Businesses

India Overtakes the US To Become the World's Second Largest Smartphone Market (techcrunch.com) 70

A reader shares a report: Move over America, India is now the world's second largest smartphone market. That's according to a new report from Canalys which claims smartphone shipments in India crossed the 40 million mark for the first time in Q3 2017 courtesy of 23 percent annual growth. That means that India has overtaken the U.S. on sales with only China ahead of it. Given the huge gulf in populations -- India's stands at over 1.3 billion while the U.S. is around 320 million -- the move had been expected for some time, but recent developments, including demonetization in late 2016, set progress back during recent quarters. "This growth comes as a relief to the smartphone industry. Doubts about India's market potential are clearly dispelled by this result," Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt said in a statement.
Businesses

Amazon Key Puts Deliveries -- And Delivery People -- In Your Home (wired.com) 122

An anonymous reader shares a report: Rushing home to sign for a package can be a chore, and nothing craters a day like having a delivery stolen from your doorstep. The question Amazon asks with its new Key app and Cloud security camera: Are those annoyances enough to let a delivery person into your home, unattended, to drop off a box? The answer should present itself soon enough, at least in the 37 cities in which Amazon will launch its new in-home delivery service as of November 8. There, customers who purchase an Amazon Cloud Cam, own a compatible smart lock, and download the accompanying Amazon Key app can grant access for in-home deliveries -- and watch the drop-offs live, remotely. The system, exclusive for Prime members, costs $250 to get started, a price that includes both the camera and a smart lock from either Kwikset or Yale. (You can also buy the cameras individually for $120, with a slight discount applied for buying multiples.) And while Amazon has gone to some lengths to minimize the creepiness of a definitionally invasive service, it still forces potential enlistees to consider just what kind of trade-offs they're willing to make in the name of convenience. Amazon says that in-home delivery will be available for "tens of millions" of items, whether it's sent same-day, standard, or any shipping method in between. As for those safety measures: Amazon's doing what it can to ensure that strangers don't game its system.
Privacy

Walmart Wants To Deliver Groceries Straight To Your Fridge (consumerist.com) 179

New submitter Rick Schumann writes: Walmart has a new marketing idea: "Going to the store? No one has time for that anymore," Walmart says. They want to partner with a company called August Home, who makes smart locks, so a delivery service can literally deliver groceries right into your refrigerator -- while you watch remotely on your phone. Great, time-saving idea, or super-creepy invasion of your privacy? You decide. Here's how the company says it would work:
1. Place an order on Walmart.com for groceries or other goods.
2. A driver for Deliv -- a same-day delivery service -- retrieves items when the order is ready, and brings them to the customer's home.
3. If no one answers, the delivery person can use a one-time passcode that's been pre-authorized by the customer to open the home's smart lock.
4. The customer receives a smartphone notification when the delivery is occurring, and can choose to watch it all play out in real-time on home security cameras through a dedicated app.
5. Delivery person leaves packages in the foyer, then brings the groceries to the kitchen, unloads them into the fridge, and leaves.
6. Customer receives notification that the door has locked behind them.
Apple

Apple Explains Face ID On-stage Failure (bbc.com) 189

Apple has explained why its new facial recognition feature failed to unlock a handset at an on-stage demo (see around the 1:35:58 mark here) at the iPhone X's launch on Tuesday. From a report: The company blamed the Face ID glitch on a lockout mechanism triggered by staff members moving the device ahead of its unveil. Apple's software chief dealt with the hiccup by moving on to a back-up device, which worked as intended. But the hitch was widely reported. "People were handling the device for [the] stage demo ahead of time and didn't realise Face ID was trying to authenticate their face," an unnamed company representative is quoted as saying by Yahoo's David Pogue. "After failing a number of times, because they weren't Craig [Federighi], the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode."
GNOME

GNOME 3.26 Released (betanews.com) 176

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Today, GNOME 3.26 codenamed "Manchester" sees release. It is chock full of improvements, such as a much-needed refreshed settings menu, enhanced search, and color emoji! Yes, Linux users like using the silly symbols too! "System search has been improved for GNOME 3.26. Results have an updated layout which makes them easier to read and shows more items at once. Additionally, it's now possible to search for system actions, including power off, suspend, lock screen, log out, switch user and orientation lock. (Log out and switch user only appear if there's more than one user. Orientation lock is only available if the device supports automatic screen rotation.) These search features can be accessed in the usual way: click Activities and type into the search box, or simply press 'super' and start typing," says the GNOME Project. The full release notes are available here.
Firefox

Firefox 57 Will Hide Search Bar and Use a Uni-Bar Approach, Like Chrome (bleepingcomputer.com) 315

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Mozilla will drop an iconic section of its UI -- the search bar -- and will use one singular input bar atop the browser, similar to the approach of most Chromium browsers. This change will go live in Firefox 57, scheduled for release on November 14, and will be part of Photon -- the codename used to describe Firefox's new user interface (UI) -- also scheduled for a public release in v57. Mozilla engineers aren't removing the search bar altogether, but Firefox will hide this UI element by default. Users can still re-enable it by going to "Preferences -> Search -> Search Bar" and choosing the second option. The current Firefox search bar is redundant since most of its features can be performed by the URL address bar.
AI

AI Can Detect Sexual Orientation Based On Person's Photo (cnbc.com) 350

ugen shares a report from CNBC: Artificial Intelligence (AI) can now accurately identify a person's sexual orientation by analyzing photos of their face, according to new research. The Stanford University study, which is set to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and was first reported in The Economist, found that machines had a far superior "gaydar" when compared to humans. Slashdot reader randomlygeneratename adds: Researchers built classifiers trained on photos from dating websites to predict the sexual orientation of users. The best classifier used logistic regression over features extracted from a VGG-Face conv-net. The latter was done to prevent overfitting to background, non-facial information. Classical facial feature extraction also worked with a slight drop in accuracy. From multiple photos, they achieved an accuracy of 91% for men and 83% for women (and 81% / 71% for a single photo). Humans were only able to get 61% and 54%, respectively. One caveat is the paper mentions it only used Caucasian faces. The paper went on to discuss how this capability can be an invasion of privacy, and conjectured that other types of personal information might be detectable from photos. The source paper can be found here.
Android

Android Oreo's Rollback Protection Will Block OS Downgrades (androidpolice.com) 119

jbernardo writes: Google is using the boiling frog method to exclude power users and custom ROMs from android. A new feature in Android 8.0 Oreo, called "Rollback Protection" and included in the "Verified Boot" changes, will prevent a device from booting should it be rolled back to an earlier firmware. The detailed information is here. As it rejects an image if its "rollback index" is inferior than the one in "tamper evident storage," any attempts to install a previous version of the official, signed ROM will make the device unbootable. Much like iOS (without the rollback grace period) or the extinct Lumias. It is explained in the recommended boot workflow and notes below, together with some other "smart" ideas.

Now, this might seem like a good idea at first, but let's just just imagine this on a PC. It would mean no easy rollback from windows 10 to 7 after a forced installation, and doing that or installing linux would mean a unreasonably complex bootloader unlocking, with all your data wiped. Add safetynet to the mix, and you would also be blocked from watching Netflix or accessing your banking sites if you dared to install linux or rollback windows. To add insult to injury, unlocked devices will stop booting for at least 10 seconds to show some paternalist message on how unlocking is bad for your health: "If the device has a screen and buttons (for example if it's a phone) the warning is to be shown for at least 10 seconds before the boot process continues." Now, and knowing that most if not all android bootloaders have vulnerabilities/backdoors, how can this be defended, even with the "security/think of the children" approach? This has no advantages other than making it hard for users to install ROMs or to revert to a previous official ROM to restore missing functionality.

EU

EU Presidency Calls For Massive Internet Filtering, Leaked Document Shows (edri.org) 236

An anonymous reader shares a report: A Council of the European Union document leaked by Statewatch on 30 August reveals that during the summer months, that Estonia (current EU Presidency) has been pushing the other Member States to strengthen indiscriminate internet surveillance, and to follow in the footsteps of China regarding online censorship. Standing firmly behind its belief that filtering the uploads is the way to go, the Presidency has worked hard in order to make the proposal for the new copyright Directive even more harmful than the Commission's original proposal, and pushing it further into the realms of illegality. According to the leaked document, the text suggests two options for each of the two most controversial proposals: the so-called "link tax" or ancillary copyright and the upload filter.
Microsoft

Microsoft Extends Free Windows 10 S-To-Pro Upgrade Deadline (betanews.com) 93

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Windows 10 S is a really great idea in theory. By limiting the operating system to applications from the Windows Store, it could make users safer. After all, it should limit the potential of malware since users can't download and install questionable things from the web. Of course, this will only be successful if there is a good library of apps, and I am sorry to say, the Windows Store is a failure in that regard. The biggest selling point for Windows is legacy program compatibility. Once you take that away, there isn't much left. Thankfully, the company is giving complimentary upgrades from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro until the end of 2017. This will allow a person or organization to easily recover from mistakenly buying into Windows 10 S if it doesn't meet their needs. Today, however, as a sign of weakness, Microsoft extends this deadline. Buried at the end of a blog post about Surface Laptop colors, Microsoft drops the following bombshell: "For those that find they need an application that isn't yet available in the Store and must be installed from another source, we're extending the ability to switch from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for free until March 31, 2018. We hope this provides increased flexibility for those people searching for the perfect back-to-school or holiday gift." Why do I say this is a sign of weakness? Well, if the Windows 10 S experiment was going well, Microsoft would have no need to extend the deadline. In other words, if users were truly buying into and enjoying the "S" experience, we wouldn't see such an announcement. The fact that the company seemingly tried to hide this news is quite telling too. Ultimately, it signals a lack of confidence in Windows 10 S.
The Almighty Buck

Best Buy Will Now Send a Salesperson To Your House To Sell You Things (theverge.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes: Starting next month, Best Buy will launch a free service where salespeople will come to your house to make recommendations about gadgets and services to try and sell you stuff. The service has been in testing in five markets and will be expanded to more cities around the U.S., according to the Associated Press. The Verge reports: "Best Buy has found that shoppers spend more money when at home than in store. CEO Hubert Joly says the in-house service is one way the company will open up 'latent' customer demand. Sales associates are responsible for promoting the service -- when customers ask about certain products, the salesperson will suggest an in-home visit. The topics discussed during the home visits usually involve recommendations for products and gadgets, and other services. Best Buy says the salespeople working in the in-home service receive hourly rates, or a salary, and not commissions. The company already operates a 'Geek Squad' facility, but that's a paid service that offers repairs and installations."
AI

To Survive in Tough Times, Restaurants Turn to Data-Mining (nytimes.com) 175

An anonymous reader shares a report: The early diners are dawdling, so your 7:30 p.m. reservation looks more like 8. While you wait, the last order of the duck you wanted passes by. Tonight, you'll be eating something else -- without a second bottle of wine, because you can't find your server in the busy dining room. This is not your favorite night out. The right data could have fixed it, according to the tech wizards who are determined to jolt the restaurant industry out of its current slump. Information culled and crunched from a wide array of sources can identify customers who like to linger, based on data about their dining histories, so the manager can anticipate your wait, buy you a drink and make the delay less painful. It can track the restaurant's duck sales by day, week and season, and flag you as a regular who likes duck. It can identify a server whose customers have spent a less-than-average amount on alcohol, to see if he needs to sharpen his second-round skills. So Big Data is staging an intervention. Both start-ups and established companies are scrambling to deliver up-to-the-minute data on sales, customers, staff performance or competitors by merging the information that restaurants already have with all sorts of data from outside sources: social media, tracking apps, reservation systems, review sites, even weather reports.
EU

Germany Tests Facial-Recognition Surveillance On 300 Citizens (dw.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes DW: Earlier this year, with no shortage of publicity, Berlin police found volunteers to participate in a test of a prototype facial-recognition system at Sudkreuz station. The system seeks to match images of people on CCTV cameras with pictures of the volunteers in a test database. Volunteers also wear transponders providing information about their whereabouts. Comparing the two sets of data will give a good indication of whether the technology is of any use.
Another DW article reports the six-month test is attracting criticism: Germany's interior minister is pleased with the initial results, but critics are wary of increased surveillance... The 300 testers who volunteered for the project carry a transponder that apparently only transmits data on ambient temperature, battery status and signal strength, according to the project staff member in the Sudkreuz station control room who explained the technology to [German Interior Minister Thomas] de Maiziere. But [activist Paul] Gerstenkorn contends the angle and acceleration of the testers are recorded as well... For German Data Protection Commissioner Andrea Vosshoff, the fact that active and not passive technology is being used is going too far. Unlike a passive chip, the transponder constantly transmits information that anyone can collect with the help of freeware available on the internet.

Vosshoff says the police have not "sufficiently" informed the testers, and called for the project to be temporarily halted...The interior minister has vehemently defended the project, saying the technology is not being used to catch petty criminals such as shoplifters, but terrorists and serious offenders. Four weeks into the test phase, De Maiziere has praised its "surprising accuracy" - specifically referring to people recognized by the software whose pictures are already stored in police databases. According to Germany's federal police force, pictures of all other passers-by captured by the surveillance cameras are "immediately deleted." After the six-month trial phase in Berlin, a decision will be made on whether automatic facial recognition will be implemented nationwide in Germany's train stations and other public spaces.

Hardware

Samsung Says It's Working on an Amazon Echo Competitor (cnbc.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung is working on a smart speaker that will be launched "soon", the company's mobile chief told CNBC, which will pit it against the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Google, in the hotly-contested space. DJ Koh, the president of Samsung's mobile division, said a smart speaker was on the way. "Maybe soon we will announce it. I am already working on it," Koh told CNBC in an interview ahead of the Note 8 smartphone launch which took place on Wednesday. And it appears the company could be moving fast on the product. "As I mentioned I wanted to provide a fruitful user experience at home with Samsung devices, and I want to be moving quite heavily on it," Koh said.
Iphone

iPhone 8's 3D Face Scanner Will Work In 'Millionths of a Second' (phonearena.com) 154

According to a report by the Korea Herald, Apple's upcoming iPhone 8 will ditch the fingerprint identification in favor of 3D face recognition, which will work "in the millionths of a second." PhoneArena reports: The Samsung Galaxy series were among the first mainstream devices to feature iris recognition, but the speed and accuracy of the current technology leave a lot to be desired, and maybe that is why current phones ship with an eye scanner AND a fingerprint reader. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, is expected to make a full dive into 3D scanning. Both Samsung and Apple are rumored to have tried to implement a fingerprint scanner under the display glass, but failed as the technology was not sufficiently advanced. The new iPhone will also introduce 3D sensors on both its front and back for Apple's new augmented reality (AR) platform. This latest report also reveals that Apple will not use curved edges for its iPhone 8 screen, but will instead use a flat AMOLED panel. The big benefit of using AMOLED for Apple thus is not the curve, but its thinner profile compared to an LCD screen.
China

China Working On 'Repression Network' Which Lets Cameras Identify Cars With Unprecedented Accuracy (thesun.co.uk) 80

schwit1 shares a report from The Sun: Researchers at a Chinese university have revealed the results of an investigation aimed at creating a "repression network" which can identify cars from "customized paintings, decorations or even scratches" rather than by scanning its number plate. A team from Peking University said the technology they have developed to perform this task could also be used to recognize the faces of human beings. Essentially, it works by learning from what it sees, allowing it to differentiate between cars (or humans) by spotting small differences between them. "The growing explosion in the use of surveillance cameras in public security highlights the importance of vehicle search from large-scale image databases," the researcher wrote. "Precise vehicle search, aiming at finding out all instances for a given query vehicle image, is a challenging task as different vehicles will look very similar to each other if they share same visual attributes." They added: "We can extend our framework [software] into wider applications like face and person retrieval [identification] as well."
The Internet

Is this the End of Typing? The Internet's Next Billion Users Want Video and Voice (foxnews.com) 230

An anonymous reader shares a WSJ article: The internet's global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one. Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers -- "the next billion," the tech industry calls them -- is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world's less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them navigate despite poor literacy. Incumbent tech companies are finding they must rethink their products for these newcomers and face local competitors that have been quicker to figure them out. "We are seeing a new kind of internet user," said Ceasar Sengupta, who heads a group at Alphabet's Google trying to adapt to the new wave. "The new users are very different from the first billion." A look at Megh Singh's smartphone suggests how the next billion might determine a new set of winners and losers in tech. Mr. Singh, 36, balances suitcases on his head in New Delhi, earning less than $8 a day as a porter in one of India's biggest railway stations. He isn't comfortable reading or using a keyboard. That doesn't stop him from checking train schedules, messaging family and downloading movies. "We don't know anything about emails or even how to send one," said Mr. Singh, who went online only in the past year. "But we are enjoying the internet to the fullest." Mr. Singh squatted under the station stairwell, whispering into his phone using speech recognition on the station's free Wi-Fi. It is a simple affair, a Sony Corp. model with 4GB of storage, versus the 32GB that is typically considered minimal in the developed world. On his screen are some of the world's most popular apps -- Google's search, Facebook's WhatsApp -- but also many that are unfamiliar in the developed world, including UC Browser, MX Player and SHAREit, that have been tailored for slow connections and skimpy data storage.
Mozilla

Mozilla's Send is Basically the Snapchat of File Sharing (theverge.com) 107

Mozilla has launched a new website that makes it really easy to send a file from one person to another. From a report: The site is called Send, and it's basically the Snapchat of file sharing: after a file has been downloaded once, it disappears for good. That might sound like a gimmick, but it underscores what the site is meant for. It's designed for quick and private sharing between two people -- not for long-term hosting or distributing files to a large group. It supports files up to 1GB, and after uploading something, it'll give you a link to send to someone else. That link will expire once they've downloaded it or once 24 hours have passed.
Facebook

Facebook Is Working On a Video Chat Device (bloomberg.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook Inc. is working on a video chat device for the home -- the first major hardware product from its experimental Building 8 lab. Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring's F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they're in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people's homes. Geared to the living room, the video chat device will feature a wide-angle camera lens, microphones and speakers that are all powered by artificial intelligence to boost performance, the people said. A version of the device in testing includes a thin, vertical stand that holds a large touchscreen measuring between 13 and 15 inches diagonally, the people said. Facebook has considered running a version of the Android operating system on its device instead of building its own core operating system, according to the people. Facebook is testing a feature that would allow the camera to automatically scan for people in its range and lock onto them, one of the people said. Facebook is also working on a standalone smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, reports Bloomberg. The social media giant is "hiring Apple veterans to help create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices."
Cellphones

Do Kill Switches Deter Cellphone Theft? (arstechnica.com) 97

evolutionary shares an article from Ars Technica: San Francisco's district attorney says that a California state law mandating "theft-deterring technological solutions" for smartphones has resulted in a precipitous drop in such robberies. Those measures primarily include a remote kill switch after a phone has been stolen that would allow a phone to be disabled, withstanding even a hard reset. Such a kill switch has become standard in all iPhones ("Activation Lock") and Android phones ("Device Protection") since 2015... When measured from the peak in 2013, "overall robberies involving smartphones have declined an astonishing 50 percent... Because of this hard-fought legislation, stealing a smartphone is no longer worth the trouble, and that means the devices we use every day no longer make us targets for violent crime."

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