Android

Android Oreo Helps Google's Pixel 2 Smartphones Outperform Other Android Flagships (hothardware.com) 77

MojoKid highlights Hot Hardware's review of Google's new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones: Google officially launched it's Pixel 2 phones today, taking the wraps off third-party reviews. Designed by Google but manufactured by HTC (Pixel 2) and LG (Pixel 2 XL), the two new handsets also boast Google's latest Android 8.0 operating system, aka Oreo, an exclusive to Google Pixel and certain Nexus devices currently. And in some ways, this is also a big advantage. Though they are based on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as many other Android devices, Google's new Pixel 2s manage to outpace similarly configured smartphones in certain benchmarks by significant margins (Basemark, PCMark and 3DMark). They also boot dramatically faster than any other Android handset on the market, in as little as 10 seconds. Camera performance is also excellent, with both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL sporting identical electronics, save for their displays and chassis sizes. Another notable feature built into Android Oreo is Google Now Playing, an always-listening, Shazam-like service (if you enable it) that displays song titles on the lock screen if it picks up on music playing in the room you're in. Processing is done right on the Pixel 2 and it doesn't need network connectivity. Another Pixel 2 Oreo-based trick is Google Lens, a machine vision system that Google notes "can recognize places like landmarks and buildings, artwork that you'd find in a museum, media covers such as books, movies, music albums, and video games..." The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available now on Verizon or unlocked via the Google Store starting at $649 and $849 respectively for 64GB storage versions, with a $100 up-charge for 128GB variants.
Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Puts Desktop Brains in a Laptop Body (wired.com) 140

David Pierce, writing for Wired: As Microsoft went to create the Surface Book 2, the company once again tried to bust categories. The result is the most combinatory device Microsoft's made yet. It's a laptop (screens measure 13 or 15 inches; there's a keyboard and trackpad) -- and it's also a tablet (the screen detaches, you can use a pen, everything's touch-friendly), and it's also a desktop. A stupendously powerful one, at that: It runs on Intel's new eighth-generation quad-core processors, in either a Core i5 or Core i7 version. The higher-end models come with Nvidia's GeForce discrete graphics, up to 16 gigs of RAM, and as much as 1 terabyte of solid storage. All that in a fanless body that gets up to 17 hours of battery life, and weighs about 3.5 pounds for the smaller model or 4.2 pounds for the larger. What does all that mean? Microsoft claims the smaller model is three times more powerful than the last Surface Book, and the 15-inch runs five times as fast. Those are meaningless comparisons, but the point holds. This thing screams. More useful are the comparisons to Apple's latest MacBook Pros: Microsoft claims up to 70 percent more battery life, and double the performance of Apple's laptops.
Data Storage

Microwave Tech Could Produce 40TB Hard Drives In the Near Future (gizmodo.com) 151

Western Digital has announced a potential game changer that promises to expand the limits of traditional HDDs to up to 40TBs using a microwave-based write head, and the company says it will be able to the public in 2019. Gizmodo reports: Western Digital's new approach, microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR), can utilize the company's existing production chain to cram a lot more storage onto a 3.5-inch disk. In a technical overview, Western Digital says it has managed to overcome the biggest issue with traditional HDD drive storage -- the size of the write head. These days, an average hard drive maxes out in the 10-14TB range. But by integrating a new write head, "a spin torque oscillator," microwaves can create the energy levels necessary for copying data within a lower magnetic field than was ever previously possible. There's a more thorough white paper for those who want to dive in. According to Western Digital, MAMR has "the capability to extend areal density gains up to 4 Terabits per square inch." By the year 2025, it hopes to be packing 40TBs into the same size drive it offers today.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Parody 'Subgenius' Religion Wants to Crowdfund An Alien-Contacting Beacon (gofundme.com) 78

In 1979 the followers of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs founded a satirical religion called the Church of the Subgenius. (Slackware Linux reportedly drew its name from the "pursuit of Slack", a comfort-seeking tenet of the 38-year-old parody religion.) Combining UFOs and conspiracy theories with some social critiques (and a few H.P. Lovecraft characters), the strange group is now re-emerging online with an official Facebook page -- and a slick new video channel.

In "Adventures in the Forbidden Sciences," former church CEO K'taden Legume announces that in January of 2016, "the Subgenius Foundation received an overdue bill for a storage locker in the Pacific Northwest registered under the name J. R. Dobbs. Behind the steel door was a freight elevator leading deep underground to what was long considered to be a myth: The church's long-abandoned forbidden science laboratories. Hidden in a forgotten cavern, packed floor-to-ceiling with thousands of crates dating back to the mid-19th century." Eighteen months of experimentation lead to clues about a flying saucer arriving on "the Black Day" -- and one last chance at eternal salvation and everlasting Slack: the construction of an alien-contacting beacon. Legume calls it "our best last hope for getting off of this planet. We have the tech. We have the moxie to do this, but to finish the beacon -- we need your help."

"The Beacon will be constructed by a team of 'Forbidden Scientists' led by former church CEO Dr. K'taden Legume," writes new Slashdot reader Ktaden Legume, touting a new $25,000 campaign to crowdfund the beacon's construction.

So far it's raised $294.
The Almighty Buck

Browsers Will Store Credit Card Details Similar To How They Save Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com) 182

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A new W3C standard is slowly creeping into current browser implementations, a standard that will simplify the way people make payments online. Called the Payment Request API, this new standard relies on users entering and storing payment card details inside browsers, just like they currently do with passwords. The API is also a godsend for the security and e-commerce industry since it spares store owners from having to store payment card data on their servers. This means less regulation and no more fears that an online store might expose card data when getting hacked. By moving the storage of payment card details in the browser, the responsibility of keeping these details safe is moved to the browser and the user. Browsers that support the Payment Request API include Google Chrome, who first added support for it in Chrome for Android 53 in August 2016, and added desktop support last month with the release of Chrome 61. Microsoft Edge also supports the Payment Request API since September 2016, but the feature requires that users register a Microsoft Wallet account before using it. Firefox and Safari are still working on supporting the API, and so are browser implementations from Facebook and Samsung, both eager to provide a simpler payment mechanism than the one in use today.
Google

Google Wants Its New Pixelbook to Win the Laptop and Tablet Battle (fortune.com) 104

Google is once again trying to make a big splash with laptop computers, this time with its new Pixelbook. From a report: Google debuted its Pixelbook, a new laptop-tablet hybrid during its Pixel 2 event in San Francisco on Wednesday, a high-end version of its barebones Chromebook laptops that rely on Google's Chrome operating system (OS). Google hopes its new Pixelbook, which sells for $999 to $1,649, will give it a viable challenger to Apple's MacBooks and other premium laptops. With Google's low-end Chromebooks, the company supplies the OS while third-party companies like HP Inc. and Dell build the devices. But Chromebooks are bulky, short on processing power, have limited storage, and are incompatible with Google's new Pixelbook stylus pen for drawing digital images on touchscreens. Matt Vokoun, Google's director for Chromebooks, emphasized that his company is serious about the Pixelbook. Although Google previously sold both high-end laptops and tablets, they were mostly "demonstration-oriented," he said, meaning Google didn't produce many of them and that they were instead for showing to potential manufacturers to get them on board with the idea.
Google

Google Unveils Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL With No Headphone Jack (venturebeat.com) 291

From a report: Google product chief Mario Queiroz today unveiled two new Android 8.1 Oreo smartphones at the company's annual hardware event: the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. The smaller Pixel 2 sports a 5-inch, 1080p display, with a 16:9 aspect ratio that was until this year the standard on Android flagships. The larger Pixel 2 XL, meanwhile, has a 6-inch, QHD+ display in an 18:9 aspect ratio, in line with 2017's flagship smartphones. The Pixel 2 thus still has a large bezel while the Pixel XL 2 has a noticeably reduced bezel profile, although certainly not the smallest we've seen. As always, smartphone size also dictates battery capacity: 2700 mAh for the Pixel 2 and 3520 mAh for the Pixel 2 XL. Here's the rundown: Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB of RAM, either 64GB or 128GB of storage, an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, a 12-megapixel rear camera, front stereo speakers, a fingerprint scanner on the back, a USB-C port on the bottom, and no headphone jack. "Use your existing analog headphones with the included adapter," Queiroz said. [...] The HTC-manufactured Pixel 2 will be available in Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue on October 19. The LG-manufactured Pixel 2 XL will ship in Just Black and Black & White on November 15. The Pixel 2 will be available for $649 (64GB) and $749 (128GB) while the Pixel 2 XL will come in $849 (64GB) and $949 (128GB) flavors.
HP

HP's Spectre x360 13 Promises Up To 16 Hours of Battery Life in a Faster, Cooler Design (pcworld.com) 45

From a report: The HP Spectre x360 13 is already one of the most popular 360-degree convertible laptops, and it's about to get faster and cooler, thanks in part to Intel's latest 8th-generation Core CPUs. Announced Wednesday, the refreshed Spectre x360 13 also offers greatly improved thermals and other nice tweaks. The Spectre x360 13 will ship on October 29 with a starting price of $1,150, including a color-matched pen. Best Buy will begin taking pre-orders October 4. Multiple configurations will be available, but we're listing below the specs we were given for the higher-end model ae013dx: CPU: Intel 8th-generation Core i7-8550U, a quad-core CPU with a 1.8GHz base clock and turbo boost up to 4GHz. Core i5 CPUs will also be available. RAM: 16GB LPDDR3 SDRAM. Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD.
Android

Google Is Latest Company To Ditch Headphone Jack In Its Newest Smartphones (cultofmac.com) 391

When launching its original Pixel smartphone, Google mocked the iPhone 7's missing headphone jack in its marketing material. According to Cult of Mac, Google won't be doing the same for the Pixel 2. "The company has decided to remove the aging port from its latest handsets," reports Cult of Mac. "A new leak reveals that the lineup will rely solely on USB-C for wired connectivity." From the report: Incredibly reliable leaker Evan Blass has published pictures and details of Google's upcoming Pixel 2 smartphones on VentureBeat. He has also confirmed that neither device will feature a headphone jack, which means users will have to rely on a USB-C adapter or Bluetooth. It also means Google will no longer be able to put out Pixel ads that take sly swipes at the iPhone's missing port. Blass says both Pixel handsets will be powered by a Snapdragon 835 chipset -- the same one found in the Galaxy S8, the LG V30, and other 2017 flagships -- not a faster Snapdragon 836 processor as originally planned. Other features are said to include 12-megapixel cameras, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB or 128GB storage options. The smaller Pixel will pack a 5-inch 1080p display with a 16:9, while its larger sibling will pack a 6-inch Quad HD display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Is the lack of a headphone jack a deal-breaker, or do you think the Pixel's other features, like stock Android and front-facing stereo speakers, will make up for it?
Data Storage

High Sierra's Disk Utility Does Not Recognize Unformatted Disks (tinyapps.org) 135

macOS 10.13's Disk Utility 17.0 (1626) does not recognize raw drives, reads a blog post, shared by several readers. From the post: Diskutil does recognize the drive. We'll use it to perform a quick, cursory format (e.g., diskutil eraseDisk JHFS+ NewDisk GPT disk0) to make the disk appear in Disk Utility, where further modifications can more easily be made. Plugging in an unformatted external drive produces the usual alert, "The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer. Initialize... | Ignore | Eject", but clicking Initialize just opens Disk Utility without the disk appearing. There's an option in Disk Utility to view "all devices," but clicking that doesn't show raw disks, the blog post adds.
Power

Britain Opens Its First Subsidy-Free Solar Power Farm (reuters.com) 117

AmiMoJo quotes Reuters: Britain's first solar power farm to operate without a government subsidy is due to open in eastern England on Tuesday, as a sharp fall in costs has made renewable energy much more economical. Britain needs to invest in new energy capacity to replace aging coal and nuclear plants that are due to close in the 2020s. But it is also trying to reduce subsidies on renewable power generation... The 10 megawatt (MW) solar farm, in Clayhill, Bedfordshire, can generate enough electricity to power around 2,500 homes and also has a 6 MW battery storage facility on site.
Security

Companies Are Once Again Storing Data On Tape, Just in Case (marketwatch.com) 199

An anonymous reader shares a report: To stay up to date in the battle against hackers, some companies are turning to a 1950s technology. Storing data on tape seems impossibly inconvenient in an age of easy-access cloud computing. But that is the big security advantage of this vintage technology, since hackers have no way to get at the information. The federal government, financial-services firms, health insurers and other regulated industries still keep tape as a backup to digital records. Now a range of other companies are returning to tape as hackers get smarter about penetrating defenses -- and do much more damage when they do get in. Rob Pritchard, founder of the Cyber Security Expert consulting firm and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, has noticed the steady resurgence of tape as part of best-practice backup strategies. "Companies of all sizes must be able to restore data quickly if needed," he says, "but also have a robust, slower-time, recovery mechanism should the worst happen." Mr. Pritchard, who works with a range of organizations to improve corporate cybersecurity practices, says: "A good backup strategy will have multiple layers. Cloud and online services have their place, but can be compromised."
Data Storage

Russia Threatens To Shut Down Facebook Over Local Data Storage Laws (bloomberg.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook Inc. will be shut down in Russia next year if it fails to comply with requirements to store user data locally, according to the head of Russia's state communications watchdog. "The law is mandatory for everyone," Alexander Zharov told reporters Tuesday. Roskomnadzor will be forcing foreign internet companies to comply or shut down in the country. President Vladimir Putin signed a law in 2014 that requires global internet firms to store personal data of Russian clients on local servers. Companies ranging from Alphabet Inc.'s Google to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd complied, while others like Twitter Inc. demanded extra time to evaluate the economic feasibility of doing so.
Privacy

Passwords For 540,000 Car Tracking Devices Leaked Online (thehackernews.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hacker News: Login credentials of more than half a million records belonging to vehicle tracking device company SVR Tracking have leaked online, potentially exposing the personal data and vehicle details of drivers and businesses using its service. Just two days ago, Viacom was found exposing the keys to its kingdom on an unsecured Amazon S3 server, and this data breach is yet another example of storing sensitive data on a misconfigured cloud server. The Kromtech Security Center was first to discover a wide-open, public-facing misconfigured Amazon Web Server (AWS) S3 cloud storage bucket containing a cache belonging to SVR that was left publicly accessible for an unknown period. Stands for Stolen Vehicle Records, the SVR Tracking service allows its customers to track their vehicles in real time by attaching a physical tracking device to vehicles in a discreet location, so their customers can monitor and recover them in case their vehicles are stolen. The leaked cache contained details of roughly 540,000 SVR accounts, including email addresses and passwords, as well as users' vehicle data, like VIN (vehicle identification number), IMEI numbers of GPS devices. The leaked database also exposed 339 logs that contained photographs and data about vehicle status and maintenance records, along with a document with information on the 427 dealerships that use SVR's tracking services.
Businesses

Oracle's Larry Ellison Pokes Amazon Again With New Cloud Pricing Plan (siliconangle.com) 65

Oracle went on the offensive again versus Amazon.com this week with a new cloud pricing plan that gives discounts to Oracle database customers who move their databases to the cloud. From a report: Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison said during an event at its Redwood City, California headquarters that while Oracle has matched Amazon Web Services for base-level computing, storage and networking services known as infrastructure as a service, it's now moving to make higher-level cloud services such as databases and analytics cheaper than AWS's. Actually, Ellison claimed that Oracle's infrastructure runs faster and therefore ends up costing less, but it's clear that the company is focusing more on its traditional strengths one tier up from the infrastructure: so-called platform as a service offerings such as the Oracle Database. Oracle said it will allow customers to move their existing licenses for databases, middleware and analytics to Oracle's platform services, just as they've allowed them to bring licenses to its infrastructure before.
Data Storage

Google, Bing, Yahoo Data Retention Doesn't Improve Search Quality, Study Claims (theregister.co.uk) 38

A new paper released on Monday via the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that retaining search log data doesn't do much for search quality. "Data retention has implications in the debate over Europe's right to be forgotten, the authors suggest, because retained data undermines that right," reports The Register. "It's also relevant to U.S. policy discussions about privacy regulations." From the report: To determine whether retention policies affected the accuracy of search results, Chiou and Tucker used data from metrics biz Hitwise to assess web traffic being driven by search sites. They looked at Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! Search during a period when Bing changed its search data retention period from 18 months to 6 months and when Yahoo! changed its retention period from 13 months to 3 months, as well as when Yahoo! had second thoughts and shifted to an 18-month retention period. According to Chiou and Tucker, data retention periods didn't affect the flow of traffic from search engines to downstream websites. "Our findings suggest that long periods of data storage do not confer advantages in search quality, which is an often-cited benefit of data retention by companies," their paper states. Chiou and Tucker observe that the supposed cost of privacy laws to consumers and to companies may be lower than perceived. They also contend that their findings weaken the claim that data retention affects search market dominance, which could make data retention less relevant in antitrust discussions of Google.
Data Storage

Apple File System in macOS High Sierra Won't Work With Fusion Drives (arstechnica.co.uk) 123

An anonymous reader shares a report: MacOS High Sierra will come out of beta and roll out to the public next week. If you have previously installed the beta version, you may need to take extra steps before installing the release so your Fusion Drive-toting machine doesn't experience any negative consequences. Apple announced that the new Apple File system (APFS) won't immediately support Fusion Drives and will only support systems with all-flash built-in storage in the initial release of High Sierra. Those who tested out the beta versions of macOS High Sierra had their Fusion Drives converted to the new APFS. However, support was removed from the most recent beta versions, and it isn't coming back with the public release of High Sierra. Apple provided a set of instructions to help those users convert their Fusion Drives back from APFS to the standard HFS+ format before installing the High Sierra update. The instructions include backing up data using Time Machine, creating a bootable installer, reformatting the machine using Disk Utility, and reinstalling the operating system update.
Iphone

Apple Announces iPhone X With Edge-To-Edge Display, Wireless Charging and No Home Button (theverge.com) 570

At its event in Cupertino, California today, Apple unveiled the iPhone X to mark the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. It brings several new features including an edge-to-edge screen, Qi wireless charging, and Face ID. The Verge reports: Because of its edge-to-edge display, the iPhone has no place for a conventional home button, relying instead on a complex facial recognition system to unlock the phone. Called FaceID, the new system will replace TouchID, the home button sensor that's enabled fingerprint logins since 2013's iPhone 5S. Users can wake the phone by swiping up from the button instead of hitting the button. The same gesture will open the control panel once the phone is awake. The updated iPhone 8 will continue unchanged, including both the home button and TouchID. Apple also unveiled the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which are updated versions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus released last year. These new devices feature glass backs with support for wireless charging. The Verge provides some additional specs and features in its report: Apple has improved the display on the iPhone 8 line, adding the same True Tone technology it offers on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro to automatically adjust the screen based on the ambient light in the room to offer more accurate colors. Internally, Apple has upgraded the processor from the A10 Fusion found in the 7 to the A11 Bionic. It's a six-core chip with two performance cores that are 25 percent faster than the A10, and four performance cores that the company says are 70 percent faster that the old model. There's also a new Apple-designed GPU that's 30 percent faster, with the same performance as the A10 at half the power. On the camera front, there's a new 12-megapixel sensor on the iPhone 8 that is larger, faster, and finally has optical image stabilization. The iPhone 8 Plus also has new sensors, and offers f/1.8 and f/2.8 apertures now. The dual cameras on the 8 Plus also have a new "Portrait Lighting" feature to adjust the lighting for portrait shots. And Apple says that the improvements apply to video, too, with Apple executive Phil Schiller claiming that the new devices have the "highest quality video capture ever in a smartphone," with support for 4K/60fps video. Slow motion videos now support up to 1080p resolution at 240fps, doubling the the iPhone 7's 120fps option. The iPhone 8 will start at $699 for a 64GB model, while the 8 Plus will start at $799 for 64GB of storage. You can preorder these devices starting Friday, September 15th, and they will be released a week later on September 22nd.

UPDATE 9/12/17: The iPhone X will be priced starting at $999 for the 64GB variant. Pre-order will be available October 27th with shipments starting November 3rd.
Robotics

Swarms Of Flying Robot Bees Could Monitor Weather, Collect Data (venturebeat.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat: Native honeybees, one of the most prolific pollinators in the animal kingdom, are dying off at an unprecedented rate from Colony Collapse Disorder and threatening an ecosystem service worth about $15 billion. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the RoboBees project looks to minimize the loss of this critical resource with new microbots that can mimic the pollinating role of a honeybee... In a remarkable display of biomimicry, scientists have developed a flight-capable robot that's just half the size of a paperclip and weighs in at one tenth of a gram... The RoboBees project pushes the boundaries of research in a variety of fields, from micromanufacturing to energy storage and even the computer algorithms that control the robots by the swarm...

While the effect of a single robot might be miniscule, a coordinated group of hundreds, thousands, or millions of RoboBees could perform a host of unprecedented tasks. Aside from pollinating plants for agricultural purposes, the RoboBees could coordinate to digitally map terrain, monitor weather conditions, and even assist in relief efforts after a disaster, through data collection. While RoboBees are only intended as a stopgap measure for honeybee loss, the potential applications of the technology have the world holding its breath for the next breakthrough.

SuSE

Linux Pioneer SUSE Marks 25 Years In the Field (itwire.com) 54

troublemaker_23 shares an article from ITWire: The Germany-based SUSE Linux marked a milestone last week: on Friday, September 2, the company turned 25, a remarkable achievement in an industry where the remains of software companies litter the landscape around the world... SUSE was formed in 1992 by three university students -- Hubert Mantel, Roland Dyroff, and Burchard Steinbild. The fourth man in the equation was software engineer Thomas Fehr. They had a simple objective: to build software and deliver UNIX support. Linux had been around for a little more than a year at that point and they decided to use it... The name S.u.S.E is a German acronym and means "Software und System-Entwicklung", or "Software and systems development". The name was later changed to SuSE and some years on became SUSE...

Like other open source outfits, SUSE has widened its services and now not only provides an enterprise Linux distribution but has a well developed software-defined storage product and one for a container-as-a-service option. It also caters to those seeking cloud options and does more than its fair share in contributing to upstream FOSS projects. Along the way, it has spawned a top-notch community distribution, openSUSE, which is run by an autonomous board led by the ebullient British developer Richard Brown.

S.u.S.E Linux was one of the first distros, arriving in 1994 after Soft Landing Systems Linux (in mid-1992) and Slackware.

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