App Updates Stuck?

So the Victor crew had an interesting problem. The update in the App Store on one of the apps got stuck. It kept spinning and spinning. For days. Tried closing the app in the app manager. Tried closing the App Store app in the app manager. Opened up the app store again. Still spinning.

Of course we “Googled” the problem to see if anyone else had this problem. Some suggestions were to stop the automatic updates in the settings but that didn’t help. Some were to delete the app and redownload or remove the app data. We chose a different way. We rebooted the iPad. That did the trick. So the age-old fix for just about anything is reboot it.

Standing Desks

So you’ve probably heard about standing desks and the benefits of using them. New studies now show they may actually be detrimental. They are said to increase pain and slow down mental ability. They are thought to increase awareness of being sedentary but are causing other problems. Certainly sitting most of your day isn’t goo either.

In the study they found that standing for two hours increased lower back and leg pain, and also that it can cause swelling of veins. Also after standing about an hour and fifteen minutes, mental reactiveness slowed down but creative decision making marginally improved.

So what should you do? Try to make a conscience effort to get up more if you sit for a while – go make a cup of tea. Stand for shorter periods at a time and alternate sitting and standing. Try to get in exercise before or after work.

Source

Vaunt Smart Glasses

Most of us have heard of Google Glass. There is another type of smart eyeglasses that you can get. They look more like regular eyeglasses. You can use head motions to show or dismiss displays. It uses something called VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) to shine into your eyes and projects to the back of your retina (retinal projection). It is made by Intel.

You can see the text just below your usual line of site. They are working to perfect them to be able to show you what you want when you want it. Maybe you are near a couple restaurants. It can show you the yelp review. Or you ask Alexa for a recipe – you can see it on your glasses. They look pretty lightweight next to Google Glass. Only you know you are reading them.

Cryptocurrency Mining

Cryptocurrency is the term given to currency such as bitcoin, ether, or any of the other digital currencies out there. So how does this work?

Cryptocurrency runs on what is called a blockchain, a ledger or document that is duplicated over networks of computers. As this is updated, it is made available to the holder of cryptocurrency. Every transaction is recorded of every cryptocurrency. The blockchain is run by miners. Their computers tally up the transactions. They update the transactions and also make sure of the authenticity of the information received. In payment, miners are paid fees for each transaction. The buyers and sellers agree on the value of the cryptocurrency as it fluctuates.

The transactions are made peer-to-peer without a mediator like a bank. The buyer and seller do not know who the other is, but everyone in the blockchain knows about the transaction as they are made public.

If I wanted to buy something that costs $10,000, and find a seller that accepts cryptocurrency, I would try to find out the current exchange rate get the public cryptocurrency address, say bitcoin, and we would stay anonymous to each other. I would then have my Bitcoin installed to his computer, say 10 bitcoins rated at $1000 each. My bitcoin client would sign the transaction with his private key. The transaction would be verified and transferred and recorded.

Cryptocurrency mining includes adding transaction to the blockchain and releasing new currency. They use special computers, hardware and software, to do this. Lately they’ve taken to using browsers and apps for cryptomining. There is a javascript that they can add to your website. Sometimes they will let you know they are using this, sometimes not. When it was first used it didn’t generate that much money for the miners but now that bitcoin rates have increased, it seems there has been another surge with it.

Coinhive is an alternative to browser ad revenue. They have a javascript for people to put on their website. They are using your computer to mine the bitcoin. Mining takes a lot of power so they look for other ways to use it. A good ad blocker can prevent you from using some of these types of sites. I just got the message from my adblocker when trying to get to coinhive.com. It is used to mine a cryptocurrency called Monero. The owners of the site get 70% of the currency and Coinhive gets the rest. You may never even know it is taking place if you visit a site using this, except maybe your computer runs a little slower. Users with WordPress can even get a plugin for using Coinhive.

One month last year, Malwarebytes blocked 248 million attempts to borrow resources from the Coinhive script. Many of the sites using Coinhive are porn sites or heavily covered with ads anyway. A good antivirus or ad blockers can help. You can also turn off javascript from your browser. Download and use Opera which will block cryptocurrencies.

Coinhive cryptomining scripts were found recently in 19 apps in the Google Playstore. One of the apps had over 100,000 users. They have since been removed from the store.

Here are some of our source articles to find out more:
https://www.benzinga.com/
https://www.symantec.com/
https://www.pcmag.com/
https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/
https://thenextweb.com/

Google Chrome and Ads

Starting February 15, 2018, Google Chrome has begun some ad-filtering. They won’t be blocking all ads but the ones that do not pass the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads. They are targeting the most intrusive ads like the full page ads that block you from seeing the page content and flashing animated ads. In other words, they aren’t out to remove all ads but just the most annoying ones. They are also looking at the number of ads on a page.

You can also install ad blockers in your browser or visit YourAdChoices to optout of ads from the Digital Advertising Alliance.

Shipping with Amazon

If you are a Prime member or already shop with Amazon, you know your packages will come via UPS, FedEx, or even USPS. Amazon is going to launch their own package delivery service called Shipping with Amazon (SWA) as reported Friday. They will roll out in Los Angeles first over the next few weeks then to other cities across the U.S.

They plan to start with third-party Amazon vendors who are already registered. They may also open up to other businesses eventually to directly compete with the other shippers.

To keep your delivery safe from porch pirates, Amazon already has a program called Amazon Key In-Home Delivery. You have to purchase the Amazon Key In-Home Kit, the necessary equipment for $249.99. It includes an indoor security camera and compatible smart lock. They will come and install these for you if you want. When a delivery is made, you will an alert on your smart phone and you can watch the entire delivery.

Difference between Office 365 and Standalone Office Program

You can purchase Office [Year] as a standalone program or purchase a subscription service to Office 365.

Office 2016 (current edition) will run $149.99 and licenses one user on one PC. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Office 365 Home or Personal will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. It also includes 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage space and 60 minutes per month of Skype calls per user. This will run $99.99/year (or $9.99/month) for Home and $69.99/year (or $6.99/month) for Personal. Personal is for 1 user only. Home is for up to 5 users. It also includes apps for devices (including Apple products).

When you have Office 365, you also get the latest Office software. It also has automatic billing so you won’t ever run out. With Office 365, you also get support for any issues.

When Office 2019 is available later this year, it will require you to have Windows 10.

Sources:
Office Support
Microsoft Blog

Living in “Gatesville”

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, Bill Gates bought land in Arizona to build a smart city. He has invested $80 million already in a high-tech planned area near Phoenix of almost 25,000 acres.

Actually called Belmont, it will be designed to have high-speed Internet networks, self-driving vehicles, data centers, and new technologies for manufacturing. Building it from scratch, he is hoping to make it more cost-efficient rather than trying to redo an existing area.

Jody Victor crew learns about Amazon Go

Imagine you are in a rush and need to go to the grocery store. With Amazon Go, you can walk in, get your stuff and walk out. In fact, they call it their Just Walk Out Shopping experience or Just Walk Out Technology.

When you walk in, you use the app to check in (kind of like when boarding a plane) and then do your shopping. Forget your bag? There are plenty of reusable bags for purchase. You will also need an Amazon account.

They offer many ready-to-eat meals and snacks. They want to focus on making healthful meals.

They currently only have one store open to the public in Seattle, WA open 7am-9pm M-F. They do have people in the store to help you, stock shelves, etc. The store was opened last year for its Seattle employees while testing. It just opened to the public recently.

Learn more.

Has this ever happened to you?

You are browsing the Internet and maybe you look at some items and then it seems every where you go you are seeing the same things or related items that you just looked at. Maybe you abandoned a shopping cart or changed your mind about the purchase. Maybe you started filling out a form and stopped in the middle of it. They can’t possibly know what you typed, right? Or can they?

In an article by Motherboard.com, they cite a study done by Princeton University about boundaries. Or rather “No Boundaries.” How do you think Pinterest or Facebook or other social media sites get the information? There are sites such as FullStory that allow website owners to capture every keystroke a user makes. They use “session replay” scripts to capture what the customers are doing on their sites. You can see some of the major companies who use fullstory.com here.

Now more than ever it is important to read websites’ terms and conditions. They may collect things like medical conditions, personal data, credit card info. Passwords may even be “accidently” included in the data.

So what can you do? Run AdBlock Plus in your browser. According to the Princeton study, AdBlock has been updated to block all these scripts, thanks to the study.

This video shows FullStory capturing a user’s data as it is being entered into a form.

CES 2018

CES 2018
The Consumer Technology Association has an annual exhibit called CES (Consumer Electronic Show) that is taking place right now. Actually, it started yesterday January 7 and continues to until Friday the 12th. It is taking place in Las Vegas, NV.

There are many conferences that cover gaming, home electronics, robotics, cars, and sports technology to name a few. There are many exhibits from big tech to startups. This week we may be hearing of more and more tech that is either in the works or coming soon.

Over 20,000 new products will be exhibited, over 900 startups, 2.75 net sq. ft. of exhibit space, many big name innovators. They expect over 170,000 attendees over the next few days. They are even live-streaming on their website. They even have an app to assist you in navigating this huge event.

Go to CES.tech for more info.

Encrypted Text Messaging

Recently a family member told me about an encrypted messaging app called Signal. It not only encrypts your text messages but also conversations. There are a few nice things about it: it is free, it is open source, and it works on both iPhone and Android phones. You can also send documents and images.

There is also a desktop app for your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.

STEM

By now, you have probably heard of STEM education. This encompasses Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. You may see many children’s toys with the STEM acronym on them. Schools that teach STEM education, integrate all aspects rather than separate them into their different disciplines. Doing this allows the student to learn computational thinking and problem solving.

Even Amazon.com has a section devoted to STEM educational toys.

Hopefully you were able to purchase some STEM toys for your children or grandchildren. The future of our children’s learning will depend on STEM even for non-STEM courses as they are a way of learning to look at a full problem from all angles.

Terms of Use

A member of the Victor crew just finished a thriller book obtained through Amazon Prime’s KindleFirst program. It is called Terms of Use by Scott Allan Morrison. The premise is there is a social network called Circles. They undergo a cyber attack. Soon one of the workers is murdered and the main character, Sergio Mansour, uncovers evidence of a conspiracy but he has somehow become the suspect.

On the run with his new girlfriend, Malina, they try to figure out what is going on. Not knowing it in the beginning, Sergio finds out Malina’s sister was murdered and blames it directly on Circles. Not knowing who he can trust he works it out with Malina and they continue to find the truth.

The crux of the mystery is that what was found was “socialbots,” bots that parade as people and interact with people and learn using AI algorithms. The bots were going to be used in a bigger plot to sway people to vote for a certain president whose agenda was to bring the US to own over a third of the earth’s rare earth metals. Once in, a Chinese diplomat was going to blackmail him into not doing this as China would lose out a lot of their economy over this.

The scary part was reading about what the socialbots did. How many times do we “friend” someone that is a friend of a friend that we don’t know. That is how the socialbots got onto so many contact lists. You figure, hey they know them so they must be ok. Then the ideas from their feeds find their way onto your feed and can sway the population that easily. When people signed up, it was said their profile could be used in experimentation and since they clicked the button it was ok. How many of us read the terms of use pages, really? Something to think about.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge has come a long way. The Victor crew tried something out this past week and it works like a charm. You can connect your phone to your PC through Edge. The practical side is if you are looking at something on your phone (small device) and want to view something larger, you can send the page you are viewing on your phone to your PC. And yes, iPhone users, that means you too!

Install Edge on your mobile device (works with iPad as well). Sign in with your Microsoft password.

Scroll to a site and at the bottom you will see some icons.

Browse on Edge Browser

The middle icon (mobile device with arrow) is what you touch to send to your PC.

Next when you see the screen below, you would choose which PC to send it to. I only had one connected PC as shown below (name partially obscured.) Press the PC you want to send the page to.

Send to PC

You are done.

Sent from iPhone to PC

New on iPhone iOS 11

Here are a few new things the Victor crew found in iOS 11 for use in emergencies.

You can add Medical ID for emergency contact. Open the Health app and tap the Medical ID tab. Edit then scroll to Emergency Contacts. Press the + and it will take you to your contacts. On this page, you can also add medical conditions, notes, allergies, and medications as well.

There is Emergency SOS where you can call for help quickly. The Emergency SOS slider and Medial ID slider you can bring up to quickly contact emergency services. For iPhone 7, you will need to press the side button five times to get the sliders to show. For iPhone 8 or X, you would press and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons. After the call ends, the iPhone sends your emergency contacts a text message with your current location unless you cancel. If you have your location services turned off, they will turn back on temporarily.

Find out more here.

Password security

We’ve talked about passwords before and yet it is such an important thing because of all the breaches we see. Some people say they don’t have anything that important so it doesn’t matter or they say they need to use the same password for everything.
This is a totally bad practice and attitude to have about this. Think about all your accounts where you have purchased items, or your banking or credit card accounts. Do you really want to use the same password for everything? Once they breach one account, say your email, they can look through that to find what other accounts you are subscribed to and have a field day. This is even how identities are stolen.

Here are some things you can do:
Go to HaveIBeenPwned.com and check your email for pwnage.
Also click on their password tab and check to see if your passwords are on any common lists.
Use a password manager like LastPass.
Use 2 step verification. Use an authenticator, too.

Once you download LastPass, set it up with a hard to hack easy to remember password (the first video below gives some suggestions on how to find one.) You can then import all the passwords saved to your browsers. Once you have LastPass you can also run a kind of audit check for recommendations on which passwords to change – it will show you duplicates or not so secure passwords you already have.

Firefox Quantum

Firefox just got faster. Two times faster. This past week, Firefox updated to Firefox Quantum (Version 57.0.) There are two versions – one for regular browsers and one for developers. It is built on a new engine for better and faster page loading. It also will use less memory than previously, and they say it is 30% lighter than Chrome.

It has built in privacy modes. You can block even hidden trackers by turning on tracking protection. When you block the ads and scripts that are bogging you down, the page loads even faster.

If there’s a page you want to see later, you can save it to Pocket to view later. There is a library where it will place these articles as well as your bookmarks. You can search with other search engines with just a click. You can also customize it with themes or placement of icons for your tools and addons. You can take screenshots without adding an extension – it’s built right in.

Distracted Walking Laws

So various places are adding “Distracted Walking” laws to try to prevent people from texting or just reading their phones while walking.

The latest place to pass this law was Honolulu. They have started passing out tickets to those distracted while walking in a crosswalk. They are the first major city in the U.S. to pass such a law. Minimum fines will be $15 but repeat offenders can look at $75-$99. (Even higher rates of $100 for first, $200 for second, and $500 for third offenses were previously considered.)

The Mayor of Honolulu says that they had more pedestrians hit in crosswalks than almost anywhere else.

Ontario Canada is looking to pass a “Phones Down, Heads Up Act” as well to make it illegal to cross a street while using a phone.

npr.com
treehugger.com

Adventures in Wikipedia

I’m sure everyone has looked up something in Wikipedia at one time or another. Kevan Davis, a developer in London, has developed a Wikipedia game called Wikipedia: the Text Adventure.

You choose where you want to start and it brings up information from Wikipedia. You can choose one of the locations offered or put something in. You can then choose where to go from there from the offerings it gives. You would type “go ” and then the direction choice from the list. Example: go northeast.

To leave and go to another adventure, you would type exit then yes. Check it out: http://kevan.org/wikitext/

Tech Movie: The Internship

It’s a few years old now, but if you haven’t had the chance to see it, The Internship is quite entertaining. It costars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two washed up salesmen, who lost their jobs to the digital world, trying to figure out a new career path. They decide to try for an internship at Google.

So here are two guys in their mid-forties trying to land an internship against a bunch of 20-somethings. To them it was like having their dads with them. What makes it even more interesting is their lack of tech-savviness against the younger generation but they do bring their life experiences. You will see some Google products in the credits such as Google Drive, Translate, Google+, and more.

Whaling Attacks

We recently came across the term “whaling” so of course, we needed to know more about it. Here is what the Victor crew found out. It is a form of phishing aimed at high-profile business executives, managers, CEOs, etc. They are going after the “big fish.” The emails sent to them are more official looking and target a particular person. A regular phishing attack usually goes out to a lot of people trying to lure anyone. Whaling is also considered “spear phishing” where it is an attempt to target an individual person or company.

As with phishing, whaling is used to get a person to reveal sensitive information, such as login credentials, to an account. They do this by trying to scare the individual into giving this information up.

Whaling goes so far as to make a web page or email that looks like the legitimate one. You may even be enticed into downloading a program in order to view a page or to get your information. It may come in the form of a false subpoena, message from the FBI, or some kind of legal complaint against you.

Be aware of what you are clicking. If you can, hover over the link and see where it is taking you. Try putting the URL in an analyzer, such as VirusTotal or TrendMicro to see if it is safe. If in doubt, don’t click or download anything you are unsure of.

Your Wi-Fi is probably vulnerable

It has recently been found that WPA2 protocol is vulnerable to hacking. They are known as Krack Attacks (Key Reinstallation AttaCKS) and there is a website where you can learn more about it. It is found that Android and Linux are most vulnerable to this exploit. They can be tricked into reinstalling an encryption key with all 0s that will allow them to enter your network and then get to sites you visit and capture your login credentials.

If you watch the video below you will see it is a rather involved process to actually crack into the network but that doesn’t stop someone who is intent on getting into your network.

There isn’t a whole lot you can do because this vulnerability bypasses any security measures. Some of the more simple things you can do is not use unsecure Wi-Fi. Ever. Keep your firmware to your router updated. Do not downgrade to even more insecure protocols like WPA or WEP.

Tech movie: The Circle

We love tech movies. The Victor crew recently got to see The Circle. The main characters are played by Emma Watson (Mae) and Tom Hanks (Bailey). Mae leaves her hum-drum job join a tech/social media company called the Circle.

At first Mae is reticent about sharing her life but is pushed by co-workers to push the boundaries and become more transparent. As she becomes more transparent, she rises through the ranks from customer service to being part of the “inner circle.” She eventually has people all over the world following her, getting to know her, her friends, her family, and all she does.

As the movie moves along, eventually tragedy happens. Without giving away the full plot, through this tragedy and people she meets, she exposes the top people of the Circle and keeps them from hiding their secrets.

The taglines: Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better.
Some other lines are: Secrets are lies. Sharing is caring. Privacy is theft.

The movie trailers:

A new way to call

Last week, Amazon announced new devices. Among the new devices are the Echo Show, costing $229.99. This is a more triangular device with a screen. It allows you to make video calls as well. They are offering $100 off if you buy 2 devices with code SHOW2PACK. You can actually watch flash news briefings, see lyrics of songs, security cameras, just to name a few.

Other new devices are a shorter new Echo, the Echo Plus and the 4K Fire TV device. Also announced was the Echo Connect, Echo Buttons, and BMW partnership. The Echo Connect is an accessory to link Echo to home phone line. It costs $35 and is coming later in the year.

If you already own an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show, effective immediately you can make phone calls. It is supposed to work with your land line or your mobile phone.

Echo Show at Amazon.com