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In China, Some Apple Users Opt For iPhone Makeover Rather Than Buy New ( 104

Instead of buying a new iPhone model, some Chinese iPhone owners are giving their old models a makeover to look like the latest version -- a trend that could dent Apple's efforts to boost sales in what has been its biggest growth driver. Catherine Cadell, reporting for Reuters: Online sites offer shoppers makeover kits, false cameras and even dust plugs to hide the removed headphone jack to give their iPhone 6 or 6S the appearance of the iPhone 7 -- Apple's latest flagship product which launched last month. The makeover quirk mirrors a broader view among some Chinese users that the iPhone 7 doesn't have enough new features to convince them to trade up. "I don't have the money to upgrade, and the (iPhone) 7 is just so-so," said a Beijing-based sales worker, who said he was getting a Shenzhen firm to replace his iPhone 6 back casing with a fake iPhone 7 shell. "I'm changing it to show off," he said, giving only his surname Gao as he wasn't sure that what he was doing was legal. Searches on platforms including Alibaba's Taobao showed a range of products to transform older phones to an iPhone 7 -- from stickers and engraving services to replacing the outer casing and even some of the hardware.

Renewables Overtake Coal As World's Largest Source of Power Capacity ( 303

The world's largest source of power capacity is now renewables, as roughly half a million solar panels were installed every single day last year. In addition, two wind turbines were erected every hour in countries such as China, according to the International Energy Agency. Financial Times reports (Editor's note: may be paywalled; alternate source): Although coal and other fossil fuels remain the largest source of electricity generation, many conventional power utilities and energy groups have been confounded by the speed at which renewables have grown and the rapid drop in costs for the technologies. Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 percent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed. The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 percent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power. It said an unprecedented 153 gigawatts of green electricity was installed last year, mostly wind and solar projects, which has more than the total power capacity in Canada. It was also more than the amount of conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power added in 2015, leading renewables to surpass coal's cumulative share of global power capacity -- though not electricity generation. A power plant's capacity is the maximum amount of electricity it can potentially produce. The amount of energy a plant actually generates varies according to how long it produces power over a period of time. Coal power plants supplied close to 39 percent of the world's power in 2015, while renewables, including old hydropower dams, accounted for 23 percent, IEA data show. But the agency expects renewables' share of power generation to rise to 28 percent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the U.S. and E.U. combined.

Snapchat, Skype Put Users' 'Human Rights at Risk', Amnesty Int'l Reports ( 46

Shanika Gunaratna, writing for CBS News: Snapchat and Skype are falling short in protecting users' privacy -- a failure that puts users' "human rights at risk," according to a report by the organization Amnesty International. Snapchat and Skype received dismal grades in a new set of rankings released by Amnesty that specifically evaluate how popular messaging apps use encryption to protect users' private communications. In the report, Amnesty is trying to elevate encryption as a human rights necessity, due to concerns that activists, opposition politicians and journalists in some countries could be put in grave danger if their communications on popular messaging apps were compromised. "Activists around the world rely on encryption to protect themselves from spying by authorities, and it is unacceptable for technology companies to expose them to danger by failing to adequately respond to the human rights risks," Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of Amnesty's technology and human rights team, said in a statement. "The future of privacy and free speech online depends to a very large extent on whether tech companies provide services that protect our communications, or serve them up on a plate for prying eyes."Microsoft's Skype received 40 out of 100. WhatsApp fared at 73, and Apple scored 67 out of 100 for its iMessage and FaceTime apps. BlackBerry, Snapchat, and China's Tencent did 30 out of 100.

Alibaba Founder To Chinese Government: Use Big Data To Stop Criminals ( 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Chinese billionaire Jack Ma proposed that the nation's top security bureau use big data to prevent crime, endorsing the country's nascent effort to build unparalleled online surveillance of its billion-plus people. China's data capabilities are virtually unrivaled among its global peers, and policing cannot happen without the ability to analyze information on its citizens, the co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said in a speech published Saturday by the agency that polices crime and runs the courts. Ma's stance resonates with that of China's ruling body, which is establishing a system to collect and parse information on citizens in a country where minimal safeguards exist for privacy. "Bad guys in a movie are identifiable at first glance, but how can the ones in real life be found?" Ma said in his speech, which was posted on the official WeChat account of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs. "In the age of big data, we need to remember that our legal and security system with millions of members will also face change." In his speech, Ma stuck mainly to the issue of crime prevention. In Alibaba's hometown of Hangzhou alone, the number of surveillance cameras may already surpass that of New York's, Ma said. Humans can't handle the sheer amount of data amassed, which is where artificial intelligence comes in, he added. "The future legal and security system cannot be separated from the internet and big data," Ma said. Ma's speech also highlights the delicate relationship between Chinese web companies and the government. The ruling party has designated internet industry leaders as key targets for outreach, with President Xi Jinping saying in May last year that technology leaders should "demonstrate positive energy in purifying cyberspace."

China Electronics Firm To Recall Some US Products After Hacking Attack ( 67

An anonymous reader writes:Chinese firm Hangzhou Xiongmai said it will recall some of its products sold in the United States after it was identified by security researchers as having made parts for devices that were targeted in a major hacking attack on Friday. Hackers unleashed a complex attack on the Internet through common devices like webcams and digital recorders, and cut access to some of the world's best known websites in a stunning breach of global internet stability. The electronics components firm, which makes parts for surveillance cameras, said in a statement on its official microblog that it would recall some of its earlier products sold in the United States, strengthen password functions and send users a patch for products made before April last year. It said the biggest issue was users not changing default passwords, adding that, overall, its products were well protected from cyber security breaches. It said reports that its products made up the bulk of those targeted in the attack were false. "Security issues are a problem facing all mankind. Since industry giants have experienced them, Xiongmai is not afraid to experience them once, too," the company statement said.

John McAfee Thinks North Korea Hacked Dyn, and Iran Hacked the DNC ( 149

"The Dark Web is rife with speculation that North Korea is responsible for the Dyn hack" says John McAfee, according to a new article on CSO: McAfee said they certainly have the capability and if it's true...then forensic analysis will point to either Russia, China, or some group within the U.S. [And] who hacked the Democratic National Committee? McAfee -- in an email exchange and follow up phone call -- said sources within the Dark Web suggest it was Iran, and he absolutely agrees. While Russian hackers get more media attention nowadays, Iranian hackers have had their share... "The Iranians view Trump as a destabilizing force within America," said McAfee. "They would like nothing more than to have Trump as President....

"If all evidence points to the Russians, then, with 100% certainty, it is not the Russians. Anyone who is capable of carrying out a hack of such sophistication is also capable, with far less effort than that involved in the hack, of hiding their tracks or making it appear that the hack came from some other quarter..."

Bruce Schneier writes that "we don't know anything much of anything" about yesterday's massive DDOS attacks. "If I had to guess, though, I don't think it's China. I think it's more likely related to the DDoS attacks against Brian Krebs than the probing attacks against the Internet infrastructure..." Earlier this month Krebs had warned that source code had been released for the massive DDOS attacks he endured in September, "virtually guaranteeing that the Internet will soon be flooded with attacks from many new botnets powered by insecure routers, IP cameras, digital video recorders and other easily hackable devices."

China Overtakes the US in iOS App Store Revenue ( 53

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch: China has now overtaken the U.S. to become the largest market in the world for App Store revenue, according to a new report out this morning from app intelligence firm App Annie. The country earned over $1.7 billion in Q3 2016, which puts it ahead of the U.S. by over 15 percent. The U.S. had been the number one iOS market since 2010, the report notes. Today, Chinese consumers spend more than 5 times the amount they were spending compared with just two years prior. In addition, the report predicts that China will drive the largest absolute revenue growth for any country by 2020. The estimations are likely accurate -- App Annie had said at the beginning of the year that if China's rapid App Store revenue growth continued at the same pace, it would overtake the U.S. by year's end. And that has now occurred. This growth is largely being driven by games, and here, China's lead has also widened over the U.S. during the past quarter. Games drive 75 percent of App Store revenue, even though non-game apps make up the majority (75%) of those distributed in Apple's mobile marketplace.

India's Biggest ATM Breach? 3.2 Million Debit Cards Across 19 Banks May Have Been Compromised ( 34

A total of 32 lakh (3.2 million) debit cards across 19 banks could have been compromised on account of a purported fraud, the National Payment Corporation of India said in a statement. BloombergQuint adds: "The genesis of the problem was receipt of complaints from few banks that their customer's cards were used fraudulently mainly in China and USA while customers were in India," the NPCI said. "The complaints of fraudulent withdrawal are limited to cards of 19 banks and 641 customers. The total amount involved is Rs 1.3 crore as reported by various affected banks to NPCI." SISA Security, a Bengaluru-based company is currently undertaking a forensic study to identify the extent of the problem and will submit a final report in November. Initial reports had suggested that ATMs operated by Hitachi Payment Services had been attacked by malware and were the source of the breach. However, the company has said in a statement that an interim report by the audit agency does not suggest any breach or compromise in its systems.

BBC Micro Bit Mini-Computer To Expand Internationally With New Hardware ( 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The Micro Bit mini-computer is to be sold across the world and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions. The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC. About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year. Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intended to co-ordinate a wider rollout. "Our goal is to go out and reach 100 million people with Micro Bit, and by reach I mean affect their lives with the technology," said the foundations' new chief executive Zach Shelby. "That means [selling] tens of millions of devices... over the next five to 10 years." His organization plans to ensure Micro Bits can be bought across Europe before the end of the year and is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand. Next, in 2017, the foundation plans to target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware. TrixX adds: The makers of the BBC micro:bit have announced that they are releasing the full specs for the device under an open license, (SolderPad License, similar to Apache License but for hardware). This means that anyone can legally use the specs and build their own device, or fork the reference design GitHub repo and design their derivatives.

LeEco Who? Chinese Tech Giant Tries Its Luck In the US With 'More Products Than You've Ever Seen' ( 59

LeEco is often called the Netflix of China. Which is funny for two reasons: LeEco is bigger than Netflix, and it has been around for longer than the American on-demand movies and TV shows streaming service. Besides, LeEco runs a fleet of other businesses, including ecommerce portal, smartphones, TVs, and even an autonomous cars. A company executive said this month that this would be a better description of LeEco, "If you were to take Apple, Amazon, Paramount Pictures, Tesla, Uber and Netflix and combine all of those companies, you get what LeEco does in China" But you may not have heard much about LeEco, the company which was until earlier this year known as LeTv. But you will now, because the company today announced a range of products for the U.S. market. TechCrunch adds: Perhaps predictably, one of the first US-based offerings from the company often referred to as "the Netflix of China" will be a content platform. And, as with just about everything else at today's event, LeEco's coming out swinging. The list of partners for LeEco Live includes MGM, Lionsgate, Vice, Showtime, Sling and Magnolia Pictures, along with publication partners like Cosmopolitan and Esquire, to name but a few. From another CNET report, which lists the other things that LeEco announced today: UMax 85 TV is LeEco's flagship 4K smart television. It's 85 inches, comes with 4GB in RAM and 64GB in storage and supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It will cost $4,999. Super4 X65 TV is LeEco's second biggest 4K smart television at 65 inches and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. Super4 X55 TV is a 55-inch 4K smart television and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. Super4 X43 Pro TV is 43-inch 4K smart television and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. LeEco has an upcoming prototype VR headset; it will have a gyroscope, bluetooth headphones and USB Type-C. LeSee Pro is LeEco's self-driving concept car. It will be fully autonomous and will have a connected interior to let people stream movies, music and work documents. LeSee is LeEco's semi-autonomous vehicle (level 3). It is internet-connected and has streaming content in rear seats. LeEco first unveiled this car in April.

Samsung Tried to Bribe Chinese Man To Keep Exploding Phone Video Private ( 122

An anonymous reader writes: When a Galaxy Note 7 caught fire in China, its owner started filming the damage. That's to be expected. What was less expected was how Samsung reacted to news that one of its phones caught on fire. According to The New York Times, Samsung didn't rush out to try to find out why this user's phone exploded, it tried to bribe him to keep the video private. From the New York Times report; "Two employees from Samsung Electronics showed up at his house later that day, he said, offering a new Note 7 and about $900 in compensation on the condition that he keep the video private. Mr. Zhang angrily refused. Only weeks before, even as Samsung recalled more than two million Note 7s in the United States and elsewhere, the company had reassured him and other Chinese customers that the phone was safe. 'They said there was no problem with the phones in China. That's why I bought a Samsung,' said Mr. Zhang, a 23-year-old former firefighter. 'This is an issue of deception. They are cheating Chinese consumers.'"

China Just Launched Two Astronauts Into Orbit ( 265

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: China has launched two men into orbit in a project designed to develop its ability to explore space. The astronauts took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China at 23:30 GMT on Sunday [7:30 p.m. EST].

The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life. This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

NBC calls this evidence of "the intensifying U.S.-China space rivalry... With the current U.S.-led International Space Station expected to retire in 2024, China could be the only nation left with a permanent presence in space."

China Has Now Eclipsed The US in AI Research ( 97

Earlier this week, the Obama administration discussed a new strategic plan aimed at fostering the development of AI-centered technologies in the United States. What's striking about it is, the Washington Post notes, although the United States was an early leader in deep-learning research (a subset of the overall branch of AI known as machine learning), China has effectively eclipsed it in terms of the number of papers published annually on the subject (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). From the report: The rate of increase is remarkably steep, reflecting how quickly China's research priorities have shifted. The quality of China's research is also striking. The chart narrows the research to include only those papers that were cited at least once by other researchers, an indication that the papers were influential in the field.

Beijing Said Facebook and Google Are Welcome Back To China as Long as They 'Respect China's Laws' ( 77

Will Facebook and Google come back to China? The Chinese government says they can, as long as they "respect China's laws." From a Quartz report: Yesterday at a press conference held in preparation for the upcoming World Internet Conference, a Bloomberg reporter asked Ren Xianliang, deputy director of the Cyberspace Administration of China (which oversees internet governance) if the government would permit the two American internet giants to re-enter China. Both companies still have business-facing services in China, but Google effectively closed its consumer-facing search engine there in 2010, and authorities have blocked Facebook's social network since 2009. To this, Ren said, "China's internet development has always maintained a policy of openness. As for foreign internet companies, as long as they respect China's laws, don't harm the interests of the country, and don't harm the interests of consumers, we welcome them to enter China, where they can together share the benefits of China's developing internet."

China's Alibaba Has a New Payment System That Lets Virtual Reality Shoppers Pay By Nodding ( 43

If providing your credit card details (or a few clicks) is too much a hassle for you, China's Alibaba may have a solution. The company today demonstrated a payment service called VR Pay, that allows virtual reality shoppers to pay for things just by nodding their heads. Reuters reports: VR Pay, the new payment system, is part of Alibaba's efforts to capitalize on the latest technology in online shopping. In 2015, for example, it introduced a facial recognition technology for Alipay mobile payments service advertised as "pay with a selfie." The VR payment technology means people using virtual reality goggles to browse virtual reality shopping malls will be able pay for purchases without taking off the goggles. They can just nod or look instead. Lin Feng, who is in charge of Ant Financial's incubator F Lab that has been developing the payment service over the past few months, told Reuters: "It is very boring to have to take off your goggles for payment. With this, you will never need to take out your phone."

Uber and Didi Face Regulatory Challenges Throughout China ( 15

hackingbear writes: Contrary to the central government's wish to boost employment from peer-to-peer economy, the Chinese cities of Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing, who have invested big interest in traditional taxi services, are all looking to pass municipal regulations on ride-hailing businesses that could wipe out many of Uber and Didi's drivers and cars. "There will be a sharp drop in market supply of rideshare vehicles. In Shanghai, for instance, less than 20 percent of existing rideshare vehicles meet the proposed (wide) wheelbase requirements. There will be significant decrease in the number of rideshare drivers. Of over 410,000 activated driver accounts in Shanghai, only less than 10,000 are residents with Shanghai residency registration," said Didi on its social media outlets. In China, ridesharing drivers are usually migrant workers who have few other choices of employments, and rich urban residents are not interested in such jobs. Given the sore state of the economy in China, high unemployment would mean social unrest; the ridesharing economy may prevail at the end as it has become too big to be strictly regulated. Separately, the Chinese government opened an antitrust probe into Uber's sale of its China operations to Didi in September after the announcement of the merger.

Nokia Crawls Towards Comeback With New Phones Announcement ( 73

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: The "new Nokia" appears going for volume rather than margins as it makes a comeback into phones. A new venture called HMD Global has licensed the rights to the Nokia brand for use in phones, which will be made by Foxconn. Three or four new Nokia-branded devices will be launched, Nokia's China chief suggested in August, with the first to be announced before Christmas. Benchmarks for one device, named in the benchmarks as the "D1C" have been spotted, indicating a solid midrange device, with 3GB of RAM, and Android Nougat 7. The CPU is identified as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa core running at 1.4Ghz. In 2013, Microsoft bought the exclusive right to use the Nokia brand for phones, for a limited period. That exclusivity period expires at the end of this year.
United Kingdom

Is Britain Secretly Funding Its Nuclear Submarine Program? ( 108

Why is the U.K. funding a risky $22 billion joint project with China to produce electricity at twice the cost? mdsolar quotes a nuclear specialist from the University of Oxford: only makes sense if one considers its connection to Britain's military projects -- especially Trident, a roving fleet of armed nuclear submarines, which is outdated and needs upgrading. Hawks and conservatives, in particular, see the Trident program as vital to preserving Britain's international clout...the government and some of its partners in the defense industry, like Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, think a robust civilian nuclear industry is essential to revamping Britain's nuclear submarine program...

Merging programs like research and development or skills training across civilian and military sectors helps cut back on military spending. It also helps maintain the talent pool for nuclear specialists. And given the long lead times and life spans of most nuclear projects, connections between civilian and military programs give companies more incentives to make the major investments required. One might say that with the Hinkley Point project, the British government is using billions of Chinese money to build stealth submarines designed to deter China.

The Op-Ed -- published in The New York Times -- calls for more openness about military spending, arguing "If Britain's energy policy were solely about energy, rather than also about defense, the nuclear sector would be forced to stand on its own two feet."
United States

Samsung Halts Galaxy Note 7 Production Temporarily ( 121

Samsung is halting production of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone after the replacement units -- the second batch of Note 7 produced -- by Samsung also seemed to be riddled with a similar issue, with nearly half a dozen of explosion and burning issues in the past week alone. Yonhap News Agency, and the WSJ are both reporting that the halt was done in cooperation with safety regulators from South Korea, China and the United States. From a WSJ report: Samsung's move comes after a spate of fresh reports of problems with replacement phones that have been distributed to consumers around the world. While Samsung hasn't confirmed the reports, it said in a statement Friday in response to one report that it would "move quickly to investigate the reported case to determine the cause and will share findings as soon as possible."

Baidu's Voice Recognition Software Is More Accurate Than Typing ( 55

The massive Chinese web services company Baidu has launched their sophisticated new TalkType 'keyboard' which defaults to voice recognition app. An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: Baidu claims that the app's speech recognition is more accurate than actual typing, having developed and tested the technology alongside speech software experts at Stanford University...The researchers concluded that Baidu's technology was three times faster than a typical user typing in English. The results showed that the TalkType error rate was 20.4% lower than an English texter hunting and tapping for letters. The accuracy was even greater for those typing in Mandarin, with the error rate dropping 63.4% when using TalkType.
Of course, last year Baidu was also accused of gaming the testing for their image-recognition software.

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