Thursday, October 27, 2016

Apple's Newest Innovations Seem To Be Samsung's Old Gimmicks

As Apple took the stage today to introduce their revamped MacBook Pro lineup, a lineup that hasn't seen any major changes since the introduction of Retina displays back in 2012 and hasn't seen an upgrade since 2015, two things become abundantly clear. Apple has lost sight of what made the MacBook Pro what it was, and they have lost all sight of any true innovation instead relying on gimmicks and minor upgrades to try to drive their products lines!

When updating means leaving your target audience behind!
Apple's MacBook Pro has long been the standard for a great deal of you professional geeks out there. Pretty much anyone who is anyone in video production, commercial graphic design and advertising has at one point in another relied on a MacBook Pro to get things done and rightfully so. They are work-horses through and through! When coupled with Apple-centric design software, there really isn't much that can be accomplished.

Unfortunately though it looks like Apple has forgotten the needs of those professional users that have for years showed the company a great deal of loyalty. Year after year Apple has failed to upgrade the MBP line-up and when they have they have done so (in typically Apple fashion mind you) at the expense of the user and end user usability.

Today's new MacBook Pros are thinner and lighter than any previous model, with the 13-inch model weighing 3lbs and the 15-inch model coming in at 4lbs. The 13-inch model is 14.9mm thick, the 15-inch version a hair larger. In keeping with Apple’s design priorities, Apple has made the decision to remove all of your standard ports that you design professional might need, instead opting Thunderbolt 3 ports, using the latest USB Type-C connector.Unfortunately this means for most of you, you'll now need to carry around an army of dongles to get things done.

Imagine if you will trying to do a presentation at a client's site. They have HDMI, you'll need a dongle for that. No optical drive, means not having the ability to take client optical media or burn a disc to leave...without an external drive. No standard USB means no reading client flash drives without a you can see this is quickly becoming a dongle nightmare!

Touch Bar gimmicks!
Perhaps one of the most talked about features we've seen today is the new “Touch Bar.” Apple has ditched all of the function keys at the top of the keyboard for an OLED strip that will offer users several different options based on what apps you’re running. Apple believes the new Touch Bar will be used as a productivity tool, since users can still easily access the tools and controls they need

If you’re in a music player, for instance, you will see several controls for music selection, volume ect. Switch over to Photoshop, and you could call up a variety of your favorite to use tools. When you’re browsing the web, it shows a search field and navigation buttons. It works in Pages, Keynote, Garageband, Terminal, and XCode. And of course, it makes the perfect home for an emoji keyboard.

The added functionality of the Touch Bar comes with a hefty price tag to the tune of a $300 upgrade! The 13-inch MacPro Pro without the touch bar costs $1,500. The new feature brings that price up to $1,800.

If this all sounds familiar, it is very very similar to the sidebar functions  Samsung introduced with the Galaxy Note Edge a few years ago. Yes a feature that, much like water-resistant phones, many Apple users called a gimmick at the time! Unlike the Edge screen on Samsung's phone the Touch Bar will be all about tools. Apple has already set guidelines prohibiting what the Touch Bar displays. App developers are prohibited from using the bar to display alerts, messages, scrolling content, static content, or anything else that commands the user’s attention or distracts from their work on the main screen.

Apple still demands a premium!
It wasn't all about gimmicks for Apple today. They did offer a complete update to the MacBook Pro lineup, though those updates still leave much to be desired especially given the hefty price tags Apple has attached to the laptops!

For processor, the new 15-inch MacBook Pro has a quad-core sixth-generation (NOT seventh-generation) Intel Core i7 chip and 2,133mHz memory. It has an ATI Radeon Pro graphics card with up to 4GB of RAM. You can get up a 2TB SDD and up to a (paltry by today's standards) 16GB of RAM. The 13-inch model has either sixth-gen Core i5 or i7 processors and Intel Iris Pro graphics. It has the same faster memory as the larger model, but only has 8GB of it.

Pricing starts at $1,499 for a standard, Touch Bar-less, 13-inch model and quickly increases to $1,799  with the Touch Bar and better CPU. The new 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,399 and tops out at $2,799 for a slightly better equipped unit. All three models can be ordered starting today, but only the low-end version is shipping immediately. The Touch Bar models will ship in two to three weeks.

Why the Healthcare Industry Needs to Take Hacking Seriously!

The healthcare industry thrives on information. Patient health records (PHI), payment files, and personal details pass through the servers of hospitals, healthcare providers, and insurance companies around the clock. However, doctors and industry specialists aren't the only ones eager to get their hands on this type of information. Hackers are always looking to steal sensitive information that can be used for fraud. The consequences of a data breach at a healthcare institution can range from lawsuits, to huge financial fines, to damaged reputations. Is the healthcare industry ready for the epidemic of security breaches that will only get worse as time goes on? Discover what organizations can do to vaccinate their networks against cyber-attacks.

Diagnosing the Digital Security Issue in the Healthcare World
The truth is that most networks at healthcare institutions are in need of some emergency care. It is a challenge for IT teams and security officers to keep up with the sophisticated tactics of today's global cyber criminals. This is troubling when you consider the sensitive nature of the information that is handled by healthcare institutions, especially PHI. Patients of all ages are at risk for having their personal information stolen, sold on the black market or used for exploitation. Healthcare hacking has become something of an epidemic in recent years. Some estimates even show that one in three Americans are victims of compromised medical records. This isn't that surprising when you consider that a healthcare giant like BlueCross BlueShield was the victim of a hack that exposed the records of more than 10 million people alone. The bottom line is that both big players and small players in the healthcare industry simply haven't been doing enough to stay ahead of threats.

Risks Must Be Fought With Care
It is essential for healthcare companies to analyze their networks and procedures on a routine basis. The first line of defense is an enterprise's staff. Employees need to be educated on strong passwords, smart email policies, and web security best practices. Of course, an empowered staff is also fortified by good security technology and protocols. An IT security team should make routine network assessments part of a comprehensive plan for keeping information secure. An initial assessment needs to be extremely thorough. In fact, many enterprises around the world are turning to a network penetrating testing firm to help them get a clear picture of how vulnerable their networks are, along with their HIPAA Security Risk Assessment. Hiring a firm to conduct a penetration test is essentially like bringing in a team of white-hat hackers to demonstrate what true hackers would do if they were attempting to breach a network in a coordinated and controlled manner. Unlike automated security measures, this test takes a real world approach using a combination of technology and human ingenuity. A team of security engineers attempts to identify and exploit every potential weak point that exists in the client network. The client is then left with a detailed and accurate analysis of how a network performs when it is under attack. This report can help IT professionals to address weak points and create extremely resilient networks. Of course, the solution doesn't end there. There is no question that hackers are always enhancing their tactics. A penetration test should always be followed up with routine analysis and testing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

NETGEAR's Nighthawk X10 Router Packs More Than Just A Hefty Price Tag

When it comes to home networking most consumers focus one thing, speed! And of course why not, speed is what most of us want went it comes to browsing the web, downloading music or streaming videos. If speed is what you are looking for NETGEAR is launching what it calls the “world’s fastest router,” the Nighthawk X10, built specifically for media streaming, instant backup, and fast gameplay. However, the Nighthawk X10 packs a lot more than just a ton of speed, it also packs in a ton of extra features, with those features though comes a hefty $500 price tag!

Yes you read that right $500 for what may be the best of the best on the market today! Now I know most of you out there aren't going to plop down five Benjamins to take home a router. The Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wi-Fi Router isn't just any other router though. It blurs the line between your typical high end home router and a stand-alone media server.

The router combines a 1.7-gigahertz quad-core processor — the fastest processor in a home router — and quad-stream Wave 2 Wi-Fi architecture offering the latest 802.11ad Wi-Fi standard, with speeds up to 7.2 gigabits per second. This means you'll get the lastes MU-MIMO technology to support simultaneous streaming to multiple devices. In geek speak that means you'll be able to move a ton of movies and videos back and forth from the Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu or any other spot on the web all while gaming from another device without so much as a hiccup!

Speaking of video we said the Nighthawk X10 blurs the lines between home router and media server. That is because it is the industry’s first router to run Plex Media Server without the need for a computer. It will even handle transcoding through Plex for smooth 4K streaming, to all your remote devices.

NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 is also the industry’s first router designed for the home market that includes a 10Gigabit port, which supports a fiber connection. Offering lightning-fast backup and streaming from Network Attached Storage devices – such as NETGEAR ReadyNAS – Nighthawk X10 is the ideal solution for personal HD video collections. The two USB 3.0 ports make it easy to add storage for backup and file transfer over WiFi. Additional storage options with the Nighthawk X10 includes six months of free unlimited Amazon Drive backup for an off-site cloud copy of one’s files.

“Nighthawk X10 sets a new bar for performance and a new record for speed when moving large video files within your network and to the cloud,” said David Henry, senior vice president for home networking at NETGEAR. “Today’s video files are getting larger with 4k and VR video. Offloading from capture devices and moving these large files within a network often becomes a time-consuming and challenging task. The Nighthawk X10 is powerful enough to move these files at unprecedented speed and provides easy access once the file is stored on the network.”

Key Technical Features of Nighthawk X10
  • AD7200 Quad Stream Wave2 WiFi supports wireless speeds up to 4600+1733+800Mbps*
  • Fastest 60GHz 802.11ad WiFi technology for instant downloads, backup and minimal latency during online game play
  • Plex Media Server for all of your media, anytime, anywhere
  • Powerful 1.7GHz Quad Core Processor boosts performance for 4K streaming or VR gaming
  • High-performance Active Antennas for better WiFi coverage & faster speeds
  • Six (6) Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports with dual ports that can be operated in line aggregation mode for faster file transfers (up to 2Gbps wired speeds)
  • Two (2) SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports for faster streaming, backup and easy access to your stored media.
  • Automatic backup to the cloud with Amazon Drive
  • NETGEAR ReadyCLOUD provides easy, private and secure remote access to USB connected storage
  • 10Gigabit fiber port for lightning-fast backup and media streaming to/from ReadyNAS or other NAS
  • MU-MIMO capable for simultaneous streaming of data to multiple devices
  • New NETGEAR Up app will have your router up, running and configured to your liking all from the convenience of any Android or iOS mobile device. 
  • NETGEAR genie® app for a personal dashboard to monitor, control and repair your home network, even when you’re away from home.
Pricing and Availability
The NETGEAR Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart WiFi Router is now available. You can purchase it in retail shops and online at an MSRP of $499.99 in the U.S.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Don't Fly With Your Galaxy Note 7, Exchange It At The Airport Instead

By now you should be aware of the fact that the Galaxy Note 7 is one of the biggest tech flops in history. You should also be aware of the fact that it has been recalled, is no longer going to be sold and has even been banned from air travel by most airlines and several countries around the world! If by chance you haven't heard the news, or have been putting off getting a new phone but still have to travel, well Samsung is going to help you out!

When the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued their second recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, affecting both old and new replacement models, the FAA stepped in and took a more drastic measure by banning the fire-prone devices from flying on any US based flights. The measure soon took hold with a large number of global airlines following suite and announcing  similar bans on Samsung's Galaxy Note 7. Included in  list are Qantas, Air Berlin, Air Canada, Air Canada Express, Emirates, Lufthansa, Finnair, Singapore Airlines, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, T, AirAsia, El Al, EgyptAir, Air New Zealand, Etihad Airways, HK Express, Cathay Pacific, Tigerair, Dragonair and Hong Kong Airlines.

With the Note 7 officially categorized as a "forbidden hazardous material" owners can be charged with several crimes, which vary by country, no matter what state the device is in. This includes having the device powered off, the battery removed ect. In short, the Galaxy Note 7 can not travel on an airplane at all. To combat the ban and make life easier on passengers that may not know they can not travel with their recalled devices, Samsung has taken to airports across the country, setting up exchange kiosks.

The trade-in booths are showing up in South Korea, Australia, as well as the U.S., allowing passengers to return their Note 7s for another Samsung device. To facilitate the exchange Samsung has customer service representatives on hand at these booths to transfer user data from the Note 7 to their new devices.

According to Samsung Australia the company is "working with airlines and airports in Australia to arrange customer service points within high-traffic terminals where customers, who are unaware of the Galaxy Note 7 ban on flights, can arrange an alternative device at the airport." Travelers can leave their handset at the pop-up booths and obtain a loaner for the duration of their trip. Upon returning to the airport they can pick up their prohibited handset. For those leaving Australia for an extended period of time—or permanently—Samsung will, "where possible," exchange the Note 7 for another Samsung phone—either at the terminal before departure or at your destination.

Samsung's mobile chief Koh Dong-jin has said that the company will do everything in its power, no matter the cost, in order to "find the exact cause" behind exploding Note 7s and to "restore the trust of consumers so that they can use Samsung products without any safety concerns." It certainly looks like the company is trying their best to make good on that promise!

Geek Gadgets: ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insole Review

Winter is right around the corner and there is nothing this geek hates more than being cold. One of my biggest peeves is trying to get out and enjoy my favorite winter sports and having cold feet. Luckily it looks like I may have found the perfect geek gadget to solve that problem, ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heavy Duty Bluetooth enabled heated insoles. Yes you read that right, these things are Bluetooth enabled, totally wireless and fully rechargeable! They've got everything that screams GEEK (IMO anyways).

ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insole Features

Before we get down to the review let's take a quick look at what we are dealing with here:
  • Bluetooth Operation - No remotes, no odd wires, you simply operate your ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insoles from your smartphone using their nifty little app (see list for compatible devices.). App features 3 Temperature settings: Low=100°, Medium=110°, and High=115°
  • Fully Rechargeable High capacity Battery - 30% more powerful than the standard ProFLEX, and will last up to 8.5 hours of warmth per charge. Each insole features removable, replaceable, lithium-ion polymer batteries that will charge in two hours or less.
  • Long-Lasting Durability - Made with even more durable materials to withstand all-day pounding. New optimized cushioning and stability will help you stay on your feet all day long. Tested to 1 million steps while batteries are reported to recharge well over 500 times.
  • Package includes: 2 ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insoles, 2 rechargeable lithium-ion polymer batteries; 1 smart charging case, 1 wall charger, 1 USB cable; 1 drawstring travel bag, 1 instruction booklet.
As you can already tell these aren't just your every day Dr Scholl's insoles, they pack some pretty geeky features!

Getting Things Started - Quick and Easy
Unlike most of the geek gadgets we test out there really isn't much to getting started with the ThermaCELL ProFLEX insoles. Download the ThermaCELL Heated Products App (android - iOS) , charge up the batteries, trim if necessary, slip them into your shoes, and you are basically off and running.

ThermaCELL ProFLEX Product Video

Since there really isn't much to setup and the app doesn't come with a ton of features there shouldn't be many issues getting started. However, there are a few areas you might run in to issues like we did. For starters our Galaxy S5 didn't want to pair up with out insoles. We had to restart the phone and do a re-scan to get them connected.Once they were connected everything seemed to be fine, though we had a tough time telling if the insoles were working!

Temperature Controls - You Get The Basics
The ThermaCELL app provides quick and easy temperature settings and battery monitoring. Beyond that there isn't much to the app. You get 3 Temperature settings and a no heat setting (we aren't sure if this is standby or off though), battery monitoring and an active/inactive monitor. The only other real option is linking, to control both insoles at once or an individual temperature control to change either one independently.

Our Thoughts - Disappointing Results
ThermaCELL specifically states their insoles "keep feet warm, not hot", so I'm not sure if it was just our test set or if they really aren't intended to get very warm. Either way on high, which is supposed to max out at 115°, my feet just barely felt any warmth at all. Most, if not all of the heat is focused on the toes section of the insole, which isn't a big deal since that is generally where you want most of it anyways. However, I wanted the ability to turn on my insoles and slip my feet into a nice cozy set of boots that were warmed all the way through. No matter what we tried, that just didn't happen.

Another unfortunate effect of trying to keep our boots toasty warm, was rather poor battery life. Since ThermaCELL states a charge should lasts up to 8.5 hours of constant use (on low heat setting), we expected a couple hours of use on high. In reality, from a full charge, we saw between 1-2 hrs of continued use. This would really be less of a concern if we had reached a nice temperature level, again however we didn't get to the point we expected.

Sadly it doesn't end there! Adding to our disappointing results was the overall comfort of the insoles themselves, they just didn't seem to add much extra benefit in this area what so ever! Again this might be by design and is of course not the focus of the product, but at $199 I would have expected more!

Conclusion - What Doesn't Work For Me Might Work For You!!
ThermaCELL certainly seems to have a one of a kind product here, and looking at some of the other options out there they certainly seem to be at the front of the pack when it comes to technology. In fact I couldn't find anything even close to compare them to. So while I have to give them the nod for standing out from the crowd, I can't say that I would run out and buy a pair of ProFLEX Heavy Duty Heated Insoles. They just didn't perform up to my standards.

Now that isn't to say they won't work out for you, in fact they might! I admittedly didn't test them under extreme cold settings, this is where that 115° high temp might actually be 'just right' for your feet. I also didn't test them as an intermittent warming device, this was one suggestion I saw from several other reviews. I was testing more for long term comfort, or initial warming.

Feature Request and Improvements
I wanted to close out our review with a few notes for improvements and a couple of requests. For starters we could use a few 'added features'. With a $199 price tag I really would expect a bit more out of any geek gadget! I'd like to see a bit more in overall function, adding in something like a pedometer sensor so you can use the app for tracking your distance would be ideal. Adding in a warming setting with perhaps an alarm or timer with a  higher heat temp to warm your boots or shoes at a specific time would also be great. Imagine getting up for work to already warm boots!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Samsung's Battery Problem May Go Much Deeper Than The Galaxy Note 7

Now that Samsung Electronics has formally discontinued production of the company's Galaxy Note7 smartphone, which has been plagued by battery problems that caused fires and even explosions, one may wonder what is next for the world's largest cell phone provider. Well unfortunately things aren't looking good at this point!

All indications and reports conclude that as of right now Samsung still has no idea exactly what was causing the issues to begin with, and that they may have made the matter worse by incorrectly assuming it was merely an issue with the batteries used in the Note7.

According to The New York Times, Samsung tasked hundreds of its own engineers and employees to figure out why the smartphone battery was suddenly exploding. Unfortunately it appears as though the employees were unable to replicate the exact issue forcing the company to conclude that it must have been because of faulty batteries coming from Samsung SDI. This in-turn led the company to issue their initial recall with the company deciding to continue shipping new Galaxy Note 7s containing batteries from a different supplier.

As we now know this further compounded the issue as reports soon surfaced that some of the replacement devices were blowing up too. The New York Times spoke with a person briefed on the test process who says company engineers went back to the drawing board and that as of this week Samsung’s testers were still unable to reproduce the explosions.

The life of the Note7 was short. Sales first began in the U.S. on Aug. 19. Samsung recalled 2.5 million Note7s globally on Sept. 2, with a formal U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission recall on Sept. 15. Then, on Oct. 5, an apparently recalled Note7 began billowing smoke aboard a parked Southwest Airlines jet. The plane was evacuated; no one was injured. When more reports came in of recalled Note7s in recent days, several U.S. carriers decided to halt sales and exchanges. 

Samsung has received at least 92 reports of Note 7 batteries overheating in the United States, with 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, according to information posted by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Whether or not Samsung actually knows what the problem is the question will be can they actually fix it. Many industry pundits are speculating that Samsung's battle with Apple, and their desire to pack as much innovation and power into a device as they can, could have been the root cause of the devices overheating. Samsung, and many other Android manufactures have had a long history of devices heating up and overheating, so this isn't new. The problem is that we may have reached a point now that the tech these manufactures are using it just too much for the small devices to handle.

This creates an issue for Samsung going forward. The Galaxy Note7 may have just been the tip of the iceberg. If they don't figure out the issue, and can't resolve it, then they may have to reign in and possibly even delay production of a Samsung Galaxy S8 (their next purported release) and may have to discontinue the Note line-up (for now at least), until they can get it resolved. Of course this all comes at a critical time for Samsung, and Android for that matter, as we have seen signs of the smartphone market slowing and Samsung in particular facing tougher and tougher competition.

The one up-side here is that Samsung has numerous devices on the market right now that have had no issues. The downside is that the Note series is generally the top-tier and showcases much of what we should see (power and specs wise) in the coming 2017 Galaxy models.

DJ Koh, Samsung Mobile’s chief, has today pledged to restore consumer faith in the Samsung brand following the discontinuation of the Galaxy Note 7. Mr Koh said that he would “at any cost find the exact cause (of the faulty Galaxy Note 7) to restore [the] trust of consumers so that they can use Samsung products without any safety concerns,” reports The Korea Herald.

Analysts have pegged the overall cost to Samsung at $5 billion to $7.5 billion, not including the hard-to-estimate impact on the Samsung brand. Some analysts, including Credit Suisse, said the lost sales on up to 19 million Note7 phones is about $17 billion. Samsung themselves recently cut Q3 profit estimates by $2.4 billion, and its Q3 revenue estimates by $2.2 billion.

How severe do you think the aftershocks will be for Samsung? Is this the end of the Note brand?

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Where Does Your Favorite Show Rank on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time List?

What geek out there does love a good ranking list? Late last month the fine folks over at Rolling Stone released their Top 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time List, and well heck we just thought we'd share. Now you might ask what does Rolling Stone Magazine, a magazine that is supposed to be dedicated to music btw, know about televisions shows. And well while we don't have a good answer, we figure they might just have a little less bias than most of the geek sites we frequent and therefore might have a ranking system that is a bit closer to reality.  Not that we care about that right..

You’ll have to head over to Rolling Stone’s website to see the full list (as well as the reasons why each show made the list in the first place), but you can see the top 20 shows below:
  1. The Sopranos
  2. The Wire
  3. Breaking Bad
  4. Mad Men
  5. Seinfeld
  6. The Simpsons
  7. The Twilight Zone
  8. Saturday Night Live
  9. All in the Family
  10. The Daily Show
  11. Freaks and Geeks
  12. Game of Thrones
  13. Late Night with David Letterman
  14. The Larry Sanders Show
  15. The West Wing
  16. M*A*S*H
  17. Twin Peaks
  18. Star Trek
  19. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  20. Cheers
I'm sure just by taking a peak at the top twenty shows many of my geek brethren are already questioning the rankings, but remember these are a little less subjective rankings than most of us would give out.  I mean I know my top 10 wouldn't look anything like what they have there, but I do think some of the shows are pretty accurately judged and ranked.

What say you? Do the folks at Rolling Stone have it close to correct, or do they need to keep to their roots and stick with ranking music?

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Intel Wants to Help Keep Your Information Private During National Cyber Security Awareness Month

As we enter the first week in October we are reminded that this month is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. With that comes plenty of news, warnings and educational campaigns aimed at helping users at all levels to become more aware of the issues we all face with security and privacy.

Several major companies, including a long time geek favorite, Intel have announced their commitment to the National Cyber Security Alliance’s “Lock Down Your Login” Internet safety and security initiative.  The campaign, which was first announced by the White House in February, calls for all Americans to move beyond traditional username and password protections to better secure the important information in their email, banking, and social media accounts.

“Lock Down Your Login” provides consumers with information ranging from what strong authentication is, why it is important, and how it is implemented. FAQs provide details about the goals of the campaign, the limitations of traditional usernames and passwords, what kinds of information is collected and used to support authentication.

For their part in the National Cyber Security Alliance, Intel is offering users more information on True Key, a free application developed by Intel Security that offers users a multifactor password manager that secures and encrypts all your passwords. Unlike most traditional password managers, True Key utilizes unique-to-you factors, like face and fingerprints, or devices you already own and have registered, to use two-factor authentication allowing you to safely store all your passwords and guarantee that you'll be the only one using them.  Consumers can download this free app at  — an easy way to enhance safety online.