50% of All Thefts in San Francisco Are Smart Phones, National Theft Epidemic Prompts Prosecutors to Push For Smart Phone ‘Kill Switch’

Every year it gets worse.  Innocent people are often maimed for life when they get slashed up during an Iphone robbery. It eventually gets to be “not such a smart idea” to stand on a street corner and use your Iphone. The thefts are not new of course, but they are getting bolder and more frequent. When 50% of all street crime in a given U.S. city [ in this case, San Fran ] is smart phone theft, you know it’s getting really bad. I gathered some video of the escalating trend of smart phone theft from the past few years to illustrate the point. All in all, it becomes a case of “be careful when and where you use it” if you want to keep your face, your life and your Iphone.

2009 New Jersey:

May 2012:

December 2012:

Other Bizarre Moments:

Re-posted from Reuters:

Prosecutors push for ‘kill switch’ to prevent smartphone thefts

A woman looks at her smartphone prior to the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO | Wed Jun 5, 2013 9:48pm EDT

(Reuters) – In a push to curb cellphone thefts, prosecutors for New York state and the city of San Francisco said on Wednesday they plan to meet with industry representatives to urge them to install switches to disable stolen smartphones.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said they will meet on June 13 with representatives of the four largest smartphone manufacturers.

They said they will ask the industry to place “kill switches” on mobile devices to render them inoperable when stolen, eliminating any incentive for theft.

“With 1.6 million Americans falling victim to smartphone theft in 2012, this has become a national epidemic,” Gascon said in a statement. “Unlike other types of crimes, smartphone theft can be eradicated with a simple technological solution.”

Gascon and Schneiderman said representatives of Apple Inc, Google Inc’s smartphone maker Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics and Microsoft Corp would attend the summit in New York.

Last month, two men in San Francisco severely cut a 27-year-old tourist’s face and throat while robbing his iPhone. In April 2012, a 26-year-old chef was killed while being robbed of his iPhone on his way home to the Bronx.

“The theft of handheld devices is the fastest-growing street crime, and increasingly, incidents are turning violent,” Schneiderman said. “It’s time for manufacturers to be as innovative in solving this problem as they have been in designing devices that have reshaped how we live.”

Representatives for Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Google and a cellphone trade group either declined to comment or were not immediately available for comment.

Gascon and Schneiderman have both criticized the cellphone industry for what they perceive as its perceived unwillingness to solve the escalating problem.

About 50 percent of San Francisco robberies involved stolen mobile devices last year, Gascon said. A recent study found that lost and stolen cellphones cost consumers $30 billion in 2012, his office said.

Some companies have measures in place to reunite smartphones with their rightful owners. For instance, Apple has the application Find My iPhone which allows a user to track a missing device on a map and remotely lock it or erase data.

A nationwide database has been created for stolen cellphones, but law enforcement officials say its use is limited because many stolen devices are shipped overseas or modified so they cannot be easily identified as stolen, according to a New York Times report from May.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Lisa Shumaker)

Analysis & Opinion



Told You So: It’s 5 Months Later & Microsoft Surface Sales Are Falling Flat

Microsoft tried to re-invent the wheel with their silly “Surface,” a crack-apart-and-snap-back-together sadlet, inspiring at least one veteran webophile and writer to sound off. That would be me. Today I was dancing around my office while consumed in gales of maniacal laughter, emanating overt “I told you you so” glee after I read the report from Business Insider about the lackluster sales of the ridiculously unnecessary Microsoft “Surface.”

It’s not that I rejoice in anyone’s failure. Not at all. It’s that I was particularly infuriated that big brainiac Microsoft decided last year to try and re-invent one of the most necessary and practical computing devices of the modern era: the classic and loveable laptop computer. How stupid was that? What made me grin from ear to ear is the news 5-6 months later that Americans are not merely cud-chewing consuming beasts after all, but had the smarts to realize that a Surface is just a break apart laptop, re-named and re-packaged as something “new.”  What’s more, in this case, the “new” thing didn’t make as much sense as the old thing. So Americans kept their beloved old thing, their laptops, and ignored the new thing. Score ONE for America. Score ZERO for the Microsoft Surface.

“So be it”, she typed from her perfectly fine three year old laptop. “It’s a victory for the people vs. idiot consumerism and I am really glad.”

Microsoft’s Surface:  Is it a laplet or a tabtop?

[ Update, 5 months later:  I was right and I knew it. The verdict is in and business websites are reporting that Microsoft’s “Surface” tablet isn’t selling. Even the obnoxious TV adverts which air at an ear-splitting decibel, showing college kids prancing around and writhing in the air while snapping and unsnapping their goofy “Surfaces” can’t save this hi-tech flop. But I knew that the first minute I laid eyes on the comically unnecessary “Surface” last fall. ]

SAMSUNG: No One Is Buying Microsoft’s Surface, Windows 8 Isn’t Very Good

Earlier in October of 2012 I had written:

When I saw the new TV advert for “Surface” I fell about laughing myself silly. It just goes to show you: sometimes the most clever new idea on the block is an old idea which never went out of style.

Good design is always characterized by it’s timelessness. It will outlast decades, fads, fashion transformations and often return again years into the future to become the new “vogue” that it was in it’s original heyday. All fashion designers know this. That’s why many times what you see on the runway as the “next big thing” is a retro re-hash of what was vogue once upon a time in the 1940s, 50s or 60s.

Microsoft’s new tablet “Surface” looks tragically similar to what you might get if a good solid laptop and a an Ipad got together, had sex, and had a hybrid baby. The idea for the “Surface” is not new, nor is it particularly clever. The object has to have a third appendage to hold it up as a make-believe laptop, as the keyboard section is not heavy enough to do it alone. It’s never good design when the newer model is a mangled re-working of the original with more working parts and less aesthetic appeal. At first glance, the “Surface” looks like exactly what it is, a pretend laptop which dis-assembles into a tablet. The clunky third piece on the back which holds it all up is kind of sad looking. Peeking into the historical archives of Microsoft you will find they have tinkered with a “tablet” computing machine design since as early as 1991. The “tablet” idea is not new. But for Microsoft, it is rather late in arriving.

The “retro computing movement” has apparently finally come around to some of the fundamental design issues of personal computing. Anyway that you look at the Microsoft Surface, it’s an attempt to wed the carefree coolness and youth of a tablet with the more practical working credentials of a classic computing laptop, proving of course that laptops never went “out of style” in the first place. No one wants to admit this but you can’t really improve much on the design basics of the most practical portable computing device ever invented: the laptop.

I’m sounding off on all of this as a writer. I’ve been both an artist and a writer all my life, and a news blogger for at least five years. I spend a few hours every other day at least, working at my laptop.

I’ve used a laptop, in one form or another, to ply my trade online, for 18 years or more. Before the internet was invented, writers used typewriters of course [ remember typewriters?] and we even used an archaic little vial of super blue-white goo known as “White-Out” to erase our mistakes. A keyboard was not laid out on a one dimensional flat plane on the typewriter, but rows of keys sat in little tiers, one just above the next. WPM [“words per minute” ] mattered to office managers and company owners. It was the era of the written human word as it existed BEFORE the internet: B.I.

When computers began appearing in every American home in the late 1980s and early 1990s the early era computer keyboard continued to look a little bit like the old tiered typewriter keyboards, as most early first and second generation home computers were either little Macintosh affairs or PC towers which came with a separate keyboard, attached to the hard drive with a cable. These keyboards had a little tabs on the bottom that you could use to raise the surface to a slight angle, so that skilled typists could still reach keys at a similar angle to the keyboards that they had used on typewriters for decades before computers were around. [ Naturally I am writing this post with those in mind who are old enough to recall “life before the internet” in comparison to “life after the internet” – and I am fully aware that on WP that may be a rather small minority of readers. ]

The next evolution of the keyboard came with the exploding popularity of laptops, the beloved portable little computing machines which were conveniently sized flat hinged rectangles which opened up into a practical arrangement of computer screen at the top facing the viewer and keyboard as the flat foundation holding the whole thing together, the “lap” part of the “top”.  Even the name made perfect sense as it described this new modern electronic object  much better than the word “computer,” which could be a word used to describe anything or anyone which can mentally calculate and ‘compute’.

As design pragmatics goes, the laptop will never go out of style as the most utilitarian design for any portable machine used for looking at a computer screen and typing while you do that. Laptops just make sense. The entire arrangement snaps shut into one solid object which one can drop into a briefcase or a backpack and take along with to record life as it happens at the office, at home, at the library, wherever you need to stop sit, plug in [ or not, using an extended battery and wifi ] and start typing.

What never made sense to me about tablets was the non-existent tactile experience of typing and feeling the keys give to record the character. Typing has always made a little sound. Writers are familiar with that sound, the soft tapping of characters on a real [ not virtual ] keyboard. It’s the sound of one human being communicating his or her thoughts to another one. It’s a sound that has been around in one way or another since the invention of keyboards. Using a tablet to type or compose an essay is awkward, clunky, oddly noiseless and for me it has discouraged writing rather than encouraged it. If I had to depend on a tablet to do what I do, I would eventually lose interest in writing. Or I’d just go back to linen paper, a good ink pen and classic longhand.

If I wanted to play and goof off all day online I would carry along a tablet. But if I want to get any real work done, I cannot be without my real and genuine  laptop. I don’t want a “faux” make-believe laptop, that snaps together like a Leggo.

So Microsoft, the inventor of the operating system that put the personal computing experience into the offices and homes of 80% of the world’s computer users 30 years ago, has attempted to re-invent the laptop again in late 2012.

Why? Why go to all this trouble to call the object something new and different, when the original object it imitates is still around, still works great, has more varying design makes and models than any car brand out there, and really can’t be improved upon? There are real laptops out there. And now we will have “faux” Microsoft laptops which will be called  a “Surface.”

It’s silly. No, really, it’s just silly.

Here’s my theory: Microsoft has fallen into mediocrity in the mega-earnings department in recent years, as Apple’s Ipods, Ipads, Iphones, and I-everythings has blanketed the world in “Appleness”. For the company to remain viable in coming decades they have needed to come out with their own brand of MUST-HAVE personal computing gadgets. It’s nothing more than fashion really. Maybe they have been embarrassed by Apple’s supersonic success with I-products. Why wouldn’t they be?  Maybe Apple’s success now threatens the future existence of Microsoft. I’m sure that it does. Maybe it’s just the “green with envy” problem. But for whatever reasons, Microsoft has aired the most screaming up and down, hopping delighted, look-at-me look-at-me TV advert in recent memory for a rather sad and unimaginative laptop knock-off which they have named their new “Surface”.

What goes around comes around. And around. And around.

As Surface Goes on Sale Today, Microsoft Seeks to Reinvent the Tablet

See http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/10/as-surface-goes-on-sale-today-microsoft-seeks-to-reinvent-tablet/

See http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow/story/304004/a-history-of-windows-tablets/2

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Is it Just Me Or Is Something REALLY Wrong With Bing.com Today?


But wait, it gets WORSE. When I finally got the proper screen for http://bing.com and ran my search, here’s what came up rather than the search results:


Be sure to read that last paragraph above.  Never MIND that this was the first time I have used Bing in a month, so the lame “repeated search” text just did not apply. It’s all just too creepy. Will we ever have search engines that aren’t secret spy machines? Sigh.

So … I have to admit:  in 18 years of routinely using Google.com for searches, day in day out, often 10-20 times a day on a busy news day, I have NEVER had Google force me to prove that I am not a machine. So I guess for me, Google.com wins the search engine wars. Odds are I will not run another search on Bing.

Three consecutive strikes of weirdness and you’re OUT. I don’t have time for it.

HP’s ‘Envy X2’ Beat’s Microsoft ‘Surface’ as My Tablet Notebook Solution

Earlier this month I wrote about the new Windows solution for making a tablet back into a laptop or vice versa, the Surface. I was less than impressed with a device that took three separate snap-on components to play “look, I’m a laptop now.”

I think Hewlett Packard’s new Envy X2 Is a better design solution and more solid looking product, all the way around. We’re shopping for small portable computing devices this winter in my household. I’m going with Hewlett Packards’ Envy X2.

HP stylishly solved the “I can’t work on a tablet” dilemma for writers with a small stylish aluminum notebook laptop that converts to a tablet without the clunky third prop needed by the Microsoft product. At a glance I could never get past how cheap and plastic the Surface looked and felt. It just didn’t work for me. The HP Envy X2 solves the problem beautifully. When it disassembles the tablet top still looks and feels substantial enough be easy to carry around. It’s just a personal preference for me. I have been loyal to HP products for more than a decade and I know from experience that you practically have to drive over one with a Hummer to break it.

For the money the Envy X2 looks to be a computing device that will last. I like that. I am not one of those rabid consumers who trades in my old whatever for a new one every six months. I couldn’t do that without also feeling the guilty sting of knowing that my castaway computer trash was adding to the mountain of technological gadgets that have been deemed “outdated,” piling up in landfills and used computer stores by the gadzillions each time the next big thing comes out. Ebay does a brisk trade banking on the incoming tsunami of 2 to 6 year old computing devices which flood their online auctions each time a new product release comes around.

It’s like the automobile issue. Every thinking American knows that the brightest car heads could come together and design a personal or family vehicle  that’s built to last for 50 years or more. That’s the wisest and most far thinking thing we could ever do to conserve the dwindling resources of our ravaged planet. But that concept doesn’t snap together too well with capitalism as it’s practiced in America.

Instead the computing device and OS manufacturing behemoths, Apple and Microsoft, have finessed the fine art of designing a brand new thing that’s way more different and way more clever than the old thing – about every year and half give or take, that sends the world into a frenzy of renewed rabid consumerism, tossing out their perfectly good old things for the new ones.

Can we really afford to keep doing this decade after decade? The planet doesn’t have infinite raw materials, but we keep consuming [ everything ] as if it does.

I’m still waiting the see which computer or OS company is the first to introduce the ultimate 100 year lifespan computing device that works on a new universal operating system designed to work for a thousand years [ please let it be based on Linux!] that won’t need to be updated or patched every 30 seconds for the next few centuries.

It’s time to develop the computer built to last 100 years or more, the ultimate lifelong friend of a personal computing device that you will include in your Will, bequeathing it for your heirs to spend their childhoods browsing the contents of.  That’s an idea whose time has come. If we have little science and photography labs driving themselves around the surface of Mars, then we can do this. That would be real progress and also my idea of a good time.

Here’s the HP video:

Earlier I wrote:

Microsoft’s “Surface” Proves Tablets Are A Bad Idea for Writers and That Laptops Still Make Sense

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