Monthly Archives: November 2016

Heightened Hearing

Welcome to another edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that breaks down the latest in gadget announcements to determine if they’d be naughty or nice additions to your stocking.

Hanging on the fireplace this time around are earbuds to improve your hearing, heated insoles, and a small transparent speaker, which is called “Small Transparent Speaker.”

As always, these are not reviews, and you should place no stock into my ratings, beyond their denoting how much I’d like to try each item.

 

Ear Boost

Bose’s latest earbuds (pictured above) are designed to help you tune in to the specific sounds you want to hear from the world around you. Hearphones are a sort of blend of noise-cancelling earbuds and hearing aids.

There are several presets in the app, with names like “focused conversation,” “gym,” “airplane” and “television.” You can opt to crank up the volume on all sound from the world around you or turn it down. You can block out noise or amplify it from certain directions.

For instance, you might use it to help you better hear a specific person in a crowded place. Can’t hear what your partner is yelling at a festival? You can temporarily turn up the Hearphones, and turn down the crowd and music (though why you’d have Hearphones in your ears at a live music event is a little beyond me).

It’s not the first time we’ve seen earbuds pull off this sound-augmenting trick, but to my knowledge, it’s the first time we’ve seen a pair like this from a manufacturer as well-known as Bose. The “Bose” name should help Hearphones gain more recognition than they otherwise might, normalizing the concept to a degree.

I like the idea, and there are a lot of practical applications for it. The option to stay laser-focused on listening to what my kid might be up to at a crowded playpark seems like it would be welcome in the alternate reality where I have children. My partner also might be less annoyed at my listening to podcasts while we’re cleaning up if I can hear her over the top of the chatter.

 

Winter Warmers

I can’t think of a better time to start a crowdfunding project for heated insoles than when the temperatures start to plummet and there’s a very real chance of cold toes, even while wearing three pairs of socks.

We’ve seen other connected heated insoles in the past, but the +Winter models have some advantages over the competition. They pair with an app over Bluetooth to set the temperature and monitor battery level, and they can charge wirelessly.

Although I’ve been vocal about my dislike of wireless charging and its energy inefficiency, I’d absolutely make an exception here. I’d turn the charger on only when actually using it, and if it meant I could charge the insoles without having to remove them from my boots and carefully refit them afterward, I’d forego my principles for once.

Apple Security Flaws

More security vulnerabilities will appear in the software of Adobe and Apple than in Microsoft’s, more attacks on the Internet’s infrastructure will occur, and cybersecurity events will stoke international tensions. Those are a few of the predictions for 2017 that security experts shared with TechNewsWorld.

Users of Apple desktops and laptops for years have been relatively insulated from the kinds of malicious activity that has besieged those in the Windows world, but that’s going to change next year, warned Trend Micro.

More software flaws will affect Adobe and Apple in 2017, compared to Microsoft, the company noted in a security predictions report.

Declining PC sales and an exodus to mobile platforms have dampened interest in targeting devices running Windows, Trend Micro explained. Microsoft also has upped its security game in recent times, which has made it more difficult for attackers to find vulnerabilities in Windows.

Signs of hackers’ increased interest in Adobe and Apple started appearing in 2016, Trend Micro noted. Zero day vulnerabilities — flaws unknown to researchers until malicious actors exploit them — numbered 135 for Adobe compared to 76 for Microsoft.

Meanwhile, Apple’s vulnerability count during the same period increased to 50, shooting up from 25 in 2015.

The increased attention Apple has drawn from criminals can be associated with its growing success in the desktop and laptop market.

“There’s a much broader use of Apple products now,” said Ed Cabrera, vice president of cybersecurity strategy at Trend Micro.

“The criminals go where consumers and enterprises are,” he told TechNewsWorld. “If consumers and enterprises are utilizing more Apple products, then that’s where they’re going to focus their activity, because that’s where the money is going to be.”

Upstream Attacks

Distributed denial of service attacks long have functioned as a cyberweapon against websites, but their use reached a new level in 2016, when they disrupted Internet service in parts of North America and Europe by choking an important piece of Net infrastructure: the domain name system.

The DNS converts domain names into corresponding IP addresses. If a domain name can’t be paired with its IP address, then a browser becomes lost on the Net.

More “upstream” attacks on the Internet will take place in 2017, said Chase Cunningham, director of cyberoperations at A10 Networks.

“If you’re an enemy of someone who depends on the Internet for business or commerce, last year it was shown that if you upstream a little bit and launch a crafted Denial of Service attack, you can bring down large provider websites and infrastructure,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“In 2017, we’re going to see more upstream attacks, and DDoS is going to make a comeback as a cyberweapon,” Cunningham said. “We’re going to see a powerful denial of service attack on something that will cause problems for a national infrastructure.”

Hot off the rumor

Spotted in an EU trademark application, Beast Mode would apply to smartphones, mobile phones and application software for smartphones, notedGalaxy Club, a Netherlands-based blog.

The Galaxy S8 is expected to be the first smartphone built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor. If true, that lines up with the notion that Beast Mode could allow super high performance.

Another rumor is that the Galaxy S8 will have an optical fingerprint scanner built into the display instead of the body.

Further, it’s rumored that it will include Bluetooth 5.0, recently approved by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group — and that idea seems to carry a fair amount of weight.

Countering Bad PR”There’s a strong possibility that Samsung will incorporate Bluetooth 5 into the Galaxy S8,” said Ken Hyers, director of wireless device strategies at Strategy Analytics.

“With the cancellation of the Note7, the Galaxy S8 is now [Samsung’s] premier device to showcase the latest and best smartphone technology,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Samsung had to institute a global recall of millions of Galaxy Note7s after multiple instances in which the device spontaneously burst into flames. Some replacement devices also caught fire.

“Samsung has a PR problem,” observed Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan. “Note7 is a disaster, and they need something with which to seize the technological high ground.”

Putting cutting-edge technologies in the S8 “will help a lot,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Remember, practically nothing is Bluetooth 5-compliant,” Jude noted. “As long as the S8 can talk to existing Bluetooth devices, it’s golden. People will be drawn to the latest, greatest technology.”

Bluetooth 5.0 doesn’t replace 4.0, 4.1 or 4.2. It extends the functionality of these previous versions of the Bluetooth Core Specification.

Further, Bluetooth 5.0 lets manufacturers leverage interoperability and performance improvements incorporated in the core specs since 4.2 was released.

“From Bluetooth headsets and speakers to home control, personal robots and drones, Bluetooth is a default technology for connecting devices, with the smartphone as the hub of consumers’ device universe,” Strategy Analytics’ Hyers remarked.

“We are rapidly moving into a more complex connected device world,” he pointed out.

Samsung has focused heavily on the Internet of Things, offering smart TVs and smart appliances that can be tied to its smartphones.

Bluetooth 5 “is a huge advance over previous versions of Bluetooth from a connectivity speed and capacity standpoint,” Hyers pointed out, noting that it’s a natural fit for Samsung’s next flagship device.

The S8 will “be both a mass market flagship and a showcase for Samsung’s technological leadership” since the company has canceled its Note series of phablets, he said.

Therefore, Samsung “will be careful to only put technology and features in it that it’s certain will not create issues,” Hyers contended. As a relatively low-risk feature, Bluetooth 5 likely will appear in the S8 in Q1 2017.

 

Bluetooth 5.0 Specs

Bluetooth 5.0 offers 2Mbps of bandwidth, twice that of Bluetooth 4.2, with low energy.

The bandwidth can be decreased to achieve up to 4x the broadcast range of Bluetooth 4.2 with the same power requirement. That means home automation and security devices can cover entire homes, buildings or locations.

Developers can adjust the broadcast range, speed and security for different environments.

Bluetooth 5.0 delivers reliable Internet of Things connections, and it will increase the relevance of beacons and other location awareness technologies, which will enable a seamless IoT experience.

It also has ad extensions that enable more efficient use of broadcasting channels on the 2.4 GHz band.

Slot availability masks can detect and prevent interference on neighboring bands.

 

Keeping the Note7’s Specter at Bay

Many consumers returned their Note7 phablets to purchase an older Galaxy S7, Hyers said. “Given that history, “I expect that the Galaxy S8 will be the most carefully tested and verified smartphone ever released.”