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July 18, 2021 - Episode 599 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Samsung is blanking out, Valve is going out of the house, and Amazon is headed out of this world.

Hands on With Windows 11 Preview - Episode 263 (Piltch Point)

With any new version of Windows comes an updated UI. Windows 11 has introduced some of the biggest UI changes since Windows 95 (with Windows 8 set aside since Windows 10 undid almost all of that paradigm). Avram has been living inside of the latest Windows 11 build and has some of the most important changes, as well as ways to restore previous Windows UIs (for now).

With change comes discomfort for many, and Windows 11 has a lot of big changes. The biggest and most obvious is the Start Button and Start Menu. First, let's talk about the position: the Taskbar, and therefore the Start Button, is centered by default. This is a major change, as Start has been in the lower-left corner since Windows 95. One of the biggest complaints with this positioning is that the Start Button moves around based on how many apps are open. If Microsoft had decided to place the Start Button in the middle of the taskbar and apps stretched out left AND right from that position, it might have had a different reaction, but that is not the case. Instead, it is left-justified in a centered world, meaning it doesn't have its own place. The good news is that you can easily change this back to left justification in the Taskbar settings.

The Start Menu itself is the next major change. By default, it is bigger than the Start Menu in previous Windows versions (except Windows 8, which was full screen). But, while there is more space on the new menu, there is less information available. Only 18 apps appear pinned on the screen, followed by recent and recommended content. To get the full app list, you must click a button in the top-right corner, and then you get the alphabetized list. In Windows 10, you can have the full list appear on the left with your pinned Tiles on the right. This gives a lot more access without clicks. Now, the majority of the Start Menu is hidden behind a click.

Adding to that, Search has changed, as well. In Windows 10, you can hit the Windows key on your keyboard and start typing to search your computer and the web. Now, Search and Start are different screens, and switching between them requires another click. When you click in the search bar at the top of Start, you are switched out of Start and into the new Search experience. The Search panel is larger than Start, and positioned differently, so the transition is a bit jarring. You can access the menu directly by using Windows+S, but that will, of course, require more keys and changes to behavior that has been taught for the last number of versions of Windows.

There are ways to get a classic Start Menu back, as well as a classic or custom Start Button, using some tools available online. You can also get the full Windows 10 taskbar back using a Registry key change, though many aspects no longer work, such as Search and Task View. These hacks could always be undermined, as Microsoft keeps taking things away with updates.

Samsung has a new systemic problem: Galaxy S20 screen failures

In 2018, Samsung made headlines, but not for the reasons they would have hoped: Galaxy Note7 devices were exploding. Now, Samsung is facing an equally embarrassing, yet far less dangerous issue with Galaxy S20 owners beginning to experience screen failures.

The current issue with the screens is in its early days but looks to be an equally wide issue. The issue with the Galaxy Note 7 came about because of a problem with the power system that Samsung had implemented into the phones. Originally, it looked like possibly bad batteries. But, after a replacement with batteries from an entirely different manufacturer, the problem did not go away. Later, the company recalled the devices and remotely disabled the remaining phones in the wild.

With the Galaxy S20, users are reporting a more gradual failure than going up in flames. It is starting with a few scan lines across the screen, followed by an ultimate engulfment, generally into either white or green. From there, the screen is completely useless for viewing but does seem to accept touch commands.

The initial signals of this issue appeared a few months ago, with an owner of a Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G posting a video showing a green tint appearing on his phone over top of a white background. The issue had gotten to this point following some flickering on his screen more than a month earlier. Now, the number of owners is growing, with people taking to online forums like Reddit to discuss the problem. Many have posited theories for what is happening, but one thing is consistent: they all claim to have never dropped or damaged their phones. Currently, the more expensive models seem to be experiencing the issue at greater rates, but all models have seen problems.

For now, everything is speculation, as Samsung has not officially responded to, or recognized the issue as systemic. However, this is the same behavior we saw in 2018 with the Galaxy Note 7. Those devices were eventually banned from trains, planes, and many public spaces, even before Samsung officially responded. In this case, as it is a less damaging situation for the brand, hopefully, Samsung will respond quickly. In past cases of screen issues with phones, companies have simply issued recalls or given free repairs of those screens.

The problem, of course, is that a wide-scale issue like this one indicates that there might be a greater flaw at play. The behavior, as described by users, sounds familiar to those who have worked in the industry for an extended period. It is often associated with laptops, and occurs when the ribbon cable that runs through the hinge and controls the display, gets crimped or damaged in another way. You'll experience lines, unexpected colors, and eventually complete failure.

As the Galaxy S20 devices don't have a hinge, it is not likely to be an identical situation. However, something else could be causing damage to this cable. We have the Galaxy Note 7 history showing that Samsung can have issues with heat. The company also made changes to its heat dispersion system in the current models. Heat could potentially damage the video cable, but so could puncture. If there is something internally that is sharp, motion could cause friction, and the cable could be damaged.

Whatever the cause, Samsung will need to investigate before the problem gets out of control.

July 12, 2021 - Episode 598 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, the FBI is in the honeypot, the Switch is getting more colorful, and Universal Pictures is going Prime.

The Basics of 3D Printing - Episode 262 (Piltch Point)

Recently, Tom's Hardware has begun covering 3D printers. As such, Avram has been doing a deep dive into the world of 3D printers and what it takes to use them effectively. What he has learned is that they are not exactly straightforward, but also not exactly complicated. There are choices that need to be made, processes that need to be followed, and you'll be able to accurately predict the end result.

First and foremost, you need to choose your printer. There are tons of companies that are in the 3D printer space these days, and there is a whole spectrum of printers available. There are a number of conditions to take into consideration: size, print surface, materials, method, and price. Size and print surface are often tied together - a smaller printer will likely be able to print smaller items, so you'll need to decide what it is you're going for.

Next is deciding the type of printing you want to do. There are several ways of printing, including extrusions (usually through spools of plastic) and resin (using a liquid and lasers). Extrusion printers are the ones most people are familiar with, and offer the less expensive entrance into the experience. They are similar to a standard inkjet printer. Resin is more expensive to get started but offers a more detailed print, as well as a lower cost to operate over the long run. This would be more like a standard laser printer.

All of these choices lead to possibly the most important aspect: price. Larger printers, more detailed tools, and better print technology will lead to higher prices. But, for those who are just getting started, beginning with a less expensive device might be the right way to go.

Now that you've got your printer and all of your supplies, it's time to put the printer to use. There are several places where you can download existing models for items, but the most popular is Thingiverse from MakerBot. On this site, you can find everything from a wall hanging of Homer Simpson's face to a chassis for a remote controlled car. Starting here gives you the ability to test out your printer and get comfortable with the concept.

Once you're comfortable with your hardware, you can start customizing. There are software products designed specifically for 3D modeling. They range from free to incredibly expensive, offering a wide range of features and precision. Unless your printer comes with a license for a paid version, it's best to try out one of the free ones in order to get used to it. If you're like Avram, though, the free products will not provide the precision that you need.

Tom's Hardware now has a lot of detailed information about 3D printers, including a number of reviews of printers. Use this information to help you make a smart, informed decision about which one is right for you and your needs. Then, make sure to share with us the items you make with your printer!

FBI sold a honeypot Android phone to criminals, now on open market

Last month, the FBI confirmed that, with the Australian Federal Police, they designed and sold a honeypot smartphone under the Anom brand. The devices were designed to appear super secure while actually providing a direct channel for law enforcement to watch all communications. Very little was revealed about the program, the devices, or the platform, but a few of the devices seem to have found their way onto the open market, with users being confused about what they have in their hands.

Fortunately, the tech world recognized what was happening immediately. Based on a forum post, we have learned that the Anom phones are an altered version of a Google Pixel 4a, while the accompanying ArcaneOS is simply a skinned Android 10.

There were a lot of obvious signs that something was up with this device. The first is one of the most important things to know about an Android device. Upon powering up the phone, the Secure Boot feature failed because the phone had been flashed. Because of this, it delayed the boot, showed an error message and a yellow exclamation point. This should absolutely have been a clue to criminals that this was a trick. But, more importantly, all users should know that if this shows up on your own phone and you have not flashed a custom ROM, something is very wrong so DO NOT USE IT.

The next big sign is hidden behind a trick "security" feature. When you do get ArcaneOS booted, you have to enter a PIN. One PIN brings you to a fake home screen with common apps, none of which work. These include things like Tinder and Facebook. If you enter a different PIN, it takes you to the real home screen, which has three apps: calculator, settings, and clock. The settings app is the stock Android settings app with a few options missing. These would be the ones that would make it easy to identify all of the apps, like the ones being used to steal data.

Behind the calculator app is supposed to be a highly encrypted, secure chat. However, all communications are actually sent and received through FBI servers, making it easy for agents to watch and track all chats. Other apps have done something similar, hiding certain photos and such behind a fake innocuous app. But this is the first time we know of the government doing it. And, I suspect, this will not be the last tie we see ArcaneOS and Anom phones in the wild, as there were around 12,000 sold.

June 27, 2021 - Episode 597 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Wickr is headed to the Amazon, the Microsoft Store wants to gain Steam, and the House wants to break up Big Tech.

Windows 11: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Episode 261 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch talks about the newly announced Windows 11 (Sun Valley), the new features, and the confusion around the release.

Windows 11 is official, bringing big changes to the interface

When Windows 10 was announced, one of the biggest changes was to the distribution model. Rather than being a multi-year development cycle with major updates bringing a new version number and a new charge, Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows. All updates would come under that moniker and would not cost - instead, these updates would be bi-annual and be distributed through Windows Update. This week, some of that has been walked back, but not the important part - Windows 11 will be a free update for Windows 10 owners.

What's New

There are a ton of new features coming to Windows 11. I fact, there's enough of a change that they felt the need to change the version number. Of the major changes, the UI is the biggest and most obvious update. Everything from the icon for the Start button through the Start menu itself, and even the corners of the windows have been updated. Live Tiles are gone (unfortunately), as is the ability to adjust the size of the menu (for now). Fortunately, you can move the Start to the left side of the screen (where it belongs).

Another big addition is Widgets. Unlike desktop widgets of the past, these new widgets run within a panel that can be triggered by a new button on the taskbar or by swiping in from the left side of a touchscreen. These widgets are the expansion of the current feature of News and Weather on the Windows 10 taskbar. The benefit of the new system is that you can choose what information will be available.

Another big aspect of Windows 11 is the updated Microsoft Store. Android apps are coming to the platform and will be distributed through an expanded partnership with Amazon, bringing the Amazon App Store inside of the Microsoft Store. Because it's Amazon, Google Play Services will not be supported, but that is the case for all of the Amazon apps. Microsoft hopes that this will be the first of many partnerships to bring additional content to the Store.

What's Gone

First and foremost, Cortana has been demoted once again. She does not have a place on the taskbar (thought Widgets do), and she is not part of the Search experience. If you want to use her, you'll need to launch the standalone app, which may or may not come pre-installed.

Another previously core Windows component to be absent is Internet Explorer. We knew that the browser would be retired, and now we're seeing what that looks like. Microsoft has put all of its effort into the modern Edge browser, so it is definitely time to see the end of one of the earliest browsers.

Tablet Mode is also at the end of its life, but that is because the operating system now responds directly to touch versus keyboard and mouse. Rather than distinct differences, Microsoft is simply enhancing the touch experience in the current state. Icons on the taskbar will gain extra padding, hit boxes will get bigger, and overall the interface will be touch-friendly. But, it will still look and function like Windows 11 always does.

Who Will Get It

As always, there are specific upgrade requirements. Minimum processor, RAM, and storage are all pretty standard. However, the requirement that is going to be a problem for some is the requirement for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0. Intel 8000+ and AMD Ryzen 2000+ processors support this technology, but nothing before them.

This requirement means that many of Microsoft's own computers will be left in the dust with no ability to upgrade. For desktops, this can be addressed with a small add-on card, but for laptops and tablets, you will be completely out of luck without this chip. Microsoft says that it is requiring the TPM 2.0 in order to prevent more hacking attempts going forward.

June 6, 2021 - Episode 596 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Area-51 is under attack, Nintendo is recovering from piracy, and the DoJ is getting serious about ransomware.

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