Can Movable Type become a useful AI writer’s tool?

Once upon a time, when blogs were just beginning to become A Thing, the company to watch was Six Apart. They have blogging software called Movable Type. Then the world shifted to WordPress, and soon there were other blogging platforms that turned Movable Type into the Asa Hutchinson of that particularly market. (What? They are still around? Yes and account for about one percent of all blogs.)

Well, Asa no more, because the company has fully embraced AI in a way that even Sports Illustrated (they recently fired their human writers) would envy. If you have never written a book, you can have a ready-made custom outline in a few minutes. All it takes is a prompt and a click. You don’t even have to have a fully-formed idea, understand the nature of research (either pre- or post-internet), or even know how to write word one. (There are other examples on their website if you want to check them out.)

MovableType’s AI creates “10 chapters spanning 150+ pages, and a whopping 35k+ words” (or so they say) of… basically gibberish. They of course characterize it somewhat differently, saying its AI output is “highly specific & well researched content,” It isn’t: there are no citations or links to the content. The output looks like a solid book-like product with chapters and sub-heads but is mostly vacuous drivel. The company claims it comes tuned to match your writing style, but again, I couldn’t find any evidence of that. And while “each chapter opens with a story designed to keep your readers engaged,” my interest waned after page 15 or so.

Perhaps this will appeal to some of you, especially those of you that haven’t yet written your own roman a clef. Or who are looking to turn your online bon mots into the next blockbuster book. But I don’t think so. Writing a book is hard work, and while it is not growing crops or working in a factory, you do have to know what you are doing. The labor involved helps you create a better book, and the process of editing your own work is a learned skill. I don’t think AI can provide any short cuts, other than to produce something subpar.

I have written three books the old fashioned way: by typing every word into Word. Two of them got published, one got shelved as the market for OS/2 moved into the cellar from the time of the book proposal. I got tired of rewriting it (several times!) for the next big movie moment of IBM’s beleaguered OS that never happened. The two published books never made much money for anyone. But I did learn how to write a non-fiction book, and more importantly, write an outline that was more of a roadmap and a strategy and structure document. This is not something that you can train AI to do, at least not yet.

When I read a book, I cherish the virtual bond between me and the author, whether I read my go-to mystery fiction or a how-to business epic. I want to bathe in the afterglow of what the author is telling me, through characters, plot points, anecdotes, and stories. That is inherently human, and something that the current AI models can’t (yet) do. While MovableType’s AI is an interesting experiment, I think it is a misplaced one.

CNN Underscored: Best mobile payment apps reviewed

Mobile payment apps can be a convenient way to send and receive money using your smartphone or smartwatch. Paying for items this way has never been easier, thanks to the availability of numerous mobile payment apps, better payment terminal infrastructure, and wider support for Bluetooth/near-field communication (NFC) contactless credit cards by American issuers. The coronavirus pandemic has also helped to make contactless “everything” more compelling. I tested out five different mobile payment apps: Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Venmo (by PayPal) and Cash App (by Block, formerly Square) recently, and wrote my review for CNN/Underscored here.

CNN Underscored: Best cloud personal storage apps

It used to be that 1 TB of storage was a lot, but now this amount of storage is quite common to find on even the least expensive laptops. Over the years, a number of cloud-based storage vendors have begun to support the TB era and now many of them offer monthly storage plans for a reasonable price. We tested five different cloud-based storage apps—Apple iCloud+, Box, Dropbox, Google One, and Microsoft OneDrive—to see which one is the best cloud-based storage app for you. OneDrive comes out on top and it was easier to install on Macs than on some of our Windows PCs that had additional browser-based security that blocked the desktop client downloads.

You can read my full review here.

CSOonline: How to choose the best VPN for security and privacy

Enterprise choices for virtual private networks (VPNs) used to be so simple. You had to choose between two protocols and a small number of suppliers. Those days are gone. Thanks to the pandemic, we have more remote workers than ever, and they need more sophisticated protection. And as the war in Ukraine continues, more people are turning to VPNs to get around blocks imposed by Russia and other authoritarian governments,

A VPN is still useful and perhaps essential to a modern mostly remote workplace. In this post for CSO, I describe these scenarios, what security researchers have found about how VPNs leak data or have other privacy issues, and what you should look for if you intend to deploy them across your enterprise.

CNN: The best VPNs for 2022

CNN had me review a bunch of VPN services for their Underscored site. I looked at 11 different products. I don’t have to tell you why you should use a VPN. But no product can 100% handle the trade-off among three parameters: anonymity, or the ability to move online without anyone knowing who you are; privacy, or the ability to keep your own data to yourself; and security, or to prevent your computers and phones and other gear from being compromised by a criminal. You can’t do all three completely well unless you go back to pen and paper and the Pony Express. Using a VPN will help with all three aspects, and some are better than others at balancing all three.

My two favorites were and Both use a novel idea to ensure that they don’t know anything about you — when you download their software, you are assigned a random string of characters that you use to identify yourself. No email necessary. If you don’t want to use your credit card, you can pay via alt-coins too. Consider this a “single-factor” authentication. That means no password is required once you have entered your code, it is unlikely that anyone can guess this code or find it on the dark web (unless you reuse it, which you shouldn’t), and there is little chance anyone could connect it back to you even if they did manage to get a hold of the code in a breach.

Both vendors don’t have the largest server networks (that title is shared by Hotspot Shield, Private Internet Access, ExpressVPN and CyberGhost). But each of these are owned by corporate entities that play fast and loose with your private data (Aura and Kape Technologies). If you want to spend more time understanding the privacy issues, check out Yael Grauer’s excellent analysis for Consumer Reports Digital Lab here.

Not on my recommended list is the VPN that I have been using for the past several years — ProtonVPN (shown above). I am of two minds here. On the plus side, I have a fond spot in my nerd heart for Proton, the Swiss company that was an early proponent of encrypted email. But the VPN product is slower, more expensive, harder to use and more of an “OG” VPN that requires emails and credit cards to subscribe. Yael’s report also mentions some privacy difficulties with the service, as well as those well-advertised services mentioned above that have leaked data or aren’t as transparent as they claim to be.

If you leave home, you need to run some kind of VPN. Period.

CNN Underscored: Review of the best USB-C charging blocks

With USB-C finally more-or-less standard across phones, tablets and laptops, and fewer and fewer manufacturers including chargers in the box with their products, a myriad of charging blocks have become available that promise to get your batteries topped up as quickly as possible.

To find the best USB-C charger for your devices, we tested 15 devices from respected manufacturers to find the best for your needs, whether you need to charge a phone, a laptop, or a bagful of accessories. My top pick was the PowerPort Atom III Slim — it has a single USB-C port, and is rated at 45W (there are older versions still on the market that are rated at 30W, so make sure you are getting the higher capacity unit). We liked the smaller footprint slim design, which combines a slimer unit (5/8” thick) with a folding power prong. These make fitting it behind furniture (or carrying in your travel bag) easier.

You can read my review of these chargers here for CNN’s Underscored site.

CSOonline: 9 cloud and on-premises email security suites compared

Email remains the soft underbelly of enterprise security because it is the most tempting target for hackers. They just need one victim to succumb to a phishing lure to enter your network. Phishing (in all its forms) is just one of many attacks that can leverage a poorly protected email infrastructure. Account takeovers (due to reused passwords), business email compromises, payment fraud, specialized mobile malware, and spam messages that contain hidden malware or poisoned web links. That places a heavy burden on any email security solution.

I have been testing and writing about these products for decades and in this roundup I touch on some of the latest integrations and innovations with nine security suites:

  • Abnormal Security’s Integrated Cloud Email Security
  • Area 1’s Horizon
  • Barracuda Email Protection
  • Cisco Secure Email
  • FireEye Email Security
  • Voltage SecureMail
  • Mimecast Email Security
  • Trustifi
  • Zix Secure Cloud Email Security Suite

As what seems like the usual operating procedure, figuring out the pricing for the numerous configurations can be vexing, with one vendor (FireEye) not providing pricing, and several other vendors who declined to participate entirely.

You can read my full roundup for CSOonline here.

CSOonline: Homomorphic encryption tools find their niche

Organizations are starting to take an interest in homomorphic encryption, which allows computation to be performed directly on encrypted data without requiring access to a secret key. While the technology isn’t new (it has been around for more than a decade), many of its implementations are, and most of the vendors are either startups or have only had products sold within the past few years. While it’s difficult to obtain precise pricing, most of these tools aren’t going to be cheap: Expect to spend at least six figures and sign multi-year contracts to get started.

I review the early products in this market for CSOonline, describe some of the typical use cases, and provide some suggestions on how to evaluate them for enterprise uses.

Review of Thales’ SafeNet Trusted Access

Thales SafeNetTrusted Access (STA) offers a compelling blend of security solutions that bridge the MFA, SSO and access management worlds in a single, well-integrated package. STA does this by offering policy-based access controls and SSO with very strong authentication features. These policies are flexible and powerful enough that you can address a broad range of access scenarios.

Because STA covers multiple security workflows, there are several places that it can fit into your overall data protection needs. Part of your own motivation for using this product will depend on the particular direction that you are coming from. What you need STA to do will depend on what you have already purchased and where your existing security tools are weakest.

If you presently use another SSO tool, or if you aren’t happy with your existing identity management product, you might examine whether they can support or integrate with STA and use it as your principal identity provider. This will give you greater automation scope and move towards better MFA coverage for your consolidated logins.

If delivering MFA is your primary focus for purchasing a new identity product, STA should be on your short list of vendors. If you are rolling out MFA protection as part of a larger effort to secure your users and logins, then things get more interesting and the case for using STA becomes more compelling. For example, it can handle a variety of application authentication situations and be granular enough to deploy these methods for particular user collections and circumstances. Many older IAM products bolted-on their MFA methods with cumbersome or quirky integration methods or required you to purchase separate add-on products for these features. STA has had this flexibility built-in from the get-go and has a well-integrated MFA set of solutions.

If you presently use another vendor’s authentication app or have a collection of hardware tokens that you are trying to migration away from, you might want to examine whether STA’s MobilePass+ offers improvements to the user workflows that could increase MFA coverage across your application portfolio.

Thales SafeNetTrusted Access is available at this link. Pricing starts at $3.50 /user/month, which includes access management, SSO, authentication tokens and services support. A premium subscription which adds PKI MFA support is also available.

You can read my full report here. And here is my screencast video that points out the major product features:


CSOonline: The top 5 email encryption tools: More capable, better integrated

I have updated my review of top email encryption tools for CSOonline/Network World this week. Most of the vendors have broadened the scope of their products to include anti-phishing, anti-spam and DLP. I last looked at these tools a few years ago, and have seen them evolve:

  • HPE/Voltage SecureMail is now part of Micro Focus, part of an acquisition of other HPE software products
  • Virtru Pro has extended its product with new features and integrations
  • Inky no longer focuses on an endpoint encryption client and has instead moved into anti-phishing
  • Zix Gateway rebranded and widened its offerings
  • Symantec Email has added integrations

In my post today, I talk about recent trends in encryption and more details about each of these five products.