Apple vs. Lenovo: Devotion & Deception

The news of the Lenovo malware scare is simply another example of why I won’t use anything other than Apple products for my computers. Said Thomas Fox-Brewster from Forbes: “Lenovo might have made one of the biggest mistakes in its history.”

“By pre-installing software called ‘Superfish’ to get ads on screens, it’s peeved the entire privacy community,” continued Fox-Brewster. “Lenovo won’t want anyone to call it that, but Superfish has been described as a piece of malware, or an adware pusher, that the Chinese firm pre-installs on consumer laptops.”

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Which is why all the computers in my house come from Apple. No, Apple isn’t perfect. Like cars, display panel TVs, and toasters, there’s no such thing as perfect.

Understanding mass production means comprehending that a certain percentage of units rolling off the assembly line will, for one reason or another, have a defect or problem. This includes everything from #2 pencils to the venerable BMW M5. Defects happen. Period.

Defects vs. Deception

Defects are accidental. Happenstance, if you will. Completely unintentional. Lenovo, however, engaged in deception and malice. After reading these first few lines of a TechCrunch article today, my sentiment regarding my computer choices was cemented:

Earlier this week, word started spreading that Lenovo had been pre-installing a sketchy adware program called “Superfish” onto many of its Windows PCs for months.

Then researchers started finding nasty vulnerabilities—namely, that Superfish was using some pretty ugly hacks to tinker with your computer’s encryption certificates, and doing so in a way that seemingly leaves your otherwise “encrypted” communications (everything that goes over HTTPS) unsecure whenever you’re on a shared WiFi connection (like at a coffee shop).

Preinstalling Sketchy Adware

“Lenovo had been pre-installing a sketchy adware program….” I really didn’t need to read beyond that first line of the article. I hear and read plenty of interesting things in the daily research for my writing. “Apple isn’t worth the extra money.” “Apple is too expensive.” “Apple is a rip-off.” “You’re just making Tim Cook rich; you’re a chump.”

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But let’s read a bit more of that TechCrunch article. “Even without the security implications, Superfish was pretty sketchy. Its purpose? Catch Google search results before they hit your screen, then quietly modify them to include more ads.”

Yes, Apple products are certainly more expensive than Levono, HP, and Dell. But why do so many flock to Apple for their computing needs? I’ll admit, some do so only because it’s trendy or fashionable. These aren’t people who necessarily engage in a great deal of critical thought in deciding what computing device to purchase.

Can’t Afford Lenovo Crap

Then there’s people like me and many of my friends and colleagues. People who earn their living from the QWERTY keyboard sitting under their fingers. People who have children who rely on their income. People who can’t afford the bullsh*t coming from companies like Lenovo.

I’ve written in the past about how Apple products are superior. I even wrote about how I tried an Android tablet, only to have it croak on me within just a few months of purchase. I returned to Apple for my daily tablet needs. It’s the best thing I ever did.

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The case of Lenovo is just another example of why professionals, and many who seek the best quality, reach out to Apple. Yes, there are the posers and dorks who just want to be seen with the “cool stuff.” But professionals don’t care about that. We focus on reliability, dependability, and performance. We can’t afford problems like Superfish and not being able to trust our computer vendor. We have enough vulnerabilities in our daily lives; inviting more just to save a few bucks is foolish.

Don’t Mess With the Work Truck

I call my laptop my “work truck.” Because it is. It’s my Ford F-350 pickup. And it better damn well get me to the job site every day. Lenovo may be the world’s biggest personal computer manufacturer, but it certainly isn’t the best. And, in striking clarity, it just proved it to the world.

“By this morning, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was urging Lenovo laptop owners to remove the tool.” Wow. When I read things like this, I smile, knowing I’ve made the right decision by positioning Apple as the default, trusted source for the computing needs of my family. My daughters will graduate from high school and emerge from my house knowing the value of their computing dollars.

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For those of you boasting about how you saved a few bucks by going with Dell or Lenovo for your new laptop: Have fun with that (and worrying about if something like Superfish has compromised your communications or finances). In the words of Bryan Wakefield, a Lenovo customer who commented on the Forbes article, “Just purchased a Lenovo product for the first time this year. Might have to rethink that decision in the future.”

Rethink indeed. After the Superfish stunt on Lenovo’s part (all to generate a few bucks), more and more consumers are becoming aware of the true cost of “cheaper” when it comes to computers. Pay me now, or pay me later. That’s what my dad used to say. Like it or hate it, it’s reality. Lenovo just provided it.

Trust Your Vendor?

So choose your poison. Pay more upfront for a quality product that you can trust from Apple, or pay later in loss of privacy, hidden infections, vulnerability to hackers, even more ads, fear and panic, and whatever else has been surreptitiously loaded onto your PC.

Trust is the foundation of most relationships. Be it a marriage, business partners, or product manufacturers, how can you justify paying your computer vendor to lie to you and then hijack your personal computer—all while leaving it unsecured and open to hackers?

With Apple, I pay not only for quality and dependability, but also a seemingly invisible element that you won’t find installed on any hard drive: Trust.

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Curt Robbins

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Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:3d1

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtARobbins, read his auto-related articles on CarNewsCafe, check out his Apple-themed articles on Apple Daily Report, and read his AV-related articles at rAVe Publications. You can also view his photos on Flickr.

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Ello? Are You a Product?

ello logo for blogTim Cook, CEO of Apple, recently spoke out—in a thinly veiled jab at Google and Facebook in the form of an open letter to customers—regarding the fact that Apple doesn’t sell customer data to advertisers or other third parties. In a similar vein, a new social network has emerged that directly challenges ad-supported social media by claiming to never sell user data.

The service? Ello.

Ello is getting quite a bit of media attention. It’s an ad-free social media site that’s being labeled a potential “Facebook killer” and the “anti-Facebook.” While no competing social network will likely kill—or even put a significant dent in—Facebook in the near future, Ello’s emergence and the serious attention it’s garnering are a sign that social media is maturing and beginning to serve different niches.

Ello, still in beta, is a free service launched by artists and designers in Burlington, Vermont (where, symbolically, roadside billboards are illegal). It has been described as a hybrid of Twitter and Tumblr. On its website, the company states, “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate—but a place to connect, create and celebrate life,” adding the Applesque, “You are not a product.”

Currently, Ello membership is available only via invite (although the service is still gaining 35,000 new signups and 45,000 invite requests per hour). New users are permitted to invite several friends. Unlike most social networks, Ello allows members to follow others as either “friends” or “noise” and doesn’t reveal how you’ve categorized them. Said one newspaper review, “Whatever the online version of ‘new car smell’ is, Ello has it.” This tone suggests that this relatively novel social network is special simply because it’s the new kid on the block—not because it’s truly disruptive in the evolution of social media. Which, of course, remains to be seen.

Echoing Cook’s message regarding customers versus products, the Ello Manifesto, posted on the company’s sparsely designed website, states, “Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.”

Further indoctrinating potential users into its customer-focused, David-meets-Goliath culture, the company adds, “We believe there is a better way. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.” I love the sound of that—and sincerely hope Ello survives past its startup phase. I’d also like to know what Vermont verde these guys are smoking.

Media response to Ello has been mixed, but typically cynical or pessimistic. England’s The Guardian wrote, “We’re turning to the new thing because it’s new, not because it’s good.” CNET reviewed the nascent service with a similar tone: “Plenty of folks are dubious.” AL.com, although supportive of the site, reported, “It’s pretty likely, however, that Ello is a flash in the pan.”

Unlike competing services from LinkedIn and Facebook, Ello lacks a “Like” feature. No doubt this is in response to the fact that it’s one of the most efficient ways in which Facebook and LinkedIn collect user preference data to sell to advertisers. It also currently lacks user blocking and a mobile app. In fact, there’s plenty of features you might be habituated to using on social media that aren’t available in Ello—at least not yet.

If this service is free and there’s no ads, how does it pay for server farms and employee salaries? The company plans to begin offering supplemental “special features” to enhance the user experience. Surely they’re hoping that all of your friends will purchase some of these features and, if you don’t, you’ll suffer feature envy or be incapable of engaging in certain types of communication. Gizmodo said it well: “Think of [Ello] as a freemium social network.”

In the end, Ello might turn out to simply be a relatively short-lived phenomenon. At worse, it could disappear in a few months (after its initial venture capital runs dry). At best, it might gain tens of millions of users and subtly influence services like Facebook and the resuscitated Myspace. Some are speculating that interest in Ello doesn’t necessarily reflect an affinity for this new, hip social network, but rather a disdain for old entrenched players. As The Guardian’s Jess Zimmerman wrote in late September, “Entrenched social networks like Twitter and Facebook would do well to pay attention, because they’re the ships we’re trying to abandon.”

Time will tell if enough people abandon—or, more likely, simply supplement—networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to ensure Ello’s survival. Just the fact that it allows members to use alias names will surely help it gain a few million followers (aliases violate Facebook’s recently introduced “real name” policy that has infuriated members of the LGBT community seeking to avoid harassment). In the meantime, if you’re really curious, stop by Ello’s website and drop your name in the hat, praying to the hipster gods of this new social network for an invite to the party.

It’s refreshing that this newbie service isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to its competitors. “We’re not interested in ruling the world. We think people that are motivated to do things like that have unresolved psychological problems.” Well alright now.

But don’t assume that meteorological success for Ello would hamper the explosion of Facebook, which—at 1.2 billion global users—hasn’t even peaked yet. Also, if a sufficient number of members don’t buy extended features to feed the company cash, this hip service will die before it even gets a chance to appear on the radar of most Facebook or Twitter users.

Probably the best way of describing this quirky social network was provided by a commenter on Gizmodo: “THERE’S A NEW SOCIAL MEDIA OUR PARENTS HAVEN’T RUINED YET!”

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Curt Robbins

[Also check out a follow-up post: Ello in Real Life.]


Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtRobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.