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.

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.

Apple announces release of 2016 MacBook Pro notebook

Apple has announced the release of the 2016 series of MacBook Pro, consisting of three versions:

  • 13 inch MacBook Pro
  • 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
  • 15 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The Touch Bar is a new interface that replaces the row of function keys.  It changes its appearance dynamically based upon which application is currently running.

A comparison of the different MacBook models is available at http://www.apple.com/mac/compare/.

Technical specifications can be found at http://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/specs/.

Apple Devices need latest update to fix Security flaw

Cisco’s Collective Security Intelligence ecosystem Talos has issued a release notifying Apple device users of a security risk.

A hacker could potentially create malware saved as a TIFF image file. Once the TIFF file is sent using using iMessage, the image is rendered automatically using default settings. This could cause the malware to execute without user intervention.

This applies to Apple devices with versions of iOS prior to version 9.3.3, and for OS X versions prior to El Capitan 10.11.6.

Instructions on how to update iPhones and other Apple devices can be found at: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204204

Free Database Development Software

Some of the most commonly used free databases include:

Microsoft SQL Server Express Edition only runs on Windows-based PCs, and user database size is limited to 10 GB. This is radically smaller than the paid versions of SQL Server, at 524 petabytes.

MySQL is the popular open source database that is now owned by Oracle. It can run on Linux, Unix, Mac and Windows operating systems. Paid commercial versions with additional support are also available.

Oracle Database Express Edition runs on Windows and Linux operating systems, but the database size is limited.  It can be downloaded from here.

Oracle SQL Developer is a free integrated development that makes it easier to administer both paid and free versions of Oracle databases.