Is Pokemon Go Really Malware?

The application does some things that are setting off all kinds of alarms over here…

pokemon goWhen you have young kids, it’s hard to keep them away from all of the latest fads and trending stuff. They hear about from a friend who’s either tried it, got it or seen it, and then they feel they have to try it too, or be left out of the fun. This is the lure of Pokémon Go, and its taking the country and perhaps the world, by storm.

The game was released a few days ago as of this writing, and it’s become very popular. Scores of players are walking around, head down in their smartphone’s screen, searching for Pokémon to collect and for other players to battle. When players come to a monument, statue or other type of local landmark – called a Pokestop in the game – they can meet up, battle and play together thanks to the app using geolocation and a local GPS map of the area. Players can also drop a “virtual beacon” to attract and draw other players to their location.

Many people are doing just that… and then robbing players at gunpoint. It’s been all over the news.

But let’s put that aside for a moment… the game has a much larger problem and poses what I believe is much more real and more serious threat than bumping into “Bonnie and Clyde” at a Pokestop near you. The game poses a serious security threat to users who log in with their Google Accounts.

The game seems innocent enough. It’s a free download from the App Store or from the Google Play Store and uses in-app purchases to generate revenue. It’s a common enough model that’s proven profitable for a number of different game developers. However, the biggest problem I’ve seen is with the way the app handles Google Accounts.

Every time I’ve tried to create a “Pokémon Go” account on the developer’s website, it says that the website is overloaded and that users should try again in an hour. This is a condition that hasn’t changed since the game was released. The other option you’re given is to log in with your Google Account. That will usually get you in and to chasing Pokémon up and down the street. However, you need to understand a few things about what happens with you log into Pokémon Go with your Google Account.

  1. You Give it Full Access to your Google Account
    This means it has access to EVERYTHING in your Google Account. It has access to and can read all of your email. It has access to all of your passwords. It has access to all of your credit cards stored in your Google Account. It can even change the passwords and security settings on that account, with the full access you give it. It can take your credit cards, with the CVV’s and go on a shopping spree if it wants… And YOU authorized it, just to get access to the game. Nice, huh?
  2. The Game’s Privacy Policy Considers Your Personal Data a Business Asset
    The privacy policy explicitly states that the data it collects, including PII (personally identifying information – like your credit card or other sensitive data) is a business asset. This means that it can sell the data, and that if the company goes under or is acquired by a third party, your PII goes along with the sale. You have no control over this, since you gave the game full access to your Google Account.

There is one thing that you can do to “protect” yourself. I found this in a ZDNet article, and the procedure outlined at the end of the article works; but there’s a catch. I’ll get to that in a moment…

If you wish to play the game and don’t want Niantic (the game manufacturer) to have full access to your Google Account, you can revoke that access by following these steps:

  1. Log into your Google Account and go to the Apps Connected to Your Account page.
  2. Find “Pokémon Go” in the app list, and click on it.
  3. Click the Remove Access button.
  4. When prompted, click the OK button to revoke full access.

Please Note: After you do this, Pokémon Go won’t have ANY kind of access to your Google account; but there’s no guarantee that they didn’t ultimately mine out all of your intimate PII (personally identifying information) out of your account before you revoked its access.

However, this is where that catch comes in – I’ve noticed that when you do this, the app stops working.

You’re fine for the one session you’ve got, but if you quit the app, or push it to the background, you lose access to the game. The only way I’ve been able to get it working again is to either delete the app and set it up again; or to wait for the app to fault and then present you with the game setup process, including logging in with your Google Account, again. Game play and progress appears to be preserved across reaccessing/ resetting up the game. You don’t have to REcatch ’em all.

Niantic says that the iOS version of Pokémon Go erroneously requires full access to your Google Account. However, I haven’t seen anything about them correcting the problem with a new version of the app. Strangely, the Android version doesn’t do this. Logging in with a Google Account there, provides Pokémon Go with an appropriate level of access to your Google Account.

This whole situation really bothers me… Many times, iOS users don’t seem to have a way to create a Pokémon Trainer Club account. The game says that the website is overwhelmed and it won’t let you create an account or play the game. What you don’t see, is that the rest of the site doesn’t act like it’s on an overloaded web server. Its performance is really very good.

Stranger still is that after you log in with a Google Account, performance of the game is very good, too. If the game’s website and web servers were overwhelmed with as many new account requests and game play as is being alluded to, it would show up in game performance. It doesn’t.

I think Pokémon Go is the biggest Trojan horse in the world…and everyone is giving it exactly what it wants – all of your credit card info, all pf your PII, and access to your entire (Google catered) life, which it can sell to the highest bidder whenever it wants. And we’re doing it on purpose. Game players are either completely duped or just don’t seem to care…

I am deleting the game from my iPhone. I don’t need to catch ’em all… and honestly, you don’t either, especially if you don’t want your identity stolen. Prove me wrong, Niantic…! I dare you. Prove me wrong.

UPDATE: Several hours after submitting this story for publication, Niantic posted an update to the application that reduces Google Account, account access to the Basic level, only wanting to know your name and your email address. This is definitely a step in the right direction…

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Read your favorite eBooks on your Mac or on your PC with Kindle

Read your favorite eBooks on your Mac or on your PC with some of the best software available on the internet.

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I’ve been an eBook advocate since 2002 when I began reading books with Microsoft Reader. It was one of the best main streamed options at the time, AND it worked well with PocketPC’s, which, in my opinion were the best kind of PDA on the market at the time. (Truth be told, I was never fond of PalmOS or Blackberries, the other two major mobile choices at the time).

Amazon is the king of eBooks, and has been since the modern smartphone came into being after the introduction of the original iPhone back in 2007. Their Kindle hardware was revolutionary Their Kindle software available for any number of smartphones as well as your Windows PC or Mac allows you to read your eBooks where and when you want; and the software, is a total must have.

Kindle is a free application that lets you read Kindle eBooks on your Windows PC or on you Mac. Kindle offers most of the features you would find on a Kindle, Kindle DX, or other Kindle applications for computers and mobile devices. The best thing about it is that it allows you to automatically save and sync your last read page and all of your annotations across all your Kindle devices and hardware. You can also browse Amazon’s huge eBook library and purchase as well as download and read thousands of books from the Kindle Store.

The software interface is customizable. You can change font sizes and adjust the number of words that appear on each line. You can also change the number of columns that appear on a single page. If you’re reading a book for school or some other academic project, you’ll be pleased to know that you can add and view notes and highlights in your books. You’ll also be able to sync your annotations to all your Kindle apps and devices. You can even view Kindle Print Replica books, which are exact replicas of physical textbooks.

Amazon’s Kindle app is, in my opinion, the best eBook reading app available today. It is powered by the Kindle Store, which has the biggest library of eBooks on the internet. The software is device agnostic, meaning you can put the software on just about any computing device you have – PC, Mac, iDevice, Android, Windows Phone, etc. – and it will sync your progress across all devices. The only issue I have with the app is that its not easy to put non-Kindle eBooks in the app. It will work with ePub, but you might have to convert older eBooks to ePub (or other compatible format), and that isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

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Recover lost data, drives and partitions with this must have 321Soft Data Recovery for Mac

Recover lost data, drives and partitions with this must have Mac utility.

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Keeping your data safe is important. I’ve had times when not only the source file, but the backups of the source data is corrupted and the only way to get anything back is to try to recover the data from a bad drive. I’ve been there, and its been painful. When you find yourself in a situation like this, its good to have tools like 321Soft Data Recovery for Mac. It just might be able to save your bacon.

321Soft Data Recovery is a full-featured data recovery solution for OS X that’s designed to recover lost, formatted and deleted files from hard drives, flash drives, Memory Cards, mobile devices, or any other type portable storage devices. Flexible parameter settings give you absolute control over data recovery. Regardless of how the data was lost 321Soft Data Recovery can still recover the data.

The app is VERY easy to use. You don’t need to have any previous data recovery experience in order to use the app effectively. The app’s File Preview will allow you to preview files before you recover or attempt to recover them.

In addition to being a full-featured recovery utility, 321Soft Data Recovery also includes a powerful RAID reconstruction utility that can repair lost or damaged RAID volumes. The tool also has a feature-rich hex editor, and a disk clone/imaging module that allows you to create disk image files to recover data from drives that have bad sectors.

Every computer owner should have an app like this around for emergencies. The biggest problem with it, however, is its price. Its expensive, and in normal use cases, you’re likely not going to use it very often. You’re going to have to really think about the importance of the lost data before you purchase. However, from a recovery and usability perspective, this is a must have, no brainer.

 

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Create animated GIF’s from your life pictures with PicGIF

Create animated GIF’s from your life pictures with this handy Mac tool.

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Some of the simplest movies that you can create are simply made from stills and stitched together with special tools. I’ve done this throughout my computing career for a number of different reasons. However, that’s mostly been on the Windows side of the house. Thankfully, you can do this just as easily on the Mac side of the world, and that’s one of the reasons why I really like PicGIF from PearlMountain Software. It’s an animated GIF tool for your Mac, and its really easy to use.

PicGIF for Mac is an easy to use and intuitive GIF maker that allows you to create animated GIFs from your photos and videos on your Mac. One of its really cool features also lets you edit existing animated GIFs. The program is simple and easy to use, and it makes animating your pictures a lot of fun.

One of the coolest things about PicGIF is that it doesn’t matter what format your source photos are in. If you’re Mac can open them, then Pic GIF can use them to make an animated GIF. The app also works with common video formats, allowing you to quickly and easily string videos together into a longer, larger movie that can be played over the web or by other computers. It’s a great way to quickly and easily share special moments with family members and friends who happen to live far away.

PicGIF is a great application. Not only can you take control of the entire animation process, but you can set the picture size, fill mode, frame delay and playing sequence. Because its on your Mac, you can do most of the things that you would expect you can do with pictures on a Mac. It supports full drag and drop, has a text editor that will allow you to add text to your animations as well as giving you complete font control. You also get a real time preview of the animation. The app is amazing.

 

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One Windows

Say goodbye to Windows RT…

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I saw a report by The Verge yesterday and it kinda got me thinking. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been busy over the past couple of weeks. He cut over 18,000 jobs from the new combined Microsoft after the deal with Nokia closed and they had time to figure out where the redundancies were. He’s killed Ballmer’s devices and services focus for the company and has everyone focusing on the cloud and on productivity. Now, he’s taking a shot at one of Microsoft’s major products – Windows.

There can be only one…

According to Nadella, Microsoft will “streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system.” Windows will be built by a single team with one common architecture. The details of how this will actually happen aren’t known as of yet, but that means that desktop Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox will be unified. This is huge for developers, as they can now create universal apps, meaning they will only have to code and compile once and their app should run anywhere Windows does.

This has been something that Microsoft has been moving towards for months. At BUILD, Microsoft showed of dev tools that support this. While this works better for developers, how it will work in the wild remains to be seen. This ultimately means the death of Windows RT and Microsoft Surface RT/Surface 2 tablets.

THAT isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Microsoft never really got behind RT and pushed it as their competitors – both Apple and Google – push their mobile operating systems. RT was confusing to users who often mistook it for the Pro version of Windows, only without any real apps. The problem with RT was the Windows Desktop. RT still had it and Windows [File] Explorer, making it look and feel a great deal like its bigger brother, but without the ability to run any desktop apps. Quite honestly, no one knew what to do with Windows RT and Surface RT. Microsoft didn’t push it, users didn’t understand what to do with it, and it just kinda died.

As I have stated many times, Mary Jo Foley is a friend of mine, and I trust her take on the inner-workings at Microsoft more than anyone else’s. Well, maybe not as much as a Microsoft press release, but you get my meaning.

Anyway, I took a long hard look at the report by The Verge, and it didn’t quite sit right. Based on what I know MJF has said before, creating one, single Windows SKU that runs on all devices and only differentiates based on the box its running on is NOT what Microsoft has been all about…EVER. Thankfully, MJF has come to rescue again and provided some clarification.

In a nutshell, this is what “One Windows” means:

One Team – a single team developing the core of Microsoft Windows has been in place under Terry Myerson since July 2013. They will continue to take direction from one set of notes.

One “Core” – All Windows variants (and there will continue to be a few) will continue to come from a single Windows Core. Each SKU and variant will be built via a layered architecture, but will be built on top of this common core

One Store – Microsoft isn’t closing the Windows Store simply because RT is dying. Microsoft has been working to unify the Windows Phone Store and Windows Store over the past year and will continue to do so. The unified store should debut with Threshold sometime next year. How or when Xbox apps and games will be made available in the Store isn’t known yet.

One Development Platform – Microsoft will make a single set of developer API’s and developer’s toolset available. Developers won’t necessarily get the code/ compile once functionality as reported by The Verge; but they are still shooting for having developers write “universal apps.” What “universal” actually means is still a bit unclear; but many of those pieces are in place now.

According to MJF what One Windows does not mean is a single Windows SKU. There will be multiple versions of Windows, in much the same way as we’ve always seen Windows – Enterprise, Consumer, OEM and Industrial (Windows Embedded). We should be able to see this come to fruition this Fall when the public preview of Threshold is still scheduled to be made available.

What do you think of these developments? Is Microsoft getting it together, or is their strategy still too segmented/ fragmented and confusing? Does this kind of “unification” make sense to you, or is this all just a coat of paint on a busted wagon? Does the reported death of Windows RT matter? Does the reported death of Windows RT and the apparent loss of the Surface RT/ Surface 2 (not the Surface Pro line, which includes the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2/3). Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

UPDATE – After trading a few Tweets with @MaryJoFoley on Twitter, just before this went into 2013-12-09 report, Microsoft isn’t killing RT. It still plans on making it one SKU with Windows Phone that runs on smartphones and tablets. This fits with the “One Windows” MO, noted above.

I know this is all a bit confusing, but again, I trust Mary Jo Foley. Her sources are known and trusted, and she has yet to lead me down a wrong path.

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iOS 8 – What it Needs to Be

The iPhone 6 will more than likely accompany iOS 8. Here’s my annual list of requirements for the latest version of Apple’s mobile OS and its associated hardware.

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As you all know, I’ve been involved in consumer computing since the dawn of the PC. As far as mobile computing is concerned, I feel I’ve been involved with it since the dawn of time as well. Heck, I owned every Compaq iPAQ from the 3100 to the 5000 series, including the 6300-6400 series Pocket PC phones.  Yes.  It’s true…

Hello, my name is Christopher and I’m a mobile device-aholic.

Truth be told, I’m simply a gadget and button junkie who likes to take it with him.  All the time. Everyday. Out loud.  Most of you also know that the iPhone holds a special place in my mobile kit. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that lately, especially in light of the HTC One (M8) review that I wrote for Soft32.  There’s more that’s out there than just the same sized iPhone with relatively the same hardware specs and capabilities that have been in use since the iPhone 4/4S (with a few minor hardware upgrade bumps).

Now, truth be told – I’m very invested in the Apple’s iDevice ecosystem.  From a hardware perspective, I have an iPad, an iPhone and a MacBook Pro. I’ve purchased apps for all of them. More importantly, I have content that I’ve purchased from the iTunes Store in the form of movies and TV shows, music and apps that work with all of them.  I have some stuff in the Google Play and Amazon content stores, but in truth, they are eclipsed by the amount of content I’ve purchased in iTunes. As such, I’ve realized that I’m likely never leaving the Apple ecosystem. It doesn’t make sense to. I have too much content to move or convert; and then I have no idea how to remove DRM from iTunes-based video… I don’t think I even want to try… I’ve simply spent too much time and money on acquiring and organizing the content to worry about trying to get it into another ecosystem.  In the end, I realize that I’ve gotten tangled in the vines of Apple’s walled garden…

If you find yourself in the same boat, don’t despair.  It doesn’t mean that we must simply settle for anything and everything that Apple gives us. We don’t. As a member of Apple’s desktop AND mobile development programs, I file bugs on issues that I see in both iOS and OS X all the time.  Apple regularly looks at that information and at the topics in their support forums before they start planning any release or update to either operating system. In fact, there are several examples of Apple putting out both mobile and desktop releases to specifically address bugs or issues that have been identified in both types of forums.  Apple also (occasionally) looks to the tech press for suggestions and/or escalation of issues that they may have overlooked.

With the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 anticipated to be introduced in about a month at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, nearly everyone is all abuzz about what the changes or improvements are or should be.  As I’ve had this on my mind lately, I thought I’d chime in and give everyone MY two cents worth…

1. iCloud – More at a Lower Price
A few weeks ago, Google made drastic changes to its Google Drive pricing and storage plans.  Previously, I was paying $20/month for 400GB of space. It was more than I needed.  Google grandfathered that storage and pricing plan and upgraded me. Now, for literally half the price ($10/month), Google is providing 1.0TB of space. The only reason why I haven’t put most of my digital photos into Drive is because my internet provider has a monthly bandwidth watchdog; and even though I have the highest tiered data plan they offer (I have Internet only, as you may remember) Cox still sends hate mail when that cap is exceeded every month, suggesting I purchase a larger plan. I would if I could, but I can’t.

Anyway, iCloud… Apple’s free plan only provides 5GB of space.  If you have a full, 8GB iDevice, you won’t be able to back it up to iCloud without purchasing additional space.  Apple still only provides 50GB max space in iCloud, and for that, they want $100 a year (roughly $8.33/ month).  However, for about that much, Google provides 20 times more space.  The time has come for Apple to provide more space at a comparable price, and WWDC would be a decent time to announce that. While they could do it at any time – because you shouldn’t need an OS update to take advantage of the additional space – if they do make a comparable change, they will likely wait until June to announce it.

2. At the end of the day, though, Apple could jump ahead of the curve.  While Google’s storage and plan offerings are insanely large for insanely little, both Amazon and Microsoft are way more expensive.  Microsoft currently doesn’t offer 1TB of space, though they are planning on providing it to their business customers only at $2.50 per user, per month.  Amazon provides 1TB of space for $500/ year, or about $42/ month.  Dropbox Pro provides 100GB for $10/ month (or 1/10th of what Google provides, at the same price).

3. Better Data Management – iCloud/iDevice File Management
Currently, the only way to get non-media related content (documents and such) into iCloud is to save them in an iCloud enabled app.  You can’t copy content directly into iCloud. There’s no synchronized folder like there is with Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.  Apple needs to get it together and provide this kind of file synchronization.

It would also be nice if Apple gave us some control over the data in the file store on an iOS device. I don’t think we need access to the entire file system, but for those files that you have synchronized to accessible on a device, it would be nice if you could organize them within that folder structure with the device. That’s just me…but I’m pretty certain many users would also appreciate having some level of file management capabilities for iCloud on the device.

4. Change Default Apps
Some people prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps (even though the latter is getting much better with each iOS iteration and release). Some people use 3rd party calendar or contact apps.  Some people use Chrome instead of Safari on their iDevice. It would be nice if Apple gave us a way to change which apps handled which data types so we could use the apps we prefer instead of Apple’s default apps. While Apple’s apps aren’t bad, there are better apps available in the App Store, and it would be nice to be able to use those instead of Apple’s standard apps.

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Is Retro Good Enough? – The HTC One (M8) Dot View Case

It offers good protection, and the dot view display is cool in a retro sorta way, but…

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When I bought my iPhone 4S, I tended to carry it without a case. Most of the cases that I found, I didn’t like. The ones I liked, were too expensive, or…they wouldn’t work with an Apple branded or third party cradle. I got so fed up with it that I just decided to carry a naked device. Working with the cases that I found was just too frustrating.

That changed a little bit with my iPhone 5.  I’ve been using the same Speck case for nearly 2 years. I’m very happy with it, mostly because the back folds up and out of the way, so it works with devices and cradles that don’t work well with cases. It’s pretty cool to have a case that works – and I mean really WORKS – with your device and not against it.

When I received the HTC One M8 a few weeks ago, I was very excited to see that it came with the Dot View case.  Since it’s a loaner-review unit, the last thing I wanted to do was return it with scratches or dents in the screen or aluminum unibody. I know most reviewers understand that these things make the rounds, but you really want to take care of it. YOU don’t want to work with a beat up review unit. The next guy doesn’t want to, either.

So, the moment that after I unboxed the HTC One (M8), I put it in the Dot View Case. Here’s my feedback, specifically on the case.

1.Dot View Display Doesn’t Always Display

I find this one very frustrating. The Dot View display is supposed to display every time you close the case and then every time you double tap the front cover of the device while it’s closed over the display.  Simply  put, the HTC One (M8) review unit I have initially did this, but then stopped displaying the Dot View Display when the Dot View Case is closed on the device shortly after I started working with it on day one. Since then, the Dot View Display does appear when you double tap the closed case while it’s closed over the display, as required.

 2. Cracks and Wear

I’ve said it before. I have concerns about the hinge on the Dot View Case cracking over time with wear.  The logical way to work with this case is to flip the cover around the back of the device so that the cover stays open while you hold the device.  Over time, that’s going to create stress cracks on the spine of the case, and it’s going to weaken, rip and/ or crack. Period. This is just a matter of time.

3. Dot View Case and the Duo Camera

It’s clear to me that whomever designed the Dot View Case, never used it with the device. Part of the normal use case for the device is to take pictures with the device while it’s in the case.  This presents a couple of problems:

a.   Wrapping the Case Cover around the Device – You Can’t Take Pictures with the Case Cover open and wrapped around the back of the device. It covers the secondary lens, and the camera complains because the lenses are obstructed.  If you’re using the device with the Dot View Case and you want to take pictures, you have to open the case and let the cover flop open…which leads to our second problem.

b.   Elasticity in the Case Hinge – Leaving the case to flop open while you’re holding the device in landscape orientation, using the volume rocker as a shutter button, the Dot View Case cover wants to close shut on the device, turning off the display. This makes taking pictures with the device very frustrating.

In the end, you’re better off taking the device OUT of the case when you want to take pictures with the HTC One (M8).  Having the device in the Dot View Case while using it as a camera is very frustrating and very aggravating. While it’s very easy to take a lot of pictures with the HTC One (M8) and its rapid shutter release, the longer you work with the device as a digital camera, the more you’re going to want to have it out of the case, which completely defeats the purpose of having it in the case in the first place.

I’m not sure what the right answer is here. The case needs a couple of holes in the front at least for the camera (which would screw up the dot matrix look of the case OR require a graphic redesign of the dot view display), or you just need to make a different case choice for the HTC One entirely.

4. Use with Automotive Universal Device Cradles

This is another hot mess.   Most universal device cradles use some kind of spring tension arm to hold the device in place. Arkon makes some great universal holders. I’ve been using them for almost 10 years.

Your device needs to be in a cradle of some kind while it’s in the car. If you’re using it for navigation or for music playback, you’re going to want it secured and within reach so you can change songs, address GPS issues or answer phone calls without diverting your attention from the road.

The problem is that the case is flexible and there’s a great deal of elasticity in the plastic/ rubber hinge. You have to fold it around the back of the device so you can see the device while it’s in the case and in a universal cradle.  Side gripping cradles want to grab the case cover and fold it in half long ways/ portrait style. When this happens, I feel like the case cover is going to crack. Top gripping cradles want to grab the case and fold it in half short ways/ landscape style. When this happens, I feel like the plastic/ rubber hinge is going to rip AND the case cover is going to crack.

Again, this is another instance where you’d think that taking the device out of the case would be best, but at that point. However, that brings me to my final point regarding the Dot View Case.

5. Practicality Over Time – Don’t Bother

The Dot View Case is a book style case that rests its novelty in a dot matrix styled, retro display created by the holes in the cover.  When using this case with the HTC One (M8), I found I wanted the device in some sort of a protective case nearly all the time. It’s a mobile device, and I use mine most when I am in fact…mobile.

However, I found myself wanting to plug and chug the device in and out of the case more often than not when taking pictures and when putting it in a universal device cradle in the car.  The case doesn’t work well in these use cases.

I have an hour drive to work every day. That’s 2 hours in the car. Add normal picture taking/ selfies posing and other use to this, and I think you’ll find as I did.  The Dot View Case is a flop.

The problem is the case design, not the case type – a book style case. In contrast, book cases for the Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 works and works well because of the huge window cut in them to display the date and time when they are closed. When you fold them back, the opening in the case cover doesn’t obstruct the camera lens or LCD flash, allowing for unobstructed camera use.  The case hinge also doesn’t have the elasticity that the Dot View Case’s plastic/ rubber hinge and doesn’t want to swing closed all the time. I believe it’s also made of leather or other material and will probably weather the stress a bit better.

In the end, while I truly believe you need a case for any and all mobile devices and smartphones, the HTC One (M8) Dot View Case, unfortunately isn’t very practical; and that really bothers me.  I like the retro styled, dot matrix display and the fact that the device can detect a double tap to activate the display THROUGH the case, but in working with it over the past few weeks, I am too afraid of ripping, cracking or breaking it while using it for it to be of any real, long term use to me or any other user of the HTC One (M8).

What do you think?  Is the Dot View Case’s cool factor enough to excuse its many foibles? With its Gorilla Glass front and aluminum shell, is a case REALLY necessary?  Am I being too critical of the design and of book style cases in general?  Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the comments section below and let me know what you think?

 

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UPDATED – Amazon Releases FireTV

It’s a direct shot across the Apple TV bow. How the industry, and Apple specifically should respond remains to be seen…

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Amazon recently announced the Amazon FireTV, a set-top box similar to the Roku box, Chromecast and of course, the Apple TV. However, there were a few gotchas with the device that have me – and a number of other people – scratching their heads. It’s a good first effort, but; well… I don’t want to get ahead of myself…

Amazon’s FireTV has a similar look to the Apple TV, Apple’s “hobby-based” content streaming project that has them pulling in a great deal more revenue from their content ecosystem than I think most people think or Apple is willing to admit. If you have an iDevice and buy ANY content on iTunes, having an Apple TV so you can play that content on your television set is a no-brainer.

I think Amazon had the same thought. They want to give people that have adopted their ecosystem the opportunity to do the same things – watch their purchased or rented video, listen to their music, etc. on their television sets. However, based on the recently debunked rumors, it seems to me that Amazon had a chance to hit a home run, and instead, swung and missed.

The FireTV… yeah… it doesn’t support Amazon Prime Video. Meaning that you can’t use it to stream any content to your TV from the vastly popular and PAID streaming service Amazon gives its Prime members as part of their (now) $99 annual member fee. Whoever made that decision needs to be hunted down and shot fired.

Apple TV is successful because it allows users to stream items from the iTunes media store as well as a user’s iTunes library. Everything that Apple can stream to your Mac or PC, can come through the Apple TV. Users can also buy and rent content from the set top box.

Amazon won’t stream Prime Instant Video through the FireTV. There’s absolutely NO incentive for any Amazon Prime member to buy the box, even after the $20 price increase most of us have recently been subject to. Again, what idiot thought THAT up? While I understand that they are trying to entice other, new customers and users – many of which may not be Amazon Prime users to the ecosystem – what better way to cement current users into the ecosystem than through a set top box that supports their ENTIRE ecosystem and also allows those users to purchase additional content? I know there was purpose and thought behind the decision not to support Prime Instant Video. I just think their logic is flawed and the decision was, well… wrong.

In my opinion, Apple TV has no direct competitor. Yes. You’re right…there ARE other streaming set top boxes out there. The Roku box and Roku Streaming stick are two big examples at the front of the pack. However, even though it can stream content from external services like Netflix as well, it doesn’t have an ecosystem it could support. The FireTV does.

This decision just feels as though someone was asleep at the wheel. Amazon needs to reexamine it and correct it ASAP. I was seriously considering purchasing one UNTIL I found out it doesn’t support Prime Instant Video. Now, I wonder if I will even bother looking at the product pages for it.

How about you? Are you interested in the FireTV even though it doesn’t support Amazon Prime Instant Video? Would it encourage you to purchase an Amazon Prime membership if it did? Why don’t you join me in the comments below, and tell me what you think of this development.

UPDATE – This article was originally based on initial information available on the internet at the time just before the announcement of the set top box. Much of what you see above has been updated to indicate that Amazon FireTV DOES in fact support Amazon Prime Streaming Video. This is a huge win for Amazon as well as users of Amazon Prime as it corrects nearly every issue I brought up with the service.

What makes this an even more compelling buy, especially if you have most, if not all of your media content purchased through one of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, is that like the Apple TV, now you have access to all of your purchased content as well as Amazon’s Prime Streaming Video service.

If you do not have a set top box AND have an Amazon Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD tablet, this is the streaming set top box you need to purchase.

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