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  • The Case For a Safer Smartphone

    itwbennett writes: "According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, people who text and drive increase their chances of 'safety-critical events' by a multiple of 23.2. And new research is constantly rolling out, showing the same thing: 'We can't handle the visual, manual, and cognitive commitment of using a phone while driving,' writes blogger Kevin Purdy. What's needed, Purdy suggests, isn't more laws that will go ignored, but phones that know enough to stop giving us the distractions we ask them for: 'I think the next good phone, the next phone that makes some variant of the claim that it "Fits the way you live," needs to know that we don't know what is good for us when it comes to driving. We want to be entertained and shown new things while doing the often mundane or stressful task of driving. More specifically, those phones should know when we are driving, quiet or otherwise obscure updates from most apps, and be able to offer their most basic functions without needing to turn on a screen or type a single letter.'"

    180 comments | 3 days ago

  • New MU-MIMO Standard Could Allow For Gigabit WiFi Throughput

    MojoKid (1002251) writes "Today, Qualcomm is announcing full support for a new wireless transmission method that could significantly boost performance on crowded networks. The new standard, MU-MIMO (Multiple User — Multiple Input and Multiple Output) has a clunky name — but could make a significant difference to home network speeds and make gigabit WiFi a practical reality. MU-MIMO is part of the 802.11ac Release 2 standard, so this isn't just a custom, Qualcomm-only feature. In SU-MIMO mode, a wireless router creates time slices for every device it detects on the network. Every active device on the network slows down the total system bandwidth — the router has to pay attention to every device, and it can only pay attention to one phone, tablet, or laptop at a time. The difference between single-user and multi-user configurations is that where SU can only serve one client at a time and can therefore only allocate a fraction of total bandwidth to any given device, MU can create groups of devices and communicate with all three simultaneously."

    32 comments | about two weeks ago

  • FCC Boosts Spectrum Available To Wi-Fi

    bbsguru (586178) writes "Wi-Fi networks will soon be improving thanks to a vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today. The FCC voted unanimously to open 100 MHz of wireless spectrum in an unlicensed 5GHz block . The move will increase the number of frequencies available to unlicensed wireless networks (such as those set up through Wi-Fi routers) by nearly 15 percent, and in turn, allow them to handle a greater level of traffic at higher speeds. 'Today's action represents the largest amount of spectrum suitable for mobile broadband that the Commission has made available for auction since the 700MHz band was auctioned in 2008,' the FCC wrote in a statement. 'Access to these bands will help wireless companies meet growing consumer demand for mobile data by enabling faster wireless speeds and more capacity.' The increased spectrum should mean that Wi-Fi networks will be less congested, and next-gen routers will be able to take better advantage of gigabit broadband speeds that are cropping up all over the country."

    73 comments | about two weeks ago

  • WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever

    retroworks writes: "Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon Communications are lobbying states, one by one, to hang up the plain, old telephone system, what the industry now calls POTS — the copper-wired landline phone system whose reliability and reach made the U.S. a communications powerhouse for more than 100 years. Is landline obsolete, and should be immune from grandparents-era social protection? The article continues, 'Last week, Michigan joined more than 30 other states that have passed or are considering laws that restrict state-government oversight and eliminate "carrier of last resort" mandates, effectively ending the universal-service guarantee that gives every U.S. resident access to local-exchange wireline telephone service, the POTS. (There are no federal regulations guaranteeing Internet access.) ... In Mantoloking, N.J., Verizon wants to replace the landline system, which Hurricane Sandy wiped out, with its wireless Voice Link. That would make it the first entire town to go landline-less, a move that isn't sitting well with all residents."

    449 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Security for the 'Internet of Things' (Video)

    What happens when your oven is on the Internet? A malicious hacker might be able to set it to broil while you're on vacation, and get it so hot that it could start a fire. Or a prankster might set your alarm to wake you up at 3 a.m. - and what if someone gets access to the wireless security camera over your front door and uses it to gain access to the rest of your home network, and from there to your bank account? Not good. With the 'Internet of Things' you will have many devices to secure, not just a couple of computers and handheld devices. Timothy Lord met Mark Stanislav of Duo Security at BSides Austin 2014, which is where this interview took place.(Here's an alternate link to the video.)

    106 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Ubuntu Phone Isn't Important Enough To Demand an Open Source Baseband

    colinneagle (2544914) writes "Canonical is producing a version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution specifically for smartphones, but Richard Tynan, writing for PrivacyInternational.org, recently pointed out that the baseband in Ubuntu-powered phones will remain proprietary. ... Some have criticized Canonical for missing an opportunity to push for a fully Open Source smartphone, but in order to fix this problem (and open up the code for this super-critical bit of software), we need companies that have a large amount of clout, in the smartphone market, to make it a priority. Canonical (with Ubuntu) just doesn't have that clout yet. They're just now dipping their toes into the smartphone waters. But you know who does have that clout? Google.

    Google has made a point of touting Open Source (at least sometimes), and they are the undisputed king of the smartphone operating system world. And yet I hear no big moves by Google to encourage phone manufacturers to utilize Open Source baseband firmware, such as OsmocomBB. So has Canonical missed an opportunity? No. Not yet. If (some may say 'when') Ubuntu gains a critical amount of market share in the phone world, that will be their chance to pressure manufacturers to produce a truly Open Source phone. Until then, Canonical needs to continue to work within the world we have today."

    137 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Oppo's New Phone Hits 538 PPI

    itwbennett (1594911) writes "Oppo Electronics has taken off the wraps on its first LTE phone, and it packs more technology than most if not all laptops. The Find 7 is a 5.5" phone and is the first to support 2560 x 1440 resolution [538 PPI] (by comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has 441 PPI). 'Another striking and unique feature of the phone is its 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor,' writes blogger Andy Patrizio. 'This is Qualcomm's first chip to feature its Gobi True 4G LTE World Mode, supporting LTE FDD, LTE TDD, WCDMA, CDMA1x, EV-DO, TD-SCDMA and GSM4. Translation: this phone will work on LTE all over the world.'"

    217 comments | about three weeks ago

  • WPA2 Wireless Security Crackable WIth "Relative Ease"

    An anonymous reader writes "Achilleas Tsitroulis of Brunel University, UK, Dimitris Lampoudis of the University of Macedonia, Greece and Emmanuel Tsekleves of Lancaster University, UK, have investigated the vulnerabilities in WPA2 and present its weakness. They say that this wireless security system might now be breached with relative ease [original, paywalled paper] by a malicious attack on a network. They suggest that it is now a matter of urgency that security experts and programmers work together to remove the vulnerabilities in WPA2 in order to bolster its security or to develop alternative protocols to keep our wireless networks safe from hackers and malware."

    150 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Wireless Carriers In Huge Washington Lobby Fight Over Spectrum Auction

    First time accepted submitter techpolicy (3586897) writes "The big four wireless carriers are spending millions of dollars to hire professors, fund Washington think tanks and to meet with the Federal Communications Commission to try to convince the agency to write rules for an upcoming auction of spectrum that favor them, according to an article posted by the Center for Public Integrity in Washington. The frequencies are needed to bolster or build out their nationwide networks — and this kind of low-band spectrum won't be up for sale for a very long time. The biggest fight is over a rule that would limit how much AT&T and Verizon can get of these valuable frequencies. How it plays out will determine who has control over your smartphone."

    51 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Harsh Wireless Conditions? Send In the Drone Hot Spot

    coondoggie writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has moved along a project it says would use hot-spot enabled drones to bring wireless communications to even the most distant and harsh environments. The project known as Fixed Wireless at a Distance is designed specifically to overcome the challenge inherent with cell communication in remote areas and this week the agency awarded L-3 $16.4 million to support the next iteration of the system."

    20 comments | about 1 month ago

  • You Can't Kid a Kidder: Comcast's Cohen May Have Met His Match In FCC's Wheeler

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Comcast's top lobbyist, David Cohen, is known to be a savvy political operator, having pushed through the No. 1 U.S. cable operator's landmark acquisition of media giant NBC Universal in 2011. But Alina Selyukh And Liana B. Baker write at Reuters that although Comcast ranks among the top-ten corporate influencers in Washington, having spent $18.8 million on lobbying last year, Cohen may have met his match in Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Wheeler headed the cable trade group from 1979 to 1984 and ran the wireless industry association from 1992 to 2004. Since taking over the FCC last November, however, Wheeler has not shied away from stances that have roiled past allies. Wheeler publicly expressed skepticism about a potential merger between wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile in one of his most attention-grabbing moves last February.

    'You can't kid a kidder. Having been a lobbyist, he knows all their tricks,' says Blair Levin. Comcast will formally request an FCC review of the $45.2 billion Time Warner Cable deal later in March. Opponents say the combined company will have too much power over what Americans can watch on television and do online. As FCC chairman, Wheeler has publicly and repeatedly stated his 'unabashed' support for competition. Wheeler has also hired a heavyweight consumer advocate, Gigi Sohn, as a senior adviser. Colleagues of Wheeler, a published historian, also highlight his subject expertise. 'He knows these issues like the back of his hand,' says one FCC official who works with Wheeler. 'He knows how the business runs. He knows these people, he knows what they think and what policies they want.'"

    56 comments | about a month ago

  • Goodbye, Google Voice

    itwbennett writes "The trouble with Google Voice is that the way we use phones has changed — and it hasn't kept up with the times: 'Fewer people have a mobile phone and a business line and a home line that might make One Number For All so. Text message costs (which are actually close to nothing) are almost always bundled into contract costs. Automatic voice transcription, while still a mean feat, is no longer such a magic trick,' writes Kevin Purdy in a blog post explaining why he's breaking up with Google Voice. The main problem is that, despite some very cool features, Google Voice doesn't play well with others — even apps in its own family. And it doesn't look as though that's going to get better anytime soon." I've been very happy with Google Voice for a few years now, and one reason is the transcribed voice messages, which may get hilariously garbled sometimes, but are almost always correct enough to be useful.

    166 comments | about a month ago

  • WSJ: Americans' Phone Bills Are Going Up

    There's been some positive news in the last year (and the last few) for American cellphone customers: certainly there's more visible competition for their business among the largest players in the market. Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal reports that while more competition may translate into some more attractive service bundles, flexibility in phone options, or smoother customer service, it doesn't actually mean that the customers are on average reaping one of the benefits that competition might be expected to provide: lower price. Instead, the bills for customers on the major wireless providers have actually gone up, if not dramatically, in recent months — which means U.S. cell service remains much more expensive than it is in many other countries. The article could stand a sidebar on MVNOs and other low-cost options, though -- I switched to one of these from AT&T, and now pay just under $40 for one version of the new normal of unlimited talk and text, plus quite limited (1GB) data, but still using AT&T towers. Has your own cost to talk gone up or down?

    273 comments | about a month ago

  • Stanford Team Tries For Better Wi-Fi In Crowded Buildings

    alphadogg writes "Having lots of Wi-Fi networks packed into a condominium or apartment building can hurt everyone's wireless performance, but Stanford University researchers say they've found a way to turn crowding into an advantage. In a dorm on the Stanford campus, they're building a single, dense Wi-Fi infrastructure that each resident can use and manage like their own private network. That means the shared system, called BeHop, can be centrally managed for maximum performance and efficiency while users still assign their own SSIDs, passwords and other settings. The Stanford project is making this happen with inexpensive, consumer-grade access points and SDN (software-defined networking)."

    43 comments | about a month ago

  • The Other Oscars: White House Hi-Tech Ed Film Winners

    theodp writes "Last December, the White House called on kids to film high-tech education. Three months later, the winners of the White House Student Film Festival are in. "They tell the story of exactly why it's so important that we make sure more classrooms have the kind of cutting-edge technology they promote," the White House said. The film festival, NBC reports, showcases the administration's ConnectED campaign to bring next-generation broadband and wireless to 99% of students within 5 years. Since the White House left things at 16 finalists, how about the Slashdot People's Choice Awards — which of the videos selected by the White House do you feel best "highlight the power of technology in schools"? The slickest, no doubt, is Technology in Education: A Future Classroom by young Daniel Nemroff, who gives those Microsoft 'Future Vision' video folks a run for their money."

    5 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Comcast Turning Chicago Homes Into Xfinity Hotspots

    BUL2294 writes "The Chicago Tribune is reporting that, over the next few months in Chicago, Comcast is turning on a feature that turns customer networks into public Wi-Fi hotspots. After a firmware upgrade is installed, 'visitors will use their own Xfinity credentials to sign on, and will not need the homeowner's permission or password to tap into their Wi-Fi signal. The homegrown network will also be available to non-subscribers free for several hours each month, or on a pay-per-use basis. Any outside usage should not affect the speed or security of the home subscriber's private network. [...] Home internet subscribers will automatically participate in the network's growing infrastructure, although a small number have chosen to opt out in other test markets.' The article specifically mentions that this capability is opt-out, so Comcast is relying on home users' property, electricity, and lack of tech-savvy to increase their network footprint." Comcast tried this in the Twin Cities area, and was apparently satisfied with the results, though subscribers are starting to notice.

    253 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • In Ukraine, Cyber War With Russia Heating Up

    concertina226 writes "If you think the crisis in the Ukraine is limited just to being just on the ground, think again. A cyberwar is flaring up between Ukraine and Russia and it looks like just the beginning. On Friday, communication centers were hijacked by unknown men to install wireless equipment for monitoring the mobile phones of Ukraine parliament members. Since then, Ukrainian hackers have been defacing Russian news websites, while Russia's Roskomnadzor is blocking any IP addresses or groups on social media from showing pro-Ukraine 'extremist' content." Adds reader Daniel_Stuckey: "On the other side of the border, RT — the news channel formerly known as Russia Today and funded by the state — had its website hacked on Sunday morning, with the word 'Nazi' not-so-stealthily slipped into headlines. Highlights included 'Russian senators vote to use stabilizing Nazi forces on Ukrainian territory,' and 'Putin: Nazi citizens, troops threatened in Ukraine, need armed forces' protection.' RT was quick to notice the hack, and the wordplay only lasted about 20 minutes." Finally, as noted by judgecorp, "The Ukrainian security service has claimed that Russian forces in Crimea are attacking Ukraine's mobile networks and politicians' phones in particular. Meanwhile, pro-Russian hackers have defaced Ukrainian news sites, posting a list of forty web destinations where content has been replaced. The pro-Russians have demonstrated Godwin's Rule — their animated GIF equates the rest of Ukraine to Nazis."

    256 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Government Accuses Sprint of Overcharging For Wiretapping Expenses

    realized writes with news that the Federal government thinks Sprint overcharged them $21 million when billing for wiretaps. From the article: "Sprint, like all the nation's carriers, must comply with the Communications Assistance in Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which requires telcos to be capable of providing government-ordered wiretapping services. The act also allows carriers to recoup 'reasonable expenses' associated with those services. Sprint inflated charges approximately 58 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to a lawsuit the administration brought against the carrier today. ... The suit said that the wireless carrier breached Federal Communications Commission guidelines of 2006 that prohibited carriers from using intercept charges to recover costs of modifying 'equipment, facilities or services' to comply with the Communications Assistance in Law Enforcement Act."

    114 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Gesture Recognition Without Batteries

    An anonymous reader sends this news from the University of Washington: "[C]omputer scientists have built a low-cost gesture recognition system that runs without batteries and lets users control their electronic devices hidden from sight with simple hand movements. The prototype, called 'AllSee,' uses existing TV signals as both a power source and the means for detecting a user's gesture command (PDF). 'This is the first gesture recognition system that can be implemented for less than a dollar and doesn't require a battery,' said Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. 'You can leverage TV signals both as a source of power and as a source of gesture recognition.' The researchers built a small sensor that can be placed on an electronic device such as a smartphone. The sensor uses an ultra-low-power receiver to extract and classify gesture information from wireless transmissions around us. When a person gestures with the hand, it changes the amplitude of the wireless signals in the air. The AllSee sensors then recognize unique amplitude changes created by specific gestures."

    22 comments | about a month and a half ago

  • Apple's Messages Offers Free Texting With a Side of iPhone Lock-In

    itwbennett writes "Who doesn't love free text messages? People who try to transition from an iPhone to any other phone, that's who. Apple's Messages app actively moves conversations away from paid text messages to free Messages. Very convenient until you want to leave your iPhone and switch back to plain old text messages because suddenly you'll be unable to receive text messages from your iPhone-toting friends. There's an obscure workaround, and Samsung, which has a vested interest in the matter, has a lengthy guide to removing your iPhone as a registered receiver of Messages . But the experience is just annoying enough that it might be the kind of thing that would keep someone from making a switch — and that's when it starts to feel like deliberate lock-in, and not so much like something Apple overlooked."

    179 comments | about a month and a half ago

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