Product Review: Lumia 1520 – My new cell phone

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It was late February 2015, and I faced a pivotal life-moment. Time to get a new cell phone.

For some people this is not a big deal, a once-a-year (or more) thing. But for me, I got my first cell phone in 1997 and could count on one hand the number of devices I’ve owned. (Yes, I’ve continuously owned a cell phone in that time. That’s how long I keep them.) And since it’d been four years since my last one, Phone #6 was kind of a big purchase.

I was going to wait it out until Microsoft released Windows 10, but my current phone was on its own schedule. It began increasingly wimping out on me, shutting itself off and restarting at random times—inconvenient and annoying. Luckily, I learned that even if I got a Windows 8.1 device now, 10 would be a free upgrade later.

I’d had my Samsung Focus, running Windows 7.5 (its maximum upgrade), since mid-2011. Back then its 4” screen was larger than any iPhone screen until late 2013, when the iPhone 5 finally caught up to match it. And it wasn’t until the iPhone 6, released last October, that Apple screens were finally larger than mine. But now I was also four years behind with the technology. Smart phones had gotten way smarter.

lumia 1520 pic

Way bigger than a 4″ screen.

I went to the AT&T store and bought a Lumia 1520 with a 6” screen. A phablet. Or, a TV, as my friends have dubbed it. The 1520 was released in October 2014. Everyone agreed its camera rocked. Lumia is, after all, from Nokia, a camera company, whose cell phone division was bought by Microsoft. The phone’s other powerful specs were pretty awesome, too.

But detractors complained. It was a Windows device, so there were less apps available. Plus, last fall, everyone thought it was a behemoth.

Flash-forward to spring, however, and 6” was suddenly the new flagship size for everyone from Apple to Samsung. Funny, how a few months changed everything.

It was a huge leap to go from a 4” screen to a 6” one, but it was amazing how quickly I got used to it. The transition from Windows to Windows was seamless, since all of my data, contacts, photos, and documents were already stored in Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud. Within a few hours, I’d completely adjusted to both the larger size and the upgraded OS.

It’s been almost four months since my purchase, and I’m still happy. There are probably features on my Lumia that I’ll never use, like Project My Screen, or the built-in Office 360 suite. But things like texting are easier with the bigger keys. And my new friend, Cortana, lets me voice-text and finds destinations for me while I keep my eyes on the road. Also, she mutes people who call or text me during “Quiet Hours,” responding with a polite return-text that I’m busy. So I can get my beauty sleep. Yes, this was definitely a good purchase!

If you need help with your technology shopping, or troubleshooting your Windows (or iOS, or Android) devices, give us a call at Everon. 888-244-1748. Or email us at info@everonit.com.

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New iPhone/Mac Vulnerabilities That Can Impact Your Business

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Recently Apple was hit with two big issues in the same month. These gave rise to concerns that Apple products might not be as secure as most think. The first of the two came in the form of a text message that can be sent to Apple iPhones.

The text, which is entirely in Arabic, can be sent to anyone with an iPhone, and it will immediately shut down the phone. While this is more of an annoying bug than a security concern (although it definitely can be viewed as a security concern, depending on the owner of the phone and his/her need for uptime), it doesn’t seem to be harmful to the devices. Users in the  Reddit.com forums found the bug, and it appears they did so by accident.

Credit: parts of this image are reproduced with permission from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Unibody_Macbook.JPG.

Credit: parts of this image are reproduced with permission from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Unibody_Macbook.JPG.

If your phone receives the dreaded text message, you will need to turn on your phone and delete that message. One workaround to the text issue is to go into the settings,and turn off text message previews that appear on the home screen. Apple is aware of the bug and will resolve the issue in its latest update, which should be coming very soon.

The second security concern, and one that is very critical to businesses is the latest exploit which allows someone to put a permanent backdoor onto your Mac by rewriting the firmware for the BIOS to allow remote connection to the device. This affects all Macs older than mid-2014.

The reason this security concern is so troubling is, unlike other types of exploits, where if you were to be hacked you could wipe your hard drive and start clean with the appropriate updates, this targets the BIOS, meaning no matter how often you wipe your hard drive, hackers can exploit the vulnerability over and over again.

The vulnerability can be enacted as soon as a machine is woken from Sleep Mode. The security researcher who found the exploit, Pedro Vilaca, stated you can stop your machine from going into Sleep Mode to bypass the exploit. However, Apple is aware of the exploit and should patch it soon. Vilaca also stated that this is very similar to last year’s “Thunderstrike Proof-of-Concept” exploit.

While nothing will protect against this current exploit (i.e. antivirus, anti-malware), it does show that as Macs become more popular, holes are being found in the OS and, in this case, in the hardware itself. Business owners must be aware of both where their employees go on the Internet and how to protect their assets from hacking attempts.

Everon offers antivirus for Macs, as well as PCs, with a product called Webroot Secure Anywhere. We can assist in setting up hardware proxies that will prevent unauthorized access to the Internet. If you have any questions about what we can do for your Apple environment, feel free to call our techs at 1-888-244-1748 (or email at info@everonit.com). We’re here for you. Twenty-four/seven, 365.

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How to Get iOS Devices to Work with Windows Servers

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 Jeff's iOS devices and Windows servers blog-3

A while ago a client asked, “How can I use my Apple iPad with my documents at work?” 

Initially, it seemed like an easy question. Windows computers and iPads are both very popular products; of course there would be an easy solution. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be.

These two large competitors are not very interested in working together. My client, who had his shares on a Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Server and wanted his Apple iPad to access those shares, had presented a challenge.

There were obvious solutions. You could use any number of remote desktop apps, such as Teamviewer, to get into your company’s terminal server, to work on the server’s desktop. But my client did not want to remote-in to anything. He wanted to access the documents without needing any device. He wanted to be able to use his domain credentials to authenticate and access shares.

I realized my solution needed to be broken out into a few parts. The first was to get an iOS device onto a Windows domain network. That’s actually the easiest part out of this entire process; every iOS device has a VPN tool built-in. As long as your network has RRAS (PPTP on port 1723), you can join the device to the network. If you are inside the network and have WiFi, even easier. To find the VPN tool on your iOS device, go to Settings –> VPN. It will request your information for connecting, simple as that. WiFi is in the exact same location (Settings –> WiFi).

Jeff's iOS devices and Windows servers blog-1

FileBrowser

Once connected to the network, you need to browse SMB shares. Unfortunately, Apple decided not to build this portion into their devices. You need a separate app. I tried out many, but the one I liked most was FileBrowser ($5.99). For any business looking to complete this task, it’s worth the price. FileBrowser allows you to set up locations in your iOS device, called Remote Servers, and connect to see all shares to which your domain credentials have access. For my example we joined a VPN, then mapped a “Remote Server” to an internal IP address where his file server existed, and then reviewed the various shares related to that file server.

If you have your shares locked down in the appropriate security groups, you will only see the shares to which you have access. (FileBrowser doesn’t get around any security flaws that could be present. It’s all based on your domain credentials.

Jeff's iOS devices and Windows servers blog-2

Google Docs

My client loved this, but he added one last piece to the puzzle. His company didn’t want to just view the files, they wanted to edit them, too. After much searching, I found the best tool for this job in another app (a free one) called QuickOffice, by Google (later replaced by a more powerful version of Office editing, Google Docs.) With Google Docs you can pull up any of the FileBrowser-searched documents, edit them with tools very similar to Microsoft’s Office suite, and then place them back on the server.

Although it sounds complicated, all the apps worked together seamlessly to allow my client’s company to review and edit files in their Windows environment, thus allowing them to integrate Apple devices into their Windows domain. And in the end, my client was happy.

For more information on how you can integrate your Apple products into a Windows domain, call Everon at 1-888-244-1748.

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5 Things You Need to Know About the BashBug

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1. Don’t Panic.

As our favorite galactic traveler’s companion reminds us (ref. Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy), It’s important to keep problems in perspective. The Heartbleed Bug incited widespread panic for what turned out to be limited reasons. This new security bug is reported to be even bigger than Heartbleed, but it, too, has a relatively limited reach. It only affects Unix-based systems that use Bash. The best way to address it is to keep updated on the patches which are sent out. Some routers are also affected, and so updates will be pushed out to handle those as well.

2. What is the BashBug?

Bash is one of the central programs to the modern Unix operating system. It’s used to issue commands to the kernel of the OS. It is a little like the Windows command line. Mac’s desktop operating systems are built on Unix, and that’s why people are concerned. The BashBug is an exploitable nuance of the Bash shell that someone could use to observe and possibly modify an unknowing computer’s information. Basically, it’s like leaving your car window down.

3. I have an iPhone, should I be worried?

No. The iOS is a different operating system from the Desktop OS of MAC, known as OS X.

4. What if someone w/ a Mac emails me? Will my company be at risk? Can I “catch” the Bug this way?

No. The vulnerability is specific to Unix-based OSes. It can’t be transferred between operating systems. Windows has a fundamentally different underlying program, and it does not include Bash, which is the host for this bug.

5. What’s this thing about routers? 

Some routers run on a variation of Linux. Manufacturers will also be pushing out updates to resolve this. Please contact your system administrator (which might be us) to resolve it if you have concerns. We can be reached at 888-244-1748.

BashBug

How I broke my phone, got it fixed, and why I might stick with Windows OS the next time I phone-shop

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spotifyFor about a month Spotify hadn’t been working properly on my Samsung Focus. I couldn’t “search” for songs via my phone; I had to wait until I got onto my home computer. So last Saturday I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. Big mistake.

Uninstall? Click-click. Done: Spotify uninstalled. Easy-peasy.

Reinstall? Go to Spotify on the Web. Click “Download.” Easy—. Wait.

There was an error message saying that Spotify wasn’t compatible with my phone and that I needed an update. I went to my phone’s settings, but there were no new updates. I tried to login to my Spotify account manually, but it said my username and/or password were wrong, and that I needed to login via Facebook. So I went to FB and was told that it wasn’t compatible with the iE browser on my phone (which is weird, because I already have a FB app on my phone), so I tried to download Chrome, which stalled out and hung…!

I repeated this vicious cycle of attempting anything and everything I could think of to try to get Spotify back on my phone. (Because without tunes, how was I going to do my workout? Amiright?) I wished I could call one of my tech colleagues from Everon, but it was the weekend; I hated the idea of bugging them with work. By Saturday night I was dreading the thought of tackling a 35-minute powerwalk without Iggy Azalea telling me to “Work!”

A sick feeling began to develop in the pit of my stomach. I knew I was going to have to visit a phone store. Maybe the pros could fix what was wrong. Or maybe my 3 year-old Samsung Focus was just too old, too antiquated. Maybe I’d have to crack and change. I was facing the possibility of having to readjust my life to a new phone. Probably an Android.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The hot trend that stormed the market this month is the phablet—like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 (which pioneered phablets four years ago; Android), Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus (iOS), and Motorola’s Moto X (also Android). I’m not sure how I feel about handling the oversized devices or whether they would fit into my purse-pockets, but the idea of being able to write and text more easily is starting to grow on me.

However, I’m used to Windows, and I’m not a heavy-duty app user. I can organize my schedule and sync it with Outlook. I can take notes and upload my photos to OneDrive. I recently learned how to utilize the GPS-thingy so I can navigate to new places in Boulder. And I absolutely love my Spotify. But all of Microsoft’s latest bells and whistles, like Cortana (Microsoft’s Siri), and its forthcoming, universal Windows OS, are getting ready to be overhauled into the new Lumia (Microsoft is dropping the Nokia brand name) sometime in 2015. So I’d like to put off a purchase for as long as possible.

Sunday morning, shortly after the mall opened, I put on my game-face, strode past Old Navy, H&M, and even White House Black Market—without wavering—all the way to the AT&T store. (Yup: I didn’t stop. Didn’t even look at the storefronts. Music is that important.) Fortunately, my exposure to the funny, friendly techs here at Everon has rendered me uber-comfortable dealing with techs. It was pretty easy for me to hand my phone to the guy behind the counter, Alex, and explain the problem. Alex frowned, going through the same vicious cycle of error messages I’d been through earlier.

One of the friendly techs, and fellow bloggers, here at Everon: Tony Cooper.

One of the friendly techs, and a fellow blogger, here at Everon: Tony Cooper.

“Sorry this is taking me a while,” he apologized. “We don’t get a lot of Windows phones in here.” Yeah, I figured. I’m in a minority of cell phone owners. I’m sure my game-face morphed into reluctant resignation as I began glancing at the displays along the wall, wondering which one would be hard-sale-forced upon me.

Alex went to confer with a colleague. I wandered over to the wall and cradled the weird, curved shape of the LG Flex with its Android OS, the giant Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (the Note 4 won’t hit stores until October), and the Windows-based Nokia Lumia 1020, with a near-professional-grade camera and a hefty price tag. They all felt foreign in my palm. Alex came back; I returned to the counter.

“I know it’s really old,” I sighed, gesturing at my Focus. “I probably just need a new one.”

“But does this one work for you?” Alex asked.

“Well, aside from now, yes,” I shrugged.

“Well, then, that’s all that matters,” he said. “Let’s see if we can fix it.”

Wait—what?

I blinked. Yes, he’d just said that. He wasn’t going to hard-sell me on something I didn’t need; he was genuinely going to try to help me. Come to think of it, it’s the same attitude my guys maintain at work. Heck, it’s our motto: “People first, technology second.” Hope rose in my chest.

Alex proceeded to go to the Windows Marketplace on my phone and download Spotify from there. It worked, without error messages. From there, we had a bit of trouble trying to correctly login (for some reason it wanted my old username), but suddenly—voila—music!

He handed me back my phone. I gushed thank yous at him as he smiled, nodded, and turned to the next customer. It wasn’t until I’d practically danced out the door of the shop that I realized not only had I not had to buy a new phone, but I’d just had my phone fixed… for free… just because I have a monthly plan with AT&T.

Now I know what our Everon customers feel like when they rave about “dealing with true professionals” who fixed their machines. Ah, happy endings!

More friendly Everon techs: L2 Engineer Tim Woodworth and L1 Engineer Jay McGuire.

More friendly Everon techs: L2 Engineer Tim Woodworth and L1 Engineer Jay McGuire.