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Your Privacy Versus The Government

Data SecurityWith the proliferation of mobile devices around the world, data security on these devices is getting truly serious attention. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others are automatically encrypting data on these devices. This encryption is getting so strong that it has intelligence and law enforcement agencies very concerned. They’re worried they won’t be able to get into these devices during investigations.

What Is Encryption?

I won’t be getting too technical, but here is the concept: The data on your mobile phone gets randomly scrambled based on a complex key. That key allows your phone’s operating system (Android, iOS, Windows Mobile) to descramble and use the data. If you legitimately access the phone with a passcode or biometric check (like fingerprint reader), then you can access data on the phone. If you don’t have the passcode, your truly locked out. Even if you disassemble the phone and remove the storage element, all you’ll be able to see is jumbled, meaningless numbers, letters, and symbols. Without the encryption key, it could take a supercomputer thousands of years to discover the key that decrypts the data.

Governments Want a Back Door

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies want a special key to a “back door” to access data on phones. Sounds reasonable, but there are ramifications. If there’s a known back door, then malicious hackers have a target. These people will find it. That’s what they do. Also there’s the obvious government intrusion potential.

It’s Not A Good Idea

For the greater good, a government back door just can’t be a good idea. While it would make investigations much easier, the potential for abuse and exploitation is just too great. It’s not whether abuse will occur but when. When pressed, I think most investigators will admit that other tactics will discover the evidence they need. And there’s always the possibility a suspect can be convinced to surrender a passcode to access a mobile device’s data.

If a universal back door exists and is exploited, it puts a huge number of people at extreme risk for identity theft and more. A virtual skeleton key to access any device is so profoundly dangerous to the well being of so many people, it’s ludicrous to even consider.

Anyone who argues otherwise is shortsighted or untrustworthy.

Learn more: Daily Dot9to5mac

Apple Music’s Biggest Problem

iCloud Music Library Raining on Apple Music

Apple Music has emerged as my favorite music streaming service … but it ain’t perfect. And the Achilles heel is iCloud Music Library.

iCloud Music Library is Seriously Flawed

I use playlists, and I have several filled with tunes that are not in my personal music collection. To enjoy this feature, I must have iCloud Music Library enabled. And for the most part, that’s fine. Until I want to listen to one of my own more obscure tracks.

In theory, iCloud Music Library will scan my collection and make all the matching tunes in Apple’s library available to me. If it can’t find a match a tune, then it uploads my own tune to make it available to me.

Big surprise! It doesn’t usually work.

Example 1: I have a track of the Olympic fanfare followed by Summon the Heroes. So the matching song in Apple’s cloud doesn’t include the Olympic fanfare (selfish Olympic rights holders?). So that is less than optimal.

Example 2 (but related to 1): I cannot just drag and drop my Olympic fanfare/Summon the Heroes track to my iPhone. That’s right! I can’t just attach it my my PC and use iTunes to copy over my preferred track (or any other track for that matter). I’m assuming Apple can’t fathom a world where any of their “solutions” would ever fall short of customer expectations. Perhaps, I’m expecting it wrong??

My Workaround

Okay, this scenario doesn’t really impact me very often, and I hate workarounds. But we live in a techie world, so workarounds are part of our worlds.

Settings Music

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings/Music.
  2. Tap the toggle to turn off iCloud Music Library.
  3. Confirm that you wish to turn off that feature.
  4. Connect the iPhone to your computer and use iTunes to add your desired music tracks.
  5. On your iPhone, return to Settings/Music to enable iCloud Music Library.
  6. Confirm that you wish to Merge the media resources on your iPhone.

Hope this helps!

Amazon Tries to Improve Work Conditions, and You Can, Too

Amazon Misery

Living smart with your tech begins with making your living. Choosing where and how you work is critical to a balanced life. This topic has been gnawing at me for a long time, and this seems like an appropriate time to post it.

Last summer, the New York Times reported on some unflattering work conditions at Amazon. Punitive performance reviews for employees who missed work due to serious health issues or tending to grave family matters were just a couple of the cited examples. To be fair, Amazon is far from the only organization with such a corporate culture.

But Bloomberg recently reported that Amazon is working on it. And in a fairly innovative way. The company is soliciting employee feedback on a daily basis, aggregating the responses, and reporting on perceptions. This sort of daily barometer should help managers understand the atmosphere they are fostering, compare it to stated goals, and make adjustments as needed.

Many of us find ourselves in work environments that are less than optimal. If you’re miserable, you need to understand what made the environment the way it is and then realize your options.

Your Drive

Professional Life

You probably want to do good work, be recognized for it in meaningful ways, and be provided opportunities to advance and receive more take-home pay. These desires drive us and encourage us to get up and go to work each day.

Your Bosses

The person to whom you report used to have these basic desires, but now he or she has additional responsibilities. In many places, bosses are expected to manage you (not just your work) to meet organizational goals. Some of those goals aren’t supposed to be shared with you, so your boss walks a fine line sometimes. Your boss is expected to make things happen on the front lines that conform to those organizational goals … and every now and then a goal might actually compete with others.

Their Bosses

Your boss’s bosses answer to a wider group of organizational stakeholders: Executives, board members, shareholders, etc. They truly earn their pay at this level because they likely never stop working. Evenings and weekends chained to their work-issued smartphones aware of each and every incoming email message. The organizational goals can be difficult to manage. Some goals are fleeting and some are long-term. All are probably communicated as “critical”.

The Result

The scatter-brained response to answering to disjointed demands can result in a organization run by fear of not meeting all these overwhelming goals. And this fear trickles down to you.

The Unexpected: You’re Human

For your direct boss, this is all difficult to manage. He or she needs all available resources to meet objectives. You are one of those resources. When you’re not available, your boss might consider you the problem.

You’re human, and sooner or later you’re going to have demands outside of work. If you’re out of the office a day or two here and there, that’s manageable. When you have a serious illness or condition that takes you out of commission for weeks, that’s not manageable. And corporate fear could result in your manager perceiving you as a liability.

Your boss and your boss’s bosses aren’t evil. They don’t hate you, per se, when you can’t perform as expected. They fear how their bosses will react when objectives aren’t met.

This fear can impact you in surprising ways. Like when your boss tells you that your cancer is affecting your work.

The Solution: Examine What’s Important Before You Make a Change

When you’re in this kind of environment, you can seek to work somewhere else. Also, you should really examine how you measure your success. Do you want to make yourself comfortable? Or do you want to keep up with the Joneses? Either answer is acceptable as long as it’s honest.

Personally, I used to want a large custom home, all the latest gadgets, and a nice automobile. These things are high-cost items. But I’ve learned there is a high cost of earning a high living. No family time. No uninterrupted time off. Living to juggle the next email message … and the one after that. Some people can manage this lifestyle in stride, so their cost of earning that living might be acceptable. For others, this lifestyle is miserable.

If having time for yourself and family are also important, you’ll have to decide where your balance is for you and for them. Perhaps, a track home or apartment is comfortable. Perhaps a Chevy is as good as a Cadillac. Perhaps the 2-year-old smartphone and 3-year-old laptop still work well. And quality downtime with your family and friends can be realized.

I’m not going to expand into philosophical or religious aspects that might influence your decisions. All of that is up to you.

I’m also not going to discuss at length the whole notion of finding work you like. But there is something to the old saying “find work you like, and never work another day”. That’s cute, but there’s always a reason they call it “work” and not “fun”.

Personal Life

But there are jobs out there that allow you to balance your professional and personal life. Organizations that actually support you if you need to tend to health and family matters. But jobs like these might not make you rich.

But in other ways, these jobs might make you richer.

Review: Anker ToughShell for iPhone 6s Plus

iPhone in ToughShell - Front and Back

Disclosure

Anker provided their ToughShell for iPhone 6s Plus without cost in return for an unbiased review, and I promise that is what follows here.

Packaging

Anker’s product packaging continues to be as thoughtful as anything Apple can design. Opening the ToughShell package was pleasant and looked classy.

Anker ToughShell Packaging - Closed and Open

Look

The case looks rich and professional. The design appeals to my own preference of solid, well-built understatement. Even the Anker emblem is embossed in a classy-yet-inconspicuous way.

Build quality

The materials used are of very good quality. It looks good and feels just as good. No mushy feeling air gaps under the shell. I don’t think this aspect of the case could be any better.

Feel

Lightweight and smooth, which is good for easily gliding in and out of pockets and purses. It’s easy enough to hold while using, but some might prefer a less slippery feel. This is a subjective preference, of course, but buyers might want to be aware of this.

Protection

The back and sides are well protected. The corners feature built-in shock absorbing bumpers that should offer adequate protection from a usual drop. The front offers a raised edge that will most likely protect your phone from a drop onto a flat surface. The barely there design for the front bezel helps the iPhone maintain its aesthetics. Some people (like me) might want that front protection to be a tad deeper, but it probably protects the phone just fine. This design makes it easier to swipe in from the edges to take advantage of iOS features. Deeper bezels can get in the way.

Fit

The ToughShell fits the iPhone 6s Plus like a glove, and installing it on the phone was a breeze. The case holds the phone just about perfectly and with confidence. A drop will not dislodge the phone from this case.

Use: Access to buttons

The volume and sleep/power buttons are covered by the case, but pressing any of them is simply effortless. The button covers are designed to be flush with the case. This is great for aesthetics, but it’s not so easy to locate the buttons by feel. I imagine this would become easier over time as you get used to the case.

Use: Access to ports/mute toggle

Accessing the mute toggle, headphones jack, and lightning port are very easy. While they are not covered by the case, they are recessed for protection.

Here is the only real criticism I can find for the ToughShell case: Anker’s own lightning cables will not fit into the opening for the lightning port. I tried Anker’s 3ft, 6ft, and 3ft braided lightning cables, and none will fit. If you pull firmly up on the front lower lip of the case, you can manage to connect Anker’s cable. But this is an awkward chore that requires one more hand than most people have. Meanwhile, Apple’s OEM lightning cables fit perfectly. Go figure.

Anker-brand Lightning Cables Do Not Fit in the Case, but Apple Cables Work Fine.

Conclusion

I can easily recommend this case to any iPhone 6s Plus owner. If you’re looking for this level of protection, Anker’s ToughShell appears to offer great protection and professional looks for a terrific price point for an excellent overall value.