Android

Samsung's 'Bixby' Voice Assistant Finally Launches In US (theverge.com) 40

After 3 months, Samsung announced that the voice capabilities of its digital assistant are now rolling out to U.S. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners. Now, if you happen to own a Galaxy S8 or S8+, the physical Bixby button on the lefthand side of your phone will be able to actually do something somewhat useful. The Verge reports: Bixby's voice capabilities have been available in the US as part of an opt-in beta test, and Samsung says that feedback has led to faster response times, improved comprehension of varied phrasing around the same question, better hands-free operation, and more. Over 100,000 users of the flagship devices have enrolled in the early access program and issued over 4 million voice commands. Also, Samsung says Bixby can now read aloud your latest SMS messages and emails -- if you use its stock apps on the Galaxy S8. Bixby can be activated with a push of the dedicated Bixby button located on the side of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, or by saying "hi Bixby." Like Siri and Google Assistant, Bixby can handle alarms, send texts, and so on, but its real power lies in the ability to access granular phone settings or -- in supported apps -- automatically move through several menu screens to perform commands that Google Assistant simply can't do. Samsung says that deep learning should allow Bixby to improve over time as it begins to recognize users' preferences and ways of speaking. Here's a video showing some of the voice commands Bixby can respond to.
Businesses

iPhones Are Priced 'High in the Extreme' But They're Worth It, Says Apple Co-founder Wozniak (scmp.com) 286

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple's iPhone has been losing ground to domestic competitors in China. That is because Chinese smartphone makers offer sophisticated functions at reasonable prices, according to Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and one of the pioneers of the personal computer industry. "Here is what I admire about Chinese phones: really good, intelligent decisions about how to lower the cost but keep enough of the functionality in, because I am into products that are good, well designed, nice looking, but at prices that the average person can afford," he said. Still, Wozniak believes the quality of Apple's product makes it worth the high price tag. "In life I don't believe in quantity as much as I do in quality. So you may not have the hugest share in the market or be the No 1, but you should have the best product you can possibly build and Apple qualifies for that," Wozniak, told reporters after he discussed artificial intelligence with Liu Zihong, chairman and chied executive of Royole, in a technology forum held at Tianan Cyber Park in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on Tuesday. Unlike Chinese smartphone brands that prioritise cost-effectiveness, Apple's popular and more expensive iPhone handsets are still the leader in innovation in certain features despite being more of a "safe product," he said. "Apple products are safe. And Apple's pricing is high in the extreme. It's a safe bet for a lot of people, and when you love Apple you are willing to pay for it," he said.
Android

Android Backdoor 'GhostCtrl' Can Silently Record Your Audio, Video and More (neowin.net) 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: A new strain of malware designed for Android devices has recently been discovered, which not only can silently record audio and video, but can also monitor texts and calls, modify files, and ultimately spawn ransomware. Dubbed as 'GhostCtrl' by researchers over at Trend Micro, the malware is apparently a variant of OmniRAT, a remote administration tool for Android, which is available to the public. It also appears to be part of a wider campaign that targeted Israeli hospitals, where a worm called RETADUP surfaced back in June. According to the report, there are three versions of the malicious software. The first variant stole information and controlled a device's functionalities, while the second added new features to exploit. The third one combines all the features of the old versions, and adds even more malicious components into its system. The latest iteration of GhostCtrl can now monitor call logs, text messages, contacts, phone numbers, location, and browsing history. Furthermore, it has the ability to record the victim's Android version, battery level, and Bluetooth information. To make make matters worse, it can now also spy on unsuspecting victims by silently recording audio and video. The malware distributes itself via illegitimate apps for WhatsApp or Pokemon GO. Trend Micro suggests you keep your Android devices up to date and data backed up regularly. They also recommend using an app reputation system that can detect suspicious and malicious apps.
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."
Businesses

Apple's Risky Balancing Act With the Next iPhone (macworld.com) 133

Long time columnist Jason Snell: As there always are at this time of year, there are lots of rumors out there about what the next iPhone will be. This year we're hearing that Apple is going to release a high-priced, next-generation phone in addition to the expected iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus models. [...] By most accounts, Apple's next-generation iPhone will offer a similar design. But also, by many accounts, Apple is struggling to create that product -- and when it arrives, it may be expensive, late to ship, and supply constrained. This is one of those areas where Apple may be the victim of its own success. The iPhone is so popular a product that Apple can't include any technology or source any part if it can't be made more than 200 million times a year. If the supplier of a cutting-edge part Apple wants can only provide the company with 50 million per year, it simply can't be used in the iPhone. Apple sells too many, too fast. Contrast that to Apple's competition. On the smaller end, former Android chief Andy Rubin announced the Essential phone, but even Rubin admitted that he'd only be able to sell in thousands, not millions. Same for the RED Hydrogen One -- groundbreaking phone, hardly likely to sell in any volume. The Google Pixel looks like it's in the one million range. Apple's biggest competitor, Samsung, has to deal with a scale more similar to Apple's -- but it's still only expected to sell 50 or 60 million units of the flagship Galaxy S8.
United Kingdom

UK Wifi Provider Tricks Customers Into Agreeing To Clean Sewers (upi.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes UPI: Unwitting customers in the United Kingdom who didn't read the terms and conditions for use of a public WiFi hotspot agreed to perform 1,000 hours of community service, including unclogging sewers and scraping gum off the street. The gag was conceived by WiFi provider Purple. The company inserted the clause into its terms and conditions -- the technically legally binding agreement consumers approve in exchange for use of free Internet, though virtually few actually read the terms. The company said it did so to call attention to the fact consumers are regularly agreeing to terms that they may not actually like, including granting access to private information and data about their web browsing habits.
Other community service tasks agreed to by users included "providing hugs to stray cats and dogs" and "painting snail shells to brighten up their existence." The agreement also promised a prize to anyone who actually became aware of the prize's existences after reading the terms and conditions -- yet after two weeks only one person came forward to claim the prize.
Cloud

Border Patrol Says It's Barred From Searching Cloud Data On Phones (nbcnews.com) 74

According to a letter obtained by NBC News, U.S. border officers aren't allowed to look at any data stored only in the "cloud" -- including social media data -- when they search U.S. travelers' phones. "The letter (PDF), sent in response to inquiries by Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), and verified by Wyden's office, not only states that CBP doesn't search data stored only with remote cloud services, but also -- apparently for the first time -- declares that it doesn't have that authority in the first place." From the report: In April, Wyden and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced legislation to make it illegal for border officers to search or seize cellphones without probable cause. Privacy advocates and former Homeland Security lawyers have said they are alarmed by how many phones are being searched. The CBP letter, which is attributed to Kevin McAleenan, the agency's acting commissioner, is dated June 20, four months after Wyden asked the Department of Homeland Security (PDF), CBP's parent agency, to clarify what he called the "deeply troubling" practice of border agents' pressuring Americans into providing passwords and access to their social media accounts. McAleenan's letter says officers can search a phone without consent and, except in very limited cases, without a warrant or even suspicion -- but only for content that is saved directly to the device, like call histories, text messages, contacts, photos and videos.
United Kingdom

Radio Station Hijacked Eight Times In the Past Month To Play 'I'm a Wanker' Song (bleepingcomputer.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: An unknown hacker has hijacked the radio frequency of a UK radio station to play an obscene song eight times during the past month, according to the radio station's manager who recently revealed the hacks in an interview with BBC Radio 4. The hacks have been reported to Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, who together with the radio station's staff have tried to track down the culprit at last three times, without success. Ofcom and radio station officials believe the hacker is using a mobile radio transmitter to broadcast a stronger signal on the radio station's normal frequency, overriding its normal program. In eight different occasions, the hacker has taken over broadcasts and has been heard talking, screaming, or singing, and then playing "The Winker's Song" (NSFW) by British comedian Ivor Biggun, a track about self-pleasure released in the 70s. Station manager Tony Delahunty told BBC Radio he received phone calls from distressed listeners complaining that their kids started humming the song. Fellow radio stations also called Delahunty to inquire about the hack, fearing similar hijacks.
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?
Cellphones

Researchers Have Developed A Battery-Free Mobile Phone (hothardware.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes HotHardware: Researchers from the University of Washington are looking to make batteries a thing of the past when it comes to mobile phones. The team has developed a phone that uses "almost zero power" according to associate professor Shyam Gollakota, who co-authored a paper which detailed the breakthrough... The researchers designed the phone to harvest microwatts of power from RF signals transmitted from a base station that is 31 feet away. Additional power is harnessed via ambient light through the use of miniature photodiodes that are about the size of a grain of rice. While in use, the phone consumes about 3.5 microwatts of power and is capable of communicating with a custom base station that is up to 50 feet away to send and receive calls... The phone ditches the traditional analog-to-digital converter, which turns your voice into data, in favor of a system that uses the vibrations from a microphone or speaker to perform the same task. An antenna then converts that motion into radio signals in such a way that very little power is consumed.
There's two drawbacks. First, modern smartphones "need a lot more than a 3.5-microwatt power budget for blazing fast processor, copious amounts of RAM and internal storage, and power-hungry displays." And more importantly, "you have to press a button to switch between transmissions and listening modes with the phone."
Debian

Survey Finds Most Popular Linux Laptop Distros: Ubuntu and Arch (phoronix.com) 141

After collating 30,171 responses, Phoronixhas released some results from their first Linux Laptop Survey. An anonymous reader quotes their report: To little surprise, Ubuntu was the most popular Linux distribution running on the respondents' laptops. 38.9% of the respondents were said to be using Ubuntu while interesting in second place was Arch Linux at 27.1% followed by Debian at 15.3%. Rounding out the top ten were then Fedora at 14.8%, Linux Mint in 5th at 10.8%, openSUSE/SUSE in sixth at 4.2%, Gentoo in seventh at 3.9%, CentOS/RHEL in eighth at 3.1%, Solus in ninth at 2%, and Manjaro in tenth at 1.6%. The other Linux distributions had each commanded less than 1% of the overall response.
Only 10.3% of respondents said their most recent laptop purchase came pre-loaded with Linux. But 29.3% are now dual-booting their Linux laptop with Windows, while another 4.4% were dual-booting with yet another Linux distribution.
Cellphones

Nest Founder 'Wakes Up In Cold Sweats' Fearing The Impact Of Mobile Technology (fastcodesign.com) 106

theodp writes: Fast Company's Co.Design reports that Tony Fadell, who founded Nest and was instrumental in the creation of the iPod and iPhone, spoke with a mix of pride and regret about his role in mobile technology's rise to omnipresence. "I wake up in cold sweats every so often thinking, what did we bring to the world?" Fadell said. "Did we really bring a nuclear bomb with information that can -- like we see with fake news -- blow up people's brains and reprogram them? Or did we bring light to people who never had information, who can now be empowered?"

Faddell added that addiction has been designed into our devices, and it's harming the newest generation. "And I know when I take [technology] away from my kids what happens," Fadell explained. "They literally feel like you're tearing a piece of their person away from them-they get emotional about it, very emotional. They go through withdrawal for two to three days." Products like the iPhone, Fadell believes, are more attuned to the needs of the individual rather than what's best for the family and the larger community. And pointing to YouTube owner Google, Fadell said, "It was like, [let] any kind of content happen on YouTube. Then a lot of the executives started having kids, [and saying], maybe this isn't such a good idea. They have YouTube Kids now."

The article suggests Fadell is describing a world where omnipresent (and distracting) screens are creating "a culture of self-aggrandizement," and he believes this is partly rooted in the origins of the devices. "A lot of the designers and coders who were in their 20s when we were creating these things didn't have kids."
Businesses

Qualcomm Seeks To Ban Imports And Sales of Apple iPhones in New Lawsuit (cnbc.com) 129

Chipmaker Qualcomm is asking U.S. trade regulators to ban iPhone imports, according to a new lawsuit. From a report: Apple has allegedly infringed on six of Qualcomm's patents, including technology that improves iPhone battery life, according to Qualcomm. Now Qualcomm wants Apple to pay damages. "Apple continues to use Qualcomm's technology while refusing to pay for it," Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm, said in a statement. Qualcomm ultimately wants regulators to investigate which phones use cellular processors from Qualcomm's competitors, and halt sales of iPhones that violate the patents. Qualcomm said it has filed complaints in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California and with the United States International Trade Commission. It's not immediately clear how many iPhones that would affect.
Cellphones

RED Launches a $1,200 Smartphone With a 'Hydrogen Holographic Display' (phonedog.com) 76

RED, a company known for its high-end $10,000+ cameras, is launching a smartphone called the RED Hydrogen One. Some of the features include a 5.7-inch "Hydrogen holographic display" capable of viewing holographic RED Hydrogen 4-View content, 3D content, and 2D/3D virtual-reality and augmented-reality content, a built-in H3O algorithm that can convert stereo sound into multi-dimensional audio, and support for modular components. PhoneDog reports: RED isn't really talking about any of the Hydrogen One's raw specs like its processor, camera resolution, RAM, or battery size. We do know that it runs Android and that it'll have a microSD slot, and we can see in RED's sole teaser image that the phone will also have a 3.5mm headphone jack and USB Type-C port. The RED Hydrogen One is currently slated to begin shipping in Q1 2018. If you're already sold on the device, you can pre-order an aluminum model for $1,195 or a titanium version of $1,595. RED does say that these prices will be available for a limited time only.
Iphone

iPhone Bugs Are Too Valuable To Report To Apple (vice.com) 96

An anonymous reader writes: Last year, Apple launched a long-awaited bug bounty program to reward friendly hackers who report flaws in the iPhone to the company. Despite inviting some of the best hackers in the world to join, it's a bit of a flop so far. The iPhone's security is so tight that it's hard to find any flaws at all, which leads to sky-high prices for bugs on the grey market. Researchers I spoke to are reluctant to report bugs both because they are so valuable and because reporting some bugs may actually prevent them from doing more research. "People can get more cash if they sell their bugs to others," said Nikias Bassen, a security researcher for the company Zimperium, and who joined Apple's program last year. "If you're just doing it for the money, you're not going to give [bugs] to Apple directly." Patrick Wardle, a former NSA hacker who now specializes in MacOS research and was invited to the Apple bug bounty program, agreed. He said that iOS bugs are "too valuable to report to Apple."

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