April 2020 Tech Roundup


A pretty busy month, even without all the craziness from the Coronavirus pandemic!

This month there was some very interesting smartphone news from both major platforms, a way to track Coronavirus that seems to not infringe on privacy, how craft videos are more dangerous than they look, and the usual security patches for Microsoft and WordPress.

Enjoy!

Smartphones

A surprising amount of smartphone news – what to look for, what to look out for, and a really intruiging new value iPhone.

Android – Not Good: Huawei

Huawei, the maker of the Nexus 6P (that caused my switch to iOS), has a bit of a problem in their newest phone. The P40 Pro seems to be an almost perfect Android phone: awesome camera, high-quality phone…but without the most important part of Android – Google Servcies. No Google Mobile Services APIs due to the current trade war with China. This means no Google Play Store, and lots of important apps just won’t work at all.

Not good for a $1,000 phone.

Even with the quality included camera, it looks like Huawei just can’t help using DSLR images in their P40 ads. If you’re keeping count, this is the fourth time Huawei has gotten caught doing this.

Additionally, it looks like Huawei may be retaliating against reviewers who give an honest review about the downsides of this phone. Shortly after posting this review, a member of Android Police got this tweet:

They seemed to have backed off shortly after that (based on this tweet a few days later), but I can safely say – stay away from a Huawei phone right now (and maybe permanantly).

Android – Good: OnePlus

OnePlus has made a name for themselves by making quality Android phones (with good software support) at lower price points than Samsung or Google.

Their latest phone, the OnePlus 8 (and 8 Pro) bump the price point up, but seem to strike a nice balance of quality, features and cost. With non-mmWave 5G, 120 Hz screen, in-screen fingerprint sensor, and 3 (or 4 on the 8 Pro) cameras, the OnePlus 8 is currently the best 2020 flagship out there.

And all for the (starting) price of $799 for the OnePlus 8 or $999 for the OnePlus 8 Pro.

Return of the iPhone SE

Maybe the most interesting phone news this month, though, is Apple’s reintroduction of the iPhone SE.

This is a solid mid-range device with Touch ID, the current A13 Bionic processor, the machine-learning Neural Engine (which means portrait mode and Smart HDR), and wireless charging, all in the iPhone 8-size body (and screen), starting at $399.

There are some trade-offs: no Face ID, only a single front and rear camera, and the smaller 4.7-inch LCD (not OLED) screen, but this is a really solid mid-range device. It’s also cheaper than some midrange Androids, and the A13 outperforms the top Android flagships.

Plus, all the weirdness from Qualcomm regarding 5G modems in flagship Android phones will likely make them bigger, hotter, and more expensive thsi (and maybe next) year. If you’ve been looking to try out an iPhone, this may be the perfect phone to jump in.

Security News

Microsoft

In a surprising bit of news, Microsoft has extended the support window for some versions of Windows 10, Windows Server, SharePoint Server 2010, and Dynamics 365, among others, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the unpredictable nature of Windows updates in recent years, make sure you’ve done the most recent security updates for Windows 10. These patched three actively-exploited vulnerabilities that allowed attackers to execute code or elevate user privileges.

WordPress

It wouldn’t be the end of the month without some WordPress plugins that have had vulnerabilities disclosed!

  • WP Lead Plus: A vulnerability allows any signed in user (even a Subscriber with minimal permissions) to create or replace any page on the site, or upload a page template with malicious code.
  • Widget Settings Importer/Exporter: A vulnerability allows any signed in user (even a Subscriber) to import and activate custom widgets (that may contain malicious code).

As always, if you have a WordPress site, you need to make sure that you are keeping it updated! I manage several WordPress sites for individuals and small organizations, so if you need help, please contact me!

Privacy News

Google/Apple Joint Venture

In order to try and mitigate a second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the (almost) world-wide quarantine that it has caused, Google and Apple have come with a way to accomplish two (seemingly contradictory) goals: protect privacy of users, and track the spread of those that have the novel Coronavirus.

Google’s blog post shows how it works, and it seems designed to strike a great balance between privacy and usefulness. However, relying on users who are diagnosed COVID-19 positive to manually consent to notifying others is an obvious (but probably necessary) strike against getting this kind of information out as efficiently as possible.

5-Minute Crafts

A fascinating video on an incredilbly common (and annoying) phenonmenon.

Why would a company create hundreds of Youtube channels and Facebook pages focused on making deceptive or misleading cooking and crafts videos? Worth watching for anyone that engages with this kind of content on Facebook or Youtube.

That’s all for this month!


About Colin Dorman

Colin is a freelance horn player and teacher, as well as a fan of tech of all sorts, aviation, and increasingly complex flight simulators. He also enjoys beer, bourbon and fitness - but not at the same time. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, as well as right here at ColinDorman.com!