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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

AI

New Long-Range RFID Technology Helps Robots Find Household Objects 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the follow-the-signal dept.
HizookRobotics writes Georgia Tech researchers announced a new way robots can "sense" their surroundings through the use of small ultra-high frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID) tags. Inexpensive self-adhesive tags can be stuck on objects, allowing an RFID-equipped robot to search a room for the correct tag's signal, even when the object is hidden out of sight. Once the tag is detected, the robot knows the object it's trying to find isn't far away. The researchers' methods, summarized over at IEEE: "The robot goes to the spot where it got the hottest signal from the tag it was looking for, zeroing in on it based on the signal strength that its shoulder antennas are picking up: if the right antenna is getting a stronger signal, the robot yaws right, and vice versa."
Iphone

Friendly Reminder: Do Not Place Your iPhone In a Microwave 240

Posted by samzenpus
from the bad-ideas dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Placing your iPhone in the microwave will destroy the phone, and possibly the microwave. While that might seem obvious to some people, others have fallen for the "Wave" hoax making its way around online. The fake advertisement insists that the new iOS 8 allows users to charge their iPhones by placing them in a "household microwave for a minute and a half." Microwave energy will not charge your smartphone. To the contrary, it will scorch the device and render it inoperable. If you nuke your smartphone and subsequently complain about it online, people will probably make fun of you. (If you want a full list of things not to place in a microwave, no matter how pretty the flames, check this out.)
IOS

Ask Slashdot: Is iOS 8 a Pig? 504

Posted by timothy
from the not-intended-to-denigrate-pigs dept.
kyjellyfish writes I've been using iOS 8 for several days and aside from a few gimmicks and add-ons that attempt to achieve parity with Android, my experience has been overwhelmingly unsatisfactory. My chief complaint is that the vast majority of my apps are slow to boot and noticeably sluggish in operation. I want to point out that all of these apps have been "upgraded" specifically for iOS 8 compatibility. Previous operating system upgrades have been relatively seamless, so I'm asking whether other slashdotters have experienced this degraded performance.
Upgrades

Why the iPhone 6 Has the Same Base Memory As the iPhone 5 261

Posted by timothy
from the enough-is-enough-for-anybody dept.
Lucas123 writes When the iPhone 5 was launched two years ago, the base $199 (with wireless plan) model came with 16GB of flash memory. Fast forward to this week when the iPhone 6 was launched with the same capacity. Now consider that the cost of 16GB of NAND flash has dropped by more than 13% over the past two years. So why would Apple increase capacity on its $299 model iPhone 6 to 64GB (eliminating the 32GB model), but but keep the 16GB in the $199 model? The answer may lie in the fact that the 16GB iPhone is, and has been, by far the best selling model. IHS analyst Fang Zhang believes Apple is using that to push users to its iCloud storage service. Others believe restricting storage capacity allows Apple to afford the new features, like NFC and biometrics.
Android

Android Apps Now Unofficially Able To Run On Any Major Desktop OS 101

Posted by timothy
from the crash-early-and-often dept.
An anonymous reader writes A developer who goes by the handle Vladikoff has tweaked Google's App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) to allow any Android app to run on any major desktop operating system, not just the handful announced last week which were also limited to Chrome OS. His tweaked version of ARC is re-packaged as ARChon. The install isn't very straightforward, and you have to be in developer mode on Chrome. But there's a support forum on reddit. The extension will work on any OS running the desktop version of Chrome 37 and up as long as the user also installs chromeos-apk, which converts raw Android app packages (APKs) to a Chrome extension. Ars Technica reports that apps run this way are buggy, fast, and crash often but expresses optimism for when Google officially "opens the floodgates on the Play Store, putting 1.3 million Android apps onto nearly every platform."
Handhelds

Intel Putting 3D Scanners In Consumer Tablets Next Year, Phones To Follow 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the make-me-a-tricorder dept.
Zothecula writes: Intel has been working on a 3D scanner small enough to fit in the bezel of even the thinnest tablets. The company aims to have the technology in tablets from 2015, with CEO Brian Krzanich telling the crowd at MakerCon in New York on Thursday that he hopes to put the technology in phones as well.
China

Inside Shenzen's Grey-Market iPhone Mall 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the saving-differently dept.
jfruh writes Despite being largely manufactured in China, iPhones are still too expensive for most Chinese to afford — new ones, anyway. That's why thousands come to a bustling marketplace in Shenzen that specializes in older grey-market iPhones. Many of them are damaged phones that have been refurbished by enterprising merchants. From the story: "Reselling iPhones can be a lucrative business. The Shenzen mall, called Open World Communication City, is based in the Huaqiangbei district, which attracts buyers from around the world who come here to shop for cheap devices and components. But some of the business is shady. Earlier this year, a person who claimed to have worked at the mall posted pictures online showing how dealers can refurbish an iPhone 5 to make it look like an 5s."
Encryption

Next Android To Enable Local Encryption By Default Too, Says Google 126

Posted by timothy
from the keep-it-to-yourself-bub dept.
An anonymous reader writes The same day that Apple announced that iOS 8 will encrypt device data with a local code that is not shared with Apple, Google has pointed out that Android already offers the same feature as a user option and that the next version will enable it by default. The announcements by both major cell phone [operating system makers] underscores a new emphasis on privacy in the wake of recent government surveillance revelations in the U.S. At the same time, it leaves unresolved the tension between security and convenience when both companies' devices are configured to upload user content to iCloud and Google+ servers for backup and synchronization across devices, servers and content to which Apple and Google do have access.
Crime

London's Crime Hot Spots Predicted Using Mobile Phone Data 64

Posted by timothy
from the gotta-get-my-car-out-of-this-bad-area dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes A growing number of police forces around the world are using data on past crimes to predict the likelihood of crimes in the future. These predictions can be made more accurate by combining crime data with local demographic data about the local population. However, this data is time consuming and expensive to collect and so only updated rarely. Now a team of data experts have shown how combing crime data with data collected from mobile phones can make the prediction of future crimes even more accurate. The team used an anonymised dataset of O2 mobile phone users in the London metropolitan area during December 2012 and January 2013. They then used a small portion of the data to train a machine learning algorithm to find correlations between this and local crime statistics in the same period. Finally, they used the trained algorithm to predict future crime rates in the same areas. Without the mobile phone data, the predictions have an accuracy of 62 per cent. But the phone data increases this accuracy significantly to almost 70 per cent. What's more, the data is cheap to collect and can be gathered in more or less real time. Whether the general population would want their data used in this way is less clear but either way Minority Report-style policing is looking less far-fetched than when the film appeared in 2002.
Iphone

Apple Locks iPhone 6/6+ NFC To Apple Pay Only 335

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-our-way dept.
Ronin Developer writes From the Cnet article: "At last week's Apple event, the company announced Apple Pay — a new mobile payments service that utilizes NFC technology in conjunction with its Touch ID fingerprint scanner for secure payments that can be made from the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch. Apple also announced a number of retailers that would accept Apple Pay for mobile payments at launch. However, Cult of Mac reports that NFC will be locked to the Apple Pay platform, meaning the technology will not be available for other uses. An Apple spokesperson confirmed the lock down of the technology, saying developers would be restricted from utilizing its NFC chip functionality for at least a year. Apple declined to comment on whether NFC capability would remain off limits beyond that period." So, it would appear, for at least a year, that Apple doesn't want competing mobile payment options to be available on the newly released iPhone 6 and 6+. While it's understandable that they want to promote their payment scheme and achieve a critical mass for Apple Pay, it's a strategy that may very well backfire as other other mobile payment vendors gain strength on competing platforms.
Communications

Scientists Twist Radio Beams To Send Data At 32 Gigabits Per Second 122

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
concertina226 writes Scientists from three international universities have succeeded in twisting radio beams in order to transfer data at the speed of 32 gigabits per second, which is 30 times faster than 4G LTE wireless technology in use today. The researchers, led by Alan Willner, an electrical engineering professor with the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, successfully demonstrated data transmission rates of 32 gigabits per second across 2.5m of free space in a basement laboratory.
IOS

iOS 8 Review 216

Posted by Soulskill
from the fewer-syllables,-much-more-divisible-by-two dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Apple is releasing iOS 8 today, and Ars Technica has posted one of their huge, thorough reviews of the updated operating system. They have this to say about the UI: "iOS 8 tries to fit a whole lot more stuff onto a single screen than iOS 7 did. The operating system was clearly developed in anticipation of iPhones with larger screens." The biggest new feature is Extensions: "Older versions of iOS limited what third-party applications could do to communicate with external services and other third-party applications. ... Extensions remove some (but not all) of those barriers." The biggest examples of extensions are custom keyboards, a feature iOS users have been requesting for years. Downsides to iOS 8 include increased storage and processing requirements, which are bad news for older iPhones, and a host of new bugs associated with the new features.
Cellphones

Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos 425

Posted by Soulskill
from the truthiness-in-advertising dept.
Sockatume writes: If you've been browsing Apple's site leading up to the iPhone 6 launch, you might've noticed something a little odd. Apple has edited the handset's protruding camera out of every single side-on view of the phone. (The camera is, necessarily, retained for images showing the back of the device.) The absence is particularly conspicuous given the number of side views Apple uses to emphasize the device's thinness.
Communications

Browser To Facilitate Text Browsing In Emergencies 40

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-want-to-upgrade-flash-now dept.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Programmers at Fast Company are developing the Cosmos browser to allow text browsing from Android phones when networks are buckling under the load of local disasters. A common phenomenon when disaster strikes is the overloading of cell and data networks by massively increased traffic. The Cosmos browser is intended to facilitate using SMS text messages, which often still get through in such circumstances. To quote one developer, "We want this to be a way for people to get information when they're in dire need of it." Sort of a Lynx comes to Android affair. The Smithsonian contemplates the possibilities, here."
China

Chinese City Sets Up "No Cell Phone" Pedestrian Lanes 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-your-right dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too caught up in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going. "There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cell phone may cause unnecessary collisions here," said Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district's property management company. However, she clarified that the initiative was meant to be a satirical way to highlight the dangers of texting and walking.
Google

Google's Android One Initiative Launches In India With Three $100 Phones 50

Posted by samzenpus
from the cheap-at-twice-the-price dept.
An anonymous reader writes Google has unveiled its first set of Android One low-cost smartphones in the Indian market, partnering with Indian hardware vendors Spice, Micromax and Karbonn. The three phones will be available online on Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal and via Reliance Digital, Croma and The Mobile Store, offline. The phones provide a minimum set of features determined by Google, which has sourced several of the components to help cut manufacturing costs. The company has also teamed up with a local network to make it cheaper to download Android updates and new apps.
Iphone

Sapphire Glass Didn't Pass iPhone Drop Test According to Reports 207

Posted by samzenpus
from the trying-something-different dept.
SternisheFan notes reports about why Apple didn't use sapphire glass screens in the latest iPhones as many expected. Sapphire screens were part of the iPhone 6 design until the glass repeatedly cracked during standard drop tests conducted by Apple suppliers. So Apple abandoned its sapphire plans before the iPhone 6 product launch September 9. VentureBeat has learned that recent supplier channel checks by an IDC analyst yielded several reports of the sapphire failures and Apple's decision against using the glass material. As we heard on Tuesday in Cupertino, both the iPhone 6 and the larger iPhone 6 Plus will ship with screens made of "ion-strengthened" glass. This was apparently Apple's second choice. IDC analyst Danielle Levitas says it isn't clear when exactly the drop-test failures took place, or when Apple abandoned plans for sapphire-screened iPhones. She says the poor drop-test results, combined with the relative high cost of sapphire glass, could have made plans to ship sapphire glass phones too risky. One researcher who covers GT Advanced Technologies, the company that was to produce the glass for the iPhone 6, wrote in a research note earlier this week that plans for the sapphire screens were cancelled in August, just weeks before the September 9 launch. The new Apple Watches (except the "Sport" version) do use sapphire for their screens. Levitas believes that the glass for the smaller 1.5-inch and 1.7-inch watch screens was less likely to break in drop tests.
Transportation

Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction 326

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-behavioral-incentive-strong-enough dept.
An anonymous reader writes: While legislators and police try to tackle the epidemic of distracted driving through education, regulation, and enforcement, Scott Tibbitts is trying to solve it through engineering. He developed a small device which, when plugged into a vehicle, would determine which phone belonged to the driver and shut off its texting and voice call capabilities. "The telematics box sends a wireless message that the car is moving. The phone sends its own message about its location. Both sets of information — from the car and phone — are sent to Katasi's servers. Then, an algorithm weighs the incoming data with other information, like the location of the phones belonging to all the people who drive the car and the starting point of the trip; if the trip starts at Junior's high school, and mom and dad's phones are at work, the driver has been identified — Junior is driving."

The problem is that Tibbitts can't get anyone interested in setting up a system to make these devices ubiquitous. Consumers can't be sold on such a product: all evidence suggests people are increasingly unwilling to be cut off from constant communication. So, he tried working with carriers. Sprint partnered with Tibbitts long enough to test the device, but they were afraid of the legal risks involved. Now, Tibbitts is nursing the technology along, looking for a way to get it into cars and make people safer.
Cellphones

Early iPhone 6 Benchmark Results Show Only Modest Gains For A8 208

Posted by Soulskill
from the find-a-way-to-make-this-fit-your-narrative dept.
MojoKid writes: Historically speaking, we typically see impressive performance gains each time Apple releases a new custom processor for its mobile products. Certainly that was true of the A7 SoC, the world's first 64-bit smartphone processor. So, can we expect the same kind of performance bump from the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, both of which sport the new custom A8 SoC? Maybe not. The iPhone 6 recently surfaced in results for the Basemark X benchmark and armed with a dual-core 1.4GHz Cyclone CPU and A8 GPU, the iPhone 6 scored 21,204.26 and a earned a place at the top of the chart, though not by much. By comparison, the iPhone 5s scored 20,253.80 in the same benchmark. In other words, the iPhone 6 is currently less than 5 percent faster than the iPhone 5s, at least as far as the Basemark X benchmark is concerned.
Iphone

iPhone 6 Sales Crush Means Late-Night Waits For Some Early Adopters 222

Posted by timothy
from the who'd-a-thunk-it dept.
Even after the months of hype and speculation, the behind-the-scenes development and manufacture, and then the announcement Tuesday, it seems Apple's servers weren't quite ready for the workout they got from would-be early adopters of its newest iPhone. Preorders through Verizon Wireless and AT&T largely started without a hitch at midnight, though some customers on Twitter have since complained about issues. Those problems were nothing compared to the issues experienced by Sprint and T-Mobile customers. The Sprint and T-Mobile sites were still down for many users nearly two hours after presales were slated to start. Access to Sprint's site faded in and out, while the T-Mobile site continued to display a form to register for a reminder for when the preorders began. Some people joked on Twitter that they "might as well wait for the iPhone 6S now." Apple's store itself was down for a few hours, too.

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.

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