11.29.2016

Ransomware Strikes San Francisco Transportation

HDDCryptor variant shuts down ticketing systems


Black Friday was stressful for a lot of people, particularly San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation agency (often abbreviated Muni). An infestation of ransomware took down ticketing systems for Muni’s train stations along with systems used to manage San Franciso’s buses. The malware’s operator demanded 100 bitcoins (about $73,000).

“The malware’s operator demanded 100 bitcoins (about $73,000).”

Effects of the ransomware could be seen on screens in station agents’ booths at Muni train stations, which displayed the message “You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted.” The message contained an email address which has been tied to variants of both Mamba and HDDCryptor ransomwares.

On Friday and Saturday, train stations’ gates remained open with ticket machines displaying out of order messages. During this time, passengers were allowed to ride for free, and bus drivers were given handwritten route assignments. Most of the system’s functions were restored by Sunday.

In an email exchange, the attacker told Threatpost that they will release about 30GB of sensitive data if the SFMTA did not contact them or fix the vulnerability. Spokesperson Paul Rose told Threatpost that no customer privacy or transaction information was stolen. He stated “We have never considered paying ransom and don’t intend to. The attack did not penetrate our firewalls and we are able to restore systems through the work of internal staff.”
“The attack did not penetrate our firewalls and we are able to restore systems through the work of internal staff.”

Paul Rose added that the transit services (bus, streetcar and cable cars) were never affected, and riders were not at risk. He declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.

11.27.2016

Davis's Tech News November 19 - 27

"Davis's Tech News" is a weekly digest of #technews curated by D&theJM's Senior Technology Correspondent, Davis.



Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it shut down at the end of September. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davistechnews

11.23.2016

Apple Chose the Wrong Port to Keep on the iPhone 7

Lightning connector less versatile than headphone jack


When the iPhone 7 was announced back in September, Apple revealed its most polarizing design choice since the iMac shipped without a floppy drive: the new iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack. Cupertino decided to keep the iPhone as unnecessarily slim as its predecessors, adding a larger battery and vibration motor branded the “Taptic Engine” by omitting one of the most ubiquitous and widely adopted connectors, the 3.5mm headphone jack. 

Apple had numerous other paths it could have gone down; there was nothing inevitable or courageous about the tech giant’s crippling of its flagship product. Firstly, they could have made the phone a millimeter or two thicker so as to keep the much-beloved audio port. Alternatively, Apple’s other choices included shrinking the battery and leaving out the vibration motor.


There was another conclusion Cupertino could have come to, a decision they have made before: have the headphone jack serve double duty as the charging port. This was the route chosen with the iPod Shuffle, a product Apple still sells. Being that “the world's smallest MP3 player” has used this method for recharging its battery since 2006, the decade-old ecosystem of cables and docking stations would have been much less user hostile than Apple’s boldfaced push of its now indefinitely delayed wireless earbuds. 

Apple was at a crossroads when developing the current iPhone: do what’s best their customers or do what’s best for their bottom line. Apple’s failure to do right by its customer base and alienate the billions of wired headphone users goes to show where Apple’s priorities lie.

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/jake

11.21.2016

Apple to Replace Some iPhone 6S Batteries

Stresses it is not “a safety issue”


Apple will begin replacing batteries in some iPhone 6S’s which have experienced unexpected shutdowns. Rumors started in China that some iPhone 6S owners were having their phones die unexpectedly. Many remember the recent Nexus 7 battery problems, and Apple is insisting the iPhone 6S recall is not “a safety issue”.

The problem affects a limited batch of serial numbers manufactured between September and October 2015. So far, Apple refuses to reveal the actual range of affected serial numbers, or how many devices are affected. Customers are being told to visit an Apple store, third-party provider, or contact customer service to have their serial number checked.

Unlike the screen replacements for the iPhone 6 Pluses, Apple might not charge for a replacement battery.  Apple stated that if the "iPhone 6S has any damage such as a cracked screen which impairs the replacement of the battery, that issue will need to be resolved prior to the battery replacement. In some cases, there may be a cost associated with the repair." Barring any “technical difficulties”, the battery replacements will be free.

The sudden shutdowns of the phones happens between 50 to 60 percent battery remaining. This problem was first reported by the China Consumers Association, who asked Apple to investigate the problem last week. For the aforementioned screen and  battery problems, users who have already payed for a replacement can apply to Apple for a full refund.

“The words “battery” and “recall” are now trigger words in the phone industry, and Apple might not want to use them in the same sentence.”

Apple is playing this one carefully. There have already been high profile recalls for multiple companies in recent months, none less notable than Samsung’s. The words “battery” and “recall” are now trigger words in the phone industry, and Apple might not want to use them in the same sentence.

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davis

11.20.2016

Davis's Tech News November 13 - 18




"Davis's Tech News" is a weekly digest of #technews curated by D&theJM's Senior Technology Correspondent, Davis.


Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it shut down at the end of September. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davistechnews

11.16.2016

GoPro Recalls Karma Drones

Will 2016 be the year of recalls?


Sales numbers for the GoPro Hero line of cameras has been declining since 2014 while sales of consumer drones have steadily climbed upwards. Hoping to bring in sales for their line of cameras, GoPro developed the Karma drone to draw in a growing number of enthusiasts. Unfortunately, Karma drones have begun falling out of the sky and GoPro has issued a recall.

As it stands now, the drones can lose power at any time during operation. Every Karma drone sold since October 23rd, (every drone on the market) is affected. About 2,500 Karma drones have been sold to date, and so far no injuries or property damage have been reported from the defect.

Drones with the problem seem to follow a pattern: they take off, fly for one to three minutes, and then the motors cut out. A video of the event from the Drone’s own point of view can be seen here. GoPro is working with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the cause.

The drones had production problems before release, which set back retail distribution. These problems were mentioned during the earnings call last week, but didn’t include the power issues or plans for a recall. CEO Nick Woodman said “We are very sorry to have inconvenienced our customers and we are taking every step to make the return and refund process as easy as possible.”

“GoPro is not offering exchanges for a fixed model, and will resume shipments after the issue has been resolved.”

Recalled drones can be returned to GoPro directly or to the location of purchase, for a full refund. GoPro is not offering exchanges for a fixed model, and will resume shipments after the issue has been resolved. Note that if you bought a Karma model with a camera, you must return the camera and the other packaged accessories with your drone. This event follows a terrible third quarter for GoPro, who is more dependent than ever on the holiday season.

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davis

11.15.2016

AT&T will Compress Video by Default

AT&T, not the customer, will “Get the most out of your data with the new AT&T Stream Saver”


On Saturday, mobile carrier AT&T announced an “innovative feature” to be rolled out next year. The so-called feature is called Stream Saver and comes following an August announcement by Big Blue to eliminate overage fees on its postpaid plans and throttle customers who have exceed their data limit. This approach puts AT&T’s postpaid packages more in line with their prepaid AT&T GoPhone service. 

Stream Saver will be an opt-out compression of video to 480p and is marketed as “a free and convenient, data-saving feature.” The problem is that their customers may end up consuming more video content when met with their data usage figures. 

This skewing of media preference and distortion of consumer habits is at the heart of the Net Neutrality debate sparked by T-Mobile’s Binge On. The T-Mobile version of this approach to mobile video takes the matter a step further by promising “FREE to stream unlimited video on your favorite services like YouTube, Netflix, HBO NOW and many more.” 

"This skewing of media preference and distortion of consumer habits is at the heart of the Net Neutrality debate."

With Stream Saver, AT&T is a step closer to remaining the “dumb pipe” that Net Neutrality advocates believe service providers should be. America’s largest telecom talking queues from the scrappy upstart and self-proclaimed “Un-carrier,” eager to go to any length to lure customers to its service, is concerning. T-Mobile’s violations of Net Neutrality are “likely legal,” according to a Stanford University study. Since AT&T is more restrained in its offering, it can be extrapolated that it too is within the law.

All this centers around the often-forgotten fact the Net Neutrality isn’t an actual law, but merely a principle that has wide support. Even the inventor of the World Wide Web subscribes to this philosophy but until it is wholly enshrined into law, AT&T and others may do as they wish.

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/jake

11.13.2016

NES Classic Edition Sold Out Everywhere

Pre-Holiday Shortage Drives Reseller Prices Up

Nintendo announced the NES Classic edition back in July, and the announcement immediately went viral. Unfortunately, demand has far outpaced supply. Its MSRP of $60.00 is chump change to the much more lucrative “Buy it Now” prices of $200 or more (at time of writing).


The NES Classic launched last Friday, and sold out instantly. It seems many retail locations such as GameStop only received 5 or 6 units each. This isn’t the first Nintendo related shortage, either. Many parents remember trying to purchase a Nintendo Wii back in the holidays of 2006, whether they found one or not. Ironically, the Wii was supposed to be the easy to manufacture, affordable console of that generation.

Even now, the exclusivity brought on by a short supply also affects another of Nintendo’s current products - the Amiibos. Nintendo has sold 21 million Amiibos to date, which is impressive for a single year. Amiibos are those plastic figures you see in the games section nowadays, with some providing extra features to certain games. 

The amiibo figures are often compared to the more recognizable Skylanders or the now defunct Disney Infinity figures. Some Amiibos were made in very short supply, and can be found on eBay for up to $1,000. Meanwhile, Activision has sold 250 million Skylanders figures as of June 2015, with little to no scalping involved. 

“Some wonder if Nintendo is keeping supply low intentionally.”

Some wonder if Nintendo is keeping supply low intentionally, giving their products that allure of rarity and exclusivity. The NES classic doesn’t do anything particularly novel. It emulates 30 preinstalled games, adds “suspend points” and includes a few display modes (including one that makes your 1080p screen look like a CRT, scan lines and all). 

On the other hand, some see Nintendo as incompetent. With the Nintendo Switch releasing in March, the NES classic is their holiday doorbuster. They announced the console four months ago, and should know how big the reaction was. The console uses easy to manufacture components (and emulates a 30 year old system). The original NES can now fit on a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino (apologies if the video is DMCA’d in the next few weeks).

“Whether Nintendo knows what they’re doing is up in the air at this point.”

Whether Nintendo knows what they’re doing is up in the air at this point. Nintendo’s holiday shortages span a decade now, so don’t expect the shortage to become less of a problem. The second wave of the consoles will sell just as quick, especially with Christmas approaching. For those determined enough to lay down more cash than everyone else, listings for the NES classic can be found on eBay.

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davis

Davis's Tech News November 6 - 12

Davis's Tech News November 6 - 12.png

"Davis's Tech News" is a weekly digest of #technews curated by D&theJM's Senior Technology Correspondent, Davis.


Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it shut down at the end of September. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davistechnews

11.08.2016

Google Rankings Favor Websites Using Google AMP

Google Search indexing practices increasingly prioritize Mountain View’s own Accelerated Mobile Pages protocol


Google recently announced changes to its algorithms which more heavily favor page load times. Chief among the factors that affect load times, according to Google, is adoption and implementation of its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP for short) protocol. 

This comes after a split between rankings Google provides on mobile and the desktop. Figures from StatCounter show that as of October, mobile as superseded traditional PCs. Therefore, algorithm changes affecting search results served to mobile customers are more important than ever. 


In much the same way that Android is technically open source but in reality exists to perpetuate Mountain View’s proprietary suite of services, Google AMP is an open standard built to further Google Search results. Google’s index of the web is, in effect, the web. That is to say, if your website doesn’t pop up on a Google it may as well not exist.

"Google’s index of the web is, in effect, the web."

While that is the goal of the many off-the-grid websites know collectively as the deep web, legitimate businesses want to appear in Google Search results but either are unaware of AMP and similar protocols or cannot afford the manpower to implement them.

That needs to change, but the only real contender is that other behemoth online firm, Facebook. Markedly more brazen than Google, Facebook doesn’t even masquerade its mitigation of page load times, Instant Articles, as free and open source. 

"Facebook doesn’t even masquerade Instant Articles as free and open source."

Although shorter page load times are enticing, AMP and IA come at the expense of the open nature and competitive landscape inherent in the proper version of the web. It’s far from enough that these platforms are “basically HTML.” 

Moreover, a parallel can be drawn between this bastardization of an open standard and Apple’s proprietary W1 chip that builds atop Bluetooth without contributing to it. The richest tech firms in the world are taking from the open source community and giving nothing back to it. That is, unless you believe that AMP isn’t a tool to make Google Search more useful. In that case, it’s great. Just great.

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/jake

11.07.2016

HTC Plans to Bring VR to Arcades

Is this the real life?


HTC plans to open Viveport Arcades in the U.S. and other select regions like Europe, China and Taiwan. They hope to open thousands around the world by the end of next year.

HTC’s Viveport Arcades are basically internet cafes with virtual reality as their theme. These “location-based VR [virtual reality] entertainment platforms” hope to meet the demand of consumers who can’t afford their own VR setup. An HTC Vive currently costs around $800 by itself, on top of the cost of a computer powerful enough to meet the system requirements.

HTC recommends a GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better ($300 - $400 minimum MSRP). For the CPU, HTC suggests an Intel Core i5 4590 ($199 MSRP), AMD FX 8350 (MSRP $150) or greater. The rest are standard fare: 4GB RAM, HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2 or better, a USB 2.0 or faster port, and at least Windows 7 SP1 or newer. Not exactly top of the line, but still fairly expensive.

“HTC recommends a GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better.”

HTC is partnering with arcades, internet cafes, theaters and shopping malls. They also opened a VR theme park, Viveland, last week. They are even developing a hub for VR-centered apps and 360 degree content, “Viveport M”. Viveport president Rikard Steiber stated “Viveport Arcade will represent a more than $100 million market opportunity for VR developers in the next two years". 

The HTC Vive launched April 5, and so far has sold more than 140,000 units. The Vive took an early lead on the Oculus Rift, which also launched earlier this year, due to unexplained component shortages. Sales for the PlayStation Virtual Reality (PSVR), which launched less than a month ago, October 13. Sony says sales for the PSVR are on track, and expected to number in the “hundreds of thousands”.

“Sony says sales for the PSVR are on track, and expected to number in the “hundreds of thousands”.”

HTC’s project could be just the push that VR needs. The infant technology hasn’t made it to the homes of consumers nationwide because of cost and demo availability. Bringing the technology to arcades nationwide is a great way to increase adoption rates, and will provide some competition with the PSVR’s home only approach. Keep an eye out for some arcades later this year, and many more next year.

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davis

11.06.2016

Davis's Tech News October 30 - November 5


"Davis's Tech News" is a weekly digest of #technews curated by
D&theJM's Senior Technology Correspondent, Davis.


Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it shut down at the end of September. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davistechnews

11.01.2016

T-Mobile Targets Verizon with Half Price Pixel Phone Offer

Carrier will refund half of unlocked Google phone




It’s been nearly two weeks since the Google Pixel phone was released. Reviews have been generally positive, (you can read Jake-Man’s less favorable impression here) but Verizon’s “exclusivity” deal has some phone fans disappointed. These fans may be happy to know that T-Mobile is offering half refunds to purchasers who enroll in their new “One” data plan.

Verizon has been running ads for the new Pixel phones, which are “only on Verizon”. The truth is that Verizon is the only service carrier selling the phone initially, but determined Android fans can purchase an unlocked phone directly from Google or Best Buy (because that’s what “exclusive” means). Customers who buy a Pixel phone, even from Verizon themselves, will be able to bring the phone to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile.

“The truth is that Verizon is the only service carrier selling the phone initially, but determined Android fans can purchase an unlocked phone directly from Google or Best Buy.”

T-Mobile started their offer this week, and has since updated it to include their Simple Choice Unlimited customers with their T-Mobile ONE and ONE Plus customers. The deal is certainly tempting to anyone curious about Google’s new flagship, especially with a starting $649 price tag. It is important to note that the “refund” will be a $325 bill credit, and the new unlimited plan starts at $70 a month.


T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted “Did you know you can avoid Verizon and use your Pixel the way it was meant to be used: on unlimited? Just bring it to T-Mobile!” just after the announcement. Verizon’s counter offer for new customers who switch to them and buy a Pixel phone will give a $400 credit with a trade in of a recent smartphone. Existing customers can get $300 with an acceptable trade.

Information about T-Mobile’s plan can be found here. It certainly is a tempting offer for anyone interested in Google’s new flagship. With Samsung recovering from the Note 7 problem and the iPhone 7 going strong, Verizon’s exclusivity may soon be water under the bridge for Google.

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davis

BlackBerry Passport Review: Built Like a Tank, Handles Like a Ferrari

A fork in the road, a road not taken


Our humble website has been running for nearly a year and we’ve never written a single review. Aside from the constraint of funding, the main reason Davis and the Jake-Man has yet to review a single consumer technology product is a lack of inspiration. 

The dominant category for a number of years has been mobile, specifically smartphones. But most smartphones are boring. They’re all black rectangles that barely evoke any emotion whatsoever. Put an iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, and any number of premium Chinese handsets side by side and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. 

Smartphone comparisons have degenerated into a discussion of trivial differences such as bezel size and the location of the fingerprint reader. They’ve all got ample memory and processing power and their cameras range from good enough to outstanding. It’s hard to go wrong in this day and age when shopping for a cell phone. The bottom line is if you buy a mid-range or top-tier handset, you’ll be getting your money’s worth.

"Smartphone comparisons have degenerated into a discussion of trivial differences."

Because of this relativity in the mobile realm, Davis and I didn’t see much value in sharing our views on this sector of the consumer tech world. Whether it’s the OnePlus 3, iPhone SE, Nexus 6P, or LG G5 (recently marked down due to its abysmal adoption rate), $400 smartphones are a great choice for most users. If you’re willing and able to spend more than that, the top tier is inhabited by well-refined choices such as the LG V20, iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, and spiritual successor to the HTC 10, the Google Pixel

LG, Apple, Samsung, and HTC (back in carrier stores by way of Google) are established names in the smartphone rat race. Conspicuous by its absence is BlackBerry, arguably the granddaddy of ‘em all. Immortalized through its dominance of the early smartphone era, BlackBerry Ltd. (formerly Research in Motion) has fallen from grace and become a punchline, almost the Windows Vista of mobile. 

BlackBerry Market Share, Credit: Statista

BlackBerry’s decline is epitomized by its shift from hardware manufacturer to software distributor. Their final in-house handset, the Priv, sold poorly and led the Canadian company to outsource the hardware to Chinese firm Alcatel. Its first two phones, the DTEK50 and 60, are rebrands of the Alcatel Idol 4 and 4S, respectively. Reception has been lukewarm at best and this change in tactics has bore little fruit for the former juggernaut. 

Before this misstep, BlackBerry had its own platform called BlackBerry OS 10 and the final flagship to run their abandonware was the BlackBerry Passport, first released in 2014 (several special edition variants would be introduced, sporting identical internals). The phone is a sight to behold. It comes in black, white, red, or silver. Your correspondent chose the special edition silver model, made of aluminum, as his daily driver after being consumed with disgust towards current flagship offerings. 

BlackBerry Passport Models, Credit: CrackBerry

To be clear, it is not recommended for typical users to even consider this phone. As mentioned, it runs a discarded operating system and has two-year-old hardware. For those fixated on the latest and greatest and/or users interested in downloading the newest apps, this phone would be a poor choice. That being said, it has a lot to offer if the prospective buyer prioritizes other features. 

What the Passport lacks in software, it makes up for with hardware. This thing is rigid. Its solid build elicits so much more confidence than a bendable iPhone or a begging-to-be-shattered Galaxy. Its camera isn’t of the same caliber as the aforementioned flagships, but it does support HDR and OIS and will suffice for casual photographers.

"What the Passport lacks in software, it makes up for with hardware."

Then there’s the screen. This and the keyboard (which we’ll discuss shortly) are the cornerstones of the device. The ad campaign for the Passport used the tagline “WORK WIDE,” meaning that users have far more horizontal real estate than on a traditional widescreen smartphone in portrait mode. This is compounded by the physical keyboard; you don’t lose half your workspace like you do on iOS or Android with their virtual keypads. It’s a 1440p 4.5-inch square display (which is immensely pixel dense at 453 PPI) that while unsuited for content consumption, is ideal for productivity tasks like email, word processing and spreadsheets.

The wonderfully tactile, clicky, and responsive keyboard demonstrates this focus on productivity. Input is mixed, with number and symbols being virtual, while the QWERTY and spacebar are physical. And this is no ordinary QWERTY. The Passport has a trick up its suit jacket sleeve, namely the touch gestures the physical keyboard touts. You can scroll through home screens, web pages, documents, and news feeds and even precisely control the cursor (a feature later introduced into the iOS keyboard though 3D Touch). It’s a terrific input mechanism and this along with the unique aspect ratio of the Passport’s screen are its main selling points.

"The software of this otherwise ideal device is indeed its Achilles’ heel."

But it isn’t all sunshine for the BlackBerry. The BlackBerry World app store is even more barren than the Windows Phone marketplace, although the Amazon App Store serves as a crutch. You can even sideload Android apps onto the Passport, although this workaround is buggy due to the BB10’s Android runtime version 4, meaning that applications requiring 5 or higher won’t load. Granted, you can use web apps or sideload older APKs, but the process is quite involved and too laborious for a mainstream user. The software of this otherwise ideal device is indeed its Achilles’ heel. 

The Passport caters to a niche market and when considering its intended audience, has stood the test of time. Software updates have taken nothing away from the performance of this 2014 flagship. The Passport can be purchased new through various online retailers for between $179 for the black version and $249 for the aluminum silver edition.