Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Google Glass Project Shelved: An End Of An Era?

With the powers-that-be at Google deciding to end its Google Explorer Program in January 19, 2015, is the Google Glass Project just too cleaver for its own good?

By: Ringo Bones 

During its launch five years ago, Google used to call early adapters of its Google Glass device as “software developers” which sounds to the rest of us as a euphemism of the gadget obsessed with the requisite 1,500 US dollars to satisfy their own curiosity. But during the five years of its existence, the powers-that-be at the Ivory Towers of Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters had decided near the end of 2014 to end the Google Explorer Program – the corporate decision at Google that allowed the Google Glass to be sold to “software developers” for 1,500 US dollars – to end it by January 19, 2015 because the “cleverness” of the Google Glass outweighed the privacy concerns that eventually ensued. But should the Google Glass be chucked into the technological dustbin of history? 

As a clever gadget with internet-connectivity, the Google Glass managed to create waves when it was introduced five years ago because it has no competing counterparts. Sony and Apple had similar devices at the time that never got beyond the development stage because they can’t make it as “cheap” as Google’s. And since Google’s announcement to end the Google Glass Project / Google Explorer Program in January 19, 2015, internet-connected gadget blogs are abuzz of musings on how the Google Glass became the most famous piece of wearable technology of the last five years. 

The privacy concerns outcry of the Google Glass users mostly stems from the most of the so-called “software developers” inability to properly set the privacy settings of the device. And there are, allegedly, an incident where a Google Glass owner’s residence got burglarized because his home’s alarm code was known by a burglar who saw his uploaded videos while wearing the Google Glass. January 19, 2015 may have came and went, but is the Google Glass Project totally shelved? 

i-Savi: Internet Connectivity In The Middle of Nowhere?

On harrowing tales of people wandering into remote corners of the world with no internet connectivity whatsoever, will the Inmarsat supported i-Savi soon make this a thing of the past? 

By: Ringo Bones 

One of Inmarsat’s supported Isat Phone Hub is finally here to put an end of those harrowing tales of adventurous tourist inadvertently wandering into remote corners of the world with no internet access whatsoever – at least for those who can afford the rather steep digital minutes in comparison to a typical home connection. I-Savi – an Inmarsat supported smartphone hub manufactured by Add Value of Singapore is one of the widely available of the low cost series of new gadgets that allows one internet connectivity in the middle of nowhere via communication satellites orbiting high above their current location. 

The unit is smartly packaged and small at 7-in. by 7-in. and 1.5-in thick, i-Savi is relatively easy to use in comparison to Operation Desert Storm era hand-held satellite communication gadgets but currently offers very little room for improvement in the ergonomic / man-machine-interface side. Like the competing Iridium GO and Globalsat Sat-Fi, the Inmarsat i-Savi utilizes two smartphone apps to control the unit. One app allows you connectivity of your i-Savi device, the “nearest” orbiting Inmarsat satellite with the local Wi-Fi you’ve just established in your remote corner of the world and the ability to turn on and off Internet Protocol data. The second app is much like the competing Iridium GO app with icons for voice and text messaging. 

Once you’ve attached the fully charged battery that came with your i-Savi that allows it to run for two hours before recharging, it is best to test the gadget outside with a clear view of the open sky and on the very first time of turning on the unit, it usually takes about five minutes for the i-Savi to acquire a GPS signal lock or signal fix. The next step is to point the unit towards the Inmarsat satellite servicing your immediate geographical location and utilize the green pointing arrows displayed by the unit to optimize the signal.
With your smartphone connected to the i-Savi via the local Wi-Fi you’ve just set up, you can now check the status whether your i-Savi unit is properly registered on the Inmarsat Satellite Service Registry and your immediate geographical location’s Inmarsat Satellite Service signal strength – the stronger the better. With all that in place, your i-Savi is now ready to go through its operational phases. 

During hands-on testing, I was about 15 feet from the unit with my smartphone at hand and the unit worked fine. According to the instruction book that came with the unit, the local Wi-Fi st-up by your i-Savi device can work up to a radius of 50-feet and will support multiple users. And it is moderately fast when it comes to opening and viewing e-mails and “minimalist” websites given that when the testing was done in the southern tip of Cebu province here in the Philippines back in December 29, 2014 when an approaching typhoon shut down the local internet service. But it can be frustratingly slow when using Facebook in comparison to a dedicated 3-G internet connection. 

As our testing of the i-Savi was done during an Airsoft military simulation game in the hinterlands of southern Cebu, the i-Savi truly lives up to its name of providing internet connectivity in the middle of nowhere. As in it is quite capable of uploading relatively high resolution photos taken by smartphones equipped with an 8 to 16 megapixel camera in a test demonstrating the i-Savi’s capability of capturing photographic evidence of a “simulated war crime”. By the way, our photo upload test cost us about 15 US dollars in Inmarsat satellite phone data usage fees. Satellite Phone Solutions and other shops selling satellite phone related gadgets around South-East Asia sells the i-Savi for around 1,400 US dollars and rents the unit for 99 US dollars per week. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Is There An Invisible Interactive Boyfriend / Girlfriend App?

It may be frowned upon in most social circles, but are there situations where an ultra realistic invisible interactive boyfriend / girlfriend app could “literally” save your life?

By: Ringo Bones 

Some might have been smitten by the movie Her where Joaquin Phoenix dated his artificial intelligent operating system played Scarlet Johanssen, while some got disgusted when college football star Manti Te'o never got a clue that his “girlfriend” was a cruel hoax. The concept of having an imaginary boyfriend or girlfriend is highly frowned upon in most social circles of the working class in the industrialized West. Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb might have joked about the very idea back in 2012, but are there situations where an app that allows one to have an imaginary invisible boyfriend or girlfriend app with a proviso for “real time interactive proof” can “literally” save your life? 

Even though it currently only serves in the greater Southern California region, there is already a virtual boyfriend / girlfriend app whose services that you can avail to. Inspired by those 1998 era Tamagotchi virtual pets, the invisible virtual boyfriend / girlfriend app can be consided a much more evolved version of their Tamagotchi virtual pet counterparts and could even score higher in a Turing Test. And with a “premium service” of 24.99 US dollars a month, your virtual invisible boyfriend / girlfriend would seem so real to any of your acquaintances who doesn’t have the need to know. The service includes your virtual boyfriend or girlfriend to send you text messages, e-mails and even voicemails twice or more a day and will even snail mail you a hand-written letter vial the US Postal Service for at least once a month. Will such services soon become widespread to keep one’s stalking ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends at bay? Better ones could prove useful when you want to avoid being set up to a blind date of the “ugliest bunch” especially if you have just started working in such a “hostile workplace”. 

Sony Pictures Entertainment: A De Facto Cyber Terrorist Group?

The famed multinational entertainment company may have gained the world’s sympathy after the cyber attack by North Korea and other rogue hackers that almost brought it to its knees near the end of 2014, but is Sony nothing more than a de facto cyber terrorist group?

By: Ringo Bones 

Ever wondered why the famed multinational entertainment company Sony Pictures Entertainment has become the proverbial “whipping boy” of rogue hackers (Guardians Of Peace) and state sponsored cyber-terror groups (North Korea’s Bureau 121 and Unit 61318 of the Beijing 50-Cent Cyber Army) years before the brazen cyber attack aimed at the Kim Jong Un assassination spoof movie titled The Interview on its scheduled Christmas 2014 release? Well, US President Barack Obama might have used Sony Pictures Entertainment as a platform of the entire planet’s last bastion of free speech in a world increasingly inching towards “illiberal democracy” and thus making Sony, Seth Rogen, James Franco and some the world’s sympathy when it comes to one’s right of free expression. 

Unfortunately, virtually all of the world’s population remains clueless of a “grave crime” committed by Sony Pictures Entertainment in the form of its “XCP Rootkit copy protection software”. 
There might be some truth to the fact that Sony Pictures Entertainment might have “inadvertently” made themselves into one of the world’s first cyber terror groups by the multinational company’s first attempts to secure its own intellectual property and other copyrighted works from online piracy at the height of the NAPSTER debacle back in 1999. Copy protection and Digital Rights Management (DRM) measures that date back to a Sony Pictures Entertainment meeting back in August, 2000 when statements made by Sony Pictures Entertainment’s US Senior Vice President Steve Heckler foreshadowed the events that eventually led to the creation of the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software when Heckler told attendees at the Americas Conference on Information Systems that: “The industry (Sony Pictures Entertainment) will take whatever steps it needs to protect itself and protect its revenue streams…”         

The debacle that resulted in the “over zealous” copy protection measures of the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software that eventually became the Sony Digital Rights Management copy protection rootkit scandal of 2005 to 2007 might have “inconvenienced” everyone wanting to clone an expensive rare CD for use in their car stereo or portable players in line with existing Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Fair Use laws might be overshadowed by a greater debacle of former US President George W. Bush’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina back in Autumn of 2005. It unfortunately swept the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit debacle and the dangers it poses under the rug from the radar of the general public. 

According to his personal blog entry in October 31, 2005 of Microsoft’s information technology researcher-in-residence Mark Russinovich who – amongst countless others – who were the first to have uncovered the main dangers posed by the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software are as follows: 1) It creates security holes that can be exploited by malicious software such as worms or viruses. 2) It constantly runs in the background and excessively consumes system resources, slowing down the user’s computer, regardless of whether there is a Sony BMG XCP Rootkit protected CD playing. 3) It employs unsafe procedures to star and stop which could lead to system crashes. 4) It has no uninstaller and is installed in such a way that inexpert attempts to uninstall it can lead to the operating system to fail to recognize existing drives. Soon after Russinovich’s first blog post, there were several Trojans and worms exploiting XCP’s security holes. Some people even used the vulnerabilities to cheat in online games – i.e. Sony’s Playstation consoles’ online games capabilities. 

At the height of the Sony Digital Rights Management copy protection XCP Rootkit scandal, there were 22 million Sony BMG CDs equipped with the “copy protection software” that allowed them to install one of the two pieces of software which provided a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) by modifying the operating system to interfere with CD copying via your personal computer. Both programs couldn’t easily be uninstalled and they created vulnerabilities that were exploited by other malware. Sony claims this was unintentional. 

Following public outcry, government investigations and class action lawsuits in 2005 and 2006, Sony BMG partially addressed the scandal with consumer settlements, a recall of 10 percent of the affected CDs and suspension of CD copy protection efforts in early 2007. Sadly, the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software still wreak havoc in donated computers often used in public school computer labs in developing countries set up by set up by leading charity groups like the Clinton Global Initiative / Clinton Foundation since free online antivirus software programs are powerless against the Sony BMG XCP copy protection software. Some IT experts say that only premium antivirus software packages costing 50 US dollars and above are the minimum required to keep the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software at bay in infected desktop PCs. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Can Your Wet Smartphone And Laptop Computer be Saved?

Despite the busted myth that rice actually do squat in saving your wet Smartphone, laptop or tablet type computer – is there actually an effective way to “resurrect” your dunked personal electronic devices? 

By: Ringo Bones 
Actually there is a commercial service providing firm that could effectively dry and “resurrect” dunked in the toilet water / diet coke / even seawater tablet computer, Smartphone and even laptops that you’ve accidentally dunked into these various bodies of water and if they can’t “resurrect” it, you don’t have to pay service charges. TekDry has already been in this personal electronic saving business for almost two years. Based in Loveland, Colorado and founded by three former University of Denver graduates – Adam Coockson and Craig Beinecke started TekDry after thousands of people were mislead by claims of the internet that a 5-pound bag of rice and a hairdryer can actually save your Smartphone, laptop, or tablet type computer that has been dunked in toilet water, diet coke or a large body of water. 

TekDry uses a proprietary device that works via the principle of negative pressure invented by Adam Cookson and Craig Beinecke to vacuum dry dunked Smartphones, laptops, tablet type computers and other personal electronic devices. Most damage to these devices occur when the device is still on with its battery still attached as it is dunked into water or softdrink poured onto it, instantly producing galvanic corrosion on the circuit traces. Previous methods with dubious claims – like that 5-pounds of rice takes your wet Smartphone much slower to dry than just leaving it unpowered on the counter while the hairdryer method actually moves moisture into the smaller circuit traces – causing more damage. 

TekDry recommends immediately powering down as your device gets dunked or wetted, remove the batteries and Simcards and if you are within a comfortable drive in their offices, bring your dunked device to them for the “TekDry” vacuum drying treatment. TekDry charges $70 to dry and resurrect a Smartphone, $150 for a tablet type computer and $250 for a laptop. If it doesn’t turn on again, you don’t have to pat anything. TekDry’s greatest “miracle” is managing to “resurrect” a Smartphone that spent 36 hours at the bottom of the lake before being brought to them for treatment by the owner.