The Ghosts of Employees Past

By Carl Weiss

Everyone has heard of the Ghost of Christmas Past, right?  Well, today’s blog is a twist on that theme as we explore the problems that occur as the result of employees being fired or put out to pasture.  Like it or not, having to deal with the digital footprints left by former staffers can be problematic to say the least.  In the best case scenario, someone needs to be assigned to pick up where they left off in areas such as social networking, file management and even online security.  In the worst case, former employees have been known to rifle their employer’s server, plant malware or even lock their former bosses out of their own systems.  Before you start experiencing digital things that go bump in the night, let’s take a hard look at a number of cases involving the ghosts of employees past.

Working the Web of Deceit

In 2010, a major defense contractor (Lockheed) had its email system crashed for six hours after one terminated employee sent 60,000 coworkers a personal email laced with malware  The contractor was then forced to fly in a Microsoft rescue squad to repair the damage.

More recently, a terminated computer technician at a New York publisher (Forbes) caused five of the publisher’s servers to crash.  As a result all the information that had been stored on the servers was erased and none of the data was able to be restored. The losses sustained were in excess of $100,000.

If you think that’s bad, an engineering firm suffered $10 million in losses when a terminated network manager unleashed a data bomb in the network he helped create.

Bear in mind that the defense contractor, the publisher and the engineering firm were all major players that had in their employ teams of skilled programmers and technicians whose job it was to safeguard their electronic assets.  If they’re vulnerable to attack by former insiders, what do you think that says about the cyber security of smaller firms?

When the Attack Becomes Personal

Far from being relegated to eSabotage, disgruntled former employees have been known to get personal when they are out for revenge.  A blog by called, “10 Ways Fired Employees Got Revenge on their Bosses,” included the following:

“A former IT manager received a suspended jail sentence for illegally hacking into his old company’s IT systems and rigging his former boss’s Powerpoint presentation to display pornographic photos.”

“An unhappy ex-employee who was made redundant, hacked into his bosses email and sent obscene messages to the senior management team and the company 

“A disgruntled ex-employee posted a listing for 'free household and garage contents', quoting his former boss's address. The listing claimed the homeowners were moving to Puerto Rico and didn't want to keep anything. The ad indicated anyone could come down and take whatever they want. Investigators say the listing gave directions to the home, and even provided the garage code.”

“An angry employee who was given 4 weeks notice used the company credit card to get a year’s supply of 'male enhancement' pills delivered to a variety of senior staff around the office.”

Are you starting to detect a pattern here?  Hell hath no fury like an employee burned.  Terminated employees have been known to do everything from destroying equipment or a company’s reputation, to taking out their frustration on bosses or coworkers who they feel were responsible for their downfall.  In today’s wired world, it’s all too easy for anyone to talk trash online.  Worse is when an ex-employee has uncovered a boss or coworker’s password in order to make it seem as though the victim is the one who was talking trash.

While terminating an employee is always an unpleasant task, it is important to remember that not all those who are fired are going to take the matter lying down.  The problem is that while most businesses have some form of hiring manual, I have yet to see a company create a firing manual.  Aside from brushing off the psychological shock to the system that being terminated has on most people, the majority of HR departments in businesses large and small as a rule shrug off creating procedures that can mitigate the damage likely to be caused by former employees.

Locking the Barn Door

Here are the top 5 items that need to be addressed before any employee is given his or her walking papers:

1.      How much access does the employee have to the company’s servers and intranet?
2.      What kind of company communication is the employee privy to?
3.      Does the employee have a company-issued smartphone, tablet or laptop?
4.      How long will it take you to change or delete all related company passwords?
5.      What email lists, customer lists and company intranets does the employee have access?

While every company automatically restricts an ex-employees access to the company’s premises and bank accounts, you’d be surprised to learn how few conduct an audit of all the electronic means through which an employee can gain access to potentially disruptive technology.  Don’t find out the hard way like the folks who manage Chicago O’Hare Airport.  In September 2014, more than 2,000 flights were cancelled and pandemonium ensued when an employee who was facing a transfer, sabotaged the air traffic control center after posting a suicide note on Facebook.

A quote from Business Insider read:
“Authorities say a contract employee started a fire Friday morning in the basement of a control center in the Chicago suburb of Aurora and then attempted to commit suicide by slashing his throat. Brian Howard, 36, of Naperville, was charged with destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, a felony. The FBI said Howard remains hospitalized and no court date has been scheduled.”
“As of midday Saturday, total Chicago flight cancelations for the day stood at more than 700 — still a damagingly high number, but an improvement. Southwest Airlines, the dominant carrier at Midway, had hoped to resume a full flight schedule Saturday, but had to cancel all flights between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. CDT.”
“Lines remained long at O'Hare, which is a major U.S. hub. Many travelers stranded overnight slept on cots provided by the airport, in scenes reminiscent of winter storm disruptions.”

Neither the FBI nor the TSA had any comment to make regarding the incident.  Republican Senator Mark Kirk had this to say:
"Chicago O'Hare International Airport cannot be brought to a screeching halt.  I want to see not only an immediate review by the FAA of the screening process at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, but also a report within 30 days outlining changes the FAA will make to prevent any one individual from having this type of impact on the heart of the United States economy."

The moral of the story is that even after spending billions of dollars to keep out terrorists and hijackers, all it took to shut down one of the world’s busiest airports was a disgruntled employee with a gas can and a match.  With that in mind, if you own or manage a business that hires and fires, you need to take steps to ensure your firm isn’t blindsided by the ghosts of employees past. 

Bot Buddy or Robot Rage?

by Carl Weiss

Courtesy of
Is there a robot in your future? More importantly, what will the ultimate effect on society be once robots start taking over much of what has until now made humans unique? Until recently, robots have for the most part been relegated to factories and the living room rug. But all that is about to change. A number of firms are currently making robots that are designed to work alongside us in warehouses, retail establishments and offices. More importantly, as these droids become more autonomous, will they slowly but surely push their human counterparts out of the picture altogether? Will their growing intelligence become a threat to the human species itself, as a number of scientists believe? Whether human beings embrace these automated assistants as a boon, or people begin to rage against the very machines meant to do their bidding is still too soon to tell. Love them or hate them, join me today as I take a look at the rise of the robots.

Robot Renaissance

Contrary to popular opinion, robots are hardly what one would call a recent invention.  As far back as 350 B.C., robots have been a reality.  That’s when the Greek mathematician Archytas crafted a mechanical pigeon that got its motive power via steam.  The Renaissance saw a number of automata created, including a robotic musical band as well as an automated waitress that would serve drinks.  Leonardo DaVinci himself drew up detailed plans for a mechanized medieval knight.  Although it was never built, other imitators took delight in creating a number of “machines” that were designed to mystify and delight royalty and commoners alike.

The chief difference between these early automata and todays robots was the fact that, with notable exceptions, these robots were only intended to mimic the living creatures around them.  They were never designed to carry out the tasks that these living creatures performed.  It wasn't so much the technology that was lacking, but the ability to program these mechanical beasties.  That all changed in 1801, when Joseph Jacquard built a totally automated loom that was programmed via punched cards.  While this innovation represented the earliest form of software, it was so effective that punched cards were still being used to program computers more than 200 years later.

It wasn’t until the advent of World War II that the digital computer was first created by Alan Turing to help the Allies beat the German Enigma code machine.  Fifteen years after the end of the war, it was also Turing who published the book Computing Machinery and Intelligence, in which he postulated a test designed to determine whether a machine had attained the power of intelligent thought.  It became known as the Turing Test and to date no robot has yet passed the test.

That does not mean that the rise of robot intelligence has not progressed.  Since the 1960’s when the first industrial robots were introduced, automation has continued to make inroads in industry.  Today’s auto factories are 90% robotized.  Amazon warehouses continue to become more automated.  (Amazon has even been lobbying the FAA to let them use drones to deliver packages.)  Yet with the exception of big business, few of us labor cheek to jowl with robots in the workplace.  Sure, you might see a Roomba Robot scurrying across the office floor in search of those ever elusive dust bunnies.  But at this juncture, if you have a secretary or office assistant, he or she is made of flesh and blood. 

Can BeamPro Put the Kibosh on Office Hijinx?

Image courtesy of Suitable Technologies
While teleconferencing has been reducing the need for busy executives to fly the friendly skies, until recently these conferences were relegated to conference rooms and boardrooms.  But an enterprising company called Suitable Technologies recently introduced a 5-foot tall rolling robot called BeamPro that takes teleconferencing to the streets. (Or, at least the hallway.)  Think of BeamPro like a tablet pc on wheels, because that is essentially what it is.  The bot allows busy executives the ability not only to interface with far flung colleagues and employees, but it provides mobility that enables said executives to roam the halls of an office across town or around the world.  Equipped with webcam and speakers, BeamPro is kind of like a corporate nannycam on steroids, since it not only allows the boss to keep watch on his staff, but it also enables he or she to interface with and direct the action of far flung staffers.

While this bot threatens to undermine the “While the boss is away, the staff will play” mentality prevalent at many offices, it is still a far cry from replacing said staff.  Nor does it assist the current staff in performing their duties. (Unless having a full-time robotic office Nazi can be considered helpful to overworked and underpaid employees.)  However, that doesn’t mean that help isn’t on the way.

Baxter and His Buddies

While office automation has come a long way, that doesn’t mean you can order a robotic office assistant that can take a letter.  But there is a robot made by Rethink Robotics named Baxter that could put a new face on your shipping department… literally. 

Image courtesy of Rethink Robotics

Where science fiction has usually characterized robots as replacing their human counterparts, Baxter is actually designed to work alongside them.  If you have ever seen automated factories where robots are kept like caged animals that are too dangerous to be allowed near their flesh and blood coworkers, Baxter was designed from the ground up to be user (and human) friendly. The homepage at sums it up as follows,

“If you walk the floor of your facility and see lightweight parts being handled near people, you’ve likely just found a great job for Baxter.  This smart, collaborative robot is ready to get to work for your company – doing the monotonous tasks that free up your skilled human labor to be exactly that. Baxter is safe to operate next to in production environments, without the need for caging – saving money and valuable floor space.  Baxter deploys quickly and connects seamlessly to other automation – often without third party integration.  With Baxter, no traditional programming is required. Instead, it’s manually trainable by in-house staff, reducing the time and cost of third party programmers.”

Designed with a “Monkey see, monkey do” programming subroutine where employees literally show Baxter how to accomplish a task, this in one easy-to-employ bot.  At a base price of $25,000, he and his one-armed counterpart Sawyer could be just the ticket for etailers and cottage industry production facilities that perform a lot of repetitive tasks involved in everything from packaging and material handling to machine tending and line loading.  Still, with their limited mobility, tinkertoy appendages and industrial demeanor, even these handy droids are unlikely to give your receptionist a run for her money any time soon.

Bring on the Humanoid Androids

What most of us are waiting (or dreading) the arrival of robots that can walk, talk and act a little more like human beings.  DARPA recently completed its Robotics Challenge where teams of human robotics experts competed for millions of dollars in prizes.  Their task was to create ambulatory robots that were required to complete a number of disaster response tasks, including driving a rescue vehicle, walking through rubble, climbing stairs and turning valves.  Twenty three teams from around the world fielded robots and three teams shared $3.5 million in prize money, including South Korea’s Team Kaist and two teams from the US, IHMC Robotics and Tartan Rescue.  

No matinee idols by any stretch of the imagination, while these robots can move like humans, their looks are such that if you weren’t completely incapacitated, the sight of these robotic rescuers would in all likelihood scare most of us to death. 

Aren’t there any cute robots out there?

While most research has gone into giving robots the ability to walk and talk like people, few have given aesthetics much thought.  However, there are a couple of notable exceptions such as motor car manufacturer Honda that has been working diligently on a lively little bipedal droid that while not exactly cute as a button, does have a persona less derivative of an industrial monstrosity. 

Able to walk, talk, run, climb stairs and as President Obama discovered during a trip to Japan, kick a soccer ball, this lively little android has been under development for nearly 20 years.  Unlike the industrial manipulators that most bots come equipped, Asimo’s “hands” have four fingers and a thumb just like you and I.  Looking like a 4’3” astronaut, replete with backpack, this humanoid robot is not currently for sale.  However, the little guy has become something of a robot ambassador, having travelled to and performed in dozens of countries worldwide.

Wouldn’t You Like to See a Pepper Too?

More importantly, while Asimo may be a giant step forward in robot evolution, he is still not something you are likely to introduce to your parents.  That’s where Pepper comes in.  Designed with an emotional engine that has been designed to read everything from body language to voice inflection, this little robot is even cuter than Asimo.  Better still, the little droid has been designed with one specific purpose in mind: to be a companion.  While Pepper can’t climb stairs, it is still able to get around on wheels set into its base.  More importantly, Pepper is for sale, at least in Japan, for around $1.600 + $200/month in service fees.  Created by Softbank and backed by Foxconn Technology Group and Alibaba, when Pepper was put on sale on June 20, 1,000 units were sold in the first minute, forcing Softbank to suspend sales.

Before you reach for your wallet, you also need to understand what Pepper can and can’t do.  While the little droid can hold a conversation, react to your emotions and respond autonomously, he doesn’t cook, clean or vacuum the rugs.  However, that doesn’t mean he can’t earn his keep.  Softbank mobile, one of the prime cellphone operators in Japan, as well as Pepper’s creator, have been employing him in their retail outlets as a greeter.  Last year, another Japanese firm, Nestle Japan “employed” Pepper in its appliance stores in order to sell Nescafe coffee machines.  Said, Nestle Japan’s CEO Kohzoh Takaoka,
"Pepper will be able to explain Nescafe products and services and engage in conversation with consumers.”
Beginning this fall, Softbank and its marketing partners are expected to roll out a special business model of the robot named, “Pepper for Biz.”  The success of Softwank’s initial rollout has also propelled a number of other entrepreneurs into the game.  How long will it be before you can purchase or lease a NannyBot to mind your kids or your elderly parents.  With the government’s increased use of drones and warbots, can it be all that far off before security droids come to a warehouse near you?  And it wouldn't it seem like child’s play to craft robotic lawnmowers that rolls out of a truck under its own power to tend to your lawn.

Let’s face it, once the robotic genie is let out of the bottle, there will be no way to put it back.  This means that robots intended to “assist” us will soon transmogrify into androids that can replace us.  As the units get more sophisticated and autonomous, will it be long before jobs currently being performed by humans are taken over by robots?  Or worse, how long will it be before robots reach a point in understanding deemed a singularity by researchers, at which point they will become self-aware.  A number of notable scientists and industrialists, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned that once robots achieve parity with humans on an intellectual level, there is a real possibility that they will decide  they no longer require or desire to share the planet with their human counterparts. 

Also, there is a real danger that once people begin to be replaced in the workplace by robots, they could well rise up to picket and boycott the companies that formerly employed them.  I could see protest marches and civil disobedience taking place as people become displaced and dispossessed.   Political and religious leaders will be mobilized to thwart this inhuman form of slavery.  I can see the headlines now, “Al Sharpton takes on AI.”

My point is that robotics and artificial intelligence are going to be the mother of all two-edged swords that our wired world will soon be forced to deal with.  Whether the verdict will ultimately be bot buddies or robot rage is still too early to compute.  But if Terry Gou of Foxconn and Jack Ma of Alibaba are right, robots could soon be as important as the automobile in the coming decades.  That means we’ll all have to deal with the debate regarding robot rights a lot sooner than you think.

Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio   

Basics of Biohacking

By Carl Weiss

Is your body letting you down?  How much time out of your daily schedule do you relinquish for exercise?  Are you tired of moving heaven and earth to support that bag of chemicals and water?  Do you wish you could enhance your senses or even add new capabilities to your existing body?  While this used to be the realm of science fiction only a few years ago, current and rapidly emerging technologies allow you to repair, replace or enhance that old bag of bones here and now.  In this week's Working the Web to Win blog, I will take you into the lab to explore bio-tech that is being used to repair, replace or enhance human beings.  I will also introduce you to a new cult of devotees who are ready, willing and able to undergo painful medical procedures to take the cyborg plunge and bio-hack their way to a better life. 
Dr. Geekenstein, I Presume

The name Steve Haworth isn’t exactly a household word.  At least not yet.  Unlike the other two Steve’s of Apple Computer fame, Steve Haworth has not yet achieved the level of rockstar geek status that Jobs and Woz did.  But he could well be on his way.  That’s because he is one of the pioneers of body modification who routinely performs surgery on people looking to add enhancements to their body.  Since he is not a board certified surgeon, this means that these procedures are done without the aid of anesthetic, unless you count ice. 

Although Haworth’s family has long been associated with medical device engineering, Steve cut his teeth in the 90’s by dabbling with body piercing, 3D tattoos and something called the Metal Mohawk.  (You can’t make this stuff up folks.)  Fast forward fifteen years and Steve’s modifications are now more sci-fi than technopunk.  One of the enhancements that Steve routinely performs is the surgical implantation of rare earth magnets.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why would anybody pay to get turned into a refrigerator magnet?” 

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.  While Steve and other bio-hacking enthusiasts have posted videos which show them moving metal objects with the magnetic field generated by their enhanced digits, apparently there is another side effect of the procedure.  Apparently this enhancement also provides the recipient with a virtual Spidey sense that allows them to perceive magnetic fields.  For $350 you too can experience the pulse of electric motors, junction boxes, high tension wires and any device that imparts a magnetic field. 

Is a DIYborg Really a Cyborg?

Of course, there are more ways to enhance your senses than by simply implanting magnets.  Adventurous people have implanted everything from RFID chips that allows them to control nearby devices, turn on and off the lights, not to mention open their garage door without the use of a clicker.  There is another popular procedure called Southpaw that involves the implantation of a compass that in essence turns you into a homing pigeon by letting you sense kinesthetically when you are facing north.  (I should probably get one of these for my mother, since she is terrible when it comes to following directions.) 

You can also have computer chips implanted that sense your biometric data, turning you into the human equivalent of a FitBit.  Others have had led lights implanted beneath their skin, turning them into a cross between a tattoo and a casino marquis.  While most of the devices are tiny, I have seen at least one adventurous lad named Ted Cannon, who had a device the size of a smartphone implanted beneath the skin of his forearm.  You can view his video interview here:    (Just make sure you haven’t eaten recently.)

More telling is that Ted’s company, Grindhouse Wetware, builds devices that are designed to integrate with the human body. 

Geordi LaForge, Here We Come

Aside from DIYborgs, there are also apparently eyeborgs, ala Geordi LaForge of Star Trek fame.  This was the character in the Next Generation series played by LeVar Burton.  Having been born blind, Geordi sported a pair of high tech spectacles that not only permitted him to see, he could see light spectra that no human eye could, including infrared, ultraviolet and radio waves.  While today’s version of Star Trek tech isn’t quite as extraordinary as that of Geordi LaForge, it’s getting there.  Scientists have already reverse-engineered the retina and created an app that not only reproduces its operation, but it allows a camera to be connected through the optic nerve.  In principle, this enhancement could be used to augment the tiny fraction of the light spectrum we currently are able to see.  Holy x-ray vision, Batman!  (Another group in England is conducting experiments with an implantable lens that can not only provide perfect 20/20 vision to all you who wear glasses, but they claim the lens even provides a zoom capability.)

Do You Want Fries with That?

On the other side of the coin, there are people who are so unconcerned with appearances that they will risk ridicule, or even worse, to possess enhanced abilities.  One of these acolytes is Steve Mann, who has become something of a biohacking legend since he was forcibly ejected from a McDonald’s restaurant in Paris France when he walked into the establishment sporting what amounts to a DIY version of Google Glass.  The chief difference was that Steve Mann’s glasses were bolted to his head.  Referred to as the “Father of Wearable Computing,” he has been making a techno fashion statement for years.

While much of the biohacking scene has been taking place in basements and back alleys, that doesn’t mean that the phenomenon hasn’t garnered academic attention.  One notable is Captain Cyborg, otherwise known as Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at Coventry University.  In a 2013 interview in Forbes Magazine that took place in Warwick’s office, which writer Emma Byrne described as “a cross between a toyshop and Tony Stark’s basement,” the professor was asked which project he was most proud.

“No question, it would have to be when I hooked up with my wife.”  He’s not talking about dating: In 2002, he and his wife Irena installed matching implants that recorded signals from their central nervous systems.  They were able to correctly identify each other’s nerve signals around 98% of the time.

“Sam Morse, the inventor of Morse code, talked about brain-to-brain communication.  He sorted out the distance, but he still needed that physical interface, the finger on the key.  Over the years we’ve made loads of improvements in bandwidth and distance, but we still haven’t got past the interface problem.”

Like Steve Hawaorth’s rare earth magnets, the brain-to-brain interface Dr. Warwick shared with his wife was more akin to a sixth sense than mere communication.  (How many men reading this would love to never be asked again what they are thinking by their wives?)  More significantly, it’s this extrasensory perception that has Warwick and other researchers interested in exploring the possibilities yet further.  When asked about the possibilities as well as the perils in experimenting with the human body, Warwick replied,

“When Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call, at first people couldn’t see the point in what he was doing.  What’s the point of the first phone?  But it didn’t stop there.  I think what I’m doing is like that.  Maybe when I’ve been dead ten years people will go, ‘Oh! That’s what that was for.’  What you do in terms of prizes and degrees and all that – that’s absolutely nothing.  It’s when you do something no one’s done before.  When you push it, that’s what’s exciting.”

While that may hold true, just as advances in medicine in the past, such as joint replacement and transplantation have become commonplace, I can’t help thinking that somewhere the ghost of Mary Shelley is spinning in her grave.

“It’s Alive!”

  Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio   

Steve Jobs: The Ghost in the Machine?

By Carl Weiss

Image courtesy of
At Apple Computer, Steve Jobs is gone but not forgotten.  While it would be hard to forget their iconic cofounder, even 3 years after his death, it is as though Steve had just stepped out for lunch.  That’s due in part to the fact that Jobs had his hand in so much of what we consider to be high tech today.  He was one of the architects in all kinds of technology, from the personal computer, to the tablet and smartphone.  If you buy music online, iTunes pioneered the way that the industry sells digital music.  If you enjoy animated motion pictures, let’s not forget that Steve was the knight in shining armor who came to the rescue of Pixar when even the likes of George Lucas was unable to afford to keep it afloat in the early days of digital cinema.

Of course, there is one other reason why anyone who visits Apple Computer corporate headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California would have the impression that Steve is due back at any moment. That’s due to the fact that his office has remained virtually untouched since his departure.  His nameplate still graces the door.  When asked why during a March 18, Washington Post interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded,

I haven’t decided about what we’ll do there. But I wanted to keep his office exactly like it was. What we’ll do over time, I don’t know. I didn’t want to move in there. I think he’s an irreplaceable person and so it didn’t feel right . . . for anything to go on in that office. So his computer is still in there as it was, his desk is still in there as it was, he’s got a bunch of books in there. His name should still be on the door. That’s just the way it should be. That’s what felt right to me.”
That could change in a year, when Apple’s new flying saucer-shaped headquarters is completed.  But what will not change is the large footprint and lasting legacy of one of the titans of microcomputing.  In their just released book, “Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader," authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli document Jobs’ triumphs and travails. While a visionary, Steve had what amounted to blinders on in a number of circumstances that cost him big.

Image courtesy of

One of the first was a unilateral decision he made in 1984 to air an Orwellian 60-second spot during the Super Bowl without consulting the board until the day before it was scheduled to air.  According to the book, the board was so horrified that they sold one of their spots so that the ad only appeared once during the game.

Shortly after that, Steve decided it was time to reinvent the personal computer, the market for which was becoming glutted since the introduction of the IBM PC and its many clones.  Taking $50 million of the company’s money, Steve assembled a team of the best and brightest at Apple and created what he thought would be the next leap forward in personal computing technology.  Called Lisa, the computer was released in January of 1984 priced between $3,495 and $5,495. Even though the system was well ahead of its time, commercially its launch was hailed as a failure, one that would ultimately cost Jobs his job.  

Courtesy of
This failure did not deter Jobs, who along with several other ousted Apple employees went onto start NeXT Computer, Inc. in 1995.  While NeXT only sold around 50,000 units and was ultimately absorbed by Apple for $429 million, several of the concepts developed at NeXT were incorporated into later Apple systems, including parts of the OS X and IOS operating systems.  During his hiatus from Apple, Steve Jobs also dabbled with another company called Pixar, in which even George Lucas had lost faith.  Pixar would later go onto produce a number of animated features some of which would receive Academy awards.  Jobs also clearly had a bead on the NeXT big trend of the 1990’s which he referred to as interpersonal computing that would soon appear with an eerily similar moniker: The Internet. 

While Steve Jobs returned to Apple, after running another computer company he started called NeXT, a man named Gil Amelio was the CEO of Apple. The company was a disaster at this point, and Jobs didn't think very highly of him — in fact, he thought he was a bozo.  
To signal his displeasure, Jobs dumped all but one of the shares he had gotten for selling NeXT to Apple without telling anyone. He had one share, so he was still able to attend Apple's annual meeting, "but the sale was a high-decibel vote of no confidence," write the authors. "Amelio felt stabbed in the back, as he was."        
More importantly, immediately upon his return as CEO, Steve’s first job was to replace nearly everyone on Apple’s board.  You have to remember that Steve was absent from Apple for eleven years, during which time the company had floundered.  Within two years Jobs had brought Apple back from the brink of near bankruptcy.  In 1998, Steve started debuting a number of revolutionary new products, including the   iMac,  iPod, iPhone, and iPadHe also initiated the service side of the business by opening a chain of Apple Retail Stores and two new etailers,  iTunes Store and the App StoreAs a result, by 2011 Apple became the world’s most valuable publicly traded companies.
Unfortunately, that was also the last year of Steve Jobs life.  That doesn’t mean he waited until the last minute to make sure that his legacy was preserved. 
"Steve cared deeply about the why," current Apple CEO Tim Cook told authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzelii. "The why of the decision. In the younger days I would see him just do something. But as the days went on he would spend more time with me and with other people explaining why he thought or did something, or why he looked at something in a certain way. This was why he came up with Apple U., so we could train and educate the next generation of leaders by teaching them all we had been through, and how we had made the terrible decisions we made and also how we made the really good ones.
Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, noted that Jobs was "working his ass off till the end, in pain," using morphine to remain functional. In his final years Jobs began accelerating preparations to leave the company in a good shape, including founding Apple University, but also talking with Cook about what would happen after his death.

"He didn't want us asking, 'What would Steve do?' He abhorred the way the Disney culture stagnated after Walt Disney's death, and he was determined for that not to happen at Apple," according to Cook."
Summoning Tim Cook to his home on August 11, 2011, Steve passed him the torch by naming Tim as his successor.  But even that meeting demonstrated Jobs unwillingness to give up the ghost.
“Cook remarked to the biography's authors.  "I thought then that he thought he was going to live a lot longer when he said this, because we got into a whole level of discussion about what would it mean for me to be CEO with him as a chairman. I asked him, 'What do you really not want to do that you're doing?'"

While his passing did have a short term negative impact on Apple’s stock price that briefly fell 5%,
Courtesy of
the company Steve founded is today stronger than ever. In March 2011, Fortune Magazine named Steve Jobs the “greatest entrepreneur of our time.”  Other posthumous honors included the Grammy Trustees Award, inducted as a Disney Legend, along with a bronze statue in Budapest commissioned by the Graphisoft company and a memorial that was erected in 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Suffice it to say while the corporeal form of Steve Jobs will only be with us via YouTube and previously televised interviews, his undying spirit and lifelong list of  technological accomplishments will continue to haunt the industry that he helped spawn. 

The Perils of Getting Away from it ALL

By Carl Weiss

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to going on vacation for a week or so in order to get away from it all.  In years gone by, most people wouldn’t give it a second thought while packing their bags about being extra vigilant before and during their trip.  Sure, they might tell a friend or neighbor to pick up the mail.  Perhaps they would suspend delivery of the newspaper.  But that’s about all the thought that they’d give it.

Now that we life in the digital era, a little extra effort needs to be taken before heading for the airport, unless we want our trip to be ruined before it even begins.  In fact, savvy travelers not only use the Internet to shop for the best travel deals, they also use it to check out their intended destination from the comfort of their homes. 

The Problem with Paris
Image courtesy of

How would you like to travel to the City of Lights only to find out that the most famous Parisian tourist destination of them all had gone dark?  That’s what happened on May 22, according to Fox News.

The Eiffel Tower closed to the public for most of the day Friday as workers protested a rise in aggressive pickpockets around the Paris landmark that attracts thousands of visitors daily. The walkout came a day after Paris authorities announced that crime against tourists in the French capital had dropped this year thanks to reinforced police presence and video surveillance.
The tower didn't open Friday morning because the staff was concerned about petty crime around the site. Clusters of tourists streamed beneath the tower, unable to reach its viewing platforms. It remained while staff and management held meetings about security measures, then reopened in the late afternoon, according to the company that manages the site. The tower is normally open every day of the year, but sometimes closes briefly for bomb threats or strikes.
Tower employee Denis Vavassori of the CGT union said the workers want a permanent police presence." It is a growing problem. There were always pickpockets at the Eiffel Tower but now we are really facing an organized group," he told The Associated Press.
Parisian pickpockets…Sacre bleu!  While many people read about this news item, there are hundreds of other travel calamities to which the traveling public is completely unaware.  In a recent article in the Huffington Post, travel writer Charlotte Alfred pointed out the 10 Countries that have the highest murder rates.  While you would expect destinations such as Colombia (#10) and El Salvador (#4) to make the list, what might come as a shock to many is that the islands of St. Kitts (#8) and Jamaica (#6), along with Belize (#3) also make the top 10.

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Danger Afloat

Of course, danger doesn’t only lurk on dry land.  In an April 2014 blog posted by, maritime lawyer Jim Walker points out the 10 Most Dangerous Cruise Destinations in the World.  His list includes such places as the US Virgin Islands (#8), Antigua (#7) and the Bahamas at #1.

“We have been warning about crime in Nassau ever since we started this blog in September 2009.  In October of that year two vicious robbers robbed a group of 11 terrified cruise passengers from a Royal Caribbean ship at gunpoint in Nassau.  Two months later, 18 cruise passengers were robbed during excursions from Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships.

We receive more complaints about crime in Nassau than all of the other ports in the Caribbean combined.  Armed robberies, sexual assault of teenagers and young women, and the murder of a tourist makes this port a dangerous place to take your family.  The US State Department has issued multiple critical crime warnings for the Bahamas.”

Speaking of the State Department, at the time of this blog, there had been 36 travel warnings issued by them since the first of the year, including this update concerning Mexico:

“Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day.  Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter organized criminal groups that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere, and U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery. While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence have themselves been involved in criminal activity, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico was 81 in 2013 and 100 in 2014.

Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico, and have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been temporarily prevented from leaving the area. Criminal organizations have used stolen cars, buses, and trucks to create roadblocks on major thoroughfares, preventing the military and police from responding to criminal activity. 

The number of kidnappings throughout Mexico is of particular concern and appears to be on the rise. While kidnappings can occur anywhere, according to SEGOB, during this timeframe, the states with the highest numbers of kidnappings were Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos. Additionally, according to a widely publicized study by the agency responsible for national statistics (INEGI, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography), Mexico suffered an estimated 105,682 kidnappings in 2012; only 1,317 were reported to the police. Police have been implicated in some of these incidents. More than 130 kidnappings of U.S. citizens were reported to the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico between January and November of 2014.”

While we are all looking for a little excitement, dodging narcoterrorists and crooked cops is probably not what most of us have in mind.  A quick scan of other hotspots includes an update on the aftermath of the recent Nepal earthquake, as well as a reminder concerning Hurricane and Typhoon season.  (Due to El Nino, the Atlantic basin is expected to see a 70% lower change of Hurricanes this year, while on the flip side the Pacific is predicted to be anything but, expecting a 70% greater percent probability of typhoons.)

The link to the State Department’s website is

You have been warned!

Loose Lips Sink Trips

Speaking of warning, my last bit of advice has to do with most people’s propensity to blab about their vacations on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  It never ceases to amaze me that otherwise cautious Americans would be so foolish as to broadcast not only their travel plans in advance on social sites, but the details as they occur.  I have seen everything from a play-by-play from the airport as friends sit at the airport waiting for their flight to leave, to extensive photo sessions from foreign shores detailing the wonderful time they are having while away from home.


Let me point out to you the fact that in the world of cybercrime, crooks no longer need to cruise through your neighborhood in order to case likely suspects.  All they have to do is connect with your social nets.  A blog by crime reporter Ben Parsons reported a case of a burglar that taunted a victim by logging onto their Facebook page. 

“The crook said he planned to pawn their belongings and signed off with “regards, your nighttime burglar”.
Victoria Richardson, 42, whose web page was hijacked the day after the break-in, said the invasion of privacy made the crime doubly painful.
The home she shares with her husband Dan, 35, and their children in Marine Avenue, Hove, was raided between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
An iPhone, a Nintendo DS games console, a handbag containing a purse, cash and debit cards and a black Toshiba laptop were all stolen.  The next day someone logged on to the social networking website Facebook under Mrs. Richardson’s profile and started leaving illiterate taunts - claiming they had left the television behind because it was not good enough for them.
One read: “on my new laptop”. The next said: “listening to music on my new phone feels so good.”
They then wrote: “i have the laptop , phones ok but a bit scratched itll do tv was rubbish so i left it ,ds was a bonus now to the porn shop i goto , thank you toshiba is my favorite make”.
The final note read: “regards your nighttime burglar”.
Lesson learned, I hope.  If you do want to share your travel memories with friends and family, be smart and wait until you return to do so.  Your insurance agent will thank you.
Also, be smart when it comes to avoiding problems while away.  Never flash a lot of cash or wear expensive jewelry.  The only people you are likely to impress are those that make their living robbing tourists.  (A friend of mine who is with the police taught me years ago to carry the bulk of my cash in my socks.) 

It’s a wild and wooly world out there.  If you don’t want your vacation to end in the police station or even worse the ER, then you need to take care before you find out the hard way about the perils of getting away from it all.

 Carl Weiss is president of Working the Web to Win, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can listen to Carl live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio