August 15, 2018 brianradio2016

Microsoft may have fixed July’s horrible, no good, very bad patches. Although the initial documentation for this month’s patches included warnings about many of the bugs that persisted from July, it ends up that the docs were wrong, and most of the known problems seem to be fixed.

As of early Reboot Wednesday morning, the patches seem to be behaving themselves. Of course, it frequently takes days or even weeks for bugs to appear, so you’d be well advised to avoid jumping into the unpaid battle zone for now.

The patches by the numbers

On August 2018 Patch Tuesday, the 14th, Microsoft released 60 security patches, 19 of which are categorized as “Critical” and 39 “Important.” Thirteen of the “Critical” exploits are with Internet Explorer and/or Edge (6 “Critical” for IE, 10 for Edge).

SANS Internet Storm Center says two of the holes have active exploits. One of the zero-days is “Important” (which means it isn’t). The other, CVE-2018-8373, affects only Internet Explorer. Says Dr Johannes Ulrich at SANS:

August 15, 2018 brianradio2016

The Twitter-Alex Jones saga continues. “We’ll enforce [our rules]” if Jones breaks them, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey promised last week amid backlash on why the conspiracy theorist accused of hate speech is still afforded a platform on Dorsey’s site, and it appears Twitter has followed through. The Verge reports Jones’…

August 15, 2018 brianradio2016

Video: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is official: Here’s what’s new

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As the dust settles on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 launch, we now turn our attention to the iPhone launch, which, if things fall in line with previous years, should occur next month. But do consumers really want yearly refreshes, or is it now just a way for tech companies to remain in the public eye, and squeeze every last dollar from buyers?

Also: Apple products you should not buy (August 2018 edition)

Owen Williams, writing for Motherboard, was pretty scathing of the Note 9 launch.

“Thursday, at a flashy event in New York, Samsung unveiled yet another phone: the Galaxy Note 9. Like you’d expect, it’s rectangular, it has a screen, and it has a few cameras. While unveiling what it hopes will be the next hit, it unknowingly confirmed something we’ve all been wondering: the smartphone industry is out of ideas.”

I find myself sort of caught in between shaking my head at this and nodding in agreement.

On the one hand, Williams is right, smartphones have become boring. Launches are about iterative, evolutionary improvements these days, and not about the flashy revolutionary leaps and bounds forward that we can expect to see from new markets.

Also: New and upcoming phones: Google Pixel 3 and others

Take Apple and the transition from Touch ID to Face ID. Sure, it’s an improvement on the technology, but it’s also a change that means having to throw out old ways and workflows in order to make it work. Is looking at the iPhone any better or worse than pressing your finger on a button? It’s debatable, but at the end of the day, it’s arguably just a new way to do something you’ve already been doing (unlocking a smartphone).

Touch ID removed the enormous speed bump that typing in a PIN code presented, but switching from Touch ID to Face ID is really only window dressing.

Smartphones get better and faster with each passing year, and there are advancements and refinements that build on what has come. But the new stuff is few and far between, and slow to catch on.

Take AR (augmented reality) as an example. No matter how hard Apple has pushed this technology lately, traction in the real-world is slow, and adoption seems limited to a few niches here and there.

On the flipside, it’s hard to ignore that a year in “technology land” is like a decade in the real world. Things move fast. Moore’s law continues to deliver. Processors get faster, storage density increases, and displays get better and brighter.

Also: Best Phones for 2018 CNET

Another point worth making is that you could say that the iPhone X and the Note 9 represent a huge increase in the pace of innovation. Here we have two flagship smartphones packed with processing power and storage, and doing things that smartphones could once only dream of doing. Whether you think of Face ID or that the Note 9 has 8GB of RAM as little more than gimmicks, these features will ripple through the ecosystem, changing smartphones across the market, from high-end to budget.

It’s also important to note just how big the smartphone market, and how slowly people upgrade.

The upgrade cycle these days hovers around the three-year mark. Yes, the average user holds on to their smartphone for that long (maybe even longer). Then, there’s the used market, and the way that old smartphones that are handed down the line to family members and friends.

Also: Photos: Top 10 Android phones for the enterprise TechRepublic

Doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations based on Apple sales over the past year, and given the size of the user base and how many devices go to first-time iPhone buyers, I’d estimate that less than 15 percent of iPhone users actually bought a new iPhone over the past 12 months.

Yearly upgrade cycles allow manufacturers the time and space to accommodate for this slow churn, while at the same time giving buyers a wide range of choice and price points to choose from.

Yearly refreshes also allow manufacturers to benefit from changing technologies to streamline production and make incremental improvements to increase safety and reliability.

Also: How to download and install iOS 12 beta

The bottom line is that I still think there’s plenty of innovation left in the smartphone market to justify yearly releases. I mean, PC OEMs are releasing new stuff all the time, and it could be argued that the PC market has matured to the point where pretty much everything is minor incremental changes (with little nuggets of gold like the Microsoft Surface line and AMD’s rise back from the dead mixed in there).

I think we’ll be seeing yearly smartphone releases for a long time to come.

What do you think? Let me know!

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August 15, 2018 brianradio2016

Video: Smartphones: Is there any innovation left?

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was announced last week, two new Google Pixel phones should appear in October, and Apple is sure to announce at least one, and maybe up to three, new iPhone models soon too. It’s time to get your plan together to sell or trade your existing smartphone before the new ones hit the street.

In the past, I always purchased my phones outright and then sold them on Swappa at a few hundred dollars loss. I figured that few hundred dollars justified the use for six months to a year and find the users of Swappa to be a trustworthy bunch.

Also: CNET 2018 directory of gadget trade-in providers

Today, there are even more options available, thanks to Apple, Samsung, wireless carriers, direct purchase companies, and more. Let’s look at some of what we have available to consider in 2018.

Apple iPhone Upgrade Program

I personally switch phones often due to my ZDNet writing, so I wasn’t much of a fan of the iPhone Upgrade Program (IUP) that launched in September 2015. If you are an iPhone user who wants the new iPhone each year though, it is the most convenient option and ZDNet’s David Gewirtz provided all the details on how to use it.

The iPhone Upgrade Program also includes the Apple protection plan and given how many people I see using iPhones with broken glass panels, this is a great option for the masses.

In order to upgrade, you’re required to have made 12 months of payments on your current device. So, depending on when you bought your last iPhone and joined the IUP, you may have to wait or pay more to upgrade. You lease your iPhone with this program, so the payments will adjust according to the price of the phone. The IUP also now works with your carrier.

Current monthly payments for the iPhone Upgrade Program range from $34.50 for a 64GB iPhone 8 to $56.16 per month for a 256GB iPhone X. Stay tuned for pricing of this year’s phones. You can also just pay for 24 months and pay off the phone to do whatever you desire if you do not feel like upgrading this year.

Samsung Phone Upgrade Program

Given that Samsung Galaxy phones are the most popular phones in the world with sales that far exceed Apple, it’s finally time that Samsung launched its own Samsung Upgrade program.

In order to participate, you need to purchase your Samsung Galaxy phone from Samsung directly and add Samsung Upgrade to your cart at check out. Pay your monthly statements and then after 12 months you can return the phone in good condition and have the option to upgrade early by receiving up to 50 percent of your purchase price back to use on a new Galaxy phone.

I have never personally used this program and have not read of any experiences with it. The “up to 50 percent” credit concerns me a bit since I would want that assurance when trading it in. Please let us know if you have participated in this program and share your experience with our readers.

Wireless carrier upgrade programs

Some US wireless carriers offer upgrade programs, such as T-Mobile’s Jump on Demand, AT&T Next, and Sprint Flex Lease. These programs are similar to Apple’s, with each being a lease program where you trade in the old model on a yearly or every two-year cycle.

T-Mobile’s Jump On Demand program actually lets you switch phones every 30 days if you like, so you can get a new iPhone, then switch to an Android phone, and jump back to another new iPhone. I bought a Note 8, switched to an iPhone X, and may use it to switch to a Note 9.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: Big battery and superb S Pen experience power productivity

Pricing for these upgrade programs is dependent on the value of the phone that you purchase. If you cancel service or opt out of the program, you have to pay the balance on the phone. Additional fees are usually not charged for these lease upgrade programs, but they also do not include the Apple protection or other phone coverage plans by default, so consider adding that coverage if you tend to drop your phone.

As an alternative to these lease upgrade programs, US wireless carriers also sometimes offer “free” iPhones or Galaxy smartphones with a trade-in. I did that in 2016 with T-Mobile, but be aware that credits are often applied over an extended period of time, and you have to spend a lot of time reviewing your monthly bill to make sure credits are applied. In the end, the Apple Upgrade Program is probably the best option for convenience and utility.

Buy one, get one from your carrier

Carriers often launch new phones with special offers and one of the most popular is the BOGO (buy one, get one) offer. The BOGO deals can be good deals, but make sure to read the fine print since there are often many strings attached to these offers.

Most BOGO plans require you to open at least one additional line and then finance the two phones over a 24 month period. There may also be minimum monthly service plan requirements for each line. Since I personally switch my phones a lot, the BOGO never works because I do not keep phones for 24 months.

Sell or trade your phone via an online or retail location

Flipsy offers a price history chart and a private party value, similar to Kelly Blue Book for cars. The website also shows you some of the other online buyer values, including Gazelle.

There are several online companies who buy old phones, and many years ago I sold a lot of my old phones through Gazelle. You can get an offer, ship it for free, and get paid via Amazon gift card, PayPal, or check. There are also now Gazelle kiosks where you can drop off your phone, but be aware that kiosks tend to have lower offers than the online process.

Local retail stores, such as Best Buy also offer trade-in programs for smartphones. The value is provided to you as a Best Buy gift card, which is a common strategy for these trade-in companies.

Sell your iPhone yourself

As I mentioned, I usually sell my old phones on Swappa and always experience fast sales with every single one turning out to be valid. The listing and selling fees are low compared to eBay, and most people buying on Swappa are tech-savvy buyers. Swappa also offers charts showing values over time, which are useful for pricing your phone competitively. You can even purchase protection plans on Swappa when you buy a new phone.

Also: How ecoATM Gazelle turns more than 4 million recycled smartphones into quick cash every year TechRepublic

If you don’t want to use Swappa, you can also sell your old iPhone on eBay or Craigslist. eBay fees are usually higher than Swappa and also have PayPal fees on top of them. If you use Craigslist to sell to a local buyer, make sure to meet the buyer in a public place with lots of people around so you can make a safe sale. Also, be careful with the monetary transaction of hundreds of dollars between strangers.

You may get more money for your iPhone if it is unlocked, so try getting it unlocked from your carrier before you sell it. Verizon iPhones are always unlocked out of the box.

Similar to backing up your phone before you upgrade the OS, you should also back up your old phone, make sure all security measures are cleared, and perform a hard reset before trading in or selling your current smartphone.

Previous and related coverage:

Best Phones for 2018 CNET

The mostly excellent Galaxy S9’s new features aren’t quite as good as we’d like, but you’ll probably want to buy one anyway.

The 10 best smartphones of 2018

he major smartphone launch season is upon us and one of the first out of the gates is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, immediately taking over the top spot in our list of best smartphones.

August 15, 2018 brianradio2016

Finding your battery draining faster than usual? Chances are there’s an app that’s gone rogue and running in the background.

First, go to Settings > Battery and look at the Battery Usage list. Tap anywhere on the list to change it from showing percentages to also showing you a breakdown of how much screen time and background time the running apps are taking.

Remember that while some apps — the Music app for example — are designed to work in the background, most apps are not and could be the cause of the problem.

If you notice an app with unexplained high background usage, then you may have solved your problem. Go into Settings > General > Background App Refresh and turn off background refresh for that specific app.

Also look to see if you have No Cell Coverage on the list. If this is responsible for high battery usage, then you’ve found your problem — being out of cell coverage or in an area with poor coverage. If this figure is high, try putting the iPhone into Airplane Mode when cell coverage is poor (you can still turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth independently) to see if that helps.

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August 15, 2018 brianradio2016

More than one organization has been working on solving a major blockchain conundrum: how to improve sluggish transaction performance.

Blockchain distributed ledgers work by linking together a chain of electronic records, each inextricably tied to the one before it; each new set of entries or “blocks” is completed and time-stamped with a hashtag only after passing through a consensus process on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network.

Due to its chain nature, each new record inserted into a blockchain has to be serialized, which means – as the blockchain grows – the rate of updates is slower than traditional databases that can update data in parallel.

Today, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency ledgers – bitcoin and Ethereum – use a proof of work (PoW) consensus model that requires nodes (servers) to complete a complicated mathematical problem as a way of authenticating new blocks (similar to how CAPTCHA acts as a challenge/response mechanism for websites confirming human users).

August 14, 2018 brianradio2016

Grant Lee Buffalo were one of the very special bands to come out of the 90s alternative rock scene. They combined their own blend of moody folk-rock with unconventional stories of the American West. Paul Kimble was the bassist, but also, more importantly, served as the producer of the band’s first three albums (Fuzzy, Mighty Joe Moon, and Copperopolis). Unfortunately, before production began on their fourth album, Paul was sacked and the band released their fourth and final album without him. Soon after, frontman Grant Lee Phillips went solo and has enjoyed success ever since. Paul is very candid about some of the struggles he’s had over the years, but also lays claims to his successes like producing other artists and working on his soon to be released solo album. I love the guests that don’t hold back and tell it like it is and Paul does that. Enjoy!