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The beauty of announcing a device that won't launch for a year is that you don't have to toss out the specs list or inner workings for the wolves to tear apart. You can build excitement first. This is what Microsoft did last week with the Surface Duo, a dual-screen device that also happens to be the company's first phone in years -- even though Microsoft says the Duo isn't actually a phone. We know the gist of the product -- an Android phone (which Microsoft denies is actually a phone) that essentially doubles your screen space to take on foldable phone design. Although we have to wait until "holiday 2020" to meet the Duo, Microsoft has certainly created a sense of hype by leaping back into the game at a time when phones that double the available screen space are seen as the next big thing in phone design. A quick flash of the Surface Duo taken from an executive's pocket, a 2-minute video and a few minutes with a non-functioning prototype were our only glimpses at the device. Microsoft's well-orchestrated teaser gives us only fragments of detail, leaving us to wonder if the Duo will come together as a device that could truly take on foldable phones like the Galaxy Fold and upcoming foldable Motorola Razr. Foldable phones aren't expected to be cheap. Samsung sells its Galaxy Fold for $1,980, and the (delayed) Huawei Mate X will go for the equivalent of $2,600. While the Surface Duo won't be a foldable phone, it achieves about the same goal by doubling up on the given screen space you have to work with for watching videos, reading, typing, and playing games. This extra screen space is the real benefit, and the Galaxy Fold proves what a convenience it is. It's a convenience you're also expected to pay for. Follow this and lots more on OUR FORUM.

You might have heard of the copyright law that states data ownership goes to the person who created the data. In this case, data refers to intellectual properties. But can the same definition be applied to smart devices all connected to the Internet? Data moves through many things before and after it is processed. So exactly who owns the machine-generated IoT data? Does the end-user own the IoT data collected by smart devices that you use? Or does the company that created the single board has rights over the data? Does the operating system on the single board tell you that they’ll own the data passing through that smart device (In their “Terms and Conditions”) Does the board manufacturer own it? Among others who can lay claim to data collected by smart devices are the software developers who program the smart devices. This is confusing and as yet, has no clear guidelines as to who owns IoT data. This is the person using different smart devices. Since they are smart devices, they are all connected to the Internet. End-users can access these devices using the related app on their smartphones or directly by punching keys on smart devices. Almost all of the data on a network is created by the end-user. If we applied the copyright law to all this, the end-user would be the IoT data owner. Unfortunately, copyright law does not yet consider smart devices’ data. There are no laws for the IoT devices at the time of writing this article (September 29, 2019). Entities that manufacture smart devices (single board micro-computers that can take certain actions when something happens) are also contenders for data obtained by the devices. They have created the micro-computers and hence their claim to the data. However, it is not feasible to give away one’s rights (end users) to someone else (the manufacturers) as we don’t know where the data will be stored and how will it be used. But there is not much an end-user can do if the hardware makers stake their claim to data without even asking for such permissions. This posting is somewhat detailed, for comprehensive details visit OUR FORUM.

Microsoft is not done with the mobile form factor devices and the company recently announced the highly-anticipated Surface Phone called ‘Surface Duo’. Microsoft’s dual-screen device isn’t running Windows but… Android, and it will also come equipped with Google Play Store. Surface Duo will bring the best of Microsoft’s experiences, Android and excellent Surface hardware design into a single handset. Surface Duo is a 5.6-inch device with large bezels when folded and it fits inside the pocket, but Microsoft’s Panos Panay doesn’t like to call the Surface Duo a phone. In other words, Surface Duo is a dual-screen device that can do much more than any other Android phone and tablet. Duo has a hinge that joins two 5.6-inch displays and is specifically aimed at boosting productivity. Surface Duo comes with a front-facing camera and stereo sound, but the Redmond firm didn’t talk up the Surface Duo’s camera which raises an important question— will the Surface Duo have a “real” camera? The Galaxy Fold inherits cameras of the Galaxy S10 Plus and it has three lenses on the back, and two inside. The prototype of the Surface Duo, which Microsoft demoed at the Surface event, doesn’t have a rear camera, which means users will have to rely on the front-facing camera wrapped around. But it’s possible that Microsoft is internally working on a prototype of Surface Duo with an interesting camera module. Speaking at the Surface event, Panos Panay dropped hint Microsoft has other tricks to offer a decent camera in this device, but the company has no plans to reveals too many details about the camera. Follow this and more on OUR FORUM.

Microsoft has issued an out-of-band required update for all versions of Windows, rounding out the patch it released on September 23 to address an already-exploited flaw in Internet Explorer. Initially, Microsoft only released the out-of-band patch for CVE-2019-1367 on the Microsoft Update Catalog, which users needed to manually download. But Microsoft has now released it through Windows Update and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) to distribute it more widely to end-users. "This is a required security update that expands the out-of-band update dated September 23, 2019," Microsoft warns users. The decision not to release the patch through Windows Update and WSUS caused some confusion. Why create a patch and then not distribute automatically to all Windows users until now?  The IE scripting engine flaw was found by Clement Lecigne of Google's Threat Analysis Group, and Microsoft raced out the patch within days. It's likely that the vulnerability was being used to target a narrow section of Windows users. It's also not clear how much time Microsoft was able to spend regression testing its patch before releasing it. Lecigne also discovered a publicly-unknown bug in Chrome and one affecting Windows 7 in February. The flaws were being used in tandem to attack targeted users. Google released a patch for Chrome and disclosed the existence of the Windows 7 flaw before Microsoft was able to release its patch. At this stage, Lecigne has not published any details about the IE flaw. The new Windows out-of-band update also addresses a bug that caused print jobs to fail. For more turn to OUR FORUM

Unlike last year’s Surface Headphones, which only worked with Cortana, the Surface Earbuds that Microsoft announced today work with any virtual assistant. That means you can use the Surface Earbuds with Cortana, but also with Alexa, Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri, or any other competitor. We talked to Surface Earbuds product lead Mohammed Samji to find out more about the $249 buds and the Surface Audio app. Like the Surface Headphones, the Surface Earbuds don’t do anything until you pair them. Surface Earbuds communicate over Bluetooth 5.0 with an Android, iOS, or Windows 10 device. Once paired, you can tap and hold either of the buds to trigger the default assistant on your device. To use a different virtual assistant with the Surface Earbuds, just change the default assistant on the paired device. “Out of the box, it just works,” Samji said. “On PC, it launches Cortana. On iOS, it will launch Siri, unless you’ve changed it. And I think it might vary depending on the distribution of Android, but all the ones I’ve tested, the first time I do it, Android asks me what I want as my default.” Surface Earbuds still offer a better experience with Cortana (although without the “Hey Cortana” wakeword), Samji made sure to emphasize. Surface Earbuds can do everything with Cortana that the Surface Headphones can do, like chit-chat, interact with your email, check your calendar, get your daily update, and create to-dos. Samji said his team created a more streamlined flow for all this Cortana functionality. It’s called Surface Audio. A Surface Audiotrademark filing from September 27 was discovered by LetsGoDigital earlier today. The trademark is classified under Class 9, which is reserved for firmware and software. Samji confirmed Surface Audio is the companion app for the Surface Earbuds. We have more posted on OUR FORUM.

Stories about China and the VPN market usually focus on the use of these virtual private networks to access news sites and social media when caught behind the country’s infamous “Great Firewall.” But now there’s a twist, with new research finding that “the top 10 Google Play search results for ‘VPN’ are dominated by [Chinese] apps participating in potentially fraudulent manipulation practices.” And those apps have secured more than 280 million installs between them. VPNs redirect internet traffic through remote servers, hiding user locations and IP addresses, encrypting information sent and received. And so this new research from the team at VPNPro is worrying on two counts. First, Google’s system appears to be easily gamed. There are no sophisticated tactics at work here—the researchers claim that basic ruses make all the difference. And, second, users might inadvertently install VPNs they believe to be popular and safe, when in fact if data is logged, if that data can be linked to the individual using the app, then the purpose of the VPN is undermined. In short, the team claims to have “uncovered what appears to be a large scale operation by Chinese VPN service providers to manipulate Google Play store results—leading to millions of people using potentially unsafe VPNs.” The team has concluded that the blatant manipulation of Google Play together with the “obligation” Chinese tech companies have “to hand data to the government when requested, “could indicate a much more serious issue beyond algorithm manipulation.” The VPNPro team found that “seven out of the top ten apps,” found to be manipulating the Google Play system, “are either based in Hong Kong, have Chinese directors or are located in China.” Commenting on the research, VPNPro security researcher Jan Youngren warned that “at best we’ve uncovered companies using underhand, unethical tactics to mislead consumers and make millions. At worst, there’s a much more sinister strategy at play to monitor and obtain the data of millions of people who have cause to use a VPN to stay safe and private—Often these people live in countries where it is dangerous to publicly express their views, or work in fields such as investigative journalism and human rights... an unsafe VPN can be a matter of life or death.”There's lots more posted on OUR FORUM.

 

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