Geekly Update - 18 April 2019

Category: Tech-News

What's the secret to getting a discount on your next smartphone activation? Are Killer USB gadgets coming to destroy your computer? Has T-Mobile solved the robocall problem? And will sketchy dudes in white vans really pay you twenty bucks for a DNA sample? Get answers in today's Geekly Update -- it's jam-packed with the latest tech news. This issue is guaranteed to make you 146% smarter -- you'll see why. Read, think, and, comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

The good news: Verizon is reducing fees for some customers who activate their new phone. The fee will be reduced from $30 to $20 if it’s done online or in-app. The bad news: Verizon is raising fees for in-store phone activations. You guessed it… that $30 fee will go up to $40 if a human Verizon representative is involved in the transaction. Verizon justifies the higher fee by calling it a “full-service experience.”

On a related note, I just upgraded my phone to the Motorola Moto Z3 which is touted as "the world’s first 5G-upgradable smartphone." An optional "moto mod" snaps on the back of the phone to enable 5G, but only on the Verizon network, and only in "select cities" at present. I didn't buy the $200 5G mod, for two reasons. First, Verizon offered me a 50% discount on the $480 phone, and a $100 trade-in for my old Moto Z2, which brought the price down to $140, and they also waived the activation fee. And second, it will be a LONG time before 5G service is available in my rural area.

There's an item on Amazon titled Motorola Moto z3 Play, alongside a picture of the phone I just bought. When I saw the $13.99 price tag, I knew something was wrong. Turns out it's just a protective case for this phone, sold by Spigen. I ended up buying this item, and also the Supershieldz Tempered Glass Screen Protector (2-pack) for $5.99. If you have a smartphone, I highly recommend both of these items, which will save you the grief of a broken or scratched screen. The Spigen cases I've purchased fit perfectly and don't interfere with the buttons on the side of the phone.

Motorola Z3 - 5G upgrade mod

Back in January, I did a roundup of hardware security keys, which protect your account from phishing attacks and suspicious login attempts. Google has just announced that your smartphone running Android 7.0+ can be your security key, making it easier for you to unlock this powerful protection, without having to carry around an additional gadget.

Vishwanath Akuthota, a former student of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, has pled guilty to destroying campus computers with a "killer USB" device that was somehow capable of frying the circuitry of the targeted computers. Akuthota faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Remember a few weeks ago when I announced the Samsung Galaxy Fold? The $2000 gadget folds like a book along its vertical axis, converting from a smartphone into a tablet. Predictably, that design has problems, as three early adopters have reported that their Galaxy Fold screen broke after just a day of use.

A whopping 5.2 billion robocalls are placed each month, annoying 169 million people per day. But T-Mobile and Comcast customers may be getting less of them. A new call protection feature will identify and block robocalls to T-Mobile customers on certain Samsung and LG smartphones. The new feature will also be available for Comcast Xfinity Voice home phone service customers later in the year.

Microsoft president Brad Smith has said NO to a request from California law enforcement to equip patrol cars and body cameras with face recognition tech. The Golden State police wanted to run a scan every time an officer pulls someone over. Microsoft rejected the contract because face recognition systems still have gender and race bias, which could result in more women and minorities being unfairly detained. I guess the California cops will have to get their face recognition tech from some Chinese company instead.

Soon, Lime’s electric scooters will be able to guess when you’re too drunk to ride. No, it doesn't have a built-in breathalyzer, it just slows down when "irregular driving" is detected. Another great excuse for explaining why you're home so late on a Thursday evening.

Helvetica Now is an upgrade to Helvetica, one of the world's most commonly used fonts. Aside from the enhanced readability on smaller mobile screens, it’s mostly minor design tweaks. The "Now" version will help to distinguish between a lowercase "l" and a capital "I", has an updated "@" symbol, and a lowercase "u" without a trailing serif. You probably won't notice the difference, unless your name is Iliana, or you wear a smartwatch.

Authorities in several states are warning that sketchy dudes in unmarked white vans who offer to pay $20 for DNA samples just might be up to no good. As it turns out, they're not. Scammers are targeting senior-living communities and low-income neighborhoods, offering to perform DNA tests. But their goal is to defraud Medicare and steal their victims' identities.

The Capsule Projector is a nifty soda can-sized pocket projector, capable of projecting an image of up to 100 inches. The 360-degree omnidirectional speaker pumps out sound in every direction.

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 18 April 2019"

Posted by:

Kirill
18 Apr 2019

Hey, Bob, there is wrong link for "your smartphone running Android 7.0+ can be your security key" entry. Instead the link is for new T-Mobile/Comcast robocall protection. I believe the right one is https://blog.google/technology/safety-security/your-android-phone-is-a-security-key/

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks, updated now.


Posted by:

Stephe
18 Apr 2019

You're right to hold fire on 5G, Bob. The incredible high speeds they headline require short wavelengths that will only go in straight lines, and therefore require many more masts. Usable, e.g., in sports stadiums to provide instant playback, but @?*%-all use in the real world.
We have already had the mobile data revolution and it was called 4G — 5G is struggling to find real-life applications.


Posted by:

Kirill
18 Apr 2019

Just read about smartphone as a security key and realized I'm using this feature for a couple of months already. Look like it's another nice surprise of having Pixel 3 and Pixelbook - I was just asked if I want to try it and I agreed. Works flawlessly when I login to my Google account in CromeOS and Windows 10. In addition to hardware keys in case of losing your smartphone, there is also option to generate one-time access codes (6 or even 9 - don't remember exact number - printed them and stashed in my home) to your Google account.


Posted by:

Flash
18 Apr 2019


5G needs to be banned. Please, no 5G. Just say NO to 5G. Way too much wavelengths, some people are sensitive.


Posted by:

Sandy
18 Apr 2019

Re. Robocalls: LESS if you can pour it; FEWER if you can count it. :-)


Posted by:

FrancesMC
18 Apr 2019

About the sketchy guys who might be up to no good. You say " As it turns out, they're not" but then you go on to talk about identity theft, etc. So are they, or aren't they, up to no good - I'm confused. :-)


Posted by:

Ken H
18 Apr 2019

I hate to join the ranks of the conspiracy minded, but my prediction is landline phone companies (thanks a lot Century Link!) will NEVER do anything to stem the flow of robo- and other scam calls for the simple reason that they want us to give up our landlines even though they haven't solved the problem of unreliable cell phones, particularly out here in the hinterlands.


Posted by:

William
18 Apr 2019

@Kirill, thanks for the correct URL for "your smartphone running Android 7.0+ can be your security key."


Posted by:

dmr
19 Apr 2019

Wow, this USB Killer mentioned today in the Geek Update is scary.Any computer with USB ports is vulnerable.I think one way to prevent damage is maybe shut down USB ports by an adjustment in BIOS.Of course,that means external hard drives,external wi-fi modems,etc. can't be used.This action should be considered in a business setting.


Posted by:

Don Ames
19 Apr 2019

Really want to read about using my phone to unlock my computer, but the link is wrong in the article.


Posted by:

Joseph Heintz
19 Apr 2019

About DNA testing: I have heard that some DNA companies are sending copies of their results to the federal government for the DNA database. So far, this is just a rumor I heard from a couple of fed LEO guys, but they seemed pretty smug about it.


Posted by:

Dave in Indy
20 Apr 2019

Yes, saying "they are not" up to no good means that they are up to, well, good. Maybe I'm missing something but that sounds like a Double Negative. Rare grammar issue, lol. :)


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