Tech In Review: Random Bits And Pieces

Editorial / Tech

The holidays are always interesting for tech news.  Lots of tech toys, recommendations for what to buy for Christmas, maybe an overview of the year, but usually not as much as I’d like of things I can write about in depth.  But there were a few things that hit several of the places I read regularly, getting me to dig a little.

Verizon Messages

The first is one those on Verizon and using an iPhone may find of interest.  Apple has Continuity to send text messages from a Mac through an iPhone.  Verizon Messages is a service that will do that via a combination of a Windows desktop app or web app, combined with whatever you use for Android or iPhone texting.  There are companion apps in both the Google Play store and Apple’s appstore, but ZDNet suggests both add unnecessary bells and whistles.

What got my attention was the fact that it’s carrier specific.  I wonder if we really need a carrier specific texting app.  In this age of switching phones and carriers like they’re diapers, when we’re dissatisfied with the mess of one, we replace it.  Whether our dissatisfaction is real or imagined.  There are a number of computer texting solutions, most are cross platform, and some even include tablet options.  Even Blackberry has Blend which includes access the phone’s BB10 messaging hub.  Just sayin’.

Hangouts Losing SMS functionality?

On a related note,  there’s a rumor that Hangouts will be losing its SMS funcions.  That’s been reported in several places, either including or with an update to add the probability that Google Voice and Project Fi are unaffected.  Project Fi, in part, uses Google Voice.  But I wonder if Google is really going to want to maintain two separate versions of Hangouts?  It seems like unnecessary work.  And Google already has Messenger that works, no matter what the carrier.  There are good third party SMS/MMS apps too.  So, even though it may be news, the only area where it might deserve that much coverage is in computer texting.  When you’re on Google Plus in your computer browser, there’s access to Hangouts at the top of the page.  It was like a built in way to read and reply to texts on any computer.

Linux Vulnerability

Remember those wonderful days when the Apple fanboys used to point out all the newly discovered vulnerabilities of Android?  And the Android fanboys would return the favor?  The iOS vulnerabilities have been patched quickly.  Until very recently, the Android vulnerabilities all have been in the lab only, not in the wild.  And of course there’s been the longer ongoing Windows versus Linux security discussion.  That one seems to have livened up with the latest (12/2015) linux vulnerability.

The tale of woe is that, if your Linux installation uses Grub to boot (which almost all do), tapping the backspace key 28 times will get a hacker past the login screen and to a place where they can do damage in various ways — and the hacker can do severe damage.  He didn’t need authentication and is at a higher access level than normal login.  That sounds pretty desperate.  But it’s more like all those Android vulnerabilities that could be dangerous, but weren’t likely to be seen by anyone.

The IT guys are on this for their employers, I’m sure.  But, for the rest of us, here’s the deal.  Every computer has to start up and the system start running before the drivers and software get the ports operating.  So, this is never going to be a remote attack.  It takes someone either curious enough or vindictive enough to tap backspace 28 times at the computer’s keyboard.  Not exactly an unnoticeable situation.  Plus it’s a pain in the butt to tap anything 28 times in a row.  Then, it would take someone who is curious enough or vindictive enough to go rummaging around.  And possibly some real tech ability to do some of the things that are possible, after getting in.

That all makes this an unlikely but not impossible vulnerability.  Does that mean you can ignore it?  No.  But you don’t need to unnecessarily worry about it, either.  If you’re tech savvy, there’s code for a patch on GitHub.  If not, all the major distros should have fixes fairly quickly.

What are some of your other recent favorite tech stories? Let us know in the comments, and in the meantime, have a great Christmas!

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