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Google unshackles Android-device firms

LONDON (BBC News): Google is dropping restrictions it imposed on Android-device-makers, following a clash with the EU.

It is ending a ban on manufacturers having a line-up that includes tablets and phones powered by alternative versions of the operating system to its own as well as ones that feature Google’s own apps and Play Store.

It will also allow some of its services to be pre-installed without others.

But Google continues to appeal against a related €4.3bn fine. The European Commission announced the penalty in July, after ruling that the US company had been using Android to illegally “cement its dominant position” in search.

Unbundled apps

Google announced the changes to its policies in a blog.

It said the new licensing arrangements would come into effect on 29 October and apply to devices shipped to the European Economic Area (EEA) – which includes Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein in addition to the EU.

Until now, Google insisted that if handset- and tablet-makers pre-installed apps such as YouTube and Google Maps, they also had to pre-load its web browser Chrome and Search apps.

Chrome and Search will no longer be bundled in this way. But one consequence of the move, Google said, was that manufactures would face a new fee.

“Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA,” wrote executive Hiroshi Lockheimer.

“Android will remain free and open-source.”

It has not stated how much the new fees will be or whether consumers should expect a significant rise to device prices as a consequence.

‘Free to experiment’

The EU’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has previously suggested that Google’s restrictions prevented “forked” versions of Android, including Amazon’s Fire OS, from having more impact.

Until now, many manufactures have focused instead on adding their own “skins”, which involves making user interface changes to Google’s stock version of Android but not deeper alterations to the code that might cause some services to become incompatible.

One industry watcher said he now expected to see more experimentation.

“If, for example, Samsung wanted to do a really pure Samsung device based on a forked version of Android, with a Samsung browser, Samsung Maps and Bixby as the lead voice assistant – but without the parallel Google services – they could,” said Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“The big challenge for phone-makers is to try to replicate the success that Apple has had with monetising its devices after they have been bought, which it has done by selling services such as iCloud storage and Apple Music. “That’s been harder to do for Android licensees as a lot of the revenue from their devices has flowed to Google via things like Search and Maps.”



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YouTube service restored after global outage

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: The world’s largest video-streaming site, YouTube has restored after suffering a rear global outage in wee hours on Wednesday.

The Google-owned company, which has billions of monthly active users, began suffering issues globally as the video streaming platform went offline at around 07:00 am Pakistan Standard Time (PST) on Wednesday, which was later restored at around 07: 45am.

Soon after the problems occurred, YouTube posted a message on Twitter acknowledging the issue and apologizing to its users for the blackout:

“Thanks for your reports about YouTube, YouTube TV and YouTube Music access issues. We’re working on resolving this and will let you know once fixed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and will keep you updated.”

Twitter exploded with thousands reporting about the worldwide outage.

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Huawei unveils Mate 20 with 6.5-inch display

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: At a grand event in London, Huawei is unveiling the latest members of its Mate smartphone series: the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. The Mate 20 is the larger device, featuring a 6.5-inch, 2244 x 1080 LCD display with a peculiar 18.7:9 aspect ratio. It also has one of the smallest screen notches we’ve seen, accommodating only the selfie camera, with the earpiece positioned at the very edge of the phone. With 820 nits of brightness, Huawei claims this is an extremely power-efficient display, so you’ll get lots of brightness without compromising on battery life.

The Mate 20 achieves a screen-to-body ratio of 88.08 percent, beating the Mate 20 Pro’s 86.90 percent, which is hampered by the wider notch that houses a more sophisticated 3D face-unlock system. Huawei proudly proclaims the Mate 20 has only a 2.6mm side bezel, and its screen notch is just 8.9mm in width. So yes, the “our notch is smaller” contest keeps escalating.

The handset features a three-camera design on its rear, consisting of an ultra wide angle f/2.2 lens with a 16MP sensor, a wide angle f/1.8 lens with a 12MP sensor, and an f/2.4 telephoto lens backed by an 8MP sensor.

The Huawei Mate 20 will be available with 4GB of RAM for €799, and 6GB of RAM for €849. Both versions will include 128GB of storage, and will be available starting today.


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WhatsApp changes ‘Delete for Everyone’ feature

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: WhatsApp is reportedly tweaking its popular ‘Delete for Everyone’ feature, based on the time limit in which users can revoke messages.

According to famous WhatsApp tipster WABetaInfo, the social media messaging app WhatsApp is modifying its widely used ‘Delete for Everyone’ feature. As per new rules, users will now have a limit of up to 13 hours, 8 minutes and 16 seconds in which the recipient should receive the notification, otherwise the message won’t be revoked.

WhatsApp has updated the “Recipient limit”.

What does it mean? If you delete a message for everyone, but the recipient won’t receive the revoke request within 13h, 8m, 16s (maybe because the phone was off), the message will **not** be revoked.

This is a protection against modded users that revoked messages sent weeks, months and years ago.

You can still delete a message for everyone within 1h, 8m, 16s as long as the recipient will receive your revoke request within 13h, 8m, 16s.

In a series of tweets, the whistleblower informed that the ‘Recipient Limit’ change in order to ensure that all members of a conversation receive the revoke request for a message within a designated time limit, in order to delete the message, wrote Indian Express.

Simply put, if a user sends a messages and wants to delete it, the message won’t be deleted even after pressing ‘Delete for Everyone’ if the recipient does not get the delete request for whatever reason within 13 hours, 8 minutes and 16 seconds. Before this update, the delete request had to be accepted within 7 minutes, which was later increased to 1 hour, 8 minutes and 16 seconds from all parties.

According to Phone World, such a situation can occur if a receiver’s phone is switched off for over the designated time limit. Whenever the recipient switches on the phone after the time, they will get the deleted message since he wouldn’t have received the revoke request.

The Facebook-owned platform is also expected to introduce of Stickers in order to bring more interactive features.

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Netherlands in ‘cyberwar’ with Russia – DM says

AMSTERDAM (Sputnik): Last week, the Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in light of the Dutch allegations that four Russians had attempted to carry out a cyberattack on the international chemical weapons watchdog in The Hague.

The Netherlands is in a state of “cyberwar” with Russia, Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld told Dutch broadcaster NPO on Sunday.

“What happened is really dangerous,” Bijleveld said in a nod to an April incident near the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which, she said, involved purported GRU officers.

Asked if the current situation between the two countries could be described as “cyberwar” she replied: “Yes, that is the case.”

“People try to interfere in various ways in our life all the time, to influence our democracy. We have to shake off the naivety in this domain and take measures.”

The country’s cybersecurity budget saw an increase after the alleged incident was made public, the minister added. “We are investing more in intelligence services to be able to see what is going on and take measures if necessary.”

Moreover, Bijleveld said that the Netherlands has offered NATO to use its “cybersoldiers.”

On October 4, Ank Bijleveld claimed that the country’s intelligence services had foiled a cyberattack by Moscow on the OPCW. She also said that four Russian nationals with diplomatic passports, who were suspected of attempting to carry out the operation, were expelled from the country in April. The purported incident took place on April 13, when the alleged suspects parked a car loaded with electronic equipment outside the OPCW’s headquarters in The Hague.

Moscow argued in reponse that the accusations lacked real proof and bashed them as “spy mania” and part of a “staged propaganda campaign against Russia.” The Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that the Dutch statement came ahead of the OPCW opening session, which could set up the “‘necessary’ political background” to push through some initiative.

It also emerged on Friday that the Netherlands and the UK have sent a memo to EU member states, pushing the bloc to update its sanctions regime to address “malicious cyber activity.” According to Bloomberg, a group of countries, including Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Romania, is seeking to introduce a sanctions regime that would target individuals and entities responsible for cyberattacks.

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World’s fastest camera records 10 trillion frames per second

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: Researchers have developed the world’s fastest camera till date that can capture 10 trillion frames per second, making slow-motion more real like.

Scientists have recently developed the world’s fastest camera, which is able to capture 10 trillion frames per second. This camera makes it possible to experience any phenomenon in extremely slow motion, similar to freezing time.

The new system is based on a femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) streak camera and integrated a data acquisition type used in applications like tomography. In the study published in the journal Light: Science & Applications, co-lead author Wang Lihong said, “We knew that by using only a femtosecond streak camera, the image quality would be limited.”

“So to improve this, we added another camera that acquires a static image. Combined with the image acquired by the femtosecond streak camera, we can use what is called a Radon transformation to obtain high-quality images while recording 10 trillion frames per second,” explained Lihong.

The camera, developed by researchers at Caltech and INRS, was named ‘T-CUP’ and set the world record for real-time imaging speed. The camera makes it possible to analyze interactions between light and matter at an unparalleled temporal resolution.

New Atlas reported, in the first test, the camera captured a single femtosecond pulse of laser light and recorded 25 images that were each 400 femtoseconds apart this process showed scientists the changes in the light pulse’s shape, intensity and angle of inclination, in much slower motion than ever before.

The lead author Liang Jinyang called the work as ‘an achievement in itself’. “It’s an achievement in itself. But we already see possibilities for increasing the speed to up to one quadrillion frames per second!”



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Stephen Hawking’s last research paper released

LONDON: Stephen Hawking’s final scientific paper has been released by physicists who worked with the late cosmologist on his career-long effort to understand what happens to information when objects fall into black holes.

The work, which tackles what theoretical physicists call “the information paradox”, was completed in the days before Hawking’s death in March. It has now been written up by his colleagues at Cambridge and Harvard universities and posted online.

Malcolm Perry, a professor of theoretical physics at Cambridge and a co-author on the paper, Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair, said the information paradox was “at the centre of Hawking’s life” for more than 40 years.

The origins of the puzzle can be traced back to Albert Einstein. In 1915, Einstein published his theory of general relativity, a tour-de-force that described how gravity arises from the spacetime-bending effects of matter, and so why the planets circle the sun. But Einstein’s theory made important predictions about black holes too, notably that a black hole can be completely defined by only three features: its mass, charge, and spin.

Nearly 60 years later, Hawking added to the picture. He argued that black holes also have a temperature. And because hot objects lose heat into space, the ultimate fate of a black hole is to evaporate out of existence. But this throws up a problem. The rules of the quantum world demand that information is never lost. So what happens to all the information contained in an object – the nature of a moon’s atoms, for instance – when it tumbles into a black hole?

“The difficulty is that if you throw something into a black hole it looks like it disappears,” said Perry. “How could the information in that object ever be recovered if the black hole then disappears itself?”

In the latest paper, Hawking and his colleagues show how some information at least may be preserved. Toss an object into a black hole and the black hole’s temperature ought to change. So too will a property called entropy, a measure of an object’s internal disorder, which rises the hotter it gets.

The physicists, including Sasha Haco at Cambridge and Andrew Strominger at Harvard, show that a black hole’s entropy may be recorded by photons that surround the black hole’s event horizon, the point at which light cannot escape the intense gravitational pull. They call this sheen of photons “soft hair”.

“What this paper does is show that ‘soft hair’ can account for the entropy,” said Perry. “It’s telling you that soft hair really is doing the right stuff.”

It is not the end of the information paradox though. “We don’t know that Hawking entropy accounts for everything you could possibly throw at a black hole, so this is really a step along the way,” said Perry. “We think it’s a pretty good step, but there is a lot more work to be done.”

Days before Hawking died, Perry was at Harvard working on the paper with Strominger. He was not aware how ill Hawking was and called to give the physicist an update. It may have been the last scientific exchange Hawking had. “It was very difficult for Stephen to communicate and I was put on a loudspeaker to explain where we had got to. When I explained it, he simply produced an enormous smile. I told him we’d got somewhere. He knew the final result.”

Among the unknowns that Perry and his colleagues must now explore are how information associated with entropy is physically stored in soft hair and how that information comes out of a black hole when it evaporates.

“If I throw something in, is all of the information about what it is stored on the black hole’s horizon?” said Perry. “That is what is required to solve the information paradox. If it’s only half of it, or 99%, that is not enough, you have not solved the information paradox problem.

“It’s a step on the way, but it is definitely not the entire answer. We have slightly fewer puzzles than we had before, but there are definitely some perplexing issues left.”

Marika Taylor, professor of theoretical physics at Southampton University and a former student of Hawking’s, said: “Understanding the microscopic origin of this entropy – what are the underlying quantum states that the entropy counts? – has been one of the great challenges of the last 40 years.

“This paper proposes a way to understand entropy for astrophysical black holes based on symmetries of the event horizon. The authors have to make several non-trivial assumptions so the next steps will be to show that these assumptions are valid.”

Juan Maldacena, a theoretical physicist at Einstein’s alma mater, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, said: “Hawking found that black holes have a temperature. For ordinary objects we understand temperature as due to the motion of the microscopic constituents of the system. For example, the temperature of air is due to the motion of the molecules: the faster they move, the hotter it is.

“For black holes, it is unclear what those constituents are, and whether they can be associated to the horizon of a black hole. In some physical systems that have special symmetries, the thermal properties can be calculated in terms of these symmetries. This paper shows that near the black hole horizon we have one of these special symmetries.” (The Guardian)



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Samsung likely to drop headphone jack from its flagships

Monitoring Desk

SEOUL: Korean outlet ETnews reports (via Android Authority) that Samsung is planning to drop the headphone jack from its flagship smartphones sometime next year.

If you’re one of those people (I certainly am) who doesn’t like dongles and thinks wired headphones still have advantages over wireless ones, this is bad news. Ever since Apple “courageously” killed the headphone jack by omitting it in the iPhone 7 in 2016, numerous phone makers followed suit — but not Samsung.

Instead, Samsung threw jabs at Apple, pointing out that its phones still have this simple, yet useful feature.

Alas, it might all be over late next year. ETnews’ sources claim the company will remove the headphone jack after fall 2019 and ship a USB-C-to-3.5mm dongle with its phones.

The good news is that this timeline — if true — means that Samsung’s Galaxy S10 will probably still have the 3.5mm audio jack.

Progress and change are inevitable, of course, but I don’t think the headphone jack has become any more obsolete in the two years since Apple got rid of it. Yes, wireless headphones have gotten a little better, but the headphone jack is still a dead-simple, fail-proof way to connect a variety of audio accessories to your phone.

Moreover, there’s still no single standard for headphones makers to switch to: New Android phones typically have a USB-C connector while Apple’s phones have a Lightning connector (ironically, it’s widely rumored that upcoming iPads will have USB-C instead of Lightning, complicating matters further).

In short, for anyone who owns a bunch of different gadgets, like I do, the headphone jack is a far better solution than lugging a bunch of dongles around. Since the alternative — not having a headphone jack — doesn’t really have any tangible advantages for the end user, I really hope Samsung sticks with it for at least a few more years.


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Google maps on Android auto gets a redesign

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: Google Maps app is getting updates however people using the app on Android Auto are neglected way more than others. Finally, Google Maps on Android Auto is now receiving an update which will provide users with the overall new look.

Google will make this update available for you and you won’t have to look for it. Most of the changes included in the update are purely aesthetic, but they give the app a cleaner look and feel.

In this update, Google will remove the hamburger menu, which was replaced with a standard Settings button placed at the bottom of the screen. The search bar is also located from right to left side with the Maps icons.

After the removal hamburger menu means that one will not be able to do anything while in navigation mode. Before Navigating, one can easily click in the search bar to find a destination.

So if you want to enjoy these new changes made to the app, get the newest version of Maps and Android Auto and wait for the update to arrive.

Recently  Google Maps Music Control Feature will solve this issue. Switching between Songs and albums is a difficult task when you are driving a car and at the same time following Google Maps instruction to reach your destination.

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Google drops $10b battle for Pentagon data contract

LONDON (BBC News): Google has abandoned efforts to win a $10bn (£7.7bn) Pentagon cloud computing contract. The firm said the work might have transgressed principles it published in June limiting its artificial-intelligence-related activities.

Thousands of its staff had previously protested against its involvement in a separate Department of Defense project. The tech firm revealed the latest decision hours after confirming it had exposed Google+ users’ personal data.

Cloud clash

The Pentagon contract was for a project named after the Star Wars films – the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud (Jedi).

Bids were due to be submitted on Friday.

Securing the contract, which involves about a decade’s worth of work, could have helped Google catch up with Amazon and Microsoft – the two market leaders in selling cloud computing services to governments and businesses.

According to Reuters, Amazon Web Services is the favourite to win. A Google spokeswoman said: “While we are working to support the US government with our cloud in many areas, we are not bidding on the Jedi contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI principles, and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”

This refers to the fact Google is currently allowed to handle only “moderate” security-cleared US government data, but not more sensitive material.

Google+ glitch

Earlier on Monday, the search firm had announced it was closing Google+ to consumers following the discovery of a bug in March.

It said the flaw could have made it possible for unauthorised third-parties to have scraped 500,000 members’ private details from the social network. Google said it had found no evidence that anyone had actually exploited the flaw, and added that it was unable to specify which users had been affected.

But the Wall Street Journal reported that the business’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, had been briefed on the matter seven months ago and had been informed that the company did not intend to make the matter public “because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny”.

Google has not responded to this claim. The timing of the bug’s discovery coincided with Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, which some believe might have prompted Google to carry out its audit.

European data privacy watchdogs are now looking into the affair.

Because it happened before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect, each country’s relevant authority can pursue Google individually.

The Irish Data Protection Commission said in a statement it had not been aware of the issue and would be looking for answers from Google in respect of the nature, impact and risk to individuals.

Pixel phone event

The two latest developments came on the eve of a consumer-focused Google event. The firm is expected to unveil new handsets and other kit in New York at 11:00 ET (16:00 BST).

Mr Pichai introduced the launches of the two previous generations of Pixel smartphones, but the BBC understands he will not do so this year.

A source told the BBC that he had never been scheduled to attend and that Google’s hardware chief, Rick Osterloh, would instead run proceedings.

Mr Pichai was previously “empty chaired” when he declined to attend a privacy hearing by the US Senate Intelligence Committee in September.

He later met politicians and officials in Washington behind closed doors.