Amazon puts Alexa inside your iPhone

Now you can talk to Amazon’s intelligent assistant whenever you use the Amazon app on your iPhone. Alexa will be able to do much more than just deal with your Amazon account, like play songs from Amazon Music, give you news updates, or even tell a (bad) joke or two. You’ll also be able to use any of your previously enabled skills that are available within the Alexa ecosystem. According to Amazon, the one thing you won’t be able to do just yet is to ask Alexa to open your door locks with your voice.

Don’t uninstall the Alexa app just yet, though, because you’ll need it to tweak your default settings.

The iPhone isn’t the only handset to get Alexa — Huawei announced the voice service for its upcoming Mate 9 phone — but it is the first. Getting Alexa on as many devices as possible makes a lot of sense for Amazon, which is competing with Apple and Google for digital assistant supremacy.

The iOS update to the Amazon app should roll out starting today and continue for the next week.

Via: VentureBeat

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Popular teen social app Wishbone hacked

Popular teen social networking app Wishbone was hacked, according to a report today from Motherboard. Now, millions of email addresses and thousands of cell phone numbers are circulating the internet, many of them from kids under 18.

Wishbone is one of the top 10 most popular social networking apps for iPhone in the US, according to analyst firm App Annie. It lets users vote on pop culture-based questions like whether they prefer Dominos or Pizza Hut, whether they prefer eyeshadow or eyeliner, or which Kendall Jenner outfit they like best. After picking a side, they get to see how their friends voted. Hackers apparently accessed the app’s database through an unprotected API and took an estimated 2.2 million email addresses and over 287,000 cellphone numbers, along with personal information like birthdates and gender. No passwords or financial information were stolen, Wishbone said.

Wishbone owner Science Inc. told Motherboard the security hole is now fixed, and offered an apology to users in the following statement:

We value your privacy and deeply regret that this incident occurred. Maintaining the integrity of your personal information is extremely important to us. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this incident may have caused you. We are continuing to investigate this matter and have taken and will continue to take appropriate action to prevent future similar incidents. Please be assured that we will keep you informed of any developments in the investigation that may be of importance to you.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Motherboard

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The Morning After: Wednesday, March 15 2017

Hey, good morning!

Welcome to Wednesday. Remember all those big, beautiful TVs from CES back in early January? Well, we have prices for both Sony and Samsung’s newest screens. And if you can afford a $ 5 OLED TV, how about a $ 1,650 smartwatch? Welcome to the big-spender edition of The Morning After.


Everything has a price.Sony’s first 4K OLED TV starts at $ 5k

After Sony unveiled the beautiful XBR-A1E during CES, our next question was how much will it cost? Now we know, the price-tags are $ 5,000 and $ 6,500 for the 55- and 65-inch models, respectively. That puts them squarely between the mid- and high-end models from OLED pioneer LG, and Sony says they’ll be in stores next month.


Are you ready Neo? There could be a ‘Matrix’ relaunch on the way

It’s early, but Hollywood news outlets are reporting that Warner Bros. is working on a plan for another movie version of The Matrix. Names tossed around in the rumors include writer Zak Penn and actor Michael B. Jordan, although there’s no word on any level of involvement from the Wachowskis. The only question now is if there’s any thing left that can recapture the magic of the original movie and its bullet-time action sequences that blew away audiences in 1999.


You can swap the smart part out for a mechanical timepiece TAG Heuer made a modular $ 1,650 smartwatch

When TAG Heuer released its first smartwatch two years ago, it had a price tag of $ 1,800 and was dubbed the most expensive Android Wear device on the market. Still, more than 56,000 people bought it, which is certainly enough reason for the Swiss watchmaker to delve into the smartwatch business once again. And so it has.


It’s artSamsung’s 2017 QLED TVs start rolling out

Samsung is also ready to deliver on its 2017 TV lineup, with LED sets ranging in price from $ 2,800 for a 55-inch Q7, to $ 6,800 for a 75-inch Q8. The top of the line Q9 series has yet to appear, however. The company also promised its second-gen Ultra HD Blu-ray player launches next month for $ 400, and showed off a quirky ‘The Frame’ TV that doubles as a piece of artwork when it’s not in use.


It’s not a mistake this time‘La La Land’ composer on electronica’s key role in the film

Where does a drum machine fit in with traditional jazz music? That question drives the plot of not-quite Best Picture La La Land, and provided a challenge to its composer Justin Hurwitz. That challenge paid off with an Oscar for Best Original Music Score, and in an interview at SXSW, Hurwitz explains how he pulled off being a both a revolutionary and a traditionalist.


Say hello to Orisa Your new ‘Overwatch’ hero is a four-legged robot tank with a lot to prove.

Orisa, the latest character to enter the Overwatch fray, will be widely available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 21st. Orisa is an “anchor tank,” as Blizzard calls it — this means she’s the kind of massive, damage-absorbing hero that an entire team can rally behind and use as a home base, even in the middle of hectic fights. Reinhardt is another example of an “anchor tank” in Overwatch. For experienced players, Orisa is described as a mix of Reinhardt (a big, healthy character with a giant shield) and Zarya (who has a laser gun and barriers she can throw onto her allies).

But wait, there’s more…

  • ‘Full Throttle Remastered’ will tear up the road this April
  • This self-cleaning bag freshens up your smelly gym clothes
  • Microsoft’s Slack-fighting ‘Teams’ app rolls out to all Office 365 users
  • ‘Fistful of Stars’ lets you experience a stellar birth in VR
  • Russia finds Apple guilty of fixing iPhone prices

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Russia finds Apple guilty of fixing iPhone prices

Google isn’t the only American company facing regulatory trouble in Russia. The country’s antitrust body has ruled that Apple is guilty of fixing prices for iPhone 5 and 6 variants at 16 local retailers. Reportedly, the company tracked prices at these stores and would ask them to raise the price if it was ever deemed “unsuitable.” If they didn’t comply, Apple supposedly had the authority to terminate their reseller deals without so much as an explanation.

Apple has 3 months to contest the decision once it’s published in full later in March. It’s not clear what the proposed penalty will be, but Google was hit with a relatively modest 438 million ruble (currently $ 7.4 million) fine. Execs aren’t likely to lose sleep over the financial side of the ruling, then. Officials add that Apple has mended its ways with a policy that should prevent future trouble.

We’ve asked Apple for comment. However, a spokesperson tells the Financial Times that the company “worked closely” with the antitrust agency and is “glad to put this matter behind us.” Apple isn’t likely to fight this verdict, in other words — unlike in its e-book case, it’s more interested in moving on (and protecting sales in a major market) than fighting to the bitter end.

Via: Financial Times, 9to5Mac

Source: FAS (translated)

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TAG Heuer made a modular $1,650 smartwatch

When TAG Heuer released its first smartwatch two years ago, it had an $ 1,800 asking price and was dubbed the most expensive Android Wear device on the market. Still, more than 56,000 people bought it, which is certainly enough reason for the Swiss watchmaker to give smartwatches another shot. And so it has. Say hello to the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45, the company’s second Android Wear collaboration with Intel and Google. The starting price is still pretty high at $ 1,650 (£1,400), but the cost might be worth it this time. The reason: The Modular 45 comes with interchangeable parts, making the watch a lot more versatile than its predecessor.

What’s more, it’s the watch’s modular nature that makes this the “First Swiss-Made Connected Watch.” That’s because the 45mm smartwatch module can be swapped out with a purely Swiss-Made mechanical option that transforms it into an “ordinary” luxury timepiece. (Your options include either the Calibre 5 or the much more premium Heuer 02T Tourbillon, which TAG Heuer claims has “the most accurate mechanical movements around.”) So even if the connected module part of it gets outdated eventually (as it likely will), you’ll still be able to have a high-end TAG Heuer on your wrist just by swapping that module out. And, who knows, maybe TAG Heuer will make future connected watch modules for the same system, making the whole thing wonderfully future-proof.

As mentioned, it’s not just the watch modules that are interchangeable. It’s pretty much every part of the watch, including the straps, buckles and lugs. The core Connected Modular 45 range consists of 11 different designs; the watch module comes in either silver or black, while the straps are available in rubber, leather, titanium or ceramic, and in a slew of different colors. If that’s not enough, TAG Heuer offers 45 additional options, some of which include premium materials like patent leather, rose gold and even diamonds. That amounts to a grand total of 56 different designs and, according to the company, over 500 different design combinations.

Swapping out the different parts of the watch isn’t too difficult, but it does require a bit of finesse. During a hands-on event in San Francisco, I tried assembling and reassembling the watch a few times and it definitely took me several attempts before I finally got it right. The lugs and the central module connect to each other via a couple of pins that snap together, and a push button underneath releases them. The trick was aligning the parts correctly, which is harder to do than it looks. Still, after some trial and error, I eventually learned how to do it. The cool part is that the parts are all interchangeable without the need for a screwdriver; just use your own two hands.

The Connected Modular 45 watch module is quite a stunner. It has a 1.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, which is a lot sharper than the transflective LCD on its predecessor. It’s covered in 2.5mm sapphire crystal glass and the entire thing is encased in titanium. And, of course, it also comes with a few different TAG Heuer designed watchfaces. Yet, those with smaller wrists might not like it so much. The 45mm watch is really quite bulky on slender arms, and goes against the rumors that it would be more female-friendly. Of course, something like that could come out some time in the future, but for now, the Connected 45 is undeniably on the chunky side.

As for the internals, the watch is comparable to most modern smartwatches. It has an Intel Atom Z34XX processor, 4GB of memory, WiFi, GPS, more than 24 hours of battery life and water resistance to 50 meters. It also ships with the newly released Android Wear 2.0, which means simpler navigation, NFC support so you can use it with Android Pay, third-party complications and a standalone app store, so you can use it with an iPhone as well.

As mentioned earlier, the Connected Modular 45 will start at $ 1,650, but of course, additional options will cost extra. If you opt for the top-of-the-line accessories and add-ons, it’s very likely you’ll be spending thousands more. Still, the cost is very much on par with other non-connected luxury timepieces, and even those aren’t as modular as the Modular 45. So if you think of it as a modern Android Wear wearable disguised as a versatile Swiss-made watch, that might make the price easier to swallow.

We’ll have more thoughts on the watch once we get our review unit, but for now, you can get your own in the following regions: the US, the UK, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Update: CEO Jean-Claude Biver has confirmed that Android Wear 2.0 will be coming to the original Connected watch at the end of the month as well.

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This iPhone case is basically an Android phone

iPhones have a reputation for being user friendly, but ultimately, Android can do a lot of things iOS can’t. Aspects of Android could be useful to all phone users, but straying from the Apple ecosystem can be intimidating. Now, there’s a new way for iPhone users to easily access Android features like expandable storage and multiple SIM cards. Entrepreneur Joseph Savion and his company ESTI Inc. decided to (almost literally) strap an Android phone to the back of an iPhone. That sounds like a strange idea, but that’s basically what ESTI’s Eye phone case does.

The case, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, adds a 5-inch AMOLED display, a 2.3GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, a 2800mAh battery, up to 256GB of microSD storage, dual SIM slots, a headphone jack and wireless charging, among other features. There are two versions of the case: one with cellular connectivity and one without. A comment from Savion on the Kickstarter page says that the Android device can make use of the iPhone’s internet connection. While there is some other integration between the devices — they share the iPhone’s speaker, microphone and cameras — they pretty much function as their own machines.

The case runs Android 7.1 Nougat, and if Eye is starting to sound more like a standalone phone than an iPhone case, well, it’s priced like one too. It’s expected to retail for $ 189 (or $ 229 for the 4G version), although early Kickstarter backers can get theirs for $ 95 ($ 129 for 4G). That said, $ 95 for a phone is pretty cheap.

The main question is, who this product is even for? Most iPhone users seem happy with their devices, and probably don’t need a product like this to “improve” it. Even for users wanting to test the Android waters, there are plenty of non-Apple devices available for under $ 100 that could satisfy their curiosity without adding bulk to their current phone.

Ultimately, Eye seems a lot more interesting than it does practical. As of this writing, the case has raised over $ 84,000 of its $ 95,000 goal with 32 days to go. So, it might not be necessary, but it will probably come to market anyway.

Via: The Verge, 9to5Google

Source: Kickstarter

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Google’s Uptime is all about snarky YouTube parties

Last year, Google created Area 120, an incubator where employees with (approved) ideas can spend their “20 percent time” on side projects. One of the groups has just released Uptime, an app that lets you meet friends, share YouTube videos and add stickers, “sparkles,” hearts and snarky comments. You can search for video content within the app, which can also will help you find friends “based on common connections within Uptime,” according to the FAQ. Ironically, it’s only available on iOS and not Google’s Android, at least for now.

The app is not unlike a feature called “Video Party” that we first saw on Microsoft’s now-defunct So.cl. Like that app, Uptime lets you watch YouTube videos together with others and make comments, but not to record or stream your own videos. It’s also a way to get daily video recommendations from friends so that you won’t miss the cat or kid video du jour. Other apps like Sean Parker’s Airtime give you similar YouTube party features but also let you chat over video.

It would make a lot of sense for Google to integrate the app into YouTube, rather than having it work as a standalone product. If it is planning to do that, running it in a limited way on iOS only would let the Area 120 group develop the features in a controlled way. If you have an iPhone and want to try it out, you can now grab it here.

Source: Uptime

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WikiLeaks CIA cache: Fool me once

This week’s poorly conceived distraction from Trump and Putin sittin’ in a tree was brought to us by WikiLeaks, which dumped 8,761 documents of the CIA’s hacking arsenal online for all to see. The leak factory didn’t even bother trying to play coy — it actually made the “Vault 7” password an anti-CIA JFK quote about destroying the agency.

Hilarity ensued. Well, if you think it’s funny when the press parrots WikiLeaks’ misleading claims wrapped in PR spin.

What sort of misleading claims? How about the suggestion that the safest encryption apps, Signal and WhatsApp (neither of which actually appear in the document dump), are broken. Or that the CIA bugs everyone’s phones. That our government is spying on us through our TVs with the flick of a switch. And that the CIA, which is providing evidence to Congress in the Trump-Russia probe, is part of a conspiracy to damage … Russia.

When the news hit Tuesday morning, the bigger outlets ran wild, uncritically repeating the WikiLeaks press statement, and reporting on the documents without having them verified. If only being first was better than being correct.


WikiLeaks framed the whole media-attention sideshow as a giant embarrassment for an out-of-control CIA. Breitbart loved it. Especially the bit about how the CIA is trying to frame those completely innocent Russian government hackers. Hey, at least it was a break from WikiLeaks lending support to Trump’s ravings that Obama wiretapped him.

By Tuesday afternoon, people were starting to get over the shock of learning that the CIA is a spy agency. A few news outlets started to correct their shit. They might’ve even felt a bit swindled by having regurgitated that crucial first round of PR from WikiLeaks, casting the dump as some sort of Snowden 2.0. (Snowden, for his part, has done his very best to make it a Snowden 2.0.)

Many in hacking and security weren’t taking the bait to begin with. Many hackers were less interested this time by what was in the drop than by who it was from, and why it was being released now.

By now the press has started to sort things out — but only after the misinformation had spread. But as Zeynep Tufekci writes, this is just a page from the WikiLeaks playbook. This time, she said, “there are widespread claims on social media that these leaked documents show that it was the C.I.A. that hacked the Democratic National Committee, and that it framed Russia for the hack. (The documents in the cache reveal nothing of the sort.)”

In an unusual turn, the CIA made a statement. Intelligence officials told press the agency was aware of a breach leading to this very dump, and is looking at contractors as the likeliest source. A formal criminal probe has been opened.

Thanks to the disinformation, lots of people are concerned about what was in the dump and how it affects their privacy and security. The contents haven’t been confirmed by the CIA but it looks like it’s shaping up to be the real deal. It mostly contains a lot of attack tools, and lots of clues that CIA operatives love Dr. Who, Nyan Cat, and hoard cheesy memes.

The files consist mostly of notes and documentation on the CIA’s hack attack tools — very specific tools used when the agency focuses on a very specific target. These aren’t just hoovering up everyone’s data like the lazy old NSA — this is what a modern Bond’s “Q” would use to go after a special someone, or someones.

As in, probably not you.

The attacks focus on operating systems, not on apps themselves. That bit you read about the CIA cracking Signal and WhatsApp was false. What this all shows, interestingly, is that encryption on those apps is tight enough that even the CIA hasn’t been able to break them and needs to pop old versions of iOS just to read some ambassador’s uncreative sexts.

There is literally no surprise here. The ubiquity of large systems having exploitable bugs, and the implications of this, have been reported on for decades.

Perhaps the nonstop cycle of social-media outrage has given us collective amnesia. What’s old is new, and suddenly everyone is shocked to hear that there are 0-days in Windows and Android, and people are taking advantage of exploits. We all jump on a chair and lift our skirts and cry “rat!” because someone, somewhere, hasn’t taken our advice about what to do with vulnerabilities.

So what’s vulnerable, according to the CIA’s hack attack tools circa 2013-2016? That would be Windows (Exchange 7 and 10 especially), OS X El Capitan, some Apple iPhone operating systems, and as we’d expect, a range of Android system exploits. The documents indicate that antivirus products like F-Secure, Bitdefender and Comodo are a pain in the ass to deal with, which makes them look pretty good.

The irony is that the best way to avoid these kinds of attacks is to update your system software when you’re supposed to, don’t get phished and try not to become a CIA target by, say, committing treason. Oh, and don’t stop using reputable encrypted apps. Especially not because some guy with a hard-on for the CIA told the press the apps were compromised.

The docs do reveal that the CIA is well into hacking Internet of Things devices to use for surveillance with its Embedded Development Branch. According to journalists who are actually reading the documents, meeting notes from 2014 show that the CIA’s analysts “are looking at self-driving cars, customized consumer hardware, Linux-based embedded systems and whatever else they can get their hands on.”

This is to be expected, because spies gotta spy. Of course, because we live in a time when companies are using connected teddy bears to surveil kids and then getting owned by malicious hackers, we should expect spy agencies to roll IoT into their bespoke little government-funded “Q” laboratories.

It should make you uncomfortable — and angry — as hell that the CIA can use your smart toaster to spy on you. But, what’s really troubling is that it’s just piggybacking on data that companies are already collecting. Truth is, the US government isn’t the early adopter here; Amazon, Google and Facebook are really the front-line developers of the surveillance state.

Image: REUTERS/Rick Wilking (Samsung TV)

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VSCO brings GIFs to its main iPhone app

In October, Giphy reported that it has over 100 million users every day. Yes, GIFs are huge, and camera app VSCO wants in. That’s why, back in 2015, it introduced DSCO. The iOS-only spin-off app allows users to create looping images and share them on the company’s own portal or their favorite social networks. Today, VSCO announced that it’s reducing phone clutter by bringing DSCO’s GIF-making capabilities to its main app.

The new feature appears to function very much like DSCO does: Open the in-app camera, switch to DSCO mode, hold the rainbow-colored circle to record a few seconds of video, then swipe to choose preset filters and post away. The company didn’t say whether this means the standalone DSCO app will be discontinued. What it did make clear in its blog post introducing the feature is that like DSCO, GIF creation will remain exclusive to iOS.

With the update, which VSCO says is rolling out in the next couple weeks, the app will also add some meat to its community features. The option to favorite an image will be added, although VSCO calls it “a private acknowledgment between two people,” since only an image’s creator will be able to see if their photos have been starred. Users will also soon be able to block annoying people, but not entirely: Blocked users will still be able to see a person’s images, but will be unable to follow them or interact with their posts.

VSCO’s devotion to Apple devices is clear: DSCO was introduced in late 2015 but has yet to make its way to Android. The company has previously addressed this preference, saying on its support website that “due to some device limitations found while developing for Android, there are some key features that are available for the iOS version that are not available in the Android version of VSCO.” With that in mind, non-iPhone users shouldn’t expect to see GIF capabilities on their VSCO apps any time soon, if ever.

Source: VSCO

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Apple says it’s already patched ‘many’ Wikileaks iOS exploits

Less than 24 hours ago, Wikileaks published a large cache of documents detailing top secret CIA operations conducted by its Center for Cyber Intelligence. Included in the 8,761 documents and files, referred to was Vault 7, are references to zero-day exploits that were reportedly being used to track and control iPhones but also Android phones and Samsung smart TVs.

While the authenticity of some of Wikileaks’ claims are still in question, Apple has confirmed that some of the threats towards its mobile operating system are very real. In a move to reassure customers, the company issued a statement noting that it has already taken steps to patch “many” of the 14 iOS vulnerabilities listed and is working to “rapidly address” the rest.

An Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch: “Apple is deeply committed to safeguarding our customers’ privacy and security. The technology built into today’s iPhone represents the best data security available to consumers, and we’re constantly working to keep it that way. Our products and software are designed to quickly get security updates into the hands of our customers, with nearly 80 percent of users running the latest version of our operating system. While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities. We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates.”

Apple hasn’t specified which exploits it has patched or when it expects the remainder to be fixed, but the statement does stress the importance of keeping your devices updated. Apple has reiterated time and again that it values the privacy of its customers, so it’s likely that upcoming software updates could be expedited to ensure iPhone and iPad users are protected.

Source: TechCrunch

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