BlackBerry, as BlackBerry users know it, is finished. The company that was almost single-handedly responsible for the creation of always-on mobile culture but stopped short of winning the smartphone race is facing some grim options. The company, now, is a shadow of its former self; soon, it will be lucky if it’s still recognizable as a company at all.
This is a situation in which hindsight is perfectly unobscured: BlackBerry made an enormous bet against the style of product that ended up replacing it as most Americans’ first smartphone. It’s easy to see what happened. But it’s less clear what happens next. What does collapse mean for a company so large and culturally significant? Floyd Norris of the Timesexplains it in terms of much older computer manufacturer NEC, whose narrative of market failure traces a trajectory similar to BlackBerry’s.
But BlackBerry isn’t quite NEC, nor is it Gateway or Palm. It’s a company that even today has millions of active a loyal users, who don’t just purchase BlackBerry products but use them every hour of every day — who live in them, and will soon have to live in something else. BlackBerry is less like a company than a country. A failed state: BlackBerria.
BlackBerria exhibits all the classic signs of a collapsing country. Today, it’s the kind of place that might compel the State Department to issue a travel advisory. For one, it’s officially up for sale, and will be sold from a position of weakness — its suitors will look more like the World Bank than casual bond buyers. Meanwhile, its crisis-time leader, whose public misjudgments are excruciatingly well documented but who is flattered by his monstrous predecessors, stands to become fabulously rich as the result of his country’s full failure. (BlackBerria’s deposed former leaders, for all their failures, are among the richest men in the region.)
When William Hsu first moved to San Francisco to work in startups, he got a one-bedroom apartment. “I thought that was the adult thing to do, the thing I was supposed to do,” Hsu says. “But it kind of sucked actually to go home and no one was there. It was kind of depressing.” He missed college. Like many other young techies, his career development was outpacing his social development.
Instead of just getting roommates, he applied to live with 15 other guys at a San Francisco “startup mansion,” which he later went on to run. As more and more young techies like Hsu move into the notoriously expensive city, these “hacker houses” are becoming a rising trend. Varying in size from about 5 to 20 people, they are sort of commune-meets-incubator-meets-dorm. Each has its own vibe, reflecting the different sub-scenes of the of the tech world from visionaries to brogrammers, grad students to hackers, as well as people working at big companies. Some houses are more established and formal; others, chiefly casual.
I first heard about Hsu’s house when I saw the Craigslist ad for the “Live/Work Startup Mansion with sweeping views of San Francisco!” looking to add “cool new people.”
“Come check it out, seriously,” the ad said.
Is this the worst thing Microsoft has ever produced?
This Playstation executive fell asleep while he was on a panel.
Is it possible to make secure private phone calls? Can you sign up for a cell phone without signing away your rights?
Straight up, the answer is no.
In fact, using a phone is the absolute worst way to communicate if you want privacy. The government can listen into your phone calls and track who you are calling and when. Phone companies, including AT&T and Verizon, are handing over information on millions of Americans on an ongoing basis. We know this thanks to Edward Snowden and others who have leaked classified information. And the phone companies haven’t denied any of the revelations.
But it is possible to make it harder for the government to access your private phone calls.
“You can make it difficult enough that the only way the government can get your information is when they really care about you, versus now when they can get everyone’s calls and records at a drop of a hat,” says technology expert Christopher Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The government should have to work to spy on you. You can make it harder for government. Not impossible, but harder.”
Your best bet is to use an encrypted voice app, either on your computer or cell phone. Basic SSL encryption won’t cut it, since most companies keep an unencrypted version of your data. ZRTP encryption, which encrypts data end to end, means that the service provider can’t even access it.
One of the best encryption apps, according to Soghoian, is Red Phone, currently available on Android. The iOs version comes out next month.
“We’ve never received any government requests, probably because it would not be possible for us to include a back door,” says a representative from WhisperSystems, which runs Red Phone. “The communication is encrypted end to end and the software is open source, so any back door would be publicly visible.”
For added protection, you can use a new disposable phone paid for in cash and go to a location far from home or work that has Wi-Fi.
New information about the NSA’s spy program will continue to be released. Based on what we know so far, here are your options, listed from most to least effective.
Here’s How To Make It Really Hard For The NSA To Listen To Your Calls