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.
Botnet

Developer of BrickerBot Malware Claims He Destroyed Over Two Million Devices (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: In an interview today, the author of BrickerBot, a malware that bricks IoT and networking devices, claimed he destroyed over 2 million devices, but he never intended to do so in the first place. His intentions were to fight the rising number of IoT botnets that were used to launch DDoS attacks last year, such as Gafgyt and Mirai. He says he created BrickerBot with 84 routines that try to secure devices so they can't be taken over by Mirai and other malware. Nevertheless, he realized that some devices are so badly designed that he could never protect them. He says that for these, he created a "Plan B," which meant deleting the device's storage, effectively bricking the device. His identity was revealed after a reporter received an anonymous tip about a HackForum users claiming he was destroying IoT devices since last November, just after BrickerBot appeared. When contacted, BrickerBot's author revealed that the malware is a personal project which he calls "Internet Chemotherapy" and he's "the doctor" who will kill all the cancerous unsecured IoT devices.
Software

New Approach To Virtual Reality Shocks You Into Believing Walls Are Real (vice.com) 59

A team of researchers from Germany's Hasso-Plattner Institute is trying to find an effective way to trick the mind into thinking a virtual object or wall is real. They have developed a new device that "sends little electric shocks to sensors on your arms that stimulate your muscles whenever you press against a wall or try to lift a heavy object in virtual reality," reports Motherboard. From the report: The team's main goal was to create this illusion as cheaply as possible. Their contraption, seen in the video above, consists of little more than an electric muscle stimulator stuffed in a backpack, the sensors, and a Samsung GearVR device accompanied by motion trackers. In other words, if you've been turned off by the clunky headsets of the contemporary VR experience, this probably won't do much to win you over.
Medicine

Scientists Win $2.6 Million For Star Trek Tricorder Device (vocativ.com) 44

The Qualcomm Foundation, along with the XPRIZE Foundation, "announced the winning team of its nearly four-year-long global competition to develop a functional, easily usable tricorder," reports Vocativ. The Pennsylvania-based Final Frontier Medical Devices team was the first place winner, receiving the top prize of $2.6 million, while Boston-based Dynamical Biomarkers nabbed $1 million. From the report: Led by Dr. Basil Harris, a Philadelphia emergency room physician, the team was mostly made out of family and friends Harris coaxed into volunteering their free time on the weekend. By contrast, Dynamical Biomarkers had 50 scientists and programmers, mostly paid, and was sponsored by the Taiwanese government and Taiwan-based cellphone company HTC. The device kit developed by Final Frontier, called DxtER, uses non-invasive sensors that collect data from the user and combines that with an AI frontloaded with information in the field of clinical emergency medicine to come with a diagnosis. The device currently operates on an iPad tablet, but future versions should work equally fine on a smartphone as well. The device, ideally, would allow patients to then send their readings to their doctors so they could collaborate on their health care. According to an interview Harris held with the Washington Post, DxtER can diagnose up to 34 medical conditions in its present design. The device developed by Dynamical Biomarkers could reach up to 50, team leader and Harvard Medical School professor Chung-Kang Peng, told the Post, given it surpasses the five-pound weight limit imposed by the competition guidelines.
Cellphones

Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time (independent.co.uk) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."
Advertising

Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 606

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.
Operating Systems

Microsoft Confirms Only a Handful of Windows Phones Will Receive Windows 10 Creators Update (zdnet.com) 46

Windows Phone has less than a 1 percent market share in the mobile industry, but it is not completely dead, yet. In fact, if you own a relatively new Windows Phone, it may receive a new update that will give new life to it. Microsoft has confirmed today that only a subset of Windows Phone handsets will be getting the Windows 10 Creators Update when it begins rolling out on April 25. ZDNet reports: [Here's] Microsoft's list of supported phones: Alcatel IDOL 4S; Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL; HP Elite x3; Lenovo Softbank 503LV; MCJ Madosma Q601; Microsoft Lumia 550; Microsoft Lumia 640/640XL; Microsoft; Lumia 650; Microsoft Lumia 950/950 XL; Trinity NuAns Neo; VAIO VPB051. "Devices not on this list will not officially receive the Windows 10 Creators Update nor will they receive any future builds from our Development Branch that we release as part of the Windows Insider Program. However, Windows Insiders who have devices not on this list can still keep these devices on the Windows 10 Creators Update at their own risk knowing that it's unsupported," said Windows Insider chief Dona Sarkar in today's blog post. Microsoft attributed the short list of support phones to Insider feedback that indicated older phones might not be providing "the best possible experience" for customers. Microsoft also released a Fast Ring test build of Windows 10 Mobile for phones to Fast Ring Insiders today. That build number is 15204 and it includes a number of bug fixes. This is the first Redstone 3 build for Windows Phones. It's only available to Insider phone users of handsets that are on the list above.
Medicine

FDA Slams St. Jude Medical For Ignoring Security Flaws In Medical Devices (securityledger.com) 30

chicksdaddy quotes a report from The Security Ledger: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a letter of warning to medical device maker Abbott on Wednesday, slamming the company for what it said was a pattern of overlooking security and reliability problems in its implantable medical devices at its St. Jude Medical division and describing a range of the company's devices as "adulterated," in violation of the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Security Ledger reports. In a damning warning letter, the FDA said that St. Jude Medical knew about serious security flaws in its implantable medical devices as early as 2014, but failed to address them with software updates or by replacing those devices. The government found that St. Jude, time and again, failed to adhere to internal security and product quality guidelines, a lapse that resulted in at least one patient death. St. Jude Medical, which is now wholly owned by the firm Abbott, learned of serious and exploitable security holes in the company's "high voltage and peripheral devices" in an April, 2014 "third party assessment" commissioned by the company. But St. Jude "failed to accurately incorporate the findings of that assessment" in subsequent risk assessments for the affected products, including Merlin@home, a home-based wireless transmitter that is used to provide remote care for patients with implanted cardiac devices, the FDA revealed. Among the security flaws: a "hardcoded universal unlock code" for the company's implantable, high voltage devices. The report casts doubt on a defamation lawsuit St. Jude filed against the firm MedSec Holdings Ltd over its August, 2016 report that warned of widespread security flaws in St. Jude products, including Merlin@home. The MedSec report on St. Judes technology was released in conjunction with a report by the investment firm Muddy Waters Research, which specializes in taking "short" positions on firms. At the time, MedSec said that the security of the company's medical devices and support software was "grossly inadequate compared with other leading manufacturers," and represents "unnecessary health risks and should receive serious notice among hospitals, regulators, physicians and cardiac patients." St. Judes has called the MedSec allegations false, but it now appears that the company had heard similar warnings raised by its own third-party security auditor more than a year prior.
Cellphones

Researchers Develop Master Fingerprints That Can Break Into Smartphones (digitaltrends.com) 29

Researchers at New York University and Michigan State University have recently found that the fingerprint sensor on your phone is not as safe as you think. "The team has developed a set of fake fingerprints that are digital composites of common features found in many people's fingerprints," reports Digital Trends. "Through computer simulations, they were able to achieve matches 65 percent of the time, though they estimate the scheme would be less successful in real life, on an actual phone." From the report: Nasir Memon, a computer science and engineering professor at New York University, explained the value of the study to The New York Times. Modern smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices that utilize biometric authentication typically only take a snapshots of sections of a user's finger, to compose a model of one fingerprint. But the chances of faking your way into someone else's phone are much higher if there are multiple fingerprints recorded on that device. "It's as if you have 30 passwords and the attacker only has to match one," Memon said. The professor, who was one of three authors on the study, theorized that if it were possible to create a glove with five different composite fingerprints, the attacker would likely be successful with about half of their attempts. For the record, Apple reported to the Times that the chance of a false match through the iPhone's TouchID system is 1 in 50,000 with only one fingerprint recorded.
Advertising

Burger King Runs Ad Triggering Google Home Devices; Google Shuts It Down (theverge.com) 191

Burger King unveiled a new advertisement earlier today designed to trigger users' Google Home devices. The ad specifically used the Google Home trigger phrase "Okay, Google" to ask "What is the Whopper burger?," thus triggering the Google Assistant to read off the top result from Wikipedia. But less than three hours after Burger King launched the ad, Google disabled the functionality. The Verge reports: As of 2:45PM ET, Google Home will no longer respond when prompted by the specific Burger King commercial that asks "What is the Whopper burger?" It does, however, still respond with the top result from Wikipedia when someone else (i.e., a real user) other than the advertisement asks the same question. Google has likely registered the sound clip from the ad to disable unwanted Home triggers, as it does with its own Google Home commercials.

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