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Samsung has a prototype Google Home Mini-esque speaker of its own

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It’s been a bit strange that Samsung, one of the largest audio companies in the world, hasn’t been pumping out smart speakers in the same way Google and Amazon have. 

But don’t let that lack of available products lead you to believe it hasn’t been hard at work on one – as it turns out, it has, and it’s called Project Ambience. 

In a demo on stage at the Samsung Developers Conference, Samsung CTO Injong Rhee was the first to show off the new smart device by turning a non-IoT speaker into a fully functioning smart speaker thanks to the help of Bixby. 

The device, which Rhee admitted is still a prototype and not a consumer-ready product, follows in the footsteps in the Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot: It’s a miniature device that comes with a microphone built-in and has an 3.5mm Auxiliary jack that helps it connect to any of your existing speakers, turning dumb speakers into smart speakers. 

Rhee didn’t divulge any hard details about the device – there’s no release date or price yet – but he emphasized how products like these will revolutionize the smart home. 

Is this the rumored Samsung smart speaker? 

Technically, yes – although it’s probably not the one DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile division, has been talking up. 

While Project Ambience has a lot of the markings of that speaker, it’s not quite an Echo or Home rival – it’s more akin to the Dot or Home Mini. 

Although, that said, the Project Ambience prototype is a very good first look at the technology Samsung will include in its smart speakers down the road.

Rhee’s demo followed the announcement of Bixby 2.0, a more powerful version of the smart assistant that will connect every Samsung device from TVs and refrigerators, to flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8



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Apple fixes HomeKit bug that allowed remote unlocking of users’ doors | Technology

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Apple has been forced to fix a security hole within its HomeKit smart home system that could have allowed hackers to unlock users’ smart locks or other devices.

The bug within iOS 11.2 permitted unauthorised remote control of HomeKit-enabled devices. Such devices include smart lights, plugs and other gadgets, but also includes smart locks and garage door openers.

An Apple spokesperson said: “The issue affecting HomeKit users running iOS 11.2 has been fixed. The fix temporarily disables remote access to shared users, which will be restored in a software update early next week.”

The company said the temporary fixed was made server side, meaning that users do not have to do anything for it to take effect, but also that it breaks some functionality of the system.

The vulnerability, disclosed to 9to5Mac, required at least one iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch running the latest software version iOS 11.2 to have connected to the iCloud account associated with the HomeKit system. Previous versions of iOS appear not to have been affected. To exploit the bug the attackers would need to know the email address associated with the Apple ID of the homeowner and knowledge of how the system worked.

Experts said that while issues with smart-home systems such as this impact consumer confidence in smart locks and other security devices, traditional locks can also be easily undermined with traditional picking techniques.

The security bug is just the latest in a series of issues affecting Apple’s software on both its iPhone and Mac computers. Since November, iPhone and iPad users have been plagued with bugs affecting the autocorrect system, including issues typing the word “it” and the letter “I”, having it replaced with odd symbols.

Apple was also forced to apologise after a serious security flaw that allowed anyone to take control of a Mac running the latest version of macOS High Sierra with a blank password was revealed. The company rushed out a fix for the security bug, which then broke the file sharing system, which itself needed fixing in a later software update.

“We greatly regret this error and we apologise to all Mac users, both for releasing with this vulnerability and for the concern it has caused. Our customers deserve better,” Apple said at the time.

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Google Rolls Out New Chrome Security Feature to Combat Microsoft

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The internet can be a marvelous thing that gives us access to all the world’s information. However, it also gives us access to all the world’s malware. Every browser maker has implemented tougher security in recent years, but Google and Microsoft are particularly intent on competing with each other. In the latest volley, Google has rolled out a major new enterprise security feature in Chrome called site isolation. It’s a stronger version of the browser’s existing sandboxing feature.

Starting in Chrome v63, which is rolling out now, administrators have the option of enabling site isolation on client machines. This feature uses a separate process for each page the user loads, rather than using the main Chrome process for everything in a window. This offers improved security, because even if a site is running malicious code, it cannot access anything else running in Chrome.

Site isolation comes with a major drawback, though. Google explains that running a separate process for each tab consumes more memory, and Chrome is already a bit of a memory hog. Enabling this feature could increase Chrome’s memory usage by 10-20 percent. If a system has lots of extra RAM, this might be a relatively risk-free change.

This change comes as Microsoft has been making a case for its Edge browser on Windows. In a recent update, Edge gained support for hardware-based virtualization that keeps the browser in an isolated process. This protects the operating system from any malware the browser might encounter, and it doesn’t come with the same performance hit as Chrome’s process isolation.

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Meanwhile, Google is also moving forward on a plan to revoke trust for certificates issued by Symantec, which it has accused of lax oversight in the way these important cryptographic keys are distributed. Symantec and Google began tussling over the last year when Mozilla developers brought to light some bad practices at Symantec. At that point, Google investigated what appeared to be around 100 incorrectly assigned certificates. It turned out the number was closer to 30,000, which is a huge security issue. Websites that were issued these certificates without proper accreditation might appear legitimate to a browser, but in reality, they could be stealing user information or distributing malware.

Symantec is selling its certificate business to let someone else manage the fallout. Google will begin marking old Symantec certificates as untrusted this coming April with Chrome v66, and all Symantec certificates will be untrusted in late 2018.

 

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The Canon 70D Review, Pros and Cons (Mainly Pro’s)

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A few minor niggles but still a consummate all-rounder – still our favourite enthusiasts’ SLR

Pros
Excellent image quality
Articulated touchscreen
Impressive autofocus in video
Cons
Video quality could be sharper
No headphone socket

The Canon EOS 70D is the company’s latest enthusiast-oriented SLR. It replaces the Canon 60D, and has various enhancements that distinguish it from the likes of the Canon EOS 700D.

The viewfinder is significantly larger, there are lots of single-function buttons, a passive LCD screen on the top plate and a command dial and rear wheel for direct access to exposure settings. It’s faster than both the 700D and the 60D, with a 7fps continuous mode that lasted for 108 JPEGs or 16 RAW frames before slowing to the speed of the card.

Price, specs and rating based on the body-only package

Canon EOS 70D review: What you need to know

If you don’t want to wade through the details, the previous paragraph sums up the Canon EOS 70 pretty well. This is an enthusiast SLR that produces sublime 20.4-megapixel images and excellent video as well. It isn’t the newest SLR around anymore, having been replaced by the 80D, and it’s been discontinued by Canon, but if you can find one, it’s worth considering over some more recent models (see below).

Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D review: Price and competition

When we originally reviewed the 70D it cost £999 for the body only. It’s now been officially discontinued by the manufacturer and replaced by the Canon EOS 80D and Canon EOS 77D, but you can still buy one from various outlets for around £600 (body only), and for around £880 including an 18-55mm lens kit.

At that price, it’s worth picking one up over the 80D, because the more recent update didn’t move things on enough for us to give it a glowing review. We haven’t tested the Canon EOS 77D yet it looks like it might be a better option. It uses the same sensor as the EOS 80D, has more focus points than the 70D and a higher resolution, and the prices are closer together. The EOS 77D is more expensive than the 70D, though, and it loses the weather sealing of its predecessor as well.

Equally, though, now that the EOS 7D has been replaced by the newer 7D MKII, you can get the original as a body only for less than the 70D. While the 70D has more pixels, an articulated screen and is a newer camera, the 7D has more professionally-minded controls, an LCD display on the top of the body and a lower price.

If you’ve already bought into the Canon lens system and don’t need to buy a body with a kit, the 7D could be a bigger step up in terms of manual controls than the 70D. For everyone else, though, the 70D is a camera still worth considering, despite its age.

Canon EOS 70D review: Phase detect

The 20-megapixel resolution is Canon’s highest to date for an APS-C sensor, and the sensor design is radically different to anything we’ve seen before. Each pixel not only measures the intensity of light, but also the direction, with each one made up of two photodiodes facing left and right. This helps the sensor to perform phase-detect autofocus, determining not just whether the image is in focus, but also, if not, by how much. It means the lens can jump straight into focus rather than shuttle back and forth in search of a sharp picture.

Phase-detect autofocus is already available in all modern SLRs when using their viewfinders, but in most cases it’s disabled in live view mode. The 70D’s ability to perform phase-detect autofocus directly on the sensor makes it much faster than the 60D to focus in live view mode.

We’ve seen this technique a few times before, most recently on the EOS 700D. However, previous implementations have been limited to a few dedicated phase-detect points dotted across the sensor. What’s special about the 70D is that almost every pixel can contribute to phase-detect autofocus. The active area is quoted as 80 per cent of the frame, horizontally and vertically – you can’t place the autofocus point right at the edge of the frame.

Canon EOS 70D

Testing with the 18-135mm STM lens, the benefit was immediately obvious. It took around half a second to focus and capture a photo in live view mode, rising to around one second in low light. That’s twice as fast as the 700D, and about five times faster than the 60D.

It’s a superb result, but we can’t help wondering if it could have been even faster. It typically took less than 0.2 seconds from when we pressed the shutter button to hearing a double-beep to confirm that focus was achieved, but then it took another 0.3 seconds for the shutter mechanism to kick in. Half-pressing to focus and then fully pressing to capture removed this shutter lag, though. We measured 2.1 seconds between shots in live view mode, which is much slower than the 0.4 seconds it achieved when using the viewfinder. It delivered 7fps continuous shooting in live view mode, but focus was fixed and the screen was blank during bursts.

Still, the bottom line is that live view mode is far more useful than on any other Canon (or Nikon or Pentax) SLR. It helps that the screen is articulated, with a side-mounted hinge that allows it to tilt up, down, to the side and right around for self-portraits – a feature that’s conspicuously absent from the Nikon D7100 and Canon and Nikon’s full-frame SLRs.

Canon EOS 70D

The 70D’s screen is touch-sensitive too, so moving the autofocus point in live view mode couldn’t be easier. Subject tracking is available but we weren’t bowled over by its reliability. The touchscreen also speeds up navigation of the Q menu, which gives quick access to a wider array of functions than are covered by the dedicated buttons. The touchscreen provides an alternative way to navigate the main menu, but we found it quicker to use the command dial and rear wheel to jump to a particular setting.

The 70D is fastest when using the viewfinder, so it’s good to see some improvements here too. The 60D’s 9-point autofocus sensor has been ditched in favour of the 19-point sensor first seen in the EOS 7D. All 19 points are cross-type for increased sensitivity, and they were fast and accurate even in extremely low light. There’s a new button next to the command dial for expanding the active area. The largest area encompasses all 19 points, and when used in conjunction with the AI Servo autofocus mode, allows for some basic subject tracking. It can’t match the sophistication of the 3D Tracking mode in the Nikon D7100, though.

Canon EOS 70D review: Wi-Fi and connectivity

Wi-Fi is built in, with the same functions that we saw on the Canon EOS 6D. They include remote control via the accompanying iPhone and Android apps, with access to exposure settings and the ability to move the autofocus point using the smartphone or tablet’s touchscreen. While the 6D had to make do with lethargic live view autofocus, the 70D was much more responsive when shooting remotely. The app can also access the camera’s card to view full-screen previews with EXIF metadata, apply star ratings and instigate transfers.

Canon EOS 70D

We appreciate how both the remote shooting and image browsing modes are accessible without locking up the camera’s controls. Photos appeared in the app within two seconds of being captured, letting us use an iPad to review shots in more detail that the camera’s 3in screen allows. However, previews and transfers are limited to 2.5 megapixels, so it’s not so useful for checking focus. Enabling Wi-Fi disables the USB port and video capture, so a tablet can’t be used as a remote video monitor.

The iOS app worked fine in our tests but we could only connect our Nexus 4 smartphone via an existing network rather than make a direct connection. We’ve heard others have made direct connections with different handsets, but if this is an essential feature to you it might be worth popping along to a retailer and testing it with your own device.

Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D review: Video

The new autofocus technology is great news for photographers, but it’s potentially even more exciting for videographers. The 70D’s video autofocus was the most responsive we’ve ever seen from a large-sensor camera, adjusting in less than a second when we moved the autofocus point using the touchscreen. There was no sign of focus hunting, and face detection and subject tracking helped us follow moving subjects – although once again, it was a little unreliable.

Even so, when we tapped on a subject to focus on, more often than not, focus would remain locked as it moved nearer or further. We’ve always maintained that manual focus is the only way to achieve polished results, but for the first time, here’s a video autofocus system that we can envisage being used in professional productions. With a choice of 24, 25 or 30fps capture at 1080p, clips up to 30 minutes and an All-Intra mode that encodes at 75Mbit/s to avoid compression artefacts, it all looks pretty promising for serious video production.

It’s a shame, then, that details in the 70D’s videos aren’t a little sharper. Its footage looked decent enough in isolation, but the Panasonic GX7 and Panasonic GH3 were able to resolve fine details with greater fidelity. We also noticed a tendency for moiré interference on repeating textures such as fabric and bricks. The full-frame Canon 5D Mark III showed big improvements in video detail compared to previous EOS cameras, but it seems that these advances haven’t been built into the 70D. We achieved better results by selecting the Neutral Picture Style and sharpening up the footage in software, but this didn’t get rid of the moiré interference.

Canon EOS 70D sample shot

^ It will bother some more than others, but the Panasonic GH3 (left) has a clear advantage over the 70D (second from left) for details in videos. The 70D’s details can be improved by rolling off the sharpness and contrast and then sharpening in software, but it still can’t quite match the GH3 – click to enlarge

Another hurdle for serious video production is the lack of a headphone socket, which limits the usefulness of the microphone input. The HDMI output can stream a live feed but it’s not a clean feed to send to an external recorder. Despite the 70D’s superb autofocus performance, the Panasonic GH3 remains our top choice for video production. The 70D isn’t too far behind, though. For more casual users who still demand high quality, its more responsive video autofocus may tip the balance in its favour.

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