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Updated: 1 hour 37 min ago

Zero Permission Apps can steal your data

2 hours 59 min ago

Until now, we had all assumed Zero Permission apps meant zero problems or security risks. However thanks to a small group of researchers based at The Chinese University of Hong Kong we are starting to see a clearer truth about the vulnerability of ALL apps.

A report published last week by Wenrui Diao et al* advises that even Zero Permission apps have the ability to steal a user’s sensitive data and information. Using a novel approach the researchers used an application (VoicEmployer) to highlight the potential security risks. According to the experimental results the zero permission app was able to obtain personal data, user location and transmit the information remotely to another device.

Through invoking the speaker, this zero permission app can make phone calls, forge SMS/Email, steal personal schedules, get the user location, transmit data remotely, etc”.

The basic premise of the vulnerability (named ‘GVS-Attack’ by the researchers) was able to obtain personal data and transmit this data by remotely calling a third party number and actively transmitting the data using Google Voice Search. The app would use the speakers to audibly say the information which would then be picked back up by the microphone and sent via Google Voice functioning.

The testing was conducted on the Samsung Galaxy S3, Meizu MX2 and Motorola A953. In addition the researchers noted that it did not seem to matter if the devices were running either Android or CyanogenMod with both equally as vulnerable. Once the attacking app had obtained data it would simply use prerecorded audio files to activate the Google Voice function and call the target phone number. From here the app would relay the sensitive data to the attacker’s device.

Because Google Voice Search can accept several kinds of commands including sending SMS, opening maps, making notes, etc., attacks can be varied”.

The study summed up its findings by advising that both developers and users need to be clearer on the dangers of installing all apps regardless of permission access or our preconceptions on what we think of as safe.

This study may inspire application developers and researchers rethink that zero permission doesn’t mean safety and the speaker can be treated as a new attack surface”.

You can read the report in full including details on the full experiment, tools used and the findings by clicking here.

* Wenrui Diao, Xiangyu Liu, Zhe Zhou, and Kehuan Zhang

The post Zero Permission Apps can steal your data appeared first on The Mukt.

Breaking: openSUSE Factory becomes independent rolling release distribution

10 hours 39 min ago

The development version of openSUSE (called Factory) has become an independent distribution using the ‘rolling release’ development model similar to that of Arch Linux.

This means Factory is no longer just the ‘test-bed’ for enthusiasts but can now also be used by those who want bleeding edge packages and software – something Arch community can boast of. But the success of Arch is largely due to its amazing community which not only maintains one of the best wikis on the planet Earth but also create and offer packages even ‘before’ (I am exaggerating) they are publicly released.

What about Tumbleweed?

openSUSE had primarily three releases – openSUSE stable which is released on regular schedule, Tumblweed and Factory.

“The new Factory is not here to replace Tumbleweed,” Ludwig Nussel told me. “Both rolling distributions accomplish different goals. The Tumbleweed initiative provides rolling updates of selected packages (~10% of the packages in Factory) on top of the most recent openSUSE released version. Tumbleweed therefore always has openSUSE releases as base. Factory on the other hand is a full rolling distribution where all packages, even core ones are continuously updated and rebuilt.”

Tumblweed is maintained by the star Linux kernel developer Greg-KH. However, even Greg is not using it on his main machine any more.

He says, “Ideally, Tumbleweed will die with the use of Factory in its place. Factory is a great goal, and one that I really want to see happen, as it fits into my working model (constantly updating stable distro), but from what I have been told, it’s just not quite there yet.”

So what is Factory now?

Factory has become more important than every before, not only for the openSUSE releases but also for the developers and users. One problem that plagues Factor is ‘breaking’. Factory is ‘broken’, you can’t rely on it; it’s not the same thing as Arch Linux. But that’s going to change now. The openSUSE team are working towards offering a better testing model to make it more stable and usable.

Ludwig says, “With the new development model that includes staging projects and openQA we expect less breakages of the base system. One of the goals of the new development is to prevent changes in core system components from e.g. rendering the system unbootable. If such a breaking change gets submitted openQA would catch it in the staging project already and never allow it into Factory.”

That doesn’t mean Factory will be rock-solid as is Debian, it is a rolling release so just like any other bleeding edge rolling release, including Arch, it can’t be assumed to be fully stable. It’s meant for those users who want to use latest packages and one price that we pay for using such packages is a bit of un-guaranteed stability, as we grab package as soon as they are released and like any software whether it be iOS or Windows, new versions often have bugs which may make a system unstable.

The Factory page clearly states, “There is constant flow of packages going into Factory. There is no freeze, therefore the Factory repository is not guaranteed to be fully stable. The core system packages receive automated testing via openQA. When automated testing is completed and the repo is in a consistent state the repo is synced to the download mirrors. That usually happens once or twice a week.”

So don’t use Factory if you use your system for critical work which may suffer due to some ‘downtime’. The fact is I use Arch on one of my main systems and I rarely get into serious trouble, but then I live at bleeding edge and I always have an stable openSUSE system on second machine.

Rolling releases need great community

One factor that made Arch Linux such as huge success is the dedicated community behind it. They not only have one of the best wikis, as I said above, but also have one of the biggest repositories of software via AUR (Arch User Repository).

openSUSE is also known for its OBS which helps developers in creating packages not only for openSUSE but also for competing distros like Ubuntu. Getting 3rd party packages won’t be as difficult for openSUSE users as it could be for other distros, but it means better engagement with the community.

Community will be critical for the success of openSUSE Factory. openSUSE may not be able to compete with Arch when it comes to packages, but its OBS is a magical tool and place where you can find almost everything. It’s much more easier to use than Ubuntu’s PPAs.

OBS is all about community, and the new chairman of openSUSE Board Richard Brown seems to agree, “Of course! The change to this new model is part of that engagement – having Factory as a rolling release means our work throughout the year gets into the hands of users quicker. We hope this will lead to more feedback, faster, as more of our community work on this new platform. It’s only through everyone’s ideas, thoughts, and contributions that Factory will fulfil it’s exciting potential as a rolling release.”

openSUSE has a great (an extremely friendly) community so moving to a rolling-release based model will send a wave of excitement among the users and developers.

Helping openSUSE releases

The rolling release model will also help the releases of openSUSE. According to an openSUSE press release, “The Factory rolling release model will shorten the stabilization process in openSUSE releases and eliminate the need for pre-releases or “milestones.” In the old openSUSE development model, an army of packagers would shoot new packages and updates to a playground called Factory, with a relatively small team taking care of the integration process of all those packages, which sometimes took a long time to stabilize and release. The new Factory model balances responsibility among packagers, testers and end users while putting more emphasis on automated quality assurance. As a result, openSUSE Factory becomes a reliable, always-ready working distribution.”

“With this new openSUSE development model, users get the latest free software packages without waiting for the next release,” said Richard Brown, openSUSE board chair. “With a daily fresh Factory distribution making it easier for those who want to preview and test, we hope to see more users and contributors, leading to faster fixes and even higher quality. Factory is critical as it provides the base technology for openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise, which is used by tens of thousands of organizations around the world.”

openSUSE already offers a rolling-release like experience for KDE Plasma users via their current repository, which is an extremely positive move for Plasma users like me. I use it on my system and it’s extremely stable (that fact is post 4.4 release of KDE SC, most KDE-based distros including Kubuntu and Linux Mint are stable).

How to get Factory?

It’s very easy to get Factory, just download the latest snapshot from this link and create a bootable USB using dd command. If you want to upgrade your system to Factory then follow steps from this page.

First you need to remove old repos:

mkdir /etc/zypp/repos.d/old mv /etc/zypp/repos.d/*.repo /etc/zypp/repos.d/old

Then add new repos:

zypper ar -f -c repo-oss zypper ar -f -c repo-non-oss zypper ar -f -c repo-debug

Once done, upgrade the system using this command:

zypper dup

Now you should be running openSUSE Factory. If you are a Factory user, you should subscribe to the mailing list as well as join their G+ community so not only you remain updated with what’s going on, but can also ask question or contribute to making it better.

The post Breaking: openSUSE Factory becomes independent rolling release distribution appeared first on The Mukt.

Steam OS review – from a Linux user’s point of view

12 hours 14 min ago

Steam OS images were made available for free download yesterday. I grabbed the images, created an ISO and booted a high-end system on it (it was a working Windows 8 desktop). Instead of automated install, I chose advanced install so I could see what was going on. It was a pure Debian installer experience.

Once you installed everything successfully and rebooted your system, you will be greeted with typical Grub and Gnome login screen and there are four option – default Xsession, Steam OS, Gnome 3 Shell and Gnome Classic. I chose Gnome Shell just for the sake of checking it out.

Steam OS comes with some basic apps pre-installed which includes a browser – IceWeasel (Firefox re-branded), terminal, disk utility, the Steam app and Valve bug tracker along with some more.

So you are good to browse the web with the default set of applications.

How to get complete desktop experience

It’s extremely easy to install the applications that you need (only condition is that they should be available for Debian 7.1). The default images have ‘desktop’ as user and password so you can’t do any administrative jobs. But you can change the password to your liking by running the simple UNIX command in the terminal:


It will ask for the current password and then you can enter the new password. Once the password is set you can perform administrative tasks like adding Debian repos to install more packages as ‘sudo’.

Adding Debian repositories

Steam OS comes with its own repositories enabled so that users can get automatic updates and apps. But you can add Debian repositories to install more apps.

You can open source list with vi or nano and add following lines to it:


nano /etc/apt/source.list

and add these lines

deb wheezy main deb-src wheezy main deb wheezy-updates main deb-src wheezy-updates main deb wheezy/updates main deb-src wheezy/updates main

I went ahead and installed few things that I needed such as Chromium browser, Gedit and other such applications.

Jono Bacon photobombed this screenshot :P What’s working

Everything including HDMI out, sound, video and bluetooth. Yes, wireless was not working out of the box as it needed firmware to be installed, I din’t try to get the driver as I was connected with ethernet port.

So with Steam OS you get pure Gnome Shell 3 and Debian experience – both stable and mature. You can download every software that is available for Debian 7.1, including Chromium and Dropbox. So, one can do everything that you can do on typical PC.

Valve has said that they are working on bringing more applications to Steam OS so we may also expect services like Netflix and many other popular (even though) proprietary applications on Steam OS.

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CM11S (OnePlus One) port available for the Nexus 5

Tuesday 29th of July 2014 02:06:48 AM

Most Android users are by now well aware of Cyanogen and their custom operating system CyanogenMod (CM). Earlier this month CM11 M8 was finally released which brought CM users up to Android 4.4.4. However if you own a Nexus 5 you can now install CM11S

CM11S is the purpose-built CM firmware for the OnePlus One. As such this firmware was only available to those who managed to get hold of the One either by invite or chance. Until now that is! XDA member P4R has managed to port the OnePlus One firmware for the Nexus 5 and is now ready to download. If you own a Nexus and have been thinking about buying a One then this is a good way to at least see what type of software and operating system you will get.

Screenshots released by P4R show the ported version of CM11S seems to work well and the developer notes there (as yet) does not seem to be any major issues or bugs noted.

In addition it seems the developer will be offering relatively frequent updates. The firmware was only made available three days ago and already has received two updated versions with minor bug fixes. The most current version available is V1.2

Quick Installation Instructions

  • Install the latest TWRP recovery
  • Download the ROM and copy to sd card
  • Reboot into recovery
  • Factory Wipe System, Wipe Cache and Wipe Dalvik-Cache
  • Install ROM from zip
  • Reboot

So if you are interesting in giving the OnePlus One firmware ago than you can read more including download links by heading over to the developer thread. Remember at the moment this is only for the Nexus 5 and please do make sure you backup before giving this a try. Always better to be safe than bricked.


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Crytek is back on solid financial ground: Report

Tuesday 29th of July 2014 02:02:42 AM

Crytek has been the latest product of the rumour mills as rumours of financial instability and turbulent times made the rounds on the internet. But according to a recent statement released by the company, the company is back on solid ground, having been through a complete overhaul of business focus.

Crytek is the well-known developers that shot to fame with their ground breaking and computer breaking game Crysis. Their game engine too, Cry Engine, is considered to be ground breaking technology, offering developers the ability to make highly detailed and immersive games. So when rumours, citing unnamed Crytek sources about missed payrolls and key staffs’ walk outs began to surface, it made the internet take note.

According to Crytek, the flow of information to their employees has not been an efficient one, thus giving rise to the rumours. Crytek points the inability to convey the information on time to the fact that the relevant plans were under works and not ready for public discussions. For Crytek is making the bold move of moving from just being a developer to being an online/self-publishing company, like some of the companies of yore. Crytek is all poised to co-publish Homefront: The Revolution with Deep Silver in 2015 and self-publish their free to play games like Warface.

“Our evolution from a development studio to an online publisher has required us to refocus our strategies,” says Crytek in their statement, saying that they have successfully managed to secure the needed capital for such a monumental shift in focus. As such, the company, with their current portfolio doesn’t really have the foundations for Crytek’s future, but they are sure to evolve out of it and make a portfolio that will help them secure a future in their new endeavor.

Source: Polygon

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Verizon stock owned by FISA judges, a company complicit in NSA spying scandal

Tuesday 29th of July 2014 12:47:10 AM

The media outlet VICE have reported that they have obtained disclosures showing that numerous Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) judges own or have owned stock in Verizon in the last 12 months and at least one of them has signed off on National Security Agency (NSA) orders for bulk metadata collection.

The judge who signed off on the NSA orders was Judge James Zagel, who has been a FISA court member since 2008, last year, May 28th, he purchased stock in Verizon. This June he allowed a renewal request from the NSA to continue their collection of metadata.

In addition to Judge Zagel, VICE reports that about a month ago, federal judges began handing in disclosures covering the 2013 calendar year. This revealed that other judges to have Verizon stock included FISA Court Judge Susan Wright and FISA Court Judge Dennis Saylor, the amounts invested are not disclosed but they’re likely nothing to be scoffed at.

The article also point to this law, in the first line it states that “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonable be questioned”.

Source: VICE

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Mozilla picks Chris Beard as new CEO, can he steer the company towards self-sustenance?

Monday 28th of July 2014 08:37:47 PM

Mozilla has finally filled the gap by appointing Chris Beard as the CEO of the Mozilla Corporation. Mozilla as an organization is lead by Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit (not charity) organization which created Mozilla Corp as a fully owned subsidiary back in 2005.

This subsidiary is more or less responsible for employing developer and product releases such as Firefox browser, Thunderbird Email client, and Firefox OS – their mobile operating system.

Even if Mozilla Corporation is a taxable subsidiary and it has huge expenses it doesn’t really have any sustainable revenue generation model beyond donation. A large share of these donations comes from one entity Google. The two organizations have deal which makes Google the default search engine for the Firefox web-browser. The company also have deals with Microsoft where they create a Bing specific version of Firefox. Microsoft Bing powers Thunderbird search. However, according to reports over 85% of Mozilla’s revenues came from Google in 2006.

In 2011 Mozilla got Google to sign a three year contract for the sum of $300 million, which was three times the sum of previous contract. The increase in the payment can be attributed to Microsoft which was also tapping Mozilla to switch from Google to Bing. Google supposedly had to pay 3 times to keep Google as the default search engine for Firefox.

The contract is due for a renewal in November 2014 and it’s unclear whether Google will renew it given Firefox’s declining market share. According to various sources, on average Firefox now has around 15%-20% market share whereas Google’s own Chrome has the lion’s share with over 42%-46%. Firefox doesn’t have any significant presence in the mobile space.

Mozilla really doesn’t face a make or break crisis as my friend Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols predicts because Microsoft may be lurking around to snap the ‘search’ box from Google. How such a move will be perceived by the Open Source community is totally different head-ache for Mozilla’s PR team. But there is no immediate crisis, depending on whether the new leadership of Microsoft will be interested in funding a competitor.

Mozilla is experimenting with other sources of ad-revenues by offering companies a place in tiles on new page of the browser.

Another source of revues for Mozilla could be FireFox OS which is being pushed in emerging markets and the corporation can get some deals around that product.

In a nut-shell the challenges for the new CEO are huge and November will be the month where we will see how he steers this, one of the most important Open Source, organization into the future.

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Season 3 for The Walking Dead video game confirmed at San Diego Comic Con

Monday 28th of July 2014 05:08:11 PM

Telltale Games has been a busy bee this year. And it seems that the trend is going to continue well into the next year too. They just announced at their panel in San Diego comic con that there WILL be a season three for The Walking Dead franchise. The panel was held by Skybound Entertainment, the publishers of the comics on which both the TV series and the games are based on.

The Walking Dead series is one of the most highly recognized TV series among TV viewers around the world. The series has garnered millions of fans around the world ever since premiering back on October 31st, 2010. The series is currently in the 5th Season and there are plans to take it as far as Season 12. Since the series was doing so well, a game was also commissioned and then published as an episodic interactive drama graphic adventure video game by Telltale games back in April 2012. The games were received with huge success, with episode 5 of season 2 still in development.

But that didn’t stop publishers Telltale Games from confirming a season 3. Though they didn’t mention anything else apart from the fact that there is going to be one, it can be speculated that the next addition will come at around 2015. The games, like the comic series, put the gamer in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Being true to their style, these games from Telltale heavily relies on user choices and such change dynamically based on the user’s interaction with the various characters in the game.

The developers are additionally also working on two other titles, so more news might trickle out about this release sometimes later this year. For those interested, Telltale games are currently working Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones too. With many speculating and hoping that there might be a season 2 for their recently released The Wolf Among Us.

Source: Twitter

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GCC gcc-4.9.0 terminally broken warns Linus Torvalds, don’t use it

Monday 28th of July 2014 04:26:02 PM

Version 4.9.0 of GCC, The GNU Compiler Collection, is terminally broken warns Linus Torvalds, the father of the Linux kernel. He says, “We may need to add a warning to make sure nobody compiles with gcc-4.9.0, and the Debian people should probably downgrate their shiny new compiler.”

The issue came to notice when random panic was detected in load balance with Linux 3.16-rc. It also gives us a glimpse of those rare moments when Linus gets upset with developers. Linus responded on the LKML (Linux Kernel Mailing List):

Ok, so I’m looking at the code generation and your compiler is pure and utter *shit*.

Adding Jakub to the cc, because gcc-4.9.0 seems to be terminally broken.

Lookie here, your compiler does some absolutely insane things with the spilling, including spilling a *constant*. For chrissake, that compiler shouldn’t have been allowed to graduate from kindergarten. We’re talking “sloth that was dropped on the head as a baby” level retardation levels here…

GCC is used as standard compiler for free and open source Unix-like operating systems such as Linux BSD. Linus marked cc to Jakub Jelinek of Red Hat who released GC 4.9.0 in April.

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Think twice before giving your keys to people, this app can copy your keys

Monday 28th of July 2014 12:52:26 PM

I remember those good old Indian thrillers where a criminal would make a copy of house key by pressing it against a soap bar. The easiest way for an investigator or detective to figure it out was tracing soap on the key.

They were entertaining back in those days. The technology has evolved but copying keys to gain access to premises still remains a workable method for criminals.

Now there is an iPhone app called KeyMe which uses the device’s camera to scan any key and save it to user’s keychain. The user can then go to the kiosk of the company and print the key.

That’s not the goal of the app developer though, the goal is to make it easier for owners to create copies of keys, but any technology can be mis-used and KeyMe is no exception.

So next time you are handing your keys to random people, think twice.

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NASA providing 3D printable models of Satellites and Planetary features

Monday 28th of July 2014 11:34:08 AM

Space, the last frontier! Most of us have always been fascinated by Space and everything related to it. Be it Space crafts or Satellites or planets, there has always been something mesmerizing about the dark empty void that surrounds our Earth. Now thanks to NASA, we can have a tiny piece of that very thing close to us. NASA has transformed quite a number of their collection of satellites, space crafts, asteroids and features of Mars & Moon into 3D printable models and made them available to the general public. All you now need is a 3D printer to download and print those designs and own your very own piece of space that’s highly accurate!

NASA has been providing 3D models of various space related, as well as aviation related, models for quite some time now, but the latest 22 models added by NASA are specifically tailored for 3D printing. As such, the 3D models are properly scaled down to fit inside a 3D printer, so that the models are no bigger than 4 inch, which handy for collectors. Now, a question might arise as to why we couldn’t just scale down those previous models and print those, right? The answer, as pointed out by a comment, is that simply scaling down would also give rise to various inconsistencies, like thinning of the walls and stuff. But instead, these models are professionally scaled down, so those problems are non-existent. As such the only problem would be the lack of a 3D printer, but since the models are professionally made, they can be sent off to professional 3D printers, who can then have it made and shipped to you for a nominal price.

The available models at the moment includes space crafts like Kepler, Cassini & Voyager, along with various parts of the space crafts, like flight assistance systems and escape pods. The models also include planetary features of Mars like the Gale Crater and the Valles Marineris canyons, and parts of the Moon including scans of its near and far side. Even though these are based on the actual objects, NASA is still open to suggestions about whether the currently published models need anymore tweaking to resemble the original object.

The 3D printable models can be downloaded from here. The entire collection of the models on offer can be accessed from here.

Source: The Verge

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How tiered Internet in US may help create a surveillance state

Monday 28th of July 2014 11:33:43 AM

The net neutrality debate has been going on the United States for a number of years now, put simply, net neutrality means keeping a non-tiered internet, all content can reach users at the same speed.

Recently a paper by Sascha D. Meinrath and Sean Vitka was published in the journal “Critical Studies in Media Communication”, it sets out that entities may use encryption in an attempt not to be subjugated to the ‘slow lane’. The paper says “..if an ISP can’t tell what sort of application is being used, it doesn’t know whether to prioritize or de-prioritise a specific communications stream — which is why good encryption breaks one of the fundamental assumptions for this new business model. Since encryption can help circumvent discriminatory practices, the incentive to use it will expand with practices like tiering.”

This leads to the fear that if encryption goes up as a response to a tiered internet that it may lead to ISP automatically assigning encrypted traffic to the ‘slow lane’ or just outright ban it.

In this post-Snowden world the implicit parties in spying seem unrepentant and governments are still seeking to increase their spying powers, for instance, Russia has passed a law requiring internet companies to store Russian citizens’ personal data inside the country; whilst this action keeps the data out of foreign governments hands it lays it into those of the Russian state which is an equally negative precedent for many people in Russia.

Similarly Britain recently passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) bill, which was announced a week before it was signed into law. The bill requires that companies keep phone calls, SMS messages and internet usage.

Similar laws are appearing in most countries and it’s likely that privacy-conscious people will want to maintain their privacy against Big Brother by using encryption, however this action could be impeded if encryption gets shoved into a ‘slow lane’ or banned entirely as a response to people using other forms of encryption to evade tier rules.

Source: Techdirt

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Rumors circulate Motorola is building the next Nexus device

Sunday 27th of July 2014 09:42:33 PM

Over the last few months there has been much speculation over the future of Google’s Nexus range. Reports initially suggested the Nexus 6 was being discontinued although not long afterwards this was officially denied by Google. Since then reports have flickered in and out contradicting each other.

We now can reveal VERY early reports are suggesting the Nexus line is not dead and in fact Motorola are already working on the new Nexus device. This at the moment is still only at the rumor stage with Android Police this morning reporting they have received unconfirmed reports the device is being manufactured by Motorola and is set for release sometime in the fall. Possibly November. The device at the moment is codenamed Shamu although again this has not been in any way confirmed. In fact at present the only evidence provided to support the rumor is a screenshot taken from Google’s issue tracker referencing ‘Shamu’.

According to the Android Police they are giving this rumor “6.5 out of 10″ in terms of confidence. Although this does not sound that high when you remember this is simply a rumor it does seem likely that there is some substantial reasons to believe the rumor is true.

In addition to the rumor advising Motorola is making the device, we are also hearing this will somewhat cross over in terms of size and functionality between a phone and tablet (phablet) with a 5.9” screen. The resolution is unknown as are most of the other specs although Android Police do advise that it is likely the device will have a fingerprint scanner.

In terms of its release it is expected (if the rumors are true) that the device will be launched sometime in November which again does highly fit in with when we expect Android L to be released which again would add weight to the Shamu rumor.

Source: Android Police

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Valve revamping their Steam Controller

Sunday 27th of July 2014 09:42:09 PM

So after a confirmed delay of their Steam boxes, Valve now releases a new bomb in the form of an uplift of their Steam Controller. And from the looks of it, it is a major facelift for the controller that generated a huge chunk of expectation as the first PC focused controller giving the freedom of a mouse and keyboard and then utterly disappointing fans (myself included). The tweet from Steam Database comes in the form of a picture with the various buttons labeled, as you would find in some games.

If you’ve ever held an Xbox 360 controller, then you know what the Steam controller would feel like, in reverse. The basic build of the controller is that of an inverted 360 controller frame. The new controller retains that design, since it wasn’t really a hindrance and many people actually found it comfortable, like the 360 controller too. So no complains there, after all, if it ain’t broken, why fix it, right? With that out of the way, the most defining feature of the previous controller was the lack of any thumbsticks. In a world where dual analog thumbsticks were the norm, Valve shook up the work by completely abandoning them and replacing them with touchpads divided into zones. The idea was radical, yet novel! And the implementation of the mouse controlling along with Kinetic controls and the movement keys with the modifier ring was a stroke of brilliance. Though in reality, there were a few kinks, like many games detecting simple slides as swipes and thus making characters sprint like crazy. Also was the fact that the lack of pressure sensitivity that thumbsticks afford, made the controller a bit less precise. Couple that with weird button placements on the left side, which had you Shift+Tab’ing when all you wanted was Tab, made the design one of its biggest gripes.

But from the look of the picture tweeted, it seems that Valve has taken the efforts to try and solve just that! As a result, the most striking feature in the new version of the controller is that it now sports a thumbstick! Just like the Xbox 360 controller, the touchpads are where the thumbsticks are with the right one being in place of the four buttons, while instead of a D-Pad, there is a thumbstick. Strangely though, the pictures doesn’t show any demarcated zones on the touchpads for the deadzones, the movement zone and the modifiers, like the previous. Until we can actually get our hands on a physical controller, there is no way to tell about it either. Along the same line, it really can’t be said whether the new touchpads are clickable like the previous, though there were people complaining about the controller detecting movements when trying to click. So that’s another question that only a physical controller can answer.

Coming back to thumbsticks, sure it should provide the added precision that people wanted. But going with a thumbstick instead of a D-Pad also brings with it the issue that plagues all game controllers, that of broken thumbsticks. They could’ve gone with a D-Pad in my opinion, since if Valve is aiming to tie various menu management to the thumbstick, like quick accessing the inventory, maps or skill sheet, a D-Pad would’ve been just fine and an even sturdier option. Whatever it is though, we need to wait till a physical controller comes out of Valve’s doors.

Moving on, the shoulder buttons are a bit redesigned and I really like it. The new design takes into account the finger positions with the insides elevated, so should be really comfortable to hold in hand and use. Though not shown in the picture, the controller retains the paddle buttons, which were really fun and comfortable to use, along with the trigger button, which is a bare essential for most controllers now, as set by the 360 controller. The next major change is the face button settings. No more are the four buttons place awkwardly at the four corners of the large square with buttons that was supposed to be screen. The buttons are neatly arranged in the familiar diamond layout at the bottom right. Though ergonomically speaking, switching between the large touchpad region and the diamond layout with just the thumb can be a bit troublesome. But it might be too early to speculate on that based on just a picture. The buttons seems to be slightly tinted too and not just a single colour. From the picture, the Y, B, X & A are tinted light shades of yellow, red, blue & green, respectively.

As mentioned earlier, the space for the screen with the weird four quadrant button in the middle is gone. And I’m quite happy; those buttons were ugly as was the long space bar shaped back, home and start. Thankfully, Valve has decided to ditch those buttons in favour of more aesthetic smaller rectangles for the back and start while a nice little oval button for the home. The combination of the three looks classy and aesthetic. With that, the controller looks a lot more organized and gaming friendly and not just an uninviting mess.

Just from the picture, Valve seems to have done a commendable job molding something like the first version of the controller, into a completely different, professional gaming device. The new controller looks aesthetic and ergonomically inviting. Couple that with programmable buttons and macros, the controller can really work. The few quirks that come to mind can be addressed easily though tweaks or might be completely unrelated if Valve can cleverly implement their functionalities.

But the big question remains, will it be able to replace the king of controllers, the Xbox 360, or the Xbox One controller for the PC? The new Xbox One controller comes with tweaked features like rumble motors for the trigger buttons, for that authentic car startups or heartbeat feelings when you’re low on health and tighter deadzones for the thumbsticks for even more precision in stealth and such. Plus the fact that most games have separate configurations built into them for the Xbox controllers, so that when you plug them in the interface changes to prompt you in the controller button lingo. Valve has a very good looking controller going for it compared to the previous one. So if they can fix that issue of having to download button configuration from servers and thus needing internet connection to play with the controller, they can go real close to the Xbox controllers. Maybe they can release the APIs, like they do with Steamworks and make the controller an integral part of games on Steam.

Whatever be the turn out, the Valve did a really good job on the new controller and it will be exciting to see what they have done physically when the new version of the controller is available physically for people to play with.

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Kim Dotcom wants to ‘abolish mass surveillance’… with more legislating?

Sunday 27th of July 2014 09:10:01 PM

Entrepreneur, singer and… politician, Kim Dotcom has made a pledge to the New Zealand voters over mass surveillance.

In an interview with The Guardian he is quoted as saying that his party will “abolish mass surveillance and rejuvenate politics by giving the internet generation a voice.”

It will be interesting to see how his Pirate Party inspired political party, the ‘Internet Party‘, will accomplish this however. Thanks to previous Snowden revelations we know that New Zealand is a part of the ‘Five Eyes‘ collective that is a special group that trade surveillance data. The ‘Five Eyes’ consist of: Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United Stated of America. We may see legislation that would remove New Zealand from this group of countries or just see laws passed that cripple New Zealand’s own agency so that domestic spying is reduced. This however does not ‘abolish mass surveillance’ from outside countries, so maybe we may see more products that encrypt users data.

Aside from his political ventures he also looks set to be moving with his music service Baboom, in recent months his temporary site which starred his own album, ‘Good Times’, has been updated to see blog posts with members of the Baboom team talking about the project.

Source: Boing Boing

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Comic Con 2014 – a look back!

Sunday 27th of July 2014 09:07:37 PM

San Diego’s Comic Con kicked off Thursday and ran over the weekend, the convention is world renowned for in pop-culture circles and attracts many fans. This year it hosts hit titles including The Hobbit, LEGO Batman and Far Cry 4.

As expected the crowds and queues were long as people waited to buy limited edition toys that were exclusives to the convention and no doubt help towards the visitors recouping the costs of their tickets after selling the toys on eBay.

Comic Con 2014 attracted people from across the board as some of the popular panels includes, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Warner Bros and Marvel Studios. Away from the panels on the showroom floor a Terminus set was present from The Walking Dead and also a photo booth where people could get a photo with taxidermy animals from Bates Motel.

Other films that were showcased included: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The Giver and Sharknado 2: The Second One, to name a few.

Also plenty of new games were showcased, they include: LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, Batman: Arkham Knight, Far Cry 4, Mass Effect, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, Sunset Overdrive. As with the films listed, these were just a few of the titles being shown off.

For all Big Bang Theory fans out there, Wil Wheaton tweeted a link to the Serial Ape-ist 2 trailer which was shown at Comic Con.

Source: IGN, IGN

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Delhi Metro to sell rights to name stations

Saturday 26th of July 2014 01:41:24 PM

If you want to name a Delhi Metro station after the name of your company or brand, here’s your chance. In a first, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has decided to auction off rights to have stations named after companies and their brands. The privilege is not going to come cheap though.

DMRC has so far named its stations based on the location. The latest move by DMRC is part of its business development measures.

“The selected bidder or licensee shall have exclusive semi-naming rights at selected Metro stations. The licensee will suffix the brand name with the name of the station. In addition, the licensee shall also be granted advertisement rights at the station,” The Times of India quoted Delhi Metro spokesman Anuj Dayal as saying.

To start with, Delhi Metro is putting nine station names on auction block. These include Huda City Centre, IFFCO Chowk, MG Road, Guru Dronacharya, Noida City Centre, Golf Course, Botanical Garden, Noida Sector 18 and Vaishali.

If it elicits a good response, DMRC may extend the practice to other stations as well, Dayal added.

Set up in May 1995 under the Indian Companies Act, the DMRC has equal equity participation (50% each) from the Government of India and the Government of Delhi.

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OnePlus coming to India!

Saturday 26th of July 2014 01:37:10 PM

OnePlus have responded to what seems to be a clear demand for the One in India.

An administrator responded on the OnePlus blog by giving a clear indication the One will eventually be available to buy in India. At launch (even though there was no official launch) the OnePlus One was only available in North America and Europe. However it now seems that India is one of the country’s most eager to purchase the device. According to the OnePlus blog India ranks eight in the world via traffic trying to obtain the device through the OnePlus site. If this is correct than this ranks India higher than a number of the countries the device was actually launched in.

It seems OnePlus did not anticipate such a demand from India and responded today by clearly announcing their intention to make sure the One does become available in the future. Until now Indian consumers have had to purchase the device indirectly through the US system, mailing to a US address and then having someone forward the device to India.

In spite of the clear acknowledgement of both the demand and wanting to satisfy the demand OnePlus did not actually offer any firm dates in terms of when the phone will become available. Instead the current post was simply an admission of both India’s interest and the company’s intention to eventually make the device available.

Being such a young company, we also know that India is a huge challenge. We’re all about creating a great user experience from end to end. We understand that there are lots to learn, consider and set up before we can officially launch in this vast country

The lack of firm dates won’t be what the Indian market would have wanted to hear however this may at least go some way to reassuring this emerging market that the device will (at some point) be on its way. However, most potential buyers (both in India and elsewhere) will have to get past the notorious and highly unsuccessful invite system before they worry about shipping addresses.

To read the blog in full head over to the OnePlus thread

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This magical tree bears 40 different types of fruit

Friday 25th of July 2014 12:02:55 PM

Sam Van Aken, art professor from Syracuse University, always wanted to combine the aesthetic of sculpture with the agricultural wonder of planting trees. Or as he puts it, he wished to transubstantiate a thing where the appearance of a thing remains the same while the reality changes.

In 2008, Van Aken bought an orchid in the New York State Agricultural Station — with varieties of stone fruit about 150 to 200 years old — which was about to close due to lack of money.

So what he came up with is a unique tree called the Tree of 40 Fruit that bears 40 varieties of stone fruit and blossoms in different tones of pink, white, red and purple.

Using a unique process called “sculpture through grafting,” Van Aken grew the hybridised fruit tree from the combination of his early career focused on art and his childhood days in a family farm in Reading, Pennsylvania.

As Van Aken mentions on his website, “Each unique Tree of 40 Fruit grows over forty different types of stone fruit including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds. Sculpted through the process of grafting, the Tree of 40 Fruit blossom in variegated tones of pink, crimson and white in spring, and in summer bear a multitude of fruit.”

It takes about five years to develop each unique Tree of 40 Fruit.

“At first, Van Aken combines a few types onto the root structure of a single tree, allowing his “working tree” to mature to at least two years old. Then he proceeds to add more varieties to the limbs in a sequence called “chip grafting.” Van Aken inserts a budding branch into an incision in the working tree — with a piece of tape, no less — and allows the limb to function as a normal appendage of the plant,” HuffPost said in a report.

Van Aken has so far placed 16 trees in museums, community centers, and private art collections around the country, including in Newton, Massachusetts; Pound Ridge, New York; Short Hills, New Jersey; Bentonville, Arkansas; and San Jose, California.

“I was able to see the grafting process while growing up on a farm and have always been fascinated by how one living thing cut could be cut inserted into another living thing and continue to grow,” Van Aken told HuffPost.

“As this fascination evolved I came to see grafting used as a metaphor for sexuality such as in Ovid’s Metamorphosis and the modern man such as Frankenstein. Like the forms in these books I wanted the tree to be the beginning of a narrative. A form that when seen causes one to create narrative,” he added.

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Chrome Beta receives dedicated Material Design updates

Friday 25th of July 2014 12:02:18 PM

Today Google announced Chrome Beta has received a relatively major update. Chrome Beta is the testing version of Chrome. To all purposes it is the same as Chrome although the Beta version incorporates all the small tweaks and experimental aspects Google are testing. By using the Beta version the user gets a first glimpse at features which quite likely will be available on the standard Chrome and also provides Google with the necessary test data.

Today on the Chrome blog Google announced Beta had received an update which included multiple Material Design updates. These may be small at first with minor tweaks to the appearance, function and design however these will eventually manifest into the complete Material Design based Chrome ready for Android L.

The blog does not really comment on what the updates are specifically except that these are included with Material Design in mind. Images released by Google do suggest that the Material Design updates include the more L based look and general appearance of data.

In addition to the updates for Material Design Beta also includes a simplified sign-in, multiple bug fixes and performance improvements.

Beta can be downloaded directly from the Play Store (with the new updates) by clicking here. This simply is an alternative to Chrome standard although as it is a Beta it is always best to be prepared for minor issues or bugs. Knowing Google this won’t be too much of an issue to be fair. Beta can also be downloaded for your desktop if interested although at the moment there is no confirmation the desktop version has received the same update. To download the desktop version than head over to the Chrome Beta download page.

If you want to read the blog in full than you can by heading over to the main blog release or by visiting the full Chrome blog thread. If you do try Beta and do notice any bugs than you can report them to Google directly by clicking here.

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