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Privacy

Why You Shouldn't Trust Geek Squad (networkworld.com) 389

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: The Orange County Weekly reports that Best Buy's "Geek Squad" repair technicians routinely search devices brought in for repair for files that could earn them $500 reward as FBI informants. This revelation came out in a court case, United States of America v. Mark A. Rettenmaier. Rettenmaier is a prominent Orange County physician and surgeon who took his laptop to the Mission Viejo Best Buy in November 2011 after he was unable to start it. According to court records, Geek Squad technician John "Trey" Westphal found an image of "a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck." Westphal notified his boss, who was also an FBI informant, who alerted another FBI informant -- as well as the FBI itself. The FBI has pretty much guaranteed the case will be thrown out by its behavior, this illegal search aside. According to Rettenmaier's defense attorney, agents conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant for his home, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records. Plus, the file was found in the unallocated "trash" space, meaning it could only be retrieved by "carving" with sophisticated forensics tools. Carving (or file carving) is defined as searching for files or other kinds of objects based on content, rather than on metadata. It's used to recover old files that have been deleted or damaged. To prove child pornography, you have to prove the possessor knew what he had was indeed child porn. There has been a court case where files found on unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it's impossible to determine who put the file there and how, since it's not accessible to the user under normal circumstances.
Earth

MIT Unveils New Material That's Strongest and Lightest On Earth (futurism.com) 148

A team of MIT researchers have created the world's strongest and lightest material known to man using graphene. Futurism reports: Graphene, which was heretofore, the strongest material known to man, is made from an extremely thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in two dimensions. But there's one drawback: while notable for its thinness and unique electrical properties, it's very difficult to create useful, three-dimensional materials out of graphene. Now, a team of MIT researchers discovered that taking small flakes of graphene and fusing them following a mesh-like structure not only retains the material's strength, but the graphene also remains porous. Based on experiments conducted on 3D printed models, researchers have determined that this new material, with its distinct geometry, is actually stronger than graphene -- making it 10 times stronger than steel, with only five percent of its density. The discovery of a material that is extremely strong but exceptionally lightweight will have numerous applications. As MIT reports: "The new findings show that the crucial aspect of the new 3-D forms has more to do with their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features."
Businesses

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

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

Pentagon Successfully Tests Micro-Drone Swarm (phys.org) 113

schwit1 quotes a report from Phys.Org: The Pentagon may soon be unleashing a 21st-century version of locusts on its adversaries after officials on Monday said it had successfully tested a swarm of 103 micro-drones. The important step in the development of new autonomous weapon systems was made possible by improvements in artificial intelligence, holding open the possibility that groups of small robots could act together under human direction. Military strategists have high hopes for such drone swarms that would be cheap to produce and able to overwhelm opponents' defenses with their great numbers. The test of the micro-drone swarm in October included 103 Perdix micro-drones measuring around six inches (16 centimeters) launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Patents

Apple Patent Paves Way For iPhone With Full-Face Display, HUD Windows (appleinsider.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent detailing technology that allows for ear speakers, cameras and even a heads-up display to hide behind an edge-to-edge screen, a design rumored to debut in a next-generation iPhone later this year. Awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,543,364 for "Electronic devices having displays with openings" describes a method by which various components can be mounted behind perforations in a device screen that are so small as to be imperceptible to the human eye. This arrangement would allow engineers to design a smartphone or tablet with a true edge-to-edge, or "full face," display. With smartphones becoming increasingly more compact, there has been a push to move essential components behind the active -- or light-emitting -- area of incorporated displays. Apple in its patent suggests mounting sensors and other equipment behind a series of openings, or through-holes, in the active portion of an OLED or similar panel. These openings might be left empty or, if desired, filled with glass, polymers, radio-transparent ceramic or other suitable material. Positioning sensor inputs directly in line with said openings facilitates the gathering of light, radio waves and acoustic signals. Microphones, cameras, antennas, light sensors and other equipment would therefore have unimpeded access beyond the display layer. The design also accommodates larger structures like iPhone's home button. According to the document, openings are formed between pixels, suggesting a self-illuminating display technology like OLED is preferred over traditional LCD structures that require backlight and filter layers. Hole groupings can be arranged in various shapes depending on the application, and might be larger or smaller than the underlying component. If implemented into a future iPhone, the window-based HUD could be Apple's first foray into augmented reality. Apple leaves the mechanics unmentioned, but the system could theoretically go beyond AR and into mixed reality applications.
Hardware

LG's Upcoming Smartphone G6 Will Have 5.7-inch QHD+ Display Featuring 18:9 Aspect Ratio (koreaherald.com) 132

Song Su-hyun, reporting for The Korea Herald: LG Electronics' upcoming flagship smartphone will have a 5.7-inch Quad HD liquid crystal display panel with a ratio of 18:9, LG Display said on Tuesday. LG Electronics confirmed it will be the G6 smartphone slated for launch next month. The new display panel, dubbed "QHD+," will be the world's first 18:9 QHD LCD, according to LG Display. The 18:9 ratio will provide users with greater immersion than previous displays and allow consumers to multitask by using the dual-screen feature.
Portables (Apple)

Consumer Reports Updates Its MacBook Pro Review (consumerreports.org) 246

Reader TheFakeTimCook writes: Last month, the new MacBook Pro failed to receive a purchase recommendation from Consumer Reports due to battery life issues that it encountered during testing. Apple subsequently said it was working with Consumer Reports to understand the results, which it said do not match its "extensive lab tests or field data." According to an article from Consumer Reports, Apple has since concluded its work, and says it learned that Consumer Reports was using a "hidden Safari setting" which triggered an "obscure and intermittent bug" that led to inconsistent battery life results. With "normal user settings" enabled, Apple said Consumer Reports "consistently" achieved expected battery life. Apple stated: "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life." Apple said it has fixed the Safari bug in the latest macOS Sierra beta seeded to developers and public testers this week.
Businesses

Fitbit Buys Vector, Romanian Startup's Existing Smartwatches Won't Receive Software Updates Anymore (engadget.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: One of the more surprising smartwatches of 2015 was from Vector, a Romanian startup led by former Citizen executives. Its 30-day battery life, Pebble-esque UI and classic watch design made it a great device for someone seeking a less ostentatiously geeky wearable. Now, the company has revealed that Fitbit has purchased it and its employees will be joining the fitness wearables firm. Unfortunately for Vector owners, Fitbit will be integrating Vector's hardware and software know-how into its own organization. That means that Vector, as a brand, will die off, and while its watches will remain operational, you can kiss any hope for software updates and new hardware goodbye.
Crime

Two Triple-Screen Laptops Were Stolen From Razer's CES Booth (theverge.com) 165

In a Facebook post, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan said two of their prototype laptops shown off at CES 2017 were stolen. "We treat theft/larceny, and if relevant to this case, industrial espionage, very seriously -- it is cheating, and cheating doesn't sit well with us," Tan wrote. "Penalties for such crimes are grievous and anyone who would do this clearly isn't very smart." Both items were prototype models of a laptop, called Project Valerie, that has three 4K displays. The Verge reports: Tan says that Razer is working with law enforcement and CES management to investigate. He's also asking show attendees to email legal@razerzone.com with any info they might have on what happened. A company representative added that a $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction. The alleged theft occurred "after official show hours," says Allie Fried, director of global events communications for the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES. "The security of our exhibitors, attendees and their products and materials are our highest priority," Fried wrote in an email to The Verge. "We look forward to cooperating with law enforcement and Razer as the incident is investigated."
AMD

AMD Announces X300 and X370 AM4 Motherboards For Ryzen, All CPUs Unlocked (hothardware.com) 71

MojoKid writes: AMD has a lot riding on Ryzen, its new generation CPU architecture that is supposed to return the chip designer to a competitive position versus Intel in the high-end desktop X86 processor market. Late last week, at CES 2017, AMD has lined up over a dozen high-performance AM4 motherboards from five hardware partners, including ASRock, ASUS, Biostar, Gigabyte, and MSI. All AM4 motherboards are built around one of two desktop chipsets for Ryzen, the AMD X370 or X300. Motherboards based on the X370 chipset are intended for power users and gamers. These boards bring more robust overclocking controls and support for dual graphics cards, along with more I/O connectivity and dual-channel DDR4 memory support. The X300 is AMD's chipset for mini-ITX motherboards for small form factor (SFF) system platforms. The X300 also supports dual-channel DDR4 memory, PCIe 3.0, M.2 SATA devices, NVMe, and USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 1. Finally, AMD representatives on hand at CES also reported that all Ryzen processors will be multiplier unlocked, hopefully for some rather flexible overclocking options. There will also be several processors in the family, with varying core counts depending on SKU, at launch.
Network

Verizon Purges Unlimited Data Customers, Targets Those Using 200GB (arstechnica.com) 196

If you're a Verizon customer on an unlimited data plan who uses more than 200GB a month, you will soon need to switch to a limited plan or be disconnected, according to Verizon. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a Verizon Plan by February 16, 2017," Verizon spokesperson Kelly Crummey told Ars Technica today. Ars reports: Since Verizon stopped offering unlimited data to new smartphone customers in 2011, this change affects only longtime customers who were allowed to hang on to the old plans. Verizon could simply force all customers who aren't under contract to switch to new plans, but instead it has periodically made moves that reduce the numbers of unlimited data subscribers. This policy will apply to people who average more than 200GB "over several months," Verizon said. Customers who do not move to limited plans "will be disconnected," Verizon confirmed. On limited plans, customers get reduced speeds after they exceed monthly data limits unless they purchase extra 4G LTE data. Verizon previously purged its unlimited data rolls in August 2016. In that case, Verizon set a limit of 500GB a month, the company told Ars today. This is more specific information than we previously reported. Shortly before the August 2016 move, Verizon told us that it was targeting customers who were "using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB)," but Verizon did not specify that it was only targeting customers using at least 500GB. With the threshold being dropped from 500GB to 200GB, the latest move will affect customers who weren't using enough data to be caught up in the last round.
Businesses

Volkswagen Unveils 'ID Buzz' Electric Microbus Concept (ibtimes.co.uk) 52

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Given the emissions scandal that rocked Volkswagen in 2015, we reckon Scooby Doo and the gang would opt for something a little more environmentally-sound were they to be reinvented for the 21st Century. VW's new ID Buzz electric concept car, unveiled at the International Auto Show in Detroit on 8 January, is exactly the sort of thing we can imagine the overbearing talking dog and four meddlesome kids driving around in today. The ID Buzz is the second electric concept vehicle to come from Volkswagen in recent months, following the VW I.D. concept car unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September 2016. The ID Buzz is a re-imagining of sorts of the German automaker's classic VW Microbus, with 'Buzz' being a phonetic play on 'bus' and, according to VW, "refers to the silent buzzing of the drive system." The all-electric van boasts a driving range of up to 270 miles, which VW says is comparable to traditional petrol-powered vehicles, and features a "fully-autonomous" mode that allows the driver's seat to swing round 180 degrees for a more social seating arrangement. Additional cutting-edge features include a heads-up display that projects navigational information as augmented reality images, which can appear as directional cues as much as 49 feet ahead of the car. This provides a more visual system that marks directions on the road itself, rather than having to rely on a 2D image as in the case with traditional sat-navs. VW calls the effect "astonishingly realistic."
Power

Next-Gen Samsung EV Battery Gets 300+ Miles of Range From 20-Minute Charge (techcrunch.com) 198

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Samsung's SDI battery subsidiary announced a new battery cell designed for use in electric vehicles that offers improved density to manage a max range of up to 372 miles on a full charge, with a quick charge capacity that will help it regain 310 miles or so of charge on just 20 minutes of charging. Unveiled at the North American International Auto Show for the first time, the new battery tech come with a 10 percent decrease in the number of units and weight required vs. current production battery units made by Samsung SDI. Mass production isn't set to begin until 2021, but the tech should arrive in time to supply the first crop of autonomous cars, which are also targeting street dates sometime within that year from a range of manufacturers. A 20-minute charge delivering that kind of range would help considerably with making EVs more practical for more drivers; it's around the time you'd spend at a rest stop using the restroom and grabbing coffee or a snack, after all. By comparison, Tesla's superchargers currently manage to provide around 170 miles of range on a half-hour charge, so Samsung's planned tech could approximately double that.
Businesses

'OLED TVs Will Finally Take Off in 2017' (engadget.com) 238

From a feature article on Engadget: After years of taunting consumers with incredible picture quality, but insanely high prices, OLED TVs are finally coming down to Earth. Prices are falling, there will be even more models to choose from and, at least based on what we've seen from CES this year, LCD TVs aren't getting many upgrades. If you've been holding out on a 4K TV upgrade, but haven't had the budget to consider OLED up until now, expect things to change this year. Even before CES began, it was clear the OLED market was beginning to change. Throughout 2016, LG steadily lowered the prices of its lineup -- its cheapest model, the B6, launched at $4,000, but eventually made its way down to $2,000 by October. Come Black Friday, LG also offered another $200 discount to sweeten the pot. A 55-inch 4K OLED for $1,800! It was such a compelling deal I ended up buying one myself. Since then, the B6's price has jumped back up to $2,500, but I wouldn't be surprised to see its price come back down again. So why the big discounts? LG reportedly increased the production of its large OLED panels by 70 percent last year, likely in anticipation of more demand. That could have led to a slight oversupply, which retailers wanted to clear out before this year's sets.
Wireless Networking

LG Threatens To Put Wi-Fi in Every Appliance it Introduces in 2017 (arstechnica.com) 376

An anonymous reader shares a report: During the company's CES press conference today, LG marketing VP David VanderWaal says that "starting this year" all of LG's home appliances will feature "advanced Wi-Fi connectivity." One of the flagship appliances that will make good on this promise is the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, a webOS-powered Internet-connected fridge that among other things supports integration with Amazon's Alexa service.

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