Android

Samsung's Galaxy S9 Will Appear At CES In January, Says Report (venturebeat.com) 14

According to VentureBeat, Samsung is planning to show off its next-generation Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Some of the information about the devices will be shared at CES, but Samsung is still apparently holding an official launch event in March, as it did this past year for the Galaxy S8 and S8+. From the report: Codenamed Star 1 and Star 2 -- and going by model numbers SM-G960 and SM-G965 -- the S9 and S9+ will feature the same 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch curved-edge Super AMOLED "Infinity" displays, respectively, as their predecessors. While no specific processor was mentioned, it is said to employ 10-nanometer fabrication techniques, which is highly suggestive of the upcoming Snapdragon 845 from Qualcomm (and likely a similar Exynos model for some regions). Besides a bigger screen, the S9+ will reportedly offer more RAM (6GB versus 4GB) and a second rear camera, similar to the Note8. Both models pack 64GB of internal storage, supplemented by a microSD slot, and both leave the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack intact. Regardless of rear camera configuration, both phones orient the elements on the back of the device vertically -- with the fingerprint sensor on the bottom, in acknowledgement of one of the most frequent complaints about all three of Samsung's 2017 flagship handsets. Another change that's sure to be well-received is the addition of AKG stereo speakers. Finally, Samsung plans to introduce a backward-compatible DeX docking station that situates the phones flat and utilizes the screens as either a touchpad or a virtual keyboard.
IT

After Outrage, Logitech Gives Free Upgrade To Owners of Soon To Be Obsolete Device (gizmodo.com) 105

It looks like Logitech didn't anticipate the barrage of criticism it received after announcing this week that it would be intentionally bricking its Harmony Link hub next March. The company is now reversing course. Its Harmony Link will still die next summer, but if you own one, the company is happy to give you a free upgrade to the more recent Harmony Hub model. From a report: Originally, Logitech planned to only offer Harmony Link owners with active warranties free upgrades to its new Harmony Hub devices. But for people out of warranty -- possibly the majority of Harmony Link users, as the devices were last sold in 2015 -- they would just get a one-time, 35 percent discount on a new $100 Harmony Hub. However, after customer outrage, Logitech revised it plans and announced that the company will give every Harmony Link owner a new Hub for free. Additionally, users who had already used the coupon to purchase a new Hub will also be able to contact Logitech in order to obtain a refund for the difference in price. However, Logitech is still not planning to extend support for the Harmony Link. The company says, "We made the business decision to end the support and services of the Harmony Link when the encryption certificate expires in the spring of 2018 -- we would be acting irresponsibly by continuing the service knowing its potential/future vulnerability."
Open Source

Audacity 2.2.0 Released 103

Popular open-source audio editing software, Audacity, has received a significant update. The new version, dubbed Audacity 2.2.0, adds a range of features and options such as additional user interface themes, and the ability to customize themes for advanced users. It is also getting playback support for MIDI files, and better organised menus, the team wrote. You can find the complete changelog here.
Microsoft

Microsoft Quietly Announces End of Last Free Windows 10 Upgrade Offer (zdnet.com) 147

Ed Bott, writing for ZDNet: If you've been waiting to claim your free Windows 10 upgrade using the "assistive technologies" exception, you need to act soon. In a quiet change to an obscure web page, Microsoft announced this week that those exceptions will end on December 31, 2017. On July 29, 2016, Microsoft officially ended the Get Windows 10 program, which offered free Windows 10 upgrades to anyone currently running a supported earlier version of Windows. But the company left a giant loophole in a separate announcement at the same time. Under the terms of that announcement, individuals who use "assistive technologies" received an automatic extension of the free upgrade offer. Sometime in the past week, Microsoft quietly edited that page, to add "The accessibility upgrade offer expires on December 31, 2017."
Upgrades

Xbox One X is the Perfect Representation of the Tech Industry's Existential Crisis (mashable.com) 190

A reader shares commentary on the newly launched Xbox One X gaming console: Fundamentally, Xbox One X is the same machine that Microsoft released in 2013. It plays the same games, runs the same apps, depends on the same operating system. You can still plug your cable box into it and watch OneGuide magically sync with your local TV listings. Most of the things you can do look a little better and run a little faster/more efficiently, sure. The actual casing is smaller than the previous iterations, too. It's a gorgeous $500 machine. That's why I keep eyeballing it. My brain screams, "Why do you exist?" The Xbox One X does not answer. This is a familiar problem in 2017. Look around at all the tech in your life and do a quick, informal poll: How many of those items become outdated every year or every few years when a newer, shinier version of the same thing comes along? I'm talking about your iPhone and iPad. Your Amazon Echo and Kindle. Your Pixel and Daydream VR headset. Your Apple Watch. Your Roku, your Apple TV, your Chromecast. Incremental upgrades that push features like 4K! HDR! Wireless charging! Slimmer design! No headphone jack! (Wait, no, that last one is awful.) Breathless bullet point after breathless bullet point. Some of these additions have genuine utility and add value to the product. Many don't, or depend on you also possessing some other piece of incrementally upgraded tech (like the kinds of fancy-shmancy TVs that play the nicest with Xbox One X).
Businesses

Speed Report Finds T-Mobile and Xfinity Providing Fastest Mobile and Broadband Internet in US (geekwire.com) 39

Mobile and fixed broadband internet speeds in the U.S. are improving, but not all carriers and providers are created equal and not all areas of the country are benefitting equally from fast speeds. From a report: Those are the findings according to a new market report from Speedtest by Ookla out of Seattle, which relied on data it captured from user-initiated tests during the first half of 2017. And for customers using T-Mobile for mobile internet and Comcast Xfinity for broadband, the results are especially good. Speedtest credits infrastructure investments and upgrades as well as increased affordability of higher tiered packages for the fact that fast broadband keeps getting faster. The average download speed in the U.S. over fixed broadband during Q1 to Q2 was 64.17 Mbps (ranking 15th in the world) and average upload speed was 22.79 Mbps (24th in the world). Xfinity is the top provider when it comes to Speed Score -- which incorporates low-end, median and top-end performance for both download and upload speed -- with a score of 69.58. Speedtest says that Comcast has been aggressively seeding the market over the past year with advanced modems capable of delivering a more consistent experience for customers. The cable provider has also been increasing the amount of DOCSIS 3.1 channels in order to deliver faster speeds, according to the report.
Chrome

Chrome 61 Arrives With JavaScript Modules, WebUSB Support (venturebeat.com) 115

The latest version of Google Chrome has launched, bringing a host of new developer features like JavaScript modules and WebUSB support. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from VentureBeat: Google has launched Chrome 61 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Additions in this release include JavaScript modules and WebUSB support, among other developer features. You can update to the latest version now using the browser's built-in silent updater or download it directly from google.com/chrome. Google also released Chrome 61 for Android today. In addition to performance and stability fixes, you can expect two new features: Translate pages with a more compact toolbar and pick images with an improved image picker.

Chrome now supports JavaScript modules natively via the new element, letting developers declare a script's dependencies. Modules are already popular in third-party build tools, which use them to bundle only the required scripts. Native support means the browser can fetch granular dependencies in parallel, taking advantage of caching, avoiding duplications across the page, and ensuring the script executes in the correct order, all without a build step. Google recommends these two blog posts for more information: ECMAScript modules in browsers and ES6 Modules in Depth. Speaking of JavaScript, Chrome 61 also upgrades the browser's V8 JavaScript engine to version 6.1. Developers can expect performance improvements and a binary size reduction. The WebUSB API meanwhile allows web apps to access user-permitted USB devices. This enables all the functionality provided by hardware peripherals such as keyboards, mice, printers, and gamepads, while still preserving the security guarantees of the web.

Microsoft

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

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

Verizon Up Offers Rewards in Exchange For Customers' Personal Information (wsj.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new Verizon rewards program, Verizon Up, provides credits that wireless subscribers can use for concert tickets, movie premieres and phone upgrades. But it comes with a catch: Customers must give the carrier access to their web-browsing history, app usage and location data, which Verizon says it uses to personalize the rewards and deliver targeted advertising as its customers browse the web. The trade-off is part of Verizon's effort to build a digital advertising business to compete with web giants Facebook and Google, which often already possess much of the same customer information. Even though Congress earlier this year dismantled tough privacy regulations on telecommunications providers, Verizon still wants customers to opt-in to its most comprehensive advertising program, called Verizon Selects. Data collected under the program is shared with Oath, the digital-media unit Verizon created when it bought AOL and Yahoo. Since access to data from customers could make it easier to tailor ads to their liking, Verizon hopes the information will help it gain advertising revenue to offset sluggish growth in its cellular business.See a current list of Verizon plans here.
Music

Traditional Radio Faces a Grim Future, New Study Says (variety.com) 240

In a 30-page report, Larry Miller, the head of New York University's Steinhart Music Business Program, argues that traditional radio has failed to engage with Generation Z -- people born after 1995 -- and that its influence and relevance will continue to be subsumed by digital services unless it upgrades. Key points made in the study include: Generation Z, which is projected to account for 40% of all consumers in the U.S. by 2020, shows little interest in traditional media, including radio, having grown up in an on-demand digital environment. AM/FM radio is in the midst of a massive drop-off as a music-discovery tool by younger generations, with self-reported listening to AM/FM radio among teens aged 13 and up declining by almost 50 percentage points between 2005 and 2016. Music discovery as a whole is moving away from AM/FM radio and toward YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, especially among younger listeners, with 19% of a 2017 study of surveyed listeners citing it as a source for keeping up-to-date with music -- down from 28% the previous year. Among 12-24 year olds who find music discovery important, AM/FM radio (50%) becomes even less influential, trailing YouTube (80%), Spotify (59%), and Pandora (53%). By 2020, 75% of new cars are expected to be "connected" to digital services, breaking radio's monopoly on the car dashboard and relegating AM/FM to just one of a series of audio options behind the wheel. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the typical car in the U.S. was 11.6 years old in 2016, which explains why radio has not yet faced its disruption event. However, drivers are buying new cars at a faster rate than ever, and new vehicles come with more installed options for digital music services.
Microsoft

Kaspersky Drops Antitrust Complaint After Microsoft Promises To Make Changes To Windows 10 (theverge.com) 31

Security firm Kaspersky said Thursday it was withdrawing its European antitrust complaint against Microsoft after the software giant promised to make changes to the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update that have appeased Kaspersky and help its anti-virus software provide notifications and alerts to renew virus definitions. From a report: Kaspersky originally filed its complaint back in June, claiming that Microsoft disabled its anti-virus software during Windows upgrades and that the software maker was using its dominance to "fiercely promote" its own Windows Defender software. Microsoft admitted in late June that Windows 10 prompts to install a new version of anti-virus from third parties like Kaspersky after an update, but it disables the old version if it's not compatible. Microsoft now says it "will work more closely with AV vendors to help them with compatibility reviews in advance of each feature update becoming available to customers." The software maker will also provide better visibility of release schedules for Windows 10 updates, giving anti-virus vendors more time to test changes.
Operating Systems

OpenBSD Will Get Unique Kernels On Each Reboot (bleepingcomputer.com) 162

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A new feature added in test snapshots for the upcoming OpenBSD 6.2 release will create a unique kernel every time an OpenBSD user reboots or upgrades his computer. This feature is named KARL -- Kernel Address Randomized Link -- and works by relinking internal kernel files in a random order so that it generates a unique kernel binary blob every time. Currently, for stable releases, the OpenBSD kernel uses a predefined order to link and load internal files inside the kernel binary, resulting in the same kernel for all users. Developed by Theo de Raadt, KARL will work by generating a new kernel binary at install, upgrade, and boot time. If the user boots up, upgrades, or reboots his machine, the most recently generated kernel will replace the existing kernel binary, and the OS will generate a new kernel binary that will be used on the next boot/upgrade/reboot, constantly rotating kernels on reboots or upgrades. KARL should not be confused with ASLR -- Address Space Layout Randomization -- a technique that randomizes the memory address where application code is executed, so exploits can't target a specific area of memory where an application or the kernel is known to run. A similar technique exists for randomizing the memory location where the kernel loads -- called KASLR. The difference between the two is that KARL loads a different kernel binary in the same place, while KASLR loads the same binary in random locations. Currently Linux and Windows only support KASLR.
Space

SpaceX Livestreams Sunday's Rocket Launch (space.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the 10 satellites for Iridium Communications is scheduled to liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:25 p.m. PDT (4:25 p.m. EDT/2025 GMT). The live webcast is expected to begin about 1 hour before the opening of the launch window, and you can watch it on SpaceX's website, or at Space.com. This is the second of eight planned Iridium launches with SpaceX. The launches will deliver a total of 75 satellites into space for the $3 billion Iridium NEXT global communications network. "Iridium NEXT will replace the company's existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space," according to a statement from Iridium. "It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more."
After the mission the booster rocket will attempt to land on a droneship. The droneships name is "Just Read The Instructions."
Businesses

McDonald's Hits All-Time High As Wall Street Cheers Replacement of Cashiers With Kiosks (cnbc.com) 632

McDonald's is expected to increase its sales via new digital ordering kiosks that will replace cashiers in 2,500 restaurants. As a result, the company's shares hit an all-time high, rallying 26 percent this year through Monday. CNBC reports: Andrew Charles from Cowen cited plans for the restaurant chain to roll out mobile ordering across 14,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2017. The technology upgrades, part of what McDonald's calls "Experience of the Future," includes digital ordering kiosks that will be offered in 2,500 restaurants by the end of the year and table delivery. "MCD is cultivating a digital platform through mobile ordering and Experience of the Future (EOTF), an in-store technological overhaul most conspicuous through kiosk ordering and table delivery," Charles wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. "Our analysis suggests efforts should bear fruit in 2018 with a combined 130 bps [basis points] contribution to U.S. comps [comparable sales]." He raised his 2018 U.S. same store sales growth estimate for the fast-food chain to 3 percent from 2 percent.
Open Source

Opus 1.2 Released 22

jmv writes: The Opus audio codec, used in WebRTC and now included in all major web browsers, gets another major upgrade with the release of version 1.2. This release brings quality improvements to both speech and music, while remaining fully compatible with RFC 6716. There are also optimizations, new options, as well as many bug fixes. This Opus 1.2 demo describes a few of the upgrades that users and implementers will care about the most. It includes audio samples comparing to previous versions of the codec, as well as speed comparisons for x86 and ARM.
AI

'I'm Not Sure I Understand' -- How Apple's Siri Lost Her Mojo (wsj.com) 148

Apple has struggled to make Siri as smart as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa because of disagreements among its staff and its decisions to limit how long it stores user data, former Apple employees told The Wall Street Journal. The company unveiled a new version of Siri during its WWDC keynote address on Monday but failed to show the world how it's much better than competing products from Google and Amazon (alternative source). There are a few areas where blame can be placed. The Journal said Apple keeps data for only six months while Google and Amazon continue to hold on to it, learning more and more about specific users as they continue to use the personal assistants. From a report: Some former executives, close observers and even devoted customers say Apple's innovative power appears to be waning, stymied by a lack of urgency and difficulty bringing ideas to fruition. In nearly six years under Chief Executive Tim Cook, Apple's stock has soared but the company has not delivered a breakthrough product on par with the string of hits under late founder Steve Jobs, which included the iPod, iPhone and iPad. "Siri is a textbook of leading on something in tech and then losing an edge despite having all the money and the talent and sitting in Silicon Valley," said Holger Mueller, a principal analyst Constellation Research, a technology research and advisory firm.
Republicans

Trump Wants To Modernize Air Travel By Turning Over Control To the Big Airlines (theverge.com) 341

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, President Donald Trump endorsed a plan to hand over oversight of the nation's airspace to a non-profit corporation that will likely be largely controlled by the major airlines. Republicans argue that privatizing air traffic control will help save money and fast track important technological upgrades. But Democrats and consumer groups criticize that plan as a corporate giveaway that will inevitably harm passengers. The air traffic reform proposal, which fell short in Congress last year, would transfer oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a government-sanctioned, independent entity that would be made up of appointees from industry stakeholders. The effort picked up steam when the union representing air traffic controllers endorsed the plan, citing years of understaffing by the FAA. Some passengers may balk at the idea of handing over day-to-day management of the nation's highly complex air traffic control system to the same companies that rack up tens of thousands of customer complaints a year, and occasionally physically assault or drag passengers off their planes. But the Trump administration argues this is the only way to modernize a system that still runs on technology that's been around since World War II. The FAA is already years into a technology upgrade known as NextGen, which involves moving from the current system based on radar and voice communications to one based on satellite navigation and digital communications. The FAA wants to use GPS technology to shorten routes, save time and fuel, and reduce traffic delays by increasing capacity.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Is Refunding Up To $70 Million In-App Purchases Made By Kids (cnn.com) 40

The Federal Trade Commission announced that refunds are now available for parents whose children made in-app purchases without their knowledge. Amazon dropped its appeal of last year's ruling by a federal judge who sided with the Federal Trade Commission in the agency's lawsuit again Amazon. According to a TechCrunch report, "the FTC's original complaint said that Amazon should be liable for millions of dollars it charged customers, because of the way its Appstore software was designed -- that is, it allowed kids to spend unlimited amounts of money in games and other apps without requiring parental consent." CNNMoney reports: According to the FTC, more than $70 million in charges may be eligible for refunds on in-app purchases made between November 2011 and May 2016. In 2014, Apple and Google refunded customers whose children made purchases in their mobile app stores, and the companies were forced to be more explicit about in-app purchases. Both firms no longer call apps "free" when they are free to download but have upgrades you can buy. Amazon sent eligible consumers an email to receive a refund. If you didn't get one and think you should be eligible, you can click here, or go to the Message Center to find out more information.
Intel

Apple To Refresh Entire MacBook Lineup Next Month, Air and Pro To Feature Kaby Lake (bloomberg.com) 234

Apple will unveil new laptops during its annual developer conference, known as WWDC, next month, reports Bloomberg. The company is going to refresh the MacBook Pro (as well as Air and just the 'MacBook' models) with new seventh-gen processors from Intel, the newest available, the report adds. Last year, Apple launched three new MacBook Pro laptops with older sixth-generation chips, which means people who already own the newer model may be a bit dismayed by Apple's refresh. From the article: Apple is planning three new laptops, according to people familiar with the matter. The MacBook Pro will get a faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. Apple is also working on a new version of the 12-inch MacBook with a faster Intel chip. The company has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor as sales of the laptop, Apple's cheapest, remain surprisingly strong, one of the people said.
Communications

Draft Horses Are Helping Upgrade Cell Towers In Wisconsin (npr.org) 96

Companies that provide cell phone service are constantly racing to provide the most reliable signal. In Wisconsin, one of the providers has turned to a surprising option to get the job done: draft horses. From a report on NPR: The horses are helping U.S. Cellular upgrade equipment on about 200 cell towers in Wisconsin, some of which are served by hard-to-navigate access roads. "We call them roads. They're more of a path," says Brandi Vandenberg, the company's regional planning manager for engineering. "So when you don't have a firm structure to travel on, any type of inclement weather can make it a challenge." Wisconsin's deep snow and heavy rains can make the access roads all but impassable for trucks. Vandenberg says with construction planned at so many tower sites, the company has a tight timetable for delivering equipment and scheduling technicians to install it. Jason Agathen, a driver for CH Coakley, the logistics company hired to coordinate the tower upgrades, knows how tricky the access roads can be. Agathen has delivered thousands of pounds of electronics gear to the cell tower sites. One trip, he says, involved snow so deep it blew the transmission on an ATV. So the company hired farmer Jason Julian of Medford, Wisc., and his draft horses to keep the tower upgrades on track.

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