Category: Hardware

Fingerprints, Security, and the Law

In October of 2013, I wrote a post titled, Device Security: Fingerprints vs Passwords. That post was published about a month after Apple released the iPhone 5S, the first device with Touch ID.

In the post I argued that the choice between password and fingerprint was about optimizing for a particular type of data thief.

On the subject of the police, I stated, “It takes a massive amount of legal proceedings for the police to compel a person to turn over their password.” When it came to fingerprints I argued, “The police can compel you to turn over your fingerprints. There isn’t enough legal precedent to ensure protection from the authorities.

Since publishing this, I have on more than a few occasions been accused of wearing a tin foil hat.

Well my friends, the police are in fact compelling US citizens to use their fingerprints to unlock their phones in cases where they would not be allowed to compel a person to turn over their passwords.

In this particular instance, it sucks to be correct.

If we don’t defend our civil liberties, then the freedoms that make this country worth defending will wither away.

The Geek Whisperer’s 2015 Tech Predictions

I’ve been at this for a long time, this is the first time I’m taking a stab at industry predictions. Let’s see how I do in 12 months.

Security Breaches Everywhere

Information security is going to continue to grow as both a problem, and a political issue.

There will be more point-of-sale breaches at major retailers and large-scale corporate leaks like Sony (they will largely be inside jobs).

This will continue because companies won’t:

  • update their systems
  • implement proper password standards and management
  • hire and empower skilled information security specialists

Security Politicization

All of the breaches are going to grow into larger political issues as legislators try to regulate security.

The proposed laws will be terrible.

Most of our leaders will try their hardest to avoid discussing the fact that the Department of Justice has been actively working to hobble corporate and individual information security for years.

Apple Watch

At launch, there will be a mix of sneering and praise for the Apple Watch, but it will be a runaway success. Their stock price will drop initially.

Why will it be a success?

  • Because Apple
  • Minimally functional wrist-based wearables have already caught-on
  • We use our phones too much, and don’t want to take them out all of the time
  • It’s even more difficult to get your phone in and out of tight pants (watch people when you’re out; this is actually something people struggle with)

User Interfaces Go Vertical

The Apple Watch is going to bring new web and app design trends with it.

I’m in the middle of designing my first Apple Watch app, and I have discovered that because of the “crown,” everything shifts to a vertical interface. I suspect that many iPhone apps will shift to a more vertical experience to create similarities between their iPhone and Apple Watch apps. This will find its way into web design as well.

Apple Watch Theft

(This is the last Apple-related prediction)

Apple Watch theft is going to be a really big thing; especially in the warm months when crime rises and people aren’t covering their wrists with sleeves.

Even if Apple comes up with a very clever theft deterrence system, stolen Apple Watch bands will fetch good money.

"That Milanese Loop will look so great on me... Give it to me or I'll cut you!"
“That Milanese Loop will look so great on me… Give it to me or I’ll cut you!”

Net Neutrality = Giant Mess

The FCC will try to split the proverbial baby on net neutrality, and it’s going to be a mess.

I predict lawsuits from both sides of the issue. No one will be happy, and the ISPs will continue to suck… But lawyers and lobbyists will make money, and that’s all that really matters isn’t it?

Innovations Mobile Gaming

Mobile video games are going to get better, and more interesting.

The comparatively low cost of iOS and Android development vs console gaming, as well as the ubiquity of iOS and Android devices will spur a renascence in mobile video games. We’re going to see more of the quirky, interesting, and unusual indie games that have been priced out of the console market, or lost in the ether.

HTTPS Everywhere(ish)

2015 will be year that one of the browsers will label unencrypted websites as insecure. Many website owners will finally make the leap to HTTPS for everything.

It won’t be perfect, but it will be far better than the current situation.

Backend / Frontend Decoupling

There aren’t many content management systems that are great on both the back and front end.

While not a new concept, more websites will be built with a decoupled front and backend. Look for lots of Drupal backend, and AngularJS frontend sites. The web will be better for it.

API All the Things!

APIs are going to continue to become a necessary business tool for both internal and external purposes.

The non-profit and government worlds will need them to open up and share data.

Companies will want them to power their growing array of external websites and applications.

Really smart organizations will find that internal APIs for cross-department data sharing are more important than an intranet.

[Image via Apple]

Outernet – A Core Technology for the Future

The need for land-based physical infrastructure is one of the Internet’s most significant liabilities.

In more developed countries this liability is most pronounced when a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy rolls through and rips out the infrastructure.

For much of the world, billions of people still don’t have access to the Internet in any way. They are cut off from communication, as well as the storehouse that contains all of humanity’s knowledge (and cat photos).

Complicating Factors

Many of the people who would most benefit from the Internet live in disaster-ridden regions of the world. The places where education could do the most good, get the least information.

And to further complicate this, many of the least developed countries are massive, making physical infrastructure insanely difficult to install and maintain.

Gall–Peters map projection shows relative size of countries more accurately than the mercator map projections that were used in my school.
Gall–Peters map projection shows relative size of countries more accurately than the mercator map projections that were used in my school.

Africa is huge. The continental US could fit into the Sahara. Wiring that continent up for the Internet is a sisyphean task.

The Solution

The best possible solution at the moment is to forego Earth-based infrastructure, and look to space.


“Lantern continuously receives radio waves broadcast by Outernet from space. Lantern turns the signal into digital files, like webpages, news articles, ebooks, videos, and music. Lantern can receive and store any type of digital file on its internal drive. To view the content stored in Lantern, turn on the Wi-Fi hotspot and connect to Lantern with any Wi-Fi enabled device. All you need is a browser.”

For $100 you can purchase and back Lantern on Indiegogo. This will give you access to information when your infrastructure is wrecked, and will help them further develop their infrastructure so they can deliver more information to the people who have no access.

It’s self-powering, and fed information via satellite.

Lantern_DiagramIt’s only a receiver, and it can only deliver information that is loaded onto their satellite network, and Lantern users cannot upload content back to the Internet, but it’s a start.


Much of my current work is focused on getting information in and out of disaster zones. This kind of technology, while limited today, has the potential to empower people who desperately need to reshape their world.

Narrowing humanity’s knowledge and technology gaps are a necessary step towards sustainable peace.

Help Lantern be one of the beacons that the 21st century desperately needs. 

Super Cool Sci-Fi Space Crew Simulator L.M.S. Bikeshed

This is nirvana for a tech, sci-fi, puzzle and game geek.

The L.M.S. Bikeshed

A three-dimensional, three person sci-fi spaceship simulator that makes you feel like you’re in a raptor from Battlestar Galactica, or a runabout from Star Trek, or a whatever other shuttle-craft you want to imagine.

I'm going to have to find a way to get to London to try this.
I’m going to have to find a way to get to London to try this.

Basically three people assume the roles of pilot, weapons and engineering officers trying to fulfill some random mission while the game masters rain problems on your hapless crew. I’ll stop babbling about this awesomeness. Just watch the video over at Shut Up & Sit Down (my favorite Table Top gaming site).

L.M.S. Bikeshed