Google Uncovers iPhone Wifi Hack #1491



Google finds a major Wifi security vulnerability. It was a major one and took the security researcher a full 6 months to develop it. Back in the swing here after pretty rough week with major back pain. Glad to be back in the swing of things.

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Google Really Doesn’t Care About Android Tablets



Android Green Robot LogoI’ve used Android tablets for nearly ten years, starting with the Motorola Xoom way back in 2011. I then adopted the Google Nexus series with the Nexus 10, 7 and 9 tablets over a couple of years. After those, I jumped ship to a Huawei M5 10″ before getting a previously-enjoyed Samsung Tab S6, which is a very capable piece of kit.

At times, I feel like I’m the last Android tablet user left. I do like Apple hardware, but I don’t like Apple’s walled garden, the holier-than-thou attitude and I find iOS / iPadOS is too rigid and inflexible for my liking. All too often I try to do something on my daughter’s iPad that would straightforward on my Tab S6 but turns out to be impossible. Go on, change the default app for opening a jpg.

I know that Google’s not been giving tablets much love since ChromeOS became the new poster child and ChromeOS-based tablets started to appear. Of course, ChromeOS runs Android apps but the problem with Chrome devices is the spec. ChromeOS doesn’t need much CPU and RAM to run fast, but that doesn’t mean the screen has to be cheap too. Almost without fail, Chromebooks come with screen resolutions more suited to a 6″ smartphone than a 12″ laptop.

For example, the Chrome device-of-the-year Lenovo Duet has a 10″ 1920 x 1200 display. Or take the Acer Spin with a 13″ 2256 x 1504 screen. Even the HP Elite X2 only has 1920 x 1280 on a 13″ display. And that’s a convertible that costs GB£1700. Are they crazy?

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is 2560 x 1600 in a 10.5″ screen. I love reading on mine and magazines presented in Zinio look great.

Google’s abandonment of Android tablets came home to me today when I tried to use the YouTube, sorry, the YT Studio app in landscape mode on the S6….and you simply can’t. YT Studio stubbornly refuses to even rotate away from portrait orientation, never mind present a more suitable landscape layout.

Frankly it’s embarrassing that Google can’t even be bothered to make its own apps tablet friendly and it’s no wonder that the best tablet apps are on iPads. Apple didn’t so much win the battle of the tablets as Google failed to turn up.


POCO Launches M3 Smartphone with More Than You Expect



Spun out from Xiaomi, POCO Global today launched the POCO M3, the third generation of its POCO M-series phones. Aimed at the entry-level, the M3 has features that would have been unheard of at this price point even a year ago. The moniker for the presentation was “More Than You Expect” and I’m pleasantly surprised at what “entry-level” offers now – fast processor, large detailed screen, big battery, decent camera. For those new to POCO, their range goes M, X, F with F being the flagship models and X the mid-range units, and over 6 million phones have been sold.

Starting with the outside, the POCO M3 has a large 6.53″ Gorilla Glass 3 display on the front, and on the rear there’s an anti-fingerprint textured back for a secure grip. POCO isn’t hiding anything here with two brightly coloured finishes in POCO Yellow and Cool Blue, though there is an understated Power Black option. At this price point, a glass back isn’t realistic but for the target audience of young entertainment-on-the-move enthusiasts this isn’t a bad thing – it’s grippy and there’s no need to worry about smashing the back glass. The triple-camera array (with flash) is arranged in a wide POCO-branded camera bump (more on this later), and physically the smartphone is 162 x 77 x 9.6 mm and weighs in at 198 g. There’s a power button with a fingerprint sensor on the side.

Returning to the front, the display is FHD+ meaning 2340 x 1080 pixels, 395 ppi and a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The screen to bezel ratio is 90.3% so the screen fills the phone, as it were. Inside the M3 is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662, a 4G processor launched in 2020 which outperforms the Snapdragon 665 by 10%. The 662 comprises a Kryo 470 octa-core CPU running at up to 2.0 GHz and an Adreno 610 GPU. The POCO M3 will be available in two variants, 4GB+64GB and 6GB+128GB, and if that’s not enough storage, the phone can take a microSD card up to 512 GB – that’s quite a few films. There’s a dual 4G SIM tray too.

To keep the M3 powered up, the phone comes with a large 6,000 mAh battery which is expected to give 5 days of battery life for light use and 1.5 days under heavy use. Or to put it another way, that’s 196 hours of music or 17 hours of streaming video. The phone supports 18 W fast charging and wired reverse charging via USB C. It comes with a 22.5 W charger in the box.

Round the back, the POCO M3 comes with a triple camera configuration in a thin but unnecessarily wide camera bump. This design isn’t an accident and is intended to stop the M3 wobbling when lying on a table or desk. Returning to the cameras, the main lens is a 48 MP unit paired with a 2 MP depth sensor along with a 2 MP macro unit. On the front, it’s an 8 MP teardrop selfie cam. The M3 comes with some clever filters and effects including night mode, portrait mode, “movie frame”, time-lapse and color-focus, which removes the colour from the photograph except for the focal point of the picture.

Fan favourites, the M3 includes an IR blaster and retains the 3.5 mm earphone jack, along with dual speakers. Out of the box, the phone will be running the MIUI12 flavour of Android 10.

What about the price, or the value, as Xiaomi suggests? Impressively, even the 128 GB version comes in well under US$200. The two models are priced very competitively at

  • 4 GB + 64 GB is US$149
  • 6 GB + 128 GB is US$169

The POCO M3 will be available this week from 27th November. What day is that? Oh, yes, it’s Black Friday. As a special BF deal, there’s US$20 off both models at Amazon, Mi.com, AliExpress and Lazada but check local T&Cs.

The launch event is available on YouTube below. Skip through to about 29 minutes in.


Twitter Adds Warning When You Try to Like a Labeled Tweet



Twitter users have probably seen some tweets that have had labels added to them. This began ahead of the 2020 election. At the time, Twitter users could not retweet a labeled tweet. They could, however, quote tweet them and add their own commentary.

Twitter has now announced, in a tweet on @TwitterSupport, an expansion of their policy:

Giving context on why a labeled Tweet is misleading under our election, COVID-19, and synthetic and manipulated media rules is vital.

These prompts helped decrease Quote Tweets of misleading information by 29% so we’re expanding them to show when you tap to like a labeled Tweet.

I tested out Twitter’s new restrictions on clicking like on a labeled tweet. When I clicked like, a small pop-up appeared that said: “The claim about election fraud is disputed” in bold text. It also said “Help keep Twitter a place for reliable info. Find out more before liking”. The pop-up included a button that said “Find Out More”.

I clicked the “Find Out More” button, which lead to a Twitter curated page with facts that show that voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the United States. Plenty of articles that back up that assertion can be found there.

What happens if I don’t want to “Find Out More”? There is a small, empty, heart on the pop-up at the bottom, with the word Like next to it. It is still possible to like a post that has been labeled as misleading from that pop-up – even if the user didn’t proceed to the fact-checked information. The pop-up slows people down, and functions as a deterrent for people who click like without thinking about it first.

Twitter’s original plan may have been to put the restrictions on labeled tweets ahead of the election, and perhaps revert back after Election Day. Twitter is continuing to use those restrictions. To me, it makes sense to do this because there are people on Twitter who continue to post misinformation about voting and the outcome of the election.


Comcast Internet Caps #1490



Comcast Internet Caps are coming and if you use more than 1.2tb of bandwidth they are going to hammer you with a $10 per 50gb charge which is insane considering the 50gb of data cost them about 25 cents. With parents and kids at home this is another slap in the face. Sadly consumers are going to roll over and not complain about this. Comcast is just greedy here in there application of this overage charge. This is what happens when no one will be around to hold their feet to the fire.

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Snapchat Introduces Spotlight



Snapchat has introduced Spotlight. It enables Snapchat users to create short videos that include music – much like TikTok does. Right now, Snapchat is holding a contest where people can submit their best video Snaps and potentially earn money.

Submit your best video Snaps to Spotlight for the opportunity to earn a share of more than $1 million that we’re distributing to creators every day! Or, lean back, watch, and pick your favorites!

Snapchat recommends that those who want the opportunity to earn money follow Spotlight’s content guidelines. Requirements include that your video must be vertical and with sound. You can only post your own content for the video, but may use music from Snapchat’s licensed library. You must be at least 16 years old to enter.

Spotlight is currently available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France. Snapchat says more countries are “coming soon”.

To me, it appears that Spotlight is Snapchat’s way of competing with TikTok for the attention of younger users. Those who already use TikTok could be enticed to give Snapchat’s Spotlight a try, in the hopes of winning some money for their efforts.

Now is a good time for this contest, as many young people are stuck at home due to remote learning and lockdown efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. It could encourage students to have some fun and to express themselves creatively.

According to TechCrunch, Snaps in Spotlight won’t disappear from being surfaced in the feed unless a creator chooses to delete them. In other words, the Snaps that are entered into the Spotlight contest could be viewed by users that are new to the creator. It might help new creators build an audience, which would not only benefit the creator, but also Snapchat itself.


Fix Rubbish TV Sound with the Roku Streambar



The new Streambar is the latest addition to Roku‘s range of media streamers in the UK. Unlike the other devices in the range, Express, Premiere and Streaming Stick+, which simply stream channels and programmes to the TV, the Streambar looks to address the problem of poor sound from flatscreen TVs by combining a Roku streamer with a compact soundbar. Is this the best of both worlds or a Jack of all trades? Let’s take a look…and a listen.

While the transition from bulky CRTs to LCD flat screens led to 4K and HDR, it didn’t help audio presentation at all. Thinness and narrow bezels aren’t friends to speakers and sound quality suffered. While A/V setups have been popular, they’re typically expensive and require wires all around the room to speakers in the corners. As an alternative, soundbars have become popular in the last few years, providing significant audio improvement without all the cables.

The Roku Streambar isn’t as long as some of the soundbars on the market, measuring around 35.6 cm wide, 6.1 cm high and 10.7 cm deep, and at this size, it fits neatly in front or below the TV. Inside the Streambar are four 1.9″ speakers, two facing forwards and two to the left and the right, providing much-improved audio. There’s a discreet LED just above the Roku logo that’s white in use and red when in standby.

Round the back of the Streambar, there are connections for power, digital audio (S/PDIF), HDMI and a USB port, along with a reset button. If the Streambar needs to be wall-mounted, there are a pair of screw sockets.

The Streambar follows Roku’s long tradition of including everything in the box: there’s no need to nip out for batteries at the last minute. Inside there’s the Streambar, voice IR remote control with AAA batteries, HDMI cable, digital optical cable, power supply (with both UK and European plugs).

Continuing in tradition, the Streambar follows the usual pattern of Roku setup with a couple of tweaks to accommodate the audio requirements. Simplistically, the Roku needs connected to the wifi (11ac – there’s no ethernet) and you need to sign up or sign in.

The main difference between an ordinary Roku media streamer and the Streambar is the sound and the clever trick here is that the Streambar can play audio from any device connected to the TV, whether Freeview, SkyQ or a Bluray player. The Streambar takes advantage of HDMI ARC – Audio Return Channel – which carries the sound signal to the device. It’s available on most new-ish TVs and it’s usually HDMI 1.

If there’s no HDMI ARC, the alternative is to use digital audio and that’s what I had to do with my TV. I have an HD Samsung TV that’s well over ten years old and there’s no HDMI ARC, so it was a digital connection for me. The Roku setup process runs through these different options and shows the necessary steps. It really only takes a few minutes to get the setup done.

Once configured, the Streambar is very much the Roku we all know and love, supporting 4K and HDR. The Roku uses the idea of channels which are kind of like apps, and all the usual UK suspects are available: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, 4, My5. In addition, there’s all the subscription channels you can afford: Netflix, Prime Video, NowTV, Apple TV, Disney+, BritBox, Spotify. For your country’s regional variations, check www.roku.com/channelchecker to see what’s available.

Existing Roku users will have all their channels auto-loaded during the Streambar setup and new users can quickly add their favourites by browsing categories or searching for particular apps/channels.

I’m not going to review the Roku user interface in detail as it’s well covered elsewhere (check out my Roku reviews on YouTube) other than to say that the Roku is my favourite media streamer. The UI is simple, straightforward and isn’t trying to sell something all the time (I’m looking at you, Amazon Fire Stick). It seems like I’m not the only one either: over the past five years, Roku’s been the market leader in streaming media players, holding about a third of the market in the US.

There are a few customisations for the Streambar which don’t appear in the other Roku models and as you’d expect, they’re to do with sound. For starters, and most obviously given the tile on the screen, there’s a special Bluetooth app for connecting other devices to the Streambar in order to take advantage of the better speaker.

In addition, there are settings to adjust the audio including the bass, volume and, one of my personal favourites, speech clarity, which makes a reasonable attempt to promote speech over effects.

Prior to installation, my biggest concern about the Streambar was that I was going to have to use multiple remotes to control the volume – that’s the problem I currently have with my Yamaha AV amp. Fortunately, this was completely unfounded and even though my Samsung TV is over ten years old, the TV and Streambar played well together, outputting all sound to the Streambar, regardless of whether the sound signal came from Sky, Freeview or the Bluray player. Any remote could be used to control the volume.

One problem that my wife did encounter was that sometimes the Roku Streambar would go to sleep and wouldn’t rise from its slumber when the TV was turned back on. Using the Roku remote volume buttons normally solved the problem and woke it up but I later discovered that changing the Power setting to Fast Start resolved the issue as well.

As this is a soundbar, let’s focus on the Streambar’s audio qualities. Technically, it supports Dolby Audio but is the sound better than the TV’s? Yes, by a long way. It’s much richer, fuller and deeper with good clarity. TV soundtracks sound much better and more natural, and the effects in films become more emphatic and engaging. I also found it noticeable playing video games on my Nintendo Switch, and there’s a particular jingle on BBC’s Newsround which sounds terrible on my kitchen TV which is totally transformed by the Roku Streambar. Even better, it’s actually possible to listen to Spotify through the Streambar without cringing.

As the Roku Streambar is only 35 cm wide, the stereo separation is fairly limited, but apart from that the Roku Streambar performs well for the money. For sure, it doesn’t sound as impressive as a Dolby 5.1 Surround system, but then the Streambar costs a quarter of the price and doesn’t need cables everywhere. Regardless it’s still a significant improvement over a standard TV.

Before wrapping up the review, an honourable mention needs to go to the inclusion of a USB port on the Streambar. Plug in a memory stick or external hard drive and local media can be played directly, which is great for those with collections of ripped DVDs or home videos. This is the only model in the UK range to offer this, though all models can play from NAS units. And let’s not forget the complementary Roku app which will show smartphone photos and videos on the TV screen.

Having used the Roku for a couple of weeks, I think it’s a worthy upgrade for a not-very-smart flatscreen TV such as my ancient Samsung. You get a top-end Roku media streamer along with a soundbar, just as it says on the box. The RRP of the Roku Streambar is GB£129.99 but there’s currently a Black Friday offer on bringing the price down to £99.99 (offer ends 16/12/20). At either price, it’s a good deal. Available from all good stores.

There’s more in the video below.

The Roku Streambar was provided for review by Roku.