Saturday, October 4, 2014

Boot Up: testing iPhone 6s, Shellshock in depth, air quality wearable

Chris Poole Chris Poole of 4chan. Should we blame him for his site? Photograph: Johannes Simon/Getty Images

A breakfast of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Remember Heartbleed? If you believe the hype today, Shellshock is in that league and with an equally awesome name albeit bereft of a cool logo (someone in the marketing department of these vulns needs to get on that). But in all seriousness, it does have the potential to be a biggie and as I did with Heartbleed, I wanted to put together something definitive both for me to get to grips with the situation and for others to dissect the hype from the true underlying risk.

And when he says definitive, he is.

A startup is building a wearable air-quality monitor using a sensing technology that can cheaply detect the presence of chemicals around you in real time. By reporting the information its sensors gather to an app on your smartphone, the technology could help people with respiratory conditions and those who live in highly polluted areas keep tabs on exposure.

Berkeley, California-based Chemisense also plans to crowdsource data from users to show places around town where certain compounds are identified.

Brilliant application.

Glenn Derene:

as luck would have it, Consumer Reports has exactly the right equipment to test this sort of thing, and we've used it to test the flexibility of phones before. We want to do a scientifically valid test of the structural strength of the new iPhones as well as that of comparable phones, and we'll have results soon. So stay tuned.

Sure to satisfy everyone.

Elyse Betters:

It's worth mentioning that one of the most popular videos from yesterday, which reportedly showed an iPhone 6 Plus bending with little pressure applied, appears to be edited in a way that might reveal the video is a fake.

Notice the video shows the iPhone 6 Plus drastically bending at 1:40 minutes, and the time on the phone at that point displays 2:26 PM. The man in the video then proceeds to explain around 2:35 minutes into the video that he just finished bending the phone with his thumbs.

But there's one problem with that version of events: The iPhone 6 Plus he supposedly "just" bent displays the time - 1:59 PM - around 2:45 minutes into the video, roughly 27 minutes before the smartphone is shown succumbing to little pressure.

David Auerbach:

Obviously anything illegal should be policed, but what about morally questionable but legal activities, such as encouraging certain forms of harassment?

Responsibility for drawing this line lies only with Poole himself. Tech gadfly Anil Dash once wrote, "[I]f your website is full of assholes, it's your fault." Dash excoriated many of 4chan's anonymous policies and those who share Poole's hands-off attitude: "[T]ake some goddamn responsibility for what you unleash on the world." Whether or not you agree with Poole's views on freedom of speech (I myself am in fact sympathetic, if not in total agreement), Dash is right that Poole bears the ultimate responsibility for the standards—or lack thereof—set in place on 4chan. For all the bile directed at "4chan" and "4chan users," very little of it has been directed at the single person with the ability to change the site's standards and enforce them, should he so desire. It's one thing to share a site with awful people; it's another to make money off of them.

Auerbach's later point about Brendan Eich (ex-Mozilla) and Poole is worth considering. And Poole isn't above censoring 4chan.

Dan Seifert:

BlackBerry is also trying to rectify accessing your work email, documents, and communications across the various devices in your life with BlackBerry Blend. Blend lets you connect your iPad, Android tablet, Windows PC, or Mac to your BlackBerry via USB, Wi-Fi, or cellular networks and access your BBM messages, email accounts, calendar and other things without picking up your phone. It's designed to keep everything segregated — your work email and calendar never integrate with your personal ones and no work data gets stored on the computer or tablet. BlackBerry wasn't able to provide a way for me to test Blend in time for this review, but the demo I was shown performed as promised. It's something that will likely make IT managers at BlackBerry's corporate customers happy, if not the BlackBerry users themselves.

Like the Passport's hardware design, BlackBerry 10.3 got in the way of me being productive more than it helped me. I can't archive anything in the email app, which is soul-crushing for this Gmail user. Collaborating on Google Drive documents with my colleagues is all but impossible on the Passport. I also can't confer with my coworkers on the Passport with our group chat app of choice (Slack), so it was difficult to fully integrate it into my mobile workflow.

With due respect to Seifert (who has done a thorough review), the people at whom the Passport is aimed probably don't use Google mail or calendars or documents. It's for governments and businesses wanting high security. In that sense, the ruler against which the Passport is generally being measured simply isn't appropriate. The key question is: can it sell enough to BlackBerry's core users to keep it going?

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Clippers will be a Microsoft organization. The son of a Ford Motor Co manager, he's always been a company and product loyalist, banning his own family from using Apple's iPhones.

"Most of the Clippers on are Windows, some of the players and coaches are not," Ballmer said.

"And Doc kind of knows that's a project. It's one of the first things he said to me: 'We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren't we?' And I said, 'Yeah, we probably are.' But I promised we would do it during the off season."

One out of three people in Vietnam, or 36% of the population of 90 million, now own a smartphone, nearly double last year's figure, according to findings from a Google-backed online behavior study.

Vietnamese smartphone usagee rose from 20% in 2013 to 36%, Google said, citing findings from the Global Connected Consumer Study 2014 by market research firm TNS, part of Kantar, one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups.

The number is still lower than the global average of 49%, or the 40% recorded in Thailand, the market researcher said. Fifty-one percent of people in Malaysia have a smartphone, while the figure in Singapore is 85 percent, according to TNS.

49% of mobile users have a smartphone? That figure sneaked in quietly.

Kevin Roose:

HackerOne is a sort of start-up security bazaar, built not on the hacker principles of vandalism or greed but something much more like monetized goodwill—a crackerjack coder discovers a corporate vulnerability, writes a note to company HQ, gets a thank-you note and often a payment (anywhere from $25 to $5,000 and up) in return. On the flip side, a company like Secret—or Twitter, Yahoo, and Square, all of which run programs through the site—gets to mobilize a volunteer IT army. HackerOne provides the infrastructure for these arrangements but stays out of the deals themselves, merely tacking on a 20 percent fee for each successful bounty. Think of it as TaskRabbit for hackers.

Bug-bounty programs aren't new in the IT world. (Netscape ran one in 1995, offering T-shirts and mugs to hackers who found software glitches.) But today's efforts are bigger and more systematized. Since opening for business in 2012, HackerOne has raised $9 million from investors and staffed up to 18 employees, making it a mainstream tech player in its own right.

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