Vault 7 and your device

Vault 7 and your device

I just wanted to do a quick update on this. If you were not already aware, wiki leaks has leaked just part of a much larger leak on a CIA malware spying suite that affects everything from Smart TVs, to Android phones. Windows included, and Samsung Smart TVs, and also wearables. And worse, the malware arsenal, as its being called, has been leaked itself – it’s out there somewhere able to be used by anyone. To spy on you using your devices camera or microphone, or tap into your encrypted data and private messages. Huge news.

There are two major security flaws in the iOS and Android operating systems. Firstly, WiFi – the network packets are large, and thus passwords can be easily sniffed, unlike a Windows or Blackberry device which are more secure internally on a network. Secondly, malware – because the operating systems themselves have very locked down permissions, attacks usually come in the form of e-mail links, fake apps, and other “Trojans” that use your interaction to gain access to the device. They exploit the user, rather than the OS.

Such is the case with the Vault 7 CIA suite.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from malware and hackers?

1)      Do not use public Wi-Fi, and if you do, use a well known VPN service – protect those passwords.

2)      Do not download unknown apps – look into the permissions you are granting them, who makes the app, be suspicious. Just because it’s in your OS’s “app store” doesn’t mean its safe.  There are on record fake apps that have been found in the Play store and the Apple store.

3)      Do not click on random links from strangers in e-mail

4)      If you use Android, the most well rated app, according to third party testing in Germany on malware is Bitdefender Mobile Security. If you want a free option Avast Mobile Security is also very good according to those same Android virus testers “AV-TEST”.  

5)      If you get really paranoid use end to end encryption apps and white list your devices on your home Wi-Fi router.

There is no doubt in my mind, with all the sensitive data phones contain, that one day everyone will run virus software on their phone. Its a fact that malware on mobile devices is increasing over time. Desktop OSs have been around for decades. Hackers and virus makers on mobile platforms are just getting started. It’s true the OS makers plug leaks, and that mobiles are more secure than Desktops, but that doesn’t stop the Trojan threat.

Unfortunately if you are on iOS, the OS doesn’t give enough permissions to allow a piece of anti-malware software do what it needs to do – so you are stuck waiting for those updates from Apple.

Good news is Wiki leaks are sharing the larger leaks with the OS makers first – so there will be coming updates to everyone soon, to plug the security holes. In the meantime, now might be a timely occasion to either update your virus checker and do a thorough scan, or get one if you haven’t already. If your on Windows, Windows defender does a pretty good job, especially if its up to date, but it doesn’t hurt to also run “Malware bytes”, with often finds a few left overs and vice versa.

Intel and Qualcomm Chips in 2017

Intel

Intel i7On the very highest end of the mobile computing market we have Kaby Lake. Kaby lake will find its way into lots of hybrids and laptops this year, especially at the premium end of the market. Whilst Kaby Lake is relatively similar to Sky Lake, it shows some slight increases in processing power and very notably, some bandwidth increases. Gen 2 USB 3.1 enables bandwidth of 10Gbps, rather than 5Gbps. Thunderbolt 3 support is included too. Which means your high end hybrids will have some serious peripheral power – external hard drives and external graphics are both very possible. That’s an exciting trend I’ve predicted would happen for awhile. When it eventually comes to cheaper tablets, it’ll mean mobile devices can hybrid in a way they never have been able to before, moving from mobile to full desktop power. In the meantime, those with bigger wallets can appreciate the docking modular computing of the future.

The incoming, late 2017 Cannon Lake will likely represent a bigger shift in processing power though.

Intel Apollo Lake for TabletsAnd less well known, but very relevant for most consumers, Intel’s Apollo Lake was released late last year, for cheaper laptops, and low to mid market tablets. These processors in the N series are ideal for the sorts of tablets I stock, and unlike Cherry Trail chipsets, are significantly more powerful than the Intel Atom series. They have a burst speed of 2.2-2.5 GHz, maximum RAM of a tasty 8GB and satisfying maximum GPU speeds of 650-700 MHz. They also have built in USB 3 and SATA, which means we may see a lot more support for SSD in the Chinese market. They are also capable of 4k playback due to an upgrade to Intel Generation 9 graphics. 

With Apple also announcing its own chipset for laptops, Windows also moving to ARM, Intel may have to up their game when it comes to power consumption, or simply accept its niche of performance.

Qualcomm

Qualcomms Snapdragon 835Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 will power this year’s more powerful phones, and likely some low-mid range tablets. With Windows coming to the ARM game, I expect you’ll also see it in budget laptops and hybrids. The GPU performance is always high with Qualcomm, and we might see in the midrange of tablets, unlike CPU power, Qualcomm beating out Intel’s budget end 700 Mhz. They claim 25% increase on previous designs and they boast around 800 MHz. This could be a boon for budget gamers. We will see.

One of the most exciting developments in the Qualcomm chipsets, other than the obvious upgrades in meaningful speed is the LTE speed. A new modem means “fibre like speeds” of a theoretical maximum of 1GBbps. That’s blinding fast 4G for anyone that doesn’t speak tech. And because Windows is expanding to ARM, I expect we will see LTE as almost standard in tablets coming out late 2017, Intel or Qualcomm. 

ASnapdragon 825 for tablets 2017ccording to Qualcomm, compared to the Snapdragon 821, the Snapdragon 835 will be able to offer either 27% higher performance or 40% lower power consumption, depending on how the chip is configured. And either longer battery life or more power will be much appreciated in the chipset that will likely power everything from cheap laptops, to workhorse mobile phones. The new chipset also has an upgraded form of Quick charge leading to 20% faster charging times. 

The 835 is a pretty exciting upgrade especially in a chipset with expanded OS applications, including AR and VR. I think it will suit cheap windows laptops and hybrids very well, as well as Android tablets. The clock speed of up to 2.45 GHz is only just touching on Apollo Lake though, Intel’s budget range, and we’ll have to see what Intel has coming out with Cannon Lake and likely more late 2017. Also, no Gen 2 USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt yet.

Each chipset has its advantages. Qualcomm in terms of LTE, GPU and battery efficiency, and Intel in terms of CPU, USB gen 2, Thunderbolt and SATA. In terms of Tap That, I expect to get up and running again soon properly and for good, probably just in time to catch a whole new wave of Intel and Qualcomm new tablets, laptops and hybrid models to serve up to you guys here in NZ 🙂

 

MWC and 2017

There have been some interesting developments at MWC, the unveiling of a new Samsung Windows Hybrid, the Galaxy book, as well as the update of both the Samsung Galaxy Tab A, and the iPad pro 2, in a more hybrid direction. Both have been given multi-tasking capabilities, a stylus, and a keyboard dock, showing last year’s two most popular tablets, are also moving in a hybrid direction.

Similarly in the Chinese market, although not announced at MWC – two of the first off the block 4:3 ratio tablets, by FNF, both appearing to be quality contributions are also 4:3 ratio tablets, with the FNF iFive Pro 2, leaning also in a hybrid direction – with a keyboard dock, usb c, finger print scanner and a dual boot operating system, one of which is a multitasking version of Android, and one is regular Android. Both the eight inch and 9.7 inch models just out from FNF have an impressive build quality, and reasonable price point. They both feature wireless charging, and the eight inch has a laminated screen at a very attractive price point. I will likely look at getting these in.

FNF iFive Mini 4s

The trend if very much clear, even amongst the top selling 4:3 ratio 9.7 inch tablets, hybrid is the new direction. As we look forward to an official hybrid OS by Google, and the ARM emulation by Microsoft, and some hot new chipsets coming out, which I’ll discuss during the week, 2017 is going to be a very exciting year for tablets, laptops and hybrids.

Windows on ARM – Microsoft on track

Windows 10 on ARM chipset

In 2013 Microsoft many the first of many big announcements,  the co-announcement of their development with Samsung of folding and scrolling screen prototype in 2013 – something that’s still yet to manifest but when it does will shake up the world of mobile computing.

Find out about graphene screen technology here.

Since then, and the take-over of the CEO role in Microsoft by the visionary Satya Nadella, Microsoft has rained on the public a series of ooh, ahh announcements, the Hololens, The Surface studio Windows 10 and more recently the announcement of Windows 10 on ARM chipsets.

Under Nadella, it seems Microsoft has a new vision of itself. But let me give a little background on why this is so significant to mobile computing.

First up Windows 10, as the fastest uptake of any desktop OS in history, creates a platform for developers on the new “universal app” platform, Microsoft’s touch application system. Which for the public means that the “app gap” is sure to close over the coming years. Or put simply, Windows is getting more apps, over time, and it will catch up. The Windows store is filling rapidly even in the last six months.

Samsungs and Microsofts Graphene screen technologySecondly, as mentioned above, when graphene becomes viable to manufacture for consumer goods, Samsung and Microsoft as patent holders, will have the edge on the tablet/phone hybrids that will follow. Samsung has long held that it wishes to reduce its reliance on Google.

Enter the ARM emulation. ARM is the all in one chipset that almost all mobile phones use, and many tablets use. Qualcomm, the maker of the Snapdragon chips, has worked with Microsoft to produce this emulation, which runs full desktop win32 applications (like adobe for example).

ARM has several advantages over Intel for mobile computing. Firstly it comes with mobile networking technology built in, which means 4G will come as standard on many Windows devices coming out in 2017. Secondly it’s cheaper. Thirdly it has lower power consumption, meaning longer battery life.

So perhaps you can read between the lines, and see why this is big news. With the app gap closing, and Windows able to run on any manufacturers phones or tablets (if they write drivers), Windows is about to come to a much bigger mobile audience.  Instead of Nokia making Windows devices, everyone will be, like they do currently for Android.

Cheap Windows Laptops and Tablets Coming Your WayIt means cheaper tablets, and laptops with 4G and longer battery life. And with the graphene patent, it means, that Microsoft, at some later point, is bound to make a dramatic re-entry into the Smartphone market, reminiscent of the announcement of the iPhone 1.

While it’s likely they’ll want the app gap to close further before they serious re-enter smart phones, and most likely will do UI tweaks to perfect the user interface for phone users and smart watch users – Microsoft is poised to have a “One OS to rule them all”, in a way no other OS maker is even close to.

It might be years off, but watch this space; Microsoft has exciting things ahead that will directly benefit consumers, enterprise, and especially creators.

And for Tap That customers in the short term it means really cheap decent Tablets and Laptops are coming this way, likely this year. I know NZ customers will be interested in both cheap Windows laptops, and cheap 4G long battery life hybrids and tablets – these things are likely to kill Netbooks and ChromeBooks – so watch this space later in the year!

New Remix OS to offer “continuum” like Windows 10 – Andromeda in the works

Remix OS Android Hybrid OS beats Andromeda

Jide’s Remix OS, a version of android that operates more like Windows, with multi-tasking is due for a big update this year. Whilst Google themselves are still rumoured to be working on their Hybrid OS, a mixture of ChromeOS and Android, Jide appears to have beaten them to it.

The new free to download Remix OS, available later this year will adapt like Windows 10 to its setup- running as Android TV when plugged into a display, or in desktop mode when plugged into a keyboard, mouse and monitor. Giving users a free computer, from their mobile phone or tablet.

This offers Android fans an alternative to Windows 10 if they want those PC features from their Smartphone. The one notable let down is that users have to side load the Play Store themselves- it doesn’t come with the OS. For this reason alone, many users may want to wait for the rumoured codenamed “Andromeda” Hybrid OS from Google themselves.

Andromeda will likely have higher system requirements than older phones, so if you are keen to get an Android Hybrid OS, you’ll be better to either install the new Remix when it comes out, or hold off on buying a new phone or tablet until the rumoured Andromeda comes out, to make sure you can run it.

Tap That’s Vision

In the past week I’ve given a bit of thought to Tap That’s vision as a company. I found, still, that what is considered “Mid-range” or affordable in the tablet market costs upwards of 400 dollars. Usually more like 500+. Which when you consider that the trashy throw away cheap tablets cost around 100 dollars, and the premium around 600+ dollars, that isn’t really a mid point.

And cheaper alternatives like Nextbook? They just don’t have the specs. They are more like last generation models. Old chipsets, lower RAM and so on. I wouldn’t buy those for anyone but kids.

I can see that the middle market is still very much emerging, and its not easily accessible to the public in New Zealand.

So, in keeping with my vision that quality tablets should be easily accessible and affordable I settled an argument in my mind – I would stick to high quality but affordable tablets, with the most reliable affordable brands – Teclast, Cube and Xiaomi – priced if I can at or under 300.

Stuff that I would have no question in wanting to use my self, the cream of that market, but that sits well under the current 400 dollar+ price line that defines supposedly mid range tablets. Basically – I would select my products with greater care – make sure they are top notch in the affordable category.

I will bring you guys more of the affordable but higher spec’d 9.7 inch and 8 inch tablets you guys have been loving, and perhaps only bring the hybrids later when Windows ARM emulator makes laptops, tablets and hybrid from china more affordable (Which should happen this year). Those have sold, but have been too pricey.

And should I be able to source cheap ASUS tablets at any point, I will consider them too. Although at this point it looks like Xiaomi has a better quality proposition, and have a better products.

I look forward to bringing New Zealand a lot more in the way of cheap tablets with decent build quality, and good specs over the year. With a big focus on selecting the highest quality products from the western and eastern markets.

Down but not out!

Firstly I’d like to apologize to all my customers, for the long period of inactivity here on the web store.

I broke my wrist, had to move regions, and had a variety of difficulties I won’t go into here, that caused me to have to focus on other issues. We are still small, and in the start up phase, but I am committed to providing New Zealand with a much needed niche – midrange tablets that are affordable and decent quality.

There is some good news on that front. I will very soon be getting in a few more models, including some Teclast or Chuwi hybrids, the solid Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 and a few others, including likely the Teclast x98 plus II. I’ve really enjoyed the plus II myself, it has nice speed to it, decent storage, works okay as a desktop too if you plug it in.

As well, we have manufacturers moving to the Apollo chipset, which is a lot faster, and the 8350 chipset which has less heat problems has been released, a tad faster, with quite a few models being upgraded there.

Lastly, and most exciting of all, we finally have a tablet chipset with thunderbolt coming, the next gen of Kaby Lake. This will be a game changer, mark my words, with external graphics, and hard drives making the 3 in 1 hybrid finally a very real possibility in the next year or so.

I hope to make a lot more people happy with decent, quality affordable tablets that undercut those pricey premium models, without the risks of the bargain basement.

I’ll let you know when the new models arrive. I’m prepared for a busy year. If you have any product suggestions or requests let me know – I have been looking at cheap laptops, and also mini-pcs.

New models New Prices

Okay so we are really being true to the concept of affordable computing now, these cheap windows and cheap android tablets are generally a class above those you’ll find at chain stores.

The highlight is the Teclast x98 Plus II – It features 4GB of RAM, Cherry Trail Chipset, 64GB Storage and Dual Boot Android 5.1/Windows 10. Long battery life. Pretty tidy IMO, I’d be happy as a kid with one of those.

And then we have some popular sellers, the x98 Air, and the Chuwi Vi10 – Both worth more for sure that their low prices. The x98 Air is a well proportioned 9.7 with solid 2 GB/32 GB and a lush screen. The Chuwi an almost premium quality build with the still competitive 3736F Chipset, 2/64GB, Dual Boot.

And if your in for a really underpriced Cherry Trail 8 inch Windows tablet – and I like these things, they are are a handy level of portable, we have you covered with the x80 Plus.

Next stock order – Xiaomi Mi Pad 2.

Next Blog I’ll talk about some tablet related technologies.

The peaceful computer

Nothing could be closer to a book, as a computing device, than a tablet. As a device that travels with you, fits in your bag or purse and yet has a generous screen for viewing lazily, by touch, whatever media your heart is set on consuming – the modern tablet is a lower stress computing experience.

You can sit anywhere, outside, inside, in any posture without worry of RSI from typing. The modus operandi is easy – content that doesn’t require your micro-management, fun content or work content that is display oriented. Play a game in bed, read magazines on the bus, catch some quick online shopping between wrangling the kids and share a movie, in a tent. The tablet is what your mobile phone wants to be, easy, casual.

Difference is when you read that magazine or book on your tablet, you actually enjoy doing it because you aren’t holding it a very specific distance from your eyeball and zooming in and out. Where the phone is a functional device, that sits as a perpetual connection between us and the online world – even in a work capacity, there’s something more fun about a tablet. Something in the way we use the devices, then again, perhaps just because it is so much like a book.

Price drop and New models

Okay so this is more pertaining to the business. I’ve dropped the price of the two current models I have in stock, both of them under $200 now. They are both great machines, so it’s kinda a steal – those are some seriously good deals right there.

And I’ll be getting in two more models. It’s just a little stock order, we will be having a bigger one later on. But the fun part for you guys of that is new models.

The first model is the Chuwi Hi8 pro. It’s running a Cherry Trail x8300 chipset, 2 GB of RAM and has a nice high resolution screen. But what stands out about these newer models is the USB 3 port, and also the higher USB 3 internal speeds (for things like microSD). All that means faster transfers on your internal spaces, and the potential to use a lot of peripherals, like high speed external drives, graphics and network cards. Which pairs well with the micro HDMI. The cherry trails are supposed to push graphics pretty well too, so another plus. The Hi8 pro, is solid in its class.

The other model is the Teclast x98 plus 2. Now this is an interesting creature. It’s dual boot, so both Android and Windows. It’s a 9.7 inch, so iPad sized. It has the same Cherry Trail as above, but with 4 GB single channel RAM. It also has the same benefits of faster USB/SD bus speeds and faster graphics as with the Hi8 Pro, and features USB 3. The Plus has been praised for it’s extensive battery life, and the RAM boosts multi-tasking, making this a great versatile tablet workhorse – good for either extended casual use, or heavier users.

So that’s it for now. I considered getting in Xiaomi, but despite being more premium they are expensive for what you get. And I definitely will be getting something like the Hi10, a cherry trail hybrid later.