Marsden March 2015: Walking 14 miles to help science kill cancer

There has been so much going on this year I almost forgot to mention (or boast about!) how I managed to complete the Marsden March 2015 last weekend. Yes, I walked all 14 miles between The Royal Marsden’s Chelsea and Sutton hospitals. It may have taken 4 ½ hours but it was done! As part of Team Goldsmiths (as my partner is an employee) we raised over £3,000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. It was a brilliant experience and it was incredibly moving hearing the stories of brave cancer survivors, and from the family of friends walking to remember loved ones. I would do the walk again, although I should probably let my knee heal first!

Along the route I took some pictures. The atmosphere was as vibrant as the clothes some walkers chose to wear! Social media was buzzing too with plenty of #MarsdenMarch tweets and some live streaming their efforts to loved ones at home.

 

How disruptive will the Apple Watch be?

I wear an old fashioned watch. It tells the time. Well, I say it’s old fashioned but it’s actually very sophisticated. It’s a Citizen watch that uses Eco-Drive technology to fuel a titanium lithium ion battery via an amorphous silicon photocell located being the watch face. It contains a GPS receiver that can sync to a satellite that makes sure the time on my wrist is synced based upon an atomic clock. That’s a lot of technological effort just so I can tell the time.

A Citizen is a mid-range watch. You could buy a cheaper fashion watch such as an Michael Kors or Accurist, or you could empty your bank account for a luxury watch, a Tag Heuer or Zenith. All of these ranges have enjoyed steady growth in the UK but articles such as ‘What will 2017 hold for the UK watch market?’ will soon need rewriting, as I believe the launch of the Apple Watch will disrupt markets and our behaviours.

On the 24th April 2015 the Apple Watch will launch. It will instantly be competitive against fitness bands such as Fitbit and the Nike+ FuelBand. Other smart watches, such as the popular Pebble, may need to rethink their market positioning. Then we have all the existing watch brands that will need to contend with the Apple Watch; market positioned by its price of £299 to £13,500 (depending on metals and straps).

The big question: could a smart watch replace the Citizen on my wrist?

This is a difficult question to answer, but my gut reaction is ‘yes’. Especially if we consider that smart watches could be the driving force behind the wearable technology market which YouGov expects to expand over the course of this year. The market has currently enjoyed growth from sport related technology. In fact, this was probably why when I joined a debate at the House of Commons about wearable technology last year, that many of the ethical concerns about such devices came from a health point of view.

Smart watches are different. They do the whole health ‘thing’, but other functions from Apple include:

  • using the Watch as a means to open a compatible hotel room lock as an alternative to a key card
  • checking the name of a song via the app Shazam
  • opening an internet-connected garage door remotely

The functionality of the Apple Watch will increase over time as apps created for iOS gain Apple Watch compatibility. These will probably become secondary features, most likely notifications in the beginning. Smart watches are part of the ever-growing Internet of Things that change the way we interact with technology (or software).

Over time I believe the functionality of the Apple Watch (and other smart watches) will begin seriously eating into the sales of existing watch brands. The brands at most risk are the low to mid-level priced; fashion watches and trusty Citizens. Already fashion watch brand goliath, Fossil, have announced that it will begin producing smart watches based on Android Wear. The storm is coming, as wearing a sophisticated watch now means more than telling the time. We want our accessories to be interconnected, to act as extensions of ourselves, interacting with internet-based services, especially social media.

However, I don’t think luxury watch brands will be affected by smart watches, even though Apple’s highest price point is £13,500 (pure madness). Luxury watches are bought for social status by enthusiasts who care that the Zenith chronograph was created in 1969, boasting “exceptional 1/10th of a second precision”. Such brands are in a completely different league, so I’ll be excited to see how the Apple Watch manages to position its high-level offering.

Whilst there is high interest in smart watches by consumers and by those who work in digital marketing, it will be interesting to see if this gets translated into sales. If anyone can do it, Apple can. Especially as their newly launched iOS software features a tantalising Apple Watch app.

Will I get an Apple Watch? Yes, but not this first generation. The device needs better app expandability and testing for intensive day-to-day use. The device’s biggest let down is its battery life of just 18 hours. My Citizen’s battery will last for 7 years before dying. Without a doubt the biggest enemy to the smart watch industry is battery technology. Until that improves, it’s difficult to see how they can be competitive against existing watches or existing health tech solutions – at least this year.

Check your WordPress installation for MailPoet malware

WordPress is without a doubt the best blog publishing platform available due to its flexibility, expandability and compatibility. However, the standard ‘out of the box’ ready setup makes it incredibly vulnerable to hackers. I never thought any site I manage would end up hacked, but for the last couple of days I’ve been fighting a piece of malware infamously known as MailPoet.

I say ‘infamously’ but alarming amounts of people have not heard of MailPoet malware, despite it surfacing under a year ago in July 2014. It came from the MailPoet Newsletters plugin found on the WordPress website (the current 2.2.16 version is clean). Despite never using the plugin, several sites I help manage became infected with malware probably due to cross contamination between WordPress installations based on the same server.

I first became aware of hacking attempts as one of the sites I manage started showing the follow signs:

  • Server databases had their access details changed with some data being deleted;
  • Files started to disappear from the server, causing sites to begin malfunctioning;
  • Hidden admin users were being created at database level.

If you run any WordPress installations as part of your digital marketing role and have noticed any of the rather obvious above changes, then check you haven’t been infected by MailPoet.

The simplest way to check is to open your current WordPress themes’ template files and check if any obscure code has appeared. For instance, I found multiple entries in theme files showing (especially check in the theme functions file):

if(!isset($GLOBALS[“x61156x75156x61”])) { $ua=strtolower($_SERVER[“x48124x54120x5f125x53105x52137x41107x45116x54″]); if ((! strstr($ua,”x6d163x69145″)) and (! strstr($ua,”x72166x3a61x31”))) $GLOBALS[“x61156x75156x61”]=1; }

For an in-depth explanation of what this malicious code does visit the Sucuri Blog.

“At a high level though, it contacts a malware Command and Control (C&C) server (either one of these hosts: 33db9538.com, 9507c4e8.com, e5b57288.com, 54dfa1cb.com) to determine what to do with the compromised website.”

If you have been infected then make sure you:

  • Make a full backup of your website’s file and its database;
  • Reinstall all the WordPress files, especially plugins and theme files;
  • Clean your MySql database for any unknown mentions.

Unfortunately MailPoet malware still exists in the wild because it is able to cross contaminate WordPress websites when they’re based on the same server. This means if you’re hosting your WordPress site in a shared server environment (as most people do) then you could be infected.

Given the dangerous nature of this malware and its ability to organically spread between WordPress installations, it’s surprising that WordPress haven’t issued a security alert or at least built a patch to stop MailPoet malware from taking over.