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Crime

Foxconn Employee Faces 10-Year Prison Sentence For Stealing 5,700 iPhones Worth $1.5 Million (thenextweb.com) 44

A Taiwanese Foxconn manager faces a stiff prison sentence after he stole 5,700 iPhones from his employer, and went to sell them for $1.56 million. The Next Web reports: Foxconn is a tech manufacturing giant. It makes a lot of things, including laptops for HP, phones for Apple, games consoles for Sony, and its workers so depressed it has to install suicide nets. The Taiwanese manager at the center of this crime -- known only by his family name, Tsai -- worked in the testing department at Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen, mainland China. According to Taiwanese prosecutors, Tsai ordered eight of his subordinates to smuggle out thousands of iPhones which were used by the company for testing and quality assurance purposes. These were destined to be scrapped after use. The stolen iPhones (mostly iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s models) made their way to stores in Shenzhen, and went on to make Tsai and his accomplices nearly $1.56 million USD (Tw$50 million). Tsai has since been charged with breach of trust and, if found guilty, he faces a maximum 10-year jail term.
United States

This Cyber Monday Was the Biggest Online Shopping Day, Ever (zdnet.com) 56

Cyber Monday is likely to have been the biggest online shopping day in history, according to an analysis of visits to US retail websites. Online spending in the US yesterday hit a new record with $3.39bn spent online, a 10.2 percent increase year-over-year -- ahead even of Black Friday, when $3.34bn was spent. ZDNet adds:Cyber Monday is expected to generate slightly less mobile revenue than Black Friday at $1.19bn, but that's still a 48 percent increase on last year, according to the analysis by Adobe. Consumers have spent a total of $39.9bn online so far this month, it said, up 7.4 percent on last November, with 27 out of 28 days seeing online sales of over $1bn. The five best-selling toys in terms of quantity sold on Cyber Monday were Lego, Shopkins, Nerf, Barbie, and Little Live Pets. The five best-selling electronic products were Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung 4K TVs, Apple iPads, and Amazon Fire tablets, the company said.
PlayStation (Games)

'No Man's Sky' Releases Huge New 'Foundation' Update (thenextweb.com) 112

"No Man's Sky changed a great deal this morning, getting new modes and a ton of gameplay tweaks thanks to update 1.1, the largest one yet," reports Kotaku. Calling it "the first of many free updates," the game's developers introduced a new Minecraft-style Creative Mode which "allows players to explore the universe without limits, and build a huge base," plus a tougher Survival Mode, "creating a much more challenging endurance experience." The Next Web calls it "features that really should have been in the game from Day One." Now, when you stumble upon a desolate outpost, you can build your own base on it, which can be upgraded with new housing, hydroponics, research, and storage buildings. If all goes well, you'll start to attract alien settlers who bring their own skills to your new society. As your stockpiles of resources begin to swell, you'll want to schlep them across the galaxy to other bases and trade terminals. Which is where freighters come in... Oh, and did I mention you can now stack items five times per inventory slot, meaning you can carry more stuff? Handy. "The discussion around No Man's Sky since release has been intense and dramatic," Hello Games announced Friday, describing update 1.1 as "putting in place a foundation for things to come... the first small step in a longer journey." Hello Games founder Sean Murray tweeted "We're getting better as quickly as we can for the players who invested in us," adding "Thank you for sticking with us." At 2 a.m. this morning, he tweeted "If you could have lived our lives over the last months, you'd know how meaningful this is," adding "Here's the update..."
Sony

Sony Accused of Censoring Negative Feedback On Its Bravia TVs Ahead of Black Fri (ibtimes.co.uk) 40

An anonymous reader writes: Disgruntled owners of Sony's Bravia televisions have accused the company of "censoring" its community forums by preventing users from reporting technical issues. Several users say the company has locked threads containing complaints about its 4K televisions to suppress negative feedback in the run-up to the high-spending season. One of the threads removed by Sony contained 90 pages-worth of reports of input lag issues affecting its 2016 line of ultra-high definition (UHD) Bravia sets. The thread is titled, "Buyers beware, it looks almost the entire 4K 'HDR capable' TV line up from Sony are trash for 4K and HDR gaming" and clicking on the link now brings up an empty page with the error message: "the topic you are trying to access is not available."
AT&T

DirecTV Now Leak Reveals Channels, Promotions of AT&T's Upcoming TV Service (variety.com) 45

It seems AT&T won't leave any stone unturned for its upcoming DirecTV Now streaming service. According to a new report, the company is planning to offer a free Apple TV set-top box or an Amazon Fire USB stick to people who subscribe to the service. From a report on Variety, which also details some channels that could be featured on DirecTV Now: The leaked documents detail that consumers who are willing to commit to at least three months of paid service will be able to get a free Apple TV as part of a device promotion. Consumers who pay for one month will get a free Fire TV streaming stick. Both devices are more expensive on their own than the service charges consumers would have to pay to qualify for each promotion. AT&T officially announced DirecTV Now as an internet-based live TV service earlier this year. The telco has since given us some idea about the programming, announcing deals with Disney, NBCUniversal and Viacom as well as Scripps, A&E Networks, Discovery, HBO, and Starz. Last month, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson announced that DirecTV Now will cost $35 per month and carry more than 100 channels when it launches in the coming weeks. The leaked customer-support documents didn't include complete channel lineups -- those also depend on the local markets of subscribers -- but they do give us a better idea of which other channels DirecTV Now aims to launch with. A partial list of channels included not only networks from the aforementioned partners, but also Univision networks like Galavision, Univision and UniMas, Fox and MundoFox, CBS, HDNet Movies, the Hallmark Channel and the Sony Movie Channel.
PlayStation (Games)

Mark Cerny, Chief PlayStation Architect, Explains the PS4 Pro (theverge.com) 71

Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro, which launches next month on November 10th, is the company's most powerful console that will be capable of outputting 4K and HDR content, including movies, TV shows and games. In an effort to find out how developers will make use of the console and whether or not the PS4 Pro will in any way undermine the audience of the current PS4, The Verge sat down with Mark Cerny, Sony's chief PlayStation architect, and asked him some questions. The Verge reports: The PS4 Pro is 2.28 times more powerful than its predecessor, but not everything will run in native 4K
Instead of using an entirely new GPU, Cerny said the PS4 Pro is using a "double-sauced one." In effect, the new console has a second, identical GPU configured next to the original, more than doubling the processing power of the Pro. While the standard PS4 produces 1.8 teraflops, the PS4 Pro achieves 4.2 teraflops. This is how the device can achieve native 4K and, in some cases, what Cerny said are results "extremely close to 4K." For select software, including games like adventure title Horizon Zero Dawn and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the PS4 Pro will use a crafty technique called checkerboard rendering to achieve 2160p resolution. Checkboard rendering changes the formation of pixels to achieve higher-fidelity graphics.

Standard PS4 games will play just the same unless devs patch them
For the more than 700 or so existing PS4 games, Cerny said the goal was to ensure those titles played smoothly no matter what. That's why the Pro incorporates an identical GPU. Because the new console has "the old GPU next to a mirror version of itself," Sony can support existing games with a simple trick: "We just turn off the second GPU," he said. Developers can patch these titles to boost graphics and performance in very subtle ways. But unless you have a 4K television, the difference will not be substantial.

Sony says it doesn't want games released solely for the PS4 Pro
When asked whether Sony would ever let a game run exclusively on the PS4 Pro, Cerny was blunt. "We're putting a very high premium on not splitting the user base in that fashion," he said. That doesn't rule out the possibility that, two or even three years down the line, a game comes out that relies so heavily on the hardware improvements of the Pro that it becomes unplayable on the standard PS4. Cerny wouldn't really speak much to that scenario, saying that Sony is asking developers to take advantage of the new console without leaving older hardware behind.
You can also watch Mark Cerny chat with PlayStation Blog's Sid Shuman about the creation of the PS4 Pro here on YouTube.
Power

More Lithium Battery Product Recalls Predicted (mercurynews.com) 99

While "the vast majority" of lithium-ion batteries will never malfunction, lithium itself "is highly combustible and batteries made with it are subject to 'thermal runaway'," which can be triggered by damage -- or by bad design. An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News: Battery and electronics manufacturers take numerous steps to try to mitigate such dangers... But while the industry has tried to make lithium-ion batteries safer, 'the technology itself isn't foolproof,' said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage research at GTM Research... And there's reason to think that the problem could get worse before it gets better. Consumer demand for devices that are ever more powerful and longer lasting has encouraged manufacturers to make batteries that can hold even more charge. To do that, they typically pack the battery cells closer and closer together...

Since June of this year, educational toy company Roylco recalled 1,400 light tables designed for kids... Razor, Swagway and some eight other manufacturers recalled a total of 500,000 hoverboards. And HP and Sony between them recalled more than 42,000 notebook computers. All for similar reasons -- lithium-ion batteries that either had caught fire or which have posed a fire hazard... Other notorious examples include the several different Tesla Model S's that have caught fire, typically after crashes compromised their battery packs, and Sony's wide-scale recall a decade ago of the batteries that powered its Vaio and other laptop computers.

In a related story, Samsung's recall of their Note 7 is now expected to cost $5.3 billion.
PlayStation (Games)

You Can Now Claim Your Cash In the PS3 'Other PS3' Settlement (arstechnica.com) 85

If you've purchased a "fat" PlayStation 3 before April of 2010, you can now claim up to $55 as part of the settlement over the removal of the console's "Other OS" feature. PS3 owners with proof of purchase or evidence of a PSN sign-in from the system can receive $9 from the company. However, if you've used the "Other OS" feature to install Linux on your PS3, you can receive $55. The online claim form can be found here. Ars Technica reports: The opening of claims after a long legal saga that began in March of 2010, when Sony announced it would be removing the "Other OS" feature from the PS3. Sony claimed it was a security concern, but many class-action lawsuits filed in 2010 alleged the company was more worried about software piracy. While one lawsuit over the matter was dismissed by a judge in 2011, another worked its way through the courts until June, when Sony finally decided to settle. Though the company doesn't admit any wrongdoing, it puts itself on the hook for payments to up to 10 million PS3 owners. Note to those affected: "Claims are due by December 7, and payments should be sent out early next year pending final approval of the settlement."
Sony

Sony To Return Image Sensors To Full Capacity On Smartphone Pickup (reuters.com) 9

Sony's image sensor production will return to full capacity in the October-March half-year due to a pickup in smartphone demand, having spent part of the past year running just under full strength, the head of its chip-making subsidiary said. From a Reuters report: "The business environment for our customers is improving," President Yasuhiro Ueda of Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp said at a news conference on Friday, at Sony's sensor factory in the Kumamoto region of southern Japan. Sony commands about 40 percent of the market for complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors, a type of chip that converts light into electronic signals. The sensors were central to Sony's recovery from years of losses stemming mainly from price competition in consumer electronics. A slowdown in the global smartphone market prompted Sony to cut sensor production in the October-March half of the last business year, but demand has since picked up. Ueda said combined monthly production would rise in the second half of this business year from 70,000 wafers at present to 73,000 wafers -- full capacity at Sony's five image sensor plants. The figure excludes outsourced production.
Piracy

YouTube-MP3 Ripping Site Sued By IFPI, RIAA and BPI (torrentfreak.com) 310

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Two weeks ago, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry published research which claimed that half of 16 to 24-year-olds use stream-ripping tools to copy music from sites like YouTube. The industry group said that the problem of stream-ripping has become so serious that in volume terms it had overtaken downloading from 'pirate' sites. Given today's breaking news, the timing of the report was no coincidence. Earlier today in a California District Court, a huge coalition of recording labels sued the world's largest YouTube ripping site. UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, Arista Records, Atlantic Records and several others claim that YouTube-MP3 (YTMP3), owner Philip Matesanz, and Does 1-10 have infringed their rights. The labels allege that YouTube-MP3 is one of the most popular sites in the entire world and as a result its owner, German-based company PMD Technologies UG, is profiting handsomely from their intellectual property. YouTube-MP3 is being sued for direct, contributory, vicarious and inducement of copyright infringement, plus circumvention of technological measures. Among other things, the labels are also demanding a preliminary and permanent injunction forbidding the Defendants from further infringing their rights. They also want YouTube-MP3's domain name to be surrendered. "YTMP3 rapidly and seamlessly removes the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube that YTMP3's users access, converts those audio tracks to an MP3 format, copies and stores them on YTMP3's servers, and then distributes copies of the MP3 audio files from its servers to its users in the United States, enabling its users to download those MP3 files to their computers, tablets, or smartphones," the complaint reads. "Defendants are depriving Plaintiffs and their recording artists of the fruits of their labor, Defendants are profiting from the operation of the YTMP3 website. Through the promise of illicit delivery of free music, Defendants have attracted millions of users to the YTMP3 website, which in turn generates advertising revenues for Defendants," the labels add.
Patents

'Corporate Troll' Wins $3 Million Verdict Against Apple For Ring-Silencing Patent (arstechnica.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A non-practicing entity called MobileMedia Ideas LLC won a patent lawsuit against Apple today, with a Delaware federal jury finding that Apple should pay $3 million for infringing MobileMedia's patent RE39,231, which relates to ring-silencing features on mobile phones. MobileMedia is an unusual example of the kind of pure patent-licensing entity often derided as a "patent troll." It is majority-owned by MPEG-LA, a patent pool that licenses common digital video technologies like H-264, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Minority stakes in MobileMedia are owned by Sony and Nokia, which both contributed the patents owned by the company. MobileMedia also has the same CEO as MPEG-LA, Larry Horn. The battle ended up being a long one, as MobileMedia first filed the case in 2010. It went to trial in 2012, and the jury found that Apple infringed three patents. After reviewing post-trial motions, the judge knocked out some, but not all, of the infringed patent claims. Then came an appeal in which a panel of Federal Circuit judges upheld (PDF) some of the lower court's judges and overturned others. A $3 million verdict is hardly going to make an impact on Apple, and it doesn't represent a huge win for MobileMedia, which was reportedly seeking $18 million in royalties from the trial. Still, getting a verdict in its favor does represent some validation of MobileMedia's business model, which was a striking example of technology corporations using the "patent troll" business model as a kind of proxy war. Nokia and Sony were able to use MobileMedia and the licensing talent at MPEG-LA to wage a patent attack on Apple without engaging directly in court. In all, after years of back-and-forth, the ring-silencing patent was the one that MobileMedia had left. While Apple didn't win the case against one of the first "corporate trolls," it was able to severely pare down the scale of the attack and show that it's willing to fight a long legal war of attrition to make its point.
Microsoft

Microsoft and Sony Are Debating Over Whose Console Really Offers 'True 4K' (arstechnica.com) 147

Sony's PlayStation 4, which will go on sales in two months, comes loaded with rendering pipeline and some proprietary upscaling techniques that can improve lower resolution base signals to take fuller advantage of a 4K display. Microsoft is seemingly upset with how Sony is marketing this, and it is not shying from telling people that no amount of upscaling can fill in those missing 4K pixels and the hardware inefficiency to produce native and "true 4K" images that the Project Scorpio, its gaming console that is coming next year can. Microsoft has also said that any game that it will launch during the Scorpio timeframe will "natively render at 4K." But the debate is anything from over because Microsoft keeps reminding everyone that the processor and GPU in its upcoming console is more powerful. As ArsTechnica explains: With Scorpio, Microsoft seems to be arguing that every first-party game at launch will be able to generate and render nearly 8.3 million pixels (four times as many as a 1080p game) at an acceptable frame rate (i.e., at least 30 times a second). That would be quite an achievement. As we noted back at E3, it currently takes pricey, high-end PC graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX 1080 or the AMD R9 Fury X -- cards that run $300 or much higher -- to "barely scrape by" with a native 4K, 30fps game. And those PC cards seem to have significantly more raw power than what is being claimed by Microsoft -- 9 and 8.4 teraflops, respectively, vs. a claimed 6 teraflops for Scorpio (and 4.2 teraflops for the PS4 Pro).Microsoft's head of Xbox planning, Albert Penello said, "I know that 4.2 teraflops is not enough to do true 4K." In an interview with Eurogamer, Penello adds:I think there are a lot of caveats they're giving customers right now around 4K. They're talking about checkerboard rendering and up-scaling and things like that. There are just a lot of asterisks in their marketing around 4K, which is interesting because when we thought about what spec we wanted for Scorpio, we were very clear we wanted developers to take their Xbox One engines and render them in native, true 4K. That was why we picked the number, that's why we have the memory bandwidth we have, that's why we have the teraflops we have, because it's what we heard from game developers was required to achieve native 4K.
AI

Hacker George Hotz Unveils $999 Self-Driving Add-On (pcmag.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PC Magazine: Hacker George Hotz is gearing up to launch his automotive AI start-up's first official product. In December, the 26-year-old -- known for infiltrating Apple's iPhone and Sony's PlayStation 3J -- moved on to bigger things: turning a 2016 Acura ILX into an autonomous vehicle. According to Bloomberg, Hotz outfitted the car with a laser-based radar (lidar) system, a camera, a 21.5-inch screen, a "tangle of electronics," and a joystick attached to a wooden board. Nine months later, the famed hacker this week unveiled the Comma One. As described by TechCrunch, the $999 add-on comes with a $24 monthly subscription fee for software that can pilot a car for miles without a driver touching the wheel, brake, or gas. But unlike systems currently under development by Google, Tesla, and nearly every major vehicle manufacturer, Comma.ai's "shippable" Comma One does not require users to buy a new car. "It's fully functional. It's about on par with Tesla Autopilot," Hotz said during this week's TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.
PlayStation (Games)

Every PlayStation 4 Gets HDR This Week With System Update 4.00 (cnet.com) 41

Sony announced today it is rolling out a new system updated -- dubbed Shingen -- to all the PlayStation 4 to bring High Dynamic Range (HDR) support. The new update, in addition, also brings Spotify integration, LAN data migration transfer, and tweaks to interface. From a CNET report: Other refinements to the system's interface include a redesigned content info screen -- the thing you see when pressing down after highlighting a game on your home screen. Similarly, the What's New screen has been updated with a new layout. 4.00 also adds support for HDR to all play PS4s, something Sony announced last week. This will be an option located in the Video Output Settings menu for existing PS4s and the new slim PS4, as well as the PS4 Pro. Those who get a Pro when it launches in November will also find support for several new features added in this update. As we learned recently, the system features 1080p streaming for Share Play and Remote Play (but only to PC/Mac and Xperia devices, not Vita), as well as 1080p/30 FPS streaming to Twitch and 1080p 30/60 FPS streaming to YouTube.
Sony

Sony Announces Two New Versions of PlayStation 4: One Slimmer, Other More Powerful (engadget.com) 82

Sony isn't done with the PlayStation 4. The company today revealed the PS4 Slim, a thinner version of its latest console that's been lurking around the rumor mill for months now. The Slim lands on September 15th for $300. The PS4 Slim features all the guts of a standard PS4 plus a few cosmetic and convenience upgrades, including a lightbar at the top, more space between the front-facing USB ports and the removal of the optical port, Engadget reports. From the report:The console is about 30 percent smaller than the standard PS4, which came out in 2013, and it plays all existing PS4 games.
The company also launched a more powerful version of the PlayStation 4: the PS4 Pro, which offers support for 4K. It is priced at $399, and goes on sale November 10. The Verge reports: The PS4 Pro can output 4K and HDR video, which is powered by an upgraded GPU. Sony also boosted the clock rate for the new PS4 Pro. It will also come with a 1TB hard drive. "PS4 Pro is not intended to blur the line between console generations," Mark Cerny, the chief architect for the PS4, said on stage. "Instead, the vision is to take the PS4 experience to extraordinary new levels."
Sony

Sony Wins Battle Over Preinstalled Windows in Europe's Top Court (arstechnica.com) 238

An anonymous reader shares an Ars Technica report: The sale of a computer equipped with pre-installed software isn't an unfair commercial practice because most customers prefer to buy a laptop they can use straight away, Europe's top court has ruled in a victory for Sony. "Failure to indicate the price of each item of pre-installed software" isn't misleading, the Court of Justice of the European Union added in its ruling on Wednesday. The CJEU was asked to intervene after French citizen Vincent Deroo-Blanquart took Sony to court for failing to reimburse the cost of pre-installed software -- Windows Vista Home Premium operating system -- that he did not wish to use on a laptop. Sony refused and instead offered to cancel the sale altogether.
Sony

Sony's Signature Walkman and Headphones Are $5,500 of Ridiculous (theverge.com) 99

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge: Like a grand old dinosaur that's being left behind by the evolution of the tech industry, Sony is in desperate recovery mode here at IFA. The company has new phones, a rather nice pair of noise-canceling headphones, the imminent PS VR, and... a truly outlandish combo of music player and headphones that costs a mighty $5,499.98. I guess there had to be some outlet for Sony's classic wild-eyed grandeur. Sony's new Signature audio series consists of the gold-plated NW-WM1Z Walkman, which weighs in at 455g (1lb) and $3,200, the $2,300 MDR-Z1R closed-back headphones, and a desktop headphone amp whose price I haven't even dared to look up. First impressions? The portable media player barely qualifies to be called portable. This new 256GB Walkman glints beautifully under IFA's bright lights, and its hefty case is machined to a perfect finish, but its weight is overwhelming. I simultaneously love it for its looks and hate it for its impracticality. Typical Sony, then!
Android

Android Companies Keep Pretending That Android Doesn't Exist (theverge.com) 168

Europe's biggest tech show IFA is underway in Berlin currently. Companies from around the world are showcasing their new smartphones at the event, chearleading the advancements they have made on the hardware side. Pretty much all these devices are running Android, but the way they are presented, you wouldn't be able to tell if that really is the case. The Verge's Vlad Savov writes: Sony would have us believe that buying an Xperia phone grants us a pass into the exclusive Xperia experience. The stuff actually differentiating the Xperia brand is junk and bloatware: the Xperia assistance software is a mobile version of Microsoft's Clippy. Huawei is even worse in its Android omerta, deathly afraid to utter the green giant's name. I understand that hardware companies want to spend more time talking about their hardware, but all these launches feel lobotomized without a proper discussion of the software driving their devices. Tell me about your implementation of Android. Tell me why you think it's okay to launch a phone without the latest software. Reassure me that I won't be left behind the way that many 2014 Android flagships already have been, and explain to your users why they don't need smarter multitasking, improved notifications, and baked-in VR support. Yes, those are harder issues to discuss, but dodging them is what makes customers untrusting of Android manufacturers.
Sony

Sony To Boost Smartphone Batteries Because People Aren't Replacing Phones (theguardian.com) 210

Not too long ago, people would replace their phone every 18 months. But that isn't the case with most people now. According to new estimates, more people are now changing their phones after at least three years. The problem with this is that by the end of two-three years, the battery on the phone reaches a stage where it gets really annoying. Sony has a solution, or so it says. From The Guardian:Sony is trying to fix that, but not by fixing the battery. That's because the lithium ion cells within smartphones don't exactly need fixing -- they will continue to work for years -- but their ability to hold their original amount of charge rapidly diminishes with repeated recharging cycles. Everyone who finds themselves with a chunky battery pack for their new smartphone or desperately searching for a charger by mid-afternoon knows battery capacity is a never-ending headache that only gets worse as a smartphone, and its battery ages. Rather than fixing the battery, Sony wants to do something about the recharging. Jun Makino, Sony mobile's senior product marketing manager, said; "We've started learning your charging cycles so that our new Xperia X smartphones only complete charging to 100% when they estimate you're about to start using them, so that the damage caused by maintaining a battery at 100% is negated. This is important, a battery that's usually kept at a charge between 20% and 80% of its capacity is much healthier -- it's going to the extremes that wears it out at a faster rate. This is important, a battery that's usually kept at a charge between 20% and 80% of its capacity is much healthier - it's going to the extremes that wears it out at a faster rate. The Japanese electronics firm has partnered with Californian adaptive charging company Qnovo to put technology into its Xperia smartphones. This includes the new top-end Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact, which Sony reckons will double the life of the battery to around four years.

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