Friday, February 27, 2015

Lenovo Crapware Tool

Lenovo late last Friday released a promised tool to delete the Superfish Visual Discovery adware from its consumer PCs.

The tool automates the manual process that Lenovo described earlier in the week after the Superfish "crapware" exploded in its face. The same tool also deletes the self-signed certificate that experts said was a huge security threat to anyone with a Superfish-equipped Lenovo system.

Lenovo confirmed that it is working with two of its partners, antivirus vendor McAfee and Windows-maker Microsoft, to automatically scrub or isolate Superfish and remove the certificate, for those customers who do not hear about its cleaning tool.
"We are working with McAfee and Microsoft to have the Superfish software and certificate quarantined or removed using their industry-leading tools and technologies," Lenovo said in a statement. "These actions have already started and will automatically fix the vulnerability even for users who are not currently aware of the problem."

The reference to already-begun efforts pertain to Microsoft's decision Friday to issue an anti-malware signature for its free Windows Defender and Security Essentials programs, then push the signature to Windows PCs running that software.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

LibreOffice 4.4.1

The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 4.4.1, the first minor release of LibreOffice 4.4 "fresh" family, with over 100 fixes over LibreOffice 4.4.0. The release represents the combined effort of the over 900 developers attracted by the project since September 2010, with at least three new developers joining the project for 60 months in a row.

New features introduced by the LibreOffice 4.4 family are listed on this web page:

The Document Foundation suggests to deploy LibreOffice in enterprises and large organizations when backed by professional support by certified people (a list is available at:

People interested in technical details about the release can access the change log here: (fixed in RC1) and (fixed in RC2).

Download LibreOffice
LibreOffice 4.4.1 and LibreOffice 4.3.6 are immediately available for download from the following link: LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can support The Document Foundation with a donation at Money collected will be used to grow the infrastructure, and support marketing activities to increase the awareness of the project, both at global and local level.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Well, the crapware certainly hit the fan.

That was the take by security professionals Thursday, who called on Lenovo -- and other PC makers -- to stop the practice of loading third-party software on new PCs.

"Bloatware needs to stop," said Ken Westin, security analyst from security firm Tripwire, in an interview. "Companies like Apple, which sell their products on their own merits, they don't sell out their customers with this adware crap."

The practice of pre-installing software on new machines is so widespread, and has been going on so long, that it has well-worn labels, like Westin's "bloatware" or the cruder but more descriptive "crapware." Device OEMs (original equipment manufactures) load such software for financial reasons, cutting prices on the hardware so drastically -- usually in an effort to keep pace with rivals -- that the money earned from software makers is sometimes the difference between profit and loss.

OEMs are paid to load the software onto their PCs -- developers fork over money to get their programs in front of users -- and earn revenue when consumers pony up to extend the trial periods of those pre-loaded applications that come with expiration dates.

But with the latest Lenovo fiasco, crapware-as-a-security-threat has triggered a blowback much greater than the contempt and ridicule formerly assigned it by consumers. And that's going to hurt the China-based PC maker.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

LensPen Peeps

Peeps is the new all-in-one cleaner for eyeglasses and sunglasses, created by LensPen. Peeps features the same carbon-cleaning technology LensPen products have used to clean fine optics for more than two decades. Peeps will be introduced in February and March at MIDO 2015 in Milan, Italy (hall 3 stand C36), and at Vision Expo East in New York (booth 3140).

"People that wear high-quality glasses or sunglasses are not satisfied using microfiber rags, tissues, sprays and shirt sleeves to clean their lenses," said Peter Meurrens, Vice President of Operations for the LensPen Group, and developer of Peeps. "They want something better: a cleaning device that cleans perfectly, is convenient and has some style. Since a camera lens and an eyeglass lens are virtually identical in structure it was logical for us to develop a new product for the optics market which has not seen a cleaning innovation in over 50 years. And that product is Peeps."

Cleaning eyeglasses with Peeps is a simple two-step process. First, clean the lens with the retractable goat-hair brush to remove any loose dust or potentially abrasive particles on the lens surface. No other cleaning system offers this pre-cleaning step, which is essential to protect the lens and the AR (anti-reflective) coatings. Second, slide the arms out from the holder and clean the lens with smooth circular motions of the cleaning tips. If some smudges remain, breathe gently on the surface and repeat.

Each time the arms slide back into the holder, the carbon on the cleaning tips is replenished and Peeps is ready for its next cleaning. The Peeps cleaning tips can be recharged up to 500 times.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The End is Here

When was the last time you went to a store to pick up an album? Are you the type to download collections on iTunes, or have you given up on the format entirely? If you’re one of the millions of Americans who did purchase an album in 2014, you may want to know the shopping habits of your fellow countrymen, and of how you fit in with them.

There are still plenty of people buying albums, and those who do have changed the way they do so—or, more specifically, they’ve changed where they do so.

Record stores have been closing in droves for over a decade now, and it’s still not looking great for some. While the world watched large retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Barnes & Noble and Target take over huge chunks of market share, those names are no longer the leaders they once were. In fact, of all the places where consumers shop for physical CDs, that group suffered the worst loss last year.

Sales at chains like Barnes & Noble and Trans World Entertainment (which operates the still-standing f.y.e. stores, and which used to own brands like Sam Goody and Strawberries), declined 20.6% year over year. The mass merchants (Target, Walmart, etc.) only fared slightly better, losing just over 19% in sales.

The number of albums sold in both of these store categories may be shrinking, though that’s not to say that they are  insignificant. Chains (Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, etc.) moved 31 million albums in 2014, down from 39 million the previous year. The bigger merchants (Walmart, Target) sold just over double that—63 million records—a loss of 15 million from 2013.

Friday, February 20, 2015

LibreOffice 4.3.6 Available to Download

The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 4.3.6 "Still", the sixth minor release of the LibreOffice 4.3 family, which is now the suggested version of the software for large deployments in the enterprise and conservative users. LibreOffice 4.3.6 contains over 110 bug fixes.

The Document Foundation suggests to deploy LibreOffice 4.3.6 in enterprises and large organizations when backed by professional support by certified individuals (a list is available at capable of providing value added support.

People interested in technical details can find change logs for LibreOffice 4.3.6 here: (fixed in RC1) and (fixed in RC2).

Download LibreOffice

LibreOffice 4.4 "Fresh" and LibreOffice 4.3.6 "Still" are available for download from the following link: LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can support The Document Foundation with a donation at

March ePub Issue

The March issue of our monthly ePub is being emailed to all of our subscribers this morning. It’s being distributed a bit earlier than usual because it got finished a bit earlier than usual. Spring snow storms do have one big benefit, they allow us to work without distractions!

Ifr you aren’t a subscriber already please let us know and we’ll add you to our distribution list!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Features for Outlook for iOS and Android

Microsoft on Tuesday updated Outlook for iOS and Android with several features important to enterprises.

The update made good on a promise to quickly begin adding tools formerly found only in Outlook Web App (OWA), the two-year-old Microsoft program used by corporate employees to retrieve email and appointments on their smartphones and tablets.

Outlook for iOS and Android launched three weeks ago as the replacement for OWA. At the time, Microsoft said it would refresh the app every few weeks and pledged to beef up Outlook with IT-necessary features currently found only in OWA.

At some point, Microsoft will retire OWA and it will be pulled from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The biggest addition to Outlook Tuesday was PIN locking, which lets enterprise administrators require that mobile devices be locked with a passcode if they're used to grab business email, calendar appointments and other information.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Think Tank Photo Modular System

One of the first questions you may be asking is why is the ability to "rotate or lock" your gear on your belt important. Here are a couple of reasons.

First, while in active shooting mode imagine that you are in a crowd or seeking to keep a low profile while kneeling to get a shot. If your gear is locked on the front of your belt, when you kneel your gear can dig painfully into your leg.

Second, imagine you've been carrying lots of bodies, lenses, and accessories around your waist all day and your back is starting to hurt. With the rotate function you can maneuver the gear on the belt so that you aren't repetitively straining the same parts of your body.

To see the "rotate or lock" function in action, here is a video of their co-founder and lead designer Doug Murdoch demonstrating how this works

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Happy Fat Tuesday

A very Happy Fat Tuesday to everyone. For those us us in many parts of the US it means day two of being weathered in because of winter snow and ice. With a forecast of sub-freezing temperatures for the rest of the week it may be a while before we can go anywhere.

Oh well, I have a lot of reviews and articles to write so keep the coffee coming!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy Lunar New Year

IF, and it’s a big if, you are one of the billions of people who celebrate the Lunar New Year this week, then Happy New Year.

Here’s a simple explanation of who celebrates what Lunar New Year.

The following East and Central Asian Lunar New Year celebrations are, or were historically, based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar: (occurring in late January or February)

These Southeast and South Asian Lunar New Year celebrations (indic- influenced) fall on other days:

These Lunar New Year celebrations that originated in West/Southwest Asia fall on other days:
  • Islamic New Year or Muslim New Year follows a purely lunar calendar of 12 months that retrogresses through the Gregorian and Julian calendar years. The day of Muslim New Year may thus fall in any season on the calendar.
  • In Jewish (Rabbinical and Karaite) and Samaritan religious and secular traditions, there are several holy days and festivals that are lunar new year observances. Each tradition uses a slightly different version of the Hebrew Calendar but they are all lunisolar, so the days always fall in the same season.
    • Tu Bishvat is the New Year for Trees in rabbinical Jewish tradition but is not part of the Karaite or Samaritan calendars. It is a late winter/very early spring holiday.
    • Passover in Karaite and Samaritan traditions is the culmination of the New Year celebrations that begin on 1 Abib (aka 1 Nisan); while for rabbinical Jews, 1 Nisan is the New Year for kings and festivals and Passover (15 days later) generally is no longer associated with new year celebrations, except as being the first festival of the sacred or Biblical year. Passover is a mid- to late spring festival in rabbinical and Karaite traditions (March-April), and a late spring to very early summer holiday in Samaritan tradition (April-May).
    • Rosh Hashanah LaBehema, the first day of the month of Elul, is the New Year for Animal Tithes in rabbinical Judaism; while in Samaritan tradition, this is the date at which the number of the year advances. This is a very late summer/early autumn holiday.
    • Secular Jewish New Year in rabbinical Jewish tradition, begins at the new moon the coincides with the first day of the month of Tishri. The number of the year changes on 1 Tishri in rabbinical Jewish tradition. The Samaritan year changes number a month earlier, on the first day of Elul; and the number of the year in Karaite tradition happens on the first day of Abib (Nisan), 15 days before Passover. Karaite Jews and Samaritans do observe Rosh Hashanah but as the holiday Yom Teruah (meaning "Day of Noise," whereas Rosh Hashanah means "Head of the Year"). It is an autumn holy day.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Amzer Crusta Review

By George Harding

If you've been looking for a case and holster for your iPhone 6, Crusta is one you will probably want.

When you open the package, you notice that there are four pieces to it: the screen protector; hard shell case; finish ring; and belt clip holder.

The screen protector is not just some flimsy piece of plastic. No, it's made of tempered glass and is virtually indestructible. It is just as touch-sensitive as the iPhone itself, is crystal clear and covers the beveled edges of the iPhone's screen.

The hard shell case is made of toughened polycarbonate and has anti-fingerprint coating, and comes in six different colors to satisfy those for which color is important.

The finish ring has three layers for impact resistance and comes in six colors. It provides a textured look and feel with good gripping ability, important for a device like this.

The belt clip holster is black and attaches to your belt with a strong clip. When attached, the holster can be rotated 360? for your comfort. Your phone can be inserted either frontwards or rearwards, whichever you prefer.

Crusta has been developed over many months, coordinating with users to achieve maximum desirability.        
Price $45

Friday, February 13, 2015

An Open Letter to Publishers

At CES this year it was obvious that many of the start-up companies have no idea how to turn an idea into a profit making enterprise. It is our opinion that many of the people we talked to have one plan and Plan A is: have a real company acquire us for a gazillion dollars so we never have to work again.

Which leads us to books. Twenty years ago publishers (like Que) printed big, thick, expensive volumes that were really outdated the day they went to press. Today's business model is drastically different. Today eBooks can be modified every time there is a requirement, even if that's several times a day! And prices can be much, much lower because there really isn't a need to physically print a book.

The questions I have for all of you are: where do we go from here? Is there still money to be made in publishing and if so, how do we get the system to work? And lastly, is traditional paper publishing dead?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

iolo News

iolo technologies, recognized globally as the leading source for innovative computer optimization solutions, today unveiled System Mechanic 14.5, the newest version of its flagship PC performance optimization software. System Mechanic 14.5 deploys re-engineered versions of the fan favorite NetBooster® feature that has been proven by iolo Labs to boost Internet download speeds by up to 30 percent.

Exclusive to System Mechanic, NetBooster® automatically optimizes Internet settings and connections to improve overall Internet speed. Understanding that Internet speed is one of the most crucial factors in any PC user’s computing experience, iolo re-tooled NetBooster® to maximize performance in the modern Internet landscape.

NetBooster® achieves optimal Internet speed by allowing users to adjust several hidden TCP/IP settings automatically or manually. Another NetBooster optimization tests a user’s current DNS server speed versus other available DNS servers and recommends the faster one. These adjustments also increase bit rate and resolution of videos when streaming and reduce latency in online games that are TCP bound.

“Through exhaustive testing in iolo Labs, we were able to isolate and adjust key hidden Windows network settings that ultimately led to sizably faster download benchmarks on CNET, AT&T and Speedtest’s Internet benchmarking tests,” said Dennis Bottrell, iolo’s Executive Director of Engineering. “That along with our new DNS optimization makes for a highly promising Internet accelerator.”

System Mechanic 14.5 also introduces a number of other new features and improvements, including:

More Processor Control – PowerSense™ technology dynamically adjusts the computer’s processor cores and speed based on user needs, and has been updated with:
  • Quick Controls – Easy-access system tray buttons for manually switching PowerSense Modes right from the desktop.
  • Customize Your Own – The built-in PowerSense Modes are designed specifically for video and music editing, gaming, graphic design and other common activities that demand different degrees of system speed and stamina. Now, PC users can create new, customized versions of these modes.

Early Warning System for Hard Drive Failure – DriveSense™ helps PC users avoid catastrophic crashes with diagnostics that automatically alert users when a hard drive failure is imminent so they can better protect data.

Re-engineered Deep Memory Mode: Re-architected for System Mechanic 14.5, Memory Mechanic® deep cleaning mode returns with improved RAM optimization.

Fully Integrated LiveBoost™ – System Mechanic’s command center for real-time processor, memory and hard drive performance-boosting is now smartly integrated into the main System Mechanic interface, with streamlined status reporting and new Windows system tray quick controls.

About System Mechanic
The world’s leading PC optimization software, System Mechanic® has been used by more than 45 million people to keep nearly 80 million computers in optimal condition since 1998. It is consistently ranked as the #1 best-selling software in its category within the US, Canada, UK, France and Benelux countries by NPD and similar sources.

System Mechanic 14.5 is automatically available at no charge to all existing users with an active iolo service plan, which provides all product updates and upgrades, as well as continuous Tune-up Definitions updates. New or existing users without a service plan can purchase System Mechanic 14.5 directly from, via all major web e-tailers, or in one of more than 23,000 retail storefronts that carry iolo’s products worldwide, such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Staples.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lens Review

The Tokina 300mm f/6.3 mirror lens we have been waiting for has arrived and we have started the review. We're doing a two lens review, the Tokina and a Samyang 12mm f/2.0 lens.

 Both are in  micro4/3 mount and they make an interesting comparison. They are the classic long and short end of lenses. Sort of the Yin and Yang of photography.

Look for the review in our April ePub issue.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sony Sells Online Entertainment

Sony has sold Sony Online Entertainment, the studio and publisher that created EverQuest (and, to a large extent, the modern MMO genre), in a deal that will see it owned by investment management firm Columbus Nova and rebranded as Daybreak. The studio originally began as an in-house product at Sony Interactive Studios America back in 1995, when John Smedley, Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover began the project that would become early category-defining massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) EverQuest.

SOE is currently home to EverQuest, PlanetSide 2, DC Universe Online and H1Z1, and previously played host to Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix Online and others. It received an Emmy in 1998 for EverQuest, and its role in the development of the MMORPG genre. Sony Online Entertainment did see significant layoffs in both its San Diego and Austin studios last year, however, and was the target of an attack that resulted in 24.6 million customer accounts being compromised back in 2011.

The new owners plan to continue to offer and expand on SOE’s existing lineup, and said in a statement that they intend to release EverQuest Next in the “near future” as was the plan under the company’s previous owners. Daybreak, as the studio is now called, will also become a multi-platform gaming company, with plans to build games for PlayStation, Xbox and mobile according to the team. Daybreak also expects to have access to more resources for future projects than it did under Sony ownership, according to a statement from the company.

Monday, February 9, 2015

MSFT Office 10 License Cost

Microsoft will license some of the touch-based Office for Windows 10 apps in the same way it now handles those for iOS and Android, the company said today.       

That means the same policy holds for business as before: Office still costs money.

But Microsoft's licensing plans for the apps -- the core trio of Excel, PowerPoint and Word, as well as OneNote and Outlook, the firm's note taking and email clients, respectively -- are still unclear, both because Microsoft won't discuss every element and, at least in part, because of the company's Byzantine licensing practices.

Adding to the potential for confusion is that Microsoft will actually be releasing two sets of Office for Windows 10 apps: One for smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than 8-in., another for all other touch-enabled devices, including larger tablets, notebooks and desktops, and 2-in-1 hybrids.

And the two sets may be licensed differently.

While the apps will be free to use during the preview period -- which kicked off Wednesday with the launch of Excel, PowerPoint and Word for larger tablets and touch-ready PCs -- that will change when the software officially launches later this year.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Great Deal

I recently found this excellent deal online for Mirrorless Olympus micro4/3 lens mount cameras:

Mine should get here on Tuesday.

Friday, February 6, 2015

MSFT Outlook App

The release this week of Microsoft’s first truly native Outlook app for Android and iOS has earned the company accolades and could be a sign its mobile strategy is finally getting on track.

“Microsoft is absolutely doing the right thing putting these important and popular applications on Android and iOS,” said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. “An increasing number of users of these products already use multiple devices, and it is valuable for them to be able to move across platforms with the same tools.”

The new app, released for iOS and in preview mode for Android, is technologically and stylistically different from, Microsoft’s mobile front-end for its Web-based email service. It’s also very different from the Outlook Web App, with which users of Exchange and Office 365 access their business accounts.

It’s not an original Microsoft product, having been acquired last December in the buyout of mobile developer Accompli. As such, it doesn’t yet support all the features of Outlook for Windows. In a statement, Microsoft acknowledged that both versions of the app currently lack the full range of support for Exchange ActiveSync administrative tools, particularly the ability to remote-wipe an entire phone if it’s lost or stolen (for now, it supports remote-wipe of email accounts and their stored attachments).

But the software is drawing praise nonetheless, helping transform the perception of Microsoft as an also-ran in mobile technology.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Q4 Tablet Shipments

Tablets shipments have declined year over year for the first time.

In the fourth quarter of 2014, 76.1 million tablets shipped worldwide, according to the International Data Corporation’s worldwide quarterly tablet tracker. Even though tablet shipments were down this quarter, they were up 4.4 percent in all of 2014 compared to 2013. A total of 229.6 million units shipped last year.

The study notes that Apple still leads the pack, holding onto more than a quarter of the global market share. The company shipped 21.4 million tablets in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Samsung shipped 11 million units. Although the company’s shipments were down for the quarter, Samsung’s shipments in 2014 grew one percent. Apple, on the other hand, experienced a 14.6 percent drop in shipments from 2013 to 2014.

IDC says this may be due to Apple’s recent roll out of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which may be cannibalizing iPad sales.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I just learned this today

Since my name has an accented letter in it I found this article of interest:

Accent marks (Android and iOS)

Don’t get caught skipping the accent grave in “voilà” while typing that email on your iPhone or Android phone.
You can access a generous portion of accent marks—acute, grave, circumflex, and otherwise—by tapping and holding a letter key (like “a”). 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lenovo Profits

Lenovo Group Ltd. surged the most in almost two years after posting profit that beat estimates, with the Chinese company expanding its global market share for personal computer and smartphone sales.

The shares in Hong Kong rose 7.3 percent, the biggest gain since April 2013. Net income was $253 million in the quarter ended December, compared with the $182.4 million average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Officer Yang Yuanqing is defying weak growth in the PC industry by increasing sales, margins and market share as he expands in smartphones and servers. Lenovo bolstered that push with $5 billion of acquisitions last year, including buying Motorola Mobility from Google Inc. and purchasing International Business Machines Corp.’s low-end server unit.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Bigger is better, according to a new Juniper Research report that says phablets are destined to become even more popular over the next several years.

More than 400 million phablets will ship in 2019, five times the the estimated 138 million to be shipped this year, the report said. As such, phablets will account for more than 20 percent of mobile devices shipped in the next four years.

The phablet is defined by Juniper as a handset with a screen size of 5.5 inches to 6.9 inches that can be held while making phone calls -- but not necessarily for an extended period of time.

Big-screened smartphones have surged in popularity among consumers. That's one reason why Apple launched the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus last year -- to reclaim customers and market share lost to Android vendors.