October 19, 2018

Fake news is down on Facebook in the US and France, say three studies

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have not had a great year. From being called in front of Congress to getting lashed by the media for its appalling handling of user data, the pressure has been on the social media site to get things right. Even cal...
October 19, 2018

Special sale on Alexa and Google ready smart plugs slashes price to $10 each

Wi-Fi smart plugs from big-name brands typically cost about $25 or $30, and that's really not such a bad price for something that adds connectivity and smart functionality to all your old dumb devices. Of course, why on Earth would you pay that much when you can get the same features for way less? Use the coupon code AUKEY1SP at checkout and you'll only pay $19.99 for an AUKEY Wi-Fi Smart Plug 2 Pack. That's only $10 per smart plug!

Here are the highlights from the product page:

  • Access from Anywhere: Activate and deactivate home appliances and electronics anytime, anywhere using this Wi-Fi Smart Plug and the AUKEY Home app on your phone. No smart hub or subscription service required
  • Control with Your Voice: Works with Alexa & Google Assistant. Use voice commands to control your home appliances and electronics
  • Home Automation: Customize a schedule for your lights to turn on at sunset or pre-set a timer and wake up with your coffee ready. Conveniently make your home feel more comfortable
  • Compact Design: Compact form keeps adjacent outlets accessible and allows two smart plugs to fit together perfectly in one duplex outlet
  • Package Contents: AUKEY SH-PA1 Smart Plug 2 Pack, User Manual, 45-Day Money Back Guarantee and 24-Month Product Replacement Warranty Card
October 19, 2018

Uber, Google, Facebook: Your experiments have gone too far

It was 2014, around the time when Travis Kalanick referred to Uber as his chick-magnet "Boober" in a GQ article, that I'd realized congestion in San Francisco had gone insane. Before there was Uber, getting across town took about ten minutes by car a...
October 19, 2018

Russian woman indicted for interfering with 2018 US midterm elections

US officials aren't waiting until after the midterm elections to take legal action against interference efforts. Federal authorities have charged Russian national Elena Khusyaynova for allegedly serving as the primary accountant for Project Lakhta,...
October 19, 2018

The Best Humidifier for a Large Room

By Tim Heffernan This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full large room humidifier guide here.
October 19, 2018

OnePlus moves 6T launch to October 29th to avoid clashing with Apple

If you're the sort who regularly tunes into device launches, you've probably noticed that Apple's October 30th iPad Pro event was set to clash with OnePlus' 6T premiere -- in fact, they were within an hour of each other. That's a bit of a problem, is...
October 19, 2018

Tim Cook calls on Bloomberg to retract story of alleged Supermicro hack

Earlier this month, Bloomberg published a bombshell report claiming that agents from a Chinese intelligence organization successfully planted malicious hardware on Supermicro servers that eventually were put into use by companies like Apple and Amazon. Before long, numerous questions about the veracity of the original report were being raised. Not only was the Bloomberg report curiously spotty with respect to how the attack actually operated, one of the story's main sources claims that the story Bloomberg ultimately ran with didn't make any sense. What's more, both Amazon and Apple issued strongly worded responses unequivocally denying all aspects of the story. And while some PR statements tend to be vague and leave things open to interpretation, Apple and Amazon's denials were sweepingly specific and left no stone unturned. Apple's denial reads in part: "On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, “hardware manipulations” or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server. Apple never had any contact with the FBI or any other agency about such an incident. We are not aware of any investigation by the FBI, nor are our contacts in law enforcement." A few weeks later, Tim Cook is now calling on Bloomberg to retract the story altogether. During an interview with BuzzFeed News, Cook emphasized yet again that the Bloomberg story is not only misleading, but wholly inaccurate. "There is no truth in their story about Apple," Cook said. "They need to do that right thing and retract it." Bloomberg, meanwhile, does not appear intent on doing any such thing. If anything, the company has doubled down on the report. Commenting on the matter, a spokesperson from Bloomberg told BuzzFeed:
Bloomberg Businessweek's investigation is the result of more than a year of reporting, during which we conducted more than 100 interviews. Seventeen individual sources, including government officials and insiders at the companies, confirmed the manipulation of hardware and other elements of the attacks. We also published three companies’ full statements, as well as a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources.
For what it's worth, the fact that Bloomberg worked on the story for more than a year and conducted more than 100 interviews isn't persuasive in the slightest, especially if the story from the very beginning -- as Apple alleges -- was based on misinformation. With both sides digging their heels in the sand, we have a scenario where both parties cannot possibly be right. Either Apple is lying -- which at this point seems completely implausible -- or Bloomberg spent a whole lot of resources chasing down a ghost of a story.
October 19, 2018

Nat Geo and OpenROV are giving away 1000 robot submarines

Despite having lived in close proximity to it for hundreds of thousands of years, humanity has yet to explore even a fraction of the Earth's ocean. We have more thoroughly mapped the surfaces of moon and Mars than we have the seafloor. National Geogr...
October 19, 2018

How to enable Alexa’s whisper mode, rolling out now for Echo devices

Amazon announced over a dozen brand new products last month at its hardware event in Seattle, such as the Echo Sub, Echo Link, Echo Auto, and even a smart microwave. In addition to new hardware, Amazon also showed off a few new features, including one that would allow Alexa to whisper instead of speak at full volume. Called "whisper mode," the feature finally began to roll out to Echo users in the United States on Friday.

The use cases of the new feature are fairly obvious, but as Amazon noted in its announcement post, whisper mode is great for interacting with Alexa early in the morning before everyone is awake, or late at night after everyone has gone to sleep. With whisper mode, you will no longer accidentally wake up the entire house.

There are a few ways to activate whisper mode on your Echo device, depending on your preference:

  • Open the Alexa app on your mobile device, then go to Settings > Alexa Account > Alexa Voice > Responses > Whispered Responses.
  • Alternatively, just say “Alexa, turn on whisper mode" to your Echo device.

Once whisper mode has been activated, you'll see just how quiet Alexa can be. Based on some early videos we have seen of the feature in action, you'll probably need to be pretty close to the device to hear her responses.

Whisper mode was one of several software updates Amazon showed off last month. Alexa Guard puts Alexa on high alert for home invasions when you leave the house, hunches give Alexa the ability to make assumptions about other smart home devices based on the time of day or what you say, and doorbell camera integration with the Echo Show means you can have two-way conversations by saying "Alexa, answer the front door."

October 19, 2018

Apple CEO calls on ‘Bloomberg’ to retract China surveillance report

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that San Jose-based server company Server Micro installed surveillance micro-chips in the Chinese data center hardware of up to 30 companies, including Amazon and Apple. These chips were supposedly used t...