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AT&T

FCC Calls Out AT&T, Verizon For 'Zero Rating' Their Own Video Apps (zdnet.com) 54

U.S. regulators are calling out AT&T and Verizon for exempting their own video apps from data caps on customers' smartphones. The FCC has sent letters to the country's biggest wireless carriers saying the way they handle the practice, known as "zero rating," can hurt competition and consumers. From a report on ZDNet: AT&T launched DirecTV Now earlier this week. AT&T Mobility customers can stream video data over LTE without impacting their data allowance. Verizon offers something similar with its go90 service. AT&T and Verizon don't see any wrongdoing. In a statement Friday, AT&T said exempting services like DirecTV Now from data caps saves customers money. Verizon said its practices are good for consumers and comply with regulations. "We will provide the FCC with additional information on why the government should not take away a service that saves consumers money," AT&T wrote in a statement Friday. The FCC hasn't released any official ruling on "zero rating," just guidance. It said on Thursday a similar letter was sent to AT&T in November, but the FCC didn't like AT&T's original response.
United States

Trump Will Get Power To Send Unblockable Mass Text Messages To All Americans (nymag.com) 550

President-elect Donald Trump will have access to a system which can send unblockable texts to every phone in the United States once he becomes the president. From a report on NYMag: These 90-character messages, known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (or WEAs), are part of a program put in place after Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act, in 2006. WEAs allow for targeted messages to be sent to every cell phone getting a signal from certain geographically relevant cell towers (or, in a national emergency, all of them). While it'd be a true nightmare to get screeching alerts from your phone that "Loser Senate Democrats still won't confirm great man Peter Thiel to Supreme Court. Sad!", there are some checks and balances on this. While President-elect Trump hasn't shown much impulse control when it comes to his favorite mass-messaging service, Twitter, the process for issuing a WEA isn't as simple as typing out a 90-character alert from a presidential smartphone and hitting "Send." All WEAs must be issued through FEMA's Integrated Public Alert Warning System, meaning that an emergency alert from the president still has at least one layer to pass through before being issued. While FEMA is under control of the executive branch (the head of FEMA is selected by the president, and reports to the Department of Homeland Security), the agency would have a vested interest in not seeing their alert system bent toward, uh, non-emergency ends.
AT&T

AT&T Unveils DirecTV Now Streaming TV Service With Over 100 Channels (theverge.com) 80

ATT has officially unveiled its DirecTV Now internet TV streaming service, which launches Wednesday, November 30th, in the U.S. on iPhone, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and PC/Mac, starting at $35 per month. The Verge reports: Like its over-the-top rivals, DirecTV Now will let customers stream live programming on smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- no cable box necessary -- and requires no long-term contracts or commitments. For a limited time, ATT will offer the "Go Big" channel tier with 100 channels for $35 per month. If you sign up in time, the offer will remain valid each month until you cancel. But that $35 rate is not the long-term pricing for 100+ channels. DirecTV Now offers step-up subscriptions that include other channels and content for a higher monthly cost. ATT has signed programming agreements with nearly all major networks with the exception of CBS and Showtime; negotiations with those companies remain ongoing. DirecTV Now allows customers to watch up to two streams simultaneously. HBO and Cinemax can be added to any of these packages for just $5 extra (each) per month. DirecTV Now is "zero rated" for the company's wireless customers, so regardless of how much time they spend streaming, that activity will have no impact on data usage for their monthly bill. Importantly, while these are the subscription rates as of today, the company is being straightforward about the possibility of increases in the future. ATT also plans to air original shows including a Taylor Swift series.
Security

Hacker Explains How He Hacked Into Tel Aviv's Public Wi-Fi Network In Three Days (vice.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Israeli hacker Amihai Neiderman needed three days to hack into Tel Aviv's free public Wi-Fi. He only worked during the evenings, after he came home from his full-time job as a security researcher. The 26-year-old said the difficulty level was "a solid 5" on a scale from 1 to 10. The hack, performed in 2014 and recently explained in detail during the DefCamp conference in Bucharest, Romania, shows how vulnerable public networks can be and why we should encrypt our web traffic while accessing them. He hacked his city out of curiosity. One day, he was driving home from work and he noticed the "FREE_TLV" displayed on his smartphone. He had no idea what it was, but got intrigued. It turned out to be Tel Aviv's free municipal Wi-Fi network. The hacker connected to it and checked what his IP was, using http://whatismyip.com. This way, you usually find the address of the router that links you to the internet. To hack Tel Aviv, he needed to take control over this device. Neiderman got home and found out that the router had one port open. He tried it. This step allowed him to determine the manufacturer of the router. It turned out to be Peplink, a company he had never heard of. It made the mistake of having the administration interfaces online. At this point, he still didn't know what device he was connecting to. He compared different products displayed on the company's website and looked for additional clues in the messages sent to him by the unidentified device. He finally found out it was a high-end load balancing router. All he needed was a vulnerability to exploit. But breaking the firmware of the router seemed time consuming, as files were encrypted, so the hacker took a different approach. He found a less protected version of the firmware, used for a different device, and found a vulnerability there. To his luck, the same glitch was present in the version installed on the very devices that made up "FREE_TLV." He tested the hack at home, emulating the city's network, and it worked. A real-life test would had been illegal.
Social Networks

Facebook's Latest Experiment: Helping You Find Free Wi-Fi Hotspots (macworld.com) 32

Users of the social network's iOS app report seeing a new feature in the More section that lets them find nearby public Wi-Fi access points. From a MacWorld story: The feature does not appear to be widely available at the moment, which means this is probably something Facebook is only testing. The social network tests numerous features all the time but this one is particularly notable. Helping users find public Wi-Fi could enable more people to use Facebook Live. If your cellular connection isn't strong, a nearby Wi-Fi location can be a big help -- unless, of course, your Facebook Live broadcast is dependent on your specific location. There could be other uses for finding Wi-Fi beyond live video broadcasts. If you're desperate to upload a photo or recorded video, then locating the closest public Wi-Fi point helps. On top of that it's just one more reason to open the Facebook app, which Facebook obviously wants to encourage as much as possible. Check where the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot is, see that unread notifications indicator at the top of the screen, and before you know it you're engrossed in the news feed.
The Internet

Microsoft Partners With D-Link To Deliver Speedier Wi-Fi in Rural Regions (zdnet.com) 41

Microsoft has partnered with networking equipment manufacturer D-Link to deliver speedier Wi-Fi to rural communities around the world. From a report on ZDNet:Dubbed "Super Wi-Fi", the wireless infrastructure is set to be based on the 802.11af protocol, and will take advantage of unused bandwidth in the lower-frequency white spaces between television channel frequencies where signals travel further than at higher frequencies. A pilot of the first phase is commencing in an unnamed American state, with trials also slated to run in three other countries. "D-Link sees ourselves at the very heart of this kind of technical innovation and development. We also acknowledge that we have a role to play in helping all countries and future generations better connect," said Sydney-based D-Link managing director for ANZ Graeme Reardon. "Our goal is to use all of our 30 years' experience and expertise and our global footprint to help deliver Super Wi-Fi as a technological platform for growth to the world's underdeveloped regions."
Network

Apple Abandons Development of Wireless Routers, To Focus On Products That Return More Profit (bloomberg.com) 238

Apple has disbanded its division that develops wireless routers in a move that further sharpens the company's focus on consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue, Bloomberg reports. From the article:Apple began shutting down the wireless router team over the past year, dispersing engineers to other product development groups, including the one handling the Apple TV. Apple hasn't refreshed its routers since 2013 following years of frequent updates to match new standards from the wireless industry. The decision to disband the team indicates the company isn't currently pushing forward with new versions of its routers. Routers are access points that connect laptops, iPhones and other devices to the web without a cable. Apple currently sells three wireless routers, the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time capsule. The Time capsule doubles as a backup storage hard drive for Mac computers.
AT&T

Apple's Chip Choices May Leave Some iPhone Users in Slow Lane (bloomberg.com) 35

Not all iPhone 7s are created equal, it turns out. The latest flagship smartphones from Apple that run on Verizon's network are technically capable of downloading data faster than those from AT&T. Yet in testing, the two phones perform about the same, according to researchers at Twin Prime Inc. and Cellular Insights. From a Bloomberg report: Neither firm is clear on the reason, but Twin Prime says it may be because Apple isn't using all the potential of a crucial component in the Verizon version. "The data indicates that the iPhone 7 is not taking advantage of all of Verizon's network capabilities," said Gabriel Tavridis, head of product at Twin Prime. "I doubt that Apple is throttling each bit on the Verizon iPhone, but it could have chosen to not enable certain features of the network chip." "Every iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus meets or exceeds all of Apple's wireless performance standards, quality metrics, and reliability testing," Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said. "In all of our rigorous lab tests based on wireless industry standards, in thousands of hours of real-world field testing, and in extensive carrier partner testing, the data shows there is no discernible difference in the wireless performance of any of the models." It would be an unusual step for a major phone company to restrain its devices. Normally, companies battle to make the fastest, most reliable handsets. Apple may be doing this because it wants to ensure a uniform iPhone experience, according to analysts.
America Online

AOL To Cut 500 Workers To Narrow Focus On Mobile, Video (bloomberg.com) 60

According to a report from Bloomberg, AOL is firing as many as 500 employees as part of a restructuring plan to focus on mobile, video and data. The move comes a year after Verizon acquired the company for $4.4 billion. Bloomberg reports: The layoffs are occurring in all of AOL's business units, said the person, who asked not to be identified disclosing the scope of the cuts. AOL employs about 6,400 people worldwide, the person said. In addition to the job cuts, the company will split into two parts, according to the memo. One will be dedicated to media properties, which include Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and the other will focus on platforms, like AOL's advertising technology. "Mobile, video, and data are the key growth drivers of that strategy and the company will be putting resources into each of these areas," [Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong wrote in a memo to employees Thursday.] With the wireless industry maturing, AOL parent Verizon has been buying up media and advertising-technology companies and working to refine go90, its free video-streaming service aimed at phone-toting teens.
Government

FCC Abides By GOP Request To Stop What It's Doing, Deletes Everything From Meeting Agenda (arstechnica.com) 119

One day after republicans from the house and senate sent letters to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging him to avoid passing regulations before Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Wheeler appears to have complied with the request. The FCC today "announced the deletion of all items that were originally scheduled to be presented and voted on at tomorrow's meeting." Ars Technica reports: Before the change, the agenda included votes on price caps for "special access" business data services; Universal Service funding to expand mobile broadband networks; wireless roaming obligations; and requirements for audio description of TV programming for blind and visually impaired people. The only item not deleted from tomorrow's meeting is part of the "consent agenda," which means it is routine and wasn't going to be presented individually. Of the major items, the business data services proposal had received the most attention. These are dedicated wireline circuits provided by traditional phone companies like AT&T and Verizon; the services supply bandwidth for cellular data networks, indirectly affecting the price consumers pay for wireless service. The business data services are also used by banks and retailers to connect ATM machines and credit card readers, by government and corporate users to connect branch offices and data centers, and to support public safety operations and health care facilities. The now-deleted agenda item would have phased in price cap decreases of 11 percent over three years to account for "over a decade of efficiency gains" since the last price cap adjustment.
The Almighty Buck

Comcast Takes $70 Gigabit Offer Away From Cities Near Chicago (arstechnica.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When Comcast brought its gigabit cable Internet service to the Chicago area in August, it gave customers in some parts of Chicago and nearby towns the option of subscribing for $70 a month -- half off the standard, no-contract price of $140. Though the $70 gigabit offer required a three-year contract, it came with unlimited data, which normally costs an extra $50 a month on top of the $140 no-contract price. For Comcast customers, this was a good deal. But Comcast didn't make the $70 offer available throughout the Chicago area, and now the company has restricted it even further. The offer remains available in parts of Chicago, namely Uptown, Grand Crossing, the Loop, and South Loop. But Comcast has stopped offering the $70 price in all nearby cities and towns where it was originally available. The $70 price was briefly offered in Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield, Waukegan, Tinley Park, Batavia, and Bloomington in Illinois and in South Bend in Indiana. In those areas, the $140 no-contract price is now the only option for new gigabit cable customers. (People who signed up for the $70 deal before it was rescinded will still get it for three years, as they're under contract.) A Comcast spokesperson said the company had been "testing" the $70 promotion in certain areas of Illinois and Indiana but decided to stop the tests in most of them. It's not clear why Comcast stopped the tests in these cities and towns, but Comcast told Ars that it often changes its promotions and thus could expand the $70 deal to other areas or offer new discounts soon. However, there are no expansions of the $70 offer being announced right now.
Wireless Networking

Smartphone WiFi Signals Can Leak Your Keystrokes, Passwords, and PINs (bleepingcomputer.com) 46

Bleeping Computer warns that "The way users move fingers across a phone's touchscreen alters the WiFi signals transmitted by a mobile phone, causing interruptions that an attacker can intercept, analyze, and reverse engineer to accurately guess what the user has typed...when the attacker controls a rogue WiFi access point." The new WindTalker attack leverages the "channel state information" in WiFi signals. An anonymous reader quotes their article: Because the user's finger moves across the smartphone when he types text, his hand alters CSI properties for the phone's outgoing WiFi signals, which the attacker can collect and log on the rogue access point... By performing basic signal analysis and signal processing, an attacker can separate desired portions of the CSI signal and guess with an average accuracy of 68.3% the characters a user has typed... but it can be improved the more the user types and the more data the attacker collects.
The new attack is described in a research paper titled "When CSI Meets Public WiFi: Inferring Your Mobile Phone Password via WiFi Signals."
Wireless Networking

HTC Vive Goes Wireless (uploadvr.com) 29

One of the biggest cons with premium virtual-reality headsets is the fact that they need to be tethered to a powerful gaming PC or game console via annoying wires. In early September, HTC announced it was working on a method to remove the wires, and now their solution is officially available via a $220 add-on kit. UploadVR reports: HTC today announced a tether-less VR upgrade kit for its SteamVR device, made by TPCAST, one of the first of 33 companies to join the Vive X Accelerator. Speaking to UploadVR in a phone interview, [China Regional President of Vive at HTC Alvin W. Graylin] said that the experience would "greatly improve" the overall Vive experience, with no "noticeable difference" for factors like latency. The product will be available to pre-order with a standard battery, though Graylin said that a bigger battery will be sold eventually. We're told the standard battery can deliver around one and a half hours of power. The bigger battery would rest in a user's pocket. HTC expects the device to be adopted by "avid" Vive users, though it could also be useful for businesses. The upgrade kit will be available to pre-order on Vive's Chinese website "in limited quantity" for 1,499 RMB ($220.33). The kit is said to ship starting in Q1 2017. According to HTC, pre-orders go live at 7 a.m. Pacific on Friday. Graylin said anyone could order the unit from there and pay for shipping. According to HTC, in a press release, "Order fulfillment will be prioritized to existing customers who can provide a valid Vive serial number." You can watch some wireless HTC Vive test footage here.
AT&T

AT&T Will Offer a Lower-Quality Video Option But Without a Discount (fortune.com) 48

After T-Mobile and Sprint introduced lower-cost wireless plans in return for customers accepting lower quality video streaming, AT&T is following suit. An anonymous reader shares a Fortune report:The second-largest wireless carrier said it would introduce a feature starting next year called "Stream Saver" to let customers voluntarily downgrade streaming video from any service -- including YouTube and Netflix -- to DVD quality. But AT&T will not lower prices or give a discount to customers activating the lower-quality stream, which would use much less data than watching a typical high-definition video stream. The data used will also still count against a customer's monthly data allowance. AT&T emphasized that the optional feature was intended to help customers use less data, essentially stretching their monthly allowance to go further. "Stream saver lets them enjoy more of what they love," David Christopher, chief marketing officer in AT&T's entertainment group, said in a statement. "And, they are in control -- it's their choice on how to use this innovative feature."
Medicine

Brain Implants Allow Paralyzed Monkeys To Walk (nature.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Nature: For more than a decade, neuroscientist Gregoire Courtine has been flying every few months from his lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne to another lab in Beijing, China, where he conducts research on monkeys with the aim of treating spinal-cord injuries. The commute is exhausting -- on occasion he has even flown to Beijing, done experiments, and returned the same night. But it is worth it, says Courtine, because working with monkeys in China is less burdened by regulation than it is in Europe and the United States. And this week, he and his team report the results of experiments in Beijing, in which a wireless brain implant -- that stimulates electrodes in the leg by recreating signals recorded from the brain -- has enabled monkeys with spinal-cord injuries to walk. The treatment is a potential boon for immobile patients: Courtine has already started a trial in Switzerland, using a pared-down version of the technology in two people with spinal-cord injury. The team first mapped how electric signals are sent from the brain to leg muscles in healthy monkeys, walking on a treadmill. They also examined the lower spine, where electric signals from the brain arrive before being transmitted to muscles in the legs. Then they recreated those signals in monkeys with severed spinal cords, focusing on particular key points in the lower part of the spine. Microelectrode arrays implanted in the brain of the paralyzed monkeys picked up and decoded the signals that had earlier been associated with leg movement. Those signals were sent wirelessly to devices that generate electric pulses in the lower spine, which triggered muscles in the monkeys' legs into motion.
Security

Researchers Hack Philips Hue Smart Bulbs Using a Drone (pcworld.com) 50

schwit1 quotes a report from PCWorld: "Researchers were able to take control of some Philips Hue lights using a drone. Based on an exploit for the ZigBee Light Link Touchlink system, white hat hackers were able to remotely control the Hue lights via drone and cause them to blink S-O-S in Morse code. The drone carried out the attack from more than a thousand feet away. Using the exploit, the researchers were able to bypass any prohibitions against remote access of the networked light bulbs, and then install malicious firmware. At that point the researchers were able to block further wireless updates, which apparently made the infection irreversible. 'There is no other method of reprogramming these [infected] devices without full disassemble (which is not feasible). Any old stock would also need to be recalled, as any devices with vulnerable firmware can be infected as soon as power is applied,' according to the researchers. The researchers notified Philips of the vulnerability. The company then delivered a patch for it in October." It wasn't long ago that claiming "Drones are controlling my lightbulbs!" would have gotten you locked up for your own protection.
Businesses

Samsung Is Cutting the Note 7's Access To Mobile Networks In New Zealand (techcrunch.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: No one can claim there hasn't been ample warning. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 saga dragged out over multiple months, encompassing two recalls, several travel bans and then, ultimately, the untimely end for the troubled handset. Even still, some people just have trouble letting go. Starting November 18, Note 7 owners will not be able to connect to mobile networks in New Zealand, courtesy of a joint effort by Samsung and the The New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF) to "blacklist" the device. No calls, no texts, no mobile data. Users will still be able to access WiFi, but the device will essentially be turned into a big Samsung iPod Touch. Samsung New Zealand added that it will work to contact all remaining Note 7 owners twice prior to the shut down, "to ensure they have received adequate notice." It remains to be seen whether the company will take similar action in other markets. "Numerous attempts by all providers have been made to contact owners and ask them to bring the phones in for replacement or refund, this action should further aid the return of the remaining handsets," TCF's CEO said in a statement issued today.
Network

Man Who Named His Wi-Fi SSID 'Daesh 21' Prosecuted Under French Anti-Terror Law (arstechnica.com) 247

An 18-year-old man from Dijon was convicted for "praising terrorism" and was given a suspended sentence of three months in prison because the SSID of his Wi-Fi network was "Daesh 21." From an article on Ars Technica:Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State, and "21" in this context represents the number for the Cote d'Or, the French department, or province, where Dijon is located. The unnamed man was prosecuted under a new French anti-terrorism law (Article 421-2-5) passed in November 2014 that makes it a crime to "directly provoke acts of terrorism or to publicly praise one such act." If convicted, offenders can be punished by up to five years in prison and a $83,000 fine. Such penalties are raised to seven years and $111,000 if the crime was committed by using a "public online communication service." A local newspaper, Le Bien public, described the man as being "totally dazed" in front of the court and said that he was "not a terrorist." He was first sentenced to 100 hours of community service, which he refused, but he was finally given a three-month suspended sentence.
Linux

Meet VoCore2 Lite, a $4 Coin-Sized, Open Source Linux Computer (zdnet.com) 106

An anonymous reader shares a report on ZDNet:Four bucks buys a lot of hardware these days, and nothing highlights this more than a project like the VoCore2 Lite. VoCore2 is an open source Linux computer and a fully-functional wireless router that is smaller than a coin. It can also act as a VPN gateway for a network, an AirPlay station to play lossless music, a private cloud to store your photos, video, and code, and much more. The Lite version of the VoCore2 features a 580MHz MT7688AN MediaTek system on chip (SoC), 64MB of DDR2 RAM, 8MB of NOR storage, and a single antenna slot for Wi-Fi that supports 150Mbps. Spend $12 and go for the full VoCore2 option and you get the same SoC, but you get 128MB of DDR2 RAM, 16MB of NOR storage, two antenna slots supporting 300Mbps, an on-board antenna, and PCIe 1.1 support.
Portables (Apple)

Phil Schiller Says the MacBook Pro Doesn't Need an SD Card Slot (theverge.com) 675

Apple's new MacBook Pro models have upset many people for many different reasons. Some are unhappy with the inability to get more than 16GB of RAM, some are upset with the high-price, some are unhappy about the missing physical Escape and function keys, and many are unhappy because Apple didn't put an SD card slot in the MacBook Pro. But Apple has an explanation. From a report on The Verge: Speaking to The Independent (paywalled), Apple exec Phil Schiller said the company had dropped the SD card slot as it was "cumbersome" and because wireless transfer technology for cameras is "proving very useful" as an alternative. Schiller said, "Because of a couple of things. One, it's a bit of a cumbersome slot. You've got this thing sticking halfway out. Then there are very fine and fast USB card readers, and then you can use CompactFlash as well as SD. So we could never really resolve this -- we picked SD because more consumer cameras have SD but you can only pick one. So, that was a bit of a trade-off. And then more and more cameras are starting to build wireless transfer into the camera. That's proving very useful. So we think there's a path forward where you can use a physical adaptor if you want, or do wireless transfer."

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