Software

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Android Oreo Features? (thehackernews.com) 76

Yesterday, Android O officially became Android Oreo and started rolling out to Pixel and Nexus devices. While there are many new features available in the new OS, we thought we'd ask you: what are your favorite Android Oreo features? The Hacker News highlights eleven of the new features "that make Android even better" in their report: 1. No More 'Install From Unknown Sources' Setting: Prior to Android Oreo, third-party app installation requires users to enable just one setting by turning on "Install from unknown sources" -- doesn't matter from where the user has downloaded an APK file, i.e. from a browser, Bluetooth, transferred from a computer via USB or downloaded using another app. Android 8.0 Oreo has completely changed the way this feature works, bringing a much smarter and safer system called "Install other apps," in which a user has to manually permit 3rd-party app installation from different sources.
2. Autofill API Framework: Android 8.0 Oreo brings a built-in secure AutoFill API that allows users-chosen password manager to store different types of sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and addresses -- and works throughout the entire system.
3. Picture-in-Picture: With Android Oreo, you can view a YouTube video while reading through a report in Word or be chatting on WhatsApp on your Android device -- thanks to Picture-in-Picture (PIP) feature.
4. Google Play Protect: Play Protect helps in detecting and removing harmful applications with more than 50 billion apps scanned every day.
5. Wi-Fi Aware (Neighborhood Aware Networking -- NAN): Android Oreo has added support for a new connectivity feature called Wi-Fi Aware, also known as Neighborhood Aware Networking (NAN), which allows apps and devices to automatically find, connect to, and share data with each other directly without any internet access point or cellular data.
6. Android Instant Apps: With Android 8.0 Oreo, you can now access a range of Instant Apps without downloading them.
7. Battery-Saving Background Limits: Google has blocked apps from reacting to "implicit broadcasts" and carrying out certain tasks when they are running in the background in an effort to enhance the battery life of Android device. Besides this, Android Oreo will also limit some background services and location updates when an app is not in use.
8. AI-based Smart Text Selection: Android Oreo brings the 'Smart Text Selection' feature, which uses Google's machine learning to detect when something like physical addresses, email addresses, names or phone numbers is selected, then automatically suggests the relevant information on other apps.
9. Notification Dots (Limit notifications): Oreo introduces Notification Dots that offers you to manage each app individually with "fine-grained control," allowing you to control how many notifications you see and how they come through.
10. Find my Device: Google has introduced a new feature, called Find my Device, which is a similar feature to Apple's Find my iPhone and allows people to locate, lock and wipe their Android devices in the event when they go missing or get stolen.
11. New Emoji and Downloadable Fonts: Android Oreo introduces 60 new emoji and a redesign of the current "blob" characters. The update also offers new color support to app developers and the ability to change or animate the shape of icons in their apps.

Robotics

Autonomous Forklift May Eat Up Warehouse Jobs (technologyreview.com) 63

Jamie Condliffe reports via MIT Technology Review: Seegrid, a provider of material-handling equipment, takes the kinds of forklifts that move 8,000-pound loads around warehouses and makes them autonomous. It does that by popping five stereo cameras on top of the vehicles, having a human drive them around to map a space, and then using image recognition systems similar to those in autonomous cars to navigate the facilities. (Unlike autonomous cars that use sensors like radar and lidar, Seegrid can use just cameras, because lighting conditions in warehouses are more consistent than those on the open road.) But while it's easy enough to have a forklift move objects from one side of a factory to another, reliably loading and unloading them poses a bigger challenge. Other robots designed to haul loads like this tend to pick things up from below, rather than spearing pallets with forks. So autonomous forklifts usually require humans to be present during pickup and dropoff to make sure nothing goes wrong. Seegrid's new GP8 Series 6 forklift has been engineered to reverse its forks into pallets, pick them up, and set them down without a human in the loop.
Android

Sony Loses Class Action Lawsuit In Waterproof Claims For Original Xperia Z Line (xda-developers.com) 11

Sony has lost a class action lawsuit for claiming its Xperia phones were "waterproof," when in reality they were only "water resistant." If you happen to own one of the original Xperia Z smartphones, you may be owed up to $300. XDA Developers reports: Arguably, one of the pioneers in the consumer sector for more "rugged" devices (or at the very least IP certification) has to be Sony. Back in 2012, they introduced the Xperia Z line of the devices, which marked a turning point for Sony in most of its philosophy as well as its design language. They completely overhauled the look and feel of the devices they had in favor of the glass slab that they offer even in today's phones and tablets. Despite its fragile appearance, most of their offerings were drop-tested and were able to withstand a substantial amount of mistreatment. On top of all that, the Sony Xperia Z was the first commercially available phone from Sony to me, marketed as "water resistant" with an IP56 rating for water and dust ingress (which isn't really much, but at least it would keep your phone going in spite of an accidental drop in the beach or in the pool). However, the phone was advertised in such a way that it it looked as if the device was waterproof and not water resistant (there is a big difference). This led to a lot of water-damaged devices, which Sony did nothing about and eventually, a class action lawsuit was filed (and won) against Sony.

According to the settlement, there were 24 models affected (ironically, the original Z is not listed as being one of them) starting from the ZR, which was a close cousin of the original Z and going all the way to the Xperia Z5, along with a few tablets as well. The settlement goes on to state that there are a few things that, if you were affected, you can opt for: Warranty extension for up to a year if the device is within warranty period; Warranty extension for up to 6 months if the device is no longer under warranty; Up to 50% of MSRP as refund for compensation if the device is listed among the ones on the Sony lawsuit. If you are going for the cash alternative, you do have a deadline to meet, which is January 30, 2018. Whichever course of action you do decide to take, please make sure that you understand the entire lawsuit document before doing anything!

Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Cloud Backup Solutions That You Recommend? 193

New submitter OneHundredAndTen writes: After having used the services of CrashPlan for my backups for a few years now, I have just learned that CrashPlan is exiting the home backup business. Although this won't be happening for another 14 months, they have the chutzpah of recommending a provider (Carbonite) that does not support Linux. Looking in the net, there are not so many alternatives available -- unless you go with somebody that charges you $5/mo and up for a measly 100GB, or (occasionally) 1TB. Fine for a little phone, but not for the several TB worth of video I have shot over the years.

Anybody aware of decent cloud backup solutions that support Linux, and that offer a maximum backup capacity that is not ridiculously small?
Reader cornjones asks a similar question: My use case:
Backups for several computers, both at my house and scattered family machines
Encrypted locally by a key I set, only encrypted bits are stored offsite
I have a copy of my data onsite. I primarily want to protect against lost drives or fire (or ransomware attack)
Ideally, I would be able to point it at a NAS, which I don't have now.
The plan I was on was 10 computers, unlimited data, for 4 years @ $429. Lower is better, but I am willing to pay in that range.
Across my machines, I probably have about 1TB of bulk storage and 10 or so machines w/, say, 60GB backups each.
The Internet

Code42 Says Crashplan Backup Service Will Discontinue All Personal Backup Plans (crashplan.com) 111

Reader amxcoder writes: Code42, the company behind the popular Crashplan online backup service has announced that will be discontinuing all of its personal and family backup plan offerings to focus on business backup service plans only. In the letter sent to existing personal plan customers, it says that next year will be the cutoff date for personal plans and all existing personal plan holders will have to upgrade their subscriptions to more expensive business plans or leave for another provider after current subscription runs out. Crashplan personal and family services were one of the best (and most affordable) options available for online backup, providing features that other rivals do not, including backup options for cloud, external local drives, and to other friends/family member's drives (trusted offsite). Looking at Carbonite services (who Code42 is recommending existing personal subscribers switch to), does not offer many of the options and features in their backup software, including multiple backup sets, unlimited deleted file retention, the trusted offsite options and any type of 'family subscription' offerings. Here is a statement from the Code42 CEO Joe Payne.
Power

People Are Using Recycled Laptop Batteries To Power Their Homes (vice.com) 142

New submitter gooddogsgotoheaven writes: DIY Powerwall builders from around the world are harvesting old laptop batteries and turning them into powerful batteries capable of supplying energy to their entire homes. "It's the future. It's clean, simple, efficient and powerful," Jehu Garcia, one of the most popular powerwall builders, told me. He and people like him are deciding for themselves what the future of alternative energy will look like, instead of waiting for technology companies to shape it for them. "The end result is being able to rely on something I not only built myself but understand the ins and outs of to power some or all of my electricity in my home. That is inspiring," Joe Williams, another powerwall builder, told me.
Robotics

Bricklaying Robots and Exoskeletons Are the Future of the Construction Industry (vice.com) 207

David Silverberg reports via Motherboard: One of the most staid and digitally conservative industries is on the verge of a robotic makeover. The global construction space isn't known for ushering new tech into their workforce, but a painful labour shortage, calls for increased worker safety and more low-cost housing, and the need to catch up to other tech-savvy sectors is giving upstarts in robotics and exoskeletons their big moment. The construction industry isn't immune to this phenomenon, but robots and humans may increasingly work hand-in-hand in industrial sectors, according to Brian Turmail, senior executive director of public affairs at the Associated General Contractors of America. This is especially true when the construction industry en masse uses exoskeleton vests, which aim to assist workers with heavy loads and thus reduce their risk of injury.

The Hadrian X is a bricklaying robot courtesy Australia's Fastbrick Robotics, which uses its 30-meter metal arm to lay bricks at a rate of 1,000 bricks per hour, compared to a human worker's average of 1,000 a day. Due for release in late 2017, Hadrian X can read a 3D CAD model of the house and then it follows those instructions precisely, working day and night. New York-based Construction Robotics has also developed its take on a bricklaying robot. SAM can lay 3,000 bricks a day, and the company said it's about time this industry got a whiff of the change almost every other market has been seeing.

Iphone

iPhone 8's 3D Face Scanner Will Work In 'Millionths of a Second' (phonearena.com) 151

According to a report by the Korea Herald, Apple's upcoming iPhone 8 will ditch the fingerprint identification in favor of 3D face recognition, which will work "in the millionths of a second." PhoneArena reports: The Samsung Galaxy series were among the first mainstream devices to feature iris recognition, but the speed and accuracy of the current technology leave a lot to be desired, and maybe that is why current phones ship with an eye scanner AND a fingerprint reader. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, is expected to make a full dive into 3D scanning. Both Samsung and Apple are rumored to have tried to implement a fingerprint scanner under the display glass, but failed as the technology was not sufficiently advanced. The new iPhone will also introduce 3D sensors on both its front and back for Apple's new augmented reality (AR) platform. This latest report also reveals that Apple will not use curved edges for its iPhone 8 screen, but will instead use a flat AMOLED panel. The big benefit of using AMOLED for Apple thus is not the curve, but its thinner profile compared to an LCD screen.
Software

DJI Spark Owners Must Update Firmware By September, Or Their Machines Will Be Bricked (suasnews.com) 176

garymortimer shares a report from sUAS News: News has arrived of a mandatory firmware update from DJI. Owners of DJI's latest and smallest quadcopter must update their firmware by September the 1st or their machines will automatically ground themselves. The Firmware update apparently is to stop in flight shutdowns that have been occurring. So no bad thing to fix, a safety issue. Perhaps questionable is DJI's ability to brick other peoples property if required. The "Kill Switch" option is already causing consternation in user groups.
Science

Scientists Create Smart Labels To Tell You When To Throw Away Expired Food and Makeup (sciencemag.org) 74

At the 254th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researchers are presenting a low-cost, portable, paper-based sensor that can let you know when to toss food and cosmetics. The sensor can detect antioxidants in tea and wine, and be used to explore remote locations, such as the Amazon rainforest, in search of natural sources of antioxidants. "I've always been interested in developing technologies that are accessible to both industry and the general population," Silvana Andreescu, Ph.D., says. "My lab has built a versatile sensing platform that incorporates all the needed reagents for detection in a piece of paper. At the same time, it is adaptable to different targets, including food contaminants, antioxidants and free radicals that indicate spoilage." Phys.Org reports: What sets Andreescu's sensors apart from others, she says, are the nanostructures they use to catch and bind to compounds they're looking for. "Most people working on similar sensors use solutions that migrate on channels," Andreescu says. "We use stable, inorganic particles that are redox active. When they interact with the substances we want to detect, they change color, and the intensity of the change tells us how concentrated the analyte is." Additionally, because all of the reagents needed to operate the device are incorporated in the paper, users don't need to add anything other than the sample being tested. The American Chemical Society has published a video detailing the sensor. Their paper has been published in the journal Analyst.
XBox (Games)

Microsoft Outlines the Upgrade Procedures For Xbox One X (arstechnica.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The easiest way to get all your games to the new system, as outlined by Microsoft Vice President Mike Ybarra, will be to just put them on an external USB hard drive and then plug that drive into the new console. "All your games are ready to play" immediately after this external hard drive move, he said, and user-specific settings can also be copied via external hard drive in the same way. If you don't have an external drive handy, "we're going to let you copy games and apps off your home network instead of having to manually move them or redownload them off the Internet," Ybarra said. It's unclear right now if Microsoft will mirror the PS4 Pro and allow this kind of system-to-system transfer using an Ethernet cable plugged directly into both consoles. For those who want to see as many pixels as possible as quickly as possible when they get their Xbox One X, Ybarra says you'll be able to download 4K updates for supported games before the Xbox One X is even available, then use those updates immediately after the system transfer. Microsoft also released a list of 118 current and upcoming games that will be optimized for the Xbox One X via updates, a big increase from the few dozens announced back at E3.
AI

Elon Musk Backs Call For A Global Ban On Killer Robots (cnn.com) 213

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Tesla boss Elon Musk is among a group of 116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence companies who are calling on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons. "Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the experts warn in an open letter released Monday...

"Unlike other potential manifestations of AI, which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability," said Ryan Gariepy, the founder of Clearpath Robotics and the first person to sign the letter. More than a dozen countries -- including the United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and Britain -- are currently developing autonomous weapons systems, according to Human Rights Watch.

Music

How Hackers Can Use Pop Songs To 'Watch' You (fastcompany.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: Forget your classic listening device: Researchers at the University of Washington have demonstrated that phones, smart TVs, Amazon Echo-like assistants, and other devices equipped with speakers and microphones could be used by hackers as clandestine sonar "bugs" capable of tracking your location in a room. Their system, called CovertBand, emits high-pitched sonar signals hidden within popular songs -- their examples include songs by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake -- then records them with the machine's microphone to detect people's activities. Jumping, walking, and "supine pelvic tilts" all produce distinguishable patterns, they say in a paper. (Of course, someone who hacked the microphone on a smart TV or computer could likely listen to its users, as well.)
Power

Hyundai To Build a 300-Mile-Per-Charge Electric Car (reuters.com) 175

On Thursday, Hyundai Motor said it will launch a long-range electric vehicle with a driving range of 500 km (311 miles) per charge after 2021. The company is reportedly planning 31 eco-friendly models by 2020, up from a previously flagged 28. Reuters reports: The South Korean automaker is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 500 km (310 miles) per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small sport utility vehicle (SUV) with a range of 390 km in the first half of next year. The automaker and affiliate Kia Motors Corp, which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, also said they were adding three plug-in vehicles to their plans for eco-friendly cars, bringing the total to 31 models by 2020. Underscoring Hyundai's electric shift, those plans include eight battery-powered and two fuel-cell vehicles -- a contrast to its 2014 announcement for 22 models, of which only two were slated to be battery-powered. Hyundai also confirmed a Reuters report that it is developing its first dedicated electric vehicle platform, which will allow the company to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges.
Android

The Verge's Essential Phone Review: An Arcane Artifact From an Unrealized Future (theverge.com) 55

An anonymous reader shares Dieter Bohn's review of the Essential Phone: Even though it was announced less than three months ago at the Code Conference, there's already enough mythology surrounding the Essential Phone to fill a book. It comes from a brand-new billion-dollar startup led by the person who helped create Android itself, Andy Rubin. That origin binds it up with the history of all smartphones in a way that doesn't usually apply to your run-of-the-mill device. The phone was also delayed a bit, a sign that this tiny company hasn't yet quite figured out how to punch above its weight class -- which it's certainly trying to do. Although it runs standard Android, it's meant to act as a vanguard for Essential's new ecosystem of smart home devices and services connected by the mysterious Ambient OS. Even if we trust that Rubin's futuristic vision for a connected home will come to pass, it's not going to happen overnight. Instead, all we really have right now is that future's harbinger, a well-designed Android phone that I've been testing for the past week. Available unlocked or at Sprint, the $699 Essential Phone is an ambitious device. It has a unique way to connect modular accessories, starting with a 360-degree camera. It has a bold take on how to make a big, edge-to-edge screen paired with top-flight materials such as ceramic and titanium. And it has a dual camera system that is meant to compete with other flagship devices without adding any thickness to the phone. That would be a lot for even a massive company like Samsung or Apple to try to do with a single phone. For a tiny company like Essential, the question is simply this: is it trying to do too much? In conclusion, Bohn writes: "The Essential Phone is doing so much right: elegant design, big screen, long battery life, and clean software. And on top of all that, it has ambitions to do even more with those modules. If you asked Android users what they wanted in the abstract, I suspect a great many of them would describe this exact device. But while the camera is pretty good, it doesn't live up to the high bar the rest of the phone market has set. Sometimes artifacts are better to behold than they are to use."
Security

Secret Chips in Replacement Parts Can Completely Hijack Your Phone's Security (arstechnica.com) 62

Dan Goodin, writing for ArsTechnica: People with cracked touch screens or similar smartphone maladies have a new headache to consider: the possibility the replacement parts installed by repair shops contain secret hardware that completely hijacks the security of the device. The concern arises from research that shows how replacement screens -- one put into a Huawei Nexus 6P and the other into an LG G Pad 7.0 -- can be used to surreptitiously log keyboard input and patterns, install malicious apps, and take pictures and e-mail them to the attacker. The booby-trapped screens also exploited operating system vulnerabilities that bypassed key security protections built into the phones. The malicious parts cost less than $10 and could easily be mass-produced. Most chilling of all, to most people, the booby-trapped parts could be indistinguishable from legitimate ones, a trait that could leave many service technicians unaware of the maliciousness. There would be no sign of tampering unless someone with a background in hardware disassembled the repaired phone and inspected it. The research, in a paper presented this week (PDF) at the 2017 Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies, highlights an often overlooked disparity in smartphone security. The software drivers included in both the iOS and Android operating systems are closely guarded by the device manufacturers, and therefore exist within a "trust boundary."
IOS

iOS 11 Has a Feature To Temporarily Disable Touch ID (cultofmac.com) 138

A new feature baked into iOS 11 lets you quickly disable Touch ID, which could come in handy if you're ever in a situation where someone (a cop) might force you to unlock your device. Cult of Mac reports: To temporarily disable Touch ID, you simply press the power button quickly five times. This presents you with the "Emergency SOS" option, which you can swipe to call the emergency services. It also prevents your iPhone from being unlocked without the passcode. Until now, there were other ways to temporarily disable Touch ID, but they weren't quick and simply. You either had to restart your iPhone, let it sit idle for a few days until Touch ID was temporarily disabled by itself, or scan the wrong finger several times. The police, or any government agency, cannot force you to hand over your iPhone's passcode. However, they can force you to unlock your device with your fingerprint. That doesn't work if your fingerprint scanner has been disabled.
Earth

The Health Benefits of Wind and Solar Exceed the Cost of All Subsidies (arstechnica.com) 431

New submitter TheCoroner writes: A paper in Nature Energy suggests that the benefits we receive from moving to renewables like wind and solar that reduce air pollution exceed the cost of the subsidies required to make them competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Ars Technica reports: "Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs.

This study ambitiously tries to estimate the benefits from emissions that were avoided because of the increase in wind and solar energy from 2007 through 2015, and to do so for the whole of the U.S. Millstein and colleagues looked at carbon emissions, as well as sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, all of which contribute to poor air quality. There are other factors that also need to be considered. A rise in renewables isn't the only thing that has been changing in the energy sector: fuel costs and regulation have also played a role. How much of the benefit can be attributed to wind and solar power, and how much to other changes? The researchers used models that track the benefits attributable to renewable power as a proportion of the total reduction in emissions.

Patents

Motorola Patents a Display That Can Heal Its Own Cracked Screen With Heat (theverge.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A patent published today explains how a phone could identify cracks on its touchscreen and then apply heat to the area in an effort to slightly repair the damage. The process relies on something called "shape memory polymer," a material that can apparently become deformed and then recovered through thermal cycling. Thermal cycling involves changing the temperature of the material rapidly. This material could be used over an LCD or LED display with a capacitive touch sensor layered in, as well. Although the phone could heat the polymer in order to restore it, a user's body heat can be used, too.
Power

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Batteries Are Being Recalled For Overheating Risk (theverge.com) 77

According to The Verge, over 10,000 batteries for the Galaxy Note 4 are being recalled for risk of overheating that could lead to burns or fires. Given last year's Note 7 fiasco, this recall sure doesn't sound good. It is, however, far more limited than the Note 7 recall and doesn't appear to be Samsung's fault. The Verge reports: Only phones refurbished through AT&T's insurance program and handled by FedEx Supply Chain are impacted by the recall. Some of the refurbished phones apparently ended up with "counterfeit" batteries that include anomalies that could make them overheat. Fortunately, the Note 4 has a replaceable battery, so this recall isn't as big of a deal. Owners can just buy a new battery to use in their phone until the recall is taken care of. FedEx is currently sending out replacement batteries as well as boxes for returning the recalled phones. "FedEx Supply Chain is conducting this recall of non-genuine Samsung batteries as some of them are counterfeit," the spokesperson said. "The refurbishment program was managed by FedEx Supply Chain and operated independently of Samsung. Any affected owners should contact FedEx Supply Chain at 1-800-338-0163 or go online at www.exchangemybattery.com for more information." There's only been one report of a phone overheating and no damage to people or property because of it.

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