FAA Changing Gadget Rule

It seems I have been complaining for years about the silly requirement of turning off our mobile devices at landing and take off of airplanes. Good news may be just around the corner because we will eventually be able to continue using our mobile devices on takeoff and landing, according to the FAA. The American government organization overseeing air travel today announced that travelers won’t face regulations that are as strict as we have been accustomed to when it comes to electronics on planes.

However this does not mean you can continue playing Candy Crush or in my case Mahjong while waiting for your takeoff just yet. The roll out and specifics of the changes will vary depending on each airline since there are differences between types of planes and how things are run at each different carrier, but the FAA anticipates that most will allow passengers to use their mobile devices “in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.”

Passengers can use e-book readers, play games and watch videos on devices, and can hold gadgets during both take-off and landing, or else stow them in the seatback pocket. These gadgets need to be in Airplane Mode or have cell service turned off during both landing and taxi/take-off, but you can actually use Wi-Fi during your flight and continue to use Bluetooth accessories connected to your phone.

Soon I will be able to finish watching Star Trek as the plane lands!

My personal  belief on this long time rule is that the FAA simply wanted the passengers to pay attention during take off and landing and that no iPhone has the ability to take down a airplane. I am glad that finally this out dated and unnecessary regulation is about to end. Do you know how many times I had about 10 minutes left on my Star Trek episode when the announcement is made to turn off all electronic devices and my wife starts hitting me in the arm repeatability saying “Turn it off Bill!” 

I will talk about “airplane mode” in more detail in a future article.

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More iOS7 Glitches

It has been reported that almost 70% of iPhone and iPad users have upgraded to iOS7 which is a big success for Apple, however all is not rosy for Apple because several glitches are being reported by users everywhere. While Apple is responding to these reported problems there are some things you can do if you experiencing any of the following problems.

Messages Won’t Send

Problem: When sending a message, the status bat gets stuck and the message does not go through.

Solution:

  1. Go to “settings—messages”.
  2. Switch the iMessage slider off.
  3. Go to “settings—general”.
  4. Tap “reset network settings”.
  5. When the device powers up again, go back to “settings—messages” and the iMessage slider on.

Battery Drain

Problem: With increased power comes increased power usage.

Solution:

  1. Turn off the 3-D parallax effect by going to “settings—general—accessibility—reduced motion”.
  2. Disable background app refresh in the “settings—general” menu.

Motion Sickness (yes this is really a reported problem)

Problem: Some users have reported getting motion sickness from the new operating system’s display.

Solution:

  1. Go to settings—general—accessibility and
  2. Tap “reduce motion”.
  3. Increase the contrast, and
  4. Reduce the screen brightness.

Apple will probably continue rolling out updates and patches for these and other problems but in the meantime if you are experiencing the above issues these adjustments should help.

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Watering Hole Attacks

Chances are you have some trusted industry sites for staying up to date with the news you care about. Just like you Finance, HR and most every department also has sites that they rely on to help them do their jobs as well.

Some hackers are now taking advantage of these poplar sites. First, they observe which sites attract a specific type of user.

Then they compromise that site to spread malware or steal information.

This makes the attackers able to get large amounts of data from across many organizations al once.

Users are fairly trusting of these sites – since they have been useful resources in the past.

While much of the protection relies on sites policing themselves, you should be on the lookout for a site suddenly requesting information or permissions that is has not done in the past.

You should also make sure your browser is up to date and patches to make these types of attack less likely.

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Crypto Locker Warning

It seems like I write monthly about computer security but if you needed a reminder to be careful about the emails and attachments you open, it’s now. The Crypto Locker virus that is going around is said to be one of the worst ever and is infecting computers with the Windows OS all across the United States. The virus, also called “ransomware,” works by holding your files hostage until you pay a fee.

The Crypto Locker virus is passed around in emails that have innocent enough looking senders, such as UPS or FedEx, but they’re not really from these corporations, of course. Instead, when you open the attachment, your computer becomes infected and the virus locks all your files until you pay a ransom. Check out a picture of what the Crypto Locker demand screen looks like:

Ransomware causes your computer files to be non-accessible and when that happens you have two choices. You can recover if you have a backup which I hope you do or pay the ransom within 100 hours. If you do not pay the ransom you will lose all of your data.

The Crypto Locker email pretends often pretends to be from a financial institution like a bank or Pay Pal and reports that it has dire news for you and that the attachment is important. readers of these emails often panic and open the attachment and then it’s too late. The PC is infected and the files are encrypted which means you cannot open your own files. The attachment will often disguise itself as JPEG images, as PDF files, as Microsoft Office files and many other file types.  After the computer becomes infected, users are usually given 100 hours to pay a fee between $100 and $700 to get the files decrypted.

This Is Important – Follow These Rules

1.  If you get an email from somebody you do not know, especially if it has attachments, do not open anything with it, just delete the email. 

2.  If you did not specifically ask for an attachment do not open it. If you are curious reach out to the send by phone before opening anything. If you cannot contact the send do not open it!

Backing Up Your Files is More Important Then Ever

Make sure you have all of your files backed up both on a local disconnected USB hard drive and in the cloud. There are many free and affordable cloud services available so there is really no excuse not to do this. If your PC gets infected with the Crypto Locker virus you backup may be your digital salvation.

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Face to Face is Best

Don’t you just hate it when you are in the middle of something and “bing” someone sends you an email. Not another interruption! But of course you just “have to” see what that bing was and you stop what you were doing to read the message. It has been said that on average we check our email an average of 37 times an hour. That’s more than once every On the other hand we typically spend only six seconds on each email.

Email hits your productivity. If you don’t manage your email, you are less able to work effectively. Research consistently shows that email is one of the biggest hits on your time and on your ability to concentrate on the work you need to do.

study published last year confirms that the break in continuity of work due to email can affect your productivity and can actually act as constant source of disturbance.

This all suggests that we are so supremely social and that we need social stimulus to keep us going. Therefore when it comes to the office being interrupted by constant emails you become less productive than being interrupted by your work mates. Rather then getting people to send you an internal email you will do better at your job if you ask them to come over to your desk and talk to you.

There are also additional benefits in taking this kind of approach. Not only does it boost the ability to get on with the job, it also helps staff feel happier because they are now in much more real, face-to-face contact with each other. Plus there are health benefits of the increased wandering around the office, perhaps leading to fewer days off sick.

If you want to boost your personal and business productivity, the best thing you can do is to start managing your email, switching it off for most of the day, moving around and actually speaking with people directly, even your co-workers.

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Microsoft Office 365 Continues to Grow

One thing is proving certain. Microsoft is one of the winners in the cloud. Almost three years ago we decided to retire our on premises Microsoft Exchange (email) server in favor of cloud services. For us was simply a decision of limited technology staff but the goal of actually enhancing software services throughout the organization’s departments. At that time government adoption of cloud services was just beginning and now 3 years later it seems to be growing within the private & public sectors alike.

Microsoft managed to bag another big deal after the government of US approved contract of subscription based productivity suite Office 365 for one of it’s departments. The PEO-EIS that manages a variety of contracting programs for the Army awarded 50,000 seats of Microsoft Office 365 to Microsoft and Dell, together since Dell, delivers the service; Microsoft doesn’t sell directly to the government.

Microsoft Office 365 for the U.S. Department of Defense

Following the announcement, Microsoft will start implementing its own Office 365 productivity software that includes Office 365′s email, calendar, Office Web Apps, Lync, and SharePoint features.

Our cloud solutions are becoming the choice across our public sector organizations who recognize the essential importance of security and reliability for their organizations, said Curt Kolcun, Microsoft VP for U.S. Public Sector. He further added,
The Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) is available to any Department of Defense (DoD) Service, agency and mission partner without additional competitive process. This opportunity gives Microsoft the ability to work with civilian agencies and federal entities at all levels to provide commercial cloud services, opening up new mobile opportunities”.

The contract bagged by Microsoft rests on the decision made by the Defense Department to adopt commercial products and cloud services for developing its communication system and therefore s victory for Microsoft.

Currently over a million state, local and federal government employees are using Office 365. So, this isn’t the first major deal Microsoft has signed for its Office 365 solution. Municipalities and organizations across the US have already partnered with Redmond, Microsoft also in recent weeks received provisional authority to operate its Windows Azure and cloud infrastructure for federal agencies, from a joint Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) board.

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More Security Problems for iOS 7

Things have not been going so good for Apple these past couple of months, first the iPhone 5C may be their first true flop in years and iOS7 is making users angry and confused and the new operating system seems to be plagued with security problems. For example soon after iOS 7 came out, a pair of holes in the lockscreen were outed and then quickly fixed in iOS 7.0.2.
 
 
However it now turns out that Apple didn’t fix future problems of this sort proactively, because the just-announced iOS 7.0.3 closes three more locked-phone holes. Apple rarely releases updates, or what are really patches this quickly.
The three bugs this time deal with similar problems to those patched in 7.0.2:
  1. Another flaw in the emergency call feature, where hitting the call button at a carefully-planned moment lets you call any number, not just 911 or your local equivalent.
  2. A passcode lockout bypass, so that crackers can continue trying passcodes even after the phone decides they’ve had too many goes and locks them out.
  3. Access to the Contacts pane even when the phone is locked
If you care about security, you may as well make sure you grab this update as soon as you can, if your phone hasn’t done it for you already.

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Facebook’s Posting Glitch is Fixed!

Yesterday morning when I was attempting to post two very important Facebook updates, one being my Samsung Smartwatch review and the other my sad comments regarding the Denver Broncos and my fantasy football teams I was presented each time with a Facebook Update error. Oh the tragedy of it! Being frustrated I first blamed the Disney Resorts wireless which has been plagued with a case of the “slows” and then I tried out different browsers, all with the same error message (below).

Oh the horror! Facebook Refusing to post an update!

Frustrated and confused I carried on with the rest of the morning which included preparing for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and having coffee with the wife. I was a little worried for my regular readers on Facebook but I tried not to think to much about them and simply hoped the Facebook update ability would be restored sooner then later.

As I had hoped, later in the morning my posts were going through from the Disney Parks and my friends were back in business with updates from me!

Later in the day, after a little research I found the following information, confirming that it was not me, my browsers or Disney World.

Facebook said it blamed network maintenance for troubles that kept users around the world from posting updates Monday morning. Users also couldn’t upload photos, share websites, or make payments during the outage.

Facebook said the outage has been fixed and that all users should be up and running as normal. It lasted for a few hours Monday morning, Facebook said,
“Earlier this morning, while performing some network maintenance, we experienced an issue that prevented some users from posting to Facebook for a brief period of time,” a Facebook spokesman told Computerworld. “We resolved the issue quickly, and we are now back to 100%. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”

What is weird is that the world continued to rotate normally and people went about their normal routines even during the time period of Facebook posting services being down. Maybe there is hope for us afterall….

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First Thoughts on the Galaxy Watch

Well I have used the Samsung Galaxy watch 2 days now while walking through the parks at Walt Disney World and I must say for the most part I am impressed. With the watch comfortably on your wrist you can set it up to lightly vibrate for email and text messages. As opposed to looking at your phone constantly you can see the headline of each message and if you want to read the content simply click the message and the content is right there for you on your watch. You can also browse your email and text messages by swiping side to side on a message. Facebook notifications also arrive on your watch but you cannot read them here but you can tell the watch to open them on your phone so when you look at the phone he Facebook message is already displayed.

Talking on the phone, which I did once can be a little difficult in a busy and crowded place like Disney a world because it is of course using the speaker and microphone on the watch.  It was fun to try but became annoying when my son continued to say “you are breaking up!”   In a quiter place, like your car which I did try before leaving on my trip worked just fine.

The watch also has some out of the box apps like “Pedometer” which can track your walking through the day and then uplink a health report to your Galaxy phone. This has reported what I already knew – you really better be prepared to walk ALOT at Disney World.  There are other apps that come so the watch and you can download others like Zite but I will talk more about them in a later post.

I am also impressed with the battery on this little guy. I used it all day yesterday and forgot to charge it overnight. When I noticed this in the morning I panicked until I saw that it still had 77% remaining! The watch comes with a nice docking cradle which the wire had lodged loose somehow when I was setting things up in our room.  Another nice side effect of this watch is that it actually improves the battery life of your smartphone because you tend to look at it much less.

The other observation that I found that just like your phone or tablet the screen of the watch can become difficult to impossible to read when the sun is directly overhead. 

If you have not been using a “old school” watch it will probably take a little time to get accustomed to this, especially because the band is a little big, probably because of the camera but I quickly adjusted to it.

So far this watch has been better then I expected and I can see it becoming a daily part of the work and home experience. I will continue using it and write a full review after our Disney vacation.


Part 2 – Pedometer & Smartphone Freedom (October 23, 2013)













Pedometer
After the original review I of course went out to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the day where I turned on the Pedometer App. The Pedometer app counts your steps and syncs the data to your smartphone. The app works great however I left it on all day and only realized this when I was waiting for Fantasmic to start at about 7:30pm when the watch displayed a “low battery warning”. If you recall the previous day I had used the watch the same amount of time and still had 77% battery life at the end of the night. Therefore I would recommend only using this app when you are walking or running.

Smartphone Freedom
The best feature of this smartwatch to me has been what I have been calling “smartphone freedom”. Walking through the park I can check out email messages and text messages as well as the time (again, how quaint) without reaching for my smartphone. This saves time and battery life your phone.

Part 3 – Wearable Comfort and a Camera to Boot (October 25, 2013)


I think that one of the challenges for smart watches is actually going to be that many people have simply stopped wearing watches as they became more tied to first, their mobile phones and finally to their smartphones. After all who needed a watch when your phone could tell you the time as well as everything else? In fact it actually took me a couple of days to get accustomed to wearing a “watch” again but eventually I got used to it. The band on the Galaxy watch is larger then it probably needs to be but that it because Samsung stuck a camera (pictured above) on the wrist band. It really does not look that bad and most people probably wont even notice that you are sporting a small mobile camera. If you set up Google+ with their 15gb of free storage the pictures will upload to your smartphone and Google account. You can even take short 15 second videos with the camera.

I snapped the above to photos with my watch while standing in the queue line for the Space Shuttle Atlantis simulator at Kennedy Space Center. Not bad for such a small camera.

You can also snap a series of photos with the watch to create an animated gif (above) and below is a 15 second video I recorded while waiting to become an astronaut at KSC.

The camera is just under 2mp so you are not going to capture great photos here, but if your camera or smartphone are not available this is a good option, and a little fun as well. I kinda felt like a private eye using the camera!


The Galaxy Gear Future

This is really a good first attempt at an actually usable smart watch. The freedom of checking email, text messages and even getting notifications from Facebook with a little handy dandy camera does provide a sense of “smartphone freedom”.

This smartwatch is being expanded t other Galaxy watches as we speak so hopefully Samsung will find success here and continue building on what they started here.

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Mountains of Sorrow


This is not a tech post but I wanted to post it here anyway.

About 2-3 weeks ago while shopping at my favorite LP store, Electric Avenue Music I asked for some reason when the next Amos Lee LP was scheduled for release and if it would be on available on vinyl. I was informed that Amos Lee indeed had a new release scheduled in a few weeks and yes it would be available on Vinyl. I had discovered Amos Lee, a retired Philadelphia school teacher a couple of years ago and his music with a mix of Philly soul, rock and folk has always made me feel good so I pre-ordered the LP, not knowing anything about it, including the release date.

I completely forgot I had ordered the LP.

Fast forward until 2 weeks ago when a drunk driver stole my little brother from me, his young family and anyone that ever knew him or those yet to know him. A couple days after the tragic accident I stood inside Sam’s Club picking out pictures for the funeral home slide show when Electric Avenue Music called me to report that my Amos Lee LP had arrived. I could not answer the call or the voice mail. I was too upset while creating the slideshow for the funeral home to answer the phone call. Later in the day I asked my son Kevin to pick up the LP for me. Kevin picked it up and it sat in my LP Browser until a couple days after the services.

Once I looked at the album cover I was surprised and shocked. The album title, “Mountains of Sorrow” surprised me. Then listening to the main title song I felt as if it was especially written from Amos Lee to me. From the opening line when you hear “when I awoke from my dream awaken by the darkness of the night, I was unprepared for the unseen …”

Although I love music so much, very few, if any have touched me in such a way as this song – with this tragic event. This album and it’s title track will always strike directly at my heart when I think of my little brother and how I will always miss him so.

Sadness has entrenched my soul and I have a feeling it will take a long long time for it to let go of me.

I love you Ian Mann…. Mountains of Sorrow could not have described it any better.

You can learn more about Amos Lee at www.amoslee.com.

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