Android

Essential Phone Will Ship Next Week, Shortly After Breaking $1 Billion Valuation (9to5google.com) 88

New submitter cloud.pt writes: Andy Rubin's Essential Phone will be released next week according to 9to5Google, just shy from its initial June mark. The company has been speculated to be worth around $1.2 billion, after giant Foxconn filed yesterday for a 0.25% acquisition at around $3 million -- clearing unicorn status as it hasn't shipped a single unit at the time. According to Engadget, future and existing pre-orders will have a chance to switch to the Pure White version of the slab, despite initial shipments being scheduled to be of the Black Moon variety. Essential's storefront orders will get the device unlocked, while the only parties offering the device will initially be Sprint. Rumor has it Amazon plans to sell the device as it invested in the company through its Alexa fund. No matter the contract attached, it will come with the full range of network capabilities unlocked.
Google

Google Allo For Chrome Finally Arrives, But Only For Android Users (engadget.com) 88

Google Allo, the chat app that arrived on the iPhone and Android devices last year, now has a web counterpart. Head of product for Allo and video chat app Duo, Amit Fulay, tweeted: "Allow for web is here! Try it on Chrome today. Get the latest Allo build on Android before giving it a spin." Engadget reports: To give it a go, you'll need to open the Allo app on your device and use that to scan a QR code you can generate at this link. Once you've scanned the code, Allo pulls up your chat history and mirrors all the conversations you have on your phone. Most of Allo's key features, including smart replies, emoji, stickers and most importantly the Google Assistant are all intact here. In fact, this is the first time you can really get the full Google Assistant experience through the web; it's been limited to phones and Google Home thus far.
Patents

Toyota Patents Cloaking Device To Make Car Pillars Appear Transparent (thedrive.com) 105

Toyota has patented a cloaking device that aims to make big, chunky car pillars transparent. The "apparatuses and methods for making an object appear transparent" which Toyota just patented uses cleverly placed mirrors to bend light around an object making it visible from the other side. The Drive reports: So you're not really seeing through the pillars, you're seeing around them. This is a much cheaper option than adding more cameras and screens all over the place and much more realistic than Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. The patent was filed with the U.S. patent office by Toyota North America, so if Toyota does go forward with this technology, we can probably expect to see it in cars in the U.S.
United States

Hearing Loss of US Diplomats In Cuba Is Blamed On Covert Device (bostonglobe.com) 224

bsharma shares a report from The Boston Globe: The two-year-old U.S. diplomatic relationship with Cuba was roiled Wednesday by what U.S. officials say was a string of bizarre incidents that left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device. In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Some of the diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.
Network

Apple Plans To Release a Cellular-Capable Watch To Break iPhone Ties (bloomberg.com) 92

According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to release a version of the Apple Watch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device's reliance on the iPhone. From the report: Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home. Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation. Apple is already in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added. The carriers supporting the LTE Apple Watch, at least at launch, may be a limited subset of those that carry the iPhone, one of the people said.
Intel

Intel's Upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs Won't Work With Today's Motherboards (pcworld.com) 240

Intel's upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs won't work with existing 200-series motherboards that support Kaby Lake, a manufacturer confirmed on Wednesday. In a Twitter post by Asrock last Saturday, the company confirmed the news when asked if "the Z270 Supercarrier [will] get support for the upcoming @intel Coffee Lake CPUs." Their response: "No, Coffee Lake CPU is not compatible with 200-series motherboards." PCWorld reports: According to at least one reliable source outside of Intel, the new Coffee Lake CPU will indeed not be compatible with Z270 boards, even though the chipsets with the upcoming Z370 appear to be the same, PCWorld was told. The source added that there are hopes in the industry that Intel will change its mind on compatibility. Tomshardware.com said it had independently confirmed the news with Asrock officials as well.

Why this matters: The vast majority of new CPU sales are in new systems, and they likely won't be impacted by the incompatibility. However, there's also a very large and very vocal crowd of builders and upgraders who still swap out older, slower CPUs for newer, faster CPUs to maximize their investment. An upgrade-in-place doesn't sell an Intel chipset, but it at least keeps them on the Intel platform. If consumers are forced to dump an existing Z270 motherboard for a newer Z370 to get a six-core Coffee Lake CPU, Intel risks driving them into the arms of AMD and its Ryzen CPUs.

Software

Are App Sizes Out of Control? 386

In a blog post, Trevor Elkins points out the large sizes of common apps like LinkedIn and Facebook. "I went to update all my apps the other day when something caught my eye... since when does LinkedIn take up 275MB of space?!" Elkins wrote. "In fact, the six apps in this picture average roughly 230MB in size, 1387MB in total. That would take an 8Mbit internet connection 24 minutes to download, and I'd still be left with 27 additional apps to update! More and more companies are adopting shorter release cycles (two weeks or so) and it's becoming unsustainable as a consumer to update frequently."

Should Apple do something to solve this "systematic" problem? Elkins writes, "how does an app that occasionally sends me a connection request and recruiter spam take up 275MB?"

Further discussion via Hacker News.
Facebook

Facebook Is Working On a Video Chat Device (bloomberg.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook Inc. is working on a video chat device for the home -- the first major hardware product from its experimental Building 8 lab. Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring's F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they're in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people's homes. Geared to the living room, the video chat device will feature a wide-angle camera lens, microphones and speakers that are all powered by artificial intelligence to boost performance, the people said. A version of the device in testing includes a thin, vertical stand that holds a large touchscreen measuring between 13 and 15 inches diagonally, the people said. Facebook has considered running a version of the Android operating system on its device instead of building its own core operating system, according to the people. Facebook is testing a feature that would allow the camera to automatically scan for people in its range and lock onto them, one of the people said. Facebook is also working on a standalone smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, reports Bloomberg. The social media giant is "hiring Apple veterans to help create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices."
Businesses

Apple's Shares Rise On Better-Than-Expected iPhone Sales (fortune.com) 60

Apple reported a 7.2% rise in quarterly revenue on Tuesday, thanks to better-than-expected sales of its iPhones. "The company said iPhone sales rose 1.6% to 41.03 million in the third quarter ended July 1, above analysts' average estimate of 40.7 million units," reports Fortune. "Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones a year earlier." From the report: Apple's shares rose 4% in after-hours trading on Tuesday to $ 156.00. Many customers wait for Apple to launch its new smartphones before deciding on upgrading or replacing their current devices, which usually results in iPhone demand tapering in the months before a release. The company forecast total revenue of between $49 billion and $52 billion for the current quarter, while analysts on average were expecting $49.21 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Analysts on average expect the company to sell 45.55 million iPhones in the current quarter, according to FactSet. Apple sold 45.51 million iPhones in the year-ago quarter.
Security

Hackers Can Turn Amazon Echo Into a Covert Listening Device (helpnetsecurity.com) 114

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: New research released by MWR InfoSecurity reveals how attackers can compromise the Amazon Echo and turn it into a covert listening device, without affecting its overall functionality. Found to be susceptible to a physical attack, which allows an attacker to gain a root shell on the Linux Operating Systems and install malware, the Amazon Echo would enable hackers to covertly monitor and listen in on users and steal private data without their permission or knowledge. By removing the rubber base at the bottom of the Amazon Echo, the research team could access the 18 debug pads and directly boot into the firmware of the device, via an external SD card, and install persistent malware without leaving any physical evidence of tampering. This gained them remote root shell access and enabled them to access the "always listening" microphones. Following a full examination of the process running on the device and the associated scripts, MWR's researchers investigated how the audio media was being passed and buffered between the processes and the tools used to do so. Then they developed scripts that leveraged tools embedded on the device to stream the microphone audio to a remote server without affecting the functionality of the device itself. The raw data was then sampled via a remote device, where a decision could then be made as to play it out of the speakers on the remote device or save the audio as a WAV file. The vulnerability has been confirmed to affect the 2015 and 2016 editions of the device. The 2017 edition of the Amazon Echo is not vulnerable to this physical attack. The smaller Amazon Dot model also does not carry the vulnerability. More technical details can be found here.
Iphone

New iPhone To Have Tap to Wake, Attention Detection, and Virtual Home Button, Says Report (theverge.com) 59

HomePod's firmware has revealed several new features coming to the upcoming iPhone, such as a tap to wake function, facial expression and attention detection, and virtual home button. "Apple accidentally released the firmware over the weekend resulting in a frenzy of analysis about previously unknown features," reports The Verge. From the report: Developers including Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo have been tweeting their findings, notably the discovery of the new iPhone's bezel-less screen design. They've also concluded that the resolution for the iPhone 8 could be as much of a visual leap forward from current-generation iPhones as the iPhone 4's Retina display was from the original iPhone. Apple is using codenames for both its face recognition feature and the bezel-less phone, called "Pearl ID" and "D22" respectively. A potential "attention detection" feature is also mentioned in the code, with some speculating that may mean the phone will remain silent for notifications if it knows you're looking at the screen already. Facial references such as "mouthstretch," "mouthsmile," and "mouthdimple" were also found, which are most likely a nod to Apple's rumored facial recognition feature that can even detect faces in the dark using infrared. A tap to wake feature has also been discovered, and should be similar to the Windows Phone function that allows users to double-tap the screen to wake the phone.
Android

Is the iPhone 'Years' Ahead of Android In Photography? (9to5mac.com) 408

Former Google senior vice president of Social, Vic Gundotra, said that Android phones are years behind the iPhone when it comes to photography. In a Facebook post, Gundotra said: "The end of the DSLR for most people has already arrived. I left my professional camera at home and took these shots at dinner with my iPhone 7 using computational photography (portrait mode as Apple calls it). Hard not to call these results (in a restaurant, taken on a mobile phone with no flash) stunning. Great job Apple." 9to5Mac reports: In response to a comment suggesting that the Samsung S8 camera was even better, Business Insider spotted that Gundotra disagreed. He said that not only was Apple way ahead of Samsung, but Android was to blame. From Gundotra's Facebook post: "I would never use an Android phone for photos! Here is the problem: It's Android. Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung gallery or Google Photos? It's because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera) they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API. That can take YEARS. Also the greatest innovation isn't even happening at the hardware level -- it's happening at the computational photography level. (Google was crushing this 5 years ago -- they had had 'auto awesome' that used AI techniques to automatically remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add vignetting, etc... but recently Google has fallen back). Apple doesn't have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it. Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don't mind being a few years behind, buy an Android."
Crime

Feds Crack Trump Protesters' Phones To Charge Them With Felony Rioting (thedailybeast.com) 465

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: Officials seized Trump protesters' cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration. Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20 that broke windows and damaged vehicles. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison, despite little evidence against them. But a new court filing reveals that investigators have been able to crack into at least eight defendants' locked cell phones. Now prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against the defendants in court. [A] July 21 court document shows that investigators were successful in opening the locked phones. The July 21 filing moved to enter evidence from eight seized phones, six of which were "encrypted" and two of which were not encrypted. A Department of Justice representative confirmed that "encrypted" meant additional privacy settings beyond a lock screen. For the six encrypted phones, investigators were able to compile "a short data report which identifies the phone number associated with the cell phone and limited other information about the phone itself," the filing says. But investigators appear to have bypassed the lock on the two remaining phones to access the entirety of their contents.
AI

Qualcomm Opens Its Mobile Chip Deep Learning Framework To All (techcrunch.com) 13

randomErr shares a report from TechCrunch: Mobile chip maker Qualcomm wants to enable deep learning-based software development on all kinds of devices, which is why it created the Neural Processing Engine (NPE) for its Snapdragon-series mobile processors. The NPE software development kit is now available to all via the Qualcomm Developer Network, which marks the first public release of the SDK, and opens up a lot of potential for AI computing on a range of devices, including mobile phones, in-car platforms and more. The purpose of the framework is to make possible UX implementations like style transfers and filters (basically what Snapchat and Facebook do with their mobile app cameras) with more accurate applications on user photos, as well as other functions better handled by deep learning algorithms, like scene detection, facial recognition, object tracking and avoidance, as well as natural language processing. Basically anything you'd normally route to powerful cloud servers for advanced process, but done locally on device instead.
Government

Travelers' Electronics At US Airports To Get Enhanced Screening, TSA Says (arstechnica.com) 151

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Aviation security officials will begin enhanced screening measures of passengers' electronics at US airports, the Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday. Travelers must remove electronics larger than a mobile phone from their carry-on bags and "place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image," the TSA announced amid growing fears that electronic devices can pose as homemade bombs. The TSA was quick to point out that the revised security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in the TSA Precheck program.

"Whether you're flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone," TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia said. "It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats."

Data Storage

Upcoming USB 3.2 Specification Will Double Data Rates Using Existing Cables (macrumors.com) 159

A new USB specification has been introduced today by the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which is comprised of Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and other companies. The new USB 3.2 specification will replace the existing 3.1 specification and will double data rates to 20Gbps using new wires available if your device embraces the newest USB hardware. Mac Rumors reports: An incremental update, USB 3.2 is designed to define multi-lane operation for USB 3.2 hosts and devices. USB Type-C cables already support multi-lane operation, and with USB 3.2, hosts and devices can be created as multi-lane solutions, allowing for either two lanes of 5Gb/s or two lanes of 10Gb/s operation. With support for two lanes of 10Gb/s transfer speeds, performance is essentially doubled over existing USB-C cables. As an example, the USB Promoter Group says a USB 3.2 host connected to a USB 3.2 storage device will be capable of 2GB/sec data transfer performance over a USB-C cable certified for USB SuperSpeed 10Gb/s USB 3.1, while also remaining backwards compatible with earlier USB devices. Along with two-lane operation, USB 3.2 continues to use SuperSpeed USB layer data rates and encoding techniques and will introduce a minor update to hub specifications for seamless transitions between single and two-lane operation.
Education

US Defense Budget May Help Fund 'Hacking For Defense' Classes At Universities (ieee.org) 34

According to an instructor at Stanford, eight universities in addition to Stanford will offer a Hacking for Defense class this year: Boise State, Columbia, Georgetown, James Madison, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Southern California, and the University of Southern Mississippi. IEEE Spectrum reports: The class has spun out Hacking for Diplomacy, Hacking for Energy, and other targeted classes that use the same methodology. The snowballing effort is now poised to get a big push. This month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment originated by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) to support development of curriculum, best practices, and recruitment materials for the program to the tune of $15 million (a drop in the $700 billion defense budget but a big deal for a university program). In arguing for the amendment, Lipinski said, "Rapid, low-cost technological innovation is what makes Silicon Valley revolutionary, but the DOD hasn't historically had the mechanisms in place to harness this American advantage. Hacking for Defense creates ways for talented scientists and engineers to work alongside veterans, military leaders, and business mentors to innovate solutions that make America safer."
China

China Forces Muslim Minority To Install Spyware On Their Phones (bleepingcomputer.com) 389

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Chinese authorities in the province of Xinjiang are forcing locals of the Uyghur Muslim minority to install an app on their phones that will allow the government to scan their device for "terrorist propaganda," local media reports. In reality, the app creates MD5 hashes for the user's files and matches them against a database of known terrorist content. The app also makes copies of the user's Weibo and WeChat databases and uploads it to a government server, along with the user's IMEI, IMSI, and WiFi login information. The app is called Jingwang (Citizen Safety) and was developed by police forces from Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. Authorities launched the app in April, and also included the ability to report suspicious activity to the police. At the start of July, Xinjiang officials started sending WeChat messages in Uyghur and Chinese to locals, asking them to install the app or face detainment of up to 10 days. Police have also stopped people on the street to check if they installed the app. Several were detained for refusing to install it. Locals are now sharing the locations of checkpoints online, so others can avoid getting arrested.
Medicine

Global Network of Labs Will Test Security of Medical Devices (securityledger.com) 50

chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Amid increasing concerns about cyber threats to healthcare environments, a global network of labs will test the security of medical devices, according to an announcement on Monday by a consortium of healthcare industry firms, universities and technology firms, The Security Ledger reports. The "World Health Information Security Testing Labs (or "WHISTL") will adopt a model akin to the Underwriters Laboratory, which started out testing electrical devices, and focus on issues related to cyber security and privacy, helping medical device makers "address the public health challenges" created by connected health devices and complex, connected healthcare environments, according to a statement by The Medical Device Innovation, Safety and Security Consortium. "MDISS WHISTL facilities will dramatically improve access to medical device security know-how while protecting patient privacy and the intellectual property of our various stakeholders," said Dr. Nordenberg, MD, Executive Director of MDISS.

The labs will be one of the only independent, open and non-profit network of labs specifically designed for the needs of medical field, including medical device designers, hospital IT, and clinical engineering professionals. Experts will assess the security of medical devices using standards and specifications designed by testing organizations like Underwriters Labs. Evaluations will include application security testing like "fuzzing," static code analysis and penetration testing of devices. Any vulnerabilities found will be reported directly to manufacturers in accordance with best practices, and publicly disclosed to the international medical device vulnerability database (MDVIPER) which is maintained by MDISS and the National Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (NH-ISAC). The group says it plans for 10 new device testing labs by the end of the year including in the U.S. in states like New York to Indiana, Tennessee and California and outside North America in the UK, Israel, Finland, and Singapore. The WHISTL facilities will work with Underwriters Labs as well as AAMI, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. Specifically, MDISS labs will base its work on the UL Cybersecurity Assurance Program specifications (UL CAP) and follow testing standards developed by both groups including the UL 2900 and AAMI 80001 standards.

Android

Some OnePlus 5s Are Reportedly Rebooting After Dialing 911 (theverge.com) 59

The OnePlus 5, dubbed "the best sub-$500 phone you can buy" when it launched, is having a few problems. Earlier this month, some owners of the new device complained about a weird jelly-like effect that appears when scrolling through apps. OnePlus went on to claim that the effect is normal and not the result of any manufacturing issues. Now, a handful of users are reporting that the OnePlus 5 will reboot itself once 911 is called, preventing them from reaching emergency services. The Verge reports: Reddit user Nick Morrelli noticed the glitch after he tried to call 911 to report a building fire in Seattle, and other users have reported that the OnePlus 5 is unable to dial 911 (or 999 in the UK, as another user reported) without rebooting. While most users haven't reported having the issue, any percentage of devices not being able to reach emergency services is a major issue for OnePlus. In a statement to The Verge, OnePlus says it's looking into the problem. "We have contacted the customer and are currently looking into the issue. We ask anyone experiencing a similar situation to contact us at support@oneplus.net."
Bug

Flaw In IoT Security Cameras Leaves Millions of Devices Open To Hackers (vice.com) 53

New submitter Aliciadivo writes: A nasty vulnerability found in Axis security cameras could allow hackers to take full control of several types of Internet of Things devices, and in some cases, software programs, too. The Senrio research team found that devices and software programs using an open source software library called gSOAP to enable their product to communicate to the internet could be affected. Stephen Ridley, founder of Senrio, said: "I bet you all these other manufacturers have the same vulnerability throughout their product lines as well. It's a vulnerability in virtually every IoT device [...] Every kind of device you can possibly think of." A spokesperson for ONVIF, an electronics industry consortium that includes Axis and has includes some members that use gSOAP, said it has notified its members of the flaw, but it's not "up to each member to handle this in the way they best see fit." Also, gSOAP "is not in any way mandated by the ONVIF specifications, but as SOAP is the base for the ONVIF API, it is possible that ONVIF members would be affected." Hundreds of thousands of devices might be affected, as a search for the term "Axis" on Shodan, an engine that scours the internet for vulnerable devices, returns around 14,000 results. You can view Senrio Labs' video on the exploit (which they refer to as the "Devil's Ivy Exploit") here.
Privacy

Amazon May Give Developers Your Private Alexa Transcripts (engadget.com) 166

According to The Information, Amazon may give developers access to your private Alexa audio recordings. Until now, Amazon has not given third-party developers access to what you say to the voice assistant, while Google has with its Google Home speaker. Engadget reports: So far, Alexa developers can only see non-identifying information, like the number of times you use a specific skill, how many times you talk to your Echo device and your location data. The Information reports that some developers have heard from Amazon representatives about more access to actual transcripts, though how and how much wasn't discovered. If developers knew what exactly is being said to their skills, they could make adjustments based on specific information.
Iphone

Would You Buy the iPhone 8 If It Cost $1,200? (9to5mac.com) 561

As we near the launch of the next iPhone, rumors are swirling about what it may feature. One of the most recent reports comes from developer and blogger John Gruber, who claims the iPhone 8 will have a starting price of around $1200. 9to5Mac reports: He last week said that he believed that what we've been referring to as the iPhone 8 would be called the iPhone Pro and that he actually hoped it would be really expensive: "I hope the iPhone Pro starts at $1500 or higher. I'd like to see what Apple can do in a phone with a higher price." As you might imagine, that generated quite a bit of discussion. Gruber has backed down somewhat from this position, and is now suggesting a starting point of around $1200: "$1,500 as a starting price is probably way too high. But I think $1,200 is quite likely as the starting price, with the high-end model at $1,300 or $1,400." His argument is effectively that Apple is constrained in what it can do in a phone because any technology included in the phone has to be available in huge volumes. If it were willing to sell fewer at a higher price, then it would have more options. There has been speculation that Gruber may have been tipped by Apple, and using his posts to prepare the ground for what would otherwise be a severe case of sticker shock. But Gruber denied this. If Apple does launch the iPhone 8 with a 4-figure price tag, would you buy it?
Medicine

New Study Finds How Much Sleep Fitbit Users Really Get 75

Fitbit has published the results of a study that uses their longitudinal sleep database to analyze millions of nights of Sleep Stages data to determine how age, gender, and duration affect sleep quality. (Sleep Stages is a relatively new Fitbit feature that "uses motion detection and heart rate variability to estimate the amount of time users spend awake in light, deep, and REM sleep each night.") Here are the findings: The average Fitbit user is in bed for 7 hours and 33 minutes but only gets 6 hours and 38 minutes of sleep. The remaining 55 minutes is spent restless or awake. That may seem like a lot, but it's actually pretty common. That said, 6 hours and 38 minutes is still shy of the 7+ hours the the CDC recommends adults get. For the second year in a row Fitbit data scientists found women get about 25 minutes more sleep on average each night compared to men. The percentage of time spent in each sleep stage was also similar -- until you factor in age. Fitbit data shows that men get a slightly higher percentage of deep sleep than women until around age 55 when women take the lead. Women win when it comes to REM, logging an average of 10 more minutes per night than men. Although women tend to average more REM than men over the course of their lifetime, the gap appears to widen around age 50.
Security

WikiLeaks Dump Reveals CIA Malware For Tracking Windows Devices Via WiFi Networks (bleepingcomputer.com) 85

WikiLeaks has published the documentation manual for an alleged CIA tool that can track users of Wi-Fi-capable Windows devices based on the Extended Service Set (ESS) data of nearby Wi-Fi networks. According to the tool's 42-page manual, the tool's name is ELSA. Bleeping Computer has an image embedded in its report that explains how the tool works. There are six steps that summarize the ELSA operation. Bleeping Computer reports: Step 1: CIA operative configures ELSA implant (malware) based on a target's environment. This is done using a tool called the "PATCHER wizard," which generates the ELSA payload, a simple DLL file.
Step 2: CIA operative deploys ELSA implant on target's Wi-Fi-enabled Windows machine. Because ELSA is an implant (malware), the CIA operator will likely have to use other CIA hacking tools and exploits to place the malware on a victim's PC.
Step 3: The implant begins collecting Wi-Fi access point information based on the schedule set by the operator. Data collection can happen even if the user is disconnected from a Wi-Fi network.
Step 4: When the target user connects to the Internet, ELSA will take the collected Wi-Fi data and query a third-party database for geolocation information.
Step 5: The CIA operative connects to the target's computer and fetches the ELSA log. This is done via the tools that allowed the operator to place ELSA on his system, or through other tools.
Step 6: The operator decrypts the log and performs further analysis on their target. Optionally, he can use the collected WiFi data to query alternate EES geo-location databases, if he feels they provide a better accuracy.

Government

US Imposes Stricter Security Screenings At Foreign Airports, But Won't Expand Laptop Ban Yet (theverge.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The United States will require foreign airports to implement stricter security practices and screenings for any passengers headed to the U.S. John Kelly, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, announced today that the new measures were being put in place. Though he didn't go into specifics, Kelly said the new requirements would include further screenings of electronics, more thorough vetting of passengers, and measures meant to stop "insider attacks." The U.S. is also encouraging the use of more bomb-detecting dogs, "advanced checkpoint screening technology," and the addition of "preclearance" locations, which station U.S. customs officers overseas, allowing them to screen passengers before boarding instead of after they land. One thing Kelly didn't announce was an expansion of the tablet and laptop ban, which is currently in effect on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. If airports don't comply with the new screening rules, Kelly said, they may be subject to additional electronics bans. But for the time being, it sounds like the ban will be kept to those 10 locations. According to Reuters, airlines have 21 days to comply with the new rules for explosives screenings and four months to comply with everything else.
Businesses

Samsung Plans To Open $380 Million Home Appliance Plant In US, Creating Almost 1,000 Jobs (cnbc.com) 65

Samsung Electronics has agreed to open a $380 million home appliance manufacturing plant in Newberry County, South Carolina. The new plant is expected to generate 954 local jobs by 2020. CNBC reports: The South Korean firm said this year it was in talks to build a home appliances plant in the United States amid worries about protectionist policies under U.S. President Donald Trump put pressure on global companies to generate jobs in the country. "With this investment, Samsung is reaffirming its commitment to expanding its U.S. operations and deepening our connection to the American consumers, engineers and innovators," Samsung Electronics America President and CEO Tim Baxter said.
Google

Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Question Than Amazon Alexa (adweek.com) 64

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.
AI

Apple Is Working On a Dedicated Chip To Power AI On Devices (bloomberg.com) 49

According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks. "The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company's devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence -- such as facial recognition and speech recognition," reports Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter. From the report: Engineers at Apple are racing to catch their peers at Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. in the booming field of artificial intelligence. While Siri gave Apple an early advantage in voice-recognition, competitors have since been more aggressive in deploying AI across their product lines, including Amazon's Echo and Google's Home digital assistants. An AI-enabled processor would help Cupertino, California-based Apple integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run augmented reality, the technology that superimposes graphics and other information onto a person's view of the world. Apple devices currently handle complex artificial intelligence processes with two different chips: the main processor and the graphics chip. The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed specifically for demanding artificial intelligence processing, allowing Apple to improve battery performance.
Facebook

Facebook's Instant Articles Platform To Support Google AMP, Apple News (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: One of the problems publishers face today in making their content more readable on mobile devices is that there are multiple, competing formats available for this purpose. Facebook has Instant Articles, Google is spearheading the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, and the Apple News Format optimizes content for iOS devices. Facebook is today taking a crack at a solution to this problem by rolling out support for both AMP and soon Apple News as a part of its open source Instant Articles software development kit. The updated SDK will now include an extension that lets publishers build content that's publishable in all three formats, beginning with support for Google's AMP in addition to Facebook's own Instant Articles. In the weeks ahead it will also include support for publishing to Apple News, though the company didn't provide an exact launch date for when that feature would be added.
Android

Amazon Refreshes Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Tablets (betanews.com) 28

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Amazon's tablets have needed a refresh for a while now, and today it happened. The company announced two newly updated models -- the Fire 7 ($49) and the Fire HD 8 ($79). They both feature Alexa support, of course, and are designed for a quality experience with all types of media, such as movies, music, and books. The 7-inch has a 1024 x 600 resolution, while the 8-inch variant has 1280 x 800. Best of all, they are extremely affordable. At these insanely low prices, you might expect anemic performance, but both come with a respectable Quad-core 1.3 GHz processor. The Fire 7 has 1GB of RAM, while the HD 8 has 1.5GB. Regardless of which model you select, you will also get both front and rear cameras. The low cost might make you think they will be cheaply made, but Amazon claims they are more durable than Apple's newest iPad.
Android

Google's 'Project Treble' Could Lead To Faster Android Updates (arstechnica.com) 83

Thelasko quotes a report from Ars Technica: Ahead of Google I/O, Google has just dropped a bombshell of a blog post that promises, for real this time, that it is finally doing something about Android's update problems. "Project Treble" is a plan to modularize the Android OS, separating the OS framework code from "vendor specific" hardware code. In theory, this change would allow for a new Android update to be flashed on a device without any involvement from the silicon vendor. Google calls it "the biggest change to the low-level system architecture of Android to date," and it's already live on the Google Pixel's Android O Developer Preview. This is not a magic bullet that will solve all of Android's update problems, however. After an update is released, Google lists three steps to creating an Android update:

1. Silicon manufacturers (Qualcomm, Samsung Exynos, etc) "modify the new release for their specific hardware" and do things like make sure drivers and power management will still work.
2. OEMs (Samsung, LG, HTC) step in and "modify the new release again as needed for their devices." This means making sure all the hardware works, rebranding Android with a custom skin, adding OEM apps, and modifying core parts of the Android OS to add special features like (before 7.0) multi-window support.
3. Carriers add more apps, more branding, and "test and certify the new release."

AI

Amazon Leak Exposes Echo AI Device With Touch Display and FireOS (hothardware.com) 36

MojoKid writes: Today, an image of what could be a touch-screen Amazon Echo device has emerged. Like the earlier Echo Look leak, the image of the device was found on Amazon's servers, just waiting to be discovered. The new Echo device is reportedly codenamed "Knight" and will be revealed later this month. It will also take its place as the flagship of the Echo family, likely surpassing the $179.99 MSRP of the original Alexa-powered AI speaker. It should be noted that the image leak lines up with previous reports we've seen regarding a so-called flagship Echo device. Late last year, we learned that the device would feature a 7-inch touch screen, and that it would have integrated speakers that are superior to those in the original Echo. There's even a built-in camera at the top of the device, which could be useful for video conferencing. It was also mentioned that the Echo device will run Amazon's FireOS and respond to verbal commands and spoken questions, just like current Alexa devices. Amazon is also reportedly testing a feature that allows users to pin items such as photos on their speaker's screen akin to physically placing items on a "refrigerator door."
Iphone

The Apple Watch Outsold Every Other Wearable Last Quarter (engadget.com) 109

According to Strategy Analytics, Apple has shipped 3.5 million wearables in the first quarter of 2017, which is 59 percent higher than the 2.2 million devices it did in the same period last year. Engadget reports: Cupertino captured 16 percent of the global marketshare and stole the wearables crown from Fitbit, which had a much less stellar quarter. Fitbit only shipped 2.9 million devices in Q1, 36 percent less than the 4.5 million units it moved in the first quarter of 2016. Even Xiaomi sold more devices, putting the beleaguered wearables-maker in third place. Those results are consistent with Apple's latest earnings report. The company said its Watch and TV sales jumped up 31 percent year-over-year, and head honcho Tim Cook said Watch sales have nearly doubled since last year. Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics executive director, said Apple's Watch Series 2 has been selling well "due to enhanced styling, intensive marketing and a good retail presence." Were you one of the 3.5 million customers who purchased an Apple Watch in the first quarter of 2017? If so, how do you like Apple's approach to wearables?
The Internet

US ISP Goes Down As Two Malware Families Go To War Over Its Modems (bleepingcomputer.com) 93

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Bleeping Computer: Two malware families battling for turf are most likely the cause of an outage suffered by Californian ISP Sierra Tel at the beginning of the month, on April 10. The attack, which the company claimed was a "malicious hacking event," was the work of BrickerBot, an IoT malware family that bricks unsecured IoT and networking devices. "BrickerBot was active on the Sierra Tel network at the time their customers reported issues," Janit0r told Bleeping Computer in an email, "but their modems had also just been mass-infected with malware, so it's possible some of the network problems were caused by this concomitant activity." The crook, going by Janit0r, tried to pin some of the blame on Mirai, but all the clues point to BrickerBot, as Sierra Tel had to replace bricked modems altogether, or ask customers to bring in their modems at their offices to have them reset and reinstalled. Mirai brought down over 900,000 Deutsche Telekom modems last year, but that outage was fixed within hours with a firmware update. All the Sierra Tel modems bricked in this incident were Zyxel HN-51 models, and it took Sierra Tel almost two weeks to fix all bricked devices.
Botnet

BrickerBot, the Permanent Denial-of-Service Botnet, Is Back With a Vengeance (arstechnica.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: BrickerBot, the botnet that permanently incapacitates poorly secured Internet of Things devices before they can be conscripted into Internet-crippling denial-of-service armies, is back with a new squadron of foot soldiers armed with a meaner arsenal of weapons. Pascal Geenens, the researcher who first documented what he calls the permanent denial-of-service botnet, has dubbed the fiercest new instance BrickerBot.3. It appeared out of nowhere on April 20, exactly one month after BrickerBot.1 first surfaced. Not only did BrickerBot.3 mount a much quicker number of attacks -- with 1,295 attacks coming in just 15 hours -- it used a modified attack script that added several commands designed to more completely shock and awe its targets. BrickerBot.1, by comparison, fired 1,895 volleys during the four days it was active, and the still-active BrickerBot.2 has spit out close to 12 attacks per day. Shortly after BrickerBot.3 began attacking, Geenens discovered BrickerBot.4. Together, the two newly discovered instances have attempted to attack devices in the research honeypot close to 1,400 times in less than 24 hours. Like BrickerBot.1, the newcomer botnets are made up of IoT devices running an outdated version of the Dropbear SSH server with public, geographically dispersed IP addresses. Those two characteristics lead Geenens to suspect the attacking devices are poorly secured IoT devices themselves that someone has compromised and used to permanently take out similarly unsecured devices. Geenens, of security firm Radware, has more details here.

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