Archive for February, 2012

The head US National Security Agency recently warned that the notorious internet hacking group, Anonymous, may soon have the ability to attack the entire US power grid. However, this does not mean hackers are all bad people. There are White Hat or ethical hacker too.

They identify security weaknesses in computer systems and networks but instead of taking advantage of these loopholes, expose the weakness to the system’s administrators allowing them to fix the breach. So, like everywhere there are good and bad hackers. Here are some international hacking heroes and villians.

Hero: Steve Wozniak

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Co-founder of Apple and the company’s original engineering brain, Woz got his first kicks out of the Blue Box, a phone phreaking device that allowed him and Steve Jobs to make long-distance calls for free by imitating the tones that routed signals on the AT&T network. The duo sold more than 100 Boxes for $150 each.

Hero: Tim Berners-Lee

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The World-Wide Web was not on his mind when Lee and a friend were caught hacking at the Oxford University.

Both were banned from using the university’s computers during their study tenure. Maybe that’s why Lee soldered one for himself using iron, TTL gates, an M6800 processor and an old television.

Hero: Linus Torvalds

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The star of the ultimate hacking fairytale. Torvalds cobbled together a makeshift operating system titled ‘Linux’ and shared the program at an online forum.

Feeds poured in with fixes, improvements and new features. Code contribution became the USP of Linux, an operating system built on central hacker ethic: free for all.

Hero: Tsutomu Shimomura

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Not an intuitive hacker, he was prodded to showcase his skills when Kevin Mitnick hacked Shimomura’s home computer.

The result: a good cop bad cop chase that ended with Mitnick in jail. Shimomura didn’t escape scrutiny: he hacked Mitnick’s cell phone to track him to an apartment near Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Hero: Richard Stallman

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Dubbed the father of free software. He earned the badge as a ‘staff hacker’ at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he cracked a password system.

He moved on to tinkering with the code of a printer and finally ended up with the big one: The GNU Project that writes free software and mass produces its operating system.

Villian: Kim Dotcom

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Known as Kim Schmitz, Kim Tim Jim Vestor and ‘Kimble’, Dotcom’s hacking credentials are dubious. Be it cracking Citibank to transfer $20 million to Greenpeace, or hacking Osama Bin Laden’s Sudanese account, no claim has been verified.

But he is known for phone phreaking and has been arrested for online piracy.

Villian: Kevin Mitnick

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The US Department of Justice says he was “the most wanted computer criminal in United States history.” Mitnick started by bypassing punch cards to hitch free rides on LA buses. Later, he hacked databases of corporate giants like Nokia and Motorala.

Finally a peeved Shimomura out-hacked him and Mitnick was jailed for 5 years.

Villian: Jonathan James

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At the age of 16, James installed a backdoor into the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency server and messed with user names, passwords and strategic emails. Next up was the NASA database from which he stole software worth $1.7 million. The result: in 2000, James became the first juvenile to be imprisoned for hacking.

Villian: Kevin Poulsen

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Law officers think he was “the Hannibal Lecter of computer crime” but hacker buddies knew him as Dark Dante.

Poulsen’s biggest hit: cracking Los Angeles radio’s phone lines to ensure he was caller number 102, slated to win a Porsche. The FBI got interested when he hacked their database and soon it was prison time for Poulsen.

Villian: Robert Tappan Morris

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The brain behind the first computer worm to attack the Internet – the Morris Worm. Released in 1988, it infected over 6,000 machines. Morris claimed he wanted to test the reach of the Net. Law officers didn’t buy the theory: he served three years’ probation, 400 hours of community service and paid a fine of $10,500.

Do you use your mobile phone more for calling or texting? If it’s the second option, you’re probably grumpy about the cap of 200 SMSes a day imposed by the telecom regulator. Of course, a big SMS bill doesn’t help. Yes, you can opt for the special SMS package, which is offered by most service providers and one that lets you send messages at a lower rate. However, this special offer is confined to a small number of people.

So, what’s the way around this dilemma? You can get past both budgetary and regulatory restrictions by moving from conventional text messaging, which is billed to the operator, to applications and services that are either provided by third parties or mobile phone manufacturers. Many of them let you send text messages, files, photos and videos to your heart’s content, as long as you can access the internet on your handset. Most of the apps come at no extra cost. You only need to pay for the data used in sending and receiving messages, which usually works out to be much cheaper than conventional texting. Here are some such options.

BlackBerry Messenger

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0ne of the smoothest messaging services, BBM is incorporated into the BlackBerry handsets. Users can send (and receive) an unlimited number of messages, pictures, even files. You can add people to your contact list through their PINs (a distinct number that comes with with BBM).

WhatsApp

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While there is no doubting the efficiency of services like BBM and iMessage, the fact that you need to invest in expensive handsets limits their utility. This is where a service like WhatsApp comes in handy. Just install the app on your mobile phone and exchange messages and pictures.

It works across platforms, and though it is separate from your regular messaging app, it scans your contacts and automatically includes other WhatsApp users in your contact list, saving you the trouble of sending out invites. However, it is not free for all platforms. While you don’t have to pay for Symbian, it costs about Rs 52 for an iPhone.

The appy edge

Messaging apps do not charge per message or require a special plan. They work fine with your standard GPRS/ EDGE connection. If your network is erratic, you can switch to Wi-Fi.

Most messaging apps let you swap videos and photos, some even let you send files, without incurring any extra cost or requiring any special service activation.

When you use a messaging app, you only pay for the internet data used, which is generally a small amount. This is particularly handy if you want to send messages to people in other countries. It’s the best option if you travel frequently as most service providers don’t charge for roaming for GPRS/EDGE on post-paid connections. So you can text away without worrying about the bill.

iMessage

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iMessage arrived on the iPad and iPhone via the latest version of iOS (iOS 5) and the service, which is free of cost, has become a rage. What sets it apart from other services is that if the person to whom you are sending a message has either of the above two devices, it converts it from an SMS to an iMessage.

Nimbuzz

Nimbuzz combines several instant messaging (IM) clients, so you can exchange messages, photos and videos with your friends across a number of IM services, such as Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, even Facebook Chat. You can even use it from a computer and make free phone/video calls to other users.

Twitter

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and off course Yes, this is a social networking site rather than a messaging service, but it allows you to swap messages, pictures and links with all your followers. You don’t need to install an additional program on your device and can access Twitter from a computer too. Its restriction to 140 characters may be a blessing or a bane.

Reading Alex Goldfayn’s new book called Evangelist Marketing: What Apple Amazon and Netflix Understand About Their Customers (That Your Company Probably Doesn’t). He is CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute, a marketing consultancy with clients that include T-Mobile, TiVo and Logitech. Here is a Case Study of 7 Marketing Lessons From RIM’s Failures which I found Interesting and thought worth the share for any Big or Small Organizations.

Evangelsit Marketing

Evangelsit Marketing

You remember, don’t you? The emails magically appeared while you weren’t looking. That blinking light turned us into addicts. And that keyboard — copied often, but never matched.

It was the BlackBerry, the glorious, beloved, and life-changing BlackBerry. It made us feel good, and it never let us down.

Long before the iPhone the took the world by storm, and before Google even dreamed about getting into the phone business, Research in Motion was on top of the consumer electronics mountain.

Today, sadly, it is buried under it, and industry insiders everywhere wonder whether RIM will survive.

What happened? Harmful strategy. Unforced errors. And, mostly, really bad marketing. On this, RIM is in good company in the consumer electronics industry, where so many manufacturers market poorly. But few have made so many marketing mistakes so quickly.

Here are seven marketing lessons from RIM’s dark and difficult journey.

1. Make Great Products

Consumer electronics success begins with excellent products. The BlackBerry was once perceived as the very best smartphone — or, at least, “emailing phone” — available. It was exciting, emotional and it made people feel good. RIM sold BlackBerries on the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations. BlackBerries were aspirational, and people wanted to own one because friends and colleagues were so passionate about them.

Now, fast-forward to today.

Consider the excitement and energy around the iPhone and all those Android handsets. RIM enjoys none of that today. Not one percent of it. In part, it’s because it stopped making good smartphones in favor of a poorly received tablet called the PlayBook.

Successful marketing begins with having a tremendous product or service to market. Nothing happens without this.

2. Build on Strengths Instead of Improving on Weaknesses

I’m constantly telling clients that they should build on strengths instead of trying to improve their weak areas. For RIM, the BlackBerry was a great strength, and they all but abandoned its development and marketing for a year or longer to create the tablet. RIM did this to try to prevent the world from passing it by in the tablet space — which it did anyway. Tragically, as a result of diverting talent, attention, resources, investment and innovation from the BlackBerry to the Playbook, the consumer smartphone world has also passed RIM by.

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. If you focus on developing weaknesses, your strengths will atrophy due to neglect. If you want to market well, identify your strengths — products, services, techniques, approaches, relationships — and exploit them relentlessly. This technique overcomes nearly all weaknesses.

3. Gravity Pushes Backwards

If you’ve attained a measure of success, you must continue innovating your products, services and your marketing just to maintain your position. Because you can bet the competition is innovating aggressively, and they’ll pass you by in three seconds if you stop doing the things that brought you success. RIM not only stopped releasing new BlackBerries while focusing on its PlayBook, it basically stopped talking to its customers about them for an extended period. We’ve seen this story before with Palm and many others. Gravity pushes backwards in business. Consistent and aggressive innovation is required not only to attain success, but to maintain it.

4. Know Precisely Who Your Customer Is

RIM’s management famously disagreed on who their customer was. Then co-CEO Mike Lazaridis felt the customer was the corporation. Others, probably including his counterpart Jim Balsillie, wanted to aim BlackBerry products at consumers. If you don’t know exactly who your customer is, it is impossible to market. Language, messaging, platforms, branding and public relations change completely depending on the customers you target. So identify your customers as precisely as possible, and aim all of your marketing efforts at them.

5. Executives Set the Marketing Tone

Consider the most successful companies in consumer electronics (and two of the most successful companies in all of business): Apple and Amazon. Their chief executives set their marketing tone, and everyone follows. If you have watched the above YouTube video of Steve Jobs introducing the iPad, and listen to how everybody who followed him on stage used exactly the same words.

This is no accident. The next day, thousands of articles used the same words to describe the amazing, remarkable and awesome iPad. Amazon’s Bezos is the same way. The best marketers have high-level executives setting the tone. They not only teach the rest of the company how to talk about their products and services, but the customers, the media, and the market itself. Obviously, RIM’s co-CEOs did not set this tone. They couldn’t even agree on who the customer was.

6. Avoid Unforced Errors

Most marketing problems are self-made and entirely avoidable. Consider the major developments from RIM’s recent past:

It voluntarily stopped focusing on the BlackBerry to make a product it had no experience with.
It could not identify its customer.
It stopped marketing to consumers, allowing competition to roar past.
Not convinced? Consider Netflix’s recently concluded horrible-terrible-no-good-very-bad year:

A dramatic price increase.
An extended period with no action to placate angry consumers.
Spinning off something called Qwikster and then spinning it back in.
A remarkably poor response to it all by the CEO, Reed Hastings.
None of these things happened to these companies. They did it to themselves. Don’t try to outsmart yourself. Avoid unforced errors.

7. Keep Talking to Your Customers

My work with clients often involves conducting qualitative conversations with their customers to deeply understand how they feel about what the company is doing and what the company is thinking about doing. If RIM had talked to its customers like this, it would have quickly learned that they probably weren’t particularly interested in a BlackBerry tablet without built-in email, messaging or contacts!

If you’re not talking to your customers, you’re just guessing from a conference room.

I believe RIM has enough of a corporate and government customer base to sustain it through this most difficult period. To recover, the company must precisely identify its customer, make terrific products for it, and orient all of its marketing and messaging toward it. In the meantime, we can all learn from the mistakes that brought the BlackBerry maker to this point.

You remember the Blackberry, don’t you now?

We all know Facebook filed its IPO setting the stage for the internet industry’s biggest coming-out party and one of Wall Street’s most hotly anticipated events of 2012, with a valuation of over $100 billion. Here is a look at some of the personalities behind the world’s largest social network.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive and co-founder

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We all know Zuckerberg, portrayed as a brilliant, ambitious and ruthless empire-builder in the 2010 movie “The Social Network,” founded Facebook with Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin while at Harvard University in 2004.

The 27-year-old frontman, who has repeatedly said he was in no rush to go public because that might distract employees and dilute his control, decides the direction and product strategy of the company. Forbes estimates Zuckberg’s net worth at $17.5 billion, making him the 14th richest man in the United States.

Peter Thiel, investor and director

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The billionaire Stanford alumnus and former Wall Street trader was Facebook’s first outside investor and director. Thiel co-founded online payments service PayPal and sold it to eBay Inc for $1.5 billion in 2002.

Christopher Cox, vice president of product

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Cox organizes Facebook’s product strategy and oversees product management and design.

He joined the company in 2005 as a software engineer and was involved in the first versions of Facebook features such as the News Feed and Inbox

Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships

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A former Amazon.com Inc manager who helped develop the “Kindle” digital book reader, Rose oversees Facebook’s partnerships, forging ties with Hollywood film studios, game makers, mobile phone companies and even carmakers. Rose also takes the lead on mergers and acquisitions.

David Fischer, VP of advertising and global operations

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Fischer is responsible for much of Facebook’s vast and highly profitable advertising network. He runs sales, advertiser marketing and customer operations.

During seven years at Google Inc, Fischer helped build that company’s online ad network into the largest in the world. Before that, he was deputy chief of staff at the Treasury Department during the Clinton Administration.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer

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Sandberg, one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley, oversees business operations including sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications.

Another former Google employee, Sandberg built and managed Google’s online sales channels for advertising and publishing and operations for consumer products.

Before working for Google, she was chief of staff at the Treasury Department under President Clinton.