Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Nov 15th, 2012 7 Comments

Xfinity WiFi Hotspots Free, But Potential Security Problem

Xfinity WiFi is a great service that you’ve probably never heard of. Xfinity (or is it Comcast?) has an identity problem, but they also don’t communicate well, even to existing customers. Xfinity WiFi is part of Comcast’s plan to compete with cell phone companies by providing widespread, free access to high speed Wi-Fi (at least free to Comcast customers). They started testing this few years ago around Philadelphia and New York City, but recently expanded to a few cities in northern California. (Current map below.)

Here’s how it works. If you order new Business Class Internet service from Comcast the technician will install a second cable modem and a Wi-Fi router. In my case neither the sales person on the phone nor the installation tech mentioned this would be installed in my office; it was just nailed to the wall when I looked. That’s a pretty stealthy way of rolling out a new service, but it avoids all those pesky questions and approval steps so they can get more hotspots set up faster. I wonder how many companies are hosting a public Wi-Fi hotspot without even realizing it. In my case I was surprised and actually happy to get it because my office overlooks an outdoor courtyard with seating. So it’s a nice public service I can offer to the shoppers, restaurant and other tenants in my building.

I applaud Comcast (or is it Xfinity?) for taking steps to make ubiquitous Wi-Fi available and free for me. The only problem with the service is the way they implement their “Automatic Sign In” feature. When you first find one of these hotspots you have to sign in with your Comcast user name and password. That’s a one-time thing, which is really convenient. Whenever you come across another Xfinity WiFi hotspot you are automatically connected. It works perfectly. HOWEVER, THERE IS NO WAY TO DISCONNECT YOUR DEVICE from this Automatic Sign In feature.

Normally, on an iPad for example, you can go into Settings->Wi-Fi->Choose a network and click the “Forget this Network” button and you will have to log in again to use the network. Not so with Xfinity WiFi. Once Xfinity sees a valid log in your device is permanently connected – and I do mean PERMANENTLY – NOT EVEN WIPING/RESTORING THE DEVICE TO FACTORY SETTINGS WILL DISCONNECT IT.

I tested this by “Restoring” my own iPad to factory settings, which should be the best, safest way to prepare it for sale. But, surprisingly it connected to Xfinity WiFi without ever asking for a password again.

The problem here isn’t that someone will get access to your personal information. But if you sell your iPad, computer, or phone it will remain connected to your Comcast account as long as you have that account. What if the new owner sends inappropriate emails to a four-star general, or CIA agent? The FBI will be knocking on your door because Comcast will tell them the device is yours. The new owner may not even be a Comcast customer, yet they would have free use of this service.

The only explanation about this is found in the Xfinity WiFi FAQs:

“Automatic Sign In is a feature that identifies devices that have successfully signed in to the XFINITY WiFi service previously, and allows these devices to connect to the network in the future without the need to sign in, as long as the account remains active and in good standing.”

It feels very wrong to have strangers potentially connected to my Comcast account. Am I just being paranoid? At a minimum, it seems like my Comcast account management page should include a listing of devices that are “attached” to Xfinity WiFi and give me the opportunity to detach one or all devices.

Have you talked to Comcast support about this issue? Let us know what you heard.

Stay safe out there.

Xfinity WiFi Distribution – November 2012

Xfinity WiFi map Nov 2012

Apr 11th, 2010 No Comments

The business case for the iPad – Part 2

iPad From All Sides

Looking at the iPad from all sides

Read part 1 of this review.

The iPad has been available for a little over a week and Apple just announced that they have to delay international sales because demand in the US has been much greater than expected – apparently over 500,000 were sold in the first week. Cynics will say that it’s just a bunch of Apple fanboys and lemmings that blindly buy anything bearing the fruity logo, but I think there is something more at work here and that real business users are snapping these up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 5th, 2010 3 Comments

The business case for the iPad

iPad standing tall and wide

iPad standing tall after 48 hours

Update: Also read part 2 of this review.

After spending most of the last 48 hours with the iPad in my hands I have to agree with Walt Mossberg that “…this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly…” The folks at Apple like to shake up entire industries – iTunes and the iPod certainly changed the music business and Apple is now the largest music distributor in the world, and the iPhone showed the stodgy telecommunications industry what a phone should be, while Apple sold over 70 million so far. It’s too soon to know whether the iPad will have the same impact, but the early results suggest that it certainly has the potential.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 10th, 2010 1 Comment

Google announces fiber optic network test

Google Fiber Optic Test

Google Fiber Optic Test

Google today announced an initiative to build broadband networks in local communities around the US as part of a test. Quoting Google:

“We’re planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

The full announcement can be found on Google’s blog:

If you ever wanted fiber optic broadband to your home, office, or school now is your chance. Go to the following page and submit your information:

Good luck, and let us know if you win.

Dec 30th, 2009 No Comments

iPhone credit card terminal for everyone

iPhone Credit Card Terminal

Use your iPhone to Swipe Credit Cards

Have you ever wanted to accept credit cards for your small business, or just during your weekend garage sale? For many people the process of getting a merchant account, paying the minimum monthly fees, and setting up the software is just too much trouble and expensive so they don’t bother. But that could result in lost sales and unsatisfied customers. Finally, a new company called Square, Inc. is making it much easier. According to the Square Web site you can “Start accepting payment cards immediately with Square. No contracts, monthly fees, or hidden costs.”

Sign for your purchase

Sign for Your Purchase

Square has created a clever little credit card reader that plugs into the audio jack on the iPhone. (The Web site actually says any device/phone with an audio jack, but it appears that they currently have software only for the iPhone.) The little scanner reads the credit card and uses audio to transfer the data to the iPhone. Customers sign the receipt on the iPhone screen. The phone then encrypts the information and uses its Internet connection to authorize the purchase, just like a Web site would authorize a credit card.

Besides simplifying the actual credit card process Square is also providing customer relationship features. For example, they can track repeat customers for you so, for example, the 10th bagel or coffee could be free.

A nice security feature is the ability to see a customer’s photo to verify their identity. But this would require the customer to set up an account with their picture in advance – not very likely until Square becomes hugely popular.

One of the people behind Square is Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey so the team certainly has the resources to make this successful.

We will be signing up for a Square account and will update this post with first-hand information as soon as possible.

Jul 27th, 2009 No Comments

Twitter guide for business

Twitter logo


The folks at Twitter have just released an interesting new guide for businesses. Called Twitter 101, the online guide (also available for download as a PDF file) provides a comprehensive overview of Twitter, the terminology you’ll need to understand, and best practices.

The really fun stuff is the case studies from companies like Dell, Pepsi, JetBlue, CoffeeGroundz, and Teusner Wines. Some of these companies are large, public corporations while others have just a few people. Lots of good ideas in there that would apply to any business.

Jun 14th, 2009 No Comments

Inspirational video – entrepreneurs can change the world

I don’t know anything about this company, but I love their little video called “Entrepreneurs can change the world.”

Sometimes we all need a reminder that our grandparents, parents and many others probably struggled more than we have. They worked hard and generally left the world a little better than the one they were given. Check out this video, maybe it will awaken your inner entrepreneur and encourage some fresh thinking about your own life and business. Drop us a note if you feel motivated.

The company behind this is called Grasshopper and they provide phone services. Check them out. Anyone that can make a cool video like this is worth looking at.

Feb 16th, 2009 No Comments

More criticism of annual employee reviews

We’ve written about the dreaded employee performance review before. NPR’s Morning Edition today had a story about the annual performance review process. The transcript should be online to read soon, but you can listen to the piece online now: