Android

postmarketOS Pursues A Linux-Based, LTS OS For Android Phones (liliputing.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing: Buy an iPhone and you might get 4-5 years of official software updates. Android phones typically get 1-3 years of updates... if they get any updates at all. But there are ways to breathe new life into some older Android phones. If you can unlock the bootloader, you may be able to install a custom ROM like LineageOS and get unofficial software updates for a few more years. The folks behind postmarketOS want to go even further: they're developing a Linux-based alternative to Android with the goal of providing up to 10 years of support for old smartphones...

Right now postmarketOS is a touch-friendly operating system based on Alpine Linux that runs on a handful of devices including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Google Nexus 4, 5, and 7 (2012), and several other Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Sony smartphones. There are also ports for some non-Android phones such as the Nokia N900 and work-in-progress builds for the BlackBerry Bolt Touch 9900 and Jolla Phone. Note that when I say the operating system runs on those devices, I basically mean it boots. Some phones only have network access via a USB cable, for instance. None of the devices can actually be used to make phone calls. But here's the cool thing: the developers are hoping to create a single kernel that works with all supported devices, which means that postmarketOS would work a lot like a desktop operating system, allowing you to install the same OS on any smartphone with the proper hardware.

One postmarketOS developer complains that Android's architecture "is based on forking (one might as well say copy-pasting) the entire code-base for each and every device and Android version. And then working on that independent, basically instantly incompatible version. Especially adding device-specific drivers plays an important role... Here is the solution: Bend an existing Linux distribution to run on smartphones. Apply all necessary changes as small patches and upstream them, where it makes sense."
Operating Systems

Skype Retires Older Apps for Windows, Linux (techcrunch.com) 121

An anonymous reader writes: The newest version of the Skype app takes a big hat-tip from social media platforms like Snapchat and Facebook's Messenger with its newest features, adding a Stories-like feature called Highlights, a big selection of bots to add into chats and a longer plan to upgrade group conversations with more features. Now, as part of the effort to get people to use the new Skype more, the company is also doubling down on something else: Skype is trying to get users off of older versions of Skype. As part of that push, the Microsoft-owned company has sent out messages to users this week noting that it will be retiring a host of older iterations on July 1. Those who are still using them after that day will likely no longer be able to sign on. Skype app won't work on the follow OS versions: Android 4.0.2 and lower, BlackBerry OS 7.1 and lower, iOS 7 and lower, Linux (Linux users must upgrade to Skype for Linux Beta), Mac OS X 10.8 and lower, Symbian OS, Skype mobile for Verizon, Skype on 3, Skype on TV, Windows 10 task-based app, Windows Phone 8.1 and lower, and Windows RT.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Working With Automakers On Antivirus Tool For Your Car (reuters.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: BlackBerry is working with at least two automakers to develop a security service that would remotely scan vehicles for computer viruses and tell drivers to pull over if they were in critical danger, according to a financial analyst. The service, which would also be able to install security patches to an idle car, is being tested by luxury automakers Aston Martin and Range Rover. The service could be launched as early as next year, generating about $10 a month per vehicle for BlackBerry, according to Papageorgiou, who has followed BlackBerry for more than 15 years. Vehicles increasingly rely on dozens of computers that connect to each other as well as the internet, mobile networks and Bluetooth communications systems that make them vulnerable to remote hacks.
Blackberry

BlackBerry KeyOne Review By The Verge: Part Productivity, Part Nostalgia (theverge.com) 34

Dan Seifert reviews the new BlackBerry KeyOne flagship smartphone via The Verge. Here's an excerpt from the report: It was in about the third hour of using the new BlackBerry KeyOne, available this month for $549 unlocked, that I started to question my longtime preference for touchscreen keyboards. Because as I was pushing on the KeyOne's tiny little buttons with the tips of my thumbs, I remembered why some people still have such an affinity for these things. It wasn't that I was able to type faster with the BlackBerry's keyboard (I wasn't), or that I was more accurate with it (I still used autocorrect). It was that I felt like I was more productive when using it. I wasn't wasting time tweeting nonsense or sending emoji in ephemeral messages. I was sending important emails, working with my colleagues in Slack, creating and completing to-do lists, and adding appointments to my calendar. I was Getting Shit Done. Getting shit done is really the entire ethos of the new KeyOne, and arguably, the many BlackBerry devices that preceded it. The KeyOne is a phone for a very specific person, one that longs for the days when the BlackBerry Bold was the most important device in the office and the majority of business communications happened over email. It's not the best choice for watching hours of YouTube videos, sending thousands of Snaps, or reading novel-length ebooks (though it can technically do all of those things). It is for sending email. Lots of email.
The Courts

Court Rules In 'Sextortion' Case That Phone PINs Are Not Protected By Fifth Amendment (cnn.com) 410

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Can authorities access potentially incriminating information on your phone by compelling you to reveal your passcode? Or is access to your phone's secrets protected under the Constitution? The answer, at least in an extortion case involving bikini-clad models, social media celebrities and racy images, is that phone passcodes are not protected, a judge ruled Wednesday. The case stems from the arrest of Hencha Voigt, 29, and her then-boyfriend, Wesley Victor, 34, last July on charges of extortion. Voigt and Victor threatened to release sexually explicit videos and photos of social media star "YesJulz," whose real name is Julienna Goddard, unless she paid them off, according to a Miami Police Department report. Both Voigt and "YesJulz" are big names on social media. Voigt is a fitness model and Instagram celebrity who starred last fall on "WAGS Miami," an E! reality TV show about the wives and girlfriends of sports figures in South Beach. As part of the ongoing investigation into the case, prosecutors have sought to search Voigt's and Victor's phones and asked a judge to order the two to give up their phone passcodes. Prosecutors have obtained the text messages sent to Goddard, but they have been unable to bypass the passcodes on the suspects' phones -- Voigt's iPhone and Victor's BlackBerry -- to search for more evidence. As such, prosecutors filed a motion asking a circuit court judge to compel the defendants to give their passwords to authorities. A judge on Wednesday ruled on behalf of prosecutors and ordered Voigt and Victor to give up their phone passwords, according to Bozanic, Victor's attorney.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Awarded $815 Million in Arbitration Case Against Qualcomm (cnbc.com) 22

BlackBerry, the former smartphone maker, was awarded $814.9m in an arbitration decision against Qualcomm over a dispute relating to royalty payments. The two companies entered into arbitration talks in February about Qualcomm's "agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the parties," BlackBerry said in a statement. From a report: BlackBerry argued that it was overpaying Qualcomm in royalty payments. Last April, BlackBerry and Qualcomm entered discussions to settle the dispute and analyze an existing "agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the two parties." Despite the dispute, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said Wednesday that the companies "continue to be valued technology partners." He said BlackBerry will continue to collaborate with Qualcomm, specifically for security in the auto industry and in application-specific integrated circuits.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Returns With 3 Possible New Phones in 2017, But Do You Care? (cnet.com) 92

The BlackBerry KeyOne, which the company unveiled at MWC, may soon see some siblings. From a report on CNET: TCL isn't wasting time building up its portfolio of phones using the BlackBerry name. The company plans to release as many as three phones this year, TCL Communications Nicolas Zibell said in an interview on Saturday. The company is working on an all-touchscreen version, a spiritual successor to the DTEK 50 and DTEK 60 phones, which it also built for BlackBerry itself, according to a source familiar with the rollout plans. TCL will likely get rid of the DTEK branding, the source said.
Canada

Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures (www.cbc.ca) 116

Reader Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has levelled a blistering memo obtained by the CBC on how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo. A list of specific incidents includes an 11-hour network computer outage on Jan. 18 that downed every Mountie's BlackBerry, affected dispatching, and prevented the RCMP and 240 other police forces from accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre database.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Sued By Over 300 Former Employees (mobilesyrup.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a report: BlackBerry is facing a class-action lawsuit from more than 300 former employees across Canada, according to a news release from law firm Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP. The Waterloo, Ontario-based tech company is accused of denying employees their termination entitlements by transferring them to a partner company and, once they had accepted employment there, handed them resignation letters. The former employees were then allegedly given their final date of work. "BlackBerry's actions amount to a termination of the employees' employment," the law firm said. "This entitles these employees to statutory, common law, and/or contractual entitlements on termination."
Android

99.6 Percent of New Smartphones Run Android or iOS (theverge.com) 91

The latest smartphone figures from Gartner show how much iOS and Android are dominating the smartphone market. According to the report, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. For comparison, this figure was 96.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share. It's worth noting that although, in retrospect, this state of affairs seems inescapable, for years analysts were predicting otherwise. Three years ago, Gartner said that Microsoft's mobile OS would overtake iOS for market share in 2017, while BlackBerry would still be hanging around as sizable (if small) player.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Files Patent-Infringement Suit Against Nokia (bloombergquint.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Nokia, demanding royalties on the Finnish company's mobile network products that use an industrywide technology standard. Nokia's products including its Flexi Multiradio base stations, radio network controllers and Liquid Radio software are using technology covered by as many as 11 patents, BlackBerry said in a complaint filed in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware. The mobile network products and services are provided to companies including T-Mobile and AT&T for their LTE networks, BlackBerry said in the complaint. "Nokia has persisted in encouraging the use" of the standard- compliant products without a license from BlackBerry, it said.
Blackberry

The Brief, Bumbling Tech Careers of Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, and Will.i.am (backchannel.com) 97

"Four years ago this week, Blackberry named Alicia Keys its global creative officer... Keys was really going to work for Blackberry -- to participate in weekly calls addressing product development; develop ideas and content for the Keep Moving Projects, which targeted artists and athletes; and of course, promote the brand during her upcoming tour... It didn't work." Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: For a minute in history, it was oh-so-cool for legacy tech companies to hire pop stars... In 2005, HP brought Gwen Stefani on as a creative director. In 2010, Lady Gaga landed the job of creative director at Polaroid. In 2011, Will.i.am was the director of creative innovation at Intel. In 2012, Microsoft brought on Jessica Alba as creative director to promote its Windows Phone 8.

These roles were all touted as far more involved than the mere celebrity pitchman: The artists promised, to varying degrees, to dive into the business. But in all of these cases, the strategy failed. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel dives into why that is, and how big names in entertainment are now finding other ways to harness the momentum of tech.

Lady Gaga left Polaroid in less than a year after "collaborating" on video camera sunglasses that offered playback through LCD lenses. While they weren't popular, this article argues most of these tech companies "faced structural business issues too significant to be addressed through celebrity branding and artistic energy." One digital ad agency even tells the site that "It's always been a flawed strategy," and calls the hiring of a celebrity "a press cycle hack."
Security

Hacker Dumps iOS Cracking Tools Allegedly Stolen From Cellebrite (vice.com) 86

Last year, when Apple refused to unlock the security on an iPhone 5c belonging to the San Bernardino shooter, the FBI turned to an Israeli mobile forensics firm called Cellebrite to find another way into the encrypted iPhone. Now Motherboard reports that a hacker has released files allegedly from Cellebrite that demonstrate how cracking tools couldn't be kept private. From a report: Now the hacker responsible has publicly released a cache of files allegedly stolen from Cellebrite relating to Android and BlackBerry devices, and older iPhones, some of which may have been copied from publicly available phone cracking tools." The ripped, decrypted and fully functioning Python script set to utilize the exploits is also included within," the hacker wrote in a README file accompanying the data dump. The hacker posted links to the data on Pastebin. It's not clear when any of this code was used in the UFED. Many of the directory names start with "ufed" followed by a different type of phone, such as BlackBerry or Samsung. In their README, the hacker notes much of the iOS-related code is very similar to that used in the jailbreaking scene -- a community of iPhone hackers that typically breaks into iOS devices and release its code publicly for free.
Android

Trump Trades in Android Phone For Secret Service-Approved Device (cnet.com) 206

Who's got two thumbs and a Secret Service-approved phone to tweet from? On arriving in Washington on Thursday ahead of his inauguration, Donald Trump has handed in his Android device in exchange for an unidentified locked-down phone, according to Associated Press. From a report: The phone comes with a new number that is known only to a limited number of people. This marks a big change for Trump, who's frequently on the line with friends, business contacts, reporters, foreign leaders and politicians. Barack Obama was the first president to use a mobile device approved by security agencies because of hacking concerns. Initially he had a heavily modified BlackBerry and later switched to another phone that had most features totally disabled. He was not known to use it for making or receiving calls, but it was one of few devices that had access to the @POTUS Twitter account.
Businesses

Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."
Blackberry

BlackBerry Unveils Autonomous Vehicle Hub In Canada (venturebeat.com) 37

BlackBerry's Unix-like OS, QNX, is already in millions of cars. But today they're expanding their facility in Ottawa "to focus on developing advanced driver assistance and autonomous vehicle technology," according to Reuters. And one analyst says "If they can prove that they have the whole package and the security, they could absolutely dominate the market." After a detour where QNX's industrial-focused software was used to reinvent the now-discarded BlackBerry phone operating system, BlackBerry is focused on how its embedded software interacts with the explosion of sensors, cameras and other components required for a car to drive itself... "What QNX is doing is providing the infrastructure that allows you to build higher-level algorithms and to also acquire data from the sensors in a reliable manner," said Sebastian Fischmeister, a University of Waterloo associate professor who has worked with QNX since 2009.
Instead of focussing on AI, BlackBerry wants "a niche role as a trusty sidekick," Reuters reports, adding that besides a recent deal with Ford, BlackBerry is also holding advanced discussions with "more than one or two" major automakers, according to the head of the company.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Stops Making Phones, Licenses the BlackBerry Name To TCL For Android Phones (pcworld.com) 48

The BlackBerry smartphone is dead: Long live the BlackBerry smartphone. From a report on PCWorld: A week after it officially pulled out of the smartphone market, BlackBerry has agreed to license its brand to handset manufacturer TCL. The Chinese company will make and market future BlackBerry handsets worldwide except for India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, where BlackBerry has already struck local licensing deals. This is hardly new territory for TCL, which manufactured BlackBerry's last two handsets, the Android-based DTEK50 and DTEK60. BlackBerry has taken a more direct route out of the handset manufacturing business than Nokia, another of the marquee phone brands of the early years of this century. When Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft, it also gave that company the right to use the Nokia brand for a transitional period. When Nokia got its name back earlier this year, it promptly granted a 10-year license to HMD Global, a Finnish company, to use its name on new phones.
Blackberry

BlackBerry's Keyboard is Coming Back for One Last Dance (bloomberg.com) 37

BlackBerry has officially stopped making its own phones, but the company has one last treat for die-hard fans: a new phone sporting its trademark physical keyboard. According to Bloomberg: Chief Executive Officer John Chen had hinted at the phone in September, but hadn't confirmed it until Thursday, when he spoke to Emily Chang in an interview on Bloomberg TV. "We have one keyboard phone I promised people," Chen said. "It's coming." Under Chen, BlackBerry has gradually shifted from smartphones to software and said in September it would completely stop producing, stocking and distributing its own phones. Instead, it will license the BlackBerry brand to outside companies to put on phones they build themselves. The physical keyboard is BlackBerry's best-known smartphone feature, with many former users still lamenting its absence as they clumsily tap out e-mails on their iPhones and sign off with words like "pardon the typos."
Android

Nearly 9 Out of 10 Smartphones Shipped Run On Android (cnet.com) 220

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Google's Android operating system was the big winner in a big time for worldwide phone shipments, market researcher Strategy Analytics reported Wednesday. Android captured 88 percent of all smartphone shipped in the third quarter of 2016, a period that also marks the fastest growth rate in a year. "Android's gain came at the expense of every major rival platform," Strategy Analytics' Linda Sui said in a press release. "Apple iOS lost ground to Android and dipped to 12 percent [market]share," primarily because of "lackluster" sales in China and Africa, she said. And don't bother looking for BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows phones in the mix. They "all but disappeared" in the period between July 1 and the end of September. While Android's leading position looks "unassailable," it does face challenges in a market filled with phones made by hundreds manufacturers, few of which turn a profit. That's not helped by Google's new Pixel phone, which competes against the companies that made it popular in the first place, Strategy Analytics said. About 375 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2016, up 6 percent from 354.2 million units in the same period last year. Shipments of Android-based phones rose 10.3 percent, while Apple's iPhones fell 5.2 percent.
Microsoft

Snapchat, Skype Put Users' 'Human Rights at Risk', Amnesty Int'l Reports (cbsnews.com) 47

Shanika Gunaratna, writing for CBS News: Snapchat and Skype are falling short in protecting users' privacy -- a failure that puts users' "human rights at risk," according to a report by the organization Amnesty International. Snapchat and Skype received dismal grades in a new set of rankings released by Amnesty that specifically evaluate how popular messaging apps use encryption to protect users' private communications. In the report, Amnesty is trying to elevate encryption as a human rights necessity, due to concerns that activists, opposition politicians and journalists in some countries could be put in grave danger if their communications on popular messaging apps were compromised. "Activists around the world rely on encryption to protect themselves from spying by authorities, and it is unacceptable for technology companies to expose them to danger by failing to adequately respond to the human rights risks," Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of Amnesty's technology and human rights team, said in a statement. "The future of privacy and free speech online depends to a very large extent on whether tech companies provide services that protect our communications, or serve them up on a plate for prying eyes."Microsoft's Skype received 40 out of 100. WhatsApp fared at 73, and Apple scored 67 out of 100 for its iMessage and FaceTime apps. BlackBerry, Snapchat, and China's Tencent did 30 out of 100.

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