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The Target Tipping Point: How e-commerce trumped traditional retail in transaction security

The first weeks of 2014 seemed to bring reports of new data breaches affecting retailers in the United States on nearly a weekly basis. Target, Neiman Marcus, Michaels and White Lodging (operator of several different hotel franchises) all reported data breaches or investigations into possible data breaches. A key point in common among these reports:… Read More

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Learn to code? No: Learn a real language

The “learn to code” movement may be about to run afoul of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Few (least of all nerdy me) will argue that learning a computer language as a kid doesn’t have merit. Grasping some of the basics of computer science by picking up a programming language is a great way to… Read More

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It’s all ’bout Seattle, boss: What do we make of this Super Bowl moment?

The Super Bowl clinched it: Seattle is having a moment. “We’re not just some harmless, damp dorks up in the corner anymore,” Seattle’s Lindy West wrote in Jezebel. “We’re winners now.” The Seahawks’ dominating victory Sunday has trained a spotlight on Seattle that the city hasn’t seen in years, illuminating our current culture and character… Read More

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Silly science and our Facebook death fantasy

Why do some people like to think that Facebook might die? Would they be relieved to be free from its grip? Validated in a secret conviction that it was never as big a deal as everyone said? Does Facebook’s death seem so impossible it’s become a kind of underdog to root for? Or is it… Read More

(photo by Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons)

The weakest link in data privacy is, well, you

Happy Data Privacy Day! The first round of credit card numbers is on me! Yes, this Tuesday, Jan. 28 really is Data Privacy Day in the U.S. and Canada, commemorating the 1981 signing of Convention 108, an international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. (In Europe, where it originated, it’s known as Data Protection… Read More

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Washington state’s Obamacare site better than most — but that’s still not saying much

Three-and-a-half months after the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, Washington’s Healthplanfinder website remains one of the better-performing health care exchanges in the country. Relative to other exchanges and taking into account how poorly the legislation considered technological realities in its design, our site still — as I wrote last fall — “doesn’t suck.” But it’s hardly without… Read More

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2″ x 3.5″ evolution: Business cards reflect our tech

All hail the lowly business card. For it is the most concise chronicler of the advances in communications technology. Despite calls for its elimination as wasteful in an era of phone bumping (or, in nerd-speak, Near Field Communication wireless data exchange) and e-mail signature cutting-and-pasting, the stats remain impressive: 10 billion printed each year in… Read More

Eric Levine considers the Cru Beaujolais. (Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

Drink geek: Four wines to please the geek palate

If you’re a geek, you probably like to think. Conventions annoy you. New things intrigue you. Puzzles beg to be solved. If you’re a geek, you might reward experimentation, loathe limits and have a soft spot for the uninhibited, the unexpected and the unexplored. So when a geek wants to close her laptop and open… Read More

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Four tech terms to forget in ’14

It’s 2014, and time to ring in the new and throw out the old. Old tech terms, that is: those made meaningless in 2013 by media and marketers. I occasionally rant about words that are overused and abused in tech (a popular 2013 noun, “selfie,” may join that group at narcissistic speed). But don’t think… Read More

The order that began the dive down the rabbit hole

The secret to getting Amazon’s best customer service

There’s a classic tech industry joke. A jet is lost in dense fog and low on fuel. The pilot, desperate to get his bearings, winds up circling an IBM skyscraper. “Where am I?” he shouts to the white-shirted nerds inside. They grab calculators, computers and furiously get to work, finally providing what they consider the… Read More

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Kindle Fire HDX: The business person’s frenemy

When the Kindle Fire HDX was first released, I read reviews that raved how this Kindle finally added business-friendly features, enough to garner it the blessing of corporate IT departments. Apparently, none of the reviewers had actually tried to use those features. Sure, the HDX is beautiful and easily the most functional Kindle Fire yet…. Read More

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It’s time to kill the password — before it kills us

It’s time to shoot the password. And multiple screens are the trigger. I had this epiphany when wrestling with one Rhapsody music service on two devices using three pieces of software. Firing up the Rhapsody Android smartphone app, I unexpectedly was prompted for my password. Okay, I figured, the app had been updated and needed… Read More

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Farewell, stack rank: Why this change is so big for Microsoft

[Editor's Note: Christopher Budd worked at Microsoft for more than 10 years, specializing in security response and communications.] Yesterday every current and former Microsoft employee felt the earth shift. Microsoft announced that the “stack rank” system for reviews — in which employees are rated and rewarded on a fixed curve — would be retired and… Read More