Heads up, Android phone users. There’s a nasty security problem with the MMS system that affects over 950 million phones. Google has released a patch but it’s up to the cellular carriers/vendors to distribute it and most are quite slow. Here’s an article that explains what you can do to protect yourself in the meantime.
Those sneaky hackers are at it again. Here’s a new phishing scheme that has managed (so far) to elude Google’s filters. If you have a Google account and aren’t using 2-Factor Authentication (or 2FA, or 2-Step Verification, as Google calls it), something like this could be real trouble.
And if you’re pretty sure you wouldn’t fall for this, imagine a less-savvy relative or friend who might…perhaps you can help them lock down their account.
An alarming bit of news coming forth about the bug fixed with the latest iOS version for the iPhone, which was just released on Feb 21. The bug is a seriously scary exploit which could allow someone in the same wireless network as you (say, for example, at the airport or coffeehouse) to be able to eavesdrop on all your encrypted communications – emails, MMS, Facebook, what have you – with abandon.
Worse yet, it has now been revealed that this problem was present since September 2012, over a year ago. That’s an awfully long time to be exposed. If you are running iOS 7 on your iPhone, please consider updating immediately.
A more in-depth article with clear explanations at Gizmodo.
There’s nothing like hunting down a pesky techie issue and uncovering a whole new way to manage & tweak to a geek’s heart’s content.
Playing around with rooting and custom ROMs for my Android phone and tablet means sometimes I come across performance issues that require a measure of online research to resolve. One such bug for me right now is a battery drain now that I’m on the 4.3 version of the OS. (Google made some substantial changes to certain subsystems which has resulted in a lot of users complaining of an increased battery drain. Supposedly it will be addressed in future updates)
In my Googling travels, I was once again reminded of the app “Greenify” (requires root) which allows you to “freeze” apps that you’re not using to prevent them from syncing continuously in the background. I’d heard about it on Lifehacker this past summer but hadn’t had much reason to try it, until now. There are experimental features that require the donation version, but at $2.99 I felt it was a sound investment. I also installed something called Xposed Framework, a relatively recent development in the Android app extensibility realm, to make the extended features of Greenify work. Now I can also “freeze” system apps that keep the phone awake when it should be going into deep sleep (screen off, no current apps needing brain power or Internet connection) and that’s made a huge difference.
Freezing an app means you temporarily hibernate the app so it doesn’t keep the phone awake. The primary two causes of battery drain for smartphones are screen-awake time and apps that continuously sync or refresh in the background. Some you can adjust by changing settings provided in-app (such as reducing the frequency of checking for new mail), but many are not adustable in this way. Having the ability to put something to sleep (until you need it, then it gets turned back on temporarily or until you freeze it again) is invaluable in the quest for better battery life.
Another invaluable tool is an app which monitors the various apps and Android subsystems that wake the phone up. The timer starts when the phone is taken off AC charging and if you install a monitor, take it off charge and leave it alone for 1-2 hours, you’ll have some pretty meaningful details to review to see where and how your battery is being drained.
I turned to one such battery-monitoring tool called BetterBatteryStats, developed by chamonix, one of the regulars over at XDA-Developers, the go-to place for seriously geeky, pop-the-hood-and-tinker kinds of customizations for Android. It’s not a free app, but once again, it does the job very well and I feel it’s worthy of investment. If you’re rooted, you can even have it monitor the Android subsystems to get a more detailed idea of how to make adjustments. (Word of warning: compatibility not guaranteed for the latest version of Android OS, 4.4 KitKat)
I have gone from losing roughly 10-11% battery every hour, to now it’s somewhere between 2-4% (even more if it’s sitting idle a lot of the time), which makes a huge difference. I may not have the constant notifications about mail or Facebook messages, but I can connect when I feel like it and it’s actually reduced the amount of time I’m looking at my phone, always a welcome improvement to my work ethic and social graces.
Another invaluable guide to squeezing more battery life can be found here, which although it’s a message thread in a specific device forum, more or less applies to just about any other Android device running 4.3.
If battery life is important to you, and you’re amenable to taking your Android tweaks to a new level, the tips contained in these articles mentioned may just be the ticket.
This alert affects all users who have ever created an account on Adobe.com. This would include those who have registered their licensed software, those who have purchased software through Adobe.com, and those who participate in their community forums. Adobe themselves has confirmed this breach, which includes not only usernames and passwords, but also possibly credit card information, password hints, and other personal information.
Adobe is the company that brings you Photoshop, Lightroom, Acrobat & Reader, Flash Player and more. It is an extremely widely used company and it’s entirely likely that you may have used their software along the way.
To find out if your account is among the ones compromised, please visit this link and enter the email address you used when you created your Adobe.com account. If yours is one of the many compromised (mine was as well), Adobe has already reset your password and you can request a password reset link to be sent so you can choose a new password.
If you are like millions of Internet users who use the same password at different Websites, it is advisable that you change your password at these other sites as well, as your password and email address are now revealed to the thieves and could possibly be used to further steal your identity.
I’m often asked whether I loathe Apple products, since I’m a Windows-based support specialist with an Android phone and tablet. My answer is always the same – no, I quite like iPhones and iPads and had one myself (until that fateful trip to Salt Lake City when I left my iPad in the seat pocket of the plane, never to be seen again), but I prefer a measure of control over my smartphone/tablet/computing experience (“popping the hood” to tinker with all sorts of options) and I find the concept of Apple’s walled garden to be too restrictive.
That being said, I recognize that not everyone wants as much choice as I like, and for those who just want a phone or tablet that works pretty seamlessly, I’d say the iPhone or iPad work quite well. One caveat, however: if your collection of digital devices contains items outside the Apple universe (such as a Windows laptop or a Blackberry phone), getting your info and settings to sync becomes an exponentially trickier task.
I regularly steer my clients away from using iCloud as their central sync place, as problems can and do occur when you bring a Windows computer into the mix; iCloud doesn’t do a very good job of playing well with non-iOS devices. In many cases, I’ll suggest to iPhone/iPad users using a Google account as the cloud-based sync place (with the excellent $20 Outlook plugin called gSyncit to sync with Windows users’ most popular email/contacts/calendar app) as the features to help if something goes wrong are far more robust from Google.
Want to learn more? Head over to Lifehacker for this informative article on one user’s experiment switching back to Apple’s universe for a month. It’s well-written and can address things in layman’s terms for those who prefer as little tech speak as possible.
A bit of good news for non-profit organizations: you can now get Office 365 for free. In a move that’s sure to win, Microsoft has announced that ALL non-profits, from the large to the small, are now eligible to use their online division of Office at no charge.
Office 365 looks and acts a lot like Office 2013, except that it’s web-based and offered on a subscription basis. You need to be online to install & activate, and to take advantage of the online collaboration tools, but you can use Office 365 without an Internet connection too. This applies to computers running Windows 7, Windows 8 or Mac OSX 10.6, and also to iPhone, Android and Windows Phones. If you sign into a Microsoft account when you run Office 365, you can take your preferred settings with you to any other computer, and also take advantage of their cloud-based storage offering, SkyDrive.
As a non-profit user, you’d need to sign up for a trial and as soon as they verify your non-profit status, you’ll be granted a license.
Pretty great deal, if you’re already an Office user working at a non-profit with budgetary constraints.
Typically, roughly 60% of my service calls include cleaning up some kind of malware. Whether it’s because updates have been ignored (you know, those pesky ones from Adobe, or Java, or Microsoft), browsers are outdated, extraneous toolbars have been installed, or someone’s been visiting nefarious Websites, one way or the other it’s a common refrain that I hear: “The computer is running really slowly….” or “I’m getting tons of popups” or the like. Once all the updates are installed, browsers cleaned and proper safe browsing habits have been reviewed, a majority of the time the computer is back in action and has gained a noticeable amount of speed. It’s usually at this point that someone asks me “what’s the difference between a virus and malware?”
It can be tricky to explain the difference, especially because nowadays the threat from other kinds of malware are far greater than an actual virus (which is, itself, a form of malware). I came across this article today from one of my favorite Websites, LifeHacker, which does a pretty decent job of explaining the difference between the two. Not only that, but the author is in agreement with me about the two protection tools I recommend deploying, since they are light on performance drags but heavy on effective protection (Avast Free Antivirus and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, although a newer tool, ADWCleaner, has earned a spot in my permanent toolbox as well). The article is written with the average layperson in mind, so it’s relatively easy to understand. If you’re curious at all about these constant threats we face, I urge you to check it out.
Smartphone cameras have revolutionized the landscape for amateur and professional photographers alike. There are entire communities dedicated to the shots taken with our handiest gadgets. I myself have enjoyed discovering new ways of expression using various camera apps and my trusty lens attachments from Photojojo. But have you considered some of the other uses for having a camera at close hand? This article over on How-to Geek can show you how to get the most out of your device’s camera. My personal favorite: using an app like CamScanner to capture receipts and other business-related bits of paper and convert them into PDFs for easy archiving. What will YOUR handiest use be?
The good folks over at Mashable have started a series of articles about using mobile devices. Currently they have a fantastic group of lists of well-regarded apps to try if you’re on Android or iPhone. I’m using probably 30% of this list myself and can attest to the effectiveness of these apps. Check em out.