Author: Ryan Kamauff

Ryan Kamauff is a senior analyst with Crucial Point LLC. He produces technology focused content for and reports on analytical megatrends at the new IoT focused

Powerbag: one accessory we all need

I had been looking for one of these for a while, and at $19.99, price was the perfect excuse to grab one

I recently picked up a Powerbag. For those not familiar with this device, a Powerbag is a pretty normal looking case, but with a plus, a battery pack with integrated circuitry hidden inside. I grabbed the Powerbag Business Class Case (my case has the larger 6000 mAh battery, unlike this version), which offers a zip out laptop section (supposed to be TSA approved) and an internal battery. It comes outfitted with 3 plugs which are readily accessible (Apple 30-pin, microUSB and miniUSB), a port to charge the internal battery, and an extra USB slot (for "tablet" charging).

The beauty of the Powerbag is that the electronics are well hidden within the bag, offering easy access without gaudy or obnoxious cabling. As well, the bag is quite light, and reasonably well sectioned. It has a nice "tablet" sleeve which is large enough for an iPad or other 10" tablet (I fit the Microsoft Surface RT in here without much issue, and the Nexus 7 FHD slid in no problem). My 13.3" laptop fits with room to spare in the laptop section (I'd say no bigger than 15" would fit).

As someone who is carrying an extra battery pack about 90% of his life, the plugs inside the case are a great boon. I can easily just plug in my phone or tablet (Nexus 7 FHD) without having to get anything out or the like. Likewise, you can charge the bag without pulling out a ton of things (there is a nice little pocket for the A/C adapter by the plug). The Powerbag also allows you to quickly check the charge level with just one push of a button. The bag is advertised as "waterproof," but I wouldn't trust it in a rainstorm (or anything more than a light drizzle to be honest).

I would suggest that any traveling professional (or professional traveler) invest in a Powerbag. If you are always on the go, you'll find the ability to charge as you go greatly beneficial. Right now, you cannot charge your laptops, but I can envision future versions of the bags making that possible. I believe the Powerbag is one accessory that you'll find of value again and again, and it will pay for itself in convenience and ease of use time and time again.

Did Amazon knock one out of the park with the Kindle Fire HDX?

kindle hdxLast week, Jeff Bezos and Amazon released their updated Kindle Fire HD. I have been waiting to see how Amazon would react to the new Google/Asus Nexus 7 (which was quite a hit), but was honestly quite surprised with the quality of the product that Amazon has released. Coupled with their Fire OS 3.0 (based on Android 4.2), the new Kindle Fire HDX devices are fast, capable and competitive. They start out at $229 (for a 16GB 7" WiFi tablet with "special offers") and run to $594 (for a 64GB 8.9" 4G LTE tablet without "special offers").  On these devices (unlike most Kindle products) I would absolutely advise without "special offers," it only costs $15 and who knows if "special offers" would hurt the standby battery life on your device.

Amazon is clearly not interested in making a profit off the hardware, but they have absolutely given the HDX a huge spec bump. They upgraded the processor to the Snapdragon 800 series (which is what is in the LG G2), and upgraded the RAM. This means that the Kindle Fire HDX is without a doubt the performance king among today's tablets. While it's fair to assume the next iPad Mini will have increased capabilities, until Apple upgrades the resolution, performance is not comparable. Amazon's key new feature is known as "Mayday." The "Mayday" capability immediately connects  users to a live support agent. This will be extremely useful to many users who get confused (re: your parents and other nontechnical people in your life).

HDX 7 options

What Bezos and Amazon are banking on, is that semi-value conscious users, with a lot invested in the Amazon ecosystem, are going to gobble these up. As well, users who desire on the call tech support should flock to the Kindle Fire HDX. Amazon has devices that should appeal to most demographics (though I find 9" tablets to be awkward). The devices should sell remarkably well (especially the 16/32GB WiFi versions) because not everyone needs the other options.

In total, the Kindle HDX will be a great device for many. However, it will still be using the terrible Amazon Appstore instead of the Google Play Store. With Fire OS, you are leaving behind one of the strongest arguments for the Android OS, Google Service integration. You instead rely on Amazon services for everything (which are solid, but nowhere at the level that Google can offer). At the end of the day, the Kindle HDX is a great device for the reader/consumer in your life, who might need a little hand holding along the way.

Big data spending to reach $114 billion in 2018, Botnet Found on Tor and more

bigdataHere are the top cyber news and stories of the day.

  • Multiplayer games and DoS attacks - Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) companies are especially concerned about denial of service attacks. Many believe that they have been targeted (perhaps by rivals) to put down the servers. Hackers and criminals may initiate these attacks in order to gain log-in credentials (which are often tied to credit cards or other payment information). If you are playing MMORPGs, make sure to track your card activity closely to ensure you protect yourself. Via Help Net Security, more here.
  • Android 'Obad' Trojan piggybacks on another gang's mobile botnet - "The Obad.a Android Trojan first analysed by Kaspersky Lab in June has turned out to have an innovative and predatory ability to piggyback on botnets controlled by third-party criminal networks." Using a third party to distribute their attacks is new, and could be quite dangerous. These attacks were most successful in Russia and nearby republics, but could affect many more users. It has been closed in Android 4.3, so if possible, upgrade your device. Via ComputerWorld, more here.
  • Damballa Reports Over 75% of HTTP Malware Evades Detection by Traditional Protection Methods - "Damballa, an advanced threat discovery company, released customer research data that indicates over 75 percent of active infections easily evade detection by traditional protection methods." It is scary and surprising that all this malware just shoots right by products that are bill as "total" or "complete" protection. This only underscores the need for cyber training and education, as those are key factors to avoiding and eliminating cyber mishaps. Via TMC Net, more here.
  • Big data spending to reach $114 billion in 2018 - "Global spending on big data by organizations will exceed $31 billion in 2013, finds a new market forecast by ABI Research. The spending will grow at a CAGR of 29.6% over the next five years, reaching $114 billion in 2018. The forecast includes the money spent on internal salaries, professional services, technology services, internal hardware, and internal software." This is great news to everyone who is already betting big on Big Data, and will obviously leave room for those still innovating. Clearly as our data explodes, we must manage it better, and right now Big Data innovations are managing and exploiting that data to great success. The US Federal government is investing heavily in Big Data solutions and may even drive this spend higher. Via Net Security, more here.
  • Admins work overtime as Microsoft fixes Office with bumper 7 patches - "Microsoft's September Patch Tuesday will hand admins hours of unwanted overtime, including applying an unusually high number of patches affecting Office plus three critical patches for SharePoint Server. Of the 14 bulletins, the fact that half affect Office is probably the standout news. Only two of these seven are rated 'critical', but that does include one flaw (bulletin 2) that can be triggered simply by previewing an email in Outlook 2007 service pack 3 or all versions of Outlook 2010." The issues with patch management and federal systems have been widely published, but without these critical patches, our federal information systems are vulnerable. Eventually something needs to happen in this struggle. Via ComputerWorld, more here.
  • Botnet Found on Tor - "There has been an unusual and considerable rise in the number of Tor users over the past few weeks and the reason behind it appeared to be a botnet, but no one was positive." Apparently this massive botnet dates to at least 2009, and use an older version of Tor. It is interesting to see a network that is supposed to provide additional security has been carrying a botnet for years. Via ISS Source, more here.
  • Overcoming the zettabyte: How government is making records electronic - "By the end of 2016, the entire government is supposed to manage its email records entirely electronically (some agencies still print out emails to file them away). By the end of 2019, all records must be managed electronically." This will create massive data warehousing and management struggles, opening up opportunities for firms in those areas. Via FedScoop, more here.
  • New browser blocks snooping adware, Google tracking - While no one is saying it can block the NSA, a new browser named Epic Privacy Browser is claiming it can block snooping adware and Google's tracking. "The browser won't accept third-party cookies and blocks trackers as well as ads, which often include trackers. The average Web page contains six trackers, he [Alok Bhardwaj, founder and CEO of Hidden Reflex] says, with some having up to 40." Via ComputerWorld, more here.
  • NIST Revising Mobile Forensics Guide - "Because of the proliferation of tools to meet the forensic requirements caused by the explosion of types and models of mobile devices, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is revising and renaming its guidance. NIST has just published a draft of Special Publication 800-101 Revision 1: Guidelines on Mobile Device Forensics." Via Gov InfoSecurity, more here.

What’s going on in the Mobile World in September 2013

Right now, students are going back to school, summer is winding up and people need new devices. Many people want to start the new season with a slick new phone or tablet, but the fact of the matter is that few of these are worth your money. Right now, the only device out there I can unequivocally sponsor is the new Nexus 7, all of Apple's offerings are close to a year old, HTC and Samsung's top devices are four months old, and Sony, Motorola and LG all have new devices out there, but they are not for everyone.

The new Motorola Moto X is certainly a very interesting phone. The Verizon only DROID MAXX is quite a nice device, but their insistence on selling it for $299 (on contract) gives me pause. Sony is releasing a new Xperia Z1, and LG is releasing their G2 (the original G was the basis for the Nexus 4). However, we have rumors of the Nexus 5 (or possibly multiple Nexus devices) coming out shortly (possibly by the end of October). A new Galaxy Note III will be out shortly as well, for the giant-handed among us. This logjam makes it impossible to feel comfortable suggesting any device purchases, maybe except the 16 GB Nexus 4 (now on sale for $250 without contract).

The Apple world is even worse right now. Apple's next big event is coming up next Tuesday (September 10th) and will most likely showcase their iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. We have yet to hear details on new iPads (either Mini or Full sized) and thus, I would stay away from these devices. The new iPhone 5S sounds like it will be mostly iterative. The processor won't be the leaps forward Apple has released in the past, but it will be more than enough to handle the load (Apple is most likely increasing the RAM in the new iPhone, which is a great way to increase capability). There is some talk about a fingerprint scanner in the home button, which could add a great deal of security and capability for users. The iPhone 5C is going to be a budget iPhone. This is a smart move by Apple, because it will allow them to compete in the US with all the Android manufacturers. As well, it will provide an incentive to bargain shoppers to move to Apple's lightning cables, and allow them to sell more accessories. Obviously, purchasing any iDevice before this event would be unwise, as a short wait will far better inform your decision making (as well as may drive prices down in the meantime).

When it comes to "other devices," there is not much to be said. Microsoft has just bought out Nokia, which just released their Lumia 1020. This phone is overpriced at $299 on a contract, and while crippled by the Windows OS, only really has a 42MP camera to offer users. This camera does some cool tricks to ensure you get a good picture, but is it worth the terrible ecosystem and lack of major developer support (hint: no). If you are committed to the Windows Mobile experience, wait a few months and see what comes out of the recent merger (it might be worth it to you). The Firefox OS has been hinted at for a while, but the only site I've found that offers the device has pushed back shipping until at least October. BlackBerry has yet to release their new devices, so if you're thinking BlackBerry, you had better wait.

Now, more than ever, the mobile world is in a state of flux. We are awaiting next gen devices in all of the Apple verticals, and new Nexus devices in smartphone and 10" tablets. Without firm details on these devices, it would be unwise to buy. Neither the Galaxy S4 nor the HTC One are bad devices, but when Samsung has already released an updated version of the GS4, and they are both a few months old, getting locked into a new contract is not a wise decision.

What the Microsoft buyout of Nokia means to the consumer

WPhone_logo_300Recently, Microsoft announced that they will be buying Nokia's mobile division. In my mind, this was the inevitable conclusion of Nokia's announcement that they would only manufacture Windows Mobile devices. Microsoft has struggled greatly with their Surface RT device, and Microsoft has had to cut the price (and toss in the $130 keyboard cover) to move any product. Microsoft has been similarly struggling with smartphone sales, and they believe the two are combined. As more users look to lightweight mobile solutions instead of laptops and PCs, Microsoft does not have a compelling alternative.

We've talked extensively about ecosystems here at CTOvision, and I lauded Google for their ecosystem improvements in the Nexus 7 and Android 4.3. Microsoft clearly has control of the desktop ecosystem, but many analysts believe that era of the PC is over, and that sales of those devices have already peaked. Struggling to make money in this realm, Microsoft has finally made it's top suite (Office) available on mobile, but only on iPhone/iPod Touch (as there is no iPad or Android application out yet). Microsoft has yet to provide a compelling argument to buy into their mobile ecosystem, and while they are selling 7M+ quarter, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the success of Android or iOS.

The hope, is that this purchase will engage both Microsoft and developers to make the Windows Mobile experience a viable mobile operating system. Competition in the mobile landscape is beneficial, and while it'd be great to get some quality Nokia hardware running your favorite mobile OS, it looks like that will never happen. However, if Microsoft continues to only focus their mobile capabilities on Windows 8 (not developing for other platforms), then this will just be a stalling effort. Apple is a unique brand/ecosystem, and can afford to focus on only one platform, due to brand loyalties and a heavy install base. BlackBerry has only just now branched out to supporting multiple platforms, and are fast on their way to becoming a footnote. Microsoft has to take this partnership and mirror what they have done with Office on PCs to the whole mobile world.

The purchase of Nokia will more tightly tie hardware and software development for Microsoft, and may create a stronger OS. However, they still need to grow their app store offerings (and get third-party developers to engage). Lastly, Microsoft needs to create a real value-add for their mobile operating system. "Ease of use" isn't a real differentiator, nor is the lack of Office in other ecosystems a viable reason. Windows Phone needs to meet Android and iOS as a real mobile OS, that people should want to use (not just the cheapest phone available).