Archive for December, 2019

2019: Year In Review

Posted in Commentary on December 31, 2019 by itnerd

At this time of year I like to look back over the past 365 days and pick out the stories that really got my attention. Now if you have something that you think that should be on this list, leave a comment with your thoughts. Now on to the top stories of the year:

Big Tech Under Scrutiny: This is the year where people pushed back against big tech. An example of this can be found with US Justice Department anti-trust investigations, Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren calling for companies like Facebook and Apple to be broken up, and tech execs making regular trips to Washington to testify to Congress. Expect this to continue in 2020 along with the possibility of some actual moves being taken to break up big tech.

Facebook Continues To Be Under Fire: 2018 Was the start of the #DeleteFacebook movement and that continued into 2019 as Facebook proved over and over again that it simply cannot be trusted to properly protect data, or use it in responsible ways. I for one hope that in 2020, Facebook is the big tech company that gets slapped by Washington as their behavior is simply unacceptable.

Apple Finally Listens To Their Customers…. Sort Of: It seems that Apple in 2019 actually stepped outside the reality distortion field to actually listen to their customers and give them what they want. The Mac Pro for example is a workstation class computer that as been getting rave review as it is everything that pro users ever wanted in that class of computer. The 16″ MacBook Pro finally delivered a keyboard that wouldn’t be prone to breaking, plus it also delivered performance that almost makes it the notebook to get. However, they still aren’t listening when it comes to areas like being able to upgrade your Mac, being able to repair your Mac, and they only slightly moved on having third parties repair your Apple gear. Thus Apple still has a lot to learn in 2020. And I’ll be watching for their mis-steps.

Canadian Telcos Get A Clue….. Sort Of: Canadians pay some of the highest prices on the planet for cell phone service. Which is why when the “big 3” telcos in 2019 started to roll out “Unlimited” plans where you would pay for a data bucket at full speed, then once you have exhausted that bucket you’d be knocked down to a much slower speed, that got a lot of people’s attention. Sure it’s not what the rest of the world gets as for example I can get unlimited 4G LTE data in India for example for about $12 CDN, but it was a marginal improvement over what Canadians were getting before from telcos who gave lip service to the word value. But the fact is that there is still room for improvement. And I’ll be watching to see how that improvement arrives. Starting with the Canadian Government’s promise to cut cell phone bills by 25%.

Data Breaches Abound: There wasn’t a day in 2019 where a company didn’t have a data breach of some sort. There were too many to list here, and that’s a bad thing. It’s also a sign that far stricter laws that punish companies severely when they don’t protect customer data are needed.

Hacks, Hacks, And More Hacks: When companies weren’t being sloppy in terms of how they handle data, they were getting pwned by hackers as that was also something that was out of control this year. My thoughts on this are similar to what I think about data breaches. Far stricter laws that punish companies severely when they don’t protect customer data are needed to stop this from being as insanely common as it is right now.

Reviews, Reviews, And More Reviews: This year was a busy one for me as I did 46 product reviews this year. On top of all that, I did the fifth annual IT Nerd Awards. Without giving too much away, you can expect to see much more of that in 2020.

Scams Are Everywhere: I spent a lot of time covering various scams that were delivered by email, text message, phone. etc. It’s clear that the bad guys are out there to steal your money, and because of that you need to be on your toes for 2020 and beyond so that you do not become a victim.

And now for some stats. The top ten countries that visited my blog in 2019 are:

  1. Canada
  2. United States
  3. United Kingdom
  4. India
  5. Australia
  6. Norway
  7. Germany
  8. Philippines
  9. Netherlands
  10. France

In all, people from 191 countries visited this blog this year and almost 1.1 million page views were served up this year.

And in terms of the top ten stories that were viewed this year:

    1. Don’t Fall For This Interac Scam That Is Delivered By Text Message [UPDATED]
    2. Rogers Rolling Out New Modem/Routers For Ignite Internet…. Why You Should Care
    3. Review: GTA Car Kits Pure Bluetooth Car Kit
    4. Hyundai Canada Updates Software Update Site To Support More Hyundai Canada Vehicles [UPDATED]
    5. Review: Rogers NextBox 3.0
    6. EXCLUSIVE: Is Apple Pay Cash Coming To Canada? [UPDATED: NO]
    7. How To Move Your E-Mail And Contacts Off The Rogers Yahoo/Oath E-Mail Platform
    8. How To Fix “Windows can not connect to the printer 0x00000057”
    9. Review: Logiix Blue Piston Bluetooth Wireless Speaker
    10. I Now Have Android Auto And Apple CarPlay In My 2016 Hyundai Tucson

A story about scams being the most viewed story of the year doesn’t shock me seeing how much I wrote about that topic in 2019. Rogers seems to be popular with three stories in the top ten. And two stories about Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in Hyundai vehicles were also in the top ten which I find curious. Clearly there’s a lot of Hyundai owners in Canada who care about Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. And I still see that printer problem that I wrote about years ago is still there in the top ten. Microsoft should really fix that.

Here’s to 2020 as for better or worse, the tech world is really going to be very interesting. And I will be here as always to comment on it.

 

 

The IT Nerd Award For The Best SUV Of 2019 Goes To: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Luxury

Posted in Products with tags on December 30, 2019 by itnerd

Hyundai has a three row crossover that is going to scare the dickens out of a lot of their competition in the form of the 2020 Hyundai Palisade Luxury.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It brings a stout engine, some really cutting edge tech, and one of the best interiors that I have ever seen in a vehicle. On top of that, I managed to get seven adults in it comfortably and the exterior stands out from virtually everything else on the road. The kicker is that I didn’t get the top trim to review which means that there’s even more that you can pack into this vehicle, all at a max price of $53K CDN. For a company that is known for packing a lot of content into their vehicles and pricing it at a level that makes it almost irresistible, Hyundai has outdone itself with the Palisade. That makes awarding it the Best SUV of the year an easy decision.

If You Have A Wyze Security Camera, Your Data Is Likely In The Wild

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 30, 2019 by itnerd

I guess we can’t end 2019 without talking about yet another company who somehow managed to leak data that’s tied to its customers. From CNET:

Security camera startup Wyze has confirmed it suffered a data leak earlier this month that left the personal information for millions of its customers exposed on the internet. No passwords or financial information was exposed, but email addresses, Wi-Fi network IDs and body metrics for 2.4 million customers were left unprotected from Dec. 4 through Dec. 26, the company said Friday.

The data was accidentally left exposed when it was transferred to a new database to make the data easier to query, but a company employee failed to maintain previous security protocols during the process, Wyze co-founder Dongsheng Song wrote in a forum post. “We are still looking into this event to figure out why and how this happened,” he wrote…

Among the data exposed in the Wyze leak was the height, weight, gender and other health information for about 140 beta users participating in testing of new hardware, Wyze said.

Amazing. And by amazing, I mean that this leak is amazingly bad. Why was this information needed from beta testers? That’s what I would like to know for starters. But back to the core issue. I’ve said it before and I will say it one more time. There need to be stricter laws to punish companies who let this sort of thing happen. Otherwise companies will just continue to do dumb stuff or not care about the security of the data that they are entrusted with. And customers will suffer as a result. Thus seeing as Wyze appears to be US based, I hope that some congressional committee decides to take a look at this, or somebody like the FTC decides to investigate Wyze and slap them silly. Because this nonsense has to end.

The IT Nerd Award For The Best Car Of 2019 Goes To: 2019 Mazda3/Mazda3 Sport AWD

Posted in Products with tags on December 30, 2019 by itnerd

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is rushing out to buy an SUV these days. Some people still want a car in their driveway. One that’s good on gas, handles well, and has a well appointed interior. Plus having a ton of safety features on board is a must along with tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In the case of Mazda, they have two choices for you. The Mazda3 sedan and the Mazda3 Sport. Both of which have the option for all wheel drive which is not exactly common in the compact space.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It doesn’t matter which form factor you choose, the Mazda3 ticks all the boxes and is a standout in the compact car class. It’s great on gas, has an interior that rivals luxury cars, has the safety that car buyers demand these days, and comes with the tech you want. Plus you get the option for all wheel drive which really makes it stand out from the rest of the cars in the class with no penalty at the fuel pump. All of that means that an SUV may not be in your future. And it makes giving the Mazda3 the IT Nerd Award for the best car of the year a no brainer.

The IT Nerd Award For The Best Accessory Of 2019 Goes To: Oral-B Genius X 10000 Toothbrush

Posted in Products with tags on December 30, 2019 by itnerd

You must be thinking that I am mad because I gave a toothbrush the best tech accessory award for 2019? But let me explain why the Oral-B Genius X 10000 Toothbrush is getting this award.

00069055127520_C1N0_COM

I am constantly looking for tech that really can be a game changer for the people who buy the tech in question. And the Oral-B Genius X 10000 Toothbrush is something that is a game changer. I’ve had electric toothbrushes before, but none of them got my teeth as clean as this. Plus none of them helped to push me to be disciplined about my brushing routine. And the results are impressive. My teeth are noticeably cleaner and my dentist and hygienist are impressed with the results. All because I use this toothbrush along with my iPhone to brush my teeth. Since great oral health has knock on effects for your general health, I would say that this is game changing stuff. That’s why I’m giving the best accessory of the year to the Oral-B Genius X 10000 Toothbrush. It’s not cheap, but it’s a great piece of tech that will make a difference in your life.

Life Labs Gets Sued After Getting Pwned

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on December 27, 2019 by itnerd

You had to know that after getting hacked that Life Labs would be facing a lawsuit of some sort. Now according to CBC, a class action lawsuit has been filed:

A B.C. man is attempting to launch a class-action lawsuit against Canadian Laboratory testing company, LifeLabs, one day after it announced a large cyberattack on its systems affecting the private information of 15 million Canadians.

Kenneth Morrison, a retired Vancouver computer technician, filed a notice of civil claim against LifeLabs Wednesday in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, alleging the company breached its contract with Morrison to keep his private information safe.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The company has 21 days to respond. And it will be interesting to see how they respond. The thing is that I think that they will have difficulty defending themselves given the facts that are at hand. Thus they might want to get the chequebook ready.

IT Worker With Revenge Fantasies Jailed For Carrying Them Out

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 24, 2019 by itnerd

Are you an IT worker? Does your company annoy you to the point where you think it’s a good idea to get some revenge against them? I would say think twice about that. And consider the case of a former Jet2 IT contractor with a grudge. He has been jailed for a cyber-attack on the company which he did to get revenge against the company:

Scott Burns, 27, of Queen Street in Morley, Leeds, was jailed for 10 months for his actions, which cost the company $214,000. The attack shut down Jet2’s computer network for 12 hours in January 2018. Burns wanted revenge for the firm’s treatment of him following an incident at a 2017 “Benidorm roadshow,” Leeds Crown Court heard. Details about happened at the event in Benidorm were not outlined in court. The court heard only fast-thinking by one employee at the Leeds-based airline stopped Burns’ actions being a “complete disaster” for Jet2. Burns pleaded guilty to eight counts under the Computer Misuse Act at a previous hearing. Judge Andrew Stubbs QC told Burns: “You intended to cause as much damage to Jet2’s computer system as you could. “This went far beyond being mischievous. This was a revenge attack for a perceived slight you had suffered.”

From my perspective, 10 months seems light to me. This attack harmed a company and thousands of employees. It cost them money, and likely led to angry customers, potential compensation for those customers, stressed staff and staff being abused by the public. Perhaps it should have been higher so that those with revenge fantasies think twice about doing something like this.

My Wife Came Across A Scam To Steal Your PC Optimum Points That You Should Pay Attention To

Posted in Commentary on December 23, 2019 by itnerd

I’ve written on numerous occasions about the problems that users of the PC Optimum rewards program have had with people stealing their hard earned points. And this past Saturday, these issues hit close to home. My wife and I were in a Loblaws store shopping for groceries when all of a sudden she showed me her phone. This is what I saw:

A718916E-B425-4C4C-9548-82E14F5B65D6.png

My wife for a few seconds thought this was a legitimate message as we happened to be in Loblaws at the time. Then decided to show it to me. And it’s a good thing that she did as this is clearly a phishing scam highlighted by the fact that the URL is malformed and clearly not something that Loblaws would use, and the fact that the English in this text is really of low quality. The area code is 819 which comes from the province of Quebec. Specifically the Quebec portion of the National Capital Region, and the Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay coastlines of Quebec. Major cities in the 819 territory include Gatineau, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières. But what is important about this is that many PC Optimum related scams seem to originate from Quebec. That to me is not a coincidence.

In the interest of science, I decided to try out this domain to see if I could get to it. I couldn’t from a Windows 10 virtual machine (I was doing this to protect myself from the possibility of malware infection). But I wondered if it was designed to respond to mobile browsers.  So I tried that and got nowhere as well. I finally decided to look up to see who owned the domain via a whois lookup. I got nothing back from that as well. So it is possible that by the time I investigated this, they abandoned this domain. Or they were shut down. It isn’t clear which is at play here. But what is clear is that this was a phishing scam. PC Optimum Points don’t expire as far as I am aware. But the scammers are using this as a call to action to get you to perhaps hand over your PC Optimum account password or some other information that would allow them to drain your PC Optimum points. Plus, I think it is safe to say that Loblaws would never contact you in this manner. Thus if you get a text message like this, I would delete it. But you could do Loblaws a favor by taking a screen shot of it and sending it to them via Twitter or Facebook as based on this message on this webpage they are aware of this and are investigating:

Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 3.52.55 PM.png

Thus it makes it plausible that this scam that my wife encountered was shut down by Loblaws. But it doesn’t change the fact that you need to be aware of this and other scams and be on your toes at all times.

Here Are Some New Year’s Resolutions From iRobot

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 20, 2019 by itnerd

As we reflect on the last 12 months and start to think about what’s in store for the year ahead, resolutions and ways to improve in 2020 are at the top of everyone’s agenda. Whether it’s adopting a healthier lifestyle, quitting a bad habit or staying on top of household chores, according to Ipsos, eight in ten (78%) Canadians have failed to keep past resolutions.

But why? Lack of time is one of the primary reasons many are failing to keep their resolutions but, thanks to iRobot, that can now change. iRobot’s Roomba saves users an average 122 hours per year of vacuuming. 

With the push of a button, Roomba will take care of all types of floors to make sure they’re free of any dirt, dust and pet hair, giving your loved ones time to focus on the things that matter!

Below I’ve highlighted a range of iRobot’s Roomba robot vacuums:

iRobot’s latest and greatest Roomba robot vacuums:

Brand New, Max Suction! – Roomba s9+: The Roomba s9+ with Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal offers customers the deepest clean yet through a combination of design enhancements, advanced 3D sensors and a powerful new cleaning system.

  • Hugs edges and gets into corners with new PerfectEdge Technology that finds dirt where it hides.
  • Offers the most powerful cleaning throughout the entire home with 40X the suction over previous generation Roomba vacuums.
  • Features an Anti-Allergen System that traps and locks dirt, debris and allergens from escaping from the robot or its Clean Base, preventing the release of dirty air back into the home.

Pricing Details:

  • Roomba s9+ with Clean Base™ Automatic Dirt Disposal – $1,649.99 CAD
  • Roomba s9 – $1,299.99 CAD
  • Clean Base™ Automatic Dirt Disposal sold separately – $499.99 CAD

 

Automatic Convenience! Roomba i7+: The Roomba i7+ Robot Vacuum with Clean Base™ Automatic Dirt Disposal takes convenience to a new level – automatically emptying into an AllergenLock™ bag that holds 60 days of debris and traps 99% of pollen, mold and dust mites – so you can forget about vacuuming for months at a time.

  • Using Imprint™ Smart Mapping, the Roomba i7+ robot vacuum remembers multiple floor plans and room names so users can customize cleaning jobs, and direct the robot to clean specific rooms by voice, when paired with Alexa enabled devices or the Google Assistant, or via the iRobot HOME App.
  • With Imprint™ Link Technology, the Roomba i7+ can coordinate vacuuming and mopping jobs with its mopping robot sibling, the Braava jet m6, for an extra level of clean.

Pricing Details:

  • Roomba i7+ with Clean Base™ Automatic Dirt Disposal – $1,349.99 CAD
  • Roomba i7 – $999.99 CAD
  • Clean Base™ Automatic Dirt Disposal sold separately – $399.99 CAD

 

Under $500! Roomba e5 ($499.99 CAD): The Roomba e5 robot vacuum features a premium 3-Stage Cleaning System that uses Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes, Power-Lifting suction and a high-efficiency filter to help thoroughly clean every day.

  • The Edge-Sweeping Brush concentrates on edges and corners as intelligent navigation and Dirt Detect™️ technologies help the robot get around furniture and focus on areas that need it most.
  • The washable dust bin design allows users to simply rinse away dirt and debris left behind.
  • The iRobot HOME App allows users to control and schedule cleanings, monitor cleaning activity, view cleaning history, and directly access customer support. The app also updates the robot with the latest software, so it’s always up-to-date with the latest features.
  • All Wi-Fi connected Roomba robot vacuums are compatible with Alexa enabled devices and the Google Assistant.

 

Create Christmas Magic With Interactive Augmented Reality App, Santa Was Here

Posted in Commentary on December 19, 2019 by itnerd

Artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) developer, Immersion VR, in partnership with AI and AR publisher, Charactr, today unveiled brand new, interactive AR mobile app, Santa Was Here, bringing the magic of Christmas home this holiday season. Available now in the U.S. and Europe for iOS, use your iPhone or iPad to record and save exceptional, multi-scenario videos of Santa Claus around the house with the ability to add personalized holiday greetings before sending and/or sharing videos to social media directly from the app. Whether Santa is caught landing his sleigh and reindeer in the backyard, seen dropping presents off under the Christmas tree, or witnessed magically disappearing into the night, Santa Was Here allows users to tap into their creativity and record videos right alongside St. Nick.

Here’s How It Works:

  • Download Santa Was Here from the App Store on your iOS device
  • Find the perfect spot in your home for the Santa model and chosen scenario. Using “Night Mode Filter,” you can record the desired scenario in the day time or with the lights on, then run the recording through the app’s filter to transform the video to appear as though it happened at night
  • When prompted, grant the app access to your phone’s camera and microphone
  • Choose the right angle and start recording
  • Edit and save your videos in the app’s gallery
  • Add a season’s greeting or holiday message before sending and/or posting to social media channels direct from the app

Published by Charactr (www.charactr.com) and developed by Immersion VR (www.immersion.pl), Santa Was Here is now available in the app store for iOS users in the U.S. and Europe and is free to download. Select premium features are available for purchase. For FAQ and additional information, visit santawashere.app.

To download the app, visit: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/santa-was-here/id1491731415

Share your best videos with Santa Was Here on Instagram by tagging @SantaWasHereApp and using the hashtag #santawashere.