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Government

From Bicycles To Washing Machines: Sweden To Give Tax Breaks For Repairs (mnn.com) 137

jenningsthecat writes: The Swedish government is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to encouraging the repair of stuff that would otherwise be thrown away, according to both The Guardian and Fast Company. The country's Social Democrat and Green party coalition have submitted proposals to Parliament that would reduce the value-added-tax (VAT) on bicycle, clothing, and shoe repairs from 25% to 12%. Also proposed is an income tax deduction equalling half the labor cost of repairing household appliances. According to The Guardian, "the incentives are part of a shift in government focus from reducing carbon emissions produced domestically to reducing emissions tied to goods produced elsewhere." Per Bolund, Sweden's Minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, said the policy also tied in with international trends around reduced consumption and crafts, such as the "maker movement" and the sharing economy, both of which have strong followings in Sweden. The VAT cut may create more jobs for immigrants as it could spur the creation of a new home-repairs service industry. Also, from a science standpoint, the incentives could help cut the cost of carbon emissions on the planet as it should in theory reduce emissions linked to consumption. "I believe there is a shift in view in Sweden at the moment. There is an increased knowledge that we need to make our things last longer in order to reduce materials' consumption," Bolund said. The Guardian's report concludes: "The proposals will be presented in parliament as part of the government's budget proposals and if voted through in December will become law from January 1, 2017."
Iphone

People Are Drilling Holes Into Their iPhone 7 To 'Make a Headphone Jack' (craveonline.com) 186

TechRax -- a popular YouTuber who destroys technology for fame and riches -- has uploaded a video where he drills a hole into an iPhone 7, claiming it to be a "secret hack" to reinstall a headphone jack in the device. The only problem is that he didn't tell people it was a joke, and of course, some people fell for it. Crave Online reports: The YouTube video has amassed over 7.5 million views since being posted online last week, with it attracting 81,000 dislikes in the process. The comments section is currently torn between people who are in on the joke, people who criticize TechRax for damaging his iPhone 7, and most unfortunately, people who have tried the "hack" out for themselves. Although this is YouTube so you can never be quite sure of whether or not these folks are trolling, parsing the comments section reveals some pretty convincing complaints lobbed in TechRax's direction. It's also firmly believable that there are people dumb enough to attempt drilling a hole into their iPhone 7, which is unfortunate but that's the way the world is in 2016. You can read the comments under the YouTube video for more "convincing complaints." But as if the report didn't make it clear enough already, the video is a joke. Apple removed the headphone jack and there's no way to get it back, unless you use an adapter.
Google

Google To Introduce Google Wifi, Google Home and 4K Chromecast Ultra Devices On October 4th (androidpolice.com) 46

Android Police has learned of a new Google device that will launch alongside the Google Pixel smartphones, Google Home, and 4K 'Chromecast Ultra' dongle on October 4th. Called Google Wifi, the Wi-Fi router will cost $129 and contain several "smart" features. Android Police reports: [The] source additionally claims that Google will advertise the router as having "smart" features -- probably similar to OnHub in some respects -- and that Google will claim it provides enhanced range over typical Wi-Fi routers (a claim we see basically every router make, to be fair). But the one thing that will make it an insta-buy for many over OnHub? Our source claims multiple Google Wifi access points (two or more) can be linked together to create one large wireless network. We don't have any details on how this works, unfortunately. But one source claims that Google Wifi device will essentially be like a little white Amazon Echo Dot. So, relatively small and inconspicuous. In a separate report, Android Police details Google's upcoming smart speaker called Google Home, along with their upcoming 4K 'Chromecast Ultra' devices. Specifically, they will be priced at $129 and $69 respectively: Google Home was announced at Google I/O in May. Our sources also confirmed that the personalized base covers Google showed at I/O will be a feature of the final device. $129 also undercuts Amazon's Echo by a full $40, and though matches the price of the portable Amazon Tap, it's clear Google has Amazon's flagship smart home product in its sights with Home. Chromecast Ultra, which we are now all but certain is the name of Google's upcoming 4K version of Chromecast, will come in at $69 retail. As for what it brings beyond 4K, one of our sources claims that HDR is indeed on the list of bullet points.
Medicine

Activity Trackers May Undermine Weight Loss Efforts, Says Study (sciencedaily.com) 210

schwit1 quotes a report from New York Times: Wearable activity monitors can count your steps and track your movements, but they don't, apparently, help you lose weight. In fact, you might lose more weight without them. The fascinating finding comes from a study published today in JAMA that found dieting adults who wore activity monitors for 18 months lost significantly fewer pounds over that time than those who did not. The results suggest that activity monitors may not change our behavior in the way we expected (warning: may be paywalled), and raise interesting questions about the tangled relationships between exercise, eating, our willpower and our waistlines. Specifically, the study found that participants who used wearable devices reported an average weight loss of 7.7 pounds, compared to the 13 pounds lost by those who didn't use the devices and only used health counseling. "While usage of wearable devices is currently a popular method to track physical activity -- steps taken per day or calories burned during a workout -- our findings show that adding them to behavioral counseling or weight loss that includes physical activity and reduced calorie intake does not improve weight loss or physical activity engagement. Therefore, within this context, these devices should not be relied upon as tools for weight management in place of effective behavioral counseling for physical activity and diet," said John Jakicic, the study's lead researcher and chair of Pitt's Department of Health and Physical Activity.
Medicine

Microsoft Will 'Solve' Cancer Within The Next 10 Years By Treating It Like A Computer Virus, Says Company (independent.co.uk) 257

Microsoft is serious about finding a cure for cancer. In June, Microsoft researchers published a paper that shows how analyzing online activities can provide clues as to a person's chances of having cancer. They were able to identify internet users who had pancreatic cancer even before they'd been diagnosed, all from analyzing web query logs. Several months later, researchers on behalf of the company now say they will "solve" cancer within the next 10 years by treating it like a computer virus that invades and corrupts the body's cells. The goal is to monitor the bad cells and potentially reprogram them to be healthy again. The Independent reports: The company has built a "biological computation" unit that says its ultimate aim is to make cells into living computers. As such, they could be programmed and reprogrammed to treat any diseases, such as cancer. In the nearer term, the unit is using advanced computing research to try and set computers to work learning about drugs and diseases and suggesting new treatments to help cancer patients. The team hopes to be able to use machine learning technologies -- computers that can think and learn like humans -- to read through the huge amounts of cancer research and come to understand the disease and the drugs that treat it. At the moment, so much cancer research is published that it is impossible for any doctor to read it all. But since computers can read and understand so much more quickly, the systems will be able to read through all of the research and then put that to work on specific people's situations. It does that by bringing together biology, math and computing. Microsoft says the solution could be with us within the next five or ten years.
Earth

A Shocking Amount of E-Waste Recycling Is a Complete Sham (vice.com) 166

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Forty percent of all U.S. electronics recyclers testers included in [a study that used GPS trackers to follow e-waste over the course of two years] proved to be complete shams, with our e-waste getting shipped wholesale to landfills in Hong Kong, China, and developing nations in Africa and Asia. The most important thing to know about the e-waste recycling industry is that it is not free to recycle an old computer or an old CRT television. The value of the raw materials in the vast majority of old electronics is worth less than it costs to actually recycle them. While consumers rarely have to pay e-waste recycling companies to take their old electronics (costs are offset by local tax money or manufacturers fronting the bill as part of a legally mandated obligated recycling quota), companies, governments, and organizations do. Based on the results of a new study from industry watchdog Basel Action Network and MIT, industry documents obtained by Motherboard, and interviews with industry insiders, it's clear that the e-waste recycling industry is filled with sham operations profiting off of shipping toxic waste to developing nations. Here are the major findings of the study and of my interviews and reporting: Real, environmentally sustainable electronics recycling can be profitable only if recycling companies charge a fee to take on old machines; the sale of recycled materials rarely if ever covers the actual cost of recycling in the United States. Companies, governments, and other organizations have a requirement to recycle old machines; because there is little oversight or enforcement, a secondary industry of fake recyclers has popped up to undercut sustainable recyclers. These "recyclers," which advertise themselves as green and sustainable, get paid pennies per pound to take in old TVs, computers, printers, and monitors. Rather than recycle them domestically, the recycling companies sell them to junkyards in developing nations, either through middlemen or directly. These foreign junkyards hire low-wage employees to pick through the few valuable components of often toxic old machines. The toxic machines are then left in the scrapyards or dumped nearby. Using GPS trackers, industry watchdog Basel Action Network found that 40 percent of electronics recyclers it tested in the United States fall into this "scam recycling" category.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils $37 Nokia 216 Feature Phone (theverge.com) 57

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it had sold Nokia's remaining feature phone business to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn, for $350 million. Today, Microsoft unveiled the Nokia 216 feature phone, dispelling rumors that it would stop making Nokia phones. The Verge reports: The new Nokia 216 is one of the most basic phones that Microsoft manufactures, and it will be available in India next month for around $37. It includes a 2.4-inch QVGA display, with 0.3-megapixel cameras at the front and rear, running on the Series 30 OS with the Opera mini browser. It even has a headphone jack. It's easy to understand why Microsoft continues to create feature phones, as the company still sells millions of them every month. Microsoft previously hoped that feature phone users would create a Microsoft account and become part of the Microsoft ecosystem, but it's not clear whether the millions of feature phone users ever actually did that. Microsoft hinted earlier this year that it's planning to kill off its Lumia smartphones, and recent rumors have suggested that the Lumia brand will die off toward the end of the year.
Robotics

UK Standards Body Issues Official Guidance On Robot Ethics (digitaltrends.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: The British Standards Institution, which is the U.K.'s national standards body charged with creating the technical standards and certification for various products and services, has just produced its first set of official ethics guidelines relating to robots. "The expert committee responsible for this thought there was really a need for a set of guidelines, setting out the ethical principles surrounding how robots are used," Dan Palmer, head of market development at BSI, told Digital Trends. "It's an area of big public debate right now." The catchily-named BS 8611 guidelines start by echoing Asimov's Three Laws in stating that: "Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans." However, it also takes aim at more complex issues of transparency by noting that: "It should be possible to find out who is responsible for any robot and its behavior." There's even discussion about whether it's desirable for a robot to form an emotional bond with its users, an awareness of the possibility robots could be racist and/or sexist in their conduct, and other contentious gray areas. In all, it's an interesting attempt to start formalizing the way we deal with robots -- and the way roboticists need to think about aspects of their work that extend beyond technical considerations. You can check it out here -- although it'll set you back 158 pounds ($208) if you want to read the BSI guidelines in full. (Is that ethical?) "Robots have been used in manufacturing for a long time," Palmer said. "But what we're seeing now are more robots interacting with people. For instance, there are cases in which robots are being used to give care to people. These are usages that we haven't seen before -- [which is where the need for guidelines comes in.]"
Businesses

GoPro Launches Karma Drone and Voice-Controlled Hero5 Cameras (cnet.com) 14

The long-awaited GoPro drone has officially launched. Dubbed Karma, GoPro's new drone works with the Hero5 and Hero5 Session, two new flagship cameras. The Hero5 features a 2-inch touch display, 12-megapixel photos with RAW support, built-in GPS, electronic image stabilization, waterproofing up to 33 feet (10 meters), and voice control. The GoPro Hero5 Session on the other hand consists of a tiny cube camera that is capable of 4K video recording at 30 fps and 10-megapixel photos. It too is waterproof up to 33 feet (10 meters) and offers support for voice commands. You can say, "GoPro, start recording," and it will start recording. They are also both cloud-connected, meaning they can auto-upload photos and video to an account when the camera is charging (requires a paid subscription to GoPro's new cloud service). While the Karma works with the Hero5 and Hero5 Session, it also works with the Hero4 cameras. CNET reports: The Karma's small, too. Like fold-it-up-and-stick-it-in-a-regular-backpack small. In fact, it even comes with the backpack. And of course it's made with the new Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session cameras, but will also work with the Hero4 cameras. So you're not stuck with a camera that's permanently attached to a drone, you're getting a camera you can use on its own or in the drone. Perhaps its greatest asset is the three-axis camera stabilizer on the drone. Not only will it keep your video looking smooth in the air, but it can be removed and attached to the included Karma Grip. GoPro says the grip can then be used handheld, perfect for running, riding, skating, etc. alongside your friends, or mounted on other gear. Karma arrives on October 23 for $799 without a camera, $999 with a Hero5 Session and $1,099 with the Hero5 Black.
Government

NYPD Says Talking About Its IMSI Catchers Would Make Them Vulnerable To Hacking (vice.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Typically, cops don't like talking about IMSI catchers, the powerful surveillance technology used to monitor mobile phones en masse. In a recent case, the New York Police Department (NYPD) introduced a novel argument for keeping mum on the subject: Asked about the tools it uses, it argued that revealing the different models of IMSI catchers the force owned would make the devices more vulnerable to hacking. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), an affiliate of the ACLU, has been trying to get access to information about the NYPD's IMSI catchers under the Freedom of Information Law. These devices are also commonly referred to as "stingrays," after a particularly popular model from Harris Corporation. Indeed, the NYCLU wants to know which models of IMSI catchers made by Harris the police department has. "Public disclosure of this information, and the amount of taxpayer funds spent to buy the devices, directly advances the Freedom of Information Law's purpose of informing a robust public debate about government actions," the NYCLU writes in a court filing. The group has requested documents that show how much money has been spent on the technology. After the NYPD withheld the records, the FOI request was escalated to a lawsuit, which is where the NYPD's strange argument comes in (among others). "Public disclosure of the specifications of the CSS [cell site simulator] technologies in NYPD's possession from the Withheld Records would make the software vulnerable to hacking and would jeopardize NYPD's ability to keep the technologies secure," an affidavit from NYPD Inspector Gregory Antonsen, dated August 17, reads. Antonsen then imagines a scenario where a "highly sophisticated hacker" could use their knowledge of the NYPD's Stingrays to lure officers into a trap and ambush them.
Security

Over 500K People Have Installed a Pokemon Go-Related App That Roots and Hijacks Android Devices (softpedia.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: Over 500,000 people have downloaded an Android app called "Guide for Pokemon Go" that roots the devices in order to deliver ads and installs apps without the user's knowledge. Researchers that analyzed the malware said it contained multiple defenses that made reverse-engineering very difficult -- some of the most advanced they've seen -- which explains why it managed to fool Google's security scanner and end up on the official Play Store. The exploits contained in the app's rooting functions were able to root any Android released between 2012 and 2015. The trojan found inside the app was also found in nine other apps, affecting another 100,000 users. The crook behind this trojan was obviously riding various popularity waves, packing his malware in clones for whatever app or game is popular at one particular point in time.
Businesses

Samsung Formally Recalls The Galaxy Note 7 (cnn.com) 48

While Samsung has recalled its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones on September 2 due to faulty batteries, the company has yet to formally recall them with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That is, until today. CNNMoney reports: While Samsung hammered out its formal recall plan with U.S. regulators, the FAA told airline passengers to turn off the phones when flying due to the safety risk. This week, New York City's transit system followed suit. And the CPSC urged Note 7 owners last week to turn off their phones even though a replacement version had yet to be finalized. Following Thursday's formal recall, the FAA revised its warning. Note 7 owners must not only turn off the device on airplanes, it said, but also protect the power switch "to prevent the phone from being unintentionally activated." The U.S. CPSC tweeted today: "#Recall: 1M @SamsungMobileUS #GalaxyNote7 smartphones; serious burn/fire hazard; Act Now: https://t.co/6v1egZlrRm." The recall could not have happened at a worse time for Samsung, as Apple's iPhone 7 debuts tomorrow.
Android

Xiaomi Can Silently Install Any App On Your Android Phone Using A Backdoor (thehackernews.com) 97

Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer many refer to as the "Apple of China," can silently install any app on your device, according to a Computer Science student and security enthusiast from the Netherlands. Thijs Broenink started investigating a mysterious pre-installed app, dubbed AnalyticsCore.apk, that constantly runs in the background and reappears even if you try and delete it. The Hacker News reports: After asking about the purpose of the AnalyticsCore app on the company's support forum and getting no response, Thijs Broenink reverse engineered the code and found that the app checks for a new update from the company's official server every 24 hours. While making these requests, the app sends device identification information with it, including the phone's IMEI, Model, MAC address, Nonce, Package name as well as signature. If there is an updated app available on the server with the filename "Analytics.apk," it will automatically get downloaded and installed in the background without user interaction. Broenink found that there is no validation at all to check which APK is getting installed to a user's phone, which means there is a way for hackers to exploit this loophole. This also means Xiaomi can remotely and silently install any application on your device just by renaming it to "Analytics.apk" and hosting it on the server. Ironically, the device connects and receives updates over HTTP connection, exposing the whole process to Man-in-the-Middle attacks."
Advertising

Samsung Stops Airing Galaxy Note 7 Commercials, Preps Early Launch of Galaxy S8 (sammobile.com) 86

An anonymous reader writes: Given the bad press surrounding Samsung in regard to the faulty Galaxy Note 7 batteries, the company appears to have stopped airing Galaxy Note 7 commercials on TV. You know it's bad when they have reportedly stopped airing commercials in their home country, South Korea. One of the reasons behind the move is because sales of the Galaxy Note 7 have been suspended for over a week now, and will not be resuming until there is enough inventory to replace all Galaxy Note 7 units that have already been shipped. Some analysts believe sales might not be resumed until next month. Samsung will be using the ad space to market their other products like TVs and refrigerators. In addition, the company may be looking to launch the successor to the Galaxy S7 ahead of schedule. Kim Sang-pyo, an analyst for KB Investment and Securities said in a report: "If Samsung's flagship smartphone launch is delayed to the end of the first quarter of next year, the profitability of the mobile business division could be worsened next year," states the analyst. SamMobile also recently revealed the new model numbers for the Galaxy S8: the SM-G950 and the SM-G955. One model will feature a smaller screen, the other larger -- similar to the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, though both phones might have a curved display this time around.
Cellphones

Microsoft To Kill The Lumia Brand In Favor of a New Surface Phone, Says Report (thenextweb.com) 177

It's no secret the Lumia brand is struggling to gain any significant market share these days. Earlier this year, it was reported that Microsoft's Windows Phone OS dropped below 1 percent mark share, all but confirming the death of Windows Phone. A new report suggests that, despite the irrelevance of Windows Phone, Microsoft will not be giving up on its mobile OS. Instead, the company plans to drop the Lumia brand by the end of the year and replace it with a brand new Surface Phone in an effort to breathe new life into its flagging smartphone business. The Next Web reports: There is some credibility to the claims. Microsoft's Lumia lineup has shrunk to just four models, and there's nothing to indicate it's working on a successor. In the U.S., where Microsoft has struggled to shift Lumia phones, it has removed the link to buy them from its website. On the retail side, stores have started removing units from display, and are trying to shift remaining stock by offering steep discounts. Further evidence comes from two since-deleted tweets from Laura Butler, engineering director at Microsoft, who posted "Surface iPhone ;-)" on September 6, and "Surface Phone not NOT confirmed. :-)" on September 7, in reply to questions posed by other Twitter users. Microsoft is expected to hold an event in October, where it's believed it will announce a new Surface all-in-one. As Ars Technica pointed out, this could be when Microsoft announces its new Surface Phone, just in time for Christmas.

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