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Android

ZDNet: Linux 'Takes The World' While Windows Dominates The Desktop (zdnet.com) 201

ZDNet editor-in-chief Steve Ranger writes that desktop dominance is less important with today's cloud-based apps running independent of operating system, arguing that the desktop is now "just one computing platform among many." An anonymous reader quotes his report: Linux on the desktop has about a 2% market share today and is viewed by many as complicated and obscure. Meanwhile, Windows sails on serenely, currently running on 90% of PCs in use... That's probably OK because Linux won the smartphone war and is doing pretty well on the cloud and Internet of Things battlefields too.

There's a four-in-five chance that there's a Linux-powered smartphone in your pocket (Android is based on the Linux kernel) and plenty of IoT devices are Linux-powered too, even if you don't necessarily notice it. Devices like the Raspberry Pi, running a vast array of different flavours of Linux, are creating an enthusiastic community of makers and giving startups a low-cost way to power new types of devices. Much of the public cloud is running on Linux in one form or another, too; even Microsoft has warmed up to open-source software.

Android

Congressman Calls For Probe Into Trump's Unsecured Android Phone (cnet.com) 500

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: President Donald Trump regularly makes news because of his tweets. Now a congressman is making news because of the device the president reportedly uses to tweet. On Friday, Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Los Angeles, wrote a letter to the House Oversight Committee requesting an investigation into Trump's cybersecurity practices. In particular, he calls out Trump's apparent decision to keep using his personal Android phone instead of a secured phone the Secret Service issued him for his inauguration. The letter is also signed by 14 other members of Congress and calls for a public hearing to discuss the issues. "The device President Trump insists on using -- most likely the Samsung Galaxy S3 -- has particularly well documented vulnerabilities," the letter says. "The use of an unsecured phone risks the president of the United States being monitored by foreign or domestic adversaries, many of whom would be happy to hijack the president's prized Twitter account causing disastrous consequences for global security. Cybersecurity experts universally agree that an ordinary Android smartphone, which the president is reportedly using despite repeated warnings from the Secret Service, can be easily hacked."
Encryption

Researchers Discover Security Problems Under the Hood of Automobile Apps (arstechnica.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Malware researchers Victor Chebyshev and Mikhail Kuzin examined seven Android apps for connected vehicles and found that the apps were ripe for malicious exploitation. Six of the applications had unencrypted user credentials, and all of them had little in the way of protection against reverse-engineering or the insertion of malware into apps. The vulnerabilities looked at by the Kaspersky researchers focused not on vehicle communication, but on the Android apps associated with the services and the potential for their credentials to be hijacked by malware if a car owner's smartphone is compromised. All seven of the applications allowed the user to remotely unlock their vehicle; six made remote engine start possible (though whether it's possible for someone to drive off with the vehicle without having a key or RFID-equipped key fob present is unclear). Two of the seven apps used unencrypted user logins and passwords, making theft of credentials much easier. And none of the applications performed any sort of integrity check or detection of root permissions to the app's data and events -- making it much easier for someone to create an "evil" version of the app to provide an avenue for attack. While malware versions of these apps would require getting a car owner to install them on their device in order to succeed, Chebyshev and Kuzin suggested that would be possible through a spear-phishing attack warning the owner of a need to do an emergency app update. Other malware might also be able to perform the installation.
Android

HTC To Stop Making Budget Android Phones This Year (neowin.net) 40

An anonymous reader shares a report: During HTC's quarterly earnings call for Q4 2016, the company confirmed that it will not be producing new budget Android phones beginning this year. Instead, the company will focus on premium devices, which have a higher profit margin. On revenue of NT $22.2bn, the firm posted an operating loss of NT $3.6bn, and it's been some time since HTC showed a profit. Clearly, it's time to trim some of the fat. And that fat is producing a number of entry-level phones, many of which are nearly identical. For example, the Desire 530, which came to the US in July, had virtually no distinction from the Desire 626, which was introduced a year before.
Android

99.6 Percent of New Smartphones Run Android or iOS (theverge.com) 91

The latest smartphone figures from Gartner show how much iOS and Android are dominating the smartphone market. According to the report, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. For comparison, this figure was 96.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share. It's worth noting that although, in retrospect, this state of affairs seems inescapable, for years analysts were predicting otherwise. Three years ago, Gartner said that Microsoft's mobile OS would overtake iOS for market share in 2017, while BlackBerry would still be hanging around as sizable (if small) player.
Network

Now Get Weather Alerts Even When Your Mobile Networks Are Down, Thanks To IBM's Mesh Networking (cnet.com) 75

Communicating news of severe weather events or natural disasters is something mobile phones are well suited to, but if there's limited or disrupted network coverage the message may fail to get through. But not anymore. From a CNET report: A new Weather Channel app, though, can get the message through even during earthquakes, tornadoes, and terrorist attacks when mobile networks can be overwhelmed and may not work. The Android app, geared specifically for developing countries, uses IBM-developed technology called mesh networking that sends messages directly from one phone to another. The result is that information can propagate even when centralized networks fail. Using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, the app can send data from phone to phone across distances between 200 to 500 feet, IBM Research staff member Nirmit Desai said. It doesn't add any more battery burden than an ordinary app, and the mesh network can be used without having to reconfigure the phone's network settings.
Android

China's Huawei Catching Up With Apple, Samsung Smartphone Sales (livemint.com) 62

From a report: Chinese smartphone maker Huawei managed to gain ground on Samsung and Apple in terms of global market share last year, following the problems encountered by the two giants, the Gartner consultancy group said on Wednesday. Over the year as a whole, the Chinese maker saw its sales leap by 26.7 percent, while the South Korean and US rivals both saw their sales decline by 4.3 percent, Gartner said in a study. As result, Huawei was able to increase its share of the smartphone sector to 8.9 percent in 2016 from 7.3 percent a year earlier, while Samsung saw its market share shrink by two full percentage points to 20.5 percent and Apple's contracted to 14.4 percent from 15.9 percent. "Chinese makers succeeded in winning market share over last year and Huawei now seems to be the main rival to the two giants, even if the gap remains large," Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann told AFP.
Android

Google's Not-so-secret New OS (techspecs.blog) 128

According to reports late last year, Google is working on a new operating system called Andromeda. Much about it is still unknown, but according to the documentations Google has provided on its website, it's clear that the Fuchsia is the actual name of the operating system, and the kernel is called Magenta. A tech enthusiast dug around the documentations to share the followings: To my naive eyes, rather than saying Chrome OS is being merged into Android, it looks more like Android and Chrome OS are both being merged into Fuchsia. It's worth noting that these operating systems had previously already begun to merge together to an extent, such as when the Android team worked with the Chrome OS team in order to bring Update Engine to Nougat, which introduced A/B updates to the platform. Google is unsurprisingly bringing up Andromeda on a number of platforms, including the humble Intel NUC. ARM, x86, and MIPS bring-up is exactly what you would expect for an Android successor, and it also seems clear that this platform will run on Intel laptops. My best guess is that Android as an API and runtime will live on as a legacy environment within Andromeda. That's not to say that all development of Android would immediately stop, which seems extremely unlikely. But Google can't push two UI APIs as equal app frameworks over the long term: Mojo is clearly the future. Ah, but what is Mojo? Well it's the new API for writing Andromeda apps, and it comes from Chromium. Mojo was originally created to "extract a common platform out of Chrome's renderer and plugin processes that can support multiple types of sandboxed content."
Security

Russian Cyberspies Blamed For US Election Hacks Are Now Targeting Macs (computerworld.com) 250

You may recall "APT28", the Russian hacking group which was tied to last year's interference in the presidential election. It has long been known for its advanced range of tools for penetrating Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux devices. Now, researchers have uncovered an equally sophisticated malware package the group used to compromise Macs. From a report on ComputerWorld: The group -- known in the security industry under different names including Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, and APT28 -- has been operating for almost a decade. It is believed to be the sole user and likely developer of a Trojan program called Sofacy or X-Agent. X-Agent variants for Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS have been found in the wild in the past, but researchers from Bitdefender have now come across what appears to be the first macOS version of the Trojan. It's not entirely clear how the malware is being distributed because the Bitdefender researchers obtained only the malware sample, not the full attack chain. However, it's possible a macOS malware downloader dubbed Komplex, found in September, might be involved. Komplex infected Macs by exploiting a known vulnerability in the MacKeeper antivirus software, according to researchers from Palo Alto Networks who investigated the malware at the time. The vulnerability allowed attackers to execute remote commands on a Mac when users visited specially crafted web pages.Further reading on ArsTechnica.
Facebook

Facebook To Autoplay Videos With Sound On By Default (androidandme.com) 116

Currently, Facebook videos autoplay on your News Feed as you scroll up and down. While they eat data and various resources, the saving grace is that they are silent -- that is, until now. Facebook has announced several new changes to its video platform today, including a setting that will autoplay videos with sound turned on by default. Android and Me reports: The audio of videos will fade in and out as you're scrolling through your feed. Fortunately, Facebook will at least make it so that audio won't autoplay if your phone is set to silent. If you're not a fan of this change, there will be a setting to turn audio autoplay off. The change is that it will now be on by default for everyone. Other feature introductions are larger previews for vertical videos, a picture-in-picture mode for videos so you can watch and continue scrolling (and even exit the app without interrupting the video on Android), and a Facebook Video app coming to smart TVs.
Businesses

Angry Birds Is the Most-Banned Mobile App By Businesses (fortune.com) 47

Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Corporate IT pros face the unenviable task of trying to protect valuable data from threats that change all the time. One vector of attack is clearly smartphones and tablets that employees use both for work and pleasure. To that end, mobile device management firm MobileIron just came out with its latest tally of the ten most blacklisted apps, based on a survey of 7,800 companies worldwide. Angry Birds tops the list of most-banned apps at companies worldwide, as well as in Australia, the U.S., and government sectors tracked by MobileIron in its twice-yearly Mobile Security and Risk Review. The survey covers the use of Android, iOS, and Windows devices from Oct. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.
Open Source

LinuxQuestions Users Choose Their Favorite Distro: Slackware (zdnet.com) 145

ZDNet summarizes some of the surprises in this year's poll on LinuxQuestions, "one of the largest Linux groups with 550,000 member". An anonymous reader quotes their report: The winner for the most popular desktop distribution? Slackware...! Yes, one of the oldest of Linux distributions won with just over 16% of the vote. If that sounds a little odd, it is. On DistroWatch, a site that covers Linux distributions like paint, the top Linux desktop distros are Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Manjaro. Slackware comes in 28th place... With more than double the votes for any category, it appears there was vote-stuffing by Slackware fans... The mobile operating system race was a runaway for Android, with over 68% of the vote. Second place went to CyanogenMod, an Android clone, which recently went out of business...

Linux users love to debate about desktop environments. KDE Plasma Desktop took first by a hair's breadth over the popular lightweight Xfce desktop. Other well-regarded desktop environments, such as Cinnamon and MATE, got surprisingly few votes. The once popular GNOME still hasn't recovered from the blowback from its disliked design change from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3.

Firefox may struggle as a web browser in the larger world, but on Linux it's still popular. Firefox took first place with 51.7 percent of the vote. Chrome came in a distant second place, with the rest of the vote being divided between a multitude of obscure browsers.

LibreOffice won a whopping 89.6% of the vote for "best office suite" -- and Vim beat Emacs.
Android

Oracle Refuses To Accept Android's 'Fair Use' Verdict, Files Appeal (wsj.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes the Wall Street Journal: The seven-year legal battle between tech giants Google and Oracle just got new life. Oracle on Friday filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that seeks to overturn a federal jury's decision last year... The case has now gone through two federal trials and bounced around at appeals courts, including a brief stop at the U.S. Supreme Court. Oracle has sought as much as $9 billion in the case.

In the trial last year in San Francisco, the jury ruled Google's use of 11,000 lines of Java code was allowed under "fair use" provisions in federal copyright law. In Oracle's 155-page appeal on Friday, it called Google's "copying...classic unfair use" and said "Google reaped billions of dollars while leaving Oracle's Java business in tatters."

Oracle's brief also argues that "When a plagiarist takes the most recognizable portions of a novel and adapts them into a film, the plagiarist commits the 'classic' unfair use."
Google

Google Might Be Gearing Up To Remove Millions of Play Store Apps Next Month (pcworld.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a PCWorld report: Take a look at the digital shelves of the Google Play Store and you're likely to come across a bevy of so-called zombie apps. These apps typically take the form of a knock-off of a popular game or a sloppy utility that doesn't quite match its description, and they strategically turn up alongside legitimate apps, which makes them hard to spot if you're not doing a forensic analysis of reviews while you shop. Now it looks like something is finally being done about them. In a letter uncovered by The Next Web, Google has begun warning some developers that one or more of their apps has been flagged for a lack of an adequate privacy policy, a common problem among these sort of hastily published and subsequently ignored apps. In the message, Google reiterates its policy, which "requires developers to provide a valid privacy policy when the app requests or handles sensitive user information." Such permissions include camera, microphone, account, contacts, or phone access, which requires a transparent disclosure of how user data is handled, according to Google's requirements. It's unclear how many letters were sent out, but The Next Web estimates it could affect millions of apps.
Microsoft

Cortana Now Reminds You To Do the Things You Promised in Emails (theverge.com) 134

From a report: Microsoft is adding a new feature to Cortana today that will remind you to keep your promises. Suggested reminders lets Cortana remind you when you've promised to do something in an email. Microsoft is using machine learning to highlight phrases in emails where you might promise your boss something, or make a commitment to a friend or family member. The result is a reminder that pops up telling you "don't forget you mentioned this." Cortana's suggested reminders will be available in the US first on Windows 10 PCs, and Microsoft is planning to bring them to iOS and Android in the coming weeks. Microsoft is supporting Outlook.com and Office 365 accounts for these reminders, and other accounts like Gmail will be supported soon. You'll need to connect an Outlook.com or Office 365 account to Cortana to enable the feature, and you'll start receiving reminders once the service detects your promises and commitments.
Censorship

Tor's Ooniprobe, Now Available On Android and iOS, Helps People Track Internet Censorship (cnn.com) 27

In 2012, researchers at Tor announced Ooniprobe, an open-source tool to collect data about local meddling with the computer's network connections, and also whether the government was censoring something. The team has now released a new app, available for Android and iOS, which makes it easier than ever to tell what your government is up to on the web. From a report on CNN Money: The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), which monitors networks for censorship and surveillance, is launching Ooniprobe, a mobile app to test network connectivity and let you know when a website is censored in your area. The app tests over 1,200 websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. You can decide how long to run the test, but the default is 90 seconds and would test between 10 and 20 websites depending on bandwidth. Links to blocked websites are listed in red, while available sites are green. Service providers, sometimes controlled by the government, don't always shutdown the internet entirely -- for instance, Facebook.com might be inaccessible while CNN.com still works. "Not only we will be able to gather more data and more evidence, but we will be able to engage and bring the issue of censorship to the attention of more people," Arturo Filasto, chief developer for the Ooniprobe app, told CNNTech.
Network

Verizon and T-Mobile Are In a Virtual Tie For the Best Network In the US (androidcentral.com) 105

Verizon has tied T-Mobile for the fastest carrier in the United States and both carriers are virtually tied for the "best" in overall LTE download speeds, according to Open Signal's State of Mobile Networks: USA report. Android Central reports: Using data collected from 169,683 users, 4,599,231,167 data points were used to measure network speeds on both 4G and 3G, network availability and latency. The data is collected by users installing the Open Signal app from Google Play or the App Store and going about their daily routine. In their analysis of the collected data, they say that Verizon has improved their 4G network speeds to pull even with T-Mobile who has traditionally done well in this category. They also mention that the average overall network speeds in the U.S. have risen slightly, and over 81% of U.S. residents have access to LTE networks. Availability of high-speed data services shows that all four carriers have improved, but T-Mobile (86.6%) is now within two percentage points of Verizon (88.2%) when it comes to finding an LTE signal. The company with the most improvement here is Sprint, who jumped from covering 69.9% in August to 76.8% in February 2017.
Communications

Linux Kernel 3.18 Reaches End of Life (softpedia.com) 101

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Linux kernel 3.18.48 LTS is here and it's the last in the series, which was marked for a January 2017 extinction since mid-April last year. According to the appended shortlog, the new patch changes a total of 50 files, with 159 insertions and 351 deletions. It brings an updated networking stack with Bluetooth, Bridge, IPv4, IPv6, CAIF, and Netfilter improvements, a couple of x86 fixes, and a bunch of updated USB, SCSI, ATA, media, GPU, ATM, HID, MTD, SPI, and networking (Ethernet and Wireless) drivers. Of course, this being the last maintenance update in the series, you are urged to move to a newer LTS branch, such as Linux kernel 4.9 or 4.4, which are far more secure and efficient than Linux 3.18 was. But Linux 3.18 appears to be used by Google and other vendors on a bunch of Android-powered devices, and even some Chromebooks use Linux kernel 3.18 on Chrome OS, so here's what the kernel developer suggests you do if you can't upgrade. "If you are _stuck_ on 3.18 (/me eyes his new phone), well, I might have a plan for you, that first involves you yelling very loudly at your hardware vendor and refusing to buy from them again unless they cut this crap out. After you properly vent to them, drop me an email and let's see what we can come up with, you aren't in this sinking ship alone, and it's obvious your vendor isn't going to help out," said Greg Kroah-Hartman in the mailing list announcement.
Android

Android Wear 2.0 Is An Evolutionary Update To Google's Smartwatch OS (techcrunch.com) 40

Google is officially launching Android Wear 2.0 today -- the biggest update to the company's wearable operating system since its launch in 2014. While Android Wear 2.0 will be launching with two new flagship watches from LG -- the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style, a number of existing Wear watches will also get this update in the coming weeks and months. TechCrunch reports: The first thing you'll notice when you get a 2.0 watch is the overall update to its design -- both in terms of the overall look but also the user experience. The look of Wear 2.0 now skews closer to Google's Material Design guidelines. While the overall look will still feel familiar to Wear 1.0 users, the update put a stronger emphasis on cards, for example. This means every notification now gets a full screen to show its preview and you can use the watch's dial to scroll through them (assuming your watch has a dial, of course -- otherwise you can obviously still use the touch screen to scroll). The other marquee feature of Wear 2.0 is support for standalone apps that don't need a companion app to run on your phone. That means developers can write apps that are purely geared toward the watch and they can then publish it on the Google Play store, which is now also available directly on the watch. That sounds more useful than it is -- unless you plan on getting an LTE-enabled watch and leave your phone at home. That's an option now that you could run Hangout or Google Music directly on the watch, but, except for runners, that's likely not a typical use case. At the end of the day, the most important use case for a smartwatch remains dealing with notifications. Everything else often feels like an unnecessary complication. [In summary, Frederic Lardinois writes via TechCrunch:] The Android smartwatch market could use a revolution to kickstart what now occasionally feels like a moribund ecosystem. Wear 2.0 doesn't feel revolutionary. It is, however, a perfectly adequate update that addresses many of the issues with Android Wear. It also puts it on parity with its competitors, like Apple's watchOS or Samsung's Tizen. It does also introduce some new use cases for LTE-enabled watches, but I can't help but feel that this will remain a niche category. Much, however, will depend on Google's hardware partners who will now have to bring Wear 2.0 to life.
Desktops (Apple)

Microsoft Is Disabling Older Versions of Skype For Mac and Windows On March 1 (venturebeat.com) 113

If you're using an older, outdated version of Skype, you may want to consider updating soon. Microsoft said today that starting on March 1 people will no longer be able to sign in to version 7.16 of Skype for Window desktop and older versions, and version 7.18 of Skype for Mac and older versions thereof. VentureBeat reports: "If you're one of those users, all you'll need to do is download the new update," the Skype team said in a blog post. This isn't the first time Skype is retiring old software. But that doesn't mean the upcoming move won't rankle some people. Version 7.18 of Skype for Mac and version 7.16 of Skype for Windows both came out less than a year and a half ago -- in December 2015. So it's not as if this is very old software. Still, Microsoft has been doing a lot to improve Skype in the past year. It's been migrating the app to its Azure public cloud infrastructure, and adding chatbots. Current versions of Skype -- like version 7.44 for Mac -- come with amenities like better previews of websites and better support for emoticons and other content in the input box for chats. "We've poured our energy and passion into creating something truly special, and this is just the beginning," Skype said.

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