Portables (Apple)

10 Years of the MacBook Air (theverge.com) 150

Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air. "Apple's Macworld 2008 was a special one, taking place just days after the annual Consumer Electronics Show had ended and Bill Gates bid farewell to Microsoft," The Verge recalls. "Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by removing it from a tiny paper office envelope, and the crowd was audibly shocked at just how small and thin it was..." From the report: At the time, rivals had thin and light laptops on the market, but they were all around an inch thick, weighed 3 pounds, and had 8- or 11-inch displays. Most didn't even have full-size keyboards, but Apple managed to create a MacBook Air with a wedge shape so that the thickest part was still thinner than the thinnest part of the Sony TZ Series -- one of the thinnest laptops back in 2008. It was a remarkable feat of engineering, and it signaled a new era for laptops. Apple ditched the CD drive and a range of ports on the thin MacBook Air, and the company introduced a multi-touch trackpad and SSD storage. There was a single USB 2.0 port, alongside a micro-DVI port and a headphone jack. It was minimal, but the price was not. Apple's base MacBook Air cost $1,799 at the time, an expensive laptop even by today's standards.
Businesses

Dropbox Files Confidentially For IPO (bloomberg.com) 20

Dropbox, the file-sharing private company valued at $10 billion, has filed confidentially for a U.S. initial public offering. From the report: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will lead the potential listing, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the filing wasn't public. Dropbox is talking to other banks this month to fill additional roles on the IPO, the people said. The company is aiming to list in the first half of this year, one of the people said. Dropbox could be one of the biggest U.S. enterprise technology companies to list domestically in recent years.

Dropbox is likely to tout its biggest investment in recent years: its own cloud. It's spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build data centers and mostly wean itself off of Amazon.com Inc.'s servers, a rare feat for a software business with hundreds of millions of users. That's made it easier for Dropbox to cut costs while speeding file transfers, Chief Operating Officer Dennis Woodside said in an interview last year.

Power

Tesla's New York Gigafactory Kicks Off Solar Roof Production (bloomberg.com) 103

In an email Tuesday, Tesla said that its manufacturing of the long-awaited electricity-producing shingles began last month at a factory in Buffalo built with backing from New York State. It comes more than a year after Tesla unveiled the shingles to a mix of fanfare and skepticism. Bloomberg reports: The appeal: a sleek, clean solar product, especially for homeowners seeking to replace aging roofs. The tiles -- from most angles -- look like ordinary shingles. They allow light to pass from above and onto a standard flat solar cell. Tesla, the biggest U.S. installer of rooftop-solar systems, piloted the product on the homes of several employees. The company expects to begin installing roofs for customers within the next few months.

Tesla started production of solar cells and panels about four months ago at its Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo. New York committed $750 million to help build the 1.2 million-square-foot factory, which currently employs about 500 people. The plant will eventually create nearly 3,000 jobs in Western New York and nearly 5,000 statewide, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in 2015.

Data Storage

Western Digital 'My Cloud' Devices Have a Hardcoded Backdoor (betanews.com) 160

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Today, yet another security blunder becomes publicized, and it is really bad. You see, many Western Digital MyCloud NAS drives have a hardcoded backdoor, meaning anyone can access them -- your files are at risk. It isn't even hard to take advantage of it -- the username is "mydlinkBRionyg" and the password is "abc12345cba" (without quotes). To make matters worse, it was disclosed to Western Digital six months ago and the company did nothing. GulfTech Research and Development explains, "The triviality of exploiting this issues makes it very dangerous, and even wormable. Not only that, but users locked to a LAN are not safe either. An attacker could literally take over your WDMyCloud by just having you visit a website where an embedded iframe or img tag make a request to the vulnerable device using one of the many predictable default hostnames for the WDMyCloud such as 'wdmycloud' and 'wdmycloudmirror' etc." The My Cloud Storage devices affected by this backdoor include: MyCloud, MyCloudMirror, My Cloud Gen 2, My Cloud PR2100, My Cloud PR4100, My Cloud EX2 Ultra, My Cloud EX2, My Cloud EX4, My Cloud EX2100, My Cloud EX4100, My Cloud DL2100, and My Cloud DL4100. Firmware 2.30.172 reportedly fixes the bug, so make sure your device is updated before reconnecting to the internet.
Biotech

How Big Tech is Getting Involved in Your Health Care (bendbulletin.com) 50

Apple's financing a study to see whether irregular heart rhythms can be detected with an Apple Watch. But that's just the beginning, according to a New York Times article shared by Templer421: As consumers, medical centers and insurers increasingly embrace health-tracking apps, tech companies want a bigger share of the more than $3 trillion spent annually on health care in the United States, too... The companies are accelerating their efforts to remake health care by developing or collaborating on new tools for consumers, patients, doctors, insurers and medical researchers. And they are increasingly investing in health startups. In the first 11 months of this year, 10 of the largest tech companies in the United States were involved in health care equity deals worth $2.7 billion, up from just $277 million for all of 2012, according to data from CB Insights, a research firm that tracks venture capital and startups.

Each tech company is taking its own approach, betting that its core business strengths could ultimately improve people's health -- or at least make health care more efficient. Apple, for example, has focused on its consumer products, Microsoft on online storage and analytics services and Alphabet, Google's parent company, on data... Physicians and researchers caution that it is too soon to tell whether novel continuous-monitoring tools, like apps for watches and smartphones, will help reduce disease and prolong lives -- or just send more people to doctors for unnecessary tests. There's no shortage of hype," said Dr. Eric Topol, a digital medicine expert who directs the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego. "We're in the early stages of learning these tools: Who do they help? Who do they not help? Who do they provide just angst, anxiety, false positives?"

The article notes Amazon's investment in cancer-detection startup Grail, Apple's investment in the Beddit sleep monitor, and Alphabet's acquistion of Senosis Health, "a developer of apps that use smartphone sensors to monitor certain health signals."

Alphabet also has a research unit developing tools to collect health data, and it's already financed "Project Baseline," in which 10,000 volunteers have agreed to testing of their blood, mental health, and DNA, as well as monitoring of their skin temperature, heart rate, and sleep patterns.
Data Storage

Nintendo Delaying 64GB Game Cards For Switch Until 2019, Says Report (kotaku.com) 54

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is pushing back the introduction of larger 64GB game cards for the Switch. Nintendo had planned to make them available during the second half of 2018, but has reportedly told developers that they would have to wait. The reason is reportedly due to technical issues. Kotaku reports: As Kotaku previously reported, Nintendo's Switch games keep their size slim, with downloads for Super Mario Odyssey, Arms and Splatoon 2 ranging from 2-6GB. However, third party developers have been releasing bigger, data-heavy games, outpacing the Switch's 24GB of usable onboard memory. The Journal notes that Nintendo has already sold over 10 million Switch consoles, meaning developers could continue to flock to the platform, regardless.
Security

Acoustic Attacks on HDDs Can Sabotage PCs, CCTV Systems, ATMs, More (bleepingcomputer.com) 72

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Attackers can use sound waves to interfere with a hard drive's normal mode of operation, creating a temporary or permanent denial of state (DoS) that could be used to prevent CCTV systems from recording video footage or freeze computers dealing with critical operations. The basic principle behind this attack is that sound waves introduce mechanical vibrations into an HDD's data-storage platters. If the sound is played at a specific frequency, it creates a resonance effect that amplifies the vibration effect. Because hard drives store vasts amounts of information inside small areas of each platter, they are programmed to stop all read/write operations during the time a platter vibrates so to avoid scratching storage disks and permanently damaging an HDD. Last week, scientists from the Princeton and Purdue universities published new research into the topic, expanding on the previous findings with the results of additional practical tests. The research team used a specially crafted test rig to blast audio waves at a hard drive from different angles, recording results to determine the sound frequency, attack time, distance from the hard drive, and sound wave angle at which the HDD stopped working.
Government

65% of Washington DC's Outdoor Surveillance Cameras Infiltrated by Romanian Hackers (thehill.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes The Hill: Two Romanian hackers stand accused of hacking more than 100 outdoor police security cameras in the D.C. area during the days leading up to President Trump's inauguration, according to a court document obtained by CNN. According to an affidavit from Secret Service agent James Graham, Mihai Alexandru Isvanca and Eveline Cismaru are accused of hacking and disabling 123 out of 187 of the city's cameras between Jan. 12 and Jan. 15... Isvanca and Cismaru are also accused in the affidavit of spreading ransomware.
In a possibly-related story, the Washington Post reports: Five Romanian hackers were arrested over the past week as part of an international investigation into computer ransomware, officials in the United States and Europe said Wednesday. In six houses across Romania, law enforcement operatives from Romania, Britain, the United States and the Netherlands seized hard drives, laptops, external storage devices and documents related to malicious software called CTB-Locker or Critroini.
Businesses

Amazon Music Ending Cloud MP3 Storage, Streaming Option (billboard.com) 107

Amazon is planning to retire its Music storage subscription service, the plan that enabled Amazon customers to upload their own music to the company's servers. From a report: Amazon Music Storage subscription plans, which let users upload music from their Mac or PC and stream them alongside the in-app on-demand and radio options, will be accepted until Jan. 15, 2018. Then, the service will run until January 2019, when it will be removed entirely. As of Monday this week, free plans -- which allow for 250 songs to be stored in the cloud -- are no longer able to upload new music to their MP3 locker.
Privacy

Cloud-Based Repository Leak Exposes 123 Million American Households (zdnet.com) 62

"An Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 cloud storage bucket containing information from data analytics firm Alteryx has been found publicly exposed, comprising the personal information of 123 million U.S. households," reports ZDNet. "The S3 bucked, located at the subdomain 'alteryxdownload,' was found by California cybersecurity firm UpGuard, with its Cyber Risk Team discovering the leak on October 6, 2017." From the report: The 36 GB data file titled "ConsumerView_10_2013" contained over 123 million rows, each one signifying a different American household. A similar file was seen by UpGuard when the personal details of 198 million American voters, compiled in a dataset by a data firm used by the Republican National Committee, were exposed. To highlight the breadth of the issue, UpGuard said the exposed data reveals over 3.5 billion fields of personally identifying details and data points about virtually every American household, including racial and ethnic information. The spreadsheet uses anonymized identifiers, but the information in the other few billion fields are very detailed, UpGuard said. Home addresses, contact information, mortgage status, financial histories, and very specific analysis of purchasing behavior -- such as domestic travel habits, if someone is a cat enthusiast, and their sporting interests -- is up for grabs in the exposed data. As for how this happened, ZDNet says, "the bucket was configured via permission settings to allow any AWS 'Authenticated Users' to download its stored data. Authenticated users are any user that has an AWS account."
Power

Solar Power and Batteries Are Encroaching On Natural Gas In Energy Production (electrek.co) 182

Socguy writes: The relentless downward march in cost of both solar and battery storage is poised to displace 10GW worth of natural gas peaker plant electricity production in the U.S. by 2027. Already we are seeing the net cost of combined solar and batteries cheaper than the equivalent natural gas peaker plant. Some particularly aggressive estimates from major energy companies predict that we may not see another natural gas peaker plant built in the U.S. after 2020. GE has already responded to the weakness in the gas turbine market by laying off 12,000 workers. Further reading available via Greentech Media.
iMac

Apple iMac Pro Goes on Sale December 14th (engadget.com) 278

Apple vowed to ship the iMac Pro in December, and it's making good on that promise. From a report: The company has confirmed that its workstation-grade all-in-one will be available on December 14th. It has yet to reveal the exact configuration options, but the $4,999 'starter' model ships with an 8-core Xeon processor, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of solid-state storage and a Radeon Vega graphics chipset with 8GB of RAM. You can option it with up to an 18-core Xeon, 128GB of RAM, a 4TB SSD and a 16GB Vega chipset, although video creator Marques Brownlee notes that you'll have to wait until the new year for that 18-core beast.
Businesses

Tesla Could Be Hogging Batteries and Causing a Global Shortage, Says Report (gizmodo.com) 159

According to a report from the Korea news outlet ETNews, Tesla's solution to fixing a manufacturing bottleneck responsible for a $619 million loss last quarter could be causing a global battery shortage. Panasonic reportedly gave most of its cache of batteries in Japan to Tesla so that the automaker and Gigafactory 1 energy-storage company could keep up with its ambitious production schedule. Gizmodo reports: In early October, Tesla struggled with a "production bottleneck," but by the end of the month, Panasonic stated it would increase battery output at the Gigafactory, now that it understood the issues that led to the bottleneck and could automate some of the processes that had been done by hand. But this likely did not help Tesla fix any immediate shortage issues. ETNews claims that Panasonic is coping with the shortage by shipping batteries in from Japan. And many Japanese companies in need of cylinder batteries have turned to other suppliers like LG, Murata, and Samsung -- but those companies have not been able to meet the demands. Reportedly, companies that had contracts before 2017 aren't affected by the shortage, but several other manufacturers have not been able to place orders for batteries, and won't be able to order more batteries until the middle of next year.
Microsoft

Microsoft Debuts Windows 10 on ARM; Asus and HP Unveil Laptops With 20-Hour Battery Life, Gigabit LTE (zdnet.com) 139

Mary Jo Zoley, writing for ZDNet: A year ago, Microsoft announced it was working with its PC partners to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm's ARM processors. The resulting machines, part of the "Always Connected PC" ecosystem, would start rolling out before the end of calendar 2017, officials said. Today, December 5, Microsoft provided a progress report on Windows on ARM at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Tech Summit. Microsoft and PC makers Asus and HP showed off new PCs running Windows 10 on Snapdragon 835 at the event. Asus' NovoGo will begin shipping at least in quantities before year-end, I've heard. Models with 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage will be available starting at $599, and 8GB/256 GB storage model at $799, Asus officials said today. Asus is claiming 22 hours of continuous video playback and 30 days of standby. HP's Envy x2 -- like most of the ARM-based Always Connected Windows 10 devices -- won't be available until Spring of 2018. Users can get up to 20 hours of active use and 700 hours of "Connected Modern Standby." Pricing is not yet available.
Android

Android Go Will Make the Most Basic Phones Run Smoothly (cnet.com) 102

Entry-level phones may cost less than big hitters, but they come at the cost of space, speed and efficiency. Google's looking to change that with Android Go. From a report: Android Oreo (Go Edition) will launch tomorrow as part of the Android Oreo 8.1 rollout and all Android Oreo devices with 512MB to 1GB of memory will be optimised for Android Go. Google says this will allow them to function properly as smartphones while doubling their available storage space. The experience includes: An improved operating system with better performance, storage and security features; a new set of lighter Google apps, suitable for first-time web users; a Google Play store that highlights apps designed to work best on entry-level devices.
Science

Fewer Toys Gives Kids a Better Quality of Playtime, Study Claims (nypost.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New York Post: Toddlers with just a few toys were more creative and focused than tots with more choices, according to the study, published in an upcoming edition of the journal Infant Behavior and Development. For the study, University of Toledo researchers gave kids under age 3 either four toys or 16 toys and recorded their playing habits, according to the report. "When provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively," researchers said. Fewer toys "promotes development and healthy play," they concluded. The bah humbug-boosting findings may be one reason to skimp on the stocking stuffers -- but parents have another option. Simply keep more toys in storage also helps rein in the attention of scatterbrained toddlers, researchers said.
Businesses

Homeland Security Claims DJI Drones Are Spying For China (engadget.com) 82

A memo from the Los Angeles office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE) says that the officials assess "with moderate confidence that Chinese-based company DJI Science and Technology is providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government." It also says that the information is based on "open source reporting and a reliable source within the unmanned aerial systems industry with first and secondhand access." Engadget reports: Part of the memo focuses on targets that the LA ICE office believes to be of interest to DJI. "DJI's criteria for selecting accounts to target appears to focus on the account holder's ability to disrupt critical infrastructure," it said. The memo goes on to say that DJI is particularly interested in infrastructure like railroads and utilities, companies that provide drinking water as well as weapon storage facilities. The LA ICE office concludes that it, "assesses with high confidence the critical infrastructure and law enforcement entities using DJI systems are collecting sensitive intelligence that the Chinese government could use to conduct physical or cyber attacks against the United States and its population." The accusation that DJI is using its drones to spy on the US and scope out particular facilities for the Chinese government seems pretty wacky and the company itself told the New York Times that the memo was "based on clearly false and misleading claims."
Security

New NSA Leak Exposes Red Disk, the Army's Failed Intelligence System (zdnet.com) 67

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: The contents of a highly sensitive hard drive belonging to a division of the National Security Agency have been left online. The virtual disk image contains over 100 gigabytes of data from an Army intelligence project, codenamed "Red Disk." The disk image belongs to the US Army's Intelligence and Security Command, known as INSCOM, a division of both the Army and the NSA. The disk image was left on an unlisted but public Amazon Web Services storage server, without a password, open for anyone to download. Unprotected storage buckets have become a recurring theme in recent data leaks and exposures. In the past year alone, Accenture, Verizon, and Viacom, and several government departments, were all dinged by unsecured data.
Data Storage

Computer Pioneer Geoff Tootill Passed Away (theguardian.com) 36

"Computer pioneer Geoff Tootill passed away in October," writes long-time Slashdot reader tigersha. Born in 1922, Tootill began his career troubleshooting airborne radar systems during World War II, leading him to some pioneering research in the late 1940s. "He worked on the first computer that stored a program in main memory, as opposed to a paper tape, and actually had the opportunity to teach Alan Turing and debug one of Turing's programs." The Guardian remembers: The computer could store just 32 instructions or numbers using a single cathode ray tube. The machine first worked in June 1948, taking 52 minutes to find the highest factor of 262,144, involving about 3.5 million arithmetic operations. The following year, Tootill transferred to Ferranti, the Manchester-based electrical engineering company, to specify a full-scale computer...the world's first commercially available computer.
That was the Ferranti Mark I, first released in 1951.

Tootill passed away at the age of 95.
Android

Samsung's Galaxy S9 Will Appear At CES In January, Says Report (venturebeat.com) 41

According to VentureBeat, Samsung is planning to show off its next-generation Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Some of the information about the devices will be shared at CES, but Samsung is still apparently holding an official launch event in March, as it did this past year for the Galaxy S8 and S8+. From the report: Codenamed Star 1 and Star 2 -- and going by model numbers SM-G960 and SM-G965 -- the S9 and S9+ will feature the same 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch curved-edge Super AMOLED "Infinity" displays, respectively, as their predecessors. While no specific processor was mentioned, it is said to employ 10-nanometer fabrication techniques, which is highly suggestive of the upcoming Snapdragon 845 from Qualcomm (and likely a similar Exynos model for some regions). Besides a bigger screen, the S9+ will reportedly offer more RAM (6GB versus 4GB) and a second rear camera, similar to the Note8. Both models pack 64GB of internal storage, supplemented by a microSD slot, and both leave the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack intact. Regardless of rear camera configuration, both phones orient the elements on the back of the device vertically -- with the fingerprint sensor on the bottom, in acknowledgement of one of the most frequent complaints about all three of Samsung's 2017 flagship handsets. Another change that's sure to be well-received is the addition of AKG stereo speakers. Finally, Samsung plans to introduce a backward-compatible DeX docking station that situates the phones flat and utilizes the screens as either a touchpad or a virtual keyboard.

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