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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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  • Archive for April, 2011

    Apple is tracking ME?!? Should I be worried or flattered?

    Friday, April 22nd, 2011

    I read an article yesterday, which led me to read more articles yesterday, about the tracking device inside the iPhones and iPads. I think the most informative one is here on WebProNews.

    According to the articles, the new OS4 software creates a file which tracks where you’ve been and then syncs it to your computer as in unencrypted file that anyone can get to.

    Really? I gotta try this.

    There is a free app named “iPhone Tracker” which you can quickly download and install on your Mac. Upon launch, the app finds this file and creates a map of the globe and shows where you’ve been.

    I could see right away that it only tracks cell traffic, not WIFI, as none of my international stops in the last three months were showing.

    As you can see, all that’s showing is a bunch of travel in the Midwest United States…so I zoomed in.

    I found it interesting how it wasn’t showing locations where I know I have been and know I used the 3G function on my iPad.

    In the last three weeks I’ve spoken in Saratoga Springs, NY at the New York Press Association Convention and in Norfolk, VA for the Virginia Press Association Convention. Neither are showing as spots where I’ve been, although you can see my trip from Nashville to Bowling Green, KY with multiple dots along the way between them.

    If I zoom in on the Midwest, where I live a lot of the time, you’ll see a lot of traffic between Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Kansas City. But along the way are dots in cities I’ve never been and no dots in cities where I know I’ve spent a few days. Lamar, MO, for example, doesn’t have a dot anywhere near it, yet I was there for two days in the past three weeks.

    It’s obvious that the tracking device only picks the tower nearest, but I would think there would be other towers along the way to show a real path…towers closer to the route than what it does.

    Look at Joplin, MO, for example. I NEVER stop in Joplin, MO (we’ll save those stories for another time). Yet if you look at the map of Joplin, it would appear I’ve been there a lot…and all over town.

    When I go through Joplin I always stay on I-44 East to US-71N. You can see my only route in red. And yet look at all the dots which would imply I’ve been elsewhere…and notice they are very much on a grid pattern. But further north, in Carthage, nothing…and there’s nothing on the map until Kansas City.

    So what does this mean? I don’t know, I just had fun playing with it.

    But it does make you think a bit, I hope. What DOES this mean? Is Apple using it to pick new locations for stores based on iPhone and iPad usage? If so, you have to chalk it up as one brilliant tool for market research by a company. Can you imagine tracking devices in Nike Shoes to see where there is a huge clientele that doesn’t have a local store to serve them? What about…well…any product that has stores in major cities and is wanting to branch out. Tracking devices in GAP clothes, Oakley Sunglasses, etc? Brilliant. I don’t know that it’s legal, but it does sound like a marketer’s dream.

    Forget marketing for a second…what about just the idea of easily being tracked? Okay, there’s the obvious question “what if I bought my kids iPhones…could I use this to get a general idea of where they’ve been?” Yes…a general idea, based on my personal maps. “Could I track employees, spouses…uh…anyone?” Yes, if they have these devices and you have access to the computer they are syncing to (which is required by Apple for the devices to work) and have the rights to load the software.

    So with this thought, my kids could come home, sync their iPhones and go to sleep…then I could spy. Or check on my employees at lunch break.

    I’m a little uncomfortable with this.

    What about law enforcement and other entities that might want to “spy” or “check up” on us.

    I was chatting with a friend about this an she said “What if you were in a town discussing a secret business deal with the only company in that area and there was a crime committed somewhere in that town and because of this information you became a suspect? Now you’re on the front page of the paper as a suspect, and even though you’re innocent, your business deal becomes public.”

    If you want fodder for some deep discussion tonight over dinner with friends, bring this up. And if you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with 3G download the app and check it out for yourself.

    At the very least, I don’t think this can be ignored. Thanks to Senator Al Franken for sending the letter to Apple requesting more information and let’s hope we get some real answers to this. Also thanks to Senator Al Franken for Stuart Smalley.

    Let’s start this discussion right here. What does your map show and what do you think about all this? Is it a real concern or just hype that will pass tomorrow?

    I’ve been busy…

    Thursday, April 21st, 2011

    To say I’ve been a slacker with regards to updating my blog would be an understatement…It’s been a couple of years. Yea…a couple of years.

    And nobody has said anything…nobody. So I’m thinking nobody reads what I write so what’s the rush.

    Well, last year I spoke in Kentucky twice, and both times someone made a point of asking me why it’s been so long since I’ve updated my blog. One guy in Georgetown asked me, in front of a room full of people “Why are you such a lazy slacker…is it ’cause yer a Yank?” Okay…he didn’t say that. He didn’t say anything close to that. But he did ask me in front of a room full of 100 students why I don’t keep my blog current.

    Well…I’ve been busy.

    If you looked at my passport and the miles I’ve logged in the last two years you might understand. I travel so much I’m keeping a list of countries where I’ve eaten pizza. Seriously. And it’s getting longer all the time.

    I’ve been busy speaking at conferences, onsite training, webinars and more. I’ve also been busy working with Walsworth Publishing to help high school students in Europe learn Creative Suite to create better yearbooks. Sometimes I think I’m more comfortable on trains and planes than in my own home.

    I travel everywhere with a camera and sometimes I take the time to get some shots. Sometimes I’m just too tired from chasing trains, finding hotels, speaking, trains, taxis, pizza, planes, pizza. I think traveling internationally would be a lot easier if beef jerky were more globally available. C’mon…you can get Starbucks in Istanbul, but not beef jerky. There’s something terribly wrong there. I saw a Baskin & Robbins and a TGI Friday’s in St. Petersburg, Russia…but no jerky. And you can’t take that stuff with you, really…customs frowns on that.

    In the last year I’ve made several videos, two for Adobe’s Learn by Video series (InDesign and Illustrator) and three for Video2Brain.

    If you’ve never done videos, it’s a lot like being in prison…with a microphone. You sit in a cell with gray walls all around and you talk. And talk. And talk. And they slide food under the door to you. After a couple of days you’re hoping Johnny Cash will show up and do a show for you and the boys. If you’re good, and finish up on time, you get released. Getting reintegrated with the outside world is tough, even just adjusting to the light takes hours.

    What’s also kept me very busy has been the development and launch of my new company and product, Atomic News Tools. The website is pretty bare right now, but you can see videos of how the product works. In short, you populate your website directly from InDesign so as you build your newspaper, magazine, newsletter, etc., you can quickly upload stories to the pages you want. You can also build ads and upload from InDesign.

    So to avoid any risk of hurting myself with my first blog article in two years, I’ll keep this short. In my defense it HAS been a very busy couple of years for technology, too. IPads, Creative Suite releases and more are keeping me very busy.

    In closing I’d like to thank my only two readers, who both happen to live in Kentucky. If there are more than two readers out there, and you’re one of them, let me know. You can find me here by leaving a comment, I’m on Facebook, I Twitter, I Skype, I iChat, I SMS, I have email and I still receive letters from the United States Postal Service. I’m also willing to pick up the phone if you catch me during normal business hours (Monday from 1 pm to 1:20 pm).

    Seriously, I love working with people in the design and publishing industry and I’m sorry I’ve been such a slacker…I promise I’ll be more prompt in my posts (than once every two years).