Facebook Helps You Find Free Wi-Fi

Last year, Facebook began testing a feature that made it easy to find public Wi-Fi networks around you. It was only available in iOS, and only in select locations.

Now Facebook is rolling out the feature to everyone on its mobile apps. Just tap on the ‘More’ tab, and then select ‘Find Wi-Fi’. You’ll see nearby Wi-Fi locations on a list or map, as well as information about the businesses hosting them.

It’ll come in handy if you’re travelling internationally and don’t have cellular data/can’t afford roaming. There’s often Wi-Fi  somewhere around you, but getting a consistent signal can be a pain if you don’t know where the network is originating from. 

Likewise, it comes in handy if you’re on a limited data plan and wan’t to use Wi-Fi as much as possible to avoid being capped or paying extra fees.

Keep in mind, the tool only lists Wi-Fi networks that businesses have chosen to share their information on Facebook, so you’re probably not going to find every possible connection through the tool. Also note that Facebook will turn on its Location History tracker if you enable Find Wi-Fi, which keeps tabs on all the places you’ve visited:

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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.

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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.

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My iPhone 7 Review

Apple’s new iPhone has a couple of differences from the 6s. It has a faster CPU, no headphone jack, improved camera, and no home button. Only Apple can remove so much and call it innovation. Is there truth here? Is there innovation with removing all of these things we have become so used to? At the end of the day is the iPhone 7 a worthy smartphone and is it superior to the iPhone 6s?

I upgraded from an iPhone 6s which means I am getting almost two years of refinement with the device and the processor. The good news is that the speed improvements are noticeable. On my 6s, apps were starting to feel a bit sluggish and opening the camera and switching between the camera modes highlighted this issue.

With the 7 everything is a bit snappier but at the same time, it also heats up more. The 6s would get hot under load too but it feels like the 7 reaches higher temperatures faster than the older phone. I will see if this continues to happen over time.

Goodbye Phone Jack

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The big controversy with this phone is that there is no headphone jack. Apple suggests that they removed the headphone jack for the sake of innovation. If Apple really wanted to push everyone forward, they would have dropped the headphone jack and their proprietary connector and gone with USB-C for both headphone and charging; this is a change I would fully support. Instead, we have Apple pushing headphones that are either wireless or use their own adapter which is convenient since they recently bought a headphone company.

Camera

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Apple has made a big deal about its cameras over the past few generations of devices and the 7 is no different. While the 7 Plus gets the better update with two cameras, the 7 gets optical stabilization and a larger sensor. The ability to take photos in low light is easily accomplished with the 7 and pictures in broad daylight look great. At the end of the day this is a very good camera and it certainly does what it needs to do but I can’t tell a huge difference between my old phone.

Home Button

I was a concerned when I saw the changes to the home button. Switching to the taptic engine instead of an actual button is actually a risk for Apple. However I am glad to report it’s not really an issue and actually it feels quite natural. Apple did a good job with this change and for anyone who was holding off on purchasing this phone because of the home button changes, go ahead and buy the phone as you won’t regret it.

Battery Life

Battery life with the phone is average and it can easily last a workday but I would happily take a slightly thicker phone for significantly longer battery life. On a long day at a the office the battery can come up a little short. If you run up against battery issues regularly with your iPhone7 I recommend giving this a try. It is worth the $99.

Waterproof, Sort of

Here is another improvement over the previous iPhones.

If you happen to fall in the pool, or spill coffee over your phone, this iPhone will survive. However don’t take it for a swim on purpose.  Apple says it’s not designed for that sort of water exposure. And keep it away from salt water.

If it does get wet, Apple advises wiping it with a dry cloth and ensuring it is totally dry before opening the SIM tray and leaving it at least five hours before charging it. Don’t try to blow dry it because it won’t like the heat. And don’t shove something into the Lightning port to dry it because the folk at the Apple Genius Bar won’t like that if something goes wrong.

Upgrade Worthy?

The iPhone 7 is a very good phone but if you have a 6s, it may not be worth upgrading. But if you have a iphone 6 (not the S) or earlier and you want to stick with Apple the upgrade is a good deal.

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Galaxy Note 7 Recalled

Samsung has recalled their flagship phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note7. The battery on this device has several times caught fire. The problem has become so dire that airlines are requiring that these phones must be powered off – on flights. I am not sure how airlines are checking to see if passengers have these phones but the fact that airlines are going to this length demonstrates the importance of taking this recall very seriously.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered that Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones can only be carried by crew and passengers on planes if the phones are switched off and are not connected to charging equipment.

The order follows an official recall announced Thursday of 1 million Note7 smartphones by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, following concerns about faulty batteries in the devices which could overheat and even explode.

Air Travel Restrictions
People can now travel with the Note7 on aircraft only if they disable all applications like alarm clocks that could accidentally activate the phone, protect the power switch to prevent the phone from being inadvertently activated or turned on, and store the device in carry-on baggage or on their person, and not in checked baggage.
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A destroyed Note7 caused by the defective battery.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has reported that it has received 92 reports of the batteries overheating in the U.S., including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damages.

If you have a Galaxy Note 7 you should contact your wireless carrier as soon as possible and get it replaced as soon as possible.

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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.

 

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Security Tips for Your Traveling Phone

Today there is not much tech news worthy of our time here, which is the norm for a Sunday morning. So as always when the tech news is light and I have a little time (and the energy) I often take the time to review something that I think is important for all of you, my dedicated readers.

I am on a short vacation @ Disney World for my birthday so what you have here is a well timed technology article!

OK I admit it. “People Watching” is actually a part of my Disney experience and one of the first things you notice about people these days, is that even when they are on vacation, most are glued to their smartphones.

Here are some tips for keeping your smartphone secure.

Do Not Have Your Phone Stolen

Sounds obvious, right? And yet it happens all the time. Did you know that 2.1 million cell phones were reported stolen in 2014. If a thief takes your phone, they can learn a lot about you, including where you live, where you work, who your bank is, your credit card information, saved passwords and much more.

Don’t bury your nose in your phone while you’re walking on the street, especially in large cities, or places like Disney World. Stay vigilant in tourist areas, which are usually hotbeds for pick pocketing. Keep your phone out of reach of criminals by keeping it your bag or front pocket.

Lock Your Phone!

lock screenIf you don’t already have a screen lock, set it up now. It’s the most basic line of defense to stop thieves from riffling through your phone if it ends up in their hands.

On Android, you can use a password, PIN (pictured right) or swipe lock. PINs and passwords, especially ones longer than four characters, are harder to crack, so they’re a bit safer. Some Android phones also have fingerprint readers to unlock the screen, which is is a safe and convenient option.

With iPhones, you can use a PIN. For the iPhone 5S and newer there’s Touch ID which is a simple yet effective fingerprint lock. Pick whichever method works best for you and use it.

Any of these precautions will stop of bad day (losing your phone) from becoming a very scary day because all of your data will be locked out and you will have time to report the phone lost or stolen and have it wiped. More on that in upcoming article.

Track Your Phone!

Should your phone ever go missing, you can track its location and remotely lock or erase it. Here are a few steps to take to make sure you’re set up to do this.

On Android, go into the Google Settings app (separate from the regular Settings app) and tap Security. Under Android Device Manager, make sure both “Remotely locate this device” and Allow remote lock and erase” are turned on. With those two settings, you can track your phone on a map from your computer and erase your phone should it be stolen or misplaced.

Disney Magic + Device Finder = A Success Story

A personal Story. Two years ago one of my family members forgot his iPhone on a Disney bus when we were traveling to the Magic Kingdom. A short time after getting off the bus we were walking through the park when he realized the phone was missing. Using the Device Finder we could see that it was traveling through Disney property – on the bus. We called Disney customer support and they worked with the travel department and found the phone and returned it (within and a couple of hours). Yes there was some Disney Magic here but that could not have happened as easily if the Device Finder was not turned on.

For iPhones and other iOS-powered gadgets, Apple has Find My iPhone, a feature that is turned on by default and lets you find your iOS device on a map, lock it, and remotely wipe it. Log in into the Find iPhone app with your iCloud account to check that it’s set up correctly.

Always Use Protection (Especially You Android Users)

Antivirus protection, that is. Android phones (and to a lesser extent, iPhones) are susceptible to malware, but an app like Lookout, Avast or TrustGo scans your phone to find these dangerous programs and helps you remove them.

Though iPhones can get malware, there aren’t any antivirus apps you can use. Instead, Apple pushes out security patches when it finds flaws in iOS that would let malware get in.

Beware Free Wi-Fi

Free, unsecured Wi-Fi networks generally leave you vulnerable to other people checking out what you’re doing online. Even worse, an open Wi-Fi network could be a spoof designed explicitly to steal your information.

Free Wi-Fi at a cafe or airport is generally safe, but make sure you don’t access any sensitive information (like your bank’s website) while using them. Definitely steer clear of connecting to random open networks you don’t recognize. They aren’t worth the risk.

Avoid Clicking on Suspicious Links

Phishing is a common tactic criminals use to get you to reveal personal data or infect your phone with malware.

If you get a random text with link from someone you don’t know, do not click it. It could be someone trying to get information out of you, or worse, malware that can control your phone and send information back to hackers.

Check our my April 20th post about how to avoid email scams.

One final tip would be to simply leave the blasted phone home while on vacation  but we all know that is simply not going to happen.

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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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Hope for Windows Phone?

Earlier this week I reported that Microsoft wrote down $7.6 billion of its investment in Nokia and again reorganized. This move has made anyone who loves Windows Phone very nervous. Is it the end of Windows Phone? Well not so fast is seems.

It appears that Microsoft’s smartphones will follow the trailblazing of the more successful Surface tablet line, which after two years with little return hit its stride in 2014 with the debut of the Surface Pro 3. “We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem that includes our first-party device family,” CEO Satya Nadella told employees in an all-hands this email this past Wednesday.

This basically means that the Lumia line will be relegated to a peripheral position, the spot the Surface Pro 3 now enjoys in comparison to the broader personal computing device market and best exemplified in smartphones by Google’s “hero” Nexus handsets.

“Microsoft will have something very similar to where the Surface line is now,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in a Friday interview. “The idea will be to create inspiring hardware that motivates their ecosystem. They’ll go after the ‘halo’ effect.”

The good news here is that Windows phones will not disappear just yet. “I am committed to our first-party devices including phones,” asserted Nadella, showing that, at least for now, Microsoft won’t scrub Windows smartphones from its portfolio.

The reality, however, is not so happy for us Windows Phone fans. Even with billions of dollars invested into mobile, Windows has powered only 2.7% of the handsets shipped worldwide last year which is actually down from 3.3% in 2013.

There is hope that by refocusing their smartphone business model and taking control of the hardware, just like with the Surface tablet line that Windows Phone can find a little niche and survive. However I am sadly not very confident here,.

 

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Windows Phone’s Shrinking Presence?

This story makes me very sad. If you know me at all you are well aware I am a big fan of Windows Phone. The interface and overall performance of Windows Phones are excellent. However Microsoft was late getting into the mobile world and by the time Microsoft started taking mobile seriously Android and Apple had already taken control of the market. Try as Microsoft may, their smartphone is destined for a very distant third place in smartphone market share, barely crossing the 5% line in the U.S market.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Now arrives the news that Microsoft is scaling down its mobile phone activities, writing off the entire value of the former Nokia smartphone business it bought last year and laying off almost one-third of that business’ staff.

The company will no longer try to build a standalone phone business, but instead plans to build a Windows ecosystem that includes its own devices, CEO Satya Nadella told staff in an email announcing the changes.

Up to 7,800 jobs will be cut, most of them in the phone business. The cuts come in addition to 18,000 layoffs announced last year: Those cuts included around half of the 25,000 staff who joined Microsoft from Nokia.

The layoffs should happen by year end, Microsoft said, adding that it would provide more information about the impairment charge in its fourth-quarter earnings announcement on July 21.

I still hold out hope that somehow Windows Phone survives and becomes at least a legitimate option. A world of Androids and Apples is not very appealing to me and is already getting boring.

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Switching Carriers Just Got Easier!

Have you ever wanted to change cellular carriers without needing to purchase a new phone? Well I have some good news dedicated readers.

As of February 11, 2015 this restriction has changed. This is because back in December of 2013, the major U.S. carriers set a voluntary deadline for a date by which consumers would be able to unlock their phones, provided they met certain criteria.

If you are tired of your Verizon Wireless and want to move to ATT, it just got easier.

As an example. If you are tired of your ATT and want to move to Verizon Wireless. It just got easier. Kind of.

What are these new rules?

Check Your Eligibility

Before getting started, you first need to know whether your phone is eligible to be unlocked. Yours might not be. If you bought your phone via a two-year contract from a mobile carrier, your phone is considered a “postpaid” device. In this case you will have to wait until your contract is up before you can unlock your phone. However there is an exception. If you are willing to pay an early termination fee (of course) on your contract, you will then be eligible.

Check to See if Your Phone Will Work on the New Carrier

Presumably, you’re unlocking your phone because you want to use it with a new carrier. Keep in mind that not all phones work on all networks. This is because some networks use different cellular technologies than others do.

U.S. cell phone networks use either CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) or GSM (Global System for Mobiles) radio systems. Sprint and Verizon use CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Theoretically, a CDMA phone shouldn’t work on a GSM network, and vice versa. However phones that use the high-speed 4G LTE wireless standard should be able to work on any network, whether they are GSM or CDMA. However, not all 4G LTE phones work on all LTE bands, and so it’s possible that a 4G LTE phone will not work on a specific network.Confused yet? I know I am.

So before unlocking, check with your new carrier and make sure your phone will work with it.

How Much Will Switching Carriers Cost You?

How much will this cost you? Nothing — you should pay nothing. The FCC has banned service providers from charging for unlocking your phone.

Understand What You Need To Do

The exact process of unlocking phones can vary from carrier to carrier. In some instances, you may be provided with an unlock code, or it can be done with a software update. Some providers might require that you come to a store to unlock your phone, while others will do it remotely.

Get More Information

There’s plenty of information online about the ins and outs of unlocking your phone. The FCC’s page Cell Phone Unlocking FAQs is a great place to start. Also worthwhile is the FCC’s encyclopedia entry for cell phone unlocking.

The process of switching carriers (and keeping your phone) is still overly confusing but it is a step in the right direction.

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