Category: Tablets


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Apple Fixes “Fundamental” SSL Bug in iOS 7

Apple quietly released iOS 7.06 late Friday afternoon, fixing a problem in how iOS 7 validates SSL certificates. Attackers can exploit this issue to launch a man-in-the-middle attack and eavesdrop on all user activity, experts warned.

“An attacker with a privileged network position may capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS,” Apple said in its advisory.

Users should update immediately.

Watch Out for Eavesdroppers
As usual, Apple didn’t provide a lot of information about the issue, but security experts familiar with the vulnerability warned that attackers on the same network as the victim would be able to read secure communications. In this case, the attacker could intercept, and even modify, the messages as they pass from the user’s iOS 7 device to secured sites, such as Gmail or Facebook, or even for online banking sessions. The issue is a “fundamental bug in Apple’s SSL implementation,” said Dmitri Alperovich, CTO of CrowdStrike.

The software update is available for the current version of iOS for iPhone 4 and later, 5th generation iPod Touch, and iPad 2 and later. iOS 7.06 and iOS 6.1.6. The same flaw exists in the latest version of Mac OS X but has not yet been patched, Adam Langley, a senior engineer at Google, wrote on his ImperialViolet blog. Langley confirmed the flaw was also in iOS 7.0.4 and OS X 10.9.1

Certificate validation is critical in establishing secure sessions, as this is how a site (or a device) verifies that the information is coming from a trusted source. By validating the certificate, the bank website knows that the request is coming from the user, and is not a spoofed request by an attacker. The user’s browser also relies on the certificate to verify the response came from the bank’s servers and not from an attacker sitting in the middle and intercepting sensitive communications.

Update Devices
It appears Chrome and Firefox, which uses NSS instead of SecureTransport, aren’t affected by the vulnerability even if the underlying OS is vulnerable, Langley said. He created a test site at https://www.imperialviolet.org:1266. “If you can load an HTTPS site on port 1266 then you have this bug,” Langley said

Users should update their Apple devices as soon as possible, and when the OS X update is available, to apply that patch as well. The updates should be applied while on a trusted network, and users should really avoid accessing secure sites while on untrusted networks (especially Wi-Fi) while traveling/

“On unpatched mobile and laptop devices, set ‘Ask to Join Networks’ setting to OFF, which will prevent them from showing prompts to connect to untrusted networks,” wrote Alex Radocea, a researcher from CrowdStrike.

Considering recent concerns about the possibility of government snooping, the fact that iPhones and iPads were not validating certificates correctly can be alarming for some. “I’m not going to talk details about the Apple bug except to say the following. It is seriously exploitable and not yet under control,” Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University, posted on Twitter.

Check out this video from News Loop:

 

Source: PC World Security Watch

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Any GSM phone vulnerable to new scam: researcher

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

Samsung, You’re Doing It Wrong With Android 4.0

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

Windows 8: Dead Before Arrival?

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

PlayBook has a Flash-filled future; RIM’s worst decision to date?

Summary: Now that Flash has had its day in the sun, the PlayBook may now have a chance to quietly sail off into the deathly sunset.

Research in Motion plans to continue supporting Adobe Flash, days after it emerged that the platform was not only on its last legs, but that it was to be taken round the back of the stable and beaten over the head with a rusty spade.

In a statement on the company’s corporate blog, the BlackBerry maker said:

“Earlier today, Adobe announced plans to stop investing in Flash® for mobile browsing, and focus more efforts on HTML5. As an Adobe source code licensee, we will continue to work on and release our own implementations, and are looking forward to including Flash 11.1 for the BlackBerry PlayBook.”

At roughly 10am this morning, a collective face-palm slapping sound was heard across the United States and Canada.

It is as though the BlackBerry maker is purposefully trying to continually do things to deliberately lower its stock price. I’m serious; is this some game show that I’m not aware of, where contenders win a vacation to the Bahamas if they successfully cripple their company within the space of a year?

The PlayBook has hardly been the most popular tablet the market has seen in recent years. In fact, come Christmas, I would place money that out of the ‘major players’, including Samsung, Motorola, and obviously Apple, that Research in Motion’s tablet will still come bottom of the pile.

But to continue to support an already dead platform on a dying tablet is like throwing salt in the wound of an already squashed slug.

It’s not the best analogy I should have come out with, but you get the idea.

Granted, the PlayBook does support HTML5, at least giving the tablet a break from a major software update that would be necessary to effectively replace the world’s most used web plug-in. It saves on a lot of headaches down the line, which from the perspective of future proofing was not a far off move.

The Ontario-based company will have the ability to continue to develop Flash on its own moving forward, keeping a ‘healthy’ following of developers interested and supported — that is, if you considered the aforementioned slug analogy to be healthy.

The PlayBook never really stood a chance, stood in line like the nerdy, glasses-wearing kid next to its prom-queen older sister. Even when the PlayBook had a chance to shine, in its secure emailing client that emulated the BlackBerry enterprise encryption, the tablet launched without it. In effect, its most favourable feature was left behind its launch.

But the linchpin to the PlayBook has always been its less than desirable advertising.

Nearly all of the company’s advertising and marketing efforts have been on the fact the PlayBook, unlike the iPad, as the supreme competitor to all other tablets on the market, will support Flash-based content. Though it still will, and Flash will not suddenly drop off the edge of the planet in the next few months, the BlackBerry maker is going to have to think of a brand new marketing strategy.

At least now Research in Motion can advertise the PlayBook as something it should have been marketed as a long way back: “The most expensive paperweight you never needed in the first place”.

Source: ZDNet

Apple security expert finds apps-software bug

A software flaw in Apple Inc’s iPhones and iPads may allow hackers to build apps that secretly install programs to steal data, send text messages or destroy information, according to an expert on Apple device security.

Charlie Miller, a researcher with Accuvant Labs who identified the problem, built a prototype malicious program to test the flaw. He said Apple’s App Store failed to identify the malicious program, which made it past the security vetting process.

There is as yet no evidence that hackers have exploited the vulnerability in Apple’s iOS software. But Miller said his test demonstrated that there could be real malware in the App Store.

“Until now you could just download everything from the App Store and not worry about it being malicious. Now you have no idea what an app might do,” Miller said.

Miller said he proved his theory by building a stock-market monitoring tool, InstaStock, that was programed to connect to his server once downloaded, and to then download whatever program he wants.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Miller, who in 2009 identified a bug in the iPhone text-messaging system that allowed attackers to gain remote control over the devices, said that he had contacted the company about the vulnerability.

“They are in the process of fixing it,” he said.

Miller is scheduled to present his detailed research at the SyScan ’11 security conference in Taiwan next week.

 

 

Source: Reuters

Research In Motion: PlayBook Tablet In Deep, Deep Trouble

This afternoon truly terrible financial results from Research In Motion nicely demonstrated just how little the world needs or wants the company’s nascent PlayBook tablet.

While the device has a reasonable user experience, the company fatally tied use of the PlayBook to the BlackBerry handset – you need a BlackBerry to read your email on a PlayBook. In the face of the Apple iPad juggernaut, the PlayBook has been simply steamrolled. There’s simply not much interest in buying it. Research In Motion shipped just 200,000 of the tablets in the August quarter, sharply below the Street consensus of around 554,000, according to the investment news service StreetAccount. Handset sales also fell short of expectations, at 10.6 million units, versus a Street consensus at 11.6 million.

The company conceded on the post-earnings conference call that sales of the PlayBook were lower than anticipated, while asserting that a major software upgrade for the device is coming that will “deliver highly anticipated new capabilities and applications” which RIM thinks will reinvigorate sales.” The new version of the software will have built-in native e-mail calendar and contacts, the ability to run Android Apps and a new video store with 10,000 movies and TV shows available for download, among other things.

But will any of that really give users pause as they decide which tablet to buy? The truth is, at this point there isn’t really a a tablet market – there’s an iPad market. And improving the current version of the PlayBook’s software is not especially likely to drive substantially higher sales of the PlayBook.

Source: Forbes

Windows 8 To Offer Both Desktop, Tablet Interface

Users of the coming Windows 8 operating system will be able to switch between a traditional desktop PC user interface and a tablet-friendly look patterned after Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform.

Some industry observers clearly have been worried about the dumbing down of the next Windows OS release. However, users who highly value the full-blown desktop experience will have the full set of PC capabilities at their fingertips, said Steven Sinofsky, the president of Microsoft’s Windows division, writing in a blog.

“If you want to, you can seamlessly switch between Metro style apps and the improved Windows desktop,” Sinofsky wrote. “Essentially, you can think of the Windows desktop as just another app.”

Windows 8 tablet users who prefer Windows Phone’s Metro-style UI for accomplishing tasks on the fly will never even need to see the platform’s desktop version.

“We won’t even load it — literally the code will not be loaded — unless you explicitly choose to go there,” Sinofsky said.

Moreover, the new Metro-style UI “is much more than the visual design — [it is] fast and fluid, immersive, beautiful, and app-centric,” Sinofsky said. And tablet users who do not need the full-blown Windows desktop experience won’t have to comply with its more stringent memory, battery life and hardware requirements, he added.

The Innovator’s Dilemma

Microsoft has to negotiate an innovator’s dilemma with Windows 8, said Al Hilwa, director of applications software development at IDC.

“They have to create a product which is appealing to an apparently large segment of the user population who loves a simpler touch-first approach to computing, while maintaining Window’s existing user-base that is comfortable with the precise control a keyboard, a mouse and a file-oriented interface provides,” Hilwa said.

Just how Microsoft will go about accomplishing the delicate balancing act of having both Windows 8 user interfaces operating together harmoniously remains unclear right now. However, more concrete details are expected to emerge at Microsoft’s Build conference for developers beginning Sept. 13 in Anaheim, Calif.

The bottom line is that Microsoft will need to ensure that both user segments remain happy with Windows 8, Hilwa said. The software giant also will need to “maintain two parallel application development models until these begin to blend more naturally down the road,” he added.

The Ribbon Users Love To Hate

Already featured in the 2007 and 2010 releases of Microsoft’s Office business productivity suite, the ribbon is one design element that some Office users love to hate. This helps explain this week’s flurry of negative comments about the addition of a ribbon to the new file management tool for Windows 8.

Still, Sinofsky pointed out that the addition of a ribbon will enable the platform’s designers to create an optimized file manager that positions the most frequently used commands at reliable, logical locations.

“The flexibility of the ribbon with many icon options, tabs, flexible layout and groupings also ensured that we could respect [Windows] Explorer’s heritage,” Sinofsky said.

What’s more, the Windows Explorer ribbon provides for a much more reliable and usable touch-only interface than pull-down-menu or context-menu designs could provide, Sinofsky said. Though some critics have complained about the additional screen real estate that this feature would occupy, Sinofsky said users would be able to display the Windows Explorer ribbon in either an open or minimized state.

Source: NewsFactor