Don’t freak out: LineageOS has a very bad and very late April Fools’ joke in latest builds

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LineageOS announced its April Fools’ Day joke at the appropriate time back on Sunday, but the gag itself wasn’t ready until the most recent builds were released yesterday. Now that it has actually landed (late), the hoax has lost both its relevance and its taste. So if you flash this week’s update and see a warning about software counterfeiting and cryptocurrency mining, don’t freak out. It’s just a very late, very bad joke. 

 

The warning, as it appears on a freshly-updated device.

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New Firefox Extension Builds a Wall Around Facebook

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Mozilla has announced Facebook Container, a Firefox browser extension that is designed to segregate users’ activity on Facebook from their other Web activity, limiting Facebook’s ability to track them and gather personal data. Mozilla recently has engaged in an aggressive strategy to counter Facebook data management policies that many see as intrusive. The extension is the culmination of more than two years of research into developing a more private browsing experience, Mozilla said.
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Guy builds a super cool RFID jukebox with his Google Home and Chromecast speakers

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We can all yell at our Google Home to start playing something, but what if it was possible to choose our songs in some other super cool, super throwback way? hoveeman thought this through and built an awesome jukebox-style system for his Google Home and Chromecast speakers. Before I bore you with the technical stuff, check out the video below to see how things work. 

Alright, now that your mind is spinning in overdrive thinking about how this might be possible, here is the skinny.

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Broadband fling! Rebel Scottish village builds Gigabit network

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Balquhidder, a remote rural Scottish community, is building its own 1Gbps broadband network, after a decade of unsuccessfully trying to get commercial suppliers in the region to provide a better service.

The new network will be among the fastest in the UK – and the world – giving the village and surrounding areas access to broadband that is up to hundreds of times faster than the services available locally at present.

Many in the village have no broadband access at all, or only slow copper connections, or have been relying on expensive, patchy satellite services.

The project has seen local volunteers defy the network giants by digging trenches and laying fibre cables themselves across the landscape in the Trossachs National Park in central Scotland, on the southern boundary of the Highlands near Loch Lomond.

Balquiddher

Community interest company Balquhidder Community Broadband (BCB) will deliver the service to all the premises in the area, working in partnership with Stirling Council and internet service provider, Bogons.

• BCB is encouraging other communities to share their stories of poor connectivity and get in touch via its website, to see if it can help.

Two local residents are behind the scheme: scientist Richard Harris, and retired police officer David Johnston. Harris told the Sunday Post, “For each cluster of connections we are trying to find a champion to organise people in their area.

“The farmers will do most of the digging with their machines and we will have volunteers who will help out with that. After that, we will be looking for particular people to train on how to install the cable.”

Joining the three percent

The community project will see businesses and residents of Balqhidder’s 197 properties joining the tiny fraction of customers in the UK that have Gigabit connectivity.

The UK government said this month that only three percent of UK premises have access to full-fibre broadband connections. There are 27 million households in the UK, so that equates to roughly 800,000 premises.

However, few of those connections deliver 1Gbps, so the actual number of premises with Gigabit access is far smaller than that. As a result, Balquhidder’s businesses and residents will soon have the fastest broadband in the country, and among the fastest in the world.

• The world’s fastest average fixed-line broadband speed is in Singapore, with download rates of 161Mbps. The UK is currently 29th on that list – and falling – with average speeds that are less than one-third of that: just 50.45Mbps. The Balquhidder project is unlikely to boost the UK’s ranking, because so few people in the UK have access to Gigabit broadband as to be statistically insignificant. The UK only ranks 45th in the world on mobile broadband speeds, according to Speedtest.net.

Read more: Dell: UK lagging well behind Europe on IoT, AI, digital

Read more: Mayor of London launches project to make capital epicentre of AI

Funded with £100,000 startup investment from Stirling Council, similar investment from its commercial partner, and rural development money from the Scottish LEADER programme, the Balquhidder project is expected to bring millions of pounds in economic gains to the area.

The network takes shape.

Speaking at the project’s launch, Johnston, now a director at BCB, said: “This project is hugely significant. Residential homes and businesses, some of which currently have no broadband, will be able to cancel existing poor copper-to-the-premise broadband and line rental contracts and enjoy world-class service, for less than most are currently paying.

“This has been a genuine collaboration between local businesses, local government, local people, and our commercial partner Bogons, to lay the foundations for broadband connectivity in Balquhidder on a par with the rest of the world.”

Starting a rebellion

Brandon Butterworth, a director of Bogons, said that the project could be the start of a rebellion, in effect, against slow, expensive service providers:

“We are looking to help other communities where the community is willing to do the digging and other works for us to install the fibre. A DIY dig saves the community a significant part of the installation cost where any fibre, even fibre to the cabinet, has not previously been available.”

Local businesses include the Mhor Group, which operates restaurants and a hotel in the area. Owner Tom Lewis, said: “This broadband scheme is vital to the development of our businesses. The markets we target expect, and demand, a good internet connection.

“Our current satellite feed is really expensive and only lets us provide limited email services to our customers, which has had a negative impact on our corporate conference business.

“It will be transformational once we’re connected, and will finally allow us to manage our businesses in Balquhidder, Callander, and Glasgow from our home in Balquhidder.”

Read more: SpaceX successfully blasts broadband into space

Read more: Vodafone, Audi to put 4G on Moon, proving man walked there

Internet of Business says

After a decade of campaigning, this community project should be applauded for saying “enough is enough” to the UK’s big service providers. In many cases, those companies have failed to provide anything like a world-class service to their customers – particularly in rural areas, but in other parts of the UK too.

At the heart of the problem is BT. As the big beast that sits, one way or another, on much of the UK’s ageing infrastructure, BT has arguably been the single biggest brake on the UK’s digital ambitions.

This is because instead of investing in upgrading the network to world-class standards for the good of the whole economy – as South Korea, Singapore, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and others have done – its policy has long been to regard true high-speed broadband as an expensive premium add-on.

In short, it has no economic incentive to do better, and the world rankings prove that BT has no basis for claiming that its basic services are “super fast”, as it has been doing for years. The UK barely scrapes into the world top 30.

In some areas of the country, including some cities, standard BT services are anything but super fast, with speeds that are often slower than 10Mbps. That’s 100 times slower than the service that villagers in Balquhidder will soon be receiving. 

Residents in a property in central Brighton – a city that is home to countless digital startups and app providers – told Internet of Business, “We salute Balquhidder for rolling up their sleeves and fixing this problem themselves. It’s brilliant that a rural community, where broadband connectivity is often non-existent, will soon have some of the fastest broadband in the country.

“In the centre of so-called ‘digital Brighton’, in the affluent south of England, the BT broadband in our building is currently 3.5Mbps on a good day – about half the speed that it was five years ago. That’s slower than the average speed available in Venezuela, which has the slowest broadband in the world.

“Once we complained to the Chairman’s office at BT. They told us, ‘Broadband isn’t a utility and it never will be’. That’s an unbelievable statement for a company like BT to make, but it says it all. They don’t believe it’s an essential service, and they’re only interested in their premium customers.

“We’re stuck with BT until a cable provider moves onto our street. Unfortunately, we can’t just grab some spades and dig up the road ourselves, much as we’d like to. It’d be simpler for us to move to rural Scotland.”

Read more: Researchers use wearables to keep sheep farmers one step ahead

Read more: IoT in Agtech: Australia invests millions in robots, digital farming


IoTBuild is coming to San Francisco, CA on March 27 & 28, 2018 – Sign up to learn all you need to know about building an IoT ecosystem.IoT Build

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Nest Builds More Security, Flexibility Into Smart Home Products

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The Nest Hello video doorbell and the Nest x Yale Lock are now available, along with a new Nest Temperature Sensor — the latest addition to the company’s smart home lineup. Owners of the Hello video doorbell can use the Nest app for iOS or Android to see and converse with people without opening their door. The x Yale Lock — a tamper-proof, key-free deadbolt — also connects with the Nest app, allowing users to lock and unlock their door from anywhere. The Temperature Sensor works with Nest’s smart thermostats.
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Facebook builds Patreon, Niche clones to lure creators with cash

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Facebook is eager to displace YouTube and Patreon in order to become the home of online content creators, so it’s testing a bunch of new ways for them to earn money and connect with fans. Facebook’s dedicated Creator app that launched in November on iOS will come to Android soon, and it’s also starting a closed beta program where social media stars can work with it to build new features. It’s already cooked up new ones like a leaderboard for each creator’s most engaged fans who earn a special badge next to their comments, as well as a version of its Rights Manager tool for removing or taking over monetization of unofficial copies of their videos.

But most interesting are the new monetization options Facebook is trying out. It will let some users sign-up for a monthly subscription patronage payment to their favorite creators in exchange for exclusive content and a fan badge just like on Patreon . This will bring Facebook into the world of in-app purchases. Fans will be able to sign up for a $ 4.99 per month subscription, with Facebook forgoing a cut during the testing period, though the App Store and Google Play will get their 30 percent cut. That means creators will get $ 3.50 per month per subscriber.

It seems that rather than letting creators set their own price points including a cheap $ 1 per month option like on Patreon where the average subscription is $ 12 and the startup takes a 5 percent cut, Facebook is aiming for simplicity of pricing at mid-tier point. However it did mention custom pricing could come later. Not adding its own rake shows how much Facebook is prioritizing getting creators onto its platform. Facebook will launch the program next month with ten creators across the U.S. and U.K.

Meanwhile, Facebook has created a tool that lets creators show off a portfolio of their content expertise and audience, and get connected to businesses to hammer out branded content and sponsorship deals. It’s effectively Facebook’s version of Niche, the creator-sponsor deal broker that Twitter acquired in 2015 for around $ 50 million. [Disclosure: My cousin Darren Lachtman co-founded Niche] Facebook isn’t taking a cut here either during the testing period.

In both cases, Facebook might add a 5, 15, 30, or 45 percent cut when the features officially launch. Facebook already takes a 45 cut of ad break revenue when creators insert ads into their videos. Facebook also has a direct, one-time $ 3 tipping feature it’s testing with game streamers.

Creators who want access to the new product and monetization tests can sign-up here. “Creators are vibrant, diverse, and wonderful at building community, bringing people from across the world together around shared passions – and that’s why Facebook is a natural home for them” says Facebook’s VP of product for video Fidji Simo.

Facebook already lets creators use ad breaks and self-brokered sponsored content deals to monetize, but the digital arts economy still doesn’t let them earn enough to survive on this long-tail audience model. Facebook is taking a hint from its work with game developers, where it found that a tiny percentage of “whales” spend most of the money that games earn. Similarly, Facebook is now trying to equip creators with ways to earn the most possible from their biggest, most passionate fans who might pay way more in a tip or monthly subscription than a creator could ever earn through ads.

Mobile – TechCrunch

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Open GApps builds now available for Android 8.1 Oreo

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Custom ROMs almost never have Google apps and services built-in, partially to give users more choice, and partially to avoid any legal issues. If someone wants the Play Store and other Google apps, they have to flash an additional zip file containing those components. Open GApps has been the most popular source for these zip files for a while now, and it is now making builds for Android 8.1 Oreo.

The project’s site now has download links for Android 8.1 Gapps packages, in all platform variants (arm, arm64, x86, and x86_64).

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Essential adds opt-in OTA option for beta builds

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Essential Phone owners can now opt-in to receive beta builds via an OTA, versus having to sideload the firmware. For some, this is a godsend since it eliminates the somewhat difficult process of sideloading in order to test the latest (in this case Oreo) goodness. User nobeconobe posted this in the Essential subreddit, so kudos to that person.

The process of signing up is quite simple. All you have to do is head over to Essential’s site, select the Over-the-Air option, and fill in your information (the most important bit being your phone’s serial number).

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BP Just Invested $5 Million in a Company That Builds EV Charging Systems

Slow Transition

BP, one of the world’s largest oil companies, is slowly inching their way into the clean energy business. The company announced on Monday, January 30, that they are investing $ 5 million in FreeWire Technologies, a U.S. manufacturer of rapid charging systems for electric vehicles (EVs).

In the next couple of months, BP will add FreeWire’s EV charging systems to various gas stations in the U.K. These system will be capable of fully charging an EV in 30 minutes.

An EV being charged by a BP branded charging station. Image Credit: BP
An EV being charged by a BP branded charging station. Image Credit: BP

While BP didn’t disclose just how many charging systems it will implement, the company did tell The Guardian they plan to expand to other European locations after March.

“Mobility is changing, and BP is committed to remaining the fuel retailer of choice into the future,” said Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive officer at BP’s Downstream division, in a press release. “EV charging will undoubtedly become an important part of our business, but customer demand and the technologies available are still evolving.”

Displaying Interest

BP isn’t the first oil company to invest in EV charging stations. In October, Shell announced they were acquiring NewMotion, another company that specializes in building public EV charging stations. Soon after, they began adding the charging stations to several gas stations in the U.K. with plans to expand to other locations in Europe.

“When you add this customer offer to our current roll out of fast charging points on Shell forecourts, we believe we are developing the full raft of charge solutions required to support the future of EVs,” Matthew Tipper, Shell VP for New Fuels, said in a press release at the time of the announcement.

All Electric Cars: What’s My Range? [INFOGRAPHIC]
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While Shell and BP still primarily push fossil fuels, they’re clearly both keeping an eye on clean energy and making strategic investments and partnerships.

In November, Shell teamed up with IONITY, a partnership between BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, and other automakers to build a High-Power Charging (HPC) network in Europe. The deal will see IONITY’s 350-kilowatt charging points placed at Shell stations throughout Europe, including ones in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the U.K.

In December, BP formed a strategic partnership with Lightsource, Europe’s largest solar development company. In exchange for a stake in the company, BP agreed to invest $ 200 million into Lightsource’s various solar projects across the globe.

BP and Shell aren’t the oil companies investing in fossil fuel alternatives, either.

Exxon Mobil is investing $ 1 billion per year in clean energy research. As part of the endeavor, they are collaborating with small companies and universities on a number of projects, including one focused on turning algae into a biofuel that could replace diesel.

In September, A.P. Moller-Maersk, reportedly the largest company in Denmark, sold their last remaining oil firm for $ 7.45 billion. The company intends to invest the revenue from the sale into clean energy, and Denmark has already proven it can sustain itself with wind energy alone.

The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy may not be happening as quickly as we’d like, but it is happening. We’re in the midst of a clean energy revolution, and with renewable energy prices expected to drop below those of fossil fuels by 2020, it’s obvious that fossil fuel’s days are numbered.

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