Friday, January 30, 2015

Some first impressions of Windows 10 (ZDNet)

Summary:It's too early for a review of the Windows 10 preview, but there's enough substance in the latest builds to share some thoughts about the project's direction.


There's a temptation to judge Windows 10 by the same standards we've used for earlier Windows versions. By that yardstick, the January Technical Preview, build 9926, would be a major milestone worthy of an in-depth review and a few dozen screenshots. And it would be months before its successor would be ready.
But times have changed. Last week's preview release was an important one, to be sure, but it's going to be followed within weeks, not months, by another, equally important release. And there will be another and another and another over the next few months, with each update dropping another "feature payload" for preview testers.
What's most noteworthy about the January Technical Preview is how naggingly incomplete it is. A few of its signature features are practically placeholders. Cortana gets befuddled easily, and the new Start menu is not nearly as customizable as it needs to be. Two key apps, Mail and Music, are missing in action, and the new Photos apps is missing some key features.
But that's exactly as expected. The whole point of the Windows 10 development process is to be far more transparent than ever before, sharing work in progress and incorporating feedback into revisions quickly. It's not exactly agile development, but it's probably as close as Windows will ever get.
In the past week, I've installed Windows 10 on a dozen devices: desktops, notebooks, hybrid devices, tablets, and a virtual PC or two. I've done upgrades from Windows 7 and 8 as well as clean installs.
And for the most part it's been a positive experience. Not perfect, by any stretch, but finding rough edges and bugs is the point of putting these unfinished Windows 10 builds into 2 million or so hands.
It's certainly not time yet for a formal review, but I can share some early impressions.
The visual design is pleasing, in a low-key way.
Just about every digital product we use these days is adopting a flat design, so what was once striking about Windows 8 now seems conventional. Windows 10 has toned down some of the garish excesses of Windows 8, although the new, bright yellow and orange icons in File Explorer might still need some sandblasting.
The decision to shrink the icons on the taskbar from 32 pixels on each side to 24 pixels feels misguided; on high-resolution screens in particular, the icons are too small to be readily identifiable. At a minimum, I'd like an option to restore those too-small buttons to their previous size. An option to scale those icons would be even more welcome.
Navigation is beginning to make sense.
Good riddance to the corner-based navigation that was the hallmark of Windows 8. I am not alone in hating the original navigation paradigm of Windows 8 (move the mouse to a corner and wait for something to appear). The Hot Corners feature in OS X is similarly annoying and one of the first things I disable on a new Mac.
So the gradual emergence of the Windows 10 navigation paradigm feels right. On a conventional PC, with keyboard and mouse, you can use the familiar Alt+Tab shortcut or click the Task View button on the taskbar. Either shortcut produces a view of all running apps, allowing you to click the one you want to switch to.
It works even better on a touchscreen, where a swipe from the left, followed by a tap on a thumbnailed window, makes short work of task-switching.
The Action Center is far more functional than the Charms menu.
Give the designers of the Windows 8 user experience props for thinking outside the lines with the charms menu. Swiping from the right to display a menu is easy to get used to on a touchscreen, although making that menu appear when using a keyboard or mouse is nowhere near as easy or natural.
So Windows 10 replaces the charms with a notifications pane that occupies the same general space but has more value. The customizable buttons at the bottom of the pane actually allow you to do something with a single tap, unlike the charms, which just lead to the place where you get stuff done.
The desktop experience is profoundly better.
The single biggest complaint about Windows 8 is the jarring transition between modern apps and the desktop. Once you get to the desktop, things are familiar, but it's a constant source of irritation for people who just want to run their familiar desktop programs.
Allowing the option for modern apps to run in a window, as Windows 10 does, makes a huge difference for using them in a desktop setting. The new Start menu helps, too. In fact, the whole experience of using Windows 10 on the desktop finally feels like an evolution of Windows 7 rather than a sharp left turn.
One area that still needs work is how to allow access to settings and other app commands in modern apps. The "hamburger" menu (a stack of three horizontal lines) in the title bar feels incomplete.
Windows 10 on tablets and hybrids? Still a work in progress.
Ironically, given how much work went into building Windows 8 as a touch-first, tablet-oriented experience, Windows 10 feels most incomplete in that environment. Pendulums work that way.
With most of the desktop work out of the way, it's time for a little more attention to those touchscreen devices over the last few months of this effort.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Public Service IC3: FBI


The Business E-mail Compromise (BEC) is a sophisticated scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments. Formerly known as the Man-in-the-E-mail Scam, the BEC was renamed to focus on the “business angle” of this scam and to avoid confusion with another unrelated scam. The fraudulent wire transfer payments sent to foreign banks may be transferred several times but are quickly dispersed. Asian banks, located in China and Hong Kong, are the most commonly reported ending destination for these fraudulent transfers.
The BEC is a global scam with subjects and victims in many countries. The IC3 has received BEC complaint data from victims in every U.S. state and 45 countries. From 10/01/20131 to 12/01/2014, the following statistics are reported:
  • Total U.S. victims: 1198
  • Total U.S. dollar loss: $179,755,367.08
  • Total non-U.S. victims: 928
  • Total non-U.S. dollar loss: $35,217,136.22
  • Combined victims: 2126
  • Combined dollar loss: $214,972,503.30
The FBI assesses with high confidence the number of victims and the total dollar loss will continue to increase.
The BEC scam is linked to other forms of fraud, including but not limited to: romance, lottery, employment, and home/vacation rental scams. The victims of these scams are usually U.S. based and may be recruited as unwitting “money mules.”2 The mules receive the fraudulent funds in their personal accounts and are then directed by the subject to quickly transfer the funds using wire transfer services or another bank account, usually outside the U.S. Upon direction, mules may sometimes open business accounts for fake corporations both of which may be incorporated in the true name of the mule.
The “Attorney Check Scam” is another type of fraud that is linked to the BEC scam in the following manner:
  • Attorneys are targeted to represent supposed (BEC) litigants in a payment dispute.
  • Retainers in the form of checks are sent by (BEC) litigants to the attorney.
  • The scam is revealed when either the checks are found to be fraudulent or the (BEC) litigants are contacted.
  • While the payment disputes are real, the (BEC) litigants neither contacted nor retained that attorney for legal assistance.

The victims of the BEC scam range from small to large businesses. These businesses may purchase or supply a variety of goods, such as textiles, furniture, food, and pharmaceuticals. This scam impacts both ends of the supply chain, as both supplies and money can be lost and business relations may be damaged.
It is still largely unknown how victims are selected; however, the subjects monitor and study their selected victims prior to initiating the BEC scam. The subjects are able to accurately identify the individuals and protocol necessary to perform wire transfers within a specific business environment. Victims may also first receive “phishing” e-mails requesting additional details of the business or individual being targeted (name, travel dates, etc). Some victims reported being a victim of various Scareware or Ransomware cyber intrusions, immediately preceding a BEC scam request.


Based on IC3 complaints and other complaint data received since 2009, there are three main versions of this scam:
Version 1
A business, which often has a long standing relationship with a supplier, is asked to wire funds for invoice payment to an alternate, fraudulent account. The request may be made via telephone, facsimile or e-mail. If an e-mail is received, the subject will spoof the e-mail request so it appears very similar to a legitimate account and would take very close scrutiny to determine it was fraudulent. Likewise, if a facsimile or telephone call is received, it will closely mimic a legitimate request. This particular version has also been referred to as “The Bogus Invoice Scheme,” “The Supplier Swindle,” and “Invoice Modification Scheme.”
Version 2
The e-mail accounts of high-level business executives (CFO, CTO, etc) are compromised. The account may be spoofed or hacked. A request for a wire transfer from the compromised account is made to a second employee within the company who is normally responsible for processing these requests. In some instances a request for a wire transfer from the compromised account is sent directly to the financial institution with instructions to urgently send funds to bank “X” for reason “Y.” This particular version has also been referred to as “CEO Fraud,” “Business Executive Scam,” “Masquerading,” and “Financial Industry Wire Frauds.”
Version 3
An employee of a business has his/her personal e-mail hacked. Requests for invoice payments to fraudster-controlled bank accounts are sent from this employee’s personal e-mail to multiple vendors identified from this employee’s contact list. The business may not become aware of the fraudulent requests until they are contacted by their vendors to follow up on the status of their invoice payment.
The IC3 has noted the following characteristics of BEC complaints:
  • Businesses and personnel using open source e-mail are most targeted.
  • Individuals responsible for handling wire transfers within a specific business are targeted.
  • Spoofed e-mails very closely mimic a legitimate e-mail request.
  • Hacked e-mails often occur with a personal e-mail account.
  • Fraudulent e-mail requests for a wire transfer are well-worded, specific to the business being victimized, and do not raise suspicions to the legitimacy of the request.
  • The phrases “code to admin expenses” or “urgent wire transfer” were reported by victims in some of the fraudulent e-mail requests.
  • The amount of the fraudulent wire transfer request is business specific; therefore, dollar amounts requested are similar to normal business transaction amounts so as to not raise doubt.
  • Fraudulent e-mails received have coincided with business travel dates for executives whose e-mails were spoofed.
  • Victims report that IP addresses frequently trace back to free domain registrars.

The IC3 suggests the following measures to help protect you and your business from becoming victims of the BEC scam:
  • Avoid Free Web-Based E-mail: Establish a company web site domain and use it to establish company e-mail accounts in lieu of free, web-based accounts.
  • Be careful what is posted to social media and company websites, especially job duties/descriptions, hierarchal information, and out of office details.
  • Be suspicious of requests for secrecy or pressure to take action quickly.
  • Consider additional IT and Financial security procedures and 2-step verification processes. For example -
    • Out of Band Communication: Establish other communication channels, such as telephone calls, to verify significant transactions. Arrange this second-factor authentication early in the relationship and outside the e-mail environment to avoid interception by a hacker.
    • Digital Signatures: Both entities on either side of transactions should use digital signatures. However, this will not work with web-based e-mail accounts. Additionally, some countries ban or limit the use of encryption.
    • Delete Spam: Immediately delete unsolicited e-mail (spam) from unknown parties. Do NOT open spam e-mail, click on links in the e-mail, or open attachments. These often contain malware that will give subjects access to your computer system.
    • Forward vs. Reply: Do not use the “Reply” option to respond to any business e-mails. Instead, use the “Forward” option and either type in the correct e-mail address or select it from the e-mail address book to ensure the intended recipient’s correct e-mail address is used.
  • Significant Changes: Beware of sudden changes in business practices. For example, if a current business contact suddenly asks to be contacted via their personal e-mail address when all previous official correspondence has been on a company e-mail, the request could be fraudulent. Always verify via other channels that you are still communicating with your legitimate business partner.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Hands On: Microsoft Surface Hub (PCMagazine)

Microsoft's re-imagining of the conference room includes a massive, multi-input 4K HDTV.

Microsoft Surface Hub

REDMOND, Wash.—Microsoft wants Windows 10 to run on everything—phones, tablets, PCs, and even whiteboards. The Surface Hub is its take on the interactive whiteboard—a collaboration tool for businesses that combines Skype for Business, a 4K HDTV, and the largest capacitive Pen/touch display on the market.
I got some hands-on time with the product at Microsoft's Windows 10 launch event, and came away with one thought—we have to get one of these for the Labs.
I tried the 84-inch and 55-inch versions of the device. Standing next to the 84-inch version, you really get the sense you are standing in front of an enormous blank canvas. The screen runs at 120Hz, which is double what competing whiteboards can deliver.
If you are familiar with Perceptive Pixel, the display company Microsoft acquired two years ago, the Surface Hub will seem familiar, too. In fact, this is the same technology you see on most broadcast news shows. But Microsoft has made some important changes.
Microsoft Surface Hub
The Surface Hub is built for the modern conference room. There is no log-in process. Just walk up and tap Call, WhiteBoard, or Connect to get started.
Calling users opens up a Skype for Business connection. There are two wide-angle 1080p cameras mounted at eye level on the right and left of the display, so those dialing in to a meeting can see all the action. The hub also includes a four-element phase array microphone that uses technology original developed for the Kinect.
The Surface Hub is simply an excellent interactive whiteboard. Although 4K may seem like overkill, it makes for a stellar experience when you are standing at arm's length from the display. Microsoft also made sure writing on the screen feels fluid and natural. (Plus, no toxic marker smell!) The battery power pens are mounted at the sides of the display; just flip over the pen to erase your text. Objects scan be moved around the display in real time. And, of course, you can import objects from presentations and manipulate them on screen.
You can navigate the screen using touch or pen, and it supports multiple simultaneous users. You can also connect devices via Miracast or conventional cable, to use the Surface Hub as an external display. The Hub will run any Windows 10 universal app, although it seems like wireless or cabled docking will be the primary interface method. You can even connect an iPad to the Surface Hub, as long as the device is running Microsoft software. I did not get to test this connectivity myself, but it worked when demoed.
At the end of a Surface Hub session, all of the presentation materials can be sent to attendees via email or sent to OneNote. Microsoft spokespeople say no information would be kept on the device itself for security reasons, although they said there might be more granular IT management controls included by the time the device ships. This is an area I want to know more about, since wiping a digital whiteboard clean is more complicated than a conventional board. Even emailing the content created during a session could create security issues.
Pricing and release dates weren't announced. Even so, given the breadth of Microsoft's Windows 10 ambitions, this kind of collaboration tool only makes sense. At the very least, I think it will do a lot better than the original Surface tablet.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stop Congress from Thwarting Net Neutrality (Public Knowledge)

 The internet is the essential communications service of the 21st century. As communication, commerce, and civic engagement increasingly depend on broadband internet access, it becomes even more critical to ensure that the internet remains open and available for all Americans to participate online.

Right now, PK's President and CEO Gene Kimmelman is testifying before the Senate on “Protecting the Internet and Consumers Through Congressional Action.” The hearing is focused on net neutrality and current Congressional initiatives intended to get in the way of the FCC

A bill introduced last week by Senator John Thune is designed to thwart the FCC's efforts--it will allow for fast lanes and discrimination on the internet, and will take away consumer protections. This draft legislation is clearly a step backward, rather than a step forward, and is likely to cause more harm than good. 

It's not too late. FCC Chairman Wheeler said that the FCC will vote to establish enforceable net neutrality rules by reclassifying internet access under Title II of the Communications Act. 

Click here to contact your representatives and tell them to vote no on Senator Thune's bill, and support the FCC and Title II reclassification now. 

Click here to watch the hearing, currently in progress. 

Internet Crime Complaint Center (FBI)

13 January 2015

Alert Number


University employees are receiving fraudulent e-mails indicating a change in their human resource status. The e-mail contains a link directing the employee to login to their human resources website to identify this change. The website provided appears very similar to the legitimate site in an effort to steal the employee’s credentials. Once the employee enters his/her login information, the scammer takes that information and signs into the employee’s official human resources account to change the employee’s direct deposit information. This redirects the employee’s paycheck to the bank account of another individual involved in the scam.
Consequences of this Scam:
  • The employee’s paycheck can be stolen.
  • The money may not be returned in full to the employee.
  • The scammers can take the employee’s log-in credentials and attempt to log into other accounts that belong to the employee.
Tips on how to Protect Yourself from this Scam:
  • Look for poor use of the English language in e-mails such as incorrect grammar, capitalization, and tenses. Many of the scammers who send these messages are not native English speakers.
  • Roll your cursor over the links received via e-mail and look for inconsistencies. If it is not the website the e-mail claims to be directing you to then the link is to a fraudulent site.
  • Never provide credentials of any sort via e-mail. This includes after clicking on links sent via e-mail. Always go to an official website rather than from a link sent to you via e-mail.
  • Contact your personnel department if you receive suspicious e-mail.
If you have been a victim of this scam, you may file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at Please reference this PSA number in your complaint.

The IC3 produced a PSA in May 2014 titled “Cyber-related Scams Targeting Universities, Employees, and Students,” which mentioned this scam. The PSA can be viewed at

13 January 2015
Alert Number

College students across the United States have been targeted to participate in work-from-home scams. Students have been receiving e-mails to their school accounts recruiting them for payroll and/or human resource positions with fictitious companies. The “position” simply requires the student to provide his/her bank account number to receive a deposit and then transfer a portion of the funds to another bank account. Unbeknownst to the student, the other account is involved in the scam that the student has now helped perpetrate. The funds the student receives and is directed elsewhere have been stolen by cyber criminals. Participating in the scam is a crime and could lead to the student’s bank account being closed due to fraudulent activity or federal charges.
Here’s how the scam works:
  • The student is asked to provide his/her bank account credentials under the guise of setting up direct deposit for his/her pay.
  • The scammers will add the student’s bank account to a victim employee’s direct deposit information to redirect the victim’s payroll deposit to the student’s account.
  • The student will receive the payroll deposit from the victim’s employer in the victim’s name.
  • The student will be directed to withdraw funds from the account and send a portion of the deposit, via wire transfer, to other individuals involved in the scam.
Consequences of Participating in the Scam:
  • The student’s bank account will be identified by law enforcement as being involved in the fraud.
  • The victim employee has his/her pay stolen by the scammers utilizing the student’s bank account.
  • Without the student’s participation, the scam could not be perpetrated, so he/she facilitated the theft of the paycheck.
  • The student could be arrested and prosecuted in federal court. A criminal record will stay with the student for the rest of his/her life and will have to be divulged on future job applications, which could prevent the student from being hired.
  • The student’s bank account may be closed due to fraudulent activity and a report could be filed by the bank.
  • This could adversely affect the student’s credit record.
Tips on how to Protect Yourself from this Scam:
  • If a job offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Never accept a job that requires the depositing of funds into your account and wiring them to different accounts.
  • Look for poor use of the English language in e-mails such as incorrect grammar, capitalization, and tenses. Many of the scammers who send these messages are not native English speakers.
  • Never provide credentials of any kind such as bank account information, login names, passwords, or any other identifying information in response to a recruitment e-mail.
  • Forward these e-mails to the university’s IT personnel and tell your friends to be on the lookout for the scam.
  • This could adversely affect the student’s credit record.
If you have been a victim of this scam, you may file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at Please reference this PSA number in your complaint.
The IC3 produced a PSA in May 2014 titled “Cyber-related Scams Targeting Universities, Employees, and Students,” which mentioned this scam. The PSA can be viewed at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Goldman's Oil Guru: The $50 Barrel Is Right on Time (BusinessWeek)

U.S. shale oil production.
U.S. shale oil production.
Less than a week into 2015, and already oil is down 9 percent for the year. Oil pricesfell below $50 a barrel on Monday for the first time since April 2009. By Tuesday, oil traded below $48. It wasn’t that long ago that analysts were gasping at the prospect of $70 oil, a threshold oil moguls and petrostates would be relieved to be anywhere near by the end of 2015. Breaking through $60 was seen by a lot of well-paid people as a likely floor. But that was three weeks and $12 ago.
I was in Houston the day oil first fell below $60, at a Chamber of Commerce lunch heralding the strength of the local economy—40 percent of which is based on oil. Despite the Texas-size grins, you could sense the panic starting to creep in.
Talk to a commodity analyst these days, and you’ll probably hear about the “commodity supercycle,” a wonky term to describe the way supply and demand for such things as oil and copper move in a slow, decadeslong dance that eventually repeats itself. As supply moves from periods of scarcity to surplus, prices rise, fall, and then rise again, killing demand before fueling more of it along the way.
Jeff Currie, head of commodity research at Goldman Sachs (GS), pays particular attention to this interplay. He says that over the past century, the average length of an oil supply cycle is about 25 to 30 years. That puts the current selloff right on time, considering it’s coming almost exactly 29 years after the oil bust of 1985-86. Both selloffs are the result of too much supply: In the 1980s, it was the Saudis who flooded the market, while this time around it’s frackers in the U.S. pouring millions of new barrels onto the market.
Oil prices crashed in a similar fashion in 2008, but for a different reason. After several years of rising prices, oil got so expensive that demand dropped. As the global economy crashed, oil fell from $148 a barrel to $40 during the last half of 2008. Throughout that selloff, however, the futures market stayed optimistic. Oil contracts four, five, and six months into the future remained relatively high, meaning oil speculators always thought prices would soon rise, which they did. “You really didn’t have much of a chance to trade that market back then,” says Currie.
This time around, the futures market has tanked along with current prices. A barrel of oil for delivery in July is only a few dollars more expensive than it is right now, meaning oil speculators think low prices are here to stay. If prices come back more quickly than expected, a lot of money can be made.
The market has reached what Currie calls the “exploitation phase” of the oil cycle, when years of investments fueled by high prices have unlocked a long-term supply. This is essentially the reward. After the crash in the mid-1980s, oil prices stayed low for more than a decade, helping fuel a sustained period of economic growth. With any luck, the same will happen this time around.
But with lower prices come lower investments, which will ultimately lead to fears of shortages and higher prices and the start of another commodity cycle. For now, though, the entire oil industry is getting repriced downward. “We’re moving down the cost curve and eating away at the fat that’s developed in the system,” says Currie.
By fat, he means the roughly $90 billion in debt issued by junk-rated energy companies over the past three years. Drilling for shale oil in the U.S. is an expensive endeavor. A horizontally fracked well produces most of its oil and gas within about 18 months, so companies need to drill faster and faster just to keep pace. Many of them were spending more than they were bringing in. It was only a matter of time before that caught up with them, particularly considering how high the yields were on their debt.
“High yields are the markets telling the world to quit using capital in this way,” says Currie. Now that capital will search for a new, safer home.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The hottest tech at CES 2015 (Cnet)

1. A first for HomeKit. "Siri, brew a cup of coffee." iDevices released one of the firstHomeKit-compatible products, the Switch. The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-enabled device lets anything plugged into it be controlled with Siri voice commands or through an app.

2. ZTE. What if you could upgrade your phone the way you could a PC? That's what ZTE, a leading Chinese phone maker, is showcasing. The Eco Mobius' parts can be swapped and upgraded by simply replacing its various modules.

And don't leave without testing ZTE's Star 2, an impressive voice-controlled smartphone.

3. Belkin. Charging ahead with home automation, Belkin is showcasing a new lineup of connected devices. Look out for a water-usage sensor, an alarm notifier, and even sensors for detecting when windows are opened.

Plus, take an early look at Belkin's Echo technology, a system of sensors that collectively analyze your utility usage.

4. Parrot. Camera-laden drones are an ongoing trend at Parrot, but this year, the company is also focusing on car tech. The RNB 6 lets you upgrade any car (including older models) with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

5. Intel Everywhere. Going beyond PCs, Intel is taking its investments to wearables. One of its focuses is on Quark, an SD card-shaped chip that can be plugged into a variety of wearable devices.
While you're here, check out the Lenovo LaVie Z, a 1.7-pound 13-inch laptop powered by Intel's new Broadwell chip, which significantly increases battery life and lets laptops go fan-free.

6. Streaming TV. Cord cutters, rejoice. Streaming TV is finally becoming a real option and Dish's $20-per-month SlingTV is a compelling example. The service works on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, LG Smart TVs, Xbox, and ESPN makes it shine.

But Dish isn't the only one in the game, keep an eye out for competing services likeSony's Playstation Vue.

7. LG. In 2015, 60 percent of LG's TV lineup will be in 4K, with a combination of both flat and curved screens. The new sets will run on the WebOS platform, a smart TV interface that can stream in 4K. For those who can't decide between curved and flat, there's even a 77-inch flexible concept TV.
And don't miss the G Flex 2, a curved smartphone that can withstand drops and pressure thanks to its flexible screen.

8. The connected car. While the real car showcase is in the North Hall, take a look at Panasonic's connected car setup. The company, which has a solid track record of building in-dash units, is now incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into its hardware.

9. Samsung. Curved screens are still plentiful at Samsung, where the company is now taking its flexible screens to desktop monitors. Bendy screens aside, the new focus is on Quantum Dots (also called nanocrystals), which allow even LED screens to appear brighter and more colorful.

Also take a look at Milk VR, a new virtual-reality game streaming service, along with a bevy of smart home appliances and a 105-inch bendable 4K TV.

10. Sony. As the company's lineup of 4K TVs expands, its also offering ways for consumers to create 4K content. Take a look at the various camcorders and action cams that shoot in 4K, and don't miss Sony's impressive 4K projector(available for a modest $9,999).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The best and the worst in CES (BusinessWeek)

The Logbar Ring wearable control device.

The Smart Ring and the Smart Belt Are Actually Kind of Stupid 

Consider this your annual reminder that the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is full of things that are very unlikely to strike much of a chord with actual consumers. Exhibit A: At CES Unveiled, a Sunday-night preview of the show, the two products that drew the most attention were clunky wearable devices that promise to meet needs that very few people have.
 The biggest crowds were found at the display for a product called Ring. The promise of smart home technology is that you’ll be able to control everything in your house without lifting a finger. Ring gets close: Users can turn home appliances on and off by waving a single digit in the air. Slogan: “One Gesture, One Magic.” 
This isn’t the first we’re hearing of Ring. Logbar, the company behind the product, raised more than $880,000 last spring via Kickstarter. The company admits that the first try wasn’t perfect. It was too big, for starters: The only rings larger go to the winners of the Super Bowl. Also, it was made from zinc, which, it turns out, interfered with the signals it sent to your phone. 
The new version, which was on display at CES, is smaller than the original, and the company is using materials that won’t cause any connectivity problems. When it goes on sale in March, they company is aiming to sell for around $130, half the price of the first Ring. The company also introduced an accessory, Ring Hub, that enables infrared communication, allowing people to wave their fingers around to close their curtains, turn on their televisions, or flip lights on and off. If this sounds too good to be true, CES is the trade show for you. But also consider the disclaimer on Logbar’s promotional material, which warns of potential itchiness, irritation, and rashes, “depending on the user’s health conditions.”

Emiota's Belty smart belt.
The other big draw was Emiota's Belty, which defies satire. In the language of its promoters, it’s a product designed to be worn around one’s waist to enhance “wellbeing.” In English, Belty is a belt that loosens or tightens depending on whether its wearer is sitting or standing. 

It also notices if its wearer has been sitting for too long. In that case, it vibrates. The point, says Emiota founder Carine Coulm, is to identify early signs of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both of which are correlated with waist circumference. “It’s the first device to allow you to follow the trend of your waistline over the long term,” she says. 

The belt is made from French leather, with a chrome-ish buckle about the size of an iPhone 6. Like the people behind Ring, the founders of Belty acknowledge that it has to solve the size problem before anyone will actually wear it. 
Of course, appealing to real people isn't always the primary objective at CES. At last year’s show, for instance, there was the HAPIfork, a cumbersome fork that vibrates when you’re eating too fast. Buzz ensued. Belty is this year’s HAPIfork—weird enough to stand out at CES, doomed to irrelevance the other 51 weeks of the year.