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China

Viral Chinese Selfie App Meitu, Valued at Over $5 Billion, Phones Home With Personal Data (theregister.co.uk) 79

The Meitu selfie horrorshow app going viral through Western audiences is a privacy nightmare, researchers say. The app, which has been featured on several popular outlets including the NYTimes, USA Today, and NYMag, harvests information about the devices on which it runs, includes invasive advertising tracking features and is just badly coded. From a report: But worst of all, the free app appears to be phoning some to share personal data with its makers. Meitu, a Chinese production, includes in its code up to three checks to determine if an iPhone handset is jailbroken, according to respected forensics man Jonathan Zdziarski, a function to grab mobile provider information, and various analytics capabilities. Zdziarski says the app also appears to build a unique device profile based in part on a handset's MAC address. "Meitu is a throw-together of multiple analytics and marketing/ad tracking packages, with something cute to get people to use it," Zdziarski says. Unique phone IMEI numbers are shipped to dozens of Chinese servers, malware researcher FourOctets found. The app, which was valued at over $5 billion last year due its popularity, seeks access to device and app history; accurate location; phone status; USB, photos, and files storage read and write; camera; Wifi connections; device ID & call information; full network access, run at startup, and prevent device from sleeping on Android phones.
Operating Systems

Oracle Scraps Plans For Solaris 12 (theregister.co.uk) 112

bobthesungeek76036 writes: According to The Register, Solaris 12 has been removed from Oracle roadmaps. This pretty much signals the demise of Solaris (as if we didn't already know that...) From the report: "The new blueprint -- dated January 13, 2017 -- omits any word of Solaris 12 that Oracle included in the same document's 2014 edition, instead mentioning 'Solaris 11.next' as due to debut during this year or the next complete with 'Cloud Deployment and Integration Enhancements.' At the time of writing, search engines produce no results for 'Solaris 11.next.' The Register has asked Oracle for more information. The roadmap also mentions a new generation of SPARC silicon in 2017, dubbed SPARC Next, and then in 2020 SPARC Next+. The speeds and capabilities mentioned in the 2017 document improve slightly on those mentioned in the 2014 roadmap.
Data Storage

Raspberry Pi Upgrades Compute Module With 10 Times the CPU Performance (arstechnica.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Raspberry Pi Compute Module is getting a big upgrade, with the same processor used in the recently released Raspberry Pi 3. The Compute Module, which is intended for industrial applications, was first released in April 2014 with the same CPU as the first-generation Raspberry Pi. The upgrade announced today has 1GB of RAM and a Broadcom BCM2837 processor that can run at up to 1.2GHz. "This means it provides twice the RAM and roughly ten times the CPU performance of the original Compute Module," the Raspberry Pi Foundation announcement said. This is the second major version of the Compute Module, but it's being called the "Compute Module 3" to match the last flagship Pi's version number. The new Compute Module has more flexible storage options than the original. "One issue with the [Compute Module 1] was the fixed 4GB of eMMC flash storage," the announcement said. But some users wanted to add their own flash storage. "To solve this, two versions of the [Compute Module 3] are being released: one with 4GB eMMC on-board and a 'Lite' model which requires the user to add their own SD card socket or eMMC flash." The core module is tiny so that it can fit into other hardware, but for development purposes there is a separate I/O board with GPIO, USB and MicroUSB, CSI and DSI ports for camera and display boards, HDMI, and MicroSD. The Compute Module 3 and the lite version cost $30 and $25, respectively.
Communications

Open Source Codec Encodes Voice Into Only 700 Bits Per Second (rowetel.com) 128

Longtime Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: David Rowe VK5DGR has been working on ultra-low-bandwidth digital voice codecs for years, and his latest quest has been to come up with a digital codec that would compete well with single-sideband modulation used by ham contesters to score the longest-distance communications using HF radio. A new codec records clear, but not hi-fi, voice in 700 bits per second -- that's 88 bytes per second. Connected to an already-existing Open Source digital modem, it might beat SSB. Obviously there are other uses for recording voice at ultra-low-bandwidth. Many smartphones could record your voice for your entire life using their existing storage. A single IP packet could carry 15 seconds of speech. Ultra-low-bandwidth codecs don't help conventional VoIP, though. The payload size for low-latency voice is only a few bytes, and the packet overhead will be at least 10 times that size.
Network

Verizon Purges Unlimited Data Customers, Targets Those Using 200GB (arstechnica.com) 196

If you're a Verizon customer on an unlimited data plan who uses more than 200GB a month, you will soon need to switch to a limited plan or be disconnected, according to Verizon. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a Verizon Plan by February 16, 2017," Verizon spokesperson Kelly Crummey told Ars Technica today. Ars reports: Since Verizon stopped offering unlimited data to new smartphone customers in 2011, this change affects only longtime customers who were allowed to hang on to the old plans. Verizon could simply force all customers who aren't under contract to switch to new plans, but instead it has periodically made moves that reduce the numbers of unlimited data subscribers. This policy will apply to people who average more than 200GB "over several months," Verizon said. Customers who do not move to limited plans "will be disconnected," Verizon confirmed. On limited plans, customers get reduced speeds after they exceed monthly data limits unless they purchase extra 4G LTE data. Verizon previously purged its unlimited data rolls in August 2016. In that case, Verizon set a limit of 500GB a month, the company told Ars today. This is more specific information than we previously reported. Shortly before the August 2016 move, Verizon told us that it was targeting customers who were "using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB)," but Verizon did not specify that it was only targeting customers using at least 500GB. With the threshold being dropped from 500GB to 200GB, the latest move will affect customers who weren't using enough data to be caught up in the last round.
Businesses

Apple's iPhone Turns 10 (www.bgr.in) 168

An anonymous reader shares a report: "Every once in a while there is a revolutionary product that comes along, that changes everything," that's how Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone 10 years ago. To think about it, the iPhone did not have anything that anyone associated with a smartphone. On top of that, it was expensive, you could not share files over Bluetooth, it did not support 3G, it did not have an expandable storage slot and you needed iTunes for everything. But despite that, and to the horror of its rivals, everyone wanted one. Veteran journalist Steven Levy spoke with Phil Schiller, VP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple on the occasion.
AMD

AMD Unveils Vega GPU Architecture With 512 Terabytes of Memory Address Space (hothardware.com) 125

MojoKid writes: AMD lifted the veil on its next generation GPU architecture, codenamed Vega, this morning. One of the underlying forces behind Vega's design is that conventional GPU architectures have not been scaling well for diverse data types. Gaming and graphics workloads have shown steady progress, but today's GPUs are used for much more than just graphics. In addition, the compute capability of GPUs may have been increasing at a good pace, but memory capacity has not kept up. Vega aims to improve both compute performance and addressable memory capacity, however, through some new technologies not available on any previous-gen architecture. First, is that Vega has the most scalable GPU memory architecture built to date with 512TB of address space. It also has a new geometry pipeline tuned for more performance and better efficiency with over 2X peak throughput per clock, a new Compute Unit design, and a revamped pixel engine. The pixel engine features a new draw stream binning rasterizer (DSBR), which reportedly improves performance and saves power. All told, Vega should offer significant improvements in terms of performance and efficiency when products based on the architecture begin shipping in a few months.
Intel

Intel's Compute Card Is a PC That Can Fit In Your Wallet (arstechnica.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Intel mostly missed the boat on smartphones, but the company is trying to establish a firm foothold in the ever-broadening marketplace for connected appliances and other smart things. Intel's latest effort in this arena is its new "Compute Card," a small 94.5mm by 55mm by 5mm slab that includes a CPU and GPU, RAM, storage, and wireless connectivity. Intel hasn't given us specific information about the specs and speeds of its first Compute Cards, but you can expect the fastest ones to approach the performance of high-end fanless laptops like Apple's MacBooks. Intel told us that processors with a TDP of up to 6W could fit inside the Compute Cards, which covers both low-power Atom chips like those that powered early versions of Intel's Compute Stick to full Core M and Y-series Core i5 and i7 CPUs like the ones you find in laptops. Intel says that the card uses a variant of the USB-C port called "USB-C plus extension" to connect with the systems it's plugged into. That connector gives devices direct access to the USB and PCIe buses as well as HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs. The company considers the Compute Card to be a replacement of sorts for the Compute Stick, which Intel says will probably disappear from its roadmap in 2018 or so. The issue with the Compute Stick from Intel's perspective is that its input and output ports were unnecessarily limiting -- it could only connect to HDMI ports and could only accept a limited number of USB inputs. The Compute Card can be slid into a wider variety of enclosures that can use all kinds of ports and display interfaces, and Intel says the Card will also offer a large array of performance and storage options, unlike current Compute Sticks.
Power

Tesla Gigafactory Begins Production (reuters.com) 201

Thelasko writes: Right on schedule, Tesla's Gigafactory has begun production of battery cells. The fact that the factory has opened on schedule has surprised many critics of the company. Reuters reports: "Electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc has started mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at its gigafactory in Nevada along with Japan's Panasonic Corp, the company said on Wednesday. The cylindrical '2170 cells,' which will be used to power Tesla's energy storage products and the new Model 3 sedan, have been jointly designed by Tesla and Panasonic, its longstanding battery partner. The gigafactory will initially produce battery cells for the company's Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 energy products, Tesla said. The factory is expected to drive down the cost of battery packs by more than 30 percent, the company has said. At peak production, the gigafactory is expected to employ 6,500 workers and create between 20,000 and 30,000 additional jobs in the surrounding regions, Tesla said."
Encryption

'Forza Horizon 3' Update Accidentally Published Unencrypted Build of the Game (vice.com) 70

An employee at Forza Horizon 3 developer Playground Games accidentally green-lighted the wrong update file for PC players, who found themselves downloading a whopping 53GB download that turned out to be an unencrypted future build (.37.2) of the entire game intended for developers. Motherboard reports: Naturally, players who'd managed to download it yesterday had a field day leaking the information within, right down to massive posts on Imgur showing all the new cars and forum threads detailing the Porsches thought to come in an future unannounced pack. Since Forza Horizon 3 requires a constant online connection and works off of a constantly refreshing save file, anyone who played the new patch on PC found themselves slapped with an error saying their Forza profiles were no longer available. Playing it with the new build would thus effectively mean starting a new game from scratch, even if they'd dumped dozens of hours into Forza Horizon 3 since its release last September. But starting over is exactly what players shouldn't have done. The best thing they could do was shut down the game, walk away, and wait for a fix. "PC players who completed the download of .37.2 and then started a new game save will have a corrupted saved game," wrote Brian Ekberg, Forza's community manager, in a forum post. "Avoid creating a new saved game on .37.2, and only play on .35.2 to avoid this issue. As long as you have an existing save and have not created a new one on .37.2, your saved game will work correctly once the update is available."
Data Storage

Scientists Turn Memory Chips Into Processors To Speed Up Computing Tasks (sciencedaily.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: A team of international scientists have found a way to make memory chips perform computing tasks, which is traditionally done by computer processors like those made by Intel and Qualcomm. This means data could now be processed in the same spot where it is stored, leading to much faster and thinner mobile devices and computers. This new computing circuit was developed by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) in collaboration with Germany's RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Juelich, one of the largest interdisciplinary research centers in Europe. It is built using state-of-the-art memory chips known as Redox-based resistive switching random access memory (ReRAM). Developed by global chipmakers such as SanDisk and Panasonic, this type of chip is one of the fastest memory modules that will soon be available commercially. However, instead of storing information, NTU Assistant Professor Anupam Chattopadhyay in collaboration with Professor Rainer Waser from RWTH Aachen University and Dr Vikas Rana from Forschungszentrum Juelich showed how ReRAM can also be used to process data. This discovery was published recently in Scientific Reports. By making the memory chip perform computing tasks, space can be saved by eliminating the processor, leading to thinner, smaller and lighter electronics. The discovery could also lead to new design possibilities for consumer electronics and wearable technology.
Data Storage

Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate GT 2TB Is World's Largest Capacity Flash Drive (betanews.com) 79

BrianFagioli writes: Today, Kingston announced a product that may get people excited about flash drives again. The company has created a 2TB pocket flash drive (also available in 1TB), called DataTraveler Ultimate GT (Generation Terabyte). This is now the world's largest capacity USB flash drive. "Power users will have the ability to store massive amounts of data in a small form factor, including up to 70 hours of 4K video on a single 2TB drive. DataTraveler Ultimate GT offers superior quality in a high-end design as it is made of a zinc-alloy metal casing for shock resistance. Its compact size gives the tech enthusiast or professional user an easily portable solution to store and transfer their high capacity files," says Kingston.
Mars

NASA Designs 'Ice Dome' For Astronauts On Mars (phys.org) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: The "Mars Ice Home" is a large inflatable dome that is surrounded by a shell of water ice. NASA said the design is just one of many potential concepts for creating a sustainable home for future Martian explorers. The idea came from a team at NASA's Langley Research Center that started with the concept of using resources on Mars to help build a habitat that could effectively protect humans from the elements on the Red Planet's surface, including high-energy radiation. The advantages of the Mars Ice Home is that the shell is lightweight and can be transported and deployed with simple robotics, then filled with water before the crew arrives. The ice will protect astronauts from radiation and will provide a safe place to call home, NASA says. But the structure also serves as a storage tank for water, to be used either by the explorers or it could potentially be converted to rocket fuel for the proposed Mars Ascent Vehicle. Then the structure could be refilled for the next crew. Other concepts had astronauts living in caves, or underground, or in dark, heavily shielded habitats. The team said the Ice Home concept balances the need to provide protection from radiation, without the drawbacks of an underground habitat. The design maximizes the thickness of ice above the crew quarters to reduce radiation exposure while also still allowing light to pass through ice and surrounding materials.
Google

Unannounced ASUS C302CA-DHM4 Chromebook Hits Newegg, and It Looks Great (betanews.com) 109

An anonymous reader shares a BetaNews article: If you have been looking for a new Chromebook with some modern specifications and features, I have some good news. An all-new convertible touchscreen ASUS Chromebook has hit Newegg. Apparently, the company has not yet announced the laptop, making it quite the surprise. Called "C302CA-DHM4," it has solid specifications, looks great, and best of all, it is reasonably priced. Also cool is the fact that the Chromebook has a backlit keyboard -- very useful for those that work in the dark. It even features dual USB-C ports (also used for charging), but neither are USB 3.1 Gen 2 -- both are Gen 1, which is essentially the slower USB 3.0. If 64GB of onboard storage isn't enough, you can expand using the microSD card port. Luckily, this ASUS Chromebook comes with 4GB of RAM, which I consider the bare minimum nowadays. While some folks may pooh-pooh the Intel Core m3 processor as underpowered, I disagree -- it is a very capable chip. For Chrome OS in particular, I expect it to be quite nimble.
Desktops (Apple)

Tim Cook Assures Employees That It Is Committed To Mac and 'Great Desktops' Are Coming (techcrunch.com) 307

Apple CEO Tim Cook has assured the employees that the company is committed to the computer lineups and that a desktop computer is certainly on the way. From a report on TechCrunch: "Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we're committed to desktops," Cook wrote. "If there's any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that." Cook cites the far better performance of desktop computers, including screen sizes, memory, storage and more variety in I/O (ha) as a reason that they are "really important, and in some cases critical, to people." So no matter how you feel about the state of the Mac at the moment, you have new machines to look forward to. No mention of whether that meant iMac or Mac Pro or both, but at the very least it's encouraging to those of us who couldn't live without a desktop computer.

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