Recent Xbox Live Member Hackings

In the world of gaming, more and more buzz is being generated around recent ‘hackings’ of people’s accounts. How some of it is happening is well beyond my capacity of understanding. I started hearing of “the FIFA Hack” a few weeks ago, with the story building up to one of the staff writers at Joystiq even being hacked. It doesn’t directly involve the use of FIFA, but an alarming number of those impacted are noting that FIFA Annual Game Passes are being purchased on their accounts. Most recently, a fellow Xbox Live Ambassador had her account compromised and a whole series of problems continued.

You can read about the experiences that my fellow Ambassador, LadyElysium, had encountered on her website dedicated to the recent rash of hackings, HackedOnXbox. Susan Taylor does an excellent job of letting out her frustrations, while keeping her cool.

So what can you do to protect yourself? The sad part is, I’m having a hard time figuring that out myself. I wanted to see what would happened if I tried to change my own password on Xbox.com. What was funny was that there were no social engineering questions I could use to ‘hack’ my way in to my account – the closest possible thing was resetting via email. The thing that concerns me there is the fact that I have TWO email accounts that it says it will send my password reset to – and considering I sign in to one of those two once every six months or so, I figured I should make sure it was not associated with my account. I can’t. I can’t find anywhere on Xbox.com or Live.com to remove the second email address my password reset email would go to!

Stay tuned on Sunday for what I hope to be a little more in depth list of steps you can take to to protect yourself, but for now the best thing I can suggest as a “STEP ONE” would be to remove any payment options you have on your account. I’ve NEVER given my credit card details to Microsoft, in any way. …That was, until recently. A limitation (see: hindrance) of the Windows Phone 7 platform is that they’re not letting you use Microsoft Points to make purchases – you must use a credit card.

I wanted to buy one Xbox Live game for my phone – I had to enter my credit card details. Once the purchase went through, I IMMEDIATELY navigated to live.xbox.com, clicked on My Account, then Manage Payment Options, and REMOVED my registered credit card. I would advise you to remove a PayPal account, if you have one associated with your account, as well. Anything else I purchase, whether it’s Gold subscriptions or Xbox Live Arcade games, is all done WITH Microsoft Points which I purchase the prepaid cards for, at my local big box retailer.

Detailed instructions are, as always, on Microsoft’s support site, and I hope to have more account tightening tips for you this weekend.

Paid Apps in the Windows Phone 7 environment

 

salepricingwrong

 

You’re doing it wrong.  This has been an internet meme for a while, and applies directly to the problem with paid apps, in particular, those in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.  I’m hoping they don’t continue down this exact path when Windows 8 launches with its embedded app store.

 

The problem isn’t that the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace has a larger ratio of “paid apps” to “free apps” than iTunes or the Android Market – the problems is what those apps are.  I don’t mind paying for apps, good apps in particular.  Use a pro version instead of a lite version, pay for the developer’s time.  Just imagine if they developed that app just for you, would you only feel compelled to give them a $1.99?  No!  It’s worth way more than that! You’re the one getting the bargain, so why not pay?  Particularly, when the app is “worth it.”

 

What makes an App “worth it” is subjective.  Very subjective.  But I can tell you one of the things that, I feel, is not worth it, which is what I’m seeing a lot of in Windows Phone 7.  RSS Feeds.  If I want news from one of my favorite websites, I can go to that website and read it all day long.  As we all know, the overwhelming majority of sites on the internet are not behind pay walls.  This is the reality for content producers, and they’ve been struggling with ways to make money ever since.  With the new ecosystem of Windows Phone 7, came the chance to lay down the corrective law and start turning a profit for the hard work developing apps. But the problem isn’t going to be solved by charging a dollar for your app, which has the same content as your website.

 

True, not every website is optimized for mobile browsing, and an app would be nice.  But let’s be frank, why would you spend a dollar to read something you have been and will continue to read for free?  There needs to be a proven value in your application, that goes above and beyond.  Exclusive articles are hard to sell, people get touchy and will leave your website because they think you’re holding out on them – even though they’re not paying a dime.  Still, perhaps the best solution might be offering some form of exclusive benefit, like industry interviews with people in your field, things that are going above and beyond that typical news articles.  If you can get those interviews.

 

I don’t have the perfect solution, but I do have good news.  From what I’ve seen, again, in particular on the WP7 Marketplace, it looks like a lot of the people trying to charge for what is little more than an RSS feed, are just people trying to make a buck off of others’ hard work.  The developer is usually not affiliated with the actual website at all, and just popped and RSS feed reading app together with the RSS feed of a popular website, and is trying to pass it off as an app.  I imagine many people are not getting suckered and I hope few are being sold, especially in cases like this.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see developers actually concentrate on making better decisions when they do decide to put their content on a mobile platform.  Ad-Supported apps don’t bother me a bit, but when I do pay for an app, I expect at least something out of it, more than just saving me the time of typing a URL – and the good news is, I think the people managing their own brands and websites know that.

An FTP client for your Android? AndFTP

When I first downloaded AndFTP, I thought it would be a novelty app – giving me the ability to access my FTP servers on the road. How quaint. Now? I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times AndFTP has come to my rescue. It’s a free app, and works amazingly well. There is also a Pro Version which allows easy folder syncing!

Not just that, but I really find that the developer, LYESOFT has a TON of useful apps, including a Samba Share browser, and even a simple File Explorer if you just don’t like using Astro or one of the other “defacto” File System browsers available for the Android. I encourage you to give them a look!

Android Unable to Mount SD Card solved!

This isn’t quite my normal “From the Help Desk” kind of tip for a tech-tip-Tuesday, but I ran in to it last week and thought you might want to know about it.

I recently received an error from my Android, after a reboot, that it was unable to mount my SD Card, and suggested that it may need formatting. Bad sign. I wasn’t about to Format my SD Card and lose everything to “fix” the issue. I would have to reinstall a ton of apps, I would lose photos, music, and other documents on the card… no, I wasn’t going to have any part of this.

I removed and reinserted the card several times, rebooted the phone multiple times: nothing worked. Finally I inserted the card in to my laptop’s SD Card reader, and even then I was greeted with the same error message, that I would need to format the disk. Again, no thanks. So here’s all I had to do:

Before continuing: it is possible that this process will not fix your card, it may be beyond normal repair, but this is just a suggestion that was able to get me back in business. Something is corrupt that is causing this issue, and there may be some applications or data on the card that is corrupted during the “repair” process, you may lose some data in thies proess. Again, although typically minimal if at all, this “fix” can result in data loss. Also, this is likely not a PERMANENT solution for you – the card is probably beginning to go bad and should be replaced as soon as possible.

With the card inserted in to the computer, it should be assigned a drive letter (for example, “E:“). If you’re in the “Computer” (Windows 7) or “My Computer” (Windows XP) screen, you’ll see the drive listed, with a letter, but if you double click on it, it will prompt you to format the sd card. DO NOT format the card.

1) Open a command prompt:
Windows 7: Start > search for CMD > click the program listed as CMD with the little black icon
or
Windows XP: Start > Run > cmd > OK (or enter)

2) In the command prompt that appears type the following (note, in my example, my SD Card was given the drive letter of E: – but replace the E: with whatever letter your card has been assigned in My Computer):
chkdsk E: /f /r
Then press ENTER.

You will see the computer run a checkdisk process on the sd card. It will repair whatever is wrong with the filesystem and you’ll most likely be able to use the card in your phone again. But do not ignore this warning – the card is clearly beginning to fail and you should move important data off of it and REPLACE the card entirely as soon as possible, copying all of your data to a new card!

If you don’t have an SD Card Adapter like the one pictured above, or any other way to connect your SD Card to your computer, I do not know of any way to perform this process while the card is still inside your phone, sorry.