Nokia 3310: the immortal phone

I do not remember the exact model, but my father had a Nokia with incredible speakers. I would say that the whole building was aware of when somebody called him, but that technological prodigy (at that time) also had other advantages shared by the devices of the time. Among others, of course, was those batteries that never seemed to die. They remind me of that old ‘Highlanders’ movie. If Connor MacLeod had had a cell phone, it would have been that one for sure.

The fact is that some people are still using this kind of phones. An old friend resisted tech trends for years, and kept his old Nokia (I don’t know if it was this particular model) until he realized that what he wanted was not a new phone, but a camera with which he could also make calls. That was the argument of his surrender, because I doubt that he would have otherwise accept that defeat.

These days the indestructible Nokia 3310 has been part of the news again. A British user told media he had been using it for 17 years, withstanding —of course— the laughter of colleagues. Anyone who has resisted all this time clearly has plenty of arguments to be invulnerable to any criticism or suggestion, but some of those reasons could convince others that a Nokia 3310 is precisely what they (we) need in our lives.

This is a subject largely covered in media, among other things because a phone of this kind allows you to escape the digital whirlwind and, as they said in The Guardian, regain your life. You could say goodbye to the social networks and WhatsApp, something that for many people would probably be like living an empty life.

But you could do it, and in fact there have been strange and bold ideas to detoxify a little of that dependence on the mobile. There are “feature phones 3.0“, cellphones without ‘smart’ capabilities that basically inherit the virtues of those old Nokia devices and that adapt them to modern times with some improvements like having more space to listen to music (this If allowed). It is for example what is achieved with the Punkt MP 01, a funny product whose motto is that you can just focus. It removes everything “accessory” in the smartphone world, and offers you a basic, cool phone that has a ridiculous price: 295 euros. Phew.

The NoPhone

The NoPhone is even funnier, and that product is precisely what the name suggests. A block of plastic with the size and shape of a smartphone, but that is just that:  an absurd and stupid plastic block so you at least have the feeling that you have something in your pocket. It’s like chopsticks for smokers, a way to fool our minds into being quiet, I suppose.

The idea is to help you forget about your phone, something its creators have used to laugh about. That product has been even surpassed with the NoPhone Air, which only teaches you the package of that phone because, attention, there’s nothing inside. Well, yes, there is air. Air that does not take photos, does not store data and does not have Wi-Fi or has a headphone connector. It is “the invisible phone for people who use their phone too much“. A perfect gift ($5) for addicts to these rectangles that dominate our lives and to which we should pay a little less attention.

The NoPhone Air

The funniest thing about these nice phones is that they make more sense than we think. These last two are a reminder of how far we’ve come, but both the Punkt model and the Nokia 3310 are a much more useful resource than we think. Not to fight against the passage of time or social networks, no. To fight attacks against our privacy.

In fact you should buy one of these Nokia 3310 if you go traveling to places where your data and privacy are at risk. Say, for example, the United States, that country in which they are posing to ask you for the passwords of Instagram or Facebook. You know, to see if you are or you relate to terrorists (because someone is going to boast about it there) when you pass through their customs. Which is precisely why if you travel there or to other countries with these types of policies the best you can do is not to take your smart devices with you.

If you do, do not take the ones you use normally, of course. Use an old laptop and a rusty cell phone, formatted and totally clean, without having just used them, and in which you certainly have not gotten into your social networks. I would say you could preinstall Tails or some security focused Linux distro in that laptop, but that would probably make you look more suspicious. No. Throw in a 10 year old netbook with Windows XP (or better, a Windows Me, to whack the staff). If they stop you and want to analyze it give them access password kindly. Let’s see if they can analyze something.

The same can apply to your mobile phone: that Nokia 3310 can do wonders to make you pass customs flawlessly. If you cant to take pictures of the trip, buy a camera in some big store, take them, send them those photos with an encrypted file through WeTransfer (for example), and return the camera to get back your money. There are lots of ways to make life more difficult to people who wants to know everything about you with the old excuse —”everyone is guilty until proven innocent“—, so take that into account.

There you have it. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to buy a Nokia 3310. You can access inmortality for just €12.63 at Aliexpress. That’s not too much to ask for eternal life, right?

Firefox, Chrome and the perception of value

It doesn’t happen that much in technology, but some articles become more real and truthful as time goes by. It’s certainly the case in ‘Choose Firefox Now, Or Later You Won’t Get A Choice‘, where the author urges the user to use Mozilla’s browser:

So if you want an Internet — which means, in many ways, a world — that isn’t controlled by Google, you must stop using Chrome now and encourage others to do the same. If you don’t, and Google wins, then in years to come you’ll wish you had a choice and have only yourself to blame for spurning it now.

The article is being discussed at Hacker News, where several readers make good points about what are the reasons Chrome and Firefox are currently where they are. One of them made an interesting question: “What did cause you to switch?

When Chrome was launched Firefox was easily the best browser around. That ended with Chrome, which was faster, leaner and had features such as sandboxing that for example allowed the browser to keep running even if one of the tabs stopped working. The extension catalog was not that great at the beginning, but that changed quickly too. 

Years after that, the situation is quite different. Chrome and Firefox are indeed great browsers, and I wouldn’t say one is far better than the other. When I started using Chrome -I’m writing this post on this browser- I did it for the advantages it had, and I didn’t consider sacrificing my privacy as a big danger back in the day. 

That consideration is no longer true, but the problem is, even considering the respect to privacy that Firefox provides to the user, that’s not a perceived value.

It’s nothing you actually feel when you’re browsing. 

That’s the problem, I’d say. Firefox could be interesting for many people if there was some feature specially beneficial to them. Opera has been trying to walk this path with its adblocking capabilities, the power efficiency enhancements and the addition of a VPN proxy. Even with those interesting features, the market share hasn’t changed that much. And if it doesn’t for Opera, I wonder how Firefox can improve its market share with a discourse that again (most) people don’t usually get. 

That’s sad, and the worst part of it: I’m not helping to solve the situation either. I know I should use Firefox. It simply doesn’t feel like the best browser for me anymore. 

It will be a lot harder to criticize WhatsApp now

whatsapp1

Yesterday WhatsApp announced the final step of its strong encryption effort. Millions of users will finally have access to one of the most important features WhatsApp lacked: privacy protection.

Wired has published a longform on that subject, and it is strange to find there much more appraisal to WhatsApp founders -Jan Koum and Brian Acton who, by the way, look far different to the typical super-billionaire- than to the real responsibles from the actual magic.

That magic comes from Open Whisper Systems, who have provided the tools and protocols that allow that end-to-end encryption to finally be there for WhatsApp users. As Forbes has put it:

All of this is now coming to a billion people’s pockets without them having to do anything about it

Exactly. And that’s how technology really changes lives.

 

Origen: Forget Apple vs. the FBI: WhatsApp Just Switched on Encryption for a Billion People

The absurd backdoor

China passed a controversial new anti-terrorism law on Sunday that requires technology firms to help decrypt information, but not install security “backdoors” as initially planned, and allows the military to venture overseas on counter-terror operations.

Counter-terrorism efforts are beginning to be infuriating. Most countries are passing laws against encryption and privacy that for lots of people are even more concerning that the terrorist attacks themselves.

China is the latest one to propose the integration of backdoors for government purposes on all kinds of electronic equipment, and that’s only another sign of defeat. Not for terrorists, of course: I assume their goal has never been the suppression of our privacy. Glenn Greenwald is on the spot on this issue:

This is a defeat for our society, and I really hope small and big technology companies do not play that game. Apple seems to lead that stance, something that could affect their current business in the asiatic giant, but that really honors them.

Source: China passes controversial counter-terrorism law

Kids and parents beware: modern toys are another gateway to private data

The personal information of almost 5 million parents and more than 200,000 kids was exposed earlier this month after a hacker broke into the servers of a Chinese company that sells kids toys and gadgets.

That company is VTech, but the hack is not on the toys themselves: it’s on the servers that recolect parents and children data. And ancient vulnerability that allows SQL injection attacks and that has lead to the change to collect all this information from end users.

It’s not an isolated case.  There has been for example another problem with the “Hello Barbie” toy from Mattel, which audio files and connection data to servers could be hijacked (it’s not clear if there’s a real risk there according to Mattel partners on this feature). Wired told us a story about the IM-ME made from Mattel and repurposed for opening gare door, and My Friend Cayla could become a toy from an horror movie.

Security and privacy related news are so frequent on this days that we don’t pay much attention to day, but when those users are kids, things start to raise eyebrows. Maybe this is what we need to be aware of the dangers of this information and hyperconnection era.

Security must be seen as something important from the very beginning.  We must learn what secure by design means. And product and service makers should apply that idea to all their processes.

Source: One of the Largest Hacks Yet Exposes Data on Hundreds of Thousands of Kids