Free phones – but NO privacy!

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When I spotted an article in Forbes by Thomas Brewster, I was immediately intrigued. The headline is U.S. Funds Program With Free Android Phones For The Poor — But With Permanent Chinese Malware. It surely must strike anyone reading it as a giving with one hand and taking away with the other gesture. So, I had to check out what it was about.

As I live outside the USA, I was not aware that low income households in the States have been able to get cheap cell service and even free smartphones via the U.S. government-funded Lifeline Assistance program. And there is one provider of this service called Assurance Wireless that offers a free Android device along with free data, texts and minutes. It sounds good on the face of it.

But according to security researchers at Malware Bytes there is a significant drawback to the distribution of this largesse. The Android phones come with preinstalled Chinese malware, which effectively opens up a backdoor onto the device and endangers the users’ private data. And, the researchers say that one of the types of malware is impossible to remove.

Malware Bytes informed Assurance Wireless about the issue. Assurance is a Virgin Mobile company, just as a matter of interest. So far Malware Bytes have not received a response from the service provider. So, users should be aware that their devices are vulnerable. Interestingly, after Forbes published the article a spokesperson for Sprint, which owns Virgin Mobile and Assurance Wireless, said: “We are aware of this issue and are in touch with the device manufacturer Unimax to understand the root cause. However, after our initial testing we do not believe the applications described in the media are malware.”

The FCC, which runs Lifeline Assistance, confirmed to Forbes that the law requires “its fund not be used by partner carriers for spending on devices.”

As a result questions are being asked. Senator Ron Wyden asked the FCC why these phones are being distributed to low-income citizens: “It is outrageous that taxpayer money may be going to companies providing insecure, malware-ridden phones to low-income families. I’ll be asking the FCC to ensure Americans that depend on Lifeline Assistance aren’t paying the price with their privacy and security.”

According to the Forbes article, the affected device is a UMX phone shipped by Assurance Wireless, and one of the bits of malware is the creation of a Chinese entity known as Adups. It basically auto-installs apps and the user has no way of controlling that. Furthermore Adups tools have been caught siphoning off private data in the past. This included the full-body of text messages, contact lists and call histories with full telephone numbers.

All this begs the question that Thomas Brewster asks – is privacy only for the rich?

Bill Gates’ big mistake

What do you think might be the biggest mistake Bill Gates ever made? It doesn’t seem to have been too costly a mistake as he’s a tech billionaire turned philanthropist.

According to recent interviews reported by CNN Business channel, he has been telling the media that his “greatest mistake” was not ensuring that Microsoft became Apple’s biggest iOS rival.

As the story goes, Microsoft lost out to Google when it came to launching a system to challenge Apple’s iOS. That system of course is Android, used by every phone that isn’t an iPhone. So, you can imagine his regret that Microsoft didn’t manage to get ahead of Google.

Gates told venture capital firm Village Global: “In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. … There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system.”

Microsfot’s problem stemmed from its domination of the computer market. If you weren’t working on a Mac, you were using a computer with Microsoft’s software. That was it; there were only two choices.

With so much concentrated in the computer market, Microsoft trailed behind Apple in the emerging smartphone sector. Although it needn’t have.

Microsoft came out with its own mobile operating system, called Windows Mobile, in 2000. Apple debuted its iPhone in 2007, followed by Google’s Android platform in 2008. So theoretically Microsoft had the opportunity, but it just didn’t keep up with Apple and then Google.

Gates told the Economic Club in Washington, DC

that the antitrust trial in that period was a major distraction. Moreover, the company didn’t place the best staff to work on mobile.

“We knew the mobile phone would be very popular so we were doing what was called Windows Mobile. We missed being the dominant mobile operating system by a very tiny amount. We were distracted during our antitrust trial. We didn’t assign the best people to do the work. So it’s the biggest mistake I made in terms of something that was clearly within our skillset. We were clearly the company that should have achieved that — and we didn’t.”

Gates also told Village Global that this error cost the company billions of dollars that ultimately went to Google. He also told them, “Our other assets like Windows and Office are still very strong, so we are a leading company. But if we had gotten that one right, we would be THE leading company, but oh well.”

And just so you know; Gates uses an Android phone. Perhaps using an iPhone would have been going just a step too far.

Bitcoin is becoming a big brand

How big are these news headlines?

· Bitcoin surpasses 1 M daily active addresses.

· Uber provided an estimated 14 M rides per day in 2017.

· Apple sold 798,877 iPhones per day in 2017.

· OLA & Uber combined provide an estimated 3.5 million rides per day in India.

The virus has already spread! And it’s a good news for bitcoin.

According to CoinMetrics.io, there are now over a million daily active addresses, a number that is defined as the number of unique “from” or “to” addresses used per day. This is something we haven’t seen since November 2017, at the height of the bitcoin buying frenzy.

As Coindesk reports, one Twitter user, Kevin Rooke, noticed the movement this week and tweeted: “When Bitcoin first broke 1 million active addresses (Nov 27, 2017), 1 BTC was $9,352 and the median tx fee was $3.23.Yesterday 1 BTC was $8,230 and the median tx fee was $1.33.”

While some might say that this statistic isn’t that important, it certainly shows us one thing — there are people using bitcoin on a regular basis, whether for trading or spending. It is a good stat for bitcoin, regardless of what those who criticise it say.

From the statistics at the beginning of this article, you can see that there is a context for the figure. Take a look at the figures for Uber.

On the face of it, Uber is doing ‘better’ than bitcoin, because it has 14 million daily users globally. But you have to consider the fact that shifting from using a standard taxi to using Uber is much simpler for most people than changing from using fiat currencies to a cryptocurrency. So, the comparison is not exactly fair.

Then again, Apple is selling just under one million phones on a daily basis, putting bitcoin slightly ahead of it.

Ultimately, what can we take from these figures? The answer is that bitcoin is seeing the same kind of transaction volume as some of the world’s leading brands, which is quite an achievement, and shows that bitcoin is not just the leading cryptocurrency; it’s becoming the big brand of the cryptocurrency space.

Apple’s iPhone 11 gets the thumbs down

The new iPhone isn’t even available yet, but leaks have revealed that Apple fans aren’t happy with the “new, ugly iPhone,” but they are trying to talk it up by claiming that once you use the phone, you’ll forget the aesthetics.

Who would ever have thoguth that Apple could produce a product that anyone would describe as ‘ugly’. The company has built its reputation on being ‘beautiful’.

Gordon Kelly writing for Forbes gets to the crux of the story. He revealed that Ben Gaskin, a popular tech designer, was able to build physical models of Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Max based on leaked details of the schematics and the renders.

When Gaskin revealed what they looked like, he asked, “Did you get used to this design already?” The response was quite remarkable, with almost 900 comments and the vast majority of them were overwhelmingly negative with the highest ranked responses including: “Horrible design… it looks soo awkward” and “Steve Jobs would’ve fired everyone.”

What is the problem?

It’s the camera! It is like a carbuncle on the back of the phone, yet as Kelley says, “the irony is this most hated feature is likely to be the iPhone 11’s headline upgrade.” Basically, Apple is sidelining style for substance with both new iPhones, which have the potential to shoot both models back to the top of the smartphone camera charts. This is a position that Apple lost a while back.

The new phones will also have better batteries, which is a plus for many users. But, it is abandoning its leading 3D Touch technology, which means the iPhone 11 and 11 Max will deliver an inferior experience to that of every iPhone since the iPhone 6S. That is a strange state of affairs for the trailblazers in smartphone tech. Furthermore, the front of Apple’s new iPhones will remain unchanged for the third generation in a row.

Kelly suggests you wait until 2020 for the more exciting iPhone and forget this year’s iPhone and XR2 — it sounds like sensible advice.