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20 October 2011

Amazon's Silk Browser

Interested in Amazon's new Android-powered Kindle Fire?
Did you know it has a brand new type of web browser called Silk, that captures your every move, on every web page?

To find out more read my article The Problem With Silk in this week's Micro Mart magazine, issue 1180.

Here's an extract from the article:

Taking full advantage of Silk means maintaining a persistent connection to the Amazon cloud. In doing so the cloud acts as a middleman between the user and the Internet. Therefore, cloud services can monitor all your web browsing activities, trends and habits. By applying machine learning algorithms and predictive rendering techniques to this captured data, pages can be cached before they've actually been requested.

How does this work in practice? Let's say the server notices that after navigating to the BBC's news headlines, many people move to the sports page, before checking out the local weather forecast. In future, while you're digesting the day's news stories the sports and weather pages will be rendered and cached on the server, ready for instant loading.

Does all this web browsing analysis sound quite disconcerting? In one way it it's not vastly removed from what happens when you perform a Google search, or use your Tesco club card. However, you're free to use a different search engine, or choose whether to carry a supermarket loyalty card.

The problem with Silk is that there's nowhere else to go. If you own an Amazon Fire tablet all your web surfing will be done using the Silk browser. Therefore, by default, every page you visit will be noted, logged and analysed by Amazon's cloud.

If this isn't alarming enough, there's more. As I've already said, every request will be processed by the cloud server. So, what about user input? Even on secure websites? Well, it's captured too. Log into your bank and your account credentials are captured by the cloud before being passed onto the bank.

Amazon states the information gathered will be anonymous. But can we be sure?

Read more analysis posts.

8 October 2011

Twitchhiker by Paul Smith

An epic travel journey, conceived in a bath, finalised in a supermarket, enacted within days of getting married, and all totally reliant on the kindness and generosity of the Twitter community.

Most people would be nervous of relying on 140 character tweets to see them safely transported across their local town. Paul had a bigger idea, a much bigger idea. From Newcastle in the north-east of England to Campbell Island at the southern most tip of New Zealand - in just 30 days.

With a smooth writing style, flowing pace and plenty of humour, this book describes the incubation, preparation and unpredictable events of his adventure.

Events that evolved from insufficient items of clothing, spontaneous friendships, even radio and TV appearances. An adventure involving ferries, planes, cars and buses, passing though Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Washington, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Kansas City, Laurence, Wichita, Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Auckland, Wellington and Stewart Island.

An idea which finished 18,848 km from his home. A trip that raised over £5,000 for charity: water. And a book that's well worth reading.