Author Archives: gbryan

Smartphone Fingerprint Scanners

The next generation of Smartphone security is here! Mostly clear fingerprint sensors can now be embedded behind or under the screen. There has been a huge push in phones this year to make the bezels as tiny as possible. Of course this means finding a place for the fingerprint scanner. Many phones have moved it to the back. LG was the first to do it, and it was relatively well executed. Samsung followed suit, and many complain it’s too hard to tell apart from the camera bump. The Pixel and Pixel 2 have one on the back that works well and has gestures! To minimize the bezel, the iPhone X removed the scanner all-together, and instead hid a plethora of sensors inside its iconic notch to usher in the era of faceID.

 

But now two android phones are being released that place the fingerprint scanner, almost completely invisibly, under the screen. The first, a VIVO X20 Plus UD, won an award for best in show at CES 2018. The sensor is a small pad where a traditional scanner should be. Any time that area of the phone is touched, that area of the phone flashes brightly, and the sensor looks for the light reflected off of your finger. Check it out here:

Vivo’s concept phone brings the concept a bit further, with the fingerprint scanner taking up a larger pad, allowing you to touch anywhere on roughly 1/3 of the screen. This concept phone also pushes the bezel-less concept another level by moving the selfie-cam to a piece of plastic that extends in and out from the top of the phone. Is this the future?

 

Limitations:

It’s a bit “slow” right now. (It takes about a second.) The cool animation should be enough to hold you over.  But keep in mind it’s also the first generation of a product. It will only get quicker with time.

The phone needs to have an OLED screen.  While not uncommon, many phones, Iphones included, have LCD displays.  OLED screens allow individual pixels to turn on and off, rather than the whole screen or none of it, like LED displays require.

And finally, yes, at very specific lighting conditions and viewing angles, you can see the sensor through the screen.

5 Microsoft OneNote Features that Make You a Productivity Machine

You may or may not know that all UMass students get access to Microsoft Office 365 for free! Sign up is super simple and can be found here: https://www.umass.edu/it/software/microsoft-office-365-education

Microsoft OneNote is a versatile note taking software that has transformed the way I participate in class and take notes. Maybe it can do the same for you!

Here are some of its features:

  1. Sync Notes on All Devices – Notes you take in class on your computer can appear on your phone and iPad almost instantly, and the other way around!  There is no need to worry about your laptop dying half way through class if you can pull your tablet out and continue right where you left off! To make it better, you don’t even need the app.  OneNote has a web browser version as well!  Now you can access and add to your notes on ANY device by logging in with your UMass account.  Study sessions can happen anywhere at any time.
  2. Complete worksheets and Syllabi Digitally – I present to you now my favorite feature of Microsoft OneNote: Insert File PrintOut.  Any assignments posted on Moodle can be inserted directly into your OneNote notebook, next to your notes, and completed right on your computer. Then you can print out the completed sheet.  Or how about putting the class syllabus and assignment schedule right in the front of your digital notes.  No more clogging up your downloads folder with ClassSyllabus(8).pdf!
  3. Hand Write Notes – Many laptops are touch and stylus enabled!  Digital notes are often criticized because studies show that hand writing information is a superior way to commit information to memory.  If you have a Microsoft Surface, An HP Spectre, A Lenovo ThinkPad or YogaBook, or a bunch of other models, you might be able to hand write notes directly into OneNote!
  4. Create To-Do Lists Right Next to Today’s Class Notes – Among the one million other ways OneNote lets you format your info is a to-do list.  After taking your class notes, make a home work to-do list right where you leave off.
  5. Share your notes with others – Finally, sharing your notes, to-do lists, work sheets, or even entire notebooks is super easy.  You can email specific pages, invite other OneNote Users to collaborate on the same page, and take screenshots and share them quickly, with no hassle!

 

I was always a traditional pen and paper student until I found Microsoft OneNote. Now all of my notes are taken either by typing or handwriting with my laptop’s stylus, and I can access them quickly on my phone, iPad, or any web browser.

NES Mini

Nintendo recently released the NES Classic, but good luck finding it.

The NES classic is a small, $60, HDMI compatible replica of Nintendo’s iconic first console, the NES, which hit the US market in 1985.  The classic comes with 30 games preinstalled, with the potential for more to be added later.  It includes all of the classics many of us can still remember playing as kids, albeit on our parent’s childhood Consoles.  Now you can play Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, the Legend of Zelda, Kirby’s Adventure, and more, all in a cute little NES with two controllers (which are compatible with the Wii U) that can fit in the palm of your hand!  Or you could, If it wasn’t completely sold out.

Nostalgia took its toll and Nintendo proved that their games are timeless.  Some stores sold out within 10 minutes of officially selling them, and all preorder lists for stores like Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Gamestop, an even Amazon are long and without a date or shipment size for when they will get their hands on more.

Such a clamor has been made about the new consoles that a site with the sole purpose of tracking mass shipments of them has gotten a nice bump in traffic http://www.nowinstock.net/videogaming/consoles/nesclassicmini/

Some that are ultra desperate to get their hands on the gadget have been shelling out as much as 5 times the original cost(sometimes as much as $300-500) on ebay and craigslist to own the otherwise sold out NES classic.

Free is Never Free: Protect Yourself and Ensure You Never Pay

The Virtual market place is one unlike any other in the world. Never before has there been such vast and widespread access to the goods and services found online. Before, answering questions meant buying books. Listening to music meant purchasing albums.  Contacting friends and family meant paying for paper and postage, or putting coins in a payphone. You get the point. Limitless abilities and possibilities are immediately accessible by anyone with an internet connection, and most of the time, its free. Or is it?

Currency 2.0

This vast access to free services on the internet is one many our age take for granted. But what is not immediately obvious is that free is rarely free; Information is the new currency. Companies big and small, righteous or malicious, will pay big bucks for user data. Has a free game or app ever asked for you to sign in using your FaceBook Account? When you agree to this, you are providing the company with information about your age, likes, friends, etc, so that they can serve targeted ads and track usage and spending habits.  What’s nice is that large companies, will ask for permission to trade this information for your use of their service. But what about when they don’t?

Malware, Spyware, PUP, Oh My: How Your Own Computer Can Be Used Against You.

Lets conduct an experiment. We are the typical internet user, and we are interested in streaming tonight’s Hockey Game. So we google it: Free live Hockey Stream. We click the first link we find!
scrot2
scrot1
We can stream totally for free if we just install what the huge LIVE HD STREAM button takes us to! Or not. Lets read the permission we are about to give software we’ve never used before:

  • Read and change all your data on the websites you visit.
  • Change your search settings to sports.searchalgo.com
  • Change your privacy related settings.
  • Stream your favorite team’s game for free!

What will this extension do? Redirect your searches through their own advert riddled search engine, create their own advertisements on the sites you try to visit, and finally, collect and sell your usage data, and for free at that.

Using Protection and Getting Checked: Mom Would Be Proud

So free isn’t always free, and not every where on the internet is friendly. How do we navigate this treacherous virtual world safely? Common sense, Careful reading, and Curated content.

Common Sense:

  • Never install something if you did not set out to install it.  For example, while trying to install a free music player to replace iTunes, I found this:
    scrot3
    “Add and Start Download” could seem right, but that is not the installer for the Audio Player. That is the installer for another malicious Chrome Extension
  • Do not provide personal information to an unknown source. A company will not ever contact you first. Microsoft will never tell you they’ve detected a virus, but malicious scammers will tell you that they are Microsoft, and make away with credit card numbers, email addresses, and more. Can you believe people would just go on the internet and lie?!

Careful Reading:

  • Always read the permissions given when installing, and disable unwanted or unneeded ones. Installing an application on any platform, phone or desktop, will request your permission when making a change to your system, when downloading an unknown software, or when collecting information about your friends, your location, or your personal data.  Many times, these functions can be disabled or these permissions denied.
  • Always be sure the installer is installing what you expect. Many times, an installer for a free program can be packaged with unwanted or malicious software.  Always read what you are agreeing to before clicking “Agree” ,”Next”, or “Finish” when installing.
  • Check out reviews and guides. On the internet you are never alone, and as creepy as that may sound, there is safety in numbers. “Is MacKeeper a virus?” or “Is (new website) safe?” are great searches to see if people have been able to use services successfully

Curated Content

  • Find trusted routes to free services.  There are many non-malicious free services and programs out there, and there are many places where people have done the work to ensure that they are safe. http://www.umass.edu/it/software has a list of programs that can be obtained for free or at a discount. Another powerful tool is https://ninite.com/. An all in one free to use installer for a wide variety of programs. Pick and choose what you need.
  • Use a content blocker, check your security settings, and use an anti-virus software. Be sure pop-ups are disabled, get an ad-blocker (but whitelist the sites you want to help fund like your favorite Youtube channel), and get Malwarebytes, or McAfee from the UMass IT software page above.