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Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Best Data Provider When Traveling In the US?

An anonymous reader writes: I am visiting USA 3-4 times a year and I need a data service. I also need to keep my cell phone number, so swapping the SIM card in my phone is not an option. I have bought those 19.95$ phones in Best-Buy to get a local number, but those were voice only. So I have been thinking about getting a MiFi hotspot.

I have been looking at pre-paid plans from Verizon(only 700 LTE band for their pre-paid hotspot), AT&T, T-Mobile etc. perhaps to put in a MiFi hotspot or buy a hotspot from a provider, but have no idea which one to use, their reputation, real life coverage etc. It is clear that all data plans in the USA are really expensive, I get 100GB monthly traffic with my Scandinavian provider for the same price as 6-8 GB montly in the US, which I guess could be a problem with our Apple phones as they do not recognize a metered WiFi hotspot. But that is another issue. I travel all over but most of the time outside the big cities -- and my experience from roaming with my own phone and the cheap local phone so far tells me that coverage fluctuates wildly depending on the operator.
Microsoft

A Courtroom Victory For Microsoft In Cellphone-Related Patent Suit 11

Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft has been cleared of patent infringement by the US International Trade Commission. The case dates back to 2007 when InterDigital Inc claimed Microsoft infringed its patents, and there were calls for a ban on the import of handsets. InterDigital Inc has been battling in court for eight years, initially trying to claim royalties on phones made by Nokia, now transferred to Microsoft. As well as blocking the call for an import ban, the ITC stated that Microsoft did not infringe patents relating to the way mobiles make calls. In short Microsoft is in the clear and InterDigital's rights have not been violated.
Transportation

Arro Taxi App Arrives In NYC As 'Best Hope' Against Uber 64

An anonymous reader writes with a report at The Stack that "New York City cabs have begun testing a new app-based taxi system in an attempt to win back customers lost to Uber and Lyft." The app is called Arro, and is being trialled in about 7,000 New York cabs. It sticks with metered prices, rather than the demand-based price increases that Uber institutes for times of peak demand. With so many cabs on the road already, the makers boast that Arro will outpace Uber soon. At least based on my limited experience with each, real competition with Uber or Lyft would require some seminars on good customer service.
Wireless Networking

French Woman Gets €800/month For Electromagnetic-Field 'Disability' 397

An anonymous reader writes: If you were dismayed to hear Tuesday's news that a school is being sued over Wi-Fi sickness, you might be even more disappointed in a recent verdict by the French judicial system. A court based in Toulouse has awarded a disability claim of €800 (~$898) per month for three years over a 39-year-old woman's "hypersensitivity to electromagnetic waves." Robin Des Toits, an organization that campaigns for "sufferers" of this malady, was pleased: "We can no longer say that it is a psychiatric illness." (Actually, we can and will.) The woman has been living in a remote part of France's south-west mountains with no electricity around. She claims to be affected by common gadgets like cellphones.
Cellphones

Former Apple CEO Creates an iPhone Competitor 126

An anonymous reader links to Fast Company's profile of Obi Worldphone, one-time Apple CEO John Sculley's venture into smartphones. The company's first two products (both reasonably spec'd, moderately priced Android phones) are expected to launch in October. And though the phones are obviously running a different operating system than Apple's, Sculley says that Obi is a similarly design-obsessed company: "The hardest part of the design was not coming up with cool-looking designs," Sculley says. "It was sweating the details over in the Chinese factories, who just were not accustomed to having this quality of finish, all of these little details that make a beautiful design. We had teams over in China, working for months on the floor every day. We intend to continue that process and have budgeted accordingly." Obi is also trying to set itself apart from the low-price pack by cutting deals for premium parts. "Instead of going directly to the Chinese factories, we went to the key component vendors, because we know that ecosystem and have the relationships," Sculley says. "We went to Sony. It’s struggling and losing money on its smartphone business, but they make the best camera modules in the world."
Communications

Docs: Responding To Katrina, FBI Made Cell Phone Surveillance Its Priority 83

v3rgEz writes: There's a lot of lessons that the federal government should have learned in the aftermath of Katrina. Increased domestic surveillance, however, appears to be the one the FBI took to heart, using the natural disaster as a justification for ramping up its use of Stingray cell phone tracking throughout Louisiana after the storm, according to documents released under FOIA to MuckRock.
Android

Since-Pulled Cyanogen Update For Oneplus Changes Default Home Page To Bing 86

ourlovecanlastforeve writes: Nestled into GSMArena's report on the Cyanogen OS 12.1 update for Oneplus [ Note: an update that the story reports has since been pulled.] is this tasty bite: "...you'll find out that your Chrome homepage has been changed to Bing." Then it's casually dismissed with "Thankfully though, you can easily get rid of Microsoft's search engine by using Chrome settings." as if this were the most normal thing to have to do after an OTA update. Is this the new normal? Has Microsoft set a new precedent that it's okay to expect users to have to go searching through every setting and proactively monitor network traffic to make sure their data isn't being stolen, modified or otherwise manipulated?
Cellphones

Most People Use Their Phones During Social Events, Despite Thinking It Harms Conversation 135

Mark Wilson points out that the Pew Research Center has released a new report on mobile etiquette in the age of smartphones. 90% of U.S. adults now have cellphones and carry them around frequently. Pew's survey looked into how this is changing social norms with regard to shifting attention away from physical-world interactions. Most people think it's fine to use a cellphone while walking the streets or waiting in line, but 62% think it's not OK at a restaurant, an 88% disapprove of using one at a family dinner. Disapproval of using a cellphone in a meeting, movie theater, or church is almost universal. 89% of people say they used their cellphone during their most recent social activity, whether it was texting, checking the web, or snapping a picture. Despite this, 82% say cellphone use generally hurts the conversation. 79% of adults say they occasionally encounter loud or annoying cellphone behavior from others in public, and more than half say they often overhear intimate details of other people's lives because of it.
The Internet

Why In-Flight Wi-Fi Is Still Slow and Expensive 192

An anonymous reader writes: Let's grant that having access to the internet while on an airplane is pretty amazing. When airlines first began offering it several years ago, it was agonizingly slow and somewhat pricey as well. Unfortunately, it's only gotten more expensive over the years, and the speeds are still frustrating. This is in part because the main provider of in-flight internet, Gogo, knows most of its regular customers will pay for it, regardless of cost. Business travelers with expense accounts don't care if it's $1 or $10 or $50 — they need to stay connected. Data speeds haven't improved because Gogo says the scale isn't big enough to do much infrastructure investment, and most of the hardware is custom-made. A third of Gogo-equipped planes can manage 10 Mbps, while the rest top out at 3 Mbps. There's hope on the horizon — the company says a new satellite service should enable 70 Mbps per plane by the end of the year — but who knows how much they'll charge for an actual useful connection.
Wireless Networking

Massachusetts Boarding School Sued Over Wi-Fi Sickness 584

alphadogg writes: The parents of an anonymous student at the Fay School in Southborough, Mass., allege that the Wi-Fi at the institution is making their child sick, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court earlier this month (PDF). The child, identified only as "G" in court documents, is said to suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome. The radio waves emitted by the school's Wi-Fi routers cause G serious discomfort and physical harm, according to the suit. "After being continually denied access to the school in order to test their student's classroom, and having their request that all classrooms in which their child is present have the WiFi network replaced with a hard-wired Ethernet denied, the parents sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act."
Android

Many Android Users Susceptible To Plug-In Exploit -- And Many Of Them Have It 61

Ars Technica reports that a recently reported remote access vulnerability in Android is no longer just theoretical, but is being actively exploited. After more than 100,000 downloads of a scanning app from Check Point to evaluate users' risk from the attack, says Ars, In a blog post published today, Check Point researchers share a summary of that data—a majority (about 58 percent) of the Android devices scanned were vulnerable to the bug, with 15.84 percent actually having a vulnerable version of the remote access plug-in installed. The brand with the highest percentage of devices already carrying the vulnerable plug-in was LG—over 72 percent of LG devices scanned in the anonymized pool had a vulnerable version of the plug-in.
Networking

Virgin Media To Base a Public Wi-Fi Net On Paying Customers' Routers 112

An anonymous reader writes with a story that Virgin Media "announced this month its plans to roll out a free public WiFi network this autumn, using subscribers' personal routers and existing infrastructure to distribute the service across UK cities." And while regular customers' routers are to be the basis of the new network, the publicly viewable overlay would operate over "a completely separate connection," and the company claims subscribers' performance will not be hindered. Why, then, would customers bother to pay? For one thing, because the free version is slow: 0.5Mbps, vs. 10Mbps for Virgin's customers.
Bug

Backwards S-Pen Can Permanently Damage Note 5 157

tlhIngan writes: Samsung recently released a new version of its popular Galaxy Note series phablet, the Note 5. However, it turns out that there is a huge design flaw in the design of its pen holder (which Samsung calls the S-pen). If you insert it backwards (pointy end out instead of in), it's possible for it get stuck damaging the S-pen detection features. While it may be possible to fix it (Ars Technica was able to, Android Police was not), there's also a chance that your pen is also stuck the wrong way in permanently as the mechanism that holds the pen in grabs the wrong end and doesn't let go.
Cellphones

In Baltimore and Elsewhere, Police Use Stingrays For Petty Crimes 211

USA Today reports on the widespread use of stingray technology by police to track down even petty criminals and witnesses, as well as their equally widespread reluctance to disclose that use. The article focuses mostly on the city of Baltimore; by cross-checking court records against a surveillance log from the city’s Advanced Technical Team, the USA Today reporters were able to determine at least several hundred cases in which phony ("simulated") cell phone towers were used to snoop traffic. In court, though, and even in the information that the police department provides to the city's prosecutors, the use of these devices is rarely disclosed, thanks to a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI and probably a general reluctance to make public how much the department is using them, especially without bothering to obtain search warrants. From the article: In at least one case, police and prosecutors appear to have gone further to hide the use of a stingray. After Kerron Andrews was charged with attempted murder last year, Baltimore's State's Attorney's Office said it had no information about whether a phone tracker had been used in the case, according to court filings. In May, prosecutors reversed course and said the police had used one to locate him. "It seems clear that misrepresentations and omissions pertaining to the government's use of stingrays are intentional," Andrews' attorney, Assistant Public Defender Deborah Levi, charged in a court filing.

Judge Kendra Ausby ruled last week that the police should not have used a stingray to track Andrews without a search warrant, and she said prosecutors could not use any of the evidence found at the time of his arrest.
Android

Samsung May Release an 18" Tablet 177

A report at PC Magazine says that Samsung may soon field a tablet to satisfy people not content with the 7", 9", 12", or even slightly larger tablets that are today's normal stock in trade. Instead, the company is reported to be working on an 18.4" tablet aimed at "living rooms, offices, and schools." There's a lot of couching going on, but it sounds like an interesting idea: It's said to run Android 5.1 Lollipop and be powered by an octa-core 64-bit 1.6GHz Exynos 7580 processor. Other rumored specs include 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot with support for cards up to 128GB, and a large 5,700 mAh battery. The device also has an 8-megapixel main camera (and you thought people looked silly taking photos with their iPads) and 2.1-megapixel "secondary camera."
Android

Google Relaxes Handset Makers' Requirements for "Must-Include" Android Apps 80

According to The Verge, anyone who buys a new Android phone may benefit from an interesting change in their phone's default apps: namely, fewer pieces of included bloatware. However, the affected apps might not be the ones that a user concerned with bloatware might care most about (like carrier-specific apps), but are rather some of the standard Google-provided ones (Google+, Google Play Games, Google Play Books and Google Newsstand). These apps will still be available at the Google Play Store, just not required for a handset maker to get Google's blessing. (Also at ZDNet.)
Advertising

Why Google Wants To Sell You a Wi-Fi Router 198

lpress writes: Last quarter, Google made $16 billion on advertising and $1.7 billion on "other sales." I don't know how "other sales" breaks down, but a chunk of that is hardware devices like the Pixel Chromebook, Chromecast, Next thermostat, Nexus phone and, now, WiFi routers. Does the world need another $200 home router? Why would Google bother? I can think of a couple of strategic reasons — they hope it will become a home-automation hub (competing with the Amazon Echo) and it will enable them to dynamically configure and upgrade your home or small office network for improved performance (hence more ads).
Cellphones

Mobile Phone Data Can Track the Spread of Infectious Diseases 21

jan_jes writes: Researchers have used anonymous mobile phone records for more than 15 million people to track the spread of rubella disease in Kenya and were able to quantitatively show that mobile phone data can predict seasonal disease patterns. The researchers compared the cellphone analysis with a highly detailed dataset on rubella incidence in Kenya. They matched; the cellphone movement patterns lined up with the rubella incidence figures. In both of their analyses, rubella spiked three times a year. This showed the researchers that cellphone movement can be a predictor of infectious-disease spread.
Iphone

Apple Launches Free iPhone 6 Plus Camera Replacement Program 68

Mark Wilson writes: Complaints about the camera of the iPhone 6 Plus have been plentiful, and Apple has finally acknowledged that there is a problem. It's not something that affects all iPhone 6 Plus owners, but the company says that phones manufactured between September 2014 and January 2015 could include a failed camera component. Apple has set up a replacement program which enables those with problems with the rear camera to obtain a replacement. Before you get too excited, it is just replacement camera components that are on offer, not replacement iPhones. You'll need to check to see if your phone is eligible at the program website. (Also at TechCrunch.)
Portables

Yet Another Compromising Preinstalled "Glitch" In Lenovo Laptops 89

New submitter execthis writes: Japanese broadcaster NHK is reporting that yet another privacy/security-compromising "glitch" has been found to exist in preinstalled software on Lenovo laptops. The article states that the glitch was found in Spring and that in late July Lenovo began releasing a program to uninstall the difficult-to-remove software. The article does not specify, but it could be referring to a BIOS utility called Lenovo Service Engine (LSE) for which Lenovo has released a security advisory with links to removal tools for various models.