Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Some E-books Are Hacking Your Tablet


We have learned not to click on links that arrive in emails from people we do not know. We are starting to learn that mobile apps could come with some security risk as well, so we need to exercise a little caution when we choose which titles to install. What comes as more of a surprise, is that e-book you have your eyes on could be infected with malware too. Those of us on the production side of technology spend a lot of time trying to convince skeptics that e-books are just like their paper counterparts, only a lot more convenient… but last I checked, stacked and bound sheets of paper never tried to spy on you.

According to research done by Android Police, Google Play Books contains a number of books billed as guides for popular games –each one promising cracked Android application packages (APKs). Of course, it is too good to be true, and these cheater apps are loaded with malware and fishing scams (and who knows what else).

Everybody wants a deal, so when these guides can be purchased for less than the cost of the game on its own, bargain hunters find it hard to resist. Initial reactions from developers seem to suggest that users are only getting what they deserve. No matter how much I am inclined to agree, one detail should not be ignored: the only thing people will remember after they cleanse their devices, is the name of the app that got them there. Every time they tell the story of how their tablet was infected, the name of the app will come up. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t your fault. Kind of scary, isn’t it?

Ultimately, it means developers should take a keen interest in finding a solution to this problem.

It doesn’t help that Google appears to be choosing a reactionary approach instead of working harder to actually prevent malicious material from being added to the Play Store to begin with. It makes sense I suppose, when you consider that it’s hard to boast how much different you are from The Man (read: Apple) with all of his restrictions and rules, if you are then using the same types of checks and balances to stop scammers and hackers from adding content to your store.

So what can users do to protect themselves? There are no guarantees, but I can offer a few suggestions:

  1. Listen to Your Instincts – If an app is $4.99 in the Play Store, it’s unlikely that a players guide that includes a cracked version of the app is above-board with a $1.99 price-tag.
  2. Read Reviews – This isn’t always possible, but if there are any reviews posted… read them. Ignore good reviews (those are often written by the scammers and hackers themselves in an effort to build confidence), but carefully consider the content in any others.
  3. Read the Guide Before You Install ANYTHING – Are there links in the guide that take you to a questionable website that doesn’t seem to match the content you just purchased? Is the guide poorly written (look for careless formatting, typos, and anything that makes it look less professional)? Don’t go any further.
  4. Report Your Concerns to Google – Don’t let anybody else make the same mistake you just did. Report problems to Google so they can be handled as soon as possible.

News stories like this are exactly the kind of thing Google doesn’t need as they employ their new Android for Work program, aimed to target business users in an effort to earn their trust, establish new loyalties, and encourage corporate adoption of the Android platform.

Frankly, it doesn’t make it any easier to sell my mother on an Android tablet either.

Some E-books Are Hacking Your Tablet is a post from: Good e-Reader

Gameloft Preps Dungeon Hunter 5 for March 12 Release


Hopefully you didn’t have any plans for March 12 anyway, because Gameloft has promised to deliver the next installment to their Dungeon Hunter franchise that day. Described as being a hack and slash style series, Dungeon Hunter 5 is filled with enemies to extinguish and loot to collect. While some may complain that it feels a lot like more of the same (like a true sequel should, picking the storyline up where it was left off) –fortunately, those of us who couldn’t get enough of the first installment can look forward to plenty of what’s familiar mixed with an exciting list of new features sprinkled on top.

What will impress you most is the way Gameloft kicked the sophistication of this game up a notch. You still play as a bounty hunter prepared to face an invasion –but this time the graphics are even more impressive, employing a brighter and more colourful style which better imitates successful gaming franchises like those produced by the likes of Blizzard. Even though this game started with a complete rebuild, many thing remain the same: character movement is controlled with a virtual d-pad on the bottom left of the screen with attacks available on the right.

If you choose to go it alone, there are five realms filled with countless dungeons to to dominate. If you feel more at home with multi-player style game-play, the new co-op mode will allow you to hire friends and other players to join your team and aid in the journey (all the while customizing your stronghold and attacking those that others have built). Daily and weekly challenges provide additional opportunities to improve on your skills and accumulate the materials you need to improve your gear.

If it all sounds complicated, it is… and it’s not. Everything is intuitive and responsive, making it easy to immerse yourself and enjoy a little mobile combat.

If you want to get an early glimpse of the game, check out the official Gameloft Developer Diary video (even if you aren’t interested in the game -somehow-, seeing how the mind of a developer works can be very interesting). There is also a more cinematic release video available if you prefer something a little less behind-the-scenes and a little more of a teaser. Both videos are linked below.

Gameloft Developer Diary:

Official Release Date Trailer

Gameloft Preps Dungeon Hunter 5 for March 12 Release is a post from: Good e-Reader

Let’s Read PDF Files on the Amazon Kindle Voyage


The PDF format has been around for a longtime and many readers have a collection of material they would like to read on their Kindle Voyage. Everything from complex documents, to newspaper and magazines are the most common and does the Voyage make sense to read them?

Today, we take a look at the entire PDF experience on the Amazon Kindle Voyage. The Seattle company has really improved the reading features and it no longer crashes when you are reading files that are over 200 MB. One of the things I like is the image map that appears in the top left corner when you are pinching and zooming. It really helps to orientate you on exactly where you are in in the document.

Likely, the most compelling feature is the fact that not only can you highlight text and make notes but you can translate words from one language to another.

Let’s Read PDF Files on the Amazon Kindle Voyage is a post from: Good e-Reader

B&N Nook e-Books Now Totally Dependent on Apps


Barnes and Noble wants their users to be entirely dependent on their Nook hardware and their line of Nook apps for Android, iOS or Windows 8 to read your e-books.

Last September Barnes and Noble suspended the ability for users to download their purchased e-books to their computers from the Nook website. This ignited a firestorm of controversy, as thousands of users lamented they could no longer backup their digital editions.

Barnes and Noble has now gone a step further and redesigned their digital encryption. The old DRM system basically had your credit card data attached to the purchased book, in a safe and secure manor. Now it is being stored in a completely different way.

The only way remaining to backup your e-books purchased from Barnes and Noble is to use their Nook Study program. It is buggy and does not work very well, but it is the only option remaining to download your books locally.

Barnes and Noble really wants to lock down their customers into exclusively using their tablets, e-readers or apps. They want everyone to depend on the cloud to store purchased content and download it at a later date. If the bookseller were ever to go out of business, customers would be out of luck with anything they ever purchased, with no avenue to back it up and read on your PC.

B&N Nook e-Books Now Totally Dependent on Apps is a post from: Good e-Reader

Playaway Unveils a Pre-Loaded, Controlled Tablet for Kids’ Circulation

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Users who are familiar with the technology behind Playaways, the preloaded mini-MP3 players that contain individual audiobooks, may remember that the company has a strong history of providing conveniently packaged “safe” content for multi-user consumption. Whether it’s the stand-alone audiobook players or the US Navy-specific NERDs (Naval E-Reader Device) that came loaded for shipboard deployment use for about 300 ebook titles, parent company Findaway has been meeting unique needs that the industry as a whole has overlooked for quite some time.

But with the recent announcement of the latest tech offering from Findaway, the company has reached out to a whole other market with another unique device. Called the Playaway Launchpad, these pre-loaded tablets are ideally suited for library or classroom use by a multitude of children’s age ranges and ability levels. These Android-based tablets contain some of the hottest apps on the market, as well as learning modules that can be easily accessed and then easily cleared for the next user.

"We're incredibly excited to debut Playaway Launchpad and change the way tablets are circulated within libraries and schools," said Jennifer Leombruno, VP, Playaway Pre-Loaded Products Group. "Launchpad directly addresses the common pain points of retail tablets, offering a turnkey solution for staff wanting to provide access to a high-quality, interactive learning tool in a safe, fun, and affordable way.

Even with the proven success of initiatives like Bring Your Own Device, there are still schools and libraries who are reluctant to enter the tech sphere for young students due to concerns about privacy, effective use of instructional time, and concerns over appropriate content. But Playaway Launchpads are designed to address those concerns and more, while still introducing users to the convenience and applications that tablet technology affords.

“Findaway has partnered with leading app developers and Fingerprint Digital, a prominent app aggregator and technology partner, to custom-curate thousands of best-selling apps selected and quality-tested just for children. The content collection spans subject areas from math and science to critical thinking and creativity, and features themed learning packs including animals, princesses, fantasy, nature and more.”

Priced at $99 and free from wifi connectivity or cameras, Playaway Launchpads are already in place in a number of public library systems for young patrons to borrow, including Baltimore County Public Library, Cambridge Public Library, Chicago Public Library and Nashville Public Library.

Playaway Unveils a Pre-Loaded, Controlled Tablet for Kids’ Circulation is a post from: Good e-Reader

Second Season for Ace of Diamond

ace of diamond

Ace of Diamond is coming to the end of season 1. But fans aren’t disheartened, as just this week the announcement of a second season for the anime came in Weekly Shōnen Magazine.

Yūji Terajima’s manga about a high school baseball team began in 2006. It follows the trials of Eijun Sawamura, a left-handed pitcher who strives to become the ace of his team. He joins up with Kazuya Miyuki, a genius catcher, and Satoru Furuya, another pitcher who becomes his rival; and they work together to bring their team to the top. Since its beginning, the manga has been steadily growing in popularity, now ranking in the top 25 best-selling manga in Japan.

The series was so popular, the anime adaption almost seemed late to the party, waiting until October of 2013 to air. However, it has since made up for the wait by going steadily since for 70 episodes. There won’t be much of a gap in between seasons, either, as the second season’s premiere date is April 6th. As Crunchyroll streamed the first series, it is safe to assume that they will continue this throughout the second.

The new season will be titled Ace of Diamond: Second Season. Keep your eyes open for it, or use this time between seasons to catch up on everything you’ve missed!

Second Season for Ace of Diamond is a post from: Good e-Reader

Kindle Voyage vs $79 Kindle Comparison Review (Video)

For this review I’m comparing the Kindle Voyage with the $79 entry-level Kindle. I put together comparison reviews for each one against the Kindle Paperwhite a long time ago, so I figured the high-end model and entry-level model needed to get their own turn as well. I don’t think most people realize that they are […]

B&N Using New Nook DRM Key, Sending Even More Customers Away

Sometimes it seems like someone on the inside at Barnes and Noble is secretly trying to take down the Nook business from the inside out. That’s about the only thing that could explain the continued bad decisions that keep sending more and more people away from Barnes and Noble’s Nook devices and Nook books. This […]

Duelling pianos. Literally.

When someone mailed me a link to this performance, I assumed it was going to be one of those setups where two pianists play jolly tunes together in a bar. How wrong I was.

These two pianists (Alvise Sinivia and Léo Jassef from the Conservatoire National de Paris) are trying to kill each other in Streetfighter. Tunefully.

These pianos have been transformed by Eric and Cyril of Foobarflies (let me know your full names, Eric and Cyril, so I can add them here!) into Playstation controllers, using piezo triggers, a Pi, some Arduinos, and some custom Python firmware. The installation was set up for the reopening of Paris’ Maison de la Radio, now a cultural space open to the public.

Eric and Cyril have made a comprehensive writeup available (and if, like me, you’re terribly excited by the insides of pianos, you’ll love this one). This is one of my favourite projects in ages – thanks Foobarflies!

Reviewing Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon

My grandfather fought in the European Theater in World War II, and other than a few stories that he told me what I was a child, he was famously close-lipped about the entire experience.  I don't know if it is his connection to the war or my own love of history, but I can always be pulled into a book about WWII.  When I heard that Joseph Kanon was writing a new book about that time period, I knew that I wanted to be one of the first to read it (I was completely infatuated with his previous book, Istanbul Passage and read almost the entire thing in one sitting).  What Kanon gives us in his new novel Leaving Berlin is a story not of the height of the war, rather a political thriller situated around a newly divided Germany and Berlin under the power of the Soviet State.

Many, many books are written about the horrors WWII and the worrisome actions that lead up to it, but not as many cover the early reconstruction after, with even fewer discussing what was going on in the East, behind the Iron Curtain.  Kanon has developed a niche for writing amazingly detailed post-WWII novels that show the reader a time and a place that many do not know.

In Leaving Berlin, Kanon introduces us to Alex Meier, a former exile from Berlin, returned to find the city much the same as it is completely different.  Alex was a successful young writer before the war started, but was lucky enough to escape, as his Jewish heritage would have been a death sentence under the Nazis, as it was for his parents.  He spent the entirety of the war in California, where he married and had a son.  However, his past in Berlin, especially his memories of his first love, Irene, stayed with him always, and when his socialist past comes to haunt him in McCarthy-era U.S., he makes a deal with the C.I.A. to clear his name in exchange for returning to East Berlin to spy on the Soviets.

What Kanon gives us in this novel is a classic political suspense, full of car chases, double agents, secret rendezvous, and all of the tensions that surround the accidental spy.  Alex is surprisingly suited for espionage, even as every choice he makes takes him deeper and deeper down the morality rabbit hole.  The book is heavy with dialog over descriptions, but that moves the action along at a frenetic pace.  So much happens throughout the story that it is difficult to remember everything happens in just a short period of days.  Kanon really shines at showing the struggles between native Berliners and their new Soviet occupiers, as they try to adjust to their new leadership.  The descriptions of German POWs (both soldiers and civilians) are eye opening, and add to the bleak landscape of this unsure time.

This novel will keep you flipping pages at a feverish pace, as the characters become more and more entangled in places they should not be.  Loyalties and friendships are tested, as memories of a past Berlin collide with the realities of the present.  This is a story for anyone who enjoys a good spy story or history, written with a deftness and humanity that only Kanon can achieve.

Meghan Volchko is a Collection Development Analyst at OverDrive, and she has forgotten almost all of the German her Pappy taught her.