No honey, actually it’s NOT my speeding fine. Google Location History – bit creepy, pretty useful

google-latitude-cell-phone-tracker

I’ve just discovered the Google Location History page for my account, that tracks where I’ve been, based on my iPhone pinging Google on a regular basis. I can’t work out whether to be completely creeped out, or to shiver with excitement with all the ideas welling up around what useful applications you could build around the data. It’s actually been around for a while, it’s part of the Google Latitude product.

Here’s my map for the past 30 days:

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 5.37.03 PM

Big concentration of dots around the David HQ in Brighton. Couple of trips up to the northern suburbs (that’ll be sports games with my son); and a big trip down to the south east of Victoria, when we had a delightful day in the country, including stopping by the snail farm for some escargot.

Before you panic, this page is only available to you, not publicly, and you can delete the history at any time. To reach all this goodness, log into your Google Location History page. It’s possible to invite friends to access your Latitude data as well.

It had not struck me until I searched around a little, but an obvious application for this data is tracking company employees and assets. For example, Google has their own service via Google Maps for Business.

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Clearly there are security and privacy concerns around this data. It’s a little strange seeing my travels mapped with such accuracy. And of course there are the positive tales, like stolen property being recovered using Latitude data.

However, here’s the really neat stuff, look what turned up in our mail today:

speed-fine

Yes, oops. Someone was a little over the speed limit earlier this month, there was some debate in our household who this might have been, neither of us could recall who was out and about on Dendy Street at lunchtime on 8 May. I decided to fall on my sword and sign the form and accept responsibility – and the demerit points.

But now I’ve checked Google Latitude, here’s my map for the day:

dendy-street

Dendy Street is up the top – I never went near there, at least not with my iPhone in my pocket, and it’s a rare time I leave the house without my phone. Not sure this is worth broaching with @FionaK, so I’ll cop to the fine anyway.

I’m liking my 40 times faster internet access – please don’t cap me at 25Mbps Mr Abbott

1billion-miles-per-hour

A nice man from BigPond turned up today and installed cable internet for us, so we now have both cable and ADSL internet connected at home. I’ve been running tests using speedtest.net and the difference is remarkable.

Our ADSL is supposed to be ADSL2+, the fastest available, here’s our speed test result (with my Mac connected via ethernet).

bigpond-adsl

And here’s the cable result (with my Mac connected via wi-fi, not even ethernet).

bigpond-cable

The iPads are running around 40Mbps, iPhones around 17Mbps, not quite sure why the phones are a little slower, but to be frank it’s still a lightyear improvement.

The gamers, YouTubers, Apple TVers and other bandwidth sucks in my house are going be like pigs in clover.

Oh, and just to make the political point – I for one am not interested in the slightest at the idea of a maximum of 25Mbps as proposed by the Liberal opposition. Even if my cynicism about the TV lobby is unfounded. Let’s do a count of what devices are online right now (I can hear some of them from my study), by my reckoning:

  • 3 iPhones (including me checking Twitter to avoid working)
  • 3 Macs (including me trying to get some work done)
  • 2 iPads (I hear at least one playing Hi-5 YouTube clips)
  • Playstation with Call of Duty in full battle

And this is a lighter than normal load, our eldest daughter, one of the major net consumers, is not here. Whilst there’s no question we are a geeky household, nobody can tell me we are particularly out of the ordinary these days. Why on earth you would introduce such a low ‘cap’ on the nation’s ability to access the internet is beyond me.

Image: jpctalbot

So Yahoo is buying Tumblr – apparently it’s a terrible idea and a good idea

tumblr-yahoo

I’m really only mildly interested in the news Yahoo is buying Tumblr, although I like the purchase price of $1.1b because it means my flickering hope of striking rich is still alive, just have to find the right idea.

What has interested me is the coverage in the media. Because depending on which commentary you read it’s either a genius move, or a damned stupid one. Yahoo kind of set the trend by promising not to stuff up:

“Per the agreement and our promise not to screw it up, Tumblr will be independently operated as a separate business”

And off we go…

“paying $1.1 billion for a company with $13 million in revenue seems a little nuts to me”.

Roger Kay at Endpoint Technologies

Tumblr generated about $13 million of revenue last year. It also, presumably, lost money. Some pundits glance at these numbers and conclude that obviously the Tumblr deal is just yet another hallucination by idiot managers who don’t understand that they’re paying good money for nothing…..These criticisms are silly.

 on the Yahoo Finance site

Tumblr faces a fundamental problem that starkly differentiates it from Facebook and Twitter. It will probably never grow as larger as either rival, having long catered to an audience of artists and creative types that limit its base to hundreds of millions of people, not billions.

Abram Brown on Forbes.com

To both make money off of Tumblr while not infecting it with the company’s anodyne reputation will be a huge challenge. Here’s hoping Yahoo actually doesn’t screw it up.

Joe Brown on wired.com

One has to applaud Marrisa Mayer’s “go big or go home” move and the notion that Yahoo’s board is standing behind this purchase will (reportedly) full support. A successful integration of Tumblr into Yahoo’s forward-looking strategy could end a losing streak of purchases and fizzled launches which includes Maven Networks and Geocities as well as Livestand and Yahoo 360.

Allen Weiner on businessspectator.com.au

“the more I look at this tie-up, the more it makes sense to me”

Felix Salmon, Reuters

Tumblr’s users are almost universally unhappy with the news that the site might get sold to Yahoo. And they may let their fingers do the talking, and the walking.

Ingrid Lunden on TechCrunch

I give up. I have no idea whether this is a good idea or a bad idea.

Could the Liberal Party’s opposition to the NBN be in part driven by TV broadcast lobby?

google-fiber

Google has been rolling out its Google Fiber internet connections in communities in the USA. Google Fiber offers a 1Gb internet service for $US70 a month, $US120 including tv channels. It’s basically akin to a Foxtel cable connection to your home, but with blisteringly fast internet.

An article on the Forbes website caught my eye this morning “Online Video Soars As Traditional Broadcast Collapses“. Apparently in areas where Google Fiber is available video on demand services delivered over the internet are booming, and traditional broadcasters are suffering badly:

Demand for VOD is growing even more quickly than analysts expected, as traditional broadcast audiences shrink and the market for traditional broadcast content implodes. As consumers spend increasingly more time on their mobile devices, revenue from broadcast advertising has suffered. Broadcasters have cancelled 18 programs from the 2012-2013 season so far, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Also interesting is how it’s spurring other internet providers to take action:

Google Fiber’s influence is impacting other carriers as well: within a week of Google’s announcement of expansion to Austin, Texas, AT&T announced a 1 Gbps plan for Austin and Time Warner Cable  announced new city-wide wireless service for its Austin customers.

In Australia we’re staring down the gun barrel of a change of government, to a Liberal party that wants to neuter many of the benefits of the National Broadband Network, the Labor Government’s plan to install fibre to the home internet – and which is already up and running in some suburbs.

The simplest way to express the difference between Labor and Liberal is speed. Because the Liberal plan does not delivery a fiber connection to your home (or business premise), instead replying on a ‘last mile’ of copper or wi-fi, inevitably speed is comprised. Tony Abbot is on record as saying that 25Mb is “is going to be enough, more than enough, for the average household”. If you want the full 1Gb potential you’ll have to pay for the fiber to be extended to your home. In contrast the NBN brings the fiber directly into your home, just like your pay TV cable.

The Liberal’s argue their plan is cheaper and better. The problem is almost no expert or commentator seems to agree with them, based on my probably biased survey of news stories.

Their policy is all the more stranger because the person in the driving seat is Malcolm Turnball, the Shadow Minister for Communications. Malcolm made his considerable fortune from innovation online – especially as one of the early backers of pioneering Australian internet company Ozemail. I’ve long been fascinated at Malcolm’s opposition to the NBN, it just seemed against what surely must be his past experiences of how innovation in internet connectivity can stimulate a community and economy.

The Forbes article piqued my interest. The local television broadcast companies have long been loud and effective lobbyists in Canberra. Their mega-rich owners always happy wheel and deal – and on occasion threaten and cajole – our politicians. And traditionally they’ve opposed innovation and competition in their very lucrative,

So it made me wonder if the broadcasters have been reading the tea leaves and realising just how much of a threat the NBN poses to their cosy oligopoly – and whispering in the ears of the Liberal party power brokers? Rupert Murdoch, who owns a serious chunk of Foxtel, doesn’t hide his distaste for the Labor government, and though his Australian newspapers has been relentlessly pushing the Liberal cause.

murdoch

Unfortunately we may have no choice, the campaign has been successful and the polling says we face the proposed of a Liberal government come the end of the year. I did enjoy this article suggesting it’ll be the NBN that saves Labor, but to be honest I’m not holding out much hope.

Please help Newt Gingrich name his hand-held computer (hint, smartphone)

Apparently Newt Gringrich, the prominent US politician, is trying to keep up with the times. In this priceless video posted on YouTube the other day Newt muses over a conundrum apparently keeping everyone up at night over at Gingrich Productions. Gingrich Productions is, incidentally, “a performance and production company featuring the work of Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich”. One naturally presumes as a ‘production company’ some involvement with technology and communications equipment.

Yes, Newt is seriously discussing what to call a smartphone – by which I mean it seems he has never heard the word ‘smartphone’ and instead is asking viewers to come up with suggestions of what to name this new-fangled multi-purpose device. His best idea so far is ‘hand-held computer’.

Curiously, in an interview with The Weekly Standard the interviewer asserts:

“it’s clear that Newt is fascinated by tipping points–moments where new technology or new ideas cause revolutionary change in the way the world works.”

It seems Newt hasn’t been keeping up. Perhaps he’s been too busy reviewing books on Amazon. Fun fact of the day, despite his day jobs, including a stint as Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Newt is, wait for it, a Top Reviewer on Amazon.

No honey, I didn’t buy a TAG Heuer watch on eBay using PayPal

The phishers are getting better and better, and it’s fascinating how, by playing the law of averages, inevitably they strike it lucky. This is an email Fiona just received:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 2.12.58 PM

It looks perfect, exactly like a PayPal/eBay purchase confirmation. And the kicker is, I already have a TAG Heuer watch, and we’re extensive users of PayPal, so Fiona came asked, ‘hey did you buy another TAG watch?’.

I showed her how, if you View Source on this email (or indeed, in Mac Mail hover your mouse over the links) the actual URLs are in Russia, with a .ru address.

Of course we did not try any of the links. But I’ll bet my last dollar that the pages will be excellent copies of the PayPal log in pages, and thus the scammers would have access to our PayPal account, and our linked bank accounts and credit cards.

Here’s PayPal’s page on spotting fake emails:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 2.21.39 PM

The fake email Fiona received doesn’t ask for personal information. The only thing that triggers an alarm at first glance is the lack of a personal salutation – notice it just says ‘Hello,’, not ‘Hello Fiona’.

And not everyone knows how to check the URLs behind the links of an email, and to realise they are not pointing to the real PayPal web site.

Another blogger has also seen this email and pulled it apart some more to reveal the type of nasty Javascript exploit you could be exposed to by following the links.

Select a random record with SQL server

Easy little trick, if you need to select a random record with SQL server as part of a query:

SELECT TOP 10 column,column FROM table ORDER BY newId()

Or could do:

SELECT TOP 10 percent column,column FROM table ORDER BY newId()

This is not brilliant for very large data sets, you can use TABLESAMPLE, for example:

SELECT column, column FROM table TABLESAMPLE (10 PERCENT)

Or:

SELECT column, column FROM table TABLESAMPLE (100 ROWS)

There is  caveat with TABLESAMPLE, it’s not fabulously random – and the number of rows returned may not match what you asked for, especially with small values, so if you ask for 10 records you might get back 20. And if you ask for 5 you might not see anything returned at all. I’m not entirely sure I’ve completely wrapped my head around TABLESAMPLE, you can read more on MSDN. But newId() is something I use all the time, and I’d stick with that unless you find your data set is large and the query is slow.