Police Use Selfie To Return Phone and the Importance of ICE

Being That Guy who is out walking his dog at stupid hours of the morning, I see a lot of weirdness.

Oh sure, I live in a tourist town in South Florida.  That could be redundant in itself, but its true. 

So I see a lot of weirdness.  Wait, I said that once already.

Some of that weirdness is best that I keep to myself.  Let me just say I see what you do out there and Shame.  Trust me some of that is truly bizarre. 

Luckily, most of what happens here is people from outside coming in and enjoying things a bit too much and therefore creating problems.

You lot party a bit too hearty.  No, really you do.  Have a little moderation.  A little goes a long way.  You wander down our streets using the wall to steady yourself.  Even my dog sees it and he is smart enough to know when to stay away.

So as you use that wall to steady yourself, you reach into your pocket for your keys.   What you were going to do with those keys scare me, but you have dropped them instead.

This is where I come in handy.  You see, I have found more sets of keys than I care to count.  I do tend to find a lot of things and since City Hall is on my normal walk, I tend to leave things there.  Just ask the Police Department. 

Really.  It gets to be a bit repetitious.  Keep a better handle on things.

So when the Police Department gets them they ask me where I found it and I tell them.  They also ask me a lot of random questions about myself that makes me think that it would be a lot easier if I just left your things sitting where I saw them in the grass next to that shoe.

This story doesn’t seem to be that impaired. 

It also has the benefit of some really great Aussie Sense Of Humour.  Love the way the Australians think, even if they are upside down.

They don’t like that joke either, but hey…

You see a lady lost her phone.  It was found by someone in Albury, New South Wales, Australia.  They took it to the police department, being good people who do that sort of thing.  Lo and Behold they were able to get into the phone.  There was no passcode.  I am assuming they couldn’t find the person’s own personal information but they were able to get onto her Facebook software and post a selfie.

Of the police.  Told her that she should come and get her phone because it’s safe.  They also said that she should use a passcode to lock the phone. 

Of course if there was a passcode and no personal information on the phone, the police would just have to hope that this person came to them and asked.  Small bit of circular logic.

What I do is I have a passcode, however I also have some ICE on the phone. 

ICE stands for “In Case Of Emergency”.  All the first responders know to look for that sort of information, although it is a bit vague where they look for it. 

I made it easy.  On my lock screen in Android, you can go into the settings and personalize it.  I added a message “ICE 954-xxx-xxxx”.  Yes, a phone number, No, you may not have it.

Someone presses the button to check to see if they can get in to the phone and if they’re honest, I’ll get my phone back. 

Honest people do still exist.

So add a little ICE to your phone if you can, I can’t tell you if your shiny iPhone has this feature or not.  You could always use the Find My iPhone Feature, and Android has a similar service, but this is easy.

It also might make things easier if you need a wall to hold yourself up.

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Getting Your SMS Texts Back on Android After Leaving the IPhone

This is something I usually don’t do.  A Reblog.

I’m doing it so I have the info later on and will have to repeat it.  Now you know why I have so many recipes on here – so I can bake and not have to go digging through the “Recipe Box of Doom”!

The backstory is that when Kevin went to The Isle Of Man, I borrowed a shiny old or “new to me” iPhone 4s for two weeks.  The reason is that iMessage on the iPhone will do what passes for an international text for free.  Google’s Hangouts works that way too.  But either way you have to have two people on the same hardware.  Either Android or iPhone – but not mixed.  Both systems are proprietary, and I believe that both will not play well with each other.

Since he had the loaner, I went off my beloved Samsung Galaxy S4 for two weeks.   I came back to the S4 because I use the phone like a computer and create content on it like pictures and videos mainly for my own entertainment and use here.   The camera on that iPhone has thankfully been improved in later versions, it was too saturated and too poor and grainy in low light situations.  The software was rubbish since HDR didn’t work well at all, but this is also iOS 6 when the current phones get iOS 8.

Got all that?

Anyway, here are the steps – and if you’re coming here and want the original, here is the direct link.  I have no pictures here since I followed the steps and it worked first time immediately.  The steps were beyond annoying when I got to iCloud since Apple wants you to stay on their services.  Removing the phone number from iCloud required hunting around in every nook and cranny of the site in order to delete the number from wherever you find it.

Steps:

1)  Before you leave your iPhone, turn off iMessage.  This is done by going into the Settings app, selecting Message, then flicking the slider to off on iMessage.

2)  Remove yourself from iCloud.  On the Mac, there is (or was) an iCloud app that you could do this from.  Since I am normally using Linux or Windows (in that order) I had to go to the website for iCloud.  Start on the settings link (icon) and go through every single aspect, link, and sublink on there.  If you see a phone number, delete it.  It also argued with me to disable “Find My iPhone” in order to proceed with some of this.  I did and chased my tail around until complete and I was dizzy.

I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.  I had to go through all of the account details manually myself.

3)  Have all your iPhone friends delete and readd your contacts.   Good luck.  As annoying as the iCloud step was, this one may simply be impossible.  Luckily for me, I had few people iMessage me during the two weeks.  If your contact used iMessage to talk to you, they will not be able to recontact you until Apple’s servers all realize that you have dropped off of iMessage – that could be as much as 45 days, however with me it was instant.

4)  Ask your readded friends to “Send Message as Text Message” on their iPhone.  Yes, seriously.  They’re going to wonder if they really want you as friends at this point.  Hopefully you don’t lose too many as a result.

5)  Wait 45 days before using your new non iPhone on this number.  I had to ask myself whether they were serious about this one, but apparently either I was lucky or this particular bullet is old news.  It was in my case.

6)  Text “STOP” to 48369 .  That’s the Apple support guy’s hint.  It worked for me immediately.

After running through all of this, my S4 is working fine.  I SMS Text everywhere, I am not using iMessage anywhere. 

I have read that some people on iPhones hate green text bubbles, and SMS is green while iMessage is blue.  All I have to say to that is grow up since there are worse things to hate.

First world problems, really!

Another Day, Another Adobe Flash Exploit

Flash used to be what I would call “Update of the Day Club”.  Start your computer and get into doing what you need, and surprise of surprises, there would be an update window popping up for Flash.

We seem to be back to that.

It’s a nuisance because with at least Firefox, it forces you to close your browser and go through the nonsense necessary to restart it.  Since Firefox isn’t exactly 100% accurate in reopening pages and tabs, I hold my breath each time.

In this case, there’s no reason to trash Firefox.  There was an exploit found with “Shockwave Flash” as it shows up in the addons page and it tells you it wants to be updated.

Except.

There is no update as of this writing.

So? What do you do?  Tread lightly, my friend.  What you need to do is put yourself through a bit of annoyance or uninstall the blighted software completely.

Since the annoyance is less of a problem than uninstalling Flash at this time, I’ll show you how to do that.

What I am doing is to tell the browser to ask me to run it.  I was going to uninstall it completely.  Youtube does not use Flash as a default to play videos any longer, favoring the newer HTML5.  Facebook does use Flash and at this point it does not apparently use HTML5.

Here is how to go in and tell Flash to run when you want it.  It will leave an ugly placeholder in Facebook with the a grey Lego brick or the international symbol for no, and some warning messages, but you can always turn it back on to watch that particular video of a dog doing something cute if you really want to.

In Firefox:

In the address bar enter:   about:addons and hit enter to load the page.

On your Addons page:

  • Find Shockwave Flash
  • Click the button that most likely says “Always Activate” and select “Ask to Activate
  • click the link to “Check to see if your plugins are up to date” to open another tab.

On your “Check Your Plugins” Page

  • Click the big red button that says “Update Now” under “Potentially Vulnerable Plugins” and follow the prompts to update your Flash.
  • This space intentionally left blank.
  • Flash will update through multiple steps that are documented on Flash’s site.  
  • They include downloading a program.  
  • Make certain that you clear the box that asks if you want to download any “Optional Offer” like McAfee or any other “helpful” programs since they are not helpful and will simply clutter up your computer or it could even lock it up.
  • Flash’s install will require you to close your Firefox, so save your work.
  • Note:  As Of This Writing, there is no update to Flash that will fix this problem.  That is why I told you to set Flash to “Ask To Activate”.
  • Flash will not be updated on Android, Apple’s IOS, or Linux.
  • Flash will eventually be updated on Windows 7 or newer, or Mac OSX… just not as of this writing.

Youtube Prefers HTML5 Video to Flash – But What About All That Old Stuff?

Flash is one of those necessary evils.  It was like Java, reflexively installed onto computers that weren’t really quite up to the task of running it. Just checked, nope, I don’t have Java – and you should not either.

The computer would bog down, act cranky, and even crash when Flash was running.  Flash also has persistent cookies that you had to remember to delete.  Some people would have those cookies for years.  Security is a bear.

But there is one more nail is in Flash Player’s coffin.  Youtube is now preferring HTML5 over Flash when you watch videos there.

Why is that important?

More and more Flash had been the target of people wanting to hijack passwords, insert viruses, and track your movements with those persistent cookies.  Adobe had put more and more patches into it and it became a joke.  Start the computer, patch Flash, restart the computer and do your work – every single day. 

Worse, some people that I supported would simply tell the update check to go away and never come back.

You are getting closer to the day you can do that for good. Many of us already have.

My Linux computer, currently Xubuntu, is not even supported on current Flash Player, and I did an uninstall of it a couple weeks back.  I didn’t see the value of keeping an old piece of software on something that was running well without it and I almost never used.

My windows computer will get the same treatment.

About the only thing I ever do with Flash is to watch videos on Youtube.  The few games that I have kept over the years will get deleted.

That’s about the only problem that I see with this.  Videos can be streamed using “native tools” but the content that was created in Flash will simply go away.  Quite a lot has been created in Flash over the years, even a few Broadcast TV Programs, and many commercials as well.

After all, when was the last time you played a video tape?  Beta?  VHS?  Vinyl Records?

That is the kind of problem that Librarians have.  Content on a platform that is unsupported.  Music on Cylinder Beeswax Records from the Edison era.  78 RPM records.  Heck, I even have a few 45s floating around here.  Silly looking 7 inch donuts.

For most of us, it’s simply easier to find the track elsewhere and save it on something new.  But for librarians, especially archival libraries, they have to worry about that sort of thing every day.

Anyone still have and use a zip disc?  Nope?  Didn’t think so!

So the net result to you is that if you are running one of the four major browsers in one of the top four major operating systems on the desktop/laptop you’re fine.  Just make sure your browser is up to date.  Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Opera all work with HTML5.

See, that’s easy!

The iPhone and Android based phones will typically use the Youtube client or the browser will take care of it.

One aside though, with Android, it’s usually recommended that you do not use the base browser and go out and grab either Firefox or Chrome.  The reason is that if you are on an older version of Android, Google is not going to support the old “Browser” browser.

So it’s just safer that way.  Listen to big brother even if it is a bother.

Ok?

Shellshock – A BASH bug that effects Linux and Mac OSX … and everyone on the web

Yeah, scaremongering isn’t the best.  Luckily for those of us who run Linux, the fix is easy.

It also effects some Mac systems, although you will need to test and get your own upgrades.

It is possible that it effects Android systems as well.  I did the test on my tablet running CyanogenMod this morning and it was safe.  Your Mileage May Vary.

How this effects Windows is straightforward, it’s another one of those low level things in a web server that can bite us later and since Linux powers many websites, you are effected indirectly.  Think of what the Heartbleed problem was and how you went in and changed all your passwords to protect yourself.  Good idea to start changing them again!

The bug is called “Shellshock”.  The specifics is that it allows a ne’er do well to hack into an unpatched Linux server and gain full control via something called the BASH shell.  That is a bad thing because with control over bash, you can gain full control of the entire computer.

There is a test and full explanation of all the geekery under the hood here at this link at www.ArsTechnica.com if you care to dig deeper.  Basically, just go in and do a full update of your machine and make sure you see bash updated. 

The test is this line in terminal.

 env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable’ bash -c “echo this is a test”

If the system is vulnerable, the output will be:

vulnerable
 this is a test

An unaffected (or patched) system will output:

 bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt
 bash: error importing function definition for `x’
 this is a test

Since Mac OSX is based on something called BSD and bash comes with it in their terminal.  If you have an older Mac that is acting as a server, look into a patch.

I personally did the fix last night on my Debian system while I was half asleep.  Really trivial to fix.

In a root terminal –

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

It went out and updated my list of available updates, then upgraded those that needed it.  The package “bash” was included.

CentOS came up this morning with a bubble telling me to install updates.   It worked.  No problem.

I tried it out on my RaspberryPi machine and yes, that was affected.  The patch worked, and the picture is below. 

Here’s the thing, it may effect Android tablets and phones depending on whether bash is installed.  It’s a very basic and well known tool, so you will need to make sure you can patch the tablets. 

However, it’s highly unlikely that some average dude walking down the street with a year old Android phone with an unpatched system will have a problem.  Someone would have to know you’re there, get into your machine, and do the hack to gain control.  You aren’t the person they would be looking for, it’s that big web server sitting somewhere like a store or a bank that they’re going to hack.

Just accept the updates if you have manual control of whatever computer you are using, phones and tablets included.

If you are “going into” your machine, set your update preferences to allow security updates automatically while you’re at it since that makes it easier to administer the machines.

So how DO you know when your phone is obsolete?

I have a friend who visits about once a year.  I have a standing request that he brings his “Daily Driver” computer with him when he comes.

He calls it a tune up.  What I generally do is go through the machine, run a virus scan, uninstall spyware, and send him on his way.  It runs much faster because I’ve cleaned out the junk.

He’s also been using that machine for longer than even I have expected.  He’s gotten newer machines, but he keeps coming back to that beast of a 17 inch “laptop” because I’m able to keep it going.

Eventually, he’ll have to stop using it, and then it will have a second life as either a table leveler, something to hold a shelf down in the linen closet, or I’ll put Linux on it and it will be good for another 5 years of use.

I’m leaning toward Linux, but that is because I actually do like using the environment.

Computers have a longer life than the manufacturers want you to believe because they exist to make money by selling you new.  It’s Planned Obsolescence.

With a phone, it appears much more clear cut.  Especially with a smartphone, things have a shelf life.  The vendor puts out a new model, it can do more, but does it really warrant you getting a new one?

Again like with my friends beast of a laptop, to me, it appears that it is software driving the decision.

There are two schools here.  Apple and Android.  Not looking at this as a fanboy of either set up, I have a preference for Android because I can do things with it like use the phone as a multimedia computer much easier than I can with iOS.  I look at it as a use case to form a decision as to which works best for me.

Your Mileage May Vary.

With Apple, there is a clear end of life with their phones.  When you can no longer run their current operating system, it is time to consider moving on.  Apple has always done this with their computers as well.  For a while their PowerPC computers were supposed to be the best thing out there.  Then they came out with Intel based computers that made their old computers look horrible and they stopped supporting them after one more upgrade.

My iPhone is an old 3GS.  It will still make calls, but as a computer, Apple is actively pushing it away.  I have software that ran on it until I updated it, then all the sudden the older software is gone, and the newer one doesn’t work because I don’t have the current operating system.  One after another app is going away and eventually that will be the end of it.

Of course if you have the latest iPhone 6, it’s obsolete when you drop it on the ground on the first day it’s out because you just broke the screen.


Android is a different animal.

Android support varies with the company that made the phone or tablet.  Typically, an Android phone will get updates within the operating system version that it was bought with.  After that you are on your own.

My tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, got updates until the current OS came out.  That doesn’t mean that the tablet is unusable, it merely means that it will get more behind the times as I run into the same problem that my old iPhone had.  Software won’t be written for it.

There is another problem with the older versions of Android.  The browser that shipped with every version of Android except the current one has a rather nasty bug in it.  The short of it is that if you have an older Android device, do not use the default browser.  Disable that browser, and install another.  I did that at the start and I use Firefox which is the suggestion that is made by most security groups.

Why is that a problem?  Because if you don’t have a current device that runs the current Operating System, you aren’t going to get an update and you are on your own.  That means you have just hit the wall with using that phone, it’s now obsolete – if you want to be secure.

It all seems a bit alarmist, but considering how many people use their phones and tablets as their main computing devices these days, it really does pay to be aware of what that device is capable of doing.  It is a computer and they do need to be kept up to date.  But when you can’t do that any more, you have to be aware what not being up to date can mean.

The Trainer Got Trained

I recently had the chance to sit in on a class.  If it is computer related, my own training kicks in and I quickly get things done and have the luxury of watching other people manage through things at their own paces.

I’m the one that trains the trainers when it comes to most computer software.  I’ve been lucky enough to have the experience of working with people of all levels but mostly the people I would work with in Corporate Education had a certain “floor” of knowledge.  

The test I ask is “How do you play a game of solitaire on this computer?”.   A bit misleading, but the idea is you have to know first how to turn the thing on, then find your way into the computer, then find the program. 

If you can play a complete game without a lot of trouble, you probably are able to be trained. 

Mind you, now people are playing solitaire on a tablet, iPad, Phone, or Android Tablet.

Different story, we’re talking about a “computer”.  Maybe call those a Tablet vs a PC…

Being in a general audience class I was wondering why for 8 people there were three volunteers and one teacher, but I saw quickly why.

Some of you folks simply have forgotten how to use a computer.

We all surf, if you’re reading this, you are surfing.  Some do it on that generic Tablet.  But those tablets simply fall short when you are working with what they call a “Data Driven” website.

If you have to type in “stuff”, use a PC.   If you just occasionally click, a tablet is fine.

This was a professional website designed to do some very specific job search exercises.

We had people in the group who didn’t think they would need to save their user ID.   Others that didn’t understand that they were already inside of a browser on some distant website.

I guess they didn’t play solitaire on the PC any more.

Having had to train people on software I wrote holding Executive Director’s Titles as well as a clerk in Accounts Payable on more than one occasion, being exposed to someone who managed to become “over 40” and not know how to use a computer was an education for me. 

Being a Webmaster, you have a choice.  Make it work for the PC or make it work for the Tablets or Phones.  Those second websites being Mobile, it presents a host of other challenges.  Since most people are typically a bit lazy, they will to the “80/20” rule, make it work on the PC, then come back for the Mobile site for the Tablet/Phone later.

Hopefully they will come back later.  It’s not always granted.  After all, those Tablets have a real browser now, don’t they?  Can’t they just use the “real website”?

My website/blog is looked at 88 percent of the time on a PC, the rest are on some sort of a Mobile device.  I’ll put my time on making sure it looks readable on the PC/Mac/Linux/FreeBSD…

You get the picture.

But you folks on the iPad/iPhone/Android Tablet/Android Phone… If it looks weird, that may explain things.

Now you know why mobile shopping sites look so strange.  It’s a matter of effort, and just don’t get me started on the mobile Wikipedia site.  Yuck.

So if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed when you are trying to get some work done online, if that whole concept of a Mac or a PC is too much for you, there are some really basic things to try to get comfortable with it all.

First, play a game.  Doesn’t have to be a card game, but they’re good for this purpose.  They teach you how to actually use a mouse.   I suggest on Windows Spider Solitaire using one deck.  It’s dead simple and real good at that drag and drop stuff.  I know that the Mac has a couple good games like that since I have them installed on my own Mac. 

Second, use a laptop or a desktop.  Put the tablet aside.  Actually train yourself on how to use it again, call it a refresher, but your boss will appreciate it.  They may even remember that your skills got better next time Layoffs come around.

Third, you need to know how to do some basic office “stuff”.  Write a basic letter with a couple different fonts.  Bold, font size change, paragraph indenting.  Basic stuff.  Print it out to your printer.   Do the same with a spreadsheet.  Enter a column of numbers and calculate the sum.  Change the colors, make it pretty.  Print it out to your printer.

No, I’m not fond of wasting paper, but if you can do all the above, you can find your printer, you can do basic office operations and you have gone from being passed over for that entry level job to being qualified.

But no matter what, set the tablet aside.  The websites aren’t there yet… yet.  Unless you work at Apple of course and most people don’t.

Fourth and most importantly, open your mind to knowledge.   Once that closes up, you’re stuffed.  After all, while playing Angry Birds may be fun, it won’t put food on your table, and what you “learn” in flinging cartoon birds at things won’t work when you have to post things to your General Ledger.