues keep it from reaching its full potential. So is it the Android device for you?

Citizens of the smartphone-using world, hear this: When it comes to what you carry in your pocket, size definitely matters.

Just look at Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 3. The device is the latest in a line that brought big back into style — and now, plus-sized phones are a category all their own.

Lucky for Samsung, size isn’t the only thing that sets the Note 3 apart. The phone’s S Pen stylus opens the door to some interesting and innovative ways of interacting with a smartphone — and this latest model offers some meaningful improvements over its predecessors in both form and functionality.

While the phone has plenty of attractive qualities, though, it also has some noteworthy downsides. So all considered, is it a phone worth buying?
Galaxy Note 3
Galaxy Note 3

I’ve been living with the U.S. model of the Note 3 for several days to find out. Read on to see what the new Note is actually like to use in the real world — and whether or not it’s the right device for you.

(The Galaxy Note 3 is available now on AT&T for $300 with a new two-year contract, Sprint for $250 with a new two-year contract, and T-Mobile for $0 down and a two-year $29.50/mo. payment plan. It’ll be available on Verizon starting October 10 for $300 on contract. U.S. Cellular has said it will sell the phone sometime in October as well but has yet to announce any specific pricing or availability details.)
Body and screen

It may seem obvious, but it has to be mentioned: The Note 3 is a large device. Like, really large.

At 5.95 x 3.12 x 0.33 in. and 5.93 oz., the new Note is significantly bigger than any standard-sized smartphone. As such, it’s not going to be for everyone: The device can be rather uncomfortable to hold in one hand and even more awkward to hold up to your ear for a call. Depending on your gender and pant preferences, it’ll range from being uncomfortable to carry in your pocket to impossible to fit in it at all.

That’s not by any means to say it’s an outright bad form; these days, plenty of people prefer a plus-sized device that’s able to provide the benefits of a smartphone and the screen space of a tablet. I’d simply suggest stopping by a brick-and-mortar store and holding one for yourself to see how it feels to you.

For owners of past-generation Galaxy Note devices, the Note 3 certainly won’t seem outrageous; in fact, it’s pretty darn close to the same size as last year’s model. And thanks to slimmed down bezels, it packs a beefed-up 5.7-in. display, up from the 5.5-in. screen on the Galaxy Note 2.

At about 386 pixels per inch, the Note 3’s 1080p Super AMOLED display looks fantastic: Details are sharp and colors appear rich and brilliant. Display aficionados may note that the display looks somewhat oversaturated — as Samsung devices often do — but for the vast majority of smartphone users, this thing’s gonna be a treat for the eyes.

AMOLED screens in general tend to suffer in sunlight more than their LCD counterparts, but Samsung has made some significant strides with the Note 3’s display: Thanks in part to ramped-up brightness capacity, the Note 3’s screen remains perfectly viewable even in the glariest of conditions. To my eyes, it doesn’t quite match the outstanding outdoor visibility of a top-of-the-line LCD-packing phone like the HTC One, but it’s not at all bad and marks a massive leap forward from past Samsung products.

The Galaxy Note 3 has a silver plastic trim that’s made to look like metal around its perimeter. A volume rocker lives on the left side, while a power button sits on the right. On the phone’s top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and on the bottom is a special USB 3.0 charging port that doubles as an HDMI out-port with the use of an MHL adapter.

The inclusion of USB 3.0 is a nice touch: The phone charges ridiculously fast when you use the included USB 3.0 cable and wall adapter, and the port can provide extra-speedy data transfers if your computer supports USB 3.0. The Note works with regular micro-USB cables, too — you just plug them into the right side of the port — though you obviously won’t get the faster charging and data-transfer speeds when you go that route.

The Note 3 has one small speaker on its bottom edge, to the right of the charging port. The sound quality is decently loud and clear by smartphone standards, though nothing to write home about.

Next to the speaker is the slot for the phone’s S Pen stylus — a highlight of the device that I’ll get to in a minute.

Design and build quality

First, let’s talk design, shall we? Samsung has long suffered the wrath of many a reviewer (myself included) for its cheap-feeling plasticky constructions. With the Note 3, the company is clearly trying to step things up and provide a phone with a more premium body.

In some regards, it’s succeeded: The Note 3 ditches Samsung’s long-favored glossy plastic back for one with a textured faux-leather finish. The material feels softer and more pleasant to the touch and has a less toy-like (and fingerprint smudge-attracting) appearance than what I’m used to from Samsung. It’s still a bit on the chintzy side — thanks mainly to the somewhat tacky fake stitching around the panel’s perimeter — but it’s definitely an improvement over past Samsung products.

That said, it’s all relative, and the Note 3 still feels less thoughtfully designed than devices like the HTC One or the Moto X. When I peeled off the phone’s thin back panel, for instance, the covering for the camera lens popped right out. I had to futz around with it to get it back in place, bending its flimsy-feeling metal support legs to force it to stay attached before putting the cover back on.
Galaxy Note 3
When the reviewer peeled off the phone’s thin back panel, the covering for the camera lens popped right out.

The phone’s physical Home button, meanwhile, is slightly loose and subtly shifts around with each pressing, often looking crooked as a result (something other early users have also noticed). These kinds of things just don’t scream “premium build” to me.

Speaking of buttons, the Note 3 uses the same odd and dated hybrid button setup Samsung has long clung onto, with a physical Home button flanked by capacitive Menu and Back buttons (the former of which was phased out of the Android platform years ago). This design choice results in some meaningful downsides when it comes to user experience, ranging from hidden and hard-to-find options to an awkward contrast in button sensitivity, especially when using the S Pen.

The setup also forces an almost comical number of inelegant workarounds. You long-press the Home button to get to the Android app-switching tool, for example, and double-press it to get to Samsung’s S Voice voice-control utility. You long-press the Menu button to load Samsung’s S Finder search app and long-press the Back button to load Samsung’s own Multi Window multitasking tool. A single press of the Home button, meanwhile, will usually take you to your home screen — except if you’re already on your main home screen, in which case the same action will pull up the Note’s integrated news-viewing application.

Got all that? Yeah — me neither. It’s not exactly what you’d describe as user-friendly design.
Under the hood

The Galaxy Note 3 runs on a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor along with 3GB of RAM. That kind of horsepower should result in flawless performance, but — as we’ve seen with other recent Samsung devices — the Note 3 suffers from some baffling performance imperfections.

For most tasks, the phone is plenty fast: App loading and multitasking are generally fine, and Web browsing is satisfyingly smooth and swift. But the phone has occasional lags and jitteriness, and just doesn’t feel as snappy as other devices in real-world use.

The worst offender is the Note’s Gallery app: I regularly counted five to 12 seconds from the time I tapped the app until it was fully opened and ready to use. The same sort of delay was present when tapping folders within the Gallery. Given the phone’s hardware capabilities, this is a pretty clear indication to me that Samsung’s software is doing something wrong.

The Note 3 does perform admirably in the realm of battery life: The phone’s 3200mAh battery — which, in a move that’ll delight hardcore power-drainers, is removable and replaceable — always managed get me safely from morning to night. Even on days when I had moderate to heavy use — as much as four hours of screen-on time with half an hour of phone calls, half an hour of video streaming, and a few hours of scattered Web browsing, camera use and social media activity — the Note 3 consistently had around 30% of its charge left by bedtime.

All U.S. models of the Galaxy Note 3 ship with 32GB of internal storage, which leaves you with about 23GB of usable space once you factor in the operating system and various preinstalled software. The phone also has a microSD card slot that lets you add up to 64GB of external storage.

The Note 3 supports near-field communication (NFC) for contact-free payments and data transfers. It also has an IR blaster for controlling your TV and other remote-based electronics. The Note doesn’t support wireless charging, though it appears Samsung will sell a separate Qi-enabled case that’ll provide that functionality.

While the Galaxy Note has full LTE support, the model I tested was connected to Sprint’s network — which has pretty spotty coverage in my area — so data speeds weren’t great for me. Voice calls sounded fine, though; I was able to hear people with zero distortion and the lucky souls with whom I spoke reported being able to hear me A-OK.

Cameras

The Galaxy Note 3 comes with a 13-megapixel main camera that’s capable of capturing great-looking images. I did notice a fair amount of noise in some shots that were zoomed in at full resolution, but for most common uses of smartphone photos — like online sharing and standard-size printing — the Note 3’s camera should more than meet your needs.

The exception is in low-light conditions, where the Note 3 — like most smartphones — struggles, especially compared to a low-light-optimized device like the HTC One.

The Note 3’s camera interface is easy enough to use, if a little bloated with silly and gimmicky features. All in all, it’s quite similar to what we saw on the Galaxy S4.

There are, however, a few Note 3-specific camera qualities worth noting:

The Note often seems to stick on a “Processing” message for a few seconds after capturing a photo. This can be annoying when you’re trying to capture photos fast.

The phone’s “burst” mode, in which you can capture multiple shots rapid-fire by holding down the shutter button, was also a bit finicky in my experience and sometimes wouldn’t activate.

The Note 3 has a new camera mode called Surround Shot, which is Samsung’s version of Google’s 360-degree Photo Sphere feature. This was a curious omission in the Galaxy S4; it’s nice to see it showing up here.

The Note 3 is capable of capturing 4K resolution videos, but since most people don’t have TVs or displays that support that resolution, the capability probably won’t mean much for you in practical terms at this point — aside from getting files that take up a massive amount of space on your smartphone’s storage.

The Galaxy Note 3 also has a 2-megapixel HD front-facing camera for all your selfie-snapping and video-chatting needs.
The S Pen

Even if you’re convinced you’d never want a stylus, a few days with the Galaxy Note 3 might just change your mind. The phone’s S Pen is a fun and potentially productivity-boosting element of the device that goes a long way in setting it apart from the competition.

The pen’s actual construction, not surprisingly, isn’t its greatest strength: The stylus is plastic and feels light and insubstantial, almost to the point where you fear that squeezing it too hard might cause it to snap. Its single button is also hard to find by touch alone, since the pen feels the same on its top and bottom edge.

But once you get used to its form, the S Pen is packed with power. Pull the pen out of the Note 3 and you’ll immediately see a new pie-chart-style menu called Air Command on your screen; this new element helps make the stylus feel more like a core part of the Note experience than it ever has before.
Galaxy Note 3
The Air Command menu gives you easy access to a handful of primary S Pen functions.

The Air Command menu — which you can also summon anytime by clicking the pen’s button while holding it over the screen — gives you easy access to a handful of primary S Pen functions. The most useful is Action Memo, which lets you jot down quick notes with the pen. You can either save them for later reference or convert them into action-oriented tasks, like shooting a handwritten phone number into the Phone app for dialing or converting a handwritten note into a ready-to-send email.

What’s vexing, though, is that Action Memo is treated as a separate entity from S Note — the more fully featured note-taking app for S Pen use. Notes written in Action Memo are not accessible in S Note; instead, they’re saved in a separate area that’s accessible only by tapping an unlabeled icon in the Action Memo app.

Confusing overlap aside, the separation between the two apps is frustrating because S Note offers the option for automated syncing with Evernote, which makes all of your handwritten notes available and searchable from any mobile device or PC. The syncing has been seamless and instant in my experience, but any notes taken in Action Memo — which, remember, pops up as part of the Air Command menu while S Note does not — aren’t included.

The Note 3 itself does a good job of letting you search through handwritten notes on the device with its S Keeper function. I also really like its system-wide handwriting-to-text functionality: Anytime you’re in a text field, you can hover the pen over the screen and tap a special icon to input text by writing. The Note converts your handwriting into regular text and puts it right into your document, email or whatever you’re composing.

Even with my embarrassingly sloppy penmanship, the system did an impressively good job at deciphering (most of) my words. Particularly with longer messages, I often found it quicker to input text like that than by using a traditional on-screen keyboard.
Galaxy Note 3
Action Memo lets you jot down quick notes with the pen.

Unfortunately, the handwriting-to-text functionality doesn’t work everywhere, as it’s supposed to; I encountered a handful of apps, including Chrome, Twitter and Google Drive, where I couldn’t get the handwriting-input icon to show up. That inconsistency was irksome.

While some of the other S Pen functions struck me as more gimmicky than practical, the stylus also holds serious value for artists or anyone who wants to sketch or scribble on the go. The Note 3 ships with a version of Autodesk’s Sketchbook software that shows off the pen’s excellent accuracy and pressure sensitivity. And while the bundled Polaris Office app does a poor job at stylus-based PDF markup, programs such as RepliGo PDF Reader ($3) or the fully featured OfficeSuite Pro ($15) work well with the pen for that purpose.

Last but not least, Samsung has included a smart feature called S Pen Keeper that sounds an alert on the device anytime it’s separated from the stylus by a certain distance. It kept me from leaving the pen behind on a couple of occasions; you just have to be sure to head into the phone’s settings and enable it right away, as it’s deactivated by default.
The software

The Galaxy Note 3 runs custom Samsung TouchWiz software based on the Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) operating system. Aside from the aforementioned S Pen elements, it’s essentially the same user interface and feature set present in the Galaxy S4.

There are, however, a handful of new features in the Note 3’s software:

Samsung’s Multi Window multitasking feature has a few new tricks up its sleeves. The feature — which lets you split your phone’s screen in half and have two apps open and visible at the same time — now allows you to drag and drop content between windows. With certain programs, like chat services, it also lets you have two instances of the same app open side-by-side.

With the Note 3’s large screen in particular, I found Multi Window to be both cool and useful for times when I wanted to write an email while referencing a Web page, for instance, or look something up in Chrome while watching a YouTube video. Even if you only use it once in a while, it’s a valuable option to have.

The Note 3’s new news-viewing tool, My Magazine, is unnecessary and annoying. It’s basically just a custom-branded and dumbed-down version of Flipboard, and it’s integrated into the Note at such a core system level that it’s hard to avoid and easy to launch by mistake.

Excellent Google services take a back seat to subpar Samsung alternatives on the Note 3, even more so than on past Samsung devices. The Note 3 has system-wide access to the shoddy S Voice app, for instance, but not the far superior native Android Voice Search tool. And there’s no longer a system-wide shortcut to get to the frequently praised Google Now intelligent assistant.

From a corporate-goal perspective, it’s not difficult to understand Samsung’s motivation in promoting its own services over Google’s — but from a user-experience perspective, given the sharp drop in quality, it’s disappointing.
At a Glance
Galaxy Note 3
Samsung
Price: $300 at AT&T, $250 at Sprint, $300 at Verizon Wireless (starting October 10) with a new two-year contract; T-Mobile for $0 down and a two-year $29.50/mo. payment plan; U.S. Cellular sometime in October (no price yet available)
Pros: Excellent display; USB 3.0 for fast charging and data transfers; microSD slot for storage expansion; good battery life; superb pressure-sensitive stylus with accurate handwriting-to-text functionality
Cons: Hardware design feels cheaper and less premium than other smartphones; dated button configuration; inconsistent performance with occasional stutters and delays; bloated user interface; sporadic software errors

I’ve encountered semi-regular software glitches while using Samsung’s S Pen apps and functions — usually several seconds of black followed by a force-close error. This kind of thing absolutely shouldn’t happen with native software on a new phone. I can only hope Samsung addresses these issues with an over-the-air update soon.

I’m not going to spend much time talking about the Note 3’s user interface, since it’s largely unchanged from the Galaxy S4, but I will say this: You’re getting Samsung’s standard mishmash of clashing colors and inconsistent elements. You can, at least, cover up some of those sins with a custom Android launcher such as Nova Launcher, Apex Launcher or Action Launcher Pro. I tested the Note with each of those apps, and all the S Pen-specific enhancements — and even general Samsung-added software features like Multi Window — were accessible and worked fine in the third-party environments.
Bottom line

The Galaxy Note 3 is a standout device with plenty of perks. It has a large, gorgeous screen, fast USB 3.0 charging and data transfers, and a microSD slot for storage expansion. It also has a superb stylus that’s full of interesting potential for productivity and creativity alike.

The Note is held back, though, by some troubling issues. Despite improvements over past models, the phone still feels cheaper and less premium than competing products; its dated button configuration creates awkward usage scenarios that detract from the user experience; its performance is imperfect and its software is bloated and visually inconsistent.

Still, the Note 3 has a lot of good things going for it. If you want a plus-sized phone, the new Note is hands-down the best product you can buy today. And if the functionality of a stylus appeals to you, you’ll be absolutely thrilled with what the S Pen can do.

Just be sure you’re okay with the compromises those benefits require.


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10 encryption tips for the enterprise

10 encryption tips for the enterprise

Whether you’re protecting corporate data from internal leakers, hackers looking to steal money from you and your customers, foreign spies, your own government, or employees accidentally leaving their laptops in a taxi, encryption is today’s hot go-to tool.

But encryption done wrong can be worse than no encryption at all, since it gives you an unwarranted senses of security. Here are tips for doing encryption right.

TIP 1: Use the strongest encryption you can
If your data must absolutely, positively, be protected at all cost, use well-known, battle-tested algorithms and the longest keys you can practically manage. Use hardware-based encryption to take it up another notch. The NSA isn’t the only organization out there with supercomputers.

Intel is one of several companies working on expanding hardware-based encryption technologies. Moving these processes to the hardware level can increase speeds four-fold, says Jason Kennedy, Intel’s director of product management. “By accelerating this process four times, you’re allowing folks to be able to implement your corporate processes much more effectively.”

In addition, full drive encryption on laptops becomes less annoying for employees, who are then less likely to turn it off. “We’re trying to make sure that the security doesn’t get in your way,” says Kennedy.

TIP 2: Keep your keys safe
If your encryption is strong enough that not even a foreign government with a supercomputer can break it, then you’re in for a world of trouble if you lose your encryption keys.

“My first tip to anyone who starts to think about encryption is to think about the keys,” says Tsion Gonen, encryption expert and chief strategy officer at SafeNet. “Keys first, encryption second.”

That means planning ahead for how the keys will be generated, how they will be stored, who will be allowed access, how often the keys will be replaced, and when those keys will be deleted.

This usually requires the use of key management technology, since many of these tasks can be difficult to do manually, and mistakes can be fatal. And, as with passwords, you don’t want to be using the same keys everywhere.

“You should change your keys every two years, under some recommendations,” says Mike Fleck, CEO of CipherPoint Software, a Denver-based security company. And it’s not just for the obvious reason that you don’t want hackers who get their hands on a key to have access to all your data.

“The bigger the sample size of your encrypted data, the more opportunities a hacker has to find patterns in the data and brute-force the key,” he says.

TIP 3: Delete keys to permanently erase data in the cloud
If your company is using the cloud to share sensitive documents or to make convenient backups, are you sure that your files are really gone when you move them to the trash? (Also read a roundtable discussion on cloud security.)

“A customer of ours is an online legal company, and their clients put legal documents on their cloud service,” says SafeNet’s Gonen. “They were asking, ‘If we hit delete on a document, is it really deleted, or was it backed up 10 times somewhere on the cloud infrastructure and could still be around?’ One way to prove that something was deleted is to delete the key. Then it doesn’t matter if it’s still somewhere.”

TIP 4: Use encryption to keep data isolated in shared environments
Whether you’re using an internal system to store data that cannot be commingled, or sharing a public cloud with other tenants, encryption lets you keep the data logically separated.

“If you’re using shared infrastructure — say, consumer banking and corporate banking on an internal cloud — how do you create separation in an isolated matter? You can do that with encryption,” says SafeNet’s Gonen.

TIP 5: Don’t store your keys next to the data
Storing encryption keys right next to the encrypted data is like writing your PIN on your ATM card, like leaving the keys to your safe in the lock itself.

And this applies to both internal and cloud environments. If a hacker – or a privileged but traitorous user – has access to both the encrypted data and to the keys, then all the efforts have been wasted. If the data is stored with a third-party vendor then the risk of hackers and employees gone bad is compounded with that of an outside agency showing up and forcing the vendor to hand over the keys and the data. If you keep the keys in your own possession, government agents can still show up with a subpoena – but they’ll be knocking on your door, and you’ll know they’re looking.

One problem is what to do when, say, a database or system administrator is also in charge of maintaining the keys for the system. The answer, suggests Sol Cates, chief security officer at San Jose-based security firm Vormetric, is to have a different department in the company be responsible for the keys, which are stored in a secure Vormetric appliance.

“What our customers traditionally do is that key management will go to some part of the security organization,” Cates says. “And policy management is usually aligned between human resource management and security, or a collaboration between the business line owner and security.”

“The keys are transported down to the system and stay with the data while it’s being used, so it doesn’t have to go back to the appliance every time,” he says. “Even with heavy load systems like databases, you can still meet performance standards. We have very large enterprise customers, with deployments of thousands of systems that need to be protected. We’ve blinded the infrastructure from the data.”

TIP 6: Don’t give up your keys
Some customers use the Vormertric key management appliance in conjunction with applications running on public clouds as well, says Cates. “What this has done for a lot of our large enterprise customers is it makes the cloud a lot more attractive.” Smaller-scale systems are also available for other uses of public clouds.

If you’re using the cloud to store data you can encrypt the data when it goes out, and decrypt it when you load it back again. The storage vendor never has to see the encryption keys.

A VPN is another example of this approach – it creates an encrypted tunnel between two companies, or between a company or its employees, with the encryption and decryption taking place at the end points.

TIP 7: Function-preserving encryption can be handy, but can come at a price
It is possible to encrypt data in such a way that you’re still able to sort or search it without decrypting everything first. This can be a useful trick if, say, you’re using a cloud-based application like hosted email. You’ll be able to find the emails you need without ever giving the vendor the encryption keys, by encrypting and decrypting everything locally, via a proxy.

There are two potential problems with this approach, however. One is that the more functionality an encryption method preserves, the less secure it is. The additional risk may be minor, and may be fine for some types of data but inappropriate for really sensitive information.

The second problem is that no encryption method preserves all functionality. For example, a spell checker isn’t going to work. To address this issue, developers need to build that functionality into the proxy itself. This means that you’re losing out on one of the advantages of using a cloud-based application – easy and instant access to new features. Instead, when the cloud vendor rolls out a new feature, users have to wait for that feature to be added to the proxy. Plus, proxies have to be developed for each individual online application separately, which can quickly get very expensive.

As a result, only the biggest, most popular online apps – like Salesforce and Microsoft’s hosted Exchange product – have commercially available proxies.

New York-based Vaultive, for example, allows companies to use mailboxes, calendars, notes and tasks of Office 365’s Exchange online component while keeping the encryption keys in-house. Companies install and run Vaultive’s proxy software and all data that goes up into the cloud would be encrypted.

“They can tear down their entire Exchange infrastructure and save a lot of money,” says Ben Matzkel, the company’s co-founder and chief strategy officer. “The remote application would perform its functions against encrypted text, and the outcome would be the same outcome you’d expect if that data wasn’t encrypted. It works for indexing, sorting, creating reports, joining data from different sources and correlating them.”

Other functionality is handled in the proxy itself, including e-discovery, legal holds, filtering and data loss prevention, he says. Next, the company plans to get to work on other online tools available on the Microsoft cloud.

TIP 8: Consider encrypting more than just the data
If you’re using a public cloud to run virtual machines and a hacker gets access to it, they’ll have a leg up on breaking into your data.

“If the Allies had never gotten access to the Germans’ Enigma machine during World War II, they never would have been able to decrypt their messages,” says SafeNet’s Gonen. “You want to give the hackers as few things to work with as possible.”

TIP 9: Consider protection for employees on the go
Even if your company already has a VPN set up for traveling users, don’t forget that employees need protection when accessing personal sites on the Internet as well. Otherwise, when they’re using public Wi-Fi, sensitive corporate documents located on their laptops might be exposed. A number of providers offer services that encrypt Internet traffic when it’s in the public airwaves, decrypt it when it reaches their servers, then send it on the rest of the way through normal Internet channels. For extra security, check that the vendor doesn’t monitor or save the traffic, and can’t link the traffic with real-world user identities.

Similar services can be used for placing Skype calls from mobile devices, not only from public hotspots, but from within foreign countries where hostile governments may be listening in on local conversations.

Washington, D.C.-based Silent Circle, for example, has seen a five-fold spike in sales since the start of June and the NSA leaks.

When both parties subscribe to the same service, the conversation is encrypted end-to-end. When one of the end points is a regular phone, the conversation is encrypted all the way to a Silent Circle server, and goes the rest of the way as a normal call.

There are also companies that will encrypt regular cell phone voice and text traffic.

TIP 10: If you must store the keys with the data, lock up the keys tight
Many laptops are designed to be self-sufficient. After all, employees need to be able to access their documents even when they don’t have an Internet connection. As a result, the keys for decrypting the data have to be stored on the device itself.

You can have employees carry the encryption keys on a separate device, like a thumb drive, that can be used to unlock their laptops. Or you can hide the key on the laptop itself, but in a secure place.

“There’s a chip in laptops that handles encryption, but most applications don’t take advantage of it,” says Richard Moulds, vice president of product strategy at Thales e-Security. Thales e-Security is a business unit of Thales Group, a major French defense, aerospace and security company.

Microsoft BitLocker is one application that does use these chips, he says. “The hackers would literally have to break into the chip and it would be several orders of magnitude more difficult to get access to that key.”

 


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Not even Microsofties trust Microsoft’s approach to privacy

A former privacy policy guru for Microsoft said he no longer trusts Microsoft or its software; he added that Microsoft’s corporate strategy is to grind down your privacy expectations.

“Your privacy is very important to us,” Microsoft is fond of saying. But if a former Microsoft Privacy Chief ​no longer trusts Microsoft, should you?​

“I don’t trust Microsoft now,” stated Caspar Bowden. Although you’ve heard people say that before, the difference is that, from 2002 to 2011, Bowden was the man in charge of Microsoft’s privacy policy for 40 countries. The United States was not one of those countries, and Bowden said he did not know about the PRISM data-sharing program.

Bowden’s statements were made during a conference about privacy and surveillance that was held in Lausanne, Switzerland, and reported on by the Guardian. At one point, Bowden’s presentation slide showed a “NSA surveillance octopus” to help illustrate the evils of surveillance in the U.S. cloud; but this was not a PowerPoint presentation. He was using LibreOffice 3.6 because he doesn’t trust Microsoft software at all anymore. In fact, he said he only uses open source software so he can examine the underlying code.

An attendee pointed out that free software has been subverted too, but Bowden called open source software “the least worst” and the best option to use if you are trying to avoid surveillance. Another privacy tip…the privacy pro also does not carry a personal tracker on him, meaning Bowden gave up on carrying a mobile phone two years ago.

No privacy in the cloud: zero, zippy, none

According to Bowden, “In about 2009 the whole industry turned on a dime and turned to cloud computing – massively parallel computation sold as a commodity at a distance.” He said, “Cloud computing leaves you no privacy protection.” However, “cloud computing is too useful to be disinvented. Unlike Echelon, though, which was only interception, potentially all EU data is at risk. FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) can grab data after it’s stored, and decrypted.”

Bowden authored a paper about “the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs (PRISM) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) activities and their impact on EU citizens’ fundamental rights.” While it mostly dissects how “surveillance activities by the U.S. authorities are conducted without taking into account the rights of non-U.S. citizens and residents,” it also looks at some “serious limitations to the Fourth Amendment for U.S. citizens.”

“The thoughts prompted in the mind of the public by the revelations of Edward Snowden cannot be unthought. We are already living in a different society in consequence,” Bowden wrote [pdf]. He again pointed out the dangers to privacy in cloud computing. “The scope of FAA creates a power of mass-surveillance specifically targeted at the data of non-U.S. persons located outside the U.S., including data processed by ‘Cloud computing’, which eludes EU Data Protection regulation.”

Data can only be processed whilst decrypted, and thus any Cloud processor can be secretly ordered under FISA 702 to hand over a key, or the information itself in its decrypted state. Encryption is futile to defend against NSA accessing data processed by US Clouds (but still useful against external adversaries such as criminal hackers). Using the Cloud as a remote disk-drive does not provide the competitiveness and scalability benefits of Cloud as a computation engine. There is no technical solution to the problem.

He concluded that there is an “absence of any cognizable privacy rights for ‘non-U.S. persons’ under FISA.”

Microsoft’s strategy: Grind down people’s privacy expectations

It was Bowden’s position over privacy policies for Microsoft that makes his point of view important. This man, a privacy expert, no longer trusts Microsoft as a company, nor its software.Microsoft ‘your privacy is our priority’ Yet Microsoft (and most all other companies) love to publicize the quote, “Your privacy is very important to us.” But does Microsoft really care about your privacy?

During an interview with Bowden, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) asked, “Do you think the general public understands how much privacy they have in the digital world?”

Bowden replied, “There’s been a grinding down of people’s privacy expectations in a systematic way as part of the corporate strategy, which I saw in Microsoft.”

Regarding the Guardian’s report that Bowden does not trust the Redmond giant, Microsoft sent this PR-damage control statement to CNET:

“We believe greater transparency on the part of governments – including the U.S. government – would help the community understand the facts and better debate these important issues. That’s why we’ve taken a number of steps to try and secure permission, including filing legal action with the U.S. government.”

About that transparency…LSE asked Bowden, “What’s your view on the transparency policies of tech-companies?”

Bowden replied, “It is purely public relations strategy – corporate propaganda aimed at the public sphere – and due to the existence of secret mass-surveillance laws will never be truly transparent.”


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