Archive for Samsung

Samsung & Roku Smart TV’s Are Vulnerable To Pwnage Study Finds

Posted in Commentary with tags , on February 8, 2018 by itnerd

Consumers Reports is running a story that claims that smart TV’s made by Samsung and Roku have security flaws in them that make them easy to pwn:

Consumer Reports has found that millions of smart TVs can be controlled by hackers exploiting easy-to-find security flaws. The problems affect Samsung televisions, along with models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV smart-TV platform, as well as streaming devices such as the Roku Ultra. We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn’t understand what was happening. This could be done over the web, from thousands of miles away. (These vulnerabilities would not allow a hacker to spy on the user or steal information.) The findings were part of a broad privacy and security evaluation, led by Consumer Reports, of smart TVs from top brands that also included LG, Sony, and Vizio. The testing also found that all these TVs raised privacy concerns by collecting very detailed information on their users. Consumers can limit the data collection. But they have to give up a lot of the TVs’ functionality — and know the right buttons to click and settings to look for.

Well, that’s not good. And it reinforces why I will never have a smart TV in my home. Though I will admit that I do have a Roku device which I use frequently. But that’s likely not going to get disconnected anytime soon.

Having said that, Roku shot back at this report very quickly by saying that there’s no risk and giving details on how one can protect themselves. Which to me seems a bit counterintuitive seeing as there’s supposedly no risk according to the company. Samsung on the other hand had something different to say:

In an emailed statement, Samsung said, “We appreciate Consumer Reports’ alerting us to their potential concern,” and that the company was still evaluating the issue. The company also said it would update the API to address other, less severe problems related to data security that CR uncovered. Those changes “will be in a 2018 update, [with timing] to be determined, but as soon as technically feasible,” the spokesman said.

The bottom line is this. If you put anything on the Internet, your car, a light bulb, or whatever, it can get pwned by hackers. Thus before you put anything on the Internet, think long and hard about the risk that may present to you. Because this sort of thing isn’t going to go away anytime soon.


Samsung Boss Gets Sprung From The Clink

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 6, 2018 by itnerd

Remember when Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong got tossed into jail for five years over bribery charges. Well he just got sprung from jail yesterday:

Lee Jae-yong, a 49-year-old billionaire, was found guilty of bribery and other corruption charges in August and sentenced to five years in prison. But a higher court on Monday cut the sentence to two and a half years and suspended it for four years.

Great. I guess this billionaire got off easy. Crime does seem to pay.


Some Samsung Galaxy Note 8 & Galaxy S8 Plus Reportedly Shutting Down & Not Powering Up Again

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 30, 2017 by itnerd

It seems that Samsung might have phone issues again. The good news is that they’re not blowing up. The bad news is tha Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8 Plus units in the hands of customers are  reportedly refusing to charge, leaving them with dead devices.

Here’s a YouTube video that someone posted of this phenomena:

This is being reported by AndroidAuthority who says the issue occurs after the phone falls to 0% battery and switches off, following which the device becomes completely unresponsive. It’s not clear how widespread the problem is. But Samsung is swapping affected phones. Thus if this happens to you, your best course of action is to reach out to Samsung for a replacement.

Review: Samsung 850 EVO Pro 2.5″ SSD

Posted in Products with tags on November 2, 2017 by itnerd

As part of fixing this problem with my wife’s MacBook Pro, which led me to fixing an even more serious problem, I replaced the Samsung 850 EVO drive that I popped into it with a Samsung 850 EVO Pro that I had lying around. Now, when you toss the word “pro” into a product name, it implies that it should be better, faster, and stronger. So, is it all of that? Let’s start with the main differences between the two drives:

  • The 850 EVO Pro has faster sequential read speeds of 550 MB/s vs 540 MB/s for the 850 EVO.
  • The 850 EVO Pro consumes slightly less power when reading or writing. In this case, 3.3W reading and 3.4W writing for the 850 EVO Pro versus 3.7W reading and  4.7W writing for the 850 EVO.
  • The 850 EVO Pro is rated to last 2 million hours versus 1.5 million hours for the 850 EVO.
  • The 850 EVO Pro has a 10 year warranty versus the 5 year warranty that the 850 EVO has.

So in short, the 850 EVO Pro will consume less power, is a bit more durable, and reads data a hair faster. To test the latter, I I gave my wife her MacBook Pro back after I dropped the 850 EVO Pro in and asked her if she could tell the difference. She couldn’t. But I did note some minor speed gains here and there when I tested it before handing her MacBook Pro back to her. But the differences aren’t substantial enough that the average user would notice at all.

So given that in the Samsung 850 EVO Pro is somewhere between an 18% – 23% price premium over the 850 EVO of a similar size, is there a reason to buy this drive? Well, if you need an SSD with a much longer warranty, lower power consumption and increased durability, then there is a reason to get the 850 EVO Pro. Those are the things that will appeal to people who beat up their hardware or want to get every bit of battery life out their laptop that they can. Or they simply want peace of mind which is a valuable thing to have. If however you are looking for a massive speed boost, look at the much cheaper 850 EVO as it is almost as fast as the 850 EVO Pro, has a still serviceable 5 year warranty, and you can pocket the cost difference for a night out with your significant other. In fact, for most people out there, I would recommend the latter path.

Why A Swelling MacBook Pro Battery Is No Laughing Matter

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 1, 2017 by itnerd

Last night I was fixing a problem with my wife’s MacBook Pro when I came across a really serious issue. But let me start with the issue that led me to this serious problem. My wife updated to macOS High Sierra, but something went sideways with the conversion from HFS+ to APFS. Thus the fastest way to remedy that was to take an SSD (in this case a Samsung 850 EVO Pro that I had lying around) and clone the data from the SSD that I installed in her MacBook Pro a while ago and swap the drives. That went off without a hitch. But when I cracked open the case to swap the drives, the case literally sprung open. It shouldn’t do that. Ever. Thus I knew that I had an issue. When I examined the computer, I found that the battery had swelled beyond its normal size. I snapped a photo of the bad battery and the replacement that I sourced: 

If you click the photo, you can see the swelling. The battery at the top is the one that came out of my wife’s MacBook Pro. The bottom one is the replacement. You can see the swelling that I am talking about in the top battery while the bottom battery is completely flat. Here’s why this is a very, very bad situation. In general, a swollen battery occurs when the battery’s cells are overcharged, as lithium-ion batteries “react unfavorably to overcharging,” according to Don Sadoway, Professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT as Professor Sadoway explained to Electronics WeeklyNow, how do you know that you have a battery in this state? The most common things that you will notice will be any or all of the following:

  • The MacBook Pro will run hotter than normal.
  • The trackpad on older MacBook Pros that have a physical button will fail to click or be difficult to click.
  • The battery “says service” now or “replace now.” More details on that can be found here.

I quizzed my wife about this and she noticed the first two items but dismissed both. The problem is that you should never dismiss any of these as not being big deals. A swollen lithium ion battery is a fire hazard and is potentially dangerous, even if removed from the equipment in question. It can explode or catch fire at any time. Thus you shouldn’t fool around with a battery in this state. Any swollen battery should be removed from service IMMEDIATELY, placed in a location where fire would not be a problem (note – Lithium fueled fires burn very, very hot!!), and disposed of ASAP.

So in my case, as soon as I discovered this, I reached out to a company called iRepair who repairs iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. I ended up at their Mississauga location who sold me a new battery for $140 CDN. Installation is trivial if you have the proper tools. This link will walk you through the process. Two things that I should point out. First, you need a special tri-point screwdriver that will allow you to unscrew the three screws that hold the battery in. If you don’t have one. Get one as you can damage the MacBook Pro if you don’t have one. My suggestion would be to get a battery kit that includes the screwdriver that you need. Next, you should cross reference the serial number of the MacBook Pro to verify that you have the right battery for your MacBook. That’s important as these batteries can be different for MacBooks that visually look the same.

Now the entire process took me 10 minutes. And my wife will not only have a working MacBook Pro from an OS standpoint, but she will also have a MacBook Pro which will have the maximum battery life that it is capable of. This should give her another year or two of life out of this notebook. That’s a good thing. Finally, I will be taking the old battery to a City of Toronto facility to be disposed of properly. You can find a list of those facilities here. Your city or town likely has similar facilities. But under no circumstances should you simply throw an old battery into the trash. Let me reiterate that a battery in this state is dangerous. It could catch fire at any time and needs be disposed of properly. Even if it wasn’t dangerous, it has chemicals that shouldn’t get into the environment, so it needs to be disposed of properly.

The bottom line is this. A swelling MacBook Pro battery is not trivial. Keep an eye out for the symptoms and take action if you see them. If you don’t feel comfortable diagnosing this and swapping the battery, take it to an Apple Store or your local Apple dealer. But under no circumstances should you ignore it as really bad things will happen to you if you do.


Samsung Boss Gets Five Years In The Clink

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 28, 2017 by itnerd

Something that I missed on Friday was the fact that Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong who got pinched a while back on bribery charges is going to the big house for five years after being found guilty. It’s not clear who will run Samsung at this point. I say that because Mr Lee’s father has been on sick leave following a heart attack in 2014, and although Mr Lee has two daughters, it’s not known if they’re considered Chairman material. Until that is sorted, Samsung is kind of hobbled.

Oh for what it’s worth, Samsung shares went down one percent on the verdict.

Samsung Introduces Galaxy Note 8

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 23, 2017 by itnerd

Hoping to rebound from their last Note series phone that blew up in their faces, Samsung today announced the Galaxy Note 8. From where I stand, it isn’t a huge departure from the ill fated Note 7. Here’s the key specs:

  • 6.3-inch display with a resolution of 1440 x 2960
  • Octa core processor
  • 6GB Of RAM
  • 64GB of storage (expandable)
  • Android 7.1.1
  • Dual 12MP rear camera
  • 8MP front camera
  • Iris scanner, fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, SpO2
  • IP68 water/dust resistant, stylus
  • Heaphone jack
  • USB-C

Pre-orders for the Note 8 start today. You’ll likely get your hands on one if you pre-order or walk into a store on September 15th. Customers that pre-order between August 23rd and September 14th will receive a free 128GB Micro SD card and wireless charger. But that depends on who you get the phone from. Expect to pay $1299 for one unlocked.

Samsung has to prove that it can restore the Note name to its former glory as it got hammered pretty badly last year. This is their chance to do so and the whole world will be watching for anything that may go sideways.