Tag Archives: iPhone

Stop annoying pop ups on your phone’s web browser(s)

When using my Android phone, I’ve become reluctant to click on links to unknown webpages because many — maybe most — of them contain obnoxious pop ups. I’ve stopped this by disabling Javascript in my phone’s web browsers(s). Each browser is different, but in general go to the Settings for your web browser and turn off Javascript. This will work on both Android and IOS (Apple iPhone) phones. 

Most browsers will allow exceptions to this Javascript off rule. Your webmail hosting service, bank, etc. probably require Javascript. Add these sites to your browser’s list of sites on which Javascript may execute.

I know — it’s inconvenient to configure, but you’ll be glad that you did, when you’re no longer bothered by those awful pop-ups.


Disguise your smartphone’s phone number.

Burner screenshot on smartphoneWhile watching a Youtube video clip about the recovery of a stolen bicycle, I learned about Burner, a smartphone app that allows a smartphone user to temporarily mask his or her phone number with an alias phone number. It’s available for iPhones, but not yet for Android phones. (originally published on 31 December 2012. 9 July 2014: Burner is now available for Android phones, as well as IOS.)

Theft recovery seems like a perfect use for telephone anonymity. The victim, who’s a Portland, Oregon resident, responded to a Seattle Craigslist for sale ad for what seemed to be his stolen bike. He used Burner to make his phone calls appear to originate in Seattle.

Bike theft is a low-risk occupation. Watch a NYC resident steal bikes in public view.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Apple’s TLS/SSL bug

A serious flaw in Apple’s TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer) was discovered last week. All current Apple hardware and software was found to be vulnerable to bogus security certificates. Apple reportedly pushed out patches to iPhones and iPads using IOS 6.0 and later. This week they released a large OS X update that includes a fixed TLS/SSL module.

Visit https://gotofail.com to learn if your Apple device is vulnerable. If so, get thee to the update.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Play real-time trivia on QuizUp

QuizUp allows iPhone users to test their knowledge of trivia in games against worldwide competitors in real time. There are hundreds of topics available.

I can’t wait for the Android version.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Microsoft, Apple et al as patent trolls

When Nortel (née Northern Telecom) went belly up, its assets went up for auction. Microsoft bought a block of more than 600,000 IP addresses from Nortel for $7.5 million. A consortium comprising Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Sony, and Ericsson was high bidder at $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio. Google bid, but lost to the consortium.

Rockstar logoThat consortium has named itself Rockstar and become a NPE (non-practicing entity – a polite term for “patent troll”). On its website www.ip-rockstar.com, it calls itself “an intellectual property (IP) licensing company”. It has sued Google, Samsung, et al for patent infringement by Google’s Android operating system. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — the favorite venue for patent trolls.

Android really bugged Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve swore,

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

The majority of the industry press disagrees with Steve:

Apparently Rockstar consists of a handful of ex-Nortel software people, who’ve spent the last 18 months diligently looking for patent infringements. Rockstar itself has few assets aside from its patents, and is clearly acting as an agent for its principals. The existence of Rockstar seems to allow Microsoft, Apple, et al to disavow knowledge of the dubious dirty work done by patent trolls . . . while still doing the dirty work of patent trolls.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

This guy’s cloud burst.

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking

Never put all your eggs in one basket cloud.

The sad story of what happened to Mat Honan has been big news for the past ten days or so. All of his devices and data were interconnected via Apple’s iCloud, and they all got wiped clean within minutes. Here’s his story, in his own words. Excerpts:

Apple tech support gave the hackers access to my iCloud account. Amazon tech support gave them the ability to see a piece of information — a partial credit card number — that Apple used to release information. In short, the very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification . . .

It turns out, a billing address and the last four digits of a credit card number are the only two pieces of information anyone needs to get into your iCloud account. Once supplied, Apple will issue a temporary password, and that password grants access to iCloud.

(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around, baby, two’s a crowd

No technical skill was requs guy’s e-life. The hacker(s) just needed patience, knowledge of customer service procedures at each provider, a method, a couple lucky guesses, and convincing telephone presence. We worry about the security of 128-bit encryption, or the virtues of SHA-2 (secure hash algorithm) versus SHA-1, when the most vulnerable part of any system is the humans who use it.

The fact that the authentication value of a credit card’s last four digits is zero at Amazon and significant at Apple is worrying. Apple claimed that a service rep didn’t follow its password reset procedure. In fact, the procedure WAS followed; it was just a flawed procedure. Apple has reportedly changed their customer service procedure for authenticating an account owner over the phone.

Today is the iPhone’s 5th birthday.

Steve Jobs introduces iPhone video clip

screenshot: Apple
Happy birthday to a revolution.

It’s hard to believe now, but some pundits in 2006/2007 predicted failure for Apple’s rumored new phone. They felt that Apple should stick to making computers and iPods, not phones. (Of course, the iPhone is a computer.) The pundits argued that the smartphone market was already overcrowded: the Palm Treo, RIM Blackberry, and Nokia E61 controlled the market, leaving no room for Apple.

And then exactly five years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone:

“Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary new mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.” <insert patter here>

“Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!”

The pundits were wrong, of course. A major reason is that Apple made it easy for third-party developers to create and distribute iPhone applications. The hardware was very nice, but I think it was the software — the friendly user interface and the proliferation of useful apps — that powered the iPhone’s runaway success.

In five years, neither RIM nor Palm responded with a viable competitor, and they’re now footnotes. Microsoft responded with an operating system that nobody liked. Only Google and partners provided viable competition.

Well done, Steve!

One indicator of success is that the wireless carriers are reporting less voice traffic per subscriber, and more data traffic. They’re responding by making more attractive voice offers and capping their data plans.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Speech distortion with iPhones varies

I know it’s a lame headline, but I see no pattern to iPhone speech distortion.

photo: Apple Inc.

Months ago I planned to write an article that documented my observations of speech distortion when conversing with iPhone users. I thought that I saw a pattern: Verizon iPhone subscribers and iPhone 4S users had more speech distortion; AT&T iPhone subscribers and iPhone 3 and earlier users had less speech distortion.

I became interested in the topic because my phone conversations with iPhone users were frequently very low quality. Distortion would obscure syllables, words, or whole sentences.

My testing resources were nil; I would rely upon my very imprecise ear and the patience of my iPhone friends. A funny thing happened on my way to this article: any pattern that I thought that I saw initially, vanished.

Even the simplest analog system can introduce speech distortion caused by a number of anomalies. Modern cellular phone systems add still more variables that can cause speech distortion. One source is multi-path reception: the same radio signal arrives at the receiving antenna after following multiple paths. Each path involves different delays, so the signals are out of phase and interfere with each other. This is most likely to be a problem in urban areas with tall buildings. GSM systems such as AT&T’s can reduce this effect through frequency hopping.

Test equipment is required at both ends of a telephone conversation to perform most audio distortion tests. One useful test is for intermodulation — the mixing of two tones, resulting in additional tones that weren’t in the original two-tone input signal. The difference in amplitude between the original tones at the test system output and the new tones is measured in decibels (dB). An acceptable difference of signal level to intermodulation (IM) distortion product levels might be -35 dB or more. My ear tells me that cell phone (not just iPhone) IM noise is frequently much, much worse than -35 dB. If I had to guess, IM distortion often is perhaps -10 dB or worse: there’s plenty of audio level; it’s just completely garbled. I’ve not found any real-world iPhone IM distortion test results.

I have one friend with an AT&T iPhone 3 that sounded great one day (no distortion at all), and much worse another day when connected to a different cell tower. Another friend with a Verizon iPhone 4S sounds consistently bad.

One positive result: I found a good mobile phone forum and blog: howardforums.com

I’m surprised that we accept such abysmal speech quality from our mobile phones. (In the old Ma Bell wired telephone days, Bell Labs devoted enormous resources to minimizing speech distortion. Low speech distortion meant that people talked more via phone, which resulted in more revenue.) I wish that I could document a pattern to iPhone speech distortion, but I can’t. Sorry.

What are your iPhone speech distortion observations?

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Watch your store from your iPhone

Retail business owners love this iPhone app.

Q-See QT426-811-5 16 Channel Kit Solution
I recently helped a retail store owner monitor his store’s video surveillance cameras remotely. He had previously installed a Q-See QT426-803-5 16 Channel H.264 DVR System with 8 weatherproof CCD cameras and remote monitoring. The system includes a 16-channel DVR (digital video recorder) and 8 cameras with infrared lighting. For less than 800 dollars, it’s a heck of a good deal.

Q-See QT426-811-5 camera on an iPhone
We assigned a username and password to each manager, so that the store owner can check the DVR’s log to see who logged on, and when. I think that up to 5 users may monitor the cameras simultaneously. The DVR’s software seems to be built upon some distro of Linux. We needed to update its software (from a thumb drive that we plugged into the DVR’s front USB port) before we were able to make it play nicely with the iPhones — a process that’s a little awkward, as the DVR lacks a keyboard, and the system doesn’t update its screen while it’s updating itself. Once again, patience is a virtue; after maybe 10 minutes it announced that the update had succeeded. (Whew!)

We initially set up remote camera viewing on the store owner’s laptop computer, as well as on his home computer. (This requires opening some ports on the workgroup’s router and forwarding those ports to the DVR’s local ip address.) Then we installed the Supercam app on his iPhone, and now he can monitor his store’s cameras from his iPhone. We set up his managers’ iPhones with the same app. The store’s ISP is Comcast cable. Note: the free Supercam app works with only one ip address; if you expect to use it on both the store’s WiFi network and AT&T’s 3G network, you’ll need to purchase (for a dollar, I think) Supercam Pro, which allows you to access the same DVR at both its public and its internal ip address. I was expecting the store’s public ip address to change, but it hasn’t, so I haven’t needed to use a service such as dyndns.org (yet).

Store management loves the ability to monitor from almost anywhere, at anytime. (For one thing, it lets them view the store’s interior when a burglar alarm is triggered at 3:00 o’clock in the morning.) Employees are less enthused.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com

© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Apple releases update to fix iPhone vulnerability

iPhone software update
Apple quickly patches iPhone.
One day after the SMS vulnerability was made public, Apple claims to have patched the iPhone operating system. They plan to have the patched version, 3.0.1, available today (Saturday, 1 August) via iTunes. If you own an iPhone, download and install this version as soon as possible. Read more:
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iPhone attack via text message disclosed

Article about iPhone SMS hackiPhone’s vulnerability to SMS attack revealed.

Charlie Miller revealed an attack on Apple iPhones that is launched simply by sending an iPhone a text message. (Also called SMS message.)
Mr. Miller is discussing this vulnerability at the ongoing annual Defcon / Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. He claims that possible damage ranges from a simple crash, through hijacking of all phone functions, to broadcast of the malicious text to all numbers in the iPhone’s contacts list. (It sounds like another buffer overrun vulnerability: the device gags as it tries to process more data than it can handle, and sends the CPU’s instruction pointer to an undefined address in memory . . . where apparently malicious code awaits.)
Mr. Miller notified Apple of the vulnerability, and Apple is presumed to be working on a patch. Supposedly they’ve known of the vulnerability for weeks, yet they’ve made no official statement on this topic.
In the meantime, iPhone users are urged to look for text messages that end with a single square character: if an iPhone user receives such a mesage, he/she is urged to immediately turn off the iPhone. (If it were me, I’d remove the battery . . . oops! You can’t, on an iPhone.)

iPhone and MacBook Air batteries can’t be replaced by users.

Steve Jobs seems to be obsessed with making sure that Apple’s products are small and light. This is good (until repair is needed). He doesn’t seem to be concerned with the long-term usability of Apple’s products. This is bad.

Neither the iPhone nor the MacBook Air contains a battery that may be replaced by users. Owners must either send their iPhones and MacBook Airs to Apple for installation of new batteries or take them to an Apple store. In my opinion, this is unacceptable.

Click for US-based Apple stores

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695