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EU plans to make USB-C mandatory - Apple isn't happy about the idea, at all 24 Sep 2021, 5:39 pm

EU plans to make USB-C mandatory - Apple isn't happy about the idea, at all

European Union is getting tired of Apple's own charging cables. EU has tried to lure manufacturers to voluntarily adopt standard charging port in the past, but Apple has refused to participate.

Now, European Commission has proposed a legislation that would require not only Apple's iPhone, but tons of other product categories, too, to start using USB-C as their standard connection.

The proposal would require all smartphones, but also tablets, digital cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld game consoles to use USB-C for charging. Proposed legislation would also remove the need for manufacturers to ship their products with chargers. The idea is that once all products use the same, standard charging port, people need much less chargers and thus, removing mandatory chargers from products would reduce also e-waste.

Apple, unsurprisingly, opposes the proposed legislation and says that such measure would curb innovation. Then again, Apple itself uses USB-C in many of its products, including the latest iPad mini and its many of its laptops.

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Lithuania: Don't buy Chinese phones! If you use one, get rid of them 22 Sep 2021, 1:50 pm

Lithuania: Don't buy Chinese phones! If you use one, get rid of them

Baltic state Lithuania is urging its citizens to avoid Chinese phones. Country's defence ministry has published a recommendation to Lithuanian citizens advising them to get rid of Chinese phones, if they have one.

The statement was made after it was found that Xiaomi's phones sold in Europe had a built-in censorship mechanism installed in them. The censorship mechanism detects and censors terms such as "Free Tibet" and "democracy movement", Lithuanian state-run cybersecurity body told this week.

Now, Lithuanian Defence Ministry recommends consumers to avoid Chinese mobile phones and even urges them to "throw away" the phones they're currently using if they're made by Chinese brands.

According to Lithuania, even very recent Xiaomi models, such as Xiaomi Mi 10T, included the hidden censorship and detection code. According to Reuters, the detection program was turned off in phones sold in the European Union region, but was present in the phones, nevertheless.

Chinese phone manufacturers

As the market has shifted in recent years quite dramatically, it is hard to know what brands are Chinese and what are not.

Of the bigger manufacturers, Chinese owned brands are OnePlus, Xiaomi, Huawei, Honor, Motorola (owned by Chinese Lenovo), Oppo and Realme among others.

Non-Chinese phone manufacturers

Obviously, majority of the modern phones are manufactured in China, but at least some of the brands are not directly owned by Chinese companies.

Such mobile phone brands include Samsung (Korean company), Sony (Japanese), Apple (American), Nokia (phone rights licensed by Finnish HMD from Nokia, which is Finnish, too), Asus (Taiwanese) and Google Pixel (American).

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Computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair dies, aged 81 17 Sep 2021, 1:33 pm

Computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair dies, aged 81

One of the pioneers of the 1980s home computer revolution, Sir Clive Sinclair has died. He was best known for his Sinclair home computers, released in early 1980s. Sinclair computers were extremely popular in many countries back then, even surpassing the other iconic 1980s computer, Commodore 64, in many regions.

Most notable of the 1980s Sinclair computers was - by far - the first Sinclair's color computer, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, released in 1982. It was hugely popular, especially in Sinclair's home country, the United Kingdom, but also in various other countries.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

One of the interesting facts about the budget-friendly Sinclair ZX Spectrum is that the computer was so good that several unauthorized clones were made in Eastern European communist countries in 1980s and those clones became de facto home computers behind the Iron Curtain back then. Due this weird history, ZX Spectrum remains one of the most popular demoscene retro computers in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Sir Clive Sinclair invested parts of the Sinclair's computer profits into a electric vehicle subsdiary, Sinclair Vehicles, in mid-1980s. Sinclair was certain that the electricity is the key to the future of cars - predicting this almost 40 years before the current global EV boom.

Sinclair Vehicles' first - and only - production model was launched in 1985. Dubbed as Sinclair C5, it was a one-person small open-top car. Unfortunately, the world wasn't ready for such cars at that time and the car production was halted shortly after its release. The car business also put financial strain on Sinclair's computer business. Eventually Sinclair was sold to its competitor, Amstrad, back in 1986.

Sinclair C5 electric vehicle
Sinclair C5 from year 1985, kuva: Wikipedia

After the demise of Sinclair as a corporation, Sir Clive Sinclair continued to research and develop electric vehicles of all sorts. None of his latter projects managed to achieve such widespread success as his original computers back in 1980s.

Sir Clive Sinclair died in London on 16th of September, 2021. He had three children.

Sources: The Guardian, Wikipedia

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Firefox adds suggestions to searches, plans to introduce sponsored links 16 Sep 2021, 2:11 pm

Firefox adds suggestions to searches, plans to introduce sponsored links

Chrome and Safari have offered direct link suggestions for their users for years now when typing a search term into the browser's address bar. Now, the open source browser Firefox joins the party.

Firefox Suggest feature just rolled out and it does exactly what the name implies it should do. Basically, when one enters a very standard search phrase to the Firefox's address bar, say, like France, the browser automatically suggests a France's Wikipedia page link below the address bar.

However, Firefox plans to add contextual suggestions to the feature soon. This would take information like user's location and previous behaviour into account. So, in case you're looking for a specific pizza chain, like Domino's, the suggestion link could be your nearest Domino's local page rather that the corporate frontpage.

Obviously, in order to use contextual suggestions, Firefox would have to collect information about its users - and pass that information to its servers. A move that many users worried about their privacy aren't going to be happy about.

Furthermore, Firefox plans to add a possibility for companies to bid on search terms and then show those sponsored links as the suggestions. So, when you're typing Domino's pizza chain name to the address bar, you might get a suggestion for Pizza Hut's link instead.

Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, claims that it wont allow just anyone to bid for keywords and to buy sponsored links, but instead, company plans to vet the possible sponsors and select only few "trusted ones" to use the upcoming advertisement feature.

Below is the official video demonstrating how the feature works:

Firefox has lost millions of users during the past few years. And considering the fact that it used to be the #1 browser sometime back in early 2000s, the current marginal marketshare it controls, is a pity. But it is interesting to see whether the data collection behaviour will get more users to the open source contender - or will Firefox lose the remaining loyal users, too.

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Xiaomi promises 3 major Android updates for Xiaomi 11T and 11T Pro 9 Sep 2021, 12:54 pm

Xiaomi promises 3 major Android updates for Xiaomi 11T and 11T Pro

Long support for major Android updates is becoming an increasingly important competitive aspect in phone market nowadays. Now Chinese tech giant Xiaomi joins the bandwagon and improves its support singificantly.

For the upcoming Xiaomi's flagship model line, the company promises three major Android updates and four years worth of security updates. New flagship phones are about to be announced on 15th of September and will consist two models: Xiaomi 11T and Xiaomi 11T Pro.

As Android 12 hasn't been released yet, the phones will most likely launch with Android 11 and thus, will get Android 12, Android 13 and Android 14 over the years.

Company press statement states:

Xiaomi is committed to providing users with industry-leading hardware and lasting performance. In continuation of this commitment to users, Xiaomi is further extending the life cycle of Xiaomi's smartphones by ensuring three generations of Android operating system updates. This way, users can choose to use their current devices for a longer period, and enjoy the latest features along with it. At the same time, we will also provide users with security updates that ensure their devices operate securely for a longer period of time.

Upcoming 11T and 11T Pro models are expected to get Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, 120Hz display and all the other bells and whistles expected for a major manufacturer's new flagship phone.

The list of phones expected to get Android 12 is growing rapidly, which is a very good thing for those of us that want our phone to sport the latest OS.

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WhatsApp stops working on millions of Android and iPhone models 8 Sep 2021, 1:00 pm

WhatsApp stops working on millions of Android and iPhone models

After November 1st, 2021 WhatsApp will no longer work on millions of existing phones.

Company has announced that it will cease the support for older operating system versions for both, Android and iOS. This means that people still using rather old phones will be blocked out of the instant messaging service.

From November onwards, the support for Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS 9 versions is gone - meaning that people using phones with those operating system versions wont be able to log in to WhatsApp. Also, the messaging features will cease for users using the outdated operating systems.

The only option is to purchase a new phone - or to update the existing phone's operating system, if there's an update available, but not yet installed to the phone.

iOS 9 was originally released in September, 2015 so the WhatsApp support for that iOS version lasted for more than six years. Android 4.0.4 got even longer lifespace: it was released in March, 2012 so WhatsApp supported that particular Android version for almost a decade.

From November, 2021 onwards, the minimum OS requirements are as follows:
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or newer
  • iOS 10 or newer

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Two new Roomba models spotted: Roomba j7 adds obstacle detection, uses AI 8 Sep 2021, 12:21 pm

Two new Roomba models spotted: Roomba j7 adds obstacle detection, uses AI

Several people in various robot vacuum related Reddit channels have spotted Roomba j7 robot vacuum. While iRobot doesn't have any details of the new model yet, its advertisements have been shown in Canadian TV and some Canadian retailers seem to already list it on their websites.

New Roomba j7 seems to be a an upgraded version of the Roomba i7, which we consider currently the best overall robot vacuum in the market.

The key new feature here is the new camera module that has been added to the device's bumper. Similarly to the Roborock S6 MaxV, the new camera is used to detect obstacles in the floor: say, clothes, wires, pets, etc. Most likely the Roomba j7 will use the camera and machine learning to understand whether the objects it spots are actually obstacles that should be avoided.

Roomba j7 retail box

Other than that, the top camera of the Roomba i7 is also removed - it is highly likely that Roomba j7 will map the apartment floorplan with the bumper camera, as it has one now, instead of the top camera, like Roomba i7 (and Roomba s9) does.

It seems that the Canadian retauler accidentally posted the product information before the public announcement, as the device info page has been already removed. But the cached version of the product page is still there.

Roomba j7 specs
Roomba j7 features, as they were listed on retailer's website

Roomba j7 was listed to cost 799 Canadian dollars (about 630 USD or 533 euros).

The other upcoming model that was spotted on various retailer sites is dubbed as Roomba i1, which seems to be a new low-end model, positioned below Roomba i3 and probably to replace the plethora of cheaper current Roomba models. The new Roomba i1 also has a auto-emptying Clean Base version of it, called Roomba i1+, listed on Walmart's site and priced at $599 (USD).

We maintain a Roomba model comparison chart and will add these models to the chart as soon as the specs become more detailed.

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Right now: Instagram is down, globally 2 Sep 2021, 2:39 pm

Right now: Instagram is down, globally

Facebook-owned Instagram seems to be down, globally, for most of its users. Some users have reported that the service works, but very, very sluggishly.

According to various services that monitor websites' uptimes report that Instagram's problems started at around 10:30 UTC today.

Other Facebook's services, such as its namesake main site or WhatsApp aren't affected by this. At least not right now.

Instagram according to DownDetector

The above situation is the report by DownDetector, screenshot taken few minutes ago before publishing this news article.

As it has taken almost an hour by now for Instagram to get their servers working, frustrated people have started posting related memes to the social media..

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Windows 11 will be available on October 5th 31 Aug 2021, 4:44 pm

Windows 11 will be available on October 5th

Microsoft announced its upcoming operating system, Windows 11 back in June, 2021. The beta version of the OS has been publicly available since July and has been downloaded and tested by millions of users.

Now, Microsoft has finally announced when the new Windows version will be available for regular users, too. The date is October 5th, 2021.

On that date, the first Windows 10 users will be prompted to install a new version of the Windows to their PCs. Also, on that date, those who don't have a valid Windows 10 license, can directly go and purchase a Windows 11 license for their PC. And, obviously, plethora of desktop PCs and laptops with pre-installed Windows 11 will hit the store shelves on that day, across the globe.

Windows 11 will be completely free update for all Windows 10 users.

The update will be delivered through regular Windows Update and it will be phased, so only handful of users will actually get it on 5th of October. Microsoft expects the entire rollout to be complete by mid-2022, so some of the current Windows 10 users will have to wait quite some time until their OS will be updated automatically to the new version.

Obviously, there will be ways to speed up the procesS: most likely Microsoft will also release full ISO disk images for enthusiast to download and install.

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China's new legislation: Teenagers can't play for more than three hours 31 Aug 2021, 10:00 am

China's new legislation: Teenagers can't play for more than three hours

China is curbing its gaming addiction with iron first. Country just rolled out a new legislation that forces game developers to curb teenagers gaming hours down to just three per week.

According to the new legislation, gaming companies are required to control how many hours teenagers between 15yo and 17yo play video games (no matter what the platform, including mobile pgone games, console games and PC games). Country now allows teens to play only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 8pm and 9pm local time. And on public holidays, too, but again, between the one hour time slot between 8pm and 9pm.

If game developers don't play by the rules, China can simply ban their games, for good.

And as we're talking about China, this is really enforced. Gaming and media giant Tencent took pro-active steps already in July, 2021 and introduced facial recognition to all of its games in China. Every player is required to verify their gaming ID with a valid personal identification document when creating an account. And Tencent's games will occasionally use facial recognition during the gaming session to check that the person whose account is used, is really playing the game.

According to Bloomberg, several Chinese gaming companies' stock prices have fallen dramatically in recent weeks due the new legislation.

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Xiaomi clarifies its branding, gets rid of "Mi" 24 Aug 2021, 11:11 am

Xiaomi clarifies its branding, gets rid of "Mi"

Chinese consumer electronics giant Xiaomi has always had a rather confusing naming policy for its products, whether the products are mobile phones, robot vacuums or electric scooters. But now, company has announced that it will finally clarify the branding, to some degree.

This announcement follow the recent launch of Xiaomi Mi Mix 4 of which, apparently, is now internationally sold as Xiaomi Mix 4 - note, the removal of the "Mi" there.

According to a statement made for XDA-Developers, this will be the way forward for the company from now on. So, no more "Xiaomi Mi", but just "Xiaomi".

The change will affect all Xiaomi's product brands, not just phones, but also e-scooters, robot vacuums, laptops, etc.

Sure enough, this will be a welcomed change for most consumers. But Xiaomi still has a plethora of stuff to confuse its potential customers: like its affiliations with non-Xiaomi brands, such as Redmi, POCO, Roborock and Ninebot that tend to blend into Xiaomi's "digital world" to one degree or another. But this one is a change to the better, definitely.

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Samsung has a remote kill switch for its TVs - can block any Samsung TV permanently 23 Aug 2021, 5:34 pm

Samsung has a remote kill switch for its TVs - can block any Samsung TV permanently

Just bought a brand new TV set? You own it now, right? Well, kinda... Electronics giant Samsung has revealed that all Samsung's TV sets have a built-in kill switch that Samsung can operate at will.

This was revealed in South Africa in July. In South Africa, during riots, rioters broke into Samsung's local warehouse and stole tons of goods from the warehouse, including new Samsung TV sets.

According to Samsung's local representatives, company swiftly took action and activated the remote kill switch on all the stolen TV sets, rendering them basically useless. The feature, called TV Block is apparently a standard feature in all Samsung's new TVs.

Whenever a Samsung TV set connects to the net, it communicates back and forth with Samsung's servers. If Samsung's servers indicate that the TV set in question is put to its blacklist, the TV set automatically renders all of its features useless. So, after that information has been received, even the standard TV broadcasts can't be viewed with the TV.

The feature was introduced in order to block sale of illegally obtained Samsung TVs, just like in this particular case. Samsung also ensures that if legally obtained TV somehow freezes due this feature, customers can contact their local Samsung support in order to get the matters resolved.

However, Samsung doesn't indicate whether the blocking feature can be utilized by normal customers: i.e. if your own TV set was stolen, can you ask Samsung to add it to the company's blacklist - or is the feature only for Samsung's own purposes.

Obviously, one could relatively easily avoid the blocking: just never, ever connect the TV to the internet. But selling such device would prove slightly complicated: it might lower the smart TV's value ever so slightly, if your marketplace ad tells that "TV works just fine, but never, ever connect it to the internet or it becomes just an expesive piece of modern art".

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These Nokia phones will get Android 12 13 Aug 2021, 5:31 pm

These Nokia phones will get Android 12

As Android 12 first public beta is already available, it is time to take a look at current phone models expected to get Android 12 once it gets released officially.

None of the Nokia models are among the list of Android 12 beta phones, but HMD Global who manufactures the Nokia phones, has been clear about the company's Android support policy.

So, based on that update policy, Android Update Tracker has built a list of Nokia phones eligible to get the Android 12 update.

Obviously, list could change - HMD Global could very well release Android 12 also to selected older models, but this list is based on what we know right now.

Here's the list:

We'll update this list regularly as the official release of Android 12 approaches. Meanwhile, you might want to check out our Android 11 update list.

UPDATED 13th of Aug, 2021: Added Nokia XR20 to the list.

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Finally! WhatsApp allows easy transfer of chat history from iPhone to Android 11 Aug 2021, 6:38 pm

Finally! WhatsApp allows easy transfer of chat history from iPhone to Android

One of the most frustrating aspects of WhatsApp is its phone operating system lock-in. Currently, it is almost impossible to transfer chat history from Android's WhatsApp to iPhone and vice versa. This is finally changing, as WhatsApp introduced a streamlined data transfer.

The new feature resembles the one available in competitors, such as Signal, where two phones can be paired and messages are then transferred from one device to another. As WhatsApp doesn't use centralized messaging servers like Telegram, the messages can't be just "pulled from the cloud".

The new transfer feature is available now only for recently released new Samsung's foldable phones, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. Later, the new transfer method will be brought to all other Android devices, too.

Transfer WhatsApp messages from iPhone to Android

However, there's one problem with the new transfer feature: it only works from iPhone to Android, not the other way around.

New transfer feature will transfer all messages, voice messages, videos and images from iPhone's WhatsApp to Android's WhatsApp.

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25 years ago first MP3 rip by a warez group was released 11 Aug 2021, 1:24 pm

25 years ago first MP3 rip by a warez group was released

Twenty-five years ago, the first "official", illegal MP3 rip was released to public. The honor goes to Metallica's Until It Sleeps which was released back in 10th of August, 1996.

First publicly availably MP3 tools were just released back in 1996, with WinPlay3 being the only Windows-based player at the time and l3enc being the best tool to actually convert music from CDs to MP3 format.

Surely, ripped songs were produced even begore August, 1996, but the first release by a scene group is being dated to that specific date, as shown by the associated .nfo from those days. The release group was called Compress Da Audio, a relatively short-lived MP3 ripping group, who just managed to get the fame of being the first group to enter into the wonderful world of MP3 music.

First MP3 rip from 1996, .nfo file

The MP3 phenomenom grew rapidly from those days, with the advent of better ripping and encoding tools appearing during the winter of 1996-1997 and with the first version of WinAMP player. Coming years, MP3 became the synonum to illegal music, as P2P networks became a commonplace and people didn't have to rip their own music to MP3 format anymore - but could simply download songs from P2P networks.

The era of MP3s also marked the birth for our site, AfterDawn. Our humble original idea was to create a place where one could find all the information about MP3s, their technology and to provide place to download all associated software, too.

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