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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Oct 2016

Windows 10 Hero

This week, Microsoft pushed out another cumulative update and reports of installation problems are widespread. While I don’t know how many users are impacted, based on comments sent to me, it’s certainly widespread enough that this is well beyond an isolated issue.

The update that is causing the problem, KB3194496, is not installing correctly for users. The update, when it does fail, is causing some machines to restart, often multiple times, as Windows 10 attempts to remove the failed update. Worse, after a restart, the file will attempt to install again resulting in the loop of failed install, reboot, re-install and failure again.

Some users have reported that the cumulative update did install correctly on the second or third attempt while others have said that it fails every time.

As you can imagine, having this happen to your machine is not a fun experience but what is perplexing about this is that the issue was reported by those who are in the ‘release preview’ ring ahead of the wider-scale release; we know this as it was reported in the Microsoft’s support forums.  If the bug was reported, why did Microsoft go ahead and release the patch if the feedback indicated there was an issue?

I would bet that Microsoft will say that the telemetry suggested that for most users, the update installs correctly. But, seeing how many reports are being mentioned on Twitter and other places, it’s clear that a significant number of users are impacted.

If you do have this problem, there isn’t a workaround at this time but if you do find a solution to update problem, make sure to let us know so we can pass it on to those who are impacted by this bug.

Microsoft is pushing the idea that you should always patch your machine on the day the update is released as they often release security patches that fix vulnerabilities. But, until the company can get a handle on their quality control issues, such as the Anniversary update breaking millions of webcams, it feels like every time you run Windows update you are rolling the dice.

Source: thurrott.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Oct 2016

Using this exoskeleton in a virtual environment, a baseball feels firm, and an egg light and fragile.

The Dexmo glove, with its gleaming white carapace and jet-black connecting joints, looks much like a prop stolen from a Stanley Kubrick film set. On your hand, it gives you a cartoonish silhouette, as if some kind of humorous cheat code had been applied to reality to grant humans oversized, clod-like paws.

In fact, Dexmo’s world-altering properties are focused in the virtual realm. Used alongside compatible virtual-reality software, the Dexmo exoskeleton allows its wearer to touch, grasp, and feel virtual objects as if they were real. A virtual baseball feels firm in the hand, an egg fragile. Pick up a digital rubber duck while wearing the Dexmo, and it can be squished pleasingly between the fingers.

The exoskeleton, designed by a team of seven young roboticists and engineers, uses five custom-built force-feedback units to apply torque to your fingers. These motors dynamically alter the direction and magnitude of the force in order to simulate a specific virtual object’s stiffness. In this way they provide light resistance when handling a soft object like a sponge or a piece of cake, and heavy resistance for a denser object, like a pipe or a brick. Tiny motors also provide haptic vibrations to your fingertips that simulate the impact of tapping a keyboard, or running your finger along a piece of rough concrete. The glove’s resistance is so powerful that it will physically prevent your fingers from penetrating through objects in VR.

The Dexmo glove lets users feel objects as though they're actually in their hand.

Aler Gu, the young roboticist who invented the glove and cofounded the company behind it, Dextarobotics, says VR’s sensory expansion into the realm of touch has the power to revolutionize the medium. “The maximum level of feedback current VR controllers give is a gentle rumble using vibration motors,” he says. “But vibration alone isn’t enough to fool the brain. The moment you detect anomalies in how objects feel, your sense of immersion is broken.”

Dexmo’s applications reach far beyond video games, according to Gu. The glove can work in any simulated 3-D environment and is compatible with all of the major VR headsets currently on the market. He also believes that the device will be useful in CAD design, allowing engineers to disassemble rockets and feel the size of each component, or in medical training, where trainee surgeons can perform more realistic operations. It could prove invaluable in training bomb disposal experts and help drastically reduce costs in mechanical maintenance training by providing students with access to otherwise prohibitively expensive parts that they can feel in their hands.

Sam Watts, head of operations at Make Real, a software company that has worked on a variety of VR applications for military clients as well as consumer game publishers, agrees that the current crop of motion-tracked controllers that are sold alongside the major virtual reality headsets “only give the first stage of sensations of touching and interacting with virtual objects.”

The Dexmo glove has potential applications well beyond gaming.

The HTC Vive Wands, for example, are held snugly in the hands, like handgun grips. A digital representation of the controller is seen at all times within the virtual world, twisting and moving in perfect sync with your hand motions. “This is fine for games and many forms of training simulation, but for real industrial and engineering adoption of VR, much more realistic and precise feedback is required to accurately convey the sense of touching, using, and manipulating objects together.”

However, Watts says, he needs to see more testing and evidence of consumer adoption of the device before including support for the Dexmo in Make Real’s products.

While the price of a consumer version of the Dexmo is yet to be set, Gu is optimistic that the glove will be something that “eventually everybody should be able to afford.” For now, however, the Dexmo is a tool restricted to the hands of early adopting software developers like Watts, those who will ultimately decide what impact such devices will have on both sides of the screen.

Source: technologyreview.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 12th Oct 2016

It’s notable that Apple chose not to ship its Bluetooth AirPods in the box with new iPhones, even though its vision for the future is a wireless one.

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.

Tech reviews and broad tech industry media coverage are often about the cutting edge of technology, and as a result can be very critical of anything seen as less than stellar. But the reality is that many ordinary people regularly use technology that could be much more accurately described as “good enough” rather than bleeding-edge. The vast majority of us aren’t using the latest and greatest technology, not least because that often costs more than we’re willing (or able) to spend, and yet we do just fine. This creates an odd disconnect between how real people use technology and how the experts talk about that same technology.

EarPods and defaults

Every iPhone ever shipped has come with a pair of Apple-provided earbuds in the box, just as iPods did before them. These earbuds have never been at the forefront of headphone technology — they’re small, relatively cheap to manufacture and make no claim to be anything more than they are. But Apple nevertheless made them part of its early ad campaigns for the iPod, and they became a fashion statement of sorts. In a recent survey conducted by Tech.pinions editor Ben Bajarin, more than half of those surveyed said they used the headphones that came in the box.

For many people, the basic option is just fine, and they’ll never look beyond it.

The fact is, defaults are powerful. Many people use those defaults, especially when they’re good enough. That’s not to say there aren’t better options out there for audiophiles, or those who want noise-canceling or over-ear options, but it is to say that, for many people, the basic option is just fine, and they’ll never look beyond it. This is obviously important in the context of the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack on the new iPhone 7. Apple is banking on the fact the majority of people who buy one of these new phones will use the new Lightning-based EarPods, just as they have always used their 3.5mm predecessors. Those who don’t will use the free adapter with their existing headphones, or start or continue using wireless options.

Deciding where good enough is enough

It’s notable, however, that Apple chose not to ship Bluetooth earbuds in the box, even though its vision for the future is a wireless one. Why is this? I think there are two reasons. First, as a practical financial matter, “good enough” in a Bluetooth headset costs significantly more than in wired earbuds, and Apple didn’t want to either raise the price or lower the margins on new iPhones to accommodate that increased cost.

But I think the other reason is that there is a dividing line between products that can afford to be simply good enough and those that can’t. Apple wants to evangelize wireless technology, and you don’t sell a vision based on “good enough” products. You make the very best to sell the story and then, over time, you supply options which are good enough to meet needs further down market. When the perception of a product affects the perception of your brand, you can’t just do “good enough” (unless that’s the brand identity you’re going for, as with Amazon’s Basics line of electronics).

Hence, Apple’s very different focus with its AirPods, which are on par with Apple’s hero products in terms of the positioning, marketing and, yes, pricing. This marks a departure for the Apple brand in the headphone space, although, of course, the acquisition of Beats brought higher-end headphones into the company under a separate brand. That, in turn, signifies something about the broader significance Apple expects the AirPods to take on over time, something others have written about here and elsewhere, and which I’ll likely tackle separately soon.

The challenge of premium

One of the biggest challenges for consumer electronics brands is targeting the premium segment while also serving lower segments of the market. One of Apple’s strengths is it has never really strayed from its premium positioning, even as it has brought several of its major product lines down in price over time. Conversely, other smartphone vendors looking to target the high end have also served the mid-market, and have struggled to associate their brands with premium positioning. This becomes particularly challenging when the same brands put out “good enough” and premium products in the same product category, like smartphones.

Part of Apple’s genius has been carefully separating the categories where it provides premium products from those where it participates at a good-enough level, and not allowing the two to mix or converge. The fact that Motorola and Samsung produce both high-end flagships and very cheap low-end smartphones doesn’t help their attempts to compete with Apple for the premium customer, and Motorola has arguably largely abandoned the very high end in the last year or two. In the car market, this problem is solved with sub-brands (think Lexus versus Toyota, or Cadillac versus Chevy), but we haven’t yet seen that approach play out in the consumer technology market in the same way.

Disruption theory and jobs to be done

Clayton Christensen’s Disruption Theory comes into play here, too — when companies insist on providing only a premium version of certain products, they risk low-end disruption from competitors catering to the needs of those who feel over-served by the current options. However, despite repeated predictions that the premium smartphone market would eventually be disrupted in this way, it hasn’t happened. Yes, low-end Android smartphones have become increasingly capable and cheap, but that’s disrupted almost entirely other Android smartphone vendors rather than Apple.

Products that have strong personal associations — smartphones, cars, clothing and other luxury goods — are stubbornly resistant to low-end disruption.

I believe there’s something about products that have strong personal associations — such as smartphones, cars, clothing and other luxury goods — which make them stubbornly resistant to low-end disruption. Our use of these products says something about us, and using cheaper imitators may not convey the message we want. The job to be done of smartphones and other similar products, then, goes beyond their obvious functions, and is another reason why “good enough” isn’t good enough for at least some buyers who can afford to be more discriminating. This continues to be one of many fascinating aspects of the smartphone market that separate it from the rest of the consumer electronics industry and continue to make it such an interesting one to follow.

Source: recode.net
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 11th Oct 2016

Galaxy Note 7 explodes while charging

Samsung stops Note 7 sales


Samsung has halted production of the Galaxy Note 7 following reports that more replacement handsets have caught fire.

Korean news agency Yonhap said on Sunday that the company has ceased production of the Galaxy Note 7, and Samsung has since confirmed in a statement given to V3that it will "temporarily" stop making the explosion-prone smartphones.

"We are temporarily adjusting the Galaxy Note 7 production schedule in order to take further steps to ensure quality and safety matters," the firm said.

This drastic step follows reports that several replacement Galaxy Note 7 handsets exploded over the weekend.

One of the incidents involved Michael Lering of Kentucky, who woke up to find his bedroom filled with smoke and his replacement Galaxy Note 7 on fire. He was taken to hospital with acute bronchitis and smoke inhalation. 

"The phone is supposed to be the replacement, so you would have thought it would be safe," Klering told WKYT. "It wasn’t plugged in. It wasn’t anything. It was just sitting there."

Another incident, reported at The Verge, involved a new Note 7 fire catching fire in Houston, Texas. Daniel Franks was having lunch with his wife and daughter when a replacement handset caught fire on the table. It had been replaced at a Best Buy store in late September.

Related: Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 fiasco could make smartphone market interesting again

This comes just days after Southwest Airlines was forced to evacuate a plane after a Galaxy Note 7 caught fire and burned a hole through the aircraft's carpet. 

Samsung said on its website on Friday in response to the recent reports that the company "understands the concern of our carriers and consumers".

"We continue to move quickly to investigate the reported case to determine the cause and will share findings as soon as possible. If we conclude a safety issue exists, we will work with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to take immediate steps to address the situation," the firm said.

As if Samsung wasn't having enough of a PR meltdown, US carriers AT&T and T-Mobile have revealed that they will no longer replace Galaxy Note 7 devices, while the latter said that it will halt all sales of the phone.

"While Samsung investigates multiple reports of issues, T-Mobile is temporarily suspending all sales of the new Note 7 and exchanges for replacement Note 7 devices," T-Mobile said on its website.

It's unclear whether UK carriers plan to suspend sales of the Galaxy Note 7, but we've been in touch with the big four operators and will update this article if we hear back.


Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 11th Oct 2016

Workplace by FacebookImage copyrightFACEBOOK

Image captionWorkplace looks similar to Facebook

Facebook has opened up its Workplace platform, which lets companies set up their own internal version of the social network, to all businesses.

The app looks similar to Facebook, with features such as live video streaming and messaging, but is kept completely separate from users' personal profiles.

It is designed to replace other business tools such as email.

One analyst said the platform would pose a challenge to a broad range of rival services.

It will enter the same market as services such as Yammer - Microsoft's self-contained social network that businesses can use internally - and Slack - a collaborative messaging tool.

"It's not just about building a self-contained social network for businesses," said Chris Green of the Lewis consultancy.

"It lets them compete with a variety of different services - such as Google Cloud's file sharing and Microsoft's collaborative document editing.

"It's going to hit a number of environments with one integrated product."

Subscription fee

The social network has been testing Workplace, previously known as Facebook at Work, for two years and said that more than 1,000 businesses were already using it.

In a statement, the company said: "We've seen that just as Facebook keeps you connected to friends and family, it can do the same with co-workers. We've brought the best of Facebook to the workplace."

Food giant Danone, India's Yes Bank, the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, and Starbucks are among those that have already deployed the app.

Workplace is Facebook's first service to charge a subscription fee, a deviation from the company's usual advertising-funded model.

An employee's Workplace account is kept entirely separate from any personal Facebook profile they may use to share content outside work.

"We've seen a growth in interest in the idea of bringing a social network into the corporate environment," said Mr Green.

"The millennial workforce is important to employers, so having systems that are familiar and replicate what they use in their personal life makes sense."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 10th Oct 2016


Motion Code credit cardImage copyrightOBERTHUR TECHNOLOGIES

Image captionThe Motion Code card has a display which changes the three-digit security code every hour

A credit card with a digital display that randomly generates a security code is being launched as a way of combating fraud.

Oberthur Technologies is currently in discussions with UK banks about rolling out the technology and will have cards "in the hands" of consumers in France by the end of the year.

Credit card fraud costs banks millions of pounds each year.

One expert said a different design for credit cards was overdue.

"In some ways, it's surprising it has taken so long for this to appear," Prof Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert from Surrey University, told the BBC.

The card provides an extra layer of security by replacing the static printed three-digit security code on the back of the card with a mini screen which displays a random code that changes automatically every hour.

It is powered by a thin lithium battery designed to last for three years.

"The technology has existed for some time so now it will be a case of persuading card processors that it is worth doing," said Prof Woodward.

"It may be costly for card operators as some extra infrastructure will be required to ensure our cards stay synchronised with the operator, but it happens already for many banks with the dongles they issue for login."

One drawback of the card is that customers will no longer be able to memorise their security code and will need to check the card every time they want to make an online purchase.

French banks Societe Generale and Groupe BPCE are preparing to roll the cards out to customers, following a pilot scheme last year and there are also pilot schemes in Mexico and Poland.

According to the UK's Financial Fraud Action, credit card fraud in the UK totalled £755m in 2015 and the Office for National Statistics said that there were 20,255 victims.

There are several ways that fraudsters get hold of credit card details - from the online theft of data to skimmers that are attached to cash machines.

Skimmers - often homemade devices - that are attached to a cash machine, can steal information from the card's magnetic strip and pin code with the help of a fake ATM pin pad or web camera.

Over time, the design has become more sophisticated with the advent of so-called shimmers - that are able to gather information from the card's chip. Scammers are also now able to inject malware directly into cash machines

In response, banks are working on new authentication solutions, based on biometrics - regarded as a more secure way to identify customers.

But a recent study from security firm Kaspersky Labs suggests that cybercriminals are already planning to exploit these new technologies.

It found at least 12 sellers offering skimmers capable of stealing victims' fingerprints. Other underground sellers are already researching devices that could obtain data from palm, vein and iris recognition systems.

David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, said the Motion Code card would "reduce the window of opportunity" for a thief with a stolen card but added it would be a stronger proposition if the security code was generated on "another device".

"Banks should consider applying a multitude of cybersecurity solutions to minimise unauthorised access to such information," he said.

"Consumers must also be aware of their digital footprint, installing security updates promptly, using strong and unique passwords, applying caution when using public wi-fi networks and not revealing too much information about ourselves online."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 10th Oct 2016

Big Brother Awards Belgium 2016 – The Devil is in the Default

On 6 October, the Belgian Big Brother Awards 2016 took place in Brussels. The negative prize for the worst privacy abuser was unanimously granted to Facebook by the professional jury. The public confirmed Facebook’s title as the ultimate privacy villain of the year – a big majority of the votes went to the social network that is successfully harvesting and generating personal data from people all around the world.

Facebook is a multi-billion dollar company that has one commodity – you!

said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights.

Facebook has access to a wide range of personal data, and it tracks your movements across the web, whether you are logged in or not. And the devil is in the default: To opt out, you are expected to navigate Facebook’s complex web of settings.

We nominated Facebook for the award because their default settings are noxious for privacy. To understand what privacy you are giving away when you use Facebook… well, that is impossible. Data algorithms that can make new assumptions about users are being constantly developed – even Facebook today would have difficulty knowing how they will use your data tomorrow.

said McNamee.

The Big Brother Awards are based on a concept created by EDRi member Privacy International. The goal is to draw attention to violations of privacy.


Big Brother Awards Belgium 2016: “The Devil is in the Default”

Source: edri.org
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 28th Sep 2016

Nexus 6P

The tech world has finally coalesced around a charging standard, after years of proprietary adapters and ugly wall-wart power supplies. Well, sort of: We’re already seeing some fragmentation in terms of the new USB-C connector, which could eventually replace USB, as well as what is thankfully turning out to be a short-lived obsession Samsung had with larger USB micro-B connectors for its Galaxy line. But aside from that, and with the obvious exception of Apple’s Lightning connector, micro USB has destroyed the industry’s penchant for custom ports.

Ten years ago, you always had to make sure you had the correct power supply for each of your gadgets. Usually, that power supply wasn’t even labeled. Today, you can charge your phone at your friend’s house, plug your ebook reader into any computer, and download photos from a digital camera directly to your TV, all thanks to a standardized connector. In its place, though, there’s a new problem: USB power. Not all USB chargers, connectors, and cables are born equal. You’ve probably noticed that some wall chargers are stronger than others. Sometimes, one USB socket on a laptop is seemingly more powerful than the other. On some desktop PCs, even when they’re turned off, you can charge your smartphone via a USB socket. It turns out there’s a method to all this madness — but first we have to explain how USB power actually works.

New specifications

Many different smartphone chargers... BEGONE!There are now four USB specifications — USB 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 — in addition to the new USB-C connector. We’ll point out where they significantly differ, but for the most part, we’ll focus on USB 3.0, as it’s the most common. In a USB network, there is one host and one device.  In almost every case, your PC is the host, and your smartphone, tablet, or camera is the device. Power always flows from the host to the device, although data can flow in both directions, such as when you copy files back and forth between your computer and your phone.

Okay, now the numbers. A regular USB 1.0 or 2.0 socket has four pins, and a USB cable has four wires. The inside pins carry data (D+ and D-), and the outside pins provide a 5-volt power supply. USB 3.0 ports add an additional row of five pins, so USB 3.0-compatible cables have nine wires. In terms of actual current (milliamps or mA), there are three kinds of USB port dictated by the current specs: a standard downstream port, a charging downstream port, and a dedicated charging port. The first two can be found on your computer (and should be labeled as such), and the third kind applies to “dumb” wall chargers.

In the USB 1.0 and 2.0 specs, a standard downstream port is capable of delivering up to 500mA (0.5A); with USB 3.0, it moves up to 900mA (0.9A). The charging downstream and dedicated charging ports provide up to 1,500mA (1.5A). USB 3.1 bumps throughput to 10Gbps in what’s called SuperSpeed+ mode, bringing it roughly equivalent with first-generation Thunderbolt. It also supports power draw of 1.5A and 3A over the 5V bus.

Anker's 60W-12A 6-Port USB Charger. A unit like this will deliver fast charging to all the ports.




USB-C is a different connector entirely. It’s universal; you can put it in either way and it will work, unlike with USB, and like Apple’s Lightning connector. USB-C is also capable of twice the theoretical throughput of USB 3.0, and can output more power. Apple joined USB-C with USB 3.1 on its 12-inch MacBook, and Google included it on the now-discontinued Chromebook Pixel. We’re also starting to see it on phones, with the first being the OnePlus 2; current popular models include the Google Nexus 6P, the OnePlus 3, and the Samsung Galaxy Note7. But there can also be older-style USB ports that support the 3.1 standard.

The USB spec also allows for a “sleep-and-charge” port, which is where the USB ports on a powered-down computer remain active. You may have noticed this on your desktop PC, where there’s always some power flowing through the motherboard, but some laptops are also capable of sleep-and-charge.

Now, this is what the spec dictates. But there are plenty of USB chargers that don’t conform to these specs — mostly of the wall-wart variety. Apple’s iPad charger, for example, provides 2.1A at 5V; Amazon’s Kindle Fire charger outputs 1.8A; and many car chargers can output anything from 1A to 2.1A.

Can I blow up my USB device?

iPad USB chargerThere is a huge variance, then, between normal USB ports rated at 500mA, and dedicated charging ports, which range all the way up to 3,000mA. This leads to an important question: If you take a phone which came with a 900mA wall charger, and plug it into a 2,100mA iPad charger, as an example, will it blow up?

In short, no: You can plug any USB device into any USB cable and into any USB port, and nothing will explode — and in fact, using a more powerful charger should speed up battery charging. We now do this all the time with our mobile devices here at ExtremeTech, and we’ve never had a problem.

The longer answer is that the age of your device plays an important role, dictating both how fast it can be charged, and whether it can be charged using a wall charger at all. Way back in 2007, the USB Implementers Forum released the Battery Charging Specification, which standardized faster ways of charging USB devices, either by pumping more amps through your PC’s USB ports, or by using a wall charger. Shortly thereafter, USB devices that implemented this spec started to arrive.

If you have a modern USB device — really, almost any smartphone, tablet, or camera — you should be able to plug into a high-amperage USB port and enjoy faster charging. If you have an older product, however, it probably won’t work with USB ports that employ the Battery Charging Specification. It might only work with old school, original (500mA) USB 1.0 and 2.0 PC ports. In some (much older) cases, USB devices can only be charged by computers with specific drivers installed, but this is now going back more than a decade.

There are a few other things to be aware of. While PCs can have two kinds of USB port — standard downstream or charging downstream — OEMs haven’t always labeled them as such. As a result, you might have a device that charges from one port on your laptop, but not from the other. This is a trait of older computers, as there doesn’t seem to be a reason why standard downstream ports would be used, when high-amperage charging ports are available. Most vendors now put a small lightning icon above the proper charging port on laptops, and in some cases, those ports can even stay on when the lid is closed.

In a similar vein, some external devices — 3.5-inch hard drives, most notably — require more power than a typical USB port can provide. That’s why they include a two-USB-port Y-cable, or an external AC power adapter.

Otherwise, USB has certainly made charging our gadgets and peripherals much easier than it ever has been. And if the new USB-C connector continues to catch on, things will get even simpler, because you’ll never again have to curse out loud after plugging it in the wrong way.

Source: extremetech.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 28th Sep 2016

Amazon Dash buttonsImage copyrightAMAZON

Amazon's UK customers can now push a button when they run out of toilet rolls or washing powder - and within 24 hours a package will arrive at the front door.

You can see the launch of the Dash service in two ways. It's either another miraculous piece of innovation from the e-commerce giant that will make our lives simpler, or a scary sign that lazy consumers are yet again handing far too much power to a US technology firm.

Amazon Prime subscribers in Austria and Germany are also being offered the service.

Here's how it works. There are Dash buttons for about 40 brands at launch, ranging from dishwasher tablets, to instant coffee to condoms. You buy the button - but get the cost off your first purchase. Then you set it up with the Amazon shopping app, choosing the exact product and your delivery preferences. From now on, when you run out of that product, pressing the wi-fi-connected button will simply trigger an order via the shopping app.

And, yes, Amazon has thought of what you were thinking - if your children delight in pressing buttons repeatedly, you won't get a mountain of toilet rolls delivered to your door. Once an order has been placed, you get a notification, and another button press within 24 hours will be ignored.

The company says the aim is to do away with the most tedious of shopping experiences.

"Nobody gets retail therapy shopping for toilet paper," as the executive demonstrating the Dash button explained to me.

Amazon Dash buttonsImage copyrightAMAZON

Dash was greeted with scepticism when it launched in the US in March last year. Were people really lazy enough to want to do that?

At first, it was slow to take off, but those who used it demanded more buttons, and now there are more than 150 products available.

Amazon is, as ever, light on detail when it comes to giving out numbers, but it says orders through the Dash button have grown threefold in the past two months.

It's being launched in the UK along with a sister product, which takes removing the hassle of shopping a stage further.

Dash Replenishment involves devices such as dishwashers and printers automatically ordering new supplies of tablets or ink cartridges without their owner needing to do anything, except sign up in the first place.

What Amazon is doing here is providing the first really compelling examples of how the so-called internet of things could transform our homes, with smart appliances talking to the network about their needs.

Amazon Dash buttonImage copyrightAMAZON

It's also a demonstration of the extraordinary breadth of skills at the disposal of Jeff Bezos's firm - from a deep knowledge of what makes consumers tick, to an extraordinary logistics operation that can now deliver products to some addresses within an hour, to the nimblest supplier of cloud computing services on the planet.

But hold on a minute.

Are we so lazy now that we are happy to have one pack of soap powder make its way from Amazon's fulfilment centre down busy city streets to our door, with all the environmental impact that entails, rather than heading to the shops and getting everything in one go?

Shouldn't we have the weekly shop delivered to us by a British supermarket?

Are we happy to tie ourselves to big brands whose buttons we will push, or whose appliances will buy their perhaps pricey supplies on our behalf?

Media captionWATCH: Dave Lee explained how Dash buttons worked when they launched, in 2015

And do we like the idea that this brilliant American technology firm will be collecting ever more data about our shopping habits, even if it is doing that to deliver us a better retail experience?

Like it or not, shopping is becoming an on-demand, push-button, instant gratification experience. And, as in so many other areas of our lives, it seems likely that it will be shaped by a US technology company.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 28th Sep 2016

There’s a thriving market for illicitly obtained stills and video

Meriel Jane Waissman/Getty

FBI director James Comey recently recommended that we all cover our webcams with tape for security reasons. Comey believes that doing so is a simple step for people to "take responsibility for their own safety and security."

Apparently Comey doesn't want to be spied on. In questions during a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Comey revealed that cam-covering is commonplace at the FBI and other government offices. "It's not crazy that the FBI director cares about personal security as well," he added. "If you go into any government office, we all have our little camera things that sit on top of the screen, they all have a little lid that closes down on them. You do that so people who do not have authority don't look at you. I think that's a good thing."

That the FBI's director covers his cams may be a surprise to some, just as it was when people spotted Mark Zuckerberg's webcam tape-over in a photo of his Facebook desk this spring.

But many of us who've been paying attention to cybercrime and punishment have been covering our webcams for years, and telling all our friends and family to do it, too. What's more surprising is that it's taken this long for officials and the press to raise the alarm. I mean, they're just a few years behind, but hey, it's nice to know they care.

In 2010, a Pennsylvania school narrowly escaped criminal charges when it was caught secretly taking photos of students through the webcams on school-issued laptops. Harriton High School student Blake Robbins filed a civil suit, and the FBI launched an investigation when he found out school employees had photographed him 400 times over a two-week period -- sometimes when he was partially undressed or sleeping. School officials said they had a tracking system for finding lost or stolen laptops but admitted that the software program took images every 15 minutes without telling the user. It turns out they'd snapped around 56,000 privacy-violating pictures of students.

Aside from institutional malfeasance, there's been a thriving black market for compromised webcams and the video or photos they can produce -- for many years. A clearly startled 2013 BBC reporter claimed the going price for access to a woman's webcam was priced at $1 per girl, whereas computer webcams belonging to men cost $1 -- for one hundred. And even then, three years ago, it was old news. The programs that capture images, take videos and record audio are not expensive, and they do their jobs surreptitiously by overriding the "record" light so victims don't know they're being spied on.

BBC's story was sparked by a case involving a Miss Teen USA contestant. A year before Cassidy Wolf won the 2013 crown, a guy in her high school used a program to hack into the webcam on her computer and take photos of her. She found out when he got into her social media accounts and tried to extort money from her. It turns out that she was one of 12 girls he had taken photos of and threatened for cash. He was sentenced to 18 monthsbehind bars.

The software is typically put on a computer when the victim clicks a link, often through an email, and the computer becomes infected with a program that hides while letting the computer's camera be controlled remotely. Known as phishing, it's the most common form of online hack attack.

The following year, the FBI ran its largest cyber operation to date, in 2014,arresting scores of webcam hackers in over a dozen countries, who had all been using a program called Blackshades. The program has the ability to give its user access to "photographs and other files on the victim's computer, record all of the keystrokes entered on the victim's keyboard, steal the passwords to the victim's online accounts, and even activate the victim's web camera to spy on the victim -- all of which could be done without the victim's knowledge." The malicious tool was shown to have been purchased by several thousand hackers in over 100 countries, infecting more than half a million computers around the world.

After her harrowing experience, Ms. Wolf now tapes over all of her webcams, and so should we all. Everything has a camera. Your phone, your laptop, your tablet. If you have a modern device that can get online, it probably has a camera. And if it has a camera, someone looking for cash or scummy thrills has probably figured out how to hack it and turn it on without your knowing. Protecting yourself is as easy as taping it up, just like Zuck and Comey. Sticky notes work well because they have a gentle adhesive, and you can also find privacy stickers for purchase online that are made specifically for putting on (and taking off) web and phone cameras.

Perhaps what's such a facepalm isn't the irony of the FBI telling us how not to get spied on, or why cam-covering is such a wacky idea to Comey's friends. It's that the FBI is acknowledging to the public that, really, it's "everyone for themselves" when it comes to technology and personal security.

Which is how some of us have been proceeding all along.

Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew (Blackshades)

Source: engadget.com
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