Japan is planning to tighten regulation of tech giants like Google and Facebook after an expert panel called for better oversight on competition and privacy, an official said Thursday. [...]
Giphy wants to make it easier for iOS users to share gifs. — Picture courtesy of Giphy via AFP
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 13 — One of the most important things to keep in mind when sharing gifs is timing. Now iOS users with iOS 11 and up are able to share the perfect reaction gif at just the right moment thanks to a new extension in the Giphy mobile app: The Giphy mobile keyboard.This extension is a major upgrade from Giphy Keys, an app that the company launched back in 2016 — and which has since vanished from the App Store — that helped you put gifs in your iOS text conversations.With the latest version of the original Giphy app, you can have a gif keyboard on any application that supports multimedia, not just SMS, though a handful of your apps probably already support them such as Instagram (as of September) and Twitter (as of 2016). The GIPHY GIF Keyboard is here! 🔥 All you need is:✅The GIPHY Mobile App✅iOS 11 and up✅Passion 4 GIFs 💕✨➡️ https://t.co/KmedjDXyOm ⬅️ ✨ pic.twitter.com/DQAwWn1ZDt— GIPHY (@GIPHY) December 11, 2018Additionally, reports say that users of iPhone X and above will not be able to create their own stickers with the new keyboard extension or via the native Giphy app. To do this, users should tap the “add GIF” button, select “sticker,” and then record future sticker material which can be stored and used again later.Now rather than switching between apps for gifs, you'll only have to switch between keyboards. — AFP-Relaxnews [...]
A Saipem logo in seen on the bridge of the Saipem 10000 deepwater drillship in Genoa's harbour, Italy November 19, 2015. — Reuters pic
MILAN, Dec 13 — A hack on Italian oil services firm Saipem that crippled more than 300 of the company's computers used a variant of the notorious Shamoon virus, Saipem said, a development that links the case to a massive attack in 2012 on Saudi Aramco.“The cyber attack hit servers based in the Middle East, India, Aberdeen and in a limited way Italy through a variant of Shamoon malware,” the company said in a statement yesterday.Work is under way “in a gradual and controlled manner” to fully restore operations after the attack, it said.The Shamoon virus was used in some of the most damaging cyber attacks in history, starting in 2012 when it crippled tens of thousands of computers at Saudi Aramco and RasGas Co Ltd in the Middle East — attacks that cybersecurity researchers said were conducted on behalf of Iran.Saudi Aramco is Saipem's biggest customer.The attack crippled between 300 and 400 servers and up to 100 personal computers out of a total of about 4,000 Saipem machines, the company's head of digital and innovation, Mauro Piasere, told Reuters.No data will be lost because the company had backed up the affected computers, he said. The company said it first identified the attack on Monday.Piasere said the company does not know who was responsible for the attack.However, Adam Meyers, vice president with US cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said he believed Iran was responsible because early technical analysis of the new Shamoon variant showed similarities to the 2012 campaign.Shamoon disables computers by overwriting a file known as the master boot record, making it impossible for devices to start up. Former US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said the 2012 hack of Saudi Aramco was probably the most destructive cyber attack on a private business.Shamoon went dormant until it resurfaced in late 2016 in a series of Middle East attacks that continued through early 2017.“It went dark for a long time and it seems to be back,” said Eric Chien, senior researcher at cybersecurity firm Symantec. “The question is whether any others were affected by it.”Security researchers widely believe that people working on behalf of the Iranian government were behind previous Shamoon attacks, which Tehran strongly denies. Anti-US imagery was found in the code, researchers have said.Officials in Iran could not be reached for comment.Saipem, one of the world's largest subsea engineering and construction firms, is controlled by Italian state lender CDP and oil firm Eni. — Reuters [...]
If you attended the pop star's May 18th concert, your smile might've been captured, according to Rolling Stone. [...]
Foundational first-person action game 'Doom' has turned 25, with publishing company Bethesda and original co-designer John Romero celebrating the milestone anniversary with a Year of Doom and a free level pack for the 1993 classic respectively. [...]
Portrait mode is greatly improved, with fine-tuned blurred backgrounds that can be tweaked to your tastes. — Pictures by Erna Mahyuni
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 ― “I think I might love my iPhone more than (I do) my husband,” said an iPhone XS user to me when I asked how she liked her phone.Thing is, she’s been an iPhone user for a long time and it was just about time for her to upgrade.My biggest problem with the iPhone is that it caters to those who aren’t going anywhere ― those already enconsed in the iOS universe.What Apple needs is to win over new users but the shoulds, cans and whys are for some other story. This one is about the latest iPhones.Supersizing itThe iPhone XS and XS Max are in a way a reward for the patient faithful who decided to wait, who passed over the iPhone X knowing at the very least an incremental upgrade would be ready the next year.It would be easy for current iPhone X users to feel a little envious at the latest models, but that’s how it is, isn’t it? No matter how shiny our toys are the newer, shinier ones will still catch our eye.If you do have the iPhone X, it probably isn’t worth the money to trade up. Unless of course you got a very, very good deal.The iPhone XS and XS Max are basically the iPhone X but with a faster processor and a much better camera. If you’d been wanting an iPhone X in the body of an 8 Plus, the XS Max will appeal to those who just want a really big iPhone.Choosing between the XS and XS Max is simple. Ask yourself: do you want that bigger screen and are you willing to pay for the price difference? If so, bigger phone it is.Otherwise, the XS is a nice-ish size that offers a lot of screen for a fairly compact size.Easily tired-outThe OLED Super Retina HD screen is gorgeous, whether it’s a 5.8-inch one on the XS or the larger 6.5-inch display on the XS Max.One feature the larger phone supports is some apps (like Mail or Messages) displaying side-by-side windows. For instance I can open messages and texts in one pane while scrolling through the list of messages in the other.Yet this capability is limited to only a few apps and if it were applicable to more, especially, third-party apps, there would be a greater demand for the XS Max.While the new A12 Bionic processor is super-zippy (even said to be near-rivalling desktop CPUs) it would have been nice if the battery had been better optimised.The cheaper iPhone XR bests both the XS and XS Max in the battery stakes, which is a pity. Rumour is Apple is coming up with phone cases with built-in batteries but the pity is that the phone needs them in the first place.Not to say the phone’s battery is absolutely terrible ― it’s just that it doesn’t last much longer than the iPhone X. The iPhone X typically would need charging by late evening or, on heavy usage, by late afternoon/early evening.
In low light, the wide-angle rear camera lens is impressive.
Saving graceThough the display is certainly nice, and being actually waterproof this time and not just water-resistant are nice plus points, the real draw here is the camera.Apple has boosted the camera’s capabilities in low light allowing for some beautiful shots. One caveat though ― the camera still works best with as much light as you can give it.In a concert with the tricky lighting, I was able to take shots that were ridiculously good for a smartphone but the best results I got were while outside in a park near Washington DC, with clear skies and plenty of light.The telephoto/optical zoom is a little better on the XS series but I always wonder just why Apple can’t improve on that when competing Androids can offer more than 3x optical zoom on their flagships.Still in the right conditions, the iPhone XS series can offer some gorgeous portraits so long as you make the most out of the wide-angle lens as well as the new software tricks in portrait mode.The best party trick has to be the ability to change the background blurring as well as lighting of portrait photos in real-time, even previewing them before applying them to a photo.Apple still does some of the best skin tones around especially with the rear camera ― this time around, for some reason Apple applies a little too much smoothing on the selfie cam.While it’s not as horrifyingly grotesque as the results on some East Asia brands I’ve reviewed, the software “face touch-ups” in selfie mode isn’t my favourite. I would also like at least a means of dialing that down if I wanted my unvarnished face.Still got itUltimately like all its latest phones, if you wanted the absolute best iPhones you could get if money was no object: no question, it’s the iPhone XS line.If you just want a new iPhone but don’t fancy paying that much more, the XR is a nice option that doesn’t compromise much especially if you don’t need telephoto or waterproofing. It also has a better battery, so there’s that.Still here’s hoping that the next iPhone (that will hopefully have a better name) won’t just market to the faithful. As it is, the iPhone XS improves on its predecessor in every possible aspect but just falls short of being amazing.For what it’s worth, if you do get an iPhone XS it will, like its brethren, be a solid phone that will last you through a few years’ worth of upgrades ― which is a lot better than most of its competition can claim.The iPhone XS and XS Max are already on sale on the Apple online store as well as at authorised resellers for RM4,999 and RM5,399 respectively. [...]
A Russian communications official has threatened to block Google in Russia unless it complies with a law banning certain websites. [...]
Alexa gets a plethora of new features designed to make your life even easier. — AFP pic
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 12 — More of the Alexa features and skills that Amazon announced back in September concerning schedules and reminders are arriving on Echo devices.Though Alexa won’t be able to conduct phone conversations for you, the voice assistant is now able to place calls on your behalf thanks to one of a series of new features arriving on Echo devices this week.In fact, this Echo update is going to automate a lot of those mundane daily activities that you don’t even realise take energy. Instead of relying on yourself to remember to take the trash out when you get home, Alexa can remind you. All you have to do to enable these reminders is to tell Alexa to remind you of something at a certain time, like taking the chicken out of the fridge before you leave home. When you come back home, Alexa will vocally remind you of the task and also send a notification to your phone in case you’re not close enough to hear. Specific locations can be programmed into the Alexa app, giving you more possibilities for scheduling reminders.Additionally, Alexa will be able to understand how to schedule time between tasks before executing each. You could ask Alexa to turn the lights on 10 minutes after you wake up which is possible thanks to Alexa’s ability to detect motion. Also, if you schedule something like dinner, Alexa can send out alerts to everyone who is involved in the activity.Apart from the new reminder and routine functionalities, Alexa will be updated to help you find the nearest location of a particular place you’re looking for, like a Starbucks, and screen your emails to let you know if you have anything new in your inbox in general or from a certain sender. These features are rolling out now for the US market, but elsewhere over the next couple weeks.The other features in the release that have yet to come out are still on their way; it appears that new features will be coming out in waves as the Alexa whispering function that is also on this list came out in October. Ensure to keep your Echo devices up-to-date so you can get the most out of them. — AFP-Relaxnews [...]
The bonanza of quality phones resulted in some serious gems. We help you sort out the best budget, midprice and high-end handsets. [...]
The hearing on Google's 'data collection, use and filtering practices' comes with Silicon Valley under fire over privacy practices and manipulation, including by foreign governments, and possible monopoly practices. — Google handout via AFP-Relaxnews
WASHINGTON, Dec 12 — Google chief executive Sundar Pichai parried US lawmakers yesterday over complaints of political bias and intrusive data collection as the internet giant came under heavy criticism from conservatives.“We build our products in a neutral way,” Pichai said in one exchange with a lawmaker, and added later: “We approach our work without any political bias.”Pichai was called to the House Judiciary Committee following a series of attacks by President Donald Trump and his supporters claiming that Google and other internet platforms were suppressing conservative voices, despite persistent denials from the companies.The hearing on Google’s “data collection, use and filtering practices” offered an opportunity for lawmakers to confront the CEO over claims that the internet giant skews its search results for political reasons.Google angered lawmakers earlier this year by refusing to send a top executive to a similar hearing with Facebook and Twitter.The latest hearing comes with Silicon Valley under fire over privacy practices and manipulation, including by foreign governments, and possible monopoly practices.Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte said it would be “sinister” for Google to manipulate its search engine because of its vast ability to control information people see online.“The American people deserve to know what kinds of information they are not getting when they are doing a search on the internet,” Goodlatte said.Pichai, dressed in a dark suit, calmly responded to questions, repeating on several occasions that the company seeks to serve a range of viewpoints without bias.He took on Republican Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, who said it was “irrefutable” that Google’s search results were biased.Pichai replied that “providing users with high-quality and trusted information is sacrosanct to us... we find we have a wide variety of sources including from the left and the right.”He said search algorithms reflect factors such as “relevance, freshness (and) popularity,” and added that “we try to reflect what is newsworthy, what is currently being discussed.”‘Fake news’Trump earlier this year took aim at Google, tweeting that search results were “rigged” against him, promoting negative stories from media outlets he considers “fake news.”Some lawmakers raised the prospect of new regulations or modifying the exemption from liability that internet firms enjoy for content from third parties.Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, argued that Google was “surrounded by liberality” and did not recognize its own bias.But Democrat Jerry Nadler called the bias issue a “fantasy” drummed up by conservatives and said “no evidence supports this right-wing conspiracy theory.”California Democrat Ted Lieu called the hearing “a waste of time” and ridiculed the comments about constitutional rights under the First Amendment.“The First Amendment limits what the government can do on regulating speech, it does not limit Google,” Lieu said.What does Google know? Pichai also faced comments and questions about Google’s data collection and privacy practices, and its discussions on creating a search engine that could be used in China.Goodlatte said the tech giant was “able to collect an amount of information about its users that would even make the NSA (National Security Agency) blush,” arguing that the company needed to be more transparent about what it does with location and other data on Android-powered devices.Pichai said the data collected would depend on the applications installed and privacy options chosen.“We remind users to do a privacy checkup and we make it very obvious... they can clearly see what information we have,” he said.He also sought to deflect criticism over “Project Dragonfly,” a hotly contested project that could offer a search engine that would satisfy Chinese censors.“Right now we have no plans to launch in China,” he said. — AFP [...]
Need a helping hand with your at-home dye job? Google and Clairol have your back. [...]
OnePlus may be a company known for crafting phones with premium specs and affordable prices but that doesn’t mean it can’t bust loose once in a while. And nothing says busting loose like a partnership with one of the fastest and most recognizable Formula One car makers in the world, McLaren.In true McLaren fashion, the Speed Orange OnePlus 6T is a glorious testament to over-the-top performance and power. While the design and specs are mostly the same as the standard edition of the phone, there are some key additions that will surely turn heads:
The phone has orange ring around the bottom of the black back with a carbon fiber pattern to mimic the iconic P1. It also prominently features the McLaren name below the OnePlus logo.
The power adapter is 30W instead of 20W and has orange accents.
The charging cable is orange.
It has 10GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
The OnePlus 6T McLaren edition comes with an orange racing stripe.To read this article in full, please click here [...]
Tencent Music Executive Is Accused of Defrauding Early Investor [...]
Members of the media film the new iPhone 7 at an Apple store in Beijing September 16, 2016. — Reuters pic
BEIJING, Dec 11 — Apple stores in China continued with business as usual today despite a court-ordered ban on iPhone sales, but the US tech giant faces a growing nationalist backlash over the US-sought arrest of a Huawei executive.According to US chipmaker Qualcomm, which requested the ban, the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court ordered four Apple subsidiaries to stop selling older models of the iPhone, including the 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus.But Apple stores contacted by AFP in Beijing, Shanghai and Fuzhou said they were still selling those older models — confirming a company statement that all remain available.Sales staff at a Beijing Apple store said they had not yet received any internal notices about the court injunction on iPhone sales.“If the ban is ultimately imposed, there will be no Apple products under 6,500 yuan (RM3,932) in China,” noted Wang Xi, a senior market analyst at research firm IDC.That would give Chinese smartphone brands, such as Huawei, “more opportunities in the high-end market”, he told AFP.Qualcomm’s request to halt iPhone sales is part of a long-running patent dispute with Apple.Separately, Apple is also the target of nationalist sentiment over the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer in Canada at the behest of the United States on alleged Iran sanctions violations.The Chinese government has condemned the arrest and demanded her release.Nationalist backlash Some Chinese netizens and companies have also turned against Apple.“What if China banned Apple the way the US has banned Huawei?” wrote one user on Twitter-like Weibo in a post that garnered more than 500 likes. “What if Apple lost its manufacturing centre in China?”Leaked company documents announcing rewards for Huawei purchases and penalties for owning Apple products are also circulating on Chinese social media.A tech firm based in southwestern China, Chengdu RYD Information Technology, said it would reward employees who bought Huawei products with subsidies in an internal notice that it later confirmed via its official WeChat account.The Shanghai Nanchong Chamber of Commerce confirmed that it too was offering subsidies for Huawei smartphones, and that staff and executive members of the business group would “lose their positions” if found with Apple products.It seems that “general sentiment is gradually turning to against Apple and support Huawei now,” due to recent events, such as Meng’s arrest and the US-China trade war, said Wang.Qualcomm battle China is a crucial market for Apple, but is has been overtaken by Chinese competitors in recent years.According to a 2018 financial report, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were together Apple’s third largest market by net sales, after the Americas and Europe. Apple chief executive Tim Cook has also made regular visits to China, and has touted the company’s inroads in the Chinese market as well as its manufacturing there.But Apple’s premium-priced products remain out of reach for many users, increasing the appeal of more affordable phones produced by local companies.Apple has the fifth largest market share in China, trailing behind Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi, according to data from IDC.Qualcomm, the leading supplier of chips for mobile devices, serves several Apple competitors in China, including Huawei, and has been in a prolonged legal battle with Apple in recent years.Apple has claimed that Qualcomm is abusing its market power over certain mobile chipsets in order to demand unfair royalties, joining a string of antitrust actions against the chipmaker.Qualcomm has countersued Apple and earlier this year escalated its legal fight, claiming the iPhone maker stole trade secrets and shared them with mobile chip rival Intel.According to Qualcomm’s US lawsuit, Apple’s goal was to buy mobile chips from Intel instead of depending on Qualcomm.An Apple statement to AFP called Qualcomm’s effort to ban iPhone sales in China a “desperate move by a company whose illegal practices are under investigation by regulators around the world,” and added that “we will pursue all our legal options through the courts”. — AFP [...]
LG to bring a capsule-based beer brewing machine to CES 2019. — Picture by LG via AFP
LAS VEGAS, Dec 11 — Perhaps soon, you’ll be able to brew your beer just like you do your coffee, though maybe you shouldn’t use this brewer in the morning.LG’s 2019 CES Innovation Award-winning craft beer making machine will be debuting next month at the 2019 International Consumer Electronics Show — the same conference where at the start of this year the company showed off a rollable OLED TV display, the V30 smartphone, and a wide breadth of innovative new home electronics, fridges, and appliances.For the 2019 trade show, the company developed the LG HomeBrew, a countertop appliance that uses capsules — in the same way a Nespresso machine uses pods — to brew your own cold craft beer.Like Nespresso coffee, tea, and hot chocolate pods, the beer capsules are single use; these capsules, however, are filled with malt, yeast, hop oil, and flavoring while brewing is optimised thanks to a fermentation algorithm that creates your cold beverage with just the press of a button.This procedure is completely automated as is the follow-up cleaning process. HomeBrew sanitises itself using only hot water to make sure everything is clean and without residual flavors for the next glass of beer. All this can be checked from anywhere at any time via a corresponding app for Android and iOS.HomeBrew-ers would be able to pick from five different craft beer capsules: an American IPA, an American Pale Ale, an English Stout, a Belgian-style Witbier, or a Czech Pilsner. Over the course of two weeks, the machine can produce up to five liters of beer depending on which one you select to brew.The LG HomeBrew will be on display at booth #11100 from January 8 — 11 at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. There’s no word yet whether or not the company will bring this to the commercial market, but if the audience is receptive at the upcoming conference, maybe it’ll be hitting countertops sooner rather than later. — AFP-Relaxnews [...]
Android gaming, Nintendo-style. [...]