Category Archives: Tech

Weekly Roundup: Moto X preview, Nexus 7 review, Chromecast review, and more!

The Weekly Roundup for 12032012

You might say the week is never really done in consumer technology news. Your workweek, however, hopefully draws to a close at some point. This is the Weekly Roundup on Engadget, a quick peek back at the top headlines for the past seven days — all handpicked by the editors here at the site. Click on through the break, and enjoy.

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Switched On: The camera phone

Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.

DNP Switched On The camera phone

In that human-behavior lab known as the New York City subway, a vacationing family recently sought to get in a group self-portrait on their last day in the Big Apple. But the rocking train kept thwarting the capture of their jostled bodies. To frame the picture, they tried trading the quality of their smartphone’s rear camera for the one above the phone’s display so they could better preview the picture, but still had trouble composing the shot. Finally, a local passenger riding with them stepped in and offered to take their photo, which he did to their expressions of gratitude.

The incident served as an illustration of the often precarious situations in which we use our smartphone cameras. Had their phone been Nokia’s Lumia 1020 and the stranger not intervened, the 41 megapixels of light-capturing prowess might have gone for naught as the family would’ve had to rely on the phone’s middling front-facing camera.

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The technical pants that replaced my jeans

Jeans vs. DRPs vs. water. Fight! (video link)

I have, in large part, stopped wearing jeans. I still own a couple of dark wash pairs that I cycle in to my wardrobe when a very specific kind of dressy-casual calls for it, but my new go-to trousers are a handful of pairs of pants made by a company called Outlier, most of which are a product they call Women’s Daily Riding Pants. These pants are expensive, but they are a technical pant product that neither looks, nor feels, like a technical pant product, and they are so enjoyable to wear that I’ve abandoned the signature garment of modern times. Yeah. That good.

Outlier, a clothing startup that operates mainly online, sells garments that are intended as hybrid business-casual/cycling/athletic wear. Its line of men’s stuff is much more extensive, with several types of pants and shirts, and only recently has the company expanded beyond two pairs of pants into more women’s wear.

Outlier is hardly the first company to target technical athletic intended garments, but they skew more towards looking like normal clothes than most I’ve seen. Most technical pants out there are stiff, swishy, shiny, or all three, with patch or zipper pockets, burlap-like polyester fabric, and tearaway sections every few inches. Outlier clothes, or at least the pants, look incredibly normal—the dungarees varieties can even be mistaken for jeans—but they fit and move better than anything else I’ve worn.

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Holy sh*t! Smart toilet hack attack!

Information security firm Trustwave has reported a potential cyber-attack vector to a device you may have never expected the phrase “security vulnerability” would be applied (other than in reference to the end of a toilet paper roll, that is). In an advisory issued August 1, Trustwave warned of a Bluetooth security vulnerability in Inax’s Satis automatic toilet.

Functions of the Satis—including the raising and lowering of its lid and operation of its bidet and flushing nozzles—can be remotely controlled from an Android application called “My Satis” over a Bluetooth connection. But the Bluetooth PIN to pair with the toilet—”0000″—is hard-coded into the app. “As such, any person using the ‘My Satis’ application can control any Satis toilet,” the security advisory noted. “An attacker could simply download the ‘My Satis’ application and use it to cause the toilet to repeatedly flush, raising the water usage and therefore utility cost to its owner. Attackers could cause the unit to unexpectedly open/close the lid, [or] activate bidet or air-dry functions, causing discomfort or distress to user.”

And you thought the only thing you had to worry about was dropping your phone into the toilet.

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Microsoft slashes Surface Pro price for the month of August, 64GB model down to $799

Microsoft slashes Surface Pro price for the month of August, 64GB model down to $799

Thought the Surface RT’s $150 price drop was enticing? Hold on to your wallet: Microsoft’s at it again. Over the weekend, Redmond quietly took $100 off of both its 64 and 128GB Surface Pro slates, bringing their base prices to $799 and $899, respectively. According to the fine print, the discount will hold until August 29th, but we wouldn’t be surprised to the sale drag on if it moves units.

“We’ve been seeing great worldwide success with Surface RT pricing and keyboard-cover promotions over the past several months and our proud to offer Surface Pro at more affordable prices starting today,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Engadget. “People who buy Surface love Surface, and we’re eager for more people to their hands on Surface and share their excitement.” It’s not a staggering price reduction, but it’s certainly enough to make buyers on the fence raise an eyebrow. You can check out the slate’s new sticker price at the adjacent source link, but don’t rush yourself — you’ve got almost a month, after all.

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Via: WinBeta

Source: Microsoft

Pop culture PSA: BBC’s Doctor Who gets Peter Capaldi to play the 12th Doctor

On Sunday, the BBC announced the new lead of the Doctor Who series in a special live broadcast. The news, that 55-year-old Peter Capaldi would replace outgoing lead Matt Smith, was met with excitement from many fans.

Capaldi is best known for his role as Malcolm Tucker in the BBC’s series The Thick of It, a satire in which the actor plays a political party’s spin-doctor. Capaldi also appeared in the 2008 Doctor Who episode “The Fires of Pompeii,” playing Caecilius, a Roman Merchant. Rebecca Pahle of the blog The Mary Sue points out that this was the same episode in which Karen Gillan appeared in as an extra before she was cast as Amelia Pond. The new Doctor also appeared in five episodes of Torchwood, a series spin-off of Doctor Who, in 2009.

“Being asked to play the Doctor is an amazing privilege. Like the Doctor himself, I find myself in a state of utter terror and delight. I can’t wait to get started,” Capaldi said on the live BBC One show.

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Other agencies gripe that NSA, FBI shut them out of data sharing

It turns out that the National Security Agency’s wide-ranging surveillance programs could have been much worse, if other federal agencies had had their way. The New York Times‘ Eric Lichtblau and Michael S. Schmidt report that the NSA has turned away the majority of requests for information sharing from federal law enforcement agencies, on the grounds that the requests have too little to do with national security and could be misused in ways that violate citizens’ privacy.

Several former US intelligence officials told the Times that the NSA’s data collection has resulted in “turf battles” with other agencies who have complained of a lack of access to NSA’s tools. Former White House and Office of the Director of National Security official Timothy H. Edgar, said that such complaints about the NSA were common—“They collect all this information, but it’s difficult for the other agencies to get access to what they want,” he told Times reporters.”The other agencies feel they should be bigger players. They view the NSA—incorrectly, I think—as this big pot of data that they could go get if they were just able to pry it out of them.”

While other agencies within the Intelligence Community have “quick access to NSA tools and data” when it comes to national security issues, Lichtblau and Schmidt reported, the NSA is tighter with information where the foreign intelligence aspects of an operation are less clear. And while a spokesperson from the Drug Enforcement Agency said on the record that the DEA was happy with the level of cooperation it got from the NSA, the reporters wrote that off-the-record conversations with DEA officials were less glowing, saying they felt “shut out” by the NSA and FBI. On the other side, NSA and FBI officials said privately that they felt other agencies often exaggerated the national security angle of their requests in order to get better access to data.

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Alleged Tor hidden service operator busted for child porn distribution

On Friday, Eric Eoin Marques, a 28 year-old Dublin resident, was arrested on a warrant from the US on charges that he is, in the words of a FBI agent to an Irish court, “the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet.” The arrest coincides with the disappearance of a vast number of “hidden services” hosted on Tor, the anonymizing encrypted network.

Marques is alleged to be the founder of Freedom Hosting, a major hidden services hosting provider. While Marques’ connection to Freedom Hosting was not brought up in court, he has been widely connected to the service—as well as the Tormail anonymized e-mail service and a Bitcoin exchange and escrow service called Onionbank—in discussions on Tor-based news and Wiki sites. All those services are now offline. And prior to disappearing, the sites hosted by Freedom Hosting were also distributing malware that may have been used to expose the users of those services.

Tor hidden services are a lesser known part of the Tor “darknet.” They are anonymized Web sites, mail hosts, and other services which can only be reached by computers connected to Tor, or through a Tor hidden services proxy website, such as tor2web.org, and they have host names ending in .onion.

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DataWind Ubislate 3G7 mystery tablet visits FCC with HSPA in tow

DataWind Ubislate 3G7 mystery tablet visits FCC with HSPA in tow

DataWind‘s no stranger to making inexpensive tablets (India’s Aakash immediately comes to mind) but to date its products (including the iconic PocketSurfer) have only featured 2G connectivity — in addition to WiFi, of course. This appears to be changing with the Ubislate 3G7, an unannounced 7-inch, 3G-enabled tablet that recently sauntered through the FCC. According to the test reports, it supports quadband GPRS and tri-band HSPA (2100 / 1900 / 850MHz), making it compatible with AT&T “4G” in the US. Little else is known about this mystery device beyond what’s outlined in the FCC documents. From what we’ve been able to gather, it features WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0, a microSD card slot plus front and rear (2 MP) cameras. Follow the source link below to check it out for yourself.

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Source: FCC

The sneaky switch that set the stage for the NSA’s call records program

Defenders of the National Security Agency’s controversial call records program, which vacuums up Americans’ phone logs in bulk, like to remind us that the Patriot Act power to collect “business records” has been ratified by large majorities in Congress. Yet a compromise sharply limiting that authority, strongly endorsed by then-Senator Barack Obama, was unanimously approved by the Senate way back in 2005—until a sneaky last-minute change turned the limits on their head.

Passed in haste mere weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, several provisions of the Patriot Act—including Section 215, which allows the government to obtain business records with an order from a secret court—included built-in expiration dates. When the time came to reauthorize those provisions in the summer of 2005, a bipartisan group of legislators—including Dick Durbin, Larry Craig, John Sununu, and Lisa Murkowski—hammered out a compromise aimed at ensuring that Section 215 could only be used for records that had some concrete connection to a suspected spy or terrorist.

Under the proposed language, the government could obtain an order for business records from the classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court provided the records were “relevant to an authorized investigation” and fell into one of three categories: the records would have to pertain either to a suspected “agent of a foreign power,” someone in direct contact with the suspect, or the “activities” of a suspect. This language would have allowed the government to look at associates “one hop” away from the target of an investigation—to distinguish innocent acquaintances for potential co-conspirators—as opposed to the two- or three-hops we now know the NSA routinely pursues. The “activities” category, meanwhile, would have allowed the FBI to follow up leads about plots—such as a tip that Al Qaeda agents in a particular area were trying to buy explosive chemicals—without necessarily knowing who the individual plotters were.

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