Microsoft

Ford Is Using Microsoft's HoloLens To Design Cars In Augmented Reality (theverge.com) 31

Ford is using Microsoft's HoloLens headset to let designers quickly model out changes to cars, trucks, and SUVs in augmented reality. This allows designers to see the changes on top of an existing physical vehicle, instead of the traditional clay model approach to car design. The Verge reports: Ford is still using clay models, but the HoloLens can be used to augment additional 3D models without having to build every single design prototype with clay. It's one of the more interesting ways we've seen businesses use Microsoft's HoloLens, and it's something customers will never see. Microsoft is planning to hold a Windows Mixed Reality launch event on October 3rd in San Francisco. We're not expecting to hear about a HoloLens successor, but we should get a better idea of what apps and games we'll see coming for Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Businesses

Google Buys Part of HTC's Smartphone Team For $1.1 Billion (betanews.com) 92

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Today, a deal finally happens, but Google didn't buy HTC outright. Strangely, as the deal is laid out, the search giant has seemingly bought HTC employees. Yes, for $1.1 billion, the search giant has sort of purchased human beings -- plus it gets access to some intellectual property. HTC gets a much-needed big influx of cash. "Google and HTC Corporation today announced a definitive agreement under which certain HTC employees -- many of whom are already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones -- will join Google. HTC will receive $1.1 billion in cash from Google as part of the transaction. Separately, Google will receive a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property (IP). The agreement is a testament to the decade-long strategic relationship between HTC and Google around the development of premium smartphones," says HTC.
AMD

AMD Opteron Vs EPYC: How AMD Server Performance Evolved Over 10 Years (phoronix.com) 31

New submitter fstack writes: Phoronix has carried out tests comparing AMD's high-end EPYC 7601 CPU to AMD Opteron CPUs from about ten years ago, looking at the EPYC/Opteron Linux performance and power efficiency. Both on the raw performance and performance-per-Watt, the numbers are quite staggering though the single-threaded performance hasn't evolved quite as much. The EPYC 7601 is a $4,200 USD processor with 32 cores / 64 threads. The first of many tests was with NAS Parallel Benchmarks: "For a heavily threaded test like this, going from a single Opteron 2300 series to the EPYC 7601 yielded around a 40x increase in performance," reports Phoronix. "Not bad when also considering it was only a 16x increase in the thread count (4 physical cores to 32 cores / 64 threads). The EPYC 7601 has a lower base clock frequency than the Opteron 2300 CPUs tested but has a turbo/boost frequency higher, among many architectural advantages over these K10 Opterons. With the NASA test's Lower-Upper Gauss-Seidel solver, going from the dual Opteron 2384 processors to a single EPYC 7601 yields around a 25x improvement in performance over the past decade of AMD server CPUs. Or in looking at the performance-per-Watt with the LU.C test, it's also around a 25x improvement over these older Opterons."
Android

Samsung Finally Lets You Disable the Bixby Button Without a Third-Party App (androidpolice.com) 55

Samsung has released an update to allow you to disable Bixby on the Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8. The only problem is you can only disable the button and can't point it to another app. Android Police reports: As you're probably aware, there are two parts to Bixby -- Bixby Home and Bixby Voice. The main change here is to the Bixby Home shortcut; press the button and Bixby appears. After updating, a toggle is available under the settings gear at the top of Bixby home. Turn it off, and Bixby Home will no longer pop up when you tap the button (there's also a "Bixby Key" menu in the settings). Bixby Voice can be shut off in the settings as well, so the button will become completely inert. What if you want Bixby Home back? If you still have Bixby Voice turned on, pressing and holding the button will trigger Bixby on top of your current screen. You can open full screen mode and access your Bixby settings to turn Bixby Home back on at any time. Okay, but what if you also have Bixby Voice turned off in the Bixby settings? It seems at first like you've locked yourself out of Bixby, which might not be a problem for some people. However, you can access the Bixby settings by going into your main system settings -- Apps -- Bixby Home -- Mobile Data -- View app settings. That opens the Bixby settings without opening Bixby first.
The Military

Mystery of Sonic Weapon Attacks At US Embassy In Cuba Deepens (theguardian.com) 214

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The blaring, grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he'd walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room. Soon came the hearing loss, and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 U.S. victims in an astonishing international mystery still unfolding in Cuba. The top U.S. diplomat has called them "health attacks." New details learned by the Associated Press indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like specificity, baffling U.S. officials who say the facts and the physics don't add up.

Suspicion initially focused on a sonic weapon, and on the Cubans. Yet the diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound, has confounded the FBI, the state department and U.S. intelligence agencies involved in the investigation. Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words, several officials said, the latest signs of more serious damage than the U.S. government initially realized. The United States first acknowledged the attacks in August -- nine months after symptoms were first reported.

Android

Apple's A11 Bionic Chip In iPhone 8 and iPhone X Smokes Android Handsets In Early Benchmarks (hothardware.com) 332

MojoKid writes: Many of the new releases of Apple's iPhone bring with it a new A-series SoC (System on Chip) and Apple is keeping that tradition with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. Each of those handsets sports a custom ARM-based A11 Bionic processor with six cores -- four high performance cores and two power efficiency cores. The two power efficiency cores will perform the bulk medial chores to maintain battery life, which Apple says will be 2 hours longer than the iPhone 7. However, for heavier workloads, the chip is capable of not only firing up its four high performance cores, but also all six cores simultaneously. If early leaked benchmarks are any indication, the A11 Bionic is going to be a benchmark-busting beast of a chip. A set of just-posted Geekbench scores reinforces that notion. Just prior to Apple announcing its newest iPhone models, Geekbench's database was updated with a new entry for an "iPhone 10,5" which we assume to be the iPhone X. Based on the scores recorded, in this one benchmark at least, the A11 CPU powering the iPhone X appears to be 50 to 70 percent faster than any Android handset on the market currently, even those powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.
Android

PSA: Google Will Delete Your Android Backups If Your Device Is Inactive For Two Months (vernonchan.com) 166

New submitter Vernon Chan writes: It was discovered that Google will automatically schedule to delete your Android device backups if it is inactive for more than two months. The issue was discovered by a Reddit user after his Nexus 6P was sent for a refund claim. He was using an old iPhone while he waited for an Android replacement device. When he glanced at his Google Drive Backup folder, he freaked out when he noticed his Nexus 6P backup was missing. He then stumbled upon this Google Drive help document regarding backup expirations: "Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don't use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. For instance: 'Expires in 54 days.'" Once a backup is deleted, there is zero chance for recovery.
Android

Target's Sales Floors Are Switching From Apple To Android Devices (gizmodo.com) 136

After three years of Apple products, Target is moving to Android devices for stocking, pulling items, and other essential sales floor duties. Target first outfitted its employees with Apple products in 2014, replacing PDAs with iPod Touches. Gizmodo reports: In Fall of 2016, Target stores began testing the Zebra TC51, which runs Android 6.0 Mashmallow and was confirmed to Gizmodo as "the new MyDevices for store team members chainwide" by a company spokesperson over email. On Reddit's r/Target page and the unofficial employee forum The Breakroom, the new devices have been met with enthusiasm -- and plenty of jabs at the old iOS scanners. "The current iOS my devices we have all sorts of issues, connection issues, scanner issues, and tons more," one Breakroom poster complained. On Reddit, a former store manager wrote that "the iPod hardware they used as on the floor scanners for employees died quickly and there was no way of swapping in new batteries. There were many hardware issues that came about with the ipods." While a Target spokesperson confirmed the company will still purchase some products from Apple -- iPads for online order pickups, iPhones for managers -- the sales floor is switching to Android, and the company is staffing up on Android developers to port over all the internal software stores use.
Iphone

iPhone 8 and iPhone X Will Support Fast Charging, But Only If You Buy a New USB-C Charger (9to5mac.com) 144

One little detail Apple didn't mention at its event in Cupertino, California yesterday was the fact that the new iPhones will support fast charging. According to the official tech specs page, the new iPhones can recharge up to 50 percent of their battery life in a 30-minute charge. The catch? You have to use a USB-C charger and Lightning cable (sold separately). 9to5Mac reports: iPhone 8 battery life is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. On a full charge, expect up to 12 hours of internet usage on iPhone 8 and iPhone X, with up to 13 hours on iPhone 8 Plus. With a 50% quick charge in 30 minutes, you are effectively gaining hours of additional battery life during the day, even if you only plug in for a short period. However, to take advantage of fast-charging, you cannot use the Lightning to USB-A cable that is bundled in the box. Fast charging requires a USB-C to Lightning cable and the USB-C wall charger. More specifically, one of three USB-C wall chargers. Apple sells 29W, 61W and 87W variants of its USB-C power adapters. Prices range from $49 to $79. Apple doesn't break out specific numbers on how each model affects charging times, it's not clear if the cheapest 29W model can achieve the advertised 50% recharge in 30 minutes.
AMD

French Company Plans To Heat Homes, Offices With AMD Ryzen Pro Processors 181

At its Ryzen Pro event in New York City last month, AMD invited a French company called Qarnot to discuss how they're using Ryzen Pro processors to heat homes and offices for free. The company uses the Q.rad -- a heater that embeds three CPUs as a heat source -- to accomplish this feat. "We reuse the heat they generate to heat homes and offices for free," the company says in a blog post. "Q.rad is connected to the internet and receives in real time workloads from our in-house computing platform."

The idea is that anyone in the world can send heavy workloads over the cloud to a Q.rad and have it render the task and heat a person's home in the process. The two industries that are targeted by Qarnot include movies studios for 3D rendering and VFX, and banks for risk analysis. Qarnot is opting in for Ryzen Pro processors over Intel i7 processors due to the performance gain and heat output. According to Qarnot, they "saw a performance gain of 30-45% compared to the Intel i7." They also report that the Ryzen Pro is "producing the same heat as the equivalent Intel CPUs" they were using -- all while providing twice as many cores.

While it's neat to see a company convert what would otherwise be wasted heat into a useful asset that heats a person's home, it does raise some questions about the security and profitability of their business model. By using Ryzen Pro's processors, OS independent memory encryption is enabled to provide additional security layers to Qarnot's heaters. However, Q.rads are naturally still going to be physically unsecured as they can be in anyone's house.

Further reading: The Mac Observer, TechRepublic
Security

BlueBorne Vulnerabilities Impact Over 5 Billion Bluetooth-Enabled Devices (bleepingcomputer.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Security researchers have discovered eight vulnerabilities -- codenamed collectively as BlueBorne -- in the Bluetooth implementations used by over 5.3 billion devices. Researchers say the vulnerabilities are undetectable and unstoppable by traditional security solutions. No user interaction is needed for an attacker to use the BleuBorne flaws, nor does the attacker need to pair with a target device. They affect the Bluetooth implementations in Android, iOS, Microsoft, and Linux, impacting almost all Bluetooth device types, from smartphones to laptops, and from IoT devices to smart cars. Furthermore, the vulnerabilities can be concocted into a self-spreading BlueTooth worm that could wreak havoc inside a company's network or even across the world. "These vulnerabilities are the most serious Bluetooth vulnerabilities identified to date," an Armis spokesperson told Bleeping Computer via email. "Previously identified flaws found in Bluetooth were primarily at the protocol level," he added. "These new vulnerabilities are at the implementation level, bypassing the various authentication mechanisms, and enabling a complete takeover of the target device." Consumers are recommended to disable Bluetooth unless you need to use it, but then turn it off immediately. When a patch or update is issued and installed on your device, you should be able to turn Bluetooth back on and leave it on safely. The BlueBorne Android App on the Google Play Store will be able to determine if a user's Android device is vulnerable. A technical report on the BlueBorne flaws is available here (PDF).
Iphone

Apple Announces iPhone X With Edge-To-Edge Display, Wireless Charging and No Home Button (theverge.com) 569

At its event in Cupertino, California today, Apple unveiled the iPhone X to mark the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. It brings several new features including an edge-to-edge screen, Qi wireless charging, and Face ID. The Verge reports: Because of its edge-to-edge display, the iPhone has no place for a conventional home button, relying instead on a complex facial recognition system to unlock the phone. Called FaceID, the new system will replace TouchID, the home button sensor that's enabled fingerprint logins since 2013's iPhone 5S. Users can wake the phone by swiping up from the button instead of hitting the button. The same gesture will open the control panel once the phone is awake. The updated iPhone 8 will continue unchanged, including both the home button and TouchID. Apple also unveiled the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which are updated versions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus released last year. These new devices feature glass backs with support for wireless charging. The Verge provides some additional specs and features in its report: Apple has improved the display on the iPhone 8 line, adding the same True Tone technology it offers on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro to automatically adjust the screen based on the ambient light in the room to offer more accurate colors. Internally, Apple has upgraded the processor from the A10 Fusion found in the 7 to the A11 Bionic. It's a six-core chip with two performance cores that are 25 percent faster than the A10, and four performance cores that the company says are 70 percent faster that the old model. There's also a new Apple-designed GPU that's 30 percent faster, with the same performance as the A10 at half the power. On the camera front, there's a new 12-megapixel sensor on the iPhone 8 that is larger, faster, and finally has optical image stabilization. The iPhone 8 Plus also has new sensors, and offers f/1.8 and f/2.8 apertures now. The dual cameras on the 8 Plus also have a new "Portrait Lighting" feature to adjust the lighting for portrait shots. And Apple says that the improvements apply to video, too, with Apple executive Phil Schiller claiming that the new devices have the "highest quality video capture ever in a smartphone," with support for 4K/60fps video. Slow motion videos now support up to 1080p resolution at 240fps, doubling the the iPhone 7's 120fps option. The iPhone 8 will start at $699 for a 64GB model, while the 8 Plus will start at $799 for 64GB of storage. You can preorder these devices starting Friday, September 15th, and they will be released a week later on September 22nd.

UPDATE 9/12/17: The iPhone X will be priced starting at $999 for the 64GB variant. Pre-order will be available October 27th with shipments starting November 3rd.
Communications

The New Apple Watch Series 3 Has Cellular Built-In (techcrunch.com) 55

The first big product unveiling at Apple's Event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California was the Apple Watch Series 3 with built-in support for cellular. TechCrunch reports: Wireless cellular LTE connectivity provided by a built-in chip means the new Apple Watch will be able to stay connected even when it's not tethered to an iPhone, which is a huge step forward in terms of making it an independent mobile device. Pricing for the Series 3 Cellular starts at $399, and a version without cellular starts at $329. Pre-orders begin on September 15, and they'll be available on September 22. The new Apple Watch is visually quite similar to the existing version, with backwards compatibility with existing straps and bands. There's a new Blush Gold color to match the new iPhone color option, and a new ceramic Dark Gray for the higher-end models that joins the existing white. Plus, the cellular version sports that red crown for an extra bit of visual flare. The non-cellular version doesn't have the new red crown.

Inside, it has a new dual-core processor with 70 percent better performance, as well as a new W2 chip that improves Bluetooth and wireless connectivity and power efficiency. The cellular antenna is actually the display itself, and there's an electronic SIM card inside for connectivity. The device is the same physical size as the Series 2, despite adding everything needed for cellular and LTE connectivity -- though the back crystal is extended 0.25 mm, which is incredibly thin. It's still got GPS like Series 2, and it's swimproof, plus it packs in all-day battery life still.

Iphone

Hobbyist Gives iPhone 7 the Headphone Jack We've Always Wanted (engadget.com) 194

intellitech shares a report from Engadget: For those of you who miss the iPhone headphone jack, you're definitely not alone. But Strange Parts creator Scotty Allen missed it so much that he decided to add one to his iPhone 7. He just posted a video of the project's entire saga, with all of its many ups and downs, and in the end he holds what he set out to create -- a current generation iPhone with a fully functional headphone jack. It turns out, real courage is adding the headphone jack back to the iPhone. The project took around 17 weeks to complete and throughout it Allen spent thousands of dollars on parts including multiple iPhones and screens and handfuls of lightning to headphone adaptors. Along the way, Allen bought a printer, a nice microscope and fancy tweezers. He had to design his own circuit boards, have a company manufacture multiple iterations of flexible circuit boards and at one point early on had to consult with a chip dealer that a friend hooked him up with.

The final product works by using a lightning to headphone adaptor that's incorporated into the internal structure of the phone. However, because the headphone jack is powered via the phone's lightning jack with a circuit board switching between the two depending on whether headphones or a charger are plugged into the phone, you can't actually listen to music and charge the phone at the same time.

Businesses

Google Is Apparently Ready To Buy Smartphone Maker HTC (cnbc.com) 102

According to a Taiwanese news outlet called Commercial Times, Google is in the final stages of acquiring all or part of smartphone maker HTC. CNBC reports: The report seems fishy, since Google has already been down this road, but there's a reason why Google might be interested in HTC. The Taiwanese company builds the Google Pixel, which means it could be a good fit for Google as it continues to cater to consumers with its "Pixel" smartphone brand. Here's where it sounds off base: Google acquired Motorola Mobility and then sold it off just a couple of years later. Why repeat that move? Commercial Times said HTC's poor financial position and Google's desire to "perfect [the] integration of software, content, hardware, network, cloud, [and] AI," is the driving force behind Google's interest. The news outlet said Google may make a "strategic investment" or "buy HTC's smartphone R&D team" which suggests that the VR team would exist as its own.

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