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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Also, regarding Net neutrality:

This became another hot-button political issue yesterday when President Obama took a stand for it. If you need a quick (and very funny) explanation of what Net neutrality is and why it's important, The Oatmeal has one. You might remember Stephen Colbert's take on the issue back in January, too.

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You almost certainly don't need to worry about the latest Apple security scare

We ran a story in today's paper that probably scared some iPhone and Mac users. Hackers are targeting your iPhone, it said, essentially, tricking you into a security breach that could spill all your personal information out onto the Internet!

That's really not the case at all. Unless you've acted on your own to turn off security measures that Apple leaves on by default, you're as safe as you ever were. And even if you've taken that step, Apple has already pushed out updates to their affected products to make sure you know you're using software that can damage your system.

AppleInsider posted a great explanation of the security systems on iPhones and Macs, what they can do and how you can make sure they're working properly. It's worth reading, but most of the advice is simple and straightforward: Don't jailbreak your phone. Don't turn off security settings on your Mac. If you get a warning that you're about to install software from an untrusted developer, don't click or tap "Trust." You get the idea.

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I guess you can now hack your lawn, or something


Rachio, the company that markets a smartphone-enabled lawn sprinkler controller called the Iro, announced today that they've made updates that can cut your water use by up to 30 percent. Now get a load of tuaw.com's description:Full Story

Older iPhone owners: Whatever you do, don't follow this awful advice

Bay News 9

If you live in the Tampa Bay area, there's a decent chance your cable TV provider is Bright House. And if your cable TV provider is Bright House, there's a decent chance you spend some time watching Bay News 9. And if you spend a lot of time watching Bay News 9, there's a good chance you're familiar with Angie Moreschi's Consumer Wise segments.

They're usually pretty good. She did one recent installment on store credit cards that I thought was especially useful.

But today she offered some horrible advice to owners of older iPhones (donotlink URL).

The premise of her segment was that previous iPhone models always get slower just as a new model is announced. As scurrilious evidence of some nefarious plot by Apple, she pointed to a study published by a Harvard Ph.D. student comparing a fever chart of Google searches for "iPhone slow," which showed spikes coinciding with Apple's iPhone hardware release schedule, with a similar chart of Google searches for "Samsung Galaxy slow," which was missing similar spikes. …

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Is the government getting privacy backwards?


AppleInsider posted today about FBI director James Comey's complaints about encryption on Apple's new iPhone models, repeating his opinion that it allows users to "place themselves above the law."

First, I should say I'm not really on the angry privacy crusade I see from some folks. David Pogue's argument that privacy concerns are unlikely to change his behavior because most of what he does is just too boring really resonated with me. I'm certainly more boring than he is.

I think of the Internet as a giant public space, where not much of the shouting, listening or looking can ever be private. And if you're really worried about how to keep your public shouting private, you should probably be using a different technology entirely.

In other words, I don't have any expectations that I'll ever become a Sam Lowry.

But something about Comey's attitude bothers me. …

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How to check your Mac for 'iWorm' malware

A new piece of Mac malware discovered Monday might be affecting around 4,200 Macs in the United States, researchers report. Fortunately, there's an easy way to tell if you've been infected.

Go to the Finder, click the "Go" menu, then click "Go to Folder…". In the window that pops up, copy this path and paste it into the text area: /Library/Application Support/JavaW — then click the Go button. If you just get a beep and a message that the window can't be found, you should be okay.

(Thanks to The Safe Mac, via MacDailyNews.)

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Dan Ruth's take on the iPhone 6 Plus 'crisis'

Today's Dan Ruth column rants about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus:

"Let's review. The nation's foremost producer of highly engineered communications devices spends hundreds of millions of dollars on a new thingy, which is supposed to be marginally better than its old thingy, and the entire project is put at risk and Apple's stock craters because gelatinous consumers wearing tight clothing can't pry the cockamamie widget into a pocket. Is it too late to bring back the Princess phone?"

Yes, Dan. Yes it is.

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What's phishing, and how can you stop it from happening to you?


You've probably heard the term "phishing," the technique where scammers send emails that seem to be from your bank, or from an Internet service you use, asking for your account information. Sometimes they're so bold as to request a Social Security or credit card number; others are much more subtle, perhaps offering a link they say will take you to sign in to your email provider.

So. When you get an email that seems like it's from your bank, how can you tell whether it really is? What do you need to look for to keep from getting fooled?

David Pogue offers some really good tips in a video on his blog today. You should check it out (he's always a great read, anyway), but here are the essentials:

• Look for subtle signs the email might not be official. For example, does it use an old corporate logo?

• Look for subtle signs the email was written by a scammer. English is a second language for most of them. …

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Apple to take second stab at updating iOS 8

So that's reassuring, I guess.

Meanwhile, there are still users out there — just iPhone 6 and 6 Plus early adopters, from what I can tell — who managed to download and install the iOS 8.0.1 upgrade in the roughly one-hour window when it was available. (For my part, I saw it in time for my iPhone 5s to download it but not to finish installing it. So now my phone either thinks there's an upgrade ready to install or doesn't think so, depending on where I look.)

Anyway, we're not talking tons of users, but that's not very reassuring to folks who have a newly updated phone that can't make cellular calls. So in case you need them in the meantime, Apple has released instructions for how to downgrade your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus from iOS 8.0.1 to 8.0.

Meanwhile, keep an eye out for iOS 8.0.2 whenever it gets here. That's the one that should enable Apple's HealthKit features on your iPhone, among other improvements.

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This is not the iOS 8.0.1 you're looking for


When Apple rolled out the new iOS 8, they pulled some features broken by bugs discovered at the last minute. Remember hearing about HealthKit, that thing that was supposed to make your iPhone a secure lockbox for all kinds of wellness and medical info? That was one of the features pulled. Apple promised a fix by the end of the month.

So today they released iOS 8.0.1 — but only briefly. It turns out that update had more serious problems, like breaking cellular reception (d'oh!) and iPhones' Touch ID fingerprint reader, so it was quickly removed from Apple's servers.

So, what now? Sit tight. Apple promises to provide more information as quickly as they can.

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What's better than free Kahwa Coffee?


Maybe I'm the last one to know about this, but Kahwa Coffee introduced its own smartphone app this week.

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'Burritos are the best thing about being in love'


The keyboard in Apple's new iOS will guess words for you, with humorous results.


So, you might have heard that Apple released iOS 8 yesterday, the latest version of the operating software that runs iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. Lots of new features, lots of new stuff to learn how to do, traditional first-day hiccups (All that stuff about Apple's new HealthKit for managing your fitness data? Never mind, for now.) — but my favorite thing I've read about the new hotness is this:

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Warning: Dropbox isn't playing nice with iOS8

A Dropbox company blog notes that iThing users who've updated to iOS8 today are reporting problems uploading photos and videos. There's a support document available here. (Tip o' the hat to TUAW.com.)

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Will you be an iOS8 early adopter today? You'll need to get this important question right


(TL;DR — For the time being, the answer to "Upgrade to iCloud Drive? Not Now?" is Not Now.)

The next generation of iOS — the software that runs Apple's iPhones, iPads and iPod touches — comes out today, with release set for 1 p.m. Florida time. There's no real reason you need to download it immediately, and a couple pretty good reasons to wait until the dust settles a bit. But there's always a rush of folks who want to get their first look at the new hotness on the first day.

Regardless, you should know this: During the iOS upgrade process, you're going to be asked if you want to upgrade to iCloud Drive, Apple's new tool for letting information in your apps stay in sync between your iThings, your Mac and the Cloud. Eventually, when it all works as designed, it should be a good deal — but that day is not today. …

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Hope you were having a good hair day Friday


If you blinked, you’re probably out of luck for a while: Astronaut snaps, tweets quick pic of 19.32 million Floridians.

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