Android

Kickstarter Campaign Aims To Add a Full Android Device To the Back of Your iPhone (macrumors.com) 158

A new Kickstarter campaign aims to expand the iPhone's functionality with its "Eye Smart iPhone Case," which features a fully functional Android device built into the case itself. The campaign was launched on March 1 and has already raised over $100,000. Mac Rumors reports: An always-on 5-inch AMOLED display is built into the case, which runs the Android 7.1 Nougat operating system. The case connects to the iPhone using its Lightning port to enable file transfers, power delivery, and more. A microSD card slot provides up to 256GB of storage for holding photos, videos, and other media, all of which is accessible using the Android file explorer. A built-in 2,800 mAh battery provides additional charge to the iPhone, and the Eye case itself supports Qi wireless charging. Two SIM card slots are included, and higher-end models support 4G LTE connectivity, so up to three phone numbers can be used with an iPhone. Android exclusive features, like native call recording, the file explorer, customization, file transfers, and Android apps are all made available to iPhone users via the Eye case. A 3.5mm headphone jack lets iPhone owners with an iPhone 7 or an iPhone 7 Plus to use wired headphones with the device, and the Eye case includes NFC, an IR blaster and receiver for controlling TVs and other devices, and a car mount. It's available for the iPhone 6 and later, and will allegedly be available for the new wave of iPhones coming in 2017 within a month of their release. The Smart iPhone Case is available for a Super early bird pledge of $95, with prices going up for 4G connectivity. The estimated retail price is between $189 and $229.
Medicine

West African Village Weighs Using Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In Malaria Fight (scientificamerican.com) 112

New submitter omaha393 writes: A public engagement campaign is underway in the hopes of convincing Burkina Faso residents to allow the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat deadly mosquito-borne pathogens. GM mosquitoes rely on a technology called "gene drives." Different gene drives offer different solutions, typically leading to subsequent broods being sterile, predominantly male, resistant to infection or nonviable due to toxic traits. Researchers in this case are only in the preliminary stages of releasing sterile males but hope to begin wider releases of GM mosquitoes in about 6 years.

Burkina Faso is not the only country to pursue GM mosquitoes in efforts to prevent disease. Brazil has become a testing ground for wide release, and last fall voters in Florida Keys approved measures to begin releasing GM mosquitoes to fight the spread of Zika. Both the WHO and the U.S. FDA have approved the technique, but skeptics are critical of the method.

Earth

Most People Would Give Lab-Grown Meat a Try, New Survey Reveals (sciencealert.com) 162

Clive Phillips and Matti Wilks report via ScienceAlert: In a recent survey, published this month in PLOS One, we investigated the views of people in the United States, a country with one of the largest appetites for meat and an equally large appetite for adopting new technologies. A total of 673 people responded to the survey, done online via Amazon Mechanical Turk, in which they were given information about in vitro meat (IVM) and asked questions about their attitudes to it. Although most people (65 percent), and particularly males, were willing to try IVM, only about a third said they would use it regularly or as a replacement for farmed meat. But many people were undecided: 26 percent were unsure if they would use it as a replacement for farmed meat and 31 percent unsure if they would eat it regularly. This suggests there is scope to persuade consumers that they should convert to IVM if a suitable product is available. As an indication of this potential, 53 percent said it was seen as preferable to soy substitutes. The biggest concerns were about IVM's taste and lack of appeal, particularly in the case of meats seen as healthy, such as fish and chicken, where only two-thirds of people that normally ate them said that they would if it was produced by in vitro methods. By contrast, 72 percent of people who normally eat beef and pig products would still do so if they were produced as IVM.
Software

Uber Is Using In-App Podcasts To Dissuade Seattle Drivers From Unionizing (theverge.com) 102

Uber doesn't like unionization, like many corporations. In January, the company sued the city of Seattle to challenge the city's authority to implement a law that would allow ride-share drivers to unionize. The Verge is reporting today that the company has been using in-app podcasts to dissuade their Seattle drivers from unionizing by explaining, in their view, how the city's unionization law would negatively affect drivers. From the report: Uber spokesperson Nathan Hambley pushed back on a story from The Wall Street Journal over the weekend that suggested Uber drivers in Seattle were forced to choose whether or not to listen to the company-produced podcasts every day before they can begin picking up riders. The podcasts, which are produced in a number of geographic markets for Uber drivers, appear as notifications at the bottom of the app that can be dismissed or ignored -- or acted upon to start the latest podcast episode, which usually run under 10 minutes. Drivers are not required to listen to the podcast, said Hambley in an interview. "They are not required to look down at the notification at all. The most prominent button is to go on or offline to accept rides." The notification first appears as the limited message on the left, and, if the driver swipes up, the full message appears. The notification remains at the bottom of the driver screen regardless of whether it is ignored, or if the podcast is listened to or not.
Chrome

Chrome 57 Limits Background Tabs Usage To 1% Per CPU Core (bleepingcomputer.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Starting with Chrome 57, released last week, Google has put a muzzle on the amount of resources background tabs can use. According to Google engineers, Chrome 57 will temporarily delay a background tab's JavaScript timers if that tab is using more than 1% of a CPU core. Further, all background timers are suspended automatically after five minutes on mobile devices. The delay/suspension will halt resource consumption and cut down on battery usage, something that laptop, tablet, and smartphone owners can all relate. Google hinted in late January that it would limit JavaScript timers in background tabs, but nobody expected it to happen as soon as last week's Chrome release. By 2020, Google hopes to pause JavaScript operations in all background pages.
Google

You Can Now Send, Request Money In Gmail On Android (techcrunch.com) 38

While Google Wallet has been integrated into Gmail on the web since 2013, it has yet to be available for mobile users. Today, Google is officially rolling out the new integration so that users of the Gmail app on Android will be able to send or request money with anyone -- even those who don't have a Gmail email address. TechCrunch reports: The user experience has been designed to make exchanging money as easy as attaching a file, Google explains in its announcement. To access the new feature, you tap the attachment icon (the paperclip), then choose either send or request money, depending on your needs. A pop-up window appears where you can input the amount and add a note, and send. The entire process takes place in the Gmail app -- you don't have to have Google Wallet installed. In addition, recipients can configure it so the money they receive through Gmail goes directly into their bank account. There are no fees involved, notes Google. The goal, seemingly, is to take on quick payment apps like PayPal, Venmo or Square Cash, by offering a feature to move money right within Gmail's app. This could be useful for those times where the money is already a topic of an email conversation -- like when you're planning a trip with friends, or getting the family to go in together on a gift for your parents, for example.
Communications

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Allegedly Used Email Alias As Exxon CEO (arstechnica.com) 171

According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rex Tillerson used an email alias of "Wayne Tracker" to communicate with other Exxon executives about climate change while serving as CEO of Exxon Mobil. "New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been leading an investigation of Exxon Mobil centered on whether the company misled investors by publicly arguing against the reality of climate change even though its executives knew the science was accurate," reports Ars Technica. "The investigation was triggered by news reports describing climate research the company undertook in the 1970s and 1980s, which affirmed the work of other climate scientists and showed that greenhouse gas emissions were causing climate change. Exxon buried that work and spent the next couple decades claiming that the science was unclear, although it has recently publicly acknowledged reality." From the report: The e-mails that were provided allowed the attorney general to figure out that Tillerson used the account between 2008 and 2015 at least, but it didn't appear on Exxon's list of accounts for which records were preserved. The letter also mentions 34 other e-mail accounts "specifically assigned to top executives, board members, or assistants" that the attorney general thinks should have been included. In a statement, an Exxon spokesperson explained, "The e-mail address, Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com, is part of the company's e-mail system and was put in place for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics." The Office of the Attorney General's letter claims that "Exxon has continuously delayed and obstructed the production of documents from its top executives and board members, which are crucial to OAG's investigation into Exxon's touted risk-management practices regarding climate change."
Privacy

Vibrator Maker To Pay Millions Over Claims It Secretly Tracked Use (npr.org) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: The makers of the We-Vibe, a line of vibrators that can be paired with an app for remote-controlled use, have reached a $3.75 million class action settlement with users following allegations that the company was collecting data on when and how the sex toy was used. The We-Vibe product line includes a number of Bluetooth-enabled vibrators that, when linked to the "We-Connect" app, can be controlled from a smartphone. It allows a user to vary rhythms, patterns and settings -- or give a partner, in the room or anywhere in the world, control of the device. Since the app was released in 2014, some observers have raised concerns that Internet-connected sex toys could be vulnerable to hacking. But the lawsuit doesn't involve any outside meddling -- instead, it centers on concerns that the company itself was tracking users' sex lives. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Illinois in September. It alleges that -- without customers' knowledge -- the app was designed to collect information about how often, and with what settings, the vibrator was used. The lawyers for the anonymous plaintiffs contended that the app, "incredibly," collected users' email addresses, allowing the company "to link the usage information to specific customer accounts." Customers' email addresses and usage data were transmitted to the company's Canadian servers, the lawsuit alleges. When a We-Vibe was remotely linked to a partner, the connection was described as "secure," but some information was also routed through We-Connect and collected, the lawsuit says.
Security

It's Possible To Hack a Smartphone With Sound Waves, Researchers Show (cnbc.com) 41

A security loophole that would allow someone to add extra steps to the counter on your Fitbit monitor might seem harmless. But researchers say it points to the broader risks that come with technology's embedding into the nooks of our lives. John Markoff, writes for the NYTimes: On Tuesday, a group of computer security researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of South Carolina will demonstrate that they have found a vulnerability that allows them to take control of or surreptitiously influence devices through the tiny accelerometers that are standard components in consumer products like smartphones, fitness monitors and even automobiles. In their paper, the researchers describe how they added fake steps to a Fitbit fitness monitor and played a "malicious" music file from the speaker of a smartphone to control the phone's accelerometer. That allowed them to interfere with software that relies on the smartphone, like an app used to pilot a radio-controlled toy car. "It's like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words" and enter commands rather than just shut down the phone, said Kevin Fu, an author of the paper, who is also an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan and the chief executive of Virta Labs, a company that focuses on cybersecurity in health care. "You can think of it as a musical virus."
Science

Arctic Ice Loss Driven By Natural Swings, Not Just Mankind, Says Study (reuters.com) 279

Alister Doyle, reporting for Reuters: Natural swings in the Arctic climate have caused up to half the precipitous losses of sea ice around the North Pole in recent decades, with the rest driven by man-made global warming, scientists said on Monday. The study indicates that an ice-free Arctic Ocean, often feared to be just years away, in one of the starkest signs of man-made global warming, could be delayed if nature swings back to a cooler mode. Natural variations in the Arctic climate "may be responsible for about 30-50 percent of the overall decline in September sea ice since 1979," the U.S.-based team of scientists wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change. Sea ice has shrunk steadily and hit a record low in September 2012 -- late summer in the Arctic -- in satellite records dating back to 1979. The ice is now around the smallest for mid-March, rivaling winter lows set in 2016 and 2015. The study, separating man-made from natural influences in the Arctic atmospheric circulation, said that a decades-long natural warming of the Arctic climate might be tied to shifts as far away as the tropical Pacific Ocean.
Security

Questions Linger After ISP Blocks TeamViewer Over Fraud Fears (sophos.com) 87

Last Wednesday, for no apparent reason, the TeamViewer remote desktop application stopped working on the network of one of the UK's largest ISPs, TalkTalk. The apparent reason, as the investigation has found, are some scammers in India who have been abusing the application to make money. An anonymous reader shares a report: It's a popular application with remote support professionals and power users alike and so support forums soon filled with complaints from perplexed users who noticed that access was possible with 4G and some TalkTalk business connections but not home broadband. By Thursday, journalists dragged the truth out of the company that it had "blocked a number of applications including TeamViewer," which led to a joint statement confirming this on TeamViewer's website: TeamViewer and TalkTalk are in extensive talks to find a comprehensive joint solution to better address this scamming issue. We now know (as some suspected at the time) that the block was connected to abuse of TeamViewer by criminals based in India who had been using it as part of a tech support scam targeting TalkTalk customers. The BBC reported on this two days before the block, including the disturbing claim that the criminals had been able to quote stolen customer account data to make scam calls sound more convincing.
Privacy

Germany Plans To Fine Social Media Sites Over Hate Speech (reuters.com) 305

Germany plans a new law calling for social networks like Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 mln). From a report: "This (draft law) sets out binding standards for the way operators of social networks deal with complaints and obliges them to delete criminal content," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement announcing the planned legislation on Tuesday. Failure to comply could see a social media company fined up to 50 million euros, and the company's chief representative in Germany fined up to 5 million euros. Germany already has some of the world's toughest hate speech laws covering defamation, slander, public incitement to commit crimes and threats of violence, backed up by prison sentences for Holocaust denial or inciting hatred against minorities. It now aims to update these rules for the social media age.
Social Networks

Facebook Admits Flaw in Image Moderation After BBC Report (bbc.com) 57

From a report on BBC: A Facebook executive has admitted to MPs its moderating process "was not working" following a BBC investigation. BBC News reported 100 posts featuring sexualised images and comments about children, but 82 were deemed not to "breach community standards." Facebook UK director Simon Milner told MPs the problem was now fixed. He was speaking to the Commons Home Affairs committee alongside bosses from Twitter and Google as part of an investigation into online hate crime. The BBC investigation reported dozens of posts through the website tool, including images from groups where users were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material. When journalists went back to Facebook with the images that had not been taken down, the company reported them to the police and cancelled an interview, saying in a statement: "It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation."
Hardware

Why Samsung Ditched On-Screen Fingerprint Scanning For Galaxy S8 (theinvestor.co.kr) 71

An anonymous reader shares a report: Samsung Electronics' upcoming Galaxy S8 is unlikely to feature on-screen fingerprint scanning after its touch sensor partner Synaptics ran out of time for developing the related technology, industry sources told The Investor earlier this month. On-screen fingerprint was a highly anticipated function for the new phone with a larger-than-ever display screen. "Samsung poured resources into Synaptics' fledgling technology last year but the results were frustrating," a source briefed on the matter on condition of anonymity. "With the production imminent, the company had to decide to relocate the fingerprint scanning home button to the back of the device at the last minute." A larger screen that covers almost the entire front body is a key feature for the S8. Since last year, Samsung had made all-out efforts to embed a fingerprint scanner under the display to allow users to unlock the phone by placing their finger on the screen, not the physical home button on the bottom.
Australia

Australia Copyright Safe Harbour Provision Backed By Prime Minister (torrentfreak.com) 30

Moves to introduce a copyright "safe harbor" provision for platforms such as Google and Facebook have received a boost in Australia after receiving backing from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. From a report on TorrentFreak: A report in The Australian indicates that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given the safe harbor amendments his support. It won't be all plain sailing from here, however. The government is to set up a Senate committee into the copyright amendments to determine whether the amendments will promote piracy as the entertainment industries are warning. The inquiry will launch after the government introduces the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill into Parliament after March 20. The Australian suggests that under Schedule 2 of the bill, online platforms would receive immunity for infringing user-uploaded content. However, totally immunity is an unrealistic eventuality that would almost certainly have to be tempered by rules concerning takedowns. Those details will be examined in-depth as part of the committee inquiry, which will run its course in advance of parliamentary debate and voting.
Television

82% of Kids in 'Netflix Only' Homes Have No Idea What Commercials Are (exstreamist.com) 301

Two anonymous readers share a report: We decided to survey parents of young children (below 10 years old) to see how many kids in "Netflix only" homes knew what commercials are, compared to those homes who watch regular television. We surveyed 100 parents (50 Netflix-only homes, 50 normal television homes), here were their responses: 82% of kids in Netflix only homes don't know what commercials are. 38% of kids in regular television homes don't know what commercials are.
Google

Alphabet's Jigsaw Wants To Explain Tech Jargon To You, Launches Sideways Dictionary (cnet.com) 66

It might sound obvious, but the thing about tech is that sometimes it can get really, well, technical. From a report on CNET: So Alphabet wants to help make nitty-gritty tech jargon simpler to explain to the masses. On Tuesday, Jigsaw, a tech incubator owned by Google's parent company, launched a website called the Sideways Dictionary that takes jargon and puts it into terms normal people would understand. Jigsaw partnered with the Washington Post to build the tool.
Math

This Is How the Number 3.14 Got the Name 'Pi' (time.com) 133

An anonymous reader shares a Time article: Ancient research on real numbers likely "didn't get improved upon until the age of Newton," says John Conway, mathematics professor emeritus at Princeton University who once won the school's Pi Day pie-eating contest. Sir Isaac Newton recorded 16 digits of pi in 1665, later admitting that he was "ashamed" of how long he had worked on the computations, as it meant that he had "no other business at the time," per the MAA. It was not until the 18th century -- about two millennia after the significance of the number 3.14 was first calculated by Archimedes -- that the name "pi" was first used to denote the number. In other words, the Greek letter used to represent the idea was not actually picked by the Ancient Greeks who discovered it. British mathematician William Jones came up with the Greek letter and symbol for the figure in 1706, and it was popularized by Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, Catherine the Great's mathematician, a few decades later. "Euler was a much better mathematician than the people who used [pi] before, and he wrote very good textbooks," says Conway. "He used it because the Greek letter Pi corresponds with the letter 'P'... and pi is about the perimeter of the circle."
Government

FBI Says It Can't Release iPhone Hacking Tool Because It Might Still Be Useful (zdnet.com) 70

Justice Dept. officials say that details of a hacking tool used to access a terrorist's iPhone should not be released because it may still be "useful" to federal investigators. From a report: The government is fighting a case against three news organizations, including the Associated Press, which are fighting to release details of the hacking tool that FBI agents used to unlock a passcode-protected phone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Details of the hacking tool have remained classified, not least because the Justice Dept. believes the tool may could still be used by the FBI in similar cases. "Disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security as it would allow hostile entities to discover the current intelligence gathering methods used, as well as the capabilities and limitations of these methods," said David Hardy, section chief of the FBI's records management division, in a court filing released late Monday.
Government

Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft Are Helping Google Fight an Order To Hand Over Foreign Emails (businessinsider.com) 67

Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Cisco have filed an amicus brief in support of Google, after a Pennsylvania court ruled that the company had to hand over emails stored overseas in response to an FBI warrant. From a report: An amicus brief is filed by people or companies who have an interest in the case, but aren't directly involved. In this case, it's in Silicon Valley's interest to keep US law enforcement from accessing customer data stored outside the US. It isn't clear what data Google might have to hand over and, last month, the company said it would fight to the order. In the brief, the companies argue: "When a warrant seeks email content from a foreign data center, that invasion of privacy occurs outside the United States -- in the place where the customers' private communications are stored, and where they are accessed, and copied for the benefit of law enforcement, without the customer's consent."
Robotics

A Rogue Robot Is Blamed For a Human Colleague's Gruesome Death (qz.com) 407

A new lawsuit has emerged claiming a robot is responsible for killing a human colleague, reports Quartz. It all started in July 2015, when Wanda Holbrook, "a maintenance technician performing routine duties on an assembly line" at an auto-parts maker in Ionia, Michigan, called Ventra Ionia Main, "was 'trapped by robotic machinery' and crushed to death." From the report: On March 7, her husband, William Holbrook, filed a wrongful death complaint (pdf) in Michigan federal court, naming five North American robotics companies involved in engineering and integrating the machines and parts used at the plant: Prodomax, Flex-N-Gate, FANUC, Nachi, and Lincoln Electric. Holbrook's job involved keeping robots in working order. She routinely inspected and adjusted processes on the assembly line at Ventra, which makes bumpers and trailer hitches. One day, Holbrook was performing her regular duties when a machine acted very irregularly, according to the lawsuit reported in Courthouse News. Holbrook was in the plant's six-cell "100 section" when a robot unexpectedly activated, taking her by surprise. The cells are separated by safety doors and the robot should not have been able to move. But it somehow reached Holbrook, and was intent on loading a trailer-hitch assembly part right where she stood over a similar part in another cell. The machine loaded the hardware onto Holbrook's head. She was unable to escape, and her skull was crushed. Co-workers who eventually noticed that something seemed amiss found Holbrook dead. William Holbrook seeks an unspecified amount of damages, arguing that before her gruesome death, his wife "suffered tremendous fright, shock and conscious pain and suffering." He also names three of the defendants -- FANUC, Nachi, and Lincoln Electric -- in two additional claims of product liability and breach of implied warranty. He argues that the robots, tools, controllers, and associated parts were not properly designed, manufactured or tested, and not fit for use. "The robot from section 130 should have never entered section 140, and should have never attempted to load a hitch assembly within a fixture that was already loaded with a hitch assembly. A failure of one or more of defendants' safety systems or devices had taken place, causing Wanda's death," the lawsuit alleges.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Ships With Unpatched 6-Month-Old WebKit Vulnerabilities (arstechnica.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nintendo's Switch has been out for almost two weeks, which of course means that efforts to hack it are well underway. One developer, who goes by qwertyoruiop on Twitter, has demonstrated that the console ships with months-old bugs in its WebKit browser engine. These bugs allow for arbitrary code execution within the browser. A proof-of-concept explainer video was posted here. The potential impact of these vulnerabilities for Switch users is low. A Switch isn't going to have the same amount of sensitive data on it that an iPhone or iPad can, and there are way fewer Switches out there than iDevices. Right now, the Switch also doesn't include a standalone Internet browser, though WebKit is present on the system for logging into public Wi-Fi hotspots, and, with some cajoling, you can use it to browse your Facebook feed. The exploit could potentially open the door for jailbreaking and running homebrew software on the Switch, but, as of this writing, the exploit doesn't look like it provides kernel access. The developer who discovered the exploit himself says that the vulnerability is just a "starting point."
Medicine

Work-Life Balance: Cryptographer Fired By BAE Systems For Taking Care of Dying Wife (bostonglobe.com) 513

mdecerbo writes: A new lawsuit by cryptographer Don Davis against multinational defense giant BAE Systems highlights the fact that companies are free to have their boasts about "work-life balance" amount to nothing but idle talk. The Boston Globe reports that on his first day on the job, Davis explained that his wife had late-stage cancer. He would work his full work day in the office, but if he was needed nights or weekends, he'd want to work from home. His supervisor was fine with it, but the human resources department fired him on the spot after four hours of employment. The lawsuit raises interesting questions, such as whether employment law requires corporations to have the sort of common decency we expect from individuals. But what I want to know is, if BAE Systems loses this lawsuit, will they prevent future ones by making their "work-life balance" policy say simply: We own you, body and soul? Don Davis' lawyer, Rebecca Pontikes, contends he was discriminated against because the company "requires its male employees to be the stereotypical male breadwinner and to leave family responsibilities to women." BAE issued a statement to The Boston Globe saying, "we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind and work hard to provide our employees with flexible working options that enable them to have a meaningful work/life balance." The company declined to discuss specifics, citing pending litigation.

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