Cellphones

Software Developer Explains Why The Ubuntu Phone Failed (itwire.com) 89

troublemaker_23 quotes ITWire: A developer who worked with the Ubuntu Phone project has outlined the reasons for its failure, painting a picture of confusion, poor communication and lack of technical and marketing foresight. Simon Raffeiner stopped working with the project in mid-2016, about 10 months before Canonical owner Mark Shuttleworth announced that development of the phone and the tablet were being stopped.
Raffeiner says, for example, that "despite so many bugs being present, developers were not concentrating on fixing them, but rather on adding support for more devices." But he says he doesn't regret the time he spent on the project -- though now he spends his free time "traveling the world, taking photographs and creating bad card games, bad comics and bad games."

"Please note that this post does not apply to the UBPorts project, which continues to work on the phone operating system, Unity 8 and other components."
Cellphones

Texting While Driving Now Legal In Colorado -- In Some Cases (kdvr.com) 92

Fines for texting and driving in Colorado have jumped to $300, but according to the fine print, the increased fine only applies to drivers who are texting in "a careless or imprudent manner." Therefore, drivers who are texting in any other manner are still within the law. FOX31 Denver reports: Before the new legislation, any texting while driving was illegal. Tim Lane of the Colorado District Attorney's Office confirmed the softening crackdown on all texting and driving. "The simple fact is that if you are texting while driving but not being careless, it's no longer illegal," he said. What constitutes "careless" driving is up to the discretion of each individual law enforcement officer. Cellphone use of any kind is still banned for drivers younger than 18. Teens caught with a phone in hand while driving will be slapped with a $50 fine.
Businesses

Remember When You Called Someone and Heard a Song? (vice.com) 151

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard article: If you were youngish in the early 2000s, you probably remember this phenomenon -- calling a friend's cell phone, and instead of hearing the the standard ring, you heard a pop song. Called ringback tones, this digital music fad allowed cell phone owners to subject callers to their own musical preference. Ringback tones were incredibly trendy in the early and mid-2000's, but have since tapered off nearly to oblivion. Though almost nobody is buying ringbacks anymore, plenty of people still have them from back in the day. [...] In the process of writing this story, I heard from several people that they or someone they knew still had a ringback tone, in large part because they have had it for years, and don't know how to get rid of it.
Cellphones

A Colorado Group Wants To Ban Smartphones For Kids (apnews.com) 388

An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Colorado officials have cleared the language of a proposed ballot measure that would establish the nation's first legal limits on buying smartphones for children. Backers of the move to forbid the sale of smartphones to children younger than 13 would now need about 300,000 voter signatures for the proposal to make the 2018 ballot. The ban would require cellphone retailers to ask customers about the age of the primary user of a smartphone and submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue on adhering to the requirement. Retailers who sell a phone for use by a youngster could be fined $500, after a warning.
A Denver-area dad is leading the campaign -- a board certified anesthesiologist who says children change when they get a cellphone. "They go from being outgoing, energetic, interested in the world and happy, to reclusive. They want to spend all their time in their room. They lose interest in outside activities."
Wireless Networking

T-Mobile Rolling Out 600 MHz Low-Band Wireless (yahoo.com) 47

s122604 quotes a report from Yahoo Finance: T-Mobile, the third largest U.S. national wireless operator, has decided to roll out 600 MHz wireless spectrum in its footprints by this summer. Low-band spectrum is essential for wireless operators as the signals can be transmitted over longer distances and through brick-and-mortar walls in cities. Smartphones for this radio frequency are likely to be made available by Samsung and other manufacturers this summer.
AI

Samsung's Bixby Voice Assistant Is Finally Coming to the US -- But Only As a Preview (techcrunch.com) 21

When the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ went on sale in the North American market, it was missing one of its most touted features -- the Bixby smart assistant. Technically, it was available on launch day but its voice functionality was missing due to issues with the English language version, thus rendering the dedicated Bixby button on the side of the S8 and S8+ nearly useless. Today, Bixby Voice is finally making its stateside debut -- but only as a preview. TechCrunch reports: The company is positioning this is a "sneak peak" for the feature that was initially planned to debut on its new flagship phones. Starting this week, a select number of Galaxy S8 and S8+ can sign up to be among the first in the U.S. to test it out. From the sound of it, Samsung's still working on some tweaks here, using this limited launch to basically do some public beta testing. The company didn't have a lot to say about the closed launch, aside from reiterating some of its grandiose plans for making Bixby, "an integral part of our connected ecosystem," according to the company's CTO.
Cellphones

We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier (reason.com) 263

_Sharp'r_ writes: Professor Thomas Hazlett of Clemson University analyzed the history of wireless spectrum and concluded the technology was known and available for cellphones in the 40s, but there was no spectrum available. Based on assumptions cellphones would always be luxury goods without mass appeal, significant spectrum for divisible cellular networks wasn't legally usable until the early 80s. Instead, the unused spectrum was reserved for the future expansion of broadcast TV to channels 70-83. Here's an excerpt from the report: "When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not 'in the nature of convenience or luxury.' This view -- that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base -- persisted well into the 1980s. 'Land mobile,' the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC's list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter."
Android

Samsung Left Millions Vulnerable To Hackers Because It Forgot To Renew a Domain (vice.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung cellphones used to have a stock app called S Suggest. The company apparently discontinued the app recently, and then forgot to renew a domain that was used to control it. This snafu left millions of smartphone users vulnerable to hackers who could've registered the domain and installed malicious apps on the phones.
Google

Play Store Downloads Show Google Pixel Sales Limited To 1 Million Units (arstechnica.com) 70

While Google has yet to release official sales numbers for its flagship Google Pixel smartphone, a Play Store app may shed some light on roughly how many units are in circulation. The Pixel Launcher, which is installed by default on the Pixel and Pixel XL, just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier, leading us to assume that Google has finally sold 1,000,000 Google Pixel units. Ars Technica notes that "the Pixel is seen as Google's answer to the iPhone, but considering Apple sells 40 to 50 million iPhones in a quarter, Google has some catching up to do." From the report: This calculation is complicated by the fact that Google Play doesn't show exact install numbers; it shows installs in "tiers" like "100,000-500,000." So most of the time, we won't have an exact Pixel sales number -- except when the Pixel Launcher crosses from one download tier to another. So guess what just happened? The Pixel Launcher just crossed into the "1,000,000-5,000,000" install tier (you can see some third-party tracking sites, like AppBrain, still have it listed at 500,000). So for this one moment in history, eight months after launch, we can say Google finally sold a million Pixel phones. The Play Store device targeting ensures no one other than Pixel owners can download the Pixel Launcher, and the install count doesn't include sideloading. The most popular sideloading site, APKMirror, has more than 1.3 million downloads on just a single version of the Pixel Launcher, so we know that sideloaders actually outnumber legitimate Pixel Launcher users. There are some statistically insignificant root shenanigans you could pull to download the Pixel Launcher from the Play Store on a non-Pixel device, but there is no way the number of sold Pixels is higher than 1 million units at this point in time.
Government

Delays In Unlocking Cellphones Seized In Inauguration Day Protests? (buzzfeed.com) 163

Cellphone data may play a key role in prosecuting people arrested at inauguration day protests, according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Mosquito Bites. A U.S. attorney acknowledged that "the government recovered cell phones from more than 100 indicted defendants and other un-indicted arrested" in a filing last March, adding "The government is in the process of extracting data from the Rioter Cell Phones pursuant to lawfully issued search warrants, and expects to be in a position to produce all of the data from the searchers Rioter Cell Phones in the next several weeks."

But 11 weeks later, it's a different story. Prosecutors "have provided defense lawyers with access to hundreds of hours of video footage from January 20, but have yet to turn over data extracted from more than 100 cell phones seized during the arrests, according to lawyers who spoke with BuzzFeed News." In addition, they report that now more than half the 200-plus defendants "are vowing not to cooperate with prosecutors, even in the face of a new set of felony charges that carry stiff maximum prison sentences."
Cellphones

New iOS 11 Settings Will Stop Apps From Tracking Your Location (theverge.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: Apple is giving users the option to enable much stricter location rules with iOS 11, according to MacRumors. The company began this effort last year by adding a new option to iOS 10 that grants apps access to your location only while they're actively being used. But this "while in use" setting is up to developers to actually enable. The vast majority of popular apps did integrate that new feature. Others, however -- Uber chief among them -- still force iPhone users to choose between always or never providing location data. The latter choice breaks the functionality of an app like Uber, leaving customers with really only one option. Apple seems poised to eliminate this false choice in iOS 11 by making the "while in use" restriction available for every app.
Cellphones

No, Your Phone Didn't Ring. So Why Voice Mail From a Telemarketer? (lifehacker.com) 210

Slashdot reader midwestsilentone tipped us off to a growing problem. Lifehacker reports: New technology allows telemarketers to leave ringless voicemail messages, and it's a method that's gaining traction. While there are laws to regulate businesses when they call consumers, some groups argue that ringless voicemail shouldn't count. The New York Times reports,"ringless voicemail providers and pro-business groups...argue that these messages should not qualify as calls and, therefore, should be exempt from consumer protection laws that ban similar types of telephone marketing"... After receiving a petition from a ringless voicemail provider, the Federal Trade Commission has started to collect public comments on this issue. So what can you do about it? First, you can head here to leave your public comment and if you're getting these voicemails, you can file a complaint with the FCC here.
Presumably that only applies if you're in the U.S. But I'd be curious to hear how many Slashdot readers have experienced this.
Cellphones

Police In Oklahoma Have Cracked Hundreds of People's Cell Phones (vice.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Motherboard: Mobile phone forensic extraction devices have been a law enforcement tool for years now, and the number of agencies using them is only rising. As part of an ongoing investigation, we have finally been able to turn up some usage logs of this equipment, from Tulsa Police Department, and Tucson Police Department. While the logs do not list the cause of the crime or any other notes about why the phone was being searched, it does list the make of the phone, the date, and the type of extraction. First, let's go over what extraction devices are being used here. Tucson PD opted for the brand that is arguably the worldwide leader in mobile device forensics, the Israeli company Cellebrite. Tulsa Police Department however opted for a few different models -- they purchased two different password breakers from Teel Technologies in 2015, and in March 2016 gave about $1,500 to Susteen for their SecureView extraction device (SecureView was the product Susteen created when the FBI requested they create a more advanced extraction device for them). It does its work instantly, and has an incredible reach into a phone's data. They renewed this contract in 2017. In August 2016 they also purchased the Detective extraction device from Oxygen Forensics. Oxygen is much less common than Cellebrite, from what we have found. The kicker really is how often these are being used -- it is simply really hard to believe that out of the 783 times Tulsa Police used their extraction devices, all were for crimes in which it was necessary to look at all of the phone's data. Even for the 316 times Tucson PD used theirs in the last year, it is still a real stretch to think that some low-level non-violent offenders weren't on the receiving end. There are some days where the devices were used multiple times -- Tulsa used theirs eight times on February 28th of this year, eight again on April 3rd, and a whopping 14 times on May 10th 2016. That is a whole lot of data that Tulsa was able to tap into, and we aren't even able to understand the why.
Android

Malicious Apps Brought Ad-Clicking 'Judy' Malware To Millions Of Android Phones (fortune.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The security firm Checkpoint on Thursday uncovered dozens of Android applications that infected users' devices with malicious ad-click software. In at least one case, an app bearing the malware was available through the Google Play app store for more than a year. While the actual extent of the malicious code's spread is unknown, Checkpoint says it may have reached as many as 36.5 million users, making it potentially the most widely-spread malware yet found on Google Play... The nefarious nature of the programs went unnoticed in large part, according to Checkpoint, because its malware payload was downloaded from a non-Google server after the programs were installed. The code would then use the infected phone to click on Google ads, generating fraudulent revenue for the attacker.
Displays

UCF Research Could Bring 'Drastically' Higher Resolution To Your Phone and TV (ucf.edu) 108

New submitter cinemetek quotes a report from University of Central Florida: Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a new color changing surface tunable through electrical voltage that could lead to three times the resolution for televisions, smartphones and other devices. Current LCD's are made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels that display different colors. With current technology, each of these pixels contain three subpixels -- one red, one green, one blue. UCF's NanoScience Technology Center (Assistant Professor Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student Daniel Franklin) have come up with a way to tune the color of these subpixels. By applying differing voltages, they are able to change the color of individual subpixels to red, green or blue -- the RGB scale -- or gradations in between. By eliminating the three static subpixels that currently make up every pixel, the size of individual pixels can be reduced by three. Three times as many pixels means three times the resolution. That would have major implications for not only TVs and other general displays, but augmented reality and virtual-reality headsets that need very high resolution because they're so close to the eye.
Cellphones

Republicans Want To Leave You Voicemail -- Without Ever Ringing Your Cellphone (recode.net) 443

bricko quotes a report from Recode: The GOP's leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has quietly thrown its support behind a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would pave the way for marketers to auto-dial consumers' cellphones and leave them prerecorded voicemail messages -- all without ever causing their devices to ring. Under current federal law, telemarketers and others, like political groups, aren't allowed to launch robocall campaigns targeting cellphones unless they first obtain a consumer's written consent. But businesses stress that it's a different story when it comes to "ringless voicemail" -- because it technically doesn't qualify as a phone call in the first place. In their eyes, that means they shouldn't need a customer or voter's permission if they want to auto-dial mobile voicemail inboxes in bulk pre-made messages about a political candidate, product or cause. And they want the FCC to rule, once and for all, that they're in the clear. Their argument, however, has drawn immense opposition from consumer advocates.
Cellphones

Samsung's Galaxy S8 Active Looks Like a Rugged LG G6 (theverge.com) 31

The Wireless Power Consortium has released a leaked image of the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 Active. While it's only one photo, the image shows a smartphone greatly resembling LG's G6. The Verge reports: First, the display: the S8 Active won't have curved edges, like the regular S8. The big question this year was what Samsung planned to do about the screen, since curved glass may be more susceptible to cracking, and Samsung seems to have decided the best option was to get rid of it altogether. Instead, the S8 Active has a flattened out look but retains the S8's rounded corners, making the front of the phone look a lot like LG's G6. Samsung seems to have made the bezels a little bit larger on the S8 Active, particularly on the sides. But overall, the front of the phone still seems to get fairly close to the nearly all-screen look of actual S8. The second thing this photo shows is that Samsung isn't putting buttons back on the front of the phone. That's not necessarily a huge surprise, but it'll make the device a bit harder to handle when wet, since owners will be relying on the touchscreen. And finally, this photo reveals a bit of what Samsung is doing to make the phone rugged. All four of its corners bump out, suggesting they've been reinforced to absorb shock should the phone get dropped; it looks a lot like what Samsung has done in the past.
Communications

Soon You'll Be Able To Build Your Own 4G Network Over Wi-Fi Frequencies (hpe.com) 52

Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler writes: An industry consortium called MulteFire wants to help you build your own LTE-like network that uses the Wi-Fi spectrum, with no need for carriers or providers, writes Andy Patrizio. Just don't expect to get started today. "In its basic specification, MulteFire Release 1.0 defines an LTE-like network that can run entirely on unlicensed spectrum frequencies. The alliance didn't try to do too much with the 1.0 spec; it simply wanted to get it out the door so partners and manufacturers could begin adoption. For 1.0, the alliance focused on the 5-GHz band. More functionality and more spectrums will be supported in future specs." Why would you want it? As Patrzio explains, MulteFire's target audience is fairly obvious: anyone who needs speed, scalability, and security beyond what Wi-Fi offers. "MulteFire is enabling cellular technologies to run in unassigned spectrum, where they are free to use it so long as they follow the rules of the spectrum band," says Mazen Chmaytelli, president of the MulteFire Alliance." Is this something you think would make a difference?
The alliance includes Qualcomm and Cisco Systems, and the article points out some advantages. LTE cell towers "can be miles apart versus Wi-Fi's range of just a few feet. Plus, LTE's security has never been breached, as far as we know."
Iphone

Apple Starts Assembling iPhones In India (techcrunch.com) 56

Apple has successfully completed its first trial run assembly of the iPhone SE in India, reports The Wall Street Journal. "We are beginning initial production of a small number of iPhone SE in Bengaluru," Apple said in a statement to TechCrunch. "iPhone SE is the most popular and powerful phone with a four-inch display in the world and we'll begin shipping to domestic customers this month." From the report: The four-inch SE is Apple's least expensive model, running $399 in the States. Some retailers in the country have managed to undercut the cost, lower the entry level price of the handset by around $80 -- but even at that price, it's still substantially more expensive than most. In spite of its relatively low pricing, the SE doesn't appear to have made quite the splash Apple was initially anticipating in the country. Apple has long been working to move production to the country, hoping, in part, to retake some of the market it has lost in China in recent years, as domestic handset sales have grown. Locals are hoping that such a move could reduce the retail cost of the SE even further, by as much as $100. But while $220 is certainly a lot more palatable, that still marks a substantial premium over the average handset price. It's the world's fastest growing market, having recently surpassed the U.S. to claim the number. The Indian market is expected to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of one billion smartphone sales over the next half-decade.
Android

HTC Launches 'U11' Squeezable Smartphone With Snapdragon 835 CPU, No Headphone Jack (theverge.com) 69

HTC has officially launched its newest flagship smartphone today, the U11. While it has competitive specifications for a flagship smartphone of 2017, such as a 5.5-inch, Quad HD display, and Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB RAM, it has some unique features of its own. HTC is introducing a new way to interact with the U11 by letting you squeeze the sides of the device to perform different functions. The Verge reports: This new feature is called "Edge Sense," and it can be configured to do a variety of tasks with either short or long squeezes. You can set a short squeeze to open the camera and then take a picture when the camera app is open. A long squeeze can be configured to launch the Google voice assistant or toggle the flashlight on and off. In addition to Edge Sense, the U11 has a similar design to the U Ultra from earlier this year. That means it's metal and glass -- a departure from the all-aluminum unibody designs of past HTC phones -- with curved panels that blend into the metal frame and vibrant, pearlescent colors. That also means it lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, instead relying on its USB Type-C port for charging, data transfer, and audio function. HTC says removing the headphone jack has a number of advantages, including allowing the company more room inside the phone for other components and making the design of the bottom edge smoother. It also allows for a better audio experience, as the included headphones have both audio tuning and active noise cancellation, without having to rely on a secondary battery. In addition to the headphones, HTC is including a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter for use with other headphones, which it didn't for the U Ultra.

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