Google

How Google's Pixel 2 'Now Playing' Song Identification Works (venturebeat.com) 112

An anonymous reader shares a report from VentureBeat, written by Emil Protalinski: The most interesting Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL feature, to me, is Now Playing. If you've ever used Shazam or SoundHound, you probably understand the basics: The app uses your device's microphone to capture an audio sample and creates an acoustic fingerprint to compare against a central song database. If a match is found, information such as the song title and artist are sent back to the user. Now Playing achieves this with two important differentiators. First, Now Playing detects songs automatically without you explicitly asking -- the feature works when your phone is locked and the information is displayed on the Pixel 2's lock screen (you'll eventually be able to ask Google Assistant what's currently playing, but not yet). Secondly, it's an on-device and local feature: Now Playing functions completely offline (we tested this, and indeed it works with mobile data and Wi-Fi turned off). No audio is ever sent to Google.
Transportation

Tesla Model 3 Owners Share More Info On Model (arstechnica.com) 177

Owners at the Model 3 Owners Club compiled a list of over 80 different features of the Model 3 they're curious about, including questions about how the car operates (does the card unlock all the doors, where does the UI show you that your turn signals are active), physical aspects of the car (what does the tow hitch attachment look like, how much stuff can you fit in the front and rear cargo areas), and subjective details (how aggressive is the energy regeneration, does that wood trim cause glare). Ars Technica reports: So far, we've learned a few interesting facts. For instance, the windshield wipers are turned on and off by a stalk like just about every other car on the market, but changing the speed (slow/fast/intermittent) is handled by a menu on the touchscreen. The stalk also does double duty turning on the headlights, and there are no rain sensors for the wipers. The touchscreen UI really is the only way to interact with every other function, according to owners, even the rear air vents are controlled from up front (although there are USB ports in the back). Rear seat passengers also won't get seat heaters from what we gather -- unless Tesla plans to activate them in a later software update -- and the steering wheel is not heated either. The two buttons on the steering wheel do not appear to be user-configurable. Instead, the left button primarily deals with audio functions (scroll up and down for volume, left and right to change track) while the other one is for adjusting the mirrors and steering wheel position while in those menus in the UI. Additionally it appears that as of now, there's no way to tab through a different part of the UI without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
Firefox

Firefox For iOS Gets Tracking Protection, Firefox Focus For Android Gets Tabs 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today released Firefox 9.0 for iOS and updated Firefox Focus for Android. The iOS browser is getting tracking protection, improved sync, and iOS 11 compatibility. The Android privacy browser is getting tabs. You can download the former from Apple's App Store and the latter from Google Play. This is the first time Firefox has offered tracking protection on iOS, and Nick Nguyen, vice president of product at Mozilla, notes that it's finally possible "thanks to changes by Apple to enable the option for 3rd party browsers." This essentially means iPhone and iPad users with Firefox and iOS 11 will have automatic ad and content blocking in Private Browsing mode, and the option to turn it on in regular browsing. This is the same feature that's available in Firefox for Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as the same ad blocking technology used in Firefox Focus for Android and iOS.
Chrome

Google Chrome Will No Longer Autoplay Content With Sound In January 2018 (venturebeat.com) 81

Starting next year, Google Chrome will only autoplay a given piece of content when the media won't play sound or the user has indicated an interest in the media. The company was experimenting with such an option last month, but now it looks to be part of the browser's roadmap. VentureBeat reports: Chrome 63 will add a new user option to completely disable audio for individual sites. This site-muting option will persist between browsing sessions, allowing users to customize when and where audio will play. Chrome 64 will take the controls to the next level. By this version, Google's browser will allow autoplay to occur only when users want media to play. Here is Google's timeline for making autoplaying sound more consistent with user expectations in Chrome: September 2017: Site muting available in Chrome 63 Beta, begin collecting Media Engagement Index (MEI) data in Chrome 62 Canary and Dev; October 2017: Site muting available in Chrome 63 Stable, autoplay policies available in Chrome 63 Canary and Dev; December 2017: Autoplay policies available in Chrome 64 Beta; January 2018: Autoplay policies available in 64 Stable.
Android

Android Oreo's Rollback Protection Will Block OS Downgrades (androidpolice.com) 119

jbernardo writes: Google is using the boiling frog method to exclude power users and custom ROMs from android. A new feature in Android 8.0 Oreo, called "Rollback Protection" and included in the "Verified Boot" changes, will prevent a device from booting should it be rolled back to an earlier firmware. The detailed information is here. As it rejects an image if its "rollback index" is inferior than the one in "tamper evident storage," any attempts to install a previous version of the official, signed ROM will make the device unbootable. Much like iOS (without the rollback grace period) or the extinct Lumias. It is explained in the recommended boot workflow and notes below, together with some other "smart" ideas.

Now, this might seem like a good idea at first, but let's just just imagine this on a PC. It would mean no easy rollback from windows 10 to 7 after a forced installation, and doing that or installing linux would mean a unreasonably complex bootloader unlocking, with all your data wiped. Add safetynet to the mix, and you would also be blocked from watching Netflix or accessing your banking sites if you dared to install linux or rollback windows. To add insult to injury, unlocked devices will stop booting for at least 10 seconds to show some paternalist message on how unlocking is bad for your health: "If the device has a screen and buttons (for example if it's a phone) the warning is to be shown for at least 10 seconds before the boot process continues." Now, and knowing that most if not all android bootloaders have vulnerabilities/backdoors, how can this be defended, even with the "security/think of the children" approach? This has no advantages other than making it hard for users to install ROMs or to revert to a previous official ROM to restore missing functionality.

Software

Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Android Oreo Features? (thehackernews.com) 277

Yesterday, Android O officially became Android Oreo and started rolling out to Pixel and Nexus devices. While there are many new features available in the new OS, we thought we'd ask you: what are your favorite Android Oreo features? The Hacker News highlights eleven of the new features "that make Android even better" in their report: 1. No More 'Install From Unknown Sources' Setting: Prior to Android Oreo, third-party app installation requires users to enable just one setting by turning on "Install from unknown sources" -- doesn't matter from where the user has downloaded an APK file, i.e. from a browser, Bluetooth, transferred from a computer via USB or downloaded using another app. Android 8.0 Oreo has completely changed the way this feature works, bringing a much smarter and safer system called "Install other apps," in which a user has to manually permit 3rd-party app installation from different sources.
2. Autofill API Framework: Android 8.0 Oreo brings a built-in secure AutoFill API that allows users-chosen password manager to store different types of sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and addresses -- and works throughout the entire system.
3. Picture-in-Picture: With Android Oreo, you can view a YouTube video while reading through a report in Word or be chatting on WhatsApp on your Android device -- thanks to Picture-in-Picture (PIP) feature.
4. Google Play Protect: Play Protect helps in detecting and removing harmful applications with more than 50 billion apps scanned every day.
5. Wi-Fi Aware (Neighborhood Aware Networking -- NAN): Android Oreo has added support for a new connectivity feature called Wi-Fi Aware, also known as Neighborhood Aware Networking (NAN), which allows apps and devices to automatically find, connect to, and share data with each other directly without any internet access point or cellular data.
6. Android Instant Apps: With Android 8.0 Oreo, you can now access a range of Instant Apps without downloading them.
7. Battery-Saving Background Limits: Google has blocked apps from reacting to "implicit broadcasts" and carrying out certain tasks when they are running in the background in an effort to enhance the battery life of Android device. Besides this, Android Oreo will also limit some background services and location updates when an app is not in use.
8. AI-based Smart Text Selection: Android Oreo brings the 'Smart Text Selection' feature, which uses Google's machine learning to detect when something like physical addresses, email addresses, names or phone numbers is selected, then automatically suggests the relevant information on other apps.
9. Notification Dots (Limit notifications): Oreo introduces Notification Dots that offers you to manage each app individually with "fine-grained control," allowing you to control how many notifications you see and how they come through.
10. Find my Device: Google has introduced a new feature, called Find my Device, which is a similar feature to Apple's Find my iPhone and allows people to locate, lock and wipe their Android devices in the event when they go missing or get stolen.
11. New Emoji and Downloadable Fonts: Android Oreo introduces 60 new emoji and a redesign of the current "blob" characters. The update also offers new color support to app developers and the ability to change or animate the shape of icons in their apps.

Facebook

Facebook Makes Safety Check a Permanent Feature (techcrunch.com) 109

Facebook announced today that its "Safety Check" feature will be permanent in its app and on the desktop. The feature lets you check to see whether friends and family are safe following a crisis. TechCrunch reports: The change comes following new terrorist attacks, including one in Barcelona, where a vehicle was driven into a crowd, as well as the attack in Charlottesville, here in the U.S. According to Facebook, the dedicated button is gradually rolling out to users starting today, and will complete over the upcoming weeks. That means you may not see the option right away, but likely will soon. When Safety Check is accessed by way of the new button, you'll be able to view a feed of disasters, updates from friends who marked themselves as safe and offers of help. An "around the world" section will display where Safety Check has been recently enabled, too.
Iphone

New iPhone To Have Tap to Wake, Attention Detection, and Virtual Home Button, Says Report (theverge.com) 59

HomePod's firmware has revealed several new features coming to the upcoming iPhone, such as a tap to wake function, facial expression and attention detection, and virtual home button. "Apple accidentally released the firmware over the weekend resulting in a frenzy of analysis about previously unknown features," reports The Verge. From the report: Developers including Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo have been tweeting their findings, notably the discovery of the new iPhone's bezel-less screen design. They've also concluded that the resolution for the iPhone 8 could be as much of a visual leap forward from current-generation iPhones as the iPhone 4's Retina display was from the original iPhone. Apple is using codenames for both its face recognition feature and the bezel-less phone, called "Pearl ID" and "D22" respectively. A potential "attention detection" feature is also mentioned in the code, with some speculating that may mean the phone will remain silent for notifications if it knows you're looking at the screen already. Facial references such as "mouthstretch," "mouthsmile," and "mouthdimple" were also found, which are most likely a nod to Apple's rumored facial recognition feature that can even detect faces in the dark using infrared. A tap to wake feature has also been discovered, and should be similar to the Windows Phone function that allows users to double-tap the screen to wake the phone.
Google

Google Is Testing Autoplay Videos Directly In Search Results (thenextweb.com) 126

For a select group of individuals, Google has enabled autoplay videos in Search. "We are constantly experimenting with ways to improve the search experience for our users, but have no plans to announce [the feature] at this time," a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have similar features that were introduced fairly recently. If you find automatic videos to be a nuisance, now is the time to let Google know how you feel about this "feature."
Transportation

Man Blames Tesla Autopilot System For Rollover Crash, Then Recants (autoguide.com) 126

According to AutoGuide, the driver of a Tesla is blaming the Autopilot system for a recent crash in Minnesota. "58-year old David Clark was approaching an intersection when he turned the Autopilot system on, causing the car to accelerate suddenly and veer off the road," reports AutoGuide. "The vehicle ended up on its roof in a marsh with all five occupants sustaining minor injuries." From the report: Tesla's Autopilot function is considered an SAE Level 2 autonomous system, meaning the car will accelerate and steer on its own, but the driver is expected to remain alert and intervene if necessary. In an emailed statement to Electrek, Tesla said it has yet to establish whether or not the Autopilot function was actually turned on at the time of the accident. The company also noted it is still the driver's responsibility to ensure the safe operation of the vehicle when Autopilot is engaged. AutoGuide's report was based off the information Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office received and reported. Now, it appears the Tesla driver is claiming the self-driving Autopilot system wasn't responsible for the crash, despite what he initially told investigators. According to ABC News, Clark said he was confused in the moments after the crash. After discussing the crash with his fellow passengers, he now believes that he disengaged Autopilot by stepping on the accelerator before the crash. "I then remember looking up and seeing the sharp left turn which I was accelerating into. I believe we started to make the turn but then felt the car give way and lose its footing like we hit loose gravel," Clark wrote in the email.
XBox (Games)

Microsoft's Project Scorpio Will Pack Internal PSU, 4K Game DVR Capture (windowscentral.com) 44

According to an exclusive report from Windows Central, Microsoft's upcoming "Project Scorpio" gaming console will feature an internal power supply unit (PSU), similar to the Xbox One S, and 4K game DVR and streaming at 60 frames-per-second (FPS). From the report: In Microsoft's efforts to make Project Scorpio a true 4K system, it will also feature HEVC and VP9 codecs for decoding 4K streams for things such Netflix, just like the Xbox One S. It will also leverage HEVC for encoding 2160p, 60 frame-per-second (FPS) video for Game DVR and streaming. Microsoft's Beam streaming service has been running public 4K stream tests for some time, and it's now fair to assume it will not only be PC streamers who will benefit. Project Scorpio's Game DVR will allow you to stream and record clips in 4K resolution with 60FPS, according to our sources, which is a massive, massive step up from the 720p, 30FPS you get on the current Xbox One. With every bit of information we receive about Project Scorpio, the theme of native 4K keeps appearing -- not only for games, but also console features. We now believe Scorpio will sport 4K Game DVR, 4K Blu-ray playback, and 4K streaming apps, but the real showstopper will be the 4K games Microsoft will likely flaunt at E3 2017.
Iphone

All Three New 2017 iPhones To Feature Wireless Charging, Says Analyst (macrumors.com) 143

In late October, Nikkei Asian Review released a report claiming Foxconn was testing wireless charging modules for the iPhone 8. Another report has surfaced recently that further reinforces those claims. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo now claims that all three new iPhones expected to launch later this year will feature wireless charging. MacRumors reports: Kuo said wireless charging increases the internal temperature of smartphones, so he expects the rumored iPhone 8 with an OLED display and glass casing to have a new 3D Touch module with "additional graphite sheet lamination" in order to prevent the device from malfunctioning due to overheating. An excerpt from Kuo's research note obtained by MacRumors: "While we don't expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone." The new 3D Touch module could be up to $5 more expensive for Apple to procure per phone. While that is a minimal increase, it lends further credence to a report claiming the high-end iPhone 8 could cost upwards of $1,000 in the United States due to a significant redesign and the use of premium parts.
Android

Google Is Rolling Out Android 7.1.1 (engadget.com) 75

Google is rolling out Android 7.1.1 for Pixel and Nexus smartphones, including the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus Player, Pixel C and General Mobile 4G (Android One). You can download it over-the-air when it becomes available "over the next several weeks" or flash it yourself. Engadget details some of the new features found in Android 7.1.1: As for what you can find from a feature perspective, Google has added support for its "image keyboard" that lets you easily find and send pictures and GIFs without leaving your messaging app of choice. Google says it'll work inside of Hangouts, Allo, and the default Messaging app. Ironically enough, the feature has been available in the Gboard iOS keyboard that Google launched in the spring, but it's good to see it coming to more Android phones now. Android 7.1.1 also includes Google's latest set of more diverse emoji, specifically focused on showing a "wider range of professions" for women. And it also contains the excellent app shortcut feature that originally launched on the Pixel -- if you press and hold on an app's icon, a sub-menu of shortcuts will show up. You'll be able to quickly send a message to a specific contact or navigate to a saved location using these shortcuts, for example. They're very much like the "force touch" shortcuts found on the iPhone, but that doesn't make them any less useful.
Communications

Instagram Launches Disappearing Live Video and Messages (techcrunch.com) 18

Instagram is continuing to add features to its service to woo Snapchat and Periscope users. Today, the company will be rolling out two big new features to Instagram Stories on iOS and Android: live video on Instagram Stories and disappearing photos and videos for groups and friends in Instagram Direct. TechCrunch reports: Instagram Live is the most ephemeral of the major Live streaming platforms now that Meerkat is defunct. While Periscope started with a 24 hour expiration date, it eventually allowed permanent replays like Facebook Live. Instagram Live videos disappear as soon as the stream stops, which could get people broadcasting more frequently rather than saving the capability just for big flashy events or citizen journalism. Meanwhile, viewers will feel greater urgency to watch immediately because they know it's their only chance. Instagram Direct already has 300 million monthly users, but all of the messages are permanent. The existing product lets you send text, photos, and videos, and posts from Instagram to friends and discuss them. But with Instagram Stories now letting you communicate visually with overlaid text and drawing, Instagram needed a way to share these 'Gramsterpieces' privately. Now Direct will have an ephemeral Stories messages bar at the top along with a list of permanent threads below. When you go to share a photo or video to Instagram Stories, you'll be able to also select friends or groups of friends to send it to. It's much like how you can send Snapchat Stories as private messages, but adds in a groups feature. Recipients can watch the messages once, and replay them once, but then they're gone.
IOS

Apple Releases iOS 10.1 With New Portrait Mode For iPhone 7 Plus (macrumors.com) 50

Apple has released iOS 10.1 to the public today for all iOS 10 users, and with it comes several new features, a long list of bug fixes, and various other under-the-hood improvements. One of the biggest new features introduced is a new "Portrait" mode, which uses the dual cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus to create shallow depth of field portrait photos with plenty of background bokeh. MacRumors reports: To achieve the blurred look, the image signal processor in the device uses the wide-angle camera to create a depth map while the telephoto captures an image, dissecting the different layers of the photo to decide what to blur with an artful "bokeh" effect. It works on people, pets, and objects, but it does require good lighting to achieve the proper results. The update also [...] brings Transit directions to Japan for the first time. There have been some tweets to the Messages app. It's now possible to play Bubble and Screen effects in Messages with Reduce Motion enabled, something that wasn't previously possible. There's also a new option to replay Bubble and Screen effects. It's important to the note that the "Portrait" mode is still in beta, and will not work flawlessly. Mac Rumors has a full list of the changes made to iOS 10.1 embedded in their report, which you can view here.

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