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Android

Do We Need The Moto Z Smartphones' New Add-On Modules? (hothardware.com) 30

This week saw the release of the Moto Z Droid and Force Droid, new Android smartphones from Motorola and Lenovo with snap-on modules. Slashdot reader MojoKid writes that the Z Force Droid "is sheathed behind Moto ShatterShield technology making it virtually indestructible." Motorola guarantees it not to crack or shatter if dropped... However, what's truly standout are Moto Mods, which are snap-on back-packs of sorts that add new features, like the JBL Speaker, Moto Insta-Projector and Incipio OffGrid Power Pack (2220 mAh) mods... Even the fairly complex projector mod fires up in seconds and works really well.
But the Verge has called it "a good phone headed down the wrong path," adding "this company is competing in the global smartphone market, not a high school science fair, and its success will depend on presenting better value than the competition, not cleverer design. Without the benefit of the value-projecting fairy dust of brands like Apple and Beats, Lenovo will have an uphill climb trying to justify its Moto Mods pricing with functionality and looks, and our review has shown that none of the company's extras are essential."
Cellphones

Corning Unveils Gorilla Glass 5, Can Survive Drops 'Up To 80% Of The Time' (theverge.com) 110

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Corning has unveiled their new Gorilla Glass 5, which should make its way to high-end smartphones and other electronic devices later this year and into 2017. Gorilla Glass 5 is designed to improve drop performance from devices that are dropped onto rough surfaces from waist heigh to shoulder height. Corning says it can survive up to 80 percent of the time when dropped from 1.6 meters. For comparison, Gorilla Glass 4, which was released in the fall of 2014, was marketed as being twice as tough as the previous version and twice as likely to survive drops onto uneven surfaces from about a meter high. Some things to note include the fact that in Corning's tests, the 80 percent survival rate was with pieces of glass that were 0.6mm thick -- Corning now makes glass as thin as 0.4mm. Depending on how thin manufacturers want the glass in their devices, the durability results may vary. Also, most of demos consisted of dropping the glass face down, rather than on its side or corner. Corning's vice president and general manger John Bayne said if the glass is dropped in such a way, it's going to depend on the overall design of the phone, not just the glass. Gorilla Glass 5 is currently in production, though the company says we'll hear more about it "in the next few months." There's no word as to whether or not the glass will be ready in time for the wave of devices expected this fall.
Cellphones

Uber Investor Suggests Addressing Police Killings With an App (usatoday.com) 311

An anonymous reader write: To address the problem of motorists killed by police officers, Shervin Pishevar, the Iranian-born VC who backed Uber, is suggesting an app that allows police officers to communicate with motorists during traffic stops without either party leaving their vehicles. USA Today reports that Pishevar "says he has slept very little in the past 48 hours as he seeks input from law enforcement, software engineers and designers, lawmakers and from community members," and he's now working with former New York City police commissioner. Engadget has criticized Pishevar's proposal, writing "Dear Silicon Valley, not everything can be solved with apps."

At midnight on Friday, Uber also shut down their service for one minute "to create a moment of reflection for the Uber Community,", and also added a peace sign to their app, encouraging its users to "take a moment to think about what we can do to help," and changed the countdown for the arrival of a car into the amount of time left "to reflect on gun violence".

Privacy

US Terrorist Conviction Appealed Over Use of NSA Data (independent.co.uk) 101

The Independent newspaper reports that the warrantless NSA surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden are facing a constitutional challenge in court for the first time: Lawyers for Mohamed Mohamud have argued that surveillance evidence used to convict the Somali-American man, found guilty of plotting to bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, was gathered in a manner that was unconstitutional. The lawyers laid out their arguments on Wednesday before a panel of judges of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, close to the plaza where Mohamud tried detonating a fake bomb that was part of an undercover operation...

Stephen Sady, Mohamud's lawyer, urged the court to grant his client a new trial on the grounds that the evidence used against Mohamud should never have been permitted in the courtroom. Mr Sady told the judges that using surveillance information on foreigners, which does not require a warrant, to spy on any Americans they communicate with was "an incredible diminution of the privacy rights of all Americans⦠That is a step that should never be taken."

Last year saw a record number of wiretaps authorized by state and federal judges -- 4,148, more than twice as many as the 1,773 that took place in 2005 -- and not a single request was rejected. (More than 95% were for cellphones, and 81% for narcotics investigations.) But The Independent notes that U.S. law enforcement officials have admitted they also "incidentally" collect information about Americans without a warrant, and then sometimes later use that information in criminal investigations. In Mohamud's case, which dates back to 2010, "There's no doubt he tried to explode a car bomb in America," writes Slashdot reader Bruce66423, arguing that this case "elegantly demonstrates the issue of how far legal rights should overwhelm common sense."
Android

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active Fails Consumer Reports Water-Resistance Test (consumerreports.org) 83

An anonymous reader writes: The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is apparently not-so-active. It should be the more durable version of the Galaxy S7 family but apparently it's not. Because of this, Consumer reports is not going to mark it as "Recommended" even though it performed very well in all the other tests it ran. [Jerry Beilinson writes from Consumer Reports:] "Consumer Reports technicians placed a Galaxy S7 Active in a water tank pressurized to 2.12 pounds-per-square-inch, the equivalent of just under five feet of water, and set a timer for 30 minutes. When we removed the phone, the screen was obscured by green lines, and tiny bubbles were visible in the lenses of the front- and rear-facing cameras. The touchscreen wasn't responsive. Following our standard procedure when a sample fails an immersion test, we submitted a second Galaxy S7 Active to the same test. That phone failed as well. After we removed it from the tank, the screen cycled on and off every few seconds, and moisture could be seen in the front and back camera lenses. We also noticed water in the slot holding the SIM card. For a couple of days following the test, the screens of both phones would light up when the phones were plugged in, though the displays could not be read. The phones never returned to functionality." Samsung has said "The Samsung Galaxy S7 active device is one of the most rugged phones to date and is highly resistant to scratches and IP68 certified. There may be an off-chance that a defective device is not as watertight as it should be." Although, given the fact that Consumer Reports tested multiple devices, Samsung could have a widespread issue on their hands. They company said it is investigating the issue.
Communications

Entire Federal Government Exempt From Robocall Laws, FCC Rules (thehill.com) 188

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Hill: Late Tuesday night, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that the entire federal government is exempt from consumer protection laws that limit unwanted robocalls. They ruled that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 doesn't apply to the federal government, while the law does bar businesses from making numerous autodialed or prerecorded calls to a person's cellphone. The FCC did also make contractors working on behalf of the government exempt from the law as well. Earlier this year, a Supreme Court case found that the law does not apply to the government because of sovereign immunity. However, the FCC ruled that the government falls outside the law's definition of a "person." "Indeed, had Congress wanted to subject the federal government to the TCPA, it easily could have done so by defining 'person' to include the federal government," according to the ruling. Therefore, contractors hired by members of Congress can robocall individuals to participate in town halls, government researchers can place autodialed calls to the cellphones of survey respondents, and contractors can make similar calls to offer information about social security. The ruling does not apply to lawmakers who are using the calls for political campaigns.
Patents

Apple Patents a Way To Keep People From Filming At Concerts and Movie Theaters (qz.com) 266

An anonymous reader writes: Apple has patented a system that prohibits smartphone users from taking photos and videos at concerts, movie theaters and other events where people tend to ignore such restrictions. The patent has been award to Apple today and was first spotted by Patently Apple. QZ reports: "It outlines a system which would allow venues to use an infrared emitter to remotely disable the camera function on smartphones. According to the patent, infrared beams could be picked up by the camera, and interpreted by the smartphone as a command to block the user from taking any photos or videos of whatever they're seeing. The patent also outlines ways that infrared blasters could actually improve someone's experience at a venue. For example, the beams could be used to send information to museum-goers by pointing a smartphone camera at a blaster placed next to a piece of art." The report also mentions that the patent could in theory be used to help police limit smartphone filming of acts of brutality, or help a government shut off filming in certain locations. Last week, SlashGear reported that Alicia Keys is the latest musician to ban cellphones at her events.
Hardware

WiFi-Connected Hard Drive Fits a Plex Server In Your Pocket (engadget.com) 67

An anonymous reader cites an Engadget report:Over the years we've seen Plex's media software run across a number of different devices, from PCs to game consoles to NAS and cellphones. Now, it's teamed up with Western Digital for what it says is the first portable Plex Media Server. The hardware is handled by the My Passport Wireless Pro, a battery-powered portable hard drive that can run standalone for 10 hours, charge mobile devices, and back up data via SD or USB 3.0. The all-in-one box can even create a WiFi network to sync with mobile devices or stream media to any device running Plex. The 2TB version is ready to take your stuff on the go for $230, and upgrading to 3TB only costs an extra $20.
Cellphones

Alicia Keys Latest Artist To Enforce No Cell Phone Policy at Concerts (slashgear.com) 482

Shane McGlaun, reporting for SlashGear:It appears that artists of all sorts are getting very serious about keeping fans from using smartphones while they are at their concerts or events. The latest musician to ban cell phones at her events is Alicia Keys. Fans aren't forced to give up their smartphones at the door to be locked up in some locker or box until the show is over. Rather, fans are handed a special pouch that is locked up with their smartphone inside the fan keeps that pouch with them during the event, but they can't get to the device to call, take photos, or shoot video. If they need to use their device during the show the users can go back to the door and a worker passes a disc about the size of a bagel over the bag to unlock it and the fan can step outside to use their smartphone.
Iphone

Feds Ask Supreme Court To Void Apple's $400 Million Award From Samsung (siliconbeat.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News technology blog: "The $400 million awarded to Apple in a patent-infringement case against Samsung is a moving target... On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a "friend of the court" brief to the Supreme Court, asking justices to void the $400 million award and send the case back to a lower court to determine if a new trial is needed... Samsung has argued that it should be liable only for profits attributable to a specific design that violated a patent, not an entire phone, and that the law should be interpreted to impose liability related to "components of the phones, rather than the phones themselves, according to the brief. The department came down on Samsung's side on the component argument, and blasted a federal circuit court ruling that had upheld the jury award.
Ironically, earlier this week Steve Wozniak was praising Samsung for its innovation, both in virtual reality headsets and with a Samsung camera that takes a picture whenever you say "smile".
Facebook

Facebook Says It's Not Secretly Recording You (fb.com) 148

An anonymous reader writes: In 2014 Facebook introduced a feature which can use your phone's microphone to identify songs you're listening to -- but "we don't record your conversations," they're reminding users. A mass communication professor at the University of South Florida tried discussing specific topics near her phone, then discovered Facebook appeared to be showing ads related to what she'd said. Though she wasn't convinced there was a link, the Independent newspaper reported that "The claim chimes with anecdotal reports online that the site appears to show ads for things that people have mentioned in passing."

An official statement Thursday reiterated that "Facebook does not use your phone's microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed." But another news site sees these concerns as a reminder of all the permissions users routinely grant to their apps. "Go into your phone's application settings and you'll see a whole list of what an app like Facebook has access to: your camera, your location, your contacts, and, yes, your microphone too. How about this for a warning? By downloading Facebook you give the app 'permission to record audio at any time without your confirmation.' Tom's Guide security editor Paul Wagenseil says Facebook can...listen to your conversations...but it would be illegal to do so."

Meanwhile, the FBI "can neither confirm nor deny" that it's ever tapped an Amazon Echo device.
Medicine

Seattle App Summons Help When You Need CPR (geekwire.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes:Sudden cardiac arrest is usually fatal. But Seattle's Fire Department has joined with the city's Medic One Foundation to develop an app which alerts emergency dispatchers and also CPR-trained bystanders when someone needs CPR. The PulsePoint app also shows the location of the nearest defibrillator, and Seattle's mayor says he hopes it will save lives. A Spokane version of the app is already credited with helping to save the life of an infant, and the Medic One Foundation hopes to work with more local fire department to bring the app to the rest of Washington State.
Advertising

Password App Developer Overlooks Security Hole to Preserve Ads (engadget.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes this report from Engadget: Think it's bad when companies take their time fixing security vulnerabilities? Imagine what happens when they avoid fixing those holes in the name of a little cash. KeePass 2 developer Dominik Reichl has declined to patch a flaw in the password manager's update check as the 'indirect costs' of the upgrade (which would encrypt web traffic) are too high -- namely, it'd lose ad revenue...

To his credit, Reichl notes that he'd like to move to encryption as soon as he believes it's possible. You can also verify that you're getting a signed download, if you're worried. However, it's still contradictory to develop a security-centric app and decide that security should take a back seat.

An update on the site says the software's version information file is now digitally signed, adding that KeePass "neither downloads nor installs any new version automatically. Users have to do this manually... users should check whether the file is digitally signed... HTTPS cannot prevent a compromise of the download server; checking the digital signature does."
Encryption

RSA Keys Can Be Harvested With Microphones (theregister.co.uk) 157

Researchers have now demonstrated that even with modern laptop, desktop, and server computers, an inexpensive attack can harvest 4,096-bit encryption keys using a parabolic microphone within 33 feet -- or even from 12 inches away, using a cellphone microphone. An anonymous reader quotes this article from The Register: In both cases it took an hour of listening to get the 4,096-bit RSA key... As a computer's processor churns through the encryption calculations, the machine emits a high-frequency "coil whine" from the changing electrical current flowing through its components... The team recommends encryption software writers build in "blinding" routines that insert dummy calculations into cryptographic operations. After discussions with the team, GNU Privacy Guard now does this.
Cellphones

Doubts Raised About Cellphone Cancer Study (vox.com) 100

Vox is strongly criticizing coverage of a supposed link between cellphones and cancer suggested by a new study, calling it "a breathtaking example of irresponsible science hype." An anonymous reader writes: A professor and research monitoring administrator at an American medical school reported that to get their results, the researchers "exposed pregnant rats to whole body CDMA- and GSM-modulated radiofrequency radiation, for 9 hours a day, 7 days a week," and the results were seen only with CDMA (but not GSM-modulated) radiofrequency. "[F]alse positives are very likely. The cancer difference was only seen in females, not males. The incidence of brain cancer in the exposed groups was well within the historical range. There's no clear dose response..."
An emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University in Britain also called the study "statistically underpowered..." according to Vox. "Not enough animals were used to allow the researchers to have a good chance of detecting a risk from radiofrequency radiation of the size one might plausibly expect."
Cellphones

Possible Cellphone Link To Cancer Found In Rat Study (nbcnews.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: A giant U.S. study meant to help decide whether cellphones cause cancer is coming back with confusing results. A report on the study, conducted in rats and mice, is not finished yet. But advocates pushing for more research got wind of the partial findings and the U.S. National Toxicology Program has released them early. They suggest that male rats exposed to constant, heavy doses of certain types of cellphone radiation develop brain and heart tumors. But female rats didn't, and even the rats that developed tumors lived longer than rats not exposed to the radiation. The National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, is still analyzing the findings. But John Bucher, associate director of the program, said the initial findings were so significant that the agency decided to release them. A 29-year-old study published earlier this month from Australia reassures us that cellphones are reasonably safe, and do not cause cancer.
Power

US Bans Electronic Cigarettes From Checked Baggage Over Fire Risks (foxnews.com) 131

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this month, the FDA announced it would regulate electronic cigarettes and other new tobacco products. Now, the U.S. Transportation Department announced it is permanently banning passengers and crew members from carrying electronic cigarettes in checked baggage or charging the devices onboard aircraft. They have cited a number of recent incidents that show the devices can catch fire during flight. Passengers can still carry e-cigarettes in their carry-on baggage or on their person, they just can't use the devices on flights. "Fire hazards in flight are particularly dangerous," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "Banning e-cigarettes from checked bags is a prudent and important safety measure." The new rule covers e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes, and battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices in general. It does not prohibit passengers from transporting other battery-powered devices for personal use like laptop computers or cellphones.
Communications

Campaign Demands Telecoms Unlock the FM Radio Found in Many Smartphones (www.cbc.ca) 340

An anonymous reader cites an article on CBC: Your smartphone may include an FM radio chip but, chances are, it doesn't work. Now, an online campaign has launched in Canada, putting pressure on telecoms and manufacturers to turn on the radio hidden in many cellphones. Titled, "free radio on my phone," the campaign says that most Android smartphones have a built-in FM receiver which doesn't require data or Wi-Fi to operate. The U.S. arm of the campaign believes iPhones also have a built-in radio chip but that it can't be activated. Apple wouldn't confirm this detail. The radio chip in many Android phones also lies dormant. But the campaign says it can easily be activated -- if telecom providers ask the manufacturers to do it. In Canada, however, most of the telecoms haven't made the move to get the radio turned on. They'd prefer that you stream your audio, depleting your phone's costly data plan, claims campaign organizer, Barry Rooke.
Australia

Cellphones Do Not Cause Brain Cancer, Says 29-Year Study (gizmodo.com) 234

A study from Australia reassures us that cellphones are reasonably safe, and do not cause brain cancer. Chris Mills writes from Gizmodo: "The study examines the incidence of brain cancer in the Australian population between 1982 to 2013. The study pitted the prevalence of mobile phones among the population -- starting at 0 percent -- against brain cancer rates, using data from national cancer registration data. The results showed a very slight increase in brain cancer rates among males, but a stable level among females. There were significant increases in over -70s, but began in 1982, before cellphones were even a thing." What makes the study in Australia so authentic compared to other studies conducted in other countries is the fact that all diagnosed cases of cancer have to be registered by law.
Iphone

Slashdot Asks: What Do You Think Is The Most Influential Gadget Of All Time? (macrumors.com) 397

TIME has published a list ranking the 50 most influential gadgets of all time, from cameras and TVs to music players, smartphones, and drones. Can you guess what was the number one most influential gadget on the list? That's right, the Apple iPhone. "Apple was the first company to put a truly powerful computer in the pockets of millions when it launched the iPhone in 2007," according to TIME. "The iPhone popularized the mobile app, forever changing how we communicate, play games, shop, work, and complete many everyday tasks."

There's a lot of interesting gadgets on the list that have had a profound impact on mankind in some form or another, for better or worse. Do you agree with TIME's number one choice? What do you think is the most influential gadget of all time?

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