Galaxy Note 7 Banned from Flights

This is a first. A smartphone has been banned from flights. Samsung’s much maligned Galaxy Note 7 has been finally put out of it’s misery with Samsung recalling these devices.

The US Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have now banned the device on all flights �?to, from, or within” the United States – even if they’re turned off, and regardless of whether they’re on carry-on or checked luggage.

n fact, you can’t have a Note 7 at all if you’re so much stepping onto a flight, and if you try to sneak one in on checked luggage, you can face fines. Airlines are to deny boarding unless you rid yourself of your $900 device.

If you somehow do sneak a phone onto a plane, you will be instructed to keep the device off and on your person at all times, not in luggage.

The ban goes into effect today, October 15, at 12 PM ET. That’s not exactly much time to get the word out to every flier. Given 1 million people are apparently still using their Note 7’s, the TSA is going to have a field day with confiscated devices.

You can read statement in full at the source link below. And if you haven’t done so already, please just exchange your phone for something less incendiary already.

Android Users Beware “Godless”

If you are an Android user – you have have reason to fear “Godless”, a new
family of malware targeting Android mobile devices that has been detected by digital security firm Trend Micro. The malware, named after the ANDROIDOS_GODLESS.HRX filename it uses, uses multiple exploits to root users’ devices.

New 'Godless' Malware Targets Android Mobile Devices

Godless can target virtually any Android device running on Android 5.1 (Lollipop) or earlier. Today almost 90 percent of Android devices run on Android 5.1 or earlier. Apparently malicious apps related to this threat can be found in all over Android app stores, including Google Play, and has affected over 850,000 devices worldwide.

Godless is similar to an exploit kit. Both use a type of open source rooting framework called android-rooting-tools. The framework has various exploits in its arsenal that it can use to root a number of different Android-based devices. The two most prominent vulnerabilities targeted by the rooting kit are CVE-2015-3636 (used by the PingPongRoot exploit) and CVE-2014-3153 (used by the Towelroot exploit).

By gaining root privilege, Godless can connect to a command-and-control (C&C) server capable of delivering remote instructions that force the device to download and install additional apps without the user’s knowledge. At best, an iunfected user receives unwanted apps on the phones. At worst, the same technique can be used to install a backdoor on the phone in order to spy on the user.

Google is apparently aware of the threat, and has stated that they are taking “appropriate actions”. I would recommend that should review the developers listed for apps whenever you download new programs from any app store. You should also be suspicious about unknown developers. All apps should also be downloaded from trusted stores such as Google or Amazon.

Black Friday Tech Tips

This week the holiday season officially gets underway with Thanksgiving followed by “Black Friday”. During the past decade tech stuff has taken up a greater role in the offerings provided by retailers and this year is no different. Here are some things to look for this year.

Buyer Beware

Be warned that what you are purchasing is not discontinued because it has suffered from bad reviews in 2014 or that it has been discontinued.

Early Bird Shoppers

When you see big discounts make sure you get to the store, or the Web site early. This is because retailers are often so eager to lure shoppers, Black Friday many times starts at midnight or even on Thanksgiving Day. Be aware of this because if the retailer actually begins their sale on Thanksgiving and you show up on Friday you may be out of luck.

Very Inexpensive Laptops

Perhaps this holiday season you are in the market for another laptop for yourself or a family member but you don’t want to break the bank. There are several good options here from the high to low end. There are many choices but here are two of my recommendations.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3– If you are looking for an high end laptop/tablet hybrid this is a great deal at $799.

For about half the price of the Surface Pro you can grab the HP Pavilion 15.6″ Touch Screen at $399.

Use Your Smartphones, Tablets and Social Media

Stores are now offering dedicated shopping apps, in some cases offering discounts and coupon codes. Sometimes this adds will direct you to “like” their add on Twitter or Facebook which often provides you with another discounted “code”.

iPhone Accessories Fire Sale

With the iPhone 6 out iPhone 5 accessories like cases, battery chargers and more can be found many times discounted, especially during the holidays.

Tablets for Every Budget

iPads are not discounted, but I have seen the Surface Pro 3 on sale for $799 at the Microsoft Store which is about a $100 price drop. There are also now a number of smaller, less expensive tablets available in the $200-$300 range which is amazing. These will usually be Android and Windows tablets. Of the two available today I prefer the low end Windows tablets as compared to the Android tablets.

Dell Venue 8 – A great Windows tablet for $199.

For a little more cash you can check out the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 which runs Android at $249.

Be Aware of “Leaked” Ads

Retailers often alter their sales as they learn what competitors plan on doing or as their inventory changes. So understanding this check the retailer’s ads you are most-interested in periodically.

Happy shopping and don’t forget to pick up a gift for your favorite tech guy!

Introducing the Microsoft Band

Today Microsoft released more information about their upcoming smartwatch, named the “Microsoft Band”, and boy does it appear to be smart and unique.

The Microsoft Band comes with a variety of sensors including an optical heart rate sensorgyroGPSgalvanic skin response sensor, and UV sensor to monitor every aspect of your workout routine. All of this information is displayed through a 310×102 color display (Microsoft brags that there will be over 130 different backgrounds that can be selected for the display).

 

The battery life for the device is listed at 48 hours per charge.

What is compelling about the Microsoft Band is that it is not tied to one platform, meaning that it will work with Android, iOS and of course Microsoft Phones.  Microsoft is truly being inclusive as the Health apps will even be compatible with the motion co-processors (M7/M8) on the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus as well as Android Wear devices. Microsoft is also working to ensure compatibility with products from Jawbone and Runkeeper.

Of course the Microsoft Band can also provide basic notifications for emails, texts, and tweets.

Microsoft Drops Nokia Branding

Microsoft’s march to controlling the “devices” side of their new “devices and services” business model continued this week.

Microsoft this past year completed its acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Service’s and this week it was reported that the manufacturer name “Nokia” is being removed from all product references and of course will be replaced with “Microsoft”.

 

There has not actually been any phones released with the new branding so far, but this week Microsoft stated “we are looking forward to unveiling a Microsoft Lumia device soon”. I am predicting that by the upcoming holiday season you will start seeing one or two “Microsoft Phones” released.

The Nokia name, especially outside of the United States has been a very popular smartphone manufacturer and their branding, again outside of the United States has been very successful. With this being understood, Microsoft’s vision of building their own devices like the Xbox and Surface line needed to move to smartphones as well and Nokia was the right choice to purchase because Nokia also was the biggest supplier of Windows Phones worldwide.

The Kill Switch Gets Closer

I have written about a proposed smartphone “kill switch” before and now it is official, at least in  California. The smartphone “kill switch” is an incredibly important function for all smartphone users and now that California has made it a law, perhaps there is hope for the rest of us.

The new law was signed into effect yesterday, August 25 and only applies to phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, and sold in California.

While its legal reach does not extend beyond the California’s borders, the inefficiency of producing phones solely for California means the kill switch is expected to be adopted by phone makers on handsets sold across the U.S. and around the world.

What is the “kill switch” legislation? 

The legislation requires a system that, if triggered by an authorized user (usually the owner of the phone), will lock a handset to essentially make it useless. The feature must be installed and activated in new smartphones, but users will be able to deactivate it if they desire, and it must be resistant to attempts to re-install the operating system.

Police can also use the tool, but only under the conditions of the existing section 7908 of the California Public Utilities Code. That gives police the ability to cut off phone service in certain situations and typically requires a court order, except in an emergency that poses “immediate danger of death or great bodily injury.”

The law does not specify how the system exactly locks the phone, nor what happens to the data on the phone when it is locked. Each manufacturer can come up with their own system.

Legislation, in this case actually may end in a big consumer benefit.

The law follows pressure on phone makers from the state’s law enforcement community to do something about rising incidents of smartphone theft, which has become one of the most prevalent street crimes in the state.

Apple, Google and Microsoft Respond

Apple has already responded and added a feature called “Activation Lock” into its iOS 7 operating system, which meets all requirements of California’s kill switch law bar one – it doesn’t come enabled in new phones. That will have to change.

Both Google and Microsoft have said they are introducing similar features in upcoming revisions to their smartphone operating systems.

48 To Go

The law makes California the second state in the U.S. to pass legislation aimed at reducing smartphone theft. Minnesota passed a law this past June as well. It is hoped that more states will follow with similar legislation but as indicated by Apple, Google and Microsoft that may not even be necessary in the end.

The kill switch function was actively opposed by the wireless industry until earlier in 2014, when carriers and their lobbying group reversed course and came out in favor of the plan. The wireless industry received additional persuasion in the form of two bills introduced to both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

Kill Switch 101

You may have heard some talk on the news regarding the “kill switch” for smartphones. Apple already has one and Microsoft and Google are reportedly working on one as well. What is important to know is that it is obvious that soon all smartphones will have a “kill switch” so it it probably a good idea to understand what this is.

Will the proposed kill switch reduce the amount of smart phone thefts. Law Enforcement believes it will, and so do I.

Will the proposed kill switch reduce the amount of smart phone thefts. Law Enforcement believes it will, and so do I.

 

What is a Kill Switch?  

For over a year, law enforcement officials in the U.S. have been putting pressure on the telecommunications industry to do more to combat smartphone theft. The kill switch has been proposed as the best, easiest answer.

The kill switch is simply a piece of software installed in every new phone that can disable a stolen handset.

Why Do We Need a Kill Switch?

During the past several years there have been countless violent thefts of smartphones and the problem is getting worse. There are estimates that suggest that one in three thefts in the U.S. involve a smartphone. These crimes are often robberies because thieves actually snatch smart phones directly from the hands of victims as they walk down a street. In addition many of these robbery victims are threatened with knives or guns, or victims are assaulted.

Law Enforcement believes, probably correctly that if phones can be disabled (turned into a brick), they will become much less valuable on the secondhand market and the incentive for theft will drop considerably.

How Will a kill Switch Work?

If your phone is stolen, you or someone you have authorized will be able to call your carrier or use a website to send a “kill” signal to your phone. That signal will lock the device and delete personal data. And here is a very important part.

The kill switch will also “render the device inoperable on the network of any provider of commercial mobile service or commercial mobile data service globally, even if the device is turned off or has the data storage medium removed,” according to the federal proposal.

The only way to revive a locked phone will be with a password supplied by the phone’s owner.

What Do the Phone Companies Think of This?

For a long time, the telecommunications industry was against the idea of a kill switch. Speaking through its lobbying organization, the CTIA, the industry said a kill switch would make phones vulnerable to hacking. But earlier this year, as legislation looked more and more likely, that stance changed and the CTIA now supports a kill switch.

This change in attitude in the industry is probably more about avoiding legislation with the federal government. Both Minnesota and California have already enacted “kill switch” legislation for phones manufactured after July 1, 2015.

So with the successful lawmaking in these two states and the CTIA recent admisison it appears we are set for a basic “kill switch” function being installed on all smart phones by 2016.

FAA Looks to Expand New Cell Phone Use Policy

I have written about this story several times now and one final twist is here. I never accepted that mobile devices could impact airplanes in any meaningful technical way and I was thrilled to see that the FAA finally lifted that unnecessary restriction from passengers (on takeoff and landing). On a recent trip by air it was awesome to have US Airways simply direct everyone to switch their mobile devices to “airplane” mode for takeoff and again on approach for landing. The only restrictions at this point were the use of laptops (over 5lbs) which needed to be put away.

However it seems many are pushing for the use of “cell phone” while in flight. Now here – technology issues aside I believe that this should remain restricted. Airplanes are crowded places and the aggravation this will cause to those around someone carrying on a conversation (by phone) while in flight will more then likely lead to confrontations by frustrated passengers.

Regardless of my opinion here, the Federal Communications Commission is actually proposing a new rule, permitting cellphones in the air. Unsurprisingly, many, just like me are unhappy about the prospect of sitting next to a loud yapper for hours. However, help could be at hand, in the form of the Department Of Transportation. It may prohibit voice calls, for being unfair to consumers. I will stay on top of this ongoing story and keep you, my dedicated readers up to date. What do you think? Should we be allowed to talk on the cellphone while in flight?

The Future of Wearable Technology

It has been about 2 months now that I have been using the Galaxy Gear Smart Watch. For the most part my experience has been a good one and I enjoy using the watch. With the holidays approaching and everyone looking for great tech gifts I wanted to recap very clearly my impressions of this and then write a little bit about my thoughts on the future of wearable technology in general.

The Galaxy Gear

The pros of this device are that it is great way to keep up to date with email and text messages without needing to grab your phone constantly. You can of course customize the watch display in various modes to include the date, current weather conditions, steps walked and more.

There is also a camera on the wrist band which can take pictures and short video clips which are automatically sent to your phone as well. The quality of the images are low at about 2mp which is to be excepted.

Because it is connected to your phone through Bluetooth it also acts as an extension to your phone. Incoming calls can be viewed to see who is calling without reaching for your phone and you can even accept or reject the incoming the call from the watch, You can even carry on a conversation with the watch.

The cons include the watch band which I have found is bigger then is should be which is probably the result of the camera which is in the band. Also the battery needs to be charged about every 2 days and there is a dock/cradle which you must use. I mentioned the ability to talk (on the phone) through the watch, however this is very difficult if not impossible in crowded places or if you want to have a private conversation. The last negative point I will mention here is that the Galaxy Gear currently only works with the Samsung Galaxy S II and III and Note 2 and 3.

In conclusion if you have one of the supported phones and you like some of the benefits I mentioned here you might enjoy checking this out. There is some real good uses here and it is always a conversation piece when people see it.

 

Every time I sit at the pub people ask, “hey is that – that smart watch on TV” and just about everyone I have met is curious about what it does. This leads to my prediction which follows.

The Future of Wearable Technology

First is there a future here? The answer is yes and although we are in the very early stages of finding what works (the smart watch) and what does not (google glass). The “google glass” kind of freaked people out. Who wants to have a conversation with someone who’s attention is obviously somewhere else and who could be taking pictures of you and even recording the conversation. However wearable technology is actually a natural fit for watches and I believe that this is the area where we will see a successful evolution and acceptance by consumers.

The smart watch will be the first successful and profitable wearable technology and this will probably occur during the next two years. You will see this when the watches get a little smaller and can act independently from smartphones.

Surface 2 & Surface 2 Pro Details Emerge

This week Microsoft announced the release of their next generation of the Surface tablet family. There is a little confusion here regarding the two – very different tablets so here are some details to consider.

The Surface 2 is built around an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, which increases battery life to up to 10 hours and makes apps run faster and more smoothly, according to Microsoft.

It has a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display.

Both the Surface 2’s 3.5-MP front camera and the rear 5-MP camera can capture 1080p HD video; both have improved low-light performance.

Surface 2 will ship with Windows 8 RT 8.1, which offers improved personalization, search, and multitasking; built-in apps; and cloud connectivity.

The Surface 2 will include Xbox Music for streaming songs and an updated video app, and it will come preloaded with Microsoft Office RT, including Outlook RT.

Be aware that the Surface 1 and 2 tablets cannot run Windows applications, only apps written specifically for the “RT” software. This is the software (apps) available directly in the Microsoft store. Think of the iPad. This is exactly the same limitation.

The one I am really excited about it the Surface Pro 2 which is built around an Intel Core i5 Haswell processor.

It has a 512-GB flash hard drive.

Users can snap apps side by side, and open as many windows as they need.

The Surface Pro 2 has a pressure-sensitive Surface Pen with palm-blocking technology. It has a 1080p HD screen.

Both tablets have a full-size USB 3.0 port, an HD Video Out port, and a microSD reader.

Both tablets come with one year of free calling to landlines in more than 60 countries; free Skype WiFi at more than 2 million hotspots worldwide; and two years’ free access to 200 GB of additional storage on SkyDrive.

Surface Details

With the Surface family knowing the details is critical before making a purchase. Theerefore consumers should examine their specifications and limitations before purchasing either tablet.

Although Microsoft Office is include with the Surface 2 there is some functionality limitations.

Microsoft Office for the Surface Pro 2 will be sold separately, so factor that into your calculations, however you will be able to install any Windows application on the tablet, which is a huge plus. Think of an iPad with any Windows program you would like available on the tablet.

Surface Details

The Surface 2 will be offered in 32-GB and 64-GB configurations. Pricing will begin at $450.

The Surface Pro 2 will be available in 64-GB and 128-GB configurations with 4 GB of RAM, and 256-GB and 512-GB versions with 8 GB of RAM. Prices begin at $900.

Accessories are not included of course in this pricing and there are many new accessories being offered with these new tablets, which were previously unavailable before. two of the new accessories I am most excited about is a “charging keyboard” and “docking station” (above).

Surface Consideration

The Surface 2 (RT) is still priced a little higher than it should be, especially if Microsoft is hoping to steal some of the Android  market share on the consumer side of tablet sales. The Surface Pro 2 is an improvement on the already great hardware from the initial Surface Pro tablet however it is a couple of hundred dollars more then the RT version.

I don’t believe you can think of the Surface Pro 2 as a tablet. It is much closer to a really good ultrabook or small laptop. If you travel or if you simply want to get work done on the smallest form factor possible without giving up power, the Surface Pro 1 and 2 are excellent options.

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