A real PNG in the arse for Android users

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2019 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: Android, pie, nougat, Oreo, security

Careful what pictures you open up on your Android device as you may find yourself regretting looking at that meme.  Among the 42 new vulnerabilities listed in Android's newest Security Bulletin is a rather nasty one which could use a special PNG image to execute arbitrary code on your phone.  Currently unpatched, it affects even the newest Android Pie version and once a fix is determined, who knows how long it will take to propagate to your provider and your specific model of phone.  In the mean time surf carefully and take a peek at Slashdot for links to the other vulnerabilities, including 10 other critical ones.

totallylegit.PNG

"While this certainly doesn't apply to all images, Google discovered that a maliciously crafted PNG image could be used to hijack a wide variety of Androids -- those running Android Nougat (7.0), Oreo (8.0), and even the latest Android OS Pie (9.0),"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Slashdot

Lenovo Unleashes Smart Devices with Alexa and Google Assistants

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2019 - 02:11 AM |
Tagged: tablet, snapdragon 450, Lenovo, google, Android, Alexa

While Lenovo’s desktop displays and mobile PCs got most of the attention at CES earlier this month, the company also took the wraps off a number of smart devices for the home in the form of a Google Assistant powered clock and a pair of Alexa powered tablets.

The Lenovo Smart Clock features a four-inch touchscreen using an IPS panel and 480x800 resolution wrapped in a soft touch fabric shell. Around back there is a single USB port, mute mic button, and volume controls. The Smart Clock uses a single 3-watt speaker (6W max) and there is support for Google’s multi-room audio and Chromecast support integrated. Measuring 113.88x79.2x79.8mm and weighing 328 grams (0.72 lbs), Lenovo’s smart clock is powered by a MediaTek 81675 clocked at 1.5 GHz paired with 1GB RAM and 8GB of internal eMMC storage. Wireless support includes 802.11ac (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 5.0.

Lenovo Smart Clock_CES 2019.png

On the tablet front, Lenovo launched the Smart Tab P10 and Smart Tab M10 which officially launched January 19th. Both models are 10-inch tablets that run Android Oreo and include a docking station (the Smart Dock) that enables Alexa Show Mode. The Lenovo M10 is the budget option and the P10 dials up the specifications a bit. Both tablets have a 10.1” 1920x1200 IPS display, front-facing Dolby Atmos speakers (the M10 has two, the P10 has four), front and rear cameras (the M10 uses a 2MP camera up front and a 5MP rear camera while the P10 has a 5MP front camera and an 8MP rear camera), and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor. The M10 features a soft touch finish, measures 8mm thick and weighs in at 1.05 pounds while the P10 uses a dual glass design and is slightly thinner and lighter at 7mm and 0.97 pounds respectively. The Lenovo M10 has 2GB or 3GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of internal storage depending on the specific SKU along with a 4850 mAh battery. Stepping things up slightly the P10 offers up to 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and a 7,000 mAh battery. The P10 further adds a Fingerprint reader and extra sensors.

Lenovo Smart Tab_CES 2019.png

When docked the tablet can take advantage of dual 3-watt speakers and three far-field microphones to listen for Alexa activation commands while also being charged via the dock connector. The Smart Dock itself weighs 1.76 lbs and measures 2.57” x 11.16” x 1.96”.

Lenovo’s Smart Tab tablets are available now starting at $199.99 for the Smart Tab M10 and $299.99 for the Smart Tab P10. The Google Assistant-powered Smart Clock has a MSRP of $79.99 and is slated for a spring 2019 release.

What are your thoughts on the Alexa integrated tablets? I think it’s a nice-to-have feature, but I’m not sure I like Alexa enough to buy a tablet because of it. With that said, I will say that I was resistant to the various assistants (Cortana, Alexa, Google), and I still don’t use it on my phone, but the Echo and Echo Dots at the house are useful and can do some cool stuff! A tablet that can dock and use Alexa controls to display stuff could be handy for looking up recipies or watching the PC Perspective podcast (#JoshTekk) while in the kitchen.

Source: Lenovo

Satya Nadella spotted heading into the woods with a shovel and dufflebag

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2019 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows phone, ios, Android, cortana, Alexa

It has been an interesting week to be Microsoft, as they have had to suggest to their user base that they might be better off moving to a competitor's product.  Sebastian has already informed you about the fact that Cortana and Windows Search are going through a somewhat amicable divorce, but today we find Satya Nadella suggesting that Cortana will become an optional skill which you can choose for Alexa or Google Assistant; if you don't see any better perks for that level.  Apparently they will also "be again completely consumer businesses" by offering consumers the same licensing scheme as they forced upon enterprise businesses, of which many have expressed strong feelings about since it was introduced.

What must really burn is their admit that Windows 10 Mobile is indeed as dead as the proverbial parrot, which has forced them to suggest that current users move to a different device as Microsoft will no longer even offer token support for that OS after the end of the year.  People paying attention to this may remember that the last major update to the OS was pushed in 2017.

bad.PNG

"Microsoft's guidance for customers is to "move to a supported Android or iOS device" and use the range of Microsoft applications on one of those platforms instead."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

ZTE Axon 7 Oreo Update... But Probably Don't Install It.

Subject: Mobile | October 17, 2018 - 05:17 PM |
Tagged: zte, Oreo, nougat, Android

The ZTE Axon 7 had a troubled news cycle over the last year or so. While the company was working on updates, they were essentially slapped out of existence by the US Department of Commerce for business with embargoed nations. This caused a lot of issues, to the say least, including the shutdown of their OTA update servers.

Yadda yadda yadda. ZTE has just released their Oreo update.

zte-2017-axon7-nougatupdate.jpg

This image is from the Nougat update. I'm not upgrading. It's still my primary phone.

But you probably don’t want to install it. This seems to be a release for the enthusiasts to make good on their original intentions, but it comes with a few major downsides. Before we get too much further, those downsides are:

  1. The update will completely wipe your phone.
  2. Daydream VR will completely stop working after the update.
  3. Might not be able to roll back to Nougat?
  4. You need to manually install it from the SD card. No simple OTA.

Of course, the fourth issue is a good thing. ZTE doesn’t want to erase important photos or remove a major feature unless the user explicitly accepts the side-effects. If they do, however, then the Oreo update also replaces the ZTE MiFavor with their newer Stock+ interface. (This switchover is apparently the specific element that will destroy local data.)

It’s up to you. ZTE gave the enthusiasts what they asked for – and it's nice that they did – but it’s probably a step back from Nougat if you still use it as your primary phone. Check it out on their forums.

Source: ZTE

Filament Game Engine Open Sourced (Apache 2.0)

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2018 - 07:15 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, macos, Android, windows, linux, vulkan

Yet another video game engine has entered the market – this time by Google. Filament is written in C++, supports OpenGL 4.1-and-up, OpenGL ES 3.0-and-up, and Vulkan 1.0 on Android, Linux, macOS, and Windows.

It is also licensed under Apache 2.0, so it is completely open-source (with no copyleft).

google-2018-filament-anisotropy.png

On the plus side, it supports a lot of rendering features. The materials, like basically everyone else, use a PBR system, which abstracts lighting from material properties, allowing models to be shaded correctly in any lighting environment. Filament goes beyond that implementation, however, and claims to include things like anisotropic metals (think brushed steel) and clear coat effects. They even have a BRDF (the program that defines the outputs of your shader, where all your textures plug in to) for cloth rendering, including backward scattering.

On the negative side? Pages upon pages of documentation and I haven’t seen one screenshot of their editor, which doesn't telegraph the best message for their tools. I don’t have the toolchain set up on my computer to try it for myself, but I’m guessing that developer UX is lacking compared to the other engines. I do like that they chose to limit external dependencies, however. It just requires the standard library and a header-only library called “Robin-Map” for fast hash maps.

Google also tags a disclaimer at the bottom of their GitHub page: “This is not an officially supported Google product”. It’s free, though, so it might be worth checking out.

Your Android may suffer a Meltdown

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2018 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: Android, galaxy s7, Samsung, security, meltdown

Researchers in Austria have found a way to utilize Meltdown to hack Galaxy S7 smartphones, a bad sign for security.  It was previously discovered that ARM's Cortex A75 was susceptible to the vulnerability but this is the first time we have seen this exploit successfully used on a Snapdragon 820 or Exynos 8890 chipset.  Even better is that these researchers have discovered variants which can affect older chipsets, meaning that far more phones may be vulnerable than we ever imagined.  You can take a peek over at The Inquirer, if you are looking to ruin your day.

Droid_torture_rack.png

"IF YOU LIVE IN THE PAST then best pick your ears up as researchers have found Samsung's Galaxy S7 is vulnerable to hacking due to a chip security flaw."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Intelligent fruit flies slower than Snapdragons

Subject: General Tech | July 24, 2018 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: Intel, LTE, qualcomm, snapdragon 845, Android

The Inquirer posted some findings from Ookla which is bound to be somewhat depressing for Apple users with Intel modems in them.  This will not be a surprise for anyone who recalls a certain court case from last year in which Qualcomm accused Apple of slowing down their modems to ensure they did not outperform models with an Intel modem in it.  That case has since snowballed into a much larger one.

Tossing the lawyers aside, the data from Ookla shows a large performance different between "Intel-based non-Android smartphones" LTE speeds and any phone utilizing a Snapdragon 845 modem.  The Snapdragon phones show "double-digit gains" in latency and "triple-digit gains" in download and upload speeds, which is going to be fairly noticeable.  Perhaps the rumours that Intel will no longer be inside the upcoming generations of Apple phones are true.

Apple Turtles-bolthouse farms.jpg

"Consumers seeking faster everyday 4G LTE connectivity can buy Android smartphones powered by the Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform, knowing that real-world data supports Qualcomm Technologies' claims of superior wireless performance."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

BlackBerry Launches Security-Focused KEY2 Smartphone with Physical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2018 - 03:05 AM |
Tagged: Oreo, encryption, dtek, blackberry, android 8.1, Android

BlackBerry’s upcoming KEY2 smartphone is a refreshed successor to last year’s KEYone that addresses most of the issues of its predecessor. At 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5mm and 168 grams the KEY2 is slightly taller, but skinnier, thinner, and lighter than the KEYone with less rounded edges and no camera bump. The KEY2 comes in silver or black and features an aluminum alloy frame, soft touch non-slip back, and a 4.5” display and 35-key backlit physical keyboard around front. The smartphone runs the Android 8.1 Oreo operating system along with BlackBerry security features like a hardened kernel, secure boot, full disk encryption, DTEK security suite, Locker, and the privacy focused Firefox Focus browser.

Screenshot (933).png

The 4.5” IPS display remains the same as the KEYone featuring a 3:2 aspect ratio and 1620 x 1080 resolution, but the BlackBerry KEY2 does feature an updated camera system and a tweaked keyboard. The dual rear 12MP cameras work with a dual tone LED flash and laser and phase detection auto focus (one camera supports a 2X zoom and supports portrait mode) to offer up high-resolution HDR images and 4K30 or 1080p60 videos. Around front, BlackBerry includes an 8MP camera for video conferencing or “selfies”. The keyboard has been updated with 20% taller keys and a matte finish while the right shift key has been swapped out for what BlacKBerry calls the Speed Key which allows users to hold in combination with any other key to open applications of their choice. The keyboard can be used as a trackpad with gesture support and hosts a fingerprint sensor in the space bar. According to YouTube vloggers at a BlackBerry event the keyboard feels more like the BlackBerry Bold keyboards of old which is a good thing. The keys are reportedly more clicky and less mushy as well.

The KEY2 features a headphone jack up top, power, volume, and convenience keys along the right edge, and a single speaker and USB-C port on the bottom edge.

Internally, BlackBerry has slightly updated the specifications to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of flash storage, and a 3500 mAh batter. While the Snapdragon 660 is still a solidly midrange part, it is at least a good bit faster than the SD620 used in the KEYone thanks to the move to Kryo 260 CPU cores. Specifically, the Snapdragon 660 has four Kryo 260 CPU cores at 2.2 GHz and four cores at 1.8 GHz along with an Adreno 512 GPU, Hexagon 680 DSP, and X12 LTE modem. Wireless I/O includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE, NFC, GPS, and FM radios. BlackBerry claims that the KEY2’s battery is good for up to two days of mixed usage and it supports USB Power Delivery 2.0 v1.2 and 9V2A 18W along with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 for charging.

Screenshot (932).png

This secure Android experience with physical key goodness comes at a cost, however. TCL’s BlackBerry KEY2 will be available later this month starting at $649 for the 64GB version (there is no word on the 128GB version’s price).

From my understanding the KEYone was a successful product for the company, and the improved KEY2 is sure to find a market among physical keyboard enthusiasts and security conscious business users even at the premium price.

Source: Blackberry

Has your Amazon Fire TV been running a little hot lately?

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2018 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: amazon fire tv, amazon, security, cryptocurrency, Android, ADB.Miner

New cryptomining malware has been popping up on Android devices recently, especially Fire TV's with debugging mode or installation of unsigned apps enabled. ADB.Miner runs a program called Test under com.google.time.time and will happily suck up as much of your devices processing power as it can, causing slow performance and occasionally interrupting video playback with a screen which reads Test.  If you have seen this you should probably disable debug, set the device to block unsigned apps and do a factory reset. 

The Inquirer also describes an Amazon store app called Total Commander which should remove it, but the factory reset will offer a better guarantee of removal.

41-EH8m42xL._SY300_QL70_.jpg

"AFTVnews has the scoop and reports that the threat, a malware worm variant dubbed 'ADB.Miner', is installing itself on Amazon gadgets as an app called 'Test' under the package name 'com.google.time.time.' "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Onyx

Overview

E Ink is one of those initially promising technologies that ultimately has lived a bit of a disappointing life. After the introduction of the original E-reader devices such as the Amazon Kindle, we were promised a future of all signage being replaced with readable, but electronically controllable E Ink displays. Even color E Ink displays teased us with very limited product rollouts.

However, E Ink has not been a magical cure-all. Lower demand and more difficult production methods mean that the cost of these displays remains much higher than other commodity technologies like LCD. Additionally, even though E Ink has substantially improved from the first E Ink displays, refreshing the display remains a slow process and a deal breaker for applications such as notebooks and tablets.

Or does it? For someone who spends a lot of time looking at LCDs all day, the idea of E-Ink still very much appeals to me. This led me to ask myself some questions earlier this year. Would I be willing to accept the trade-offs of E Ink for a solution to eyestrain? Are E Ink displays any better than when I lasted used one? Are there even any modern E Ink devices besides the Kindle?

That research brought me to what we are taking a look at today, the Onyx Boox Max 2, a 13.3" E-Ink tablet running Android 6.0. 

DSC04858.JPG

Continue reading our review of the Onyx Boox 2 E Ink Tablet!