Friday, 6 March 2015

The "solution" to short phone battery life

So, these days, we seem to be solving the problem of woeful phone battery life by making people carry an extra "turbo charger" or backup battery around with them, to boost the battery when we're away from power and still need our phone to work for, oh, 8 hours at a time.

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the way market demands have completely screwed us over here? I mean, if we weren't demanding that our phone batteries get a couple of millimetres thinner every year, they could actually work long enough for our phones to last an entire day.

Honestly, when you hear that your phone comes with a big brick of a backup battery for on-the-go charging, your response should not be positive. You should be thinking about why the internal battery sucks so hard.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Market pressure being what it is, though, this is the market solution.
PPS - Personally, I'd rather have a battery that doesn't suck.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Modular jewellery boxes

You know, there never seems to be enough of the right kind of space in a jewellery box, from what I've seen. I think it would be both neat and useful to have a modular system where different tiny boxes clip or stick together to form one large box that can expand or contract into sizes, shapes and configurations far beyond its original arrangement. Of course, it's probably not going to be quite as pretty as custom-made, one-size-fits-all boxes, but maybe you can make the pieces out of wood with magnets embedded in them, to keep it looking good.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or keep it simple and just use stackable drawers.
PPS - And probably some dividers inside the drawers, too.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The problems of account recovery

We have enough services online now, holding enough personal information in each, that it is possible to put together a very comprehensive profile of personal information based on what each company chooses to withhold and reveal, and using social engineering to fill in the rest (tricking customer service to reveal personal info over the phone).

So what can we do about that? Well, until we have better standards for information privacy online, there's not a lot we can do. If each company is free to make up their own minds about what should remain secret and what information is required to verify identity, we, the public, will still be vulnerable to these cross-service attacks.

Getting that legislation into effect is a big, difficult step, though. We still need to be able to identify people worldwide with information that is not unique to a given company, but the person themselves, and that is the exact key to these cross-service vulnerabilities in the first place. If my mother's maiden name is the backup "password" for account recovery on every service I use, then that one bit of info can be used to hijack all of those accounts by just calling customer service, then saying I've lost my password when I moved house. As far as the company knows, then, that invalidates just about everything they know about me - phone number, email and postal address - leaving just name, account number and mother's maiden name. And you can't just allow someone with that info to cancel the account, either, because that's a different kind of attack. You can't use social security number, either, because that's unique to Americans and if it's known in more than one place, then it's a vulnerability, not an account recovery strength.

Unfortunately, there may not be a solution to this problem. What we need for account recovery is a shared secret known only to the customer and that particular company, and one that can't be lost or forgotten. The best way would be to register these details with a trusted third party like an attorney. Generate a truly random key for each company account, register it in person with an attorney and go back to them if account recovery is needed. We give up convenience, but we gain security.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - At this point, any gain in security might be worth it.
PPS - Worth it for customers, that is. The companies won't like it.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


The killer feature of productivity software and methods should be prioritisation rather than filing. We deal with such a large volume of inbound traffic in our digital lives, from social media to email to articles and videos from our favourite websites that we need systems to help us focus on the most important things first. Facebook already tries to show you what's most important on your Timeline, but as far as Facebook is concerned, Facebook is all there is. What we need is a way to draw absolutely everything in our lives, from all that digital stuff above to the actions and projects, movies, TV shows, books and so on into one inbound stream, or as few streams as possible. That makes the next step easier: figuring out what's most important out of everything.

This will always take some time. After all, there's always more stuff coming in, and you'll always have to deal with it. However, if you're dealing with the most important stuff first, and you know that it's properly organised, you'll know that everything is as good as it can get. There's no need to stress that you aren't dealing with the hundred and three things that came in this morning when thirty of them are company update fluff from upper-upper management and another thirty are a passive-aggressive "reply-all" war about no business of yours. This, to me, is a key of GTD. Consolidate your inboxes, your filing and your action lists, prioritise them properly and then just do the work. It gets really hard to do sometimes, but it's absolutely worth it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I have too many digital inboxes that refuse to play nice.
PPS - One day, I'll figure out how to manage them better from a single interface.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Between share housing and independent housing

Would you agree to live in the equivalent of student housing if the rent or prices were lower? If you had less space and shared bathrooms but gained an inner-city location, would it matter to you? I'm not sure. For me, I don't think I need my shower and toilet to be *in* my house as long as it's in the same building.

When you think about it, this is kind of a step between a share house and your own house. In a shared rental situation, you get your own room, but you have to make do with one kitchen, one lounge and one or two bathrooms. In your own house, you get all of those things to yourself, but for a higher price. There may be room in the middle for independent living with some shared facilities, but more available than just at universities.

Then again, plenty of people will not be willing to give up their ensuites and the privilege of shuffling naked to the toilet in the middle of the night. One day, we may see that arrangement as the "first class" equivalent of living spaces, compared to economy (share housing) and business class (student housing). I've actually never lived in either a share house or student housing, though, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - For me, it would remind me of church camp.
PPS - And as long as it's clean, what's the harm?

Friday, 27 February 2015

The problem with prison

Before our morality fully develops, we picture prison as a place where bad people go to be punished. We don't want prison to be a comfortable or nice place, because it's for bad people. A lot of people never really grow out of that mental image.

The problem with prison, to me, is that criminals are a drain on society whether they're in prison or out. Economically, the best result of prison sentences should be rehabilitation - turning criminals into non-criminals. That doesn't happen automatically, and it doesn't work on everyone, but it should definitely be the goal. Otherwise, we're losing to criminal enterprises on the outside, or we're paying a large amount to keep criminals locked up. If we can, instead, vastly reduce the rate of reoffences, we'll start seeing some economic benefit. It will take a lot of time for society to change its collective mind about criminals, but if we can view prison as more of a hospital for criminal minds, rather than a dark pit we put people we'd rather not deal with, that will be a start.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There are probably fewer criminals unable to be rehabilitated than you think.
PPS - Or I'm a naive optimist.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Don't pre-reject your work

I read Chuck Wendig's (typically profanity-ridden) rant about "pre-rejection" which is what I've been doing to, well, everything I write, basically. Except the flash fiction I vomited straight to the web that one year when I was actually writing. I've been stowing away my pieces because they're "not good enough".

Well, Chuck would have some harsh words to say about that, and I really need to listen. The point is, I've got a couple of pieces I'm sitting on because I've pre-rejected them and I've decided they don't belong out in the world for whatever reason. It was some time ago that I promised to start submitting to real publishers, and it's high time I lived up to that promise, starting as soon as possible.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And that story I actually sold still hasn't run.
PPS - I'm kind of starting to think it won't, which is a demoralising thing to happen to your first sale.