NSA Bulk Phone Record Collection Halted Sunday

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The USA Freedom Act, that passed in June, demanded the NSA to stop its bulk phone records collection program on Sunday.

The Obama administration said on Friday that it would proceed with the scheduled closure.

Before celebrating, it should be noted that it appears the NSA kept its email metadata program after it “ended” in 2011.

NSA Bulk Phone Record Collection:

NSA

Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been collecting large amounts of metadata from calls made by AT&T and Verizon patrons.   This was unknown to the public until 2013 when the Guardian revealed this information from the former security contractor.

Now the NSA will have to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to request data about a person or a group from telephone companies.

 

The existing call database will be kept “until civil litigation regarding the program is resolved”.  The office claims that they will not use it for surveillance.

After the November 13th attacks in Paris, may senators tried to delay the end of the metadata collection program.   They did not receive enough support and the plan to stop metadata will continue.

It’s your privacy:

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It is sad to think that the government had been collecting telephone data on all of us for such a long time without probably cause.  I suggest using other methods of communication that are more secure.

What methods do you use to communicate?  Google voice? Snap chat? Facebook Messenger? Text Messaging?  Are these honestly secure?

Smaller Headphone Plug for iPhone 7

Rumor has it that Apple’s next iteration of their iPhone will be so thin, that it will need a smaller connector for headphones.  The current headphone jack has the standard 3.5mm opening that has been around for decades.  Toss out your Walkman’s headphones from the 80’s because you may need a proprietary set of headphones for the next flagship.

Is a Smaller and Thinner iPhone Better?

tinyiphone

Without a headphone jack, the new phones will be able to be at least 1mm thinner.  Even one millimeter can place them ahead of competition. But just how thin and small we want our phones to get?

Potential problems

One potential problem that I foresee, is that converters will need to be purchased for your current third-party headphones to work with the new phone.  The analog-to-lightning adapters may be bulky, expensive, and easy to lose.

In retrospect, it was wise for Apple to buyout Beats.  Now they will be able to sell trendy headphones that work right out of the box with their new proprietary plug.

Apple hinted that they may move to Lightning-enabled headphone accessories at a session at WWDC last year.

Advantages

comparison

Some potential advantages or using a lightning connector include the possibility to offer increased bandwidth and access to system controls from the headphones.  The lightning connectors could also send power to the headphones, allowing them to light-up or charge while plugged in.

I’ll have to admit, I’ve been through apple plug hell.   I’ve had to throw-out all of my old stereos that used the Apple 30 pin dock when the new lightning connectors came out.  I also had to throw-out my 30 pin TV/monitor connector for my iPhone.

How long will these new lightning connectors last for both audio and power?  Will we be throwing away our lightning-connected headphones in 5 years for the next best thing?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section on the latest rumor.   Would you be willing to pay extra for headphones if it means your phone is thinner?

Gadget Gifts for under 100 bucks

It’s black Friday, and people are racing to the stores to get deals here in the United States.   Yesterday, I was coming home late from a party, and I noticed lines of people waiting in the cold for a deal at the closest electronics shop.  While today can bring a good deal, there are several gadgets you can get for under a hundred dollars.  Here are some great gifts that you can buy this season for a gadget lover without breaking the bank.

#1.  Illuminated LED charging cable ($15):

illuminated cable

This has to be my favorite gadget accessory of all time.  Whenever I have it in my car or at my house, people cannot believe how cool it looks.  Gimmicky yes, amazing… yes.

Here it is for 15 bucks at amazon.

#2. Roku 2 ($70)

roku2

For about 70 bucks you can get a Roku 2 box.  I love my roku 2.  I stream netflix, hulu, vevo, and even movies from my computer with it to the big screen.  No need to spend copious amounts of money for unnecessary options like 4K streaming.

Here it is for 66 bucks at amazon.

#3. Jawbone Up2 ($90)

jawboneup2

Fitness trackers are getting more stylish.  Pickup the Jawbone up2 for under a hundred bucks at amazon.

 

#4. Samsung Gear VR ($100)

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I love the Samsung Gear VR.  If you already have a compatible Samsung phone, you can immerse yourself in virtual reality.  Checkout my full review of the Samsung Gear VR here on Bapgo.com

Grab it at Amazon here.

#5. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite ($100)

paperwhite

While you can read Amazon e-books on your phone/tablet, having a glare-free screen really helps.  Grab the new Paperwhite at amazon.com

If you have any great ideas for gadgets under 100 dollars this holiday season, please comment.

Samsung Gear VR is Awesome

 gearvr2
I can vividly remember buying Nintendo’s Virtual Boy back in the 90’s.  I ran home, un-boxed it with some friends, and started to play.  I was immediately disappointed.  The tennis game looked horrible.  There was some depth, but with the extreme red and white color contrast I got a headache right away.  The next day I took it back to the store.  If my Super Nintendo games looked so good, why couldn’t virtual reality look good?
It’s been 2o years, and dare I say, quality virtual reality may be just around the corner.
If you already have a compatible Samsung phone, for just 99 bucks you can immerse yourself in virtual reality.
Currently, there are sparse games and 360-degree movies that you can toy with. However, being that it is one of the first systems on the market, it may be your best option to use virtual reality before the holidays.

The Gadget:

gearvr1

If you’ve been following the hardware saga, the Gear VR used to be a very bulky headset.  Thankfully, with each iteration, it has come down dramatically in size.   Simply use the Velcro straps to place it on your head, and it’s ready to go.

There is soft padding around the nose and eyes to make a comfortable fit.  If you wear glasses, the head-set actually does as pretty good job at accommodating your eye ware.  Contact lenses may be preferred.  Also, if you are over 40 years old, you might run into troubles with your prescription due to presbyopia if you are farsighted.  Progressive lenses may distort your viewing, so I recommend getting single vision glasses or contact lenses before you start your experience.  A great positive aspect is that there is a focus wheel at the top that you can use to adjust the clarity to match your vision.

Of course, when it comes to using the Gear VR, you need the cell phone.  It is a lot like using google’s Cardboard, but the Gear VR has more bells and whistles; a gyroscope and proximity sensor.

Getting Started:

The following phones currently work with Gear VR: Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and the Note 5.  I’m hoping that the Gear VR will have longevity.  Hopefully  the next phones that they release will still fit.

To get started, just place the phone onto the from of the Gear VR, then plug in the USB.

Sound:

headhpones

It makes the most sense to use headphones with the Gear VR to get the full experience.  Unfortunately, these aren’t included.

Controller:

Some games require a controller.  Unfortunately, no controller is included with the Gear VR.   A separate controller can be added and used with Bluetooth technology.

Using the Gear VR:

gearvrmovie

Oculus Home launches and you’re ready to go.  You can get apps/games and immersive movies.  There are already over 100 apps available.  If you are a developer, this could be a good time to jump into the wildwest of VR coding.  Great time to make money in a new frontier.

Things to watch out for:

Nausea: A lot of people are reporting nausea.  This is to be expected with VR.

Battery life:  The battery goes pretty quick while using VR, and once it’s dead, you are also out a phone.  That makes it a bit inconvenient.

Overheating: While playing, the phone does get pretty hot.

Positive Aspects:

It’s available now.  Several other solutions are soon to come out including the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus.

The price tag: At just under a hundred dollars, this is a great way to jump into VR without breaking the bank if you already have a compatible phone.

If you’ve had experience with VR, please let me know in the comments.

Apple Pay in China Beginning Next Year

Applepaychina

Last time I was in china was about 5 years ago.  Everyone seemed to have Android phones, or flip-phones.  It seems that the iPhone has really taken off in China as the emerging middle class has more excess income to spend.

On mainland China, I had a difficult time finding people that would even take my credit card.  Cash was king.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, allowed me to use my subway pass (Octopus card) to purchase nearly everything.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple Pay will now come to china in early February 2016.  The deal was made with the main four state banks.  This should allow some of their terminals to accept payment from NFC enabled iPhones.

The deal is not written in stone just yet.  There still needs to be regulatory approval.  Apple hopes to launch before China’s holidays begin in the Spring.

It is said that Apple does take a cut from all transactions made with Apple Pay.  With this new revenue likely from next year’s deal, I’d say it’s a good time to buy apple stock.

Let’s hope that Apple Pay is ready for Single’s Day next year!

Get Android 6 Marshmallow On Unsupported Phones

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There are still a lot of capable Android phones out there that do not support Android 6 Marshmallow.  I have recently switched to Android from iOS about 2 years ago, and I’ll have to admit that one of the things that drives me mad is the fragmentation.

If you look at the install base for Android 6, you’ll notice that few have installed it.  Part of it has to do with over-the-air update issues, and in other cases cell phone companies are to blame.  However, the biggest culprit may be that a lot of great legacy Android devices are not supported by google for their latest operating system.

The Nexus 7, LG G4, Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, LG G3 Verizon, Moto X 2014 to name a few.

Enter CyanogenMod 13.  A great way to get Android Marshmallow on the unsupported hardware.  Be aware though that you will have to install a nightly build.  These releases are still experimental.  Install at your own risk.

If you are installing from a previous build, you will have to update your Google apps (Drive etc).

You can grab the experimental nightly builds here.

I had the opportunity to install CyanogenMod on my Nexus 5.  I really enjoyed it… most of the time.  Every once in a while, my phone would magically reset.  It was worth it for the extra features that were there.

Let me know in the comments about your experience with CyanogenMod experimental builds.

 

Apple Pay for everyone

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Square has just announced that it will bring Apple Pay to it’s popular credit card reader.

This will make it easier to purchase items without a credit card, and just a phone.

applepay2

I remember taping an NFC MasterCard to my phone about 4 years ago.  Everyone at McDonald’s  marveled at how I was able to wave my phone over the reader to purchase my orders.  My hack definitely had some advantages (I could still use the NFC card when my phone battery died).

Now small businesses everywhere will be able to accept payments via Apple Pay.

Today, Square announced the launch of their NFC reader (USA Today).  They will start out with 100 small business across the united states.  The new reader will allow patrons to pay for wares with their NFC enabled phone.  The small block-shaped reader will allow iPhone users or Apple watch users to complete translations by waving their device over the reader.

The new device costs business owners 49 dollars.  The device also accepts chip cards, that have recently grown popular in the united states.  It should be noted that a regular reader is free.  I predict that this reader will also be free in the next few years as it grows in popularity.

Businesses interested in  Apple Pay can visit Square’s official website to purchase their reader.

 

Finally, Bitcoin on a Debit Card

shiftdebit

It seems like the American Dollar is riding high at the moment.  Unemployment is at an all-time low and interest rates are almost non-existent.  Nothing lasts forever.

Some people prefer to use an alternate form of currency.  While many argue that Bitcoin is volatile, it can be a great alternative to government-backed currency.  As amazing as Bitcoin is, bit can be a pain to access.  Enter “Shift”.

Coinbase started offering a debit card Friday to access bitcoin.  It is the very first bitcoin-based debit card issued in the US and it’s backed by VISA.

It will now be possible to use Bitcoin at brick and mortar stores across the US.  Online shopping as well.

To sign up, head on over to their website. They charge a 10 dollar fee to get started.

The card is only available in 24 states.  Currently there is also a transaction limit of up to $1000 per day.  Cash withdraw limit of 500 along with your standard ATM fees.

Since Shift is mainstream, it may not be a good choice for privacy advocates.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think of this new development.

Top 5 reasons to get an iPad Pro

 

It’s finally out!  Apple’s largest tablet to date.  Put away your iPad Air 2 and your MacBook Air.  Here are the top 8 new features for the iPad Pro.

#1. Really large screen

multi-tasking-mode

The iPad Pro has an enormous 12.9-inch screen.

Samsung has a few competitors to watch out for.  The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro is 12.2 inches and the new galaxy view is an astonishing 18-inches.

Why such a large screen?  To take advantage of multi-tasting mode.

I’m surprised it has taken until 2015 to get true multi-tasking on a mobile apple product.  Now, you can actually have applications running side-by-side a-la-windows 3.1 (Sorry DOS). </rant>

Previously, audio content could playing while using other apps.  I tend to use this a lot when I’m listening to podcasts or music.  I look forward to the day when I can watch Netflix and chill and brows the Internet at the same time with my tablet.

 

#2. The Pencil

apple pencil

There is a new pencil that you can get for about a hundred bucks.  It can detect the position, force and tilt.  For example if you were to push hard onto the screen, the strokes are much more pronounced.

This idea is not new, and to be honest it is a bit disappointing.  One thing that has always impressed me about apple products is that they typically don’t need accessories to use them.  I applauded apple when they got rid of the original disk-drive and then  again when they got rid of the super-drive.  Less seems more simple to me. </rant>

Hopefully there will be a niche market of artists and designers that will be able to take advantage of this feature.

Another disappointing fact is that the pencil needs to be charged and will most likely get lost a time or two.

 

#3 Desktop-style performance

fast-computer

That large screen needs to be fast and efficient.  The new iPad pro comes with the A9X processor, it boasts twice the memory bandwidth of the older A8X and double the storage performance.

It’s a 64 bit processor, which probably is a bit overkill since that is only really necessary if there are over 4 gigs of ram.  I suppose it’s good to lay the groundwork for future tablets with over 4 gigs of ram. </rant>

Make no mistake about it, the iPad Pro has a lot of competition.  The new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 actually runs full desktop applications and mobile apps.  Hopefully the “desktop-style” performance can keep this tablet up with the pack.

#4. Awesome speakers

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Let’s face it, the speakers for the iPhone and iPad really have lackluster performance.  The new iPad Pro on the other hand has four internal speakers.  It also has a new feature that balances the sound based on how you hold it in your hands.  This sounds like a great feature for the beach.

 

#5. The Smart Keyboard

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The new larger screen gives lots of space for the virtual keyboard, but when it comes to creating content I prefer a physical keyboard.  The new keyboard is about 170 bucks and it comes with a smart connector to hook onto the iPad Pro.

Honestly, I think $170 is a bit steep for a keyboard.  Most chrome books sell for the same price.  As with any Apple product, you pay for the gourmet.

Please comment below and let me know your favorite new features for the iPad Pro.

Who should use TOR?

“All people who use Tor are criminals” Not so fast.

Many people could take advantage of the TOR network.  Anonymous browsing has many great advantages

TOR is short for The Onion Router and was originally a worldwide network of servers created with the U.S. Navy that allowed people to browse the internet anonymously.  Today, it is a non-profit organization that continues to research and develop online privacy tools.

Your identity is disguised by the TOR network by streaming your traffic across different TOR serves, and encrypting that traffic so that it is not traced back to you.

 

If someone were to try to trace you would just come to a random node on the TOR network instead of your computer.

It’s actually easier to get started with TOR than you might think.  Checkout this post to get started. I’ve created a layman’s guide to get started on the TOR network.

So who could benefit from using TOR?

#1. Journalist

Side profile of a journalist typing on a typewriter

There are times when it is important for a journalist to stay anonymous.  Especially when following leads.  In some countries, it may even be dangerous to research certain topics or trends online.  TOR is an excellent way to help journalists stay anonymous on the web.

#2. Activist

activitst

Political activists can take advantage of the anonymity found on TOR.  Just in the past few years, we have seen several activists organizing demonstrations.  It would be prudent to do so anonymously.

#3. Abuse victim

abuse victim

Victims of domestic abuse or stalking could take advantage of TOR.  Not every psycho ex is computer illiterate.  You would be surprised how many victims of stalking are found through their online habits.

#4. Police Officer

police officer

Police investigators could use TOR to cover their tracks when following leads.

#5. Privacy advocate

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There are those who would prefer to stay anonymous.  TOR gives everyone that opportunity to stay hidden from government’s prying eyes.

#6. Citizen of a repressive government

surveillance-government-citizen-cjmadden

We have all seen it.  Citizens in a country where their government closely monitors their activity online.  TOR is a great opportunity to be anonymous and stay out of reach from the governments all seeing eye.

#7. Private Investigator

private investigator

Those that have been put on the case to investigate need to do so wisely in this tech-savvy world.  PI’s could use TOR to cover their tracks during an investigation.

#8. Anonymous donor

anonymous donor

People who wish to bless other people’s lives anonymously could take advantage of TOR.  Covering their tracks and staying anonymous.

 

If you have any other people that you can think of that could benefit from the TOR network, please comment below.  I would love to hear from you.