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The Geek’s Reading List: Week of December 19th, 2014

Piccioni: “It is not exactly surprising that the “geniuses” who hacked Sony used the old “steal the admin password” route…”This week’s tech news was dominated by the Sony hack and the fact Apple had withdrawn from the Russian market due to the weakness of the ruble.

The Sony hack is less about technology than it is about inept corporate practices, which, given Sony’s recent history, should scarcely be a surprise. I saw countless articles regarding Apple’s decision to suspend sales in Russia, most of which suggested this was, somehow important. One cannot help but wonder whether the average Russian is going to be more concerned with buying food this winter than upgrading to an iPhone 6.

Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association Now Asks Government To Help Stop Google News Closure

Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. The back story to this was that Spanish newspapers figured that Google was stealing their intellectual property by linking to their news sites via Google News. Inflated by moral outrage, they lobbied for, and got, a law compelling payment. Google, which claims to make no revenue from the service, decided that paying to provide traffic to Spanish newspapers didn’t make much sense, so they shut down the site. Not surprisingly, traffic to the Spanish newspapers promptly dropped, resulting in the Spanish newspapers losing ad revenue. You could not make this up.

“The main media lobby behind Spain’s new intellectual property law, which caused Google to announce late on Wednesday night that it was to close Google News in Spain, has now said it wants the Spanish government and European competition authorities to intervene to stop Google shutting down the service. The Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association (AEDE) issued a statement last night saying that Google News was “not just the closure of another service given its dominant market position”, recognizing that Google’s decision: “will undoubtedly have a negative impact on citizens and Spanish businesses”.”

Special Report: How Sony Systems Were Hacked

When hackers are portrayed in the movies, it is often as quirky geniuses with serious personality defects. Few hackers are that bright and they don’t have to be as most hacks start with pretty basic steps and exploit well known security holes. For example, when Sony illegally distributed a rootkit , itself an example of corporate activity which would have led to prison time if a person had committed the act, it did not require the best and the brightest to do so. After all, they hacked Microsoft Windows. So it is not exactly surprising that the “geniuses” who hacked Sony used the old “steal the admin password” route. Why do I believe the admin’s password was “Password123”? You can rest assured numerous large litigation settlements will arise from this hack but the damage to Sony’s film business is probably terminal (see item 5 in the full Geeks Reading List).

“In late breaking news on Thursday, an unnamed U.S. government official told CNN that investigators have solved the vexing question of how the computer network Relevant Products/Services at Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked. Rather than a sophisticated system breach or an inside job, as hypothesized by many in the I.T. security Relevant Products/Services establishment, the answer was actually quite simple. The hackers apparently gained access to Sony’s systems by obtaining the login credentials of a high-level systems administrator in Sony’s I.T. department. Once the credentials were in the hands of the hackers, they were granted “keys to the entire building,” as stated by the U.S. official, who was reportedly privy to government briefings on the topic of the Sony hack.”

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BlackBerry woos keyboard loyalists with launch of Classic

This announcement was made a few days before Blackberry announced “disappointing” financial results. I put quotes around disappointing because the expectations regarding the company’s operating performance do not appear to be founded by any sort of research or analysis, but probably winks and nods from the company itself. In any event, the fact the company would launch such a product shows hows deeply troubled it is (as if all recent announcements had not already established that). All the Classic does is provide an alternative for the rapidly shrinking number of Blackberry users who would even consider purchasing another device from the manufacturer, it would never convince a new adopter to move to the platform. I can buy a dual SIM UNLOCKED Android phone for C$149 at the local computer store, or pay a bit more for a similar unit at Staples. Why on earth would I buy a Blackberry?

“BlackBerry Ltd launched its long-awaited Classic on Wednesday, a smartphone it hopes will help it win back market share and woo those still using older versions of its physical keyboard devices. The Canadian mobile technology company said the new device, which bears striking similarities to its once wildly popular Bold and Curve handsets, boasts a larger screen, longer battery life, an expanded app library with access to offerings from Amazon.com Inc’s Android App store, and a browser three times faster than the one on its legacy devices.”

Tesla’s game-changing, lane-changing Autopilot? “Currently, there is no radar on the market that can achieve that,” Toyota engineer says

It’s almost become a tradition to carry an item on Tesla in the Geeks Reading List, just like it was for Bitcoin for a couple years. I suspect Tesla will be a longer duration story simply because of the massive amounts of capital, and obliviousness (the two are related) injected by Wall Street. Furthermore, it will take a number of years before owners realize the batteries – which are the most expensive component of the vehicle – don’t last wrong and, due to the replacement cost, 5 to 8 year old Teslas should have a zero resale value. Thanks to Alain Bélanger of Novacap for this item.

“Two months ago, Tesla launched its Model D. Not quite a new car, not even a refresh, but the webs went wild. The Model D sports an extra electric motor, and a sensor package. Any other automaker, and such non-news would not even elicit a yawn from the press, save for a few snarky blogs that would torture the maker for not delivering the software for the hardware. Come to think of it, no automaker would dare to deliver hardware sans software, for fear of getting their derrieres handed to them. Tesla is unlike any automaker. As a Silicon Valley company, Tesla has marketing rights to vapor ware. The Model D was feted like the second coming of the Model T, and it was pronounced as equally, if not more disruptive to the industry than the mass-produced Ford.”

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