Daily News Roundup: Google Kills the Project to Bring Windows to Chromebooks

Late last year, details surfaced about a new project Google was working on to bring Windows to some Chromebooks. As of now, however, it looks like that’s never going to happen—the project is deprecated.

Known as Project Campfire (or “AltOS” in the source code), the goal was to bring a dual-boot setup with Windows to select Chromebooks. As far as we know, it was in testing on the Pixelbook but would have likely shown up on other high-powered Chromebooks as well.

When news about Campfire first dropped, many users were exceptionally excited with the idea of being able to run Windows alongside Chrome OS on their laptops—it would be the perfect solution to offset Chrome OS’ downsides. But backporting it to older devices does seem like a massive undertaking, especially given the limited storage on most Chromebooks. Campfire was rumored to require at least 40 GB of free space to work at all, which is a tall order for nearly all Chromebooks out there.

It’s not much of a shocker that Google canned the project, and it’s worth keeping in mind that it never existed in any “official” capacity in the first place. With Linux apps on all Chromebooks moving forward, users already have more choices than ever before on Chrome OS—and less of a reason to need Windows in the first place. Ultimately, I’d rather see the Chrome OS team working on new Chrome OS features anyway. [About Chromebooks]

In Other News

  • The FCC wants to block all robocalls: The Federal Communications Commission proposed a plan to allow phone companies to block robocalls by default. This would allow carriers to work on call blocking tools, which could also allow customers to auto-block any call not on their contact list. This sounds like a step in the right direction. [Engadget]
  • Google’s BLE Titan Key has a security flaw: Google’s Titan Key is a bundle of two security keys used for 2FA—one USB, one Bluetooth/USB. Google found a security flaw in the latter of the pair and warned users yesterday. It’s offering free replacements to Titan customers, which will give them a brand new set of keys. You can go here for more info. [TechCrunch]
  • Samsung may have fixed the Fold: According to a new report from South Korean news agency Yonhap, Samsung made the changes necessary to fix its flawed Galaxy Fold smartphone. It will move the protective layer that was being removed by users to below the glass, as well as close the gaps around the folding mechanism that allowed dust and debris to enter the device and cause damage. A firm release date still isn’t available. [9to5Google]
  • Steam Link comes to iOS: About a year ago, Apple rejected Steam Link—the app that allows users to stream games from Steam on a PC to a mobile device—from its App Store for “business conflicts with app guidelines.” Now, however, the decision is reversed, and Steam Link is available for all in the App Store. You just can’t purchase games from within the app—a feature that’s available on Android. [The Verge]
  • A new app that can identify ear infections: Researchers at the University of Washington developed an app that will let parents check their child for signs of an ear infection using nothing more than the phone’s microphone and cone-shaped piece of paper. Fascinating. [Gizmodo]
  • Instagram is killing its standalone messaging app: Also, did you know Instagram has a direct messaging app? It does—-but it’s going to be gone “within the month.” That was fast. [TechRadar]

At yesterday’s Nintendo Direct event, the company announced the long-awaited Super Mario Maker 2, and this time around it packs a lot more than a simple level builder. In true Mario fashion, Maker 2 will offer a story mode where you have to rebuild Peach’s castle. It also revamped the builder itself to include co-op building, a ton of new items and mechanics all new to a Mario game. Maker 2 will be out on June 28th for Switch. [Kotaku]

Daily News Roundup: ZombieLoad is the Latest Threat to Intel PCs

Last year saw the release of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, but researchers warned that this pair of flaws was just the start of something bigger. ZombieLoad is the newest vulnerability to leverage a similar type of attack.

While there isn’t a lot to say about ZombieLoad that hasn’t already been said, here’s what you need to know. First off, it affects nearly every Intel processor made since 2011. Secondly, since it directly affects the processor, it’s OS agnostic—this flaw is present on Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Linux, and pretty much any other operating system that runs on an Intel chip.

The good news? Most of the major players have already patched the vulnerability (or will do so very soon)—Apple has a fix for every Mac and MacBook released since 2011, Mozilla is making sure Firefox is safe,  Microsoft is rolling a fix out to Windows, and Amazon is deploying a patch for AWS. Google said that most Android devices aren’t vulnerable—you know, since most don’t use Intel chips—but a patch has been developed and will need to be distributed by manufacturers. Affected Chrome OS devices are good to go as of Chrome OS 74, though it may cause a bit of a performance hit until the permanent solution becomes available in Chrome OS 75 as the temporary fix disabled hyperthreading.

Without getting overly-technical, ZombieLoad does its thing by leveraging something called, get this, a zombie load. A zombie load contains clusters of data that the processor can’t, erm, process, so it has to request assistance from microcode to avoid crashing. The ZombieLoad vulnerability allows attackers to leverage this process to access any data currently loaded in the processor’s core in real-time. Since the processor sees all, you can imagine why this is such an issue—usernames, passwords, sensitive account info, and the like are all potentially at risk here.

On the upside, researchers only recently found this vulnerability, and there’s no proof that it has been leveraged out in the world yet. Now that the word is out, however, it’s sure to pique the interest of every wrong-doer with the know-how, so it’s critical that you make sure to patch your devices. Install those updates, folks! [TechCrunch, The Verge, Wired

In Other News

Disney buys Comcast’s stake in Hulu, OnePlus officially announces the 7 Pro, Google is getting more ads, Facebook brings back “view as public,” and more.

  • Disney now has full control of Hulu: Disney is poised to buy Comcast’s stake in Hulu and will take full control of the streaming service effective immediately. Nothing will change in terms of content as of now, as Comcast agreed to extend the licensing of NBCUniversal content until “late 2024.” After that, however, we’ll have to see. [Ars Technica]
  • The OnePlus 7 Pro is official: It features a notchless 6.67-inch 90 Hz QHD+ display with a 93 percent screen-to-body ratio and pop-up selfie camera, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU, up to 12GB of RAM, and other beastly specs. All for a starting price of $669. It’s a monster. [OnePlus]
  • New Google ads are coming: Google announced all sorts of new ads yesterday, mostly for mobile. Google Search is getting more intrusive ads, as is the Discover feed. Yay? [The Verge]
  • Facebook is bringing back “view as public”: Remember the Facebook feature of old that allowed you to see your profile the way others saw it? Well, it’s coming back—hopefully, it’s more secure this time. [Engadget]
  • AT&T will pull content from Netflix for its own thing: You ever sit back and think “man, if only there were 17 more streaming services with all different content!” Well, boy, do we have good news for you! AT&T is gearing up to launch a streaming service, and when it does, you can say goodbye to things like Friends and The Office on Netflix. Great. [Android Police]
  • Google to pay some Pixel owners in a class-action lawsuit: The suit states that the company knew the original Pixel had a faulty mic, yet they sold it anyway. Now Google will have to pay up to $500 to some users. All Pixel and Pixel XL devices made before January 4th, 2017 are covered. [The Verge]
  • A new Mortal Kombat movie is coming: Look, maybe you don’t care about this, but I’m already hyped. I need more live action Baraka. [Engadget]

Google is combining and renaming a bunch of services in its latest shift. First off, Google Trips, Flights, hotel search, and similar services you probably didn’t know Google offered are going to be a singular service called Trips. You can check it out now. Secondly, as previously rumored, Google Express is becoming Google Shopping, and it’s getting integration with Google Images, Discover, and YouTube. This will make it even easier to buy things using Google Shopping. They’re coming for you, Amazon. [The Verge, Android Police]

Daily News Roundup: Apple’s App Store Monopoly

As of late, Apple has been under fire for its App Store practices. Specifically, the fact that it takes a 30% cut of all app sales, causing developers to raise prices, leaving users no other choice but to pay up.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled iPhone owners could proceed with a suit against Apple for the practice. Since Apple only allows apps to be downloaded directly from its App Store on iOS, the claim is that it has a monopoly over app distribution. It’s an interesting angle because iOS is one of the only (or perhaps the only?) operating systems that works like this. Android, Windows, Linux, and even macOS allow users to install whatever they like outside of any official channels that exist.

Of course, this practice is nothing new for Apple—the company has been curating its App Store since the beginning. It uses this as a way to control the quality of the apps installed on iOS devices, which helps keep the OS (mostly) free from viruses, malware, and other malicious applications. Considering the fire that Android comes under for having a “virus problem” (which isn’t exactly accurate), there’s an argument that Apple’s approach works.

Naturally, Apple has responded to the Court’s decision, stating that the App Store “is not a monopoly by any metric” in a statement shared by 9to5Mac. It goes on to state that “developers set the price they want to charge for their app and Apple has no role in that,” and that “the vast majority of apps on the App Store are free and Apple gets nothing from them.” It’s a compelling argument, though it’s not without its holes. For example, while developers do set their own prices, there’s nothing to prove they don’t offset the cost of what Apple will take, thus moving the responsibility to the user. I guess that’s ultimately why this is going to court in the first place.

Yesterday’s ruling doesn’t mean much yet—it simply states that lawsuits against Apple will be allowed to move forward. It will likely be a while before anything results from the cases, but the implications could change the way iOS works forever—for example, it could force the company to allow third-party app stores on its platform, which would be a huge shift.

But now we’re starting to get ahead of ourselves because it’s still just too early to tell. [CNBC, Engadget, Wired, The Verge]

In Other News

Amazon wants employees to quit their jobs and start delivery businesses, iOS 12.3 is out, Spotify releases a tool for podcasters, and more.

  • Amazon wants to help employees start delivery businesses: Amazon is always looking for ways to reduce shipping times, and its most recent idea is an interesting one: it’s offering to give employees “up to $10,000” to start their own delivery businesses. Compelling. [Ars Technica]
  • iOS 12.3 is out: It includes the new Apple TV app, AirPlay 2, bug fixes, and more. [MacRumors]
  • Spotify makes mixing and mastering podcasts easier: It just launched a new service called Soundtrap, which will help amateur podcasters produce high-quality content with simple, collaborative editing. The full suite will set users back $15 a month. [CNET]
  • A Twitter bug exposed location data for iOS users: The company disclosed the bug yesterday, which has since been resolved. If you use two accounts on Twitter and allow one to access precise location but not the other, there’s a chance that this bug allowed your location data to be visible on both accounts. [9to5Mac]
  • Windows 10 gets Arch Linux: Windows 10 has access to several Linux distros straight from the Microsoft Store, and now a third-party developer has done the same for Arch Linux. It’s unofficially supported, however, so proceed at your own risk. [TechRadar]
  • Google Tasks comes to Gmail for Android: You can now quickly add things to Tasks directly from the Gmail app. Nice. [XDA Developers]
  • Good news: over 25,000 Linksys routers are leaking data: They’re vulnerable to a remote exploit, allowing attackers to access sensitive information and potentially enslave the routers in botnet setups. A fix isn’t yet available, so if you have a Linksys router, this is something to look into. [ZDNet]
  • Walmart offers free one-day shipping: If Amazon is going to do something, you better believe Walmart is going to copy it. The new service is rolling out in Phoenix and Las Vegas now and is expected to hit 75 percent of the country by year’s end. The most significant difference compared to Amazon’s new one-day option? Walmart requires a $35 minimum order. [Engadget]
  • Google added “your data” to Assistant: This makes it easier to access and delete your Google Assistant recordings/interactions. Just another step towards increased transparency and privacy options from Google. Good stuff [Android Police

The future of portable PCs is here, and it includes multiple screens. In the case of the HP Omen X 2S, that means a big screen and a little screen. With an unnamed Lenovo Thinkpad, that means a foldable display. The future is wild, y’all.

Monet Phone Wallet/Stand/Ring Review: I Hate How Much I Love This Thing

Monet
Cameron Summerson

You know those wallets you stick to the back of your phone? How about the rings that also work as kickstands? Well, Monet is both of those things in one. And I hate how much I love it.

For the majority of my time as a smartphone user, I’ve been totally opposed to cases. In recent years, I’ve come to accept them as a necessary evil—as phones become more “premium,” they also become more slippery and fragile. So cases are pretty much a must.

I also refused to stick any of those stupid “hold your phone better with this ring!” or “attach your credit cards to your phone with this wallet!” gadgets to the back of my phone. It was bad enough I had to use a case, but I was absolutely not interested in making my sleek, svelte smartphone bulkier.

But then I had an idea. I’m a cyclist, and I’ve been putting my phone in a plastic bag, then throwing my driver’s license and debit card in the bag with the phone when I’m on the bike. That then goes in my jersey pocket. But I got sick of doing this—I wanted a simple way to carry all three in one place. So I thought one of those stupid stick-on wallet things would do the trick. I could throw my essential cards in there when I’m on the bike, keeping it all together and easily accessible.

What is Monet and How Does it Work?

One day while shopping at Sam’s Club, my wife found these things called Monet—it was a two-pack for $10 (they’re $15 on Amazon or $20 directly from Monet for one so you might want to keep an eye out at your local Sam’s Club or Costo).

The Monet is a pretty sleek little phone wallet that also has another neat trick: a pop-out “ring” that also works as a kickstand. Intriguing! As far as phone wallets, rings, and kickstands are concerned, it’s definitely one of the more interesting designs I’ve seen.

Monet
Cameron Summerson

Monet is made of faux leather and holds two cards (maybe more if you really stuff it full, which I don’t recommend) in a crisscross pattern. Just below that, there’s a little “tab” of sorts that slides out, serving as a ring and kickstand. The design is really well thought out. Also, if you look at Monet’s website, they have an absolute ton of different colors and designs. It’ll cost you to buy direct ($20 versus $15 at Amazon versus $10 for two at Sam’s), but hey—you can’t put a price on uniqueness, right?

Being the curmudgeon that I am about stuff like this, I mulled it over for a while. The thought of sticking this crap—as clever as it may be—on the back of my phone didn’t sit well with me. But one more long ride with my phone, license, and debit card in a plastic bag, and I knew I wanted to do something differently. So we went back to Sam’s and picked up the two-pack—one for me, one for my wife.

I stuck it on the back of my phone with the intention of only using it when I went riding and otherwise trying to ignore the fact that it’s there. But man, let me tell you: I couldn’t help but start using it. And now that I have it, I never want to go without it.

Read the remaining 13 paragraphs

Daily News Roundup: Prime One-Day is Rolling Out as Machines Replace Workers

Amazon recently said that it would shift all Prime members from free two-day shipping to free one-day shipping throughout 2019. As it turns out, some customers are already getting bumped to free one-day, as reported by The Verge.

While logistically it’s going to take Amazon a while to get free one-day shipping rolled out to all customers—especially those in more rural areas that may be further from distribution centers—it’s nice to see it already rolling out to some others. Of course, one-day shipping isn’t new on the whole, as it was previously available to some users with a minimum $35 order. The “new” one-day shipping option will not only make it the default choice for Prime members but also removes the $35 threshold.

This news comes in tandem with a report from Reuters that Amazon is starting to replace some of its human box packers with machines that can pack up orders “4 to 5 times” faster than people. The machines, which are already in a handful of warehouses, can pack a staggering 600 to 700 boxes per hour. That’s insane.

For Amazon, however, it’s not necessarily about speed—“It’s truly about efficiency and savings,” according to the Reuters report. I’m honestly not sure how “efficiency” doesn’t translate almost directly to “speed,” but hey, whatever. If it’s faster, it’s more efficient.

The biggest question here, of course, is what this means for the workers who are replaced with the packing machines. As you can probably imagine, box packing is a high-turnover job, so instead of letting workers go, Amazon simply won’t refill those roles as workers quit. Ultimately, the machines will likely replace around 1,300 workers across the country.

As for the ones who stick with the packing positions, Amazon said those people could be re-purposed to different positions. The machines themselves still require three human workers anyway: one to program orders, one to load up cardboard and glue for the custom-built boxes, and one to clear out the “occasional” jams. And while installing the machines will set Amazon back some $1 million per machine, the company says it can recoup the expense in less than two years and re-invest the money that it will ultimately save into “new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.” Sounds good.

In Other News

Windows 10 is on 825 million devices, an “unhackable” USB stick was exposing passwords, Office 365 has a crap-ton of subscribers, and a lot more.

  • Windows 10 is installed on “over 825 million devices:” According to internal documentation obtained by Thurrott.com, Windows is still dominant. [Thurrott]
  • “Unhackable” USB stick found to be leaking passwords: Honestly, calling your device “unhackable” in the first place is a pretty boneheaded move. The eyeDISK USB drive was compromised pretty easily by using a packet analyzer to detect that it was sending passwords in plaintext. Oops. [TechRadar]
  • Office 365 has more than 214 million subscribers: Dude, that’s SO many subs. More than Amazon Prime and Spotify Premium combined, according to MSPowerUser. Wild. [MSPU]
  • Samsung missed the Galaxy Home window…again: Last year, Samsung announced the Bixby smart speaker that no one wanted, then missed the delivery window. It showed it off again at CES 2019 with an April 2019 shipping window, but it missed that too. There must not be a lot of emphasis on delivering it any time soon. [CNET]
  • Google targets “Phone X” against the Pixel 3a: Google started its Pixel 3a campaign hard and heavy, already challenging something called the “Phone X” on price and camera features. 😉 [9to5Google]
  • Spotify is letting artists share the stories behind their music: A new feature called Storyline gives artists an Instagram-like way to share the story behind the song. That’s cool. [Android Police]
  • Google may be testing automatic crash detection on phones: Code found in the latest Android Q beta hints at car crash detection, though it’s unclear what this would do once a crash is detected. One could assume it will automatically notify the authorities, but we’ll wait until more info is available to make further assumptions.

It what may be the most bizarre story I’ve seen in a while, the CFO of a school lunch company called Choicelunch has been arrested for hacking into a competitor’s database and stealing data on hundreds of students. Information on the students, what they like to eat, and known allergies was stolen from The LunchMaster last year then traced back to where Choicelunch is headquartered. An FBI investigation into the data breach eventually pinned the hack on Choicelunch’s CFO. It turns out that school lunches are a high-stakes, cutthroat world. Who knew? [The Register]