Cellphones

Mozilla Drops $25 Smartphone Plans, Will Focus On Higher Quality Devices 12

Posted by Soulskill
from the disposing-of-disposable-technology dept.
An anonymous reader writes: When Mozilla developed Firefox OS, its goal was not to provide the best smartphone experience, but to provide a "good enough" smartphone experience for a very low price. Unfortunately, these cheap handsets failed to make a dent in the overall smartphone market, and the organization is now shifting its strategy to start producing a better experience for better devices. CEO Chris Beard said, "If you are going to try to play in that world, you need to offer something that is so valuable that people are willing to give up access to the broader ecosystem. In the mass market, that's basically impossible." Of course, when moving to the midrange smartphone market, or even the high end, there's still plenty of competition, so the new strategy may not work any better. However, they've hinted at plans to start supporting Android apps, which could help them play catch-up. Beard seems fixated on this new goal: "We won't allow ourselves to be distracted, and we won't expand to new segments until significant traction is demonstrated." He adds, "We will build products that feel like Mozilla."
Privacy

San Bernardino Sheriff Has Used Stingray Over 300 Times With No Warrant 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: After a records request by Ars, the sheriff in San Bernardino County (SBSD) sent an example of a template for a "pen register and trap and trace order" application. The county attorneys claim what they sent was a warrant application template, even though it is not. The application cites no legal authority on which to base the request. "This is astonishing because it suggests the absence of legal authorization (because if there were clear legal authorization you can bet the government would be citing it)," Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, told Ars. "Alternatively, it might suggest that the government just doesn't care about legal authorization. Either interpretation is profoundly troubling," he added. Further documents reveal that the agency has used a Stingray 303 times between January 1, 2014 and May 7, 2015.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone? 307

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-a-dumberer-phone? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: For those of us who don't need or want a smartphone, what would be the best dumb phone around? Do you have a preference over flip or candy bar ones? What about ones that have FM radio? Do any of you still use dumb phones in this smart phone era? Related question: What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life? I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback, but I do miss being able to go 5 or more days on a single charge.
Chrome

Chrome For Android Is Now Almost Entirely Open Source 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the strong-work dept.
jones_supa writes: After lots of work by Chrome for Android team and a huge change, Chrome for Android is now almost entirely open source, a Google engineer announced in Reddit. Over 100,000 lines of code, including Chrome's entire user interface layer, has been made public, allowing anyone with the inclination to do so to look at, modify, and build the browser from source. Licensing restrictions prevent certain media codecs, plugins and Google service features form being included, hence the "almost." This is on par with the open source Chromium browser that is available on the desktop.
Android

Factory Reset On Millions of Android Devices Doesn't Wipe Storage 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the stucking-around dept.
Bismillah writes: Ross Anderson and Laurent Simon of Cambridge University studied a range of Android devices and found that even though a "factory reset" is supposed to fully wipe storage, it often doesn't. Interestingly enough, full-device encryption could be compromised by the incomplete wiping too. ITnews reports: "The researchers estimated that 500 million Android devices may not fully wipe device disk partitions. As many as 630 million phones may not wipe internal SD cards. Five 'critical failures' were outlined in the researchers' Security Analysis of Android Factory Resets paper.
Handhelds

Asus ZenFone 2 Performance Sneak Peek With Intel Z3580 Inside 107

Posted by timothy
from the doesn't-work-with-google-fi-though dept.
MojoKid writes: Asus just finally made their ZenFone 2 available for sale in the US. It's an Intel-powered smartphone running Android Lollipop that's compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, and other cellular networks that utilize GSM technology, like Straight Talk, MetroPCS, and Cricket Wireless among others.The device is packing a quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 (2.3GHz) with PowerVR G6430 graphics and 4GB of RAM, along with Intel 7262 and Intel 2230 modem tech, a 5.5" Full HD screen, a 13MP rear camera, dual-SIM support and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The high-end model can be had for only $299, unlocked. A $199 version with 2GB of RAM and a slightly slower Intel Atom Z3560 is also available. In the benchmarks, the Zenfone 2 offers competent though middling performance but considering Asus has priced the ZenFone 2 so aggressively, it's sure to grab some attention at retail with consumers looking for a contract-free commitment.
Cellphones

Pre-Orders Start For Neo900 Open Source Phone 134

Posted by timothy
from the hello-operator dept.
New submitter JoSch1337 writes: After a year and a half of development, the Neo900 project now opened its web shop for the down payments of binding pre-orders for either a full Neo900 phone or the bare circuit board to upgrade an existing Nokia N900. The up-front down payment is necessary to now secure expensive "risk parts" like the modem, 1GB RAM and N900 cases. Thus, without pre-ordering now, there might not be enough parts left after the first batch.

The Neo900 is the spritual successor of the Nokia N900. The new circuit board can be placed into an existing N900 for better specs (faster CPU, more RAM, LTE modem) than the original device while still maintaining fremantle (maemo 5) backwards compatibility. Alternatively, a fully assembled phone can be purchased as well. The Neo900 will be fully operational without any binary blob running on the main CPU. While the modem still requires a non-free firmware, it is completely decoupled from the rest of the device (think of a LTE usb stick you put in your laptop) and can reliably be monitored or switched off by the operating system.

You can follow the development of the project in the maemo forum, read about the specs of the device or consult the FAQ
Firefox

Adblock Plus Launches Adblock Browser: a Fork of Firefox For Android 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the unblocking-the-blocked-blocker dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Adblock Plus has launched Adblock Browser for Android. Currently in beta, the company's first browser was created by taking the open source Firefox for Android and including Adblock Plus out-of-the-box. The Firefox Sync functionality is disabled, as is the ability to use other addons. "Adblock Plus for Android got kicked out of Google Play along with other ad blocking apps in March 2013, because Google’s developer distribution agreement states apps cannot interfere with the functionality of other apps. Williams thus believes Adblock Browser “should be fine” as it only blocks ads that are shown as you browse the Web."
Education

Schools That Ban Mobile Phones See Better Academic Results 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-thing-down dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Jamie Doward reports at The Guardian that according to a recent study in the UK, the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week's schooling over a pupil's academic year with the test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4% after schools banned mobile phones, "We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days." In the UK, more than 90% of teenagers own a mobile phone; in the US, just under three quarters have one. In a survey conducted in 2001, no school banned mobiles. By 2007, this had risen to 50%, and by 2012 some 98% of schools either did not allow phones on school premises or required them to be handed in at the beginning of the day. But some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city's chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

The research was carried out at Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester schools before and after bans were introduced (PDF). It factored in characteristics such as gender, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs status and prior educational attainment. "Technological advancements are commonly viewed as increasing productivity," write Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy. "Modern technology is used in the classroom to engage students and improve performance. There are, however, potential drawbacks as well, as they could lead to distractions."
Advertising

Editor-in-Chief of the Next Web: Adblockers Are Immoral 616

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-our-ads-or-else dept.
lemur3 writes: Hot on the heels of the recent implementation of Canvas Ads (allowing advertisers to use the full page) Martin Bryant, the Editor-in-Chief of The Next Web, wrote a piece that, ostensibly, calls out mobile carriers in Europe for offering ad blocking as a service. He writes: "Display ads are still an important bread-and-butter income stream. Taking delight in denying publishers that revenue shows either sociopathic tendencies or ignorance of economic realities." While referring to those using ad blocking as sociopathic is likely not to win many fans, this mindset seems to be prevalent in certain circles, as discussed previously on Slashdot. Martin closes his piece with a warning: "For all their sins, ads fuel much of the Web. Cut them out and you're strangling the diversity of online voices and publishers – and I don't think consumers really want that."
Google

Report: Google To Add 'Buy' Buttons To Mobile Search Results 35

Posted by Soulskill
from the consume-consume-consume dept.
An anonymous reader writes: According to a (paywalled) report in the Wall Street Journal, Google is stepping up its efforts to take some of the online marketspace away from Amazon and eBay. Soon, the company will start showing "buy" buttons alongside sponsored search results on mobile devices. So, for example, if you search for a particular pair of pants, and one of the top sponsored results is from Macy's, then Macy's can pay Google to slap a big "buy" button right there that will take you directly to a product page where you can pick sizes and shipping options before checking out. Google won't be selling the products, but they will be hosting the product pages — "a major and potentially risky strategy shift that will turn the company into more of an online transactional business, rather than simply a provider of links to information elsewhere on the Internet." The report says Google will be trying to streamline the purchasing process by taking the payment from the customer and then passing it on to the retailer, so users only need to input their credit card details once.
Advertising

European Telecoms May Block Mobile Ads, Spelling Trouble For Google 198

Posted by timothy
from the scrabble-will-still-show-their-ads-to-me-I-bet dept.
Mark Wilson has news that may have a big impact on both advertisers and end-users who use their phones as portals to ad-supported websites. Several European telecom providers are apparently planning to use ad-blocking software at the data-center level, which would mean benefit for users (in the form of less obnoxious advertising, and less data being eaten by it) but quite a pickle for online advertisers, and sites that rely on advertising revenue. From BetaNews's article (based on this Financial Times article, paywalled): Talking to the Financial Times, one wireless carrier said that the software had been installed at its data centers and could be enabled by the end of the year. With the potential to automatically block most ads on web pages and within apps, the repercussion of the ad boycott could be huge as mobile providers try to wrestle control from the likes of Google. I just wish my mobile provider would start testing this out, too.
Cellphones

FCC May Stop 911 Access For NSI Phones 211

Posted by timothy
from the why-we-can't-have-nice-things dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's generally known that if you call 911 from a cell phone in the USA, you will be connected to the nearest Public Safety Access Point, whether or not the phone has an active account. This is the basis for programs that distribute donated phones for emergency-only use. However, the FCC has proposed a rule change that would eliminate the requirement for telephone companies to connect 911 calls made by NSI (non-service-initialized) phones. The main reason for the proposed rule change are the problems caused by fraudulent 911 calls made through NSI phones. Yet respondents cited by the FCC show that as many as 30% of 911 calls from NSI phones are for legitimate emergencies. The comment period for the proposed rule change ends on June 6th, 2015.
Graphics

The Decline of Pixel Art 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-palette-at-a-time dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Blake Reynolds, lead artist for a pair of popular mobile games, has put up a post about the decline of pixel art in games. He decries the current state of "HD fetishism" in the industry, saying that games with great pixel art get needlessly marked down in reviews for their pixelation, while games that have awful — but high-res — art get glowing praise. He walks through a number of examples showing how pixel art can be well done or poorly done, and how it can be extremely complex despite the lower resolution. But now pixel artists are running into not only the expectation of high-definition content, but technological obstacles as well. "Some devices blur Auro [their game]. Some devices stretch it. Some devices letterbox it. No matter how hard I worked to make the art in Auro as good as I could, there's no way a given person should be expected to see past all those roadblocks. Making Auro with higher-resolution art would have made it more resistant to constantly-changing sizes and aspect ratios of various devices." Reynolds says his studio is giving up on pixel art and embracing the new medium, and recommends other artists do the same. "Don't let the medium come between you and your audience. Speak in a language people can understand so that they can actually see what makes your work great without a tax."
Privacy

Judge: Warrantless Airport Seizure of Laptop 'Cannot Be Justified' 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the digital-is-different dept.
SonicSpike writes with news of a ruling in U.S. District Court that the seizure and search of a man's laptop without a warrant while he was in an airport during an international border crossing was not justified. According to Judge Amy Jackson's ruling (PDF), the defendant was already the subject of an investigation when officials used his international flight as a pretext for rifling through his laptop. The government argued that a laptop was simply a "container," and thus subject to warrantless searches to protect the homeland. But the judge said the search "was supported by so little suspicion of ongoing or imminent criminal activity, and was so invasive of Kim's privacy and so disconnected from not only the considerations underlying the breadth of the government's authority to search at the border, but also the border itself, that it was unreasonable."

She also noted that laptop searches may require more stringent legal support, since they are capable of holding much more private information than a box or duffel bag. And while a routine search involves a quick look through a container, this search was quite different: "[T]he agents created an identical image of Kim's entire computer hard drive and gave themselves unlimited time to search the tens of thousands of documents, images, and emails it contained, using an extensive list of search terms, and with the assistance of two forensic software programs that organized, expedited, and facilitated the task."