Monthly Archives: July 2010

Scanner Kit SDK 4.0 Available Today!

Just a quick note about the Big in Japan team’s latest milestone. Yesterday they released the iOS4 compatible barcode scanner SDK for developers. If you are a developer who has already used our SDK in your app to scan barcodes or you are a developer thinking about using our SDK in your app – please download our new version ASAP. From the release notes:

NEW – (Friday July 30th, 2010) – Version 4.0.0

  • Complete overhaul of underlying barcode scanning and camera frame grabbing logic.
  • Vastly improved performance and API enhancements
  • Full compatibility with iOS 4.0 and Apple’s App Store policies and guidelines. (No more “UIGetScreenImage()”)
  • Full compatibility with iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G devices

Download the Scanner Kit SDK for iPhone today!

On NDAs (revisited)

Everyone in Dallas seems to be building a mobile application and lots of these people call or email me to share their ideas with me. More than a few of these entrepreneurs ask me to sign an NDA before they are willing to ask for my feedback and/or advice. The quick answer is that I don’t want to sign your NDA. Feel free to solicit free advice from me, but please quit asking me to sign a contract.

Anil Dash wrote a pretty good post titled, “One more time: No NDAs“. Anil points out that a lot of people feel the same way. His reasons were pretty good and worth repeating:

  • When you ask me to sign your NDA, you’re basically saying, in writing, that you don’t trust me. It’s your prerogative to say that, but it’s a pretty lousy context in which to ask for a favor.
  • I have to pay a lawyer to review a document without having any idea why I’m making that investment. No, I won’t “just sign it” without having a lawyer look it over, because it’s a legally binding document whether a lawyer reads it or not.
  • If your idea’s that good, it’s probably not that rare. I hate to be the one to point it out, but protecting your idea in general is a fool’s errand — good execution is hard to find, but good ideas are cheap.
  • I could get screwed through no fault of my own if some other random person walks up to me and blurts out the same idea that you’ve had. Being exposed to the risk of a lawsuit even if I haven’t done anything wrong sucks.
  • If I couldn’t be trusted with your idea, you’d already know about it. There are folks who don’t like me, or who are annoyed by me, but if I’d broken somebody’s trust in regard to their work, I guarantee it’d be just about the first thing you’d find when you Google my name.
  • The biggest value I can probably offer you is that I would talk about what you’re working on. If I honor your NDA, and I meet a great investor or potential employee or valuable partner for your new venture, I wouldn’t be able to tell them about it.

Republicans hate the unemployeed?

The Washington Monthly is running an article by Steve Benen titled, “Republicans just don’t like the unemployed.” Feel free to read the post, but the title really says it all. Democrats like Steve (generally) think that extending unemployment benefits will help ‘fix’ the jobs problem here in the United States. They suggest that if you oppose extending jobless benefits you are somehow mean or heartless. I think Democrats like Steve are missing the point, on purpose.

Republicans (generally) believe that by extending unemployment benefits you will reduce the incentive to find employment. Democrats argue there aren’t enough jobs as they cite their favorite (un-sourced) statistic: “Nationwide, there are five applicants for every one opening”. The truth is probably at lot more complex and perhaps distasteful. Over the past two years we have seen a severe contraction in the job market, but prevailing wages (i.e. the amount someone is willing to pay someone else for a given job) have declined.

Republicans assume someone earning $50,000 who loses his job is likely to hold out for a $50,000 position while utilizing his unemployment benefits. If his jobless benefits expire before he finds a position he may be forced to accept a lower paying job – say $35,000. Ironically, the job seeker will still make more than he made on unemployment and he is gaining valuable job experience and will likely be able to move back up the wage ladder as the economy grows and recovers. Extending jobless benefits may allow the job seeker to avoid accepting a lower paying job keeping him out of the employment market longer potentially making him less and less attractive to potential employers. It is hard for most workers to accept that they aren’t worth the $50,000 they made last year to accept that $35,000 position – but it is most likely the best economic decision they could make.

The new issue for many facing long term unemployment is that they created lifestyles they can no longer afford. Imagine earning $120,000 per year and spending every penny on your house and other non-discretionary expenses. Your biggest fixed cost is your house and you can’t sell it. What do you do if you lose your job? The bad news is that unemployment benefits don’t even come close to solving your problem – the real answer is for you to change your lifestyle. Giving you another six months of benefits won’t do you a bit of good.

Thank Google for sniffing your network!

This is the story that won’t die and perhaps that is a good thing. Some background: Google hires drivers to carry their photographic and wifi listening equipment on almost all of the streets of the world. Starting in 2006 Google’s listening system began storing ‘snippets’ of email, text, photographs and websites from wireless access points all over the world. Google wasn’t trying to listen for those snippets – just the existence of the wireless access points. Turns out you can map those access points so that a wireless phone user can determine his location without GPS – he just listens for mapped wireless access points. Neat idea.

Consumer Watchdog figured out that Google accidentally ‘sniffed’ the networks of various high profile politicians like Congresswoman Jane Harman who heads the sub committee for Homeland Security. They point out that Jane has an open wifi network at her home and could have leaked out vital information. Turns out most Congress people have open wifi networks at their homes – even internet savvy legislators like Henry Waxman.

The real issue here is not Google. They have fixed their system and that should be that. The real issue is that Google collected the data by accident. What if they had been trying to collect the data? I suspect they wouldn’t have issued a press release letting us know they were snooping on us. I bet they wouldn’t have switched channels so quickly, instead I suspect they would listen on all channels continuously.

The Russians and Chinese are actively engaged in espionage to uncover our public and private secrets. How hard would it be to hire an army of drivers to collect data from unsecured networks? Turns out not hard at all – and not that expensive either. The first step is for EVERYONE to take security more seriously. Congress should pass rules for members – we might want to have the Congressional IT staff lock down the home networks of each member. Hardware manufacturers should turn on tight security by default. America is wide open – we have a lot to lose. I think Google deserves our thanks, not our scorn for helping to uncover this glaring hole…