Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities – what to do?

Meltdown and Spectre are two vulnerabilities present in hardware making it potentially possible for programs to steal information, like passwords etc.

Meltdown affects only Intel processors while Spectre, which is more complex, also partly affects AMD and ARM based processors.

It is not yet known if these vulnerabilities has been exploited by anone. It can affect personal computers, servers, tablets and mobile phones, i.e. more or less any device containing a processor.

More information on: https://spectreattack.com/

What can you do?

  • Check your operating system for updates the upcoming weeks (this is normal good security practice, but make sure you do it frequently)
  • Install and update your virus protection. Even if the antivirus program can’t protect you from the attack it might be able to inform you that your device has got malicious code onboard

You can find security bulletins, security advisorys, faq:s etc for your operating system here: https://meltdownattack.com/#faq-advisory

How to combine multiple .vcf files into one

If you have your contacts exported into .vcf files, they can easily be imported into for example iCloud, Google or your email program. However, if you have a couple of hundreds or thousands of contacts, and equally amount of .vcf files it will be very inefficient to import each contact one by one.

A solution is to combine all contacts into one single .vcf file. By importing the combined .vcf file all your contacts are imported at once.

To combine all .vcf files into a single one can easily be done using a Windows command prompt (cmd).

cd directory-path-where-your-vcf-files-are-located
copy *.vcf allcontacts.vcf

Now import the file allcontacts.vcf into iCloud or similar.

My mobile phone has been stolen – how do I find it?

Track and find a stolen mobile phone is often done in vain. If you forgot it somewhere there is a chance to locate it, but if it was stolen for example by a pick pocket, they usually know to turn it off immediately and then wipe it before it has a chance to report it’s location. But it is worth a try.

Apart from that, call your provider to lock your SIM card and the phone IMEI numer (makes it unusable with other SIM cards). Change passwords for all the apps you had installed, like Facebook, email etc.

Android: Use Android Device Manager and login using the same Google account you used to initially set up the phone. Click on Locate device.

iPhone: Use iCloud and login using your Apple ID. Can be used to find your missing Mac, iPhone or iPad.

Windows phone: Use Microsoft and login using your Microsoft Account (former Windows Live ID). Go to Find my device.

[Solved] Samsung Galaxy Note II (GT-7105) + Plantronics Voyager Legend bluetooth headset poor audio quality

I recently bought a Plantronics Voyager Legend headset to use with my Samsung Galaxy Note II phone. It worked fine for a day or two, then I started to experience poor sound quality. Especially the person I was talking to had real trouble hearing me. Restarting bluetooth in the Samsung or restarting the Plantronics headset did not help. But restarting the Samsung Galaxy Note II resolved the problem momentarily – after a day or two the problem returned.

Before returning the headset to the dealer I decided to have a look at Plantronics website and found out there are a firmware update procedure availible on their website. To get the update software running on my Windows 8 PC I had to run the installer as administrator. When returning to the update window in the browser (yes, the update procedure is done all in the browser), I found my headset was running firmware version 44 and an update would update it to version 93.

After updating the firmware all quality issues where gone. 

To update the Plantronics headset visit http://www.plantronics.com/us/support/myheadset/updater/

 

Switching from iPhone to another brand – don’t forget to turn off iMessage first!

A girlfriend to one of my friends recently decided to leave the dark side and replace her iPhone with an Android (good decision!). However when she was using the iPhone she also had enabled the iMessage texting.

After switching to her new Android phone her friends, that still was using iPhones, tried to text her. Because her iMessage account was still enabled the texts ended up in the Apple void and didn’t reach her. To disable it the SIM-card had to be put into an old iPhone 3 in order to turn the iMessage off. The iPhone she replaced was using micro-SIM but the Android had normal SIM:s so she had a new larger SIM that wouldn’t fit in her old iPhone. The iPhone 3 works with normal SIM cards so that is why a iPhone 3 had to be used to disable it. 

So, if you decide to convert from iPhone to another brand, remember to turn iMessage off in the iPhone first!

 

Android mail token files fills up my SD card

I use a HTC Desire HD android mobile. My 8 GB SD card was getting full so I removed photos and videos that had already been copied to my PC. But I became a bit curious because of the 8 GB, the images and videos where not consuming the entire space.

To investigate further I connected the android phone using USB to my PC and used the PC:s explorer to dig into the SD-card.

I found out that the mail program stores images and other parts of emails in the Downloads folder on the SD card. After 1,5 years of use there where a significant amount of files there.  

After deleting them i noticed there was a folder called .Mail (i.e. Downloads/.Mail) which contained >21.000 files consuming some 700 MB of space. The filenames began with "token". After some Googleing it seemed by the discussions I found that these are temporary files created each time a message is pushed to the phone. I decided to take a shot and delete them.

After deleting all files in the .Mail folder I opened the mail app on the phone. For a short moment a text was displayed "Preparing SD card". Then my inbox showed up and everything worked normal with the only difference that the mail app seemed a bit quicker now.

My conclusion is that it is probably safe to delete the content of the .Mail folder once in a while to free up some space.

 

 

Mobile internet broadband in Latvia

When I travel abroad I need to stay connected to the Internet, not just for fun but I have to be connected for my work. Relying only on Wifi is not a solution as I recently discovered the hard way on a trip to France. The Hotel advertised "WiFi internet" but this however, turned out to be a connection limited to only web and mail (all traffic forced through a proxy). I needed VPN to work.

The most convenient and cost effective solution is to purchase a prepaid mobile broadband from a local provider. That way I will have 3G Internet connection during my stay.

To not be forced to buy a USB modem with every prepaid mobile Internet, I purchased a Huawei E585 3G/WiFi pocket router which is not SIM locked (works with any provider). This little thing has a battery that last for a couple of hours and I only need to buy prepaid SIM-cards in the countries I visit.

I went on a trip to Latvia and my choice fell on Okarte Internet via computer. They are covering 92% of Latvia for the moment.

There are two choises – a SIM card bundled with a USB modem for Ls 9 or just the SIM card for Ls 4. It includes one week of surf (up to 50 GB) and can then be refilled. According to Okarte’s website it could be purchased on many sales points, for example Narvesen or Plus Punkt kiosks.

The first store I stopped by could only sell refills. The second store didn’t have the SIM card only so I actually bought the package with a USB modem for Ls 9, figuring Ls 5 was a cheap price for not having to run around more stores. The modem was never used, instead I put the SIM card in my pocket router.

Even though Okarte’s website is in Latvian, Russian and English nothing in the package speaks any English, only Latvian and Russian which is of little help for me.

The major problem I encountered was that there was no technical information in the package, especially regarding APN which is crucial. I looked at my network manager in Ubuntu which actually has preconfigured choises for Okarte and found out that the APN is open.lmt.lv.

With this APN set I could surf away from my resort location in Jurmala enjoying download speed at around 4-7 Mbps and upload 0,45-1 Mbps.

 

Dovado routers with ZTE MF820D 4G modems (Telia)

To be able to use the ZTE MF820D 4G dongle from Telia with Dovado routers, both units need to have updated firmwares. Unfortunately even in stores, those units seems to have outdated firmwares.

To upgrade the ZTE MF820D 4G dongle – follow this guide (Telia Sweden): http://www.telia.se/

To upgrade the Dovado router, visit Dovado’s homepage: http://www.dovado.com/firmware and follow the instructions in the firmware file.

 

Navigating with HTC Locations

HTC LocationsWhen I bought my latest smartphone, HTC Desire HD, a navigation software called HTC Locations was preinstalled. HTC Locations is a product by HTC but navigation and maps is powered by the well known Route 66. 

It is free to download maps but to be able to navigate in an area you must buy a navigation license. Additinally you can also buy license for traffic information and speed cameras. The navition for Scandinavia came with a 30 day free trial. After a bit of testing I decided to buy navigation for entire Europe, life time updates. It is a big plus that all maps are on the SD memory so you don’t need a data connection to use it.

After a couple of months of use there are some issues with the software (which I have reported to HTC).

  1. A feature I miss from other navigators is to set a town centre as destination. If you are going to a large city for example, you might not know a street name you want to go to. You just want to get into the city centre. This is not possible in HTC Locations. You must enter a street as your destination. Picking one at random and your target is a larger city, you risk ending up in some suburb.
  2. I bought the navigation license with my Swedish SIM in the phone. On a trip to Italy I put an Italian SIM in the phone. Doing this the navigation did not work unless I put my Swedish SIM back in. HTC has not yet responded to my question about this.
  3. Zona Traffico Limitato and video camerasOn a trip in Italy from Bergamo to Tortona the route goes by Milan which is a major city. Milan has a circular motorway surrounding the city ("tangenziale") in order to lead traffic outside the city centre. HTC Locations however, routed me straight through the city centre. Worse is that in larger cities in Italy they have ECO-zones. Without a permit you will get a fine if you drive into an ECO-zone. The streets are monitored by video cameras and fines are sent to you by mail, even to foreigners. HTC Locations tried to lead us straight through the Milan ECO-zone. Luckily enough I spotted the ECO-zone signs so I manually could avoid it. A couple of days later a similar thing happened in Torino where the navigator tried to lead us through a traffic limitation zone (ZTL, zona traffico limitate) even though our destination address was outside the ZTL.
  4. When going from Münich in Germany to Venice in Italy HTC Locations routed us through the alps on small, beautiful roads. The trip took several hours longer than calculated because the calculations are probably based on the speed limit of the road. Even though the limit is 80 km/h it is impossible to keep that speed on narrow serpentine roads. The roads should probably be encoded with lower speeds so the navigator will make the route on larger roads.
  5. Several times when waiting for a red light the HTC connected to an open Wifi hotspot. When doing so the navigator exited the map mode to the menu, loosing the destination. I quickly had to reselect the destination from the history to contine the navigation. Once it had found my position and recalculated the route to the destination, the red had turned to green and the Italians behind had started honking their horns a long time ago.

Apart from that I think the navigation works well and it is very practical to have a good navigator in your phone. To be able to use it as a navigator (opposed to buying a separate product) you will need a car mount and a car charger. 

 

A nerd’s survival kit – extra power for your smartphone

PowerPackThe arrival of the smartphone (iPhone, Android) etc is a blessing for the true nerd who now can be constantly online and up to date with important things (aka the Internet). On a professional level it is a way of giving good service to your customers be being able to quick reply to emails etc.

The problem with the smartphones are battery capacity. With a couple of apps running and checking things now and then you can easily be drained in 2-3 hours. For an upcoming trip abroad I started to investigate solutions. I looked at solar cell chargers which turned out to be quite big in order to supply sufficient current. They also have built in batteries. Since I will not be hiking in the himalayas I figured the thing I really needed was extra battery capacity. I will after all stay in hotels where there is possibility to recharge over night.

PowerPackMy choice fell on a 5 Ah PowerPack from Kjell.com. One thing to investigate thoroughly before choosing the pack is that it can deliver enough current to charge the smartphone. It will require at least 1 A and there are power packs on the market with lower current ratings supposed to be used only with MP3 players and similar. If you want to do this stunt with an iPad you need even more current (2 A).

First I tried to use up my phones battery and then hook it up to the powerpack to recharge it. This wasn’t a good idea since a dried out smartphone will consume too much current which the powerpack can’t deliver. So instead, already in the morning when leaving my hotel, I hooked the smartphone up to the powerpack and run it on both the internal battery and the powerpack. This way my power lasted for the entire day.

When abroad I don’t have data roaming (otherwise the charges would be sky high). There is a little smart Android app called WeFi. It runs in the background and scans for open hotspots and connects to any it finds, no matter if it has an SSID that is not already known by your device. Once hooked up it verifies if it has Internet connection and plays a little sound. Then your phone pulls down new emails etc. Just walking by for example a McDonalds and you’re all up-to-date again 🙂