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    by Published on 06-22-2017 07:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Pro tip: If you're thinking of ordering a OnePlus 5 (and haven't already), do it when they go on sale at midnight next Tuesday, June 27th. You'll likely experience the same impossibly-quick delivery that I did with their early drop this week.

    What you're looking at above is a screen grab from an Android app called ParcelTrack, showing my phone's journey from Los Angeles to Cincinnati and then on to its final destination in Toronto. I placed my order Tuesday at 12:43pm Eastern (I'm a keener that way); less than 8 hours later the order was dispatched, and less than 24 hours after that I had the phone in my hands.

    For this to happen OnePlus had to have stock already shipped from Shenzhen to LA, along with other tactical ports near key markets. I would expect the same for the phone's official launch next week.

    The buying experience has certainly come a long way since the dreaded invite system for the OnePlus One, and the added headache of import fees for those of us who had that device delivered to Canada. The only negative part of my OnePlus 5 experience so far is that cases for the phone are not yet available. I wonder how well a case for an iPhone 7 Plus would fit...?

    Links: OnePlus 5, ParcelTrack on Google Play

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    by Published on 03-14-2017 07:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    I really hate it when I have to use this image, but here we are once again.

    Last Friday security firm Check Point published a blog post detailing malware found in products from "a multinational technology company" and "a large telecommunications company". I can only surmise that the latter is a carrier; the former would seem to suggest an online retailer, but the products from Lenovo, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi makes me think that it's not Best Buy.

    What's unique about this particular infections is that they were added in the supply chain—that is, somewhere between the manufacturer and end user. Here's the list of infected devices, with the offending APKs in italics:

    Asus Zenfone 2 / Lenovo S90
    com.google.googlesearch

    Lenovo A850
    com.androidhelper.sdk

    Lenovo S90
    com.skymobi.mopoplay.appstore

    Oppo N3 / Vivo X6 plus
    com.android.ys.services

    Oppo R7 Plus
    com.example.loader

    Samsung Galaxy A5
    com.android.deketv

    Samsung Galaxy A5
    com.baycode.mop

    Samsung Galaxy Note 2 / LG G4
    com.fone.player1

    Samsung Galaxy Note 2 / Xiaomi Mi 4i
    com.sds.android.ttpod

    Samsung Galaxy Note 3 / Galaxy Note 4 / Galaxy Note Edge / Galaxy S4
    com.changba

    Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    air.fyzb3

    Samsung Galaxy Note 4 / Galaxy Note 8.0
    com.kandian.hdtogoapp

    Samsung Galaxy Note 5
    com.ddev.downloader.v2

    Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    com.mojang.minecraftpe

    Samsung Galaxy S4
    com.kandian.hdtogoapp

    Samsung Galaxy S4 / Galaxy S7
    com.lu.compass

    Samsung Galaxy S4
    com.mobogenie.daemon

    Samsung Galaxy Tab 2
    com.armorforandroid.security

    Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
    com.example.loader

    Xiaomi Redmi
    com.yongfu.wenjianjiaguanli

    ZTE x500
    com.iflytek.ringdiyclient

    Hopefully no one reading this is affected by any of the malware listed above. If you want to make sure your device is safe, Check Point, Lookout and Malwarebytes are three malware scanners recommended by Ars Technica.

    Sources: Check Point via Ars Technica

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    by Published on 03-13-2017 07:00 AM
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    Google has taken their fair share of lumps from yours truly as of late, what with faulty Pixels, freemium Hangouts and such. But this is something really cool. One of Android's main selling points over its closest rival is the ability to customize your home screen—not just with wallpapers but with custom icons and 3rd-party launchers as well. To get you started Google has a new site, the #myAndroid Taste Test.

    It takes less than a minute to complete, and consists of a series of binary choices—light or dark, vibrant or muted, animated or static, etc. Completing the test gives you a recommended wallpaper, icon pack, launcher, home screen widget and keyboard. As an example, here are the suggestions I got from taking the test just now:

    Google Wallpapers
    Revolution Icon Pack
    Smart Launcher 3
    News & Weather Widget
    Gboard

    Okay, so three out of the five recommendations are for Google-made products, but it could have been worse... Another way to get inspiration is by looking at the recommendations from others. #myAndroid isn't exactly trending on Twitter, but over on r/Android redditors are currently discussing the merits of Evie Launcher, and I'm pretty sure that the #myAndroid Taste Test had something to do with that.

    If you're tired of your home screen and want to try something new, Google's taste test is a decent place to get started.

    Sources: Android via XDA Developers

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    by Published on 02-20-2017 07:00 AM
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    Recently a NASA engineer was detained at a Houston airport until he agreed to unlock his work-issued phone for CBP agents there. The incident has citizens of the United States along with those with plans to visit wondering what their rights are in regards to their smartphones and privacy.

    The unfortunate answer is, not much.

    Even if you're a U.S. citizen the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which protects you from search and seizure without probable cause, does not fully apply at border crossings. And while the Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement agencies inside the country cannot search your phone without a warrant, it hasn't yet made a ruling on phone searches at the border.

    Until it does, here's what you need to know: If your phone is subject to inspection you will be provided with this tearsheet from the CBP agent who requests it. If you refuse or are unwilling to unlock it, what happens next depends on who you are. Citizens of the United States may be detained for an indeterminate amount of time, but you can at least request that a lawyer be present for all questioning. Citizens and legal permanent residents cannot be denied re-entry into the country, but this does not apply to foreign nationals—in other words, visitors the U.S. who refuse to unlock their phones for inspection run the risk of being turned back.

    If you're concerned about your privacy and personal data, what can you do? One recommendation would be to leave your phone at home, but I'm guessing that no one reading this would want to do that. Another option would be to back up your personal data online, wipe your phone for the border crossing and then restore it once you're through. A third option would be to avoid travelling to and transferring through the United States until all this is sorted out.

    Sources: The Atlantic, BBC News, Business Insider, CNN

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    by Published on 02-02-2017 07:00 AM
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    With its pink sand, pastel-coloured houses and dark rum, Bermuda is a dream destination for anyone, really. But for BlackBerry users, perhaps a little more so. You can still buy a 2013 BB7-powered 9720 like the one you see above (wallpaper not included), and if you're visiting the island with an unlocked BlackBerry of your own you can also get a prepaid SIM card with unlimited data at surprisingly reasonable rates.

    I didn't even bother with SIM cards for the two Android phones that the girlfriend and I brought with us for our quick island getaway; Digicel, the country's largest carrier, charges an insane $75 Bermudian Dollars (at par with USD) for a gigabyte of data, what I would consider a comfortable minimum for uploading photos and the like. But the operator also offers another relic of days gone by: BlackBerry Internet Service. So for a mere $15 BMD you can enjoy a full seven days of unlimited email, messaging and mobile Internet.

    The deal also applies to Android-powered BlackBerry phones, which I guess must also have the necessary hooks to connect to BIS.

    I was actually looking into getting a pair of cheap BlackBerries for our trip; Bermuda is close enough to Toronto that we'll probably be visiting again before too long. In case you were interested, Digicel sells their 9720 for a not-entirely outrageous $99 USD. Note, though, that you can currently get the newer Q5 for that same price from Amazon.com.

    For any Bermuda-bound BlackBerry users, all the links you need are directly below!

    Links: BlackBerry 9720, Prepaid Plans, Hamilton Flagship Store

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    by Published on 01-23-2017 07:00 AM
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    I don't know if this will be a regular feature here, but I feel obliged to pass on any pearls of wisdom gleaned in this very specific area of expertise where and when I can. Root, custom ROMs and the like are, after all, the only thing that really differentiates Android from iOS at the end of the day.

    The video above is from a thread on the official OnePlus forums, a guide for unrooting a OnePlus 3 and returning it to stock (as in "shelf stock") condition. You would do this if, for example, you were prepping your device to be sold; you might also follow this procedure if, like me, you were flashing a major OS upgrade to your device. For anyone used to a Nexus there are some peculiarities as to how OnePlus does things, which I learned over the course of a few hours last Friday afternoon, and will now share with you.

    So let's say I was upgrading from Android Marshmallow to Nougat... On a rooted Nexus I would back up my apps and data using Titanium Backup, along with other local media like photos and transfer those files to a desktop computer. Then I would download a device-specific factory image from Google, flash all the partitions manually (I never bother with the "flash all" script) log into my new Android OS and after re-rooting the Nexus would then restore my apps with a fresh install of Titanium Backup from the Play Store.

    Like I say OnePlus has their own way of doing things; they do offer downloads of Oxygen OS (and the major revisions to it), but only as flashable zips. So how is one to restore Oxygen from a custom ROM on their OnePlus 3, or perform a clean upgrade to Oxygen v4.x (Nougat) from v3.x (Marshmallow)? The key is OnePlus' own recovery image, the one partition you can flash to your OP3 via fastboot.

    Once you've backed up your phone the procedure, in broad strokes, goes like this:

    1. Download the desired flashable zip of Oxygen OS, and also the OnePlus recovery;
    2. Reboot your OnePlus 3 into fastboot mode and flash the OnePlus recovery;
    3. Still in fastboot, re-lock your bootloader via fastboot oem lock—this will wipe your device, and also whatever OS is installed on your phone;
    4. If the phone reboots after Step 3 immediately press and hold the Volume Down key to boot into the OnePlus recovery—understanding that at this point you do not have a bootable operating system on your phone;
    5. Use the OnePlus recovery to flash your zip of Oxygen OS via adb sideload;
    6. Boot into your new OS.
    7. If you want to re-root your phone don't bother signing in to your Google account—instead go back into fastboot, unlock your bootloader, flash a custom recovery and then use that to flash a SuperSU.zip.


    The OnePlus restore method does have some advantages over a Nexus-style restore; if something goes wrong you've at least got a working bootloader and recovery partition. There's just that one tense moment when your phone will try to boot into an OS that isn't there!

    Source: OnePlus Forums

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    by Published on 12-16-2016 07:00 AM
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    I don't think I ever got around to reporting on Amazon's Prime Edition of the BLU R1 HD; thanks to Brad Linder at Liliputing for reminding me of its existence. It is indeed a $50 USD unlocked Android phone—some specs:

    5 inch HD display with Gorilla Glass 3
    1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6735 ARM Cortex processor
    Android 6.0 Marshmallow
    8GB storage / 1GB RAM
    8MP rear camera / 5MP front camera with LED flash
    Dual SIM and MicroSD support for up to 64 GB of expandable storage
    4G LTE plus GSM

    The catch? Lock screen ads from Amazon. And even worse, it was found that the phone was secretly sending text messages and other personal information to a server in China. Amazon actually stopped selling the R1 HD until the spyware was removed. With assurances from BLU's CEO that the backdoor is gone, the phone is now back in stock.

    So about the lock screen ads... those l33t [email protected] over at XDA have figured out a way to unlock the device's bootloader and install a custom recovery—paving the way for SuperSU and AdAway or, if you prefer, a custom ROM.

    The ad-supported R1 HD unfortunately won't ship to Canada; otherwise I would gladly have a go and report my findings for you all here. Any of our American friends up for the challenge?

    Sources: Liliputing (1) (2), XDA (1) (2)

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    by Published on 12-12-2016 07:00 AM
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    2. Tips,
    3. Apps



    Do you know someone who regularly overshares personal information on social media? If so, you might want to direct them to this post.

    Russian Art School Student Egor Tsvetkov completed a project earlier this year; he called it "Your Face Is Big Data". For the project, he took 100 photographs of random people who happened to sit across from him on the subway. Then he used an Android app called Find Face to see if he could match the strangers with their accounts on Russia's version of Facebook, VKontakte.

    The result? He was easily able to identify about 70% of his subjects, even if their morning commute face bore little resemblance to their staged profile pic. As for the purpose of this privacy invasion, here's Tsvetkov himself to justify what he did:

    “My project is a clear illustration of the future that awaits us if we continue to disclose as much about ourselves on the Internet as we do now.”
    For a gallery of Egor's subway and social media matches, check out the first link directly below. The second link has more information about Tsvetkov and his project.

    Sources: Imgur, PC World

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    by Published on 12-02-2016 06:00 AM
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    ... Provided you meet their stringent requirements, of course.

    If you're the unlucky owner of an iPhone 6s that randomly shuts down, but lucky enough to have purchased one manufactured in the narrow window of September to October, 2015, then your affected device might be due for a new battery, free of charge from Apple.

    Here's how to find out if your 6s is eligible: Get the serial number for your device by navigating to Settings > General > About then enter that number on this site. If you get a green light you can proceed to your local Apple retail store, Apple authorized service provider or call Apple Support directly.

    There are additional stipulations, of course. Your phone must be in good working condition—a cracked screen, for example, would interfere with the battery replacement process and is therefore not eligible for the program.

    Fingers crossed that everyone affected gets a new battery...!

    Sources: MacRumors via ZDNet

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    by Published on 09-30-2016 07:00 AM
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    I found an interesting deal on mobile hotspot Internet service from Sprint, courtesy of author and Internet freedom fighter Cory Doctorow.

    The Calyx Institute is a registered nonprofit ISP—the first ISP, in fact, to ever get a Patriot Act warrant unsealed. They're able to offer mobile Internet service through Sprint thanks to a condition of that company's 2013 acquisition of Clearwire. There was a stipulation in that deal that nonprofits get access to the network at very low prices.

    You're technically paying for a membership, not the Internet service itself. But the Internet service is a pretty sweet perk. I'll let Cory explain:

    Calyx uses the wireless data service as a membership premium to help pay for their crypto and privacy supporting activities: to pay for multiple gigabit connections, data center space, etc.. to offer a whole array of free security and privacy services to the public including our LEAP based VPN, their encrypted instant messaging service, and their many Tor exit nodes.

    The upshot? For $500, Calyx will send you a little wifi hotspot with a Sprint SIM in it that comes with a year's worth of unlimited, anonymous, unshaped, unfiltered 4G/LTE bandwidth on Sprint's network. Unlimited as in, I downloaded 60GB with mine and it didn't break a sweat.

    And it's a tax-deductible charitable donation.
    Calyx isn't supposed to call their service unlimited; they refer to it as 30GB+. The thing is, after 30GB in transfers nothing changes; the user isn't throttled in any way and there are no overage charges whatsoever. Even better, the cost of service drops to $400 after the first year, since you'll already have the hotspot required to access the network.

    Carrying around an extra piece of gear can be a burden, but has advantages as well. For example, it's generally much safer to connect your laptop to your own hotspot than to someone else's WiFi network. You'll also be the instant life of the party for your cheapskate friends who have little or no data of their own. ...
    by Published on 08-25-2016 07:30 AM
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    If you own an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, I'm afraid that I've some bad news for you: Both of Apple's 2014 smartphones are susceptible to a growing phenomenon called "touch disease", wherein a grey flickering bar appears across the top of your display and your touchscreen becomes unresponsive.

    The iFixit video above details the issue and how it can be fixed. It's basically a perfect storm of manufacturing issues—inadequate protection of the Touch IC chips on the phones' logic boards, combined with the rather bendy nature of the chassis. The good news is that for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Apple moved the Touch IC chip off of the logic board and onto the display assembly where there's less flex. But if your 6-series iPhone gets afflicted with touch disease your only options are either a board-level repair or a new phone.

    Jessa Jones of iPad Rehab, interviewed in the video, has repeatedly tried to educate iPhone owners on what she sees as a growing epidemic; she has since been banned from Apple's Support Forums. As of this writing, Apple has not officially acknowledged the existence of touch disease. ...
    by Published on 08-22-2016 07:30 AM
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    At some unknowable point in the future, someone on these forums will be looking for advice about getting a local SIM card in Norway. This person either won't have a bundled "roam like home" service from T-Mobile, or will have deduced that the $10 CAD per day equivalent from Bell, Fido, Rogers or TELUS isn't actually the amazing deal those carriers make it out to be. If you're that person, then this post is for you.

    Telenor is the largest carrier in Norway, but the best they could offer my girlfriend and I was a paltry 500 MB of data for our 8 days there. So we went instead with the number two choice, Telia. The prepaid plan that I had researched was as follows:

    3 GB data, free domestic calls, texts and MMS for 31 days @ 299 NOK

    If you were wondering 299 Norwegian kroner works out to about $36 USD or $47 CAD. Not exactly cheap, but cheaper at least than the $80 CAD that we'd have to hand over to a Canadian operator for the privilege of roaming in Europe. Our current carrier, Koodo, doesn't even offer a roam like home option, so we'd be paying an extra $5 per megabyte of data while abroad.

    Nuts to that! ...
    by Published on 03-11-2016 07:05 AM
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    I've been enjoying my Pebble Time Steel for about a month now, but just this week I've made two startling new discoveries about it.

    I had been lamenting how slow Pebble's voice dictation was. To reply to an SMS or Google Hangout message you get to the screen you see here, say what you want to say and then wait an interminable amount of time for the lowly 100 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 to process it and send it to your phone.

    Or so I thought. ...
    by Published on 01-31-2016 08:36 AM
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    One thing a lot of people wish they could get in Canada is Google Voice. Well if your one of those people ...
    by Published on 01-18-2016 06:52 AM
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    Yours truly ordered and received a Huawei Nexus last week (#humblebrag), and over the weekend set it up for use as my main device. I insist that every Android device in my household is rooted (to block ads) and I personally prefer to run custom ROMs over rooted stock firmware (for easier updates).

    This week I'd like to showcase some notable custom ROMs running Android Marshmallow—but before that I'd like to share a little discovery I made over the weekend. I've been flashing custom ROMs on Nexus phones since the Nexus One, but there was this odd term I kept coming across that I've never really understood.

    Until now. ...
    by Published on 01-15-2016 06:48 AM
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    If you'll indulge me, I've got one more vacation-related post for you...

    It was almost a year ago that I first wrote about Canadian fintech startup Zenbanx, an app and web-based service allowing users to send money to friends and family in other parts of the world and, of much more interest to me, allowing those same users to withdraw funds in local currencies while travelling.

    I've now used Zenbanx enough times abroad that I can speak with some authority about it. The first thing you need to know is that the app is a complete waste of time—at least it has been for me. Perhaps it's because I'm running a custom Android ROM on a rooted phone, but I've rarely, if ever, been able to get past this first screen you see here.

    That's the bad news. Now the good news (and maybe just a bit more bad news). ...
    by Published on 01-11-2016 07:12 AM
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    Just got back last night from a Christmas and New Year's trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo. Getting connected in Hong Kong was as simple as swapping out my home SIM for a Hong Kong Tourist one—which still worked perfectly despite the change in service from PCCW to csl.

    Japan, though, was a whole other story. And the worst part is that it could have been so much easier. ...
    by Published on 11-27-2015 05:55 AM
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    Don't think I've ever seen this before... At least three Nexus devices are being heavily discounted for Black Friday—and two of those deals are available right on Google's own online store.

    The bad news that is there's barely any love for Canada. Sure, we had our Thanksgiving over a month ago, but our consumer-driven culture has been honouring Black Friday for as long as anyone else! ...
    by Published on 11-23-2015 07:00 AM
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    One of the very first posts I wrote for the front page of these fine forums was about this hotspot, the Sierra Wireless (now NETGEAR?) AirCard 763S. I still have it and I'm glad that I do—when my DSL modem died last week the AirCard stepped up as my lifeline to the Internet for more than 48 hours. ...
    by Published on 11-02-2015 07:25 AM
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    I'm probably one of the last people to give up on the one-two punch in the mouth that is Foursquare and Swarm. What was once a single app and a handy one at that has become too cumbersome and broken to be of any value to me.

    I was first introduced to Foursquare way back in 2009. The mayorships were an obvious gimmick but I immediately saw value in the service as a way to track and time-stamp various places I've visited. What's that restaurant in Scarborough that's famous for their hot and sour soup? How do you spell the name of Helsinki's famous electronics shop? Foursquare knows!

    Foursquare also knows how to ruin a perfectly good product, apparently... which is exactly what they've done. Fortunately there are other apps and services that provide the same functionality should you decide to jump ship like me. ...
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