Android

postmarketOS Pursues A Linux-Based, LTS OS For Android Phones (liliputing.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing: Buy an iPhone and you might get 4-5 years of official software updates. Android phones typically get 1-3 years of updates... if they get any updates at all. But there are ways to breathe new life into some older Android phones. If you can unlock the bootloader, you may be able to install a custom ROM like LineageOS and get unofficial software updates for a few more years. The folks behind postmarketOS want to go even further: they're developing a Linux-based alternative to Android with the goal of providing up to 10 years of support for old smartphones...

Right now postmarketOS is a touch-friendly operating system based on Alpine Linux that runs on a handful of devices including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Google Nexus 4, 5, and 7 (2012), and several other Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Sony smartphones. There are also ports for some non-Android phones such as the Nokia N900 and work-in-progress builds for the BlackBerry Bolt Touch 9900 and Jolla Phone. Note that when I say the operating system runs on those devices, I basically mean it boots. Some phones only have network access via a USB cable, for instance. None of the devices can actually be used to make phone calls. But here's the cool thing: the developers are hoping to create a single kernel that works with all supported devices, which means that postmarketOS would work a lot like a desktop operating system, allowing you to install the same OS on any smartphone with the proper hardware.

One postmarketOS developer complains that Android's architecture "is based on forking (one might as well say copy-pasting) the entire code-base for each and every device and Android version. And then working on that independent, basically instantly incompatible version. Especially adding device-specific drivers plays an important role... Here is the solution: Bend an existing Linux distribution to run on smartphones. Apply all necessary changes as small patches and upstream them, where it makes sense."
Encryption

Google Warns Webmasters About Insecure HTTP Web Forms (searchengineland.com) 72

In April Chrome began marking HTTP pages as "not secure" in its address bar if the pages had password or credit card fields. They're about to take the next step. An anonymous reader quotes SearchEngineLand: Last night, Google sent email notifications via Google Search Console to site owners that have forms on web pages over HTTP... Google said, "Beginning in October 2017, Chrome will show the 'Not secure' warning in two additional situations: when users enter data on an HTTP page, and on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode."
Google warned in April that "Our plan to label HTTP sites as non-secure is taking place in gradual steps, based on increasingly broad criteria. Since the change in Chrome 56, there has been a 23% reduction in the fraction of navigations to HTTP pages with password or credit card forms on desktop, and we're ready to take the next steps..."

"Any type of data that users type into websites should not be accessible to others on the network, so starting in version 62 Chrome will show the 'Not secure' warning when users type data into HTTP sites."
Databases

Google and ProPublica Team Up To Build a National Hate Crime Database (techcrunch.com) 273

In partnership with ProPublica, Google News Lab is launching a new tool to track hate crimes across America. The "Documenting Hate News Index" is being powered by machine learning to track reported hate crimes across all 50 states, collecting data from February 2017 onward. TechCrunch reports: Data visualization studio Pitch Interactive helped craft the index, which collects Google News results and filters them through Google's natural language analysis to extract geographic and contextual information. Because they are not catalogued in any kind of formal national database, a fact that inspired the creation of the index to begin with, Google calls the project a "starting point" for the documentation and study of hate crimes. While the FBI is legally required to document hate crimes at the federal level, state and local authorities often fail to report their own incidents, making the data incomplete at best.

The initiative is a data-rich new arm of the Documenting Hate project which collects and verifies hate incidents reported by both individual contributors and by news organizations. The Hate News Index will keep an eye out for false positives (casual uses of the word "hate" for example), striking a responsible balance between machine learning and human curation on a very sensitive subject. Hate events will be mapped onto a calendar in the user interface, though users can also use a keyword search or browse through algorithmic suggestions. For anyone who'd like to take the data in a new direction, Google will open sourced its data set, making it available through GitHub.

Android

Android O Is Officially Launching August 21 (techcrunch.com) 77

Android O is set to arrive on August 21, with a livestreamed unveiling event timed for 2:40 PM ET in NYC -- which is roughly when the maximum solar eclipse is set to occur for New York. TechCrunch reports: Android O will get a full reveal at that time, which seems like kind of a weird time to do it since a lot of people will be watching the NASA eclipse livestream that Google is also promoting, or staring at the sky (with the caveat, hopefully, that they have procured proper glasses for safe viewing). Google says that Android O will have some "super (sweet) new powers," most of which we know all about thanks to pre-release builds and the Android O teaser Google provided at its annual I/O developer event this past May. WE know, for instance, that the notification panel has been changed significantly, and there's new optimization software to improve battery life on all devices. While Android O's name has yet to be confirmed, the official consumer name is speculated to be "Oreo." Prolific leaker Evan Blass posted a picture of an Oreo to Twitter on Friday following the announcement of the reveal date and event.
Google

Google Explains Why It Banned the App For Gab, a Right-Wing Twitter Rival (arstechnica.com) 508

AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: When right-wing trolls and outright racists get kicked off of Twitter, they often move to Gab, a right-wing Twitter competitor. Gab was founded by Andrew Torba, who says it's devoted to unfettered free expression online. The site also hosts controversial right-wing figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer and Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer. On Thursday, Gab said that Google had banned its Android app from the Google Play Store for violating Google's ban on hate speech. The app's main competitor, Twitter, hosts accounts like the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, yet the Twitter app is still available on the Google Play store. Apple has long had more restrictive app store policies, and it originally rejected the Gab app for allowing pornographic content to be posted on the service -- despite the fact that hardcore pornography is readily available on Twitter. In an email to Ars, Google explained its decision to remove Gab from the Play Store: "In order to be on the Play Store, social networking apps need to demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people. This is a long-standing rule and clearly stated in our developer policies. Developers always have the opportunity to appeal a suspension and may have their apps reinstated if they've addressed the policy violations and are compliant with our Developer Program Policies."
Google

Google Researchers Made An Algorithm To Delete Watermarks From Photos (venturebeat.com) 61

"Researchers at Google have found a vulnerability in the way watermarks are used by stock imagery sites like Adobe Stock that makes it possible to remove the opaque stamp used to protect copyright," writes Khari Johnson via VentureBeat. "The consistent nature in which the watermarks are placed on photos can be exploited using an algorithm trained to recognize and automatically remove watermarks." From the report: Changing the position or opacity of a watermark do not impact the algorithm's ability to remove watermarks from images with copyright protection. Randomization, the researchers say, is required to keep images from being stolen. In results presented at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference last month, subtle modifications to each watermark can make it harder to remove watermarks. With these warped watermarks, attempts to get rid of watermarks with an algorithm or photo editing software leaves noticeable marks, rendering an image useless. "As often done with vulnerabilities discovered in operating systems, applications or protocols, we want to disclose this vulnerability and propose solutions in order to help the photography and stock image communities adapt and better protect its copyrighted content and creations," research scientists Tali Dekel and Michael Rubenstein wrote in a blog post today. "From our experiments much of the world's stock imagery is currently susceptible to this circumvention." You can learn more about the different types of randomization that can be done to combat watermark removal and see more example images in Google's blog post. The full report and research is available via the project's GitHub page.
AT&T

Judge Dismisses AT&T's Attempt To Stall Google Fiber Construction In Louisville (arstechnica.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T has lost a court case in which it tried to stall construction by Google Fiber in Louisville, Kentucky. AT&T sued the local government in Louisville and Jefferson County in February 2016 to stop a One Touch Make Ready Ordinance designed to give Google Fiber and other new ISPs quicker access to utility poles. But yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, saying AT&T's claims that the ordinance is invalid are false. "We are currently reviewing the decision and our next steps," AT&T said when contacted by Ars today. One Touch Make Ready rules let ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for other providers like AT&T to send work crews to move their own wires. Without One Touch Make Ready rules, the pole attachment process can cause delays of months before new ISPs can install service to homes. Google Fiber has continued construction in Louisville despite the lawsuit and staff cuts that affected deployments in other cities.
Google

Google Lunar X-Prize Extends Deadline Through March 2018 (space.com) 30

schwit1 writes: The Google Lunar X-Prize has announced that it has extended its contest deadline from the end of 2017 to the end of March 2018 for the finalists to complete their lunar rover mission and win the grand prize of $30 million. They also announced several additional consolation prizes that all of the remaining five contestants can win should they achieve lunar orbit ($1.75 million) or successfully achieve a soft landing ($3 million), even if they are not the first to do it. At least one team, Moon Express, will be helped enormously by the extra three months. This gives Rocket Lab just a little extra time to test its rocket before launching Moon Express's rover to the Moon.
The Internet

Cloudflare Stops Supporting Neo-Nazi Site The Daily Stormer (arstechnica.com) 484

Timothy B. Lee reports via Ars Technica: All week, the infamous hate site Daily Stormer has been battling to stay online in the face of a concerted social media campaign to shut it down. The site lost its "dailystormer.com" domain on Monday after first GoDaddy and then Google Domains blacklisted it from their domain registration services. The site re-appeared online on Wednesday morning at a new domain name, dailystormer.ru. But within hours, the site had gone offline again after it was dropped by Cloudflare, an intermediary that defends customers against denial-of-service attacks. Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin reported Cloudflare's decision to drop the site in a post on the social media site Gab. His post was first spotted by journalist Matthew Sheffield.
Google

Google Updates Docs, Sheets and Slides With New Collaboration Features (techcrunch.com) 36

An anonymous reader writes: G Suite, Google's set of online productivity tools, is getting a major update today that adds a number of new features to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. Most of these updates focus around collaboration, but the service is also getting support for Google Cloud Search and the company is adding new templates and add-ons from partners like LegalZoom, DocuSign, LucidChart and others. [...] Google Docs Sheets and Slides now lets you track changes by saving multiple versions of a document with different names. The new integration with Google Cloud Search in Docs and Slides means that G Suite Business and Enterprise users will now be able to quickly find the right information from their internal documents without having to leave the editor.
AI

Amazon Will Pay Developers With the Most Engaging Alexa Skills (venturebeat.com) 41

Amazon today announced a new program to bring revenue to developers of Alexa skills based on how much engagement their voice app is able to generate among users of Alexa-enabled devices. From a report: Amazon appears to be the first of the major tech companies with AI assistants and third-party integrations -- like Google, Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft -- with a program to compensate developers based on engagement created by their voice app. Metrics used to measure engagement of an Alexa skill include minutes of usage, new customers, customer ratings, and return visitors, an Amazon spokesperson told VentureBeat. Developers of Alexa skills in the U.S., U.K., and Germany are eligible to join. Developers with a skill active in all three countries will receive separate payments based on engagement in each country.
Google

Ask Slashdot: Female Engineers, Could You Please Share Your Thoughts On the Google Memo 688

Reader joshtops writes: The widely circulated memo written by software engineer James Damore has become the talking point across companies in Silicon Valley, and elsewhere. In an interesting take, The Economist on Tuesday argued with the scientific or otherwise assumptions made by Damore. I was wondering what female engineers -- or females in other STEM beats -- think of the memo.
Communications

WordPress Bans Fascist Website Linked To Charlottesville Killer (fastcompany.com) 450

tedlistens writes: WordPress has said that it does not censor websites like that of self-proclaimed fascist group Vanguard America. But last night, the group's site was taken offline for violating the company's terms of service. The about-face was likely prompted by Vanguard's participation in last weekend's Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd, killing one person and injuring 19. Fields has claimed allegiance to Vanguard America; the group denies that Fields was a member. For WordPress to drop a site, even a fascist site, is a very big deal; the same is true of GoDaddy's and Google's decision to drop their registration of neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer (another site that GoDaddy previously said would be permitted on free speech grounds). WordPress hasn't explained the shift in its approach to the website: the company's user agreement and terms of service have not changed since Charlottesville. That policy, like that of other tech platforms, has long stood by strict neutrality and freedom of expression. That may now be changing.
Google

Google Allo For Chrome Finally Arrives, But Only For Android Users (engadget.com) 88

Google Allo, the chat app that arrived on the iPhone and Android devices last year, now has a web counterpart. Head of product for Allo and video chat app Duo, Amit Fulay, tweeted: "Allow for web is here! Try it on Chrome today. Get the latest Allo build on Android before giving it a spin." Engadget reports: To give it a go, you'll need to open the Allo app on your device and use that to scan a QR code you can generate at this link. Once you've scanned the code, Allo pulls up your chat history and mirrors all the conversations you have on your phone. Most of Allo's key features, including smart replies, emoji, stickers and most importantly the Google Assistant are all intact here. In fact, this is the first time you can really get the full Google Assistant experience through the web; it's been limited to phones and Google Home thus far.
Communications

Neo-Nazi Site The Daily Stormer Moves To Dark Web After Shutdown (vice.com) 337

After being shutdown by Google and GoDaddy, prominent neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has moved their site to the dark web. "The new site is now only available through the Tor network, which allows users to set up their own domains," reports VICE News. "The original site, Dailystormer.com, is now fully offline." From the report: The homepage, as of Tuesday morning, contained articles that make light of the car ramming attack that claimed the life of 32-year-old Heather Heyer; admonish the "Jew media;" liberally employ various racial epithets; and, in a less offensive post, provided an update on which characters are available on Pokemon Go. In a statement, the site's founder promised to bring his site back online. "The Daily Stormer will be live in internet prison with drug dealers, terrorists and perverts, which is where we've been exiled to, for all time," Andrew Anglin said in a statement sent to VICE News. "We should have a real domain online within 24 hours. If it gets shut down again, people will know we are on the black web."
Communications

Tech Companies Urge Supreme Court To Boost Cellphone Privacy (reuters.com) 29

More than a dozen high technology companies and the biggest wireless operator in the United States, Verizon, have called on the U.S. Supreme Court to make it harder for government officials to access individuals' sensitive cellphone data. From a report: The companies filed a 44-page brief with the court on Monday night in a high-profile dispute over whether police should have to get a warrant before obtaining data that could reveal a cellphone user's whereabouts. Signed by some of Silicon Valley's biggest names, including Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Snap and Alphabet's Google, the brief said that as individuals' data is increasingly collected through digital devices, greater privacy protections are needed under the law. "That users rely on technology companies to process their data for limited purposes does not mean that they expect their intimate data to be monitored by the government without a warrant," the brief said.
Google

Google Pays Apple $3 Billion Per Year To Remain On the iPhone, Analyst Says (cnbc.com) 101

In a note to investors on Monday, Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said Google is paying Apple billions of dollars per year to remain the default search engine on iPhones and iPads. "The firm believes that Google will pay Apple about $3 billion this year, up from $1 billion just three years ago, and that Google's licensing fees make up a large bulk of Apple's services business," reports CNBC. From the report: "Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3 billion," Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. "Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple's total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years."

Businesses

Uber Investors Slam Travis Kalanick In Open Letter To Employees (gizmodo.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Benchmark Capital, one of Uber's largest investors, is trying to explain its legal feud with former CEO Travis Kalanick to the ride-sharing company's employees. Benchmark sued Kalanick for fraud last week, adding another controversy to the company's already disastrous summer. In an open letter to Uber employees, Benchmark slammed Kalanick's leadership of the company and said that he was purposely hindering the board's search for a replacement CEO. The firm also criticized Uber's slow response to the report compiled by Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran on harassment within Uber, and the stagnant search for a chief financial officer that has dragged on for more than two years.

"It has appeared at times as if the search was being manipulated to deter candidates and create a power vacuum in which Travis could return," the unsigned letter reads. "It's easy to reduce this situation to a battle of personalities. But this isn't about Benchmark versus Travis. It's about ensuring that Uber can reach its full potential as a company. And that will only happen if we get rid of the roadblocks and distractions that have plagued Uber, and its board, for far too long," Benchmark wrote in its letter. "Failing to act would have meant endorsing behavior that was utterly unacceptable in any company, let alone a company of Uber's size and importance."
Kalanick has responded to Benchmark through a spokesperson via The New York Times: "Like many shareholders, I am disappointed and baffled by Benchmark's hostile actions, which clearly are not in the best interests of Uber and its employees on whose behalf they claim to be acting. Since 2009, building Uber into a great company has been my passion and obsession. I continue to work tirelessly with the board to identify and hire the best CEO to guide Uber into its next phase of growth and ensure its continued success."
Google

From Google To Yahoo, Tech Grapples With White Male Discontent (bloomberg.com) 574

Reader joshtops shares a Bloomberg report: Google isn't the only Silicon Valley employer being accused of hostility to white men. Yahoo and Tata Consultancy Services were already fighting discrimination lawsuits brought by white men before Google engineer James Damore ignited a firestorm -- and got himself fired -- with an internal memo criticizing the company's diversity efforts and claiming women are biologically less suited than men to be engineers. The Yahoo case began last year when two men sued, claiming they'd been unfairly fired after managers allegedly manipulated performance evaluations to favor women. They claim Marissa Mayer approved the review process and was involved in their terminations, and last month a judge ordered the former chief executive be deposed. TCS, meanwhile, is fighting three men who claim the Mumbai-based firm discriminates against non-Indians at its U.S. offices.
Android

Opera Kills Off Its Free Data-Saving App, Opera Max (betanews.com) 25

Mark Wycislik-Wilson, writing for BetaNews: Opera Max -- the free data-saving and VPN-like tool from the team behind the Opera web browser -- is being killed off. The app has been removed from Google Play with immediate effect, and there will be no more updates. Opera is not really giving a reason for the sudden decision other that the fact that Opera Max had "a substantially different value proposition than our browser products."

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