Hover Asks Users to Reset Passwords

hover logoI use Hover to handle all of my domain name registrations. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from the company asking me to reset my password. From that e-mail:

We are writing to let you know that we reset your password today. If you are unable to log into your Hover account, you will need to use the ‘I forgot my password’ option on the sign in page to change your password.

We did this as a precautionary measure because there appears to have been a brief period of time when unauthorized access to one of our systems could have occurred. We have no evidence at all that any Hover accounts have been accessed, but even the possibility that this could have happened moved us to err on the side of extreme caution.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

I’m never surprised to receive notices like this. It seems like we’re being asked to deal with security breaches in our online accounts on a daily basis these days. But I haven’t been able to find any further information online as to what exactly happened at Hover. The company didn’t post anything about the breach on its blog and none of the usual tech-news outlets have mentioned it. I understand that this isn’t exactly the kind of thing Hover would want to publicize. But the company probably has many customers who’ll never see the notice I received, just due to the nature of e-mail and how people use it.

Regardless, I did change my Hover password today without incident. If you’re also a Hover customer, be sure to create a new password for yourself as well.

App Review: Thyme for iOS

Thyme logoCooking meals at home used to be a way of life for most Americans. But over time, we’ve become more accustomed to dining out or ordering in. Having food prepared outside of the home is nice, but that food is often more expensive and less healthy than home-cooked fair. And for those of us who are trying to rely less on carryout and more on our own kitchens, there are a variety of apps that aid in the process. One such app is called Thyme and I’ve been using it for awhile.

Thyme bills itself as “the smart kitchen timer app.” And that’s a pretty accurate description. The app is very straightforward and dead simple to use. Upon loading, Thyme gives you a familiar-looking graphic that mirrors the layout of a typical stove, with four circles on top that represent burners and one larger circle at the bottom that represents an oven.

Thyme app

Thyme suggests that you “tap a plate” to set a timer. Doing so brings up a screen that allows you to set that specific timer. Pick the time you need by dragging a finger around the edge of the timer circle.

Thyme app

Thyme begins counting down on that specific timer. Repeat the process for as many other items as you need to time. Here’s what Thyme looks like when one burner and the oven are being timed simultaneously:

Thyme app

When a timer is completed, Thyme will send a push notification including an audible alarm sound. If you have the app open when a timer expires, it looks like this:

Thyme app

Keep in mind that if you have your iOS device’s volume turned off, you won’t hear the alarm when it sounds. So, make sure the device hasn’t been switched to silent before starting a timer.

Thyme isn’t packed with features but it’s a fine little app for what it does. Thyme is available for $0.99 on the App Store but it does occasionally turn up as a free download. Check this app out if you’re in need of a comprehensive kitchen timer.

Multi Trendo is a Huge Waste of Time

Multi TrendoA few months back, I came across an ad in the Gigs section of my local Craigslist. The ad indicated that you could get paid for “reading articles.” As a freelance audio producer, my first thought was that this ad was looking for voiceover talent. I was intrigued by that idea so I figured I’d investigate further. The link in the ad was for a website called Multi Trendo. I could tell that the URL had some trailing stuff on it that looked like an affiliate code. Not knowing exactly what I was clicking, I decided to just manually enter the top level domain for Multi Trendo into my browser’s address bar instead of just using the link that was posted in the ad.

I discovered at the Multi Trendo site that the service has nothing to do with recording audio. Multi Trendo requires users to create an account. From there, they can read a certain number of “news articles” every day and then Multi Trendo will “pay” users for each article they read. Once users have reached a minimum balance of earnings, they can make a request for a payout from Multi Trendo. It was pretty obvious that this website was doing something shady. But it didn’t ask for any sensitive personal information (name, e-mail address only) so I figured there was little to lose in trying it out.

The “articles” available on Multi Trendo are mostly excerpts pulled in thru Google News. Sometimes, you’ll see a complete piece of writing. Other times, it’ll only be partial stories, sometimes with a link back to the source material. Multi Trendo runs a short timer before it’ll let you complete a CAPTCHA and press a submit button as proof that you’ve actually read the article. Each article has a prominent banner ad that hangs over the content you’re supposed to read. Presumably, displaying these ads is the reason for Multi Trendo’s existence.

I viewed enough Multi Trendo articles over the course of a month to slightly exceed the minimum amount that’s required to request a payout. Multi Trendo claims it processes payments thru PayPal, Payza, and Scrill. Having never heard of those last two, I asked Multi Trendo to send my first payment via PayPal. You can probably guess what happened (or, didn’t happen) next.

Nothing. It’s been at least two months. And I haven’t been paid by Multi Trendo, nor have I received any updates on my request. I’m not surprised by this, and I’m not disappointed. Overall, it took only a few minutes every day to look at Multi Trendo’s articles and complete the CAPTCHA’s. But in the end, it really was just a waste of time.

Netflix Offers Unlimited Maternity and Paternity Leave

Netflix_Web_LogoNetflix announced a new policy that will greatly benefit their employees. They are introducing an unlimited leave policy for new moms and new dads. The unlimited leave policy enables a new parent to take off as much time as he or she wants during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption.

Parents can return to work at Netflix part-time, full-time, or return and go back out as needed. The point is to give new parents the flexibility they need to take care of their growing family.

I think the most noteworthy part of Netflix’s new policy is this sentence: “We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay.” In other words, a new mom or dad can take as much time off of work as he or she needs, for a year, so that they can take care of their child – without having the added worries that come with a sudden lack of income.

There are some companies that offer maternity leave, but paternity leave is extremely rare in the United States. Some companies that do offer maternity leave place restrictions upon who can use it.

Those restrictions can include limiting it to women who have worked for the company for a certain amount of time, or only offering it to women who have upper-level positions. It is not unheard of for a woman to be denied pregnancy leave because the company considered her to be a “temporary” worker at any point in her career.

While some companies offer paid maternity leave, many only offer unpaid maternity leave. Netflix’s new paid maternity and paid paternity leave is extremely beneficial for their employees who have started a family. It’s time for more companies to follow Netflix’s lead.

Getting Onto Tim Cook’s Radar

Jen's iMacLast week, I wrote about my wife’s broken iMac that’s just barely outside of a special warranty period. That post was meant to be an open letter of sorts. Something I’d hoped would get the attention of someone up high enough on the Apple food chain that they’d reconsider the warranty period and just go ahead and fix the computer. After posting that blog, I sent an e-mail to Apple CEO Tim Cook as well as the Apple corporate PR team, explaining the situation, including a link to that blog post. I was polite and courteous but I did reinforce my belief that Apple should fix the machine, making sure to emphasize that I’d post a followup blog here at GNC, giving the company a chance to pick up some positive “organic PR.” I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it but I figured I’d give myself 24 hours before throwing in the towel and shelling out the money for the iMac repair. I set a reminder for 1PM the next day to call the service center and authorize the repair, in the case that no one from Apple got back to me.

That 24-hour period passed by with no response from Cupertino. As soon as my phone chimed with that 1PM reminder, I called the service center and gave them the green light on making the repair. And then about five minutes later, it happened! My phone went off with an incoming call. I immediately recognized the phone number because I had seen it the day before. It was the Apple corporate office. It worked! I thought. My message got thru to someone at 1 Infinite Loop and they’re gonna do it! They’re gonna fix my iMac!

I answered the call and was met by the friendly voice of Jessica from Corporate Executive Relations at Apple. She assured me that she was at the corporate office and not at a call center. She said that Mr. Cook had received my e-mail and that he wanted to follow up on the situation. Jessica asked me to recount what had happened so far. I told her how the iMac had died, where we had taken it for service, the diagnosis of a bad video card, and the attempts that were made to get the repair approved thru Apple Care (including my case number, which she already had).

After reviewing things, she said that she was sympathetic to the situation. But, it looked like everything was handled correctly and that she was going to send me an e-mail with specific information on the video card replacement program. So, while the e-mail I sent did manage to get onto Tim Cook’s radar (or at least, the radar of someone in the corporate office), it ultimately didn’t do anything to change my case. With a certain air of disappointment, I thanked Jessica for reaching out and ended the call.

The iMac repair was already in process so there was nothing else to do other than wait for it to be done. I gueess it’s nice to know that Tim Cook, like Steve Jobs before him, has a public facing e-mail address, and that someone is reading it. Overall, Apple is within its rights to deny the post-warranty authorization. But it would’ve been really cool if they’d stepped up and approved it in the face of a technicality. Of course, Apple moves a lot of products and sidestepping its own policy like this could set a dangerous precedent for the company. Regardless, the iMac is now back from the store and working just as good as ever.

Pinterest Shares Plan for a More Diverse Pinterest

Pinterest logoPinterest has decided to go on record with their hiring goals for 2016. In addition, they are sharing their plan for reaching those goals. Pinterest is doing this because they are aware that there is not a lot of diversity in the tech industry. This is their way of increasing diversity.

In 2013, Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou kicked off the “Where are the numbers?” initiative. It revealed that there wasn’t much diversity in the people that companies were hiring in the tech industry. Since then, not much progress has been made.

Pinterest is making an effort to increase diversity by revealing their hiring goals for 2016. This is unprecedented. Doing so makes it easier for people to hold Pinterest accountable for reaching those goals. It also makes it clear that they are consciously intending to make a more diverse Pinterest.

Their hiring goals are:
* Increase hiring rates for full-time engineering roles to 30% female.

* Increase hiring rates for full-time engineers to 8% underrepresented ethnic backgrounds

* Increase hiring rates for non-engineering roles to 12% underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.

* Implement a Rooney Rule-type requirement where at least one person from an underrepresented background and one female candidate is interviewed for every open leadership position.

The Rooney Rule was created by Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the National Football League’s diversity committee. The rule requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior operation jobs.

Here’s how Pinterest plans to reach its hiring goals:
* Expand the set of universities we recruit from, and launch an early identification intern program for freshman and sophomore students from underrepresented backgrounds.

* Work with outside strategy firm Paradigm to set up Inclusion Labs at Pinterest, where we’ll experiment with new ways to improve diversity.

* Have every employee participate in training to prevent unconscious bias.

* Support the creation of a training and mentorship program to maximize the impact of Black software engineers and students, led by one of our engineers.

Angry Birds 2 is Now Available!

Angry Birds 2 logoAngry Birds 2 is now available for both Android and iOS. It is the sequel to the original Angry Birds game. The app can be downloaded for free. The game is still made by Rovio.

As you might expect, there have been some changes made to the game since the original version. That’s not unusual for any mobile game that has a 2 in it’s name. For example, there were huge visual differences between Zynga’s Farmville and Farmville 2.

Ubergizmo reports that much of the gameplay in Angry Birds 2 is similar to the original Angry Birds. The new version includes animations, new effects, and dynamic lighting that Rovio was unable to put into the original version (which was released in December of 2009).

The game now includes cards, which players can earn by destroying things. The more things a player destroys, the more cards he or she receives. Every fifth level is a boss level. Players can use feathers to level up the birds, and can choose which order they want to play the birds in. There appears to be more strategy involved in Angry Birds 2 than there was in the original Angry Birds.

Angry Birds 2 includes in-app purchases Players start the game with 3 lives. When players run out of cards, they have to stop playing. The player can either wait 30 minutes for the lives to regenerate, or can spend real world money on gems. It takes 60 gems to recharge one life.

Obviously, Angry Birds 2 is not the only mobile game that includes in-app purchases. Many of them do. It is up to the player to determine if it is worth it to them to spend real world money to continue playing Angry Birds 2 right now, or if it is a better idea to do something else for 30 minutes while the lives recharge.

Medium’s Rules Make Their Website Welcoming

Medium logoMedium has become one of the many websites that has created rules that are intended to help make their site a welcoming place for everyone. Medium explains: “Some parts of the Internet lack rules. This isn’t one of them.”

They also summarize their rules as “Don’t pee in the pool (metaphorically).” Considering that Medium is a website where writers share their work, it seems fitting that their rules include some creative descriptions. There are several things listed under the header “Things You Shouldn’t Do”, (and I suggest you read their list for full details).

Here are some of the things that you shouldn’t do at Medium:

Don’t threaten violence against anyone. A second rule says: “Don’t post anything relating to minors that is sexual or violent. Don’t bully or harass minors.

Don’t use hateful slurs. Medium reserves the right to take down hateful slurs, “which tend to silence others while adding little if anything”.

Medium will not tolerate bullying, harassment, public shaming, or posing private or confidential information about others on Medium. That includes posts that shame specific individuals (including images or altered images), and posts with altered or unaltered copies of private communications posted without the explicit consent of a party to the communication.

It also includes posts with non-public, personal information intended to target, blackmail, or harass people. You are also not allowed to post repeated personally insulting notes, responses, story requests, or writer requests on Medium.

In short, Medium has made it very clear they will not allow people to use their site as a means to harass or publicly shame someone else. The rules also state that you cannot post intimate or explicit images taken or posted without the subject’s explicit consent (including revenge porn).

Medium will not allow porn of any kind. Their rule on that says: “No porn. There are other places to post it. You know where they are.”

Another rule states: “Don’t post content that violates others’ privacy, including personally identifying or confidential information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, or non-public contact information. To me, this rule is saying “no doxxing allowed.”

These are just a few of the rules that Medium has created. It’s nice to see them be a part of the growing list of websites that have put rules in place that will make their website a safer, more welcoming, space for everyone.

UltraAV Mini DisplayPort Y-Cable Docking Station Review

minidockWhen it comes to Laptops these days manufactures are releasing them with fewer ports to connect gear. Often time you will need to buy either a limited expansion device by the manufacture or you have to make do and constantly unplug and plug in gear.

When Accell sent me their new UltraAV Mini DisplayPort Y-Cable Docking Station I was contemplating where to do the test.. With two Dell XPS 15 inch laptops in my home with my daughter owning one, I knew this would be a great opportunity for her to experience the benefit of having a dock for her mobile  / home life. For the past two weeks she has had it setup in her bedroom, along with a couple of my display port monitors. Today when I asked for her comments and the dock back,  she gave me that look ad said your not taking this away from me are you dad? My answer was yes it has to go back to the company, and she decided at that moment I was going to have to order her one she could keep. I think this is the first review that has cost me money but it is a testament to the dock.

With the Docking Station plugged into just her Display Port &  USB 3.0 port she was able to take advantage of the docking stations features. She loved being able to have three monitors, 3 USB 3.0 Ports, and have the Lan and other peripherals connected to it. Accell has packed a lot into this docking station making it one of the most robust after market docking stations I have seen in a long time. The docking station specs are below.

  • Provides two Mini DisplayPort 1.2 output ports
  • Expands a USB 3.0 port to three USB 3.0 ports
  • Includes one Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port
  • AC adapter with US, EU, AUS and UK power plugs
  • DP 1.2 max link rate: 5.4 Gbps (HBR2) per lane
  • DP++ enabled Mini DisplayPort outputs
  • Supports DP 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport (MST)
  • Ethernet supports Wake-on-LAN technology, crossover detection, auto-correction
  • Supports USB 3.0 Charging Downstream Port (CDP)
  • Compliance: DisplayPort 1.2, 1.1a, VESA DDM, HDCP 1.3, DisplayID and EDID 1.4

In a small compact package about the size of your hand you can place it anyplace on your desk or hidden for cable concealment.  Priced at $149.00 you cannot beat the price if you have a computer with a display port dock the best part is the ability to quickly unplug the two connections from the Y cable and go mobile all the while leaving everything on the desk hooked up.

accell2

Second Helpings with the OnePlus 2

Never SettleI’ll have to be honest….this morning’s OnePlus 2 launch event at 3 am was waaayyyy too early to entice me out of my bed when the alarm clock started ringing. I gave it a thump and went back to sleep. Sorry OnePlus but “Never Settle” doesn’t work at 3 in the morning. Still, I reviewed the launch with the help of the VR app and have to give that experience the full thumbs up. The VR part is good if you have Google Cardboard or similar, but even to have a 2D “in the audience” experience at a major launch event was fun and the Android app worked well – there was no faffing about finding the webpage and checking whether the PC has the right plugins. Major win as far as I’m concerned and something that should be taken on for other launch events.

OnePlus 2

With regard to the OnePlus 2 itself, things are much as expected for a flagship phone – 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB storage, though later in the year, there will be a cheaper version with 3GB RAM and 16GB storage. No change in the screen as far as I can tell, with a 5.5″ IPS LCD screen which is excellent in the One. Battery is up from 3100 mAh in the One to 3300 mAh in the 2.

Of course the big change is the inclusion of a fingerprint reader which will quickly unlock the OnePlus 2 with a finger press. Difficult to say how well it will work until I get hold of a 2 but I’m expecting it to be good and useful. The other new feature is the USB C port which is hard to get overly excited about. Yes, reversibility is handy and the flat cable tangle-free but wireless charging would have been even better.

OnePlus 2 USB C

The camera has been given a boost with the addition of an advanced Optical Image Stabilization system and rear-mounted laser focussing which sharpens the camera in microseconds. Sweet. As we knew beforehand, there are dual SIM slots for world-travellers and data hogs.

OnePlus 2 Rear Covers

For styling, the press release says, “Unified by a resilient, lightweight aluminium and magnesium alloy frame and stainless steel accents, the OnePlus 2’s sleek, minimalistic design marries durability and class with an unrivalled premium feel.” Translation – it’s got metal edges, looks cool and expensive.

Size-wise, the 2 is slightly smaller but fatter and a tad heavier this time round by 13g (like you’d notice). There’s going to be a selection of StyleSwap backs available from the original Sandstone Black and Bamboo to the new Kevlar, Black Apricot and Rosewood.

Lollipop-based (5.1) OxygenOS replaces CyanogenOS in the OnePlus 2 and continues the customisations seen in the One, including gestures and themes. There are some new features, including a dark mode for use at night, custom LED notifications and greater app permission control.

If you like what you see, how much is the 2 going to cost and when will it be available? The former is easy: the 64GB version will be GB£289, EU€399 and US$389, which frankly is a bargain. I’ll be ordering one as soon as I can, which brings us to the latter. As with the One, the 2 is going to be sold via invites but assuming you get an invite by hook or by crook, you’ll be able to order from 11 August with delivery around 3 weeks later.

OnePlus 2 Experience

To whet your appetite further, fans can visit one of nine pop up experience centres located around the world on 31 July to sign up for an invite and be one of the first in the world to see the OnePlus 2. Get in line.