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Music

Bose Launches 'Hearphones' That Act Like Hearing Aids (theverge.com) 2

Bose has launched a new pair of earbuds called Hearphones that augment the sounds of the world around you, letting you select what kinds of outside noises you'd like to listen to. "Hearphones users can also pick which direction those outside noises come from, with what appears to be specific emphasis on helping people hear voices better in crowded places," reports The Verge: A "Bose Hear" app was recently added to the App Store, and offers a little more detail about what Hearphones are capable of. You can turn the "world volume" up or down, and change the direction you're hearing those sounds from. There are preset modes like "television," "focused conversation," "airplane," "doctor's office," or "gym," all of which presumably block out different sounds from different directions while letting in things like speech. A user manual was also recently submitted to the FCC. No pricing or availability can be found anywhere on Bose's website or in the app. Here's some more from that app's description: "Innovative technologies amplify softer sounds, let you turn down the distractions in noisy environments and focus on what you want to hear -- like a conversation across the table. You can also use them as controllable noise cancelling [sic] wireless headphones for your music or calls or just for quiet. Take control of the noise, and hear the world better."
Wireless Networking

AirPods Delay Attributed To Apple Ensuring Both Earpieces Receive Audio At Same Time (macrumors.com) 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: AirPods were originally slated to launch in October, but the wireless earphones were later delayed. Apple said it needed "a little more time" before they are ready for customers, and it has yet to provide an official update since. While the exact reason for the delay remains unclear, a person familiar with the development of AirPods told The Wall Street Journal that Apple's troubles appear to be related to its "efforts to chart a new path for wireless headphones," in addition to resolving what happens when users lose one of the earpieces or the battery dies. The Wall Street Journal reports: "A person familiar with the development of the AirPod said the trouble appears to stem from Apple's effort to chart a new path for wireless headphones. In most other wireless headphones, only one earpiece receives a signal from the phone via wireless Bluetooth technology; it then transmits the signal to the other earpiece. Apple has said AirPod earpieces each receive independent signals from an iPhone, Mac or other Apple device. But Apple must ensure that both earpieces receive audio at the same time to avoid distortion, the person familiar with their development said. That person said Apple also must resolve what happens when a user loses one of the earpieces or the battery dies."
Transportation

Transportation Department Proposes Allowing In-Flight Phone Calls (go.com) 100

Yesterday, France's Le Monde newspaper issued a report, citing documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, that says American and British spies have since 2005 been working on intercepting phone calls and data transfers made from aircraft. Assuming the report is accurate, national security agencies may soon have their hands full if a new proposal by the Department of Transportation becomes official, which would allow each airline to decide whether its passengers will be permitted to make in-flight phone calls using the aircraft's onboard Wi-Fi system. ABC News reports: The Department of Transportation's proposal leaves it up to airlines whether to allow the calls. But carriers would be required to inform passengers at the time they purchase a ticket if the calls are allowed. That would give passengers the opportunity to make other travel arrangements if they don't want to risk the possibility of sitting near passengers making phone calls. The Federal Communications Commission prohibits using mobile phones to make calls during flights, but not Wi-Fi calls. There is a minimum 60-day comment period and the proposal leaves the door open to an outright ban. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the proposal.
AT&T

AT&T To Cough Up $88 Million For 'Cramming' Mobile Customer Bills (networkworld.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: Some 2.7 million ATT customers will share $88 million in compensation for having had unauthorized third-party charges added to their mobile bills, the Federal Trade Commission announced this morning. The latest shot in the federal government's years-long battle against such abuses, these refunds will represent the most money ever recouped by victims of what is known as "mobile cramming," according to the FTC. From an FTC press release: "Through the FTC's refund program, nearly 2.5 million current ATT customers will receive a credit on their bill within the next 75 days, and more than 300,000 former customers will receive a check. The average refund amount is $31. [...] According to the FTC's complaint, ATT placed unauthorized third-party charges on its customers' phone bills, usually in amounts of $9.99 per month, for ringtones and text message subscriptions containing love tips, horoscopes, and 'fun facts.' The FTC alleged that ATT kept at least 35 percent of the charges it imposed on its customers." The matter with ATT was originally made public in 2014 and also involved two companies that actually applied the unauthorized charges, Tatto and Acquinity.
Wireless Networking

Microsoft Wants To Enable Cellular PCs, But Will Carriers Bite? (computerworld.com) 136

Microsoft is aiming to enable the installation of non-removable programmable SIM cards and data radios in PCs and Windows tablets. In the company's vision, users will then be able to purchase cellular data for those cards through the Windows Store. The announcement was made at the company's WinHEC conference for device manufacturers in Shenzhen, China. From a report on ComputerWorld: Users would also get settings to help them better manage the use of data plans, so it's easier for them to control how much data apps can suck up. But there's a wrinkle in that plan: Cellular carriers will have to get on board with selling plans through the Windows Store, which will likely be a tougher sell.
Wireless Networking

Bluetooth 5 Is Here (betanews.com) 111

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group announces the official adoption of the previously-announced Bluetooth 5. In other words, it is officially the next major version of the technology, which will eventually be found in many consumer devices. So, will you start to see Bluetooth 5 devices and dongles with faster speeds and longer range in stores tomorrow? Nope -- sorry, folks. Consumers will have to wait until 2017. The Bluetooth SIG says devices should become available between February and June next year.In a statement, Bluetooth SIG reminded the specifications of Bluetooth 5 -- "Key feature updates include four times range, two times speed, and eight times broadcast message capacity. Longer range powers whole home and building coverage, for more robust and reliable connections."
Businesses

T-Mobile CFO: Less Regulation, Repeal of Net Neutrality By Trump Would Be 'Positive For My Industry' (tmonews.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TmoNews: T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter spoke at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York City, and he touched a bit on President-elect Donald Trump and what his election could mean for the mobile industry. Carter expects that a Trump presidency will foster an environment that'll be more positive for wireless. "It's hard to imagine, with the way the election turned out, that we're not going to have an environment, from several aspects, that is not going to be more positive for my industry," the CFO said. He went on to explain that there will likely be less regulation, something that he feels "destroys innovation and value creation." Speaking of innovation, Carter also feels that a reversal of net neutrality and the FCC's Open Internet rules would be good for innovation in the industry, saying that it "would provide opportunity for significant innovation and differentiation" and that it'd enable you to "do some very interesting things."
AT&T

FCC Calls Out AT&T, Verizon For 'Zero Rating' Their Own Video Apps (zdnet.com) 56

U.S. regulators are calling out AT&T and Verizon for exempting their own video apps from data caps on customers' smartphones. The FCC has sent letters to the country's biggest wireless carriers saying the way they handle the practice, known as "zero rating," can hurt competition and consumers. From a report on ZDNet: AT&T launched DirecTV Now earlier this week. AT&T Mobility customers can stream video data over LTE without impacting their data allowance. Verizon offers something similar with its go90 service. AT&T and Verizon don't see any wrongdoing. In a statement Friday, AT&T said exempting services like DirecTV Now from data caps saves customers money. Verizon said its practices are good for consumers and comply with regulations. "We will provide the FCC with additional information on why the government should not take away a service that saves consumers money," AT&T wrote in a statement Friday. The FCC hasn't released any official ruling on "zero rating," just guidance. It said on Thursday a similar letter was sent to AT&T in November, but the FCC didn't like AT&T's original response.
United States

Trump Will Get Power To Send Unblockable Mass Text Messages To All Americans (nymag.com) 555

President-elect Donald Trump will have access to a system which can send unblockable texts to every phone in the United States once he becomes the president. From a report on NYMag: These 90-character messages, known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (or WEAs), are part of a program put in place after Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act, in 2006. WEAs allow for targeted messages to be sent to every cell phone getting a signal from certain geographically relevant cell towers (or, in a national emergency, all of them). While it'd be a true nightmare to get screeching alerts from your phone that "Loser Senate Democrats still won't confirm great man Peter Thiel to Supreme Court. Sad!", there are some checks and balances on this. While President-elect Trump hasn't shown much impulse control when it comes to his favorite mass-messaging service, Twitter, the process for issuing a WEA isn't as simple as typing out a 90-character alert from a presidential smartphone and hitting "Send." All WEAs must be issued through FEMA's Integrated Public Alert Warning System, meaning that an emergency alert from the president still has at least one layer to pass through before being issued. While FEMA is under control of the executive branch (the head of FEMA is selected by the president, and reports to the Department of Homeland Security), the agency would have a vested interest in not seeing their alert system bent toward, uh, non-emergency ends.
AT&T

AT&T Unveils DirecTV Now Streaming TV Service With Over 100 Channels (theverge.com) 80

ATT has officially unveiled its DirecTV Now internet TV streaming service, which launches Wednesday, November 30th, in the U.S. on iPhone, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and PC/Mac, starting at $35 per month. The Verge reports: Like its over-the-top rivals, DirecTV Now will let customers stream live programming on smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- no cable box necessary -- and requires no long-term contracts or commitments. For a limited time, ATT will offer the "Go Big" channel tier with 100 channels for $35 per month. If you sign up in time, the offer will remain valid each month until you cancel. But that $35 rate is not the long-term pricing for 100+ channels. DirecTV Now offers step-up subscriptions that include other channels and content for a higher monthly cost. ATT has signed programming agreements with nearly all major networks with the exception of CBS and Showtime; negotiations with those companies remain ongoing. DirecTV Now allows customers to watch up to two streams simultaneously. HBO and Cinemax can be added to any of these packages for just $5 extra (each) per month. DirecTV Now is "zero rated" for the company's wireless customers, so regardless of how much time they spend streaming, that activity will have no impact on data usage for their monthly bill. Importantly, while these are the subscription rates as of today, the company is being straightforward about the possibility of increases in the future. ATT also plans to air original shows including a Taylor Swift series.
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.
The Internet

Microsoft Partners With D-Link To Deliver Speedier Wi-Fi in Rural Regions (zdnet.com) 41

Microsoft has partnered with networking equipment manufacturer D-Link to deliver speedier Wi-Fi to rural communities around the world. From a report on ZDNet:Dubbed "Super Wi-Fi", the wireless infrastructure is set to be based on the 802.11af protocol, and will take advantage of unused bandwidth in the lower-frequency white spaces between television channel frequencies where signals travel further than at higher frequencies. A pilot of the first phase is commencing in an unnamed American state, with trials also slated to run in three other countries. "D-Link sees ourselves at the very heart of this kind of technical innovation and development. We also acknowledge that we have a role to play in helping all countries and future generations better connect," said Sydney-based D-Link managing director for ANZ Graeme Reardon. "Our goal is to use all of our 30 years' experience and expertise and our global footprint to help deliver Super Wi-Fi as a technological platform for growth to the world's underdeveloped regions."
Network

Apple Abandons Development of Wireless Routers, To Focus On Products That Return More Profit (bloomberg.com) 238

Apple has disbanded its division that develops wireless routers in a move that further sharpens the company's focus on consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue, Bloomberg reports. From the article:Apple began shutting down the wireless router team over the past year, dispersing engineers to other product development groups, including the one handling the Apple TV. Apple hasn't refreshed its routers since 2013 following years of frequent updates to match new standards from the wireless industry. The decision to disband the team indicates the company isn't currently pushing forward with new versions of its routers. Routers are access points that connect laptops, iPhones and other devices to the web without a cable. Apple currently sells three wireless routers, the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time capsule. The Time capsule doubles as a backup storage hard drive for Mac computers.
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.
America Online

AOL To Cut 500 Workers To Narrow Focus On Mobile, Video (bloomberg.com) 60

According to a report from Bloomberg, AOL is firing as many as 500 employees as part of a restructuring plan to focus on mobile, video and data. The move comes a year after Verizon acquired the company for $4.4 billion. Bloomberg reports: The layoffs are occurring in all of AOL's business units, said the person, who asked not to be identified disclosing the scope of the cuts. AOL employs about 6,400 people worldwide, the person said. In addition to the job cuts, the company will split into two parts, according to the memo. One will be dedicated to media properties, which include Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and the other will focus on platforms, like AOL's advertising technology. "Mobile, video, and data are the key growth drivers of that strategy and the company will be putting resources into each of these areas," [Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong wrote in a memo to employees Thursday.] With the wireless industry maturing, AOL parent Verizon has been buying up media and advertising-technology companies and working to refine go90, its free video-streaming service aimed at phone-toting teens.
Government

FCC Abides By GOP Request To Stop What It's Doing, Deletes Everything From Meeting Agenda (arstechnica.com) 119

One day after republicans from the house and senate sent letters to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging him to avoid passing regulations before Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Wheeler appears to have complied with the request. The FCC today "announced the deletion of all items that were originally scheduled to be presented and voted on at tomorrow's meeting." Ars Technica reports: Before the change, the agenda included votes on price caps for "special access" business data services; Universal Service funding to expand mobile broadband networks; wireless roaming obligations; and requirements for audio description of TV programming for blind and visually impaired people. The only item not deleted from tomorrow's meeting is part of the "consent agenda," which means it is routine and wasn't going to be presented individually. Of the major items, the business data services proposal had received the most attention. These are dedicated wireline circuits provided by traditional phone companies like AT&T and Verizon; the services supply bandwidth for cellular data networks, indirectly affecting the price consumers pay for wireless service. The business data services are also used by banks and retailers to connect ATM machines and credit card readers, by government and corporate users to connect branch offices and data centers, and to support public safety operations and health care facilities. The now-deleted agenda item would have phased in price cap decreases of 11 percent over three years to account for "over a decade of efficiency gains" since the last price cap adjustment.
The Almighty Buck

Comcast Takes $70 Gigabit Offer Away From Cities Near Chicago (arstechnica.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When Comcast brought its gigabit cable Internet service to the Chicago area in August, it gave customers in some parts of Chicago and nearby towns the option of subscribing for $70 a month -- half off the standard, no-contract price of $140. Though the $70 gigabit offer required a three-year contract, it came with unlimited data, which normally costs an extra $50 a month on top of the $140 no-contract price. For Comcast customers, this was a good deal. But Comcast didn't make the $70 offer available throughout the Chicago area, and now the company has restricted it even further. The offer remains available in parts of Chicago, namely Uptown, Grand Crossing, the Loop, and South Loop. But Comcast has stopped offering the $70 price in all nearby cities and towns where it was originally available. The $70 price was briefly offered in Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield, Waukegan, Tinley Park, Batavia, and Bloomington in Illinois and in South Bend in Indiana. In those areas, the $140 no-contract price is now the only option for new gigabit cable customers. (People who signed up for the $70 deal before it was rescinded will still get it for three years, as they're under contract.) A Comcast spokesperson said the company had been "testing" the $70 promotion in certain areas of Illinois and Indiana but decided to stop the tests in most of them. It's not clear why Comcast stopped the tests in these cities and towns, but Comcast told Ars that it often changes its promotions and thus could expand the $70 deal to other areas or offer new discounts soon. However, there are no expansions of the $70 offer being announced right now.
Wireless Networking

Smartphone WiFi Signals Can Leak Your Keystrokes, Passwords, and PINs (bleepingcomputer.com) 46

Bleeping Computer warns that "The way users move fingers across a phone's touchscreen alters the WiFi signals transmitted by a mobile phone, causing interruptions that an attacker can intercept, analyze, and reverse engineer to accurately guess what the user has typed...when the attacker controls a rogue WiFi access point." The new WindTalker attack leverages the "channel state information" in WiFi signals. An anonymous reader quotes their article: Because the user's finger moves across the smartphone when he types text, his hand alters CSI properties for the phone's outgoing WiFi signals, which the attacker can collect and log on the rogue access point... By performing basic signal analysis and signal processing, an attacker can separate desired portions of the CSI signal and guess with an average accuracy of 68.3% the characters a user has typed... but it can be improved the more the user types and the more data the attacker collects.
The new attack is described in a research paper titled "When CSI Meets Public WiFi: Inferring Your Mobile Phone Password via WiFi Signals."
Wireless Networking

HTC Vive Goes Wireless (uploadvr.com) 29

One of the biggest cons with premium virtual-reality headsets is the fact that they need to be tethered to a powerful gaming PC or game console via annoying wires. In early September, HTC announced it was working on a method to remove the wires, and now their solution is officially available via a $220 add-on kit. UploadVR reports: HTC today announced a tether-less VR upgrade kit for its SteamVR device, made by TPCAST, one of the first of 33 companies to join the Vive X Accelerator. Speaking to UploadVR in a phone interview, [China Regional President of Vive at HTC Alvin W. Graylin] said that the experience would "greatly improve" the overall Vive experience, with no "noticeable difference" for factors like latency. The product will be available to pre-order with a standard battery, though Graylin said that a bigger battery will be sold eventually. We're told the standard battery can deliver around one and a half hours of power. The bigger battery would rest in a user's pocket. HTC expects the device to be adopted by "avid" Vive users, though it could also be useful for businesses. The upgrade kit will be available to pre-order on Vive's Chinese website "in limited quantity" for 1,499 RMB ($220.33). The kit is said to ship starting in Q1 2017. According to HTC, pre-orders go live at 7 a.m. Pacific on Friday. Graylin said anyone could order the unit from there and pay for shipping. According to HTC, in a press release, "Order fulfillment will be prioritized to existing customers who can provide a valid Vive serial number." You can watch some wireless HTC Vive test footage here.

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