Start up: the Nougat niggles, the Yoga PC-tablet, Swift has hacker trouble, SETI only found TI, and more


“Oh, I’m not interested in your joining my professional network on LinkedIn, then.” Photo by pinprick on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Why isn’t your old phone getting Nougat? There’s blame enough to go around • Ars Technica

Andrew Cunningham:

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Not all of the big Android phone makers have announced their plans for the Nougat update, but if you look at Sony’s and Google’s and HTC’s official lists (as well as the supplemental lists being published by some carriers), you’ll notice they all have one big thing in common. None of the phones are more than a year or two old.

And while this is sadly the norm for the Android ecosystem, it looks like this isn’t exclusivelythe fault of lazy phone makers who have little incentive to provide support for anything they’ve already sold you. Sony, for instance, was working on a Nougat build for 2014’s Xperia Z3 and even got it added to the official Nougat developer program midway through, only to be dropped in the last beta build and the final Nougat release.

After doing some digging and talking to some people, we can say that it will be either very difficult if not completely impossible for any phone that uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 or 801 to get an official, Google-sanctioned Nougat update (including the Z3). And that’s a pretty big deal, since those two chips powered practically every single Android flagship sold from late 2013 until late 2014 and a few more recent devices to boot.

This situation has far-reaching implications for the Android ecosystem. And while it can be tempting to lay the blame at the feet of any one company—Google for creating this update mess in the first place, Qualcomm for failing to support older chipsets, and the phone makers for failing to keep up with new software—it’s really kind of everybody’s fault.

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Though largely Qualcomm’s. Not sure you can really blame Google “for creating this update mess in the first place”. Updating software is what software companies do.

But this is a terrific piece of exposition of all the moving parts, and why some of them actually don’t move.
link to this extract


Lenovo’s Yoga Book could make physical keyboards an endangered species • CNET

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Lenovo on Wednesday introduced the Yoga Book, a unique tablet/hybrid PC with two touchscreen displays that fold in on each other. A normal display makes up the top half, while the bottom half is a touchscreen featuring a digital “smart keyboard.”

Lenovo’s investment in such a product underscores the shifting patterns in how consumers — particularly younger people — interact with devices. The company’s research found that people under 30 took to the digital keyboard immediately, while those older than 30 approached it with skepticism. If the Yoga Book takes off, it could mark the starting point for when the physical keyboard loses its spot as the go-to tool for composing a note.

“While the traditional keyboard or laptop are unlikely to disappear entirely, other devices will take over more of our computing tasks,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis.

If anyone can pull this off, it might be Lenovo. The company has led the world in PC sales for more than three years, and has led the charge in moving beyond basic laptops toward hybrids and two-in-one PCs that incorporate tablet elements. Indeed, Jeff Meredith, vice president of Lenovo’s Android and Chrome computing business group, said his team designed the Yoga Book based on the tablet, not a PC.

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Clever idea. Apologies for this and the later CNet link, which has autoplay video enabled – you have been warned.
link to this extract


Dropbox: leaked DB of 68 million account passwords is real • The Register

Richard Chirgwin:

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A leaked database purported to contain login information for 68 million Dropbox accounts is the real deal. The cloud biz confirmed the authenticity of the records to The Register, with independent verification from IT security guru Troy Hunt.

The archive, which is being shared online, contains Dropbox user IDs and hashed passwords stolen by hackers in 2012. Today’s confirmation follows a mass reset of passwords by Dropbox last week when copies of the database started surfacing on the internet.

A spokesperson told The Register: “We are confident that this is not a new incident; this data is from 2012, and these credentials were covered by the password reset.”

The Register’s conversation with Hunt – the operator of HaveIBeenPwned and a security educator – bears that out to a degree: while Hunt has identified his pre-2012 user ID in the list, your humble hack’s post-2012 account is not in the nearly 70 million records.

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HIBP is a terrific resource.
link to this extract


Swift warns banks about successful raids by hackers • FT.com

Martin Arnold:

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Hackers have carried out a series of successful raids on banks via the Swift global payments network, the organisation has warned its members this week as it pushes them to tighten their cyber security.

In a letter seen by the Financial Times, Swift told its 11,000 members that “a good number” of the attacks had been repelled after being spotted by its own security programme or by other banks, but some of the hackers had made off with an unspecified amount of cash.

The non-profit co-operative, which is owned by the banks, has faced concerns about its vulnerability after cyber criminals made off with $81m from the Bangladeshi central bank in February. Several similar cases, some of which were successful, have since emerged at banks in Vietnam, the Philippines and Ecuador…

…The letter added: “The customers that have been targeted have varied in size and geography; used diverse connectivity methods and a range of interfaces from different vendors. The targeted customers have, however, shared one thing in common; they have all had particular weaknesses in their local security.”

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link to this extract


Samsung delays shipments of Galaxy Note 7 for quality control testing • The Guardian

Samuel Gibbs:

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There have been several unconfirmed local reports of users claiming that the battery of the Galaxy Note 7 battery exploded during charging. Samsung did not elaborate on what further testing was required and to where shipments of the high-priced phablet were being delayed.

The Galaxy Note 7 is the first Samsung smartphone to have a USB-C connector. The new connector brings with it a new charging standard to which some third-party cables have been found to be non-compliant, causing damage to devices from laptops to smartphones using the new port. Amazon recently clamped down on the non-compliant and dangerous cables.

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USB-C, eh? *taps nose*
link to this extract


Turns out the signal astronomers saw was “strong” because it came from Earth • Ars Technica

Oh well, we tried to get (y)our hopes up.
link to this extract


Privacy groups file FTC complaint over Whatsapp Facebook privacy ‘bait and switch’ • Techdirt

Karl Bode:

»

As expected, EPIC and the Center for Digital Democracy have filed a formal complaint with the FTC (pdf), accusing Facebook of violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. In public statements, both organizations accuse Facebook and Whatsapp of a “bait and switch” on previous promises that user information would not be used for marketing across the Facebook social media empire:

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“The FTC has an obligation to protect WhatsApp users. Their personal information should not be incorporated into Facebook’s sophisticated data driven marketing business,” said Katharina Kopp, Ph.D., and CDD’s Director of Policy. “Data that was collected under clear rules should not be used in violation of the privacy promises that WhatsApp made. That is a significant change that requires an opt-in, according to the terms the FTC set out. It’s not complicated. If WhatsApp wants to transfer user data to Facebook, it has to obtain the user’s affirmative consent.”

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Did you read Dave Eggers’ The Circle? Remember the transparent shark? Facebook is that shark. (If you haven’t: highly recommended.)
link to this extract


How LinkedIn’s search engine may reflect a gender bias • The Seattle Times

Matt Day:

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Search for a female contact on LinkedIn, and you may get a curious result. The professional networking website asks if you meant to search for a similar-looking man’s name.

A search for “Stephanie Williams,” for example, brings up a prompt asking if the searcher meant to type “Stephen Williams” instead.

It’s not that there aren’t any people by that name — about 2,500 profiles included Stephanie Williams.

But similar searches of popular female first names, paired with placeholder last names, bring up LinkedIn’s suggestion to change “Andrea Jones” to “Andrew Jones,” Danielle to Daniel, Michaela to Michael and Alexa to Alex.

The pattern repeats for at least a dozen of the most common female names in the U.S.

Searches for the 100 most common male names in the U.S., on the other hand, bring up no prompts asking if users meant predominantly female names.

LinkedIn says its suggested results are generated automatically by an analysis of the tendencies of past searchers. “It’s all based on how people are using the platform,” spokeswoman Suzi Owens said.

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Algorithmic bias is hard to spot, but it’s there all right.
link to this extract


Video games allow characters more varied sexual identities • The New York Times

Laura Parker:

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Jesse Fox, an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Ohio State University who studies how online interactions influence people’s offline attitudes, found that avatars can powerfully affect how people act in the real world. In a series of studies she conducted from 2009 through 2013, she saw that participants responded better to avatars modeled on their real appearances, as opposed to generic-looking avatars.

This is linked to what is known as the Proteus effect, a concept introduced in 2007 by the Stanford researchers Nick Yee and Jeremy Bailenson, who concluded that the appearance of a person’s online avatar had a significant impact on his or her behavior, in and out of a virtual environment. In one study, participants who were assigned a more attractive avatar in a virtual environment were found to exhibit more confidence and intimacy in the real world than those assigned to a less attractive avatar.

“This tells us that avatars can change our behaviors,” Ms. Fox said. “They allow us to practice and test out certain behaviors in a virtual world.”

Ms. Durkee said this was true for her. Before her transition, she began playing The Sims in 2001 and found comfort in being able to live vicariously through the female characters.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to play games as a female character, even before I knew why,” she said. “I can’t fathom how different my life would be if I were exposed to positive representation of trans people at a young age.”

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Interesting topic. But man, NYT headlines are the absolute pits. No wit, no zing.
link to this extract


Historic Dell and EMC transaction set to close on September 7, 2016 • Business Wire

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“This is an historic moment for both Dell and EMC. Combined, we will be exceptionally well-positioned for growth in the most strategic areas of next generation IT including digital transformation, software-defined data center, converged infrastructure, hybrid cloud, mobile and security,” said Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies. “Our investments in R&D and innovation, along with our 140,000 team members around the world, will give us unmatched scale, strength and flexibility, deepening our relationships with customers of all sizes.”

“I am proud of everything we’ve built at EMC – from humble beginnings as a Boston-based startup to a global, world-class technology company with an unyielding dedication to our customers,” said Joe Tucci, chairman and chief executive officer of EMC. “The combination of Dell and EMC creates a new powerhouse in the industry – providing the essential technology for the next era in IT.”

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The corporate equivalent of a snake swallowing a cow. Let’s see how the snake’s digestion proceeds.
link to this extract


For Samsung’s Gear s3, size matters. And that’s a problem • CNet

Roger Cheng:

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Samsung on Wednesday unveiled the Gear S3, its latest entry into the burgeoning market of wearable tech. The new smartwatch is more durable and runs longer than its predecessor. It also includes an LTE cellular radio so it doesn’t always have to pair with your phone.

The catch is that the S3 also surpasses the previous model in size.

The two versions of the Gear S3, the Frontier and the Classic, both come with the same gain in bulk. Samsung said it needed the extra room to pack in new features. It’s also paying attention to trends — the company said that men are overwhelmingly buying more smartwatches than women, so it felt comfortable with the larger Gear S3. While the exact number varies from region to region, roughly 80% of smartwatch buyers are men.

This may, however, be a case where a one-size-fits-all philosophy ends up backfiring. Men may be leading the way in buying smartwatches now, but that may not necessarily be the case in the future. By designing a product that appeals more to men, Samsung could be powering a self-fulfilling prophecy that would trap it in that demographic.

“I don’t want to look like a kid playing dress-up with her daddy’s watch,” CNET editor Jessica Dolcourt said after trying out the Gear S3. “This watch obviously isn’t made for my wrist.”

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The S3 is actually bigger than the S2. This seems retrograde, and not in a good way.
link to this extract


Live polls and online polls tell different stories about the election • FiveThirtyEight

Harry Enten at the vote-prediction (and other statistical things) site:

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FiveThirtyEight generally takes an inclusive attitude towards polls. Our forecast models include polls from pollsters who use traditional methods, i.e., live interviewers. And we include surveys conducted with less tested techniques, such as interactive voice response (or “robopolls”) and online panels. We don’t treat all polls equally — our models account for the methodological quality and past accuracy of each pollster — but we’ll take all the data we can get.

This split, however, between live-interview polls and everything else, is something we keep our eye on. When we launched our general election forecasts in late June, there wasn’t a big difference in the results we were getting from polls using traditional methodologies and polls using newer techniques. Now, it’s pretty clear that Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump is wider in live-telephone surveys than it is in nonlive surveys.

We don’t know exactly why live-interview polls are getting different results than other types of surveys; there are a lot of potential causes and it’s something we’ll be digging into.

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If I were in Clinton’s camp, I’d find this worrying; people are more likely to be honest about their intentions when they’re not talking to another person, as UK pollsters have repeatedly found.
link to this extract


As browsers accelerate, innovation outpaces security • The Parallax

Seth Rosenblatt:

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Browser security flaws have such a major impact on consumer security that hackers participating in an annual browser hacking contest take home tens of thousands of dollars for finding previously undocumented security holes in major browsers. And quickly addressing those security flaws is important for the sake of more than just safety; an IBM study from 2010 estimates it’s 100 times more expensive to fix a bug after it has reached the public.

Web-browsing security risks extend to vulnerabilities in the sites browsers access and deliver to your device. A June 2016 WhiteHat Security study found that it takes site publishers an average of 150 days to address most vulnerabilities and an average of 500 days to patch high-risk vulnerabilities. That’s plenty of time for a hacker to drive an attack through a hole.

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link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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