Monthly Archives January 2017

Office 365 struggled in 2016

microsoft logoMicrosoft’s Office 365 for consumers has been around for four years now and has sold 25 million subscriptions. However, according to ComputerWorld, the rate of new subscribers plunged down 62 percent from 2015.

In each of the final three quarters of 2016, Office 365 subscriptions grew by approximately 900,000 subscribers, which is its smallest period of growth since early 2014. Subscriptions reached an all time high in the first quarter of 2015, with 3.2 million additions.

Microsoft has never set public goals for its subscription numbers, but have spoken in the past about transferring its software business from a one-time licensing purchase to a recurring payment subscription system.

Right now, the best deal on Office 365 is a one-user subscription called “Home” for 70 dollars a year or seven dollars a month.

PayPal teaming up with Amazon?

paypalDo you have a PayPal account? The popular service is now accepted by hundreds of online retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy, and even Netflix. PayPal separated from its parent company, eBay, just under two years ago but according to CNET, it might make a shift over to an even bigger name – Amazon.

“We have been in conversations with Amazon,” said PayPal CEO Dan Schulman in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’re closing in on 200 million users on our platform now. At that scale, it’s hard for any retailer to think about not accepting PayPal.”

Schulman’s statement makes a lot of sense – but it would also be very beneficial for PayPal to be brought into Amazon’s very profitable bubble. Amazon is currently the largest e-commerce site in the world, bringing in an estimated 74.1 percent of all online sales.

Amazon is one of PayPal’s last holdouts, but if Schulman is right, that may soon change.

2016 was marked by the highest number of data breaches in history

hackersWe will remember 2016 for a lot of reasons; a polarizing election, a slew of tragic celebrity deaths. But there’s another serious problem with 2016 – data breaches. According to the National Law Review and findings by the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout, 2016 showed a record high for data breaches in the United States. The number of recorded breaches last year reached 1,093, surpassing 2015 by 40 percent.

While the financial services industry accounted for only 4.8 percent of the total breaches, business, healthcare, education, military, and other government services were hacked significantly more frequently.

According to these findings, for the eighth year in a row, hacking, skimming, and phishing scams were the main factors behind these data breaches – 55.5 percent of all reported incidents. Breaches using email and internet accounted for only 9.2 percent of all the hacks, and employee error was responsible for 8.7 percent. Of all these breaches, 64 percent involved identity and personal data theft.

These findings are concerning, but not altogether too surprising. It makes you wonder what we can do to make our data more secure in the future.

A solution in sight to Samsung’s Pink Line issue?

galaxy-s7-edge-stillIt was just not Samsung’s year. First, the Galaxy Note 7s began exploding. Then, the replacements did as well. Now, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge has its own unique issue that is plaguing users.

According to TechTimes, Galaxy S7 edge users have been reporting a defect in the phone that causes a pink or purple line to appear across the screen. Samsung has now come forward to acknowledge the issue.

Samsung claims the display issue occurs only if a handset has been dropped, but it’s possible for the line to appear on a phone that does not have a broken display. The line is caused by damage to the phones internal circuitry.

However, multiple Galaxy S7 edge users have claimed they did not drop their phone and think it could be a software issue. Some even questioned whether or not the issue was covered under warranty.

Samsung has promised repairs under warranty, but only if the devices have no visible damage. If there is physical damage to the phone, the user will be footing the bill.

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AT&T launches $10 roaming day pass

AT&TInternational roaming is a hot button issue for customers who love to travel, especially considering the vast differences between carriers. For example, T-Mobile customers have been able to roam for free in over 100 countries since 2013, while AT&T users are subject to AT&T Passport, which starts at $40 a month for 200 MB of data. According to The Verge, AT&T wants to improve this, and has recently announced its new ten dollar day pass for international roaming, which will help reduce costs for some customers.

With the new program, customers purchase the international day pass to unlock their domestic plan abroad for a 24-hours. If that customer has an unlimited calling and texting plan, that is what they would have for that day. On top of that, any data they use comes off their domestic data plan. The only catch is that if the usage abroad exceeds 50 percent of the plan for two consecutive months, privileges may be revoked.

The day pass is sold per device, so family plans will require separate passes for each mobile device, while still keeping an eye on the collective data consumption. This isn’t a great option if you’re going backpacking through Europe for the summer, but if you have a quick business trip or resort vacation abroad, customers might find the value in a day pass. Day passes become available on January 27th.

Samsung Explains Your Exploding Phone

SamsungSamsung has finally come out with an official, public explanation for the disastrous series of exploding Note 7s that injured consumers and damaged their property last year. According to CNET, during a press conference on January 22nd, Samsung admitted that two separate battery defects caused both the original batch of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones and their replacements to overheat and occasionally set ablaze.

Justin Denison, head of product strategy and marketing for Samsung US, explained the issue to the press. The first battery apparently suffered from a design flaw that left it with a small external casing, unable to hold the components inside of it properly, which caused the battery to short-circuit and ignite. The second battery, which came from a different supplier, suffered a manufacturing defect amidst the rush to produce and replace the first. Unfortunately, this defect caused the same result.

Even though we now know the reason behind the fiery failure that was the Note 7, Samsung still has to rebuild its reputation and prove to us that it’s safe to buy its future smartphones. Samsung announced to the press that in order to rejuvenate its credibility, it will be launching the Galaxy S8 and another Note smartphone later this year.

LinkedIn Gets a Makeover

official_logo_linkedinLinkedIn offers some really valuable services to its users, but it has struggled in the past with a dwindling user-base. In order to make LinkedIn more appealing and easier to use, the company is doing a total overhaul of its desktop interface. According to ComputerWorld, this will be the largest remodeling the professional networking site has seen since launch.

The goal is to integrate features from the mobile application to the desktop experience, LinkedIn’s director of Engineering, Chris Pruitt, explained. Users can expect to see a redesigned feed, tweaked profiles, new messaging capabilities, and a revamped search box. These changes should make the desktop site appear less cluttered and more useful.

For example, the annoying, constant notifications that desktop users used to receive encouraging them to congratulate a connection on a new job or wish someone a happy birthday have been scrapped and relocated to a less calamitous notifications page.

Right now, 60 percent of LinkedIn’s traffic comes from mobile, and the desktop interface lags behind. Hopefully the new changes should even things out.

Facebook working towards better journalism in midst of fake news crisis

facebook_2015_logo_detailLast week, Facebook announced its new Journalism Project, which aims to forge stronger bonds between the social media site and the journalism industry. According to TechNewsWorld, the goal is to improve the quality of journalism that reaches Facebook users, along with working to eliminate fake news.

Facebook outlined the Journalism Project’s set goals as the following:

  • Collaborating with news organizations to develop products, including creating new story formats to better suit their needs, and creating new business models to help partners better distribute and monetize their content;
  • Partnering with the Poynter Institute to launch a certificate curriculum for e-learning journalism courses and providing local newsroom training with various partners;
  • Working with The First Draft Network to provide virtual certification for content;
  • Providing free access to social media analytics on the CrowdTangle platform Facebook recently purchased;
  • Letting Page admins designate specific journalists as contributors so they can go live on behalf of the page;
  • Providing a live update feature for publishers; and
  • Continuing efforts to curb fake news.

Facebook representative Liz Allbright told TechNewsWorld that “In the end we hope all these efforts, together, will enable our community to have meaningful conversations, to be informed and to be connected to each other.”

Looking for a new browser? How about Min?

minThere are a lot of browsers out there for you to choose from, but sometimes it can take a long time to get comfortable with all the quirks and features of a new one. If you’re searching for a browser that works with your expectations but is simple enough to understand on the first try, Min might be the one for you.

An article from TechNewsWorld described Min as having a minimalist design, but that does not mean it has low functionality or a lack of useful features. Browsers like Chrome and Firefox are great with all their add-ons and features that give users endless possibilities, but at the same time they can seem cluttered. Min aims to avoid that. It is powered by GitHub and prides itself on being easy to use.

Designed for Debian Linux, Mac, and Windows machines, it has straightforward features that will interest many users who prioritize simplicity. For one, it has built-in ad blocking capability. You don’t need to download any additional applications – the browser does it for you. You can of course choose to unblock certain content, but it makes the process a lot quicker. The option to block scripts and images also maximizes website loading speeds and protects you against rogue code attacks.

Min is also optimal for online research. The search functionality is accessible right in the browser’s URL bar so you can enter search queries directly without having to navigate to a search engine. Of course if you’d rather use an engine, you retain the option of choosing your own default.

Min is not the perfect alternative to an older, more established browser like Chrome – but it is a good supplement for task-oriented, distraction-free web time. It’s new and still has some kinks, but has loads of potential.

Is Facebook Messenger draining your battery?

facebook messengerAccording to PC Mag, many Android users have been complaining lately about the latest version of the Facebook Messenger app draining their phone’s battery at an alarming rate. Given that Facebook is working hard on making Messenger the most appealing, versatile messaging center for its users, news of it hindering phone usage isn’t good for the app’s reputation. In order to combat this problem, Facebook Messenger chief David Marcus took to Twitter recently to give users advice on how to fix the issue.

In response to a complaint about the battery drainage, Marcus tweeted that the “issue was isolated and fixed server side,” and that “If you restart Messenger the problem should be gone now.” If you hadn’t tried this already, restarting a piece of software is usually the first step in troubleshooting most issues.

But this isn’t just a one-time issue for Facebook. In 2015 it had to roll out a fix for its main iOS app, when reports surfaced that it drained as much as 15 percent of an iPhone’s battery even when not actively being used. Despite the fix, people still complained about battery drainage and said uninstalling the app would solve the problem.  Facebook has not admitted to be the cause of these battery drains, but has been working to increase performance efficiency across its various applications.

Although it’s unclear of exactly why the Messenger app caused batteries to drain, the good news is there seems to be a solution. If you’re an Android user that is experiencing this problem, it might be a good idea to check out some online forums for suggested courses of action.