Saturday, July 30, 2016

Google is turning on HSTS encryption on its domain

Google's domain has been updated, but there are still some kinks to work out before full deployment.

Google has taken additional measures to strengthen its data encryption by implementing HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS).
While most of Google's data is already encrypted, Google's utilization of HSTS
 goes a step further by preventing users from mistakenly heading to HTTP URLs
by converting potentially unsafe HTTP URLs into more secure HTTPS URLs. For instance, you might accidentally type in a URL without protocols and find yourself redirected to an unsafe destination. HSTS help curb those issues, especially
among less internet-savvy users.
Google is looking to deploy the changes as soon as possible, but there's still some additional work to be done before it's ready to go. HSTS is now active for Google's domain, however, in the meantime. It will be extended to additional domains and Google products soon.
source: Engadget

Mercedes pulls confusing autonomous car ad

The new E-class sedan's commercial featured an F015 cameo.

Mercedes has pulled its 2017 E-class sedan ad after critics pointed out that it could mislead people into thinking it's an autonomous vehicle. In the commercial, you'll see
 the E-class sedan on the road, overtaking the automaker's F015 autonomous car 
concept -- the same futuristic car we previewed last year that looked like it came right
 out of Minority Report. A voiceover then says "Is the world truly ready for a vehicle
 that can drive itself? Ready or not, the future is here" You'll also see the sedan's driver taking his hands off the wheel while the car is in motion.
Problem is, the E-class sedan is not an autonomous vehicle. It only has a driver assist feature called "Drive Pilot" for cruise control and automated steering,
designed to frequently remind people to keep their hands on the steering wheel. According to Automotive News, safety advocates such as Consumer Reports and
 the Center for Automotive Safety asked the FTC to investigate the ad and the company. In the end, Mercedes decided to pull the ad completely. A spokesperson from the automaker told the publication:
"The new 2017 E class is a technological tour de force and is a significant step towards achieving our vision of an accident-free futur:We do not want any potential confusion in the marketplace to detract from the giant step forward in vehicle safety the 2017 E class represents."
The company already removed the video from its YouTube channel, but
 Automotive News was able to preserve a copy, which you can watch here:

Host other people's Twitch streams from your mobile device

See a cool stream you want to share while you're out and about? Go for it.

The line between using Twitch on mobile and desktop is getting even more blurry. The live-streaming juggernaut recently announced that now, you can host another channel's broadcast from the mobile app. Twitch writes that all you need to do is tap the gear button in the app, hit "Host" and you should be good to go. It's available for everyone on iOS at the moment, and will be rolling out slowly for Android. Need to update? Hit the source link below if your iDevice hasn't updated yet.

source: iTunes

SwiftKey leaked user email addresses as text predictions

Your phone is now using someone else's autocorrect library. Awkward.

Autocorrect mistakes are supposed to be funny, but a new SwiftKey glitch turned out to be sort of alarming. For the last week, some SwiftKey users have been offered predictive text for slang they've never used before, words in other foreign languages and, most concerning, email addresses and phone numbers they've never seen.
The trouble, it seems, was with the third-party keyboard's cloud sync service. Users were somehow receiving data from other user's SwiftKey language models -- providing them with text entry predictions intended for someone else entirely. On a surface level, the glitch sounds harmless enough, but commonly used contact information can wind up in your Swiftkey database. Users on Reddit reported finding email addresses they weren't familiar with offered to them on login pages, and some users even received phone calls from folks who found their number through SwiftKey's predictive text. That's a really weird way to have your contact information leaked.
SwiftKey says that the issue only affected a small number of its customers, and has temporarily disabled its cloud sync service and removed email address predictions from its apps. The company asks users who think they may still be experiencing the problem to contact them at As for the rest of us? We'll probably text a little more cautiously. Autocorrect errors may be a meme, but not everybody wants to be a part of the joke.
source: Engadget

A day with BlackBerry's all-touch DTEK50 smartphone

What, exactly, does $299 get BlackBerry customers?

BlackBerry pulled back the curtain on its new DTEK50 smartphone a few days ago, and soon after gave hungry journalists units to play with. I'm still working on my full review of BlackBerry's $299 Hail Mary pass, but since I spent a day playing with it, here's a peek into an evening of nutso, BlackBerry-centric thinking. Long story short, it's all at once a perfectly adequate phone with serious security chops, a shrewd business move and a lesson in lousy marketing.

1 PM: After a handy Q&A session, I'm given a DTEK50 of my phone to play with. First impressions: Yep, this feels like an Alcatel phone. In case you missed it the other day, the DTEK50 is based on the TCL reference design that ultimately gave us Alcatel's (still-unreleased) Idol 4. Both share a 5.2-inch, 1080p screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset, 3GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel main camera, a 2,600mAh battery and even a convenience key on the phone's right side to which you can assign shortcuts. (Alcatel called it a "boom" key, but BlackBerry's naming choice was the right one.) If you're like me, though, you'd keep trying to wake up the phone using that button, which doesn't work unless you specifically set it to.
Oh, and there's more. There's no fingerprint sensor, and it only has 16GB of internal storage. (You can at least you can beef it up with a microSD card.) The DTEK50 is startlingly light, too, lacking the reassuring density of the high-end BlackBerry Priv.
I'm torn. It's a BlackBerry in name and in functionality, but this is the first time I can remember the company leaving hardware design almost entirely up to someone else. Even the low-cost Leap we first met last year felt more substantial. There was a certain level of aesthetic pride that went into BlackBerrys, but the company's shift in strategy has given us a phone that doesn't feel special in the way the company's older phones did.

Gallery: First look: BlackBerry DTEK50 | 4 Photos

2:30 PM: Ran down to St. Marks to get some footage of the DTEK50 for our hands-on video. Setting up the phone was business as usual, but the phone got noticeably warm for reasons that weren't readily apparent. At the same time, battery drain kicked into high gear for a spell, even though few apps were running at the time. Weird. My hopes for this phone start to sink a bit.
4:30 PM: Hustled back to the office to give the DTEK50 a much-needed charge. Thankfully, Qualcomm's QuickCharge 2.0 tech got the phone back on its feet within minutes and I let it regain about a half charge. I fiddled with it more in the meantime; it's a pretty smooth little machine, and the DTEK50 seemed like a decent, slightly underpowered workhorse. It would've been nice to see BlackBerry choose a reference design with a beefier chipset like a Snapdragon 652, but the company wanted to keep costs down. I haven't yet gotten a great feel for the camera but early test shots seemed in line with other devices that cost the same, and the screen's pretty decent, to boot. Meanwhile, my boss Dana says the DTEK50's textured back reminds her of a cat's scratching post.

6:30 PM: My latest meeting ends and I'm back at the office contemplating the DTEK50 again. BlackBerry insists that the DTEK isn't a rebranded device -- it's a standalone smartphone with security as its biggest selling point. From security keys baked into the processor during manufacturing to the full-disk encryption that's enabled by default, It's clear that BlackBerry's security know-how is one of its most powerful assets.
You won't notice much of that in practice, though. The phone's namesake DTEK app gives you a quick look at how secure your device is and how you can lock it up even further, but that's really all the insight you'll get. On the plus side, though, DTEK also gives you the option to manage your apps' permissions from inside it, which is a nice touch made possible by Android Marshmallow.
If you've used a Priv before, you'll feel immediately at home with the DTEK50's software features. As usual, you can manage your messages from the BlackBerry Hub and swipe up on app icons to see their widgets. The DTEK50 is another mostly-stock-Android affair, and I'm warming up to it more because of that. It certainly doesn't hurt that the company's secure-software approach hasn't impeded performance; it's as fast as the new Moto G4, but I wonder if there's anything here regular consumers would respond to.

8:30PM: After a beer -- fine, a few beers -- the DTEK50 makes perfect sense. As a business move, it's a great idea: BlackBerry gets a new device on the market without spending loads of money on product development. It's also an appropriate follow-up to the Priv, if you think about it. BlackBerry's first Android phone dealt with some serious scrutiny from critics and security buffs alike, and for the most part, the company is pleased with how it all turned out. Now that it had a better sense of how the response to an Android-powered BlackBerry, the company was free to take that formula and apply it to a device that was meant to be sold in bulk -- to businesses, say, or governments. The DTEK50 is, as company spokespeople called it, a "fleet" device. If the DTEK50 finds a foothold with regular people, great! If not, so be it. As long as those corporations snap them up.

11 PM: It's late, I'm tired and the DTEK50 is still hanging on -- 15 percent battery to go. And seriously, this thing is actually called the DTEK50? BlackBerry says it's meant partially to evoke the numbers used by BB10 devices -- the company topped out with the Z30 before switching back to proper names, so "50" was the next logical step. Still, it's straight-up gibberish without a nuanced understanding of BlackBerry's recent history.
I'm growing fonder of this thing, though, partially because it's a solid little phone but also because it's a symbol of John Chen's shrewdness. He's said countless times before that BlackBerry will bail out of the hardware business if it's not profitable, but dang it, the company just keeps trying anyway.
source: Engadget