A new roll your own phone initiative; this time with less vapourware?

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2013 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: cell phone, Project Ara, phonebloks

The images of Phonebloks we have seen are rather pretty in an Applesque kind of way but are perhaps too ambitious for a small team working by donation to deliver.  The basic idea of a cellphone that you can not only pick and choose parts for but can upgrade or replace on a modular basis is a wonderful idea which allows you both the ability to tweak your phones hardware and throw out less waste when a piece of the phone breaks.  It would be wonderful to see them succeed and with almost a million backers it is possible they will.

Today we heard about an alternative, Project Ara, which was originally a product called Modu from a startup before Google purchased them.  Project Ara will be involve the Motorola, also recently purchased by Google, as well as the Phonebloks team in some fashion but will not aim to make a completely modular phone.  Instead they will provide a shell with the major components and provide add-on slots for extra functionality.  Think of it as more of a BGA motherboard with a bit of RAM and storage installed as opposed to a Raspberry Pi, you will buy a device with basic functionality but can drop in extra components, you might even be able to print them .  Pop over to Hack a Day and see if it passes your BS test.

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"Our tips line is blowing up again, this time directing us to Motorola’s Project Ara: a phone with modular components that plug into a base “endoskeleton.” If you missed the news coverage strewn across the web and you are doing a double-take, that’s because Project Ara is frighteningly similar to the (presumed vaporware) Phonebloks concept from a few weeks ago."

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Source: Hack a Day

Beiber can be used for evil

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2013 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: cell phone, security, fud

If you are feeling safe and secure using your cellphone in public, some research out of the University of Alabama will shatter that confidence for you.  It seems that it is possible to use sound as a trigger to activate malware from a distance, even over low quality speakers.  You already know about Shazam and other apps you can use to identify songs simply by holding up your cellphone and have it successfully connect to a remote database to get the song data, even in a loud room.  This research shows that a previously infected phone could have dormant malware installed which can be remotely activated simply by music with a hidden message contained within it, inaudible to human ears.  Pair this with the known Autoconnect to Saved WiFi Profiles vulnerability and your phone could very easily start leaking information you would much rather keep private.   Follow the links from The Register to read the research paper and reactions to it.

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"Security researchers have discovered that specific music, lighting, vibrations or magnetic fields could all be used as infection channels to trigger the activation of mobile malware on a massive scale.

The paper, titled Sensing-Enabled Channels for Hard-to-Detect Command and Control of Mobile Devices, was presented in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou earlier this month by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)."

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Source: The Register

Careful connecting to those pub WiFis

Subject: General Tech | May 24, 2013 - 05:53 PM |
Tagged: cell phone, security, wifi, PNL

A security expert recently reminded people that the Preferred Networks List Bug which was identified in 2004 has only ever been addressed by Microsoft.  All other mobile OSes, from Apple to BlackBerry can accidentally expose their PNL to an eavesdropper who can then spoof it.  If you like setting up autoconnect on your devices you might want to double check the name of your active connections occasionally; if you are connected to your home WiFi while you are out you might have a problem.  Catch more at The Register.

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"Security expert Raul Siles has warned that years after it was first identified, the Preferred Networks List (PNL) Wi-Fi bug remains unaddressed on many an iPhone, Android phone, and Windows or BlackBerry handset."

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Source: The Register

NVIDIA to start producing tablets and smartphones for white-labeling

Subject: Mobile | January 28, 2013 - 03:35 PM |
Tagged: white label, tegra 4, tegra, tablet, shield, nvidia, cell phone

If you thought that NVIDIA's entry into the world of the mobile entertainment and gaming device market was odd with the announcement of the Shield Android-powered unit, we have some more rumors sneaking up from Droidlife.com about a possible move to develop and manufacture cell phones and tablets as well. 

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While many SoC vendors often create proof of concept designs based around their own chips, none of the major players are in the business of building devices meant to find their way into consumers hands.  NVIDIA appears to be taking a page from its own book in the world of retail graphics cards and is planning on producing nearly complete cell phones and tablets to be rebranded and sold directly to consumers.  PC users are used to this practice already and you can see if happen with ever nearly every GPU launch - graphics cards that have the same specs and design with only a different sticker on the cooler. 

The process of white labeling is very frequent in today's laptop designs as well and it is how companies like AVADirect, MAINGEAR and iBuyPower are able to produce and sell custom notebooks. 

From what is in the report, NVIDIA has their eyes set on both tablets and smartphones, with plans to start designing and creating their devices around May or June of this very year. If all goes according to plan, we will begin to see a ton of cheap (but not any less in quality terms) 7-10″ tablets hitting the market, all running NVIDIA chipsets.

If this process does take hold in the mid-2013 time frame you can start to expect a lot of low cost options based on Tegra SoCs to hit in the holiday time frame.  There are concerns to be dealt with though if in fact NVIDIA attempt the white label move.  First, there is potential for "cheap" products, and by that I mean cheaply built, ruining the Tegra name and brand that NVIDIA has been building over the last few years.  Also, NVIDIA could offend and upset other vendors like Samsung and ASUS with whom they depend on to make the "high-end" products that many enthusiasts lust over. 

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As a small player though (in terms of pure sell through) NVIDIA is looking for anyway it can to improve its market share and starting up a white label market for smartphones and tablets is definitely something that could open up new opportunities. 

With the growing cellular bandwidth, maybe your phone can join a botnet too?

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2012 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: symantec, 4g, cell phone, fud

While this could be a bid to convince people that they need to purchase an anti-virus product for their phones, it is also possible that the increase in bandwidth expected from the roll out of 4G in North America could lead to increased attacks on phones.  If Windows 7.5 and 8 become popular, it is reasonable to assume that phones running those OSes will be vulnerable to the same types of attacks that would infect their desktop equivalents. Now that phones often sport four cores, sometimes with a companion, they actually have enough processing power that they might worth infecting especially with the added bandwidth that would be available to them.  Take a peek at The Inquirer and see if you think this is a valid concern or just an attempt to sell Norton Cellular Protector.

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"THE ROLLOUT OF 4G later this year could give way for more high-risk mobile security implications, Symantec has warned.

Speaking to The INQUIRER in an exclusive interview today, the firm's security strategist, Sian John said that threats such as botnets seen in popular desktop operating systems such as Windows could start shifting to mobile devices due 4G's new capabilities."

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Source: The Inquirer