Apple Releases iOS 9.3.5

A hacking group exposed some nasty holes that Apple has patched with an emergency fix.

ios 9.3.5

Over the past few days, Apple has released a point-release to iOS 9.3 – iOS 9.3.5 – that was released to patch vulnerabilities exploited by the Pegasus malware. Pegasus, a set of tools that is branded as “lawful intercept” spyware by the NSO Group and has sold to some nation states for up to $1M USD. It could be used to remotely jailbreak iPhones and then use the device’s microphone to eavesdrop on suspected dissidents and its cameras to capture images of them.

iOS 9.3.5 was released to specifically thwart this malware.

Pegasus was highly sophisticated, silently installing itself via a link sent to an unsuspecting user via text message. Once installed, Pegasus can do more than just spy on you, it can also intercept cellular calls, Facetime audio and video calls, text messages, email and more. The software has been nicknamed an attack “lookout.”

Security Analysis firm Lookout indicates that Pegasus can take advantage of the following security weaknesses in iOS 9.x:

The malware exploits three zero-day vulnerabilities, or Trident, in Apple iOS:
CVE-2016-4655: Information leak in Kernel – A kernel base mapping vulnerability that leaks information to the attacker allowing him to calculate the kernel’s location in memory.
CVE-2016-4656: Kernel Memory corruption leads to Jailbreak – 32 and 64 bit iOS kernel-level vulnerabilities that allow the attacker to silently jailbreak the device and install surveillance software.
CVE-2016-4657: Memory Corruption in Webkit – A vulnerability in the Safari Webkit that allows the attacker to compromise the device when the user clicks on a link.

Pegasus is one of the most advanced set of malware tool sets available today because its customizable. It can be used to track a wide range of communication items from its victims and it uses strong encryption to protect itself and avoid detection. Both Lookout and Citizen Lab helped identify and inform Apple about the malware. Apple was able to work quickly to develop and test an update that patched the exploits in under two weeks.

While individuals in the US are very unlikely to be exposed or vulnerable to Pegasus, its highly recommended that you download and install this update to iOS 9.x immediately. If you have jailbroken your iOS 9.x powered iDevice, this will quickly and neatly place you back within Apple’s walled garden.

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Popular MP3 Music Players

Time to get your groove on with these popular MP3 player downloads!

Introduction
Music is a huge motivator for me. If there’s one thing that I know I need on a daily basis, it’s a healthy injection of my tunes. In many cases, this is most easily remedied by firing up Music on my iPhone, and I’m good to go. However, this doesn’t always work, especially when you’re in an interior room or office in a Chicago high rise and you can’t get a cell signal when you don’t have any music stored on your phone.

That’s when you need a different music player download to save the day.

mp3 music players

MP3 music players on your PC or Mac can come in a few different forms and types; and it’s important that we outline the differences.

 

  • Streaming Apps – the type of player that will play music only via an active internet connection. Music is not stored or cataloged locally
  • Local Music Players – the type of player that will play only local copies of music files. Music is stored and cataloged locally

Why are they so important? That’s simple – Music downloads and sales. Streaming music player apps make it very easy for listeners to discover new music, as it functions very much like traditional radio. Listeners can find music and listen to it in a “try before you buy” environment. Some services offer purchase links to artists and songs directly within the app, the idea behind all of this, however, is sales. Both streaming services and record labels are hoping that after you find new music, you’ll either purchase a subscription to the service, or you go and buy and download the album or tracks you’re interested in.

Apple’s Steve Jobs once said that people don’t want to rent music (the streaming app model), they want to own it (the local music player model). There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Streaming services make music discovery very easy, but require an active internet connection to play content. No internet, no tunes. With a streaming service, content isn’t stored, locally, saving on local device storage. You have rights to play and listen to songs as long as you subscribe to the service. You cannot burn any music to CD’s. All music is protected by DRM (digital rights management).

With a local music player, you can play what you have, anytime, anywhere; but finding new music by new artists is risky and expensive, as you only get approximately 30 seconds or less of preview time for each song you may be interested in. If you want more, you have to buy the song; and by then, (if you don’t like it) it’s too late. You can only carry as much music with you as you have available space. You can (usually) burn any music you own to as many CD’s as you like. All music is normally DRM free.

We’ve pulled some of the best MP3 music player app downloads for your consideration. I think you’ll find these mobile app downloads to your liking; but let’s take a look and see what they are…

Spotify
spotify_logoSpotify will tell you that music is social. This is perhaps one of the most popular, streaming mp3 music downloads available on the internet today. With Spotify, you have access to literally, millions of music tracks. All you have to do is search and then play.

Music discovery is made easy with Spotify. Your music library literally spans millions of tracks, and Spotify is available on your smartphone, your PC or your Mac. Because music is social, once you’ve discovered the music, Spotify makes it easy to share what you’ve found with friends and family right over Facebook, so you’re more than likely going to be able to see and hear with others are listening to, too.

Think of Spotify as an internet radio; but with a couple of cool features. You can share what you’re listening to, and if you don’t like something, you can always skip the track and move forward in the play list. There are , however a few limitations:

  • You get unlimited serial streaming on a free account, but only for the first 6 months.
  • Spotify Free is ad supported
  • Starting on month 7, you get 2.5 hours of streaming per week (up to 10 hours a month)
  • Starting on month 7, you can only play any one track 5 times with a free account. Remaining plays can be seen by right clicking the track.

Spotify Premium ($10 per month) provides the following benefits:

  • You get the ability to shuffle through any playlist or to shuffle play ANY available track
  • Spotify Premium doesn’t display or pause music play with ads
  • If you bump into a track you don’t care for, you get the ability to skip through them all
  • Spotify Premium no longer requires an internet connection to play music. You can download any and all tracks you like and can listen to them offline, in HD audio.

DJ Mix Lite
This next MP3 music download is going to be very popular with college students and to aspiring and professional DJ’s who like to mix their own playlists for parties and such. DJ Mix Lite helps you enjoy the music you already have by synchronizing the beats of one song to another and then reducing the playback gap between them.

The app supports WAV, MP3 and Ogg Vorbis (*.ogg) files. You can line up a number of different files between dual play windows, match the beats and then string your songs together on the fly. Music mixing is automatic, but users do have some control over how things mix.

The app and interface are rather simple, and thankfully, doesn’t require any professional mixing experience as other DJ tools might. The app does come with a graphic equalizer, so you can at least control the fidelity of the music you’re mixing.

Users wishing to have a finer control of the mixing, with perhaps custom effects and fades will find DJ Mix Lite a bit too simple for their tastes, but the app is free and it’s a decent, fun app…for what it does.


Wimpy MP3 Player
There’s not a lot of call for this anymore – it’s no longer 1990-blah-blah-blah; but should you need it, it’s here. If you need to embed an MP3 file into a webpage, Wimpy MP3 Player is a decent tool.

Wimpy MP3 Player can stream an entire folder full of MP3 files from your web site. This is especially helpful if you’re a musician or DJ and are trying to sell an album or feature an artist, or a custom mix of tracks. The app now supports JavaScript and HTML5 and will play video as well as audio.

The app works on any and all devices, has custom skins and is built on pure JavaScript, CSS and HTML5 to insure compatibility with any and all web browsers, from every desktop and mobile platform. While the app is free, it does display a watermark in the player. If you wish to remove the watermark, a quick $25 payment will get you the license file you need to remove it.


Media Monkey
MM3-LogoIf you’re like me, you’ve got music files everywhere. When you have the music in you, it’s a song-a-palooza all day, every day. This is why applications like Media Monkey are so important. Media Monkey is a “complete” audio file manager. It allows you to collect all of your music, playlists, podcasts and audio files in one place.

Media Monkey will scan your computer and all connected external devices for audio files. If needed, the app will let users choose which drives to scan for content, allowing them to fully manage the scanning experience. Catalogued content can be categorized and grouped in play lists, sorted, tagged, dated, etc. and viewed in any order the user wishes.

Unlike other apps which require drives to be connected to the host all the time, files may be stored on portable devices, CD’s, on local or remote network drives, or even another computer. Media Monkey will manage the content regardless of its location. Media Monkey can rip content on CD’s and can synch it to your iDevice of choice or any other portable, audio device.

Media Monkey for Windows will also allow you to play back your MP3 files; but only has basic VCR and audio controls, including volume and equalizer. If you’ve got an Android device, you can get its companion Android player via Google Play.

Media Monkey is free, but if you’re looking for enhanced features, including on the fly audio/ video conversions for sync, DLNA sharing and burns or up to 48x on the CD/ DVD/ DB burner, or bit perfect rips, then you may want to pop for Media Monkey Gold at $24.95.


AL Song
alsong-1-9Back in the early days of Windows, if you wanted to play any kind of audio file and you wanted to play it with a really GOOD player, you used WinAmp. Today, WinAmp belongs to Radionomy, after they acquired it from AOL. It’s gone through the wringer a bit, and while it still has sparks of greatness, its looking a little long in the tooth (or llama lips…).

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path and want something with a familiar look and feel, but with more current code, then you might want to take a look at AL Song. AL Song has all the basic features of WinAmp, but it can also be used as a karaoke machine, natively.

AL Song has its own content database and can synch song lyrics directly with the song. Should you not be able to synch lyrics to your song of choice, due to the song being too new, AL Song also includes a lyric editor and a language learner. While listening to lyrics, if you bump into a section of the song that you can’t understand very well, the language learner will help you listen and carefully pull the right words from the song by creating a song loop and going back through it over and over again. It even includes a pitch meter and a speed dial so that you can slow things down to a point where you can understand what’s being said. You can even play the loop backwards, if it will help.

AL Song has a full album editor, allowing you to pull content in from different sources, edit the album metadata and artwork. The songs will be saved in SAB format. This will allow you to listen to any song by just clicking on it like on a hyperlink from a website. This means that the interface of the album that you had created is active and works like a player.

AL Song also includes an internet radio player. As long as you know the URL of the stream and have enough bandwidth to handle the broadcast as well as your other online needs, you should be ready to go. You can even broadcast your own radio stations, bandwidth permitting.


Conclusion
Music is one of the biggest motivators I’ve ever bumped into. Its primal. Its tribal. People begin and end relationships because of music likes, dislikes, shared tastes, etc. It can change and alter moods and can do so without you even knowing your listening to it. Music moves the entire planet and can define an entire historical age…

Most people that I know, not only have a great deal to say about their music, but also about their choice of MP3 player app download as well. There are some good choices here. Some of them are all about synchronization. Some are about music discovery and streaming. Others are about playing on your mobile device or on your Mac or PC. Regardless of where you stand on type of device or even type of mobile app download, you need to be able to take your music with you and then listen to it how, where and when you want.

Do you use one of these MP3 music player apps? Do you use another not covered here? I’d love to hear from you regarding what works best for you. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area and tell me about the ways you enjoy YOUR favorite music?

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Woz Says, “Just say No”

According to reports from Fortune, Woz hates the idea of an iPhone without a headphone jack…

headphone jack

Get ready… it’s coming, yet again. Can you hear it? It’s getting closer!

Change! Change is coming!!

I remember back before the Lighting connector was introduced with Apple’s iPhone 5. The entire world lost its mind every time Apple would make changes to its proprietary 30 pin connector; and it happened often enough between the release of the 3rd generation iPod in 2003 and the release of the Lightning connector nearly four (4) years ago in September of 2012 that the wounds are still fresh. Changes to the connector meant charging cables, cradles and other accessories wouldn’t work with the newer devices, requiring you to not only shoulder the expense for the new device, but for all new speaker, sync and charging accessories as well.

It made owning an iPod risky; and it made buying a new one all that more expensive.

Since the introduction of the Lightning port with the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple’s connector hasn’t changed. Lightning cables are still Lightning cables, and they’re still somewhat expensive; but the cable still does everything that its 30-pin predecessor does and more.

This year, Apple isn’t targeting its sync connector for change. Its targeting something that’s a bit more fundamental – the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Over the past six to eight months, there have been consistent rumors regarding Apple removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from their flagship iPhone and in its place, putting an additional stereo speaker. Audio would be pumped through either the device’s stereo speakers, the audio channel in the Lighting port or through Bluetooth.

The proposed change has proven to be very controversial. The jack dates back to 1878 (yes..! as in the 19th century!). Back then the jack was 1/4 ” (6.35mm) long and used by telephone operators to connect calls from one circuit to another. Later, the jack was shrunk to 3.5mm. It’s gone through a few different revisions for both improved mono and later stereo sound. However, except for those small changes, the technology has gone largely unmodified during its 138 years (yeah… nearly 150 YEARS) of active, wide spread use.

The issue here is that EVERY set of (wired) headphones in use today from Apple’s Ear Pods and the junky jell-based earbuds you find at Wal-Mart to the top of the line Beats Headset and Bose over the ear headphones make use of the 3.5mm headphone jack; AND it’s considered by many to be the preferred method of connecting to a music player.

Case in point – according to an article published in Fortune, even Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniack prefers to use the headphone jack in his iPhone to listen to music over a Bluetooth connection.

The problem..? Bluetooth Audio sucks… and Woz is painfully familiar with it, as is just about everybody else that makes use of any kind of wireless audio connection. The dynamic range is suboptimal and the audio can often sound muddy. According to the Fortune article,

Still, that’s not enough for Woz. In his interview, the Apple co-founder said that transmitting audio over Bluetooth isn’t good enough for those, like him, who want better fidelity.

“I would not use Bluetooth … I don’t like wireless,” he said. “I have cars where you can plug in the music, or go through Bluetooth, and Bluetooth just sounds so flat for the same music.”

Pulling out the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 will likely affect every iPhone user. Many audiophiles don’t use wireless headsets yet because fidelity just isn’t there yet. The mid-range is too strong, the bass can often become muddy when its adjusted “too” high, and the high end is often flat, though experiences often greatly differ from headset to headset, external speaker, to external speaker.

Sound quality from Bluetooth-based accessories greatly improved over the last few years. There has also been a great influx of wireless audio accessories on store shelves. Apple doesn’t sell an Apple-branded set of wireless headphones. Instead, the company offers Bluetooth-based headphones through its Beats brand, which it acquired in 2014 for $3 billion USD. In fact, Beats sells several wireless earbuds and headphones that work well with an iPhone without a headphone jack.

While many who exercise (run, walk or some other solitary workout) often do so to music, they often find that the wired cord of their headsets often get in the way. Exercising and fitness have become one of the hottest catered activities and Apple is aligning both the iPhone and the Apple Watch to address this popular trend. That’s why they appear to be interested in removing the headphone jack.

The iPhone 7 is currently anticipated to be announced early next month, sometime during the first full week of September 2016. Unfortunately, Apple is one of the most secretive companies in the world, and it is unclear if the next iPhone will arrive during an anticipated, late September delivery date with or without the 138 year old headphone jack.

Will you be in the market for a new iPhone this year? Does the prospect of Apple removing the 3.5mm headphone jack appeal to you or do you feel this is a mistake? Does Bluetooth audio work well for you? Do you own a set of wireless headphones that you’re happy with, or do you use them in wired mode, instead?

I’d love to hear from you on this. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and tell me what you think?

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Android 7 – Nougat Coming to HTC Flagships

If you have a top of the line HTC phone, you might want to take a look at this…

nougatGoogle recently announced the release of Android 7, code named Nougat, to the general public. If you have a recent Nexus device, going back to the Nexus 9, you can download and install Nougat right now. Google is supporting the following Nexus devices under Android 7 Nougat:

  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus 6
  • Nexus 5X
  • Nexus 9
  • Nexus 9 LTE
  • Nexus Player

These are also the devices that are going to run PURE Android… meaning that you’re going to get Android without a lot of the crapware that comes from other device manufacturers or carriers. If however, you don’t have a Nexus device, and like me, you have HTC Android devices, take heart. Well… sort of…

HTC has pledged support for Android Nougat, but as of this writing, Nougat is only pledged for specific phones:

According to RedmondPie, HTC is going to release it for a “slew of other unspecified devices;” but God knows what that means.

If you’re wondering when you can get Android 7.0 for your supported HTC flagship phone, according to Android Authority, if HTC holds to the same schedule as it did with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, you can expect to see Nougat arriving on supported devices about two months from now (or sometime during October 2016).

If you have a supported Nexus device and have already installed Android 7.0 on it, I’d love to hear from you. Give me all the details on how the upgrade went for you. If you plan to upgrade your supported HTC device or supported Sony, LG, Samsung, etc. device to Android 7.0, I’d love to hear from you as well. The best way to do this is to leave a comment in the Discussion area, below. I will get back to you ASAP.

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Yet Another Round of Apple OS Betas

Apple has been busy over the past six to eight weeks…

I admit it – Hello, my name is Chris; and I’m a software junkie.

iosbeta

While this very first step to entering a twelve step program for something that is most likely bad for you, I have to wonder if being a software junkie is really a “bad” thing. My guess is that its not, but if you step back and think about it, its all relative – it depends on what software you’re talking about, what devices you put it on, and most importantly, what state that software is in.

Unstable software on your most important devices isn’t only (potentially) stupid, it can be dangerous. I know more than person who has irreparably bricked their device when trying to install something that wasn’t quite ready for prime time. It’s a risk; and honestly, its likely something that people like me don’t always think through.

Case in point – Apple just released a bunch of updates to nearly every platform they develop on. This isn’t always a good thing. If you remember, a couple of years ago, I had declared iOS 8 a train wreck

Hands on with early iOS 8 Beta Releases
Hands on with iOS 8 Beta 2
iOS 8 Beta 3 – A Train Wreck of a Different Color
iOS Beta 4 – Still not Soup Yet

This experience was SO bad for me, that I didn’t chase after betas of iOS 9, and have left iOS 10 pretty much alone. There are rumors that its as big – if not a bigger change – than iOS 7 was over iOS 6 and earlier versons.

Anyway, if you’re the brave type, you’ll be interested to know that Apple has recently released updates to not only iOS, but to every other platform that it develops for. Recently Apple released Developer Beta 6 and Public Beta 5 of macOS 10.12. They also released Developer Beta 6 and Public Beta 5 of iOS 10. Apple also released Developer Beta 6 of both tvOS 10 and watchOS 3.

While there were some issues with getting many of the developer beta releases, as of this writing, they should be resolved. macOS 10.12 Dev Beta 6 should be build 16A294a. If you’re interested in grabbing any of the betas for your own perusal, you can head over to this link and sign up for as little or as much beta as you want.

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Five Most Popular Mobile Software Apps

We’ve done our homework over here and have pulled together the most popular mobile software downloads for you.

Introduction
As a mobile device expert I can tell you one thing for certainty about ALL mobile devices and smartphones- they’re only as good as the mobile software available for them. If you recall, I addressed this in part in an article on what I think will make or break the iPad Pro. To be very honest, its true for all mobile devices – Software. Popular mobile software will make or break any mobile platform.

With software so important to the mobile devices that it runs on, it’s important to insure you have the right apps for your device. I’ve spent some time, pulling together five (5) of the most popular mobile software downloads, regardless of platform and brought them here, in no particular order, for your consideration.

The Top Five Apps

Maps.Me for Android
maps.meGPS apps are perhaps some of the best mobile software around. Maps.Me is an Android software download that provides turn by turn directions anywhere in the world. It supports over 345 countries and islands. Its maps are highly detailed, and contain more information than any other map or GPS app anywhere. It has millions of points of interest including restaurants, gas/ petrol stations, ATM machines, etc. It will work both online and offline, provided you have enough local storage available so you won’t incur any data roaming charges. It’s also fast, and free.


UC Browser
uc browserIf you remember, we reviewed UC Browser a few years ago. If you get the opportunity and if you’re interested in the app, you should give it a read, as it has a really complete breakdown of what the app can and cannot do.

UC Browser is an Android app that will allow you to surf the internet. Its adaptable configuration helps you adjust the way your browsing works under different networking connections and conditions. This helps manage bandwidth usage, and ultimately, data costs. The browser can also preload pages, download files in the background, and has an add-on platform that can extend the functionality of the app.


Kingsoft Office for Android
kingsoft officeOne of the most important apps I have on many of my mobile devices – tablets, laptops, and to an extent, smartphones – is a productivity suite. Kingsoft Office for Android is a free android software download. With it, you can create and edit rich text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The suite is also fully Microsoft Office compatible.

Having the ability to edit content on the go is an important ability. Its why many of us carry mobile devices. Having this ability on your Android smartphone or tablet may just make life easier or save your bacon when you need to edit something in a pinch.


Whatsapp
whatsappWhatsapp is perhaps the most used mobile application in the world, especially outside the US. With Android mobile software being the most popular type of mobile download, Whatsapp for Android is very popular. With Whatsapp being cross platform, meaning that it’s also very popular on iOS, its literally available and used on nearly every mobile device on the planet.

The app allows you to send and receive instant messages over a secure network. With it you can send text, pictures, audio notes, and video messages at no other cost than the cost of the app.

Let’s talk about that secure network thing. Whatsapp doesn’t function on its own network, it functions on any internet signal. However, it does employ encryption that can’t be broken, meaning that your messages can’t be read by “inquiring minds [that] want to know. Private and secure communications is what Whatsapp is all about.


Mobomarket
MoboMarketYour mobile device doesn’t do too much without the software that runs on it. When it comes to Android, you actually have a choice of stores to buy software from. You can use Google Play. You can use the Amazon Store; or you can use Mobomarket.

MoboMarket for Android is a third-party Android Market App that really focuses on free Android games and apps. MoboMarket has a geo-location based recommendation system, helping you discover the apps that you’re interested in most. Apps updated in MoboMarket are updated in real time, giving you full control of the apps installed on your mobile device.


Conclusion
Android mobile software downloads are something that every Android user wants and needs. Getting the right software for your device is something that everyone wants and needs. With Android being the most popular mobile operating system, powering some of the most popular devices in the world, having the best of the mobile software available is what it’s all about. The apps that I’ve included here are some of the best… some of the most popular mobile software downloads on Soft32. If you’re an Android user (or an iOS user in the case of Whatsapp), you need to check these out and see if these mobile apps are the right ones for you.

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Anyone can Pick Up Malware – Part 2

Sometimes, you can be your own worst enemy…

malwareA while back, I posted an article about how anybody could get a computer virus. It was telling, because the anybody was me. I ran afoul of a bad ad network somewhere and picked up something that caused me to, I thought, pick up a key logger. In the end, it turned out I was wrong, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Instead I had picked up a couple other viruses, both of which came through a bad ad network and both of which, it turned out, were responsible for my spam situation. Unfortunately, NONE of the anti-virus products that I had on my machine – Webroot Secure Anywhere and MacScan, could remove the software, though it had no problems at all identifying the viruses on my Time Machine drive.

Based on this information, it was clear to me that the malware was 1) on my Mac, and 2) actively hiding from the real time scanner of one app and the manual scanners of both apps. To be blunt MacScan didn’t detect a thing. Webroot found everything, but only on my Time Machine drive, and couldn’t remove all of it.

I had a couple options at this point – 1) Rebuild the system (which involved blowing the drive, putting the OS back on and then reinstalling everything from scratch, and 2) Finding an anti-malware app that could remove everything. After trying Malwarebytes for Mac and having it fail miserably, I started looking for another Mac malware scanner and removal system.

What I found, was FixMeStick; but even THAT had issues. It works very well with Yosemite and earlier based Macs; but when I purchased it in January of 2016, it didn’t work with El Capitan based Macs, and my MacBook Pro runs El Capitan. Unfortunately for me, FixMeStick didn’t know about their inability to work with El Cap Macs when I bought the product. I helped them confirm the issue.

FixMeStick is an offline anti-malware scanner. You purchase a self-booting USB stick. You stick it in a USB port, boot from it, it scans your drive, finds the goo and removes it. Unfortunately, El Capitan’s default drive format makes use of journaling, and (up until about 2 days ago, as of this writing), FixMeStick couldn’t even READ a drive that was HSF+ Journaled/ Journaled, Case Sensitive. So it was effectively USELESS to me.

I checked in with them every three to four weeks, asking if they had resolved the issue. They would always say they were close, and that they would have an update to users and a release in about four to eight (4-8) weeks. Those deadlines were always missed, and I came very close to demanding a refund.

I’m going to jump to the end, here, as its going to make this a lot more valuable to everyone in the end…

In the end, they figured it out. Their product now works with El Cap formatted Macs, and the product found three bugs on my Mac and removed them… on the first scan after the issue was resolved… but not without some last minute drama – none of the bugs were the key logger that Webroot Secure Anywhere had identified (and I THOUGHT was the cause of my Google Apps (Gmail) account getting hacked). I thought there was a problem.

Thankfully, I was very wrong.

What I learned is that Webroot has a known issue with identifying false positives when their scanner scans your Time Machine drive. While Key Logger.Spector.Pro.r is a real problem, it isn’t when Webroot Secure Anywhere ONLY identifies it on your Time Machine drive and ONLY on your Time Machine drive.

According to Webroot, and I traded email with their tech support team this past weekend, what Secure Anywhere finds is a false positive on a info.plist file in a kext file that Gatekeeper uses to identify software that can run on your Mac without you having to constantly approve it; AND it ONLY identifies it in this kext file on your Time Machine drive. It’s well documented in their support forums.

So… after 9 months… not only am I virus free; but I never had a key logger, and I shouldn’t have anything or anyone else hijacking my Google Apps account (though thankfully, I actually haven’t had that happen for about four (4) months).

But as I said in November, anybody can get a computer virus. Just because you do, doesn’t (necessarily) mean you’ve been somewhere you shouldn’t nor does it (necessarily) mean that you’re careless. It just means that you picked up a bug. What you do need to do is pick up the right tool to get rid of it, and then make certain you have a real time scanner on your computer.

For me, this is FixMeStick and Webroot Secure Anywhere for Mac.

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FEATURE REVIEW – HTC 10

HTC sent me their new flagship Android smartphone to review, and it’s awesome.

Introduction
I’ve always been a gadget guy. If its electronic and it has buttons of any kind, then I’m usually all over it. Smartphones have always been a favorite gadget, as I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan (it’s a well-known fact that the idea for the cell phone came from the Star Trek communicator). So yeah… gadgets.

Back in the day, an obscure company out of Taiwan began making smartphones for a company out of Dubai called i-mate. These smartphones were the elite of the smartphone world. EVERYONE that was anyone in the tech journalism world went out of their way to try to get one of them in their hands, including me.

Fast forward to today. That obscure little company out of Taiwan, turned out to be HTC… and their flagship phones are some of the most sought after devices on the market today. Case in point – the HTC 10 is HTC’s latest offering in their Android line. This one is going to be kinda quick; but let’s see how well it does…

Hardware
As I said, HTC has one of the best hardware reputations in the industry. It’s always been great at hardware engineering. That being said, let’s take a look at what you get when you purchase an HTC 10.

What’s in the Box?
When you get a new smartphone, you nearly always expect to find a few things included with the device. Back in the day, you got a number of different gadgets and goo-jams in the box. This nearly always included the device, some kind of device cradle or charging station, a USB cable, some kind of carrying case or pouch and a set of earbuds. Today, that’s just not the case. Nearly NO ONE includes a cradle or charging station. I find that very problematic, as I don’t like to leave my device – in a case or not – just sitting by itself on a desk. More likely than not, I’ve got a glass of something sweet and sticky also on my desk, and I’m the kind of guy that works cluttered, as I like to spread out. This potentially makes the desk a water (read: liquid) hazard zone for nearly EVERYTHING on my desk. I’m fairly good about NOT bumping or spilling anything, but accidents do happen. Having the device off my desk surface at least gives my smartphone a fighting chance; and that only happens with a sync/ charge cradle.

The ICE View Case
When I got the HTC 10, I was really surprised that it didn’t come with w case. The HTC One (M8) came with the Dot View case. It was included with the device. The HTC 10 has a similar case, but it – the ICE View Case – is a $50 USD add-on purchase. It’s not included.

Now the ICE View case is a cool HD update to the M8’s low-red DOT View case, but it’s expensive, and honestly, I don’t think it’s worth $50 USD. I happened to be fortunate enough to catch the case on sale for $20USD, direct from HTC, and my device is in one now. It’s nice and I think the device needs to have some kind of protective case. The ICE View case does a good job at $20 bucks, but a horrible one at $50 USD. At that price, it should do a lot more.

But enough about the case that should be, but isn’t, there…

OK, So What IS Included?
To be honest… not much. You get exactly the following:

  • HTC 10
  • SIM Card Removal Tool
  • USB-C Cable
  • Wall Wart Charger
  • Warranty Documentation

Notice, that you do NOT get any ear buds or other type of headphones with the device. I contacted HTC about the lack of accessories included with the device and got the following response:

“I know we used to include earphones but this time around we are teaming up with JBL to bring the highest quality earphones to consumers in a bundle package that will be coming soon to htc.com. The earphones have not hit the market yet. What you received in the package is partially due to carrier agreements as well.”

According to my contact at HTC, the JBL bundle was supposed to the partnership with JBL was supposed to come together in late June. From what I can see, it hasn’t happened. The JBL ear buds that they do show on the site, are just that – earbuds; and they’re currently priced at $200 USD. I don’t care how great they are. No earbuds are worth $200 bucks. Period.

HTC also offers as set of HTC Pro Studio Earphones for $80 bucks and a set of HTC Hi-Res Audio Earphones for $30 bucks. The Pro set has a better dynamic range, and support HTC’s BoomSound audio profile. The plain Jane set don’t. You have to ask yourself if the HTC BoomSound audio profile is worth $50 bucks. For me… it’s not. Quite frankly, their entry level ear buds aren’t worth $30 bucks in my opinion. If you want a decent set of headphones, do some research on the internet and then go to an electronics store. If you’re looking for earbuds to get you listening to audio on the go, go to Wal-Mart or some other value retailer and buy a pair for $10-$15 bucks. Save yourself some money. Earbuds aren’t worth much more than that, in my opinion.

The Full 360
As you can see from the pictures, below, the device is similar in form factor to its cousins, the M8 and the M9. However, the first moment I took it out of the box, the first thing I thought was, “wow. This looks exactly like an iPhone.” In fact, for a split second, I thought I was holding an iPhone instead of the HTC 10.

To be blunt, the hardware is awesome looking. Check it out!

 

IMG_5490 IMG_5491 IMG_5492
FULL FRONTAL: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 LEFT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 TOP: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Notice the audio jack placement on the HTC 10
IMG_5493 IMG_5494 IMG_5495
RIGHT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Both the M9 and the HTC 10 have power, volume rocker/ buttons and SIM card slots on the right side. BOTTOM: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8 and M9 have microUSB connectors, off-centered. The HTC 10 has a centered, USB-C connector & a bottom speaker instead of the headphone jack. BACK: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8’s dual camera setup was so disappointing, they did away with it.

Camera
I’ve been shooting amateur photographs for quite a while now. I’ve become pretty good, though I will be the very first to admit that I have a great deal to learn when it comes to the manual settings on my cameras. However, one of the things that I do well is compose and take a good picture.

So, when I found out that the HTC 10 supported RAW camera files, I got very excited. For those not familiar with Camera RAW and its benefits, here’s a quick explanation. Camera RAW is basically a dump of the actual camera image that the camera captures when it snaps a shot.

Usually when you take a picture the camera will take the data that it captures and then convert that data into a file that your PC – either Windows PC or Mac – can read. In many cases, in order to conserve space on the SD card you’re camera uses for storage, it also compresses that file. While the choice of this file type and its compression level is user controllable, compressing a file always strips detail out of the file, degrading the image. This happens with JPEG’s and JPG’s regardless of the compression level you use. JPEG/ JPG by default has some compression to it, even when you choose a compression level of “0.”

This is an issue because when you go to tweak your photos, you want to work with as much detail and data as possible in order to insure that you get the best results. When you add compression, you strip detail away, and well, by now, you get the point – you don’t get the best results. Camera RAW is the FULL detail of the image you took, and is really the one that every photographer wants access to when they go to retouch their images.

However, most consumer based digital cameras don’t support camera RAW. While it’s mostly because 1) Most consumers don’t care about or understand how the loss of detail effects their pictures, it’s also about 2) The camera manufacturer doesn’t want (for whatever reason) to write the translation filter for your computer so it can read and edit the RAW files for that camera (and yes, each camera/ camera brand has its own RAW file format).

With this in mind, you’re going to need to do a couple of things

  1. Understand that RAW files are big. Pictures normally range in file size from 20MB to 30MB, depending on the lighting, detail, type of shot (macro, zoom level, etc.)
  2. You’re going to want/ need to store files on an external SD card. If you keep files available on your phone, you’re going to run out of space, quickly.

All this said, I was very pleased with the performance of the camera on the HTC 10. Full camera specs can be found below.

Primary
  • 12 MP,
  • f/1.8, 26mm,
  • OIS,
  • laser autofocus,
  • dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features
  • 1/2.3” sensor size,
  • 1.55µm pixel size,
  • geo-tagging,
  • touch focus,
  • face detection,
  • HDR,
  • panorama
Video
  • 2160p@30fps,
  • 720p@120fps,
  • HDR,
  • stereo sound rec.
Secondary (Front-facing)
  • 5 MP,
  • f/1.8, 23mm,
  • OIS,
  • autofocus,
  • 1.34 µm pixel size,
  • 1080p,
  • HDR

The camera here has decent low light exposure and a decent depth of field, but it’s strictly your basic point and shoot camera. This isn’t going to do pro or pro-sumer level photography. Don’t expect that. The pictures that it takes are decent at best. I’ve noticed that zoomed in photos taken near dusk (some are below) can be grainy, even when using camera RAW.

Here are some unretouched photos that I took with the HTC 10. These are in fact JPG’s, as the RAW files wouldn’t have displayed in this review. However, they are done with minimal compression. However, if you’ve got a good eye, you may see some image degradation and graininess in them. I can; but that’s due more to the “Save for the web” feature that I used in Photoshop Elements than anything else.

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My family at my oldest son’s baseball game. My granddaughter making friends at the game The following pictures are of the coach’s review after the game (they won…) This shot is grainier at the top than it is at the bottom. I think that may be due to the stark color discrepancy between the top and bottom of the shot. Its more washed out near the extreme powder blue of the sky.
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The coaches review continues. You can see some graininess here The graininess isn’t as bad here, though, as the picture contains more elements of color than actual white.

Communication
The unlocked version of the HTC 10 that HTC sent me runs on both the AT&T and T-Mobile networks here in the US. The HTC 10 uses a nano SIM, and I was able to pull the card out of my iPhone 6 and immediately stick it in the HTC 10.

As expected, calls were clear. As expected coverage and radio reception were on par with my iPhone 6. The thing that DID go sideways with it was its communication with my car radio, the Pioneer AVH-X4800BS.

While the radio is Siri Eyes Free Compatible, it is neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto compatible. The radio uses an app called AppRadio One to display audio and video content and compatible apps on the radio’s 7-inch screen. If you want, you can call this the “poor man’s” version of CarPlay or Android Auto. It does much the same thing, but it’s a Pioneer product.

While I’ve learned that its nothing anywhere close to either Android Auto or CarPlay, I have found that the iPhone communicates and works much better than the HTC 10 does with this radio. I’m not certain if that’s a USB issue (the radio supports a direct, cabled, USB connection), a software issue (it seems to work better with iOS than with Android, in my opinion).

The radio does hands free calling via Bluetooth. That works, mostly, without issue. There are more minor Bluetooth communication quirks with the HTC 10 than with the iPhone 6. To be honest, it was one of the major reasons why I went back to the iPhone 6 much earlier than I had originally planned.

Android
The HTC 10 is an Android phone running Android 6.01 Marshmallow (or greater). The full platform specs are below.

OS Android OS, v6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
CPU Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo
GPU Adreno 530

I have been watching for updates to the operating system. Since I received the device about three months ago, I have received two OS updates and a carrier update. The device is running well.

The only real concern I have is how long HTC will support the device with upgrades. The device isn’t cheap, and one would usually expect to have it supported with updates and upgrades for at least 2 years (the average of a single “contract” term with any character. However, that may not be the case. HTC and the rest of the other OEM’s have made it clear they’d rather sell new devices than provide support.

Conclusion
I was impressed with the HTC One (M8), though it had its issues. The HTC 10 is a far cry better than the M8.

The HTC 10 is shy on accessories. You get little more than the device, a cable and a wall wart in the box. Even on HTC.com, the number of offered accessories is limited to the ICE View Case and a handful of headphones/ earbuds. If you want a lot of accessories for your smartphone, the HTC 10 may not be the device for you.

However, as the device has killer battery life, and a decent point and shoot camera. Marshmallow is a decent version of Android, though to be honest, while it does a good job with the HTC 10, it’s much like any other version of Android since Jellybean. If Android is your mobile OS of choice and you’re due for an upgrade or looking for a new mobile device, this is a GREAT device of choice.

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