Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Warning re Internet Explorer

From CNET:
It's not often that the US or UK governments weigh in on the browser wars, but a new Internet Explorer vulnerability -- one that affects all major versions of the browser from the past decade -- has forced them to raise an alarm: Stop using IE.
The zero-day exploit -- the term given to a previously unknown, unpatched flaw -- allows attackers to install malware on your computer without your permission. That malware could be used to steal personal data, track online behavior, or gain control of the computer. Security firm FireEye, which discovered the bug, said that the flaw is being used with a known Flash-based exploit technique toattack financial and defense organizations in the US via Internet Explorer 9, 10, and 11. Those versions of the browser run on Microsoft's Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8, although the exploit is present in Internet Explorer 6 and above.
While the Computer Emergency Readiness Team in England and the US regularly issue browser advisories, this is one of the few times that the CERT team has recommended that people avoid using a particular browser. Specifically, the advisory says administrators and users should "review Microsoft Security Advisory 2963983 for mitigation actions and workarounds" and that people who can't implement those stopgap measures, Windows XP users among them, "may consider employing an alternate browser."
FireEye recommends that if you can't switch browsers, then disable Internet Explorer's Flash plug-in. You also can use IE with Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) security app, but that will not be as secure as simply switching browsers.
In a statement, Microsoft told CNET, "On April 26, 2014, Microsoft released Security Advisory 2963983 to notify customers of a vulnerability in Internet Explorer. At this time we are aware of limited, targeted attacks. We encourage customers to follow the suggested mitigations outlined in the security advisory while an update is finalized."
The company advises Internet Explorer users that the Enhanced Protected Mode, on by default in IE 10 and IE 11, used with EMET, "will help protect against this potential risk."

Monday, April 28, 2014

About Time 2013

Movies with either Marisa Tomei, Sandra Bullock, or Rachel McAdams should not be allowed to miss. Unfortunately, About Time does. It is nothing to one's understanding of time-travel movies, and it's endless attempts at tender moments becomes tedious. Even as a half-hour television sitcom it would not make it. As a seemingly 10 hour feature film, it's numbing even if many of the characters are actually likeable.

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2194499/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Friday, April 25, 2014

Smart Thermostat and More

There are wonderful environmental, economic, and convenience reasons to go with a smart thermostat. Used correctly, they can save you alot on your electricity bill, you can program them much easier than a traditional thermostat, and you can see and control your thermostat from any computer anywhere or from your phone or tablet anywhere. While there are excellent stand-alone smart thermostats like the Nest, the smart thermostat with the Iris system from Lowe's is less expensive, easier to use, and far more adaptable. So even if you don't want the Iris alarm system, the hub controller and the thermostat will cost you just $200. And then, if you ever want, you can add accessories to control all kinds of things in your house remotely, like switches, locks, bulbs, and electric outlets, as well as add alarm features with motion sensors and door/window devices, and have camera streaming and recording anywhere in the house. As if that weren't great enough, you can take the whole thing with you should you move. Anything you buy ships free (with 2-day delivery), the customer support is excellent, and anything can be returned for full credit (with no return shipping fee--a UPS or FedEx label is included with the shipment) no questions asked.

Link to Lowe's Iris: http://www.lowes.com/cd_What+Is+Iris_695688710_

Thursday, April 24, 2014


IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That, makes it possible to connect various physical and digital services to carry out tasks that wouldn't be possible otherwise. With IFTTT, you can create a recipe to automatically backup your contacts to a Google Drive spreadsheet on a regular basis, or only when changes are made. On iOS, you can even control your lights using Siri. Endless possibilities is a phrase I often overuse when talking about IFTTT.
With the release of the Android app, IFTTT brings additional triggers and features to the service. Since Android allows access to capabilities iOS developers can only dream of, IFTTT can take full advantage of Android's "open" philosophy. For example, Android users of the IFTTT app can have text messages automatically backed up to Google Drive or Dropbox. Or you can opt to have a text sent for you, without you having to do a thing, when you arrive or leave a specific location. You can even log your phone calls, including only tracking calls from a specific phone number. The only limitation on what you can automate with IFTTT is your imagination.
IFTTT will be hitting the publish button later today. Once live, it will be available in the Play Store, or you can check the IFTTT mobile site for download links to both the iOS and Android versions.

Google Camera Is Worth Using Instead of the Installed Camera on Pre-HTC One M8 and Samsung S5 Phones

The Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 are both capable of refocusing photos after they have been taken. The M8 achieves this with a second depth of field sensor located above the camera, while the S5 does this entirely through software.
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET
The newly released Google Camera, which is available for devices running Android 4.4 or higher, has a similar feature known as Lens Blur that allows you to adjust the amount of background blur on a photo.

Not Your Father's Cellphone Case

The CandyShell Amped case from Speck.
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PROTECTIVE phone cases have become practically a necessity since the introduction of smartphones. After all, why pay hundreds of dollars for a phone and not spend a little bit more to protect it?
In the last couple of years, case makers have moved beyond providing mere protection, adding features like pockets for credit cards or a battery pack to supply an extra jolt of power. The latest generation of cases offers even more possibilities.
BIGGER SOUND Speck has been a leader at creating innovative cases. In 2012, the company was awarded a patent for the design of its CandyShell case, which fuses a hard exterior with a rubbery interior. Speck also devised a way to embed vibrant, high-resolution graphics that resist scratching.
Now, Speck has come up with a sound amplification case called CandyShell Amped, which produces louder and clearer sound without cables, external speakers or extra batteries. To achieve that, the case redirects sound from the phone’s loudspeaker through a horn-shaped cavity to an exit on the side of the case. Speck says the amplification provided by the case, which will be available on Friday for $45, can double the volume of a phone’s speakers.
The Space Pack case, which contains a hard drive, and Space app from Mophie.
AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE The Mophie brand is known for offering protection and power with its popular Juice Pack cases. Now, it’s seeking to add storage to that equation with its latest case, the Space Pack for the iPhone 5 and 5S. In addition to recharging your battery, the Space Pack can store an additional 16,000 photos, 14 hours of video or 9,000 songs. Other file types work as well; you can store them on the Space Pack by dragging and dropping them from your computer. To charge the case or sync content, you need a micro USB cable, which is included.
Because Space Pack is an external hard drive, the files are accessible through an app on the phone. The app does a great job of organizing those files; for instance, music can be sorted by artist, album, songs and favorites (and it found album art that iTunes could not). For added security, you can set up a passcode on the app.
The TaskOne case from TaskLab features 22 tools hidden inside, including pliers, a bottle opener, two screwdrivers and a knife.
But the Space Pack isn’t cheap: The 32-gigabyte Space Pack costs $180 (a 16-gigabyte version is available for $30 less). Still, the Space Pack is a convenient way to double the battery life and storage of your iPhone.
A TOOLBOX IN A PINCH Last year, the start-up TaskLab introduced the Task-
One, a $70 multifunction iPhone case with 22 tools hidden inside, including pliers, a bottle opener, two screwdrivers and a knife, which can be removed, making the case compliant with Transportation Security Administration rules. A sort of Swiss Army knife for your phone, the TaskOne can come in handy in a MacGyver-type emergency. I was able to use it recently to put together a bookcase (although I eventually switched to more traditional tools, which provided better grip and leverage).
The QS1 case from Vysk Communications.
The TaskOne was successful enough to help TaskLab start raising money through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to finance two new cases, myTask Bike and myTask Urban. The Bike will provide a basic repair kit for changing a flat tire, including six Allen wrenches, tire patches and two screwdrivers, and the Urban will include an 8-gigabyte USB drive, scissors, tweezers, a stylus, a pen, a mirror and an LED. The company is taking orders for the new cases, which it says will be shipped in July.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beyond Way Cool: Controlling a PC or Mac Remotely With Your Android Device

Google published its Chrome Remote Desktop app in the Chrome Web Store, along with the Android app in the Play store. The two apps work in tandem, allowing users to control a PC orMac from anywhere, using an Android device.
The setup process is simple, taking roughly 5 minutes and little technical knowledge. With the goal of controlling a computer, let's start by installing the Chrome Web app. Using Chrome, visit and install the Remote Chrome Desktop app on your computer. You can find it on the Chrome Web Store site.
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET
After installing the Chrome app you'll be guided through a series of dialogues and prompts. Follow the instructions, granting permission where required. Be sure to install the additional piece of software that makes the magic happen. Last, you'll be asked if you want to grant remote assistance or access your own computers. The former option is useful when trying to troubleshoot a relative's computer; the latter is for your personal use. Selecting your computers (instead of remote assistance) will ask you to enter a PIN. The PIN is required each time you attempt to connect to the computer from your Android device.
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET
Now that you've granted permissions, installed software, and set up a PIN -- the hard part is over. The final piece of the puzzle involves downloading the Android app (from the Google Play store). Assuming you're signed into the same account in both Chrome and on your Android device, the app will automatically display your controllable computers. Select the computer you want to control and enter your PIN to connect. Pretty simple.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Best Free Navigation App for Android

While there are a lot of mobile GPS Navigation apps, Most of them are not free and require an active data connection to show the map of our current location in real-time. Fortunately there is  MapFactor: GPS Navigation , a very capable free app That Works with previously downloaded maps and using your GPS to guide you through your journey.
The app's main menu Consists of six shortcuts that offer all the functionality you will need, although the 'tools', 'map' and 'navigate' are the ones you will use the most. There are three additional buttons at the bottom: Settings, Map Manager and Exit. In order to configure the app to your specific needs, the 'settings' button is the place to go. It contains all the options the app offers (vehicle profiles, the measure units, find points of interest and such), so make sure this is the first place you go before using the app.
MapFactor use OpenStreetMap maps and downloads them to your phone memory Directly through the 'Map manager'. All the maps are free and the list is really long; They can take from a few megabytes to several hundred Depending on the places (states or countries) you need to cover. Although downloading maps can be an annoying task Considered by some people, This kind of approach lets the app to work completely offline eleven you hit the road, so it is perfect for users que no not have a 3G connection or find Themselves driving through remote routes with very limited or null mobile data coverage. It is a clever way to avoid expensive roaming data rates Those, too. Another benefit is That You can perform a smooth international routing without switching to a less detailed map eleven you cross into another country.
Selecting your starting and destination points is an easy task, just go to the map, tap on any Desired location and then tap on the flag with a 'S' letter located at the top. The same goes for your destination, although You have to hit the checkered flag instead. Once You have your starting September and destination locations, you can use the 'tools' menu to calculate the best route available, simulate it, calculate the ETA, or activate the odometer. You can September to rotate the map in your driving direction (dynamic), or up north (static).
MapFactorWhile navigating, the app shows 3 slots at the bottom of the screen; each can show different information and you can choose different options ranging Among 15 from your current altitude, to the time to the next maneuver, your current speed, or the distance left to your destination, Among Others.
OpenStreetMap's data is updated monthly, and its advanced features allow you to draw your own route using different routing modes Such as pedestrian, bicycle, truck, bus or car. For this last one, the application Incorporates a practical option for radars / speed detection cameras, so it will warn With An audible alert Whenever you approach one. Also, as With Other major GPS navigation apps, MapFactor Gives You The Ability to display maps in 2D or the 3D compass different options, a special 'night mode' to Prevent the screen to dazzle You When driving at night, and voice guiding Among other great features.
Ultimately, MapFactor: Navigation GPS navigation is an amazing tool That will save you a lot of money and trouble if you are the kind of person That drives a lot, Whether it is for leisure or living. Even though the use OpenStreetMap maps MapFactor are not as detailed or as eye-candy Google's, They are accurate and get the job done. The app is available for any device running Android 2.3 and up. The download size varies Depending on your device, but it lies Between 9 to 11.5 MB and will take around 13 MB installed eleven. The app is ad-supported, but the only time you will see them is while downloading maps, so it is a fair deal.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Heartbleed for Firefox

An earlier post noted an extension for Chrome that would detect if a website you were about to access was vulnerable to Heartbleed. Here is such an extension for Firefox:


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Additional Security When Using Public Wi-Fi

Hotspot Shield is a free tool and service that lets you connect to the Internet via Virtual Private Network (VPN). Hotspot Shield is mainly geared toward those who want a more secure connection when accessing the Internet from public Wi-Fi hotspots.


Value: Hotspot Shield is one of the largest free VPN services in the world. Though the free version is ad-supported, the paid Elite tier comes at an affordable price, with cross-platform support.
Customizable: Hotspot Shield allows you to connect from other countries. This not only helps to shield your connection origins, but it also potentially lets you access content that's available only from certain global regions.
Control: Hotspot Shield's dashboard gives you an overview of the protection status and data speeds for both uploads and downloads, allowing you to monitor your connection performance.


Ad disruptive: Hotspot Shield Free occasionally shows up as a pop-up or header on the top of your browser. While this window may be closed, it does become rather tedious to have to close it every time.
Limited connection: The free version does not allow you to connect from other locations or regions.

Bottom Line

Hotspot Shield is a lightweight VPN solution that we recommend for anyone who's even slightly concerned about privacy. The free version may be riddled with a few ads, but it's a service that's worth the price, especially if you find yourself frequently accessing the Internet from public places. Hotspot Shield is a valuable service and remains competitive with other premium VPN services.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Google's Image-Search Prowess

Let's say you broke a dinner plate and so now you are 1 plate short of set. You don't remember where you bought the set and nothing on any of the plates gives any clue. If you take a photo of the plate, and you go to The Google/Images, and upload the picture, The Google just might be able to find a replacement source for you.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Cameyo is a program designed to create standalone, independent and portable application containers from a software installation. Cameyo works as follows. You fire up the program, and based on your set of features, you run an installation, capturing the changes to your system, including files, folders, registry, and other items. Once this step is complete, Cameyo replicates the steps in a virtual file system of its own, to make a portable version of your installed app. Once this step is complete, you can take the Cameyo package and distribute it as you want, within the limits of the law, of course, or use it in a portable manner on another machine. This really is impressive.

Download Link: http://www.cameyo.com/

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Home Security Systems 2

There are three ways to go with home security systems: nothing; monitoring with a monthly fee; and setting up your own system. Monitoring with a monthly fee generally is low-cost to set up but then will run close to $50/month and will entail a 2Y or 3Y contract. Nothing cost nothing to set up and is a totally reasonable alternative. Setting up you own system will cost a couple or a few hundred dollars and have a monthly fee of zero. Now, here's the key thing: The only difference between the monitoring ($50/month) service and setting up your own system is that the monitoring system will call the police after trying to contact you or your designees while you or your designees would call the police with your own system. Both have effectively the same sensors and the same accessories and work the same. Now here is the really cool thing: Even with your own system, you can have a camera as part of the system so that, if the alarm is tripped, you can get instant streaming on your smartphone so you'll know if it's a real alarm (in which case you can call the police) or a false alarm) and it will record what it sees so if there is an intruder the intruder will be caught on video. Also, with you own system, just like the monitoring system, you can put your thermostat on the system, as well as your locks, your light bulbs and more. Also, you have amazing flexibility to set up and customize and control the system through your phone, tablet, or computer. The monitoring systems are well known and easily found through The Google. The two best own systems are Lowes' Iris system and iSmartAlarm.

Amazon Free Shipping Returns

Let's say you buy something for $10-15 from Amazon and it's defective. You can return it without question for a refund (and if it's from Amazon and not a third-party for replacement). Some items have free shipping returns but others do not. Even if yours does not, if you call Amazon and nicely explain that a return shipping fee on such a small option is not cost effective and nicely ask if there are any options, there is a good chance Amazon will send you a pre-paid shipping label. This might be only for Premium customers but might be for all.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Heartbleed Detector for Android Devices

The OpenSSL vulnerability impacts some Android devices. Although the likelihood that you will encounter an exploit is low, Lookout Mobile Security's Heartbleed Detector app will let you know if your operating system is affected by the Heartbleed bug and if the vulnerable behavior is enabled. 

Download Link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lookout.heartbleeddetector

Thursday, April 10, 2014


If your using Chrome, there is a free Chromebleed add-on that will give you a real-time warning if you visit a website that still is not patched against the Heartbleed Bug.

Download Link: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/chromebleed/eeoekjnjgppnaegdjbcafdggilajhpic

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5

Pros: Big screen, waterproof, fewer pre-installed apps of little or no use, easy to use and easier than previous Galaxies, better battery life, better connectivity, well-priced.

Cons: Heavier than previous Galaxies, some silly lights at the top, nothing earth-shakenly new (other than waterproofing).

Bottom-Line: It's a bigger and better phone than its predecessors but it's not a must-upgrade-to. HTC and the Moto are not that dissimilar (although the HTC does not have a removeable battery which is a big negative) nor is the Sony phone which also is waterproofed, and the iPhone 6 just might have a decent-sized screen (but assuredly will be far more expensive and also likely will not have a removeable battery).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reboot Before Calling the Repair Shop or Buying a Replacement

Triage by rebooting is not limited to computers, smartphones, tablets, and cable boxes. It is the first thing to try if any electronics-based product stops working. For example, if your microwave oven stops working, pulling out the plug, waiting, and plugging it back in just might bring it back to life.

Best Android Keyboard

MultiLing Keyboard is a very feature-rich app that can be customized to suit your specific needs. It includes a lot of dictionaries, personalization options, text prediction, voice input and a fair amount of visual themes. MultiLing Keyboard provides advanced customization options to the point of being able to learn from the daily use and build your own keyboard structure. As if these features were not enough, there is the possibility to swipe, turn it into a full floating keyboard, a calculator or a text converter; all these while delivering a smooth experience in a lightweight app.
MultiLing Keyboard LandscapeTalking about lightness, this is one of the aspects that really stands out, and it clearly shows on how little its impact on the RAM is. While keyboards like SwiftKey or Swype consume between 30 to 40 MB when working, MultiLing uses around 14 MB. This also shows in the size of the application itself: 1.50 MB once installed.
During our test, the keyboard proved to be rock-solid and practical, both on portrait and landscape modes. When installed on a tablet, the app used an intelligent landscape mode that created a gap in the middle, which proved to be very practical and usable, especially if you like to use your thumbs. In any case, you can change the keyboard layout and color as well as the buttons and the characters’ size to your liking.
In short, MultiLing has a slick design and simple configuration, supports almost every major language in the world and is very RAM friendly. It is a 926 KB download and will work on any device running Android 2.1 and up. Needless to say, this is a completely free app, so you won’t see any ads or in-app purchases.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lowering Your Cable Bill

Here are some tips from Consumer Reports on how to negotiate with your cable company:

Showing Battery Percentage on an iPhone

Many people find the battery bars on the iPhone not very helpful and would like to know the actual percentage of battery power left. No problem. Go to Settings/General/Usage and turn on the switch next to Battery Percentage.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Home Security Systems

I have no advice concerning which company to use or which features to get or omit in a monitored (i.e., monthly-fee) security system. Some argue they are not worth it. See, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/kqu63bo. That said, here are some advisos in shopping for a monitor: (i) if you savor the unbridled thrill of dealing with the hardest-core-boiler-room operations, start calling home security system companies--no one does it "better"; (ii) they fib and exaggerate about their own systems, but even more exciting, mention a competitor and you will get excited utterances and outright lies (e.g., Company B will tell you Company A and its website were lying when they said you could have 1Y contract because "there are no contracts in the industry of under 3Ys); (iii) the websites make it very difficult or even impossible to actually comparison shop or even to figure out such basics as contract terms or termination penalties or other options; (iv) if you decide to buy a monitoring system, do it over the phone and be sure to ask if there is any discount available for choosing that company during that call as opposed to continuing to comparison shop--the answer will assuredly be "yes" and, unless you ask, there will be no such discount, which can range from $100 to a few hundred dollars just on the equipment purchase and activation fee--and if you try to hang-up without buying a system, they will offer you that discount "during this call only";  (v) there are many variables and moving parts that also contribute to making comparison shopping difficult (e.g., contract length; termination fee; equipment cost; activation fee; app fee; monthly charge; type of alerts; mode of alerts; number of alerts; type of equipment; capability of equipment; accessories; and more); (vi) the systems now are wireless and any quoted price will assume you do the install yourself; and (vii) the first thing they will ask for is permission to auto-call-you-back---do not give your consent for this--it is not needed to do a deal. The bottom line is this: Buying a new car or slitting one's wrists are likely more enjoyable than shopping for an alarm system. Considering a home system (such as the Iris from Lowe's) without monitoring (and the monthly monitoring fee and contract) but includes email or text alerts to the account holder that also can include remote control over a thermostat, lights, and other devices, and can be bought for under $200-300 depending on accessories, or with simple monitoring for $10/month (that can be turned on and off and back on and back off any time and the $10 charge will be prorated) with email or text alerts to up to 20 other people, appears to be a very reasonable and for many a terrific alternative.