Monday tech roundupWe start off this week with news of an unfortunate hack involving the SwiftKeyboard on Android phones. We then move onto reports about larger websites slowing downing the internet, many Apple Watches already up for auction, and Microsoft force-feeding Widows 10. Also this week, Box announcements and BBC’s iPlayer crossing into the future.

Samsung smartphones outwitted by keyboard hack

There is more and more news these days about Android being hacked and vulnerable, especially when these seem to be Android-based Samsung phones. The latest incursion involves the SwiftKeyboard – a touch screen typing app.

The hack works when the SwiftKey software is being updated, and the infection only takes if the phone is attached to a compromised Wi-Fi network – which isn’t so hard to pull off. The hackers are able to control the phone as privileged users and download and run malicious code.

Experts say that some 600 million phones are at risk. And you can’t uninstall or shut off the vulnerable keyboard. Updates to close the gap are reportedly on their way.

Return of the World Wide Wait

In the early days of the web it was all about waiting. That was largely because most of us used dial-up for the true slow speed Internet experience. Today, many, if not most, have access to broadband connections, so net access is pretty snappy.

Unfortunately web developers are taking advantage of these large pipes to cram richer and richer web sites – sites that run way slower than their leaner brethren. Sites these days are double the size compared to just 3 years ago. The culprits are tracking tools, more video, and interactivity.

Mobileis also part of the problem. In an effort to be mobile friendly, sites have many different size images at the ready so, when loading, the website can send the right size to fit the right platform. This redundancy adds bulk to sites and slows response time. The good news – the world of broadband is growing, speeds increasing, and prices falling. But maybe is it high time to also think about how much energy all those data farms need to keep up with these web riches.

Apple Watch – hit or miss?

I can’t remember a tech product more hyped up than the Apple Watch. According to some, it is a huge money maker and game changer, for others, is it a dud – short on features and lacking style.

Sales are estimated to have hit 2.8 million units worldwide. However, not all buyers seem to be too happy as more than 1,300 Apple Watches are currently on sale on eBay.

Gizmodo tracked this and found many that were hardly even used. One seller said, “this watch is just not for me”, another said, “I just wasn’t feeling it”.

Finally one anxious seller wants to unload the watch because he “simply [have] huge hands and find this difficult to operate.” Something tells me many tried to also play the supply and demand game but ended up losing.

Microsoft force feeding Windows 10 to select customers?

If your organization signs up with Microsoft as a so-called “Current Branch for Business (CBB),” you had better adopt Windows 10 quick. If you don’t upgrade within eight months, Microsoft won’t guarantee that in the future you’ll get security and bug fixes.

The move is a bit odd and I can’t imagine it will stick. It can take years for shops to move to a new OS. Part of it is all the work and money that goes into a migration, but just as important is being totally confident the new OS is bulletproof and compatible with your other bits and pieces.

Microsoft has three ways to service Windows 10 customers. Under CBB, you will automatically receive OS updates and fixes. Then, there is Current Branch, aimed at home and less demanding users which also includes automatic updates. Finally you can also choose when you want to upgrade – you do have to be a Windows 10 Enterprise Edition customer. After all, what better way is there to promote the pricier enterprise version?

Drop your Office files in Box

While Microsoft wants everyone to use Office 365 or OneDrive to store files, it also supports alternate approaches from partners. That’s where Box for Office Online comes in. This new service fine tunes the Box storage system for Microsoft files.

“Microsoft Office files are among the most uploaded, edited and shared files in Box. In fact, there are over a billion Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in Box right now, with millions more added each day!” Box said. “With so much work being done using Box and Microsoft Office, we wanted to make it even simpler for our customers to use our services together. Today, we’re introducing Box for Office Online, making it easier than ever for our customers to create and manage their Word docs, PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets securely from anywhere and on any device, right from Box.”

The whole idea is to make working with and storing Office files seamless. For instance, you can do all your edits within Box. That also means you can do it all from a web browser, without having to open any apps. Pretty handy!

This remote control is a total brainiac

In a previous edition of Monday Tech Roundup we talked about the possibility of scientists allowing our thoughts to control things, such as linking our brains directly to the cloud. Now, CNN covered one system that converts thoughts into text, so maybe we’re not that far off from that possibility.

The BBC has a less ambitious but still way cool project to use users’ thoughts to control their televisions. In this case the brainwaves will tell the BBC’s iPlayer tuning device what to do.

The viewer wears a headset that has a sensor to read and interpret brainwaves. Another sensor on the ear helps sort out the electrical activity in the brain, understanding for instance if one is concentrating closely on something such as a programming option. While it sounds like a gimmick for now, as the technology improves it could help people with reduced mobility better control their entertainment centers and it can be adapted to many other uses as well. Maybe the future Kurzweil is envisaging isn’t that far off after all.


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