Android Takes a Bite Out of Apple

I know this is a technology blog and not a market blog but I came upon this information this morning and just had to share. As anyone who reads this tech blog knows I have a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and in fact it won the prestigious December 2010 “gadget of the month” on this very blog. As the past several weeks have gone by my love affair with my tablet has only matured and grown. The mixture of the convienenant 7″ size and reliable Android software makes this a great mobile device for both work and pleasure. Anyway on to today’s exciting market news.

Bloomsberg reported today that Android tablets have grabbed 22% of the market share this quarter. Samsung and Android must be very exicited about this turn of events. Unlike Apple’s long masterly run at controlling the MP3 market with their IPOD, Android, and partners such as Samsung are going to be on their heals in the tablet market.

I don’t expect Apple to continue plunging dramatically in the tablet market, however it is exciting to see their share reduced from 96% to 75% in just one quarter thanks to Android and Samsung.

Secure Your Facebook

Facebook has finally wroke up and decided to offer a secure browsing option for it’s members. This is a critical new feature because it allows you to access Facebook on a secure connection (https as opposed to http). This however is not turned on by default but you can reportably manually activate this feature from “Account Settings”. When I recently opened my “account settings” this option was not there yet. Perhaps Facebook is rolling this out soon so check your “account settings” from time to time to see if the feature has been added to your account.

I did however try the secure connection manually and it is available and working.
You can manually access the secure connection by entering https://www.facebook.com in your browser and signing in. Then replace this secure connection as your “favorite” anywhere you previously had your Facebook link.

This secure connection is the same type of connection utilized for banking and it protects the privacy of your information. Phising sites and other questionable sites are unable to see your information when you use a secure connection.

Altough Facebook warns that using the secure connection may slow down some surfing because of the encrypted session I would not worry so much about this. Another problem may involve some third-party applications which currently do not support https so be aware of this as well.

This is a big step for Facebook and it has been a long time coming.

The Smartphone War

OK I just had to take a couple of minutes to talk about the big smartphone battle of 2011 and how it’s shaping up (if you ask me). Don’t get me wrong. There is indeed a lot of hub bub about Verizon’s new iPhone. However mark my words. The Verizon iPhone is too late to do any real damage to Android. The iPhone landing at Verizon is big news and it surely gives Android more competition than it has ever had. In Android’s favor is about 2 years of development and enhancement of it’s OS while Apple danced exclusively with ATT. Now that Verizon and Apple have finally got together, ATT has started it’s own partnership with Android. Now both Verizon & ATT stores will be stocked to the ceilings with iPhones and Androids with smaller and smaller space dedicated to other smartphones.

Also never forget, for every Apple lover there is probably an Android dihard. I believe that most smartphone users who have been using Android phones are not about to jump ship for an inferior phone.

What is true in this smartphone war is that Blackberry (RIM) and the other shartphone developers are starting to eat dust. RIM is continuing to lose marketshare and with Android’s additional deal with ATT it is going to worsen. The only wildcard at this point is Windows Phone 7. However even here there are problems as most users seem to have a real problem of moving their Windows experience to their mobile phone.

It appears that as Android and Apple continue to take pot shots at each other for marketshare their competitors will continue to struggle for the measly remains.

A special thankyou to Staci King for the fine edits to this entry. I think I am going to have to add her to the Tech Blog staff!

Is There A Smartphone Zombie Attack Approaching?

The day is surely coming when our smartphones will be just as vulnerable to viruses and other computer infections just like our computers. To prove this point Georgia Weidman has created a “zombie” program which can infect Android phones. She will demonstrate this at the Shmoocon hacking conference later this month in Washington, D.C.

To prove that this is a credible issue here are two recent examples of smartphones being hacked.

1. Last August, a scam in Russia tricked users into installing malicious software on their Android phones and used SMS (text) functionality to send messages to a number charging a premium fee.

2. In late 2010, a Chinese virus for Android devices was used to steal personal information.

Now it may seem that hackers are picking on Android but that is not the case. Any smartphone can be infected.

Hackers relaize that the line between computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones is becoming more blurred each day and valuable personal information can usually be found on all of these devices.

As I mentioned in our December training class, hackers go where the money is and as smartphones continue becoming a bigger part of our lives you can bet that the security around these devices will need to be taken seriously by each and everyone of us.

Don’t panic just yet. Smartphones remain relatively secure today. This is because of the use of managed markets such as the Apple Store and Google’s Android Market. However time may be running out and soon anti-virus software may be necessary on our smartphones. Remember to use commonsense on your shartphone. If you did not request something, DO NOT OPEN IT! Even if it says it free.

Apple Users Beware

During December’s Security Training I was asked why “Apple products” don’t get viruses. I noted that one of the primary reasons was simply that the market share of Apple vs. PC was very small in comparison and hackers usually choose to spend their programming time on the biggest audience possible. Hackers want the biggest bang for all of their hard and evil work. The below article which appeared recently at Spamnews.com covers the growing threat to Apple products in general. The morale of this story is use common sense and protect your information, regardless if you are a PC user or an Apple user.

According to McAfee the security vendor, which recently released a research study, Mac OS is in more danger of Apple Trojans and botnets because users tend to have low knowledge of how to keep new Apple tools secured, which leads them into the danger of identity theft. Current.com published this on January 10, 2011.

Moreover, there are other threats to Mac OS, according to the security company like botnets’ rising operations, increasing hacktivism, and growing networks of online television that can cause businesses to lose secret data in case they’re targeted.

In its security alert, Michael Sentonas, Chief Technology Officer for Asia Pacific states that while Mac users earlier were immune from hackers’ assaults, they’re currently being increasingly targeted through Apple products. Smartcompany published this on January 11, 2011.

Sentonas further states that it’s being observed that both business and home users are increasingly using the Mac operating system and with the OS’ growing market share, it’s quite expected that distributors of malicious programs will begin considering focusing their attacks on this platform. The CTO cautions that Mac users can’t just take for granted that they’ll be safe from attacks, hence they must embrace anti-virus applications while maintaining it up-to-date.

Additionally he states that his company on average is spotting some 60,000 fresh malware items daily. And with this amount being huge, there’s greater requirement of user awareness about this problem.

Moreover, McAfee further cautions that security risk is growing during 2011 since every minute about 3,000 shortened URLs are created. The company in its 2011 Threat Predictions Report forecasts that there’ll be more danger with URL-condensing utilities on social-networking websites. Also it forecasts that hackers on social-networking websites will increasingly concentrate on geo-location utilities like Gowalla, Foursquare as well as Facebook Places, which trace users’ whereabouts and also publish them.

Eventually, McAfee notes that still other threats such as viruses from personal contacts, or malware camouflaged as genuine files and e-mails will all become more advanced thereby effectively deceive unsuspecting users during 2011. Besides, botnets will keep on using unlimited stolen bandwidth along with computing power across the world, the company adds

Protecting Your Twitter Privacy

Twitter is quite different than Facebook in many ways. One of the biggest differences is that you do not have to ask to follow someone. Because of this you probably have many “followers” you don’t know. If you take a look at your followers closely you will probably find many people and companies you probably don’t want reading your “tweets”. Recently many companies and other persons have started following people on twitter in order to get an idea of your likes, dislikes, habits etc in order to target advertisements your way.

Protect your privacy and clean up your “followers” on a regular basis. Here are step by step directions to do this.

Step 1: Click the followers list on the right side of your Twitter page.

Step 2: You will see a list of all your followers. Review the list and click on each follower you wish to block.

Step 3: On the far right side, click on the settings wheel and choose “Block”.

Rinse and Repeat as necessary. This is an ever increasing problem on Twitter and I hope that eventually, like Facebook Twitter acount holders should be required to approve followers. Imagine, taking security lessons from Facebook. Amazing.

A special thank you goes out to co-worker Jay Ferriola for his question about this when he complained, “who are all these people following me on twitter!?”

XP Tip: Add familiar icons back to your desktop

When you first got your computer, it probably had shortcuts for My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and the Recycle Bin on the desktop. If you or someone else removed any of those shortcuts and you’d like to get them back, you can easily restore them.

To restore you icons

Right-click the desktop, and then click Properties.

Desktop shortcut menu with Properties selected

In the Display Properties dialog box, click the Desktop tab, and then click Customize Desktop.

Desktop tab in Display Properties dialog box with Customize Desktop selected

In the Desktop icons area in the Desktop Items dialog box, select the desktop icons that you want to appear on your desktop.

Desktop Items dialog box

Click OK.

General tab in Desktop Items dialog box with OK selected

Click OK again.

Desktop tab in Display Properties dialog box with OK button selected

The icons you selected will be displayed on your desktop.

Apple Takes a Swing at Android

At one point ATT’s iPhone was obviously the favorite and best Smartphone on the market. One has to only look back to earlier last year when Windows Mobile was struggling to compete and Android was learning the mobile game. Anyway things have surely changed during the past year or so in the mobile world. Windows Mobile 7 is actually getting some rave reviews and Android seems to get more functional and fun with each software upgrade.

Yesterday’s announcement from Verizon has the entire mobile market a flutter with activity and excitement. I admit, at one point yesterday I even felt of momentary shiver run down my spine (at least thats what I think that was). However after reading up on this new Verizon iPhone I have some serious concerns that anyone thinking about moving from an existing Smartphone should consider first.

1. Unfortunately, the iPhone 4 will only run on Verizon’s 3G CDMA network and not on its newly-launched 4G LTE network. There are Smartphones on the market now that take advantage of the new 4G network.

2. Has Apple fixed the antenna problem in this new iteration of the iPhone 4 for Verizon? Naturally, Apple hasn’t said that it has changed anything with the iPhone antenna. Why can’t Apple simply answer the question?

3. Once again you have 2 choices, 16gb or 32gb of storage. No room to upgrade the memory on your own. If you enjoy music and video on your Smartphone why should Apple decide (and limit) your local storage capability?

4. Of course the new iPhone5 is reportedly going to be hitting the market in June 2011. Does this not seem strange to you?

I think it is great news that the iPhone is finally available on another carrier but the world is a dark and scary place and things like this just don’t happen by accident. A strong possibility is that Apple’s strategy was to do this now simply to try and stem the growing tide of the Android wave.

Barnes & Noble’s New Color Nook

 

I’m a sucker for a good book and because I simply love gadgets & Barnes & Noble this was sure to be a winner for me so keep that in mind as you read on. Also know that although I had purchased the earlier E-Ink version I just had to have this one. Don’t worry because I was lucky enough to receive enough gift cards this Christmas in order to purchase this one.

Only one year after the release of the original Nook,  Barnes and Noble introduced the Nook Color, an e-reader designed for reading newspapers, magazines, children’s books, cookbooks, and other color content in addition to e-books.

The first thing you will notice, especially if you have had experience with the earlier E-Ink version is that the Nook Color is heavier then it’s sister version. But that’s OK. Just think of it as one of those 1000 hardback page turners!

The Nook Color also doubles as a portable multimedia device capable of browsing the web, playing video, music, games, and a lot more. This should be enhanced once Barnes and Noble launches the new Nook App Store in early 2011.

The Nook Screen
The Nook Color definitely lives up to its name with its 7-inch VividView touchscreen from LG that can display more than 16 million colors. Images are exceptionally bright and detailed, especially with magazines that use high-quality photographs like National Geographic.

The Nook uses a capacitive touchscreen so you barely have to touch the display for it to react. Scrolling, pinch-to-zoom, highlighting, tapping letters on the keyboard, and navigating through menus all work very easily.

The interface is impressive as well. Navigating is faster and more intuitive with a touchscreen. The on-screen functions, being able to tap words to look up in the dictionary, adding highlights and notes, are all much more functional than the original Nook.

However, like any LCD e-reader, the main drawbacks of the screen are that it is reflective, drains battery power, and fingerprints build up. Outside in direct sunlight the screen is highly reflective and fingerprints are much more apparent, but both are much less noticeable indoors with the brightness turned up. If you like reading on the beach, with the sun directly above this may be a show stopper for you.

Limited Nook Power
As for battery life, it is rated at about 8 hours for reading, which seems to be pretty accurate with the brightness turned down some. My original Nook could sit on my night stand for days, not plugged in without needing a charge, after nightly reading. This is not the case with the Nook Color. Get used to keeping it plugged in when not in use.

Plenty of Memory and Built In Games
The Nook Color comes with 8GB of internal memory and a microSD card slot for cards up to 32GB, built-in WiFi and a web browser, chess, crosswords, Sodoku, Pandora Internet Radio.

Facebook, Twitter and Sharing Books!

Like the older E-Ink Nook, this new Nook can lend ebooks for a period of 14 days. Impressively, the Nook Color has social networking incorporated into it’s interface! Another new feature from B&N is called NOOKfriends, where you can share passages with friends and family through email and social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter. I have not tried this one yet but I am sure my friends on Facebook and Twitter will appreciate it once I start exploring this feature more. This is big for me because my friends on Twitter and Facebook love to keep up with what I am reading!

Nook Functionality

The home menu of the Nook Color is reached by pushing the “n” button below the display. This is the only hardware button with the exception of the volume and power keys. The homescreen background image can be changed and you can drag your books around to arrange them however you want.

There are several other ways to organize content too. In the library there are options for different bookshelf layouts, including custom shelves. There are sections for magazines, newspapers, and your side-loaded content, which includes EPUB and PDF ebooks, Microsoft Office files, music, images, and videos.

As you might guess with a full color touchscreen, Barnes and Noble is doing a lot of promoting for newspapers and magazine subscriptions with the Nook Color, as well as the newly-launched Nook Kid’s portion of B&N’s books. In fact, there’s a feature called AliveTouch where kids can interact with word and pictures, and even have books read aloud to them as they follow along. Sadly my boys are 19 and 23 so I really have no one to try this out with, but I am sure it is a fun feature for kids.

Reading Features on the Nook

For reading features, the Nook comes with several customizing options. There are 6 text sizes, font types, and color themes to choose from. There are 3 levels of adjustment for margins and line height. There’s a brightness adjuster. And an option to turn on and off publisher defaults.

Other reading features include jumping between chapters and pages using the table of contents and slider bar, searching for words or phrases, and adding bookmarks. There’s a pop-up for writing reviews and recommending books that also lists other books written by the author and similar books other customers bought.

For newspaper reading, everything is laid out into sections, which can be navigated by using the table of contents. Each section shows a heading and excerpt. Tapping the heading goes to the full article. Be aware I did try out the US Today on this and was very disapointed with it’s particular functionaility. Newspaper viewing quality differs from paper to paper. I was also disapointed that the Philadelphia Inquirer was not available at this time, but one can hope.

Magazines are a little different. Some operate the same way as newspapers but most are set up like their print counterparts. With these you can zoom in on the images and articles, or choose to read in “Article View”, which pops-up a box with nicely formatted text.

Purchasing Content

It is very easy to browse the Barnes & Noble store on the nook and the interface is fun. You can also shop for content on your computer and your purchased content will be available on your Nook almost immediately.

Final Nook Thoughts

Barnes and Noble has done a great job with the new Nook Color. It is well made with a metal frame and although it’s heavier then the previous E-Ink version it is not uncomfortably heavy. The user interface is smooth and intuitive. The color screen is gorgeous. Right now third party Android apps are not available on the Color Nook but I am hoping that they will be available soon, which would truly enhance this device in the every expanding tablet market.

If you are looking for a great e-book reader then this is a device you should seriously consider. However if you want a device to handle email, true internet browsing, gaming in addition to e-books check out the Samsung Galaxy tablet and yes, even Apple’s I-PAD. As I mentioned earlier, if and when third party Android apps are available, the Nook Color could play a part in seriously competing in the tablet market.

Whatever Happened to My Old Nook Anyway?
Oh and if were wondering what ever happened to my one year old E-Ink Nook. Well, my 19 year-old son was more then happy to take it off my hands!

Nook Color Specs

  • 7-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen, 1024 x 600 at 169 PPI
  • Android 2.1 operating system (Upgrading to 2.2 next year)
  • ARM Cortex A8 processor
  • 8GB internal memory; microSD card slot for cards up to 32GB
  • WiFi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Web browser
  • Pandora internet radio
  • Lend ebooks with B&N’s LendMe feature
  • Audio: AAC and MP3 formats; 3.5mm headphone jack; built-in speaker
  • Video Player: MP4 format
  • Image Viewer: JPG, BMP, PNG, and GIF
  • Supports ePub and PDF formats, both non and Adobe DRM
  • Quickoffice Software for viewing Microsoft Office files: .xls, .doc, .ppt, .pps, .txt, .docm, .xlsm, .ppsx, .ppsm, .docx, .xlx, .pptx
  • Games: Crossword Puzzles, Sudoku, Chess, etc
  • Weight: 15.8 ounces (449 grams)
  • Dimensions: 8.1 inches x 5 inches x 0.48 inches
  • Battery: up to 8+ hours