Category Archives: Mobile

Another Day, Another Data Breach…

Here’s another high-risk internet behavior you might not be aware of: Downloading apps from unofficial sources. This isn’t much of a problem on Apple devices, because it’s hard/geeky to download something that’s not on the app store. Android (Google’s phone/tablet operating system) devices, however are pretty simple: Disable one setting and you can install an app from anywhere. (I’m not going to tell you what setting; If you need to know, you also know where to find it!)

The Google app store (“Play Store,” I hate that name!) does filter and remove malicious apps, though it may take longer than the Apple store, because the Apple store filters apps up front before they are ever released into the wild. You get no such protection when you install an app from somewhere else.

Now, in one of the larger data breaches to date, over one million (and counting) personal credentials have been compromised by a rogue Android app. The app has many names, but all have one thing in common: They are installed from a third-party, unofficial app store or source, possibly by links in spam emails. The malware steals Google credentials, thus compromising Gmail and all other Google services for that account. This malware is capable of taking complete control of an Android device, giving itself more permissions than even the legitimate user has. (Not that you’d notice; Malware operates best when it’s silent.)

The takeaway: Once again, now on mobile devices too, don’t click iffy links in emails, don’t fall for free apps that are usually paid apps, and don’t install apps from anything but the official store.

You can check to see if your Google account is breached by clicking the link below and typing in your Gmail address.

More info:

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How much “Stuff” is in Your Phone??

Ever wonder what kind of stuff is in your phone?

An Amazing Variety! Out of the 90 or so (depending on how you define them) naturally occurring chemical elements, at least 29 of them go into the making of a smartphone, including some you’ve probably never heard of.

  1. Lithium. You’ve probably heard of this one, it’s what a lot of rechargeable batteries are made from. A metal that is highly reactive (drop it in water and it dissolves, liberating heat and hydrogen), which is why lithium batteries cannot be shipped by air.
  2. Carbon. The stuff of life. Also, in the form of graphite, part of the battery.
  3. Oxygen. Glass is silicon dioxide.
  4. Magnesium. A very light metal. If your phone has a metal case, it’s probably a magnesium alloy.
  5. Aluminum. Could be part of the case. Also the glass is an aluminum oxide – silicate.
  6. Silicon. Major component of the actual chips, also major component in glass.
  7. Phosphorus. Minor component of the chips.
  8. Potassium. Strengthens the glass.
  9. Cobalt. Part of the battery.
  10. Nickel. Used in the microphone.
  11. Copper. Wires and the circuit board.
  12. Gallium. An important metal in semiconductors, especially LEDs.
  13. Arsenic. Used in LEDs and other semiconductors.
  14. bromine. Used to make plastics fire-resistant.
  15. Yttrium. Heard of this one? This element and others like it are used in the screen for their glowing colors.
  16. Silver. Used for some wiring.
  17. Indium. Along with tin, used in the touch screen. Indium tin oxide is transparent yet conducts electricity like a metal.
  18. Tin. Used in the solder holding the circuitry together..
  19. Antimony. Used in the chips.
  20. Lanthanum. Used in the color screen.
  21. Praseodymium. Another you’ve probably never heard of. Used in the screen.
  22. Neodymium. Maybe you’ve heard of this one – used in magnets. The vibrator is a tiny motor using neodymium magnets.
  23. Europium. Yes, it’s named after Europe. Used in the screen.
  24. Gadolinium. Used in the screen.
  25. Terbium. Used in the screen.
  26. Dysprosium. (Means, “Hard to get.”) Used in the screen.
  27. Tantalum. Makes some of the finest capacitors. Supply may be at risk; comes mostly from “conflict” countries.
  28. Gold. Used for connectors since it never corrodes.
  29. Lead. Used in solder.

Wow! God’s “building blocks” used in ways not even dreamed of a few years ago.


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Who Invented That??

Pop quiz: Where were all these things invented?

  1. The first microprocessor, the 8088
  2. The Pentium and Celeron computer processors
  3. Anti-Virus software
  4. Code that enables sending email
  5. Mobile Phones
  6. Texting (SMS)
  7. Voicemail
  8. USB Flash drives
  9. The Super Iron Battery, which may be in your (next) electric car
  10. Transparent solar panels (“Solar Windows”)
  11. Drip irrigation
  12. Cherry Tomatoes
  13. Sodastream (A machine to make soda at home)
  14. The Pillcam (swallow-able colonoscopy device)
  15. Heart stents
  16. Radiation-free X-ray technology
  17. The Epilator hair-removal device
  18. A new technology for divers that extracts air from the water

Impressive list, huh? Without these inventions, the world would be a much different place, probably a worse one.

If you said, “The United States”, good guess, but no. The answer is Israel, the tiny, much-maligned country that has more research and development, and more Nobel Prizes per capita, than any other country on earth.

How could this be? In a country that didn’t even exist 70 years ago?? It might have something to do with Israeli philosophy. Classical rabbinical literature created the Hebrew phrase “Tikkun olam” (literally, “world repair”). The Israelis seem to have not only realized that the World is broken, but decided to do what they could to repair it.

The innovations in the above list are only a few of the things Israel has done to make the world a better place. They are often first on the scene of major disasters, bringing state-of-the-art mobile hospitals, food, and anything else needed. The list of medical advances is lengthy; Treatments for cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, epilepsy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and on and on. 

Their cows produce more milk. Their bees produce more honey.

They rank as the fifth happiest nation on Earth, maybe because they care so much about their fellow man.

On the other hand, it just might be a God thing…

Want to boycott Israel? You might want to read this first:

Israeli flag

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What’s the REAL price?

Ever wonder why your phone plan is advertised as “$29.99/month,” but it’s always over $40? Phone bills (even landlines) have so many hidden charges, it’s enough to make your head spin. You might expect to pay State, City, and Federal Excise tax, but here are some others you might find:

  • State excise tax
  • Universal service charge
  • 911 charge
  • LNP (Local Number Portability) charge
  • TRS (Telecommunications Relay Service) charge
  • Single Bill Fee
  • Detailed Billing fee
  • Access charge
  • Intercontinental Ballistic IntraLATA Surcharge

Okay, I made that last one up, but seriously, this is ridiculous! And those are only the charges you can’t get out of, that add anywhere from 17% to 25% to your phone bill. Reminds me of a TV commercial where the husband comes in with a package in the mail the size of the L.A. phone directory, drops it on the kitchen table with a resounding thud, and says, “It’s the phone bill!”

Arizona ranks 17th in high wireless bill taxes with a State and local rate of 11.98% and a Federal rate of 6.46% (Same in all 50 states) for a combined rate of 18.44%, so we are above the median as far as taxes go.

Why can’t they fold all those fees into the advertised price and avoid the sticker shock? Well… Because then they wouldn’t be able to advertise “$29.99*” in great big numbers and then under the “*” they say (in tiny letters) “Plus applicable taxes, fees, and whatever else we can gouge out of you!” This is also true of many other businesses, such as hotels, airlines, and online ticket sales. One company even tried an all-inclusive “Out the door” price model on it’s website… and lost business to their competitors advertising a lower price, even though their final price was higher. Moral of the story? Sadly, you can’t play an honest game if everyone else is cheating.

People are starting to get really sick of this manipulation, though. That’s one of the many reasons cellphone customers are switching to prepaid service in droves. With prepaid, you buy a month’s worth of service ahead of time, typically for around $40-$45 for most carriers, and the only thing else you pay is sales tax. Granted, the hassle factor is slightly higher because you have to be proactive in making sure your service continues, but look at all the advantages:

  • No contracts!
  • No credit check, in fact, no credit needed because you pay for the service before you use it.
  • No hidden fees, and no surprises. If you need to pay more for some service, you’ll know about it beforehand.
  • You own your phone.
  • No sitting down with someone who wants to sell you lots of additional services.
  • No hour of wasted time reading and signing those contracts.
  • Depending on your needs, often lower monthly charges.

There are a few disadvantages, as well:

  • You may have to pay a lot for your phone, especially if you want the latest iPhone or similar.
  • Your selection of available phones may be smaller, or different.
  • If you run out of money, the grace periods are short, and you’ve got no phone service until you pay again.
  • If you let the service lapse past the grace period, you lose your phone number.

Still, if you stay on top of your finances, prepaid is a very good alternative for many folks. Here’s an idea: Join the revolution and demand a simple quote of the real price! Patronize those businesses that actually tell you how much something costs.

More info:

The Snowden Effect

What is the Snowden Effect? It is the increase in public awareness and concern over the collection and use of electronic data by the US Government – without even getting warrants – since the revelations of Edward Snowden. Even though – obviously – electronic data did not exist when the U.S. Constitution was written, the Fourth Amendment specifically prohibits “Unreasonable search and seizure.”

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? My electronic data certainly qualifies as an “effect” (as in “Personal effects”), and vacuuming up data en masse certainly qualifies as “unreasonable.” This isn’t even “Rounding up the usual suspects,” which implies known criminals; This is “Round up everybody and let’s see what we can pin on them!”

Now, you might consider Edward Snowden a hero, a traitor, a patriot, or a dissident, but the important fact is that this is a discussion that needs to happen, and Snowden forced the issue. This Country is not a dictatorship, it is (allegedly) a government ofby, and for the People, and as such, the Government is accountable to the people and has no right to spy on them without probable cause.

A lot of the current chatter is about digital encryption. The terrorists that shot up San Bernardino last December had an encrypted iPhone, and Apple, the manufacturer of the iPhone, has made the encryption so good that even they can’t break it. The FBI wants Apple to write an Operating System with a “Back Door,” that would allow anyone with the master password to unlock the system. They say this is a one-time deal… but think about it. If someone developed a Master Key to your front door – allegedly for the Police to use in a life-threatening emergency – how long do you think it would be before that master key leaked out? Let’s get real here! The only true secrets are the ones only you have a key to! Especially considering how many Government secrets have been stolen recently!

If you were a manufacturer of vaults, how would you feel if an agency asked you to provide a master key to your burglar-proof vault? How would you know you could trust them to keep that key safe, not only today, but forever?

Many developers of encryption software are already being leaned on to provide just such back doors. To their credit, some have refused. Some have even gone out of business rather than compromise their customer’s information. Though I’m not an Apple user, kudos to them for holding the line.

We need to pay attention to this stuff; our privacy and security is at risk. If the Government knows everything about you, they can do anything to you.

What does the FBI think is on terrorist’s iPhone, anyway? A fight, perhaps

Anti-encryption opportunists seize on Paris attacks; don’t be fooled

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The Most Common Laptop Repair

Here's what happens when you forget that the laptop's plugged in.

Here’s what happens when you forget that the laptop’s plugged in.

You’re running late, and you need your laptop. You grab it off of your desk and go running out the door. Four feet from the desk, however, the laptop comes to a screeching halt while you keep going. The laptop crashes to the hard tile floor while you wonder what just happened. You’ve come to the end of the power cord that was still plugged into the laptop, and now, at the very least, you’ve probably done serious damage to the power jack on the machine.

Nothing on a modern laptop computer is particularly robust, and power jacks are no exception, unless you happen to be lucky enough (and wealthy enough!) to own one of Apple’s laptops. They invented and patented a magnetic power connector that releases cleanly if someone trips on or otherwise yanks the power cord. The bad news is they refuse to license the technology to any other manufacturers. Bad Apple! Where’s your sense of Civic Responsibility?? Well, they’ve got a right to do that, but the sad thing is, no other manufacturer has come up with a system as good that doesn’t violate Apple’s patent, so the rest of us are stuck with having to be much more vigilant.

Power jack repairs are the most common repair done on laptops, and usually cost $100-$150 in labor costs, because the machine has to be almost completely disassembled to replace the jack. All that for a $2 part and a moment of carelessness.

Your only defense against this horror is to be always cognizant of where the power cord is. Never run it across the floor where your dog, your kid, your husband, or your wife can trip on it and drag the computer onto the floor. Try to never be in such a hurry that you forget to unplug everything from the laptop before picking it up. And let’s hope someone invents a better system.

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Wi-Fi Everywhere! But who’s paying for it?

Merry Christmas to All! merry-christmas-button

Last year, some Comcast (Xfinity) customers discovered, to their amazement and disgust, that their new Comcast modems (routers) were broadcasting public WI-Fi to their neighborhoods without bothering to get their consent. Now, granted, the public Wi-Fi requires a Comcast username and password, and thus is only available to current Comcast customers, but still, you would think that if someone wants to put up a public hotspot in your home, they should ask nicely instead of just doing it. This is happening in many cities across the nation, Tucson included.

There are a host of legitimate concerns over this, and it’s not just about privacy, although that’s a big part of the issue. Since the equipment is in the customer’s home, being powered by their electricity, using their internet connection, and connected to their computers, someone in San Francisco is suing Comcast over the practice, which they say has the potential to run up their electric bill and slow their connection, in addition to being a potential gateway for digital invasion.

You might disagree, but to me, this is akin to making someone else pay you to advertise your business. (Of course, those who sell T-shirts with product names on them have, indeed, figured out that you can get someone to pay you to do your advertising for you…) At the very least, they should ask permission and offer the customer a discount if the customer is going to be hosting their network.This is exploiting the ignorance of most customers that should have been informed this was happening, but weren’t. And, Comcast is being very aggressive in pushing the new modems; they are offering all kinds of “freebies” to get people to either sign up or “upgrade.”  Some folks who got a promotional email from Comcast found out that just clicking the “more information” link in the email automatically ordered them a new, “free,” modem that they didn’t want.

They claim the new modem is needed to take advantage of all the speed and convenience the customer is paying for. Maybe. Or maybe it’s what they used to call “cramming” at the phone company, where customers get charged for all kinds of nickel-and-dime things that they don’t remember ordering.

Comcast says the subscriber can turn the public hotspot off, but most customers don’t even know that “their” (Actually, Comcast’s) modems are doing this, and/or don’t know how to turn it off. Apparently, only 1% of customers so far have done so.

I had a customer recently in this position. Her modem was putting out two different signals; one asked for a Comcast password, the other didn’t. When I told her what was going on, she was understandably upset. I told her to call them up and give them a piece of her mind.

From, here’s the short version of how to turn this “feature” off, although  sometimes the hotspot mysteriously turns itself back “on.” :

First log into your Comcast account at Then click Users & Preferences–>Service Address, which will have your address. Underneath your address click Manage Xfinity WiFi, and then click Disable Xfinity Wifi Home Hotspot. After that, click Save.

More about How to turn off public Wi-Fi on your Comcast (Xfinity) modem:,news-19036.html

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