The IT Nerd Holiday Gift Guide – Part 1

Posted in Tips with tags on November 28, 2014 by itnerd

Last year, I did a Holiday Gift Guide on a whim and it worked out well as I got lots of traffic and positive feedback. So this year, I decided to do another one, but in two parts. Today, I will focus on gifts that caught my eye from my all over the place. Next Friday, I will give gift suggestions from the various items that I reviewed this year. So, without further delay, let’s get started.

  • True audiophiles – those who live and breathe high-fidelity sound reproduction – are a rare breed. As a result, finding gifts for them can be challenging. Luckily, Bang & Olufsen has them covered with a few gift ideas that will undoubtedly delight even the most discerning music lover. This part year, I covered their 4K TV and their BEO line of audio gear. They’re all very must gets for anybody who has an audiophile on their list.
  • I came across No Starch Press earlier this year and they have a couple of books that should make it onto your list this year if you have kids who like computers. Carlos Bueno has a lovingly illustrated new book that brings computer science to life. Bueno’s Lauren Ipsum (Available Dec 2014, 192 pp., $16.95, 4C) is a fantasy adventure in the style of Alice in Wonderland that’s designed to spark discussions about computer science. JavaScript for Kids (Available Dec 2014, 336pp, US $34.95, 4C). Like Python for Kids before it—now the best-selling introduction to programming for young people. The company has many other books that are worth looking at so you should take the time to take a look.
  • If your book audience is older, consider Deadly Odds which is a new breakout suspense thriller with a “techno edge” by bestselling author Allen Wyler and published by Astor + Blue Editions. The premise can be boiled down to this: What happens when a shy and awkward young computer hacker has a run-in with terrorists? I’m currently reading the eBook and it’s very good because it’s kind of funny at times while being full of suspense and tension. Plus it’s plausible which is big for me as I hate anything that incorporates tech in it because they never get the tech parts right. Check it out.
  • Coffee via your smartphone? Done. I covered this Mr. Coffee coffeemaker earlier this year which essentially is just a normal percolator, but with a companion WeMo smartphone app (iOS and Android) that lets you set up a brewing schedule, or to simply turn the machine on remotely. It’s too cool not to mention.
  • The Garmin HUD+ is kind of interesting as it will project your speed, turn-by-turn GPS directions, and the current speed limit onto your car’s windshield. If you don’t mind waiting until after the holiday’s, check out Navdy which set the crowdfunding world on fire earlier this year as well. In both cases, they are way safer than glancing at your smartphone, which requires you to refocus your eyes and/or look away from the road.
  • How about bling? No, seriously. How about Bling. But not the really expensive kind. How about the nerdy kind? Ringly looks like a fabulous new cocktail ring. But is also an alert that will sync with her phone and it will inform her of calls, e-mails, and other notifications with discrete vibrations and colored lights, without having to peek at her mobile device.
  • Or if you want something less techie, you can try the Rebecca Minkoff collection of tech accessories. From bags to cases, there’s something stylish for every woman. Or man for that matter.
  • Your phone is disgusting. No, seriously. studies have shown that it has all sorts of nasty bacteria on it. To kill all of it, you need the PhoneSoap UV Smartphone Sanitizer from ThinkGeek. It uses UV rays to kill all that nasty stuff. Seriously, you need to get one.
  • I tripped over this Bluetooth Headphone Adaptor at Sharper Image a while back.  It lets you control and listen to music or take calls from any Bluetooth device at all. Best of all, it uses the headphones that you own and like. Sweet!
  • Nikon is serious about cameras and they have a whole list of cameras for every photographer on your list. Starting with the COOLPIX S32 and the COOLPIX P600 for those who like point and shoot cameras, all the way up to the D3300 and the D750 for those who want a DSLR, Nikon has you covered. 
  • Finally, there’s the Harrison black leather iTouch tech gloves which allow you to control your phone while keeping your hands warm. Win! Win!

Stay tuned for part two of this Holiday Gift Guide next week where I will offer up suggestions based on the reviews that I’ve done this year. Stay tuned!

ViewSonic’s VSD231 & SD-A235 Smart Displays Now Available

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 28, 2014 by itnerd

Viewsonic yesterday announced that its SD-A235 Citrix XenMobile Smart Display is now available to enhance virtual desktop environments. With its powerful NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor, professional grade 23-inch LED IPS panel and 10-point touch screen features, the ViewSonic SD-A235 Smart Display is the complete reliable package for educational settings, health care facilities, and businesses looking for alternative desktop solutions.

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ViewSonic’s flagship display features:

  • Full HD 1080p resolution and 10-point capacitive touch for superior intuitive user interaction
  • Preinstalled with the Citrix Worx Home app for easy enrollment and management under the Citrix XenMobile environment
  • HDMI (input/output) and USB connectivity, SD reader, RJ-45, WiFi, Bluetooth, and integrated 2MP webcam and speakers for complete multimedia capabilities
  • The ergonomic screen offers adjustable height and tilt features and the VESA mount capabilities offer more flexibility on carts and kiosks to support a wide-range of vertical application

ViewSonic’s new VSD231 LED Smart Display is also shipping now. The VSD231 features the same 23-inch IPS, LED smart display with Full HD 1080p resolution, and 10-point projected capacitive touch screen technology as the SD-A235, without the XenMobile integration. With an Android Jelly Bean 4.3 operating system and Google GMS certification, the VSD231 allows users to experience thousands of multimedia-based applications for Android, from social networking to cloud services.

The SD-A235 is now available at an MSRP of $699.00(USD) and the VSD231 is now available at an MSRP of $659.00(USD).

Canadian Business Confidence in Their Own Prospects is at New High: Sage

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 28, 2014 by itnerd

Canadian SMBs are realizing the business benefits of going mobile. The 2014 Sage Business Index revealed  that nearly half (44%) of Canadian entrepreneurs say that mobile technology has had a positive effect on their work-life balance.

As SMB owners often wear many hats, from CEO, CFO, CMO to Customer Service Specialist. The ability to work on the go is not a nice to have, but a necessity.

The 2014 Sage Business Index also reveals that:

  • Nearly half of Canadian SMB owners believe that their customers should be able to contact them 24/7.
  • 75% of Canadian SMB owners feel their company has adequate data protection, privacy and cyber security measures in place.
  • 54% of respondents said that mobile technology enables them to continue working when on the move.

It’s an interesting study and you can read all the details here.

Uber App For Android Sends Data Home Without Your Permission

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 27, 2014 by itnerd

Now I will say something up front. I am not a fan of Uber. Some of the stuff I’ve been reading about them has really turned me off using them. Example, one of their drivers telling a woman that she “deserved” cancer, or Uber investor Ashton Kucher saying it’s okay to dig up dirt on journalists who write negative things about Uber. You can now add privacy issues to the list. Apparently the Android version of the Uber app sends a shocking amount of personal data back to the company without your permission:

According to the researcher, GironSec, the Uber app automatically “calls home” and sends private data back to the company – without users having expressly granted it permission to do so. The application is allegedly sending back users’ call history, Wi-Fi connections used, GPS locations and every type of device ID possible.

Not only individual user data but the Uber app apparently checks neighboring WiFi zones and sends back their router’s capabilities, frequencies and IDs.

Seriously? If you look at the list of data it sends home, it’s pretty shocking and invasive. This amounts to the Uber app on Android being malware. Now Uber has responded to this by trying to explain this away and claiming that this is for your own good. But I for one am not buying it. This has really put the nail in the coffin in terms of yours truly ever using Uber. I for one hope that Google is watching as I’m pretty sure that Uber has violated some agreement with Google by having an App like this. And seeing as their business model is illegal in a lot of places, I hope they cease to exist quickly.

Bell Caught Posting Fake Reviews On iTunes

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 27, 2014 by itnerd

Scott Stratten, author and founder of the Oakville, Ont.-based firm Unmarketing had an interesting post on his blog this week. In short, he’s discovered that Bell employees were posting five star reviews for the latest version of the MyBell App. After his post went up, the CBC and oddly enough The Globe And Mail which is owned by BCE which owns Bell picked up the story. Here’s what the CBC got from Bell:

Bell Canada agrees it shouldn’t happen. In an email to CBC, Paolo Pasquini, Bell’s director of communications wrote: “The postings were the result of an overzealous effort on the part of our service team to highlight the app. It’s certainly not Bell’s practice to encourage employees to rate our products, and we’re sending a clear message out to the team to that effect.”

Even after admitting wrongdoing, the reviews that Stratten called into question were still prominently featured on the iTunes site, available for any unsuspecting consumer to read.

Bell would not directly confirm if all the people Stratten linked to Bell are indeed the employees who posted positive reviews, but its comments to CBC imply as much. CBC News also reached out to the employees on LinkedIn but, at the time of publication, had not received any responses.

CBC News asked Bell if any staff members had ever before written positive reviews about a company product online without disclosing their affiliation. The company did not respond.

Now I could easily rip Bell to shreds for this, and believe me they deserve to be ripped a new one. But the reality is that this happens all the time. It’s just that companies don’t get caught doing this all that often. Thus it is likely wise if we take product reviews with a grain of salt as you have no clue where they come from.

 

Bell Declares War On Rogers For Condo Access

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 27, 2014 by itnerd

Bell Canada wants to bring its suite of services to condos which are being built at a stunningly rapid clip here in Toronto. Here’s the problem. Bell feels that they are being shut out of that market because developers are cutting deals with Bell’s competition, namely Rogers. So if you’re Bell, what do you do? Here’s what The Globe And Mail says they’re going to do:

Over the past year-and-a-half, the BCE Inc.-owned company has filed five complaints with Canada’s telecom regulator over problems related to accessing new developments.

and here’s why:

Bell says data it tracks suggest that from 2010 to the end of this year, the top seven builders in the Greater Toronto Area will have constructed about 400 new buildings with 85,000 units. But it estimates it cannot serve customers in 20 per cent, or 17,000, of those new condos.

“When we’re faced with condo developers unwilling to give us access for whatever reason – often it’s because of sweet deals our competitors have tried to lock them up with – we have no choice but to ask the commission to step in and intervene so we can provide choice to consumers,” said Mirko Bibic, chief legal and regulatory officer for BCE.

Now, The Globe And Mail is owned by BCE, so take that for what it’s worth. But if you do take a step back you see that Rogers is the clear target of this as they pretty much dominate when it comes to TV service in Toronto. Thus it wants to take some of that market away from Rogers. Not to mention get footholds into Home Phone and Internet services. Now Rogers didn’t provide a comment to The Globe And Mail, not that I am shocked about that, and neither did some developers contacted by The Globe And Mail. But you can bet that this will be very interesting to watch as Bell has raised a legitimate concern and it does need to be addressed.

Syrian Electronic Army Hacks News Sites Around The World

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 27, 2014 by itnerd

They’re back.

The Syrian Electronic Army which have had some high profile hacks over the last little while have struck again. This time they’re going after media outlets worldwide. Here’s what the Globe And Mail said:

Media outlets and websites around the world have been targeted by a hack that caused Web users to see propaganda messages for the pro-Assad Syrian Electronic Army.

Users attempting to access certain parts of the affected websites, including The Globe and Mail’s, encountered a message that read “You’ve been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)” and were then redirected to the group’s logo, an image of an eagle bearing the Syrian flag and a message in Arabic.

The group hacked third party software to get access to CBC, The Globe And Mail, The Daily Telegraph, CNBC, PC World, Forbes, OK Magazine, the Chicago Tribune and the NHL to name a few sites that got pwned. The software in question was made by Gigya and it allows social sharing and data tracking tools along with content delivery network services to about 700 Web publishers. I’m guessing that someone with Gigya has some explaining to do and those in charge are not having a happy Thanksgiving. They sort of explained what happened:

“At approximately 6:45 AM EST we identified an issue with our domain registrar,” the update reads. “An initial inquiry has revealed that there was a breach at our domain registrar that resulted in the redirect of the gigya.com domain for a subset of users. The issue has been addressed and is currently propagating through DNS.”

Essentially, the hackers were able to tell Web browsers searching for Gigya.com to go instead to another URL, one that hosted an image of the Syrian Electronic Army’s crest.

All of this is typical of how the Syrian Electronic Army pulls their hacks off. Net result, the pro Assad group gets their name in the news once again and a Silicon Valley company is in damage control mode.

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