Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Dropcam Cloud-based Wi-Fi Video Monitoring

Posted by Andrew at 10:17 PM on March 23, 2014

Dropcam LogoDropcam has been a sponsor here at GNC for several months but if you haven’t clicked through on any of the links, this is your opportunity to see a Dropcam in action. Don Baine chats to Elizabeth from Dropcam about this cloud-connected webcam.

The Dropcam is a wireless 720p webcam that connects easily to your home network but can be accessed across the internet, letting you check up on what’s happening while you aren’t there with your smartphone – both Android and iOS devices are supported. Motion-activated notifications can alert you to unexpected activity and a subscription-based video recording facility gives the ability to rewind and see what happened earlier. Overall it’s a complete solution that goes beyond an internet-connected webcam.

The Dropcam comes in two models, the standard Dropcam and the Dropcam Pro, priced at $149 and $199 respectively.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

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Flir FX Portable Interchangeable Wi-Fi Camera

Posted by Andrew at 10:11 PM on March 6, 2014

Flir FX CameraFlir made the news at CES with its personal thermal imaging device for the iPhone but the company does a whole range of imaging devices, including the Flir FX, a portable interchangeable wi-fi video camera. Todd gets further illumination from John Distelzweig of Flir.

The Flir FX is a fundamentally a webcam running 1080p over wi-fi, but that’s largely where the similarity with other products end. The Flir FX unusually has an internal battery, giving it greater portability than most similar products and the main camera unit can be slotted into different mounts, converting from a home webcam into sports video camera or an outdoor security camera, depending on the exterior case used. It’s really very cool.

The Flir FX will be available in late spring with an MSRP $249 and you can put your name down to be notified here.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Brinno – Looking through the Peephole

Posted by Andrew at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2014

Brinno LogoDon looks through the peephole with Chris Adams from Brinno at their latest home security cameras. Brinno are known for their time-lapse and motion detecting digital cameras and this is the latest addition to their PeepHole Viewer range.

The PeepHole Viewer digital camera is designed to fit over standard door peepholes to record activity on the outside of the door, either as short videos or else as still photos on a micro SD card. Connecting the camera to the peephole is very straightforward and a new peephole is included with the camera just in case the existing peephole is damaged or dirty. Footage can be reviewed on the camera itself or else transferred to a laptop or PC using the memory card to look at visitors in more detail.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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D-Link NVR and Low-Light Webcam

Posted by Andrew at 12:16 PM on January 24, 2014

D-Link LogoAt CES’ Digital Experience, Ken from D-Link tells Todd about their new network video recorder (NVR) and low-light webcam.

The NVR can record up to 9 IP cameras at once, storing the images on the SATA drive. The feeds can be viewed either via an attached HDMI monitor or else viewed remotely via D-Link’s mydlink solution which securely connects from the Internet back to devices in the home, using a web browser or a smartphone app.

The low-light web camera works down to 0.01 lux light levels and can still pick out colours. In complete darkness, a white LED provides illumination for up to 50 feet. As you’d expect, it’s 802.11ac wireless.

Both the NVR and the webcam will have an MSRP of US$379 when they go on sale in April ’14.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Kwikset adds Remote Unlocking to Kevo at CES

Posted by Andrew at 5:59 PM on January 8, 2014

Kwikset KevoThe Kwikset Kevo is a deadbolt lock that uses Bluetooth communication as well as a physical key to lock and unlock doors. Currently it only works with Apple iPhones but it looks really cool. You walk up to the door, touch the Kevo lock, the lock checks your eKey on your phone and the door opens. There’s a whole host of clever features based around eKeys which can be transferred to people you trust and owners can receive notifications of when the lock is opened. The glossy video below shows the main features of the Kevo.

The Kevo has been available for a few months and at CES, Kwikset are responding to customer feedback with new enhancements to the Kevo lock system. The Kevo Bluetooth Gateway will be available in the summer and the unit will allow owners to remotely lock and unlock Kevo using their smartphone, say when a relative visits from out of town or a neighbour unexpectedly needs to feed pets.

Kwikset is quickly expanding the value Kevo delivers to current and future owners through a series of Kevo technology advancements, beginning with remote functionality, based on the desires of today’s consumer” said Keith Brandon, director, residential access solutions. “Kevo continues to be the breakthrough smart lock technology on the market, gaining recognition from the CES Innovation Awards, among many others.

As you might expect, the Kevo locks don’t come cheap at around US$220 but it looks like a neat solution and once Kwikset (a) get it working on Android and (b) produce a UK version, I might well be interested.

Two New Products from iSmartAlarm at CES

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:28 AM on January 7, 2014

iSmartAlarm switchHome security is very important. We all want to ensure that our families, homes, and “stuff” are safe. Those of you who are considering getting some home security devices this year may want to take a look at iSmartAlarm. They have not one, but two, brand new products at CES 2014. Each of them can be used to extend the capabilities of the existing iSmartAlarm Home Security System.

The iSmartAlarm Doorfront is a new control tool. It will alert you via your smartphone when someone comes to your front door or rings your doorbell. It enables you to see, hear, and speak to the visitors – even if you are away from home. You can do that through your smartphone.

The iSmartAlarm Smart Switch is a natural extension of the iSmartAlarm Home Security System. It is a switch that you can use to remotely control the lights in your home. Use it to control electrical outlets, monitor if your lights have been turned on or off, and ensure that potentially dangerous appliances have been turned off (when they aren’t in use). It also lets you monitor energy usage.

These two brand new products can be set up within minutes without the need for professional installation. Each is part of the iSmartAlarm home control ecosystem. They are compatible with both iPhone and Android devices.

You can check out the new products from iSmartAlarm at CES 2014. They will be part of Pepcom’s Digital Experience Press event at The Mirage. You can also find them at booth #6717.

Target Data Breach Affects 40 Million Cards

Posted by JenThorpe at 7:45 PM on December 19, 2013

Target logoThose of you who did some of your holiday shopping at Target may want to check on your credit or debit card. Hackers have stolen data from around 40 million credit and debit cards that were used at Target stores.

Target became aware of the problem after credit card processors alerted them to it. The processors noticed a surge in fraudulent transactions from credit cards that had been used at Target. This particular breach began over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Purchases made online, from the Target website, were not affected. This hack involves credit and debit cards that were used in Target stores between November 27, 2013, and December 15, 2013.

Hackers stole data that includes customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates, and the embedded code that is in the magnetic strip that is attached to the back of the cards. It seems that the hackers were not able to grab the three or four digit security codes that are on the backs of the cards that were affected by the data breach.

Two Million Passwords Stolen by Hackers

Posted by JenThorpe at 6:36 PM on December 4, 2013

Trustwave logoOn November 24, 2013, researchers at Trustwave discovered that hackers have obtained up to 2 million passwords for websites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, Twitter (and others). Researchers learned this after digging into source code from Pony bonnet. It appears that information about this has only been made public very recently.

Here’s some quick stats about some of the domains from which the passwords were stolen:

* Facebook – 318,121 (or 57%)
* Yahoo! – 60,000
* Google Accounts – 54,437
* Twitter – 21,708
* Google.com – 16,095
* LinkedIn – 8,490
* ADP (a payroll provider) – 7,978

In total, Pony botnet stole credentials for: 1.58 million websites, 320,000 email accounts, 41,000 FTB accounts, 3,000 remote desktops, and 3,000 secure shell accounts.

According to Trustwave, around 16,000 accounts used the password “123456”, 2,221 used “password” and 1,991 used “admin”. Now is a good time to go change your passwords into something strong and secure.

Doing so won’t make it entirely impossible for hackers to crack it, but it could make it more difficult. Trustwave noted that only 5% of the 2 million passwords that were stolen had excellent passwords (meaning the passwords had all four character types and were longer than 8 characters).

AVG Android Social Apps

Posted by Andrew at 11:05 AM on November 12, 2013

AVG LogoToday’s Android apps from AVG are aimed at social media users rather than performance junkies whose needs were covered yesterday. AVG has two apps in this space, Image Shrink & Share, and Privacy Fix. Very different apps themselves but both are worth a look..

AVG Image Shrink & Share works on the premise that the average smartphone camera takes photographs which are unnecessarily large for social media purposes. Most people can’t be bothered to downsize the photos and risk incurring bandwidth charges by uploading the large photos anyway. Image Shrink & Share solves this problem by resizing photos on the fly before passing them onto the relevant social networking app. The original photo is not affected and stays on your phone or tablet.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to share a photo on Facebook. You review the photo in Gallery or Photos as normal. Hit the share icon and choose AVG Image Shrinker instead of the app you would normally use (it’s on the left in the screen shot which is from the new Photos app which has a different layout and background).

AVG Shrink & Share Apps Onward Sharing Apps

Then you are prompted for the final app that you want to use to post the photo, say, Facebook or Google+. Image Shrink & Share resizes the photo based on your default selection and then passes it on to the social media app (or other app) for comment and posting.

You can setup the default size for each application individually in the Settings menu. If you turn an app off, it doesn’t show in the second list presented by Shrink & Share, so it’s a useful way to declutter your sharing screen as well.

Social Media App wpid-Screenshot_2013-11-11-18-53-01.png

In practice, I found that it worked very well and solves the problem very neatly. Images resized correctly and looked good. If I had one suggestion, it would be to have a native resolution option on the resize settings so that photos can be passed through without alteration. I know that it’s not strictly necessary as I can simply choose to share directly to the app, but it makes the process consistent.

Overall, if you post lots of photographs to social media sites, this is a must-have app. Personally I’ve found it handy for uploading images to WordPress as it has a 2 MB limit on photos, so AVG’s tool gets round that problem for me.

Moving on, AVG PrivacyFix is less about sharing and more about controlling your exposure on Facebook and Google+. It’s a complementary app to the PrivacyFix website which covers LinkedIn too, but the app currently only looks at Facebook and Google+. It’s simply a case of giving the app access to your accounts after which PrivacyFix will make some comments and recommendations.

PrivacyFix Start

Here are the recommendations PrivacyFix gave me for Facebook and Google+.

PrivacyFix Facebook PrivacyFix Google+

You can tap through each and PrivacyFix will give you some information on the impact of changing the option and if you wish to proceed, show you what was done. Here’s some info on turning off Search History and then the output from opting out of ad tracking.

PrivacyFix Implications PrivacyFix Ad Tracking

AVG PrivacyFix is another great app. It’s certainly not one that you are going to use everyday, but it’s definitely worth running every month or so to check that your exposure on social media is at an acceptable level. Clearly you can use the PrivacyFix website to cover LinkedIn, but I hope AVG extend the Android app to cover LinkedIn and perhaps others such as Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, etc. I also think that this would be a great tool for parents to check the privacy settings on their children’s accounts and that’s a feature that AVG ought to promote directly within the app and website.

Both Shrink & Share and PrivacyFix are free apps, so go ahead, download them from Google Play and try them out.

Unprotecting Excel Spreadsheets Without The Password

Posted by Andrew at 12:21 PM on November 10, 2013

Microsoft Excel LogoSpreadsheets and Microsoft Excel in particular are great tools for any kind of numerical analysis, but they’re good for handling and storing other data as well. I seem to recall a survey a few years ago that Excel was the #1 database in the world with Access, Oracle and SQL Server lagging very far behind. Of course, it all depends on your definition of a database but the point is made.

Excel has useful features for developing forms and hiding information so that it’s easy to create mini apps which take user entered information, combine with data stored in the spreadsheet and provide an answer. Some of the spreadsheets are very sophisticated and Excel offers a “protect” feature that locks down a sheet (or workbooks) and prevents unwanted meddling or fiddling with the data. The protect feature even lets the owner set a password so that the more determined meddler can be thwarted and confidential data kept confidential.

Except it doesn’t. Any protected Excel spreadsheet can be unprotected in three steps. Here’s how.

With the Excel spreadsheet open,

  1. Press Alt + F11 (or go to View Code in the Developer’s Tab)
  2. In the window that appears, paste in this code (courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay)
    Sub PasswordBreaker()
        'Breaks worksheet password protection.
        Dim i As Integer, j As Integer, k As Integer
        Dim l As Integer, m As Integer, n As Integer
        Dim i1 As Integer, i2 As Integer, i3 As Integer
        Dim i4 As Integer, i5 As Integer, i6 As Integer
        On Error Resume Next
        For i = 65 To 66: For j = 65 To 66: For k = 65 To 66
        For l = 65 To 66: For m = 65 To 66: For i1 = 65 To 66
        For i2 = 65 To 66: For i3 = 65 To 66: For i4 = 65 To 66
        For i5 = 65 To 66: For i6 = 65 To 66: For n = 32 To 126
        ActiveSheet.Unprotect Chr(i) & Chr(j) & Chr(k) & _
            Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & Chr(i3) & _
            Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
        If ActiveSheet.ProtectContents = False Then
            MsgBox "One usable password is " & Chr(i) & Chr(j) & _
                Chr(k) & Chr(l) & Chr(m) & Chr(i1) & Chr(i2) & _
                Chr(i3) & Chr(i4) & Chr(i5) & Chr(i6) & Chr(n)
             Exit Sub
        End If
        Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
        Next: Next: Next: Next: Next: Next
    End Sub
  3. Press F5 (or click Run) and wait a minute or so…..hey presto, spreadsheet unprotected.

On my modest PC it takes about 80 seconds to crack the password and it seems to come up with a password such as AABBAAABBB^ which isn’t the original password but nevertheless works. Spreadsheet is now unprotected. Try it for yourself.

Shocked? Surprised? Worried about a .xls that you sent last week with confidential data in it? I’m sure lots of people would be very worried if they knew how easy it was to unprotect a sheet.

To be fair to Microsoft, the help page says, “IMPORTANT  Worksheet and workbook element protection should not be confused with workbook-level password security. Element protection cannot protect a workbook from users who have malicious intent. For optimal security, you should help protect your whole workbook file by using a password.” Personally, I think setting a password sets unrealistic expectations about the level of protection; in some ways it would be better if there was no password option as there would be no expectation.

Overall, it’s best to think of protecting an Excel spreadsheet as a way of making the spreadsheet more convenient to use and don’t ever think of protecting an Excel spreadsheet as a way to hide secret information.