First time accepted submitter iinventstuff writes "The Idaho National Laboratory has built a dirty bomb detection network out of cell phones. Camera phones operate by detecting photons and storing them as a picture. The INL discovered that high energy photons from radiological sources distort the image in ways detectable through image processing. KSL TV reports that the INL's mobile app detects radiation sources and then reports positive 'hits' to a central server. Terrorists deploying a dirty bomb will inevitably pass by people carrying cell phones. By crowdsourcing cell phones, the INL has created a potentially very large, inexpensive, and randomly mobile radiation detection grid."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
alancronin sends this excerpt from ZDNet: "... the trend that brutally undercut BlackBerry phones during the past five years — the 'bring your own device' movement — is now driving significant sales of BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES), the company's backend software. 'Our customers have been asking, "Can you just take what you've done on BlackBerry and put it on iOS and Android?"' said Pete Devenyi, BlackBerry's SVP of Enterprise Software. ... Secure Work Space will be an app in the Apple App Store and Google Play, pending approval from Apple and Google, respectively. It will include secure email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and document editing. It won't allow data leakage including copy and paste between Secure Work Space and the rest of the device. IT will be able to remotely wipe everything in the Secure Work Space without affecting any of the other apps or data on the person's device, in a BYOD scenario."
First time accepted submitter llebeel writes "Kaspersky Lab has signed an agreement with chip designer Qualcomm to improve security at 'the lower level' of a smartphone's mobile operating system. The Russian security firm told The Inquirer that it has agreed to offer 'special terms' for preloading Kaspersky Mobile Security and Kaspersky Tablet Security products on Android devices powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars takes a look at what Ubuntu Touch has to offer so far. From the article: 'It can't be stressed enough that even in this updated form, Ubuntu Touch is nowhere near usable as a mainstream mobile operating system. Canonical makes no claim that it is. For now, the software is about half development environment and half proof-of-concept tech demo. As such, we aren't going to be evaluating Ubuntu Touch using quite the same criteria we'd use for a shipping product—we're going to be focusing more on how the OS looks and works and less on how it performs. As we get closer to Ubuntu 14.04 and presumably Ubuntu Touch's retail availability, we'll certainly be revisiting it with a more critical eye.'"
alphadogg writes "Incidents of cellphone theft have been rising for several years and are fast becoming an epidemic. IDG News Service collected data on serious crimes in San Francisco from November to April and recorded 579 thefts of cellphones or tablets, accounting for 41 percent of all serious crime. In just over half the incidents, victims were punched, kicked or otherwise physically intimidated for their phones, and in a quarter of robberies, users were threatened with guns or knives. This isn't just happening in tech-loving San Francisco, either. The picture is similar across the United States. A big reason for such thefts, until recently, is that there had been little to stop someone using a stolen cellphone. Reacting to pressure from law enforcement and regulators, the U.S.'s largest cellphone carriers agreed early last year to establish a database of stolen cellphones."
In the U.S., subsidized phones are the norm: for post-paid, long-term contract use, getting a low up-front price on a phone is one of the few upsides. New submitter Apptopia writes "After T Mobile mostly did away with subsidized phone plans, the other major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint) are paying attention. Carriers lose money with phone subsidies for high-end smartphones (particularly Apple's iPhone). If they do away with the subsidy, you will have to pay full retail price for phones, but your monthly bill will be lower." If people had a better idea what they were paying for, though, manufacturers might fight harder on price. There are lots of well-reviewed, multi-band, unlocked phones on Amazon and DealExtreme from lesser-known companies, and Nokia's new Asha 501 (though limited in many ways, including availability, having just launched in India) shows that the "smartphone" label can apply even to a sub- $100 phone.
Mobile photo-sharing app SnapChat has one claim to fame, compared to other ways people might share photos from their cellphones: the photos, once viewed, disappear from view, after a pre-set length of time. However, it turns out they don't disappear as thoroughly as users might like. New submitter nefus writes with this excerpt from Forbes: "Richard Hickman of Decipher Forensics found that it's possible to pull Snapchat photos from Android phones simply by downloading data from the phone using forensics software and removing a '.NoMedia' file extension that was keeping the photos from being viewed on the device. He published his findings online and local TV station KSL has a video showing how it's done."
New submitter tomservo84 writes "It seems some people in the House of Reps have their heads screwed on straight. A bill would 'make it permanently legal for consumers to unlock their mobile devices, and consumers would not be required to obtain permission from their carrier before switching to a new carrier.' 'This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives,' Rep. Lofgren said. 'Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law, there's little reason to hold back the benefits of unlocking so people can continue using their devices.' Now, what chance does this have of actually passing?"
colinneagle writes with the latest Ubuntu Touch news. From the article: "The team behind Ubuntu Touch (aka 'Ubuntu for Phones') have committed to pushing forward to a ready-to-use version of the OS, one that the group will use to 'eat their own dog food,' by the end of May. What that means: Over the next few weeks, the team behind Ubuntu Touch is going to be attempting to implement enough functionality to make it possible to use Ubuntu on your phone (such as the Nexus 4) on a day-to-day basis. At which point their development team will be doing exactly that." The developers are aiming just to have basic functionality working by the end of the month: calls, sms, data over wifi and cellular, a working address book, and preservation of user data across OS flashes.
rjupstate writes "The Pentagon is quickly moving to approve the latest devices and platforms from BlackBerry, Samsung, and Apple. That's good news for two of those companies. It's not-so-good news for BlackBerry. 'The Pentagon currently has about 600,000 smartphone users – almost all using BlackBerrys – but ultimately aims to have as many as 8m smartphones and tablets, under the terms of a scheme made public last November.' 'In its effort to expand into the high security government niche, one that BlackBerry has enjoyed near singular control of for years, Samsung recently created a government advisory board made up of Samsung executives and security experts from various U.S. and foreign government security agencies. ... In the end, the program will likely elevate that status of both Apple and Samsung within military and civilian government agencies in the U.S. and other western countries.'"
zacharye writes "Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Thursday ordered UNcarrier T-Mobile to correct 'deceptive advertising that promised consumers no annual contracts while carrying hidden charges for early termination of phone plans.' T-Mobile, which recently did away with standard cell phone service contracts and typical smartphone subsidies, is accused of misleading consumers by advertising no-contract wireless plans despite requiring that customers sign an agreement that makes them responsible for the full cost of their handsets should they cancel service prematurely ..."
An anonymous reader sends this news from the CBC: "Using a Samsung Galaxy SIII — one of the most popular smartphones available in Canada — and a free app downloaded from the Google Play store, CBC was able to read information such as a card number, expiry date and cardholder name simply holding the smartphone over a debit or credit card. And it could be done through wallets, pockets and purses. ... Although the NFC antennas in current smartphones need to be very close to a card in order to work — no farther than 10 cm — that could change with the next generation of Android smartphones. Legary said the Samsung Galaxy S4, set to go on sale this spring, might have a much more capable NFC antenna, which could not only read credit cards from a greater distance, but could also be able to read the chips embedded in enhanced driving licenses and passports."
schwit1 writes "You won't see it advertised on billboards or television, you won't hear it mentioned in a carrier store, and your less technologically-savvy friends most certainly won't know about it — but quietly, HTC's done something extraordinarily important this month: it's broken AT&T's stranglehold on its nationwide LTE network. It's a move that even Google, for all its money, power, and influence, didn't make with the Nexus 4. HTC is shipping both 32GB and 64GB versions of the One — an early contender for the best phone of 2013 — in a carrier- and bootloader-unlocked version that supports both T-Mobile and AT&T LTE. No strings attached."
hypnosec writes "Canonical has announced the availability of Ubuntu Touch for anyone to download and test. The images, which are based on the 13.04 Raring Ringtail codebase, are available on isotracker. Four devices are currently supported, and there is an image for each of them: Nexus 7, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4 and Nexus 10. Instructions to install Ubuntu Touch have also been provided."
An anonymous reader writes "Google appears to be preparing the launch of a game center for Android with an unknown name. It looks like the new hub will sport a slew of features, including multiplayer support, in-game chat, lobbies, leaderboards, and achievements. The leaked information come to us courtesy of Android Police, which amusingly stumbled on the details by tearing apart the apk file for MyGlass, the Google Glass companion app that launched earlier this week. The feature list was hidden within, though it's not clear if this was done on purpose to build hype or entirely by accident." While on the topic of Google-branded Android hardware speculation, this wishlist at The Full Signal makes some feature-list pleas for the rumored Nexus 5.
Kozar_The_Malignant writes "Students at the University of Iceland have written an Android app that helps you avoid dating your cousins. The app accesses the Icelandic national genealogical database that contains information on all living citizens and their ancestors going back 1,100 years. Tapping two phones together will bring up an alert if you share a common grandparent." Just one of the consequences of having a population small enough (and well documented enough) to have a well-known genetic makeup.
antdude writes "BoingBoing reports on why it's 'so hard to make a phone call in emergency situations.' Quoting: '[The thing about] the radios is that they have different sizes of cells. You've got regular cells and then smaller sub-cells. You also have larger overlay macro-cells that are really big. They try to handle you within the small cell you're closest to. But it's a trade off between capacity — they'd like to have lots of small cells for that — and coverage — they don't want to put 100k small cells everywhere. So you might have a cell that covers a mile ara and then smaller cells within that that handle most of the traffic. ... In the end, it does come down to trade-offs. That's true of any network. You're interested in coverage first and then capacity. If you wanted to guarantee that a network never had an outage your capital investment would have to go up orders of magnitude beyond anything that is rational. So each network is trying to invest their budget in ways that make network appear to perform better. The cost of providing temporary extra capacity for the Boston Marathon, that's something that's in the budget and they plan for that event. But when you get something unexpected like a terrorist event, or an earthquake, or damage from a hurricane or tornado, then you have trade offs between capital and how robust your network is. Every time you have an event people say, "Oh, they didn't invest enough." But you look at New York City after Hurricane Sandy and Southern Manhattan was under 6 feet of water — all the buried infrastructure was lost.'"
SternisheFan sends in an article about the new features and developments we can expect out of smartphones in the near future. The shortlist: more sensors for tracking the world outside the phone, more gesture-based (i.e. non-touch) input, and integration with wearable computers like smartwatches and Google Glass. From the article: "These under-appreciated components -- the gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and so forth -- are starting to get more friends in the neighborhood. Samsung, for instance, slipped pressure, temperature, and humidity sniffers into the Galaxy S4. They may not be the sexiest feature in your phone, but in the future, sensors like accelerometers will be able to collect and report much more detailed information. ... In addition to air quality, temperature and speed of movement are also biggies. [Also, a smartphone that can] track your pulse, or even double as an EKG, turning the everyday smartphone into a medical device. ... [For wearable computing,] your smartphone is still there, still essential for communicating with your environment, but it becomes only one device in a collection of other, even more personal or convenient gadgets, that solve some of the same sorts of problems in different or complementary ways." What do you think will be the next generation of killer features for smartphones?
Last week Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook Home, a bit of software that aims to transform a smartphone's homescreen into a Facebook feed. Now, its release date has arrived, as has the earliest device to house Home: the HTC First. Reviews for phone and software have begun to appear, too. The Verge calls the device itself "a mid-range phone, through-and-through." Its hardware is capable but not impressive, and it's slow enough to be noticed, but not to annoy. What interested them the most was that by turning off Facebook Home, you get an operating system that's very close to an unpolluted, stock Android 4.1.2. Ars generally agrees, pointing out its solid feel, the trade-off of a less-readable but more-holdable 4.3" screen compared to the trend toward 4.8" displays, and an awkwardly placed micro-USB port. As for the Facebook Home Software: "Home takes status updates out of the Facebook app and slaps them right on your homescreen. Instead of little boxes scrolling vertically, however, each update from your News Feed becomes a full-screen photo with small bits of text at the top," says the Verge, adding that having Facebook updates located between you and whatever you picked up your phone to do can be awfully distracting. Ars says, "What we've seen is an application focused solely on making the Facebook experience the hub for all of your social correspondence, but that can be extremely limiting for those who use a number of other social networks." Both publications praise 'Chat Heads,' Facebook's way of surfacing messages without having to dig through a messaging app.
concealment writes with news that a court battle has brought to light details on how the FBI's "stingray" surveillance tool works, and how they used it with Verizon's help to collect evidence about an alleged identity thief. Quoting: "Air cards are devices that plug into a computer and use the wireless cellular networks of phone providers to connect the computer to the internet. The devices are not phones and therefore don’t have the ability to receive incoming calls, but in this case Rigmaiden asserts that Verizon reconfigured his air card to respond to surreptitious voice calls from a landline controlled by the FBI. The FBI calls, which contacted the air card silently in the background, operated as pings to force the air card into revealing its location. In order to do this, Verizon reprogrammed the device so that when an incoming voice call arrived, the card would disconnect from any legitimate cell tower to which it was already connected, and send real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI. This allowed the FBI to position its stingray in the neighborhood where Rigmaiden resided. The stingray then "broadcast a very strong signal" to force the air card into connecting to it, instead of reconnecting to a legitimate cell tower, so that agents could then triangulate signals coming from the air card and zoom-in on Rigmaiden’s location. To make sure the air card connected to the FBI’s simulator, Rigmaiden says that Verizon altered his air card’s Preferred Roaming List so that it would accept the FBI’s stingray as a legitimate cell site and not a rogue site, and also changed a data table on the air card designating the priority of cell sites so that the FBI’s fake site was at the top of the list."