Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MSFT App Store

Microsoft boasts that its Windows Store now has 669,000 apps for phones, tablets and PCs, and hundreds more join the party each day.

The app ecosystem can make or break a platform, as it plays a tremendous role in users' choice to stick with one operating system or flee to another. Android and iOS have huge app ecosystems and are the top two mobile platforms. Others such as Windows Phone and BlackBerry, for instance, saw many users switch to Android or iOS because they wanted more apps available. Android offers 1.6 million apps, while Apple offers 1.5 million.

Microsoft promised a big change with its latest Windows 10 OS and its universal apps, pledging to significantly widen the app ecosystem and allow apps to run on phones, tablets and PCs alike.

The company has now updated its Microsoft by the Numbers site, revealing that it currently has 669,000 apps in the Windows Store and it's adding "hundreds more each day."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Samsung Pay is Here

Stateside Samsung phone users can now leave their wallets at home.
Samsung Pay, the company's mobile payments service, went live in the US on Monday. The service lets users pay for items using their phones or upcoming Gear S2 smartwatch, and it even works at older retail terminals that don't accept Apple Pay.
Samsung Pay works with Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, Note 5 and S6 Edge+ smartphones running on wireless networks from AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular. Verizon doesn't yet support Samsung Pay, but Samsung said it's still working with the wireless carrier on preloading the service on Verizon phones. Verizon had backed a mobile payments service of its own -- initially called Isis but rebranded Softcard -- but the service was absorbed by Google Wallet/Android Pay earlier this year.

Monday, September 28, 2015

YouTube Changes

YouTube, which spent the first 10 years of its life as a free service, is getting ready to start selling tickets.

Google’s video site appears to be finalizing launch plans for its long-in-the-making subscription service, and industry sources say they’ve been told to expect a launch near the end of October.
A blast email from YouTube to content owners, telling them they have to agree to new terms by Oct. 22 or their “videos will no longer be available for public display or monetization in the United States,” helps support that timeline.

But YouTube, which floated the idea of a new subscription service nearly a year ago, has never publicly committed to a timeline. Last spring, YouTube executives were telling content owners they were aiming for a mid-summer launch. It’s possible the launch could keep slipping, even beyond 2015.

Note that we’re referring to a single service, not multiple ones. Sources say that’s because YouTube intends to bundle two different services into one offering: An update of its music service, which it launched in beta as YouTube Music Key last fall, and another service, yet to launch, that will give users the ability to watch anything on YouTube without seeing ads.

Friday, September 25, 2015

eBook Sales

Five years ago, the book world was seized by collective panic over the uncertain future of print.

As readers migrated to new digital devices, e-book sales soared, up 1,260 percent between 2008 and 2010, alarming booksellers that watched consumers use their stores to find titles they would later buy online. Print sales dwindled, bookstores struggled to stay open, and publishers and authors feared that cheaper e-books would cannibalize their business.

Then in 2011, the industry’s fears were realized when Borders declared bankruptcy.

“E-books were this rocket ship going straight up,” said Len Vlahos, a former executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, a nonprofit research group that tracks the publishing industry. “Just about everybody you talked to thought we were going the way of digital music.”

But the digital apocalypse never arrived, or at least not on schedule. While analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Samsung Pay

Just in time for its U.S. launch next week, Samsung Electronics Co. said that its new mobile payment service has processed more than $30 million worth of transactions in its first month in South Korea, a level of market adoption that the company said was “beyond our expectations.”

The service, Samsung Pay, competes directly with Apple Inc.’s Apple Pay and offerings from Google Inc. and a group of major U.S. retailers. Unlike those rivals, however, Samsung’s technology is designed to work even with credit card readers that haven’t yet adopted next-generation near-field communication, or NFC, technology.

That is to say, Samsung Pay can, in theory, work in far more situations than Apple Pay or any of its rivals — especially since American retailers have been slow to adopt the next-generation technology that Apple Pay relies on. The question, then, for Samsung, was whether or not it could convince consumers to use its service.

Mobile payment solutions have been long anticipated by technology watchers, but haven’t yet been adopted en masse by U.S. consumers, who have stuck largely to swiping their traditional credit and debit cards at legacy magnetic stripe card readers.

Samsung said in its statement that it has processed more than 1.5 million total transactions so far, with about 10% of consumers who have used Samsung Pay using it every day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

iOS Trojans

The impact of iOS app developers unknowingly using a rogue version of the Xcode development tool is turning out to be greater than initially thought: early reports listed just 39 apps that had been trojanized with the tool, but security researchers have since identified thousands more.

On Friday, security research firm Palo Alto Networks reported that 39 apps found in the App Store had been compromised after their developers -- most of them located in China -- used a rogue version of Xcode that had been distributed on forums. Xcode is a development tool for iOS and OS X apps provided by Apple.

The malicious Xcode version, which has been dubbed XcodeGhost by security researchers, added hidden functionality to any application compiled with it. Those apps were then uploaded by unknowing developers to the official App Store, bypassing one of the main malware defenses of the iOS ecosystem.

On Tuesday, mobile security firm Appthority reported that it had found 476 apps infected by XcodeGhost among those used by its enterprise customers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Another Service Goes Under

Oyster, a subscription service for e-books that launched two years ago, is calling it quits.

The service's founders announced in a company blog post Monday that they will move toward retiring the existing service in the next few months. The blog post did not give a reason for the closure but hinted that there were other ambitions for the service.

"We believe more than ever that the phone will be the primary reading device globally over the next decade," they wrote. "Looking forward, we feel this is best seized by taking on new opportunities to fully realize our vision for ebooks."

Monday, September 21, 2015

AT&T Software Locks

AT&T said three of its employees secretly installed software on its network so a cellphone unlocking service could surreptitiously funnel hundreds of thousands of requests to its servers to remove software locks on phones.
The locks prevent phones from being used on competing networks and have been an important tool used by cellular carriers to prevent customers from jumping ship. They can be electronically removed, usually after fulfilling a contract obligation, but many websites offer the same service for a small fee with no questions asked.

AT&T's allegations are made in a filing with U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in which it accuses two companies, four people and an unknown software developer or developers, of participating in the audacious scheme. AT&T filed its lawsuit on Sept. 11 but it was first reported by Geekwire on Friday.

The carrier first discovered something was amiss in September 2013 when a surge in the number of unlock requests alerted the company to the possible abuse of "Torch," the software used to unlock cellphones, it said in the complaint.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Chrome Browser Problem

If you use Google Chrome, you’ll want to watch out for this bug: According to VentureBeat, a specific character string of text could bring your browser crashing to the ground.

According to VentureBeat, merely appending “%%30%30” to the end of a URL will cause Chrome to hang and crash. The cruelest twist? You don’t even have to open a malformed URL to cause the crash–merely mousing over the link is enough to bring down Chrome. (In other words, don't add the above string to URLs unless you like cussing at your computer. Don't say we didn't warn you.)

Security researcher Andris Atteka originally discovered the bug by entering a URL with the added characters tacked on (a total of 26 characters), but VentureBeat noted that it takes even fewer characters—only 16 in total—to crash the browser.

Atteka says this is “only a DOS vulnerability”—that is, a crash-causing bug—so it isn’t a security flaw in the truest sense of the word. Still, this bug has the potential to be quite a nuisance since you’ll lose all your open browser tabs and windows.

The bug affects current versions of Chrome as of this writing, and will crash both Windows and OS X versions of the browser. While you probably won’t come across it in the wild, Google has yet to release a patch for this bug, so be careful out there.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Amazon News

Amazon is hoping to gain dominance in the living room with the same strategy it used to take over the e-books business: lower prices.

The company on Thursday introduced new versions of its Fire TV products, which plug into television sets to stream content over an Internet connection. Notably, customers can now buy a Fire TV streaming stick or set-top box with a remote control that can find content to watch using voice commands, similar to the new Siri-powered Apple TV unveiled last week.

Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant is named Alexa. This assistant first appeared in Amazon’s wireless speaker, the Echo. You’ll be able to speak commands like “Alexa, play ‘John Wick’ ” to play a movie or “Alexa, how’s the weather tomorrow?” to load the weather forecast on the TV.

But unlike Apple, which raised the starting price of its new Apple TV to $150 (up from $70 for the previous model), Amazon is holding its prices steady. You can get the latest stick for the same $40 as before; the Fire TV streaming stick with a voice remote is $50. The Fire TV set-top box with the new remote is the same price as the previous model: $100. And in another sign of how serious Amazon is about competing for attention in the living room, the retail giant is also bundling the Fire TV set-top box with a game controller for $140.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Apple Delays Watch Update

Apple postponed the release of a software update to the Apple Watch, the smartwatch it released to much fanfare, and skepticism, earlier this year.

The company said that it found a flaw in the software, called watchOS 2, which had been scheduled for release on Wednesday.

“We have discovered a bug in development of watchOS 2 that is taking a bit longer to fix than we expected. We will not release watchOS 2 today but will shortly,” a spokesperson for Apple said in a statement.

The company did not elaborate on the bug, nor on the length of the delay. The new software is meant to add a few new capabilities to the Apple Watch, including the ability for developers to build more powerful apps, a feature that lets users reply to email directly from the device and a couple of new digital watch faces.

Apple held a big product event last week in San Francisco, at which Timothy D. Cook, the company’s chief executive, unveiled new luxury wristbands for the smartwatch, among a host of other product upgrades. The watch is the first brand new product that Apple has introduced under Mr. Cook, and the company set expectations relatively low for sales of the device by deciding not to break out sales figures for the watch.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

iOS 9 will be smaller

A new version of Apple's mobile operating system out Wednesday promises to take much less space than previous editions, a salve for folks worried about an upgrade playing havoc with their iPhones and iPads.

The new iOS 9 software, which Apple will release Wednesday, is only 1.4 gigabytes — down from the whopping 4.6 GB of the previous iOS update, which took up one-third of the entry-level 16 GB iPhone's space.

Apple updates its operating system every fall, offering its army of more than 1 billion mobile device owners some new features without having to buy a new iPhone or iPad.

The marquee features on the upcoming iPhone 6S — 3D Touch shortcuts and improved camera, including 4K video recording, will not come to older iPhone owners using the new iOS.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

MSFT Office 2016

Microsoft recently said it will launch Office 2016 for Windows on Sept. 22, and detailed how it will deliver updates and upgrades with a cadence and rules set similar to Windows 10's.

Office 2016 will be "broadly available" starting Sept. 22, said Julie White, general manager of Office 365 technical product management, in a Thursday post on the team's blog. Organizations with volume license agreements, including those with Software Assurance, will be able to download the new bits beginning Oct. 1.                                                       
Week after next, subscribers to Office 365 Home and Personal -- the consumer-grade "rent-not-own" plans that cost $70 and $100 yearly -- may manually trigger the Office 2016 for Windows download at In October, Office 2016 will automatically download to those subscribers' devices. The applications will be updated monthly after that, with vulnerability patches, non-security bug fixes and new features and functionality.

Consumers are locked into that monthly tempo, and like those running Windows 10 Home, must take the updates as they automatically arrive.

But for Office 2016 in businesses, Microsoft plans to reuse the update-and-upgrade release pace pioneered by Windows 10. Office 365 will offer both a "Current Branch" and a "Current Branch for Business," just as does Windows 10.

Monday, September 14, 2015

New Dell 2-in-1

Dell reportedly is developing its own Surface 2-in-1 tablet clone, dubbed the Dell XPS 12, which will boast a 4K display and a kickstand.

Is everybody making a Surface these days?

Dell’s XPS 12 was unearthed by German site, which claims to have come across marketing materials used by Dell. Those materials claim that the tablet will be released in October, the same month that Microsoft reportedly will launch the Surface Pro 4.

The site wasn’t able to track down a price, but claims that the tablet will include a 3840x2160 4K display, far superior than what’s offered by the Surface Pro 3. Somewhat surprisingly, the materials also claim that the Dell XPS 12 will have over 10 hours of battery life. Instead of USB 3.0, there’s a Thunderbolt 3 connector, plus an 8-megapixel camera on the rear of the tablet, and a 5MP camera on the front.

If what has dug up is true, however, two more details peg the Dell XPS 12 as a Surface clone: the kickstand, and what apparently is called the Dell Active Stylus. “Write on your Web page, one click to One Note, and casual sketching with Bamboo Paper,” the materials say. Of course, a click-to-launch OneNote is one of the features of the Surface Pen.

What we don’t know about the Dell XPS 12 (in addition to the price) is the processor that’s powering it, the amount of memory, and other key details. What can we speculate, of course, is that if we have multiple devices with the same look and feel—the Microsoft Surface 3, the Surface Pro 3, the recently announced Lenovo Miix 700, as well as the expected Surface 4 and Surface Pro 4, plus the XPS 12—competition should bring prices crashing to earth. And if there’s been one criticism of the Surface Pro 3 line, it’s been that it’s too expensive.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The New iPhones

They're finally here. After months of leaks, rumors and blurry images, Apple officially introduced the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus at its Special Event on Wednesday.

Pricing for the updated handsets remains the same as last year's models: $199, $299 and $399 on-contract. The U.S. is moving away from subsidized phone pricing, meaning you can purchase the phones on installment plans through carriers. Or you could simply pay the full retail prices by adding $449 to the contract prices.

Sadly, Apple kept the storage capacities for iPhone 6s and 6s Plus the same as well. That's right, the base model has 16 GB of storage while the next two steps up have 64 GB and 128 GB.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget

Do you remember where you were when this country was attacked my muslim terrorists on September 11, 2001? I was teaching a class of Air Traffic Controllers in Pittsburgh, PA. The minute we saw the second of the twin towers get hit we all new we were at war. It's been a long fight so far with no end in sight.

Let us all pray to almighty God for the safety of our men and women in uniform who carry on this terrible war every single day.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gov. Moonbeam Vetoes Drone Bill

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have restricted the flying of drones lower than 350 feet over private property without the owner's permission.

While drone technology raises novel issues, Brown said in his veto message the bill "could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation."

The bill was meant to protect Californians from peeping Toms.

Drones "should not be able to invade the privacy of our backyards and our private property without our permission, " said the bill's author, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

The bill was approved by the California Senate on Aug. 27.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Apple Underwhelms.... Again

Apple unveiled a new TV set top box that responds to voice commands and fresh iPhones that sense the pressure of a finger tap, changes which underwhelmed many social media commenters and investors.

The new 6S and 6S Plus versions of the iPhone, Apple's biggest money maker, are the same size as the previous versions but come with a better camera, faster chips, new colors and the force-sensitive "3D Touch".

Speaking before thousands of analysts, journalists and frequently cheering Apple employees, Chief Executive Tim Cook also brought on stage an executive from onetime archrival Microsoft to illustrate the business-friendly credentials of a big new iPad, the Pro.

Apple Announces the iPad Pro

Apple on Wednesday outlined its iPad Pro, a 12.9-inch tablet that's primarily aimed at corporations that have already bet on the iPhone and iOS. However, Apple execs also made a prosumer case and argued that the iPad Pro is enterprise class with help from app partners such as Microsoft and Adobe.

The iPad Pro addresses a hole in Apple's enterprise line-up---increasingly popular 2-in-1 devices.

Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, said the iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch diagonal screen. "It's as wide as iPad Air is tall," said Schiller, who also outlined a physical keyboard. In many respects, the iPad Pro looks a lot like the Surface. Apple did introduce a stylus that it calls Apple Pencil. Nevertheless, the resemblance to the Surface is obvious.

Here's the breakdown of key items:
  • $799 starting price with 32GB of storage
  • Apple Pencil at $99
  • Apple Keyboard at $169
  • WiFi and LTE and 128GB at $1079
  • Available in November.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Amazon's $50 Tablet Inc. has struggled to draw customers to its pricier tablets. So it’s going further down-market.

The Seattle online retailer plans to release a $50 tablet with a 6-inch screen, in time for this year’s holidays, according to people familiar with the matter. That would make it one of the least-expensive tablets on the market and half the price of the company’s current Fire HD 6-inch tablet.

The move would potentially attract buyers looking for a simple—and effectively disposable—device for straightforward tasks like streaming video at home and shopping on But such inexpensive tablets typically come with compromises like inferior screen quality, durability or battery life in comparison to more expensive tablets like Amazon’s larger Fire tablets and industry-leading devices like Apple Inc. ’s iPad. For instance, the $50 device will have a mono speaker, rather than stereo, one of the people said.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Lumia Apps Discontinued

If you want the Lumia camera apps for Windows 8.1 but you don’t already have them, you are officially out of luck: Microsoft has decided to discontinue a number of its Lumia-branded photo and video apps ahead of the upcoming launch of Windows 10 Mobile.

According to a post published to Microsoft’s Conversations blog, Microsoft has integrated many—though not all—of the Lumia apps’ features into the Photos and Camera apps bundled with Windows 10. It’s all part of an effort on Microsoft’s part “to sharpen [its] focus on [its] core Windows 10 Camera and Photo apps.”

Why this matters: The end of the Lumia camera apps is another sign that Microsoft is working toward fully integrating Nokia into the rest of Microsoft—and bringing Nokia features across its products. In fact, Microsoft’s Tiina Jaatinen states as much in the post announcing the change.

“Our goal is to provide experiences that work really well on all Windows devices,” Jaatinen writes. “In order to do that, we need to focus on making our Windows 10 core Photos and Camera apps great.”

We still don’t know when, exactly, Windows 10 Mobile will drop, but earlier reports suggested it’ll be out sometime this fall.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Acer Win 10 Phablet

Acer's new Jade Primo smartphone runs a full-blown version of Windows 10, or at least it almost does.
The 5.5-inch actually handset runs Windows 10 Mobile but it adds Continuum, a feature that detects which type of Windows device you're using and configures the operating system accordingly. With Continuum and the included monitor dock, keyboard and wireless mouse, you can use the Jade Primo as a small computer on its own. Acer even calls it a "pocket PC".
Inside is a Snapdragon processor. Other features include a 21-megapixel main camera, with an 8-megapixel snapper on the front for selfies and video chat.
The phone has been announced in Berlin today, but is still in prototype form, so details are thin on the ground. It's expected to go on sale in 2016.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Win 10 Popularity

Windows 10 is firmly in fourth place among desktop operating systems, according to stats released Tuesday.

Microsoft's newly launched software grabbed a 5.21 percent share of all Web traffic generated by desktop operating systems in August, according to NetMarketShare. Windows 10 had been available as a technical preview since last October. But it barely registered as a blip on NetMarketShare's radar until it became available as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8.1 users starting July 29.

Among all desktop operating systems, Windows 10 ranked fourth in Web traffic last month, behind Windows 8.1, Windows XP and Windows 7 but ahead of Windows 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite.

Microsoft has been counting on Windows 10 to win back the love it lost with Windows 8, which rolled out three years ago but failed to catch on with the desktop crowd. To lure users to its new operating system, the software giant has revived the Start menu, tweaked the Start screen, added its Cortana voice assistant and made a variety of other improvements to the overall design and layout. PC sales are also in a slump, while Microsoft's share of the mobile market is in the dumps. Windows 10 is designed to work across a variety of devices from PCs to tablets to mobile phones. So Microsoft is looking to its newest version of Windows to grab more users across its entire ecosystem.

So far, Windows 10 adoption is far outpacing that of Windows 8 over a similar time frame. After Windows 8 officially launched on October 27 of 2012, it scraped up just a 1 percent share of Web traffic in November, according to NetMarketShare. Its share continued to rise at a slow pace and didn't reach 5 percent until the following June.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Android Wear and iOS News

Google has announced that iOS is an officially supported operating system for Android Wear. Users with an iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6, or 6 Plus running iOS 8.2 and above will be able to pair with "newer" Android Wear devices, download the app, and be off and running.

Until now, smartwatch platforms from Google and Apple have been ecosystem lock-in devices. If you have an Android phone, you have to get an Android Wear watch, and if you have an iPhone you have to get an Apple Watch. By supporting both OSes, Android Wear will have a much larger potential user base to try and sell a watch to.

Since Google controls the Android operating system, it created specific hooks in the OS for Android Wear to plug into. On iOS—where Google is not in control—things have to be different, don't they? We've been told the iOS experience is "similar" to what users get on Android—rich notifications, voice commands, and Google Now cards will be present. Any differences between the Android and iOS implementations will have to be investigated once the app comes out, but just judging from the supplied picture, contact images will not show up on the watch when the message is sent.

iOS support will come to the LG Watch Urbane and "all future Android Wear devices." If you have an older Android Wear device and were hoping to pair it with an iPhone, you're out of luck.
Regardless of how useful you think a smartwatch is, Android Wear is becoming the least-restrictive platform out there. Now you can pick from different watch styles, screen shapes, and phone OSes. Google says the Android Wear app should start rolling out to the App Store right now.