Thursday, February 25, 2016

Open Letter to Tim Cook: Privacy Vs. The Illusion of Privacy

Over the past few weeks we have seen a lot of debate over the ongoing fight between Apple, the FBI and the DOJ over a request being made of Apple to help bypass security software on a specific iPhone 5C once used by known terrorists Syed Farook, the man who with his wife shot 36 people and killed 14. By now most of us have taken up our sides and formed our opinions, with many of us ardently supporting our positions.

Just this past week I expressed several thoughts, concerns and questions when I asked why we fear our government, yet embrace corporations? I now realize that I have been looking at this from the wrong position the entire time. No, I do not now support Apple's position over the government's, I just realized that we are focused on the wrong aspects of this case.

I initially thought my question should be: Why is it that we should trust Apple over the government? Or give Apple the power to completely dismiss the government when they are making what appears to be a totally legitimate lawful request? 

I now realize the question we really should be asking is not why should the government want or need access to our data, but why isn't our government fighting for our privacy and limiting the amount of data that companies like Apple collect on us? After all it is the government's job, not Apple's, to protect the public trust. 

Like it or not our government is bound by the Constitution, our laws, Congress and the 
Supreme Court. They are the one's that have true public accountability, not Apple. Apple holds carte blanche on what it decides to do with your data it collects, not the government. Now of course we can argue government over-reach, misuses of information and the government's ability to reach far beyond anything Apple can do to you and of course those are all valid concerns. 

But think of this, Apple has for years collected all this data on you, and can still be compelled to share what it has collected. Double that with their lack of accountability for how they decide to share that data and with whom, and you see my issue!

So if Apple comes out on top in this case all we end up with is the illusion of privacy, not actual privacy. Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft will still be collecting that data and the government will still have some ability to subpoena what is being collected!

Tim Cook has gone on record stating that, "All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk."

Well Mr Cook if you are truly about working for the public interest and working on doing the right thing when it comes to privacy and security then I ask you this: Why does your company continue to collect our personal private data for its unadulterated use by your company? Why is it every iPhone user is so stringently tied to your services, services from which you collect large amounts of personal information? Information that includes everything from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

Tim Cook you say say, "Some things are hard, and some things are right and some things are both and this [battle over privacy] is one of those things."  If Apple truly wants to proclaims an ethical duty it has to protect the privacy and security of millions of iPhone users worldwide then why not allow those users to divorce themselves from Apple once they have purchased their devices? Why not make using your services opt-in instead of opt-out?

So yet again I ask!! Why is this so called 'battle' for privacy' not being spearheaded by our government on behalf of us all? And why is it that the focus is not about what our government may access, but what our corporations are collecting on every user out there? 

I don't think we shouldn't be fearful of a government that wants a key to the lock, what we should be fearful of is a company that wants both the lock and key!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

'Like' It or Not Facebook Reactions Debuts Today!

While the 'Like' button will always remain an iconic symbol for Facebook users have for years been asking for a little more. Today that wish has been granted with the official launch of Facebook Reactions.

Originally showcased and featured back in October, Facebook's Reaction emojis have no gone live for all users and will allow you to add a little more emotion and feeling to your responses to your friend's posts. The new emojis will feature a few focused reactions such as 'love', 'wow' and sad however what we won't see is that all-becoming dislike button.

To add a reaction, hold down the Like button on mobile or hover over the Like button on desktop to see the reaction image options, then tap either Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry.

Why these choices you may ask? Facebook has said their development team has spent more than a year conducting global research including focus groups and surveys to determine what types of reactions people would want to use most. They also used viewed a vast number of profiles and comments to determine how people are already commenting on posts and the top stickers and emoticons as signals for the types of reactions people are already using to determine which reactions to offer.

Notably, reactions will be available for both individual and business pages — meaning that even though we won't see that dislike button we all want, we will see some possibility of negative reactions to misleading posts and advertisements. This was likely something Facebook was trying to avoid, though they have said they plan to keep an eye on any misuse of reactions. So you may want to avoid some of those ads, at least for now! 

Celebrate Star Trek's 50th Anniversary With Trek Talks Live Speaker Series

Geeks everywhere are celebrating 50 years of boldly going where no man has gone before and this week CBS Consumer Products has announced a new way to commemorate Star Trek's 50th anniversary. Dubbed Trek Talks, the new speaker series will be a world wide initiative designed to bring Trekkies together for a new and exciting live event program that will explore the impact and influence of Star Trek over its 50-year span.

Trek Talks will be locally produced and hosted by academic and entertainment institutions including colleges and universities, science museums, and pop culture centers and festivals as well as other non-profits and commercial corporations. Each selected organizations (in partnership with CBS) can choose a topic from a group of themes that will cover a broad arrange of our Trekkie favorites that showcase the full scope of Star Trek’s influence or they can develop their own theme.

Themes that selected speakers will cover will include:
  • Trek Tech - Examining Star Trek’s impact on the information age
  • Our Single World - Envisioning a future multicultural universe
  • The Prime Directive - Exploring our universe, ethically
  • A Star Trek Society - Addressing our world’s issues for 50 years
  • The Final Frontier - Star Trek's 50-year influence on the space industry
  • Thinking Boldly - Today’s philosophical issues in Trek’s tomorrow
  • A Trek Economy - Evaluating Star Trek's economy to address world issues
  • Science of Star Trek - Recognizing Trek's influence on scientific exploration
Star Trek, reaching beyond pure entertainment, has helped shape our collective perspective,” said Liz Kalodner, Executive Vice President and General Manager of CBS Consumer Products. “From technological advancements to racial and economic equality, Star Trek has broached a broad and varied range of subjects over the years. These Trek Talks will address its impact and provide an entertaining and educational forum to discuss such influence.”

Each participating organization will develop, promote and stage the event during Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary from July 2016 to July 2017. Current organizations participating in the project include NASA, Toronto International Film Festival, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, EMP Museum, and the Canadian Space Agency. Trek Talks is already slated to be staged at significant pop-culture and entertainment events including San Diego Comic-Con in July, the Star Trek Las Vegas convention in August, Star Trek: Mission New York in September, and Destination Star Trek Europe in October.
Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016. Born from the mind of Gene Roddenberry, the original Star Trek series debuted on September 8, 1966 and aired for three seasons -- a short run that belied the influence it would have for generations. Launching the careers of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, the series also broke new ground in storytelling and cultural mores providing a progressive look at topics including race relations, global politics, the environment, and more. It spawned five more television series and 13 feature films spanning the course of half a century. 
Beyond its impact on the entertainment landscape, Star Trek has also inspired some of the greatest minds steering the direction of our modern world and sparking the biggest technological advancements of our time such as the cell phone, universal translator, smart watch, tablet, sonogram, and countless other inventions. Those who cite Star Trek as an influence on their lives include Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk, and countless others.

To further commemorate Star Trek turning 50 CBS Consumer Products will be hosting a 50th Anniversary Convention to be held in Las Vegas this August 3-7th. Additionally they will be hosting a first ever Star Trek Cruise, hosted by William Shatner and featuring appearances by fan favorites from the franchise will also join the voyage, including Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Robert Picardo, John de Lancie, James Darren, Denise Crosby, Steven Rankin, Vaughn Armstrong and Casey Biggs.

CBS has also confirmed we will see a new Star Trek television series. The news series will launch in early 2017 with a special preview broadcast on the CBS Television Network. The premiere episode and all subsequent first-run episodes will then be available exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access, the Network’s digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service. The next chapter of the Star Trek franchise will also be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms around the world by CBS Studios International.

Find Star Trek …

For more information or to become a partner visit:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Privacy: Why Do We Fear The Government Yet Embrace Major Corporations?

The recent firestorm around Apple's refusal to help the FBI crack the iPhone belonging to San Bernardino terrorists has certainly raised several questions. Not only about personal privacy and our government's access to our private data, but also about a company's role in protecting that data. For me however, it has raised a different set of questions, mainly the question of why we would trust a multi-national, billion dollar company over our own government that is sworn to protects its citizens.

I've long followed the case and leaked information Edward Snowden has provided the public with. Especially the disclosure of several NSA projects and programs that have for years used several high profile tech companies to conduct surveillance on 'everyday citizens'.

While I do believe there are plenty of nefarious projects out there, and that the government has been increasingly guilty of over-reach the question in my mind that has always remained was how much is it the government and how much is it the tech companies themselves or even the citizens. After-all, we are so willing to give up this information. Why wouldn't they want to take it?

So we now fast forward to Apple's most recent defiance of a court order that is meant to compel them to help the FBI access data on a locked iPhone. The question that is raised, is should Apple work with the FBI to bypass the locks that are in place and if they do, should those tools then be given to law enforcement agencies to use. We won't talk about whether or not Apple can/can't actually achieve this!

This brings me to my question: When did the notion that our government has somehow become a great evil become so entrenched in our brains that we are so blindly willingly to hand over all controls of our data to a company like Apple? Why are so many willingly to believe that they are actually going to act in our best interests over their own?

How is it that we are so willing to allow major corporations with no accountability complete and unfettered access to every aspect of our days lives and total control over our privacy yet we worry so much about our government, with a great deal of accountability and restriction, wanting to access even the most minor of details?

This is after-all a company that has the ability to act with an unfathomable level of impunity. They are shielded behind a TOS, which most users barely understand. We by all rights hand these companies that door, the lock and the key.  Yet we scoff at the government when they act within the full letter of the law to attempt to gain access to any portion of that data.

Why is it that we are so willing to allow major corporations with no accountability complete and unfettered access to every aspect of our days lives and total control over our privacy yet we worry so much about our own government? A government that has to act within the scope of the law and has a great deal of accountability and restriction!

Have we come so far from the days of seeking government oversight, consumer protections, the break ups of monopolies and 'robber barons' that we are now fearing the very entity that we once embraced to save us from these 'Orwellian Giants'? Do we really truly want the keys to the kingdom to reside solely in the hands of corporations that only see the bottom line?

Personally I think not! I think we should really take a good hard look at these companies, especially the ones that want to proclaim themselves above the letter of the law and 'protectors' of overreach by the government. Now this shouldn't mean to say I think the government should have unfettered access to things like encryption keys, user data, or any sort of 'backdoor' programs. In fact the opposite is true! I think our government should be held to even higher scrutiny and standards than it is today. That doesn't mean we should not then scrutinize companies and their motives as well. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

All You Need to Know About Twitter's New Algorithmic Timeline

Sometime change is necessary for companies and their websites to remain relevant to the world and/or to keep the cash flowing. Sometimes those changes are good, most the time they aren't, but almost always they are met with some level of negativity. Hey no one likes to change, especially when they are major shifts to your favorite sites!

Today one of our favorite social media sites Twitter has enacted a major shift in focus. One that has been met with a ton of negativity from users whom have made their opinions well known on the site with hashtags like #RIPTwitter trending for the past few days when rumors of the change first starting going mainstream.

Twitter's new 'algorithmic timeline' feature will display “important” tweets at the top of your news feed, instead of simply displaying the most recent tweets. On the company's blog, Senior Engineering Manager Mike Jahr explained how the new service works, and why Twitter thinks it is something that users will eventually like and want to use. Essentially their reasoning behind this massive change is they feel that by displaying tweets that Twitter thinks you will like best immediately at the top of your news-feed when you log in, you will be more likely to respond to or retweet them, increasing the amount of conversation around those tweets.

To put that into plain English, and to highlight why most Twitter users aren't all that thrilled with the new changes, what Twitter is saying is they are changing your feed so they can select what news they think is most relevant to you and which tweets they want you to see and ultimately engage with first. Basically it comes down to the dollar and their power ability to market sale position and tweets. This gives them more 'pulling power' which in turn means more revenue down the road.

Since they are choosing what is prioritized for you, instead of you just seeing what you want and being able to scroll through your normal feed as you always would, they now have an option to 'prioritize' paid accounts (should they go that route) contributing partners, or more advertisers without them appearing as ads. This shift isn't anything new, in fact is very similar to the way Facebook runs things now days, and well we see how many users hate that!

How Do I Opt-In or Opt-Out?

For now at least, Twitter has said the new timeline feature will be an Opt-In only option and that even after you have tested out and decided for yourself if you want to use it or not you can opt-out. However, we seriously doubt that will last and figure that eventually Twitter will make it go live for everyone. Their choice of phrasing on their blog post explaining the service was odd and seemingly admits it will be 'turned on' for everyone in the coming weeks.
To check it out now, just go into the timeline section of your settings and choose 'Show me the best Tweets first'. We'll be listening to your feedback and making it even better over time. Then we'll be turning on the feature for you in coming weeks — look out for a notification in your timeline.
You can turn the new algorithmic timeline or "Show me the best Tweets first" feature on or off from your account settings page:

  1. Log in to your account on and go to your Account settings page.
  2. Under Content, look for Timeline and toggle the box next to Show me the best Tweets first to change the setting.
Twitter for iOS:
  1. On your profile, tap the gear icon and select Settings.
  2. Tap the account whose settings you’d like to adjust.
  3. Under Timeline, tap Timeline personalization.
  4. Next to Show me the best Tweets first, tap to turn it off.
Twitter for Android:
  1. Tap the overflow icon (3 small dots)
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap Timeline.
  4. Next to Show me the best Tweets first, uncheck the box to turn it off.
For more details you can view the help center support page and of course if you would like to share your feedback with Twitter you can send them your thoughts, we hope everyone takes the time to! And please feel free to comment below letting us know how you feel about the new changes!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Going to Super Bowl 50? Don't Take Your Drone With You!

As drones have become increasingly popular we have seen more and more regulations aimed at preventing users from flooding the skies. While we have seen them banned in the past from major events, we have never seen a ban set forth as strict as the ones we are seeing for Super Bowl 50!

In a rather unprecedented move the Federal Aviation Administration has banned all drones from flying anywhere within a 32-mile radius of Levi's Stadium as part of a complex and strict set of rules for all air traffic. That's an area that includes all of Silicon Valley, San Jose, Oakland and most of San Francisco.

The ban includes any personal and seemingly commercial use of drones, model aircraft, model rockets, hang gliding, crop dusting and parachuting (of course). Essentially all none approved aviation activities are banned from 2 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. The game coverage begins at 5 p.m. ET.

"With so many drones being sold for recreational use, we want to do everything we can to get the word out that the game is a No Drone Zone," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.

What does that mean and what happens if the rules are ignored?
FAA regulations state: "The United States government may use deadly force against the airborne aircraft, if it is determined that the aircraft poses an imminent security threat."

That doesn't specifically mean that they will shoot your drone out of the sky, however if you happen to be in compliance with the new drone registration regulations and have your drone registered you may face sever fines if they track the drone back to you. If you aren't in compliance with said regulations you may face even stiffer penalties for not only ignoring the no fly rules but also for ignoring the registration rules.

So it seems your best option here is to simply leave your drones at home! And I should note, we aren't just talking about your unmanned, camera armed, recording machine. We are talking about every for of drone including that pint sized toy you want to buzz around at your tailgate party.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Microsoft Issues Recall For AC Power Adapters For Surface Pro Tablets

Microsoft has issued a recall for close to 2.25 million Microsoft Surface Pro AC power adapters in the U.S. due to the potential risk of fire, shock and overheating. This recall involves AC power cords sold with Microsoft Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3 computers before March 15, 2015.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website Microsoft has received 56 reports of AC cords overheating and emitting flames and five reports of electrical shock to consumers prompting the immediate recall and replacement of those cords that may be affected. The CPSC noted that close to 2.25 million units are impacted in the US with another 190,000 power cords also sold in Canada.

For help identifying the product affected by this recall Microsoft has issued the follow: Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 devices have a black case with the product name on the back of the device toward the bottom. Surface Pro 3 computers have a silver case with “Windows 8 Pro” on the back of the device under the kickstand. This recall also involves accessory power supply units that include an AC power cord sold separately before March 15, 2015. The recalled power cords do not have a 1/8-inch sleeve on the cord on the end that connects to the power supply.

A replacement can be requested through Microsoft's support site. Once ordered, the replacement AC power cord should reach the customer within seven to 10 days, Microsoft said. For more details you may also call Microsoft toll-free at 855-327-7780 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday.

This recall DOES NOT apply to: AC power cords for Microsoft Surface RT, Microsoft Surface 2, Microsoft Surface 3, Microsoft Surface Pro 3 devices sold after March 15, 2015, Microsoft Surface Pro 4, and Microsoft Surface Book  or AC power cords and power supplies for the docking stations for Microsoft Surface Pro, Microsoft Surface Pro 2, Microsoft Surface Pro 3, and Microsoft Surface 3

Monday, February 01, 2016

Review: Monster Mobile PowerCard For When You Need A Power Boost On The Go!

Cherry Red PowerCard

Every geek out there has faced the issue of needing a little extra power while on the go, but with all the power pack options out there it is often hard to decide which option best suites your needs. Honestly, there is no one good answer, and if I were to tell you otherwise I'd be lying! However, today we are going to offer one solution that we've recently had the chance to checkout and that is the Monster Mobile PowerCard Portable Battery v2.

Monster does power packs?

When most geeks think of Monster power and power packs are likely the last thing on our minds. In fact most people out there usually think of Monster as a cable supplier, thinking only of their expansive line of audio-related accessories; such as premium audio cables and headphones. However, they do offer a rather extensive line of additional accessories including, memory cards, screen cleaning supplies, portable Bluetooth speakers and yes portable batteries.

While the fact that Monster has power packs may come to a surprise to many, the fact is they actually have had several options available and on the market for some time now. The Monster PowerCard we are checking out today is just one of their newest offerings.

Monster PowerCard v2 At a Glance

The PowerCard is meant to offer users a quick boost of emergency power in an ultra-thin ultra portable package! Measuring just 3.438"L x 2.125"W x 0.25"H the PowerCard is about the size of a credit card, or as you can see from our photo below the size of a pack of Dentyne Ice gum and weighs about the same at only 1.6 oz.. This means it is perfect for guys or gals on the go as it will slip nicely into any shirt or pants pocket or even the smallest purses out there. You also have 5 color options, Cherry Red, Cobalt Blue, Silver, Black and a Lime Green.

According to Monster the PowerCard offers up to 5 hours of emergency power and features what is called, “No Waiting Technology”, which an is auto-sensing charging technology that detects exactly what speed your smartphone or USB device charges at and provides it instantaneously. The power pack offers 1.5 amps for a quicker charge and boasts charging times that are 3x times faster than standard USB chargers.

These numbers are pretty impressive when you consider the PowerCard only offers a 1,650 mAh Li-Polymer battery, a rather small capacity by today's standards for sure, still quite remarkable though when you consider the overall size of the package!

As with most portable battery packs there isn't much to the outside of the casing. You'll find a dedicated power button, microUSB port for charging, full-sized 1.5 amp USB port, and 3 blue lit LEDs. Pressing on the power button once turns on the LEDs to indicate how much juice is left, something we'll get into a bit later, while long pressing initiates the charging process.

Monster PowerCard v2 Our Testing and Review

Getting the basics out of the way we unpackaged our PowerCard and as with most geeks just jumped right in without reading the manual (not that it tells you much!). As per usual right out of the box you need to charge it first, we didn't check the indicator to see how dead it was but I wouldn't rush to the store expecting to get a full charge of emergency power right from the gate!

Aside from a very short manual you'll receive a short microUSB to USB cable for both charging the PowerCard and charging your device. In order to keep things compact the cable is about 5-6" long, if more length is needed then I suggest using your phones own USB cable.

When charging you'll notice the 3 blue LEDs flash and continue to do so until it obtains full charge. The manual says you can expect a full charge from a USB AC power adapter in about 2 hours or less, or from a standard notebook USB port in about 3.5 hours. We originally charged ours for about 30mins to a full charge and then a second time after testing and from what was completely drained it took about 45mins to charge.

Given that the battery only has a 1650 mAh capacity we figured it wouldn't make much sense to try to charge multiple devices, or even a single large capacity device to full charge. So we tested our PowerCard on our Samsung Galaxy S5 with its 2800 mAh battery. Since we figure most geeks are like us and only think to use their back-up power packs when they truly need them the most we decide we'd start charging our phone at around 10% battery, of course we could always just use the Ultra Power Saving Mode, but that just isn't as much fun!

With 10% battery on our Galaxy S5 we let the PowerCard charge for about 20mins. At that time it went totally dead which as first we thought might be due to over heating because it was very hot to the touch. Upon checking it appears as  though we had drained the battery completely. The PowerCard only managed to charge our Galaxy S5 to about 40%, so the actual charge capabilities would appear to be well below the 1650 mAh as advertised.

**Now whether or not the minimal charge was due to the phone being on despite there being no apps running or not we aren't sure at this time. We'd need to run through several charges under a few different scenarios to confirm the best options and how accurate these results are. Either way that is a bit disappointing, but would still be better than nothing in a pinch!**

Monster PowerCard v2 Pricing

The PowerCard starts at $29.95 when purchased directly from Monster. However, they are currently offering a great sale on the Cobalt Blue model at $11.99 (unsure when this ends). Looking around the web it appears as though you can find them pretty regularly for around $15 each, not a bad price for what you get in this small package!

While one could certainly argue that there are several other more budget friendly options out there, and of course for hardcore users there are definitely larger capacity packs that can be had, we were pleasantly surprised by what this little PowerCard could do.

The initial price tag and lower than expected output would definitely hold us back from giving this a strong rating and we didn't really care for the flashing LEDs as a method of checking capacity as it wasn't all that accurate and was a bit confusing. Despite all that we think the Monster PowerCard would make a nice addition to the arsenal, especially if you can snag one on-sale for $11.99. We'd give it a strong B- (or 2.5 stars) mainly because it is so portable and does come from Monster, a highly reputable company.