Guy Builds a Mobile Phone in Minecraft That Can Make Real Video Calls

One of the biggest YouTube successes of recent years has built a working mobile (or cell) phone in Minecraft that can actually call other players in-game. Jordan Maron, otherwise known by his YouTube handle CaptainSparklez, can use his phone to browse the internet (kind of, in a blocky, Minecraft style) and make audio or video calls.

23-year-old CaptainSparklez quit college to become a full-time YouTuber and Twitch streamer and, with his 8.75 million YouTube subscribers and 1.6 billion video views, is so successful that he recently purchased a $4.5 million mansion, and recently made the move into producing games through his company Xreal.

The idea for the Minecraft phone was not CaptainSparklez’s alone, though. He was approached by phone carrier Verizon to effectively produce an ad for them, which led to the video below. While the sponsorship angle may tarnish the concept for some, its execution is still mightily impressive.

“In the world of Minecraft, almost everything is made of blocks,” CaptainSparklez said. “We’ve created a web application, Boxel, that translates real web pages and streaming video into blocks so they can be built on a Minecraft server in real time. Our server plugin uses Boxel-client to handle the communication between Minecraft and the real world as translated by the web application.”

Researchers Hack Air-Gapped Computer Using Nine-Year-Old Motorola Phone

An air-gapped computer is the most secure way of storing sensitive data; a PC that has no internet connection and no removable storage or disk drives cannot be compromised by hackers or government surveillance, in theory. Well, it’s time to say goodbye to that theory, as not only have Israeli researchers managed to remotely hack into an air-gapped computer, but they did it with a nine-year-old mobile phone that has no GPRS, Wi-Fi, or mobile data capabilities.

Researchers warn that their findings should encourage companies attempting to protect data via air-gapped systems to “change their security guidelines and prohibit employees and visitors from bringing devices capable of intercepting RF signals,” so says Yuval Elovici, director of the Cyber Security Research Center at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Since smartphones are often restricted in areas which house air-gapped computers, so the researchers from the Cyber Security Center chose to use an old mobile phone that could bypass any security restrictions.

“[U]nlike some other recent work in this field, [this attack] exploits components that are virtually guaranteed to be present on any desktop/server computer and cellular phone,” the researchers note in their paper.

The phone used, a Motorola C123, runs on a Calypso baseband chip from Texas Instruments, and supports 2G communication, but has none of the more advanced networking capacities of modern smartphones. Data was grabbed from air-gapped computers, running Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Ubuntu, at a rate of 1-2bps, allowing the researchers to obtain 256-bit encryption keys from the system via radio frequencies.

“This is not a scenario where you can leak out megabytes of documents, but today sensitive data is usually locked down by smaller amounts of data,” Dudu Mimran, CTO of the Cyber Security Research Center, said. “So if you can get the RSA private key, you’re breaking a lot of things.”

Thank you Wired for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Mobile Phones & Smartphones Info.

Skype for Web Rolls out in New Beta Version for US and UK Users

Have you ever been to an internet café or wanted to Skype a friend or family member from a shared computer? It is really frustrating when you try to use it and you see they don’t have Skype installed, isn’t it? Well, Skype just made things simple for you.

Whether you have a Mac or Windows PC, or even a (compatible) mobile phone with internet access, you can now head on over to Skype for Web. I did mention compatible previously because I tried to sign into the web platform on my Windows Phone handset, to which I was redirected to a page telling me that my device is still not compatible with the web service.

Even so, you can grab any laptop or PC and sign in to view your conversations and get access to IM. On some platforms, the service even provides calls and video calls, though the feature may still be a bit buggy. But hey, that’s why you have “beta” in the service’s name, isn’t it?

Still, Skype really did a good job on providing a way to sign onto its service with just a web browser and even get the full Skype experience on some compatible hardware. You can head on over to Skype’s website to try it out. Also, let us know what you think about Skype’s new initiative!

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Specs Leaked – $923 Retail Price

Ok, I almost spat out my drink when I saw the rumored price of this phone, $923 (£547) is a ridiculous amount of money to be spending on a phone, bare in mind though contract users, you usually pay more than this by the time your contract ends. The monstrous beast in question is Samsung’s new phone in it’s Galaxy range, the Alpha.

Not much is known about the handset itself other than a few specifications. It’s packing a beefy octa-core Exynos processor which means anything running on this phone will be smooth and quick. It comes with 32Gb of internal storage and a rather nice 12mp rear facing camera and it’ll be running Android 4.2.2 Kitkat, as you’d expect.

The phones screen is rumored to have Samsungs own Super AMOLED screen at a resolution of 1280×720 with a ppi pixel density of 320. So expect nice colours and contrasts with this new handset. other features of the Alpha include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and more. The phone is thought to be officially announced on August 15th this year, so not long to wait until be can confirm what will be powering this beast.

Thanks to Tweaktown for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of Tweaktown.

Apple Is Thought to Have Ordered between 70 – 80 Million next-gen iPhones

Sources of the Wall Street Journal say that Apple has made an enormous order for their next generation flagship model, the iPhone 6. The 70 – 80 million units made will be split between the two models. There is apparently going to be a 4.7 inch display model and a 5.5 inch display model, this is why the production will be divided.

If you compare these figures to order for Apple’s last phone, the iPhone 5c and 5s, you’ll see that there are about 20 million more on order. Last time around Apple ordered 50 – 60 million of the 5c and 5s phones and still come across shortages. My guess is that they want to eliminate this problem by guesstimating sales as the last model proved extremely popular.

Things have changed in the past year for Apple, with the company making a big deal with China Mobile, which has over 790 million subscribers on its network. We should expect Apple to make some considerable changes to the iPhone 6, in both the software and hardware departments.

I personally use android and don’t have time for Apple’s greedy corporate structure, soldering hardware onto other hardware so it’s un-fixable if it breaks, that kind of thing and won’t be buying this phone but many of you will I can imagine. So who out there is already looking at purchasing Apple’s next generation model?

Thanks to TweakTown for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of TweakTown.

China’s Xiaomi Smartphone Sales Booming, Quadrupled in One Year

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has enjoyed a busy first half of 2014, shipping 26.1 million units during the first two quarters.  It’s an impressive sales figure considering the company shipped just 7 million units year-over-year – as Chinese smartphone manufacturers are finding success selling lower-priced models.

In all of 2013, Xiaomi shipped 18.7 million units, according to company spokespeople, indicating a significant sales and marketing effort is finding success.

Xiaomi wants to ship 100 million units in 2015, as the company expands to Russia, India, Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, and other select markets not yet controlled by Apple and Samsung.  The company is No. 3 inside of China and No. 6 worldwide, focusing on expanding its product portfolio as device technology increases.

Here is what Nicole Peng, Canalys analyst, said regarding Xiaomi:

“They are starting to sort out their supply chain issues.  When they launched their first phone, Xiaomi had very high pre-orders, but it was doubtful whether they could fulfill them.  Consumers would just be forced to order something else.”

To cater to international phone users, Xiaomi recruited former senior Google executive Hugo Barra to drive sales outside of China.

Although Apple and Samsung dominate in the United States and in Western Europe, there is great potential in China, South America, Africa, and select countries where a demand for affordable smartphones is rising.

Thank you to PC Advisor for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of 9 to 5 Mac

Google Android, Microsoft Windows Phone to Receive Smartphone Kill Switches

Following a drop in theft due to the Apple iPhone iOS 7 kill switch, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone mobile operating systems will also receive similar treatment.

It’s good to see Microsoft including a kill switch, but this is critical to deter theft for Android – the Samsung Galaxy S series of smartphones are popular among consumers, and equally popular among criminals. It’s unknown when Microsoft and Google will roll out these kill switches, but they will become available soon.

In major metropolitan areas, especially in the United States, theft and robberies related to smartphones is a common occurrence. Thieves are able to steal popular smartphone models and flip them on the black market quickly, hopefully before the owner is able to brick the device.

Here is what the New York Attorney General said:

“An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value.”

In Europe, one in three Europeans experienced theft or loss of a smartphone during 2013, according to reports. Police authorities, phone manufacturers, and wireless carriers hope kill switches will deter thieves away from smartphones, which can be remotely bricked before they are re-sold.

Thank you Bloomberg for providing us with this information

New Laws For UK Mobile Contracts Allow You To Cancel If Prices Are Increased

For years, people around the UK have suffered whenever phone companies felt the urge to increase the prices of their mobile contracts. Quite often a small clause within the depths of the contract ties you into these increases, meaning that you’re unable to escape them and have no say in the matter (hint: always read before you sign!).

The UK’s mobile phone regulator Ofcom is putting into place a new regulation that prevents phone companies from locking in their new customers (if you’re already got an existing contract, sorry!) with increased prices in the middle of their contracts with no way out. Ofcom have stated that users tied into contracts will have a legal, no consequences route out of a mobile phone contract if the provider chooses to increase their rates.

The issue that’s being faced currently is the fact that the majority of contracts signed are between 12 months to 2 years, meaning that a large amount of the mobile phone using population are already tied down to a single contract, making this new regulation irrelevant for the time being.

This regulation change made by Ofcom may come as a slow reaction to some as many countries in the EU (such as France for example) have had this regulation in place for years, which brings the question of “why has it taken so long to get rectified?”

As a customer, are you looking forward to these changes? Have you been hit by price increases during your current phone contract? Let us know in the comment section!

Image courtesy of Heraldsun

Possible New QWERTY Nokia Phone

Nokia informed us today on their blog that they have an announcement for us! Though we can’t tell exactly what it is in the photo above, to me it appears to be a cell phone with a QWERTY style keyboard.  Lucky for us we wont have to wait long to find out what they have in store for us!

On Wednesday morning 7 A.M. GMT (8 A.M. UK Time) Nokia will be showing us a new product. Since they will be having Neil Broadly from the Nokia Mobile Phones team showing off the new product we can naturally assume that it will be a new cellular phone. Based on the time that they will be giving the announcement it will most likely be a European released phone. After the announcement there will be a special Q&A session with Broadly and a unannounced “Special Guest”. Would CEO Stephen Elop show up for such an event?

Only showing us the edges of what appears to be a bright yellow chassis for a cellular phone, we are only able to speculate what this device will have in store for us, and with Nokia’s track record, we can only expect the very best. How indestructible can they make a smart phone though?

With such short notice this new device most likely wont be a high-end product, though we can always hope! We were only able to get a date, time, and a small image, not a name, a product type, or anything else, so everything is left up to the mind to try to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

What do you think they will be showing us? Will they be showing us the hottest new phone of 2013? Or will they be showing us something else? Let us know in the comments below!



Samsung Due to Announce Galaxy S IV on March 14th

Mobile World Congress (MWC) officially starts today in Barcelona, and one thing that we do know is that Samsung won’t be showcasing their new model Smartphone; the Galaxy S IV. Instead, we will see the unveiling on March 14th in New York as reported by Reuters.

Samsung Electronics’ mobile division chief JK Shin was found to confirm the location for the launch on the Edaily news website saying:

“We introduced the Galaxy S III in London last year, and this time we changed the venue (to New York)… as we were bombarded with requests from U.S. mobile carriers to unveil the Galaxy S IV in the country,”

With no concrete specifications yet, there are some solid rumours going around that the phone will include a Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and will come in 16, 32 and 64GB flavours. Also speculated is a 4.99″ Full-HD SoLux display but are unsure as to if Samsung will be using the same panel as the HTC one featuring issues with Samsung’s AMOLED production problems.

The phone is said to measure in at 140.1 x 71.8 x 7.7mm and weighing 138grams. Colours are speculated to come in black or white depending on your preference and will feature a 13MegaPixel camera and come supplied with the latest Android 4.2.2 operating system.

While not unveiling this new phone at Mobile World Congress, only leads us to believe that maybe events like this are dying down somewhat, as HTC unveiled their latest HTC one device in both London and New York last week instead of holding out for the global event. Are these companies feeling threatened by the publicity that these events generate and instead would rather have the sole focus on their launch outside of an event? It seems logical in one sense, but with most of the worlds mobile devoted press in one event, maybe the better idea would be having a launch before like HTC but also giving press and media the opportunity to see the device in the flesh at MWC.

We will have more information on the launch on March 14th in New York as it happens, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re holding out for the newest phone to rival Apple and their iPhone range.