Monday, September 22, 2014
Had a fun, drunken night with friends and took a few regrettable photos? Not so much of an issue if no one else sees it. But once it’s online, it’s will gather a worldwide audience (okay, maybe not worldwide, let’s just say most of your friends). Sometimes it’s not really your fault, there may be others who uploaded those photos (or videos) of you — call it revenge porn, cyberbullying, or victims of a determined hacker.
Whether those photos end up on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or Instagram, you’re not completely helpless — there are ways to report the photos (and uploaders) to the authorities.
Click to enlarge.
Your toothbrush is probably one of the lowest-tech items that you own. Even if you have an electric toothbrush, its most complex electronics are a motor and a timer. But Kolibree, a French company, is aiming to change that with the release of their connected toothbrush. What could a smart toothbrush possibly do? You might be surprised: it has interesting functions for the whole family when you pair it with your iPhone or Android.
For example, there are a number of games that your kids can play on the phone while they’re brushing: the Kolibree website shows a Temple Run-like app in which kids can move their character left and right to collect coins by changing the orientation of the toothbrush. As kids learn to better brush their teeth, they can collect more coins for more rewards (though what those rewards are remains to be seen).
Whether they admit it or not, many adults will enjoy the kids’ games as well, but there are more monitoring functions that are aimed at older users of the toothbrush, like the ability to track your brushing times and zones and get dental health tips. It may be able to report directly to your dentist in the future, too.
The Kolibree hasn’t been released yet, but you can pre-order one through theKolibree Kickstarter. You can get an early bird toothbrush in white for $99 (there’s one left at the time of this writing), a standard one in white for $129, or a standard one in white, grey, pink, or blue for $149. Don’t wait to wait? You can try these five dental health apps for free.
Kuaisou, Baidu’s Smart ChopsticksIt sounds like an April Fool’s joke — and it was one. Until people started showing a lot of interest in the idea and Baidu started taking it seriously.
The as-yet-unnamed product is still a prototype, but what we’ve learned so far is quite interesting. Because of the many food-safety concerns in China, these chopsticks will interface with a mobile app and tell the user whether or not their food is safe to eat. Their main function seems to be detecting unhealthy oils used to cook foods; oil recycling is often used in China to reduce the costs related to food preparation, but can pose serious health risks.
The app will show a warning if the oil is unsafe to eat, or give the user a green light to go ahead if it’s safe. They’re also rumored to measure temperature, pH levels, and calories (though it’s difficult to imagine how they could accurately calculate caloric information).
Pricing and release information isn’t out yet, but it’s a safe bet that these will be by far the most expensive chopsticks that you’ve ever considered buying.A team at the University of Manchester developed a fiber-optic underlay that can be retrofitted to the carpets in a house, turning the entire floor into a sensor. What does it do? According to Manchester’s website, “These signals can then be analysed to show the image of the footprint and identify gradual changes in walking behaviour or a sudden incident such as a fall or trip. They can also show a steady deterioration or change in walking habits, possibly predicting a dramatic episode such as a fall.”
While this may not seem like something you’d be interested in using, it could be of great use to places like retirement homes, hospital wards, and assisted living communities. Physical therapists could use it to make accurate measurements of their patients’ gaits. The technology may also allow for the detection of chemical signatures or serve as an early-warning fire system as well.
While there aren’t any signs of the technology being commercialized in the near future, there’s a clear market for this sort of technology, and it’s easy to imagine the sorts of things it could lead to in the future: intruder detection systems, better home monitoring, replacing fire or carbon monoxide detectors (even the current smart option, the Nest Protect), and so on. Unfortunately, there are no indications that travel by magic carpet will be among the features.Have you ever thought that watering your lawn was far too complicated? No? Well, someone has. And that someone was probably involved in the creation of this two-part smart sprinkler system. Eve, the system controller, stays in your house. A number of moisture sensors, called Adams, are placed around your yard and report back to Eve about how much moisture is in the soil, both at top level and at root level.
When the soil needs watering, Eve turns the sprinkler on. You’ll avoid over-watering, under-watering, and watering when it rains. Even will even connect to your SmartThings Hub to check the weather forecast to optimize the watering schedule (including skipping the watering altogether if it looks very likely to rain).
The sprinkler system pairs with your smartphone, letting you control Eve while you’re on the move, though it’s unclear exactly what you can do from your phone. However, the people behind the system say that there’s potential for saving up to 60 percent of your lawn-watering expenditure with the system, and that it could pay for itself in less than a year.
How much does it cost? Getting an Eve and a SmartThings Hub will set you back $220, and getting both plus an Adam costs $295. Extra Adams can be purchased for $50 each. According to the Kickstarter page, they should start shipping very soon.Of course, no list of interesting smart things is complete without LIXIL’s Satis smart toilet. After installing the toilet, the user needs to pair a cell phone via Bluetooth and download an app. Once the app is downloaded, it can be used to raise, lower, or heat the toilet seat; activate the bidet or blowdryer; flush; clean; or play music through the built-in speakers. Unfortunately, there appears to be no “save dropped cell phone” function.
If you’re planning on going out to buy the toilet immediately, you might want to reconsider: it’ll set you back about $2400 (in case you haven’t done much toilet shopping, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a standard toilet for around $200-300). You may also want to think about the possibility that even a smart toilet can be hacked, potentially running up your water bill (or scaring the crap out of you by turning on the bidet when you’re not expecting it).
What’s Next?With smart toothbrushes, chopsticks, carpets, sprinkler systems, and toilets, it’s clear that there’s nothing that people won’t try to make smarter. If you want to see more cool things for your smart home, check out this list of 6 smart home products you should be backing on Kickstarter. And if you don’t want to wait that long, why not take on a smart home project of your own?
What do you think of these smart gadgets? Would you use them to make your home smarter? What do you think we’ll see next? Share your thoughts and predictions below!
Image credits: Happy young woman eating sushi in a restaurant and holding mobile phone via Shutterstock (edited) Source: www.makeuseof.com
Apple issues an update to the software that powers its iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices once a year, and this year’s update is finally upon us in the form ofiOS 8.
You should routinely update your software and devices for security reasons above all else, but if you’re putting off the iOS 8 upgrade, here are a few compelling reasons to download it immediately.
Track Your Health
HealthKit is the name of the API used by developers to collect and manage information about an iPhone user’s movement. The technology uses the iPhone’s accelerometer, barometer, GPS, Wi-Fi, and (for iPhone 5 and 6 users) connects to the recently announced Apple Watch to monitor the user’s heart rate. While the Apple Watch is far from required, you’ll find HealthKit is just more useful when supplied with this data.
To access the data, the OS upgrade comes with a new app called Health. Here you can visualize all manner of data and build up a healthcare profile which includes any existing medical conditions, medicines, or allergies. At present, more than 20 health care providers plan to support integration with HealthKit, providing medical professionals with unsurpassed patient data and the possibility of alerts for certain criteria.
HealthKit has been carefully protected by Apple, with stringent privacy policies in place to safeguard the personal data it collects. With iOS 8, your iPhone is your own personal health care monitor.
Send Better Messages
In iOS 8 you can send more than text, photos, and short videos. The new Messages app has support for short, self-destructing voice and video messages. Simply touch and hold the record button with your thumb and record a message, let go and swipe to send it. If someone sends you a voice message, simply lift your iPhone to your ear to hear it.
These messages will all be automatically deleted in time unless you choose to keep them, using the Keep button or by setting Audio Messages Expire to Neverunder Settings > Messages. It’s also easier than ever to share your location — hit Details then Send My Current Location and Messages will get a GPS fix and inform whoever you’re talking to. If you choose Share My Location instead, you can choose to share for one hour, one day or forever.
Also of note is the improved way iOS 8 handles group messages. At long last it’s possible to remove contacts (including yourself), mute a conversation using the new Do Not Disturb setting and even give your conversations a name. Message notifications received outside of the Messages app also allow you to reply using a drop-down box, rather than having to launch the app itself.
Make Calls Over Wi-Fi
Whether you’re in a rural area, shopping centre, or an environment that simulates the Faraday cage effect, having no cellular reception means you cannot make a call. This was even the case if you were connected to an active Internet connection over Wi-Fi, a frustrating and surmountable predicament. Say hello to Wi-Fi calling in iOS 8.
Your use of this technology depends entirely on whether your carrier wants to support it. At launch, only T-Mobile appears to actually support Wi-Fi calling but AT&T recently announced that support for the technology is coming in 2015. Toggle the feature under Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling, though it presently only works for T-Mobile customers when “T-Mobile Wi-Fi” is displayed in the carrier field. Calls made over Wi-Fi do not count against your data plan.
Type Better & Faster in New Ways
Apple’s new QuickType keyboard offers up real-time predictive suggestions while typing. By monitoring your keyboard habits (but not storing this data) QuickType learns which words you’re likely to say next. The feature even accounts for style — using a casual tone in text messages to friends and a more business-like tone with your boss. The feature can even provide predicted answers to questions you are asked by contacts.
If QuickType isn’t for you, then iOS 8 comes with user-replaceable keyboards, which you can download from the App Store. Of note is SwiftKey, the keyboard replacement app previously only available on Android that was praised for itscustomizability and the ability to slide your finger over keys to type. You can sign up on SwiftKey’s website to be notified when the iOS app is available.
Share iTunes Purchases & More With Family
After upgrading your family’s devices to iOS 8, you can add up to six people as family members, which means six separate Apple IDs linked under one credit card. If you’re a parent, you can review requests to purchase apps directly on your own device, as well as view your entire library of purchased apps, music, movies, TV, and books.
Family Sharing has also tied together a few of Apple’s older technologies under a familial theme. A new shared family photo album is created on each device you add and a Family calendar helps everyone stay organised. Family Sharing also integrates with Find My Friends and Find My iPhone, allowing you to track family members and lost iDevices should you need to.
iOS 8 Apps Will Be Better
This might seem like an obvious one, but without iOS 8, you won’t be able to install iOS 8 apps. This is a big deal because Apple is changing the way apps are able to communicate in iOS 8, so you’re likely missing out by continuing to use iOS 7 or earlier. And developers have already had three months to play with Cupertino’s big toys, so you can bet some of the larger services will have new ways of interacting with their wares before long.
As an example, custom actions allow developers to tailor their software to a specific task from iOS system menus — like translating text, applying predefined edits to a photo or saving a selection to a PDF. The ability to share directly to apps is also new, so look out for the ability to open images directly in apps like Instagram or send documents to cloud storage services like Google Drive.
Notification Centre Widgets
While Android users have had widgets for years, these have traditionally lived on users’ home screens. That was never likely to happen on iOS, and so Apple has instead settled on the more predictable Notification Centre as a location for third party widgets. In iOS 8, these widgets are extensions of third-party apps which can display information about the weather, your data plan, or the latest football scores.
The Camera is Better
Yes, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both offer compelling reasons keen smartphone photographers might want to upgrade, but iOS 8 itself includes enhancements that will improve the results you get from your current hardware. The ability to control focus and exposure separately has been long coming; simply tap an area to focus then slide a finger up and down the focus box to adjust exposure.
There is a new mode for taking time-lapse video which shoots multiple still images at a set interval, and while offering little control, it does make the whole process super simple: hit record and let your device deal with the rest.
A self timer has been added to the standard camera mode, for better group shots and more dramatic selfies. Finally, the iPad gets Panorama mode, and there’s improved support for burst mode on older devices — previously only found on the iPhone 5S in iOS 7.
The Photos App is Better
Apple is touting its redesigned Photos app as one of the best iOS 8 features, and if you’re a photographer there are a few reasons to smile. iCloud Photo Library replaces Photo Stream, which maintains organisational structure across your devices whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, Mac or other PC via the web. Smaller devices get a break with cloud storage taking over, and smart caching and offline storage of images makes the most of your available space.
There are also improvements to the way photos are organised. Add a photo to your favourites and it will appear in the favourites album, which is synced across your devices. A new search and smarter filters make it easy to find things among the huge volume you’re sure to amass. Far more advanced editing tools make an appearance, complete with support for third-party filters from app developers.
Naturally storing all of your pictures in the cloud (or iCloud to be specific) is going to cost you. Apple lowered their iCloud pricing in June but still won’t offer any more than the measly 5 gigabytes we’re used to for free. You can get 20 gigabytes for $12 per year or 200 gigabytes for $48 per year. More storage will become available for those of you who need it, especially when the new Photos app for Mavericks launches.
Spotlight & Siri Do More
Last of all come two features (that people don’t often use until they realise quite how useful they can be) that have just gotten a little more useful. Spotlight has received a flurry of new sources to search including the App Store (at last!), Wikipedia, news events, nearby locations, and movie times.
If your iPhone is plugged in, a “Hey Siri” will tell it to listen up for a command — just like Android’s “OK Google” feature. When you speak, Siri will update you with what it thought you said in realtime. And if you don’t know what music is playing around you, just Siri it — it’s connected to Shazam.
How To Get It
iOS 8 is compatible with the following devices:
- iPhone 4s, 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6 Plus
- iPad 2, 3, 4, Air, mini, mini with Retina
- iPod Touch 5
To download, visit Settings > General > Software Update on your device while connected to a Wi-Fi network to download, verify, and install the update. You should create a backup of your iOS device before installing any major updates, just in case something goes wrong. You can also connect your device to a Mac or computer with the latest version of iTunes and click the Update button on your device’s Summary tab.
Note: It is advised you refuse upgrading to iCloud Drive until OS X 10.10 Yosemite is released if you rely on shared iCloud data between OS X and iOS. If the update doesn’t show up straight away, wait a while — lots of people will be downloading over the next few days.
Still To Come
As mentioned, iCloud Drive and the other Continuity features are yet to be seen. At present, we’re still waiting for Apple to announce an OS X Yosemite release date – the free upgrade ties in with many iOS 8 features, and there’s even an OS X equivalent to the new Photos app arriving in the new year.
Commissioned by Zomato, a restaurant discovery and recommendations service, the following 21 images depict the various kinds of people in the world; from non-confirmists to the wacky.
Do you get them all? And which best describes yourself?
Friday, September 19, 2014
But what if that wasn’t the case? What if your phone had connected to a cell tower operated by a rogue individual, and that person was intercepting every SMS. Ever call. Every kilobyte of data sent?
It’s more likely than you think. Welcome to the weird and frightening world of rogue cell phone towers.
How Many Of Them Are There?The mobile market in the US is a marvel to behold. There are well over 190,000 cell phone towers in the continental United States alone, collectively providing coverage to over 330,000 cell phones. There are also dozens of competing operators, each operating their own hardware. This is in addition to countless MVNOs who piggyback on the hardware infrastructure of other operators.
But how many of those are rogue towers? According to an August 2014 article in Popular Science, there are 17 towers that are definitively known to be operating in the US. These are spread out through multiple states, although the largest concentrations can be found in Texas, California, Arizona and Florida. They’re also concentrated mostly in major cities, such as LA, Miami, New York and Chicago.
The discovery came to light after research undertaken by ESD America – A manufacturer of encrypted smartphones that run a a customized, hardened version of Android – showed the depth of the phony base-station problem. These towers are relatively prolific. They’re found in major population and industrial centers, as well as in close proximity to military and government buildings.
There’s a real potential for serious damage here. But how do they work?
The Anatomy Of A Rogue Base StationRogue base stations – hereafter referred to as interceptors – look like a standard base station to a cell phone. The simplest ones are unfathomably easy to create, with some even building interceptors around the popular (and cheap) Raspberry Pi system (it’s versatile enough) and the free, open-source OpenBTS GSM access-point software. This allows the implementation of the GSM protocol, which is used by phones in oder to communicate with base stations.
However, to really convince a phone that you’re a genuine base station, you need an outlay of thousands. This limits this type of attack to a select few; namely governments and large criminal organizations. Some police stations in the US have also spent thousands on interceptors that force phones to use 2G and GPRS in an effort to easily intercept and decrypt traffic in real time.
How the Attack WorksRegardless of what phone you use, it’s running two operating systems. The first is what you use to interact with it, be that Android, iOS or Blackberry OS. Working in tandem with that is a second operating system which handles phone traffic. This operates on something called the Baseband chip. and is used to connect to the base station and to serve voice, SMS and data traffic.
Phones automatically connect to the nearest, strongest phone station signal, and when they create a new connection they send what is known as an IMSI identification number. This number uniquely identifies subscribers, and is sent to a base station once a connection is made. This is sent regardless of the authenticity of the tower.
The tower can then respond with a data packet that establishes the standard of encryption used by the phone when communicating with the tower. This depends upon the phone protocol used. For example, the default voice encryption in 3G communications (by far the most used phone protocol) is a proprietary standard called ‘KASUMI’, which has a number of noted security flaws. However, any encryption is better than no encryption, and a false base station can turn all encryption off. This could then result in a man-in-the-middle attack.
Meanwhile, the rogue tower passes on all traffic to a legitimate tower, resulting in continued voice and data services, whilst the user is surreptitiously being surveilled. It’s nasty.
What Can Be Done?Unfortunately, the existence of interceptor towers is largely due to a number of idiosyncrasies of how cell phones work. Phones largely trust base stations implicitly, and base stations are able to determine security settings, allowing for voice, SMS and data traffic to be intercepted in transit.
If you’ve got deep pockets, you could always buy a cryptophone produced by ESD America. These come with something called ‘Baseband Firewalls’, which establish and enforce an additional layer of security on the baseband level of your phone, ensuring that interceptor towers are easy to identify and easy to mitigate against.
Unfortunately, these aren’t cheap. The GSMK CryptoPhone 500 – which boasts specs that are almost identical to that of the Samsung Galaxy S3 – can cost up to €6,300. For the general public, that’s a lot to spend. Especially when it comes to dealing with a problem that’s depth and severity is not yet fully understood.
Until then, consumers are vulnerable. A sensible first step would be for the phone manufacturers to fundamentally change how the baseband operating system running on each phone works, so that it checks the authenticity of each tower it comes into contact with. However, that would take time, and immense collaboration between phone manufacturers, government regulators and network operators.