Update Saturday, Nov. 25 - Dec. 1, 2017
You can shower with the new Kindle - you just can’t read
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
New York (AP) - Amazon’s
top-of-the-line e-reader is now waterproof - an excellent feature for a
But don’t go scuba diving just yet.
Your Kindle Oasis might not survive.
Huh? How is that waterproof then?
And what about the optional cover?
print on waterproof
The new Oasis is designed to
survive up to an hour in up to two meters (6.5 feet) of fresh water, not
the higher pressure of anything deeper - such as a scuba dive.
Fresh-water protection is great,
but you’re more likely to read by a swimming pool or on the beach.
Amazon says you’ll still get some protection from chlorinated or salty
water - just not as much as what’s promised for fresh water. Same goes
for coffee spills.
As for that cover, the standard
version with woven fabric ($45) is “water safe” but not “waterproof.”
Amazon says that means minor spills, but not lengthy submersion. To be
safe, choose a dark color to conceal any stains. The pricier leather
covers ($60) won’t resist water at all, which defeats having a
waterproof e-reader in the first place.
Waterproofing is meant to protect
the device from accidental splashes and spills, not underwater reading.
Common with other gadgets, the
touchscreen gets errant when wet. Reading during an ice-cold bath was
fine, until I submerged the device. The font size started changing, and
all sorts of other settings popped up. During a hot shower, pages turned
on their own.
While walking in a storm, rainwater
distorted the text, like a magnifying glass, and I had to wipe many
drops away. (In any case, I probably should have been paying attention
instead to what’s in front of me.)
Overall, the Oasis is a great
device for booklovers - though the waterproofing, with its limits, isn’t
enough on its own to justify the premium model.
You can pair the new Kindle with
Bluetooth headsets and enjoy integration with Amazon’s Audible audiobook
service. You can switch between the text and audio versions of your book
without losing your place. Unfortunately, you have to buy both versions
to do this.
The larger 7-inch screen on the
Oasis makes the other devices’ once-adequate 6-inch screens seem too
small. Amazon says the Oasis fits 30 percent more words. The Oasis also
has more built-in lights for greater brightness. And unlike phones and
tablets, the e-reader isn’t prone to glare - or to such distractions as
Facebook and text notifications. Though you can get other Kindles for
that - and pay far less.
Update Saturday, Nov. 18 - Nov. 24, 2017
You can stymie the iPhone X Face ID - but it takes some work
In this combo of Monday Oct. 30, 2017,
photos, Associated Press reporter Nick Jesdanun demonstrates Face ID,
Apple’s name for its facial-recognition technology, on an iPhone X in
New York. In the top photos, the iPhone X recognized Jesdanun. In the
bottom images, the phone did not recognize him. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
New York (AP) -
Apple is offering a nifty way to unlock its new iPhone X - just stare at
Face ID, Apple’s
name for its facial-recognition technology, replaces the fingerprint
sensor found on other models.
How well does it
work - not just technically, but in everyday use? After all, it’s much
easier to align your finger with the sensor than to align your face with
The iPhone X costs
about $1,000, which is $300 more than the iPhone 8. Advance orders began
this past Friday, and Apple is now giving delivery times of five to six
weeks. Apple says it will have limited supplies at stores for same-day
pickup on Friday, but you’ll have to get there early.
Better face detection
Many rival Android
phones already use facial-recognition technology. Samsung also has an
unlock feature that scans your iris. But the systems can be tripped with
something as simple as eyeglasses.
largely bases its match on a two-dimensional camera shot of you, the
iPhone X goes 3-D. During setup, the iPhone guides you to rotate your
head so it gets a more complete picture of you - analyzing some 30,000
points on your face, to be specific. So if you’re wearing glasses, the
iPhone can still recognize you using other parts of your face. Same goes
for wearing a hat.
And Apple’s system
continually learns. Each time you use your face to unlock the phone, it
automatically keeps tabs on small changes, such as growing a mustache or
simply getting older. With Android, you have to go into the settings to
teach the phone’s face recognition to get better.
There are limits.
If you shave your beard, it’s too big of a change for the iPhone X to be
sure it’s you. You’ll need a passcode, but the phone should remember you
the next time.
I tested the iPhone
X against Samsung’s iris scanner on the Galaxy Note 8 and face systems
on Google’s Pixel 2 and LG’s V30 phones. V30 improves upon the standard
Android technology in asking you to turn your head slightly during the
setup, though in practice the Pixel was far better at recognition.
Only the iPhone and
the Pixel recognized me with standard eyeglasses - important, as I
expect the same performance with or without spectacles. That said, Face
ID unlocked with just one of the two sunglasses I tried; the other was
disguises also challenged Face ID. A Santa hat was OK, but a Santa beard
wasn’t. Nor did it like funny glasses and a fake nose. Winter clothing
was fine, as long as the scarf wasn’t covering too much of my face.
Face ID worked
better than expected in bright sunlight - not every time, but enough to
be satisfying. It also worked in the dark, thanks to the use of infrared
sensors rather than just the standard camera. That’s important when you
wake up in the middle of the night and must absolutely check Facebook or
Tinder. For those keeping score, the Pixel worked in sunlight, but not
in the dark; it’s the reverse for Samsung. Samsung also worked with the
Santa beard, as it’s focused on your eyes.
The iPhone also
unlocked after getting a haircut.
I didn’t try to
fool the iPhone into unlocking with someone else’s face. I’m sure
hackers will spend the coming weeks trying. Apple says Face ID could be
unreliable with twins and other siblings who look like you, as well as
for children under 13 - though young children don’t really need a $1,000
phone. Give them a $200 iPod Touch - or better yet, a book to read.
No more fingerprint
The home button is
gone to increase screen space. Others that have done this have moved the
fingerprint scanner to the back. Apple ditches it completely, so Face ID
is the only alternative to a passcode. The Olsen twins, among others,
will face a hardship.
It’s also tougher
to check Facebook during a meeting without getting busted by the boss.
You can casually unlock a phone with your fingerprint under the table.
It’s much more conspicuous to stare at a screen, especially because your
face should ideally be 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) away.
the phone, you can use Face ID to confirm app purchases and log into
banking apps. You can also confirm Apple Pay transactions. You don’t
have to twist your head awkwardly for facial authorization while the
phone is laying sideways on a payment terminal, either. With the iPhone
X, you authorize Apple Pay before tapping. It was much faster than
fingerprint when paying for lunch.
Bottom line is Face
ID works fairly well - though keeping the fingerprint option would have
Update Saturday, Nov. 11 - Nov. 17, 2017
US tech giants may find their future shaped by Europe
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
London (AP) - Silicon Valley
is a uniquely American creation, the product of an entrepreneurial
spirit and no-holds-barred capitalism that now drives many aspects of
But the likes of Facebook, Google
and Apple are increasingly facing an uncomfortable truth: it is Europe’s
culture of tougher oversight of companies, not America’s laissez-faire
attitude, which could soon rule their industry as governments seek to
combat fake news and prevent extremists from using the internet to fan
the flames of hatred.
While the U.S. has largely relied
on market forces to regulate content in a country where free speech is
revered, European officials have shown they are willing to act. Germany
recently passed a law imposing fines of up to 50 million euros ($59
million) on websites that don’t remove hate speech within 24 hours.
British Prime Minister Theresa May wants companies to take down
extremist material within two hours. And across the EU, Google has for
years been obliged to remove search results if there is a legitimate
complaint about the content’s veracity or relevance.
“I anticipate the EU will be where
many of these issues get played out,” said Sarah T. Roberts, a professor
of information studies at UCLA who has studied efforts to monitor and
vet internet content. Objectionable content “is the biggest problem
going forward. It’s no longer acceptable for the firms to say that they
can’t do anything about it.”
How closely to manage the massive
amounts of content on the internet has become a pressing question in the
U.S. since it was revealed that Russian agencies took out thousands of
ads on social media during the presidential campaign, reaching some 10
million people on Facebook alone.
That comes on top of the existing
concerns about preventing extremist attacks. This month, three men were
arrested after allegedly using smartphone messaging apps to plot attacks
on the New York City subway and Times Square from their homes in Canada,
Pakistan and the Philippines. The plot was thwarted by an undercover
officer, not technology.
In some ways it goes to a question
of identity. Social media companies see themselves not as publishers but
as platforms for other people to share information, and have
traditionally been cautious about taking down material.
But the pressure is on to act.
Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube in June created the Global
Internet Forum to Combat Terrorism, which says it is committed to
developing new content detection technology, helping smaller companies
combat extremism and promoting “counter-speech,” content meant to blunt
the impact of extremist material.
Proponents of counter-speech argue
that rather than trying to take down every Islamic State group post,
internet companies and governments should do more to promote content
that actively refutes extremist propaganda. This approach will unmask
the extremist message of hate and violence in the “marketplace of
ideas,” they argue, though critics see it as just another form of
Facebook has recently published
details of its counterterrorism strategy for the first time. These
include using artificial intelligence to prevent extremist images and
videos from being uploaded and algorithms to find and disable accounts
linked to pages known to support extremist movements. The company also
plans to increase the staff dedicated to reviewing complaints of
objectionable material by more than 60 percent to some 8,000 worldwide.
“We want Facebook to be a hostile
place for terrorists,” Monika Bickert, director of global policy
management, and Brian Fishman, counterterrorism policy manager, said in
a statement. “The challenge for online communities is the same as it is
for real world communities - to get better at spotting the early signals
before it’s too late.”
But Roberts argues the companies
have been slow to react and are trying to play catch up.
The fact is the technology needed
to detect and remove dangerous posts hasn’t kept up with the threat,
experts say. Removing such material still requires judgment, and
artificial intelligence is not yet good enough to determine the
difference, for example, between an article about the so-called Islamic
State and posts from the group itself.
In other words, taking down much of
this material still needs human input, said Frank Pasquale, an expert in
information law and changing technology at the University of Maryland.
Acknowledging that is difficult for companies that were built by pushing
the boundaries of technology.
“They don’t like to admit how
primitive their technologies are; it defeats their whole narrative that
they can save the world,” Pasquale said. “You kill off the golden goose
if you cast doubt over the power of their algorithms.”
Employing enough people to fill in
where the algorithms leave off would be a massive task given the volume
of material posted on social media sites every day. Just imagine trying
to moderate every puppy photo or birthday greeting, said Siva
Vaidhyanathan, director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the
University of Virginia.
He believes that moderating content
is ultimately impossible because you can’t create a system that works
for everyone from Saudi Arabia to Sweden.
“The problem is the very idea of
the social media system - it is ungovernable,” he said. “Facebook is
designed as if we are nice to each other. And we’re not.”
The U.S. government response has
been more focused on policing than regulation, with security services
authorized to sweep up huge amounts of electronic data to help them
identify violent extremists and thwart attacks. Beyond that, authorities
have mostly relied on the market to drive change amid fears that
heavy-handed regulation could interfere with the First Amendment rights
of law-abiding citizens to speak out and exchange information.
European courts have had no such
qualms, balancing freedom of expression against the right to privacy and
For example, the European Court of
Justice in 2014 ruled that people have the “right to be forgotten,”
permitting them to demand removal of personal data from search results
when they can prove there’s no compelling reason for it to remain. As
far back as 2000, a French court ordered Yahoo to prevent French
internet users from buying Nazi memorabilia on its sites.
The European Union’s executive has
been most active in matters of antitrust. This year it leveled a huge
2.4 billion euro ($2.8 billion) fine on Google and ordered it to change
the way it does business, for example how it shows search results.
“There’s a real cultural divide,”
said Edward Tenner, author of the upcoming book “The Efficiency Paradox:
What Big Data Can’t Do.” ‘’European governments have been more committed
to incorporating the ideas of social justice and the Americans have been
much more on the libertarian side.”
Update Saturday, Nov. 4 - Nov. 10, 2017
Fact-checking fake news
on Facebook works - just too slowly
Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
New York (AP) -
Facebook’s effort to limit the spread of fake news using outside
fact-checkers appears to be having an effect - although that finding comes
with a major caveat.
Once a story receives a
false rating from a fact-checker, Facebook says, subsequent “impressions”
can fall off by 80 percent. Impressions count the number of times Facebook
users see a particular post.
But it routinely takes
more than three days for a false story that appears on Facebook to be passed
along to fact-checkers and given a false rating. And most impressions occur
when the story first comes out, not three days later. That’s the case with
all news, both true and fake.
The information was
shared in an email from a Facebook manager sent to the company’s
fact-checking partners, including The Associated Press. Facebook gave an AP
reporter access to the email.
Jason White, Facebook’s
manager of news partnerships, wrote in the email that the company is working
to identify “these hoaxes sooner.”
“We also need to
surface more of them, as we know we miss many,” he wrote.
At the same time, he
added that it is “equally important we do this the right way, and don’t
restrict legitimate speech. It’s a difficult tension, but we are confident
we can improve our efforts.”
Facebook has long
stressed that it only wants to go after the “worst of the worst” offenders
when it comes to false news and hoaxes. While many stories may be disputed
as biased or partially false, the company is trying to avoid the appearance
This is also why, as
part of its fact-checking program, a story must be found false by at least
two fact-checkers before Facebook will label it as “disputed.”
Researchers discover vulnerability affecting Wi-Fi security
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Security researchers have discovered a
Wi-Fi network vulnerability that could allow attackers to steal sensitive
information or spread malicious software while someone is logged into a
computer or mobile device.
A report published Monday, Oct. 16,
said the breach could only happen if an attacker is within range of the
potential victim, but the weakness could affect anyone using a Wi-Fi
network, whether at home, the office or at a public coffee shop.
The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group,
says there’s no evidence that the vulnerability discovered by researcher
Mathy Vanhoef has been exploited maliciously. It affects WPA2, a protocol
used to secure Wi-Fi networks.
The group says the problem can be
resolved through straightforward software updates. Microsoft says it’s
already deployed patches. Google says it’ll do so in the coming weeks.