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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The celebrity nude photo hacking scandal: Two things you need to do right now

Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the Oscars show in March.

Getty Images

Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the Oscars show in March.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the FBI is investigating reports that several celebrities' online accounts had been hacked, leading to the posting of their nude photographs online.

At the center of the scandal is Apple's iCloud service, with Kirsten Dunst leveling possibly the most public accusation:

Thank you iCloud🍕💩

Apple hasn't admitted blame, but says it's looking into the matter. It is known that Apple has fixed a security gap in its Find My iPhone service — as I understand it, there had been no limit placed on the number or rate of incorrect login attempts, allowing hackers to try logging in repeatedly with a series of random or commonly used passwords until they found one that worked. (It's what's called a "brute force" attack.)

Regardless of whether it turns out Apple's oversight was indeed to blame, it seems clear that taking a couple simple, common precautions could have protected Kirsten, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson (never read the comments, Emma), et al., from a breach like this one — and they can protect you, too. …

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Remember that Facebook Messenger loophole?

The Messages tab in my newly updated Facebook app doesn't have messages in it anymore — even after using the canceled-download trick.

Facebook

The Messages tab in my newly updated Facebook app doesn't have messages in it anymore — even after using the canceled-download trick.

I mentioned it a few days ago. From the screen shot above, it looks like Facebook might have closed it.

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Dropbox Pro now offers 1TB of storage for the same price

Dropbox.com

This came out Wednesday, but it was news to me today — the same Dropbox we've been paying $99 a year for at my house now comes with 1TB of storage. (That's 1,000GB, or 1,000,000MB, or — well, you get the idea.) I've written in passing about Drobox before. In short, I've found it totally worth the price. The new upgrade comes with other enhancements in security and sharing, but to me the w00t was clearly the 1TB.

(Tip o' the hat to TUAW.)

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Don't believe what you're reading on Facebook and Twitter about vaccines and autism

 Phil Plait, right, gets his vaccinations. So should you.

Slate.com

Phil Plait, right, gets his vaccinations. So should you.

Phil Plait is doing his best today to help keep you from falling for the latest conspiracy theory being spread by a known fraud and quack:

Stuff like this used to make me really angry, but now it makes me sad. Diseases like measles, pertussis, chicken pox, and polio are dangerous, and they’re making a comeback, in no small part due to misinformation spread by anti-vaxxers.

I know that many of the people making these claims are honest; they're speaking from their heart out of concern for their children. As a parent and a human being, I’m concerned about this as well. And that’s precisely why I write about the realities of vaccines: They are extremely effective, and their risk is incredibly small compared with their benefits. Conspiracy theories like this new one have the potential to do a lot of damage. Ironically, by avoiding vaccinations, the people it’s likely to hurt are the very ones their parents are trying to protect.

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Busted: Five myths about Facebook's Messenger app

Facebook recently forced smartphone users to download its standalone Messenger app if they want to send messages. Many are upset about the change.

Associated Press

Facebook recently forced smartphone users to download its standalone Messenger app if they want to send messages. Many are upset about the change.

The paper picked up this nifty Messenger myths vs. reality article in today's paper. It's a great refresher if you've got concerns about the hysteria surrounding Messenger — and even if you don't, really.

I wasn't sure about some of the reasoning ("Facebook says it's forcing users to make the switch because a standalone app offers more features. For example, the app is faster, offers a selfie cam" — but the regular old Facebook app let me use my phone's front-facing camera, and I'm not sure how a Messenger "selfie cam" could be different), but I did appreciate the walkthrough for the still-working-as-of-this-moment workaround for getting your messages back on the tab in the Facebook app.

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In which I briefly test your patience by just rambling about another of my favorite things

Yesterday, I gushed about The Wirecutter; today, it's something else entirely.

I always felt like there's a fine line between talking about technology and talking about science, in the sense that appreciating one means, on some level, appreciating the other. You really can't love your smartphone, for example, and believe the moon landings were a NASA hoax.

Yet some people do.

So I've become fond of Phil Plait, an astronomer, author and tireless science evangelizer for Slate. Today, he's calling out folks who deny climate change is happening, and/or that human beings play any role in it. He also calls attention to the dangerous antivaccination movement. He's a great follow on Twitter, too (@BadAstronomer — get it?).

Here's my take: Your politics and religion are about your search for personal Truth, with a capital T. But good science is about Fact. It's about what we can actually observe and measure about the universe around us, from the most grandiose scale to the most microscopic. And if your Truth doesn't fit well with the way the universe works … well, it's not the universe that's going to bend to accommodate you.

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The Wirecutter's summertime gear list looks like good advice year-round

thewirecutter.com

I'm a relative newcomer to The Wirecutter, Brian Lam's project that maintains regularly updated best-of lists curated by qualified reviewers — but I'm becoming a big fan.

Despite the intense soldering-iron-and-safety-glasses tone of the site's title, it offers simple guides to finding the best headphones, or TV set or camera, of course, but also guides for finding a good water bottle, weather app (Android or iOS), yoga mat or surge protector. You get a full explanation about the reviewers' preferences, why the top pick was chosen (which often helps you realize you might be better off in your circumstances with their second choice) and what torture they put their gizmos through. They even provide price alerts when one of their picks goes on sale.

Anyway, I was browsing through their "Summertime Gear for 2014" page today, and trust me: the advice you'll find here can help Floridians year-round. Find a great beach umbrella or beach towel. What you need for a good barbecue or picnic. Stuff you can stash in your car and forget about until you really need it. …

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Your phone might take a dive, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's dead

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iStockphoto.com

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Rob Griffiths (@rgriff) posted a story to Macworld early this morning describing the dip his phone took in a 10-foot-deep lake last weekend — and how he brought it back from the dead.

His method was pretty extreme (he eventually completely disassembled the phone, dried everything with compressed air and reassembled it), but it's good to know some simpler ways to salvage a phone that's taken a dunk.

First of all: Act quickly. Get your phone out of the wet as soon as you can. Resist the urge to start pressing buttons. Instead, immediately power it down and disconnect anything and everything that can be disconnected. Remove the battery (if your phone has a removable battery), take out the SIM card and open every socket and door that might be covered. Only after that, take a towel and dry the outside of your phone. …

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How to check your browser for Photozoom malware — and remove it

Macworld posted an item today from senior contributor Ted Landau (@tedlandau) describing his realization that malware on one of his computers was inserting ads into Web pages where they didn't belong. There are likely many folks out there who might see this malware every day and never realize it. His computer was a Mac, but you can likely follow his instructions on any computer you own.

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10 clever tricks you can do with your iPhone earpods

The Unofficial Apple Weblog

That's what Apple calls them, by the way — "earpods." At least, that's what they call their newest ones. But John-Michael Bond's list of 10 things you can do with earpods (TUAW) will work with any of Apple's three-button headphone remotes. Fast-forward and rewind, handle incoming calls and more, all without pulling your iPhone from your pocket.

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Dozens of iPhone tricks you've probably never heard of

Boy Genius Report

Boy Genius Report called attention over the weekend to a pair of articles ticking off tons of iPhone tricks and features that you might not know are actual things — but that would save you tons of time and headaches, impress your friends and family members, make you the life of your next cocktail party, etc., etc.

Many are fairly well known. You can shake your iPhone to undo whatever you just typed. You can set up custom vibration alerts for your contacts, much the same way you'd set up custom ringtones. Others are probably more niche: You can teach Siri the correct pronunciation of words and names that she's been mangling, for example.

See if there are any tips in here of interest to you:

CNET: 20 iPhone tips you'll wish you knew all along

Wiki Pac: 21 things you probably didn't know your iPhone could do

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Sooner or later, it all comes down to power

Cobra's CPP 300 SP opens to expose two solar panels. It can also be charged using a build-in plug (left) that fits into a standard USB port on a computer or wall adapter. It can charge three devices at once, with a built-in 5V/1A micro USB cord (right) and two standard USB sockets — one that provides extra oomph (5v/2.1A) for charging an iPad or other tablet, and the other providing enough juice (5V/1A) to charge a phone or iPod.

Cobra Electronics Corp.

Cobra's CPP 300 SP opens to expose two solar panels. It can also be charged using a build-in plug (left) that fits into a standard USB port on a computer or wall adapter. It can charge three devices at once, with a built-in 5V/1A micro USB cord (right) and two standard USB sockets — one that provides extra oomph (5v/2.1A) for charging an iPad or other tablet, and the other providing enough juice (5V/1A) to charge a phone or iPod.

There are a couple interesting posts out there today about gadgets that can help power your phone or tablet when you're traveling or your home Internet during a power outage. I can't vouch for either of them personally, but I'm definitely intrigued.

The Wirecutter picked Cobra's CPP 300 SP as its best solar battery pack: "It gives you more power, faster charging, and a better-designed chassis than anything else currently available. Thanks to its dual-folding panels that you can angle towards the sun, it charges quickly in bright light and continues to charge late in the day, even under partly cloudy conditions and when obstructed from direct light. It also conveniently has built-in cords for input and output and the ability to charge two devices at once. What’s more, it was the only model equipped with a 2.1-amp port capable of charging high-draw devices like a tablet at full speed. Basically, it had the best design and the most complete feature set." …

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If you need something like Dropbox that's not Dropbox, here are a few ideas

Macworld.com

I love Dropbox. I've tried a few competitors — Google Drive, Box.com, SugarSync, SkyDrive (now OneDrive) — and I still use Box.com. But Dropbox is the only one of those services I'm willing to pay for. I just haven't found an easier, more reliable alternative for saving something on one doohickey and opening it on that other one over there.

All the same, Macworld's excellent Christopher Breen offers his thoughts today if you're looking for an alternative. One caveat: iPhone, iPad and iPod users might want to consider iCloud Drive — even though they won't get a gander at how it works until they see iOS 8, Apple's next operating system software upgrade due in the fall.

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World Cup: What you need to see USA-Germany today

Posted a story this morning about what you'll need to watch the USA-Germany World Cup match that starts in about 10 minutes. Not much I haven't mentioned here before, but check it out.

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Old but still so good: Everyday technology we're getting wrong

BuzzFeed Video

This BuzzFeed video is, like, four months old — but @NewsBreaker tweeted a link to it on ora.tv today, makes it worth mentioning. Some are already pretty well known (the BuzzFeed folks would have a lot less trouble with that four-finger pinch gesture on their iPads if they tried a five-finger pinch instead), but there were some I'd never heard before this (OMG HOW TO COIL CABLES). It's short, and I've embedded it below. And you won't lose anything by muting the goofy music:

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