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Transportation

US Regulators Seek To Reduce Road Deaths With Smartphone 'Driving Mode' (theguardian.com) 291

US regulators are seeking to reduce smartphone-related vehicle deaths with a new driving-safe mode that would block or modify apps to prevent them being a distraction while on the road. From a report on The Guardian:The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are to issue voluntary guidelines for smartphone makers, which will seek to restrict the apps and services accessible on a smartphone being used by a driver. US transport secretary Anthony Foxx said: "Your smartphone becomes so many different things that it's not just a communication device. Distraction is still a problem. Too many people are dying and being injured on our roadways." The NHTSA is hoping that Apple, Samsung and other popular smartphone manufacturers will adopt the guidelines in future smartphone and software releases. The so-called driving mode will block distractions such as social media, messages or email, stop the use of the keyboard for communication activities and also restrict access to websites, video and distracting graphics. The intention is that the driving mode will be adopted in a similar manner to the airplane mode common to most smartphones and connected devices, which restricts radio communications while airborne. Airplane mode has been a feature of smartphones since 2007.
Bug

Malicious Video Link Can Cause Any iOS Device To Freeze (9to5mac.com) 53

A new bug in iOS has surfaced that will cause any iOS device to freeze when trying to view a certain .mp4 video in Safari. YouTube channel EverythingApplePro explains the bug in a video titled "This Video Will CRASH ANY iPhone!" 9to5Mac reports: As you'll see in the video below from EverythingApplePro, viewing a certain video in Safari will cause iOS to essentially overload and gradually become unusable. We won't link the infectious video here for obvious reasons, but you can take our word for it when we say that it really does render your device unusable. It's not apparently clear as to why this happens. The likely reason is that it's simply a corrupted video that's some sort of memory leak and when played, iOS isn't sure how to properly handle it, but there's like more to it than that. Because of the nature of the flaw, it isn't specific to a certain iOS build. As you can see in the video below, playing the video on an iPhone running as far back as iOS 5 will cause the device to freeze and become unusable. Interestingly, with iOS 10.2 beta 3, if you let an iPhone affected by the bug sit there for long enough, it will power off and indefinitely display the spinning wheel that you normally see during the shutdown process. If someone sends you the malicious link and you fall for it, this is luckily a pretty easy problem to fix. All you have to do is hard reboot your device. For any iPhone but the iPhone 7, this can be done by long-pressing the power and Home buttons at the same time. The iPhone 7, of course, uses a new non-mechanical Home button. In order to reboot an iPhone 7, you must long-press the power button and volume down button at the same time.
Open Source

Tor-Enabled Smartphone Is Antidote To Google 'Hostility' Over Android, Says Developer (arstechnica.com) 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Tor Project recently announced the release of its prototype for a Tor-enabled smartphone -- an Android phone beefed up with privacy and security in mind, and intended as equal parts opsec kung fu and a gauntlet to Google. The new phone, designed by Tor developer Mike Perry, is based on Copperhead OS, the hardened Android distribution profiled first by Ars earlier this year. "The prototype is meant to show a possible direction for Tor on mobile," Perry wrote in a blog post. "We are trying to demonstrate that it is possible to build a phone that respects user choice and freedom, vastly reduces vulnerability surface, and sets a direction for the ecosystem with respect to how to meet the needs of high-security users." To protect user privacy, the prototype runs OrWall, the Android firewall that routes traffic over Tor, and blocks all other traffic. Users can punch a hole through the firewall for voice traffic, for instance, to enable Signal. The prototype only works on Google Nexus and Pixel hardware, as these are the only Android device lines, Perry wrote, that "support Verified Boot with user-controlled keys." While strong Linux geekcraft is required to install and maintain the prototype, Perry stressed that the phone is also aimed at provoking discussion about what he described as "Google's increasing hostility towards Android as a fully Open Source platform." Copperhead OS was the obvious choice for the prototype's base system, Perry told Ars. "Copperhead is also the only Android ROM that supports verified boot, which prevents exploits from modifying the boot, system, recovery, and vendor device partitions," said Perry in his blog post. "Copperhead has also extended this protection by preventing system applications from being overridden by Google Play Store apps, or from writing bytecode to writable partitions (where it could be modified and infected)." He added: "This makes Copperhead an excellent choice for our base system." The prototype, nicknamed "Mission Improbable," is now ready to download and install. Perry said he uses the prototype himself for his personal communications: "E-mail, Signal, XMPP+OTR, Mumble, offline maps and directions in OSMAnd, taking pictures, and reading news and books." He suggests leaving the prototype in airplane mode and connecting to the Internet through a second, less-trusted phone, or a cheap Wi-Fi cell router.
Security

Hacker Explains How He Hacked Into Tel Aviv's Public Wi-Fi Network In Three Days (vice.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Israeli hacker Amihai Neiderman needed three days to hack into Tel Aviv's free public Wi-Fi. He only worked during the evenings, after he came home from his full-time job as a security researcher. The 26-year-old said the difficulty level was "a solid 5" on a scale from 1 to 10. The hack, performed in 2014 and recently explained in detail during the DefCamp conference in Bucharest, Romania, shows how vulnerable public networks can be and why we should encrypt our web traffic while accessing them. He hacked his city out of curiosity. One day, he was driving home from work and he noticed the "FREE_TLV" displayed on his smartphone. He had no idea what it was, but got intrigued. It turned out to be Tel Aviv's free municipal Wi-Fi network. The hacker connected to it and checked what his IP was, using http://whatismyip.com. This way, you usually find the address of the router that links you to the internet. To hack Tel Aviv, he needed to take control over this device. Neiderman got home and found out that the router had one port open. He tried it. This step allowed him to determine the manufacturer of the router. It turned out to be Peplink, a company he had never heard of. It made the mistake of having the administration interfaces online. At this point, he still didn't know what device he was connecting to. He compared different products displayed on the company's website and looked for additional clues in the messages sent to him by the unidentified device. He finally found out it was a high-end load balancing router. All he needed was a vulnerability to exploit. But breaking the firmware of the router seemed time consuming, as files were encrypted, so the hacker took a different approach. He found a less protected version of the firmware, used for a different device, and found a vulnerability there. To his luck, the same glitch was present in the version installed on the very devices that made up "FREE_TLV." He tested the hack at home, emulating the city's network, and it worked. A real-life test would had been illegal.
Social Networks

Facebook's Latest Experiment: Helping You Find Free Wi-Fi Hotspots (macworld.com) 32

Users of the social network's iOS app report seeing a new feature in the More section that lets them find nearby public Wi-Fi access points. From a MacWorld story: The feature does not appear to be widely available at the moment, which means this is probably something Facebook is only testing. The social network tests numerous features all the time but this one is particularly notable. Helping users find public Wi-Fi could enable more people to use Facebook Live. If your cellular connection isn't strong, a nearby Wi-Fi location can be a big help -- unless, of course, your Facebook Live broadcast is dependent on your specific location. There could be other uses for finding Wi-Fi beyond live video broadcasts. If you're desperate to upload a photo or recorded video, then locating the closest public Wi-Fi point helps. On top of that it's just one more reason to open the Facebook app, which Facebook obviously wants to encourage as much as possible. Check where the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot is, see that unread notifications indicator at the top of the screen, and before you know it you're engrossed in the news feed.
Iphone

Apple To Swap Faulty iPhone 6S Batteries (bbc.com) 29

Apple is offering to replace the batteries of a "small number" of iPhone 6S phones with a fault that makes them unexpectedly shut down. The phones with this fault were manufactured between September and October 2015, it said in a statement. From a report on BBC:Affected devices will suddenly stop working even though the handset's battery has plenty of charge. Anyone with an eligible phone who takes up the offer will get a free replacement battery for their handset. In its announcement, Apple urged customers who believe they have a faulty phone to contact an Apple store, an authorised repair shop or the firm's support line to start the process of getting a new battery. A "limited serial number range" was affected, it said.
Canada

Google Opens Real-World 'Google Shops' in Canada (digitaltrends.com) 43

Streetlight writes: Google is moving towards a physical presence in Best Buy stores...mimicking what Samsung has done. Hopefully the "stores" are staffed with competent professionals that know what they're selling and maybe provide some help to those who have purchased Google's hardware and software.
Google "is launching a store-within-a-store debuting in North America at select Best Buy locations in Canada," reports TechCrunch, adding that recently "Google also revealed that it would be creating a pop-up Experience Store for users to check out its new wares in New York City."
Google

Google Bans Hundreds Of Pixel Phone Resellers From Their Google Accounts (theguardian.com) 171

Hundreds of Google users lost their access to their emails, photos, documents, "and anything else linked to their Google identity," wrote the Guardian last week, reporting on "hundreds of people who took advantage of a loophole in US sales tax to make a small profit on Pixel phones" -- and got all of the Google accounts suspended. Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: "The Google customers had all bought the phones from the company's Project Fi mobile carrier, and had them shipped directly to a reseller in New Hampshire, a US state with no sales tax. In return, the reseller split the profit with the customers," the Guardian adds.

People might ask, in a hurt tone of voice, "why are you doing this to me?" To which the obvious answer is "because we can, and you agreed to these (link to 3000 pages of text) terms and conditions, including our ability to do this"... The only question has been "When?", never "If?"

Update: Google "has reviewed banned users' appeals and re-enabled their accounts," reports The Guardian.
Security

Second Chinese Firm In a Week Found Hiding a Backdoor In Android Firmware (bleepingcomputer.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: Security researchers have discovered that third-party firmware included with over 2.8 million low-end Android smartphones allows attackers to compromise Over-the-Air (OTA) update operations and execute commands on the target's phone with root privileges. This is the second issue of its kind that came to light this week after researchers from Kryptowire discovered a similar secret backdoor in the firmware of Chinese firm Shanghai Adups Technology Co. Ltd.. This time around, the problem affected Android firmware created by another Chinese company named Ragentek Group.
It apparently affects more than 55 low-end/burner phones from BLU, Infinix Mobility, DOOGEE, LEAGOO, IKU Mobile, Beeline, and XOLO. According to the article, the binary performing the insecure updates "also includes code to hide its presence from the Android OS, along with two other binaries and their processes... Without SSL protection, this OTA system is an open backdoor for anyone looking to take control of it." Even worse, three domains were hard-coded into the binaries, two of which were unregistered, according to the researchers. "If an adversary had noticed this, and registered these two domains, they would've instantly had access to perform arbitrary attacks on almost 3,000,000 devices without the need to perform a Man-in-the-Middle attack."
Businesses

Barnes & Noble Announces A New $50 Android Tablet (teleread.org) 41

Next Friday Barnes & Noble will release a $50 Android tablet, competing against Amazon's tablets with a more-open version of Android. Long-time Slashdot reader Robotech_Master writes: The specs are similar to slightly better than the $50 Fire, but the kicker is this tablet will ship with plain-vanilla Marshmallow Android 6.0 and the Google Play utilities -- unlike the Fire, which limits its users to only those apps Amazon deems suitable to offer. Might this be enough to rescue the ailing Nook brand?
If you truly care about your app ecosystem, this would at least save you the trouble of having to root your tablet just to install apps from the Google Play Store.
Crime

New York's District Attorney: Roll Back Apple's iPhone Encryption (mashable.com) 215

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Thursday that he wants Apple's encryption to go back to how it was in early 2014. Back then, police could basically extract any information they wanted after getting a warrant. "Doing nothing about this problem will perpetuate an untenable arms race between private industry and law enforcement," Vance said on Thursday. "Federal legislation is our only chance to lay these arms aside."

Vance said he's got 423 "lawfully-seized Apple devices" that his employees can't do anything with. Forty-two of those devices "pertain to homicide or attempted murder cases" according to the district attorney's office, and a similar number "relate to sex crimes." The argument, of course, is that the district attorney's office would have an easier time solving crimes if they had access to these phones... Apple believes being forced to hack into phones at the government's will is an unreasonable burden.

ZDNet adds that "the call for federal legislation could be given a popular boost by president elect Donald Trump, who previously called for a boycott on Apple products when it refused to help the FBI."
Graphics

The Next iPhone Will Feature An OLED Display, Says Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple Inc. has big plans to outfit its next iPhone with vibrant, energy-sipping organic LED displays, seeking to entice consumers with new technology that's already been embraced by other high-end smartphone makers. The trouble is that the four main suppliers for such components won't have enough production capacity to make screens for all new iPhones next year, with constraints continuing into 2018, people familiar with the matter said, presenting a potential challenge for the Cupertino, California-based company. OLED screens are more difficult to produce, putting Apple at the mercy of suppliers that are still working to manufacture the displays in mass quantities, the people said. The four largest producers are Samsung Display Co., LG Display Co., Sharp Corp., and Japan Display Inc. While Samsung is on track to be the sole supplier for the new displays next year, the South Korean company may not be able to make enough due to low yield rates combined with increasing iPhone demand. The supply constraints may force Apple to use OLED in just one version of the next-generation iPhone, push back adoption of the technology or cause other snags. Apple plans to ship at least one new iPhone with an OLED screen next year, the 10th anniversary of the smartphone's debut, people with knowledge of the matter said. A pair of other new iPhone models will likely feature screens that use older LCD technology, partly because there won't be enough OLED displays to satisfy anticipated demand, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The OLED iPhone, at least, will have a new look that extends glass from the display to the device's back and edges, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans. This all-glass design will have a virtual Home button embedded in an edge-to-edge screen, rather than a physical button that can be pressed, the person added.
Portables (Apple)

Slashdot Asks: Which Windows Laptop Could Replace a MacBook Pro? 315

Last month, Apple unveiled new MacBook Pros, featuring an OLED Touch Bar, Touch ID, and all-new form factor that shaves off roughly 3mm in thickness. There are three base versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Core i5 processors and 8GB of memory (upgradable to 16GB RAM and dual-core Intel Core i7 processors) for $1,499, $1,799 and $1,999. The base model 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with Core i7 processors and 16GB of memory for $2,399 and $2,799. Of course, adapters and AppleCare support are sold separately. The new laptops are great for Apple users -- but what about Windows users? Is there a Windows laptop that matches the new MacBook Pro in terms of build quality, reliability, and performance? Jack Schofield via The Guardian attempts to help Patrick, who is looking for a PC that matches Apple's new offerings as closely as possible. "I use my Mac for all the usual surfing, watching videos, listening to music and so on," Patrick writes. "I also use Adobe Photoshop pretty heavily and video-editing software more lightly." Schofield writes: The Dell XPS 13 and 15 are the most obvious alternatives to MacBooks. Unfortunately, they are at the top of this price range. You can still get an old-model XPS 13 (9350) for $950, but that has a Core i5-6200U with only 4GB of memory. The latest 9360 version has a 2.5GHz Core i5-7200U, 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD for $1,050. If you go for a 512GB SSD at $1,150, you're only saving $420 on a new 2.0GHz MacBook Pro. HP's Spectre x360 range offers similar features to Dell's XPS range, except that all the x360 laptops have touch screens that you can rotate to enable "tent" (eg for movie viewing) or tablet operation. The cheapest model is the HP Spectre x360 13-4126na. This has a 13in screen, a Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD for $1,050. You can upgrade to an HP Spectre x360 13-4129na with better screen resolution -- 2560 x 1440 instead of 1920 x 1080 -- plus a 2.5GHz Core i7-6500U and 512GB SSD for $1,270. Again, this is not much cheaper than a 2.0GHz MacBook Pro 13. You could also look at the Lenovo ThinkPad T560, which is a robust, professional 15.6in laptop that starts at $800. Do any Slashdotters have any comparable Windows laptops in mind that could replace a new MacBook Pro?
AT&T

Apple's Chip Choices May Leave Some iPhone Users in Slow Lane (bloomberg.com) 35

Not all iPhone 7s are created equal, it turns out. The latest flagship smartphones from Apple that run on Verizon's network are technically capable of downloading data faster than those from AT&T. Yet in testing, the two phones perform about the same, according to researchers at Twin Prime Inc. and Cellular Insights. From a Bloomberg report: Neither firm is clear on the reason, but Twin Prime says it may be because Apple isn't using all the potential of a crucial component in the Verizon version. "The data indicates that the iPhone 7 is not taking advantage of all of Verizon's network capabilities," said Gabriel Tavridis, head of product at Twin Prime. "I doubt that Apple is throttling each bit on the Verizon iPhone, but it could have chosen to not enable certain features of the network chip." "Every iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus meets or exceeds all of Apple's wireless performance standards, quality metrics, and reliability testing," Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said. "In all of our rigorous lab tests based on wireless industry standards, in thousands of hours of real-world field testing, and in extensive carrier partner testing, the data shows there is no discernible difference in the wireless performance of any of the models." It would be an unusual step for a major phone company to restrain its devices. Normally, companies battle to make the fastest, most reliable handsets. Apple may be doing this because it wants to ensure a uniform iPhone experience, according to analysts.
Operating Systems

iOS Devices Failed More Often Than Android Units During Q3, Says Report (phonearena.com) 95

A report from Blannco Technology Group has revealed that iOS devices failed more often than Android devices in the third quarter. Specifically, 62% of Apple iPhone and Apple iPad units suffered failures, compared to the 47% failure rate tallied by Android devices. Phone Arena reports: Apps crashed on 65% of iOS powered devices compared to just 25% of Android models. The breakdown for the iOS devices shows the Apple iPhone 6 with a leading 13% failure rate, followed by the Apple iPhone 6s (9%), Apple iPhone 5s (9%) and the Apple iPad Air 2 (2%). In the report, some of the blame for the high iOS failure rate is placed on the iOS 10 update. Among Android devices, the LeEco Le 2 had a 13% failure rate to lead the way. Two Xiaomi devices were next, both with a 9% rate. Those models were the Redmi 3S and the Redmi Note 3. Rounding out the top five are the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (5%) and the Lenovo Vibe K5 Note (4%). Android flavored models faced problems with the battery (seen on 7% of devices) and issues with the screen (6%). Samsung branded phones and tablets had the most Android failures among manufacturers at 11%. That was followed by the 4% registered by Xiaomi built products. Crashed apps by far was the leading problem for iOS users in North America during the quarter. Worldwide, the rising temperature of an iDevice was the biggest issue. Android users in North America had to deal with crashed apps (21%) more than other problems. Worldwide, those using an Android phone or tablet were most likely to face an issue with the USB port. Last quarter, iOS devices had a 58% failure rate, which marked the first time that Apple's devices had a lower performance rate compared to Android.

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