Android

ZTE Launches Axon M, a Foldable, Dual-Screened Smartphone (theverge.com) 50

ZTE's new Axon M is a full-featured smartphone with a hinge that connects two full-size displays, making the Axon M a flip phone of sorts. "Its front screen is a 5.2-inch, 1080p panel, it has last year's Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 20-megapixel camera," reports The Verge. "But flip the phone over and there's an identical 5.2-inch display on the back, making the Axon M anything but run-of-the-mill." From the report: The M's hinge allows the rear screen to flip forward and slot right next to the main display, creating an almost tablet sized canvas. You can stretch the home screen and apps across the two displays for a larger working area, or you can run two different apps at the same time, one on each screen. You can also "tent" the phone, and mirror the displays so two people can see the same content at the same time. ZTE says that it is utilizing Android's default split-screen features to enable many of the dual-screen functions, and it has made sure the "top 100" Android apps work on the phone. In the "extended" mode, which stretches a single app across both screens, the tablet version of the app is presented (provided there is one, which isn't always a guarantee with Android apps). It's even possible to stream video on both screens at the same time and switch the audio between them on the fly, which might be useful if you want to watch a sports game and YouTube at the same time, I guess.
Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 67

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
Input Devices

What Will Replace Computer Keyboards? (xconomy.com) 301

jeffengel writes:Computer keyboards will be phased out over the next 20 years, and we should think carefully about what replaces them as the dominant mode of communicating with machines, argues Android co-founder Rich Miner. Virtual reality technology and brain-computer links -- whose advocates include Elon Musk -- could lead to a "dystopian" future where people live their lives inside of goggles, or they jack directly into computers and become completely "de-personalized," Miner worries.

He takes a more "humanistic" view of the future of human-machine interfaces, one that frees us to be more expressive and requires computers to communicate on our level, not the other way around. That means software that can understand our speech, facial expressions, gestures, and handwriting. These technologies already exist, but have a lot of room for improvement.

One example he gives is holding up your hand to pause a video.
IOS

Latest iOS Update Shows Apple Can Use Software To Break Phones Repaired By Independent Shops (vice.com) 127

The latest version of iOS fixes several bugs, including one that caused a loss of touch functionality on a small subset of phones that had been repaired with certain third-party screens and had been updated to iOS 11. "Addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 6S displays because they were not serviced with genuine Apple parts," the update reads. "Note: Non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly. Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts. See support.apple.com for more information." Jason Koebler writes via Motherboard: "This is a reminder that Apple seems to have the ability to push out software updates that can kill hardware and replacement parts it did not sell iPhone customers itself, and that it can fix those same issues remotely." From the report: So let's consider what actually happened here. iPhones that had been repaired and were in perfect working order suddenly stopped working after Apple updated its software. Apple was then able to fix the problem remotely. Apple then put out a warning blaming the parts that were used to do the repair. Poof -- phone doesn't work. Poof -- phone works again. In this case, not all phones that used third party parts were affected, and there's no reason to think that, in this case, Apple broke these particular phones on purpose. But there is currently nothing stopping the company from using software to control unauthorized repair: For instance, you cannot replace the home button on an iPhone 7 without Apple's proprietary "Horizon Machine" that re-syncs a new home button with the repaired phone. This software update is concerning because it not only undermines the reputation of independent repair among Apple customers, but because it shows that phones that don't use "genuine" parts could potentially one day be bricked remotely.
Displays

Anticipating Samsung's AMOLED Mixed Reality Headset (windowscentral.com) 36

Eloking quotes Windows Central: At an event in San Francisco, HoloLens inventor Alex Kipman outlined the future of Windows Mixed Reality, which Redmond seems to believe is the future of computing. Whether or not it is remains to be seen, but either way, there will be no shortage of Windows Mixed Reality headsets this holiday season, with perhaps the most compelling option coming from Samsung.

The $500 Samsung HMD Odyssey sports dual AMOLED eye displays, complete with a 110-degree field of view. This could potentially make a huge difference in the quality of the Windows Mixed Reality experience for two reasons. First, AMOLED displays can generate deeper blacks and more vibrant colors than your average OLED or LCD screen. Second, all other Windows Mixed Reality headsets we've seen have a 95-degree FoV. The Samsung headset will be more immersive because there will be less dead space in your peripheral vision.

The headset -- which comes with motion controllers -- is expected to launch in one month.
AMD

AMD Unveils E9170 Embedded GPU (zdnet.com) 49

AMD is releasing a new embedded Radeon GPU, the first to be based on the Polaris architecture. From a report: But this one isn't aimed at the desktop or laptop markets, but instead it expands AMD's offerings in the digital casino games, thin clients, medical displays, retail and digital signage, and industrial systems markets. The AMD Embedded Radeon E9173 GPU, based on the Polaris architecture, uses an optimized 14-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process to provide up to three times the performance-per-watt over previous generations of AMD Embedded GPUs. And the Radeon E9170 is quite a powerhouse, delivering up to 1.25 TFLOPS at sub-40W TDP board power, and includes 4K HEVC/H.265 and AVC/H.264 decode and encode support, 4K and 3D support, and is capable of driving up to five 4K displays using HDMI 2.0 and/or DisplayPort 1.4. AMD is planning for the Radeon E9173 to have a long lifecycle -- which high-end customers demand -- and plans for it to be available through to 2024.
Android

Android Always Beats the iPhone To New Features, Qualcomm Says (theverge.com) 177

An anonymous reader shares a report: Qualcomm has published a somewhat self-congratulatory blog post that lauds the company and its Android partners for achieving a series of industry firsts that include wireless charging, dual-camera systems, OLED smartphone screens, edge-to-edge displays, and more -- features that the upcoming iPhone is expected to have. Apple and Qualcomm are currently embroiled in what's turning into a vicious, global patent licensing dispute. So the timing of this adulation for Android -- hours before Apple's big September event -- doesn't really strike me as coincidental. It can't be. Qualcomm never mentions Apple by name; the closest the company ever comes is with this line: Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today -- on Android and other platforms.
Operating Systems

Is Apple Copying Palm's WebOS? (salon.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Salon: Released in 2009 by Palm -- the same company that popularized the PDA in the 1990s -- WebOS pioneered a number of innovations, including multiple synchronized calendars, unified social media and contact management, curved displays, wireless charging, integrated text and Web messaging, and unintrusive notifications [that have all been copied by the mobile operating systems that defeated it on the marketplace]. The operating system, built on top of a Linux kernel, was also legendary for how easily it could be upgraded by users with programming skills. WebOS was also special in that it used native internet technologies like JavaScript for local applications. That was a huge part of why it was able to do so much integration with Web services, something its competitors at the time simply couldn't match.

Apple's upcoming iOS 11 once again demonstrates how far ahead of its time WebOS really was. The yet-to-be-released Apple mobile system has essentially copied the WebOS model for switching apps by having the user swipe upward from the bottom to reveal several "cards" that represent background applications. While Apple's decision to remove its massively overworked Home button is an improvement, it is still an inferior way of switching apps, compared to what you could do on WebOS eight years ago.

Google

Google To Comply With EU Search Demands To Avoid More Fines (bloomberg.com) 50

Google will comply with Europe's demands to change the way it runs its shopping search service, a rare instance of the internet giant bowing to regulatory pressure to avoid more fines. From a report: The Alphabet unit faced a Tuesday deadline to tell the European Union how it planned to follow an order to stop discriminating against rival shopping search services in the region. A Google spokeswoman said it is sharing that plan with regulators before the deadline expires, but declined to comment further. The EU fined Google a record 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in late June for breaking antitrust rules by skewing its general search results to unfairly favor its own shopping service over rival sites. The company had 60 days to propose how it would "stop its illegal content" and 90 days to make changes to how the company displays shopping results when users search for a product. Those changes need to be put in place by Sept. 28 to stave off a risk that the EU could fine the company 5 percent of daily revenue for each day it fails to comply. "The obligation to comply is fully Google's responsibility," the European Commission said in an emailed statement, without elaborating on what the company must do to comply.
Transportation

New MH370 Analysis Again Suggests Plane Came Down Outside Search Area (theregister.co.uk) 88

An anonymous reader shares a report: New analysis of images thought to depict wreckage from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 suggest the Boeing 777 came down to the north of the area searched during efforts to find the plane. A new document [PDF] released yesterday by Geoscience Australia (GA) detailed analysis of four images captured by the PLEIADES 1A Earth-imaging satellite on March 23rd, 2014, not long after the March 8th disappearance of the plane. The images were provided to GA by the French Ministry of Defence. The images depict an area to the north and east of the area searched by underwater survey, and in-between areas where search and rescue operations were conducted in the wake of the plane's disappearance. The image displays the areas covered by underwater survey in yellow and the search and rescue zones in red. Extensive manual analysis of the images -- there was not enough data to use machine learning -- yielded a dozen objects that researchers were happy to classify as "probably not natural." Several of those objects were clustered in the northern parts of the areas depicted in the photos. The document is at pains to point out that it is not possible to identify the objects as airplane debris. The new analysis referred back to drift pattern analysis made on debris known to have come from MH370 and released in December 2016. That analysis suggested the search area be extended by 25,000km2. More detailed drift analysis released in April 2017 also called for a new search to the north, as did a July talk by scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Graphics

Microsoft Is Updating the Windows Console Colors For the First Time In 20 Years (theverge.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Microsoft is giving its Windows Console (Command Prompt) a color overhaul. Windows 10 testers will be able to try out the new color scheme in a new build (16257) that will available later today. Windows Console's legacy blue is getting a subtle change to make it more legible on modern high-contrast displays, alongside color changes to the entire scheme. Windows 10 testers will only see the new colors if they clean install build 16257, and if you upgrade you'll keep the legacy colors to ensure any custom color settings are not replaced. Microsoft is planning to release a tool soon that will allow Windows 10 testers to apply the new color scheme and a selection of alternatives. Developers, you can thank Microsoft summer intern Craig Loewen for the overhaul.
Transportation

Tesla Model 3 Test Drive: Car Has Bite and Simple Interior (wsj.com) 192

An anonymous reader shares a WSJ article: A first peek inside Tesla's new Model 3 compact car revealed a starker, cozier interior than the more spacious and luxurious Model S. But as the sedan sped off, the experience felt similar. On Friday, the Silicon Valley auto maker showed off details of the all-electric sedan's interior for the first time (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), allowing brief test rides with a roughly 10-minute spin around the factory. The Model 3 represents a milestone for Chief Executive Elon Musk, who has long wanted to create an electric car for the masses. He's betting the new vehicle can help fuel massive growth for his 14-year-old company, projecting Tesla will produce a half-million cars next year, after delivering about 76,000 Model S sedans and Model X sport-utility vehicles last year. The Model 3's exterior was revealed in March last year, but details about the interior have been scarce. The $35,000 sedan is noticeably bare bones inside -- gone are the displays and instrument panel behind the steering wheel and the numerous switches and buttons found in the cockpit of traditional cars. Instead, the Model 3 makes greater use of a video screen in the center dash that controls most of the car's functions.
Government

Apple-Supplier Foxconn To Announce New Factory in Wisconsin in Much-needed Win For Trump and Scott Walker (washingtonpost.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a Washington Post report: Foxconn, one of the world's largest electronics manufacturers, will unveil plans Wednesday evening to build a new factory in southeastern Wisconsin (alternative source), delivering a much-needed win for President Trump and Gov. Scott Walker, according to four officials with knowledge of the announcement. The facility will make flat-screen displays and will be located in Southeast Wisconsin within House Speaker Paul Ryan's congressional district. It is not clear how many jobs would be created. Shortly after Trump was elected, Foxconn's chairman Terry Gou said his company would invest at least $7 billion in the United States and create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. If it follows through with that commitment, Foxconn would become a major employer on par with Chrysler. In April, Gou spent more than two hours at the White House.
China

China's Censors Can Now Erase Images Mid-Transmission (wsj.com) 90

Eva Dou, reporting for WSJ: China's already formidable internet censors have demonstrated a new strength -- the ability to delete images in one-on-one chats as they are being transmitted, making them disappear before receivers see them. The ability is part of a broader technology push by Beijing's censors to step up surveillance and get ahead of activists and others communicating online in China (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Displays of this new image-filtering capability kicked into high gear last week as Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo lay dying from liver cancer and politically minded Chinese tried to pay tribute to him, according to activists and a new research report. Wu Yangwei, a friend of the long-jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said he used popular messaging app WeChat to send friends a photo of a haggard Mr. Liu embracing his wife. Mr. Wu believed the transmissions were successful, but he said his friends never saw them. "Sometimes you can get around censors by rotating the photo," said Mr. Wu, a writer better known by his pen name, Ye Du. "But that doesn't always work." There were disruptions on Tuesday to another popular messaging app, Facebook's WhatsApp, with many China-based users saying they were unable to send photos and videos without the use of software that circumvents Chinese internet controls. Text messages appeared to be largely unaffected.
Cellphones

Researchers Have Developed A Battery-Free Mobile Phone (hothardware.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes HotHardware: Researchers from the University of Washington are looking to make batteries a thing of the past when it comes to mobile phones. The team has developed a phone that uses "almost zero power" according to associate professor Shyam Gollakota, who co-authored a paper which detailed the breakthrough... The researchers designed the phone to harvest microwatts of power from RF signals transmitted from a base station that is 31 feet away. Additional power is harnessed via ambient light through the use of miniature photodiodes that are about the size of a grain of rice. While in use, the phone consumes about 3.5 microwatts of power and is capable of communicating with a custom base station that is up to 50 feet away to send and receive calls... The phone ditches the traditional analog-to-digital converter, which turns your voice into data, in favor of a system that uses the vibrations from a microphone or speaker to perform the same task. An antenna then converts that motion into radio signals in such a way that very little power is consumed.
There's two drawbacks. First, modern smartphones "need a lot more than a 3.5-microwatt power budget for blazing fast processor, copious amounts of RAM and internal storage, and power-hungry displays." And more importantly, "you have to press a button to switch between transmissions and listening modes with the phone."
Security

Ukrainian Banks, Electricity Firm Hit by Fresh Cyber Attack; Reports Claim the Ransomware Is Quickly Spreading Across the World (vice.com) 109

A massive cyber attack has disrupted businesses and services in Ukraine on Tuesday, bringing down the government's website and sparking officials to warn that airline flights to and from the country's capital city Kiev could face delays. Motherboard reports that the ransomware is quickly spreading across the world. From a report: A number of Ukrainian banks and companies, including the state power distributor, were hit by a cyber attack on Tuesday that disrupted some operations (a non-paywalled source), the Ukrainian central bank said. The latest disruptions follow a spate of hacking attempts on state websites in late-2016 and repeated attacks on Ukraine's power grid that prompted security chiefs to call for improved cyber defences. The central bank said an "unknown virus" was to blame for the latest attacks, but did not give further details or say which banks and firms had been affected. "As a result of these cyber attacks these banks are having difficulties with client services and carrying out banking operations," the central bank said in a statement. BBC reports that Ukraine's aircraft manufacturer Antonov, two postal services, Russian oil producer Rosneft and Danish shipping company Maersk are also facing "disruption, including its offices in the UK and Ireland."

According to local media reports, the "unknown virus" cited above is a ransomware strain known as Petya.A. Here's how Petya encrypts files on a system (video). News outlet Motherboard reports that Petya has hit targets in Spain, France, Ukraine, Russia, and other countries as well. From the report: "We are seeing several thousands of infection attempts at the moment, comparable in size to Wannacry's first hours," Costin Raiu, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told Motherboard in an online chat. Judging by photos posted to Twitter and images provided by sources, many of the alleged attacks involved a piece of ransomware that displays red text on a black background, and demands $300 worth of bitcoin. "If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because they are encrypted," the text reads, according to one of the photos. "Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but don't waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service."
Businesses

Samsung Begins Production For Its First Internet of Things-optimised Exynos Processor (zdnet.com) 50

An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung Electronics has launched the Exynos i T200, its first processor optimised for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the company has announced. The South Korean tech giant said the chip has upped security and supports wireless connections, with hopes of giving it an advantage in the expanding IoT market. The Exynos i T200 applies Samsung's 28-nanometer High-K Metal Gate process and has multiple cores, with the Cortex-R4 doing the heavy lifting and an independently operating Cortex-M0+ allowing for multifunctionality. For example, if applied to a refrigerator, Cotext-R4 will run the OS and Cotex-M0+ will power LED displays on the doors.
Power

Domestic Appliances Guzzle Far More Energy Than Advertised, Says EU Survey (theguardian.com) 205

Chrisq writes: An EU study has found that many electronic devices and appliances use more energy in real-world conditions than in the standard EU tests. Often the real world figures are double those in the ratings. Sometimes this is achieved by having various optional features switched off during the test. For example, switching on modern TV features such as "ultra-high definition" and "high-dynamic range" in real-world test cycles boosted energy use in four out of seven televisions surveyed -- one by more than 100%. However some appliances appear to have "defeat devices" built in, with some Samsung TVs appearing to recognize the standard testing clip: "The Swedish Energy Agency's Testlab has come across televisions that clearly recognize the standard film (IEC) used for testing," says the letter, which the Guardian has seen. "These displays immediately lower their energy use by adjusting the brightness of the display when the standard film is being run. This is a way of avoiding the market surveillance authorities and should be addressed by the commission."
Displays

Xerox Alto Designer, Co-Inventor Of Ethernet, Dies at 74 (arstechnica.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Charles Thacker, one of the lead hardware designers on the Xerox Alto, the first modern personal computer, died of a brief illness on Monday. He was 74. The Alto, which was released in 1973 but was never a commercial success, was an incredibly influential machine... Thomas Haigh, a computer historian and professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, wrote in an email to Ars, "Alto is the direct ancestor of today's personal computers. It provided the model: GUI, windows, high-resolution screen, Ethernet, mouse, etc. that the computer industry spent the next 15 years catching up to. Of course others like Alan Kay and Butler Lampson spent years evolving the software side of the platform, but without Thacker's creation of what was, by the standards of the early 1970s, an amazingly powerful personal hardware platform, none of that other work would have been possible."
In 1999 Thacker also designed the hardware for Microsoft's Tablet PC, "which was first conceived of by his PARC colleague Alan Kay during the early 1970s," according to the article. "I've found over my career that it's been very difficult to predict the future," Thacker said in a guest lecture in 2013. "People who tried to do it generally wind up being wrong."
EU

Museum of Failure Opens In Sweden (failuremag.com) 253

Slashdot reader swellconvivialguy writes: A new museum in Helsingborg displays more than 70 failed products and objects, including the Apple Newton, Google Glass, Sony Betamax, Harley-Davidson perfume, and the Donald Trump board game. According to curator Samuel West, "none of the companies that I contacted wanted to cooperate. I approached quite a few innovation directors and asked them for examples of failure that they've learned from. I thought it would be easy to get them to collaborate but none of them -- zero -- choose to cooperate."
The curator urges people to accept failure -- "as an essential aspect of progress and innovation."

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