Communications

FCC Plan To Lower Broadband Standards Is Met With 'Mobile Only Challenge' (arstechnica.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Broadband consumer advocates have launched a "Mobile Only Challenge" to show U.S. regulators that cellular data should not be considered an adequate replacement for home Internet service. The awareness campaign comes as the Federal Communications Commission is considering a change to the standard it uses to judge whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai hasn't released his final plan yet, the FCC may soon declare that America's broadband deployment problem is solved as long as everyone has access to either fast home Internet or cellular Internet service with download speeds of at least 10Mbps. That would be a change from current FCC policy, which says that everyone should have access to both mobile data and fast home Internet services such as fiber or cable.

"The FCC wants to lower broadband standards," organizers of the Mobile Only Challenge say on the campaign's website. "Pledge to spend one day in January 2018 accessing the Internet only on your mobile device to tell them that's not OK." The Mobile Only Challenge was organized by Public Knowledge, Next Century Cities, New America's Open Technology Institute, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), and other groups. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences using the #MobileOnly hashtag.

Businesses

Senator Wants Apple To Answer Questions on Slowing iPhones (reuters.com) 169

The chairman of a U.S. Senate committee overseeing business issues asked Apple to answer questions about its disclosure that it slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing a letter. From the report: The California-based company apologized over the issue on Dec. 28, cut battery replacement costs and said it will change its software to show users whether their phone battery is good. Senator John Thune, a Republican who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a Jan. 9 letter to Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook that "the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency."
Cellphones

'I Tried the First Phone With An In-Display Fingerprint Sensor' (theverge.com) 70

Vlad Savov from The Verge reports of his experience using the first smartphone with a fingerprint scanner built into the display: After an entire year of speculation about whether Apple or Samsung might integrate the fingerprint sensor under the display of their flagship phones, it is actually China's Vivo that has gotten there first. At CES 2018, I got to grips with the first smartphone to have this futuristic tech built in, and I was left a little bewildered by the experience. The mechanics of setting up your fingerprint on the phone and then using it to unlock the device and do things like authenticate payments are the same as with a traditional fingerprint sensor. The only difference I experienced was that the Vivo handset was slower -- both to learn the contours of my fingerprint and to unlock once I put my thumb on the on-screen fingerprint prompt -- but not so much as to be problematic. Basically, every other fingerprint sensor these days is ridiculously fast and accurate, so with this being newer tech, its slight lag feels more palpable. Vivo is using a Synaptics optical sensor called Clear ID that works by peering through the gaps between the pixels in an OLED display (LCDs wouldn't work because of their need for a backlight) and scanning your uniquely patterned epidermis. The sensor is already in mass production and should be incorporated in several flagship devices later this year.
IOS

Apple Planning New, 'Robust' Parental Controls To Help Protect Children, Teens (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: An open letter to Apple from some investors sparked the tech giant to respond by promising new software tools for parents to restrict and monitor their kids' smartphone use. In a report by The Wall Street Journal, Apple states it has plans to create new software features that will make its current parental controls on iPhone and other devices "even more robust." "We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them," Apple said in its statement to The Wall Street Journal. "We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers' expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids."

Apple didn't provide details on its planned, improved parental control features, but it did point back to the controls its software has had in place since 2008. The Settings app on every iPhone has a parental control section that allows adults to restrict website access, control in-app purchases, and install or delete apps, among other things. But those existing settings haven't been enough to quell the worries of the investors who wrote an open letter to Apple last week, expressing concern about the effect smartphones can have on kids who are glued to those devices.

Wireless Networking

With WPA3, Wi-Fi Security is About To Get a Lot Tougher (zdnet.com) 121

One of the biggest potential security vulnerabilities -- public Wi-Fi -- may soon get its fix. From a report: The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry body made up of device makers including Apple, Microsoft, and Qualcomm, announced Monday its next-generation wireless network security standard, WPA3. The standard will replace WPA2, a near-two decades-old security protocol that's built in to protect almost every wireless device today -- including phones, laptops, and the Internet of Things.

One of the key improvements in WPA3 will aim to solve a common security problem: open Wi-Fi networks. Seen in coffee shops and airports, open Wi-Fi networks are convenient but unencrypted, allowing anyone on the same network to intercept data sent from other devices. WPA3 employs individualized data encryption, which scramble the connection between each device on the network and the router, ensuring secrets are kept safe and sites that you visit haven't been manipulated.
Further reading: WPA3 WiFi Standard Announced After Researchers KRACKed WPA2 Three Months Ago
Crime

Apple Investigated By France For 'Planned Obsolescence' (bbc.com) 313

AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: French prosecutors have launched a probe over allegations of "planned obsolescence" in Apple's iPhone. Under French law it is a crime to intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it. In December, Apple admitted that older iPhone models were deliberately slowed down through software updates. It follows a legal complaint filed in December by pro-consumer group Stop Planned Obsolescence (Hop). Hop said France was the third country to investigate Apple after Israel and the U.S., but the only one in which the alleged offense was a crime. Penalties could include up to 5% of annual turnover or even a jail term.
Power

Wireless Charging Nears Unification As Powermat Cedes To Qi (engadget.com) 37

Powermat, the only contender to the dominant format Qi, has joined the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and now backs its rival. "Qi has become the dominant wireless charging standard on the market and the recently launched Apple iPhone lineup is evidence of this success," Powermat said in a statement. "[We] will share technology innovation to further unlock wireless charging potential, and will expedite the growth of the wireless charging infrastructure." Engadget reports: Powermat was barely hanging on as a standard, but as it mentioned, Apple's favoring of Qi for its upcoming chargers pretty much sealed its fate. The company was forced to upgrade its chargers to support Qi at Starbucks locations, for instance, so that Apple's Qi-supported iPhone X- and 8-owning clients could juice up. Until a few years ago, there were essentially three standards, the Alliance for Wireless Power, the Power Matters Alliance (no joking), and Qi, which was already the dominant player. The first two merged to form the Airfuel alliance in 2015, of which Powermat was the main player.
AT&T

AT&T Pulls Out of Deal To Sell China's Huawei Phones In the US (phonedog.com) 63

According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T has walked away from a deal to sell China's Huawei smartphones in the U.S. Neither AT&T nor Huawei have commented on the matter, but the news is certainly going to disappoint those of you who were looking forward to picking up Huawei's flagship Mate 10. Prior to this report, Huawei was expected to announce that its flagship Mate 10 will launch on AT&T in 2018. PhoneDog reports: Huawei has a major presence internationally, with recent reports saying that it's the No. 3 smartphone brand in the world behind Apple and Samsung. The company hasn't made much of a dent in the U.S., though, despite the fact that it's been selling its phones unlocked in the U.S. for awhile now. This AT&T deal would've been big for Huawei, helping it to get its phones inside carrier stores and in front of U.S. consumers, the majority of which still buy their phones from their carriers. Now we'll have to wait and see if Huawei can strike a deal with another carrier or if it'll have to continue on in the unlocked market. A Huawei spokesperson only said "Huawei has proven itself by delivering premium devices with integrity globally and in the U.S. market."
Businesses

Apple Should Address Youth Phone Addiction, Say Two Large Investors (reuters.com) 159

Two large Apple shareholders, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, are urging Apple to take steps to address what they say is a growing problem of young people getting addicted to Apple's iPhones, Jana partner Charles Penner said. From a report: Jana, a leading activist shareholder, and CalSTRS, one of the nation's largest public pension plans, delivered a letter to Apple on Saturday asking the company to consider developing software that would allow parents to limit children's phone use, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Sunday. Jana and CalSTRS also asked Apple to study the impact of excessive phone use on mental health, according to the publication. Jana and CalSTRS together control about $2 billion worth of Apple shares, the Journal reports.
Portables

Ask Slashdot: How Should I Replace My Netbook? 231

Long-time Slashdot reader Kevin108 needs to replace his netbook: I've used and loved my Eee 701 for many years. None of the diminutive ergonomics were ever an issue. But the low-res screen, 4 GB SSD, and 630 MHz Celeron are a useless combo for current web browsing and modern software. I'm now in the market for a new device in a similar form factor.

I need a Windows device for my preferred photo editor and some other software I use for maps. It will often be used offline for writing and watching MKVs in VLC. I'm okay with a notebook or tablet and keyboard combo, but I've not found anything in a similar size with my feature requirements.

Any suggestions? Leave your best thoughts and suggestions in the comments. What's the best way to replace a netbook?
Iphone

Some Smartphone Salesmen Aren't Sold on the iPhone X (cnet.com) 230

A CNET reporter visited four carrier stores to ask their salesmen if they'd recommend an iPhone X. But after visiting stores for Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, "I couldn't even find a salesperson to tell me it was the best iPhone I could buy." So he finally tried asking three salesmen at Apple Stores -- and still got equivocal answers. An anonymous reader quotes CNET's report: "Well, it depends on what you like," the salesman said, somewhat coyly. "The biggest problem I have with it is using Face ID for Apple Pay. You really have to put the phone at a certain angle or it doesn't work." He started with a problem. I was already suspicious. I was in something of a hurry, but I asked him: "So are you selling a lot more of these than other phones?"

He turned into a high-ranking member of a political party. "All our phones sell well," he said. Which sounded not entirely reassuring. Indeed, it sounded like a "no."

Chatting next with an Apple store "Genius" (who was testing his iPhone 6), CNET's reporter was told that "The X and the 8 are the same phone... Inside, I mean. With the X, you're just paying the extra money for the design." Unfortunately, that salesman's $999 iPhone X was wrapped in an ugly pink case, because after four weeks he'd already cracked it. And a third Apple salesman -- who touted the glories of an OLED screen -- also kept his iPhone X in a case at all times "It's glass," he explained. "You'll definitely need a case."

"But what about not being able to see the lovely phone?"

"Get a see-through case," he replied with a smile.
Cellphones

Would You Use a Smartphone-Style Laptop With a Three-Day Battery Life? (king5.com) 194

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: "Always connected personal computers" -- or ACPCs -- refer to a new breed of Windows laptops with three key features: a battery that can last multiple days; instant-on access when you open the lid or touch a key; and an optional high-speed cellular connection, to avoid hunting for a Wi-Fi hotspot to get online. In other words, your laptop is going to behave a lot more like your smartphone...

In fact, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, ASUS is claiming battery life of up to 22 hours of continuous video playback, and up to 30 days on standby. At $799, the ASUS NovaGo (model # TP370) will also be the first always-connected PC with a 360-degree flip hinge -- making it a "2-in-1" that can convert from laptop mode to a tablet by bending back the 13.3-inch screen -- and the first with Gigabit LTE speeds, for an always on, always connected experience.

ASUS's media relations director touts the high-speed cellular connections -- which consumers pay for separately -- as 3 to 7 times faster than broadband. "It allows you to download a 2-hour movie in about 10 seconds."

And Qualcomm's senior director of product management says there's more ways that it's like a smartphone. "Even when the screen is off, it's still connected, so when I open the lid, it does facial recognition, and I'm in."
Cellphones

White House Bans Use of Personal Devices From West Wing (cbsnews.com) 205

In the wake of damaging reports of a chaotic Trump administration detailed in a new book from Michael Wolff, the White House is instituting new policies on the use of personal cellphones in the West Wing. CBS News reports: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released the following statement on the policy change: "The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration and therefore starting next week the use of all personal devices for both guests and staff will no longer be allowed in the West Wing. Staff will be able to conduct business on their government-issued devices and continue working hard on behalf of the American people."

Wolff reportedly gained access to the White House where he conducted numerous interviews with staffers on the inner-workings of the Trump campaign and West Wing operations. Sanders told reporters Wednesday that there were about "a dozen" interactions between Wolff and White House officials, which she said took place at Bannon's request. The White House swiftly slammed the book and those who cooperated with Wolff.

Network

Asus Is Turning Its Old Routers Into Mesh Wi-Fi Networks (theverge.com) 30

Asus' new AiMesh system lets you repurpose your existing Asus routers as part of a mesh network, potentially saving you lots of money since you won't have to replace your whole network with a bunch of new devices. The Verge reports: For now, the mesh support is coming to a few routers today in beta, including the ASUS RT-AC68U, RT-AC1900P, RT-AC86U, RT-AC5300, and the ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, with additional support planned for the RT-AC88U and RT-AC3100 later this year. The setup looks pretty simple, too. Once your main router is set up and updated to the latest firmware, just take your other routers that are going to be the mesh nodes, plug them in near the main router, and run a factory reset, after which they'll automatically pop up in the Asus Router app to add to your mesh.
Wireless Networking

Roombas Will Soon Build a Wi-Fi Coverage Map While They Clean (techcrunch.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The feature is arriving later this month on the iRobot app, making it possible for WiFi-enabled Roombas to create a map of indoor signals. The map exists alongside the existing Clean Map feature, letting users toggle between the two, like they would, say, satellite and standard imagery in Google Maps. The maps themselves won't go into too much detail -- no upload and download speeds like you see on many mobile speed test apps. Instead, the information will show up as decibel readings. Really, it's intended as a handy way of showing off where you might want to toss a range extender, to help get rid of dead spots. All of Roomba's vacuums, save for the lowest-end model, will support the feature. The beta program launches January 23rd and appears to only be available for U.S. users.

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