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HughPickens.com writes: Five years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the iPad and insisted that it would do many things better than either a laptop or a smartphone. Will Oremus writes at Future Tense that by most standards, the iPad has been a success, and the tablet has indeed emerged as a third category of computing device. But there's another way of looking at the iPad. According to Oremus, Jobs was right to leave out the productivity features and go big on the simple tactile pleasure of holding the Internet in your hands.
But for all its popularity and appeal, the iPad never has quite cleared the bar Jobs set for it, which was to be "far better" at some key tasks than a laptop or a smartphone. The iPad may have been "far better" when it was first released, but smartphones have come a long way. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and their Android equivalents are now convenient enough for most mobile computing tasks that there's no need to carry around a tablet as well. That helps explain why iPad sales have plateaued, rather than continuing to ascend to the stratospheric levels of the iPhone. "The iPad remains an impressive machine. But it also remains a luxury item rather than a necessity," concludes Oremus. "Again, by most standards, it is a major success. Just not by the high standards that Jobs himself set for it five years ago."
255 comments | yesterday
mask.of.sanity sends this report from El Reg: The maker of BlackPhone – a mobile marketed as offering unusually high levels of security – has patched a critical vulnerability that allows hackers to run malicious code on the handsets. Attackers need little more than a phone number to send a message that can compromise the devices via the Silent Text application.
The impact of the flaw is troubling because BlackPhone attracts what hackers see as high-value victims: those willing to invest AU$765 (£415, $630) in a phone that claims to put security above form and features may well have valuable calls and texts to hide from eavesdroppers.
46 comments | yesterday
alphadogg writes: The FCC on Tuesday warned that it will no longer tolerate hotels, convention centers or others intentionally interfering with personal Wi-Fi hotspots. This issue grabbed headlines last fall when Marriott International was fined $600,000 for blocking customer Wi-Fi hotspots, presumably to encourage the guests to pay for pricey Internet access from the hotel.
117 comments | yesterday
First we look at Skiva Technology and their Octofire 8-port USB charger that pulled in nearly five times the requested amount from a Kickstarter campaign. (The 'pulled in X times the requested Kickstarter amount' is becoming a common product boast, isn't it?) Then, for MacBook owners who are tired of having their chargers or charger cords break, we take a brief look at the Juiceboxx Charger Case. These two power-oriented products and WakaWaka, which we posted about on January 9, are just a tiny, random sample of the many items in this category that were on display at CES 2015. Timothy was the only Slashdot person working CES, so it's shocking that he managed to cover as many (hopefully interesting) products as he did, considering that even the biggest IT journo mills don't come close to total coverage of the overwhelming muddle CES has become in recent years. (Alternate Video Link)
32 comments | 2 days ago
itwbennett writes The promise of modular smartphones like Google's Project Ara is that buyers will be able to upgrade components at will — and now Finnish company Circular Devices has come up with a use for discarded computing modules, which they're calling Puzzlecluster. Drawings of the Puzzlecluster architecture show a chassis with slots for the reused modules, which can then be interconnected with others to create the cluster. Just one unit could also be used as a desktop computer."
82 comments | 2 days ago
MojoKid writes If you're running Android 4.3 or earlier, you're pretty much out of luck when it comes to a baked-in defense against a WebView vulnerability that was discovered earlier this month by security analyst Tod Beardsley. The vulnerability leaves millions of users open to attack from hackers that choose to exploit the security hole. WebView is a core component of the Android operating system that renders web pages. The good news is that the version of WebView included in Android 4.4 KitKat and Android 5.0 Lollipop is based on Chromium and is not affected by the vulnerability. The bad news is that those running Android 4.3 and earlier are wide open, which means that 60 percent of Android users (or nearly one billion customers) are affected. What's most interesting is that Google has no trouble tossing grenades at the feet of Microsoft and Apple courtesy of its Project Zero program, but doesn't seem to have the resources to fix a vulnerability that affects a substantial portion of the Android user base.
567 comments | 2 days ago
The New York Times reports that Cablevision Systems plans to announce on Monday the start of a low-cost mobile phone service that will use Wi-Fi for connectivity rather than standard cellular networks, the first such service to be introduced by a cable operator. Called Freewheel, the service will offer unlimited data, talking and texting worldwide for $29.95 a month, or $9.95 a month for Cablevision’s Optimum Online customers — a steep discount compared with standard offerings from traditional cellular carriers. Freewheel customers initially must use a specific Motorola Moto G smartphone, which is being sold for $99.95. The service goes on sale next month, and no annual contract is required. (Reuters carries a similar story.)
43 comments | 2 days ago
114 comments | 4 days ago
BarbaraHudson writes WhatsApp is locking out users for 24 hours who use WhatsApp Plus to access the service. The company claims they brought in the temporary ban to make users aware that they are not using the correct version and their privacy could be comprised using the unofficial WhatsApp Plus. "Starting today, we are taking aggressive action against unauthorized apps and alerting the people who use them." Is this a more aggressive rerun of "This site best viewed with Internet Explorer"?
190 comments | 4 days ago
dkatana writes: Overall, demand for encryption is growing. Cloud encryption services provider CipherCloud recently received a $50 million investment by Deutsche Telekom, which the company said positions it for "explosive growth" this year. The services are designed to allow corporations to benefit from the cost savings and elasticity of cloud-based data storage, while ensuring that sensitive information is protected.
Now, both Apple and Google are providing full encryption as a default option on their mobile operating systems with an encryption scheme they are not able to break themselves, since they don't hold the necessary keys.
Some corporations have gone as far as turning to "zero-knowledge" services, usually located in countries such as Switzerland. These services pledge that they have no means to unlock the information once the customer has entered the unique encryption keys. This zero-knowledge approach is welcomed by users, who are reassured that their information is impossible to retrieve — at least theoretically — without their knowledge and the keys.
83 comments | 5 days ago
whoever57 writes: In its announcement of Windows 10, Microsoft indicated not all devices would get the updated operating system. Now, Microsoft says its Surface devices running Windows RT won't be receiving full updates, though it does plan to roll some new functionality into them. "Given that Windows RT and RT 8.1 were designed for power economizing devices sporting 32-bit ARM architecture, and never had the same functionality — to many users' frustration — as full-blown Windows 8 and 8.1, it comes as little surprise that the RT versions of the operating system should be left out of the latest update loop. In fact, a week before Microsoft's big Windows 10 reveal on January 21, the company released firmware updates for all three models of its Intel-powered Surface Pro series, but neither of the ARM-based Surface tablets — the Surface 2 or Surface RT — received any new updates this month." The Surface Pro line of tablets, which run a normal version of Windows, will be getting an update to Windows 10.
158 comments | 5 days ago
Mark.JUK writes A new project called TWEETHER, which is funded by Europe's Horizon 2020 programme, has been set up at Lancaster University (England) with the goal of harnessing the millimetre wave (mmW) radio spectrum (specifically 92-95GHz) in order to deploy a new Point to Multipoint wireless broadband technology that could deliver peak capacity of up to 10Gbps (Gigabits per second). The technology will take three years to develop and is expected to help support future 5G based Mobile Broadband networks.
54 comments | about a week ago
DW100 writes In a bizarre public blog post the CEO of BlackBerry, John Chen, has claimed that net neutrality laws should include forcing app developers to make their services available on all operating systems. Chen even goes as far as citing Apple's iMessage tool as a service that should be made available for BlackBerry, because at present the lack of an iMessage BlackBerry app is holding the firm back. Some excerpts from Chen's plea: Netflix, which has forcefully advocated carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. ... Neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer’s mobile operating system. Since "content providers" are writing code they think makes sense for one reason or another (expected returns financial or psychic), a mandate to write more code seems like a good way to re-learn why contract law frowns on specific performance.
307 comments | about a week ago
MojoKid writes There's a new report suggesting Google is partnering with select wireless carriers to sell its own branded wireless voice and data plans directly to consumers. According to sources and the "three people with knowledge of the plans," Google will tap into networks belonging to Sprint and T-Mobile for its new service, buying wholesale access to mobile voice and data in order to make itself a virtual network operator. That might sound disappointing on the surface. Had Google struck a deal with Verizon and AT&T, or even just Verizon, the deal could potentially have more critical mass, with great coverage backed by a company like Google and its services. The former might be a winning combination but at least this is a start. The project will be known as "Nova," which is reportedly being led by Google's Nick Fox, a longtime executive with the company. Apparently Fox has been overseeing this for some time now, and it seems likely a launch will take place this year.
101 comments | about a week ago
mikejuk writes: Atlas is a humanoid robot, one of the most advanced in the world. But it's always had cables that provided it with power and made it look a little like a dog on a leash. It was designed to provide a hardware platform for teams competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge — a competition designed to encourage the construction of an effective disaster response robot. DARPA now says the finals of the challenge later in the year will require that the robots be completely wireless.
Power will be supplied by an onboard 3.7 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. That battery will drive a variable-pressure pump which operates all of the hydraulic systems. The pump makes ATLAS much quieter, but introduces a complication for the teams: it can be run at low pressure to save power and then switched to high pressure to get harder work done. Managing power consumption will be a very difficult task, but DARPA has also upped the prize money to $3.5 million in total.
19 comments | about a week ago
Bunnie Huang's Novena laptop re-invents the laptop with open source (and Free software) in mind, but the hackability that it's built for requires a fair amount of tolerance on a user's part for funky design and visible guts. New submitter dopeghost writes with word of the nearly-funded (via Crowd Supply) Librem laptop, a different kind of Free-software machine using components "specifically selected so that no binary blobs are needed in the Linux kernel that ships with the laptop." Made from high quality components and featuring a MacBook-like design including a choice of HiDPI screen, the Librem might just be the first laptop to ship with a modern Intel CPU that is not locked down to require proprietary firmware.
Richard M. Stallman, president of the FSF, said, "Getting rid of the signature checking is an important step. While it doesn't give us free code for the firmware, it means that users will really have control of the firmware once we get free code for it." Unlike some crowdfunding projects, this one is far from pie-in-the-sky, relying mostly on off-the-shelf components, with a planned shipping date in Spring of this year: "Purism is manufacturing the motherboard, and screen printing the keyboard. Purism is sourcing the case, daughter cards, memory, drives, battery, camera, and screen."
227 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader links to this story at The Stack (based on this translated report) that "The Moscow authorities will begin using the signal from Muscovites' cell-phones in 2015 to research patterns of traffic and points of congestion, with a view to changes in travel infrastructure including roads, the Moscow metro and bus services. The tracking, which appears to opt all users in unilaterally, promises not to identify individual cell-phone numbers, and will use GSM in most cases, but also GPS in more densely-constructed areas of the old city. The system is already in limited use on the roads, but will be extended to pedestrians and subway users in 2015. The city of 11.5 million people has three main cell providers, all of whom cooperate fully with authorities' request for information. A representative of one, Beeline, said: "We prepare reports that detail where our subscribers work, live, move, and other aspects."
63 comments | about a week ago
Amanda Parker (3946253) writes EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone have thrown their support behind net neutrality by signing up to the Open Internet Code. Launched in 2012 by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), the UK code commits the three internet service providers (ISPs) to provide full internet access with no data blocked "on the basis of commercial rivalry." Content providers can now lodge a complaint with the BSG if they feel their services are being discriminated against. This latest development means that all major ISPs providing fixed and mobile networks are signed up to the code. BSG CEO Matthew Evans said: "Unlike some countries, where net neutrality has become a controversial topic for discussion, the UK benefits from a fiercely competitive market and high levels of transparency — which together offer the best assurance of an open internet."
36 comments | about a week ago
MollsEisley writes: Right now, Tizen is still somewhat half-baked, which is why you shouldn't expect to see a high-end Tizen smartphone hit your local carrier for a while yet, but Samsung's priorities could change rapidly. If Tizen development speeds up a bit, the OS could become a stand-in for Android on entry-level and mid-range Samsung phones and eventually take over Samsung's entire smartphone (and tablet) lineup.
241 comments | about a week ago
wiredmikey writes "Using Apple's voice-activated Siri function, security researchers have managed to steal sensitive information from iOS smartphones in a stealthy manner. Luca Caviglione of the National Research Council of Italy and Wojciech Mazurczy of the Warsaw University of Technology warn that malicious actors could use Siri for stealthy data exfiltration by using a method that's based on steganography, the practice of hiding information. Dubbed "iStegSiri" by the researchers, the attack can be effective because it doesn't require the installation of additional software components and it doesn't need the device's alteration. On the other hand, it only works on jailbroken devices and attackers somehow need to be able to intercept the modified Siri traffic. The attack method involves controlling the "shape" of this traffic to embed sensitive data from the device. This covert channel could be used to send credit card numbers, Apple IDs, passwords, and other sensitive information from the phone to the criminal mastermind, researchers said in their paper.
55 comments | about two weeks ago