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5
Feb

With Doctors Report, you can track which illnesses are common in your area


App Attack is a weekly series where we search the App Store and Google Play Store for the best apps of the week. Check out App Attack every Sunday for the latest.

While the winter season brings the holidays, fun activities, and the occasional cozy snowfall, it also comes with the territory that you can catch a cold or virus far more easily. This week, we have an app that will help you track local health risks based on your location using real diagnostic data from doctors — including the flu.

Doctors Report — created by Knox Spencer Associates — allows you to easily see the most prevalent illnesses in your area. Available as both an app and website, Doctors Report tracks 15 conditions — both contagious diseases and other spreading health risks — with future plans to add even more. This includes Flu A, pneumonia, bronchitis, strep throat, and more.

“I think that common illnesses are under estimated by a lot of people,” Daniel Shaw, CEO of Knox Spencer Associates, told Digital Trends. “It puts you out for a week, or ten days, and makes you feel miserable. I think that’s something important and worth knowing about. And also, of course if you’re immune compromised or have other health problems which make common illness a greater threat, it’s even more important that you know what’s going on.”

To provide you with the information, Doctors Report uses the same data stream that’s used to report every patient’s visit to insurance companies and government agencies across the country. Using the app’s proprietary platform, the data is captured and registered through the various places the illnesses are reported. That way, it will always provide you with accurate and timely information.

Once you download and open the app, you’re shown the most severe illness that are currently in your area. At the top, you’ll see an area highlighted in yellow that showcases breaking health risks which are constantly being updated. By swiping through, you can read about the alerts nationally, locally, and regionally. While they’re not tied to an epidemic warning protocol followed by Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, they’re still current.

Underneath, you’ll see a severity thermometer that measures the illness on a scale of one to ten — one being light and ten being very high. There’s also a color coded map separated by National and Local areas you can zoom in on to see how severely each area is effected based on the scale. Below the map you’ll also find a bar graph that compares the severity of the illness based on specific time frame.

The app provides you with quick facts on the illness as well, in order to help you understand it. You can scroll through symptoms, transmission, how to prevent it, and treatment. But it’s also important to note that Doctors Report isn’t a substitute for diagnosis and treatment. It simply helps you understand it better and give you more information on whether or not you may possibly have it or what to look for when you’re feeling under the weather.

If you want more specific details, you can filter the information as well. By tapping on the section that reads “Track 15 Common Illnesses Reports From Doctors Offices Near You,” you’re brought to more options. From there, you can switch the age group effected — which starts at infant and goes all the way up to older adult — along with the particular illness, and the location. Once you tap “Update Report,” the app will apply all of the filters.

I specifically liked how easy the app is to use and appreciated the clean interface. All I had to do was open the app to see that Influenza — also known as the flu — was severe in my area. Below that, I was able to zoom in on exactly which local parts of my city had it worse than others giving me an idea of places I should probably steer clear from for a bit.

While I didn’t find myself using the bar graphs as much as I thought I would, it felt comforting to have the information available. I especially enjoyed having the symptoms and preventions available with a simple scroll, so that I didn’t have to search the web for different answers. It was nice to have all the information right in front of me in one, compact app.

In addition, there’s also a feed of timely news articles you can read through. With the flu going around, there’s content specifically focused on helping you get through it by offering more insight on the illness from flu shots to specific symptoms. But there aren’t a ton of articles available quite yet, hopefully once the app is done with its beta phase there will be more to come.

As for the website, it offers all the same information but in greater length. Even though it’s definitely useful, I found myself enjoying how convenient the app was. Since I use my phone for everything else anyway, whenever I was curious about the illnesses in my area, all I had to do was pull it up on my phone.

Fair warning though, this app could be as bad as WebMD for those who find themselves having anxiety over getting sick. While it’s a great tool, you might find yourself — like me — becoming a bit obsessive over constantly checking exactly what illnesses and risk are in your area. But it helps for when you’re planning on going away and want to take preventative measures to avoid getting sick.

Doctors Report and its accompanying website is slated to go live on February 7, and will be available for iOS, Android, and Amazon. A preview of the app is currently available for iPhone and Android users.

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5
Feb

Will your cell phone give you cancer? Maybe if you’re a rat


Rumors that cell phone use could lead to cancers have been circulating for decades, but a recent series of studies sheds new light on the situation. A pair of government studies that subjected rats and mice to high levels of cell phone radiation found that it could potentially be linked to cancer. However, the reports noted that the results were inconclusive.

The rat study found a small increase in heart tumors found in the male rats. However, the female rats did not exhibit these problems, nor did the any of the mice used in a separate study.

It is also worth noting that the amount of radiation that these animals were exposed to far exceeds what a person will encounter through standard use of a cell phone. Over the course of two years, the rats and mice were exposed to nine hours of radiation every day at doses that humans would rarely experience.

The recent study did find “equivocal evidence” for an increased amount of DNA damage, brain tumors and other forms of cancer in the rats. However, the reports also said that they did not find sufficient evidence to directly link the increased rate of tumors to cell phone radiation.

In terms of public safety, the studies don’t provide a crystal clear answer, but several experts have said that they believe cell phones are still safe to use.

Upon reading the results of the study, Dr. Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer, told the Associated Press that the study would not change his stance on cell phones, nor would it impact the advice he gives people regarding their use.

“These draft reports are bound to create a lot of concern, but in fact they won’t change what I tell people,” Brawley said. “The evidence for an association between cellphones and cancer is weak. And so far, we have not seen a higher cancer risk in people. But if you’re concerned about this animal data, wear an earpiece.”

The Food and Drug Administration, which commissioned the study, issued a press release stating that it believes that the “current safety limits for cell phones are acceptable for protecting the public health.”

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5
Feb

Facebook CEO speaks of ‘mistakes’ in frank birthday message


In a frank message posted on Facebook’s 14th birthday, the man that helped build the world’s most popular social networking service admitted that along the way, he’d made “almost every mistake that you can imagine.”

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on his social network that he wanted to take a moment “to reflect on how far we’ve come from that dorm room at Harvard and how far we still have to go to bring the world closer together.”

Displaying a degree of honesty that some may find surprising for the boss of a major business, Zuckerberg said that when he started Facebook at the age of 19, he “didn’t know anything about building a company or global internet service.”

Among the myriad of mistakes he confessed to making over the years were “dozens of technical errors and bad deals.” He also said he “trusted the wrong people and I’ve put talented people in the wrong roles,” adding, “I’ve missed important trends and I’ve been slow to others. I’ve launched product after product that failed.”

But having built the biggest social networking site in the world — one with more than two billion people monthly active users — Zuckerberg has clearly made a few wise decisions in that time, too.

Indeed, some of those decisions led to Facebook raking in a shade under $13 billion in revenue for its most recent quarter, resulting in a $4.3 billion profit.

‘We’ll fail again and again’

The Zuck said the mistakes are part and parcel of the company’s success, and says he knows “full well that we’ll fail again and again,” adding that such falls are “the only way to make progress.”

Suggesting that Facebook intends to be around for a very long time to come — and few will argue with that considering its current position — the CEO said, “We are still early in this journey and we will keep working to improve. That focus has always been our strength, and that’s what this year is all about.”

Indeed, Facebook is currently dealing with some of its biggest challenges to date, with its sheer size and resulting influence placing it under ever greater scrutiny. Critics have lambasted it over abuse and hate speech on the site, as well as its failure to prevent outside interference in U.S. elections.

To address some of these issues, Zuckerberg in January announced further changes to Facebook’s news feed in an apparent shift back toward its roots, with more focus on posts by friends and family. Other tweaks to the news feed made in 2017 have resulted in users spending 50 million fewer hours on Facebook globally each day. The CEO said last week he’d been expecting the drop and reassured shareholders by pointing toward a significant increase in year-on-year ad revenue.

“Helping people connect is more important than maximizing the time they spend on Facebook,” Zuckerberg commented last week after seeing the data.

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5
Feb

Apple says it’s investigating reports of incoming call delays on iPhone X


In the latest in a series of issues to hit the iPhone X, some users are complaining of an apparent delay in the display coming on during incoming calls. Reports suggest it can take up to 10 seconds for the screen to light up, stopping the recipient from taking the call by pressing the virtual “Accept” button. Of course, in some cases, this means they miss the call entirely as the caller hangs up before the display comes on.

Comments on a number of forums indicate the issue has been affecting a relatively small number of users pretty much since the phone launched in November. Following a Financial Times report on Sunday, February 4 that suggested “hundreds” of iPhone X handsets were affected, Apple said it was currently “looking into reports.”

Resetting the handset appears to have eliminated the bug in some cases, but only for it to return a short while later.

As usual with its mobile operating system, Apple has issued a series of updates for iOS 11 since it launched for its mobile devices in September last year, but none appear to have addressed the issue so far. Now that the Cupertino, California-based company has made it known it’s now investigating the problem, we expect to see a fix, or at the very least further information on the matter, in the near future.

This isn’t the first problem to hit Apple’s top-of-the-range phone. A small number of owners have also reported a green line appearing on the display a short time after using it. Again, Apple is aware of the issue and has been replacing affected units. Other users have reported that the device temporarily stops working in cold temperatures, while some have experienced a crackling sound from the speakers at high volume, and also a focusing issue with the rear camera.

If your iPhone X is experiencing any of the above issues and you’re unable to resolve them yourself, try contacting Apple Support or visit one of its stores to see if they can sort you out.

While Apple’s latest flagship handset has received mostly positive reviews — check out DT’s in-depth, hands-on look at the iPhone X — its whopping $1,000 price tag has proved prohibitive for many consumers. Indeed, many have been opting instead for the more reasonably priced iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus at $700 and $800, respectively. Recent reports even suggested Apple has drastically reduced production numbers of the iPhone X for the first three months of 2018 following lackluster sales over the holiday season.

The iPhone X launched to great fanfare toward the end of last year. Apple’s flagship phone is the first in its line to use facial recognition to unlock the device. Other new features include an edge-to-edge display, wireless charging, and it’s the first iPhone to do away with the home button. However, it seems some people are having a problem getting used to the new design.

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5
Feb

Drone-catching drones to bolster security at this week’s Winter Olympics


Drone ownership has caught on in South Korea as it has pretty much everywhere else, a fact that hasn’t escaped organizers of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which officially gets underway on Friday, February 9.

Officials are concerned about rogue flying machines disrupting events during the two-week sporting extravaganza, and have put in measures to deal with any such incidents.

Worst-case scenarios include a drone carrying a bomb toward a bus full of athletes, a scenario recently tackled by a SWAT team as part of a pre-Games drill. The team shot down the drone before it had a chance to reach the vehicle.

The sporting event isn’t known to be facing any specific threat from terror groups, and North Korea’s decision to participate in the Games has reduced fears that South Korea’s unpredictable neighbor might interfere in some way. But as you’d expect, trained personnel — reportedly as many as 60,000 — will be doing their utmost to ensure the safety of the athletes as well as spectators attending the Games.

No-fly zone

The airspace over and around the Games has been declared a no-fly zone for unauthorized aircraft, and special drone-detection radar developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology will be in place to keep the skies safe for the duration of the event.

Local news outlets are also reporting the use of signal-jamming guns like this one that can intercept communications between a pilot and their drone, and bring it safely back to the ground. In extreme cases, a helicopter could be deployed, with a special forces agent going in close to shoot and destroy the drone in midair.

So-called “drone-catching drones” may also be deployed during the Winter Games. These multi-rotor machines — more powerful than your regular consumer drone — carry nets that can be used to smother and disable a rogue drone. It’s not clear how effective this measure is, as it involves a highly skilled drone pilot going after the rogue drone in what could turn out to be a lengthy game of aerial cat and mouse.

We first saw net-carrying drones in Japan in 2015. A demonstration by Tokyo police showed a drone carrying a net that opened out beneath it. When it closed in on its target, the rogue drone’s propellers became entangled in the net like a fly in a spider’s web, enabling the police’s drone to bring the caught copter back to the ground in a controlled manner.

Other equipment for protecting athletes and spectators at the sports venues in the coming weeks includes low-flying aircraft with facial recognition technology on board. It’s claimed that these powerful cameras can monitor activities on the ground in great detail, with agents at the venues able to be rapidly deployed should the cameras detect any suspicious activities.

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5
Feb

Amid strong local competition, LG bows out of Chinese smartphone market


There’s no shame in backing out of a losing battle, and saving your strength to fight again or concentrate on other areas is an admirable strategic move. It’s been clear that LG were not too fussed about pushing into the Chinese smartphone marketplace, having last brought out the LG G5 SE in China, and failing to bring a single model to Chinese shores in 2017. Despite having built up an admirable arsenal of good smartphones in the last year, LG has confirmed that it will no longer be trying to push its brand in China.

Speaking to China Business (via Sohu), LG blamed strong local competition for the move, with brands such as Huawei and Xiaomi (among various others) offering great devices at a fraction of the price that LG were able to offer its smartphones for. In fact, sales of Chinese smartphones continue to grow worldwide as companies like Huawei continue to push and innovate, offering great devices that rival established brands.

But LG’s failure was clearly not all about the competition. As Sohu points out, LG either could not or did not attempt to compete with the local brands, essentially sealing its doom. Globally, LG’s mobile division is not doing well either, with 2016’s LG G5 being blamed for that year’s lackluster sales performance — a trend that unfortunately continued into 2017, with sales of the LG G6 being poor, despite the warm reception from critics. That, again, led to losses being recorded in Q4 of 2017.

LG has also had to deal with damage to its major smartphone brands after the infamous “bootloop” bug caused many of its top flagships to “brick” — or become useless lumps of plastic and metal. This issue recently culminated with LG agreeing to pay either a refund or a rebate for a future LG device — but the damage to consumer trust even in established markets was severe.

LG must be hoping its run of bad luck will end with the LG G7, and while the company has backed out of revealing its new flagship at MWC 2018, it will be showing off the upgraded LG V30+ at the show. But with profits down, and interest in LG’s mobile brand seemingly down across the board, backing out of the Chinese market seems like the least LG can do to try and minimize losses and weather the storm.

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5
Feb

HQ Trivia faces social media backlash as financial backer is revealed


If you’ve not heard of HQ Trivia, then you’re being left behind by the cultural zeitgeist. The app (available for both Android and iOS devices) is a trivia game, where a live presenter presents questions at a set time every day, with contestants taking part from the comfort of their home on their smart devices. It’s a devilishly simple and clever premise, and the app became wildly popular in the twilight months of 2017, perching comfortably in the coveted tier of between 1 million and 5 million downloads on the Google Play Store.

Unfortunately for the social gaming sensation, a social media backlash is brewing against the app, and it all comes down to who’s financially backing the app from the shadows: American entrepreneur and political activist Peter Thiel.

As reported by Recode, Founders Fund — the venture firm founded by Thiel — has raised $15 million in funding for the app, raising questions from some users and giving rise to the Twitter hashtag #DeleteHQ, housing opinions from both ends of the political spectrum.

Dear @hqtrivia I will be deleting your app today. I cannot support a business associated with @peterthiel. I hope this is simply a failure on your part to due diligence on before accepting his help. #DELETEHQ

— josephcouture (@josephcouture) February 2, 2018

Count me among the #DeleteHQ crowd. Peter Theil hasn’t just used his wealth to support Trump, he also has created surveillance network used by intelligence entities beyond congressional oversight.

The only way to fight back is to not support his investments. pic.twitter.com/nXPWUvGAtM

— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) February 3, 2018

Being a righteous internet user is more of a pain than just giving up that trivia app you're not really playing anymore, anyway #deleteHQ https://t.co/1lfs1sMlU0 pic.twitter.com/mFehT23Gns

— Joshua Brustein (@joshuabrustein) February 2, 2018

Thiel, for those unfamiliar with his history, was instrumental in the 2016 shut down of gossip website Gawker, and has been a vocal supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump — an ever divisive figure, and most likely the main reason for the large outcry against his participation.

This news follows reports of “creepy” and inappropriate behavior towards women by Colin Kroll, one of the founders of HQ Trivia, and coupled with Peter Thiel’s highly politicized public image, this could spell trouble for the trivia app, despite the widely praised charm of presenter Scott Rogowsky. Despite the massive popularity of the app, pulling in millions of users a day, it has been previously reported that it has struggled to find financial backers — something that commentators have assumed is due to the troublesome past of the founders.

Social media campaigns and boycotts have had a mixed bag of successes and failures. For every #MeToo campaign, there are thousands that fail to get off the ground and tend to make no impact. With the number of tweets and exposure to #DeleteHQ steadily rising, however, this could be one that sticks. Only time will tell whether Thiel’s involvement will impact the app’s popularity.

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5
Feb

HTC reportedly working on entry-level ‘Breeze’ smartphone


HTC isn’t set to reveal a flagship phone at MWC 2018, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t bring another phone, the tricksy scamp. The recent HTC U11 Life was a good budget offering from the Taiwanese company, offering decent specifications that was unfortunately let down by an aged look. Well, whispers have begun that HTC are planning a new entry-level handset, and it looks to be something far more 2018.

Everything we know about the “Breeze” comes from a Tweet by serial leaker Evan Blass, and reveals fairly little outside of the basics.

HTC's got an upcoming 5.5" phone, Breeze (second time as HTC codename), that's mostly notable for pushing full screen, 18:9 aspect ratio down to entry level. Therefore specs are nothing special (Mediatek SoC, 2/16GB, 13/5MP, 2730mAh, etc), and it should be priced to reflect that.

— Evan Blass (@evleaks) February 4, 2018

The Breeze having an 18:9 display ratio display would put the device firmly into the “bezel-less” category, giving the device a far more up-to-date appearance than HTC’s previous low-end offerings. Despite being previously relegated to the status of “phablet,” don’t be put off by the screen size either; 5.5-inches is fairly small in the world of bezel-less designs, so you can expect this phone to be relatively petite in the hand — or to have larger bezels than we would expect from an 18:9 design.

There’s no word on what sort of resolution you can be expecting from the device, but since the device will be an entry-level phone, don’t go expecting a 4K resolution or OLED screen tech. It will likely be an IPS LCD with a resolution no larger than 1080p — and is much more likely to be 720p.

In terms of the phone’s innards, a Mediatek SoC processor paired with 2GB of RAM and a titchy 16GB hard drive marks this phone as an extremely low-end offering. The budget HTC U11 Life came with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage in the lowest-end model, so the HTC Breeze is clearly a model beneath even that in power. Two gigabytes of RAM puts the HTC Breeze above the requirements for Android Go, however, so the Breeze will most likely be packing HTC’s Sense UI over the top of Android.

Depending on the screen resolution, a 2,730mAh battery could be enough to see the phone through a standard workday — but we’d have to spend time with the phone to be sure. A 5.5-inch screen is still a heavy draw on battery power, though. But regardless of battery power, the initial camera specs seem decent, with 13MP on the rear and 5MP on the front. Not bad in a phone that’s most likely going to be sub-$200 in price.

The question remains: Will the HTC Breeze be good enough to stand alone in a competitive market? It will need a significant price difference to beat the Honor 7X with these specs, and we’ll have to wait to see more to know for sure. Despite Blass’ good record, these are still just rumors at this point, and there’s still a lot that could change between now and a potential reveal.

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5
Feb

Shovel no more! The SnowBot Pro clears sidewalks and driveways for you


Your days of shoveling the snow may be behind you. Not because winter is going anywhere (we would hate to instill any false hope), but rather because technology may be able to do the job on your behalf. Meet the SnowBot Pro from Left Hand Robotics, a commercial-class, self-driving robot whose sole purpose is to clear the snow so that you don’t have to. After all, your time is too precious to be spent shoveling sidewalks and walkways.

This hefty robot was initially intended for use in residential areas, but the team soon realized that the machine would be better suited for commercial applications. “Snow and ice management companies, property managers, government agencies, etc. all face significant labor challenges when it comes to sidewalk and pathway work in the winter,” Mike Ott, chief technology officer of Left Hand Robotics told OEM Off-Highway last fall. “Securing the necessary labor force on short notice, in harsh conditions, for strenuous, dangerous snow removal work is very difficult.”

But not so with the introduction of the SnowBot Pro. The autonomous vehicle follows a programmed path that is determined by GPS and accelerometer and gyroscope technologies, and can be controlled from afar using an online dashboard. In order to actually remove snow, the SnowBot Pro uses a 4-foot-wide rotating brush, and is said to be able to reduce the number of people needed for shoveling by up to 80 percent.

This is due in part to the company’s claim that the SnowBot Pro is able to navigate and detect unexpected obstacles even without a human operator present. The bot leverages high-precision GPS RTK technology in order to make its way up, down, and around streets. According to Ott, human contractors will first “record” the sidewalks and paths the bot will ultimately take using a special tool (this doesn’t have to be done in the winter, making the process far less arduous). These paths are then uploaded to Left Hand Robotics’ cloud-based operations center, whereupon they’re turned into a series of commands that the machine uses to drive itself.

Once the snow falls, the gas-powered SnowBot needs only a human to open an app on his or her smartphone and press start. The robot will do the rest. SnowBot Pros are currently in production for the 2018-2019 season, and folks willing to pay a $1,000 deposit will be able to hold their spot in line to order one of these bots once they’re made widely available.

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5
Feb

Broadcom increases Qualcomm bid to more than $120 billion


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Broadcom has announced a renewed bid to acquire Qualcomm for more $82 per share.

Broadcom has retrained its sights on Qualcomm following its rejected $105 billion bid in November. Broadcom today announced a new offfer as part of a renewed push that would be worth more than $120 billion if accepted.

According to the details of the offer, Broadcom would pay Qualcomm $82 per share, made up of $60 in cash and the rest in Broadcom shares. Broadcom refers to this as its “best and final offer,” stating that it represents a 50 percent premium over Qualcomm’s closing price on November 2, referring to that point as “the last unaffected trading day prior to media speculation regarding a potential transaction.”

Under the terms of its offer, Broadcom would pay Qualcomm a “significant” fee if the deal were unable to garner regulatory approval. Broadcom would also pay Qualcomm addition fees if the deal isn’t finished within a one-year window.

As with its previous offer, the deal would represent the largest in tech history if it were to be approved. The combination of Broadcom and Qualcomm would also create a giant among chipmakers. Both companies already have significant standing in the smartphone market, in particular. Qualcomm has chips and components present in nearly every smartphone on the market, and Broadcom already commands a major share of Wi-Fi chipsets on the market. The combination of both companies is an interesting proposition, but it also raises major concerns.

However, the offer hinges on acceptance by Qualcomm, which has already rejected one unsolicited offer from Broadcom. “It is the Board’s unanimous belief that Broadcom’s proposal significantly undervalues Qualcomm relative to the Company’s leadership position in mobile technology and our future growth prospects,” Paul Jacobs, executive chairman and chairman of the board of Qualcomm, stated at the time. “No company is better positioned in mobile, IoT, automotive, edge computing and networking within the semiconductor industry,” Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf added.

It’s unclear how Qualcomm might respond this time, but this latest bid comes amidst increasing pressure on Qualcomm’s board. The company’s annual shareholder meeting is set for March 6, and Broadcom has already made known its plans to nominate board members who are friendly to its takeover ambitions.

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