Mobile Advantaged

You know you have a problem when you get excited about plan changes on your cellular provider. Yesterday, AT&T gave me a problem.

Initially, no more data overages, higher caps, and reduced pricing tiers looks like good news all around, but is that really true? After looking at the details of these new AT&T data plans I’m less than impressed. They’ve upped the per device access charge from $15 to $20.

Right now I have the $100 plan for 15GB, plus three devices, for a total of $145. Under the new plan, if I move to the similar the 16GB plan the base price is $90 but I’m now paying $60 in per device charges for a total of $150. (+$5)

Even going from the 15GB down to the new 10GB plan, would result in a savings of only $5, at the loss of 5GB of data.

Maybe.

It’s still really a bit confusing, the press release says “All Mobile Share Advantage plans also have an access charge of $10 — $40 a month per device not included in prices shown above.” but then later “customers will pay a $20 access charge per smartphone a month for Mobile Share Advantage.”

My hope/guess is that it’s likely to depend on which plan you pick, at least that’s how it is on the current setup. I believe the current $15 per device does jump to like $20 or $25 , on their current plans. So, if it continues to be a graduated scale, the new 16GB plan may actually be a money saver, but until their pricing calculator shows up when the new pricing is available on Sunday, we probably won’t know.

But from the “clear” statement, it looks like not a great deal. For now, they get a splashy headline. Verizon, who has a similar plan, has the separate fee for allowing “unlimited” reduced bandwidth, instead of charging an overage, and it seems like this increase is just a clever way of hiding that fee.

If I was really concerned about overages I’d probably just do it, but I never go over.

Oracle VM

Oracle VM 3 improved a lot, they are not close to Microsoft or VMware, but it is pretty good if you are not trying to do dramatic things like moving virtual machines around.

Gartner’s vice president and distinguished analyst Thomas Bittman, talking about how Oracle VM is poised to be the real competitor for VMware in the future. Not Hyper-V. Not Xen. I’m not one to really defend Microsoft or Citrix, but… have you ever actually seen Oracle VM running on a production system?

Steve Jobs

One hundred years from now, people will talk about Steve Jobs the same way we do of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and the Wright brothers. Perhaps, as my friend Chris helped pointed out, he was a mix of Edison and John Lennon. Maybe he was a bit like Walt Disney, or Jim Hensen, a man who was personally tied to the brand he created.

Regardless, he was an an inventor, a visionary, a man full of ideas. He was more than just any businessman, CEO to Apple, he personally held patents for many of the technologies used in their products. He was the perfect mix of creative genius and salesman. In the tech world, Steve Jobs was elevated to near deity-like status, but as cancer proved, he was still just a man.

Every CEO of every company on the planet should pay attention to this right now and ask themselves, “why won’t this happen when I die?” (@jayfanelli)

I tried to sit down and put together my thoughts on his passing last night, but couldn’t. I was too overcome with the emotions pouring out from people across the world on Twitter. I shared some of my own but it was interesting to watch the wake for a man happen in real time from people all across the world. People who loved and hated him all had emotions to share.

Even President Obama had something to say:

The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.

But I’m not sure those outside of the technology community could really feel the impact the way we all did. My wife didn’t understand last night why I was grieving for a man I’d never met, the founder of a company that now rivals ExxonMobil as the world’s largest. Without meeting him, Steve Jobs had a profound impact on my life. I credit him (and Bill Gates) for sparking my interest in technology… for making me what I am today.

The first computer I ever used was an Apple II when I was in kindergarden. Later, I learned how to do amazing things on some of the first Macintosh systems. I used to skip recess to go down to the elementary school library so that I could learn on devices that he helped create. And while my family can attest to later holding Apple and their products in contempt through much of the mid-90s, while pounding the drum of Microsoft, I later came back to the “distortion field” as Steve brought real innovation back to the industry.

The Apple II, the Macintosh, Pixar (who doesn’t love Toy Story), iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes. Disruptions to the status-quo. Disruptions that are all because of the leadership and creative mind of Steve Jobs. I don’t remember much about what computers were like before the Apple II or the Mac, but I know what movies were like before Pixar. I know what buying music was like before iTunes and the iPod. I know what phones were like before the iPhone, and I love my iPad. I wouldn’t want to go back to a world before the things Steve created, existed. Even if you’re a hardened Android fan, you have to remember what smartphones were like before the iPhone and thank Apple and Steve Jobs for setting a new trend. Even if you’re a Microsoft fanatic, you have to thank him for keeping Bill on his toes for all those years, and forcing each other to continue to innovate.

In my article last week, prior to the announcement of the iPhone 4S, I said this:

I still maintain that Steve Jobs will be present at the announcement, even after his recent retirement as Apple CEO. I think he will be there to hand it off to Tim Cook in some way, or perhaps participate in some FaceTime chat to highlight a new iOS 5 feature. At the very least, his presence will be felt.

There was an empty chair, in the front row of the hall, with a cloth wrapped around it marked Reserved. That was no doubt a chair for Steve, one he wouldn’t be in because of what we all now know. I think Apple knew this was coming soon, and probably played the announcement a bit low-key as to not attempt to overshadow what could have probably happened any day. That said, I have no doubt that Steve wanted to see one last keynote, one last product launch, before he passed on. His presence was felt. His presence will continue to be felt with every future Apple product.

At 56, Steve Jobs did more than most people do in 90 years. He was the original Apple genius, a master showman, and the original tech virtuoso. He will be missed.

Snow Lacking

Noted Apple security analyst Charlie Miller, author of The Mac Hackers Handbook and two-time winner of the Pwn2Own hacking contest has said, in an interview with TechWorld, that the latest version of Apple OS X (10.6 AKA Snow Leopard) lacks full and proper implementation of memory address space layout randomization (ASLR). ALSR is a technology, present in Windows Vista and Windows 7, that randomly assigns data to memory to make it difficult for attackers to determine the address of critical operating system functions being stored in memory, and therefore making it harder for them to create exploits.

“It’s the exact same ASLR as in Leopard, which means it’s not very good,” Miller said, “Apple didn’t change anything. I don’t understand why they didn’t. But Apple missed an opportunity with Snow Leopard.”

When OS X 10.5 (Leopard) was released, Miller and others were critical of Apple not fully implementing ASLR. While there is ASLR present in both Leopard and Snow Leopard, they fail to the heap, the stack and the dynamic linker, the parts of the operating system that are most open to attack. Linux also has what many consider a weak implementation of ASLR since kernel version 2.6.12, although some distributions include better ASLR then the stock kernel based on third party code.

Miller did say that there are elements of Snow Leopard that show Apple did do some things to improve security, most notably the inclusion of data execution prevention or DEP, which utilizes both processor-hardware and software based security programming to help prevent buffer overflow attacks by blocking code from running in memory spaces that’s supposed to contain only data.

However, Apple may be late to the game with implementation of DEP, as it has been present in Windows operating systems since Windows XP Service Pack 2, with further refinements made in Windows Vista and Windows 7.

By incorporating both technologies, Miller says it becomes extremely difficult to craft memory attack exploits. “If you don’t have either, or just one of the two [ASLR or DEP], you can still exploit bugs, but with both, it’s much, much harder. Snow Leopard’s more secure than Leopard, but it’s not as secure as Vista or Windows 7.”


Originally published at techvirtuoso.com on September 17, 2009.