‘Too inconvenient’ to adhere to smartphone security measures, says Trump

May 22nd, 2018 no comment

Two anonymous White House officials told Politico that Trump uses multiple iPhones for personal use. One of his phones is only for making calls – although it has a camera – while another has the Twitter app and access to news sites. The phones are issued by White House Information technology and the White House Communications Agency, which is staffed by military officials.

High-ranking politicians and government officials are expected to take standard steps to ensure that their digital communications are secure; Barack Obama reportedly had his stripped-down, military-grade phones examined for suspicious activity every 30 days and regularly exchanged for new phones.

However, according to Politico’s sources, Trump has gone five months without having his Twitter and news phone checked.

While White House staff have warned Trump that this phone should be checked or “swapped out” on a regular basis, Trump reportedly told them that it would be “too inconvenient” to do so. While his stripped-down phones for making calls are replaced on a regular basis, it is not known how frequently these replacements are made.

As awareness grows of the risks associated with lax cybersecurity, the US government has taken measures to clamp down on insecure devices being used for government communications.

After John Kelly – chief of staff at the White House – had his phone hacked while Trump prepared for office, he has overseen a ban on personal phones in the White House in order to protect sensitive information and infrastructure in the White House digital infrastructure from domestic and foreign hostile agents.

The news that Trump may be failing to take basic security measures when it comes to his phone could be seen as hypocritical, given his repeated condemnation of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for the inappropriate use of a private email server in her former role of Secretary of State. Her missteps, said Trump during his presidential campaign, put “all of America and our citizens in danger, great danger”.

A senior government official told Politico that Trump’s call phones are: “seamlessly swapped out on a regular basis through routine support operations. Because of the security controls of the Twitter phone and the Twitter account, it does not necessitate regular change-out.”

Recently, the Trump administration has come under fire from cybersecurity experts for its abolition of a top cybersecurity post created by the Obama adminstration in response to the growing threat of cyberwarfare.

Hands-on gadget review: Audeara A-01 wireless headphones

May 22nd, 2018 no comment

Audeara’s A-01 active noise-cancelling, wireless headphones pack an unusual feature: the first time you use them, they conduct a hearing test and store the results internally. They then tailor their sonic profile to suit your ears, even when you switch between devices.

Unboxing the A-01s, they look like any other pair of over-ear headphones designed for travel. So they come in a travel case and have ear cups that turn by 90 degrees to fold flat for storage. They’re black and plush, but the aroma is more plastic than leather.

A little pouch in the middle gives you a USB charging cable, a headphone cable with in-line control and external microphone, adapters for the double 3.5mm headphone sockets popular in airline seats and an adapter for the larger 6.35mm headphone socket you’ll find on home hi-fi separates systems.


We downloaded the companion app and paired it with the headphones quickly and straightforwardly via Bluetooth. The only way that the experience could have been improved upon would be to have a picture in the app to indicate which button to press on the headphones.

The next step, led by the app, is a “medical-style hearing threshold test inside your headphones” which measures the quietest sounds you can hear at all frequencies. It’s therefore best done in a quiet environment.

You can select whether to do a standard (eight beeps, three minutes), high-detail (16 beeps, five minutes) or ultimate precision (32 beeps, ten minutes) hearing test. As geeks and hypochondriacs, we went large…


It took at least ten minutes. The app tested us by playing repetitive beeps at each frequency. This sounds a bit like a lorry reversing, except at the highest frequencies when it sounds more like clicking. Within the app, you drag each point on a graph up and down to indicate at what point the beep becomes so quiet that you can barely hear it.

Each ear is tested individually and our two graphs were interesting and pretty consistent with each other. The graphs were intriguingly uppy-downy. At 5,000Hz we’re all ears but 7,000Hz was a bit of a fail, most likely taken out by a brief flirtation with loud drum’n’bass clubs in the mid-nineties.

But the test isn’t just for the audiologically curious: its purpose is to tailor the A-01s’ performance to your ears. You do this within the app, deciding how much to apply the ‘Audeara effect’ for a bespoke sound profile: 0%, 25%, 50%, 75% or 100%.

We found 0% (i.e. not applied) to sound like a standard pair of Bluetooth headphones and 100% to be rather quiet and flat. But 50% was brilliant, with mids punched up to deliver a rich and full sound. Vocals were clearer and less muddied, music detail was more audible. If you have a greater degree of hearing loss, the benefits would be even more pronounced.


It would of course be possible to get a similar effect by using a graphic equaliser app to tailor the volume at each frequency, with any headphones, but the beauty of Audeara’s technology is that the test measures your hearing and then decides everything for you.

Controls on the headphones themselves are simple. On the back of the left cup are a power switch and three tiny buttons: top and bottom buttons control volume, middle is to pair via Bluetooth. On the right is just a switch for turning on active noise cancellation.

Passive noise cancellation is provided by the big, comfy earpads blocking out a lot of background noise, Active noise cancellation adds to this by listening to the external noise and playing you frequencies designed to cancel it out. The technology works best with repetitive noise, so it’s ideal for plane and train journeys. The headphones are large, though, so you might feel fine wearing them on an overnight flight but self-conscious walking down the street in them.

The stated battery life of “up to 65 hours” is disingenuous. That’s the battery life if you use them wired with active noise cancellation but no Bluetooth wireless connection or Audeara effects. Make it 35 hours with all the features enabled. That’s still very respectable, so perhaps it would have been better to quote a range.

Finally, we tried using the headphones as a wireless headset to make phone calls, using the built-in microphone. The call quality was very good and didn’t elicit any ‘head in bucket’ complaints from the other end. It was possible to walk around the room, away from the phone, with no loss of quality.

All told, these headphones give others in the same price bracket a good run for their money. They’re big, comfy and good for travel. But they come into their own if you need the tailored sound profile. The 30-day, money-back guarantee is therefore a good plan because you can see how much of a difference it makes for you.

£299.99 audeara.com

Alternatives

Bowers & Wilkins PX

These over-ear, noise-cancelling, wireless headphones are award-winners for good reason, thanks to their best-in-class performance. 22-hour battery life and intuitive controls: for example, the music pauses when you lift an ear cup.

£329 bowers-wilkins.co.uk

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Wireless, over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones with Google Assistant built in, so you can tap a button and command your phone by voice. Amazon Alexa support coming soon. 20-hour battery life.

£329.95 bose.co.uk

Neutralizer

There are many graphic equaliser apps but this Android one works more like Audeara: fine-tune the sound based on how well you hear each frequency. Listen via anything: headphones, hi-fi, car and more. If you like it, an affordable in-app purchase removes ads.

Free play.google.com

China connects to dark side of Moon with satellite launch

May 21st, 2018 no comment

The satellite will be used to establish communications between Earth and a planned lunar probe, which will be used to explore the far side of the Moon: the hemisphere permanently turned away from Earth. Although it remains uncharted compared with the other half of the Moon’s surface, this hemisphere is known to contain many large impact craters.

Among other goals, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) aims to explore this unexplored part of the Moon through the robotic Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (nicknamed the Chang’e Program, after the mythological Moon goddess Chang’e).

China first carried out a successful soft landing on the Moon in 2013 with the Chang’e-3 mission. Now, with the Chang’e-4 mission, CNSA plans to explore the unexplored far side of the Moon.

In a key step for the mission, the approximately 400kg relay satellite was launched by a Long March-4C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Southwest China. 25 minutes after lift-off, the satellite separated from the rocket and entered an Earth-Moon transfer orbit to unfold its solar panels and communication antennae.

The satellite was named Queqiao (‘Magpie Bridge’). This refers to a tale in Chinese mythology in which a bridge of magpies is formed across the Milky Way to allow a pair of forcibly separated lovers to be reunited once a year.

Mirroring this story, Queqiao will establish a connection across space between CNSA on Earth and the unexplored face of the Moon. This will require the satellite to enter a particular satellite in which both Earth and the far side of the Moon – on which Chang’3-4 will land – are within reach.

Chang’e-4 – which will be launched in approximately six months – will incorporate an orbiter, lander and rover. If all goes according to plan, it will land in the South Pole-Aitken basin, a vast impact crater thought to be one of the largest in the Solar System. Chang’3-4 will be used to help CNSA scientists determine the age and composition of regions of the dark side of the Moon.

“The launch is a key step for China to realise its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the Moon,” said Zhang Lihua, manager of the Queqiao project, in a statement. According to Zhang, the mission still has challenges to face in adjusting its orbit and braking near the Moon.

In addition to casting light on the dark side of the Moon, the mission will enable CNSA to study deep space with instruments well-located for the task in a quiet environment shielded by the moon from interfering signals from Earth. CNSA will use a low-frequency radio spectrometer to observe the birth and evolution of stars and galaxies billions of light years away.

Sponsored: Hardware Pioneers IoT showcase is back in London! Discover the startups and suppliers exhibiting this year

May 16th, 2018 no comment


Some of the best European startups will showcase their products alongside leading technology providers in the IoT sector. The event is free to attend and tickets can be downloaded by clicking here.

The showcase is supported by Mouser Electronics, Digi-Key and Cocoon Networks.

Some of the exhibitors already confirmed are Texas Instruments, Soracom, Harwin, Mouser Electronics, Nordic Semiconductor, Digi-Key, Wurth Elektronik and more.

On the startup side the companies who will showcase their latest innovations will be Canary Care, Earth Rover, Verv, Automata, CityCrop, just to name a few. 

Watch the highlights of last year’s showcase here:

Founder and CEO David Bellisario commented:

It is the second showcase we have organised in London, following the success of the first event in Old Street last October.  

The goal of this showcase is to bring together the most promising IoT and hardware startups in Europe with the major technology providers in the sector, ranging from components distributors to electronics manufacturers.

Hardware Pioneers is a thriving community of innovators and a platform where emerging startups, technical decision makers and engineers connect with world leading technology providers. Our goal is to boost the growth of the IoT sector by connecting, educating and inspiring pioneering businesses.

Reserve your free ticket here

 —

About Hardware Pioneers

Hardware Pioneers (https://hardwarepioneers.com) was founded in 2013 by two brothers, David Bellisario and Fabiano Bellisario with the aim of connecting, educating and inspiring pioneers who want to build a smarter tomorrow through connected hardware and IoT technologies.

Hardware Pioneers is a community of over 9,000 professionals building products and companies in the IoT and connected hardware sector. Their monthly event in London attracts more than 200 people, hosting top speakers from companies such as Intel, Texas Instruments, Microchip, Cypress, Mouser, Avnet, Nordic and many more.

Hundreds of startup founders, executives, engineers and developers meet monthly at Hardware Pioneers’ conference to listen to insightful talks and establish key relationships.

This vibrant community is now one of the largest of its kind in EMEA and is motivated to become the leading IoT-hardware community worldwide.


 

Sponsored: Hardware Pioneers IoT showcase is back in London! Discover the startups and suppliers exhibiting this year

May 16th, 2018 no comment


Some of the best European startups will showcase their products alongside leading technology providers in the IoT sector. The event is free to attend and tickets can be downloaded by clicking here.

The showcase is supported by Mouser Electronics, Digi-Key and Cocoon Networks.

Some of the exhibitors already confirmed are Texas Instruments, Soracom, Harwin, Mouser Electronics, Nordic Semiconductor, Digi-Key, Wurth Elektronik and more.

On the startup side the companies who will showcase their latest innovations will be Canary Care, Earth Rover, Verv, Automata, CityCrop, just to name a few. 

Watch the highlights of last year’s showcase here:

Founder and CEO David Bellisario commented:

It is the second showcase we have organised in London, following the success of the first event in Old Street last October.  

The goal of this showcase is to bring together the most promising IoT and hardware startups in Europe with the major technology providers in the sector, ranging from components distributors to electronics manufacturers.

Hardware Pioneers is a thriving community of innovators and a platform where emerging startups, technical decision makers and engineers connect with world leading technology providers. Our goal is to boost the growth of the IoT sector by connecting, educating and inspiring pioneering businesses.

Reserve your free ticket here

 —

About Hardware Pioneers

Hardware Pioneers (https://hardwarepioneers.com) was founded in 2013 by two brothers, David Bellisario and Fabiano Bellisario with the aim of connecting, educating and inspiring pioneers who want to build a smarter tomorrow through connected hardware and IoT technologies.

Hardware Pioneers is a community of over 9,000 professionals building products and companies in the IoT and connected hardware sector. Their monthly event in London attracts more than 200 people, hosting top speakers from companies such as Intel, Texas Instruments, Microchip, Cypress, Mouser, Avnet, Nordic and many more.

Hundreds of startup founders, executives, engineers and developers meet monthly at Hardware Pioneers’ conference to listen to insightful talks and establish key relationships.

This vibrant community is now one of the largest of its kind in EMEA and is motivated to become the leading IoT-hardware community worldwide.


 

Arctic oil is ‘undrillable’ under Paris Agreement, says former UN climate head

May 15th, 2018 no comment

Figueres – a towering figure in international environment policy – oversaw the UN’s climate change efforts through the formation of the Paris Agreement of 2015, in which nearly every country on Earth agreed to cut their carbon emissions in order to minimise the impact of climate change. The Paris Agreement aims to retain a global average temperature rise of no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Now, Figueres is warning governments to curtail oil exploration in the Arctic. According to Reuters, she described drilling as uneconomical, given that it would take many years to develop any finds, and a threat to the highly fragile region.

“The Arctic has been rendered undrillable,” she told Reuters ahead of a speech at the Business for Peace Foundation in Oslo.

She explained that steadily rising temperatures are a threat to delicate regions, including the Great Barrier Reef, the Arctic and Antarctica. Last week it was reported that rising global temperatures could render most marine mammals extinct by 2100.

“The stakes are visibly higher than they were just a few years ago,” Figueres added.

While some countries, such as France and New Zealand, have committed to putting an end to oil and gas exploration, many governments favour further exploration. Companies including Statoil intend to continue searching for untapped resources in the Arctic Barents Sea, and in April the Trump Administration began an environmental review which could approve further oil and gas exploitation in a section of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

According to Figueres, investors could benefit by developing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms. As governments seek to reduce their carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, the international demand for these renewable energy sources – as well as high-performance batteries for energy storage – is likely to rise.

Figueres’ home country of Costa Rica may be on track for complete decarbonisation, thanks to the ambitious environmental policy of its newly-inaugurated President. The Central American country already runs on 99 per cent renewable energy sources and last year celebrated a record-breaking 300 days running just on wind, geothermal and hydropower.

Airbus to move Galileo work out of UK because of Brexit

May 9th, 2018 no comment

European Space Agency (ESA) rules stipulate that all bids for contract work – including those for joint international projects such as Galileo – must come from EU-based companies.

Addressing members of Parliament’s Brexit committee this morning, Colin Paynter said work to fulfil a potential €200m contract could not be carried out in the UK because ESA had stipulated that it would not consider any bids by companies that were not “EU-based”.

Paynter said: “We’ve been leading the ground control system for this programme for over ten years. That controls the full constellation of 26 satellites.

“Now, there’s a round of competitive bids going on at the moment and one of the conditions in that bid documentation from ESA is that all work has to be led by an EU-based company from March 2019.”

He added: “Effectively, that means that for Airbus to bid and win that work, we will effectively novate all of the work from the UK to our factories in France and Germany from day one of that contract.”

The Galileo project has become something of a political football in recent months, with the European Commission (which oversees the programme) seeking to cut the UK out of the most beneficial types of access – despite Britain having paid its share of funding for the project from the start.

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond has reportedly retaliated by threatening to “sabotage” Galileo by blocking tech transfers between the UK and European countries involved in the space endeavour. The UK government is reportedly considering the development of a British alternative to Galileo if Brussels prevents further UK involvement. It may also seek to take legal action to try and resolve the row.

One ex-pat Brit, who has been involved at a senior level in Galileo since the project’s inception, told E&T: “The funding at that time [2001] was 50 per cent EU and 50 per cent ESA and the UK was – and is still – a fully paid-up member of ESA, so although the running of the programme is now entrusted to the EU… there is no valid reason to exclude the UK from Galileo and access to the Public Regulated Service signal after Brexit.”

He added: “Overall, the UK’s financial contribution to Galileo was and is more than significant.”

Asked about the possibility of the UK starting its own ‘clone’ of Galileo, Paynter told MPs: “It’s not up to industry to determine whether there’s a requirement or need for an independent UK system – we’re a supplier – [but] I would say that I think in terms of feasibility, after such a long and deep involvement in the Galileo programme as UK industry, we have all the skills and capabilities that are needed to support that programme should it come to it.”

He added: “We support the government’s line, which is: ‘Plan A is to remain a full collaborative partner of Galileo’.”

Scotland’s fracking ban challenged in court by Ineos and ReachCSG

May 8th, 2018 no comment

Global energy company Ineos and Aberdeen firm ReachCSG are taking Scottish ministers to court for four days starting from today in an attempt to reverse their decision after they first sought a legal challenge in January. 

While the initial 2015 ban on the controversial gas extraction was only temporary, Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse announced in October that planning regulations would be used to “effectively ban” it by extending the moratorium “indefinitely”.

Scotland’s stance differs from the rules laid down by the UK government which are more open to fracking. The operator Third Energy had plans to start test operation at the end of last year, although this was postponed until autumn this year while it waited for final government approval. 

Grangemouth owner Ineos is seeking a judicial review of the “unlawful” ban, arguing there were “very serious errors” in the decision-making process.

In January operations director at Ineos Shale Tom Pickering said: “The decision in October was a major blow to Scottish science and its engineering industry, as well as being financially costly to Ineos, other businesses and, indeed, the nation as a whole.

“We have serious concerns about the legitimacy of the ban and have therefore applied to the court to ask that it review the competency of the decision to introduce it.”

The company, which owns two fracking licences in Scotland, said the ban on unconventional oil and gas extraction would result in Scotland missing out on economic benefits, including about 3,100 Scottish jobs and £1 billion for local communities.

Environmental charity Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoE Scotland) last month submitted a public interest intervention in the case.

It will argue that the fracking ban is lawful and necessary to meet Scotland’s legally binding climate change commitments.

The organisation’s lawyers say they believe it is the first public interest intervention granted in the Court of Session on environmental grounds.

FoE Scotland’s head of campaigns, Mary Church, said: “We are getting involved in Ineos’s judicial review of the fracking ban in order to put forward crucial climate change arguments in support of the ban that otherwise would not have been heard.

“Our intervention argues that the Scottish Government is required to ban fracking so as to urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, in line with legally binding climate targets.

“We are confident that the process to ban fracking was robust and fair.”

A spokesman for Ineos said: “Ineos Shale is asking the Scottish Court to decide whether the fracking ban is lawful. We believe the Scottish Government exceeded its powers and lacked competence to impose a ban.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Out of respect for the integrity of the judicial review process, it would be inappropriate to comment on the case put forward by any of the other parties during an ongoing litigation.”

A recent study from the University of Manchester found that shale gas is one of the least sustainable ways to produce electricity.  

3D batteries could power the next generation of tiny IoT devices

May 4th, 2018 no comment

As electronic devices become tinier and slimmer without reducing their power and energy demands, they challenge engineers to design batteries that can fit into smaller and smaller spaces without compromising on performance.

“For small sensors, you need to re-design the battery to be like a skyscraper in New York instead of a ranch house in California,” said Bruce Dunn, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) that led the team.

“That’s what a 3D battery does and we can use semiconductor processing and a conformal electrolyte to make one that is compatible with the demands of small internet-connected devices.”

Even the most innovative two-dimensional batteries are limited in the shapes they can take – the basic battery takes a slice of anode and a slice of cathode and packs an ion-conducting electrolyte between the two to complete the circuit.

However, in principle there are innumerable ways to craft a 3D anode and a 3D cathode that snap together like puzzle pieces (still necessarily separated by a small amount of electrolyte).

The setup chosen by Dunn’s group is called a ‘concentric-tube’ design, where an array of evenly spaced anode posts are covered uniformly by a thin layer of a photo-patternable polymer electrolyte and the region between the posts is filled with the cathode material.

Despite this apparent simplicity, many researchers have only been able to build half of a 3D battery, creating anodes and cathodes that are stable on their own, but fail when trying to assemble these electrodes into one functional battery.

Meanwhile, nearly all of the 3D batteries which have been assembled have not been significantly better than ordinary two-dimensional versions.

The research team overcame these hurdles by taking methods normally used to make semiconductors and modifying them to carve silicon into a grid of precisely-spaced cylinders that they wanted for the anode. “That’s something the battery world just does not do,” Dunn said.

To complete the battery, they applied thin layers of electrolyte to the silicon structure and poured in a standard lithium-ion cathode material, using the anode as a mould to ensure that the two halves would fit together just right.

The resulting battery achieved an energy density of 5.2 milli-watt-hours per square centimetre, among the highest reported for a 3D battery, while occupying a miniscule 0.09 square centimetre footprint and withstanding 100 cycles of charging and discharging.

Dunn cautions that this particular 3D battery has not yet reached its full potential, as he hopes that he and his team can boost its energy density with further tuning of battery components and assembly.

“Another challenge with batteries is always the packaging,” he adds. “You need to seal them up, keep them small and make sure they function just as well in the real world as in the glovebox.”

UK government ponders homegrown satellite alternative to EU’s Galileo project

May 2nd, 2018 no comment

Galileo is a global navigation satellite system in the process of development and launch by the EU. The €10bn project will provide a free global positioning system with precision to within one metre, offering an independent alternative to the USA’s GPS system, Russia’s GLONASS system and China’s BeiDou system. Galileo could be used for civilian, government and military use.

Already, more than 20 of the planned 30 satellites have been launched into orbit and the system is on track to be completed by 2020.

The EU had previously offered a contract to CGI UK – which has worked with ESA for decades – to work in France and develop a cryptographic system to protect Galileo’s Public Regulated Service: secure information transfer for government users. However, current rules state that this service can only be accessed by EU member states. Brussels officials have been discussing a ban on British companies being involved with these sensitive elements of the Galileo project.

In response, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is reportedly attempting to “sabotage” the Galileo project by blocking tech transfer between the UK and other European countries involved with the project. According to the Financial Times, his suggestion was brought up during a cabinet meeting last week.

“We could not draw up a legal contract saying they could not do the work in France or for the EU – it would have to be a gentleman’s agreement,” an official speaking to the Financial Times said. “It is up to CGI what contract they take. But there are discussions about whether there is any other work we could do in the UK to retain that expertise.”

Last week, Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, warned Elzbieta Bienkowska, the EU Commissioner for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs, that blocking out British expertise could cause three years of delay to the project.

While the EU has confirmed that the UK will still be able to use Galileo’s open signal following its departure from the bloc, the government is reportedly considering the development of a British alternative to Galileo if Brussels prevents further UK involvement with Galileo.

Prime Minister Theresa May has asked the UK Space Agency to investigate options for a “British Global Navigation Satellite System” which could be designed, built and operated with the cooperation of British industry and launched by the mid-2020s.