Video Killed the Radio star…

iphone headphones

and Apple is trying to kill the humble headphone jack, if current rumours are to be believed.

The move from a 3.5mm connector to a lightning connector leaves me with mixed feelings. On one side it’s a blatant move to force people to buy new headphone (which have the Apple certification), on the other side, it’s about time.

I have memories from childhood of hooking up a Spectrum to the tape drive with a cable with a 3.5mm jack at either end and nothing about the cable has changed in so many years.
The lightning port offers a higher sounds quality, and with the iPhone, the chance to make a smaller (read thinner) phone, as there is one less bulky component in the way.

But why stick with the cord?
Bluetooth headphones had been about for years, and work perfectly well with the iPhone already, the only issue here is that Bluetooth limits you to cd quality sound, so all your lossless audio files are wasted.
For some people this isn’t a problem, as they will be happy to have audio in the gym, or on the train/bus to work, but to any audiophiles, this isn’t acceptable.
They will be the ones forced into a new and expensive worth of high quality wired headphones.
The advantage they will see is that they can now have an integrated DAC and/or amplifier.

I am interested to see where Apple are going to go with this, as it would be a bold move, but one Apple have a chance of pulling off due to the market share, and they will be able to push the Beats range of head phones that they bought last year.

It’s a risky move, but we will have to wait and see it they push forward with it.

Encryption: The hidden evil?

encryption

Another terror attack, another cry for more security. Then in the same breath a cry for less security.

“We’d have caught them if it wasn’t for that pesky encryption.” – Mystery politician

Near the end of 2015 we are living in a post Snowden world, where more of more people are worried about the government agencies and everyone else having access to their data, but are the government interested in our little secrets, or just trying to look after the country?

Since Edward Snowden dropped the bomb on what the NSA and GCHQ gather, we’ve all been a little more outraged about how much Big Brother was really watching us. He’s always been there, but now we can see him peeking through the crack in the door.

This has led to companies like Google and Apple offering their customers more security, and on a phone this is encryption, but do you need it?

Personally for most people that answer is no.

Why would the government spy on your phone, if they want to see your selfie, it’s already been uploaded to social media for all to see.

Do they care about the copy of Super Mario you’re buying from eBay, or the video you’re watching on Netflix, or even the porn you’re looking at when you think no-one is around.

The answer is no, why would they, it’s all perfectly legal, but with a digital paranoia, we can’t see if people are snooping.

 

So most people don’t need to encrypt their phone, but should they? I think yes.
Phone encryption when done right will protect your data from both the people who protect the law, and more importantly people who break the law.

 

I encrypted my phone a few weeks ago, not because I fear my secrets will be going through the office of 007, but to protect my passwords, accounts and any other saved data should my phone be stolen.
I have to say I am impressed with how the Samsung S6 runs when encrypted, day to day I have noticed no difference. The only change is if I reboot it, it asks for a password to start.

The issues comes when someone gets arrested, and the police want to look at their phone, but wait they can’t as the person has got encryption turned on.

There is the dilemma, if the police ask me for me for a password, and refuse to give it to them, it’s a crime.

But if I do give it to them, I could be incriminated myself.

Now, if they deem that it’s worth the hassle, they might asked Apple or Google to help them break my codes, but both companies refuse as there is no master key, and they don’t have access to my passwords.

So my data is safe.

Now what if I’m a nutter who wants to blow up a school, and all the plans and people are on the phone, what can the police do? Sadly nothing. Guess the passwords? maybe. Ship me to international waters and beat the password out of me? (I hope not)

Where do they go now? Ah, his email and digital chats, we can get a copy of those.

Oh dear, encrypted as well.

This leads to the president of the USA, saying you’re welcome to your security, but maybe not too much, so we can have a peek if we need to.

We mainly worry about who should be allowed to peek, and that’s the sticking block.

Most of us would agree that the intelligence agencies should be able to access only the data they need to keep the country safe.

How about the police to spy on, and catch organise crime, drug dealers, and those people who really should be kept away from society. Well I guess so.

How about the local council to see if we’re splitting our recyclables from our rubbish? Well no.

And here is the issue, where do we draw the line, and can we trust people not to abuse the data they have access to?

We can’t, and for most of us, we won’t.

So, where do we go from here? Do we outlaw encryption? No, It’d never work, the tools are out in the public domain, so we’re not going to get rid of them.

Do the spys get better tools? We all know as technology advances, so will ways of tracking it and hacking it.

What does the future hold I wonder, will quantum computing make all passwords and code obsolete? Will we ever live in a world where we don’t need to worry about attacks?

I guess we’ll wait and see

Try Windows Phone 10

AppComparison

While this isn’t new news, but Microsoft is after your money.

They pushed out their windows 10 for free, hoping for an increased user base using it, and it seems to have worked..

And now they’re after your phone.

Like a lot of people, I use an android phone, my most recent model a Samsung S6. It does what I need, and a little bit more, and I love how easily it is to unlock with a just a finger print, rather than a pin code, but would I change it?

Microsoft think I will, and to make my pain a little less, they recently released an app called AppComparison on the Google Play store. The idea is that it’ll show you have easy the switch from Android to Windows Phone will be, as all my favourite apps are there (or at least something that does the same thing)

Being a curious person, I installed and it fired it up, expecting the common things like Facebook to be there, but not some of my other apps to be present.

And I got what I expected, my google apps are replaced with Microsoft apps and a lot of the common ones are there, and my favourite satnav app Sygic is there.

So what’s stopping me swapping over? Well a lot of things really.

The main problem with using a smartphone is that you tend to buy into the ecosystem of that phone, both of apps and accessories. To go with my phone I have an LG Android Wear watch. It was my birthday present to me (hey I’m a geek).

I’ve also spent a fair amount of money in android apps, as well as games and uploaded all my music to Google Play so I can stream music wherever I am.

This also doesn’t take into account cost. In the UK the normal contract period for a mobile phone is 2 years, so when I renew I tend to go for a flagship model so it’ll last the 2 years until I can replace it.

So, let’s says I decided to make the leap, and get a nice shiny Nokia Lumia 950, as its spec is close to the S6.

So I get the phone, £700 in line rental for 2 years, and my LG watch no longer works, so I need to replace it with something that works with windows phone 10 OS, that’s Microsoft band 2 @ £200.

Now I just need to replace the apps I’ve already bought in the android store, with ones from the Microsoft store.

End if the day that’s me dropping £1000 to change phone, and hope I get on well with the new OS.

Sorry Microsoft, I can’t do that, like so many people out there I’m tied to my current phone OS, but could you change my mind.

Well yes but not with ease, you’ll need to run a “borrow a phone” program, if I was given a Windows phone, and band 2 for a couple of weeks, I could see if I could handle the swap, Samsung did a similar thing to tempt iPhone users to switch.

Would it work? Maybe, until I run it as a daily driver I won’t know.

Will Microsoft lend me one, I doubt it, so it seems Google has my money for the time being.

Spam-a-not

email-spam

A short time back my web host decided they were going to no longer run their servers, which left me with a hard choice where do I go for new hosting.

The biggest thing I use is e-mail, so need a reliable solution for this.

After a long search, I decided to go back to renting a server and hosting everything myself, and with the fantastic prices of VPS machines, I reached for my credit card.

All set up fine, moving from cpanel to a free alternative calls Vestacp. Very easy to do, and smooth.

The only problem I found afterwards was a massive increase in spam, which while I could deal with, it was bugging a few people whose email I host.

I tried many settings within SpamAssassin and could only really block 1 in 20 spam emails, so I needed a better solution…

And this is where I found a service called MX Guarddog, they claim to prevent spam and viruses arriving in your inbox for free. This seems too good to be true, but there’s a free 30 day trial, so what do I have to lose?

Setting the account up was quick and easy, as was uploading the e-mail addresses in a csv file.

Next part is changing the MX settings of the domain to point their servers, and wait for it to propagate.

After a day or so the spam just stopped, logging into the web portal I could see the quarantined emails. There was one to two real emails trapped there and with a click or two they were forwarded on to me and white listed to stop them being blocked in the future.

They have a very good pricing structure with each email they cover needing one “token” a month, which works out at about 17p, or if you link from your web page to them, they will give you free tokens, so you use the service free if you are happy to do a small plug.

So a month on whats my thoughts on MX Guarddog?

I love it, next to no spam ends up in my mail box, and the price just can’t be beat, with a set up so easy a child could do it.

 

A new tablet, but which one?

Google_Nexus_7_vs_Microsoft_Surface_vs_New_iPad_vs_Kindle_Fire

Well the old girl has done well, but sadly its time to be put out to pasture.
Yes, my 2012 Nexus 7 is heading for the well earned rest it so badly needs.

The Nexus 7 has been a constant companion with me since I got it, back in December 2012, it has been flashed with more ROM’s that I care to try and remember and has had many different versions of android on it.
but as with all things, it is showing it’s age.
its slow, noticeably with everything, from turning on to opening apps.
its a common issue with the type of flash ram it has, TRIM helps a bit, but no longer enough.

whats next?
well my favourite thing in the whole wide world, gadget shopping.

So I need a new tablet, and my first thought goes to the Nexus 9, I loved my last nexus, what could go wrong?
Then I was wondering, have my needs for a tablet changed in the last few years, initally it was nice to do stuff that I could do on my phone, but with a bigger screen like pictures and videos, but I was starting to want something I could work on.
Working as a Technical Lead and going to a meeting with customers, and being the only one in the room thats using pen and paper looks a little odd.

The Nexus 9 with the Folio keyboard starts to push the price to £500, which is starting to get expensive for my needs.
I took a quick look at apple, and decided against the ipad as I would have to buy my apps again, and the costs was about the same.
So I started to look at the windows tablets, like a lot of people I use windows at home and the office, so I know my apps will working on them, but the specs seem terrible, 2gb ram? are they mad?

I started looking at the Microsoft Surface range, as I’d always loved the look at them, and was put off by the price of the Pro range instantly.
then I saw what looked like a gem, the new surface 3.
it was small enough that I could slip it in a small bag, yet big enough to be practical for meetings, or doing working at home from the sofa, and the price as not to bad looking.
I starting looking at specs and reviews, and decided the only option was the 128gb storage, with 4gb ram.

After much hunting, both in shops and ebay, I saw an add online for the surface I wanted, with keyboard cover, and the added bonus of the surface pen at a price that couldn’t be real.
I instantly contacted the seller expecting it to be a typo, but no, it was real, the whole lot for £250 less than the shop price.
it turns out, the seller was a local uni student, who had been bought it by his parents, didn’t like it, so went back to his mac book.

A couple of days later I met him in a coffee shop to see if (for once) thing were as good as they seemed.
The surface was 1 month old, and looked like it had just come out the box.

I had a short play, and instantly handed the money over.

It was perfect.

I got it home and started the task of setting it up how I wanted, which just meant a fresh install of windows 10, and a few installs of needed apps.

I feel I have made the right choice for me, i can still do all my android apps through a VM, and I have the benefit of a mobile, and powerful windows machine.