Monthly Archives August 2017

Is the Nokia 8 the phone for you?

You may not think of Nokia as a top smartphone brand, considering that in recent times it has only launched three middle-tier devices. But Nokia’s newest device releasing in September, the Nokia 8, is challenging this reputation. According to a review from The Independent, the Nokia 8 might just be worth considering as your next purchase.

“In feel alone, this is easily the best phone the new HMD Nokia has produced, slick and smooth enough to slide easily between your fingers,” said The Independent.

The Nokia 8 comes in four different shades; matte silver, polished blue, matte blue, and polished copper. It has a 5.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 resolution display, and with 554 pixels per inch, the sharpest resolution of any Nokia phone. Unlike the popular OLED display favoured by Samsung, the Nokia 8 keeps it simple with an LCD screen.

Cameras are undoubtedly important features on any smartphone nowadays, and the collaboration between Nokia and optical system manufacturers Zeiss should result in an excellent quality product.

According to The Independent, “The rear dual cameras are both 13-megapixel sensors, one colour and one monochrome. Huawei has a similar approach on its latest phones, saying that the monochrome sensor can get a sharper result as it grabs light quickly, and the colour one gives you the colour fidelity.” This should make photography feel a bit more professional than the average smartphone.

The Nokia 8 also boasts high-quality audio, using a system called OZO, in which three microphones work together to record better sound with no special playback system required.

The Nokia 8 will be one of the first smartphones to receive Android O when it goes live, and until then will run on the latest version available, Android 7.1.1. The functionality of the Nokia 8 will feel very similar to most Android phones, with the only stark difference being in the camera.

Consumer Reports no longer recommends these Microsoft devices

Consumer Reports is sort of like a purchaser’s Bible – if it says a product is good, you can generally trust that it is. According to the Seattle Times, four of Microsoft’s laptops and tablets have had their Consumer Reports recommendation withdrawn. Not an ideal situation for Microsoft – especially right before the back to school season.

Consumer Reports allegedly withdrew the recommendations after a survey showed that these devices caused problems for their owners after a mere two years of ownership. Two versions each of the Surface Laptop and Surface Book were officially blacklisted for “poor predicted reliability in comparison to most other brands.”

So what problems do the devices have? After two years, the survey found that many of devices had problems at startup, were prone to freezing or shutting down unexpectedly, and had issues with their touch screen responsiveness.

Microsoft denied that there are problems with it’s devices. “While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings,” the company said in a statement. “Microsoft’s real-world return and support rates and customer satisfaction data show we are on par if not better than other devices in the category. We stand firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices and continue to make quality our primary focus.”

Introducing Watch, the Netflix of Facebook

Facebook announced earlier this year that it was making a push into video streaming, focusing on both licensed shows and original content. This came to fruition this month with the introduction of Watch, a new video streaming platform that will available to a limited group of Facebook users in the United States.

According to BGR, “Some of the shows available at launch include Nas Daily, a daily show where a creator makes videos with his fans; Gabby Bernstein, a show from a motivational speaker who answers questions and gives advice; and Kitchen Little, a show about kids who try to instruct professional chefs on how to cook a meal. Also, Facebook has a deal with MLB to broadcast one baseball game a week.”

The content streamed on Watch will each have its own “Show Page” on Facebook where users can learn about the show, watch episodes, and interact with the community. Additionally, if you follow a show, Facebook will notify you every time an episode it released. Facebook hopes to one day monetize these shows through ad breaks, but is currently self-funding some shows to kick start the platform.

Watch will have an app for mobile, desktop, and certain Smart TVs.

Could wearables make a comeback with the LTE Apple Watch?

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Apple has a plan to restore its smartwatch’s short-lived fame. According to Fierce Wireless, Apple is reportedly working on an LTE version of the Apple Watch, which means the watch would no longer be paired with a smartphone, and will ideally bring carriers a brand-new source of revenue.

Current Apple Watches are unable to retrieve data out of range of the user’s iPhone. They connect by Bluetooth, which means they probably have the same range as your portable speaker. The watch is neat in that it can use maps, iTunes, calendars, and other iOS features, but without your iPhone nearby it isn’t very useful. An LTE watch would, as stated above, function separately from the phone, and hopefully be able to perform all the same tasks just as well.

Essentially, an LTE Apple Watch would mean you have an additional device to manage your life. You can bring your watch out with you while your iPhone is charging, and vice versa. Or, if you want the Apple Watch, but not the iPhone, that would also be an option. Alternatively, if you’re going to the gym or for a run, you don’t have to have a clunky phone in your pocket if you want to use the Watch’s features.

For those in the U.S, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile have all agreed to carry the LTE Apple Watch. Experts think this is a good move for both Apple and the carriers already signed on.

“It would be a game changer,” Gene Munster, co-founder of Loup Ventures, told Bloomberg. “If they could deliver an experience that isn’t tethered to an iPhone, it could kick-start a new direction for the business.”

Apple has not disclosed exactly when this new watch will be ready, or how much it will cost.

Don’t fall for this heart string-pulling phone scam out of North Carolina

Authorities in Rutherford County, North Carolina are warning locals not to fall for a phone scam which tries to solicit money for veterans.

The scam, which impersonates the Rutherford County Veteran Service, allegedly asks its victims to send money for program supporting unemployed veterans. To make it sound more legitimate, the scam claims there are three levels of donors – Bronze, Silver, or Gold – and that any amount can be given. The scam can be confusing, because it sounds very similar to the Rutherford County Veteran Services Community Partnership Program. The similarities have led locals who have heard of the real initiative to fall for the scam.

The actual Rutherford County Veteran Services reinforces that is absolutely does not solicit money over the phone. If you think you’re on the receiving end of a call like this, the best thing to do is hang up and report it.

This scam is devious in the way it exploits a person’s altruism. Even if you don’t live in Rutherford County, be skeptical of any call asking for money that comes your way.

Here is what your governor is doing about cyber security

It may seem like cyber security isn’t on the top of the government’s radar, but there are definitely steps being taken, at least on the state level, to counte these threats. According to GovTech, The 2017 National Governors Association focused its attention on “comprehensive state cyber security.” At the mid-July conference, 39 governors signed the ‘Compact to Improve State Cybersecurity.’ The effort was led by Virignia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who also served as the NGA chair.

Timothy Blute, who is program director for NGA’s Homeland Security and Public Safety Division, pointed out that signing the compact is obviously no final solution for the problem, but it is a good place to start.

“Last summer, at the NGA summer meeting, we released a compact on opioid abuse, and what we found was that it was a great way to sort of garner governor-level attention on the topic and really have governors commit to, a) recognizing the problem and b) implementing best practices,” Blute explained to Government Technology.

The article explains that the compact “calls for the adherence to three main tenants: building cybersecurity governance, which includes creating a formal structure, statewide strategy and conducting risk assessments; preparing and defending against cyber events, which includes creating a disruption plan, information sharing and coordination with the National Guard and the public; and growing the nation’s cybersecurity workforce, which includes reclassifying state jobs to better align with the private sector, placing veterans in cyber positions and partnerships with colleges and universities.”

Hopefully the 39 states involved in the compact will hold to its tenants, and across the board, cyber security will improve in the United States. The NGA will be releasing a report next July detailing the states’ progress.

OpenSignal says T-Mobile is on top

Twice a year, OpenSignal releases a study about U.S mobile networks, testing speed, reliability, and other statistics. According to FierceWireless, for its most recent study – testing March 31 through June 29 – OpenSignal determined that T-Mobile is the top performing network nationwide.

T-Mobile trounced its competitors across the board, in categories including but not limited to LTE download speed, LTE latency, LTE availability, 3G download speed, overall download speed, and 3G latency.

OpenSignal suggests it might be because of T-Mobile’s competitors’ unlimited plans. “Six months after reintroducing unlimited plans, Verizon and AT&T experienced a marked decline in 4G speeds in our tests,” it said in its report. “The impact appears to have hit Verizon the most. Its average LTE download test fell 2 Mbps to 14.9 Mbps in the six months between reports.”

AT&T did not take too kindly to this news, saying that its data transmissions are unchanged, despite increased traffic. “We constantly monitor our network performance,” an AT&T spokesperson said via email. “The launch of our unlimited data plans has not impacted wireless data speeds on our network.” Verizon criticized the data for the same reason.

Apple settles multi-billion dollar patent suit with Nokia

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Patent disputes are an ever-present concern with with big tech companies, and Apple is no exception. According to The Verge, Apple recently ended a suit with Nokia, costing it a two billion dollar up-front payment. The reason for this settlement could be to avoid another long, brutal court battle like Apple previously fought with Samsung.

“We got a substantial upfront cash payment of €1.7 billion from Apple, strengthening further our cash position. As said earlier, our plan is to provide more details on the intended use of cash in conjunction with our Q3 earnings,” Nokia said in a call to its investors regarding the settlement. Neither company has, however, disclosed the terms of the licensing agreement that go along with this payout.

Nokia and Apple have fought over patents and licensing twice in the last decade. This particular dispute began last year when “Nokia accused Apple of infringing on dozens of patents it owns, as well as patents owned by Nokia subsidiaries,” explains The Verge. This is not surprising, considering many smartphone makers license Nokia’s patents for many parts of their devices; from display technology to antenna design. After their last patent dispute, Apple and Nokia made a licensing deal in 2011.

“Apple reportedly did not want to sign a new deal and accused Nokia of seeking unfair terms,” The Verge article continues. “After Nokia filed suit in multiple countries, Apple went after the patent entities that were suing for more settlement and royalty money on Nokia’s behalf with an antitrust suit. That prompted Nokia to sue Apple directly. The dispute got ugly, with Apple briefly pulling Nokia-owned Withings’ products from its online store and from Apple Stores worldwide.”

Ransomware is making a pretty penny worldwide

We’ve all heard about ransomware, and how it holds devices hostage until the owner pays up. But have you ever wondered just how much money ransomware has managed to steal across the globe? According to a joint study from Google, bitcoin security firm Chainalysis, the University of California at San Diego, and New York University, the most prevalent ransomware strains have roped in a total of $25 million.

According to an article by PC Mag, the ransomware ecosystem is “dominated by a few kingpins.” For example, Locky and Cerber. Locky was the first ransomware to steal more than a million dollars per month, and has made around $7.8 million in total. Cerber makes around $200,000 a month and has made $6.9 million in total. Other big earners include CryptoLocker, CryptXXX, SamSam, CryptoWall, AlNamrood, TorrentLocker, Spora, CoinVault, and WannaCry.

The study says that the problem is made worse because “just 37 percent of users back up their data.” If more users had backups, holding data hostage would not be so threatening to victims of ransomware scams.