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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Pushing Power Back into The Grid



Phase Two Array ResizeI have always been fascinated by solar power. There’s something quite intriguing about the idea of simple sunlight hitting a solar panel and instantly producing electricity.

Home solar systems can take a few different forms. There are power backup systems that require the use of battery storage, as well as systems that allow people the luxury of electricity that live completely off-grid. Today, the most popular form of solar by far is known as grid-tie or Net Metering.

Grid-tie Net Metering

With grid-tie net metering solar power systems, no batteries are used. Grid-tied solar panels feed power back directly into the public electrical grid and can actually make the power meter run backwards. The more solar panels integrated into the system, the more potential power can be fed back into the connected electric grid. Power bills can either be reduced, or in some cases, completely zeroed out, depending on local electric power company policies.Solar Phase One

Solar panels produce DC or direct current. The power grid is AC or alternating current. Therefore, to sell power back to the electric utility, it is necessary to convert the DC power coming from solar panels into AC so it can be fed into the power grid. This is accomplished with DC to AC power inverters.Inverters Resize

I recently visited a home solar system installation where the home owner has been slowly expanding his net metering system over the past seven years. He initially began seven years ago with forty-three 100 watt 12 volt solar panels, placed on top of his workshop.

With this first system, it was necessary for him to run wires down the length of the interior roof to a bank of mounted micro-inverters that needed to be protected from the weather. One of the lessons he learned from this initial installation was that lengthy wires carrying 12 volt DC results in power loss. The longer the lines, the more the efficiency drops. Higher voltages don’t experience as much line loss.

The best way around this problem is to mount weatherproof micro-inverters directly to the backs of the solar panels. Once the power is converted to 120 volts AC, the length of the wires to the grid connection point are somewhat less critical because the voltage is higher.Grid Tie Inverter Resize

With the second phase of his foray into solar, he built a rack on a metal pole complete with a sun tracking mechanism that he built and wrote control software for himself. The rack contains nine higher efficiency 280 watt 24 volt panels with weather proof micro-inverters attached to the backs of the panels.

The weatherproof micro-inverters are of a modular design that can allow additional inverters to be plugged in to the to the system. The rack-mounted system produces as much power as the workshop roof-mounted panels, even though they have less surface area, primarily because they are higher-efficiency panels.Solar Porch Canopy

He is currently working on phase three of his system, which consists of panels that form a sort of porch canopy over the garage door entrance to his workshop.These are also 280 watt panels, each with its own micro-inverter. He is in the process of slowly adding additional panels to continue expanding his overall system capacity.Meter Output

At the moment when I took this picture of the system output meter, the total output was about 5.4 kilowatts.

A great way to learn more about solar panels, inverters and net metering is YouTube. Good search terms include solar power, grid-tie, and inverter.

Many recreational vehicle enthusiasts have developed a strong interest in attaching solar panels and power inverters to their RV’s, which can allow them to have a measure of generator-free and thus noise-free AC power and engage in extended off-grid camping.


Samsung Galaxy S7 active Review



s7activeThe Samsung Galaxy S7 active review unit from AT&T is by far the best model of the Samsung S7 family. If you lead an active lifestyle, this phones shell is designed from the ground up to take a beating. We where specifically asked by the AT&T team to be rough with the phone which is a little odd.  With great hesitation we dropped it from chest height to a concrete floor. The rugged shell and shatter resistant screen took the fall with nary an issue.

The phone comes in three designs. I had the camo design, and everyone that played with it kept looking at the skin and asking where I got the cover. When I told them it is designed that way everyone’s comment was like wow smart.

Just holding this phone you can tell that Samsung built this for folks that are either rough on phones, work construction etc. You will not need a secondary case with this phone. I also prefer the physical buttons on it, as I could easily navigate the phone while not having to look at the screen.  Everything you have heard about the Samsung S7 series is included as far as the technology of this phone.

For the sportsman you do not have to worry about this getting wet in fact if your waders get flooded out the phone can survive being submerged in water of up to 5 feet for 30 minutes with the IP68 rating. I let my son go boogie boarding with this in his key pouch and the phone worked like a champ.

All of the tech specs can be found on the AT&T website. But let me give this phone my highest recommendation. It is the first time in a very long while that I will regret having to ship one back.


Accell USB 3.0 Full Function Docking Station Review



accellThe Accell USB 3.0 Full Function Docking Station is a compact but fully featured docking station option supporting DisplayLink.  When I say compact I really mean it. The docking station fits on my palm of my hand.  Supporting operating systems Windows 7 through 10.  With any docking station it is about the hookups.  This dock is perfect for the small business owner or even college student that is on the go and wants a clean desktop area.

Inputs:
1x USB 3.0 Type B plug
2x DC Power

Outputs:
2x USB 3.0
1x USB 3.0 with BC adaptable power charging
1x HDMI Port 1.3
1x Display Port 1.2
Gigabit Ethernet
Combo Audio (Headphone/Microphone)

Maximum Video resolutions:
Single Display Port 3840×2160/30hz
Single HDMI Port 2560×1440/50hz
Dual Display (DP) 2048×1152/60hz / (HDMI) 2048×1152/60hz

So if you are hooking up a dual monitors pay attention to the resolution limitations and refresh rates. Single monitor hookups should be no issue for most users. Using this dock with my Dell XPS 13 I had no issues, and everything synchronized quickly and the HD video via HDMI was great. Priced @ $159 the folks at Accell have brought a reasonably priced USB 3.0 Full Function Docking Station


Polaroid Remote Controlled Panorama EyeBall Head Review



polaroidThe Polaroid Remote Controlled Panorama EyeBall Head could not be a cooler accessory. Designed to stand on it’s own or attach to a tripod. You can mount your GoPro, Digital Camera or Mobile Phone to it with the provided accessories.

Designed to pan right or left, swivel 75 degrees or advance 5 degrees every 10 seconds you can capture panoramic images perfectly. The best part you can link your device to it via bluetooth, and then using the provided remote control you can snap images to capture the perfect selfie or family picture.

The Eyeball head fits in the palm of your hand, and can be easily stashed in a backpack pocket.  You charge the device with a standard micro usb cable. With 3 hours of active use per charge take it anywhere you go. The Polaroid Panorama Eyeball Head costs $49.99 through Amazon.