Monthly Archives July 2014

Unlimited eBook Service in the Works

Amazon-logoWould you pay a monthly fee for an unlimited library of eBooks, set up much like the video streaming service Netflix? Amazon is willing to bet you will. Given that few services of its type exist, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited is sure to make a literary splash.

A test page briefly appeared on Amazon’s website advertised the service for $9.99 a month, giving users access to over 600,000 titles. These would include popular titles such as The Life of Pi and The Hunger Games. The page has since been removed.

The now-removed page indicated the service would be available on “any device,” so bookworms needn’t race to the store to buy a Kindle just yet.

*Source: Reuters

Facebook Rolls Out Free Wi-Fi to Students’ Homes

Facebook passwordsProviding improved Wi-Fi access to students is becoming a big initiative in the United States. In fact, the Federal Communications Commission just announced a $2 million plan to do just that. Facebook is taking this goal even further with a trial to provide Wi-Fi to students’ houses in Forest City, N.C.

Forest City is conveniently the location of one of Facebook’s largest data centres. The trial was rolled out in cooperation with the local school board and non-profit high-speed fiber Internet provider Pangaea, with 75 to 100 homes participating.

There is no word yet as to whether Facebook will extend this project beyond Forest City to other parts of the U.S., or even internationally. It is just one of the company’s many efforts to improve Internet access and educate — one project, Education Superhighway, gets schools more familiar with how their broadband works and how to improve it.

Facebook and Pangaea’s project launched July 15.

*Source: Tech Crunch

Hotel Computers Pose Big Risk

hotelBusiness travelers beware: this may be enough to make you want to take your laptop along for the trip. The U.S. Secret Service has issued a formal warning to hotels about malware on publicly used computers that can steal passwords from unsuspecting guests.

This comes on the heels of news that several computers at hotels in Dallas were infected with keyword logging software to pilfer passwords and track Internet activity. Suspects have been taken into custody, but it’s unlikely it is an isolated case.

As Ars Technica points out, the case is a great reminder to be cautious about the type of activity you’re undertaking on any public computer, whether it be at a hotel, library or another public space.

Cost of Basic Mobile Phone Plans on the Rise

price of cellphone planWhen the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released its national wireless code of conduct last year, the intent was to protect consumers. While that may be happening, new reports indicate it has spurred another less desirable effect – increased cost.

The code included provisions allowing consumers to cancel a wireless contract after just two years when three-year contracts were the industry norm. This has led wireless providers to hike the cost of their basic plans, with the average plan increasing to $36 from $31 in the last year.

However, on the flip side, heavy users are enjoying a substantial discount, with plans dropping to $80 from $94.

“The reduction of contract terms placed upward pressure on service plan prices given there is now a shorter period available to recover the handset subsidies,” states the recently released Wall Report, which was commission by the government.

The Canadian government is pushing for the introduction of new companies into the market in an effort to increase competition and drive down rates for consumers.

*Source: Toronto Sun

Could Netflix be Taxed by the CRTC?

netflix logoBy offering limitless content for a small monthly fee, Netflix has revolutionized the way people watch television. However, not all are pleased with this and the CBC is demanding that Netflix subsidize the Canadian content it offers.

Naturally, Netflix is opposed, warning the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) against imposing any taxes. In a report to the CRTC, Netflix reps said such a tax would “make it more difficult for Netflix to offer access to this content at the same affordable rate.” It could also “translate into an increase in price without … a commensurate benefit for Canadian content, its producers, or Canadian consumers.”

Netflix maintains Canadian content is “thriving online” and new regulations aren’t needed.

In the past the CRTC has been against forcing popular American companies like Netflix or iTunes to comply with CanCon rules. However, it is currently reviewing Canadian TV regulations so it can decide the future of broadcasting.

*Source: Digital Home

Court: Apple’s Siri Infringes on Chinese Patents

Siri lawsuitEveryone is familiar with iPhone’s Siri, the little helper activated by the user’s voice. But back in 2012 Shanghai-based company Zhizhen Network Technology filed a lawsuit against Apple alleging Siri infringed upon its voice recognition technology. Now, Chinese courts have ruled the lawsuit is valid, meaning Apple will have to face them in a legal battle.

Apple has argued Zhizhen’s patent was invalid, meaning that Siri had not been an infringement at all. Zhizhen had the Patent Re-examination Board take a look at the patent, and the board ruled in its favor. But Apple is still not convinced and will appeal the Beijing Intermediate Court’s decision based on a lack of technical features, among other reasons.

“Apple created Siri to provide customers with their own personal assistant by using their voice. Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen’s patent before we introduced Siri and we do not believe we are using this patent,” Apple said in an emailed statement. “While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen.”

*Source: The Register

Second-Hand Phones a Trove of Personal Information

androidDo a quick search on eBay, and you’ll find tens of thousands of used smartphones for sale. But what are you really getting when you snag a second-hand phone? More than the original owner probably thought.

A recent test by Avast – which specializes security software – saw the firm purchase 20 Android phones online to see what personal data was still left on the devices. The results were shocking: 40,000 photos including nude selfies, 750 emails and text messages, 250 contacts and a completed loan application. The identities of four of the phones’ previous owners were also discovered.

“Users thought they were doing a clean wipe and factory reinstall,” Avast mobile division president Jude McColgan was quoted as saying. However, it only deletes information at the “application layer.”

Some may dismiss the results by assuming the average Joe wouldn’t be able to figure out how to recover such files. Avast warns its methods were simple, and were undertaken using generic digital forensics software that is available to the general public.

Instead of doing a factory reset, those interested in selling their phones are better off using the deletion tool in the Android security app, which Avast experts say does a much better job of permanently wiping data.

*Source: CNet

Indiegogo App Slated for Canadian Release

crowdfunding appIndiegogo is taking the leap beyond the borders of the United States by releasing its first mobile app to a Canada audience. The “world’s largest” crowdfunding platform will give Canucks early access to its app, which it plans to roll out in other countries in a few months.

“Canada is a really important country for us, in terms of volume it’s the second-largest country for us in the world … and we send money to 70 to 100 countries a week,” said Indiegogo CEO Slava Rubin was quoted as saying.

The first app will only be available for iOS, but an Android app should be released by year’s end.

The premise of crowd-funding is simple. Entrepreneurs or anyone with a creative idea can pitch their plans on Indigogo, and ask people for support. It is usually rewards-based, meaning those who donate are given early access to a product, gifts, or other perks.

*Source: CTV News

Mobile Device Theft Tips from the FCC

FCC Schooley MitchellSmartphone theft is rising to epic proportions, with over 1.6 million devices stolen each year. To keep yourself safe, take a look at these tips from the D.C. Metropolitan Police and Federal Communications Commission.

Record device information. Mobile devices have unique numbers (IMEI or MEID numbers) that can identify devices if they are stolen. You should record the IMEI or MEID number, serial number and MAC/Wi-Fi address and store it in a safe place. This information is usually found under the “Settings” menu on the “About” screen. Additionally, screenshot functions make it easy to capture this information and send it to an email account.

Before you go out:

– Find the IMEI or MEID number on your mobile device
– Send yourself a screenshot of it

Be aware of your surroundings. Many mobile device thefts are crimes of opportunity. Using your device in public, particularly on public transit, or leaving it out in the open makes it easier for thieves to grab the device and run.

Treat mobile device theft like credit card theft. Mobile devices frequently contain sensitive financial and personal information.

Report all mobile device thefts immediately to your wireless carrier and local law enforcement.

Set a password/PIN and use the lock screen function. The password/PIN and lock screen functions on devices make it more difficult for thieves to use your stolen device and access your personal data. These functions should be set up as soon as you purchase a new device. (CTIA The Wireless Association has instructions for setting up a password on Android, Blackberry, Apple and Windows devices.)

Consider using mobile security apps. Mobile security apps can be useful in locating and recovering stolen devices. Common features include the ability to remotely track, lock or erase your personal data on your mobile devices. Some apps also allow you to remotely trigger an alarm on the device or take a photo of the thief. CTIA provides a list of mobile security apps.

Regularly back up photos and data. Photos, videos, contacts, email and other data you would want to keep if your device is stolen should backed up regularly on a computer, USB drive or cloud service.

Locate, lock and erase. You should inform law enforcement of your mobile security app that might help locate and recover the device. In addition, the remote lock feature can prevent thieves from using your stolen device. It may be best to remotely erase your personal data on the device if you believe it will not likely be recovered or if it contains sensitive financial, health or work information.

Source: Federal Communications Commission

Roam Rolls Out 4G LTE Network in Major U.S. Cities

cell phone roamingVancouver-based carrier Roam has launched packages with 4G LTE support. The company – known for affordable packages for Canadians travelling in the United States – is offering the network in several U.S. cities including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

The official launch of the new network will happen on July 7, allowing users to take advantage of the new network’s speed as long as their smartphone supports LTE. The new network also brings improved coverage and plan options that let users send unlimited text, picture, audio and video messages.

Just as an idea of what this difference might mean for users: 3G smartphones can receive data at a speed of up to 3.1 mB/s while 4G can reach speeds of 3 to 5 mB/s on average. This, of course, is depending on the network.

Canadians using Roam must get a special Roam Mobility SIM card for their time in the States, giving them a U.S. phone number.