May 18, 2017

Link: The Case of the Stolen Source Code ☍

Panic Inc.’s Steven Frank:

Last week, for about three days, the macOS video transcoding app HandBrake was compromised. One of the two download servers for HandBrake was serving up a special malware-infested version of the app, that, when launched, would essentially give hackers remote control of your computer.

In a case of extraordinarily bad luck, even for a guy that has a lot of bad computer luck, I happened to download HandBrake in that three day window, and my work Mac got pwned.

Long story short, somebody, somewhere, now has quite a bit of source code to several of our apps.

The whole story is worth a read and, while I feel bad for the guys at Panic, they did the right thing by sharing this with their customers, offering some thoughts on the matter, and not giving in to the demands. If anything, this whole ordeal has made me like them and their products even more.

May 9, 2017

Link: Viacom Bets on the Wrong Horse ☍

Luke Bouma for Cord Cutters News:

For now you can still find Viacom channels, such as Comedy Central, Spike, and MTV, on Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW. Likely because of the ability for its parent companies to tie being on its streaming service as a requirement to be on its traditional pay-TV services.

Though it seems as if Viacom is not happy about these deals and just last week made it clear it has no future plans to be a part of cheaper cord cutting services. During the first quarter earnings call for Viacom its CEO Bob Bakish said, “we have to be careful we’re not creating inexpensive opportunities to serve as an alternative.”

We’re moving to a world where eyeballs on content is the most important thing, regardless of where it came from and how it was delivered. Although skinny bundles and over-the-top services are still a repackaging of the “old model” of pay TV, actively avoiding these really feels like a dumb move for Viacom. I’m with others in the comments for the original post, that there’s only a few specific things I watch across these networks. If Viacom went away tomorrow or pulled the channels, I don’t think I’d be too upset. That should terrify Viacom.

Link: T-Mobile’s Free Data for Life Ends ☍

Alex Wagner for TmoNews:

A few years ago, T-Mobile launched Free Data for Life as part of Un-carrier 3.0, giving tablet owners 200MB of free cellular data every month. Fast-forward to today and it looks like that program has been quietly killed.

T-Mobile has updated its Free Data for Life support page to say that the program is no longer available for new activations as of May 7, 2017. Anyone that signed up for Free Data for Life on or before May 6 can keep it with that tablet as long as they own the device.

T-Mobile’s official explanation was later posted:

When we launched Free Data For Life in 2013, 200MB of high-speed data was a lot. Today, customers want unlimited and we’re all in with T-Mobile ONE. Customers who have T-Mobile ONE can add unlimited LTE data on a tablet for just $20 a month with autopay.

Nothing changes for current customers with Free Data For Life on a Tablet. They can keep it as long as they like.

I always thought this was a neat promotion—a bit of data for anyone with a cellular-capable tablet and a way to test out T-Mobile’s network. As most users with this service were prepaid users, it also ensured that you’d keep a T-Mobile SIM in your iPad and throw a few bucks their way when traveling. The nice thing about it is that the account and everything was always active.

Unfortunately, in a case of poor timing, I just had my iPad replaced under warranty, and T-Mobile ties the Free Data for Life SIMs to the original device’s IMEI. In any other device, nothing works except T-Mobile’s sites and account management. The other side-effect is that any purchased data gets used after the 200MB, which doesn’t work in the replacement device. Therefore, even after reaching out to T-Mobile and emphasizing that it’s not an issue with my device, the solution is to buy a new SIM card and set up an entirely new account. Recently, T-Mobile SIMs have been pulled from most retailers, so the only official way is to pick a new one up from the company, either online or from a retail store.

April 29, 2017

Link: Rough Times in Surface Club ☍

Peter Bright for Ars Technica:

Microsoft’s third-quarter financial results were published yesterday, and they had many high points: cloud revenue is growing well (though we have some misgivings about how the numbers are reported), Windows outperformed the PC market, and Office 365 passed 100 million corporate seats. But there were a couple of significant black marks: Phone revenue has dropped to effectively zero, and Surface revenue was down sharply year on year, with a 26-percent drop in revenue. […]

With this stagnation, falling sales are inevitable. Until Microsoft shows the brand some love, the decline will only continue. We’re not expecting to see that love any time soon, either; the company’s guidance for the current quarter is that Surface sales will continue to fall. Microsoft is holding an event next week, and we expect there to be some hardware element, but we’ve also heard from sources close to the matter that there won’t be updates to the Surface Pro or Surface Book.

I’m not really sure what the deal is, as the Surface hardware is pretty nice and if anything, sets an example for the rest of the Windows world. With the way Microsoft treated their Lumia line, I hope the same thing doesn’t happen. Having picked up a Lumia 650 as a spare device to play with, Windows 10 Mobile is pretty nicely designed and different enough from iOS and Android to feel original. The big downside is that apps aren’t there, even basic ones that most would expect on a mobile platform and that’s what did Windows Mobile in as a whole. For the Surfaces, they’re running regular Windows 10, which has a healthy ecosystem of legacy applications, this shouldn’t be a problem.

April 14, 2017

Link: Nintendo is Stupid ☍

Jose Otero for IGN:

A Nintendo representative provided the following statement to IGN:

“Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product.”

Additionally, a representative told IGN, “NES Classic Edition wasn’t intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans.” The company has no plans to produce more NES Classic systems for North America. This announcement includes the discontinuation of the NES Classic Controller. As for third party accessories, Nintendo said the decision whether or not to continue production of accessories will be up to each individual manufacturer.

The crux of this story is that the wildly-popular and impossible-to-find NES Classic that went on sale last year has been discontinued. Rather than use it as a way to make a few extra bucks, even though the margins and ongoing purchases are much less than the Switch, it kept Nintendo in the minds of people during the gap of the Wii U and the Switch. To be honest, I have yet to see one in the flesh and numerous regular visits to GameStop and Toys R Us stores near me and even then, it had been weeks or months since they’ve gotten them in.

The thing is, I have no desire to buy a Switch, so if this was some sort of tactic, it’s flawed. Trying to think of an analogy, it would be if I was an Android user and the only Apple product I’d buy was the iPod shuffle. I’m sure Apple would love if I were to buy their headlining product (the iPhone in this case), but I also think they’d be glad that I’m at least giving them some money and keeping a product in my life.

Instead, Nintendo basically couldn’t keep up with demand for a product that was an impulse buy and decided to discontinue it before the market even got somewhat saturated. They basically could’ve printed their own money, but instead, the only people that are profiting are those re-selling these on eBay. Dumb.