Activate the hidden FM radio transmitter in smartphones

Early cell phones often had a built in FM tuner and app to receive local terrestrial radio stations.   The FM transmitter chip is still installed in many modern smartphones but is usually disabled by the manufacturer to encourage the paid use of data plans.  This feature was replaced by modern data streaming apps such as IHeartRadio which bypass the built in FM tuner.

This presented a problem during recent hurricanes and other natural disasters when cell phone towers were down and widespread power outages occurred.  Only those individuals who already owned conventional radios with battery powered backup were able to receive emergency public radio broadcasts.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) developed a free smartphone app – NextRadio – that attempts to use the FM tuner, and then uses Wi-Fi if the FM tuner is not available.   (Some phone manufacturers still include a built in FM radio app.)  A list of compatible phones and phone plans is available at nextradioapp.com/supported-devices.   Plugging in a set of headphones acts as a radio antenna to increase reception.

Apple currently has no plans to turn on this feature in iPhones, according to ZDNet.com.

CCleaner – Security notification for prior downloads

Piriform Ltd, which is currently owned by Avast, notified users of its popular free CCleaner PC cleanup application that the Windows version 5.33.6162 (32-bit)  and version 1.07.3191 of CCleaner Cloud had been illegally modified by hackers before these versions were released to the public.   They recommend updating to CCleaner 5.34, which is the latest version.

More information can be found at https://www.piriform.com/news/blog/2017/9/18/security-notification-for-ccleaner-v5336162-and-ccleaner-cloud-v1073191-for-32-bit-windows-users

Talos,  Cisco’s security intelligence team, also released a security warning regarding CCleaner.

SQLite – a free relational cross-platform database

SQLite is a free relational, transactional, and cross-platform database for light duty local use and is one of the most widely used databases worldwide.  A database, including tables and other objects, are contained within a single file.  It is not intended to replace client/server enterprise databases.  Its small footprint makes it ideal for IoT (Internet of Things) device development.

Available tools include SQLite Command Line Shell that can be used to administer the resulting databases.

Use VLC Media Player to play DVDs on Windows 10 PCs

Microsoft has removed the ability to play DVDs from Windows Media Player as part of the Windows 10 Feature Deprecation.  Instead, Microsoft has made a separate Windows Store App for Windows DVD Player, available for purchase at the current price of $14.99.  This app does not currently play Blu-ray discs.

A free alternative DVD player is VLC Media Player, which is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux. It is an open source product developed by VideoLAN, a non-profit organization made up of volunteers.  VLC does not specify playback of Blu-ray discs, although VideoLAN does have LibBluRay available.

Apple announces new products including iPhone X and iPhone 8

Apple announced on September 12th the upcoming release of several new upcoming products including:

  • iPhone X (pronounced “ten”) with infrared facial recognition technology called Face ID, wireless battery charging, and an OLED screen that covers the entire phone front that replaces the home button.  Face ID is a replacement of the prior Apple Touch ID fingerprint recognition.
  • iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus with front and back glass covers, wireless charging, and camera enhancements.
  • Apple Watch Series 3 with watchOS 4 and a cellular chip option that can make calls, and access the internet, including music streaming.
  • iOS 11 with new features including augmented reality.
  • Apple TV 4K with 4K HDR quality streaming.

iPhone series 8, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K will be available on September 22, 2017 while iPhone X will be available November 3.

Equifax data breach leaks data for millions of customers

Credit reporting company Equifax has reported a data breach that may have compromised the personal data of millions of private individuals in the U.S., including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, and/or driver’s license numbers. Equifax set up a website – www.equifaxsecurity2017.com – where customers can verify if their identities have been compromised.  Customers may also call 866-447-7559.

The Washington Post has reported that there were some current issues with the www.equifaxsecurity2017.com site, including an arbitration clause that removes the ability to file a lawsuit.   Equifax later clarified that you may out of that provision. The New York Times also published a list of common questions and answers regarding the Equifax data breach.

Equifax revealed that the security breach was caused in part by an unpatched vulnerability in its website that uses the Apache Struts Web Framework, identified as Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638.   Apache then issued their own statement regarding the Equifax data breach.

Windows Subsystem For Linux (WSL) – Run Bash on Windows 10

The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is an optional Windows 10 feature that allows you to run in order to run Bash shell scripts and Linux command-line applications without using a virtual machine.  WSL is designed as a development tool and not as a Linux production tool.  It is installed under Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> Turn Windows features on or off – > Windows Subsystem for Linux.

WSL is no longer Beta and is fully supported as part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update in 2017.  WSL is also available on Windows Server 2016 Build 1709 or later versions.

Further documentation can be found at docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/wsl/about and the Windows Command Line Tools Blog.