Google

Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Question Than Amazon Alexa (adweek.com) 61

According to software developed by New York-based 360i, Google Home is six times more likely to answer your question than Amazon Alexa -- its biggest competitor. Adweek reports: It's relatively surprising, considering that RBC Capital Markets projects Alexa will drive $10 billion of revenue to Amazon by 2020 -- not to mention the artificial intelligence-based system currently owns 70 percent of the voice market. 360i's proprietary software asked both devices 3,000 questions to come to the figure. While Amazon Alexa has shown considerable strength in retail search during the agency's research, Google won the day thanks to its unmatched search abilities.
Government

The US Government Wants To Permanently Legalize the Right To Repair (vice.com) 153

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: In one of the biggest wins for the right to repair movement yet, the U.S. Copyright Office suggested Thursday that the U.S. government should take actions to make it legal to repair anything you own, forever -- even if it requires hacking into the product's software. Manufacturers -- including John Deere, Ford, various printer companies, and a host of consumer electronics companies -- have argued that it should be illegal to bypass the software locks that they put into their products, claiming that such circumvention violated copyright law. Thursday, the U.S. Copyright Office said it's tired of having to deal with the same issues every three years; it should be legal to repair the things you buy -- everything you buy -- forever. "The growing demand for relief under section 1201 has coincided with a general understanding that bona fide repair and maintenance activities are typically non infringing," the report stated. "Repair activities are often protected from infringement claims by multiple copyright law provisions." "The Office recommends against limiting an exemption to specific technologies or devices, such as motor vehicles, as any statutory language would likely be soon outpaced by technology," it continued.
Power

Domestic Appliances Guzzle Far More Energy Than Advertised, Says EU Survey (theguardian.com) 205

Chrisq writes: An EU study has found that many electronic devices and appliances use more energy in real-world conditions than in the standard EU tests. Often the real world figures are double those in the ratings. Sometimes this is achieved by having various optional features switched off during the test. For example, switching on modern TV features such as "ultra-high definition" and "high-dynamic range" in real-world test cycles boosted energy use in four out of seven televisions surveyed -- one by more than 100%. However some appliances appear to have "defeat devices" built in, with some Samsung TVs appearing to recognize the standard testing clip: "The Swedish Energy Agency's Testlab has come across televisions that clearly recognize the standard film (IEC) used for testing," says the letter, which the Guardian has seen. "These displays immediately lower their energy use by adjusting the brightness of the display when the standard film is being run. This is a way of avoiding the market surveillance authorities and should be addressed by the commission."
Medicine

Home Blood Pressure Monitors Are Wrong 70 Percent of the Time, Says Study (arstechnica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a study out this week, about 70 percent of home blood-pressure devices tested were off by 5 mmHg or more. That's enough to throw off clinical decisions, such as stopping or starting medication. Nearly 30 percent were off by 10 mmHg or more, including many devices that had been validated by regulatory agencies. The findings, published in The American Journal of Hypertension, suggest that consumers should be cautious about picking out and using such devices -- and device manufacturers need to step up their game. Lead author Raj Padwal and his colleagues set out to test the accuracy of the devices themselves. Funded by the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation, they compared the home blood-pressure monitors of 85 patients with a gold-standard blood-pressure measurement technique. The patients' monitors varied by type, age, and validation-status. But they all used an automated oscillometric method, which measures oscillations in the brachial artery and uses an algorithm to calculate blood pressure. The gold-standard method was the old-school auscultatory method, which involves the arm-squeezing sphygmomanometer and a clinician listening for thumps with a stethoscope. Of the 85 home devices, 59 were inaccurate by 5 mmHg or more in either their systolic (the top number that's the maximum pressure of a heart beat) or diastolic (the bottom number that's the minimum between-beat pressure). That's 69 percent inaccurate. Of those, 25 (or 29 percent) were off by 10 mmHg or more. And six devices (seven percent) were off by 15 mmHg or more.
Communications

Apple 'Error 53' Sting Operation Caught Staff Misleading Customers, Court Documents Allege (theguardian.com) 191

AmiMoJo writes: "Australia's consumer watchdog carried out a sting operation against Apple which it says caught staff repeatedly misleading iPhone customers about their legal rights to a free repair or replacement after a so-called 'error 53' malfunction, court documents reveal," reports The Guardian. Error 53 refers to an error message that renders iPhones useless if third-party repairs are made. From the report: "The case, set to go to trial in mid-December, accuses Apple of wrongly telling customers they were not entitled to free replacements or repair if they had taken their devices to an unauthorized third-party repairer. That advice was allegedly given even where the repair -- a screen replacement, for example -- was not related to the fault. Apple has so far chosen to remain silent about the case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). But court documents obtained by Guardian Australia show the company has denied the ACCC's allegations, saying it did not mislead or cause any harm to its Australian customers. The documents also show how the ACCC used undercover methods to investigate Apple. Investigators, posing as iPhone customers, called all 13 Apple retailers across Australia in June last year. They told Apple staff their iPhone speakers had stopped working after screens were replaced by a third party. Apple's response was the same in each of the 13 calls, the ACCC alleges."
Music

Apple Adds Support For FLAC Lossless Audio In iOS 11 (thenextweb.com) 49

Reddit users who have installed copies of the developer beta of iOS 11 are reporting that Apple has finally added support for lossless FLAC audio files in their new mobile operating system. The Next Web reports: The functionality was first spotted on an iPhone 6S Plus running iOS 11 Beta 1 and is reportedly available as part of the newly announced file-management app, Files. Up until now, Apple had deliberately opted to ignore offering playback support for FLAC files in both iTunes and iOS -- though there are numerous third-party apps to do the trick. But it appears things are finally about to change.
Displays

Apple Announces New 10.5-Inch iPad Pro With Narrower Side Bezels, 120Hz Refresh Rate Display (9to5mac.com) 93

At WWDC 2017 today, Apple unveiled a brand new iPad Pro with a 10.5-inch display and 40% narrower bezels. The new iPad features a 50% brighter True Tone display and "ProMotion" technology which increase refresh rates up to 120hz. 9to5Mac reports: The new iPad Pro includes dynamic refresh rate adjustments, screens move from 24hz to 48hz to 120hz. This maximizes battery life and performance, when you need it. The A10x Fusion chip improves CPU and GPU by at least 40%. Cameras have also been upgraded with the same sensor as the iPhone 7 on the back and the front. Apple demoed a photo app called "Affinity Photo," to demonstrate the 120hz refresh rates. Apple says new iPad Pro performance compares favorably with a desktop computer. This includes incredibly fast selections and fluid Apple Pencil interactions. Both iPad models start with 64GB of memory and maxes out to 500GB at the high-end. There are also several new software features for iPad, coming this fall with iOS 11: A new customizable Dock that provides quick access to frequently used apps and documents from any screen; Improved multitasking, including a redesigned app switcher that brings Spaces to iOS, making it easier to move between apps or pairs of active apps, used in Split View and now Slide Over; Multi-Touch Drag and Drop, which is available across the system to move text, photos and files from one app to another, anywhere on the screen; A new document scanner in Notes, which lets users easily scan single or multi-page documents, removes shadows and uses powerful image filters to enhance readability; and Deeper integration with Apple Pencil, with support for inline drawing to write along text in Notes and Mail, Instant Markup to easily sign documents, annotate PDFs or draw on screenshots, and a new Instant Notes feature, which opens Notes from the Lock Screen by simply tapping Apple Pencil on the display. New searchable handwriting makes it easy to search for handwritten text or characters.
Security

Chinese 'Fireball' Malware Infects Nearly 250 Million Computers Worldwide (thehackernews.com) 66

Check Point researchers have discovered a massive malware campaign, dubbed Fireball, that has already infected more than 250 million computers across the world, including Windows and Mac OS. The Fireball malware "is an adware package that takes complete control of victim's web browsers and turns them into zombies, potentially allowing attackers to spy on victim's web traffic and potentially steal their data," reports The Hacker News. From the report: Check Point researchers, who discovered this massive malware campaign, linked the operation to Rafotech, a Chinese company which claims to offer digital marketing and game apps to 300 million customers. While the company is currently using Fireball for generating revenue by injecting advertisements onto the browsers, the malware can be quickly turned into a massive destroyer to cause a significant cyber security incident worldwide. Fireball comes bundled with other free software programs that you download off of the Internet. Once installed, the malware installs browser plugins to manipulate the victim's web browser configurations to replace their default search engines and home pages with fake search engines (trotux.com). "It's important to remember that when a user installs freeware, additional malware isn't necessarily dropped at the same time," researchers said. "Furthermore, it is likely that Rafotech is using additional distribution methods, such as spreading freeware under fake names, spam, or even buying installs from threat actors."
Power

Qualcomm Announces Quick Charge 4+ Standard That's 15 Percent Faster Than Quick Charge 4 (theverge.com) 30

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Just a mere six months after announcing Quick Charge 4, which boosted charging times and safety considerably over its predecessors, Qualcomm is introducing the new Quick Charge 4+ standard. Unlike previous standards, which required a new chipset, 4+ is something device and accessory manufacturers can implement by adding three enhancements to Quick Charge 4-compliant devices: "Dual Charge," which is already an option in earlier version of Quick Charge, but is "now more powerful"; "Intelligent Thermal Balancing," which steers current through whichever of the dual charging pathways is coolest to keep temperatures down; "Advanced Safety Features" to monitor both the phone temperature and the connector temperature to protect against overheating and short-circuit damage. Qualcomm claims devices that implement this standard can get charging times up to 15 percent faster than Quick Charge 4, and will charge up to 30 percent more efficiently -- an especially nice perk if you're charging from a battery pack. Charging will also be up to 3 degrees Celsius (about 5 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler.
Windows

Qualcomm, Microsoft Announce Snapdragon 835 PCs With Gigabit LTE (arstechnica.com) 102

Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced that Windows 10 is coming to devices made by Asus, HP and Lenovo that will run on the Snapdragon 835 platform. "The Snapdragon 835 chip, incorporating Qualcomm's latest X16 LTE modem, forms the basis of the Snapdragon Mobile PC Platform," reports Ars Technica. "Qualcomm claims that using the Snapdragon platform will offer a combination of the PC form factor and breadth of software with features that are standard in smartphones: on-the-go connectivity, light weight, silent operation, long battery life, and no fan." From the report: Qualcomm says that PCs built using the new chips will offer up to 50 percent more battery life than x86 systems, with four- to five-times longer standby times. They'll take the Connected Standby capability already found in some Windows PCs -- this allows the system to do things like sync mail and receive notifications even when "sleeping" -- and make it better, thanks to their LTE connectivity. With a Snapdragon inside your PC, you'll no longer need Wi-Fi to fetch your latest e-mail and catch up on Twitter. Instead, you'll be able to get online wherever there's cellular connectivity. The X16 modem supports up to gigabit LTE connections, too. So as long as your network operator is cooperative and has embraced the cutting edge, this mobile connection will be fast, too. Asus, HP, and Lenovo are all planning to introduce Snapdragon Mobile PC systems at some unspecified time in the future, for some unspecified price. These machines will be laptop-style systems, just without the traditional x86 processor on the inside. Snapdragon 835 has a higher level of integration than Intel's mobile chips, enabling smaller motherboards. This in turn should tend to increase the space available for battery, or reduce the size and weight of machines, or perhaps even both.
AI

Apple Is Manufacturing a Siri Speaker To Compete Against Google Home, Amazon Echo (bloomberg.com) 70

According to Bloomberg, Apple is manufacturing a Siri-controlled smart speaker that could debut as soon as its annual developer conference in June. "The device will differ from Amazon's Echo and Alphabet's Google Home speakers by offering virtual surround sound technology and deep integration with Apple's product lineup," reports Bloomberg. From the report: Introducing a speaker would serve two main purposes: providing a hub to automate appliances and lights via Apple's HomeKit system, and establishing a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into Apple's network of services. That would help combat the competitive threat from Google's and Amazon's connected speakers: the Home and Echo mostly don't support services from Apple. Without compatible hardware, users may be more likely to opt for the Echo or Home, and therefore use streaming music offerings such as Spotify, Amazon Prime Music or Google Play rather than Apple Music. Apple hopes that more advanced acoustics technology will give the speaker an edge over competitors, according to people with knowledge of the product's development. Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, the people said. Apple has also considered including sensors that measure a room's acoustics and automatically adjust audio levels during use, one of the people said. Apple will also likely let third-party services build products for the speaker. The device will be a hub for Apple's HomeKit home automation system, letting users control devices such as lights, door locks and window blinds.
Amiga

A New Amiga Arrives On the Scene -- the A-EON Amiga X5000 (arstechnica.com) 118

dryriver writes: It is 2017 and the long dead Amiga platform has suddenly been resurrected. The new Amiga X5000 costs about $1,800 and is an exotic mix of PC parts and completely new custom chips, including "Xena," an XMOS 16-core programmable 32-bit 500 MHz coprocessor that can be configured by software to act as any type of custom chip imaginable. It is connected to a special "Xorro" slot that has the same physical connection as a PCIe x8 expansion card, but it is dedicated to adding more Xena chips as desired. Amiga X5000 can run all legacy Amiga software, including software written for later PowerPC Amigas. It boots from a U-Boot BIOS. The OS is AmigaOS 4.1, but the X5000 can also boot into MorphOS or Linux. The test system used by Ars came with a ATI Radeon R9 270X video card.
Displays

UCF Research Could Bring 'Drastically' Higher Resolution To Your Phone and TV (ucf.edu) 108

New submitter cinemetek quotes a report from University of Central Florida: Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a new color changing surface tunable through electrical voltage that could lead to three times the resolution for televisions, smartphones and other devices. Current LCD's are made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels that display different colors. With current technology, each of these pixels contain three subpixels -- one red, one green, one blue. UCF's NanoScience Technology Center (Assistant Professor Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student Daniel Franklin) have come up with a way to tune the color of these subpixels. By applying differing voltages, they are able to change the color of individual subpixels to red, green or blue -- the RGB scale -- or gradations in between. By eliminating the three static subpixels that currently make up every pixel, the size of individual pixels can be reduced by three. Three times as many pixels means three times the resolution. That would have major implications for not only TVs and other general displays, but augmented reality and virtual-reality headsets that need very high resolution because they're so close to the eye.
Facebook

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes 61

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.
Bug

Two Different Studies Find Thousands of Bugs In Pacemakers, Insulin Pumps and Other Medical Devices 47

Two studies are warning of thousands of vulnerabilities found in pacemakers, insulin pumps and other medical devices. "One study solely on pacemakers found more than 8,000 known vulnerabilities in code inside the cardiac devices," reports BBC. "The other study of the broader device market found only 17% of manufacturers had taken steps to secure gadgets." From the report: The report on pacemakers looked at a range of implantable devices from four manufacturers as well as the "ecosystem" of other equipment used to monitor and manage them. Researcher Billy Rios and Dr Jonathan Butts from security company Whitescope said their study showed the "serious challenges" pacemaker manufacturers faced in trying to keep devices patched and free from bugs that attackers could exploit. They found that few of the manufacturers encrypted or otherwise protected data on a device or when it was being transferred to monitoring systems. Also, none was protected with the most basic login name and password systems or checked that devices they were connecting to were authentic. Often, wrote Mr Rios, the small size and low computing power of internal devices made it hard to apply security standards that helped keep other devices safe. In a longer paper, the pair said device makers had work to do more to "protect against potential system compromises that may have implications to patient care." The separate study that quizzed manufacturers, hospitals and health organizations about the equipment they used when treating patients found that 80% said devices were hard to secure. Bugs in code, lack of knowledge about how to write secure code and time pressures made many devices vulnerable to attack, suggested the study.

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