[Update: Gone from the beta too] Twitter removes its homescreen widget support from the latest alpha

Twitter is struggling to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. Life can be tough when you’re a social network that almost everyone has heard about but no one knows how to use when they’re just joining for the first time.

But despite these tumultuous times at Twitter’s headquarters, the Android app has seen some of its best days in the past few months: an overhauled Material Design inspired interface, a test for a night mode, Android N Direct Reply, and more. But instead of giving something new, the latest Twitter alpha 6.9.0 takes away a feature: the homescreen widget.

If you have the widget added to your homescreen, you will see the above message instead when you’re on the latest alpha. The widget is clearly no longer functional. Whether this change will carry through to the beta and stable versions remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Twitter’s Android developers are at least considering the possibility of removing the widget support altogether. Maybe they found out it wasn’t used all that much and the people who had added it were so few that it didn’t warrant keeping it alive and supported. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, feel free to cry foul in the comments below.

[Source:-Android Central]

Telegram for Android gets themes in latest beta, code shows work on payments

Development releases of Telegram on desktop and Android show that users will be able to theme their apps through an easy-to-use menu. Technically, Telegram on desktop has had theme support ever since the 1.0 release last month, however, it was not easy to set a custom theme because you either had to code one for yourself or hunt one down in dedicated groups and channels.

The new theme selector in Telegram looks quite powerful, rather than having a marketplace of themes to pick, users can select the colour of each individual component of the messenger. Any themes you make will be accessible in the themes menu so that you can switch between them as you want. The beta also gives you the option of editing an existing theme and of sharing it with contacts.

One other feature was uncovered in the latest beta of Telegram, but it doesn’t appear to exist anywhere outside the underlying code just yet, meaning you can’t use it. It looks as though Telegram will soon include payment functionality. At this early stage, it’s impossible to know how it’ll work, but Telegram could seek to partner up with various financial bodies to incorporate their services into the app. Last month, Telegram’s CEO Pavel Durov said that calls will be coming to the app soon.

[Source:-Neowin]

Latest Version of WordPress Fixes 62 Bugs and 8 Flaws

latest rendition of this CMS. The release notes accompanying the launch of the updated version of the software explain that it fixes 62 issues along with 8 security vulnerabilities.

The WordPress team stated that the 4.7 version of the CMS was downloaded more than 10 million times since it was made available on the 6th of December, 2016.

Thus, one such fix involved patching an RCE or remote code execution flaw – monitored under number CVE-2016-10033 – by updating the PHPMailer library. A core developer at WordPress, Aaron D. Campbell explained that there wasn’t any particular problem affecting the platform itself or any of the plugins they looked into, but they preferred to be abundantly cautious and update the PHPMailer in the new release.

Two experts, namely Chris Jean and Brian Krogsgard, found that any users who had written a public-post-type post had all their data exposed by the REST API.

The new rendition of the CMS also deals with two XSS or cross-site scripting flaws that showed up in plugins.

The advisory states that one XSS flaw was discovered by Dominik Schilling, who is a member of WordPress’ security team, and could be an issue through the name of the plugin or the header featuring the version on update-core.php.

The other XSS problem was found in the “theme name fallback” and was found thanks to Mehmet Ince.

Some of the other problems addressed included two CSRF or cross-site request forgery flaws. Thus, the ability to bypass CSRF through the upload of a Flash file was found thanks to Abdullah Hussam, while the CSRF issue present when one edits widgets in accessibility mode was uncovered by Ronnie Skansing.

Experts said that the CSRF theme issue Abdullah Hussam discovered is vulnerable to exploitation when a specially created Flash file is used. The other issue that Ronnie Skansing reported has an impact on the widget-editing feature when it is done in accessibility mode.

The new WordPress version also addresses another flaw revealed by a blogger who goes solely by Jack. Thus, poor security of the cryptography related to the activation key for multiple sites was dealt with.

John Blackbourn, another member of WordPress’ security team, identified another issue, namely that if default settings aren’t modified, the post-through-email system automatically looks at mail.example.com.

The advisory explains that sites with the auto background updating feature enabled have already begun to update to WordPress 4.7.1. For those without this feature, they will have to either download and install the new version or just go to their Dashboard and click on Updates, then Update Now.

Sucuri, a security company, recently issued a report stating that WordPress is still the CMS that gets hacked the most. According to Pierluigi Paganini, of the 44,705 WordPress plugins that are available, over 8,800 of them have vulnerabilities.

Paganini explained that RIPS Technologies looked at the WordPress plugins directory – the official one – and examined 44,705 plugins. The result was that more than 8,800 of them have problems.

[Source:-Soapedia]

Adobe is forcing people to install a Chrome Plugin with its latest Reader update

This week Adobe pushed out a series of crucial security fixes to its PDF reader. Alongside the updates, the software firm appears to have installed an extra plugin onto the computers of customers.

According to numerous unconnectedindividuals on Twitter, the latest Adobe Reader update prompts people to install a Google Chrome Plugin.

The Adobe Acrobat and Reader updates (15.023.20053) are part of a release designed to fix a flaw that could let hackers take “control of the affected system”. But when you install this security fix, the Adobe Acrobatplugin is automatically added to your browser.

“It auto-installed,” security expert Troy Hunt told WIRED. “I literally walked up to my PC and the prompt was already there.”

When enabling or downloading the Chrome Plugin, people are required to grant it three specific permissions next time they open Chrome: to “read and change all your data on the websites you visit”, “manage your downloads”, and “communicate with cooperating native applications”. The plugin is intended to let users easily convert websites into PDFs. It should be noted that you can choose not to enable the plugin, and you don’t have to hand over permissions to Adobe in order for the bug fixes to take effect.This technique of auto-installing plugins is typically used by hackers to get access to people’s computers. Although this Adobe plugin appears to be from a legitimate source, it’s concerning that a company dogged with security issues should use such a tact.

WIRED has contacted Adobe for comment on the auto-install but the firm had not responded at the point of publication.

Adobe, in support documentation, issued alongside the plugin, says URL data is not collected for the company. “This [permission] is required to allow the extension to convert HTML content to PDF,” Adobe says. “However, the URL information is not sent back to Adobe.”

Hunt added: “I suspect Adobe is attempting to take a slice out of the native in-browser PDF viewers, but this certainly felt a bit too bullish.”

The firm continued that the information collected only includes the browser type and version, Adobe desktop production information, and data on how menu options or buttons are selected. It does not include personal information that could be used to identify a person, for example. Adobe claims that it details how it uses that information in its privacy policy.

The Adobe security updates were introduced to stop potential hackers from accessing computers remotely and installing malware. Across Adobe Reader, Acrobat and Flash Player there were 42 fixes for known problems.

[Source:-Wired]

Latest Version of WordPress Fixes 62 Bugs and 8 Flaws

latest-version-of-wordpress-fixes-62-bugs-and-8-flaws

This Wednesday saw the release of WordPress’ latest version, which the team categorized as a security edition for every version before 4.7.1, the number of the latest rendition of this CMS. The release notes accompanying the launch of the updated version of the software explain that it fixes 62 issues along with 8 security vulnerabilities.

The WordPress team stated that the 4.7 version of the CMS was downloaded more than 10 million times since it was made available on the 6th of December, 2016.

Thus, one such fix involved patching an RCE or remote code execution flaw – monitored under number CVE-2016-10033 – by updating the PHPMailer library. A core developer at WordPress, Aaron D. Campbell explained that there wasn’t any particular problem affecting the platform itself or any of the plugins they looked into, but they preferred to be abundantly cautious and update the PHPMailer in the new release.

Two experts, namely Chris Jean and Brian Krogsgard, found that any users who had written a public-post-type post had all their data exposed by the REST API.

The new rendition of the CMS also deals with two XSS or cross-site scripting flaws that showed up in plugins.

The advisory states that one XSS flaw was discovered by Dominik Schilling, who is a member of WordPress’ security team, and could be an issue through the name of the plugin or the header featuring the version on update-core.php.

The other XSS problem was found in the “theme name fallback” and was found thanks to Mehmet Ince.

Some of the other problems addressed included two CSRF or cross-site request forgery flaws. Thus, the ability to bypass CSRF through the upload of a Flash file was found thanks to Abdullah Hussam, while the CSRF issue present when one edits widgets in accessibility mode was uncovered by Ronnie Skansing.

Experts said that the CSRF theme issue Abdullah Hussam discovered is vulnerable to exploitation when a specially created Flash file is used. The other issue that Ronnie Skansing reported has an impact on the widget-editing feature when it is done in accessibility mode.

The new WordPress version also addresses another flaw revealed by a blogger who goes solely by Jack. Thus, poor security of the cryptography related to the activation key for multiple sites was dealt with.

John Blackbourn, another member of WordPress’ security team, identified another issue, namely that if default settings aren’t modified, the post-through-email system automatically looks at mail.example.com.

The advisory explains that sites with the auto background updating feature enabled have already begun to update to WordPress 4.7.1. For those without this feature, they will have to either download and install the new version or just go to their Dashboard and click on Updates, then Update Now.

Sucuri, a security company, recently issued a report stating that WordPress is still the CMS that gets hacked the most. According to Pierluigi Paganini, of the 44,705 WordPress plugins that are available, over 8,800 of them have vulnerabilities.

Paganini explained that RIPS Technologies looked at the WordPress plugins directory – the official one – and examined 44,705 plugins. The result was that more than 8,800 of them have problems.

[Source:-Socpedia]

Tube strike: Travel chaos continues throughout London evening rush-hour – latest news and travel updates

Transport for London is running a limited services on nine out of 11 Tube lines and expects 69 per cent of stations to open across the network despite the “unnecessary strike”.

Passengers have been advised to expect disruption beyond the scheduled end of the strike at 6pm, as millions of commuters attempt to make their way home after work.

There has been a 149 per cent increase in Santander cycle hires while commuters opting for buses have complained of overcrowding.

Watch | Hundreds queue for buses amid tube strike

00:36

For customers travelling to Canary Wharf from central London, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) services are running but will be busier than usual.

Enhanced river services are linking central London and Canary Wharf.

Buses, roads and rail services are also expected to be much busier than usual, particularly those bus routes serving major interchange stations.

TfL deployed “travel ambassadors” to help people get around the city and around 150 extra buses are deployed to enhance existing routes.

A pedestrian passes closed gates at at Elephant and Castle Underground Station in London
A pedestrian passes closed gates at at Elephant and Castle Underground Station in London CREDIT: DOMINIC LIPINSKI/PA WIRE

Although National Rail services are not affected by the strike there are no Underground services from key interchange stations such as Victoria, King’s Cross, Waterloo, Paddington, Euston, Bank and London Bridge.

There are no services at all on the Victoria or Waterloo & City lines.

Closed gates at London's Liverpool Street Underground Station as a 24-hour strike continued
Closed gates at London’s Liverpool Street Underground Station as a 24-hour strike continued CREDIT: JOHN STILLWELL/PA WIRE

Long queues at taxi ranks could also be seen, with little sign of any available cabs.

Business chiefs have warned of costly disruption of Southern Railway strikes.

Chambers of Commerce groups from the South East of England met with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Rail Minister Paul Maynard.

The representatives from Hampshire, London, Surrey, Sussex and Thames Valley Chambers, said: “Business communities and commuters across the South East of England are impatient for action after nearly a year of unpredictable and costly disruption.

“While firms have taken every step possible to support staff affected by strike action, businesses and local economies are hurting. It is incumbent upon all parties in the dispute to come to the table and reach a durable solution.”

Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, added: “London businesses and commuters are facing a double-whammy this week as they face disruption from both train and Tube strikes.

4:54pm

TfL running limited services on nine out of 11 Tube lines

Transport for London  said it was running limited services on nine out of 11 Tube lines and expects 69 per cent of stations to open across the network despite the “unnecessary strike”.

For customers travelling to Canary Wharf from central London, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) services are running but will be busier than usual.

Enhanced river services are linking central London and Canary Wharf.

Buses, roads and rail services are also expected to be much busier than usual, particularly those bus routes serving major interchange stations.

TfL deployed “travel ambassadors” to help people get around the city and around 150 extra buses are deployed to enhance existing routes.

Although National Rail services are not affected by the strike there are no Underground services from key interchange stations such as Victoria, King’s Cross, Waterloo, Paddington, Euston, Bank and London Bridge.

There are no services at all on the Victoria or Waterloo & City lines.

Amid the chaos, people have been having a bit of fun on social media – as well as venting their frustration – under the hashtag #TubeStrike.

Here is Helena Horton‘s round-up of the best posts.

Rush for taxis

Long queues at taxi ranks could also be seen, with little sign of any available cabs.

Tracey Cooke, from Hertfordshire, who was waiting in line at Liverpool Street station, said there were no cars available through Uber or Addison Lee either.

“It is not good,” the 55-year-old said.

“When I got on the Stansted Express there were only four carriages – now I’ve been waiting for 45 minutes for a cab.”

Having supposed to have started work at 8.30am, she estimated she would be more than an hour late, adding that she could walk to Farringdon, but has a bad knee.

One man, who wished only to be named as Steve, was still waiting for a taxi at Liverpool Street at 8.45am, 15 minutes before he was due to be on the 9am train from King’s Cross to York.

He revealed he was starting a new job today.

He said of the Tube strike: “I did not know anything about it until yesterday afternoon.”

 

9:02am

‘Bonkers’ Clapham Junction evacuated

Commuters are saying the national rail station Clapham Junction, one of Britain’s busiest, has just been cleared due to overcrowding.

No trains were stopping at the station, which is normally served by trains to and from London Victoria and London Waterloo.

Commuters queue for trains at Clapham Junction
Commuters queue for trains at Clapham Junction CREDIT:  STEFAN WERMUTH

A South West Trains spokesman said: “This is the worst crowding I’ve seen at Clapham Junction for many years – no amount of planning can mitigate for this.”

More than 30 million passengers changed trains at the station in 2015/16, according to Office of Rail and Road figures, making it Britain’s busiest interchange station.

Mayor condemns strikes

Sadiq Khan is on BBC Radio 4 right now, and he has just condemned today’s tube strike.

He said: “I,  the Mayor of London, condemn these strikes, they are completely unnecessary.”

He added: “Why strike, why not resolve these disputes amicably?”

Mr Khan is appearing late on the Today programme – because of the strike. He got on to say a few words just before the show finished.

 

 

8:44am

TfL update: 60% of stations open

Transport for London  said it was running a limited services on eight out of 11 Tube lines and expects 60% of stations to open across the network despite the “unnecessary strike”.

Passengers were advised that although the strike ends at 6pm services are expected to be disrupted throughout the day and evening and journeys should be completed by 6pm.

For customers travelling to Canary Wharf from central London, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) services are running, however they will be busier than usual.

Enhanced river services are linking central London and Canary Wharf. Buses, roads and rail services are also expected to be much busier than usual, particularly those bus routes serving major interchange stations.

TfL deployed “travel ambassadors” to help people get around the city and around 150 extra buses are deployed to enhance existing routes.

Although National Rail services are not affected by the strike there are no Underground services from key interchange stations such as Victoria, King’s Cross, Waterloo, Paddington, Euston, Bank and London Bridge.

There are no services at all on the Victoria or Waterloo & City lines. TfL said the situation may change throughout the day and buses and the transport network will be very busy.

8:43am

Commuters’ experiences of the strike

Local government worker Michael Gunning, 27, from Romford, said: “It is very annoying, it makes life hard.

“Normally I would be on a train and half way there by now and be in work at 8am – now I’m probably not going to in until at least 8.30 or 9, I don’t know.”

He said he “kind of understands” why staff are striking, adding that it “doesn’t make sense to people”.

“It makes people less sympathetic to them and it’s worse for their reputation.”

Margaret King, from Chelmsford, Essex, said: “I think it is atrocious, I do not agree. I do not like people striking at all.

“I just do not see the point in it, it’s not helping anyone who has to travel to get to work.”

Doctor Simon Quantrill lives in Clapham and usually cycles part of his journey, but owing to the strike, he said this has taken him “much longer than it normally would”.

“It is really scary out there, cyclists are taking huge chances. The traffic is mad, the whole way up – especially around London Bridge and onwards.”

The 50-year-old said he supports the strike, adding: “I do not agree with cutting working staff at the stations… people do not want to go on strike. They don’t get paid.”

8:28am

London’s buses take the strain

 At London’s Liverpool Street Station, in the City of London commuters could be seen dashing towards the bus stops – already swollen by the amount of people trying to complete their rush-hour journeys.

The area outside the transport hub became a sea of people amongst lines of the cities red buses as the morning ticked over into its busiest period.

TfL workers and station staff in front of the shuttered main Tube entrance were also handing out central London bus and walking maps as they advised those in need on how to reach their destinations.

People queue for buses at Bishopsgate in the City of London
People queue for buses at Bishopsgate in the City of London CREDIT: JOHN STILLWELL/PA WIRE

 Journeys were bumpier than usual, with one passenger directing a bus driver who took a wrong turn.

The vintage Routemaster was on its way from Brixton to Stockwell when the driver went the wrong way.

The number two bus had been added as an extra service to cope with increased demand.

The conductor apologised: “First mistake of the morning, many more to come.

“We don’t do this often.”

One passenger then went to the assistance of the driver, giving him directions as he u-turned.

Commuters boarded the bus ready with Oyster cards only to be told the journey was free as payment pads do not exist on the old models.

What trains are running?

Not all stations are closed, and there are some services running.

Here’s the latest:

  • The Northern Line is operating between Edgware to Golders Green and High Barnet to Finchley Central only
  • The Piccadilly Line has trains running from Cockfosters to Arnos Grove only
  • The Jubilee Line is operating between Stanmore and Baker Street. No service on the rest of the line
  • The Bakerloo Line  is operating between Queens Park and Harrow & Wealdstone only, approximately every 10 mins. No service on the rest of the line
  • The Central Line has a service operating from West Ruislip to North Acton only.
7:38am

More misery for commuters

Tomorrow, there is more misery on the cards for London’s commuters as Southern Rail drivers go on strike.

Southern Rail will run no services on Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday because of walkouts in a long-running dispute over driver-only trains.

Train services will also be disrupted for the rest of the week because of a ban on overtime.

With only limited bus links from a small number of stations, the train company is advising people to make alternative arrangements wherever possible.

For those who have no option, Southern is providing limited bus and coach services each day to provide road links for essential travel from nine of its stations into nearby neighbouring train networks where they can connect into other train operators’ services.

Space on the buses will be limited. Anyone who does travel should expect to queue, plan for longer journeys and realise the service they join will be exceptionally busy, said Southern.

7:37am

RMT defends strike

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, RMT boss John Leach has defended the union’s action.

He said: “You can’t run the underground with 834 fewer staff and carry one million more people a day.”

7:33am

Full scale of disruption not clear

Tweets from TfL’s official account said it did not know how the wider network would be affected.

In a series of replies to queries from passengers, it said it would not know which stations would be closed “until staff do or don’t turn up for work” on Monday.

[Source:-BBC]

The Latest at CES: Companies up ‘wow’ factor to stand out

The Latest on the CES gadget show in Las Vegas (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

Companies are upping the “wow” factor trying to stand out as the CES gadget show formally opens in Las Vegas.

Samsung, one of the largest exhibitors at the show, is offering demonstrations of its boat racing, air show and other virtual-reality experiences in chairs that move around. Hyundai is offering VR demos for people to experience what it’s like to ride in an autonomous car.

Also drawing crowds are flashy concept cars like the Toyota Concept-i, with doors that flip up and a 3-D display inside.

Polaroid is showing off its Cube+ Wi-Fi camera with a bizarre display of rotating – but fake – monkeys wearing the camera. Camera images are displayed in a live feed above. It’s a nod to the monkey-shaped stand that Polaroid sells for the Cube.

On the TV front, LG wowed with an OLED 4K display tunnel, which people enter to see the new technology.

One of the longer lines on the floor was at MyCharger’s Power Up bar – which offered a free MyCharger along with what appeared to be green beer. It’s actually regular Sam Adams in a green dye-infused cup.

CES takes place over several, sprawling venues in Las Vegas. About 165,000 visitors are expected by the time it closes Sunday.

2:45 p.m.

Sometimes, it takes incentives to persuade people to change their habits.

Mobile payment services such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay still aren’t widely used, in part because it isn’t difficult for shoppers to pull out a plastic card at the cashier. Samsung tried to address that by offering points for each transaction, regardless of the amount spent – redeemable for gift cards and Samsung products.

At a CES panel Thursday, Samsung executive Nana Murugesan said that since the launch of Samsung Rewards in November, daily usage of Samsung Pay has nearly doubled, while the number of users who make purchases almost daily more than doubles each week.

The company hasn’t specified the number of users and transactions, though analysts say it’s still a small compared with cash and cards.

1:55 p.m.

Is Alexa spying on you?

It’s a fair question in light of attempts by authorities investigating the slaying of an Arkansas man to obtain voice recordings collected by an Amazon Echo speaker and its Alexa digital assistant.

Yet the popularity and capabilities of voice-enabled products such as the Echo continue to grow. At the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, which opened Thursday, Whirlpool, Samsung and other manufacturers are unveiling new ways to use voice services to control laundry machines, refrigerators and other home systems.

Consumers are apparently willing to trade a certain amount of privacy for convenience.

The issue first grabbed headlines a couple of years ago, after Samsung said sensitive conversations could be captured by its voice-controlled smart TVs.

Based on the flood of new voice-controlled gadgets headed to market, tech companies are betting that consumers will get over their fears. Comcast’s Derrick Dicol likens it to people getting used to sharing their banking information online.

1 p.m.

T-Mobile says unlimited plans will be the only option for new customers even though they are more expensive than some of its old, limited plans.

The company had said in August that it was phasing out its other plans in favor of just an unlimited plan. On Thursday, T-Mobile said those limited plans won’t be sold anymore starting Jan. 22. Existing customers can keep their current plans.

While some existing customers could switch over to the $70-a-month unlimited plan and save money, others would pay more. Most customers who just pay for one or two lines or who have a lower-data plan – 2 gigabytes per line – would save money by sticking to what they have.

And T-Mobile’s unlimited plan isn’t exactly unlimited. If the network is busy, T-Mobile may slow speeds on customers that used more than 28 gigabytes.

12:15 p.m.

Beauty brands L’Oreal and Karastase want to make bad hair days a thing of the past.

The two companies teamed up with tech company Withings on a Hair Coach brush that uses a microphone, gyroscope and other sensors to monitor how fast and how hard a person is brushing.

An accompanying app recommends how to brush for optimal quality and minimal breakage and split ends. It can also take into account hair-influencing factors like heat or humidity and even discern if hair is wet or dry.

The “smart brush” has been garnering buzz at the CES tech show in Las Vegas.

Vincent Nida, worldwide general manager at Paris-based Kerastase, says one of the top beauty queries online is consistently about taking better care of your hair.

The battery-powered brush starts collecting data when a user begins brushing. The smarts may seem like overkill considering the price of the brush – $200. By contrast, Amazon sells brushes for as little as $1.

But Nida says you’re getting a high-quality brush “even if you don’t have batteries or you don’t connect it to your cell phone.”

The Hair Coach brush is due out in mid-2017.

11:05 a.m.

Who needs a keyboard? Dell is introducing a new way to interact with your computer.

The Dell Canvas 27 is a 27-inch glass surface that sits flat on a desk in front of a monitor. The touch surface is where a keyboard would normally be. Various widgets are available to manipulate items on the monitor. The Canvas also comes with a pen for sketching and creating.

Dell envisions people using the device to edit photos and video, work on music and even work with financial tables. The goal is to replace clutter generally found on a desk. Instead of working with paper on a desk, just use the touch surface.

The device launches in the spring and is expected to cost less than $2,000 – or around $3,000 with the monitor included.

Lenovo has a similar concept in last fall’s Yoga Book. It’s a laptop that replaces the keyboard with a touch screen for both typing and doodling. But the screen is smaller, measuring 10 inches diagonally.

Dell announced the Canvas at the CES gadget show on Thursday. Tom Holland, star of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” also stopped by to introduce two Dell products – a tablet and a gaming laptop – that will appear in the movie.

10:15 a.m.

Smartphones can do almost anything, but how about molecular physics?

An Israeli startup has embedded a molecular sensor called Scio in a new smartphone that can analyze any material – whether that’s the nutritional content of an apple or a person’s body fat.

Consumer Physics’ scanners use infrared light to analyze molecular structure. The startup has been developing them for a few years, but this is the first time it’s embedded in a mobile device – one from Chinese phone manufacturer Changhong.

Is that a little too much science to carry around in your pocket?

Consumer Physics CEO Dror Sharon says knowledge is power. He explains, “When we go out and buy stuff, eat stuff, drink stuff, we think we know what’s in there, but we have no clue.”

Pricing and availability for the phone will be announced Friday at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

9:30 a.m.

Apple’s app store closed 2016 with 2.2 million apps, an increase of 20 percent from 2015.

Apple says New Year’s Day 2017 was the biggest day ever for app store purchases – people bought nearly $240 million of stuff in the digital marketplace.

Nintendo’s “Super Mario Run” was the most downloaded app worldwide on both Christmas and New Year’s Day. The app is free to download, but it costs a whopping $10 to play the full version.

In what should surprise no one, “Pokemon Go” was the year’s most popular app. The game peaked over the summer, when hordes of people prowled real-life locations to catch digital pocket monsters through its innovative augmented reality interface.

Other popular apps included Sweat With Kayla, a workout app, and Procreate, a painting and sketching app.

The milestones were announced as the CES gadget show in Las Vegas formally opened, though Apple has no official presence there.

8:20 a.m.

Intel thinks the future of virtual reality is skydiving in the desert, watching live sports from a ringside seat and cringing as zombies attack – all powered by Intel chips.

Wednesday’s demo featured leather chairs, Oculus sensors and headsets – and a barf bag, signaling this was not an ordinary press conference.

One demo was a live feed from a 360-degree camera attached to a drone inspecting solar panels in a desert. Intel was showing how the technology could be used in a work environment. A more exciting live feed showed a college basketball game between Butler and Villanova.

Travel experiences took viewers to a waterfall scene in Vietnam and a skydiving experience in the Moab Valley. A trailer for “Arizona Sunshine,” a VR game, made viewers jump as zombies lunged for them. No one – noticeably – made use of the barf bags.

CEO Brian Krzanich acknowledges that some people are questioning whether VR is going anywhere. He adds, “I hope these experiences give you a taste of where it’s going.”

The CES gadget show in Las Vegas formally opens Thursday after two days of media previews.

7:10 a.m.

Amazon doesn’t have an official presence at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas but its Alexa voice control software seems to be everywhere.

Whirlpool is adding Alexa voice control to its suite of smart-home appliances, including a stove and refrigerator. With that capability, someone can instruct the oven to pre-heat to 400 degrees by speaking a command to an Alexa-enabled device, such as Amazon’s Echo speaker.

Jason Mathew, senior director of global connected strategy for Whirlpool, says voice is “the most natural way to interact with a product.”

Other gadgets that include Alexa: Sensory and OnVocal are both launching headphones that incorporate Alexa. Simplehuman is announcing a voice-activated trash can. And GE Lighting is launching a table lamp that includes Alexa software.

Amazon has an edge on the market for now because its software has been out longer, but Google’s and Apple’s systems are catching up. Mathew says “Amazon is the most mature, but we expect to offer other options in the future.”

[Source:-AP]

Pickleball mania: Many craving latest rec department offering

SP PickleBall0873.jpg

MIDDLEBURY — “Pickleball.”

The name is comical, but the sport’s growing number of players are super-serious about an activity that is taking Middlebury’s new recreation facility by storm.

“It’s really a phenomenon,” Middlebury Parks & Recreation Department Director Terri Arnold said of the emergence of pickleball, now on par with “futsal” (indoor soccer) as the most popular pick-up sport at the rec center on Creek Road. Three days each week, more than 20 players — many of them north of 60 years old — take turns on the center’s three pickleball courts, volleying a perforated plastic ball back and forth in a hybrid sport that is equal parts pingpong and tennis.

Mike Korkuc, who lives near Lake Dunmore, plays pickleball five to seven days per week.

“It’s great exercise and a lot of fun,” he said, adding it’s a “wonderful” way to meet new people.

Korkuc is an active senior who enjoys hiking and snowshoeing. But pickleball also satisfies his thirst for competition, which he used to get through tennis.

“I need competition to keep moving,” he said. “This is nice, friendly competition. Two hours goes by and you don’t realize you’ve had any exercise. And you sleep well at night.”

Arnold once led recreation efforts in the area in which pickleball was born: Bainbridge Island, in Washington state. The sport was created in 1965 by three dads  — Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum — whose kids were bored with conventional summertime activities. The trio adapted their new sport to an old badminton court, using mainly badminton’s rules while eventually lowering the net to 36 inches. They started out using pingpong paddles to volley a whiffle ball back and forth.

Why did they call it “pickleball?” According to a brief history on the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) website, the originators named it after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it.

A pickleball court is the same size as a doubles badminton court — 20 feet by 44 feet. The net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. The court is striped similar to a tennis court with right and left service courts and a 7-foot, non-volley zone in front of the net, known as the “kitchen.”

The sport has really caught on since its invention 52 years ago, during which it has been refined in many ways.

According to the USAPA, there are now more than 15,000 indoor and outdoor pickleball courts in the country, with at least one location in all 50 states. Middlebury’s new recreation facility has emerged as one of Vermont’s premier pickleball palaces, thanks to Arnold and a solid Addison County contingent of players. For a contribution of $2, enthusiasts can get their fill of pickleball on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8 to 10 a.m., and from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays.

“You have a mixture of levels here — beginners, longtime players and ‘medium’ players,” Arnold said of the local pickleball crowd. “They all play together.”

It was two years ago that resident Neil Gruber approached local recreation officials about getting pickleball started in Middlebury.

“He brought us a portable net and said, ‘I’m willing to teach a clinic outside,’” Arnold recalled.

Twenty people showed up for Gruber’s first pickleball clinic at Middlebury’s recreation park.

Participants enjoyed the experience and wanted more. But their playing opportunities were limited by Mother Nature. This was before construction of Middlebury’s new recreation center, so enthusiasts were in a pickle if the weather outside was frightful.

“When we were building this recreation facility, I said, ‘We have to have pickleball courts,’” Arnold said.

She conceded not everyone shared the pickleball priority.

“I was asked, ‘Are you sure we’re going to need them?’” Arnold recalled of some town officials’ reaction. “I said, ‘This is going to be big.’”

So builders included the requisite colored lines and net moorings for three regulation pickleball courts.

And once they built it, people came. And they are coming in ever increasing numbers to play a sport that is now an event in the National Senior Games.

On this particular Thursday, former Vermont First Lady Dorothy Douglas and son Andrew joined the pickleball rotation at the Middlebury recreation facility.

“It is not uncommon for 20 to 25 people to be here on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday,” Arnold said. “Saturdays, it’s insane.”

Middlebury offers mostly pickup games, but that’s changing, The town’s rec facility hosted its first double-elimination pickleball tourney on Dec. 3; it drew 16 teams. Most of the regulars hail from the Middlebury area, but a few come from as far away as Mariah, N.Y.

The drop-in fee is $2, or they can get an even bigger bargain with a $10 punch card that entitles them to seven sessions.

   GAIL AND GEORGE Pilger compete in the Middlebury Recreation Department’s recent pickleball tournament. Middlebury has three indoor courts in the town’s new recreation center and two outdoor courts in the town rec park.

Independent photo/Trent Campbell

Middlebury’s three indoor courts and two dedicated outdoor courts at its recreation park make it arguably the most pickleball-friendly community in the state, according to Arnold. Outdoor pickleball uses a ball with smaller holes, to better regulate the speed of the orb’s pace off of asphalt. 

Still the number of players often exceeds the number of Middlebury’s available courts. So players must wait in line for courts to free up. Doubles teams rotate in and out, with winners staying in until they are defeated.

Those waiting in line for a court usually don’t sit idle too long — often just 5 or 10 minutes. Games are usually played to 11. So it’s not unusual for participants in the Middlebury drop-in sessions to play a dozen games per session.

SPECTATOR SPORT

Watching the games is a lot of fun, too.

“The rallies,” Arnold said of the pinnacle of pickleball play. “It’s unbelievable.”

It’s interesting to see the progress in individual players, Arnold added.

“Beginners start frustrated; they miss the ball a lot and we laugh a lot,” Arnold said. “But they move up really fast. It’s one of those games where get up and running very quickly.”

Novice players start out with basic equipment, and usually upgrade as they become more proficient in the sport, Arnold noted. The average, rudimentary pickleball paddle is made of wood. But players now use paddles primarily made of lightweight composite materials, including fiberglass, aluminum and graphite. Paddles have evolved to a size that is between a pingpong paddle and a tennis racquet. The pickleballs are still made of plastic, are slightly smaller than a whiffle ball, and come in several colors.

Locally, Forth ‘N Goal carries a nice range of pickleball supplies, according to Arnold.

Most pickleball players tend to be seniors, and that’s certainly true of the majority of Middlebury-area practitioners, several of whom reside at the two local retirement communities.

“It’s keeping them moving,” Arnold said. “Anyone can play, whether you’ve played tennis before or not. If you’ve played tennis, you do have a little bit of an advantage, because you have good hand-eye coordination. But even if you haven’t played tennis, you learn. You’re embarrassed the first few times you play … but before you know it, you’re able to compete with some of the better players here.”

Arnold said the sport is starting to appeal to all ages. She’s joined the crowd.

“I’d be playing right now if I could,” she smiled. She’s become a regular on Saturdays.

Neither sleet, hail, snow nor even holidays will impede passionate pickleballers from their appointed rounds. A group even reserved some court space in the rec center this past Christmas Day.

“The reason I like it is because you have to concentrate,” Arnold said. “You can’t for one second take your mind off of what you’re doing. That ball moves fast, and your reaction has to be fast. You work up a sweat.”

Arnold also enjoys the camaraderie among players.

“We all really like each other,” Arnold said. “It’s a really cohesive group.”

Korkuc has helped the pickleball community stay connected.

He is the county’s main clearinghouse for Addison County pickleball information, including the scheduling of tournaments and newsletters.

“He said, ‘We’ve got to get a handle on this,’” Arnold said of Korkuc’s efforts to coordinate the local passion for pickleball.

Korkuc’s pickleball email list has grown to around 100 players, according to Arnold.

“Not all of them (come to play), but all have expressed an interest,” Arnold said. “At least once or twice per week, I will get a phone call from someone saying, ‘I’ve heard you’ve got pickleball. If I show up, can I learn how to play?’”

ACTIVE SENIOR

Tai Hazard, 80, has been playing pickleball in Middlebury since last spring. She had broken her wrist playing racquetball, and pickleball got her back into the swing of things.

“It’s a really active sport,” Hazard, a resident of EastView at Middlebury, said of pickleball. “I used to play tennis, and (pickleball) gives you that same kind of movement.”

Since the pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, it is more forgiving to seniors who can’t cover real estate as quickly as they used to. And the drop-in games almost always involve doubles competition, which further reins in the amount of court players have to cover.

Hazard epitomizes the definition of “active senior.” She also practices tai chi and yoga and she walks.

“But there’s nothing like this,” Hazard said of pickleball. “I’m very happy this is here.”

Maggie Pegg Hails from Holden Beach, N.C. She was visiting the Middlebury area during the holidays, and was pleased to learn she could get her daily dose of pickleball at the local rec facility.

“It’s so much fun,” Pegg said. “Everybody is really nice and we have a great time. You get a lot of exercise.”

She called the sport “very addictive,” noting she plays almost every day.

Pickleball is already well established in Holden Beach, according to Pegg.

“My whole neighborhood plays,” she said, citing an age range of 40 to 70. “Pickleball actually healed our neighborhood. It was very fractured, and now everyone plays together.”

[Source:-Independent]

Apple iOS 10.2 Latest News: iOS Update Intensifies Bad Battery Life Issue

Apple’s iOS 10.2 has been introduced to improve the user experience, especially with iPhones. With that, Apple users who have been experiencing serious problems with their batteries had been anxiously anticipating the release of iOS 10.2. However, recent updates may have resulted to the contrary, as concerns regarding bad battery life continues to surface online.

Apple’s iOS 10.2 update has been getting bad reviews lately as it seemed to have intensified the bad battery issue from the previous version. After updating their devices to iOS 10.2, many consumers have reported experiencing the so-called 30 percent battery bug.

Previously, Apple acknowledged a problem with some iPhone 6s units and older iPhone models. Once the remaining charge reaches 30 percent, the phones shut down as if they had run out of power. Apple explained that air contaminated individual battery components, and that freak occurrence is responsible for the current shutdowns. A free repair was offered for those units affected. However, only iPhone 6s units sold in September and October 2015 are eligible for the free repair.

Many Apple enthusiasts hoped Apple’s iOS 10.2 update would include a fix for the aggravating issue. However, for some users, the battery problems plaguing many older iPhone models have only gotten worse. The battery life reading and display may have also been affected by the update. It goes from 30 percent to 1 percent but stays at that 1 percent reading for a significant period of time.

Some people are now searching for methods on how to prolong iPhone battery life, while waiting for Apple to solve the iOs 10.2 issue. Some helpful remedies and tips to conserve battery life on iPhone include turning off Raise to Wake function of the device. This would help avoid unnecessary battery use, especially if users regularly pick the unit or swing it in their hand while walking. Another remedy is to get rid of any widget, as most widgets would consume batter power to keep up to date. Turning off background applications may also prolong battery life.

[SOURCE:-Mobile apps]

The Princeton University Orchestra introduces a faculty member’s latest composition

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The Princeton University music professor — whose “Piano Concerto” will premiere Dec. 8 at Princeton University with the composer herself at the piano along with the Princeton University Orchestra– has a compelling sound “the likes of which I’ve never heard before,” said Michael Pratt, conductor of The Princeton University Orchestra.

“Composers need to find their voice, something unique to them, and she has that. She’s found that,” Pratt said. “I think she’s young and has a long career ahead of her and she’ll make a tremendous mark.”

Seo’s composition will be framed by Beethoven’s “Coriolan Overture,” Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” and Stravinksy’s “Firebird Suite.” That’s fitting as Seo said her  22-minute concerto takes inspiration from “Beethoven’s wacky scherzos,” the Bad Plus and even Princeton’s school song, “Old Nassau.”

“It’s very vigorous and kind of athletic music,” Pratt said, also calling the concerto soulful, goofy and delightful.

Only 34, Seo’s composition honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship from the University of Illinois, and the Otto Eckstein Fellowship from Tanglewood.  Born and raised in South Korea, Seo began playing piano at age three.

“My mother was a piano teacher so I grew up with the constant noise of classical music,” she said. “Throughout the years, the meaning of music has constantly shifted … but in the end, music is something that has always been there, like air.”

Sen started to take music more seriously as a teenager — during high school, she said, “I spent most of my time practicing the piano for auditions, doing harmony and counterpoint exercises and making pastiche compositions.” She continued to pursue her passion in college, coming to the U.S. 10 years ago to attend graduate school and to study contemporary music.

Many contemporary composers create music primarily for themselves, not others, she said. She believes in taking in the needs of musicians and the audience in mind while composing.

“I believe a composer is responsible for the entire process of musical transmission,” Seo said. “This piece in particular was composed with a clear picture of Princeton students playing their instruments in front of their friends — mostly non-experts — in the audience. Not alienating performers and the audience is a way a composer can love. Positive changes follow from there.”

Pratt said Seo, who joined Princeton’s faculty in 2014, is a wonderful teacher with high standards. He’s enjoyed introducing her work to the student orchestra.

“When you see an orchestra like this, a talented, young orchestra playing something they’ve never played before, the audience is watching the unfolding of a first love,” he said. “There’s nothing quite like it.”

Princeton University Orchestra presents the world premiere of Juri Seo’s “Piano Concerto”

Juri Seo, composer and pianist

Michael Pratt, conductor

Dec. 8-9, 7:30 p.m.

Princeton University, Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton.

[SOURCE:-NJ]