IoT Appliances Hacked

Proofpoint, an Internet security firm, has announced the first reported incident of a security problem with connected, “smart,”  appliances, which are proliferating in the growing “Internet of Things (IoT).”   In this case hackers broke into over 100,00 consumer appliances, including  home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, TVs, and at least one refrigerator, to send over 750,00 malicious emails during the period from 12/23/13 to 01/06/14.   The appliances were relatively easy to hack because they were set up poorly and/or used  the default passwords that came with the device (never a good idea).  The Proofpoint News Release stated,” As the number of  such connected devices is expected to grow to more than four times the number of connected computers in the next few years, proof of an IoT-based attack  has significant  implications for device owners and enterprises.”   Yes… “Significant implications, ”  indeed…IoT networks need to have security.  Companies like Cisco need to provide security products and services for home and enterprise networks, and consumers need to use them.  Systems can include  monitoring software.  IoT products can be truly “smart,” and they can monitor themselves and provide security alerts.  If users and providers  include  security as a priority for their IoT systems, the risk of an IoT installation will be no worse than the average computer, and probably better than the average mobile device.

 

Google Makes a Strong Play into the IoT

In related news, this week it was reported that Google bought an IoT company, Nest Inc., for $3.2Billion.  Nest was founded by Tony Fallon, who is generally given lots of credit for the design and development of the iPad while he was at Apple, The company makes a smart thermostat and a carbon monoxide detector.  The company’s products are beautifully-designed, and the announcement of Google’s acquisition caused excitement in the technology industry.  $3.2 Billion is quite a commitment, even for Google.  The move validates the bullish forecasts for the IoT market, and it positions Google to be a major player in that market.

 

Bill Patch

01/17/14

The "Internet of Things " is Coming

If you haven’t heard much about The Internet of Things (IoT), you soon will.  Also called “The Internet of Everything,”  this refers to the connection of everyday objects to the Internet.  Once objects are wirelessly connected, using sensors installed in them, to the Internet cloud, then data can be transmitted from them and collected and  accessed by various devices, including smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. Appliance manufacturers like LG and computer network companies like Cisco are already installing hardware and software.  There are a bunch of companies, including an especially bright one named ” Evrything,”  that are producing software that collects data from the things and transmits it to the Internet.

Billions of Things, Trillions of Dollars

The technology is already in place to connect all the things in our life, and to start them communicating with us.  All that’s required are:  a) Sensors, which measure things like whether a door is open or closed, or the amount of electricity being consumed by an appliance, or whether a parking space is filled or empty; b)Connectivity, either through a base station or embedded in the device itself; and c) Processors, to parse incoming data from the sensor(s) and transmit it.  IDC, a respected technology market research firm, predicts there will be 30.1 billion installed autonomous things connected by 2020, when  the  IoT industry will generate $ 8.9Trillion revenue in products and services.  ( Source:  Business Insider,  “The 6 Basic Building Blocks for the Things in “The Internet of Things,’  12/31/2013.

Public Trust Is Needed

People close to the industry tend to treat the connection of everything through the Internet as a fait accompli–because it can be done, of course it will be.  They point to the obvious benefits, including public safety and more efficient buildings.  When gas lines can be constantly monitored for leaks, and bridges can be constantly monitored for dangerous wear and tear, and bodies can be monitored for early heart attack signs, and food can be monitored for freshness, and products can be tracked throughout their manufacturing life cycle, lives can be saved and products can be produced more efficiently.  However, in the current environment privacy concerns may slow the growth of the totally connected world.  Today, we see the top executives of some of the leading technology companies writing public letters and making public speeches  to the NSA, decrying the government agency’s misuse of data collected from them. Tim Cook,, Apple’s CEO,recently called them “malicious hackers.”  This self-serving, all-too-public, whining is coming from companies who previously cooperated silently with the collection of all sorts of data about their customers.

 If tech companies cannot protect their customers’ information better than they have thus far, people will not trust the IoT enough to achieve the kind of comprehensive connectivity the tech gurus envision.  Tech companies have to make stronger, safer products–ones that can protect us from malicious  hackers.  If care is taken to build secure systems and gain public trust, the IoT will arrive as a natural evolution.   

Bill Patch

01/01/2014

NAR: Use of Internet for Home Search by Buyers Hits All-Time High at 92%

According to an Inman News article posted on November 4th,2013, “Use of the Internet among consumers in the homebuying process continues to grow, but those buyers are more, not less, likely to use a real estate agent, according to an annual survey from the National Association of Realtors.”  NAR’s study, which  was based on 8767 people who purchased a home between June

 

 

Picture 3 2012 and June 2013 , reported that  92% of the buyers used the Internet to search for homes, up from 90% last year  and 71% in 2003.  The report also indicated that 88% of the buyers used an agent.  Interestingly, 42% said searching online was their first step in the buying process, while 17% said their first step was contacting an agent.  In summary, buyers are using the Internet to search and agents to help with the purchase transaction.  As various local markets lead the recovery in the real estate industry, realtors need to match the consumers’ requirements for technology and services.  Consumers understand that purchasing a home is a complex transaction, one  that requires expertise to protect against the risk of mistakes and to guide the process to a smooth and successful completion.  Most homebuyers are tech-savvy enough to use property search applications  to find potential homes to buy.  Successful  realtors  include both requirements in their marketing strategies, and they provide home search (IDX) programs on their websites, so  prospective homebuyers can search MLS listings and generate buyer transaction leads directly to the realtor. Successful realtors also  provide a full set of services for buyers, both to achieve client satisfaction with the purchase, but also to generate future business (81% of the sellers used a full-services broker, and 63% chose the broker via a referral).   Agents who used to think that representing buyers consisted of finding and showing them listings from the MLS  now understand that they can rely on a good IDX system for some of the finding process, and they focus instead on responding to leads generated by the IDX, showing homes, and  managing the purchase process for the buyer.

Blazing Systems helps hundreds of Delaware Valley realtors with marketing strategies, websites,  and an industry-leading

IDX home search.  Please contact us to arrange a free initial consultation.

     Bill Patch

12/03/13

 

 

 

 

 

 

Websites that WORK

Congratulations!  You’ve  invested the time, energy, and resources to design and develop a website for your enterprise.  You now have a “home “on the Internet—a virtual real estate.  Website addresses are called “domain” names, and there are many similarities between a website and a  home.  If your site has been well-built with strong programming and software, it will withstand attacks from hackers trying to blow the house down.  If it’s hosted in a high-quality server environment, this “good neighborhood” will provide uptime and security.  Your website creates a good image with your customers and your competitors, but the best thing it can do is to help build your business.  To do that, people have to find your site.  There are about 200 Million domains registered.   How do you get found among so many sites?

 

Organic SEO ( Search Engine Optimization) or PPC( Pay Per Click)?

Most people–including your prospective customers–find websites by using a search engine.  Google is the most popular, with about 400,000 searches per day.  As most people know, you can pay to have your website’s info displayed prominently  on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages),while the rest of the page is filled with info about websites that appear organically—the search has found them,  and no ad fee has been paid.  If you have paid to have your ad appear, you will be charged every time someone clicks on the ad , which takes the person to your site. Thus the name, PPC—Pay per Click.  The other websites listed–the organically-generated ones–will also take the person to their website, but there is no charge when that happens.  Search engines are smart, and they remember.  They’ll remember, for example, that today, when someone searched for “homes for sale in Montgomery County,” it found your site organically.  Next time somebody does that same search, it will quickly post your website’s info.  In fact, your info will gradually get listed higher and higher on the page.  Your website builds equity in the organic search!  If you use a PPC program, once you stop paying, you were not building equity—it’s like you were renting that spot on the page, not earning it.  Once the PPC payment ends, it’s like you are brand new and your info goes to the back of the line.

 

Make Your Website Work for YouScreen shot 2013-10-05 at 4.45.23 PM

You can improve the performance of your website on organic searches by making it easier for the search engines to find you.  Search engines are smart, and they  have “spider” programs that crawl around the web gathering information… Cute, eh?  Spiders crawling around the web?    Spider programs look for info that will help them link searches to websites.  So, they look for words and phrases that are typical of what people type into the search for box.  Most of the time, people type in pretty simple words or phrases that  are related to the target of their search.  We call these words “keywords.”  To make it easy for the search engines to find you, you need to place appropriate keywords in the content of your site.  Picture the spider program scanning the pages in your site, reading what it sees.  What words and phrases might jump out at it?  For example, you might want to have titles on your pages and paragraphs, and place keywords at the beginning of the title.  As you can see, the concept of keywords is simple.  Next some work needs to be done to develop a program. The first step is to determine what keywords in your business processes that people will be typing —those things for which we are seeking prospects and leads.  As we said above, for a realtor, it might be “homes for sale in Montgomery County,” or “homes for sale in Boyertown.”  Determine the markets , products, and services, in which you want to compete most aggressively.  What are our  priority strategic market targets?  Then, the next step is to imagine what words or phrases people would type into the “search for” box in the search engine to try to find websites for providers of those services or products—you and your competitors.

 

Put Your Website to Work

Once you have determined what keywords the prospects will enter, then it’s simply a job of placing the selected keywords in the content of your site.  As we mentioned above, you may want to use titles for pages or paragraphs, but just including them in the prose content will also get noticed by the spider programs.  You should not sacrifice the quality of the writing in your content to include the keywords.  The content has another, more critical job to do—-Attracting the prospect and motivating them to contact you.

Once you have added the keywords to your site, they will start to work for you, and they will continue to keep working, 24/7/365——your website is doing the work!  For Free!

 

Building Equity vs.  Immediate Results

For those of  you for whom instant gratification is too slow, however, there is one drawback to using an organic program as opposed to  a PPC–Like most things with genuine value, it takes time for the organic, equity-building program to work.  It can take up to 16-20 months for a keyword program to show results in where your info appears on the SERPs.  With the pay-now PPC programs, you’ll see your ad placed very quickly.  Expensive, paying a premium for immediate results vs, do it the old-fashioned  way and working hard for lasting results that take a while . Renting vs. owning and letting your website home do the work.

 

Make Yours a Website that WORKS

You can start today—Make a list of the keywords for your highest priority strategic markets.  That’s a valuable exercise anytime. You can also help your website with its organic SEO work  by  adding a blog to your site .  Keep your keywords in mind when writing the blog, which will act like hyper content for the spiders.  Adding links from other websites will also help.  Blazing Systems is a web services company.  Please call us to arrange a free consultation for help in making your website work for you.

 

Bill Patch

10/05/2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Piano Gets a New Life

A baby grand piano is an intricate piece of musical technology—more complex than some of the computer systems we repair, manage , and sometimes renovate.  Recently, we needed work to be done on our family piano, an Estey baby grand built in 1929. It is a classic beauty, but it was beginning to show its age, and it needed lots of work. It needed to be tuned, but before it could be tuned it needed to be  restored and renovated.  Elisabeth, who studied piano at the Boston Conservatory, found the website of a company in West Chester that specializes in the repair and restoration of grand pianos.  We  are always anxious to pass on good news and to recommend great service providers as we find them, so in this post we are highlighting Sweeney Piano, a family company that has been specializing in grand pianos for 30 years.  All of our realtor friends and clients should take note, because many times people who are buying a new home may need to move or repair a grand.  We highly recommend the work of Sweeney Piano.

An Informative and Attractive Website

As promised on their website, they exceeded our expectations for quality and service delivery.  The website is attractive and informative.  Michael and Lisa Sweeney have built a great business, and you get a feel for their high quality standards when you visit the site.  Our piano required a mix of technical work and  artistic refinishing of wood and metal.  To these two prime attributes they added effective communication skills, as they kept us posted about progress—right up to the delivery date, which they hit exactly.  Here’s a picture they sent as the work neared completion:

sweeney piano

If you value your grand piano, and want it treated with care  for any needed repairs or renovation, contact the hard-working folks at Sweeney Piano for service you can count on—for yourself, your friends, or your clients.

As for us, we now have many hours of enjoying Elisabeth’s playing, and we are always happy to find a service company that shares our values..

Bill Patch

10/01/2013

 

 

 

Internet Writing Doesn’t Have to be Bad

The level of public discourse—in emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts and message boards–  is discouragingly low.  It is profane, gramatically incorrect, and not courteous.  It is rough and insulting, and oft-times mean-spirited.

Some people blame technology—It is easy to hide behind the computer screen,with a degree of anonymity, and throw prose stones.  While it’s easy to be anonymous doing a crude posting to a message board, the other forms of computerized communication actually expose the writer. In business emails are written by individuals who used to have secretaries to correct their grammar and language. People tend to treat emails informally, like they were talking to someone, not writing to them.  Gmail even calls them “conversations”….  And, folks get informal, and they start using slang, and they sometimes use sarcasm, or they make a snide remark, trying to be funny…But, it’s not  a conversation, and when it shows  up on the recipient’s screen, it’s just text.  There’s no facial expression to let the recipient know you are fooling, or making a joke.  Sarcasm shows up as a literal statement.  Anybody reading the email sees the person’s writing directly–unfiltered and usually without editing. This generates another problem—people don’t seem to be receiving effective grammar and language  instruction in school.  I don’t know whether teachers simply tired of trying to teach what for most is a boring, tedious subject, or whether school districts just removed grammar and parts of speech from curricula, but  many emails and other documents in business are starting to show that the writers did not get a good background in grammar and language, and many are spelling and using words phonetically.  This gets people in trouble with possessive pronouns and contractions of pronouns that sound the same.  Thus, they confuse and misuse:  Its and It’s, There,  Their, and They’re;  and Your and You’re.

 

So….emails show up on screens and make a bad impression, or sometimes no impression, or sometimes they hurt peoples’ feelings .

 

Emails are not verbal,they are a document, and they can be more effective if they are well-written. The overall Internet writing problem hit a new low  this past week, as people took to Twitter and message boards to denounce the Miss America winner. Because the young woman was Indian, she was called a terrorist, an Arab, and worse.  The nasty tone  and ignorance of the messages  that appeared were embarrassing.

 

Once you hit the send button, your words may appear in a virtually infinite number of locations. Internet writing is important.  People need to be more careful , and even more cordial and courteous, in the writing they do in the many  electronic venues now available. Workshops should be held to give folks some skills in writing emails and Facebook and other postings–for business or personal use. Good grammar and language create writing that respects the recipient. Angry, selfish communications degrade both the writer and the reader.

Bill Patch

09/26/2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wearable Technology is Here

Forty-one years ago, when I started in the computer industry, computers were serious machines.  They were big, filling a whole room.  They whirred, blew fuses, spit out long complex reports, sucked up lots of air conditioning, and had nice red and green blinking lights.  The reports they produced were used to run large organizations, including businesses and serious government agencies.  Only highly-qualified people could actually approach the machines and do something with them.  But we’ve evolved now, and computers are everywhere, being used  to play Candy Crush, look at pictures on Facebook, and send 140-characters-or-less messages to the world.    We have devices that we use to get news, play games, and talk to each other.  All these devices use the same basic zeroes- and-ones computing technology that powered the first behemoths.  The Technology  Industry  is now betting that we need our devices with us so much, we’ll actually be willing to wear them .  Last week Samsung   announced its new Smartwatch, The Gear.samsung smart watch

 

 

applesmartwatch

Business Insider,  a technology industry information provider, forecasts that worldwide spending on smartwatches will rise steadily to $ 9Billion in sales by 2018.  If I were Samsung, however, I wouldn’t count on those billions just yet.  Even though we have shown a seemingly endless demand for the conspicuous consumption of computerized devices—Have you ever seen two people sitting together in a room, texting, rather than talking?—I think $300 a pop is a bit much in today’s economic environment, and wearing our technology just might be an over-step.

 

maxwell smart

 

 

 

 

 –Bill Patch 9/12/2013

 

 

 

 

 

Collateral Damage from the PC's Demise

Insights and learning can occur at any time, even when you are playing.  This week hundreds of thousands of Fantasy Football players are going through the draft process, where each player gets to select NFL players that will be on his or her fantasy team.  You can choose from ANY NFL player.    Since there are about one gazillion NFL players, most fantasy team owners spend time previous to their league’ draft to whittle down all the players to the ones they want to try to get in the draft.My son and I have a team in a great league, and we have lots of fun evaluating all the  NFL players, and then selecting which ones we want to draft for our team.  This year, after  a couple planning sessions, we have reduced the number of desirable players  to a total of 194 players.  Once we selected  this Meta-level total number eligible, to manage the data and to make a useful tool to keep track on draft night, we needed to divide the 194 into eight position categories ( Quarterback, Running Back, etc.)  Within each of those eight categories, we then needed to be able to rank the players, from best to worst, to help guide our draft picks.   So…We had 194 data elements that needed to be grouped and stack-ranked in eight categories.

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In years past, we would  use Microsoft Office software to produce the draft list.  Sometimes, manually horsing the data elements into Word tables, and sometimes using Excel spreadsheet lists.  Either way, once we were done, and the table or the spreadsheet was completed, it became what I will call static data.    The lists could be modified, but a change created a new version of the list.  Microsoft Office products have been ubiquitous on the corporate scene for almost ten years.  In some companies, it became customary for each manager/executive -level person to have a Powerpoint presentation of what they were doing, what projects, etc, available on the desktop or laptop, to be used whenever needed to explain oneself, or one’s group.  We also used Powerpoint and Excel for sales presentations…Here’s a scenario that many of us experienced at one time or another:
You’re on the way to the airport, accompanied by members of your team, ready to travel to a potential new customer .  Your laptop is loaded with what you think is latest version of the presentation.  In conversation with the team members, it comes to light that the meeting last night continued for a couple hours after you left, and the numbers in the presentation have been modified.  So much for the 12 nicely-bound copies you have in your briefcase—they are dead meat—and so are you, unless you can produce some copies of the new version.  Here’s another common scenario:  You’re on the phone with the prospect, trying to negotiate a nice new deal.  You drill down on some of the numbers, giving some reductions that you hope will close the deal.  The problem is—The prospect is looking at a previous version of the document, which had been emailed to him two days before. People looking at different versions of data and documents was common. Contrast these uncomfortable, low productivity scenarios with how we were able to deal with our muli-category, 194 data element fantasy football list…We used Google drive’s spreadsheet application, and we both accessed the speadsheet at the same time.  We discussed a number of changes to the stack-rank.  The data was viable, not static.    There is only one version of the data–the correct one, and now we can enjoy the fun of competing with other players to draft great players.  The ease of the process we used made me think about what’s going on in the technology industry.  As we have discussed in this space previously, the machine that revolutionized the computer industry in the early 80s–the desktop PC, (and its laptop version), has essentially died as a viable product.  Companies that tied their strategy to the PC are now beginning to disintegrate.  Micosoft’s CEO and former henchman for Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, is resigning.  They are seeking to transform the company into a “devices and services” company.  They used to be, of course, the world’s leading PC software provider.  They missed the transition to mobile devices, and they missed the new Software As A Service (SaaS) model   They stayed with static-data applications sold for license fees; and they never learned how to sell to endusers, they only knew how to muscle PC manfactuers and distributors into selling their operating system bundled with the machine.

The PC’s Time Is Gone—-Continued

As we discussed in this space  in February, the machine that revolutionized the IT industry by putting  computing capability on the desktops of people everywhere has become obsolete.  Today, you could connect a wireless keyboard to your smartphone and have more computing power than  you had with the second desktop you owned.  And, more importantly, you could do all the things you want to do today.   Gartner, Inc, the respected market research firm , has announced  that worldwide PC sales declined by 10.9% in Q2 2013.   This is the fifth consecutive quarterly decline., the longest in the history of the PC market.

 

one quarter of searches from mobile devices

Microsoft Market Leverage Declines

In the good old days in the PC business—back in the 90s—millions of units were sold each MONTH through the channel, and millions more by direct provider Dell.  In those days, the release of a new version of Windows would dramatically produce a big increase in units sold.  Microsoft actually drove the market.  Now, it is worth noting that the release of Windows 8 occurred during the declining quarter. The new Widows version didn’t create a pop in sales, it couldn’t even prevent a decline. Microsoft used to be successful by piggybacking its operating system sales to PC sales.  MS didn’t really need to market and sell Windows, it just had to control the PC manufacturers and make sure that Windows was shipped with each box.  There are clear implications in the new market for Microsoft.  The two leading PC producers are Lenova, with a 16.7% share of the market and 12,677,265 units sold.  HP is in 2nd place ,with 16.3% share and 12,402,887 units.  It’s interesting that HP has recently teamed with Microsoft’s adversary, Google, to market  PCs bundled with Google’s cloud -based office suite that competes directly with Microsoft’s Office software product.  This is confusing to HP’s channel distribution partners, who for years have been tied closely to—even receiving direction and support (dollars for marketing programs)  from—Microsoft.  So, while Google competes with Microsoft’s Office and Windows products, and Microsoft tries to Bing Google’s search service, businesses  have decided they don’t need employees to sit at their desks  inputting to and/or reporting from cumbersome custom applications that run on the expensive server in  the basement (think TPS reports), and the endusers have decided that they  certainly don’t need over-built  and under-supported desktop computing systems at home to search or to use the non- cumbersome personal apps, which are all increasingly available for mobile devices.  The desktop PC is obsolete. A second revolution— replacement of the desktop by mobile devices has occurred. The PC taught us, and made endusers of all of us.  Now, light, fast, ubiquitous mobile products  have become more convenient and they provide enough capability for what we want to do—-at least until the technology of the cloud and the need for Big Data and Big Screens puts pressure on the capability of the device at hand.

Bill Patch, August 8, 2013

EXPRESS YOURSELF !

BParadoxically, the pinnacle of technology development–the   Worldwide Web–has provided us with the most personalized communication medium ever.   The success of Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites , show just how personal the Web has become.

 

Personal  now includes pictures of you, your family, and your friends, and everybody’s puppies and kittens., Personal also includes your innermost profound thoughts (in 140 characters).  Every day, we all can now have an experience  equivalent to what it used to be like to get your picture or name in the newspaper; but now many more millions can see it,   and the image will endure–not expire, like yesterday’s newspaper. We’ve become used to seeing real people,–personalized  up-to-date images–served up with our daily information bits.  The cold, hard , cerebral technology of processing zeroes and ones has given us  the warmest and fuzziest format to express ourselves—-an interesting paradox; but the question becomes:  How do we best use this technical art form?

 

WordPress Platform Provides the Freedom to Express Yourself

WordPress website themes provide just the right amount of standardized features and open space to create sites that fully communicate individual attributes and features.  The layout and format of WordPress sites provide the most effective size and location relations and ratios of images to content, and  a clean and clear platform to create customized content.  The custom content could–and should– include a blog with more than 140 characters of your own thoughts, and images that you choose to display that particular day.

 

This results in websites that express the uniqueness of the persons or enterprises that are the subject of the site.   WordPress themed sites  live up to  today’s demand for personalized technology.  The look and feel of WordPress sites provide maximum freedom of expression, while the Open Source  architecture  and structure of the site provide maximum stability and security. Blazing Systems LLC designs, develops, hosts, and maintains WordPress websites for clients who want to  express themselves most effectively.