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Media

The Slashdot Interview With VideoLAN President and Lead VLC Developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf 40

You asked, he answered!

VideoLan President and Lead Developer of VLC Jean-Baptiste Kempf has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on to find out about the upcoming VideoLAN projects; how they keep VLC sustainable; what are some mistakes they wish they hadn't made; and what security challenges they face, among others!
Android

Facebook's WhatsApp Data Gambit Faces Federal Privacy Complaint (vice.com) 93

Sam Gustin, writing for Motherboard: Facebook's decision to begin harvesting data from its popular WhatsApp messaging service provoked a social media uproar on Thursday, and prompted leading privacy advocates to prepare a federal complaint accusing the tech titan of violating US law. On Thursday morning, WhatsApp, which for years has dined out on its reputation for privacy and security, announced that it would begin sharing user phone numbers with its Menlo Park-based parent company in an effort "to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences." Consumer privacy advocates denounced the move as a betrayal of WhatsApp's one billion users -- users who had been assured by the two companies that "nothing would change" about the messaging service's privacy practices after Facebook snapped up the startup for a whopping $19 billion in 2014. "WhatsApp users should be shocked and upset," Claire Gartland, Consumer Protection Counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a leading US consumer advocacy group, told Motherboard. "WhatsApp obtained one billion users by promising that it would protect user privacy. Both Facebook and WhatsApp made very public promises that the companies would maintain a separation. Those were the key selling points of the deal."
IOS

iPhones and iPads Fail More Often Than Android Smartphones (softpedia.com) 169

An anonymous reader writes: The main question when picking a new phone is whether to choose an Android one or an iPhone. A new study coming from Blancco Technology Group sheds some light on which devices are the most reliable, based on reliability. The study entitled State of Mobile Device Performance and Health reveals the device failure rates by operating systems, manufacturers, models and regions, as well as the most common types of performance issues. The report reveals that in Q2 2016, iOS devices had a 58% failure rate, marking the first time that Apple's devices have a lower performance rate compared to Android. It seems that the iPhone 6 had the highest failure rate of 29%, followed by iPhone 6s and iPhone 6S Plus. Android smartphones had an overall failure rate of 35%, an improvement from 44% in Q1 2016. Samsung, Lenovo and LeTV were among the manufacturers with the weakest performance and higher failure rates. Samsung scored 26% in failure rate, while Motorola just 11%. The study also reveals that iOS devices fail more frequently in North America and Asia compared to Android. Specifically, the failure rate in North America is 59%, while in Asia 52%. The failures could be influenced by the fact that the quality of smartphones shipped around the world varies.
Android

Opera Brings Its Free VPN Service To Android (techcrunch.com) 26

Frederic Lardinois, writing for TechCrunch: Earlier this year, Opera launched its free and unlimited VPN service for iOS; today it is bringing the same functionality to Android. Like the iOS version, the Android app is based on Opera's acquisition of SurfEasy in 2015 and allows you to surf safely when you are on a public network. While Opera's marketing mostly focuses on safety, Opera VPN also allows you to appear as if you are in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Singapore and The Netherlands, so it's also a way to route around certain geo-restrictions without having to opt for a paid service. In addition to its VPN features, the service also allows you to block ad trackers. Somewhat ironically, though, the app itself will show you some pretty unintrusive ads. "The Opera VPN app for Android sets itself apart from other VPNs by offering a completely free service; without a data limit, no log-in required, advanced Wi-Fi protection features and no need for a subscription," says Chris Houston, the president of Opera's SurfEasy VPN division, in today's announcement.
Android

Hey Google, Want To Fix Android Updates? Hit OEMs Where It Hurts (arstechnica.com) 189

Yesterday we talked about some of Nexus devices, including 2013's Nexus 5 not receiving an update, because it has been more than two years since the launch of the phone. But as you may know, this commitment to keeping the devices up to date is even worse when you look at what other Android OEMs are doing. ArsTechnica's Ron Amadeo has a solution: Google keeps missing the point when it comes to addressing Android's update situation. It keeps coming up with strategies to make updating "easier" for OEMs, but I don't think the problem is "ease of updating" -- it's creating any incentive for OEMs to update at all. Google seems to think that its partners will update phones because it's The Right Thing To Do by their customers and that handing out gold stars will send them scrambling to produce updates for their devices. I don't think that's ever going to happen. Google actually already tried the "shame" tactic and it didn't work. When Google-owned Motorola, Moto's update speed went through the roof. Motorola was achieving near-Nexus-like update speeds on many of its phones and was definitely putting other manufacturers to shame. But the increased update competition never really spurred other OEMs to start competing on update speeds. The bottom line is that Android partners only care about, well, the bottom line -- money. These companies already have your money, so updating a device that's already been sold is a needless expense. There's also a good argument to be made that updating a device hurts future sales. If your phone isn't updated, it will start to feel old, so you're more likely to buy a new phone sooner.
Microsoft

Microsoft Apps Will Be Pre-loaded On Lenovo and Motorola Android Devices (betanews.com) 76

An anonymous reader writes: There was a time when Microsoft was seen as the enemy of Linux and Apple communities. Understandably, at the time, the company only wanted Windows to succeed. Nowadays, however, the operating system is sort of inconsequential. Microsoft seems happy to have its software succeed on 'competitor' platforms such as iOS, Android, macOS, Ubuntu and more. Today, Microsoft announces that it has partnered with Lenovo on a new mobile initiative. The Windows-maker's productivity apps will be pre-loaded on Lenovo and Motorola-branded devices running Google's Linux-based Android operating system.As of earlier this year, Microsoft had over 74 Android OEM partners. As for submitter's take on this, it's pretty simple. Microsoft is going where users are. If they are not going to purchase Windows Phones, Microsoft will go to Android and iOS.
Android

Google Begins Rolling Out Android 7.0 Nougat (venturebeat.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: Google today started rolling out Android 7.0 Nougat to existing Nexus devices via an over-the-air software update. This is a gradual rollout: The Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C, and General Mobile 4G (Android One) will all be updated, but " it may take several weeks" before everyone gets the latest and greatest, a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat.The Nexus 5 (2013), which packs in a Snapdragon 800 SoC coupled with 2GB of RAM and 5-inch full-HD display, won't be receiving Android Nougat update -- despite having all the hardware capabilities required for a phone to receive Google's latest OS update. The truth of the matter is if Google wanted to update the Nexus 5 with the latest Android software, it could have. It just chose not to. It's very likely that same will be the case for the Nexus 6, a phone that has 3GB of RAM, and Snapdragon 805 SoC, next year when the company releases Android O update.
Android

Apple, Samsung Capture All Of Industry's Smartphone Profits (zdnet.com) 161

Continuing to operate on razor thin margins, smartphone manufacturers other than Samsung and Apple are bleeding money. Apple accounted for 75 percent of the smartphone's profits in the second quarter this year, down from 90 percent a year ago, according to Canaccord Genuity. Samsung, which has reported strong sales thanks to its Galaxy S7 series of smartphones, accounted for more than 30 percent of the industry, the research added. ZDNet reports: While this tale could revolve around Apple vs. Samsung the larger question is this: Why would any company want to make smartphones? Let's get real. All the profits go to Apple (high end) or Samsung (high end and scale). The rest of the players in the market don't make money and get disrupted by whatever vendor is flavor of the month? Remember that Xiaomi was supposed to be the next big thing in China and elsewhere, but is now being disrupted by Oppo and Vivo. A quarter from now Oppo and Vivo will be thumped by some smartphone manufacturer we haven't heard of yet.
Crime

Want To Hunt Bank Robbers? There's an App For That, Says The FBI (networkworld.com) 68

Long-time Slashdot reader coondoggie quotes an article from Network World: The FBI today said it released a new application making it easier for the public -- as well as financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and others -- to view photos and information about bank robberies in different geographic areas of the country.
The FBI's new "Bank Robbers" application runs on both Android and iOS, according to the article, "and lets users sort bank robberies by the date they occurred, the category they fall under (i.e., armed serial bank robber), the FBI field office working the case, or the state where the robbery occurred." The app ties into BankRobbers.fbi.gov, which overlays FBI information about bank robberies onto Google Maps.

The app's users "can also select push notifications to be informed when a bank robbery has taken place near their location," according to the FBI's site, which adds innocently that "If the location services on your device are enabled, you can view a map that shows the relevant bank robberies that took place in your geographic area..."
Chrome

Google Will Kill Chrome Apps For Windows, Mac, and Linux In Early 2018 (venturebeat.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced plans to kill off Chrome apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux in early 2018. Chrome extensions and themes will not be affected, while Chrome apps will continue to live on in Chrome OS. Here's the deprecation timeline:

Late 2016: Newly published Chrome apps will not be available to Windows, Mac, and Linux users (when developers submit apps to the Chrome Web Store, they will only show up for Chrome OS). Existing Chrome apps will remain available as they are today and developers can continue to update them.
Second half of 2017: The Chrome Web Store will no longer show Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Early 2018: Chrome apps will not load on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
There appears to be two main reasons why Google is killing Chrome apps off now. First, as Google explains in a blog post: "For a while there were certain experiences the web couldn't provide, such as working offline, sending notifications, and connecting to hardware. We launched Chrome apps three years ago to bridge this gap. Since then, we've worked with the web standards community to enable an increasing number of these use cases on the web. Developers can use powerful new APIs such as service worker and web push to build robust Progressive Web Apps that work across multiple browsers." Secondly, Chrome apps aren't very popular: "Today, approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps, and most hosted apps are already implemented as regular web apps. Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux will therefore be removing support for packaged and hosted apps over the next two years."
Android

iOS and Android Combined For Record 99% of Smartphone Sales Last Quarter (macrumors.com) 190

An anonymous reader writes: The research firm Gartner has crunched some numbers and found that Android and iOS accounted for a record 99.1% worldwide market share in the second calendar quarter of 2016, which is compared to 96.8% in the year-ago period. What some may view as even more shocking is that Android accounted for 86.2% of the market share in the second quarter, up from 82.2% a year ago. Meanwhile, iOS lost some ground as it dropped to 12.9% market share from 14.6% in the year-ago period. It's no surprise that Windows and BlackBerry have been losing market share. They dropped to 0.6% and 0.1% market share worldwide respectively. Just six years ago, BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems were industry leaders. Now, they're industry losers. Which third-party operating system has what it takes to take on the establishment?
Android

Companies Can't Legally Void the Warranty For Jailbreaking Or Rooting Your Phone (vice.com) 128

Reader Jason Koebler writes: Manufacturers that threaten to void the warranties of consumers who jailbreak or root their phones are violating federal law.
Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, manufacturers cannot legally void your hardware warranty simply because you altered the software of an electronic device. In order to void the warranty without violating federal law, the manufacturer must prove that the modifications you made directly led to a hardware malfunction.
"They have to show that the jailbreak caused the failure. If yes, they can void your claim (not your whole warranty—just the things which flowed from your mod)," Steve Lehto, a lemon law attorney in Michigan, wrote in an email. "If not, then they can't."

Google

Oracle Says Trial Wasn't Fair, It Should Have Known About Google Play For Chrome (arstechnica.com) 181

Two and a half months after a federal jury concluded that Google's Android operating system does not infringe Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use," Oracle's attorney says her client missed a crucial detail in the trial, adding that this detail could change everything. ArsTechnica reports: Oracle lawyers argued in federal court today that their copyright trial loss against Google should be thrown out because they were denied key evidence in discovery. Oracle attorney Annette Hurst said that the launch of Google Play on Chrome OS, which happened in the middle of the trial, showed that Google was trying to break into the market for Java SE on desktops. In her view, that move dramatically changes the amount of market harm that Oracle experienced, and the evidence should have been shared with the jury. "This is a game-changer," Hurst told U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who oversaw the trial. "The whole foundation for their case is gone. [Android] isn't 'transformative'; it's on desktops and laptops." Google argued that its use of Java APIs was "fair use" for several reasons, including the fact that Android, which was built for smartphones, didn't compete with Java SE, which is used on desktops and laptops. During the post-trial hearing today, Hurst argued that it's clear that Google intends to use Android smartphones as a "leading wedge" and has plans to "suck in the entire Java SE market. [...] Android is doing this using Java code," said Hurst. "That's outrageous, under copyright law. This verdict is tainted by the jury's inability to hear this evidence. Viewing the smartphone in isolation is a Google-gerrymandered story."In the meanwhile, Google attorney said Oracle was aware of Google's intentions of porting Android to laptops and desktops, and that if Oracle wanted to use this piece of information, it could have.
Hardware

New Nokia Smartphones and Tablets Are Coming in Late 2016: Company Executive (pcworld.com) 58

An anonymous reader writes: The resurrection of the Nokia brand may happen in the fourth quarter of this year, which could make for some really nostalgic holiday gifts. According to Chinese site ThePaper (in Chinese), Nokia executive Mike Wang confirmed that three or four Nokia-branded Android devices are on the way for the fourth quarter of 2016. The comeback effort would include both phones and tablets. There is a chance, however, that the timeline could get pushed back depending upon how things progress. It wouldn't be a terrible shocker considering we're talking about a new company, HMD. It's composed of former employees from Microsoft, the old Nokia, and others who are banding together to resurrect the once-iconic brand. The best rumor we have is that the phones will have 5.2-inch and 5.5-inch Quad HD, OLED displays, a Snapdragon 820 SOC, 22.6MP back camera, and a metal build with water and dust resistance. No word on what a tablet would look like.
Android

Verizon Offered To Install Marketers' Apps Directly On Subscribers' Phones (adage.com) 198

According to a report on AdAge, Verizon Wireless is trying to add more bloatware to Android phones by installing apps from other companies in exchange for payment. From the report: The wireless carrier has offered to install big brands' apps on its subscribers' home screens, potentially delivering millions of downloads, according to agency executives who have considered making such deals for their clients. But that reach would come at a cost: Verizon was seeking between $1 and $2 for each device affected, executives said. Verizon started courting advertisers with app installations late last year, pitching retail and finance brands among others, agency executives said. It has only offered the installations on Android phones, because Google's software is open for carriers to customize. Apple controls its platform more tightly. The proposed deals with brands ensure that their apps download to only new devices when consumers activate the phones and their software for the first time.
Google

Malware That Fakes Bank Login Screens Found In Google Ads (fastcompany.com) 120

tedlistens quotes a report from Fast Company: For years, security firms have warned of keystroke logging malware that surreptitiously steals usernames and passwords on desktop and laptop computers. In the past year, a similar threat has begun to emerge on mobile devices: So-called overlay malware that impersonates login pages from popular apps and websites as users launch the apps, enticing them to enter their credentials to banking, social networking, and other services, which are then sent on to attackers. Such malware has even found its way onto Google's AdSense network, according to a report on Monday from Kaspersky Lab. The weapon would automatically download when users visited certain Russian news sites, without requiring users to click on the malicious advertisements. It then prompts users for administrative rights, which makes it harder for antivirus software or the user to remove it, and proceeds to steal credentials through fake login screens, and by intercepting, deleting, and sending text messages. The Kaspersky researchers call it "a gratuitous act of violence against Android users." "By simply viewing their favorite news sites over their morning coffee users can end up downloading last-browser-update.apk, a banking Trojan detected by Kaspersky Lab solutions as Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q," according to the company. "There you are, minding your own business, reading the news and BOOM! -- no additional clicks or following links required." The good news is that the issue has since been resolved, according to a Google spokeswoman. Fast Company provides more details about these types of attacks and how to stay safe in its report.
Communications

Google Duo Video Chat App Arrives On iOS and Android With End-to-end Encryption (betanews.com) 114

An anonymous reader writes: Video chat should be simple, but it is not. The biggest issue is fragmentation. On iOS, for instance, Facetime is a wonderfully easy solution, but there is no Android client. While there are plenty of cross-platform third-party options to solve this, they aren't always elegant. Skype is a good example of an app that should bridge the gap, but ends up being buggy and clunky. Google is aiming to solve this dilemma with its 'Duo' video chat app. With it, the search giant is putting a heavy focus on ease of use. The offering is available for both Android and iOS -- the only two mobile platforms that matter (sorry, Windows 10 Mobile). Announced three months ago, it finally sees release today. There is no news about the Allo chat sister-app, sadly.
Android

Linux Traffic Hijack Flaw Also Affects Most Android Phones, Tablets (zdnet.com) 39

Zack Whittaker, writing for ZDNet: As many as 80 percent of Android devices are vulnerable to a recently disclosed Linux kernel vulnerability. Security firm Lookout said in a blog post on Monday that the flaw affects all phones and tablets that are running Android 4.4 KitKat and later, which comes with the affected Linux kernel 3.6 or newer. According to recent statistics, the number of devices affected might run past 1.4 billion phones and tablets -- including devices running the Android Nougat developer preview. Windows and Macs are not affected by the vulnerability. The flaw, disclosed at the Usenix security conference last week, is complicated and difficult to exploit. If an attacker can pull off an exploit, they could inject malicious code into unencrypted web traffic from "anywhere". However, the source and destination IP address would need to be known in order to intercept the traffic, adding to the complexity of carrying out a successful attack.The exploitability isn't easy, though.
Security

New Cache Attack Can Monitor Keystrokes On Android Phones (onthewire.io) 36

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from OnTheWire: : Researchers from an Austrian university have developed techniques that allow them to perform cache attacks on non-rooted Android phones that can monitor the keystrokes, screen taps, and even observe code execution inside the ARM processor's TrustZone secure execution environment. The attacks the team developed are complex and rely on a number of individual building blocks. The techniques are similar to some used against Intel x86 processor-based systems, but the team from Graz University of Technology in Austria shows that they can be used on ARM-based systems, such as Android phones, as well.

"Based on our techniques, we demonstrate covert channels that outperform state-of-the-art covert channels on Android by several orders of magnitude. Moreover, we present attacks to monitor tap and swipe events as well as keystrokes, and even derive the lengths of words entered on the touchscreen," the researchers wrote in their paper, which was presented at the USENIX Security Symposium this week.

It's a proof-of-concept attack. But interestingly, another recently-discovered Android vulnerability also required the user to install a malicious app -- and then allowed attackers to take full control of the device.
Google

Google Working On New 'Fuchsia' OS (digitaltrends.com) 146

An anonymous reader writes: Google is working on a new operating system dubbed Fuchsia OS for smartphones, computers, and various other devices. The new operating system was spotted in the Git repository, where the description reads: "Pick + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System). Hacker News reports that Travis Geiselbrech, who worked on NewOS, BeOS, Danger, Palm's webOS and iOS, and Brian Swetland, who also worked on BeOS and Android will be involved in this project. Magenta and LK kernel will be powering the operating system. "LK is a kernel designed for small systems typically used in imbedded applications," reads the repository. "On the other hand, Magenta targets modern phones and modern personal computers with fast processors, non-trivial amounts of RAM with arbitrary peripherals doing open-ended computation." It's too early to tell exactly what this OS is meant for. Whether it's for an Android and Chrome OS merger or something completely new, it's exciting nonetheless.

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