Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Consider Benefits of Owning a ‘Burner Phone’

burner-phone

Despite all the buzz surrounding the new iPhone, many are considering something on the other end of the spectrum: a cheap, disposable, and prepaid mobile phone.

OK, so these “burner phones,” as they’re often referred to, may be an addendum to your pricey smartphone rather than a replacement for it, but these devices have some desirable benefits.

Maintains your privacy

While you might think a "burner phone" is something only a criminal may use to avoid being tracked by authorities – such as the drug dealers on a show like The Wire – law-abiding citizens may also appreciate the privacy awarded by a burner phone.

For example, you might not want to use your main phone number if you’re posting items on Craigslist or another classifieds site. After all, you’re opening up the possibility of unwanted calls or texts from strangers on your personal line. Instead, when the transactions are completed, you can simply dump (or “burn”) the temporary phone.

Burner phones are also desirable to those who use dating apps, as you might not want to give out your primary number to someone you don’t end up with. Sure, you can block someone on your main phone, but they could still contact you from another number.

Burner phones can be bought with cash and with no contract, plus providers that sell these devices don’t track personal data. Anonymity isn’t fully guaranteed, however, as burner phones can still be located over a cellular network by the temporary phone number, or logged whenever you call someone else’s phone via their carrier.

Other advantages

Aside from privacy, there are other reasons why you might consider a burner phone:

  • For emergencies: Thanks to a FCC mandate, every mobile phone must be able to dial 9-1-1 – even if you aren’t signed up with a carrier. Heck, you don’t even need a SIM card in the phone. And so a practical application for a cheap burner phone is to keep it for emergency purposes only. Toss it into your glove box and you’ll know it’s there, just in case.
  • Back-up phone: While some burner phones have some advanced features, most are barebones devices used for calls or texts only. Because most these devices don’t have big screens and advanced radios like 4G/LTE and GPS, they likely boast much longer battery life than a premium smartphone. This could be ideal for travelers, perhaps, or at least as a back-up phone if your main device’s battery peters out.
  • Low cost: Price is a good motivator, too. Rather than spend upwards of $850 for the latest iOS or premium Android device, pre-paid burner phones could be as low as $20 for the Motorola EX431G Tracfone, which includes a full physical keyboard and free double minutes for life. If you prefer a compact flip phone, the Samsung Entro is roughly $20 while the Kyocera Coast Prepaid Phone is $35. Pro tip: While your burner phone doesn’t have access to data, many social networks like Twitter and Facebook have a SMS option, so you can still be notified to get updates via text message.

There’s an app for that

Those who like the idea of a burner phone but aren’t quite ready to pick one up might consider an app like Burner, which allows you to create multiple numbers on your main smartphone. You might want one number for work, another for personal use, and a third for classifieds, shopping, dating, and so on.

Available at the App Store and Google Play, Burner is free to download and free to try. Additional time and numbers are available by in-app purchase (from $1.99) or a subscription for $4.99/month, which enables one burner line with unlimited calls, texts, and picture messages for one month. Be aware, however, phone calls use up your regular mobile phone minutes.

Read Article (Marc Saltzman | msn.com | 08/18/2016)

Europeans hold individual data privacy very high, which is not the case in the US. Some have begun to wonder, do they have it right? Well, only time will tell, though critics in the US say they’ve got it wrong, not surprising. But they also have trust in their government which is also not the case in the US. Analyze that!

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Russian Telescope Detects “Strong Alien Signal”

Strong-Alien-Signal

Signal detected a year ago from star HD164595, only 95 light years away and with at least one planet, but Seti scientists are scanning the area and have yet to find it.

A Russian radio telescope scanning the skies has observed “a strong signal” from a nearby star, HD164595, in the constellation Hercules. The star is a scant 95 light years away and 99% of the size of Earth’s own sun. It has at least one planet, HD164595b, which is about the size of Neptune and has a 40-day year.

Seth Shostak of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (Seti) in Mountain View, California, told the Guardian he was shocked to have learned of the discovery only now – the readings from Russian radio telescope Ratan-600, Shostak said, were taken a year ago.

Seti, a private organization, searches the skies for alien life and has been underwritten by US government divisions as diverse as Nasa and the Department of Energy. Operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences, Ratan-600’s primary area of focus is monitoring the sun, though it has contributed to Seti’s work.

The news came to international attention on Saturday through Claudio Maccone of the University of Turin in Italy, who attended a talk by the scientists who recorded the signal on 15 May 2015. Maccone passed data from the presentation to the science and science-fiction writer Paul Gilster, who maintains a blog about interstellar exploration called Centauri Dreams.

Maccone sent the Guardian his proposed presentation for the International Academy of Astronautics 2016 meeting on the subject of the search for alien life, set for 27 September. He will call for the permanent monitoring of HD164595. “The power of the signal received is not unrealistic for type I civilizations,” he wrote.

The phrase “type I civilization” is a designation on the Kardashev scale, named for Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev developed in the 1960s and described in English in his 1985 paper On the Inevitability and the Possible Structures of Supercivilizations. A type I civilization would be similar to the current development of technology on earth.

“Could it be an ET?” asked Shostak rhetorically. “Of course, but [Ratan-600] didn’t have a receiver that has any spectral resolution.” The receiver on the Russian radio telescope is very wide, which aids it in its primary mission of monitoring solar activity but also means that, like a terrestrial radio receiving a news station, rock’n’roll station and country station at the same time, it is difficult to discern which band is broadcasting at which frequency. “They have a receiver that would swallow a big chunk of the radio dial at once,” Shostak said.

Because the receiver covers such a big sweep of the radio dial, it is hard to tell if the signal comes from intelligent life.

If it is being broadcast across a large chunk of the radio spectrum, the noise is probably coming from a quasar or another source of stellar “noise”; if it is over a narrower band but very strong, it is likelier to be the product of intelligence.

Gilster said he was curious about the possibility that the signal could be caused by “microlensing” – a quirk of gravity that occurs when massive objects like stars or quasars are aligned behind another heavenly body.

“My own thought is that this is very possibly a one-time signal, much like the famous WOW! signal some years back,” Gilster said. On 15 August 1977, astronomer Jerry Ehman received a powerful radio signal from a group of stars called Chi Sagittarii; he circled the surprising spot on the readout and wrote “WOW!” The signal never returned.

“If it too doesn’t repeat,” said Gilster, “then we won’t know what it was, including the possibility of some kind of local signal whose source just hasn’t been figured out.”

Shostak said he wished he had been made aware of the signal earlier. “Why is it that we’re hearing about this now because one of the guys gave a talk in Moscow a year ago?” he asked. “Maccone’s explanation is that the Russians are ‘shy’. [But] it’s generally accepted procedure in the Seti community if you find a signal that you think is interesting, you call up people in another observatory and say: ‘Hey, here’s the position in the sky,’ and you see what happens.”

Gilster said his understanding was that the Russian team had spent the past year analyzing and confirming its data.

Shostak told the Guardian that Seti’s own radio telescope was scanning the coordinates in question in search of the promising signal as of Sunday night. That evening, though, everything was quiet.

The Russian radio telescope team and Maccone have been contacted for comment.

Read Article (Sam Thielman | theguardian.com | 08/29/2016)

Inevitably, such contact will happen --It’s just a matter of time. All we can do it hope that governments of planet earth don’t screw-up a first contact. It’s quite obvious that governments have secret agendas’ and who knows what they might do?

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Debut of Apple iPhone 7 Expected Next Week

Apple-iPhone-7

Apple is expected to show off a new iPhone next week when the company holds its autumn product launch event in San Francisco.

They sent invites for the event on Monday without confirming any details of the new product but traditionally announces one or two new iPhone models at its annual September event. It may also show new models or features for other products such as the Apple Watch or Macbook computer.

The Cupertino, California, company sold more than 214m iPhones over the past year. But sales are down from a year ago, and analysts will be watching closely to see what changes Apple has made in the newest models.

Industry sources expect the new smartphones to have no headphone jack, instead relying on headphones that connect wirelessly through Bluetooth or using the lightning connector. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said on Thursday that the move was “going to tick off a lot of people”. “I have cars where you can plug in the music, or go through Bluetooth, and Bluetooth just sounds so flat for the same music,” he told the Australian Business Review.

Apple is currently fending off a lawsuit brought by owners of the current iPhone 6 and 6 Plus who claim a design defect is causing the phones’ touch screens to become unresponsive and making them unusable.

According to a proposed nationwide class-action lawsuit filed Saturday, Apple has long been aware of the defect, which often surfaces after a flickering gray bar appears atop the touch screens, but has refused to fix it. The issue has been dubbed Touch Disease by iFixit, a repair company.

The plaintiffs linked the problem to Apple’s decision not to use a metal “shield” or “underfill” to protect the relevant parts, as it did on versions of the iPhone 5.

“The iPhones are not fit for the purpose of use as smartphones because of the touchscreen defect,” according to the complaint filed in federal court in San Jose, California.

Todd Cleary of California, Jun Bai of Delaware and Thomas Davidson of Pennsylvania are the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which accuses Apple of fraud and violating California consumer protection laws. They seek unspecified damages.

Apple did not immediately respond on Monday to a request for comment.

Read Article (Reuters | theguardian.com | 08/29/2016)

Even though smartphone sales are down, that’s no reason for Apple not to respond to this product malfunction. If for no other reason, they owe it to their customers.

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Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 is Stellar but Pricey

Stellar-but-Pricey

Samsung’s latest large-screened phone, the Note 7, is the latest addition to the stylus-toting premium phone line. Samsung provided The Washington Post with a review device. Overall, this phone is gorgeous and a productivity machine. But its high price tag may put some people off.

In terms of features, the Note 7 offers smartphone users the full package. Samsung’s screens are known to be stunning and this phone is no exception, with deep blacks and bright colors that give a vivid — if not always natural — picture.

Its 5.7-inch screen is noticeably big, making video viewing a pleasure. Even with a big screen, the phone doesn’t feel too bulky in-hand. I’m a rather small person, and while I definitely can’t tap the top of the screen while holding the phone one-handed, it didn’t feel too heavy to use. The phone’s call quality was good, as was the overall audio performance.

The Note 7 boasts a battery life similar to the Galaxy S7. I didn't get as much time with this device before writing as I have with others, so it's hard to make a final determination on the accuracy of that claim. But I feel safe saying that the Note 7 will get you through a normal day of use. But if you're doing something battery intensive — say, Pokémon Go? — you may still want to take an extra charger.

Like its older siblings, the Note 7 can be charged wirelessly using Samsung’s charging pad. It also has a “fast charging” mode that gives you a lot of juice in a short period of time. One key difference, however, is that the Note 7 has a USB-C charger. The upside of this is that you can plug the cord in either way — the cord will never be upside-down for the port. The downside is that you can’t use the old cords from your other Samsung devices to power it up directly.

The Note 7 also boasts a waterproof design. I dunked my review unit in the sink, and also used it (with the stylus, even) under running water with no ill effects. I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of using it underwater — the phone does pop up a little warning if the power port gets wet — but you don’t have to freak out if you drop your phone in a puddle.

The retina scanner

One of the big new features on the Note 7 is a retina scanner. To activate, you have to swipe up from the lock screen. When you scan your eyes, an LED light blinks — but don't worry, it doesn’t blind you at all. The phone still scanned fine with my contacts and my glasses, though the glasses did take a little longer. Still, it was faster than typing in a password — which the phone does still ask you to set up as a backup security method.

Is the retina scanner any better than the fingerprint scanner? Honestly, not really. The retina scanner works well, but so does the fingerprint scanner. This is a big phone, so the retina scanner does make unlocking it feel a little more stable, but if you're happy with your fingerprint you probably won’t see a compelling reason to switch.

The pen

The standout feature of the Note line in general is the S Pen, or stylus, that tucks neatly into the bottom of the smartphone. Samsung has made the pen more and more useful over the years, and Note 7 users can easily take handwritten notes, or annotate images on their phone.

The pen is fast and fluid, and almost as good as taking notes by hand in terms of responsiveness. I’m still faster with pen and paper myself, but it’s hard to deny the convenience advantage of being able to jot down a note on your phone. The Note 7 (like its predecessor) also lets you take notes directly on the lock screen, in case you have to write something down very quickly. If you like having a pen on hand, this may be the greatest selling point of the Note 7.

As compared to ...

Many reviews have hailed this as Samsung’s most beautiful phone yet, and that’s a fair assessment. I’d agree that the Note 7 is, all-around, better than the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge, just in terms of features it offers.

In terms of performance, the Note 7 is on par with the top smartphones out there. There is a video going around showing the iPhone 6s beating the Note 7 in a speed test. My own benchmarking gave the out-of-the-box Note 7 a slight edge over my year-old iPhone overall. In practical terms, I noticed that the Note 7 opens and (in particular) switches between programs with a less snap than the iPhone or the Galaxy S7 — but not enough to call it “lag.”

Not to mention, a phone’s worth isn’t solely in its numbers. It’s hardly enough to discount what is an otherwise gorgeous phone. Its only real drawback? The price. The Note 7 is up to $900 unlocked though carriers are offering deals of their own. At that price, you may reasonably expect it to blow past all other competitors. And while it edges out other phones on the market, that price tag may give you pause.

Read Article (Hayley Tsukayama | washingtonpost.com | 08/23/2016)

I agree with Hayley, though this is an absolutely awesome machine it has a draw-back, the price. And not being one who’s life revolves around a smartphone, there’s no way I would pay this price.

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EU Files Third Antitrust Charge Against Google

Third-Antitrust-Charge

The European commission has filed a third antitrust charge against Google, this time against its AdSense advertising business.

The EU regulator accuses Alphabet’s Google of abusing its dominance in search to benefit its own advertising business, which has historically been the company’s main revenue stream. The EC also reinforced its existing charge against Google’s shopping service, which the regulator says receives preferential treatment in search results.

European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate.

“We have also raised concerns that Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third-party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation,” Vestager said.

The commission said it had sent two “statements of objections” to Google and given its parent company, Alphabet, 10 weeks to respond. Google faces fines up to 10% of its global turnover for each case if found guilty of beaching the bloc’s antitrust rules.

Vestager also said the commission’s preliminary probe into Google Shopping has revealed that Google has “unduly favored its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages”, meaning that “consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries.

“If our investigations conclude that Google has broken EU antitrust rules, the commission has a duty to act to protect European consumers and fair competition on European markets,” Vestager said.

A Google spokesperson said: “We believe that our innovations and product improvements have increased choice for European consumers and promote competition. We’ll examine the commission’s renewed cases and provide a detailed response in the coming weeks.”

The EU’s concerns around Google’s adverts relate to the company’s AdSense for Search platform, in which Google acts as an intermediary for websites such as those of online retailers, telecoms operators or newspapers, with searches producing results that include search ads.

Google’s AdWords and AdSense programs, which formed the bulk of Google’s $75bn (£56bn) in revenue last year, have been on the EC’s radar since 2010, after rivals complained about unfair advertising exclusivity clauses and undue restrictions on other advertisers.

The EU’s executive branch is already investigating whether Google gives preferential treatment to its own products, including Google Search and Chrome, in its Android operating system. Device manufacturers are obliged to place Google Search and Chrome on the primary home screen of Android devices, as well as other Google apps, if they want to provide access to the Google Play Store - the single largest source of third-party Android apps.

The company is also facing complaints against its image search from Getty Images.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

In the digital era, there is a significant difference between Europe and the US when it comes to individual privacy. Europe maintains individual privacy as primary whereas the US, unfortunately, views businesses as primary in this regard. The result is that US tech companies must conduct business in Europe much differently, or face penalties.

The European commission, though lobbied and charmed, has maintained their position on privacy. To continue business in Europe, US tech companies must comply with their rules and policies or be fined and removed, simple as that.

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