Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specs, Design and Ergonomics

Introduction

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Courtesy of Samsung

 

Samsung's Galaxy S II smartphone debuted in the U.S. with Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile in September and we finally got our hands on a review sample. The Samsung smartphone runs on Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" operating system and includes an 8 MP camera with LED flash and 1080p video, front facing 2 MP camera, and Samsung’s custom TouchWiz user interface.

 

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Courtesy of Samsung

 

T-Mobile and Sprint’s version sports a 4.52-inch display, but AT&T’s version has a 4.3-inch screen that matches the original international version of the Galaxy S II. We are reviewing T-Mobile's Galaxy S II with 16GB of internal memory (there are two options for 16 and 32 GB). The Sprint and AT&T versions are outfitted with a dual-core 1.2 GHz Orion processor, but the T-Mobile version we are reviewing today sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU.

Read the rest of our review of the Samsung Galaxy S II!

Don’t touch my wife! VIA sues Apple for patent infringement

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 24, 2011 - 01:08 AM |
Tagged: VIA, Patent, htc, apple

Do not let the title deceive you: we probably also find Apple and Patent Infringement stories as boring as you do; this case on the other hand makes it through our tightly meshed sift and into our news feed. VIA is best known for chipsets and specialty x86 processors. VIA’s influence was recently felt through the introduction of the netbook craze as a result of their VIA Nano CPU line which lead to the rise of the Intel Atom processor line. Recently VIA decided that they would set their sights on Apple and sue them over three patents. This is one of those cases where the what is not nearly as funny as the alleged why.

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Did Apple take a bite out of VIA’s forbidden fruit?

(Image from Wikipedia, modified)

If it seems to you that VIA is suing Apple over seemingly no reason then you probably are correct. There does not appear to be any public reason for VIA to go after Apple. HTC on the other hand has many reasons to sue, technically counter-sue, Apple. For those wondering where HTC came from in this discussion: the chairperson for HTC is the wife of the CEO of VIA Technologies. It very much seems like the whole reason for the VIA lawsuit is to protect his wife's company in their own lawsuits. If these patent lawsuits continue on their current trajectory then we might just be forced to sit every company down and settle like we did with similar issues back in the 90’s: Springer.

Did Apple bite off more than they could chew? (Registration not required for comments)

Source: PCMag

Apple is da bomb! Vulnerability found in battery circuitry

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 25, 2011 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: Malware, apple

Okay, so the title is more joke than anything else but security researcher Charlie “Safari Charlie” Miller discovered a vulnerability in Apple devices, sort of. This exploit, which appears to not actually be a security flaw and rather just an over-permissive design, allows an attacker to gain access to your battery control using one of two static company-wide passwords. Charlie has discovered many exploits in the past several years on the OSX and iOS platforms. One of the most high profile attacks he discovered involved a data-execution vulnerability in the iPhone’s SMS handling: under certain conditions your iPhone could potentially confuse inbound text messages as code and run it with high permissions.

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Malware assaults and battery charges.

(Image from Apple, modified)

So what does having the ability to write to a laptop’s battery firmware mean? Firstly, remember the old advice of “Get a virus? Reinstall your OS!”? Well assuming you actually can perform a clean install without ridiculous hacking (thanks Lion) the battery controller can simply re-infect you if the attacker knows an exploit for your version of OSX. But how does the attacker know your current version of OSX? Well if you are installing from an optical disk they just need to know a Snow Leopard RTM exploit; unless of course you extract Lion from the Mac App Store and clean install using it – assuming the attacker does not know an exploit for Lion or simply just infects the reinstall media if you created it from the infected computer. True, malware is about money so it is highly unlikely that an attacker would go for that narrow of a market of Mac users (already a narrow-enough market to begin with) but the security risk is there if for some reason you are a tempting enough target to spear-phish. Your only truely secure option is removing the battery while performing the OHHHHHHHH.

You know, while working (very temporarily) on the Queen's University Solar Vehicle project I was told that Lithium cells smell like sweet apples when they rupture. I have never experienced it but if true I find it delightfully ironic.

While that would all require knowledge of other exploits in your operating system, there is a more direct problem. If for some reason someone would like to cause damage against your Apple devices they could use this flaw to simply break your batteries. Charlie has bricked nine batteries in his testing but has not even attempted to see whether it would be possible to over-charge a battery into exploding. While it is possible to force the battery controller to create the proper conditions for an explosion there are other, physical, safe guards in place. Then again, batteries have exploded in the past often making highly entertaining Youtube videos and highly unentertaining FOX news clips.

Source: Forbes

Apple brings OS X Lion to the masses

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2011 - 10:52 AM |
Tagged: osx, macbook, mac, lion, imac, apple

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Mission Control (Courtesy of Apple)

Apple released their latest operating system dubbed OS X Lion today that includes more than 250 new features the company states will make dramatic improvements to how users interact with Apple's entire line of computer systems. The $29.99 upgrade includes several new features like multi-touch gestures, full-screen apps, a new Mission Control section, and a new location for Mac apps called LaunchPad.

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LaunchPad (Courtesy of Apple)

Apple expanded OS X's ability to view installed applications through a new program called Launchpad. Launchpad allows users to see all of their apps on one screen gives you instant access to all the apps on your Mac. Previously, loaded apps were viewed in a smaller window and now Launchpad will use all the screen real estate more efficiently to show users all their apps at one time. 

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Apple Mail (Courtesy of Apple)

OS X Lion also showcases a redesigned Mail program that uses a widescreen view to show message lists in modular sections that are more intuitive to read and use. Another section called Conversations gives users a basic timeline to show threads of messages from specific people. The revamped program also includes search suggestions and search tokens to make finding archived or buried e-mails alot simpler than clicking around for them.

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Apple Server (Courtesy of Apple)

Another interesting feature Apple added is the OS X Lion Server that provides more control over user and administerator permissions versus the previous Server app. This program can basically turn almost any Mac into a basic server with secure options for remotely managing computers running Lion and other iOS devices like iPhones and iPad2s. Server admins can also send updates to all their users wirelessly through push notifications. Apple also made many improvements to the OS's file sharing options and to other programs like Wiki Server, iCal Server and Mail Server.

The OS X Lion upgrade can be purchased from the Mac App Store or online at Apple.com for $29.99. The entire download weighs in at around 3.49GB, which is a pretty significant update that should give many users more flexibility in how their use and interact with their Apple systems.

Source: Apple

Apple Defender: for better and for worse

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | May 25, 2011 - 06:22 PM |
Tagged: Malware, apple

Apple users have been dealing with a bad bout of malware over the last few weeks ironically called Mac Defender. Its modus operandi involves scaring the Apple user with claims of malware in a phony file browser and giving them a magical option to remove all problems. That option is actually the malware, but since the users are convinced they are downloading anti-malware they will often allow it to happen and provide their admin password. At that point, they are prompted to provide their credit card number to actually remove the now-present infection. Apple was actively quiet about the whole experience but has now gone vocal about the experience. Also, a new revision of Mac Defender just got substantially harder to avoid.

 
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The most insecure part of your computer.
 
Apple received criticism recently for demanding that their technical support staff would not be able to assist customers suffering from the Mac Defender bug. That stance was apparently leading up to a recent announcement from Apple for how to remove Mac Defender and its known variants as well as a promise to release a software update which will remove and prevent clean users from installing known variants of the malware. This was then offset by the news that a more recent version of Mac Defender, known as Mac Guard, can install without requiring the input of the admin password.
 

It should be noted that admin password or not; Apple or not; patch or not; this form of malware strikes the most vulnerable point of any system: the user’s complacency. It does not matter how good of an antivirus solution you have, or how protected your operating system and programs are (though in many cases both of those are lacking as well) you need to be cautious about what you do with any device that accepts information that is not yours. Food for thought: software that can jailbreak an iPhone steal admin privileges from Apple and give it to you. Even in a locked down system such as an iPhone where the user does not have admin rights, what would have happened had you not been the recipient of the admin privileges?

Source: Ars Technica

Rumors point to Apple moving to ARM processors for future notebooks

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 6, 2011 - 04:11 PM |
Tagged: project denver, nvidia, macbook, Intel, arm, apple

A very interesting story over at AppleInsider has put the rumor out there that Apple may choose to ditch the Intel/x86 architecture all together with some future upcoming notebooks.  Instead, Apple may choose to go the route of the ARM-based processor, likely similar to the A4 that Apple built for the iPhone and iPad.

What is holding back the move right now?  Well for one, the 64-bit versions of these processors aren't available yet and Apple's software infrastructure is definitely dependent on that.  By the end of 2012 or early in 2013 those ARM-based designs should be ready for the market and very little would stop Apple from making the move.  Again, this is if the rumors are correct.

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Another obstacle is performance - even the best ARM CPUs on the market fall woefully behind the performance of Intel's current crop of Sandy Bridge processors or even their Core 2 Duo options.  

In addition to laptops, the report said that Apple would "presumably" be looking to move its desktop Macs to ARM architecture as well. It characterized the transition to Apple-made chips for its line of computers as a "done deal."

"Now you realize why Apple is desperately searching for fab capacity from Samsung, Global Foundries, and TSMC," the report said. "Intel doesn't know about this particular change of heart yet, which is why they are dropping all the hints about wanting Apple as a foundry customer. Once they realize Apple will be fabbing ARM chips at the expense of x86 parts, they may not be so eager to provide them wafers on advanced processes."

Even though Apple is already specing its own processors like the A4 there is the possibility that they could go with another ARM partner for higher performance designs.  NVIDIA's push into the ARM market with Project Denver could be a potential option as they are working very closely with ARM on those design and performance improvements.  Apple might just "borrow" those changes however at NVIDIA's expense and build its own option that would satisify its needs exactly without the dependence on third-parties.  

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Migrating the notebook (and maybe desktop markets) to ARM processors would allow the company to unify their operating system across the classic "computer" designs and the newer computer models like iPads and iPhones.  The idea of all of our computers turning into oversized iPhones doesn't sound appealing to me (nor I imagine, many of you) but with some changes in the interface it could become a workable option for many consumers. 

With even Microsoft planning for an ARM-based version of Windows, it seems that x86 dominance in the processor market is being threatened without a doubt.  

Source: AppleInsider