Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Improve HTC EVO 4G Battery Life - 21 Tips & Tricks

A how-to guide on improving the battery life of your HTC EVO 4G.  

This is Part 1 of a 2 Part series on HTC EVO Batteries.  This post will provide 21 tips & tricks to improve your HTC EVO 4G battery life.  The second post will deal with how to calibrate your battery to get maximum capacity (performance).

1. Lower screen brightness. Go to Settings - Sound and Display - Brightness. Reduce the brightness using the slide or select "Automatic brightness" box to let the EVO use its sensors to adjust the screen according to the ambient light. There are also widgets for screen brightness in the Android Marketplace.  I prefer just setting to Automatic.

2. Add the widgets for 4G, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth to a home screen. Use the + button on your home screen.  There are stock widgets that let you turn these radios on/off.  Also, there is a Power Widget that has a nice UI as well with the radios stacked across.  Take your pick.  This makes it really easy to quickly turn radios on/off, plus the widgets actually look pretty good.   

3. Disable WiFi and 4G network notifications. Go to Settings - Wireless and Networks - Wi-Fi settings and for 4G, go to Settings - Wireless and Networks - 4G settings.  Note, you need to turn on 4G to disable the notifications.  Otherwise the option is greyed out.  The logic is undeniable!

4. Disable "always on" mobile data. Go to Settings - Wireless and Networks- Mobile networks. Uncheck the box for "Enable always-on mobile data". So far I have no problems to report here, but please let me know if you run into anything in the comments!  Note, a warning will be provided indicating applications will need manual refresh...mine did not. Mail is still received, SMS, etc etc.   

5. Turn off background data. If you are really hard up for juice, go to Settings - Accounts and Sync and uncheck the Background data box so that applications cannot sync, send, and receive data automatically.  Beware, this will impact HTC mail.

6. Reduce your screen timeout interval. The EVO's screen can be set to automatically turn off when you don't interact with it for a predetermined amount of time: 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, or never. 1 or 2 minutes is pretty effective.  It gives quick reads on the phone without becoming too annoying like 15 or 30 seconds.  

7. Manually turn off the screen when not in use. The power button at the top of the EVO turns the screen off.  Push it when not using the phone.  Come on, I know you can do it...

8. Turn off auto-sync. Go to Settings - Accounts and Sync - Auto-sync.  This is also not really recommend as a "useful" tip.  Keep reading for a better option. 

9. Change auto-sync frequency (Weather, News, Stocks, Twitter, Facebook,etc).Turning off auto-sync is kind of ridiculous, so take a look at adjusting how frequently data is retrieved/updated. The settings vary depending on the app (and some don't offer the setting at all), but it's generally found in the same place: Settings - Accounts and Sync. Select an account from the list and then tap "Account settings" to change the sync frequency.
  • Stocks will have the setting greyed out, if you're stock
  • Facebook's lowest level of sync activity is "Once a Day"  (fcuking facebook)
  • News can go to "Manual"
  • Weather's lowest setting is also "Once a Day" (I like every 6, or 12 hours)
  • Exchange ActiveSync will have the ability to set Peak and Off-Peak activity

10. Disable wireless network location services when not needed. Go to Settings - Location - Use Wireless Networks. Note that this (or one of the other options) needs to be enabled if you want to see and/or use your location in apps like Maps.  So again, not really recommended. 

11. Turn off window animations. I know it's nice to look at and fun to show off, but eye candy uses extra power (albeit not very much). To turn it off, go to Settings - Sound and Display - Animation - No Animations.

12. Don't use a live wallpaper. Live wallpapers do use more juice than static wallpapers.  Personally, I like the Live Wallpapers.

13. Use a dark wallpaper. The theory goes something like this:  bright white wallpapers are more bright on the screen, and are therefore using more juice.  Dark wallpapers just that, darker and the screen is dimmer.  Less juice. 

14. Change WiFi sleep policy. So the idea is this:  when WiFi sleeps, 3G/4G wakes up to sync, get email, and retrieve other data. Since 3G will eat up more battery than WiFi, we change the sleep policy, so that Wifi does not sleep.  Go to Settings - Wireless and Networks - Wi-Fi Settings. Press the Menu button, then Advanced, then Wi-Fi sleep policy. Choose "Never".

15. Monitor your running services (or consider using a task killer). Android 2.2 Froyo has taken more steps toward allowing you what services to kill, but beware, some services just start right back up after being stopped.  You can add the Running Services widget to a home screen and view what's running in the background.  You can also download a third-party task killer from Android Market and kill selected apps to free up some resources and potentially save some power. ESTaskManager isn't bad, and it has it's own additional widget will allow you to kill services/tasks from a home screen.  


16. Choose your home screen widgets carefully. Widgets that need access to the internet to update information (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Engadget, Slacker Radio, Weather, Stocks, News, Mail) can suck up a lot of juice if not managed well, so choose them carefully and set their sync/update frequencies to a reasonable interval.

17. Disable notification lights. This may not be practical if you're someone who really needs/wants to know when something happens on your phone when you're not looking, but for everyone else, feel free to turn off those notifications. Go to Settings - Sound and Display - Notification, and uncheck all the boxes if you can handle notifications being turned off (no more blinking LEDs for SMS, Mail, Missed Call, etc.)

18. Turn off phone vibration. Go to Settings - Sound and Display - Phone, select vibrate and turn it off.

19. Turn off audible touch tones. In Settings - Sound and Display, uncheck Audible selection and turn off Audible touch tones.

20. Turn off haptic feedback. Haptic feedback is on by default.  It vibrates the phone slightly when using the keyboard.  You can turn this off, go to Settings - Language and Keyboard - Touch Input - Text Input; Vibrate when typing.
  • You can disable haptics in other areas of the system by going to Settings - Sound and Display - Haptic Feedback.


21. Turn off GTalk Automatic Sign-in.  Turn off Google Talk feature because it stays running constantly in the background.  Heres how: Go to your Apps: > Open "Talk" > Press the Menu Button: > Press "More" > Press "Settings" > Un-check the "Automatic Login".  All this is going to do is when you turn on your phone Google Talk will not Auto turn on and start draining your battery. If you use Google Talk then just open it when you want to use it.  Be sure though when you are finished using it you go to"Menu" > "More" > "Sign-out"

So that's it, 21 tips and tricks for improving your HTC EVO 4G battery life.  If you have any additional tips or tricks to submit let me know in the comments and I'll update this list!

Look for another post on how to calibrate the battery to get the best performance from your HTC EVO 4G very soon!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Post - Three Times the Thanking

Three Times the Thanking.  One man's experiences during Thanksgiving evening remind him of what he is really thankful for in this world.

On my Thanksgiving, I thought you all should know about 3 wonderful experiences I had. Because, you see, each of these experiences helped remind me of what I am thankful for. 


Another post, to make up for some of the missed updates lately...I think you'll like this one too.  (note:  if you want more cool Hubble desktops, I added 8 more in this post!)

1. In the elevator at my building, on the way down, I stopped at a random floor. No big deal, it was about dinner time, I figured people would be out and about. In walks a guy holding food in tupperware, and his son. Clearly on their way to some dinner somewhere. Still standing in the hallway is a woman, head down, texting like crazy on an iphone. All three of them are dresed up. We sit there for awhile in the elevator, and as the door begins to close she says, "Hey come back out here! Wait a minute..." Without even looking up. Guy quickly stabs the open door button, he and the kid hurriedly exit. As he exits, he looks back at me and sighs, then says, "Sorry about that..." Woman didn't even look up for more than a second, but managed a "Oh what, uh..." as the door closed. She didn't even acknowledge her husband, her child, or anything that had just transpired.  Wow lady, you just demanded your son and husband get out of the elevator so you could continue texting. Heaven forbid you get in the elevator and lose signal for a a whopping 2 minutes...

I am thankful for NOT BEING MARRIED.  :D

2. Out and about, driving I'm coming really close a traffic light in the city. It's changing yellow and I totally could go - as could the car next to me on the left, and the one on the right. We are all about even approaching this intersection.  It's one of those go or no-go type situations.  Myself and the car on the left stop late, kind of in the crosswalk, but we stopped. Car on my right sped up and went through the light. *Flash* *Flash*. Red light traffic ticket. Yup, no joke, and those are not cheap around here. $150+ depending on the intersection and speed. And I was real close to just accelerating...

I am thankful for STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE. (knock on wood...)

3. Headed home, I'm thinking to myself, "Shit no dinner..." Yup, that's right, no fracking dinner on Thanksgiving. No family dinner, no turkey, no gravy, no stuffing, and certainly no pie. Quickly running through the options - which are extremely limited, I'm banking on two options - a local restaurant, and a McDonalds.  It's still early I tell myself, only about 7:00pm.  I have time...Well, the restaurant was closed (keep in mind it was only 7:30pm when I walked up to it).  I hauled ass over to the McDonalds and went into the drive-thru.  Parking lot was practically empty, not good.  I sit at the order box for about two minutes, basically praying.  A voice crackled over the box, "Hello?"  I quickly ordered the Double QP meal and ask for another 2 cheeseburgers (breakfast!).  She comes back on the intercom, "I'm sorry sir, but we are closed."  Ah crap, I'm screwed.  I just sort of moaned into the box, "awww...."  I think she felt my desperation, because about 10 seconds later she came back on, "Sir?  Are you still there?  We have a double QP and a 4 piece nugget left - would you like them?"  YES! - I practically yell back into the box.  She starts laughing, asks me for a drink and I drive forward.  When I get to the window, she tells me $4.  Obviously not the real price, or the cost, of the food.  I hand her a $20.  She looks at me, I tell her "Keep it."  She smiles, a few minutes later I have my food and am on my way.  That lady, and her two remaining workers fed me my Thanksgiving dinner, and they didn't have to - they could have very easily just closed. 

I am thankful for the KINDNESS OF COMPLETE STRANGERS.  

Sad, but it could have been a lot worse (timestamp:  8:03pm, 11/25/2010)

Hubble Space Telescope - Best Images for Desktop Wallpaper (Part 2)

Part 2, Finally!  Eight new high-res images perfect for your desktop wallpaper collection.

Sorry for the delay, had to turn in a research paper for work, and then the holidays...you know how it is.  To make up for the delay, I have 8 new images - all of them perfect for desktop wallpaper.  5 are from Hubble, and the last 3 are just awesome "astrophotographs". 

I also have another post coming up on Thanksgiving.  You see my dinner was, well, less than optimal.  *cough* McDonalds *cough* *cough*  :(

Colliding Galaxies 
This Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters. The Antennae are undergoing a galactic collision. Located in the NGC 4038 group with five other galaxies, these two galaxies are known as the 'Antennae' because the two long tails of stars, gas and dust thrown out of the galaxies as a result of the collision resemble the antennae of an insect.

Butterfly Nebula
What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to nearly 20 000 degrees Celsius. The gas is tearing across space at more than 950 000 kilometres per hour — fast enough to travel from Earth to the Moon in 24 minutes!  A dying star that was once about five times the mass of the Sun is at the centre of this fury. It has ejected its envelope of gases and is now unleashing a stream of ultraviolet radiation that is making the cast-off material glow. This object is an example of a planetary nebula, so-named because many of them have a round appearance resembling that of a planet when viewed through a small telescope.

Heart of the Whirlpool Galaxy
The Whirlpool galaxy, M51, has been one of the most photogenic galaxies in amateur and professional astronomy. Easily photographed and viewed by smaller telescopes, this celestial beauty is studied extensively in a range of wavelengths by large ground- and space-based observatories. This Hubble composite image shows visible starlight as well as light from the emission of glowing hydrogen, which is associated with the most luminous young stars in the spiral arms.

"Ultra Deep Field"
This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colours. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old. The nearest galaxies - the larger, brighter, well-defined spirals and ellipticals - thrived about 1 billion years ago, when the cosmos was 13 billion years old.  The image required 800 exposures taken over the course of 400 Hubble orbits around Earth. The total amount of exposure time was 11.3 days, taken between Sept. 24, 2003 and Jan. 16, 2004.

R136 / RMC136
R136, formally known as RMC 136, is a super star cluster near the center of the 30 Doradus complex (also known as the Tarantula Nebula), in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It is a young star cluster, age 1-2 million years, of giant and supergiant stars. The majority of its stars are of spectral type O3,with 39 confirmed O3-type stars.Additionally, there are several confirmed Wolf-Rayet stars.

Helix Nebula (from Spitzer telescope)
The Helix Nebula, also known as The Helix or NGC 7293, is a large planetary nebula (PN) located in the constellation of Aquarius. Discovered by Karl Ludwig Harding, probably before 1824, this object is one of the closest to the Earth of all the bright planetary nebulae.The estimated distance is about 215 parsecs or 700 light-years. It is similar in appearance to the Ring Nebula, whose size, age, and physical characteristics are similar to the Dumbbell Nebula, varying only in its relative proximity and the appearance from the equatorial viewing angle. The Helix has often been referred to as the Eye of God on the Internet, since about 2003.

NGC 2170 (Nighthawk Observatory)
When stars form, pandemonium reigns. A textbook case is the star forming region NGC 2170. Visible above are red glowing emission nebulas of hydrogen, blue reflection nebulas of dust, dark absorption nebulas of dust, and the stars that formed from them. The first massive stars formed from the dense gas will emit energetic light and winds that erode, fragment, and sculpt their birthplace. And then they explode. The resulting morass is often as beautiful as it is complex. After tens of millions of years, the dust boils away, the gas gets swept away, and all that is left is a naked open cluster of stars.

Colorful Clouds of Rho Ophiuchi
This stunning mosiac of the sky around bright stars Antares (Alpha Scorpii) and Rho Ophiuchi reveals spectacular colors in a cosmic starscape. Near the top, Rho Ophiuchi and nearby stars are immersed in blue reflection nebulae - dust clouds that shine primarily by reflected starlight. Cool supergiant star Antares (lower left) is itself shedding the material that reflects the evolved star's yellowish hue. Characteristic of star forming regions, the telltale red emission from hydrogen gas also permeates the view along with dark, obscuring dust clouds seen in silhouette against the background stars and brighter nebulosities. About 500 light-years away, the Rho Ophiuchi star clouds, are well in front of the nearby globular star cluster M4, visible just below and right of center. The wide view spans about 6 degrees on the sky.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hubble Space Telescope - Best Images for Desktop Wallpaper (Part 1)

I love space.  Space is the shit.  It is the end all be all of everything.  If you think creatures in the deep-blue are crazy, think back to your basic math and statistics, apply it to the galaxy (and then universe), and well...you get my drift.  Folks, it is mathematically impossible that space is empty.  Period.  End of debate.  In case you missed my earlier on post, "A Map of Your Galaxy"...the numbers involved here are enormous.  Our minds can not even comprehend the vastness that is "space".   The numbers are too large, it is literally meaningless to our feeble brains.  Does not compute...

Perhaps one of the coolest pieces of hardware man has ever created is the Hubble Space Telescope, or HST for short.  It has given us some of the most amazing and mind-blowing images humanity ever seen. (high res: closeup shot and the hardware in orbit!)

This post is dedicated to that lovely piece of hardware, and it will show my Top 5 images fit for desktop wallpapers.  I will then follow this post up with another Top 5...for a whopping total of 10!  Yes, I will try to encapsulate all of the many wonderous images HST has brought us into two posts of ten images...sad, when you consider my earlier statement about numbers...

Where possible, I will link directly to the official source (ESA/NASA/Hubble).  We all love wallpapers, and that will be a goal here - badass wallpapers that knock your socks off.  The small versions of the pictures just don't cut it, so make sure you click on all the images, and visit the links for the real view!  Links will be provided for each image so that you can get ultra-high-res to suit your desktop needs.  All credit for the images go to NASA/ESA/Hubble teams.    

If you like what you see here, then I encourage you to support space exploration.  I won't get into the debate of how, when, costs, or schedules.  I just want you to support it.  Don't talk shit, support it.  Space exploration and space travel is the most difficult challenge humankind can attempt.  I do not foresee that changing anytime soon.  RESPECT that challenge, whether you support the agency, it's goals, or it's hardware choices - I ask you only to pay homage to those men and women who have worked so hard for so long, to bring space into your home, for your very own eyes.

Orion Nebula - Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula. Also known as M42, the nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula's energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view - providing an intimate look at a range of ongoing stages of starbirth and evolution. This detailed image of the Orion Nebula is the sharpest ever, constructed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys and the European Southern Observatory's La Silla 2.2 meter telescope. The mosaic contains a billion pixels at full resolution and reveals about 3,000 stars.


"Mystic Mountain" - This craggy fantasy mountaintop enshrouded by wispy clouds looks like a bizarre landscape from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, which is even more dramatic than fiction, captures the chaotic activity atop a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks.  This turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. The image celebrates the 20th anniversary of Hubble's launch and deployment into an orbit around the Earth.

Spire in Eagle Nebula - Appearing like a winged fairy-tale creature poised on a pedestal, this object is actually a billowing tower of cold gas and dust rising from a stellar nursery called the Eagle Nebula. The soaring tower is 9.5 light-years or about 90 trillion kilometres high, about twice the distance from our Sun to the next nearest star.  Stars in the Eagle Nebula are born in clouds of cold hydrogen gas that reside in chaotic neighbourhoods, where energy from young stars sculpts fantasy-like landscapes in the gas. The tower may be a giant incubator for those newborn stars. A torrent of ultraviolet light from a band of massive, hot, young stars [off the top of the image] is eroding the pillar.  Since this one is verticla, it probably doesn't make a great wallpaper, but if you rotate - it works quite well! (due to the vertical nature of this image, it does not scale well for the site, please make sure to visit the link!)

Pinwheel Galaxy (HD!) - This new Hubble image reveals the gigantic Pinwheel galaxy, one of the best known examples of "grand design spirals", and its supergiant star-forming regions in unprecedented detail. The image is the largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy ever taken with Hubble.  The Pinwheel Galaxy (also known as Messier 101 or NGC 5457) is a face-on spiral galaxy distanced 25 million light-years (eight megaparsecs) away in the constellation Ursa Major, first discovered by Pierre M├ęchain on March 27, 1781, and communicated to Charles Messier who verified its position for inclusion in the Messier Catalogue as one of its final entries.  On February 28, 2006, NASA and the ESA released a very detailed image of Pinwheel Galaxy, which was the largest and most detailed image of a galaxy by Hubble Space Telescope at the time. The image was composed from 51 individual exposures, plus some extra ground-based photos.

Witchhead Nebula (IC2118) - Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble -- maybe Macbeth should have consulted the Witch Head Nebula. This suggestively shaped reflection nebula is associated with the bright star Rigel in the constellation Orion. More formally known as IC 2118, the Witch Head Nebula glows primarily by light reflected from bright star Rigel, located just off the upper right edge of the full image. Fine dust in the nebula reflects the light. The blue color is caused not only by Rigel's blue color but because the dust grains reflect blue light more efficiently than red. The same physical process causes Earth's daytime sky to appear blue, although the scatterers in Earth's atmosphere are molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. The nebula lies about 1000 light-years away. (you can find a cropped version here)

Ok, so there are the first 5 images, I hope that you have enjoyed them and at least saved one or two.  Please do browse around spacetelescope.org or hubblesite.org for more wonderful images from Hubble.  Don't forget to check out the 2 high res shots of the hardware as well! 

I will be following this post up with another 5 images soon.  In the meantime, please feel free to tell me which are your favorite images, either from this list, or perhaps something I have missed.  Maybe it will make my next 5! 






Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Map of Your Galaxy - The Milky Way

Understanding our galaxy, "The Milky Way."  An exercise that will expand your mind. 

I've got a future post planned for some Hubble Space Telescope wallpapers...my favorites, to be exact.  But before I get to that, I figure you need to put some context around what you are seeing, hence the galaxy and the map.   
(note:  click images for larger view)

Too many times people look at the Hubble pictures and go, "oh, that's cool" without even the slightest understanding of what they are actually viewing.  HST has given us a window into the galaxy mankind has never had before.  I want to try and bring that home by introducing you to a map of our galaxy.

That leads us to quick discussion on our galaxy, also known as the "Milky Way".  The Milky Way is the galaxy in which the "Solar System" is located.  The Solar System is our sun and anything drawn to the sun by the forces of gravity.

For those of you who slept through these classes (its alright, I skipped a lot myself...), I have some numbers for you:
  • 1 light year = about 6 trillion miles
  • Our galaxy has a total diameter of approximately 100,000 light years
  • Our sun is about 26,000 light years from the central "bulge" of the galaxy
  • It takes 200-250 million years for the sun to complete one orbit around that central "bulge"
  • Surrounding the galaxy, there are approx 200 globular clusters, containing 1 million stars each
  • Our galaxy contains roughly 200 billion stars 

This is your Milky Way galaxy.  This is the galaxy that contains our sun, and our pale blue dot - earth.  Looks pretty phenomenal eh?  That scale in the lower left is 10,000 light years.  You can use the numbers from above to do a little math on the size of our galaxy.  100,000 light years x 6 trillion miles = 600 quadrillion miles!  (hint, quadrillion comes after trillion, and looks like this:  600,000,000,000,000,000)

That's a good image, but it's top-down, 2D.  That's not how space works, so here is a side view, to give some depth and an understanding of the 3D nature of the beast...so to speak.  A side view will also give you some idea of the "bulge" (aka nucleus), the globular clusters, and the various "arms"...as well as the approximate position of our sun on one of those arms.

Here is another side view that highlights our location in the galaxy, aka our solar system.  In the above image you see the "local arm", obviously containing our sun.  This tilted image does a little bit better job of bringing it home when you think about "you are here" (sort of like the mall map when you need to find the food court).

Alright, your mind should be sufficiently blown at this moment.  You may also be asking yourself - wait, what's all this about the "universe"?  Well a universe is a collection of galaxies.  The Milky Way is one of the hundreds of billions of observable galaxies in what is traditionally known as the "observable universe".  So take these numbers and start doing this with them n^n (n raised to the n).  If your mind wasn't blown before, it should be ass-ploded by now.  And oh, yes, there is a reason for the word "observable" in "observable universe".  It implies that we know, but are not able to fully observe outside of this universe...in other words, we think we see our tip of the iceberg.  Understanding the numbers from above, and the sheer size of that "iceberg tip",  it should be clear that the possibilities are infinite.  So infinite that even if we could put numbers on it, they wouldn't mean anything to us, as it would be larger and more complex than anything we could understand.

To wrap up, here is an absolutely amazing map of our galaxy provided by National Geographic.  This has more information on it than any of the above pictures, but wouldn't make any sense if you didn't think about the numbers and the context.  Still, our feeble human minds have difficulty grasping the sheer size of our galaxy, let alone the possibilities that exist in the universe.  It also has a rocking "You are Here" label to make you feel really, really small.  Leave it to Nat Geo to make a poster like this one, god I love those people.  Click for high resolution!  (larger original is here

note:  on this day, in 1971, NASA's spacecraft 'Mariner 9' reached Mars, and became the first object to orbit another planet! let's keep kicking ass, pushing the envelope, and going further, and further away from "home". 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Free Internet TV - How to Watch TV for Free (with Sports!)

This post will cover how to watch TV for free over the internet, including your favorite sports!

More and more people are watching multimedia content online.  It's only natural that content traditionally found on "TV" finds its way to the internet.

However, for the most part, the television industry is fighting this expansion.  Large cable providers do not want to lose subscribers to the internet.  Studios and content owners don't want their shows and material available free via 3rd party.  Advertisers are concerned that they aren't getting enough exposure due to these losses.  What's all this add up to?  It's really not that easy to find TV for free on the internet.

I'll try to fix that for you now.  

First off, some basic software you should be aware of:

Hulu - This is probably the best known and most popular way of getting TV over the web.  Hulu recently added a paid subscription tier to it's service.  This highlights my above comments, studios want money for their shows being played online.  Hulu had to institute a paid service tier in order to continue operating, and to be able to continue serving "premium" content (i.e. new shows).  Some people may or may not know that Hulu Desktop software exists and works quite well.  Try it!  You can even use your TV remote control.  (I'll cover that setup in another post later on)
Hulu Desktop Software
XBMC - This software has been around since the first XBOX.  This is a great way to organize and play all of your existing TV content on your TV.  Simply hookup your TV to your computer, install XBMC, and it will auto-create a library of movies and TV that you have on your computer.   This software really shines for anyone who already has an existing library of movies, tv, pictures, and/or music.  Myself, I have over 4TB of content that XBMC serves up nicely on my plasma tv.  You can't go wrong with XBMC.
XBMC TV Library Screenshot

Boxee - This software is an offshoot of XBMC, but it has a more "friendly" feel.  Boxee also contains what I like to call a "TV Scraper".  It has a library of all the available TV online.  You can watch TV from Hulu, Comedy Central, USA, etc.  If it's available from the provider online, it gets scraped up and added to Boxee's library.  So instead of just being able to watch what Hulu has available, you can also watch, say Comedy Central, via one easy to use interface.  Boxee, much like XBMC will also organize and play any existing content you already have saved as well.  Boxee also recently released a set-top box.
Boxee TV Library Screenshot

Now for some free websites that show TV online, including sports!

MyPremiumTV - This website has limited channels and plays a lot of overseas/international.  However, you can almost always find big sporting events in the US on one of the channels.  This could include NFL, MLB, NBA, etc.  For example, most Sundays, some NFL games will be shown.  The website is very friendly and does not do a lot of crazy pop-up advertisements.  You can also go full screen, and the quality of the video is pretty good.



HackedCableTV - This website is somewhat more difficult to navigate, but it has a lot of channels.  It also plays sports as well, in addition to movies, and regular channels such as TNT, TBS, Syfy, etc.  There is international programming available too.  This site tends to take a "scraper" approach, which means if there is more than one source for a particular feed/channel, it will list them (source #1, source #2, etc.). 


FromSport  - This website focuses exclusively on sports.  It covers all kinds of sports as well, not just north american.  In addition to american football and baseball, you can also find cricket, rugby, and other sports available to watch.  Many times HackedCableTV will actually be linking to FromSport.  Overall quality and speed is very good, however you may find that some sources are better than others. 


That's it for now!  Do you have any other free TV sources online that you would like to share?  Post 'em in the comments and I'll add them to this post!  Also, what are your thoughts on bogarting TV via online sources?  Piracy?  Doing what has to be done?  Saving $100's every month on the cable bill?  Trying to teach the industry that most of us don't want to pay for channels we don't need?  Making the set-top box obsolete?
 
reader submitted:
Justin.TV - This is a good site, and good suggestion!  Other users, around the world, host TV stations for anyone to watch.  The TV stations can be regular "TV", or even a webcam show.  You can find all kinds of good content on here, on a pretty regular basis.  Quality tends to vary, as each user controls what they host.  I have used this a little bit myself, but I often find good sports games (like NFL) get turned off fairly quickly. (thanks to Planet Ben and MarcABlax for this submission!)

Filmon - Another great reader submission!  This is a site I hadn't tried before, but I was immediately impressed with the ease of use and quality of the channels.  You can find major networks like KTLA (that's local Los Angeles), NBC HD, CBS, Bloomberg, and even a few international channels.  All told there are about 30 channels or so (including 2 XXX channels!), which is pretty good for a single site.  I would definitely recommend taking a look at this site for it's quality, ease of use, and fast load times.  It looks like it used to be a pay service, but once they were sued in US court they decided to go all FREE! Their bread and butter seems to be the re-broadcast of free HD-OTA (over-the-air) channels, hence KTLA, KCAL, KTTV, etc.  (thanks to Telia Tuli for this submission! note: he mentions the pending court case)

HackedCableTV - Alright, we got the site owner reading and commenting! Very glad to see that.  Thank you for your support!  He mentions an important note that should be passed along:  a lot of these sites, like Hulu, Filmon, etc will tailor their offering to the country you live in.  For example, without a US ip address, Hulu is a no-go.  Filmon has both UK and US feeds, and tailors them based on ip.  So try changing your ip address!  Also, definitely head over to HackedCableTV.com, it's a great site, and it does a damn fine job of putting together all the tv available on the web.  A great one-stop-shop for internet tv.  

Fancast - This is an offering from Comcast that was launched earlier in 2008.  This was submitted to me by a friend who, like me, does not have regular CableTV.  You do not have to be a Comcast customer to watch TV and movies offered by Fancast, however some of the content is locked and available only for current Comcast customers.  For example, HBO content is offered, but only for customers with HBO subscription.  Also, mainstream shows are offered like Lopez Tonight, but only for comcast customers with existing cable subscriptions.  So, it just depends on whether the free tv is enough for you.  Quality is as good as Hulu, and the programming is as you would expect (new shows like Burn Notice, Bones, etc.).  

ATDHE.net - Another reader submission! Woohoo!  This is also a new one for me, and appears to be primarily sports, which is pretty cool.  I see sports listed from all over the world, including the major North American sports like NBA, Hockey, etc.  They also have the NFL Network! Big plus there.  In addition to the sports channels they have about 12-15 "regular" channels.  These include show driven channels, like The Simpsons, South Park, and Frasier.  This site also has what looks to be some PPV action, with UFC and WWE channels.  All in all, a pretty good site.  Quality of the channels varies, but overall it is pretty good.  Load times are quick, and pop-ups/advertisements are limited.  (thanks to DDX for this submission!)

MyP2P.eu - And the reader submissions just keep on coming!  MyP2P advertises on the banner for MyPremium, and this is one I have tried before.  However, I am not a "huge" fan due to the software requirements needed to watch some of the programming.  Without getting too much into detail, this site is really not bad, and plays both Live TV as well as Live Sports from around the globe.  You can search by country, or by sport.  There are music, entertainment, and kids channels as well.  Overall, MyP2P has one of the largest channel listings of all the internet TV sites.  It is fairly easy to navigate as well.  Just be careful of the software like sopcast, etc etc that may be needed.  You may also end up with problems steaming to Win Media Player too...Personally, I think it's easiest when they just use Flash, but YMMV.  Still, this is a good site, with tons of good content - both TV and sports.  Definitely check it out and decide for yourself.  (thanks to DDX for this great submission as well!)



note:  I am not necessarily endorsing stealing TV via online sources.  I am not a lawyer.  Some of these sources may be more legitamate than others.  As for me, I don't have cable TV and catch all my NFL (as well as the recent MLB World Series) via these sources. YMMV. 

hint:  try these websites out on your PHONE!  3G is typically decent enough, though obviously wifi or 4G is better.  also, make sure your phone supports Flash (sorry walled gardeners...) you can even go fullscreen on the phone!

hint:  for those of you outside the US, you will need to change/disguise your IP address in order to access site likes Hulu.  yes, this even includes the canadians.  here is an excellent list of proxies by country, enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

How to Beat Firesheep - Secure Open Wifi (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of the Firesheep series, How to Beat Firesheep.  Part 1 introduced the tool and the attack, Part 2 talked about the seriousness of the vulnerability.   
Part 3 will tell you how to beat Firesheep.
Let's drop in a lil napalm and cook 'em down!
First, let's setup up some basic ground rules:
  • We all know you're going to be on Open Wifi at some point, so telling you "get off open wifi" is retarded
  • The problem is essentially owned by the website operators, not the Wifi operators.  The issue is HTTP cookies, and the ability to session-hijack, not the ability to login to a Wifi access point at Starmucks.
  • Sites that are vulnerable to this attack today may not be vulnerable tomorrow, however, there will always be sites that are vulnerable, therefore it is important to at least try and browse securely while on Open Wifi
Some of these solutions will be geared toward the technically savvy.  Some of them will be easy.  Some of them may require that you pay money.  Overall, I think at least one of these solutions will work for everyone.

 Let's get started.
  1. Secure your browsing on the Open Wifi by using VPN.  This is by far the most effective and best way of solving the problem.  This will encrypt all of your traffic on the wifi network and defeat anyone trying to use Firesheep against you.  It can however cause you to spend a few bucks.  Solutions like VyprVPN are perfect for solving the session-hijack problem.  See my earlier review on VyprVPN here (figures it would come in handy!)  quick note: VyprVPN is included free in Giganews subscriptions.
  2. Secure your browsing on the Open Wifi by using SSH.  This is very similar to using a VPN, except I would consider it much more difficult to setup.  Essentially it provides the same benefit, an encrypted connection. Lifehacker did a good tutorial awhile back on setting up a free SSH server using your home computer here.  Cygwin and OpenSSH are essentially the solutions here, but beware, setup is perhaps not for the faint of heart.  Ducks need not apply.     
  3. Utilize SSL versions of websites (HTTPS rather than HTTP).  This is easy.  Many websites have HTTPS versions, even Facebook.  However there is a major drawback:  often times while browsing you will inadvertently switch back to HTTP.  Try that Facebook link, then click around - see the problem?  You're switching from HTTPS to HTTP in a heartbeat.  This solution is easy, but perhaps less than ideal, and not very effective.
  4. Install Firefox addons that will automatically direct you to HTTPS website versions.  Two options are:  HTTPS Everywhere and Force-TLS.   This is also easy, and it will solve the problem of having to remember to type "HTTPS", or change your bookmarks.  The addon will automatically direct you to the secure version of the site.  Of course this still suffers from the same problem as #3, websites will easily switch you from HTTPS to HTTP, and is therefore still problematic.
  5. Use the "Blacksheep" addon. Blacksheep is a firefox addon that will supposedly scan the Open Wifi you are on and determine if anyone is running Firesheep on it.  So, if it you see a return, then at least you are aware of what's going on, and can hopefully take the necessary precautions.  Still this does not solve the problem, it only makes you aware of the potential danger.  Blacksheep does tell you the IP address of the attacker though.  But if you're sitting in Starmucks, this may mean all you can do is yell out "Hey 192.168.0.XXX, you SMOKE POLE!"  There is another drawback to this too - you don't need Firesheep to conduct this type of attack (Wireshark + WinPCap = Win).  So although Blacksheep may detect Firesheep, it does not solve the session-hijack problem.  The other issue here is this software is newly released, which could mean a back-and-forth between the "sheep".  (fix, counter, fix, counter)
  6. Use a Mifi/Cellular Modem/Hotpsot type device.  I think every major cellular provider in North America sells these things.  Some of them are just USB sticks you plug into the computer.  In other cases, you can tether your phone to the laptop.  The problem here is this costs money, a lot of money, and is tantamount to saying "don't use Open Wifi".  Not an ideal solution, although it is effective at solving the problem. 
  7. Use Fireshepherd.  This is a brand new piece of software designed specifically to combat Firesheep.  It is not an addon like Blacksheep.  Fireshepherd periodically sends out a stream of garbage that is intended to screwup or crash Firesheep.  YMMV with this software.  So far I have not read any reviews or done extensive tests myself.  As I said, it's brand new.  The other potential drawback is that this, like Blacksheep, does not apply to the actual root problem of session-hijacking.  In other words, this may be another solution to the Firesheep issue, but not a solution to the session-hijacking problem.  This is also vulernable to the same tit-for-tat as Blacksheep.   
  8. On a Mac? Try Meerkat.  This is basically setting up SSH for your Mac, but Meerkat makes it a little easier.  Of course, Meerkat costs money.  There is a very good guide that deals with the entire Meerkat setup process here.  Remember, OpenSSH is installed in Mac OS X by default.  However, you still are going to deal with setup though, and again, that depends on whether you're a duck or not...
Warning from Blacksheep that Firesheep is active on your network
What are the other pundits saying?  Most of them are going with VPN as the best solution, including the Firesheep developer himself.  Hey, if Harvard recommends VPN, there must be something to it, right? 
I heard these people were smart
I would honestly reccomend people look into a secure service like VyprVPN.  Cost is minimal and benefits are great.  Especially if you are conducting "work" over open Wifi, or if you are spending time on social, financial, or other private sites  Consider it your own little private encrypted tunnel on an otherwise open network.  I have no problem endorsing VyprVPN as an ideal solution that will keep you on Open Wifi, but keep you safe from kiddies session-hijacking your logins (VPN solves a number of other security concerns as well).  As I mentioned in my earlier review, this service also comes free with Giganews, so if you're already on Usenet, now may be the time to look at Giganews.  

VyprVPN Personal VPN lets you browse securely

I figure it's also worth mentioning solutions that are NO GOOD.  In other words, these will NOT WORK.
  • Using Tor.  Tor will not solve your problems.  In fact, if the owner of the exit node is running Firesheep, you just got pwned, hard.  Even the Firesheep developer thinks using Tor is a bad idea.
  • Enable WPA2 and tell yourself "it's all good now".  Sure, you've done good, but you can still get pwned, pretty hard.  ARP poisioning and DNS spoofing take a little bit more tech savvy, but software exists to conduct those attacks as well - on either a wirless WPA2 network, or a wired network.  Google: Cain and Abel.  
  • Using a VPN or SSH tunnel you don't know and trust.  This is bad, mmkay?  You just pushed the problem off to that exit connection.  Since you don't know anything about it, and clearly can't trust it...you're basically asking for trouble.  "Use VPN" is good, but just blindly using whatever VPN is not - get it? 
As you can see from the above, the solutions basically come in two flavors:
  • Encrypt all of your communications on the wireless network (VPN, SSH, Meerkat, etc)
  • Encrypt the communications with the particular website (HTTPS, Addons, etc.)

Both of these flavors have one thing in common: encryption.  If you don't know, now you know. 

BTW, if you are running Firesheep for whatever purpose, be aware that Microshaft is detecting it as a "virus/malware".  I lol'd.  Another BTW, if you are using the standard Windows antivirus/antimalware you should seriously consider upgrading to an alternative.
Getting pwned by script kiddies is bad, mmmkay?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Header!

I put up a new header today, very simple - minimalist all the way. 

Let me know what you think!  Poll on the left, or leave a comment. 

Not sure how I feel about it yet, I do think it looks better than the standard header though.  I could change color, add flash, transitions, more images, change gradient, etc etc.  I sort of prefer the minimalist look though, just the text, no movement, no images...Tried to pick a color that would go with the blog...what do you think?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Attack Clients on Open Wifi - Firesheep (Part 2)

Looks like the 15 minutes of fame for Firesheep is getting extended...

Sites you can pwn using Firesheep:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Yahoo! Mail
  • Windows Live
  • Hotmail
  • Google.com (not GMail)
  • Slashdot
  • Amazon
  • Newegg
  • Home Depot
  • United Airlines
  • Office Max
  • Wordpress (when not using their optional SSL)
  • More coming soon!
Why is it so easy for mass pwnage?  A lot of sites, including most social networking sites, use HTTPS only for the login form.  After that, it's all good ol' HTTP.  Also, in general, its very difficult to have persistent HTTPS, or end-to-end encryption.  So, for this type of "session-hijack" you don't even need the user/pass of the victim.  Essentially the attacker can impersonate the victim, thus taking control of the account.
In truth, Wireshark did this ages ago via the little-known-method of copy/paste :)  Turn the clock back to the beginnings of 802.11, war-driving, wep-cracking, and this type of attack was still valid.  Why all the discussion now?  Because instead of copy/paste, you get a nice little GUI and employ the uber-powerful double-click!
What does all this mean?  Whenever an attack gets easier, it tends to become more popular.  You can bet top dollar that going forward, at Starbucks, Safeways, Hotels, or wherever there is free open wifi, there will be someone running Firesheep.  Hint:  look for the script kiddie, social outcast, or the dude laughing so hard he looks like he may shit himself.
Few words of caution if you intend on "testing" this out in your neighborhood:
  • People are already doing this, so you're behind the times (see above link)
  • Most owners of open-wifi at commercial establishments have ToS (terms of service), you are likely violating those terms of service.  However, those ToS also go both ways, informing users that there can be no expectation of privacy, or liability for the store/wifi owner, should damage occur.
  • In many countries/states/counties/cities, it is illegal to sniff networks for user information unless said users authorize the action.  Check your local laws. IANAL
To finish out this post I think I'll add a short list of additional "connections/networks/protocols" that are vulnerable to Firesheep (yeah so I interchanged words that shouldn't be interchanged, sue me)
  • POP3 Mail
  • SMTP Mail
  • IMAP Mail
  • FTP
Hint:  SSL/TLS, SSH, and VPN are your friends!  Stay tuned for Part 3 that will describe how to beat Firesheep!

Attack Clients on Open Wifi - Firesheep

Keeping the theme of security rolling, I wanted to put a quick post about Firesheep.

BBQ Sheep
This is a relatively new tool, but its based on a fairly old attack method (sidetracking/session-hijacking).

Why do we care about this?  Because it's a legit attack over open WiFi that will allow a user to essentially hack your logins/passwords and gain access to your "private accounts" (i.e. Facebook, Email, etc.)

All your HTTP logins belongs to me
Slashdot and many other publications have already picked up on Firesheep, and the developer has already felt the full effects of what is known as the "security shitstorm."  The security shitstorm normally ensues when an old attack (or a new attack) becomes "easy" in the wild.  People moan and groan and bitch at the developer, mostly.  How could you do this, they say.  Why are you such an ass, other developers moan.  You're just enabling the script kiddies, all the old dudes yell.  Yeah, yeah, whatever.  Software is software, get over it.

Onto the heart of the subject, Firesheep.

Firesheep was released on Monday, November 1st, and has already been downloaded something like 500,000 times.  Firesheep is an addon to Firefox.  The addon allows you to "sniff" the open wireless network you are on (at starbucks, safeway, the airport, whatever).  Firesheep sniffs for, put simply, logon cookies.  Other users on the same open Wifi as you, that login to say, Facebook...well you steal that "logon cookie" (I'm simplifying, run with me here...).  You then use that logon cookie and gain access to whatever private site that user was logged into (i.e. Facebook).  Pretty cool eh?
Screenshot of Firesheep - Stealin Facebook Logins
Think of it this way, when you login to Facebook, and then close that tab/window/whatever...but decide 20 minutes later to go back...you don't always have to retype your user/password...do you?  No, you don't.  That information and the session authentication is stored in a little piece of shit called a cookie.  Well if someone can copy that cookie, they can fake Facebook into thinking they are you.  Viola - they are now in your account.
There are limitations, of course, and I think the developer does an excellent job of explaining them on his website.  The problem essentially arises from only securing the login page and information.  I won't get into the details, because they don't really matter to most of the public.  You just need to know that your shit is vulnerable.  Maybe if I get bored I'll put a list of major websites that are vulnerable, maybe not...By the way, screw you if you don't like the dude or the tool...as I said, software is software.

You may recall me mentioning how that wonderful open wifi at the airport was not-so-good after all in an earlier post about VyprVPN.  Well, here's your proof.  Seriously folks, be careful.  I didn't mention the longer methods, that of course, are still valid...but now that Firesheep is out in the wild, it's gotten a lot easier.  I'll be posting again with some screenshots of Firesheep in action around town.  I'll also incorporate a how-to-beat Firesheep in the very near future.  Hint:  VPN
This isn't just Facebook or Flickr we're talking about here, a lot of your logins are potentially vulnerable to this type of attack.