Game of Thrones

Mark your calendars! Game of Thrones is returning for its final season (8) on April 14th on HBO. In case you’re wondering, nothing else on TV even comes CLOSE to the brilliant nature of this series. Get ready for six 90-minute episodes that are sure to be jaw dropping, just like the trailer below! 😱

In the meantime, I will be binge watching the first seven (7) seasons and picking up some fancy gear from HBO’s shop. I included a few of my favorite picks below.

Feds & Technology

In the last few days, several reports have emerged outlining steps the United States Federal Government is taking in realm of (personal) technology. These accounts are in line with what I recently told you in a post about Smart Speakers. When it comes to technology, privacy/security trumps EVERYTHING and the three (3) reports below are proof that the contentious convergence of government and technology is here to stay.

Here’s what you need to know:

Amazon, Google, Microsoft… Selling face-snooping tech to the Feds (The Register)

  • Why should you care? More than 85 advocacy groups focused on a diverse set of social issues, including racial justice, religious liberty, civil rights, human rights, and immigrant rights have raised concerns about this practice, including the ACLU.
  • You can read the full text of their letter here.

“History has clearly taught us that the government will exploit technologies like face surveillance to target communities of color, religious minorities, and immigrants.”

Feds Can’t Force You To Unlock Your iPhone…. With Finger Or Face (Forbes)

  • Why should you care? The judge says all logins are equal. In the past, they couldn’t force you to give up your pass code, now fingerprints, facial recognition (or other future innovations… i.e. voice) are also included. Forcing you to do this could be the equivalent of forcing you to self incriminate.

“If a person cannot be compelled to provide a pass code because it is a testimonial communication, a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric feature to unlock that same device,” the judge wrote.

Feds to allow drones to to fly over crowds at night… and make routine night flights (ABC)

  • Why should you care? Rogue drones have been used to carry bombs on battlefields, to deliver contraband to prisoners, to interfere with firefighters and, last month, to cripple the operations of a major airport.
  • Last year, Congress approved a measure that will let the government develop a system to identify and hack or shoot down drones that authorities deem threatening.
  • Do these statements make you feel safe?

“Drones can collect massive amounts of sensitive data from people and can be equipped with facial recognition technology as well as license plate reading software”

Suzette Kemp is the Federal Government’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) appointed by President Donald Trump. The federal CIO is charged with driving government wide technology policy, leading the federal CIO Council and often putting out unexpected IT fires. She has recently said her office is crafting legislation to provide the government with “guardrails” for how to incorporate the technologies and ensure they don’t possess bias that runs counter to the mission of agencies (FedScoop).

Smart Speakers

The smart speaker industry is expected to grow 63% in 2019 (Deloitte). I have not been an early adopter of smart speakers because I wanted to scope out the market, gauge user adoption and weigh pros/cons for each option. The most popular options being: Alexa (Amazon), Google Assistant (Google) and Siri (Apple). Apple is my go-to for hardware (phone, laptop, watch) and I tend to prefer Google for services (i.e. calendar, mail). Given my perception, I’m curious to know if it will hold up in the smart speaker arena.

Before we get started I have a few biases / perceptions about smart speakers to disclose:

  1. I’m ~75% paranoid that someone on the other end will be “listening” to what’s going on in my home (see also Enemy of the State).
  2. Amazon scares me – they are getting too big and too involved…. in everything. (VICE News). So much so that I recently cancelled by Prime subscription. (see also RWA Series – Subscriptions).
  3. Apple seems “safe”. Washington Post
  4. I’m not interested in having a smart speaker that makes it easier / encourages me to buy anything or hear ads…. ever.
  5. I feel pretty confident that when Apple launches something new that it’s fully vetted, well thought out, tested and ready to go. Others sometimes just want to be first to the market and will launch anything to get a dollar, whether it truly “works” correctly/ideally or not.
  6. Having a lot of choices on which options to “connect to/use” is not my cup of tea. As an IT professional, I prefer to keep my personal technology choices/life simple!

Now, back to business – the business of choosing a smart speaker (Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri). One tech reporter summarizes the decision this way, “You are choosing your tribe… This decision will shape how you get information, what appliances you purchase, where you shop and how you protect your privacy.” Washington Post  To be honest, this article itself wasn’t very helpful; but the comments (781) were: “Here are my top 3:

  1. Why would I “invite” any of these devices into the privacy of my home?  Really, the speaker delivered a family’s conversation to one of their “contacts”?  It is unfortunate that a technology with the potential to be true assistants to those with disabilities, is just being marketed to the general public as a way to build databases to sell more stuff.
  2. Just remember, with all of these products YOU’RE the product. If you think you’re inundated by ads now, just wait. With these devices, your every move is being tracked inside your home and is put up for sale.
  3. Interesting how Apple has solved the privacy/security question. Basically it generates a pseudo random ID when you ask it a question, and that is what goes back to the cloud. So there is no way to associate your account with the action/query. 

I find it pretty interesting that not once have I even mentioned (or thought about) the actual features/benefits of smart speakers. What can they actually do? To be honest, I have no idea other than the general things I’ve heard/read about: turn on/off lights, set the thermostat, play music/movies, lock the doors, etc. Do I really need any of that? Nope. Do I actually want any of that? Nope. I don’t even use Siri on my iPhone. At this point, I cannot think of a single reason/way these items would enhance my life. That is what technology is supposed to do, right?

As this point I just need to point out one (obvious) thing – sometimes we get so caught up in making a decision about which technology to embrace, we forget why we want/need it in the first place. If I HAD TO CHOOSE, it would be Apple Home (privacy/security trumps EVERYTHING); but, to be honest I’m not at all even remotely moved to add a smart speaker my collection. Maybe that will change in the next 6-12 months; but, for now… I’m good! In case you are curious / intrigued, see also Best Smart Speakers 2019

In summary, be sure to let your LIFESTYLE & NEEDS help dictate what technology you embrace (bring into your home) and fully weigh the pros/cons of all options! Bri’s Recommendation on Smart Speakers? Just say no!

 

Bri’s Favorite Things 2018

It’s that time again! For the 5th year in a row I’m publishing Bri’s Favorite Things, which can also be used a Holiday Gift Guide for your friends and loved ones. (See also: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014).

Because it’s year FIVE, I’m going BIGGER and BETTER and offering you TONS of options, so…. BUCKLE UP!

BOOKS & WRITING

Becoming , Crazy Rich Asians, Make Your Bed, The Four Agreements, NotebookMildliner

TECH

AirPods, White Marble iPhone Case,*Tortoiseshell iPhone Case, HP Sprocket (case, paper), Marshall Bluetooth Speaker,*Popsocket, iPad Mini

BEAUTY

FARMACY Green Clean Makeup Meltaway, Benefit Brow Pencil, Travel Size CologneLipstickBloom Perfume

ACESSORIES

Double G Brooch,*Crystal Alphabet Charm, Supreme Backpack, Mini Pochette,*Gold Diamond Initial Necklace (Silver)

TV

Outlander (STARZ), Woman in White (PBS), The Crown (Netflix), Greenleaf (OWN)

CLOTHING & SHOES

Quarter-Zip Sharpa,*Houndstooth Tweed Jacket, Adidas Trefoil Tee,*Vogue Sweatshirt, Slippers, Rain Boots, Alabama Sweatshirt

Happy Shopping!

*items I do not own

 

Package Tracker

This time of year everyone is ordering lots of things online. More often times than not, your packages are delivered by multiple carriers: FedEx, UPS, DHL, USPS. How do you keep track of what is being delivered when?

Arrive is a service/app that makes answering that question super easy! Simply download the app (iOS only), grant access to your email account and that’s it. The service will automatically scan your emails, look for new shipment notifications and add the package, estimated delivery date AND a thumbnail of what you ordered (i.e. a picture of tennis shoes or earrings) in a seamless view. Every time you open the app, the status is refreshed.

Watch Arrive in action below.