Communications

Judge Rules AT&T Can't See Trump White House Communications About Time Warner Merger 84

The judge presiding over the Justice Department's attempt to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger has ruled that the White House's private communications on the merger will not be released. The Verge reports: When the department said in November that it would sue to block the mega-merger, thoughts immediately turned to the White House. President Trump has made no secret of his disdain for CNN, and some watchers questioned whether the White House's hand was present, guiding the Justice Department as a way to exact revenge on the Time Warner-owned property. The Justice Department has denied any wrongdoing, and said it is only looking to block the merger on the grounds that it is anti-competitive. But to prove the theory, AT&T and Time Warner requested communications between the Justice Department and White House that could have shown the department was engaging in "selective enforcement." In today's decision, the judge on the case said the companies had fallen "far short" of the legal bar required to receive the documents.
AI

Slashdot Asks: Which Smart Speaker Do You Prefer? 223

Every tech company wants to produce a smart speaker these days. Earlier this month, Apple finally launched the HomePod, a smart speaker that uses Siri to answer basic questions and play music via Apple Music. In December, Google released their premium Google Home Max speaker that uses the Google Assistant and Google's wealth of knowledge to play music, answer questions, set reminders, and so on. It may be the most advanced smart speaker on the market as it has the hardware capable of playing high fidelity audio, and a digital assistant that can perform over one million actions. There is, however, no denying the appeal of the Amazon Echo, which is powered by the Alexa digital assistant. Since it first made its debut in late 2014, it has had more time to develop its skill set. Amazon says Alexa controls "tens of millions of devices," including Windows 10 PCs.

A new report from The Guardian, citing the industry site MusicAlly, says that Spotify is working on a line of "category defining" hardware products "akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles." The streaming music company has posted an ad for a senior product manager to "define the product requirements for internet connected hardware [and] the software that powers it." With Spotify looking to launch a smart speaker in the not-too-distant-future, the decision to purchase a smart speaker has become all the more difficult. Do you own a smart speaker? If so, which device do you own and why? Do you see a clear winner, or can they all satisfy your basic needs?
Facebook

Facebook Plans To Use US Mail To Verify IDs of Election Ad Buyers (reuters.com) 122

Facebook will start using postcards sent by U.S. mail later this year to verify the identities and location of people who want to purchase U.S. election-related advertising on its site, a senior company executive said on Saturday. From a report: The postcard verification is Facebook's latest effort to respond to criticism from lawmakers, security experts and election integrity watchdog groups that it and other social media companies failed to detect and later responded slowly to Russia's use of their platforms to spread divisive political content, including disinformation, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Government

Kaspersky Lab Sues Over Second Federal Ban (axios.com) 97

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has filed a lawsuit targeting the second of two federal bans on its wares. The latest suit goes after language in a defense law explicitly blocking the purchase of Kaspersky products. An earlier suit targets a Homeland Security directive doing the same. From a report: The bigger picture: With the White House reluctant to institute additional sanctions on Russia, White House Cyber Czar Rob Joyce pointed to Kaspersky as an example of the Trump administration taking Russia seriously. While Kaspersky isn't alleged to be involved in the election hacks of 2016, it's hard not to see the actions against the firm in the context of deteriorated relations with Moscow, as part of a growing spat between the two countries.
Verizon

Verizon is Locking Its Phones Down To Combat Theft (cnet.com) 130

Verizon is taking an extra step to protect its phones. CNET: The nation's largest wireless carrier said Monday that it would begin locking the phones it sells to consumers, which will prevent them from using a SIM card from another carrier. Initially, the phones will be unlocked as soon as a customer signs up and activates the service. But later in the spring, the company will begin the practice of keeping the phone locked for a period of time after the purchase -- in line with the rest of the industry. Verizon said it is doing this to deter criminals from stealing phones, often on route to retail stores or from the stores themselves.
Software

German Authorities Are Considering a Ban On Loot Boxes (heise.de) 106

Slashdot reader Qbertino writes: Heise reports that German authorities are examining loot boxes in video games and considering banning them in the country. Loot boxes might actually even violate laws against calls-to-purchase aimed directly towards minors that are already in effect. German authorities are also checking that. Loot boxes are randomized in-game item purchases that many people consider a form of gambling. The decision to take action against loot boxes in Germany is expected in March. Germany's Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body has since clarified that Germany authorities are not considering a general ban on loot boxes, but are actually examining regulations of online advertising and purchasing as a whole.

"A closer look at the discussion is taking place, ie., if there are any specific risks and where to locate them legally. As part of that analysis the KJM (governmental institution responsible for youth protection regarding to online content/services) is taking a closer look at permitted and prohibited advertising in shop offerings. However these rules apply to online purchases in general, thus also to loot boxes," the rep said. "In the German debate this term [loot box] refers to a broad variety of different in-game or even just game-related purchase systems with more or less randomized items. Hence one cannot say that 'loot boxes' violate German laws, as each integration has to be evaluated as separate case."
Android

LG Settles Bootloop Lawsuit With $425 Cash Or a $700 Rebate Toward a New LG Phone (androidpolice.com) 38

Early last year, a class-action lawsuit was filed against LG over bootloop issues affecting their G4 and V10 smartphones. Now, according to a settlement website set up by the law firm Girard Gibbs, members of the lawsuit have received a settlement offer. The only catch is that the settlement is only for plaintiffs of the initial case. Android Police reports: LG is offering plaintiffs either $425 as a cash settlement or a $700 rebate toward the purchase of a new LG phone. That's pretty generous, and it's clear that's going to help offset some of the anger LG's created with this whole incident. If you're one of the plaintiffs, you don't have to mail in your broken phone or anything, you just get the settlement offer, straight up. Members of the class will be contacted shortly with instructions on how to take advantage of the settlement. Payments will be distributed beginning in March.
Iphone

Apple Begins Selling Refurbished iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Models (macrumors.com) 75

Apple today has added refurbished iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models to its online store for the first time in the United States. MacRumors reports: iPhone 7 models are available in all three storage capacities, including 32GB for $499, 128GB for $589, and 256GB for $679, reflecting savings of 10 percent off Apple's current prices for brand new models. All five colors are currently in stock, including Black, Jet Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. iPhone 7 Plus models with 32GB or 128GB of storage are available for $599 and $689 respectively, which is also 10 percent off. There are no 256GB models in stock. Available colors include Black, Gold, and Rose Gold. Apple says all refurbished iPhone models are thoroughly inspected, tested, cleaned, and repackaged with a new white box and all manuals and accessories. Apple also installs a new battery and replaces the outer shell, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between a refurbished and brand new iPhone. Any refurbished iPhone model comes with Apple's standard one-year warranty effective on the date the device is delivered. The warranty can be extended to up to two years from the original purchase date with AppleCare+, at a cost of $129 for the iPhone 7 and $149 for the iPhone 7 Plus in the United States.
Microsoft

Windows Defender Will Soon Start Removing Applications With Coercive Messaging: Cleaners and Optimizers Put on Notice (cso.com.au) 112

Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to protect Windows users from programs that use fear to convince people to buy or upgrade products. From a report: The Redmond company is taking aim at all software that use scary messaging to convince people to upgrade to a paid product that purportedly fixes a problem detected by a free version. Specifically it is targeting registry cleaners and optimizers, which Microsoft previously didn't endorse but also didn't blacklist them as unwanted programs or malware. That's changing on March 1. "We find this practice problematic because it can pressure customers into making unnecessary purchase decisions," said Barak Shein, a member of the Windows Defender security research team. From March 1 Microsoft's Windows Defender and other security products will "classify programs that display coercive messages as unwanted software, which will be detected and removed," Shein said.
Transportation

Car Manufacturers Are Tracking Millions of Cars (boingboing.net) 116

Cory Doctorow writes: Millions of new cars sold in the US and Europe are "connected," having some mechanism for exchanging data with their manufacturers after the cars are sold; these cars stream or batch-upload location data and other telemetry to their manufacturers, who argue that they are allowed to do virtually anything they want with this data, thanks to the "explicit consent" of the car owners -- who signed a lengthy contract at purchase time that contained a vague and misleading clause deep in its fine-print.
Slashdot reader Luthair adds that "OnStar infamously has done this for some time, even if the vehicle's owner was not a subscriber of their services." But now 78 million cars have an embedded cyber connection, according to one report, with analysts predicting 98% of new cars will be "connected" by 2021. The Washington Post calls it "Big Brother on Wheels."

"Carmakers have turned on a powerful spigot of precious personal data, often without owners' knowledge, transforming the automobile from a machine that helps us travel to a sophisticated computer on wheels that offers even more access to our personal habits and behaviors than smartphones do."
The Courts

Kim Dotcom Sues New Zealand For $6.8 Billion In Damages Over Erroneous Arrest (torrentfreak.com) 216

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Kim Dotcom, the founder of file-sharing site Megaupload, is suing the New Zealand government for billions of dollars in damages over his arrest in 2012. The internet entrepreneur is fighting extradition to the U.S. to stand trial for copyright infringement and fraud. Mr Dotcom says an invalid arrest warrant negated all charges against him. He is seeking damages for destruction to his business and loss of reputation. Accountants calculate that the Megaupload group of companies would be worth $10 billion today, had it not been shut down during the raid. As he was a 68% shareholder in the business, Mr Dotcom has asked for damages going up to $6.8 billion. He is also considering taking similar action against the Hong Kong government. As stated in documents filed with the High Court, Mr Dotcom is also seeking damages for: all lost business opportunities since 2012, his legal costs, loss of investments he made to the mansion he was renting, his lost opportunity to purchase the mansion, and loss of reputation.
Software

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your View On Forced Subscription-Only Software? 660

dryriver writes: All used to be well in the world of Digital Content Creation (DCC) until two very major DCC software makers -- Adobe and Autodesk -- decided to force a monthly subscription model on pretty much every software package they make to please Wall Street investors. Important 2D and 3D DCC software like Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, InDesign, 3DMax, Maya, and Mudbox is now only available to "rent" from these companies. You simply cannot buy a perpetual license or boxed copy for this software at all anymore, and what makes matters worse is that if you stop paying your subscription, the software locks itself down, leaving you unable to open even old files you created with the software for later review. Also annoying is that subscription software constantly performs "license validity" checks over the internet (subscription software cannot be run offline for any great length of time, or on an air-gapped PC) and the software is increasingly tied into various cloud services these companies have set up. The DCC companies want you to save your -- potentially confidential -- project files on their servers, not on your own hard disk.

There are millions of DCC professionals around the world who'd love to be able to buy a normal, perpetual, offline-use capable license for these software tools. That is no longer possible. Adobe and Autodesk no longer provide that. What is your view on this "forced subscription" model? What would happen if all the major commercial software developers forced this model on everyone simultaneously? What if the whole idea of being able to "purchase" a perpetual license for ANY commercial software went away completely, and it was subscription only from that point on?
Piracy

iTunes Snafu Made 'Thor: Ragnarok' Available Almost a Month Early (engadget.com) 46

An anonymous reader shares a report: When you check out the 'Thor: Ragnarok' page on iTunes, it says pre-orders of digital copies are expected to arrive on February 20th. But as TorrentFreak reports, some people got their hands on the Marvel film about a month early due to some sort of snafu with iTunes and Movies Anywhere. According to TorrentFreak, a Reddit user said in a now-deleted post that their legal purchase of the film on Vudu landed them an iTunes copy of it the next day. "I pre-ordered Thor Ragnarok on Vudu yesterday and it links it to my iTunes also. But curiously it showed up in my iTunes library this morning (pre-orders shouldn't). And now I can watch the full movie in HD," they wrote. "I obviously downloaded it right away. I know its supposed to come out February 20th." Others then responded that going that same purchase route made the movie available to them in iTunes as well.
Iphone

iPhone X Purchase Leads To Police, Battering Ram, and Handcuffs (cbslocal.com) 411

An anonymous reader quotes CBS SFBayArea: On one recent morning, Rick Garcia and his wife Shannon Knuth woke up to a posse of San Francisco police officers at their front door. "I peered through the peephole and I saw a police officer and a battering ram," Garcia said. "We heard 'SFPD' and 'warrant,' and I was like 'what's going on?'" Knuth remembers. It felt like a nightmare yet it was real. Garcia says that within seconds he was dragged into the hallway of his apartment complex, handcuffed, then whisked away to the Taraval Station.... Meanwhile Knuth, who had just got out of the shower, was ordered to sit on the couch... After rifling through the apartment Knuth says the officers finally told her what they were looking for: Her husband's iPhone X.

According to the warrant, it was stolen but Knuth showed them the receipt which proved her husband bought it. Once the officers realized their mistake they called the police station and a squad car brought Garcia home. "They gathered their pry bar and their battering ram and they left," he said. So how could a mistake like that happen? It's still unclear but it turns out Garcia and Knuth bought the iPhone at an Apple store at Stonestown Galleria just a few weeks after 300 iPhone Xs were stolen from a UPS truck in the mall parking lot.

One former police chief says the way it was handled "kind of boggles the mind...

"This was clearly an incident that should have just been a knock and talk, a couple detectives come to the door, knock on the door and they would have gathered the same info that they gathered after they put him in handcuffs and hauled him off to jail."
AT&T

US Lawmakers Urge AT&T To Cut Commercial Ties With Huawei and Oppose China Mobile Citing National Security Concerns (reuters.com) 60

U.S. lawmakers are urging AT&T, the No. 2 wireless carrier, to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies and oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile to enter the U.S. market because of national security concerns, two congressional aides told Reuters. From the report: The warning comes after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump took a harder line on policies initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing's role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries. Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters. The U.S. government has also blocked a string of Chinese acquisitions over national security concerns, including Ant Financial's proposed purchase of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International.
The Almighty Buck

OnePlus Customers Report Credit Card Fraud After Buying From the Company's Website (androidpolice.com) 63

If you purchased a OnePlus smartphone recently from the official OnePlus website, you might want to check your transactions to make sure there aren't any you don't recognize. "A poll was posted on the OnePlus forum on Thursday asking users if they had noticed fraudulent charges on their credit cards since purchasing items on the OnePlus site," reports Android Police. "More than 70 respondents confirmed that they had been affected, with the majority saying they had bought from the site within the past 2 months." From the report: A number of FAQs and answers follow, in which OnePlus confirms that only customers who made credit card payments are affected, not those who used PayPal. Apparently, card info isn't stored on the site but is instead sent directly to a "PCI-DSS-compliant payment processing partner" over an encrypted connection. [...] OnePlus goes on to say that intercepting information should be extremely difficult as the site is HTTPS encrypted, but that it is nevertheless carrying out a complete audit. In the meantime, affected customers are advised to contact their credit card companies immediately to get the payments canceled/reversed (called a chargeback). OnePlus will continue to investigate alongside its third-party service providers, and promises to update with its findings as soon as possible.

According to infosec firm Fidus, there is actually a brief window in which data could be intercepted. Between entering your card details into the form and hitting 'submit,' the details are apparently hosted on-site, which could give attackers all the time they need to steal those precious digits and head off on a spending spree. Fidus also notes that the company doesn't appear to be PCI-compliant, but that directly contradicts OnePlus' own statement. We'll have to wait until more details emerge before we pass judgment.
Here's OnePlus' official statement on the matter: "At OnePlus, we take information privacy extremely seriously. Over the weekend, members of the OnePlus community reported cases of unknown credit card transactions occurring on their credit cards post purchase from oneplus.net. We immediately began to investigate as a matter of urgency, and will keep you updated. This FAQ document will be updated to address questions raised."
The Media

Peter Thiel Is Now Bidding on Gawker.com (reuters.com) 132

An anonymous reader writes: Its official. "Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has made an offer for Gawker," reports Reuters, adding that the potential acquisition "would let him take down stories regarding his personal life that are still available on the website, and remove the scope for further litigation between him and Gawker." It was Thiel's 2016 lawsuit which bankrupted the site, prompting a Washington Post blogger to write that Thiel "killed Gawker once. Now it looks like he may kill it again."

Elsewhere the Washington Post argues the whole episode "highlighted the immense legal risk borne by news outlets already facing a precarious financial reality in the digital age." The Post's blogger describes Thiel as "a billionaire leveraging his wealth to obliterate a media outlet...as part of a personal vendetta."

Last month former Gawker staffers attempted to crowdfund the purchase and relaunch of Gawker.com as a nonprofit media organization. But their 1,496 backers only pledged $89,844, far short of the campaign's $500,000 target.
Government

Will Facial Recognition in China Lead To Total Surveillance? (washingtonpost.com) 122

schwit1 shares a new Washington Post article about China's police and security state -- including the facial recognition cameras allow access to apartment buildings. "If I am carrying shopping bags in both hands, I just have to look ahead and the door swings open," one 40-year-old woman tells the Post. "And my 5-year-old daughter can just look up at the camera and get in. It's good for kids because they often lose their keys." But for the police, the cameras that replaced the residents' old entry cards serve quite a different purpose. Now they can see who's coming and going, and by combining artificial intelligence with a huge national bank of photos, the system in this pilot project should enable police to identify what one police report, shared with The Washington Post, called the "bad guys" who once might have slipped by... Banks, airports, hotels and even public toilets are all trying to verify people's identities by analyzing their faces. But the police and security state have been the most enthusiastic about embracing this new technology.

The pilot in Chongqing forms one tiny part of an ambitious plan, known as "Xue Liang," which can be translated as "Sharp Eyes." The intent is to connect the security cameras that already scan roads, shopping malls and transport hubs with private cameras on compounds and buildings, and integrate them into one nationwide surveillance and data-sharing platform... At the back end, these efforts merge with a vast database of information on every citizen, a "Police Cloud" that aims to scoop up such data as criminal and medical records, travel bookings, online purchase and even social media comments -- and link it to everyone's identity card and face.

iMac

iMac Pro Teardown Highlights Modular RAM, CPU and SSD Along With Redesigned Internals (macrumors.com) 128

Popular repair site iFixit has acquired an iMac Pro and opened it up to see what's inside. They tore down the base iMac Pro with an 8-core processor, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. Mac Rumors reports the findings: iFixit found that the RAM, CPU, and SSDs in the iMac Pro are modular and can potentially be replaced following purchase, but most of the key components "require a full disassembly to replace." Standard 27-inch iMacs have a small hatch in the back that allows easy access to the RAM for post-purchase upgrades, but that's missing in the iMac Pro. Apple has said that iMac Pro owners will need to get RAM replaced at an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider. iFixit says that compared to the 5K 27-inch iMac, replacing the RAM in the iMac Pro is indeed "a major undertaking."

Apple is using standard 288-pin DDR4 ECC RAM sticks with standard chips, which iFixit was able to upgrade using its own $2,000 RAM upgrade kit. A CPU upgrade is "theoretically possible," but because Apple uses a custom-made Intel chip, it's not clear if an upgrade is actually feasible. The same goes for the SSDs -- they're modular and removable, but custom made by Apple. Unlike the CPU, the GPU is BGA-soldered into place and cannot be removed. The internals of the iMac Pro are "totally different" from other iMacs, which is unsurprising as Apple said it introduced a new thermal design to accommodate the Xeon-W processors and Radeon Pro Vega GPUs built into the machines. The new thermal design includes an "enormous" dual-fan cooler, what iFixit says is a "ginormous heat sink," and a "big rear vent."
Overall, iFixit gave the iMac Pro a repairability score of 3/10 since it's difficult to open and tough to get to internal components that might need to be repaired or replaced.
XBox (Games)

Kinect Is Really Dead Now, Basically (gamespot.com) 110

Microsoft has confirmed that it is no longer producing the Kinect adapter that is needed to connect the Kinect to an Xbox One S, Xbox One X, or other Windows device. This comes after Microsoft announced in October 2017 that it was killing off the Xbox One's Kinect camera. GameSpot reports: "After careful consideration, we decided to stop manufacturing the Xbox Kinect Adapter to focus attention on launching new, higher fan-requested gaming accessories across Xbox One and Windows 10," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement to Polygon. The representative declined to say if Microsoft would ever bring Kinect back. However, the company confirmed that the adapter "will no longer be available" to purchase.

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