Categories
Gadgets

The Search For The Perfect 7 Inch Phone

I decided a while back to try out a 7 inch tab as my main phone. My reasons were simple;

  1. My quest for a functional and productive mobile device informed my decison to a stick to a Windows OS powered tablet. However, the allure of an android tab remains.
  2. In a bid to save myself from gadget overload, it did make sense to me to converge my desire for an android tab with my existing smartphone into a single form factor that could pass for both.
  3. Of course, I will also be avoiding the cost of shelling out money for two devices when I could just pick up one.

So far, the easiest part of it all has been actually deciding to tow the 7 incher smartphone line. Deciding on a shortlist of phones to choose from has been nothing short of a nightmare.

Problem is, not a single tab made the cut.

The 4 key specs I desired in my ideal tab are;

  1. 7 inch screen size
  2. Dual SIM
  3. 16GB internal memory
  4. 2GB RAM

Funny thing is, while these specs seem common place with sub 7 inch smartphones, I am yet to find a 7 inch tab sporting 16GB internal memory and 2GB RAM with Dual SIM. Funny, isn’t it? The surprising thing is that the nameless or little known Chinese brands have these features packed into their 7 inch offerings almost by default. Why is that?

I admit that there is a lot I am yet to understand about the smartphone manufacturers, especially those that have affiliations with the Western world and their reasons for some of the decisions they make.

As it is, I just might take a second look at these Chinese brands to make my pick.

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Categories
Hack

Bank App Users Warned Over Android Security

Mobile banking on Android smartphones could put consumers at risk of fraud and cost banks millions.

An IT security company, MWR Labs, investigated the security standards of Android mobile phone brands to determine the overall exposure to risk of consumers who use mobile banking. It said that its results indicated that on some handsets as many as 64 per cent of manufacturer added applications were exposing users to serious security issues.

Mobile-moneyThe company looked at six classes of potential vulnerabilities in apps and packages in the leading brands and mobile phones using a modified version of Mercury, its security testing framework, to automatically scan the devices and identify security weaknesses.

The research discovered security vulnerabilities in software added by phone manufacturers or network providers which could be targeted by a malicious application inadvertently downloaded by the user. These weak apps often have more permissions that allow them to access contacts, make telephone calls and even record the content of those calls, meaning that the potential consequences are serious and sensitive data could be compromised. Other applications were found that allowed further apps to be installed with an arbitrary set of permissions, essentially leaving consumers fully exposed to fraud.

“We found that while banking apps were generally well written and had very few security issues, the integrity of consumer phones was often compromised by software provided by the phone manufacturer or additional software added by the network provider, exposing online banking customers to potential fraud,” said MWR’s managing director Harry Grobbelaar.

“Some of the leading Android handset manufacturers are already looking at shipping mobile devices with native near-field communication (NFC) payment functionalities but if the software in the phones is not secure, the risk will then be even higher,” he said.

He said that as more businesses use smartphones as mobile point-of-sale devices, these devices will become critical in the payment chain and if not adequately protected could “introduce additional risks for card fraud that could cost banks millions a year.”

Grobbelaar added that there were many examples of malicious apps sending premium rate text messages and expected there will be a “natural progression” to higher value areas such as payments and banking.

This article was first published on ITPro

Categories
Controversies Lifestyle Religion

“In The Name Of The Father …”

0510LD1The influence of technology on religion has long been a subject of discourse on this blog and it is definitely an issue that will continue to generate a lot of controversies.

You can read my earlier posts on the influence of technology on religion here.

Apart from the “End of the World” proponents who are very convinced about the very negative role technology would play in the end times, even those who are less believing would have to admit that there is an increasing influence technology is having on World religions.

And with the increasing affordability of tablets and higher end smartphones, it is now very common place to see a lot of Nigerians toting at least one of these mobile devices at anytime.

For a while now, i have paid very little attention to this new age phenomenon. However, my visit to the church last Sunday created a reawakening. It was a bit of a shock to me when it was time for Bible reading and about one-third of the congregation flashed out their tablets and fancy smartphones. Even the presiding Pastor had to comment about this. This is indeed the new face of churches in Nigeria, especially for the churches that cater for the middle and high income earners in the Lekki axis of Lagos, Nigeria.

Even the low income earners have refused to be left behind, thanks to the cheap android knock off tablets that have flooded the country from China. It will indeed be research-worthy to compile the number of these devices now available in Nigeria.

The appropriateness of these devices in the church is still generating a lot of divergent views, even among the church leaders. While some Nigerian Pastors welcome this development as a portrayal of prosperity among its parishioners, however in the world over, some religious leaders worry that the inherently isolating and attention-diverting nature of smart phones has created a generation of worshippers unable to fully engage with the sublimation of self and quiet meditation that underlie both the Eastern and Western religious traditions.

The fact can not be ruled out that for the church to shore up shrinking congregations with new devotees,  those younger worshipers expect activities to include smart phone and tablet use. Device multitasking has become such a pervasive part of their life that quiet, paper-text based religious ceremonies seem even stranger and more off-putting.

However, some religious leaders who have already tried to conduct services over a mobile device to a geographically scattered audience, and those who have tried to integrate smart phones into a physically unified congregation, say they have noticed a significant difference in how worshippers process the experience. Unfortunately, they have found that most people tend to disengage from the experience of communal worship with this mode.

I no longer read a bible from a printed paper based format and i honestly do not know where i have placed mine. Reading my bible from mobiles is a habit that i took on right from the days of my trusty Nokia 3650 back in the mid 2000s. For me, though, I must admit that there is indeed something about digital bibles that does not give you the same experience that you get from the paper based ones but the convenience and the excitement the digital ones give you has made this form of bible the only option for me and many out there.

Categories
Lifestyle Technology

Tracking The Cheating Spouse

sb10064861z-001Vehicle GPS trackers made a foray into the Nigerian market over a decade ago, and was made popular by the insurance companies who bundled these devices with their comprehensive insurance packages. The primary purpose of these devices is to help in reducing the risks the insurance companies face in the event of theft of these cars.

However, some people have found a different use for this device which may not have been the intention of the manufacturers of this technology – Spouse Tracking.

Ever so often, spouses tend to have reasons to suspect their partners of infidelity; the perpetual late nights at work, work trips, cutting off calls when you come into the room, and perhaps, lack of interest in “you know what”. Stories abound everywhere of marital infidelity, and it is becoming increasing common place and many even see it as a norm.

A temptation to have an affair can come from all over. Lures from a co-worker whom they spend lots of time with or go on business trips with, the house help that watches your children, your so called good friend or even a neighbor.

The thing is, you may have not gone all out to get and fix the device on your partner’s car, as it may have been installed by the insurance company but the fact is, the vehicle GPS tracker does a very good job keeping track of the movement of the car occupant, even keeping a log of locations visited for future reference. It is just a matter of you taking charge of the SMS or internet services required to monitor this movement of the vehicle. You may even go a step further and install a discreet video camera as an add-on to the GPS device to get a video and audio feedback from your spouse’s car.

Alternatively, if what you have is a “tokunboh” (fairly used) car that you did not bother to fix a tracker in, most smartphones now come with GPS feature. Apps like SMS & Call Mobile Monitor,  available on the android and the iOS platforms, even allows you to check on the content of your partner’s phone in addition to tracking her movement.

Well, this sort of raise ethical issues (as if jealous spouses care about this 🙂 ) but i am very sure some spouses have taken even more extreme measures to catch a cheating partner especially in Nigeria where voodoo is very common place. The mythical magun charm easily comes to mind.

Categories
Gadgets

Toddlers And iPad Addiction

I understand that one of the main joys of parenting a toddler involves keeping the little one amused.

Amused, as in quiet.

Ever since the iPad came along, with its bright colors and infinite range of games and pictures, it has seemed like an ideal tool to keep baby happy. This happiness, however, is one that baby does not want to ever, ever stop. So much so that some toddlers are now said to be iPad addicts.

This curiously adult affliction seems to involve baby undergoing seven aspects of demented ranting, should her iPad be taken away.

As the Telegraph reports, a novel strain of therapy involves easing the strain that little children feel when their gadget is not at hand.

There are examples of toddlers being engrossed in their tablets for up to 4 hours a day. This might not seem like much, until one realizes that many of the very youngest are only awake 10 hours a day.

The Sunday Mirror reported on a case of a 4-year-old who, it claimed, is Britain’s youngest iPad addict. It quoted psychiatrist Dr. Richard ­Graham who runs the Capio Nightingale Clinic in London. The clinic specializes in digital detox, weaning the dependent off their gadgets.

ipad addictionGraham, to whom the 4-year-old was referred by her mother, said that he believes such an addiction is common and not unlike alcoholism or drug dependency.

“Although at this stage her use isn’t a sufficient concern to warrant in-patient care, it would be if her addiction continues to the age of 11, when she has access to other platforms like ­smartphones and the Internet,” said Graham.

Graham thinks it might be a good idea for Internet use advice to be a core element of ante-natal classes.

Perhaps this all begins with mimicry. The children see their parents’ deep involvement in their machines and want to do the same.

The machines themselves are vastly enjoyable. Indeed, visit any bar or restaurant and see supposedly adult humans seemingly unable to focus on anything but screens.

Psychologists worry that when toddlers grow up they won’t be able to have normal, human interactions with their contemporaries.

But when normal, human interactions already consist of Facebook friending and Snapchat sending, some might think an iPad addiction is merely an early introduction into a certain future.

iPad, therefore I am.

 

Source

Categories
Gadgets

Moving Beyond Megapixels : More Is Not Always Better!

New advancements are ensuring that it’s only a matter of time until your smartphone’s camera is just as good as a point-and-shoot.

Smartphone cameras have come a long way—moving from convenient methods for sharing mediocre snapshots to near pro-quality image-capture tools in the right hands. Although the old benchmark of resolution seems to have topped out, innovation is still accelerating in many other areas of mobile camera technology.

“Packing more, but smaller, pixels into the same size sensor increases noise.”

BIGGER, BETTER PIXELS

After years of racing toward higher megapixel counts, camera vendors have finally realized that more is not always better. Packing more, but smaller, pixels into the same size sensor increases noise because smaller pixels capture fewer photons in a given time period. Tiny pixels also run closer to the diffraction limits of optics—particularly the inexpensive kind found in phones—so the added resolution gain isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be. In some high-resolution cameras, a 50 percent increase in pixel resolution only equates to an effective resolution boost of around 10 percent.

HTC has led the way in the retro effort to go back to fewer, larger pixels. Its 4MP UltraPixel cameras feature sensor sites that have three times the surface area of 13MP competitive cameras. In a somewhat odd move, Nokia has also swerved from offering the über-resolution 41MP Nokia 808 PureView to trumpeting the “good enough” 8.7MP resolution of its new flagship, the Lumia 920—which has amazing low-light performance thanks to a combination of high fill factor courtesy of its back-illuminated sensor, better optical image stabilization, a Zeiss “low-light optimized” f/2 lens, and lots of fancy noise reduction and image processing that’s done immediately after the capture.

Pelican-Imaging-promotional-photo-640x353

FASTER, LESS-EXPENSIVE FOCUSING

Autofocus has been a major source of irritation for both smartphone and point-and-shoot camera users—and because it’s never fast enough to capture quickly moving action, it has helped keep D-SLR makers in business. Smartphone makers are moving to change that.

DigitalOptics Corporation (DOC) has created an autofocus system based on microelectromechanical (MEMS) technology that uses an electrostatic charge to move the focus. This lets camera modules (and thus smartphones) be slimmer, and DOC also claims its system reduces lens tilt during autofocus, which in turn reduces image distortions including vignetting. DOC is planning to sell a 5.1mm tall, 8MP camera module with this technology to Chinese smartphone makers, but it’s on the expensive side ($25 per module).

Startup LensVector, meanwhile, is hoping to address the lack of autofocus in lower-end smartphone with a low-cost element that realigns liquid crystal to change the refractive index of different areas of the lens and thus effectively change the focus.

“The relatively small photo sites in camera phone sensors restrict their dynamic range.”

HDR: POST-PROCESS YOUR IMAGES BEFORE YOU TAKE THEM

The relatively small photo sites in camera phone sensors restrict their dynamic range. As a result, photos that are backlit or combine sun and shade can either lack detail or look completely burned out. High-dynamic range (HDR) photography combines two or more images with different exposures to try to take the “best of both” images and create a single image that more accurately reflects how the original scene looked.

For many years, HDR could only be done after the fact, with processing software on a computer. But Apple’s introduction of in-phone HDR with the iPhone 4S changed all that, and has ushered in a number of new phones with integrated intelligent image processing that make HDR still image and full-time entire new class of mobile device camera capabilities.

HDR video possible. This feature has until now needed to be custom-coded by the phone vendor and rely on the image signal processor (ISP) chip to do the work. But Nvidia is smashing through that limit with its new Chimera architecture, which will be available starting with its upcoming Tegra 4 family of processors.

By unleashing the horsepower of the GPU during image capture, features formerly only found on high-end cameras will become available on smartphones. Real-time object tracking and panoramas, and best shot selection, will quickly become reality.

Other vendors are putting together systems with many of these capabilities, but what makes Chimera unique is its open interface. This lets other companies write plug-ins that access to the low-level data straight off the sensor, and use the computing power of the ISP, GPU, and CPU. Although it remains to be seen whether Google and Microsoft let these programming interfaces shine through in stock Android or Windows RT, there will certainly be an opening for custom camera applications integrated with homebrew ROM versions. Chimera is open enough to support this type of advanced functionality.

WHAT WILL THE ULTIMATE SMARTPHONE CAMERA LOOK LIKE?

Putting together all these innovations will take a few years, but is inevitable. Combining a Lytro-like light field sensor with a high-powered architecture like Chimera will make amazing photo effects and post-processing possible in real time, in the phone. MIT’s Camera Culture team, along with startups Pelican, Heptagon, and Rebellion are all working on the light field sensor component—as it is expected are Apple and HTC. Pelican in particular made waves recently with its low-key demo of after-the-fact refocusing at this year’s Mobile World Congress—done in conjunction with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 800 processor. After four years, Pelican finally appears ready to start announcing some products—stressing how thin its light field–based sensors are, and how they can make possible depth-related processing after the fact.

Google doesn’t want to be left out. Hiring computational photography guru Marc Levoy to work on its mobile photography architecture is just one indication of how serious it is. To quote Google’s senior vice president Vic Gundotra, “We are committed to making Nexus phones insanely great cameras. Just you wait and see.”

Sensor architecture will also continue to advance, with stacked sensors enabling greater on-chip innovation. Expect zero-lag global shutters (which read out the entire frame at once, eliminating motion artifacts) to become commonplace. Real zooms will soon start to be available. Add-on lenses will also increase in functionality, providing true wide-angle and telephoto capabilities. Rumors for the Nexus 5 even include the possibility of a camera module co-branded with Nikon. The only question will be whether anyone will still need a point-and-shoot once these innovations come to smartphones.

 

 

Source

Categories
Uncategorized

Embracing Employee – Acquired Smartphones Without Compromising Security

This article was first published in Diary of a Geek on April 20, 2011

EspionageIf your capacity as an IT professional involves dealing with people in your office going on the road with mobile devices and bemoaning policies that keep them from accessing the company’s network because of pesky security protocols, then my heart goes out to you. It’s rough trying to balance the legitimate needs of a staff trying to maximize its ability to get a job done and the often bureaucratic rigamarole of office directives that seem to be counterproductive to what should be a goal shared with that same staff. People want to work smarter, not harder, and being part of a team should support — not stifle — that goal.

In the past decade (and especially in just the past few short years), the mobile phone has become more common among the general population and less of a company-issued “perk” — and, therefore, less under the reign of strict policies that your company may have instated in the past regarding the use of such devices. It just makes sense that you, as an IT professional in charge of enforcing the integrity of your company’s security initiatives, want to be kept up to date on your options with an ever-changing set of rules in an ever-changing game. So when on-the-go people at the office increasingly voice a desire to use their own smartphones to take part in mission critical (but top secret) company communication, how do you embrace the use of employee-acquired smartphones without compromising security? BlackBerry may not be the first company that comes to mind when you think of smartphones today, but it inarguably has more experience in the field than many of its contemporary contenders. So when BlackBerry has an opinion on the matter and offers free advice to IT professionals who have an ear to listen (well, in this case, an eye to read. Maybe even two of them), you may find it worth your while to see what the company has to say.

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Are Hybrid Tablets the New Netbooks?

Hybrid TabletsHybrids have gotten a lot of hype lately, with a slew of touch-enabled laptops and flipping, folding convertible designs launching so far this year. But with some of these new hybrids—specifically smaller tablets with docking keyboards—there’s been a nagging question that I can’t quite shake: Are hybrid tablets the new netbooks?

You remember netbooks, right? The minuscule clamshell PCs, with 8-to 10-inch screens and crowded keyboards, caught shoppers’ attention as much for their sub-$500 prices as for their compact form factors. For a brief period a few years back, netbooks were the hot new thing, selling like proverbial hotcakes—but it didn’t last. Those hotcakes didn’t even stay sold as customers returned their cheap netbooks in droves.

Complaints touched on everything from screen dimensions (in many cases, too small to display full-size webpages) to keyboard width (too tiny for traditional typing), but the biggest gripe by far was about the processors. Shoppers went looking for inexpensive alternatives to laptops, but found that netbooks’ pint-sized CPUs wouldn’t always support the programs they were accustomed to, or provide the speed they expected.

Though you’ll still see one or two being sold as inexpensive systems for K-12 students, by and large the netbook is now all but extinct. The ultrabook has come on the scene, offering portability with the promise of a full-fledged processor, but the prices usually bottom out around $700. Apple’s MacBook Air models eventually jump-started Intel’s Ultrabook category, but so surpassed the underpowered netbooks of the time that they are rightly considered part of another category.

It’s starting to feel as if the netbook is rearing its head again.

As tablets and hybrid ultrabook designs have begun cropping up recently, it’s starting to feel as if the netbook is rearing its head yet again. Ten-and 11-inch tablets are being released with docking keyboards and Windows 8, designed to provide the convenience seen in iPads and Android tablets, but with the additional productive capability and software support of a Windows PC. These little tablets share many of the defining features of netbooks. Dinky Atom processors? Check. Chintzy 32-bit versions of Windows? Check. Small screens? Check. Cramped keyboards? Check.

But there are some key differences as well. For example, the keyboards are slightly improved over those on netbooks, with many lessons learned from earlier disasters. You won’t see one coming in at less than 10 inches, where keyboards on the largest netbooks topped out at 10 or 11 inches—and most systems were equipped with nearly useless keyboards 8 or 9 inches in size.

Small screens are also less of an issue, as they are now wide enough to display content without cutting off webpages, and the Web has adapted to smaller displays thanks to smartphones and other mobile devices. And where netbooks were often used at arm’s length like a laptop, tablets are more ergonomically suited to cradling and carrying. Higher screen resolutions also play a part, with most hybrids offering 720p and a few even sporting 1080p. The result is a much more readable, usable display.

The current Atom CPUs can run all of the legacy apps that netbooks of yesteryear could not.

Where the Atom processors used in netbooks were slow and clunky, the newest batch of Atom CPUs deliver speedier performance and superb battery life. Intel has pushed hard to close the gap between their mobile and PC chips, desiring a stronger presence in mobile markets, and the Atom platform is the beneficiary of this progress. The results aren’t on par with the latest Core processors, but you will find solid basic performance. More important, the current Atom CPUs can run all of the legacy apps that the netbooks of yesteryear could not.

Finally, the usage model has changed. Only a few years ago, netbooks were expected to be primarily productivity machines, letting you type documents, fill out spreadsheets, and so on. Since that time, online services like Netflix, Facebook, and Skype have exploded. For these sorts of uses detachable hybrid tablets are perfect, letting you curl up with a movie the way past generations curled up with a good book. You can Skype and chat and browse to your heart’s content. And with a docking keyboard, you can actually do some work, whether that means taking notes in a classroom or meeting, preparing spreadsheets, or designing a presentation.

So, although detachable hybrid tablets certainly share a family resemblance to netbooks, they are ultimately their own devices, with their own pros and cons. One of the biggest benefits of these new devices is all-day battery life—and I do mean all day. Some of the latest Atom-powered tablets offer well beyond the 8 hours needed for a full workday, and then supplement this with a second battery in the docking keyboard, letting you go from dawn to dusk and into the night without stopping to charge.

Will 2013 see a repeat of the buy-and-return cycle that killed off netbooks? Between the improved capability of today’s systems and the evolution of buyers’ expectations, I think shoppers are safe. Vendors and manufacturers, on the other hand, have a very different concern: If people can already do most of this with the smartphones and tablets they already have, who will want to buy a Windows tablet?

Between the improved capability of today’s systems and the evolution of buyers’ expectations, I think shoppers are safe.

Source : PCMAG

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S3 Accessories: The C Pen Review

Samsung C PenThe C Pen is a capacitive stylus made to work specifically for the Samsung Galaxy S3. Unlike most capacitive stylus that have a big soft rubber on the tip  that tend to be much softer to the point where they squish in considerably, the Samsung C Pen gives you a more precise input option due to its soft, yet firm, 3.5mm pointed tip.

The C Pen has a solid build with confident weight to it and looks just like an actual pen. Its pointed tip makes for far more accurate handwriting and drawing on your S3 than your finger.

On the flip side, I find that the C Pen is not always very responsive.  Sometimes, you have to press firmly on the screen to get your task done. Also, the C Pen is made specifically for the Samsung Galaxy 3, just like the S-Pen was made for Galaxy Note, and they do not work on any other smartphones, including each other.

The Samsung C-Pen offers, to some extent, similar experience as Galaxy Note’s  S Pen. The C Pen, however, falls short with the experience you get. Tagged the poor man’s S Pen, the C Pen is based on an entirely different technology and lacks the wacom digitizer technology that gives the S-Pen 1,024 levels of pressure, which lets you draw weighted lines as you would with a real pencil. You get palm or finger rejection, which means you’ll rarely draw an accidental line with your hand. Basically, it’s akin to upgrading from using a chalk to an art pencil

Even though C-Pen cannot measure pressure like S-Pen, it still gives much better task handling than your fingers or other styluses.

Categories
Gadgets

Watching porn is bad for your smartphone

We’re not making any moral judgments here. But it is definitively a bad idea to visit pornography sites on your smartphone or tablet.

Nearly one-quarter of malware on mobile devices comes from porn websites, according to a new study from Blue Coat, a Web security and optimization company.

 Mobile users don’t check out porn sites often — less than 1% of all mobile traffic is pornography. But when they do go to those sites, the risk of inadvertently downloading malware to their devices increases three-fold. That makes watching porn on smartphones a far bigger threat than viewing porn on a PC.

Porn led to more malware on smartphones and tablets than e-mail spam, malicious websites, and fake apps combined.

Part of the problem, Blue Coat said, is that the nature of mobile devices makes differentiating legitimate sites from malicious ones a tricky task. There is no way to hover over shortened URLs to reveal their true destination, for example.

“No matter how tantalizing a link might look on a desktop, there are cues that you shouldn’t go there, such as an address that just doesn’t look safe,” said Hugh Thompson, chief security strategist for Blue Coat. “When you click a link on a mobile phone, it’s harder to know what form of Russian roulette they’re playing.”

Porn is a leading traffic driver on the Internet, and for many years, porn sites had been a primary source of malware on PCs as well.

“When you delve into the world of online pornography, you don’t often know where you are, or where the content is coming from,” said Thompson. “But when you’re visiting those sites, you are more inclined to make riskier choices than elsewhere on the Web.”

But cyberattackers are increasingly finding new ways to target an even larger audience, including phishing, uploading malicious advertisements and poisoning search engine results.

Security experts predict that broader-based cybercrime schemes are likely to appear on smartphones and tablets soon. For now though, mobile attacks appear to be mirroring techniques used on traditional computers.

Still, major security firms have widely predicted that this will be the year mobile devices will finally emerge as a major target for cybercriminals. Smartphones have become personal computers that travel around with us at all times, and the vast majority of users don’t even lock them with a password.

Cyberthieves continue to make so much money attacking Windows PCs that there hasn’t been much incentive to change tactics. But we’re about to hit a tipping point. Most people still do their online banking and shopping on their PCs, but those transactions are happening on mobile phones more frequently.

According to research from Juniper Networks (JNPR), 300 million smartphones around the world will be equipped with the near-field communications (NFC) chips needed for mobile payments this year. Juniper also predicts global NFC transactions will total nearly $50 billion.

CNN