Archive for December, 2011


Last summer, phone maker HTC raised eyebrows by announcing it would enable users to unlock the bootloaders on some of its most popular phones, enabling technically-inclined customers to root the devices and install custom operating systems or, really, any darn thing they like. Now, HTC has come through, releasing a tool to unload the bootloader on phones launched after September 2011. HTC also says it is working to make the bootloader operational on phones launched before September 2011.

The company has offered a complete list of devices currently supported by the tool. HTC notes some devices may never be supported by the unlock tool due to operator restrictions.

HTC had previously gone to some lengths to lock down bootloaders on its Android devices—partly as a defense against malicious software—but reversed course in the face of strong feedback from technically-inclined customers who feel that the ability to install their own custom operating systems is a key element of Android’s “openness.” (HTC says it was “overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of our fans.”) After all, what’s the point of an operating system being available as open source if programmers can’t download it and install it on devices?

For ambitious users, unlocking the bootloader may be a quick way to get Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich onto HTC devices without waiting for official updates.

HTC is clear that it not officially supporting devices that have been unlocked with the bootloader, merely allowing users to unlock their devices at their own risk—and may mean they’re no longer covered by device warranties. HTC also notes that it’s possible unlocking devices may have unintended consequences, including overheating.

Ryan:  Ultimately, the main reason why I sold my HTC Desire Z and went back to BlackBerry was because of the buggy HTC Sense interface.  I am glad HTC is giving its customers more choice by allowing them to use a bootloader, “at their own risk” of course.

Source: DigitalTrends

A well-known expert on mobile phone security says a vulnerability in a widely used wireless technology could allow hackers to gain remote control of phones, instructing them to send text messages or make calls.

They could use the vulnerability in the GSM network technology, which is used by billions of people in about 80 percent of the global mobile market, to make calls or send texts to expensive, premium phone and messaging services in scams, said Karsten Nohl, head of Germany’s Security Research Labs.

Similar attacks against a small number of smartphones have been done before, but the new attack could expose any cellphone using GSM technology.

“We can do it to hundreds of thousands of phones in a short timeframe,” Nohl told Reuters in advance of a presentation at a hacking convention in Berlin on Tuesday.

Attacks on corporate landline phone systems are fairly common, often involving bogus premium-service phone lines that hackers set up across Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Fraudsters make calls to the numbers from hacked business phone systems or mobile phones, then collect their cash and move on before the activity is identified.

The phone users typically don’t identify the problem until after they receive their bills and telecommunications carriers often end up footing at least some of the costs.

Even though Nohl will not present details of attack at the conference he said hackers will usually replicate the code needed for attacks within a few weeks.

Source: Reuters

Boxee has spoiled this post-Christmas week with a morsel of bittersweet news. The company has unveiled the latest version of its software for Windows, Mac and Linux. Revision 1.5 is being tested by select “early access” Boxee Box owners with a public beta scheduled in January, but PC users can download the latest build today. The update introduces various changes to the entertainment hub’s interface.

The home screen has received links to the standard menu to launch the integrated Web browser and Live TV (assuming you have the dongle), the menu now appears as an overlay with refined navigation between sections or search. It’s also easier to sort video content and find additional information about the material with an extended synopsis. Boxee says it has reduced the number of clicks required to get around.

The bad news? This will be the last update for PC users. The company has decided that dedicated set-tops will play a larger role in the future of TVs than HTPCs running a conventional desktop operating system. As such, Boxee feels the need to refocus its efforts accordingly. Free downloads of version 1.5 will be available from Boxee’s website through January, but you’ll have to rely on other mirrors after that.

“People will continue to watch a lot of video on their computer, but it is more likely to be a laptop than a home-theater PC and probably through a browser rather than downloaded software,” the developer explained. “To our computer users…thank you for all your support — we would not be where we are today without you,” it acknowledged. Many PC customers are using that fact to protest Boxee’s abandonment plan.

“If you are a current Boxee user on a computer we hope that you will enjoy 1.5 and maybe when you are ready to retire that good ol’ HTPC/Mac Mini you will decide to get a Boxee Box,” the company said. Next year will bring many additions to Boxee’s product line, including the aforementioned Live TV dongle (provides access to the free over-the-air HDTV broadcasts that launched in 2009) and, hopefully, a new set-top.

Download Boxee 1.5 for your PC here.

Ryan: I am loving Boxee on my Media Center PC.  It’s better than Netflix, and you don’t have to pay $7.99 per month to use it because it’s FREE.  You can also watch a variety of local TV Channels like CBC, CTV etc.

Source: TechSpot

The No. 2 bestselling Samsung smartphone in history won’t officially see an upgrade to Android 4.0, leaving owners to decide among buying a newer phone, sticking with Android 2.3, or hacking on a custom build of Google’s latest mobile operating system. The reason Samsung won’t be offering such an upgrade? According to Samsung Tomorrow by way of the Verge, Samsung’s own customized TouchWiz user interface is the answer, which sounds more like a lame excuse than a valid explanation.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab—a 7-in. slate I’ve been using daily for more than a year now—is also on the “won’t see Android 4.0″ list, says the Samsung Tomorrow blog. I can understand we’re looking at a smartphone and a tablet that made their debut in 2010, and there’s a limited shelf life for future updates on mobile devices. What I don’t understand, nor accept, is that the issue is Samsung’s user interface software. Even worse, I think Samsung is shooting itself in the foot. Here’s why.

You have to treat current customers well. On the one hand, I can see Samsung’s stance if it chooses not to bring Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) to these older devices. From a financial standpoint, those handsets and tablets are already sold, and Samsung has earned all the income it’s going to from the sale of such devices. To bring Android 4.0 to the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab, the company would have to invest time, effort, and money to deliver the software. It has no financial incentive to do so. But customers don’t care about that and could decide to buy a competing product if they feel slighted.

Software add-ons should never stop product advances. Some people like TouchWiz, and some don’t. The same could be said for HTC’s Sense. Both are user interface add-ons atop Google Android, and neither should be the primary cause of stopping an Android update. HTC once fell into this same trap with Gingerbread on its Desire handset and eventually compromised by removing some custom apps to make room for the update.

This isn’t a technical issue, it’s a bad decision. My first thought about this situation was that perhaps the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab didn’t have the horsepower to run Android 4.0. Yet the Nexus S, made by Samsung, will get the ICS software, and it has very similar specifications to the Galaxy S in terms of memory, storage capacity, and processor. And I’m willing to bet the Android enthusiast community will have a custom build of Android 4.0 for both devices, if it doesn’t already. How sad is it that external developers can make this happen, when Samsung can’t?

Will most people who own a Samsung Galaxy S or Galaxy Tab be in an uproar over this? Probably not, as they’ll likely never know about Samsung’s decision, nor will they be thinking about Android 4.0 for devices that are 18 months old. But the decision sets a bad precedent and suggests that Samsung is more concerned with selling newer hardware than supporting existing customers and their current devices.

My suggestion would be a compromise of sorts: Offer a stock version of Android 4.0 for these devices with the customer understanding and accepting the fact that the TouchWiz interface will no longer be available after the upgrade. Unless there’s a real technical reason for the lack of an Android 4.0 upgrade—something Samsung should make clear—this might be the best answer. It wouldn’t cost nearly as much for Samsung to develop and test, while consumers thinking Samsung has let them down might be more accepting of the situation.

Ryan:  Samsung needs to seriously get their &%#* together.  I would like to update my Samsung Galaxy Tab, I find it buggy and it force closes way too much, too bad I will be forced to workaround this to put 4.0 on myself manually.

 

Source: BusinessWeek

Bad products, horrible software and no cohesive vision have seemingly turned Research In Motion into a company without motion at this point.

Throw in a huge delay before BlackBerry 10 smartphones start shipping, and it’s clear why people are losing, or have lost, faith in a company that played a tremendous role in making the smartphone industry what it is today. Thanks to one of our most trusted sources, BGR now has new information on what’s going on inside Research In Motion, and the picture isn’t pretty.

Our source has communicated to us in no uncertain terms that PlayBook 2.0 — the next-gen tablet operating system RIM is developing — is a crystal clear window into the state of BlackBerry 10 on the upcoming smartphones RIM is building.

And the view is none too good.

“Email and PIM [is better] on an 8700 than it is on BlackBerry 10,” our contact said while talking to us about RIM’s failure to make the company’s upcoming smartphone OS work with the network infrastructure RIM is known for.

We also have more background on why RIM’s BlackBerry 10 smartphones are delayed, and it has nothing to do with a new chipset that RIM is waiting on. Our source told us that CEO Mike Lazaridis was lying when he said the company’s new lineup was delayed for that reason.

“RIM is simply pushing this out as long as they can for one reason, they don’t have a working product yet,” we were told.

At the end of our conversation, our source communicated something shocking for a high-level RIM employee to say. He told us that RIM is betting its business on a platform and ecosystem that isn’t even as good as iPhone OS 1.0 or Android 2.0. “There’s no room for a fourth ecosystem,” he stated.

 

Source: BGR / Fox News

Microsoft’s range of Windows Phone devices suffer from a denial-of-service attack that allows attackers to disable the messaging functionality on a device.

The flaw works simply by sending an SMS to a Windows Phone user. Windows Phone 7.5 devices will reboot and the messaging hub will not open despite repeat attempts. We have tested the attack on a range of Windows Phone devices, including HTC’s TITAN and Samsung’s Focus Flash. Some devices were running the 7740 version of Windows Phone 7.5, others were on Mango RTM build 7720. The attack is not device specific and appears to be an issue with the way the Windows Phone messaging hub handles messages. The bug is also triggered if a user sends a Facebook chat message or Windows Live Messenger message to a recipient.

The flaw appears to affect other aspects of the Windows Phone operating system too. If a user has pinned a friend as a live tile on their device and the friend posts a particular message on Facebook then the live tile will update and causes the device to lock up. Thankfully there’s a workaround for the live tile issue, at initial boot up you have a small amount of time to get past the lock screen and into the home screen to remove the pinned live tile before it flips over and locks the device.

Both Apple and Google have suffered from SMS bugs with their iOS and Android devices. Security researcher Charlie Miller discovered a flaw in the iOS 3.0 software that allowed attackers complete control over an iPhone at the time. Android-based phones also suffered in the SMS attack, but attackers could only knock a phone offline rather than gain full access. The attack described in this article does not appear to be security related. It appears, from our limited testing, that the bug is related to the way Windows Phone handles messages.

Khaled Salameh discovered the flaw and reported it to us on Monday. WinRumors is in the process of disclosing the bug directly to Microsoft privately in co-operation with Khaled. At this stage there doesn’t appear to be a workaround to fix the messaging hub apart from hard resetting and wiping the device. Please see the video below for a demonstration.

 

 

Source: WinRumors

On the cusp of an event for the Windows 8 app store, one research firm has dealt a painful blow to the forthcoming OS.

“Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor,” research firm IDC told Computerworld this week.

For its part, Microsoft  has been quite vocal about its goals for Windows 8, which primarily involve the tablet market. Microsoft, like most of the world, assumes that tablets – which are already encroaching on the desktop PC and laptop markets – will one day become the dominant player in personal computing. Personally, I do not think it will be quite that simple. Instead, I expect a wise manufacturer to combine the perfect tablet with the perfect laptop and make a computer no one can live without. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re getting closer every day.

Still, for Microsoft to sacrifice Windows 8′s success on the PC just for the sake of tablet sales would be silly. According to Computerworld, Windows 7 has been licensed 450 million times. That’s enormous! The only way Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) could ever top that number is if it licensed Mac OS to third-party PC manufacturers. But that will never (and should never) happen.

For new PC buyers, Windows 7 is still a fairly new OS. But Windows Vista proved to be so bad (and so draining to weak hardware) that people were eager to upgrade. Windows 7 also had the benefit of coming out at a time when laptops had finally reached a nice balance between cost, performance, and durability. Whereas in the past you could spend upwards of $1,000 for a decent Windows XP laptop, the average high-quality Windows 7 laptop retails for $700 to $900. And because Windows 7 machines tend to have at least two gigs of ram, a much larger hard drive, and a vastly superior dual-core processor, their functional value should last a little longer.

In my own personal experience, dual-core processor laptops tend to hold up better after three years of use (2008 to 2011) than laptops with a single-core processor (2005 to 2008).

Unfortunately for Microsoft, this could mean that there will be fewer consumers buying new laptops when Windows 8 arrives than there were when Windows Vista and Windows 7 were released.

However, I am not convinced that IDC’s assessment is accurate. Will the Windows 8 upgrade rate be lower than Windows 7? Probably. From a consumer standpoint, and especially a business standpoint, Windows 8 may not provide enough of a difference to justify a purchase. The layout is cool and inspired, and it may very well be an important step in the Windows evolution. But that’s true of XP, one of the better versions of the software. But did everyone upgrade to XP when it was released? Nope. Did everyone need to make the switch? Nope.

That is the bigger challenge Microsoft faces: convincing us that Windows 8 is must-own software.

Since the company is so determined to make a dent in the tablet market, Microsoft needs to ensure that when Windows 8 is released, there is at least one (preferably several) must-have tablets available. If the company launches a true iPad competitor – or better yet, a true iPad-killer – then there will be very little preventing Windows 8 from attaining long-term success.

Source: Forbes

Opera has always impressed us. The browser has maintained its own innovation cycle and continued to set new standards for the competition for a long time now. Opera’s shiny new version 11.60 is now available for download on Windows, Linux and Mac platforms (download links below). Opera fanatics will be pleased to know that Opera 11.60 offers quite interesting updates. The first thing you will notice in the latest version is the revamped URL address field. The URL address field will now offer search engine suggestions and bookmarking will be easier with just a click of the star towards the end of the URL field.

We know Opera for its obsession with speed. Keeping with the philosophy of faster is better, the latest version offers revamped HTML5 rendering engine. This means all modern HTML5 coded websites will work better than ever before. Opera claims that the websites using SSL technology will load faster than ever before. It also allows vector graphics to be mixed with HTML; which would open new possibilities for web applications.

Those who love the Opera’s inbuilt mail client will love the redesigned look which is faster and cleaner as well. The mail client now features mail grouping which is very useful when you have an influx of email messages every day.

Download Links: Opera for WINDOWS | MAC | Linux.

Source: CrazyEngineers

The tagline reads “enjoy your Android over the air,” but perhaps more accurate would be “enjoy your Android over your computer.” AirDroid connects your Android device to your desktop, laptop or tablet — really anything that can browse the web — and lets you send messages, browse photos or files, set ringtones, uninstall apps, and many other things that can be done more easily through a larger screen and perhaps a mouse and full-sized keyboard. If you want this type of functionality, don’t hesitate to download this free app.

I’ve used other apps that claim to provide the same or similar features, but this is the best that I’ve personally tried. It’s easy — just launch AirDroid and it shows a specific URL (IP address) to type in your browser and a password to keep it secure. It’s fast, too. Once your browser connects, just click through the big icons on the web page to navigate into picture and files, view the call log, read text messages, and a lot more in a second. It’s also secure. AirDroid doesn’t store any of your info on its systems, and the password changes with each use (or you can set your own password if you prefer). All this, and it’s 100 percent free.

Once you control your phone over a computer screen, you’ll want to do so every time you’re near a computer. It’s very convenient. The app works its magic over a Wi-Fi connection.

Source: Appolicious

Researchers have found a flaw in Skype, the popular Voice-over-Internet-Protocol service which allows users to make video phone calls and internet chat with their computers. The vulnerability can expose your location, identity and the content you’re downloading. Microsoft, which owns Skype, says they are working on the problem.

The issue was uncovered earlier this year by a team of researchers from Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), MPI-SWS in Germany and INRIA in France and included Keith Ross, Stevens Le Blond, Chao Zhang, Arnaud Legout, and Walid Dabbous. The team presented the research in Berlin recently at the Internet Measurement Conference 2011 in a paper titled “I know where you are and what you are sharing.”

The researchers found several properties of Skype that can track not only users’ locations over time, but also their peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing activity, according to a summary of the findings on the NYU-Poly web site. Earlier this year, a German researcher found a cross-site scripting flaw in Skype that could allow someone to change an account password without the user’ consent.

Even when a user blocks callers or connects from behind a Network Address Translation (NAT) — a common type of firewall — it does not prevent the privacy risk,” according to a release from NYU-Poly.

The research team tracked the Skype accounts of about 20 volunteers as well as 10,000 random users over a two-week period and found that callers using VoIP systems can obtain the IP address of another user when establishing a call with that person. The caller can then use commercial geo-IP mapping services to determine the other user’s location and Internet Service Provider (ISP).

The user can also initiate a Skype call, block some packets and quickly terminate the call to obtain an unsuspecting person’s IP address without alerting them with ringing or pop-up windows. Users do not need to be on a contact list, and it can be done even when a user explicitly configures Skype to block calls from non-contacts.

The research also revealed that marketers can easily link to information such as name, age, address, profession and employer from social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn in order to inexpensively build profiles on a single tracked target or a database of hundreds of thousands.

“We feel the implications are very severe,” Ross told CSO. “For example, a high-school hacker, or anyone with basic programming and hacking skills, could track, for example, all the Congressmen in the United States, or the employees of a company. The attack can be used by blackmailers, stalkers, or journalists looking for a racy story about a politician.”

Skype and Microsoft Corp. were informed of the researchers’ findings and The New York Times reports that Skype is aware of the issue.

“We value the privacy of our users and are committed to making our products as secure as possible,” Adrian Asher, Skype’s chief information security officer, said in a statement. “Just as with typical Internet communications software, Skype users who are connected may be able to determine each other’s IP address. Through research and development, we will continue to make advances in this area and improvements to our software.”

Source: NetworkWorld