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Update November 2017


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Technology
 

Update Saturday, Nov. 25 - Dec. 1, 2017

You can shower with the new Kindle - you just can’t read

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Anick Jesdanun

New York (AP) - Amazon’s top-of-the-line e-reader is now waterproof - an excellent feature for a $250-and-up investment.

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?

The fine 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.

Reading when wet

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.)

Other features

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)

Anick Jesdanun

New York (AP) - Apple is offering a nifty way to unlock its new iPhone X - just stare at it.

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 phone.

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.

While Android 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.

Recognizing you

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 too big.

Costumes and 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.

Besides unlocking 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 been nice.


Update Saturday, Nov. 11 - Nov. 17, 2017

US tech giants may find their future shaped by Europe

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Danica Kirka

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 modern life.

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 propaganda.

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 community cohesion.

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

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

Barbara Ortutay

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 of censorship.

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. (AP)
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

You can shower with the new Kindle - you just can’t read


You can stymie the iPhone X Face ID - but it takes some work


US tech giants may find their future shaped by Europe


Fact-checking fake news on Facebook works - just too slowly

Researchers discover vulnerability affecting Wi-Fi security


 



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