Aug 20

Xbox Live already tips off a free game for the next month

Earthlock: Festival of Magic premieres for free on the console

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Aug 10

Canadian court ruling on SMS privacy means you shouldn’t be using SMS

Having nothing to hide doesn’t mean you should ignore your privacy. Especially when keeping messages secure and private is so easy.

An Ontario Court of Appeals has ruled that your SMS messages are not private and once “sent to the ether” are no longer under your control. Vice has a full write up about the decision that interested parties should read, but the short version is this: SMS messages are like email and not subject to the same protection that voice calls have. They aren’t a private conversation, and you shouldn’t keep thinking they are private.

An Ontario Court of Appeals has ruled that your SMS messages are not private and once “sent to the ether” are no longer under your control.

This has some far-reaching implications for some folks, while others won’t care because they “have nothing to hide” or don’t care what happens in a Canadian court. But we all should be concerned, and now is a perfect time for you and the people you talk with to switch to something else. Preferably something that’s cross-platform and offers encryption. I’ve got nothing to hide either, but I still expect and demand a little bit of privacy.

We don’t have the perfect suggestion for a messenger app. Different people will want different things, after all. But we do know there are more than a handful of cross-platform (iOS and Android, sometimes Windows as well) messenger apps that can be used to keep private conversations private regardless of what a judge thinks. WhatsApp comes to mind, as does Signal or Telegram.

We should all be concerned about this ruling, and now is a perfect time for you and the people you talk with to switch to another form of messaging.

If you’re the go-to person for all things tech in your circle of family and friends, have a look and see what you like and would recommend. If you’re not, point them here.

Stay safe. And stay private.

Jul 30

Pokémon GO update fixes the ‘footprints’ glitch, by removing the feature altogether

Niantic Labs has pushed an update to Pokémon GO which “fixes” the three-footprint glitch by removing the feature altogether. The update also brings more than just a few new features along with it.

Jul 24

JBL Charge 3 and Clip 2 prove there’s still innovation in Bluetooth speakers

You can find Bluetooth speakers anywhere — but JBL’s latest stand out.

No matter your needs, there’s a Bluetooth speaker out there to match — and you don’t have to look hard to find one, either. For most people, their only real need is “the cheapest price possible” — but many will pay a bit for better features, quality and sound. And that’s where JBL comes in, with the latest iterations of two of its Bluetooth speakers — the Charge 3 and Clip 2.

JBL isn’t in the race to the bottom. It’s hoping to stay on the higher end with high quality materials and of course sound, with some great features that can help turn a Bluetooth speaker experience from an “every once and a while” thing to an every-day useful accessory. Let’s take a look at the JBL Charge 3 and Clip 2 speakers.

JBL Charge 3

The JBL Charge 3 is designed to be the center of the party or fill a room with sound, and that’s immediately apparent with its size — larger than your average reusable water bottle, and weighing in at about 1.75 pounds. That weight comes from a sturdy, IPX7 waterproof enclosure that protects dual 10W speakers along with huge passive radiators on the ends that drive up the bass level.

With this much output you shouldn’t be surprised that the Charge 3 has a 6000 mAh battery inside, which can offer you 20 hours of playback over Bluetooth. You probably aren’t going to use it for that long (or heck, even half that long) between charges, so JBL also gives you the option of tapping into that power with a full-sized USB port on the back that can be used to charge your phone at 2A from 5V, which is a typical rate for a non-Fast Charge AC adapter.

It’s extremely handy if you’ve been streaming music from your phone to the speaker, but also nice to have for anyone else who’s with you that needs a quick top-up. The speaker gives you a visual indication of its charge state with a set of LEDs in the base, and charges itself over Micro-USB with a cable and 5V/2.3A wall plug in the box if you need one.

Because of its size and weight you aren’t likely to be carrying the Charge 3 around much — it’s mostly going to stay put on a coffee table or brought out to the pool or picnic table when you need music for a group. I actually mostly kept it at my desk for daily music listening, both from my computer over a 3.5mm cable and my phone over Bluetooth — and it performed far better than my set of Logitech computer speakers, at a fraction of the size and complexity. Indoors there was no reason to ever get it above about 50% volume, and I rarely needed to max it out to get the music loud enough outside, even for a big group of people.

It sounds as good as you’d expect at $150, and has a bunch of extra features.

At $150 this isn’t exactly an impulse purchase (nor is it JBL’s most expensive Bluetooth speaker), but if there’s one thing that companies like JBL, Jawbone, Bose and countless others have shown us it’s that people are willing to pay a pretty penny for a really good, loud wireless speaker with some extra features. That’s exactly what you get with the Charge 3. Not only does it produce full sound with lots of bass out of a relatively small package (compared to big wired speakers), it’s also tough and completely waterproof so you never have to worry about what happens to it. It also goes above and beyond to let you tap into its battery to charge your phone, which can prove pivotal in keeping the tunes going late into the night.

It won’t be worth the money to everyone, but it’s hard to argue that JBL isn’t giving you plenty for your money here if you’re looking for a big wireless speaker. (And if you want to save a bit, maybe consider the last-gen Charge 2+ for about $99.)

See at Amazon

JBL Clip 2

For as cool as the Charge 3 speaker is, I’m a bigger fan of the small JBL Clip 2 and I think it’ll be one that more people will actually consider buying and using on a regular basis.

This little $60 speaker is roughly the size of a hockey puck but still offers some great sound from its single 3W speaker — even up to high volumes without distorting. It connects over Bluetooth, of course, and offers easy-to-press buttons around the edges for play/pause and volume control — you can also use a built-in microphone for calls via your connected phone. Better yet, there’s also a built-in foot-long 3.5mm cable to plug in — that neatly wraps around and stores in the speaker — which is super useful when you’re passing the speaker around at a get-together and or don’t want to deal with Bluetooth pairing.

The speaker is built to take a beating, and feels like you could drive a nail with it if you needed to (but seriously, don’t do that). It’s also fully IPX7 waterproof, with a robust rubber door over the Micro-USB charging port, allowing it to handle dirt and even full submersion in water. Its rugged abilities are exemplified by the carabiner that’s attached to the side of the Clip 2 (the name makes more sense now, huh?) that lets you hook it on things wherever you go.

When a speaker is built this well, it goes with you and you use it more.

I clipped it on the outside of my messenger bag or backpack to carry it places, not being worried about it getting bumped and knocked around. I clipped it to my pants pocket so I could listen to music around the house as I took care of some chores, and found it particularly useful to hook on the shower curtain in the morning for podcast listening in the shower.

JBL claims eight hours of music playback, and I found that to be perfect for a week’s worth of casual listening off and on around the house. It also powered through several hours of Bluetooth music streaming for my Fourth of July party with battery to spare — and again, I never had to worry about it getting bumped or dropped.

I found the rugged Clip 2 to be infinitely more useful than other standard Bluetooth speakers that are more fragile and don’t have a clip, and because of its design elements I carried it around and used it more than any other speaker I’ve had. It’s more expensive than the dime-a-dozen Bluetooth speakers online, but you get something for it — and with how much more you’re likely to use it, it’s worth it.

See at Amazon

Jul 10

‘Side-loading’ Pokémon Go onto your Android device may bring malware along for the ride

Security firm explains how to identify and remove the infection

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Jul 06

What you need to know about HummingBad

It’s called HummingBad? Seriously?

Researchers at Check Point have published a blog detailing their report on a new bit of nastiness stealing data from Android phones and translating to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for a Chinese group called Yingmob. The revenue comes from delivering ads, creating false clicks on those ads by making the buttons bigger than they look, and using those clicks to install one of over 200 apps the group has for keeping users connected to this network.

Are you in danger? How can you tell? Are your friends having data stolen and handed over to this group without their knowledge? Is there a worse name they could have used? It turns out there’s a very low likelihood that this was ever a problem for you, but here’s what you need to know about HummingBad and how to stay safe from this group.

What is HummingBad?

A lot of things, actually. HummingBad refers to malware that tries to establish a foothold on your Android. Once it is successful, Whatever you have that is running HummingBad can create false clicks for the ads being produced by the Chinese company hosting the malware. This generates a lot of money for that company, but the Malware also tries to install additional apps to pull more of your personal data from the version of Android you are using. The installation attempts include attempting to see if your phone can be rooted, which would lead to Yingmob having significantly more control over your phone. If the root attempt fails, app installation attempts are made through the normal Android sideload mechanism, which gives the user a pop-up asking if they’re sure they want to install the app.

Researchers are currently aware of 10 million devices globally that have been infected with HummingBad at one point or another, but Check Point also offers information that suggests HummingBad’s infection rate is dropping sharply.

How do I know if I have HummingBad on my phone?

There are a couple of apps you can use that will scan your system for HummingBad, but before you use them it’s important to understand the infection process. If you’ve never had the “Unknown sources” box on your phone checked, and you’ve never installed an app from somewhere other than the Google Play Store, it’s nearly impossible for HummingBad to have infected your phone.

If you’re using a phone with the Google Play Store for apps, and you regularly use it to install apps, Google’s app scanning service will detect apps on your phone that are misbehaving and advise you to uninstall them. This includes HummingBad apps, so if you’ve seen one of those messages and dismissed it in the past, act on it right now.

Check Point, the company that published the report on HummingBad, says since the tools to detect HummingBad are publicly available, any security app will do. None of the apps we checked in the Play Store announce the ability to detect HummingBad as a feature yet, but Kaspersky or Avast should be able to help if you feel the need to check.

How do I get rid of HummingBad?

Those security apps may help you detect HummingBad, but they can’t guarantee the Malware has been removed from your phone. No app you can install from the Google Play Store can make that guarantee, no matter what they claim.

To fully get rid of HummingBad, you need to perform a factory reset on your phone. This will totally erase all of the data you’ve previously installed on your phone, forcing you to start over. Make better decisions this time, don’t install things from places that aren’t the Google Play Store.

Am I really safe from HummingBad?

As long as you stick to the Google Play Store, yes. Google knows companies will use fake buttons to try and get you to click OK for security related things. The Android Security Team won’t allow apps that use these tactics in Google Play, and haven’t done so for a while. Keep that “Unknown sources” box unchecked and only install apps you trust from Google Play. As long as you do this, you’re safe from HummingBad.

Jun 29

Leaked cases confirm Galaxy Note 7 will have curved display

The folks at MobileFun have already received cases for the Note 7. As the rumors suggests, it looks like it will indeed have a curved display.

Jun 19

How to change Android app permissions on your Chromebook

Guarding your privacy by setting Android app permissions on your Chromebook is easy. Here’s what you need to know.

Google’s been working on a system to permit or deny application permissions for a while, and with Marshmallow we saw it go live. With little of the problems and issues many expected, too. Since Android apps on your Chromebook run in their own Android container, you have the same control over permissions as you would on any Android phone or tablet. The only difference is how you get to them. It’s easy — and something we’d like to find its way to Android on your phone, too.

Like any app installed on your Chromebook, you have a right click (or two finger tap on the trackpad) menu. To find all your apps, just click on the magnifying glass in the taskbar. The window that opens has icons for your recently used apps and a shortcut to the all apps page near the top. Click the all apps icon (or tap the screen) to get there. If you’ve installed plenty of Chrome or Android apps, you will probably have multiple pages, and you can swipe between them with the trackpad. Find the app you want to learn more about, and right click — remember that’s a two finger tap on the trackpad — and you’ll see a menu.

One of the items there is labeled App info. If you choose it, you’ll see the standard app information screen from Android. One of the sections here is Permissions, and if you choose it the application permissions window opens. Here you can choose what the app is allowed to do by ticking the small toggle to the right of the window.

Remember that you might lose some functionality in the app if you don’t allow it to do what it wants to do. A well-coded app can work around this, but the workaround might be asking you to enable the permission or just closing itself. Apps are installed on Marshmallow with all permissions denied by default, and if you never visit this setting the app will ask you when it needs to do something like access your storage or rifle through your contacts. And that’s how it should be. My data is mine, and I’ll decide with who and how it’s shared, thank you very much.

Be sure to give this a look, and decide who gets your data and how, too.


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  • Should you buy a Chromebook?
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  • Join our Chromebook forums

Jun 02

Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 has a fancy new screen but costs only $23

Xiaomi’s Mi Band 2 has been officially unveiled by the company. With an increased price of $23, the second generation of the wearable adds exciting new features for budget concious buyers. Features of the new band include a 0.42-inch OLED display, heart activity monitor, step counter, waterproofing and more. For the low price point it’s an absolute steal of a device.

As noted by Engadget, this new display will unfortunately take a toll on the wearable’s battery life, but it’s still an impressive 20 days (compared to the 30 days offered by its predecessor). The Mi Band 2 will be available in black, blue, green, and orange, and will go on sale in China on June 7. There’s no word on worldwide availability as-of-yet.

May 29

GeForce GTX 1070: This is the graphics card you’ve been waiting for

It was clear the day Nvidia announced its new Pascal-powered GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card that there was a new champion for desktop gaming. The GTX 1080, according to Nvidia’s tests and our own, provides a significant bump in graphics power compared to the GTX 980, GTX 980 Ti and GTX Titan X.

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