Weekly Buzz – September 23, 2014
Not next weekend
There will be no Weekly Buzz next weekend because the regular monthly Gebesse newsletter will come out instead. This week’s issue is late because I had to change back to mail merge through Outlook while Swiftpage reorganises Act! distribution in Australia.
Possible Android problem
The Federal Government’s Stay Smart Online site has reported a possible security flaw in the browser provided with some versions of Android. See the details here. You might not be able to disable the default browser (I couldn’t on either my phone or tablet) but you should at least install another browser. I chose Firefox but there’s nothing wrong with Chrome.
Fun and games with iPhone 6
It would have been hard to miss the hysteria about the release of the latest iPhone. I will never understand why it is necessary to replace your phone every year (if your phone can’t last more than a year, why would you want to replace it with one from the same manufacturer?) and I am totally baffled about why anyone would camp out overnight to get a phone, but life would be dull if we all thought the same. I have already seen one review from a technology journalist who is upset because the size of the new iPhone makes it hard to read email one-handed while shopping, but those of us who have been stuck behind someone doing this in the freezer aisle at Coles might see this as a benefit.
The real complaints started when Apple announced that everyone was going to get a free copy of U2’s latest album. Despite the fact that nobody would have to download it because all that ended up at your end was a list of the tracks (it just appeared in your iCloud-based iTunes library) there was outrage at the waste of bandwidth. Eventually both Apple and U2 issued software to remove the offending album from libraries (something that takes about ten seconds to do manually). I was rather disappointed that I wasn’t able to get a free copy, but when I posted a joke to Facebook about the risk of getting a U2 album if I updated iTunes I incurred the wrath of Apple fans (who had been complaining shortly before about it being forced on them) who proceeded to tell me things that I already knew. Sometimes you just can’t win.
Further complaints came in when the new version of Apple’s iPhone operating system was announced (it comes installed on the new iPhone, and is an upgrade for earlier models). There was advice to remove data from the phone because of the amount of space required to install the upgrade (the upgrade is about 700 megabytes, but rumours have the free space required for installation as high as almost 6 gigabytes, which is a lot of pictures and music on a 16Gb phone). There are workarounds for this using your Mac or PC, so do a Google search for “IOS8 workaround”. And backup your phone contents either to iCloud or preferably to your local computer before starting.
So, should you get an iPhone 6? Yes, if you need a new phone and like the way Apple does things (and there are certainly things that Apple does better than anyone else). I have no doubt that it is a very good phone. Should you upgrade your old iPhone to IOS8? Yes, if you have an iPhone 5 and the space and data allocation to do it. (I always advise people to use the latest possible software if the price and convenience are right.) If you have an iPhone 4 or earlier the question is moot because IOS8 won’t run on it (the iPhone 4s can take it, but performance suffers), and you are in the same position as all those Android users who are stuck with whatever came with the phone.
Bogey man scare of the week
This week’s scare story doesn’t come from some 16-year-old kid talking to a journalist who knows nothing (a recent story was about a whizkid who had discovered that all you needed to hack someone’s PayPal account was their user name and password!), but comes from a professor at the Queensland University of Technology. Technology fitted to cars today allows the possibility for hackers to access the car’s electronics and do malicious things. The facility is installed to allow contactless diagnoses rather than the mechanic having to plug in some wires under the bonnet, but the fact that the short wireless range of these systems requires the hacker to be inside the car probably indicates that the risk is small. Unfortunately, improbability sometimes doesn’t dampen down fear campaigns, as shown by the hysteria in the US a few years ago about Toyota cars suddenly accelerating. (There is an excellent analysis of the Toyota phenomenon in the September/October edition of the US magazine Skeptical Inquirer.)
I’m still waiting for a better scare story, though, than the one I saw recently about the possibility of hackers modifying the programming in your USB keyboard or mouse and taking over your computer. I thought it was a joke, but an IT “journalist” took it very seriously indeed.