A Geek With Guns

Views from a geek gun nut

Archive for the ‘Gadgets and Gizmos’ Category

HP/Palm TouchPad Goes on Sale July 1st

HP/Palm’s (I know the Palm name is dead but damn it I refuse to stop using it) iPad competitor, the TouchPad, is set to go on sale July 1st. I’m rather excited about this device because I think it’s one of the few new tablet devices that at last has something interesting to offer consumers beyond the capabilities of the iPad (namely WebOS).

It do foresee a problem with the price though as the 16GB model will cost $499.99 while the 32GB model will cost you $599.99. This is the exact same price range as Apple’s iPad which I believe to be a potential problem. I just believe it will be hard to justify the high costs of the TouchPad when the app ecosystem for WebOS is pretty poor (and most current apps being written using the Mojo API will run in a small window much like iPhone apps run on the iPad) and WebOS has very little penetration into the mobile market at the moment. At the price HP/Palm is asking it’s very unlikely I’ll buy one unless they offer a great developer discount.

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Written by Christopher Burg

June 10, 2011 at 10:30 am

iOS 5 May Warn About Unsecured Calls

Some chatter has been going around the iOS community about a possible feature in iOS 5 that would warn users of unsecured calls. The encryption used by GSM was cracked and a great presentation and demonstration (which I had the privilege of attending) were given about the crack at Defcon last year. The presentation is available on YouTube for free and is split up into four segments:

Obviously this feature won’t be able to detect if a government agent at the phone company is listening into your phone call (this is why we need secure point-to-point communication capabilities on all phones) it would at least let you know if your phone call is being intercepted locally.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Government in Your Phone

Happy days are afoot now. In 2006 the federal government approved the creation of the Commercial Mobile Alert System and it’s ready for action. On the surface it’s claimed to be a mechanism of alerting people in an area of a disaster. I’m sure anybody reading this blog long enough know that I’m very skeptical of anything the government does. First I find the following interesting:

A special chip is required to allow a phone to receive the messages, and soon all new phones will have the technology. Some smartphones already have the chip, and software updates will be available when the network goes online later this year, Genachowski said.

Why does this interest me? It interests me for several reasons. First is the design of this chip open for anybody to develop or is production of these chips controlled by one company that was granted a government monopoly? If the design of this chip isn’t open we have no clue what it can actually do. When the government controls something I can’t verify the abilities of I worry.

Another thing I find interesting are the levels of alerts this system can implement:

Presidential Alerts – Alerts for all Americans related to national emergencies, such as terrorist attacks, that will preempt any other pending alerts;

Imminent Threat Alerts – Alerts with information on emergencies, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, where life or property is at risk, the event is likely to occur, and some responsive action should be taken; and

Child Abduction Emergency/AMBER Alerts – Alerts related to missing or endangered children due to an abduction or runaway situation.

Combine this with the following:

People will be able to opt out of receiving all but the presidential alerts.

So what the Hell is this system supposed to accomplish? Obviously not warning people in an area of natural disasters because those messages can be opted out of. But if there is a terrorist attack in New York again I’m unable to opt-out of that message. I’m sorry but a terrorist attack in another state isn’t something I need to be warned about immediately while a tornado touching down over my house would be of some interest to me. The opt-out mechanism is backwards to say the last and that is also cause for suspicion.

Basically the government has legislated a new chip be required in all new cell phones yet have no released any documents that I can find that give the exact specifications of this chip or its capabilities. I’m guessing we’re going to find something additional functionality further down the road but I could just be cynical due to the history of government implemented projects.

What’s interesting is currently only AT&T and Verizon are signed up for this. Sprint and T-Mobile (who will soon be AT&T) haven’t which really makes me want to utilize my Sprint phone more.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

Tear Down of an FBI Tracking Device

I can’t express in words my love for iFixit. Somehow the guys there manage to get a hold of every device manufacture and create excellent tear down guides allowing people such as myself to perform self-repairs on many electronic gadgets. It seems that working with Wired the guys over at iFixit were able to obtain one of those Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) tracking devices and went to work tearing it apart.

The thing I was most curious about was the power source. It seems these tracking devices are powered by lithium-thionyl chloride batteries which I’ve never heard of until today. These batteries specialize providing long term power (think 10 to 20 years) to devices which don’t require a ton of power. That’s some pretty sweet technology if I do say so myself.

I was also surprised at the ease at which getting into the tracking device was possible. If I were the FBI and wanted to make a device that allowed me to ignore those pesky laws against illegal search and seizure I’d have epoxied the living shit out of everything inside to make a tear down practically impossible. It’s not like they need to worry about repairing these things as they have access to the government’s printing press as long as they can drop the word terrorism into their request.

The guys at iFixit it also have the following disclaimer:

Disclaimer: We love the FBI. We’ve worked with them on several occasions to fight crime and locate criminals. We’ve helped them with instructions on gaining entry into certain devices. We have nothing against them, and we hope they don’t come after us for publishing this teardown.

I also have a disclaimer… We (by which I mean I) here at christopherburg.com hate the FBI. We feel that no organization should be able to go beyond the law and the FBI has done that numerous times without consequences. The only way we’ll help the FBI is if we are subpoenaed and forced to do so. We have a lot against them including the fact that they’re run by a bunch of authoritarian assholes.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10, 2011 at 10:30 am

Amazon to Allow Library Lending of Kindle Books

The Sony E-Reader has had the capability to allow libraries to loan e-books to their customers for a while now. It seems Amazon wants in on this action and are now going to allow libraries to loan Kindle e-books:

SEATTLE, Apr 20, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — (NASDAQ: AMZN)– Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.

What I really like about how Amazon is going about this is any highlights or annotations you make on a rented book will be saved:

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

I’d say that’s pretty important because it would be a huge pain in the ass to lose any notes made on a book because the loan expired.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

Ad Supported Kindle

In their drive to make the Kindle cheaper Amazon is trying something new; an ad supported Kindle that will be sold at a $25.00 discount. The advertisements will be displayed on the users home screen and as screen savers but no advertisements will be displayed while you’re actually reading a book. This was a smart idea because displaying ads while somebody is reading would probably destroy the image of the product. If you get sick of the ads you can also pay Amazon an additional $25.00 to turn them off which was the smartest move they could make. At least that way you don’t have to worry about buyer’s remorse.

Overall this move was better than what I was expecting. The system I figured Amazon would create would involve periodically display ads between page turns. I though they would go with a system where every ‘x’ (x being an arbitrary number most likely higher than 10) page turns would display a full screen ad similar to magazines. Thankfully they didn’t go this route because it would be annoying to anybody who purchased the discounted device.

With all of this said $25.00 is not enough to make me put up with ads so I’ll continue to buy the more expensive model (with 3G because I like being able to download books anywhere). For those of you who don’t care though this may be a way to save $25.00.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Sprint to Get the Nexus S

It looks like Sprint is finally getting another decent phone, the Nexus S with WiMax capabilities:

Recently, we introduced Nexus S from Google, the first phone to run Android 2.3, Gingerbread. In addition to the UMTS-capable Nexus S, today we’re introducing Nexus S 4G from Google, available for Sprint. Nexus S 4G is part of the Nexus line of devices which provide a pure Google experience and run the latest and greatest Android releases and Google mobile apps.

When Google released the Nexus S I was pretty ho hum about it and still am. But the fact of the matter is Google provides frequent updates for their developer phones which means it’s the only platform that you can expect bug fixes with any consistency. Likewise having WiMax on a phone with stock Android would be a huge plus over the current 4G offerings (nothing like HTC Sense to help ruin a perfectly good phone).

It will be nice having an Android development platform available for Sprint.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm