App Spotlight – Outlook for iOS

Although I gave up on Microsoft’s Windows Phone a couple of years ago I still have plenty of good memories of me and my nifty Windows Phone. In fact if you are in a nostalgic mood you can browse my Windows Phone articles here.

All is not lost for Microsoft in the smartphone world. Even though I gave into Apple empire for both myself personally and my organization all is not lost. That’s because Microsoft has been publishing apps at an amazing rate during the past two years and many of them are simply top notch.

One of my favorite Microsoft Apps is “Outlook”. Why do I recommend trashing Apple’s default mail app and installing Outlook?

Phones with Outlook app.

Innovation and Consolidation 

The Microsoft Outlook app is a mobile productivity powerhouse, bringing your email, attachments, contacts and calendars into easy reach. Outlook’s built-in analytic engine automatically surfaces important email (across multiple accounts) based on your communications, and quick swipe controls allow you to easily triage your email. It’s a great mobile email app, and works with Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and iCloud email accounts.

Also included with Outlook is your calendar, files (OneDrive, Box, Dropbox & Google Drive) and contacts. If you are using Apple’s default apps you have separate programs for each of these. With Outlook – you have one app to control them all.

Of course if you rely on Microsoft Outlook on your desktop this is the perfect companion app on your smartphone or mobile device.

You can learn more about Microsoft’s Outlook app here.

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Our Adware Battle Continues

Over the past couple years, we have focused much attention on Ransomware, and that’s for good reason. However old threats are still here to make our digital lives miserable as well. One of the oldest surviving threats we continue to deal with is adware.

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Adware Today

There’s no denying that adware is a big problem. In fact 2016 saw a huge spike in Mac OS malware, mostly due to bundled adware. Google has tried tackling this problem by kicking known adware distributors out of the Play Store.

Google is perhaps the most aggressive trying to battle adware today because Android especially has seen a great deal of adware in recent years.

Earlier this year, a number of Android phones were discovered to have been infected with powerful adware. The “infection” took place somewhere between the factory, and the business that ordered them. That means some Android phones were purchased with adware pre-installed!

Avoid Download Portals

Desktops also continue to be targeted. One of the popular ways of infecting desktop PCs are through download portals. Many people continue to unwittingly use download portals that bundle adware and other unwanted programs with legitimate apps that people are looking for.

Unfortunately, these download portals show up at the top of search results and trick searchers into thinking they’re getting the best version of the app. When you are looking for a specific app take the time to go directly to the software provider’s website. If you do not – and you simply click on the first link in the search results you may be using a download portal which usually will give you a boatload of unwanted apps, in addition to the one you actually wanted.

* Yes – I know I used the words “download portals” five times in this section. That’s because I want you to remember what they are – so you can avoid them.

Keeping Alert for Adware

As with any other type of malware, the best way to deal with adware is to be aware if them – and what they are. Here are four things to watch out for.

If Ads Abound on Your PC – Don’t Panic But You Do Need to Act

If you’ve been infected with adware, you’re going to be seeing a lot of ads. Pop-ups, in-app ads, browser takeovers, and all sorts of other annoying behaviors might happen.

Different types of adware behave differently.

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Image Credit: Fireofheart via Shutterstock

However one thing that they all have in common is that they will show you a huge number of ads. You’ll notice more ads, more insistent and pervasive ads, and ads outside of the locations where you usually see them. If you’ve been seeing any of this stuff, download anti-adware software right away.

Just don’t get it from…

Third-Party App Stores

If you stick to Apple’s App Store, the Google Play Store, the Chrome Store, and other first-party, controlled app stores, you will be much safer than if you use third-party options.

The same rule for desktop and laptop software applies. Unless the app isn’t available from the Windows or Mac app stores — and you can’t find it on the developer’s website — avoid third party software download sites.

Watch for the Warnings

Believe it or not, you will often be warned right before you download adware. It’s those small print terms and conditions that often go ignored. Take the time to read them if you really – really want that free app. There’s a good chance that they contain something useful. They’ll often tell you that you’ll be getting something else in addition to the software you’re looking for.

No matter where you’re getting an app, make sure to at least browse the terms and conditions first. You just might save yourself the hassle of trying to deal with the problem later.

Avoid Free Versions of Software

If you found a place to download Microsoft Office for free, run the other way. You’re not going to get high-end, fully featured apps without paying. Someone might be offering it, but they’re probably offering a few other things that they aren’t telling you about, very likely adware – or worse.

Even apps that are normally free often carry some sort of adware. Ironically a number of illegitimate anti-virus apps have been discovered to come bundled with malware.

Always be very careful about where you get your software.

What to Do If You’ve Been Infected

Here are some warning signs to watch out for.

Have you noticed a lot more pop-ups than usual lately? Or advertisements that you can’t close? If you see a new toolbar (these are very popular), a new default search engine (also a common symptom), new programs that you don’t remember installing, or new bookmarks in your browser, you are then more likely infected with adware.

Do your best not to interact with any of these ads, as that may make the problem worse. Close — force close, if you need to — those apps and download an anti-adware application as soon as possible. Here are three choices that will help you rid your computer of adware for free.

Malwarebytes AdwCleaner (Windows)

With one of the best reputations in the game, Malwarebytes is a company you can trust to clean up your computer. Its AdwCleaner software specifically targets adware and browser hijackers, as well as “potentially unwanted programs,” which could include toolbars and other questionable downloads.

AdwCleaner is free, and all you have to do is download it and run it. It doesn’t get much easier.

BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition (Windows)

Another company with a great reputation, BitDefender is at the forefront of anti-malware tech. This lightweight antivirus app protects you from all sorts of mayhem, including adware and spyware. It also packs anti-phishing and anti-fraud features for additional protection.

While you get more features out of the paid version of this app, the free option is still a great way to go.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (Mac)

While some of anti-adware software out there only works on Windows computer, Malwarebytes’ anti-malware software will protect your Mac from attacks. This extremely lightweight client is great even if your Mac is starting to get old and slow down.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Macs don’t get adware. They do. So download this now.

And if you’re looking for mobile anti-adware apps, check out Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware. It’s free on the Play Store.

Be Proactive Against Adware

As with any type of malware, the best way to deal with adware is to not get infected in the first place. Make sure you have an up-do-date antivirus solution running on your computer, watch out for suspicious-looking sites, and remember that the best things in life aren’t free. Especially when it comes to software.

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Podcasts 101

One of the best innovations to arrive with mobile technology has been the emergence of Podcasts. I have been listening to podcasts for many years now and I am always surprised at just how few people really are aware of what these are.

I wanted to take some time to share with all of you, my dedicated readers just what podcasts are and how they can really help you learn more and immerse yourself in the topics you enjoy.

If you live in our new technological era and you’ve been online, then you must know something about podcasts. It’s not just me. Podcasts are becoming very popular. According to a study performed in 2014 by Edison Research, 39 million Americans listen to podcasts every month. These figures have most surely increased since then, especially considering the fact that almost all podcasts are available for free.

What Are Podcasts Anyway?

Podcasts are a direct result of the new technological development and have been around for a while. So, a podcast is a downloadable/ streamable file that contains the recording of a discussion/show. Usually podcasts can be listened to so they come in MP3 format, but they can also be videos. In terms of content, everyone can find something interesting; people who make them cover every imaginable topic and then some more.

If you want a comparison, a podcast usually sounds like a radio show. The creator invites several guests and they discuss a certain topic. Some podcasts also allow interactive interactions with listeners like direct conversations, comments, etc. One of the most important features of a podcast is its serial characteristic – just like a radio show, the podcast can have daily/weekly/monthly series.

Who Are the Podcasters?

Celebrities, comedians, scientists, blogger, regular people, and the list could go on. Actually, everyone with a decent smartphone and an online connection can create their own podcast.

Finding Podcasts

While many radio celebrities or comedians launched their career with a podcast, not everyone has something interesting to say. So how do you find the best podcasts?

Well, podcasts are usually listened on-the-go (while driving, walking, working out etc.) So, both Android and Apple devices have access to apps specially created to bring podcasts to you. Simply browse and try until you find interesting topics and people.

My Podcast app, Overcast. With a Podcast App on your SmartPhone your mind will expand as you are exposed to topics of all kinds.

My Favorite Podcast Apps

iPhone Users – Overcast offers a great combination of clean design, powerful audio and podcast management features. Overcast deftly handles episode playbacks and downloads, sends notifications of new episodes, and can play offline or through streaming if you need to save some space; plus it has some nice audio features. Voice Boost normalizes the sound levels of speech, automatically raising quiet voices and lowering loud ones. Smart Speed automatically cuts away at gaps and silence in the podcast, speeding up play without distorting audio. The most recent update adds interface enhancements, an iOS 10 widget and a new action tray that makes it easier to manage episodes of your favorite podcasts.

Android Users – Pocket Casts (Android, iOS) neatly combines style and function with an attractive design that showcases subscribed podcasts in tile format. Tap on a square to bring up an episode list and download options. A smart playlisting feature helps you sort and categorize your downloaded content for easy listening. Pocket Casts also includes video podcast support, auto-downloading and automatic cleanup of downloaded episodes to save storage space. Other helpful playback features include quick skip forward and back buttons with configurable time intervals, and a sleep timer. What may be its most important feature is its cross-platform nature that allows it to sync between devices and OS’s, which is great if you’ve got an iOS and Android device.

So there you go – if you were unaware of podcasts are did not think that taking the time to learn about them was just not worth it.

Give it a try – your mind will thank you.

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Finding Shelter with Facebook

Facebook is leveraging its power as the world’s biggest social network to help people find food, shelter and transportation during or after major emergency.

Called Community Help, the feature becomes available after a Safety Check is activated. Once that happens, you can tap on the “Go to Safety Check” banner that appears atop your screen, and then select either ‘Find Help’ or “Give Help.’

From there, you can select the type of help you need from categories like food, transportation, water, shelter, baby supplies, pet supplies and more. You’ll then see a list of people offering that kind of aid, as well as their rough location, and can initiate a direct message conversation to get the help you need.

Facebook reports that Community Help was inspired by people already trying to provide aid during a crisis. The new feature simply makes it easier for helpers and victims to communicate with each other.

Safety Check has been under scrutiny at times due to both false alarms and times it should have activated but was not. Community Help will likely fall under similar scrutiny should someone try to abuse the system.

Nonetheless, Facebook has been working to expand access to Safety check to a greater number of communities, and Community Help is a legitimate step forward towards making it a lot more useful during an emergency.

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iOS 10.2 Arrives Today

The long wait for iOS 10.2 is finally over. After weeks of beta testing, Apple made the big iOS 10.2 update available to the public this morning, adding a host of new features that make the iPhone and iPad better than ever. I can say I have been using the beta of iOS 10.2 for several weeks now and it it a nice upgrade, bringing a couple new features, new emojis and of course the usual bug fixes.

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 Included in the new goodies are a fresh batch of emoji, a new SOS feature, Apple’s new TV app and much more.
Downloading the Update

To download iOS 10.2, go to Settings >> General >> Software Update. The 1.82GB update can then be downloaded and installed over the air. You can also update your device via iTunes.

What’s New is iOS 10.2?

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus users get a couple of new wallpapers in the new update. There are also more than 100 new emoji, including new characters for shrug, avocado, gorilla, shark and bacon.

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New wallpaper arrives with iOS 10.2

OS 10.2’s biggest new feature is probably the new TV app. Apple is hoping to create a unified experience where users’ subscribed and purchased video content gets grouped together in one app. With the new TV app, you can watch a show on your Apple TV and then pick it up later on your iPhone or iPad.

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New Emojis!

iOS 10.2 also brings hundreds of new highly anticipated emojis to iPhone and iPad. More diverse characters, new professions, expressions like face palm, shrug and fingers crossed, and new emoji representing sports, food, animals and more, can be shared today right from within Messages, the most frequently used app in iOS.

Improved Security – Faster Backups and More

Today’s iOS update also improves security by making backups nearly 1,000 times safer. You’ll get new Message effects called “Celebrate” and “Send with love” as well.

A number of bug fixes and performance enhancements improve stock Apple apps like Mail, News, Music and Photos.

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Samsung to Send Death Beam to It’s Troubled Note 7

If you are still using Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 – listen up.

Here is some unprecedented news. Samsung is literately putting a dagger in it’s troubled Galaxy Note 7.

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Samsung reported that it is executing its final solution to bring the saga of the Galaxy Note 7 to an end. The plan is to kill all of the Galaxy Note 7 devices remaining in use on December 19th, and all that’s required to make that happen is a simple software update.

The Galaxy Note 7 was released on August 19. By September, Samsung had recalled the first batch of handsets after dozens overheated. The Galaxy Note 7 handsets that had been handed out as replacements to the first batch were then found to have the exact same problem. So Samsung recalled the Galaxy Note 7, and requested that owners return their handsets for a refund or a replacement.

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A burned & damaged Galaxy Note 7

The problem here is that not everyone has turned their devices in. According to Samsung, 93 percent of Galaxy Note 7 owners in the U.S. complied with the recall. However, while 93 percent is an impressive figure, it means there are still over 100,000 devices unaccounted for. And Samsung cannot simply sit back and wait for them to explode in people’s faces.

So, to bring this whole sorry saga to an end once and for all, Samsung is bricking the Galaxy Note 7 devices still in use in the United States. It will accomplish this by issuing a software update on December 19. This update will “prevent Galaxy Note 7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices”. Death by software update.

Verizon is refusing to issue the update over the holidays. Therefore anyone still using a Verizon Galaxy Note 7 has at least secured a stay of execution until after the new year. Everyone else should prepare for the end.

So there you go. The Galaxy Note 7 will almost certainly win “worst tech of 2016” on most lists and Samsung needs to move on from this disaster.

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Microsoft’s Vision to Evolve Your Smartphone Edges Closer

From the outset, Windows 10 has promised to be the operating system for all devices and I mean all devices. This vision includes smartphones. Imagine. Running the very same applications on your smartphone that you are running on your desktop PC. This is the reason I had stuck with a Windows Phone so long before giving into Apple two years ago.

Now this dream of your applications running on all of your devices is getting one step closer with Windows 10.

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Is the day arriving when our smartphones really our fully functional computers? Microsoft is close to making this a reality.

At its WinHEC event yesterday in Shenzen, Microsoft announced that desktop apps are coming to ARM processors. This is important because it is through a partnership with Qualcomm that ARM processors that run almost all of our smartphones.

This is a big deal. These aren’t just the touch-friendly Windows Universal Apps; they’re full-fledged productivity program. It means a full version of Office. It means Photoshop CC. It means Windows 10 games. And according to Microsoft, developers won’t have to change anything about the apps themselves to make them work.

Though Microsoft and Qualcomm are using an emulation process, this clip shows Windows 10 running quite smoothly on a nearly year-old Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 with 4 GB of RAM – in other words, early 2016 smartphone specs:

Will This Save the Windows Phone?

To do so Microsoft is going to have to push the Universal Windows Platform first and foremost. UWP apps are generally more power-efficient, touch-friendly, and scalable than legacy x86 software. Running x86 apps will likely almost surely require docking your phone and take a big toll on your battery.

But slowly, Microsoft’s ultimate vision for Windows 10 as an OS for all hardware is starting to come together. Building on concepts like the HP Elite x3, it’s not hard to imagine future Windows 10 devices simply being smartphones you can dock into a laptop or desktop setup when you need to do ‘real’ work.

Microsoft says these ARM-powered devices – which it seems to be calling cellular PCs now – will arrive ‘as early as next year.’ Maybe that ever-rumored Surface Phone stands a chance after all.

I am holding out hope that this innovation not only saves the Windows Phone but helps the smartphone evolve into something more then it is.

 

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Facebook To Launch Wi-Fi Finder

Facebook really – really wants you visiting their service and a new feature about to launch may actually be pretty awesome. It is called Wi-Fi finder.

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The Wi-Fi finder feature has reportedly started showing up in the Facebook app via the menu for some users. It is located along with other location based options like “Nearby Places” and “Device Requests.” An option labeled “Enable Wi-Fi” is included in the menu for users who can access the feature. Toggling the setting on will allow the app to search nearby locations for Wi-Fi.

For those with access to the Wi-Fi finder, a splash page is presented to them that encourages them to enable the feature so Facebook can “build a history of precise locations received through your device.” It also notes tracked information can be deleted through a user’s activity log.

Once enabled, the feature generates a map of nearby locations where Wi-Fi is available, and provides details about and directions to those hot spots. It could be a handy tool for anyone looking for a place to stop to recharge and save some data along the way.

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Screenshot of a lucky Facebook user with the “Wi-fi Finder” available.

As of this post the feature appears to be available only to a limited group of users but it should be rolling out to everyone soon. I do not have this available to me yet.

Keep an eye out for this if you are a Facebook user on your mobile device.

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Getting to Know Wireless Emergency Alerts

Many of us have received these. Emergency Wireless Alerts. These are the alerts that regardless of your smartphones status, other then being powered off they begin to screach an alert message. These emergency alerts include communications such as “Amber Alerts”, “Major Weather Messages” and now “Public Safety Notifications”.

Last week New York used an Emergency Wireless Alert in respect to the bombing in tehir city and information on the suspect. The alert read, “WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.”

Emergency Wireless Alerts are becoming more common so what are they exactly?

According to the Federal Communications Commission, these text-like messages let cellphone users in a particular area receive notices about what are deemed critical emergencies. Messages can be about weather threats, missing children or emergencies like a chemical spill.

The wireless industry, the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency started this program in 2012, according to the wireless trade group CTIA. So you can see that these message types have been around for quite some time but have only recently grown in their widespread use.

How Are These Messages Sent?

FEMA must authorize these messages from local, state or federal agencies and forwards them on to wireless carriers.

Messages appear on phones just like texts and are accompanied by a loud alarm. The phone also vibrates, which the FCC says helps people with hearing or vision disabilities. The alerts don’t count as texts, so people on limited text plans won’t get charged extra. Some phones, especially older ones, might not be equipped to receive these messages, though.

The alerts aren’t affected by network congestion and are based on cell tower locations, so if you’re on vacation in California, you won’t get alerts for New York, even if your phone is registered there. The FCC says targeting is typically down to the county level.

Can You Stop These Messages?

The FCC says some alerts can be blocked, if the carrier allows it. However not alerts issued by the president. On iPhones, the setting is under “Notifications.” On Android, look for “Emergency broadcasts” under “Sound,” though your phone maker may have moved that. On Samsung’s Galaxy S7 phone, for instance, the setting is under “Privacy and Emergency.” Hit “Emergency Alerts,” then “More,” then “Settings.

I would suggest that you not block these message types because that can allow us to better help protect each other. Of course if these become over used – that’s another story.

Are There Any Technical Problems With Emergency Messages?

The current technology supports only text and 90 characters. This can lead to a slightly awkward phrases like “See media for pic” of Rahami, rather than a link to a photo or a photo itself being sent.

The FCC has proposed permitting longer messages, embedded links or possibly even images like maps. The wireless industry has said it is wary of including links because they could lead to network congestion or confused customers.

Wireless Emergency Messages – A Natural Evolution

Emergency Wireless Messages are a natural evolution in the way we communicate during emergency events and for the most part I applaud the government for stepping in here. This is not very different then receiving emergency messages over our televisions which has been happening since the 1950’s.

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The Feds Look to Strengthen Our Mobile Security

If anyone was in doubt that mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are dominating desktop computers here is yet another example of how the world is changing in respect to how we use technology.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission this past Monday announced a joint investigation into the issue of mobile device security updates.

The FTC issued an order requiring eight mobile device manufacturers — Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC America, LG Electronics USA, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics America to provide information regarding how they issue security updates to address mobile device vulnerabilities.

The information these manufactures must provide include the following:

  • What factors they consider when deciding whether to patch a vulnerability;
  • Detailed data on the mobile devices they’ve offered for sale since August 2013;
  • The vulnerabilities that have affected those devices; and
  • Whether and when they patched the vulnerabilities.

FTC members voted unanimously to issue the order under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act.

This is part of the commission’s ongoing efforts to understand the security of consumers’ mobile devices.

Reasons for Concern – Our Move towards Mobililtiy 

America’s shift to mobile devices has been speeding up. Meanwhile, vulnerabilities associated with mobile operating systems may affect almost 1 billion Android devices worldwide and the problem is becoming more complex.

Delays in patching vulnerabilities by device manufacturers could leave consumers unprotected for long periods, the FCC reported. OS providers, original equipment manufacturers and mobile service providers have addressed vulnerabilities, only as they arise, but there are significant delays in delivering patches to devices, and older devices might never get patched.

Carriers often delay updates because they first want to test them for reliability and compatibility with their own software and apps. However it is during this time period which can be weeks, months or in some cases never that our mobile phones are susceptible to security problems.

Make the situation even worse is that neither OEMs nor OS providers want to update older devices or versions of the OS, partly because of the cost and partly because older devices don’t have the muscle to run new versions of Android.

Sadly the vendors will probably take them to court because in their opinion, “regulatory oversight will increase costs, slow down maintenance of devices, force vendors to support archaic devices, and make the cost of updating unattainable.”

Time will tell here however one thing is for sure. What is occurring today with the security of our mobile devices is not in the consumers best interest which unfortunately in conflict with the manufacturer’s interest.

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