Heartbleed – Big Issue or Not?

Heartbleed and its affect on the ‘netHeartbleed

If you’ve been on the internet the last few days you’ve probably seen plenty of information about Heartbleed, a security hole in the popular OpenSSL format. But what is Heartbleed? And more importantly, how does it affect you?

Heartbleed is the name given to an oversight in some code written almost 3 years ago for the OpenSSL format. OpenSSL is used to keep connections between a computer and another computer private or secure. OpenSSL is great because it’s, well, open. That means anyone can look at the code and see if something is written poorly or simply doesn’t work. The problem is, no one looked closely enough at this code. Until recently.

It’s been there for a while and no one knew

The issue now that the vulnerability has been exposed is that no one really knows if anyone has used it maliciously. Unfortunately there’s no way to look at server logs and see if Heartbleed has resulted in users data to being hijacked. So companies like Facebook, Google, Instagram and more are simply assuming the worst. And I don’t blame them. If there’s no way of knowing then it’s a much better plan to have users change their passwords (probably the more critical piece of information that could have been gained through the bug) and stop it before anyone losses valuable data.

And that’s where I start to wonder. If this vulnerability is so tiny that it’s only now being discovered and patched, what’s the likelihood that hackers have started using this in the wild? With the security community just discovering this after nearly 3 years there’s a big window where someone could have discovered and utilized the bug. But the reality is that it’s very unlikely. So take a deep breath and relax.

Change your password

But you just said relax? Yes, but I didn’t say be lazy. While the likelihood of this bug being used in the wild is pretty slim, there’s still the chance. Besides, changing your password periodically is just a good practice. Don’t freak out. But go change your passwords, just in case. For an amazing tool to manage all your passwords (and help keep the secure) check out Lastpass.

Most (all the major) sites who use OpenSSL have already patched the bug. Of course, there could be another bug down the road. Computer security is no easy thing. Thankfully there are people who are actively finding, fixing and releasing security updates who have your back. Now do them a favor and take a tiny step towards preventing data loss because of Heartbleed.

Need more information about securing your computer? Read on about how to prevent laptop theft (or at least get it back if it’s stolen).

App Review – PushBullet

I’m always on the lookout for cool productivity apps and PushBullet takes the cake. If making your PC or Mac play nice with your phone or tablet is a priority, take note. There isn’t a better way to do it.

PushBullet makes sending files and links easy

PushBullet makes sending a file or link to your tablet or phone as simple as sharing back and forth. You can send pictures, PDFs, and more. Want a list of stuff to do later on your mobile device? Use the app to send it right to your notifications bar! And productivity… GO! The app is ready to send stuff either direction so be ready to get creative with how you share stuff with yourself and others.

This app looks amazing

PushBullet App MainscreenDevelopers, take note. When designing an app, use PushBullet as your target. If you get even close you’ll have one amazingly well laid out and beautiful app. The screenshot to the right will show you what I mean. The navigation is just what an app should feel like on Android (I’m using it on Android 4.3 on the HTC One) and is so simple to use I could recommend to my mom to use it. Once installed and signed up (you need a Google Account) everything to start sending files and more is just a few touches away.

Android notifications right to the PC (new feature)

If you’re anything like me, every time your pocket vibrates you probably reach for your device and see what notification just popped up. Not with PushBullet. With the Chrome extension installed you can set up the option to send on-screen notifications of whatever is popping up in your notifications bar on your Android device. And the developers have plans to do even more with it down the road, like even remove notifications you don’t need. I didn’t have to pull my phone out of my pocket three times while writing this post because the extension was telling me exactly what was going on. And check out this video from the developers about how fast it happens:

Change the way you send files to yourself and others

PushBullet sends files not only to yourself, but others that you add as contacts. I use NFC when I’m standing right next to someone and want to send them a link, but with the app you can send them from anywhere to anywhere! It’s so easy to do you can’t help but head to PushBullet first when sharing files with friends.

Download PushBullet from the Google Play Store as well as the Chrome Web Store and give it a try for yourself. And be sure to let me know what you think.

Custom Homescreen – mnml blue v.3

HTC One Custom HomescreenA recent post has generated a lot of questions about my current home screen setup. I decided to dedicate a whole post to how I got this beautiful setup working on my phone. Original design credit goes to ~Connor P over at My Color Screen.

First, download all the files you will need here. You’ll also need UCCW and Power Toggles from the Google Play Store. Also, you’ll need a custom launcher. I use Nova Launcher.

These settings work well on my HTC One. Adjust for your device. Setup Nova (or your custom launcher) to 12×10 grid. Enable Widget Overlap and Resizing. Disable Shadow and Label Icons. Under Look and Feel, hide Notification Bar.

Set the background image as your wallpaper, then long-press and choose “Widget” and add each UCCW zip to the screen. It doesn’t matter what size you add, you’ll be resizing as needed.

As you set up each UCCW widget, customize to your needs. Under “Edit Object” choose your static text (as needed) and the custom hotspot app for that text.

I’ve also included hotspots on the Weather, Clock, Date and Battery widgets so you can link those to the apps you want. I have the weather link to the “News and Weather” app in stock Android, the battery link to the system settings, the date link to a calendar (for me Business Calendar) and lastly, for the clock to link to… well, the Clock!

Use the edit field in UCCW to rotate, move and adjust until everything works for you! UCCW Edit Screen

The Power Toggle widget I used to add the Play Music controls. Just remove the buttons you don’t need, add the ones you do and then be sure to change the color (I used white).

Lastly, I created a new invisible widget for the top right part of the screen. You can edit the hotspot to link to whatever you like. For me, I have it linked to my IR Blaster remote since I use it regularly but didn’t really want an icon for it. Have fun with it. Last thing, turn on Hotspots in UCCW and you’re ready to go!

Questions? Let me know. Modify it to fit you? Share a link!

I hope you love this beautiful screen as much as I do. Again, props to ~Connor P for the original design. All I did was tweak the Hotspots to make it a little more power-user friendly and personalized.

HTC One and Custom ROMS

HTC One Custom HomescreenI’ve finally upgraded my device and settled on the flagship HTC One (for me on Sprint). And with any new devices begins the search for the perfect ROM. ROM selection is always a personal choice, so your mileage may vary on each of these, but I wanted to share what I’ve been playing with lately.

The HTC One comes stock with Android 4.1.2 with HTC Sense 5 on Sprint. While 4.1 is a great version of JellyBean, I have really gotten used to some of the 4.2.2 features on my older Galaxy Nexus (now moved on to my brother). So the search began for an AOSP ROM that would scratch that itch.

I’ve always been a huge fan of CyanogenMod. The pure AOSP feel with just the right tweaks added on just feels right in my hand. Simple things like, quiet hours, custom tiles in the power widget and solid root access make it an easy choice. But there are just a couple of features on the HTC One that haven’t made it to the regular nightlies for CM 10.2. The biggest one is IR support.

CM10.2 unofficialThe HTC One has a built in IR Blaster which, when set up properly, can be a lot of fun and really handy around the house. There are some fixes in the works, but an official CyanogenMod ROM with IR support hasn’t come out yet. Enter XDA Developers user David279. Also a fan of CM, he has built unofficial CM 10.2 ROMS with the IR blaster (as well as some other tweaks) and shared them with the community.

I’ve been using them for a few weeks now. While every once in a while something might go south, they builds have been top-notch. I’m currently on the 9/7 build and using it as a daily driver with no issue.

If you’ve got an HTC One on Sprint, check out the thread. Hit me up in the comments or on Google+ if you check it out.

At XDA: Homemade CM 10.2 with cherry picks ~ Working IR/USB OTG support

Device Update – New ROMs Are Fun!

I’ve been a super huge fan of CyanogenMod for several years now. I’ve used it on all my devices. From my HTC Hero CDMA to my current Galaxy Nexus (Sprint) aka the toroplus. I’ve really grown to love the little tweaks and add ons that make the custom ROM just shine.


Crossbones – Android custom ROM developers

The problem is, however, that recently the specific build for my device has become very unstable. I was having constant issues with GPS wake locks, GApps crashing and just generally poor performance. I hated to leave my first ROM love, but things were getting desperate.

I tried a few others. EOS, Paranoid and AOKP to name a few. They were OK, but most were built off the same source as CM so they had the exact same issues. You see, the real problem is there is no Android 4.2.2 source for the toroplus, so the builds based on that generally have weird problems. Don’t get me wrong. All those custom ROMs have great features and hard-working people behind them, they just didn’t work for me and my device.

On my search for a ROM that would work (and I mean stable, fast and good battery life) I stumbled upon a ROM on XDA Developers that claimed their target was “maximum stability and performance.” A look over the changelog revealed solutions to the issue I knew was the culprit. The difference between 4.2.2 and the official 4.2.1 from Sprint. Bingo. These guys were paying very close attention to the details.

I flashed the latest Crossbones (v. 2.3.2) and started on my way. First thing was getting used to stock Android again. But boy howdy, was this thing smooth! It was great to have a quick and functioning phone again. Battery life just about doubled in the process too.

The main issue I encountered right off the bat was trying to toggle settings. It was cumbersome to go into settings all the time. I found this sweet little tool called Settings Extended that solved that and now I’m super happy.

I’d go back to CM if they ever made the toroplus stable again. But then again, the Crossbones guys have made such a solid ROM here, I may have a new #1. The fine attention to detail is refreshing and having a functioning phone is, well… priceless.

If you’re using any of their supported devices, give Crossbones a try. I’m sure glad I did.

Plex – Take It With You!

Plex on Galaxy Nexus

Plex on Galaxy Nexus

If you love having access to your media on your mobile device like I do, you need to check out Plex. Movies, TV and music all go wherever you have internet access. And depending on how much internal storage you have on your device being able to stream some can make a big difference in how often you have hook your device up to your PC. Plex makes accessing all your content a breeze. Just setup the server software on your PC (Windows, Linux, Mac and even some NAS appliances supported) and grab an app for your mobile device (Android, iOS and even Windows Phone 7 and 8!) and you’re off! Plex will handle transcoding on the fly if the media format isn’t supported on your mobile device.

Some of the features I’ve really started to enjoy is that Plex knows which items from your library you’ve watched and then marks them as such. So when I want to check out something “new” I can easily find that content. Plex also will allow you to “Sync” content to a device and does so brilliantly. The Plex server is free to use, but for supporters there are a lot of extra features are unlocked with the “PlexPass” subscription.

I’ve used a lot of different UPnP streaming servers and NONE have performed as well as Plex. Check it out. Plex is supported on a bunch of different devices and is worth every penny for the extra features if you decide to go that route.

Plex Movie listing on Nexus 7

Plex Movie listing on Nexus 7

Nexus 7 and TV show preview page

Nexus 7 and TV show preview page


App Review – aCar

aCar Car Management, MileageOne of the great things about mobile devices is, well, the mobility! I always have my phone with me. So an app that helped me keep track of car maintenance was a no brainer. aCar helps me keep track of fill-upsmileage and regular maintenance tasks. All with a clear interface and great Pro options.

aCar really shines in what you can track. There are so many cool things you can do like fuel type, station locations, payment methods and more. The maintenance tasks are very customizable too. I like to drive about 4,000 miles on an oil change. aCar let’s me set that and then reminds me when I get to that point that it’s time to visit the lube lab. Brilliant!

If you keep track of business miles, like I do, the aCar is perfect for you. Tell the app the details when you leave and when you arrive. You can even add notes like who the customer is that you’re visiting and why. Then, everything is exportable at the end of the month when it’s time to report you results to your supervisor.

Finally, aCar has a great backup utility in the Pro version. I simply back up to Dropbox or send myself an email with the aCar data file and I know my data is safe. That is peace of mind well worth the $5.99 price tag.

aCar Fuel Cost Graph

aCar Fuel Cost Graph

This is one of those apps I use at least weekly. It’s better than a notepad in a car because I can track data in any vehicle I ride in, not just the one with my notepad in the glove box. Check it out and let me know what you think.

App Review – AppSync

AppSync in actionIf you have more than one android device and use the same apps on both, sometimes it can be annoying trying to keep data matching (at least, those without cloud support). Enter AppSync. A “root-required” app that will match data between devices while connected on the same WiFi network.

Setup of AppSync is really easy and once installed on both devices all you have to do is start it up (making sure to give it root permission on both), and start choosing the apps you want to sync. Once you choose the app you want to sync, decide which device’s data you want to send to the other and you’re off. I found it very handy when syncing my Angry Birds data from my phone to my Nexus 7 so I could continue where I had left off.

AppSync is free in the Google Play marketplace with an optional pro license to remove ads and unlock future features. I haven’t yet purchased the pro version but it’s well worth supporting this developer and future awesome ideas like this one. If you want more information about development, check out the developers thread on XDA.

Check out AppSync in the Google Play Store.

App Review – Shush!

Shush! in actionHave you ever been a meeting and had your ringer go off, interrupting everything? Embarrassing to say the least. But what about when you actually remember to turn your ringer off, only to realize 4 hours later it’s still off and you’ve missed all kinds of important incoming notifications?

Shush! let’s you silence your device for just the right amount of time. Weekly, I turn my ringer off for a Monday noon Toastmasters Internationale club meeting. With Shush! I just silence my phone, and tell Shush! to turn my ringer back on in an hour. And like clockwork, Shush! turns my ringer back on and I can go on with my day, worry free.

I can’t tell you how many times this great app has saved me from missing important calls or emails. And it’s well worth every penny.
Free and no ads. You really can’t beat that!

Check out Shush! in the Google Play Market. You’ll be shushing like a boss in no time.

In a future post I’ll tell you how to shut your ringer off for a meeting automatically. Check back soon!

App Review – Catch Notes

Catch is one of those apps I really can’t be without. When I first started using Android a few years ago I went on a hunt for a really good note taking app. There were lots to choose from in the then Android Marketplace, but I realized there was one major feature I wanted. The ability to store notes in the cloud.

I knew that if something ever happened to my phone and I couldn’t access my notes, I would be losing some valuable and potentially irreplaceable information. Having my notes backed up to the cloud meant not only were they safe from destruction and loss, but I could potentially also access them from almost any PC.

Enter Catch Notes. Catch Notes is a nifty little note taking app that was still called 3banana when I found it. Since then the company has grown a lot and the features included now are much more than just simple note taking. You can now store voice notes, pictures and even have to-do lists. All stored safely on their servers. And Catch takes security very seriously. I never have to worry about losing my notes or having them compromised.

Best of all, when a thought strikes me, I just open up Catch and enter it in. Safe. Secure. Simple. Accessible. Catch gives me everything I need in a note taking app. Catch is free for a basic account (which is what I’m still using) and has advanced options for power users.

Check out Catch in the Google Play Store and let me know what you think: Catch Notes