Samsung unveils new Galaxy A7

Samsung-GalaxyA7

You might not know it to look at the US market, but Samsung isn’t doing well in the international phone business. The company has been losing market share to up-and-coming stars in the Eastern markets, while the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus stole expected sales away from products like the Galaxy S5. Samsung sold 40% fewer Galaxy S5 phones than it expected to since the device debuted last year, and its new Galaxy A series were designed to emphasize the metal frameworks and style factors that many have felt the Galaxy S family lacked.

To counter this, the company is introducing the Samsung Galaxy A7, a new smartphone that measures even thinner than the new iPhone 6, at 6.3mm. Data on the phone’s processor is being confusingly reported in multiple locations, so here’s the factual breakdown: the dual SIM version of the phone will ship a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor with eight 64-bit CPU cores (Cortex-A53) at 1.5GHz and 1.0GHz, and with an Adreno 405 GPU as well.

GalaxyA7-White

The version of the phone intended for Western markets will use the higher-end Exynos 5430 with a 32-bit Cortex-A15 plus Cortex A7 CPU clocked at 1.8GHz and 1.3GHz respectively. This version of the phone is 32-bit only, which means Galaxy A7 owners in Asia-Pacific markets may get 64-bit Android support eventually, but their Western counterparts won’t. The GPU on the Exynos 5430 is an ARM Mali-T628, a serviceable if not extraordinary GPU. In theory, both versions of the phone should be capable of leveraging all eight cores at the same time, provided Samsung enables that functionality.

Galaxy-A7Specs

Other features include a 5.5-inch sAMOLED screen (implying a resolution of 120×720), 2GB of RAM, a 13 megapixel camera with a five megapixel front camera, and a wealth of Samsung’s own custom software for voice control and “Auto Selfie” photos. Samsung also claims to offer a Private Mode (no word on exactly how private this is) and multi-app screen functionality, in which applications are run side-by-side, similar to Windows Metro.

Will the A7 fend off Xiaomi?

Unfortunately, the A7 seems like a phone in search of a problem to solve rather than an iPhone or a challenger to recent rival Xiaomi. On the Apple side, the problem is obvious — while it may shave off 0.2mm compared to the iPhone 6 and offer an attractive metal housing, the iPhone 6 has a higher resolution display, 64-bit software support, and a better CPU core. Meanwhile, Android phones like the Galaxy S5 offer better overall specs and performance — which leaves the A7 competing strictly on aesthetic appeal. The A7 ships with KitKat (Android 4.4), meaning there’s not even an OS advantage to using the later device.

Against Xiaomi, the phone looks no better. That company recently announced its upcoming Mi 4, a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 device with 3GB of RAM, a 3080 mAH battery, an infrared transmitter, a stainless steel frame, a higher-end front-facing camera (8MP versus 5MP) and a price tag of just $320 versus Samsung’s estimated $600 price for the Galaxy A7.

Compared to its opponents, Samsung is fielding devices with lower-resolution screens, less CPU power, smaller batteries, weaker cameras, and 32-bit CPUs, then trying to paper it over with software tricks and metal framing. It’s not that either of these are bad features, but they aren’t enough to make the Galaxy A7 an attractive phone, even compared to Samsung’sother offerings. The company promised to slash the number of phone models it sold by up to a third this year, but thus far it’s just cranking out more of the same minor variations, often with significantly worse specs.

Also, it’s time for everyone to dump 16GB as a minimum storage size. In a world where cameras regularly shoot at 1080p or higher, and phone operating systems can chew up five gigs of storage space, 16GB of initial capacity just isn’t enough for anyone but budget buyers anymore.

How to change your eBay password

eBay users need to change their passwords following a security breach. However, the process isn’t as easy or upfront as it could be.

ebay-password.jpg
eBay is asking users to change their passwords following a security hack that compromised a database with user passwords. So just how and where do you change your password?

eBay’s home page now sports a Password Update notice with a “Learn more” link to another page that explains what happened. But neither page links directly to the option to actually change your password, leaving users in a lurch if they don’t know what to do or where to go.

For all you eBay users, here’s how you can change your password:

  1. Sign into your eBay account at eBay’s home page.
  2. After you have logged in, hover over the down arrow at the top of the page next to your name. A dropdown menu displays a few options, including one for Account settings. Click the Account settings option.
  3. Your account page appears. On the left side, under my eBay Views, click the link for Personal Information.
  4. At the Personal Information page, a section called Account Information appears at the top with a setting for Password. Click the Edit link to the far right of the word Password.
  5. eBay prompts you to enter your email address or user ID. Type either one and then click Continue.
  6. eBay asks how you want to reset your password, either through email or a text message. Click the option you wish to use.
  7. Assuming you selected the email option, eBay sends you a Reset Your Password message. Click the link in the email. That link brings you to a page where you can enter your new eBay password. If you picked the text option instead, eBay displays a form to enter a PIN and texts you that PIN. Type the PIN in the appropriate field on that form, and the page to enter your new password appears.
  8. As always, try to devise a password that’s as strong as possible yet one you’ll remember. I know, I know, that’s not easy. As one idea, a good password manager can make the process of creating, storing, and using your passwords a lot more palatable.
  9. Enter your new eBay password once and then again to confirm it. eBay then prompts you to log in again with your new password.

You can shed a few steps off the process by not initially signing into eBay. Simply click the Sign in link at eBay’s home page. Then click the “forgot your password” link. eBay deposits you at the Reset your password page where you can pick up the process at Step 5 above.

In light of the security breach, eBay needs to make the process to change your password much easier and much more accessible. But for now, these steps should help you change your password without too much agita.

eBay Urges Users to Change Passwords After Hack

New eBay Logo
There is no evidence of unauthorized activity or access to credit card information in the three-month-old attack.

EBay is urging all users to change their passwords following a cyber attack that compromised one of the auction site’s databases.

According to today’s announcement, the database contained encrypted passwords, but there is no evidence that financial or credit card data was accessed or compromised, or that there was any unauthorized activity on eBay users’ accounts.

Still, eBay suggests that everyone change their passwords; users will be reminded starting today via email, the Web, and other channels.

The hack, which occurred between late February and early March, was detected only two weeks ago. EBay has since conducted “extensive tests” on its networks before issuing today’s warning.

“Information security and customer data protection are of paramount importance to eBay Inc., and eBay regrets any inconvenience or concern that this password reset may cause our customers,” the company said in a statement.

Earlier today, there was a bit of confusion as to whether this warning was accurate after a blog post about the hack from the eBay-owned PayPal was removed, CNET reported. It has since been reposted.

“We know our customers trust us with their information,” eBay said, “and we take seriously our commitment to maintaining a safe, secure and trusted global marketplace.”

The hack comes in the wake of the Heartbleed bug. Discovered in April, the flaw in OpenSSL left encrypted data open to scammers for more than a year.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 Could Be a Laptop-Killer

By Samantha Murphy Kelly 

 
Microsoft unveiled its third-generation Surface Pro 3 device at an event in New York City on Tuesday, with larger surface area than its previous model and is lighter than a MacBook Air.

The launch of the Surface Pro 3 comes less than a year after Microsoft unveiled the Surface Pro 2, which received positive reviews for being a powerful PC inside a tablet form factor.

“This is the tablet that can replace your laptop,” said Microsoft spokesperson Panos Panay during the event. “We designed it in thinness around every corner. This is faster than the Surface Pro 2 you’ve loved to date and is much thinner.”

The Surface Pro 3 is 12 inches, up from 10.6 inches, to increase productivity and weights 1.76 pounds, without a keyboard. It measures in at just 9.1mm and is the “thinnest Intel Core product ever made,” Microsoft says. It comes with a multi-position kickstand and a 2160×1440 screen.

It also comes with an updated trackpad: “We got no praise for our [last] trackpad. We heard you.”

In addition to an improved hinge, users can now tilt the screen to an angle of up to 150 degrees. The SP3 keyboard is different than before too, capitalizing on how it sits in your lap and cuts down on shaking that occurs when you type.

 

Surface Pro 3

Image: Microsoft

Meanwhile, Adobe’s Michael Gough gave an early look of Photoshop CC, which will be optimized for touch on the Surface Pro 3.

The company announced the news at its “small” Surface event, which will likely mark its launch into the into the small-screen tablet market with the Surface Mini.

Panay made it clear that the device aims to be both a tablet and laptop — saying it has “lap-ability” — and get rid of the confusion for consumers deciding which one to buy.

“[Tablets] are designed for you to sit back and watch movies, browsing the web and snacking on apps,” said Panay during the event. “Laptops are designed to do something … editing and making. Sometimes they come out clunky or beautiful, but that is a design point and they are made for that reason.”

“It doesn’t matter what store you walk into, the conflict exist,” he said. “What am I supposed to buy? … The response is ‘what is it you want to do?’ … You’ve been told you need a tablet, but you know you need a laptop.”

Panay noted that 96% of people who own an iPad also own a laptop, but the Surface Pro 3 promises both functions.

 

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3 sits on a scale alongside the iPad.

Image: Microsoft

“Today, we are taking this conflict away from people,” he said. “It would still have to be thin and light … it would have to be sexy, feel good … all in one package … and maybe a little bigger.”

Worse Than a Bug: Cockroach Code

[SECURITY SERIES] The Sneakiest Kinds of Malware

By John C. Dvorak

I do a few things to keep my Windows computer humming at full speed, including maintaining a clean registry using various tools such as Iolo System Mechanic and Glary Utilities. My current antivirus of choice is avast!. When I boot I actually do a CTL-ALT-DEL and look at the processes running in Task Manager to see if anything sneaky has gotten into the machine. While I’m there I kill a number of processes that are running for no good reason such as Skype, Dropbox, and other background tasks.

If I want to use Skype I will boot Skype.

Even with all this care I frequently run into a kind of browser-based malware that doesn’t necessarily show itself to antivirus software or much of anything. I call it cockroach code.

It generally takes the form of a browser hijacker. They become apparent when your browser starts acting up or slowing down. You see it when you open a new tab and discover something is in there besides a visual menu of common sites you visit. If a search bar from some alien search engine appears, you have a problem. You have a cockroach!

Often some of these hijack programs are listed in browser add-ons, extensions, or plug-ins. More often than not, they are invisible and need to be hunted down and expunged from your system.

Two of the bad actors that you will probably run into the most are Conduit Search and CoolWebSearch. Both are nasty pieces of cockroach code that embed here and there and are very elusive. They can ruin the performance of your computer because they are robbing cycles to report details of your activity back to base. Both deliver ads where they are unwelcome and on sites that normally have no ads. Companies that use these systems to advertise should be condemned.

The worse aspect of this code is that it hitches a ride with other software from download sites. Most download sites have become a mess of misleading links asking you if you want to download all sorts of alien code, none of which is what you wanted in the first place. In some instances it is almost impossible to find the download you want.

Google does not help. It will often guide you to an odd alternative site for commonly loaded code. For example, when you want a copy of Open Office you should only go to openoffice.org and none of the sites claiming to be the Open Office site. Google’s search results show’s ads first, all links questionable download sites.

Google

A lot of the genuine download sites are still cluttered with alternative things to download. Many of these “try it, you’ll like it” or “you need this” software is loaded with cockroach code that you end up installing by accident during the yes/no dialog box barrage.

What to do? Well, the best free tool I have found is the anti-malware/anti-adware product Malwarebytes. It’s a PCMag Editors’ Choice, considered best of breed, and I routinely use the free version every few months when I’m seeing performance issues within the browser environment. Best of all, it is one of the very few tools I have found that actually finds and removes all the instances of Conduit. No easy chore.

Do yourself a favor and clean up your Windows system more often. This product is a good start.

HD Voice Launches on AT&T May 23

Video

In less than a week, AT&T will make good on its promise to bring HD Voice calling to network subscribers.

Beginning May 23, the service provider will launch improved call quality on select Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) networks.

The system, which differs from T-Mobile’s approach, is tied to VoLTE, which turns voice calls into Internet data on the new 4G LTE network.

Initially, HD Voice will be made available to Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini owners in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and is limited only to calls between HD Voice-capable devices.

The rollout will continue to expand on a market-by-market basis; more compatible phones will also be announced in the future.

“At AT&T, you won’t have to choose between faster data speeds and crystal clear conversations,” the company said. “HD Voice customers can simultaneously talk while surfing the Web at 4G LTE speeds, all on the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network—it’s the best of both worlds.”

During the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, AT&T wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega told the crowd that the the Asus Padfone X would be the first device to support the new calling system. However, today’s announcement made no mention of the phone-tablet combo, which is expected to launch on the network sometime this year.

T-Mobile and Sprint have also begun rolling out their own versions of HD Voice. The Un-carrier got started in early 2013, delivering improved call quality for folks carrying an HTC One S, Samsung Galaxy S III, or Nokia Astound.

And Sprint counts Kansas City, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore among its first HD Voice customers, with 10 compatible devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy Mega, HTC One Max, LG G Flex, and Netgear Zing Mobile Hotspot.

How to make free VoIP calls on Android — without Google

Free VoIP Calls AndroidDid you feel it? Something scary happened this week.

Google pulled the plug on public access to its XMPP network. Holy tech jargon, Batman! That sounds like a bunch of nonsense, I know.

Allow me to explain: Up until yesterday, Google allowed third-party apps and services to tap into that aforementioned network — the mythical XMPP — which in turned allowed them to provide you with free Internet-based phone service. Those of us who used an inexpensive little box called the OBi to get free home phone service have already dealt with (and moved on from) the change.

But the switch-off also affected apps that offered free VoIP calling from mobile devices — including the popular Groove IP app for Android. And since Google has bafflingly still not opened up free voice calling via Hangouts for Android (cough, cough, WHAT THE HELL GOOGLE, sneeze), that leaves us without an easy and free way to make calls that don’t eat up mobile minutes.

Well, fear not, my friends: There is an answer. And it comes from the same app that used to give us that free VoIP calling via Google.

Oh, yes: It’s trusty ol’ Groove IP. The company has pushed out a new update that lets you link its app up with a free calling service called Ring.to. When you open the app after the update, it’ll prompt you to sign up for an account and pick a new phone number (an option that’s apparently exclusive to Groove IP users). The whole process takes about 20 seconds and involves no personal details beyond your name and email address.

Then, shazam: You’re back in business, sitting at a dialer and ready to make or receive calls over the ‘Net. No charges, no hidden fees.

Free VoIP Calls Android - Groove IP

Now, there is one noteworthy downside to this setup: By default, you’re stuck using a newly assigned phone number — not your own familiar digits. That means any calls you make via the service will come from that new number, and anyone who wants to call you on the VoIP service (as opposed to your regular mobile service) will need to dial your new number, too. Not quite as convenient as the old all-in-one Google Voice forwarding solution.

You can port your Google Voice number over to Ring.to if you want, though I’m not sure I’d recommend that for most people. The best way to look at this, I think, is as an emergency backup solution for when you’re low on mobile minutes and don’t want to rack up extra charges (especially if you use a low-cost and low-minute prepaid plan like I do). You’ll just have to accept the fact that any calls you make will come from an unusual number, which isn’t ideal but is certainly better than nothing.

And with any luck, it’ll be a short-term solution — just until Google comes around and delivers voice calling via Hangouts for us lowly Android rabble (sneeze, snort, snore).

The free calling is available through both the free-and-ad-supported Groove IP app and the $5 pro version of the program. Both versions of the app integrate nicely with the native Android dialer and allow you to set up rules for when VoIP-based calling will kick in.

Happy dialing, my fellow freebie-lovers!

How Do I Submit Net Neutrality Comments to the FCC?

The FCC says it wants to hear from you on net neutrality. But how do you do that? Here are all the details.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality: (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.

The FCC on Thursday moved ahead with a controversial net neutrality proposal that would put open Internet rules back in place – with a few caveats.

During a contentious open meeting, Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners stressed that the agency’s approval of the net neutrality rules was just a starting point. Final rules will not be voted on and put into place until after a 120-day public comment period. The FCC accepts comments from individuals and large corporations alike, so if you feel strongly about the issue, now is the time to submit your thoughts.

“This is your opportunity to formally make your point on the record,” Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said yesterday. “You have the ear of the entire FCC. The eyes of the world are on all of us. Use your voice and this platform to continue to be heard.”

How do you actually do that?

  • A list of open proceedings is available on fcc.gov/comments.
  • The net neutrality rulemaking is Proceeding No. 14-28 and is known as “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.”
  • Click “14-28” and it will bring you to the FCC’s electronic filing system.
  • Type in your name, address, comment, and hit continue. Note that submitted comments will be part of the public record and available online.
  • That form supports comments of up to several paragraphs. If you have more to say, and want to include attachments, navigate to the “Submit a Filing” page, which supports more lengthy comments. Just make sure you include the 14-28 proceeding number. If your comments are more than 10 pages, the FCC recommends that you include a short summary up front.
  • If you prefer to submit via mail or in person, you can mail your comments to FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch at 445 12th Street, SW Room TW-B204, Washington, DC 20554. Or, you can hand deliver them to 236 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Suite 110, Washington, DC 20002 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET.

The deadline for the first round of comments is July 15. A second round of reply comments – where you can address some of the issues people brought up in the first round – will run until Sept. 10.

People have not wasted any time submitting comments; hundreds have already been filed since yesterday. A number of filers appear to be using the form provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that expresses concern about a pay-to-play Internet.

Others are urging the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecom service rather than an information service (also known as Title II or common carrier). This would give the FCC more authority over broadband providers than it has today, but it’s a highly contentious issue and likely faces a huge fight from ISPs if the commission goes in that direction.

If you’d like to peruse the entire notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), meanwhile, the FCC released it late last night.

 

Apple updates OS X Mavericks to 10.9.3, brings better 4K support

OS X Mavericks

4K resolution: is a generic term for display devices or content having horizontal resolution on the order of 4,000 pixels.Several 4K resolutions exist in the fields of digital television and digital cinematography. In the movie projection industry, Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) is the dominant 4K standard.

Apple’s newest and least cat-themed operating system in quite some time, Mavericks, has been rolling along. Apple changed the big-name OS game when it released Mavericks for free, laughing at Microsoft’s now-arcane purchasing policies. Today, Apple updated Mavericks to 10.9.3, bringing a few new changes to the operating system.

Overall, the update is small in scope. It brings better support for 4K displays — which, at least, is something we’ll all need sometime down the line. The update also bundles Safari updates into the OS update, as opposed to leaving Safari as a standalone as it has been in the past. Padding the update, 10.9.3 will allow OS X and iOS to sync calendars and contacts using a USB connection, making life just a little more pleasant for those of us who preferred hard-wire transfers rather than this fancy cloud business everyone keeps talking about. Finally, a host of stability and reliability improvements have been made for things you likely would not have noticed in the first place.

To grab the update, you can click your computer’s Apple icon and hit Software Update, or you can load up the App Store and grab the update that way. If you’re one of those people that are stoked to sync your calendars and contacts through a USB cable, you can head over here and update to 10.9.3 via the most tedious option.

Let us know what you think of the update in the comments section below, which does not provide the option to upload your comments with a USB cable.