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Cellphones

Cheap Smartphones Quietly Becoming Popular In the US 168

An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg reports that ZTE and its cheap Android smartphones have been grabbing more and more of the market in the U.S. It's not that the phones are particularly good — it's that they're "good enough" for the $60 price tag. The company has moved up to fourth among smartphone makers, behind Apple, Samsung and LG. That puts them ahead of a lot of companies making premium devices: HTC, Motorola, and BlackBerry, to name a few. ZTE, a Chinese manufacturer, seems to be better at playing the U.S. markets than competitors like Xiaomi and Huawei, and they're getting access to big carriers and big retailers. "Its phone sales are all the more surprising because it's been frozen out of the more lucrative telecom networking market since 2012. That year, the House Intelligence Committee issued a report warning that China's intelligence services could potentially use ZTE's equipment, and those of rival Huawei Technologies, for spying. Huawei then dismissed the allegations as 'little more than an exercise in China bashing.'"
Networking

For Future Wearable Devices, the Network Could Be You 22

angry tapir writes: Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have found a way for wearable devices to communicate through a person's body instead of the air around it. Their work could lead to devices that last longer on smaller batteries and don't give away secrets as easily as today's systems do. From the Computerworld story: "A team led by Professor Patrick Mercier of the university's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has discovered a way to use the body itself as the medium for data transmission. It uses magnetic fields and shows path loss that's 10 million times lower than what happens with Bluetooth. This could make the magnetic networks much more efficient, so devices don't have to work as hard to communicate and can have smaller batteries -- or get longer useful lives with the same size batteries. The team hasn't actually tested the system's energy use yet. They envision the technology being used for networks of health sensors that monitor many parts of the body."
Networking

New FCC Rules Could Ban WiFi Router Firmware Modification 238

An anonymous reader writes: Hackaday reports that the FCC is introducing new rules which ban firmware modifications for the radio systems in WiFi routers and other wireless devices operating in the 5 GHz range. The vast majority of routers are manufactured as System on Chip devices, with the radio module and CPU integrated in a single package. The new rules have the potential to effectively ban the installation of proven Open Source firmware on any WiFi router.

ThinkPenguin, the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Law Center, Software Freedom Conservancy, OpenWRT, LibreCMC, Qualcomm, and others have created the SaveWiFi campaign, providing instructions on how to submit a formal complaint to the FCC regarding this proposed rule. The comment period is closing on September 8, 2015. Leave a comment for the FCC.
Security

Bugs In Belkin Routers Allow DNS Spoofing, Credential Theft 48

Trailrunner7 writes: The CERT/CC is warning users that some Belkin home routers contain a number of vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to spoof DNS responses, intercept credentials sent in cleartext, access the web management interface, and take other actions on vulnerable routers. The vulnerabilities affect the Belkin N600 DB Wireless Dual Band N+ router, model F9K1102 v2 with firmware version 2.10.17, and potentially earlier versions of the firmware, as well. The vulnerabilities have not been patched by Belkin, the advisory from the CERT/CC says there aren't any practical workarounds for them. "DNS queries originating from the Belkin N600, such as those to resolve the names of firmware update and NTP servers, use predictable TXIDs that start at 0x0002 and increase incrementally. An attacker with the ability to spoof DNS responses can cause the router to contact incorrect or malicious hosts under the attacker's control," the advisory says.
Networking

Ask Slashdot: Can Any Wireless Tech Challenge Fiber To the Home? 184

New submitter danielmorrison writes: In Holland, MI (birthplace of Slashdot) we're working toward fiber to the home. A handful of people have asked why not go wireless instead? I know my reasons (speed, privacy, and we have an existing fiber loop) but are any wireless technologies good enough that cities should consider them? If so, what technologies and what cities have had success stories?
Networking

OnHub Router -- Google's Smart Home Trojan Horse? 123

An anonymous reader writes: A couple weeks ago, Google surprised everybody by announcing a new piece of hardware: the OnHub Wi-Fi router. It packs a ton of processing power and a bunch of wireless radios into a glowy cylinder, and they're going to sell it for $200, which is on the high end for home networking equipment. Google sent out a number of units for testing, and the reviews are starting to come out. The device is truly Wi-Fi-centric, with only a single port for an ethernet cable. It runs on a Qualcomm IPQ8064 dual-core 1.4GHz SoC with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage. You can only access the router's admin settings by using the associated app on a mobile device.

OnHub's data transfer speeds couldn't compete with a similarly priced Asus router, but it had no problem blanketing the area with a strong signal. Ron Amadeo puts his conclusion simply: "To us, this looks like Google's smart home Trojan horse." The smartphone app that accompanies OnHub has branding for something called "Google On," which they speculate is Google's new hub for smart home products. "There are tons of competing smart home protocols out there, all of which are incompatible with one another—imagine HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray, but with about five different players. ... Other than Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, everything in OnHub is a Google/Nest/Alphabet protocol. And remember, the "Built for Google On" stamp on the bottom of the OnHub sure sounds like a third-party certification program."
Networking

T-Mobile Starts Going After Heavy Users of Tethered Data 331

VentureBeat reports that T-Mobile CEO John Legere has announced that T-Mobile will cut off (at least from "unlimited" data plans) customers who gloss over the fine print of their data-use agreement by tethering their unlimited-data phones and grab too much of the network's resources. In a series of tweets on Sunday, Legere says the company will be "eliminating anyone who abuses our network," and complains that some "network abusers" are using 2TB of data monthly. The article says, "This is the first official word from the carrier that seems to confirm a memo that was leaked earlier this month. At that time, it was said action would be taken starting August 17 and would go after those who used their unlimited LTE data for Torrents and peer-to-peer networking."
The Internet

CenturyLink Takes $3B In Subsidies For Building Out Rural Broadband 199

New submitter club77er writes with a link to a DSL Reports article outlining some hefty subsidies (about $3 billion, all told) that CenturyLink has signed up to receive, in exchange for expanding its coverage to areas considered underserved: According to the CenturyLink announcement, the telco will take $500 million a year for six years from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Connect America Fund (CAF). In exchange, it will expand broadband to approximately 1.2 million rural households and businesses in 33 states. While the FCC now defines broadband as 25 Mbps down, these subsidies require that the deployed services be able to provide speeds of at least 10 Mbps down.
Communications

Ask Slashdot: Suggestions For Taking a Business Out Into the Forest? 146

An anonymous reader writes: I'm a huge fan of primitive survival reality TV. I am also self-employed in web troubleshooting and hosting services. I have to be available 24/7, but a lot of my work is just being online for a few minutes at a time. I often think about taking my business 'outdoors', camping, 3-7 days or so at a time — but staying online. Has anyone had experience with this? How did you do it, in terms of internet connectivity and portable power? Satellite internet or long distance Wi-Fi antennaes and a very tall pole? I've looked at some portable power stations with solar attachments, but the idea of hand-cranking to recharge if it's overcast isn't fun, after all, the point is to relax. But I'm willing to manually recharge if it's realistic (would prefer pedaling though!) I happen to have a Toughbook CF-52 (I just thought it was cool) but I may need to replace that with a more eco-friendly laptop as well. Thanks!
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Best Data Provider When Traveling In the US? 142

An anonymous reader writes: I am visiting USA 3-4 times a year and I need a data service. I also need to keep my cell phone number, so swapping the SIM card in my phone is not an option. I have bought those 19.95$ phones in Best-Buy to get a local number, but those were voice only. So I have been thinking about getting a MiFi hotspot.

I have been looking at pre-paid plans from Verizon(only 700 LTE band for their pre-paid hotspot), AT&T, T-Mobile etc. perhaps to put in a MiFi hotspot or buy a hotspot from a provider, but have no idea which one to use, their reputation, real life coverage etc. It is clear that all data plans in the USA are really expensive, I get 100GB monthly traffic with my Scandinavian provider for the same price as 6-8 GB monthly in the US, which I guess could be a problem with our Apple phones as they do not recognize a metered WiFi hotspot. But that is another issue. I travel all over but most of the time outside the big cities -- and my experience from roaming with my own phone and the cheap local phone so far tells me that coverage fluctuates wildly depending on the operator.
Communications

A "Public Health" Approach To Internet of Things Security 46

New submitter StewBeans writes: Guaranteeing your personal privacy in an era when more and more devices are connecting our daily lives to the Internet is becoming increasingly difficult to do. David Bray, CIO of the FCC, emphasizes the exponential growth we are facing by comparing the Internet we know today to a beachball, and the Internet of Everything future to the Sun. Bray says unless you plan to unplug from the Internet completely, every consumer needs to assume some responsibility for the security and overall health of the Internet of Everything. He says this might look similar to public health on the consumer side — the digital equivalent of hand washing — and involve an open, opt-in model for the rapid detection of abnormal trends across global organizations and networks.
Operating Systems

Contiki 3.0 Released, Retains Support For Apple II, C64 44

An anonymous reader writes that on Wednesday the Contiki team announced the release of Contiki 3.0, the latest version of the open source IoT operating system. The 3.0 release is a huge step up from the 2.x branch and brings support for new and exciting hardware, a set of new network protocols, a bunch of improvements in the low-power mesh networking protocols, along with a large number of general stability improvements. And, yes, the system still runs on the Commodore 64/128, Apple II, Atari.
The Internet

Why In-Flight Wi-Fi Is Still Slow and Expensive 194

An anonymous reader writes: Let's grant that having access to the internet while on an airplane is pretty amazing. When airlines first began offering it several years ago, it was agonizingly slow and somewhat pricey as well. Unfortunately, it's only gotten more expensive over the years, and the speeds are still frustrating. This is in part because the main provider of in-flight internet, Gogo, knows most of its regular customers will pay for it, regardless of cost. Business travelers with expense accounts don't care if it's $1 or $10 or $50 — they need to stay connected. Data speeds haven't improved because Gogo says the scale isn't big enough to do much infrastructure investment, and most of the hardware is custom-made. A third of Gogo-equipped planes can manage 10 Mbps, while the rest top out at 3 Mbps. There's hope on the horizon — the company says a new satellite service should enable 70 Mbps per plane by the end of the year — but who knows how much they'll charge for an actual useful connection.
Networking

Virgin Media To Base a Public Wi-Fi Net On Paying Customers' Routers 113

An anonymous reader writes with a story that Virgin Media "announced this month its plans to roll out a free public WiFi network this autumn, using subscribers' personal routers and existing infrastructure to distribute the service across UK cities." And while regular customers' routers are to be the basis of the new network, the publicly viewable overlay would operate over "a completely separate connection," and the company claims subscribers' performance will not be hindered. Why, then, would customers bother to pay? For one thing, because the free version is slow: 0.5Mbps, vs. 10Mbps for Virgin's customers.
Cloud

Startup Builds Prototype For Floating Data Center 96

1sockchuck writes: California startup Nautilus Data Technologies has developed a floating data center that it says can dramatically slash the cost of cooling servers. The company's data barge is being tested near San Francisco, and represents the latest chapter in a long-running effort to develop a water-based data center. Google kicked things off with a 2008 patent for a sea-going data center that would be powered and cooled by waves, conjuring visions of offshore data havens. Google never built it, but IDS soon launched its own effort to convert old Navy vessels into "data ships" before going bankrupt. Nautilus is using barges moored at piers, which allows it to use bay water in its cooling system,eliminating the need for CRAC units and chillers. The company says its offering may benefit from the growing focus on data centers' water use amid California's drought.
Networking

Bruce Schneier On Cisco ROMMON Firmware Exploit: "This Is Serious" 57

When Bruce Schneier says of a security problem "This is serious," it makes sense to pay attention to it. And that's how he refers to a recently disclosed Cisco vulnerability alert about "an evolution in attacks against Cisco IOS Classic platforms. Cisco has observed a limited number of cases where attackers, after gaining administrative or physical access to a Cisco IOS device, replaced the Cisco IOS ROMMON (IOS bootstrap) with a malicious ROMMON image." Schneier links to Ars Technica's short description of the attack, which notes The significance of the advisory isn't that the initial firmware can be replaced. As indicated, that's a standard feature not only with Cisco gear but just about any computing device. What's important is that attackers are somehow managing to obtain the administrative credentials required to make unauthorized changes that take control of the networking gear.
Google

Google Announces a Router: OnHub 278

An anonymous reader writes: Google has announced they're working with TP-LINK to build a new router they call OnHub. They say it's designed for the way we tend to use Wi-Fi in 2015, optimizing for streaming and sharing in a way that older routers don't. The router has a cylindrical design and comes with a simple, user-friendly mobile app. They say, "OnHub searches the airwaves and selects the best channel for the fastest connection. A unique antenna design and smart software keep working in the background, automatically adjusting OnHub to avoid interference and keep your network at peak performance. You can even prioritize a device, so that your most important activity — like streaming your favorite show — gets the fastest speed." The device will cost $200, it supports Bluetooth Smart Ready, Weave, and 802.15.4, and it will automatically apply firmware updates.
Network

The Network Is Hostile 124

An anonymous reader writes: Following this weekend's news that AT&T was as friendly with the NSA as we've suspected all along, cryptographer Matthew Green takes a step back to look at the broad lessons we've learned from the NSA leaks. He puts it simply: the network is hostile — and we really understand that now. "My take from the NSA revelations is that even though this point was 'obvious' and well-known, we've always felt it more intellectually than in our hearts. Even knowing the worst was possible, we still chose to believe that direct peering connections and leased lines from reputable providers like AT&T would make us safe. If nothing else, the NSA leaks have convincingly refuted this assumption." Green also points out that the limitations on law enforcement's data collection are technical in nature — their appetite for surveillance would be even larger if they had the means to manage it. "...it's significant that someday a large portion of the world's traffic will flow through networks controlled by governments that are, at least to some extent, hostile to the core values of Western democracies."
Communications

New Rules From the FCC Open Up New Access To Wi-Fi 64

CarlottaHapsburg writes: White space — unused channels in the VHF and UHF spectrum — is already part of daily life, from old telephones to going online at your coffee shop or plugging in baby monitors. The time has come to 'permit unlicensed fixed and personal/portable white space devices and unlicensed wireless microphones to use channels in the 600 MHz and television broadcast bands,' according to the FCC. One of the ramifications is that Wi-Fi could now blanket urban areas, as well as bringing it to rural areas and machine-to-machine technology. Rice University has tested a super Wi-Fi network linked by next-generation TV or smart remotes. Carriers are sure to be unhappy about this, but consumers will have the benefit of a newly open web.
Cellphones

Don't Hate the Phone Call, Hate the Phone (And the Network) 145

Ever screamed at your phone, or wanted to, when it can't handle the basic job of linking you to another person by voice? antdude writes to say that The Atlantic has posted a long article titled "Don't Hate the Phone Call, Hate the Phone" about how our telephone habits have changed, but so have the infrastructure and design of the handset. A snippet: When you combine the seemingly haphazard reliability of a voice call with the sense of urgency or gravity that would recommend a phone call instead of a Slack DM or an email, the risk of failure amplifies the anxiety of unfamiliarity. Telephone calls now exude untrustworthiness from their very infrastructure. Going deeper than dropped connections, telephony suffered from audio-signal processing compromises long before cellular service came along, but the differences between mobile and landline phone usage amplifies those challenges, as well.