The new Google Pay repeats all the same mistakes of Google Allo

The Google Play logo is flushed down a toilet alongside many dollar bills.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

The new Google Pay app came out of beta this week, and it marks the first step in a major upheaval in the Google Pay service. Existing Google Pay users are about to go through a transition reminiscent of the recent move from Google Music to YouTube Music: Google is killing one perfectly fine service and replacing it with a worse, less functional service. The fun, confusing wrinkle here is that the new and old services are both called “Google Pay.”

Allow us to explain.

The old Google Pay service that has been around for years is dying. The app will be shut down in the US on April 5, and if you want to continue using New Google Pay, you’ll have to go find and download a totally new app. NFC tap-and-pay functionality won’t really change once you set up the new app, but the New Google Pay app won’t use your Google account for P2P payments anymore. You’ll be required to make a new account. You won’t be able to send any money to your new contacts until they download the new app and make a new account, too. On top of all that, the Google Pay website will be stripped of all payment functionality in the US on April 5, and New Google Pay won’t support doing anything from the web. You won’t be able to transfer money, view payment activity, or see your balance from a browser.

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#features, #tech

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Tens of thousands of US organizations hit in ongoing Microsoft Exchange hack

A stylized skull and crossbones made out of ones and zeroes.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of US-based organizations are running Microsoft Exchange servers that have been backdoored by threat actors who are stealing administrator passwords and exploiting critical vulnerabilities in the email and calendaring application, it was widely reported. Microsoft issued emergency patches on Tuesday, but they do nothing to disinfect systems that are already compromised.

KrebsOnSecurity was the first to report the mass hack. Citing multiple unnamed people, reporter Brian Krebs put the number of compromised US organizations at at least 30,000. Worldwide, Krebs said there were at least 100,000 hacked organizations. Other news outlets, also citing unnamed sources, quickly followed with posts reporting the hack had hit tens of thousands of organizations in the US.

Assume compromise

“This is the real deal,” Chris Krebs, the former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said on Twitter, referring to the attacks on on-premisis Exchange, which is also known as Outlook Web Access. “If your organization runs an OWA server exposed to the internet, assume compromise between 02/26-03/03.” His comments accompanied a Tweet on Thursday from Jake Sullivan, the White House national security advisor to President Biden.

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#biz-it, #exchange-server, #exploits, #malware, #microsoft, #tech, #vulnerabilities

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A new type of supply-chain attack with serious consequences is flourishing

A computer screen is filled with code.

Enlarge (credit: Przemyslaw Klos / EyeEm / Getty Images)

A new type of supply chain attack unveiled last month is targeting more and more companies, with new rounds this week taking aim at Microsoft, Amazon, Slack, Lyft, Zillow, and an unknown number of others. In weeks past, Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, and 32 other companies were targeted by a similar attack that allowed a security researcher to execute unauthorized code inside their networks.

The latest attack against Microsoft was also carried out as a proof-of-concept by a researcher. Attacks targeting Amazon, Slack, Lyft, and Zillow, by contrast, were malicious, but it’s not clear if they succeeded in executing the malware inside their networks. The npm and PyPi open source code repositories, meanwhile, have been flooded with more than 5,000 proof-of-concept packages, according to Sonatype, a firm that helps customers secure the applications they develop.

“Given the daily volume of suspicious npm packages being picked up by Sonatype’s automated malware detection systems, we only expect this trend to increase, with adversaries abusing dependency confusion to conduct even more sinister activities,” Sonatype researcher Ax Sharma wrote earlier this week.

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#biz-it, #dependency-confusion, #malware, #network-compromise, #supply-chain, #tech

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50, 100 & 150 Years Ago: March 2021

Lethal gas fights crime, 1921; baby energy powers cleaning, 1871

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#50-100150-years-ago, #engineering, #tech

0

Microsoft adds Startup Boost, Sleeping Tabs to Edge build 89

We're not sure why Chromium-based Edge's branding seems so thoroughly wet.

Enlarge / We’re not sure why Chromium-based Edge’s branding seems so thoroughly wet. (credit: Microsoft)

This week, Microsoft announced several more features trickling down to Edge Stable from its Beta insider channel. These features include Startup Boost, Sleeping Tabs, Vertical Tabs, and a more navigable History dialog. The company also announced some welcome interface tweaks to Bing—which Microsoft insists on categorizing as Edge features, but these items seem to apply equally to Bing in any browser so far.

If you’re not familiar with Microsoft Edge’s release and download system, there are three Insider channels (Canary, Dev, and Beta) that represent daily, weekly, and six-weekly updates in increasing order of stability. New features debut there before eventually making their way into Stable, where normal users will encounter them.

If you’re a Windows user, you can’t actually download new builds in the Stable channel directly. Instead, you must either look for them in Windows Update or navigate to edge://settings/help in-browser and ask Edge to check for updates to itself. If you’d also like to check out the Edge Insider builds, you can do so safely—they won’t replace your Edge Stable; they install side-by-side, with separate icons on your taskbar making them easy to distinguish.

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#browser, #chromium, #edge, #microsoft-edge, #tech

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Visual Studio Code now runs natively on M1 Macs

The 2020, M1-equipped Mac mini.

Enlarge / The 2020, M1-equipped Mac mini. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Microsoft has released a new version of source-code editor Visual Studio Code that runs natively on Apple Silicon Macs like the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini models with Apple M1 chips.

The change came in Visual Studio Code 1.54 (now 1.54.1 thanks to a bug fix update), which is available as a universal 64-bit binary, as is standard for apps with Apple Silicon support. That said, Microsoft also offers downloads for x86-64 and Arm64 versions specifically, if desired.

There are no differences in features between the two versions, of course. And the non-Apple Silicon version worked just fine on M1 Macs previously via Rosetta, but Microsoft says M1 users can expect a few optimizations with the new binaries:

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#apple, #apple-silicon, #arm, #ide, #m1, #macos, #microsoft, #microsoft-visual-studio-code, #programming, #tech, #vs-code, #x86

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PSA: Linux folks, stay away from the 5.12-rc1 kernel!

Penguins aren't all equally trustworthy.

Enlarge / Penguins aren’t all equally trustworthy. (credit: Bernard Spragg)

In a message to the Linux Kernel Mailing List yesterday, founding developer Linus Torvalds warned the world not to use the 5.12-rc1 kernel in his public git tree.

Hey peeps – some of you may have already noticed that in my public git tree, the “v5.12-rc1” tag has magically been renamed to “v5.12-rc1-dontuse”. It’s still the same object, it still says “v5.12-rc1” internally and it is still is signed by me, but the user-visible name of the tag has changed.

As it turns out, when Linus Torvalds flags some code dontuse, he really means it—the problem with this 5.12 release candidate broke swapfile handling in a very unpleasant way. Specifically, the updated code would lose the proper offset pointing to the beginning of the swapfile. Again, in Torvalds’ own words, “swapping still happened, but it happened to the wrong part of the filesystem, with the obvious catastrophic end results.”

If your imagination is insufficient, this means that when the kernel paged contents of memory out to disk, the data would land on random parts of the same disk and partition the swapfile lived on… not as files, mind you, but as garbage spewed directly to raw sectors on the disk. This means overwriting not only data in existing files, but also rather large chunks of metadata whose corruption would likely render the entire filesystem unmountable and unusable.

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#beta-code, #bleeding-edge, #catastrophic-filesystem-bugs, #linux, #tech

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Typing my way down the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole with the Drop CTRL

The keyboard is one of the two parts of a computer setup where flesh and blood meet plastic and metal. (The other being the mouse or trackpad.) Using a keyboard effectively means moving fingers with the precision a computer can understand, often doing so faster than the speed of conscious thought. So although many people are fine with a cheap or default keyboard—as long as it registers keypresses reliably—others don’t mind spending a bit more on something better.

And then the real connoisseurs spend hundreds of dollars ordering parts from all over the world to build their own custom, dreamlike keyboard—a mechanical keyboard, of course, where each key has its own mechanical switch.

I didn’t want to go too far overboard when I recently, finally took the custom keyboard plunge. So I decided to get the pre-built but very customizable Drop CTRL instead. The Drop CTRL is a tenkeyless with 100 Hz individual RGB LEDs supporting hot-swappable Cherry MX style switches (plate-mount only) running the QMK firmware. It comes with OEM profile doubleshot PBT shine-through keycaps and a choice of switches. Phew. But, no, none of that is meaningless marketing talk.

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#features, #tech

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Chairs Technica: We review two new models from Anda Seat

Last October, we reviewed a pair of gaming / home office chairs—Secretlab’s Omega and Anda Seat’s more explicitly gaming-themed Fnatic. After several weeks of daily use, the Anda Fnatic took the crown for “favorite chair in the Salter household”—so when Anda offered two more models for review, we snapped them up.

Those two models are the Kaiser 2 and T-Pro 2, neither of which has an explicit esports team affiliation like the Anda Fnatic’s. This means a more austere appearance—particularly in the case of the T-Pro 2, which doesn’t share the Fnatic and Kaiser 2’s neck-height “wings.” Much like the Fnatic, these are excellent chairs—but having all three on hand at once made it clear how important picking the right chair for you and your body really is.

Unboxing and assembly

Assembling the Fnatic, Kaiser 2, and T-Pro 2 chairs all follows the same, simple blueprint:

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#chairs, #gaming-chairs, #home-office, #tech, #work-from-home

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Apple clarifies iOS default music app feature, and it’s not what people thought

Siri in iOS 14.

Enlarge / Siri in iOS 14. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Over the past several weeks, there have been several reports (including one of our own) on a feature found in recent beta releases of iOS 14.5 that appeared to allow users to change the default music app on their iPhones. However, Apple just clarified to TechCrunch that the feature is not as it first seemed.

In the initial reports, users claimed that they were prompted to select a preferred music app, such as Spotify or Apple Music, when they asked Siri to play a song. They then found that Siri seemed to honor that choice on future requests.

Further, they noticed that using the usual command “Hey Siri, play [song name] on Spotify” would cause Siri to use Spotify again in the future when they spoke the same request sans the “on Spotify” part. (In the current public version of iOS, users must say “on Spotify” every single time to play songs in that app instead of Apple Music.)

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#apple, #apple-music, #ios, #ios-14-5, #siri, #spotify, #tech

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Bitflips when PCs try to reach windows.com: What could possibly go wrong?

Stock photo of ones and zeros displayed across a computer screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Bit flips are events that cause individual bits stored in an electronic device to flip, turning a 0 to a 1 or vice versa. Cosmic radiation and fluctuations in power or temperature are the most common naturally occurring causes. Research from 2010 estimated that a computer with 4GB of commodity RAM has a 96 percent chance of experiencing a bit flip within three days.

An independent researcher recently demonstrated how bitflips can come back to bite Windows users when their PCs reach out to Microsoft’s windows.com domain. Windows devices do this regularly to do things like making sure the time shown in the computer clock is accurate, connecting to Microsoft’s cloud-based services, and recovering from crashes.

Remy, as the researcher asked to be referred to, mapped the 32 valid domain names that were one bitflip away from windows.com. He provided the following to help readers understand how these flips can cause the domain to change to whndows.com:

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#bitflips, #bits, #biz-it, #domains, #microsoft, #operating-systems, #tech, #windows

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The Realme GT 5G is the world’s cheapest Snapdragon 888 phone

It’s time for a yearly reminder of how much better the smartphone market is when you live in a hyper-competitive area like India or China. The new Realme GT 5G is now the world’s cheapest Snapdragon 888 smartphone, sporting nearly everything you would expect from a ~$1,000 flagship smartphone, for the low price of CNY 2,799, or ~$433. Naturally, the phone is for sale only in China right now.

The specs here look fantastic for the price: a 120 Hz, 6.43-inch, 2400×1080 Samsung OLED panel; a Snapdragon 88 SoC; 8GB of RAM; 128GB of UFS; a 4500 mAh battery; 65 W wired fast charging; an under-screen fingerprint reader; NFC; a USB-C slot; and a headphone jack. There’s also a higher-tier version with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for CNY 3,299, or ~$510. The OS is Android 11 with a “Realme UI 2.0” skin. If you really want to pick nits, there are some cut corners here, like the lack of wireless charging and water resistance. For $430, though, this is a spectacular package.

Realme is playing some games with the pricing. The $430 and $510 price tags are “first sale” prices. At some point in the future, they will go up to CNY 2,899 (~$448) and CNY 3,399 (~$525). That still makes this the cheapest Snapdragon 888 phone on the market, but slightly less cheap.

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#tech

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AI System Can Sniff Out Disease as Well as Dogs Do

Researchers are training algorithms to emulate trained dogs’ ability to detect cancer and other diseases, perhaps including COVID-19

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#health, #medicalbiotech, #tech

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Google claims it will stop tracking individual users for ads

The word

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

As Google’s plan to kill third-party tracking cookies ramps up, the company is answering questions about what will replace it. Many people have wondered: if Google kills cookies, won’t the company just cook up some other method for individually tracking users?

Today, Google answered that concern in a post on its “Ads & Commerce” blog, pledging it won’t come up with “any technology used for tracking individual people.” The company wrote:

We continue to get questions about whether Google will join others in the ad tech industry who plan to replace third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers. Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.

You might look at that statement and think that Google is sacrificing something or turning over a new leaf when it comes to privacy, but really, Google doesn’t need to track individuals for advertisements. Google’s cookie-tracking replacement technology, the Chrome “Privacy Sandbox,” uses group tracking, which is more in line with how advertisers think anyway.

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#tech

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All US Apple stores are open for the first time in almost a year

Masked people mill about the glass walls adorned with the Apple logo.

Enlarge / NEW YORK, June 17, 2020 – Staff workers serve customers outside an Apple store on Fifth Avenue. (credit: Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images)

For the first time in just a few days shy of a year, all Apple Store retail locations in the United States are open this week, reports 9to5Mac.

Apple first closed all retail locations outside of China on March 13, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company originally planned to reopen its stores by the end of that month, but history had other plans.

Apple has periodically reopened and reclosed certain locations in the United States and elsewhere based on local case levels and government guidance—for example, a major push was attempted to reopen on May 31 as the virus’s spread slowed as a result of lockdown measures. But that was before COVID cases began rising sharply again. The last locations to reopen in the US this week were located in Texas.

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#apple, #apple-store, #covid-19, #pandemic, #retail, #tech

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This Is the Fastest Random-Number Generator Ever Built

A laser generates quantum randomness at a rate of 250 trillion bits per second and could lead to devices small enough to fit on a single chip

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#physics, #tech

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Google’s VR dreams are dead: Google Cardboard is no longer for sale

Google’s last surviving VR product is dead. Today the company stopped selling the Google Cardboard VR viewer on the Google Store, the last move in a long wind-down of Google’s once-ambitious VR efforts. The message on the Google Store, which was first spotted by Android Police, reads, “We are no longer selling Google Cardboard on the Google Store.”

Google Cardboard was a surprise hit at Google I/O 2015 and moved the entry point for VR lower than anyone had imagined previously. The device was a literal piece of cardboard, shaped like a VR headset, with special plastic lenses. Google built a Cardboard app for Android and iOS, which would let any suitably high-end phone power the headset. The landscape display split into left and right views for your eyes, the phone hardware rendered a VR game, and the accelerometers did 3-DoF (degrees of freedom) head tracking. There was even a cardboard action button on the handset that would boop the touchscreen with a capacitive pad, so you could aim with your head and select options in a VR environment. Since the product was just cardboard and plastic lenses with no electronics whatsoever, Google sold the headset for just $20.

After cardboard, Google started to scale up its VR ambitions. In 2016, Google also launched an upscaled version of Google Cardboard, the Google Daydream VR headset. This was a plastic and cloth version of a phone-powered VR headset, with the key improvements of a head strap and a small controller, for $80.

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#tech

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AMD’s RX 6700XT GPU launches March 18 for $479

The RX 6700XT GPU reaches retailers soon. When will it reach average customers, however? Honestly, who's to say at this point?

Enlarge / The RX 6700XT GPU reaches retailers soon. When will it reach average customers, however? Honestly, who’s to say at this point?

AMD’s RDNA 2 push continues on March 18 with a newly announced RX 6700XT graphics card, starting at $479 and featuring just about the exact downscaled options you might expect from a card costing $100 less than last year’s RX 6800.

Before we talk specs, of course…

AMD chose YouTube for the announcement—and, perhaps foolishly, left the chat function on. This allowed fans to spam the livestream chat with “sold out” and “out of stock” cries for a full 15 minutes. Weirdly, the video’s host acknowledged that “demand for GPUs is at an all-time high,” only to offer about as worthless a pledge as you’ll get about availability: that the GPU will be sold both at AMD.com and at “e-tailers and retailers across the globe on day one.”

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#amd, #gaming-culture, #ray-tracing, #rdna-2, #rx-6700-xt, #tech

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Jane Does v. GirlsDoPorn: How 22 millennial women brought down a porn empire

San Diego Superior Court

Enlarge / San Diego Superior Court (credit: sdcourt.ca.gov)

When she flew to San Diego in October 2013 with her friend who found a modeling ad on Craigslist, Jane Doe 7 believed she’d be paid $2,000 to do a nude photo shoot. And that photo shoot would only be released in Australia.

Instead, she found a much different reality. Jane Doe 7 ended up filming a porn video under duress in a hotel room where furniture blocked the door, preventing her from leaving.

First, Jane Doe 7 found out the photo shoot was actually a video shoot only when she was picked up at the airport by Matthew Wolfe, a videographer working for the porn website GirlsDoPorn. Doe didn’t know that last fact, either.

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#features, #policy, #tech

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Microsoft issues emergency patches for 4 exploited 0days in Exchange

The word ZERO-DAY is hidden amidst a screen filled with ones and zeroes.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Microsoft is urging customers to install emergency patches as soon as possible to protect against highly skilled hackers who are actively exploiting four zeroday vulnerabilities in Exchange Server.

The software maker said hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government have been using the previously unknown exploits to hack on-premises Exchange Server software that is fully patched. So far, Hafnium, as Microsoft is calling the hackers, is the only group it has seen exploiting the vulnerabilities, but the company said that could change.

“Even though we’ve worked quickly to deploy an update for the Hafnium exploits, we know that many nation-state actors and criminal groups will move quickly to take advantage of any unpatched systems,” Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Customer Security & Trust Tom Burt wrote in a post published Tuesday afternoon. “Promptly applying today’s patches is the best protection against this attack.”

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#advanced-persistent-threat, #apt, #biz-it, #exchange-server, #exploits, #microsoft, #policy, #tech, #vulnerabilties, #zerodays

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Samsung will soon ship Micro LED TVs, but Mini LED still leads the lineup

It’s that time of year when many TV manufacturers begin announcing prices for and shipping their annual product refreshes. We took a look at Sony’s OLED lineup yesterday, and today we’re turning our attention to Samsung, which just announced imminent availability (most models will start shipping this month) for its high-end Micro LED and Mini LED TV lineup.

We’ll get to Micro LED in a minute, but let’s start with the mainstream high end, which comprises the Mini LED TVs. Samsung is giving these a proprietary “Neo QLED” label.

The top-end QN900A is the most tricked-out 8K option, with 65-inch ($5,000), 75-inch ($7,000), and 85-inch options ($9,000). One step down while keeping the 8K banner flying is the QN800A, offered in the same sizes but at $3,500, $4,700, and $6,500, respectively.

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#4k, #hdr, #lcd, #led, #qled, #samsung, #tech, #tv, #ultrahd

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Rookie coding mistake prior to Gab hack came from site’s CTO

Rookie coding mistake prior to Gab hack came from site’s CTO

Enlarge (credit: Gab.com)

Over the weekend, word emerged that a hacker breached far-right social media website Gab and downloaded 70 gigabytes of data by exploiting a garden-variety security flaw known as an SQL injection. A quick review of Gab’s open source code shows that the critical vulnerability—or at least one very much like it—was introduced by the company’s chief technology officer.

The change, which in the parlance of software development is known as a “git commit,” was made sometime in February from the account of Fosco Marotto, a former Facebook software engineer who in November became Gab’s CTO. On Monday, Gab removed the git commit from its website. Below is an image showing the February software change, as shown from a site that provides saved commit snapshots.

(credit: Archive.vn)

The commit shows a software developer using the name Fosco Marotto introducing precisely the type of rookie mistake that could lead to the kind of breach reported this weekend. Specifically, line 23 strips the code of “reject” and “filter,” which are API functions that implement programming idioms that protect against SQL injection attacks.

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#biz-it, #exploits, #gab, #open-source, #sql-injection, #tech, #vulnerabilities, #website-security

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Google-free /e/ OS is now selling preloaded phones in the US, starting at $380

/e/ OS, the “open-source, pro-privacy, and fully degoogled” fork of Android, is coming to Canada and the USA. Of course, you’ve always been able to download the software in any region, but now (as first spotted by It’s Foss News) the e Foundation will start selling preloaded phones in North America. Previously, /e/ only did business in Europe.

Like normal, the e Foundation’s smartphone strategy is to sell refurbished Samsung devices with /e/ preloaded. In the US, there are only two phones right now: the Galaxy S9 for $379.99 or a Galaxy S9+ for $429.99. North Americans still have reason to be jealous of Europe, where you can get /e/ preloaded on a Fairphone, which is also Europe-exclusive.

These Samsung phones are used devices, but the site says the devices have “been checked and reconditioned to be fully working at our partner’s facilities.” The phones have a one-year warranty and are described as “Good-as-New” with “no surprises.” An /e/ device means you’ll be getting a fork of Android 10, and for ongoing support, the e Foundation says, “We aim to support with at least 3 years of software updates and security patches.”

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#tech

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Donald Trump is one of 15,000 Gab users whose account just got hacked

Promotional image for social media site Gab says

Enlarge (credit: Gab.com)

The founder of the far-right social media platform Gab said that the private account of former President Donald Trump was among the data stolen and publicly released by hackers who recently breached the site.

In a statement on Sunday, founder Andrew Torba used a transphobic slur to refer to Emma Best, the co-founder of Distributed Denial of Secrets. The statement confirmed claims the WikiLeaks-style group made on Monday that it obtained 70GB of passwords, private posts, and more from Gab and was making them available to select researchers and journalists. The data, Best said, was provided by an unidentified hacker who breached Gab by exploiting a SQL-injection vulnerability in its code.

“My account and Trump’s account were compromised, of course as Trump is about to go on stage and speak,” Torba wrote on Sunday as Trump was about to speak at the CPAC conference in Florida. “The entire company is all hands investigating what happened and working to trace and patch the problem.”

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#biz-it, #ddosecrets, #gab, #hacking, #hate-speech, #leaks, #policy, #tech

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Minisforum U850—solid hardware and easy upgrades in a little box

Earlier this month, we teased the announcement of a new model of mini-PC from specialty vendor Minisforum. Today, we’re taking a look at the results of some hands-on testing of the Minisforum U850, configured with a Comet Lake i5 CPU, 16GiB RAM, and a 256GB Kingston NVMe SSD.

The U850 is an aggressively generalist mini-PC, and it can tackle most roles—its dual network interfaces make it a good candidate for a high-performance router, and its combination of tons of USB ports, HDMI and DisplayPort video out, and surprisingly fast storage make it an excellent little desktop PC.

Specs at a glance: U820 / U850
CPU Intel i5-8249U (U820)
Intel i5-10210U (U850)
OS Windows 10 Pro (pre-installed) / Linux supported
RAM 16GiB DDR4 (2x 8GiB SODIMM)
GPU Intel Iris+ 655 (U820)
Intel UHD 630 (U850)
Wi-Fi M.2 Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6, dual-band + BlueTooth 5.1
SSD M.2 2280 512GB NVMe SSD
Connectivity
  • two SATA ports
  • one full-size HDMI 2.0
  • one full-size DisplayPort
  • one USB-C (full featured)
  • one USB-C (charge only)
  • four USB3.1 Type-A
  • one 1Gbps Ethernet (Realtek 8111H)
  • one 2.5Gbps Ethernet (Intel)
  • one 3.5 mm audio
  • one Digital Mic
Price as specified $639 (U820) / $699 (U850)

The only role the U850 might play that we’d advise some caution with is home theater PC (HTPC)—although it’s powerful enough to do the job, its fan noise when under load is enough that it might annoy the sorts of people who tend to want a small, unobtrusive HTPC in the first place.

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#homebrew-router, #linux-pc, #mini-pc, #minisforum, #small-form-factor-pc, #tech, #vesa-mount

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Sony’s brighter A90J OLED TV makes its way to living rooms this month

LG’s OLED TV lineup often gets the most press among its peers, but Sony’s high-end OLED TVs get positive reviews as well. Today, Sony announced pricing and release timing for its flagship 2021 OLED, the A90J.

Preorders have already started in Europe and the UK, and the US is expected to follow any time now. But regardless of the staggered preorders, the TVs will ship this month in both regions.

The A90J will be available in 55-, 65-, and 83-inch sizes. The 55-inch model will cost $3,000 in the US, while its 65-inch counterpart will cost a whopping $4,000. US and EU pricing haven’t been announced for the 83-inch model, but it costs £7,000 in the UK, so let that be your guide.

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#4k, #dolby-vision, #hdmi-2-1, #hdr, #oled, #sony, #sony-a90j, #tech, #tv, #ultrahd

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YouTube’s TikTok clone, “YouTube Shorts,” is live in the US

YouTube’s clone of TikTok, “YouTube Shorts,” is rolling out to the US as we speak. The feature launched in India this September and was first spotted on US devices by XDA Developers. Just like TikTok, Shorts lets users make and share bite-sized, one-minute videos, and users can swipe between them on the mobile app.

The YouTube Shorts section shows up on the mobile apps section of the YouTube home screen and for now has a “beta” label. It works exactly like TikTok, launching a full-screen vertical video interface, and users can swipe vertically between videos. As you’d expect, you can like, dislike, comment on, and share a short. You can also tap on a user name from the Shorts interface to see all the shorts from that user. The YouTube twist is that shorts are also regular YouTube videos and show up on traditional channel pages and in subscription feeds, where they are indistinguishable from normal videos. They have the normal YouTube interface instead of the swipey TikTok interface. This appears to be the only way to view these videos on desktop.

A big part of TikTok is the video editor, which allows users to make videos with tons of effects, music, filters, and variable playback speeds that contribute to the signature TikTok video style. The YouTube Shorts editor seems nearly featureless in comparison, offering only speed options and some music.

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#tech

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All the little things that add up to make iPadOS productivity a pain

Rumor has it a new iPad Pro is around the corner, which means Apple is about to make another big pitch for the iPad as a productivity and content-creation device.

But while we’ve found in our iPadOS reviews that Apple has done a marvelous job with the big-picture changes to the OS aimed at making it real-work-friendly, there are still a bunch of minor annoyances or “nope, you can’t do that” limitations that sabotage Apple’s intentions.

For that reason, it makes sense to preempt that upcoming marketing push with a few key caveats—especially since Apple likely won’t announce a major iPadOS software update alongside new hardware in March. Significant new OS changes probably won’t be discussed until the company’s developer conference in June, and said updates probably won’t reach the public until September or October.

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#apple, #ipad, #ipados, #tech

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Hard-coded key vulnerability in Logix PLCs has severity score of 10 out of 10

Hard-coded key vulnerability in Logix PLCs has severity score of 10 out of 10

Enlarge (credit: Rockwell Automation)

Hardware that is widely used to control equipment in factories and other industrial settings can be remotely commandeered by exploiting a newly disclosed vulnerability that has a severity score of 10 out of 10.

The vulnerability is found in programmable logic controllers from Rockwell Automation that are marketed under the Logix brand. These devices, which range from the size of a small toaster to a large bread box or even bigger, help control equipment and processes on assembly lines and in other manufacturing environments. Engineers program the PLCs using Rockwell software called Studio 5000 Logix Designer.

On Thursday, the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Administration warned of a critical vulnerability that could allow hackers to remotely connect to Logix controllers and from there alter their configuration or application code. The vulnerability requires a low skill level to be exploited, CISA said.

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#biz-it, #industrial-control-systems, #logix, #manufacturing, #programmable-logic-controllers, #rockwell, #tech, #vulnerabilities

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Google’s Smart TV software will have a “dumb TV” mode

The new Google TV is a fine smart TV interface, but when it gets integrated into some TV sets later this year, its best feature might be that you can turn it off. A report from 9to5Google details an upcoming “Basic TV” mode that will be built into Google TV, which turns off just about all the smart TV features. Right now, Google TV is only available in the new Chromecast, but Google TV will be built into upcoming TVs from Sony and TCL. Basic mode means we’ll get smart TVs with a “dumb TV” mode.

The rise of smart TVs has led to the extinction of dumb TVs—today, basically every TV has some kind of computer and operating system built into it. If you’re actually expecting to live with a TV for several years, the problem with smart TVs is that the dirt-cheap computers inside these TVs don’t last as long as the display does. When your smart TV is a few years old, you might still have a perfectly good display panel, but you’ll be forced to interact with it through a slow, old, possibly abandoned integrated computer. Companies should sell dumb TVs without any of this crap permanently integrated into them, but if they refuse, letting consumers turn off the software is the next best thing.

When the new feature rolls out, you’ll be asked to choose between “Basic TV” or “Google TV” at setup. 9to5Google says that with basic mode, “almost everything is stripped, leaving users with just HDMI inputs and Live TV if they have an antenna plugged directly into the TV. Casting support, too, is dropped.” The UI notes that you’ll be turning off all apps, the Google Assistant, and personalized recommendations.

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#tech

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The COVID Zoom Boom Is Reshaping Sign Language

Deaf people are adapting signs to accommodate the limitations of video communication while working from home

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#artsculture, #tech

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Code-execution flaw in VMware has a severity rating of 9.8 out of 10

Stock photo of a glowing red emergency light

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Hackers are mass-scanning the Internet in search of VMware servers with a newly disclosed code-execution vulnerability that has a severity rating of 9.8 out of a possible 10.

CVE-2021-21974, as the security flaw is tracked, is a remote code-execution vulnerability in VMware vCenter server, an application for Windows or Linux that administrators use to enable and manage virtualization of large networks. Within a day of VMware issuing a patch, proof-of-concept exploits appeared from at least six different sources. The severity of the vulnerability, combined with the availability of working exploits for both Windows and Linux machines, sent hackers scrambling to actively find vulnerable servers.

“We’ve detected mass scanning activity targeting vulnerable VMware vCenter servers (https://vmware.com/security/advisories/VMSA-2021-0002.html),” researcher Troy Mursch of Bad Packets wrote.

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#biz-it, #cve-2021-21972, #exploits, #tech, #vcenter, #vmware, #vulnerabilities

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Code-execution flaw in VMware has a severity rating of 9.8 out of 10

Stock photo of a glowing red emergency light

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Hackers are mass-scanning the Internet in search of VMware servers with a newly disclosed code-execution vulnerability that has a severity rating of 9.8 out of a possible 10.

CVE-2021-21974, as the security flaw is tracked, is a remote code-execution vulnerability in VMware vCenter server, an application for Windows or Linux that administrators use to enable and manage virtualization of large networks. Within a day of VMware issuing a patch, proof-of-concept exploits appeared from at least six different sources. The severity of the vulnerability, combined with the availability of working exploits for both Windows and Linux machines, sent hackers scrambling to actively find vulnerable servers.

“We’ve detected mass scanning activity targeting vulnerable VMware vCenter servers (https://vmware.com/security/advisories/VMSA-2021-0002.html),” researcher Troy Mursch of Bad Packets wrote.

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#biz-it, #cve-2021-21972, #exploits, #tech, #vcenter, #vmware, #vulnerabilities

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Paramount+ will carry new Star Trek series Strange New Worlds and Prodigy

Key art for the new <em>Star Trek</em> series <em>Star Trek: Prodigy</em>.

Enlarge / Key art for the new Star Trek series Star Trek: Prodigy. (credit: ViacomCBS)

In an online event for investors, ViacomCBS revealed several new details about CBS All Access replacement Paramount+, including pricing as well as two new Star Trek series that will premiere on the network. Also, the company announced that a much-anticipated Showtime show will end up on Paramount+ instead.

Paramount+, which was announced several months ago, will launch on March 4 in the United States, Canada, and 18 Latin American countries. As with CBS All Access, both an ad-supported and ad-free plan will be offered. In the US, the ad-supported one will cost $4.99 per month, while the ad-free plan will cost $9.99.

That $4.99 per month is $1 cheaper than the ad-supported version of CBS All Access. However, this cheaper plan will not include local CBS stations. The service is also expected to launch in Nordic countries within a few weeks and in Australia sometime later this year.

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#cbs, #cbs-all-access, #gaming-culture, #paramount, #paramount-pictures, #showtime, #star-trek, #tech, #viacom, #viacomcbs

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Machine Learning Pwns Old-School Atari Games

You can call it the ‘revenge of the computer scientist.’ An algorithm that made headlines for mastering the notoriously difficult Atari 2600 game Montezuma’s Revenge, can now beat…

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#computing, #tech

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Google’s Wear OS neglect has left voice activation broken for months

A Wear OS watch.

Enlarge / A Wear OS watch. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Poor, dying Wear OS.

Apparently, the Google Assistant on Wear OS has been broken for months, and until now, no one at Google has noticed. About four months ago, diehard Wear OS users started a thread on the public Android issue tracker saying that the “OK Google” hotword no longer worked on Wear OS, and several claimed that the feature has been broken for months. Recently, news of the 900-user-strong thread spilled over to the Android subreddit, and after 9to5Google and other news sites picked it up, Google has finally commented on the issue.

The Verge quotes a Google spokesperson as saying the company is “aware of the issues some users have been encountering,” and it will “address these and improve the overall experience.” Google didn’t give an ETA on how long a fix would take. Google offered a similar boiler-plate response back in that November thread, with a rep saying, “We’ve shared this with our engineering teams and will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.”

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#tech

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Framework startup designed a thin, modular, repairable 13-inch laptop

laptop in use

Enlarge / The Framework laptop certainly seems slim enough in this studio shot. Note the seams around the USB-C ports on the side—those are user-replaceable modules. (credit: Framework)

Laptops these days are slimmer, sleeker, and lighter than ever—but their repairability and configurability are taking enormous hits in the process. Framework is seeking to roll back the clock in a good way with its first product, the upcoming Framework 13.5-inch laptop.

Following the lead of companies like Fairphone, the startup is focused on respecting users’ right to repair by building systems focused on modular design, with components that are easily configured, replaced, and even upgraded.

Not some massive block

Although Framework’s raison d’être revolves around modularity, the company clearly understands that it can’t sacrifice sleek, lightweight design if it wants to maintain a wide appeal. It describes its first product, the upcoming Framework laptop, as “similar to a Dell XPS… thin, not some massive block.” The early product shots and specifications seem to bear that out:

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#laptop, #right-to-repair, #tech

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Nvidia RTX 3060 review: A fine $329 GPU, but ho-hum among the 3000 series

The EVGA RTX 3060, as posed in front of some sort of high-tech honeycomb array.

Enlarge / The EVGA RTX 3060, as posed in front of some sort of high-tech honeycomb array. (credit: EVGA / Nvidia)

The past year of graphics card reviews has been an exercise in dramatic asterisks, and for good reason. Nvidia and AMD have seen fit to ensure members of the press have access to new graphics cards ahead of their retail launches, which has placed us in a comfy position to praise each of their latest-gen offerings: good prices, tons of power.

Then we see our comment sections explode with unsatisfied customers wondering how the heck to actually buy them. I’ve since softened my tune on these pre-launch previews.

I say all of this up front about the Nvidia RTX 3060, going on sale today, February 25 (at 12pm ET, if you’re interested in entering the day-one sales fray) because it’s the first Nvidia GPU I’ve tested in a while to make my cautious stance easier. The company has been on a tear with its RTX 3000-series of cards in terms of sheer consumer value, particularly compared to equivalent prior-gen cards (the $1,499 RTX 3090 notwithstanding), but the $329 RTX 3060 (not to be confused with December’s 3060 Ti) doesn’t quite pull the same weight. It’s a good 1080p card with 1440p room to flex, but it’s not the next-gen jump in its Nvidia price category we’ve grown accustomed to.

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#gaming-culture, #graphics-card, #graphics-cards, #nvidia, #nvidia-rtx, #rtx-3060, #tech

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Firefox 86 brings multiple Picture-in-Picture, “Total Cookie Protection”

Mozilla released Firefox 86 yesterday, and the browser is now available for download and installation for all major operating systems, including Android. Along with the usual round of bug fixes and under-the-hood updates, the new build offers a couple of high-profile features—multiple Picture-in-Picture video-watching support, and (optional) stricter cookie separation, which Mozilla is branding Total Cookie Protection.

Taking Firefox 86 for a spin

Firefox 86 became the default download at mozilla.org on Tuesday—but as an Ubuntu 20.04 user, I didn’t want to leave the Canonical-managed repositories just to test the new version. This is one scenario in which snaps truly excel—providing you with a containerized version of an application, easily installed but guaranteed not to mess with your “real” operating system.

As it turns out, Firefox’s snap channel didn’t get the message about build 86 being the new default—the latest/default snap is still on build 85. In order to get the new version, I needed to snap refresh firefox --channel=latest/candidate.

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#browser, #firefox, #firefox-86, #privacy, #tech

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Ukraine says Russia hacked its document portal and planted malicious files

Ukraine says Russia hacked its document portal and planted malicious files

Enlarge (credit: Oleksii Leonov)

Ukraine has accused the Russian government of hacking into one of its government Web portals and planting malicious documents that would install malware on end users’ computers.

“The purpose of the attack was the mass contamination of information resources of public authorities, as this system is used for the circulation of documents in most public authorities,” officials from Ukraine’s National Coordination Center for Cybersecurity said in a statement published on Wednesday. “The malicious documents contained a macro that secretly downloaded a program to remotely control a computer when opening the files.”

Wednesday’s statement said that the methods used in the attack connected the hackers to the Russian Federation. Ukraine didn’t say if the attack succeeded in infecting any authorities’ computers.

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#biz-it, #hackers, #policy, #russia, #tech, #ukraine

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LG enters fray with Google, Amazon, Roku for TV operating system dominance

LG has announced that it will begin licensing its webOS TV software for use by other TV manufacturers. That will put webOS in direct competition with other platforms in use across TV brands, such as alternatives from Roku, Amazon, and Google.

LG says “over 20 TV manufacturers” have “committed to the webOS partnership” and names RCA, Ayonz, and Konka as examples. They’ll ship the OS in their TVs and, in so doing, gain access to voice-control features, LG’s AI algorithms, and a fairly robust library of already built streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube, or Disney+.

For smaller manufacturers, this is more cost-effective than developing these features on their own or lobbying companies like Netflix or Disney to support new platforms.

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#ayonz, #konka, #lg, #operating-system, #rca, #tech, #tv, #webos, #webos-5, #webos-6

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Google Maps for Android officially gets dark mode support

Google Maps has finally decided to support dark mode on Android 539 days after officially launching Android 10. Google’s latest blog post says that dark mode in Google Maps is “soon expanding to all Android users globally,” making the feature official after lots of public experiments.

Google’s uneven rollout strategy makes it hard to nail down when any feature officially “launches.” Some users have had dark mode for a while, though, through various experiments and early rollouts. Google has been teasing a dark mode for Google Maps since October 2019, and experimental rollouts hit some users in September 2020. Google Maps has also been showing a dark-colored map in navigation mode for some time, but that’s not the same thing as a comprehensive dark mode for all the UI elements.

If Google Maps is following Android’s best practices, the UI should automatically switch over to the dark theme if your system settings have dark mode enabled. Google says you’ll also be able to find a new “theme” section in the Google Maps settings, where you can toggle the feature manually. The Google Maps dark mode that has been floating around for a while has been on a server-side switch. The code is already on your device, so there’s no version we can point to that will enable dark mode; you just have to wait for Google to flag your account.

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#tech

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Android users now have an easy way to check the security of their passwords

Android users now have an easy way to check the security of their passwords

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Google is adding its password checkup feature to Android, making the mobile OS the latest company offering to give users an easy way to check if the passcodes they’re using have been compromised.

Password Checkup works by checking credentials entered into apps against a list of billions of credentials compromised in the innumerable website breaches that have occurred in recent years. In the event there’s a match, users receive an alert, along with a prompt that can take them to Google’s password manager page, which offers a way to review the security of all saved credentials.

Alerts look like this:

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#android, #biz-it, #google, #passwords, #security, #tech

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Pixel 5a leak shows a headphone jack, flat screen, and a familiar design

Steve Hemmerstoffer, aka OnLeaks, is back with our first look at a render of Google’s next midrange phone, the Pixel 5a. Hemmerstoffer previously nailed the design of the Pixel 4a all the way back in January 2020, so it’s smart to take his Pixel 5a info seriously.

There really isn’t much to see in the renders since the Pixel 5a looks identical to previous Pixel devices like the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5, and it isn’t that much different from the Pixel 4a. In this case, Google isn’t fixing what isn’t broken. The design looks perfectly modern with slim bezels and a hole-punch camera, and there’s really no need to demand change for change’s sake.

Like a few other midrange phones, the Pixel 5a offers some design decisions you might actually prefer to a flagship smartphone. There’s a flat-screen without any curved sides, a headphone jack, and a rear capacitive fingerprint reader. Hemmerstoffer says the phone has a plastic back, stereo speakers, and a 6.2-inch display, which is a size increase over the 5.8-inch Pixel 4a.

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#tech

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Lenovo updates ThinkPad lineup with 16:10 screens and more

Today, Lenovo announced a broad overhaul of its ThinkPad laptop lineup, led by the popular X13 and X13 Yoga.

Lenovo has added many features previously seen in its X1 Nano model to various other laptops across the ThinkPad line. Among those is a continuing shift to 16:10 displays, which most productivity users will greatly appreciate compared to the more media-focused 16:9 aspect ratio found in recent prior models.

There’s also human-presence detection; the laptops use a radar sensor to detect when you’re sitting down in front of them, and they wake up accordingly. And of course, like so many similar laptops in this day and age, you can get these machines with fingerprint readers built into the power buttons now.

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#amd-ryzen-5000, #laptops, #lenovo, #lenovo-thinkpad-x13, #lenovo-thinkpad-x13-yoga, #lenovo-thinkpad-x14, #lenovo-thinkpad-x14s, #lenovo-thinkpad-x15, #tech, #thinkpad

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Looking for a good, cheap USB drive? We tested seven under $100

Both portable SSDs were great—as were the SanDisk thumb drives, each in their own price and performance class. The other thumb drives... not so much.

Enlarge / Both portable SSDs were great—as were the SanDisk thumb drives, each in their own price and performance class. The other thumb drives… not so much. (credit: Jim Salter)

If you shop for thumb drives on Amazon, you’ll discover one thing very quickly—they pretty much all have 4.5+ star overall reviews, but the top reviews all tend to be very, very negative. This isn’t much help to somebody trying to look for the best gear to buy, of course—and neither are the scads of “review guides” scattered across the net, which seem to take manufacturer numbers based on raw interface speeds at face value.

This is a problem that wound up biting me pretty hard personally since becoming Ars Technica’s newest technology reporter. Properly testing a laptop means loading about 13GiB’s worth of benchmark utilities on it. This is normally something I’d do across the network… but new laptops tend not to have Ethernet jacks in the first place. That generally leaves either Wi-Fi or thumb drives—and I don’t want to screw up my family’s Wi-Fi experience while I’m testing.

Today, we’re going to do a little real-world demonstration to help guide you in your portable storage purchases. We’re not looking for super high-end hard drive replacements, here—only those under $100 (in some cases, under $10!) and hopefully those with effective sneakernet tools.

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#flash-drive, #portable-drive, #portable-ssd, #tech, #thumb-drive, #thumbdrive, #usb, #usb-storage

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Samsung now updates Android for longer than Google does

Samsung now updates Android for longer than Google does

Enlarge (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Samsung is upping the ante on Android updates and offering four years of security updates on many of its Android devices. The company’s full update package is now three years of major OS updates and four years of security updates, besting even what Google offers on the Pixel line.

In the announcement, Samsung says, “Over the past decade, Samsung has made significant progress in streamlining and speeding up its regular security updates. Samsung worked closely with its OS and chipset partners, as well as over 200 carriers around the world, to ensure that billions of Galaxy devices receive timely security patches.” Samsung has experimented with bringing four years of updates to its own Exynos SoC devices, but now it looks like the company is getting Qualcomm models on board as well.

Keep in mind that these are not necessarily monthly security updates. Samsung says it’s delivering four years of “monthly or quarterly” updates, depending on the age of the device. Samsung’s current security bulletin page has the Galaxy S9 (2018) on the monthly update plan, while the Galaxy S8 is on the quarterly plan. So it sounds like three years of monthly security updates and one more year of quarterly updates.

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#tech

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Chip shortage may threaten PlayStation 5 supplies at Christmas

To call Sony's PlayStation 5 "in demand" would be an understatement.

Enlarge / To call Sony’s PlayStation 5 “in demand” would be an understatement.

The global semiconductor shortage is threatening to constrain PlayStation 5 supplies throughout the rest of this year, even as Sony’s gaming chief insisted the company would be able to produce “decent numbers” of its new console in the second half of 2021.

The PS5 is one of the most sought-after tech products of recent months, with shipments selling out as soon as they reached stores when the console was launched in November last year.

Coronavirus lockdowns have only added to gamers’ demand for the latest consoles and software, fueling what are expected to be record profits for Sony’s gaming division in the financial year to March. Sony upgraded its gaming unit’s annual revenue forecasts earlier this month primarily thanks to improving sales of game software, services, and accessories.

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#arm, #chip-shortage, #gaming-culture, #playstation-5, #sony, #tech

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Crooks use the bitcoin blockchain to protect their botnets from takedown

Rows of 1950s-style robots operate computer workstations.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

When hackers corral infected computers into a botnet, they take special care to ensure they don’t lose control of the server that sends commands and updates to the compromised devices. The precautions are designed to thwart security defenders who routinely dismantle botnets by taking over the command-and-control server that administers them in a process known as sinkholing.

Recently, a botnet that researchers have been following for about two years began using a new way to prevent command-and-control server takedowns: by camouflaging one of its IP addresses in the bitcoin blockchain.

Impossible to block, censor, or take down

When things are working normally, infected machines will report to the hardwired control server to receive instructions and malware updates. In the event that server gets sinkholed, however, the botnet will find the IP address for the backup server encoded in the bitcoin blockchain, a decentralized ledger that tracks all transactions made using the digital currency.

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#biz-it, #blockchain, #botnets, #command-and-control-servers, #sinkholing, #tech

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$200 Puro Pro hybrid over-the-ear headphones are almost perfect

Last December, a representative for Puro Sound Labs offered me a review sample of the company’s flagship Bluetooth hybrid headphones. Her timing couldn’t have been better—I had surgery scheduled for January 8 that would put me on the couch all day, every day, for two weeks straight with nothing to do but watch movies and television (ideally without driving my wife and kids insane).

The Puro Pro is an over-the-ear design, which can be connected to audio sources via Bluetooth 5.0 pairing or a simple headphone cord. It offers just about any feature you might dream up for a pair of headphones: safety volume limiting (configurable for either 85dBA or 95dBA), 30+ hour battery life, content control via buttons on the left can, active noise cancellation, and even an inline mic for phone calls.

At $200, the Puro Pro costs more than I’d normally spend on a pair of headphones for watching late-night TV and flying on the occasional airplane (my two primary use cases). But after spending several hours per day with the Puro Pro for a couple of months, I would drop the cash in a heartbeat.

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#audio, #bluetooth-5-0, #bluetooth-headphones, #features, #headphones, #tech

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