Life & Technology - 2GB 25th January, 2015

CES 2015 may have only just finished, but we're already hearing rumours about the next big convention: MWC, or Mobile World Congress. MWC is essentially an annual gathering of international smartphone manufactures, and pretty much everyone but Apple announces new flagship devices. Rumours suggest that Samsung will be showing off a metal-coated Galaxy S6, HTC will have the One M9 with a massive 20 megapixel camera, Sony will be pumping out another flagship, this time with a 5.5-inch screen and LG will be unveiled the eight-core LG G4. I for one can't wait to learn more about these alleged devices!

 

Strone is one of the coolest Australian tech innovations we've seen recently - it's a small device that can relay your local phone calls to you while you're overseas. I got in touch Tas Tudor, Strone Technology's CEO and founder to learn a bit more about how it works. Essentially, after you put your SIM card into Strone, all the phone calls you receive are sent to an app you install on your phone, anywhere in the world. So you can be in the United States with an American SIM card, but still receive phone calls from Australia on your Australian number. It's super interesting technology, and it will hopefully help cut down on those pesky global roaming charges! Read more about Strone on CyberShack.com.au.

 

Stan, the streaming service born out of a joint venture from Fairfax and Nine is launching on Australia Day, and looks like it could very well be a home-grown Netflix killer. I've spent a bit of time this week playing with a special preview, and it looks promising so far! We've got a hands on preview on CyberShack.com.au, as well as a look at just how much data the service will use.

 

On the subject of streaming, I had a chat to Anthony Bay, Rdio's CEO. Rdio is a music streaming service with two different tiers. A paid option where you can listen to any of the millions of tracks on Rdio, and a free tier that's a little like radio. On this free tier, you create your own radio stations. For example, I could say I want to listen to music that sounds like U2, and Rdio will create a custom radio station for me that plays U2, as well as music that sounds like U2. Anthony said that these discovery features are important to the company, the music business, to musicians and to listeners because it allows people to find new music they wouldn't normally hear, and listen to more music without risking $15 on a CD they may or may not like.

 

I wish we had the time to play the entire interview on this week's Life & Technology, but unfortunately it almost went for 20 minutes. We have however got a piece on CyberShack.com.au that looks at some of the other issues we talked about, such as why Taylor Swift pulled her music from some streaming services, but not Rdio.

 

Security software manufacture SplashData has revealed 2014’s most common passwords. Unsurprisingly, 123456 and password still top the list. 1234, 12345 and 12345678 and 123456789 all make an appearance in the top six. You can find the full list here - if any of your passwords are in it, you need to change it as soon as possible.

 

I had a chat to "ethical hacker" Adrian Wood from security firm White Hack who suggested that users should use long, but easy to remember password phrases (MyM0therAlwaysSaidNotToForgetAboutOnlineSecurity#) or password managers with nonsense passwords. He's written a short guide to password managers on his blog, check it out here.

 

A question we’ve been asked a bit lately is why we’re only recommending Windows devices for back to school. We’ve spoken with parents, we’ve spoken with retailers, we’ve spoken with schools and 99% of the time, a Windows device is actually what most students need due to software like Office. Many parents are also buying more than one device, making it harder to recommend more expensive laptops like Mac, which can technically run Office, and can be dual-booted with Windows. Chromebooks are an interesting option, as they can run a web version of Office, but are restricted in terms of other applications they can run, and are reliant on a web connection.