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I’m Not A Fan, But In Case YOU Are…

Regular readers know I disentangled myself from Apple years ago for various reasons (mostly having to do with that crime against tech that is known as iTunes), but I realize many of you are still loving the iPhone. So today, I’ve got some warnings regarding iOS 8 plus a little something for those of you making the switch to the iPhone 6 who aren’t sure which is the better deal: keep your current, unlimited data plan and pay full price for the phone, or switch to a new contract and get the phone at a discount.

 

 

If You Use iCloud, The iOS8 Upgrade Can Break Syncing Across All Your Macs

Yesterday, The Unofficial Apple Weblog reported:

“If you use iCloud: you need to be really, very, no-I-am-not-exaggerating, super careful when you upgrade to iOS 8. Otherwise you could break iCloud syncing to all of your Macs.”

“If you choose “Upgrade to iCloud Drive”, then iCloud document syncing will stop working on your Macs unless you are using the Yosemite beta and the Mac app has been updated to use iCloud Disk. There is no way to “undo” the decision to move to iCloud drive, so you will have to wait until Yosemite is released (or join the beta) and the Mac app is updated.”

“TUAW’s advice is that you wait to upgrade to iCloud Drive until Yosemite is officially released. You can always upgrade to iCloud Drive later. You cannot “downgrade” from iCloud Drive back to regular document and data syncing…Unless you have a strong desire to be part of the ongoing testing of iCloud Drive, wait.”

 

 

If You Use An iPhone 4, The iOS8 Upgrade Will Introduce Speed & Display Problems

Today Slate is reporting:

“Apple says that the 4S is good to go and has even updated the 4S landing page to say that its standard operating system is iOS 8. But don’t listen. I repeat: Wall yourself off from this madness. Your mission is to ignore.”

“First of all, iOS 8 is optimized for big smartphone screens…The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch screen…but the iPhone 4s has a 3.5-inch screen. That’s two full inches smaller than the Plus. Come on now, how flexible can iOS 8 possibly be? The other big issue is processing power.”

Ars Technica adds that many of the features of iOS8 depend on newer hardware and won’t work on the 4s. These unsupported features include AirDrop, TouchID, Handoff for Applications (though iPhone call forwarding to other devices works fine), Support for OpenGL ES 3.0, the Metal graphics API, and 64-bit ARMv8 apps.

Ars Technica also notes performance issues:

“…the iPhone 4S is much slower than any other iPhone Apple currently sells. It uses…an Apple A5 chip that only offers about a quarter the raw performance of the Apple A7 in the iPhone 5S…iOS 8 can add as much as 50 percent more [lag] time to the same task compared to iOS 7.”

“The other problem is something that’s not so easily measurable: animations on the Apple A5 SoC are markedly more choppy and inconsistent in iOS 8 than they ever were in iOS 7…”

 

 

Finally, If You’re Buying An iPhone 6 Here’s How To Get The Best Deal

Yesterday Slate published a very helpful article that includes an interactive, number-crunching widget to help you figure out which is the better deal for you: hang on to an existing, unlimited data plan and pay full price for the phone, or switch to a new contract and get the phone at a discount. From the article:

“Should you want to get in on the iPhone 6 craze, you’ll have ample choices from wireless providers. Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T are selling the 16 GB version starting at $199 with a two-year contract, while T-Mobile is carrying it contract-free for the full list price of $649. As per usual, at least one carrier is also using the iPhone 6 as a chance to break the customers still clinging to unlimited data from their plans. Verizon customers who wish to have their unlimited data grandfathered in with an iPhone 6 are once again being told that they must buy the device outright. If they choose to do that, the unlimited data will cost $30 a month on top of $55 to $90 per month for voice and texting fees.”

Click here to view the article and use the widget.

 

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If You Don’t Want Malware or Fakeware, Stay Away From Google Play

My son’s ‘feature phone’ died this week, and when I looked at replacements the best value for the money turned out to be an Android smartphone: the LG Optimus Zone 2. The sales clerk was quick to add the Google Play icon to the home screen and was about to launch into a spiel about how to get apps from Google Play when I (politely) interrupted with, “We NEVER use Google Play, we only use the Amazon App Store because Amazon does a better job of vetting app developers and apps.”

The clerk smiled and gave me one of those dismissive nods that seems to say, “Oh, you poor woman. So not hip to the ways of technology.” Little does he know. But in fairness, this type of remark from me almost always gets some pushback from doubters, so today I’m busting out some links to prove my point.

 

 

Exhibits A – F

In February of this year, PCWorld reported “Malware-infected Android apps spike in the Google Play store”.

The same month, Infoworld reported a four-fold increase in Google Play Store apps carrying malware between 2011 and 2013. MacDaily News concurred in its own post, Malicious Android apps spike nearly 400 percent in Google Play store.

A little over a month later, in April, Google Play seemed to be trying to address the problem, as reported in a Time piece entitled Android Gets a Malware Scanner for Google Play Store Apps.

But the very next month, May, TechRepublic reported on the still rampant problem of malware in the Google Play store in a piece entitled Malware in the Google Play Store: Enemy inside the gates.

One month later, in June of this year, International Business Times ran Malware Posing as Official Google Play App Found in….Official Google Play Store. This one is particularly embarrassing for Google Play, since the malware app was called “Google Play Stoy” and masqueraded as the official Google Play Store app.

 

 

Not Only Is Google Play NOT Keeping Malware Out, Google Play Is Making It Easier For Malware To Get In

On June 18th of this year tech security firm Trend Micro reported in its TrendLabs blog:

“Unfortunately, however, it turns out that Google has changed the permissions model of Android in a very fundamental way, significantly reducing its visibility and usability to users. It leaves much more room for malicious app developers to update their apps to add potentially risky permissions to their apps.”

“How was this done? Developers in various Android discussion forums found that the update to the Play Store – rolled out in mid-May – had also changed how permissions and app updates were handled, and not in a good way.”

“Previously, if an update to an app meant that it required new permissions, the user would have to explicitly review the permissions and approve it, as if a new app was being installed. That is no longer the case. Now, if the requested permission(s) are in the same group as one the user has granted access to, this explicit approval is no longer necessary. If app auto-updates is turned on, the app can update in the background without the user being aware of the changed permissions.”

 

 

Do Yourself A Favor: Get Your Apps From Amazon

If you do a Google search on “Amazon app store malware”, the only recent entry you’ll find is for a TechRepublic report on an Android operating system vulnerability that allows for the same type of app permissions override as described above in the TrendLabs excerpt. But in this case, it wasn’t a change on Amazon’s part that opened the door to malware: the app permissions override capability TechRepublic reports is only triggered by an Android operating system update on your device: something totally outside ANY app vendor’s control or even knowledge.

While the piece reports that a test app with this type of malware in it was approved for listing and sale in all the major Android app stores, including Amazon’s, (and was immediately removed from all outlets by testers afterward) it’s important to note that this “time bomb” malware, tied to a device system update, is a type of hack that’s never been used before. It will take time for app vendors to come up with reliable countermeasures.

So yes, ANY app, obtained from ANY vendor, has the potential to carry malware. It’s a neverending, ever-escalating arms race between hackers and tech security professionals that will never go away. But unless you want to live totally off the grid, taking reasonable precautions is about all you can do to avoid malware.

One of those precautions is to limit your app purchases and downloads to trusted vendors who haven’t been repeatedly found to host malware and fake apps, and who do seem highly invested in keeping malware out of their store. As of this writing, the only Android app vendor that fits this description is the Amazon App Store.

 

Finally, Regarding Claims That Apps On Amazon DO Have Malware…

The people making these claims don’t know what they’re talking about, or else they’re misusing the term “malware” to apply to everything from In App Purchases to statistics-gathering. See my post, Ignore App Reviews That…, to get the full scoop.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

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Free Music Monday For 9/15/14: Singer-Songwriters

Posted September 15, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by this month’s list of $5 MP3 Albums in Amazon’s MP3 Store. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Welcome To Free Music Monday!

Last week’s offering of a full album of free songs was such a hit, I’m doing it again today.

The Album: The Artist Sampler – Mishara Music: 5

This album contains 15 tracks and is filled with lovely, mostly acoustic, songs of love, loss, hope, despair and longing.

As of this writing, the album has a total of 23 reviews: 21 customers gave this collection 5/5 stars, 2 customers gave it 4/5 stars. And nobody has rated it any lower than 4/5 stars.

If you enjoy the singer-songwriter genre, this album will not disappoint.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

This month’s list of $5 MP3 Albums in Amazon’s MP3 Store includes some great stuff, like the albums pictured (and linked) below. Click the link above to browse this month’s full list of $5 MP3 Albums in Amazon’s MP3 Store.

 

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Free App Friday for 9/12/14

Posted September 12, 2014 By Mom
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Free App Friday!

Here are the top ten most downloaded AND highest-rated apps (4/5 stars or better) from Amazon’s Android App Store as of this writing. Note that where a given app has already been included in a Free App Friday post, a different one (still with a minimum 4/5 star rating) will be subbed in. Remember that free apps may include in-app purchase (IAP) options or be ad-supported, but given that these apps have been given very high ratings by MANY consumers, where IAP links or ads are present they must be pretty unobtrusive. Descriptions below are from the apps’ product pages.

Cartoon Wars 2 – The most complete defense and real-time strategy game of the Cartoon Wars series! The best defense game is back!

Angry Birds Rio HD – NEW LEVELS! 20 exotic new levels and six bonus ones! CALL THE FLOCK! Get some demolition help from your Macaw buddies!

My Talking Tom – Discover the #1 games app in 135 countries! Adopt your very own baby kitten and help him grow into a fully grown cat.

Star Girl – Star Girl puts you in the high heels of an aspiring celebrity who is setting out to build her career as a superstar while having a ton of fun along the way!

Lost Jewels – Match colored gems, unleash the power of Magic Talismans and recover the trapped treasure chests.

WTF With Marc Maron – Premium Edition – Join comedian Marc Maron as he tackles the most complex philosophical question of our day – WTF? He’ll get to the bottom of it with help from comedian friends, celebrity guests and the voices in his own head.

Monster Village Paradise – The most fantastic monster village awaits you: design, decorate and run your own resort full of little monsters and monsterlings! Discover adorable new creatures, feed them and breed them!

Blood & Glory: Legend – Return to the arena and bask in the blood-hungry cheers of the crowd as you fight to become a LEGEND! The top-rated arena-combat game continues with Blood and Glory: Legend! Equip lethal weapons and epic armor in your quest to achieve blood-soaked victory!

FlipPix Art: Jurassic – An old Japanese logic puzzle takes on a new look with FlipPix Art! Touch tiles to paint them or break them to form colorful components of a painting. The goal is to use logic to determine which tiles should be filled to reveal a hidden picture.

Real Kakuro – For those new to Kakuro: it’s a logic puzzle game that mixes Crosswords and Sudoku, so both players will love it! After you play a bit of Sudoku, Kakuro games are your next step! Its similar to other Japanese logic puzzles such as Nonogram, Picross and Hitori.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

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Google Weighs In On Massive Gmail Login Leak

Posted September 11, 2014 By Mom
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Remember That Russian Hack Announcement A Few Weeks Back?

Back in August of this year, I warned readers: Russian Hackers Probably Have At Least Some Of Your Passwords: Change Them, NOW!.

From that post:

While there’s been alarmingly little press coverage of this, Hold Security has reported, and Wired magazine confirms, that a Russian hacker group has gotten its hands on over 1.2 BILLION username/password combinations from websites all over the world, both large and small. Hold Security will not release a list of all the sites it has identified as vulnerable to the specific hack, saying that they don’t want to put any sites that have not yet been hit at higher risk of an attack. However, Hold does say “the list includes many leaders in virtually all industries across the world, as well as a multitude of small or even personal websites.”

 

Google Investigates and Reports

Yesterday, Google reported on its internal findings in a blog post stating “that less than 2% of the username and password combinations might have worked, and our automated anti-hijacking systems would have blocked many of those login attempts. We’ve protected the affected accounts and have required those users to reset their passwords.”

 

But Wait: Not So Fast!

Slate covers this recent development in Your Gmail Probably Wasn’t Hacked. But That Doesn’t Mean You’re Safe. From that article (boldface emphasis mine):

The most likely hypothesis I’ve heard is that they’re actually passwords cobbled together from all sorts of hacked sites across the Web over the years…I wouldn’t be surprised if we soon see a list of stolen passwords that correspond only to Yahoo Mail accounts, or to Hotmail accounts.

So if anything, it might be your other accounts that you need to worry about most in the wake of the latest password dump. If your email address and a password are floating around on hacker forums right now, it’s a good bet that someone somewhere will be trying to plug those credentials into a wide range of popular websites, just on the off chance that they’ll work.

As the Google post goes on to say (boldface emphasis mine):

“It’s important to note that in this case and in others, the leaked usernames and passwords were not the result of a breach of Google systems. Often, these credentials are obtained through a combination of other sources. For instance, if you reuse the same username and password across websites, and one of those websites gets hacked, your credentials could be used to log into the others. Or attackers can use malware or phishing schemes to capture login credentials.”

 

Bottom Line: Don’t Re-use The Same Login Credentials Across Multiple Websites And Accounts

If you need help with password creation and management, see these DMM posts:

Use This One Weird Trick And Never Memorize An Online Password Again

Hacker Defense: Password Creation & Management

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

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