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Network

Slashdot Asks: Which Wireless Carrier Do You Prefer? 195

Earlier this year, telecommunications giants like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint were battling to see who could release the best unlimited data plan(s). T-Mobile started the domino chain reaction with the launch of its "One" unlimited plan in August. But the competition became especially fierce in February when Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own, causing Sprint and AT&T to unveil new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. Each of the four major carriers have since continued to tweak their plans to ultimately undercut their competitors and retain as many customers are possible.

Given how almost everyone has a smartphone these days and the thirst for data has never been higher, we'd like to ask you about your current wireless carrier and plan. Which wireless carrier and plan do you have any why? Is there any one carrier or unlimited data plan that stands out from the others? T-Mobile, for example, recently announced that it added 1.1 million customers in Q1 2017, which means that it has added more than 1 million customers every quarter for the past four years. Have they managed to earn your business? MyRatePlan has a good breakdown of the current unlimited data plans on the market today.
Canada

'Breakthrough' LI-RAM Material Can Store Data With Light (ctvnews.ca) 104

A Vancouver researcher has patented a new material that uses light instead of electricity to store data. An anonymous reader writes: LI-RAM -- that's light induced magnetoresistive random-access memory -- promises supercomputer speeds for your cellphones and laptops, according to Natia Frank, the materials scientist at the University of Victoria who developed the new material as part of an international effort to reduce the heat and power consumption of modern processors. She envisions a world of LI-RAM mobile devices which are faster, thinner, and able to hold much more data -- all while consuming less power and producing less heat.

And best of all, they'd last twice as long on a single charge (while producing almost no heat), according to a report on CTV News, which describes this as "a breakthrough material" that will not only make smartphones faster and more durable, but also more energy-efficient. The University of Victoria calculates that's 10% of the world's electricity is consumed by "information communications technology," so LI-RAM phones could conceivably cut that figure in half.

They also report that the researcher is "working with international electronics manufacturers to optimize and commercialize the technology, and says it could be available on the market in the next 10 years."
Cellphones

Children As Young As 13 Attending 'Smartphone Rehab' As Concerns Grow Over Screen Time (independent.co.uk) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities. But in the U.S., the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction. One "smartphone rehab" center near Seattle has started offering residential "intensive recovery programs" for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices. The Restart Life Center says parents have been asking it to offer courses of treatment to their children for more than eight years. Hilarie Cash, the Center's founder, told Sky News smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices can be so stimulating and entertaining that they "override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction."
Cellphones

Scientists Prove Your Phone's PIN Can Be Stolen Using Its Gyroscope Data (digitaltrends.com) 61

A team of scientists at Newcastle University in the UK managed to reveal a user's phone PIN code using its gyroscope data. "In one test, the team cracked a passcode with 70 percent accuracy," reports Digital Trends. "By the fifth attempt, the accuracy had gone up to 100 percent." From the report: It takes a lot of data, to be sure. The Guardian notes users had to type 50 known PINs five times before the researchers' algorithm learned how they held a phone when typing each particular number. But it highlights the danger of malicious apps that gain access to a device's sensors without requesting permission. The risk extends beyond PIN codes. In total, the team identified 25 different smartphone sensors which could expose compromising user information. Worse still, only a small number -- such as the camera and GPS -- ask the user's permission before granting access to that data. It's precise enough to track behavior. Using an "orientation" and "emotion trace" data, the researchers were able to determine what part of a web page a user was clicking on and what they were typing. The paper has been published in International Journal of Information Security.
Cellphones

FCC Kills Plan To Allow Mobile Phone Conversations On Flights (pcworld.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: On Monday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission killed a plan to allow mobile phone calls during commercial airline flights. Since 2013, the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration have considered allowing airline passengers to talk on the phones during flights, although the FAA also proposed rules requiring airlines to give passengers notice if they planned to allow phone calls. The plan to allow mobile phone calls on flights drew sharp objections from some passengers and flight attendants who had visions of dozens of passengers trying to talk over each other for entire flights. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday killed his agency's 2013 proceeding that sought to relax rules governing the use of mobile phones on airplanes. Under the FCC proposal, airlines would have decided if they allowed mobile phone conversations during flights.
Cellphones

Scientists Invent Smartphone Screen Material That Can Repair Its Own Scratches (ibtimes.co.uk) 55

drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: Researchers say they have developed a new material that could pave the way for self-repairing smartphones, robots and other electronic devices. Scientists from the American Chemical Society claim that the material, which can stretch up to 50 times its usual size, is able to heal itself "like nothing has happened" even when cut in two. The material is flexible, transparent and shares similar properties to human skin. When exposed to electrical signals, a current is generated that creates a chemical bonding reaction between molecules. The most obvious applications for electronics devices seems to be self-healing displays, although lead researcher Dr Chao Wang is also exploring the possibility of a self-healing lithium-ion battery. While the technology is similar to the hydrogen-infused rear cover found on the LG G Flex, which allows for small scratches to be healed, the material developed by the American Medical Society is a completely new innovation that can "automatically stitch itself back together" within one day of being sliced into pieces. The team will present its research at a Tuesday meeting of the American Chemical Society, according to Business Insider.
Cellphones

Smartphones May Be To Blame For Unprecedented Spike In Pedestrian Deaths, Says Report (cnn.com) 200

According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, the United States saw its largest annual increase in pedestrian fatalities since such record keeping began 40 years ago. "The [association] estimated there were 6,000 pedestrian deaths in 2016, the highest number in more than 20 years," reports CNN. "Since 2010, pedestrian fatalities have grown at four times the rate of overall traffic deaths." From the report: The thing that has changed dramatically in recent years is smartphone use. The volume of wireless data used from 2014 to 2015 more than doubled, according to the Wireless Association. Drivers and pedestrians who are distracted by their smartphones are less likely to be aware of their surroundings, creating the potential for danger. The Governors Highway Safety Association looked at data from the first six months of 2016 that came from 50 state highway safety offices and the District of Columbia. The complete data will be available later this year. The findings come as traffic safety experts have called for totally eliminating deaths on roadways. Near-term solutions include designing roads and vehicles to be safer. Cutting down on speeding and drunk driving are obvious targets.
Cellphones

Is Microsoft Building A Foldable 'Surface' Phone? (hothardware.com) 100

"This past week, Microsoft received a new patent for a foldable handset, and once again there are rumors that it is related to the long awaited, mythical Surface Phone," writes HardOCP, noting Samsung and LG are also rumored to be working on foldable phones. An anonymous reader quotes Hot Hardware: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made it clear that he doesn't want to kick out just another run-of-the-mill smartphone that looks and functions like every other device out there, but one that is unique in some aspect... This is not the first time Microsoft has filed a patent for what could be a folding Surface Phone. Just two months ago it was discovered that Microsoft filed a patent for a "Mobile Computing Device Having a Flexible Hinge Structure"...
Microsoft's patents include curved edges "intended to draw light away from the gaps, which would create an optical illusion of one continuous image," according to the article. "In this way, Microsoft could create a folding phone with multiple active displays appearing as a single, continuous image."
Cellphones

Feds: We're Pulling Data From 100 Phones Seized During Trump Inauguration (arstechnica.com) 233

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In new filings, prosecutors told a court in Washington, DC that within the coming weeks, they expect to extract all data from the seized cellphones of more than 100 allegedly violent protesters arrested during the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Prosecutors also said that this search is validated by recently issued warrants. The court filing, which was first reported Wednesday by BuzzFeed News, states that approximately half of the protestors prosecuted with rioting or inciting a riot had their phones taken by authorities. Prosecutors hope to uncover any evidence relevant to the case. Under normal judicial procedures, the feds have vowed to share such data with defense attorneys and to delete all irrelevant data. "All of the Rioter Cell Phones were locked, which requires more time-sensitive efforts to try to obtain the data," Jennifer Kerkhoff, an assistant United States attorney, wrote. Such phone extraction is common by law enforcement nationwide using hardware and software created by Cellebrite and other similar firms. Pulling data off phones is likely more difficult under fully updated iPhones and Android devices.
Cellphones

Wells Fargo: All ATMs Will Take Phone Codes, Not Just Cards (go.com) 71

Given the prevalence of smartphones nowadays, Wells Fargo has announced plans to upgrade all 13,000 of its ATMs next week to allow customers to access their money using their cellphones instead of traditional bank cards. Wells Fargo would be the first to upgrade all of its ATMs with the feature across the United States. ABC News reports: To access their money, customers would get unique eight-digit codes from their Wells Fargo smartphone app, and enter the code into the ATM along with their PIN number. The machines will still accept debit cards as well. One limitation of the one-time code, though, is that it won't work on the secure doors that many branches have for non-business hours that require a customer to swipe an ATM or debit card to gain entry. Wells Fargo said those secure doors are found at a small percentage of branches, mostly in major metropolitan areas like New York City or Chicago. Wells said it plans to roll out another upgrade to its ATMs later this year, which will allow customers to access the ATMs by holding their smartphones up to a reader on the machine, instead of entering the eight-digit code. It would be similar to using Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, the bank said.
Crime

Your Hotel Room Photos Could Help Catch Sex Traffickers (cnn.com) 151

100,000 people people have already downloaded an app that helps fight human trafficking. dryriver summarizes a report from CNN: Police find an ad for paid sex online. It's an illegally trafficked underage girl posing provocatively in a hotel room. But police don't know where this hotel room is -- what city, what neighborhood, what hotel or hotel room. This is where the TraffickCam phone app comes in. When you're staying at a hotel, you take pictures of your room... The app logs the GPS data (location of the hotel) and also analyzes what's in the picture -- the furniture, bed sheets, carpet and other visual features. This makes the hotel room identifiable. Now when police come across a sex trafficking picture online, there is a database of images that may reveal which hotel room the picture was taken in.
"Technology drives everything we do nowadays, and this is just one more tool that law enforcement can use to make our job a little safer and a little bit easier," says Sergeant Adam Kavanaugh, supervisor of the St. Louis County Multi-Jurisdictional Human Trafficking Task Force. "Right now we're just beta testing the St. Louis area, and we're getting positive hits," he says (meaning ads that match hotel-room photos in the database). But the app's creators hope to make it available to all U.S. law enforcement within the next few months, and eventually globally, so their app is already collecting photographs from hotel rooms around the world to be stored for future use.
Government

CBS Reports 'Suspicious' Cell Phone Tower Activity In Washington DC (cbsnews.com) 188

"An unusually high amount of suspicious cell phone activity in the nation's capital has caught the attention of the Department of Homeland Security, raising concerns that U.S. officials are being monitored by a foreign entity," reports CBS News: The issue was first reported in the Washington Free Beacon, but a source at telecom security firm ESD America confirmed the spike in suspicious activity to CBS News. ESD America, hired preemptively for a DHS pilot program this January called ESD Overwatch, first noticed suspicious activity around cell phone towers in certain parts of the capital, including near the White House. This kind of activity can indicate that someone is monitoring specific individuals or their devices... According to the ESD America source, the first such spike of activity was in D.C. but there have been others in other parts of the country. Based on the type of technology used, the source continued, it is likely that the suspicious activity was being conducted by a foreign nation.
The news coincides with a letter sent to the DHS by two congressmen "deeply concerned" about vulnerabilities in the SS7 protocol underlying U.S. cellular networks, according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Trailrunner7. Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Ted Lieu are asking if the agency has enough resources to address the threat. "Although there have been a few news stories about this topic, we suspect that most Americans simply have no idea how easy it is for a relatively sophisticated adversary to track their movements, tap their calls, and hack their smartphones."
Youtube

YouTube To Discontinue Video Annotations Because They Never Worked On Mobile (theverge.com) 61

You know those notes found plastered on many YouTube videos, often asking for you to "CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE?" Well, they're called annotations and they're being replaced with what YouTube calls "End Screen and Cards," which are mobile-friendly tools that let content creators poll their audience, link to merchandise, recommend videos, and more. Unlike annotations, they work on mobile and are designed to be less obnoxious to viewers. The Verge reports: YouTube says it made this change primarily because annotations didn't work on mobile and most viewers found them obnoxious and unhelpful. The change takes effect on May 2nd, and existing annotations will continue to show up when using the desktop browser version of YouTube. YouTube annotations have felt increasingly outdated and out of place. The small text boxes were meant as a way to let creators link to other videos, write in little jokes, and add ancillary information to a video much like a hyperlink or footnote of sorts. But over the years, annotation use has drastically fallen off, by 70 percent, YouTube product manager Muli Salem says. In fact, a majority of viewers interact with annotations only to close them, so the boxes don't obstruct the video screen. Many users turn them off altogether. So now YouTube is investing entirely in End Screens and Cards, and making both tools easier to use and faster to implement.
Patents

Sony Patent Could Let You Wirelessly Charge Your Phone From Another Device (digitaltrends.com) 36

One of the biggest downsides to wireless charging is the wire necessary to actually charge your device. You generally need to place your wireless charging-enabled device on a compatible charger, which needs to be plugged into a wall. Well, Sony hopes to make the process of wireless charging a bit easier as it has applied for a patent that will allow you to wirelessly charge your phone straight from someone else's phone. Digital Trends reports: The feature could be very useful. Sure, an ideal situation would be if you had access to a power outlet whenever you needed it, but the fact is we've all experienced being out and about and running out of battery. With Sony's new tech, you could essentially just "steal" power from a friend who might have a slightly more charged up device than you. The patent filling itself was discovered by What Future, and the report notes that the tech may not be limited to phones. Instead, Sony could apply it to things like fridges, microwaves, TVs, computers, and really any kind of electronic device. The idea here is that all of you home devices could eventually become sources of wireless energy -- so your phone will almost always be charging if you're at home, without the need for wires.
Cellphones

Jolla Sailfish Will Build A Google-Free Mobile OS For China (silicon.co.uk) 60

Jolla released their Android-free mobile Linux OS (Sailfish) on their own smartphones, "but has always intended to offer it to other manufacturers," according to Silicon. The next Sailfish smartphone was the Inex Aqua Fish, and people with Sony Xperia phones can now also run Sailfish through the Sony Open Devices Program. But their next big customer is the nation of China. Mickeycaskill quotes Silicon. The Sailfish China Consortium has gained the exclusive rights and license to develop a Chinese operating system based on Sailfish. Russia is also using Sailfish to build a national mobile OS in a bid to reduce its reliance on Western technology and reduce the risk of foreign surveillance. Jolla claimed that there have been many attempts to build a national OS on Android but these had been unsuccessful because of Google's control over the code.
One of the consortium's investors claims "several" major Chinese companies are already interested in joining them, adding "I have been closely following Sailfish OS development, and seen many Chinese projects fail, while Jolla's Sailfish OS has been steadily progressing. Sailfish OS is the only viable alternative for China."
Cellphones

California Government On the Dangers of Cellphones (cbslocal.com) 237

mi quotes a report from CBS Local: After keeping it hidden for years, California's Department of Public Health has released a draft document outlining health officials' concerns about cellphone radiation exposure. The previously unpublished document was released this week after a judge indicated she would order the documents be disclosed. Health officials' overall recommendation is to "increase the distance between you and your phone" by using a headset, the speaker phone function and text messaging. Health officials recommend not sleeping near your phone and not carry it in your pocket or directly on your body, unless it is off. The fact sheet also states that "EMFs can pass deeper into a child's brain than and adult's" so suggests parents limit their child's cellphone use to texting, important call and emergencies.
Government

UK: New Drivers Caught Using a Phone Will Lose Their License (bbc.com) 180

Under new rules in England, Scotland and Wales, drivers caught using a phone within two years of passing their test will have their license revoked. BBC reports: Penalties for using a phone at the wheel double from March 1 to six points and a 200 British pound fine. New drivers who get six points or more must retake their practical and theory. More experienced drivers can be banned if they get 12 points in three years. Can I check social media or texts if I'm queuing in traffic or stopped at traffic lights? No -- a hand held phone cannot be used, even if stopped at lights. Texting and scrolling social media (even if the phone is mounted on a hands-free holder) is distracting and dangerous. It doesn't come under the handheld mobile phone law but the police may decide to charge you with a number of other offenses. Can I use my phone to listen to music, play podcasts or watch video clips? You can't watch video clips -- not even if your phone is mounted in a hands-free holder. You can use your phone to listen to music and podcasts but only if your phone is in a hands-free holder or connected by Bluetooth. However, just as you can be distracted by the noise of a car radio, if it affects your ability to drive safely, you could still be prosecuted by the police. Can I use my phone's sat nav? Yes -- as long as the phone is mounted in a hands-free holder. If it's in your hands, it's illegal. However, if you are distracted by the sat nav and it affects your ability to drive safely, you could still be prosecuted by the police.
Chrome

Google Pulls the Plug On Its Pixel Laptops (engadget.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Although its new flagship phones have been doing brisk sales, Google's high-end, $1,299 Pixel-branded Chromebooks won't be seeing much love from the search giant in the near future. According to TechCrunch, reporting from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Google's SVP of hardware Rick Osterloh has announced the second version of the Pixel laptop will be the last of its kind. As TechCrunch notes, Google is trimming down the Pixel line to just the smartphones and the Pixel C tablet for now. Although there may be other devices carrying the name in the future, Osterloh said it was unlikely that its own laptops would be one of them.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Would You Use A Cellphone With A Kill Code? 301

Slashdot reader gordo3000 writes: Given all the recent headlines about border patrol getting up close and personal with phones, I've been wondering why phone manufacturers don't offer a second emergency pin that you can enter that wipes all private information on the phone? In theory, it should be pretty easy to just input a different pin (or unlock pattern) that opens up a factory reset screen on the phone and in the background begins deleting all personal information.

I'd expect that same code could also lock out the USB port until it is finished deleting the data, to help prevent many of the tools they now have to copy out everything on your phone. This nicely prevents you from having to back up and wipe your phone before every trip but leaves you with a safety measure if you get harassed at the border.

It could be built into the operating system, added by the manufacturer, or perhaps sideloaded as a custom mod -- but that begs the question of whether it'd really be a popular feature. So leave your own thoughts in the comments. Would you use a cellphone with a kill code?
Cellphones

Cellphones As a Fifth-Order Elaboration of Maxwell's Theory (ieee.org) 129

schwit1 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum that reflects on the "Stages of Electronics" based on James Clerk Maxwell's theory: Now that the world has become addicted to portable electronics, billions of people have come to see the companies providing these gadgets as the most innovative, and the people who head those companies as the most exalted, of all time. "Genius" is a starter category in this discussion. But clever and appealing though today's electronic gadgets may be, to the historian they are nothing but the inevitable fifth-order elaborations of two fundamental ideas: electromagnetic radiation, the theory of which was formulated by James Clerk Maxwell in the 1860s, and miniaturized fabrication, which followed Richard Feynman's 1959 dictum [PDF] that "there's plenty of room at the bottom." Maxwell was a true genius. The history of science offers few examples of work as brilliant as unifying electricity, magnetism, and light as aspects of a single phenomenon: electromagnetic waves. As Max Planck put it, "in doing so he achieved greatness unequalled."

Vaclav Smil writes via IEEE: "As I pass the zombielike figures on the street, oblivious to anything but their cellphone screens, I wonder how many of them know that the most fundamental advances enabling their addictions came not from Nokia, Apple, Google, Samsung, or LG. These companies' innovations are certainly admirable, but they amount only to adding a few fancy upper floors to a magnificent edifice whose foundations were laid by Maxwell 152 years ago and whose structure depends on decades-old advances that made it possible to build electronics devices ever smaller."

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