Fitbit Refreshes Flex 2 and Charge 2



Fitbit LogoFitbit has continued the refresh of its fitness tracker range with new iterations of the Flex and Charge HR models. The Flex 2 is a direct replacement for the original Flex and the Charge 2 takes over from the Charge HR. If you were wondering, the Alta took over from the standard Charge.

Fitbit Flex 2As with the original the Flex, the Flex 2 comprises a small capsule tracker fitted into a range of bands, bangles and pendants to suit the activity. The key point about the Flex range is that its swim-proof, making it the essential tracker for the swimmer. As with the first one, the Flex 2 uses the same LED dots to denote steps taken, albeit in a different orientation. The new tracker auto recognises exercise and notifies on calls or texts coming into your mobile phone.  As before, the Flex 2 shows steps taken, calories burned and records sleep. I’m slightly disappointed that the wristband (available in four colours for now) doesn’t have a standard buckle to avoid loss, but it does appear to have been re-designed. Pre-order in the UK for just under GB£80. Expected to ship in October.

Fitbit Charge 2The new Charge 2 falls into FitBit’s Active Fitness range and takes the fitness tracker to the next level, with multisport tracking, cardio fitness level and guided breathing sessions. Of course it measures paces, steps, calories, steps, sleep and heart rate as the original Charge HR  (although the HR moniker has been dropped) and it now has connected GPS, which means that the Charge 2 can use the paired phone’s GPS to track routes. The Charge 2’s screen is customisable and there’s a choice of clock faces.

Leather BandAn improvement on the original is that the wristbands can be switched out, with a tasty looking leather band available (at GB£59.99 mind you!) The screen’s bigger as well and can show calendar alerts in addition to calls and texts. If the Charge 2 appeals, it can be pre-ordered for GB£129.99 for delivery in 2-3 weeks.

I’m currently testing the Charge HR, courtesy of Fitbit, and I’ll be reporting on my impressions of that soon.


GNC #1141 Electric Jet Powered Garbage Trucks



Audio Only Tonight

Mike Dell here filling in for Todd this week. I do the Podcast Help Desk and Mike Dell’s World Podcast. I have a stack of stuff for you in this episode of Geek News Central.

One thing I noticed tonight while getting ready for the show… Sites are wising up to the ad blockers. In fact Forbes.com will not let you look at anything unless you white list them or pay them. Not sure how I feel about that, but I know one thing for sure, I won’t be reading any Forbes articles anytime soon. Some sites are just lousy with ads and make it impossible to read them (Facebook) without an ad blocker.

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City of Lompoc Wants to Change Name to “Lompokemon”



City of Lompoc California sealThe city of Lompoc is located in Santa Barbara County in California. There is an effort being made to change the city’s name from Lompoc to “Lompokemon”. This could be a brilliant way to encourage tourists to visit the city. It also could easily be the reason why the town gets laughed at as this story gets passed around the internet.

The name change from Lompoc to “Lompokemon” was a request that was on the agenda for the city’s most recent City Council meeting. The request was removed from the agenda at the last minute because the city wants to get permission from Nintendo to use the name “Lompokemon”.

They are asking Nintendo for permission, instead of Niantic, because Nintendo owns the trademark for Pokémon. The City Council is not going to move forward on anything until they receive approval to do so from Nintendo. If Nintendo approves of the “Lompokemon” name, the request for the name change would be brought back to the City Council (where it will either be approved of or refused).

As such, many things are unknown. It is not clear exactly how long Lompoc would be officially named “Lompokemon”. It could be for a weekend, or maybe for an entire week.

I suppose if the result of the name change is a huge boost in tourism, the new name could stick around until Pokémon GO loses popularity. Maybe they could put together a walking tour that takes people to all the PokéStops and PokéGyms. The city of Lompoc has a lot of murals – and public art tends to end up as PokéStops.


GNC #1140 iPhone Zero Day Hack



Almost all iPhones and iPad’s have a serious zero day hack. It’s so bad you should update your phone NOW! The defense wall that Apple build has been breached in three different locations that can allow a simple link you click to compromise nearly everything in your phone. The was such a good hack that CyberArms Dealers where selling this to Governments. If your a diehard mac user time to buy some malware and anti-virus protection as your walls are not as well protected as you think they are.

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WhatsApp Wants to Share User Data with Facebook



WhatsApp logoWhatsApp updated its terms and privacy policy for the first time in four years. Some of those changes are likely to turn off users. In short, WhatsApp wants to share user data with Facebook for the purpose of using it to show you targeted ads. There is a way to opt-out of it.

WhatsApp posted an oddly worded blog post that describes more about what it is about to do. It tries to reassure users that they will still be able to keep in touch with friends and loved ones on WhatsApp. Next, it vaguely suggests that the new terms and privacy policy is intended to benefit companies that want to show you adds. From the blog post:

People use our app every day to keep in touch with loved ones who matter to them, and this isn’t changing. But as we announced earlier this year, we want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam. Whether it’s hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months, but need to update our terms and privacy policy to do so.

The wording implies that WhatsApp thinks that talking with your loved ones is an equally valuable experience as communicating with “businesses who matter to you”. I doubt many users are going to be convinced of that notion. No one joins a social media site or app because they simply cannot wait to connect with businesses and see more ads.

WhatsApp goes on to point out that they will share some user data with Facebook. It assures users that they have “rolled out end-to-end encryption”, and that user messages are encrypted by default.

WhatsApp also states that it won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and that it also won’t give your phone number to advertisers. Then, WhatsApp suggests that connecting your phone number to Facebook’s systems will enable Facebook to “offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads”.

If you are using both WhatsApp and Facebook, and you want to opt-out of this new change, you can. WhatsApp has instructions on how to do that directly from the app.


Instapaper is Joining Pinterest



Instapaper logoInstapaper announced that it is joining Pinterest. I use both Pinterest and Instapaper (rather sporadically). The biggest change that has been revealed is that Instapaper will be sunsetting Instaparser.

Instapaper points out that their core mission was to allow users to discover, save, and experience interesting web content. This matches well with Pinterest. Instapaper says that “joining Pinterest provides them with the additional resources and experience necessary to achieve that shared mission on a much larger scale.” Instapaper assures its users that nothing will change for them.

For you, the Instapaper end user and customer, nothing changes. The Instapaper team will be moving from betaworks in New York City to Pinterest’s headquarters in San Francisco, and we’ll continue to make Instapaper a great place to save and read articles.

Nasdaq reported that Pinterest Inc. said that it has acquired Instapaper, and that the terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to Nasdaq, Pinterest said it would “leverage Instapaper’s expertise in recommending articles based on user behavior.” According to Nasdaq, Pinterest said that Instapaper would continue operating as a separate app.

The announcement that Instapaper has joined Pinterest also included an announcement about Instaparser. Instapaper will be sunsetting Instaparser (their developer product). Instapaper has already ceased signups for Instaparser and will halt billing for existing customers. Instaparser will keep running until November 1, 2016.


Honor 8 Flagship Smartphone Revealed



Huawei LogoThe “competitively priced” flagship smartphone market got a little hotter today with the launch of Huawei’s Honor 8 smartphone in Paris. Priced at GB£369, the Honor 8 is moving into OnePlus’ territory and whatever you prefer, it’s good news for consumers buying unlocked phones who want power and style for less.

Honor 8Regardless of price, the Honor 8 is one good-looking phone. It’s a glass finish and appears stunning in the sapphire blue which all the hero shots and promotional videos use. Of course, there’s a midnight black and pearl white if you prefer something plainer.

In terms of spec, the Honor 8 is an octacore HiSilicon Kirin 950 CPU with four 2.3 MHz cores and four 1.8 GHz cores, supported by 4 GB RAM, 32 GB storage and a microSD slot. The display is a 5.2″ full HD screen (1920×1080) with very slim bezels on the left and right. On the back there’s a fingerprint scanner which can unlock the Honor 8 in less than 0.4s. In addition, two SIMs can be installed if needed

The Honor 8 is powered by a 3000 mAh battery which Huawei say will deliver over a day and a half of normal use and still over a day with heavy use. There’s fast charging too which will charge to 47% in 30 minutes, though it’s not terribly clear if this is a proprietary fast charge system or not.

Cameras are impressive on paper with a twin 12MP cameras on the rear and an 8 MP camera on the front for selfies. The Honor 8 has a wide aperture mode that allows the focus to be adjusted after the picture has been taken.

Connector is USB C (but only USB 2 .0). The audio socket is retained too but the slight surprise is the inclusion of an IR blaster to control TVs and other AV. Takes me back to the days of the Palm III. Wifi comes in all the current flavours – 802.11ac/a/b/g/n, 2.4/5 GHz, and there’s also NFC.

That’s it for now – the Honor 8 product video is below and the launch event is over on Facebook. Pre-orders are being taken at vMall and there’s a voucher offer worth GB£69.99.

With luck, I’ll be getting my hands on an Honor 8 for a hands-on review, so more information then.

 


OnePlus Teasing USB C Headphones?



OnePlus LogoOnePlus are up to their usual tricks of teasing new product announcements but in this case it doesn’t look like there will be long to wait. In tweet linking to a YouTube video, OnePlus says, “We’re preparing something special. Discover what’s next for on August 25.”

The video shows a vinyl record overprinted with what appears to be an earbud and cable, and a large “V2”. As there’s been much discussion lately about the loss of headphone sockets and their replacement by USB C, the speculation is that OnePlus are going to announce a USB C set of headphones. Judge for yourself.

The company has long offered a competitive range of headphones, including the higher end Icons. My money would be on a new version of those, though I’m less confident about the USB C connector. Whatever it is, there’s not long to wait…


Bold Euro Cylinder Smart Lock on Kickstarter



Bold LogoSmart locks have been gradually appearing on the US market over the past few years, with the Kevo Kwikset being one of the more popular. Over on the European side of the pond, it’s taken a little longer for smart locks to appear but they’re beginning to come onto the market from both established vendors and start-ups. Locks in UK and mainland Europe use different styles and standards from the USA so it’s not simply a case of rebranding an existing product.

Yale announced their entry into the market earlier in the year and you might have listened to my interview with them at this year’s Gadget Show Live. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, some of the early smart locks have left a great deal to be desired aesthetically, with boxy designs  and limited colour choices. Black anyone?

Fortunately, there are some smart locks beginning to appear that work with European doors, match the door furniture and look good. Case in point, the Bold smart cylinder lock which has just launched on Kickstarter. It’s a plug-in replacement for doors that use the Euro profile cylinder lock, comes in four different colours and looks like a door knob.

Bold Smart Cylinder Lock

The Bold uses Bluetooth technology so it unlocks based mainly on proximity of a smartphone or key fob using the Bold app. One of the big benefits of pure wireless (no keypad) is that all the electronics can be on the inside of the door, safe from both the elements and criminals. There’s no remote unlock feature so you can’t unlock the door from the comfort of your desk to let a neighbour in but you can invite or authorise them to use their own smartphone to unlock the door. There’s benefits of both approaches and you’ll have to think through your use cases to decide what’s best for you. A keyfob (say, for children) is available for extra cost.

Bold Key Fob

The Bold seems to keep it simple from a hardware point of view too. The Bold isn’t motorised so it doesn’t actually unlock the door itself, though it engages the handle with the mechanism so that the door can be unlocked (or locked) by turning the handle. The benefit of this is a much longer battery life (three years) and lower cost for the lock while eliminating the need for often troublesome moving parts.

The team appear to have given some thought to security, working with specialists Ubiqu and their qKey to provide a secure system. Can’t say that I’m qualified to comment further but it does provide some reassurance that the Bold team aren’t making it up as they go along. To see the Bold in action, check the video on the Kickstarter page.

If this interests you, the lowest price point currently available is €149. Just remember with all things Kickstarter, there’s a risk to your money so don’t spend what you can’t afford. You might also want to check the dimensions on your door to check that the Bold doesn’t foul existing door handles.

Personally I’ve mixed feelings about smart locks. While I know that most door locks can be defeated by the determined criminal, I’m still confident that once I close my front door behind me and turn the key, that door is going to stay locked. With smart locks, there’s still that kind of nagging feeling that it might automagically unlock itself…and of course a mechnical lock is still going to be working in ten, twenty, thirty years’ time. Still, I’m tempted…..


GNC #1139 Email Trail



Never have emails ever plagued one person more that Hillary Clinton. If she wins the White House their will be note paper for everyone and a shredder in every room. More on her email saga and of course all of the latest news and tech. You will also notice I am experimenting with the intro just a little. Enjoy the show.

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