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26
May

iOS 12 to Allow iPhones to Unlock Doors Via NFC


Apple is expected to expand the NFC capabilities of its iPhones beyond mobile payments, allowing users to securely unlock doors equipped with the technology, according to The Information. The company is said to be planning to announce the new functionality “next month,” suggesting it will come at WWDC as part of the iOS 12 unveiling.

The change to the near-field communication, or NFC, chip, which is expected to be announced next month, could pave the way for people to use iPhones for other security-sensitive interactions, from paying transit fares and opening car doors to verifying their identity in other ways.

Already, employees at Apple’s new campus in Cupertino, Calif., are using their iPhones to gain access to buildings and offices, suggesting that the technology has been deployed there, people familiar with the matter said.

The Information reported nearly four years ago that Apple was looking to expand NFC capabilities to building security and transit ticketing, working with its campus security vendor HID Global on the technology.

Today’s report notes that while Bluetooth is already used to manage some smart locks using iPhones, NFC offers a more secure method for connections and authentication, an important consideration for companies and government agencies in particular.

Related Roundup: iOS 12Tag: NFC
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26
May

Ditch the milk crates. Store your vinyl properly in this elegant DIY stand


A few weeks back we showed you how to make some sleek wall frames that put your favorite record covers on display. This week we have a handsome stand where you can keep the rest of your collection. We made ours from a thick slab of exotic hardwood called bubinga, but practically any kind of wood will look great with this minimalist, flip-friendly design. And thanks to our painstakingly simplified build process, this stand is incredibly easy to make and only requires a small number of tools. Here’s everything you need:

Tools and Materials

  • Hardwood slab (roughly 1 inch thick, 10 inches wide)
  • Miter Saw (capable of cutting 10-inch boards)
  • Jigsaw
  • Pencil
  • Clamps (x2)
  • Sandpaper
  • Teak oil

Step-by-Step Build Process

Step 1: Get some wood and cut it to create your four pieces

You can embark on this project in one of two ways: either start with multiple smaller boards of the same thickness, or use one large board and chop it up to create the pieces you need.

We went with the latter option and started with a single hardwood board, roughly 1 inch thick and 10 inches wide, though a slightly thinner or narrower board would work too. If you’re going this same route and using one board for the whole project, you’ll need a slab that’s at least 60 inches in length. We began by chopping our pieces to rough length using our trusty miter saw, and then cut them to width on a table saw — but don’t worry if you don’t have access to a table saw. The beauty of this project is that you can make all the same cuts with a jigsaw (though you’ll likely end up with rougher edges that will need more sanding).

Don’t feel like jigsawing everything yourself? An alternative is to take the drawing below to your local hardwood retailer and ask if they will crosscut your pieces to rough length and “rip” them to the exact widths you need. Once that’s done, you can do the rest of the project with simpler tools. Most independent lumber stores will be more than willing to make cuts for a small charge. A decent handsaw will cut out all the parts too — with a healthy dollop of elbow grease, of course.

Step 2: Mark where your notches will go

Once you have the basic rectangles cut, the rest is fast and easy. The stand is held together by intersecting notches in the pieces — a tried-and-true method that not only lends itself to an easy setup, but also allows you to break down the rack in seconds if necessary. Best of all, we did all the dirty work for you and came up with some surefire tricks to that’ll ensure you end up with notches that fit together perfectly.

As you’ll see in the video above, we started by trimming the ends of the base boards (aka the “feet”) at 10 degrees on the miter saw. Then we made a couple of key landmarks for the notches and set them about 2.5 inches in from the top edge. Now the fun part begins.

The first trick is to use the angled ends of the feet as layout tools, helping you pencil in the notches at the same 10-degree angle, but facing in the opposite direction. After you’ve penciled the outside edge of each notch, it’s time for the next trick.

The key to nailing the width of the notches is using the actual workpieces to lay them out. Knowing that all the parts came from the same board, we knew they were all the same thickness. So we used one of the feet to lay out the last line on each of the notches, lining up the foot with the first line we laid out and using a very sharp pencil to trace the other side of the board. Presto, perfect notch.

Step 3: Use your jigsaw to cut the notches

It’s now time to bust out your trusty jigsaw: a small but powerful tool that can make all kinds of cuts, both straight and curved. What makes your jigsaw even trustier is an upgraded blade. For this project, we recommend picking up a jigsaw blade designed specifically for making smooth cuts in hardwoods. They typically cost just a few bucks, and will provide drastically better results.

To make the square notches, we started by cutting straight down each side of the notch, along the inside edge of each pencil line, and then pulled back to make curved cuts that removed the waste from the middle. One straight cut across the bottom finished the job. Don’t sweat the bottoms of the notches — they’ll be hidden when the rack is assembled, so they don’t have to look perfect.

Before you put the saw away, give your pieces a quick test fit. If any of your notches are a little too tight, feel free to take a thin slice off the inside edge with the jigsaw and try again. The great thing about this rack is that the intersecting notches don’t have to be perfect for the whole thing to be solid and stable.

Step 4: Sand it smooth and bevel the edges

The board we bought for this project was already surfaced smooth, so its faces only needed a bit of sanding to get them ready for an oil finish. Our saw cuts on the edges, however, needed extra work.

In both cases, we backed up our sandpaper with a wood block, alng with some self-adhesive cork shelf liner stuck on it to even out the pressure. The sandpaper simply wraps around the block. A block is critical for even sanding, and helps you keep edges flat and crisp.

On both the edges and faces of the board, I started with 120-grit paper, and then moved up through 150- and 220-grit, wiping away the dust each time. Oily, exotic woods like bubinga can be very irritating to your airways, so we recommend wearing a dust mask while you sand.

The last important touch when sanding is to break all the edges and give them more of a bevel. This makes a project look more finished and is friendlier to the hand as well. We did this with 150-grit paper wrapped around the block and the block held at an angle to the edge (roughly 45 degrees). Then we just counted our strokes in order to get a light, even bevel along every last edge and corner. Eight or 10 strokes usually does the trick.

Step 5: Throw on some finish and make it shine

To finish the job, we suggest applying a couple coats of Minwax Teak Oil. Just shake the can, apply it liberally with cotton rags or paper towels, wipe off the excess, and let the parts stand somewhere to dry overnight.

You’ll need to smooth the surfaces between each coat of oil you apply, but here’s another awesome trick for that: Tear some big pieces off a brown paper bag and use them to buff the surface to a soft sheen. Also be sure to buff off any excess oil that has worked its way back out of the pores in the wood. This method works wonderfully, both between coats and after the final one has dried.

Step 6: Assemble the stand

Putting this stand together is insanely simple. Just place your foot boards on a flat surface, with the angled notches facing upward. Next, space them out a bit and place your wider boards on top so that the notches come together. Voila! You’re done. Now all that’s left is to put your new record rack someplace where everyone can see it and load it up with your best albums. It’s pretty much guaranteed to get oohs and aahs from your houseguests.

“Oh that? Yeah, I made it myself.”

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Build a bottle opener that uses magnet magic to catch your caps
  • Our ‘Fortnite: Battle Royale’ building tips and tricks will help you survive
  • As Windows moves beyond the window, it’s going to get even better
  • Nintendo Labo review
  • How to build a computer


26
May

LaCie DJI Copilot backs up your photos and videos, without needing a computer


When it comes to portable, computer-less media backup, there are precious few options. Gnarbox sprang into life to address this very need, raising over half-a-million dollars on Kickstarter for its first product, a rugged backup solution designed to go anywhere built around a solid-state drive. But now, LaCie — a subsidiary of hard drive manufacturer Seagate — has entered into the segment with the new DJI-branded Copilot. That’s right, this thing has three brand names attached to it.

Built around a spinning disk of unspecified rotational speed, the Copilot is the first product in LaCie’s BOSS line, which stands for Backup On-Set Solution. It is battery powered and features an SD card slot, USB 3 Type-C and Type-A connectors, a built-in monochrome display, and comes with USB-C, Micro USB, and Lightning cables for plugging in your smartphone (which will charge while connected).

By using a traditional hard drive rather than an SSD, the Copilot’s most apparent advantage over the Gnarbox is capacity. At 2,000GB, it’s nearly eight times larger than the highest-capacity Gnarbox (256GB). The trade-off, of course, is transfer speed and physical size. However, due to the lower cost of hard disks versus SSDs, you can pick it up for just $350 — $50 cheaper than the 256GB Gnarbox.

But that’s not the Copilot’s only competitor. Western Digital also makes a line of battery-powered backup drives with built-in SD slots, both in SSD and HDD variants — although the SSD version isn’t terribly fast. Its 2TB HDD version sells for just $179, but lacks the screen and rugged design of the LaCie. It does, however, function as a Wi-Fi hotspot, support backups of phones and tablets via an app, and can even stream content to a TV using Plex. But the Copilot’s reliance on hardwired connections may actually be better suited to its target user of professional content creators.

Design and interface

Measuring 5.3 x 4.4 x 1.4 inches and weighing 1.2 pounds, the Copilot is about an inch wider, nearly half-an-inch deeper, and just slightly heavier than the Gnarbox. With its gray rubber bumpers, it looks like a more mature, business-ready version of LaCie’s Rugged-series drives (which sport much more eye-catching orange exteriors). One side of the bumper can be removed, revealing the ports behind it. A groove running around the perimeter of the device cuts through the bumpers and makes room for the phone-connector cable. It’s a smart way of fitting a longer cable without cluttering up the main port bay.

The status display completely vanishes when turned off, but blinks into existence at the press of a button, showing battery life and available capacity. There’s only one button (the “action button”), which, aside from waking the device, can be used to control the Copilot by essentially answering yes/no questions. Copy all data from memory card? Short press for yes, long press for no. (A short press is anything up to 1 second, while a long press is defined as 3 seconds.)

Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

The capabilities of the system are further expanded via the mobile app (more on this later), but we can’t help but feel that a two-button interface on the device itself would have been simpler than the short-press/long-press solution that LaCie went with. Also, should an issue ever arise that requires you to reset the device, make sure you have a thumbtack or paperclip on hand, because you’ll need to insert it into a pinhole to trigger a reset. Luckily, we never had any problems with the unit, but it seems like a simple power switch could have sufficed — although, presumably LaCie wanted to avoid this in order prevent accidental shutdowns while the Copilot is bouncing around in your backpack while copying data as you bomb down a rocky singletrack trying to look epic for your DJI Inspire 2 flying above.

Fortunately for the action sports minded, the device should be able to handle rough conditions, and is drop, splash, and dust resistant — although, LaCie does not offer any specifics about how high of a drop or how much water and dust it can take.

No computer? No problem

Despite the DJI co-branding, there is nothing specific to drone flying about the Copilot — anybody who produces media in the field can use it to offload their memory cards. Drone pilots are one such demographic, but all manner of photographers and videographers can potentially benefit from this type of device.

The selling point is its completely computer-free backup. A regular external drive requires a computer to actually run it, which means you have to lug a laptop around with you to use it in the field. The Copilot has its own battery and runs its own operating system so that it can copy data from an SD card all by itself. Simply plug in your memory card, press the action button, and when it prompts you to copy the card, press it again. Alternately, you can connect the drive to your phone to initiate transfers via the DJI Copilot BOSS app.

By using a hardwired connection, you can also browse and manage files from your mobile device without any cumbersome Wi-Fi setup. Create folders, view and delete images and videos, and even transfer files for offline viewing. This all works really well, and while the Copilot keeps your phone’s battery topped up, take note that its own battery won’t last forever. Don’t run it too low until you’re done backing up all of your files for the day.

In our testing, we copied 58 gigabytes of data from a UHS-II SD card in roughly 7 minutes, for an average write speed of about 138 megabytes per second (the card was rated at 200MBps). In that time, the battery dropped 8 percent, so you should be able to back up around 725GB on a single charge.

While 138MBps is about what we would expect for write speed — and is, in fact, faster than the 100MBps write speed of the Gnarbox — the Copilot slowed to a crawl when transferring data to a computer. Here, we averaged just 39MBps over USB 3.0, which isn’t great. LaCie does not specify the read and write speeds of the Copilot, but perhaps this is why. Compared to the 270MBps read speed of the Gnarbox, this is probably the Copilot’s biggest drawback.

Given that transferring files to a computer from the Copilot is considerably slower than transferring straight from an SD card (assuming you have a relatively new and fast card), our advice is to use the Copilot primarily as a redundant backup and keep all of your media on your memory cards whenever possible. Naturally, sometimes you just won’t be able to do this — and part of the appeal of a device like the Copilot is the ability to keep reusing your same memory cards — but just keep in mind that you may endure some long ingest times when you finally return from the field. Also, particularly for high-bitrate 4K content, editing straight from the Copilot may not be possible.

Is it worth it?

As with insurance, the most valuable aspect of the Copilot is the peace of mind it brings you. For content creators who spend days or weeks at a time without the safety net of the internet or the ability to power a computer, getting 2TB of ruggedized, on-the-go storage is a big deal. LaCie also throws in a one-month Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps plan, valued at $53.

But not everyone will need so much storage in the field, and the Copilot’s less-than-stellar export speed could be the deal breaker for such individuals. Here, the 256GB Gnarbox may be the better buy. As expected, some people have also raised concerns about the presumed risks of using a spinning disk, with all its sensitive moving parts, in rough field conditions. Rubber bumpers or not, nobody wants to risk dropping a hard drive. We encountered no issues, but beyond tossing it into a backpack, taking it on a hike, and letting it slide around the back of a car, we didn’t exactly try to push the limits. If consumers feel safer with solid state media — and if peace of mind is what they’re buying — they may choose to pay more for an SSD.

However, for those who need a high-capacity, portable backup system, SSDs may just be too costly. That said, with the much cheaper options from Wester Digital, the LaCie DJI Copilot may also be too costly. If you like the idea of its splash and dust-proof design, built-in screen, and hardwired phone cable, that could make it worth it, though. It is also easy to use, includes some practical connectivity features, and while it’s not exactly fast, it will get the job done.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Gnarbox review
  • Kickstarter: Gnarbox 2.0 offers automated media backups without a smartphone
  • Here is how to choose the best SD cards for your camera
  • What is an SSD? The ultimate explanation of the solid-state drive
  • Photo FOMO: Faster memory cards, color-neutral filters, and ‘Adventury’ bags


26
May

Apple could be secretly working on an ARM-based, touchscreen computer


Apple is reportedly at work on an entirely new line of computers under the codename “Star.” Distinct from products like the MacBook or the iPad Pro, Project Star is said to be a “brand new device family.” Project Star is said to be a hybrid touchscreen computer that “runs a derivative of iOS,” according to 9to5 Mac.

The report doesn’t have a lot of details, nor does it claim a specific source, but it does offer a few interesting snippets of information that hint at what kind of device this will be. Apparently, this Project Star computer will include a touchscreen, a SIM card slot, GPS, compass, and is water resistant. All of those things sound like a mobile device like an iPad, but 9to5 Mac has also notes that it runs a specification called Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI). If it really does use EFI, that could mean we’re looking at something more akin to an ARM-based notebook. An ARM-based MacBook would give it capabilities such as LTE — a feature that new Qualcomm-powered laptops like the HP Envy X2 have.

Although we should take the report with a grain of salt until we hear more, we have been waiting for Apple to reveal its plans for a new entry-level MacBook all year. While all the rumors surrounding a new laptop have hinted it was a new MacBook or MacBook Air, some kind of a hybrid device would turn out to be much more interesting. There are claims that prototypes have already been created and are currently being tested by Apple employees in Cupertino. Even more surprisingly, the ship date could be as soon as 2020.

The division between Mac and iOS has been a hurdle Apple has been trying to leap for years now. Features like the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro or the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard are all examples of ways to bring the functionality of the two product lines together. There were even reports earlier this year that Apple was planning to find a way to bring iOS apps to the Mac, which would make a lot of sense on a device like the one mentioned in the report.

On the other hand, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently stated that Apple customers weren’t interested in a device that merges MacOS and iOS and that it would only water down both of them.

We may learn more about Apple’s plans for future MacBooks at its upcoming developers conference, WWDC.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Apple neglects Macs on second-quarter earnings call, again
  • Apple Store hints you shouldn’t buy a new MacBook Pro until after WWDC
  • Apple’s latest touchscreen keyboard patent suggests a squishy, keyless future
  • You may never own a quantum computer, but IBM will still let you use one
  • Microsoft’s HoloLens could be gearing up to kick Intel to the curb


26
May

How to get the most from YouTube Premium: Top tips and tricks


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Need a helping hand with YouTube Premium? We’ve got your back.

If you’re a hardcore YouTube user, chances are you’re thinking about or already have subscribed to YouTube Premium. YouTube Premium offers an enhanced version of the YouTube you know and love for just $11.99/month, and for that price, you get a heap of benefits and perks to check out.

Knowing how to access these and tweak them to your exact liking will ensure you get the most out of your membership, and that’s exactly what we’re here to help you with.

Let’s get to work!

Note: This guide refers to YouTube Premium, which will be the eventual name for the current service, YouTube Red. We will update the screenshots when the new service officially launches.

How to turn on Background Playback

Background Playback allows the audio of YouTube videos to keep playing even when you leave the app to do something else. It’s an incredibly handy feature, and turning it on is pretty simple.

Tap on your profile icon at the top right of the screen.
Tap Settings.
Tap Background & downloads.

Tap the Playback option at the very top of the page.

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From here, you can choose to have Background Playback always on, only when you’ve got headphones or external speakers connected, or turn it off altogether.

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Why can’t my movies use Background Playback?

As awesome as Background Playback is, it does have one main limitation — it can’t be used to play and movies you’ve purchased in the background.

Movies you buy through YouTube are handled differently than regular uploads and are entirely separate from YouTube Premium. It’s a bummer they don’t work with Background Playback, but that’s just the way it is.

How to save a video to play offline

If you’re watching a video that you want to save for offline playback, all you need to do is tap a couple buttons.

While watching a video, tap the Download button.

Select the quality you’d like and then tap Ok.

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Alternatively, you can also download a video without having to first open it up.

Tap the three dots next to a video.
Tap Download.

Select the quality you’d like and then tap Ok.

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How to save a playlist to play offline

Playlists are great for organizing your favorite videos, and just like standalone clips, you can download entire playlists to your phone, too.

Tap on the Library tab near the bottom of the app.
Tap the playlist you want.

Tap the download icon near the top left and select your desired video quality.

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How to change video quality for YouTube downloads

After downloading a video for the first time, the video quality you choose will be remembered for all future downloads. Thankfully, changing this is really easy.

Tap on your profile icon at the top right of the screen.
Tap Settings.
Tap Background & downloads.

Tap Video quality

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Here, you can choose between HD (720p), Medium (360p), and Low (144p). Alternatively, you can tap Ask each time to have YouTube ask you for your preference every time you download a clip.

How to download YouTube videos to an SD card

If you’re using a phone with that supports MicroSD cards, you can choose to have your videos download to your card rather than your phone’s internal storage.

Tap on your profile icon at the top right of the screen.
Tap Settings.
Tap Background & downloads.

Tap on the Use SD card toggle.

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How to turn on Download over Wi-Fi only

Being able to download videos for offline use is an awesome perk, but if you have a limited amount of mobile data to use each month, you’ll want to ensure that you’re only downloading these files when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Tap on your profile icon at the top right of the screen.
Tap Settings.
Tap Background & downloads.

Tap the Download over Wi-Fi only toggle.

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How to watch YouTube Originals

Another awesome perk with YouTube Premium is having access to all of YouTube’s original programming. There are already a host of movies, TV shows, and documentaries to check out, and browsing through the entire collection is easy peasy.

From the Home page, tap on the **Originals* icon near the top. A scrolling gallery will show some of YouTube’s featured content and scrolling down will show all of the shows broken up into various categories — including Comedies, Documentaries, Sci-fi/fantasy, Family, and more.

Along with this, you can also just search for a YouTube Original show like you would any other video and start watching it that way.

How to remove ads with YouTube Premium

For a lot of folks, one of the biggest perks included with YouTube Premium is that all advertisements are removed from videos you watch.

Ads will be removed automatically, but you need to be sure you’re logged into the account you signed up for YouTube Premium with.

Tap on your profile icon at the top right of the screen**.

Tap Switch account and choose the account that’s associated with your Premium subscription

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Did we miss anything?

Need some extra help with the above topics? Trying to figure something out that we didn’t cover? Sound off in the comments below and we’ll try to chime in ASAP!

Download: YouTube (free)

26
May

GDPR is a great thing hampered by one bad idea


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Addressing privacy concerns and bringing more disclosure to users is long overdue, but the 72-hour reporting rule might do more harm than good.

The past week was important for you and your personal information, whether or not you live in the EU.

GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation that sets guidelines about how personal information of EU citizens is collected and processed, is now official. It’s a great idea — uniform rules about how your information is gathered, how it’s stored, and how you can take it back, are long overdue. There has been (and will continue to be) plenty of discussion over what’s good, bad and ugly about GDPR, but most people who work in information security agree that the goals are well-intentioned and will provide the kind of protections we all need in the 21st century.

A bunch of popular websites just aren’t available to European visitors because you aren’t GDPR-compliant.

The individual articles of GDPR, however, aren’t so universally praised. Having gone into effect Friday, May 25, we already see fallout: the New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, LA Times and other high-profile websites are now unavailable in countries covered under GDPR regulations because they weren’t ready for the new rules. Many other websites and online services have bombarded users with new terms to agree to, and complaints have already been filed against notable tech giants Google and Facebook because they do not offer free services without allowing users to opt out of data collection.

More: Google’s making it easier to understand and manage user data it collects

Issues like these aren’t surprising. Neither is the sentiment that cloud-based services will lose revenue and be forced to raise prices as a result of GDPR, which half the attendees of Infosecurity Europe 2018 think will soon be happening. They also feel that GDPR will stifle innovation as small organizations will not be able to afford the necessary infrastructure to be compliant. This is good discussion by the people who need to be discussing it. Better privacy is worth the hours of back-and-forth needed to get it right.

But there’s one part of GDPR that I think is going to do more harm than good — Article 33’s 72-hour reporting rule. You can read the full text here, but the gist of it is that a company which keeps personal identification of EU citizens is fully responsible for any breach of security, no matter the reason, and must provide full disclosure to a supervisory committee within 72 hours of a breach. There is nothing great about this rule, but two parts are going to lead to service providers covering up data breaches rather than responsibly reporting them.

The first is the supervisory committee. Different countries have different ways of governing their citizens, but one thing they all have in common is preferential treatment when it comes to creating and staffing any official committee. A friend of a friend or that third cousin who can’t stop asking for a handout are prime candidates for any committee seat, and when the primary goal is protecting user data, only the most qualified individuals should be considered. Let’s hope that’s exactly whats done here and regulations can be adapted and enforced by people who have our best interests at heart and are qualified.

Small companies without the resources necessary to do a full breach investigation may choose to cover them up.

A bigger issue is the forced 72-hour reporting. Even a fully staffed Fortune 500 organization is not going to know enough about a data breach to start filing reports with a government agency. Given such a short time, expect little more than a company’s information security officer saying there was a breach and we’re not yet sure of any details. That’s little more than a waste of time for everyone involved, and I’d rather that time be spent trying to find out the why, the how, the when, and the who surrounding any type of data breach.

A smaller company who may already be struggling to meet GDPR compliance will be tempted to investigate if it can contain the breach and mitigate the damages on its own without any reports. When you’re under pressure and understaffed, a cover-up can sound like the right option.

Clearly, it never is. But companies great and small have been known to choose the wrong option time and time again when it comes down to the wire. Any regulation designed to protect users from companies making poor decisions is better without a rule that may push them to do just that.

Responsible and prompt reporting of a data heist is a must. Forcing companies that harvest and hold our data to do the right thing isn’t of much use without it. Creating the right oversight committee filled with the right people to revise how break-ins are treated — or even offering assistance when they happen — would go a long way to making GDPR a template for the rest of the world to follow.

26
May

Best Package Tracking Apps for Android


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What’s the best way to track a package on Android? Check out these package tracking apps!

If you’re shopping online from a bunch of different sites, it can be difficult to keep track of every purchase. Download a killer parcel tracking app and get your ducks in a row before a fat guy comes down your chimney.

  • Deliveries
  • ParcelTrack
  • AfterShip
  • 17TRACK
  • TrackChecker Mobile
  • Package Tracker Pro
  • Slice: Package Tracker

Deliveries

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Deliveries is likely one of the first names you’ll hear when you want to find a great package tracking app. It supports over 40 shippers and couriers, as well as postal services in 21 countries.

You can sync your packages across your devices, and in most cases track packages using Google Maps, so you can see exactly where your stuff is at all times. You can even get notifications when shipping statuses are updated.

Download: Deliveries (Free, IAPs)

ParcelTrack

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ParcelTrack is another wonderful tracking services that brings all of your incumbent deliveries into one place where you can monitor each one’s status on the go.

You’ll be provided with push notifications for shipping updates, and the very handy ParcelTrack Inbox simply extracts tracking numbers from the shipping emails you send its way, so you never need to tediously enter long tracking numbers.

Download: ParcelTrack (Free, IAPs)

AfterShip

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AfterShip is a completely free service that helps you track your shipments with over 360 couriers and does it all ad-free.

The developer recently added a data sync feature so you can keep track of your parcels across your devices, and when you copy and paste in tracking numbers, AfterShip automatically detects the courier to save you the hassle.

Download: AfterShip (Free)

17TRACK

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17TRACK is a great app to use if you like to often order from China or countries where shipping to North America is sometimes dicey at best. It supports over 170 postal carriers, as well as many, many of the world’s largest couriers, like DHL, UPS, FedEx, and a ton more.

You get a custom widget for your home screen, alerts for status changes, syncing across devices, and you can add multiple tracking numbers at once, while the app auto-detects carriers and tracks your packages accordingly.

Download: 17TRACK (Free)

TrackChecker Mobile

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TrackChecker Mobile might just be the most versatile package tracking app around and is great if you like to order parcels from those hard-to-reach places. It tracks packages being carried by over 550 couriers and postal services in 200 countries.

Customization is a big part of TrackChecker Mobiule’s charm; you can choose how frequently you want to receive notifications, and you can even export and imports tracking information to and from your PC.

Download: TrackChecker Mobile (Free, IAPs)

Package Tracker Pro

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Package Tracker Pro has been around for a long time, so it’s no wonder that it’s everyone’s favorite paid tracking app. It offers you features by the boatload, in the form of customization options, sorting options, the ability to archive tracking numbers, route maps, and a whole lot more.

The other great benefit of buying Package Tracker Pro is the support you get from the developer. You can email or contact Minstech Software via its website with any questions or suggestions you might have.

Download: Package Tracker Pro ($1.99)

Slice: Package Tracker

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Slice is great — if you’re ok with an app having access to read your email. That’s the whole point of this app: it reads your email, determines whether or not that particular email is for an online order, and automatically pulls your order details, organizing them for you and giving you updates on delivery status.

Slice pulls data from all the major U.S. carriers, like USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, and others, and it even goes so far as to notify you if the price of something you bought from a particular retailer has dropped since you bought it. If the retailer is supported by Slice, like Best Buy, Nordstrom, Walmart, and others, you can actually claim the price adjustment right from the app.

The main thing you have to be cool with here is Slice having direct access to your email. If you’re not cool with that access, then settle for manually adding information to other apps. But if you want to go down the automatic route, this is the app.

Download: Slice: Package Tracker (Free)

How do you keep track?

Do you use an awesome package tracking app not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below!

Updated May 2018: Added Slice: Package Tracker to the list. The rest are still the absolute best package tracking apps you can find for Android!

26
May

Could fleets of self-driving cars become a public health concern?


When it comes to autonomous and self-driving vehicles, they are perched up on a pedestal as being the future and a major solution to environmental and public transportation woes, mainly in the name of safety, reducing traffic congestion, and ultimately reducing a city’s carbon footprint. But how about associating autonomous and self-driving vehicles as a health, safety, and sanitary issue?

When it comes to autonomous and self-driving vehicles meant for fleet purposes, such as potentially replacing traditional drivers in the world of taxicabs and ridesharing, cleanliness of these vehicles could become a major issue, according to Slate.

It’s hard to deny that even today, taxicabs, Ubers, and even Lyfts, can have questionable levels of cleanliness already, so this concern isn’t unfounded as an emerging form of public transportation suffering from growing pains. Anyone who’s utilized public transportation in any form in any major metropolitan area knows that even current methods of transportation present major public health challenges.

When it comes to shuttling thousands, if not millions of people, on a regular basis from point A to point B, it’s inevitable things will get dirtied up just by the usual flow of people by massive amounts of volume. That, of course, makes it a public health concern, especially when it comes to the control of pathogens and disease, among many other human health concerns when a mass of bodies converges in a single, confined space. From those trying to get the local health clinic for assistance and those who get promiscuous after a late night of drinking. You get the idea, which is why it’s always good to wash your hands after using public transportation.

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Thankfully, there is usually a dedicated maintenance team that helps keep things as clean as possible according to health department and commercial policy requirements. But that can range from a multi-person housekeeping staff for subway cars to just a single driver of a taxicab, both of which you hope would keep the seats remain stain-free and sanitized. And everyone’s idea of clean varies, greatly.

So it is without a doubt that cleanliness will be a public health concern for self-driving cars. Removing the driver also removes the human element who is expected to maintain cleanliness.

But this isn’t to say there aren’t any solutions. Most taxicab and livery fleets usually get cleaned up regularly when they’re parked at home base and throughout the day. Additionally, lots of taxi and hire fleets feature special antimicrobial seat covers to simplify maintenance.

With self-driving vehicles, the driver might not be present to keep these things clean. So it will be important for the automakers of self-driving vehicles to incorporate quality, health-conscious designs and materials while it’s up to fleet operators to maintain a cleaning regiment.

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26
May

FBI: Reboot, reset your router immediately to prevent cyberattacks


Following reports that a type of malware has infected more than 500,000 routers used in homes and small businesses in more than 50 countries, the FBI is urging all consumers to reboot their routers. The VPNFilter malware was discovered by Cisco’s security researchers and affects routers made by Linksys, Mikrotik, Netgear, QNAP, and TP-Link. The U.S. Department of Justice said the authors of the VPNFilter were part of the Sofacy group that answered directly to the Russian government, Reuters reported, and that Ukraine was the likely target of the attack.

“The VPNFilter malware is a multistage, modular platform with versatile capabilities to support both intelligence collection and destructive cyberattack operations,” Cisco said in a report. Because the malware could collect data from the user and even perform a large -scale destructive attack, Cisco recommends that owners of SOHO or network attached storage (NAS) devices be especially cautious with this type of attack. And since it’s unclear how compromised devices were infected in the first place, officials are urging users of all routers and NAS devices, not just the 14 devices identified by Cisco, to reboot.

Cisco

“The FBI recommends any owner of small office and home office routers reboot the devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and aid the potential identification of infected devices,” FBI officials warned. “Owners are advised to consider disabling remote management settings on devices and secure with strong passwords and encryption when enabled. Network devices should be upgraded to the latest available versions of firmware.”

There are three stages to VPNFilter — a persistent stage 1 and non-persistent stages 2 and 3. Because of how the malware works, rebooting will clear out stages 2 and 3 and mitigate most problems. The FBI had seized a domain used by the malware’s creator to deliver stages 2 and 3 of the attack, and that these later stages cannot survive a reboot.

The Justice Department also issued a similar warning, urging users to reboot their routers. “Owners of SOHO and NAS devices that may be infected should reboot their devices as soon as possible, temporarily eliminating the second-stage malware and causing the first-stage malware on their device to call out for instructions,” the department said in a statement. “Although devices will remain vulnerable to reinfection with the second-stage malware while connected to the Internet, these efforts maximize opportunities to identify and remediate the infection worldwide in the time available before Sofacy actors learn of the vulnerability in their command-and-control infrastructure.”

Cisco advised all users to perform a factory reset of their devices, which would clear out even stage 1 of the malware. If you’re unclear on how to perform a factory reset, you should contact the router manufacturer for instructions, but in general inserting a paper clip into the “reset” button located on the back or bottom of your router and holding it in place for a few seconds will wipe your router. Additional recommendations to mitigate future attacks are also found in Cisco’s report.

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26
May

30 percent fewer taxis in New York City could be an improvement, MIT says


It’s pretty clear that self-driving cars will have a big disruptive impact on the taxi industry — but so too could the right routing algorithm. In a new paper published in the journal Nature, researchers from MIT describe an ultra-efficient dispatching algorithm that they say could slash the size of a city’s fleet of taxis by 30 percent.

“The question we tried to answer is the following: At any given time throughout the day in a city such as NYC, which cab should pick up which passenger so that we make sure all passengers are picked up at their requested time without any delays and with only the absolute minimum number of cabs possible?” research scientist Moe Vazife told Digital Trends.

Their work demonstrates that failing to assign vehicles in a smart way means that cities wind up with more vehicles on the road that are needed. Whether you’re running a taxi company or just worried about the environment, that’s not good news. However, solving the “minimum fleet problem” means that a more intelligent approach cut down on the number of cars required.

“To tackle this problem we devised a network-based approach in which we create a large network consisting of many many nodes and links, based on the information we have from trips and travel times in a city at a given day,” Vazife continued. “Then we use a very efficient algorithm to find the golden fleet-size number given the set of trips as well as a detailed plan for each vehicle in the fleet.”

For the time being, Vazife said that it might prove challenging to implement because human drivers will not always behave in a way that is consistent with the algorithm’s recommendations. But in a future world of autonomous cars, this could provide a great way of optimally serving cities’ transportation demands while ensuring that the footprint and operational costs are as low as possible.

“I think there are still exciting research problems to solve before making this available in practice,” Vazife said. “The next steps, in my opinion, is trying to [examine] some of the addressable limitations which we have discussed in our paper, and exploring further the possibility for an implementation in the form of an on-demand mobility service to improve the vehicle utilization rates in our cities, as well as traffic conditions of our cities’ roads.”

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